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.

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

Yeshua as First Fruits…the Right Way

At this time of the year, everyone is talking about “First Fruits”, or in the Hebrew, HaBikkurim. Yeshua (Jesus) was referred to as first fruits by Shaul (Paul) in his first letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 15:23), and as far as I can see, that was the only reference to Yeshua and HaBikkurim throughout the entire Bible.

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The real first fruits festival, the one commanded by God in the Torah, is a harvest festival. God instructs us how and when it should be celebrated in Leviticus 23:9-10, and again in Deuteronomy 26:1-2.  Let’s see exactly when God said we should celebrate first fruits:

Leviticus– The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you and you reap its harvest, bring to the priest a sheaf of the first grain you harvest.

Deuteronomy– When you have entered the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance and have taken possession of it and settled in it, take some of the firstfruits of all that you produce from the soil of the land the Lord your God is giving you and put them in a basket. Then go to the place the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name.

As we can see, the instructions regarding when we are to celebrate the first fruits are not related to any other festival. They are directly related to the harvest, which any farmer will tell you cannot be associated with or dependent upon a calendar day. The crop will be ready for harvesting when, and only when, the crop decides it will be ready for harvesting.

I believe a lot of the confusion is because Yom HaBikkurim is not just considered the celebration of the first fruits, but it is also the day that we begin to count the 50 days of the Omer. Actually, it is at the Shavuot celebration that we bring the sheaf to the Cohen. The day to start counting is related directly to Unleavened Bread but that is also under debate, which is a different story.

The reference to Yeshua by Shaul as the first fruits, within the context of what Shaul was writing, I believe was meant to be understood that as through Adam death entered the world, through the Messiah, we can again have eternal life. The references as “first fruits” was not to HaBikkurim, but Shaul used the term “fruits” as in “works”, meaning that the “fruit” of Yeshua’s ministry is salvation.

Look at how the word “fruit” is used throughout the Bible and you will see it is often used metaphorically for works or actions. Hermeneutically, doesn’t Shaul’s reference makes more sense as first fruits representing the harvest of Yeshua’s ministry than related to HaBikkurim?

Let’s now look at what God instructs us to do in Leviticus 19:23-24:

When you enter the land and plant any kind of tree for food, you shall regard the fruit as forbidden. For three years it will be forbidden to you and must not be eaten. In the fourth year all its fruit must be consecrated as a praise offering to the LORD.

Now, isn’t that interesting?  The trees planted in the land are not to be touched for three years, and after that, all their fruit is to be offered to Adonai at the place where he dwells. Yeshua’s ministry grew for three years, and how many times do we read that when the people tried to get to Yeshua to do him harm he was left untouched because it wasn’t his time yet?

What we also have to note, although I will not go into it in detail here, is that Yeshua’s sacrifice was not just a sin sacrifice, but was also a peace-offering, which is what “first fruits” is. The Passover lamb sacrifice was not a sin sacrifice it was a peace-offering, also called a Thanksgiving sacrifice. However, Yeshua’s sacrifice was both for sin and as a peace-offering.

What I am saying is that Shaul’s reference to Yeshua as first fruits was only a metaphor to show that Adam’s actions (his fruit, if you will) brought death and Yeshua’s actions (his fruit) brought life: Yeshua’s fruits represent the first fruits from the harvest of people.

How many times did Yeshua refer to people as a crop ready to be harvested?

Yeshua as the “first fruits” is really unrelated to the celebration of Passover or Unleavened Bread, but should be seen as the peace-offering to God which we are to make as commanded in Deuteronomy.  Yeshua was planted in the land as soon as the Ruach HaKodesh was placed upon him when John baptized him. For three years he was allowed to grow, and after three years he was taken to the place where God put his name (Jerusalem) and offered (himself) up to God as a peace-offering, through which we are able to come back into communion with God.

Firstfruits is really a harvest celebration, unrelated to when Passover or Hag HaMatzot arrive, but the Counting of the Omer is called Yom haBikkurim, which we also call “First Fruits.”

I submit that Yeshua as the real First Fruits is not related to Yom HaBikkurim (thereby associated with Passover and Hag HaMatzot) but as a tree (the tree fo life) planted in Israel (when he was baptized) and after three years offered up to God in Jerusalem. And, as the instructions for first fruits state, only after the offering can we then eat from that tree, whose fruit is our salvation.

Adam’s fruit (his sin) brought death and Yeshua’s fruit (his sacrifice) brings life: Adam was the first fruits of destruction and Yeshua is the first fruits of life.

Of course, that’s how I see it. I believe many will fight against this interpretation without even checking it out in the Bible simply because what we have been traditionally taught is so comfortable. It just fits so nicely to have Passover, Unleavened Bread, HaBikkurim, resurrection and Shaul’s reference as first fruits all come one after the other.

But that’s OK, because none of this really matters when it comes to our salvation, and I only offer it up (pardon the expression) as a different interpretation and simply something to think about.

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Until next time…L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Passover 2019 Message

Tonight begins Pesach (Passover) and I am already busy preparing for the Seder. I have invited someone I knew in High School and haven’t been in touch with since then. We now live close to each other and it will be good to have her share this Seder with Donna and me.

The Passover is a very misunderstood festival. The traditional idea is that it is 7 days long, but that is not correct. Also, the teaching that HaBikkurim (First Fruits) is the first day after the beginning of Hag HaMatzot (Festival of Unleavened Bread) is not biblically accurate. The most incorrect belief about Passover of all is that the sacrifice of Yeshua (Jesus) was that of the Passover lamb.

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Let’s start by reading from the Bible some of the passages that relate to Passover.

Leviticus 23:5-6 says:

The Lord’s Passover begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month. On the fifteenth day of that month the Lord’s Festival of Unleavened Bread begins; for seven days you must eat bread made without yeast.

The Passover is really only from dusk on the 14th day of Nissan (then called Aviv) until midnight, which was when the angel of death passed over the houses of the Israelites. That means the passing over of the angel really occurred on the 15th of Nissan, since dusk on the 14th would have been the end of that day and after the sun had set it would then be the 15th. This is also the day on which the Seder is eaten; when we think about it, by the time the lamb was slaughtered at dusk, brought home, roasted over a fire, and everyone sat down to eat the sun would (probably) have already set, so the Seder is really eaten on the 15th of Nissan.

So, then, if Passover is really only from dusk to midnight, where did they get the idea it is for 7 days? It became confused with the next festival, Hag HaMatzot, which starts with the Seder. In Exodus 12:17-20 it says:

“Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread, because it was on this very day that I brought your divisions out of Egypt. Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. In the first month you are to eat bread made without yeast, from the evening of the fourteenth day until the evening of the twenty-first day.

I believe that because unleavened bread starts with the Seder, and the Seder is for Passover, people just assumed that Passover was for 7 days.

It isn’t.

As for HaBikkurim, this is also celebrated on a day which is not in accordance with when the Bible says we should.

In his letter to the Corinthians (15:23) Shaul, also called Paul, refers to Yeshua as the First Fruits. Traditionally, the celebration called HaBikkurim (First Fruits) is celebrated on the first day after the beginning of the festival of unleavened bread; this doesn’t coincide with the day Yeshua rose, which would have been three days after unleavened bread began. I believe because Shaul referred to Yeshua as the first fruits that Gentile Believers mistakenly associate Yeshua’s resurrection with HaBikkurim. It isn’t the same.

The Torah tells us that the first fruits are to be offered on the first day after the Sabbath of the harvest. Although the instructions regarding this festival come directly after the instructions regarding Passover and unleavened bread, the first fruits sheave to be waved is not dependent on Passover, but on when the crops are harvested.

Again, let’s go to the source, the Bible. In Leviticus 23:9-11 we read that:

The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you and you reap its harvest, bring to the priest a sheaf of the first grain you harvest. He is to wave the sheaf before the Lord so it will be accepted on your behalf; the priest is to wave it on the day after the Sabbath.”

The Torah says, clearly, that First Fruits is the day after the first Shabbat after the harvest. Despite the fact that the second day of Pesach and the last day of Hag HaMatzot are both Shabbat days, First Fruits celebration is NOT based on Pesach or Hag HaMatzot, but on the reaping of the harvest.

Lastly, let’s look at the traditional reference to Yeshua as the Pesach (Passover) Lamb. True, he was the “Lamb of God” in that he, like the lamb chosen to be sacrificed, died for our sins. And as such, he is the lamb of the sin sacrifice. But there’s a problem when we refer to him as the Pesach Lamb- the lamb sacrificed for Passover was NOT a sin sacrifice!

When we read the instructions regarding the different kinds of sacrifice within the sacrificial system God gave us (Leviticus, Chapters 1-7) we notice that for the grain, guilt, sin, and wholly burnt sacrifice that only the Cohen was to have a share of the item offered. It is only with the Thanksgiving sacrifice, also called a Peace Offering that the one bringing the sacrifice was allowed to partake of eating some of the meat.

The instructions for eating the Pesach sacrifice clearly shows that the meat is to be taken back to the house and roasted over a fire, then eaten that night. If any is left over, it is to be burned up completely.  This is in perfect concordance with the instructions for the thanksgiving sacrifice we read in Leviticus 7: 29:

When you sacrifice a thank offering to the LORD, offer it so that it may be acceptable on your behalf. It must be eaten that same day. Do not leave any of it until morning.

Because the Passover lamb sacrifice is one where the person bringing the lamb also may eat it, that means it is a Thanksgiving or Peace Offering. And when we review the different reasons to perform this sacrifice, one of them is to thank God for deliverance.

The proper timing for this season is that the Seder meal is eaten after the lamb is slaughtered at evening on the 14th of Nissan, which ends up not being until the 15th of the month, on which we also begin the festival of Unleavened Bread for the next 7 days. Originally, HaBikkurim would be a separate festival that began on the day after the first Shabbat, after the harvest. In truth, there was more than one HaBikkurim celebration since there were usually two harvest seasons: the barley harvest in the spring and the wheat harvest in the fall. Biblically, First Fruits really has nothing to do with Passover or Hag HaMatzot. The traditional celebration of it on the first day after Hag HaMatzot is a decision made by the rabbis of old. It is not unlike what happened with the celebration of Shavuot, considered to be a celebration of the giving of the Law to Moses which occurs 50 days after the first Shabbat after Pesach. When you study the timeline from when the Jews left Egypt to when Moses received the instructions at Sinai, it is not 50 days.  However, just like with Habikkurim and Pesach, Moses at Sanai and Shavuot have been associated for so long that now they are inseparable.

Does any of this change what we are doing, or make it wrong? I don’t think so. God sees the heart, and I really doubt that he is so nit-picky that he will not accept our worship just because we celebrate first fruits on a calendar day instead of based on a physical harvest. Especially since we aren’t an agrarian society anymore.

So go ahead and celebrate Passover, keep that Chametz far away from your mouth for the week after the Seder, and find joy in knowing that Yeshua rose on the first day after the Pesach Shabbat and through that resurrection, we can find eternal joy in the presence of the Lord.

The fact that the current timing of these celebrations doesn’t match exactly when they are to occur according to the Torah is simply a result of the way the world has changed, and God understands that.

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This Passover is special because it also falls on Shabbat, which we call a Shabbat Shabbaton (special Shabbat) so please enjoy it. Passover is a joyful celebration and I wish you all a very pleasant one.

L’hitraot, Pesach Sameach, and Baruch HaShem!!

Passover Message 2018

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Chag Sameach!! Pesach Tov! Shabbat Shalom!

These are the greetings we will be giving to each other this evening because Passover (Pesach) starts at sundown, and this year (2018) so does Shabbat. Our preparations are twice as important today: not only do we prepare for Shabbat but we also prepare for Pesach.

For those people who keep their home Kosher according to Talmudic (also called Rabbinic) tradition, the plates might be the special, once-a-year Pesach servings. The house will not just be cleaned of dirt and dust, but also everything with any form of leavening in it. The Orthodox will even have the Rabbi confirm this and give them a certificate to state their house is “clean.” The removed foods will be given to the (Gentile) poor.

The Seder plate will be set: we will need chicken (the traditional meat for the Seder since we cannot sacrifice a lamb), a roasted egg, charoset (an apple, walnut, honey and wine mixture), matzo (lotsa matzo!), wine that has been approved as Kosher for Pesach, horse radish, parsley and salt-water. A lamb shank bone is also needed.  All of these food items are part of the Seder, which we celebrate with the reading of the Haggadah.  That is the Passover story, taken from Exodus 12, and as we read from the Haggadah we sample the foods and remember the bitterness of their slavery as we taste of their bitter tears when we dip the parsley in the salt water and eat it. In the middle of the story, just after they’ plagues are recited, we eat the Passover meal. After dinner the children look for the Afikomen (a hidden piece of matzo) so that we can then have desert and complete the reading of the Haggadah.

All told, it is more than a meal- it is an experience.

Over the past twenty years or so Donna and I have shared our Seder with different friends each year, trying to invite those friends who have never experienced a Seder. We use a Messianic Haggadah so that our Gentile friends can see where Yeshua (Jesus) fits into the Seder. It is surprising (I should say, disappointing) that so many of our Gentile friends have no idea that this Seder was what they know as the Last Supper. Their Christian training has done nothing to help them understand their connection to Judaism.

I want to leave you with this interesting thought: did you know that even though Yeshua is called the Passover Lamb because he died for our sins, the real Passover lamb was NOT a sin sacrifice? It was a peace offering, also called a Thanksgiving sacrifice. However, the Yom Kippur sacrifice (which was a goat, not a lamb) is a sin sacrifice. So Yeshua really was a Yom Kippur sacrifice but he performed that function on Passover. Do you know why?

I don’t! But…I do know that because we are cleansed of our sin by Yeshua’s sacrifice we can then come into the presence of God. What Yeshua did was actually perform two sacrificial functions at one time: he made it possible for us to be cleansed of sin which allows us to come into the presence of God and share our thanksgiving meal with him.

If you are having a Seder tonight then may God’s blessing be on you and all with you.

If you are enjoying an Easter ham this Sunday, well…I wish God’s blessings on you if your heart is for Messiah and God, but please consider this: you will be eating something that the person you are celebrating would find to be an abomination on his table.

I will end today’s message with the phrase that concludes every Seder:

לשנה הבאה ב’רושל’ם

(Lashanah haba’ah bi Yerushalayim)

Next year in Jerusalem! 

Parashah Tzav 2018 (Give an order) Leviticus 6:1 – 8:36

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As we continue in Vayikra (Leviticus), God gives the orders and commands regarding the daily offerings, specifically the wholly burnt, meal, guilt, peace and thanksgiving offerings.

The procedure and requirements for anointing of the Priests and the Cohen haGadol (High Priest) are given, and Aaron and his sons are anointed by Moses.

There are so many different things we could discuss in these few chapters, but since in this year (2018) Passover falls next Friday night, I would like to talk about the Passover lamb and its significance in the sacrificial system.

Yeshua (Jesus) has been referred to as the “Passover Lamb” for centuries, and His sacrifice is the means by which we are able to be absolved of our sins, so why is He called a “Passover” lamb? The lamb sacrificed on Passover was not a sin sacrifice.

We are told the requirements for the 5 different types of sacrifices outlined in Leviticus; by definition, Yeshua’s sacrifice was a Thanksgiving, or Peace sacrifice. We know this because only the peace sacrifice was eaten by the one bringing the sacrifice. In all the other forms of sacrifice some of the animal was given to the Priest as his compensation, with the remaining parts either burned on the Altar or removed and thrown away. Only the Peace sacrifice was also shared with the one bringing the animal.

Yeshua’s sacrifice was a sin sacrifice, and also served as a Passover sacrifice; in fact, His sacrifice fulfilled three sacrifices: peace, sin and wholly burnt. Of course, His body wasn’t consumed by fire, but His entire body was sacrificed (which is what was done with the wholly-burnt sacrifice.)

The wholly burnt sacrifice represents our complete devotion to God- no question that Yeshua was completely devoted to His Father in heaven.

The sin sacrifice is the means by which we are forgiven our sins when we do T’shuvah (repentance) and ask God for forgiveness (now by means of Yeshua’s sacrifice.)

The peace offering is how we enter into communion with God by sharing the meal made from the sacrifice, which we do at the Passover Seder.

Can you see how Yeshua’s once-and-for-all sacrifice accomplished all three types of sacrifice? Through our acceptance of Yeshua we can show our complete devotion to God, receive forgiveness of sins and enter into communion with God.

Does this mean we shouldn’t call Yeshua the “Passover Lamb” anymore? I think it is still appropriate to refer to Him that way, just as it would also be appropriate to refer to Him as the Yom Kippur goat.

Personally, I prefer to use “lamb” other than “goat” when I refer to Yeshua, although from a technical perspective either would be correct.

For those that will celebrate the Holy Days of Passover and Hag ha Matzot, I pray you thoroughly enjoy this festive festival. I am always afraid I will accidentally eat something with yeast during the week of this festival, and have done so, once or twice, in the past. I hope it is easier for you to keep away from leavening than it is for me (I just LOVE bread!)

Donna and I have different people to our Seder every year, and we usually try to have Gentile friends who have not enjoyed this Holy Day. Every single couple we have shared our Seder with, for nearly 20 years now, has enjoyed it and it has helped them to get closer to their Jewish roots.

I may be a week early, but…Chag Sameach!

Parashah Bo 2018 (Go) Exodus 10 – 13:16

The plagues continue, starting with the eighth plague of locusts, followed by the days of darkness, and the final and ultimate plague: the death of the firstborn.

And with this last and terrible event, God’s plan of salvation for the Israelites is completed and they are sent out of Egypt.

In this reading we have the first, the original, Passover and we learn about the Passover Lamb.

We call Yeshua the “Passover Lamb”, but is that really what He is?

PARASHAH TZAV (COMAND), LEVITICUS 6 – 9

We continue with the instructions regarding the sacrifices (burnt, sin, guilt, peace or thanksgiving, vow, and freewill); we are told the specific steps for the sacrifices and offerings, regarding how each is to be performed and the disposition of the parts of the animals that are to be sacrificed. The parashah ends with the sanctification of Aaron and his sons, inducting them officially into the Priesthood.

Leviticus 7:11-21 specifically deals with the Peace and Thanksgiving offerings. The Chumash states that the Rabbis regard thank offerings as the supreme type of sacrifice, and that in the Messianic Era this will be the only sacrifice that continues, since Messiah will have done away with all sin. Rabbinical thought is that ingratitude is a sin, and reduces a man to something below the level of a dumb animal.

It is interesting to me that in Lev. 7:16-18 God says the flesh of the peace offering must be eaten on the day of the sacrifice- none shall be left over to the next day. However, if this is a vow or freewill offering, then the meat can be eaten on the second day, but after that any left over must be burned. None of the meat from the vow or freewill offering can be eaten on the third day, because if it is then the offering will be refused.

The Talmud says the difference between a vow and a freewill offering is that when a person says they are offering a sacrifice without specifying the animal it is a “vow”, but when you specifically state, “This animal is the one I will sacrifice”, that is a freewill offering.

I find it important to note that if we eat the meat of the vow or freewill offering on the third day, the offering will be rejected and the person doing so will be cut off from the people.

I have written often, and will continue to do so, that salvation is something we can lose. Not that anyone can take it away, but we can reject it.  God is saying, right here in the Torah, that if we sacrifice appropriately it will be received, but if we violate the rules then the sacrifice that was received will be rejected. Not because God is rejecting it for no reason, or because He is reneging on His acceptance, but because we, on our part, have violated the rule and, thereby, invalidated our own sacrifice.

So, all the way back to the first giving of the Law, which Yeshua (Jesus) said He did not change at all (Matthew 5:17), we find that a sacrifice presented to, and accepted by, the Lord can be invalidated by the one offering it even after it has been accepted.

The sacrifice Yeshua made on the day after Passover was for the sin of the world, although the Passover sacrifice that the Torah calls for is not a sin or guilt sacrifice- it fits the rules for the peace offering. The offering that is for the sins of the nation is on Yom Kippur, so Yeshua accomplished the sin offering we need for later (when the final battle is over and we all come to judgment), and the peace offering we need when we come before God with thanks for His mercies (Grace.) His sacrifice was both the Yom Kippur sacrifice (to do away with all sin) and the peace offering (thanksgiving for the Grace God gives), which will be the only sacrifice left when Messiah rules the world. He accomplished two things at once- one for now and the other for later.

As we enter into the (Torah appointed) Jewish New Year and enjoy our Seder this coming Monday evening, let’s not forget what it represents: a peace offering to the Lord. The lamb’s blood was placed on the lentil not to forgive our sins, but to bring us into God’s protective custody. That blood represented our membership in the community of the Holy One of Israel, which is freedom and protection from death. If anyone of the Children of Israel living in Egypt at that time had been foolish enough to save the Passover Seder meat and bring it out with them, I wonder what would have happened to them. Would they have died the moment they ate the (now) abominable thing? Would they have been found out, and rejected from the tribes, left to go back to Egypt or wander forever in the desert, alone?

I don’t know- it is an interesting thought, and my Jewish blood is just boiling to have a heated Midrash with someone about this. Oh well, some other time.

If you have no plans to celebrate this festival, you are really missing out on a chance to experience what the bracelet many people wear says (WWJD) because He most assuredly would not miss having a Seder. And, if you really want to get closer to the way Jesus lived, then starting on Passover evening go the next 7 days without any leavened products at all- no bread, no cake, not even one cookie; skip the Ring Dings and wave “Goodbye” to the Hostess Twinkies (Oy!- what suffering I go through when I can’t eat a Twinkie!) See if you can do it. I confess this is a very hard festival for me to follow correctly, not because I just cannot go without bread (I was only kidding about the Twinkies) but because I forget! I will go to dinner with Donna and forget that I can’t eat pizza on our normal pizza night. I grab a cookie and forget I can’t eat it. I am always “biblically” Kosher, so it is easy to remember because I do it all the time, but to remember to reject one of my favorite groups of foods is hard to do. The lesson here, if nothing else, is that we need to be thinking about obedience every second of every day, and it should be foremost on our minds (…”let them be frontlets before thine eyes…”), always. Donna really helps to keep me in line- thank God for her (in so many ways!)

How about you? Would you observe the Festival of Unleavened Bread? I challenge you to obey this commandment of the Lord because I really believe if you do, at the end of the week you will find yourself receiving a blessing. God promises us blessings for obedience (Deuteronomy 28), so why not get all the blessings you can? I can almost guarantee that not only will you feel closer to Yeshua, God and the Jewish people, but you will feel better about yourself, too.

As people are always saying, “Try it- maybe you’ll like it!”

I got nuttin!

Many times as I am riding my bike or in the shower (where many people do their best thinking) I will be praying or just letting my mind wander (someday it may come back home) and I get inspiration for something to write about.

Today I got nuttin…nuttin at all. It’s like the breakfast cereal commercial:

“Hey, Steve- what are you sharing this morning with us?”

“Nut ‘n Honey.”

When this happens, which is (luckily) not too often, I review the topics I have, such as Jews and Jesus, Parashot, Messianic 101, and see if something comes to me. If not, then I do what I am doing this very moment- I just start to write and see what happens.

While I am waiting for something to come to me, I should thank all of you who follow my blog. I regret that I have not always followed back, and that was because (up until my retirement this year) I was too busy to be able to read all the blogs I would need to. Please know that I really, REALLY appreciate you following this, and I would even go as far as to ask you to share it on your Facebook or Twitter accounts to everyone else that you know. I also would really appreciate it if you buy my book- if you like what I write here, you should like my book, also.

I am not above hyping my own work.

With Passover coming, Donna and I are thinking of which friends we can invite to share the Seder with us. Even though the bible is clear that only those people who sojourn with the Israelites are to share in the Passover Seder, I think that today, any Gentile who is covered with the blood of Messiah would be eligible, and we even will invite people who are not Jewish, or not even “saved” (Oy Gevalt!) because we want them to know the true meaning of the Last Supper. There is a Hebraic Roots church that we are working with to provide a Seder on the 15th of April for Christians, so that they can see what the Last Supper really means. I think most Christians see it as a sad event, Jesus knowing that He will die. But the truth is the Passover Seder is a very happy event, and I am sure that Yeshua (Jesus) and all His Disciples enjoyed their meal together.

During the meal we retell the Passover story, and it is an interactive reading. The food is always good, the wine flows freely (each person is supposed to drink no less than 4 cups, which is essentially an entire bottle) and the event is a happy celebration of the freedom we receive from God. The Seder Donna and I host uses a Messianic Hagaddah (the Hagaddah is the text setting forth the order of service and the story of Passover), which is the same as the “Jewish” Hagaddah, except that it references Yeshua where the Jewish Hagaddah references Messiah. Other than that it is the same, which is nearly identical to the one Jesus celebrated some 2,000 years ago.

That’s pretty cool when you think about it: we are telling the same story, with the same items on the table, that Yeshua and His Disciples did the night before He was crucified. The one exception is that we do not serve lamb, because the Passover lamb is to be sacrificed at the place where God put His name, which is the Temple in Yerushalayim (Jerusalem), and since that Temple no longer exists, we cannot sacrifice the lamb as ordered in the Torah. So, we substitute chicken for the lamb.

Our Seder starts with Matzo Ball soup (Donna makes it so well you forget she wasn’t raised Jewish), the main course is baked chicken with roasted red potatoes, and the desert is a lemon pudding upside down cake (no yeast is used) and walnut meringue cookies. Sometimes we also have chocolate covered matzo. Yum!

Another interesting thing, which I believe I have talked about before, is that Yeshua’s death was a sin sacrifice, but the Passover Lamb sacrifice is NOT for sin- it is a Thanksgiving, or Friendship sacrifice. The Passover lamb is not the same sacrifice as the sin (or guilt) sacrifice. So when we refer to Yeshua as the Passover Lamb, that isn’t the role He fulfilled that day, or was it?

When I was studying for my Messianic Minister Certificate, one of the classes I had discussed how Yeshua fulfills both the Thanksgiving sacrifice AND the Yom Kippur sacrifice, at the same time. His Passover sacrifice was to cleanse our sins (as the Yom Kippur sacrifice does) but it also served to bring us closer to God (as the Thanksgiving sacrifice does.)  So when He gave His life, He not only cleansed our sins but brought us into communion with God, which (when you think of it) is only possible after our sins have been cleansed.

Well, nothing else is coming to me- maybe there is a message for someone in what I have written, maybe there isn’t anything but my mindless rambling. I hope, if nothing else, it has been somewhat entertaining for you to share in my absence of thoughts.

Have a blessed day and Happy Springtime!

Parashah Bo (come) Exodus 10 – 13:16

The plagues continue, with locusts, darkness and the final plague, the death of the firstborn of Egypt.

Moses is instructed by God what the Israelites must do to be protected from the angel of death, for even though Goshen had been protected from the other plagues, it seems that the angel of death was over everyone and everything, and only the blood of the Passover Lamb would protect you from death. They are also told to sacrifice the lamb, and to make sure that the sacrifice is eaten in the prescribed manner, with nothing left over, and only those who are Israelites, or slaves and sojourners with Israel who have been circumcised may eat of this meal.

After the death of all the firstborn, both men and animals, Pharaoh lets the people go. They plunder the Egyptians, who give willingly, and leave the very next day. Moses reminds the people of the Passover regulations, commanding them to teach this story throughout all their generations and to eat the Passover meal (Seder) every year according to the way it should be done, with no leavened products for a week.

The term “The Passover Lamb” is first introduced to us in this parashah. To the Jewish people, the Passover Lamb represents freedom from slavery to Egypt, and is a very important part of our history. Because the Temple no longer exists, and the Torah specifies that the Passover Lamb had to be sacrificed at the Temple, we do not eat lamb at Passover; the usual dish chosen is chicken.

I have this great recipe for baked chicken: grease a pan, place the cleaned chicken pieces in the pan and spread butter over them. Sprinkle on salt, pepper, garlic powder and fresh parsley flakes. Bake at 375 for 45-60 minutes, or until the skin is browned and bubbling. YUM!!

The Passover Lamb means freedom from slavery to Jews, and to Christians it is a reference to Yeshua, who sacrificed Himself to free us from a different form of slavery: slavery to sin.

Now here is the interesting part: the Passover sacrifice was not a sin sacrifice- it was a thanksgiving sacrifice. There are 5 types of sacrifices:

  1. Whole Burnt Offering
  2. Meal Offering
  3. Peace Offering
  4. Sin Offering
  5. Guilt/Trespass Offering

The first three offerings are voluntary, and the last two are mandatory for atonement from sin. The main difference is that of all 5 sacrifices, the only one where both God and the person sacrificing shared of the meat was for the Peace, or Thanksgiving sacrifice. This was representative of the communion between man and God.

Yeshua’s sacrifice was clearly one made for the atonement of sin- it was most representative of the wholly burnt sacrifice, since His entire body was given to God. But wait! If the sacrifice Yeshua (Jesus) made was a sin sacrifice, why is He called the Passover Lamb? The Passover Lamb sacrifice was a peace offering, a Thanksgiving sacrifice, and not a sacrifice to atone from sin. So, then, is calling Yeshua the Passover Lamb really accurate?

Not from a human timeline, but since God is not subject to any timeline, we need to look at another specific sacrifice to find the complete relationship opportunity that Yeshua’s sacrifice made possible. That sacrifice is described to us in Leviticus 16- it is the Yom Kippur sacrifice. We are told to have 2 goats (not lambs)- one to be sacrificed and one to be released into the desert after the people have placed upon it’s head their sins. The goat that was chosen by lot to be sacrificed had it’s blood used to atone the alter and the Most Holy Place, and the rest of it was a burnt sacrifice. I checked the Chumash and did not see specifically where it mentioned if any portion of the Yom Kippur lamb was to be given to the Priests, but since God says that we are all to afflict our souls ( fast), clearly this had to be a wholly burnt sacrifice, with no parts being eaten by the Priests.

As we can see, Yeshua’s sacrifice was more like the Yom Kippur goat, not the Passover Lamb, so which is it? Did Yeshua’s sacrifice cleanse us of our sins, or bring us into communion with God?

The answer is: it has done both of these things at one time.

The way I see this working is that Yeshua took on our sins, as the Yom Kippur goat does, and freed us from sin when He sacrificed Himself on Passover. The Passover Lamb sacrifice was a Thanksgiving, or Peace offering which allowed us to commune with God. But, communion with God is not possible when we are covered in sin, so first we must have the sin removed. Only after we have been cleansed of our sins can we have complete communion with God and come into His presence. Under the Sacrificial System one had to perform two, separate sacrifices to attain this state of communion, but with Yeshua’s sacrifice both were accomplished, at once.

Yeshua is the Passover Lamb, which was a lamb chosen by man whose blood would protect them from death, and He is also the the Lamb of God, the Yom Kippur lamb chosen by God (through throwing lots) to atone for the sins of the people. He is both of these: God chose Yeshua to atone for the sins of the people, and when you choose Yeshua as your Passover Lamb, then you have both atonement of your sins and protection from death (not the first death, of course, but the second death, which is for all eternity.)

PS: Next week Donna and I will be on our annual anniversary cruise so I will not be blogging. Have a great week, and I will be back on February 13. 

Parashah Vayikra (He Called) Leviticus 1 – 5

This Shabbat Torah reading begins with the 3rd book of the Torah, Vayikra, or Leviticus.

God tells Moses the rules and procedures for presenting offerings before the Lord. He goes through each type of offering, which animals or substitutes are allowed, and which type of sin the offering is intended to absolve us from.

The 5 main offering are:

  1. Burnt Offering – represents total commitment where the entire animal is used
  2. Grain Offering – this offering can be either grain (never with any leavening) or first fruits. There is a memorial portion that is sacrificed, the rest going to the Cohen. All grain offerings must also include salt.
  3. Peace Offering – This offering is also a thanksgiving offering, and although not stated in this parashah, we are told that the entire animal is not burned and that the parts allowed to be eaten shall be eaten there, in the presence of the Lord (Chapter 22); we are also reminded here that the fat and the blood are the Lord’s and we are never to eat them.
  4. Sin Offering – when someone sins unintentionally and then is made aware of it or realizes it, they must make this offering. This is covered for the entire community, leaders, commoners, and even allows for the poor by allowing lesser items of value to be offered if someone cannot afford the animal from the flock or herd.
  5. Guilt Offering – this seems, at this juncture, to be the same as the sin offering, assuming that the sin was unintentional. As we get further into this chapter we realize that the guilt offering is more for unintentional sins and the sin offering is for sins that were more from volition and forethought than accidental.

These are pretty much cut-and-dried chapters. What I find interesting is that God assumes that the sins we are making restitution for are unintentional. You would think He knew better, right? He sees our heart and knows our thoughts, desires and wants. He just has to understand that we do, often, sin on purpose. Yet, in His forgiving, compassionate way He instructs Moses and the people about restitution for sin by stating that when you sin unintentionally. I can understand one reason why God might take this approach: He’s God! Who would ever expect anyone to purposefully try to piss Him off? Especially after seeing and hearing Him at Mt. Sinai, in all His glory, majesty and awe! Really- who would want to mess with God by sinning on purpose?

I guess the answer to that is: everyone. I mean, that’s what happened, right? Just about everyone sinned; Moses (at Mirabah), Aaron (the golden calf), Miriam (with Aaron, again, in Numbers 12), Dathan, Abiram, Aaron’s oldest sons, the guy who picked up sticks on Shabbat, the people who gathered extra Manna….everyone!

Later on we get more details about the sacrificial system. I think it helps to understand these different sacrifices so that we can better understand the Bible. For instance, when we sacrificed the lamb for Passover it was, by definition, a peace/thanksgiving offering, not a sin offering. Yet, although Yeshua’s sacrificial death was a sin offering, He is called the Pesach Lamb. The Pesach (Passover) lamb was not a sin offering, so why do we call Jesus’s death a peace offering when it was a sin offering?

Good question. I think it might simply be an association without understanding- He died on Passover and the lamb was killed on Passover, ergo: Pesach lamb.

On the other hand, it might be from a deeper understanding of what He did and what it allowed to happen. He died for our sins: clearly, that is a sin sacrifice. However, with His death the parochet (curtain) in the Temple was torn, top to bottom, representing that the separation between God and people was removed. When two beings are separated, then they are allowed to come together, doesn’t that promote peaceful relations?  Isn’t that something we should be thankful for?

Yeshua’s death was more than a sin sacrifice, it was a total sacrifice, a combination of all the offerings in one. His entire body was given up (burnt offering), He was without leaven and His blood was the salt of the covenant promised in Jeremiah 31:31 (grain), He was a lamb without blemish (peace) and although sinless, he took on all the sins, known and unknown, of all the people, everywhere and for all time (sin and guilt.)

Understanding the (seemingly) minute details of the sacrificial system help us to understand the broader impact of Yeshua’s sacrifice.

Some things in the Bible seem minute, unimportant and even obsessively recorded, yet there is always purpose in what God has told us. Faithful reading of every word in the Word is worthy of your time and energy- you never know what the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) will reveal to you.