The Hat


Hats somteimes have religious significance. As example, in some churches or denominations, such as the Catholic church and the ABC, women are required to cover their heads while praying. Men should not. This head covering topic was regularly argued in the ABC, but was never honestly resolved under the surface.

While flipping through the channels one day, I came across a show about bidding on abandoned storage lockers. In one episode, a bidder found an elaborately ornamented hat box containing a Shtreimel. A Shtreimel is a hat worn by some married male Hasidic Jews and is usually made from fox tails. It takes about four-hundred animals to make just one hat so they can be quite expensive. 

The origin of the Shtreimel is uncertain but some believe they originated from a time when Jews were required to wear a fox tail on the Sabbath to identify them as Jewish. The Jews turned this curse into a blessing by wearing the fox tails as hats and formed them into a style mimicking the hats worn by royals. Smart!

By Dieter Philippi - Eigene Aufnahme, Eigentum, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Moving on to the second part of this tale. The buyer of this locker was unaware of what he had, and the value of this Shtreimel. He discovered specific markings on the hat box which suggested it had a Jewish origin so he sought out a Hasidic Rabbi for an appraisal. This meeting took place in a Jewish synagogue. When the buyer learned his fifty dollar purchase was worth at least four thousand dollars he could not contain his excitement and uttered out a loud curse word. This caused the Rabbi to panic momentarily, but then realizing the cabinet holding the Torah scrolls was closed, and the Torah had not heard this profanity, he relaxed again.

In all the paper, in all the world, there is not a single breath of life. While there are writings about the “Living Word of God”, is this actually talking about a book or scroll?  It is not.  The true word of God is written on tablets of the heart and we can become living epistles.

I have a bunch of books. I love books. I actually once had so many books I was accused of starting a library by a pair of movers I hired. But none of these books ever created a single thing. Instead they just sat on a shelf waiting for my attention. 

I've loved books since I was very young; about age six when I first learned to read; but they have never once returned my affection and not a single one has in it the breath of life.

I found this rabbis horror a bit puzzling and I contemplated this interaction for quite some time. I had to ask if this man worshiped God or this set of scrolls. God is everywhere, yet this Rabbi seemed to give no thought to whether God was offended by the cursing; only if the scrolls were protected and not offended. Perhaps that seems odd but, in some ways, it does illustrate the  very nature of man. 

For several years I sold advertising and developed promotions for small businesses. It is, at times, a tough sell since advertising and promotions are an intangible product. I sold essentially empty space that then needed to be filled. The results were usually directly immeasurable so the value of that space I was selling had to be accepted strictly on faith that it had done some good. That is often difficult to quantify. Had I been selling gold widgets, at a bargain price, I would have had a much easier time selling than blank space. 

God is an intangible. God is immeasurable.  You can’t see God; you can’t touch God, you can't directly feel God. God is much like invisible air. You know air exists because you can breathe it in, it can create lift to fly, you can feel it in the currents of wind, but only the effects of air can be seen and not the air itself. God is  the same. Invisible and intangible but we can witness the effects and creations of God to prove God exists.

In my pondering I juxtaposed the ABC’s love of books and studies over a love for the weightier matters of the law; justice, mercy and faith. I asked myself if it was the same and concluded it was mostly the same. Certainly, the ABC does not have a cabinet to display their books and studies like the scrolls of the Torah were enshrined, but the love is actually quite equal to this rabbis love for his scrolls. I don’t intend to diminish the value of the writings in the Torah, but it is, after all, just paper and ink. The words are not what is important. It is the value behind those words. When we look at the values Jesus brought to this world, the making of books and study materials was not ever included in that list.

What is the result of this? When the love of books, rules and laws overpower the love of people, and  individual frailties, the result is hardness of heart, pride and the pointing of the finger. The ABC considers itself not a part of Christianity when, in fact, they are actually just a tiny part of the broader “Christian church” they claim to despise. They have been overtaken with the pride of tangible paper and ink which then lords over the love, joy and peace which gives evidence of the intangible God. If books and studies were the primary goal of Jesus, he would have left us books and studies. He didn’t leave a single book or study. He didn’t even leave instructions in this regard. If one looks at Jesus' life, he took issue with the Pharisees, the Sadducee and those other lawgivers who inflicted pain on others through an overbearing upholding of the law of Moses through books and studies. He accepted people where they were, helped them heal through compassion and mercy, and did not demand any sort of rote education.

There is an argument method which involves carrying a person’s words to the most extreme, even if that persons words spoken were actually quite moderate. There are those who have carried my words to the most extreme, in an effort to diminish my message. One can only sigh. I value the writings which have been left by previous generations. I regularly refer to Psalms, Proverbs and the writings of Solomon for wisdom. In the end, my hope, my salvation, my trust, is in God alone and not in these writings. Even Jesus was just a messenger sent since those who came before him did not listen to the prophets when they spoke the hard truths. Instead they killed them. Sometimes the easiest way to rid yourself of an uncomfortable truth is to just kill the messenger. It’s worked throughout all of history and I can certainly relate.

God is intangible and is everywhere. Man is a tangible being and finite. Man seeks safety and security in tangible things, like books and studies. God instead provides us safety and security by providing us  space to grow. Our lives feel intangible so we seek out the tangible as comfort.  Solomon discovered this and said, “of making many books there is no end”. He too found this habit of endless study tiresome when he sought even greater wisdom through much study, but to no avail. Vanity vanity, he said. 

God is very complex. We will never acquire enough knowledge to understand God. There is no greater freedom than to say, “I don’t know”. He who says he knows something is really the liar the scriptures speaks about. Paul warned the Corinthians not to have this attitude. We fruitlessly strive to understand time honored mysteries. We become full of pride when we think we know something, but really know nothing. Faith is an intangible, not definable, yet faith is the only true path. The more we try to “find a more perfect way”, through books in our fruitless effort to understand God, the more we are just trying to make God tangible for our own benefit. We are only digging a bigger hole to fall into. The writer of Psalms 7 referenced this very thing:

Behold, the wicked brings forth iniquity;
Yes, he conceives trouble and brings forth falsehood.
He made a pit and dug it out,
And has fallen into the ditch which he made.
His trouble shall return upon his own head,
And his violent dealing shall come down on his own crown.

I began to understand this concept several years before I was ambushed. I tried to absolutely define Zion and found this completely impossible. My message of freedom, over bondage to books, did not sit well with leaders in the ABC and I was eventually diminished through their “kill the messenger” devices. 
My message is a simple one. All that is required by God is simple. We need to learn from the wisdom of Solomon when he found that to serve God is to keep his commandments (which are not grievous). To love the simplicity of Christ is all there is. That is it. The rest is just “I don’t know”. When we struggle to "nail it all down" it just becomes more weariness to our tangible flesh.