Posts Tagged ‘Jewish Perspective’

Prophecy in the Ages of Silence

Thursday, February 19th, 2015

Prophecy in the Ages of Silence is another topic suggested to me by a friend.  It is a topic I have pondered for some time, so I suppose it is time for me to break my own silence on the subject.

Have you ever heard the phrase “History is written by the victors.”? Revisionist history is a fact. The basis for it is at the root of our human condition. Everyone has an opinion. Everyone will go to great lengths to defend that opinion, and those in power, church or state, have the power to publish that opinion for posterity as fact. This was true in the ancient world and is true today, so we must look at history from a spiritual perspective if we hope to uncover the Truth that God wants us to see.

In some cases, as in the events related in Matthew 1, multiple versions of history survive. A great divide occurred in the Jewish community in that d

ay, one side believing the events were the messianic prophecy unfolding, the other side, determined it was not. The Jewish New Testament Commentary by David H Stern states, “The early Rabbis developed a tradition that Jesus was the illegitimate son of Mary and a Roman soldier named Pantera.” Whatever their reasons, a small group of leaders could not accept the way this prophecy came to pass, and so discounted it. Those who believed became the ancient Christians, those who did not evolved into modern Jewry.

Prophecy in a historical timeline

Because I believe that God is ultimately in control, I believe that this divide was part of His plan, and similarly, the events unfolding in the world today are indeed part of His plan. We are witnessing another of the prominent religions, Islam, experiencing a great division between radical extremists interpreting their scriptures in a far different manner than a peaceful majority. Just as our Christian cannon of scripture paints the Pharisees and Sadducees as villains, a close look at the Jewish writings of the times paints them as primarily righteous leaders with a few radical extremists muddying up the waters.

(more…)

Staying True to the Spirit of the Seder

Saturday, April 5th, 2014

seder plateA few weeks prior to Passover, I was approached with a guide for an abbreviated Seder to review.  I had actually created a Seder program several years ago that was true to the Jewish traditions while revealing the presence of Jesus as the focus of the program.  Because it was traditional in its structure, it was a long program, about 2 hours including the meal, and the Christian attendees got a bit antsy about three quarters through it.  I reviewed the new 9 page program (two pages of which were illustrations) and was stunned.  This was not a Seder at all.  It did not tell the story, which is the primary purpose of the Seder.  It was at best a 15 to 20 minute class on the symbolism of the Seder elements, but it did not have the heart of a true Seder.  I looked at the advance flyer advertising the event, then read over the program again, and the thought that sprang to mind was “false advertising”!  This was not, in my mind, a Seder at all.

 

Through all of the centuries since the Exodus from Egypt occurred, the Jewish people have handed down this story of redemption year after year through a celebration and ceremony that has changed little.  It is like the glue that has held the Jewish people together, though oppressed and scattered across the globe.  It is a common thread that makes us a people.  No matter what the language, the culture, or the circumstance that exist in a given time or place, the experience is universal and connects us all.  The story is retold… once we were slaves in Egypt, and with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm the Eternal God delivered us in keeping with the covenant made with Abraham.  We have told, and retold the details of that story, handing it down from one generation to the next, and it cements in us our Jewish identity.

 

Trying to share the Passover experience without including the story of the Exodus as a key component, in my mind is doomed to be a hollow experience.  There is no purpose as it excludes the most important truth that is taught in the Seder, redemption by the grace of God.  So I took the old program and began to whittle away at it, taking out all of the fluff, and leaving the bare bones of what makes a Seder a Seder, and pared it down to 10 pages of text.  Hopefully, that will be short enough.

 

I know that people have busy lives, myself included, but some things we just need to make time for.  Anything worth doing is worth doing well, and if you can’t allow the time necessary to do it well, perhaps you should not do it at all.  Celebrating the Passover by retelling the story opens an individual’s heart to receive the blessings of the Passover.  I, for one, want to receive them all, not just some of them.  In his book, “Seven Blessings of the Passover”, Steve Munsey lists these blessings and explains them in great detail.

1.    Exodus 23:20, 23 God will assign you an angel
2.    Exodus 23:22 God will be an enemy to your enemies
3.    Exodus 23:25 God will give you prosperity
4.    Exodus 23:25 God will take away sickness from you
5.    Exodus 23:26 God will give you a long life
6.    Exodus 23:30 God will cause increase and inheritance
7.    Exodus 23:29, 31 God will cause a year of blessing and return what the enemy has taken

I am certainly willing to set aside an hour or two for that!  How about you?

 

Blessings & Adventure,

 

Lynn “lynnibug” Rios

 

The First Thanksgivukkah… in our lifetime, anyway…

Saturday, December 14th, 2013

Thanksgivukkah

Thanksgivukkah… what does it mean?


This year, 2013, the Jewish Festival of Lights, Hanukkah, fell on the same calendar day as Thanksgiving.  This prompted a rather large response of funny musical videos portraying various unusual combinations of costumes and holiday traditions, as well as some very creative recipes that mingled the traditional foods of both holidays into a unique Thanksgivukkah cuisine.


According to Wikepedia, “Because the Gregorian and Jewish calendars have slightly different average year lengths, over time they drift out of sync with each other. As a result of this, the first day of Hanukkah will not precede or coincide with Thanksgiving Day again in the foreseeable future. One physicist has calculated that, if the Jewish calendar is not revised, Thursday, November 28 will not fall during Hanukkah again until the year 79811, once it has drifted all the way around the cycle of the Gregorian calendar and back to November. Many media sources have reported this “tongue-in-cheek” calculation as a serious estimate of the date of the next Thanksgivukkah. However, since the Jewish day does not begin at midnight, but on the sunset before it, there will be two more years in which Hanukkah and Thanksgiving partially overlap, with the first night of Hanukkah beginning in the evening of Thanksgiving. These will be the evenings of Thursday, November 27, 2070 and Thursday, November 28, 2165.  The most recent such year was 1918.”


Any way you look at it… that is a really long time!


The woman credited with coining the name Thanksgivukkah is Dana Gitell from Boston, MA.


At first, she thought people would find it amusing, but the idea grew.  “The more I thought about,” she says, “I realized it’s also an opportunity to celebrate the Jewish-American experience and for Jewish-Americans to give thanks for America and the religious freedoms we enjoy here.  It’s also a chance for Hanukkah to enjoy a fresh spotlight, rather than being “lumped in” with Christmas.”


That is what brings me to the serious side of this article.  The two holidays that converged this year actually have quite a lot more in common than one might think at first look.


A miracle occurred in the 2nd century B.C., when a small band of Jews led by Judah Maccabee and his sons triumphed over the forces of King Antiochus IV.  When they entered the temple in Jerusalem, which had been desecrated by the occupying forces, only a small quantity of oil was found, just enough to last for only one day.  Miraculously this oil burned for eight days, enough time to acquire more oil to light the temple, which is why Jews light the candles on the menorah for eight nights.


Rabbi Tzvi Freeman recently posted on Chabad.org: “Thanksgiving is a narrative about an arduous journey to escape religious persecution for freedom in a new land, the establishment of a democratic charter and the sense of Divine providence that carried those refugees through their plight.  That’s Chanukah, as well, a narrative deeply embedded in the collective Jewish psyche of how we fought back against religious oppression in our own land, earned our freedom and thanked G-d for the miracles.”


Another Rabbi, David Paskin, was quoted as saying, “The story of Hanukkah is a story of religious freedom. It’s a story of a people yearning to truly live as full Jews and yet also be fully integrated into a secular society. The story of Thanksgiving is of pilgrims yearning for their own religious freedom and trying to find their identity in a new world that they didn’t even know yet.”


Hanukkah, just like Thanksgiving, is a celebration of a miracle of God’s provision. Both holidays are deeply rooted in expressions of gratitude for the freedoms and bounty we enjoy.   The parallels may not be as striking, nor the symbolism as fundamental as those between Easter and Passover, but the thread of commonality is undeniable, and so I wonder, “Why now?”  God’s plan is perfect and because it is His plan, I find myself wondering what He wants us to learn from this alignment of days on calendars that conflict, as we live out our lives in a society full of conflicting viewpoints.


This was all driven home as I watched the Fox News reports on the atheist campaign to take Christ out of Christmas in Times Square.  The atheist representative’s point was that we should allow everyone to share in the joy of Christmas equally and without guilt, regardless of whether or not they celebrated Christ as the reason for the season.  From my perspective, Christians have always welcomed everyone to join their celebrations at Christmas.  Yes, they hold out hope that the seeds of faith might be planted in those who don’t know Jesus, but they have never denied anyone their right to celebrate the holiday with or without religious conviction.  For many Christians it is the season of the prodigal as those who do not attend church regularly, are drawn to it at Christmas time.  Obviously, you can’t take Christ out of Christmas any more than you could take Thanks out of Thanksgiving or remove the miracle of the oil from the Hanukkah story – RIDICULOUS!


Thanksgivukkah

If I could address that man face to face, I would reply, “If you want to have a party and give gifts, have a party and give gifts, but admit there is no occasion for your celebration other than you want to have it, and stop trying to change Christmas to a secular event!”  How empty one must be to take such extreme steps to express a need to rely on someone else’s deepest convictions of Truth as an excuse to celebrate, and then defend it as a requirement for tolerance from the Christian community, yet that is apparently the atheist position, and just screams for our prayers!


The glaring Truth is that we all woke up in Babylon today, and most of us will wake up in Babylon again tomorrow.  We have a daily choice to follow Jesus or linger in Babylon a little longer.  There is no middle ground, no position of compromise.


Thanksgivukkah, and the unity it inspired, gave us a glimpse of life in the Holy City.


Hang on to that image and draw strength from it.


Blessings & Adventure,


Lynn “lynnibug” Rios


 

And the Light Shines in the Darkness…

Saturday, November 3rd, 2012

light

And the light shines also in my darkness.

Recently, I again read John 1:1-5, verses that I have read countless times before, but this time something was different.  A single phrase stood out, calling me to take a closer look.

John 1:1-5 (NKJV)
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  2 He was in the beginning  with  God.  3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.  4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.  5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

Strange that phrase had never stood out before… “and the darkness did not comprehend it” lends a trait to darkness I had not previously considered.  Could darkness be capable of intelligence or for that matter thought?  Another curiosity was the change in tense.  The light shines in present tense but the darkness responds in past tense.  I hoped to solve this unusual dilema by comparing several translations… it was like having an itch I could not scratch and I had to get to the bottom of it.

John 1:5 (NLT)
5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.

John 1:5 (KJV)
5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

John 1:5 (MSG)
5 The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn’t put it out.

John 1:5 (GW)
5 The light shines in the dark, and the dark has never extinguished it.

Two votes for past tense could not comprehend, one vote for past tense could not extinguish, and two votes for past, present and future inability to extinquish.  The word ‘extinguish’ added the mental picture of putting out a fire, as in overcoming or conquering something, and that kind of victory cannot be achieved without first understanding that which we seek to conquer.  So the darkness then, now, and forever, must struggle with the intrusion of light, yet will never prevail against it.  Hmmmm… so far so good.

It was about that time when my friend, Maikel, reminded me of something.  These verses parallel the creation story in Genesis.  Johns writings take us back to creation to teach us that Jesus was present “In the beginning…”, when God separated the light and the darkness.  Maikel’s point was that Jesus and His church are the continuation of this action of separating light from darkness.

light

But wait… If they are separated,

does the light still shine in the darkness?

This was not the rabbit hole I had imagined myself jumping into when I began this journey, but God’s path for me is rarely anything like what I am expecting.  With that in mind, it was time to revisit John 1 verses 1-5 with a fresh perspective.  This time I went to my AENT (Aramaic to English New Testament translation), as I often do when I feel I am getting closer but can’t quite reach it, hoping to acquire a deeper understanding of the intimacy between God and Jesus in the act of creation.

Yochanan 1:1-5 AENT
1 In the beginning was the Miltha. And that Miltha was with Elohim.   And Elohim was that Miltha.
2 This was with Elohim in the beginning.
3 Everything existed through His hands, and without Him, not even one thing existed of the things which have existed.
4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.
5 And that light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overtake it.

The word ‘overtake’ definitely fits in with the idea of overcoming, but wait… there is so much more….

‘Miltha’ is one of those words with multiple meanings.  It can mean word, manifestation, instance, or substance.  Elohim is God the Creator and Judge.  So in the beginning, when God, in the act of creation spoke the words “Let there be…” the manifestation of His substance, Miltha, was with Him.  Jesus is Miltha, the Ruach haKodesh or Spirit of God manifested in substance, the Son of God and man.  WOW!  In verse three we can sense the imagery of the word becoming a creative force in the  literal hands of the Miltha, like a sculptor working under the orders of a king.

It fills in the unfathomable gap between “God said ‘Let there be light'” and “and there was light” with Jesus!

light

Thanks again to Maikel, for pointing out the crucial fact that God only separated light and darkness. He did not destroy the darkness. The darkness is a reality we must contend with.  Jesus has come to bring light into the darkness.  He is the true light!  That, for us, is a message of boundless hope!  It was truth in the past, it is truth in the present, and it will be truth tomorrow!  No matter what kind of darkness we find ourselves in, the light of our Lord can reach us, and the darkness has no power to prevent it.  Amen!

Blessings & Adventure

Lynn “lynnibug” Rios

ACT! for America Founder Speaks Out!

Monday, March 5th, 2012

I try to keep the content on Wisdom Blog upbeat, but sometimes we need to take a long hard look at the world around us and stand up for what is right and just.

This video stands as a shining example of leadership in a world gone insane over so called political correctness and tolerance.

  If we hide our heads in the sand thinking “it could never happen in America”, we are deluding ourselves and our complacency will cause this land of opportunity to become a nation enslaved.


Wake up and listen!


The Aaronic Blessing

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

priestly-blessingWhen I was just a little girl my family belonged to a conservative Jewish congregation.  We were not religious by any stretch of the imagination.  My sister and I attended Sunday school, we occasionally attended Shabbat services on Friday night or Saturday mornings, and of course the whole family showed up dressed in their finest on the High Holy Days, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.  That is roughly equivalent to Christians who show up on Christmas and Easter.

Even with little to no personal relationship with God, my family was fiercely proud of our Jewish heritage and did what they could to keep us in Jewish community rather than mixing with gentiles.  I learned what I was taught about our history and the meanings of the various holidays, however I always felt there was a great deal of hypocrisy going on, and had little trust in the religion, because I saw very little devotion to the doctrine that I was being taught in my immediate family.  My grandfather and his generation had that devotion, but my parents, the ones I took my cues from, did not.

Still, there were a few things that stuck with me, that called out to my very spirit and made me feel connected to something far greater than myself when I heard them.  Looking back, I can identify God’s prevenient grace letting me know in those moments that no matter what the people around me said or did, He was real as real could be.   Aaronic Blessing

That is probably why I always desired to know more about Jesus, and understand why so many people were so devoted to Him.  That is probably also why when someone finally addressed the questions I had from a Jewish perspective, that I understood so completely that the gospel message was indeed Truth.

birkatיברכך יהוה וישמרך

יאר יהוה פניו אליך ויחנך

ישא יהוה פניו אליך וישם שלום

One of those things was the Aaronic Blessing, sometimes referred to as the priestly blessing.  In my childhood, I heard it used as the benediction after services, and though I did not understand it, I could not deny its power.  I was never taught what it was, or why it was sung with such reverence and spoken in such a ritual manner, with upwardly stretched arms and the fingers separated in the same manner as Mr. Spock when he used the traditional Vulcan greeting on Star Trek.

In more recent years, I have heard that blessing in the Messianic congregations I have visited, and this past Sunday afternoon, upon hearing it again, and feeling its power again, I suddenly needed to know more.  What I learned was so moving and so absolutely beautiful, that I could not wait to share it with everyone near me.

It is found in the book of Numbers, the law that God gave to Moses.  It follows the passages that detail how one takes the vow of a Nazirite to separate himself to the Lord.   The Nazirite vows were specific and sacrificial, and according to the law, “…until the days are fulfilled for which he separated himself to the LORD, he shall be holy.” Numbers 6:5 (NKJV)

That should give us a clue about just how serious this portion of scripture is, and just as the law concerning the Nazirite vows ends, God gives instruction on how the people are to be blessed by the priesthood.

Numbers 6:22-23 (NKJV) “And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them:”

And here comes the powerful blessing God commanded to be spoken to the children of Israel.

Numbers 6:24-26 (NKJV)
24 “The LORD bless you and keep you;
25 The LORD make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you;
26 The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.”

Finally, verse 27 tells us why.

Numbers 6:27 (NKJV)
27 “So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.”

When we receive this blessing, the name of God is on us and He will bless us!  That sounds like some pretty good news to me, but it gets a lot better.  The blessing itself is a threefold blessing that foreshadows our understanding of the Holy Trinity.

24 “The LORD bless you and keep you;

(as a Father would do)

25 The LORD make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you;

(Jesus, the Son, came to offer us grace)

26 The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.”

(peace as we receive from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit)

I did a little more digging because I know that the English language seldom captures the full meaning of the words that have been translated first to Greek and then to other languages.  I found those expanded meanings on a research site I sometimes visit, ancient-hebrew.org.

“The Hebrew word for “bless” is “barak” which literally means “to kneel”. A berakah is a “blessing” but more literally, the bringing of a gift to another on a bended “knee”. When we bless God or others, we are in essence, bringing a gift on bended “knee”. A true king is one who serves his people, one who will humble himself and come to his people on a bended knee. 

The Hebrew word for “keep” is “shamar” which literally means “to guard”. A related word is “shamiyr” which means “thorn”. When the shepherd was out in the wilderness with his flock, he would construct a corral of thorn bushes to protect the sheep from predators, a guarding over of the sheep.

With this more Hebraic concept of Hebrew words we can now read the beginning of the Aaronic blessing as, “Yahweh will kneel before you presenting gifts and will guard you with a hedge of protection“. The remaining portions of the Aaronic blessing can also be examined for its original Hebraic meaning revealing the following:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Lord will kneel before you presenting gifts and will guard you with a hedge of protection;

The Lord will illuminate the wholeness of His being toward you bringing order and He will provide you with love, sustenance, and friendship;

The Lord will lift up his wholeness of being and look upon you and He will set in place all you need to be whole and complete.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In this expanded translation I see the blessing God intended all along, Jesus, the Suffering Servant, The Light of the world, the Lamb of God who brings us peace!  Not just any peace, but Shalom, which encompasses freedom from all disaster, health, tranquility, and serenity, the “peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” from Philippians 4:7 (NKJV)

When I was a brand new baby Christian, my first teacher, Dr. Al Anderson used to say “The Old Testament is Jesus concealed, the New Testament is Jesus revealed.”   It is humbling to reflect on the truth of this statement, and on how God was nudging me right into the arms of Jesus, using the very people that believed Jesus was not the Son of God, to bless me with such a powerful benediction.

Blessings & Adventure,

Lynn “lynnibug” Rios

A Jewish Perspective on Mathew 23

Monday, March 21st, 2011

A friend of mine challenged me to write about Matthew 23:1-15 as she thought I might have a uniquely Jewish perspective on the subject.  As I began to research the passage, it became apparent that she had found one of those never ending spirals, and this was going to be a lot of fun for me.  In the end, a fine blue thread unraveled the mystery.  Read on and you will see what I mean.

In case you don’t quite grasp the never ending spiral reference, let me give you another picture.  Imagine a cereal box with a picture of a boy sitting at the breakfast table, and next to his cereal bowl in the picture, is the cereal box with the picture of the boy eating cereal, and of course next to the bowl on the table in that picture is the cereal box with the picture of the boy eating cereal…you get the picture…it just goes on and on.

It has always been customary for Jewish scholars to debate the meaning of the scriptures ad nauseum; I guess it is in the DNA of the Jewish people to debate.  What Jesus has to say in these verses is debated among the Messianic scholars today, revealing the same polar opposite conclusions that Jesus was pointing out to those who gathered before Him on that day.  So, the only way I can approach this is to begin with some sweeping generalities, and then to dissect the passage line by line.  Even I am not certain what conclusion I will come to as I begin, but THAT is the reason we ask the Holy Spirit to guide us as we seek.Three groups dominated the Jewish culture of the time.

1.       Pharisees: A religious party of scribes and rabbis.  A progressive group among the Jews in that they adopted many teachings not clearly found in the Hebrew Scriptures.  Sticklers for enforcement of the law as they interpreted it.

2.       Sadducees: A religious party of the priesthood and certain wealthy Jews.  Not such sticklers as the Pharisees for the details of law enforcement.

3.       Essenes: A true religious sect originating during the Maccabean revolt.  In some respects, more legalistic than the Pharisees.  They had adopted some Persian beliefs and practices, lived communally, as a brotherhood in monasteries, refrained from marriage, and specialized in teaching about angels.

Jesus, in a nutshell, is saying, ‘don’t be like the Pharisees’, as they were the most visible and vocal, but the underlying message to all of the leaders is that if you are prideful about your position, and consider your knowledge of God superior to any other man, you simply do not know God at all.  In all their years of scholarly study, they never developed a relationship with God, nor did they teach of His love.  Jesus came that we might truly understand that first and foremost God loves us.

Now, let’s tear this passage apart!

1-2 Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat.”

The particular place in the synagogue where the leaders used to sit was known metaphorically as the ‘seat of Moses’ or ‘throne of Torah’.  Common people could not read and write, only the scholars, and so the law was taught to the people orally as the Pharisees interpreted it, usually quite literally.  If I close my eyes, these words of Jesus bring to mind a picture of a prideful man sitting on an ornate chair of some sort, fancying himself more powerful than he truly is, and speaking with authority he does not have.

3 “Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do.”

Jesus acknowledges that the Pharisees are indeed charged with studying the scripture and teaching the law, but warns His followers to observe (as in observing the feasts of the Lord)  and do as they are taught, but not to emulate the actions of the Pharisees because they do not ‘practice what they preach’.

4 “For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.”

This verse speaks to hypocrisy.  The Pharisees were notorious for adding minute details and requirements to the law that made it impossible for the average person to keep the law. They offered the people no practical advice in working the law out in their lives or in building a relationship with the heavenly Father.  (Life Application New Testament Commentary)

5 “But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments.”

There is an interesting twist in the translation of verse 5.  What are spoken of here are Tefillin, small leather boxes that contain parchment scrolls with specific scriptures on them.  They are attached to leather straps that are wound around the forearm to the bicep, and around the head of observant Jews placing the boxes in specific positions. Their purpose is to literally obey the commandment in Deuteronomy 6:8, “You shall bind them for a sign upon your hand and they shall be for frontlets between your eyes.”  A scripture that says to me, ‘Remember the law I have given you, and teach it to your children by deed and example, let it be reflected in everything you do, that God will be revealed to others through you.’, was taken literally to mean ‘wrap theses things around your body’.  The Pharisees made a show of everything they did, so their Tefillin were bigger and bader than everyone else’s, and in their pride, many carried themselves as if they were more righteous because of it.  That is why I found it interesting that tefillin was translated to English ‘phylacteries’ from the Greek ‘phulakterion’ which means safeguard, amulet, or charm, and does not even come close to the meaning of tefillin.

In the Aramaic to English New Testament (AENT) verse 5 reads, “And they do all their deeds that they might be seen by the sons of men.  For they widen their Tefillin and lengthen the Tekhelet of their robes.”

Tekhelet was a very rare and difficult to produce blue dye, made from a snail so rare it was worth its weight in gold.  This precious dye colored the robes of the kings and princes of Media, Babylon, Egypt, Greece and Rome. To wear them was to be identified with royalty.

What we are about to uncover speaks to verse 4 as well, so to avoid any assumptions about what was a biblical command and what was a scholarly interpretation, we must look at Numbers 15:37-39 (NKJV) “Again the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel: Tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a blue thread in the tassels of the corners.  And you shall have the tassel, that you may look upon it and remember all the commandments of the LORD and do them, and that you may not follow the harlotry to which your own heart and your own eyes are inclined, and that you may remember and do all My commandments, and be holy for your God.”

The scripture calls for a single blue thread which would require very little of this dye, and there is no requirement for special knots.  The Talmud (scholarly and rabbinic commentary on the Torah), however, details a bit more intricately made tassel.  This is how the Pharisees adorned the corners of their garments in a manner the common people simply could not afford or accomplish.

I do not mean to belabor this point, but if you really read this excerpt from Wikipedia, you will fully understand my point.

The tassel (tzitzit) on each corner is made of four strands, which when threaded andTsitsit hang down appear to be eight (known as kaful shemoneh). The four strands are passed through a hole (or according to some: two holes) 1-2 inches (25 to 50 mm) away from the corner of the cloth. There are numerous customs as to how to tie the tassels. The Talmud explains that the Bible requires an upper knot (kesher elyon) and one wrapping of three winds (hulya). The Talmud enjoined that between 7 to 13 hulyot be tied, and that “one must start and end with the color of the garment.” As for the making of knots in between the hulyot, the Talmud is inconclusive, and as such poskim (“decisors of Jewish law”) have interpreted this requirement in various ways.[1] The Talmud described tying assuming the use of tekhelet dye, however, following the loss of the source of the dye, various customs of tying were introduced to compensate for the lack of this primary element.  Though many methods exist, the one that gained the widest acceptance can be described as follows:

The four strands of the tzitzit are passed through holes near the four corners of the garment (Shulchan AruchOrach Chaim 11:9-11,15) that are farthest apart (10:1). Four tzitzyot are passed through each hole (11:12-13), and the two groups of four ends are double-knotted to each other at the edge of the garment near the hole (11:14,15). One of the four tzitzit is made longer than the others (11:4); the long end of that one is wound around the other seven ends and double-knotted; this is done repeatedly so as to make a total of five double knots separated by four sections of winding, with a total length of at least four inches, leaving free-hanging ends that are twice that long (11:14).[2] Before tying begins, a Hebrew blessing is said (it’s more of a “declaration of intent”): L’Shem Mitzvat Tzitzit (“for the sake of the commandment of tzitzit”).

For the sake of the commandment???  Where did all of this come from?  Can you feel Jesus’s frustration a little better now?

Back to Matthew 23

6 – 7 “They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’ “

Well that is pretty straight forward.  Prideful social climbers relishing in being glorified by men.

8 – 10 “But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.  And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ.”

I believe that here Jesus refers to the most sacred prayer of Judaism, the Shema.

Deuteronomy 6:4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!” Jesus is saying that God alone is our father and God alone is our teacher, the example we are to follow.

11 -12 “But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant.  And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Jesus has now told them about how it really works when God is in charge.  He speaks of servant leadership, ultimately demonstrated when he washes the feet of the disciples.

13-15 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.  Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation.  Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.”

Jesus sums it all up with a warning to those who take on the responsibility of leadership among God’s children.  Leaders are responsible for the eternal souls of those they lead, and will be held accountable for leading God’s children astray.  Leaders are held to a higher standard.

The revelation that God has given me as I wrap up this study is that although, we may only hear Jesus admonishing the Pharisees while summarily warning the Sadducees and the Essenes by proxy, there is an underlying lesson in grace.  Jesus is saying to this crowd of commoners that they are loved by God, so much so that He will be their Teacher and their Guide.  It foreshadows the gift of a new mediator that will present those who love Him and follow Him blameless before the God of all creation.

Blessings & Adventure,

Lynn “lynnibug” Rios

 

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