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Hebrew for Christians Updates

September 2007 Updates

Sukkot Continues!

  (Sukkot 4, 5768) Here are some pictures we took on Sukkot day 2, which also was a Shabbat. We had several of our own "ushpizin" come by to join us, including some neighbors who never had been inside a sukkah before:

Our sukkah is actually quite small, but we managed to fit seven people in for the yom tov meal.  It was a special time.

Ushpizin and hakhnasat orechim

  (Sukkot 2, 5768) Last night I watched the wonderful film Ushpizin which I highly recommend to you, especially during the festival week of Sukkot.

Go to the Web Site


Ushpizin?  According to Jewish mystical tradition, during Sukkot the souls of the "seven shepherds of Israel" (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph, and King David) leave the Garden of Eden (thought to be the abode of the righteous dead) to visit earthly Sukkot celebrations (Zohar - Emor 103a). Collectively these transcendent guests are known as Ushpizin, an Aramaic word meaning "guests." Each day of Sukkot, a different "guest" is thought to be dispatched from heaven. To welcome them, some Ultra Orthodox offer a formal invitation for their arrival while others set aside a chair reserved for them.

The fun of the movie is that the guests who visit are sometimes not whom we might expect, and that leads to comedy, pathos, and a strong expression of faith.  This is a classic "fable" of hakhnasat orekhim (hospitality to guests) straight from the Jewish heart. Recommended!

Living in our Sukkah

  (Sukkot 1, 5768) This evening we ate dinner in our sukkah, said the relevant blessings, and prayed. The sky was clear and the air crisp. We saw the full moon and even invited some neighbors in to see the place. We wish you were there with us....

Assembling our Sukkah

  (Erev Sukkot 5768) I wish you a wonderful Sukkot season - this sacred time that reminds us of our heavenly Father's sheltering Presence during our times of wandering here on this earth.  Here are some pictures we took this evening as we finished building our sukka and said the Shehecheyanu and al netilat lulav blessings:

New Hebrew Meditation

   I added a new Hebrew Meditation (more of an article, really) that revisits certain questions regarding the Sacred Name of God (YHVH) today.


I also updated some entries in the Yiddish Glossary section of the site as time permits, so if you haven't visited that part of the site recently, you will find some new words.

Sukkot Torah Readings

  Since the Jewish calendar is lunar-solar instead of solar, Sukkot Torah readings change every year, based on when Shabbat occurs during the 8 day festival. To find the readings for this year, see the Weekly Torah Readings pageSukkot Sameach chaverim.

Zman Simchateinu - Time of our Joy

Getting Ready for Sukkot

"In the Sukkot (booths) you shall dwell for seven days" (Lev 23:42)

  On the Jewish calendar, there is a 5 day transition from the somber time of the Jewish High Holidays (Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur) to the festival of Sukkot.  Sometimes called "Tabernacles" by the Church (though hardly even mentioned by most pastors today), Sukkot has a prophetic dimension awaiting fulfillment. As the Day of Ingathering of the harvest, Sukkot prefigures the gathering together of the Jewish people in the days of the Messiah's reign on earth (Isaiah 27:12-13; Jeremiah 23:7-8). Indeed all of the nations of the earth that survived the Great Tribulation will come together to worship the LORD in Jerusalem during the Feast of Sukkot (Zechariah 14:16-17). No longer will Israel be subject to the oppression of the goyim, but God Himself will place His sanctuary in her midst (Ezekiel 37:26-28).

Yeshua the Mashiach did indeed come to "sukkah" or "tabernacle" with us (see John 1:14, which is the same Greek root as the mishkan or Tabernacle of the Torah) in order to purge our sins from us and to redeem us to Himself.  Nevertheless, we still eagerly await His return to establish His Kingdom and set up His everlasting Sukkah with us -- so that that we may know, love, and abide with the Him forever!

The lulav is a bouquet made of the palm branches,
myrtle and willow branches that are bound together
and waved / shaken in praise to the LORD.

Yom Kippur, Confession, and the Book of Life

  What do Messianic Jews do regarding Yom Kippur?  Do we fast, afflict ourselves, and confess our sins, or do we rejoice in the knowledge that we are forgiven of all our sins because of Yeshua's perfect avodah as our Kohen Gadol (High Priest) of the New Covenant?  In other words, should we be sad and afflicted or happy and comforted?

1 John 1:9 (HNT); detail from Maurycy Gottlieb (1856-1879)

Some Messianic Jews observe Yom Kippur (i.e., keep the 25 hour fast, confess sins, etc.) in order to better identify with the Jewish people, while others might observe it as a special time of personal confession and teshuvah. We are careful, however, to keep in mind that such observance does not grant us a "favorable judgment" before the LORD or determine whether our names will be written in Sefer Hachayim (the Book of Life), since Yeshua's sacrifice and intercession is all we need for at-one-ment with the Father. Those who belong to Yeshua are indeed written in the "Lamb's book of life " (Phil. 4:3; Rev. 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27; 22:19).

The Book of Life

What is Sefer haChayim? This is the allegorical book in which God records the names and lives of the righteous (tzaddikim). According to the Talmud it is open on Rosh Hashanah (the Book of the Dead, sefer hametim, is open on this date as well) and God then examines each soul to see if teshuvah is sh'leimah (complete). If a person turns to God and makes amends to those whom he has harmed, he will be given another year to live in the following (Jewish) year. On the other hand, if he does not repent, then the decree may be given that he will die during the coming year... 

In Jewish tradition, Yom Kippur is essentially your last appeal, your last chance to change "the judgment of God" and to demonstrate your repentance and make amends. The books are "written" on Rosh Hashanah, but our deeds during the Ten Days of Awe can alter God's decree. The actions that change the decree are teshuvah (repentance), tefilah (prayer) and tzedakah (good deeds). The books are then "sealed" on Yom Kippur.

Again, it is important to keep in heart that those who are trusting in Yeshua as their Atonement before the Father are thereby declared tzaddikim and their names are written (and sealed) in the Book of Life.  The Day of Judgment for our sinful lives has come in the Person of Yeshua the Mashiach, blessed be He.  All those who truly belong to Yeshua are written in the "Lamb's book of life " (Phil. 4:3; Rev. 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27; 22:19).

The traditional viduy (a confessional prayer consisting of two parts, ashamnu and al chet) is written using the first person plural: "We have sinned..." since kol Yisrael arevim zeh bazeh - "All Israel is responsible for one another." Traditionally al chet is recited ten times during the course of the five Yom Kippur services. Here's how it starts:

The traditional viduy (a confessional prayer consisting of two parts, ashamnu and al chet) is written using the first person plural: "We have sinned..." since kol Yisrael arevim zeh bazeh - "All Israel is responsible for one another." Traditionally al chet is recited ten times during the course of the five Yom Kippur services. Here's how it starts:

    Al Chet...

    For the sin which we have committed before You under duress or willingly.
    And for the sin which we have committed before You by hard-heartedness.
    For the sin which we have committed before You inadvertently.
    And for the sin which we have committed before You with an utterance of the lips.
    For the sin which we have committed before You with immorality....

    For all of these, God of pardon, pardon us, forgive us...


Confession is vitally important for Messianic Jews and Christians, since it both reminds us of our great need for God's intervention in our lives, and also helps us walk in the truth. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just, to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye (plural) may be healed" (James 5:16).

Eschatologically, Yom Kippur represents the national restoration of Israel at the end of the Great Tribulation period, but it also is a reminder of the terrrible cost of sin in our lives. Sin is so offensive and the debt is so great that it took nothing less than the sacrifice of Yeshua Himself in order to secure our reconciliation with God. We therefore should tremble with fear before God in reverent gratitude of His mercy toward us.

Yom Kippur 

Shalom and may you be filled with assurance of your love, worth, and forgiveness by means of Yeshua our Great High Priest.

REMINDER: Friday September 21, 2007 (at sundown) begins Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement (for 5768). Tzom kal to all of you. See below for links and more information.

Yom Kippur Torah Readings

  I updated the Weekly Torah page to provide the Torah readings for Yom Kippur. Since the book of Jonah is read during the minchah (afternoon) service, if I can find the time, I hope to add some comments about how the "Sign of Jonah" and the sacrificial work of Yeshua as our Kohen Gadol (High Priest) of the new covenant are connected....

Yom Kippur

Fruits of the Spirit


09.19.07  While I was driving to work today, a thought occurred to me that I hope you will find encouraging. The "fruits of the Spirit" are identified as those nine virtues or qualities that mark the life of the true Christian (Gal. 5:22-23):

  1. Love (agape)- ahavah (אַהֲבָה). This is the very first fruit.
  2. Joy (chara)- simcha (שִׂמְחָה)
  3. Peace (eirene) - shalom (שָׁלוֹם)
  4. Longsuffering (makrothumia)- savlanut (סַבְלָנוּת); patience; perseverance; constancy
  5. Gentleness (chrestotes) - mercy and grace; chesed (חֶסֶד)
  6. Goodness (agathosune) - generosity; nedivut lev (נְדִיבוּת לֵב)
  7. Faith (pistis)- trust; emunah (אֱמוּנָה)
  8. Meekness (praotes)- humility; anavah (עֲנָוָה)
  9. Temperance (egkrateia)- self-control; hatznea lechet (מְתִינוּת)

Notice something important, however. These are fruits of the Spirit (Ruach), not fruits of human self-improvement programs or self-effort (regardless of how well-intended such may be). The life of the Spirit of God is His life, after all, and we partake of it as a miracle within our hearts.  It is a shared life that draws upon God's Spirit and expresses back to Him what is freely given by Him.

Since these middot (attributes) are qualities that only God truly possesses, we understand that they constitute God's own disposition toward those of us who are trusting in Him for salvation in our lives.  In other words, God is loving toward us; He expresses joy regarding us; He is patient and full of mercy and grace toward us…

Among other things, Yom Kippur means that God's gracious provision of Jesus offered at Moriah is a free gift of obtaining everlasting forgiveness and acceptance. Just as we are justified by means of emunah (faith), so we are "sanctified" by trusting in His present provision for our daily lives.

Gal 5:22-23 (HNT)

REMINDER: Friday September 21, 2007 (at sundown) begins Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement (for 5768). Tzom kal to all of you. See below for links and more information.

Some Blog Postings

  I have added a couple new blog entries you may find interesting: "Ambassador for Judaism?" briefly considers Madonna's Hollywood-styled Kabbala, and "Don't Tase me, bro" looks at University of Florida student Andrew Meyer's unhappy encounter with political censorship and suppression.

About Yom Kippur

  When it comes to Yom Kippur, we are considering the most holy aspects of our LORD's redemptive work performed on our behalf, namely the sacred "bloodwork" He performed as Kohen Gadol (High Priest) of the Better Covenant. A blood sacrifice is required by the LORD for the issue of sin. Both the Torah (Lev 17:11) and New Testament (Heb 9:22) state that "without the shedding of blood there is no remission."

When Yeshua entered into the "Holy of Holies made without hands" at Moriah (Heb. 9:24) and there offered Himself up as our kapporah (sacrifice) upon the true mercy seat of God, we were given complete atonement before Adonai. The Levitical system of animal sacrifices, including the elaborate Yom Kippur ritual, was meant to foreshadow the true and abiding Sacrifice as the means of reconciliation with God.

Yom Kippur

Indeed, Yeshua is called the "propitiation" or "expiation" for our sins. The Greek word used in Romans 3:25, 1 John 2:2, and 1 John 4:10 ("hilasterion") is the same word used in the LXX for the kapporet [cover of the ark of the covenant] in the Holy of Holies which was sprinkled with the blood of the sacrifice on Yom Kippur.

A lot more can be said about the connection between Yom Kippur as the "Day of Judgement" and the Cross at Moriah, and IY"H I will write some more about this soon, but the upshot is that those who are trusting in God can rejoice that Yeshua lovingly bore their judgement and need no longer live in fear of His wrath.

Tragically, many still hope to gain a favorable judgment from God through all sorts of other means. The religions of mankind are filled with supplicants who attempt to commend themselves before God on account of their good deeds, their repentance, or their adherence to certain rituals...  In Orthodox Jewish tradition, for example, the Kapparot Ceremony is intended to take the place of the Torah's commands for a blood sacrifice given on Yom Kippur:


We need to pray and ask the Lord to give us hearts of compassion and special grace for the spiritual needs of others....  May it please Him to enable us to be His witnesses of the chesed (love) and rachamim (mercy) of God as demonstrated through the gift of Yeshua.


  Shana Tova! (Rosh Hashana Sheni ) I am sure you've heard the phrase, "Cast thy bread upon the waters" (Eccl. 11:1), but in Jewish tradition the Tashlich ceremony is based on Micah 7:19:

yashuv y'rachameinu yikhbosh avonoteinu v'tashlikh bimtzulot yam kol-chatotam

"He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities under foot. You will cast (tashlikh) all our sins into the depths of the sea."  In a symbolic ritual, Jews will shake out their pockets into mayim chayim (a water source such as a river or lake) to represent that their sins are being cast into the depths of the sea, where no one will see them again. Teshuvah, Tehillah, and Tzedakah - repentance, prayer, and charity - these are the spiritual virtues of the High Holidays, and the Tashlich ceremony is based upon their practice.

As believers in Yeshua, performing Tashlikh can be a time for confession and renewal in our lives. Of course, we do not try to earn God's favor by means of ritual acts, and we remind ourselves that the Cross represents our "Day of Judgment." Jesus is our Kohen Gadol (High Priest) of the better covenant (Heb. 8:6) and we rest assured that His sacrifce for our sins is forever sufficient before the Father. We must not forget the "reason for the season" of Rosh Hashanah, chaverim: The sound of our shofar is the sound of praise to Him -- and awakens our hearts to anticipate His soon coming! 


Happy New Year!

  Shana Tova! It is my sincere hope and prayer that this coming new year of the sacred calendar will draw you closer to the Lord Jesus -- Yeshua our Mashiach and Savior. May you "grow in grace and in the knowledge of Him" and may the coming days of this year be filled with His presence and blessing in your life. Amen.

Rosh Hashana 5768

This year is also a Shemittah (Sabbatical) year for the land of Israel (to determine the shemittah year, take the current Jewish year and divide by seven; if there is no remainder, it is a shemittah year; otherwise it is not: 5768/7=824).

I wrote a new article today (called the Search for the Perfect Sphere) that deals with -- of all things -- the philosophy of science and the problem of measurement.  Both the physical world and the world of subjective values are inescapably known or apprehended by means of the ideal.  The ideal world haunts everything we see, do, and experience. It is known in the laboratories of scientists as they seek to create the "perfect sphere" just as it is known in our private moments of shame and confession that we do not live as we ought.  If you're interested in this sort of discussion, especially from an apologetic point of view, you can read the article here.

Perfect Sphere

Note: Though it's not an explicitly Hebrew-focused article, the subject matter is related to the Hebraic mindset since it understands all truth as God's truth. There are no separate compartments of life for those who believe the Scriptures, and therefore we discern the hand of the LORD in the realm of science as we do in the pages of kitvei hakodesh.

Musing about Suffering

  I wrote a new article (Some Musings About Suffering) that asks why God created the universe with both the possibility and the prevalence of suffering and evil. Surely an all-loving, all-knowing, and all-powerful God could have created a world free from the harrowing pain that plagues us all.

This question is not academic, since suffering in our lives can lead to bitterness and chronic depression.  Pointless suffering can lead to eventual madness and spiritual suicide, so it is vital to attempt to understand its function in our lives and find hope in our struggles.


Needless to say, this article just provides a glimpse of the subject, though I hope that the overall line of thinking presented in it will be helpful to some of you.

Wednesday September 12, 2007 (at sundown) is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year (for 5768).  See below for links and more information.

Rosh Hashanah   

Hebrew vs. the State

  So who knew that it might be illegal for a Hebrew-language charter school to teach Hebrew, of all things?  Forget the fact that Hebrew is itself a living language spoken by Israelis and other Jews.  No, the study of Hebrew is now considered dangerous because -- are you ready? -- it might include references to religion or the Jewish Scriptures. Gasp. Apparently such a course of study is an outrage to the secular humanist social engineers who attempt to carefully control the worldview indoctrination of school kids these days.


According to a story reported by the Sun-Sentinel:

    "The dispute came to a head last month when the School Board ordered the kindergarten through eighth grade school to temporarily stop teaching Hebrew out of concern the charter school would be in violation of the federally established separation between religion and government."

The report goes on to say that though the Board graciously deigned to allow Hebrew language instruction to continue:

    "…the school must submit its lesson plans to the district each month for approval. District and Ben Gamla staff must also undergo religious studies. The courses are intended to help educators understand the difference between teaching students about religion and teaching in a way that promotes religion."

What's this? The Hebrew language instructors must undergo a state-sponsored "religious studies" course? Ah, the good old Hegelian dialecticians are at it again, abusing the doctrine of "separation of Church and State" to mean that the State alone has final authority in such matters as these. (The problem with this supposed dichotomy is that it is entirely false.  Religious conviction, by definition, provides axiomatic starting points for all further reasoning about the world, and that of course touches upon the various subjects taught in schools. The entire appeal to the "separation of Church and State" is a propaganda tool to squelch any kind of dissent of governmental edicts. )

I don't have time to go into all that is disturbing about this report, but suffice it to say that the "social engineering machine" in the United States is running on all cylinders, and soon enough it will be considered a hate crime to be a person convictions — other than those sponsored by the State.

Note: If political/social discussions interest you, check out the H4CBlog pages. Shana Tova to you all.


Ha'azinu and Shabbat Shuva

  I updated the weekly Torah portion (Haazinu) and created a new PDF file for you to download.  Haazinu us actually a prophetic shirah (song) that the LORD instructed Moses (and Yehoshua) to sing to the Israelites just before thy entered the Promised Land.  The song functions as a "witness" to testify against the Israelites, warning them about the dire consequences of apostasy from the LORD, but includes the promise that the LORD would eventually avenge the blood of His servants and be reconciled with them at acharit hayamim, the end of days.

Read the Summary

I also included the Rosh Hashanah readings in the parasha link page (here). Shana Tova to all of you -- and especially to those of you who have stood with Hebrew4Christians over the years... May the LORD bless you and give you more and more grace to know the glory of His Son Yeshua.  Amen.

Shuvah Yisrael!

  I hope to be able to update the Torah summary for this coming Shabbat sometime within the next two days. This is "Shabbat Shuva," the Shabbat that falls between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (it takes its name from the Haftarah from Hosea which reads: "Shuvah Yisrael - Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God"). In "Conservadox" Jewish circles, the focus will be on "awakening the heart to teshuvah (repentance)," but for Messianic Jews, there is a great sense of expectancy and celebration, since the sound of the Shofar that signals the Day of Judgment also resounds to the forgiveness and grace demonstrated at the altar of the Cross for the Day of Judgment for their sins. The call of the shofar further prefigures our coming translation at the time of the rapture, where those who are part of Kallat Mashiach - the Bride of Mashiach - will experience everlasting transformation:

    "Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet (shofar): for the trumpet (shofar) shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed." (1 Corinthians 15:51)

We also remember that Yeshua is our Kohen Gadol (High Priest) of the "Better Covenant" (Heb. 8:6), the Lion of the Tribe of Judah who is our ever-reigning King and Lord over all. We anticipate the prophetic fulfillment of the LORD's covenant faithfulness to Israel when we understand that the Yamim Nora'im (Days of Awe) foreshadow the future repentance of national Israel in the days to come. Yom Kippur is the Holiday that pictures the full restoration of Israel to all her covenant promises. The New Covenant will one day soon be embraced and Yeshua will be revealed as Israel's Savior, LORD, and Deliverer. 

With the war with Persia (Iran) on the horizon, Jerusalem has indeed become a "Cup of Trembling" to all the world (Zech 12:2-3). The Muslims (including the president of Iran/Persia, Ahmadinejad) are anxiously expecting "al Mahdi" to appear who will lead the final crusade against the Jewish people; the Orthodox Jews are awaiting their Moshiach and expect him to appear during the coming war with Iran; and many Christians/Messianic Jews expect to see a false "covenant of peace" to be negotiated by a major political leader - called the "antichrist" or "man of sin" - who will ultimately betray Israel and set the stage for the final showdown between the G-d and the devil. 

We do not live in fear, however, since we believe that the life of Yeshua within us is indestructible.  Our days are indeed numbered, but we do not despair with the world, since the Son of God Himself rules and reigns and will soon come to exact vengeance upon all those usurpers of His authority on the earth (2 Thes. 1:7-10). Meanwhile we pray for the lost, seek wisdom, and ask the LORD to graciously guide us during these perilous times.... He is faithful and will always answer the sincere cry of the heart for Him.

Nitzavim and Vayeilech

  I updated the weekly Torah portion for this coming Shabbat.  This week we have a double portion of Torah (parashiyot Nitzavim and Vayeilech). I have also created two new PDF files for you to download as well...


I am still planning on taking some sabbatical time off from working on the site, but since we are nearly at the High Holidays, I will most likely postpone my time of rest until sometime after Sukkot! 

I want to thank each of you who have prayed for Hebrew4Christians. Without your support and love, I could not do this work....

Rosh Hashanah - The Jewish New Year

Rosh Hashanah

09.05.07  Wednesday September 12, 2007 (at sundown) is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year (for 5768). Also called Yom Teru'ah (the Feast of Trumpets), this sacred time has prophetic significance for the Messianic believer, since it commemorates both the creation of the universe by Adonai, as well as the "calling up" of the new creation at the behest of Yeshua, when the sound of the heavenly shofar inaugurates the anticipated End of Days (1 Cor 15:51-54; 1 Thess 4:15-18).

May you be inscribed and sealed in the Lamb's Book of Life forever!

Read the Summary

Do-it-Yourself Rosh Hashanah Home Ceremony

  The home ceremony for Rosh Hashanah takes place at sundown, just before the start of Tishri 1 (click here for information about the calendar). The main event of this holiday consists of a special simchah (festive) meal, similar to a Friday evening Shabbat meal. The Rosh Hashanah celebration begins with the lighting of candles (hadlakat nerot), symbolizing the transition from profane to sacred time, and the recitation of the blessing thanking God for enabling us to reach this season (the Shehecheyanu). Other customs such as eating apples dipped in honey are enjoyed. For more information about all this, click here.

Chag Sameach!  

A Long-Overdue Sabbatical

  The last two months have been an emotionally and physically difficult time for me.  I have almost wanted to give up this work, but a couple of special people have encouraged me to persevere, despite the setbacks (you know who you are, and I sincerely thank you).  I have decided, however, to take a few weeks "off" from the site (by which I mean not staying up to 3-4 am writing new content).  I really need the break and the extra time to reflect, pray, and call upon the LORD for strength.... Meanwhile I will ensure that the site is up and running, but I will not be responding to email for awhile.

John and Josiah ben Yisroel

With Rosh Hashana just around the corner (Wednesday, Sept. 12th at sundown), please accept my wishes for a wonderful New Year, full of good health and the good news of Yeshua our Lord and Savior alive in your hearts. And may it please the Lord to allow Hebrew4Christians to continue to be a resource in the days to come.  Shalom and love to you....  - John

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