Yom T’ruah (Rosh Hashanah)

The modern-day name of the feast, Rosh haShanah (ראש השנה, i.e. head of the year), was originally called Yom T’ruah (יום תרועה‎). It became Rosh haShanah during the Babylonian exile, when the Babylonian calendar was adopted by the Jewish people.1

The original name, Yom T’ruah, is translated to English as the “feast of trumpets”, although a more accurate translation would be the “day of shouting”.2 Furthermore, God set the beginning of the year to the month of the Exodus (Nisan, c.f. Ex. 12:2, Lev. 23:4) and therefore, Yom T’ruah occured in the 7th month, as the commandement in Leviticus 23:23-25 shows:

And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe a day of solemn rest, a memorial proclaimed with blast of trumpets (or: loud shouting), a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work, and you shall present a food offering to the LORD.”
Leviticus 23:23-25

Summary of rabbinic traditions

In rabbinic Judaism, the days preceding Rosh haShanah are considered holy days during which the Slichot prayers (סליחות‎‎, prayers of repentance) should be recited in preparation of Rosh haShanah, which is also known as Yom haDin (יום הדין, i.e. the “day of judgement”).

On Yom haDin, 3 books are opened, the book of life, for the righteous among the nations, the book of death, for the most evil who receive the seal of death, and the third book for the ones living in doubts with non-evil sins. The final judgment is not done from Yom haDin before the start of Yom Kippur, it is sometimes possible to receive the seal of life by asking for forgiveness.3

Future fulfillment

The shouts and trumpet blasts are alluded to in the book of Revelations with several themes of announcement.

Judgement

The trumpet blasts and shouts in front of the city of Jericho (Joshua 6) announced its judgement by God.

“Seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. On the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets.”
Joshua 6:4

Similarly to Joshua’s account, the coming judgement is also accompanied by shouts or woes, as shown in Revelations 8-11.

“Then I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them.”
Revelation 8:2

Similarly to Joshua’s account, the coming judgement is also accompanied by shouts or woes (e.g. Rev. 8:13). Of course, the one bringing this judgement to restore justice is the new and righteous king.

A new king

Traditionally, after being anointed with oil, new kings were proclaimed by loud shouting, as can be seen with Saul (1 Samuel 10:1,25) and Solomon (1 Kings 1:34). This typefies the coming of Messiah as a King (e.g. Rev. 11:15 & 19-20). First, Yeshua was anointed with oil (Mat. 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; Luke 7:36-50; John 12:1-8) and then recognised as king of Israel by the civil authority in mockery (Pontius Pilate, e.g. John 19:19 or the priests, e.g. Mat. 27:42, Mark 15:32). But like David, he did not become king until much later, when loud voices will proclaim the kingdom:

“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he shall reign forever and ever!”
Revelation 11:15

The bridegroom

Traditionally, the bridegroom would come to take his bride during the night with trumpet blasts and loud shouting from his friends. This is alluded to in Yeshua’s parable of the ten bridesmaids:

But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’
Matthew 25:6

Similyrly, Messiah as the bridegroom of his people is announced with trumpet blasts and loud shouting (e.g. Rev. 12 & 19; 1 Thess. 4:16-17).

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out:

“Hallelujah!
For the Lord our God
the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure”—
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

And the angel said to me: “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”

Revelation 16:6-9a

References and footnotes

1 Blog post “How Yom Teruah Became Rosh Hashanah” (Link)

2 Compare to the usage of the word תרועה‎ in Joshua 6:5, where it is clearly related to shouting and loud noises

3 Wikipedia article on Rosh haShanah (Link)

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Passover – The 4 cups

While Yeshua certainly fulfilled the prophecies concerning Messiah Son of Joseph (משיח בן־יוסף‎‎, Mashiach ben Yoseph), i.e. the suffering servant, it seems interesting that he also respected some of the things that were traditions during his life. Among these things are a number of elements of the Passover meal (פסח סדר‎‎, Pesach Seder) traditions. An example are the 4 cups that are traditionally drunk during the meal.

Traditional basis for the cups

The Mishnah explains that drinking four cups is essential, although the text is not very explicit as to the reason for those cups:

[…] And they must give him no fewer than four cups of wine, even from the charity plate. They pour the first cup [of wine] for [the leader of the seder], […] and then recites a blessing over the wine. […] They pour a second cup [of wine] for him. And here the son questions his father. […] After they poured for him the third cup, he blesses over his food. The fourth [cup of wine], he completes over it the Hallel, and he recites over it the blessing of the song. Between these cups, if he wants to drink, he may drink, but between the third and the fourth he may not drink. […]
Excerpts of Mishnah, Seder Moed, Pesachim 101

These four cups are named using an excerpt from Exodus 6:

Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.
Exodus 6:6-7

Based on the Mishnah explanation and Exodus 6, the four cups are named, but this is slightly different in the various traditions:2

  1. The cup of sanctification or blessing (Kadesh, קדש‎‎)
  2. The cup of deliverance or judgement, i.e. plagues, in which a drop of wine is put on the plate for each plague
  3. The cup of redemption or the cup of blessing (for the food, i.e. the Passover sacrifice)
  4. The cup of praise (Hallel, הלל‎‎) or restoration, also called the cup of acceptance or the cup of Elijah

Yeshua’s cups

When reading Luke’s narrative of Yeshua’s celebration of Pesach right before his death, it becomes apparent that he understood this tradition:

Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. […] And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.
Luke 22:7,14-20

In this text, Yeshua begins the celebration with the cup of blessing (Luke 22:17). The next cup in this text is the third cup, the cup of redemption or blessing after the meal. So where is the second cup, the cup of plagues? And where is the fourth cup, the cup of praise?

It appears that Yeshua drinks the cups not simply in the in a small Pesach celebration with his disciples, but in a grand Pesach Seder involving the entire world.

With his first cup, Yeshua started the meal (Luke 22:17) and let us participate in his grand Seder with him:

The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?
1 Cor. 10:16

Yeshua spoke of the second cup, the cup of judgement, shortly after the celebration with his disciples. This is the cup he drank on the cross. This is the judgement that we deserved, the plague he took by dying for us:

He said: “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”
Luke 22:42

He literally drank this cup while hanging on the cross:

The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine.
Luke 23:36

We see the cup of plagues reappear in the book of Revelations (chap. 16), where all people who did not accept Yeshua’s drinking of that cup have to take that weight on themselves, and creation suffers with them. And like Yeshua drank it out and said: “It is finished!”, so is the judgement at the end (Rev. 16:17).

Yeshua fulfilled the cup of redemption by speaking the blessing of thanks for the meal (Luke 22:20), which included the lamb sacrifice, i.e. his own death, as he is the Lamb of God (John 1:29-34).3 After the meal, Yeshua and his disciples sang the Hallel psalms.4

And finally the fourth cup: Earlier, during the celebration with his disciples, Yeshua had alluded to it by announcing that he would not drink another cup until the kingdom of God comes (Luke 22:18). This announced the fourth cup, the cup of praise for the coming of God’s kingdom and his return as Messiah the king (משיח בן־דוד‎‎, Mashiach ben David).

References

1 Mishnah, Seder Moed, Pesachim 10 (Link) on eMishnah.com

2 Article on the four cups, by Chabad (Link)
3 Yeshua was the Lamb of God fit for the Pesach sacrifice because John, as a son of Zechariah the High priest (Luke 1:3ff), was legally allowed to declare lambs pure for a Pesach sacrifice.
4 The Hallel Psalms (113-118) were usually sung both at the end of the meal (Mat. 26:30, Marc 14:26) and during the offering of the Pesach sacrifice

Additional information

  • Jews for Jesus, The mystery of the Passover cup (Link)

Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonements)

The feast

When there was a temple: the two rams

During the feast called Yom Kippur (יוֹם כִּפּוּר, originally Yom Kippurim, the day of atonements), the priests would atone for the sins of the priesthood and of the people, and subsequently purifiy the temple because it is among the people, who are not pure. This was the only day the High Priest (כהן גדול) was allowed inside the Holy of Holies (קֹדֶשׁ הַקֳּדָשִׁים), the holiest part of the temple where the ark of the covenant was placed (אָרוֹן הַבְּרִית). For the sins of the people, Aaron was instructed to prepare two special rams (Leviticus 16):

And [Aaron] shall take from the congregation of the people of Israel two male goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering. […] Then he shall take the two goats and set them before the Lord at the entrance of the tent of meeting. And Aaron shall cast lots over the two goats, one lot for the Lord and the other lot for Azazel. And Aaron shall present the goat on which the lot fell for the Lord and use it as a sin offering, but the goat on which the lot fell for Azazel shall be presented alive before the Lord to make atonement over it, that it may be sent away into the wilderness to Azazel.
Leviticus 16:5,7-10

Modern celeration of Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur was never meant to be a celebration, but rather a day of mourning over one’s sins, a day of true repentance. Therefore, in modern-day Israel, nobody drives on that day. All shops are closed, even in secular cities like Tel Aviv, and the airport is closed. Life literally comes to a halt.

In Judaism, the outer and inner states of being considered to be connected. Therefore, when someone is ashamed or feels guilty, they might fast to reflect this inner suffering outwardly, i.e. , inner repentance should be reflected by bodily suffering (e.g. through fasting). Thus, during biblical times, people would put ashes on their head and wear sackcloth as a sign of mourning (e.g. Genesis 37:34; 2 Samuel 3:31; Jonah 3:10). Reflecting the connection of body, spirit and soul, all the senses are connected as well, both in worship and in everyday life: For example, dancing reflects inner joy, and singing as well as hearing music adds those senses to adoration. Similarly, eating the meat of a sacrifice involves taste, while smoke coming fromthe altar of incense symbolises prayer and smells good (e.g. Ps. 141:2).

The scapegoat

The term scapegoat is used in many situations in the English language: Most crime movies contain it. But where does it come from?

The origin of the term is a translation of the text of Leviticus 16, where the words “for Azazel” (לעזאזל) were translated as “an escaping goat” (interpreted as two words: le-ez azel, לעז אזל, literally “for the goat out”) in the King James Bible, also called a “scape-goat” in older versions. However, it makes more sense to consider Azazel to be a name: The goat “for Azazel” was meant to carry away the sins of the people. Azazel was understood to be a demon of the desert or wilderness and one of the main ennemies of God, a leader of the fallen angels.

Who exactly is Azazel?

To understand that, we need to go back to Genesis 6, where the text explains that a certain type of angels (sons of God, בני האלהים bnei ha’elohim) came down from heaven to commit the sin of taking human wives and having giants as children. This happened in the 7th generation after Adam, during the life of Enoch. This man also wrote a book about thoses events. From there we know that these fallen angels were led by one particular fallen angel, Azazel. Before the flood, the fallen angels were punished for their sins by being bound and locked away until the end of times, when they will be released for a short time to inflict suffering upon humanity. And Azazel was put into a “bottomless pit” in the wilderness. Enoch wrote this:

61And it came to pass, when the children of men had multiplied, in those days there were born to them beautiful and comely daughters. 2And Watchers, children of heaven, saw them and desired them, and lusted after them; and they said one to another: “Come, let us choose for ourselves wives from the daughters of earth, and let them beget us children.” […] 6And they were 200 who descended in the days of Jared on the summit of mount Hermon; and they called the mount Hermon, because they swore and bound one another with imprecations. 7And these are the names of their leaders: Semyaza, who was their leader, […] Asasel, the tenth to him, […] 81 Asasel taught men to make swords of iron and breast-plates of bronze and every weapon of war; and he showed them the metals of the earth […] 94Then [Raphael] and Michael [and Sariel and Gabriel] went in and said to the Lord of the ages: 6“You see what Asasel has done, what he has introduced and taught, wrong-doing, and sins upon the earth” 104 And to Raphael God said: “Go, Raphael, and bind Asasel. Fetter (bind) him hand and foot and cast him into the darkness; make an opening in the desert […] and there go and cast him in.”
The Book of Enoch, translation by Matthew Black

While Israel wandered through Azazel’s realm, the wilderness, they sinned so much that they built a golden calf (Exodus 32). Then, right before Israel was supposed to enter the land of Canaan (כְּנָעַן; the land of Israel, אֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל), they sent 12 spies there. When ten of them came back with bad reports, the people rebelled against God because they did not trust in him (Numbers 13 & 14). As a result, they were sent back into the wilderness for 40 years, until the rebellious generation would be dead as atonement for their sins (Numbers 14). Only the pure generation could come out of the wilderness, the land of sin, and enter the promised land.

Extra-biblical Jewish traditions (Talmudic texts) state that the priest bringing the goat to the wilderness – paralleling the 10 spies – had to walk past 10 booths where they would be offered food but would have to decline, as there is no grounds to celebration, which eating represents. Previous to that event, the High Priest would have confessed the people’s sins by praying this prayer, which the people would repeat:1

“O Lord, I have acted iniquitously, trespassed, sinned before Thee: I, my household, and the sons of Aaron—Thy holy ones. O Lord, forgive the iniquities, transgressions, and sins that I, my household, and Aaron’s children—Thy holy people—committed before Thee, as is written in the law of Moses, Thy servant, ‘for on this day He will forgive you, to cleanse you from all your sins before the Lord; ye shall be clean.'”

Similarly to the people who rebelled, the goat for Azazel, burdened with the sins of the Israel, was to be cast out into the wilderness to die there.

A double fulfillment

The death sentence on Yeshua

Two thousand years ago, Israel was a Roman protectorate. Because of many civil wars, the contestants for the throne, descendants of the Hasmonean dynasty founded by Judah Maccabee, had asked the Romans authorities to help them by securing the country militarily.3 The Romans intervened, incorporated the kingdom of Israel into their empire. As such, Israel had its own king alongside a Roman Governor (a “legate governor”) who was responsible for regulating trade and maximising tax incomes. The ruling king of Judea was still a Jew until Herod, an Edomite who had converted to Judaism, was appointed king of Judea by the Roman senate.4 But with Rome’s support of Herod and his conquest of Jerusalem, the rule went into foreign hands. After Herod’s death, Rome split the kingdom into Judea, Samaria and the Galilee, and each of his sons ruled one part. The provinces of the Roman Empire had prefects, and the man in this position from 26-36 A.D. was Pilate (Pontius Pilatus).

Being a Roman protectorate had a few advantages for Israel. For one, it assured them political stability and military protection. Also, they were allowed to keep their government, religion, language and culture. This had not been the case under the previous Greek rule (around the time of the Maccabees). Over time however, this situation gradually became worse: Not only had Rome appointed a foreigner as king, i.e. Herod, but the system was also very corrupt: While the priests in charge of the temple were still descended from Aaron around 30 A.D., as required by the Torah (Numbers 3:10), by 30 A.D. they were not. Rather, some rich men favored by Rome had bought into this position of wealth and authority.1 And finally, taxation was quite high. Hence, several groups of Israelites had tried to overthrow the Roman political structure in order to free their people.

Around the year 30 A.D., close to the feast of Pesach (פֶּסַח, the Passover), emotions were running high. Pesach is the feast of Israel’s liberation from slavery in Egypt, and as such ideal for revolutionaries to heighten the Jewish wish for freedom from Rome. A few days earlier, the people had welcomed Yeshua, a man fron Nazareth, a descendant of king David, as Messiah when he entered Jerusalem on a donkey (Matt. 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:28-44, John 12:12-19), thus fulfilling prophecies in Zechariah 9:9 and 14:1-5. Rome feared that Yeshua could potentially instigate a revolution or be crowned king even against his own will (he had previously stated that his kingdom was not of this world, John 18:36). The people loved him, but Pilate could not risk a rebellion and a new war. At the same time, some Jewish religious leaders feared that they would loose influence if Yeshua became king, as he had repeatedly spoken up against them. Not to forget that a war would be devastating and they were not ready for it. “Better for one man to die for his people.”, they thought. And so they brought this man – Yeshua of Nazareth – before Pilate on charges of rebellion against Rome (e.g. Luke 23:1-5) to ask for Rome’s permission to execute him. But Pilate, afraid of the people, sent him to Herod Antipas, the ruler of the Galilee whose subject Yeshua was seen as. But Herod, not knowing what to do with Yeshua, just sent him back to Pilate. And Pilate gave them a choice, as “at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas” (Mat. 27:15).

So the Priests, the Elders of the people and now had two men before them to choose from:

  • Yeshua of Nazareth, called the Messiah by his followers. He had been active for years, but he had taught peace and yet, he had undermined their authority: His goal was to free his people from spiritual oppression and bring them back to the pure word of God (Tanakh, תַּנַ”ךְ‎, i.e. Old Testament), discarding the Oral Law that gave so much authority to the corrupt religious leaders (Pharisees, Saducees, etc.). Yeshua is presented throughout the gospels as the son of God, our Father.
  • Yeshua Barabbas (בר אבא‎ bar abba, Aramaic: ‘son of the father’). According to some theories, he was a revolutionary who had tried to start a rebellion and killed someone while doing it. His goal was to free his people from political oppression, in this case Roman influence.
    Note concerning his name: Most modern New Testament translations do not contain Barabbas’ full name, as it is missing in many manuscripts. However, older versions have it as “Jesus Barabbas”.2 Origen (Ὠριγένης Ἀδαμάντιος, Ōrigénēs Adamántios; 184/185 – 253/254 A.D.), a greek “church father” from Alexandria, considered the name “Jesus” to be holy, probably not knowing that it was quite a common name2 (or still is today with its alternative spelling “Joshua”). It is possible that was the reason for its removal in later manuscripts. Another possibility is that the scribes who transcribed the New Testament considered the name Jesus in that passage to be a mistaken repetition of the same name.

This leads to some striking similarities and differences between the two Yeshuas:

  • Both bear the same name, meaning to rescue or to deliver.
  • Both are presented as son of the father.
  • Both wanted to free their people, one spiritually and the other politically.

During the Yom Kippur ceremony, where the priests had to send one goat away to die in the wilderness, carrying the sins of the people ‘to Azazel’, the other had to be sacrificed as a sin offering to atone for the sins of the people (Leviticus 16:15-16). And that is exactly what the priests and leaders of Israel chose: For one man to be released and for the other to die for his people. And just like sprinkling the ram’s blood on the ark of the covenant would cover the sins of Israel (Lev. 16:15), so did Yeshua’s blood. This was even emphasized by what the priests and the elders themselves said: “His blood be on us and our children!” (Mat. 27.26). If only they had understood Yeshua’s gift.

The future fulfillment

The New Testament book of Revelation foretells a future fulfillment of Yom Kippur. When the priest went into the Holy of holies in the temple (Lev. 16:17-19), no one was allowed inside until the atonment had been completed by sprinkling the blood of the sacrifice on the ark of the covenant seven times.. Revelation uses the same imagery:

The sanctuary of the tabernacle (מִשְׁכַּן‎‎) in heaven was opened, and out of the sanctuary came the seven angels with the seven plagues, clothed in pure, bright linen, with golden sashes around their chests. And one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God who lives forever and ever, and the sanctuary was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the sanctuary until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished.
Revelation 15:5-8

Could it be that the seven plagues symbolise the sprinkling of blood in the heavenly temple to atone for the world’s sins? Similarly, a loud voice says, after the 7 plagues are poured out onto the Earth: “It is finished!” (Rev. 17:17), just like Yeshua cried out on the cross, after he drank of the wrath while he was dying to atone for our sins:

When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished!” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
John 19:30

References

1 Jewish Encyclopedia, Azazel (Link)

2 Evans, Craig A. (2012). Matthew (New Cambridge Bible Commentary). Cambridge University Press. p. 453.

3 Wikipedia, Article about the Hasmonean Kingdom

4 Flavius Josephus, Wars of the Jews, 1.14.4

Who executes judgement in the three major Abrahamic religions?

In all three major Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – God is the judge of humanity. However, these religions have a slightly different way of dealing with the execution of God’s judgement.

Judaism

In Judaism, three major phases need to be distinguished: The time in the desert after the Exodus, from the judges to Roman times and modern Judaism.

The time in the desert after the Exodus

During the 40 years in the desert (Books of Exodus – Deuteronomy), God gave Israel clear instructions regarding the way they should live. The priests made this law known to the people by reminding them in whenever they broke it. In most cases, when the law was broken, God executed the judgement. Examples include the rebellion of the sons of Korah where God opened the Earth and they died as a result of their sin (Numbers 16), Mirjam’s slander  (Num. 12). While some laws included a death sentence (e.g. by stoning), these laws were understood to be necessary due to God’s holiness and presence in the camp: Nobody who is impure can live before God.

From the judges to Roman times

After entering the land, it was left to the judges and kings to enforce the biblical laws. The death sentence for individual sin was – most of the time – interpreted as exile as only God should give or take a life. Individual sin still resulted in God’s execution of judgement, though it was usually announced by prophets like Nathan (2 Samuel 12) or Elijah (1 Kings 21 & 22). This shows how important the responsibility of the people is: We should – lovingly – rebuke our brothers and sisters.

Modern Judaism

Modern Judaism is somewhat unclear as to the issue. While it is still believed that God executes judgement (e.g. through sickness and similar punishment), exile is sometimes decided by Rabbinic authorities. This is not consistently executed, however, as for example a person born Jewish remains so even if they choose to follow Buddhism or not believe in God at all (Atheism), but if they claim that Yeshua is the Messiah and continue to live a Jewish lifestyle, they can be banned from the community.

Christianity

Christianity continues along the lines of the Old Testament (Tanakh) in that the death sentence is up to God alone and only exile (called “church discipline”) is accepted as a form of punishment (1 Corinthians 5:5). Ultimately, God alone carries out the judgement. The difference to ancient Judaism (the time of judges & kings) is merely that it is clearly written down.

There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?

James 4:12

Islam

In Islam, the believers are the ones who are called to execute Allah’s judgement, for the good of the unbelievers: It is considered better for them to die than to live in unbelief:

And kill them wherever you find them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out. And disbelief is worse than killing…but if they resist, then lo! Allah is forgiving and merciful. And fight them until there is no more disbelief (and worshipping of other gods) and worship is for Allah alone.

Qur’an 2:191-192

The theology of being killed in battle for Allah is the base for modern jihad, which is the only certain way for a muslim to get to heaven (Being good may not be enough, weighed up against sin). Unlike early Christian martyrs who died without resistance, muslims are called to battle to inflict death and destruction as an execution of Allah’s judgement:

Let those fight in the way of Allah who sell the life of this world for the other. Whoso fighteth in the way of Allah, be he slain or be he victorious, on him We shall bestow a vast reward.

Qur’an 4:74

 

Conclusions

Modern violence in the Middle East is strongly tied to the desperation of Muslims to find a way to reach heaven by executing God’s judgement. In both Judaism and Christianity, it is God who intervenes to bring justice (see Ps. 97), and He is our hope because he forgives our sins if we turn back to him.

The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him.

Daniel 9:9

 

As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

Ps. 103:12

 

Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.

Micah 7:18-19

Overview: The spring feasts

The first feasts all occur within roughly one week. Nowadays, these three feasts often only carry one name together: Pesach. However, the Tanakh (תַּנַ”ךְ‎, Old Testament) distinguishes them quite clearly.

  • Passover (פֶּסַח, Pesach), on the 14th of the month Nisan: Lev. 23:4-5; Deut. 16:1-8
  • Unleavened Bread (חג המצות, Hag haMatza), from the 15th-21st of Nisan: Lev. 23:6-9; Deut. 16:9-12
  • Firstfruits (ביכורים, Bikkurim): Lev. 23:10-14; Deut. 26:1-4

These spring feasts are preceded by two special days:

  • The first of Nisan, which marks the beginning of the year in the biblical/religious calendar (Ex. 12:1-2).
  • The 10th of Nisan, when the people would go get a Pesach lamb to keep it in their house with their family until the 14th, i.e. until they would be attached to their lamb (cf. wording in Ex. 12:3-6). The reason for this is that the people would feel like a member of their own family – their lamb – had to die in the place of their firstborn sons.

The first of Nissan: the beginning of the year

The first day of the first month (Nisan) was special since a number of important events happened on that day: First, the tabernacle (מִשְׁכַּן‎‎, mishkan) was set up for the first time and the presence of God (שכינה‎‎, sh’khinah) filled it.

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: “On the first day of the first month you shall erect the tabernacle of the tent of meeting. […] Then you shall bring Aaron and his sons to the entrance of the tent of meeting and shall wash them with water and put on Aaron the holy garments. And you shall anoint him and consecrate him, that he may serve me as priest. You shall bring his sons also and put coats on them, and anoint them, as you anointed their father, that they may serve me as priests. And their anointing shall admit them to a perpetual priesthood throughout their generations.”
In the first month in the second year, on the first day of the month, the tabernacle was erected. […] Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.
Exodus 40:1-2, 12-15, 17, 34-35

Not only were the tabernacle and the priests consecrated on this day, but also the tenple and the priesthood were restored by king Hezekiah (יחזקיהו, Yekhezkiahu) on the same day, after a long time of idolatry in the kingdom of Judah (2 Chronicles 29:1-36).

This restoration of God’s actions among his people and of the priesthood continues to play out on the first of Nisan. Ezra began his trip to return to Israel from Babylon with the priesthood after 70 years of exile. Their goal was to rebuild the temple and restore Israel (Ezra 7:9). This theme of restoration of the people of God and of mankind starts much earlier, however, as Noah removed the covering of the ark to see dry ground, land on which mankind could live (Genesis 8:13). Similarly, Yeshua started his trip to Jerusalem around that time to restore us, his people, as a holy priesthood, forever.

    Summary: Yeshua’s death and resurrection

    Is it possible that Yeshua was born on the 1st of Nisan? We do not know for sure, although he was most probably born in spring. Nevertheless, it would seem fitting: The new beginning of the year announcing the one bringing a new covenant to renew what was broken.
    What we do know, however, is that Yeshua entered Jerusalem four days before Pesach, on a day Christianity calls Palm Sunday. Jerusalem, God says, is his home (e.g. Isa. 2:3). So on the 10th of Nisan, while everyone was taking their lamb to live in their homes with their children, God took his son, the lamb of God (e.g. see John the Baptist’s exclamation; John 1:29), into his city, his home: Jerusalem.
    Then, Yeshua died on Pesach. While the lambs were brought to the temple for the Pesach sacrifice, Yeshua was taken to the cross. And three days later, we celebrate the first fruits (ביכורים, Bikkurim) of the New Covenant, Yeshua’s resurrection. Finally, these events occurred during the week of unleavened bread (חג המצות, Hag haMatza). As leaven or yeast symbolises sin (1 Cor. 5:6-8), this week without it is a week of purification.

    Additional resources

    Problems of the four levels of interpretation

    In my post titled the mystery of the Vav (part 1) I used the rabbinic method of interpretation called mystery (סוֹד, Sod). This method is the one used by the mystic/esoteric branch of rabbinic Judaism called Kabbalah. And I feel like I should take a clear stand as to why I used the method and what my opinion about it is.

    My only reason for using the Sod level of interpretation was to show that even with the rabbinic methods, Yeshua can be proven to be the Messiah. A modern Jew would accept the way I used the method, even if he disagreed with my conclusions. But do I really agree with the method myself?

    The answer is no. Using the Sod and Derash methods of interpretation, single words or sentences can be taken out of context to construct a meaning.

    A good example of this is Exodus 23:2 which says:

    “You shall not go after the majority to do evil, neither shall you testify in a matter of strife to incline after the majority to pervert justice.”

    Exodus 23:2

    The rabbinic interpretation of this passage given in the Talmud allows to only keep the part in bold, and thus states that the majority of Rabbis is to be listened to. An excellent overview of the problems of rabbinic Judaism is given in Nehemia Gordon’s book The Hebrew Yeshua vs. the Greek Jesus1.

    So how should we interpret the Bible?

    In Old Testament times, the entire Bible would be read to the people of Israel every seven years (Deut. 31:10-13). Even children would be present. Therefore, the main message of the Bible should be understood by a child who was embedded in the culture. For us nowadays, it becomes slightly more difficult: We need to cross a language barried and understand the culture of the time.

    However, this leaves only two of the four levels of interpretation as valid: Peshat (פְּשָׁט) and Remez (רֶמֶז), i.e. the literal meaning and the symbolic one. A child would easily understand literal statements. As to the symbolic ones, they are merely hidden to the modern readers who do not celebrate the feasts or understand linguistic expressions commonly known at the time. A child would easily understand them as well or get the clues himself as he grew up.

    An example of our lack of understanding of the culture and instructions of the Torah is illustrated in the prohibition to cook a goat in its mother’s milk (Deut.14:21). Here, rabbinic interpretations transformed this into a literal dietary law. However, it is known nowadays that the practice of cooking a goat in its mother’s milk was a pagan fertility sacrifice, i.e. the Torah forbids pagan sacrifices, not mixing meat and milk.

    This becomes clear through the Menorah design of the text: (A) First comes how not to treat God’s sacrifices meant to thank God for the fertility of the land, then (B) the central theme of the text, namely what sacrifices to bring to thank God, and (C) finally not to follow pagan fertility sacrifices. Archeological finds have indeed uncovered clues to this pagan practice.

    (A negative) Do not offer the blood of a sacrifice to me along with anything containing yeast. The fat of my festival offerings must not be kept until morning.

    (B positive) Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the Lord your God.

    (C negative) Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.
    Ex. 23:18-19

    So what part of the article about the ‘Mystery of the Vav’ can we take seriously?

    Most parts of the article about the Mystery of the Vav are still valid, even if the Sod level of interpretation is ignored. The question is, what would a child embedded in the culture hear and understand?

    • Single words that sound similarly due to their common roots are easy to pick out. These word puns do carry meaning, like the fire of God in humans. However, as opposed to the rabbinic methods, single words or parts of sentences should not be randomly recombined with others, but rather treated as single items or reflected in their context. This is simply Remez (רֶמֶז).
    • The generations were indeed broken, but the text itself says so, no missing Vav is needed to show it: When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image (Gen. 5:3a).
    • A parallel between Phinehas and Messiah can be made without the broken Vav: Blood needs to be shed for atonement, and Messiah would bring it to restore peace. This is simply the symbolic meaning of the text, as often used when applying Remez.

    Paul’s use of the methods of interpretation

    Paul often used Peshat (פְּשָׁט) and Remez (רֶמֶז), even though he was a Pharisee. He seemed to reject the other methods of the Oral Law, just like Yeshua rejected it. And yet, he seems to allude to the use of Sod when he speaks about mysteries he reveals in his letters. However, after a close scrutiny, these mysteries are revealed to merely explain symbolism (Remez). For example, he talks about the mystery of gentiles being grafted in (Eph. 3:6), but in fact, he merely expounds on Isaiah 56:6-8. Other mysteries he reveals are the exact identity of Messiah, as before Yeshua came, it was unknown (e.g. Col. 1:26-27). And finally, he mentions the mysteries of the evil one who tries to hide his actions and agenda (e.g. 2 Thess. 2:7).

    Reference

    1 Nehemia Gordon, The Hebrew Yeshua vs. the Greek Jesus (on Amazon.com); Nehemia Gordon’s blog

    The mystery of the Vav (Pentecost, part 1)

    This post is makes extensive use of the Sod level of Interpretation as an illustration. This method is not accepted in all of Judaism (e.g. Karaite Judaism rejects it), but it can reveal some interesting mysteries. It can also be misused for completely wrong interpretations and should therefore be treated with care.

    In Hebrew, each letter of the Alphabet has a numerical value. These values were used before numbers were invented, much later. They are still being used for symbolic interpretations of some passages of the bible. Furthermore, some words in the Old Testament Hebrew text are misspelled on purpose. This spelling is not reflected in any translation, as it seemingly does not make sense in other languages.

    The letter Vav (ו, sound “O” or “U”) is the object of a number of misspellings in the Bible. It has the numerical value of 6, representing mankind, since humanity was created on the 6th day. In ancient Hebrew, the letters were symbols with meanings. The Vav was a hook or tent peg, like a nail, it symbolises connecting and securing things.2

    The missing Vav

    The word toledot (תולדות) is usually translated as generations. But the word is only used correctly once in the Torah (תּוֹרָה, the 5 books of Moses).

    These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.
    אלה תולדות השמים והארץ בהבראם ביום עשות יהוה אלהים ארץ ושמים
    Gen. 2:4
    This is the book of the generations of Adam.
    זה ספר תולדת אדם ביום
    Gen. 5:1a

    Here, the first (correct) spelling of the word generations reads toledot (תולדות), while the second spelling reads toledt (תולדת). But why is the letter Vav missing in every occurrence in the Torah (5 books of Moses) after Gen. 2:4, and even some later books like Joshua and Judges? To answer this question, we need to go back to the beginning.

    The fall of mankind

    When God created the first human (אדם, adam), he took the woman (אישה, biblical: אשה, aisha) out of man (איש, aish). God had tasked Man to name everything. So Man and Woman were their names in the beginning, describing their attributes: The word fire (אש, esh) comes from the same root. Where else do we see the fire? When God appeared to Moses on mount Horeb (Sinai), he was a fire on a shrub. This burning bush had one peculiarity: The fire did not consume it. Likewise, when God’s fire was still on humanity, it did not consume us.

    However, when Man and Woman tasted of the fruit and fell into sin, the fire of God, his spirit, left them. As a result, they needed new names: Man became Adam (אָדָם, meaning: human), and Woman became Eve (חַוָּה, meaning: source of life). Therefore, their generations (toledot) were not perfect any more: True humanity as it was intended by God, (symbolised by the 6th letter, ו Vav) was lost, and so was their descendance.

    At the same time, humans lost their true connection to God (represented by the connecting nail). The word for human in Hebrew is ben-Adam (בן אדם), which literally means son of man. And humanity now needed a true human – an unbroken son of man – to restore the connection to God.

    Restoration of the generations

    God promised a saviour, a Messiah, as a descendant of David (2 Samuel 7:12-13, 1 Chronicles 17:11-14, 2 Chronicles 6:16). But before God promised that, he showed it in David’s descendance. After Gen. 2:4, the next correctly spelled occurrence of the word generations (toledot) is in the book of Ruth, David’s family tree.

    Now these are the generations of Perez: Perez fathered Hezron, Hezron fathered Ram, Ram fathered Amminadab, Amminadab fathered Nahshon, Nahshon fathered Salmon, Salmon fathered Boaz, Boaz fathered Obed, Obed fathered Jesse, and Jesse fathered David.
    Ruth 4:18-22

    The name of David’s descendant, Perez (פרץ), means “to breach, to burst forth”. God breached through Adam’s broken descendance and let a man burst forth who would connect Adam’s broken humanity with the restoring Messiah, the faultless, perfect human, a real son of man. The restoration of the connection to God was promised to David, who is the link to Messiah. And therefore, the lost Vav was restored.

    Matthew (מַתִּתְיָהוּ, Matityahu ; Greek: Ματταθίας, Matthatias) recognised this important link, when he called Yeshua the son of David before calling him the son of Abraham: He is the one who fixes the entire humanity and its generations, before being the one who brings the promises given to Abraham and the people of Israel:

    [This is] the book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ,
    the son of David,
    the son of Abraham.
    Matthew 1:1

    Similarly to Ruth, people from foreign nations who follow the God of Israel and count themselves to God’s people will play an important part in God’s plan. But we should never forget that Yeshua is a descendant of Jacob (also called Israel). Even his grandfather’s name was Jacob (Mat 1:16), and he was the “son of Joseph”, the suffering servant.

    Return of God’s fire

    It is through Messiah, the true human whose descendance is perfect and whose generations restore humanity, that the fire of God was restored to his followers: The Spirit of God (רוח הקודש, Ruach haQodesh) came down onto the believers on Shavuot (שבועות, Pentecost) as God’s fire. And that fire consumes what is sinful, but preserves what was made pure by Messiah.

    When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
    Acts 2.1-4

    The broken Vav

    The broken VavThe broken Vava

    There is an other pecularity in Torah scrolls: In Numbers 25:12, the Vav in the word Shalom (שָׁלוֹם, peace) is broken in two parts.1 In this story, the people of Israel were seduced by the Midianites to worship and sacrifice to Baal. From the account, it becomes obvious that temple prostitution was involved. This angered God. Now one man provoked God even further: While Moses and the judges of Israel were weeping over the the plague God had sent to punish the sinners, he took a Midianite woman and had sex with her in front of the tent of meeting (tabernacle).

    When Phinehas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose and left the congregation and took a spear in his hand and went after the man of Israel into the chamber and pierced both of them, the man of Israel and the woman through her belly. Thus the plague on the people of Israel was stopped. [… So God said to Phinehas:] ‘Behold, I give to him my covenant of peace, and it shall be to him and to his descendants after him the covenant of a perpetual priesthood, because he was jealous for his God and made atonement for the people of Israel.’
    Numbers 25:7-8 & 12-13

    As previously mentioned, the Vav in the word peace (שָׁלוֹם, shalom). This means that while nothing was missing to the peace God brought Israel, it is broken to imply that the word can be interpreted as if there was no Vav, resulting in the word shalem (שלם) meaning perfect.3

    Bloodshed was necessary at that moment to redeem Israel. But because of the blood, this first peace was a broken peace. One of God’s names is Shalom, peace. But to truly redeem Israel, an intricate part of one of God’s names would need to be broken: The Vav – symbolising the true human (or son of man) connecting God to humanity like a nail – had to be split. But this breaking of God would bring perfection (שלם, shalem) and restoration. Just like the story of Phinehas, bloodshed was necessary for the atonement of the sins of the humanity. However, the broken Vav also announces another great message: First, that Messiah, the true son of man, would be an intricate part of God like the Vav is an intricate part of the name Shalom. And second, that Messiah would be broken, but the nails securing him would likewise be broken and he would come back to life bringing a restored peace.

    References

    1 Prof. Dr. A. E. Brouwer, Language and Typesetting, Special symbols in the Hebrew Bible. Technische Universiteit Eindhoven, Netherlands

    2 Jeff A. Benner, Ancient Hebrew Research Center; Ancient Hebrew Alphabet Chart

    3 Babylonian Talmud, Seder Nashim, Kiddushin 66b, note 25 (PDF)

    Images
    a The Broken Vav, Hebrew4Christians

    Additional Resources
    Video of a sermon by Past. Mark Biltz: Generations Toldot (on Youtube)

    Hebrew for Christians, The letter Vav

    The real birth season of Yeshua (Pesach, part1)

    Every child knows that Yeshua (יֵשׁוּעַ, Jesus or Greek: Ἰησοῦς/Iesous) was not born on Christmas. In fact, the 24th and 25th of december was originally was the wide-spread cult of the birth of the sun-god on the winter solstice. However, the date of Yeshua’s birth was well-known before the Romans claimed that Mithras, the sun-god, was actually Jesus (Yeshua).

    So when was Yeshua really born?

    Note: This post will include a first look at some preparations for the feast of Pesach (פֶּסַח, the Passover) and the sacrificial lamb. It will also explain a first part of why I think Yeshua really is the sacrificial Pesach lamb, i.e. the lamb of God.

    The birth of lambs

    And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”
    Luke 2:8-12

    There is only one reason for these shepherds to be out in the field with their flock by night: Lambing season. Lambs are usually born in spring, in a time period of about one month (mid march – april), and during that season, the sheep can not be kept in a pen at night because it would be too crowded for birth:

    Unlike most other farm animals, sheep are seasonal breeders and lamb in the spring months when the weather is warming and ample supplies of grass are available. Sheep can be housed for lambing or are more commonly brought to a field close to the farmyard where the shepherd can keep an eye on them.1

    The celebration of Pesach (פֶּסַח, the Passover) was during the lambing season since the sacrificial lambs for this feast had to be exactly one year old (Exodus 12:5). It is not surprising that the lamb of God (John 1:29) would be born during the lambing season, right before Pesach (based on Luke 2:8), in Bethlehem (Mat. 2:1).Furthermore, the lambs for the Pesach sacrifice were kept in Bethlehem (Bet Lekhem, בֵּית לֶחֶם), near the Tower of the flock (Migdal Eder, מגדל עדר, mentioned as Rachel’s burial place in Bethlehem, Gen 35:19-21):2

    Cattle found all the way from Jerusalem to Migdal Eder, and in the same vicinity in all directions, are considered, if male, as whole-offerings, and if female as peace-offerings. Rabbi Jehudah says: “If they are fit for Passover-offerings they may be used for such purpose, providing Passover is not more than thirty days off.”
    Mishnah, Tract Shekalim, VII.4

    Since these lambs were special and could not be hurt or damaged in order to be pure for the sacrifice, the shepherds who kept them were specifically trained for this task. They had to make sure nothing happened to the sacrificial lambs.3 These were the men who came to witness the birth of the lamb of God.

    This tower in Bethlehem is also part of a prophecy by Micah (מִיכָה):

    And you, O tower of the flock (Hebrew: Migdal Eder), hill of the daughter of Zion, to you shall it come, the former dominion shall come, kingship for the daughter of Jerusalem.
    Micah 4:8

    But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.
    Micah 5:2

    Furthermore, an article about the messianic rabbi Jonathan Cahn’s search for the real birth date of Yeshua:4

    Cahn moves to the writings of the early Christian church father Hippolytus of Rome, who lived and taught in the third century, having been martyred in 235 A.D.
    His writings are among the first that refer to Dec. 25 as the birth of Christ. But because one page of Hippolytus’ writings still mentions springtime as the proper birth date, some historians have speculated that his writings were later doctored to reflect the new Dec. 25 date with the caveat that the one reference to spring somehow got past the censors.
    “There is one manuscript left that actually gives us two different dates,” Cahn said. “One says Messiah was born in the springtime. They forgot to put the Whiteout.”
    In fact, the statue of Hippolytus in Rome today still mentions April 2 as the month of Christ’s birth.

    So while he was born in spring, Yeshua was not born during Pesach or any of the three feasts, on which all Jewish men had to be in Jerusalem (Deut. 16:1-17): Pesach (פֶּסַח, the Passover), Shavuot (שבועות‎, Pentecost) and Sukkot (סֻכּוֹת, feast of tabernacles).6 However, Joseph was with his family in Bethlehem (Luke 2:4-7).

    Augustus (Latin title: Imperator Caesar Divi Filius Augustus, i.e. emperor Caesar the exalted son of a god) lived from the 23rd of September 63 B.C. to the 19th of August 14 A.D. He was the ruling Roman emperor at the time of Yeshua’s birth. He was also Pontifex Maximus (i.e. High Priest) of the Roman religion. The real son of God (e.g. John 3:17; 5:25) and High Priest (e.g. Hebrews 4:14-16) was born during the life of the fake son and priest of some god.

    Conclusion

    In conclusion, Yeshua was born as the lamb of God in spring, during lambing season, ready for Pesach.

    Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household.
    Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats, and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight. Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it.
    Exodus 12:3,5-7

    This 10th day of the first month, Nisan, is when the all Israelite families would take a lamb into their house. And so on that day, God brought the lamb of God into his house, Jerusalem. That is the day Christianity calls Palm Sunday.
    As a quick summary: Yeshua then stayed in Jerusalem until he died on Pesach, and resurrected on the feast of first fruits (ביכורים, Bikkurim). So the first of the fruits of the ground celebrate the rising of the Messiah from the ground:

    And behold, now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground, which you, O Lord, have given me. And you shall set it down before the Lord your God and worship before the Lord your God. And you shall rejoice in all the good that the Lord your God has given to you and to your house, you, and the Levite, and the sojourner who is among you.
    Deut. 26:10-11

    Additional resources

    Rabbi Jonathan Cahn, Was Jesus born on the 25th of december? (Youtube)

    Rabbi Jonathan Cahn, Article about The Mishkan Clue (checked on 3.1.2015)

    References

    1 UK Agriculture:http://www.ukagriculture.com/livestock/sheep_lambing.cfm (checked on 25.12.2014)

    2 Mishna, Tract Shekalim, VII.4

    3 Rabbi M. Short, Migdal Eder (checked on 2.1.2015)

    4 Jonathan Cahn, Messianic Rabbi reveals the date of Christ’s birth

    6 NSW Board of Jewish education, the 3 pilgrim festivals (checked on 2.1.2015)

    Why did the Israeli Rabbis ban the celebration of New Years Eve?

    Some News agencies reported that the Israeli Chief Rabbinate banned the celebration of New Years Eve.1 But why?

    The celebration that, in German-speaking countries, is known as Sylvester, was named after Pope Sylvester (314–335 A.D.), who presided over the conversion of the Roman emperor Constantine and reigned during the Council of Nicaea (325 A.D.). His Saint’s Day is the day he was buried, the 31st of December. But how does that relate to New Years Eve? Was that something bad? Well, this is what Sylvester also did:1, 2

    • He prohibited Jews from living in Jerusalem;
    • He instituted a host of viciously anti-Jewish requirements into Roman Christianity.

    As a result, New Year’s Day became a day of persecution for European Jews:

    Synagogue and book burnings, public tortures, and murder. […] For Eastern European Jews, January 1st is remembered as a day of pogroms.1

    This evening was, once the calendar settled on December 25th as Christmas, calculated to be the night preceding the circumcision of the child born in the “little town of Bethlehem”, therefore a call for the local peasants to engage in drinking, making merry and killing Jews.2

    Therefore, anti-semitic activities were established on the 1st of January. These are some examples:1,2

    • Throughout the Middle Ages, pogroms and violent acts were usually done against jews on the 1st of January.
    • In 1577, Pope Gregory XIII decreed that all Roman Jews, under pain of death, must listen to the compulsory Catholic conversion sermon given in Rome’s synagogues after Friday night services.
    • In 1578, Gregory signed into law a tax forcing Jews to pay for the support of a “House of Conversion” to convert Jews to Christianity.
    • In 1581, Gregory ordered his troops to confiscate all sacred literature from the Roman Jewish community. Thousands of Jews were murdered in the campaign.

    Is a day of latent anti-semitism to be celebrated, or the Saint’s Day of a Roman Pope who was that cruel? Or is it simply a new date in the calendar, just like any other day?

    References

    1 Israel today http://www.israeltoday.co.il/NewsItem/tabid/178/nid/25745/Default.aspx (checked on 31.12.2014)

    2 Arutz Sheva http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/9234  (checked on 31.12.2014)

    The Menorah Design

    This post is about the textual writing style called the Menorah Design, not about the design of the actual lampstand.

    Short Introduction to the Menorah

    The rebuilt MenorahThe Menorah for the next temple, rebuilt by the Temple Institutea

    The Menorah (מְנוֹרָה) is the golden lampstand built for the temple. It has 7 branches with 7 flames when lit. The lampstand symbolises the burning bush witnessed by Moses1 (Moshe, מֹשֶׁה).

    You shall make a lampstand of pure gold. […] And there shall be six branches going out of its sides, three branches of the lampstand out of one side of it and three branches of the lampstand out of the other side of it.[…] You shall make seven lamps for it. And the lamps shall be set up so as to give light on the space in front of it.
    Excerpt from Exodus 25:31-40

    The New Testament (New Covenant, B’rit Hadashah, הברית החדשה) references to the Menorah standing in the temple before of God by calling the 7 flames a symbol of the 7 spirits who are before the throne of the Almighty.

    From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God.
    Revelations 4:5

    Textual Design

    The Menorah design of texts works similarly to the looks of a Menorah, with the most important part of the passage being in the middle. Alternatively, it can be illustrated with a hamburger: Around the most important part in the middle, the meat, there is cheese on each side, then salad, followed by bread. This is how many texts were written in the Old Testament (Tanakh).
    There are two possibilities to achieve such a design: Either by using word counts or alphabetical markers, or by using topics/themes. A good example of the Menorah Design is Psalm 67:

    To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. A Psalm. A Song.
    1 May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us.

    2 That your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations.

    3 Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!

    4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth.

    5 Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!

    6 The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, shall bless us.

    7 God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear him!

    This Psalm uses both design methods. In the Hebrew original, it consists of seven verses, with 7, 6, 6, 11, 6, 6 and 7 words respectively.2 Additionally, the themes are repeated like the layers of a hamburger:

    blessings for us,

    blessings on the earth,

    worship of the nations,

    God as a righteous judge,

    worship of the nations,

    blessings on the earth,

    blessings for us

    This type of textual design is often used to emphasize the middle of the text, i.e. the meat of the hamburger or the middle branch of the Menorah. Note, however, that the Menorah Design often does not follow verse numbers. Furthermore, it can span entire biblical books. The method is also commonly used by Paul (Sha’ul, שאול) in his letters (Example: 1 Corinthians 12-14 with the spiritual gifts spanning the central message of love).

    References

    1 Robert Lewis Berman; A House of David in the Land of Jesus; page 18 (Pelican, 2007). ISBN 978-1-58980-720-4
    2 Shubert Spero; The Menorah Psalm (PDF)
    Images
    a The Menorah for the next temple rebuilt by the Temple Institute, Wikisource
    Additional Resources
    Wikipedia article about the Menorah