Friday, January 29, 2016

Sukkah as Divine Body of the Moshiach: Latent Incarnational Teachings in Rabbinic Judaism

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God....And the Word was made His sukkah among us, 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 1:1,14

The Apostolic Writings record in the Besorah of Yochanan (Gospel of John) that G-d made His sukkah (tent) among mankind by becoming flesh--by being born as a little Jewish baby on the festival of Sukkot in a town called Bet Lechem.

Cue the scoffs from many Orthodox Jews: Our Rabbis tell us that G-d would never dwell with mankind in a sukkah of flesh!

But what do the Rabbis really say?

First, it should be noted that the Rabbis say that the Word of G-d (i.e. the Torah) corresponds to the form of a man:
" 'The end of the matter, when all is said and done:  fear God and guard His commandments, for this is all of a person.'  'The end of the matter' is Adam, who was created last.  And the first in thought is the last in deed.  He was created at the end so that he could include everything in his image and likeness.  He was created with 613--248 limbs and 365 sinews, corresponding to the positive and negative commandments.  'Fear God' refers to the negative commandments 'and guard His commandments' refers to the positive commandments.  Thus it is written, 'for this is all of a person.'  For a person is constructed from limbs and sinews," Isaiah Horowitz, The Generations of Adam, pg. 216
Next, the Rabbis say that the sukkah represents the Divine Glory of HaShem:
" 'Rabbi Eliezer says--they were actual booths; R. Aqiba says--[they were Clouds of Divine Glory]," (Sifra Emor, Ch. 17)
This argument considers two positions:  one claiming that sukkot are meant to replicate and therefore symbolize the booths in which the Israelites dwelled in the desert following the exodus, and the other asserting that the ritual sukkot....symbolize the 'Clouds of Glory'--the Clouds of Divine Glory that protected the Israelites in the desert during the daytime hours (while a pillar of fire did so at night; see Ex. 13:21-2)....
    The tannaitic midrash, the Mekhilta d'Rabbi Ishmael...preserves a different version of the opinion attributed to R. Aqiba above.  Commenting on the biblical report that 'they travelled from Sukkot' (Ex. 13:30, where 'Sukkot' is clearly the name of a place) the midrash says, 'R. Aqiba says:  'Sukkot' is none other than the Clouds of Divine Glory.'  This association is partly suggested by the fact that the very next verse in the torah describes the children of Israel as travelling during the day with protection of the clouds.  But the simple meaning of 'Sukkot' leaves no room for doubt; it is unambiguously a place (the version of the midrash at pisha 14 records such an opinion explicitly).  So what we have here is an early tradition insisting that 'sukkot' should be seen as the Divine Clouds--protectors of redeemed Israel both in the past and, as the midrash goes on to teach, in the future.  This insistence shows the power of this interpretive tradition at the earliest level of rabbinic interpretation.  In fact, after having reviewed the traditions in detail, Rubenstein concludes that this interpretive 'the dominant or at least majority opinion' in the rabbinic setting (Rubenstein, 1995, p. 243, n. 15)," David Kraemer, Rabbinic Judaism:  Space and Place
Next, consider that the Rabbis say that the "sukkah" in Amos 9 ("the fallen sukkah of David") refers to the Moshiach:
Nachman said to R. Isaac: “Have you heard when Bar Nafli will come?” “Who is Bar Nafli?” he asked. “Messiah”, he answered. “Do you call the Messiah Bar Nafli?” “Yes”, he responded, as it is written, “on that day I will raise up the fallen Sukkah of David.” (Sanhedrin 96b-97a)
So the sukkah represents both Moshiach and G-d Himself.  But this is not the first time that Moshiach has been identified with G-d in Rabbinic writings.  Observe:
"We conclude this section with a quotation from Genesis Rabbah 2.4.  Commenting on Gen. 1:2, R. Simeon b. Lakish is credited with saying, 'And the Spirit of God hovered':  this alludes to the 'spirit of the Messiah', as you read, 'And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him' (Isa. 11:2)...." McDonough, Christ as Creator
Here we see that the Rabbis equated the "Spirit of G-d" with the "Spirit of Moshiach."  

So it really shouldn't come as a shock to Orthodox Jews that the Apostolic Writings say that the Word of G-d made His sukkah with mankind, revealing the Divine Glory in the form of Yeshua, the Davidic Moshiach.  The Rabbis have already said that the "sukkah" represents the Divine Glory and that the "sukkah" represents the Moshiach ben David!  :  )

May G-d reveal His Glory to all Israel in our day!  May G-d bless the city of David and shelter it with His Peace!



Thursday, January 28, 2016

Hebrew Tip for Men

For us non-Jewish Messianics, it's sometimes difficult to remember all the rules of Hebrew.  For example, with the shin, if the dot is on the left side then the shin is pronounced with an "s" sound;  if the dot is on the right side then the shin is pronounced with a "sh" sound.  How can we as men remember the rule that a dot on the right means "sh"?  Use the following sentence as a memory device:

"She is always right."

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Does G-d Really Want a Blood Sacrifice?

Ever since the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E., there has been an attempt in Rabbinic Judaism to downplay the importance of blood sacrifice.  It has been argued that sacrifice can be replaced with "comparable" means of atonement:
"It once happened that Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai was leaving Jerusalem and Rabbi Yehoshua was walking behind him, when the latter saw the Temple in ruins.  Said Rabbi Yehoshua:  'Woe to us that this is in ruins, the place where the sins of Israel were expiated!' He [Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai] replied to him:  'My son, be not grieved, we have a comparable means of atonement.  Which is this?  It is [acts of] loving kindness, as it is said, 'For I desire mercy, and not sacrifice, [Hosea 6:6]'" Midrash Avot D’rabbi Natan 4:5
The following verse is invoked to assert that G-d doesn't even want burnt offerings:
"For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings," Hosea 6:6
But were the Prophets really trying to overturn Torah?  Were they trying to turn people away from establishing the Temple with its system of blood sacrifices?  Heschel has the following insights:
"Sacrifice, the strength and the measure of piety, acts wherein God and man meet--all this should be called obnoxious?
     Of course, the prophets did not condemn the practice of sacrifice in itself; otherwise, we should have to conclude that Isaiah intended to discourage the practice of prayer (Isa. 1:14-15).  They did, however, claim that deeds of injustice vitiate both sacrifice and prayer.  Men may not drown out the cries of the oppressed with the noise of hymns, nor buy off the Lord with increased offerings.  The prophets disparaged the cult when it became a substitute for righteousness.  It is precisely the implied recognition of the value of the cult that lends force to their insistence that there is something far more precious than sacrifice..."  Heschel, The Prophets
Now the deepest mystery regarding blood sacrifice is that the blood represents the bond of kinship.  So all of these blood sacrifices serve as a metaphor for a bond of kinship.  But kinship with whom?  In Genesis we have a clue:
"Vayomer Avraham Elohim yir'eh-lo haseh le'olah beni vayelchu shneyhem yachdav," Genesis 22:8
"And Abraham said: 'God will  a provide Himself the lamb for a burnt-offering, my son.' So they went both of them together," Genesis 22:8 (Jewish Publication Society)
Israel broke the covenant because in the Old Covenant there is no way to perfect the heart.  So the Prophets speak of a New Covenant in which G-d perfects our hearts so that we will want to follow the Torah.  Our own hearts are desperately wicked.  We need the heart transplant that only the New Covenant provides.

The Prophets tells us that G-d wants both the sacrifice and the right heart attitude.  Only in Yeshua can we have both.  In Him G-d has provided the sacrifice--the blood of kinship--and created a way to change our hearts.



Monday, December 28, 2015

Staying "Put" in the Garden of Eden: The Deeper Meaning of Shabbat According to Genesis Rabbah

This past week I saw something that encouraged me and something that discouraged me--both in regard to Gentiles observing Shabbat.  The encouraging thing was to read a friend's Facebook post about his Shabbat preparations--in particular that he had a crockpot full of venison.  Now that's a good way to delight in Shabbat!

But then I read James Pyles' post entitled "Noahides, Talmidei Yeshua, And Shabbos Observance Revisited" which was about how Gentiles shouldn't keep Shabbat and I found it to be very discouraging. 

So to encourage myself I reflected on what the Torah has to say about the universal appeal of Shabbat.  To that end, let's look at a midrash that discusses how Adam experienced the rest of Shabbat while in the Garden of Eden.  The passage addressed by the midrash is as follows:
“The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it,” Genesis 2:15
The midrash focuses on the language of "put him in the Garden":
“ A. ‘And he put him’ (Gen. 2:15) means that he gave him [Adam] the religious duty of observing the Sabbath [linking ‘put’ to the meaning of ‘rest,’ which the same root yields].  B.  This is in line with the following verse of Scripture:  ‘And he rested on the Seventh day’ (Gen. 20:10).  C. ‘To till it’ (Gen. 2:15).  ‘Six days shall you till’ (Ex. 20:9).  D.  ‘And to keep it’ (Gen. 2:15). ‘Keep the Sabbath day’ (Deut. 5:12),” Genesis Rabbah as quoted in Neusner’s “A Theological Commentary to the Midrash
Here we see for the first time in Torah that it is not enough for man to have a time of rest but man also needs a place of rest--needs, in fact, the Garden of Eden--the place where G-d rests and dwells.  But now that the Garden of Eden is lost, how is man to find the dwelling place and resting place of G-d?  Torah provides a clue:
“We will go into his dwelling place: we will worship at his footstool.  Arise, O LORD, into thy resting place; thou, and the ark of thy strength.  Let thy priests be clothed with righteousness; and let thy saints shout for joy. For thy servant David's sake turn not away the face of thine anointed.  The LORD hath sworn in truth unto David; he will not turn from it; Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne.  If thy children will keep my covenant and my testimony that I shall teach them, their children shall also sit upon thy throne for evermore.  For the LORD hath chosen Zion; he hath desired it for his habitation.  This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it,” Psalm 132:7-14
“This is what the Lord says:  ‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool.  Where is the house you will build for me?  Where will my resting place be?  Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?’ declares the Lord,” Isaiah 66:1-2
"The LORD replied, 'My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest,'" Exodus 33:14
So the Temple of Israel becomes the new Eden.  There's all the main elements of Eden found in the Temple--the Tree of Life (Menorah), the river of life (Ezekiel 47:1), the Cherubim, etc.  But until such time as we have the House of the L-rd in Israel, we have something almost as good:  we can turn our homes into Eden:
“…one [finds] the definition of forbidden labor [on Shabbat] in those activities required for the construction and maintenance of the tabernacle, which is to say, God’s residence on earth.  The best statement, predictably, is the Talmud of Babylonia Shabbat 39a:
‘People are liable only for classifications of labor the like of which was done in the tabernacle.  They sowed, so you are not to sow.  They harvested, so you are not to harvest.  They lifted up the boards from the ground to the wagon, so you are not to lift them in from public to private domain.  They lowered boards from the wagon to the ground, so you must not carry anything from private to public domain.   They transported boards from wagon to wagon, so you must not carry from one private domain to another.’
….Hence to act like God on the Sabbath, the Israelite rests; he does not do what God did in Creation…
What then takes place inside the walls of the Israelite household when time takes over space and revises the conduct of ordinary affairs?  Israel goes home to Eden.  How best to make the statement that the Land is Israel’s Eden, that Israel imitates God by keeping the Sabbath—meaning, not doing the things that God did in creating the world but the things God ceased to do on the Sabbath—and that to restore its Eden, Israel must sustain its life—nourish itself—where it belongs?...Israel’s Eden takes place in the household open to others, on the Sabbath, in acts that maintain life, share wealth, and desist from Creation,” Jacob Neusner, Judaism When Christianity Began
May G-d bless all of you, my brothers and sisters, with a miniature Eden next Shabbat!  May you all experience His perfect peace, rest, and joy!



Friday, December 18, 2015

UMJC Leadership Wants Israel to Surrender Its Land as Part of a Two State "Solution"

Most Israelis understand that the so-called Two State Solution [delusion] involves Israel signing its own death warrant:

Link to Jersualem Post Article

However, Jamie Cowen, former UMJC president and current member of the MJRC, leadership training arm of the UMJC, says that Israel should pursue the so-called Two State Solution (i.e. revert to pre-67 borders):

Link to Article by Jamie Cowen

This is absolutely shocking coming from a Believer!

Why should Israel surrender G-d-given land to arabs who reject Israel's right to exist and who have stated in their national charters their primary purpose is to destroy Israel, that they love death more than Jews love life?

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Can Science Tell You the Purpose for Your Life? Responding to Sam Harris, Jewish Author of "The Moral Landscape"

"In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice.  The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference...DNA neither knows nor cares.  DNA just is.  And we dance to its music," Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden:  A Darwinian View of Life
"No one expects science to tell us how we ought to think and behave...I will argue...that questions about values--about meaning, morality, and life's larger purpose--are really questions about the well-being of conscious creatures," Sam Harris, The Moral Landscape:  How Science Can Determine Human Values, pg. 1
"So Yeshua said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you.The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going.  While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.... I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness." John 12:35,36,46
"And Enoch [Chanokh] walked with God: and he was not; for God took him," Genesis 5:24

So the other evening, a Jewish neighbor came by who was feeling a little lost.  And, for the second time this week, I found myself in a discussion with a non-Believer about the purpose of life.

The first discussion was several days ago with my oldest friend who happens to be an agnostic.  We talked for half the night, starting off with some light-hearted conversation about the upcoming Star Wars movie (which looks very promising) but then, somehow, getting into a really deep conversation about the purpose of life.

He started talking about life's purpose being "the well-being of conscious creatures."  And the phrase clued me in to the fact that he had just been reading Sam Harris (one of the founders of the so-called "New Atheists").  In a nutshell, my friend asserted that you don't need G-d to tell you life's purpose, that science can actually give us objective moral values and tell us how we ought to live our lives.

My response:  science is about describing empirical reality; it cannot prescribe how we ought to act since "ought" is something that we cannot see--is not a scientific subject.  There's really only two options:  (1) purpose is a social construct and there is no meta-Law or meta-Law-giver and therefore objective moral value is impossible; (2) purpose comes from the Creator and there is a meta-Law and meta-Law-giver and therefore objective moral value has its foundation.  Sam Harris, in his book "The Moral Landscape" was claiming that science provides objective laws for how we ought to live (see note 1) but ultimately contradicted himself by saying that moral laws are a social construct (see note 2).  So I left my friend with the question, "What if there is a far grander purpose for you than the purpose you ascribe to yourself?"

And so back to our Jewish visitor.

My wife and I talked with her for a good while.  We talked about our background, the whole Messianic non-Jewish thing.  She talked about her background, being raised culturally Jewish but not involved in the religious aspects.  We all talked about things we've noticed that are wrong with American culture, how values have deteriorated, how this country keeps changing so quickly and not necessarily for the better.  And it was probably during that part of the conversation that I shared my belief that if there is a G-d then He has a purpose for us, a Way that He wants us to live--and that I believe that path is found in the Hebrew Scriptures.  And then my daughter brought in some musical instruments and we all spent the rest of the evening playing music.  It was a good time.  And we prayed for her that she'll find G-d's purpose for her life.

So now as I write this, we're getting ready for Hanukkah--a celebration which deals with purpose, specifically that G-d has a purpose for His People Israel and He shines His light upon (and through) Israel, giving His Torah as a Light for our path, showing us the way we ought to walk.  This is His love for us that He cares enough about us to tell us the way in which we ought to walk in order to have His idea of "well-being."  Sam Harris also spoke of well-being but he didn't know how to define it or how to get it:

"The concept of 'well-being,' like the concept of 'health,' is truly open for revision and discovery.  Just how fulfilled is it possible for us to be, personally and collectively?  What are the conditions--ranging from changes in the genome to changes in economic systems--that will produce such happiness?  We simply do not know," pg. 34 [emphasis added]

What if, on top of all those good things (e.g. money, health, loving relationships) G-d also wants us to have a relationship with Him and to learn about Him? 

We read about Enoch, whose name is related to Hanukkah:
"And Enoch [Chanokh] walked with God: and he was not; for God took him," Genesis 5:24
He showed His dedication to G-d by "walking" with G-d--i.e. Enoch lived a G-dly way of life.  And here's the amazing part:  G-d was so pleased with this that G-d simply had to take Enoch!

So tonight when my family celebrates Hanukkah, we're not going to just remember how G-d protects His People as He did in the days of the Maccabees, we're going to see the light of the chanukkiah and be reminded that in Yeshua, in the Torah of Moses, we see our purpose:  to love G-d, to walk in His Way, and to share this Light of Torah with others.

To my brothers and sisters out there, Happy Hanukkah and may you all find your purpose in Him!


Note 1:  "No one expects science to tell us how we ought to think and behave...I will argue...that questions about values--about meaning, morality, and life's larger purpose--are really questions about the well-being of conscious creatures," Sam Harris, The Moral Landscape:  How Science Can Determine Human Values, pg. 1

Note 2:  "The neuroscientist Michael Gazzaniga writes:  'Neuroscience will never find the brain correlate of responsibility, because that is something we ascribe to humans--to people--not to brains.  It is a moral value we demand of our fellow, rule-following human beings'....While it is true that responsibility is a social construct attributed to people and not to brains, it is a social construct that can make more or less sense given certain facts about a person's brain," Sam Harris, The Moral Landscape:  How Science Can Determine Human Values, pg. 217

"I think there is little doubt that most of what matters to the average person--like fairness, justice, compassion, and a general  awareness of terrestrial reality--will be integral to our creating a thriving global civilization and, therefore, to the greater well-being of humanity," Sam Harris, The Moral Landscape:  How Science Can Determine Human Values, pg. 33

Thursday, December 3, 2015


Here's the story from the UK's Daily Mail:  CLICK HERE FOR LINK

We are at war with Islam!  

Please do not be deceived by political correctness!  Allah is a demon and Muhammad was a bloodthirsty, demon-possessed warlord.  Islam is not a religion of peace!  It's the religion of tyranny, dividing humanity into either the House of Islam (those subject to Islam) and the House of War (those who must be subjugated to Islam).

As for me and my house we will speak out against Islam!  

Be ready to fight, people.  They're bringing the fight to us!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Gene Shlomovich v. Yeshua of Nazareth: Examining Gene's Charge That Yeshua Distorted the Torah

So I just glanced through Gene's latest post entitled "Jesus' Five Most Unbiblical Teachings" in which he tries to forestall the Jewish reclamation of Yeshua by bringing five charges against Yeshua.  I'd like to respond to the 5th charge that Yeshua distorted Torah commandments.

The 5th charge Gene bases on Mark 7:18 which reads:
"And he said to them, 'Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him'"
Gene interprets this as Yeshua attacking Leviticus 11, the food laws regarding foods which cause defilement.

But was Yeshua's statement in Mark 7:18 an attack on Leviticus 11?

Here's a little excerpt from Furstenburg's article entitled "Defilement Penetrating the Body":
"Interpreting Jesus' saying in light of first-century Halakhah-- and not as a reaction against the biblical laws of ritual purity--offers us a completely different point of view with a new set of considerations.  Kister has suggested that, in its first-century context, the first limb of the logion, 'there is nothing outside a person which by going into him can defile him', could not be related to the impure animals listed in Leviticus 11 Their consumption was prohibited and thus they were not part of the normative diet.  Rather, Kister argues, this kind of statement might refer to foods which became contaminated by touching sources of impurity such as a corpse, swarming creatures or a menstruant.  Indeed, understood in this way, Jesus' statement lies on solid halakhic foundations.  Contaminated food does not cause the person eating it to become impure," Yair Furstenburg, Defilement Penetrating the Body:  A New Understanding of Contamination in Mark 7.15
In conclusion, Gene's 5th charge is rather frivolous as it deliberately avoids the first-century context and the rather obvious possibility that Yeshua, an Orthodox Jew accepted by large segments of the 1st Century Pharisees, was engaging in an intra-halachic dispute regarding two competing models of ritual purity during a time when halacha was less settled than it is today.

As for the other charges, Yeshua does claim to be Divine.  Indeed, His student John refers to Him as the Creator.  But this isn't a problem when once recognizes that the Torah says there would be a Divine Messiah who would die for the sins of Israel.