March 2010 Updates
FREE SEDER GUIDE
"Because I am alive, you also will live"
03.31.10 (Nisan 16, 5770) Although sincere people may differ on some of the details, it is likely that Yeshua was crucified on Nisan 14 in the afternoon (a Thursday) and rose from the dead three days later, on Nisan 17 (i.e., Saturday night). The disciples then encountered the risen Lord later that day in the morning (Matt 28:1-10). Note that while the corresponding Gregorian dates for these dates vary from year to year, this year Nisan 17 begins Wednesday March 31 at sundown. Other events that occurred on Nisan 17 include the following:
- Noah's Flood Ended: Gen. 8:4. Note that the seventh month was later designated as the first month at the time of the Exodus (Ex. 12:2). Our new creation in Messiah began on the anniversary of the rebirth of the world.
- Israel Crossed the Red Sea: Some sages believe that Israel crossed Yam Suf on this date. They reason that from the crossing of the sea to the arrival at Sinai was 47 days (Ex. 19). Three days later would mark the 50th day as the original occasion of Shavuot and the commemoration of the giving of the Torah.
- The Wave Sheaf offering was made at the Mishkan (and later, at the Temple). This was the first fruit of the Spring barley harvest. For more information, see Reshit Katzir.
- Haman was hanged. According to various Jewish authorities, the villain Haman was hanged on the gallows he had specifically prepared for Mordechai the Jew on this date.
- Yeshua was resurrected on Nisan 17. In 1 Cor. 15:20-23 Paul clearly links the firstfruit offering with the resurrection of Yeshua our Mashiach. Yeshua's resurrection was like a "wave offering" presented before the Father as the "firstfruits" of the harvest to come! Moreover, Yeshua presented His firstfruits offering to the Father on this day (Matt. 27:52-53). Yeshua is the first-begotten of the Father (Heb. 1:6); the Firstborn of Creation (Col. 1:15-16); the first-begotten of the dead (Rev. 1:5) and is the Firstfruits of those who are to be resurrected (1 Cor. 15:20-23). Baruch HaShem. And just as He is our Firstfruits, so "He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of all he created" (James 1:18). For more information, see Reshit Katzir.
Our LORD Yeshua -- the Killer of death; the Slayer of the Serpent; the Victory of God's love for us! יְהִי שֵׁם יְהוָה מְברָךְ - "Blessed be the Name of the Lord."
וְעַתָּה הַמָּשִׁיחַ קָם מִן־הַמֵּתִים
רֵאשִׁית הַבִּכּוּרִים מִן־יְשֵׁנֵי הַמָּוֶת
ve'atah ha-mashiach kam min-hamatim,
reshit ha-bikkurim min-yeshenei ha-mavet
But now Messiah has been raised from the dead,
the firstfruits of those who have died (1 Cor. 15:20).
Download Study Card
Postscript: Though the Gregorian calendar varies every year, originally Yeshua's suffering on the Cross would have been Thursday afternoon -- certainly not on "Good Friday." Moreover, His resurrection would have occurred on the following Saturday night -- not on Sunday morning when the tomb was already found empty.... Nonetheless, the most important thing -- the matter of "first importance" -- is that Messiah 1) died for our sins; 2) was buried; and 3) was raised the third day (1 Cor. 15:3-4). Good people sometimes argue over the details but risk missing the greater point. Yeshua completely atoned for our sins and His resurrection validated that God the Father accepted His sacrifice. It was God the Father who raised Yeshua in victory (Gal. 1:1, Rom. 10:9), and those who trust in Him are justified by faith. Yeshua "was delivered for our offenses, and raised again for our justification" (Rom. 4:25). As Yeshua the Messiah said, "Because I am alive, you also will live" / כִּי־אֲנִי חַי וְכֵן גַּם־אַתֶּם תִּחְיוּן / ὅτι ἐγὼ ζῶ καὶ ὑμεῖς ζήσετε (John 14:19).
כִּי־אֲנִי חַי וְכֵן גַּם־אַתֶּם תִּחְיוּן
ki-ani chai, v'khen gam-atem tichyun
"Because I am alive, you also will live" (John 14:9)
Passover Seder Pictures
03.30.10 (Nisan 15, 5770) Pesach Sameach! Happy Passover! This evening we had our Passover Seder, just before sunset. The Haggadah read well and we enjoyed a special time together as a family. Here are a few pictures from the evening:
[Left-to-right]: 1) the Seder Table; 2) our ka'arah (seder plate); 3) Josiah and Judah;
4) Judah and grandpa Vadim; 5) John getting the matzah ready
[Left-to-right]: 1) Lighting the holiday candles; 2) Olga holds up Miriam's Cup; 3) Reciting Kiddish;
4) Urchatz (first handwashing); 5) Dipping the karpas in salt water
[Left-to-right]: 1) Yachatz (breaking the middle matzah to create the Afikomen); 2) Maggid (recounting the ten plagues); 3) Rachtzah (hand washing - again); 4) Motzi Matzah (eating matzah with the blessing); 5) Explaining the Seder plate
I hope to add some more pictures later. Meanwhile, we wish you all great happiness and peace during this season, despite the world and the schemes of its pharaohs. Passover is the time to celebrate our freedom as the children of God -- a freedom that no one can ever take away from us. Those who are set free by Yeshua are made free indeed! Worthy is the Lamb who was slain!
Happy Birthday Judah!
03.28.10 (Nisan 13, 5770) We've all been sick over here the last few days, but tonight we began clearing all the chametz from the house in anticipation of the Passover holiday. We wish you all a joyous Passover Season, chaverim, and pray fervently that you will draw closer to our beloved LORD during this time. Worthy is the Lamb who was slain! I hope to post some pictures of our seder later this week. Shalom for now!
Taking Passover Personally
03.26.10 (Nisan 11, 5770) The sages teach: b'chol dor vador - in each and every generation an individual should look upon him or herself as if he or she (personally) had left Egypt. It's not enough to recall, in some abstract sense, the deliverance of the Jewish people in ancient Egypt, but each Jew is responsible to personally view Passover as a time to commemorate their own personal deliverance from bondage to Pharaoh.
B'khol-dor vador chayav adam lirot et-atzmo k'ilu hu yatza mi-mitzrayim - "In each and every generation an individual should look upon him or herself as if he or she (personally) had left Egypt."
The kavanah (inner intention of the heart) for the observance of Passover is summed up well by this simple phrase: B'Khol-dor vador. As we partake of the Seder, we must embrace it as our own -- as if we were personally there (in Egypt, at the foot of the Cross) and understand that this mighty redemption was accomplished for my sake, as well as for yours... We recall the words, bishvili nivra ha'olam -- "For my sake was this world created," while we also recall the words, anokhi afar ve'efer -- "I am but dust and ashes."
For Messianic believers, kavanah refers to our apprehension of the ultimate deliverance from the bondage of sin and death through the grace and love of the Mashiach Yeshua -- the true Korban Pesach (Passover Offering). "And when I see the blood, I will pass over you" - וְרָאִיתִי אֶת־הַדָּם וּפָסַחְתִּי עֲלֵכֶם (Exod. 12:13).
Were you there, at the Cross, where Yeshua died for your sins?
New Hebrew Meditation
03.26.10 (Nisan 11, 5770) I wrote a new Hebrew Meditation (Chazak - be Strong!) to encourage you in the fight for your life... We have one chance, chaverim, to live for the LORD and walk in faith. Today is the day of salvation, since we do not know what tomorrow may bring or when we will be called to give account for our lives. Let's not waste our lives! Do not lose heart: Chazak chazak v'nitchazek – "Be strong, be strong, and may we be strengthened." The LORD has promised to be with you wherever you go....
Shabbat Shalom and Happy Passover, chaverim!
[ I've been sick with a cold the last few days and busy working throughout the night rebuilding content after a major system crash... We always seem to come under attack during Passover! My wife is also quite ill and I am caring for the two kids as she rests. Your prayers for us are appreciated. ]
"The LORD is a warrior; the LORD is His Name" / יהוה אִישׁ מִלְחָמָה יהוה שְׁמו (Exod. 15:3)
03.23.10 (Nisan 8, 5770) A midrash states that at the time of the great Exodus, only a remnant were actually saved while all the others died in the makkah (plague) of darkness, having fallen so low that they could not believe in the redemption or even want to be redeemed! God forbid that we should give up hope now, chaverim, especially because of the great salvation Yeshua secured for us at the cross... B'Chol dor vador: in each and every generation an individual should look upon him or herself as if he or she (personally) had been rescued from Egypt....
And yet divine history is somewhat "cyclical" in its expression. The closer we go back to the beginning, the more we see how the future was "seeded" and gets replayed in every generation. Both the Tree of Life (עֵץ הַחַיִּים) and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (עֵץ הַדַּעַת טוֹב וָרָע) were present in the original paradise (Gen. 2:9). When Eve listened to the lies of the nachash (serpent) and regarded the forbidden tree as "desirable to make one wise," she immediately began her descent into exile. At the very dawn of human history, then, we see that "truth" (אֱמֶת) apart from God (א) leads to death (מֵת). Adam and Eve's disobedience led to God's gracious promise regarding the coming "Seed" who would restore all things by being victorious in the war for truth (Gen. 3:15). Of course, this promised Seed was Yeshua, our Suffering Servant and "Second Adam," who, through His sacrifice upon the cross, "reversed the curse" and reconciled humanity with God. Note, however, that this "proto-gospel" message also implied perpetual warfare between the heirs of the Messiah (called the "children of light") and the heirs of Satan (called the "children of darkness"). The ongoing enmity between these "two seeds," then, was ultimately something God willed. The children of light are called to be am kadosh - a holy people - separate from the evil engendered by the fallen world and its forces, just as the very first creative expression of God was the separation of light from darkness (Gen. 1:3-4). The children of light "hate evil and love the good," and conversely, the children of darkness "hate the good and love evil" (Psalm 34:21, Prov. 8:13, Amos 5:15). The Exodus story, then, is not so much a matter of ancient history as it is a present revelation of God's righteous liberating power over the powers of darkness. The great Exodus led to Sinai, and with it the reencountering of the Tree of the Knowledge of good and evil, just as the Cross of Yeshua is the Tree of Life in the midst of the Garden of God. Life is about spiritual warfare, and the power encounter between God and Pharaoh is a paradigm for the ages.
Throughout history we see the repeated attempt to resuscitate or revive ancient "Ra worship" (which derives from Satan in the garden). Every culture has its emissaries of evil -- its "pharaohs," its political dynasties, its caste systems, and its presumed sense of status quo. In the ancient world, most political figures were literally deified; in the Middle Ages, they were thought to rule through "divine right"; but in today's secular world, there is no justification given for their control other than through deception and the naked "will to power." In nearly every case, however, it can be stated that politicians and leaders of this world represent what is most sick about the human condition. Politicians and princlings are given "their hour" in this earth, and they are undoubtedly groomed by the "god of this world" who was a murderer and a liar "from the beginning" (John 8:44). The dust and ashes of countless past civilizations and regimes attest to this truth...
Today we are living in a world that is "globalist" by design. Politicians are often unwitting lackeys for the darker powers seeking to consolidate power to enslave the whole earth. The so-called global economy and its system of usury is the mechanism that will give rise of yet another "Pharaoh" who likewise will be judged by the LORD God Almighty at the End of Days.
Many people live in a state of fear because they believe the lies and propaganda of "the lords of the darkness of this world" / τοὺς κοσμοκράτορας τοῦ σκότους τούτου (Eph. 6:12). Satan's power always has been through the use of deception. If he can get you to believe a lie, he will begin to control you through fear. This is how the devil has always gained the kingdoms of this world -- through deception and violence... As followers of Yeshua, we must always keep in mind that reality centers on the LORD God of Israel and never in the "rhetorical violence" and metaphysical fantasies of political or media figures.
The LORD God of Israel truly cares about people's liberation from deception and oppression. The story of the Exodus is His everlasting rebuke to all the world's dictators and should cause every politician to soberly assess their fate... The time is coming when His judgment will fall upon all the "kings of the earth who take counsel against the LORD and against His Mashiach" (Psalm 2:2).
Presently we are living with the tension of the "already-not-yet" aspect of the original prophecy that "he (the Messiah) will crush his head." Satan still appears to have the upper hand, at least in the temporal realm. Final victory is not yet here, even if it is assured through the promises of God (Rom. 16:20). And while the time appointed by God for the Messianic redemption of Israel and the "End of Days" is a heavenly kept secret (Mark 13:32), there are certain signs called chevlei mashiach (חֶבְלֵי מָשִׁיחַ) - the "birth pangs" of the Messiah - that indicate that the time is indeed imminent when the kingdoms of this earth will openly submit to the reign of Yeshua.
Most of these birth pangs indicate peril and danger, including "distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves," and "men's hearts failing them for fear, and with foreboding of what is coming on the earth" (Luke 21:25-6). In addition, the moral depravity of mankind will be unmasked, showing us clearly that "men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof" (2 Tim. 3:2-3). The increase in "globalism" and the unholy urge to unify the world into a new type of "Babylon" will give the Messiah of Evil his coming political platform in the days ahead. "Political correctness," that is, social coercion based on godless consensus, is the ethos of our time...
As followers of Yeshua, we must cling to the truth that "all things work together for good to them that love God" (Rom. 8:28), and we must also take hold of the command given to Joshua: chazak v'ematz, "Be strong and of good courage!" Just as Joshua was promised that the LORD would be with him as he went in to possess the land, so we must remember that the LORD has promised never to leave us nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5; Matt. 28:20), even in the midst of tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword (Rom. 8:35):
חֲזַק וֶאֱמָץ אַל־תַּעֲרץ וְאַל־תֵּחָת
כִּי עִמְּךָ יְהוָה אֱלהֶיךָ בְּכל אֲשֶׁר תֵּלֵךְ
cha·zak ve'e·matz al ta'a·rotz ve'al te·chat,
ki im·me·kha Adonai E·lo·he·kha be·khol a·sher te·lekh
Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified, and do not be shattered,
for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go. (Josh. 1:9)
Download Reading Card
We do not need to live in fear, because melo khol ha'aretz kevodo: מְלא כָל־הָאָרֶץ כְּבוֹדו, "the whole earth is filled with His glory (Isa. 6:3). "In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me" (Psalm 56:1). Passover is all about the victory of God over the powers of darkness for the sake of our deliverance (i.e., yeshuah: יְשׁוּעָה). The echo of Moses' cry, "Let my people go!" is still resounding in the heavenly realms. So be encouraged, chaverim, even in the face of evil. Do not be terrified and do not be shattered, "for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go."
God's word is our bread, our drink; it's our life, our hope, our fervent expectation, our truth, and our great passion. It's our our dream, our wonder, and our great joy!
Shabbat HaGadol - שבת הגדול
[ This coming Shabbat is called Shabbat HaGadol, which is the Sabbath immediately preceding the holiday of Passover. ]
03.21.10 (Nisan 6, 5770) In Jewish tradition, the Sabbath that occured just before the first Passover was gadol, or "great." According to the Talmud, the Exodus occurred on Thursday, Nisan 15th, thus making the 10th of that month a Shabbat. It was on Nisan 10 that God commanded the families of Israel to obtain a lamb for sacrifice and to bring it to their homes to be Korban Pesach (קָרְבָּן פֶּסַה) - the Passover lamb - that would be sacrificed on Nisan 14th (Exod. 12:1-6).
One of the major Egyptian gods was the sheep (or the ram god Amun), so this Shabbat is also considered "gadol" (great) because God miraculously allowed the Israelites to take lambs from among the Egyptians despite the humiliation of their deity (Orach Chaim 430:1). According to midrash, the Israelites explained that they intended to sacrifice these lambs by the LORD's command, who would then destroy the firstborn of Egypt. When the Egyptian firstborn heard this they begged their fathers to let the Israelites go, but their cries were ignored until a civil war broke out in which many Egyptians were killed (Tosafot Shabbat 87b). This internecine warfare is called the "War of the Firsborn" and is considered a great miracle that helped deliver the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.
Shabbat HaGadol foreshadowed the offering of the Mashiach Yeshua as Seh Elohim, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. Messianic Jews regard Shabbat HaGadol as the time when Yeshua made His triumphant entry into Jerusalem riding on a donkey to announce His Messiahship (at approximately the time the korban Pesach was being selected for the sacrifice). Examined for four days before His sacrifice (execution) for the sins of the world, He was found to be the true Lamb of God without spot or blemish.
The Haftarah for Shabbat HaGadol (Malachi 3:4-24) foretells of Yom Adonai (יוֹם יהוה) and the return of Yeshua as Mashiach ben David.
Shabbat HaGadol is traditionally one of two times during the year that a noted Torah sage addresses the congregation (usually regarding the laws of Passover). The other occasion is Shabbat Shuvah -- the Sabbath of Repentance -- between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. For more information about Shabbat HaGadol, click here.
Note: If the miracle occured on Nisan 10th, then why don't we celebrate this as its own holiday? According to Jewish tradition, the prophetess Miriam (the sister of Moses) died on Nisan 10, exactly one year before the Israelites entered the Promised Land (i.e., 40 years after the Exodus), and therefore Shabbat HaGadol is commemorated on the Shabbat before Passover rather than on the calendar date of Nisan 10 itself.
Parashat Tzav - צו
[ The following entry relates to part of this week's Torah reading (Tzav). Please read the Torah portion to "find your place" here. ]
03.21.10 (Nisan 6, 5770) The Torah portion for this week (i.e., for Shabbat HaGadol) is parashat Tzav. Of particular interest in this Torah portion is the Ram of Ordination (i.e., eil ha-milu'im: אֵיל הַמִּלֻּאִים) whose blood was sprinkled upon Aaron as the Kohen Gadol of the newly established Mishkan (Tabernacle).
The blood of the ram was put on the right ear, right thumb, and big toe of the Aaron and his sons (a clear picture of Yeshua and His sacrifice as the coming greater High Priest) and the rest of the blood was dashed upon the sides of the mizbe'ach (altar). After its slaughter, Moses also took the innards of the ram and some unleavened bread and put them in the hands of the priests to perform tenufah (a wave offering) before burning them upon the altar (a picture of the resurrection). Finally, Moses mixed some of the blood of the ram and anointing oil and sprinkled it on the priest's garments to sanctify them.
As believers in Yeshua, we too have been anointed with the blood from the Ram of Ordination -- Yeshua as our Kohen Gadol of the better covenant (Heb. 8:6)! And we too have been anointed with the sacred shemen (oil) that symbolizes the presence and aroma of the LORD in our lives. As followers of Yeshua we are therefore truly "...a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9). May the LORD be pleased to help you serve Him in the truth.
Sefer Vayikra - Leviticus and Yeshua
[ The first portion of the Book of Leviticus (Vayikra) is always read before Passover, reminding us of the importance of Yeshua's Sacrifice that draws us close to God.... ]
03.19.10 (Nisan 4, 5770) The Book of Leviticus (i.e., Vayikra: ויקרא) is to the Torah what the Book of Hebrews is to the New Testament. Leviticus is both the physical and spiritual center of the Five Books of Moses and comprises its ritual expression. The sages count 246 of the 613 commandments of the Torah in this book -- over 40% -- and many of the Talmud's discussions regarding ritual purity and holiness are based on it.
Many Christian readers of the Bible want to skip the Book of Leviticus, however, because they find the detailed description of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and the various laws of the sacrificial system to be tedious and/or irrelevant for followers of Yeshua. This is unfortunate because in its pages the great sacrificial work of Yeshua is foreshadowed and explained for us. Indeed, without the underlying concepts "seeded" there, various fundamental New Testament teachings concerning the atoning sacrifice of Yeshua for our sins, our justification by faith, and our call to walk in sanctification would not make much sense....
The LORD intended that the sacrificial laws given to the Levitical priests (i.e., kohanim) would foreshadow the coming atoning sacrifice offered by Yeshua, the "Lamb of God slain from the foundation (יְסוֹד) of the world" (1 Pet. 1:19-20, Rev. 13:8). This is why these laws are called torat Kohanim - the "teaching of the priests." This instruction (i.e., torah: תּוֹרָה) was intended for all Israel to understand the need for blood atonement in order to draw near to God (Lev. 17:11). The Levitical system as a whole served as a "type" or "picture" of heavenly realities. Moses received the "pattern" (i.e., tavnit: תַּבְנִית) of the Throne of God on Sinai, but this was a physical copy or "shadow" of the spiritual Reality he beheld in visions. The Mishkan was always intended to be moved into the Promised Land, which King David later established in Zion, the place of the Holy Temple. But it was the sacrificial death of Yeshua that is the focal point and goal of it all: Yeshua is the Substance of all that the sacrifices foreshadowed...
Unlike narrative portions of the other books of the Torah, the Book of Leviticus begins as a direct message from God to Moses, "calling out" the way to draw close to the LORD by means of the sacrificial system. In fact the word korban (קָרְבָּן), often translated as "sacrifice" or "offering," comes from a root (קָרַב) that means to "draw close" or "to come near." In this connection it should be noted that the various sacrifices were never intended to help God draw near to us, but rather for us to draw near to God. God hasn't "moved away" and doesn't "need" our sacrifices as a way to "bribe" Him to come close. No, God gave us sacrifices -- and especially the sacrifice of Yeshua -- for our benefit, so that we could draw close to Him. But apart from faith and genuine repentance, the sacrifices themselves were of no effect. Therefore the prophets later denounced insincere offerings made at the Temple as a vain show that were useless to draw us near to God (Amos 5:22-24). In other words, without a genuine heart response to God's gracious love, the mere idea of sacrifice does us little good.
Throughout the Book of Leviticus, only the name of the L-rd (יהוה) is used in connection with sacrificial offerings, never the name Elohim (אֱלהִים). This suggests that offerings were given to draw us near to experience God's compassion rather than to appease His anger. In other words, apart from the LORD's infinite love and compassion, no sacrifice would ever be be accepted, because God's role as the Righteous Judge would immediately execute any sinner who approached Him....
It has been noted that there were no prescriptions of words to be spoken during the semikhah/shechitah ceremony (i.e., sacrificial ceremony), no formulas or ritualized prayers. The sacrifice was performed in silence. The worshipper would firmly lay both hands on the head of the sacrificial victim and reflect that this animal's fate should really be his -- i.e., that he deserved to die for his sin. Only because of the LORD's mercy was this animal accepted in his place, and therefore the sacrificial rite was ultimately one of healing and restoration... This is the "korban" principle of "life-for-life." When the LORD saw the shed blood and ascending smoke of the sacrifice, He forgave the sinner based on his faith and teshuvah (repentance). The "sweet savor" (i.e., re'ach nicho'ach: רֵיחַ־נִיחוֹחַ) of the sacrifice refers to the future life (and healing) of the worshipper -- not the sacrifice itself. By itself -- apart from genuine repentance -- the sacrifice holds no power to forgive sin, and indeed, forgiveness is a relational concept (Matt. 5:24, 6:12, Isa. 1:11, etc.). In the Levitical system, the offering of a sacrifice served as a "symbol and expression of man's desire to purify himself and become reconciled to God" (Leibowitz, Vayikra).
The Torah states that three parts of the sacrificial animal must always be burned: the fat (חֶלֶב), the kidneys (כִּלְיָה), and the lobe of the liver (כָּבֵד). The fat symbolizes luxury or the "rise" of the flesh (and is therefore somewhat analogous to chametz (leaven) that is forbidden during Passover). The kidneys are thought to be the source of carnal emotions, while the liver is thought to be the source of anger and pride. All three are completely burned on the altar as a sign that the inner parts of the "flesh" must be entirely destroyed. The blood is never to be consumed, since the "life is in the blood" and is reserved to make atonement upon the altar (Lev. 17:11).
With the fulfillment of God's salvation by the sacrificial death and resurrection of Yeshua (Gen. 3:14-16, Isa. 53, etc.), and with the destruction of the Second Temple according to His prophecy (Matt. 24:1-2), the system and priesthood of the Levites was no longer needed (Heb. 8-10). Yeshua is forever our great High Priest who has entered into the true and heavenly Temple "made without hands" and there presented His blood upon the "mercy seat" (i.e., kapporet: כַּפּרֶת) before the throne of God on our behalf. Yeshua now intercedes for us, drawing us near to God (Heb. 7:25, 8:1-2). He is our compassionate Advocate (παράκλητος, lit. "one called alongside") who stands by our side in the heavenly courtroom, making appeal for mercy and grace on our behalf and commending us before God (1 John 2:1).
It is interesting to note that the word in the ancient Greek translation of the Torah (called the Septuagint) that was selected to translate the Hebrew word kapporet ("mercy seat") is hilasterion (ἱλαστήριον), often translated "propitiation." The New Testament picks up this usage in Romans 3:25: "God put forward Yeshua as a propitiation (ἱλαστήριον) through faith in His blood." In other words, the sprinkling of Yeshua's blood - represented by His Passion upon the cross - was "presented" upon the Heavenly Kapporet, before the very Throne of God Himself. Yeshua here functions as the great High Priest after the order of Malki-Tzedek (i.e., Melchizedek) who provides everlasting forgiveness for our sins (Heb. 9:7-10:10). Because of His sacrifice, the parochet - the wall-like covering separating the Holy of Holies - was rent asunder and God's love was let loose upon the world! Those who trust in Yeshua as their atoning sacrifice before God (i.e., kapparah: כַּפָּרָה) are able to draw near to God full of confidence.
In Jewish tradition, the Book of Leviticus (Vayikra) is always read during the Season of Passover, a holiday that foreshadows the sacrificial Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29). Because of Yeshua - the true Lamb of God - we can now draw near to the Throne of Grace to find help in time of our need (Heb. 4:16). Even more - we can hope to experience "at-one-ment" with the LORD God of Israel Himself because of Yeshua's intercession and love for us (John 17:22). Blessed be His Name forever.
Shabbat Shalom, chaverim!
Truth - a Matter of Life and Death
03.18.10 (Nisan 3, 5770) In Hebrew, the word for truth, emet (אֱמֶת), contains the first, middle, and the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, indicating that truth encompasses all things and endures from the beginning (א) to the end (ת):
But notice that if we remove the letter Aleph from the word, we are left with the word "dead" (i.e., met: מֵת), the opposite of life (i.e., chayim: חַיִּים). The letter Aleph is the ineffable letter that represents oneness and preeminent glory of God. Therefore, if we attempt to ignore or suppress God in our understanding of truth, we end up with death. And since Yeshua told us, "I am the way (הַדֶּרֶךְ), the truth (הָאֱמֶת), and the life (הַחַיִּים); no one comes to Father apart from me" (John 14:6), those who deny His reality are in a state of spiritual death... We simply cannot know the meaning of life apart from the Person and Glory of Yeshua our Messiah!
Yeshua our Messiah is called the Aleph and the Tav (הָאָלֶף וְהַתָּו), "the first and the last" (הָרִאשׁוֹן וְהָאַחֲרוֹן). These are clearly divine Titles that belong to YHVH (יהוה) alone (Isa. 41:4, 44:6, 48:12; Rev. 1:1,17-18; 22:13). Indeed, Pontius Pilate's famous question, "What is truth?" is fundamentally mistaken, since truth is not about a "what" but about a "Who." That is, truth is not something objective and static, a "thing" to be known and studied from a distance. No. Truth is up-close and personal. Understood in this way, truth is a mode of existence that is dynamic and inherently relational. God actively interacts with His creation, loving it, redeeming it, and sustaining it: the whole earth is full of His glory (Isa. 6:3). Unlike the characteristically "Greek" mindset that tends to regard God as little more than a "machine" (deus ex machina) or device that caused the universe to "get going," the LORD is intensely personal, feeling, compassionate, angry, and so on. The LORD God of the Hebrews (יהוה אֱלהֵי הָעִבְרִיִּים) is "the Living God who is speaking out of the midst of the fire" (אֱלהִים חַיִּים מְדַבֵּר מִתּוֹךְ־הָאֵשׁ).
PLEASE pray for this ministry...
03.18.10 (Nisan 3, 5770) Shalom friends. Please keep this ministry in your prayers. I've been receiving "hate mail" from various people and have been experiencing site development crashes. This is a war, and I am calling for God's soldiers to pray for this work to share the message of the gospel. Thank you. - jjp
Parashat Vayikra - ויקרא
[ Note that according to the traditional Torah reading schedule, the first portion from the Book of Leviticus is always read before Passover. The life is in the blood - of Yeshua the Lamb of God! ]
03.16.10 (Nisan 1, 5770) The Torah portion for this week is Vayikra ("and He called"), the very first section from the Book of Leviticus. Vayikra is sometimes called the "Book of Sacrifices" since it deals largely with the various offerings brought to the LORD for sacrificial purposes in the Mishkan (Tabernacle). Over 40 percent of all of the Torah's commandments are found in this central book of the Scriptures.
It is an age-old Jewish custom to begin teaching young children the Torah beginning with Vayikra because they, like the sacrifices themselves, are considered pure. The sage known as the Kli Yakar states that this is one of the reasons why the Aleph (א) in Vayikra (ויקרא) is written very small in the Torah scroll. Let these teachings be the beginning, like the letter Aleph, which is the beginning of the Aleph-Bet. When we humble ourselves as little children, God will reveal His truth to us.
Other sages reasoned that Moses' humility (i.e., anavah: עֲנָוָה) was such that he first waited for the LORD to call him into the Mishkan (Tabernacle), despite the fact that God had previously granted him full access to His Presence. The scroll begins with an undersized Aleph as a scribal token of Moses' humility. (The Zohar states that the undersized Aleph signifies that the Tabernacle was not fully complete without the engagement of Israel.) The "spirit of the little Aleph" means that we should always exercise derech eretz -- reverence and politeness -- before the Divine Presence.
The Korban Principle
The purpose of the sacrifices was likewise to imbue a sense of humility. At each stage of the offering, the worshipper would see how the animal was slaughtered, dismembered, its blood sprinkled, and its fat burned on the altar -- all for his sake... This is the "korban" principle of "life-for-life." The guilty person would lean his hands upon the head of the animal (semichah) and then say confession (viduy): "I deserve to die instead of this innocent animal, but the LORD mercifully accepts the death of this innocent one in my stead." The worshipper would understand that were it not for chasdei Adonai (חֲסְדֵי יהוה) - the love of the LORD - this should have been his fate. When the LORD saw the shed blood and ascending smoke of the sacrifice, He forgave the sinner based on his faith and teshuvah (repentance). The entire sacrificial system was therefore predicated on God's love that foreshadowed the ultimate sacrifice of Yeshua, the Son of God.
Some of the sages note that the word korban (קָרְבָּן) is often translated "sacrifice" or "offering" (the Greek LXX uses the word δῶρον, "gift"), though it derives from a root (קָרַב) that means to "draw close" or "to come near." Offering a sacrifice in the Tabernacle (and later, at the Temple) was therefore a means of coming close to the LORD in repentance and humility...
In ancient Israel there were three "classes" within the structure of Jewish society: the Kohen, the Levite and the Israelite. The Kohen was a physical descendant of Aaron who functioned as a priest of Israel. His primary role was to offer sacrifices on behalf of other Jews (his cousin, the Levite, served as his assistant, helping to maintain the Mishkan, carry vessels, and so on). Only the Kohanim could perform avodah (priestly service) even though originally the firstborn of each family was to function as a priest of Israel. On Yom Kippur, only the High Priest of Israel could offer sacrifice on behalf of all the Jews...
The sacrifice of Yeshua as the Kohen Gadol of the better covenant was given by God the Father on behalf of all those who put their trust in his Son. The Cross of Yeshua represented the kapporet ("mercy seat") of the new covenant -- and it was there He shed his blood for our everlasting reconciliation to God. We can all draw near to God and be close to Him because of the Korban of Yeshua... Moreoever, when the sacrifice was complete (and Yeshua died), the veil of the Temple -- the parochet that separated the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place -- was rent asunder, thereby granting access to the "throne of grace" (θρόνος τῆς χάριτος) (Heb. 4:16). Because of the High Priestly work of Yeshua, Levitical mediators are no longer necessary (1 Tim. 2:5), and all who trust in the Messiah are called "spiritual kohanim" (1 Pet. 2:5-9). Followers of Yeshua have an altar whereof those who attempt to serve in the older system are unable to eat (Heb. 13:10).
Note that we are part of the priesthood after the order of Malki-Tzedek (מַלְכִּי־צֶדֶק), the "King of Righteousness." Yeshua is Adonai Tzidkenu - יְהוָה צִדְקֵנו - the LORD our Righteousness. We do not account ourselves worthy based on our personal merit, but solely on account of the finished avodah of Yeshua our LORD. Since we have access to the "throne of grace," and the word grace (χαρις) is related to the word joy (χαρα), we are called to offer sacrifices of praise. We are called to be Korban Chai -- Living Sacrifices -- on behalf of the ongoing ministry of our Messiah who urges all people to repent and draw near to the Father through Him. Because of the grace of God given to us in Yeshua, we are "briah chadashah" (בְּרִיאָה חֲדָשָׁה) - new creations in the Messiah!
The Month of Nisan and Passover
03.14.10 (Adar 28, 5770) The beginning of the Biblical Year (called Rosh Chodashim) begins tomorrow after sundown. Look for the first sign of the waxing crescent later this week, chaverim. Spring is in the air! It is time to prepare for Passover which begins in just two weeks!
Note: The commandment to sanctify the new moon of Nisan reveals that it is our responsibility to sanctify (i.e., observe) Biblical time in general. In other words, when we observe "the beginning of months," we are acknowledging that time itself is rooted in the Biblical calendar with its divinely inspired cycle of festivals (i.e., the moedim).
With only two weeks before Passover, now is the time to begin thinking about your Passover Seder. I have created a free "Seder Guide" you can download to help you get started. Let's keep the feast, chaverim! (1 Cor. 5:7-8).
Yasher Koach to Judah!
03.11.10 (Adar 25, 5770) Our son Judah, who was born just before Passover last year, took his first tentative steps the other day -- a real "Shehecheyanu moment" for our family. Yasher Koach to Judah - "more power to him!" - and may it please God to help him walk with the LORD Yeshua all the days of his life! Amen.
When does Passover begin?
[ The following entry is related to this week's additional Torah reading for Sabbath ha-chodesh (Exod. 12:1-20). It is a bit "technical" since it deals with the question of whether the festival of Passover begins on Nisan 14 or Nisan 15... ]
03.11.10 (Adar 25, 5770) It might be a bit confusing to understand exactly when Passover begins, at least from a traditional Jewish point of view. Does it begin on Nisan 14 or Nisan 15? In order to find an answer to this question, we first need to make a distinction between zman shechitat korban Pesach (the time of the slaughter of the Passover lambs) and then consider the commemoration of the holiday that was later instituted as the "Passover Seder."
The Passover in Egypt
The original sacrifice of the Passover (in Egypt) was of an unblemished male lamb that was selected on Nisan 10 and kept until the evening of the 14th, when it was sacrificed and its blood applied to the two doorposts and upper lintel of the house using a bunch of hyssop (Exod. 12:2-7, 22). The door to the house was then sealed and no one was permitted to leave until the following morning (Exod. 12:22). The blood on the doors would function as a sign for God to "pass over" the house when He descended to slay all the firstborn of Egypt later that night (Exod. 12:13). Within the sealed house - during that night (לַיְלָה) - the lamb would be roasted over a fire and eaten with unleavened bread and bitter herbs (Exod. 12:8). This sacred meal was to be commemorated as a feast to the LORD throughout all the generations and retold during the seder service (Exod. 12:14, 25-27). Moreover, to commemorate the haste in which the Jews were brought out of Egypt, for seven days - from the evening of Nisan 14 until the evening of Nisan 21 - only unleavened bread was to be eaten and no leaven was to be found within any of the houses (Exod. 12:17-20).
Passover at the Temple
During the time of the Temple, zman shechitat korban Pesach (the time of the slaughter of the Passover lambs) was performed during the afternoon hours of Nisan 14, in observance of the commandment: "In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, between the evenings (i.e., bein ha-arbayim: בֵּין הָעַרְבָּיִם), is the Passover for the LORD" (Lev. 23:5). Note that the time of the lamb's sacrifice is described as "bein ha-arbayim," usually translated as "between the evenings" or "between the settings." To the sages, the "first setting" of the Sun occurred at the beginning of its descent after noon, and the "second setting" referred to sundown or twilight. Hence "bein ha-arbayim" would mean sometime after noon but before twilight, or more simply, "the afternoon."
The sacrifice of the Passover lambs on the afternoon of Nisan 14 agrees with Jewish Oral Law and tradition. As Maimonides wrote, "It is a positive commandment to slaughter the Korban Pesach on the fourteenth of Nisan after midday" (Hilchot Korban Pesach). There is some discussion among the sages, however, as to whether the sacrifice of the korban Pesach occurred before or after the second set of tamid (daily) offerings made at the Temple (Exod. 29:38-42, Num. 28:1-8). In general, however, most of the sages agreed with Maimonides who clearly stated: "The Korban Pesach is not slaughtered until after the Tamid of the afternoon." In other words, the slaughter of the Passover lambs occurred on the late afternoon of Nisan 14.
Note that though the sacrifice of the Passover lamb occurred on the afternoon Nisan 14, the ceremonial eating of the meal, or the "seder," would begin later, just before sundown and continue throughout the night. This agrees with Exod. 12:8 which states clearly that the Passover meal was consumed during the night: "They shall eat the flesh [of the Pascal lamb] that night" (i.e., ba-lailah hazeh: בַּלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה). And since the Jewish day begins after sundown (when three stars are visible in the night sky), the traditional Passover Seder would begin just before sundown on Nisan 14 but would continue into the new day of Nisan 15, which is also the start of the seven-day festival of chag ha-matzot (חַג הַמַּצּוֹת), the "Feast of Unleavened Bread" (Lev. 23:6).
In light of all this perhaps you can better appreciate why Jewish tradition regards "Passover" as an eight day holiday, since it links the times of the korban Pesach, the Seder meal, and the seven days of unleavened bread together as a whole.
Today the traditional Passover Seder begins on "Erev Pesach," meaning just before sundown on Nisan 14 and running into the first hours of Nisan 15 (outside of Israel a second seder is often held the following evening as well). The date of Passover can be somewhat confusing if you look at a Jewish calendar to see it listed simply as "Nisan 15." Again we must remember that the Jewish day begins on the night before it is listed on the calendar. For example, if the calendar says that March 30th is Nisan 15 (i.e., Passover), then you must understand that Nisan 15 actually begins at sundown on the night before, i.e., on March 29th:
Unfortunately, most Jewish calendars refer to the previous evening as "Erev Pesach" without indicating that the first "day" of Passover spans the end of Nisan 14 and carries over to Nisan 15.
In answer to our original question, then, (i.e., "Does Passover begin on Nisan 14 or Nisan 15?"), the answer is that while the Passover sacrifice was made on the afternoon of the 14th, the Passover Seder will span both the 14th and 15th! I realize all this might be a bit confusing, but it's just the way the Jewish calendar works!
The important point in all of this, of course, is that Yeshua the is the "Lamb of God" who was sacrificed and raised from the dead according to the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:3-5). As for the precise calculations involved in all this, including the time of His early Seder with His disciples, the exact hours of His crucifixion, and so on, there are numerous questions, though I completely trust that Yeshua 100% fulfilled the types and prophecies concerning the meaning of the Passover.
רָאוּי הַשֶּׂה הַטָּבוּחַ לְקַבֵּל גְבוּרָה
עשֶׁר וְחָכְמָה וְכּחַ וִיקַר וְכָבוֹד וּבְרָכָה
ra'uy ha-seh ha-tavuach lekabel gevurah,
osher v'chokhmah v'koach vikar v'khavod uvracha
Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom
and might and honor and glory and blessing! (Rev. 5:12)
Download Reading Card
Pesach Sameach to you and your family, chaverim!
Nisan and Deliverance
[ The following entry is related to the Biblical New Year (and the month of Nisan), which begins Monday, March 15th at sundown this year. ]
03.09.10 (Adar 23, 5770) Are you discouraged by this evil world, chaverim? Do you sometimes utter the plaintive prayer: "O Lord, I know that you will help us; but will you help us before you will help us?" When things are dark and seemingly hopeless, it is tempting to yield to passivity and even to despair, but it is precisely then that our faith must rise up and become all the more emboldened. Faith in God's love is the victory (i.e., netzach: נֶצַח) that overcomes the world and its illusions (1 John 5:4). The LORD is our Deliverer and Kinsman Redeemer (הַגּוֹאֵל), a "very present help" in our troubles:
אֱלהִים לָנוּ מַחֲסֶה וָעז
עֶזְרָה בְצָרוֹת נִמְצָא מְאד
Elohim lanu machaseh va'oz
ezra v'tzarot nimtza me'od
God is our refuge and stronghold,
a help in troubles - very near. (Psalm 46:1)
Download Reading Card
Passover is all about the victory of God over the powers of darkness for the sake of our deliverance (יְשׁוּעָה). "Let my people go!" Indeed, the month of Nisan is Chodesh ha-Yeshuah (חדֶשׁ הַיְשׁוּעָה), the "month of the salvation," both in terms of remembering the physical deliverance from the political powers of Egypt, but more profoundly in terms of our spiritual deliverance given at Zion/Moriah through the Messiah. We wrestle not against flesh and blood, chaverim, but against hidden powers of darkness that seek to enslave us as Pharaoh did of old (Eph. 6:12). But thanks be to God who gives us the victory (netzach, salvation) through our Lord Yeshua the Mashiach (1 Cor. 15:57):
לְךָ יהוה הַגְּדֻלָּה וְהַגְּבוּרָה וְהַתִּפְאֶרֶת וְהַנֵּצַח וְהַהוֹד
כִּי־כל בַּשָּׁמַיִם וּבָאָרֶץ
לְךָ יהוה הַמַּמְלָכָה וְהַמִּתְנַשֵּׂא לְכל לְראשׁ
lekha Adonai ha-gedulah v'ha-gevurah, v'ha-tiferet, v'hanetzach, v'ha-hod,
ki-khol ba-shamayim u'va'aretz;
lekha Adonai ha-mamelakhah, v'hamitnaseh lekhol l'rosh
Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the beauty and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all. (1 Chron. 29:11)
Download Reading Card
Passover is really a month long celebration. Over and over it is referred to as the "month of spring" (חדֶשׁ הָאָבִיב), the "month of redemption," the month of Nisan, and so on. I mentioned yesterday that the word Nisan (נִיסָן) might come from either the word nitzan (נִצָּן), meaning "bud" (Song 2:12), or the word nissim (נִסִּים) meaning "miracles," both of which suggest physical and spiritual resurrection in our lives. Others think the word comes from the verb nus (נוּס), meaning "to flee," both in relation to Israel's flight from Egypt and Egypt's flight from Israel (i.e., when the pursuing Egyptian cavalry fled (נָסִים) before the sea closed upon them (Exod. 14:25, 27). We also see this usage in the verse: "The wicked flee (נָסוּ) when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion" (Prov. 28:1). The devil's power is found in the lie. If he can make you afraid, you will not think clearly. Establishing your faith in the truth will embolden you to deal with the lies and distortions that are intended to enslave you in fear. As Yeshua said, the truth will set you free (John 8:32).
Yeshua is called the "Lion of the tribe of Judah" (הָאַרְיֵה מִשֵּׁבֶט יְהוּדָה) and the "Root of David" (שׁרֶשׁ דָּוִד). Notice that the name Judah (יְהוּדָה) includes the Name YHVH (יהוה) with the insertion of the letter Dalet (ד), suggesting that this shevet (tribe) would be the "door" or "gate" into the presence of God. Yeshua the Messiah was from the tribe of Judah who described Himself as ha-sha'ar (הַשַּׁעַר) "the gate" (John 10:9). Putting our faith in Yeshua gives us bold access to the throne of God's grace so that we can find help (deliverance) in time of our need (Heb. 4:16).
In light of the conditions of this present evil world, we cry out for the Messiah to return now! We want His deliverance, just as He delivered the Jews from ancient Egypt with great signs and wonders. Most politicians, by definition, exhibit the Pharaoh-like lust to control and exploit people. They are called "the lords of the darkness of this world" / τοὺς κοσμοκράτορας τοῦ σκότους τούτου (Eph. 6:12). This is the nature of the corruption of those who crave power over others... Today, so many people live in fear because they believe the propaganda of the "princes of this age." We must always keep in mind that reality centers on the LORD God of Israel, not in appearances and the rhetoric of political or media figures. Melo khol ha'aretz kevodo: מְלא כָל־הָאָרֶץ כְּבוֹדו, "the whole earth is filled with His glory (Isa. 6:3). And the LORD God of Israel cares about people's liberation from deception and tyranny. The story of the Exodus is His everlasting rebuke to all the world's dictators and should cause every politician to soberly assess their fate... The time is coming when His judgment will fall upon all the "kings of the earth who take counsel against the LORD and against His Mashiach" (Psalm 2:2).
The world runs on a different "clock" and operates under its own set of mistaken assumptions. The "wisdom of this world" (σοφία τοῦ κόσμου τούτου) is the prevailing cultural spirit that suppresses the reality of God's Presence and truth. Such "wisdom" is regarded as foolishness before God, and God has promised to "seize the so-called wise in their own craftiness" (1 Cor. 3:19). The life of faith, on the other hand, sees what is invisible. Faith (emunah) apprehends "the substance (ὑπόστασις) of things hoped for, the assurance (ἔλεγχος, conviction, "correction," "argument," i.e., tokhachat: תוֹכַחַת) of things not seen" (Heb 11:1). Faith "looks not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal" (2 Cor. 4:18).
Ultimately Passover is about experiencing the deliverance of God from our fears, despite the appearance of rampant wickedness in this world. During this season - and always - may He help us walk by faith (בָּאֱמוּנָה), not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7). May He give you comfort and reassure you of His strong arm of deliverance at this time...
Nisan and the Biblical New Year
[ The following entry is related to the Biblical New Year (and the month of Nisan), which begins Monday, March 15th at sundown this year.. . ]
03.09.10 (Adar 23, 5770) The Biblical New Year begins at the appearance of the first "new moon" of spring, that is, when the waxing crescent of the moon is first sighted. Biblically, this new moon is called called Rosh Chodashim (ראשׁ חֳדָשִׁים), "the head of the months," and its observance is considered the very first commandment given to Israel before the great Exodus from Egypt took place:
הַחדֶשׁ הַזֶּה לָכֶם ראשׁ חֳדָשִׁים
רִאשׁוֹן הוּא לָכֶם לְחָדְשֵׁי הַשָּׁנָה
ha-chodesh hazeh lakhem rosh chodashim
rishon hu lakhem l'chodshei ha-shanah
This month shall mark for you the beginning of the months;
it shall be the first of the months of the year for you (Exod. 12:2)
In the Scriptures and Jewish tradition there are various names given to "this month," including the following:
- Rosh Chodashim (ראשׁ חֳדָשִׁים), the "head of the months." The month of Nisan is counted as first for the purpose of counting the days, months, and holidays of the Hebrew calendar.
- Chodesh Ha-Aviv (חדֶשׁ הָאָבִיב), "the month of spring," so named because it marked the time of the Exodus from Egypt (Exod. 13:3-4; 23:15; 34:18; Deut. 16:1). From the verse, "Guard (שָׁמוֹר) the month of spring and make Pesach for the LORD" (Deut. 16:1), the sages inferred that an additional month (of Adar) should be inserted into the calendar when necessary to ensure that the holiday of Passover would always occur in the spring. (For more, see the Jewish Calendar pages.)
- Chodesh Ha-rishon (חדֶשׁ הָרִאשׁוֹן), "the first month," so named because the other months are named in relation to it, similar to the days of the week in the Hebrew calendar (i.e., the first day, the second day, etc.). This is the most frequent designation of this month in Scripture. The Ramban (Nachmanides) wrote: "By counting every month from Nisan, we constantly commemorate the miracle that God performed when He took us out of slavery."
- Chodesh HaGeulah (חדֶשׁ הַגְּאֻלָּה), "the month of the redemption." This is an inferred name from the Scriptures, since the redemption from Egypt took place during the month of Nisan. The Babylonian Talmud (Tractate Rosh Hashanah 11a) states: "In Nisan our forefathers were redeemed from Egypt and in Nisan we will be redeemed." In that sense, Nisan is also Chodesh ha-Yeshuah (חדֶשׁ הַיְשׁוּעָה), the "month of the salvation," both in terms of the physical deliverance from Egypt, but more profoundly in terms of the spiritual salvation given at Zion/Moriah through the Messiah.
According to the sages, there are two orders of creation: the natural and the supernatural. The natural order of creation refers to the physical creation of the heavens and the earth, whereas the supernatural refers to spiritual re-creation, or rebirth. On the Jewish calendar, the natural order of creation is celebrated during Rosh Hashanah (i.e., Tishri 1), whereas the supernatural is celebrated on Rosh Chodashim (i.e., Nisan 1). The midrash states: "When the Holy One, blessed be He, created the world, He established the beginning of months and years, but when He chose Ya'akov and his children for service, He established Rosh Chodesh as the month of redemption and rebirth" (Shemot Rabbah 15:11). According to the medieval Jewish sage Nachmanides (i.e., the Ramban), the Egyptian belief in the zodiac implied that God had abandoned the affairs of the natural world by consigning them under the forces of the stars and constellations. Therefore God chose the month of Nisan (the sign of the lamb) for the Passover sacrifice in order to demonstrate that Israel did not leave on account of the constellations, but because of the power of God.
- Chodesh Nisan (חדֶשׁ נִיסָן), "the month of Nisan," the name given to the first month after the Babylonian Exile (Esther 3:7; Neh. 2:1). Some think that the word Nisan (נִיסָן) derives from a Sumerian word that means "first fruits" (indicative of aviv, or spring), though most Jewish commentators think nisan derives either from the word nissim (נִסִּים, "miracles"), suggesting a link to the miracles of the Exodus, or to the word nitzan (נִצָּן), meaning "bud" (Song 2:12). Still others suggest that Nisan comes from the verb nus (נוּס), meaning "to flee," both in relation to Israel's flight from Egypt and Egypt's flight from Israel (i.e., when the pursuing Egyptian cavalry fled (נָסִים) before the sea closed upon them (Exod. 14:25, 27).
According to the sages, after the Babylonian Exile and the prophecy of Jeremiah was fulfilled (i.e., "it will no longer be said 'as the LORD lives, who took the people of Israel out of Egypt,' rather it will be said 'as the LORD lives, who raised up and brought the people of Israel from the Northern Land' (Jer. 16:14-15), the Jews began to call the months by the names commonly used in exile as a reminder of God's faithfulness.
- Chodesh HaMelakhim (חדֶשׁ הַמְּלָכִים), "the month of the kings." The 1st of Nisan is counted as the new year for the purpose of counting the reign of kings of Israel (in Exodus 12:2, the word lakhem (לָכֶם), "to you," can be rearranged to form the word melekh (מֶלֶךְ), "a king."). For instance, if a king ascended the throne just a week before the new moon of Nisan, that week would be reckoned as a year in the chronicles of Israel's kings.
- Chodesh Yehudah (חדֶשׁ יְהוּדָה), "the month of Judah." Jewish tradition assigns the month of Nisan to the royal tribe of Judah (יְהוּדָה), in whose merit both the Holy Temple was built and from whom the Messiah Yeshua would descend. The tribe of Judah was divinely favored because:
- Judah was functionally the "firstborn" son of Israel (Reuben, Shimon, and Levi had been disqualified)
- Judah saved Joseph from death (Gen. 37:26).
- Judah saved Tamar from death and disgrace (Gen. 38:26).
- Judah had interceded on behalf of his father Jacob to preserve Benjamin's freedom at the cost of his own (Gen. 44:16-34). This last quality, in particular, is known as mesirat nefesh (מְסִירַת נֶפֵשׁ), "self sacrifice," and reveals Judah's role as Israel's intercessor.
- When Jacob blessed his sons on his deathbed, he prophesied that Judah would be praised by his other brothers and ultimately be the source of the Messiah of Israel (Gen. 49:8-10).
- According to Jewish tradition, at the time of the Exodus from Egypt it was a descendant of Judah - Nachshon ben Aminadav (Num. 1:7) -- who initiated the parting of the Sea of Reeds by walking into the waters until the sea split (Shemot Rabbah).
- The name Judah (יְהוּדָה) includes the Name YHVH (יהוה) with the insertion of the letter Dalet (ד), suggesting that Judah would be the "door" into the presence of God (Yeshua was from the tribe of Judah who described Himself as ha-sha'ar (הַשַּׁעַר) "the gate"(John 10:9)). The arrangement of the tribes placed Judah directly in front of the door into the Mishkan (Num. 2:3; see Bamidbar for more information).
Indeed, according to Jewish tradition, the dedication and inauguration of the Mishkan also occurred on Nisan 1: "Rabbi Yossi used to say, 'When did the Inauguration of the Mishkan occur? It began on the twenty third of Adar, and concluded on the first of Nisan. And on all of the first seven days, Moshe used to set up the Mishkan and take it apart at the end of the day. On the eighth day, he set it up, and did not take it apart. And that eighth day was Shabbat, and it was the Rosh Chodesh of Nisan" (BaMidbar Rabbah).
Rebirth of Creation
According to the sages, there are two orders of creation: the natural and the supernatural. The natural order of creation refers to the physical creation of the heavens and the earth, whereas the supernatural refers to spiritual re-creation, or rebirth. On the Jewish calendar, the natural order of creation is celebrated during Rosh Hashanah (i.e., Tishri 1), whereas the supernatural is celebrated on Rosh Chodashim (i.e., Nisan 1).
The midrash states: "When the Holy One, blessed be He, created the world, He established the beginning of months and years (i.e., Rosh Hashanah), but when He chose Ya'akov and his children for service, He established Nisan as the month of redemption and rebirth" (Shemot Rabbah). According to the medieval Jewish sage Nachmanides (i.e., the Ramban), the Egyptian belief in the zodiac implied that God had abandoned the affairs of the natural world by consigning them under the forces of the stars and constellations. In response, the LORD chose the month of Nisan (the constellation of the lamb) for the Passover sacrifice in order to demonstrate that Israel did not leave on account of the influence of the stars but entirely because of the power of God....
How many "New Years Days"?
As we've seen, the Torah designates the month of Nisan (Scripturally called aviv, or "spring") as the first month of the year (Exod. 12:2). Originally, then, the Hebrew calendar was lunar and observational. When the new moon was sighted, a new month begun. Since the Torah also identified Sukkot as "the end of the (harvest) year" (Exod. 23:16), the sages of the Mishnah later identified the Fall month of Tishri (i.e., the "seventh month") as the start of a new year.... During the Babylonian exile (6th century BC), Babylonian names for the months (i.e., Tammuz) were adopted. This might harken back to the earlier Summerian Calendar of Abraham's day...
By the time the Mishnah was compiled (200 AD), the sages had identified four new-year dates for every lunar-solar year (the modern Jewish calendar was apparently ratified by Hillel the Elder in the 3rd century AD):
- Nisan 1 (i.e., Rosh Chodashim) marks the start of the month of the Exodus from Egypt and the beginning of Jewish national history. As such, it represents the start of the Biblical year for counting the festivals (Exod. 12:2). Note that the month of Nisan is also called Aviv since it marks the official start of spring.
- Elul 1 marks the start of the year from the point of view of tithing cattle for Temple sacrifices. Since the Second Temple was destroyed in 70 AD, the rabbis decreed that this date should mark the time of Selichot, or preparation for repentance before Rosh Hashanah. Elul 1 marks the start of the last month of summer.
- Tishri 1 was originally associated with the agricultural "Feast of Ingathering" at the "end of the year" (Exod. 23:16, 34:22), though after the destruction of the Second Temple, the sages decided it would mark the start of the civil year in the fall. Tishri 1 was therefore called Rosh Hashanah ("the head of the year") which begins a ten-day "trial" of humanity climaxing on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur).
- Shevat 15 (i.e., Tu B'Shevat) originally marked the date for calculating the tithes of the harvest (ma'aserot) that farmers would pledge to the priests of Israel. This was the start of the year from the point of view of tithing of fruit trees. Today Tu B'Shevat represents a national Arbor Day in Israel, with tree planting ceremonies in Israel. Unlike the other three "new years," Tu B'Shevat begins in the middle of the month, during a full moon in winter.
In practical terms, however, there are two "New Years" in Jewish tradition. The first occurs two weeks before Passover (Nisan 1) and the second occurs ten days before Yom Kippur (the other two "new years" are not regularly observed, except by the ultra-orthodox). The first New Year marks the month of the redemption of the Jewish people -- and it is also the month in which Yeshua was sacrificed upon the cross at Moriah to redeem us from our sins. The second marks the month of Israels' corporate salvation that will be fulfilled in the End of Days. Oddly enough for most Christians, "New Years Day" should be really celebrated in the spring, certainly not in "January."
All of this is in striking contrast, however, with the most widely used calendar in the world today -- the "Gregorian Calendar" -- named after Pope Gregory XIII who reigned over the Catholic Church in the 1500's. For more information about this calendar, click here.
The New Moon of Nisan is the most significant of the "new moons" of the Jewish calendar since it initiates the first month of the Biblical Calendar - and therefore represents the Biblical "New Year's Day." Of all the various Rosh Chodesh celebrations, then, Rosh Chodesh Nisan is foundational, since it presents the starting point for the cycle of the yearly festivals (mo'edim) that reveal prophetic truths about the LORD God of Israel and His beloved Son, Yeshua the Mashiach, blessed be He.
The Shabbat preceding Nisan 1 is called HaChodesh and is one of the four special Shabbatot (special Sabbaths) intended to ready oneself for the holiday of Passover (which begins two weeks later on Nisan 15). In addition to the regular Torah reading for Shabbat, Exodus 12:1-20 is read and Ezekiel 45:16-46:18 is recited as Haftarah.
Chodesh tov, chaverim!
The Gospel of Moses
[ The following entry is intended to help us get ready for Passover, which begins Monday, March 29th at sundown this year. ]
03.08.10 (Adar 22, 5770) The Akedah (עֲקֵדָה, "binding") is the story of how Abraham was tested by God to bind his "only begotten son" (בֵּן יָחִיד) Isaac and offer him as a sacrifice on Mount Moriah -- the place of the future Temple (Gen. 22:1-18). At the very last moment, God stopped Abraham from going through with the sacrifice and provided a ram as a substitute. Abraham then named the location Adonai-Yireh (יהוה יִרְאֶה), "the LORD who sees" (from the 3p impf. of the verb ra'ah (רָאָה), "to see"). In a sense, the story of the Akedah may be understood as the "Gospel according to Moses" (Luke 24:27; John 5:46).
Although many artists have pictured Issac as a youth during the Akedah, tradition says that he was 37 years old at the time of the binding. Isaac's age is derived from the tradition that the horror of Abraham's offering literally caused the death of his mother Sarah at age 127 (Gen. 23:1). (See the "Akedah of Sarah" for more.)
As Messianic believers, we understand the Akedah as a foreshadowing of the ultimate sacrifice the heavenly Father would give on our behalf. Unlike Abraham, God the Father actually offered His only begotten Son (בֵּן יָחִיד) Yeshua upon Moriah in order to make salvation available to all who believe (John 3:16-18; 1 John 4:9). As Abraham himself believed: אֱלהִים יִרְאֶה־לּוֹ הַשֶּׂה / Elohim yireh-lo haseh ("God Himself will provide a lamb").
Consider how the Akedah provides a prophetic picture of the Mashiach Yeshua as the "Lamb of God" (Seh haElohim) who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29). Both Isaac and Yeshua were born miraculously; both were "only begotten sons"; both were to be sacrificed by their fathers at Mount Moriah; both experienced a "passion"; both willingly took up the means of his execution; both were to be resurrected on the third day (Gen. 22:5, Heb. 11:17-19); and both demonstrate that one life can be sacrificed for another – the ram for Isaac, and Yeshua for all of mankind. Indeed, Isaac is a clear picture of the Greater Seed of Abraham to come, the One who would remove the kelalah (curse) and save us from death.
Note that the first occurrence of the word love in the Scriptures (אהבה, ahavah, Gen. 22:2) refers to Abraham's love for his "only" son who was offered as a sacrifice on Moriah (the very place of the crucifixion of Yeshua) -- a clear reference to the New Testament gospel message (John 3:16). Some scholars have noted that the word ahavah comes from a two-letter root (הב) with Aleph (א) as a modifier. The root means "to give" and the Aleph indicates first-person agency: "I" give. Love is essentially an act of sacrificial giving... The quintessential passage of Scripture regarding love (αγαπη) in the life of a Christian is found 1 Corinthians 13: "Love seeketh not its own..." The antithesis of love is selfishness, the root of pride, fear, etc.
Both Isaac and Yeshua sacrificed their lives in obedience to their fathers' will. Both accepted the promise of God and believed that love was stronger than death. The passion and sacrifice of Isaac was a dramatic foreshadowing of the greater passion and sacrifice of Yeshua, the beloved Son of God Himself. The shared suffering of the Heavenly Father and Yeshua was the means by which "righteousness and peace have kissed" (Psalm 85:10), thereby restoring the children of promise to their original inheritance.
During the season of Passover, let us ask the LORD to quicken these words of John the Baptist (Yochanon haMatbil) within our hearts: "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world" (John 1:29).
Shabbat Hachodesh - שבת החדש
[ This week we have a "double portion" of Torah: parashat Vayakhel and Pekudei. Please read the Torah portions to "find your place" here. ]
03.08.10 (Adar 22, 5770) The last Sabbath of the Biblical year is called Shabbat Hachodesh, the "Sabbath of the Month" (of Nisan). This Sabbath is significant because it is anticipates the first new moon of the spring (Rosh Chodashim) and the coming of the Season of Redemption (i.e., Passover). We honor this time by reading an additional passage from the Torah (i.e., maftir) concerning the sanctification of the month of Nisan as the "beginning of months" and to remind ourselves of the great commandment to observe the Passover in the days ahead (Exod. 12:1-20).
Note that this year the Biblical New Year begins on Monday, March 15th at sundown.
The commandment to sanctify the new moon of Nisan reveals that it is our responsibility to sanctify (i.e., observe) Biblical time in general. In other words, when we observe "the beginning of months," we are acknowledging that time itself is rooted in the Biblical calendar with its divinely inspired cycle of festivals (i.e., the moedim).
Originally Rosh Chodashim was simply called the "first month" because it is the month of the Exodus and the other months were named in relation to it, similar to the days of the week in the Hebrew calendar (i.e., the first day, the second day...). Later it was called "Chodesh Ha-Aviv" (חדֶשׁ הָאָבִיב), the springtime month, because the Jewish calendar is reset in the spring. So important is this month that the sage Rabbi Moses ben Nachman (Ramban) wrote regarding the commandment to observe Rosh Chodashim:
"The verses (Exod. 12:1-2) mean that this month should be counted first. And beginning with it, should the count proceed to the second, the third, and so on, till the end of the sequence of months with the twelfth month. For the purpose that this month should be a commemoration of the Great Miracle (i.e., of our Redemption). For every time we mention the months, the Miracle will be alluded to. It is for that reason that the months do not have names in the Torah, but rather they are identified by number."
According to the sages, once prophecy of Jeremiah was fulfilled after the Babylonian Exile was complete (i.e., "it will no longer be said 'as the LORD lives, who took the people of Israel out of Egypt,' rather it will be said 'as the LORD lives, who raised up and brought the people of Israel from the Northern Land' (Jer. 16:14-15), the Jews continued to call the months by the names used in the Exile (i.e., Nisan, Iyar, etc.) as a commemoration of God's faithfulness. This also explains why these names of the months appear only in the post-Exilic books of the prophets and in the Book of Esther.
On the Biblical calendar the month of Adar (אֲדָר) is the last month of the year (counting from Nisan), and Shabbat Hachodesh is the last Sabbath of the year. Adar is the month of Purim, a festive holiday which is always celebrated a month before Passover (Megillah 1:4). During both Purim and Passover we celebrate God's deliverance of His people, and therefore Adar is considered one of the happiest of the months of the Jewish year: "When Adar comes, joy is increased" (Ta'anit 29a). This year Adar began on Sunday, Feb. 14th and Purim began two weeks later, under the full moon (i.e., Saturday, Feb. 27th). This means that Passover will begin one lunar month later, on Monday, March 29th at sundown:
Like the month of Elul in the fall (i.e., the month that precedes Rosh Hashanah [Exod. 23:16]), the month of Adar is therefore a time to make "New Year's Resolutions" and to turn away from sin before the start of the New Year of spring.
God's "Stubborn" Love
[ The following entry relates to part of this week's Torah reading (Ki Tisa). Please read the Torah portion to "find your place" here. ]
03.05.10 (Adar 19, 5770) In the aftermath of the grievous Sin of the Golden Calf (i.e., chet ha'egel: חֵטְא הָעֵגֶל), the LORD threatened to wipe out the Jews because they were am k'she oref (עַם־קְשֵׁה־ערֶף), a "stiff-necked people" (Exod. 32:9). Various explanations for this term have been given, including the medieval commentator Sforno's description that a "stiff necked person" is someone who mulishly refuses to "move his head" and listen to those attempting to guide and help him. The neck, after all, is the "corridor" between the head and the heart, and having a "stiff neck" suggests an inflexible way of thinking and feeling... The rebels who enticed Aaron to create the golden calf were certainly "stiff necked" and obstinate. Despite witnessing the great miracles of the Exodus and experiencing the awesome revelation at Sinai, they obstinately insisted that Aaron make them "gods" that would return them to the "fleshpots of Egypt." Now that's some kind of chutzpah!
After calling them a "stiff-necked people," God said that He would "start over" by wiping out those who were ransomed from Egypt and making Moses' descendants into a great nation. Moses was appalled at the prospect and first appealed to God's reputation in this matter. Would not God's Name be profaned among the Egyptians if the LORD would destroy bnei Yisrael (the children of Israel) after leading them out of bondage? Moreover, what about the covenant promises God made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (i.e., brit avot)? How could the LORD break His word to the patriarchs of Israel? Because of Moses' quick intercession, God's anger was stayed and an "opening" or opportunity was given for teshuvah (repentance).
Moses then rushed down Sinai, tablets in hand, and saw the people dancing about the idol and engaging in debauchery. The two tablets then became heavy and were smashed to the ground (Exod. 32:19). Moses and the Levites then punished the perpetrators and awaited direction from God. After purging the camp of the infidels, Moses appealed to the LORD and said, "Alas, this people has sinned a great sin. They have made for themselves gods of gold. But now, if you will forgive their sin -- but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written" (Exod. 32:31-32). God then stated that only those who defy Him would be blotted out from His book, but nevertheless informed Moses to go on the journey without Him: "Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey -- but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are am k'she oref (עַם־קְשֵׁה־ערֶף) - a stiff-necked people" (Exod. 33:3). The LORD continued, "Say to the Israelite people, 'You are a stiff-necked people (am k'she oref). If I were to go in your midst for one moment, I would destroy you. Now, then, leave off your finery, and I will consider what to do to you' (Exod. 33:5).
A midrash says that Moses then gathered up the fragments of the broken tablets and put them inside his "tent of study" (note that this was not the Tabernacle since it had not yet been erected). God then instructed him to relocate his tent far outside the camp, where the Shekhinah Glory descended in plain view of the people (Exod. 33:7-9). There - in the sanctity of his private tent - the LORD spoke to Moses "face to face" (i.e., panim el panim: פָּנִים אֶל־פָּנִים) from the midst of the cloud.
The "Passion" of Moses
In the solitude of his tent Moses was deeply troubled, even distraught. He must have carefully reviewed everything in his life that led up to this point. Finally, in light of the recent disaster at Sinai, Moses realized he was at an utter impasse. Would God continue His redemptive plan or was this the end of the great dream? Therefore Moses poignantly appealed to God: "If I have found favor (grace) in your eyes, let me know your ways, that I may know you and continue in your favor" (Exod. 33:13). God responded by reassuring Moses that His Presence would be with him (alone) and that he (alone) would "enter His rest." But Moses protested: "Unless You go in the lead, do not make us leave this place. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight -- I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?" And the LORD said to Moses, "This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name" (Exod. 33:15-17). Moses' successful intercession touched God's heart, causing Him to change from a mode of strict judgment (middat ha-din) to one of mercy and forgiveness (middat ha-rachamim). This was the "gospel" moment at Sinai....
Upon hearing God's words of comfort, Moses was so overcome that he exclaimed: "Oh, let me behold Your Presence!" (Exod. 33:18), whereupon God answered, "I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim before you the name LORD (יהוה), and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy" (Exod. 33:19, cp. Rom. 9:15). Note that Moses would receive the revelation of the Name when he "stands upon the Rock" (Exod. 33:21).
The LORD then instructed Moses to carve a new set of tablets and to meet him again at a place (i.e., makom: מָקוֹם) on the top of Sinai, where He would descend in the cloud to "declare His Name" (Exod. 33:17-34:7). This dramatic experience of revelation was later called middot ha-rachamim, or the revelation of the attributes of God's mercy, and was considered a divine addendum to the original covenant terms. Rabbinic tradition later incorporated the recitation of middot ha-rachamim during Yom Kippur.
What are some of these attributes? Notice first that the LORD calls himself rachum v'chanun (רַחוּם וְחַנּוּן), often translated "merciful and gracious." The noun rechem (רֶחֶם) means "womb" in Hebrew, indicating that God's compassion is like a mother's deep love for her child. The word chanun (חַנּוּן) comes from the word for grace or favor (i.e., chen: חֵן), and indicates that God is a graceful giver who is favorably disposed to help those in need. God is compassionate and favorable to those who call upon Him.
The curious phrase erekh apayim (אֶרֶךְ אַפַּיִם) literally means "long of nose," an idiom used to describe someone who is patient and slow to anger, i.e., "longsuffering" (Prov. 14:29). The word chesed (חֶסֶד), is often translated as "lovingkindess" or "steadfast love," and implies devotion and fidelity. God describes Himself as rav chesed v'emet (רַב־חֶסֶד וֶאֱמֶת), that is abundant in His kindness and faithful love.
It is fascinating to see that this revelation prefigures the New Covenant that was given to Israel. Just as the first set of tablets, based as they were on the justice and holiness of God, were broken, so a second set was given based on the middot (attributes) of the LORD's mercy and grace. Indeed, Yeshua was broken on behalf of the law but was raised again so that all who trust in Him can truly understand that God is "merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in stedfast love and truth" (Exod. 34:6, Psalm 86:15, 103:8).
The revelation of the Name YHVH (יהוה) was a "gospel" moment for Israel.... The Sin of the Golden Calf revealed that something more was needed, and that the law itself was insufficient to change the inner heart of man...
It can be argued that the revelation of the Name YHVH (יהוה) was a "gospel" moment for Israel. The episode of the Golden Calf revealed that the Jews were unable to keep the law, even though they personally experienced the power of God's deliverance from Egypt and His ongoing care on the way to Sinai. Despite the judgments brought upon Egypt, despite the overthrow of Pharaoh and his armies in the sea, despite the bitter waters made sweet, despite the manna from heaven, despite the miraculous well of Miriam, despite the awesome revelation at Sinai, and despite the pledge of the Israelites: kol asher diber Adonai na'aseh v'nishma, "All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient" (Exod. 19:8; 24:7), the Sin of the Golden Calf revealed that something more was needed, and that the law itself was insufficient to change the inner heart of man. The intercession of Moses on behalf of Israel revealed the heart of the New Covenant (בְּרִית חֲדָשָׁה) of the LORD, the deeper revelation of the God's character of mercy and grace. Apart from God's gracious love and compassion, the law by itself rendered only the righteous sentence of death for Israel.
As the revelation of the Name discloses, the LORD is rav chesed v'emet (רַב־חֶסֶד וֶאֱמֶת), that is, abundant in His kindness and faithful love. This is demonstrated in the sacrifice of His Son for our sins (John 3:16-17; 1 Cor. 15:3-4; 2 Cor. 5:21). "God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit" (Rom. 8:3-4). Moses indeed entered the land of promise and once again stood with Lord in the cloud on the mountain, though this was the mountain of Zion rather than Sinai (Matt. 17:1-5). Because of the avodah (finished work) and intercession of Yeshua, now we can all find favor in God's eyes once again (for similarities between Moses and Yeshua, see "A Prophet Like Unto Moses").
It is interesting to note that immediately after the revelation of God's Name, Moses asked the LORD to return his tent to the center of the camp. "If I have gained Your favor, O LORD, pray, let the LORD go in our midst, even though this is a stiff-necked people (am k'she oref). Pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for Your own!" (Exod. 34:9). In light of the newly revealed middot ha-rachamim of the LORD, Moses now referred to God's description of the people as "stiff necked" as an appeal for God's "stubborn" love for His people. What started as obstinacy or stubbornness of Israel's character could be transformed into devotion and strength, if only the LORD would "go in our midst." Indeed, with God's help the negative quality of being "stiff necked" could be transformed into the loyal determination to walk in the ways of the LORD.
Shabbat Shalom, chaverim... We ache for the soon return of Yeshua with you....
Betzalel - a Picture of Messiah
[ The following entry relates to part of this week's Torah reading (Ki Tisa). Please read the Torah portion to "find your place" here. ]
03.03.10 (Adar 17, 5770) When Moses received Torah at Sinai, he was given visions of the Tabernacle (i.e., mishkan: מִשְׁכָּן), a tent-like structure where God's Presence (i.e., shekhinah: שְׁכִינָה) would dwell (i.e., shakhan: שָׁכַן) in the midst of the camp of Israel. Though Moses received the "pattern" (i.e., tavnit: תַּבְנִית) of the heavenly dwelling, he was unable to create the artifacts themselves, and therefore God called Betzalel (בְּצַלְאֵל) to be the chief architect of the structure.
Betzalel was the grandson of Hur (of the tribe of Judah and ancestor of King David) who, according to Josephus (Antiquities 3:2) was the husband of Moses' sister Miriam. This was the same Hur chosen to go with Moses and Aaron to the top of a mountain to prop up Moses' arms during Israel's first war against the Amalekites (Exod. 17:8-13).
Betzalel is clearly a type (or picture) of the Messiah Yeshua. After all, he was a man "called by name" from the tribe of Judah who was "filled with the Spirit of God" (ruach Elohim) to build the dwelling place of the LORD - an apt enough description of the Lord Yeshua Himself. Moses was said to be so astonished at Betzalel's abilities that he said Betzalel must have been "in the shadow" while he received his visions at Sinai (Betzel El Hayita - "you were indeed in the shadow, for you have the ability to create what the Holy One, blessed Be He, had commanded me"). Indeed, the name Betzalel (בְּצַלְאֵל) means "in the shadow of God" (from בְּ [in] + tzel [צֵל], "shadow" + El [אֵל], "God"). Moreover, Betzalel's chief assistant was Oholiav (אָהֳלִיאָב), a name that means "my Father's tent" (from oheli [אָהֳלִי], "my tent" and av [אָב], "father").
Betzalel was like Yeshua in that 1) he was from the kingly tribe of Judah, 2) he was a young carpenter, 3) he was unusually "filled with the Spirit of God," 4) his father's name (Uri) means "my light" (James 1:17), 4) his assistant (Oholiav) was from the tribe of Dan (i.e., דָּן, "judge," symbolizing the legal aspects of the Torah), and 5) it was he (rather than Moses) who actually built the Mishkan, which was the archetypal pattern for the spiritual Temple - see 1 Peter 2:5). As it is written in Hebrews 3:1-6:
Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Yeshua, the Apostle (הַשָּׁלִיחַ) and the High Priest (הַכּהֵן הַגָּדוֹל) of our confession, who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God's house. For Yeshua has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses - as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) Now Moses was faithful in all God's house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but the Messiah is faithful over God's house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.
Our Purim Spiel Pictures
03.02.10 (Adar 16, 5770) Purim Sameach - "Happy Purim," friends. On Purim we staged a family "Purim Spiel" (Purim play) over at my in-laws home and had a lot of fun. The play opened with a "rabbi" explaining the story of Purim to his young son. We then managed to go through the story of Esther in 18 scenes. We ended with the Jews of Shushan celebrating the new holiday of Purim. Here are a few pictures from the event:
Left-to-right (top): 1. the stage curtain; 2. A rabbi explains to his son the story of Purim;
3. Queen Vashti; 4. Haman (Boo!); 5. Haman's wife Zeresh
(bottom): 1. King Ahashuerus (Xerxes); 2. Mordechai (Yeah!); 3. Queen Esther with the King;
4. Vashti and Esther; 5. The celebration of Purim - finale
Afterwards we ate the Yom Tov meal (in costume) and enjoyed some festive fellowship. It was a lot of fun, and we wish you could have been there! Now it's time to begin thinking seriously about Passover, which is about a month from now!
Parashat Ki Tisa - כי תשא
03.02.10 (Adar 16, 5770) The Torah reading for this week is Ki Tisa, one of the Torah's longest. It includes the account of the terrible "Sin of the Golden Calf" (i.e., egel masekhah, עֵגֶל מַסֵּכָה) and Moses' gracious intercession for Israel. After a period of teshuvah for this great transgression, the LORD called Moses back up the mountain to restore the broken relationship with Israel. There God graciously revealed the thirty-two words that have become known in Jewish tradition as the Shelosh Esrei Middot, the Thirteen Attributes of God's Mercy. This was the LORD's own definition of His character and attributes (i.e., Name) revealed to Moses after the breaking of the covenant, and therefore it foreshadows the grace of God demonstrated in the New Covenant. See the Parashah Summary for the Hebrew text and audio of this important revelation from God.
Ki Tisa begins with the statement, "each shall give (וְנָתְנוּ) a ransom (kopher) for his life to the LORD" (Exod. 30:12). The sages note that the word ve'natnu can be written backward and forward, alluding to the idea that whoever gives tzedekah (i.e., "charity") never feels the loss of giving anything away (Baba Basra). Even more: giving benevolence produces wealth; tzedakah is an investment in your spiritual future! Indeed, "tzedakah saves from death" - צְדָקָה תַּצִּיל מִמָּוֶת (Prov. 10:2). As Yeshua said, "Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your heart. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you" (Luke 6:38). He also admonished us, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matt. 6:19-21).
The love of God is like that: when we give it away, it becomes our own possession. Love is inherently something shared. The converse is also true. If we withhold from others, then eventually God will make it so that we are unable to give what we would have given had we the opportunity (Matt. 13:12). "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?" (Mark 8:36). In this age of prevalent economic fear, giving tzedakah is truly countercultural and faith-affirming: but the truth abides: when we give, we receive....
The midrash Yalkut Shimoni adds that God showed many great treasures to Moses. "To whom does this treasure belong?" asked Moses. "To those who give tzedakah," answered God. "And to whom does this one belong?" "To those who support orphans." And thus did God answer him regarding each treasure. Finally, Moses came upon a certain treasure and asked, "To whom does this belong?" "This belongs to one who has no merit of his own. I give him this treasure unearned," replied God. This is referred to in the words, "I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious" (Exod. 33:19). God's love is given freely, even to those who are undeserving. That's the message of the Cross of Yeshua, after all. God's love and grace is poured out to those who are without merit or hope.
Shabbat Parah - שבת פרה
03.02.10 (Adar 16, 5770) Four special Sabbaths occur just before the start of Spring: two before Purim and two before Passover. Collectively, these Sabbaths are called "The Four Shabbatot" and one of four additional Torah readings (called Arba Parashiyot, or the "four portions") are read on each of these Sabbaths in preparation for the holidays. The names of these Sabbaths are Shabbat Shekalim, Shabbat Zakhor, Shabbat Parah, and Shabbat HaChodesh, respectively.
The Shabbat that immediately follows Purim is called Shabbat Parah - the "Sabbath of the Cow," when the chapter of the parah adumah (פָרָה אֲדֻמָּה), or the "Red Heifer," is read following the regular Torah service (Num. 19:1-22). The early sages chose this reading for this time of the year because Jews were required to purify themselves before coming to Jerusalem for the pilgrimage festival of Passover.
The Red Heifer offering is considered a paradox to most Jewish thinkers, though it is clearly a picture of the Messiah Yeshua. The paradox is that the one who offers this sacrifice becomes ritually impure, while the sprinkling of the ashes is used to make people clean... The ritual is considered chok within the Jewish tradition, meaning that it makes no rational sense. In fact, the Talmud states that of all the taryag mitzvot (613 commandments), this is the only one that King Solomon could not fathom, since this sacrifice is the most paradoxical of all the sacrifices found in the Torah. The sacrifice of Yeshua the Messiah is the fulfillment of the symbolism of the parah adumah. Both were entirely rare and without defect (sin); both were sacrificed outside the camp; both made the one who offered the sacrifice unclean but made the one who was sprinkled by it clean; and finally, both sacrifices cleanse people for priestly service.
The parah adumah had to be a perfect specimen that was completely red, "without blemish, in which there is no defect (mum)." The rabbis interpreted "without blemish" as referring to the color, that is, without having so much as a single white or black hair. This is the only sacrifice in the Torah where the color of the animal is explicitly required. Moreover, the parah adumah was never to have had a yoke upon it, meaning that it must never have been used for any profane purposes.
Unlike all other sacrifices offered at the mizbeach (altar at the Mishkan), the parah adumah was taken outside the camp and there slaughtered before the priest (in this case, Elazar, Aaron's son), who then took some of its blood and sprinkled it seven times before the Mishkan (thereby designating it as a purification offering). [During the Second Temple period, the High Priest performed this ceremony facing the Temple while atop the Mount of Olives.] Then the red heifer would be burned in its entirety: its hide, flesh, blood, and even dung were to be burned (unlike other Levitical korbanot). Unlike other offerings, all the blood of the sacrifice was to be burned in the fire.
Hyssop, scarlet yarn, and a cedar stick would then be thrown upon the burning parah adumah (interestingly, these same items were used to cleanse from sin or tzara'at (skin disease). In other words, the blood was assimilated into the ashes of the sacrifice, which were then gathered and mixed with water to create the "water of separation" (mei niddah) for the Israelite community. Note that the word "separation" (niddah) refers to menstrual impurity and harkens to Zechariah 13:1: "On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and from niddah."
Anyone (or anything) that came into contact with a corpse (the embodiment of sin and death) was required to be purified using the mei niddah. The purification procedure took seven days, using stalks of hyssop dipped into the water and shaken over the ritually defiled person on the third day and then again on the seventh day. After the second sprinkling, the person undergoing the purification process would be immersed in a mikvah and then be unclean until the following evening.
The Uniqueness of the Sacrifice
The Parah Adumah sacrifice was entirely unique, for the following reasons:
- It was the only sacrifice that specifically required an animal of a particular color. This animal was extremely rare and unique of its kind (in fact, Maimonides wrote, "Nine Parot Adumot were prepared from the time the Commandment was given until the destruction of the Second Temple. Moses our Teacher prepared one, Ezra prepared one and seven more were prepared until the Destruction of the Temple. The tenth will prepared by the Mashiach." (We would say "was prepared" by the Mashiach Yeshua, blessed be He.)
- It was the only sacrifice where all the rituals were carried out outside of the camp (and later, outside the Temple precincts). That is, the "blood applications" of this sacrifice occurred in a location apart from the altar (the Talmud recounts that the High Priest performed the blood applications of the Red Heifer while gazing at the Temple and at the Holy of Holies from a mountain opposite the Temple mount).
- It was the only sacrifice that ritually contaminated the priest who offered it, but made the one who was sprinkled by it clean.
- It was the only sacrifice where the ashes were preserved and used (other sacrifices required the ashes be disposed outside of the camp).
According to Jewish tradition, this sacrifice was to atone for the sin of the Golden Calf, though the Torah itself does not make this association. The LORD Yeshua, our Mashiach, is the perfect fulfillment of the Parah Adumah, since He was completely without sin or defect (2 Cor. 5:21; John 8:46); He was sacrificed outside the camp (Heb. 13:13); He made Himself sin for us (2 Cor. 5:21); His sprinkling makes us clean (1 Pet. 1:2; Heb. 12:24; Rev. 1:5); and the "water of separation" that His sacrifice created is the means by which we are made clean from the impurity of sin (Eph. 5:25-6; Heb. 10:22).
The Haftarah for Shabbat Parah
The Haftarah read for Shabbat Parah (Ezek. 36:16-38) is ostensibly linked to the sacrifice of the Red Heifer, though on a deeper level it relates to Israel's national salvation and return to the land after the Great Tribulation period.... Despite the horrors of the worldwide Diaspora of the Jewish people and their faithlessness before the nations, God will be true to His word (see references, below) by causing the Jews to finally accept His salvation (i.e., Yeshua) and to return to the land of Israel. At that time, "all Israel will be saved," as the Apostle Paul also foretold (Rom. 11:26):
Therefore say to the house of Israel, 'Thus says the Lord GOD (אֲדנָי יהוה): It is not for your sake, O house of Israel (בֵּית־יִשְׂרָאֵל), that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy Name (לְשֵׁם־קָדְשִׁי) which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. I will sanctify my great Name (קִדַּשְׁתִּי אֶת־שְׁמִי הַגָּדוֹל) which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the LORD,' declares the Lord GOD, 'when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water (i.e., mayim tehorim: מַיִם טְהוֹרִים) on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart (i.e., lev chadash: לֵב חָדָשׁ), and a new spirit (i.e., ruach chadashah: רוּחַ חֲדָשָׁה) I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone (i.e., lev ha'even: לֵב הָאֶבֶן) from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh (i.e., lev basar: לֵב בָּשָׂר). I will put my Spirit (i.e., ruchi: רוּחִי) within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes (i.e., chukkim: חֻקִּים) and be careful to obey my rules (i.e., mishpatim: מִשְׁפָּטִים). You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. I will save you (וְהוֹשַׁעְתִּי) from all your uncleanness (i.e., tumah: טֻמְאָה)... (Ezek. 36:22-29)
Despite the various rebukes given by the Hebrew prophets regarding Israel's disobedience -- including the repeated warning of exile from the land -- the prophets never abandoned Moses' original prophecy (Deut. 28:64, 30:3-5) that Israel would one day be fully restored in the land promised to the descendants of Abraham (e.g., Isa. 11:1-9; 12:1-3; 27:12-13; 35:1-10; 43:1-8; 60:18-21; 66:20-22; Jer. 16:14-16; 30:10-18; 31:31-37; 32:37-40; Ezek. 11:17-21; 28:25-26; 34:11-16; 37:21-25; 39:25-29; Hosea 1:10-11; 3:4-5; Joel 3:17-21; Amos 9:11-15; Micah 4:4-7; Zeph. 3: 14-20; Zech. 8:4-8; 10:11-15). Note especially that the prophet Zechariah, in the years following the return from the Babylonian captivity, speaks of a future restoration to the land (Zech. 10:8-12). This most likely refers to the regathering that will follow Yom Adonai, the great Day of the LORD, after the Great Tribulation period, when Yeshua returns to establish His kingdom in Jerusalem at the start of the Millennium.
But what about the present regathering of Israel into the land? In Isaiah 11:11-12:6, a "second" (and worldwide) regathering of Israel is mentioned, but it begs the question of when the first regathering took place. Some have suggesting this is the return from the Babylonian Exile (c. 536 BC), though this is unlikely since this was essentially a migration from one country (Babylonia) to another (Judea). As Arnold Fructenbaum has written, "The Bible does not allow for several worldwide regatherings in unbelief; it allows for one worldwide regathering in unbelief; followed by the last one, the one in faith, which is the second one. This text (Isaiah 11:11-12:6) only permits two worldwide regatherings from the four corners of the earth. Therefore, the present Jewish State is very relevant to Bible prophecy (Fruchtenbaum, Footsteps of the Messiah, p. 102).
As Yeshua clearly taught (e.g., Matt. 24), Israel must both be regathered to her land and functioning as a nation before the Second Coming takes place. When the modern State of Israel was born in 1948, the stage was set for the begining of the prophesied acharit ha-yamim (אַחֲרִית הַיָּמִים), the "End of Days."
Our Purim Play
03.01.10 (Adar 15, 5770) Purim Sameach - "Happy Purim," friends. Yesterday we staged our family Purim play and had a lot of fun. Afterwards we ate the Yom Tov meal and enjoyed some festive fellowship. I hope to add some pictures later, but here is a snapshot from near the end of the play:
Note: I will update this week's Torah portion later this evening. Shalom for now, and Happy Purim!
HAPPY PURIM CHAVERIM!
Feb. 27th - March 1