January 2007 Updates
01.31.07 (Shevat 12, 5767) I am still writing an article that will attempt to explain the relationship between the Church and Israel. It is a very involved subject, of course, and I am trying to be fair to all sides of the issue. Developing...
01.30.07 (Shevat 11, 5767) I am currently writing an article about the relationship between Israel and the Church. Does the Church replace national Israel (replacement theology), or are the Church and Israel completely separate entities in the purposes of God (separation theology)? Might there some sort of overlap between the groups? I have the first draft more or less written, though I need to clean it up a bit before adding it to the site here. Developing....
01.29.07 (Shevat 10, 5767) Because nearly every day I get a request for Hebrew lettering intended to be used for tattoos, I finally decided to create a page that explains why I think modifying the body in this way is decidely unkosher...
Shekhinah? Oy Vey...
01.28.07 (Shevat 9, 5767) I updated the weekly Torah portion for this coming Shabbat (Beshalach) and created a new PDF file for you to download. This parashah includes the climactic account of Yetziat Mitzraim (the Exodus from Eygpt), including the dramatic crossing of the Red Sea.
Unfortunately, I did not have time to write drash for the Haftorah and brit chadashah portions, but one thing of interest is the connection between the crossing of the Red Sea and the "baptism of Moses" that Paul mentions in 1 Cor. 10:1-4. What did Paul mean when he wrote that "our fathers" (i.e., the Jewish people) all were "baptized into Moses"?
Well, unlike some versions of theology that use this typology as a pretext for paedo-baptism, the parting of the sea made a path for the Jews that inaugurated their covenant life under Moses' leadership. They left behind them the old life of slavery in order to obtain inheritance as God's chosen people as identified with a new leader (Moses). To be "baptized into someone," then, means to enter into relationship with that person and to acknowledge him as their mediator before God (Deuteronomy 5:5; Galatians 3:19-22). Just as the LORD provided the Israelites the only means of physical escape from death through the Red Sea, He has provided us with the only means of spiritual escape through the merits and sacrifice of Messiah Yeshua. The passage through the Red Sea was a new birth of sorts, separating the LORD's chosen people from their previous life in bondage in Egypt. When we are baptized into Yeshua, we likewise are separated from our previous life, born again (John 3:3,7), and given the great blessing of having Jesus as our Mediator before the Father (1 Tim. 2:5; Hebrews 9:15).
This coming Shabbat occurs on Tu B'shevat (the 15th of Shevat). Tu B'Shevat is known as the Rosh Hashanah (New Year) for trees, and is observed throughout Israel as a sort of national Arbor Day. Though it might be cold where you live, in Israel many people will plant trees to celebrate the arrival of Spring!
01.26.07 (Shevat 7, 5767) Today I added "Advanced Information" regarding the Hebrew letter Ayin that I hope you will find provocative and helpful:
In this connection, perhaps I should once again reiterate something that I think is important regarding the "mystical" or "inner meaning" of the Hebrew letters. First, although there is real insight that can be gained from studying the origin, metaphors, and symbolism of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, such a study should always be subsumed under the authority of the p'shat, or plain sense, derived from the grammatical historical method of interpreting the Scriptures. It's an ill-advised type of exegesis that seeks to discover deeper layers of meaning in a given text before performing a thorough grammatical/historical analysis. The old maxim: "A text without context is pretext" applies here as well, especially since so many people are eager to jump into "sod-level" mysteries of the Scriptures without doing the necessary work required to understand the original intent and meaning of the author. Please use discernment and caution in these matters, chaverim....
01.24.07 (Shevat 5, 5767) I stayed up late tonight to write a brief Hebrew Meditation entitled Etz Chayim - Tree of Life. I hope you will find it helpful in your devotional life and meditations, and that you will see clearly that Yeshua is indeed the "Paradise of God" for all who put their trust in Him.
01.23.07 (Shevat 4, 5767) I added some new "Advanced Information" about the letter Aleph today, including some more information about the (untranslatable) direct object marker (et - spelled Aleph-Tav) and how certain Jewish mystics reason that the first created act of God was that of the Hebrew alphabet.
01.21.07 (Shevat 2, 5767) I updated the weekly Torah portion for this coming Shabbat (Bo) and created a new PDF file for you to download. This is an amazing parashah, and I hope you will take a few minutes to review the precious truth it contains, especially regarding the blood of the lamb and the salvation of Israel.
The Blood of the Lamb
Please keep this ministry in your prayers. My time is limited in a number of ways, yet I want to ensure that the site is both fully up-to-date as well as fresh with new material. However, unlike other web sites, I write all the articles here and do not simply link material in from other sites, so this means that I must work on the site regularly in order to keep abreast of the mo'edim and other events on the Jewish calendar. Since I have various afflictions, this is not as easy as it may be for some others. Your prayers for me are sincerely appreciated.
My son Josiah ben Yisroel also needs prayer since he is sick with a bad cold. Of course these things are common enough for children, but it still is difficult to watch your child suffer. We are praying but ask you to agree with our tehillim for his "refuah shelemah." Thank you again.
01.17.07 (Tevet 27, 5767) Based on numerous requests from site visitors, I decided to go back and try to finish the "Mysteries of the Hebrew Alphabet" material I was working on last year. Today I completed the "Advanced Material" on the letter Samekh. Tomorrow, IY"H, I will add material on Ayin...
I am also considering moving ALL of the "mysterious" information about the letters of the Hebrew Aleph-bet to a separate area, since many who are first learning the language might be distracted by this sort of thing. What do you think? Email me if you have an opinion one way or another.
Finally, today I found more of my site's content posted on another site (a tattoo site, of all things) -- without my permission (of course). Frankly, it's unlikely I would have given permission to the tattoo vendor, since it is 1) against Jewish halakhah (law) to get a tattoo, and 2) it's considered bad taste from a Messianic point of view. But regardless, I was (again) troubled that the work I am doing is being used to propagate ideas that I do not agree with, and I really don't know what to do anymore. I will pray about this. Perhaps I will make the site a subscription (i.e., registration-only) site that is still free -- so that users in the general public will not be able to grab what they want and then reuse it in ways that are contrary to the purposes of this site.
Nu, what purpose is that, you ask? Well, here's my semi-formal "mission statement":
The Hebrew for Christians web site is intended to provide a resource for the Church regarding its rich Hebraic heritage by promoting Jewish literacy among all those who claim Jesus Christ as their Lord.
The ultimate aim of this site is really simple: to make plain the truth of the Jewishness of our LORD Jesus and to glorify His Name. Along the way, of course, this is a place to learn about Hebrew, Jewish culture, Hebrew blessings, Jewish prayer, etc., but the plainly put goal of this entire site -- nearly 2000 pages so far -- is to show that Jesus is great and glorious and is our Mashiach, Savior, and LORD.
Finally, for some of my more theologically inclined readers, perhaps I should add a quick word about my assumptions as I work with the Hebrew (and Greek) texts. First, I employ a historical-grammatical approach to Scripture that attempts to approximate objective truth, i.e., the original intent of the author of a given text. This, of course, is an ideal, and I am keenly aware that we all "import" our biases when reading, but as much as is possible I attempt to "hear" the texts by letting the history and the grammar of a passage direct my inferences. On another level, and more importantly, I read the text with the heart of faith. Studying the original language is not some intellectual game to play, but is a devotional work intended to apprehend revelation given by the LORD God of Israel Himself.
Consequently, my theological viewpoint agrees most closely with a premillennial eschatology that is "dispensational," at least regarding God's sovereign purposes and election of national Israel. The Church of God, kallat Mashiach, is therefore something "new" relative to God's overarching and unconditional covenants given to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Though He was born the King of the Jews, national Israel "opted out" of the new covenant blessings by rejecting Him as their King -- at least temporarily. However, Jesus will return to Jerusalem one day (soon) to establish the kingdom of God upon the earth. At that time all the words of the prophets concerning Israel's restoration will be fulfilled. The Church is not to be confused with Israel, since it represents a called-out group of people from "every tribe and tongue" that partakes of the redemption given through Mashiach during this present age (olam hazeh). The way into the new covenant blessings is today open to all the nations, both Jew and non-Jew alike. Prophetically, national Israel will be restored to the place of blessing upon the earth (olam haba), but this does mean that Israel will one day "convert" to become Christians in this present age, but only after the nation proclaims, "baruch haba b'shem Adonai," blessed is He (Yeshua) who comes in the Name of the LORD.
01.16.07 (Tevet 26, 5767) I added a new PDF file of the books of the Bible in Hebrew for you to download, if desired. I also am working on adding a new Hebrew blessing based on 1 Cor 8:6:
"Yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist."
1 Corinthians 8:6
01.15.07 (Tevet 25, 5767) As a reminder, the 15th of Shevat (called Tu B'Shevat) occurs in a couple of weeks, on February 3rd. Tu B'Shevat is known as the Rosh Hashanah (New Year) for trees, and is observed throughout Israel as a sort of national Arbor Day. In Israel, many people plant trees and celebrate the arrival of Spring.
01.14.07 (Tevet 24, 5767) I updated the weekly Torah portion for this coming Shabbat (Va'era) and created a new PDF file. Unfortunately, this is an abbreviated drash on the parsha, since I have had a very limited amount of time the last few days.
On a personal note, I could use your prayers for this ministry.... Often I get tired working on this material late into the night and wonder if it is worth the effort. Occasionally someone will drop me a note of encouragement and even offer a donation (thank you!), and that keeps me going, but lately I have been sensing a lot of spiritual opposition, and the battle seems to run long at times. So my appeal to you -- please pray for this work to continue. In particular, please ask the LORD God of Israel to give me strength and to proclaim His glory on this site. And if you are blessed by this ministry, do me a favor and suggest it as a link on some of the other sites you visit. I would like to see the outreach of this site grow.... Thank you.
01.11.07 (Tevet 21, 5767) I am continuing to rework the Ten Commandments page, which now includes a lot more information about the chronology from the Torah. I also included some midrash about the tablets themselves (e.g., that they were hewn from pure blue sapphire and carved on both sides by the finger of God), and included some information from Jewish rabbinical tradition. And of course I included Jesus' view of the point of the Law as well.... Please take a minute or two to read this material or download the PDF file. I labored long and hard to make it accessible to all of you, and I hope it will be a blessing!
Ketav Ashurit (Samekh) on Sapphire
Ketav Ivrit (Ayin) on Sapphire
In the following days, IY"H, I will be adding additional content to each of the various commandments. This is a rich area of study for all who love our Jewish Lord and Savior, Jesus the Mashiach.
01.10.07 (Tevet 20, 5767) I am reworking the Ten Commandments pages by breaking them apart (one page per commandment, in order to make the pages load faster). Ultimately I would like to rewrite the material for each of the commandments, though at the present time all I have done is rewrite the introduction (and split up the content). Please note that the PDF files for each commandment are not done yet.
On another note, today I received a letter from a site visitor who was worried that he might be violating the copyright here because he is using this material for self-study purposes. No, the copyright here is only intended to restrict visitors who plan on using this material on other web sites or in publications. In other words, if you will use this material for self-teaching or for personal use -- there is NO copyright violation! In fact, it is my hope that visitors here will indeed study this material -- that's the whole point! My concern is when I find the material copied off and put on other sites without getting approval from Hebrew4Christians. I hope that clarifies matters, chaverim!
01.09.07 (Tevet 19, 5767) On account of a recent discussion over at the Hebrew for Christians forum (http://forums.hebrew4christians.com) regarding the deity of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit), I enhanced the Names of G-d page (Holy Spirit is Adonai) to more clearly indicate the divine nature of the Holy Spirit.
I also created a new PDF download for this page.
Similarly, I enhanced the Names of G-d page (Yeshua is Adonai) to more clearly demonstrate that Jesus is indeed YHVH come in the flesh (a PDF download is also available).
01.08.07 (Tevet 18, 5767) I updated the weekly Torah portion (Shemot) for this coming Shabbat and created a new PDF file of the summary. The second book of Torah is called "Exodus," which comes from the Greek translation of the Rabbinic name of the book, Sefer Yetziat Mitzraim ("the book of the going out from Egypt"). In Hebrew this book is called Shemot ("names"), following the custom of naming a book according to its first significant word. Parashat Shemot (the first portion of the book) begins directly where Genesis left off, by listing the "names" of the descendants of Jacob who came to Egypt to live in the land of Goshen. This is a wonderful portion of Scripture that gives great insight into the besorat hage'ulah provided by the LORD Yeshua our Savior.
01.05.07 (Tevet 15, 5767) Today I added another Hebrew blessing (kol-yachol) that is found in some Jewish siddurim (prayer books). This is a blessing that affirms God's sovereignty over the universe as Ribbono shel Olam. What's fascinating about this blessing is that it is based on Isaiah 45:7, which is part of a prophecy given to the great Persian king Cyrus -- written some 150 years before he was born! Now Cyrus was a "Zoroastrian," a believer in the dualistic mystical teachings of the Persian philosopher Zarathustra, but God was going to show him that He alone is the Master of all that is both good and evil in the universe.
God intervened in King Cyrus's life in a way similar to the way He intervened in Pharaoh's during the time of the Exodus of Israel from Egypt (but in this case, the exodus was from Babylon back to Jerusalem). Indeed, Cyrus was a type of Messiah (he was literally called mashiach, "anointed") whom Adonai used to ransom captive Israel and return a remnant to Zion -- a clear picture of the redeeming work of the true Mashiach Yeshua, blessed be He! I hope you will find this thought-provoking and helpful in your walk with the LORD.
01.04.07 (Tevet 14, 5767) As part of my goal to provide you with the most common Hebrew blessings, today I added a little blessing called batishbachot that is normally integrated into the Hallel portion of Jewish liturgy. Though it is a small thing, I hope you will find it helpful.
On another note: Today I got an email from someone who scolded me for copyrighting my work here, and then proceeded to tell me that they were going to take what they wanted and publish it in a book, regardless of my wishes to the contrary. This person made the claim that since the truth about God is freely given, I should not begrudge others from taking my work to be used in any way they see fit.... (heavy sigh)
While it's gloriously true that the LORD gives His Word to all who ask for it, and while it is gloriously true that His salvation is a free gift to those who come to Him in childlike faith, it is nevertheless true that those who labor in the Word should be compensated, at least on some level (Galatians 6:6, 1 Timothy 5:17-18, 1 Corinthians 9:14). Besides, the work I do on this site involves a lot of development and programming, not to mention the costs associated with web hosting, etc. None of it comes by magic but is the result of a lot of late nights working behind the scenes... Moreover, some of the material on this site is itself copyrighted by others (for example, some of the sound recordings), and I cannot give permission to use work that doesn't belong to me...
I suppose my biggest concern, however, is with the misuse of this material. For instance, I have actually seen my site content published (without my permission) on other sites that are advocating Torah observance as a means of sanctification -- a doctrine of which I particularly disagree. This is especially frustrating and demotivating to me.
One solution would be to make this site accessible by "subscription" only, but I have decided not to do that, in agreement with the sentiments expressed by my critic. I agree that this material should be freely given, and therefore I don't charge for my labors... (Some of you have given me donations in the past, and I truly appreciate that, since it goes a long way to both encouraging me to continue and for paying for the costs I incur while running this site. Please accept my thanks for your help.)
This is, alas, just one of the trials associated with doing this sort of work. The Internet is such a fluid medium that it's nearly impossible to expect things like copyrights, etc., to be respected. I would publish some additional books, but I can't afford it, and the numbers of people that seem interested in understanding and savoring the Jewish Roots of Christianity are regrettably small.
At any rate, I plan to continue this work as long as the LORD gives me the grace to do so. I sincerely believe it is of value to Christians to learn about their Jewish heritage and to remember that Jesus lived as a Jew (Romans 15:8). Many errors in Christian theology have arisen due to forgetfulness of the "grafted in" status of the Church (Romans 11), particularly in the areas of eschatology, ecclesiology, hermeneutics, and so on. How can we understand the Jewish Mashiach without having the heart of a Jew? How can we understand our faith -- and even ourselves -- if we forget our history?
01.03.07 (Tevet 13, 5767) The Jewish sages teach that a Jew should try to say at least 100 berachot (blessings) a day. There are Jewish blessings for just about everything -- from the moment you first open your eyes to start your day, to the last words you will recite upon your bed before falling asleep (in between, of course, is where it gets interesting -- and that's where our sense of gratitude will always be tested).
Do you remember this scene from the Fiddler on the Roof? The young man Labish approaches the dear and wise old Rabbi and asks him, "Is there a proper blessing for the czar?" The gentle Rabbi responds that indeed there is a proper blessing for the czar!
"May God bless and keep the Czar … far away from us!" (Amen!)
One blessing that we might feel some embarrassment about is the "Asher Yatzar" blessing, which thanks the LORD for the ability to relieve ourselves. However, this ancient blessing, composed sometime during the time of Ezra of the Great Assembly, is nothing to feel awkward about, since it frankly thanks God for creating the complexity of the human body and for the gracious gift of its proper functioning. You can learn more about it here.
In a sense, we are all like newborn babies in this world, entirely dependent upon God's love to sustain us and keep us alive for His purposes and glory. May the LORD Yeshua our Mashiach give you health and peace as you reflect on His sustaining love today.
01.01.07 (Tevet 11, 5767) The Biblical New Year begins on Rosh Chodashim (Nisan 1), the Jewish religious New Year begins on Rosh Hashanah (Tishri 1), and the New Year for trees begons on Tu B'Shevat. However, since we live under the Gregorian Calendar, let me wish you a Happy (civil) New Year, chaverim. (Note: January 1st is considered by some to be the date of the circumcision of Jesus (the 8th day after His birth on Dec. 25th [the day of one's birth is counted as the first day of the eight]), which would mark the first time the Savior shed His blood. Of course, the exact date of Jesus' birth is uncertain, though the facts of His life (and His sacrificial death and resurrection) are among the best attested events of all history.)
I updated the weekly Torah portion (Vayechi) for this coming Shabbat, and created a new PDF file of the summary. This is the final portion for sefer Bereshit (the book of Genesis), one of the most profound and important books of the Bible.