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The Authority of a Rabbi (3 of 4)

Shane Willard

Page 2 of 9
When they were 12 years old, they graduated from the Beit Sefer by having a Torah exam, with the teacher's of the law that day. They weren't graded on whether they knew the answers; but on whether or not they asked the right questions.

It says in Luke, that when Jesus was 12 years old, He was wowing the teachers of the law with His questions.

Hebrew scholars were not noted for their answers - they weren't noted for coming to a destination, or for a putting a theology into a system of bullet points.

They were noted for their ability to keep the discussion about God going longer. They were noted for their ability to ask the right questions - and you've got to be far smarter to ask the right question than to have the right answer.

Hebrew people lead with questions. I can tell everything I want to know about you, by the questions you ask, and the stories you tell, everything.

Questions reveal values; and questions reinforce values.

If you say to your child: all I want you to do is ‘do your best’, but then they come home, and the only question you ask is: what grade did you make - what do they assume is important? The grade!

So if they wowed the teachers of the law with their questions, they graduated into what was called the Beit Talmud, which means ‘the School of Disciples’. Talmud is the word for disciple; it's like discipleship school.

If you didn't wow the teachers of the law with your questions, you were told: I'm sorry - you're disqualified from ministry; now go back and earn a living at your family trade. I'm sorry, you just don't have what it takes to be a rabbi.

If they got too far behind in their memorisation of the Torah: I'm sorry, you just don't have what it takes. Go back and earn a living at your family trade. I'm sorry - you're disqualified. You're a good guy, but you just don't have what it takes to be a rabbi.

But if the best, of the best, of the best, of the best - the ones that were wowing teachers of the law with their questions, they graduated to the Beit Talmud.

Now the Beit Talmud was 18 years long, from ages of 12- 30, in five stages. Has anybody ever wondered why Jesus disappeared from 12 to 30? Then He comes out, and everybody's calling Him rabbi? He was in the Beit Talmud.

You would go through stage one, and have an exam. If you passed your exam, you got to go to stage two; otherwise you were told: I'm sorry, you're disqualified from ministry. Now go back and earn a living at your family trade.

Stage five was called Shmekah (rabbinical authority). There were only two types of rabbi: rabbis with Shmekah; and rabbis without i.e. rabbis with authority, and rabbis without authority.

A rabbi's interpretation of Torah/scripture, or his way of life, was called his yoke.

Jesus said: “Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me - for My yoke is easy and My burden is light”.

The key to understanding that is in the word 'My'. For Him to say ‘my yoke’, He had to have authority - because this was the difference.

You spent 18 years learning the yoke of a rabbi. 18 years in the Beit Talmud, spent sitting at a rabbi's feet, saying: teach me your yoke.

When you became a rabbi, you were in charge of taking that rabbi's yoke to the next generation. However, 99.9% of all rabbis did not have authority. They did not have Shmekah; only the select of select did.

Sometimes they could go two and three generations without any rabbis with Shmekah.

So what would happen is, for a rabbi without authority - they were still a rabbi, but they had to teach the yoke of their rabbi.