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?

Have a Happy Shavuot

We began the holiday of Shavuot last night (5/30/17), which is also called Pentecost (50 days) and is celebrated by both Jews and Christians. I think this is the only holiday that Jews and Christians celebrate together, although for different reasons.

You know…even within Judaism Shavuot is celebrated for a different reason than it was originally created. In Leviticus 23:15-21 God decreed we celebrate this day:

 “‘From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks.  Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then present an offering of new grain to the Lord.  From wherever you live, bring two loaves made of two-tenths of an ephah of the finest flour, baked with yeast, as a wave offering of firstfruits to the Lord.  Present with this bread seven male lambs, each a year old and without defect, one young bull and two rams. They will be a burnt offering to the Lord, together with their grain offerings and drink offerings—a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord.  Then sacrifice one male goat for a sin offering[c] and two lambs, each a year old, for a fellowship offering.  The priest is to wave the two lambs before the Lord as a wave offering, together with the bread of the firstfruits. They are a sacred offering to the Lord for the priest.  On that same day you are to proclaim a sacred assembly and do no regular work. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live.”

We have been counting the Omer ( a unit of weight) until the 50th day after the first Shabbat after Passover. In other words, we have the Passover Seder, then the Festival of Firstfruits (Habikurim), and then we start to count the 50 days until Shavuot (which is the Hebrew word for “weeks”) when we perform both a sin and a fellowship sacrifice.

The Holy Day (meaning God decreed) of Shavuot was an agricultural celebration, but this has been replaced by a spiritual celebration. The Rabbinical holiday (meaning man-made) celebrates the giving of the Torah to Moses on Mt. Sinai. The Torah, itself, doesn’t mention this as part of the festival; neither is it mentioned as the reason for this festival in the writings of either of the accepted historians of this time period, Josephus and Philo.  From what I could find, it is believed that Maimonides (also called the RaMBaM, an acronym for Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon), who lived in the twelfth century, is the Rabbi that associated Shavuot with the giving of the Law.  This means that the Holy Day of Shavuot was celebrated as God told us to do so for about 2600 years after Moses, then it became a holiday created by Maimonides. In fact, the Torah could not have been given on Shavuot. Here’s why: we read in Exodus 19:1 the following statement:

In the third month after the sons of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that very day they came into the wilderness of Sinai.

They left Egypt on the 15th of Aviv, and we are told in Exodus that this day (the very day they left Egypt) is to be the first day of their year. It took 90 days for them to get to Sinai, which is already more than 50 days after Habikurim. Even if we try to fit the time line in by using some convoluted counting based on which Shabbat is really the first Shabbat after Passover, we still have to add that God decreed all the men should prepare themselves for 3 days before approaching the mountain (Exodus 19:10):

 And the Lord said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes and be ready by the third day, because on that day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.

So, it was no less than 93 days after the Israelites left Egypt that they even came to the mountain. Then, we have Moses up there for 40 days and nights, so the law was being given to Moses, but hadn’t been received by all of Israel yet. As you probably already know, the law took even longer than that, since Moses destroyed those first tablets and it was about 1 1/2 to 2 months later that he came down with the tablets that (finally) were saved in the Ark of the Covenant.

Likewise, even though the Christian celebration of Pentecost is to commemorate the giving of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit), Pentecost is a Greek word meaning “50 Days”, so the Christian celebration of Pentecost is celebrating a holiday whose name represents a totally different event.  Yeshua (Jesus) never mentioned that He would send the Comforter on any specific day, just that they were to wait until it arrived. I contend that because Yeshua made no direct reference to receiving the Spirit on Pentecost, that Pentecost is a uniquely Jewish Holy Day and Christianity should have given their celebration a different name. I am guessing that because the early Believers were still mostly Jewish, and this spiritual indwelling occurred on a Jewish Holy Day (at that time Shavuot was celebrated as God said it should be), that is how the name Pentecost was forever associated with the pouring out of the Holy Spirit.

So what we have is this: Shavuot (weeks) and Pentecost (50 days- this name came from the Septuagint) are the same Holy Day, which has been turned into a holiday by both Jews and Christians, who each celebrate it for a different reason than what God created it to be.

If you have read my book (Back to Basics: God’s Word vs. Religion) you would know that I do not appreciate Holy Days being turned into holidays. However, I do make an exception for Shavuot because the relationship between the giving of the Torah, which set us apart as holy and represented freedom from slavery to men, and the giving of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit), which set us apart as holy and helped to free us from slavery to sin, is a really good thing. It helps to bring together Jews and Christians, even if not for the same reason. It is (at least) some form of common celebration from which we can come closer together in our worship of God.

What we have today is this: The Holy Day God decreed is still being celebrated by both Jews and Christians. From the Jewish side, we have changed the reason for the celebration to one that (by all means) does deserve celebration: the giving of the Torah to Moses. On the Christian side, they celebrate the giving of the Holy Spirit, which is the Comforter and giver of Truth to help us stay on the road of righteousness.

Torah tells us what God expects of us and defines sin so that we can avoid it; the Ruach HaKodesh helps us to recognize sin, and when we surrender to it, will also direct us to stay on the path of righteousness. Both Jews and Christians have this in common with their celebration of this day: we are thankful to God for His direction and for the gifts He gives us in order to help us have eternal life.

Shavuot is a very joyous celebration, and whether you celebrate the gift of the Torah, or the gift of the Ruach, or (as Messianic and Hebraic Roots congregations do) celebrate them both, have a very happy and blessed Shavuot.

 

Too selfish to receive

‘Tis the season for giving. In Acts (20:35) we are told that Yeshua said it is better to give than to receive, and we also are told in 2 Corinthians (9:6-7) that God loves a cheerful giver. So, it is pretty clear that we should give generously and cheerfully when we give to others.

Being a generous giver means that we give for the love of giving, and for the hope that what we give will help, edify and please the receiver.

The world, however, is not a generous giver- the world teaches us that what we give should be considered as a sampling of what the other person should, sooner or later, give us back.  Maybe that’s why so many give something they want for themselves becasue they hope the receiver will “get the hint”?

On the other hand, that doesn’t explain why fruit cakes get passed around like a hot potato.

What the world teaches us about giving is that when we receive something we need to make sure we give back something of equal or better value. The world teaches us to receive a gift wrapped with a sense of obligation. It is never “cheerful” if you give something with the expectation that you will receive something back. That is not giving- that is called “investing”. You invest some money to get more money back, and you invest some time to receive a benefit greater than the value of the time you invested. However, it is wrong to give a gift in order to receive something similar or better at some later date. If you do, then you are not a cheerful giver: what you are is a sinful, selfish and manipulative louse.

“Hey!! Ease up, Steve!”

Sorry if you feel a little offended, but like it or not, that’s the truth; if it hits home then you need to think about what Yeshua said regarding giving. He should know. After all, He gave His life willingly so that you could have a chance to live with God, eternally. He doesn’t expect you to give your life to Him in exchange out of obligation, but He hopes you do. And not out of obligation, but out of thankfulness and as an opportunity to allow what He did to become useful in your life. He wants you to accept His sacrificice, His gift to you, for your sake and not for His.

Here’s the really hard part for humans, who (as I say above) have been taught by the world that when you receive something you owe something back to the giver: it is very hard for us to receive as generously as we give.

When you receive a gift that you think is disproportionate to your gift, do you feel “guilty”? Do you feel that you did not perform as you should have? Even if the gift you gave is appropriate, useful and appreciated?  If you feel this way, then you are too worried about the world’s view and not about God’s view. You need to “give” the other person gifting you the true joy of giving. You need to “give” the other person the joy that you feel when you give with no expectation of return. You need to accept the gift with the same joy you feel when you give a gift, and not feel any obligation to return anything.

If the other person is upset that you didn’t give proportionate to their gift, or that you didn’t bring them anything at all, then that’s their problem. And if you have been giving gifts to a friend and their children at holiday times and they always have an excuse for not giving you anything, then give them one more gift: give them the guilt-free gift of telling them you don’t give to receive, you give to give and that the only one you want to impress is God by cheerfully sharing the blessings He has given to you with those you care for.

God wants us to share that which He has provided for us. If you have more than someone else has, give them some of what you have that they can use. Give it freely, give it cheerfully, and give it without expectation of receipt. If you give to others without any desire to receive back, you will receive something- you will receive blessings from the Lord.

And let me tell you something- what the Lord will bless you with won’t be found at Macy’s, can’t be ordered from E-Bay, and will never be available on Amazon.  What the Lord will bless you with will be peace of spirit, joy of giving, love of your fellow-man (and woman), and rewards in heaven.

That’s a lot better than free shipping!

Parashah B’resheet (In the Beginning) Genesis 1-6:8

This past Monday, the 24th, was the celebration of Sh’mini Atzeret, the Eighth Day. This is also called Simchat Torah, or Joy of Torah. The joy is that we read the last sentence or two of D’varim (Deuteronomy) and then, as the congregation sings songs of joy, we turn the Torah back (you can get real “Popeye” arms from doing this!) to the start, and read the first sentence or two of B’resheet (Genesis.) The Parashot readings are usually over a one year cycle, but some synagogues will read the Torah over a three year cycle. In either case, Simchat Torah will always be on the eighth day of Sukkot.

This first parashah takes us from nothingness to just before God causes the flood. Of course, even in the nothingness of a universal void, God already was there. What was for Mankind the very beginning of everything was just another eon for God.

For the Jewish people, reading the Torah is joy, and the Haftorah portions and traditional Holy Day readings incorporate most of the rest of the Tanakh. But for many Christian people, they never get to know who Yeshua (Jesus) really is because they separate the Torah and the Old Covenant writings from the New Covenant. This is mainly because we are all taught, both Jews and Gentiles, that these books represent two separate religions. Of course, nothing could be farther from the truth.

Traditional teaching is that the “God” of the Old Covenant is vengeful, violent and strict, whereas the “God” of the New Covenant is, essentially, Jesus (real name- Yeshua), and I say that because whereas the O.C. is all about the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the N.C. talks about God only as “the Father”, and He gets second billing to Jesus. The O.C. God has the Jews kill nations and depopulate Canaan, He kills His own people, He is strict, He has all these rules and laws and commandments, He requires sacrifices, He has His prophets call fire from heaven on people, yadda-yadda-yadda. That O.C. God is a real meanie. Oh, but the N.C. God, this nice, quiet, calm and totally loving Jesus is nothing like that. He is all about love, He is all about forgiveness, and acceptance, and peace. He cried at Lazarus’s tomb. He is such a nice boy, to make His mother proud.

Get real, people- Jesus was (and still is) His Father’s son! Did Jesus ever say anything nice, loving, compassionate or forgiving about the Pharisees? As I recall, He called them white-washed sepulchers, full of dead man’s bones. And what about those quiet, society-serving businessmen that were helping people to buy sacrificial animals and exchanging monies in the Temple courts? They were serving the people, and Jesus whipped them, over-turned their tables and (without using bad language) cursed them out. He told His followers they had to eat His flesh and drink His blood; He told His followers that He came to separate families and turn fathers against sons, and mothers against daughters; He said people had to crucify themselves if they wanted to follow Him. He even called-out one of His best friends: when Kefa (Peter) voiced how upset he would be if anything bad happened to Jesus, instead of lovingly hugging him for being so concerned, Jesus called him Satan- He said, “Get thee behind me, Satan!” He didn’t say, “C’mon, Pete- get with the program” or “Thank you, Brother, for the kind concern but I must do my Father’s work.” No- Jesus chewed Peter out, in front of everyone!

As we start to read the O.C.  again, let’s remember (and if you never learned this before, then learn it now) that these are NOT separate stories about two separate religions: it is the same story, the same religion, the same God and the same Messiah.

  • The O.C. starts with absolutely nothing in existence. It then tells how God created everything, chose a people, developed them, grew them despite everyone else in the world trying to kill them; gave them His rules for how to worship and honor Him, and how to treat each other. It tells how He set them up in their own land so that from there He could rule them, and they were to be an example and a blessing to the world. Finally, through His chosen people, His Torah (which means teachings, not laws) and His Messiah, the entire world would find salvation from their sins and have eternal communion with Him. It ends with the overthrow of Jerusalem, destruction of the Temple, and the dispersion of the Jewish people throughout the known world.
  • The N.C. is the continuation, taking over where the O.C. left off, with the coming of the promised Messiah who taught the Jews the hidden meanings of the Torah that they had not discovered. Jesus taught them how to live the Torah to it’s fullest, both physically and spiritually, and that He was there to finalize the Almighty’s plan of salvation by becoming the ultimate and final sacrifice for sin. Because we all failed to live in accordance with Torah, Yeshua ha Maschiach (Yeshua the Messiah) completed God’s plan of salvation by overcoming, with His own blood, those sins that we could not overcome on our own. We then read how His story spread and how salvation came to both Jews and Gentiles. The N.C. ends as the O.C. began,  with a brand new beginning.

If I was to write a dust jacket for the (entire) Bible, it would be something like this:

A wonderful love story of the one and only God and how He fulfilled His plan to create Mankind and provide an eternal paradise for them. There is action, death, rebellion, supernatural events, romance, treachery and despite what seems to be the total destruction of God’s plan, there is a happy ending for those that find the truth and accept the salvation provided for them. It can be hard to understand in parts, and sometimes the story line drags a little, but it delivers a satisfying read with many messages that are appropriate for both the individual and the society. Overall, I give it two thumbs up! (Available in both paper and digital format.) 

If you think that the O.C. is for Jews and the N.C. is all Christians really need to know, try reading the second book in a series without reading the first one. After you do that, then read the first book, and you will see how much you were missing. It is the same with the Old and New Covenants- please believe me when I tell you these are one book, one story, one God (the same one in both) and one Messiah, promised in the first book and delivered in the second. With one beginning and one ending, which is a new beginning.

That new beginning at the end of the bible is when the new heaven and the new earth are created for the survivors of the destruction of the old earth; it is a new paradise.

Start your year right now, with a new beginning of understanding and a new realization of the symmetry and synergy between the Old and New Covenants. Read from Genesis all the way through Revelations, and see how it all fits perfectly. If you are Jewish and have never read the New Covenant, invest in your eternity and buy a Messianic version just so that you can get passed some of the subtle anti-Semitic intonations of the King James and NIV versions. However, even those versions will give you an idea, if you are willing to look, of the Jewishness of the New Covenant. Jesus’s real name is Yeshua, meaning God’s Salvation, and He was, is and always will be identified as a Jewish man, the Son of the God of the Jews. That is an unfortunate label, because God is not the God of the Jews, He is God- the one and only God, and the God of everyone and everything. He has no religion, He has His commandments, rules and regulations for worshiping Him and treating each other.

That’s all there is- worship God and treat each other as you would want to be treated. All the rest falls into place if you do those two things.

Chag Sameach! (Happy Holidays) and may God bless you in your endeavor to know Him better, to serve Him with love and faithful obedience, and may you be a blessing to others.

L’Shanah Tovah! (Happy New Year)

It’s 5777.

I had someone tell me, just yesterday, that this should be a very good year. The number ‘5’ reminds us of the 5 books of Moses (Torah) and of the 5 divisions to the Psalms. The number ‘7’ is probably the MOST powerful number in the bible. It represents completeness, as the world was completed in seven days; the 7th day is the Sabbath, the word for luck, Mazel, is equal to the number 77, and when the bible wants to emphasize something, it says it three times.

So, if you’re into numerology, 5-7-7-7 should be a very good year.

Of course, the entire celebration is not really a new year celebration according to God. In Leviticus 23, the chapter that gives us the Festivals of the Lord, this is Yom Teruah, the Day of Trumpets (also Yom Ha-Zikaron, Day of Remembrance.) It begins the 10 Days of Awe, a period of somber and humble introspection as we approach Yom Kippur, our Day of Atonement. During this time we are to review our past year with emphasis on how well, or how poorly (in most cases) we did with regards to doing that which pleases God.

The new year celebration is actually a holiday, not a Holy Day, as I define them: Holy Days are what God told us we must celebrate to Him, and a holiday is what men have created to be a day of celebration. Therefore, Yom HaZikaron is a Holy Day, a day of remembrance (as defined by God), but Rosh Hashanah is a holiday, a Rabbinic ordinance that tells us to celebrate the beginning of the year. It is a civil new year. The religious, or spiritual, new year is when God told us it is to be, which is the first day of Nisan: the first day of our freedom from slavery in Egypt.

Exodus 12:1-2 “ Now the LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, “This month shall be the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year to you.” 

So, since the holiday of Rosh Hashanah is not decreed by God- in fact, it is in conflict with the Holy Day God said we should celebrate- should we ignore it?

Good question. I wish I had a good answer!

My book goes into this in the chapter regarding Holy Days vs. Holidays. All I can talk about is what I do- I worship God as He said we should (well, I do not do a very good job of it, but I keep getting better) and when there is a conflict, if we can call it that, I try to do what would please God. Since God said this is a day of remembrance, I think we should look inside ourselves and try to determine how to be better next year. And when we celebrate the American (worldly) new year in January, don’t we do that as part of it? Don’t we sing, “Auld Lang Syne”? Don’t we look forward to a better year?  Don’t we wish each other better success as we move into the future? Don’t we make resolutions (just to break them) to improve ourselves?

I do not see a real conflict between celebrating the day of remembrance as a new year, so long as we do the things I described above. Instead of a conflict, I see it more as just a different spin on the idea of remembrance.

For me, I want to hear the trumpets call me to remember, call me to look inside, call me to gather myself together to work towards being a better “me”, a more Godly “me”, a “me” that will please the Lord more in the coming year. And a “me” that is thankful, humbly and respectfully, for the forgiveness I already have though Messiah Yeshua. I will not abuse that forgiveness by taking advantage of His promises; I will not trample the blood of Messiah into the dirt by using His sacrifice to allow me to half-way atone.

As I prepare for Yom Kippur, and celebrate these Days of Awe, this time of holy introspection and review, I do ask God to move from the Throne of Judgment to the Throne of Mercy- not for myself, because Yeshua has covered my sins, but for my people, for all people, so that they may look inside and see the spirit of God we all have and recognize their sinfulness.

Only when we are willing to “own” our sin can we truly begin to give it away.

Enjoy this new year; may we see the return of Israel to her land and the coming of Messiah Yeshua on clouds in majesty and power! Hallelujah!!

L’shanah tovah tiketavu!

As the End Approaches, so Does the Beginning

Next Tuesday is Sh’mini Atzeret, the Eighth Day of the Feast of Tabernacles. It is also Simchat Torah, the Joy of Torah.

This is the one day of the year when the Torah is taken outside for a walk. We parade the Torah, blow our Shofers, and in the Synagogue the last lines of Deuteronomy are read, then as the people sing the Torah is rolled back (carefully- if you have ever tried to roll up a towel with the edges perfectly aligned, try doing it with a Torah, which is fragile and very, VERY expensive!) and the first few lines of Exodus are read.

Coming to the end of the Torah means it is time for the beginning of it.

That’s sort of what it is going to be like after all the End Days (Acharit HaYamim) mishigas is done. Yeshua said, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.…” (Matthew 5:17-18) His meaning, taken in 1st Century cultural context, was that He interpreted the Torah correctly.

BTW…Torah is not “law”, it means “teachings” and has been mislabeled for a long time.

What I take from what Yeshua said is when the Millennium is over, the enemy freed, the final battle done, all the bad guys are now treading sulfur while the elect are ruling with Yeshua, the new heaven and the new earth are situated, the temple is in Jerusalem and God is dwelling, again, with His people (all His people)…when all this has happened, the Torah will no longer be the teachings we have always used it for.

The Prophets tell us that the Torah will be written on our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33) and that God will pour out His Spirit on everyone (Joel 3:1-2) and we will all know the Lord, so there will be no further need for Torah.

This is also discussed in Hebrews and by Shaul (Paul) when they talk of the old being replaced by the new (Hebrews 8:12-13; 1 Corinthians 13:8-12) and how things will change once all has come to pass.

There are other areas in the Bible where we are told that the Torah was given to sanctify us, to separate us from the rest of the world and bring us closer to God. When the Tribulation is over, when all things have come to pass, then we will be living Torahs, and as such, the physical scroll will no longer be needed.

Until then, it is essential for life. Without Torah, in this plane of existence, we have no way to know what is good in God’s eyes and what is not. Read Judges- then everyone did what seemed right to them, and Proverbs tells us exactly what that leads to- death! (Proverbs 14:12)

As the High Holy Days approach their end for this year, we look forward, joyously, to being able to start all over again to read God’s word , and we faithfully ask God to let His Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) lead our understanding and enrich our souls even more than He has done in the past year.

Each time we turn the Torah back, each year we complete the Parashot, every day we read His word, every breath we take and every single heartbeat brings us that much closer to the Messiah’s return. No man knows when that will be, so be ready at all times. For all we know, this evening we may be sitting at Yeshua’s table.

Frankly, I don’t see any reason whey we shouldn’t try to get a little ahead of the curve and start to write the Torah on our hearts, now. Of course, we can’t do that as well as God will.

But, then again, we won’t really be getting in His way if we get an early start on making ourselves living Torahs, right?  What can it hurt to try?

May You Have an Easy Fast

Tomorrow night is Erev Yom Kippur- the evening that begins the Holy Day of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. This is one of the holiest days of the Jewish year.  It is a commanded day of gathering together (although this is not one of the “Big Three” where you need to go to the Temple)  and “afflicting one’s soul”, which has been interpreted as fasting. No food, no water, nothing from sundown tomorrow until sundown Wednesday.

You may be thinking, “But Steve- you’re already saved. Your sins are forgiven. Why bother?” and the question is not unwarranted: I am saved. My sins are forgiven and will continue to be forgiven because I belong to Yeshua. So long as I am trying harder and harder to be what God wants, to obey His laws and do T’Shuvah (turn from sin), I will be forgiven whenever I call on God and ask forgiveness in the name of Yeshua Ha Mashiach.

And that is the very reason I fast and worship as all the “unsaved” Jews do- because I do belong to Yeshua, and Yeshua did not do away with Torah, and the Torah says I should fast.

How many of you out there can say you are without sin at any given time? Do you really think that once forgiven never held responsible again? If so, you’ve got a really nasty surprise coming. Sin separates us from God, and every time that we sin, we are that much more separated from God. Forgiveness is available but it isn’t shoved down our throat. God will not automatically forgive you just because in 1993 at 10 AM on a Tuesday you “found Jesus.” That’s great that you did, and once forgiven, all those prior sins are not going to be held against you. They were paid for. And the sins you commit afterwards, well, you have to ask forgiveness of them, too. You still need to confess and ask forgiveness. This isn’t revolving credit where you make a payment, run a debt, then make a payment. We sin every day and every day we need to ask forgiveness.

Yom Kippur is a day when we don’t ask just for individual forgiveness, but for corporate forgiveness. Read the prayers in the Machzor (the special prayer book for High Holy Days); read the books of the Prophets, who always asked forgiveness for the people; this is not just a day of asking for personal forgiveness. That’s why we are commanded to have a communal day of prayer, to gather together and confess to God our failure to meet our end of the Covenant He made with our Fathers. It is a communal request to forgive all of us, therefore, everyone who is saved should be even more willing to obey this commandment because we need to show the unsaved our desire for them to be forgiven and reconciled to God (through Messiah.)

Oh, by the way, did you catch that part about “we are commanded”? The best reason to do what God says is because He said to do it! How many times do you hear people say ( or maybe you’ve said it yourself), “Oh Lord, oh Yeshua, oh Jesus- I love you!”  Do you love Yeshua? Do you love Jesus? Are you one of His flock?

Then read John 14:15 (“If you love me, keep my commands.“)  And what commands did Yeshua give? The same ones that His Daddy gave to Moshe. John knew this and the Gospel he wrote began making sure that the very first truth of the Good News that he told us was this:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.

There is nothing “new” in the New Covenant writings- it is all the same stuff as in the Torah and the Prophets. That is what Yeshua taught from, that is what Yeshua taught about, and that is what Yeshua told us to obey. When Yeshua told us to prove our love for Him by obeying His commands, He was talking about the Torah. Yeshua/Jesus IS the living Torah!

That is why I fast and worship on Yom Kippur. For the same reason I do so on every Holy Day God has commanded us to celebrate- because He has commanded it. That is all the reason any one needs. Because I love and worship God, and because I belong to Yeshua, I do as my Master tells me to do. And I do so willingly, happily and faithfully, to the very best of my abilities, which are incompetence and failure. In truth, as much as I try, the best I can hope for and the best I can do, is better than what I have already done.

And that is good enough. Don’t try to be perfect- it ain’t gonna happen. I just want to be better than I was, I want to wake up and sin at least one less sin each day. I will walk three steps forward, but backslide two steps because it is my very nature to do so, yet as long as I net out one step closer, I am performing T’Shuvah. I am getting better, I am sinning less, I am becoming more spiritually mature and growing closer to God.

Tomorrow night I will fast. By Wednesday around, oh, let’s say 1130 or 1200, I will have a killer caffeine headache. My stomach will be grumbling and I may become a little testy. But I will be worshiping. Although the place where I worship cannot hold services because of a special needs school it runs during the day (services would be disruptive and disturbing to the children) I will worship in my home. I will read the Machzor, I will sit on my porch and enjoy the Sabbath rest that this day has for me, and I will commune with the Lord. I will recite the Ashamnu and the Al Chet, prayers listing the many sins we have committed against God and prayers asking forgiveness.

And I will demonstrate my love for Yeshua and for God by being faithfully obedient, and I will demonstrate my solidarity with my people by joining them in corporate prayer, even if I am not with them physically, as our prayers reach up to heaven and are presented to God on a golden patter held by Yeshua, Himself.

And I will do as every Jew should do on this day; actually, as everyone who says they worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob should do on this day.

Because God said we should.

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!!

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.