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October 2011 Updates


The Seed of Abraham

Chagall - Abraham's Three Visitors
 

[ The following entry is related to this week's Torah reading, parashat Lekh Lekha. Please read the Torah portion to find your place here. ]

10.31.11 (Cheshvan 3, 5772)   In the "Gospel in the Garden" we considered the very first prophecy given in the Torah, namely, God's promise that through the "seed of the woman" would come one who would slay the serpent and crush the kingdom of Satan (Gen. 3:15). This prophecy is sometimes called the proto-euangelion ("first gospel"), since it constitutes the starting point of all subsequent redemptive history revealed in the Scriptures.  In a sense this promise forms the "womb" for the whole course of God's redemptive plan for the human race.  The first prophecy of Torah clearly anticipated the coming of the Savior of mankind and a cosmic battle between good and evil: "... he (i.e., the Savior/Messiah) will crush your head (ראשׁ), and you (i.e., the serpent/Satan) will crush his heel (עָקֵב)."

It is likely that Eve initially believed that her firstborn son Cain (קַיִן) was the promised Seed himself. After all, the miracle of birth surely came as a great shock to her, and Eve's faith in God's promise that through her seed would come the deliverer was doubtlessly upon her heart at this time.  When Eve called her son "Cain" (wordplay from the verb kana (קָנָה), "to get"), she was expressing her faith in God's promise: קָנִיתִי אִישׁ אֶת־יהוה / kaniti ish et-Adonai, "I have gotten a man - namely, the LORD" (Gen. 4:1). Eve's faith was obscured by the translators, however, who rendered the Hebrew as "I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD" (i.e., they inserted the idea of "help" and translated the particle et (את) as "with" rather than as the direct object marker for the verb).  The ancient Jewish targums, however, agree with the original Hebrew. For example, Targum Yonatan reads: "I have gotten a man - the Angel of YHVH." Surely Eve, the first mother of humanity, was endowed with great wisdom from God, especially after she turned to Him in repentance after her disobedience. The straightforward reading of her words, then, expressed her hope that the LORD Himself would be made a man....

Despite her hope that Cain was none other than the God-Man and promised Deliverer, Eve's hopes were dashed when it became clear that her son was of the seed of Satan (1 John 3:12). His younger brother Abel (הֶבֶל) was a shepherd who evidenced faith in the promise of the coming redeemer by offering blood sacrifice (Gen. 4:3-5). Abel was persecuted and finally murdered by his brother Cain "because his own deeds were evil and his brother's righteous." Their spiritual conflict is indicative of the ongoing warfare between the "sons of darkness" and the "sons of light."

The murder of Abel necessitated that the coming seed would descend through another child, and therefore the Torah describes the birth of Seth (שֵׁת, lit. "appointed"), the third son of Adam and Eve.  The Scriptures further state that it was the descendants of Seth who "began to call upon the Name of the LORD" (לִקְרא בְּשֵׁם יהוה), indicating that they had faith in God (אֱלהִים) as the Compassionate Covenant Keeper (יהוה) who would redeem humanity by means of the coming seed.  Seth called his firstborn son Enosh ("man"), perhaps in the hope that his child would be the promised Savior (interestingly, bar enosh (בַּר אֱנָשׁ), or "Son of Man," is the name for the Savior (Dan 7:13).

The Torah then traces the genealogy (toldot) of Seth through ten generations (from Adam), until his descendant Noach (נחַ) is described as the only tzaddik (righteous man) remaining in the earth (for more on the genealogy, see parashat Noach). The promise of the coming seed would therefore come through Noah, since his family alone survived the great flood.  Now Noah had three sons, but it was through Shem (שֵׁם) that the "line of the Messiah" would come.  According to midrash, Noah announced his blessing near the end of his life. When he said, "Blessed be the LORD, the God of Shem" (בָּרוּךְ יהוה אֱלהֵי שֵׁם), he prophesied that the coming redemption would come through the line of Shem, not through Canaan or Japheth.  Notice that the phrase, "he shall dwell (יִשְׁכּן) in the tents of Shem," is often thought to refer to Japheth, though the Hebrew grammar is ambiguous. Does the "he" in this case refer to Japheth or to the LORD?  A viable translation would be "and He (i.e., the LORD) shall dwell in the tents of Shem," meaning that the LORD would dwell among the Shemites, and by extension, that the promised Seed would come from this line. In this sense, Noah's blessing to Shem was a prophecy of the coming Redeemer through Shem (similar to Jacob's blessing of Judah as the chosen tribe). Since the LORD is the "God of Shem" (יהוה אֱלהֵי שֵׁם), and the prophecy states that one day He (i.e., God) would "dwell in the tents of Shem," the Torah indicates that the coming Redeemer (הַגּוֹאֵל) would come from the Shemites, of whom the great patriarch Abram (אַבְרָם) descended.


 

The Torah identifies Abram as the tenth generation from Noah (including Noah), and therefore the twentieth from Adam. God called Abram out of Ur of Chaldea to begin a pilgrimage of faith to the land of promise (Heb. 11:8-10). The story of Abram is highly prophetic of the coming Messiah, and the promises given to him foretell of the advent of Yeshua in unmistakable ways. After the Akedah (i.e., the sacrifice of Isaac), God promised that "in your seed (זֶרַע) shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice" (Gen. 22:18). In light of the New Testament, the faith of Abraham - and especially the faith demonstrated by the Akedah - prefigured the justification of the nations through faith. Therefore we read: "And the Scripture, foreseeing (προοράω) that God would justify the nations by faith, proclaimed the gospel (προευαγγελίζομαι) beforehand to Abraham, saying, "In you shall all the nations be blessed" (Gal. 3:9). It is noteworthy that Abraham received this promise as a Gentile, since he was yet given the commandment of brit milah (circumcision) as a token of Jewish identity. Abraham was therefore uncircumcised when he believed the good news of the coming redemption of mankind (Rom. 4:10-12). Therefore the Apostle calls Abraham the father of faith for those Gentiles who would later believe the good news of redemption in Yeshua. "So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith" (Gal. 3:9; Rom. 4:16).


 

Genesis 22:18 clearly states that the blessing would come through Abraham's "seed" (זֶרַע). The Apostle Paul clearly identifies this seed with Yeshua: "Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, "And to offsprings," referring to many, but referring to one, "And to your offspring," who is Messiah" (Gal. 3:16). In other words, the promises were made first to Abraham but also to the coming Messiah.  This is yet another example of a "dual aspect" prophecy, since it pertains to Abraham and his chosen offspring (i.e., Isaac (not Ishmael), Jacob (not Esau), Judah (not Rueben), David (not Jesse's firstborn), Solomon (not Adonijah), etc.), but also to the coming Messiah who would redeem fallen humanity from the curse brought about through Satan (John 8:56). Abraham was chosen by God, in other words, to "deliver" the promised Savior to the world. "Salvation is from the Jews," of course (John 4:22), but the blessing of Abraham's promised Seed was ultimately meant to be bestowed upon all people, so that one day the Kingdom of God would be manifest within the sons and daughters of Adam (Gal. 3:14). This is also why Malki-Tzedek, the "priest of the Most High God," was the one who was appointed to bless Abraham, since he prefigured a priesthood that predated the one given later to the Levites through the office of Moses (Heb. 7:1-21).

The original curse of death and the division symbolized by Babel would be reversed through the sacrificial death, burial, and resurrection of Yeshua the Messiah: "And they sang a new song, saying, 'Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth" (Rev. 5:9-10).
 




Parashat Lekh Lekha - לך־לך


 

[ The following entry is related to this week's Torah reading, parashat Lekh Lekha. Please read the Torah portion to find your place here. ]

10.30.11 (Cheshvan 2, 5772)   Lekh lekha (לך־לך) literally means "go for yourself." The medieval Jewish commentator Rashi interpreted it to mean "Go for your own benefit," since God had promised to make Abram into a great nation, and that surely was a great blessing.  R' Samson Hirsch said the phrase meant to "go alone, to isolate oneself," since Abram had to detach from his previous life and be "reborn" by means of his faith. The Jewish mystics interpret the phrase to mean "Go to yourself," that is, look within yourself to begin your own journey back to God. Regardless of the nuances implied in the phrase Lekh Lekha, it is clear that it constitutes an invitation by God to venture ahead -- to go forth in faith... Like Abraham, we are called to leave everything behind and go forth for the sake of God's promise....

Personal Update: I have been limping the last few weeks due to an injury to my left foot/toe. Please offer up a prayer for my healing, chaverim. Thank you.
 




Shabbat "Table Talk" for Bereshit


 

[ Despite the busy season, I managed to get the first part of the Table Talk for Parashat Bereshit finished today.... Note that this Table Talk only covers the first three chapters of Genesis, and I hope to add a sequel at a later time. ]

10.28.11 (Tishri 30, 5772)  Though this Sabbath is called "Shabbat Noach" where we read the account of the great flood (i.e., parashat Noach), I nevertheless wanted to make sure that we didn't overlook the very first portion of the Torah (i.e., Bereshit), since that portion is read immediately following the busy holiday season of Simchat Torah, and often we tend to rush past it because of all the additional things we do during the high holidays...

Therefore, to make it a little easier to discuss this stunningly profound portion of the Torah, I created a brief summary of the Torah reading along with a set of questions and answers. Hopefully this material will prompt some interesting (and enjoyable) discussion for your Sabbath, chaverim. You can download the PDF file from the linked page (above) or by directly clicking here:
 

We wish you a wonderful Shabbat, full of great peace and joy. And here is an awesome reminder of what is coming for those of us who are trusting in Yeshua our Savior:
 

    "And I saw heaven opened and here came a white horse! The one riding it was called "Faithful" and "True," and with justice he judges and goes to war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords."
     


Amen - Come quickly LORD!  Shalom chaverim... stay strong.
 




Parashat Noach (פרשת נח)


 

[ The following entry is related to this week's Torah reading (Noach). Please first read the Torah portion to "find your place" here. ]

10.27.11 (Tishri 29, 5772)  In last week's Torah portion (Bereshit), we read about the disheartening history of earliest humanity.  After ten generations, from Adam to Noah, the LORD had grown so weary of humanity that he "regretted" (yinchem, יִּנָּחֶם) creating man in the first place and "his heart was saddened" (Gen. 6:6). It is interesting to note that the word translated "regretted" comes from the root nacham (נָחַם) -- the same root for the name "Noach" (נחַ) himself. Other Hebrew words that use this root include nichum (compassion), nuach (rest), nacham (repent/console), and menuchah (rest from work). Though God "repented" (נָחַם) that He had made mankind (Gen. 6:7), He comforted himself by finding a means to comfort lost humanity... (more).

Noach's father Lamech (לֶמֶךְ, "powerful one") regarded his son as a deliverer who would comfort humanity from the ravages of the curse (Gen. 5:29). Noach would give relief (i.e., rest) from the toil and vexation of life. Indeed, Noach was a "type" of savior who would rebirth the world by giving lasting comfort and rest (for more about this, see the page "Noah and Jesus").  In like manner it was prophesied that Yeshua would give us everlasting rest: "His rest shall be glorious" (Isa. 11:10), just as He offers rest to the weary (Matt. 11:28, Heb. 4:9). His sacrifice on the Cross at Moriah undoes the kelalah (curse) over the children of Adam. Indeed, His life, sacrifice, and resurrection was like a "magic spell" that "spoke backwards" the sin of the "First Adam" - and by means of His deliverance the power of the curse was forever broken (Gal. 3:13, John 3:14, 2 Tim.1:10; Heb. 2:14; Heb. 9:27-28; 1 John 3:8, Rev. 22:3). Yeshua is Adam ha-Sheni - the "Second Adam" - the promised Son of Man. By means of His Spirit we are given an everlasting comfort (John 14:16).

Eschatologically, the "days of Noach" are a picture of the idolatrous conditions of the world that will prevail just before the calling up of the followers of Yeshua before the time of Great Tribulation upon the earth: "As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man" (Matt. 24:37). The generation of the Flood was said to be "filled with violence" (Gen. 6:13) caused by ignorance -- literally the "state of ignoring" moral and spiritual truth. Because they willingly disregarded God from their midst, they (humanistically) arrogated to themselves divine prerogatives: "every man did what was right in his own eyes." The resulting moral corruption and anarchy led to divine and catastrophic judgment: when God destroyed them with water, they return the world to its original state of tohu vavohu v'choshekh: "confusion and emptiness and darkness" (Gen. 1:2). This is our world today.

The seven day warning given to Noach suggests the seven year tribulation period to come (Daniel's 70th week). But please note that "the LORD shut him in" (Gen. 7:16). Noach's teivah (ark) had God Himself as its designer (Gen. 6:15f), just as salvation in Yeshua is by God's design (Jonah 2:9; Eph. 1:9, 1:11). It contained only one door (Gen. 6:16), just as Yeshua is the only door to salvation (John 10:9; 14:6). Noach's ark contained three levels (Gen. 6:16) and salvation has three own experiential levels (2 Cor. 1:10): past, present, and future. In the past (at Moriah) Yeshua delivered us from the penalty of sin; in the present, He is delivering us from the power of sin; and in the future He will deliver us from the very presence of sin.  Baruch Hashem - may that day come soon!
 




YHVH and Creation


 

[ The following provides a few thoughts regarding the account of the creation given in the Torah. Please read the Torah portion (Bereshit) to "find your place" here. ]

10.27.11 (Tishri 29, 5772)  While the Torah gives two different accounts of creation, it is important to understand that these are not contradictory narratives but are intended to overlap one another. The first account of creation (Gen. 1:1-2:3) is general and cosmological, describing the "six days of creation" (and a seventh day of rest), whereas the second account (Gen. 2:4-25) elaborates upon the general statement given earlier that man was made b'tzelem Elohim, "in the image of God," on the sixth day (Gen. 1:26-27). In other words, Genesis 1 describes the general structure of the six days of creation, whereas Genesis 2 provides clarifying details regarding the creation of man on the sixth day.

 


The first account of creation begins with the opening verse of the Bible itself:
 

בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלהִים אֵת
הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ

be·re·shit  ba·ra  E·lo·him  et
ha·sha·ma·yim  ve·et  ha·a·retz

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."
(Gen. 1:1)



Hebrew Study Card
 

The second account, on the other hand, immediately follows the description of the six days of creation, just after we read that God blessed and sanctified the seventh day because on it He rested from all his work that he had done:
 

אֵלֶּה תוֹלְדוֹת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְהָאָרֶץ בְּהִבָּרְאָם
 בְּיוֹם עֲשׂוֹת יְהוָה אֱלהִים אֶרֶץ וְשָׁמָיִם

e·leh  tol·dot  ha·sha·ma·yim  ve·ha·a·retz  be·hi·bar·am
be·yom  a·sot  Adonai  E·lo·him  e·retz  ve·sha·ma·yim

"These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created,
in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens."
(Gen. 2:4)


 

Notice that the word "toldot" (תוֹלְדוֹת) used in Gen. 2:4 (usually translated as "generations" or "history") is spelled with an additional letter Vav (ו), the only occurrence of this spelling in the Torah, which therefore signals something unusual about this passage. Furthermore, the word translated "when they were created" (בְּהִבָּרְאָם) is written with a smaller letter Hey (ה), suggesting that God created the world as easily as breathing out an "h" sound. Note that this word can also be rearranged to spell the name "in Abraham" (בְּאִבְרָהָם), which has led some of the early commentators to remark that the universe was created for the sake of Abraham and his descendants (Rom. 4:13).

In Genesis 2:4, the phrase, "on the day that the LORD God made the earth and heavens" includes the very first reference to the name YHVH (יהוה) in the Bible (before this, only the name Elohim (אלהים) is found). Note that the Name YHVH connotes ideas about everlasting life (i.e., I AM that I AM; ehyeh asher ehyeh: אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה, Exod. 3:14) and God's thirteen attributes of Mercy (Exod. 34:6-7). Note further that while Gen. 1:1 says, "in the beginning God (Elohim) created the heavens and the earth," heaven is mentioned before earth, but in Gen. 2:4 the order is reversed, with earth mentioned before heaven. This not simply a matter of style but rather is meant to reveal something to us. The Name YHVH connotes God's compassionate closeness to man (as indicated by the additional Vav found in the word toldot), the One who breathes into mankind the breath of life (Gen. 2:7). YHVH is another Name for God our Savior, which is therefore a name that foreshadows Yeshua.
 




The Month of Cheshvan


 

10.27.11 (Tishri 29, 5772)  The Scriptures state that God created the sun and the moon on the fourth day for the purpose of determining divine time and appointments.  In Genesis 1:11, God says of the moon and the sun, "let them be for signs and for seasons (i.e., for "appointed times"), and for days and years." Later the psalmist stated, "He made the moon to mark the appointed times; the sun knows its time for setting" (Psalm 104:19). Just as the first three days of creation are "repeated" and renewed in the second three days of creation, so the Divine Light created on the first day is represented by the creation of the sun, moon, and stars on the fourth day....

Tonight marks Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan, the start of the month of Cheshvan (חֶשְׁוָן). May the LORD God Almighty bless you and renew for you a good month in the power and love of our risen Savior and Messiah, the LORD Yeshua:
 

יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֵיךָ יהוה אֱלהֵינוּ וֵאלהֵי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ
שֶׁתְּחַדֵּשׁ עָלֵינוּ חדֶשׁ טוֹב בַּאֲדנֵינוּ יֵשׁוּעַ הַמָּשִׁיחַ אָמֵן

ye·hi  ra·tzon  mil·fa·ne·kha  Adonai  E·lo·hei·nu  ve·lo·hey  a·vo·tei·nu
she·te·cha·desh  a·lei·nu  cho·desh  tov,  ba'a·do·nei·nu  Ye·shu·a  ha·ma·shi·ach, a·men

"May it be Your will, LORD our God and God of our fathers,
that you renew for us a good month in our Lord Yeshua the Messiah. Amen."



Download Study Card
 

This new moon is related to our Torah portion this week (parashat Noach), which records that God brought down the great Flood that destroyed the world on Cheshvan 17 (Gen. 7:10-11), which lasted until Cheshvan 27 (Gen. 8:14) - exactly one solar year after it began (the Jewish sage Rashi notes that the 11-day discrepancy between the 17th and 27th represents the 11-day difference between the solar and lunar year). Because Noah's Flood began and ended during this month, Cheshvan is generally regarded as "mar" - a time of judgment and hardship.

The generation of the Flood was said to be "filled with violence" (Gen. 6:13) caused by ignorance -- literally the "state of ignoring" moral and spiritual truth. Because they willingly disregarded God from their midst, they (humanistically) arrogated to themselves divine prerogatives: "every man did what was right in his own eyes." The resulting moral corruption and anarchy led to divine and catastrophic judgment: when God destroyed them with water, they return the world to its original state of tohu vavohu v'choshekh: "confusion and emptiness and darkness" (Gen. 1:2). This is our world today...

"For just as the days of Noah were, in the same way will be the coming of the Son of Man.  For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away... (see Matt. 24:38-9; Luke 17:28-30).
 




Creation and Kiddush


 

[ The following provides a few thoughts regarding the account of the creation given the first chapter of the Torah. Please read the Torah portion (Bereshit) to "find your place" here. ]

10.26.11
(Tishri 28, 5772)  Every Friday evening we recall that the LORD is both our Creator and our Redeemer by lighting holiday candles and performing a special ceremony called "Kiddush" to usher in the Sabbath day. First the woman of the house lights the candles just before sundown to recall the Divine Light that illuminated the work of creation. After this, the father of the house recites kiddush while holding a cup of wine (or grape juice) as family members are gathered around the Sabbath table. The kiddush ceremony has two distinct parts. First Genesis 1:31-2:3 is read (which declares that God created the world and everything in it) and then the traditional blessing over wine (borei pri ha-gafen) is recited in thanks to God for the gift of the Sabbath day.

Here is the Hebrew text for the first part of the Friday evening Kiddush, which is the conclusion of the account of creation given in the Book of Genesis:

 

וַיְהִי־עֶרֶב וַיְהִי־בקֶר יוֹם הַשִּׁשִּׁי
וַיְכֻלּוּ הַשָּׁמַיִם וְהָאָרֶץ וְכָל־צְבָאָם
וַיְכַל אֱלהִים בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי מְלַאכְתּוֹ אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה
ויִּשְׁבּת בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי מִכָּל־מְלַאכְתּוֹ אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה
וַיְבָרֶךְ אֱלהִים אֶת־יוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי וַיְקַדֵּשׁ אתוֹ
כִּי בוֹ שָׁבַת מִכָּל־מְלַאכְתּוֹ
אֲשֶׁר־בָּרָא אֱלהִים לַעֲשׂוֹת

[vai·hi  e·rev  vai·hi  vo·ker]  yom  hash·shi·shi
vai·khu·lu  ha·sha·ma·yim  ve·ha·a·retz  ve·khol  tze·va·am
vai·khal  E·lo·him  ba·yom  ha·she·vi·i  me·lakh·to  a·sher  a·sah
vai·yish·bot  ba·yom  ha·she·vi·i  mi·kol  me·lakh·to  a·sher  a·sah
vai·va·rekh  E·lo·him  et  yom  ha·she·vi·i,  vai·ka·desh  o·to,
ki  vo  sha·vat  mi·kol  me·lakh·to
a·sher  ba·ra  E·lo·him  la·a·sot

"And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.
And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made;
and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.
And God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it
because that in it he had rested from all his work
which God created to make"
(Gen. 1:31-2:3)
 

When recited during Friday evening kiddush, this passage of Scripture is sometimes called the Vaikhulu, so named from the first word of Genesis 2:1 (i.e., וַיְכֻלּוּ, "they [the heavens and earth] were finished"). The recitation of Vaikhulu is meant to serve as a formal testimony (as in a court of law) wherein we bear witness that God created the world... By saying "Amen" to the statement, we testify that God created the world and everything in it out of sheer nothingness, and that He presently sustains the entire creation by the word of His power...

Creation is likened to a bride... Notice that the word vaikhulu (וַיְכֻלּוּ) shares the same root as the word kallah (כַּלָּה), or "bride." God adorned the heavens and the earth like a beautiful bride, and therefore He declared his creation tov me'od... "very good" (Gen. 1:31a). Interestingly, the Hebrew word for "week" (i.e., shavua: שָׁבוּעַ) is related to the word for "oath" (שְׁבוּעָה), and therefore the days of creation represent a promise of the Reality of God and His love for us. In poetic or mystical language, God dances a "hakafot" while reciting the seven blessings for the bride of his creation (Sheva Berachot)....

Notice further that the last verse of the Kiddush recitation says: "God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work "that he created to make" (אֲשֶׁר־בָּרָא אֱלהִים לַעֲשׂוֹת) [Gen. 2:3]. Some of the sages say that the phrase "asher bara Elohim la'asot" indicated that there are two orders of reality – one that is natural and that operates under the laws of nature (it is created "to do" or "to make"), and the other that is spiritual and that operates under the laws of the Spirit of God. When God ceased from creating, He did so only with regard to the natural; but with regard to spiritual, God never ceased working (since God Himself is Spirit, after all, and the Source of all life). Therefore Yeshua healed on the Sabbath day and justified the miracle by saying, "My Father works until now, and I am working" (John 5:17).

The spiritual blessing promised for the seventh day also holds the key to understanding the deeper sense of "Sabbath rest" mentioned in the Book of Hebrews: "So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his" (Heb. 4:9-10). What works are these from which we rest? The works of nature, the works of flesh, the works of attempting to earn merit through outward forms of religiosity and righteousness... Instead of walking according to the principles of natural life, we live in the Spirit, we walk in the Spirit, and we are carried by God's grace through by trusting in the finished work of Yeshua performed on our behalf in this fallen world... The great sin of the Torah was the Sin of the Spies at Kadesh, when the people of Israel broke faith with the LORD. It was this sin of unbelief, you may recall, that led to the LORD's decree that the generation that left Egypt would not enter into the Promised Land. The New Testament calls this episode the "provocation" or "rebellion" (παραπικρασμος), which is really the "unpardonable sin" of the Torah (Heb. 3:15-4:1). The author of the Book of Hebrews likewise warns us not to sin against God by refusing to believe in the salvation given to us through Yeshua our LORD. and now we are called to receive and walk in the power of God's salvation...

We are invited to enter into this "greater rest" by exercising faith in God's promises (Heb. 4:1-3). The redemptive work of God for your life is finished in Yeshua the Messiah. Again, this is the "law of faith" (תּוֹרַת הָאֱמוּנָה) that precedes and underlies the revelation given at Sinai. "Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts through unbelief."  Yes, there remains a Sabbath for the people of God (Heb. 4:9), a greater "rest" from attempting to please God based on our own merits (Heb. 4:10, Titus 3:5-6). We do not labor to find favor with God through acts of our own personal merit, but rather we trust in the acceptance and love of God given to us in Yeshua. Paradoxically we "labor" to enter into this rest by exercising genuine faith in God's salvation in His Son (Heb 4:11). We "work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in us both to will and to do his good pleasure" (Phil. 2:11-12). As Yeshua taught, "This is the work of God, that you believe in the One whom the Father has sent" (John 6:28-29).


 

Note: To make it a little easier to recite Kiddush, I created a simplified "Friday Night Kiddush Guide" that might help you remember the blessings for your erev Shabbat celebrations. I hope you find it helpful:





The Seedbed of Creation...


 

[ The following provides a few thoughts regarding the account of the creation given the first chapter of the Torah. Please read the Torah portion (Bereshit) to "find your place" here. ]

10.25.11 (Tishri 27, 5772)  The Book of Genesis (בְּרֵאשִׁית) is truly the "beginning," the "root," and the "seedbed" of all the subsequent Scriptures - including the message of the gospel and the revelation of the New Testament. In Genesis we see the creation and ruin of man through sin, but we take hold of the promise of deliverance through the coming Seed of the woman; in the Book of Exodus (שְׁמוֹת) we see God's powerful redemption secured through the blood of the Lamb; in the Book of Leviticus (וַיִּקְרָא) we encounter communion and atonement in the holy sanctuary; in the Book of Numbers (בַּמִדְבַּר) we experience the leading of God through desert places, and in the Book of Deuteronomy (הַדְּבָרִים) we are renewed by God's faithfulness before we take hold of our inheritance. Ultimately, the concluding book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation, serves as a climactic "final chapter" of the story begun in Genesis, where the Tree of Life (עֵץ הַחַיִּים) is restored to the midst of the paradise of God, and the presence of sin and death have been forever eradicated....

Everything begins with the foundational truth that Almighty God is our personal Creator (הַבּוֹרֵא). This is the first principle of all rational thinking: "In the beginning (בְּרֵאשִׁית), God created the heavens and the earth" (Gen. 1:1). Notice that the word "beginning," i.e., bereshit, comes from the word reishit (רֵאשִׁית), meaning first or best (Psalm 111:10), which does not necessarily mean "the beginning" in a temporal sense (הַרִאשׁוֹן), but rather primacy or rulership over all that exists. Indeed, the word includes the root idea of "head" (ראשׁ), which suggests the "head of all things," that is, to the Messiah, the Creative Word of God who is the "head of all beginning and authority" and through Whom and for Whom all things were created (Col. 1:16; 2:10).

Many of the Jewish sages state that "in the beginning" refers to the wisdom of the Torah. Quoting Proverbs 8:22, these sages go so far as to claim that God created the world for the sake of Torah, what they call "reshit darko" (רֵאשִׁית דַּרְכּוֹ). In other words, wisdom (חָכְמָה) is personified as the Torah, of which God "consulted" when he created the universe (some of the midrashim literally picture God reading the Torah to discover how to create the universe). I think it is better to understand wisdom as the first revealed attribute of God, metaphorically understood to be the exercise of God's will in creation... a picture of the "strong arm" of the LORD and his mighty power that created the enormous complexity of the universe yesh ma'ayin, "out of nothing..."  Indeed, wisdom refers to Yeshua, the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world - the One revealed before creation as its source and end. Followers of the Messiah Yeshua do not worship a book, and surely God is not "bound" by the Torah in the sense of the Torah prescribing law to God Himself!  God is the Lawgiver, the Source of all truth and therefore he can never contradict the perfections of his own inner nature. Only God receives the glory of creation forever and ever....

God freely chose to create the universe in order to share his wisdom, glory, and love with other beings he created... All this was for the sake of the Messiah, who built the world in chesed (חֶסֶד) and who forever reigns as the King of eternal life and love.
 

יְהוָה קָנָנִי רֵאשִׁית דַּרְכּוֹ קֶדֶם מִפְעָלָיו מֵאָז

Adonai  ka·na·ni  re·shit  dar·ko,  ke·dem  mif·a·lav  me·az

"The LORD possessed me at the beginning of his way,
before his works of old" (Prov. 8:22)
 

The Book of Genesis itself begins by stating that on the "first day" God created the heavens and the earth:
 

בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלהִים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ

be·re·shit  ba·ra  E·lo·him  et  ha·sha·ma·yim  ve·et  ha·a·retz

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth"
(Gen. 1:1)
 

The term "heavens" here (שָׁמַיִם) refers metaphorically to God's exalted throne that was surrounded by innumerable angels who were present at the time of creation (Job 38:4-7), and the term "earth" (אָרֶץ) refers to a state of watery chaos (from רוּץ, suggesting running water) that was part of the primordial material of creation itself (indeed the word for "heavens," sha- (ש) + mayim (מַיִם), implies a connection with the original waters (mayim) of creation). God then created the divine light and separated it from darkness (Gen. 1:3-5). On the second day, God separated the waters to create the atmosphere (Gen. 1:6-8); on the third day, God separated the earth from the waters and created vegetative life and seeds (Gen. 1:9-13). On the fourth day, the cycle was renewed: God first created the celestial lights (sun, moon, stars) to mark the seasons and time (Gen. 1:14-19). On the fifth day, He brought forth fish from the waters and birds from the atmosphere (Gen. 1:20-23), and on the sixth day, God brought forth living creatures from the earth (Gen. 1:24-25), culminating in the creation of mankind in his image and likeness (Gen. 1:26-31). Of Adam, it was written, "whose father was God" (Luke 3:38), since he bore the divine seed that was to be "planted" and rooted in God's house of creation. The rest of the Bible, in a sense, is the story of the "prodigal son" and how he returns home to his father...

In the account of the creation given in Genesis, it is important to understand that the grammar of the text clearly speaks of creation in six literal days...  The Hebrew word yom (יוֹם), or "day," always refer to a distinct 24 hour solar day when it is used in reference to evening and morning or when used in reference to a stated number of days. The formula, "it was evening, and it was morning, one day," further indicates that day follows night, since light was created (and separated) out of darkness. This explains why we start the Sabbath and festivals at sunset of the night before. The idea of a literal six days of creation is also the foundation for the weekly Sabbath itself: "For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy" (Exod. 20:11).

The idea that "day" refers to an indefinitely long period of geological time is a modern invention based on Enlightenment ideals of science.... Attempting to reconcile so-called evolutionary theory with the account of creation given in the Torah actually undermines the message of the gospel itself, since it puts death, disease, suffering, etc., before the transgression of Adam and Eve. Moreover, it is evident that Yeshua believed in the literal creation of Adam and Eve (Mark 10:6) and therefore he held to a "young earth" theory, just as he believed in a worldwide (not local) flood during the days of Noah (Matt. 24:37-39).

Likewise the so-called "gap theory" (i.e., the idea that there is a "gap" of time between Gen. 1:1 and Gen. 1:2 wherein Satan was judged causing God to re-created the earth) is obviously in error since it disregards the testimony of Yeshua regarding the uniqueness of the creation of Adam and Eve "in the beginning," and it furthermore undermines the radical consequence of their sin. Neither does it adequately explain the mystery of evil (i.e., the presence of the "monster in the garden") nor the exile from the garden because of Adam and Eve's disobedience... It is true that later judgments of God allude to the idea of "tohu va'vohu" (e.g., Isa 34:11; Jer 4:23), but it must be stressed that this usage in the prophets should not be "read into" the description of the earth during creation.... There is no mention of a "gap" theory in the Scriptures, so it is an argument from silence, really, though there is a lot of witchcraft and midrash that talk about Lilith, etc. as Adam's first wife, etc. In the Fourth Commandment it is clearly stated that the heavens, the earth, the seas, and all that is in them were created in literally six days (Exod. 20:11). That God created the universe over a six day period (rather than in a single instant) is of course a mystery, though it is attested quite literally by the the hand of God Himself (Exod. 24:12; 31:18).

Notice finally that the Divine Light of the first day of creation (Gen 1:3) is not the same as the light of the cosmic spheres. God created the sun, moon, and stars on the fourth day to demonstrate that everything in the universe was created through the light of His Word (Gen. 1:14-19). If the sun had been created before everything else (big bang), it could have been said that the world was without beginning, and the earth produced life through the influences of astronomical bodies. The Torah states that plants were created before the sun and moon to indicate that nothing can exist apart from God's sovereign will. Yehi ... Vayhi ... God called everything into being by the Word of His Power.
 

וַיּאמֶר אֱלהִים יְהִי אוֹר וַיְהִי־אוֹר
וַיַּרְא אֱלהִים אֶת־הָאוֹר כִּי־טוֹב
וַיַּבְדֵּל אֱלהִים בֵּין הָאוֹר וּבֵין הַחשֶׁךְ
וַיִּקְרָא אֱלהִים לָאוֹר יוֹם וְלַחשֶׁךְ קָרָא לָיְלָה
וַיְהִי־עֶרֶב וַיְהִי־בקֶר יוֹם אֶחָד

va·yo·mer  E·lo·him  ye·hi  or,  vay·hi  or
va·yar  E·lo·him  et  ha·or  ki  tov
va·yav·del  E·lo·him  ben  ha·or  u·ven  ha·cho·shekh
va·yik·ra  E·lo·him  la·or  yom,  ve·la·cho·shekh  ka·ra  lai·lah
vay·hi  e·rev  vay·hi  vo·ker,  yom  e·chad

"And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light.
And God saw that the light was good.
And God separated the light from the darkness.
God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night.
And there was evening and there was morning, the first day."
(Gen. 1:3-5)
 

Notice that the word "light" appears five times in this passage, which prompted the sages to say there are five kinds of light, each corresponding to a book of the Torah. "Let there be light" refers to the Book of Genesis and the Divine Light; "and there was light" refers to the Book of Exodus, when during their deliverance from Egypt Israel had redemptive light within their homes; "God saw the light" refers to the Book of Leviticus, which deals with the light of sacrifice and atonement - the light of teshuvah; "God separated the light from the darkness" refers to the Book of Numbers, when God judged evil in the ways of the desert; and finally, "God called the light Day" refers to the Book of Deuteronomy, which enlightens the eyes of those who live by Torah....
 




Creation and the Kingdom of Love


 

[ The following entry is related to this week's Torah reading (Bereshit). Please first read the Torah portion to "find your place" here. ]

10.24.11 (Tishri 26, 5772)  The Torah begins with בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלהִים / Bereshit bara Elohim: "In the beginning God created..." (Gen. 1:1). Some of the sages say that this means, first of all, that God created the concept of time. Instead of תהוּ וָבהוּ וְחשֶׁךְ / tohu vavohu v'choshekh: "confusion and emptiness and darkness" (Gen. 1:2), the Spirit of God (רוּחַ אֱלהִים) "hovered" (like a circling dove) over the surface of the "waters of chaos" to bring order and perfection to the universe.  The commentator Rashi notes that the word bereshit ("in the beginning") does not mean a chronological beginning, since the Torah then would have used the word בְּרִאשׁוֹנָה ("at first"). Instead, the word is based on the term rosh (ראשׁ, "head"), and therefore suggests what is most important, i.e., "at the head of (all things)," etc. Time is understood as a continuous cycle without historically identified beginning or end. Indeed, time itself is a "creature" that serves God's purposes... 


 

In light of this, Rashi wonders why the Torah, which (to his thinking) is essentially a book of commandments, did not begin with the first commandment given to the people of Israel, namely the commandment to "observe" the new moon of spring (Exod. 12:2). He then draws the connection between identifying the appointed times and seasons (מוֹעֲדִים) with the rule of God over creation itself (Gen. 1:14). To fulfill the commandment to observe the new moon (and therefore the rest of the days of the year), we must first of all understand that God is the Creator of time and the One who defines the seasons of our lives... Sanctifying time is a means of expressing God's Kingship.

Before going further with all this, I think it's important to keep in mind that the New Testament identifies Yeshua as Elohim (אֱלהִים) -- the very Creator of the cosmos: בְּרֵאשִׁית הָיָה הַדָּבָר / "in the beginning was the Word" (John 1:1,14). The Divine Voice cannot be separated from God, no more than the Spirit of God can be so separated.  Yeshua is the Source of all life in the universe: כָּל־הַמַּעֲשִׂים נִהְיוּ עַל־יָדוֹ / "All things were made by Him (John 1:3). The "Word made flesh" is the "image of the invisible God" and the "radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint (χαρακτήρ, 'character') of his nature" (Col. 1:15). All of creation is being constantly upheld by the word of His power (Heb. 1:3): "All things were created by Him (i.e., Yeshua), and for Him" and in Him all things consist (συνεστηκεν, lit. "stick together") (Col. 1:16-17). Creation begins and ends with the redemptive love of God as manifested in the Person of Yeshua our Mashiach... He is the Center of Creation - it's beginning and end. As it is written: אָנכִי אָלֶף וְתָו רִאשׁוֹן וְאַחֲרוֹן ראשׁ וָסוֹף / "I am the 'A' and the 'Z,' the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End" (Rev. 22:13). Indeed, Yeshua is מֶלֶךְ מַלְכֵי הַמְּלָכִים / Melech Malchei Hamelachim: The "King of kings of kings." He is LORD of all possible worlds -- from the highest celestial glory to the dust of death upon a cross... יְהִי שֵׁם יהוה מְברָךְ / yehi shem Adonai mevorakh: "Let the Name of the LORD be blessed" forever and ever (Psalm 113:2).

(Note that accepting Yeshua as none other than YHVH "come in the flesh" is regarded as the "Absolute Paradox" by Kierkegaard. The idea of the incarnation defies rational expressions of humanistically devised religion. The New Testament's view of the Godhead transcends simplistic rational monism by revealing that love - i.e., community - is the essence of ultimate reality itself.  The idea of the "triunity" of God does not impugn the Oneness of God, but it transcends rabbinical Judaism and Islam's idea of "absolute monism" by understanding oneness in reference to an eternality of intrapersonal community. In other words, Ultimate Reality is multidimensional, personal and loving, and that is part of the very essence of God. There is no such thing as a "Person" - either human or Divine - that exists in an absolute vacuum, outside of relationship. Aristotle's "Unmoved Mover" is a solipsistic illusion and logical absurdity.... Still, all this is not to suggest that the Godhead is comprehensible. Faith in Yeshua as YHVH means accepting the intersection of finitude and space/time with infinitude and eternality. It is ultimately a confession of paradox and therefore of our limited understanding of the nature of God.  However, such is not without real hope in a divine love that is so great that it would divest itself of regal glory to condescend to the dust of death itself.  Confessing Yeshua as LORD is to affirm that God is God of all possible worlds and circumstances. One day every knee shall bow to to Him, just as it is written in Isaiah 45:22-23 and reaffirmed in Phil. 2:10-11.)

Now that we've reminded ourselves that the Scriptures teach that Yeshua is the very Creator and Voice of the utterances of God, we can procede... The Torah records that God (אֱלהִים) began creating the heavens and the earth in the darkness of the primordial yom rishon (יום ראשון, derived from ראשׁ), the "first day" (conventionally called "Sunday" in our modern calendars). The Biblical day (יוֹם) begins in the evening: "and there was evening and there was morning, the first day." This was the "chaotic stage" of creation.  From darkness would shine forth light - indeed, the divine light was the first of all God's creations (a counterpart of the "Light of the World" Himself): יְהִי אוֹר וַיְהִי־אוֹר / yehi or, vayhi-or: "Let there be light, and there was light" (Gen. 1:3). This pattern, vayhi erev, vayhi voker (וַיְהִי־עֶרֶב וַיְהִי־בקֶר), "and there was evening and there was morning," recurs for each of the six days of creation, including the sixth day, when God created man on the first Erev Shabbat. Because of this, all Jewish holidays begin at night (and also because of this, Christians understand yom rishon to be a picture of both the resurrection of Yeshua and the recreated heavens and new earth).

According to Jewish tradition, this first Erev Shabbat was also Rosh Hashanah, the "head of the year." Rosh Hashanah therefore represents the day that God began to rule as King of the Universe. When Adam first opened his eyes and human consciousness was born, he immediately understood that the LORD created all things, including himself.  According to midrash, Adam's first words were, יהוה מֶלֶךְ עוֹלָם וָעֶד / Adonai malakh olam va'ed: "The LORD is King for ever and ever." God then said, "Now the whole world will know that I am King," and He was very pleased.  This was the "tov me'od" (טוֹב מְאד) moment of creation, when God saw all that He had made "and found it very good" (Gen. 1:31). The birthday of humanity is therefore the Coronation Day for the King of the Universe. This also explains why each Shabbat we remember God as our creator. Indeed, among Orthodox Jews, Erev Shabbat is considered the "gateway" back to the Garden of Eden....

According to the sages, the goal or purpose of God's creative activity was the building of a kingdom based on divine love (מַלְכוּת הָאֱלהִים). As King David wrote, עוֹלָם חֶסֶד יִבָּנֶה / olam chesed yibaneh: "The world is built with chesed" (Psalm 89:3[h]).  The world itself is to built upon the foundation of God's love (חֶסֶד, chesed) as it is expressed in the lives of the tzaddikim (the righteous).  Indeed, the very first mitzvah (commandment) given to mankind was simply פְּרוּ וּרְבוּ / pru urvu: "be fruitful and multiply" (Gen. 1:28). The family, then, is a picture of a nurturing community based on chesed. For the Christian, this "family building" is centered on Yeshua the Messiah, the true King of the kingdom and the rosh pinnah (ראשׁ פִּנָּה), or "corner stone" of the Temple of God (see Heb. 3:1-6).

The first "lo tov" (לא־טוֹב / "it is not good") statement made by God concerned Adam's state of solitude in the garden. Adam needed a companion, an ezer kenegdo (עֵזֶר כְּנֶגְדּוֹ), a "helper opposite to him." The sages note that Chavah ("Eve") could either function as Adam's helper (ezer) or his opponent (mitnaged) depending on his merit. Note that Eve was not created to be in subservience to Adam. Indeed, Chavah was the "finishing touch" of Adam, a more refined and sensitive counterpart.  Chavah would mirror back to Adam the middot (qualities) of himself... Indeed, in the "genealogy" of humanity, we see that Adam, the firstborn "son of God," comes from adamah (אֲדָמָה, "earth") whereas Chavah, whose name means "life," is related to the verb (חָוַה) that means to "declare" or reveal (Psalm 19:3). Chavah is called em kol-chai (אֵם כָּל־חַי), the mother of all living (Gen. 3:20), and as such, she also is a picture of God, the "feminine" aspect of God suggested by the divine Name, El Shaddai (shadayim means "breasts").


 

Why was Adam created on the sixth day, from the dust of the earth? Why wasn't he created yesh me'ayin ("ex nihilo") like the angels? The sages answer that this was intended to instill humility in all of us, since even a gnat has an earlier lineage than does the first man. And yet creation itself was designed to express the Kingship of God, and for that man was needed.  Man is made from the lowliest substance of earth (dust is next to nothingness itself) and yet he is imparted with nishmat chaim (נִשְׁמַת חַיִּים), the "breath of souls."  Mankind functions as a "bridge" between the material and spiritual worlds, and through mankind creation itself is sanctified.

In a discussion regarding capital punishment, the Talmud states: "If someone strikes many coins from one mold, they all resemble one another, but the King of Kings, the Holy One, Blessed be He, made each man in the image of Adam, and yet not one of them resembles his fellow. Therefore every single person is obligated to say, bishvili nivra ha'olam (בִּשְׁבִילִי נִבְרָא הָעוֹלָם), "The world was created for my sake" (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5).  This is why murdering another human being created b'tzelem Elohim (in the image of God) is considered so horrendous. The sages reasoned that whoever destroys a single soul is accounted as if he had destroyed the whole world; and whoever saves one soul is accounted as if he had saved the entire world.  Hence the Torah (Gen. 4:10) records "The voice of the bloods of your brother cries out to me" (קוֹל דְּמֵי אָחִיךָ צעֲקִים אֵלַי). It was not merely the innocent blood of Hevel that cried out, but rather the blood of all his ancestors who were destroyed along with him.

On the other hand, each of us must remember (as did father Abraham) that we are afar ve'efer - "dust and ashes" (Gen. 18:27). While it is true that we are esteemed by God as His image bearers, our flesh (basar) comes from the dust of the ground. Even our beloved Lord Yeshua clothed Himself in such dust, demonstrating the ultimate form of humility and compassion for us (Phil. 2:7).

An old chassidic tale says that every person should walk through life with two notes, one in each pocket. On one note should be the words bishvili nivra ha'olam (בִּשְׁבִילִי נִבְרָא הָעוֹלָם) -- "For my sake was this world created," and on the other note the words, anokhi afar ve'efer (אָנכִי עָפָר וָאֵפֶר) -- "I am but dust and ashes."

 

Values like love, beauty, and truth are not empirical concepts. We do not find them in a test tube or infer them from the facts of experience. On the contrary, we bring them to our experience as image bearers of God, attesting to the wonder of creation and our place within it. The human soul (נְשָׁמָה, neshamah) is not something that a physicist or behavioral psychologist can reduce to other terms, but is an irreducible part of our existence, just as our need for love is itself ineradicable. Human dignity and worth are therefore the result of the love of God as revealed in Yeshua our Messiah.

The goal or purpose of God's creative activity was the building of a kingdom based on divine love (מַלְכוּת הָאֱלהִים). As King David wrote (and Yeshua likewise preached), עוֹלָם חֶסֶד יִבָּנֶה / olam chesed yibaneh: "The world is built with chesed" (Psalm 89:3[h]). The "corner stone" of the Temple of God (i.e., rosh pinnah, ראשׁ פִּנָּה) is the love and kindness of the King of king of kings, Yeshua the Creator, of whom it is written: "Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created" (Rev. 4:11).
 




Parashat Bereshit - Noach


 

10.23.11 (Tishri 25, 5772)  During Simchat Torah ("Joy of the Torah") we read the last portion of the Torah (V'zot Haberakhah) as well as the first part of the first portion (Bereshit) to symbolize that Talmud Torah - the study of Torah - never ends.  If you have been regularly reading and studying Torah with me, let's rejoice that we have completed the last book of Torah (Devarim) and are now begining anew with Bereshit (Genesis).

Notice, however, that since Simchat Torah occurs at the end of Sukkot, we will always have a double portion of Torah to read and study during the busy week of Sukkot, and in practical terms that often means we will neglect the very first portion of the Torah! (Those of you who have observed the High Holidays (including Sukkot) and have attempted to keep up with all these Torah readings might now better understand why the fall holidays are often called the "Season of our Exhaustion.") In light of these circumstances, this week I am attempting to write two separate Shabbat Table Talks - one on parashat Bereshit and the other on Noach. Please be patient as I try to make up for lost time, chaverim!

"Chazak, chazak, ve-nit chazek" - Be strong, be strong, and let us be strengthened!

Be Strong!
 

Sometimes we are tempted to think of Creation as something "past tense." God created everything and then "stood back" to watch the drama of cosmic history unfold...  This is an incorrect way of thinking about creation, however, since God not only created the universe but is also continually sustaining it yesh me'ayin - "out of nothing" (Heb. 1:3). And since parashat Bereshit is centered on creation, it is therefore centered on Yeshua Himself, of whom it is written: "all things were created by him, and for him" and in Him all things consist (συνεστηκεν) (Col. 1:16-17). All the world was made for the sake of the Messiah. Creation begins and ends with the redemptive love of God as manifested in Yeshua our Lord.
 

כּה־אָמַר הָאֵל יְהוָה בּוֹרֵא הַשָּׁמַיִם וְנוֹטֵיהֶם
 רקַע הָאָרֶץ וְצֶאֱצָאֶיהָ נתֵן נְשָׁמָה לָעָם עָלֶיהָ
 וְרוּחַ לַהלְכִים בָּהּ
 אֲנִי יְהוָה קְרָאתִיךָ בְצֶדֶק וְאַחְזֵק בְּיָדֶךָ
 וְאֶצָּרְךָ וְאֶתֶּנְךָ לִבְרִית עָם לְאוֹר גּוֹיִם
 לִפְקחַ עֵינַיִם עִוְרוֹת לְהוֹצִיא מִמַּסְגֵּר אַסִּיר
 מִבֵּית כֶּלֶא ישְׁבֵי חשֶׁךְ

ko  a·mar  ha-el  Adonai  bo·rei  ha-sha·ma·yim  ve·no·tey·hem
ro·ka  ha·a·retz  ve·tze·e·tza·ey·ha  no·ten  ne'sha·mah  la·am  a·ley·ha
ve·ru·ach  la·ho·le·khim  bah
a·ni  Adonai  ke·ra·ti·kha  ve·tze·dek  ve·ach·zek  be·ya·de·kha
ve·etz·tzor·kha  ve·et·ten·kha  liv·rit  am  le·or  goy·im
lif·ko·ach  ei·na·yim  iv·rot  le·hotz·i  mi·mas·ger  as·sir
mi·bet  ke·le  yosh·vei  cho·shekh

"Thus says God, the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it
and spirit to those who walk in it:
"I am the LORD; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand
and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations,
to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
from the prison those who sit in darkness."
(Isa. 42:5-7)
 





"Table Talk" for V'Zot Haberakhah


 

[ The following entry concerns the Torah reading for Simchat Torah, namely, parashat V'zot Haberakhah. Please read the Torah portion to "find your place" here. ]

10.21.11 (Tishri 23, 5772)  Though this Sabbath is called "Shabbat Bereshit" where we read the very first Torah portion (i.e., parashat Bereshit), I nevertheless wanted to make sure that we didn't overlook the very last portion of the Torah (i.e., V'zot Haberakhah), since that portion is only read during the holiday of Simchat Torah, and is therefore never part of the regular weekly Sabbath Torah reading....

To make it a easier to discuss this often overlooked Torah portion, I created a summary of the Torah reading along with a set of questions and answers. Hopefully this material will prompt some interesting (and enjoyable) discussion for your Sabbath, chaverim. You can download the PDF file from the linked page (above) or by directly clicking here.

Shabbat Shalom chaverim!
 




Simchah at Auschwitz...


 

10.20.11 (Tishri 22, 5772)  It was the night of Simchat Torah at Auschwitz when the murderous Nazis took 50 Jewish boys from the camp to be killed in the gas chamber. Inside the dreadful place, the boys formed a circle and began to dance and chant "ashreinu," a celebratory song of Jewish heritage. When the SS guards heard the singing, they demanded the boys to stop, to which the children replied, "We know we will be dead in a few minutes and are celebrating that we will leave this miserable world ruled by dogs like you. Soon we will be reunited with our parents and relatives whom you have tortured and murdered..."

Upon hearing this, a senior SS guard - out of pure spite - ordered the boys back to the camp to be held in a special barracks. The boys were told that they would be given such hard labor that they would soon wish for death more than anything else. However, a miracle occurred and the following day the boys were mistakenly transferred out of the camp on a transport destined for another camp. Each of them escaped the death chamber and remained alive (this story comes from Zeir Zahav, Bereshis 4).

When you pray, you use your mouth, as it says, "May my mouth declare the praise of the LORD (Psalm 145:21). Joy (שִׂמְחָה), however, is considered greater than even prayer, since it involves your entire body, as it says, "All my bones shall say, 'Who is like you, LORD?'" (Psalm 35:10). Indeed, the Greek word for joy (χαρα) is related to the word for grace (χαρις). Therefore "bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name" (Psalm 103:1).  All that is "within me" means with all my heart, joy, strength. True joy is linked with such grace that may face even death and say Hava Nagilah! (הָבַה נָגִילָה), "let us rejoice!"

On Simchat Torah we express our appreciation for the Torah and our heritage. Our Torah portion (Vzot Haberakhah) states that the Torah itself is the heritage (מוֹרָשָׁה) of the Jewish people (Deut. 33:4), and therefore holding fast to that heritage even in the face of death itself gives glory to the LORD God of Israel...
 

בָּרֲכִי נַפְשִׁי אֶת־יְהוָה
 וְכָל־קְרָבַי אֶת־שֵׁם קָדְשׁוֹ

ba·ra·khi  naf·shi  et  Adonai
ve·khol  ke·ra·vai  et  shem  kod·sho

 

"Bless the LORD, O my soul,
 and all that is within me, bless his holy name"
(Psalm 103:1)
 





The Fiery Faith...


 

10.17.11 (Tishri 19, 5772)  This week's Torah portion is called Vzot HaBerakhah ("this is the blessing"), which records Moses' last words to the people before his death. It is always read just after the festival of Sukkot on the holiday of Simchat Torah.  After reading this portion, we will "rewind the scroll" back to begin reading the Torah all over again. We do this every year because the study of Torah never ends!

Vzot HaBerakhah begins with a narrator's prequel, namely, "This is the blessing with which Moses the man of God blessed the people of Israel before his death" (Deut. 33:1), and then proceeds with an opening statement of praise given by Moses:
 

יְהוָה מִסִּינַי בָּא וְזָרַח מִשֵּׂעִיר לָמוֹ
הוֹפִיעַ מֵהַר פָּארָן וְאָתָה מֵרִבְבת קדֶשׁ
מֵימִינוֹ אֵשְׁדָּת לָמוֹ

Adonai  mis·si·nai  ba,  ve·za·rach  mi·seir  la·mo
ho·fi·a  me·har  pa·ran  ve·a·tah  me·ri·ve·vot  ko·desh
me·mi·no  esh·dat  la·mo

"The LORD came from Sinai and dawned from Seir upon us;
he shone forth from Mount Paran; he came from myriad of holy ones,
with flaming fire at his right hand."
(Deut. 33:2)
 

First notice that "flaming fire" is better translated as "fiery truth," from esh (אֵשׁ), meaning "fire," and dat (דָּת), meaning "decree," or "knowledge" (i.e., da'at: דַּעַת). The idea of "fiery truth" is connected with the concept of the divine logos (ΛΟΓΟΣ), or the "Word of God," the underlying creative reason for all things in the universe (the Hellenistic idea of the logos, dating from the time of Heraclitus (6th cent. BC), perhaps later influenced the personification  of the Word of God called the "memra" [מֵמְרָא] that appeared in the 1st cent. AD Targum Onkelos). Some have interpreted the phrase as "fiery faith," since the revelation of the truth (i.e., Torah) was always meant to serve that greater end...  In the Torah scroll, esh and dat are joined together, appearing as one word (i.e., eshdat: אֵשְׁדָּת), a word that otherwise translated as "foundation." In other words, the foundation of God's kingdom is revealed in the passion to do his will, to honor the LORD as King by exercising a "fiery faith."

The midrash Tanchuma states that the phrase esh dat (אֵשׁ דָּת) is actually a description of the Torah itself: "The Torah is written black fire on white fire," which is interpreted to mean that both the letters and spaces between them constitute the "whole" of the Torah.  Another way to say this is that the "white fire" represents God's Spirit, who gives the black fire its foundation (אֵשְׁדָּת) and "breath." According to kabbalists, "the white space is a higher form of Torah," which is another way of saying that directly encountering the Spirit of God is higher than merely reading about Him...

But why did Moses say the LORD came "from Sinai" and not "to Sinai"? According to Rashi, this metaphor suggests that the marriage bond between God and the Jewish people was forged when God came "from Sinai," like a groom waiting for his bride, coming forth to greet her... The LORD "came forth from Sinai" to take hold of his bride.

But why then does Moses say that the LORD "dawned from Seir" and "shone forth from Mount Paran?" According to some of the sages, Moses said this to indicate God's unique choice of Israel as His chosen nation. A midrash says that before God gave the Torah to the Jewish people, he first offered it to the various nations, each of whom made various excuses why they could not accept it. For instance, the descendants of Esau (Seir) told God they could not accept it because they were destined to "live by the sword" (Gen. 27:40). Likewise, the Ishamaelites (Mount Paran) told God they could not accept the Torah because they made their living through exploitation and power (Gen. 16:12). Only the Jews answered God unreservedly, נַעֲשֶׂה וְנִשְׁמָע, na'aseh v'nishma: "we will do and we will obey," and upon their acceptance, God descended from myriads of holy angels with his Torah.

Alternatively, Maimonides interprets the verse as an abbreviated chronicle of God's revelation to Israel. First, the LORD appeared "from Sinai." After camping at the Sinai desert for a year, the people traveled to "Mount Paran," where God decreed that the people would wander in the desert 38 more years because of the sin of the spies. After this 38 year period of exile was over, the people reached the border of Mount Seir, and there God appeared to Moses to guide the next generation of Israel to begin taking possession of the land. When He gave the Torah, God "came from the holy myriad," that is, He left the realm of heaven to descend and reveal the Torah to Israel....
 




Spiritual Warfare...


 

10.17.11 (Tishri 19, 5772)  We've been sick over at our house since Erev Yom Kippur... Sleep has been difficult for all of us, and the kids are pretty worn out, too, especially Judah. We appreciate your prayers and good will for us, chaverim....

It is good to praise and trust the LORD despite our afflictions, and indeed, suffering itself presents an invitation to come before God in prayer (James 5:13). Suffering presents a nisayon, a test, for our hearts to be exercised in ways otherwise rendered impossible should the path of our lives be unattended with struggle... I am reminded of a quote from Sadhu Sundar Singh, "Should pain and suffering, sorrow, and grief, rise up like clouds and overshadow for a time the Sun of Righteousness and hide Him from your view, do not be dismayed, for in the end this cloud of woe will descend in showers of blessing on your head, and the Sun of Righteousness rise upon you to set no more for ever."
 

רְפָאֵנִי יְהוָה וְאֵרָפֵא
הוֹשִׁיעֵנִי וְאִוָּשֵׁעָה כִּי תְהִלָּתִי אָתָּה

 re·fa·ei·ni  Adonai  ve·ei·ra·fei
ho·shi·ei·ni  ve·iv·va·shei·ah,  ki  te·hil·la·ti  at·tah

"Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed;
save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise."
(Jer. 17:14)



Download Study Card
 

It's been said that both the devil and God want your soul, but their approaches are diametrically opposite to one another.... God offers you a bitter cup that, after it has been duly tasted, will be turned sweet, whereas the devil offers you an artificially sweetened cup that, after it has been duly tasted, will be found bitter to the last of its dregs... When you accept your suffering as ordained by God - by the LORD of Glory who could easily deliver you from all trace of its presence in but the twinkling of an eye - your heartache is sanctified, and your praise becomes more dear to Him. Only the wise and loving LORD knows how bitter waters may be made sweet; only the great Refiner of our souls knows how to bring beauty up from ashes... So heal me, O LORD [even if that means suffering and pain for my life], and I shall be healed; save me, O LORD [do whatever it takes to bring me to the end of myself], and I shall be saved -- for you are my praise.

If you are afflicted, troubled, or in any kind of pain, you have a great opportunity to glorify your Father in Heaven by offering Him your praise.... Praising God is the appropriate response to all of reality; the affirmation of God's glory transforms everything.

"Is anyone among you feeling bad (κακοπαθεῖ)? Let him pray. Is anyone feeling good (εὐθυμεῖ)? Let him sing praise (James 5:13). So whether you presently feel bad or good, your emotional life turns in the presence of God...
 




Happy Sukkot 5772!


 

10.15.11 (Tishri 17, 5772)  Why does it so often rain on Sukkot?  The sages answer God chose the rainy season for this holiday to teach us to take refuge in Him alone... If we celebrated Sukkot in the spring or summer, when the weather is nice, we might miss the opportunity to understand that God is our shelter, our sanctuary in the storm.

Last evening we celebrated the first day of the holiday in our sukkah, but it had stormed so severely just before sundown that the roof of the sukkah was blown off, all the decorations were knocked about, and the place was drenched from heavy rainfall. I rushed to get things back in order - putting the schach back on, wiping down chairs, restringing the lights, etc. Despite this initial setback God's covering was in our midst, and as we later celebrated the festival, the rain tapered off and eventually stopped entirely.

Here are a few pictures from our celebration:
 

Sukkot 5772 Collage
 

Left-to-right (top): 1. Assembling the lulav; 2. the Sukkot table; 3. lighting holiday candles;
4. John reciting Kiddush; 5. Ha-motzi et lechem ha-chayim!
(middle): 1. a drash on Sukkot; 2. Irina; 3. Peter;  4. Josiah; 5. Judah (with etrog)
(bottom): 1. Judah; 2. lulav w/ etrog; 3. John; 4. Olga; 5. Mary Beth

 

The Torah states, "On the first day [of Sukkot] you shall take to yourselves the fruit of the goodly tree, branches of palm trees, boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days" (Lev. 23:40). In Jewish tradition, after reciting the Hebrew blessing and shaking the lulav around, it is customary to recite (or sing) the following antiphon from Psalm 136:
 

הוֹדוּ לַיהוה כִּי־טוֹב כִּי לְעוֹלָם חַסְדּוֹ

ho·du  la·Adonai  ki-tov,  ki  le·o·lam  chas·do
 

"Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever."



Download Study Card
 
 

Indeed, is there any better reason to give thanks to the LORD than because of His steadfast love, i.e., His chesed (חֶסֶד)? Is there anything greater than the astounding love of God? Can anything overcome it?  Can even the hardness of your own heart somehow veto or negate it's purposes?  It was because of His great love that God (יהוה) "emptied Himself" of heavenly glory, becoming clothed in human flesh and becoming disguised a lowly slave (δοῦλος).  God performed this act of "infinite condescension" in order to "tabernacle" with us as our "hidden King" (John 1:1,14, Phil. 2:7-8). Your neshama (soul) is the "Shulamite woman" he came to woo so that you might "come into His tent" -- willingly, from the heart (Song of Solomon).

When we receive Yeshua as the Lover of our souls (kabbalat Yeshua), we abide in the hope of love that awaits future consummation in the world to come...  Meanwhile, we are "suspended between worlds," though the veil of this world has been rent asunder and we may now appear before the LORD in the realm of the spirit by faith. We can come "boldly" before the Throne of Grace (παρρησίας τῷ θρόνῳ τῆς χάριτος) to find help for our lives (Heb. 4:16). Note that the word translated "boldly" in this verse (παρρησίας) comes from πᾶς (all) + ῥέω (to utter), suggesting that we can speak freely to God and share everything within our heart without fear or shame. We do not need to conceal ourselves from the Divine Light -- any more than we need to perform arabesque rituals or offer any "prescribed prayers" to access Him.  We who are trusting in God's sheltering love understand the LORD to be our loving Savior and Redeemer.  In our brokenness we can bare our souls before Him without fear ("there is no fear in love" - אין פַּחַד בָּאַהֲבָה). We can express "all our heart" to the LORD and be assured that He will help us in our hour of need (Heb. 4:16).


 

God loves the little children and never prevents them from coming to Him: "for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 19:14, Mark 10:14). O praise and thank God for Jesus, chaverim! What we we do without Him?

Shalom and blessings to you all in our Lord Yeshua the Messiah - the One who "tabernacles" with us in the Holy Spirit and who graciously invites all to come within the shelter of His everlasting love. וַיְהִי בְשָׁלֵם סֻכּוֹ וּמְעוֹנָתוֹ בְצִיּוֹן / vayehi v'shalem sukko, u'me'onato v'Tzion: "His sukkah is in Shalem; His place in Zion" (Psalm 76:3). Though this world is surely under divine judgment, those who trust in the LORD can say: יִצְפְּנֵנִי בְּסֻכּה בְּיוֹם רָעָה / yitzpeneni b'sukkoh b'yom ra'ah, "He will conceal me in His sukkah in the day of trouble" (Psalm 27:5).

Whether you have the opportunity to wave the lulav in a Sukkah or not this year, we sincerely wish you a season of joy as you celebrate the sheltering presence of the LORD Yeshua in your life, chaverim... Chag Sukkot Sameach!
 




Building our Sukkah

Shake Your Lulav!
 

[ The week-long holiday of Sukkot begins on Wed., Oct. 12th after sundown this year. ]

10.13.11 (Tishri 15, 5772)   Happy New Year - Shanah Tovah, chaverim! Today we assembled our sukkah for the great holiday of Sukkot (which begins tomorrow at sunset). First we purchased our lulav -- i.e., an etrog (citron), a palm branch (lulav), two willow branches (aravot), and three myrtle branches (hadasim) -- and then we got to work building the sukkah (we had hoped to do so yesterday, but it rained). After we finished the main structure, we laid up the supporting beams for the ceiling and covered them with a schach (roof). Then we strung several sets of Christmas lights around the beams, dangled fruit and ornaments from the roof, and put Israeli flags, Sukkot posters, and wall hangings on the walls. It was a lot of fun!  Here are a few pictures of the occasion:
 
 

Hiddur mitzvah (הִדּוּר מִצְוָה) is a phrase that means "making a commandment beautiful," and we want to make our sukkah a place of beauty... The sages note that the idea behind hiddur mitzvah comes from the great Song of Moses: "This is my God and I will enshrine (נָוָה) Him" (Exod. 15:2). Since we are surrounded by God's clouds of glory - and also by a "great cloud of witnesses" who watch as we walk in faith (Heb. 12:1) - it is only fitting to do our best to enshrine the LORD!

Regarding the lulav, here is something you might find interesting. According to midrash, the fruit that Adam and Eve ate was actually the etrog, and yet this fruit is considered to be the most precious as we celebrate Sukkot. The etrog, a symbol of our downfall, is transformed to be part of our rejoicing, as we celebrate how God brings blessing out of a curse in Yeshua our Lord... Only Yeshua is able to redeem us from our past and make all things new!

 

"For he will hide me in his Sukkah in the day of trouble ... and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts (teruah) of joy; I will sing and make melody to the LORD" (Psalm 27:5-6). If all goes well, we will have some "ushpizin" (guests) for the first night of Sukkot tomorrow. We wish you could join us over here....

Personal Update: I want to express my heartfelt thanks to Hebrew for Christians friends who have supported us in the recent months. Without your help, we couldn't be here.  We love you and thank God for you every day....
 




New Quick Sukkot Seder Guide!

Shake Your Lulav!
 

[ The week-long holiday of Sukkot begins on Wed., Oct. 12th after sundown this year. ]

10.11.11 (Tishri 13, 5772)  To make things a bit easier to celebrate Sukkot, I thought I would consolidate the various blessings and customary steps into a single (double-sided) page that you can print out for use with your celebrations.  I hope you will find this helpful. You can download the page here:
 

Since it follows Yom Kippur (i.e., the Day of Atonement), Sukkot represents a time of renewed fellowship with God, an appointed time when we gratefully acknowledge His sheltering provision and care for us.  The Gemara draws a parallel between the Mishkan (i.e., the Tabernacle) and the sukkah as a place for revelation of the Shekhinah by noting that the numerical equivalent (gematria) of sukkah (סוכּה) is 91, the same as the sum of two of the Divine Names: Adonai (אדני) and YHVH (יהוה).

Originally, the Mishkan (and later, the Temple) represented God's Shekhinah Presence among His redeemed people (Exod. 29:44-45). The New Testament reveals that God Himself "tabernacled" with us by coming in the disguised form of lowly servant in order to function as the great High Priest of the New Covenant (see Phil. 2:7, John 1:14). Because of Yeshua's priestly avodah and sacrifice, we now have access to the Heavenly Throne of God's Grace (Heb. 4:16). We are confident of the eternal atonement that our beloved Messiah has secured for us all (Heb. 10:14)! Our names are now written in the Lamb's Book of Life (Phil. 4:3; Rev. 3:5). We rejoice that we are members of the greater Temple of His body: we are now part of His Heavenly Sukkah (Eph. 5:30)!

Children's Craft Project Image
 

Ufros Alenu Sukkat Shlomekha - "Spread over us Your Sukkah of Peace"
 




From Yom Kippur to Sukkot

Shake Your Lulav!
 

[ The week-long holiday of Sukkot begins on Wed., Oct. 12th after sundown this year.  Note that many calendars will misleadingly list the first day of Sukkot as Thur. Oct. 13th, though this is incorrect, since we always reckon the start of the day at sundown on the day before... ]

10.10.11 (Tishri 12, 5772)  On the Jewish calendar, there is a quick transition from the somber time of the Jewish High Holidays (Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur) to the joyful festival of Sukkot (often called "Tabernacles" or "Booths" in the Christian tradition). If the High Holidays focus on the LORD as our Creator, our Judge, and the One who atones for our sins, the festival of Sukkot is the time when we celebrate all that the LORD has done for us. Prophetically understood, the seven days picture olam haba, the world to come, and the 1,000 Millennial Kingdom age. If Yeshua was born during Sukkot (i.e., conceived during Chanukah), then another (and prophetic) meaning of the "word became flesh and 'tabernacled with us" (John 1:14) would foretell the coming Millennial kingdom, when the Messiah will again tabernacle with us during his reign from Zion.

 

This year Sukkot begins an just after sundown on Wednesday, Oct. 12th (i.e., Tishri 15 on the Jewish calendar). The festival is celebrated for seven days (i.e., from Tishri 15-21) during which we "dwell" in a sukkah -- a "hut" or other structure of temporary construction, with a roof covering (schach) of raw vegetable matter (i.e., branches, bamboo, etc.). The sukkah represents our dependence upon God's shelter for our protection and divine providence. We eat our meals in the sukkah and recite a special blessing (leshev Ba-Sukkah) at this time.

In addition to the Sukkah, the most prominent symbol of Sukkot is the Arba'at Ha-minim (אַרְבַּעַת הַמִּינִים) - "the Four Species," or the four kinds of plants mentioned in the Torah regarding the festival of Sukkot: "On the first day you shall take the product of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days" (Lev. 23:40). We wave the "four species" (held together as a "lulav" with an etrog) and recite a blessing (netilat lulav) to ask God for a fruitful and blessed year.

Sukkot is called zeman Simchatenu, "the season of our joy," because it serves as the conclusion of the Jewish High Holidays and was the last of the three Shelosh Regalim [the three annual pilgrimage festivals: Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot (Deut. 16:16)]. It can be argued that Sukkot is the climax of all the festivals in Scripture.... Everything leads to it as a culmination in God's prophetic plan. It is interesting to compare the use of words relating to simchah [joy] in the description of these three festivals. Regarding Pesach, the word simchah does not appear at all (Deut. 17:1-8); regarding Shavuot, it appears only once (Deut. 17:11); but, regarding Sukkot, simchah appears several times:
 

    You shall keep the Feast of Sukkot seven days, when you have gathered in the produce... You shall rejoice in your feast... because the LORD your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you will be altogether joyful. (Deut. 16:13-15)
     

In fact, in ancient Israel, the joy of Sukkot was so great that it became known simply as "The Feast" (1 Kings 12:32). It was a time of many sacrifices (Numbers 29) and a time when (on Sabbatical years) the Torah would be read aloud to the people (Deut. 31:10-13).

From a spiritual perspective, Sukkot corresponds to the joy of knowing your sins were forgiven (during Yom Kippur) and also recalls God's miraculous provision and care after the deliverance from bondage in Egypt (Lev. 23:43). Prophetically, Sukkot anticipates the coming kingdom of Yeshua wherein all the nations shall come up to Jerusalem to worship the LORD during the festival (see Zech. 14:16). Today Sukkot is a time to remember God's Sheltering Presence and Provision for us for the start of the New Year.

 

Note: For more information about this holiday, see the Sukkot Pages.
 




The Lamb's Book of Life...


 

10.07.11 (Tishri 9, 5772)  The Scriptures teach that every word we speak and every choice we make are infallibly recorded in "heavenly scrolls," and one day these scrolls will be opened as a testimony about what we did with our lives (Dan. 7:10; Matt. 12:36-37; 1 Cor. 3:13, 4:5). There is a day of reckoning in store for every soul whom God has given life in this world: "And I saw the dead, both the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the Book of Life (סֵפֶר הַחַיִּים). And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done" (Rev. 20:12). The truth about our lives will be an "open book" on that day, and every word and deed will be accounted for before the LORD, our Creator, our King, and our Righteous Judge... Nothing will be hidden on that great day: "Each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. At that time the LORD "will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart."

In this vision of the great day of judgment to come, notice that there was "another book" opened during the judgment called the "Book of Life," and later we learn that only those whose names were found written in this book would be granted access to the glories of the heavenly Jerusalem (Rev. 21:27). But what is this book and how can our names be inscribed in it so that we can partake of the future glory?

The Lamb's Book of Life (סֵפֶר הַחַיִּים אֲשֶׁר לַשֶּׂה) refers to "the record" (i.e., the words and deeds) of Yeshua our Messiah, the true Lamb of God, and therefore the book represents the final attestation - or "sworn testimony" - of the worthiness of God's own righteousness and salvation. In the great plan of God's salvation for the world, Yeshua was "born to die" as our atoning sacrifice for sin (Heb. 10:7-5). "God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him (ἐν αὐτῷ) we would become the righteousness of God" (2 Cor. 5:21). But note that we must be "in him," that is, fully identified with Yeshua so that his sacrifical death becomes counted as our own... Our identification in him means that our sin is "imputed" to his suffering and death upon the cross, just as his righteousness is "imputed" to us through the vindication of his resurrection. This is the essence of the "korban principle" of "life-for-life" - the innocent sacrificed for the guilty - that was the foundation of the sacrificial system of the Temple.  By faith, the substitutionary death of Yeshua is "for you."

The Lamb's Book of Life is the record of Yeshua's life, burial, resurrection, and ascension performed for our salvation, and when your name is written in this book, the record of your life is incorporated or made a part of the "story" of salvation given in Yeshua.  Your identification with Him means that that the righteousness of God has been extended to you - and that the saving acts of Yeshua were performed to personally ransom you from the judgment of death. "And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross (Col. 2:13-14). The book of your old, sinful life that contains the record of all your sins, iniquities, and transgressions has been "rewritten" in terms of the salvation given to you in Yeshua. Being written in the Lamb's Book of Life therefore means that you share in the record of the righteousness of Messiah based on your trust in God's salvation.
  

רָאוּי הַשֶּׂה הַטָּבוּחַ לְקַבֵּל גְבוּרָה
עשֶׁר וְחָכְמָה וְכּחַ וִיקַר וְכָבוֹד וּבְרָכָה

ra'uy  ha·seh  ha·ta·vu·ach  le·ka·bel  ge·vu·rah,
o·sher  ve·chokh·mah,  ve·ko·ach  vi·kar,  ve·kha·vod  uv·ra·kha

"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)



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Those who are trusting in Yeshua as their Atonement before the Father are declared tzaddikim and their names are written (and sealed) for good in the Lamb's Book of Life (Eph. 1:13, 4:30; 2 Cor. 1:21-22). Yom Kippur is therefore a time of great joy for us, since we have been given g'mar chatimah tovah (גְּמַר חַתִימָה טוֹבָה), "a good and final sealing," in God's Book of Life.  Because of Yeshua's sacrifice as our Great High Priest after the order of Malki-Tzedek, where he presented his own blood "behind the veil," we have everlasting atonement! So Happy Yom Kippur, chaverim! Rejoice that your name is written and sealed in the Lamb's Book of Life!
 




Yom Kippur and Prophecy


 

10.07.11 (Tishri 9, 5772)  Some people might feel a certain amount of ambivalence about the holiday of Yom Kippur since it focuses on the purification of the sanctuary of the Temple, and this seems to have little to do with Yeshua and His sacrifice for our sins. After all, the Levitical form of worship is described as "a shadow (σκιά) of the good things to come, instead of the true form (εἰκών) of these matters, and it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near" (Heb. 10:1). Since the blood of bulls and goats cannot truly take away sins (Heb. 10:3), the sacrificial system was intended to foreshadow the coming work of Messiah, who was born to die, in accordance with God's will, and to offer his own body as a sacrifice for sin "once for all" (Heb. 10:5-10). "For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified" (Heb. 10:14).

Now while it is gloriously true that Yeshua functioned as our great High priest after the order of Malki-Tzedek by offering his blood upon the heavenly kapporet in the holy of holies "made without hands," there still is a prophetic component to this holiday that applies to ethnic Israel regarding the prophesied End of Days.  After all, the realm of "shadows" still applies in the case of unbelieving Israel, who has yet to behold the unveiled glory that awaits her... Therefore the psalmist prophetically cries out, "Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your Name; deliver us, and atone for our sins, for the sake of your Name" (Psalm 79:9), and this refers to the hour when Israel will call upon the LORD for salvation during the End of Days, otherwise called the great Day of the LORD. This event is prefigured in the blast of the "great shofar" which will be sounded to announce Yeshua as Israel's true Redeemer and King. Indeed, our the Messiah will one day return to Israel, cleanse her Temple, restore her to Himself, and set up His glorious kingdom.

Since prophetically speaking Yom Kippur signifies ethic Israel's atonement secured through Yeshua's sacrificial avodah as Israel's true High Priest and King, there is still a sense of longing and affliction connected to this holiday that will not be removed until finally "all Israel is saved" (Rom. 11:26). So, on the one hand we celebrate Yom Kippur because it acknowledges Yeshua as our High Priest of the New Covenant, but on the other hand, we "have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in our hearts" for the redemption of the Jewish people and the atonement of their sins (Rom. 9:1-5; 10:1-4; 11:1-2, 11-15, 25-27). In the meantime, we are in a period of "mysterious grace" wherein we have opportunity to offer the terms of the New Covenant to people of every nation, tribe and tongue. After the "fullness of the Gentiles" is come in, however, God will turn His full attention to fulfilling His promises given to ethnic Israel. That great Day of the LORD is coming soon, chaverim...
 




The Power of Mercy...


 

[ The following discussion about the "Attributes of God's Mercy" is related to the Holiday of Yom Kippur, which begins an hour before sundown on Friday, October 7th this year.... ]

10.06.11 (Tishri 8, 5772)  I mentioned the other day that there were two revelations of the Name YHVH (יְהוָה) given to Moses. The first revelation occurred when he asked for God's Name while he encountered the burning bush and was commissioned to lead Israel out of Egypt: "If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' what shall I say to them?" God then replied: ehyeh asher ehyeh (אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה), "I AM WHO I AM." And he said, "Say this to the people of Israel, 'I AM (אֶהְיֶה) has sent me to you'" (Exod. 3:13-14). Apparently Moses did not regard the historical description of God as the "God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" to be sufficient to attest to his mission before the elders of Israel, so he pressed the issue, though the LORD clearly linked His Name with the patriarchs nonetheless: "Say this to the people of Israel, 'The LORD (יְהוָה), the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.' This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations" (Exod. 3:15). It should be noted here that God's initial response, namely, "I AM" (אֶהְיֶה), is the Qal imperfect, first person singular of the verb hayah (הָיָה), "I will be," and therefore is thought to be a form of word play on this verb "to be." The LORD (יְהוָה) is the Source of all being and has being inherent in Himself (i.e., He is necessary Being). Everything else is contingent being that derives existence from Him. Notice further that the power of this Name was subsequently revealed to Israel through the saving acts of the Exodus from Egypt, something the earlier patriarchs had never directly experienced (Exod. 6:1-8).

The second revelation of the Name occurred later, after the sin of the Golden Calf, when Moses was instructed to re-ascend Sinai to behold God's glory (Exod. 33:17-34:8). During this revelation, "the LORD descended in the cloud and proclaimed the name of the LORD" saying, "Adonai, Adonai... (יְהוָה יְהוָה)." The sages note that first utterance of "Adonai" was intended to indicate that everything that exists is an expression of God's loving will and kindness: עוֹלָם חֶסֶד יִבָּנֶה / olam chesed yibaneh: "The world is built with chesed (חֶסֶד)" (Psalm 89:3[h]). God is unqualifiedly good, and the existence of the universe itself is a demonstration of His love and kindness. God did not "need" to create anything, and the fact that anything exists at all is an expression of his gratuitous chesed, or lovingkindness.  The second utterance of "Adonai," on the other hand, was intended to express that the LORD continues to sustain and uphold the universe despite the presence of rebellion and sin. In this connection, I noted that even though God "wills" evil (in the sense of allowing or permitting the actions of the wicked to occur), he never desires it, and he therefore calls us to return - to do teshuvah - in order to be restored to life and blessing. Note that it is this second utterance of "Adonai" that is associated with the LORD's saving relationship with alienated and fallen creation. 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 forgiveness and mercy. The poignant intercession of Moses - his "passion experience" - was a picture of the heart of the New Covenant (בְּרִית חֲדָשָׁה), the revelation of the LORD's attributes of grace embodied in Yeshua our Savior...
 

יְהוָה יְהוָה אֵל רַחוּם וְחַנּוּן
 אֶרֶךְ אַפַּיִם וְרַב־חֶסֶד וֶאֱמֶת
 נצֵר חֶסֶד לָאֲלָפִים
 נשֵׂא עָוֹן וָפֶשַׁע וְחַטָּאָה וְנַקֵּה לא יְנַקֶּה
 פּקֵד עֲוֹן אָבוֹת עַל־בָּנִים
 וְעַל־בְּנֵי בָנִים עַל־שִׁלֵּשִׁים וְעַל־רִבֵּעִים

Adonai  Adonai  El  Ra·chum  ve·chan·nun
e·rekh  ap·pa·yim  ve·rav  che·sed  ve·e·met
no·tzeir  che·sed  la·a·la·fim
no·sei  a·von  va·fesh·a  ve·cha·ta·ah  ve·nak·keh  lo  ye·nak·keh
po·keid  a·von  a·vot  al  ba·nim
ve·al  be·nei  va·nim  al  shil·le·shim  ve·al  rib·bei·im

"The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,
 keeping steadfast love for thousands,
forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children
and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation"
(Exod. 34:6-7)


 
 

Let's continue looking at this additional revelation of the Name YHVH to see how it reveals the glory of Yeshua our Savior who is the embodiment of YHVH Himself. After we read "Adonai, Adonai," the name El (אֵל) appears as the third word, which is understood to be a general term associated with the attributes of divine strength (i.e., koach: כּחַ) and power (i.e., gevurah: גְּבוּרָה). After the parting of the Sea of Reeds, Moses sang, "Who is like You, O LORD, among the gods (elim)?" Among the pagan cultures of the world, the various "gods" (i.e., elim: אֵלִם) were natural forces such as rain, wind, storms, and so on. The LORD God of Israel demonstrated His power over all the idols and forces of nature during the Exodus from Egypt and therefore the He is rightly called Elohei ha-Elohim (אֱלהֵי הָאֱלהִים), the "God of all gods," and Adonai Ha'Adonim (אֲדנֵי הָאֲדנִים), the "Lord of all lords."

But why is the idea of God's strength connected with His mercy (i.e., rachamim: רַחֲמִים)? Recall that when Moses interceded for Israel regarding the Sin of the Spies, he began by saying, "And now, may the strength (koach) of the LORD be increased" (Num. 14:17-18). Why did Moses appeal to God's strength in his appeal for forgiveness, especially since God's strength is usually associated with his justice and absolute power over creation?

The sages answer that forgiveness requires more strength than does justice. God established the world by the word of His power, and the intrinsic quality of moral reality is that of "karma," or moral cause and effect (Gal. 6:7-8, Job 4:8; Hos. 10:12). Sin is an alienation from the Source of God's life and plan, disrupting the connection between the order God originally intended and the issuance and gift of spiritual life. In other words, death is a natural consequence of sin (Ezek. 18:4, Rom 6:23; James 1:15).

When Israel sinned with the Golden Calf, the LORD threatened to "destroy them in an instant" (Exod. 32:10; Deut. 9:14). He likewise threatened Israel with complete destruction after the Sin of the Spies (Num. 14:12) and after Korach's rebellion (Num. 16:21, 45). This response of God followed "automatically," or even necessarily, from His role as the Holy Lawgiver and King of the universe. And while the immediate annihilation of people would indeed demonstrate God's power of utter holiness, it required even greater strength from God to "suspend" his verdict of justice, since that would imply sustaining their evil, or "carrying" it, or "bearing under" it, or suffering for their sin on their behalf. Therefore God's power is clearly manifest through divine forgiveness more so than through the immediate death of the sinner, and this explains why Moses appealed to God saying, yigdal na koach Adonai: "may the strength of the LORD be increased."

God's power of mercy is most clearly demonstrated in the sacrificial death of Yeshua upon the cross, since it was there that He overcame the power of His justice by means of the power of His compassion for the sinner. It was at the cross that "steadfast love and truth have met; righteousness and peace have kissed each other" (Psalm 85:10), though it must be stressed that this reconciliation came at an enormous price to God Himself... It took unimaginable strength for Yeshua to willingly offer himself up as our substitutionary sacrifice, to become sin for us, and to suffer and die in our place; just as it took unimaginable strength for God the Father to "suspend" the power of His justice by giving up His son for the sake of our salvation. God's "immediate" response to sin is always, "I shall annihilate them in an instant," which is the expression of His righteous anger for sin. However, it takes even greater strength for God's compassion to overcome His anger – to bear the brunt of His justice – and to suffer for the sake of the sinner's healing. God's chesed, His love, "suffers long and is kind," though it should be emphasized that God suffers because of our sin, and therefore we must be careful not regard God as being in any way indifferent to its presence in our lives. "For you were bought at a great price. Therefore glorify God with your body" (1 Cor. 6:20; 1 Pet. 1:18-19).

When we experience conviction for our sins, when we despair over their weight and feel like they are crushing us down, we understand that it is the righteousness of God that itself weighs down upon us, and yet we appeal to that very power of righteousness to come and save us. The heart's cry appeals to God's mercy for us over against his justice... When we appeal to God's strength, then, we appeal to His strength of forgiveness, to His suffering on our behalf...  We ask for his love to sustain us, despite our sin, and to help us turn away and to be filled with new life - the true life that comes from heaven... In short, we ask God for the miracle of rebirth by means of his Holy Spirit, and thereby to understand his power on an entirely different level. We appeal to God not only as our Creator and the Lawgiver, but also as the one who victoriously overcomes the power of sin and death on our behalf and therefore makes everything new. We appeal to God's chesed, his love and compassion, which overcomes his attribute of justice. In short, we appeal to Yeshua as our Strong Savior who saves us from sin and death.
 




Yom Kippur and Deliverance


 

[ The following is related to the Holiday of Yom Kippur, which begins an hour before sundown on Friday, October 7th this year.... ]

10.06.11 (Tishri 8, 5772)  In the Torah, the "Day of Atonement," or Yom Kippur, is actually described in the plural: Yom Ha-Kippurim (יוֹם הַכִּפֻּרִים), perhaps because the purification process cleansed from a multitude of transgressions, iniquities, and sins. However, the name also alludes to the two great atonements given by the LORD - the first for those among the nations who turn to Yeshua for cleansing and forgiveness, and the second for the purification of ethnic Israel during Yom Adonai, the great Day of the LORD (יוֹם־יְהוָה הַגָּדוֹל) at the end of days. This latter "Day of Atonement" prefigures the coming Day of Judgment, the very End of Days:
 

קָרוֹב יוֹם־יְהוָה הַגָּדוֹל
קָרוֹב וּמַהֵר מְאד
קוֹל יוֹם יְהוָה
מַר צרֵחַ שָׁם גִּבּוֹר

ka·rov  Yom  Adonai  hag·ga·dol
ka·rov  u·ma·heir  me·od
kol  Yom  Adonai
mar  tzo·re·ach  sham  gib·bor

"The great Day of the LORD is almost here;
it is approaching very quickly.
The sound of the Day of the LORD is bitter;
at that time the warrior will cry aloud."
(Zeph. 1:14)
 

The watchman says: "Morning comes, and also the night. If you really desire it; turn back (שֻׁבוּ) and come" (Isa. 21:12). "Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live? ... Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit (לֵב חָדָשׁ וְרוּחַ חֲדָשָׁה)! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord GOD; so turn (shuv) and live" (Ezek. 18:23, 31-32). "Because he considered and turned away from all the transgressions that he had committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die" (Ezek. 18:28).

In Hosea 14:4 it is written, "I will heal their apostasy; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned (שׁוב) from them." The Hebrew, however, does not say "from them," but rather "from him" (מִמֶּנּוּ), referring to King Messiah who paid the penalty for our sins so that we can now return to God...

There is a Purim connection with Yom Kippur, too. Yom Ha-Kippurim can be read as Yom Ke-Purim, a "day like Purim" (יוֹם כְּפֻּרִים), that is, a day of great yeshuah (יְשׁוּעָה), or deliverance (as described in the Book of Esther). Thus the day on which Yeshua sacrificed Himself on the cross is the greatest "Purim" of all, since through Him we are eternally delivered from the hands of our enemies.
 




The Meaning of Kippur


 

[ The following is related to the Holiday of Yom Kippur, which begins an hour before sundown on Friday, October 7th this year.... ]

10.05.11 (Tishri 7, 5772)  The "Day of Atonement" is the English phrase for Yom Kippurim. The shoresh (root) for the word "Kippur" is kafar (כָפַר), which probably derives from the word kofer, meaning "ransom." This word is parallel to the word "redeem" (Psalm 49:7) and means "to atone by offering a substitute." The great majority of usages in the Tanakh concern "making an atonement" by the priestly ritual of sprinkling of sacrificial blood to remove sin or defilement (i.e., tahora). The life blood of the sacrificial animal was required in exchange for the life blood of the worshipper (the symbolic expression of innocent life given for guilty life). This symbolism is further clarified by the action of the worshipper in placing his hands on the head of the sacrifice (semichah) and confessing his sins over the animal (Lev. 16:21; 1:4; 4:4, etc.) which was then killed or sent out as a scapegoat. The shoresh also appears in the term Kapporet [the so-called "Mercy Seat," but better rendered as simply the "place of atonement"]. The Kapporet was the golden cover of the sacred Ark in the Holy of Holies of the Tabernacle (or Temple) where the sacrificial blood was presented.

The importance of blood sacrifice (i.e., substitutionary atonement) cannot be overstated in the Scriptures since it constitutes the fundamental means of atonement that is given through the sacrificial system. The Torah makes it clear that blood (דָּם) is used as a means of consecration as well as a means of obtaining atonement (כַּפָּרָה) with God.  Blood was used on the doorposts of the houses in Egypt to ward off judgment and was later used to ratify the covenant given at Sinai (Exod. 24:8). All the elements of Mishkan (Tabernacle) were likewise "separated" by its use: The altar, the various furnishings of the Temple, the vestments of the priests, and even the priests themselves were sanctified by blood (Exod. 29:20-21, Heb. 9:21). But ultimately blood was used to "make atonement" for the soul upon the altar. As the Torah (Lev. 17:11) plainly states:
 

כִּי נֶפֶשׁ הַבָּשָׂר בַּדָּם הִוא
וַאֲנִי נְתַתִּיו לָכֶם עַל־הַמִּזְבֵּחַ
לְכַפֵּר עַל־נַפְשׁתֵיכֶם
כִּי־הַדָּם הוּא בַּנֶּפֶשׁ יְכַפֵּר

ki  ne·fesh  ha·ba·sar  ba·dam  hi
va·a·ni  ne·ta·tiv  la·khem  al  ham·miz·bei·ach
le·kha·peir  al  naf·sho·tei·khem
ki  ha·dam  hu  ba·ne·fesh  ye·kha·peir

"For the life of the flesh is in the blood,
and I have given it for you on the altar to atone for your souls,
for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life."
(Lev. 17:11)
 

A blood sacrifice is required by the LORD for the issue of impurity caused by sin. Leviticus 17:11 agrees with the teaching in the New Testament in Hebrews 9:22: "Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins" (χωρὶς αἱματεκχυσίας οὐ γίνεται ἄφεσις). In the Talmud (Yoma 5a) it is likewise written, "There is no atonement without blood." The substitutionary shedding of blood, the "life-for-life" principle, is essential to true "at-one-ment" with the LORD God.

The Bible is described as a "book of blood and a bloody book." In the Torah, just as in the New Testament, sacrificial blood is connected to atonement and the forgiveness of sin (Heb. 9:22). Blood is the means by which spiritual uncleanness - tumah - the defilement caused by sin and death - is removed from us. However, unlike the blood rituals of the Tabernacle which functioned as "a copy and shadow of the heavenly things" (Heb. 8:5), the sacrifice of Yeshua has "perfected for all time" those who are being sanctified (Heb. 10:4, 11-14). All the sacrifices offered in the Mishkan (and Temple) anticipated the greater sacrifice of Yeshua Himself (Heb. 9:23-26). We go "outside the camp" to the Cross and there confess our sin, understanding that we are "spiritual lepers" under sentence of death.  By faith we "lean our hands" upon the head of Yeshua, acccepting that He is our sacrificial substitute before the Father. We trust in the divine "life-for-life" principle of Yehua's life given for us... We "lean into Him," meaning we trust in His sacrifice and abandon our sins with Him...

"Come now and reason with the LORD. Though your sins are as scarlet, they can be made white as snow..." (Isa. 1:18). The blood of bulls and goats could never fully remove our sins since they did not represent the very life of God poured out on our behalf (Heb. 10:4). God chose the ultimate "cleansing agent" for sin by shedding the precious blood of His own Son for the sake of our atonement (1 Cor. 15:3-4; Rom. 5:11). The blood of Yeshua truly cleanses us from the stain of our sins (Heb. 10:12-14). We make "spiritual contact" with the sacrificial blood of Yeshua through faith -- by being "baptized into His death" and identifying with Him as our Sin-Bearer before God. We then are delivered from the law's verdict against us and accepted into the Kingdom of God (Rom. 4:25; 2 Cor. 5:21; Col. 1:13-14, 2:10-15).

"For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the LORD from all your sins" (Lev. 16:30), and yet "The law made nothing perfect, but through a better hope we now draw near to God" (Heb. 7:19). The blood of our Messiah Yeshua is the "the blood of the everlasting covenant" (דַם בְּרִית עוֹלָם) that cleanses us from our sins (Heb. 13:20, 1 John 1:7). The cross is the true "Mercy Seat" (Kapporet) that covers the heavenly Ark (throne) in the Holy of Holies "made without hands."  It is interesting to note that the word used in the Greek Septuagint to translate the Hebrew word kapporet ("cover") is hilasterion (ἱλαστήριον). 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 shedding of Yeshua's blood - represented by His Passion upon the cross - was "presented" upon the Heavenly Kapporet, before the very Throne of God Himself. The life blood of Yeshua "covers us" from the law's verdict of our sin.... 

Because of Yeshua, we now have access before the Throne of God Himself (Heb. 4:16). All glory be to Yeshua our Savior, "the faithful witness, the first-born of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us, and released us from our sins by His blood" (Rev. 1:5). "Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God" (Rev. 5:6-9).
 




Yom Kippur and Chesed


 

[ The following is related to the Holiday of Yom Kippur, which begins an hour before sundown on Friday, October 7th this year.... ]

10.04.11
(Tishri 6, 5772)  The ten days from Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur are known as Aseret Yemei Teshuvah (עֲשֶׂרֶת יְמֵי תְּשׁוּבָה), "the Ten Days of repentance," otherwise called the "Days of Awe" in Jewish tradition. Since man was created for the sake of teshuvah, Yom Kippur, or the Day of "at-one-ment," is considered the holiest day of the year, called "Yom ha-kadosh" (יוֹם הַקָּדוֹשׁ). It is the climax of the 40 day "Season of Teshuvah."

The Torah refers to Yom Kippur as "shabbat shabbaton" (שַׁבַּת שַׁבָּתוֹן), a time when all profane work is set aside so the soul could focus on the holiness of the LORD. The first occurrence of this phrase is found in Exodus 16:23, regarding the restriction of collecting manna in the desert during the seventh day. This restriction was later incorporated into the law code for the Sabbath day (Exod. 31:15; 35:2). The phrase also occurs regarding Rosh Hashanah (Lev. 23:24), Yom Kippur (Lev. 16:31; 23:32), two days of Sukkot (Lev. 23:39; Num. 25:35), two days of Passover (Lev. 23:7-8), and the day of Shavuot (Num. 28:26).

If you add up these days, you will find there are seven prescribed days of "complete rest" before the LORD, and the sages identified Yom Kippur as the Sabbath of these other special Sabbath days, that is, "Yom ha-kadosh" (יוֹם הַקָּדוֹשׁ). Indeed, the Talmud notes that "seven days before Yom Kippur, we separate the High Priest," corresponding to the seven-day seclusion of Aaron and his sons before the inauguration of the Tabernacle (Lev. 8:33).

The sages say that Yom Kippur is the only day that Satan is unable to lodge accusation against Israel, since the gematria of "satan" (שָׂטָן) is 364, suggesting that the accuser denounces Israel 364 days of the year, but on the 365th day - Yom Kippur - he is rendered powerless, just as he will be in the world to come (Maharsha on Yoma 2a).

All of the Jewish holidays find their origin in the events of the Exodus, which were later commemorated as rituals at the Tabernacle. On the first of Nisan, two weeks before the Exodus, the LORD showed Moses the new moon and commenced the divine lunar calendar. This is called Rosh Chodashim. Two weeks later, God was ready to deliver the Israelites from their bondage in Egypt. Earlier that evening the Israelites kept the Passover Seder and sprinkled the blood of the lamb on their doorposts. At the stroke of midnight of Nisan 15 the LORD sent the last of the ten plagues on the Egyptians, killing all their firstborn. On the 6th of Sivan, exactly seven weeks after the Exodus (49 days), Moses first ascended Sinai to receive the Torah (Shavuot). Just forty days later, on the 17th of Tammuz, the tablets were broken. Moses then interceded for Israel for another forty days until he was called back up to Sinai on Elul 1 and received the revelation of Name YHVH (Exod. 34:4-8). After this, he was given the Second Tablets and returned to the camp on Tishri 10, which later was called Yom Kippur. Moses' face was shining with radiance in wonder of the coming New Covenant which was prefigured in the rituals of the Day of Atonement (Exod. 34:10).


 

Note there were two revelations of the Name YHVH, first as "I AM WHO I AM" (a play on the Hebrew verb hayah [הָיָה] given to Moses in Exodus 3:14-15 which was later "incarnated" during the intervention of the Exodus (Exod. 6:1-8)) and the later revelation of YHVH's mercy disclosed after the sin of the Golden Calf. It is the later revelation that foretold God's Name of the new covenant, just as the second tablets took the place of the former tablets that were shattered. Ultimately Yeshua is the "wonder" of the covenant of the LORD (Exod. 34:10), the manifestation of the attributes of God's mercy (middot rachamim). For more on this, see the article, "The Surpassing Glory: Paul's Midrash of the Veil."

In the account of the revelation of God's mercy given to Moses after his brokenness and teshuvah, we read that the LORD (Himself) descended, stood, and proclaimed the name of the LORD (Exod. 34:5), calling out:
 

יְהוָה יְהוָה אֵל רַחוּם וְחַנּוּן
 אֶרֶךְ אַפַּיִם וְרַב־חֶסֶד וֶאֱמֶת
 נצֵר חֶסֶד לָאֲלָפִים
 נשֵׂא עָוֹן וָפֶשַׁע וְחַטָּאָה וְנַקֵּה לא יְנַקֶּה
 פּקֵד עֲוֹן אָבוֹת עַל־בָּנִים
 וְעַל־בְּנֵי בָנִים עַל־שִׁלֵּשִׁים וְעַל־רִבֵּעִים

Adonai  Adonai  El  Ra·chum  ve·chan·nun
e·rekh  ap·pa·yim  ve·rav  che·sed  ve·e·met
no·tzeir  che·sed  la·a·la·fim
no·sei  a·von  va·fesh·a  ve·cha·ta·ah  ve·nak·keh  lo  ye·nak·keh
po·keid  a·von  a·vot  al  ba·nim
ve·al  be·nei  va·nim  al  shil·le·shim  ve·al  rib·bei·im

"The LORD, the LORa God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,
 keeping steadfast love for thousands,
forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children
and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation"
(Exod. 34:6-7)


 

According to various traditional interpretations, these thirteen attributes of God's Name may be understood as follows:

  1. Adonai (יהוה) - I, the LORD, am the Compassionate Source of all of life and Ground of all being; I am the breath of life for all of creation. I am the God of all possible worlds and Master of the universe. Everything that exists is an expression of my loving will and kindness:  עוֹלָם חֶסֶד יִבָּנֶה / olam chesed yibaneh: "The world is built with chesed" (Psalm 89:3[h]). Since the relative difference between existence and non-existence is infinite, God's creation represents infinite kindness, and since you exist, you likewise are expression of God's kindness and love. You do not exist because God needs you but soley because your life is willed by God as an expression of His love.
  2. Adonai (יהוה) -  Though the LORD created the universe "very good" (טוֹב מְאד), He remained the Compassionate Source of life even after mankind sinned, and therefore the Name is repeated to refer to His loving relationship with alienated, fallen creation. I, the LORD, am also compassionate to one who has sinned and repented (i.e., the Creator gives us free will and the good gift of teshuvah). God created mankind for the sake of teshuvah - that is, our return to Him. God desires atonement with mankind even after sin and therefore continues to give existence to the world. "He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust" (Matt. 5:45). Moreover, as the Savior and Redeemer of the world through Yeshua, the LORD reveals kindness even to the evil, and even partakes of its presence by means of His sacrificial love on the cross. Since teshuvah can only exist after the advent of sin, Yeshua is called the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8; Eph. 1:4; 1 Pet. 1:20).

    In this connection, it should be noted that while God "wills" evil (in the sense of allowing the actions of the wicked to occur), he does not desire it. The sages note that while the Creator supports the existence of both the wicked and the righteous, he loves the righteous, and only their actions are desired by Him (Psalm 1:6). God wills the brokenness of the sinner so that the soul can return to Him by experiencing His salvation, love, and blessing.
     
  3. El (אֵל) - I, the LORD, am God the Almighty and Omnipotent;
  4. Rachum (רַחוּם) - I, the LORD, am merciful (rachamim (רַחֲמִים) means "mercy" and rechem (רֶחֶם) means "womb");
  5. Chanun (חַנּוּן) - I, the LORD, am gracious; I pour out my favor freely to all of creation. (Chen (חֵן) is the word for "grace");
  6. Erekh Apayim (אֶרֶךְ אַפַּיִם) - I, the LORD, am slow to anger and patient (the word erekh means "long" and af (אַף) means "nose." The idiom erekh apayim means "long suffering, patient");
  7. Rav Chesed (רַב־חֶסֶד) - I, the LORD, am abundant in love (חֶסֶד) to both the righteous and the wicked;
  8. Rav Emet (רַב־אֱמֶת) - I, the LORD, am truthful and faithful in carrying out promises;
  9. Notzer Chesed La'alafim (נצֵר חֶסֶד לָאֲלָפִים) - I, the LORD, retain chesed (love) for thousands of generations, taking into account the merit of our worthy ancestors (called zechut avot);
  10. Nosei Avon (נשֵׂא עָוֹן) - I, the LORD, forgive iniquity (avon), defined in the tradition as wrongful deeds committed with premeditation; I "carry iniquity away" (nasa) for the penitent;
  11. Nosei Pesha (נשֵׂא פֶשַׁע) - I, the LORD, forgive transgression (pesha), defined as wrongful deeds committed in a rebellious spirit;
  12. Nosei Chata'ah (נשֵׂא חַטָּאָה) - I, the LORD, forgive sin (chet), defined as those wrongful deeds that were inadvertently committed;
  13. Nakkeh (נַקֶּה) - I, the LORD, will not cancel punishment, but I will clear the guilt for those who genuinely return to Me in teshuvah. 
     

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).

It can be argued that the second 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 poignant intercession of Moses - his "passion experience" - was a picture of Yeshua that ultimately revealed the heart of the New Covenant (בְּרִית חֲדָשָׁה), the revelation of the LORD's attributes of mercy and grace...

The life of Yeshua is the Name of the LORD.
 




Yom Kippur - Friday, Oct. 7th


 

[ Note that the weekly Torah reading is suspended for the Holiday of Yom Kippur, which begins an hour before sundown on Friday, October 7th this year.... ]

10.02.11 (Tishri 4, 5772)   The Yom Kippur fast begins an hour before sundown on Friday, October 7th, and lasts for 25 hours, until an hour past sundown on Saturday, October 8th. The sages state that "afflicting the soul" (Lev. 23:32), or fasting, is not undertaken to punish ourselves for our sins, but rather to help us focus entirely on our spiritual side. It is customary to light the holiday candles, recite the Shehecheyanu, and to eat a late afternoon meal with loved ones an hour or so before the fast begins. It is also traditional to wear white clothing as a symbol of purity during Yom Kippur religious services, and some married men wear a kittel, or white robe, as well. Because of the sanctity of the holiday, the tallit, or prayer shawl, is worn for the entire holiday, including the evening services as well. Dressing in this way is intended to make us appear pure, like the angels.

Rabbincial Yom Kippur Services

In rabbinical Judaism, Yom Kippur consists of several interwoven "services" that are held throughout the 25 hour period of fasting:
 

  1. The "Kol Nidrei" (כָּל נִדְרֵי) service begins before sundown on Tishri 9 and functions as a legal delcaration (recited in Aramaic) that annuls "all vows" made in the previous year (or the following year, depending on tradtion). Because this is intended to be a "legal" declaration, it is repeated three times before sundown. The Aron HaKodesh (Torah cabinent) is left open while the Torah scrolls are carried around the synagogue before Kol Nidrei to indicate that the Gates of Repentance are open.
  2. The Ma'ariv (evening) service consists of the recitation of Kaddish, the Shema, the Amidah (standing prayer), along with the confession of sins (viduy) and additional prayers (selichot) recited only on the night of Yom Kippur. In addition, liturgical poems (piyyutim) are recited as well. Most of this service is spent reading from a machzor (High Holiday prayerbook). During viduy (וִדּוּי) section called "al chet," the custom is to lightly beat the chest for each transgression as it is recited.
  3. The Shacharit (morning) service is not unlike other services for festivals during the Jewish year. The traditional morning prayers, the recitation of the Shema and Amidah, and the Torah reading are all part of the service. During Torah reading service there are six aliyot (separate readings by different people), one more than on other holidays (though if Yom Kippur occurs on Shabbat, there are seven aliyot).

    The Torah's name for the Day of Atonement is Yom Kippurim (יוֹם הַכִּפֻּרִים), meaning "the day of covering, canceling, pardon, reconciling." Under the Levitical system of worship, the High Priest would sprinkle sacrificial blood upon the Kapporet (כַּפּרֶת) - the covering of the Ark of the Covenant -  to effect "propitiation" or "purification" (i.e., kapparah: כַּפָּרָה) for the previous year's sins. Notice that Yom Kippur was the only time when the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies and invoke the sacred Name of YHVH (יהוה) to offer blood sacrifice for the sins of the Jewish people. This "life for a life" principle is the foundation of the sacrificial system and marked the great day of intercession made by the High Priest on behalf of Israel.
     
  4. The Yizkor (יִזְכּר) service functions as a memorial service for family members who have died. Traditionally it is recited following the Torah reading of the Shacharit service, though some communities do it in the early afternoon.
  5. The Musaf (additional) service immediately follows the morning service and is divided into two parts: the repetition of the Amidah (by the cantor) and the "Avodah" service, which recounts the priestly service for Yom Kippur in ancient times. The Musaf service ends with the "Aaronic benediction" (i.e., birkat kohanim).
  6. The Minchah (afternoon) service includes a Torah reading service (Lev. 18), another repetition of the Amidah, and the recitation of the "Avinu Malkenu" poem. In addition, since it focuses on the importance of teshuvah (repentance) and prayer, the entire Book of Jonah is recited as the Haftarah portion of the Torah service.
  7. The Neilah (closing) service is the final service of Yom Kippur. The word "Neilah" (נְעִילָה) means "locking" and in rabbinical tradition this portion of the Yom Kippur service is intended to symbolize that the Book of Life has now been "closed and sealed" at the conclusion of Yom Kippur. The Shema is again recited and the phrase "the LORD He is God (i.e., Adonai hu ha-Elohim: יְהוָה הוּא הָאֱלהִים) is repeated seven times (1 Kings 18:39). This declaration is followed by a long blast of the shofar (i.e., tekiah gedolah), the "great shofar," to remind us how the shofar was sounded to proclaim the Year of Jubilee Year (יוֹבֵל) of freedom throughout the land (Lev. 25:9-10).  After Yom Kippur ends, we are required to recite (or hear) Havdalah over wine before we eat anything.
     

Yom Ha-Din - Judgment Day

Yom Kippur marks the climax of the Jewish High Holidays and holds tremendous prophetic significance regarding the Second Coming of Mashiach, the restoration of national Israel, and the final judgment of the world. It is also a day that reveals the High-Priestly work of Yeshua as our Kohen Gadol (High Priest) after the order of Malki-Tzedek (Heb. 5:10, 6:20).

According to Jewish tradition, on Rosh Hashanah the destiny of the righteous, the tzaddikim, are written in the Book of Life, and the destiny of the wicked, the resha'im, are written in the Book of Death. Most people, however, won't be inscribed in either book, but are given ten days -- until Yom Kippur -- to repent before sealing their fate. On Yom Kippur, then, everyone's name will be sealed in one of the two books.  The ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are therefore called Aseret Yemei Teshuvah - the "Ten Days of Repentance" - because personal repentance can affect the divine decree for good, though on Yom Kippur each person's judgment is decided.


 

As Messianic believers, we maintain that Judgment Day has come and justice was served through the sacrificial offering of Yeshua for our sins (2 Cor. 5:21). He is the perfect fulfillment of the Akedah of Isaac. Our names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life, or Sefer HaChayim (Rev. 13:8). We do not believe that we are made acceptable in God's sight by means of our own works of righteousness (Titus 3:5-6), though that does not excuse us from being without such works (as fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives). The Scriptures clearly warn that on the Day of Judgment to come, anyone's name not found written in the Book of Life will be thrown into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:15). Moreover, all Christians will stand before the Throne of Judgment to give account for their lives (2 Cor. 5:10). "Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is" (1 Cor. 3:13). Life is an examination, a test, and every moment is irrepeatable. Every "careless" word we utter will be echoed on the Day of Judgment (Matt. 12:36-37). Our future day of judgment is being decided today....

The Spring Festivals (Passover, Firstfruits, and Shavuot) have been perfectly fulfilled in the first coming of Yeshua as Mashiach ben Yosef, and the Fall Festivals (Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot) will be fulfilled in His second coming as Mashiach ben David. Since the first advent fulfilled all of the spring mo'edim to the smallest of details, we believe that His second advent portends similar fulfillment as revealed in the fall mo'edim

After the summer of harvest (John 4:35), the very first fall festival on the Jewish calendar is Yom Teruah (Rosh Hashanah), which is a picture of the "catching away" of kallat Mashiach (the Bride of Christ) for the time of Sheva Berachot (seven "days" of blessing that follows the marriage ceremony). Then will come the Great Tribulation and Yom Adonai (יוֹם יְהוָה) - the great "Day of the LORD . Yom Kippur prophetically pictures the "Day of the LORD" or the Day of Judgment in Acharit Ha-Yamim (the End of Days).  The heavenly shofar blasts heard at Sinai will be reissued from Zion.  First will be the gathering together of those who follow the Mashiach (i.e., those declared tzaddikim because of the merit of Yeshua's sacrifice), and then God's war against Satan and the world system will begin, culminating in the long-awaited coronation of the King of King of Kings - Melech Malchei Ha-Melachim (מֶלֶךְ מַלְכֵי הַמְּלָכִים).

Just as Rosh Hashanah reveals the coming time of Judgment and the rapture of the kehillat Mashiach (bride of Messiah), Yom Kippur prophetically pictures the Day of the LORD or the Day of Judgment in Acharit HaYamim [last days] for all the nations.  After the judgment of the nations during the Great Tribulation, ethnic Israel will be fully restored to the LORD and their sins will be purged (Matt. 24). "All Israel will be saved." Yeshua will then physically return to Israel to establish His glorious millennial kingdom in Zion. Then all the promises given to ethnic Israel through the prophets will finally be fulfilled.
 

דִּרְשׁוּ יְהוָה בְּהִמָּצְאוֹ קְרָאֻהוּ בִּהְיוֹתוֹ קָרוֹב

dir·shu · Adonai · be·him·ma·tzo, · ke·ra·u·hu · bih·yo·to · ka·rov

Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near (Isa. 55:6)

 


Yom Kippur - Happy or Sad?

In post-Temple Judaism (i.e., rabbinical Judaism) is customary for Jews to wish one another g'mar chatimah tovah (גְּמַר חַתִימָה טוֹבָה), "a good final sealing" during the Ten Days of Awe (i.e., the ten days running from Rosh Hashanah until Yom Kippur).  The reason for this is that according to Jewish tradition the "writing of God's verdict" (for your life) occurs on Rosh Hashanah, but the "sealing of the verdict" occurs on Yom Kippur. In other words, God in His Mercy gives us another ten days to do "teshuvah" before sealing our fate.... But it's up to us -- and our teshuvah -- to "save ourselves" from God's decree of death.  Our merits (mitzvot) are the key: וּתְשׁוּבָה וּתְפִלָּה וּצְדָקָה מַעֲבִירִין אֶת רעַ הַגְּזֵרָה / "Teshuvah, prayer, and charity deliver us from the evil decree."

Of course as Messianic Jews (and Christians) we have a permanent "sealing" for good by the grace and love of God given to us in Yeshua our Messiah (Eph. 1:13, 4:30; 2 Cor. 1:21-22). The Torah's statement that sacrificial blood was offered upon the altar to make atonement (כַּפָּרָה) for our souls (Lev. 17:11) finds its final application in the "blood work" of Yeshua upon the cross at Moriah (Rom. 5:11). The substitutionary shedding of blood, the "life-for-life" principle, is essential to the true "at-one-ment" with God.  The ordinances of the Levitical priesthood were just "types and shadows" of the coming Substance that would give us everlasting atonement with God (Heb. 8-10). Because of Yeshua, we have a Kohen Gadol (High Priest) of the better Covenant, based on better promises (Heb. 8:6). For this reason it is entirely appropriate to celebrate Yom Kippur and give thanks to the LORD for the permanent "chatimah tovah" given to us through the salvation of His Son.

It must always be remembered that Torah (תּוֹרָה) is a "function word" that expresses our responsibility in light of the covenantal acts of God. As the author of the Book of Hebrews makes clear: "When there is a change in the priesthood (הַכְּהוּנָּה), there is necessarily (ἀνάγκη) a change in the Torah as well" (Heb. 7:12). The Levitical priesthood expresses the Torah of the Covenant of Sinai (בְּרִית יְשָׁנָה), just as the greater priesthood of Yeshua expresses the Torah of the New Covenant (בְּרִית חֲדָשָׁה).

Still, for the Messianic Jewish believer there is a bit of ambivalence about this holiday, perhaps more than any other of the Jewish year.  Part of this ambivalence comes from the "already-not-yet" aspect of the New Covenant itself. Already Yeshua has come and offered Himself up as kapparah (atonement/propitiation) for our sins; already He has sent the Ruach Hakodesh (Holy Spirit) to write truth upon our hearts; already He is our God and we are His people. However, the New Covenant is not yet ultimately fulfilled since we await the return of Yeshua to restore Israel and establish His kingdom upon the earth...  Since prophetically speaking Yom Kippur signifies ethic Israel's atonement secured through Yeshua's sacrificial avodah as Israel's true High Priest and King, there is still a sense of longing and affliction connected to this holiday that will not be removed until finally "all Israel is saved." So, on the one hand we celebrate Yom Kippur because it acknowledges Yeshua as our High Priest of the New Covenant, but on the other hand, we "have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in our hearts" for the redemption of the Jewish people and the atonement of their sins (Rom. 9:1-5; 10:1-4; 11:1-2, 11-15, 25-27). In the meantime, we are in a period of "mysterious grace" (yemot ha-mashiach) wherein we have opportunity to offer the terms of the New Covenant to people of every nation, tribe and tongue. After the "fullness of the Gentiles" is come in, however, God will turn His full attention to fulfilling His promises given to ethnic Israel.  That time is coming soon, chaverim...


Personal Update: My son Judah got sick with a cold/flu just before Rosh Hashanah, and now I am sick too... We have fevers and are coughing, sneezing, etc. Please offer up a prayer for us, and especially for Judah. Thank you, chaverim....
 





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