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!

Everything is Wonderful, Everything is Great, It’s Just That….

Do you read “Ann Landers?” “Dear Abby?” Maybe, “Ask Amy?” I do: not so much for the gossipy kind of stuff you get, or to take pleasure in hearing about other people’s problems (making mine seem less),  but as fodder for this ministry blog.

If you do read these columns, even only once in a while, I hope you also think, “How can they say that?”  They say they have a wonderful spouse with wonderful children and a wonderful marriage of x-number of years, then say that they think their husband is having an affair, or their kids are on drugs, or their spouse is excluding them for no reason!

Or any other number of serious problems. And how often are they the real problem, but they fail to face it?

I appreciate the difficulty of writing a column like that, although the one thing you never have to worry about is, “Gee- will I have enough mail from people with problems to write a full column today?” That is the easy part- there will be plenty of mail if you offer to answer people’s problems. The hard part is being correct in determining what they should do.

These “advice columns”, as they are called, are to me a clear and present example of just how many lost sheep there are in the world, with no shepherd because they haven’t turned to God. The world is a godless place not because God isn’t present, but because the world refuses to seek Him out.

Maybe if God was to write to Dear Abby,  it would read something like this:

I have a wonderful relationship with many of my children, which has lasted since I created them, and I have had a lot of kids, but there are so many of them that just won’t listen to me. I have given them life, food, water, and shelter; I have told them and showed them how much I love them, and yet most of them look to others for love. They sell their souls to my worst enemy because he offers them the things I know are bad for them. I just feel like they don’t love me anymore, and it was so nice in the beginning. All I want is for them to have a wonderful and joyous existence, but they just don’t want to listen to me. What can I do? I even sacrificed my first born son so they can have these things, but they reject Him, too. Here I have given them the opportunity to have total joy and peace, forever, and they choose something that feels nice for a moment but will lead to eternal pain! Help me, Abby! What can I do or say that I haven’t done already to make them listen to me?

That’s a tough one. I don’t know if Abby can handle this one: I know I have no “pat” answer. I guess the only answer one could offer is that this is how some people are- they just refuse to listen, to do what is best. Maybe God needs a bit of a wake-up call, i.e., maybe we need to suggest to God that when He gave us free will He set Himself up for heartache. If we, as humans, can make our own choices about what we want to do, then there will be those that will choose the wrong things.  And God, since you did give those kids their own choice, knowing that their hearts are sinful and self-absorbed, why would you be surprised when they choose the enemy’s choice tidbits and immediate rewards instead of the hard road that You offer? True, Your Son Yeshua went through a lot to make it possible for your children to find their way home again, but that path is hard because it goes against the world’s desires. You offer them the best that there could ever be, but not when they want it, and not the way they like it.

That’s true, isn’t it? God offers us eternal joy and peace, but not the way we want it, and not when we want it. Maybe God knows better than we do?  Maybe God knows something we don’t? Maybe this life isn’t all there is, and maybe this life wasn’t meant to be all we have?

Maybe, just maybe, this life is nothing more than preschool for eternity? Really! In preschool we learn to develop our muscles and motor skills, we develop our social skills, we learn to play with others, we learn how to speak better, to do things better, and we even get sick faster, which gives us anti-bodies which make us stronger and healthier when we grow up.

Preschool is how we learn to survive in the world, and life is what we are given to make our choice where we will spend eternity.

Maybe the answer to the question I hypothesize above is simply that God knew what He was doing when He created us, and when He gave us free will, and He has done all that He can do. Just keep loving us, and be happy for the ones that choose Him over the world and the enemy. He has made salvation available to all His children, but only a very few, a remnant, will choose life.

This past weekend we were reminded of the choice that Yeshua made for all of us: He chose to do His Father’s will. It cost Him a lot at the moment, but He gained everything that there ever will be that is truly wonderful. And He gained it not just for Himself, but for every one of us. All we need to do is accept it.

Many, many people, and most of the ones I know and love in my own circle of friends and family, have chosen to accept only what they want to accept, even when (I think) in their heart of hearts they know they have chosen what is easy and not really what they need to choose. It is easier to think that all I need to be is a “good person” and I will go to heaven, which is what many people are taught. If that is true, then why did Yeshua have to die? What is “good”, after all? Is it “good” according to the world or “good” according to God? If God is the judge, then shouldn’t you be doing what He considers “good?” He tells us what He considers “good”- doing everything in the Torah. It’s that simple- live your life in total accordance with the Torah and you will be “good” according to God’s definition. Well, “good” luck with that! No one ever has (except Yeshua, of course), and even though it isn’t all that hard, we just can’t do it. Not every minute of every day. So what is left? Yeshua’s sacrificial death, that’s what: and that is why being “good” isn’t going to be “good” enough! So wake up, people! Get with the program! You need to accept Yeshua as your Messiah AND you need to accept your own sinfulness. You’re NOT a good person; at least, not in comparison with God’s definition. That’s OK- it doesn’t mean you are a bad person, it just means you are a human being.

Accept who you are and what you are so that you can accept Him. Being baptised when you aren’t even old enough to know your right hand from your left isn’t going to make any difference, and going through some religious ceremony (when you are told by parents and religious leaders alike that you have to do this ) won’t make any difference, either. Catechism, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, Baptism, Confirmation: none of it matters if you did it because you were told you had to, and not because you wanted to choose God. That’s a hard word to hear, but it is one that will set your feet on the path to life, so take the carrots out of your ears and hear! As Yeshua said, “Let him who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

I am saddened when I read about these poor lost souls who need to get personal and spiritual guidance from a newspaper. Nothing against the people writing these columns, but really? A total stranger in a cubicle somewhere is telling me how to be loved and how to treat others? Isn’t all that in the Bible? Didn’t God tell us how to live, how to treat others and how they should treat us? Can an advice columnist give me eternal joy? Can a newspaper be as influential as the Bible? Is the Op-Ed better for me than the Word of God?

Go to the source, read the ultimate User’s Manual, and get your head on straight! This past weekend we have seen and heard of God’s deliverance; from Egypt, from sin, and from destruction of our very souls! Are you listening out there? If you are, and if you have made the choice Yeshua made, which was and is to do God’s will, then go out there and show people. Let your light shine on their darkness, and let them see what a difference God has made in your life.

I confess I am no better at demonstrating all the wonderful things God has done for me than anyone else. I ask you to be better than me at showing what God has done for you, so that maybe through you someone else will make the right choice.

One less letter to the newspapers, and one more soul in heaven. That’s a trade-off I can live with!

Parashah Pesach (Exodus 12:21 – 12:51)

Weren’t we in the book of Leviticus last week? How’d we get back to Exodus?

Today, actually tonight, begins Passover (‘Pesach’, in Hebrew.) As such, this being one of the most important and happiest of all the Holy Days God gave us, we read this portion of the Torah and then get back to Vayikra next week.

Passover is a Holy Day that is somewhat misunderstood, by both Jews and Christians. If you ask most any Jewish person how long Passover lasts, I’ll bet the answer you get is “7 days”, but that’s wrong. “Passover” only lasts from evening until midnight, when the angel of death passed over Egypt. The 7 days that we fast (no leavened products, i.e.. nothing with yeast) is called Hag Ha Matzot. It is the Feast of Unleavened Bread that lasts 7 days. Another thing that is misunderstood is that Passover is when God said we should celebrate the new year; God never said that Rosh HaShannah is the Jewish new year. In Exodus God tells Moshe that this day (the day the Jews left Egypt) is to be the first day of your year. Rosh HaShannah, the Jewish New Year, is a Rabbinical holiday and not a God ordered Holy Day. The day that it is celebrated on is a God-ordered Holy Day, but that day is called (by God) Yom Teruah, or Day of Trumpets. It is a memorial day.

From the Christian viewpoint, because of the undeniable association of the sacrificial death of Yeshua (Jesus) on the day after Passover, leading to His resurrection on the third day (Sunday, the beginning of the Jewish week, as we are told in the Bible) the sacrifice of the Passover lamb is considered to be what Yeshua underwent, which was a sacrifice to absolve us of our sin. Especially since He is often referred to as the Lamb of God. Even the Jewish people, for the most part, believe that the Pesach lamb was a sin sacrifice.

Oh, oh…not so, oh no. The Passover lamb was sacrificed, yes, but it was a thanksgiving sacrifice, a peace offering, not a sin or guilt offering.

Go back and read the first chapters of Leviticus we just went through- it describes how the different sacrifices are to be administered by the Kohen. There is only one type where the person offering the sacrifice also partakes in the eating of the sacrifice, and that is the peace offering. God demands that the Passover lamb be roasted and eaten by those offering it, so that makes the Passover sacrifice a peace offering, not a sin offering.

But didn’t Yeshua offer Himself as a sacrifice for sin? Yes, He did. Well, when do the Jewish people offer their sin sacrifice? That’s on Yom Kippur.

You see, Yeshua is both sides of the coin, so to speak: His sacrifice to overcome our sin was on Passover, and the Passover sacrifice is a peace offering to God. When we think about it, isn’t the Messiah supposed to bring us all back into relationship with God?  So when He sacrificed Himself as a sin offering, didn’t that also allow us to come into relationship with God? Wasn’t the curtain torn from the top down? From God to us? When Yeshua died on that execution tree, His sacrifice was both the sin sacrifice that comes at Yom Kippur (the final one that will be at the End of Days) and the peace offering that brings us back into relationship with God. His sacrifice counted then as two- the sin sacrifice to cleanse us before God and the peace offering that will bring us into relationship with God. They may be a little backwards to us, since our time is linear, but God’s time is different. What Yeshua did back then was for then, and for now, and for the rest of time; one sacrifice to accomplish two things, from then until forever.

Isn’t God just amazing?!? It gives you goose-bumps. Now do you see the real association between Passover and Yom Kippur? We usually associate Passover with freedom from physical slavery and follow it up with Shavuot, the giving of the Law on Sinai as a “one-two punch” against sin. For those that accept Yeshua’s Messianic calling as true, these two Holy Days also represent the freedom from spiritual slavery and the giving of the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit, which only because of Yeshua’s sacrifice can now indwell forever. Prior to Yeshua the Ruach fell on the person, but was lifted up later. Only because of Yeshua can that Ruach now indwell and remain.

And there’s another misunderstanding- as nicely as this all fits, Passover is not really associated with Shavuot, but with Yom Kippur. Passover and Yom Kippur are the two sides of the same coin, sacrifice for sin to cleanse us and peace offering to bring us back into relationship with God. Again I ask, isn’t that what the Messiah is supposed to do?

I also do two things at once to my Christian friends at this time of the year: I teach them by kidding with them and rebuking them at the same time. I ask them if they ever considered that as they are celebrating and honoring the resurrection of Yeshua, they are eating something that He would find to be an abomination and an insult on His table?

Think about it before you buy that Easter ham. Also think about it when you have bread and cake all next week. Yeshua told his Talmudim (Disciples) to beware the Hametz (yeast) of the Pharisees;  Yeshua and all His followers fasted from yeast during the celebration of Hag ha Matzot. Do you want to do as Yeshua did? Do you really want to please God?

If you do not normally fast during the 7 days after passover, try it. I am sure there are many who fast from something for a day or a week to get closer to God. Don’t you think that fasting as God says you should would bring you that much closer to pleasing Him? To being in communion with Him?

Forget the ham- do a turkey or a chicken. No lamb- that is not allowed because the lamb is the demanded sacrifice and it must be done at the Temple, but the Temple doesn’t exist anymore so we don’t do lamb on Passover. Chicken, turkey, maybe a nice brisket, no bread- only matzah for the next week. No cakes, no nothing with any yeast in it at all.

Try it. Do what God says and He promises to bless you (read Deuteronomy 28.) Don’t get all caught up in that drek about obeying Torah means you aren’t under the blood- that’s nothing but a bunch of fertilizer taught by those who don’t understand and don’t want to obey God to those who don’t want to make their own decision about how to worship God.

Here are my two most favorite ways to eat matzah: spread butter lightly over it with salt (warm the butter a bit first or it will crack the matzah)- YUM!!! And for breakfast eat Matzah Brei: soak matzah in warm water, when it’s soft wring out the water (carefully) and then drench the matzah is an egg wash with a little milk (and cinnamon), then fry in a frying pan greased with butter. Serve hot with syrup or sugar. It’s sort of a Jewish french toast, and I cannot believe you won’t LOVE it!

Chag  Sameach!!