Reflections of redemption in Nisan, Part 3
As noted in Part 1, immediately following the first command to Israel as a nation (Exod.12:2) – which is more like a statement of fact – are the commands (v3-ff) concerning the Pesach, the Passover lamb. Why was Israel to “take a lamb” of all things? The traditional answer, that it was to judge one of Egypt’s gods, is illogical. All the other judgments on those gods involved YHVH striking them down, not enshrining them in a holy ceremony for all generations! No, there’s a better reason. In order to fully appreciate it, we will make a side-trip into some unique rabbinic customs for Nisan
During the entire First Month, no one is allowed to fast for a parent’s Yizkor (Yahrzeit, or anniversary of death), or to call for mourning or a public fast (source: Shulhan Aruch). The Tachanun, the petitioning prayer in the Amidah (daily prayer) is omitted for the month as well. The reason given for all this: The continual burnt offering (Hebrew: the Olat Tamid) was established in Nisan (“Be’er Hetev” to Shulhan Aruch, Orach Haim, 429 – Jewish Encyclopedia).
Suspending public petitions, fasting and mourning because of the Tamid’s arrival implies that it is one of God’s greatest redemptive acts, overriding the most intimate sorrows and troubles. Even more curious, to command this prohibition centuries after the Tamid could no longer be offered in Jerusalem is to imply that this supreme Redemptive act is still ongoing somewhere else. But if such an admission exists in rabbinic writings, we haven’t found it.
The Tamid and Redemption
These associations are remarkable to begin with, seeing that Torah gives no explanation for what the Tamid sacrifice actually accomplishes (Exod. 29:38-42). But we know from one commentary (Bamidbar Rabba 21:21) that the sages understood the Tamid to provide forgiveness for unconscious sins committed by the nation: the evening Tamid for sins committed in the day, and the morning Tamid for sins committed in the night.
Hebrews declares that Yeshua offered up Himself as a sacrifice “once for all” (Heb. 7:27), as it’s generally translated. But this verse first mentions the Temple sacrifices offered “daily…for the sins of the people.” Since written Torah mentions no “daily” sacrifice for the nation’s sins, this may be evidence that the apostles had the same understanding of the Tamid’s purpose as the rabbis.
That understanding would explain why Hebrews 7:27 is contrasting the daily sacrifice with Yeshua’s sacrifice of Himself “אחת ולתמיד/Achat uletamid,” as it’s rendered in the modern Hebrew version. This is translated as “once and for all [time]”, but if we read it literally (“One, and for a Tamid”), we solve two riddles about the Tamid: Two lambs being called one Olah/sacrifice (beginning with Exod. 29:42 and recurring throughout Torah), and its name implying one continuous offering (“Tamid” means “always”) despite being repeated daily. The comment in Hebrews makes the two offerings into One, and the daily repetition into Once for Always – just as the Torah Hebrew describes it.
This explanation is reinforced by the apostle John’s report that Yeshua’s sacrifice was already underway before the Mishkan was commanded, and indeed before man had heard of it: “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8, original word order). This has huge implications for Israel’s sacrificial system. If the original Tamid is in Heaven, then it was ALWAYS this Lamb that provided forgiveness of sin while the earthly copies were operating – and also while they weren’t… or aren’t.
As a Heavenly offering occurring outside of time, the Tamid was/is continually able to cover all those who apply its redemptive power, everywhere, in every age. Sure enough, Heaven’s residents from all nations directly connect this sacrifice with their redemption: “You [the Lamb] are worthy to take the scroll and open its seals, for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood…” (Rev. 5:9)
We also know that Yochanan (John the Baptist) publicly identified Yeshua as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Since most believers interpret this as the Passover lamb, anti-missionaries are fond of pointing to this as a New Testament blunder – the Pesach was not a sin offering. Actually, the blunder is in the Torah-illiterate assumption (both ours and theirs) pasted over the passage.
Yochanan was from an active priestly family. He knew better than we that the Pesach did not remove sin. He also knew that Torah doesn’t explicitly mention any “lamb” at all that can be offered for sin. He must have been referring to the Tamid; in contrast to the one that takes away the sin of the nation, this Tamid is effective for the entire world.
Was his declaration made in the month of Nisan? Quite possibly, since the Passover is recorded as arriving soon afterward (John 2:13). This would explain how Yochanan’s disciples could be so sure that they had found the Messiah King (John 1:41, 45, 49) just on the strength of that “Lamb of God” announcement. They had been taught that the Tamid symbolized the greatest Redemption of all time, which would be revealed in Nisan
The teaching that Yeshua is indeed the Lamb of God rests on the above Torah foundation linking the Mishkan with the Tamid. This linkage supports Yeshua’s promise that through Him we will become dwelling places for God (John 14:17). And when we consider the timing of His sacrificial death, coinciding with both the Passover lambs and the evening Tamid – we have proof that both Nisan lambs were pictures of Him.
The proof, however, doesn’t end there. The Tamid’s effect is for “always”: a continual process producing permanent spiritual results. We are “living stones” being built into “a spiritual House for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Yeshua the Messiah” (1 Pet. 2:5). Since both Yeshua and the Father will make Their dwelling place with/in us (John 14:23), we also understand that God has made His Son equal with Himself in this Redemption process
The Interceding Lamb
As mentioned, Torah doesn’t say that the Passover lamb brought forgiveness, or even redemption. Nevertheless, Torah teachers understood it to provoke God’s compassion, which leads to both: “Of all of God’s creations, the lamb possesses the innate ability to arouse mercy by its voice.” (Sefer HaYetzirah, commenting on the miracles of Nisan)
This idea becomes intriguing when we realize that God brought Israel redemption before they offered any lambs – even before they called on His name. While He remembered their forefathers, they were simply groaning over their troubles:
And the sons of Israel sighed from the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry for help rose up to God from the bondage. And God heard their groaning; and God remembered His covenant, and Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob. And God saw the sons of Israel, and God knew. (Exod. 2:23-25, from the Hebrew
Now Torah clearly states that God heard and saw “the sons of Israel.” But the final statement, “and God knew,” has no object – the word “them” is inserted by translators. Whatever it was that He “knew” here, it signaled the time for Israel’s first redemption. But was it really Israel’s crying that aroused His mercy? Or was it the Tamid being offered in Heaven on their behalf? When “God remembered His Covenant” here, was it perhaps the part that testified, “God will provide for Himself the Lamb”? (Gen. 22:8)
If so, it explains why the Passover redemption centered around a lamb. For God it was a symbol of the Tamid that He “knew”, which as yet Israel didn’t know. Moreover, the mercy aroused by this lamb was so powerful it extended beyond the heirs of the Covenant to anyone who would obey the command, even if they didn’t know this YHVH.
In the same way, the Tamid-Pesach Lamb was heard to intercede for the world as He embedded His eternal sacrifice into earthly history: “Father, forgive them – for they do not know…!” (Luke 23:34) Surely “God knew” compassion even in that awful hour when we rejected His greatest gift… because “the Lamb possesses the innate ability to arouse mercy by His voice.”
This Lamb, Conqueror of Death yet appearing as though freshly slain (Rev. 5:6), now sits at the Father’s right hand, still interceding for us and for Israel. How can anyone doubt that the spiritual Redemption of the entire nation is only a matter of time?
Intercession is also symbolized in orthodox Jewish wedding customs for Nisan 1. According to halacha, a bride and groom are normally required to fast on their wedding day, in supplication to have their sins forgiven as they enter their new life together. But if the wedding is on a Rosh Hodesh, they are forbidden to fast because honor of the new month takes priority. Yet on Nisan 1, they ARE supposed to fast (Shulhan Aruch, Rav Moshe Isserles), and the reason for this turnabout was considered a “great wonder” (Hafetz Haim). It was because they were representing God and Israel as Groom and Bride.
Yet there was no explanation as to why the marriage of God and Israel should be mirrored by a wedding couple through a custom of fasting only on Nisan 1. We must assume the influence of some shadowy, mostly forgotten tradition from earlier times connecting the Tamid, cleansing from sin, the promise of God dwelling within man, and Rosh Ha-Hodashim.
We, the Bride of the Lamb, knowing that our Groom is continually interceding with great compassion for His people, can easily relate to these concepts. If we are one Spirit with Him, we feel the heart of our Promised Husband yearning, as the earthly memorial of His atonement approaches, to bring about that final Redemption which even the blinded sages of Israel knew would eventually come. The blindness, says Paul (Rom. 11:25), has always been partial and temporary.
In conclusion, Messianic customs for Rosh Ha-Hodashim could be powerful in bringing together “treasures old and new” (Matt. 13:52) for the Kingdom. It’s strange that none were ever instituted by either church or synagogue. But maybe it was God’s plan to hide these riches until the time of Israel’s final ingathering and spiritual Redemption.
To be continued….
Hannah Weiss lives in Israel with her husband Hillel, their three children and two grandchildren. Besides writing on issues relevant for followers of Yeshua, she also works as an English writer, editor and translator for Israeli exporters and academics. Hannah is part of a small home fellowship, Restorers of Zion, which serves the Body of Messiah by focusing on neglected or dysfunctional areas of Scriptural teaching and practice.
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Watch your words
We live in a world filled with talking: talk radio, twenty-four-hour news channels, Facebook, Twitter. We are surrounded by the noise of communication. Much of that communication, unfortunately, is cruel, hurtful, untrue, and demeaning. People hide behind their computers to give others “a piece of their mind” or “put them in their place.” It’s their divine right after all in a digital world.
Two thousand years ago James recognized the peril of human communication. Its unbridled ability to harm and destroy.
“And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself…It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth…Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs?” (James 3:6-12 NLT)
“Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God.” James sees it as an impossibility that we can both bless God and curse those made in His image. In our world where people are paid to give their opinions, and social media exists so anyone can give theirs, we often find our communication filled with deadly poison, even when we think we are defending God. God does not need our defense if it comes at the expense of hurting another person, made in His image, with our words.
We have become so accustomed to criticism, opinion, and saying our peace that we no longer ask, should we say that? Does what I am saying convey the truth and edify others? Is what I’m about to say going to poison one created in the image of God? Maybe instead of focusing on the critical and corrective, we should give our attentions to the creative and constructive.
Our words hurt. They damage. And, they ultimately reflect the genuine quality of our relationship with God. We cannot curse one made in His image and bless Him. Perhaps in a world filled with talking, our silence is the greatest testimony to our faith in God.
Father, today, keep my tongue from evil and my lips from speaking guile. And, let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer. Amen.
This article originally appeared on CBN Israel, April 6, 2019, and reposted with permission.
Since its establishment in March 2012 CBN Israel has helped thousands of people through its various operations. As the foundation of Project Light Shine, CBN Israel gives help to the community through three avenues; Humanitarian aid, education and economic development. CBN Israel serves with a spirit of humility and love. Their mission is to prepare the Land and the people of Israel for the coming of Messiah Yeshua and the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth. The vision of their work is to see the hungry fed, the needs of the needy met, businesses established and to improve the spiritual, physical and financial situation of the local body.
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The poem of God
There is a beautiful word in Greek that is used only TWO times in the entire New Covenant scriptures. It is the word poema, from which we derive the word “poem”. It can be translated as “workmanship, artistry, craftmanship, creation, creativity…”
It is somewhat parallel to the Hebraic concept of מְלֶאכֶת מַחֲשָׁבֶת, m’lechet makhshevet, which means “well-thought out workmanship” – referring to the craftmanship of the great artist Bezalel in building the Tabernacle ornaments (Exodus 35:33, cf. Ephesians 2:21, II Kings 16:10).
Natural Creation Revealing
The first use of poema is referring to physical creation.
Romans 1:20 – The invisible character of God, His power and divinity, are clearly seen and understood from the time of creation, through the things that were created…
In this verse “the things that were created” are poema. The creativity of the creator is seen in His creation. The heart of any artist is seen in his artwork. The stunning beauty of natural creation is the poem of God. It is His song.
God’s Genius Work
The second use of poema is referring to God’s genius work in changing us from rebellious and lustful sinners into vessels of grace and glory. Through the creation, God shows His divine power. Through the work of the cross, He shows His astonishing love. We are the ultimate artistry of God’s genius.
Ephesian 2:10 – for we are His workmanship, created in Messiah Yeshua for good works, which God prepared beforehand…
If we will submit to God’s work in our lives, He will transform us into a beautiful piece of artwork. As the physical creation was “good” and the creation of man was “very good,” so will the new creation of God in our hearts be “excellent.” In fact, it will be awesome.
We together will be more beautiful than the priestly garments of the tabernacle, and more glorious than a shining rainbow. As we follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, we will become God’s song, His “poem.” We are the picture that God is painting.
This article originally appeared on Revive Israel, April 10, 2019, and reposted with permission.
Asher Intrater is the founder and apostolic leader of Revive Israel Ministries, and oversees Ahavat Yeshua Congregation in Jerusalem, and Tiferet Yeshua Congregation in Tel Aviv. Asher was one of the founders of Tikkun International with Dan Juster and Eitan Shishkoff, and serves on the board of the Messianic Alliance of Israel and Aglow International.
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Yeshua and the law
Parashat Metzora (Leprosy)
Vayikra (Leviticus) 14:1–15:33
Our weekly portion starts with a precise description of a law that deals with someone who suffered from leprosy, and how he or she was to be cleansed from the disease. This portion directly connects to last week’s portion in how it defines someone who is a leper.
Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “This shall be the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing. Now he shall be brought to the priest, and the priest shall go out to the outside of the camp. Thus the priest shall look, and if the infection of leprosy has been healed in the leper.”
A leper needed to be outside the camp, in part because the disease was so contagious. But the infected person did not just suffer physically; s/he also suffered emotionally. Lepers were considered outcasts and “impure”. This impurity was the main reason they had to be outside the camp, and also the reason the Priest needed to go outside the camp to examine if the leper was healed.
Only after the Priest ruled that the leper was healed that he would start with the different acts of purification of the leper. Why was this important? I believe the entire cleansing ceremony was prophetic and was actually fulfilled in Messiah Yeshua. The elements of the cleansing ceremony directly point to Yeshua, from the requirement that the birds offered as a sacrifice needed to be spotless and pure, and the unblemished lamb, to the significance of the number seven, which symbolizes completion and holiness, and the living waters which symbolize Yeshua Himself. All these things point directly to Him!
This week’s portion brings to mind Matthew 8:1–4, in which we learn of Yeshua healing the leper:
And when He had come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him. And behold, a leper came to Him, and bowed down to Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” And He stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Yeshua said to him, “See that you tell no one; but go, show yourself to the priest, and present the offering that Moses commanded, for a testimony to them.”
This passage is so rich in meaning, but I want to briefly focus on two points. The first is that Yeshua stretched out His hand and touched the leper. Please understand how significant this is! Yeshua understood the Law of Moses better than anyone and He knew that touching this “unclean” man would create quite a stir. Not only did He honor the leper’s faith, but also wanted to show His power to cleanse that which is unclean. Yeshua showed us the real meaning of the Word of God; all it took was Him speaking healing over the leper, touching Him, and the leper was healed.
The second point I’d like to emphasize is that Yeshua told the leper to go and present the offering to the priest, which Moses commanded (and appears in our parasha). Why would He do this? I believe He did so for two reasons. The first reason was His way to testify of Himself through this amazing miracle. The second is that He showed that He loved the Torah — His Father’s teachings — and He lived by it as an example for us all. As He said,
Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 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. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
This article originally appeared on Hope for Israel and is reposted with permission.
Moran is the Founder and Executive Director of Hope for Israel, which is a service and resource-providing ministry that aims to bring the hope of the Messiah back to Israel. It is also a resource center for current and timely news updates concerning Israel that provides daily prayer alerts, Bible teachings, and weekly blogs in order to help believers across the world understand what God is doing in the Land, how to pray for Israel and filter everything through the Word of God.
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I call you friends
I no longer call you servants…Instead, I have called you friends…’ – Yeshua (John 15:15)
These words spoken by the Messiah to his disciples were uttered at the celebration of Passover in Jerusalem. The central memorial of that festival is the remembering of Israel’s exodus from Egypt, where a nation of slaves became a nation of free men and women. The long-standing Passover tradition is the singing of avadim hainu (‘we were slaves’) ‘but now we are free’. It is in that context that Yeshua spoke those revolutionary words in Hebrew, the word for ‘servants’ being avadim,the same word for slaves. Thus a closer translation would be, ‘No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.’
The Hebrew word for friends is haverim, from the singular haver, the root word meaning to be closely connected. It is written of Abraham, the father of all Israel and of the faithful, as well as of Ishmael, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God’ (James 2:23). The town in which Abraham and Sarah his wife are buried (as well as his sons Isaac and Israel, and their wives) is called Hebron (Hebrew: Hevron), and in Arabic Al-Khalil, both meaning ‘the friend’, after Abraham, the great friend of God. Thus the allusion of Yeshua’s pronouncement at the Passover was to that relationship that Abraham had with God as a friend, which his work and mission was to restore that personal relationship between men and God as it was with Abraham. They would no longer be slaves to sin and thus enemies of God, or slaves even to God, but would now become close friends with God- and to each other. That is the central message of the Gospel.
What is a friend? A friend is one with whom we have a close and deep relationship of trust and love and loyalty. A friend is one you can count on, who gives you the benefit of the doubt, often overlooking shortcomings. It also may be said that it is a long and lasting relationship, which normally entails at times even misunderstandings and disagreements, as do most long and close relationships. A real friend is one who know just how bad you can be- and also how good. But patience and respect and love- and very often forgiveness- are applied in maintaining that friendship, including marriage. That is the essential recipe given to the disciples of the Messiah, to whom he said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Though sometimes easier said than done, that is the intended universal objective of the Gospel.
At that same Passover, the Messiah said also, ‘Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends’ (John 15:13), which he would certainly do for not only his disciples the following day in crucifixion, but for all humankind that would trust in his kindness and grace, and call him Friend.
There is nothing quite so precious as old and true friends. They are like an old wool hunting shirt that has kept you warm in the blowing winds of winter and adversity, and are full of memories. They are also like your old faithful hunting dog that saw you miss the shot and spew obscenity and looked the other way and never brought it up again. Old friends are folks you have trusted and continue to trust because they have proven trustworthy, for without trust there cannot be friendship, or real love. Your real friends know your strengths and also your weaknesses, having weathered some good and bad times together, and who love you despite both, appreciating you for who and what you are, not for what you should be, or are not yet.
I have been blessed with a score of real old friends- several as long as sixty-five years so far, nearly twice the time my firstborn son has been alive. My business partner and I have known each other that long – since five years old- and have worked together successfully for nearly forty without a written agreement, or even a handshake – just trust. Other longtime friends share a very different political and even spiritual understanding from myself and we have wrestled quite heatedly but, giving each other the benefit of the doubt, continue tolerating and respecting and loving one another as friends.
Old friends are those you may not speak with for years at a time, but when you reconnect you pick up right where you left off without a hesitation in the conversation. They are folks who can be counted on to cover your back in a struggle, even if you may not be completely right. Those real friends, even when you aren’t thinking of them, are like stars in your skies, that if one should disappear your night would be darker for lack of their light. My wife is my old friend at forty years so far, being through thick and thin, sick and sin, sharing memories and still laughing and in love most of the time. My golden retriever is my loving friend at all times, day and night, never disappointing (and would expect to see in Heaven). Some people I have offered friendship, but they were either unwilling or unable, or unworthy. And the worst of pains is a trusted friend who has betrayed trust, which is irreparable as a broken spinal cord. I have been the true friend to my children since they were born, though it takes time for them to understand that.
My brother is my oldest of old living friends, who has known me since I was born seventy-four years ago, even before I knew him. And the Lord is the most amazing and faithful of old friends, also loving for who I am currently, not for what I should be, but never giving up on urging me forward toward that better goal. He said, “I call you friends,” and that is what counts in the end, and beyond. May the communion we take in this Passover eve be among friends indeed.
Elhanan ben-Avraham, born in 1945, is a professional artist, poet, writer and father of two, grandfather of four, living in Israel since 1979. He has served in the IDF, taught the Bible internationally, published two illustrated books of poetry, and painted two large Biblical murals in public buildings in Jerusalem, among many other works. He and his wife live in a quiet village in the Mountains of Judah.