In Jewish history and tradition, the family is considered to be the most important institution for shaping ethnic and religious identity and transmitting Judaism’s basic norms and values.! Indeed, the family and the synagogue are the only two institutions referred to in traditional Jewish literature as mikdash me ‘at, or “sanctuary in miniature,” sharing the responsibility for handing down both Jewish law and Jewish values. The family has been the setting, if not the focal point, for much of Jewish religious tradition. And, in the view of many present-day observers, it is the institution primarily responsible for Jewish continuity.
the father in the first-century jewish world was the go-to person. he was the hierarchy within the family system, the person in charge, and also the person to blame if any of his children got out of hand. his role was to keep order in his family. his role was one of the most important in the jewish community. it was a role of status. and jesus says to hate him – well, not him but the role, what he stands for. he essentially tells those who want to be just like him to violently divorce themselves from a need for hierarchy. hierarchy is also how rome ran their country. even other tribes during that period had hierarchies. had roles and status. he was challenging the cultural structures. he was pushing the boundaries of the status quo into this deep non-existence. a family gives you status. gives you a name and even influence.
jesus is saying to give it up.
become a person who isn’t driven by success or by what gives you status. in fact it he says to hate it. if you hate something you distance yourself from it. you don’t associate yourself with it or anything that is related to it. that is the metaphor of hating your father, mother, daughter and etc. hate anything that is associated with status. become status-less. jesus is attempting to restore a spirit of nonduality. he is being counter-culturally counter-cultural. he is also denigrating familial convention.
to hear a rabbi tell you that you must hate your family wouldn’t have been a nice thing to hear, and like some of us, some of the hearers might have also heard this literally. so, this wouldn’t have set well on the tastebuds. these were sour words. they would have stung. the father was the central figure to holding tradition together. jesus invites us to ‘hate’ them. jesus is saying that to be people who can be enlightened like him, we have to be willing to disassociate ourselves with tradition, dissassociating ourselves from structure, distance ourselves from the culture that gave us a name.
jesus is also saying we must become genderless. that there are no male or female roles, there just is. we are what we are because of the person next to us, not because of anything we’ve done. we are what we are not because of status but because of who we are. nothing else gives us status other than us being us.
in a culture, where everything was inherited (even sin in some circles) jesus is inviting each person to see themselves as one yet unique. as a free person who has a right to be different; in that culture, it was expected that you would become what the father wanted you to be. jesus is inviting all to pave their own way. to strip themselves of conventional identity and see beyond the culture and see themselves as a person who has an identity to be discovered. part of this process is the willingness to be anarchic to our traditions, vices, and identity. we must become identityless to find ourselves. you might notice some dichotomies in this post. its because the role of father has dichotomy laced within its role. its paradox in its stringent form. the follower of jesus is one who is willing to find herself in the chaos of paradox. even to the point of intentionally immersing one’s identity into the eye of the storm that will strip the identity of identity. in the gap between identity and being nameless is the person you were meant to be waiting for you there. this process of divorce is is part of the journey of what it means to meet the rabbi witout a name.