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.

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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!

Parashah Emor (Speak) Leviticus 21 – 24

There is enough in here to fill a book. I could write a whole chapter of a book just on Leviticus 23, the designations of the Holy Days…oh wait! I already did- it’s Chapter 7 in my book.

God tells Moses and Aaron the requirements for priesthood: about who they can marry, keeping clean (ceremonially) and who may eat of the holy foods. He also tells them those who serve must not have a blemish or an unnatural (today we would say challenged) physique.

It also, as I mentioned above, designates the Festivals of the Lord, the 7 Holy Days (not holidays, but Holy Days- read my book) that God has separated and commanded us to observe:

The Sabbath

Passover Passover is not 7 days long: it is just from the evening meal until midnight, when the angel passed over.

Hag Ha Matzot The next seven days are called Hag ha Matzot, the Festival of Unleavened Bread. First Fruits is also celebrated the first day after the first Shabbat after Passover starts.

Shavuot Festival of Weeks, which includes the counting of the Omer and is celebrated by Christians as the Pentecost (50 days). For Jews it celebrates also the giving of the Torah, although that is civil, not biblical.

Rosh HaShanah The bible declares this day as Yom T’Ruah, the memorial celebration with sounding of trumpets. The civil holiday it has become is a new year celebration. According to God, the new year begins 14 days before the Passover, with the month of Aviv (now called Nissan)

Yom Kippur The Day of Atonement is when we ask God to move from the Seat of Judgment to the Seat of Mercy and forgive us for our sinfulness and the sins we have committed. Of course, we are to ask forgiveness every day, but this was a special time, and the only time that the Cohen HaGadol, the High Priest, was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies.

Sukkot The Festival of Tabernacles is when we build small tabernacles, or open roofed shelters and live in them for a week, to recall the way we lived in the desert for 40 years. Today (not from Torah but a Rabbinical add-on) we also celebrate Sh’mini Atzeret, the Eighth Day, also called Simchat Torah (Joy of Torah). On that day we read the final lines of the Torah, then while the congregation sings (and dances in some synagogues) the Torah is turned back to the beginning, and the cycle of reading starts all over again.

The one thing I want to discuss today is at the very end of this parashah. Leviticus 24:22, where God says:

Ye shall have one manner of law, as well for the stranger, as for the home-born; for I am the Lord, your God

This command is one of the most important of all commandments in the Torah, as far as I am concerned, because it signifies clearly that God makes no distinction between your geographic origin, your parent’s beliefs, or whether you are white, black, or multi-colored: as far as God is concerned, His laws are for everyone and it doesn’t matter where you are from or how you were raised. There is only one God, Adonai; there are only His rules and laws; like them or not, you are subject to them if you say you worship Him.

If you profess to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob then these laws are for you. Period.

Most, if not all, Christian religions teach differently, and any religion that says these Holy Days do not need to be observed or that any part of the Torah is not necessary, by definition that religion cannot be worshiping the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

If you are being told the Torah, the holy days in Leviticus 23, or that the Old Covenant is all just “Jewish” stuff, then you need to find out who you are worshiping, because it ain’t the God Moses worshiped!

 

Forgive Yourself as You Would Forgive Others

This evening is Kol Nidre, the beginning of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. It is all about forgiveness, and usually we concentrate on asking God to forgive us. We ask that He move from the Throne of Judgement to the Throne of Forgiveness, and we are to “afflict our souls” as we request His forgiveness. But it shouldn’t be just about God forgiving us, or about us forgiving others. It should also be about us forgiving ourselves.

It’s strange, isn’t it? That we should be able to forgive others but often we can’t forgive ourselves?  The Manual tells us we should do unto others as we do unto ourselves, and that we will be forgiven as we forgive others. Isn’t the converse true? Are we as willing to forgive ourselves as we are others? If God is willing to forgive us, but we don’t forgive ourselves, then isn’t that the same as saying we are above God, in that He is willing to let it go but we won’t? We think what He does isn’t good enough, He’s too easy- we should be punished! If we think that, then we are saying what we think and feel is more important than what God thinks and feels. That’s idolatry- we put ourselves before God and above Him when we refuse to do what He is willing to do.

If you feel there is something you have done which is so bad you can’t believe God will forgive you, then you just don’t understand Grace. In Romans 5 Shaul tells us that as sin is increased, so to is Grace. Basically, there isn’t a sin big enough that God’s Grace can’t cover it. In fact, Kippur (as in Yom Kippur) doesn’t really mean “atonement”, it means “covering.”  God is covering our sin, like a mother hen protects her chicks by covering them with her wings.

What I find wonderful is that God is not just able to forgive, and not just willing to forgive, but that He wants to forgive!  He even has a means to forgive us for sins we committed in error (see Numbers 15.) In Ezekiel He says He gets no pleasure from seeing the sinners die, but that He would rather they do T’Shuvah and live. His forgiveness is more than just something He does- it’s what He wants to do. I can’t imagine that anyone who even thinks God could exist is not able to grasp that we are sinful and He is willing to overlook that if we only ask Him to do so.

But God is no fool. Just because He will forgive sins doesn’t mean that it’s OK to sin. Today Christianity is teaching that Grace covers everything to the degree that sin is not an issue anymore. We are “under the blood of Christ”; He died for our sins so we are forgiven.  All who call on His name are saved and we are forgiven everything. Just so long as you say you are a Believer and you call on His name you are saved, your sins are forgiven and you get to go to heaven. Just confess and ask forgiveness and you are clean. Hallelujah!  That’s not Grace from sin they are teaching, it’s license to sin. People are being taught that their sins are forgiven simply by asking God to do so, and although that is technically correct, it implies that to continue to sin will have no detrimental effect on your salvation.

That is a lie from the pit of hell! If you continue to sin, without concern, without truly being repentant, you better bring along an umbrella and plenty of Coppertone when you meet the Lord before the Throne. You can ask, and it will be given unto you, but not if you don’t really repent. And the way to be repentant is to stop sinning.

Atonement is not a one-time, slam-blam-I-forgive-you-Ma’am thing. It’s a process. First and foremost, you have to own your sin. That means to recognize your own sinfulness and take responsibility for it. Next, you must do T’Shuvah, that is, turn from your sins. You must really, really want to not sin anymore. Once you have done this, you “own” your sin. And when you own something, you have the right and ability to give it away. That’s the third step- give that sin to God. Ask Him to take it from you, and then “go, and sin no more” (see if you can find that Bible quote.)

This is the start of one of the holiest of the High Holy Days. Even though we have been forgiven, even though we, Believers, understand and accept the Grace of God made possible through the ultimate and final atonement that Yeshua made on our behalf, we still should observe Yom Kippur. Why? Well, first off, it’s a commandment. Duh!! Second, Shaul tells us we should suffer with those that are suffering- not eating or drinking for 24 hours is certainly my idea of suffering!

No, seriously, we should observe this festival because God said we should and to show our non-accepting (of Yeshua) Brothers and Sisters that Messianic Jews do what God said we should do, that we follow the Torah and that being Born Again/ Messianic is not a different religion- it is what being Jewish is all about. It is the epitome of Judaism; to not just follow Torah and hope for a Messiah, but to know the Messiah and be part of God’s plan of redemption. Actually, it is beyond Judaism, it is beyond any religion- it is doing as God said we should do. It is following His commandments. It is being faithfully obedient.

Remember- God has no religion. If you say you believe in God and want to follow Him, to do as Yeshua did, then you better know Torah because that’s the User Manual for the program called Salvation.

When we pray this evening and throughout tomorrow, remember that you need to forgive yourself, too. Also understand that the solidarity we have with the unsaved Jewish people is in our prayers. Look at the prayers- they are often not asking for individual forgiveness, but for corporate forgiveness. The Prophets accepted responsibility for the sins of the people, the Cohen Ha Gadol (High Priest) transferred the sins of the people to the goat or bull to be sacrificed. We are not just asking for our individual forgiveness, but we are interceding for all the people, everywhere. This day is not just about you- it’s about all of us.

Lastly, let me ask you to think of Yom Kippur not just as a holy day, but as an every day activity. In Judaism this day is the culmination of the Days of Awe and leads us into the final festival of this time (Sukkot) when we (now clean) can enter into communion with God as our Fathers did, by living in Sukkot (Tabernacles, or tents.) After this week of intimate communion, we begin our cycle again with turning back the Torah (Simchat Torah) and starting our love affair with God, all over again.