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May 28, 2016
Iyyar 20, 5776

Lag B'Omer

Behar
 

Lev. 25:1-26:2
[Table Talk]

Jer. 32:6-27

Luke 4:16-21

 

Emor

The Jubilee Year....

Our Torah portion this week (parashat Behar) begins with the commandment that an Israelite farmer must let his land remain fallow every seventh year. This is called the "Sabbatical year" (i.e., shemittah: שמיטה), and the inhabitants of the land were permitted to glean whatever the farmland produced naturally. In addition, the people were told to count seven cycles of seven years a total of 49 years and to mark the arrival of the fiftieth year with blasts of the shofar on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). This fiftieth year would be a time of "Jubilee" (i.e., yovel: יוֹבֵל) a year of "release" for the land and all its inhabitants. All slaves would be set free, debts would be canceled, and the stewardship of the land would revert to its original titleholders.

In this connection, how might you determine whether a given year is a Sabbatical year (i.e., shemittah)? We take the current Jewish year and divide by seven; if there is no remainder, it is a shemittah year; otherwise it is not. For example year 5775 is a Sabbatical Year, whereas year 5776 is not (note that the Jewish year begins on Rosh Hashanah, on Tishri 1, in the fall). The Jubilee year (yovel) of course follows the seventh of the seven year cycles (i.e., 7 x 7 + 1), though there are some questions about which iteration (1st, 2nd, ... 7th) is currently active.  According to some authorities, the last Jubilee year was in 5727, which means the next would be Yom Kippur 5776, that is, Tues. Oct. 11th, 2016...
 

Countdown to the Harvest...

We are in the midst of Sefirat Ha-Omer (the "Counting of the Omer"), a 49 day countdown that runs from Nisan 16 through Sivan 5. The first day of the omer count begins on the second day of Passover, and the last day occurs the day before Shavuot ("Pentecost"). On our Gregorian calendars, these dates run from April 23rd through  June 10th this year. This is a countdown period leading to the giving of the Torah at Sinai and the giving of the Holy Spirit to Yeshua's disciples...

Lag B'Omer - 33rd Day of the Count...

This year, Wednesday May 25th begins the 33rd day of the omer count, called Lag B'Omer (ל״ג בעומר), which later became a mystical holiday to commemorate the teaching of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (i.e, Rashbi: רשב"י), the purported author of the Zohar, a fundamental text of Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism). According to tradition, on the day of his death, Rabbi Shimon revealed the deepest secrets of the Kabbalah to his followers and insisted that they would thereafter celebrate the anniversary of his death (Yahrzeit) with joy. His followers then associated his death on Iyyar 18 with the anniversary of the revelation of Kabbalah (Torat Ha-Nistar) to Israel. Among Kabbalists, Lag B'Omer celebrates the giving of the "mystical Torah" to Israel just as the holiday of Shavuot celebrates the giving of the written Torah. Today special Lag B'Omer "bonfire" celebrations are held in the village of Meron (near Safed, Israel) where the Rashbi is buried to mystically recall the "sparks that fly upward," back to God...


 

According to tradition, Lag B'Omer also commemorates the reprieve of a plague that caused the death of thousands of Rabbi Akiva's students during the last of the Jewish-Roman wars (called the Bar Kochba Revolt (מרד בר כוכבא‎), c.132-135 AD). Since Jewish tradition assumed that the Messiah would be a military leader who would deliver the Jews and usher in world peace, Rabbi Akiva (incorrectly) surmised that Shimon bar Kochba, the leader of the Jewish resistance, was the Jewish Messiah -- based on an esoteric reading of Numbers 24:17: כּוֹכָב מִיַּעֲקב - "A star shall come out of Jacob" ("Bar Kokhba" means "son of a star" in Aramaic). His tragic endorsement led to death of countless Jews and further alienated the Messianic Jewish community from Israel. The eventual defeat of the Jews by Emperor Hadrian marked the sure beginning of the Jewish Diaspora from the Promised Land. The province of Judaea was then renamed "Palestine" and Jerusalem was called Aelia Capitolina.

According to later Jewish tradition, all of Akiva's students died during the time of the Omer Count, but Akiva "started over" with a new batch of just five students. Of these, his most famous student was Shimon bar Yochai. The Talmud (Yevamot 62b) recalls the tragedy of Bar Kochba and commemorates it as a "Scholar's Festival," in honor of Rabbi Akiva.

Note: It should be evident that Lag B'Omer is not a Christian/Messianic Jewish holiday, but on the contrary celebrates occultic speculations that further separate many Jewish people from the liberating truth of Yeshua the Messiah. During this time of "countdown," chaverim, let us pray that the eyes of many Jews will soon be opened to see that Yeshua is indeed the Messiah and Savior of Israel.

Blessing before Torah Study:

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Some terms:

  • Parashah is the weekly Scripture portion taken from the Torah. Each parashah is given a name and is usually referred to as "parashat - name" (e.g., parashat Noach). For more information about weekly readings, click here.
     
  • Aliyot refer to a smaller sections of the weekly parashah that are assigned to people of the congregation for public reading during the Torah Reading service. In most congregations it is customary for the person "called up" to recite a blessing for the Torah before and after the assigned section is recited by the cantor. For Shabbat services, there are seven aliyot (and a concluding portion called a maftir). The person who is called to make aliyah is referred to as an oleh (olah, if female).
     
  • Maftir refers to the last Torah aliyah of the Torah chanting service (normally a brief repetition of the 7th aliyah, though on holidays the Maftir portion usually focuses on the Holiday as described in the Torah).  The person who recites the Maftir blessing also recites the blessing over the Haftarah portion.
     
  • Haftarah refers to an additional portion from the Nevi'im (Prophets) read after the weekly Torah portion. The person who made the maftir blessing also recites the blessing for the Haftarah, and may even read the Haftarah before the congregation.
     
  • Brit Chadashah refers to New Testament readings which are added to the traditional Torah Reading cycle. Often blessings over the Brit Chadashah are recited before and after the readings.
     
  • Mei Ketuvim refers to a portion read from the Ketuvim, or writings in the Tanakh. Readings from the Ketuvim are usually reserved for Jewish holidays at the synagogue.
     
  • Perek Yomi Tehillim refers to the daily portion of psalms (mizmorim) recited so that the entire book of Psalms (Tehillim) is read through in a month. For a schedule, of daily Psalm readings, click here.
     
  • Gelilah refers to the tying up and covering the Sefer Torah (Torah Scroll) as an honor in the synagogue.
     
  • Divrei Torah ("words of Torah") refers to a commentary, a sermon, or devotional on the Torah portion of the week.

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