Ask the Rabbi

Shalom!

Because of how busy Shabbat can get for me, I realize that there are many people who I don’t get the opportunity to speak with each week. So I decided that those of you who have questions might need an outlet to get those questions answered. And if you have a question, others may have the same question. So this is a forum where you can ask you questions and get them answered. So click here to fill out the form, then check back frequently for new questions and answers from the rabbi!

Please feel free to scroll down and read all of the questions, or click on the topic below.

5 Special Sabbaths – Why are there 5 special Sabbaths leading up to Passover? Creation and the Tabernacle – Is there a parallel between the two? Fear of Commitment? – What does John 2:24-25 mean? God or Elohim? – Which name should we be using? Haftarah and B’rit Hadashah Readings – Where do they come from? Judaism vs. the New Testament? – Which one applies to believers? Living Water – Where does this imagery in the B’rit Hadashah come from? Messages on the Website – Will they continue? Miriam and the Heifer – Is there a connection between the two? Rosh Hashsnah or Yom Teruah? – Which one should we use? Shabbat or Bust! – In today’s busy world, how can we make ourselves ready for the Sabbath? Shavuot – Isn’t Pentecost a Christian holiday? Sound the Shofar – How do the silver trumpets of Numbers 10 relate to the notes heard on Rosh Hashanah? To Sacrifice or Not to Sacrifice – How do the Jewish people today justify no sacrifices, yet not accepting the atonement of Yeshua? Torah Cycle and then Some – We study the Torah…but do we study other books as a whole? Traditional vs. Messianic Services – What are the differences between them? Weighing in on Wine? – Does the Bible forbid drinking alcoholic beverages? What Does it Mean to Honor? – How should we, as adults, be honoring our parents? Yeshua: Divine, Diety or Dud? – What exactly is the nature of the Messiah?

5 Special Sabbaths

Q: Why are there 5 special Haftarah portions before Pesach?

A: That is a great question. First, let’s understand the Torah cycle. Each Shabbat, there is a prescribed portion of the Torah that is read, so that in one year, you will read through the entire Torah. Each Torah portion has been ascribed a corresponding Haftarah portion, from somewhere else in the Tanakh. This process dates back to the captivity in Babylon. In addition, we add a third reading each Shabbat from the B’rit Chadasha, the New Testament. There are special Shabbatot throughout the year, where either a special Torah passage is read, a special Haftarah portion is read, or both. In the weeks leading up to Passover, 5 of these special Shabbatot appear. These are Shabbat Shekalim, Shabbat Zachor, Shabbat Parah, Shabbat Ha-Chodesh, and Shabbat Ha Gadol. Shabbat Shekalim remembers the half-shekel that was collected during the census of the children of Israel after the exodus out of Egypt. This passage usually falls during the portion Ki Tisa. The portion is so named because of the second Hebrew sentence in the portion, which reads, “כִּי תִשָּׂא אֶת־רֹאשׁ בְּנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵל” ki tisa et rosh b’nai Yisrael”.  It is generally translated, “Take a census.” But the literal meaning of the Hebrew is “lift the head of the children of Israel.” The implication is that each person is looked in the face as they are counted, because each person is important. This is significant leading up to Passover, as each person must decide if they are going to paint the blood of the lamb on their door, figuratively speaking. Are you going to be the one that allows death into the house, or will you be covered by the blood? Shabbat Zachor is the Sabbath we remember the command to blot out the name of Amalek. On their way out of Egypt, the Amalekites stood in their path, waging war upon them. They were, of course, defeated, but their treachery against God’s chosen people would not be forgotten. This passage is read on the Sabbath immediately prior to Purim, which comes about a month before Passover. The villain of Purim, Haman, was an Agagite, who was a descendant of Amalek. Because the Amalekite king was allowed to live, contrary to the command of the Lord, Haman, his descendant, was allowed to plan for the destruction of the Jews, completing the task that the Amalekites had attempted generations before. This obviously was not successful, as the Lord had put Queen Esther in place to prevent it. However, in this passage we are reminded that the people of the Lord will have enemies, but they will not be victorious, as they were not during the Passover. God will achieve the victory! The third special Shabbat is Shabbat Parah. Shabbat Parah officially marks the beginning of the preparation for Passover. The portion discusses the red heifer, which was required for the purification of the priesthood. Without the blood, there would be no priests. This has a double symbolism with respect to Passover. First, it is a reminder that Passover is a festival of purity, and we should approach the holiday with a view towards getting the leaven out of our lives. But second, it is also a reminder that we are called to be priests, a royal priesthood, in fact. And just as the blood of the red heifer purified the priests from the touch of death, so does the blood of the lamb of God, the essence of Passover, purifies those who believe from the touch of death. The next one is Shabbat Ha-Chodesh. It is the last Shabbat before the month of Nissan begins, in which Passover falls. Scripture defines Nissan as the first month, and this is the passage that is read special to Shabbat Ha-Chodesh. Finally, Shabbat Ha-Gadol is the Sabbath before Passover. It is called the Great Sabbath (gadol is great in Hebrew). Symbolically, it marks the day when the ancient Israelites chose the lamb they would slaughter for the Pesach meal. They would bring it to their home and keep it until the 14th of Nissan. The special Haftarah reading speaks of the return of Elijah the prophet. Traditionally, a place is set at every Passover table for Elijah, who is believed to be coming back at Passover. We who believe in Yeshua also believe that John the Immerser (Baptist) was the one who came in the spirit and likeness of Elijah, just as Yeshua said, to announce the coming of Messiah. There are other special Shabbatot through the year, but these are the ones that relate to Passover.

Chag Sameach!

 

What does it mean to honor?

Q: One of the 10 commandments tells us to honor our fathers and our mothers. What exactly does this mean?

A: There are many instructions regarding children and their parents. Your specific question deals with the commandment from Exodus 20:12, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you.” The Hebrew word that is used in this passage is  כַּבֵּ֥ד kabeyd which is translated as honor. The root of the word means glory, or weightiness, as in the glory of the Lord. The connotation of this passage seems to be saying to be conscious of ones actions so as not to bring dishonor to your parents. It isn’t blind obedience, as some believe. It has more to do with respect than blind obedience. Just like any child desires his or her parents to be proud of them, it is pleasing to God when we desire that our actions reflect glory on our parents. All of the other passages that talk about our behavior concerning our parents are consistent with this thinking. Don’t curse your parents. Don’t hit your parents. There is one other element here that we need to consider. The command has a consequence: that your days may be prolonged in the land. The idea here is that if your behavior is such that it cannot be tolerated by the community, you run the risk of being cast out of the community. There are plenty of verses that talk about being cut off from your people. This may be what this commandment refers to. Don’t tick your parents off and make them kick you out, might be how that commandment would read if written today.

There are many instructions regarding children and their parents. Your specific question deals with the commandment from Exodus 20:12, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you.” The Hebrew word that is used in this passage is  כַּבֵּ֥דkabeyd which is translated as honor. The root of the word means glory, or weightiness, as in the glory of the Lord. The connotation of this passage seems to be saying to be conscious of ones actions so as not to bring dishonor to your parents. It isn’t blind obedience, as some believe. It has more to do with respect than blind obedience. Just like any child desires his or her parents to be proud of them, it is pleasing to God when we desire that our actions reflect glory on our parents. All of the other passages that talk about our behavior concerning our parents are consistent with this thinking. Don’t curse your parents. Don’t hit your parents.

            There is one other element here that we need to consider. The command has a consequence: that your days may be prolonged in the land. The idea here is that if your behavior is such that it cannot be tolerated by the community, you run the risk of being cast out of the community. There are plenty of verses that talk about being cut off from your people. This may be what this commandment refers to. Don’t tick your parents off and make them kick you out, might be how that commandment would read if written today.

Weighing in on wine?

Q: I have heard several different teachings about whether the wine that Scripture speaks about is fermented and alcoholic or not. When the Bible talks about wine, is it alcoholic or not? I enjoy a glass every now and then, but would be willing to give it up if it isn’t biblical.

A: There is every reason to believe that when the Scripture says wine, it is a fermented, alcoholic beverage. Here is my reasoning. The word for wine in Hebrew is יָיִן yayin. Genesis 9:21 says that Noah drank יָיִן and he became drunk. Leviticus 10:9 cautions the priest against drinking יָיִן or strong drink before entering the tabernacle for service. 1 Sam 1:14 connects יָיִן with getting drunk. 1 Chr 27:27 talks about treasuries or cellars for wine. If you keep any grape juice in a cellar for a period of time, it will ferment. I could go on, but I think you get my point. In the New Testament, the Greek word for wine is οινος oinos. Luke 1:15 connects οινος with liquor. Ephesians 5:18 talks about not getting drunk with οινος.  Bottom line, the Scripture doesn’t tell us not do drink fermented or alcoholic beverages. It tells us not to lose control of ourselves or to get drunk. So enjoy your wine. Many of the characters in the Bible did.

Shabbat or Bust!

Q: I have struggled with this for years.  My day is 13 hours with my commute. How does one come into keeping Shabbat when you are so overwhelmed and everything is geared for Saturday to be a regular day.  Any suggestions welcomed.

A: That is truly the challenge, these days. People are just working and working all the time, and it’s hard to find time to rest. And while this may sound like an overly simplified answer, it really is the key to “successful resting.” You have to plan.

     You know what your week is going to look like. You know how tired you are now, and how tired you’re going to be at the end of the week. So here are a few tips to get you from Shabbat to Shabbat. 1. Each day, prepare some element of food for Friday-Saturday so that you don’t have to worry about what you’re going to make to eat. You can make a side dish, some vegetables, a casserole ahead of time so that all you have to do is heat it up later. It will make eating much less stressful. And if you’re cooking during the week anyway, it is really nothing to prepare a little something else for Shabbat. 2. Plan a stopping time on Friday, and stick to it. There is nothing in that additional hour or two that won’t wait until Monday. And when you stop, stop. Don’t think about it anymore. Plan ahead so that you will be ready when the clock hits x o’clock, and you can walk out the door. 3. Look forward to it. God says it’s a time for rest. When it becomes work, it is very hard to look forward to it. Take it as a 24 hour vacation. Attend services, spend the time with your family, read a book, whatever you do, use the time to recharge. That’s what it’s there for. If you don’t, you’re right. It becomes just another day to get stuff done that you weren’t able to get done during the week because of work. That makes it work, and who looks forward to that? I am sure that if you thought about it, you would be able to find plenty of other ways that you can prepare for Shabbat during the week. It takes a little creativity, a little ingenuity, and a little extra preparation, but in the end it will allow you to come into Shabbat with a right heart attitude, looking forward to meeting with God for a while, and recharging your batteries so that you can face the beginning of the week again with hope, looking forward to the next Shabbat.

 

Judaism vs. the New Testament?

Q: As a christian, am I obligated to live in Judaism or in the teachings of New Testament?

A: The answer largely depends on three additional questions:

1. When you say obligated, for what purpose do you mean? 2. What is the definition of Judaism in your question? 3. Is it your understanding that the there is a difference between what the New Testament teaches and what the rest of the Bible teaches? Let me answer those questions based on my understanding of the Scripture. Christian or not, in terms of humanity’s relationship to God, we are under the new covenant, which is described in Jeremiah 31:33-34. Any other covenant, including the Mosaic covenant, cannot in any way, shape or form reconcile us to God, gain us eternal life, or anything. Therefore, if anyone believes that anyone is obligated to do anything in order to receive the blessing of salvation, the Bible teaches against it. All we are required to do is place our trust and faith in the Lord, Yeshua.      The Biblical contention is that as a result of our faith, we will be obedient. To what will we be obedient is the real question that needs to be asked. Those are the things that God models for us in the Old Testament. Which brings me to the second question.      Many people see the Old Testament as being a Jewish thing. If that were there case, then the New Testament is ALSO a Jewish thing. However, rather than seeing either the Old or the New Testament as being a Jewish thing, or a Gentile thing, we should see the entire Bible as a God thing. Jews have a role in the God story, as do Gentiles. So any obedience to anything in the Old Testament should not be viewed as living in Judaism, but rather as living in obedience to God.      And we have to remember that we are still living in the days of the new covenant, so even in our observance of the commandments from the Old Testament, we have to understand those laws and commands the way that Yeshua interpreted them, and not necessarily the way that the Pharisees understood them in those days. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be obedient, only that we should be obedient in the correct way, from the heart, and not hypocritically. Which brings me to the third question.      The teachings of the New Testament do not stand in contrast to the teaching of the Old Testament. Rather, they stand as the correct interpretation of the Old Testament. And there are plenty of things in the Old Testament that weren’t discussed in the New. Many people take this to mean that since it wasn’t mentioned in the New Testament, it is no longer applicable. Quite the opposite. If it wasn’t mentioned in the New Testament and reinterpreted by Yeshua, it is because they were getting it right in His day, and it didn’t need any clarification or re-interpretation.     Further, terms that were used, and ideas that were presented, would have been understood in a Jewish, or Hebraic, way. Concepts such as the kingdom, mentioned in Matthew 6, weren’t explained in full because the people to whom He was speaking already knew about the kingdom of God. How did they know about the kingdom of God? And what did they know about the kingdom of God? They knew from the prophets. That was how they understood all of the kingdom passages. And Yeshua never challenged it. So there was a way of thinking that was 100% Jewish that is part of the New Testament. So to say Judaism OR the teachings of the New Testament is really not an accurate comparison.      MODERN Judaism does stand in contrast to the New Testament for sure, in that it doesn’t accept Yeshua as the Messiah, and the Son of God. However, many of the Pharisees in His day didn’t either, and Jesus still said, “Do as they say.”      So it is my understanding, based on the Scripture, that both Jew and Gentile are obligated to a saving faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and HIs Son, Yeshua, Jesus. As a result of that faith, there are works that are supposed to be evident in our lives, but these are works FROM life, and not works FOR life. In other words, what we do will have no effect on our relationship with God from God’s perspective. It can only change the way WE think and feel. And that makes it a matter of worship. When we worship with our obedience to the Bible, the entire Bible, the way that Yeshua taught, we are not living a Jewish life, we are living a Godly one.

To Sacrifice or Not to Sacrifice

Q: If traditional Jews [those who do not believe in Yeshua] do not believe in the New Testament, do they still sacrifice animals?  If not, what are their reasons?

A. It is true, traditional Jews do not believe in the New Testament, and therefore in the atonement that comes through Messiah Yeshua. And yet, they do not sacrifice animals, not even on Yom Kippur. There is one primary reason for not sacrificing animals anymore. That is the fact that there is no longer a temple to sacrifice them in. With the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E., both the Pharisees and the Sadducees had big problems. For the Sadducees, their whole existence was centered around the Temple service. With the Temple gone, it wasn’t very long before the Sadducees were gone, too.

     The Pharisees’ problem centered on what to do with atonement. With the Temple gone, the only place that the sacrifices were allowed to be performed, they had to come up with something else. What they came up with is three things that will, when taken together, provide the same atonement as the animal sacrifices: study of Torah, acts of kindness (performing mitzvot, or commandments), and giving to charity. These three things replaced the sacrifices from 70 C.E. onward for the traditional Jewish community. Today, the Orthodox Jews still hold to this thinking. Conservative Jews less so, and the reform and secular don’t even think about atonement. It doesn’t even hit their radar.      To bring up Leviticus 17 to them and the fact that atonement can only come from the shedding of blood brings up a huge debate. There is no satisfactory answer to it, however, especially for those who place such a high regard on the Torah. The problem is that they place a higher value on the Talmud, which is the interpretations of the rabbis over centuries. This body of work completed about 200 C.E. doesn’t supersede the Bible, but does explain it for them, even if the explanations seem to contradict the Bible itself.      Because the concept of anything other than sacrifices, the shedding of blood, etc. are completely contrary to the Bible, we would have to look outside of the Bible for any explanation of why those things are no longer necessary, yet atonement is still provided. The Talmud and other rabbinic writings gives us those explanations from the Jewish perspective. Responses from these works would include comments such as, “Prayer is greater than sacrifice,” (Talmud Tractate Berakhot 32b), that repentance, itself, is as if you had built the Temple, erected the altar, and offered all the sacrifices yourself, (Leviticus Rabbah 7:2), justice and righteousness are better than sacrifices (Berakhot 4b), and that one day spent in Torah study is better than a thousand burnt offerings (Tractate Shabbat 30a and Deuteronomy Rabbah 5:3). These are examples of how they rationalize the absence of sacrifices today. There are others, but at this point, you should get the idea.

Rosh Hashanah or Yom Teruah?

Q: I noticed that your congregation observes “Rosh Hashannah.” In Lev. 23, I see that God calls this date “Yom T’ruah.” Why the one and not the other?

A: This festival has a number of different names. It is called Yom ha Din, the Day of Judgment. It is called Yom ha Zikkaron, the Day of Remembrance. It is called Rosh Hashanah, the Head of the Year. And it is called Yom Teruah.

     The Jewish community, as a whole, refers to this day by the name Rosh Hashanah. Because we invite and pray for the Jewish community to come to our services, we use the name with which they are most familiar. During the service, however, the message contains a reminder that the Biblical name of the holiday that is being celebrated is, in fact, Yom Teruah, and the name Rosh Hashanah doesn’t appear anywhere in the Scripture.      Your question seems to imply that there may be two different holidays, though I don’t think that was your intention. There are simply different names for the same holiday. And there are many holidays that have that same situation, especially when you consider the English equivalents. For example, Shavuot vs. the Feast of Weeks vs. Pentecost. Sukkot vs. the Feast of Booths vs. the Feast of Tabernacles. The different names refer to the same day, though are understood differently by different groups. So it really depends on to whom you are speaking.      Therefore, we have chosen to relate to the Jewish community. The Christian community, by and large, wouldn’t know what Yom Teruah is anyway, so using that name would not tell anyone that we are celebrating a Biblical holiday, anyway. However, most people recognize the name Rosh Hashanah. So people come to a Rosh Hashanah service, and they learn the true Biblical name and understanding.

Yeshua: Divine, Diety or Dud?

Q: Is Yeshua diety?

A: Yes, Yeshua is deity.

Matthew 1:18b After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.      He was born of the Ruach Ha Kodesh, and therefore must be fully God.      Twice in the account of Matthew we read of God the Father speaking of Yeshua and saying, “This is my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” There is no place else in Scripture where anyone is referred to by God as His beloved son.      Additionally, there is only one entity who can forgive us our sins. That is God. That is the Hebraic understanding throughout the Tanakh as well. That’s nothing new. In Mark 2:6-7, we even see that it was the understanding during Yeshua’s time. “And some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, ‘Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?'” And yet, in the story of the paralytic, which is told in Matthew 9, Mark 2, and Luke 5, it is perfectly clear that Yeshua had the ability to forgive sins. The account from Matthew 9:2-6 reads, “Then behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, ‘Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.’ And at once some of the scribes said within themselves, ‘This Man blasphemes!’ But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, ‘Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, “Your sins are forgiven you,” or to say, “Arise and walk”? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins’–then He said to the paralytic, ‘Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.'”      The only way this could be possible is if Yeshua were, Himself, God.

God or Elohim?

Q: If we are zealous for the Messiah’s name “Yeshua” why do we still use the term “God” when its etimology, just like “Jesus” is rooted in a language foreign to the Father’s Word and reveals nothing about who He is?

A: First, we must understand that there are different aspects of the God-head. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, while being one God, are different, and called differently. You wouldn’t call the Holy Spirit by the name Yeshua. They’re different.

Therefore, when we talk about God, in any of His aspects, we need to know who it is we are talking about. And I would have to disagree with your comment. The word “God” is how we translate the word, “Elohim,” which is clearly Hebrew, and definitely NOT foreign to the Father’s Word. Elohim is used very specifically to refer to the Lord’s creative and merciful attributes. It is the only reference, in fact, that is used for God during the creation account in Genesis 1.

When we use the term Lord, it is a translation of the word Adonai, which is euphemistically used wherever the tetragrammaton (four-letter name of God) appears, we are referring to God’s justice and ruling nature. It is the most common reference to God in the Scriptures.

Most of the other names of God, El Shaddai, El Gibor, El Elyon, are a combination of the word El, which is a Hebrew word, a shortened form of the word Elohim, and translated as God, along with a descriptive adjective to modify the noun. Gibor is mighty. Therefore, El Gibor is the Mighty God. Elyon is high, and we translate El Elyon as God, most high. You get the point.

The name Yeshua refers to one aspect of the God-head, and describes the redemptive aspect of God, His name meaning salvation. It would be wonderful if we all spoke Hebrew, and were able to converse in the language of the Scripture. However, since we do not, we use the language we know. In English, we use God, and Lord, and Jesus. The point is not so much which name we use as much as it is that we know who we are talking about. If we push it to the extreme, legalistic use of the Hebrew language would make it possible for us to say that we don’t believe in Jesus. We believe in Yeshua. And that is both incorrect, and misleading, to both Jew and Gentile alike. Let me illustrate.

Let’s say that a Messianic believer wants to make aliyah and move to Israel. They are asked by immigration officials if they believe in Jesus. They answer no. They are believers, but because they are Messianic and use the name Yeshua instead, they deliberately mislead others. The issue isn’t what name is used, because they knew full well who the immigration officials were talking about.

I actually have no problem using the name Jesus, because I know who I am referring to. I know that it refers to the Jewish Messiah, the Promised One of Israel, Who lived as a Jew in a Jewish land, died as a Jew, and will return as a Jew. I know that I am not referring to a Norse, blond-haired, blue-eyed attractive man that people followed when they went on Crusades and killed Jews and Muslims alike, who people followed during the Inquisition and forced Jews and pagans to convert to Catholicism or die. Those are creations of man. I know who I am talking about, and that’s what matters.

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