The rabbis of ancient Israel used mashalim as a matter of discourse. Parables have always been a teaching method of G-d as He has sought His children’s understanding of the story of His Kingdom. We are often drawn to stories in ways we can never be drawn to cold hard facts, this is the power of the parable. Perhaps post-moderns and their offspring are better able to receive parables than our modern predecessors? I believe we are a generation who are desperate for an authentic story.
Some argue that Yeshua’s parables were new and of greater relevance than those of His pairs, however this is not necessary, after all, He “was in the beginning with G-d,” why then does He need to be original? He is the Origin and the Completion. Many of His parables were adaptions of the parables of His pairs, often subtly changed to great effect. This is consistent with one of the meanings of the word mashal, “a taunt”. Yeshua’s parables encompassed the wider meaning of the Hebrew term mashal; they were poetry, story, simile, allegory, metaphor, discourse, proverb, ethical wisdom and so on.
I find more truth in these stories--mashalim—than I have ever found in the endless arguments of the apologist. Theology—a word that did not have any equivalent in Hebrew until after Israel’s Hellenization—is perhaps the greatest enemy of the parable. In seeking to dissect the parable, theology finds meaning that was not intended and misplaces the message altogether. The Hebrew mind does not dissect, it envelopes. Dissection is a separation, an infidelity. Envelopment is holistic, an unfailing fidelity.
Put concisely, it is the extravagant simplicity of Yeshua’s mashalim that eludes the wise and welcomes the simple. This is why He quotes the prophet, “Though hearing they do not hear, though seeing they do not comprehend.” Yeshayahu/Isaiah 6:9
A parable is like the column of fire and the pillar of smoke that G-d placed between the Israelites and the Egyptians. To Israel it was a manifest revelation of G-d, a protection and a light to her path; to Egypt it was a blinding light, a roadblock that cast a shadow over all her plans.
My prayer is that we might be teachable, humble, willing hearts, found amongst those who are escaping Egypt. That our ears might be willing ears that are able to hear, to perceive, to understand and to walk in the light of Messiah--halakhah im Yeshua.
© 2013 Yaakov Brown
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.