yeshua and THE Commandments

Rabbi Steven Bernstein

August 2017

In the annual reading cycle of Torah, we are now deep into the book of Devarim, the book of Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy is an extremely important book in Scripture. It is Moses says recap of the experiences of the children of Israel on their way to the land of the promise. In Devarim Moses speaks repeatedly about the commandments of Hashem.

4:40

You shall keep therefore, his statutes, and his commandments, which I command you this day that it may go well with you and with your children after, and that you may prolong your days upon the land, which the Lord your G-d gives you forever.

5:26

O that there were such a heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them and their children forever!

12:28

Observe and hear all these words which I command you, that it may go well with you, and with your children after you forever, when you do that which is good and right in the sight of the L-rd your G-d.

Moses is very clearly explaining to us that the commandments of Hashem are forever. Moses is not saying that some of the commandments are for, Moses is not saying most of the commandments are for, Moses saying all of Hashem’s commandments are forever. Devarim is very clear that the 613 commandments of Hashem are forever, throughout our generations, the everlasting covenant of Hashem.

When Yeshua gave us the commandments at Sinai, he gave them to us forever. All of them. As Americans living in the 21st century we may not understand all 613 of G-d’s commandments. We may not be able to identify with all 613 of G-d’s commandments. We may consider some of G-d’s commandments to be politically incorrect, even barbaric. But, our understanding and categorizing of the 613 commandments is not relevant to G-d’s purpose. The 613 commandments are forever. Yeshua said if you love me follow my commandments. The disciples understood this to mean follow the 613 commandments of Hashem. Yeshua did not say follow the commandments that you understand them like. Yeshua did not say disregard some of the commandments because you don’t get. In Matthew chapter 5 Yeshua was even more clear about this when he said that if you don’t follow the commandments, you will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. You don’t teach these commandments be called least in the kingdom of heaven. In Romans chapter 7, Paul explains that the purpose of the Torah is to define sin. We are not to sin, therefore, we are to follow the commandments of Torah. In first John chapter 3, John writes, sin is the violation of Torah. Again, Torah is defining sin; the commandments of G-d define sin. We are not to sin. Therefore, we are to follow the commandments of Hashem.

The idea that we can simply throw out some of the commandments because we don’t like them, indicates that we do not take Scripture seriously. Moses consult Hashem. When two are caught gathering firewood on Shabbat. Hashem tells him that they are to be put to death. This seems like an extremely harsh penalty for “just violating Shabbat.” In our society today, not following Shabbat is commonplace, it is the cultural norm. That’s the reason we think that this penalty is harsh. Clearly Hashem thinks differently. As 21st century Americans we pay almost no attention to Hashem’s ideas of ritual purity and impurity, of ritual contamination and decontamination. What Yeshua tells us is that we should pay attention to these things, not that we should try to find a way that is not scriptural to be able to ease our consciences when we ignore them. Yeshua is Hashem is Yeshua. His commandments are forever.

Scripture also indicates to us that Yeshua did not invent a radically different method of understanding G-d’s commandments. The Sanhedrin had had agents following Yeshua around throughout his entire ministry. Mark 14:55 tells us, “now the ruling Kohayns, and all the Sanhedrin were trying to get evidence against Yeshua, so that they could put him to death, but they weren’t finding any.” At his mock trial, though they try, they could find absolutely no reason, theologically, to kill Yeshua. In the end, the only evidence they could come up with against Yeshua was his declaration of being the Messiah. They could find no theological reasons that conflicted with the ideas of the Sanhedrin. If Yeshua’s ideas of following Shabbat were radically different than those of the Sanhedrin, they would have convicted him. If Yeshua’s ideas of ritual washing varied with the Sanhedrin’s ideas, they would have convicted him. If Yeshua’s ideas of healing on Shabbat varied with that of the Sanhedrin, they would have convicted him. They did not. When Yeshua tells us if we love him, we should follow his commandments, we should listen.

The concept that Yeshua altered and changed the commandments of Hashem is the foundation of replacement theology. This concept is the basis of Christian anti-Semitism and has been for the last 2000 years. As Messianics, we must stand up and cry out from the wilderness that the commandments of Hashem are alive and well, and that Yeshua the Messiah instructed us to follow them. He did not tell us to take a new interpretation. He did not tell us to leave out the commandments that we don’t like. He did not tell us to reject commandments that are politically incorrect. Yeshua the Messiah instructed us in Matthew 28, “go therefore and make students of all nations, immersing them in the name of the father, the son, and the Ruach HaKodesh, teaching them to observe all I have commanded. Yeshua is Hashem is Yeshua.

THE THREE WEEKS

R. Steven Bernstein

Zechariah 8: 18 This word of ADONAI-Tzva'ot came to me: 19 "ADONAI-Tzva'ot says, 'The fast days of the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months are to become times of joy, gladness and cheer for the house of Y'hudah. Therefore, love truth and peace.'

The 17th day of Tammuz is the fast of the fourth month. This fast commemorates the day that Nebuchadnezzar broke through the city walls of Jerusalem and began the pillaging, sacking, raping, and murdering, of the Jewish people that culminated in the destruction of the Temple on the ninth day of Av, the fast of the fifth month. The 21 days between the 17th of Tammuz and the ninth of Av, are known as the Three Weeks. This is a time of partial mourning that is a preparation for the full fast of the ninth of Av.

The time between these two biblical fast days, is significant. We don’t have weddings. We don’t get our hair cut. We avoid dangerous situations. We don’t listen to music (except on Shabbat.) It is a time for us to remember the many tragic times in Jewish history.

The Jewish calendar is divided into two parts, one joyous, and one introspective. From Sukkot until Shavuot, it is our time to express our joy in Hashem. After Shavuot, and until Yom Kippur, it is our time of introspection. The 17th of Tammuz and the subsequent Three Weeks are the beginning of the segment of the calendar, where we look within ourselves as individuals and ourselves as a people.

This time of introspection is very important to us as a nation and as individuals. It is a time to begin to ask ourselves what can I to be better in the eyes of Hashem. And, what are the historical consequences of not doing this? The fast of the fourth month and the fast of the fifth month lead off this segment of the Jewish calendar with grade horrible reminders of the consequences of not paying attention to Hashem. We study Eicha, Lamentations, the book written by Jeremiah as a passionate lament having witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem and the house of G-d. From Sinai until the ninth of Av, we had always had the Shechinah of God dwelling among us, either in the tabernacle of the Temple. And then suddenly it was gone.

It was a time of horrific tragedy. Deaths, destruction, starvation, murder, rape, were suddenly and disastrously inflicted on our nation. Lamentations reminds us that compassionate mothers boiled their children for food. Nazirites were no longer recognizable because of starvation and affliction. The sages explain that the reasons Hashem allowed this desolation were idol worship and ignoring the Shmitta.

The difficulty with this explanation is that we had been engaging in idol worship, ever since the golden calf at Sinai. There were many periods of time between Sinai and the first exile that we ignored the Shmitta. The great question is why was the desolation allowed then, at that specific time?

It is a question that only a student of history could comprehend. The reality is that from the time of the golden calf the day of the destruction was coming. It is an indicator of G-d’s grace and mercy that the desolation was kept from happening long before. And indeed, even throughout these tragic events, Hashem’s grace and mercy abounded. A mere 70 years passed before Ezra was allowed to return to the land and begin the reconstruction of the House of God.

And so, in the understanding that Hashem’s grace and mercy are abundant, we nonetheless commemorate these times of tragedy and the suffering of our people. It would be completely discompassionate not to identify and empathize with our people at this time. During Pesach, we are reminded that if Hashem had not brought us out of the land of Egypt with a strong hand, and an outstretched arm, then even we, our children, and our children’s children would still be slaves in Egypt. So too we must remind ourselves that it is us that suffered during the great desolation of the destruction of the first Temple, us, not them. It is the great reminder of the Three Weeks, that allows our compassion and empathy to flow for the nation of Israel, and recognize the grace and mercy of Hashem.Zechariah 8: 18 This word of ADONAI-Tzva'ot came to me: 19 "ADONAI-Tzva'ot says, 'The fast days of the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months are to become times of joy, gladness and cheer for the house of Y'hudah. Therefore, love truth and peace.'

The 17th day of Tammuz is the fast of the fourth month. This fast commemorates the day that Nebuchadnezzar broke through the city walls of Jerusalem and began the pillaging, sacking, raping, and murdering, of the Jewish people that culminated in the destruction of the Temple on the ninth day of Av, the fast of the fifth month. The 21 days between the 17th of Tammuz and the ninth of Av, are known as the Three Weeks. This is a time of partial mourning that is a preparation for the full fast of the ninth of Av.

The time between these two biblical fast days, is significant. We don’t have weddings. We don’t get our hair cut. We avoid dangerous situations. We don’t listen to music (except on Shabbat.) It is a time for us to remember the many tragic times in Jewish history.

The Jewish calendar is divided into two parts, one joyous, and one introspective. From Sukkot until Shavuot, it is our time to express our joy in Hashem. After Shavuot, and until Yom Kippur, it is our time of introspection. The 17th of Tammuz and the subsequent Three Weeks are the beginning of the segment of the calendar, where we look within ourselves as individuals and ourselves as a people.

This time of introspection is very important to us as a nation and as individuals. It is a time to begin to ask ourselves what can I to be better in the eyes of Hashem. And, what are the historical consequences of not doing this? The fast of the fourth month and the fast of the fifth month lead off this segment of the Jewish calendar with grade horrible reminders of the consequences of not paying attention to Hashem. We study Eicha, Lamentations, the book written by Jeremiah as a passionate lament having witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem and the house of G-d. From Sinai until the ninth of Av, we had always had the Shechinah of God dwelling among us, either in the tabernacle of the Temple. And then suddenly it was gone.

It was a time of horrific tragedy. Deaths, destruction, starvation, murder, rape, were suddenly and disastrously inflicted on our nation. Lamentations reminds us that compassionate mothers boiled their children for food. Nazirites were no longer recognizable because of starvation and affliction. The sages explain that the reasons Hashem allowed this desolation were idol worship and ignoring the Shmitta.

The difficulty with this explanation is that we had been engaging in idol worship, ever since the golden calf at Sinai. There were many periods of time between Sinai and the first exile that we ignored the Shmitta. The great question is why was the desolation allowed then, at that specific time?

It is a question that only a student of history could comprehend. The reality is that from the time of the golden calf the day of the destruction was coming. It is an indicator of G-d’s grace and mercy that the desolation was kept from happening long before. And indeed, even throughout these tragic events, Hashem’s grace and mercy abounded. A mere 70 years passed before Ezra was allowed to return to the land and begin the reconstruction of the House of God.

And so, in the understanding that Hashem’s grace and mercy are abundant, we nonetheless commemorate these times of tragedy and the suffering of our people. It would be completely discompassionate not to identify and empathize with our people at this time. During Pesach, we are reminded that if Hashem had not brought us out of the land of Egypt with a strong hand, and an outstretched arm, then even we, our children, and our children’s children would still be slaves in Egypt. So too we must remind ourselves that it is us that suffered during the great desolation of the destruction of the first Temple, us, not them. It is the great reminder of the Three Weeks, that allows our compassion and empathy to flow for the nation of Israel, and recognize the grace and mercy of Hashem.

Bringing Yeshua to the World Wide Jewish Community

R. Steven Bernstein

 

This has been a very interesting year so far. As an instructor in Yeshivat Shuvu, I was asked to come and be part of the Zehut (identity) conference on Messianic Judaism over Shavuot in Bogota, Colombia. This conference had over 700 attendees from nations all over Latin America, many of them are congregational leaders. The topic for the conference was the search for identity among Messianic Jews and Gentiles within the context of Messianic Judaism.

During the closing evening of the conference, something unprecedented occurred. Three speakers came and spoke at a Messianic Jewish conference, the Israeli ambassador to Colombia, the president of the Jewish Federations of Colombia, and the Chief Rabbi of Colombia. Never has such representation of support ever come from mainstream Judaism for a Messianic Jewish conference before.

The keynote speakers for the conference were Rabbi Itzhak Shapira and I. There is a respect and a thirst to learn of Yeshua and Judaism in Latin America that I have not seen anywhere in the U.S. It was truly refreshing.

The Israeli ambassador spoke and expressed his gratefulness at the support of the group for Israel. He was desirous that support continue in light of opposition to Israel in South America specifically. The president of the Federations spoke and was very pleased at the interest in Judaism and the support of the Jewish communities in Colombia and throughout South America. Then, Chief Rabbi Alfredo Goldschmidt spoke.

Rav Goldschmidt gave a brief, interesting drash comparing the books of Ruth and Jonah. The astounding thing is that he came at all. He is among to most respected of all the Chief Rabbis in the world today. No Chief Rabbi of any country has ever spoken at a Messianic Jewish conference. Rav Goldschmidt told the organizers of the conference that he had been looking at the teachings of Rav Shapira and I online, and that although he did not believe in Yeshua as Mashiach, he could find no fault in our teachings. He wanted to meet us. Before he spoke, he made a point to cross the conference center and shake Rav Shapira’s hand, and mine, publicly. Again, this is unprecedented.

After Rav Goldschmidt finished speaking, there was a brief Q&A period. One person asked him why he did not believe in Yeshua as the Mashiach? His answer is very important to understand. He said that there was 2000 years of Christian persecution of Jews in the world. 2000 years of incompatible theologies between Christianity and Judaism, that these factors could not be overcome.

One thing that Rav Shapira and I do is present Mashiach Yeshua within the Jewish milieu. We do not try to defend Christian theology, much of which is, as Rav Golsdschmidt said, incompatible with Judaism. Yeshua haMashiach fits into Judaism. Christianity does not. As long as we cling to theologies of Christianity, we will not be affective witnesses to the Jewish community at large. When we step away from Christianity, and embrace the Jewish Mashiach within Judaism, the world wide Jewish community can be affected, and we are closer to the return of Yeshua.

This is a very difficult thing to do for many people, to distance themselves from Christianity. Yet, to be affective as a movement, we, as Messianic Jews and Gentiles, must do this. We must understand the import of what Rav Goldschmidt said. Jews will not accept Christianity. Put in the proper Jewish context, they can accept the Messianic community and Yeshua.

Zikhut – Merit

May 11, 2017

R. Steve Bernstein

Salvation is by faith, not works. How often have we seen this and said this? And, it is so very true. However, most people leave it there, and that is only part of the story. The concept of zikhut, merit, is seldom explored. One reason why is that as soon as one begins to speak of merit, it is assumed that we are speaking of salvation by merit. This is a horribly inaccurate assumption.

Zikhut, merit, is a concept often spoken of in both the Tanakh and Brit Chadasha. Yeshua speaks of zikhut in the sermon on the Mount.

Matthew 5:19 (CJB) So whoever disobeys the least of these mitzvot and teaches others to do so will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But whoever obeys them and so teaches will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.

It is important to note here, that what Yeshua is saying, has nothing to do with salvation. As the verse states, the doing of the mitzvot is not a requirement for getting into the kingdom of heaven. Yeshua is not talking about salvation, but about zikhut.

Who is great and who is least in the kingdom of heaven? That is a matter of zikhut. How does one gain zikhut? How does one earn the epithet, “well done, good and faithful servant.” Yeshua is quite clear on this, mitzvot. Mitzvot are the measure of zikhut. Mitzvot are how we live godly and holy lives.

2 Peter 3: 11 Since everything is going to be destroyed like this, what kind of people should you be? You should lead holy and godly lives, 12 as you wait for the Day of God and work to hasten its coming.

As we live lives kadosh, holy for God, separate for God, we hasten the return of the Messiah. It is through zikhut, it is through doing mitzvot that we hasten the return of the Messiah. Through doing mitzvot. We do not gain salvation, we gain zikhut, which hastens the return of the Messiah.

It is interesting that in looking at the life of Cornelius, we see a G-d-fearer, who is not Jewish, actively engaged in gaining zikhut. He is honored by Israel for following the Torah of the Jewish people, even though he is not Jewish. These things are pointed out in the Brit Chadasha as being important, why, because Gentile believers can gain zikhut as well as Jews. So, here is an example of a righteous Gentile, a Gentile believer, who follows the Torah of the Jewish people, and thereby hastens the return of the Messiah.

Cornelius’ following the Torah of the Jewish people as a righteous Gentile, is a map and a gateway for Gentile believers today. The Jewish people are light unto the nations. This is only relevant if the nations begin to recognize the light. The Gentile G-d-fearer has a huge role in the return of the Messiah. Zikhut. Only zikhut will hasten the return of the Messiah. Zikhut is gained every time anyone follows the mitzvot of Hashem. Anyone. Jew, Greek, male, female, if you pursue the mitzvot, you gain zikhut. As Shavuot approaches, and we celebrate our receiving of Torah, let us remember that this is not an academic exercise. As we pursue the actual doing of the mitzvot. We hasten the return of the Messiah.

 

Lag b’Omer

4/14/2017

R. Steven Bernstein

 

As we count the Omer between Pesach and Shavuot, one day, in particular, has a very special significance. Lag b’Omer, the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer, (Lamed being 30 and gimel being 3, hence lag is 33,) is a day of extraordinary events in Jewish history. It is the 18th day of the month of Iyar.

On Lag b’Omer, Hashem sent us mon (manna) in the wilderness. The children of Israel cried out yet again for Hashem to save us, and he did. Today Lag b’Omer marks a special day for the celebration of a very important sage in the 2nd century ce, Rabbi Shimon bar Yokhai. Rabbi Shimon is frequently referred to by his acronym Rashbi.

Rabbi Shimon was one of the leading students of Rabbi Akiva. While he was studying with Rabbi Akiva, Rabbi Shimon recognized the coming catastrophe of the Bar Kochba revolt. As instructed in the New Testament Rabbi Shimon fled for the hills with his son Elazar and found a cave to live in in a place called Meron, near Tzfat in the Galilee. (For this and other reasons, Rabbi Shimon is believed by many to have been a believer in Yeshua the Messiah.) Rabbi Shimon lived there for 13 years. Hashem provided them a carob tree and a spring of fresh water for sustenance.

During this time the bar Kochba revolt ensued, and for a time it went well. Archaeologists have found coins indicating that during the revolt the Karbon Pesach was renewed in the Temple. Rabbi Akiva even indicated that he thought that bar Kochba may have been the Messiah. Then catastrophe struck, a plague gripped the students of Rabbi Akiva. 25,000 of his students died in the plague and the plague ended on Lag b’Omer, only five of his students survived. One of them was Rabbi Shimon bar Yokhai.

The Roman Emperor Hadrian brought his legions into the land of Israel and squashed the bar Kochba revolt. Millions of Jews were slaughtered, and at bar Kochba’s stronghold of Betar, every single one of the men was killed on Tisha b’Av. The Jewish people were devastated; the tendency came to forget about our G-d and our history. There was a very real danger of Torah going out from the world.

It was at this time that Rav Shimon bar Yokhai emerged from the cave at Meron on Lag b’Omer. He saw the destruction and the despair of the Jewish people. Strengthened by Hashem, he fought, valiantly, to keep the light of Torah from leaving the world. It is clear, that without the strength, vision, and relentless effort, of Rabbi Shimon bar Yokhai, we might not have Torah today.

The Feast Of First Fruits

R. Steven Bernstein

03/06/17

CJB

R. Steven Bernstein

03/06/17

CJB

Lev 23: 9 The LORD said to Moses, 10 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you and you reap its harvest, bring to the priest a sheaf of the first grain you harvest. 11 He is to wave the sheaf before the LORD so it will be accepted on your behalf; the priest is to wave it on the day after the Sabbath.

Lev 23: 15 “ ‘From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks. 16 Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then present an offering of new grain to the LORD. 17 From wherever you live, bring two loaves made of two-tenths of an ephah of the finest flour, baked with yeast, as a wave offering of firstfruits to the LORD.

The Complete Jewish Bible here offers us an excellent translation. Let us compare and contrast Leviticus 23:10 with Leviticus 23:17. Leviticus 23 is frequently translated as firstfruits, as opposed to the translation we see here sheaf of the first grain. In Leviticus 23:17 we see the wave offering of firstfruits. There is quite a bit of confusion about the idea of firstfruits in both of these verses. In verse 17, the Hebrew is quite clear. The term used that is translated firstfruits is Bikurim. In fact, the term Bikurim is used to indicate the firstfruits offering throughout Scripture. The term used in Leviticus 23:9, is quite different. Instead of Bikurim, firstfruits, the terminology used in Hebrew is, Omer Reishit, which literally means first sheaf. So we see that the Complete Jewish Bible translation of this verse as, “sheaf of the first grain,” is a far better translation and understanding than firstfruits. This frequent but poor translation has led to much misunderstanding of the verse. As you can see, Leviticus 23:10 is referring to the first day of the Omer. Leviticus 23:17 is referring to the Moed of Shavuot. This is why Shavuot is sometimes referred to as the Festival of firstfruits. The beginning of the offering of the firstfruits is Shavuot. The Mishnah explains in tractate Bikurim that the Bikurim (firstfruits) were offered beginning in Shavuot, all the way until Hanukkah. No Bikurim were offered before Shavuot. In this way, Shavuot is the Festival of firstfruits.

In Yeshua’s time, the day that the first sheaf wave offering, that is the first day of the Omer, was the 16th of Nissan. The Pharisees controlled the Sanhedrin, the Nasi of the Sanhedrin was Gamliel, so Pharisaic interpretations were used in Temple ceremony, such as the counting of the Omer, and the Nisuch haMayim, the water drawing ceremony. It was not until after the counting of the Omer was finished on Shavuot that the Bikurim were brought to the Temple. It is easy to see that in no way can firstfruits be associated with Pesach.

Yeshua the pharisee

R. Steve Bernstein

February 2017

John 1:24 Some of those who had been sent were P'rushim. 25 They asked him, "If you are neither the Messiah nor Eliyahu nor `the prophet,' then why are you immersing people?" 26 To them Yochanan replied, "I am immersing people in water, but among you is standing someone whom you don't know.27 He is the one coming after me -- I'm not good enough even to untie his sandal!"

This text illustrates a very interesting, and often overlooked, point. John the immerser, is speaking with a group of Pharisees. The text clearly delineates that they are Pharisees, John is not speaking to a crowd of Judeans, rather to Pharisees specifically. To them, he says, “among you is standing.” This is clearly an indication that Yeshua is among the Pharisees prior to his ministry. This is but one indication that Yeshua was a Pharisee.

In many circles, this is not a popular position, however, Scripture shows us that this is actually the case. Part of the problem is in the lack of understanding of what the Pharisaic movement actually was in 1st century Judaism.

Scholars have been debating for several decades, the actual definition of a Pharisee. It is not my intent to involve myself in this, however, let me explain the bases of the discussion. On the one hand, the Pharisees are described as a political movement dominated by a small number of people, leadership. On the other hand, the Pharisees are described as a sect, actually sects, of Judaism followed by the majority of Jews in the 1st century, which adhered to Torah observant practices. Yeshua was clearly not in the leadership of the Pharisees. So, if your definition of Pharisee, is only the leadership, clearly Yeshua was not a Pharisee. But, also clearly, Yeshua followed Pharisaic Jewish observance and doctrine. For the purpose of this blog, it really makes no difference whether Yeshua was actually a Pharisee, or whether he merely followed Pharisaic Jewish practice along with the majority of Jews at the time So for the sake of brevity, will simply say he was a Pharisee.

Yeshua and the talmidim were readily accepted to both attend, and teach, in Synagogue. This is a very important point; Synagogue was strictly a Pharisaic institution. Sadducees had nothing to do with Synagogue and would not set foot in one. In Matthew 22:23-34, Yeshua soundly rejects the theology of the Sadducees regarding resurrection. In addition, both Yeshua and the talmidim constantly quote the Prophets, whereas the Sadducees rejected the idea of the books of the Prophets to be Canon. Yeshua frequently defended Oral Law against ideas presented by competing Pharisaic sects. Examples of this include healing on Shabbat, and feeding the hungry on Shabbat. Yeshua very clearly takes the position of accepted Pharisaic Oral Law. In John 7, it is recognized that there is an allusion to the water drawing ceremony, the Nisuch HaMayim. This is a ceremony promoted only by the Pharisees, to the point where, a century before Yeshua, the head Sadducee, Alexander Yannai, trying to disrupt the ceremony, poured the water on his feet instead of on the altar. In the resulting melee, over 3000 Pharisees were killed in the Temple.

So, depending on your definition, Yeshua was either a Pharisee, or adhered to the religious practices of the Pharisees, along with the majority of the people. This is an important fact to understand, because it clarifies Yeshua’s relationship to the Oral Law, and why he supported it, as opposed to the traditions of the elders. At the same time, it is clear that Yeshua despised the behavior of hypocrites within the Pharisees. Indeed, Yeshua foretold the destruction of the 2nd Temple, because of baseless hatred, sinat chinam. Aside from this, Yeshua clearly followed the interpretation and practice of the Pharisees.

RABBINOPHOBIA - part ii

R. Steven Bernstein

            In my last blog, I discussed why having a phobia against the oral law makes no sense whatsoever. The fact that the Jewish people do not recognize that Yeshua is the Messiah, is through no fault of their own, and in fact is a directive of Hashem as we see in Romans 11. This being the case, we must ask ourselves, why do we cling to contradictory Christian thought and commentary instead of learning the Jewish sages?

            One of my teachers recently reminded me during class, we are each a product of our own spiritual growth. This includes the culture that we are raised up in and the language or languages we are raised up in, these are things that give us comfort in our thinking about Scripture and about Hashem. Perhaps, the answer to the above question is simply that that is what we are raised in and what we are used to, on the whole. If you are raised in the church, or entered the church one 1st finding Yeshua the Messiah, it is church doctrine church culture and church language that we are most familiar with, even today. Most of the leadership in the messianic movement, in fact, most of the people in the messianic movement, did not grow up in a learned Jewish atmosphere. If your only true introduction to Hashem was through the church after finding Yeshua the Messiah, how much more so would your immersion into church thought and doctrine be.

            We are seeing the beginnings of a Jewish return to Messiah Yeshua. Within this beginning, we must recognize that the vast majority of Jewish religious people worldwide are from the Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox communities. The Pew research study of 2012 indicates that the numbers of people involved in American Reform Judaism are declining rapidly. Outside of the United States, Reform Judaism, for all practical purposes, does not exist. We as a movement, must, therefore, brace ourselves for a coming influx of new believers with a learned Jewish background, that are not willing, nor should they be willing, to simply throw away Jewish scholarship simply because it’s Jewish and not Christian.

            In fact, it is these Jewish sources that give us accurate, vetted, and thoughtful understanding of the Tanakh. These are resources that we as messianic Jews should be embracing in contrast to contradictory replacement and dispensational theology presented to us by the Christian church.

            For this reason, we as a movement seriously need to begin study not only of Jewish attitude and understanding of Scripture, but Talmud, Midrash, the Gaonim, the Rishonim, etc. We need to recognize that these writings are not “the traditions of men,” but rather the collective understanding of the children of Israel, passed down to us throughout the generations. These writings are not Scripture. Nor should they be treated as Scripture. In fact, no Jewish person I know or have ever known has ever treated them as Scripture, that is a strawman argument that I’ve seen repeatedly. The understandings in these writings serve as a basis for beginning the journey toward understanding Hashem and Messiah through Jewish eyes. As we have the new Jewish believers, that have substantial background in the Jewish antiquities, come into the movement, we must be ready for them.

            So the question is, what are you studying now? What is your course of study, what has been your course of study, how and in what direction? Have you advanced in the last 5 years, 10 years, 20 years? Most particularly if you are in leadership, how much time do you devote to study? In order to be ready for the coming influx of believers of a strong Jewish background, it would be seemly to begin, or continue, a course of study in the Jewish antiquities.

RABBINOPHOBIA - FEAR OF THE RABBIS

R. Steve Bernstein

Dec 2016

            Let us get one thing straight from the outset. The reason the Jewish people did not accept Yeshua the Messiah, 2000 years ago, is because Hashem would not let them. This is spelled out very clearly in Romans 11. There is no reason to fear or reject rabbinic teaching for any believer in Yeshua.

            Paul declared himself a Pharisee, which means he followed rabbinic teachings and directives. Yeshua said they sit in the seat of Moses, be careful to do everything they say, (He then rejected their behavior, not their teachings.) Gamliel himself, Nasi of the Sanhedrin, warned not to go after the believers in Yeshua in Acts 15, basically he stayed neutral.

            In prior blogs, we have discussed the idea that the traditions of the elders are not the same thing as the teachings of the rabbis, the oral law. So, let us look for a minute at some of the instances with Yeshua himself that are often pointed out, incorrectly, as being in contention with the oral law.

            A group of Pharisees chastised Yeshua because the disciples did not wash their hands before eating. In Talmud Bavli 52b, there is an argument between Hillel and Shammai. Shammai says that one must always wash your hands to be ritually clean before eating. Hillel points out that there is no such requirement in Torah, ritually clean hands are only required when eating Teruma, food, dedicated to the Temple. Hillel wins the argument. Yeshua supports the position of the oral law against the position of Shammai.

            There are 2 questions about work on Shabbat in the Gospels. The disciples work so that they can eat grain on Shabbat, and Yeshua heals a blind man on Shabbat. The oral law is quite clear on both of these instances, feeding the hungry on Shabbat is an imperative. Work done to feed the hungry does not violate Shabbat. Healing life and limb on Shabbat is an imperative work must be done to heal life and limb. This can be found in the Kitsur Shulchan Aruch Siman 92. Again, Yeshua upholds oral law against challenges made by students of Shammai.

            It is important to remember that the Sanhedrin was controlled by the Pharisees. Violation of the rabbinic interpretation of Torah was considered violation of Torah. There was no separation between written and oral law. We must consider Mark 14:55. During Yeshua’s mock trial, the Sadducees tried everything they could to convince the Pharisees to convict Yeshua. But they could not find anything to convict him. Why not? Because, Yeshua followed the Pharisaic, rabbinic, interpretation of Torah exactly. Yeshua followed the oral law. In the end, the only thing that could be found to convict Yeshua, was the fact that Yeshua declared himself to be the Messiah. There was then no actual conviction, there was then no actual trial, but the Sadducees carted Yeshua off to Pontius Pilate to be crucified. Consider that the Sanhedrin had had agents following Yeshua for years, and yet they could find nothing to convict him. Yeshua followed Pharisaic oral law.

The purpose of synagogue

R. Steve Bernstein

October 2016

Most people in Messianic Judaism today accept that Synagogue services are an integral part of the Messianic Jewish relationship with Hashem. Unfortunately, most people also are unaware of the origins and derivation of the Synagogue and the Synagogue service.

Prior to the Babylonian exile Synagogue did not exist. The Synagogue itself is a construct created as a result of the Babylonian exile. Judaism, until that point, was completely centered around the Tabernacle\Temple. The Temple services, officiated by the Kohayns, were the mainstay of Jewish life and the children of Israel’s relationship with Hashem. The Kohayns diligently brought the sacrifices and offerings, both national and individual, and offered them according to the instructions in the Torah. These activities which had been the center of Jewish life from Sinai, came to an abrupt halt when the armies of Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem and burned the Temple to the ground.

Most of the children of Israel were carried off into captivity in Babylon, the Temple was no more, and although it was in the hearts of the children of Israel to rebuild the Temple and reestablish ourselves in the land of the promise, there was no immediate thought of the feasibility of accomplishing this as we were carried off into exile. So, a new era began in Judaism. How could Judaism survive without the Temple? What would Judaism look like without the Temple? What would Israel’s relationship with Hashem consist in without the Temple?

The leadership of Israel had these questions and many more to ponder and solve with the onslaught of the exile. 120 of these leaders got together and form what is known as the Anshei Knesset HaGdola, the men of the great assembly. These leaders included people we are well familiar with from Scripture, including Ezekiel, Daniel, Haggai, Zechariah, Mordechai, Ezra, Nehemiah, and others. The men of the great assembly were faced with the problem of finding a way to maintain a relationship with Hashem that did not include the Temple. With Ezra leading the way, the men of the great assembly began fervently evaluate Torah and the Torah relationship Israel had with Hashem. The question arose, for the first time, what if the children of Israel were incapable of performing a mitzvah? With the Temple destroyed, many of the commandments of Hashem were no longer viable. We had no way to bring offerings to the place that God had chosen. It had been destroyed. So how do we do those commandments? The Anshei Knesset HaGdola determined a key principle which very much affects our lives, even today. That is, if one cannot form a mitzvah, instead of ignoring the mitzvah, it is incumbent upon us to do as much of the mitzvah as we possibly can. Even though we cannot do all of the mitzvah we must not ignore it, we must do what we can, this action shows our hearts to Hashem. The principle of the Anshei Knesset HaGdola is the underlying factor establishing the Synagogue and the Synagogue service.

Numbers 28 shows us many of the national offerings Israel is required to make for Hashem in the Temple. The chapter begins with the description of the Tamid offering, the daily offerings at dawn and at dusk. Without the Tamid offering, none of the other offerings could be brought during the day. The Tamid offering provided the bookends of the entire Temple service. Since we no longer had a Temple, how could we fulfill the mitzvah of the Tamid offering? The answer was, of course, we could not. However, following the principle of the Anshei Knesset HaGdola, it is incumbent upon us to do was much as we are able. So, we assembled together and performed the service of the Tamid offering, without actually doing the sacrifice itself, because the sacrifice was required to be made only in the place that Hashem had chosen, the Temple mount. The Synagogue service was born. The basic order of the Synagogue service is a commemoration of the basic order of the service of the Tamid offering we are no longer able to do in the Temple. There are additional sacrifices and offerings in Numbers chapter 28, for instance, there is the additional, or in Hebrew Musaf offering for various designated times, like Shabbat, commemorated in the Synagogue service. Consequently, on Shabbat, we begin with the Shacharit service, which is a commemoration of the dawn Tamid offering. This is followed by a Torah reading, which was instituted by Ezra. Then the Musaf service commemorates the additional sacrifice for Shabbat.

This is why we have Synagogue service today. Many of the elements of our Synagogue services today can be traced back to the actual Temple service that was carried out by the Kohayns. Even though we cannot do the sacrifices as instructed by Hashem, by attending Synagogue service, we do as much as we can of the Temple mitzvoth.

The relevance of yom kippur

R. Steve Bernstein

September 2016

John 3:16-17 16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his only and unique Son, so that everyone who trusts in him may have eternal life, instead of being utterly destroyed.

17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but rather so that through him, the world might be saved.

Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, what is this all about and what relevancy does this have to us as Messianic Jews? This is a very interesting and important question, as it shows us the necessity of tying Torah and the Gospels together.

Anyone wishing to know the specifics about Yom Kippur simply has to read Leviticus 16. For a more detailed look at the actual Yom Kippur ceremony in the Temple, Babylonian Talmud tractate Yoma should be studied. As you study your find that the high priest, has very specific duties, these duties involve multiple (5) ritual immersions, multiple sacrifices, 2 goats, a lottery, and the actual entering of the Holy of Holies. One very interesting item is glaringly obvious. The nation of Israel is not required be present in the Temple for Yom Kippur. Israel is required to come to the Temple for Succot, Pesach, and Shavuot, but not Yom Kippur. Even so, the Kohayns perform the ceremony of atonement, and Hashem forgives the children of Israel, most of the time.

The mahloket (dilemma) here comes from an understanding of John 3:16. If we believe in Yeshua our Messiah, and confess our sins before Him, at any time, on any day, are not our sins forgiven? The obvious answer is, of course, they are. So, if our sins are forgiven through our faith in Yeshua the Messiah, why even have Yom Kippur? What relevancy does Yom Kippur have to the Messianic Jew and the Gentile in the 21st century?

The machloket can be resolved through an understanding of who is being addressed in each of these texts. Leviticus 16 is in regard to the nation of Israel as a whole, John 3:16 – 17 is addressing individuals in the world, not the nation of Israel. Leviticus – nation, John – individuals. This is a very important distinction to understand. Through Yeshua our Messiah individuals within the world are saved. This does not address the children of Israel as a nation.

Jeremiah 31: 33 "For this is the covenant I will make with the house of Isra'el after those days," says ADONAI: "I will put my Torah within them and write it on their hearts; I will be their God, and they will be my people.

34 No longer will any of them teach his fellow community member or his brother, 'Know ADONAI'; for all will know me, from the least of them to the greatest; because I will forgive their wickednesses and remember their sins no more."

35 This is what ADONAI says, who gives the sun as light for the day, who ordained the laws for the moon and stars to provide light for the night, who stirs up the sea until its waves roar -- ADONAI-Tzva'ot is his name:

36 "If these laws leave my presence," says ADONAI, "then the offspring of Isra'el will stop being a nation in my presence forever."

We see here, obviously, a prophecy which has not yet come to pass. The Jewish people do not have Torah written on their hearts so that we don’t have to teach it anymore. Not all of Israel knows to fulfill all of the Torah commandments or how to do so. And, even when this prophecy does come to pass, verse 36 reminds us that all of the Torah is still valid and must be done, including the ceremony of Yom Kippur. So, the nation of Israel has not yet had our sins forgiven. The Yom Kippur ceremony is still necessary. Even after the fulfillment of the prophecy in Jeremiah 31, the Yom Kippur ceremony will still be necessary because not only are individuals required to atone, but the nation of Israel is required to atone as well.

So, we see that the individual may attain salvation through faith in Yeshua the Messiah, but the salvation of the nation of Israel as a separate topic, and has not come yet. When the Messiah returns, the nation of Israel will be saved. As a symbol of this salvation, Messiah will reign in Israel from the Temple itself. And still, the Torah laws of Yom Kippur will be relevant.

Bein Hametzarim, between the straits

R. Steven Bernstein

July 2016

Zechariah chapter 8 lists the minor fasts of Israel. They are the fast of the 4th month, the fast of the 5th month, the fast of the 7th month, and the fast of the 10th month. The 4th month of the year is Tammuz, and the fast of Tammuz, is held on the 17th. The fast of the 17th of Tammuz, is a commemoration and a recollection of many sad events in the history of the Jewish people, including, the breaching of the walls of Jerusalem during the Babylonian siege and the breaking of the tablets of the 10 words by Moses. The fast of the 5th month, Av, is the 9th day of the month, or, in Hebrew, Tisha B’Av. There are exactly 3 weeks between the fast of the 4th month and the fast of the 5th month. This period of time is referred to as “the 3 weeks,” or, “between the Straits.”

This year, the 17th of Tammuz falls on a Shabbat, July 23. The only time we fast on a Shabbat is Yom Kippur, consequently, the fastest postponed for a day and falls on Sunday, July 24. Tisha b’Av, then, also falls on a Shabbat and is thereby postponed for a day. So, the 3 weeks are adjusted accordingly. The term “between the Straits” comes from Lamentations 1.3 which states, “All (Tziyon’s) pursuers overtook her between the Straits.” This is a period of mourning for all Israel, commemorated and remembered regarding the time immediately before the destruction of both Temples as Israel’s enemies overtook her.

During these 3 weeks we practice a period of semi-mourning. We do not perform weddings, we do not get our hair cut, and we try to avoid dangerous situations. Sometimes it is difficult to relate these occurrences in antiquity to our current modern day situation. After all, the temple was destroyed 2000 years ago, and Moses destroyed the tablets 1000 years before that. Why should we be mourning events that took place so long ago, and have such little relevance to us today?

In fact, these events in antiquity are extremely relevant to us in that they are representative of all of the trials and tribulations that the Jewish people have undergone throughout history. Salvation (Yeshua) comes through Israel; as Yeshua suffered and died and then was resurrected, so Israel suffers and dies and will be resurrected. Mourning the suffering and dying of Israel throughout history is representative of mourning the suffering and dying of our master Yeshua. And, the suffering and dying of Yeshua the Messiah is mirrored by the suffering and dying of all Israel throughout history. Consequently, it is important that we engage in this mourning process as a memorial to the travails of our Messiah Yeshua and to the travails of our people, Israel.

Zechariah chapter 8 tells us that the fasts of the 4th month and 5th month will become times of joy. They are not yet times of joy, and so, we should mourn. If we do not mourn now, how will we see the contrast when these times become times of joy with the return of our Messiah? Yeshua himself participated in the mourning of these fasts and the 3 weeks between them. So, let us remember the time that our Messiah and our people were overtaken “between the Straits.”

Rabbinic? I don't think so!

R. Steve Bernstein

 

            I have seen a disturbing trend in Messianic Judaism. In evaluating things Jewish, the judgment is made, is this in Torah, or is this rabbinic? The question itself denotes a profound lack of understanding of history. Is there another alternative besides Torah or rabbinic? The answer is, of course.

            There was about a 1000 year time period between the receiving of Torah at Sinai and the coming of our Master Yeshua. A huge amount of Jewish history occurred during this time. All of the Prophets, the Kings, the northern and southern kingdoms, the exile, the return, happened during this time period. Yet there were no rabbis.

            The rabbinic period (arguably) began at Yavneh, some 50 years after the execution and resurrection of our Messiah. Consequently, we have a huge hunk of history that was neither Torah nor rabbinic. Very important things happened during this time, and very important decisions are made within the Jewish community. Many of these decisions were common practice and accepted within the Jewish community in Yeshua’s time.

            With the destruction of the Temple in 586 B.C.E, a new era in Jewish history began. Judaism was no longer based, could no longer be based in temple worship, as the temple had been destroyed. Our people were carried off into exile, 90% to Babylon, and 10% to Egypt. The leadership of the Jewish community in Babylon got together to determine what had to be done for the Jewish people to survive. This group of leaders, 120 of them, was called the Anshei Knesset HaGdola, or, the men of the great assembly. Counted among these leaders were, Zechariah, Haggai, Daniel, Ezekiel, Mordechai, Ezra, Nechemiah,and many other great leaders of the people. The Anshei Knesset HaGdola were not rabbis, they were in a category all to themselves. The Anshei Knesset HaGdola continued its leadership with the return to the land; until the time of Alexander the great. The last of the Anshei Knesset HaGdola was Shimon HaTzadik. They were responsible for the survival, and eventually the flourishing of the Jewish people.

            The Anshei Knesset HaGdola made many decisions that allowed the Jewish people to flourish. One decision that we know came from the Anshei Knesset HaGdola, was the establishment of the Synagogue. Synagogue service was established, the order of service was set, and became mainstream Jewish practice during the leadership of the Anshei Knesset HaGdola. Various prayers were added, changed, deleted, but the order of service that we have in today’s Synagogue is essentially the same as the order of service established by the Anshei Knesset HaGdola. Another of the basic practices that were established during the tenure of the Anshei Knesset was the problem of the Jewish community being in the galut, in the diaspora, for the 1st time. Hashem give us the Torah at Sinai, in it, Hashem designated Moadim. Many of the Moadim called for no work and festivities during a one day period. However, being in the exile, the question came up, does this mean one day in the Land, or does this mean one day where the children of Israel reside? How can all the children of Israel celebrate a Moed together and additionally, celebrate the one day at the same time as the land of Israel? To solve this dilemma, the Anshei Knesset HaGdola instituted 2 day celebrations of the Moadim in the diaspora. The exception to this is, of course Yom Kippur, which the Anshei Knesset HaGdola determined would be too much of a hardship to do for 2 days. This decision was made, and this practice was put into place, some 500 years before our Messiah. In Yeshua’s time, this was common practice and was part of Judaism in Synagogues everywhere outside of the land. In their travels the talmidim, no doubt, experienced, and participated in this practice within Judaism. Both of these institutions, the Synagogue, and 2 day Moed, were not in Torah, but neither were they rabbinic.

            It is important to note that Yeshua’s condemnations of theology within Judaism in practice within Judaism were very limited. The theology of the Sadducees, was roundly rejected. And, practices of hypocrisy were pointed out, and vicerated. But neither the theology nor the practices of Pharisaic Judaism were ever spoken against. Hypocritical Pharisees were spoken against, but not Pharisaic practice. In short, we should be very reticent to reject any of the practices given us by the Anshei Knesset HaGdola.

The hillel sandwich

R. Steve Bernstein

 

Zechariah 12 CJB

10 and I will pour out on the house of David and on those living in Yerushalayim a spirit of grace and prayer; and they will look to me, whom they pierced." They will mourn for him as one mourns for an only son; they will be in bitterness on his behalf like the bitterness for a firstborn son.

This verse from Zechariah has rather obvious messianic overtones. The sages have some very interesting things to say about it in their interpretation.

Talmud Bavli Sukkah 52a

What is the cause of the mourning [mentioned in the last cited verse, Zech 12.10]? — R. Dosa and the Rabbis differ on the point. One explained, The cause is the slaying of Messiah the son of Joseph,7 and the other explained, The cause is the slaying of the Evil Inclination. It is well according to him who explains that the cause is the slaying of Messiah the son of Joseph, since that well agrees with the Scriptural verse, And they shall look upon me because they have thrust him through, and they shall mourn for him as one mourns for his only son;

According to the sages, this verse, Zechariah 12.10, speaks of Israel mourning, because of the slaying of the Messiah, son of Joseph. The Talmud specifically indicates the Messiah, son of Joseph, differentiating between him and Messiah son of David. It is interesting that in the time the conclusion of the discussion is given before the discussion itself. The discussion continues after the conclusion, but really only brings out why the verse cannot be construed as indicating mourning for the death of the evil inclination. This is a strong indication as to the strength of the opinion that Zechariah 12. 10 is referring to the death of the Messiah, son of Joseph. Not surprisingly, anti-missionaries choose not to look at this particular section of Talmud.

We are in the season of Pesach, the season of our freedom. Because the Torah teaches us,”when your children ask,” we sit down on Erev Pesach for the Seder meal. Yeshua held a school Seder with his talmidim the evening before the actual Seder. Most of the elements of the Seder were present at this school Seder, but the Korban Pesach, the sacrifice itself was missing. The other main elements of the Seder were present, the matzoh, and the bitter herbs.

During the Seder, immediately before the festive meal itself is eaten, there is a very interesting practice. This practice was instituted by Hillel, who had passed away only some 10 years before Yeshua’s birth. This practice was the eating of matzoh and bitter herbs together.

Today, we call it the Hillel sandwich. We engage in this practice because, as Hillel points out, Torah commands us to eat it (the Passover offering) with matzoh and bitter herbs. In light of Zechariah 12.10, we can see an even deeper meaning and understanding.

Understanding that the cause of the mourning of the children of Israel is the death of the Messiah, son of Joseph, the unique son, and the bitterness of his travails, brings the ceremony of the Hillel sandwich into a new light. Mixing the matzoh, symbolic of Yeshua’s body, with the bitter herbs, symbolic of his travails, is all the more poignant because of the sages understanding of Sukkah 12a.

John 13 CJB

21 After saying this, Yeshua, in deep anguish of spirit, declared, "Yes, indeed! I tell you that one of you will betray me."

22 The talmidim stared at one another, totally mystified -- whom could he mean?

23 One of his talmidim, the one Yeshua particu larly loved, was reclining close beside him.

24 So Shim`on Kefa motioned to him and said, "Ask which one he's talking about."

25 Leaning against Yeshua's chest, he asked Yeshua, "Lord, who is it?"

26 Yeshua answered, "It's the one to whom I give this piece of matzah after I dip it in the dish." So he dipped the piece of matzah and gave it to Y'hudah Ben-Shim`on from K'riot.

According to verse 26, Yeshua is dipping a piece of matzoh into a dish. What part of this Seder ceremony is this? Since the time of Hillel, we know that matzoh is being dipped into a dish of horseradish, so that we may eat matzoh and bitter herbs together, as Hillel instructed. Yeshua is making the Hillel sandwich. He is taking matzoh, symbolic of his body, mixing it with bitter earth’s, symbolic the bitterness of his travails, and handing it to his betrayer.

This year, as we sit and eat the Pesach Seder together, let us remember the bitterness of Yeshua’s travails and His sacrifice for us as we eat the Hillel sandwich. Make a point to actually dip our matzoh into a bowl of horseradish, as Yeshua did. Have a blessed and meaningful Pesach.

Chagiga

Rabbi Steven Bernstein

March, 2014

 

Deuteronomy 16 commands us to bring an offering to the Temple, a special offer, for each of the 3 pilgrimage festivals; Pesach, Shavuot, and Succot. We are not to come to the Temple for these festivals empty-handed. In Temple times, this commandment was fulfilled with the bringing of the Festival offering, called the Chagiga. Every man coming to the Temple for the Festival was required to bring an offering. So, every man coming to the Temple would bring a lamb or a goat for the sacrifice for every Festival. Talmud teaches us that the requirement for every man to bring the offering means that each individual who brings the offering must understand what he is doing. Consequently, children of school-age who were able to comprehend the meaning of the sacrifice were required to bring the sacrifice. In Temple times this was understood to be age 6.

The Chagiga was an integral part of every pilgrimage festival taking place in the Temple. Every Pesach, Shavuot, and Succot, every male, age 6 and over, brought this offering. If you were traveling from far away, you would bring money and convert it to Temple Shekels, or bring Temple Shekels if the money had already been exchanged. With the holy (Temple) Shekels, you would purchase a lamb or goat from the Kohayn’s herds. The sacrifice would be thoroughly examined to assure there was no blemish and you would accompany your sacrifice into the Azarah, the inner courtyard of the Temple. When your turn came, Kohayns would hold your sacrifice one Kohayn would approach with an anointed knife, as sharp as they could make it. Another Kohayn would lay his hands on the head of the sacrifice left hand over right, and he would lean, samach, on the head of the animal. The Kohayn with a knife would make the cut, the shechita. Yet another Kohayn would collect the blood in an anointed bowl for the sprinkling on the altar. The Kohayns would then proceed with the nikkur, the butchery of the animal. The fat of the kidney would be separated and brought up to the fire on the altar and roasted to go up in smoke as Torah commands. The rest of the cuts of meat would be brought up on to the altar and you would be given the choice of having the meat stewed in a pot, or roasted over the fire. When the meat was cooked, the Kohayns would take their portion and you would receive the rest of the meat to bring home and eat. This food was designated terumah, or, food that has been dedicated to the Temple, so a washing of the hands was necessary before consuming it. After the hand washing, everyone could sit down for the festival meal.

For Pesach, in Temple times, every male had the Chagiga offering for the Seder meal. In fact, this was the bulk of the meal. Because there were so many visitors, every Seder had many families. The Seder required only one Pesach offering, but every male at the table had offered a Chagiga offering. So for the meal, the Chagiga offering was eaten, and the Pesach offering was

reserved till the end to make certain that everyone was given a piece of the Pesach offering to eat as Torah requires. The Pesach offering was passed out to everyone at the conclusion of the meal on a piece of matzoh, this was known as the afikomen.

In Yeshua’s time, the population of Jerusalem was approximately 700,000 people. During the festival, this population grew to an estimated 3 million. Close to half the population was required to bring the Chagiga, so conservatively, there were over 1 million sacrifices for the Chagiga alone. Obviously this is not physically possible in a one day period. However, Talmud teaches us that the rules of time and space were suspended in the Temple itself.

On the day of Yeshua’s execution, over 1 million sacrifices of the Chagiga were being brought in the Temple. This is in addition to the Pesach which was also being brought in the Temple on that day. This was an enormous amount of activity centered in the Temple, so it is easy to understand that even if a few thousand people were witness to the execution of our Messiah, it was still a sidelight on that day relative to everything going on in the Temple itself. It was certainly not a major event in the lives of those living in and visiting Jerusalem for Pesach.

 

Sacredness

R. Steven Bernstein

The concept of sacredness is somewhat of an anathema to 21st century American culture. In our rugged individualism, we tend to treat most everything with equal disdain. So the idea that something is sacred simply tends to not work. However, Hashem tells us quite explicitly that sacredness is an important part of our lives. Sacredness, from the Hebrew root kadash, means something that is set apart for Hashem. Hashem first sanctified, that is made sacred, time. Hashem sanctified the seventh day, he made it holy, and Shabbat, sprang into being. A day is a measure of time, so time itself was made holy. A further expansion of this we can see in Leviticus 23 and Numbers 28 – 29 with the commandments of the Moadim, the sacred times. These times are given to us to be treated differently, set apart for Hashem. They are sacred.

Hashem also commanded us to recognize sacred space. The space of the Mishkan, the tabernacle, was to be treated differently than the areas around it. The altar, the tent of meeting, the Heichal (the holy place), the kodesh hakodeshim (the holy of holies), all had specific regulations about their space. Hashem instructed us to bring the sacrifices “in the place that I will show you.” The final place that Hashem showed us is the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, and so Solomon built the Temple there. In this way Hashem sanctified space, certain spaces were assigned for Him.

Hashem also set apart certain objects as being sacred. Within the Temple were many sacred objects, including, the Ark of the covenant, the jar of manna, Aharon’s staff, the Torah scroll, the Menorah, the bread of faces, the golden altar, and the altar. There were also many utensils used in the Temple complex. These were anointed with oil and thereby made sacred. In this way Hashem made certain objects sacred.

Today, we have many of these sacred things that we deal with through the year. And yet, we frequently forget the nature of their sacredness. Many of us treat Shabbat as simply the day that we come to Synagogue, forgetting that Synagogue should be part of our daily life, not only Shabbat. Shabbat is much more than that. Shabbat is time set aside by Hashem, it is sacred, set apart, and should be treated with reverence. The same is true of all the Moadim. They are sacred and should be treated reverently. (Reverence does not mean somberness, but that is the subject of another blog.)

Tzitzit are sacred. Hashem commands men to wear Tzitzit, the only sacred article of clothing, so that we will see them and remember all of Hashem’s commandments. We are to treat them with reverence. They are not a costume. They have sacred purpose, sacred meaning. Tzitzit set us apart, make us a holy nation. They are more than a Jewish garment, they are a commandment from Hashem.

There are 3 objects that we have that actually contain the tetragrammaton. These objects are holy unto themselves, they are set apart and sacred. They are the Torah scroll, the mezuzah, and tefillin. Each of these objects is sacred and should be treated with reverence. They contain the holy Name, and must not be treated casually (in vain.) These things are not curiosities. They must not be treated as refrigerator magnets. They are not cute. These objects are the fulfillment of commandments of Hashem. To not treat them with reverence is to slap our Messiah in the face.

We have seen such affronts as people wrapping themselves in the Torah scroll, people dancing a hoochie dance with Tzitzit, etc. We must cry out against these things. If we do not understand the nature of the sacred, we cannot understand the reverence with which that which is sacred must be treated. If we do not understand the sacred, if we do not recognize the sacred, we do not recognize Hashem.

2 Houses?

R. Steven Bernstein

Are Judah and Israel two separate peoples? Within the body of Messiah, this is a question that is sometimes asked today. I would like to take this opportunity to show that historically, this is not a viable concept.

This concept stems from the idea that there are 10 lost Tribes of Israel. And, that these 10 lost Tribes of Israel somehow morph into the current body of Messiah, that is, the non-Jewish body of Messiah. And, that the Jewish people are from the tribe of Judah alone. So, let us look at the history, and the historical context of Judah and Israel.

First, let us address the idea that the separation of 2 houses is through bloodline. In order for this to be true, the bloodlines of each of the tribes of Israel, historically, must have been kept pure. In other words, each of the tribe must have married and had children within the tribes themselves. The Jewish people, through the millennia, have kept track of one of the tribes and the people of this tribe have kept the bloodline pure. This of course is the tribe of Levi. Within the tribe of Levi, the Jewish people have also kept track of the descendants of Aaron, the Kohayns, of pure bloodline. In every Orthodox or Hasidic synagogue today, the 1st person called to the Torah is a direct descendent of Aaron, a Kohayn, and the 2nd person called to the Torah is a descendent of Levi. Other than the tribe of Levi, the bloodlines of every tribe of Israel is mixed and present in the current Jewish people. In Judges 21, we see the beginning of the precedent of the mixture of bloodline. Bloodlines were intentionally mixed to keep the tribe of Benjamin from going extinct. Historically, since that time, the bloodlines of every one of the tribes of Israel have been mixed. Every Jewish person that you see today has the bloodlines of all of the tribes of Israel mixed in him or her. The exception to this rule is the tribe of Levi.

After King Shlomo, we were divided into 2 kingdoms, the kingdom of Judah and the kingdom of Israel. We are all familiar with this history. The northern kingdom of Israel is conquered by the Assyrians and our people were carried off into captivity in Assyria. Later, the southern kingdom, comprised of Judah and Benjamin, was conquered by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia and also carried off into exile. It would seem that these 2 peoples were now separated through different exiles, but, historical examination will reveal otherwise. After Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple, Nebuchadnezzar himself was defeated by the Persian Empire. The Persian Empire extended its conquest northward as well. In fact, the Persian Empire conquered all Assyria. This resulted in all of the children of Israel coming under Persian rule.

As the history continues, we come to the story of Mordechai, and Esther. Haman did in fact threaten the existence of all of the children of Israel, since all of the children of Israel were under were under Persian rule. All of the children of Israel that had been conquered by the Assyrians and all of the children of Israel that have been conquered by the Babylonians came under the edicts of Haman. Happily, the Jewish people defeated Haman and his minions. Queen Esther, then gave birth to Daryavesh, the Jewish King of Persia (according to Midrash.) Daryavesh gave Ezra and Nehemiah permission to return to the land of the promise and rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple. This decree went out to all of Persia, to the children of Israel who were exiled by Assyria and to the children of Israel who were exiled by Babylonia. The leadership came from Babylonia, but Jewish people from all over the Persian Empire returned to the land of the promise.

So, we see that it is impossible for the terms Judah and Israel, or the terms Judah and Efrayim, to be referring, from this point forward, to bloodline. In fact, we see Judah and Israel being used interchangeably in the Tanakh in Ezra and Nehemiah. Both the terms Judah and Israel are used specifically to prevent us from saying that any one of the tribes is not included in the discussion. That is, that we understand that it is all the Jewish people about which the text is speaking. In reality, the geographic terms Judah and Israel, cease to have meaning after the exiles to Assyria and Babylonia. This is proven out on the return of the exiles and no longer in any writings are Judah and Israel referred to as being separate.

Historically, after the destruction of the 1st Temple, the terms Judah, Israel, Efrayim, are all referring to the Jewish people. The bloodlines are all mixed. The geopolitical lines are all changed. The returnees from captivity are of all of the tribes of Israel. The 2 house concept has no basis.

Traditions of the Elders

R. Steven Bernstein

In the Brit Chadasha, we see many references to the traditions of the elders. It is assumed that the reader will understand who the elders are. Unfortunately, through time, there are many that do not understand at all who the elders were.

Surveying the Tanakh, it is easy to see that the elders comprised the governmental structure of the children of Israel. They were the heads of the families, clans, and tribes, of the people of Israel. So, the children of Israel derived their everyday governmental structure through the elders.

All through the time of the prophets, particularly Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, there is quite notably a rather contentious relationship between the elders and the prophets. It is frequently elders who tell the prophets, they are wrong. It is even the elders that sometimes have the prophets put the death. Why was this terrible relationship between the prophets and the elders occurring? The answer is in what is known as the traditions of the elders. The elders, in ancient times, would frequently structure and foment behavior within the children of Israel that violated Torah. The traditions of the elders would go so far, sometimes, as to promote Avodah Zarah, idol worship.

The traditions of the elders were usually innocuous. Sometimes it meant certain festivals, or celebrations, or even offerings that were unique to a particular tribe, clan or family. Sometimes the traditions of the elders meant observing a particular mitzvah in a particular way. There is no problem with following the traditions of the elders, as long as the tradition does not conflict with Torah. The difficulty was that throughout the time of the prophets, many of the traditions of the elders conflicted with Torah. One of the prophet’s major roles was in promoting Torah, the observance of Torah, to the children of Israel. So, when the traditions of the elders conflicted with Torah, the prophets came up against the elders. This is the source of the contentious relationship between the prophets and the elders.

With the Babylonian exile, the mantle of spiritual leadership passed from the prophets to the men of the great assembly. Indeed, many later prophets were part of the men of the great assembly, including, Ezra, Nehemiah, Daniel, Mordechai, Ezekiel, Haggai, Zechariah. With the Babylonian exile, much of the elders’ political power vanished. The institutions created by the men of the great assembly in the exile largely left the elders out of the power structure, with the exception of the Beit Din, where the elders were included as part of the court system. Even though their power was diminished there still remain a somewhat contentious relationship between the elders and the men of the great assembly.

With the return of the exiles to Israel, under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah, the elders had somewhat of a return to power under Zerubbabel. When Judah the Maccabee led the Hasmonean revolt, (the Hasmoneans themselves being a clan,) the elder’s power again strengthened within the governmental structure of Israel. So we see in Yeshua’s time that in addition to the power struggle occurring between the Sadducees and the Pharisees, we have an underlying separate power struggle occurring between the elders, the Sanhedrin, and the Roman Pro curate.

The elders were constantly trying to assert their authority over the oral law. So the elders would, on occasion, set rulings that were contrary to oral law in an effort to exert their authority. We see this occurring repeatedly in the Brit Chadasha. So when we see Yeshua and his disciples questioned as to why they are not following the traditions of the elders, this is not questioning why they are not following oral law. Oral law simply is not the traditions of the elders, and historically, we see there is no equivalency.

So, when did we see this understanding and interpretation of the equivalency of the oral law and the tradition of the elders occur? It is the same time that we see the oral law discredited within Christianity. The early church fathers needed to consolidate their political power in Rome, and take it away from the sages. Therefore, Torah had to be discredited. We see this in the writings of the early church fathers, and in the Council of Nicaea. Finally in the Council of Antioch, the following of Torah, both written and oral, is labeled as heretical. As part of this legacy the traditions of the elders began to be interpreted as the oral law. There is no question that Yeshua in his disciples did not follow the tradition of the elders, so this false equivalency served the early church fathers well. In fact, they did such a good job of equating the traditions of the elders and the oral law, that this teaching is pervasive within the body of Messiah, even today. But scripturally, we can see that the oral law has nothing to do with the traditions of the elders.

The Orchard and Hashem’s Plan.

R. Steve Bernstein

It is important to understand that Hashem has had a plan for all creation from the beginning. Because Hashem is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent, his plan is, was, and shall be intact through all of the existence of time and space. Keeping this in mind, let’s look at the incident of Adam and Chava in the Orchard.

Hashem placed Adam and Chava in the orchard in order to work, that is, to tend the Orchard. In the midst of the Orchard Hashem placed two trees, the tree of life, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam and Chava were instructed by Hashem not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Of course, at the time HaShem gave the instruction, Adam and Chava had not eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Therefore they had no knowledge of good and evil. Let’s think for a minute about the ramifications of this. If one does not understand good and does not understand evil, how is one to choose between good and evil? It is as if, at this point, Adam and Chava are blank slates, easily influenceable in any direction. Hashem gives them the instruction not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil before they have any understanding of whether they should or should not obey.

Should Adam and Chava eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? How would they know that it was good to follow Hashem’s instruction? How would they know what good is? How would they know it would be bad to disregard Hashem’s instruction? How would they know what evil is? Since they had not yet eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they did not understand that following Hashem’s instruction was good, and disregarding Hashem’s instruction was bad. Adam and Chava had no tendencies in either direction.

Hashem put the serpent (Satan) into the Orchard. It is clear from the text that Satan’s purpose in the Orchard is to influence Adam and Chava into eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Why did Hashem put Satan in the Orchard? The only explanation is that Satan being in the Orchard is part of Hashem’s plan.

This brings up an interesting concept. If Adam, that is to say mankind, were inherently evil, why would it be necessary for Hashem to put Satan in the Orchard. Wouldn’t it be man’s natural tendency to disobey Hashem? On the other hand, if it was man’s natural tendency to be good and not evil, would not Adam and Chava simply resist Satan’s temptation? So, it seems that Adam is neither inherently good, nor inherently evil. HaShem created Adam and Chava to be neutral, thus giving mankind’s free will full reign, for good or evil, over our lives.

And here we see the real reason for the entire incident to play out. It is apparent that Adam and Chava would not truly have free will, until they were capable of exercising and doing something that was against Hashem’s commandment. Having the potential for free will and having free will are separate things. Until Adam and Chava actually disobeyed Hashem, free will was only a potential and not a reality in time and space. Once Adam and Chava ate of the fruit, then free will had been actualized, and Hashem’s true purpose for creation had the possibility of coming to fruition. That purpose is that man, of his own free will, should choose to follow Hashem. It is this incident in the Orchard that gives mankind the ability to choose Hashem. Without this incident, the choice to follow Hashem would already be made for us and we would have no say in the matter. But, after the incident in the Orchard, we are indeed created in Hashem’s likeness and have the ability to choose or reject.

May we all choose to follow Hashem, now and forever more.

R. Steve Bernstein

New Blog Post

Rabbi Steve’s Candied Etrog Peel (For Tu B’Shvat)

            Ingredients: 2-3 Etrogs, 1 lemon, 2 Cups Water, 2 Cups White sugar

  1. Peel Etrogs and lemon into slices about 1/4 inch thick with a carrot peeler. Cut so the peels are in long strips.
  2. Bring water and peels to a boil in a small pan. Drain water, and repeat with fresh cold water. Repeat the boiling step three times. Drain and set peels aside.
  3. Combine 2 cups fresh water with 2 cups sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce heat to low and stir in citrus peels; simmer until the white pith is translucent. Allow them to dry on wax paper. Toss dry candied peels in additional sugar and store airtight at room temperature.

Nisuch HaMayim – The Water Libation.

R. Steve Bernstein

In Yeshua’s time a very important ceremony took place on Succot in the Temple. It was called the Nisuch HaMayim, or the water libation. Culminating in the 7th day of the festival, Hoshana Rabah, in the middle of the night, the Kohayns would collect a small silver pitcher from the altar that was only for this purpose and with great ceremony would march from the Temple Mount down into the city of David to the of Shiloam. The people would line the path of this great parade, bearing torches and singing and dancing and playing musical instruments. The Kohayns would fill the pitcher with water from the pool. And then singing and dancing, the parade would proceed back up through the city of David, to the altar in the Temple. The Kohayns would arrive at dawn and ascend the altar. In one corner of the altar sat a silver cup, and the designated Kohayn would then, in front of the massive crowd, pour the water from the pitcher taken from the pool of Shiloam into the silver cup, with great rejoicing singing, and dancing of the crowd that had gathered in the Temple courtyard. Four great lamps with 4 bowls of oil each, 15 feet high, were erected in the Temple courtyard to illuminate the ceremony. This was the most joyous day of the year. Descriptions of the Water Libation are contained in the Mishna Succot Ch. 5.

This is the backdrop for the famous scene in John 7. Verse 37 tells us: 37 Now on the last day of the festival, Hoshana Rabbah, Yeshua stood and cried out, "If anyone is thirsty, let him keep coming to me and drinking!” CJB. The courtyard of the temple was filled with joyous worshipers as Yeshua made this announcement. But, there was more to it than that.

Nowhere in Torah is there a single commandment regarding the Water Libation. It was the only way to fulfill several commandments in context with each other. The Pharisees understood this; the Sadducees did not accept it. It is important to understand that the crowd in the Temple courtyard was predominantly, if not exclusively, Pharisees. In declaring Himself to be the source of water for the Water Libation, Yeshua was, in fact, declaring himself to be the Messiah. And, He was declaring it to the Pharisaic community.

The water libation ceremony was no stranger to political implication. Some 100 years earlier, the corrupt Hasmonean king and high priest, Alexander Yannai (Janneas,) brought political infighting to a head during the Water Libation. Alexander Yannai was not only King and high priest, he was also the head Sadducee of the day. Even then, the Sadducees objected to the Water Libation ceremony. Most of the people followed Pharisaic doctrine and rejoiced in the Water Libation ceremony. So, Alexander Yannai, in order to show his objection to the Water Libation ceremony, when he mounted the altar with the silver pitcher containing the water from the pool of Shiloam, instead of pouring the water into the silver cup, he poured it on his feet! The symbolism was not lost on the crowd in the Temple that day. Thousands were enraged, and since it was the 7th day of Succot, they were all carrying Etrogs. The enraged crowd began to throw their Etrogs at Alexander Yannai. They were so angry they broke off chunks of the altar, pelting him with these rocks. Alexander Yannai was almost killed. He called the Temple guard into the courtyard. Since Alexander Yannai was a Sadducees, the Temple guard was loyal to the Sadducees. So the Temple guard began a wholesale slaughter of the people. Some 3000 Pharisees were killed in the Temple courtyard that day.

This history of Alexander Yannai was well known to the people in Yeshua’s time. It is important to note that Yeshua, using this Water Libation ceremony to declare himself Messiah, was doing so in support of the ceremony itself. This was an open declaration of our Messiah of the water libation ceremony itself, and therefore the pharisaic interpretation of Torah. L’Shana Tovah.

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  Rosh Hashanah not Yom Teruah

Seemingly, there is a great deal of confusion regarding the name of the holy day occurring on the 1st of Tishrei. Fortunately, within the Jewish community, this issue was settled long ago, long before Yeshua came to us on this earth. As with many biblical interpretations common in Judaism, we do not know the date of origin of this particular interpretation. However, we do know from Judaic writings, that this interpretation existed prior to the time of the Zugot, which is prior to the Maccabean revolt.

There are 4 New Years in the Jewish calendar. The 1st of Nissan is the new year of months. So, when months and seasons are counted, the counting begins with the month of Nissan. The 1st of Elul is a new year for animal tithes, so, the 1st of Elul counts the age of sacrificial animals and their appropriateness for the Temple. The 15th of Shevat is the new year for trees, so, when determining the age of trees, and their fruit, the 15th of Shevat is used is used. And the 1st of Tishrei is the new year for counting years. The Babylonian Talmud explains, according to the Mishnah:

Babylonian Talmud, Rosh Hashanah. 1A Mishna

“On the 1st of Tishrei is the new year for counting years, as will be explained in the Gemara; for calculating sabbatical years and Jubilee years, from the 1st of Tishrei, there is a biblical prohibition to work the land.“

Leviticus 25:9 explains to us that the beginning of years to count years is in the 7th month. Since it would be a conflict to count a beginning from the middle of the month, the Sages explain that this passage refers to the 1st of the 7th month, of Tishrei. We know, historically, that this interpretation, was in place well before the time of Yeshua.

This new year, the 1st of Tishrei, is the new year for the counting of years. That is, it is the new year for counting the 7 year cycle (Shemitta) and the Yovel (Jubilee.) In Leviticus 25 we see that this new year is proclaimed by the blowing of the shofar on Yom Kippur. The connection of the blowing of the shofar with the counting of the years is further indication that the 1st of Tishrei is the new year for years, because, the 1st of Tishrei is the day of the sounding of the shofar.

Leviticus 23:24 tells us that the 1st of Tishrei is a Moed, a holy day of Hashem. There is no name given to this day, even though it is to be a day of blowing a shofar and of remembering. And so, because it is the new year of the counting of years, during which we remember, and blow the shofar, since ancient times this Moed has been referred to as Rosh Hashanah.

 In closing, I wish you all a Shana Tova, a good year, Umetukah, a sweet year, and may each and every one of you be inscribed in the book of life, Tikateivu. In the name of our Messiah Yeshua.

In the world, and not of the world 

The recent Supreme Court decision regarding gay marriage in the United States has a good many people up in arms. I would like to present a Messianic Jewish perspective that gleans from our experience in history.

As we are in the midst of the 3 weeks, our minds and collective memories are drawn to the remembrance of the destruction of the Temple. In a short period of time we went from being a self determined nation to being a conquered people. 90% of us were carried off to Babylon, the other 10% left for Egypt. Thus, we began the 1st period of the Jewish people in the Diaspora. In Babylon, we were faced with the decision of simply allowing our relationship with Hashem to dissipate or to find a way to connect and relate to Hashem without the Temple. We were thrust into the midst of a foreign culture, with foreign practices, foreign gods, with foreign people. Indeed, we were again, strangers in a strange land. We had made poor choices in our history, but this time we made the right choice. We chose HaShem. Instead of dissipating into the dominant culture, we made a choice to settle together and form a community within the Babylonian community that was completely Jewish. The Anshei Knesset HaGdola, that is, the men of the great assembly, helped guide our people through a very treacherous and difficult time. Institutions were created and strengthened. The Beit Knesset (synagogue), and the Beit Midrash (school), were founded. And we, the children of Israel, continued our own faith and our own culture, smack dab in the middle of Babylonian culture.

The Babylonian exile is our model for our current day situation. Indeed, we see that today, perhaps more than at any other time in American history, we truly exist in a Diaspora. Powerful governments, throughout history, have always insisted in trying to elevate themselves above Hashem. Pharaoh was considered divine, Nevukadrezzar was considered divine, Alexander was considered divine, Caesar was considered divine, the Communist Party was considered divine. All this was an effort to consolidate power in human government. Not to worry, we have the model for how to exist in the world and yet not be of the world.

Torah very clearly states that homosexuality is a violation. If the United States government chooses to accept gay marriage, fine, but does not mean that we have to accept gay marriage. We can be in the world, and not of the world. This does not mean we should treat gay people badly. One of the great tasks of Yeshua on earth was to point out that we need to love one another. We fail at it time after time after time and yet this is one of the great commandments emphasized by our Messiah.

One of the tools of nonbelievers is to equate disagreement with hate. Understand there is a huge difference between disagreement and hate. I’ve met most of the Messianic Rabbis in the world today, and I assure you, I disagree about something with every single one, and yet, not only do I not hate any of them, I love every single one of them. For the record, I disagree strongly with gay marriage, and I love gay people.

So, be in the world, and not of the world. Love Hashem, and love your neighbor as yourself. Do not be concerned that human culture turns away from Hashem. We have seen this over and over in history, simply follow the model of the Babylonian exile and follow Torah.

R. Steven Bernstein

  • All the world is a very narrow bridge, and the most important thing is not to be overwhelmed by fear.” Rebbe Nachman of Breslov
Sat, November 25 2017 7 Kislev 5778