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I was laid off from my full-time job awhile ago. After a lot of prayer, soul searching, and discussions with my wife, we have decided to operate the Hebrew for Christians ministry entirely by faith in God's provision through the love and kindness of His people. I am not paid for doing this work, and therefore I ask you to consider supporting us. If you can help, please offer a donation or purchase some of the Hebrew study materials offered here.  Encouraging other web sites to link here also helps us become more visible on the web. Above all, agree with us for the Lord's will to be done in our lives. Todah, chaverim.

        

Note:  My wife and I have have three young children (Josiah, Judah, and Emanuel David - born Jan. 17, 2016). The LORD has graciously provided for us as Adonai Yireh (יְהוָה יִרְאֶה), "the One who sees [our need]." We are living one day at a time by the grace and mercy of God, and I want to publicly praise Yeshua and acknowledge His faithful love in caring for my family -- despite the trials during this time. The LORD God of Israel is faithful and true! And to those of you who have sent us a word of encouragement or donation during this difficult time, please accept our heartfelt appreciation! Your chesed truly help sustain us.

יְהִי שֵׁם יְהוָה מְברָךְ - "Blessed be the Name of the Lord." 





 

Jewish Holiday Calendar

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

The Jewish civil year begins in the fall, though the Biblical year begins in spring (Exod. 12:2). Preparations for the fall holidays begin with a thirty day period of teshuvah (repentance) during the (late summer) month of Elul. The following ten days begin with the Feast of Trumpets (i.e., Rosh Hashanah, on Tishri 1) and end with the Day of Atonement (i.e., Yom Kippur, on Tishri 10). These first ten days of the new year are called the "Ten Days of Awe" (i.e., aseret ye'mei teshuvah: עֲשֶׁרֶת יְמֵי תְּשׁוּבָה), or simply the Jewish "High Holidays." Just five days after the solemn time of Yom Kippur begins the joyous week-long festival of Sukkot ("Tabernacles"), which is immediately followed by the celebration of Simchat Torah. The holiday of Chanukah occurs in late fall and carries over to the winter season:
 

Summer Holiday Calendar

The Fall Holidays:

Summer Holidays
 

The fall festivals prophetically indicate the Day of the LORD (יוֹם יְהוָה), the second coming of Yeshua, the great national turning of the Jewish people, and the establishment of the reign of the Messiah upon the earth during the Millennial Kingdom in the world to come.

Note that in accordance with tradition, holiday dates begin at sundown. Moreover, some holidays may be postponed one day if they happen to fall on the weekly Sabbath:

  1. Month of Elul (Mon., Aug. 21st [eve] - Wed. Sept. 20th [day])
  2. Month of Tishri (Wed. Sept. 20th [eve]) - Thur. Oct. 19th [day]
    • Five Sabbaths: Ha'azinu, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, V'zot Berakhah, Bereshit
    • Rosh Hashanah / Yom Teru'ah - Tishri 1 5778 (Wed. Sept. 20th) - Seder
    • The Ten Days of Teshuvah: Wed. Sept 20th - Fri. Sept. 29th
    • Shabbat Shuvah - the Shabbat that occurs during the Ten Days of Repentance between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (Fri., Sept. 22)
    • Tzom Gedaliah - Sun. Sept. 24 (sunrise to sunset fast)
    • Yom Kippur - Fri. Sept. 29th, a Sabbath (the fast begins an hour before sunset and runs 25 hours until after sunset Sat. Sept. 30th).
    • Sukkot - Wed. Oct. 4th at sundown through Wed. Oct. 11th at sundown.
    • Hoshana Rabba - Climactic last day of Sukkot, Wed. Oct. 11th.
    • Shemini Atzeret - The "eighth day" assembly after Sukkot. Thurs. Oct 12th.
    • Simchat Torah - Celebration of the conclusion of the completion of the yearly Torah Reading Cycle. Thurs. Oct 12th - Friday Oct. 13th.
    • Shabbat Bereshit - The beginning of the Torah Reading Cycle for the new year (Friday, Oct. 13th after sundown through the following Sabbath day).
       
  3. Month of Cheshvan (Thur. Oct. 19th [eve] - Sat. Nov. 18th [day])
    • Five Sabbaths: Noach, Lekh-Lekha, Vayera, Chayei Sarah, Toldot
    • Yom HaAliyah - a modern holiday established to acknowledge the contibution of olim (Jewish immigrants) to the Jewish state (Thur. Oct 26th; Cheshvan 7).
    • Sigd - 50th day after Yom Kippur; Ethiopian Jewish holiday (Fri., Nov. 17th)
       
  4. Month of Kislev Sat. Nov. 18th [eve] - Sun. Dec. 17th [day])
    • Four Sabbaths: Vayetzei, Vayishlach, Vayeshev, Miketz 
    • Dates for Chanukah 2017 (5778):
      • 1st Chanukah candle - Tues. Dec. 12th [i.e., Kislev 25]
      • 2nd Chanukah candle - Wed. Dec. 13th
      • 3rd Chanukah candle: Thur. Dec. 14th
      • 4th Chanukah candle: Fri. Dec. 15th
      • 5th Chanukah candle: Sat. Dec. 16th
         
  5. Month of Tevet (Sun., Dec. 17th [eve] - Tues. Jan. 16th [day])
    • Four Sabbaths: Vayigash, Vayechi, Shemot, Vaera
    • Dates for Chanukah (continued):
      • 6th Chanukah candle: Sun. Dec. 17th (Rosh Chodesh Chanukah)
      • 7th Chanukah candle: Mon. Dec. 18th
      • 8th Chanukah candle: Tues. Dec. 19th [Zot Chanukah]
    • Winter Solstice: Wed. Dec. 20th (Kislev 20)
    • Christmas: Sunday, Dec. 24th at sundown (Tevet 7)
    • Tenth of Tevet - Thur. Dec. 28th; daytime fast over the seige of Jerusalem
    • Secular New Year: Sun. Dec. 31st, 2018 (Tevet 14)
       


Note:  Some calendars will list the first day of a holiday without indicating that the holiday actually begins sundown the night before... So, for example, while Chanukah begins Tuesday, Dec. 12th at sundown, some calendars may indicate that it occurs on the following day...

 

 


 

October 2017 Site Updates
 


Heart of Wisdom...


 

10.17.17 (Tishri 27, 5778)   The bloom of every flower is decreed by eternal purpose, and not one common sparrow is forgotten by your Heavenly Father (Luke 12:6). God's irresistible providence comprehends and orders all things, from the realm of the subatomic to the cosmic motions of the heavenly bodies. The Lord is the Center of reality: "All things were created by Him, and for Him, and in Him all things hold together" (Col. 1:16-17). In light of this overarching glory, Blaise Pascal asked, "What is left for us but to unite our will to that of God himself, to will in him, with him, and for him the thing that he has eternally willed in us and for us." The Mishnah says it this way: "Do His will as if it was your will that He may do your will as if it was His will" (Avot 2:4). In other words, what else can we do but learn to trust, accept, and to say "yes" to life – even if at times we may feel like strangers in exile... All our days are ordained; recorded in God's scroll. Therefore may God "teach us to number our days to get a heart of wisdom" (Psalm 90:12). So don't lose heart, friend; He who cares for you is a good shepherd, and you shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
 

לִמְנוֹת יָמֵינוּ כֵּן הוֹדַע
 וְנָבִא לְבַב חָכְמָה

lim·not · ya·me·nu · ken · ho·da
ve·na·vi · le·vav · chokh·mah
 

"Teach us to number our days
 that we may get a heart of wisdom."
(Psalm 90:12)



Hebrew Study Card
 

Moses prayed to God: "teach us to number our days," that is, help us understand how to make our days count for eternity, to have a weight of glory that will shine in the world to come...  The sages say on the day of death, one considers one's life as if it had been a single day... Life goes by so quickly, and we never know when our personal Rosh Hashanah will come. "No one knows the day or hour..." That's why it is so vital to be healed and to turn to God while there is still time. So turn to him today and bacharta ba'chayim – "choose life!"

Despite the frailty and brevity of our days, may it please God to shine the power of His radiance upon us and to establish our works for His praise. May He help us to "number our days" so that we may obtain levav chokhmah (לְבַב חָכְמָה) - a heart of wisdom to live according to His will (James 1:5). Amen.
 




Seeing the Invisible...


 

[ The following entry concerns this week's Torah reading, parashat Noach... ]

10.17.17 (Tishri 27, 5778)   Just as the patriarch Noah foresaw the great cataclysm to come, so we are to understand that the world above our heads and under our feet is likewise destined to destruction, as we also await the promised world to come. As it is written in our Scriptures: "Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look at the earth beneath; for the heavens vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment, and they who dwell in it will die in like manner; but my salvation will be forever (וישׁוּעָתִי לְעוֹלָם תִּהְיֶה), and my righteousness will never be dismayed" (Isa. 51:6).

This idea is repeated in the New Testament: "For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man" (Matt. 24:37). "But the Day of the LORD will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the Day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn? But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish and at peace" (2 Pet. 3:10-14).

In light of all this, we choose to look 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... For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead. Therefore we are strangers and exiles on the earth, looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God" (2 Cor. 4:18; Rom. 1:20; Heb. 11:10,13).

Faith sees the invisible... Our father Abraham was promised descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky or sand on the seashore, despite the fact that he was an old man and his wife had long past the age of bearing children. Abraham believed in the One who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist: "He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; and being fully persuaded that, what He had promised, He was able also to perform: And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness" (Rom. 4:19-22). Faith in God trusts in an unseen good, apprehends a future and a hope, and refuses to allow this world to have the last word of what is ultimately real. May you walk by faith, and not by sight, chaverim...
 




Noah and Yeshua...


 

[ The following entry concerns this week's Torah reading, parashat Noach... ]

10.17.17 (Tishri 27, 5778)   We understand Noah to foreshadow the greater deliverance of Yeshua, the Savior of the world (i.e., moshia ha'olam: מוֹשִׁיעַ הָעוֹלָם). Of Noah it was said that he was ish tzaddik (a righteous man) who was tamim (blameless) in his generation: et-ha'Elohim hithalekh-noach - "Noah walked with God" (Gen. 6:9). Likewise Yeshua was entirely tzaddik (Rom. 5:19, Heb. 4:15, 1 Pet. 3:18; 1 John 2:1), blameless (Heb. 4:15, 1 Pet. 3:18), and One who walked with God (John 5:19, John 8:28, etc.). And just as Noah's obedience to God saved a remnant from all the earth, so did Yeshua's obedience result in "the saving of his house" (Heb. 11:7). Moreover, just as God "blessed Noah and his sons" (Gen. 9:1) and with them established His covenant, so in greater measure is this fulfilled in the Person of Yeshua, who provides all spiritual blessings to those whom He calls his brethren (Eph. 1:3, Heb. 13:20; Heb 2:11). Yeshua is indeed the "righteous man" who saves us in the true teivah (ark), the shelter of God's grace.

Noah's ark had God Himself as its designer (Gen. 6:14-16), and salvation in Yeshua is by God's design (Jonah 2:9; Eph. 1:9, 1:11). Noah's ark contained only one door (Gen. 6:16), just as Yeshua is the only door to salvation (John 10:9). Noah's ark contained three levels (Gen. 6:16) and salvation has three own experiential levels (2 Cor. 1:10): past, present, and future. In the past (at Moriah) Yeshua delivered us from the penalty of sin; in the present, He is delivering us from the power of sin; and in the future He will deliver us from the very presence of sin. From Noah's hand was given the sign of the dove, a symbol of peace and the abiding presence of the Spirit of God...

For more on this subject, see "Noah and Jesus: Further thoughts on parashat Noach."
 




As the Days of Noah...


 

10.16.17 (Tishri 26, 5778)   "For as were the Days of Noah (ימֵי נחַ), so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away" (Matt. 24:38-9). Yeshua told us that the "Days of Noah" were marked by people who were asleep, blind, and unaware (ἔγνωσαν, "agnostic") of spiritual truth. They lived their days oblivious to Reality.  They "forgot" who God was, who they were, why they existed, and where they were going. They engaged in deception, violence, theft, and rampant promiscuity. Such is our world today...

The deadening effects of sin leads to moral and spiritual blindness that leads to corruption and unthinking brutality and violence. Of Noah's generation it was written that "the whole earth was corrupt before God, and filled with violence" (Gen. 6:11). Rashi understood the word "corruption" (shachat) to primarily refer to sexual immorality (i.e., idolatry) and "violence" (chamas) to primarily refer to theft and robbery.  In general, however, the sages regarded the word chamas to refer to lawlessness, that is the denial of Torah, and consequently the benighted condition of living without yirat ha-shamayim (awe of heaven).  When people are spiritually dead, they are unconscious of the wonder of God; oblivious to what is real; and they are consequently debased into mere animals...
 




Parashat Noach (פרשת נח)


 

[ The following entry concerns this week's Torah reading, parashat Noach... ]

10.15.17 (Tishri 25, 5778)   Last week's Torah portion (Bereshit) showed how the mutiny of Adam and Eve caused humanity to plunge into idolatrous chaos. The subsequent generations lost sight of the LORD and became progressively steeped in moral anarchy and bloodlust, so that "every intention of the thoughts of man's heart was only evil continually" (Gen. 6:5). After just nine generations, the LORD had grown so weary of humanity that he "regretted" (i.e., yinchem: יִּנָּחֶם) creating man and "his heart was grieved" (Gen. 6:6). However, God recognized Noach (from the godly line of Seth) as a tzaddik (צַדִּיק), a righteous man of faith, and graciously made provision to save him from the wrath to come....

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

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

The seven day warning given to Noah suggests the seven year tribulation period to come (Daniel's 70th week), and also the "rapture" of the people of God who will be carried above the prophesied worldwide cataclysm.  Just as God protected Israel during the time of judgment upon Egypt, so He will protect His people from the wrath of the "great Day of the LORD." But please note that "the LORD shut him in" (Gen. 7:16). Noah's teivah (ark) had God Himself as its designer (Gen. 6:15f), just as salvation in Messiah is by God's design (Jonah 2:9; Eph. 1:9, 1:11). It contained only one door (Gen. 6:16), just as Yeshua is the only door to salvation (John 10:9; 14:6). Noah's ark contained three levels (Gen. 6:16) and salvation has three own experiential levels (2 Cor. 1:10): past, present, and future. In the past (at Moriah) Yeshua delivered us from the penalty of sin; in the present, He is delivering us from the power of sin; and in the future He will deliver us from the very presence of sin.  Baruch Hashem - may that day come soon!
 


Calendar Note:  On the Biblical calendar, the month of Cheshvan (חֶשְׁוָן) immediately follows the "holiday month" of Tishri, and begins Friday, October 21st (at sundown) this year. The Torah records that God brought down the Great Flood that destroyed the world on Cheshvan 17 (Gen. 7:10-11), which lasted until Cheshvan 27 (Gen. 8:14) - exactly one calendar year after it began (Rashi notes that the 11-day discrepancy between the 17th and 27th represents the 11-day difference between the solar and lunar calendar year). Because Noah's Flood began and ended during this month, Cheshvan is generally regarded as "mar" - a time of judgment, especially regarding water (rain). Cheshvan always has a two-day Rosh Chodesh. Because rain is central to the health of the spring crops, on the 17th of the month those living in Israel begin requesting rain by adding vetein tal u'matar librakha ("and grant dew and rain for blessing") to the Amidah prayer.
 

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

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

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



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Podcasts from Hebrew for Christians

10.15.17 (Tishri 25, 5778)   Some people learn better by hearing than by visual means, and for that reason I am considering doing a weekly "podcast" that will give general information about our weekly Torah readings (as well as holiday information and Bible discussion). If there is enough interest, I might also develop meditations, inspirational messages, and additional discussions concerning theological and philosophical matters related to our faith. Take a listen to the attached sample broadcast which runs for about 30 minutes. My wife loves this idea since she enjoys listening to messages using her phone. Please let me know if you would find these podcasts helpful. Shavuah tov and shalom chaverim!
 




Gospel in the Garden...


 

[ The following is related to our Torah portion for this Shabbat, parashat Bereshit... ]

10.14.17 (Tishri 24, 5778)   The very first prophecy of the Torah concerns the promise of the coming "seed of the woman" who would vanquish the serpent (nachash) that had originally tempted and deceived Eve (Gen. 3:15). This prophecy is sometimes called the proto-euangelion ("first gospel"), since it is the starting point of all subsequent prophecy and redemptive history revealed in the Scriptures. Indeed, since the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God is foreshadowed here, this prophecy is linked to the original woman, Eve.  Just as Eve became a carrier of the corruption of human nature by heeding the voice of the tempter, so she would be the carrier of God Himself for the deliverance of mankind through the advent of the Redeemer. In the tragic aftermath of the transgression of the first man and woman, then, God first announced His unfailing redemptive love for the human race that would culminate in the birth, sacrifice, and resurrection of Yeshua our Savior and Deliverer - "born of a woman, born under the law" (Gal. 4:4).

Our restoration begins with God's love and passion. God's first question to Adam after he broke covenant was: "Where (אַיֶּכָּה) are you?" -  the voice of a loving Father in search of his son (Gen. 3:9). Of course God knew exactly how his son was attempting to hide, though He almost acted as if He was unwilling to believe that he would betray his love by disobeying His commandment. Therefore God's poignant question was directed to Adam's heart: "Oh my son, how did you get to this place?" God was giving Adam an opportunity to turn back to Him, to confess the sin, to undergo teshuvah, to become reconciled...  This is the necessary prelude to any honest relationship with God.

Recall that the promise of the coming Savior was given within the context of the curse and judgment upon Satan: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall crush your head, and you shall crush his heel" (Gen. 3:15). That God's promise was first directed to Satan is surely by design, since he "left his first estate" by becoming the "monster in the garden" and was therefore primarily responsible for the transgression of Adam and Eve in the first place (Ezek. 28:13-15,19). The promise delivered to Satan was therefore one of coming retribution and divine judgment: Evil would not have the last word in the matter of mankind, and therefore Satan's schemes would be avenged by God in the fullness of time (Gal. 4:4-5). Notice, however, that Adam and Eve were not yet judged for their sin when the LORD God gave the promise of the coming of the Redeemer. Before a word of judgment was directed toward them, God's love and light was already revealed.  Indeed, immediately after their judgment was pronounced, "the LORD God made tunics of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them" (Gen. 3:21) - a clear picture of being compassionately "robed in righteousness" imparted by an innocent sacrifice. The very first sacrifice recorded in the Torah - performed by God Himself - prefigured the coming redemption by the "seed of the woman" who would die as a substitutionary sacrifice for their sins (this further explains why Eve's son (Abel) offered a blood sacrifice that was accepted by the LORD, whereas Cain's offering the "fruit of the earth" was rejected).

The first prophecy of Torah therefore describes - in the most succinct form - the coming of the Savior and the great conflict of the ages. First, God declares that He would put enmity (אֵיבָה) between Satan and the woman. This enmity, or "hostile hatred," was based on the memory of Eve's misguided trust she evidenced in the garden. When Eve first sympathetically listened to the lies of the nachash (serpent), she immediately began her descent into exile and became a temptress herself.  Her first step toward sin was a gullibility or openness that ultimately resulted in a lack of trust of God (which is part of the reason why we must be saved by trusting, as a "like-for-like" reversal of the original sin). At the very dawn of human history, then, we see that "truth" (אֱמֶת) apart from God (א) leads to death (מֵת). Eve was deceived because of Satan, but Adam deliberately chose to disobey God (2 Cor. 11:3; 1 Tim 2:14). In response to her teshuvah (repentance), God blessed Eve before He judged her by imparting to her a God-given hatred for Satan and his lies, as well as the promise that she would take part in the birth of the Savior of mankind. The first promise of the gospel, then, focused on the woman and her role in the coming redemption. Notice that Adam later renamed his wife Eve (i.e., Chavah: חַוָּה, the "mother of life") as an expression of his faith that the promised seed would come through her.

For more see: "The Gospel in the Garden: Further thoughts on Parashat Bereshit."
 




Creation for the Messiah...


 

[ The following is related to our Torah portion for this week, parashat Bereshit... ]

10.13.17 (Tishri 23, 5778)   The Talmud says "All the world was created for the Messiah" (Sanhedrin 98b). Likewise the New Testament had earlier said: "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). The first word uttered by God, "Let there be light" (Gen. 1:3), was uttered on behalf of all who would behold His glory, as it is written, "Arise, shine forth, for your light has come" (Isa. 60:1). When Adam first opened his eyes and human consciousness was born, he immediately understood that the LORD created all things, including himself. According to midrash, Adam's first words were, יהוה מֶלֶךְ עוֹלָם וָעֶד / Adonai malakh olam va'ed: "The LORD is King for ever and ever." God then said, "Now the whole world will know that I am King," and He was very pleased. This was the "tov me'od" (טוֹב מְאד) moment of creation, when God saw all that He had made "and found it very good" (Gen. 1:31). Therefore the name for man (i.e., adam: אָדָם) is connected with the word for "very" (i.e., me'od: מְאד): the birthday of humanity is therefore the Coronation Day for the King of the Universe.

The implication that the LORD God is our Creator is enormous and pervades everything else in our lives. God's creative power is witnessed by all conscious life. The Divine Light that was created before the sun and the stars represents God's immanent presence that "lights up" all of creation  - including our minds (Gen. 1:3). Since we were created b'tzelem Elohim, "in the image of God," the witness of God's truth is foundational to all of our thinking as well.  The revelation (not the invention) of logical first principles is part of God's "signature," if you will, of how the mind is wired to reality. Likewise we have intuitive awareness regarding the existence of moral truth (i.e., the standard of justice and moral law), aesthetic truth (i.e., ideals of beauty, goodness, worth, and love), and metaphysical truth (i.e., cause and effect relationships). "The heavens are recounting the glory of God, and the expanse is proclaiming his handiwork" (Psalm 19:1). God's power and presence can be clearly inferred from the tremendous effect of the universe itself.  As Paul stated, "the invisible things of Him (τά ἀόρατα αὐτοῦ) from the creation of the world are clearly seen (καθορω), so that people are without excuse" (Rom. 1:19-20). It is the fear of the LORD (יִרְאַת יהוה) that is truly the beginning of wisdom and knowledge (Psalm 111:10; Prov. 1:7; 9:10). The Hebrew word for fearing (ירא) and seeing (ראה) share the same root. We cannot truly see reality apart from reverencing God as the Lord and King of Creation.

It was asked for what purpose mankind was created. One said to purify the soul; another said to gain wisdom; another to serve God. Nay, but understand that man was created to elevate the heavens, to celebrate the heart of the Father, and to be needed by heaven's embrace... To focus on ourselves, on our purification, our "religion," misses the greater point that only God's love makes true life possible....

Shabbat shalom and blessings to you, my friend.  May this coming year be one of growth and maturity for us all as we press forward to attain the high calling of our Messiah. - John
 




Spelling out "Bereshit"...


 

[ The following is related our Torah portion for this week, parashat Bereshit... ]

10.13.17 (Tishri 23, 5778)   The 18th century Torah sage Vilna Gaon taught that the Hebrew word "bereshit" (בְּרֵאשִׁית), which is the very first word of the Bible, may be thought of as an acronym for meaningful spiritual life. The first letter, Bet (בּ), stands for bittachon (בִּטָּחוֹן), a word that means complete trust in God's love for your life; the next letter, Resh (ר), stands for ratzon (רָצוֹן), or the desire to live according to God's will; the central letter Aleph (א) stands for ahavah (אַהֲבָה), which is the love for God and for our fellow man (Deut. 6:5; Lev. 19:18); and the letter Shin (שׁ) is for shetikah (שְׁתִיקָה), or "keeping silent," which is the cardinal virtue of godly self-control and wisdom (James 1:26; 3:1-18; Psalm 34:13; Prov. 13:3, etc.). The letter Yod (י) is for yirah (יִרְאָה), or reverence for God's authority and dignity; and finally, the letter Tav (ת) is for Torah (תּוֹרָה), the study of which brings transformation and sanctity to your life (Psalm 19:7; Psalm 119:105; Prov. 6:23; Matt. 5:17-19; 2 Tim. 2:15-16).
 




The Divine Light...


 

10.13.17 (Tishri 23, 5778)   "And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness" (Gen. 1:3-4). The Divine Light of the first day of creation is not the same as the light of the cosmic spheres. God created the sun, moon, and stars on the fourth day to demonstrate that everything in the universe was created through the light of His Word (Gen. 1:14-19). If the sun had been created before everything else (big bang), it could have been said that the world was without beginning, and the earth produced life through the influences of astronomical bodies. The Torah states that plants were created before the sun and moon to indicate that nothing can exist apart from God's sovereign will. Yehi ... Vayhi ... God called everything into being by the Word of His Power. Therefore we recite the blessing in the Name of the Word of God: Barukh atah Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha'olam shehakol niyah bidvaro: "Blesssed are You, LORD our God, Master of the Universe, who brings forth all things by His Word."
 

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

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

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

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




Seedbed of Creation...


 

[ The following is related to our Torah portion for this Shabbat, parashat Bereshit... ]

10.13.17 (Tishri 23, 5778)   The Scroll of Genesis (סֵפֶר בְּרֵאשִׁית) is truly the "beginning," the "root," and the "seedbed" of all the subsequent Scriptures - including the message of Yeshua and the revelation of the New Testament. In Genesis we see the creation and ruin of man through sin, but we take hold of the promise of deliverance through the coming Seed of the woman; in the Book of Exodus (שְׁמוֹת) we see God's powerful redemption secured through the blood of the Lamb; in the Book of Leviticus (וַיִּקְרָא) we encounter communion and atonement in the holy sanctuary; in the Book of Numbers (בַּמִדְבַּר) we experience the leading of God through desert places, and in the Book of Deuteronomy (הַדְּבָרִים) we are renewed by God's faithfulness before we take hold of our inheritance. Ultimately, the concluding book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation, serves as a climactic "final chapter" of the story begun in Genesis, where the Tree of Life (עֵץ הַחַיִּים) is restored to the midst of the paradise of God, and the presence of sin and death have been forever eradicated....

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

For more on this subject, please see: Genesis and the Seedbed of Creation.
 




The Song of Desire...


 

[ The following is related to our Torah portion for this week, parashat Bereshit... ]

10.13.17 (Tishri 23, 5778)   The midrash says that the word "bereshit" (בְּרֵאשִׁית) can be arranged to spell shir te'ev (שִׁיר תְּאֵב), meaning the "song of desire." This is the holy plea sounded by all of creation to be made whole, healed, and ultimately perfected. As it says in our Scriptures:  "For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it in hope" (Rom. 8:20). Therefore when we take hold of Yeshua's heart, vision, and mission, we partake in the repair of the world (תיקון עולם) by testifying of God's healing love given in Messiah. We begin and end our journey to life with the "song of desire" on our lips – that is, with our heart awakened to its need for God.  As it says: "The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them" (Psalm 145:18-19).
 

אֲנִי לְדוֹדִי וְעָלַי תְּשׁוּקָתוֹ

ani · le'do·di · ve·a·lai · te·shu·ka·to
 

"I am my beloved's, and his desire is upon me."
(Song 7:10)


 

 




Olam Malei - An Entire World...


 

10.13.17 (Tishri 23, 5778)   God made you entirely unique, and no one else was created for the special role that you have in the overarching plan of Almighty God... Jewish tradition says that God created Adam alone as "olam malei" (עוֹלָם מָלֵא), "an entire world," to teach that each individual is of great value and significance. "Thus anyone who sustains one individual has sustained the world; and anyone who destroys one individual has destroyed an entire world" (Sanhedrin 37a). In addition, God created man as a solitary creation to remind all people that they descend from a common source: No one has a greater or better lineage or "pedigree" than anyone else. Moreover, each of us is created with a radical sense of "aloneness," a built in "hunger" for relationship and especially for God's presence. Therefore the very first commandment to Adam and Eve comes in the form of a blessing: "And God blessed them and said, פְּרוּ וּרְבוּ / pru urvu: "be fruitful and multiply" (Gen. 1:28). People were created to be in fellowship with others and with God, and when this is lacking, there is a profound soul hunger and need....
 




Every Letter of Torah...


 

10.12.17 (Tishri 22, 5778)   This week's Torah portion (for Simchat Torah) is called Vzot HaBerakhah ("this is the blessing"), which is also the last portion of the entire Torah. After reading this portion, we will "rewind the scroll" back to parashat Bereshit to begin reading the scroll all over again. We do this every year because Talmud Torah - the study of Torah - is a cyclical venture that equips us to better understand the Scriptures - including the New Testament....  In this connection, it is interesting to note that the first letter of the Torah is a Bet (בּ) in the word bereshit (בְּרֵאשִׁית), and the last letter of the Torah is a Lamed (ל) in Israel (יִשְׂרָאֵל). Putting these together, we get the word lev (לֵב), "heart," suggesting that the entire Torah - from the first letter to the last - reveals the heart and love of God for us. Moreover, the first letter of Scripture is a Bet (בּ), as explained above, and the last letter is a Nun (ן) in the word "Amen" (אָמֵן), so the whole Bible - from beginning to end - reveals the Person of God the Son (בֶּן) for us...

The Hebrew exclamation, "Yasher Koach!" (יָשֶׁר כּחַ) means "May your strength be firm," and is often said to congratulate people who have succeeded in their Torah studies. For those of you who have studied Torah over this last Jewish year, let me extend to you a heartfelt "Yashar Koach!"  And since we are finishing the entire Torah cycle for this year, it is customary to enjoy a festive party (i.e., a siyyum: סִיּוּם) celebrating the completion of the study of a Jewish text. Studying the Torah is a great joy, chaverim, since it reveals the truth to us and helps us understand the LORD of Glory. As King David said, "You make known to me the path of life (ארַח חַיִּים); in your presence there is fullness of joy (שִׂמְחָה); at your right hand (i.e., with a fire of knowledge (אֵשׁ דָּת) at His right hand) there are pleasures forevermore" (Psalm 16:11).
 




Mystery and Creation...


 

10.11.17 (Tishri 21, 5778)   Why is there something rather than nothing? Why does anything exist at all? These are basic questions about the meaning of life. Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going? "God created the universe," you say, yes, but exactly why did He do so? What purpose did he have in mind? In particular, why were you created? What is the purpose of your life? What do you hope to achieve with the limited amount of time you have on this earth? Such questions brood within the soul, even if they are hidden from consciousness by various forms of busyness and distraction. At the outset of serious thinking about anything at all we are confronted with such ultimate questions. What is real? Why are we here? Where are we going? What does God want from us?
 

    "Where am I? Who am I? How did I come to be here? What is this thing called the world? How did I come into the world? Why was I not consulted? And If I am compelled to take part in it, where is the director? I want to see him." - Soren Kierkegaard

 

The Torah begins: "In the beginning God created..." (Gen. 1:1). No explanation is given, simply the mysterious declaration that God's eternal power is behind the realm of the world of appearances. We only begin to get some idea of God's hidden purposes as he reveals his design in Scripture. There we learn that God chose to create the universe yesh me'ayin, "out of nothing," in order to share his wisdom, glory, and love with other beings He created. "You created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created" (Rev. 4:11). All this was for the sake of the Messiah, who built the world in chesed (חֶסֶד) and who forever reigns as the King of eternal life and love. "For from him and through him and to him are all things" (Rom. 11:36). The purpose of your life is to learn that you are beloved by God, to know and receive the infinite worth you have in his eyes, and to share that love with others. Indeed, you were created to be made part of God's great family, the Kingdom of Love...

For more on this topic see: "Creation and the Kingdom of Love..."
 




In the Beginning...


 

10.11.17 (Tishri 21, 5778)   Our Torah for this week (Bereshit) re-opens the Bible with these famous words: "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth" (Gen. 1:1). Notice, however, that the Hebrew word translated as "beginning" (i.e., bereshit: בְּרֵאשִׁיתּ) logically does not mean a point in chronological time, since time, regarded as the measurement of motion, is inextricably connected to existence and came into being with creation itself. Time and being are therefore linked. Therefore, it is better to understand bereshit to mean "with wisdom," since the word is based on the root idea of rosh (ראשׁ, "head," or "chief"), which suggests what is most important, i.e., "at the head of (all things)," "bechor," etc.

"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth" (Gen. 1:1). Another way to read this statement is to notice the direct object marker (אֵת) of the verb bara (בָּרָא) in the first verse. Read literally, it would say, "With wisdom (or "within his own mind or counsel") God created all things - Aleph through Tav - namely, the heavens and the earth." Some have said the direct object marker here refers to Yeshua, and while it is indeed true that He is the Aleph and Tav (Rev 1:8), the Direct Object of the Universe -- "the One who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty" -- in this verse he is Elohim (אֱלהִים), our Creator, which agrees with many other Scriptures such as Col. 1:15-17, Heb. 1:1-3; John 1:1-14; Eph 1:21; Phil. 2:9-11, Rom. 14:11 (with Isa. 45:22-24); Rom. 11:36, etc. Others have said "Aleph-Tav" here refers to the holy alphabet, the power from the Word.

 




Providential Creation...


 

10.11.17 (Tishri 21, 5778)   When you feel discouraged or anxious because of difficult times, remember how the LORD God created the world and sustains it for the sake of the revelation of his love for you... You may not understand the present moment, though you can assuredly trust that God's salvation given in the Messiah Yeshua heals you forever and ever. Declare at all times, then: "The world was created for my sake, though I am but dist and ashes." God is faithful, the great Amen of the human heart's cry.  Your inner being is redeemed by God for you to experience and know the blessing of eternal life (John 17:3).
 

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְהוָה אֱלהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלם
שֶׁהַכּל נִהְיָה בִּדְּבָּרוֹ

ba·rukh · at·tah · Adonai · E·lo·hey·nu · me·lekh · ha·o·lam
she·ha·kol · ni·he·yah · bi·de·va·ro
 

"Blessed are you LORD our God, King of the Universe,
who brings about everything by His Word."
 

Because you are made in the image of God, you are mikdash me'at, a small sanctuary or "temple" for the LORD (Luke 17:20-21; Rom. 14:17; 1 Cor. 6:19).
 




Seedbed of Creation...


 

[ The following is related to our Torah portion for this Shabbat, parashat Bereshit... ]

10.11.17 (Tishri 21, 5778)   The Scroll of Genesis (סֵפֶר בְּרֵאשִׁית) is truly the "beginning," the "root," and the "seedbed" of all the subsequent Scriptures - including the message of Yeshua and the revelation of the New Testament. In Genesis we see the creation and ruin of man through sin, but we take hold of the promise of deliverance through the coming Seed of the woman; in the Book of Exodus (שְׁמוֹת) we see God's powerful redemption secured through the blood of the Lamb; in the Book of Leviticus (וַיִּקְרָא) we encounter communion and atonement in the holy sanctuary; in the Book of Numbers (בַּמִדְבַּר) we experience the leading of God through desert places, and in the Book of Deuteronomy (הַדְּבָרִים) we are renewed by God's faithfulness before we take hold of our inheritance. Ultimately, the concluding book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation, serves as a climactic "final chapter" of the story begun in Genesis, where the Tree of Life (עֵץ הַחַיִּים) is restored to the midst of the paradise of God, and the presence of sin and death have been forever eradicated....

For more on this subject, please see: Genesis and the Seedbed of Creation.
 




Seeing the Unseen...


 

10.11.17 (Tishri 21, 5778)   The Torah begins with the Hebrew letter Bet (בּ), representing the number two, because God created not one world, but two. There is the realm of this world, called olam ha-zeh (עוֹלָם הַזֶּה), and there is the realm of the world to come, called olam ha-ba (עוֹלָם הַבָּא). The letter Bet therefore represents a two-fold house (בַּיִת) - the "house" of physical creation and the "house" of spiritual reality. The letter itself is formed from three Vavs (ו), which add up to 18, the same value for the word chai (חי), or "alive." We are strangers and sojourners here. Life is this present world is likened to a walking a corridor that leads to the next world. Awaken to your eternal end in the world to come: "Know whence you came and to where you are going and before Whom you are destined to give a final accounting" (Pirkei Avot 3:1). Learn to discern "the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world" (Rom. 1:20). "So do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look 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. 4:16-18). Press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Yeshua our Messiah (Phil. 3:14).
 




The Great Hosanna...


 

[ The following is related to the holiday of Sukkot, the "Feast of Tabernacles."  ]

10.10.17 (Tishri 20, 5778)   The seventh (and last) day of the festival of Sukkot is called Hoshana Rabba (הוֹשַׁנָא רַבָּא). Hoshana (sometimes transliterated as "Hosanna") comes from the Hebrew phrase hoshia na (הוֹשִׁיעָה נָּא), meaning "save us now," combined with "rabbah," meaning "great," to refer to a great corporate plea for salvation. It was on this climactic day of the festival that the people gathered at the Temple for the water ceremony, waving lulavs and circling the courtyard seven times (hakafot) while chanting "Ana Adonai - Hosiah na" (Psalm 118:25), "save us, we pray O LORD!"  The New Testament records that it was also on the last day of Sukkot (i.e., "the great day") - perhaps during the water libation ceremony itself - that Yeshua stood up and cried out, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, 'Out of his inmost being will flow rivers of living water'" (John 7:37-38; Isa. 12:3).
 

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·chah  na
ba·rukh  hab·bah  be·shem  Adonai / be·rakh·nu·khem  mi·beit  Adonai

 

"Save us, we pray, O LORD! O LORD, we pray, let us thrive!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!
We bless you from the house of the LORD."
(Psalm 118:25-26)



Hebrew Study Card
 

The early sages had taught "at the feast of Sukkot judgment is made concerning the waters," referring to the rain needed for the forthcoming planting season. The historian Josephus calls the ceremonial drawing of water from the Pool of Siloam "the very sacred close (συμπέρασμα) of the year," since the amount of rainfall over the next few months would directly impact the harvest in the spring. The need for rain over the winter months in Israel was an ongoing need for the welfare of the people...

"With joy shall you draw water out of the wells of salvation" (Isa. 12:3). Yeshua once encountered a woman who had come to draw water from a well and said, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life" (John 4:13-14). Likewise he taught earlier in his ministry, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied" (Matt. 5:6). Just as the people understood they needed physical rain to sustain their physical lives, so Yeshua pointed to himself as the source of "spiritual rain," or "living water" that would sustain their spiritual lives. The "rain of blessing," then, referred to the refreshing power of the Holy Spirit that would become an inner source of life for those who believe... As Yeshua said, "out of his inmost being will flow rivers of living water," which some have thought refers back to the miraculous waters that were given in the desert: "Each soul will be a rock smitten in the thirsty land, from which crystal rivers of life-giving grace shall flow." Indeed the Hallel that is recited during the festival includes the verse: "He turned the rock into a pool of water, the flint into a fountain of waters" (Psalm 114:8).

Note:  Hoshana Rabba begins this evening at sundown...
 




Philosophy of History...


 

10.10.17 (Tishri 20, 5778)  Our actions invariably reveal what we are believing about the nature of reality. We will live what we believe... Put the other way around, what we believe will determine what we do. Nearly all of our conscious intentions are future-directed. We assume that the future will resemble the past, that "the sun will rise again tomorrow," and therefore we make our plans and set our agendas. And yet to what end? What is the purpose of our lives?  Where are your actions taking you?  Where are you going?

Questions like these concern your personal philosophy of life. Every person makes choices based on their vision and expectation of a future good.  Every person therefore lives by a creed that speaks toward the future.... Sadly, many people live for the immediate moments of life: cheap thrills, fast food, and mindless entertainment. "Let's eat and drink, for tomorrow we die" (1 Cor. 15:23). Others may enjoy fine art, reading, and learning - hoping thereby to improve themselves. Most people live in order to love others, friends and family... But apart from God, none of these otherwise good things will ultimately satisfy our hearts. "Disordered love" comes from setting the heart's affections on the transitory, the ephemeral, and the unabiding; but God has set eternity within our hearts (Eccl 3:11). The Lord has "wired" us to experience discontent when our heart's deepest need goes unmet.

On a larger scale, philosophers have asked whether life itself - all of it - has any meaning or purpose. "Why is there something rather than nothing - and for what reason?" Is the universe essentially a random set of events, or is there some overarching purpose and design to everything?  Is history linear or cyclical?  Does it have a goal or destination, or is this entirely unknowable to us?  Are human beings evolving - and if so, to what? Is there a spiritual dimension to reality, or is everything causally determined by matter and motion? Do we have "free will" or are we entirely conditioned to do what we do? Various answers have proposed to deal with these questions over time, including mythological polytheism (e.g., Zoroastrianism, Egyptian/Greek mythology, animism, paganism), cyclical impersonalism (e.g.,  Hinduism, Jainism, Taoism, reincarnationism, Stoicism), various types of materialism (e.g., scientific naturalism, pragmatism, evolutionism, nihilism), humanism (Buddhism, secular humanism, atheistic existentialism), romantic idealism (Marxism, Hegelianism), mysticism (theosophy, new age thinking, popular Kabbalah), and so on.

The traditional Jewish view of history may be called (for lack of a better term) "monotheistic personalism." There is one Supreme God who is the personal Creator and Ruler of all that exists. God is both immanent (sustaining creation) and transcendent (above creation). This God has a Name (YHVH), a mind, and a moral, purposive will that imbues all of creation. God is LORD over all time and space, the King of Glory, who is Master of all possible worlds. Since God knows and providentially controls everything, human history is a controlled process that leads to a destination.  History is therefore "teleological" (progressive) and eschatological - leading to a future goal and endpoint...

But where is everything "going?" In particular, what is the destiny of the human race? If there is a characteristically "Jewish philosophy of history," it decidedly centers on the vision of Zion as the restoration and fulfillment of the lost paradise of Eden.  The relationship between Adam and God will be fully restored in the coming theocratic utopia called "heavenly Jerusalem." This is heaven, the place of our deepest longing:
 

בִּלַּע הַמָּוֶת לָנֶצַח
וּמָחָה אֲדנָי יהוה דִּמְעָה מֵעַל כָּל־פָּנִים

bil·la  ha·ma·vet  la·ne·tzach,
u'ma·chah  Adonai  Elohim  dim·ah  mei·al  kol  pa·nim

 

"He will destroy death forever.
The Lord GOD will wipe the tears away from all faces" (Isa. 25:8)

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It is worth noting that the classical sages divide human history into three epochs of 2,000 years each.  The period of "tohu" occurred from the time of the fall of Adam until the call of Abraham; the period of "Torah" occurred from Abraham until the time of the destruction of the Second Temple, and the period of the "Messiah" refers to the time when the Messiah could appear before the Kingdom is established in Zion. The time immediately preceding the appearance of the Messiah will be a time of testing in which the world will undergo various forms of tribulation, called chevlei Mashiach (חֶבְלֵי הַמָּשִׁיחַ) - the "birth pangs of the Messiah" (Sanhedrin 98a; Ketubot, Bereshit Rabbah 42:4, Matt. 24:8). Some say the birth pangs are to last for 70 years, with the last 7 years being the most intense period of tribulation -- called the "Time of Jacob's Trouble" / עֵת־צָרָה הִיא לְיַעֲקב (Jer. 30:7). The climax of the "Great Tribulation" (צָרָה גְדוֹלָה) is called the great "Day of the LORD" (יוֹם־יהוה הַגָּדוֹל) which represents God's wrath poured out upon a rebellious world system. On this fateful day, the LORD will terribly shake the entire earth (Isa. 2:19) and worldwide catastrophes will occur. "For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?" (Rev. 6:17). The prophet Malachi likewise says: "'Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire,' says the LORD Almighty. 'Not a root or a branch will be left to them'" (Mal. 4:1). Only after the nations of the world have been judged will the Messianic kingdom (מַלְכוּת הָאֱלהִים) be established upon the earth.  The remnant of Israel (she'arit Yisrael) will be saved and the 1000 year reign of King Messiah will then commence (Rev. 20:4).

Note:  Hurricanes, earthquakes, famines, plagues, the imminent threat of wars, the rise of militant ideologies that use violence and that are devoid of compassion and truth, the overall heartlessness and harrowing darkness of our time -- all signs we are living in the End of the Age, and we are experiencing the birth pangs of the Messiah's return. May we all turn to the LORD God of Israel while there is still the opportunity, friends!  For more on this topic, see "As the Day Draws Near: Jewish Philosophy of History."
 




Torah as our Heritage...


 

10.09.17 (Tishri 19, 5778)   From our Torah reading for this holiday season (i.e., Zot Ha'berakhah: "this is the blessing") we read the following: "Moses charged us (צִוָּה־לָנוּ) with the Torah as the heritage (מוֹרָשָׁה) of the congregation of Jacob" (Deut. 33:4). Note, however, that for the Torah to become part of our heritage as the people of God, it must be seriously studied, wrestled over, and earnestly engaged... This is a happy task we are given, as it is written: "the righteous one delights in the Torah of the LORD (בְּתוֹרַת יְהוָה) and in his Torah he meditates (יֶהְגֶּה) day and night" (Psalm 1:2). Commenting on this verse Rashi noted that God's Torah rightly belongs to the one who labors in it and groans (הָגָה) over its meaning, for only then may it be meaningfully said to be "his Torah" (תּוֹרָתוֹ). However the converse is also true: the one makes no effort to study Torah will soon be without godly direction. We are admonished to be "doers of the word, and not hearers only," since merely assenting to truth without practicing it leads to self-deception (James 1:22). As the Messiah said, "If you know these things, happy are you if you do them" (John 13:17).
 




Heavenly Repercussions...


 

10.09.17 (Tishri 19, 5778)   "Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is infinite" (Psalm 147:5). All things work according to God's sovereign purposes, from beginning to end, so that what might seem to be trivial or insignificant at the time brings in its train other events, and these events cause yet further events, and so on and on. So it is with faith: a small beginning, a quiet prayer groaned within the depths of the heart, can move the hand of God and change the world.
 

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְהוָה אֱלהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם
שֶׁהַכּל בָּרָא לִכְבוֹדוֹ

ba·rukh · at·tah · Adonai · E·lo·hey·nu · me·lekh · ha·o·lam
she·ko·cho · u'ge·vu·ra·to · ma·lei · o·lam
 

"Blessed are you LORD our God, King of the Universe,
whose strength and power fills the world."
 




Just as you are...


 

10.09.17 (Tishri 19, 5778)   Since God knows the number of hairs on our heads, he also knows those character defects that we do not see in ourselves... Nevertheless we must come to God "just as we are," since what we are is ultimately unknowable by us. This implies that we can't wait to turn to God until we have already confessed our sins, since we often do not know what they are. "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick" (Mark 2:17), which means that we come in a state of unknowing blindness to find healing. We don't see so we can turn; we turn so we can see. Confession turns to see God's remedy for our sin, and true teshuvah must begin with hope, with the vision that the LORD is our Helper and the Healer of our souls.
 

אֶשָּׂא עֵינַי אֶל־הֶהָרִים מֵאַיִן יָבא עֶזְרִי
עֶזְרִי מֵעִם יְהוָה עשֵׂה שָׁמַיִם וָאָרֶץ

 es·sa · ei·nai · el · he·ha·rim · me·a·yin · ya·vo · ez·ri
e·zri · me·im · Adonai · o·seh · sha·ma·yim · va·a·retz
 

"I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth."
(Psalm 121:1-2)



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Just as King David prayed, שְׁגִיאוֹת מִי־יָבִין מִנִּסְתָּרוֹת נַקֵּנִי, "who can understand his errors; cleanse me from nistarot chata'ot, secret sins" (Psalm 19:12), so we likewise trust that God's remedy for our sin will heal even that which is hidden from our own awareness...
 




The Delight of Torah...


 

10.08.17 (Tishri 18, 5778)   God is not the "author of confusion," and that means that rational intelligibility is foundational to divine revelation. "The Torah was written in the language of men," which is to say, it expresses ideas people can understand. The Scriptures declare: "Blessed is the man who ... delights in the Torah of the LORD (בְּתוֹרַת יְהוָה); all that he does shall prosper" (Psalm 1:1-3). And while it is true that we are no longer 'under' the terms of the covenant given at Sinai (Rom. 3:23), we still delight 'in' the Torah and meditate on its precepts day and night (Psalm 1:2; 19:8; 119:15, 47, 97; Neh. 8:12, etc.). After all, Torah "written upon the heart" is a mark of the New Covenant believer (Jer. 31:31-33). As it is written in Proverbs: "If you seek it [i.e., the wisdom revealed in the Torah] like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God" (Prov. 2:4-5). If worldly men seek money and riches for life in this world, should we be less earnest in our pursuit of true and eternal riches?

Furthermore, where it is written, "all Scripture is breathed out by God (θεόπνευστος) and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work" (2 Tim 3:16-17), it is evident that the Scriptures referred to here are the Jewish Scriptures (i.e., the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings), since they are the foundation, the context, and the overarching matrix for the later New Covenant revelation... These were the Scriptures Yeshua used to contextualize and explain his ministry to his followers: "And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself" (Luke 24:27; John 1:45). In other words, the Torah has both a logical, a linguistic, and a theological priority regarding our understanding of the New Testament Scriptures, and the failure to read in context invariably leads to faulty interpretations and doctrinal errors of various kinds. "To the Jew first, and [then] to the Greek" (Rom. 1:16) is a principle not only of how the gospel message would transcend ethnic Israel to be offered to all the nations, but also about how we should approach the practice of Biblical interpretation.... This much is axiomatic: God "breathed out" (θεόπνευστος) his revelation in order, and the message itself must be understood in light of that order (John 4:22).

Since Yeshua the Messiah is Torah Ha'Emet - the True Torah - we should likewise celebrate the "Joy of Torah" (Simchat Torah) in our lives. He is the Living Torah, the Living Word, written upon our hearts so that we can truly dance and embrace the Truth given from God. Indeed, Yeshua did not come to destroy the Torah but rather to fulfill it in our lives (Matt. 5:17-20).


Personal Note:  Please remember me (i.e., John) in your prayers, friends... The High Holiday Season is always very busy for me, and this year has been especially so. I am also dealing with some health issues that are debilitating and serious. I appreciate you all and thank God for the opportunity to serve you here. Shalom and happy holidays in Yeshua our Lord!
 




The Circle of Torah...


 

10.08.17 (Tishri 18, 5778)   Each week in synagogues across the world a portion from the Torah (called a parashah) is studied, discussed, and chanted. Jewish tradition has divided the Torah into 54 of these portions - roughly one for each week of the year - so that in the course of a year the entire Torah has been recited during services. The final reading of this cycle occurs on the holiday of Simchat Torah ("Joy of the Torah"), which immediately follows the holiday week of Sukkot. On Simchat Torah, we celebrate both the completion of the year's Torah Reading cycle as well as the start of a brand new cycle.  Each Jewish year, then, we "rewind" the scroll and begin again. The sages have wisely said that you cannot compare studying Torah for the 49th time to studying it for the 50th time....

Our spiritual inheritance is bound up with the Torah: it is part of our story, our history, our heritage (Gal. 3:7; Rom. 4:16; Luke 24:27). The stories of Torah serve as parables and allegories that inform the deeper meaning of the ministry of Messiah: "Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come (1 Cor. 10:11). "For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope" (Rom.15:4). "All Scripture is inspired by God..." which refers first of all to the Torah, the Writings, and the Prophets which attest to the Messiah (2 Tim. 3:16-17). You are therefore no longer a stranger or outsider to the heritage of the LORD but a partaker of the covenantal blessings (Eph. 2:12,19). Disciples of Yeshua are called talmidim (תַּלְמִידִים) -- a word that comes from lamad (לָמַד) meaning "to learn." Among other things, then, following the Messiah means becoming a student of the  Scriptures He loved and fulfilled (Matt. 5:17-18; Luke 24:44-45). Only after learning from Yeshua as your Teacher will you be equipped to "go to all the nations and teach" others (Matt. 28:19).

We read V'zot HaBerakhah ("this is the blessing") at the end of Simchat Torah, which is the final portion of the entire Torah itself...  After reading this portion, we "rewind the scroll" back to the beginning to begin reading parashat Bereshit. We do this every year because Talmud Torah - the study of Torah - is an ongoing venture in the life of a Jew.  In this connection, it is interesting to note that the very first letter of the Torah is the Bet (בּ) in the word bereshit (בְּרֵאשִׁית), and the very last letter of the Torah is the Lamed (ל) in the word Israel (יִשְׂרָאֵל). Putting these letters together we get the word lev (לֵב), "heart," suggesting that the entire Torah - from the first letter to the last - reveals the heart and love of God for us... Moreover, the first letter of Scripture is a Bet (בּ), as explained above, and the last letter is a Nun (ן) in the word "Amen" (אָמֵן), so the whole Bible - from beginning to end - reveals the Person of God the Son (בֶּן) for us...

Since we are about to begin the Torah again for a new year, it is worthwhile to remind ourselves about how the Torah itself begins... In this connection we note that it speaks from an omniscient, "third person" perspective. When we read, "In the beginning, God (אֱלהִים) created the heavens and the earth," we must ask who exactly is speaking? Who is the narrator of the Torah? The very next verse states that the Spirit of God (רוּחַ אֱלהִים) was hovering over the face of the waters (Gen. 1:2), followed by the first "direct quote" of God Himself: i.e., "Let there be light" (Gen. 1:3). The creative activity of Elohim (God) and the presence of Ruach Elohim (the Spirit of God) are therefore narrated by an omniscient Voice or "Word of God." Obviously the Spirit of God is God Himself (who else?), just as the Word of God is likewise God Himself, and therefore the first verses of the Torah reveal the nature of the Godhead. God is One in the sense of echdut, "unity," "oneness," and and so on, though not "one" in the monistic sense of a solipsistic mind (νοῦς). God is beyond all theological predications: there can be no sense of "person" apart from relationship, and therefore God's Personhood entirely transcends all our finite conceptions - and yet God forever is One....
 

Note:  For more on this subject, see "Every Letter of Torah."
 





A Prophetic Rejoicing...

 

10.08.17 (Tishri 18, 5778)   Regarding the holiday of Sukkot ("Tabernacles") the Torah states, ve'samchta be'chagekha - "you shall rejoice in your holiday" and ve'hayita akh same'ach - "you shall have nothing but joy" (Deut. 16:14-15). But how can Torah command us to rejoice? Can we be forced to dance, sing, and make merry? Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel wrote, "Ve'samchta be'chagekha (וְשָׂמַחְתָּ בְּחַגֶּךָ) is said to be the most difficult commandment of Torah, but I could never understand why. Only during the war did I understand. Those Jews who, in the course their journey to the end of hope, managed to dance on Simchat Torah... taught us how Jews should behave in the face of adversity. For them, ve'samchta be'chagekha was one commandment impossible to observe -- yet they observed it."

In this connection, let me add that these words are ultimately prophetic: "you shall rejoice; you shall have nothing but joy...." That day is coming, when our tears are wiped away and our wounds are forever healed. Amen. Chag Sukkot Sameach, friends..
 




Surrounded by His Sukkah...


 

[ The following is related to the holiday of Sukkot, or the Feast of Tabernacles... ]

10.06.17 (Tishri 16, 5778)   The root idea of the word "sukkah" means to cover or surround, as in hedge of protection. The Hebrew root is used when Moses asked to behold God's glory and the meaning of the name YHVH (יהוה), and God said, "Behold there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory overtakes you I will cover you with my hand (וְשַׂכּתִי כַפִּי עָלֶיךָ) until I have passed by (Exod. 33:21-21). The hand of God (יַד־יְהוָה) is our sukkah, and indeed the LORD writes our names upon his palms and sets us as a seal upon his heart (Isa. 49:16; Sol. 8:6). Likewise David affirmed that God would treasure you within his sukkah and elevate you upon the Rock that is Messiah:
 

כִּי יִצְפְּנֵנִי בְּסֻכּה
בְּיוֹם רָעָה יַסְתִּרֵנִי בְּסֵתֶר אָהֳלוֹ
בְּצוּר יְרוֹמְמֵנִי

ki · yitz·pe·nei·ni · be·suk·koh
be·yom · ra·ah · yas·ti·rei·ni · be·se·ter · a·ho·lo
be·tzur · ye·ro·me·mei·ni

 

"For he will hide me in his sukkah
in the day of trouble he will conceal me in the secret place of his tent;
on the Rock he will raise me up"
(Psalm 27:5)
 


The LORD will "treasure you" (the word tzafan [צָפַן] often is translated as "to hide") in his sukkah, a symbol of his protection of your soul... in the day of trouble he will conceal you in his tent, that is, within his dwelling place, under the shadow of his wings he makes you refuge; he will elevate you upon the Rock which is Messiah (1 Cor. 10:4).

Since God's Name (יהוה) means "Presence," "Breath," "Compassion," "Love," "Healing," and so on, we are surrounded by his Sukkah at all times... In other words, you don't have to be in a physical sukkah to be in His sukkah! May God open our eyes to see his glory!

Sukkot Sameach be'Yeshua (סוכות שמחה בישוע) - Happy Sukkot in Yeshua!
 




Happy Sukkot Friends!


 

10.05.17 (Tishri 15, 5778)   During the holiday of Sukkot we construct a sukkah, a "booth" or temporary structure, that we will "live in" for the holiday week. Among other things, living in a sukkah is meant to recall God's surrounding love and care for us as we make our journey through the desert of this world on our way to Zion... It is an attempt to make visible the invisible, to catch a glimpse of God's abiding glory. On a spiritual level, however, the essence of Sukkot is "dwelling" or "abiding" in the Divine Presence. And though the LORD is forever enthroned in heaven as our Creator, our King, and our loving Deliverer, aand though indeed the heavens shout out his praise and the whole earth is filled with His glory (Isa. 6:3), nevertheless we must make a dwelling within our hearts. In great humility the LORD stands at the door and knocks (Rev. 3:20). "Where does God dwell," it is asked, "but where He is given a place, a sanctuary, a throne within the heart."
 
Sukkot 5778 - Collage

Left-to-right (top): 1. Assembling the sukkah; 2. Lulav bouquet; 3. wooden etrog case;
4. table decorations; 5. ornaments to hang from the roof (schach)
(bottom): 1. Emanuel David 21 months old; 2. Josiah with flag; 3. Judah helps hang lights;
4) sukkah decorations; 5) the lights are tested before we decorate

 

Sukkot 5777 - Collage

Left-to-right (top): 1. wall hanging art; 2. sukkah decorations; 3. sukkot poster;
4. festive garland of etrogim; 5. lulav blessings
(bottom): 1. brukhim haba'im (welcome!); 2. Judah age 8; 3. yom tov challah cover;
4) erev Sukkot in the sukkah; 5) getting "tuned up" for the holiday
 

 
Sukkot 5778 - Collage

Left-to-right (top): 1. Olga lights yom tov candles; 2. Judah waves lulav; 3. John and Olga with kids;
4. Peer, Yasha, and Josiah; 5. an outside view of the sukkah at night
(bottom): 1. Ushpiz Mike waves lulav; 2. family picture; 3. Yasha waves lulav;
4) Irina waves lulav; 5) a view of the sukka during daylight hours



 

There are two great questions God always is asking us. The first is "who do you say that I am?" and the second is "will you make a place for me?" Being in a love relationship with God is the goal of life, the "end of the law," and the reason we were created. But we cannot love God apart from understanding his passion for us. The LORD is the "Jealous God," a Consuming Fire, the One who desires all of our heart on the altar (Luke 9:23). Therefore the very first commandment is simply אָנכִי יְהוָה אֱלהֶיךָ, "I AM the LORD your God" (Exod. 20:2), because without "making a place" God's love within your heart, nothing else will follow.

Note: To see larger pictures of our Sukkot celebrations, click here.

 




Wholeness and Faith..


 

10.04.17 (Tishri 14, 5778)   Though Sukkot is called the "Season of Our Joy" (i.e., Z'man Simchateinu) the somber Book of Ecclesiastes (קהֶלֶת) is always recited on the Sabbath of the festival. "Vanity of vanities, says Kohelet, vanity of vanities! All is vanity" (Eccl. 1:2). We read this book to remind us that lasting meaning and purpose is not found in life lived "under the sun" but rather in knowing and serving God. Indeed the Book concludes, "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep his commandments: for this is the whole [duty of] man" (Eccl. 12:13), though note that the Hebrew text actually reads, ki zeh kol-ha'adam (כִּי־זֶה כָּל־הָאָדָם), "for this is the whole man," which suggests that those who revere the LORD our God and obey His Word are made "whole," that is, healed of their ambivalence and inner vanity...
 

סוֹף דָּבָר הַכּל נִשְׁמָע אֶת־הָאֱלהִים יְרָא
וְאֶת־מִצְוֹתָיו שְׁמוֹר כִּי־זֶה כָּל־הָאָדָם

sof · da·var · ha·kol · nish·ma ·  et · ha-E·lo·him · yir·a
ve·et · mitz·vo·tav · she·mor · ki · zeh · kol · ha·a·dam

 

"Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God
and keep his commandments: for this is the whole man."
(
Eccl. 12:13)



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"The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever" (Isa. 40:8). Note the great contrast between olam ha-zeh and olam haba – between this present world and the heavenly realm.... Unlike the grass of the field that dries up or flowers that soon fade, the word of God stands forever. And despite the frailty of man and the inevitability of physical death, God's truth endures, which is a foundation upon which we can rest.

But how are the metaphors that man is "like dried up grass" or a "withered flower" intended to comfort us? Do they not, on the contrary, lead us to regard our lives as vain and perhaps meaningless? Yes indeed. Our lives are empty and vain apart from God and His truth. If we find ourselves wincing over such images, it is perhaps time to reexamine the state of our faith: To the extent that we regard this world as our "home" we will find the transience of life to be tragic... For those who are seeking a heavenly habitation, the "City of God" and the fulfillment of the promise of Zion, the fleeting nature of this evil world is ultimately a form of consolation...

Note: For more on this subject, see "Sukkot and Vanity" and "Everlasting Consolation."
 




Choosing to Believe...


 

[ The holiday of Sukkot ("Tabernacles") begins Wednesday, Oct. 4th at sundown this year... ]

10.03.17 (Tishri 13, 5778)   The Torah describes Sukkot ("Tabernacles") as a holiday of joy and gladness: "You are to rejoice in your festival.... for seven days you shall keep the festival... so that you will be altogether joyful" (Deut. 16:14-15). Nevertheless we may wonder how we can celebrate in a world filled with suffering, death, and misery? Since God commands us to be joyful, however, we must therefore understand joy to be something more than temporal elation or fleeting pleasure, but rather as the result of the decision to believe in healing and life despite the appearances of this realm. "The world to come, the perfect world, we at least believe in; but this material world, this one here and now, how can anyone believe in it? The only thing to do is to run to the refuge of God" (Nachman). The joy of Sukkot, then, is the joy of hope, the conviction that "all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well." Darkness will be overcome by the light; evil will become undone; all that is untrue shall be made true; and every tear shall be wiped away... The sukkah symbolizes the "Clouds of Glory" that surround our way in the desert – the "Divine Presence" beheld in faith. We find joy as we choose to believe in the deeper reality of God's sheltering love...


Note:  Our thoughts and prayers are for the victims and survivors of the Las Vegas mass shootings last Sunday night, a horrific evil that once again reveals that we are in the midst of a great spiritual war, namely, the war for truth... A culture that denies transcendental moral truth and personal responsibility will produce deranged people who have no sense of respect, decency, or value for the gift of life, chas v'shalom... May God have mercy upon us all and grant deliverance to those enslaved by darkness and lies.
 




Changed by Love...

Photo by John Parsons, Hebrew for Chrisians
 

10.03.17 (Tishri 13, 5778)   How do we change? How are we made new? Is it through self-effort? making resolutions? changing our diet or wardrobe? going into counselling? joining a "religion"? Or do we change by the miracle of God's compassionate intervention in our lives? When Yeshua invites us to turn and come to Him, he wants us to awaken to something so valuable that we would be willing to give up everything in the world to take hold of it (Matt. 13:45-46). True spiritual transformation is not just about leaving your sin behind you (as good as that is), but is rather about discovering the glory of true and infinite life. It's about being the beloved. May the Lord help us see...

God's love sees the hidden beauty, worth, and value of your life. "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it" (Matt. 13:45-46). You may be tempted to identify with the merchant and regard this parable as a challenge to give up everything to obtain the surpassing worth of the kingdom of heaven, but another way to understand it is to see God as the Merchant, the central character of the story.... Instead of you paying the great price for the pearl, turn the story around: God pays the price - and you are regarded as His choice pearl! You are a treasured possession, the "apple of God's eye..."

That's the message of gospel, after all. The cross of Yeshua is the end of "self improvement" projects, and that includes the "end of the law" as the means of attempting to find our acceptance before God (Rom. 10:4). We come to know God's love and acceptance "apart from the law," that is, despite our repeated failures, pain, and loss of the false self.  We are truly changed as we disclose more and more of what we really are to God, that is, when we come "out of the shadows" to be made visible and healed before His glorious Presence. Then we discover the "lightness" of being united to the risen Messiah and the "law of the Spirit of life in Yeshua (תּוֹרַת רוּחַ הַחַיִּים בְּיֵשׁוּעַ). May God work within us all such a miracle!
 




Torah First and Last...


 

[ We read the last -- and first -- portion of Torah during the season of Sukkot.... ]

10.03.17 (Tishri 13, 5778)   Our Torah reading for this week is a bit complicated. In addition to the passages we read for the holiday of Sukkot, we will also read the Book of Ecclesiastes (i.e., Kohelet) for the Sabbath of Sukkot. We will also read both the last portion of the Torah (i.e., V'zot HaBerakhah: Deut. 33:1-34:12) as well as the first chapter of the Torah (i.e., Gen. 1:1-2:3) for the holiday of "Simchat Torah" (which immediately follows Sukkot). Finally, on the Sabbath that follows the celebration of Simchat Torah, we will read the entire portion of Bereshit (i.e., Gen. 1:1-6:8). The upshot is that during this season of the year we will read the end of the Torah scroll and then "rewind" it to the beginning...

Every year we read the Torah from beginning to end... We do this every year because Talmud Torah - the study of Torah - is an ongoing venture in the life of a Jew.  In this connection, it is interesting to note that the very first letter of the Torah is the Bet (בּ) in the word bereshit (בְּרֵאשִׁית), and the very last letter of the Torah is the Lamed (ל) in the word Israel (יִשְׂרָאֵל). Putting these letters together we get the word lev (לֵב), "heart," (note the similarity to the English word "love") suggesting that the entire Torah - from the first letter to the last - reveals the heart and love of God for us... Moreover, the first letter of Scripture is a Bet (בּ), as explained above, and the last letter is a Nun (ן) in the word "Amen" (אָמֵן), so the whole Bible - from beginning to end - reveals the Person of God the Son (בֶּן) for us...
 

Note:  For more on this subject, see "Every Letter of Torah."
 




The Holiday of Sukkot (Tabernacles)


 

[ The week-long holiday of Sukkot begins Wednesday, Oct. 4th at sundown this year... ]

10.02.17 (Tishri 12, 5778)   On the Torah's calendar, there is a quick transition from the somber time of the Jewish High Holidays (Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur) to the week-long festival of Sukkot (called "Tabernacles" in the Christian tradition). If the High Holidays focus on the LORD as our Creator, our Judge, and the One who atones for our sins, then Sukkot is the time when we joyously celebrate all that He has done for us. Prophetically understood, the seven days of Sukkot picture olam haba, the world to come, and the Millennial Kingdom reign of Mashiach ben David. If Yeshua was born during Sukkot (i.e., conceived during Chanukah, the festival of lights), then another meaning of the "word became flesh and 'tabernacled with us" (John 1:14) extends to the coming kingdom age, when He will again "sukkah" with his people during the time of his reign from Zion.

Since it represents the time of ingathering of the harvest, Sukkot prophetically prefigures the joyous redemption and gathering of the Jewish people during the days of the Messiah's reign on earth (Isa. 27:12-13; Jer. 23:7-8). Indeed all of the nations that survived the Great Tribulation will come together to worship the LORD in Jerusalem during the Feast of Sukkot (Zech. 14:16-17). The holiday season therefore provides a vision of the coming Kingdom of God upon the earth, when the Word will again "tabernacle with us."
 

 

This year Sukkot begins just after sundown on Wednesday, Oct. 4th (i.e., Tishri 15 on the Jewish calendar). The festival is celebrated for seven days (i.e., from Tishri 15-21) during which we "dwell" in a sukkah -- a hut of temporary construction, with a roof covering (schach) of raw vegetable matter (i.e., branches, bamboo, etc.). The sukkah represents our dependence upon God's shelter for our protection and divine providence. We eat our meals in the sukkah and recite a special blessing (leshev Ba-Sukkah) at this time.
 


The Lulav Bouquet...


In addition to the Sukkah, the most prominent symbol of Sukkot is the Arba'at Ha-minim (אַרְבַּעַת הַמִּינִים) - "the Four Species," or four kinds of plants explicitly mentioned in the Torah regarding the festival of Sukkot: "On the first day you shall take: 1) the product of goodly trees (etrog), 2) branches of palm trees (lulav), 3) boughs of leafy trees (hadas), and 4) willows of the brook (aravot), and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days" (Lev. 23:40). We wave the "four species" (held together as a bouquet with the etrog) and recite a blessing (netilat lulav) to ask God for a fruitful and blessed year.


 

Sukkot marks the conclusion of the Jewish Fall Holidays and is the last of the three Shelosh Regalim (שלוש רגלים, i.e., the three annual pilgrimage festivals: Pesach (Passover), Shavuot (Pentecost), and Sukkot (Tabernacles) (Deut. 16:16). It can be argued that Sukkot is the climax of all the festivals in Scripture: Everything leads to it as a culmination in God's prophetic plan. It is interesting to compare the use of words relating to simchah [joy] in the description of these three festivals. Regarding Pesach, the word simchah does not appear at all (Deut. 17:1-8); regarding Shavuot, it appears only once (Deut. 17:11); but, regarding Sukkot, simchah appears several times. For instance:
 

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

Sukkot is called "z'man simchateinu," the "season of our joy." Indeed, in ancient Israel, the joy of Sukkot was so renowed that it came to be called simply "the Feast" (1 Kings 12:32). Sukkot was a time when sacrifices were offered for the healing of the nations (Num. 29:12-40), and it was also a time when (on Sabbatical years) the Torah would be read publicly to all the people (Deut. 31:10-13).

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

Note:  The weekly Torah readings are suspended for the week of Sukkot, though we will finish reading the Torah (and begin reading it anew) on the holiday of Simchat Torah, immediately following the holiday. For more information about Sukkot, including how you may observe it as a follower of Yeshua, see the Sukkot pages and their links.
 




Enshrining the Name...


 

10.01.17 (Tishri 11, 5778)  According to Rashi, Moses gathered the people to assemble the Tabernacle the day following Yom Kippur, that is, the day after he came down from the mountain upon learning the meaning of the name YHVH (Exod. 34:6-7; 35:1-35). For this reason it is traditional to begin building your sukkah on the day following Yom Kippur, recalling the revelation of the covenant of God's mercy: "The LORD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation (my Yeshua); this is my God and I will enshrine Him."
 

עָזִּי וְזִמְרָת יָהּ וַיְהִי־לִי לִישׁוּעָה
זֶה אֵלִי וְאַנְוֵהוּ אֱלהֵי אָבִי וַאֲרמְמֶנְהוּ

o·zi · ve·zim·rat · Yah · vai·hi · li · li·shu·ah
zeh · E·li · ve·an·ve·hu · E·lo·hei · a·vi · va·a·ro·me·men·hu

 

"The LORD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation;
this is my God and I will enshrine Him, God my Father, and I will exalt Him"
(Exod. 15:2)



 

A midrash dating from the 2nd century BC says that we are to be joyful during Sukkot because it was at this time that Isaac was born: "And we returned in the seventh month, and found Sarah with child before us, and we blessed him, and we announced to him all the things which had been decreed concerning him (Jubilees 16:16). Moved by gratitude to God, Abraham established a festival of joy to celebrate the birth of his long-awaited son by decorating booths (sukkot) and thanking HaShem for the miracle of his heir. "And Abraham took branches of palm trees, and the fruit of goodly trees, and every day going round the altar with the branches seven times [a day] in the morning, he praised and gave thanks for all things in joy" (Jubilees 16:31). In other words, Sukkot originally celebrates the birth of Isaac - and by extension, the birth of Yeshua our Messiah, the Akedah of God.
 




Meaning of Atonement...


 

10.01.17 (Tishri 11, 5778)  The Torah portion Acharei Mot provides details about Yom Kippur, or the "Day of Atonement," a special service that gave ritual expression of God's love by making purification for our sins. As I've explained before, the Hebrew word for love (i.e., ahavah: אהבה) equals the number thirteen (1+5+2+5=13), but when shared it is multiplied: 13 x 2 = 26, which is the same value for the Name (יהוה), i.e., (10+5+6+5=26). Likewise the Hebrew word for "life" is chayim (חַיִּים), is written in the plural to emphasize that life cannot be lived alone but must be shared. Notice that within the word chayim are embedded two consecutive Yods (יי), representing unity in plurality (Yod-Yod is an abbreviation for YHVH, also indicating the "deep Akedah" of Father and Son). God gave up His life so that we can be in relationship with Him, that is, so that we can be "at-one" with His heart for us. Whatever else it may mean, then, the Hebrew word for "atonement" (i.e., kapparah, "covering," "protection," "purification," "forgiveness") is about accepting God's heart for you - being unified in his love - and trusting that God has made safe passage for you to return to him… Atonement is God's work of salvation given for our healing: just as the chosen Kohen Gadol (high priest) alone did the work of offering the blood of sacrifice in the Holy of Holies, so Yeshua entered the dark cloud of the cross – the Holy of Holies "made without hands" - alone to make intercession for us. Indeed "by his own blood Messiah entered in once into the holy places, having obtained eternal redemption for us." These were not "holy places made with hands that he entered - which were patterns of the Real (ἀντίτυπα τῶν ἀληθινῶν), but into Heaven itself, appearing before the Presence of God in our place" (Heb. 9:24). "Blessed are You, O LORD, Giver of the Atonement": ברוך אתה יהוה הנותן כפרה.
 



 

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Yom Kippur and the Gospel...


 

[ The following is related to Yom Kippur which begins an hour before sundown this evening... ]

09.29.17  (Tishri 9, 5778)   It is vital to remember that the detailed instructions for constructing the Tabernacle were "according to the pattern" (תַּבְנִית) given to Moses at Sinai (Exod. 25:9). In other words, the tent (Mishkan), the furnishings such as the Table of the Bread of Presence (הַשֻּׁלְחָן לֶחֶם פָּנִים), the golden Menorah (מְנוֹרָה), the Bronze Altar for sacrifices (מִזְבֵּחַ הַנְחשֶׁת), the vessels, and so on, were first shown to Moses before they were created. They were copies or "shadows" that were intended to prefigure the eternal reality of the Heavenly Tabernacle itself. The entire sacrificial system was metaphorical, if you will, and pointed to a deeper reality that transcended the earthly sphere. Even the yearly Yom Kippur ritual was never intended to remain into perpetuity but pointed to something more profound -- namely, the greater avodah (ministry) of Yeshua, the Kohen Gadol of the New Covenant (Heb. 9). Indeed, if the older covenant had been sufficient to provide a permanent solution to the problem of our sin, there never would have been need for a new covenant to supersede it (see Hebrews 8:7).  Dear friend, beware those who would entice you to abandon your faith in Messiah by appealing to the terms of the covenant at Sinai (Gal. 3:1).

We honor Yom Kippur because it commemorates the truth that our deliverance from sin is eternally secured (Heb. 9:12). Therefore, because of the finished work of Yeshua on our behalf, we do not offer the customary Jewish blessing to be "sealed for a good year" (i.e., g'mar chatimah tovah: גמר חתימה טובה)... No, in light of the great atoning sacrifice of our Savior, this is chillul Hashem - a desecration of the Name of the LORD. Instead we trust that our names are written and sealed for good because of Messiah's sacrifice given on our behalf... Likewise you are at liberty to fast so that you might identify with the Jewish people and to intercede on their behalf, but you should not fast in an attempt to atone for your sins or to appeal to God for grace apart from the finished work of Yeshua on the cross.

Dear friends, I wish you all great joy and happiness in the precious atonement secured for you through the sacrifice of Yeshua our Messiah. May you feel "at-one" with the Father's heart for you; may you know the great truth of God's profound passion for you. And may the LORD our God bless you with an ever-increasing awareness of his love as you consider the great price he paid for your everlasting healing! "Now may the God of peace who by the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead the Great Shepherd of the sheep, our Lord Yeshua the Messiah, equip you with every good thing to do his will, working in you what is pleasing before Him through Yeshua the Messiah, to whom be glory forever. Amen" (Heb. 13:20-21). Shabbat Shalom and thank God for our eternal atonement in Messiah!
 




God's Prayer for us...


 

09.29.17  (Tishri 9, 5778)   Man prays to God, but to whom does God pray? For what does He pray? Or do you think that the Almighty has no desires of His own, no yearning of heart? The sages of the Talmud believed that God indeed addresses himself: Yehi ratzon milfanai, "May it be acceptable before me, may it be My will, that my compassion overcome my anger, and that it may prevail over my justice when my children appeal to me, so that I may deal with them in mercy and in love" (Berachot 6a). This is the deeper unity of the Name YHVH (יהוה), the Savior and LORD, revealed to Moses after the sin of the Golden Calf (Exod. 34:6-7), and this is the essential meaning of the cross of Yeshua, where the LORD passionately "prayed within Himself" so that His compassion would overcome His fearful judgment for our sins. "... that they may be one, even as we are one" (John 17:22).

Only the cross allows God's righteousness and mercy to "kiss" (Psalm 85:10; 89:14); only the cross reveals the true Holy of Holies where the blood was placed over the Ark of the Law; only the cross intimates the Inner Sanctum of God's heart. Because of the cross, a holy God is able to truly love and help the trusting sinner (Rom. 3:26). It is written: "Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne (צֶדֶק וּמִשְׁפָּט מְכוֹן כִּסְאֶךָ); steadfast love and faithfulness go before you" (Psalm 89:14). Because of Yeshua, God is vindicated as entirely just - and the Justifier of those who trust in His redemptive love (Rom. 3:24-26). Yeshua is the prayer of God the Father's on behalf of His children...
 

חֶסֶד־וֶאֱמֶת נִפְגָּשׁוּ צֶדֶק וְשָׁלוֹם נָשָׁקוּ

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

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



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The prayer of God - His heart's yearning and desire - is for his children to receive his love (2 Pet. 3:9; 1 Tim. 2:4; John 3:16; Ezek. 18:23). As Yeshua prayed, "Holy Father, keep them in your Name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one... I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me" (John 17:11,23). Yeshua died on the cross to bear the shame for your sins, to be sure, but he did this so that you could be accepted and securely loved forever.... It is the love of God that is the goal of all things, after all.  When Yeshua cried out, "It is finished" and breathed his last breath as He died for our sins upon the cross, the greatest exhalation of the Spirit occurred, the greatest sigh, the greatest utterance was ever declared. The sacrificial death of Yeshua for our deliverance was God's final word of love breathed out to those who are trusting in Him.
 

    "What precisely is profound in Christianity is that Christ is both our Atoner and our Judge, not that one is our Atoner and another our Judge, for then we would nevertheless come to be judged, but that the Atoner and the Judge are the same…" – Kierkegaard (Journals)
     




Blood of a Better Kind...


 

09.29.17  (Tishri 9, 5778)    The Torah of Moses reveals that the very first "priest" (i.e., kohen: כּהֵן) was neither a Jew nor a Levite nor a descendant of Aaron, but rather Someone who is said to have "neither beginning of days nor end of life" but is made like (ἀφωμοιωμένος) the Son of God, a priest continually (Heb. 7:3). This priest, of course, was Malki-Tzedek (מַלְכִּי־צֶדֶק), the King of Salem (מֶלֶךְ שָׁלֵם) to whom Abraham offered tithes after his victory over the kings (Gen. 14:18). The author of the Book of Hebrews makes the point that the priesthood of Malki-Tzedek is greater than the Levitical priesthood and is therefore superior to the rites and services of the Tabernacle (Heb. 7:9-11). It was to Malki-Tzedek that Abram (and by extension, the Levitical system instituted by his descendant Moses) gave tithes and homage -- and rightly so, since Yeshua the Messiah is the great High Priest (הַכּהֵן הַגָּדל) of the better covenant based on better promises (Heb. 8:6).
 

נִשְׁבַּע יְהוָה וְלא יִנָּחֵם
אַתָּה־כהֵן לְעוֹלָם
עַל־דִּבְרָתִי מַלְכִּי־צֶדֶק

nish·ba' · Adonai · ve·lo · yin·na·chem
at·tah · kho·hen · le·o·lam
al · div·ra·ti · mal·ki-tze·dek
 

The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind,
"You are a priest forever
after the cause of Malki-Tzedek."
(Psalm 110:4)

The cross, not the scales

 

Indeed, Yeshua is Himself the Promised Seed of Abraham who saves the world from the kelalah (curse) caused by Adam's transgression (Gen. 3:15). It is profoundly prophetic how Abraham was met by the Coming One as the Priest of the Most High God in the City of Zion, and how he gave him the tokens of bread and wine - the very commemorative emblems Yeshua gave to His disciples as a witness of His mediation for their sins (1 Cor. 11:23-26). It is also highly prophetic that Abraham himself was commanded by the LORD to offer human sacrifice when he bound his "only begotten son" Isaac upon the altar at Moriah (see The Gospel of Moses). Many midrashim state that Isaac actually was killed but came back to life, and that agrees with the Book of Hebrews description that Abraham expected the resurrection of his son (Heb. 11:17-19). It is incorrect, then, to claim that the Torah categorically forbade human sacrifice. On the contrary, it was proclaimed to Adam and Eve, prefigured in the Akedah, and later spoken about directly by the Hebrew prophets, including King David. "Then he [Messiah] said, 'Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book'. I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart" (Heb. 10:7; Psalm 40:8). As the prophet Isaiah also attested:
 

    He is despised and rejected of men, a man of pains (אִישׁ מַכְאבוֹת) and acquainted with sickness (וִידוּעַ חלִי), and we hid as it were our faces from him. He was despised and we esteemed him not. Surely he has carried our sicknesses (חֳלָיֵנוּ) and borne our pains (מַכְאבֵינוּ), yet we esteemed him as plagued (נָגַע), smitten of God (מֻכֵּה אֱלהִים) and oppressed. But he was pierced (מְחלָל) for our transgressions (פְּשָׁעֵנוּ), he was crushed for our iniquities (עֲוֹנתֵינוּ): the discipline for our peace was upon him (מוּסַר שְׁלוֹמֵנוּ עָלָיו); and in his blows we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way, but the LORD has attacked in him (הִפְגִּיעַ בּוֹ) the iniquity of us all" (Isa. 53:3-6).
     

The LORD has "attacked in him (הִפְגִּיעַ בּוֹ) the iniquity of us all..." Through the substitutionary sacrifice of the righteous Suffering Servant, Yeshua, we are both forgiven and made free from the power of sin and death. Because of Him we are no longer "lepers" or outcasts from the community of God but are made clean through His loving touch.

For more on this topic see: "Blood of a Better Kind: Further thoughts on Yom Kippur."
 




Atonement and Healing...


 

09.29.17  (Tishri 9, 5778)    Atonement is about righting the wrong that separates us from God, repairing the breach caused by our sin, and being healed from the curse of death. We all desperately need this healing, yet our own hearts are the source of the trouble (Matt. 15:19-20). The holiness and justice of God (אלהִים) requires that sin be punished by death, but God is also merciful and gracious (יהוה), and therefore He instituted a system of animal sacrifices and blood rituals to provisionally "atone" for sin (i.e., restore the broken relationship with God). Since the life of the flesh is in the blood (Lev. 17:11), and the penalty for sin is death, the shedding of blood represents atonement (כַּפָּרָה) for sin. With regard to the chatat ("sin offering") or asham ("guilt offering"), a person would bring a kosher animal (korban) to the entrance of the Tabernacle and place both hands on the animal's head to identify with it (Lev. 4:29). This act of "semikhah" (סְמִיכָה) symbolically (i.e., ritually) transferred the penalty of sin and guilt to the sacrificial animal. Then, the person would slay the animal and confess that his sin caused the innocent to be slain in his place (Menachot 110a). The elaborate sacrificial system was intended to depict this "life-for-life" principle: God accepted the blood of a sacrifice in exchange for the life of the sinner...

The sacrificial system of the Tabernacle was a temporary arrangement until the coming of Messiah, the Promised Deliverer (Gal. 3:24-25; Rom. 10:4; Heb. 9:1-12). The redemption obtained by animal sacrifices was merely provisional and symbolic, "for it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins" (Heb. 10:4). Beware those who would entice you to return to the terms of the covenant at Sinai (Gal. 3:1). For eternal remedy, for the spiritual life of the soul, something far greater was needed, namely, the sacrifice of God Himself.  Consequently, when Yeshua came into the world, he said, "Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me," and "'Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book" (Heb. 10:5,7). All this is profoundly mysterious, of course. After all, if the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) could enter the Holy of Holies only once a year to present sacrificial blood upon the kapporet, invoking the Divine Name YHVH, and interceding for God's mercy on behalf of the people, how much more mysterious is Messiah's intercession for us as he willingly shed his own blood and died in exchange for the curse of our sins (Gal. 3:13)? It was there - in the true Holy of Holies, the "greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands" (Heb. 9:11), where the blood of Yeshua was poured out to pay the penalty for our sins, and it was there that we are given eternal life and healing (2 Cor. 5:21). Yeshua is the true Temple of God and the Central Sacrifice of God given on our behalf. In ways we simply cannot fathom, the sacrificial death of Yeshua redeems us from the curse of death and makes us alive together with God. We draw near to God through Him alone; he alone is the true High Priest of God, the One who finishes the work of redemption on our behalf in the Temple of his body...

The New Testament teaches that Yeshua came to die "for our sins," to heal us from the plague of death (Heb. 7:27, 9:26; 1 John 3:5). Our sin separates us from God, but Messiah's sacrifice draws us near (Heb. 7:19). The message of the gospel is that the Voice of the LORD - the very Word spoken from between the cherubim above the kapporet (mercy seat)  - "became flesh" (ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο) and "tabernacled among us" (ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν) for the purpose of becoming our substitutionary sacrifice for the guilt and defilement caused by our sins (John 1:1,14). Yeshua was "born to die" (Heb. 10:5-7), and his life was lived in relation to His sacrificial death (Mark 8:27-33). As the Apostle Paul put it: This is of "first importance": Yeshua was born to die for our sins, to make us right with God, and was raised from the dead to vindicate the righteousness of God (1 Cor. 15:3-4). His sacrificial death eternally draws us near to God, and we can come boldly before God's Presence on the basis of His shed blood for our sins...

The sacrificial system of Torah functions as a parable for us, or a metaphor of God's great redemptive plan revealed in the life and death of Yeshua. The Mercy Seat (kapporet) represents both the Throne of God (Heb. 4:16; 2 Kings 19:15) as well as the cross of Yeshua, where propitiation for our sins was made (Rom. 3:25). The glory of the Torah of Moses was destined to fade away (2 Cor. 3:3-11), just as its ritual center (i.e., the Tabernacle/Temple) was a shadow (σκιά) to be replaced by the greater priesthood of Malki-Tzedek (Heb. 10:1; 13:10). Yeshua is the Goal and the "Goel" (i.e., גּאֵל, Redeemer) from the curse of the law (Gal. 3:13). "For the law made nothing perfect, but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, and that is how we draw near (karov) to God" (Heb. 7:19). The sacrificial death of Yeshua caused the parochet of the Temple to be torn asunder, revealing that access to the Presence of God is now available for all who come to God trusting in the finished work of God's Son. For more, see "Why the Sacrifices?" and "Yom Kippur and the Gospel."
 




Our Need for Atonement...


 

09.29.17  (Tishri 9, 5778)   Humanity's greatest need is to be loved and accepted by God, but this requires a solution to the problem of sin. A "good judgment" from heaven, however, cannot be obtained through self-justification or through "works of righteousness which we have done" (Titus 3:5). The "books" are opened in heaven with a detailed record of all our sinful acts (Rev. 20:12). The LORD is called El Emet, the God of Truth, and the violation of God's law therefore requires atonement. Yeshua is God's exclusively appointed Sin Bearer, and only by means of trusting in his sacrificial death on the cross are we are declared not guilty (or "justified") by faith.  Only God can justify the ungodly (Rom. 4:5) and "clothes" us with His own righteousness (see Zech. 3:1-5). Salvation is of the Lord.  In the end, the only righteousness that really matters is the righteousness of God... We must renounce all hope of other approaches or defenses. None of us is righteous, "no, not one" (Psalm 14:2-3; Rom. 3:10). All our righteousness is as "filthy rags" before the throne of Heaven: "We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away" (Isa. 64:6).
 




Yom Kippur and Jonah...


 

[ The following is related to Yom Kippur, the "Day of Atonement"... ]

09.29.17  (Tishri 9, 5778)    During the afternoon service of Yom Kippur, the Book of Jonah is recited to awaken the heart to "Arise, call out to your God" (1:6). Like Jonah we first must be "swallowed up" in consciousness of our own rebellion before we realize we are undone, that we are without remedy apart from God's direct intervention and deliverance. We start there - in the "belly of the fish" - and later are resurrected to go forth by God's mercy and grace. Likewise we first see ourselves as undone and go to the cross, finding pardon and given the power of the ruach HaKodesh to live unto God according to the truth. But note that the imperatives of the New Testament are directed to the new nature given to us by God, and not to the old nature that has been crucified and done away. We are admonished to live in accordance with the truth of what God has done for us through the Moshia', the Savior. You are a new creation, therefore be who you are in the Messiah!

It is noteworthy that Yeshua mentioned the "sign of Jonah the prophet," that is, Jonah's miraculous deliverance after being entombed in the belly of the fish for three days, to authenticate his own claim to be Israel's Redeemer. "Just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the belly of the earth" (Matt. 12:40). "This is an evil generation. It seeks a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah the prophet (אוֹת יוֹנָה הַנָּבִיא). For as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation" (Luke 11:29-30). In other words, the story of Jonah foreshadowed the atoning sacrifice of the Messiah, that is, his death, burial and especially his miraculous resurrection on the third day. Just as God brought Jonah back to life after three days in the belly of the earth, so the resurrection of Yeshua from the dead would vindicate his claim to be the Savior and Redeemer of the world. In this way the "Sign of Jonah" and the sacrificial and atoning work of Yeshua as our High Priest of the new covenant are connected.

"We we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself, yes, we felt that we had received the sentence of death; but that was to make us rely not on ourselves, but on God who raises the dead" (2 Cor 1:8-9). This marks the end of carnal hope, when we realize we are but "dead men walking," and from this extremity of inner desperation and clarity we learn to rely solely on God for what we need. Here we abandon ourselves to God's care, despite the despair, darkness, and fear. We rely on "God who raises the dead," because all other remedies have been vanquished. It is a great gift to be so afflicted, for these "troubles of love" teach us to trust God alone for all we need. The only way out is through. We don't seek an easy way of life, but only that the LORD our God be with us throughout our troubles...

Note:  According to Jewish tradition, Jonah ben Amittai (יוֹנָה בֶן־אֲמִתַּי) was a student of the prophet Elisha, who was himself the student of the prophet Elijah... The mother of Jonah was said to the poor widow of Lebanon who offered Elijah hospitality and her last bite of food. When her son Jonah later unexpectedly died, Elijah miraculously revived him (1 Kings 17:8-24). The midrash says that Nineveh was called to repent based on the merit of Asshur who separated from Nimrod before the time of the great rebellion (Gen. 10:22). Later, however, Nineveh was nevertheless destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar II (c. 605–562 BC).
 




Teshuvah and Remedy...


 

09.28.17  (Tishri 8, 5778)   The teshuvah (repentance) called for by Yeshua is not like that of the traditional rabbis... The rabbis want you to be sorry for your sins, to confess "every sin in the book," and to find "atonement" in religious rituals, but this is not "good news," but rather "stale news." The teshuvah of Yeshua is the miracle of new life; Messiah sets you free from the power of sin and death itself. The repentance of Yeshua is to trust in God's remedy for your sin: "This is the work of God, to believe in the One whom God sent" (John 6:29). "He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede; then His own arm brought him salvation, and his righteousness upheld him" (Isa. 59:16). We must turn away from the idea that God demands anything from us other than trust in his love. "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 18:3). Stop trying to measure up to his standards. You simply cannot give more than you have the love to give, so you must begin by getting your heart needs met by accepting God's unconditional love. It's not about what you do for God, after all, but about what he does for you. That's the message of the gospel. Trust that you are rightly related to God because of the salvation of Yeshua, not because of your own efforts at self-improvement. "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).
 




Torah of Blood Atonement...


 

[ The following is related to Yom Kippur, the "Day of Atonement"... ]

09.28.17  (Tishri 8, 5778)   "The Life is in the blood..." (Lev. 17:11). The "Day of Atonement" is the English translation for Yom Kippurim (יוֹם הַכִּפֻּרִים). The shoresh (root) for the word "kippur" is kafar (כָּפַר), which probably derives from the word kofer, meaning "ransom." This word is parallel to the word "redeem" (Psalm 49:7) and means "to exchange by offering a substitute." The great majority of usages in the Tanakh concern "making an atonement" by the priestly ritual of sprinkling of sacrificial blood to cleanse from sin or defilement (i.e., tahora). The blood of the sacrifice was given in exchange for the life of the worshiper (the "life-for-life" principle). This symbolism is clarified when the worshiper leaned his hands on the head of the sacrifice (semichah) while confessing sin (Lev. 16:21; 1:4; 4:4, etc.). The shoresh also appears in the term kapporet [the "Mercy Seat," but better rendered as simply the place of blood covering]. The kapporet was the golden cover of the sacred chest in the Holy of Holies of the Tabernacle (or Temple) where the sacrificial blood was presented to cleanse the people from their sins.
 

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

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

 

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



Hebrew Study Card
 

The blood of Messiah ransoms our souls from death, brings us near to the Divine Presence, and cleanses us from all sin (Lev. 17:11; Rom. 3:25; Heb. 9:22; Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14; 1 John 2:2). The voice of his blood cries out on our behalf (Heb. 12:24), and his life was given in exchange for ours: "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Cor. 5:12). We "lean into" Yeshua, confessing our sins, and are cleansed from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). In the New Testament Yeshua is called the "atonement" (ἱλασμός) for our sins (1 John 2:2), a Greek word that was used in the Septuagint (i.e., LXX) to translate the Hebrew word kippurim in the Torah (Lev. 25:9). The Septuagint uses the same word (ἱλασμός) to translate the Hebrew word for selichah (forgiveness), for example: "But with you there is forgiveness (הַסְּלִיחָה), that you may be held in awe" (Psalm 130:4). Just as the blood was sprinkled upon the kapporet (cover of the Ark of the Covenant) in the Holy of Holies during the Yom Kippur ritual, so the blood of Messiah was sprinkled the heavenly kapporet, the very altar of Almighty God, to secure for us everlasting redemption and healing...

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

לְכוּ־נָא וְנִוָּכְחָה יאמַר יְהוָה
אִם־יִהְיוּ חֲטָאֵיכֶם כַּשָּׁנִים כַּשֶּׁלֶג יַלְבִּינוּ
אִם־יַאְדִּימוּ כַתּוֹלָע כַּצֶּמֶר יִהְיוּ

lekhu · na · venivakhechah · yomar · Adonai
im · yihehu · chata'eikhem · kashanim · kasheleg · yalbinu
im · ya'adinu · khatolah · katzemer · yiheyu

 

"Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD:
though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool."
(
Isa. 1:18)



Hebrew Study Card
 

For more see: "Rabbis who deny blood Atonement..."
 




Yom Kippur Miracles....


 

09.28.17  (Tishri 8, 5778)   The Talmud relates fascinating information about various miracles that began occurring some 40 years before the destruction of the Temple (i.e., 30 AD).  These miracles are ascribed to the zechut (merit) of a certain Shimon HaTzaddik, who was a highly respected High Priest of Israel. However, since these signs began just after the time of Yeshua's crucifixion, they further indicate that the parochet of the Holy of Holies has been rent asunder, and now, by means of His avodah and zechut for those who trust in Him, the way to the throne of grace has been made accessible to all. Here's the quote from the Talmud:
 

    Our rabbis taught: During the last forty years before the destruction of the Temple the lot ['For the Lord'] did not come up in the right hand; nor did the crimson-colored strap become white; nor did the western most light shine; and the doors of the Hekel [Temple] would open by themselves" (Soncino version, Yoma 39b).
     

According to this passage, the lot for Azazel, contrary to all the laws of probability, came up 40 times in a row in the left hand.... This was considered a dire event and signified something had fundamentally changed in the Yom Kippur avodah.

The second miracle concerns a crimson strap that was tied to the Azazel goat.  The custom was to cut a portion of this strap and tie it to the Temple door.  After the Azazel goat was killed, the strap on the Temple door turned white to signify the successful atonement of Israel. However, beginning around 30 AD, the strap remained crimson each year to the time of the Temple's destruction.

The third miracle was that the ner ma'aravi, the westernmost ight of the menorah in the Holy Place, was found extinguished before the next morning. This was highly unusual because before this time the ma'aravi remained lit throughout the night and was normally used by the priests to rekindle the other branches of the menorah. After 30 AD, however, this light -- the shamash -- was no longer found burning, even despite various attempts to ensure that it remained lit through the night.

The fourth miracle was that beginning around 30 AD the Temple doors swung open every night of their own accord. Yochanan ben Zakkai declared that this was a sign of impending doom (Sotah 6:3) that foreshadowed that the Temple itself would be destroyed.



 




The Power of Mercy...


 

09.28.17  (Tishri 8, 5778)   I mentioned the other day that there were two revelations of the Name YHVH (יְהוָה) given to Moses. The first revelation occurred when he asked for God's Name while he encountered the burning bush and was commissioned to lead Israel out of Egypt: "If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' what shall I say to them?" God then replied: ehyeh asher ehyeh (אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה), "I AM WHO I AM." And he said, "Say this to the people of Israel, 'I AM (אֶהְיֶה) has sent me to you'" (Exod. 3:13-14). Apparently Moses did not regard the historical description of God as the "God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" to be sufficient to attest to his mission before the elders of Israel, so he pressed the issue, though the LORD clearly linked His Name with the patriarchs nonetheless: "Say this to the people of Israel, 'The LORD (יְהוָה), the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.' This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations" (Exod. 3:15). It should be noted here that God's initial response, namely, "I AM" (אֶהְיֶה), is the Qal imperfect, first person singular of the verb hayah (הָיָה), "I will be," and therefore is thought to be a form of word play on this verb "to be." The LORD (יְהוָה) is the Source of all being and has being inherent in Himself (i.e., He is necessary Being). Everything else is contingent being that derives existence from Him. Notice further that the power of this Name was subsequently revealed to Israel through the saving acts of the Exodus from Egypt, something the earlier patriarchs had never directly experienced (Exod. 6:1-8).

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

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

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

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


 

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

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

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

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

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

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




Yom Kippur Prophecies....


 

09.28.17  (Tishri 8, 5778)   Some people might feel a certain amount of ambivalence about the holiday of Yom Kippur since it focuses on the purification of the sanctuary of the Temple, and this seems to have little to do with Yeshua and His sacrifice for our sins. After all, the Levitical form of worship is described as "a shadow (σκιά) of the good things to come, instead of the true form (εἰκών) of these matters, and it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near" (Heb. 10:1). Since the blood of bulls and goats cannot truly take away sins (Heb. 10:3), the sacrificial system was intended to foreshadow the coming work of Messiah, who was born to die, in accordance with God's will, and to offer his own body as a sacrifice for sin "once for all" (Heb. 10:5-10). "For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified" (Heb. 10:14).

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


 

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




Essence of Yom Kippur...


 

09.27.17  (Tishri 7, 5778)   The earthy Tabernacle (i.e., Mishkan) and its furnishings were "copies" of the heavenly Temple and the Throne of God Himself. Moses was commanded to make the Sanctuary according to the "pattern" revealed at Sinai (Exod. 25:9). As it is written in our Scriptures, "For Messiah has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are representations (ἀντίτυπος) of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf" (Heb. 9:24). The centermost point of the earthly Tabernacle was the Ark of the Covenant (אֲרוֹן־הַקּדֶשׁ), a "three-in-one" box that contained God's Holy Word (i.e., the tablets of the Torah). As such, the Ark served as a symbol of kisei ha-kavod (כִּסֵּא הַכָּבוֹד), the Throne of Glory. The Ark stood entirely apart as the only furnishing placed in the "three-in-one" space called the Holy of Holies (קדֶשׁ הַקֳּדָשִׁים). Upon the cover of the Ark (i.e., the kapporet) were fashioned two cherubim (i.e., angel-like figures) that faced one another (Exod. 25:17-18). According to the Talmud (Succah 5b), each cherub had the face of a child - one boy and one girl - and their wings spread heavenward as their eyes gazed upon the cover (Exod. 25:20). This was the sacred place where the blood of purification was sprinkled during Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, and this is the Place (הַמָּקוֹם) that prefigured the offering of the blood of the Messiah, our eternal Mediator of the New Covenant. "For I will appear in the cloud over the kapporet" (Lev. 16:2; Exod. 25:22). As it is written, "I have blotted out your transgressions like a thick cloud and your sins like heavy mist; return to me (שׁוּבָה אֵלַי), for I have redeemed you (Isa. 44:22).


 

The central ritual of atonement given in the Torah is that of the anointed High Priest sprinkling sacrificial blood over the tablets of the law upon the kapporet (the "mercy seat") of the Ark of the Covenant - the Place where "Love and truth meet, where righteousness and peace kiss" (Psalm 85:10). It was from the midst of the surrounding cloud in the Holy of Holies that the Voice of the LORD was heard, just as it was in the midst of the surrounding cloud of darkness upon the cross that Yeshua cried out in intercession for our sins...  

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,
justice and peace have kissed."
(Psalm 85:10)

The cross, not the scales

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Note further that the High Priest was required to perform the Yom Kippur avodah (service) alone, while wearing humble attire, divested of his glory, and in complete solitude: "No one may be in the tent of meeting from the time he enters to make atonement in the Holy Place until he comes out" (Lev. 16:17). The Hebrew text literally says, "no adam (אָדָם) shall be in the tent," which suggests that something more than the natural man is needed for divine intercession. And just as Moses alone approached God in the thick clouds at Sinai to receive the revelation of the Altar as mediator of the older covenant (Exod. 24:15), so Yeshua, the Mediator of the New Covenant, went through his severest agony on the cross as the darkness covered the earth (Luke 23:44; Matt. 27:45).
 

    "What precisely is profound in Christianity is that Christ is both our Atoner and our Judge, not that one is our Atoner and another our Judge, for then we would nevertheless come to be judged, but that the Atoner and the Judge are the same..." – Soren Kierkegaard (Journals)
     




Wholehearted with God...


 

09.27.17  (Tishri 7, 5778)   We are admonished in the Torah: תָּמִים תִּהְיֶה עִם יְהוָה אֱלהֶיךָ - "You shall be wholehearted (i.e., tamim: תָּמִים) with the LORD your God" (Deut. 18:13). When we study Scripture or things of "religion," we must be  careful not to lose sight of what is important.  We should serve God with "simplicity" (תֻּמָּה), that is, sincerely, with our whole heart and with straightforward intent. We should use a "single eye" and resist the temptation to "read into things" (Matt. 6:22-23). Indeed, God knows that we can evade the truth by means of being overly "sophisticated" when we read the Scriptures. The essential truth is plain enough, but we want to split hairs, consult a variety of commentaries, engage in mystical speculations, and so on, all in an attempt to defend ourselves against hearing from the Spirit of God! But as it says in Scriptures: holekh batom yelekh betach, "Whoever walks in simplicity (בַּתּם) will walk securely" (Prov. 10:9).

Kierkegaard once lamented: "The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand we are obliged to act accordingly." Indeed - there is a real danger of merely "thinking about" truth rather than living it... For instance, you might study the Psalms as literature and attempt to understand the nuances of Hebrew poetry, but that is altogether different than reading them with inner passion, with simple faith and the earnest desire to unite your heart's cry with the devotion that originally gave life to the sacred words... Likewise you might study Torah, pronounce the Name YHVH, carefully observe the festivals, and hope to "correct" Christians regarding their religion, and still be a lost soul... We must read with a heart of faith to unlock the truth that speaks to the heart. If you believe only what you understand, your faith is actually grounded in your own reasoning, not in the Divine Voice of Love.
 




Behold the Goat of God!


 

[ The solemn holiday of Yom Kippur begins Friday (Sept. 29th) an hour before sundown... ]

09.27.17  (Tishri 7, 5778)   The original Passover sacrifice (korban Pesach) was not given to the Levitical priesthood as a sin offering, since it preceded Sinai and the giving of the laws concerning the sacrificial rites.  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 (Gen. 14:18; Psalm 110:4; Heb. 7). Yeshua both offered Himself up as the "Lamb of God" that causes the wrath of God to (eternally) pass over those who personally trust in Him, and He also offered himself as the "Goat of God" whose blood was sprinkled in the Holy of Holies to cleanse us from sin and give us (everlasting) atonement. (Other metaphors are also given in Scripture, of course.  For example, Yeshua offered Himself as the Snake lifted up (John 3:14-15; cp. Num. 21:4-9), as a Red Cow (parah adumah), and so on).

Yeshua as the "Lamb of God" pictures personal redemption from slavery to Satan and freedom from the wrath of God. This is the greater Passover/Exodus connection.  By means of Yeshua's shed blood and broken body, the wrath of God passes over us and we are set free to serve God.... Yeshua as the "Goat of God" pictures both personal cleansing (i.e., "propitiation" or "expiation" for our sins: the Greek word (ἱλαστήριον) is used in the LXX for the kapporet (Mercy Seat) in the Holy of Holies which was sprinkled with the blood of the sacrifice on Yom Kippur) as well as national teshuvah and cleansing for ethnic Israel at the end of the Great Tribulation period. At that time Yeshua will function as Israel's true High Priest whose sacrifice is applied for Israel's Atonement. This is the Yom Kippur connection. Moreover, since Yom Kippur points to the removal of the sin-laden goat (representing Satan), the Millennial reign of Messiah will be one unmolested by the powers of evil.


 

Just as Rosh Hashanah reveals the coming time of Judgment and the rapture of the kehillat Mashiach (Bride of Messiah), Yom Kippur prophetically pictures the Day of the LORD or the Day of Judgment in Acharit HaYamim [the last days].  After the judgment of the nations during the Great Tribulation, national Israel will be fully restored to the LORD and their sins will be purged (see Matthew 24). Indeed, our beloved Mashiach will one day return to Israel, cleanse her Temple, restore her to Himself, and set up His glorious kingdom.
 




Confession and Hope...


 

09.27.17  (Tishri 7, 5778)   It is written: "Faith is the foundation (i.e., ὑπόστασις: the "substance," reality, being, etc.) of hope, the conviction of the unseen... Without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would draw near must believe that God exists and rewards (μισθαποδότης) those who seek him" (Heb. 11:1,6). Note that God is pleased when we seek his presence, that is, when we when we look past the ephemera and ambiguity of the phenomenal world for the truth about spiritual reality. For our part, faith depends on confession. We must say that we believe, and affirm it with all our heart (Rom. 10:9). As it says, "I will make Your faithfulness known with my mouth" (Psalm 89:2). When you encounter tribulation, or experience some crisis of faith, reaffirm aloud: "I believe in God's promise..." Physically expressing your faith is itself an act of faith, and this encourages your soul to trust in God's healing reward even in the present struggle or darkness...
 




Be Strong, Be Strengthened...


 

09.26.17  (Tishri 6, 5778)   Your Heavenly Father sees in secret... "The deepest thing in our nature is this region of heart in which we dwell alone with our willingnesses and our unwillingnesses, our faiths and our fears" (William James).  It is there, in the secret place of the heart, that the sound of the "knock" is either heard or disregarded (Rev 3:20). May the Lord give us the willingness to do His will and the courage to believe in His love.  And may God deliver us from doubt and from every other fear. May we all be strong in faith, not staggering over the promises, but giving glory to God for the miracle of Yeshua our LORD.  May we all be rooted and grounded in love so that we are empowered to apprehend the very "breadth and length and height and depth" of the love of God given to us in Messiah, so that we shall all be filled with all the fullness of God.
 




Yom Kippur and the Messiah...


[ The solemn holiday of Yom Kippur begins this Friday at sundown... ]

09.26.17  (Tishri 6, 5778)   How are we to understand the apparent contradiction that Yom Kippur is to be observed as a "statute forever" (Lev. 16:29) while the New Testament emphatically states that Yeshua puts an end to animal sacrifice and now is our eternal atonement (Heb. 9:12; 24-26)? To begin we must note that this contradiction only arises when we make the (false) assumption that the Sinai covenant could never be abrogated, which would imply that a new covenant is logically impossible. If we can only relate to God through the covenantal terms given at Sinai, in other words, then the Levitical priesthood (alone) serves to mediate us before God, and there would be no need for a covenant based on the better priesthood and promises of the Messiah (Heb. 8:6). Nevertheless, the new covenant was clearly foretold throughout the Torah, the writings, and the prophets, and the rabbinical assumption that the Torah is "immutable" is therefore false. We can understand this by an analogy: If an employer makes a contract with an employee with certain provisions and conditional benefits that are subject to annual review, but later rescinds that contact and offers a new one with far better benefits, there is no contradiction involved. In our case a real contradiction would be, "you must observe Yom Kippur forever," and then - in the very same contract - later read, "you no longer need observe Yom Kippur forever."

Since the Torah says of the Yom Kippur ritual, "this shall be a statute forever (חֻקַּת עוֹלָם) for you, that atonement may be made for the people of Israel once in the year because of all their sins" (Lev. 16:34), it is urgent for us to explore what "forever" might mean in this case, especially in light of the atonement given in Yeshua.  First, we note that the Hebrew word translated "forever" is olam (עוֹלָם), which is derived from a root verb alam (עָלַם) that means "to conceal" or "to hide." Olam may have its origins using spatial imagery, a distance so vast that it is unseen, beyond the horizon, and therefore it can also mean "world." When it is applied to the terms of the Sinai covenant (and the Tabernacle represents the "ritual expression" of that covenant), the word means perpetual, ongoing, etc., in that domain or "world." It is interesting to note that the Jewish sages never regarded "olam" as unchangeable, since in the world to come Torah from Zion (Isa. 2:3). For more on this important point, see the article "Olam HaTorah: The World of the Torah."

Second, we must remember that  Torah (תּוֹרָה) is a "function word" that expresses our responsibility in light of the covenantal acts of God, and if you choose to relate to God by means of the Sinai covenant, you are liable to the terms and provisions of that contract (e.g., niddah laws, blood ritual laws, tithing laws, agricultural laws, etc.), and this includes being liable to the enumerated curses for disobedience. The covenant at Sinai is indeed eternal and never can change - it is brit olam, a perpetual covenant - but if you choose to abide by its terms, you are responsible for your side of the contract... The Book of Hebrews states: "When there is a change in the priesthood (הַכְּהוּנָּה), there is necessarily (ἀνάγκη) a change in the Torah as well" (Heb. 7:12). The Levitical priesthood expresses the Torah of the Covenant of Sinai (בְּרִית יְשָׁנָה), just as the greater priesthood of Yeshua expresses the Torah of the New Covenant (בְּרִית חֲדָשָׁה).

Third, Yeshua our Messiah came to deliver us from sin and to establish the new covenant with God, which both transcends the moral law of Sinai and provides an entirely new way to be in relationship with God by the power of the Holy Spirit. The new covenant sets us free from the terms of Sinai (by the death of the Testator, Heb. 9:15) so that we might serve God in a new and better way (see Jer. 31:33; Rom. 7:1-6; Heb. 8:6; Rom. 9:31-32; Acts 13:39; Gal. 4:21-5:1). We "die" to the terms of the former contract to serve God in a new and powerful way (Rom. 7:1-4), with the inner intent of the law written upon our hearts (Jer. 31:31-33). This is the "deeper Torah" that goes back to the original covenant made in the Garden of Eden (for more on this, see "The Gospel in the Garden").

Fourth, Yeshua is the King, the Lawgiver of Torah, and its Substance: he did not come to destroy the Law and the Prophets, but to fulfill their message and meaning (Matt. 5:17-18; Rom. 10:4). As the King, he has the authority to annul contracts with his subjects, and he has the authority to implement new agreements based on his sovereign will... The Torah of Moses commanded, "Thou shalt not kill..." but the King of Torah (מלך התורה) went to the heart of the matter, explaining that murder was a symptom of the deeper sin of anger...

Finally, those who follow the law of Moses simply cannot keep the Day of Atonement as clearly commanded in the Book of Leviticus, nor have Jews been able to do so since 70 AD, after the destruction of the Second Temple as foretold by Yeshua (Matt. 24:2; Luke 19:41-4). Note that this was by divine design, since the way into the Holy of Holies (i.e., kodesh hakodashim: קדֶשׁ הַקֳּדָשִׁים) was not yet open for all as long as the "outer tent" still stood (i.e., the Levitical priesthood as the ritualistic expression of the covenant made at Sinai), since that was symbolic of "the present age," or the "dispensation that was passing away" (Heb. 8:13, 9:8-9; for more, see "The Parochet Rent in Two").  Despite the later invention of "Judaism without the Temple," the life is indeed "in the blood" (Lev. 17:11) and in Messiah we are given fulness of life! Only Yeshua gives us true atonement, and that's the true Torah of the LORD! The redemption obtained by animal sacrifices was merely provisional and symbolic, "for it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins" (Heb. 10:4). For eternal remedy something far greater was needed, namely, the sacrifice of God Himself. Consequently, when Yeshua came into the world, he said, "Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me," and "'Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book" (Heb. 10:5,7). As the Book of Hebrew states: "We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat who serve the Tabernacle" (i.e., the Levitical system of worship). We are cleansed from our sins and made eternally right with God because of the cross of Yeshua...

The bottom line is this. We have a greater High Priest who intercedes for us by means of his own shed blood within the true Holy of Holies, "made without hands," in the olam of reality. We do not mix the covenants of God, for this leads to double-mindedness and is regarded as spiritual adultery (Rom. 7:1-4). It is chillul HaShem - the desecration of the Name above all Names - to turn away from the meaning and message of the cross of Messiah.

Note: We study the Yom Kippur avodah and the various rituals of blood atonement to better understand the meaning of Yeshua's sacrificial death for us as God's High Priest of the New Covenant.  Moreover, as I've explained elsewhere on this site, Yom Kippur prophetically pictures the "Day of the LORD" or the Day of Judgment in Acharit Ha-Yamim (the End of Days). The heavenly shofar blasts heard at Mount Sinai will be reissued from Zion for all the world to hear. First will be the gathering together of those who follow the Messiah (i.e., those declared tzaddikim because of the merit of Yeshua's sacrifice), and then God's war against Satan and the world system will begin, culminating in the long-awaited coronation of the King of King of Kings.  After the judgment of the nations after the Great Tribulation, ethnic Israel will be fully restored to the LORD and their sins will be completely purged (Matt. 24). "All Israel will be saved" (Rom. 11:26). Yeshua will then physically return to Israel to establish His glorious millennial kingdom in Zion. Then all the promises given to ethnic Israel through the prophets will finally be fulfilled.
 




Yom Kippur and the Name....


 

09.26.17  (Tishri 6, 5778)   Yom Kippur was the only time when the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies and call upon the Name of YHVH / YHVH (i.e., יהוה) to offer blood sacrifice for the sins of the people. This "life for a life" principle is the foundation of the sacrificial system and marked the great day of intercession made by the High Priest on behalf of Israel. For this reason it was also called the "Day of God's Mercy," or the "Day of God's Name." This alludes to the revelation of the attributes of God's Compassion after the sin of the Golden Calf (see Exod. 34:6-7) -- a disclosure that foreshadowed the New Covenant.  How much more, then, is Yom Kippur the "Day of Yeshua's Name" since He secured for all of humanity everlasting kapparah (atonement)? Yeshua the Messiah is Moshia ha'olam (מוֹשִׁיעַ הָעוֹלָם), the Savior of the world; He alone possesses the "Name above all other Names" (Phil. 2:9-10; Acts 4:12). It is altogether fitting, then, that God's "hidden Name" (i.e., shem ha-meforash: שֵׁם הַמְּפרָשׁ) was proclaimed before the kapporet (the cover of the Ark of the Covenant) in the Holy of Holies while atonement for our sins was made through the sacrificial blood.

This gives us a whole new perspective on Paul's words (Rom. 10:9): "if you confess with your mouth that Yeshua is LORD (יהוה) and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead (i.e., that his blood was shed and presented on your behalf upon the heavenly kapporet), then you will be saved (that is, you will be reconciled to God and made a partaker of the atoning work of Yeshua). Surely the Apostle Paul, a zealous rabbi who diligently studied Torah in Jerusalem under Rabbi Gamaliel (who was himself the grandson of the renowned Rabbi Hillel the Elder), understood the theological implications when he stated that the prophecy: "And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the Name of the LORD (בְּשֵׁם יְהוָה) shall be saved" (Joel 2:32) applied directly to Yeshua (Rom. 10:10).


 




Yom Kippur and Chesed...


 

09.26.17  (Tishri 6, 5778)   The ten days from Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur are known as Aseret Yemei Teshuvah (עֲשֶׂרֶת יְמֵי תְּשׁוּבָה), "the Ten Days of repentance," otherwise called the "Days of Awe" (yamim nora'im) in Jewish tradition. Since man was created for the sake of teshuvah, Yom Kippur, or the Day of "at-one-ment," is considered the holiest day of the year, called "Yom ha-kadosh" (יוֹם הַקָּדוֹשׁ). It is the climax of the 40 day "Season of Teshuvah."

The "Day of Atonement," or Yom Kippur, is actually described in the plural: Yom Ha-Kippurim (יוֹם הַכִּפֻּרִים), perhaps because the purification process cleansed from a multitude of transgressions, iniquities, and sins. However, the name also alludes to the two great atonements given by the LORD God of Israel - the first for those among all of the nations who turn to Yeshua for cleansing and forgiveness, and the second for the purification of ethnic Israel during Yom Adonai, the great Day of the LORD (יוֹם־יְהוָה הַגָּדוֹל) at the end of days. There is a connection with the holiday of Purim, too, since Kippurim can be read as Yom Ke-Purim, a "day like Purim." Thus the day on which Yeshua sacrificed Himself on the cross is the greatest Purim of all, since through His loving intervention we are eternally delivered from the hands of our enemies...

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

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

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


 

Note there were two revelations of the Name YHVH, first as "I AM WHO I AM" (a play on the Hebrew verb hayah [הָיָה] given to Moses in Exodus 3:14-15 which was later "incarnated" during the intervention of the Exodus (Exod. 6:1-8)) and the later revelation of YHVH's mercy disclosed after the sin of the Golden Calf (Exod. 34:6-7). It is the later revelation that foretold God's Name of the new covenant, just as the second tablets took the place of the former tablets that were shattered. Ultimately Yeshua is the "wonder" of the covenant of the LORD (Exod. 34:10), the manifestation of the attributes of God's mercy (middot rachamim). For more on this, see the article, "The Surpassing Glory: Paul's Midrash of the Veil."

For more on this topic see that article, "Yom Kippur and Chesed."
 




Thy Kingdom Come...


 

09.25.17  (Tishri 5, 5778)   Since our political age is marked more than ever by syncretism and politically correct forms of coercion (i.e., violence), we must understand and value the life of the authentic individual - the person who is marked by moral courage and integrity that transcends the "sound bites" and stupidity of the mass media and its propaganda.... It is as common as a coin of the realm to see the schemes of various "change agents" fabricating problems in order to move the social order according their agendas. Indeed this is the age of engineered terror, the antithesis of which is not some nebulous "freedom" as suggested from the princes of this world, but rather a new form of slavery unlike anything before seen on this earth. It behooves us not to look to the usual suspects... and to never forget the role of the crowd in Nazi Germany...

Find comfort, friend of Jesus. Of this evil world it is written, "Why do the people rage and the nations devise schemes that will fail? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Messiah saying, 'Let us tear off the shackles of their yoke, and throw off their ropes from us!' But the enthroned LORD laughs at their insolence and holds them in derision, until the appointed hour when He will speak to them in his wrath and terrify them in his fury" (Psalm 2:1-5). Amen, amen!

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 day and the hour draws near.

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.).

Before this glorious time of the Millennial Kingdom, however, the great "Day of the LORD" 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).

In light of all this, 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)



Hebrew Study Card

 




Significance of the Shofar...


 

09.25.17  (Tishri 5, 5778)   The shofar first brings to mind the ram caught in the thicket by its horns which Abraham sacrificed in place of his son Isaac at Mount Moriah (Gen. 22:13). By extension, this "Ram of God" -- prepared from the "foundation of the world" -- is a picture of substitutionary sacrifice of the God's Son for the sins of the world.  Indeed, the first occurrence of the word love in the Torah (אהבה, ahavah, in Gen. 22:2) refers to a father's love for his "only" son who was offered as a sacrifice, a clear foreshadowing of the greater "Akedah message" of the Gospel (John 3:16). Note in this connection that the sacrificial redemption involved violent spiritual warfare between God and the Satan (Gen. 3:15). For the believer in Yeshua, the blast of the shofar represents the shout of God's victory (נִצָּחוֹן) over the power of sin and death.

Though it is first associated with the Akedah, the word shofar (שׁוֹפָר) first occurs in Exodus 19:16 when the Torah was first given to Israel during Shavuot (i.e., "Pentecost"): "On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud shofar blast (קל שׁפָר חָזָק מְאד), so that all the people in the camp trembled.... And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder." This shofar blast is sometimes called the "first trumpet" of God.

The shofar is also mentioned in connection with both Rosh Hashanah (Lev. 23:24, Num. 29:1) and the Yom Kippur Jubilee: "Then, on the tenth day of the seventh month, on Yom Kippur, you are to sound a blast on the shofar; you are to sound the shofar all through your land" (Lev. 25:9). In later Jewish history, since the shofar was sounded throughout the preceding month of Elul, the blowing of the shofar on the first of Tishri (i.e., Rosh Hashanah) was sometimes called "the last trumpet," while the shofar blast on Yom Kippur was called the "great trumpet," since at that time judgment was sealed.

Yeshua spoke of the shofar blast from the angels who would "gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other" (Matt. 24:31). Indeed, Yeshua Himself will blow a shofar on the day of rapture: "For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a rousing cry, with a call from one of the ruling angels, and with God's shofar; those who died united with the Messiah will be the first to rise" (1 Thess. 4:16). Moreover, at the sound of the "great shofar" (shofar hagadol), the dead will be raised and death itself will be "swallowed up" in victory (1 Cor. 15:51-57).

יוֹם אִירָא אֲנִי אֵלֶיךָ אֶבְטָח / "When I am afraid, I put my trust in you" (Psalm 56:4). This world - olam ha-zeh - is soon coming to an end, chaverim... Although we are tempted to fear the days of testing and tribulation to come, we must find a deeper reason to rejoice. We can anticipate the sound of the heavenly shofar signaling the victory of the LORD over the princes of this age: "The seventh angel sounded his shofar; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, "The kingdom of the world has become the Kingdom of our Lord and his Messiah, and he will rule forever and ever!" (Rev. 11:15).
 




Teshuvah and Sanity...


 

09.24.17  (Tishri 4, 5778)   It is written in our Scriptures (2 Tim. 1:7) that "God has not given us the spirit of fear (πνεῦμα δειλίας), but of power, and love, and a sound mind" (note that the term "sound mind" comes from the word saos (σάος) "safe," or under the protective restraining influence of the Spirit of God). Understand the connection between fear and confusion, then, and note further the connection between having a sound mind and a heart of peace and courage (Isa. 32:17)... A fearful or shameful attitude, then, enervates your resolve, quells your love, and introduces pain to your thinking. It is the old ruse of the enemy of our souls to lead us to despair, the exile of shame, and cruel bondage to untruth. As always the answer is the same: namely, teshuvah, turning to God and embracing the grace and love given in Yeshua as our deepest reality, our power, our heart, and our mind.
 

אֵלֶיךָ יְהוָה נַפְשִׁי אֶשָּׂא
אֱלהַי בְּךָ בָטַחְתִּי אַל־אֵבוֹשָׁה
אַל־יַעַלְצוּ איְבַי לִי

elekha Adonai nafshi essa
Elohai bekha vatachti al-evoshah
al-ya'aletzu oyvai li

 

"Unto thee, O LORD, do I lift up my soul.
O my God, I trust in thee: let me not be ashamed,
let not mine enemies triumph over me."
(Psalm 25:1-2)

 




The Goal of Holiness...


 

[ The following is related to Yom Kippur and the Days of Awe... ]

09.24.17  (Tishri 4, 5778)   "Be holy as I am holy" (Lev. 19:2). This doesn't mean wrapping yourself up in some protective cloak of religious rituals as much as it means accepting your own atonement: reconciling who you are with your past, finding healing and love, and walking in genuine hope... Holiness isn't as much "separation" from the profane as it is "consecration" to the sacred, and in that sense it is a kind of teshuvah, a turning of the heart back to reality.... Negatively put, "being holy" is turning away from fear, despair, and anger; positively put, it is embracing the worth and value of life, respecting the Divine Presence, and walking before the radiance of God's love. Hashivenu Adonai....

Yom Kippur Torah Readings:  Our Torah for this Shabbat is for Yom Kippur, though it's a good idea to read the final portion of Deuteronomy at this time (i.e., Zot Haberkahah), since Simchat Torah comes quickly and often we are so rushed during the week of Sukkot that we don't have time to dig into the last part of Deuteronomy and the first part of Bereshit...
 




L'Shanah Tovah, friends!


 

09.22.17  (Tishri 2, 5778)   Happy New Year - Shanah Tovah - friends!  May this coming year be "good and sweet" for you. Here are a few pictures taken during our celebration for Rosh Hashanah 5778. As you can see, our kids are growing: Josiah is now 12 and Judah is 8,  and Emanuel David is now 20 months old!  Thank you for so much praying for our children.
 

Rosh Hashanah 5778 (click larger)

Left-to-right (top): 1. Kiddush Cup; 2. pomegranate (rimon); 3. Emanuel David; 4. Judah;
(middle): 1. Josiah sounds shofar; 2. Olga kindles yom tov; 3. Simanim Plate; John blows shofar;
(bottom): 1) apples and honey; 2) yom tov table; 3) Almonds; 4) Round Challah; 5) dates; 6) love!

 

בַּחֲצצְרוֹת וְקוֹל שׁוֹפָר
הָרִיעוּ לִפְנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ יְהוָה

ba·cha·tzotz·rot · ve·kol · sho·far
ha·ri·u · lif·nei · ha·me·lekh · Adonai

 

"With trumpets and the sound of the shofar
shout for joy before the King, the LORD!"
(Psalm 98:6)



  Listen to the Shofar:


From our family to yours: L'shanah tovah u'metukah lekha ba'Adoneinu Yeshua ha-Mashiach - "to a good and sweet year for you in our Lord Yeshua the Messiah." May the LORD God heal you, body and soul; may He ease your pain, increase your strength, and release you from all your fears. May the divine blessing, love, joy, and true shalom surround you and fill you with ongoing wonder and thanks. In the Name above all Names we pray: Amen.
 




The Days of Awe...


 

09.22.17  (Tishri 2, 5778)   According to Jewish tradition, on Rosh Hashanah (i.e., Tishri 1) the destiny of the righteous, the tzaddikim, are written in the Book of Life (סֵפֶר הַחַיִּים), and the destiny of the wicked, the resha'im, are written in the Book of Death (סֶפֶר הַמָּוֵת). However, most people will not be inscribed in either book, but have ten days -- from Rosh Hashanah until Yom Kippur -- to repent before "sealing their fate." On Yom Kippur, then, everyone's name will be written in one of the books. The ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are therefore called Aseret Yemei Teshuvah (עֲשֶׂרֶת יְמֵי תְּשׁוּבָה) - the "Ten Days of Repentance" - because personal repentance can affect the divine decree for good:

Click for ElulClick for Rosh HaShanahClick for Tzom GedaliahYom Kippur
 

So how are we to understand this vision in light of the intercession and deliverance of Yeshua our Messiah? Followers of Yeshua are not legalists, of course, nor do we agree with the rabbis who claim that Rosh Hashanah is a day of our judgment, since that has judicially been taken care of at the cross of Messiah -- "Judgment Day" happened when Messiah was crucified for our sins. "He declared us not guilty because of his gracious love; and now we know that we are heirs of eternal life" (Titus 3:7). Our faith in Yeshua forever seals us in the Lamb's Book of Life (סֵפֶר הַחַיִּים)! Nevertheless we must turn to Him every day, we must walk in the light of his heart, and therefore the call to teshuvah (repentance) is always timely. Moreover there is a prophetic aspect to this season, as Yom Teruah (i.e., Rosh Hashanah) represents the "Day of the LORD" (יוֹם יְהוָה) and the imminent apocalyptic judgment of the present world... Just as the spring festivals foretold Messiah's first advent, so the fall festivals foretell his second coming... Moreover, "teruah" (תְּרוּעָה) is the blast of a shofar, the "calling up" signal for those who belong to Messiah; the "opening of the gate" to the Wedding of the Lamb! May God help us be ready to soon see our King!

Note:  For more on this important subject, including the trust that we are forever "sealed for good" in the Lamb of God's Book of Life, see "Getting Ready for the Days of Awe."
 




Faith Comes from Hearing...



 

[ Our Torah portion for this week (Ha'azinu) is always read during the High Holidays... ]

09.22.17  (Tishri 2, 5778)   Every year near the solemn time of Yom Kippur we read parashat Ha'azinu, the great prophetic song that Moses was commanded to teach the Jewish people before he died. Ha'azinu reminds us that who we listen to ultimately decides our fate. It begins, הַאֲזִינוּ הַשָּׁמַיִם וַאֲדַבֵּרָה - "Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak" (Deut. 32:1). The song is didactic, intended to teach us something.  It begins quietly: "like gentle rain upon the tender grass, and like showers upon the herb...." The Spirit here appeals to the humble to drink in the message given from above. Heed first the kol demamah dakkah, the "still small voice" (קוֹל דְּמָמָה דַקָּה) and receive the proclamation of the Name of the LORD and His greatness (Deut. 32:3, also Exod. 34:6-7). Understand His attributes (middot): the LORD is the Rock (הַצּוּר), his deeds are perfect, and all His ways are just. He is the Faithful God (אֵל אֱמוּנָה), without iniquity, forever true and upright (צַדִּיק וְיָשָׁר הוּא) (Deut. 32:3-4).

The world has its message or its "song," chaverim, which is invariably focused on fear, anger, and self-preservation. We are tempted, are we not, to listen and accept such propaganda without serious reflection.... After all, we are always listening to someone, but the all-important question is to whom? The inner voice of your soul gets its messages from somewhere. Tragically, many of our opinions are formed by heeding to the "voice of the world," i.e., the crowd, the songs and movies of pop culture, and especially the propaganda (i.e., mainstream "news") that is designed to manipulate and enslave the masses...

So to whom are you listening?  The Midrash Rabbah says that the ear (אזֶן) gives life to all the organs of the body.  How so? By listening (שׁמע, shema) to the Torah. This idea is repeated in the New Testament: "Faith comes from listening to the Word of God" (Rom. 10:17). The Word of God (דְּבַר־אֱלהִים) is our very life, chaverim. Listening to other voices (regardless of how seemingly well-intended) means cutting yourself off from the Source of life itself.... Hearing and obeying are linked, and "hearing" the messages of this corrupt world can eventually make you into an enemy of God Himself (James 4:4). The world always speaks its message to members of its "crooked and twisted generation" (Deut. 32:5).

For more on this subject, see the article: "You're always listening to someone..."
 




King Messiah and LORD...


 

09.21.17  (Tishri 1, 5778)   Both the Torah of Moses and the New Testament attest that Yeshua is Elohim (אֱלהִים) -- the Creator of the cosmos: בְּרֵאשִׁית הָיָה הַדָּבָר / "in the beginning was the Word" (John 1:1,14). The Divine Word and Voice cannot be separated from God any more than the Spirit of God can be separated. Yeshua is the Source of all life in the universe: כָּל־הַמַּעֲשִׂים נִהְיוּ עַל־יָדוֹ / "All things were made by Him (John 1:3). The "Word made flesh" is the "image of the invisible God" and the "radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint (χαρακτήρ, 'character') of his nature" (Col. 1:15). All of creation is being constantly upheld by the word of His power (Heb. 1:3): "All things were created by Him (i.e., Yeshua), and for Him" and in Him all things consist (συνεστηκεν, lit. "stick together") (Col. 1:16-17). As our Creator and Master of the Universe, Yeshua is our King and our Judge, and therefore Rosh Hashanah centers on Him.

For more see the article: "Our Creator and King."
 




Identifying with the Lamb...



 

[ During Rosh Hashanah we blow shofars to recall the lamb of God... ]

09.21.17  (Tishri 1, 5778)   The near sacrifice of Isaac establishes that God does not want us to sacrifice ourselves on the altar, but rather to identify with the appointed sacrifice of the lamb given on our behalf... Isaac pictures the identification process. First he completely submitted himself to God's will by being bound as a sacrifice. Once that decision was made, God intervened by providing the ram caught in the thicket, which represented the "binding" or identification of God's sacrifice for him (Gen. 22:13). Just as the lamb was identified with Isaac, so Isaac was identified with the lamb. Likewise, Yeshua died in your place so you can identify with his death for you, trusting it as your atonement provided by your Heavenly Father. Your union with Yeshua means that his death was your death: "For you have died, and your life is hidden with Messiah in God" (Col. 3:3). Likewise, his "life after death" (resurrection) is your eternal life: "When Messiah who is your life appears, you also will appear with him in glory" (Col. 3:4). Baptism symbolizes your identification with the death, burial, and resurrection of Yeshua as the Lamb of God sacrificed on your behalf (Col. 2:12; Rom. 6:4). Just as Isaac descended from the altar in newness of life, so we are made new creations because of the sacrifice of Messiah: "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal. 2:20). Rosh Hashanah, like all the Torah holidays, centers on the great Lamb of God....
 




Rosh Hashanah Prophecies...


 

[ The holiday of Rosh Hashanah begins this evening at sundown... L'Shanah tovah chaverim! ]

09.20.17  (Elul 29, 5777)   The spring festivals (Passover, Firstfruits, and Shavuot) have been perfectly fulfilled in the first coming of Yeshua as Mashiach ben Yosef, and the fall festivals (Teruah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot) will be fulfilled in His second coming as Mashiach ben David. Since the first advent fulfilled all of the spring mo'edim to the smallest of details, we believe that His second advent portends similar fulfillment as revealed in the fall mo'edim.

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

Rosh Hashanah (or better, Yom Teruah) is therefore a sacred time that has prophetic significance for the Messianic believer, since it commemorates both the creation of the mankind by Adonai as well as the "calling up" of the new creation at the behest of Yeshua, when the sound of the heavenly shofar inaugurates the anticipated End of Days (1 Cor. 15:51-54; 1 Thess. 4:15-18). Indeed, "teruah" (תְּרוּעָה) is a "calling up" signal for those who belong to Messiah, sounded during the opening of the "Gate to the Wedding" of the great Lamb of God. It also prefigures the coming Day of the LORD and Great Tribulation period that marks God's judgment on an unbelieving world...

 




Lift up your heads...


 

[ The holiday of Rosh Hashanah begins this evening at sundown... ]

09.20.17  (Elul 29, 5777)   Rosh Hashanah literally means the "head of the year," and it traditionally marks the anniversary of the creation of mankind. The sages note that where it is written, "When you take a census of the children of Israel" (Exod. 30:12), the Hebrew reads, "When you lift up the heads (כִּי תִשָּׂא אֶת־ראשׁ) of the children of Israel," which implies that each person should be encouraged to understand that they "count" in the eyes of Heaven. The sages also not that the word "Israel" (יִשְׂרָאֵל) contains the letters that form the phrase li rosh (לִי ראשׁ), "there is to me a head," that is, a soul created in the image of God.
 

יְהוָה בְּהֵיכַל קָדְשׁוֹ יְהוָה בַּשָּׁמַיִם כִּסְאוֹ
עֵינָיו יֶחֱזוּ עַפְעַפָּיו יִבְחֲנוּ בְּנֵי אָדָם

Adonai · be·he·khal · kod·sho · Adonai · ba·sha·ma·yim · ki·so
ei·nav · ye·che·zu · af·a·pav · yiv·cha·nu · be·nei · a·dam

 

"The LORD is in his holy palace; the LORD's throne is in heaven.
His eyes watch; his eyes examine all people"
(Psalm 11:4)


 


During Rosh Hashanah we affirm our faith that the LORD our God is the great King over all the earth (מֶלֶךְ גָּדוֹל עַל־כָּל־הָאָרֶץ). The Hebrew word "king" is melekh (מֶלֶךְ), the value of which is 90, the same as the Hebrew letter Tzadi (צ), meaning "Righteous One." Indeed some of the sages say that the word "amen" (אמן) is an acronym for the phrase El Melekh Ne'eman (אֵל מֶלְךְ נֶאֱמָן) - "God is a Righteous King." The LORD is a God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he (Deut. 32:4). The LORD God, the Righteous One has "ascended with a shout, the LORD with the sound of a shofar" (Psalm 47:5). This refers to the ascension and glorification of our Savior Yeshua, who ascended in triumph over sin and death our behalf. As is written: "Sing praises unto our King, sing praises!" (Psalm 47:6). L'Chayim b'Yeshua - to Life in Yeshua, friends!
 




Call to Life and Joy...


 

09.20.17  (Elul 29, 5777)   The call to teshuvah is a call to wonder, to the life of eternal verities and possibilities, to the way of love, joy, and peace that passes merely human understanding... "Who would wish to dwell among the nations and be numbered among them? The Lord would have His people follow a separate path. No, we walk the narrow way where all genuine pilgrims must go to follow the Lord" (Charles Spurgeon). Amen. "If then you have been raised with Messiah, seek the things that are above, where Messiah is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died and your life is hidden with Messiah in God" (Col. 3:1-3). We are kedoshim - a "set apart people" - awakened to the sacred nature of life, alive to God's great passion, and undergoing the divine process of our eternal healing. Let us press on!
 




The Narrow Door...


 

09.20.17  (Elul 29, 5777)   "Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able" (Luke 13:24). The narrow door is the way of humility, assuming a low position, crawling, if you will, and making yourself small... It is the way of the cross of Messiah, confessing the truth of our condition and trusting in God alone for deliverance.. The narrow door is the way of faith - trusting in God's compassion and righteousness on your behalf. The large, wide-open door is designed for the crowd and its various idols. Beware of the world that seeks to assimilate the soul: beware of becoming part of the crowd! The individual is lost and overwhelmed in the midst of the crowd and its momentum. The crowd assimilates the soul, laughs at the notion of individual responsibility, and abandons itself to the gravity of purely natural forces... The life of faith, on the other hand, refuses to regard the individual human heart as a triviality. Faith is an individual struggle, a walk into unknowing; it is the way of the sojourner who feels uneasy in this world of shadows... God is always with us and helps us stay strong and resolute, even as we struggle through the darkness of this age. Press on, chaverim! Do not lose sight of your high calling in Yeshua. The day and the hour draw near!
 




Walk in the Spirit...


 

09.20.17  (Elul 29, 5777)   Our hashkafah (Torah outlook) teaches that God is "omnipresent," or always present everywhere (בְּכָּל מָקוֹם), but much of the time we seem disconnected and lose touch with spiritual Reality. After all, it's one thing to "know about" God, and quite another to experience the sacred in our daily experience... Perhaps we miss detecting the Divine Presence because we are not seeing correctly (2 Cor. 5:7). We tend to "objectify" the natural world and thereby distance ourselves from the atmosphere of the Spirit and the flow of grace (i.e., ruach: "wind," "spirit"). Instead of understanding that we "live, move, and have our being" in God (Acts 17:28), we regard God as "out there," far away, and inaccessible to our reach... The Hebrew word "teshuvah" (תְּשׁוּבָה), often translated as "repentance," really means accepting the heavenly invitation to turn away from ourselves to receive God's love and grace. The Greek word "metanoia" (μετάνοια) conveys a similar idea - going "beyond" (i.e., meta: μετά) our everyday thinking (i.e., nous: νοῦς) to apprehend the realm of miracle, wonder, and love (John 6:33). We then become attuned to the Divine Presence as we turn or elevate our thinking from the realm of "this world" (olam ha'zeh) and its objectivity to one of spiritual receptivity, wholeness, and blessing (olam ha'ba). Teshuvah therefore is an (ongoing) awakening to the Reality of God, and knowing ourselves through our connectedness to the Spirit rather than objectifying ourselves and experiencing alienation and distance.  Therefore הִתְהַלְּכוּ בָּרוּחַ - "walk in the Spirit" and you will be free (Gal. 5:16).
 




Cleaving to Hope...


 

09.20.17  (Elul 29, 5777)   "Love suffers long and is kind..." (1 Cor. 13:4). Have patience with all things, but most of all with yourself. We must "endure ourselves" along the way, often learning hard lessons about our own insufficiency. Have faith that despite all your imperfections, all your defects of character, and your overall weakness of heart, God is indeed at work in your darkness, molding and shaping you to bear witness of His glorious power to save the soul. The LORD holds your hand; his grace and love will help you persevere, giving you the will to press on in hope. Never give up, friends!
 

דָּבְקָה נַפְשִׁי אַחֲרֶיךָ
בִּי תָּמְכָה יְמִינֶךָ

da·ve·kah · naf·shi · a·cha·re·kha
bi · tam·khah · ye·mi·ne·kha

 

"My soul cleaves to you;
Your right hand upholds me."
(Psalm 63:8)



Hebrew Study Card
 
 

The concept of "cleaving" or "holding fast" to God is called devakut (דְּבָקוּת) in Jewish tradition, a word that derives from the root davak (דבק), meaning to "cling" or "stick" (the Modern Hebrew word for glue comes from the same root). Davak is used to describe how a man cleaves to his wife so that they become basar echad – "one flesh" (see Gen. 2:24), and is related to the word for bodily joint (debek), the bond of our bones to our skin (Job 19:20). Some have described devakut as "God consciousness imbued with love." "To cleave to Him - that means the cleaving of the mind to Him, for there is no devakut except that of the mind and the meditation of the heart" (Sh'ar ha-ahavah). We are able to cling or cleave to God because He first clung to the cross in love for us (1 John 4:19). 
 




King of the Universe...


 

[ The holiday of Rosh Hashanah begins this evening at sundown... ]

09.20.17  (Elul 29, 5777)   When Adam first opened his eyes and human consciousness was born, he immediately understood that the LORD created all things, including himself. According to midrash, Adam's first words were, יהוה מֶלֶךְ עוֹלָם וָעֶד / Adonai malakh olam va'ed: "The LORD is King for ever and ever." God then said, "Now the whole world will know that I am King," and He was very pleased.  This was the "tov me'od" (טוֹב מְאד) moment of creation, when God saw all that He had made "and found it very good" (Gen. 1:31). The birthday of humanity is therefore the Coronation Day for the King of the Universe. According to Jewish tradition, this date represents Rosh Hashanah, or the "head of the year" for humanity, when God began to rule as King over the universe He created.

The implication that God is our Creator is enormous and pervades everything else in our lives. God's creative power is witnessed by all conscious life. The Divine Light that was created before the sun and the stars represents God's immanent presence that "lights up" all of creation - including our minds (Gen. 1:3). Since we were created b'tzelem Elohim, "in the image of God," the witness of God's truth is foundational to all of our thinking as well.  The revelation (not the invention) of logical first principles is part of God's "signature," if you will, of how the mind is wired to reality. Likewise we have intuitive awareness regarding the existence of moral truth (i.e., the standard of justice and moral law), aesthetic truth (i.e., ideals of beauty, goodness, worth, and love), and metaphysical truth (i.e., cause and effect relationships). "The heavens are recounting the glory of God, and the expanse is proclaiming his handiwork" (Psalm 19:1). God's power and presence can be clearly inferred from the tremendous effect of the universe itself.  As Paul stated, "the invisible things of Him (τά ἀόρατα αὐτοῦ) from the creation of the world are clearly seen (καθορω), so that people are without excuse" (Rom. 1:19-20). It is the fear of the LORD (יִרְאַת יהוה) that is truly the beginning of wisdom and knowledge (Psalm 111:10; Prov. 1:7; 9:10). The Hebrew word for fearing (ירא) and seeing (ראה) share the same root. We cannot truly see reality apart from reverencing God as the Lord and King of Creation.

It is important to emphasize that God is not some impersonal "First Cause" or "Unmoved Mover" of the universe. He is not some "cosmic big bang" that started the universe only to be indifferent to its functioning, nor is God a "Cosmic Egg" or "Self-Absorbed Mind" that contemplates the navel of reality... No, God is an entirely awake and morally perfect Being who created everything "very good" and who actively engages and sustains His creation. God is a personal Creator and Ruler of all that exists. In theological jargon, God is both "immanent" (sustaining and upholding creation) and "transcendent" (exalted over creation). This God has a Name (YHVH), a mind, and a moral, purposive will that imbues all of creation. God is LORD over all time and space, the King of Glory, who is Master of all possible worlds. He is therefore intimately concerned with the rule of His law, expressed both in the "natural" world (i.e., the laws of physics, chemistry, etc.), the mental world (i.e., the laws of logic, mathematics, etc.), the ethical world (i.e., the laws of morality, ethics, etc.), and the spiritual world (the laws of spirit and of spiritual beings).

For more on this see: "High Holidays and the Gospel."
 




Our Creator and Judge...


 

09.20.17  (Elul 29, 5777)   During Rosh Hashanah we remember that God is our Creator and Judge, and both of these attributes refer to Yeshua our Savior.  The New Testament identifies the Voice of the Creator as the all-powerful Word of God: בְּרֵאשִׁית הָיָה הַדָּבָר / "in the beginning was the Word" (John 1:1,14). Yeshua is the Source of all life in the universe: כָּל־הַמַּעֲשִׂים נִהְיוּ עַל־יָדוֹ / "All things were made by Him (John 1:3). The "Word made flesh" is the "image of the invisible God" and the "radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint (χαρακτήρ, 'character') of his nature" (John 1:14, Col. 1:15). All of creation is being constantly upheld by the word of His power (Heb. 1:3): "All things were created by Him (i.e., Yeshua), and for Him" and in Him all things consist (συνεστηκεν, lit. "stick together") (Col. 1:16-17). Creation begins and ends with the redemptive love of God as manifested in the Person of Yeshua our Mashiach... He is the Center of Creation - it's beginning and end. As it is written: אָנכִי אָלֶף וְתָו רִאשׁוֹן וְאַחֲרוֹן ראשׁ וָסוֹף / "I am the 'Aleph' and the 'Tav,' the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End" (Rev. 22:13). Indeed, Yeshua is מֶלֶךְ מַלְכֵי הַמְּלָכִים / Melech Malchei Hamelachim: The "King of kings of kings." He is LORD of all possible worlds -- from the highest celestial glory to the dust of death upon a cross... יְהִי שֵׁם יהוה מְברָךְ / yehi shem Adonai mevorakh: "Let the Name of the LORD be blessed" forever (Psalm 113:2).
 




Teshuvah's Reason...


 

09.20.17  (Elul 29, 5777)   Abraham Heschel once wrote, "God is of no importance unless he is of supreme importance," and while that is undoubtedly true, what is of supreme importance to God is the salvation of the lost sinner (John 3:16; Luke 19:10; 2 Pet. 3:9). But God has entrusted you and me to help others come into the Kingdom. He wants us to help bring in the great harvest (John 4:35)! God could use angels to issue the call to "repent and believe" the gospel, or He could put great signs in the heavens, but in His infinite wisdom He has chosen to use the "foolishness" of proclaiming the truth of the cross of Yeshua to save those who are lost. But note that the cross is the central focus.  As Paul wrote, "For I decided to know nothing among you except Yeshua the Messiah and him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2). This is of first importance to God (1 Cor. 15:3). The sacrificial death of Yeshua is a scandal to the proud, but it is the method God uses to save people from eternal death (1 Cor. 1:22-23). There is no gospel message apart from offense - first, the offense of the ego's deflation (i.e., being convicted as a rebel deserving of judgment), and second, the offense of the sross (i.e., that no human merit can effect the salvation given through Yeshua alone). The offense of the gospel is the proclamation that there is no other way to heaven than through the cross of Yeshua, and there is no other name than the Name of Yeshua for the salvation of human beings (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; 1 Cor. 1:23).

Our first duty as followers of Yeshua is to make much of His salvation... The Ruach HaKodesh always glorifies our Messiah, the Son of Man (John 16:13-14). But as Paul asked, "How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching (i.e., κηρύσσω, "publishing, or "proclaiming openly") the message (Rom. 10:14)? Likewise Yeshua commanded his followers to "go and make disciples (i.e., talmidim: students) from among all the nations, immersing them into the reality of the Father, the Son and the Ruach HaKodesh, teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you" (Matt. 28:18-19). The proclamation of the gospel is one of your greatest responsibilities as a follower of the Lord.
 




Teshuvah and True Love...


 

[ The following discusses the nature of repentance. It's my hope that this will encourage you to "return to the LORD and listen to His Voice" (Deut. 30:2). ]

09.20.17  (Elul 29, 5777)   Repentance means changing how you understand yourself, and therefore it is intimately connected with how you understand God.  As A.W. Tozer once said, "What I believe about God is the most important thing about me." Understanding the goodness and glory of God leads to self-respect, a sense of dignity, and so on. This works the other way around, too. If you regard yourself as small, insignificant, and unworthy, you will tend to consider God that way, too. "According to your faith be it done unto you." As you see God, so you will see yourself; as you see yourself, so you will see God. "With the measure you use, it will be measured to you" (Mark 4:24).

Personal repentance implies encountering the revelation of God at "first hand." God does not love you at a distance, nor does he call you to embrace him at "second hand." This is a matter of existential encounter. Repentance, or teshuvah, is the "like for like" measure of God's love; it is your answer to God's question and call....

The message of the gospel requires that you regard yourself as worth dying for, that you are God's friend... "There is no greater love than this: that someone lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). God demands that you regard yourself as worth the sacrifice of his beloved son Yeshua in your place; he demands that you understand how dear you are to his heart. God sees something of such great value in you that he was willing to suffer and die to redeem it from loss... Just as the kingdom of God is a "pearl of great price," so you are a pearl of great price to God. What grieves and angers God is the refusal to believe that you are someone of infinite importance to him... Only God can rightfully make such a demand because He knows that loving other things more than Him leads to "disordered love," darkness, and eventual madness. We were made for God's love, but substituting finite things for this infinite need will never suffice to bring lasting healing to our souls...

We must "choose life," and that means choosing to welcome God's love into your heart. The only sin that can keep you from God's everlasting love is the denial that his love is personally for you. You must forsake seeing yourself "in the flesh" and take hold of God's spirit, his passion, and his grace for your soul. You are worthy to be loved because God is worthy to make you so. For more on this topic see: "Teshuvah and God's Love."
 




Shanah Tovah, friends!


 

[ The holiday of Rosh Hashanah begins Wednesday, Sept. 20th at sundown... ]

09.19.17  (Elul 28, 5777)   God is both infinitely loving and infinitely just, and both of these "attributes" are inseparably a part of who he is. God is One. Nonetheless, the cross of Yeshua proves that "love is stronger than death, passion fiercer than the grave; its flashes are flashes of fire, a raging flame, the very flame of the Lord" (Song. 8:6). It is at the cross that "love and truth have met, righteousness and peace have kissed" (Psalm 85:10). This implies that we must drop our defenses – even those supposed objections and pretenses voiced by our shame – and "accept that we are accepted." It is God's great love for you that leads you to turn to him. Allow yourself to be embraced by his "everlasting arms."
 

מֵרָחוֹק יְהוָה נִרְאָה לִי
וְאַהֲבַת עוֹלָם אֲהַבְתִּיךְ
עַל־כֵּן מְשַׁכְתִּיךְ חָסֶד

me·ra·chok  Adonai  nir·ah  li
ve·a·ha·vat  o·lam  a·hav·tikh
al  ken  me·shakh·tikh  cha·sed
 

"The LORD appeared to me from far away.
I have loved you with an everlasting love;
therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn you."
(Jer. 31:3)



Hebrew Study Card
 

Genuine teshuvah (i.e., repentance) will entirely change you. It is an act of profound respect over what God has done on your behalf. You say, but I am a miserable wretch! Indeed that is so, but the consciousness of your wretched state is the heart's cry for love... God goes "outside the camp" to meet with you. He enters the leper colony to join you there, in your wretchedness, and even takes upon your fatal disease. He sees you in your desperate estate and joins you there. God enters into the dust of your death and says, "Live!"

Teshuvah means changing your thinking, turning around to face the truth, and returning to embrace God's love. It does not identify the whole person with sin, but rather regards all people as redeemable, worthy, and valuable to God. Conviction of sin is not the end, but rather the means to newness of life. God saved us so that we could be in a love relationship with Him. We must "choose life," and that means choosing to welcome God's love into your heart. The only sin that can keep you from God's everlasting love is the denial that his love is personally for you. You must forsake seeing yourself "in the flesh" and take hold of God's spirit, his passion, and his grace for your soul. You are worthy to be loved because God is worthy to make you so. Therefore as our wonderful Savior appealed, "Repent and believe the good news" (Mark 1:5). God is love, and that love is for you.

We sincerely wish you "shanah tovah u'metukah ba'Adoneinu Yeshua ha-Mashiach" - a good and sweet year in our Lord Jesus the Messiah! May the LORD God heal you, body and soul; may He ease your pain, increase your strength, and release you from all your fears... May blessing, love, joy, and true shalom surround you and fill you with ongoing wonder and thanks. In the Name above all Names we pray: Amen.
 




Teshuvah of Brokenness...


 

09.19.17  (Elul 28, 5777)   Regarding the call to repentance we read: "Rend your hearts and not your garments and return to the LORD your God (וְשׁוּבוּ אֶל־יְהוָה אֱלהֵיכֶם), for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in love..." (Joel 2:13). Genuine teshuvah (repentance) is not about the "outer layers" of life, but engages the deepest depths of heart; it is not expressed in religious practices or rituals but in personal brokenness and utter desperation... As King David said, "the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit (רוּחַ נִשְׁבָּרָה); a broken and contrite heart (לֵב־נִשְׁבָּר וְנִדְכֶּה), O God, you will not despise" (Psalm 51:17). As is written in our Haftarah portion for Shabbat Shuvah: "Return O Israel (שׁוּבָה יִשְׂרָאֵל), to the LORD your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity; take with you words and return to the LORD (וְשׁוּבוּ אֶל־יְהוָה) and say to him, 'Take away all iniquity; accept what is good, and we will pay with bulls the vows of our lips'" (Hos. 14:1-2).

Note that the appeal to the LORD as "gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love" (חַנּוּן וְרַחוּם הוּא אֶרֶךְ אַפַּיִם וְרַב־חֶסֶד) recalls the meaning of YHVH (יהוה) revealed to Moses in his state of brokenness over the sin of the Golden Calf (Exod. 34:6-7).
 




Teshuvah of Messiah...


 

09.18.17  (Elul 27, 5777)   "I have been crucified with Messiah..." (Gal. 2:20). During this "season of teshuvah," it is vital to understand exactly how we are to turn to God to find life. Some religious people understand "repentance" to mean focusing on themselves, lamenting their sins, and making resolutions to improve their behavior, though this is not the meaning of teshuvah as Yeshua taught, which is turning of the heart in trust of God's love.  "It is no longer 'I' who live but Messiah who lives in me" (ibid.), which means we find life and righteousness in the LORD and not in ourselves -- neither in our resolutions to change, nor our religious rituals, nor even our acts of repentance. We are "crucified with" Messiah, and that means the self-life comes to an end (Col. 3:3). Regarding yourself as separated from God's acceptance will inevitably lead you to the "works of the law" and therefore to the "wheel of sin and death" -- and to despair.  Rightly understood, teshuvah cannot be separated from the salvation of the LORD (יְשׁוּעַת יְהוָה), nor can we ignore God's righteousness in the vain attempt to establish our own.  Teshuvah receives the miracle of divine exchange: "For our sake he made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Cor. 5:21). We do not "ignore the grace of God" (Οὐκ ἀθετῶ τὴν χάριν τοῦ θεοῦ) by seeking justification apart from the truth and blessing of Messiah, for He is the one "who loves me and gave himself for me." The sickness of sin is lethal, and there is no remedy apart from turning to behold Yeshua, the "fiery serpent" lifted upon a stake, the One crucified for our deliverance (Num. 21:8; John 3:14; Gal. 3:13). The teshuvah of God is to turn away from yourself to behold the miracle of God's righteousness given for your sake, and therefore it is a matter of radical faith. "We had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead" (2 Cor. 1:9). "Therefore, if anyone is in Messiah, he is briah chadashah (בְּרִיאָה חֲדָשָׁה), a new creation; the old has passed away; behold, the new has come" (2 Cor. 5:17).

We are told that we must "receive" the life of Yeshua into our hearts, and that is certainly true, but we must also receive his death as well... This is the meaning of "taking up your cross." It is the death of Yeshua in your place that releases you from the curse of the law (מִקִּלְלַת הַתּוֹרָה), that is, spiritual death, as it says, "the Messiah redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree" (Gal. 3:13).

The teshuvah of Yeshua is the miracle of new life; Messiah sets you free from the power of sin and death itself.  The repentance of Yeshua is to trust in God's remedy for your sin: "This is the work of God, to believe in the One whom God sent" (John 6:29). "He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede; then His own arm brought him salvation, and his righteousness upheld him" (Isa. 59:16). We must turn away from the idea that God demands anything from us other than trust in his love. "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 18:3). Stop trying to measure up to his standards. You simply cannot give more than you have the love to give, so you must begin by getting your heart needs met by accepting God's unconditional love. It's not about what you do for God, after all, but about what he does for you. That's the message of the gospel. Trust that you are rightly related to God because of the salvation of Yeshua, not because of your own efforts at self-improvement. "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).

We must be careful not to worship an idol, that is, a false concept of God! It is possible to read the Bible, to go to church or synagogue, and yet worship a pagan god. How so? By not knowing the heart of the Father; by not honoring the One who passionately seeks our healing. We know the Father by the Son, that is, in "the language of Son" (Heb. 1:2; Luke 10:21-24). Our heavenly Father is eager to forgive and embrace all of his children. In Yeshua's famous parable of the "prodigal son," the father saw his child a "long way off" and ran to embrace and kiss him - no questions asked, no explanations needed about his past. When the son nevertheless began reciting his carefully prepared speech of repentance, the father barely listened, and in his overwhelming joy instructed his servants, 'Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found...' (Luke 15:20-25).
 




Rosh Hashanah and the Lamb...


 

[ The holiday of Rosh Hashanah begins this Wednesday, Sept. 20th at sundown... ]

09.18.17  (Elul 27, 5777)   In the Torah we find that the word "love" (i.e., ahavah) first appears regarding Abraham's passion for his son: "Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love (אֲשֶׁר־אָהַבְתָּ), and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you" (Gen. 22:2). After journeying to the place, Abraham told his child that God would provide a lamb (אֱלהִים יִרְאֶה־לּוֹ הַשֶּׂה), and then bound Isaac, laid him upon an altar, and raised his knife to slay him (Gen. 22:8-10). At the very last moment, the Angel of the Lord called out: "Abraham! Abraham! Do not lay your hand on the lad or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son (בֵּן יָחִיד), from me" (Gen. 22:11-12). Abraham then "lifted up his eyes" and saw a ram "caught in a thicket" which he offered in place of his son. Abraham then named the place Adonai-Yireh (יהוה יִרְאֶה), "the LORD who provides" (Gen. 22:14). The sacrifice of the lamb for Isaac portrayed the coming sacrifice of Yeshua, the great "Lamb of God" (שֵׂה הָאֱלהִים) who would be offered in exchange for the trusting sinner (John 1:29). Indeed the story of how God provided the lamb at Moriah (and later during the Passover in Egypt) foreshadowed the greater redemption given in Messiah at the "Passover cross," and may be understood as the "Gospel according to Moses" (Luke 24:27; John 5:46). Therefore, during Rosh Hashanah, also called the Day of Judgment (יוֹם הַדִּין), we listen to the sound of the shofar (ram's horn) to remind us of the provision of Lamb of God given in place of Isaac.

Rosh Hashanah Torah Readings

The Torah portion for the first day of Rosh HaShanah is about the birth of Issac, and the portion for the second day is on the Akedah, or the sacrifice of Isaac at Moriah. The Musaf (additional service) includes extra benedictions added to the normal Amidah, emphasizing God's Kingship, the remembrance of our days, and the call of the shofar to usher in the Messianic Kingdom at the end of days.
 

Yom Tov

Torah Reading

Haftarah

Brit Chadashah

Rosh Hashanah
Day 1

Genesis 21:1-34;
Numbers 29:1-6

1 Samuel 1:1-2:10

1 Thess 4:13-18;
1 Cor 15:51-54

Rosh Hashanah
Day 2

Genesis 22:1-22:24; Numbers 29:1-6

Jeremiah 31:1-19

1 Thess 4:13-18;
1 Cor 15:51-54




 


 




Shabbat Shuvah - שַׁבַּת שׁוּבָה


 

[ The holiday of Rosh Hashanah begins Wednesday, Sept. 20th at sundown... ]

09.17.17  (Elul 26, 5777)   The Sabbath between Rosh Hashanah and the solemn fast of Yom Kippur is the very first of the new year, called Shabbat Shuvah (שַׁבַּת שׁוּבָה) - that is, "the Sabbath of Return."  It is called "shuvah" because the Haftarah (i.e., Hosea 14:1) begins, Shuvah Yisrael ad Adonai Elohekha (שׁוּבָה יִשְׂרָאֵל עַד יְהוָה אֱלהֶיךָ): "Return, O Israel, unto the LORD your God!"  As the very first Shabbat of the new year, Shabbat Shuvah is intended to "set the tone" for the "Days of Awe" leading up to the great Day of Atonement.
 

שׁוּבָה יִשְׂרָאֵל עַד יְהוָה אֱלהֶיךָ
 כִּי כָשַׁלְתָּ בַּעֲוֹנֶךָ

shu·vah · Yis·ra·el · ad · Adonai · E·lo·hey·kha,
ki · kha·shal·ta · ba·a·vo·ne·kha

 

"Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God,
for you have stumbled because of your iniquity."
(Hosea 14:1)



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Note the Hebrew grammar in this verse: "Return (שׁוּבָה), O Israel, until (עַד) the LORD is your God" (Hos. 14:1). We are called to repent until the LORD becomes "your God," that is, until you completely surrender yourself to His presence and love. You return as you "set the Lord always before you" and know him in all your ways (Psalm 16:8; Prov. 3:6).

Shanah Tovah, and may you be inscribed in the Lamb's book of life (סֵפֶר הַחַיִּים אֲשֶׁר לַשֶּׂה) for good, friends! Shalom in Yeshua our Lord.
 




Parashat Ha'Azinu (האזינו)


 

[ Our Torah portion for this week (Ha'azinu) is always read during the High Holidays... ]

09.17.17  (Elul 26, 5777)   In last week's Torah reading (i.e., Nitzavim-Vayeleich), the LORD told Moses that after his death the Israelites would "go after foreign gods" and break covenant with Him. Because of this, God instructed Moses to teach the people a prophetic song (שיר נבואי) called the "Ha'azinu" that foretold Israel's history (past, present, and the future redemption) and warned the people not to stray from the path that the LORD had clearly instructed them (Deut. 31:19-22). Structured in the style of an "oracle," parashat Ha'azinu (הַאֲזִינוּ) contains Moses' final words of prophecy given to the Israelites before he ascended Mount Nebo to die...

We read the Ha'azinu every year during the High Holidays. In the Sefer Torah (Torah Scroll), the song is written in a stylized two-column format with extra spaces. Each line of the shirah (song) is matched by a second, parallel unit (see picture, below).

haazinu. Aleppo Codex
 

The Ha'azinu reminds us that who we listen to ultimately decides our fate. It begins, "Give ear, O heavens (הַאֲזִינוּ הַשָּׁמַיִם), and I will speak, and let the earth hear (וְתִשְׁמַע הָאָרֶץ) the words of my mouth" (Deut. 32:1). The word ha'azinu (הַאֲזִינוּ) comes from verb azan (אָזַנ), as does the Hebrew word for "ear" (i.e., ozen: אזֶן). The Midrash Rabbah says that the ear (אזֶן) gives life to all the organs of the body.  How so? By listening (שׁמע, shema) to the Torah. This idea is repeated in the New Testament: "Faith comes from listening to the Word of God" (Rom. 10:17). The Word of God (דְּבַר־אֱלהִים) is our very life, friends...
 




The Day of Creation...


 

[ Tonight at sundown marks Elul 25, the Day of Creation... ]

09.15.17  (Elul 24, 5777)   In Jewish tradition, Yom Teruah / Rosh Hashanah marks the creation of Adam and the birth of human consciousness in the universe, though the primordial yehi ohr (יְהִי אוֹר) of creation actually began six days earlier, on Elul 25th (the anniversary of which begins this evening at sunset). Nevertheless the Redemption and our teshuvah (return) was the plan of God before the world was conceived, as it says, "Before the mountains were born, or you brought the world into being, you were the Eternal One who says, "Return (שׁוּבוּ), O sons of man" (Psalm 90:2-3). The Lamb of God was slain from the foundation of the world (καταβολῆς κόσμου), and God clothed humanity in divine sacrifice from the very beginning (Gen. 3:15,21; Rev. 13:8; 1 Pet. 1:20). The Waters of Life (מַיִם חַיִּים) flow from the original orchard of Eden to the world to come (Gen. 2:10; Rev. 22:1). God subjected creation "to vanity" to reveal his greatness as he descended into its depths to return and restore all things to himself (Rom. 8:20; Eph. 1:10). The LORD entered space-time as the Son of Man, the "Ultimate Adam" (ὁ ἔσχατος ᾽Αδὰμ) to become our Savior and Healer (1 Cor. 15:22, 1 Cor. 15:45-49). He came to reveal "the face of God" to us in Messiah (2 Cor. 4:6). God's first question to lost man is "ayeka" (אַיֶּכָּה), "Where are you?" (Gen. 3:9). Yeshua "descended in order to ascend" so that we may find God's compassion, love and healing through his mesirat nefesh (מְסִירַת נֶפֵשׁ) – his total sacrifice of body and soul – for the sake of returning us to God.
 




About Hebrew for Christians...


 

09.15.17  (Elul 24, 5777)   Some people seem to be under the impression that Hebrew for Christians is a "large ministry" with a lot of resources and a staff of people. They might be surprised to discover, however, that it is a ministry of just one person (with a patient wife) who labors in infirmity and pain to freely share what he learns from God with others... The LORD has shown great mercy to me, friends, precisely because he delights to take the weak things of this world to overthrow the mighty, and he takes the foolish things of this world to confound the wise. Yea, God chooses the base things, things which are despised, the things that are regarded as nothing to this world, to bring to nothing the things that are, so that no one may glory in his presence. Indeed, everything we have comes from God through Yeshua our Lord (1 Cor. 1:27-30). God's grace is more than enough; his power is revealed in weakness; therefore my pain leads me to the Comforter: "for when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor. 12:10). As the Apostle Paul said, "by the grace of God I am what I am (χάριτι δὲ θεοῦ εἰμι ὅ εἰμι): and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain..." (1 Cor. 15:10). Our sufficiency, brothers and sisters, is of God. He is both able and willing to keep us unto the very end. "For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's" (Rom. 14:8).

"Let the people make me a sacred place (מִקְדָּשׁ) that I may dwell in their midst" (Exod. 25:8). But what is this place other than need of the heart? The materials of the sanctuary come from "freewill offerings" (נְדָבוֹת), which derive from the inner yearning of the soul... We offer our hearts up to God, and the Lord, in his great mercy, fills us with faith, hope, and love. Our spiritual need for God is his habitation with us; our hunger and thirst for healing and life is a gift from heaven (Matt. 5:6). Our blessed desperation impels us to pray because we cannot help praying.  At its deepest level, prayer is not about asking but receiving; it is not so much appealing to God as it is allowing God to appeal to us...

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 self-destruct apart from His daily intervention in your life... Do you sense your need for deliverance "in the kishkes," that is, in your gut? Do you pray because your very life depends on it? The Torah says 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 yearned: "All the days of my warfare I hope, until my change will come" (Job 14:14).

So what shall we do in the meantime, as we live in the "already-not-yet" realm of faith? In many ways we are of little faith.  We are anxious, wounded, and much within us awaits healing. So we turn to God again and again, up to 70 x 70 times, if necessary, and keep seeking, despite ourselves. We learn to "endure ourselves" and tolerate our own imperfections, forgiving ourselves, for as long as we pretend that we are not subject to the faults common to others, we are liable to be controlled by them. Above all believe in God's love; receive the truth that you are accepted despite your unacceptability because of Yeshua (Eph. 1:6). Therefore make it the refrain of your heart to affirm, "LORD, I am yours..."

Let me wish you all "Shabbat Shalom" and "L'Shanah Tovah b'shem Yeshua Adoneinu," dear friends. Please remember this ministry in your prayers, too, as I make every effort to keep you up to date with the prophetic calendar and the themes of Torah as they reveal our Savior and LORD Yeshua. Thank you so much.
 




Rosh Hashanah Home Celebration...


 

[ The holiday of Rosh Hashanah begins Wed. September 20th at sundown... ]

09.15.17  (Elul 24, 5777)   To prepare for a Rosh Hashanah home evening celebration, you will need a few basic things. Minimally you will need a couple holiday candles, a kiddush cup, some grape juice, challah (holiday bread), a few apples and honey, and a pomegranate... You will also need a shofar to sound at the end of the meal. For best results you should plan your meal, arrange your table, and decide which order things should go.... Here is a very general overview of the steps for our Rosh Hashanah Seder:
 

  1. Recite the blessing over the candles (usually 18 mins before sundown)
  2. Do kiddush over the wine/grape juice
  3. Recite the Shehecheyanu blessing
  4. Recite the Mo'edim blessing
  5. Recite the Hamotzi blessing over the (round) challah
  6. Recite the Shema (together, under a tallit)
  7. Recite Birkat Kohanim (blessing the children)
  8. Wish one another L'shanah tovah! Sing some holiday songs
  9. Sit at the table for the holiday meal
  10. Follow the simanim service (blessings over selected foods)
  11. Serve and eat the holiday meal together
  12. Recite (an abbreviated) Birkat Hamazon - giving thanks to God for the meal
  13. Recite blessings for the new year; taste apples and honey; pomegranate
  14. Recite the Shofar blessing and hear the shofar (at least 100 blasts for the evening)
    • Tekiah [1 blast]
    • Shevarim [3 wailing blasts]
    • Teruah [at least 9 staccato blasts]
    • Tekiah Gedolah [1 very long blast]

        Listen to the Shofar
       

We usually serve matzah ball soup or tzimmes, fresh salad, and a main course such as pomegranate chicken over rice with some green beans. During the holiday meal we also eat some "ceremonial foods" (i.e., simanim) and recite Hebrew blessings over these "first tastes" of the new year... For example we will eat a few almonds, some beets, a bite of fish, a nosh of star fruit, and of course apple and honey (tapu'ach udvash) for dessert. Please understand that you don't "have" to do any of this (though it is a blessing if it's done in the right spirit).  If you are new to all this or feeling anxious, my heartfelt advice is to follow the path of peace - our Lord doesn't lay heavy burdens on us but lightness and grace... Shalom.

For more information, see the Hebrew for Christians Rosh Hashanah Seder Guide.
 




High Holiday Mercies...


 

09.15.17  (Elul 24, 5777)   Rosh Hashanah is called Yom Ha-Din (יוֹם הַדִּין), the Day of Judgment, whereas Yom Kippur is called Yom Ha-Rachamim (יוֹם הָרַחֲמִים), or the Day of Mercies, which suggests that God is first revealed as our Creator and Judge before He is known as our merciful Savior. This is hinted in the two accounts of creation, where God is first revealed as Elohim (Gen. 1:1), but later is revealed as YHVH (יהוה) when He breathed life into man nishmat chayim, the breath of life (Gen. 2:4). As believers in Yeshua, we have all the more reason to rejoice on Rosh Hashanah, since at the cross Yeshua took upon Himself our judgment to give us everlasting mercy from God!

Note:  This is why we must hear the verdict of the law before we are able to understand God's mercy and grace... Without holiness and a sense of our own need for deliverance from sin, the message of salvation makes little traction in our lives. Therefore teachers like Charles Spurgeon said preach 90% law and 10% grace. The cross makes no sense apart from the law; blood was applied to the Kapporet on the Ark that held the Ten Commandments, etc.
 





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