Revelation: Crisis reveals
“Even sinners love those who love them.” – Yeshua
The Gospel is not made for a perfect day in the Garden of Eden, but for the day of trouble. A picnic on a perfect spring day in the park with plenty of fried chicken, furnished by Believers on one side, and the Mafia on the other, all arrayed with friends and family and children, might appear completely identical to the eye. One might be hard put to distinguish between the two groups- until crisis arises.
When the foot of the Mafioso is tread upon, love evaporates and is replaced by its vengeful counterpart, often with tragic results, whereas in the other group of the Devout, when the same occurrence arises, the Gospel of forgiveness, love and reconciliation then comes into play- or theoretically should. But, unfortunately, that is not always the case. The human condition, being what it is, has left the believing community with as many broken relationships, divisions, divorces and even tragedies as in the world of those we call unbelievers.This ought not to be.
It is the crisis that reveals if the fabric is dyed-in-the-wool and woven into a firm garment, or if it is merely a surface print on thin fabric that tears asunder at the first strain. The two may appear identical while sitting folded on the shelf, or in the pew, just as do the wheat and the tares that grow up together in the field. But in the end it is only the true wheat that will ultimately prevail and be garnered to the Kingdom, and that by the grace and mercy of God.
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.
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Israel’s missing milestone or, whatever happened to the real “Rosh Hashana”?
The Biblical New Year, Rosh Ha-Hodashim, fell this year on April 6 (beginning sundown April 5).
And as it rolled past again, the Jewish community made no attempt to honor or keep it.
Learn why the followers of Yeshua can and should restore this neglected commandment.
Nearly everyone who knows anything about Jewish tradition has learned that the Talmudic sages fixed the first of the Seventh Month, or Tishrei 1, as the primary New Year observance for the Jewish people, based on a non-Biblical teaching that “on this day the world was created.” Those 1st and 2nd -century rabbis are also credited with agreeing to ignore the Biblically commanded New Year (the first of the First Month, or Nisan 1) – not quite cancelling it, but downgrading it to an insignificant status where it was soon forgotten.
Oddly, the Talmud itself says otherwise.
The tractate Rosh Hashana 10b-11a documents such strong rabbinic challenges to the Tishrei narrative that the controversy was left unresolved: Does the Jewish calendar properly begin on Tishrei 1, or on Nisan 1? The dispute was settled among later sages by trying to accommodate both sides: The world was created in an “embryonic state” on Tishrei 1, but it could not be “birthed” until Nisan 1. Or alternately, the world was fully created by God on Nisan 1, but it didn’t physically appear until Tishrei 1. Either way, they implied that the creation in Nisan was stronger.
Their favoritism was justified by the wall-to-wall rabbinic agreement concerning which New Year has more importance for the Jewish people. It’s Nisan – past and future: “On New Year the bondage of our ancestors in Egypt ceased; in Nisan they were redeemed and in Nisan they will be redeemed in the time to come.” (Rosh Hashana 11a)
In addition, God’s Torah is explicit about where the year begins for the sons of Israel: “This month shall be unto you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you.” – Exod. 12:2 (JPS, the English version used by the Jewish community) The Divine command gave rise to the Talmudic admonition about counting the years (RH 2b):
“But how do we know that the years from the Exodus from Egypt itself are reckoned as commencing with Nisan? Perhaps we reckon them from Tishri? — Do not imagine such a thing!” On this issue no controversy existed. While the Seventh Month might serve to log the years for the world and its kings, the First Month (starting from that first national obligation in Year One) would always be used to mark Israel’s history and the reign of YHVH as Israel’s King.
And so it was… until an era came when both Torah and Jewish history were gradually repackaged, and the unimaginable became the norm. The Talmudic sages themselves set the pattern; by rejecting the Divine Voice in favor of clever human interpretations of Torah, they provided later sages with the justification to reject their voice as well in favor of other clever interpretations. Jewish authorities today not only reckon the Jewish years from Tishrei without question, they long ago stopped counting “the years from the Exodus from Egypt” at all. Instead, they record the Exodus as occurring in “the Jewish [sic] year 2448.”
Meanwhile, what became of that God-given milestone in Nisan called the “beginning of months”? All rabbis acknowledge that it’s still in the Bible, but its only importance is to help us date Passover. Many have asked: But if it’s “the first month of the year,” why doesn’t it date the beginning of the year, and the beginning of all years? “We don’t need it,” they explain; “the year-marker for the world, the new year of Tishrei, has become ours.” When and why did we replace our Jewish marker with the Gentile one? “Well… it’s complicated… the answer is lost in history.”
Indeed. The theory that the Jews adopted it from Babylon while in exile (597–539 BC) cannot be documented. On the contrary, post-exile Jewish texts (like Jubilees and Maccabees) don’t mention a “Rosh Hashana” at any time of year. The mention of one in Tishrei doesn’t appear anywhere until 70 AD, after the second Temple was destroyed. Yet even in 94 AD, when the Jewish historian Josephus wrote his epic work Antiquities of the Jews, his detailed descriptions did not include any new-year customs added to the Feast of Trumpets on Tishrei 1. And as we saw above, the Talmud (compiled 200-500 AD) made a strong case for the Nisan New Year, which is disregarded by today’s Talmudic community.
When (and more importantly, why) did later rabbis decide to rewrite their teachers’ legacy and reduce Nisan 1 to merely the rosh hodesh (new moon) before Passover? Why have they instituted a range of traditions honoring the “new year for trees” (Tu B’Shvat), but none at all to honor the “new year” that God Himself instituted?
If you have been redeemed by Yeshua the Messiah, the answers have a lot to do with the Torah foundations of your faith, and with our early history as a community of Jewish believers in Israel who were “all zealous for the Law.” (Acts 21:20)
This begins a series of articles showing how that history, those Torah foundations, and Jewish teaching about Nisan as “the Month of Redemption” all intersect. Like so many other Jewish traditions that harmonize with the Scriptures, these carry rich Messianic messages that unintentionally but unmistakably point to Yeshua. As you might imagine, the resulting dilemma for the rabbinic community helps to explain the mystery of Israel’s Missing Milestone and other riddles surrounding Nisan.
Reflections of Redemption in Nisan, Part 1
Rosh Ha-Hodashim: New Month, New Things
The Biblical command that identifies the first month of the year (Exod.12:2) reads this way in English translations:
“This month shall be the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year to you.” (NASB)
“This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year.” (NIV)
“This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you.” (KJV)
“This month shall be unto you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you.” (JPS, the English version used by the Jewish community)
But there are some interesting problems with these renderings which Hebrew readers will understand best. Here is the original (unpointed) Hebrew of the verse, as it appears in a Torah scroll (emphasis added):
החדש הזה לכם ראש חדשים ראשון הוא לכם לחדשי השנה
First, there is no vav in any of the three repeating words (the bold type) that would make this word חדש – “hadash/new” – into חודש – “hodesh/month”. The vav was inserted centuries later by using nikud (the Masoretic pointing that inserted vowels around 800 AD). And even then, only the first occurrence was made into “hodesh”; see the vowel-enhanced Hebrew below (found in all printed Jewish Bibles).
הַחֹדֶשׁ הַזֶּה לָכֶם, רֹאשׁ חֳדָשִׁים: רִאשׁוֹן הוּא לָכֶם, לְחָדְשֵׁי הַשָּׁנָה
The two words “hadash” and “hodesh” are of course related, coming from the same root. This gave rise to the concept of the “new” moon marking the first of the “month”. In fact, the word spelled without a vav is assumed to mean “new moon / new month” elsewhere in Tanach. But we know from Yeshua’s teaching that every letter in the Torah and Prophets is important enough to stand unchanged until the end of this creation (Matt. 5:18). So, there is a reason why the Holy Spirit guided Moses to leave out the vav three times in this verse in Exodus. We will explore that reason in a minute.
More interesting problems: There is no future-tense of “to be” anywhere in the Hebrew verse; yet all the translations make it future. And there are some definite articles inserted into all the translations, in places where the Hebrew lacks them. Both kinds of changes are identified by the italicized words in the English (see above). What might we see if we peel away those ‘helpful’ interpretations?
A straightforward translation from the unpointed Hebrew, and without changing its given word order, could be:
“This new thing [or, month] is for you a Head [or, uppermost / a leader] of new things; it is first [or, a beginning] for you for new things of the year.”
The verse can be read several ways, especially since “rosh” can have additional meanings (beginning, chief, most important). Like Yeshua and His apostles, we accept the Jewish approach that the words of God can say several different things simultaneously, all of which enrich our understanding rather than force us to choose “one best answer.” (For more details, see our article at the Restorers of Zion site, “How to Read Hebrew Scriptures through Jewish Eyes”.)
Therefore, each “new month” – but especially “this” one – can be assumed to symbolize, demonstrate and/or bring Israel to experience a new thing, a supremely important thing, and/or a groundbreaking thing that God is establishing, in a continual, timeless and personal sense, “for you.”
And since every letter of every word is important, why are “you” (plural) mentioned twice? The New International Version blurs the second occurrence, but the New American Standard preserves them both:
“This month shall be the beginning of months [new things] for you; it is to be the first month [first of new things] of the year to you.” (NASB)
On one level, we see that the Covenant-obedient people of Israel should be celebrating the “head” or beginning of “the year” (Hebrew: Rosh Ha-Shana) in the first month, and not in the seventh month which begins with a very different observance commanded by God. But there’s more to learn, for you are being addressed twice. This is not only the beginning of “the year to you”, but also of His “new things for you”.
Because Messiah taught that “heaven and earth will pass away” before one word of Torah fails (Matt. 5:18), we must understand this not only as something that “was” new at the time God first spoke it, or “will be” new at the end when all is fulfilled, but is new continually. As the words of Torah present it, this declaration by the living God is like Himself: unlimited by time, and an active reality wherever and in whatever condition “all the congregation of Israel” (Exod. 12:3) may be found.
Moreover, we see our verse twice emphasizing something that is initiating this year of God’s new things:
“This new thing is for you a Head [or, uppermost / a leader] of new things; it is first [or, a beginning] for you for new things of the year.”
God doesn’t keep us guessing about “this new thing” which is the first priority for Israel and brings other “new things” in its train. Starting from the very next verse, it is revealed and described:
“Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb….”
The Heavenly Lamb symbolized by that earthly Passover lamb is truly the “Head of new things”. Without the reality of His Headship being established “uppermost for you” as the “beginning for you,” God implies here that none of His other “new things of the year” will make sense – or maybe that none of them will even be possible.
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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The great escape
We were all excited! Driving down to Ft. Lauderdale early in the morning, anticipating our cruise was making us all punchy! We pulled into the parking lot and were directed to a spot towards the back, when we saw them. Monkeys! Two adult monkey’s and a baby were sitting there looking at us. At this point there is no way that I am getting out of the car. Monkeys scare me. Then we noticed that there were several more and they are encircling us. Visions of “Planet of the Apes” are flooding into my brain. As we make our escape into the shuttle, we find out the story of the monkeys.
Several years ago, the monkeys (African Vervet) were at a research foundation that used them in a breeding facility, and a tourist attraction that was open to the public. The story told to me by the shuttle driver was that a fire occurred at the tourist attraction and the monkey’s escaped into the mangroves around them. I’m still having flashbacks of “Planet of the Apes”! Many years later, here they are thriving in those same mangroves.
My eyes teared up as I heard the story about those monkeys. Their escape to freedom reminded me of Psalm 124:7, “Our soul has escaped as a bird out of the snare of the trapper; the snare is broken and we have escaped.” I couldn’t help but think of that moment when they made the decision to escape from their captivity to their freedom. The fear that they felt as the fire surrounded them, and that moment when you have no other option but, the one that creates a new life.
When we accept Yeshua as our Messiah we are given a new life in Him, and that new life is one of a free person and not of a captive. In Luke 4:18-19 Yeshua reads prophetic verses (Isaiah 61:1-2, Isaiah 42:7) to those in the synagogue which tells us what His purpose is, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” As we study these verses we will be looking at the Hebrew and the Greek to dig down deep at what the Lord is trying to show us. First of all, “the gospel” in the Greek is “eugangelisasthai” meaning “good news” and in the Hebrew it is “basar”, meaning “to bear tidings”. So, He is bringing us good news that we should pay attention to because it will be beneficial to us. Also, the Lord didn’t come just for the financially poor, He came for the poor in spirit. In Isaiah 61:1, the word for afflicted is “anav” which means, poor, afflicted, humble, and meek. So whether you are rich or poor, we all have a spiritual poverty that He has been anointed to attend to. There are five points, in these two verses that are declarations that Yeshua is making of Himself, let’s take a look at them:
- Healing- He was sent to heal us from our spiritual poverty. In the Hebrew this verse is so powerful, “to heal” is “chabash”, to bind, to bind up. The word “brokenhearted” is “shabar” meaning to break, break in pieces, crushed, shattered, bruised, fractured, and disconnected. Our Messiah came to bind us up, to bandage us up so that we can be whole and no longer broken in pieces.
- Liberty- He offers us a release from the place of captivity that we are in to a place of liberty. Liberty in the Greek is “aphesis” which means dismissal, release, and pardon. Captive in the Greek is “aichmalotos” and it’s defined as a captive/conquered in war and the word derives from “aichme” a spear. So, in this spiritual war that we are in we have been taken captive violently and our Messiah brings offers of release, liberty and pardon!
- Recovery- When you are blind, there is not usually anything that can be done to heal you. You are in a situation where there is no solution. In our spiritual poverty where we are disconnected from God and do not have a path to Him, God provides the path. God provides the way to recover from our sickness of independence from Him to restoration where we can see Him and His glory.
- Oppressed- We don’t think of ourselves as oppressed. The idea of oppression is that someone exercises control over you and uses their power over you. But, when we look at this word in the Greek it is “thrauo”, meaning to break in pieces which reminds us of the word for brokenhearted which we discussed earlier. So, being oppressed actually means to be broken, crushed, and bruised. Aren’t we all in this position? Earlier in our second point the Lord says in v.18 that He has come “to proclaim” liberty now He says “To set at liberty”. He is not just proclaiming but actually giving us the liberty that He has proclaimed to us.
- Acceptable year- When Yeshua states this He is declaring a very important point. He is referring to Leviticus 25 and the year of Jubilee. The year of Jubilee is celebrated every fifteen years, and has certain regulations such as: all slaves are to be set free, all debts are forgiven, land was allowed to rest, and it was a fresh beginning. This is what He has come to give us! We are no longer slaves but are set free. Our debts (sins) are forgiven, we are given rest in Him and we have a new life that He provides us!
Those monkeys we talked about in the beginning left their captivity and started a new life in those mangroves. Generations later we see them flourishing in their freedom and their offspring not even knowing about captivity! Let’s accept Messiah’s offer for freedom from captivity and live as free men!
Diana Levine is the Rebbetzin of Kol Mashiach Messianic Synagogue in Melbourne, Florida. She has spoken at national conferences, regional conferences, women's retreats and bible studies. She is also the co-founder of the Daughters of Righteousness Conference.
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The exodus experience
Recently I was meditating on how central the “baptism” experience is to New Covenant faith (Acts 2:38 -“Repent and be immersed everyone of you…”). It seemed as central as … as … and then it hit me: as central as crossing the Red Sea was for the people of ancient Israel. Immersion in water is not a foreign Gentile ritual, but a symbolic experience rooted in the Exodus from Egypt.
This viewpoint is essential to understanding the teachings of Yeshua and the disciples. They saw the Torah (Law of Moses) as a model of what is to happen in the life of each believer. What happened to Israel nationally is supposed to happen to us individually. What happened to Israel historically is to happen to us spiritually.
This is parallel to the rabbinic concept that each time a Jewish family eats the Passover, they are to see themselves as re-enacting the exodus, being delivered from Egypt themselves. It is also parallel to the Kabbalah (Jewish mystical) concept that all Jewish souls were present at the giving of the Law at Mt. Sinai.
Over 40 years ago, I started doing “Messiah in the Passover” demonstrations as a young believer in full time “Messianic” ministry. We would show all the parallels in the traditional Passover seder to the Last Supper of Yeshua. However the New Covenant writings take the idea much deeper.
Israel had not only to apply the blood, they also had to cross the waters of the Red Sea (Yam Suf). There is a play on words here as the Hebrew also means the “Sea of the End”. As essential to the exodus is the parting of the Red Sea, so is it essential for everyone to pass through his own “waters of exodus” through the baptism.
Through these waters, we “exit” our old life. We are separated from the influence of sinful “Egyptian” society; we are separated from our past, separated from our identity as slaves. Our demonic oppressors are crushed in a moment by the waters of immersion. We experience our own exodus into freedom.
At Mt. Sinai, Israel received the Law on tablets of stone. At Mt. Golgoleth we are to receive the Law on the tablets of our hearts. That IS the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:33 – “For THIS IS the covenant I will cut with the house of Israel… I will give My Torah within them and on their hearts I will write it.“) As the old generation died out in the wilderness, so is our “old nature” to die as we walk with the Lord.
We are to drink spiritual water from the rock (I Corinthians 10); we are to eat the revelatory manna from heaven (John 6); we are to follow the cloud of the Holy Spirit (Numbers 9). As Israel was 40 years in the wilderness, so Yeshua fasted 40 days in the desert (Matthew 4). As Israel went down to Egypt, so did Yeshua go to Egypt as a baby (Matthew 2:15).
As Israel also passed through the waters of the Jordan, so are we to receive our second baptism, the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5 – “For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit in not many days.“) As Israel possessed the Promised Land, so are we to possess the earth, possess the promises. (Interestingly, the name “Canaan” comes from the Hebrew root word for “submission”.) We are to drive out evil powers and principalities, as Israel drove out the evil giants of the land.
The universal pattern of the Torah is re-enacted in our lives, as we believe in the blood of the Lamb, cross through the waters of separation, and receive the instruction of God’s word. To God, the Law and the Gospels are part of the same plan and the same purpose. When you see the unity of the two parts, the whole body of scripture is more understandable.
Through Yeshua, we enter into the revelatory meaning of the Torah; by faith, we live out the spiritual experience of the Exodus.
This article originally appeared on Tikkun International, March 12, 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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Mysteries in the Word
Parashat Tazria (She conceives)
Vayikra (Leviticus) 12:1–13:8
This week’s portion opens with an interesting yet mysterious ritual, which is actually the entire 12th chapter of Leviticus:
Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘When a woman gives birth and bears a male child, then she shall be unclean for seven days, as in the days of her menstruation she shall be unclean. And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. Then she shall remain in the blood of her purification for thirty-three days; she shall not touch any consecrated thing, nor enter the sanctuary, until the days of her purification are completed. But if she bears a female child, then she shall be unclean for two weeks, as in her menstruation; and she shall remain in the blood of her purification for sixty-six days. And when the days of her purification are completed, for a son or for a daughter, she shall bring to the priest at the doorway of the tent of meeting, a one year old lamb for a burnt offering, and a young pigeon or a turtledove for a sin offering. ‘Then he shall offer it before the LORD and make atonement for her; and she shall be cleansed from the flow of her blood. This is the law for her who bears a child, whether a male or a female. ‘But if she cannot afford a lamb, then she shall take two turtledoves or two young pigeons, the one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering; and the priest shall make atonement for her, and she shall be clean.”
This is a difficult and mysterious text, which has left many commentators and teachers a bit baffled. The mystery in this portion of Scripture is connected to the time of purification after the birth of a male (40 days), whereas the purification time after the birth of a female is double that – 80 days. While I do not want to try to offer an explanation as to why God required double the amount of time for purification after the birth of a female child, I do want to focus on how it connects to the Hebrew word, “תַזְרִ֔יעַ” (tazria). In Leviticus 12, the word “תזריע” tazria is mistranslated in the English as “gives birth”. In reality, the most precise translation of this word is “to conceive a seed”. The root word here is “zera”, which literally means “seed”.
When the word “seed” is mentioned in the Scriptures, we should recognize that it carries with it a prophetic element, pointing to both Messiah and Israel as a nation.
We also find it in Genesis 1:11, which specifically pertains to vegetation: “Then God said, ‘Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit after their kind, with seed in them, on the earth’; and it was so.” We see that the purpose here is to bear fruit, be plentiful, and to be a blessing.
Speaking about producing fruit and being a blessing, God promised Abraham in Genesis 12:2–3:
And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.
And later again in Genesis 12:7:
And the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your seed I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the LORD who had appeared to him.
While the ultimate seed of blessing is the Messiah, we can also find a deep connection between the seed, the land and the blessing, which is always connected to Israel. That is the reason that in our portion it is also written, “And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised,” which is a sign that the baby boy has joined the people of Israel:
This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised. And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you.
God’s promise to Abraham is very present in our Scripture portion for this week, even though we may not be able to immediately recognize it! As we dig deep into the Word, we find some amazing treasures, don’t we?
I would like to close with one last thought from our portion. As I mentioned before, the purity period for a woman who gave birth was either 40 or 80 days. The number 40 symbolizes transition in the Scriptures, which is a reflection of the incredible journey a woman takes when she brings another life into the world. Once again, we see amazing continuity and connection in God’s Word!
Dig deep into His Word, ask for the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and you will find some amazing insights and treasures!
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.