13/10/2011 - Sukkot
Sukkot Day 13/10:
Torah Reading: Leviticus 22:26 - 23:44
Haftarah: Zecharia 14, 1Kings 8:2-21, Nehemiah 8:13-18
Psalms: 113 - 118
NT: Luke 2:1-22, John 7:1-24
Shabbat of Sukkot 15/10:
Torah Reading: Exodus 33:12 - 34:26
Haftarah: Ezekiel 38:18 - 39:16
NT: Rev 20:1 - 21:7
Hoshana Rabbah and Beit haShoeva 19/10:
Psalm 120 - 134 (and between each Psalm recite Isaiah 12:3)
John 7:25 - 52
Shmini Atseret and Simchat Torah 20/10:
Torah Reading: Deuteronomy 14:22 - 16:17, 33:1 - 34:12, Genesis 1:1 - 2:3
Haftarah: 1Kings 8:54 - 66, Joshua 1:1 - 1:18
We mentioned the Book of Life when we spoke of Yom Kippur. Jesus told his disciples to "rejoice because your names are written in heaven" (Luke 10:20). Sukkot is indeed the holiday of rejoicing! "and ye shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days." (Lev 23:40). This true joy can only be achieved, as Jesus stated, when we are free from sin and our names are written in the Book of Life. "Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart." Psalm 97:11. That is why this holiday must come directly after Yom Kippur.
Sukkot is one of the three holidays of pilgrimage - when we were supposed to come and celebrate at the temple in Jerusalem. The other two are Passover and Pentecost. We now know that Passover was fulfilled when Jesus died on the cross, and that Pentecost was fulfilled when the disciples received the Holy Spirit. Sukkot, however, has not yet been fulfilled. It is still in the future. The future fulfillment of Sukkot is mentioned in Revelation 21:1-7 and in Zechariah 14 - it symbolizes the time when we are with God in heaven. Sukkot is also the third of the Fall Feasts. If Rosh haShana reminds us of the return of the Messiah with the clouds of heaven, and Yom Kippur reminds us of the day of judgement, Sukkot is reminds us of the time when we sit with God in his heavenly Tabernacle.
Why do we sit in a Sukka?
The small booth we make - the sukka - is because God said so. But many explanations have been offered. One of them is the obvious reason that God said - "Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths That your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God." (Lev 23:42-43). So we are celebrating the fact that God brought us out of Egypt - that we are totally dependent on him, and that our security we have from living in fixed stone houses is false - we need to be out is God's creation and experience the fact that we need him. In a sense we are celebrating "God with us" - Immanuel!
Agriculturally this is the time of fruit harvest - the time when the farmer has finished his work, sits down and thinks "everything's done - now I can rest. I have provision for the winter, and I don't need to worry". This is a security in one's own work. Exactly at that time of the year God commands us to live outside for a while. To experience that security in our own work is false. We need him.
The Sukka is also a picture of our own life - it's temporary. Our life here on earth is short. Our permanent home is in heaven.
We mentioned Immanuel - one of Jesus' names. The sukka is a clear symbol of the Messiah. He came and dwelled with us on the earth for a time. It was a temporary dwelling. It's also the feast of the "bikurim" - the firstfruits - the same word as "firstborns" in Hebrew. It's the time to remember the incarnation - how "the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14). Many believe that Jesus was born on Sukkot, relying on certain mathematical calculations from the NT, claiming that he was even born in a Sukka. Whether it's true or not, it is important to have one time a year when we remind ourselves of the incarnation and the divinity of Christ.
There are many different symbols of the Messiah, but the Sukka is the only such symbol that you can actually go into - it is like a big hug from the Lord. What a blessing it is, to have our sins forgiven and come to the Lord and receive his protection and blessing all around us. "As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the LORD is round about his people from henceforth even for ever." Psalm 125:2
The Four Species
The Torah tells us to take "the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook" (Lev 23:40). This is directly connected to rejoicing. Branches of palm trees connected to joy - that reminds us of how Jesus entered Jerusalem. That was not at Sukkot, but it still shows us that these branches they took is a symbol of joy. In Nehemiah 8 the description of branches is slightly different, suggesting that the rabbinical modern interpretation of these four things mentione (Lulav, Etrog, Hadas, Arava), is not what God had in mind. In any case, these four things that we by tradition wave with are said to symbolize all 4 types of people, since the Etrog has both smell and taste, the Lulav only taste, the Hadas only smell and the Arava neither. Thus it symbolizes both true believers that have both faith and works, non believers that have neither, non believers that have good works, but no faith, and false believers who profess faith with their mouth but don't live accordingly. They are waved to all 6 directions, symbolizing that God is king of all kinds of people and of all the World.
About Hoshana Rabba and Simchat Beit haShoava
Hoshana Rabba is the last day of Sukkot, and is known to be the "Day of the Messiah" in Jewish tradition. On this day, the sages believed that God decides how much rain will be given during the winter, and they had a water-related ceremony at the Temple. The talmud states that "whoever hasn't participated at a Beit haShoeva celebration at the temple, has never experienced true joy". Isaiah 12:3 was recited and water was poured at the altar. It was at this "great day of the feast" that Jesus stood up and shouted "If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink." (John 7:37).
About Shmini Atseret and Simchat Torah
This is on the Eighth day after Sukkot, and it's a separate holiday to itself. Atseret menas "stop" - it's the last holiday of the season, we stop celebrations after this. It also means "assembly" - a large gathering. The only thing the Bible says about it is "On the eighth day shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD: it is a solemn assembly (atseret); and ye shall do no servile work therein."
We can draw two important conclusions from this - since it is the last holiday it will be "with us" as our last holiday memory during our day-to-day life afterwards. To keep our eyes on God, it is therefore important that this holiday is on the one hand connected to the Bible, but also that it is joyful - to bring the happiness of the feast with us into the civic day-to-day life. This is why the Jewish tradition has put "Simchat Torah" on this holiday - the day when we finish reading the last part of the Torah - we read the last Parasha and we rejoice in the Word that God has given us. As we know that Jesus is the Word of God, we must also remember that this is a holiday of Jesus - celebrating Him who is God's Word that became flesh. We will also read the first chapter of the Bible - to remember that once we've finished reading the Bible we must directly start over again - because there's no such thing as "finished reading the Bible".
8/10/2011 - Yom Kippur
Torah Reading: Leviticus 16:1-34, 18:1-30
Haftarah: Isaiah 57:14-58:14, Jonah 1:1-4:11, Micah 7:18-20
NT: Romans 3:21-31, 2 Corinthians 5:10-21, Hebrews 10:1-12
This year, Yom Kippur coincides with Shabbat. Yom Kippur is the day of atonement, described in the above texts. The holiest day of the year. This is the one time once a year when the high priest would go in to the holy of holiest, as described in Leviticus 16. On this day of the year our Jewish brethren pray for forgiveness of their sins and ask that they may be inscribed in the book of life.
How wonderful is it then that we can know that we are indeed inscribed in the book of life! We do not need to renew it once a year because we are signed in the blood of the lamb. We thank our Lord that he forgives our sins and saves us through faith, and not works. He doesn't ignore our works - but he forgives us when we repent in the name of Jesus and come back to him. See the above NT readings.
We can see the specific commands in regard to Yom Kippur in Leviticus 23:26-32:
"And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD. And ye shall do no work in that same day: for it is a day of atonement, to make an atonement for you before the LORD your God. For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from among his people. And whatsoever soul it be that doeth any work in that same day, the same soul will I destroy from among his people. Ye shall do no manner of work: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings."
It was a very clear statement - afflict your souls. What does that mean? The Jewish custom has developed this to mean 5 prohibitions on this day: No eating or drinking, no washing (except after bathroom), no ointments, no wearing leather, and no sex.
In Leviticus 16 the role of the high priest on this day is described. In the very chapter after that, we read in Lev 17:11: "For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul." - There's no atonement without blood. Atonement for sins cannot be achieved, as the rabbis claim, through teshuvah, tefillah and zedaka – repentance, prayer and good deeds.
This day was instituted by God to atone the people's sins once a year. Do we still need that? Yes, we still need atonement, yes we are still all sinners. What has changed? Jesus! Jesus gave himself as a sacrifice to atone all our sins. Jesus Died. That is were our hope is entirely, in the death of the Son of God under the Wrath of God in our place so that we can stand justified on judgment because of the work and performance of another. Christ died and rose that we may have life. Hebrews 10:19-24
Do we still need to ask for forgiveness when we sin? Do we still need to repent? Of course we do! The life of a born-again believer is marked by constant repentance and admission of sins. So what was the difference that Jesus brought?
1) We can always come to the throne and ask for forgiveness, not only once a year.
2) We can know for sure that we are forgiven as long as we truly and honestly repent with all our heart for the sins we've committed, and as long as we forgive others that hurt us.
So why do we still need this day? Why should we still fast and afflict our souls on Yom Kippur? First of all because the Bible says "it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings". The fast is cutting yourself off from the day-to-day activities, and a concentration on the holy. It's the perfect time to make a thourough examination of you soul for the year that was. It's the time to "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith" (2Cor 13:5). It's also the time to ask people for forgiveness, to straighten out misunderstandings and to restore relations. It's the time to forgive others, whether they hear you or not.
May we all have a blessed Yom Kippur and be inscribed in the Book of Life through the blood of the lamb. Fast starts at sunset today, on Friday, and ends at sunset tomorrow, Saturday, evening. A common custom among Messianic Jews in Israel is to break the fast with a communion.
01/10/2011 - Parashat Ha'azinu and Shabbat Shuva
Parasha: Deuteronomy 32:1-52
Haftarah for the parasha: 2Sam 22:1-51
Shabbat Shuva readings: Hosea 14:1-9, Micah 7:18-20, Joel 2:15-27
NT: Acts 17:24-31, Romans 10:14-21, 11:12-21, Hebrews 9:19-28
Since it is ten days between Rosh haShana (the New year) and Yom Kippur (the day of atonement), there is always a Shabbat in the middle. This Shabbat is called Shabbat Shuva. Shuva means return and is named after the passage "O Israel, return unto the LORD thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity. Take with you words, and turn to the LORD: say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously: so will we render the calves of our lips." (Hosea 14:1-2).
29/09/2011 - Rosh haShana
Torah reading: Leviticus 23:24-25, Genesis 21:1-22:24
Haftarah: 1Sam 1:1-2:10, Jeremiah 31: 1-40
Psalm: 81, 93, 96-99, 130
NT: Matthew 24:29-31, 1Cor 15:51-52, 1Thes 4:16-17, Rev 10:7, 11:15
Rosh haShana is the New Year. This year we go from the year 5771 to year 5772 since the creation of the world. The command to keep this holiday is in the above reading from Leviticus 23: "Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation."
How is it the seventh month but also the new year? Because agriculturally, there's a new year in spring and also in the fall. The fact that this was also known as a new year is clear from Deutronomy 31:10, where the Feast of tabernacles, that is on the 15th of this month, is described as a feast celebrated "in the solemnity of the year of release". There are more similar examples.
The only command we see about the holiday is that it is to be a "blowing of trumpets". This is the feast related to in Psalm 81: "Blow up the trumpet in the new moon, in the time appointed, on our solemn feast day." Rosh haShana is indeed the only holiday celebrated on the New moon. What does this trumpet represent?
-Warning for war, and also a cry of victory - Joshua and Gideon for example
-Crowning of the king, as we can see in 2Sam6:15, 2Sam15:10, Psalm 150:3, Matthew 24:30-31, 1Thess4:16 and Rev 11:15.
-Making of a covenant - as on Mount Sinai (Exodus 19) and also with the second coming
-Judgement - Isaiah 58:1, Psalm 98, Nehemia 8:1-12, Numbers 29:1-6
The Torah reading this holiday is about the offering of Isaac. This is a clear symbol of the Messiah, the way the ram was offered instead of Isaac, just as the Messiah was offered for us. The ram's horn is what is used to make the shofar horn - the trumpet used in Rosh haShana! Another amazing reading is Jeremiah 31 - the New covenant!
So on this day we celebrate the Messiah! We will hear the Shofar when he comes from heaven, as the scriptures tells us. It is connected to Yeshuas victory, it is his crowning to King of the world, it's the making of the new covenant with the entire world, and it brings his judgement on the world. It is not a coincidence that Yom Kippur - the day of atonement - is only 10 days after Rosh haShana.
Why is it called "a memorial of blowing of trumpets"? Because the trumpet will also remind us of our sins, and our need of a redeemer. It will remind us of our salvation and our need to look forward to the day we will hear the trumpet from above, at the second coming. Many believe that Rosh haShana is the day on which the second coming will occur. Whether this is true or not we will only know then, but it's definitelly a good time of the year to remind ourselves of that future day, and to always be ready for it.
A common custom on Rosh haShana is to eat apples dipped in honey, to have a "Sweet and Happy New Year". We can tie this to the last verse in Psalm 81 "with honey out of the rock should I have satisfied thee".
Happy and Sweet new year, from the Bible Society in Israel!
24/09 - Parashot Nitsavim - Vayeilech
Parasha: Deutronomy 29:9 - 31:30
Haftarah: Isaiah 61:10 - 63:9, Hosea 14:2 - 10, Micah 7:18-20, Joel 2:15-27
Psalm: 81, 65
NT: Matthew 22:36-40, Romans 10:6-8, Hebrews 12:14-15, 13:5-8
"And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live."
In this Parasha, Moses is giving his final instructions, after the blessing and the curse. He is warning against the curse and tries to encourage the people to obtain and enjoy the blessings. Many amazing things are being said, many related to things we later read in the Haftarah, the Psalms and the NT. In the end of the Parasha Moses appoints Joshua as his successor.
During his speech, Moses amazingly also foresee that when the people of Israel will be rebellious against him, and will be thrown out of the land, they will eventually be gathered back from all the countries unto which they have been scattered (see the beginning of chapter 30). We knowthat this was fulfilled in Ezra and Nehemiah's days, and many here in Israel also believe that the State of Israel is partly a fulfillment of this prophecy. I usually point out, that if so, there is a second part of the prophecy that is yet to be fulfilled - verse 6 "And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live" - and we all know from the New Testament what it means to have a circumsized heart - it can only be obtained through the salvation of Yeshua haMashiach. It means the people of Israel will definitely one day be saved. This verse is being read in Zionist synagogues every Shabbat when they say the blessing over the State of Israel - without knowing it, they are all asking Godto open the eyes of their heart to learn to know the Messiah!
I also want to emphasis that this is true to all of us - he promised to redeem and he did. He sent us his son to bring us out of the captivity of sin to which he scattered us - and we can now be gathered back to God to be his perfect bride - because Yeshua perfects us when he atoned our sins on the cross.
Shabbat Shalom, from the Bible Society in Israel!