Sign In Forgot Password

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.


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.



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.


  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, July 24 2021 15 Av 5781