Moses called to all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Draw forth or buy for yourselves one of the flock for your families, and slaughter the pesach-offering.”
“It shall be that when you come to the land that Hashem will give you, as He has spoken, you shall observe this service. And it shall be that when your children say to you, ‘What is this service to you?’ You shall say, ‘It is a pesach feast-offering to Hashem, Who passed over the houses of the Children of Israel in Egypt when He smote the Egyptians, but He saved our households,'” and the people bowed their heads and prostrated themselves. The Children of Israel went and did as Hashem commanded Moses and Aaron, so did they do.
–Exodus 12:21, 25-28 Stone Edition Tanakh
Today is the first full day of Passover. Jews and a good number of Christians all over the world held their home and community seders last night.
My home wasn’t one of them.
For some months, my wife has been planning on visiting our daughter in California. She left early Sunday morning and won’t be back until midday on Thursday. My grandchildren are with their Mom for the next two weeks, so it’s really only my two sons and I at home. They weren’t exactly clamoring for their old man to dust off our haggadahs and start a lot of cooking.
Passover just sort of crept up on me and suddenly it’s here.
And given my comments in my previous blog post, initiating any sort of response to Pesach as a Gentile believer is beyond the scope of my obligations or my rights.
It’s been a difficult time. My Dad is slowly dying of cancer. My Mom’s cognitive abilities continue to dwindle. And as the old time actors used to say, “I am between engagements,” and have been since last Friday. One of my sons had his car engine blow up on him, and the other is buying a house, which sounds wonderful (and in many ways it is), but also introduces different stressors.
I decided to at least do the readings for Pesach I, but when I couldn’t remember where to find my Tanakh on my bookshelf, I realized it has been a really long time since I’ve read the Bible.
That can’t be good.
A friend found a piece of furniture for my son’s new home (since his ex took most of their stuff), so driving over to the gentleman’s house to pick it up, I saw a number of “Jesus loves you” bumper stickers and messages of a similar nature. I figure everything that’s happening to me now is God’s way of getting my attention.
No person can know what is really good for him in the long run.
We lack peace of mind because we feel anxious and worried about what has happened to us in the past, or what might happen to us in the future. But the reality is we can never know in advance the ultimate consequences of events. Being fired from your job, or being forced to find a new home could likely lead to events that will be beneficial for you.
Today, try to recall a time when a “bad” event turned out for the “good.”
I can remember when bad events ultimately resulted in a good outcome, but I also remember the pain involved in dealing with the bad part, and the lengthy time period between bad event and good outcome.
It can be a lonely road from the bad starting line to the good finish line.
But then as long as we live, there never really is a finish. We’re never done contending with life, with other people, disappointment, loss, anxiety, desperation, the works.
I suppose that’s why I’m writing this. I need to gain perspective and to get a handle of everything that’s happening to me right now. I probably should be doing more constructive things, such as cleaning the house, mowing the lawn, scouring job boards and the like, but I’m not.
On Friday, I initiated a flurry of activity post my “between engagements” experience earlier that morning, but over the weekend, the shock had worn off. I had my grandchildren with me, and since they require a lot of attention, that provided a distraction.
But then they left to return to their Mom Sunday afternoon, and I realized just how empty I felt inside.
Okay, God. You got my attention. Now I just need to find a way to change my focus, to even have a focus. A seder last night would have been good timing, which is why I’m puzzled that Hashem arranged for it not to happen.
My wife and my daughter are together, so I hope they had the opportunity to attend a community seder, perhaps at the Chabad.
The quiet finally got to be too much for me, so I started listening to “Sunday at the Village Vanguard” by the Bill Evans Trio. It was recorded live in New York City on June 25, 1961 (my daughter’s birthday, though she wasn’t born until decades later).
Over a month or so ago, I wrote about trying to jump start my faith, and as you can see, things haven’t gone so well up.
The prodigal son is still struggling on the path that leads to home.
At the end of each seder, the last words uttered are, “Next year in Jerusalem.” For me, I’d settle for “Next year at home with my family.”
Dayeinu is one of the highlights of Seder experience. The tune is catchy but the words and theme are frankly bizarre. Had you taken us from Egypt but not split the sea, dayeinu, it would have been enough. Really?
If you had taken us to Mount Sinai but not given us the Torah, dayeinu, it would have been enough. Really? Don’t we talk about how the Torah is the air that we breathe, indispensable to our lives and to our very existence? Had He given us the Torah but not brought us into Israel it would have been enough. Really? Wasn’t Israel created before the world because it, the Jewish people and Torah and the three pillars upon which the world is built?
-Rabbi Efrem Goldberg
“It Would Have Been Enough, Really?” Aish.com
I have to admit, as many times as I’ve recited or sung Dayeinu, I’ve never considered the idea if stopping short of completing all the miracles Hashem did for the Children of Israel in the Exodus would indeed have been sufficient. What if God liberated Israel from Egypt but had not split the sea? That would have been a disaster.
As Rabbi Goldberg says, for religious Jews, the Torah is the very air they breathe, and the Land of Israel was promised to the Jewish people long before they were enslaved in Egypt. How could these things not come to pass as God declared they would? How can we imagine the Jewish people without the Torah or Israel?
But what about the rest of us?
I know what you’re thinking, some of you anyway. You’re thinking about the Mixed Multitude, that ragtag group of non-Israelites who accompanied the Children of Israel out of Egypt because they saw Hashem’s miracles and believed, or at least they thought this guy Moses could give them a “get out of slavery free” card, too.
You’re thinking that these Gentiles stood with Israel at Sinai and received the Torah along with God’s special and chosen people, and thus, what was done for Israel was done for Gentiles as well.
Well, yes and no.
The “Mixed Multitude” link I posted a few paragraphs above goes into it in more detail, but these Gentiles, or rather their descendants after the third generation, were fully assimilated and intermarried into Israel and the tribes, so all traces of their Gentile lineage was lost.
That practice isn’t available to non-Jews who want to join themselves to Israel today. The best we can do is either become Noahides or convert to Judaism. For those of us to call ourselves “Messianic Gentiles” or Talmidei Yeshua, a third option is to specifically accept a highly specialized understanding of the revelation of Yeshua (Jesus) as Moshiach (Messiah or “Christ”) while taking upon ourselves a lesser set of obligations than the Jewish people, and while standing alongside Israel and embracing her central role in Hashem’s plan for ultimate, worldwide redemption in the Messianic Kingdom.
Which brings me back to Dayeinu. What if God had given us the blessings of Messiah but not given us the Torah…Dayeinu…it would be sufficient.
But God did allow us, through His magnificent grace and the mercy of Messiah, to benefit from some of the blessings of the New Covenant promises but not the full obligation to the Torah mitzvot? Is that really sufficient?
Depends on your point of view.
Back in the days when I was attending a little, local Baptist church, more than once in Sunday school, I heard the teacher thankfully remark how grateful he was to not be “under the Law” and enslaved to all those spiritless rituals and practices.
Actually, he said he was grateful to “no longer be under the Law”. I’ve always wondered what Christians mean by that, since Gentiles are not born into a covenant relationship with God, and particularly not under the Sinai covenant, thus, we were never, ever “under the Law” to begin with.
I tried to argue the other side of the coin, so to speak, relative to the Jewish people, but this was a Sunday school class in a Baptist church in Idaho, so I certainly wasn’t going to convince anyone that the Torah could be “the very air Jews breathe, indispensable to their lives and to their very existence.”
There’s a reason I don’t go to church anymore.
I had considered using the “Dayeinu” message to explain that even though we non-Jews were not given the Torah as such, it would be sufficient, but then, I encountered a problem in Rabbi Goldberg’s article:
Rabbi Nachman Cohen in his Historical Haggada offers a fantastic insight. If you look at the Torah and in Psalms, chapter 106 in particular, you will notice that every stanza of dayeinu corresponds with an incredibly gracious act God did for us and our absolute ungrateful response.
Explains Rabbi Nachman Cohen, dayeinu is our reflecting on our history and repairing the lack of gratitude we exhibited in the past. Seder night we look back on our national history, we review our story and we identify those moments, those gifts from God that we failed to say thank you for. We rectify and repair our ingratitude and thanklessness through the years by saying dayeinu now. In truth, dayeinu, each of these things was enough to be exceedingly grateful for.
R. Goldberg uses examples such God taking the Israelites out of Egypt and them not being grateful (Deut. 1:27) and God feeding them with manna and them not being grateful (Numbers 11:1-6). Dayeinu then, as R. Goldberg explained above, is the Jewish effort to repair the historic lack of gratitude of the Israelites to God’s miracles during the Exodus. It’s a lesson to every Jewish child at the Passover seder to learn gratitude for all that God has done, does, and will do for Israel.
So how can I use Dayeinu as an example of it being sufficient for we Gentiles to have the blessings of the New Covenant (without being named covenant members) and not receiving the Torah or the Land of Israel along with the Jews?
I do it by turning things around. I do it by pointing out our own ingratitude. A small but vocal group of non-Jews do not accept that only the Jewish people are Israel, and that only the Jewish people have it placed upon themselves as named members of just about every covenant God has ever made with human beings, the full obligation and blessings of the Torah mitzvot. They not only desire but demand full inclusion into Israel, and full obligation to the mitzvot, effectively becoming Jewish converts without a bris.
I should point out that many normative Christians, who couldn’t care less about the Torah, still believe that when Jesus returns, the Church will inherit the Land of Israel and all of the covenant promises God made with the Jewish people. The Jews however, unless they convert to (Gentile) Christianity, not so much. That’s also a lack of gratitude and humility.
And He began speaking a parable to the invited guests when He noticed how they had been picking out the places of honor at the table, saying to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place. But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
–Luke 14:7-11 (NASB)
It is better to take the seat for the least honored and then perhaps be given more honors, than to assume you have the greatest honor and to be publicly “demoted” and thus humiliated by your “host,” that is, Messiah.
In this case, us not being Jews, and not being Israel, it really is better to say “Dayeinu,” believe that what we have is truly sufficient, and if God wants to give us more, He’ll give us more. He’ll give, but we don’t presume to just take.
Ben Zoma says, “Who is rich? He who is happy with his lot.”
-Talmud — Pirkei Avot 4:1
It is a terrible thing to turn up your nose at the blessings and mercy of God and to demand more. We’ve seen the consequences to the Children of Israel in the Torah when they were ungrateful. If they are the natural branches of the root and could still be removed for lack of trust, how much easier is it for God to remove the ungrateful grafted in branches?
My family will be having our own wee home seder this coming Friday. While my Jewish family will be singing Dayeinu in the spirit of learning gratitude as R. Goldberg describes it, I’ll be learning to be grateful in a very different way, by accepting that what God has done for me, a non-Jew, a non-covenant member, is indeed not just sufficient, but abundant.
Question:“Is it permissible for a Gentile to eat a Passover Seder meal?”
Answer: Gosh, I hope so, because I eat at my family’s Passover Seder every year.
That question was recently asked in a closed Facebook group for “Messianic Gentiles” and the moderator’s short answer was “yes”. The only prohibition would be if the Temple existed in Jerusalem, the Levitical priesthood was re-established, and the sacrifices, including those for Pesach, were resumed…and even then, that would only be a problem if the non-Jew in question were in Jerusalem for Passover.
This was discussed somewhere on this blogspot in years past, and reader ProclaimLiberty (PL) basically said that if an intermarried Gentile, such as me, (or any Gentile, I suppose) were in Jerusalem with his Jewish family, he (or she) could eat of the meal except for the Pascal lamb which is reserved for the Jewish people.
For any male to eat of it, he must be circumcised, which is shorthand for “covert to Judaism”.
However, not everyone sees it that way. Here’s a comment from the aforementioned closed Facebook group discussing the topic:
OK but if Gentiles are grafted in and there is one new man and all true believers become the Israel of God…(and, no, I do not adhere to replacement theology, neither am I a two house/stick guy) doesn’t that give us a different outlook on this subject?
I say this speaking from the notion that the Passover is ultimately pointing to Christ and not simply a cultural festival for only one group of people.
If the Passover is strictly about the Exodus and God showing Himself mighty to a certain group of people then yes, I agree.
But if the Passover ultimately points to Christ then you are saying that only one group of people (culturally Jewish people) are allowed to celebrate it and not the totality of God’s people (i.e. the Israel of God).
I don’t say this to be divisive.
I am asking a serious question.
One person answered this query by stating that non-Jewish (uncircumcised) Yeshua-believers are welcome to attend the seder in Jerusalem, even once the sacrifices have been restored, and he/she could “partake of the matzah, bitter herbs, the four cups, and the whole seven-day festival…there is no prohibition except in regard to the sacrificed lamb.”
Pretty much my opinion as well.
In the back-and-forth in the discussion thread, it is generally (but not universally) agreed that Gentiles can partake of the modern Passover seder, since we are without the Temple and the sacrifices, but are not to eat of the sacrificed lamb in Jerusalem in the days of the Temple (and there’s no other place to perform the sacrifices except in the Jerusalem Temple, so arguably, even in the Messianic Age, Gentiles in the diaspora can partake of the seder fully, since no lamb would be present).
The original asker cited Ephesians 2:14-19 in an attempt to invoke traditional Christian teaching to sustain a more egalitarian view of the Messiah’s work, diluting or obliterating the distinctions between Israel and the nations defined in the Torah relative to the requirement that only a circumcised (Jewish) male can eat of the lamb (and in case anyone asks, women, who can’t be circumcised as defined in Torah, must be Jewish in order to eat of the lamb as well).
The questioner lamented:
So we’re one…but not really?
We’re fellow citizens…except we’re still strangers and aliens?
This is a common complaint of some Gentiles in Messianic Jewish space, and in days gone by, I’ve made that complaint myself. But being “one” does not mean being “uniform”. It does mean that the ekklesia of Messiah is a single container that nurtures both Israel and the “people of the nations who are called by His Name” (Amos 9:12).
Then this came up:
But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy.
–Galatians 2:11-13 (NASB)
Except, of course, the above passage of scripture isn’t describing a Passover meal in Jerusalem, but (probably) an “ordinary” meal in which Peter felt inhibited sharing with Gentiles in the presence of (it is assumed) high-ranking Jewish members of the Messianic Council in Jerusalem who were apparently applying “peer pressure”. It’s been suggested that Paul and James (Ya’akov) disagreed about the cultural barriers (which are not found in Torah) between Jews and Gentiles, and whether or not just eating in the presence of a Gentile rendered a Jew ritualistically “unclean.”
Frankly, non-Jews are usually welcome (if invited) at most Jewish functions, including worshiping in the synagogue on Shabbat, attending an Erev Shabbat meal, attending a bar or bat mitzvah, and so on. Before my wife and I became religious, Jewish friends invited us to their Passover seders on numerous occasions. Granted, some of our friends weren’t Orthodox, but others were, so I can see a case being made for Gentiles in the current age being able to participate in many Jewish ritual activities, extending into the Messianic Age.
There are distinctions between Jews and Gentiles in the current age (including Jewish and Gentile Yeshua-believers) and I think those distinctions will continue in the Messianic Age. If there are to be any sort of “adjustments” in halachah to be made, Messiah will have to inform us of what they will be.
But even in the current age, it really depends on how closely you adhere to the halachah:
98:35 All the activities that are permitted on yom tov are only permitted for the sake of people, not for animals. The Torah tells us (Exodus 12:16), “do for yourselves” – for yourselves but not for animals. Therefore, we may not cook or carry outside for the sake of an animal just like on Shabbos. (We may add to a pot of human food for animals – Rema 412:3.) 98:36 We may not cook or bake for a non-Jew on yom tov. One who has a non-Jewish servant may add food and cook it all in one pot so that there will also be enough for the servant. (He must not specify that he is adding for the servant – Mishnah Brurah 512:11.) For an honored non-Jew, however, one may not even add. (We are concerned that one will do extra for an honored guest – see MB 512:10.) Not only that, even if the Jew cooked or baked for himself, he may not invite a non-Jew to eat with him on yom tov. One may give a non-Jew who isn’t particularly distinguished something that he cooked or baked but he may not bake a loaf even for his non-Jewish servant. (For the purposes of this halacha, an apostate Jew is the same as a non-Jew – MB 512:2.)
-Rabbi Jack Abramowitz
“Cooking for a Non-Jew on Yom Tov” OU.org
But it was also pointed out that Gentiles regularly attend Yom Tov events at Chabad and are welcome to do so.
The response was:
Sometimes there are halchot that people are much more lenient on these days, especially when kiruv is involved. I also read that in this particular halacha the concern is alleviated if the person shows up without an explicit invite. I think the underlying reason might be that Jews can cook on Yom Tov, but they can only cook for what is needed. Since a non-Jew can cook for themselves regardless of Yom Tov then a Jew should not cook for a non-Jew, but may serve them food if there are leftovers.
But the question is how or if this particular standard will be adhered to in the Messianic Age. Will this be one of the “adjustments” Messiah will make, or will he honor all halachah as it currently exists? Interesting question.
As of this writing, there’s no consensus in the closed Facebook group discussion on the matter of how restrictive or permissive Jews are or should be regarding a non-Jewish presence at a Passover seder. The most restrictive seems to be:
Another perspective that I have read about, is that since parts of the seder are done as a remembrance of the Korban Pesach some Jews will not invite gentiles to their seder or ask gentiles to not participate those parts. Just thinking off the top of my head this might include Korech and Afikomen. I am sure many people are not that strict, but it is an interesting thought.
Since my wife and kids are Jewish, I’ve got an automatic “in” at our family seder (though if my wife chooses to attend the Chabad seder, I’m definitely not invited). However, if a non-Jewish believer is to attend a seder, it should be at the invitation of Jewish hosts, and the expectation of a Gentile guest should be spelled out ahead of time relative to halachah.
It’s problematic in Messianic space to the degree that Gentile expectations can lead us down the “one new man” path a bit too far, but again, local customs should be understood ahead of time so there won’t be any surprises.
I don’t observe Easter in any sense and basically, I even shun it, so Passover is the Yom Tov in which I (silently within myself) honor Rav Yeshua’s symbolic sacrificial death and resurrection which gives us all the hope that in our Rav’s merit, we too shall share a place at the banquet of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Matthew8:11)in the world to come.
At the first seder my father would be brief, (In his explanations of the Haggada, etc.) in order to eat the afikoman before midnight. On the second night, however, he would expound at length; he began the seder before 9 p.m. and ended at about 3 or 4 in the morning, dwelling at length on the explanation of the Haggada.
The Alter Rebbe declared: The matza of the first evening of Pesach is called the Food of Faith; the matza of the second evening is called the Food of Healing. When healing brings faith (“Thank you, G-d, for healing me”) then clearly there has been illness. When faith brings healing, there is no illness to start with.
-Compiled and arranged by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, in 5703 (1943) from the talks and letters of the sixth Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, of righteous memory. Chabad.org
As I write this, it is still Friday morning. I have to admit, I’m a little nervous. I haven’t had a chance to practice with the Haggadah yet and given my work schedule, I doubt I’ll have the time after I get home before the seder begins.
Of course, there will just be four of us, but still, it’s important that the telling go smoothly.
In deference to the holiness of Pesach, I’m publishing this immediately after I write it, since the next opportunity won’t be until Monday the 6th.
I know I posted this in a comment my previous blog post but I want to draw more attention to these words:
Just before Purim, a non-Jewish woman asked me about the holiday. After I explained a little bit about Haman and his plan, she asked, “so Hitler wasn’t the first?” They really have no idea.
We read in the Haggadah, “for not only one has risen against us to destroy us, but in every generation they rise against us to destroy us, and the Holy One, Blessed be He, saves us from their hands.”
I’m a little different. Passover with Family. Easter with no one. And the imminent threat of Israel’s annihilation intensifies my faith that God will save and preserve His Holy Nation and His eternal and beloved Jewish people…people like my wife and children.
The Alter Rebbe declared: The matza of the first evening of Pesach is called the Food of Faith; the matza of the second evening is called the Food of Healing. When healing brings faith (“Thank you, G-d, for healing me”) then clearly there has been illness. When faith brings healing, there is no illness to start with.
Faith and then healing or healing then faith?
In her article, Quinn attempts to reconcile Passover and Easter, but I’m not so sure that’s even possible. I’ve heard it said that after every Passion Play there is a Pogrom. I once naively believed that was a thing of the past, but now I fear it’s not. Is it any coincidence that the U.S./Iran Nuclear Deal was sealed yesterday during Holy Week (Maundy Thursday), a deal that Al Jazerra chastises Israel for condemning?
One person commented on the Al Jazerra news story:
The Iranian People are a good people… Not like the Zionist..,, Thieves, deception kings and down right liars.
I think that sums up the attitude of their readers, their reporters, their supporters, and, Heaven help us, perhaps President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry as well.
I’ll admit to needing some healing just now. But before I can be healed, there must be faith. Passover is the story of Jewish survival in the face of overwhelming odds. At the Reed Sea, when Israel saw the Egyptians pursuing them, they were terrified (Exodus 14:10). I must remind myself of what Moses said, for it applies to every moment of Israel’s existence:
Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
–Exodus 14:13-14 (NASB)
In Israel, the start of seder night is fast approaching. Here in Idaho, it should begin around 7:15 p.m. with candle lighting being at almost eight.
Easter is the story about the resurrection, the risen Messiah, who came to take away the sins of the world. What Christianity totally misses is that the hope and good news of Messiah isn’t just the promise of personal salvation, but of national rescue and restoration of all of national Israel as it is said:
For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written,
“The Deliverer will come from Zion,
He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.”
“This is My covenant with them,
When I take away their sins.”
The reason there is any meaning in Easter at all is because of what Messiah will do for his people Israel. It is my hope in the faithfulness of Messiah that Israel will not be destroyed.
But for me, faithfulness and healing is depicted more clearly in the Passover. Rabbi Menken finished his essay this way:
As the Haggadah tells us, this is the same ancient, irrational, murderous prejudice that has existed since Esav sent his son to murder Yaakov — and since Lavan, Yaakov’s father-in-law, plotted to destroy him. And that is the message of the Haggadah: keep the faith. Do what Jews have done since the beginning of our history, and “the Holy One, Blessed be He, saves us from their hands.”
G-d took the Jewish People out of Egypt to be His, to be close to Him and promote His vision for the world. On Passover we relive that departure from Egypt, the liberation from bondage. We break free from human limits to belong only to G-d. We know that the plans to destroy us today will not succeed, as they have failed in every generation. The Holy One, Blessed be He, saves us from their hands!
Rabbi Tzvi Freeman at Chabad.org said something similar:
We are limited by the very fact that we have human form. There is no freedom in following our whim, or even our most reasoned decisions. As a prisoner cannot undo his own shackles, so we remain enslaved to our own limited selves.
And so Moses was told, “When you take the people out from Egypt, you shall all serve G‑d on this mountain.”
What makes us free? Simple deeds done each day, as agents of the One who is absolutely free.
I’m only human. I’m very limited. I cannot free myself and am a slave to my human nature.
Except that in serving God, I can be free. That’s why Hashem, Master of Legions took His people Israel to Sinai and gave them His Torah.
The Passover Seder is a service of the heart, a service to God in obedience to the commandments. And while I, a non-Jew, am not commanded to observe the Pesach seder, as the head of a Jewish family, the duty falls to me. In the shadow of nuclear genocide, reciting the haggadah reminds me of the faith of a nation, reminds me that I must also be faithful, and reminds me of the faithfulness of Messiah.
May the Almighty heal my faith and my heart. May He continually save and fight for His nation Israel and His Jewish people.
Last year, I called the association of Easter and Passover a collision, although I did urge Hebrew Roots and Messianic people not to throw Christianity under a bus for celebrating Easter as their most Holy day.
However, this year, I’m getting nervous. No, I’m not feeling anxiety about Passover or even Easter, but about how the status of the state of Israel is changing. A few days ago, The Jewish Press published an op-ed piece called “Obama Declares War on Israel”. Unfortunately, they’re not wrong. American President Barack Obama’s negative attitude toward Benjamin Netanyahu and his recent victory in winning the election in Israel, coupled with Obama’s disastrous policies toward a near-nuclear Iran, indicate that the relationship between the U.S. and Israel is at its weakest point ever.
We are about to join the ranks of those nations who are enemies of Israel, and we know from scripture that all the nations that will go up against Israel in war will be defeated by God, and their survivors will be compelled to pay homage to Israel and her King.
Almost bumped a Jewish kid crossing the road. He didn’t look b4 crossing but I still would hav felt so bad in my german car!
South Africans know how to recycle like Israel knows how to be peaceful.
Fortunately, according to the story, he suffered a strong and immediate backlash for his comments. However, his tweet in response was hardly repentant:
To reduce my views to a handful of jokes that didn’t land is not a true reflection of my character, nor my evolution as a comedian.
So far, I don’t find him particularly funny.
I’m just listing two examples of a much wider body of information indicating how the world is continually turning away from the nation of Israel and is being willing to victimize Jewish people up to and including murder. Even American Vice President Joe Biden publicly admitted that Jews in this country can only rely on Israel and not on the U.S. As anti-Semitism continues to rise in our nation, are we going to start looking like Europe in how we treat our Jewish citizens?
It may not be too soon for American and European Jews to start making Aliyah. That gives the statement “Next Year in Jerusalem,” which we say at the conclusion of every Seder, a new and poignant meaning.
It’s not just President Obama who has declared war on Israel and the Jewish people, it’s the entire world.
Yesterday, Derek Leman posted (or re-posted) a blog called Passover, Resurrection, Constantine which is a fabulous history of how Easter came to be in the Christian religious calendar.
In the second century, the congregations of Yeshua-believers were dissociating themselves from Jewish origins. Ignatius of Antioch famously said, “It is monstrous to talk of Christ and practice Judaism” (Letter to the Magnesians 10:3). The Jews had been in two wars with Rome (66-70 and 130-132 CE). Yeshua-believers, who had originally been seen as a sect of Judaism, had originally been protected under Roman law — free from obligation to show devotions to Roman gods and Caesars under the Jewish exemption — by being regarded as Jews and proselytes to Judaism. Now being Jewish carried with it the worst social stigma possible in Roman society.
But a controversy arose between the main congregations and some Asian bishops (the Roman province of Asia, in modern Turkey). Specifically Polycrates, claiming to be keeping up the practice handed down to him from Polycarp, kept a fast (vigil) until the 14th day of the month (apparently the Jewish month, Nisan) and then held a feast (likely a Passover Seder). But the other congregations at this point held a vigil on Saturday followed by a feast on Easter Sunday. The people in this dispute like Polycrates, who kept their feast on the 14th day, were called Quartodecimanists (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quartodecimanism).
They were some of the last hold-outs, Yeshua-followers who kept some of the Jewish customs of the early believers. There would be philo-Semitic (Jewish friendly) Christians well into the fifth century (as Chrysostom preached sermons against them). But in the second century such friendliness with Judaism was already well on its way to being considered a departure from true faith.
I think we still suffer under the legacy of those days and, even in the secular world, Jews and Judaism have historically endured the disfavor and displeasure of the people of the nations (to put it mildly).
Recently, the Sojourning with Jews blog posted a missive called One New Man-ity challenging the traditional Christian belief that God’s “Old Testament” particularity toward Israel was replaced by a “New Testament” universalism that exchanged the Jewish people for the Church. As a non-Jewish wife married to a Jewish husband, she defines the Gentile role in relation to the Jewish people thus:
God also says He will discipline His people and that they will be scattered out of the land and suffer terribly from the nations for a very long time. They will “dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar….” But “Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the Lord and to his goodness in the latter days.” Hosea 3:4-5. Other places say He will rescue Jacob from “hands that were too strong for him.” I juxtapose that with Jesus saying his followers are to love and care for even the least of his brothers and so, I see that I have a calling of my own and the overarching purpose is to love God, and my neighbor as myself.
According to the historical record, if all Christians had understood this, there would have been more to stand in-between the Jews, and the nations that repeatedly sought their blood.
As far as I’m concerned, she is definitely “preaching to the choir.”
Passover and the Week of Unleavened Bread commemorates the liberation of the Israelites from under the harsh slavery of Egypt and God, through Moses, leading His nation to Sinai to establish them as the head of the nations, giving them His Torah.
People think they are free when they throw off the yoke of the Torah. However, unless one has the revealed wisdom of the Torah, he is at risk at becoming a “slave” to the fads and fashion of his society. Slavery is non-thinking action, rote behavior, following the impulse desires of the body. Our job on Pesach is to come out of slavery into true freedom and to develop a closer relationship with the Almighty!
What has kept the Jewish people free and united them as a people for over 3,500 years when an entire world continually tries to destroy them, is cleaving to God’s Torah and maintaining their Covenant distinctiveness from the nations around them.
Passover, for the Jewish people, is a time to celebrate freedom, not just from slavery and tyranny, but from the spectre of annihilation, assimilation, and dissolution.
Several days ago, my wife and I were discussing the sad state of America and how our President seems all too willing to throw Israel to Iranian wolves. In a fit of pique, she said she’d consider giving up on the U.S. and making Aliyah.
A momentary surge of joy welled up in me at the thought, but I realize she wasn’t making a serious suggestion. According to my spouse, Israel is looking for younger families to make Aliyah, not a couple approaching retirement.
But this made me realize that while I would hate leaving my children, my grandchildren, and my parents behind, it’s more important to me to support the Jewish nation and the Land of Promise than to tolerate my own country, which seems to be in a moral and ethical nosedive destined to crash and burn at the conscience of the King.
The weight of anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic hate weighs heavily upon my shoulders as I contemplate this year’s seder, just a day away as you read this (and as I consider Easter as well). But if I have faith in God at all, then I know what He has promised Israel, to be the head of all the nations, to be a Land of everlasting peace and prosperity, will come to pass. And not all the Barack Obamas, Trevor Noahs, or anyone else can stop Him from ushering in the Messianic Era and blessing the Jewish nation of Israel.
At my family Seder tomorrow night, when we all declare “Next Year in Jerusalem,” may that “next year” come soon. May it come soon for all Jews living in the diaspora and for all those who love them.
Freedom is the responsibility to fill our lives with meaning.
The obvious image those words should invoke is this:
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
The Old Covenant was established with the Children of Israel at Mount Sinai and the conditions of that covenant, the Torah, were given on stone tablets.
The mediator of the New Covenant entered our world as “the Word made flesh” and the conditions of that covenant were in every spoken word and action of that “Word,” in the person of Yeshua (Jesus) of Nazareth, HaMaschiach (the Messiah). But of course, the conditions previously established didn’t change, and everything taught by the Rav from Nazareth was Torah.
“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”
–Matthew 5:17-18 (NASB)
The conditions of the Old Covenant were written on stone tablets. Exodus 32:16 says the finger of God wrote on the first set of tablets before the sin of the Golden Calf, before Moses broke them.
The FFOZ commentary tells us that according to midrash, the tablets that descended from Mount Sinai can be compared to a human body, and when Moses broke that “body,” because of the sin of Israel, the letters on the tablets flew off the stone and returned to their Source in Heaven.
When Messiah Yeshua’s body was broken due to the sin of Israel, his spirit left him and returned to its Source.
After the sin of the Golden Calf, Moses returned to the mountain and to God to plead for Israel and to renew the covenant (Exodus 34). This began a long and cyclical pattern of sin and repentance for Israel.
After the death of the Master, he was resurrected three days later and thus was completed the inauguration or the very starting of the New Covenant, a process that will not reach fruition until the Master’s return, for he ascended to Heaven and sits on the right hand of the Father, our High Priest in the Heavenly Court, who makes final atonement for the sins of humanity, who is the mediator of better promises. But get this:
“Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.” (emph. mine)
–Ezekiel 36:26-27 (NASB)
“But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” (emph. mine)
–Jeremiah 31:33-34 (NASB)
The conditions of the Old Covenant were written on stone tablets and on scrolls, objects that are inanimate and external to human beings. If we want to know about God and if we want to “know God,” we must study and practice, and yet Biblical and human history is all too clear that even the best of us fail, no matter how great our desire to serve God.
Yeshua came as the “Word made flesh,” the living embodiment of the Torah, the walking, talking, flesh and blood, human expression of the will and wonder of God, all contained within a human body. He was the perfect image of what we strive for, the Word written on flesh.
There’s a difference. John’s Gospel says that Yeshua was the Word made flesh, while we get from Ezekiel and Jeremiah that the Word will be written on our fleshy hearts. We don’t literally become the Word as a human being, we “merely” have it wholly integrated into our being.
But here’s the result.
Amen, I say to you, none among those born of a woman has arisen greater than Yochanan the Immerser; yet the smallest in the kingdom of Heaven will be greater than he.
I mentioned above the concepts of knowing about God vs. knowing God. I don’t doubt that there are people today, great tzaddikim or saints who know God, at least to the current extent of human ability, but the Bible records that Moses spoke with God “face to face” (Exodus 33:11). That’s pretty hard for me to imagine, especially since God is considered Spirit and without physical form (the third of the Rambam’s Thirteen Principles of Faith).
But the Master prophesied that when the New Covenant is fully enacted, then the finger of God will have finished writing His Word on our hearts of flesh and, like Moses and the Prophets of Old, including John the Baptizer, we will all know God, God’s Spirit will be poured out on all flesh (Joel 2:28, Acts 2:17), and everyone, from the least to the greatest, will have a full knowledge and intimate relationship with God. We won’t just know about Him, we will know Him.
Jesus, when the Spirit was poured out on him at his immersion (Matthew 3:16) became the forerunner, the first fruits of New Covenant human beings. He was still fully human, but with the Spirit poured out on him as it will be someday in the Messianic Era, a human being who could be tempted but still not sin. He’s the living promise that we will be perfected even as he was perfected.
It’s exciting to watch God’s plan open up in the pages of the Bible. The progression from the tablets and scrolls to the first fruits of the New Covenant, Messiah, coming as the “Word made flesh,” and then anticipating the day when that Word will be written on our flesh as well.
Right now, we experience just the leading edge of that New Covenant as we continue to live in the Old Covenant era, the Spirit was given as a pledge and a promise of what is yet to come (2 Corinthians 1:22). We aren’t there yet, but God has given His Spirit to us as His bond that what He has promised will indeed occur.
But there’s a catch.
For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.
–2 Timothy 4:6-8 (NASB)
This doesn’t just happen.
Yes, God promised it and it will happen, but it won’t just happen to us without an effort on our part. It isn’t just an intellectual and emotional acceptance we make that Jesus is Lord and then suddenly we’re in. As we see from Paul’s example, we only get to the finish line after running the race, after exerting ourselves, after keeping the faith and holding fast to our confession (Hebrews 4:11, 14).
Each day, we struggle to reaffirm our faith. Each day we must repent anew, plead for the forgiveness of our sins, and turn to Yeshua as our atonement. The finger of God is moving and writing, but only if we are willing participants in allowing our stony heart to be transformed, only if we surrender ourselves as the material upon which (upon whom) God may write His Torah.
And we do that only by recognizing the one who came from God and who returned to God and who will come again. The one who arrived as a flesh and blood man and who was (and is) also the Word. For only through him can we find the Word within us as we are within Him.
"When you awake in the morning, learn something to inspire you and mediate upon it, then plunge forward full of light with which to illuminate the darkness." -Rabbi Tzvi Freeman