Tag Archives: Priest

Sermon Review of the Holy Epistle to the Hebrews: Shadow and a Copy

Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister in the sanctuary and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man. For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices; so it is necessary that this high priest also have something to offer. Now if He were on earth, He would not be a priest at all, since there are those who offer the gifts according to the Law; who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for, “See,” He says, “that you make all things according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain.”

Hebrews 8:1-5 (NASB)

Teaching on Hebrews 8:1-5 regarding the Temple as a Shadow and a Copy of the supernal Temple above with references to Colossians 2:16-17 which describes the festivals and holy days as shadows of things that are to come–the substance of Messiah.

-D. Thomas Lancaster
Sermon Twenty-nine: Shadow and a Copy
Originally presented on November 2, 2013
from the Holy Epistle to the Hebrews sermon series

I should also start out by quoting someone who commented on one of my previous reviews of this series:

While I don’t know how Lancaster approaches the passage you cited, one aspect that most folks don’t appreciate is that the background view is one in which the heavenly sanctuary and the earthly one are operating simultaneously in parallel, with the earthly one reflecting the operations of the heavenly one and receiving its authorization therefrom. The lack of this perspective also is responsible for a less-than-accurate English translation of the passage. For example, the word rendered as “change” can mean simply “difference”; hence what was intended as a comparison becomes falsely tainted with a sense of replacement. The encouragement offered in the Hebrews sermonic letter is that operations of the heavenly sanctuary continue to be effective even if those of the earthly one become unavailable, or are interrupted, or the sanctuary is destroyed outright (all of which occurred either just before or just after this letter was circulated).

I hope you got the distinction being made in the aforementioned quotation. If not, read it again slowly and carefully. It’s important.

Todays’ sermon is just loaded with great information so let’s get started. Lancaster began by quoting from Ezekiel 43 where we see the prophet being taken spiritually to the Third Temple that will exist in Jerusalem in the Messianic Era, effectively inventing time travel (at least according to Lancaster).

Then he led me to the gate, the gate facing toward the east; and behold, the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the way of the east. And His voice was like the sound of many waters; and the earth shone with His glory. And it was like the appearance of the vision which I saw, like the vision which I saw when He came to destroy the city. And the visions were like the vision which I saw by the river Chebar; and I fell on my face. And the glory of the Lord came into the house by the way of the gate facing toward the east. And the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court; and behold, the glory of the Lord filled the house.

“As for you, son of man, describe the temple to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities; and let them measure the plan. If they are ashamed of all that they have done, make known to them the design of the house, its structure, its exits, its entrances, all its designs, all its statutes, and all its laws. And write it in their sight, so that they may observe its whole design and all its statutes and do them. This is the law of the house: its entire area on the top of the mountain all around shall be most holy. Behold, this is the law of the house.”

Ezekiel 43:1-5; 10-12 (NASB)

Ezekiel's TempleGod is telling Ezekiel that His Divine Presence will dwell in this Messianic Age Temple forever! God commands the prophet to describe the Temple he sees in the vision to the Israelites so they will be ashamed and repent of their sins. Why? Because it was their sins that resulted in the destruction of the Temple as it existed in their day, for Ezekiel was physically in exile in Babylon and the Temple in Jerusalem was in ruins.

At this point in the sermon, I couldn’t help but think about how Judaism sees the cause of the destruction of Herod’s Temple as baseless hatred between one Jew and another. Rabbi Tzvi Freeman writes a rather lengthy midrashic description of this baseless hatred against the backdrop of recent events in modern Israel in the article The Tunnels That Rebuilt Jerusalem.

He also wrote this:

To the Rebbe, the exile of the Shechinah was a painful reality. To the rest of us, well, we have other concerns. Again and again, the Rebbe struggled to bring us to his perspective:

Perhaps, for you, this exile is not so bad. And you feel you are doing whatever you can about it, anyway.

But it is not just you alone in exile. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the generations of their children, as well all the heavenly host—in fact, the entire creation—all is unfulfilled, in exile and imprisoned. Even the Creator, blessed be He, locks Himself into prison along with His creation.

Until you get us out of here.

-from Pity on the Cosmos

As you read this, Tisha B’Av is less than a day in the past and yet once you have fully entered a period of mourning, is it so easy to hold back the tears at its end? Not only should we be grieved at our loss but we should be ashamed of our sins. We should repent and repent quickly for our master the King could return at any moment.

To return to Lancaster’s sermon, he next visits Exodus 25:

Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them. According to all that I am going to show you, as the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furniture, just so you shall construct it.

Exodus 25:8-9 (NASB)

I recently wrote a commentary on these verses relative to where and how we come close to God, but the more plain meaning of the text tells us something wonderful. It tells us that God laid out the pattern, the blueprint if you will, of the Heavenly Temple Court for Moses and instructed him to construct what amounts to a scale model of the Heavenly Court on Earth in the form of the Tabernacle. For everything in the Tabernacle and about the Tabernacle was an earthly replica of the Heavenly originals…everything…and everyone.

jerusalem-at-nightThat means every object you see described in Exodus that is used in the Tabernacle has a counterpart in Heaven. It also means that every person, the High Priest, the other Aaronic priests, the Levites, everyone, have Heavenly counterparts. Imagine.

Not only that, but Lancaster said that even earthly Jerusalem, the Holy City, is a replica of sorts of a Heavenly Jerusalem. This isn’t as farfetched as it may seem:

And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.

Revelation 21:2 (NASB)

Just think. If you’ve ever visited Jerusalem and particularly the Old City (sadly, I have not), then you could choose to see just the streets and stones and tourists, or you could allow yourself to envision Jerusalem as a sort of earthly reflection (though a mirror dimly) of the perfected Jerusalem.

And even though we don’t currently have the Temple with us, we know from Ezekiel that we will, and that when it existed and when it will exist again, every action of every one of the Priests on Earth will be a reflection of the Angelic Priests in Heaven. What is it like when an Angel offers incense on the altar before God I wonder?

We know from the two previous sermons in this series, Melchizedek and The Bypass that Yeshua (Jesus) is the High Priest in the Heavenly Temple. We have to believe that there are also Angelic Priests who attend and assist him in his priestly duties, just as God commanded the earthly Priests to assist and attend the Aaronic High Priest.

We also learned during these prior sermons, that the earthly Tabernacle and later Temple and the earthly Priesthood were considered “weak” only because they could not deliver what the Heavenly Temple and Priesthood do: permanent absolution from sin and resurrection immortality.

But then the earthly Temple and Priesthood weren’t designed to do any of those things. I’ve been exploring how Torah observance was never, ever meant to justify anyone before God in my Reflections on Romans series, so this is certainly a parallel.

At this point, Lancaster is finished with his introduction and proceeds to read Hebrews 8:1-5. So we have such a High Priest in Yeshua in the Heavenly (original and eternal) Temple, who is a “minister” in the “true tabernacle” which was “pitched” not by man but by God.

Verse 3 hints at what “gifts and sacrifices” are offered by Yeshua the High Priest, but that won’t be covered in today’s sermon. However, verse 4 says something important:

He would not be a priest at all [on Earth], since there are those who offer the gifts according to the Law…

LevitesYeshua, of the tribe of Judah and the house of David, would not be a Priest on Earth and will not be when he returns. He does not overturn or override the Law of the Temple, since only Aaronic Priests of the tribe of Levi may serve there (and will serve there in the Messianic Age). Yeshua’s priesthood doesn’t replace the Levitical priesthood, it exists altogether separately in a completely different venue.

So Yeshua will not be High Priest on Earth upon his return and will not function as a Priest in “Ezekiel’s Temple” in Jerusalem. But he still will have to perform an inauguration:

Now the king and all Israel with him offered sacrifice before the Lord. Solomon offered for the sacrifice of peace offerings, which he offered to the Lord, 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep. So the king and all the sons of Israel dedicated the house of the Lord. On the same day the king consecrated the middle of the court that was before the house of the Lord, because there he offered the burnt offering and the grain offering and the fat of the peace offerings; for the bronze altar that was before the Lord was too small to hold the burnt offering and the grain offering and the fat of the peace offerings.

1 Kings 8:62-64 (NASB)

Yeshua will be the great King and perform duties in relation to the Third Temple just as Solomon the King inaugurated the first Temple.

…who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things…

Hebrews 8:5 (NASB)

Here’s where we encounter what Lancaster calls “Christian theological bias.” When we read “copy and shadow,” we’ve been taught in the Church to think “empty,” “meaningless,” “vain,” and even “forgery.” We’ve been taught that all that “stuff,” the Temple, the Priesthood, the sacrifices, and of course, the Torah (Law) had a temporary use but it was all meant to expire and be replaced by the Holy, Heavenly, originals and specifically by Jesus, the High Priest of our hearts, for we replace the stone Temple as little, flesh and blood, spiritual temples.

But that’s not it at all.

To understand this better, Lancaster takes us to Colossians 2:16-17. The quote below is taken from the NASB translation:

Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day—things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.

Some background. Lancaster says this was part of Paul’s argument against the ascetics, those people who believe that one can only be spiritual by disdaining anything that might be physically pleasurable and imposing severe self-discipline and abstention upon themselves.

While there are some practices in Judaism that follow an ascetic pattern (Tisha B’Av and Yom Kippur), the majority of Jewish observances (and remember, Paul was an observant Jewish Pharisee who advocated for Jews in Messiah performing the mitzvot, including Shabbat and the Festivals) such as Pesach (Passover), Shavuot (Festival of Weeks), Sukkot (Festival of Booths), and Shabbat (the Sabbath) were and are celebrated largely by eating and drinking.

Lancaster is interpreting Colossians 2 in a way that says when we observe the festivals, Rosh Chodesh (the observance of the New Moon), and Shabbat, we are experiencing a foretaste of what it will be like in the New Covenant age to feast at the table of Messiah:

I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 8:11 (NIV)

Sukkah in the rainThis could well support Gentile Christian observance of the Biblical holidays in the present age since Yeshua (Jesus) was not just speaking of Israel but of the people of the nations “from the east and the west”. If you or I as non-Jewish disciples of the Jewish Messiah were to keep a proper Shabbos, observe the festival of the New Moon, and build a sukkah in our backyard this fall, in performing each of these acts, we are also experiencing a “shadow or copy,” a scale model, a brief tasty little treat of the magnificent banquet that we will be permitted to join in the Messianic Age.

So shadows and copies aren’t cheap knockoffs or poor imitations that need to be cleaned out to make way for the originals. They are previews, coming attractions of the main event, like watching the previews of a biggest, best movie ever to be made in anticipation of one day seeing the entire film in 3D.

But…

…but here we find “Christian theological bias” again, this time in how these verses are translated. Lancaster offered a couple of examples:

Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.

Colossians 2:16-17 (NIV)

Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day—things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.

Colossians 2:16-17 (NASB)

I put in bold the words “were” and “however” in the first quote and the word “mere” in the second. Why? Because Lancaster says they don’t exist in the Greek. Later translators added those words to insert an anti-Torah bias into the text. If you just read and understand the Bible in English (or probably a lot of other translations), you’ll completely miss it.

I compared English translations and found the Holman Christian Standard Bible to be just slightly more honest:

These are a shadow of what was to come; the substance is the Messiah.

Unfortunately, it still uses the word “was” which isn’t in the Greek. The Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh, and the other observances are shadows cast by the Holy observances that will enter our world with the Messiah’s return. They are not past, they are present and future.

In other words, the Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh, Passover, Shavuot, Sukkot are all tasty hints and treats, samples from the dessert tray, so to speak, of what is to come, but the full meal deal, so to speak, is the Messiah. Yes, he is the full substance, but we have been provided with previews so we can look forward to what’s coming and experience some of that wonder and delight in the here-and-now.

What Did I Learn?

I felt I already had a pretty good handle on Hebrews 8:1-5 from the background of my general knowledge plus Lancaster’s prior sermons, but what I didn’t expect was how Colossians 2 was so easily applied to the same usage of “copy and shadow.” I was also unconscious of how modern Christian translators have been guilty of some “hanky-panky by apparently playing fast and loose with the oldest Greek manuscripts we have of the text, inserting anti-Torah, anti-Festival, and anti-Jewish bias into Christian minds and hearts.

Face it. Most of us don’t read the Bible in the ancient languages and we rely upon our English Bibles. I find great meaning and truth in the Bible, but on some level, I also feel betrayed. This is a good illustration as to why we must learn to educate ourselves and not depend solely upon traditional Christian learning sources. It’s not even that anyone is lying, but the history of the Church is fraught with traditions stemming from the earliest days of Gentile Christianity, when every effort was made by those pulling away from their Jewish teachers and mentors in the Messianic faith to re-interpret the scriptures in a manner that rendered them totally devoid of their original (Jewish) meaning and truth.

Small wonder most Jews really hate Paul. They’ve learned to interpret him in exactly the same way as most Evangelical Christians, only Christians see Paul’s (supposed) anti-Torah writings as a virtue rather than a curse.

temple-of-messiahI hope you conclude, as I have, that there is nothing about the Heavenly Malkizedekian Priesthood or the Heavenly Tabernacle that undoes, makes obsolete, or terminates the effectiveness and authority of the Torah, the Temple, and the Priesthood here on Earth. When Messiah does return and rebuild the Temple (actually, the Temple Mount is too small to hold the Temple described by Ezekiel, so the geography of Jerusalem is going to have to change somewhat), those Torah Laws that govern the Temple, the Priesthood, and the sacrifices that have been put into abeyance for nearly twenty centuries will be applicable again.

Until that day however, we remain in exile with just the periodic precursors of the age to come to comfort us.

When the Holy Temple was destroyed, there was a wailing voice heard throughout the whole world. The Ministering Angels said to G-d, “Master of the Universe, do You have such emotions of sadness? Isn’t it written ‘Splendor and glory are before You?’ ”

G-d answered: “My House is destroyed, and My children are manacled in chains. Shouldn’t I be suffering?”

Midrash, Yalkut Shimoni, Tehillim 679

From the day that Jerusalem and the Holy Temple were destroyed, there is no joy before G-d… until Jerusalem will be rebuilt and the Jewish People will return to it.

Midrash, Yalkut Shimoni, Eychah 7009

From my father’s sichot: When Mashiach will come (speedily in our time, amein), then we shall really long for the days of the exile. Then we will truly feel distress at our having neglected working at avoda; then will we indeed feel the deep pain caused by our lack of avoda. These days of exile are the days of avoda, to prepare ourselves for the coming of Mashiach, speedily in our time, amein.

-from Tanya: Ch. 11. This subject (p. 379) …infinitely more so. (p. 381).
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; translated by Yitschak Meir Kagan

How long, Moshiach? How long?

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Sermon Review of the Holy Epistle to the Hebrews: Melchizedek

For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham as he was returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, to whom also Abraham apportioned a tenth part of all the spoils, was first of all, by the translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then also king of Salem, which is king of peace. Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, he remains a priest perpetually.

Now observe how great this man was to whom Abraham, the patriarch, gave a tenth of the choicest spoils. And those indeed of the sons of Levi who receive the priest’s office have commandment in the Law to collect a tenth from the people, that is, from their brethren, although these are descended from Abraham. But the one whose genealogy is not traced from them collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed the one who had the promises. But without any dispute the lesser is blessed by the greater. In this case mortal men receive tithes, but in that case one receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives on. And, so to speak, through Abraham even Levi, who received tithes, paid tithes, for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him.

Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the Law), what further need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aaron? For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also. For the one concerning whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no one has officiated at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, a tribe with reference to which Moses spoke nothing concerning priests. And this is clearer still, if another priest arises according to the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become such not on the basis of a law of physical requirement, but according to the power of an indestructible life. For it is attested of Him,

“You are a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek.”

Hebrews 7:1-17 (NASB)

The story of Abraham’s encounter with Melchizedek and Hebrews 7:1-17. Was Melchizedek actually a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ in the Old Testament? Who is the mysterious priest and what is his relationship to Yeshua?

-D. Thomas Lancaster
Sermon Twenty-seven: Melchizedek
Originally presented on October 12, 2013
from the Holy Epistle to the Hebrews sermon series

We finally exit the elementary principles of the faith and get back into that “meat” the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews was talking about. That meat starts with Melchizedek.

Lancaster started out by quoting from Lech Lecha:

When he returned from defeating Chedorlaomer and the kings with him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh, which is the Valley of the King. And King Melchizedek of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was a priest of God Most High. He blessed him, saying,

“Blessed be Abram of God Most High,
Creator of heaven and earth.
And blessed be God Most High,
Who has delivered your foes into your hand.”

And [Abram] gave him a tenth of everything.

Genesis 14:17-20 (JPS Tanakh)

So who was Melchizedek? He’s the King of Righteousness. The King of a place called Salem, which is an ancient name for Jerusalem. He’s also called a King of Peace. Sound familiar?

melchizedekLancaster says (and I’ve heard this before as well) that many people believe that Melchizedek is a “pre-incarnate Jesus”. In other words, Jesus showed up in disguise in the Old Testament to honor Abraham. I’ve always had trouble with this interpretation, as it cheapens the incarnation of Jesus being born of woman (much later in history) by having him just appear and disappear in this sequence of events. Fortunately, Lancaster also has a problem with this. But then what is Melchizedek’s relationship to Jesus?

Here’s one connection (sort of). Lancaster says that Melchizedek shows up bringing bread and wine to give Abraham a banquet foreshadowing the banquet of Abraham in Messianic Days. What banquet you ask?

I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven…

Matthew 8:11 (NASB)

Oh. That banquet.

So Jesus is supposed to give Abraham a banquet in the Messianic Kingdom? Seems kind of reversed. You’d think Abraham would hold a banquet in honor of King Messiah. On the other hand Abraham did give Melchizedek a tenth of everything after receiving a blessing, but we’ll get back to that.

Lancaster did bring up the midrash in Judaism that suggests Melchizedek was actually Shem, the son of Noah. While this works in terms of the chronology of events, it can’t be true because the writer of Hebrews says that Melchizedek is without genealogy or ancestry, which Shem definitely had.

Lancaster, dispelling the midrash in this case, then quotes the following:

This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.

Hebrews 6:19-20 (NASB)

We know about the order of the priesthood of Melchizedek from this:

The Lord says to my Lord:
“Sit at My right hand
Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.”
The Lord will stretch forth Your strong scepter from Zion, saying,

“Rule in the midst of Your enemies.”
Your people will volunteer freely in the day of Your power;
In holy array, from the womb of the dawn,
Your youth are to You as the dew.
The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind,
“You are a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek.”

Psalm 110:1-4 (NASB)

All this seems to indicate that the Priest/King Melchizedek had established a priestly order. What do you have to do to join this order?

For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham as he was returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, to whom also Abraham apportioned a tenth part of all the spoils, was first of all, by the translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then also king of Salem, which is king of peace. Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, he remains a priest perpetually.

Hebrews 7:1-3 (NASB)

the letterLancaster admits that on the surface, this sounds a great deal like Melchizedek could be Jesus. On the other hand, saying he was without father and mother just means that the Torah doesn’t mention them, not that they didn’t exist. Also, it says Melchizedek had no genealogy, but Jesus has a very specific genealogy. He has to in order to qualify as the Messiah King.

Lancaster directs us back to his understanding of why this letter was first authored. The Greek-speaking, Jesus-believing Jews in Jerusalem were going through a crisis of faith. They had been persecuted by the Sadducees who were in control of the Temple. They had been cut off from the Temple, from the sacrifices, and from the (Aaronic) priesthood. And as Lancaster said in past sermons, no one approaches Hashem without a priest.

But the Hebrews writer is saying that they did have a priest, just one of a different order than that of the Aaronic priesthood. But how could that be?

You shall gird them with sashes, Aaron and his sons, and bind caps on them, and they shall have the priesthood by a perpetual statute.

Exodus 29:9 (NASB)

This is a fancy way of saying that the priesthood descending from Aaron was established forever. It was never-ending. It could not be ended or replaced.

So how could Messiah, of the tribe of Judah and the house of David be a priest?

Because he belonged to a different order of priests. The order of Melchizedek. But is there such an order or was the writer of Hebrews speaking metaphorically?

I asked before, what would you have to do if there were such a priestly order and you wanted to join it? According to Psalm 110:4, you had to be immortal because it says, “a priest forever.” As far as we can tell, Melchizedek was not immortal, even though the Bible never records his death (or birth for that matter).

If Melchizedek was a literal King/Priest of the city of Salem, which at that time a Jesubite city ruled by a Canaanite King, then this couldn’t have been a role that Jesus just “popped in” for and then popped back out again up into Heaven after a brief chat and a nosh with Abraham. He would have had to rule over Salem on a day-to-day basis, being the head of a very real government in a very real city with very real human citizens.

Doesn’t seem likely that this is Jesus.

We do know something about Melchizedek as a priest, though. He blessed Abraham and Abraham paid Melchizedek.

But without any dispute the lesser is blessed by the greater. In this case mortal men receive tithes, but in that case one receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives on. And, so to speak, through Abraham even Levi, who received tithes, paid tithes, for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him.

Hebrews 7:7-10 (NASB)

AbrahamIn almost any context, Abraham, having received the promises from God, was the biggest wheel at the table, so to speak. No one was of a higher authority than Abraham relative to the purposes of God. If anything, Abraham should have blessed Melchizedek, since only the greater blesses the lesser, just like fathers bless their children. That Melchizedek, the Priest of the Most High God, blessed Abraham, then he was superior to Abraham. Also, Melchizedek should have given a “tithe” to Abraham if Abraham were truly in the catbird seat.

If, as the above-quoted verses from Hebrews 7 attest, Aaron and his descendants were “still in the loins of” Abraham, it would be as if, in blessing Abraham, Melchizedek were blessing Aaron and his sons, thus establishing that Melchizedek and his priestly order was superior to Aaron and the Levitical priestly order. This is also why Melchizedek would receive a tithe instead of paying one.

Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the Law), what further need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aaron? For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also.

Hebrews 7:11-12 (NASB)

This makes it seem as if the Melchizedekian order replaces the Aaronic order of priests, and thus Jesus replaces the Levitical priesthood, the Temple, the sacrifices, and the Torah.

Lancaster says he’ll address all that in a subsequent sermon, but in short, Jesus being in the order of the priesthood of Melchizedek doesn’t replace Aaron’s priesthood (and the sacrifices, the Temple, and the Torah), but he represents a different order that exists in a different venue, the Heavenly Temple Court, while the Aaronic priesthood has authority over the earthly Temple and sacrifices.

As I’ve already mentioned, verse 14 addresses the differences between the ancestry of Melchizedek (whose ancestors are not mentioned) and Jesus (who had a very specific ancestry).

And this is clearer still, if another priest arises according to the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become such not on the basis of a law of physical requirement, but according to the power of an indestructible life. For it is attested of Him,

“You are a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek.”

Hebrews 7:15-17 (NASB)

Notice this says someone “in the likeness of Melchizedek” and not Melchizedek himself. Also, this order of the priesthood of Melchizedek is not established through a “physical requirement,” that is, who you are descended from, but rather, “according to the power of an indestructible life.” By being the “first fruits of the dead,” (1 Corinthians 15:20), Jesus was the first to have the power of an indestructible life, thus only he was and is qualified to enter into the priestly order of Melchizedek. It comes down to the writer of Hebrews saying that Jesus can be a Priest of a different order than the Aaronic priesthood because Melchizedek had previously been accepted as a Priest of Hashem and was not a descendant of Aaron.

All this I more or less knew, though Lancaster nicely filled in some of my information gaps…

…but…

What Did I Learn?

Take silver and gold, make an ornate crown and set it on the head of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Then say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, “Behold, a man whose name is Branch, for He will branch out from where He is; and He will build the temple of the Lord. Yes, it is He who will build the temple of the Lord, and He who will bear the honor and sit and rule on His throne. Thus, He will be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace will be between the two offices.”’ (emph. mine)

Zechariah 6:11-13 (NASB)

Compare this to the following:

“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord,
“When I will raise up for David a righteous Branch;
And He will reign as king and act wisely
And do justice and righteousness in the land. (emph. mine)

Jeremiah 23:5 (NASB)

LevitesBoth of these are Messianic prophesies. The passage from Zechariah describes the Israelites returning to their Land after the Babylonian exile. The Temple was in ruins. Prophesy said the Messiah should have arrived at that point, rebuilt the Temple and restored Israel. Where was he?

According to Lancaster, Zechariah’s answer was to prophesy that a (righteous) Branch would come to rebuild the Temple. Then the prophet commanded that a crown be made and placed on the head of Joshua the High Priest, and that he would represent the Branch who would one day come to rebuild the Temple and to sit on the King’s Throne, and that the Branch would also be a Priest, and that he would bring peace between the office of the priesthood and the office of the King.

The kicker is that the High Priest’s name is “Joshua”, which is “Yehoshua” in Hebrew (transliterated), but the Jews coming out of Babylon were speaking Aramaic, not Hebrew. They would have pronounced his name “Yeshua,” which we translate into English as “Jesus.”

The writer of the Book of Hebrews is trying to encourage his readers by saying they really do have a High Priest, one who is in Heaven, even though they are cut off from the earthly High Priest. Based on the precedents set in Psalm 110 and Genesis 14, that High Priest is King Messiah, who like Melchizedek, is both a King and a Priest, which was also prophesied by Zechariah.

This was good news for the Jesus-believing Jews reading this letter, but it’s also good news for us. Even though Kohens are identifiable today, there is no Temple in which they can offer sacrifices. Yet no man comes to God without a priest. But we, like the readers of the Hebrews letter, do have a High Priest, one who brings us near to God. we have Yeshua, we have Jesus, who is both King and Priest in the order of Melchizedek.

The Rabbi and The Taxi Driver

HumbleThe position which baalei teshuvah [penitents] occupy cannot be occupied even by tzaddikim [completely righteous].

-Berachos 34b

A surgeon once encountered difficult complications during an operation and asked his assistant to see if there was anyone in the surgical suite who could help. The assistant replied that the only one who was there was the chief of the surgical staff. “There is no point in calling him,” the operating surgeon said. “He would not know what to do. He never got himself into a predicament like this.”

As far as people’s own functioning is concerned, it might be better not to have made mistakes. Still, such perfection makes them relatively useless as sources of help to others who have made mistakes, because they have no experience on which to draw to know how to best help them correct their mistakes.

A perfect tzaddik may indeed be most virtuous, but may not be able to identify and empathize with average people who need help in correcting their errors. The “position” to which the Talmud is referring may be the position of a helper, and in this respect the baal teshuvah may indeed be superior to a tzaddik.

Today I shall…

…reflect on how I dealt with the mistakes I have made, and share my experience with others who may benefit from them.

-Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski
“Growing Each Day, Shevat 8”
Aish.com

I love stories. I suppose you know that if you’ve been following these “meditations” for very long. I like the stories the Rabbis tell. Many of them are very inspiring without being particularly schmaltzy.

I like stories that tell a lesson or impart a moral, and one of my favorite movie lines about this comes from an unlikely source:

But there’s a bright side to this, and a moral. I think morals are good for you, I love morals, and the moral of this story is: If you’re walkin’ on eggs, don’t hop.

-Jack Braddock (played by Warren Oates)

I didn’t include that quote randomly. Mr Oates, who sadly passed away in 1982 at the age of 53, often played tough guys and other character roles rather than the “leading man.” In that way, he could be much more relatable to the audience than the handsome and always capable hero-type. The above-quoted line was delivered with his usual Kentucky drawl that, in spite of him playing a rather intimidating character, was like the advice you might get from your father or favorite uncle.

I think that’s what a life of holiness is supposed to be like.

Now I suppose that last statement requires an explanation. After all, how can a tough guy character actor delivering a line in a 1983 action film remind me of a life of holiness?

Time for another story.

I once had this exact conversation with a taxi driver. He was Catholic, and asked me if rabbis marry. I told him that not only are rabbis allowed to marry, they are obligated to marry. “Be fruitful and multiply” is a command to all, regardless of career or position in the community.

The taxi driver shook his head and said, “You Jews have got it good. In my community, when someone is dating and confused, or is going through a rough patch in his marriage, or needs guidance on how to discipline their kids, who should we turn to? Our celibate priest? He wouldn’t have a clue what it means to argue with your wife, he’s never been dumped, and certainly doesn’t have a kid that pokes other kids’ eyes out. If I have a question in theology, or need to know which prayers to say, then sure, I’ll go to him. But real-life issues—he can’t help me!”

This taxi driver’s comments brought home for me an important truth. Judaism does not differentiate between “clergy” and “laymen.” Whether you are a rabbi or a taxi driver, you are expected to live a “normal” life, to be involved with the struggles and pleasures of the mundane world.

But it works the other way as well. Whether you are a taxi driver or a rabbi, you are expected to make your everyday mundane world a home for G‑d. The Torah’s ideal is to create a society of holy people. Sanctity and morality are not the domain of rabbis alone: every individual must live to the same standard, and each one of us can engage in direct dialogue with G‑d and Torah.

The rabbi is there just to help others bridge the needs of the spirit with the realities of life. But he has to do the same in his own life.

Perhaps that cab was a microcosm of an ideal world. What could be more beautiful than a society in which taxi drivers share spiritual wisdom, and rabbis change diapers?

-Rabbi Aron Moss
“Can a Rabbi Get Married?”
Chabad.org

taxiRabbi Twerski and Rabbi Moss are almost telling the same tale. In the first story, we have a picture of two “experts,” two surgeons, one who is “ordinary,” and one who is “chief of the surgical staff.” In this instance, although the first surgeon has encountered a problem and needs help, no one believes the “chief,” or in the case of a moral dilemma, the “perfect tzaddik,” will be much help, because they’ve never encountered the problems of an ordinary person.

Rabbi Moss adapts that to the relationship between a married Catholic who has children and a Priest. How could the celibate Priest possibly understand the problems of a husband and a father, at least by direct experience?

But the Rabbi can. Further, not only can the Rabbi relate because he is not only allowed but commanded to marry and have children, but he is, in many ways, no greater keeper of holiness or wisdom than the taxi driver.

What could be more beautiful than a society in which taxi drivers share spiritual wisdom, and rabbis change diapers?

That’s a life of holiness we can all live and pursue. In some ways, maybe that’s the only way we can understand God and other human beings, by being immersed both in a world of spirituality, and in a world of going to work every day, taking out the garbage, and changing diapers. Life has many troubles, but a journey of faith does not serve God if it is undertaken in some ivory tower or study hall where you never encounter pain, frustration, or tears.

In these days especially, when by G-d’s kindness we stand at the threshold of redemption, we must make every conceivable effort to strengthen every facet of our religion. Mitzvot must be observed b’hidur, with “beauty,” beyond minimal requirements. Customs must be kept scrupulously, nothing compromised. It is a Mitzva and duty of every Rabbi in Israel to inform his congregation that the current tribulations and agonies are the “birth-pangs of Mashiach.” G-d is demanding that we return to Torah and mitzvot, that we not hinder the imminent coming of our righteous Mashiach.

“Today’s Day”
Thursday, Sh’vat 8, 5703
Compiled by the Lubavitcher Rebbe
Translated by Yitschak Meir Kagan
Chabad.org

The baal teshuvah and the tzaddik both live inside of you, and you will see the return of Mashiach, may he come soon and in our day.