Why Isn’t Simchat Torah in Nissan?

For those of you who may not be familiar with Simchat Torah (Joy of Torah), it is the holiday that comes on the 8th day after Sukkot.  On this day we all get together in the Synagogue and read the end portion of Deuteronomy, then as the congregation sings (and in some places will also have Davidic dancing, usually a Hora since everyone can dance the Hora) the Torah is rolled back to the very beginning, and after that is done the first portion of Genesis is read.

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I have been blessed in that many times I have helped to roll back the Torah, and believe-you-me if you want to have forearms that look like Popeye’s, you will get them when you roll back a heavy Torah. You have to be very, VERY careful because it is made of animal skin and tied with animal gut (Kosher animals, of course.) The cost of a Torah can be anywhere from tens of thousands of dollars to well into hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The Torah is separated into 54 Parashot (portions), which are read on each Shabbat. In leap years they are read separately and in non-leap years sometimes two will be read at the same time, in order that at the end of the year, on Simchat Torah, every synagogue in the world will be reading the end of Deuteronomy and turning their Torah back to the beginning. Except for some synagogues which use a three-year cycle of reading instead of a one-year cycle: after all, we’re Jewish and it just wouldn’t be right if we all agreed on something.

BTW…I have written a book that is a commentary on each of the 54 Torah parashot, which can also be used for Bible study or even as fodder for a sermon. Here is a link to where you can buy it if you are interested (Parashot Drashim.)

In Leviticus 23:23 God says the first day of the 7th month is a day of remembrance, a day for blowing on the shofar and a day of complete rest. In Judaism, we say it is the first day of the Ten Days of Awe, during which we look, introspectively, to see how far short of the way God wants us to live we have been and thereby prepare our souls for Yom Kippur, the 10th day of this month when we come before God to ask for forgiveness of our sins over the past year.

If we consider that Rosh Hashanah is a new year celebration, it seems to make sense that the annual reading cycle of the Torah should be associated with it. But God said (Exodus 12:2) that the new year begins on the first day of Aviv (in Hebrew this means “Spring”), which has been renamed to Nissan. Therefore, if God says that is our new year, why isn’t Simchat Torah also celebrated at that time?

I don’t really know if anyone has the answer to that. From the little research I did, it seems that the three-year reading cycle was the norm in Israel until the Babylonian exiles returned to Jerusalem, taking many of the Babylonian influences with them, such as the names of the months and the annual reading cycle, which led to this holiday beginning sometime in the Second Millennia.

For me, it makes sense that Simchat Torah could be celebrated either at the beginning of the Holy Day cycle (before Passover) or at the end of the Holy Day cycle (Sh’mini Atzeret, the eighth day after Sukkot) because each is an annual cycle. The connection to Sh’mini Atzeret, though, makes more sense because that is after we have been cleansed of our sins and just finished an entire week living in Sukkot, to commemorate the way God took care of our ancestors and how they could commune with him because his presence was among them in their camp.

The Torah is more than a list of commandments; it tells us who God is. He reveals himself to Moses and, thereby, to us and that is why I think it is best celebrated after Sukkot. In Judaism, it is said that the reason God told us to have an eighth day added to Sukkot is that he so enjoyed being with his people for those 7 days that he added an additional day. And when we turn the Torah back to the beginning, it is like reliving that first kiss.

For me, that is the true joy we get from Simchat Torah -to get to know God all over again.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Yeshua: Rejected by Jews and Recreated by Christians

Pretty much everyone knows that when Yeshua walked the earth the Jewish population, for the most part, rejected him as the Messiah, although there were many who accepted him. After his resurrection, he was introduced to the Gentiles in the Middle East and Asia, and they much more readily accepted him as the son of God. By the end of the Third Century, the group called Christians far outnumbered the Jewish population, both in the land and within their own group and had separated themselves so much from how Jews lived and worshiped that they created an entirely new religion.

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By the end of the Second Millennia, Christianity had become so diversified that there are now dozens of Christian sects and religions, all purporting to worship the same God and believe Jesus Christ to be his son and the Messiah, yet their religious rites, doctrine and dogma are significantly different.

So, why do Jews, after all this time, still reject Jesus Christ as their Messiah?

The answer is simple, really: the guy that Christianity proposes to be the son of God and Messiah to the world not only has nothing to do with Judaism but has persecuted, murdered, and forced Jews to convert against their will since the 4th Century. PLUS…they have completely misconstrued and/or replaced what Yeshua taught when he walked the earth.

I mean, when you think about it, that’s a pretty good reason for Jews not wanting to have anything to do with this fair-skinned, blond-haired, blue-eyed Aryan You-Know-What who hates their guts.

Yeshua was, still is, and always will be Jewish. He is the Messiah who was promised to be sent to the Jewish people to bring them back into communion with God and lead them in their own country. He lived in accordance with the laws that God gave to the Jewish people (he had to- otherwise he would have been a sinner and as such, his sacrifice would not have been acceptable) and he taught others to do the same as he did.

“Wait a minute!”, you say, “If he taught the same things that the Jews already knew, why didn’t they believe him?”

That’s the problem, isn’t it? Why didn’t they believe him?

In my opinion, there are three reasons that the mainstream Jewish population has rejected Yeshua as their Messiah, despite his teachings and the miracles he performed. Two of them were present at the time he was actively teaching, and they were:

  1. The people were praying for a political Messiah, someone to free them from Roman rule and that was not why Yeshua came; and
  2. Jerusalem in the First Century had one of the most corrupt, if not the most corrupt, political and social environment ever within the history of the Jewish people. The king wasn’t a son of David, the Cohen HaGadol (High Priest) wasn’t a descendant of Aaron, and many of the members of the Sanhedrin throughout the land were political “hacks” and not truly Levites. The Pharisees and Sadducees, despite their differences, were a strong political and social power, and Yeshua’s teachings were exposing their hypocrisy and corruption. In essence, Yeshua’s influence on the people was a threat to the Jerusalem “Power Elite” and, as such, he had to be gotten rid of. The people would do what their leaders said to do, so they rejected him not on a personal basis, but as a result of being told that if they followed Yeshua they would be ostracized.

The third reason didn’t really come into play until nearly 60 years after his resurrection.

You see, as more and more Gentiles converted from their pagan religion to what was, essentially, Judaism, they had trouble making that paradigm shift from a religion centered on hedonistic pleasure to a religion centered on self-control, righteous living and respect for others. So, the original Disciples who were now the first leaders of the people who had accepted Yeshua were trying to make that conversion more palatable, if you will, by initially having only 4 requirements that had to be immediately followed (Acts 15.) The assumption was that the other instructions that are in the Torah, which is what Yeshua taught, would eventually be incorporated into their lives as they continued to practice Judaism.

And that’s where the whole thing fell apart.

You see, the Jewish population in the First Century was in rebellion against Roman rulership and were being politically persecuted. These neophyte Believers, composed of both Jews and Gentiles, were being persecuted by the mainstream Jews (under orders of the Power Elite) and the last thing they needed was the Romans on their backs, as well. So, what they did was separate themselves from the Jewish population to avoid Roman persecution.

Of course, that backfired because the Jews were allowed to worship their religion but Rome would not stand for any new religion forming in a land they ruled.

In order to separate from Judaism, these followers of “The Way” changed the Shabbat to Sunday, they did not continue to follow the Torah and even disowned their Jewish roots. After Emperor Constantine got involved (circa 325 AD), the people who professed to follow the teachings of Yeshua were a totally different religion than the one Yeshua taught about! Modern-day Christianity is what Constantine invented, as well as this guy Jesus Christ. Jesus is nothing like Yeshua, doesn’t worship God as Yeshua did, doesn’t teach what Yeshua taught, and hates Jews.

Can you see now why Jews rejected, and still do reject, Jesus Christ as their Savior?

So, nu? Now that we understand the problem, how do we solve it? I am sorry to say that I see no way for this problem to be resolved by human means. We can pray for individuals to find the truth about Yeshua, as I did, and for the Christian leadership to retrace their steps back to where the schism between Judaism and Christianity began, and heal that fissure so that we are all on the same path.

Yeah- like that’s gonna happen.

Those of us who know the truth about Yeshua have to be able to present him in a way that Jews will accept him, meaning teach what he taught and try to overcome the many centuries of wrongful teaching regarding Yeshua. We need to show Jews who Yeshua is, and help them to realize that Jesus Christ is NOT the one God sent or the one to believe in: they must know about Yeshua that he is the one to accept.

We also have to teach those practicing all forms of Christianity so they know that the Jesus Constantine created is not the Messiah God sent, and what they have been told Jesus Christ taught is not what Yeshua taught.

This will not happen easily or quickly and we will be fighting an uphill battle because, to be frank, Christianity is a lot easier than Judaism. Jews have the Torah commandments to live up to, but Christians are told Jesus died for their sins and as long as they are a “good person” they go to heaven. They don’t even care about the Acts 15 requirements anymore.

When Yeshua returns and God’s plan of salvation is completed, there won’t be different religions anymore: in truth, there won’t be any religions, only the one way of life that God gave us from the start. Judaism is called a religion, but that is not what God intended it to be: God gave us the instructions on how to worship him and how to live with each other in the Torah and he didn’t expect us to do anything else.

The Torah was never meant to be the rulebook for a religion, but to be the User Manual for how to live.

Thank you for being here and please subscribe and share these messages with others to help this ministry grow. I always welcome your comments and until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

 

 

The Bible and Weight Watchers

I’ll just bet you are wondering how I can realistically put the Bible and Weight Watchers together.

It’s easy, but first a little personal history.

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I am 5’8″ tall, and somewhat muscular, so when I tell people what I weigh, I often get a surprised look, and am told, “You don’t look that heavy.”  Yet, I am. In 2010 I weighed almost 215 pounds and felt terrible about it. So, when a Weight Watchers representative started a weekly lunch meeting at work, I joined in. I was motivated to do their plan and about a year and a half later, I was down to my ideal weight of 175. That is when I felt I knew the program, knew pretty much how many points foods were worth and could stop paying the monthly fee for the phone app because I knew I could keep track of what I was eating on my own.

So I quit WW. And do you know what happened then? That’s right- I went back up. Not all the way back up, but up to about 205.

I have recently started NOOM, a different type of weight regimen that doesn’t just keep track of your food intake but helps you to understand the psychology of your desire to eat and gives you ways to change that behavior.  So far, after two weeks I have lost about 10 pounds, but I know (from experience) that the closer I get to my ideal weight, the longer it will take to lose those last few pounds.

“OK- thanks for all that personal info, Steve, but what does any of this have to do with the Bible?  Oh, wait- I get it! You are saying that because David says in Psalm 119:

          How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

and in Psalm 34:

          Taste and see that the LORD is good; 

that what you’re saying is the Bible is fattening!”

No, that is not what I mean.

The thing that makes Weight Watchers or NOOM, or for that matter, any regimen work is that it is not just something you do constantly but is something that you track constantly.

The Bible is not to be read once in a while but should be read every day. And you shouldn’t use one of those “Bible Verse per Day” calendars or notepads because that throws you all around the Bible and you do not get to see the continuity or the interrelationships within the Word of God. It is like reading a mystery novel starting at the beginning, then going to the middle, then near the end, then back to the beginning where you left off, to the middle, and so forth. No one reads a book like that, and even though the Bible books aren’t in perfect chronological order, you need to read it from Genesis through Revelation in the order that it is presented so that what you learn is contextually correct.

I consider it a real danger when people use these “verse a day” type of study guides: they teach single verses that are taken out of context and so you do not get a full understanding of what you are reading.

Learning God’s word is a regimen, a life-long regimen, and as such needs to be tracked and maintained. I read a couple of pages a day: I start at the start and go until I reach the end, then I turn it back to the start and start all over, again. Just like with NOOM, where I am keeping a record of what I eat to make sure I am staying on track to become more physically healthy, reading the Bible every day is how you stay on track to become more spiritually healthy.

Make reading the Bible -the whole Bible- part of your spiritual diet plan, and keep track of it every day. Make this a new, life-long regimen. They say that after doing something 21 times it becomes a habit, so starting today and for the rest of this month read a few pages a day, and by February you will start to see a spiritually healthier you.

And nothing is as attractive as someone who is spiritually healthy.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Why Three Sacrifices at a Time?

The Sacrificial System is outlined, in detail, in the first 7 chapters of Vayikra (Leviticus.) In those chapters, we learn about the sin, guilt, peace, thanksgiving, and burnt offerings; what animals are to be used and what condition they must be in, how they are to be treated, what to do with the different parts of the animals, and finally how the ones presenting them must act.

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The next couple of chapters deal with the consecration of the Cohanim (Aaron and his sons) and the general rules for what the people are to do when they sin.

In Chapter 9, when God tells Moses that he will appear before the people, there isn’t just a single sacrifice to be made in preparation for that event; God commands that the Cohen must make three separate sacrifices for the assembly before God can appear to them.

The first sacrifice is a sin sacrifice, followed by a burnt offering, and the third sacrifice is a peace offering, also called a friendship or thanksgiving sacrifice.

Why three sacrifices? If I sacrifice for my sin, why do I need to do more? Doesn’t God promise that we will be forgiven when we confess our sins and sacrifice, asking for forgiveness by means of the innocent blood (of the sacrifice) that was shed on our behalf? If that’s true, why do more?

That’s a good question, and it has a good answer.

The sin sacrifice is the innocent blood to be shed by which we are forgiven- we all know that. And when we ask for forgiveness, it is assumed that the sin we committed is one we don’t want to commit again. In fact, when we are forgiven, we want to remain “clean” for as long as we can. Asking to be forgiven with the attitude that once forgiven, I am free to sin again is a wrong attitude (although many times this has been part of the traditional Christian doctrine of “once saved, always saved”, which isn’t true.)

The burnt offering, which comes next, represents a total commitment to God, which translates into one word: obedience. We sacrifice something valuable to us without giving up any of its parts- the whole thing gets the altar treatment. It is burned up completely to demonstrate that we not only atoned for the sin we committed but that we are recommitting ourselves to obey God’s instructions going forward. It is our T’shuvah, our turning from sin that the burnt sacrifice represents.

The last sacrifice, the peace or friendship offering, is what now completes the cycle, bringing us into communion with God because having been cleansed of our sin and recommitted to him, we can now come into his presence.

The three sacrifices do this:

  1. Cleanse us of our sin;
  2.  Renew our commitment to stay in covenant with God; and
  3. By reason of our cleansing and recommitment, allow us to be in the presence of the Almighty.

The question now is, with the temple in Jerusalem gone, is the sacrificial system gone, as well? God said the only place we can sacrifice is where he put his name (Exodus 20:24 and Deuteronomy 12:11), which was the temple in Jerusalem, so without a temple how can we sacrifice and be cleansed of our sins?

The answer to that question is the sacrificial system is NOT gone, but it has been changed somewhat: the need to bring your sacrifice to the temple has been replaced by Yeshua. We still need to recognize, own up to, confess, and want to atone for the sins we commit. We still need to ask for forgiveness, but bringing a sheep or a goat to the temple has been replaced by the sacrifice of Yeshua.

Although the burnt and peace offerings cannot be performed, through our union with Yeshua we can come into God’s presence.

There is a constant debate about whether or not the sacrificial system will be reinstituted in the Olam Haba, the World to Come. Personally, I believe it will be, but not for sin or guilt sacrifices. The burnt and peace offerings will continue because they are designed to strengthen our relationship with God. I believe the Olam Haba will be a world returned to the peaceful way of life that is found in an agricultural economy; especially when the world we live in will be like Eden, with no bad weather or drought or famine.

The ancient sacrificial system, realistically, couldn’t work in our current service economy and has little chance to exist in the technological world we all live in today. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t perform the steps that the system is founded on: recognize and accept our sins, atone and ask for forgiveness, and recommit to God to sin less in the future so that we can continue to come closer to him.

Thank you for being here and please subscribe and share these messages with friends and family, or anyone you know who they might help. And don’t forget to check out my entire website (Messianicmoment.com) because there are pictures and some fun videos you may enjoy, as well as links to be able to purchase any of the books I have written.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch Ha Shem!

Enable or Enabling?

To “enable” means to make something possible, such as to give someone authority over others or the means to accomplish a goal.

However, “enabling” someone is not the same thing: to enable someone is to help them accomplish what they need to do, but when we are enabling someone, we are doing what needs to be done, ourselves, instead of helping them to do it.

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It is as the old adage goes: Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach him to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

In Hebrew, the word tzedakah means “charity.” It is a mitzvah (good deed) to do tzedakah, and Shaul tells us all that God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:6), so what can be wrong with enabling someone if it is done cheerfully?

What is wrong with it is that you do not help someone by always doing for them what they need to learn to do for themselves.

I have been blessed with people in different third world countries asking me to help them by supplying them with Bible study materials and other needs. They have asked me to send them the books I have written and also to raise funds for education and transportation. I have done so twice, and I don’t mind sharing that it has been mostly at my personal expense. I have had to tell people that I will no longer spend my own money to help them, and have offered, instead, suggestions on how they could or might try to solve these problems on their own.

It bothers me that I have to do this because, honestly, I could find the means in my budget to send them money every month, even though it would cost me a lot of money in transfer fees. But I already do tzedakah to some charities that are doing God’s work and to secular charities, as well. And I know that whatever blessings God gives me that I share with others will be given back to me because God never runs out of blessings. But does that mean I have to give up everything God has given me?

Do you know the story about the Rabbi and the flood?

A small town was in the path of an oncoming flood and when the water was up to everyone’s ankles, the town’s Rabbi was running all over town warning people to leave. A man came by in a pickup truck and said, “Get in Rabbi!” but the Rabbi said, “Go save someone else- God will take care of me.”

The water continued to rise and now it was up to his waist. He was still wading through helping people when a man came by in a rowboat and said, “Rabbi, get in and I will take you to safety.” The Rabbi said, “Go save someone else- God will take care of me.” Now the water is up to his ears and he is swimming to make sure people are getting out when a helicopter comes overhead, and they shout through their megaphone, “Rabbi- we are dropping a line. Grab hold so we can pull you up.” But again the Rabbi said, “Go save someone else- God will take care of me.”

Eventually, the Rabbi drowns in the flood, and when he gets to heaven he asks God, “Why did you let me drown? I told everyone that you would take care of me?”  God said to the Rabbi, “What are you talking about? I sent you a truck, I sent you a rowboat…I even sent you a helicopter!”

There comes a point when we have to make sure that we enjoy the blessings God has given us instead of hastily giving them away, even when what we are doing is a form of tzedakah. This is a truth that Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) came to realize.

I confess I do feel guilty that I won’t spend money when I know I could, but this is part of the “tough love” that we all need to practice when we see people who are in genuine need and who constantly ask for help. Once you give, you should expect to be asked to give, again, and you need to recognize when you have reached the point at which you are no longer helping someone to resolve their problems, but enabling them by solving their problems, for them.

Here in America (and this is my opinion) too many parents over the past two generations or so have stopped teaching their children how to be independent, and instead of exposing them to the tsouris in the world (I’m using a lot of Jewish terminologies today!) have tried to raise them in a bubble of protection to “empower” them and not “traumatize” their young, innocent minds. This has proven itself to be a bad thing because so many of the “Millennials” are totally clueless about the world, and have such “thin skin” that they are traumatized by the slightest, little problem. They haven’t been taught how to live independent lives or to deal with the problems in the world: they have been so enabled they can’t even blow their own nose!

And they also have no ability to discern… anything.

This is what enabling does to a person, and even when someone’s motives are good, the results speak for themselves: when you are enabling someone you are not helping them, you are actually hurting them.

So, what is my point? It is this: you should do tzedakah, but you need to use discernment and recognize when your good deed is no longer doing that person any good. When you feel you have reached that point, you need to be compassionately stern and simply say, “I am sorry, but I won’t do this for you anymore. I will pray for you, I will offer suggestions and emotional support, but the money stays with me.”

Tough love is tough on both the ones giving it and the ones receiving it, but it is the only way to help someone else learn to take care of themself.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

How Many New Years Do We Need?

Did you know that there are some 5 new year celebrations in Judaism?

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If we consider that any celebration occurring on an annual cycle represents the start of another year, then each time we start a new cycle we are, in fact, celebrating a “new year.” Therefore, when we count Jewish annual cycles, we have the two best-known harvest festivals (Shavuot and Sukkot), also the month of Aviv (now called Nissan) as the beginning of our biblical year (per God’s instructions to Moses in Exodus 12:1), Yom Kippur is another annual cycle starting a year with being cleansed of our sins, and finally, Rosh HaShanah which is not a biblical new year, but is the rabbinical rebranding, if you will, of Yom Teruah.

In the secular world, the 1st day of January is the recognized, “official” New Year’s Day.

Once upon a time, a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away….uh, no… not that one.

Once upon a time, a long time ago someone somehow decided that the first day of January on the Gregorian calendar would be the start of every year. I know there are people out there who will tell me exactly who did this and when, and that it is a pagan holiday and so a real Believer shouldn’t pay it any attention. And for everyone who says it is pagan, there will be someone who says it isn’t.  I am not interested in the history of the New Year, really, or whether or not it should be celebrated.

So, nu? If I don’t care about it, why am I even mentioning it?

Good question. I am mentioning it to point out that there are multiple new year events, and what we need is not a new year, but a new beginning. A day when we start our lives over and change that which we were yesterday into that which we want to become tomorrow.

And what day should this be? It should be…today.

Every day is a New Year’s Day, a day to become not just more of who we want to be, but more of who God wants us to be!

I don’t want to sound like that old, wimpy adage, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life” because that is associated with our personal (meaning secular) growth. Now, there is nothing wrong with personal growth, but what we need to do as Believers is to grow spiritually, and that shouldn’t be relegated to an annual thing. It must be daily, hourly, and continually throughout the rest of our life.

Celebrating an event like New Year’s Day is fine in a secular world, but for those who are spiritual, we can’t be restricted to a single day when we start over. We are told in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that when we accept Yeshua as our Messiah, we are a new creation, and we are, but that isn’t the end of it: no, that is just the beginning. Now that we are new, we have to grow into our new selves, and that is a never-ending process which means every day is a new year for us.

Let’s up the stakes on this discussion…God is eternal, and the holiday we know as New Year’s Day is not eternal- it is restricted by time as once every 365 days. But spiritual growth is not subject to a timeline because things of the spirit are eternal; each day is a new eternity. Why? Because we never know when we will be called to God, so whatever we are today is what we might be, forever.

That’s a bit of a scary thought, isn’t it? The Bible tells us that no one knows when they will die and as such, whoever we are now, right this minute, might be all we will ever be for all eternity!

So, celebrate the new year in January, but don’t let that be your only starting point for change. Celebrate every new day God gives you as your own, “New Eternity Day” and let your resolution be this: to be a better example of what God wants you to be today than you were yesterday.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Whose Idea Is It, Really?

Christmas, that terrible pagan celebration of the birth of the Messiah, is over. I posted the other day about Christmas, not so much saying it was fine but saying it wasn’t pagan.

I represented, not surprisingly, the minority opinion.

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The funny thing is that I don’t, and never have, celebrated Christmas because, well…I’m Jewish. My intent actually had nothing do to with Christmas, but was using Christmas as a way to show people they need to learn how to question everything they are told about what the Bible says.

What I want to talk about today stems from the many arguments I saw from people about Christmas and man-made traditions, in general.

My experience reading posts from and talking to Gentiles who are returning to the laws God gave in the Torah, is that they universally reject any and all man-made traditions because of what Yeshua said and that anything not specifically required by God in the Bible is wrong.

Let’s see what Yeshua really said; it is in Mark 7: 6-10

Yeshua answered them, “Yesha‘yahu was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites — as it is written, ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far away from me.  Their worship of me is useless, because they teach man-made rules as if they were doctrines.’  “You depart from God’s command and hold onto human tradition. Indeed,” he said to them, “you have made a fine art of departing from God’s command in order to keep your tradition!

This is the response Yeshua gave to the Pharisees who were chastising him for teaching his Talmudim (students) that they didn’t have to practice N’tilat Yadayim (ceremonial handwashing) before eating. The point Yeshua was making is traditions that replace or supersede God’s commandments are the ones that are wrong. Yeshua never condemned all man-made traditions, but only those that, as he said here, cause people to depart from God’s commandments.

The example he gave them was that someone would not give money to help their parents because it had been pledged to the Temple (called a Korban), thereby violating God’s commandment to honor thy mother and father. A Korban is not a biblical commandment, but it was a tradition.

In fact, regarding Yeshua and man-made holidays, most everyone agrees that Hanukkah, a man-made tradition is fine because Yeshua celebrated it.

But whose idea is it, really, that Christmas is pagan? Or that all man-made traditions are wrong? Or that the Christmas tee is a pagan symbol?

The arguments I have seen against the Christmas tree were based solely on Jeremiah 10. But did you know that Jeremiah wasn’t the only one who talked about this? Isaiah also mentioned the uselessness of wooden idols in Isaiah 40:19- 20 and 44:14-17. Both Isaiah and Jeremiah declared the futility and absurdity of making and worshiping idols. But did they mean a tree in the house?

Has anyone ever seen or read about trees in the home of the ancient peoples? Has there ever been an archaeological dig that discovered any evidence that the ancient pagans had trees in their homes?  Not that I have ever heard of. However, we do have both archaeological and biblical proof of wooden idols in the home. Even as far back as Jacob and Rachel, we know that Rachel stole the family gods from her father, Laban.

There is no proof, anywhere in the Bible or in archaeology, that trees were taken into the home and decorated as we do today with a Christmas tree. The rampant misuse of Jeremiah 10 to destroy the tradition of the Christmas tree tells me that someone believed this and spread this teaching in order to get others to change what they do.

The same goes for the teaching/belief that Christmas is a pagan holiday, despite the way it is actually celebrated or who it is supposed to be about.

When I see posts using Yeshua’s response to the Pharisees to justify a universal rejection of anything man-made that is, to me, misusing the Bible as a form of control.

Let me ask you something…where did you first learn of Christmas being pagan? Did you receive a vision? Did you perform original research on your own? Did you learn about Saturnalia by studying the winter solstice ceremonies practiced by the pagans, then learn about the creation of Christmas by Constantine and add two and two?

I doubt it. I am willing to bet that most everyone who has posted or commented that Christmas is pagan and the tree is a pagan symbol that Jeremiah talked about learned this by hearing it from others. They heard a pastor or minister make this statement, or from someone else who they trust and respect, and when verifying it for themselves never realized that they had already accepted the interpretations and teachings as true. Therefore, when they saw the references in the Bible which (supposedly) confirmed what they learned, they didn’t really examine them hermeneutically or with an open mind- they had already accepted what they heard as true.

They believed that what they had always enjoyed celebrating is sinful and pagan because someone else told them that is what it is.

I believe that when a Gentile discovers the truth about the lies and anti-Torah teachings they have been fed all their life, their “belief pendulum” swings from believing traditional Christianity to universally rejecting everything that is traditional Christianity.

I am not defending Christmas: I don’t give two hoots about Christmas or whether or not you celebrate it. What I am trying to do is warn you that when someone automatically accepts or rejects an interpretation or teaching, they are allowing themselves to be controlled by someone else.

The “tagline” of my ministry is “God has no religion”, and I have constantly stated that people created religion so that they could have control over other people. After all, if someone can make you reject what you have always practiced, isn’t that the ultimate form of control? To take something that you have enjoyed all your life, and make you believe it is evil so that now you reject everything about it, and then add to that they make you believe this is what God wants…isn’t that control?

Look, I am not saying what you should believe or not believe, and if you want to believe Christmas, Easter (we may as well add that to the stew) and any other man-made tradition is a sin, then believe it. All I am saying is that if you haven’t REALLY examined the reasons you believe this, and come to a conclusion that you know is your own, then you have been controlled.

God will control events in our lives to give us the opportunity to make the right choices, but he doesn’t control us. Throughout the Bible, God tells us what we should do but he never says anything or does anything to control our actions.  Satan, on the other hand, will use lies and mislead us in a way that gives him control over us. Right from the beginning: God told Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit, but he left the tree unprotected. Satan’s lies to Eve allowed him to make her do what she wouldn’t have done on her own; Satan’s lies gave him control over Eve.

Too many people accept what they hear because it sounds good, then they convince themselves it is the indwelling Holy Spirit that confirms their belief. I am sure there are many times when this is true, and their spiritual confirmation is valid. My warning is that you better be sure what you believe is your idea because we will all be held accountable for what we do and say. The excuse that someone else told me it was true will not hold water. The only way to be sure is to force yourself to argue for both sides on an interpretation. When you hear something and believe it to be true, pretend that it is wrong and try to prove it wrong; if you can’t prove it wrong then you have valid confirmation that your belief is truly your own.

And the same goes for when you don’t believe something you hear.

One last warning: if you don’t want to go through that effort, then believe what you want to but realize that you have just allowed yourself to be controlled, and whatever you now believe isn’t really your idea. So ask yourself: do you want to be accountable for what someone else believes?

Thank you for being here, and please subscribe and share this message with others. And I do welcome and appreciate your comments.

Until next time (hopefully, there will be a next time you tune it to me), L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

To Xmas or Not to Xmas: What is the Answer?

Now that all the annoying open registration for Medicare commercials are gone we have a new hot topic, which rolls around every December: the argument about Christmas, specifically addressing this question: “Is celebrating Christmas a sin or not?”

If you prefer to watch a video, click on this link: Watch the video.

Let me say, first and foremost, I will not present an answer, mainly ’cause I ain’t got one. I know what is right for me, and what is right for others, whether they agree with me or not. There are valid arguments from both sides of this debate, all of which are verifiable in the Bible.

Let’s start with some things we can all agree on (at least, I hope we can):

  1. We should never worship any God but the true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob;
  2. God knows our hearts and minds, and is a compassionate, understanding God who loves his children;
  3. A Holy Day is a celebration (or festival) we are commanded to observe and can be found in Leviticus Chapter 23, whereas a holiday is a man-made celebration not specifically required by God;
  4. Yeshua (Jesus) was not really born on December 25, but most likely sometime around Sukkot;
  5. Constantine created Christmas, which occurs around the same time as the pagan celebration called Saturnalia;
  6. Christmas, which was originally created to celebrate the arrival of the Messiah, has been corrupted and mutated into a marketing machine.

If we are all on the same page so far (which would be really good!), let’s keep going.

First off, Yeshua did not condemn all man-made traditions, only those that superseded the instructions God gave us. As far as holidays go, just because they aren’t required by God does not mean they are forbidden by God. This misuse of the Law of Contraposition is one of the main arguments put forth by those that say if it isn’t in the Bible, it is a sin.  If so, then you also have to do away with Purim, Rosh Hashanah, Hanukkah, the Fast of the 9th Day of Av, Yom HaShoah, as well as the non-religious holidays of New Year’s, Fourth of July, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Thanksgiving, Memorial Day, Labor Day….need I go on?

God said we must observe specific festivals, he also said, more than once and through different prophets that sometimes our celebration of his commanded festivals and sacrifices was an abomination to him. He said that in some cases the sacrifice wasn’t a pleasant aroma but a stench in his nostrils (look it up if you don’t believe me), and that he finds no pleasure in the blood of sheep or bulls.

Now, if God commanded us to perform these rituals, and we did, why is he saying he won’t accept them? Actually, more than that, he said not only won’t he accept them but that he hates what we are doing!

The answer is because our hearts were not in it. We were just going through the motions and not because we loved him and wanted to honor him.

In other words, God is not interested in our performance as much as he is interested in our intentions. Can we agree on that?

The Bible is clear that God doesn’t want performance, but heartfelt worship and honor; what we do in celebration of God is supposed to be done with a genuine desire to honor God. That is what he tells us he wants.

Remember how Yeshua told of the Pharisee and the tax collector both praying in the Synagogue? (Luke 18:9-14) This is a perfect example of what I am talking about, which is that God sees the heart and knows the mind, and when we come to him in supplication, with a contrite spirit and humility, he hears us and appreciates what we are doing. In this drash, Yeshua pointed out that the prayer of the “righteous” Pharisee, who was doing things as they should be done but had an improper attitude, was less acceptable then the prayer of the tax collector, who was a sinner but came before God humbly and spoke from his heart.

My wife was raised Roman Catholic, and Christmas to her represents family time together; the traditions of the tree, decorations around the house, and the gathering of family and friends are all that matters to her. Why Christmas was invented, what this time of the year used to mean, and any other reasons that Christmas is supposedly a sin, have nothing to do with her celebration. Our celebration isn’t even about the birth of Yeshua but is a non-religious activity.  And I think it is that way for many Gentiles.

I also believe that God knows why she is celebrating Christmas and doesn’t have a problem with that. It is no different than Thanksgiving or New Year’s or a birthday (oh, yeah- I forgot that celebrating our birthday is also a sin to some people.)

When Constantine created Christmas, he did not just rebrand Saturnalia but used it to replace Saturnalia, a pagan holiday. Allow me to point out there is a BIG difference between rebranding and replacing. When we rebrand something, it is the same thing with a different name. When we replace something, it is a different thing, altogether.

Here is an example: In January of 2018, Coca-Cola rebranded Diet Coke to be more appealing to the Millennial demographic. According to the website, Marketwatch: “The beverage giant said Diet Coke isn’t being reformulated, but is “re-energizing” for a different consumer demographic.” This is what rebranding means- the same thing with a different name.

Now, to stay with Coca-Cola, when they came out with New Coke, that wasn’t a rebranding but a replacement of “old” Coke. And, as you may recall, it was such a dismal failure that they had to bring the original Coke back into the market. Those were two totally different things.

Christmas, whatever you may think of it, is NOT Saturnalia and it is not associated with Pagan worship. As for the Christmas tree, it is not a pagan symbol: in fact, within Judaism, the tree is very important. There is the Tree of Life (Aitz Chaim Hee), which has been an integral part of our prayers, and the Bible uses the tree symbolically to represent the grafting in of Gentiles. If anything, the tree is the one thing about Christmas that is totally biblical!

I hope we can all agree that when we do something, whatever it is, to honor God and/or honor the Messiah (not worship Messiah, but honor him), and what we do is NOT in direct violation of a given commandment, God will consider our reasons and our desires, and look to our heart to see if we are genuinely desiring to please him.

If we can agree to that, then the celebration of Christmas could be acceptable to God, if he looks at it on an individual, case-by-case basis. That means the question of celebrating Christmas being right or wrong is between God and the person celebrating.

And, being God, even with the millions who celebrate this holiday, he can know each and every person’s heart and reason for celebrating.

Thank you for being here. I welcome comments and hope you will subscribe and share this ministry with others.

Until the next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Is Your Gift to the Lord or to Yourself?

I was reading Exodus 35 this morning.  This is the second time Moses comes down from Mount Sinai and asks the people to bring the items needed for the construction of the Tabernacle. Exodus 35:21 says, “And they came, every one whose heart stirred him up, and every one whom his spirit made willing, and brought the Lord’s offering,...” (Pentateuch and Haftorah, Soncino Press, 1965.)

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When I read this it struck me that this isn’t saying everyone came, but only every one of them that was willing to give what they had. This means that there were, at least, some who did not contribute, even though they might have had some of the items needed.

Let’s consider that their gifts, which were articles of gold, silver, wood, yarn, etc., were what they had to offer, but today the gifts we can offer are our knowledge, discernment, spiritual understanding, and compassion. When I read the posts in all the different “Christian” or “Messianic” discussion groups I am a member of through Facebook, there are posts about the calendar, about the pronunciation of God’s name, about the Christian holidays (especially now with Christmas right around the corner), and other topics. These are the gifts they are offering, which should be given in order to please and bring glory to God.

Some argue with validation from the Bible, others are just making it up as they go along; some misuse the Bible by taking verses out of context to justify what they want to say, and others repeat what they have heard without any personal research or study- they agree just because they like what they hear.

In all of this, there is some truth, there are some lies, and I believe there are many tares planted by the Enemy meant to cause division and strife within the body of Believers.

Much too often people argue for their own glory.

There were the Israelites in the desert who did not bring their gifts for the Tabernacle, there are people today who post topics offering their gifts of understanding the Bible, which many times aren’t directly related to salvation (although they will swear they are), and there are gifts that people offer, specifically discernment and spiritual maturity, which help to strengthen the faith of others and lead us to a better understanding of what God wants from us.

Suddenly, it occurred to me that there is a common thread in all this: I have my gift (of understanding) from God I offer in this ministry and you have your gift (of understanding) from God you offer in a discussion group, and others have gifts that they never offer.  Your gift is your gift, my gift is my gift, and we don’t have to share the same gifts. Likewise, we don’t have to share the same understanding, and no one has the right to force anyone else to accept their offering.

If someone believes that they know how something is to be done, pronounced, when celebrated, or whatever and they share that knowledge, it is only reasonable to expect that they are certain they are correct. But when someone else disagrees, or they just don’t agree, that person should remember their gift of understanding should be offered for God’s glory. When they share that knowledge and someone else rejects it, they shouldn’t continue to try to convince the other person. Once they have been told, “I don’t accept that”, then they are done. When God told the Prophets to warn the people, he didn’t say berate them or ram it down their throats, he simply said to tell them what God told the Prophet. If the Prophet told the people, and they rejected what he said, then the Prophet had done his job and God said that was all he was supposed to do.

Tell people what you believe God has shown you, but don’t continue to “sell” it once someone disagrees or rejects what you say. For all you know, you might be wrong. We are, after all, human and none of us can be absolutely certain that our own iniquity and pridefulness doesn’t influence our understanding. If you can’t accept someone else rejecting what you know, then you have gone beyond what God wants from you. Once you tell someone what God has made clear to you, it is up to them to accept or reject.

If you cannot stop trying to convince someone that you are correct, then you are no longer working for the glory of God- you are only after your own glory, and the prideful desire to have someone tell you that you are right. In other words, if someone won’t agree with you and you are arguing your point over and over, you are no longer doing God’s work but you are helping Satan.

That’s a hard word to hear, but can you tell me that causing strife and dissension within Believers isn’t helpful to the Enemy of God’s people?

In the desert, those whose hearts were not stirred to bring an offering to God are like the people today who cannot stop trying to get someone to agree with them: what they have in common is that they are not doing something for the Lord, but only for themselves.

When you share your gift of knowledge or spiritual understanding with others, and they don’t agree, it is OK to ask them why. Maybe they have been misled or taught something different, or maybe they have a better understanding than you do! It is a good thing to ask them why they disagree. If they are willing to discuss the topic and you are both respectful and enjoying the debate, then go ahead and discuss it. However, if one of you becomes agitated and begins to judge the other, or either of you become nasty and are no longer really arguing the point but attacking each others’ knowledge or spirituality, then you have crossed the line.

And I hope you agree with me when I say that the one who stops the discussion is the one who has the spiritual and emotional maturity to realize they are no longer glorifying God.

Yeshua sent his Talmudim to preach the Good News about the Kingdom of God and told them to be as wise as serpents and gentle as doves. If you find yourself in a discussion that doesn’t demonstrate wisdom with gentility, then that isn’t what Yeshua wants and you aren’t glorifying God. The thing you should do then is to shake the dust from your sandals and leave.

Thank you for being here and please subscribe if you haven’t done so already. The first 25 people who subscribe in the next 5 days will receive, free of charge, an email telling them when I post another message.

And, as always, your comments are welcomed.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

How You Can Be Wrong When What You Say Is Right

One of the nicest left-handed compliments I ever received was from a Regional Vice President under who I was a Sales Manager for a large home remodeling company (if you’re reading this, Jim, thank you so much for setting me straight back then.)

He told me that what I say is almost always correct, but because I say it the wrong way no one wants to hear it.

If you prefer to watch a video, click on this link: Watch the video.

I have heard and seen people who profess to be Christians telling others about what they believe to be the truth, and when someone disagrees with them, they attack that person with both spiritual and personal insults. What they often do that really pisses me off more than any other thing is this: when they are asked to be polite, they claim they are only telling the truth and that if we don’t listen to their wisdom then God is not in us and we are defending the wrong religion, or we are satanically influenced, or some other reprehensible attack.

To those people, I say this: because of your lack of respect for people, who are also God’s children, and because of your pride and self-righteous attitude, even if what you say is correct, you will be wrong because you will never convince anyone by insulting them. Beyond that, you do nothing more than present a poor example of a Christian and when you use the word of God to justify being a self-righteous sphincter muscle, you insult God.

I recently had a discussion with someone about the calendar. He has done a lot of research, using non-scriptural books from the Apocrypha, and insists that because I am comfortable using the standard Jewish calendar that most of the world uses, I am defending a specific religion which is teaching us to celebrate pagan holidays.

Let me digress for a moment: we all know about the “Holy Namers”,  and we also have “Flat Earthers”, but now we can add one more overly-zealous group, who are absolutely obsessed with the “correct” calendar for identifying the Shabbat and the festivals, and I am calling them “Lunartics.”

I never said he was wrong, or that I was right, I simply said I don’t agree. As for the details of our discussion, I’m not going to go into that here because they are not relevant to this message.

What is relevant about this event is that because he was so nasty and insulting, even though I asked multiple times for him to not insult me or my faith, and if he didn’t stop I would have to block him, I ended up having to block him.

And you know what? I’ll bet he is bragging about being blocked. I have seen other people do that, always telling others that they should listen and never listening to others until they get blocked, and then they brag about it as if they were like those Yeshua talks about being happy because they have been persecuted for his sake.

If someone asks you to please not be nasty, don’t defend yourself- apologize. You may not think you were nasty, but if they do, then you were. It’s that simple.

There are Bible verses telling us to speak the truth, how the wise accept correction and that fools reject correction. Often enough, these are used by nasty people preaching their own beliefs as justification for their attitude. They don’t realize how much of a hypocrite they are: they accuse others of refusing to hear the truth (which is their truth), and when asked to please be nice or not so nasty, they ignore the correction being given to them. They don’t want to be nice, or respectful, or even to recall that they were once also neophytes in the Lord and didn’t know things. I’ll wager they were taught with compassion, patience, and understanding, which they now sorely lack.

There is one Biblical verse I believe can never be taken out of context because it is universally applicable. That verse is found in 1 Corinthians 13:2, and it goes like this:

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

People who get angry, who become insulting on both a spiritual and personal level, who judge you and accuse you of being ignorant and refusing to hear the truth, all because you don’t agree with what they believe, can’t possibly have the love that a spiritually mature person has. Even if what they are saying is valid, no one will pay attention to them. They will be blocked or ignored, and that is the most shameful thing that can happen because maybe, just maybe, they really have something important to hear.

For my money, if someone is blocked because of what they say, it is more likely the way they are saying it instead of what they are saying. Once blocked, they haven’t performed a service for the Lord, they have helped the Enemy of the Lord because they have turned someone away from hearing God’s word. They leave a bad taste in the mouth of anyone who might be interested in learning about God, especially someone who may not be a Believer and is seeking knowledge.

They place themselves on a pedestal alongside the likes of Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Matthew, James, and Shaul, speaking as though they are the only ones with the true understanding of God’s word.

They aren’t full of the spirit, they are only full of themselves, and their mannerisms are shameful, loveless, and not just useless, but harmful to God’s plan of salvation.

As far as I am concerned, if you can’t talk to people compassionately, with understanding, patience, and love, then just shut the heck up because what you say, no matter how correct, will be ignored; and all you will be doing is making it that much harder for the next person God might send to them to make any headway.

To conclude today’s rant, I want you to know that I have thought about this topic and asked God to show me if it is a result of my personal peeve or if it is something that stems from righteous anger. I confess I am still not sure, so I leave it up to you: do you think I am just venting on a personal level or am I justified in being angry and saying what I have said with regard to those people who behave as I have described?

Thank you for being here and please don’t forget to subscribe, check out my whole website (messianicmoment.com) and maybe consider (if you like what you hear from me) to buy a few of my books.

And, as always, I welcome your comments and only ask whether you agree or disagree, just be nice.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!