Parashah Emor 2019 (Speak) Leviticus 21-24

These three chapters deal with three topics: the cleanliness of the Priests who serve in the Sanctuary (as well as the sacrifices brought there), the Holy Days God instructs us to celebrate, and the rules regarding punishment for blasphemy and murder.

As always, I find so much in here to talk about, all of which may be edifying to us and help us better understand what God requires of us. Yet, so that you don’t fall asleep during this message, I will choose just one topic to discuss. And this topic has been so zealously argued that I don’t think anyone will be yawning. At least, I hope not.

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

For the purposes of this message, let’s separate Holy Days from holidays. A Holy Day is a festival or celebration which God has instructed us to observe, whereas a holiday is a man-made celebration. God’s Holy Days are found in the Torah, and holidays are found in the other books of the Old Covenant and in traditional religious doctrine.

The 7 Holy Days God has commanded we must celebrate are:

Shabbat, the day of rest;
Passover (a pilgrimage festival);
Feast of Unleavened Bread (7 days);
Shavuot (the second pilgrimage festival);
Yom Teruah (Day of Trumpets, later turned into Rosh Hashanah, a rabbinic celebration);
Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement); and
Sukkot (Tabernacles, and the third and final pilgrimage festival.)

Pilgrimage festivals are the only ones where it is required to travel to the location where God places his name. During the time of the Judges and up until King David moved it, that place was Shiloh, where the Tent of Sanctuary was located. King David moved the tent to Jerusalem and once Solomon completed the Temple, the Temple was the place to go. After the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, Jews worldwide have had nowhere to go to bring a sacrifice so they can be absolved of their sins or celebrate the pilgrimage festivals as God instructed us to do.

To those of us who have accepted Yeshua as the Messiah God promised to send, his sacrifice replaced the need to bring an animal to the Temple in Jerusalem so we are able to receive forgiveness; however, we have to settle to go to Shul (Synagogue) instead of Jerusalem to celebrate the pilgrimage Holy Days.

Now let’s get into that heated topic I referred to earlier, which is this: because God instructed us to observe only these 7 Holy Days, is the observance of any other holiday a sin? Especially those created by Christianity, whose origins are found in paganistic celebrations.

I suppose we should begin with identifying what sin is: a sin, for the purpose of this discussion (and I believe it is a good definition for any discussion), is when we do something that God says we shouldn’t do, or, conversely, don’t do something that God says we should do.

So, with that in mind, let’s look at other holidays and test them against our definition of sin.

Let’s start with the Jewish ones, of which there are many. How about Rosh Hashana?  The Jewish New Year, according to God, is the first of Aviv (now called Nisan), but the rabbinical or civic celebration is on what God said is the Day of Trumpets, a day to be a memorial. From that day on the 10 Days of Awe begin, in which we all look introspectively to determine how close, or how far, we have been from obeying God over the past year. Since Rosh Hashanah is a form of a memorial, I don’t see celebrating it the way we do as being sinful. There’s also Sh’mini Atzeret, also known as Simchat Torah, the 8th day of Sukkot. We honor God and his word by celebrating the turning back of the Torah from the end to the beginning so we can start reading it all over again. That doesn’t go against anything God said we should or should not do, and it is respectful, thankful and honoring to God.

There’s Purim (biblical but not commanded), the different fast days, the 9th of Av, and any number of lesser holidays, none of which dishonor God or go against anything he has decreed. So, since we celebrate God, honor him and his word, and aren’t doing anything against what he says, according to our definition of sin, celebrating these man-made Jewish holidays is not sinful.

Let’s now take a look at the major Christian holidays of Easter and Christmas…Oy Vey!! -now we are in for it.

Here is where the majority say celebrating them is sinful. The Maypole (a leftover from the Asherah pole), bunnies and eggs (paganistic fertility symbols), the name Easter (the pronunciation is the same for the fertility goddess, Ishtar), the use of a tree and ornaments to celebrate the birth of Yeshua (Jesus) is similar to graven images and Druidic practices…all of this is considered sinful. And the intention of the ones that worshiped false gods on these days and using these items was sinful.

But did God say we cannot celebrate the birth of the Messiah? Did God forbid us from celebrating the fulfillment of the work of the Messiah, demonstrated by his resurrection?

It is clearly a sin to celebrate and worship Ishtar, Molech, Ba’al, or any Semitic gods or the gods of other religions; but, if we are desiring to honor the one, true God and his Messiah with thankful worship in our hearts, will the paganistic origins of those days and items used overrule the current intent of our celebration? In other words, just because once, long ago these days were paganistic rituals, does that mean when we worship God and Messiah on these same days that they are unacceptable to God?

I don’t think so. God is clear that we are NOT to worship any other God but him, and if someone puts up a tree, adorns it, and does so solely to honor Messiah and God, they are NOT worshiping another God. Yes, maybe the things they are using and the way they are using them was once the way someone would worship a false god, but that is not what Gentiles Christians are doing. They are doing so with the intention of being worshipful and celebrating God’s gift of salvation through Yeshua.

For the record: I, myself, do not celebrate any Christian holidays because I am Jewish, but if I was a Gentile Believer, I most likely would still celebrate Easter and Christmas for the reasons I state above, to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and to celebrate salvation through Messiah Yeshua (Jesus Christ.)

Throughout the Bible, both Old and New Covenants, God constantly makes it known to us that he is not interested in anyone just “going through the motions” but in what is in our hearts.  He constantly told the Israelites that their bulls, sheep, and other offerings meant nothing to him because their hearts were not in it. I interpret this to mean that so long as what we offer to God is with a grateful and worshipful heart, God will accept it from us.

I absolutely believe that when we celebrate a day to honor and thank God, he is more interested in why we are doing it than in the way we are doing it.

Therefore, in my opinion, celebrating Easter and Christmas with the intention and desire to be thankful to God and the Messiah is not a sin. If you eat ham at your Easter or Christmas dinner, well…that is different. That is clearly something that is a sin because God said pork is off the menu, forever.  But having a Christmas dinner, being with family and enjoying each other, celebrating God and his Messiah…really, how can that be wrong in God’s eyes?

Finally, it comes down to individual choice. If you don’t want to celebrate any festivals other than the ones God gave in the Torah, that is great! So long as you do that because you want to, and not because you are trying to earn anything with God. Likewise, if you give up something you like for Lent, celebrate Easter, put up your Christmas tree every year and do so solely with the intention of honoring God and Messiah, I believe God’s is fine with that.

There is, however, this caveat: if you do not celebrate the festivals God commanded in Leviticus Chapter 23 because you have been taught they are “Jewish” and not important to Christians, then you ARE in sin! Remember that our definition of sin is not doing what God says we should, and he clearly instructs us to celebrate these festivals. Even Yom Kippur, asking for forgiveness, is not done away with by Yeshua- we all sin, we all need to ask for forgiveness, and doing so in accordance with God’s instructions is never going to be wrong.

So, nu! There you have it! The bottom line, the Acid Test to determine if celebrating a man-made holiday is not a sin is this: if you celebrate a day to honor God and you do so with proper worship, desire, respect, and thankfulness in your heart, you will be OK.

Thank you for being here, please don’t forget to subscribe and share me out to your friends and family. I always welcome comments so long as they are respectful.

Tonight begins the Shabbat, so I wish you all Shabbat Shalom, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

WHY I THINK CHRISTMAS ISN’T SO BAD. 

Now, before some of you jump down my throat, please use two of the Fruits of the Spirit: patience and self-control. Read what I say (I will try to keep it short) and then jump down my throat, if you still need to. 
First off, a little background…. the reason that Jews were allowed to remain Jewish when Rome controlled Judea is because they invited Rome in to help them get rid of the Seleucid kings. When the followers of Yeshua (Jesus) began to grow, they were made up of Jews, and of Gentiles (mostly Romans) converting to Judaism. However, by the end of the 1st Century, Rome had problems with the Jews and were persecuting them, but it was NOT a religious persecution. It was a political persecution because the Jews were rebelling against Roman authority. As such, the Jews following “the Way” and the newly converting Gentiles began to separate themselves from the persecuted Jews, which was to be safe from persecution. That backfired, because as they started to form a new religion, that was not acceptable to Rome, and so the (now called) Christians were persecuted; this was a religious persecution. In the 3rd Century, along comes Constantine and he converts to Christianity (now very different from Judaism) and he makes it even more separate, essentially creating modern Christianity.
That brings us up to Christmas. Constantine had a problem, which was how to make Christianity more popular to a people who have worshiped Roman gods for centuries, and most likely will not be as happy to trade them off as Constantine is. The answer: re-boot the holidays! Take the celebratory feeling that comes with their big holidays, and redirect it to a new holiday with the same feel, but make it a celebration of Messiah instead of a pagan god. This is why I don’t think Christmas is so bad- it isn’t worshiping a pagan god, it isn’t a pagan holiday, and it never was. Saturnalia WAS a pagan holiday that worshiped a pagan god, but Christmas was created to celebrate the birth of the Messiah. I believe a lot of the anti-Christmas feeling comes from the fact that it was placed at the same time as the pagan celebration. The reason for that was not to put a different face on the same holiday, but so that it would easily fit into their schedule, and that made it easy for Constantine to switch focus/worship of the population from paganism to Christianity.
Here’s the point- Christmas is not Saturnalia with a new name, it is a totally new and different celebration; Saturnalia was rejected and done away with. Just as the Golden Calf was rejected and destroyed, so too did Constantine do away with Saturnalia, and it was replaced (NOT re-instituted, but replaced!) with Christmas, which is from it’s inception a celebration of Messiah’s birth.
Now, the fact that the birth of Messiah was months earlier in the calendar isn’t relevant to the topic, which is that Christmas was never a pagan holiday. Christmas was created as a righteous memorial to Messiah, and was “timed” to occur at the same time as an old, now rejected, pagan holiday so that it would be an “easy sell” to the populace.
Therefore, I don’t see anything wrong with Christmas so long as the people celebrating it are celebrating Messiah Yeshua. If you really want to come down on someone, come down on the retail companies that have prostituted this celebration into a social event that has made gift giving more important than celebrating the birth of our Messiah.

One last note: Joseph’s brothers conspired to murder him, but Joseph later understood something that I think we need to relate to Christmas (Genesis 50:20): “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” What had been an unrighteous pagan celebration has been replaced and changed into a righteous celebration of the Messiah, who is the ultimate means of saving people’s lives. I think celebrating the birth of our Messiah, whether on the correct day or not, is always a good thing, no matter how it started or where it came from.

Constantine Wasn’t the First

With the Christmas season already upon us (thanks to advertisers) there is a lot of “chatter” on Face Book regarding the pagan origins of this holiday (‘holiday’ meaning man-made, whereas ‘holy day’ is God-ordained) and how Constantine used it to bring the pagan Romans under the Christian banner, so to speak, by substituting this holiday for the pagan one.

But did you know that he wasn’t the first leader to do something like this?

A modern day Christmas Message from the past: Isaiah 29:13

I am going to skip the Parashah teaching today because , it being Christmas Day, I feel there is a more important message the Lord would have me deliver.

Isaiah was a Prophet to the Southern Kingdom of Judah and tried to help the people realize the hypocrisy of their worship. He lived during the reign of 4 kings of Judah and within 100 years or so of his ministry, the Southern Kingdom of Judah was destroyed.

Isaiah was telling the people that their worship was useless because they were only paying lip service to God. The above-referenced passage says it all:

The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.

This message was about how sacrifice had become corrupted and polluted into a meaningless rote activity that had no real love or worship of God attached to it.

Sounds exactly like what Christmas is today, doesn’t it?

Look at what Christmas is today: there is nothing “godly” about it anymore, except the occasional bumper sticker that says, “Keep Christ in Christmas.” Even that has become passe and meaningless to most- it’s something akin to the beauty pageant answer, “What I would like most is to have world peace.”

Most of us know that Christmas is not a Holy Day, nor is it a biblically commanded festival to God; it is a celebratory event created by Constantine in the Third Century (or thereabouts) to help rebrand the pagan celebration of the Solstice to a more “Christian” event.

That doesn’t mean it can’t be a wonderful thing. The music of Christmas is some of the most beautiful and heartfelt devotion to God I have heard from any religion, and the spirit of goodwill that comes on people during this season is unique, and refreshing. There is a magic to Christmas.

Unfortunately, even that is more from social conditioning than a desire to be closer to God, and how many of us really feel the impact of what Christmas means? Heck, if we really thought about what Christmas is supposed to stand for, celebration and thankfulness for the birth of the Messiah, we should all feel sad and dejected that someone was born into this world to suffer for us, to accept the blame and physical abuse that our sins deserved, and that this miraculous birth, this proof of prophecy, this wonderful and merciful living gift of salvation would have to die a horribly painful and lingering death because of what we have done.  That’s really what Christmas is about: thankfulness for the Messiah coming into the world, but tempered with the sadness of knowing what this tender, innocent baby would have to endure. Christmas should make me feel remorse and repentance that this baby had to live the life He lived because of what I have done.

Personally, I don’t think Christmas s such a happy time when you think about what will happen to Yeshua. Yes, I am thankful for His birth, and I am disgusted with myself for causing His death. It’s true: I killed Yeshua. In fact, you killed Yeshua. Each and every one of us killed Yeshua because if there had been but one sinner in all the world, Yeshua would have done what He did for the sake of that one person. His parables about finding the one lost sheep, the woman who found the missing coin, the statement that there is no greater love than that one will give his life for a friend (note that He didn’t say for many, or for friends, but for a friend- even saving one life is worth dying for); all the teachings Yeshua gave us, all of which are directly from the Torah, teach us that it is what we do and what we feel that add up to who we truly are.

I hope that you all have a merry and joyful Christmas- the birth of the Messiah is truly a wonderful event, the fulfilment of God’s promise of salvation for the world, and the proof that biblical prophecy is valid and trustworthy. The fact that it is not a biblical Holy Day, that Yeshua was probably born during Sukkot, that Constantine created it as a theo-political event, and that it has become totally corrupted in modern society is something we can get past. If we worship God from our hearts, if we ignore the retail sales events, the presents to each other and all the schmaltz, and instead concentrate on thanking God for His Son, and thanking His Son for all He suffered for us, then…just maybe then…Christmas can be the joyful and penitent celebration it should be.

Yeshua said that we should give to Caesar that which belongs to Caesar, and to God that which belongs to God. Thankfulness and worship from the heart belongs to God, sacrifice belongs to God, honor and glory belong to God. Give each other niceties, sure, but first give to God that which He is entitled to. Celebrate Christmas with heartfelt thankfulness to God and conscious recognition of how far short we come to measuring up to what God expects of us.

If you really want to show God that you are thankful for the birth of the Messiah, than go visit the sick, help the needy, dress the naked, feed the hungry. Instead of spending thousands of dollars at Kohl’s and Walmart and Macy’s, spend a few hundred at the soup kitchens and food pantries, give your time to bring food to the hungry, give to charities you know are doing good for people.

Today Christmas is all about what I get from you; let’s make Christmas all about what I can give to those who are in need.

That would be a Christmas present to God and Yeshua that I just know they would love to receive. Remember that Yeshua told us in Mattitayu 25:40:

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Why we don’t start a new tradition of giving Christmas presents to God instead of each other?

 

One Way to Beat the Holiday Blues

It’s the happiest and most joyous time of the year, so naturally, suicides and a general feeling of the Blues are at their highest level of the year, also.

Those who do not have the knowledge, trust, faith or belief in God, at this time of the year, feel that emptiness more than at any other time. This is more my opinion than substantiated fact, but I don’t think anyone will disagree with me. We read about the holiday blues symptom every Christmas season.

Even those people who are adamant God doesn’t exist, or those who refuse to accept Yeshua in the way the Bible says we should and think they are OK (because their Priest or Minister has taught them that so long as you are a “good” person you go to heaven), feel a sense of “incompleteness” because (again, my opinion) they know, deep inside, that they are missing the most important part of what this holiday is supposed to be about.

No one can tell you you are saved and no one can tell you the Spirit of the Living God, the Ruach HaKodesh, is in you. This has to be from your asking God directly, and from your acceptance from God, directly, privately, and faithfully. If you haven’t accepted your own sinfulness, that Yeshua (Jesus) is the Messiah God promised to send to take away your sins, and committed yourself to doing T’shuvah (turning from sin), you can’t receive the ultimate gift, which is the Grace of God, and the the Holy Spirit. And if you don’t have this, then you are missing out. We all need to admit our own overbearing and natural sinfulness, and that we cannot stop sinning without God’s help, and (this is the important part, the part that shows you have really “turned”)  that we do not want to sin anymore. When we do this, and then ask for His forgiveness and guidance for the rest of our life, we can receive the Ruach HaKodesh.

I was afraid that this would make me a different person, that I would have to stop being who I was (although I really didn’t like much of who I was, I didn’t want to lose it.) Here’s the surprise: now that I have been on that path for years, I realize that I haven’t stopped being me, I am just becoming a better me. And I don’t feel that emptiness, or incompleteness that I did before I made that leap of faith.

It’s that emptiness that causes the holiday blues. No one is immune; even those who know and love the Lord have “down” times, and this season seems to make any sadness worse. Maybe because all we see on TV, hear on radio, and are exposed to everywhere we go is joy-joy, happy-happy people and family that all get along and love each other. Yuch! That’s not the real world. And that is what makes this season so joyously unhappy- everywhere we go and everything we see is rose-colored utopia, but then real life hits us in the face.

You may be asking, “So, nu? Steve- what’s this “magic bullet” you have to overcome the holiday blues?”

I was looking over answers to essay questions from a class about incense and prayer that I took when getting my Certificate of Messianic Studies degree and I found this:

Praise has power that is hidden from us until we begin to use it. Praise reminds us of who we are- the children of the Almighty! Praise brings back to our minds all He has done in our lives, and the lives of others. When we praise the L-rd we can’t help but become joyful, for His spirit is awakened in us as we call on His name in thanksgiving. The best way to get out of the dumps is to count your blessings, and that is a form of praise. Praise makes us feel better, and isn’t that a powerful thing?

That’s the answer: thankful prayer and praise. It is so simple and it is so necessary for us to remember to do. In order to praise God we have to enumerate those things that are wonderful and glorious about Him, and when we do that we naturally have to personalize it. That causes us to think about all the things God has done for us. We are a self-centered and egotistical species: when I review the history of our people throughout the Millennia I think, “How can anyone doubt there is a loving, compassionate and forgiving God? If there wasn’t, how else could Mankind have survived for so long?” I mean, really- we are the most self-destructive thing that there ever has been. Yet, despite ourselves, we have survived. Yes, not just survived, but thrived. There just has to be a God in heaven protecting us.

Praise and thankful prayer invigorates the Ruach inside a Believer. C’mon, admit it- I do- sometimes we stifle the Spirit and instead of dying to self we manage to hang on and continue. We overcome the Spirit, which is a shepherd and guide, but can be ignored if our sinful nature is allowed to take charge. It is the constant battle, the reason Shaul (Paul) called himself a wretched man- the little devil on one shoulder and the little angel on the other.

When we praise and give thanks, the little angel turns into Arnold Schwarzenegger and the little devil turns into Steve Urkel.

When the holiday blues start to creep up on you, and anytime during the year you feel down, praise the Lord, give thanks for His salvation, think of all that you do have, and remind yourself that no matter how bad it is now, you have a guaranteed reservation at the Hotel Paradise. And when you get there you won’t ever have to check out. Eternity in Eden is yours, and all you have to do is wait a while longer before you are there. That hope should be able to get you past any temporary situation, which means anything in this life because this life is not the destination and it is not all there is…it is nothing more than the crossing from one place to another.

When you feel down and out, lift up your head and shout, “Thank you, Father! Thank you, Yeshua!! Thank you Ruach!” And when you tell them why you are so thankful, you will feel better.

As my people say, “Try it: you’ll like it! After all, what could it hoit?”

more about Jews and Jesus

How many times do you think I need to bring up the topic about Jews and Jesus? If it were up to me, I would prefer to use the alliteration Yids for Yeshua, but “Yids” is seen as a derogatory term for a Jewish person, so even though Yeshua is Jesus’s real name, I don’t think my idea will catch on.

When I say Yeshua is His real name, it’s because that is the name He was called by. The Hebrew means “Salvation of God”, and it became “Jesus” when being translated. There is no Greek name or word to represent what the Hebrew means, so they used a transliteration of Yeshua, which was Jesu. When the Greek versions of the Bible were Latinized, Jesu became Jesus. Christ is the Latin form of Christos, which has no real religious meaning. It represented pouring oil on the leather shields the Greek army used, which kept the leather supple. Mashiach (spelled differently sometimes) means “Anointed One” and underwent a similar transition as Yeshua did. The Greek culture and religion had no way to understand this Jewish ideal of a Saviour, or being anointed with oil, so Mashiach was described as Christos, which gave them an idea. Latin turned it into Christ. Much of the Greek that was used by Shaul was from the Septuagint, which was a sort of Hebrew-Greek. Jews that read it had an understanding because they knew the cultural background of the words, whereas a Greek-speaking Gentile would not catch the underlying meaning at all and think that many of these words being used weren’t “real” Greek.

If Jews were taught about Yeshua Ha Mashiach and not the westernized version of the Messiah they call Jesus Christ, all golden-haired and anti-Semitic, there would be more Jewish people accepting their own Messiah than we have now.

Fortunately, the truth is getting out. The Messianic Movement is growing, despite some of the right-wing Christians who are accusing the Messianic Movement, as well as the Hebraic Roots Movement, of being “Judaizers” by misusing the writings of Shaul (Paul) to justify their anti-Semitic programs and teachings. Their accusations of heresy are, in fact, the real heresy because they claim the Old Covenant laws and regulations are done away with and anyone who teaches what I do, which is that the laws God gave to Moses are the laws that everyone who worships the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (the same guy Yeshua worshipped) are to be followed just as much today as they were when the tablets were freshly cut, is a heretic.

They are like the person who farts in the elevator and immediately points to someone else and says, “Ugh! How could you?”

Salvation doesn’t come from obedience: not because obedience is wrong or done away with, but because obedience is impossible for us. At least, for more than a few minutes at a time. The truth is that obedience to the Torah will save you, but only if you follow every regulation, commandment, mitzvah, and law exactly and completely, 24/7/365, from birth to death.

Good luck with that.

If it were possible to be totally and completely obedient to Torah, if only one person could live as Yeshua did, we would not need Yeshua’s sacrificial death. That is what makes it possible for us to overcome our inability to live the Torah correctly and completely. And, as I have said before, if there was even one person who could live Torah perfectly, as Yeshua did, then we would all be done for. Eternity would have only three people in heaven: God, Yeshua, and that one creep who ruined it for the rest of us.

I have always felt a little uncomfortable with “Jesus”, mainly because I am Jewish and was raised to hate that name and all it represented. On the other hand, Shakespeare said, “What’s in a name?”, and he was right. Jesus, Yeshua, whatever…in the Acharit HaYamim (End Days) Yeshua will have a new name, won’t He? So, for all we know, both Jesus and Yeshua may be outdated when it all comes to pass, so I should just get over it! But it isn’t that easy; not for me, and especially not for the millions of my Jewish brothers and sisters who don’t have my learning and understanding of the etymology of the name “Jesus”. We need to get passed the reputation that name has because Jesus is a name that, to Jews, represents thousands of years of persecution. That’s tough to get over, believe-you-me. I am so amazed that God was able to get me to understand and accept Messiah. It was not until after I came to believe in Jesus that I learned about Messianic Judaism and who Yeshua is. That was like finding water in the desert for me, and I am so grateful to God for leading me to my Messiah, and then putting icing on the cake by introducing me, anew, to Yeshua.

If you are Jewish and not Messianic, well, you probably aren’t reading this at all. But, just in case God has led you, one way or another, to this blog please read more from the Jews and Jesus section. Also, read my book because it isn’t about proselytizing Jews to become “Christian”, nor is it about proselytizing Christians to become Jewish: it is about all people who worship Adonai to understand that His laws are for everyone who worships Him, no matter what label we humans have put on the form of worship. God has no religion and we need to worship Him as He says we should.

Yeshua is the Messiah that God promises to us in the Tanakh. The proof is overwhelming for those that wish to accept it, and for those that refuse to accept there is no proof we can submit to them. The proof that Yeshua is the Messiah, the same way it is with proof of God’s existence, is going to come after the acceptance. That is what faith is all about- believing without proof.

The next couple of weeks are going to be tough for everyone. The Jewish people will be celebrating Hanukkah right before Christmas, and Kwanzaa comes the day after. The Big Three, if you will, all in a row. If I were an Afro-American, Messianic Jewish person I would be broke by the time New Year’s Eve got here!

It’s not about the gifts or the candles or the even about the family reunions; it’s about God, and if we can somehow keep that in perspective during the next few weeks of advertising blitzes and religious fervor, we should be OK.

Holy Day or Holiday?

I would like to start this Drash with an excerpt from the chapter in my book (see link at bottom right of page) dealing with this topic:

“Two men talking…,”…so I came to the conclusion that I’m agnostic, but when I realized they don’t have any holidays I thought it best to just stick with my reform synagogue.”

    Why is it important to know the difference between a holiday and a Holy Day? After all, don’t they both mean the same thing? Probably so, to most people. But I think there is a difference between the two, and I also think it is important to know what that difference is. And, since it’s my book, I get to write about what I want to.

   Seriously, it is important to know the difference, and in that light I will ask you to accept (for the purposes of this book) the following definitions: a Holy Day is a celebration, or festival, which God has commanded to be observed. A holiday is a celebration, or festival, which has been created by humans and is a traditional, not biblical, observance. 

   Please understand that I have absolutely nothing against man-made celebrations. I also have nothing against traditions, EXCEPT when a tradition is given more importance than the actual word of God. Traditions are fine, but He comes first.”

We are just about at the end of the High Holy Days in Judaism. Tomorrow is Simchat Torah (that means the Joy of Torah) when we read the last part of Deuteronomy and then, while we sing and dance, roll back the scrolls to the very beginning and read the first few lines in Genesis. Often this holiday (note: holiday, not holy day) is also celebrated by parading the Torah through the streets (And the Word shall go out from Yerushalayim…) with Shofar blowing and joyous singing. It is truly a wonderful thing to start reading the Torah all over again. Ya gotta love the Bible!

But it is not a festival that God told us to celebrate. It is a holiday– a man-made event that is a traditional celebration, just like the netilat yadayim (hand washing) ceremony that we read about in Mark. Just like promising a Korban (again, see Mark) or any of the many, many other Rabbinic traditions and ceremonies that are Talmudic but not Biblical. And if you really want pomp and ceremony, check out some of the Gentile holidays and traditions. You’d think they would have learned from the Jews, but it was not to be.

Why care about the difference? Maybe it doesn’t matter. I guess you could make an argument that every religious holiday (I am not talking about anything in Leviticus 23) is meant to honor God, and how can that be wrong? I think that would be a good argument, and I wouldn’t have a problem with that, except that today most of these holidays do not honor God: they only create more retail sales. They honor the economy more than they honor God.

I mean, it’s not even Halloween (clearly, no one can think that Halloween honors the Lord!) and already I see Christmas commercials on TV, stores are putting up Christmas decorations, and I haven’t even partaken of my November tryptophan yet!  Oy! If we keep going at this rate, we will “lap” Christmas and by April of 2016 they will be running Christmas 2017 sales!

The traditions of our people (Jews and Gentiles, alike) are not bad, in and of themselves. Traditions help create solidarity, a common foundation, and can often help one to get closer to God, so long as they do not interfere or overrule what God has commanded of us. This was the point that Yeshua was making during His ministry. He didn’t have an issue with the traditions, He had an issue with the Pharisees forcing the people to perform traditions at the expense of what God said they should do. There are plenty of examples of this throughout the Good News books.

We need to be careful about this, i.e., knowing the difference between what God has told us to do and what our religious leaders tell us we should do. And we need to know the difference, especially now, as we see prophecy coming to fruition all around us.

I believe the Enemy will make Himself known slowly, and we will not know what he is doing to us until it is already done, unless we keep our spiritual eyes open and trust no one. Not the Rabbi, not the Priest, not the Minister or Chaplin…not no one, not no how, not no way.

What we need to do is trust in the Word of God. You need to read it and thereby learn the difference between what is man-made and what is God-commanded. Like I said, I believe the Enemy will take charge slowly, and the best way to do that is through what we are all comfortable with. He isn’t going to jump out of a cake and say, “Hiya!! I’m the Son of Perdition and I am here to destroy you. Line up and take the mark- be the first on your block to suffer in hell for  all Eternity. Order your very own mark now…operators are standing by.”

Uh-uh…not going to happen that way. He will appear, at first, to be somewhat powerless. A nobody that came up with a popular notion or fad. Then the fad will become a tradition, just like the other traditions we all find comfortable and easily follow (like sheep) and practice. Eventually, once we are suckered into the traditional practices, the tradition will become a regular part of our life, and he will introduce activities that are God-less and satanic, but it will be so subtle, it will fit so easily into what we are doing already, that before we know it we will be lining up for the mark and not even realize what we are doing.

OK, maybe I am getting a little too apocalyptic, thinking that celebrating Simchat Torah will lead me to satanic worship. Honestly, I don’t think that’s a concern. But human stupidity, ignorance and pride is a concern, and it is as much a part of us as breathing and eating. If we aren’t watching with spiritual eyes, and discerning using the Ruach, we are doomed. The Enemy is much more devious than we are, and he knows how to get in our brains, in our daily lives, and how easily we can be led (or misled, for that matter.) And he has no fear of God. He knows he’s lost, he just doesn’t want to admit it to himself, so he is going to take as many down with him as he can. Remember this: in Revelations it says that “most” will be apostatised. Not a few, not a lot, but most- that means a lot more than just half . That means more like 70-80% of all Believers will reject God and throw away their salvation.

Worship God as He said to worship Him- celebrate the Holy Days that God has commanded we should celebrate. And I mean everyone- these are not “Jewish” holy days, these are the festivals that God (your God and mine) said that those who worship Him are to celebrate. Everyone! Start there, and slowly, carefully review and scrutinize every non-Biblical holiday you have ever enjoyed. If it seems “correct” according to the Manual, celebrate it as it should be celebrated- in a way that honors God. Leave K-Mart, Target, Amazon, et.al. out of it.

As the old saying goes, “Keep the Christ in Christmas.” And be careful to celebrate only those celebrations, and only in those ways, that give glory to God.