The Aaronic Blessing from an Hebraic Viewpoint

The Aaronic Blessing from an Hebraic Viewpoint

The LORD bless you and keep you: The LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you: The LORD lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26 RSV)

To understand this very special blessing, for which God Himself chose the wording, we must look at the language it was written in. We must take on the mindset of the Ancient Hebrew people and see the meaning of the words from their viewpoint. And when we do, you will see that English doesn’t come even close to the magnificence of this amazing grace.

The red letters are the root forms of the words in Hebrew.
Lines within the words divide them into syllables.

So from an Hebraic perspective, it would be better translated:

YHVH will kneel before you,* giving you gifts, and He will guard you, hedging you about with His protection. YHVH will illuminate you with the entirety of His being, bringing order where disorder was, and He will be your comfort and provide for all your needs. YHVH will lift up His wholeness of being upon you and He will set in place everything to make you whole and complete. * figuratively speaking

In our weekly Havdalah meeting, our Messianic congregation receives the Aaronic blessing as given by one of our pastors or our cantor/rabbi. This is allowed because Yeshua has made us a kingdom of priests and kings to His Father (Revelation 1:6). Therefore, not only can we receive the blessing, but as priests we can speak it over others as well.

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Hebrew Word of the Week: Pray

Hebrew Word of the Week: Pray

Word of the Week

Mefalel

Hebrew

This week, I want to take a look the verb meaning “pray” in Hebrew. It looks like this:

מְפַלֵּל

“Yih’yeh zeh mam’niy sheaniy tzariykh’ l’haf’siyk l’hit’palel bish’viyl’kha.”

“As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you.” 1 Samuel 12:23

I chose the verb to pray instead of the noun prayer because it is something we should be doing all the time.

It is interesting to note that God did not make prayer a mitzvah (commandment or good deed). Yet we somehow know deep in our hearts that we always ought to be praying to God. Praying is a part of who we are as we are made in God’s image. He communicates to us and by extension, we should be praying to God. God is a god of communication, and since we are in His image, we, too, are creatures of communication.

Although we see people praying at set times (like Daniel and David), yet God has not set a specific time or number of times during the day, to pray.

Were a person to know the time when, if they pray, they will be answered, they would leave off other times and pray only then. Accordingly, the Holy One said: For this reason I do not let you know when you will be answered, so that you will be willing to pray at all times, as is said, ‘Put your trust in God at all times’ (Psalms 62:9)” (Aggadah Bereshit 77).

Praying should be as automatic as breathing. It is a way of life, not mere moments in time. Pray without ceasing, says 1 Thessalonians 5:17.

“Then the king said to the man of God, “Intercede with the Lord your God and pray for me that my hand may be restored.” So the man of God interceded with the Lord, and the king’s hand was restored and became as it was before.” 1 Kings 13:6

Why did the people of other nations come to the Hebrews for prayer? Because they knew that the God of the Hebrews heard His children when they prayed. Their own gods were incapable of hearing, but they knew that the Hebrew God not only heard prayer, He answered it as well.

Making prayer as automatic as breathing requires devotion. It is an acknowledgment of the world as it truly is.

“For prayer is not the shutting of one’s eyes to reality. It is the glimmer, the intimation, the daring which leads to the transcending of reality” (Jakob Petuchowski)

It is a recognition that not are we small and limited in the universe, but that we also have the capacity for goodness and greatness. We seem insignificant but have the attention of Almighty God. We are not alone, nor are we helpless. God is just a breath away.

“The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness (Jeremiah 31:3).”

“If prayer is pure and untainted, surely that holy breath that rises from your lips will join with the breath of heaven that is always flow­ing into you from above.”

(From the Hasidic work Keter Shem Tov, as adapted in Your Word Is Fire, by Arthur Green and Barry Holtz)

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Ahavah

Ahavah

Word of the Week

Ahavah

 

Hebrew

In Hebrew, the word we translate love is a•ha•VAH (אהבה).

Interestingly, it is both a verb and a noun. The root of the word is אהב, which means to give.

In most of the English-speaking world, love is thought to be an intense longing for another person, a feeling that is crucial to our well-being. But that only begins to scratch the surface of what ahavah truly means.

Jewish people in the past regarded love as something you did, not as a feeling. In the most sacred prayer, foundational to Judaism, we are commanded to love God.


				

אוהב את אלוהים

It reads (in English): “Hear, O Israel, the Lord thy God, the Lord is one.” It comes from Deuteronomy 6:4.

To pronounce it in Hebrew, you would say: Shema Yisrael, Adonai eloheinu Adonai ehad.

It continues by saying “and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and with all your might.”

 

Now God is not so capricious as to command us to have a feeling. We really have not much control over our feelings, but we have nearly total control over our actions.

That’s when ahavah ceases to be a noun and becomes a verb.

A verb is an action word, something we do. So when we are commanded to love, we are not commanded to feel. That’s a different verb.

The Jews see ahavah as a form of giving. We think that we give because we love. But in essence, it’s the opposite. We love because we give. We love our children because we give to them. We give them life, food, clothing, education, gifts, etc. We shower gifts on those we love, and we tend to think that we do it because we love them.

The Jewish perspective is different. To foster love, according to the late Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler, we must be generous. If we extend what we have in our hands and our hearts, love will grow. He explains that giving to another human being is an extension of ourselves. Our soul (Hebrew NE•fish) becomes knit with one another. David and Jonathan loved each other, and their hearts were knit together.

1 Samuel 18:1 says “As soon as he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.”

Giving ourselves to another creates a bond that in the spiritual is a real thing. The proof of that is the pain we feel when our soul is torn from another when relationships split up. We “become one flesh” when we marry. Divorce or the death of a spouse renders the soul in the most intense pain you can endure.

To love, we must first be generous. To be truly generous, we need to give without self-interest. If we give expecting anything in return (including love), it is a transaction. Yet when we transcend the selfish self and share or give something that is dear to us without any thought of recompense, it triggers love. It doesn’t matter what we are giving—it is the selflessness in giving that elicits a love response.

To give ahavah (which means give in its root form), we bridge the gap between souls and start the process of soul-merger.

That is the very definition of ahavah.

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Offerings to God: A Messianic Perspective

Offerings to God: A Messianic Perspective

For premillennialists (those who believe that Jesus will have an earthly reign after the rapture of the church), it’s difficult to understand why there would be animal sacrifices during the millennial reign. After all, Hebrews 10 makes it very clear that God does not desire sacrifices and that Jesus’ death was the ultimate sacrifice once for all.

When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law),  then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second.  And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 10:8-10)

  “And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to Him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be His

servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast My covenant—these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”

The Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares, “I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered (Isaiah 56:6-8).”

Perhaps the best description of the Holy Temple of the Millennial Kingdom occurs beginning in Ezekiel 40. In Ezekiel 43:18-46:24, God gives explicit instructions concerning sacrifices and how they will be performed. So we know that there will be animal sacrifices then. In fact, without them, Daniel 9:27 would have to be completely misconstrued.

“He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple he will set up an

abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him (Daniel 9:27).”

So why would God set up animal sacrifices in the Millennial Kingdom?

First, it is important to note that Jesus’ sacrifice offered the perfect atonement for all the sins of mankind from the beginning of time until the end of time. Do not think for one minute that sacrifices made in the Old Testament took away the sins of the Israelites. According to Scripture itself, that would be impossible.

But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins (Hebrews 10:4).”

The reason most Christians don’t agree that there will be sacrifices once Jesus is reigning is because they don’t understand what sacrifices were supposed to do. Animal sacrifices were designed to make men face their sins and realize that they were in need of God. The sacrifices were meant to bring the Israelites to repentance.

The Hebrews of early Judaism were not cold, unfeeling people. They actually loved their flocks, sometimes allowing kids and lambs inside their own houses, particularly before Passover. That Paschal lamb was taken into the house four days before it was to be slaughtered. These Jews, as I said, loved their flocks. (That’s precisely why Jesus used the analogy of taking care of sheep and calls us the sheep of His hand.) If you have a pet, you know how fond of them people can be. Now, don’t get me wrong; I’m NOT saying that the Jews looked at the Paschal lamb as a pet—far from it! But having an innocent, baby animal in your home for a protracted period of time brought them severely up against the seriousness of their sin. It would require an animal being slaughtered on their behalf, shedding its own blood when it had done nothing wrong. In fact, it was to be a perfect lamb.

Sacrifices were never provided to win God’s favor.

The Psalmist  makes it abundantly clear that the sacrifices that God has regard for are a contrite heart and a humble spirit. Those, God will accept. God made the animals for His and mankind’s enjoyment. And the very first sin caused an animal to be sacrificed to cover man’s sin, not take it away!

For You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; You take no pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise (Psalm 51:17).” “The LORD God fashioned garments from animal skins for Adam and his wife, and clothed them (Genesis 3:21).” 

So what will the sacrifices do in the Millennial Kingdom?

The exact same thing they did in the Old Testament. God has never delighted in the shedding of blood. Sacrifices are not pleasing to Him. They will be then as they ever have

been for mankind’s benefit. To bring us up short and show how serious it is to violate God’s commands.

Sin separates us from God. When the sacrifices on the altar in the New Kingdom take place, in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year.

The saints who are ruling with Jesus in that time will not be offering sacrifices even as a reminder of past sins. Because when a person—whether Jew or Gentile—receives light and life through Jesus’ sacrifice, that person is made completely new. The sinner he was no longer even exists. He does not need a reminder of sin, because sin belonged to a different creature, and because he will joyously be serving God as a creation who no longer sins.

 

And that’s Good News!

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new (2 Corinthians 5:17).”

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The King is in the Field

The King is in the Field

Complete Jewish Bible Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) 5:9 says: “But the greatest advantage to the country is when the king makes himself a servant to the land.”

A Paradox: Holiness among the common.

Elul is the 12th month of the Jewish year, a period of paradox just before the new year and high holy days begin. It is a time of introspection, when Jews examine their hearts and repent for their sins. At the same time, it is when God showers His mercy on them.

[bctt tweet=”The month of Elul in the Jewish calendar is a paradox; holy days filled with work.” username=”suzi59344978″]

In Judaism, there are holy times and there are “profane” (or common) times. The entire month of Elul is considered holy. I once heard it called “a haven in time, a city of refuge from the ravages of material life.” I love that analogy because it reminds me that in the end days, God will make a place of refuge for those who believe in Him.

Psalm 27:5: “For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; in the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock.”

The name Elul is an acronym.

Elul is pronounced eh-lool. It is spelled (in Hebrew) aleph-lamed-vav-lamed. These letters represent acronyms that convey spiritual aspects of life during this special, unusual period of time. (In 2018 the month of Elul begins at sundown on August 11 and ends at sundown of September 9.)

“Eina L’yadi V’samti Lach” means that the Messiah will have express knowledge of the Torah, and so this is a time for studying Torah for Jews as well. As Christians and Messianic Jews, we know that Yeshua (Jesus) is the Word of God. He proclaimed that He came not to abolish the law (Torah) but to fulfill it. 

In John 1:1 we read: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

Then we find His words concerning the law in Matthew 5:17 where He says: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”

[bctt tweet=”The Talmud says, divrei torah koltin (the study of Torah provides refuge).” username=”suzi59344978″]

Interestingly, The Talmud says, “divrei torah koltin” (the study of Torah provides refuge).

The next acronym is “Et L’vavcha V’et L’vav” meaning “teshuvah” or repentance. This refers in Elul to turning back to God, repenting of our sins and seeking God’s ways. Believers in Yeshua know that they are given everything necessary to live life in a godly manner according to 2 Peter 1:3, and that they are already forgiven for their sins both past and future. We know that it is God’s lovingkindness, His mercy, that brings us to repentance (Romans 2:4).

Photo by GoodMan_Ekim on Creative Commons

Next comes the acronym “Ani L’dodi V’dodi Li.” This comes from the Song of Songs 6:3 and translates to “I’m my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine.” It speaks of love and commands “avodah” (prayer) during this holy month as well.

The fourth acronym is “Ish L’rei-eihu U’matonat L’ev-yonim,” which means gemillut/chassodim (charity/kindness). God’s people are focused on taking care of the poor and treating everyone with kindness.

Finally, there is one more acronym which I find particularly interesting. First of all, you have to read it backwards to get the acronym right. “L’Hashem Va-yomru Leimor Ashirah” which comes from Exodus 15:1, singing to the Messiah.

But what does all this have to do with the king being in the field?

Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi has a metaphor that helps explain the paradox of Elul being a holy month yet made of workdays (work is commonly forbidden during holy times such as the Sabbath and festivals of God).

Imagine a king in Israel. If you, being a common person, wanted an audience with him, you’d have to travel to Jerusalem from wherever you are. You’d have to pass through all the gates and checkpoints, go through all the ministers and secretaries (all the bureaucracy) before you could be granted an audience. Then you would have to behave in a specific way, use specific language, and follow a specific dress code. That’s the way it is on common days.

[bctt tweet=”But in the month of Elul, the king leaves his palace and stands in the field with the common people.” username=”suzi59344978″]

But in the month of Elul, the king leaves his palace and stands in the field with the common people. They can approach him freely, even in the midst of their work, and he will listen to them with a smiling face and open arms. Even the highest ranking person in his court does not have this kind of access to the king when he is in his palace. But for this one month, the king is in the field.

As we celebrate this month of holiness in our common workaday world, remember that the reason this is a holy month is because God is with us (Immanuel)!

As Yeshua said, “And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20).”

Yes, the King in in the field!

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Binding and Loosing from a Messianic Perspective

Binding and Loosing from a Messianic Perspective

Photo courtesy of Diego on Unsplash

Authority of Binding and Loosing

The church for years (since 1960) has embraced the Charismatic movement which was begun officially by “Father” Dennis Bennett of St. Mark’s Episcopal parish in Van Nuys, California. Included in this revival movement were the gifts of the Holy Spirit as enumerated in 1 Corinthians 12:8-11. These nine gifts are: wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecies, discernment of spirits, speaking in tongues, and interpretation of tongues. None of them includes “binding and loosing.”

So what did Jesus mean when He told His disciples that they would have the power to bind and loose?

“Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven (Matthew 18:18 NIV).”

For many in the church today and stemming back to 1960, it referred to power over spiritual activity here on earth and in heaven.

Jesus did say that the demons were subject to His disciples in His name, as evidenced in this scripture.

Luke 10:17 says: The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”

Notice two things about this scripture. First, it applied to seventy two disciples sent out, not just to the twelve in His inner circle. What He gave to them, He also has given to us.

Second, the demons were subject in Jesus’ name, NOT in any power the disciples had. This is a privilege of true believers who carry the Spirit of God in their hearts. Remember what happened when an unbeliever tried to use Jesus’ name to cast out demons?

Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. But the evil spirit answered them, ‘Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?’ And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded (Acts 19:13-16 NIV).”

Casting demons out of people is something that every believer should be able to do in Jesus’ name. It is only His name that the demons respect, not the words we speak from our own thoughts or even our hearts. Remember that even Michael the archangel did not accuse Satan directly.

Jude 1:9 tells us:“But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’”

So is that what Jesus meant?

Were we to bind and loose spirits on earth and in heaven?

If you take a Scripture in context, you have to look at who’s speaking, who’s being spoken to, how they would have understood the words spoken, and in what setting all this speaking happened.

Remembering that this was a Jewish Messiah speaking to Jewish disciples, it makes the most sense to look at it from a Jewish perspective, does it not?

In the context of teaching His disciples, this scripture is not talking about authority to bind and loose evil spirits. Why on earth would they ever loose an evil spirit? Or for what reason would an angel be bound?

Jesus was discussing the sin in the church right before this verse.

If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector (Matthew 18:15-17 NIV).”

Photo courtesy of Blake Campbell on Unsplash

At the time, rabbis decided issues of Jewish law. The power vested in them through the Torah allowed them to “bind” or “loose” a specific action. The Hebrew word לֶאֱסוֹר (translated bind) means to forbid, and מוּתָר (translated loose) means to permit. These terms in the original Greek are translated the same way, with δήσητε (you shall bind) meaning to obligate, compel or bind and λύσητε (you shall loose) meaning to free, unchain, release, or loose. These were legal terms that the Hebrew disciples would have fully understood. These kinds of “bindings” and “loosings” show up thousands of times in the Jewish scriptures and rabbinic writings. The 

passage below illustrates exactly what Jesus was describing.

“If one sage declared something as bound, he should not ask another sage who might declare it loosed. If two sages are both present and one rules something unclean and the other rules it clean, if one binds and the other looses, then if one of them is superior to the other in learning and number of disciples, follow his ruling, otherwise, follow the stricter view. (b.Avodah Zarah 7a).”

That was then. But Jesus uses the future tense when He says whatever they bind on earth will be bound on heaven, and whatever they loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

So what was He talking about, exactly?

Jesus was referring to the era when He will reign on earth as Elohim, HaMelech (God the King) and He will at that time give the keys of the Kingdom to His twelve disciples along with the authority to bind and loose. In other words, they will rule with Him.

“Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28 NIV).”

But His words also had an immediate context as well, as did most of what Jesus taught. In the time of the Apostles, they had the authority to make decisions as judges concerning judicial matters of the newborn church. Following Jesus’ teaching, they used their authority whenever and wherever it was needed.

“But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn them to speak no longer to anyone in this name.” Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard (Acts 4:17-20 NIV).”

The Apostles also exercised that authority when some Jews were telling the Gentiles that they had to follow the Mosaic Law and  be circumcised. They “loosed” them from the yoke of the whole Torah even though it continued to apply to unsaved Jews. Nevertheless, they “bound” them in certain restrictions.

“The apostles and elders, your brothers, To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia: Greetings. We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul— men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing.  It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements:  You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell (Acts 15:23-29 NIV).”

So were they abolishing the law?

Absolutely not. This binding and loosing did not extend to nullifying the commands God had spoken, nor did it authorize them to make new commandments. Jews were still bound to the laws as God had given them, until they became believers in Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Messiah). Even after coming to faith, Jewish believers in Messiah continued following the Torah commandments.

Do some Messianic Jews today observe the old law?

Once again, you need a Jewish perspective on the law. The Torah was not given as a burden. It is a cherished gift from God that shows Jews how to live a life pleasing to God.  Of course, the law also provides punishment for disobedience. So when a Jewish believer in Christ celebrates the Feasts or rests on the Sabbath, he does not think he is garnering favor with God. He knows he is already beloved of God. Instead, he is worshipping God with his entire life.

“So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good (Romans 7:12 NIV).”

Since Paul recognized that the law was good, we should understand that we are not bound by the law of the Torah so that it is a burden, but in thankfulness for the immense gift bestowed upon us by a gracious God, we are loosed to delight in the law and celebrate the Torah and God’s appointed times, whether you are Jew or Gentile!

Photo courtesy of Amos Bar-Zeev on Unsplash

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