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Jewish Holiday Calendar 

Note: For site updates, please scroll past this entry....

The spring holidays of Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Firstfruits are a portrait of the death, burial, and resurrection of the Messiah: Yeshua was crucified on erev Pesach, buried on Chag Hamotzi, and was resurrected on Yom Habikkurim (Firstfruits). Shavu'ot (i.e., the feast of Pentecost) was the day the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) fell on believers in fulfillment of the promise given by our Lord. See the links below for more information.
 

Spring Holiday Calendar
The Spring Holidays:


Note that in accordance with Jewish tradition, all holiday dates begin at sundown:

  1. Month of Nisan (begins Monday, March 11th, 2013)
  2. Month of Iyyar (begins Tuesday, April 9th, 2013)
  3. Month of Sivan (begins Thursday, May 9th, 2013)
    • Five Sabbaths: Bamidbar, Naso, Beha'alotcha, Shelach, Korach
    • Shavuot (Pentecost) - Tuesday, May 14th at sundown
       

 

Dates for Passover 2013:

Free Seder Guide
 



 


March 2013 Updates



Light in the Darkness...


 

03.31.13  (Nisan 20, 5773)   Surely our great need is to have heart, to find strength, resolution, and steadfast determination to walk boldly during these heartless and depraved days (2 Tim. 3:1-5). We are not without God's help, of course. Yeshua told us that the Ruach HaKodesh (רוּחַ הַקּדֶשׁ) would be "called alongside" (παράκλητος) to comfort us on the journey. The English verb "comfort" literally means "to give strength" (from com- ["with"] and fortis ["strong"]), an idea similarly expressed by the verb "encourage," that is, to "put heart [i.e., 'core'] within the soul." In Hebrew, the word courage is expressed by the phrase ometz lev (אמֶץ לֵב), meaning "strong of heart," denoting an inner quality of the will rather than of the intellect. Ometz lev means having an inner resolve, a passion, and a direction. The sages say "the mind is the eye, whereas the heart is the feet." May God be our Light and Salvation as we walk through the surrounding darkness...
 

יְהוָה אוֹרִי וְיִשְׁעִי מִמִּי אִירָא
יְהוָה מָעוֹז־חַיַּי מִמִּי אֶפְחָד

Adonai · o·ri · ve·yish·i, · mi'mi · i·ra?
Adonai · ma'oz · chay·ai, · mi'mi · ef·chad?
 

"The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?"
(Psalm 27:1)


 
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Menachem Mendl once wrote that there are three things fitting for us to do: upright kneeling, motionless dancing, and silent screaming... Not everyone will understand the pain that moves us to seek inner healing, but Gods' Presence shines for us all...
 




Passover Love Song...


 

03.29.13  (Nisan 18, 5773)   During the Shabbat of Passover week it is customary to read the ancient "love song" of King Solomon called Shir Ha-Shirim (שִׁיר הַשִּׁירִים), or the "Song of Songs."  In Jewish tradition, since Passover marks the time when our "romance" with God officially began, the sages chose this song to celebrate God's love for his people. And since Passover is also called Chag Ha-Aviv, the festival of spring, the Song is also associated with creativity and hope associated with springtime (Song 2:11-12). One way to read this poem is to see the king, who had disguised himself as a lowly shepherd to win the heart of the Shulamite woman, as a picture of Yeshua who took the form of a lowly servant to demonstrate his eternal love for those who are trusting in him... Indeed, the Song of Songs is linked to the "lilies" (i.e., shoshanim: שׁשַׁנִּים) mentioned in Psalm 45, which presents a Messianic vision of the Divine Bridegroom and offers an "ode" for a forthcoming wedding.
 

אֲנִי לְדוֹדִי וְדוֹדִי לִי
הָרעֶה בַּשׁוֹשַׁנִּים

a·ni · le·do·di · ve·do·di · li
ha·ro·eh · ba·sho·sha·nim
 

"I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine;
he grazes among the lilies."
(Song 6:3)


 
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Shabbat Shalom, chaverim. Please keep this ministry (and especially me, John) in your prayers, which are very needed at this time. Thank you.

Note: For more on the Passover and the Song of Songs, see the article, Shir Hashirim: Passover and the Song of Solomon.
 




Made Captive to Hope...


 

03.29.13  (Nisan 18, 5773)   God gives us special graces, especially in light of the passing of days, with thwarted hope, aching bones, and inner keening for lasting deliverance. This gift of despondency helps us to awaken and to reach out to find the Real, the True, the Eternal. Learn to wait; ask God for the wisdom of patience. Between acceptance and anxiety, always choose acceptance. Find hope while waiting...

Many people want healing apart from the cure. How many settle for half-measures? While you might find respite for your suffering in temporary measures, you cannot have lasting healing apart from the divine remedy... 

An old Jewish prayer, uttered somewhat wistfully, begins, "O Lord, I know that Thou wilt help us; but wilt Thou help us before Thou wilt help us?" It's not always easy to wait for God, especially when we are in pain or anxiety, but we must never, ever, give up; we must never ever, abandon our heart's longing for ultimate healing.  Faith excercises hope in the Reality, Substance, and Being (ὑπόστασις) of the Invisible and is made captive to undying hope (Heb. 11:1). Therefore the Spirit cries out: "Hope to the LORD; be strong and strengthen your heart; and (again) hope to the LORD."
 

קַוֵּה אֶל־יְהוָה חֲזַק וְיַאֲמֵץ לִבֶּךָ
וְקַוֵּה אֶל־יְהוָה

ka·veh · el · Adonai · cha·zak · ve'ya·metz · lib·be·kha,
ve-ka·veh · el · Adonai
 

"Hope to the LORD; be strong and let your heart be strengthened;
and (again) hope to the LORD"
(Psalm 27:14)


 
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In this verse, the imperative verb translated "wait" is the Hebrew word kaveh (קַוֵּה), which might better be rendered as "look for with anticipation!" or "hope!" (the same root appears in the Hebrew word for hope, i.e., tikvah: תִּקְוָה). Therefore hope in the Lord and "chazak!" - be strong! (the Septuagint translates chazak as "andridzou" (ἀνδρίζου - act like a man!). Note that the verb ve'ametz is a causal active stem (i.e., Hiphal) in the "jussive mood," which means it is imperative – "command your heart to be strengthened," or "let your heart be made strong!"  Make the decision to be strong in the LORD, and the LORD will give you strength to bear your present suffering: "Look to the LORD (קַוֵּה אֶל־יְהוָה) and find hope."
 

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יהוה אֱלהֵנוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם
אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂנוּ אֲסִירֵי תִּקְוָה

ba·rukh · at·tah · Adonai · E·lo·hei·nu · me·lekh · ha·o·lam,
a·sher · a·sa·nu · a·si·rei · tik·vah
 

"Blessed art You, LORD our God, King of the universe,
who has made us captives of hope."



 

When we put our hope in the LORD, strong in our conviction, we will be given courage to bear whatever may befall us - and this is help indeed during these perilous days! So "hope to the LORD (קַוֵּה אֶל־יְהוָה); be strong and strengthen your heart; and (again) hope to the LORD." There can be no turning to God without genuine hope (תִּקְוָה). Indeed, as the Apostle Paul wrote: "We are saved by hope" (Rom. 8:24).
 




The Mysterious Shroud of Turin


 

[ The following entry is related to the holiday of Firstfruits. Some people contend that the famous Shroud of Turin is the authentic burial cloth of Jesus of Nazareth, whereas others claim it is an sophisticated forgery. Regardless, the study of the shroud surely is provocative and provides a remarkable reminder of both the suffering and the resurrection of our Messiah.... ]

03.28.13  (Nisan 17, 5773)    A few years ago I read fascinating article that reported that one of the leading scientists of the Shroud of Turin Research Project (STRP) later confessed that the sample taken from cloth was flawed (i.e., it came from a piece of the Shroud that was repaired in the Middle Ages, not from the original cloth). The scientist -- Ray Rogers, a chemist from the Los Alamos National Laboratory -- later acknowledged that it's now entirely reasonable to conclude that the cloth was none other than the burial shroud of Jesus of Nazareth. And today I read that the most recent experiments conducted by scientists at the University of Padua (in northern Italy) have dated the shroud to the time of Christ....

Even though the controversy regarding the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin gets technical and involved, I tend to regard the Shroud as authentic, primarily because there are no known means for a medieval artist to have created a "negative" (holographic) image of a body (especially an image with such anatomical detail that only a modern pathologist would appreciate), and there is simply no motive for someone to have done so, anyway. After all, what can it possibly mean to call an utterly unique item a "forgery" anyway?  Both the "how" and the "why" questions of the Shroud are troubling to those who (a priori) reject the possibility of the miraculous, and therefore the idea that the Shroud is a forgery or a hoax has become the standard biased response for many who reject the historical resurrection of Yeshua from the dead. 

On the hypothesis that the Shroud of Turin is a sophisticated forgery, however, we must suppose there once was a medieval artist who was so talented that he or she could paint the "negative" image of a body, that is, an image with the full spectrum of light reversed. Moreover, this artist would have to paint in obverse -- somewhat like a minting impression.  This painter also would have to be intimately familiar with the customs of crucifixion that were unknown during the Middle Ages. For instance, he or she would have to know that the Romans crucified their victims entirely naked, that they pounded the nails through the wrists (not through the hands, as is usually depicted by stigmata paintings of the period), that the victim wore Palestinian style "earlocks" (i.e. peyot ha-rosh) and so on. This fantastic artist also would have to paint in an incredibly realistic and detailed style (again, unlike all other artists of the period), noting such things as the presence of a coin located under the right eyelid and the presence of various blood stains in physiologically correct locations on the cloth....  Finally, this medieval artist would have to paint from the perspective of a negative exposure -- a concept that was unknown until nearly 600 years later. In short, it seems that our hypothetical artist would have to something of a miracle worker.... If it's a fake, it's a seemingly miraculous fake; but if it's true, it's astoundingly true....  Either way, the Shroud testifies of something...


 

In addition to the lack of technology in the Middle Ages to create such an image, the question must be asked about why such a invisible image would be produced in the first place. What possible motive would be at work in this case?  Why would our supposed artist go through all this trouble, especially during the relatively superstitious Middle Ages? What point would there have been in creating such a fantastic duplicity?  The inference to the best explanation suggests that the Shroud of Turin, whatever else it might be, certainly is not the result of human ingenuity and forgery....  Occam's Razor applies in this case: we do not need to multiply miracles in order to explain something that could be explained through the attested historical accounts of the resurrection of Yeshua.

So should the Shroud of Turin be cited as evidence of the resurrection of Yeshua?  Is it a valid "apologetic" device, an empirical "proof" of the resurrection? Well, since we cannot say for certain that the image is that of Yeshua ha-Notzri (Jesus of Nazareth), we cannot make a dogmatic  claim that this is direct evidence of His resurrection, though it's surely consistent with it. The shocking image -- revealed through negative spectrum light -- is that of a 1st century Jewish man who was beaten, whipped, and crucified.  Pollen samples taken from the cloth also indicate a Middle East provenance. Though we cannot offer a scientific "proof" that this is the burial shroud of Yeshua, we might make a "legal" case that it is.... In other words, the imprinted image of the Shroud is consistent with the testimony of the New Testament and the theistic worldview, but certainly not with "naturalism" or other worldviews. The Shroud is a "problem" for those who are unbelievers, not believers...  If it were later debunked as some sort of a forgery, our faith would remain unshaken, since we believe in order to understand, not conversely. Empirical evidences are never conclusive for skeptics anyway. As Yeshua said, "If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead" (Luke 16:31).  And perhaps that's the allure and beauty of the Shroud -- like so many other matters of faith, what you see is what you ultimately choose to see....  Like a looking glass, it reveals more about the person looking at it than it does of the thing itself...


 


Addendum: Please note that I am not advocating venerating relics or any such nonsense. Such things are always insufficient for a heart change from God.  As Yeshua said, "If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead" (Luke 16:31). Nonetheless, I find it fascinating that if the Shroud of Turin is a forgery, it's entirely amazing and unlike any other seen before, but if it's authentic, it's evidence of the resurrection itself (1 Cor. 2:2). I also see no sense in claiming (as some have) that the Shroud is some form of "satanic deception." After all -- forgery or not -- the Shroud points to something the devil certainly doesn't want to be published, namely, the death, burial, and resurrection of Yeshua...
 




Why the Resurrection Matters...


 

[ The following entry is related to the holiday of Firstfruits, which begins tonight at sundown... ]

03.28.13  (Nisan 17, 5773)  The Scriptures make clear that Yeshua is the true Passover Lamb of God (שֵׂה הָאֱלהִים) whose sacrificial death and shed blood causes the wrath of God to "pass over" (pasach) those who are trusting in Him (John 1:29, 3:36; Acts 8:32-36; 1 Cor. 5:7-8; 1 Pet. 1:18-20, etc.). Worthy is the Lamb who was slain! (Rev. 5:12). But while the sacrifice of Yeshua gives us atonement (כַּפָּרָה) with God, the resurrection of the Messiah (i.e., techiyat ha-Mashiach: תְּחִיַּת הַמָּשִׁיחַ) justifies His work of salvation on behalf of the sinner and forever vindicates the righteousness of God.

The resurrection of Yeshua is not an "academic" or speculative question to be considered in purely rational terms, but rather is a matter of eternal life or death. How we choose to respond to its message determines our destiny. Everything turns on whether we awaken to the risen reality and Presence of Yeshua in our lives. Without Him we are hopeless; with Him we are more than conquerors (1 Cor. 15:14; Rom. 8:37).

Yeshua completely atoned for our sins and His resurrection validated that God the Father accepted His sacrifice. It was God the Father (i.e., Reality) who raised Yeshua in victory (Gal. 1:1, Rom. 10:9), and those who put their trust trust in Him are declared righteous on account of their faith.  Yeshua "was delivered for our offenses, and raised again for our justification" (Rom. 4:25).  As Jesus Himself said, "Because I am alive, you also will live" -
שֶׁכֵּן אֲנִי חַי וְגַם אַתֶּם תִּחְיו / ὅτι ἐγὼ ζῶ καὶ ὑμεῖς ζήσετε (John 14:19).

Note:
For more on the tremendously important subject of why the resurrection of Yeshua matters, please see this article.
 




He is Risen Indeed!


 

[ The following entry is related to the holiday of Firstfruits, which begins tonight at sundown... ]

03.27.13  (Nisan 17, 5773)  He is Alive! The night of Nisan 17 marks the time of the resurrection of Messiah.  Our Lord was crucified on Nisan 14 (a Thursday), exactly when the Passover lambs were being sacrificed at the Holy Temple, and He rose from the dead three days and nights later, on the night of Nisan 17 (i.e., before sunrise on Sunday). We rejoice that He is risen - He is alive - and our redemption is eternally secure!

Unlike other religions of the world that seek to aspire to God by their own efforts, our LORD is so great that He emptied Himself to become entirely identified with the weak, the broken, and the condemned... He alone is the LORD of all possible worlds; the undisputed Master of all realms - from the highest of celestial glories to the shame of being executed upon a criminal's cross. The Savior (הַמּוֹשִׁיעַ) willingly entered the exile of our sinful condition and endured the sting of death for each of us. Our Master demonstrated that He is the Killer of death itself; the Slayer of the Serpent; and the ultimate Triumph of God's Light over the realm of despair and everlasting darkness... Only Yeshua unflinchingly stared down and upended all the devil could throw at him by means of the invincible glory of His sacrificial life... Our LORD is the First and the Last, the Living One who died, and behold is alive forevermore, the true Keyholder of Death and Hell (Rev. 1:18). 
 

שֶׁכֵּן אֲנִי חַי וְגַם אַתֶּם תִּחְיוּ

she·ken · a·ni · chai · ve·gam · at·tem · ti·che·yu
 

"Because I am alive, you also will live"


 

Note: For more on this, see "Reshit Katzir: Messiah as the Beginning of the Harvest."
 




Passover Seder Pictures


 

[ The eight day festival of Passover began March 25th, at sundown this year... ]

03.27.13  (Nisan 16, 5773)  Chag Pesach Sam'each (חג פסח שמח), Happy festival of Passover, chaverim. We held our annual Passover Seder over at our home last Monday evening and had a wonderful time. We started the seder before sundown and ended some time after midnight. My son Josiah helped set up the seder decorations and sang the mah nishtanah ("Four Questions"). Here are a few pictures from the event:
 

Passover 5773 - collage 1

[Left-to-right, top]:  1) The matzah tosh; 2) Miriam's Cup; 3) Urchatz pan;
4) the seder plate; 5) Our printed and bound H4C Seder Guides.
[Left-to-right, bottom]: 1) Judah gets ready; 2) the table setting; 3) Lighting Yom Tov candles;
4) Pouring Miriam's Cup; 5) Reciting Kiddush for Passover.


 

Passover 5773 - collage 2

[Left-to-right, top]:  1) Reading the haggadah; 2) Seder hand washing; 3) dipping karpas;
4) Yachatz - Breaking the middle matzah; 5) Josiah is ready to ask the Four Questions.
[Left-to-right, bottom]: 1) Tasting the Matzah; 2) eating Maror; 3) the Hillel sandwich;
4) Passover dinner; 5) Next year in the New Jerusalem!

 

Where it is written, "Surely goodness and mercy (טוֹב וָחֶסֶד) shall follow me all the days of my life" (Psalm 23:6), the Hebrew verb translated "shall follow me" (i.e., יִרְדְּפוּנִי) comes from a root (i.e., radaf: רָדַף) that means to "to pursue" or to "chase down," as a hunter tracks his prey. King David was sure that God's lovingkindness would "hound" him as he made his way through this world - even in the dark places, even in "the valley of the shadow of death" (בְּגֵיא צַלְמָוֶת) - for even there God's Presence would comfort him and direct his steps...  Praise God we have a Good Shepherd who meets all our needs and who pursues us as we walk our way through this world.  Stay strong, chaverim; keep fighting the "good fight of faith." May it be soon that we shall be with our King!
 




Getting Ready for Passover...


 

[ The great holiday of Passover begins this evening, chaverim... We will light candles for the seder about 18 minutes before sundown. Worthy is the Lamb who was slain! ]

03.25.13  (Nisan 14, 5773)  The Torah states that during the days of Passover, sometimes called the Festival of Unleavened Bread, no chametz (i.e., leavened food) may be eaten for a full seven days - from the 15th of Nisan through the 22nd of Nisan (Exod. 12:15-18; 34:18). Every trace of leavening must be purged from our homes, and no leavened products of any kind may be consumed during this time (Exod. 12:15). So we've spent the last few days cleaning up around the house, vacuuming underneath sofa cushions, cleaning behind the refrigerator, "kashering" the stove, and otherwise purging the house of whatever leaven we can find... As a final gesture, last night we had a little "bedikat chametz" ceremony, when we lit a candle and swept up a few last crumbs of the forbidden stuff.
 

Preparing for Passover...
 

 

חָקְרֵנִי אֵל וְדַע לְבָבִי בְּחָנֵנִי וְדַע שַׂרְעַפָּי
וּרְאֵה אִם־דֶּרֶךְ־עצֶב בִּי וּנְחֵנִי בְּדֶרֶךְ עוֹלָם

chok·rei·ni · el · ve'da · le·va·vi · be·cha·nei·ni · ve'da · sar·a·pai
u·reh · im · de·rekh · o·tzev · bi · u'ne·chei·ni · be·de·rekh · o·lam
 

"Search me, O God, and know my heart! Test me and know my thoughts.
 And see if there be any idolatrous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!"
(Psalm 139:23-24)

Bedikat Chametz
 
Hebrew Study Card
 


The sages teach: be'khol dor vador - in each and every generation an individual should look upon him or herself as if he or she (personally) had left Egypt. As we partake of the Seder, we must embrace it as our own -- as if we were personally there (in Egypt, at the foot of the Cross) and understand that this mighty redemption was accomplished for my sake, as well as for yours... We recall the words, bishvili nivra ha'olam -- "For my sake was this world created," while we also recall the words, anokhi afar ve'efer -- "I am but dust and ashes."

The meaning of Passover is of course rooted in the greatest love story ever told - about God, creation, the estrangement of Adam and Eve, the call of Israel, and the coming of the Messiah who would sanctify us as His own people, deliver us from the plague of death, and redeem us from the penalty of sin. Yeshua's mesirat nefesh ("giving over of soul" in sacrifice) and his triumph at the cross made the new covenant with God possible. As our Suffering Servant, He gave up His life for ours in exchange, redeeming us from the sickness unto death and making the way for our everlasting healing.

Whether or not you are able to attend a Passover Seder this year, please understand that there is always a place for you at His table.  After all, Yeshua made a place for you within His heart when he died for you on the cross, and that is what Passover is really all about anyway.  Shalom chaverim.
 




The Sign of the Blood...



[ The following is related to holiday of Passover, which begins Monday evening, March 25th... ]

03.22.13  (Nisan 11, 5773)  "The blood shall be a sign for you... And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt" (Exod. 12:13). The blood would be a sign for the eye of faith, i.e., "for you," and not for the unbelieving world at large. During the afternoon of the 14th, the korban Pesach (Passover lamb) was slaughtered and its blood smeared on all three sides of the doorframe, top, right and left, that is, in the form of the Hebrew letter Chet (ח). This letter, signifying the number 8, is connected with the word chai (חי), short for chayim (חיים), "life," signifying that atoning life is in the sacrificial blood (Lev. 17:11). Note that some say that the letters of the YHVH (יהוה) – the Name of Divine Compassion - were daubed on the doorposts: The Yod (י) was written on the top beam, the Vav (ו) on the right doorpost, and the Hey (ה) on the left.  In other words, since Yeshua is YHVH, His Name was written on the doorposts of the faithful.

The original Passover sacrifice was not given to the Levitical priesthood as a sin offering since it preceded Sinai and the giving of the various laws concerning the sacrificial rites... Therefore the blessing "Blessed art Thou, LORD our God, King of the universe, Who releases the captives" (i.e., matir asurim: בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְהוָה אֱלהֶינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם מַתִּיר אֲסוּרִים), is for all people who are trusting in the blood of the Lamb for life. Indeed, in the world to come all the redemeed will sing of the Great Passover of Messiah that was foretold by Moses and fulfilled by the outstretched hands of Yeshua our LORD:
 

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)


Hebrew Study Card
 

Concerning the observance of the Passover Seder the Torah states, "When your son asks you in time to come, 'What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the LORD our God has commanded you?' then you shall say to your son, 'We were slaves (עֲבָדִים הָיִינוּ) to Pharaoh in Egypt, but the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. And the LORD showed signs and wonders, great and grievous, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and all his household, before our eyes" (Deut. 6:20-23). We are instructed to "remember what the LORD your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt, the great trials that your eyes saw, the signs, the wonders, the mighty hand, and the outstretched arm, by which the LORD your God brought you out" (Deut. 7:19). And where it is written in the Shema, "You shall teach them diligently to your children," we ask, what do we teach? And we answer: Everything – the whole story of our deliverance... So to help fulfill our great obligation to keep educating our children, I just finished updating "Worthy is the Lamb - A Messianic Passover Haggadah" for this year. Please feel free to download this succinct guide for your own study or Passover celebration.

And here is our Shabbat HaGadol blessing this year: "Now to the One who is able to keep you from falling, and to cause you to stand, rejoicing, without blemish before His glorious presence, to the only God our Savior through Yeshua the Messiah, our Lord and great Lamb of God, be glory, majesty, power, and authority, before all time, and now, and for all eternity. Amen." Shabbat Shalom and great peace, love, and happiness to you all...
 




The Very First Passover...

Marc Chagall  Tree over Village
 

[ The following is related to holiday of Passover, which begins Monday evening, March 25th... ]

03.21.13  (Nisan 10, 5773)  The story of Passover goes all the way back to the beginning, to the very orchard of Eden itself, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate from the forbidden tree. Because of their transgression, our original ancestors incurred the plague of death and were exiled from the Divine Presence, though God graciously promised to heal them through the coming Seed of the woman – the Savior who would crush the head of the serpent and break the fangs of his venomous sting (Gen. 3:15). Soon after making this great promise, God clothed our original parents with the skin of a sacrificed lamb (Gen. 3:21), linking their coming deliverance with the "Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world" (1 Pet. 1:18-20). The very first "Passover" was in the garden. And the story of Passover extends to the world to come, where in the redeemed paradise of God we will celebrate the victory of the Lamb who was slain for our redemption (Rev. 5:12-13).

The great story of our redemption is revealed on two levels in Scripture - one that concerns the paradise of Eden (the universal level), and the other that concerns the paradise of Israel (the particular level). Therefore Yeshua is both rightly called the "Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world" (John 1:29) and "the Messiah our Passover Lamb who has been sacrificed for us" (1 Cor. 5:7). Likewise he is both called the "Seed of the woman," and "the Son of David"; the "Second Adam," and the "King of the Jews," and so on. The story of Israel's redemption in Egypt therefore serves as an allegory of both the universal salvation promised in Eden (i.e., the lamb slain from the foundation of the world) as well as the revelation of the sacrificial ministry of Yeshua as Israel's promised Messiah. Yeshua is both the Savior of the world as well as Israel's true King and Deliverer.

Note:  For more on this subject, please see the articles, "The Very First Passover" and "The Gospel in the Garden."
 




The Word became Flesh...


 

[ The following is related to our Torah reading this week, parashat Tzav. Please read the Torah portion to find your place here... ]

03.21.13  (Nisan 10, 5773)  Our Torah portion this week begins, "The Eternal spoke to Moses" (Lev. 6:8), which paradoxically refers to God (יהוה) as if He is a man... Theologians may call this sort of language "anthropomorphism," though it clearly anticipates the great Incarnation itself, when the Timeless and Infinite One became embodied in time and space in the person of Yeshua. Indeed Yeshua is called the "Word of God" who became flesh and "tabernacled" in our midst (John 1:1,14). And just as the Angel of the LORD (מַלְאַךְ יְהוָה) mediates the Divine Presence to heavenly host, so Yeshua mediates the Divine Presence to humanity as the "Son of Man" (בֶּן־הָאָדָם). "For the Eternal One who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of His glory in the face of Yeshua the Messiah" (2 Cor. 4:6). In the Book of Hebrews we read that "in these last days God has spoken to us ἡμῖν ἐν υἱῷ," which literally means God speaks in the language "of Son" (Heb. 1:2). The Eternal speaks as the One who emptied Himself to become one of us, who clothed himself in our humanity, so that he could touch us, empathize with us, and to ultimately die for our atonement as the "Lamb of God."
 

כִּי כּה אָהַב אֱלהִים אֶת־הָעוֹלָם
 עַד כִּי נָתַן אֶת־בְּנוֹ יְחִידוֹ
 לְמַעַן לא־יאבַד כָּל־הַמַּאֲמִין בּוֹ
 אֵלָּא יִנְחַל חַיֵּי עוֹלָם

ki · ko · a·hav · E·lo·him · et · ha·o·lam
ad · ki · na·tan · et · be·no · ye·chi·do
le·ma·an · lo · yo·vad · kol · ha·ma·a·min · bo
el·lah · yin·chal · chai·yei · o·lam
 

"For this is the way God loved the world:
He gave his one and only Son,
so that everyone who trusts in him will not perish
but have eternal life."
(John 3:16)
 




Passover and Freedom...


 

03.20.13  (Nisan 9, 5773)   Passover is sometimes called z'man cheruteinu (זְמָן חֵרוּתֵנוּ), the "Season of our Freedom." Some people think that "freedom" means "licentiousness," or the ability to do what they want to do whenever they want to do it. However, simply doing whatever you want to do is not the Torah's idea of freedom. Yeshua told us "whoever commits sin is the slave (δουλος) of sin," and went on to say "if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:34-36). True freedom (i.e., cherut: חרוּת) is therefore moral and spiritual rather than merely physical. Real freedom has to do with the power to choose what is right and good, not to simply get your own way or to practice your lusts... Our deliverance is meant to clothe us with divine power to walk in righteousness and truth.

Note:  Where it is written, "The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets" (Exod. 32:16), the midrash says do not read "engraved (חָרוּת) on the tablets" but rather as "freedom (חֵרוּת) on tablets," since only those who obey God's will may rightly be called "free" people...
 




Taking Passover Personally...


 

[ The following is related to holiday of Passover, which begins Monday evening, March 25th... ]

03.20.13  (Nisan 9, 5773)   The message of Passover applies to each of us: "In each and every generation an individual should look upon him or herself as if he or she (personally) had left Egypt." Indeed the very First Commandment is to accept the reality of our personal deliverance by the LORD: "I am the LORD your God, who brought you (singular) out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery" (Exod. 20:2). Note that the Hebrew word "Egypt" is mitzraim (מִצְרַיִם), a word that means "prison, enclosure, or straights," from the verb tzur (צוּר) meaning "to bind or confine" (the Yiddish word tsuris, "trouble," comes from the same root). On the other hand, the Hebrew word for salvation is yeshuah (יְשׁוּעָה), from a root that means to "make wide," to "release from constraint," to deliver or set free. It is noteworthy that God began the Ten Commandments by identifying Himself as our Redeemer and Deliverer rather than as our Creator, because the purpose of creation is to be set free by means of God's redemptive love given through Yeshua, the "Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13:8; 1 Pet. 1:18-20; Eph. 1:4; 2 Tim. 1:9).
 




Passover and Matzah



[ The following is related to holiday of Passover, which begins Monday evening, March 25th... ]

03.20.13  (Nisan 9, 5773)  The holiday of Passover overlaps with the Festival of Unleavened Bread (i.e., the festival of Matzot), which begins during the "motzi matzah" step of the traditional Passover Seder. Note that the word matzot (מָצוֹת) is spelled the same as mitzvot (מִצְוֹת), "commandments," which suggests a link between yielding to the commandments of God and being free from "chametz" (i.e., leaven) that marks the "rise of the flesh."  Note also that the word matzah (מַצָה) has the letter Tzade (צ) at its center, surrounded by Mem (מ), representing water (or humanity), and Hey (ה), representing the Spirit of God. Yeshua is the true Tzaddik (צַדִּיק) of God, born of water and anointed with the oil of the Spirit, lowly in stature, sincere, and completely free of the yetzer hara (i.e., the evil impulse).  As the Lamb chosen by God Himself to be Korban Pesach for the entire world, his life was one of complete obedience to the will of his father. He is the lamb without spot or blemish and his life was entirely "unleavened," that is, sincere and without carnal guile. Yeshua is the Bridge (הַסֻּלָּם) who mediates between man and God.
 




The Passion of Yeshua


 

[ The following is related to holiday of Passover, which begins Monday evening, March 25th... ]

03.20.13  (Nisan 9, 5773)  "Abba father, if it is possible, let this cup be taken from me. But not what I want, but what you desire" (Mark 14:36). Yeshua was willing to fully surrender to the will of the Father, even though he experienced dread, pain, and even sweat "as great drops of blood" (ὡσεὶ θρόμβοι αἵματος) during his agony (Luke 22:44). He honored the Father as the deeper will for his life; he yielded to the Father's care even in the darkest hours of his persecution and torment. This is the passion that was foretold by the Akedah, when Isaac willingly offered himself upon the altar in obedience to his father Abraham's desire. By entrusting himself to God's care, Yeshua was able to love his enemies, to turn the other cheek, and to overcome evil with the greater power of good. His love was not reciprocally offered; it did not depend on our acceptance, but was grounded in the will of the Father. He loves us as we are, even when we were his enemies: "God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Messiah died for us" (Rom. 5:8).

Note: For more on this topic, see the "Gospel According to Moses."
 




The Chosen Lamb of God...


 

[ The following is related to holiday of Passover, which begins Monday evening, March 25th... ]

03.19.13  (Nisan 8, 5773)  This coming Shabbat is called gadol ("great") because it immediately precedes Passover and recalls the time when the lamb was selected for sacrifice. When Yeshua entered the city to "keep the feast" before the time of his crucifixion, he was greeted by the cries of Passover pilgrims: "Hosanna!" This word is actually the phrase "hoshiah na" (הוֹשִׁיעָה נָּא), meaning "please save" or "save now." The pilgrims were singing Psalm 118:25-26 and applying it to the greater Son of David who had come. It is striking that Yeshua immediately went to the Temple and drove out all who sold there, overturning the tables of the "moneychangers" and the seats of those who sold pigeons (Matt. 21:1-16). The true Lamb of God had come!  At the Temple he healed the blind and castigated the religious authorities by stating that the praise of children overruled their objections (Psalm 8:2). Over the next two days, he was accosted by priests, scribes, Pharisees, etc. - the whole religious establishment - which culminated in his utter denunciation of them beginning in Matthew 23 ("Woe unto you..."). He then left the Temple and foretold its destruction to the disciples, going on to explain the signs of the End of the Age (אַחֲרִית הַיָּמִים) that would precede the advent of the Messianic Kingdom (Matt. 24). Yeshua was later crucified (before sundown) on Nisan 14, prophetically corresponding with the time when the Passover lambs were sacrificed at the Temple.
 

אָנָּא יְהוָה הוֹשִׁיעָה נָּא אָנָּא יְהוָה הַצְלִיחָה נָּא
בָּרוּךְ הַבָּא בְּשֵׁם יְהוָה בֵּרַכְנוּכֶם מִבֵּית יְהוָה

an·na · Adonai · ho·shi·ah · na  / an·na · Adonai · hatz·li·cha · na
ba·rukh · ha·ba · be·shem · Adonai / be·rakh·nu·khem · mi·bet · Adonai
 

"Please, LORD save us! Please, LORD rescue us!
Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the LORD
We bless you from the house of the LORD."
(Psalm 118:25-26)

The cross, not the scales
 
Hebrew Study Card

 

Note: For more on the prophetic aspects of the selection of the Passover lamb, see the Shabbat Hagadol pages. For a tentative chronology of the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of the Messiah, see "Reshit Katzir: Messiah as the Beginning of the Harvest."
 




Passion's Inner Fire...


 

[ The following is related to our Torah reading this week, parashat Tzav. Please read the Torah portion to find your place here... ]

03.19.13  (Nisan 8, 5773)  "This is the law for the burnt offering (olah): it is what ascends on the hearth of the altar all night long, until morning..." (Lev. 6:9). In a Sefer Torah (i.e., handwritten Torah scroll), the Hebrew word for "hearth," or the floor of the altar's fireplace, is mokdah (מוֹקְדָה), written by the scribes using a miniature Mem (מ). The Kotzker Rebbe comments that since the altar symbolizes inner life, the smaller Mem teaches that the fire in one's soul should be understated - that it should burn within as an steady inner passion - not with flash, ostentation, or flamboyance. People sometimes get confused and think that passion for God means hype, loud music, special experiences, and so on, though it was steady "inner fire" that moved Yeshua to remain focused to endure the cross.
 




Gift of Holy Desperation...


 

[ The following is related to our Torah reading this week, parashat Tzav. Please read the Torah portion to find your place here... ]

03.18.13  (Nisan 7, 5773)  Do you have the "gift of holy desperation"? That's the special blessing of needing God so viscerally that you otherwise will fall apart or even self-destruct apart from His daily intervention in your life...  Do you pray because your very life depends on it? In our Torah portion this week (Tzav) we read that the fire on the altar was to be kept burning at all times (Lev. 6:12-13), which symbolizes esh tamid (אֵשׁ תָּמִיד), or the inner fire of the heart... How blessed it is to be full of the fire of this inner need, this relentless groaning, this constant hunger to be set free: As Job wistfully yearned: "All the days of my warfare I hope, until my change will come."
 

אִם־יָמוּת גֶּבֶר הֲיִחְיֶה
כָּל־יְמֵי צְבָאִי אֲיַחֵל עַד־בּוֹא חֲלִיפָתִי

im · ya·mut · ge·ver · ha·yich·yeh?
kol · ye·mei · tze·va·i · a·ya·chel · ad · bo · cha·li·fa·ti
 

"If a man dies, shall he live again?
All the days of my warfare I hope, until my change should come."
(Job 14:14)

The cross, not the scales
 
 

What shall we do? In many ways we offend others. Why are we so surprised? We are damaged, wounded, and much within us awaits healing. We must turn to God again and again, up to 70 x 70 times, if necessary, and keep seeking, despite ourselves. But often we are our own worst enemy. After all, most of us are imprisoned to our own traditions; we tend to oversimplify complex issues because we are uncomfortable with uncertainty; we are inclined to use emotion instead of clear thinking and reason; we often practice selective listening - especially if we feel challenged in our assumptions or don't like what we are hearing. Most of us know a lot less than we think we do, and it is all too common to suffer from an inflated sense of self-importance or to hide behind a veil of conceit. Some of us are not honest with ourselves, as well, and therefore we do not always mean what we say. And yet despite all this we have to endure ourselves, we must tolerate our own radical imperfections, and forgive ourselves, for as long as we pretend that we are not subject to the faults common to others, we are liable to be unwittingly controlled by them.

Note:  The Hebrew word for "change" (חֲלִיפָה) in the verse above refers to a change of garments, picturing the robes that Joshua ben Yehotzadak, the Kohen Gadol, was given when he stood accused before the Angel of the LORD (Zech. 3:3-5). We want to be fully clothed with the garments of God's righteousness that are imputed to us through faith. Our groaning for complete deliverance from the affect of our sins is further evidence of the inner vision we have been given by the Holy Spirit.
 




Shabbat HaGadol...


 

[ The following is related to holiday of Passover, which begins Monday evening, March 25th... ]

03.18.13  (Nisan 7, 5773)  The Sabbath that occurs immediately before Passover is called Shabbat HaGadol (שבת הגדול). According to the Talmud, the Exodus occurred on Thursday, Nisan 15th, and the people selected their lamb to be offered four days earlier, on Nisan 10, which was a Shabbat (Exod. 12:1-6). This Shabbat is considered "gadol" (great) because the Israelites took lambs from among the Egyptians for sacrifice despite the humiliation of their deity (i.e., the ram god Amun). According to midrash, the Israelites explained that they intended to sacrifice the lamb by the LORD's command, who would then destroy all the firstborn of Egypt. When the Egyptian firstborn heard this they begged their fathers to let the Israelites go, but their cries were ignored until a civil war broke out in which many were killed (Tosafot Shabbat 87b). This internecine warfare is called the "War of the Firsborn" and is considered an additional miracle that helped the Israelites leave Egypt.

Shabbat HaGadol foreshadowed the offering of Yeshua as the "Lamb of God" who takes away the sins of the world. The New Testament notes that it was on Nisan 10 when Yeshua made His triumphant entry into Jerusalem riding on a donkey, signifying His Messiahship, in fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah: "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey" (Zech. 9:9). During this time, when the pilgrims had come to select the lamb for the Passover sacrifice -  they saw Yeshua and cried out: hoshiah na (הוֹשִׁיעָה נָּא), meaning "please save" or "save now" (in English this phrase was translated from the Latin to form "Hosanna!"). The people spontaneously began singing Psalm 118:25-26 in anticipation of the great Messianic hope:
 

אָנָּא יְהוָה הוֹשִׁיעָה נָּא אָנָּא יְהוָה הַצְלִיחָה נָּא
בָּרוּךְ הַבָּא בְּשֵׁם יְהוָה בֵּרַכְנוּכֶם מִבֵּית יְהוָה

an·na · Adonai · ho·shi·ah · na  / an·na · Adonai · hatz·li·cha · na
bar·rukh · ha·ba · be·shem · Adonai / be·rakh·nu·khem · mi·bet · Adonai
 

"Please, LORD save us! Please, LORD rescue us!
Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the LORD
We bless you from the house of the LORD."
(Psalm 118:25-26)

The cross, not the scales
 
Hebrew Study Card
 

The Haftarah for Shabbat HaGadol (Malachi 3:4-24) foretells of Yom Adonai (יוֹם יהוה), the great Day of the LORD, and the return of Yeshua as Mashiach ben David. May that day come soon, chaverim. For more information, click here.

Note: To learn more about this special sabbath, click here.
 




Parashat Tzav - צו...


 

[ The following is related to our Torah reading this week, parashat Tzav. Please read the Torah portion to find your place here... ]

03.17.13  (Nisan 6, 5773)  Our Torah portion for this week (i.e., for Shabbat HaGadol) is parashat Tzav (צו) from the Book of Leviticus. In this portion we read how the blood of the Ram of Ordination (i.e., eil ha-milu'im: אֵיל הַמִּלֻּאִים) was applied to the right ear, right thumb, and big toe of the Aaron and his sons (a picture of Yeshua as our High Priest), and the rest of the blood was dashed upon the sides of the mizbe'ach (altar). After its slaughter, Moses took some unleavened bread and put it in the hands of the priests to perform tenufah (a wave offering) before the altar (a picture of the resurrection).

 

As believers in Yeshua, we too have been anointed with the blood from the Ram of Ordination -- Yeshua as our Kohen Gadol of the better covenant (Heb. 8:6)! And we too have been anointed with the sacred shemen (oil) that symbolizes the presence and aroma of the LORD in our lives. As followers of Yeshua we are therefore truly "...a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9). May the LORD be pleased to help you serve Him in the truth.

Note that you can download the Torah Table Talk for this week's reading here:




The Witness of Reality...


 

03.15.13  (Nisan 4, 5773)  Reality testifies to God's Presence. There is rational, intuitive, and empirical evidence to believe that the universe was created in time by a transcendental power that is the source of all value, meaning, purpose, and so on. To ask, "Why is there something rather than nothing?" is not to ask about a possible cause for an observed effect, but to ask about the underlying cause or "ground" of any possible existence at all. The Scriptures reply: "For God's invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature from the creation of the world, have been clearly perceived, because they are understood through what has been made, so people are without excuse" (Rom 1:20). The Spirit of God attests: "The heavens keep telling the story of the glory of God, and the canopy of the sky above proclaims the artwork of His hands. Day after day it pours forth in song; night after night bespeaks His knowledge. There is no audible speech, nor words that are heard, yet God's truth is manifest to the ends of the earth; His glory is on display in all realms."
 

הַשָּׁמַיִם מְסַפְּרִים כְּבוֹד־אֵל וּמַעֲשֵׂה יָדָיו מַגִּיד הָרָקִיעַ
וֹם לְיוֹם יַבִּיעַ אמֶר וְלַיְלָה לְּלַיְלָה יְחַוֶּה־דָּעַת
אֵין־אמֶר וְאֵין דְּבָרִים בְּלִי נִשְׁמָע קוֹלָם
בְּכָל־הָאָרֶץ יָצָא קַוָּם וּבִקְצֵה תֵבֵל מִלֵּיהֶם

ha-shamayim · me'saperim · kevod · El, · u'ma'aseh · yadav · maggid · haraki'a
yom · le'yom · yabi'a · omer, · ve'laila · le'laila · yechaveh · da'at
ein · omer · v'ein · devarim · beli · nishma · kolam
bekhol · ha'aretz · yatza · kavam · uviktzel · tevel · mileihem
 

"The heavens keep telling the story of the glory of God, and the canopy of the sky proclaims the artwork of His hands. Day after day it pours forth in song; night after night bespeaks His knowledge. There is no audible speech, nor words that are heard, yet God's truth is manifest to the ends of the earth; His glory is on display in all realms."
(Psalm 19:1-4)

The cross, not the scales

Download Study Card

 

Reality has a purpose, a goal, and is therefore "going someplace." And just as the LORD our God freely chose to create the universe yesh me'ayin, "out of nothing," so He freely sustains it, keeping us alive to this hour: "For in Him we live, move, and have our being" (Acts 17:28). Yeshua, the radiance of the glory of God, upholds all things by his power (Heb. 1:3); through Him all things are "arranged in order" (συνίστημι) and are bound together (Col. 1:17). God is in the world continually creating in and all around us; He is not a static "first cause" of the universe but rather the creative Power and reigning Source of all life...
 

    "You teach," said Emperor Trajan to Rabbi Joshua, "that your God is everywhere, yet I cannot see him." Joshua said that unlike human kings, the LORD was too powerful for people to see; as it is written in the Torah: "No person shall see Me and live." The emperor was skeptical, however, and insisted that unless he could see God, he would be unable to believe. Joshua then pointed to the sun high in the sky: "Look into the sun and you will see God." The emperor tried to look into the sun, but was forced to cover his eyes to keep them from burning: "I cannot look into the sun," he said. Joshua then replied: "Listen to yourself: If you cannot look into the sun which is but one of God's creations, how can you expect to look at God?" (Sefer HaAggadah)
     

Shabbat Shalom and may you be strong in the Lord and the power of His might...
 




The Great War for Souls...



[ "For our struggle is against spiritual forces of evil..." Eph. 6:12 ]
 

03.15.13  (Nisan 4, 5773)  Ultimately we are living in the midst of a great spiritual war -- the war for truth. This has been the battle from the beginning. The very first recorded words of Satan (הַנָּחָשׁ) questioned God's truth: "Did God really say...?" (Gen. 3:1). In the end there will be found two types of people: those who love the truth and those who love the lie. These are the children of light (בְּנֵי הָאוֹר) and the children of darkness (בְּנֵי הַחשֶׁךְ), respectively. Followers of Yeshua the Messiah are told to "walk as children of light" / ὡς τέκνα φωτὸς περιπατεῖτε (Eph. 5:8). The children of light are called to be am kadosh - a holy people - separate from the evil engendered by the fallen world and its forces, just as the very first creative expression of God was the separation of light from darkness (Gen. 1:3-4). The children of light "hate evil and love the good," and conversely, the children of darkness "hate the good and love evil" (Psalm 34:21, Prov. 8:13, Amos 5:15, John 3:20-21). Regarding the heavenly Zion to come, it is written: "nothing ritually unclean will ever enter into it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or practices falsehood (lit. "makes a lie"), but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life" (Rev. 21:27).

We must take a stand for the truth, because the truth is what sets us free (John 8:32). As Yeshua said, "For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world -- to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice" (John 18:37). We must turn away from the lie to embrace the truth. One day all that is hidden will become manifest. "As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; His throne was ablaze with fire and its wheels were all aflame. A river of fire was streaming forth and proceeding from his presence; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened...." (Dan. 7:9-10).

If the devil can't kill you, he will try to make you insane... He will lie to you about who you really are... He he will attempt harass you and vex your soul. He will whisper fearful things in your ear... He will make what is small seem big and what is big seem small. He will raise dark suspicion within your soul, causing you to walk in mistrust. He will remind you of your sins to make you feel ashamed and dirty. He will hiss that you are unlovable and unworthy. He will argue on behalf of your flesh that you deserve better than this... He will tempt you to seek relief in cisterns of emptiness and futility. Most of all, he will try to cast a spell to make you forget that you are truly a prince or princess of God Almighty... The devil seeks to drive you into the exile of loneliness and despair. Resist him in the Name of the LORD!
 

נָסוּ וְאֵין־רדֵף רָשָׁע וְצַדִּיקִים כִּכְפִיר יִבְטָח

na·su · ve'ein · ro·def · ra·sha / ve·tzad·di·kim · kikh·fir · yiv·tach
 

"The wicked flee when there is no one pursuing,
but the righteous are as confident as a lion."
(Prov. 28:1)


  
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Da lifnei mi attah omed: "Know before whom you stand!" As Elisha the prophet said to his fearful servant Gehazi, "Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them" (2 Kings 6:16). We are surrounded by an innumerable multitude of angels, with the LORD of Hosts who rules over all. Ask the LORD God Almighty to give you the "strategic advantage" over the enemy -- for you to see his wiles, but not for him to see you.... Ask God for the armor of light that blinds eyes accustomed to darkness (Rom. 13:12). How else can we fight this archenemy of our souls? We cannot fight "fire with fire," but we can appeal to the One who fills heaven and earth "with horses and chariots of fire all around" (2 Kings 6:17). "Kadosh, kadosh, kadosh, Adonai Tzeva'ot" (Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of the armies of heaven); "melo khol ha-aretz kevodo" (the whole earth is filled with His glory" (Isa. 6:3).
 

קָדוֹשׁ קָדוֹשׁ קָדוֹשׁ יהוה צְבָאוֹת
מְלא כָל־הָאָרֶץ כְּבוֹדוֹ

ka·dosh  ka·dosh  ka·dosh,  Adonai  Tze·va·ot,
me·lo  khol  ha·a·retz  ke·vo·do
 

"Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!"
(Isa. 6:3)


 
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Hear it sung
 

God told the prophet Jeremiah, "Do not be afraid of their faces, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the LORD" (Jer. 1:8). Likewise Yeshua says to us, "Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you" (Luke 10:19). We need the courage and boldness that comes from the Holy Spirit to overcome the "giants in the land." We need the confidence of young David who beheaded Goliath in the Name of the Living God.  Ask God to empower you to serve Him now... Just as salvation is "of the LORD," so is the battle of faith: "Not by might, nor by power - but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts" (Zech. 4:6).

Shabbat Shalom and may you be strong in the Lord and the power of His might...
 




May God Help us to Love...


 

03.15.13  (Nisan 4, 5773)  So important is our obligation to love one another, that the Scriptures flatly state that "anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love" (1 John 4:8). But what is love if it is not sacrificial giving? The first occurrence of the word in the Scriptures (i.e., ahavah: אהבה) refers to Abraham's "only" son offered upon the altar (Gen. 22:2, cp. John 3:16). The word ahavah comes from a two-letter root (הב) with Aleph (א) as a modifier. The root means "to give" and the Aleph indicates first-person agency: "I give."  Love, then, is essentially an act of sacrificial giving.  After Yeshua washed the feet of his followers during his last Passover Seder, he said to them: "Little children, I am with you just a little longer ... and where I am going you cannot come. A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another" (John 13:33-34). This was the model, the "place" where divine love would be expressed: the cross: "Greater love (ἀγάπη) has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). Indeed a life of full of gemilut chasadim, acts of lovingkindness for the welfare of others, is what separates mere professors from those who genuinely "know God."  We are to take up the cross; to die daily; to "do the word," to give freely of ourselves, and to follow the way of Yeshua....

Some people regard love as a form of mawkish sentimentality, but that is not the Biblical idea at all. Love is always costly. The question is not how could an all-loving God send someone to hell, but rather how could an all-holy and just God send someone to heaven? God's love cannot be expressed apart from his justice, for otherwise there would be no need for sacrifice.  Indeed, God hates sin, violence, cruelty, oppression, arrogance, robbery, lying lips, and all those things that injure and destroy people's lives... The LORD is a great King, the Judge over all, the Holy One before whom every soul shall give account. He is the great moral Lawgiver, the Source and End of all ethical reality and truth. If God is not really angry at sin, then it is difficult to understand the need for atonement itself. If God is all "sweetness and light," then the message of the cross is lost...

Putting our trust in the provision of God's sacrifice causes His wrath (or righteous judgment) to pass over while simultaneously extending love to the sinner.... This is the essential message of the gospel itself, that we have atonement through the sacrificial death, burial, and resurrection of Yeshua our Savior, the great Lamb of God.  As Yeshua said, "I tell you the solemn truth, the one who hears my message and believes the One who sent me has eternal life (חַיֵּי עוֹלָם) and will not be condemned, but has passed over (i.e., μετά + βαίνω, lit., "crossed over" [עָבַר]) from death to life" (John 5:24). And this is a two-way exchange: Just as God's judgment passes over from life to death on my behalf; so His love passes over from death to life on my behalf...

I mentioned the other day that the Hebrew verb "pasach" (פָּסַח) can also mean "to limp," suggesting the heel of Messiah that was "bruised" in the battle for our redemption (Gen. 3:15). It is the cross of Yeshua that enables the mercy of God to "overcome" his justice, or that allows love and truth to meet; righteousness and peace to kiss: "Truth shall spring out of the earth; and righteousness shall look down from heaven" (Psalm 85:11). God's attribute of Justice "passes over" us - just as His attribute of Compassion "passes into" us. The sacrifice of Messiah allows God to be both just and the justifier of those who trust in God's remedy and exchange for our sin (Rom. 3:26).
 

חֶסֶד־וֶאֱמֶת נִפְגָּשׁוּ צֶדֶק וְשָׁלוֹם נָשָׁקוּ

che·sed · ve·e·met · nif·ga·shu, · tzedek · ve·sha·lom · na·sha·ku
 

"Love and truth have met;
righteousness and peace have kissed."
(Psalm 85:10)

The cross, not the scales

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The idea of substitutionary atonement is surely mysterious and complicated, but ultimately the message for us simple: God loves you and has made a way for you to be eternally accepted -- despite your sin... That's the "good news" of the cross.  We may still struggle every day; we may feel numb inside, we may even be afraid to love. We need a miracle. We need help... May God graciously intervene and transform our hearts so that we can love one another in the truth, by means of the grace He supplies... Amen.
 




The Passover Vigil...


 

[ The following is related to holiday of Passover, which God wanted the people of Israel to vigilantly guard throughout all their generations... ]

03.15.13  (Nisan 4, 5773)  It's been said that "the liturgy of the Jew is his calendar," and indeed the first commandment given to the nation of Israel (as opposed to the patriarchs or to individual leaders such as Moses) was to sanctify the month of redemption: "This month shall be the head of the months (i.e., Rosh Chodashim) for you. It shall be the first month of the year for you" (Exod. 12:2). This implies that our corporate identity as the redeemed people of God begins with a shared consciousness of time from God's perspective. All of the mo'edim (festivals of the LORD) are reckoned using the calendar that was revealed to the redeemed Israelite nation. As the psalmist later declared: "He made the moon for the appointed times" (Psalm 104:19). And since Yeshua came to perfectly fulfill the meaning of these appointed times, it is clear that he observed this calendar as well (Gal. 4:4-5).
 

עָשָׂה יָרֵחַ לְמוֹעֲדִים שֶׁמֶשׁ יָדַע מְבוֹאוֹ

a·sah  ya·re·ach  le·mo·a·dim,  she·mesh  ya·da'  me·vo·o
 

"He made the moon to mark the appointed times;
the sun knows its time for setting" (Psalm 104:19)



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In this connection we note that the Torah records that the Jewish people were in Egypt 430 years, be'etzem hayom (בְּעֶצֶם הַיּוֹם) - "to the selfsame day" (Exod. 12:40-41). According to tradition, Moses encountered the burning bush at Sinai on the 15th day of the month of Aviv (i.e., Nisan), and the Exodus from Egypt occurred exactly one year later, on Nisan 15. Passover therefore commemorates the "appointed time" when God would redeem His people, as was earlier foretold to Abraham during the "covenant of the parts":

 

"At the end of 430 years, on that very day (i.e., Nisan 15), all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt" (Exod. 12:41). Immediately after stating this, the Torah refers to Passover as leil shimurim (לֵיל שִׁמֻּרִים), a "night to be guarded" (from the verb shamar, which means "to watch" or "to guard"). "It is a night that is guarded (leil shimurim) by the LORD to take them [Israel] out of Egypt; this night remains a night to be guarded (שִׁמֻּרִים) by the people of Israel throughout their generations" (Exod. 12:42). Since "this night" - ha-lailah hazeh (הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה) - was guarded by God from the beginning to be the time of redemption, Israel must therefore "guard this night" (i.e., keep a vigil) by means of the Passover Seder (Exod. 13:10; Deut. 16:1). The festival of Passover recalls and celebrates God's faithfulness and redemptive love...

Note that the phrase leil shimurim literally means "night of the watches" (shimurim is plural), and therefore it refers not only to the original redemption in Egypt (i.e., the Passover), but also to the time of future redemption by the Messiah (Shemot Rabbah 18). This explains why this night is a vigil for all generations (Matt 24:42). The Talmud (Tractate Rosh Hashanah 11a) further states: "In Nisan our forefathers were redeemed from Egypt, and in Nisan we will be redeemed." In that sense, Nisan is called Chodesh ha-Yeshuah (חדֶשׁ הַיְשׁוּעָה), the "month of the salvation," both in terms of the physical deliverance from Egypt, but more profoundly in terms of the salvation given through the Messiah Yeshua (הַמָּשִׁיחַ יֵשׁוּעַ), who was crucified as the "Lamb of God" precisely during this time...

In this connection, we see that Yeshua is the "light of life" that was given on our behalf (John 1:4; 8:12). The blood of the korban Pesach (קָרְבָּן פֶּסַה) - the Passover lamb - was to be smeared on the two sides and top of the doorway, resembling the shape of the letter Chet (ח). This letter, signifying the number 8, is connected with the word חי (chai), short for chayim (life). The blood of the lamb (דַּם הַשֶּׂה) not only saves from the judgment of death, but also is a symbol of divine life:


 

Note further that the original Passover sacrifice predates the giving of the law at Sinai and the Levitical priesthood, but rather goes back to the "Gospel in the Garden" and the prophecy of the Promised Seed (Gen. 3:15). In the same way, Yeshua's sacrifice was directed from Heaven itself by means of the prophetic office of Malki-Tzedek (מַלְכִּי־צֶדֶק) - a higher order of priesthood that was ordained from the foundation of the world itself (Gen. 14:18; Ps. 110:4; Heb. 7; 1 Pet. 1:20; Rev. 13:8). Worthy is the Lamb who was slain!

Note: This topic continues in the article, "Leil Shimurim: A night to be guarded."
 




The Great Lamb of God


 

[ The following is related to holiday of Passover, which begins Monday evening, March 25th... ]

03.14.13  (Nisan 3, 5773)  Though the LORD instructed each household to select its own defect-free lamb for the family Passover, the Torah refers to "the" Lamb of God, as if there was only one: "You shall keep it [i.e., the Passover lamb] until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall slaughter him (אתוֹ) at twilight (Exod. 12:6). Note that the direct object "him" (i.e., oto) can be read as Aleph-Tav (את) combined with the letter Vav (ו), signifying the Son of Man who is First and Last... Indeed there is only one "Lamb of God" that takes away the sins of the world, and that is our Savior, Yeshua the Messiah...
 

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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The Limping Messiah...


 

[ The following is related to holiday of Passover, which begins Monday evening, March 25th... ]

03.14.13  (Nisan 3, 5773)  As we prepare our hearts for Passover, recall that the Hebrew verb "pasach" (פָּסַח) can mean not only "to pass over," but also "to limp," suggesting the heel of Messiah that was "bruised" in the battle for our salvation (Gen. 3:15). As it is written, "Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (חַיֵּי עוֹלָם). For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him" (John 3:14-17). Humanity as a whole has been "bitten by the snake" and needs to be delivered from its deadly venom. Just as the image made in the likeness of the destroying snake was lifted up for Israel's healing, so the One made in the likeness of sinful flesh was to be lifted up as the Healer of the world (Rom. 8:3). All we need to do is look up and believe...

Some people might object that the verb pasach (פָּסַח) alludes to the wounded Savior, our great Passover "Lamb who was slain" (John 1:29; 1 Pet. 1:19-20; Rev. 5:12; 13:8); however, it is evident that the Hebrew root can mean "to limp" as a result of a wound. Indeed the Hebrew participle pise'ach (פִּסֵחַ) means "lame" or "crippled" (for example, see Lev. 21:18; Deut. 15:21; 2 Sam. 9:13, etc.). Furthermore, there are several uses of the verb pasach that explicitly mean to "limp" or "be lame." For example, in 2 Sam. 4:4 it says: "and he (Mephibosheth) fell and 'became lame" (וַיִּפָּסֵחַ); in 1 Kings 18:21, we read: "how long will you limp (פּסְחִים) between two opinions?" and in 1 Kings 18:26 it is written: "and they (the priests of Baal) 'limped upon the altar" (וַיְפַסְּחוּ עַל־הַמִּזְבֵּחַ) in a pagan ritual dance. In other words there is clearly a connection between Passover and becoming wounded, and this alludes to the Suffering Servant, the Messiah, whose heel was bruised in the battle for our deliverance (Gen. 3:15). Those who wish to argue that pasach cannot refer to the "limping" of the Messiah, the Passover "Lamb of God" who was slain for our sins in the battle against the serpent, therefore have the burden to explain the meaning and usage of the verb pasach in these other verses of the Hebrew Scriptures.

Note:  The life is in the blood (Lev. 17:11). There is no Passover without the Lamb (Exod. 12:21) -- the wounded Lamb of God (Rev. 5:21)! For more on this subject see "The Gospel in the Garden" and its related links.
 




Blessed Need of Heart...


 

03.14.13  (Nisan 3, 5773)  "I need Thee every hour..." More than anything else, God's love is what we desperately need, isn't it? Especially in moments when we feel wounded, alone, unworthy, afraid, and needy; and even when we succumb to the depths of despair... God's love descends to the depths of our soul - to the very dust of death itself - to hear our cries and to profoundly touch us... Praise the Name of Love - despite everything, God saves us from ourselves, from our worst fears, and from the hell of shame and abandonment. My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks you (Isa. 26:9). I say to the LORD, "You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you."
 

אָמַרְתְּ לַיהוָה אֲדנָי אָתָּה
טוֹבָתִי בַּל־עָלֶיךָ

a·mart · la·do·nai: ·  A·do·nai · at·tah
tov·va·ti ·  bal - a·ley·kha
 

"I say to the LORD, "You are my Lord;
I have no good apart from you."

(Psalm 16:2)


 
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The ongoing need for the LORD is perhaps the highest estate of the human soul, even if it is nevertheless attended with heartsickness and unrelenting longing. It is a great, great gift from heaven to know God as your heart's true desire - to fully understand that your relationship with Him is the ultimate concern and treasure of your existence.
 




Heaven in His Eyes...


 

03.14.13  (Nisan 3, 5773)  For me, heaven doesn't mean walking streets of gold, living in heavenly mansions, or wearing crowns of glory. These things are pictures to help us envision something deeper still. After all, what would "heaven" be if you were on the outside looking in? If it is anything at all, heaven is a sense of home, of acceptance, a place where you are "inside out" and yet completely loved. In short, heaven is nothing less being loved and accepted by the Lord, and hearing him say, "I love you; you belong to me; I call you my friend..." And in this world, too, with God's love I have everything I need - even should I experience temporal lack; but without it I am truly destitute - even should I gain everything the world affords.
 

מִי־לִי בַשָּׁמָיִם וְעִמְּךָ לא־חָפַצְתִּי בָאָרֶץ
כָּלָה שְׁאֵרִי וּלְבָבִי צוּר־לְבָבִי וְחֶלְקִי אֱלהִים לְעוֹלָם

mi-li · va·sha·ma·yim · ve·im·me·kha · lo-cha·fatz·ti · va·a·retz
kal·lah · she·ei·ri · u·le·va·vi · tzur-le·va·vi · ve·chel·ki · E·lo·him · le·o·lam
 

"Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."
(Psalm 73:25-26)


 
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With God's love I have everything I need - even if I should experience temporal lack; but without it I am truly destitute - even if I should gain everything the world affords. "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?"
 




Forgiveness and Offence


 

03.13.13  (Nisan 2, 5773)  Change is hard for us, isn't it? Once we become accustomed to something, it's often quite difficult to give it up. We sometimes see this in children who get distressed when a relatively minor detail is omitted from a daily routine, or when an elderly person gets upset over having his schedule changed. Most of us seem to instinctively resist change, even at the expense of our well-being. This "bias for the familiar" can eventually lead to addictions, prejudices, unreflective habits, fixed ideas, bitterness, and other forms of self-defeating patterns of behavior. As William James once remarked, "A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices." Too many of us "believe our own propaganda."

A circumcised heart is open, flexible, and able to empathize with the needs of others. It is astounding, is it not, that so-called followers of Messiah will argue, debate, and even "kill" one another over their pet doctrines while neglecting the only commandment that Yeshua earnestly asked us to obey, namely, to believe in the miracle of God's unconditional love for us all (John 13:34; 15:12; Rom. 13:9; 1 John 4:21, etc.). Some people want to argue over the tiniest details of a particular "law" in the Torah (or some church ritual or dogma) while they despise others who might differ from them... They may become so concerned they are "right" that they become entirely wrong; they may be so sure they see, that they become blind... In our zeal for truth, we must be very careful not to overlook the core commandment to love God and others bekhol levavkha, with all our heart. I would much rather be wrong on an incidental point of doctrine than to lose sight of what is real, true, and abiding.

Yeshua taught us to pray "forgive us as we forgive others," which implies that our forgiveness (of others) is the measure of our own forgiveness. In other words, as we forgive others, so we experience forgiveness ourselves... Forgiveness releases the hurt, the anger, and the disappointment so these feelings do not inwardly consume and exhaust our souls. And yet forgiveness must be self-directed, too, since refusing to forgive yourself denies or negates the forgiveness given from others. Forgiving yourself means admitting that you act just like other people, that you are human, and that you are in need of reconciliation too. Ultimately, forgiveness is both an act of self-acceptance and empathy -- we admit we are just like others, weak, flawed, in need of help, and so on. We can only forgive to the extent we recognize the truth about ourselves that we see in others.  Yet we have to move on, past the shame, and to turn back to abiding hope. As a Yiddish proverb puts it, "You are what you are, not what you were..."

I like this quote attributed to Charles Williams: "Many promising reconciliations have broken down because, while both parties came prepared to forgive, neither came prepared to be forgiven." We have a quick eye to see how others offend us, but not how we might offend them. May the Lord help us be yashar, upright and honest with ourselves; may He give us the willingness to admit we make mistakes, that we are in need of mercy, and may He set us free from the slavery of pride. So how do we forgive the people who have offended us? By refusing to condemn them, for then we will not need to forgive. Our great need is to turn, at every moment, and to keep our focus on the Eternal and real. May God help us all use the "good eye" and see each other in the light of His countenance and loving presence...
 

    "I hereby forgive all who have hurt me, all who have wronged me, whether deliberately or inadvertently, whether by word or by deed. May no one be punished on my account. And as I forgive and pardon those who have wronged me, may those whom I have harmed forgive me, whether I acted deliberately or inadvertently, whether by word or by deed." Amen. (The Gates of Repentance)
     




Passover and Soul Searching


 

03.13.13  (Nisan 2, 5773)  The search for chametz is not unlike the soul searching we do before the fall High Holidays, when we perform chesbon hanefesh (חֶשְׁבּוֹן הַנֶּפֶשׁ) by taking inventory of our spiritual condition before the LORD. In other words, we are instructed to search and remove sources of inner impurity so that we might experience the truth that we are a "new lump" - that is, a new substance that is purged from the sour and rotting influences of our past lives. Since Yeshua has been sacrificed as your Passover Lamb, you are indeed a new creation (בְּרִיָּה חֲדָשָׁה) and are made "unleavened" by the power of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 5:17). Therefore we are likewise commanded put away the "old nature" - the yetzer ha'ra - and purge from your life the old influences that inwardly canker you and make you sick. Walk without hypocrisy in the truth of the love of God for your soul.
 

חָקְרֵנִי אֵל וְדַע לְבָבִי בְּחָנֵנִי וְדַע שַׂרְעַפָּי
וּרְאֵה אִם־דֶּרֶךְ־עצֶב בִּי וּנְחֵנִי בְּדֶרֶךְ עוֹלָם

chok·rei·ni · el · ve'da · le·va·vi · be·cha·nei·ni · ve'da · sar·a·pai
u·reh · im · de·rekh · o·tzev · bi · u'ne·chei·ni · be·de·rekh · o·lam
 

"Search me, O God, and know my heart! Test me and know my thoughts.
 And see if there be any idolatrous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!"
(Psalm 139:23-24)

Bedikat Chametz
 
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Preparing for Passover...


 

[ The following is related to holiday of Passover, which begins Monday evening, March 25th... ]

03.13.13  (Nisan 2, 5773)  During Passover - also called the Festival of Unleavened Bread - no leaven (i.e., chametz) may be eaten for seven full days - from the 15th of Nisan through the 22nd of Nisan (Exod. 12:15-18; 34:18). That means no leavened bread products of any kind are to be eaten during this time (see Exod. 12:15). We remove chametz because it represents a corrupting influence, a hidden uncleanness that manipulates purer elements. Like the influence of a small lump of leaven in a batch of dough, "spiritual" leaven functions as an evil impulse within us (i.e., yetzer ra: יֵצֶר רָע) that corrupts and "sours" our inner life (1 Cor. 5:6). This "yeast in the soul" is essentially pride that manifests itself in idolatrous desires and lusts. Therefore we are instructed to "purge out the old leaven (חָמֵץ) that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened" (1 Cor. 5:7).

In 1 Corinthians 5:6 we read: "Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?" Sin has a "leavening" influence upon the soul: you simply cannot include a little sin in your life without it affecting your whole spiritual life. Hidden sin (i.e., hypocrisy) spreads like spiritual corruption throughout the body and will eventually be exposed. As Yeshua said, "Nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light" (Luke 8:17).
 

    "Cleanse out the old leaven (חָמֵץ) that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Messiah, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (1 Cor. 5:7-8).
     

Note that the Greek text uses an imperative verb (ἐκκαθάρατε): "You cleanse out (i.e., purge; catharsis) the old leaven so that you may become a new lump (ἵνα ἦτε νέον φύραμα), since you already are unleavened (ἵνα ἦτε νέον φύραμα) because of what Messiah has done for you." Cleanse or purge out the old leaven.... Note that the word "catharsis" (κάθαρσις) comes from the same root, a term that means to "purify" or "cleanse," in the sense of a change in attitude that promotes renewal, restoration, and revitalization.

Paradoxically, we are to "purge out" the leaven because we have already been purged. In other words, we are to be as we really are, not as we used to be.  We are to live sincerely, that is, free double-mindedness and hypocrisy. In this connection it's vital to remember that all the "oughts" (i.e., commands) of the New Covenant are are directed to the truth of who you are "in the Messiah," that is, by virtue of His connection to you, and not to your former identity before you were saved. If you belong to Yeshua, you are no longer "known according to the flesh" - since that person has passed away - and now you are a "new creation" (בְּרִיָּה חֲדָשָׁה) with a new nature that is able to serve God (2 Cor. 5:16-17). Another way to say this is that the imperatives of the New Covenant are always based on its declaratives; you are able to obey because of who you really are in the Messiah. It is solely out of your union with Him that you are able to please God. This is good news, since it's not up to you to do this; you need only to believe in the miracle....

Note: For more on this topic, see the articles, "Preparing for Passover: Getting your house ready," and "Bedikat Chametz: Cleaning out the old leaven."
 




The Sacrificial Lamb of God...


 

[ The advent of the month of Nisan portends that Passover will be here in just two short weeks, with the first Seder held on Monday evening, March 25th... ]

03.12.13  (Nisan 1, 5773)  The Bible has been described as a "book of blood and a bloody book." The recurrent theme of the sacrificed lamb reappears throughout, including the very first sacrifice in the garden to cover the sin of Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:21); the lamb sacrificed in place of Isaac during the ordeal of the Akedah (Gen. 22:13), the sacrifice of the Passover lamb on the eve of the Exodus (Exod. 12:5-8); and the tamid (daily) offering of the lamb at the Temple (Exod. 29:38; Num. 28:3; Ezek. 46:13) -- all of which prefigured the sacrificial death of Messiah as the "Lamb of God" (שֵׂה הָאֱלהִים) who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29). Yeshua is the Substance of all that the sacrifices foreshadowed; he is the "Goel" (i.e., גּאֵל, Redeemer) from the alienation and exile caused by our sin (Gal. 3:13). "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).

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: "For the life of the flesh is in the blood (כִּי נֶפֶשׁ הַבָּשָׂר בַּדָּם), and I have given it for you on the altar to atone (לְכַפֵּר) for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life (כִּי־הַדָּם הוּא בַּנֶּפֶשׁ יְכַפֵּר)." Blood is therefore connected to the holiness of life through sacrificial death....

The first time the word "blood" occurs in the Scriptures concerns the death of Abel (הֶבֶל), the son of Adam and Eve who was murdered by his brother Cain. After Abel's blood was shed, the LORD confronted Cain and said, "What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood (קוֹל דְּמֵי אָחִיךָ) is crying to me from the ground" (Gen. 4:10). Since blood is the carrier of life, it bears the energy and vitality of life: it has its own spiritual "voice." Likewise, the blood of Yeshua (דְּמֵי יֵשׁוּעַ), the true Lamb of God who died upon the cross, speaks on our behalf, and reverses the power of death by creating a barrier that death can no longer cross, since the death of the sacrificial victim "exchanges" the merit and power of life. Unlike the blood of Abel that "cries out" for justice, the blood of Yeshua cries out for mercy (Heb. 12:24).

Note: For more on this important topic, see "Parashat Vayikra: Why the Sacrifices?" and "The Life is in the Blood: Further Thoughts on Parashat Bo."
 




Forgiveness and Love...



 

03.12.13  (Nisan 1, 5773)  Yeshua said, "To whom little is forgiven, the same loves little" (Luke 7:47). See the relationship between consciousness of your acceptance and the ability to express love? The self-righteous do not feel the depth of their sin nor comprehend their great need. Their prayer is always, "Thank you, God, that I am not like other men" (Luke 18:11). To them "little is forgiven" and therefore they love little. To the woebegone sinner, on the other hand, to the one who knows the depth of her sin and her terrible need for deliverance, "much is forgiven" - and therefore she loves much. Yeshua teaches that love sees past moral failures and extends healing to the one wounded by sin: "love covers over all transgressions" -  עַל כָּל־פְּשָׁעִים תְּכַסֶּה אַהֲבָה (Prov. 10:12; 1 Pet. 4:8).
 

בָּרֲכִי נַפְשִׁי אֶת־יְהוָה וְכָל־קְרָבַי אֶת־שֵׁם קָדְשׁוֹ
בָּרֲכִי נַפְשִׁי אֶת־יְהוָה וְאַל־תִּשְׁכְּחִי כָּל־גְּמוּלָיו
הַסּלֵחַ לְכָל־עֲוֹנֵכִי הָרפֵא לְכָל־תַּחֲלֻאָיְכִי
הַגּוֹאֵל מִשַּׁחַת חַיָּיְכִי הַמְעַטְּרֵכִי חֶסֶד וְרַחֲמִים

ba·ra·khi · naf·shi · et · Adonai · ve·khol · ke·ra·vai · et · shem · kod·sho
ba·ra·khi · naf·shi · et · Adonai · ve·al · tish·ke·chi · kol · ge·mu·lav
ha·so·le·ach · le·khol · a·vo·nei·khi · ha·ro·fei · le·khol · ta·cha·lu·ai·khi
ha·go·el · mi·sha·chat ·chay·yai·ti · ha·me·a·te·re·khi · che·sed · ve·ra·cha·mim
 

"Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy Name.
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:
He forgives all your iniquity; He heals all your diseases;
He redeems your life from the pit; He crowns you with steadfast love and mercy"
(Psalm 103:1-4)

Shiviti
 




The Spiritual Light of Faith...


 

03.12.13  (Nisan 1, 5773)  Spiritually speaking, the very first step is to find hope... The Divine Light is seen by means of the eye of faith (עַיִן שֶׁל אֱמוּנָה), as it is written, "Light dawns in the darkness for the upright; He is gracious, merciful, and righteous" (Psalm 112:4). Therefore we find life by trusting in God's Presence, even though we cannot presently see Him (2 Cor. 4:18; 5:7). "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. Know Him in all your ways, and He will straighten your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil" (Prov. 3:5-7).

We must press on in courage, fighting the good fight of faith. As it is written, "The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When evil men attack me to devour my flesh, when my adversaries and enemies attack me, they totter and fall. Even if an army is deployed against me, I do not fear; even if war is rises against me, I remain full of trust" (Psalm 27:1-3).

The Midrash says, "The Holy One Himself, as it were, made light for the upright. Thus it says, "The LORD is my light and my salvation" (Psalm 27:1) and "When I sit in darkness, the LORD will be a light to me" (Micah 7:8). While I sit in darkness in this world, during these latter days before the promised return of Yeshua, when troubles may afflict me and lawlessness may abound – then God's light will shine brighter still, for the LORD is gracious to all who put their hope in Him, and this favor and love will be manifest for me.

Let us affirm our confidence: The darkness of this world forever is swept back before the overmastering radiance and power of Yeshua, the King of Glory, the Root and Descendant of David, and the Bright Morning Star (Rev. 22:16). Those who believe in Him are given the "light of life" that overcomes the darkness of this world (John 8:12).
 

בְּטַח אֶל־יְהוָה בְּכָל־לִבֶּךָ וְאֶל־בִּינָתְךָ אַל־תִּשָּׁעֵן
בְּכָל־דְּרָכֶיךָ דָעֵהוּ וְהוּא יְיַשֵּׁר ארְחתֶיךָ
אַל־תְּהִי חָכָם בְּעֵינֶיךָ יְרָא אֶת־יְהוָה וְסוּר מֵרָע

be·tach · el · Adonai · be·khol · lib·be·kha · ve·el · bi·na·te·kha · al · tish·a·en
be·khol · de·ra·khe·kha · da·ei·hu · ve·hu · ye·ya·sher · or·cho·te·kha
al · te·hi · cha·kham · be·ei·ne·kha · ye·ra · et · Adonai · ve·sur · me·ra
 

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
Know Him in all your ways, and He will straighten your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil."
(Prov. 3:5-7)

Shiviti

Hebrew Study Card
 

"Know Him in all your ways," that is, in all that you put your hand to do look for the Divine Presence and guidance (1 Cor. 10:31). As King David stated, "I have set the Lord always before me, because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved" (Psalm 16:8). Again, the very first step is finding hope (Psalm 27:14). Only then can we pray the "serenity prayer," i.e., "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." Trusting in the LORD brings inner light from the Holy Spirit wherein the our way is made "yashar" (upright), the same word used in the names "Jeshurun" and "Yisrael."
 




The Torah of Faith...


 

03.11.13  (Adar 29, 5773)  Regarding the question of faith, Soren Kierkegaard once wrote, "The easiness of Christianity is distinguished by one thing only: by the difficulty. Thus the Master's yoke it easy and its burden light -- for the person who has cast off all his burdens, all of them, the burdens of hope and of fear and of despondency and of despair -- yet it is difficult."  Yes, the difficult thing is to truly believe (John 16:31). Sins can be like great possessions that are difficult to give up. Among other things, we must forgive ("give away") our sins (both our own and those against us), and that means trusting God enough to bear our wounds for us. Forgiveness allows us to move on with our lives by letting go of the pain of the past (2 Cor. 5:16). It is "easy" to understand this, but it is difficult to live it.
 

הַשְׁלֵךְ עַל־יְהוָה יְהָבְךָ
 וְהוּא יְכַלְכְּלֶךָ
 לא־יִתֵּן לְעוֹלָם מוֹט לַצַּדִּיק

hash·lekh · al · Adonai · ye·hav·kha
ve·hu · ye·khal·ke·le·kha
lo · yit·ten · le·o·lam · mot · la·tzad·dik
 

"Cast your burden on the LORD,
 and He will sustain you;
 He will never permit the righteous to be moved."
(Psalm 55:22)


 
Hebrew Study Card
 

The message of the cross is scandalous to human pride because it reveals that we are powerless to save ourselves. We trust Yeshua's finished work performed on our behalf, not our own works of righteousness (John 6:29). The Torah of Yeshua (תּוֹרַת יֵשׁוּעַ), however, does include some commandments, including the following:

  1. "Thou shalt believe thou are my beloved - entirely accepted and entirely forgiven"
  2. "Thou shalt forget the shame of thy past"
  3. "Thou shalt stop thinking of your sin but rather of My great remedy for you"
  4. "Thou shalt let me carry your woundedness far away, yea, to the bottom of the sea"
  5. "Thou shalt live in My love and be filled with its spirit"
  6. Thou shalt believe in a happy ending, and that love is stronger than justice;
  7. Thou shalt fear nothing but that which causes you to lose hope in My love...
     

(Kindly note that these are implications derived from various Scriptures. For example, see Isa. 54:8; Jer. 31:3; Isa 54:4; Jer. 31:34; Heb. 8:12; Isa. 41:10; 45:22; Rom. 4:25; Psalm 103:10-14; John 14:1,27; Mic. 7:19; Isa. 38:17; John 14:21; 15:5,10; Gal. 5:22-23; 1 Cor. 13; 1 John 3:1; Rom. 8:28-39; Psalm 89:14; 85:10; Luke 11:42; 1 John 4:18, etc.)

The Shema, First Part
 

The difficulty, I repeat, is to genuinely believe that the love's miracle is for you - and that therefore you really are a "new creation" in the Messiah (2 Cor. 5:17). The reason this is difficult is because we are still living in an "already-not-yet" place of exile, the "two-souled" state of being that only is able to "see through a glass darkly." We are trusting in God, yet we must "work out" our own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12). But notice that we "work out" what God has already "worked in," since it is "God who works in you both to will and to do His good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13). Please do not miss this - God first works His love into our hearts, and then we are able to express that in works of love... From start to finish, only genuine faith in Yeshua performs the "work of God" (John 6:28-29), and never our own ludicrous efforts of affecting self-righteousness (Titus 3:5). If you are lacking in the fruit of the Spirit (i.e., the works of God), then the right approach is to turn around and confess your faithlessness: "Lord, I believe; help Thou my unbelief..." (Mark 9:24). Our LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18).

Some people might argue that you must "deny yourself" and "die to yourself" to exercise genuine faith, and while it is indeed true that "unless a seed falls to the ground and dies, it abides alone" (John 12:24), we must remember that the Seed is Yeshua and the power of His Spirit sown in the heart of faith. "Taking up the cross" therefore means so identifying with Yeshua that you are "in union" with his sacrificial death offered up on your behalf. God imparts a new spiritual nature (i.e., heart and spirit) to the one that trusts in Him, an operation of the Spirit that is more manifest than the sun that shines in the clear noonday sky... Taking up the cross is therefore the confession that Yeshua's sacrifice is all-sufficient and therefore all that remains is to continue to trust in his finished work (John 6:29). We are sanctified in exactly the same way we are justified -- by trusting in the miracle of God. Remember, all the imperatives of Scripture are addressed to the "new man" that has been brought to life by God's grace. We are able to obey when we yield to the Torah of the Spirit of Life (תוֹרַת רוּחַ הַחַיִּים) in the Messiah, which is to say, when we are trusting in Yeshua to do and to be all that we will ever need. We do not "die to ourselves" by means of our own efforts, but instead rest in the peace of Yeshua's sacrificial death (and resurrection) for us.

Today marks Rosh Chodashim - Biblical New Year's Day - so let me wish you "shanah tovah" and great blessings as we begin a new year together! I hope you will find inner peace and healing as you continue to walk in the truth of God's salvation, chaverim.
 




Happy New Year, friends!


 

[ The advent of the month of Nisan portends that Passover will be here in just two short weeks, with the first Seder held on Monday evening, March 25th... ]

03.11.13  (Adar 29, 5773)  The beginning of the Biblical Year (called Rosh Chodashim) begins this evening at sundown (i.e., Nisan 1). Look for the first sign of the waxing crescent later this week, chaverim. Spring is in the air! Now is the time to make preparations for your Passover seder, which occurs in just two weeks....

According to the sages, there are two orders of creation, the natural and the supernatural, both of which mirror each other in the biblical calendar. The natural order refers to the physical creation of the heavens and the earth, whereas the supernatural refers to re-creation, or rebirth. On the traditional calendar, the natural order of creation is commemorated in the fall, during Rosh Hashanah (i.e., Tishri 1), whereas the supernatural is celebrated in the spring, during Rosh Chodashim (i.e., Nisan 1).

The following prayer is customarily said during Rosh Hashanah (in the fall), but it is equally applicable for the New Year of Nisan and the great Season of Passover:
 

יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ יהוה אֱלהֵינוּ
וֵאלהֵי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ
שֶׁתְּחַדֵּשׁ עָלֵינוּ שָׁנָה טוֹבָה וּמְתוּקָה
בַּאֲדנֵינוּ יֵשׁוּעַ הַמָּשִׁיחַ אמן

ye·hi · ra·tzon · mil·fa·ne·kha, · Adonai · E·lo·hei·nu
ve·lo·hei · a·vo·tei·nu,
she·te·cha·desh · a·lei·nu · sha·nah · to·vah · u·me·tu·kah
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 and sweet year
in our Lord Yeshua the Messiah." [Amen]



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May it please the Lord our God to help us attune our hearts to the theme of this great Passover season, and to prepare ourselves to "keep the feast" (1 Cor. 5:7-8). May He help us all get rid of the spiritual "chametz" (leaven) that sours our soul and to grant us sincerity and the keenness of concentration needed for this time....
 




Parashat Vayikra - ויקרא


 

Note that the Book of Leviticus is always read during the season of Passover. "The life is in the blood" -- of Yeshua the great Lamb of God! ]

03.10.13  (Adar 28, 5773)  Our Torah portion for this week is Vayikra ("and He called"), the very first section from the Book of Leviticus. In Jewish tradition, the Book of Leviticus is sometimes called the "Book of Sacrifices" since it deals largely with the various offerings brought to the LORD for sacrificial purposes in the Mishkan (Tabernacle). Indeed, over 40 percent of all of the Torah's commandments are found in this central book of the Scriptures. Since the revelation of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) was the climax of the giving of the revelation of the Torah at Sinai, the Book of Leviticus serves as its ritual expression: "For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement (kapparah) by the life" (Lev. 17:11).
 

Unlike narrative portions of the other books of the Torah, the Book of Leviticus begins as a direct message from God to Moses, "calling out" (vayikra) the way to draw close to the LORD by means of the sacrificial system. It is noteworthy that throughout the book, only the sacred name of the LORD (יהוה) is used in connection with sacrificial offerings, never the name Elohim (אֱלהִים). This suggests that offerings were given to draw us near to experience God's compassion rather than to appease His anger.... In other words, the Name of the LORD represents salvation (i.e., yeshuah: יְשׁוּעָה) and healing for the sinner, not God's judgment. Indeed, the word korban (קָרְבָּן), often translated as "sacrifice" or "offering," comes from a root word karov (קָרַב) that means to "draw close" or "to come near." All those who who approached God through faith in the efficacy of the shed blood of sacrifice were enabled to draw near for healing and life...

Note that the word in the ancient Greek translation of the Torah (called the Septuagint) that was selected to translate the Hebrew word kapporet (i.e., "mercy seat") is hilasterion (ἱλαστήριον), sometimes translated "propitiation." The New Testament picks up this usage in Romans 3:25: "God put forward Yeshua as a propitiation (ἱλαστήριον) through faith in His blood." In other words, the 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 for our atoning sacrifice (i.e., kapparah: כַּפָּרָה) before God.

Note: For more on this subject, see the article, "Leviticus and Yeshua."
 




The Bread of God...


 

03.08.13  (Adar 26, 5773)  Our Master said: "For the bread of God (לֶחֶם אֱלהִים) is the One who comes down from heaven to give life to the world" (John 6:33). This is the Bread of Presence, literally, the "Bread of [his] Face" (לֶחֶם פָּנִים) that was prefigured in the manna that fell in the desert and in the rituals of the Tabernacle (Exod. 25:30). It was in the Holy Place, in the light of the Menorah, that the "bread of his face" was to be eaten... At his last Passover Seder with his students, Yeshua said "this is my body" (τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ σῶμά μου), and made analogy between physical and the spiritual. We metaphorically "eat his flesh and drink his blood," by seeing Him as our altar, our bridge before the Father. Just as the heart is the means by which blood is distributed to the body, so with the love of God expressed in our Lord Yeshua. He is the Divine Center of all of life: the true Tabernacle, the Word made flesh. He is the true Bread of Life (לחֶם הַחַיִּים), and we receive spiritual strength when we abide in his Torah (תּוֹרָה) and his life (John 15:5).

May you abide in Him, chaverim.... Shabbat Shalom and Shanah Tovah!
 




Patience and Healing...


 

03.08.13  (Adar 26, 5773)  "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" (Sadhu Singh). The Sun of Righteousness (שֶׁמֶשׁ צְדָקָה) does forever shine, even in the dark hours. "Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise."
 

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)

Chagall - Peace Window (detail)

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O Lord, give us strength to be healed of those wounds of the past that seek to be felt in the present hour... Let our memories be redeemed as we hope for your complete deliverance. Grant us strength to abide in your hope, until the last day, to keep watch for the ready hand of Your love... As we go from place to place, from this moment to the next, help us to live in your all-encompassing Presence. Amen.
 




Be Still and Know...


 

03.08.13  (Adar 26, 5773)  The name YHVH (יהוה), means "God is Present" and "God is near" - as close as your own heart. The LORD is near, even should you feel lost and far away.... We can attune ourselves to hear God's "still, small voice" (קוֹל דְּמָמָה דַקָּה) when we are quieted, not when we are surrounded by the crowd and its cheers and its murmurings... God cannot be found in noise and restlessness, much less in the fear-mongering and propaganda of this world. "God is the friend of silence. See how nature - trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence... We need silence to be able to touch souls."
 

הַרְפּוּ וּדְעוּ כִּי־אָנכִי אֱלהִים
 אָרוּם בַּגּוֹיִם אָרוּם בָּאָרֶץ

har·pu · u·de·u · ki · a·no·khi · E·lo·him
a·rum · ba·go·yim · a·rum · ba·a·retz
 

"Be still and know that I am God,
 I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."
(Psalm 46:10)



Hebrew Study Card
 
 

The verb "be still" (i.e., rapha: רָפָה) means to let go, to stop striving, to relinquish control, and to surrender your life and the fate of the world to the care of God... Being still means finding serenity and inner peace in the midst of God's providential plans for good... "Stand still, and see the salvation of God" (Exod. 14:13). As Blaise Pascal once noted, "All men's miseries derive from not being able to sit quietly in a room alone." This is because many people cannot live with themselves and seek escape; they therefore are compelled to seek release through the buzz and noise of what lies outside of themselves.... We experience God by receiving his peace: "Stop your striving and know that I am God."

One of the Ten Commandments is to rest in the LORD your God (Exod. 20:8-11), which is a picture of the "set table" the LORD provides for us as his children. The deepest principle of Sabbath is that we are set free from our striving and can open our hearts to God's gracious love... "Salvation is of the LORD," and we rest in the what the Lord has done for us. "If you call the Sabbath a delight; if you honor it, then you shall take delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken" (Isa. 58:13-14).
 




The Wise Hearted...


 

[ This week we have a "double portion" of Torah: parashat Vayakhel and Pekudei. Please read the Torah portions to "find your place" here. ]

03.07.13  (Adar 25, 5773)  From our Torah portion this week we read: "Let every wise-hearted person among you come and make all that the LORD has commanded" (Exod. 35:10). Just as God creates the world in chesed (עוֹלָם חֶסֶד יִבָּנֶה), so the wise of heart are able to build up the sanctuary of God. "Love builds up." Being "wise of heart" (חֲכַם־לֵב) means having emotional maturity, humility, and rightly ordered affections. Such heart wisdom does not depend on how smart you are or what sort of education you might have, but rather whether you are able to emotionally comprehend a situation, whether you are willing to allow the heart to discern the inner meaning of a message. The wise of heart are those who "build up" God's kingdom and help provide sanctuary for others...
 

וְכָל־חֲכַם־לֵב בָּכֶם
יָבאוּ וְיַעֲשׂוּ אֵת כָּל־אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְהוָה

ve·khol · cha·kham-lev · be·khem
ya·vo·u · ve·ya·a·su · et · kol-a·sher · tzi·vah · Adonai
 

"Let every wise-hearted person among you
come and make all that the LORD has commanded"
(Exod. 35:10)

Chagall - Peace Window (detail)
 

After Moses saw all the work that was done for the building of the Tabernacle, he blessed the people saying, "May it be the will of God that His Presence dwells within the work of your hands" (Exod. 39:33-43; Psalm 90:17). Rashi notes that even if a person feels entirely inadequate for the task, the Torah affirms that he should nevertheless do his or her part. "Every assembly for the sake of heaven must in the end stand" (Avot 4:11). When we apply our hearts to serve God, the Lord will give us the Spirit to empower our way; if we make ourselves his willing vessel, He will fill us to the full.
 

וִיהִי נעַם אֲדנָי אֱלהֵינוּ עָלֵינוּ
וּמַעֲשֵׂה יָדֵינוּ כּוֹנְנָה עָלֵינוּ
וּמַעֲשֵׂה יָדֵינוּ כּוֹנְנֵהוּ

ye·hi · no·am · Adonai · E·lo·hei·nu · a·lei·nu,
u·ma·a·seh · ya·dei·nu · ko·ne·nah · a·lei·nu,
u·ma·a·seh · ya·dei·nu · ko·ne·nei·hu
 

"May the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us,
and establish the work of our hands upon us;
yea, establish the work of our hands!"
(Psalm 90:17)

Chagall - Peace Window (detail)

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Seeing Small Miracles...


 

[ This week we have a "double portion" of Torah: parashat Vayakhel and Pekudei. Please read the Torah portions to "find your place" here. ]

03.06.13  (Adar 24, 5773)  We are commanded to see small miracles, everyday "signs and wonders..."  The sages say that a verse from our Torah portion suggests that everyone is obliged to recite at least 100 blessings a day: "... a hundred sockets for a hundred talents of silver, one talent per socket" (Exod. 38:27). The Gerer Rebbe comments, "Just as hundred sockets served as the foundation for the sanctuary, so the daily blessings represent the soul's foundation in holiness." In Jewish thinking, we "bless" God by offering our thanks, and thereby consciousness of life is sanctified. The Hebrew term for gratitude is hakarat tovah (הַכָּרַת טוֹבָה), a phrase that means "recognizing the good." The heart looks through the eye, and therefore how we choose to see is a spiritual decision: "If your eye is "single" (i.e., ἁπλοῦς, sincere, focused)," Yeshua said, "your whole body will be filled with light" (Matt. 6:22). When we see rightly, we behold the radiance of God shining within us, even in the midst of our mundane affairs (Isa. 6:3). A grateful heart is awake to God's Presence in the little things of life, those small miracles and glories that constantly surround us. The good eye of faith sees hundreds of reasons to bless God for the precious gift of life. The LORD is "enthroned among the blessings of His people" (Psalm 22:3).

Note: If you want to see blessing, then you must open your eyes. The "commandment" here is more of a mitzvah, that is, an opportunity to become alive and awake. The idea is that you "get to" see the miracle, not that "you must" see it.  It is a choice to believe (Col. 3:15).

The sages teach that in the case of doubt, however, one should not make a blessing that invokes God's Name, since doing so violates the commandment not to lift up the Name of the LORD for vain reasons (ironically, those who make an "idol" out of the Name of God are lifting up the name in vain). It is preferable not to pray than to do so insincerely or without heart (better still is to change the prayer to "Lord I believe; help Thou my unbelief"). On the other hand, surely God does not want his children to violate His will, and therefore a prayer offered be'emunah shelemah, with complete faith, will be heard in heaven. As it is written in the New Testament: "And this is the confidence (i.e., παρρησία, freedom to speak honestly) that we have with him, that if we ask anything according to his will he heeds us. And if we know that he heeds us in whatever we ask, we know that we presently have the requests that we have asked of him" (1 John 5:14-15).
 




Peace in His High Places...


 

03.05.13  (Adar 23, 5773)  I am just back from a funeral today... Adonai natan vadonai lakach (יהוה נתן ויהוה לקח), "the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away." It is very powerful to publicly affirm, despite the presence of the dead in our midst, the greatness of God and to avow our complete faith that death has indeed been swallowed up in victory of God's love. Yehi shem Adonai mevorakh (יהי שׁם יהוה מברך), "let the Name of the Lord be blessed."
 

יְהוָה נָתַן וַיהוָה לָקָח
יְהִי שֵׁם יְהוָה מְברָךְ

Adonai · na·tan · Adonai · la·kakh
ye·hi · shem · Adonai · me·vo·rakh
 

"The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away;
Let the Name of the LORD be blessed" (Job 1:21)



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In time of bereavement it is customary to recite the Mourner's Kaddish as well as the dayan ha'emet blessing: בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְהוָה אֱלהֵנוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם דַיָּן הָאֱמֶת - "Blessed art Thou, LORD our God, Master of the Universe, the Judge of the truth." God is a faithful judge, and we need not grieve as others do who have no hope (1 Thess. 4:13). Those who "sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake," and when one of our own dies, we do not say "goodbye," but rather "we will see you a bit later, dear one..."
 

עוֹשֶׁה שָׁלוֹם בִּמְרוֹמָיו
הוּא יַעֲשֶׂה שָׁלוֹם עָלֵינוּ
וְעַל כָּל יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאִמְרוֹ אָמֵן

o·seh · sha·lom · bim·ro·mav
hu · ya·a·seh · sha·lom · a·lei·nu
ve·al · kol · yis·ra·el · ve·im·ru · a·men
 

"May He who makes peace in His high places
make peace within us
and for all Israel, and say ye: Amen."

 




The King of All Torah...


 

[ This week we have a "double portion" of Torah: parashat Vayakhel and Pekudei. Please read the Torah portions to "find your place" here. ]

03.05.13  (Adar 23, 5773)  The goal of the great Sinai revelation was not to simply impart a set of moral or social laws, but rather to "accommodate" the Divine Presence in the midst of the people. This is not to suggest that the various laws and decrees given to Israel were unimportant, of course, since they reflect the holy character and moral will of God. Nonetheless, the climax of the revelation of the Torah - its goal or purpose or "end" - was the revelation of the altar which prefigured the sacrificial work of the Lamb of God. Indeed, the central sacrifice upon this altar was the daily sacrifice (i.e., korban tamid: קָרְבַּן תָּמִיד) of a defect-free male lamb with unleavened bread and wine. The LORD calls this "My offering, My bread..." (see Num. 28:1-8). In other words, the service and ministry of the Mishkan (i.e., Tabernacle) constantly foreshadowed the coming Lamb of God who would be offered upon the altar "made without hands" to secure our eternal redemption (Heb. 9:11-12). The sacrifice of the lamb is therefore central to the meaning and purpose of the Torah.

The Talmud says "All the world was created for the Messiah" (Sanhedrin 98b). The Apostle Paul had earlier said the same thing: "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). Indeed, all of creation is being constantly upheld by the word of the Messiah's power (Heb. 1:3). Creation begins and ends with the redemptive love of God as manifested in the Person of Yeshua our LORD... The Messiah is the Center of Creation - its beginning and end.  As it is written: אָנכִי אָלֶף וְתָו רִאשׁוֹן וְאַחֲרוֹן ראשׁ וָסוֹף / "I am the 'Aleph' and the 'Tav,' the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End" (Rev. 22:13). "For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen" (Rom. 11:36). In everything Yeshua has the preeminence (Col. 1:18), and his "work" is of first importance (1 Cor. 2:2, 1 Cor. 15:3-4). Yeshua our Messiah is called 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.  Yehi shem Adonai mevorakh: "Let the Name of the LORD be blessed" forever and ever (Psalm 113:2). So while we can agree with the Talmud's general statement that the world was created for the Messiah, we would insist that the Messiah is none other than Yeshua, God's Son, and indeed, the Messiah could be no other...

Note: For more on this subject, see the "Choosing to Belong" article.
 




No Fear in His Love...


 

03.04.13  (Adar 22, 5773)  The mind is the "gateway" to your heart, and it is therefore essential to guard your thinking by immersing yourself in the truth... Fear is often the result of believing the lie that God is not in control or is unable/unwilling to help you... "Not losing your mind" therefore means being grounded in what is real, and it therefore implies understanding your identity and provision as a child of God. "God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power (גְּבוּרָה / δύναμις) and of love (ἀγάπη), and of a "sound mind" (σωφρονισμός, lit. a "delivered" mind, "healed" from fragmentation: 2 Tim. 1:7). The Greek word "sound mind" (σωφρονισμός) comes from the verb sodzo (σῴζω), meaning "to save," from saos (σάος) "safe," in the sense of being under restraining influence of the Spirit of God... There is no fear in God's all-sustaining love, whatever may befall our way.  Because of Yeshua we can affirm: "All shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well."

In light of the madness and depravity of this evil world, it is essential to remember that God is in complete control of all things. He works "all things together for good" to those who are trusting in Him (Rom. 8:28). And "there is no fear in love" (אין פַּחַד בָּאַהֲבָה), especially since we know that ein od milvado (אֵין עוֹד מִלְבַדּו) -- there is no real power apart from the LORD (i.e., He is the only true Power in the universe, despite the menace and threats that mankind routinely inflict upon one another). Indeed, our King the Messiah Yeshua is called Elyon lemalkhei-aretz (עֶלְיוֹן לְמַלְכֵי־אָרֶץ) - the "Ruler of the princes of the earth" (Rev. 1:5) - and that means they ultimately will answer to Him. Despite the madness and schemes of this world, we know that the LORD God Almighty reigns, and therefore we need not be afraid of man, the face of man, or his godless devices.
 

אָנכִי אָנכִי הוּא מְנַחֶמְכֶם מִי־אַתְּ וַתִּירְאִי
מֵאֱנוֹשׁ יָמוּת וּמִבֶּן־אָדָם חָצִיר יִנָּתֵן׃
וַתִּשְׁכַּח יְהוָה עשֶׂךָ נוֹטֶה שָׁמַיִם וְיסֵד אָרֶץ

a·no·chi · a·no·chi · hu · me·na·chem·khem, · mi-at · vat·ti·ri
me·e·nosh · ya·mut, · u'mi·ben · a·dam · cha·tzir · yin·na·ten?
va·tish·kach · Adonai · O·se·kha, · no·teh · sha·ma·yim · ve·yo·sed · a·retz
 

"I, I am he who comforts you; who are you that you are afraid of man who dies,
of the son of man who is made like grass, and have forgotten the LORD, your Maker,
who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth."
(Isa. 51:12-13)


 




The Hour Draws Near...


 

03.04.13  (Adar 22, 5773)  We are living in days that forebode the rise of worldwide fascism, a control grid carefully engineered by the "princes" of this world... It's getting to be that to have a conscience, to be awake to moral and spiritual reality, will make you into an "enemy of the state." The devil is afraid of one thing: a person of real conviction... Know your enemy: do not be ignorant of his devices (2 Cor. 2:11). Make up your mind, be ready to die for the truth, if necessary, and you cannot be overcome (Rev. 12:11). Fear no man, but only God. Spiritual warfare is the fight for sanity and truth in a world that prefers madness and practiced self-deception.  May the LORD our God help us to courageously stand for His truth in these darkened days before the end finally comes. But as for the "rulers of this world," they should know that they have an appointment scheduled with the One who will surely come bearing the righteous scepter of the Kingdom of God...

The LORD God Almighty will surely break the pride of the "kings of the earth" with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel, and the shattering will be so ruthless that among its fragments not a shard will be found with which to take fire from the hearth, or to dip up water out of the cistern (Psalm 2:9; Isa. 30:14). For 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 (Rev. 19:15). "As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand, and it struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, breaking them in pieces. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, all together were broken in pieces, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth" (Dan. 2:34-35). "And the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed ... and it shall stand forever" (Dan. 2:44). One day the edifice of man's godless pride will come crashing down, and there will be no trace left of its rubble...

The prophet Isaiah foresaw the glory of the coming kingdom: "It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD (הַר־יְהוָה), to the house of the God of Jacob (בֵּית אֱלהֵי יַעֲקב), that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths." For out of Zion shall go the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore" (Isa. 2:2-4; see also Jer. 3:17, Micah 4:1, etc.).
 

כִּי מִצִּיּוֹן תֵּצֵא תוֹרָה וּדְבַר־יְהוָה מִירוּשָׁלָםִ

ki · mi·tzi·yon · tei·tzei · to·rah · ud·var · Adonai · mi·ru·sha·la·yim
 

"For out of Zion shall go forth the law,
and the Word of the LORD from Jerusalem" (Isa. 2:3)


 


Before the advent of the Kingdom, however, the great "Day of the LORD" (וֹם־יְהוָה הַגָּדוֹל) will come - a time of worldwide, catastrophic judgment that will befall the kings and princes of this world... "The great day of the LORD is near, near and hastening fast; the sound of the day of the LORD is bitter; the mighty man will cry loud there" (Zech. 1:14).

We must be be careful not to love this world or the things of this world (1 John 2:15). The kingdom of man is at war with the kingdom of God, and whoever wishes to be a "friend" of this evil world makes himself an enemy of God (James 4:4). Regarding this doomed world the LORD speaks thus to His children: "Come out of the midst of her and be ye separate, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues."  This call to be separate may be more difficult for those who live in the midst of present-day "Babylon" than in other places of the world, because in Babylon it is far too easy to coddle the flesh and to avoid taking a costly stand for the truth... However, the reign of Babylon is spreading like a cancer throughout the world, consolidating power, and soon it will demand complete allegiance of all who dwell upon the earth. During that time of tribulation, all the peoples of the world will be forced to chose whether to accept the "mark of the beast" (i.e., citizenship in world order) or to face persecution, etc.  Adonai oz le'amo yiten (יְהוָה עז לְעַמּוֹ יִתֵּן) - May the LORD protect and strengthen His people:
 

יְהוָה עז לְעַמּוֹ יִתֵּן
 יְהוָה יְבָרֵךְ אֶת־עַמּוֹ בַשָּׁלוֹם

Adonai  oz  le·am·mo  yit·ten,
Adonai  ye·va·rekh  et  am·mo  va·sha·lom
 

"The LORD will give strength to his people;
The LORD will bless his people with peace" (Psalm 29:11)



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Nachman of Breslov once said that "The whole earth is a very narrow bridge, and the point of life is never to be afraid." Likewise we understand Yeshua to be the Bridge to the Father, the narrow way of passage that leads to life. He calls out to us in the storm of this world, "Take heart. It is I; be not afraid" (Matt. 14:27). When Peter answered the call and attempted to walk across the stormy waters, he lost courage and began to sink, but Yeshua immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt (lit., think twice)?"
 




Expelling the Darkness...



[ "For our struggle is against spiritual forces of evil..." Eph. 6:12 ]
 

03.04.13  (Adar 22, 5773)  Human life is a battleground of forces, and each person is engaged in a spiritual war for the healing of their soul... Often we are not willing to enter the battle until we have been sufficiently wounded by own own sins: many of us have to become "sick of being sick" until we are ready to seriously engage the underlying issues.

The battle is not optional. We must learn to deal with our own inner struggle against evil. Before we can help others to be free, however, we must be free ourselves, and that means learning how to expel the darkness hidden within our own hearts and to walk in God's light. Deliverance means being set free from that which "possesses" us, and that includes the demonic strongholds of fear, anger, envy, lust, and so on. Overmastering impulses can lead the soul to dark thoughts, self-alienation, shame -- a tenuous existence of subjugation and pain. The way of deliverance is to "name the demon," that is, to challenge the ground it claims and to exercise divine authority over our hearts. Above all this means being honest about our struggle and taking a decisive stand against our own oppression... Fighting the "good fight of faith" means caring enough to be healed...

We can only face the demonic if we are willing to be honest with ourselves, for without genuine honesty we cannot see our condition. "A little leaven leavens the whole lump" (Gal. 5:9). We must be willing to confess that there is much within us that remains unhealed, and that we are often unmindful of what really motivates our behavior. Even those things we might suppose as good - our religion or our self-control, for example - can possess us in ways that bring harm to ourselves and others....

When Yeshua expelled the demonic, the afflicted soul was given inner peace and put into their "right mind" (Mark 5:15). In other words, deliverance from madness is linked to God's healing influence in our lives: "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound (safe) mind" (2 Tim. 1:7). Note that the word translated "safe" comes from the verb sodzo (σῴζω), meaning to be healed from inner fragmentation. A delivered person has "inner balance" and is not easily overthrown by his conscious (or unconscious) passions. Such a person is grounded in reality: he knows who he is, what he needs, and is realistic about what he can and can't do. His soul is not divided but rather unified, centered, and focused. He is consciously present and accepts life without resistance.

Yeshua gives us "authority" over the demonic to heal (Luke 9:1). The Greek word authority, eksousia (ἐξουσία), is a compound formed from the preposition ek- (ἐκ), meaning "out of," and the noun ousia (ουσία), meaning "being" or substance, thereby suggesting power over physical and spiritual reality. Another way to understand the word, however, is to see it as the ability to see beyond the realm of the transient abide within the realm of the Eternal. The Father represents the unseen, the infinite, the supreme providential and transcendental aspects of the One true God, just as the Son represents the seen, the finite, the suffering and immanent aspects of God... They are One (similarly the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God, and therefore is One with God). Yeshua was entirely submitted to the will of the Father, which means he was able to let go and trust in the all-encompassing Divine Presence. His life was grounded in his relationship with the Eternal: "He that has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). Since Yeshua lived in complete unity or "oneness" with God, he was completely centered and fully conscious of his identity as God's Son. His authority came from being preoperly aligned or related to God the Father, that is, ultimate reality, which enabled him to be a vessel or conduit for the expression of God in the world.

The Scriptures state: "Yield yourselves to God; take a stand against the devil and he will flee from you" (James 4:7). We first ground ourselves in what is real - surrendering and accepting the given moment - and then we decisively refuse to be taken captive by our imagination, fear, lust, etc. When we turn to the light the darkness will be expelled (John 1:5). Let's choose life and therefore live (Deut. 30:19); let's take our stand against the powers of hell; let's repudiate our fears and "spiritually slay" whatever seeks to drive and control us. May our hearts grow quiet before the Divine Presence and abide in peace...
 




Vayakhel-Pekudei (ויקהל־פקודי)


 

[ This week we have a "double portion" of Torah: parashat Vayakhel and Pekudei. Please read the Torah portions to "find your place" here. ]

03.04.13  (Adar 22, 5773)  This week we have a "double portion" of Torah: parashat Vayakhel-Pekudei (ויקהל־פקודי). Much of this material is repeated from the earlier description of the Tabernacle (מִשְׁכָּן) to underscore the importance of the sacrificial system (the altar) and to portend the two advents of Messiah Yeshua.  Note that God commanded Moses to assemble the Tabernacle on "the first month in the second year [from the date of the Exodus], on the first day of the month" (i.e., Nisan 1, or Rosh Chodashim, see Exod. 40:17). The new moon of Nisan, then, marks the beginning of month of redemption, both regarding the Exodus from Egypt (and the establishment of the altar at the Tabernacle), as well as the greater Exodus given through the altar of Messiah as spiritually foretold by this...
 


Note that once the Tabernacle was completed and all its components were accounted for and inspected, Moses assembled it and anointed all its components with the sacred anointing oil, called shemen ha-mishchah (note that the word "mishchah" (מִשְׁחָה) comes from the same root as "Messiah" (מָשִׁיחַ), indicating that the Mishkan (i.e., Tabernacle) would foreshadow God's plan of redemption given in Yeshua). Moses then formally initiated Aaron and his four sons into the priesthood, marking their hands and feet with sacrificial blood and "waving them" before the Lord to picture resurrection. The Divine Presence - manifest as the Shekhinah Cloud of Glory – then filled the Holy of Holies in the Tent of Meeting.

The Book of Exodus ends: "And Moses was not able to enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the Glory of the LORD (כְּבוֹד יְהוָה) filled the Mishkan (הַמִּשְׁכָּן). Throughout all their journeys, whenever the Cloud was taken up from over the Mishkan, the people of Israel would set out. But if the Cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out till the day that it was taken up. For the Cloud of the LORD (עֲנַן יְהוָה) was on the Mishkan by day, and Fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys" (Exod. 30:35-38).

The Presence of the Glory of God that descended from Sinai upon the newly dedicated Mishkan represented a climactic moment for the fledgling nation, since the Sin of the Golden Calf had jeopardized whether the God would indeed dwell within the midst of the camp of Israel...  Recall that it was only after Moses had returned from Sinai bearing the second set of Tablets (on Yom Kippur) that the glow of the LORD's redeeming love radiated from his face, and new hope was given to Israel (prefiguring the New Covenant). The King of Glory would accompany the people from Sinai to the Promised Land! (The narrative continues in the Book of Numbers, beginning exactly one month after the Mishkan was assembled.) 
 




Shabbat HaChodesh - שַׁבַּת הַחדֶשׁ


 

[ This coming Sabbath is called "Shabbat HaChodesh" (the "Sabbath of the Month" [of Nisan]), since it is the last Sabbath before the start of the Biblical New Year.... ]

03.03.13  (Adar 21, 5773)  The world runs on a "clock" that operates under assumptions that are different than those revealed in the Scriptures.... The "wisdom of this world" (σοφία τοῦ κόσμου τούτου) is the prevailing cultural spirit that suppresses the reality of God's Presence and truth. Such "wisdom" is regarded as foolishness before God, and God has promised to "seize the so-called wise in their own craftiness" (1 Cor. 3:19). The life of faith, on the other hand, sees what is invisible.  Faith (emunah) apprehends "the substance (ὑπόστασις) of things hoped for, the assurance (ἔλεγχος, conviction, "correction," "argument," i.e., tokhachat: תוֹכַחַת) of things not seen" (Heb 11:1). The heart of faith "looks not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal" (2 Cor. 4:18).

The Sabbath that immediately precedes (or sometimes falls on) the Biblical New Year is called Shabbat HaChodesh (שַׁבַּת הַחדֶש), the "Sabbath of the Month" (of Nisan). This Sabbath is significant because it marks the start of the month of Redemption (i.e., the first month called Nisan) which God called "the beginning of months" (i.e., Rosh Chodashim). We honor this event by reading an additional passage from the Torah concerning the sanctification of the new moon (Exod. 12:1-20), and we spiritually prepare for this month by studying about Passover and the coming spring holidays:


 

The commandment to sanctify the first new moon of the year (i.e., Rosh Chodashim) reveals that it is our responsibility to sanctify (i.e., observe) Biblical time in general. In other words, when we observe "the beginning of months," we are acknowledging that time itself is rooted in the Biblical calendar with its divinely inspired cycle of festivals (i.e., the moedim). Note that this year the Biblical New Year begins on Monday, March 11th at sundown, and therefore Passover begins exactly two week weeks later, Monday, March 25th at sundown:

Purim-Pesach
 

Originally Rosh Chodashim was simply called the "first month" because it marked the month of the Exodus and the other months were named in relation to it, similar to the days of the week in the Hebrew calendar (i.e., the first day, the second day...).  Later it was called Chodesh Ha-Aviv (חדֶשׁ הָאָבִיב) - "the springtime month" (because the calendar is reset in the spring) and later still as Nisan (נִיסָן), to recall God's faithfulness after the Babylonian Exile (Neh. 2:1; Esther 3:7). So important is this month that the Jewish sage Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman (Ramban) wrote regarding the commandment to observe Rosh Chodashim:
 

    "The verses (Exod. 12:1-2) mean that this month should be counted first, and beginning with it, the count should proceed to the second, the third, and so on, till the end of the sequence with the twelfth month. In this way, this month should be a commemoration of the Great Miracle (i.e., our Redemption), and every time we mention the months, the Miracle will be alluded to. It is for that reason that the months do not have names in the Torah, but rather they are identified by number."
     

The word Nisan might come from either the word nitzan (נִצָּן), meaning "bud" (Song 2:12), or the word nissim (נִסִּים) meaning "miracles," both of which suggest physical and spiritual resurrection in our lives. Others think the word comes from the verb nus (נוּס), meaning "to flee," both in relation to Israel's flight from Egypt and Egypt's flight from Israel (i.e., when the pursuing Egyptian cavalry fled (נָסִים) before the sea closed upon them (Exod. 14:25, 27). We also see this usage in the verse: "The wicked flee (נָסוּ) when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion" (Prov. 28:1). The devil's power is found in the lie.  If he can make you afraid, you will not think clearly. Establishing your faith in the truth will embolden you to deal with the lies and distortions that are intended to enslave you in fear. As Yeshua said, the truth will set you free (John 8:32).
 




Torah of Brokenness...


 

[ The following is related to our Torah reading this week, parashat Ki Tisa. Please read the Torah portion to find your place here... ]

03.01.13  (Adar 19, 5773)  It was only after Moses experienced brokenness and confession (prefigured by the shattering of the first set of tablets and the 40 days of teshuvah) that the inner meaning of God's Name was revealed as "mercy, grace, longsuffering, faithfulness, compassion," and so on (Exod. 34:6-7). The passion of Moses prefigures the inner breaking necessary before the law of God can be "written upon the heart." As it is written of the New Covenant, "I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts" (Jer. 31:33).
 

הָרפֵא לִשְׁבוּרֵי לֵב
 וּמְחַבֵּשׁ לְעַצְּבוֹתָם

ha-ro·fei · lish·vu·rei ·lev
u'me·cha·besh · le'atz·tze·vo·tam
 

"He is the healer of the brokenhearted
 and the One who binds up their sorrows."
(Psalm 147:3)

Download Study Card
 




Healing the Sick Soul...


 

03.01.13  (Adar 19, 5773)  Sickness of the soul is just as serious as sickness of the body, and indeed many of our physical sicknesses come from being sick at heart - by living in fear or despair, or by allowing unresolved guilt or anger to destroy ourselves. The Scriptures state that just as a body can become sick with illness, so can the soul: "I said, 'O LORD, be gracious to me; heal my soul (רְפָאָה נַפְשִׁי), for I have sinned against you.'"
 

אֲנִי־אָמַרְתִּי יְהוָה חָנֵּנִי
 רְפָאָה נַפְשִׁי כִּי־חָטָאתִי לָךְ

a·ni · a·mar·ti · Adonai · cho·nei·ni
re·fa·ah · naf·shi · ki · cha·ta·ti · lakh
 

"I said, LORD, be gracious to me
 heal my soul; for I have sinned against You"
(Psalm 41:4)

The cross, not the scales

 

Note the connection between healing of the soul and the confession of sin in this verse. Often we are sick because of inner secrets that need to be brought to the light (1 John 1:9). "Therefore, confess (ἐξομολογέω, lit. 'confess out') your sins to one another and pray (εὔχομαι) for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person (i.e., tzaddik) works great power" (James 5:16). Being yashar - honest and upright - produces spiritual power and life. The word translated "pray" (euchomai) means to "wish (εὐχὴ) for oneself (or for another) the good." Confession (ὁμολογία) means bringing yourself naked before the Divine Light to agree with the truth about who you are. Indeed, the word homologeo literally means "saying the same thing" - from ὁμός (same) and λόγος (word). We need to confess the truth if we are to be free from the pain of the past.

Followers of Jesus are called to be healers (Luke 9:1). The most common word for healing in the New Testament is therapeuo (θεραπεύω), a word that means to serve, to care for, and to restore to health. Unlike showy ministers who draw crowds to demonstrate the power of miraculous "faith healing," spiritual healers take the time to listen to others, to hear their inward pain, and to extend compassion and grace to them. They help open the inner eyes of the heart by extending hope and a new vision about what is real...  Indeed, lasting healing focuses less on being cured than on finding a hope that will never die.


Postscript:  What eternal good would it do, after all, to be "cured" of some disease if a soul was not also delivered from the power of darkness and sin? What would such "healing" mean, in light of the truth of eternity? After all, if the evil one may afflict people with sickness, surely he may also remove it to keep a person in a state of bondage... Some people, after frantically searching for a cure to their sickness, finally must let go and accept that they are going to die... If they have come to real inner peace, if they hold hope of eternal life within them because of the message of Yeshua, then even though they might not be physically "cured" in this world of shadows, they are indeed forever "healed" for life in the "high country" of the world to come...
 




Chosen in Your Need...


 

03.01.13  (Adar 19, 5773)  Nothing is more common than for people to believe their own propaganda, to flatter themselves that they are one of God's "chosen people," and to regard others as "outsiders" who are wrong...  According to Yeshua, however, the truly chosen are often those whom you would not expect: the outcasts, the sick, the sinful... Indeed God often choses those rejected and despised by the esteem of men to be recipients of his special care (1 Cor. 1:26-30).

The Kingdom of God is not a "caste system" or hierarchy of chosen ones. Do you want to be great in the kingdom? Yeshua turns human pride upside-down by saying that the "greatest will be the slave of all" (Mark 10:44; Matt. 18:1-4, Matt. 20:25-28). God delights to take the weak and broken and establish them with divine power, for the glory of His own Name. He confounds the mighty of this world with the "foolish" heart of faith...

Part of being humble means acknowledging that you just don't know some things, that you could very well be wrong, and that you too are a sick and needy soul who depends on God's sustaining love for every breath and heartbeat of your life... Shalom.
 

    "Spare me from bitterness and from the sharp passions of unguarded moments. May I not forget that poverty and riches are of the spirit. Though the world knows me not, may my thoughts and actions be such as shall keep me friendly with myself. Lift up my eyes from the earth, and let me not forget the uses of the stars. Forbid that I should judge others lest I condemn myself. Let me not follow the clamor of the world, but walk calmly in my path." - Max Ehrmann (1872-1945)
     





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