Tag Archives: Yeshua

What If Messiah Became King Two-Thousand Years Ago?

I’m having some frustrating connection problems today. I can get to Google sporadically, but I can’t open search results, nor can I get to Amazon. I’ve tried a Windows and Mac computer and multiple web browsers but it doesn’t make a lot of difference. I’ve rebooted my modem a few times and it seems to help temporarily, so I don’t know if it’s my connection or if there’s some sort of horrendous DDOS event attacking part of the internet.

The reason this is particularly frustrating just now is that in one of my Gmail accounts (when I can get to it), I found a Bookbub notice for an eBook called A Time to Every Purpose by Ian Andrew. The Google books blurb says about the book:

After eighty years of brutal Nazi domination millions have been persecuted and killed in a never-ending holocaust. But this oppressive and violent world still retains a few heroes;Now Leigh, the preeminent scientist of her generation, is pitched into the final battle. One that ranges from London to Berlin to Jerusalem. But will she destroy what she loves to save what she can only imagine? After one more murder and one chance remark, now is the time to reset history. The new novel by Ian Andrew.

However, the Bookbub description is more interesting:

Visit an alternate timeline where Jesus was never crucified, leading to 2,000 years of peace — and a society totally unequipped to contend with the rise of Nazism. Will inventor Leigh Wilson destroy everything she knows to reset history?

I’m tempted to buy the book (although since I cannot currently reach Amazon, I don’t know how) just to see how the author pulled off not crucifying Rav Yeshua and yet had him fulfill his role of Messiah in the first century CE (which is what would presumably have to happen for their to be 2,000 years of peace).

On my sister blog Powered by Robots. I’m quite tempted to write a short story describing the start of this alternate history, but knowing what I know theologically, I can’t imagine the circumstances in which Rav Yeshua would have deliberately avoided the crucifixion and began his reign as King Messiah at that point in history.

It would mean rewriting certain very significant portions of the Bible. Not just in the Apostolic Scriptures, but in the portions of the Tanakh that point to Moshiach.

However, it is a compelling concept. I wonder how best to approach it?

Sukkot Without A Sukkah

Sukkah in the rainSeems strange, right? No sukkah this year. Let me explain.

My parents are aging and their health is none too good. My wife and I haven’t been able to visit them in a while. A window opened up in our schedules, so we took a long weekend and drove down to their place in Southwestern Utah last Friday. We stayed Saturday and drove back home Sunday.

As most of you reading this probably know, Sukkot began at Sundown last Sunday.

Now we got home at about 2:30 p.m., but I was all in from a nine-hour drive so I didn’t haul out our little sukkah kit and put it together as I usually do.

However, yesterday morning, the missus and I were up at the same time along with our son David, and I asked her if she’d like me to assemble the sukkah when I got home from work.

Her answer kind of surprised me.

She said that I built the sukkah each year because I wanted to, not because she wanted me to.

Hmmmm.

I distinctly remember one year her thanking me for remembering to put up the sukkah when she forgot.

We never have meals in it and it’s rather small, maybe fitting two or three people max.

In our marriage, she’s the Jewish spouse and I’m the goy. I suppose I could have built it anyway, but something told me that if she didn’t want to observe the mitzvah as a Jew, who am I to do so (and not being Jewish, I can’t really observe the mitzvah anyway)?

sukkot jerusalem
Sukkot in Jerusalem

I know some of you are going to say there is an application for Gentiles in Sukkot and I agree with you. On the other hand, without the Jewish people, without the Exodus, without the forty years in the desert, there would be no celebration of Sukkot, and none of that has to do with we goyim, even if we are disciples of Rav Yeshua.

So this year, it’s Sukkot, but without a sukkah.

Perhaps it is fitting since I have distanced myself from at least certain elements of Messianic Judaism. But while some Messianic Jews feel it’s important to separate Gentiles from Jewish praxis, they still can’t insist we distance ourselves from Hashem (and I’m not suggesting they are).

On the other hand, Judaism in general believes that the goyim can have a place in the world to come under certain circumstances (although the Noahide Laws don’t quite map to the life of a “Judaically aware” non-Jewish disciple of Yeshua), so while a Jewish celebration such as Sukkot might not be appropriate for us (again, some of you will argue against this), entering the presence of Hashem through the merit of Rav Yeshua is allowed for us.

So for me, at least for this year, the sukkah will have to exist in my imagination and in the future when we will all enter Hashem’s House of Prayer, which is a shelter for all people, Israel and the nations alike.

Atonement, The Temple, and Tisha B’Av

Animal offerings aided the atonement process, as they drove home the point that really the person deserved to be slaughtered, but an animal was being used in his/her place. The offering also helped atonement in many mystical ways. But we should not mistake the animal offering for more than what it is. It was an aid to atonement; it did not cause atonement.

“Atonement Today”
from the Ask the Rabbi column
Aish.com

One of the questions Christians sometimes have about Judaism is how religious Jews expect to make atonement for sins without the Temple. The traditional narrative goes that God allowed the Temple to be destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE because He had annulled the system of animal sacrifices, the system of Levitical priests, and all of the promises and commands about them that God previously said were eternal.

Christians tend to believe that God sent Jesus to replace the Temple sacrifices and to be our permanent, once in a lifetime atonement, as opposed to having to make an animal sacrifice every time a Jew committed a sin.

I can only believe Christians imagine that there was a perpetual line of Jews in front of the Temple waiting their turn to make a sacrifice. If that were the case, if every time a Jew committed a sin of any kind they had to make the journey to the Temple, they wouldn’t be able to go anyplace else.

Praying ChildIn contrast, for a Christian, every time he or she sins, they can pray to God in Christ’s name where ever they are and whatever they’re doing, and it’s all good.

Well, that’s not how it worked.

First of all, not all sacrifices had to do with sin and even those that did were specifically for unintentional sins, that is, an act someone committed they didn’t know what a sin. When they discovered that they had sinned unintentionally, then they offered the appropriate sacrifices at the Temple.

That probably wasn’t all that common.

But the quote above speaks of the animal being a substitute for the person offering up the animal, that the person knew he or she should be the one to die instead. What about that?

The verse says: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit” (Psalms 51:19). This teaches us that a person who does teshuva is regarded as if he had ascended to Jerusalem, built the Temple, erected the Altar, and offered all the offerings upon it. (Midrash – Vayikra Rabba 7:2)

When a person transgresses a mitzvah in the Torah, he destroys some of his inner holiness. He cuts himself off from the Godliness that lies at the essence of his soul. When a person does teshuva — “spiritual return” — he renews and rebuilds the inner world that he has destroyed. On one level, he is rebuilding his personal “Temple” so that God’s presence (so to speak) will return there to dwell.

-ibid

If we can understand not only the Psalmist David but the Rabbi correctly, it would seem that teshuvah, or sincere repentance is what draws us nearer to God on a spiritual level. That’s as true today as it was thousands of years ago when the Temple stood in Jerusalem, and further back still when the Mishkan or Tabernacle went with the Children of Israel through the wilderness.

So why make animal sacrifices at all if the true sacrifice is a broken spirit?

What inhabited the Tabernacle and later the Temple?

Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.

Exodus 40:34-35 (NASB)

It happened that when the priests came from the holy place, the cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord.

1 Kings 8:10-11

shekhinaThe Shekinah, often referred to in Christianity as the “Glory of God,” filled and inhabited the Most Holy Place in the Tabernacle and later Solomon’s Temple.

Prayer and true repentance brought any Jew, no matter where he or she was, spiritually closer to God. An animal sacrifice was required to allow the Jew to come nearer to where the Shekinah dwelt physically.

The Aish Rabbi doesn’t say that exactly, and I must admit the idea isn’t my own. I simply can’t remember where I learned it. If it was from anyone reading this, I’m not trying to rip you off, I really can’t recall the source of this information.

This year, Tisha B’Av or the Ninth day of the month of Av, the solemn commemoration of the many disasters that have befallen the Jewish people, begins this coming Saturday at sundown and continues through Sunday.

Jews all over the world will fast, and pray, and turn their hearts to God. I don’t mean to say that the Temple isn’t important, even vital to the lives of the Jewish people. Jews will weep over the destruction of the Temple on Tisha B’Av as well as for many other tragedies.

The Jewish people long for the coming of Messiah who will rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem and restore the sacrifices and the Priesthood.

So am I saying that Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus Christ) is irrelevant to Jews, that they can pray to God and be forgiven of sins without acknowledging Yeshua?

That’s complicated.

For we non-Jews, our access to the God of Israel is the direct result of our faith in Yeshua and all he accomplished, but I don’t believe for a second that he replaced anything. We non-Jewish disciples of our Master require our Rav in order to benefit from any of the blessings of the New Covenant.

The advent of Messiah was the next logical extension of the all the promises of God to Israel we find in the Tanakh (Old Testament), and then to the rest of the world. Yeshua came the first time as the forerunner of how God would fulfill the New Covenant promises. That includes his being the forerunner of the total and permanent forgiveness of all Israel’s sins as it states in the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:34; Romans 11:27) When he comes again, it won’t be as a preview but the main event.

I can’t believe that God out of hand rejects all Jewish people who didn’t convert to Christianity and believe in the Goyishe King. That would include the vast majority of Jews who have lived and died over the past two thousand years. God would never abandon His people Israel this way, nor expect them to violate the Torah mitzvot for the sake of eating a baked ham on Easter.

Tisha B'Av
photo credit: Alex Levin http://www.artlevin.com

I do believe that a Jew who acknowledges Yeshua as the sent Messiah, the Jewish King, Rav Yeshua, not to draw them away from Jewish praxis but to intensify it, crystallize it, bring that practice into sharper focus relative to the entry of the New Covenant into our world a bit at a time, is acknowledging Yeshua’s role as the mediator of that covenant, the living representation of the permanent forgiveness of sins, and the one who will rebuild the Temple at the end of these “birthpangs of Messiah” we currently experience.

Starting at sundown this Saturday, after the conclusion of Shabbat, there will be many tears shed by the Jewish people in their homes and their synagogues for all they have lost. But there will come a day when He shall wipe away every tear (Revelation 21:4) and return joy and fulfillment to His people Israel through Messiah.

And when God has restored Israel, then the nations will be healed as well.

Afterword: I’m fully aware that I’m no expert on the Temple or the sacrifices, and I wrote this blog post on the fly rather than doing a lot of research (as I probably should have), so if you find any errors I’ve made, let me know. Thanks.

The Gentiles and Passover Dilemma Redux

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.

LambThis 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.”

PassoverPretty 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)

shabbosExcept, 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

shabbat meal
Shabbat meal, Photo: shelanu.cz

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.

I’ve written about Gentiles and Passover many times before, including in Passover, Messianic Judaism, and Mutual Inclusiveness and Passover for Gentiles in the Diaspora, Not in Jerusalem (the latter specifically addressing the topic of discussion going on in Facebook). And in spite of all that, I once even reblogged something about No Christian Seders, Please, but that was more specifically aimed at churches that conduct their own Passover seders rather than Christians who are guests at a Jewish seder (but of course, even President Obama conducts a Seder at the White House each year rather than being a guest of Jewish hosts).

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.

Traffic ConesIt’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 (Matthew 8:11) in the world to come.

A Case For Rosh Ha-Hodashim As The First Of The Year

I periodically receive emails from Hannah Weiss at Restorers of Zion. I probably haven’t personally emailed Hannah is years, but I’m still on the Restorers’ mailing list. I think my friend Tom keeps in touch with her, and I believe his perspectives on Judaism, the Bible, and Messiah more mirror Hannah’s than my own viewpoint.

As I understand it, many modern expressions of Messianic Judaism seek to identify and emulate modern religious and cultural Judaism. I hope I’m not being too presumptuous in saying that Restorers seeks to discover Judaism in the ancient Biblical texts as they were interpreted in the days of Yeshua’s earthly “ministry” and before, rather than as they are understood by modern Rabbinic Judaism in our day.

The beginning of Hannah’s most current email stated:

Rosh Ha-Hodashim is arguably the most neglected of the LORD’s “appointed times” for Israel… receiving less attention from the Torah-observant community than even marginal holidays like “Tu B’Shvat” and “Lag B’Omer”.

In 2012, RZ set out to investigate what happened to the New Year originally commanded by the LORD.

We discovered unexpected treasures: scriptural truth, spiritual wealth, and even buried wisdom from ancient Jewish sages – all connected to this very first commandment given to Israel as a nation.

A great deal of the Forgotten Milestone points to Yeshua, which hints that the rabbinic decision in 90 CE to move away from earlier rabbinic custom was conscious and calculated.

So what exactly is “Rosh Ha-Hodashim?” Well, you can find it’s source here:

Now the Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, “This month shall be the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year to you.”

Exodus 12:1-2 (NASB)

Torah platesThere are four “new years” spoken of in the Torah, but Rosh Hashanah or the “head of the year” that occurs on Tishrei 1 is the most well-known today. Hannah and Restorers argue that there is a mystery as to why Rosh Ha-Hodashim has been “hidden” since 90 CE.

Now I was really curious and followed the link in the email to Restoring the Real “Rosh Hashana”.

On that webpage, you can find seven articles in Microsoft Office Word format. They are freely available for download. I downloaded all seven plus their “sources” paper and started reading and taking notes.

Is there a mystery behind Rosh Ha-Hodashim, one that points to the resurrected Yeshua as Messiah? Hannah Weiss and the people at Restorers seem to think so. However, from a plain reading of the text of Exodus 12:2, at least in English (Hannah renders the verse in Hebrew and explains problems with how it’s been historically translated), this “new year” is only mentioned in a single verse, and only then to instruct the Children of Israel, being held as slaves in Egypt, in how to prepare the Passover lamb and the related rituals that would allow them to live while all of the firstborn of Egypt would die.

What if Rosh Ha-Hodashim is nothing more than to commemorate the escape of the Children of Israel from slavery as well as physical and spiritual death, and their eventual coming together as a nation and receiving the Torah at Sinai? Is there really a “Messianic connection” that’s been hidden for over two-thousand years?

Here’s a summary of what I discovered in reviewing the Restorers’ Rosh Ha-Hodashim papers. The seven papers are not only study guides but “meditations” to be pondered over, beginning on Nissan 1 and concluding on Nissan 7 in preparation of Pesach and celebration of the resurrected King.

I can only briefly quote from each paper and hopefully, I’ve selected representative portions that make the Restorers’ point, as well as my own, clear.

Unlike the Tamid, it is not written anywhere that the Passover lamb brought atonement. Nevertheless, it was understood to provoke the compassion aroused within G-d for His people: “Of all of God’s creations, the lamb possesses the innate ability to arouse mercy by its voice.” (Sefer HaYetzirah, a Hasidic work commenting on the month of Nisan)

This idea becomes quite profound when we remember that G-d brought Israel redemption before they called on His name. They were simply groaning because of their troubles, and yet this was enough for G-d to remember His covenant:

And the sons of Israel sighed from the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry for help rose up to G-d from the bondage. And G-d heard their groaning; and G-d remembered His covenant, and Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob. And G-d saw the sons of Israel, and G-d knew. (Exod.2:23-25, from the Hebrew)

-Meditations for Rosh Ha-Hodashim, the New Year
2: Jewish Tradition with Messianic Potential, page 3

MessiahThis begs the question, was Yeshua’s symbolic sacrifice meant to bring redemption to Israel before they call on the Lamb of God?

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’”

Matthew 23:37-39 (NASB)

Other significance (meditations, page 4)

What are we to learn from these widely different events occurring on Rosh Ha-Hodashim? What do they all have in common, besides the date itself? We see here new beginnings, historical turning points… but mostly a theme of “cleansing and closure”. The earth emerged freed from an irreversible corruption, a Jewish leader left behind his life of exile, disobedient Jews were made accountable to the Covenant, G-d rewarded a king who had carried out His judgment, and three different sanctuaries were (or will be) made ready for pure worship.

While born-again Christians often relate to Redemption as an individual experience that unfolds in private communion with G-d, in Jewish understanding it is a communal experience with world-changing impact. These different views are emphasized by Jewish antagonists to Messianic faith, claiming that an experience of personal Redemption is not a Jewish concept.

How closely is that opinion connected to the following, which reflects a more modern Orthodox Jewish interpretation?

The special attitude to Tishre and Nissan as two very significant points in the annual cycle, both connected to new beginnings, is voiced in the dispute between R. Eliezer and R. Yehoshua on the date of the Creation. While R. Eliezer’s opinion is that the world was created in Tishre (Bavli, Rosh ha-Shana, 10b), R. Yehoshua claims that Nissan is the first of months (ibid. 11a). For the Maharal, this dispute represents different approaches to the basics of life. He writes that Nissan and Tishre are the main months of the year, but while Nissan expresses the life force and vitality of the year at the emotional level, Tishre expresses the holiness and spirituality of the year at the intellectual level (Sifre ha-Maharal, Hiddushe Aggadot I, 94-97).

-Dr. Miriam Faust
Bar-Ilan University’s Parashat Hashavua Study Center
The Days of Awe – Renewal and Reassessment

Orthodox JewsThe main point of contention between this Messianic point of view on Rosh Ha-Hodashim and the more normative Orthodox Jewish approach is this:

In the orthodox community, the honoring of Rosh Hodesh Nisan consists of reading the Torah passage where the relevant command appears (Exod.12:1-20, called Parashat HaHodesh). A few additions to the daily prayers appear (a partial Hallel, Yaaleh V’yavo, the Musaf for Rosh Hodesh), while petitional prayers and public mourning customs are omitted, as mentioned in Meditation 2. Otherwise the day is treated like every other Rosh Hodesh (new moon), the observance of which is optional: “Many have the custom to mark Rosh Chodesh with a festive meal and reduced work activity. The latter custom is prevalent amongst women, who have a special affinity with Rosh Chodesh.” (Observances for Rosh Hodesh Nisan, Chabad.org)

This neglect leaves the field open for Yeshua’s disciples to construct Messianic traditions and customs, as the Holy Spirit teaches us about Rosh Ha-Hodashim. The potential is greater than we have explored so far, but here we offer a suggested observance as a starting point.

-Meditations for Rosh Ha-Hodashim, the New Year
3: Celebrating Rosh Ha-Hodashim, page 1

You will have to read the first three papers/meditations to get the entire context up to this point, but my question is, how much of Messiah is being read into this holiday by the Restorers of Zion author?

Granted, many groups, from the various expressions of Messianic Judaism and Hebrew Roots, to some denominations of normative Christianity see “Jesus in the Passover,” so the symbolism of the Passover seder elements is very familiar to Yeshua-believers, but is there a wider context related to Rosh Ha-Hodashim that we’ve all been missing?

The Mishnah describes the first of Nisan as “the new year for kings and festivals” (Rosh Hashana 1:1).

The “new year for kings” meant that counting the reign of Israel’s king was always dependent on Nisan.

Meditations for Rosh Ha-Hodashim, the New Year
4: Receiving the King, page 1

I’m sure you can see where this writer is going in connecting Nissan 1 with King Messiah. In this paper, the coronation of King Solomon (I Kings 1:39-40) is compared not only with Zechariah’s prophesy of the coming of Messiah (Zechariah 14:4) but with Yeshua’s entry into Jerusalem depicted in John 12:12-14 and Mark 11:10.

Also…

Only John’s gospel pinpoints the day when Jerusalem celebrated the arrival of her King. It was five days before the Passover (see John 12:1,12). Since the Pesach was slaughtered on the second half of the 14th day, this would have been the 10th of Nisan (in Jewish reckoning, partial days are counted as days). We now have a clue to the strange, unexplained command from G-d to choose the Pesach lamb on Nisan 10, even though it wouldn’t be sacrificed until Nisan 14:

Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying: On the tenth of this month they are each one to take a lamb for themselves, according to their fathers’ households, a lamb for each household…. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month; then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to slaughter it at twilight. (Exod.12:3-6)

-ibid, page 3

The AkedahIn the next paper, a further connection is made, this time between the Akedah or Binding of Isaac, and Nissan:

It’s universally accepted today that Akedat Yitzhak, the Binding of Isaac (Genesis 22), is associated with Tishrei 2 (the second day of Rosh Hashanah). This appeared fairly early in rabbinic history, and is supported by its mention in the Talmud (B. Megillah 31a). By the 3rd century, it was being explicitly connected with Yom Ha-Truah, the Feast of Trumpets (B. Rosh Hashanah 16a).

However, the original place of the Akedah in the Jewish calendar was Nisan 14, later to be designated by G-d as the day for sacrificing the Pesach. Following is some of the evidence (from “Torah Reading as a Weapon: Rosh Hashanah and the Akedah,” Rabbi Elie Kaunfer, Executive Director, Mechon Hadar).

-Meditations for Rosh Ha-Hodashim, the New Year
5: The Messiah, Our Passover, page 1

I don’t know how accurate this is as I lack the necessary education and references to verify it, but if true, it is a compelling parallel between the Akedah and the crucifixion of Rav Yeshua.

However, this connection isn’t recognized today. In fact, this is the first I’ve ever heard of it. Why?

According to Rabbi Kaunfer, the connection of the Akedah and Pesach was deliberately broken after the destruction of the Temple, in an effort to erase its powerful association with Yeshua’s sacrifice.

-ibid, page 2

However, according to this paper’s author, that dissociation was not universal, at least as early as the fourth century CE:

In that context, the 4th-century Mekhilta of Rabbi Ishmael further strengthens the association between Passover and the Akedah, and the similarity between Isaac and Yeshua. Commenting on Exodus 12:13, “When I see the blood [of the Pesach lamb] I will pass over you…” the Mekhilta states: “I see the blood of the binding of Isaac.” This was apparently relying on another tradition, handed down in the name of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (2nd c. CE), which said that although not actually sacrificed, Isaac gave a quarter of his blood as an atonement for Israel. (from “Vayera: What Happened to Isaac?” Israel National News, 21/oct/10 – http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/9768 )

-ibid, page 3

Talmudic RabbisFurther, early minority Rabbinic opinion suggests that Abraham actually did successfully sacrifice Isaac (although this contradicts the Biblical account) and that Hashem subsequently resurrected Isaac.

Of course, even if this occurred, the resurrection of Isaac wouldn’t be the same as Rav Yeshua’s since Isaac died in old age while Yeshua, once resurrected, will never die again. If he could, then our own promised resurrection would be questionable and even in vain, since our lives would not be eternal.

But Isaac, in this interpretation, is meant to “point” to Rav Yeshua, not be identical to him. He’s a signpost along the way and the goal is Messiah.

But Messiah did escape death and the tomb and, according to Gospel accounts, was seen by many witnesses. Now here’s something curious:

So the other disciple who had first come to the tomb then also entered, and he saw and believed. For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.

John 20:8-9

Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just exactly as the women also had said; but Him they did not see.” And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.

Luke 24:24-27

These verses are quoted in “6: The Resurrection,” and in reading them, I’ve always wondered exactly what Yeshua said to these men from the scriptures that convinced them Moses and the Prophets really spoke of him being resurrected? Certainly Judaism of today doesn’t interpret Moses or the Prophets in this manner, and I’ve never been convinced that Christianity has been very successful in this area either. I’ve never found a “smoking gun” pointing directly from the Prophets to Yeshua.

This sixth paper quotes from Psalm 16:9-11, Hosea 6:1-3, and other scriptures (see the paper for details) as compelling evidence for the resurrection of Yeshua, and I don’t necessarily doubt that, but again, does that make Rosh Ha-Hodashim more relevant somehow?

According to the Restorers author, the answer to my question is this:

It is appropriate for Yeshua’s disciples to celebrate His Resurrection either on Nisan 17, in memory of that singular event; or on Nisan 16, the day designated for the Barley First-Fruits offering.

The offering itself was suspended after the Temple’s destruction, with no substitute customs ordained by the rabbinic community. All halachic discussion over the generations has focused on who should avoid eating newly sprouted grain before Nisan 16 every year.

Therefore, Yeshua’s followers have an open area on which to build a distinctly Messianic custom to celebrate the connection of His Resurrection with the Barley First-Fruits offering.

-Resurrection, page 5

I’ve skipped from quoting portions of the paper providing more details about the festival of first fruits and the Omer for the sake of length, but again, these papers are freely available online for you to read and download.

PassoverAm I convinced? I don’t know. As a non-Jewish disciple of Rav Yeshua, I’ve chosen to back away from celebrating most of the moadim or “appointed times,” since the vast majority of them have exclusive significance to Israel and the Jewish people. The most notable exceptions are Passover and Sukkot (Festival of Booths). I have a Passover seder in my home every year, largely because I have a Jewish wife and children.

I build a sukkah in my backyard every year, both because I have a Jewish wife and children, and because Sukkot seems to be that one moadim on the Jewish calendar that has applications to the people of the nations:

Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths. And it will be that whichever of the families of the earth does not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, there will be no rain on them. If the family of Egypt does not go up or enter, then no rain will fall on them; it will be the plague with which the Lord smites the nations who do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Booths. This will be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all the nations who do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Booths.

Zechariah 14:16-19

Passover is a little more questionable, even though many “Messianic Gentiles” and Hebrew Roots Christians, as well as more normative Christian churches hold some variation of a seder seeing “Jesus in the Passover”.

It’s possible that there has been an overlooked significance in Rosh Ha-Hodashim, and that in the Messianic future, we will all be rejoicing the “new year for the King” on Nissan 1. By the way, the first of Nissan or Rosh Chodesh Nissan occurs this year on April 9th, which is also Shabbat. Erev Pesach or the first evening of the Passover is on Nissan 14, which is Friday, April 22nd this year.

If any of this is interesting or even compelling to you, use the link I provided above, download the seven (eight, actually) papers and decide of some sort of observance or commemoration is appropriate for you. If nothing else, like me, you’ll learn something new.

How To Choose Life Over Death

The other day I read an article written by Rabbi Noah Weinberg of blessed memory called “Free Will – Our Greatest Power” originally published over 15 years ago at Aish.com. I only casually mentioned it on this blog post, and thought Rabbi Weinberg’s understanding of free will was worth sharing more in detail.

“How precious is man, created in the image of God.”

Talmud – Avot 3:18

What does it mean to be created in the image of God?

Unlike other creations, the human being has free will. Within this divine spark lies our potential to shape and change the world.

Proper use of free will beautifies and perfects. Misuse of free will plunders and destroys.

It is a uniquely human endeavor to learn how to use free will properly.

-Rabbi Weinberg

I know that R. Weinberg was writing for a Jewish publication, envisioning a primarily Jewish readership, and probably not considering non-Jewish readers at all, but it does say man (humanity) was created in God’s image, not just the Jewish people and not just Israel, so this should apply to the rest of us too, right?

Actually, according to the article, God did us two favors, not just one. He gave us free will and He told us what He did. That is, we are aware we have free will and can exercise it.

This is somewhat different from what you’ll hear in certain Christian circles, especially those that favor Calvinism (for the record, I don’t subscribe to either Calvinism or Arminianism, because I think this false dichotomy was constructed by people who didn’t interpret the Bible very well). Supposedly we have no free will or only a very limited form of it, because we cannot have consciously chosen God. Only God can choose us. If we had free will, say the Calvinists, it would undermine God’s total sovereignty over the entire universe.

Baloney.

So let’s cut to the chase. What is free will? R. Weinberg tells us:

It is a sweltering summer day. You trudge past the ice cream parlor. Wow – 10 new flavors! Special of the day! Frozen yogurt, too! You go inside and proclaim: “I’ll have double-fudge chocolate, please.”

Is picking chocolate over the vast array of other flavors a “free will choice?” No. It is simply the exercise of a preference, just as a cow chooses to eat hay instead of grass.

“Free will” refers to the type of decision which is uniquely human: a moral choice.

But don’t mistakenly think that morality is the choice between “good and evil.” Everyone chooses to be “good” – even the most evil, immoral people. Hitler rationalized that the Jews were the enemies of the world, so in his mind he justified that as doing “good.”

Rather, free will is the choice between life and death. As the Torah says: “I have put before you, life and death… Choose life so that you may live.” (Deut. 30:19)

Now before we go crazy making all kinds of assumptions, let’s take a look at Deuteronomy 30:19 in context.

“See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity; in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the Lord your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it. But if your heart turns away and you will not obey, but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall surely perish. You will not prolong your days in the land where you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess it. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.”

Deuteronomy 30:15-20 (NASB)

So who’s speaking? Moses. Who’s he addressing? The Children of Israel. Is anyone else there? Arguably, there’s a mixed multitude of non-Israelites, Egyptians and people from other nations who left Egypt with Moses and the Children of Israel.

So, to whom do these verses apply? In their original context, they apply only to the people present and their descendants, but let’s drill down into that a little bit.

Some would argue that because of the (supposed) presence of a “mixed multitude” who had attached themselves to Israel, that the words of Moses, along with the Torah of Moses, is as appropriately accessed by the non-Jew as the Jew, particularly the non-Jew who is a disciple of Rav Yeshua (Jesus), that very specific population I sometimes call Talmidei Yeshua.

But is this so?

Probably not. Here’s why.

Whatever happened to the mixed multitude? If you clicked the link I posted above and read the blog post, you have your answer. It was always understood that the non-Israelites would fully assimilate into Israel by the third generation. The words of Moses applied to these non-Israelites because they had made a multi-generational commitment to attach to Israel and for their grandchildren and great-grandchildren to intermarry and become part of the tribes.

In other words, there were no Gentiles who intended for their descendants to remain Gentiles, though attached to Israel in some matter, resident aliens perhaps, who bore the same covenant obligations to Hashem as did the Children of Israel.

However, when Rav Weinberg cites Deut. 30:19 as the definition of free will, the choice between life and death, does that apply, not only to Jews, and not only to Christians, but to all human beings across time?

Everyone who has ever been born, lived, and died will one day stand before God to be judged. Both Christians and Jews believe this. So it would seem that all of us, each and every one, must have free will because we were all created in the image of God and because, based on the fact that we will one day be judged, we all have the ability to consciously choose between life and death.

Yes, the situation we see in Deut. 30 is a specific case and it attached highly specific covenant responsibilities onto Israel (or rather it re-states those commitments as they were originally given at Sinai), but in a much broader sense, Israel and the nations choose between life and death all the time.

Does anyone really choose death over life?!

We all want to be great. But achieving our goals takes a lot of effort. So we get distracted and take the easy route instead. The escape route.

I agree. No one would deliberately, meaningfully choose death instead of life. Rav Weinberg says that even Hitler believed in his own twisted mind that he was doing good and choosing life. He just (grossly) misunderstood what good and life happen to be.

So how do we choose death? Hint: we do it all the time, most of us, anyway.

It’s Sunday afternoon. You’re bored. You grab the remote and slump down into the couch. You could be using your time to learn and grow. But instead you choose the easier option of painlessly passing the afternoon… escaping into the world of TV.

Each day we are confronted with many escape routes. Daydreaming, drugs, checking our email for the seventh time this hour…

Killing time is suicide on the installment plan. And suicide is the most drastic and final form of escape.

Basically, any decision that takes us away from God and puts our personal desires ahead of Him is a form of choosing death, and as R. Weinberg put it, every time we choose death, we’re committing suicide an inch at a time.

Whenever we consider our pain or our desires or our cravings first and then act upon them, we are choosing death.

So just how does one live a life that is flawlessly pious? I mean, it sounds really difficult, and probably pretty boring, right?

R. Weinberg believed he had the answers in five stages.

Stage One: Self-Awareness

You aren’t going to be able to correctly choose life over death unless you start becoming aware of the decisions you’re making and why you’re making them. Choosing to watch a football game over studying the Bible isn’t an accident. It’s a decision. Start monitoring each decision you make. Start watching yourself exercise free will.

Stage Two: Be Your Own Person

What does that mean? I’m “me,” right? Well, maybe. R. Weinberg wrote:

Don’t accept society’s beliefs as your own unless you’ve thought them through and agree with them. Live for yourself, not for society.

Oh man, I could really go off here. I recently quoted Israeli writer Naomi Ragen when she said:

I suddenly remembered something my Harvard-educated son recently told me: “Many American Jews will blindly follow any agenda created by the Liberal establishment because it makes them feel virtuous and like part of the in-crowd.”

Also, in the past several months, the news and social media have been highlighting groups of college and university students who are apparently “majoring in the minors” by complaining about everything from the potential for offensive Halloween costumes to culturally insensitive food on campus.

As Dr. Everett Piper, President of Oklahoma Wesleyan University quipped, This is not a day care, it’s a university.

I know I’m hammering away pretty hard on political and social liberals, and especially very young ones, but I must admit that putting your own wants first isn’t just a liberal trait. It’s a human trait, and one we are all very capable of exercising, every single one of us.

I don’t object to someone being liberal, or conservative, or Christian, or an atheist, or any other alignment or orientation. I object to people selecting an orientation or alignment without thinking it through and making a conscious and informed decision.

So many people simply follow the herd because it’s the path of least resistance (and because they think it makes them virtuous, part of the in-crowd, and “cool”). I think that’s what R. Weinberg is talking about.

Check your assumptions and make sure that they are really yours and not someone else’s. Don’t be a puppet of society.

Stage Three: Distinguish Between Body and Soul

Weinberg calls this a “raging battle”:

BODY: Gravitates toward transitory comforts and sensual pleasures. Desires to quit, to dream, to drown in passions, to procrastinate. Says: “Give me some food, warmth, a pillow – and let me take life easy.” Looks for the escape of sleep… slipping away into death

SOUL: Seeks understanding, meaning, productivity, accomplishment, permanence, greatness. Confronts challenges. Embraces reality and truth.

Which plays out as:

Soul: “Let’s set some goals.”
Body: “Leave me alone, I’d rather sleep.”
Soul: “Come on, let’s be great!”
Body: “Relax, what’s the big deal if we wait til tomorrow?”

Do you ever feel like this? I do all the time. One example is when I realize I have to get up by 4 a.m. to make it to the gym when it opens at five so I can work out. This is the only time during the weekday I can do this, and I think particularly because it’s winter and cold and dark, I don’t want to do it.

I make myself but it’s never easy. Once I get to the gym and get moving, I’m OK, but that five or ten minutes when I first wake up, I’m arguing with myself about getting up vs. staying in bed and taking a “rest day”.

That plays into the next level.

Stage Four: Identify With Your Soul

This is sort of like saying I’m a soul that has a body rather than a body that has a soul. Instead of saying, “I’m hungry,” realize the soul means “My body needs food.” I know. It’s not that easy. That’s why using your free will to choose life takes discipline and practice, like learning to play a musical instrument (although this also takes innate talent) or working out at a gym.

In his article, R. Weinberg outlines specific strategies for how to train yourself to favor the viewpoint of the soul over the body and thus to more consistently choose life over death.

However, the final battle isn’t between your body and your soul.

Level Five: Make Your Will God’s Will

Weinberg wraps up his missive by stating:

The highest stage of free will is not when you ask yourself, “What does my soul want?” It’s when you ask yourself, “What does God want?” When that is your prime interest, you will have achieved the highest form of living. You are using your free will to merge with the most meaningful and powerful force in the universe: the transcendental.

Free will is the choice between life and death. Attach yourself to God and you will be attached to eternity – the ultimate form of life itself.

Make your will His will. If you do, you’ll be a little less than God Himself. Partners in changing the world.

The final battle is won (or continually being won) when you choose God’s will over your own day after day. As Weinberg said, it’s the highest form of exercising free will and choosing life. You are consciously, deliberately choosing God and life in abundance.

Once you embrace and fully integrate God’s will into your own, any concerns about life being difficult and boring seem rather silly.

Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

Philippians 1:18-21

Non-Jews have no covenant standing before God, except perhaps the covenant God made with Moses. However, through the mediator of the New Covenant, through Rav Yeshua and through God’s infinite mercy and grace, we have been permitted to partake in the blessings of the New Covenant, even though only Judah and Israel are named participants.

Hence our devotion to our Rav.

Every Jewish person is born into a covenant relationship with God whether they want to be or not. Yet they all still have to make a conscious decision to choose life or death. No one else has ever been born into such a relationship with God, and yet we are still given the option to choose life over death by choosing to make God’s will our will.

It is said that no one comes to the Father except through the Son (which takes a bit of explaining which is why I’m linking to another blog post), and if we believe that, particularly as non-Jews, then choosing to become disciples of Rav Yeshua, whether you call that being a Christian or a Talmid Yeshua, is making that choice.

Every morning when we wake up, that choice is before us. “So choose life in order that you may live.”

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