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

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.

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

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)

Introduction to the seven feasts of Moses

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying,
“Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, These are the appointed feasts of the Lord that you shall proclaim as holy convocations; they are my appointed feasts.
Lev. 23:1-2

The feasts throughout the year

The following listing is meant as a summary, while the feasts will be looked into more in detail in future posts:

  • The first three feasts (in spring) follow each other immediately, and are often considered to be one big feast.They are meant to celebrate the exodus, being freed and leaving Egypt:
    • Passover (Pesach, פֶּסַח)
    • Feast of Unleavened Bread (Hag HaMatza)
    • First Fruits (Bikkurim, ביכורים)
  • During summer, Pentecost (Shavuot, השבועות) is a celebration of the arrival at Mt. Sinai, where God gave Moses the tablets of stone with the 10 commandments.
  • The last three feasts (in fall) are meant to be reminders of our sins, through repentance. Sukkot fits in by reminding us of the 40 years spent in the desert because of the people’s sin:
    • Feast of Trumpets (Rosh HaShanah, ראש השנה‎, in the bible Yom Teruah, יוֹם תְּרוּעָה, literally “day of raising a noise”)
    • Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur, יוֹם כִּפּוּר)
    • Festival of Tabernacles (Sukkot, סֻכּוֹת)

The development of a baby

Several years ago, while talking to a gynaecologist, Dr. Zola Levitt noticed several uncanny parallels between the development of a baby during pregnancy and the seven feasts of the Lord.1

Ovulation

And on the 7th day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the 7th day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy.
Gen. 2:2-3a
Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation.
Lev. 23:3a

A woman’s ovulating cycle follows the weeks, as it is completed every 4 Sabbaths (28 days).

In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight, is the Lord’s Passover.
Lev. 23:5

Similarly to Pesach (the Passover), on the 14th day of the first month, the egg appears (called ovulation). And during Pesach, according to Jewish traditions, an egg is part of the meal.
If the egg-cell is not fertilized within approximately 24 hours, it dies and leaves the woman’s body through menstruation.

Fertilisation

Within 24 hours of Pesach, the feast of Unleavened Bread (Hag-HaMatza) starts. According to Dr. Levitt, bread symbolizes the Messiah (called the bread of life), and through him the beginning of a new life.

Implantation

You shall bring the sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest, and he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, so that you may be accepted. On the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.
Lev. 23:10b-11

The first fruits (Bikkurim, ביכורים), the beginning of signs of life after the death of winter, every year, show how God planted the land for his people to live. And similarly, an embryo plants itself (called implantation) into the wall of the womb (the placenta) within 2 to 6 days after its fertilization, and it begins to grow.

The shape of a human being

You shall count seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering. You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath. Then you shall present a grain offering of new grain to the Lord.
Lev. 23:15-16

About fifty days later, the embryo starts looking like a human being. Before that, its shape is not distinguishable from an animal’s embryo.2
And likewise, after 50 days, Pentecost (Shavuot, השבועות) is celebrated. And during Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was given, effectively transforming Jesus’ disciples who were hiding, having run for their lives after Jesus’ death, into new creatures, bold to preach the gospel.

Hearing

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, a holy convocation.
Lev. 23:24b

On the 1st day of the 7th month, the baby’s hearing is developed, paralleling the festival of Trumpets (Rosh HaShanah, ראש השנה‎). For the first time, it can hear and distinguish sounds outside the womb.

Blood

Now on the tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement.
Lev. 23:27a
But in this way Aaron shall come into the Holy Place: […] And he shall take some of the blood of the bull and sprinkle it with his finger on the front of the mercy seat on the east side, and in front of the mercy seat he shall sprinkle some of the blood with his finger seven times.
Extract of Lev. 16

Yom Kippur (יוֹם כִּפּוּר) was the day on which the priests would bring blood into the Holy of Holies in the temple, to atone for the sins of the people. Likewise, on the 10th day of the 7th month, the hemoglobin of the baby’s blood is ready to provide sufficient oxygen to sustain life. And instead of still using the mother’s hemoglobin, that role is now switched to the baby’s.

Lungs

On the 15th day of this seventh month and for seven days is the Feast of Booths to the Lord.
Lev. 23:34

A baby’s lungs are fully developed by the 15th day of the 7th month. If it is born prematurely, it will most probably survive. Before that, it would have a hard time breathing.

Birth

The eight days of Hanukkah are celebrated, 9 months and 10 days after Passover. On average, birth takes place on the 10th day of the 9th month. In Jewish families, a son is circumcised eight days after birth. Hanukkah symbolizes a new beginning, because the temple was re-dedicated.

Summary

The following table summarizes these parallels:

Biblical Feast Date Ref. Stage of the development of a baby
Passover (Pesach, פֶּסַח) 14th Nisan Lev. 23:5 The egg appears, 14th day of the 1st month (Nisan)
Feast of Unleavened Bread (Hag HaMatza) 15th-21st Nisan Lev. 23:6-8 Egg fertilized within 24 hours
First Fruits (Bikkurim, ביכורים) Sunday following Pesach (during Hag HaMatza), 2-6 days after Pesach Lev. 23:9-14 The egg attaches itself within 2-6 days to the wall of the womb and begins to grow
Pentecost (Shavuot, השבועות) 6th Sivan Lev. 23:15-22 Around the 50th day, the embryo takes on the form of a human
Feast of Trumpets (Rosh HaShanah, ראש השנה‎ in the bible Yom Teruah, יוֹם תְּרוּעָה) 1st Tishrei Lev. 23:23-25 On the 1st day of the 7th month, the baby’s hearing is developed
Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur, יוֹם כִּפּוּר), when the blood was taken into the Holy of Holies 10th Tishrei Lev. 23:26-32 On the 10th day of the 7th month, the hemoglobin of the blood changes from that of the mother, to a self-sustaining baby
Festival of Tabernacles (Sukkot, סֻכּוֹת) 15th-21st Tishrei Lev. 23:33-43 On the 15th day of the 7th month, the lungs become fully developed
Festival of Lights (Hanukkah, חֲנֻכָּה), nine months and 10 days after Passover. 25th Kislev – 2nd/3rd Tevet Not a biblical celebration 8 days after birth, in Jewish families, a son is circumcised

References

1 Video on Youtube, on Zola Levitt’s homepage.
2 Pictures of embryos during pregnancy. Note that the implantation in this source happens in week 4, so the 50th day is in week 11: Link

Further links

Hanukkah

Hanukkah (חנוכה) is the a winter feast (usually in december) meant to celebrate the rededication of the temple. It is not mentioned in the bible, but Jesus celebrated it (John 10:22-24). It starts on the 25th day of the month of Kislev (according to the jewish calendar), and it is 8 days long.

Historical background

Flavius Josephus (the Jewish Roman historian) retells the story of the background of Hanukkah1:
Before the Maccabean revolt against the Greek rulers (around 165 B.C.), the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes had desecrated the temple by forcing people to worship the Greek gods and by sacrificing a pig on the altar. He also made the people abandon their worship of God, their holy customs and reading of the Torah.
As a result, a group of four Jewish brothers, led by Judah Maccabee, started a revolt. They were known for their strong faith and loyalty to God, and they fought for 3 years before they miraculously won and freed the land of Israel from the Greco-Syrian control.

After regaining the Temple, it was cleansed by the Maccabees, cleared of all Greek idolatry, and readied for rededicated. The rededication of the Temple to the Lord took place in the year 165 BC, on the 25th day of the Hebrew month called Kislev.2

This is why Hanukkah is called the Feast of Rededication. Another miracle gave it its second name, the Festival of Lights:
As a symbol of God’s presence in the Temple, the Menorah (מְנוֹרָה, the seven-branched lampstand) had to be lit at all time. But when the Temple was rededicated, there was only enough oil left for one day because the rest of the oil had been defiled by the Greeks during their invasion. The process of purification would take a week, which would have taken too long. So the Maccabees went ahead and lit the eternal flame with the remaining supply of oil, believing that it would stay lit. And it miraculously burned for eight days, until the new sacred oil was ready. That’s why the Hanukkah Menorah (Called Hanukiah חַנֻכִּיָּה) is lit for the eight nights of the celebration.3

Hanukkah appears in John 10:22-39, where some people came to Jesus asking him if he was the Messiah, the one to liberate them from the Roman oppression.  They were hoping for a Messiah who, as an other Judah Maccabee, who would be raise an army up to free them from the Roman occupation. And Jesus confirmed that he really was the Messiah, but he also mentioned that they could not recognise him in his role of saviour because they were not his sheep (John 22:26). He came for the lost sheep of Israel, to bring them back to him, and for the gentiles. But he will come back to build an eternal kingdom, not a temporary one, just like Isaiah says:

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. (Isaiah 9:6-7)

Symbolism

The Hanukiah has 9 branches, 8 for each day, while the 9th one is considered called the servant (Shamash) used to light the other ones:

The eight candles receive their light from the one. Its role is to serve. The […] Shamash can be regarded as a visual symbol of Jesus, who gives light to all who allow themselves to shine for God. He said of himself, “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)4

John says that Jesus is the true light, “…that gives light to every man.” (John 1:9) And he was probably quoting Isaiah, whose prophecy states:

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. (Isaiah 9:2)

Later on in the same chapter, Isaiah mentions the birth of Messiah (Isaiah 9:6-7). And Hanukkah is celebrated around the time of Christmas, the celebration of Jesus’ birth. Jesus talked about himself as the temple: “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” (John 2:19) Similarly, Hanukkah celebrates the temple of God being raised again, rededicated to celebrate our Father.

Traditions

A Hanukiah (חַנֻכִּיָּה, nine-branched lampstand) is lit during the festival. A first light is usually lit using the Shamash on the first day as sunset, an additional one on the second day, and so forth. Rabbinic law (through tradition) states that the lights should remain lit for at least half an hour per evening. Additionally, three blessings are usually said over the lights. On the first day, all three are said, while on the consecutive days, only the first two are recited.5 After the lighting of the candles, the song Ma’oz Tzur is sung. Interestingly, the first verse mentions the rock of salvation6, where salvation (יְשׁוּעָ, Yeshua) corresponds to Jesus’ name in Hebrew. Sometimes, Psalms 30, 67, and 91 are recited.

Fried food is usually eaten to remember the importance of the oil that was burning in the temple.

Wikipedia additionally states7:

The last day of Hanukkah is known as Zot Hanukkah, from the verse read on this day in the synagogue (Numbers 7:84, Zot Chanukat Hamizbe’ach, “This was the dedication of the altar”). According to the teachings of Kabbalah (Mystic Judaism) and Hasidim (Orthodox Judaism), this day is the final “seal” of the High Holiday season of Yom Kippur, and is considered a time to repent out of love for God. In this spirit, many Hasidic Jews wish each other Gmar chatimah tovah (“may you be sealed totally for good”), a traditional greeting for the Yom Kippur season.

References

1 Flavius Josephus, Book of Jewish Antiquities, Book 12, chapters 5-7 (Online)
2 Article on About.com
3 Article on JewsForJesus, and Flavius Josephus, Book of Jewish Antiquities 12:325 (Online)
4 Article on JewsForJesus
5 Shulkhan Arukh Orach Chayim 676:1–2; Transliteration of the prayers
6 Translation of the Ma’oz Tzur
7 Article on Wikipedia
8 De Noon, Steven; Hanukkah holds the Mystery of Messiah