The Need for Phylacteries

Riggs Ministry Minute: For when there’s only a minute for ministry              Rev. Ross L. Riggs, D. Min.       

True North Ministries   www.docriggs.com

6 May 2012

Immediately I begin with an explanation to our Jewish friends, particularly any orthodox worshippers of YHWH. My writing is not intended to mock or to give less importance to the use of, or the teaching concerning the Tefillin. In actuality, I hope to show how the concept behind the wearing of phylacteries (and the prayer time attached to it) is most needed in our hectic world today. Anyone with an interest in learning the specifics of their history, with what they are made and how they are applied may enjoy a visit to: www.Jewishencyclopedia.com. Actually, my path to where I rise at 3 a.m. to write this includes several stops along the way. I will mention only two. The first is an overseas flight where, as we approached Israel’s coastline with the new day’s sun greeting us, the gentleman sitting next to me took a phylactery from his luggage and began the slow process of donning it. I watched in ignorance and later read to understand. My second stop was just recently in the home of dear friends, the wife in her upper 80’s, the husband just into his 90’s. She explained a conversation she would have with my son, Daniel, before he leaves in a few weeks for the Army. This dear friend is a devout Catholic and her story is an off-shoot of that faith!

Both my friend who wishes to counsel Daniel and this stranger aboard an intercontinental flight depend on a similar interaction between man (a person) and God. My friend’s message is that we must, for a minimum of five minutes per day, stop completely what we are doing and remove all thoughts from our mind except that Jesus is all around us. She went on… “You don’t have to say anything”… just be still, waiting on God to speak to you. You will feel it perhaps when silent, an answer, a quiet peace, an incomprehensible feeling that you just received an affirmation. The key is to be silent and allow God to speak. A well-rehearsed verse is Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted among the earth.” (KJV)

This is where the phylacteries make sense. The two ‘boxes’ with scripture in them are held on to the forehead and left arm of the intercessor with a leather cord that is attached by a precisely tied knot. One represents praying with your entire mind, the other with all your heart (it is close in proximity to the heart). Here is where it truly hit home for me. The remainder of the cord is then wrapped several times around the left hand. It is not to just wrap up extra cord, it is to occupy the hand that otherwise would find a way to busy itself, even while the mind and heart are trying to commune with God. Certainly there is much more to all of this, the kosher aspects of each part of the phylactery is amazing, down to the way in which the threads are made. So please, this is just to make a point, not to teach the wonderful intricacies of the phylactery prayer model.

This is the theological anthropology (or Christian anthropology) with a smattering of pneumatology[i]   for the divinity students out there. God interacting with man. What is so incredible about the communing between the all-powerful, supreme ruler of the universe who chooses to not only talk and share with us; He chooses to patiently wait for us since we are often too busy to pray. So, God waits. He desires a relationship and we desperately need the direction and the peace we can receive by praying and studying God’s Word.

I desire to have my mind focused, my heart tuned and my hands kept from the distractions of life so I can more often and more clearly, hear that still small voice that brings about a peace that only God can give.


[i] The study of the Holy Spirit, His interactions in the world and within the believer

extermination

Dr. Ross L. Riggs Ministry Minute 29 April 2012 http://www.docriggs.com


The sun was as bright as we had seen it and the sky as blue as we had experienced since arriving in the northern city of Sopot, Poland the week before. This day was the 28th of April 2012, a date of no particular importance until mid-way through our day. It was with mixed emotions that I had asked our host to indulge our request to visit a Nazis death camp not too far from the town. The camp was named Stutthof, which was one that was not particularly familiar to me, even as a student of history.
I soon learned that Stutthof was the first concentration camp in Poland used by the Nazis to house prisoners of a political nature, the teachers, professors, doctors, the best and the brightest from the early years of the Poland calmpaign. Hitler had begun his invasion of Poland in the port ciy of Gdansk and it was in the Grand Hotel of Sopot that he kept his offices. It was not long, though, before ‘concentration’ camps were replaced in their methodology by ‘extermination camps’ with Stutthof as the principle camp, feeding other camps and directing the final solution.
In stark contrast to the sign over the Aushwitz gate that proclaimed “Arbeit Macht Frei – Work Makes One Free” the sign below at Stutthof, “Extermination through Work” declared no such reason for hope. Much has been written about life (death) in the camps; some of the most moving by survivors themselves. To quote American President, Abraham Lincoln, as he was taken aback by the sites of Gettysburg, “The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.”

The brave who struggled at Stutthof included women and children too, of all ages. I cannot, by my words, add to what was accomplished by the 65,000 murdered at Stutthof and over double the number that went through there, most transferred to other camps.

The emphasis of the 28 April date became clear from a sign within the unit which described the medical mal-treatment and surgical experimentation that was done without anesthesia nor any method to fight infection. Our visit on 28 April was seventy years exactly from the date when a new commander was brought to the camp with some fanfare; who would serve until the camp’s liberation.

Houpsturmfuhrer

A side note, other Nazis SS that held the rank of Haupsturmfuhrer included Joseph Mengele, the butcher and Klaus Barbie the Gestapo Chief of Lyon. It was yet another indication of the barbaric nature of the treatment of all who came into the death grip of the Gestapo.

Dehumanization of the prisoners kept them at bay while it also ‘vindicated’ the men who followed orders, in their own minds, if they could see these fellow human beings as less than dogs. The sunshine, blue skies, green fields with wild flowers growing where once men, women and children huddled together dying of disease, starvation and abuse seemed God’s way of reclaiming this part of His creation. If tortured human souls could haunt their last abode of earth’s plateau, it would be in a place like this. God’s Word tells us though that souls departed from the body are either with the Lord or in Gahanna awaiting future judgment. It follows, though that the demonic forces that once worked their evil would enjoy such a place as this if God does not chose to prevent their return. I would caution any believer when visiting a place of any such atrocity to bathe the visit and themselves in prayer, before, during and after the visit. Protection from the evil one is always a good plea to make before the Throne of Grace.

The purpose here, however, is first to remind folks that, regardless of the lunacy around Holocaust denials, it did happen and civilization must remember through the stories and the faces of the heroes, both living and dead. It must be remembered through visits such as this one and the short narratives of those who chose to write about them. Jesus Christ proclaims the antithesis of Auschwitz, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” (John 8:32)