le·gal·ism noun \'lēgə lizəm – 2 a : an often excessive reliance on legal principles and practices especially as interpreted literally: an adherence to the letter as distinguished from the spirit of the law: . . .
I take you to Brooklyn, NY, Saturday, March 21, 2015. The second day of spring (hope for warmer weather) and, in the Jewish community, the Sabbath – a day to worship. It ends up for one family, however, a tragedy upon tragedy to the 7th degree.
A fire that started in the kitchen quickly ran up the stairs and engulfed the house killing seven children: Eliane (16), David (12), Rivkah (11), Yeshua (10), Moshe (8), Sara (6) and Yaakob (5). The only survivors were the mother and her 14-year-old daughter, both of whom were injured when they jumped from a second story window. As of March 23, the mother remains in critical condition. The daughter is doing better but doesn’t know that all her siblings have been killed. The father, who was away at a conference, immediately returned home for a funeral service in New York and then took the bodies to Israel to be buried.
The culprit for this tragedy is believed to be a hot plate to keep food warm during the Sabbath. Ultra-Orthodox Jews take Sabbath laws very serious. In regard to work on the Sabbath, they’ve created forty-save-one categories of laws. Work had to be defined. Carrying burdens needed to be clear. One was permitted to get enough milk for one swallow. A spoon could be carried providing it didn’t weigh more than a fig. In present day even the opening of a refrigerator door on the Sabbath can create a challenge. They have a law against “kindling” or starting a fire. When a refrigerator door is open the light goes on. That’s a violation of this law. To circumvent this one would unscrew the light before the Sabbath. An open door may cause the compressor motor to go on. That, too, would violate the “kindling” law. Timers are placed on compressors to prevent this from happening.
Placing food on a hot plate before the Sabbath begins, sundown Friday, would be another way to solve the work-on-the-Sabbath problem. In this case, tragically, a malfunction took place.
I do not mean to trivialize the lives of the dear children that were lost by what I am about to say. Nor is my intent to denigrate a religion and their beliefs . . . despite the fact that I believe they are eternally wrong. I do want to state, however, the damning effect legalism has on multitudes of people in various religions.
Concerning the Jews in particular, God gave to Moses ten laws. God added rules and regulations for the governance of the people, religious practices and personal responsibilities. The Jews, then, started piling on more rules and regulations putting incredible burdens on the people. Not only couldn’t they keep the laws, there was no way they could remember them. One had to be a scholar for that.
Along came Jesus and the New Testament explaining that the laws in the Old Testament were placed there to prove the impossibility of being able to keep them and that human righteousness is not possible. The only One who ever kept the law and did so perfectly was Jesus Christ and it’s His righteousness which provides eternal life . . . providing one does John 1:12. Have you?