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What is righteousness?


Bere’shiyth (Genesis) 15:6

And he (Avram) believed (אָמַן aman) in YAHUAH; and he counted it to him for righteousness (צְדָקָה tsedaqah).

צְדָקָה  tsed-aw-kaw' which means rightness (abstractly), subjectively (rectitude), objectively (justice), morally (virtue) or figuratively (prosperity): i.e., justice, moderately, righteous act.

The concept of righteousness is a critical concept, as the term is used extensively in the writings of Sha’ul, and as a consequence, the modern church whose belief is primarily in Paul and not HaMashiach or the other writers of scripture, relies on Paul’s interpretation of the word righteous to define their own sanctimonious behavior, in my opinion, to their great error.

Before reckoning with Sha’ul, it is first necessary to look at this passage in Genesis with a bit more detail.  The Hebrew begins with v’ha’aman, or “and the belief” or more generously “and the believing”.  This is followed with b’YHVH, or “in YAHUAH”.  This followed by the word “v’y’chashab” which means to count, to reckon, to impute or in this case “and was reckoned” or “and was counted” or “and was imputed”.  Finally, the last of the four words in this passage is “tsedakah” which means righteousness (as compared to tsadiq – righteous).

Bear in mind that YAH was telling Avram at this point that he would father a child, and that he would be the father of nations, at a time when Avram was childless and at a time when he believed his wife was incapable of having children.  It is in this very chapter that the covenant of the Promised Land is made, with YAH himself passing between the pieces. 

Also bear in mind that the passage tells us that YAHUAH came to Avram in a vision, and the Avram believed what was being said.  This was then accounted to him as righteousness. 

We arrive then, at the first threshold of righteousness, which is believing in YAHUAH.  But look at the usage of the term Tsedakah throughout scripture, and you find that righteousness is used to describe the practice of justice or virtue. 

Take a look at how righteousness is described in Zakaryahu:

Zakaryahu (Zechariah) 7:8-14

And the word of YAHUAH came unto Zakaryahu, saying, 9 Thus speaks YAHUAH TSEVA’OT, saying, Execute true judgment, and show mercy and compassions every man to his brother: 10 And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart. 11 But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear. 12 Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the Torah, and the words which YAHUAH TSEVA’OT has sent in his RUACH by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from YAHUAH TSEVA’OT. 13 Therefore it is come to pass, that as he cried, and they would not hear; so they cried, and I would not hear, says YAHUAH TSEVA’OT: 14 But I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations whom they knew not. Thus the land was desolate after them, that no man passed through nor returned: for they laid the pleasant land desolate.

This is not the only place where righteousness is described as executing true judgment:

Yahuchanon (John) 7:21-24

YAHUSHA answered and said unto them, I have done one work, and ye all marvel. 22 Mosheh therefore gave unto you circumcision; (not because it is of Mosheh, but of the fathers;) and ye on the Sabbath day circumcise a man. 23 If a man on the Sabbath day receive circumcision, that the Torah of Mosheh should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the Sabbath day? 24 Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.

It is no coincidence that the facts are as they are in this paragraph.  Keep in mind that Mashiach was circumcised on the eight day following his birth, which I believe was on Simcha Torah, the eighth day of the Feast of Tabernacles. 

This is why he was called the Consolation of Yisra’el and why there are two witnesses to His being Mashiach on this date in Lucas 2 (2:22-38).  Note, then, that Mashiach was circumcised on a Sabbath day, which is lawful under the Torah of Mosheh.  WWYD?  (What would YAHUSHA do? He would be circumcised on the 8th day).

The admonition is then to judge with righteous (tsadiq) judgment; which is to say, judge with an eye towards justice and virtue. 

We get further admonition in Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 58 as to the nature of fasting (see previous blog post “On Fasting”). 

Miykah (Micah) 6:6-9

Wherewith shall I come before YAHUAH, and bow myself before the high ELOHIYM? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? 7 Will YAHUAH be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 8 He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what YAHUAH requires of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your ELOHIYM? 9 YAHUAH’S voice cries unto the city, and the man of wisdom shall see your name: hear ye the rod, and who has appointed it.

He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what YAHUAH requires of you: do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your ELOHIYM.  This, my friends, is righteousness.

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