Parashat Pinchas / פרשת פינחס

25:4 And ADONAI (יהוה) said to Moshe:

Take all the heads of the people, and hang them up before ADONAI (יהוה) against the sun, that the fierce anger of ADONAI (יהוה) may be turned away from Yisrael.

25:9 And those that died in the plague were twenty and four thousand. (1 corinthian 10)

Parashah 41: Pinchas 25:10-30 (29:40)

25:10 (i)

And ADONAI (יהוה) spoke to Moshe, saying:

25:11 Pinchas (פּינח), Ben El Azar (אלעזר), Ben Aharon Kohen, has turned My wrath away from benai Yisrael, while he was zealous for My sake among them, that I consumed not benai Yisrael in My Jealousy.

25:12 לָכֵ֖ן אֱמֹ֑ר הִנְנִ֨י נֹתֵ֥ן לוֹ֛ אֶת-בְּרִיתִ֖י שָלוֹֽם׃

Laken Emor Hinni Noten Lo Et-Beriti Shalom

Wherefore say: Behold, I give to him My covenant of peace;

25:13 וְהָ֤יְתָה לּוֹ֙ וּלְזַרְעוֹ֣ אַחֲרָ֔יו בְּרִ֖ית כְּהֻנַּ֣ת עוֹלָ֑ם תַּ֗חַת אֲשֶ֤ר קִנֵּא֙ לֵאלֹהָ֔יו וַיְכַפֵּ֖ר עַל-בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃

Vehaita Lo Ulezaro Akharav Berit Kehunat Olam takhat Asher Kine LeLohav Vayekhaper Al-Benei Yisrael.

and it shall be to him, and to his seed after him, the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was jealous for his Elohim, and made atonement for the children of Yisrael.’

25:14 Now the name of the Yisraelite that was shachat (slaughtered), [even] that was shachat (slaughtered) with the Midyan woman, [was] Zimri Ben Salu, a Nasi a chief house among the Shimeonites.

25:15 And the name of the Midyan woman that was shachat (slaughtered) [was] Kozbi bat Zur; he [was] head over a people, [and] of a chief Bayit in Midyan.

25:16 And ADONAI (יהוה) spoke to Moshe, saying,

25:17 Vex the Midyanim, and smite them:

25:18 For they vex you with their wiles, wherewith they have beguiled you in the matter of Peor, and in the matter of Kozbi, bat a Nasi Midyan, their sister, which was shachat (slaughtered) in the day of the plague for Peor’s sake.

Beit Midrash Torah-Seeker

the sin of Ba’al Pe’or. First, וַיָּחֶל הָעָם, לִזְנוֹת אֶל-בְּנוֹת מוֹאָב – Israel began to commit harlotry with the daughters of Moav. וַתִּקְרֶאןָ לָעָם, לְזִבְחֵי אֱלֹהֵיהֶן – these women called Israel to sacrifice to their gods. And then, וַיֹּאכַל הָעָם, וַיִּשְׁתַּחֲווּ לֵאלֹהֵיהֶן. and the people ate, and bowed down to their gods.

“The broken ו (VAV)” in Numbers 25:12 is telling us that “the Man” has been broken for the sake of Covenant of Peace that brings atonement for Israel. This broken ו (VAV) is a clear picture of the Jewish Messiah, Yeshua. The word “שלום (SHALOM)” in Numbers 25:12, with broken ו (VAV) can be read as “שלים (COMPLETE).” Another explanation that His brokenness is the completion; the finality; the ultimate perfection.

promiscuity is taking sexual activity, which is meant to be a tool for a deep and loving relationship, and using it for selfish, superficial pleasure. And idolatry is about taking worship, also a tool for a deep and loving relationship – with God – and making the rituals meaningless, for selfish purposes, to curry favor gods. These are both ways of willingly destroying – or, at least, severely depreciating – the very concept of intimacy. And at the heart of both of these things is not just selfishness – it’s a lie we tell ourselves. The idolater, the adulterer, they deceive themselves into thinking that they can have our cake and eat it too. Sure, they’ll also use those tools to build intimate relationships, they’re not denying that. But why can’t they also separate them and just feel pleasure? Because when you remove the relationship part, you really do cheapen those tools… and you cheapen the concept of intimacy itself.

Lesson of Moshe 40

Balak sends for Bil’am

22:1 And benai Yisrael set forward, and pitched in the plains of Moav on this side Yardan [by] Yericho.

Haftarah Hukkat:Softim 11:1-33

Brit Hadshah : Yochanan 3:9-21; 4:3-30; 12:27-50

Parashah 40: Balak 22:2-25:9

(In regular years read with Parashah 39, in leap years read separately)

22:2 (i) And Balak (בּלק) Ben Tzippor saw all that Yisrael had done to the Emorites.

22:3 And Moav was sore afraid of the people, because they [were] many: and Moav was distressed because of benai Yisrael.

22:4 And Moav said to the Zakenei (elders) Midyan, Now shall this company lick up all [that are] round about us, as the ox licks up the grass of the field. And Balak (בּלק) Ben Tzippor [was] melekh the Moavites at that time.

22:5 sent messengers to Bil’am (בּלעם) Ben Beorat Petor, which is near the River in the land of children of his people (Amaw), to call him, saying, “Behold, a people has come out of Mitzrayim. They cover the face of the earth, and they are dwelling opposite me.

22:6 Therefore please come at once, curse this people for me, for they are too mighty for me. Perhaps I shall be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land, for I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed.”

22:7וַיֵּלְכוּ זִקְנֵי מוֹאָב וְזִקְנֵי מִדְיָן וּקְסָמִיםבְּיָדָם וַיָּבֹאוּ אֶל-בִּלְעָם וַיְדַבְּרוּ אֵלָיו דִּבְרֵיבָלָק׃

Vayelechu ziknei Mo’av veziknei Midyan ukesamim beyadam vayavo’u el-Bil’am vaydabberu elav divrei valak.

So the Ziknei (elders) of Moav and the Ziknei of Midyan departed with the rewards of divination in their hand, and they came to Bil’am (בּלעם) and spoke to him the words of Balak (בּלק).

22:8 And he said to them, “Lodge here tonight, and I will bring back word to you, as ADONAI(יהוה) speaks to me.” So the princes of Moav stayed with Bil’am (בּלעם).

22:9 And Elohim (אלהים) came to Bil’am (בּלעם), and said, “Who are these men with you?”

22:10 And Bil’am (בּלעם) said to Elohim (אלהים), Balak (בּלק) Ben Tzippor, melekh Moav, has sent to me, saying,

22:11 ‘behold, a people has come out of Mitzrayim, and they cover the face of the earth. Come now, curse them for me; perhaps I shall be able to overpower them and drive them out.’ “

22:12 And Elohim (אלהים) said to Bil’am (בּלעם), “You shall not go with them; you shall not curse the people, for they are blessed.”

22:13 (RY:v; LY:ii)

So Bil’am (בּלעם) rose in the morning and said to the princes of Balak (בּלק), “Go back to your land, for ADONAI (יהוה) has refused to give me permission to go with you.”

22:14 And the princes of Moav rose and went to Balak (בּלק), and said, “Bil’am (בּלעם) refuses to come with us.”

22:15 And Balak (בּלק) sent yet again princes, more, and more honorable than they.

22:16 And they came to Bil’am (בּלעם), and said to him, Thus says Balak (בּלק) Ben Tzippor, ‘Please let nothing hinder you from coming to me;

22:17 for I will certainly honor you greatly, and I will do whatever you say to me. Therefore please come, curse this people for me.’ “

22:18 And Bil’am (בּלעם) answered and said to the servants of Balak (בּלק), If Balak (בּלק) would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond Dvar ADONAI (יהוה) my Elohim (אלהים), to do less or more.

22:19 Now, therefore, please, you also stay here tonight, that I may know what more ADONAI(יהוה) will say to me.”

22:20 And Elohim (אלהים) came to Bil’am (בּלעם) at night, and said to him, If the men come to call you, rise up, [and] go with them; but yet the word which I shall say to you, that shall you do.

Bil’am Meets the messenger of ADONAI

22:21 (LY:iii) And Bil’am (בּלעם) rose up in the morning, and saddled his donkey, and went with the princes of Moav.

22:22 And Elohim (אלהים)’s anger was kindled because he went: and the messenger of ADONAI(יהוה) stood in the way for an adversary against him. Now he was riding upon his donkey, and histwo servants [were] with him.

22:23 And the donkey saw the messenger of ADONAI (יהוה) standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and the donkey turned aside out of the way, and went into the field: and Bil’am (בּלעם) smote the donkey, to turn her into the way.

22:24 But the messenger of ADONAI (יהוה) stood in a path of the vineyards, a wall [being] on this side, and a wall on that side.

22:25 And when the donkey saw the messenger of Adonai (יהוה), she thrust herself to the wall, and crushed Bil’am (בּלעם)’s foot against the wall: and he smote her again.

22:26 And the messenger of ADONAI (יהוה) went further, and stood in a narrow place, where [was] no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left.

22:27 And when the donkey saw the messenger of Adonai (יהוה), she fell down under Bil’am (בּלעם): and Bil’am (בּלעם)’s anger was kindled, and he smote the donkey with a staff.

22:28 Then ADONAI (יהוה) opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?”

22:29 And Bil’am (בּלעם) said to the donkey, “Because you have made a fool of me. I wish I had a sword in my hand, for then I would kill you.”

22:30 “But I am the same donkey you have ridden all your life,” the donkey answered. “Have I ever done anything like this before?” “No,” Bil’am (בּלעם) admitted.

22:31 Then ADONAI (יהוה) opened the eyes of Bil’am (בּלעם), and he saw the messenger of Adonai (יהוה) standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and he bowed down his head, and fell flat on his face.

22:32 And the Messenger of ADONAI  (יהוה) said to him, “Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out to stand against you, because your way is perverse before Me.

22:33 The donkey saw Me and turned aside from Me these three times. If she had not turned aside from Me, surely I would also have killed you by now, and let her live.”

22:34 And Bil’am (בּלעם) said to the Messenger of ADONAI (יהוה), “I have sinned, for I did not know You stood in the way against me. Now therefore, if it displeases You, I will turn back.”

22:35 And the messenger of ADONAI (יהוה) said to Bil’am (בּלעם), Go with the men: but only the word that I shall speak to you, that you shall speak. So Bil’am (בּלעם) went with the princes of Balak (בּלק).

22:36 Now when Balak (בּלק) heard that Bil’am (בּלעם) was coming, he went out to meet him at the city of Moav, which is on the border at the Arnon, the boundary of the territory.

22:37 Then Balak (בּלק) said to Bil’am (בּלעם), “Did I not earnestly send to you, calling for you? Why did you not come to me? Am I not able to honour you?”

22:38 And Bil’am (בּלעם) said to Balak (בּלק), behold, I am come to you: have I now any power at all to say any thing? the word that Elohim (אלהים) putteth in my mouth, that shall I speak.

22:39 (RY:vi, LY:iv)

And Bil’am (בּלעם) went with Balak (בּלק), and they came to Kiryat Huzot.

22:40 And Balak (בּלק) offered oxen and sheep, and sent to Bil’am (בּלעם), and to the princes that [were] with him.

Bila’am’s Oracles 22:41 – 24:25

22:41  So it was, the next day, that Balak (בּלק) took Bil’am (בּלעם) and brought him up to the high places of Baal, that from there he might observe the extent of the people.

Beit Midrash Torah-Seeker

Who was Bil’am בלעם? 
Bil’am the son of B’or was from Aram (ancient Mesopotamia / Syria), the place of Avraham’s extended family. According to Jewish Sages, may their memories be blessed, Yaakov’s wicked uncle Lavan had a son named B’or (בעור) who became the father of the Bil’am (בלעם). In other words, Bil’am was none other than the grandson of Lavan and a distant relative of the Jewish people.

Balak Ben Tzippor=  “devastator,” He was king of Moav named after the man who was a distant cousin to Israel through Lot, Avraham’s nephew

Bil’am = means “destruction of people.” The Hebrew word bela means “ destruction, confuse, confound.” The Hebrew word am means “people, tribe, nation.”

Another midrash identifies the “two servants” of Balaam as Jannes and Jambres (Numbers 22:22). According to the midrashim and other sources, Jannes and Jambres continued to exert a wicked influence on Yisrael until the time of Pinchas (Numbers 25). These stories are interesting, but they should not be taken as equivalent to inspired Scripture.

Also Read The Sefer Yashar Chapter 79:27 “And when they gone Paroh sent for Bil’am the magician and to Jannes and Jambres his sons, and to all the magicians and conjurors and counsellors which belonged to the king, and they all came and sat before the king.

also see 2 Timotheos 3:8

Arnon wnra= “rushing stream” a river and surrounding valley in south Palestine, forms the border between Moav and the Emorites

Moav – Moab – bawm Barasheet 19:37 And the firstborn bare a son, and called his name Moav: the same is the father of the Moavites to this day.Moab = “of his father” Semites; a son of Lot by his eldest daughter; the nation descended from the son of Lot; the land inhabited by the descendants of the son of Lot

There were seven oracles in all each is introduced with  the words the word Oracle means proverbs meaning prophetic speeches

23:7-10 – First Prophetic speech>- set a pace for the rest -who can count the dust of Yaakov

23:18-24 – Second Prophetic speech – addressed to Balak the unwilling listener – Hashem cannot renege on His promises of life for His People (Roman 8:31-39)

24:3-9 Third Prophetic speech – blessing on the tribe of Israel as they about to enter Kenaan, Hashem would empower them to destroy all enemies Yisrael is pictured as a lion, Bil’am quoted Barasheet 12:3

24:15-19 Fourth Messianic Prophetic speech – the pagan Bilam had a vision of the coming of the Hebrew Moshiach Adonay Yeshua Ha Moshiach was visible from afar, like a star, radiant and beautiful, He was like a Scepter, majestic and powerful. He is victor over His enemies. All nations who resisted Yisrael and Hashem’s redemptive work would come under the curse they unwittingly embraced.

Parashat Sh’lach / פרשת שלח־לך

Parsha Summary for Parshas Shlach

Note: The Shabbos Torah Reading is divided into 7 sections. Each section is called an Aliya [literally: Go up] since for each Aliya, one person “goes up” to make a bracha [blessing] on the Torah Reading.

1st Aliya: Moshe sends the Spies on their mission.

2nd Aliya: The Spies return carrying the massive fruits of the land. They deliver their negative report and the nation loses its faith in G-d and Moshe.

3rd Aliya: Moshe successfully argues for the life of the nation, and Hashem issues the 40 year decree of wandering and dying.

4th Aliya: The Spies die, and the nation is informed of their own punishment.

5th Aliya: The laws of the Mincha – meal offering are stated.

6th Aliya: The laws of separating Challah – the dough offering, and the communal sin offering are stated.

7th Aliya: The individual sin offering; the incident with the man who transgressed Shabbos by gathering sticks; his punishment; and the Mitzvah of Tzitzit, conclude the Parsha.


NUMBERS 13 (ONKELOS) — 1 And the Lord spake with Mosheh, saying: 2 Send thou men, that they may explore the land of Kenaan, which I will give to the children of Israel: one man for each tribe of their fathers shall you send, each one a ruler among them. 3 And Mosheh sent them from the wilderness of Pharan, according to the Word of the Lord. All those men were heads of the children of Israel; 4 and these are their names: Tor the tribe of Reuben, Shamua bar Zakur; 5 for the tribe of Shemeon, Shaphat bar Hori; 6 for the tribe of Jehudah, Kaleb bar Jephuneh; 7 for the tribe of Issakar, Igal bar Joseph; 8 for the tribe of Ephraim, Hoshea bar Nun; 9 for the tribe of Benyamin, Phalti bar Raphu; 10 for the tribe of Zebulon, Gediel bar Sodi; 11 for the tribe of Joseph, the tribe of Menasheh, Gaddi bar Susi; 12 for the tribe of Dan, Ammiel bar Gemali; 13 for the tribe of Asher, Sethor bar Mikael; 14 for the tribe of Naphtali, Nachbi bar Yapsi; 15 for the tribe of Gad, Geuel bar Machi: 16 These are the names of the men whom Mosheh sent to explore the land.

17 And Mosheh called Hoshea bar Nun Jehoshua. And Mosheh sent them away to explore the land of Kenaan. And he said to them, Go up hither by the south, and ascend to the mountain, 18 and see the country what it is, and the people who dwell upon it, whether they be strong or weak, few or many; 19 and what the land is in which they dwell, whether good or bad; and what the cities they inhabit, whether open, or walled in; 20 and whether the land is rich or poor; whether it hath trees or not: and you, be of good courage, and bring of the fruits of the land. And the days were the days of the first grapes.

21 And they went up, and explored the country, from the wilderness of Zin unto Rechob, to come unto Hamath. 22 And they went up by the south, and came to Hebron; and there were Achiman, Sheshai, and Talmai, sons of the giants; (and Hebron was built seven years before Tanis of Mizraim). 23 And they came to the Stream of Grapes, and cut down there a branch, with one cluster of grapes, and carried it on a staff between two; and (they took also) of the pomegranates, and of the figs. 24 That place was called the Stream of Grapes, on account of the grapes (athkela) which the sons of Israel cut down from thence. 25 And they returned from the exploration of the country at the end of forty days.

26 And they went and came to Mosheh, and to Aharon, and to all the congregation of the children of Israel at the wilderness of Pharan, at Rekam,and returned the word to them, and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land. 27 And they recounted to him, and said: We came to the land whither thou didst send us,and truly it doth produce milk and honey, and this is the fruit of it. 28 But very mighty are the people who inhabit the land, and the cities are fortified and very great; and we saw, also, the sons of the giants there. 29 The Amalkaah dwell in the land of the south, and the Hittaah and Jebusaah and Amoraah dwell in the mountain, and the Kenaanaah dwell by the sea, and upon the bank of the Jordan.

30 And Kaleb quieted the people for Mosheh, and said: Going, let us go up and possess it, for we are able to (do) it: 31 but the men who had gone up with him said, We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we. 32 And they gave forth an evil report (name) about the land which they had explored to the children of Israel, saying: The country which we have passed through to search it, is a land that killeth its inhabitants; and all the people whom we saw in it are men of stature; 33 and there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which are of the giants; and we looked, in our own sight, as locusts, and so were we in their eyes.

NUMBERS 14 (ONKELOS) — 1 And all the congregation lifted up and gave (forth) their voice; and all the people wept that night. 2 And all the children of Israel murmured against Mosheh and Aharon; and the whole congregation said to them, that we had died in the land of Mizraim, or that we had died in this wilderness! 3 And why is the Lord bringing us to this land, that we may fall by the sword, and our wives and our children become a prey? Would it not be better for us to return into Mizraim? 4 And they said, a man to his brother, Let us appoint a chieftain, and go back into Mizraim.

5 And Mosheh and Aharon fell upon their faces before all the assembly of the sons of Israel. 6 And Jehoshua bar Nun, and Kaleb bar Jephuneh, who were of the explorers of the land, rent their clothes. 7 And they spake to all the congregation of the sons of Israel, saying: The land, which we passed through to explore it, is a good land, most exceedingly. 8 If the Lord hath pleasure in us, even He will bring us into this land, and give us the land which produceth milk and honey. 9 Only be not rebellious against the Word of the Lord, nor be afraid of the people of the land, for they are delivered into our hand; their strength is departed from them, and the Word of the Lord is our helper: fear them not. 10 But all the congregation said that they would stone them with stones.

And the Glory of the Lord was revealed at the tabernacle of ordinance, unto ail the children of Israel. 11 And the Lord said to Mosheh, How long will this people provoke Me, and how long will they disbelieve in My Word, for all the signs which I have wrought among them? 12 I will smite them with the pestilence and consume them; and will make of thee a people greater and stronger than they. 13 But Mosheh said before the Lord, And the Mizraee will hear of it;—for Thou didst bring up by Thy power this people from among them, 14 and they will tell unto the inhabitants of this land; for they have heard that Thou, Lord, dost dwell in Thy Shekinah among this people, whose eyes behold the glorious Shekinah of the Lord, and that Thy Cloud overshadoweth them, and that in the pillar of the Cloud Thou conductest them in the day, and in the pillar of Fire by night. 15 Now if Thou shalt kill this people as one man, the nations who have heard the fame of Thy power will speak, saying: 16 Because there was not strength (enough) before the Lord to bring this people into the land which He covenanted to them, He hath killed them in the desert. 17 And now I beseech, let power be magnified from before the Lord, as Thou hast thus spoken, saying: 18 The Lord is far from anger, and great in performing goodness and truth: forgiving iniquity and rebellion and sins, pardoning them who return unto His law: but acquitting not them who will not turn, (but) visiting the sins of the fathers upon the rebellious children unto the third and unto the fourth generation. 19 Pardon, I beseech, the sins of this people according to the amplitude of Thy goodness, and as Thou hast forgiven this people from Mizraim until now.

20 And the Lord said, I have pardoned according to thy word. 21 Yet, as I live, with the glory of the Lord shall all the earth be filled. 22 Because all these men who have seen My glory, and the signs I wrought in Mizraim and in the desert, but have tempted before Me these ten times, and have not been obedient to My Word,—23 if they shall see the land which I covenanted to their fathers, nor shall any see it who have provoked before Me. 24 But My servant Kaleb, for that there was in him another spirit, and that he hath wholly followed (in) My fear, him will I bring into the land whither he went, and his children shall possess it.—25 Now the Amalkaah and the Kenaanaah dwelt in the valley.—Tomorrow, turn you and get you to the wilderness by the way of the Sea of Suph.

26 And the Lord spake with Mosheh and unto Aharon, saving: 27 How long shall this evil congregation be murmuring against Me? The murmuring of the sons of Israel which they murmur against Me is heard before Me. 28 Say to them, As I live, saith the Lord, even as ye have spoken before Me, so will I do to you. 29 In this wilderness shall your carcases fall, and all who are numbered of you, of all your numbers, from one of twenty years and upward who have murmured against me—30 if you shall come into the land in which I covenanted in My Word to cause you to dwell, except Kaleb bar Jephuneh, and Jehoshua bar Nun. 31 But your children, of whom you said they were for a prey, will I bring in, and they shall know the land which you have abhorred. 32 But your carcases shall fall in this wilderness; 33 and your children shall go about in the wilderness forty years, and shall bear your iniquities until your carcases be laid in the wilderness. 34 According to the number of the days in which you explored the land, forty days, a day for a year, a day for a year, you shall receive for your sins, even forty years, and you shall know (the consequence of) your murmuring against me.  35 I, the Lord, have made the decree in My Word,—if I will not do unto all this evil congregation who have gathered together against Me; in this wilderness shall they find their end, and here shall they die.

36 And the men whom Mosheh sent to search the land, and who returned to make all the congregation murmur against him, by bringing forth an evil name upon the land; 37 those men who brought out the evil name upon the land died by the plague before the Lord. 38 But Jehoshua bar Nun and Kaleb bar Jephuneh lived, of those men who went to explore the land. 39 And Mosheh told these words to all the children of Israel, and the people bewailed greatly. 40 And they arose in the morning to go up to the top of the mountain, saying: Behold, we will go up to the place of which the Lord hath spoken; for we have sinned. 41 But Mosheh said, Wherefore do you transgress against the decree of the Word of the Lord? But it will not prosper. 42 Go not up, for the Shekinah of the Lord is not among you, and be not broken before your enemies. 43 For the Amalkaah and the Kenaanaah are there before you, and you will fall by the sword; for, because you have turned away from the service of the Lord, the Word of the Lord will not be your helper. 44 Yet they would commit the wickedness of going up to the summit of the mountain, though the ark of the Lord’s covenant, and Mosheh, removed not from the midst of the camp. 45 And the Amalkaah and the Kenaanaah who dwelt in the mountain came down and smote them, and pursued them unto Hormah.

NUMBERS 15 (ONKELOS) — 1 And the Lord spake with Mosheh, saying: 2 Speak with the children of Israel, and say to them: When you shall (at last) have come into the land which I will give you, 3 and you will make an oblation before the Lord, a burnt offering, or a consecrated sacrifice for the release of a vow, or in a free will offering, or in your solemnities to render an acceptable service before the Lord, from the herd or from the flock; 4 let him who offereth his oblation before the Lord bring for a mincha a tenth of flour sprinkled with the fourth of a hina of oil. 5 And wine for a libation the fourth of a hina shall he make upon the burnt offering, or hallowed sacrifice, for one lamb: 6 or for a ram he shall make a mincha of two tenths of flour sprinkled with the third of a hina of oil; 7 and wine for the libation thou shalt bring the third of a hina, to be received with acceptance before the Lord. 8 And when thou makest a bullock a burnt offering, or a hallowed sacrifice for the release of a vow, or hallowed sacrifices before the Lord, 9 let him bring with the bullock a mincha of three tenths of flour sprinkled with a half hina of oil; 10 and wine shalt thou bring for the libation the half of a hina, an oblation to be received with acceptance before the Lord. 11 So shalt thou do for one bullock, or one ram, or one lamb from the lambs, or from the kids. 12 According to the number that you perform so shall you do with each, according to their number. 13 All native born (Hebrews) shall do these things to offer an oblation to be received with favour before the Lord. 14 And if a sojourner who sojourneth with you, or whoever among you in your generations will make an oblation to be received with favour before the Lord, as you do, so shall he do. 15 One congregation and one rite shall be for you and for the sojourners who sojourn; it is an everlasting statute; as you are, so shall the sojourner be before the Lord: 16 one law and one judgment shall be for you and for the sojourners who dwell with you.

17 And the Lord spake with Mosheh, saying: 18 Speak with the sons of Israel, and say to them, When you have come into the land into which I will bring you, 19 and when you eat of the bread of the land, you shall set apart a separation before the Lord. 20 Of the first of your food you shall set apart a cake for a separation; as the separation of the threshing-floor, so shall you set it apart; 21 of the first of your bread (dough) you shall give the separation before the Lord in your generations.

22 And should you be in ignorance, and not do all these commandments of which the Lord hath spoken with Mosheh, 23 even all which the Lord commanded you by the hand of Mosheh from the day that the Lord commanded and thenceforward in your generations, 24 it shall be that if anything be hid from the eyes of the congregation and you do ignorantly, then all the congregation shall make a burnt offering of one young bullock, to be received with acceptance before the Lord, with his mincha and his libation, according to the proper manner, and one kid of the goats for a sin offering: 25 and the priest shall make atonement for all the congregation of the sons of Israel, and it shall be forgiven them, for it was ignorance; but they shall bring their oblation before the Lord on account of their ignorance. 26 And it shall be forgiven to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and to the sojourners who sojourn among them; for all the people (were) in ignorance. 27 And if one sin ignorantly, he shall bring a female kid of the year for a sin offering; 28 and the priest shall make atonement for the man who hath erred in his sin through ignorance before the Lord, to atone for him, and it shall be forgiven him. 29 For the native born of the sons of Israel, and for the sojourner who sojourneth among you, one law shall there be for you, for him who acteth in ignorance. 30 But the man who doeth presumptuously, whether of the native born, or of the sojourners, he provoketh the Lord to anger, and that man shall perish from among his people: 31 because he hath despised the word of the Lord, and hath made His commandment vain, that man shall be utterly destroyed, his sin is upon him.

32 And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man stealing wood on the day of the Sabbath; 33 and they who had found him stealing wood brought him to Mosheh and Aharon, and to all the congregation. 34 And they bound him in the house of custody; for it had not been explained to them what they should do to him. 35 And the Lord said unto Mosheh, The man shall be surely put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp. 36 And all the congregation brought him forth without the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died; as the Lord commanded Mosheh.

37 And the Lord spake to Mosheh, saying: 38 Speak with the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them fringes upon the borders of their garments throughout their generations, and that upon the fringes on the borders they put a ribbon of hyacinth. 39 And they shall be to you for fringes, that you may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the Lord, and do them, and not wander after the imagination of your heart, or after the sight of your eyes, after which you have gone astray. 40 That you may remember and do all My precepts, and be saints before your God. 41 I am the Lord your God who brought you forth from the land of Mizraim to be to you Eloha: I am the Lord your God.

Matiytyahu It Is a Didactic or Teaching Gospel. While giving the account of a number of miracles, the book is marked by several discourses of considerable length, as The sermon on the Mount, chapters 3-7, the denunciation of the *Pharisees not the school of Hillel, chapter 23, the prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world, chapters 24-25, the address to the apostles, chapter 10; and the doctrines of the kingdom, 17:24-20:16. These portions and the parables noted above will indicate how large a portion of the book is taken up in discourses. The student can make lists of other and shorter sections of teaching.

* On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Yeshua. “ Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“You have answered correctly,” Yeshua replied. “Do this and you will live.”

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Yeshua, “And who is my neighbor?”

Yeshua as Rabbi:

Part 1: What is a Rabbi?

Part 2: Was Yeshua a Rabbi?

Part 3: Yeshua’ Miracles

Yeshua, as an integral member of the culture he lived in, was not only a rabbi with s’mikah, but he also took part in the rabbinic culture of his day, interacting with others in that culture. As such, he was called on to answer a number of questions and to weigh in with his opinions on issues of import to that culture.

The Schools

Within his culture of early first-century Israel, there were seven primary rabbinic ’schools’ of thought, with followers – talmidim – in each school. These schools were named after the founding rabbi, even if that rabbi was no longer alive. Much like the discussion that goes on in these schools of thought within Judaism would debate key questions of theology and practice, often quite heatedly.

At the poles of thought within these schools, the most lenient (or liberal, though not in a modern sense) of the rabbinical schools was the School of Hillel. One of Hillel’s key teachings, recorded in the Talmud, is this:

That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.

About ten years after Hillel’s death, Yeshua took this concept, building onto it in a positive fashion:

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

At the other end of the spectrum, the School of Shammai was the most strict in its interpretations. The remaining five schools of rabbinic thought ranged between these two, Hillel and Shammai, with key nuances – emphases or de-emphases – from the other schools. When Yeshua began his ministry near the age of 30, he entered into this context, and as one might expect, he was asked to weigh in on the great debates of the day.

Question and Answer

Within the rabbinic schools, the primary means of debate was ask-assertive conversation rather than the highly expository method in Western/Greek culture. The reason for this is based on the theory that ‘if I tell you what you should believe, the answer you have is my answer. If, however, I ask you questions that lead to the answer, when you arrive at it, the answer will be your answer. As such, if you come into contact with alternative alternative answers, you will be much less likely to abandon the one I taught you.’

I saw this type of ˜questioning  in action in Sefat, Israel in 2006 in a small photography shop run by an elderly Rabbi. The artwork in this shop was literally amazing, and one of the men in our group asked the rabbi which of the pieces was his favorite. The conversation then went like this:

Rabbi: May I ask you a question?

Jon: Yes

Rabbi: Are you married?

Jon: Yes, why?

Rabbi: Do you have children?

Jon: Yes. (pause) Why?

Rabbi: Which of them is your favorite?

And thus, he had his answer. To a westerner like me, it seems that it would have been simpler to say ‘I can’t pick one, because each has something I love’ (or something similar), but that answer would not have been nearly as personal as the one given by the elderly rabbi.

In a similar fashion, much of Yeshua’ teaching was in the form of questions and stories rather than simple exposition. On the occasions when we see him interacting with students/adherents to other schools, he uses this technique to point to an answer before giving exposition on the subject, as the answer to his questions often contain the answer he is giving. Also, in many cases where Yeshua is being questioned, it is out of an honest attempt to learn his teaching on a subject, not always to trap him.

The Debates

When Hillel died in 10 A.D., the Shammites took over the Pharisee role within the Sanhedrin and became the primary religious influence in Judea, whereas in the Galilee region, where Yeshua lived and was raised, the teachings of Hillel held sway. With this in mind, the pharisees that opposed Yeshua we often identified as Judeans (or were located in Jerusalem in Judea), whereas the ones sympathetic to Yeshua or his followers (like Gamaliel, Hillel’s grandson) were Gallilean.

According to Josephus and other Jewish records, there were a number of key debates being waged between the rabbinical schools. These included divorce, who is my neighbor, hand-washing, marriage in the afterlife, the greatest commandment, healing on the Sabbath (Shammai taught you shouldn’t even pray for the sick on the Sabbath, let alone heal them!), the purpose of the Sabbath and whether Gentiles could be saved. The animosity shown between the Shammites and the Hillelites are hard to understate, with comparisons to the classic Calvinist/Arminian debate holding similarities, with the Shammites holding to a strict fundamentalist view of scripture and practice and the Hillelites holding to a much more lenient, contextual view which emphasized the balance between love for God and love for your neighbor.

As such, it is interesting that in the eight key debates that Yeshua entered, he sided with the School of Hillel – or went even farther than Hillel – in seven and only sided with Shammai in one case (that of when divorce is acceptable).

For instance, in the debate of “who is my neighbor?”, Shammai taught that only God-fearing, observant Jews were ‘neighbors’ (thus, the only ones worthy of love). Hillel, on the other hand, taught that everyone – including one’s enemies – were ‘neighbors’, with the exception of the hated, apostate Samaritans. And so, when Yeshua was asked (in the scripture above), “Who is my neighbor?” he entered this debate:

In reply Yeshua said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.”

It should be noted that the priest and the Levite were both obeying Torah by not touching a dead or nearly-dead body and becoming unclean, so they were following the law, as interpreted by Shammai and other strict rabbinic schools of thought. According to Pharisee teaching, though, all life was sacred and the proper thing to do would have been to stop and help the man or bury him (thus becoming unclean for a time) if he died. A number of commentators suggest that the expert in the Torah was likely expecting Yeshua to make the “good guy” a pharisee, thus siding with Hillel on the issue of the importance of life above ritual cleanliness.

Instead, though, Yeshua said:

“But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” [Note: he couldn’t even SAY the word ‘Samaritan’]

Yeshua told him, “Go and do likewise.”

And so, Yeshua’ answer to the question “Who is my neighbor?” was everybody, including the most despised apostate you can think of, going further to the ‘left’ of Hillel.

So, when viewed within the context of his world, this is just one more example where we can get a view into why Yeshua was asked certain questions, how he interacted with his world, and some of the political/religious backdrop that ultimately led to his death, burial and resurrection.


What’s in a Name_ הושע becomes יהושע _ Sefaria Source Sheet Builder



A person might ask: Since we are expecting Mashiach at ever
moment, how can we possibly immerse ourselves in the
drudgery of everyday life and even make plans for the future? If we
are truly excited about the coming of Mashiach, how can we be
excited about serving God in the world as it is before Mashiach comes?
The answer to these questions can be found in the way that the
Tabernacle was dismantled and erected in the desert. Often, the
Jewish people would stay encamped in one place for a considerable
period of time—as much as 19 years (Rashi to Devarim 1:46) —so the
need for fully erecting the Tabernacle, with all the labor involved,
was understood. But “sometimes, the cloud remained for (just) a few
days… and sometimes the cloud remained from night until morning,
and when the cloud rose in the morning, they traveled” (v. 20-21) .

MONTH OR A YEAR …” ( V . 22)

So what was the point of the hundreds of man-hours involved in
erecting the Tabernacle, if it was to be dismantled soon afterwards,
sometimes the following day?
The Talmud explains that since ”they encamped by the word of
God, and they traveled by the word of God” (v. 23) , each encampment
was not considered to be transitory in nature, because the direct
Divine command to camp at that point, “conferred it with the
importance of a permanent settlement” (Eruvin 55b) .
Likewise, while it is true that our current work is transitory in
nature, for Mashiach is about to arrive at any moment, nevertheless,
since in our daily work we are following “the word of God,” we
should view what we are doing as having the utmost importance and
be enthusiastic in carrying out the tiniest detail.
(Based on Sichas Shabbos Parshas Vayigash 5747)

Lesson 35

Torah Moshe 4: Bamidbar / Numbers Chapter 4
The Number and Duties of the Leviim

4:1(vii) Raise up the Kohatites

And ADONAI (יהוה) spoke to Moshe and to Aharon, saying:

4:2 Take the sum of Benai Kohat from among Benai Levi, after their families, by the house of their avot,

4:3 From thirty years old and upward even until fifty years old, all that enter into the host, to do the work in the Ohel Moed.

4:4 This [shall be] the service of Benai Kohat in the Ohel Moed, [about] the most kadosh things:

4:5 And when the camp setteth forward, Aharon shall come, and his sons, and they shall take down the covering parochet (veil), and cover the Aron HaEdut (Ark of the Testimony) with it:

4:6 And shall put thereon the covering of tachash’ skins, and shall spread over [it] a cloth wholly of blue, and shall put in the staves thereof.

4:7 And upon the Shulchan HaPanim they shall spread a cloth of blue, and put thereon the dishes, and the spoons, and the bowls, and covers to cover kesot hanesekh (pitchers of the drink offering): and the continual lechem shall be thereon:

4:8 And they shall spread upon them a cloth of scarlet, and cover the same with a covering of tachash’ skins, and shall put in the staves thereof.

4:9 And they shall take a cloth of blue, and cover the Menorat HaMa’ohr (illumination) , and his lamps, and his tongs, and his snuffdishes, and all the oil vessels thereof, wherewith they minister to it:

4:10 And they shall put it and all the vessels thereof within a covering of tachash’ skins, and shall put [it] upon a bar.

4:11 And upon the Mitzbach HaZahav they shall spread a cloth of blue, and cover it with a covering of tachash’ skins, and shall put to the staves thereof:

4:12 And they shall take all the instruments of ministry, wherewith they minister in the sanctuary, and put [them] in a cloth of blue, and cover them with a covering of tachash’ skins, and shall put [them] on a bar:

4:13 And they shall take away the ashes from the Mitzbe’ach, and spread a purple cloth thereon:

4:14 And they shall put upon it all the vessels thereof, wherewith they minister about it, [even] the censers, the flesh-hooks, and the shovels, and the basin, all the Klei (vessels) HaMitzbe’ach; and they shall spread upon it a covering of tachash’ skins, and put to the staves of it.

4:15 And when Aharon and his sons have made an end of covering the sanctuary, and all the vessels of the sanctuary, as the camp is to set forward; after that, Benai Kohat shall come to bear [it]: but they shall not touch [any] kadosh thing, lest they die. These [things are] the burden of Benai Kohat in the Ohel Moed.

4:16 And to the office of Elazar Ben Aharon the kohen [pertains] the oil for the light, and the sweet incense, and the daily Minchah, and the anointing oil, [and] the oversight of all the tabernacle, and of all that therein [is], in the sanctuary, and in the vessels thereof.

4:17 (Maftir) Limits of the Inner Circle

And ADONAI (יהוה) spoke to Moshe and to Aharon, saying,

4:18 Cut you not off the tribe of the families of the Kohatites from among the Leviim:

4:19 But thus do to them, that they may live, and not die, when they approach to the most kadosh things: Aharon and his sons shall go in, and appoint them every one to his service and to his burden:

4:20 But they shall not go in to see when the kadosh things are covered, lest they die.

Haftarah Bamidbar: Hoshea 2:1(1:10)-2:22(20)

Brit Hadashah: Loukas 2:1-7; Korintos Alef 12:12-31; Romaios 9:33

Parashah 35: Naso (Take) 4:21-7:89

4:21(i) Raise up to Serve

And ADONAI (יהוה) spoke to Moshe, saying:

4:22 Take also the sum of Benai Gershon, throughout the houses of their avot, by their families;

30-50 years old

4:23 From thirty years old and upward until fifty years old shall you number them; all that enter in to perform the service, to do the work in the Ohel Moed.

4:24 This [is] the service of the families of the Gershonites, to serve, and for burdens:

4:25 And they shall bear the curtains of the tabernacle, and the Ohel Moed, his covering, and the covering of the tachash’ skins that [is] above upon it, and the hanging for the door of the Ohel Moed,

4:26 And the hangings of the court, and the hanging for the door of the gate of the court, which [is] by the tabernacle and by the Mitzbe’ach round about, and their cords, and all the instruments of their service, and all that is made for them: so shall they serve.

4:27 At the appointment of Aharon and his sons shall be all the service of Benai the Gershonites, in all their burdens, and in all their service: and you shall appoint to them in charge all their burdens.

4:28 This [is] the service of the families of Benai Gershon in the Ohel Moed: and their charge [shall be] under the hand of Itamar Ben Aharon hakohen.

4:29 As for Benai Merari, you shall number them after their families, by the house of their avot;

4:30 From thirty years old and upward even to fifty years old shall you number them, every one that enters into the service, to do the work of the Ohel Moed.

4:31 And this [is] the charge of their burden, according to all their service in the Ohel Moed; the boards of the tabernacle, and the bars thereof, and the pillars thereof, and sockets thereof,

4:32 And the pillars of the court round about, and their sockets, and their pins, and their cords, with all their instruments, and with all their service: and by name you shall reckon the instruments of the charge of their burden.

4:33 This [is] the service of the families of Benai Merari, according to all their service, in the Ohel Moed, under the hand of Itamar Ben Aharon the kohen.

Census (heads) of the Leviim

4:34(S:ii) And Moshe and Aharon and the chief of the congregation numbered Benai the Kohatites after their families, and after the house of their avot,

4:35 From thirty years old and upward even to fifty years old, every one that enters into the service, for the work in the Ohel Moed:

4:36 And those that were numbered of them by their families were two thousand seven hundred and fifty.

4:37 These [were] they that were numbered of the families of the Kohatites, all that might do service in the Ohel Moed, which Moshe and Aharon did number according to the commandment of ADONAI (יהוה) by the hand of Moshe.

4:38(A:ii) And those that were numbered of Benai Gershon, throughout their families, and by the house of their avot,

4:39 From thirty years old and upward even to fifty years old, every one that enters into the service, for the work in the Ohel Moed,

4:40 Even those that were numbered of them, throughout their families, by the house of their avot, were two thousand and six hundred and thirty.

4:41 These [are] they that were numbered of the families of Benai Gershon, of all that might do service in the Ohel Moed, whom Moshe and Aharon did number according to the commandment of ADONAI (יהוה).

4:42 And those that were numbered of the families of Benai Merari, throughout their families, by the house of their avot,

4:43 From thirty years old and upward even to fifty years old, every one that enters into the service, for the work in the Ohel Moed,

4:44 Even those that were numbered of them after their families, were three thousand and two hundred.

4:45 These [be] those that were numbered of the families of Benai Merari, whom Moshe and Aharon numbered according to the word of ADONAI (יהוה) by the hand of Moshe.

4:46 All those that were numbered of the Leviim, whom Moshe and Aharon and the chief of Yisrael numbered, after their families, and after the house of their avot,

4:47 From thirty years old and upward even to fifty years old, every one that came to do the service of the ministry, and the service of the burden in the Ohel Moed,

4:48 Even those that were numbered of them, were eight thousand and five hundred and fourscore.

4:49 According to the commandment of ADONAI (יהוה) they were numbered by the hand of Moshe, every one according to his service, and according to his burden: thus were they numbered of him, as ADONAI (יהוה) commanded Moshe.

Description of Nazarite

A Nazarite vow is this type of commitment. The Nazarite is required to separate totally from family, friends, and the community. He or she are to focus only on serving HaShem. To some individuals the vow lasted a lifetime, but to individuals that voluntarily took the vow the minimum length was seven days. HaShem gives us examples in both the Tanakh and in the Brit Hadashah of individuals that were committed to serve Him as Nazarites.

There are four specific examples in Scripture that personify the hardship that comes with the commitment to serve HaShem as a Nazarite. Three of these individuals were Nazarites for life. The three Nazarites for life are dedicated to the service of HaShem before they are born. The fourth individual the scriptures say was under a Nazarite vow, took the vow voluntarily. The four individuals mentioned in the scriptures who were under the Nazarite vow are Shimshon, Shemu’el, Yochanan the immerser, and Paulos (Rav Shaul). These four individuals became separated from family and friends to become totally focused on serving HaShem.

תּחשׁtachash – a kind of leather, skin, or animal hide, badger’s skin? porpoise skin? perhaps the badger or dugong, dolphin, or sheep

Shevet / Tribe

Assignment, Charge, duties, things to do




(30 – 50 yrs old)

  1. take down the covering parochet (veil), cover the Aron HaEdut (Ark of the Testimony) with it: put thereon the covering of tachash’ skins, and shall spread over [it] a cloth wholly of blue, and shall put in the staves thereof.
  2. And upon the Shulchan HaPanim spread a cloth of blue, put thereon the dishes, the spoons, the bowls, covers to cover kesot hanesekh (pitchers of the drink offering): the continual lechem shall be thereon: shall spread upon them a cloth of scarlet, and cover the same with a covering of tachash’ skins, and shall put in the staves thereof.
  3. take a cloth of blue, and cover the Menorat HaMa’ohr (illumination) , his lamps, his tongs, his snuffdishes, and all the oil vessels thereof, put it and all the vessels thereof within a covering of tachash’ skins, and shall put [it] upon a bar.
  4. the Mitzbach HaZahav spread a cloth of blue, cover it with a covering of tachash’ skins, put to the staves thereof: take all the instruments of ministry, wherewith they minister in the sanctuary, put [them] in a cloth of blue, cover them with a covering of tachash’ skins, shall put [them] on a bar: take away the ashes from the Mitzbe’ach, and spread a purple cloth thereon: put upon it all the vessels thereof, wherewith they minister about it, [even] the censers, the flesh-hooks, the shovels, the basin, all the Klei (vessels) HaMitzbe’ach; they shall spread upon it a covering of tachash’ skins, put to the staves of it. Aharon and his sons have made an end of covering the sanctuary, all the vessels of the sanctuary, as the camp is to set forward; after that, Benai Kohat shall come to bear [it]: but they shall not touch [any] kadosh thing, lest they die.

5 the office of Elazar Ben Aharon the kohen [pertaineth] the oil for the light, and the sweet incense, the daily Minchah, and the anointing oil, the oversight of all the tabernacle, of all that therein [is], in the sanctuary, and in the vessels thereof.

4 -16



(30 – 50 yrs old)

bear the curtains of the tabernacle, the Ohel Moed, his covering, the covering of the tachash’ skins that [is] above upon it, and the hanging for the door of the Ohel Moed, the hangings of the court, and the hanging for the door of the gate of the court, which [is] by the tabernacle; by the Mitzbe’ach round about, their cords, all the instruments of their service,

22- 28



(30 – 50 yrs old)

the boards of the tabernacle, and the bars thereof, and the pillars thereof, and sockets thereof, the pillars of the court round about, their sockets, their pins, and their cords, with all their instruments

29 -33




The Western Five

Khaburis Codex (alternate spelling KhaborisKhabouris) refers to two manuscripts in the Aramaic language. The earlier of the two is an early Aramaic manuscript of the New Testament dating to between 300-310 CE and the later copy is a 10th Century duplicate thereof.[1] The Khaburis Codices contain the complete Peshitta New Testament containing 22 books, in comparison to the Western New Testament canon which contains 27 books. The missing books are known as the “Western Five,” namely, 2 Peter2 John3 JohnJude and Revelation.

There have been claims that the earlier document’s colophon identifies it as being a ‘copy’ rendered from a manuscript dating 164 CE, internally documented as 100 years after the great persecution of the Christians by Nero, in 64 CE – however the colophon is unreadable. To this day, there is no published transcription.

Parashat Beha’alotcha / פרשת בהעלתך

Torah Portion: Numbers 8:1 – 12:16

After the dedication of the Sanctuary — the portable Temple and repository of the Torah — the Children of Israel were almost ready to start the journey to the Land of Israel. The purpose was to fulfill the mission of Abraham, the founding father: to take the Ark of the Covenant up to Jerusalem so that the light of the Torah would shine from Mount Moriah to the entire world.

The opening sections of BEHA’ALOSCHA set forth some final details relating to the Sanctuary and its services (the lighting of the Menorah, the inauguration of the Levites and their service, the law of the Second Pesach). The Torah then relates the miraculous Divine providence visible in the encampment and journeyings of the Children of Israel in the wilderness. The sections dealing with the Sanctuary conclude with the command to Moses to make trumpets, after which the Torah relates the Children of Israel’s momentous first journey from Sinai towards the Promised Land.


“The Second Pesach” has two senses in connection with our parshah. In the first sense, so far there had only been one Pesach: the night of the Exodus from Egypt. The celebration of the one-time Second Pesach, a year later, free in the Wilderness, recipients of the Torah, with the Sanctuary newly erected, was itself an event. It showed that the Exodus, as the foundational event of the People, was henceforth to be institutionalized as an annual experience with the slaughter of the lamb on Passover.

The sacrifice could only be offered by those in a state of ritual purity. So central to the attachment of the Individual to the Nation is this annual sacrifice (failure to bring the sacrifice makes one liable to excision) that some provision had to be made for those who were unable to bring it in its proper time on 14 Nissan. This might be because they were far away and unable to reach thTemple, or because of defilement for any one of a number of naturally recurrent reasons (contact with the dead, menstrual impurity, etc.) Accordingly they were given a “second chance” on the annual PESACH SHENI, Second Pesach (in the second sense of the term!) institutionalized now in Torah law.

The Torah narrates in our Parshah how this vital national law, integral to the annual functioning of the Temple as the central focus of the Children of Israel, came to be revealed because when G-d commanded them in the wilderness to observe the one-time “Second Pesach” on 14 Nissan, one year after the Exodus, a number of people in the camp were ritually impure.

Knowing there was no way they could participate in the celebration of this awesome one-time event — institutionalizing for all time the annual celebration of the anniversary of the Exodus with the eating of the Paschal Lamb, they felt they had LOST OUT. They felt denied this central act of communion with fellows because of extraneous natural reasons: they had to attend to the dead.

“Why should we be worse off, not to be able to offer the sacrifice of HaShem in its appointed time among the Children of Israel” (Numbers 9:7). (The offering of the Paschal Lamb in the Sanctuary Temple was accompanied by the full Levitical choir and orchestra singing the Hallel, an awesome experience.)

“Why should we be worse off?” There was no way that they could offer the Sacrifice but they longed to be able to. It was their longing that elicited the commandment of Pesach Sheni, the annual “Second Pesach” that gave a SECOND CHANCE to those who lost out the first time — a tremendous act of love and compassion.

Longing and yearning elicits love and compassion. It is our longing for the Second Pesach, the Pesach of GEULAH, when we too, now impure through contact with the dead etc., will have a SECOND CHANCE and won’t have to feel we lost out because we didn’t experience the Pesach in Jerusalem.


The Text of Q

Q [NRSV] (Text according to Funk/Miller)

3:7-9 John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?   8 Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, `We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.   9 Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

3:16-17 John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.   17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

4:1-13 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness,   2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished.   3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.”   4 Jesus answered him, “It is written, `One does not live by bread alone.'”   5 Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world.   6 And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please.   7 If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.”   8 Jesus answered him, “It is written, `Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.'”   9 Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here,   10 for it is written, `He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’   11 and `On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.'”   12 Jesus answered him, “It is said, `Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'”   13 When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.

6:12, 17, 20 Now during those days he went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God.    17 He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon.    20 Then he looked up at his disciples and said:

6:20-26 “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.   21  “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.   22  “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man.   23 Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.   24  “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.   25  “Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. “Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep.   26  “Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.

6:27-36 “But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,   28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.   29 If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt.   30 Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again.   31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.   32  “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.   33 If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.   34 If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again.   35 But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.   36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

6:37-38 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven;   38 give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”

6:39-40 He also told them a parable: “Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit?   40 A disciple is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully qualified will be like the teacher.

6:41-42 Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?   42 Or how can you say to your neighbor, `Friend, let me take out the speck in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.

6:43-45 “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit;   44 for each tree is known by its own fruit. Figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush.   45 The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.

6:46-49 “Why do you call me `Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I tell you?   47 I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, hears my words, and acts on them.   48   That one is like a man building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when a flood arose, the river burst against that house but could not shake it, because it had been well built.   49 But the one who hears and does not act is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the river burst against it, immediately it fell, and great was the ruin of that house.”

7:1-10 After Jesus had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum.   2 A centurion there had a slave whom he valued highly, and who was ill and close to death.   3 When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, asking him to come and heal his slave.   4 When they came to Jesus, they appealed to him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy of having you do this for him,   5 for he loves our people, and it is he who built our synagogue for us.”   6 And Jesus went with them, but when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof;   7 therefore I did not presume to come to you. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed.   8 For I also am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, `Go,’ and he goes, and to another, `Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, `Do this,’ and the slave does it.”   9 When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, he said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.”   10 When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.

7:18-20, 22-23 The disciples of John reported all these things to him. So John summoned two of his disciples  19 and sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?”   20 When the men had come to him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you to ask, `Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?'”   22 And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them.   23 And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”

7:24-28 When John’s messengers had gone, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind?   25 What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who put on fine clothing and live in luxury are in royal palaces.   26 What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.   27 This is the one about whom it is written, `See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’   28 I tell you, among those born of women no one is greater than John; yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”

7:31-35 “To what then will I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like?   32 They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another, `We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not weep.’   33 For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, `He has a demon’;   34 the Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, `Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’   35 Nevertheless, wisdom is vindicated by all her children.”

9:57-62 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”   58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”   59 To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”   60 But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”   61 Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.”   62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

10:2-12 He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.   3 Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves.   4 Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road.   5 Whatever house you enter, first say, `Peace to this house!’   6 And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you.   7 Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house.   8 Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you;   9 cure the sick who are there, and say to them, `The kingdom of God has come near to you.’   10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say,   11  `Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’   12 I tell you, on that day it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for that town.

10:13-15 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.   14 But at the judgment it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you.   15 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be brought down to Hades.

10:16  “Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”

10:21-22 At that same hour Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.   22 All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

10:23-24  Then turning to the disciples, Jesus said to them privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see!   24 For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.”

11:2-4 He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come.   3 Give us each day our daily bread.   4 And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.”

11:9-13 “So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.   10 For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.   11 Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish?   12 Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion?   13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

11:14-23 Now he was casting out a demon that was mute; when the demon had gone out, the one who had been mute spoke, and the crowds were amazed.   15 But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons.”    17 But he knew what they were thinking and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself becomes a desert, and house falls on house.   18 If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? — for you say that I cast out the demons by Beelzebul.   19 Now if I cast out the demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your exorcists cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges.   20 But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out the demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you.   21 When a strong man, fully armed, guards his castle, his property is safe.   22 But when one stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his plunder.   23 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

11:24-26 “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it wanders through waterless regions looking for a resting place, but not finding any, it says, `I will return to my house from which I came.’   25 When it comes, it finds it swept and put in order.   26 Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and live there; and the last state of that person is worse than the first.”

11:27-28 [no Mt //] While he was saying this, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!”   28 But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!”

11:16, 29-32 16 Others, to test him, kept demanding from him a sign from heaven.  29 When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, “This generation is an evil generation; it asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.   30 For just as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so the Son of Man will be to this generation.   31 The queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the people of this generation and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, and see, something greater than Solomon is here!   32 The people of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the proclamation of Jonah, and see, something greater than Jonah is here!

11:33 “No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar, but on the lampstand so that those who enter may see the light.

11:34-36 Your eye is the lamp of your body. If your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light; but if it is not healthy, your body is full of darkness.   35 Therefore consider whether the light in you is not darkness.   36 If then your whole body is full of light, with no part of it in darkness, it will be as full of light as when a lamp gives you light with its rays.”

11:42 “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God; it is these you ought to have practiced, without neglecting the others.

11:39-41 Then the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.   40 You fools! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also?   41 So give for alms those things that are within; and see, everything will be clean for you.

11:43  Woe to you Pharisees! For you love to have the seat of honor in the synagogues and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces.

11:44 Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without realizing it.”

11:46  And he said, “Woe also to you lawyers! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not lift a finger to ease them.

11:47-48 Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your ancestors killed.   48 So you are witnesses and approve of the deeds of your ancestors; for they killed them, and you build their tombs.

11:49-51  Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, `I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’   50 so that this generation may be charged with the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world,   51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be charged against this generation.

11:52 Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.”

12:2-3 Nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known.   3 Therefore whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed from the housetops.

12:4-7  “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more.   5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!   6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight.   7 But even the hairs of your head are all counted. Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.

12:8-9 “And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God;   9 but whoever denies me before others will be denied before the angels of God.

12:10 And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.

12:11-12 When they bring you before the synagogues, the rulers, and the authorities, do not worry about how you are to defend yourselves or what you are to say;   12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what you ought to say.”

12:13-14 [no Mt //] Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.”   14 But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?”

12:16-21 [no Mt //] Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly.   17 And he thought to himself, `What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’   18 Then he said, `I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.   19 And I will say to my soul, `Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’   20 But God said to him, `You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’   21 So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”

12:22-31 He said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear.   23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.   24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!   25 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?   26 If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest?   27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.   28 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you– you of little faith!   29 And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying.   30 For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them.   31 Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

12:33-34 Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.   34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

12:39-40 “But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.   40 You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”

12:42-46 And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and prudent manager whom his master will put in charge of his slaves, to give them their allowance of food at the proper time?   43 Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives.   44 Truly I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possessions.   45 But if that slave says to himself, `My master is delayed in coming,’ and if he begins to beat the other slaves, men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk,   46 the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and put him with the unfaithful.

12:49, 51-53 “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!  51 Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!   52 From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three;   53 they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

12:54-56 He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, `It is going to rain’; and so it happens.   55 And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, `There will be scorching heat’; and it happens.   56 You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?

12:57-59 “And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?   58 Thus, when you go with your accuser before a magistrate, on the way make an effort to settle the case, or you may be dragged before the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer throw you in prison.   59 I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the very last penny.”

13:18-21 He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what should I compare it?   19 It is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.”   20 And again he said, “To what should I compare the kingdom of God?   21 It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”

13:24-27 “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able.   25 When once the owner of the house has got up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, `Lord, open to us,’ then in reply he will say to you, `I do not know where you come from.’   26 Then you will begin to say, `We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’   27 But he will say, `I do not know where you come from; go away from me, all you evildoers!’

13:28-30  There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrown out.   29 Then people will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God.   30 Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”

13:34-35 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!   35 See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, `Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.'”

14:11, 18:14 For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” 
  18:14 I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

14:16-24 Then Jesus said to him, “Someone gave a great dinner and invited many.   17 At the time for the dinner he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, `Come; for everything is ready now.’   18 But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, `I have bought a piece of land, and I must go out and see it; please accept my regrets.’   19 Another said, `I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please accept my regrets.’   20 Another said, `I have just been married, and therefore I cannot come.’   21 So the slave returned and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and said to his slave, `Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’   22 And the slave said, `Sir, what you ordered has been done, and there is still room.’   23 Then the master said to the slave, `Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled.   24 For I tell you, none of those who were invited will taste my dinner.'”

14:26-27, 17:33 “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.   27 Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 
  17:33 Those who try to make their life secure will lose it, but those who lose their life will keep it.

14:34-35 “Salt is good; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored?   35 It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; they throw it away. Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”

15:4-10 [no Mt // to vss.8-10] “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it?   5 When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices.   6   And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, `Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’   7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. 
  8  “Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it?   9 When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, `Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’   10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

16:13 No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

16:16 “The law and the prophets were in effect until John came; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is proclaimed, and everyone tries to enter it by force.

16:17 But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one stroke of a letter in the law to be dropped.

16:18  “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and whoever marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.

17:1-2 Jesus said to his disciples, “Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to anyone by whom they come!   2 It would be better for you if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble.

17:3-4 Be on your guard! If another disciple sins, you must rebuke the offender, and if there is repentance, you must forgive.   4 And if the same person sins against you seven times a day, and turns back to you seven times and says, `I repent,’ you must forgive.”

17:6 The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, `Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

17:22-24, 26-30, 34-35, 37 Then he said to the disciples, “The days are coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it.   23 They will say to you, `Look there!’ or `Look here!’ Do not go, do not set off in pursuit.   24 For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. 
  26 Just as it was in the days of Noah, so too it will be in the days of the Son of Man.   27 They were eating and drinking, and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed all of them.   28 Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot: they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building,   29 but on the day that Lot left Sodom, it rained fire and sulfur from heaven and destroyed all of them  30 — it will be like that on the day that the Son of Man is revealed. 
  34 I tell you, on that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other left.   35 There will be two women grinding meal together; one will be taken and the other left.” 
  37Then they asked him, “Where, Lord?” He said to them, “Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.”

19:12-26 So he said, “A nobleman went to a distant country to get royal power for himself and then return.   13 He summoned ten of his slaves, and gave them ten pounds, and said to them, `Do business with these until I come back.’   14 But the citizens of his country hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, `We do not want this man to rule over us.’   15 When he returned, having received royal power, he ordered these slaves, to whom he had given the money, to be summoned so that he might find out what they had gained by trading.   16 The first came forward and said, `Lord, your pound has made ten more pounds.’   17 He said to him, `Well done, good slave! Because you have been trustworthy in a very small thing, take charge of ten cities.’   18 Then the second came, saying, `Lord, your pound has made five pounds.’   19 He said to him, `And you, rule over five cities.’   20 Then the other came, saying, `Lord, here is your pound. I wrapped it up in a piece of cloth,   21 for I was afraid of you, because you are a harsh man; you take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’   22 He said to him, `I will judge you by your own words, you wicked slave! You knew, did you, that I was a harsh man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow?   23 Why then did you not put my money into the bank? Then when I returned, I could have collected it with interest.’   24 He said to the bystanders, `Take the pound from him and give it to the one who has ten pounds.’   25  (And they said to him, `Lord, he has ten pounds!’)   26  `I tell you, to all those who have, more will be given; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.

22:28-30 “You are those who have stood by me in my trials;   29 and I confer on you, just as my Father has conferred on me, a kingdom,   30   so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.


In these last days of constant and important changes in people’s understanding of our relationship to the Almighty, there will naturally be some confusion about a movement such as “Nazarene Judaism.”

The most important part of this understanding is that our focus is to reestablish the faith, practice, and lifestyle of the original Netzarim. So who were they?

Well, as we know, the public ministry of Yahshua of Natzaret was about three years long. He went around teaching about the Kingdom of Elohim, and He acquired many followers who responded to his teachings. His followers included members of the P’rushim (Pharisees) and the Essenes – a group living in the wilderness of which Yokhanan the Immerser probably belonged. These followers of Yahshua gave rise to a new branch of Judaism — the Sect of the Netzarim.

After the resurrection of Yahshua, He instructed his disciples to go and preach teshuvah (repentance) and Torah to all nations in His name, which means according to His teachings. He established a Nazarene Beit Din (Rabbi’s Court, literally “House of Judgment”)) and gave them the authority to “bind and loose” (make halachic rulings) on issues of Torah.

The number of Netzarim grew into the thousands, both in Israel and in the Diaspora. Because of Yahshua’s teaching, their contribution to Judaism as a whole was huge. Although most did not realize it, Yahshua and his disciples gave post-temple Judaism quite a bit of structure and continuity after the destruction of the (second) Holy Temple in 70 C.E.

After the destruction of the Temple, only two “Judaisms” survived: the Pharisees and the Nazarenes. In Yahweh, the followers of the Pharisaic halacha (Jewish Law, literally “The Way To Walk”) gathered under the leadership of Yokhahan Ben-Zakkai and reorganized the Sanhedrin. In Yerushalayim (Jerusalem), the followers of the Nazarene halacha gathered under the leadership of Simeon, who replaced Ya’acov HaTzaddik (“James the Just”), brother of Yahshua, in 63 CE.

We know a little about the Nazarenes from Jewish Rabbinic writings, but the more important description of them, although negative, can be found in the writings of the Early “Church Fathers.” You see, just as now, the Nazarenes were misunderstood and hated by both the “Church” and Pharisaic Judaism. The fourth century “Church Father” Jerome, described the Nazarenes as “those who accept Messiah in such a way that they do not cease to observe the Old Law” (Jerome; On. Is. 8:14).

Another fourth century Church Father, Epiphanius, gave a more detailed description of how the Netzarim were viewed:

“We shall now especially consider heretics who… call themselves Nazarenes; they are mainly Jews and nothing else. They make use not only of the New Testament, but they also use in a way the Old Testament of the Jews; for they do not forbid the books of the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings… so that they are approved of by the Jews, from whom the Nazarenes do not differ in anything, and they profess all the dogmas pertaining to the prescriptions of the Law and to the customs of the Jews, except they believe in [Messiah]… They preach that there is but one [Elohim], and his son [Yahshua the Messiah]. But they are very learned in the Hebrew language; for they, like the Jews, read the whole Law, then the Prophets…They differ from the Jews because they believe in Messiah, and from the Christians in that they are to this day bound to the Jewish rites, such as circumcision, the Sabbath, and other ceremonies.” (Epiphanius; Panarion 29; translated from the Greek).  Although it’s hard for some to accept, the fact is that those being described here were the direct disciples and followers of Yahshua. So obviously, this is what He taught! This is what He taught! These are the direct followers of Yahshua, and yet there are so many who claim to be his followers and who follow a different Gospel, teachings of someone other than those of Yahshua from Nazaret.  There is evidence that the Nazarene Sect continued to exist until at least the 13th century. The writings of the Catholic teacher, Bonacursus, entitled “Against the Heretics,” refer to the Nazarenes, who were also called “Pasagini.” Bonacursus wrote:

“Let those who are not yet acquainted with them, please note how perverse their belief and doctrine are. First, they teach that we should obey the Law of Moses according to the letter – the Sabbath, and circumcision, and the legal precepts still being in force. Furthermore, to increase their error, they condemn and reject all the Church Fathers, and the whole Roman Church.”  Does this sound eerily similar to some of the political shenanigans that have been going on recently in the Presidential race? On one side you have conservatives, who are guided by the rule of law. The followers of Yahshua were guided by the rule of law. They had in their possession the teachings of the Creator of Eternity, and they saw no good reason to stop following them! They had direct commands of YHVH which were being ignored by some in favor of man-made interpolations of things that were misunderstood in Yahshua’s teachings.

On the other hand we have the liberals, who are guided by what “feels good.” It feels good to be able to do whatever you want, eat whatever you want, ignore the direct commands of the Creator. It feels good to give human beings offices in a “church” which makes up its own rules as it goes along. This is the legacy of the lies of Satan that were introduced into the world by a man named Constantine.

With the rise of Constantinian Christianity in the third century C.E., it is apparent that the Netzarim could not have possibly assimilated into the Church. The Church Fathers made it clear that the Nazarenes were “nothing but Jews.” Most Jewish historians recognize that the Nazarene Jews were a valid Sect in Second Temple Judaism and for several centuries later.

Now, we have heard many discussions recently about the role of the Talmud in Nazarene Judaism. And although the Talmud refers to the Nazarenes as “heretics,” it would seem that this opinion was only formed in the later Talmudic writings, that is, after the inception of, the incursion of, the deception of, and the hatred from Christianity. The anti-Yahshua parts of the Talmud, although hard to read, are to be expected, taking into consideration what has happened in history.

Some of the Pharisaic leaders equated the Nazarenes with the Christians. However, as you can see by the Church’s view of them, they were not accepted, because they were considered “mere Jews,” not Christians.

Why did this change in relationship between the Jewish community and the Netzarim happen? The year 70 C.E. was a very important year to the Nazarenes. In this year the Romans laid siege to Yerushalayim and after five months, invaded the city. This event had many profound effects on the Nazarenes and their relationship to the rest of the Jewish community.  When the city was brought under siege, the Nazarenes remembered the words of Yahshua:

And when you see Yerushalayim surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. Then let those in Judea flee to the mountains…(Luke 21:20-21a).  The Nazarenes heeded these words and fled to Pella, most likely dwelling in the caves of the wilderness outside of Pella. Naturally the Pharisees and other Jews resented the Nazarene flight to Pella as an act of cowardice. The flight to Pella itself also had a profound effect on the Nazarenes. A great deal of confusion resulted and the coalition fell apart. It was at Pella that the Ebionites first emerged as a separate sect.

This naturally led to much hatred and distrust between the Jewish Community and the Netzarim, and in 90 C.E. “Samuel the Lesser” was commissioned to add to the synagogue prayers of the emerging Temple-less Rabbinic Judaism what came to be called the Birkat haMinim to the Eighteen Benedictions of the Amidah. The Talmud records the event this way:

Our Rabbis taught: Simeon ha-Pakuli arranged the eighteen benedictions in order before Rabban Gamaliel in Yavneh. Said Rabban Gamaliel to the Sages: “Can any one among you frame a benediction relating to the Minim [sectarians]?” Samuel the Lesser arose and composed it. (b.Berakot 29a).  

The Birkat haMinim as it appears today reads: And for slanderers let there be no hope, and let all wickedness perish as in a moment; let all thine enemies be speedily cut off, and the dominion of arrogance do you uproot and crush, cast down and humble speedily in our days. Blessed are you, YHVH, who breakest the enemies and humbles the arrogant.  But an old copy of the Birkat haMinim found at the Cairo Genizah reads:

For the renegades let there be no hope, and may the arrogant kingdom soon be rooted out in our days, and the Netzarim and the Minim perish as in a moment and be blotted out from the book of life and with the righteous may they not be inscribed. Blessed are you, YHVH, who humbles the arrogant.  This benediction was in the form of a curse on the Netzarim, which obviously had the effect of casting them out of the synagogues (Jn. 16:2) since Nazarenes who attended would be expected to recite a curse upon themselves. As Epiphanius records in the fourth century:

Not only do Jewish people have a hatred of [Netzarim]; they even stand up at dawn, at midday, and toward evening, three times a day when they recite their prayers in the synagogues, and curse and anathemize them. Three times a day they say, “Elohim curse the Nazarenes.” For they harbor an extra grudge against them, if you please, because despite their Jewishness, they proclaim that [Yahshua] is [Messiah]…(Epiphanius Panarion 29). 

132 C.E. The Bar Kokhba Revolt

In 132 a second Jewish revolt against Rome began. The Emperor Hadrian banned circumcision. In reaction, the Jews, Nazarenes and Pharisees alike, took up arms. During the revolt, Akiva, a leading Pharisaic Rabbi at the time, declared the leading Jewish general known as Bar Kosiba to be the Messiah. Bar Kosiba was renamed Bar Kochba, which means “son of the star,” and was declared the Messiah based on Num. 24:17:

I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not soon — a star will step forth from Ya’acov, a scepter will arise from Israel, to crush the corners of Mo’av and destroy all descendants of Shet.

Of course, the Netzarim could not accept Bar Kokhba as the Messiah and so we had another problem between the Netzarim and the P’rushim. So they left the army. From this time forward Nazarenes were labled “meshumedim” (traitors). Though the Pharisees later admitted that Bar Kokhba was not the Messiah, their resentment toward the Nazarenes for refusing to follow him continued.

After the Romans defeated the Jews around 132 C.E. Y’hudah, the last recorded Nazarene Nasi [head of the Beit Din] was exiled with the rest of the Jews from Yerushalayim. A Gentile Christian named Markus was made Bishop of Yerushalayim in his place.

The Council of Nicea

In 325 C.E. A Pagan Gentile named Constantine conquered Rome and made himself emperor. Constantine, although a Pagan himself, declared his brand of “Christianity” to be the Catholic (universal) religion, thus making Christianity the enforced state religion of the Roman Empire. Constantine, who was an anti-Semite, called the council of Nicea in 325 C.E. to standardize Christianity.

Netzarim were excluded from the meeting. Jewish practices were banned. The “Day of the Sun” was substituted for the Biblical Sabbath. For the first time Gentile Christianity officially labeled the Nazarenes as apostates. From this time forward Nazarenes begin to be listed in the catalogs of apostate movements (the first of these to include the Nazarenes was Epiphanius’s “Panarion” around 370 C.E.).

The Assimilation

By the fourth century the Nazarenes had communities in Beorea near Colesyria, in the Decapolis near Pella, and at Bashanitis at the place called Kokhba. (Epiphanius; Pan. 29). However, the Nazarenes by this time were a small sect which Epiphanius described as “small like an insect.” (ibid)

According to a tradition preserved by the Assyrian Christians known as Nestorians, these Nazarenes escaped the Roman empire into the Parthian Empire to its east. Here they either assimilated into the Nestorian Church of the East, finding fellowship with their fellow Semite Assyrians, or they were wiped out by the rise of Islam.

So, what is the point of all this? The Writings of the Nazarenes, or “New Testament” teaches us that in order to follow Yahshua, in order to “walk in His footsteps” down the narrow path, we need to look beyond the deceptions of the centuries, beyond the lies of the enemies that created a religion which can honestly be described as the “whore of Babylon.” We need to look back at the faith and practice of Yahshua and His disciples. The only way to do that is to know about, and understand, and be part of the followers of Yahshua from Nazaret, to be Netzarim not only in name, but in life.

Yahshua of Natzaret was a Torah observant Jew and a recognized teacher and authority among the Jewish people. The Christian Church has clouded, indeed distorted, the true identity of Messiah, clothing him in pagan theology and ritual and giving him a foreign name. To put it bluntly, to follow Yahshua you must first be able to recognize the real Messiah.

It is our goal not only to teach about the true Yahshua, not only to take the responsibility of the “watchman at the gate” to spread the Good News of Yahshua to every person we come in contact with, but to restore Netzarim Judaism and work toward recreating the first century community of Yahshua’s followers. In doing so, we must, as Yahshua and His disciples did, find our identification in Judaism and Israel. Also please read our statement of beliefs for further details of doctrine of the Nazarenes.

Shalom … Moreh ben Friedman

Yemenite 10 Commandments

The Nazarenes as a Major Party with first century Judaism

Over the past decade, there has become a progressive passion of many, Christian and Jews alike, to learn and understand the life and ministry of the first recognized congregation (ecclesia) of messianic followers of Jesus (ISHO). 

Were they like us, did they believe like we do? If not, then why not?  It is recognized that the limited vision we have comes through the gospels of the canon, the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), the Johannine Gospel, and the Acts of the Apostles attributed to the Apostle Luke.   

It is the book, Acts of the Apostles, in which we get our greatest insight, though limited, as it is told from the viewpoint of the Apostle Paul who spent very limited time in Jerusalem. This messianic congregation is known today by most Christians as ‘The Jerusalem Church’, but was in reality known in the language and culture of first century Judaism, the Kahal (Hebrew) Nazarene Ecclesia (Congregation) of Yisra’el (Israel).  They followed the teachings, the literal and spiritual ministry of Jesus, known to them as Yahshua ben David (Jesus son of David).  This ecclesia was recognized as being the direct spiritual and governmental heirs of succession to the ministry of Jesus.  As a true Jewish rabbi, Yahshua (ISHO) disciplining a small group of selected and chosen followers, twelve in number, a number that was very Hebrew in its origin. These disciples who were called the Talmid Hakham (disciples of the wise) dedicated their lives to understanding the Torah through the eyes of their master.  They were not recognized as mere illiterate men but were expected to achieve the heights of a scholarship of their master and to emulate the moral attributes of all the wise and learned of Israel.  According to the Talmud:

B. Yoma 72b – “Any scholar, whose inside is not like his outside, is no scholar.”  (B. Yoma 72b; English translation by I. Epstein, The Babylonian Talmud (London: Soncino, 1938, Seder Mo’ ed, 346-7, quoted by Jacques B. Doukhan, Israel and the Church, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, Mass, 2002.)

Did not their master, Yahshua (Jesus) (ISHO) achieve the reputation and respect, at the age of twelve, after the Feast of the Passover (Pesach) when his mother and father found him at the Temple sitting at the feet of the great Jewish teachers and scholars in Jerusalem?

According to the Mishnah, (m. Avot 5:21) a Jewish child started studying Torah from the feet of his parents, who in their own right were amateur Torah scholars who would put any modern Christian scholars to shame. By the age of ten, a young child started studying the Mishnah and by fifteen the Gemara.  So here at the age of twelve, Mary and Joseph found the child Jesus (Yahshua);

Luke 2:46-47 – “Not so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions.  And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers.” 

The concept of the Talmidim (disciples) of the master rabbi was already an established fact in Jewish tradition. Many times the disciples were chosen to leave their families and professions to follow their master.  We will later see the evidence in looking at the history of some of the disciples of some of the messianic Zealots and Hasmonean aspirants to the throne of the Maccabean dynastic family of Judas Maccabees and followed them in revolt to the wilderness or across the Jordan.  We also see this evidence in the sages of Judaism. Did not the prophet Ezra who composed the canon of the Jewish people have five disciples? (2 Esdras 14:42) There was Rabbi Akiva who was attributed to have five disciples (b. Yevamot 62b) or by another source seven disciples (Tanhuma Hayyei Sarah 6).  And then there was Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai, the founder of rabbinic Judaism, who was attributed to have five disciples. (m. Abot 2:8-9. (Doukhan, Jacques, Israel and the Church, Two Voices for the same God, Hendrickson Publisher, Inc. POB 4373, Peabody, Massachusetts 01961-3473, p. 8)   

The Jerusalem Church (Yerushalayim Ecclesia) was recognized as the Mother Church of what would later become Christianity.  In fact, the whole concept of the Jerusalem Church is a misnomer, as in the culture of first-century Judaism there were no churches.  The various groups of Sabbath worshippers met together in congregations called ecclesia, worshipped in the synagogues or the Temple of Herod in Jerusalem.  The Jewish followers of Jesus (ISHO) were called for the next few centuries, the Notzri, and the congregation of Notzris was called the Nazarenes. As such the official name for the Jerusalem Church was the Hebrew (Kahal) Nazarene Congregation (Ecclesia) of Israel (Yisra’el). 

Throughout this study, we will continue to appeal to the real name of the early apostolic followers of Jesus (ISHO).  They were truly the primitive Christians, but as we shall soon see, the primitive Christians were actually more educated and spiritually advanced than their descendants many centuries later.  So is often the course of history, we, as historians and scholars in the modern world, found that we have an abundance of knowledge.  Though our knowledge has truly increased, the depths of our understanding were more superficial.  It does not have the multiple layers of spiritual and mystical meanings and understanding that was a part of the laminated mosaic of Jewish religious knowledge.  

This study is complex and not the simple story that I grew up to believe.  It was an era when actors moved on and off the Jewish religious and political stage.  During this era, religious and political parties merged, separated, re-affirmed and then denounced each other.  We find a large corpus of literature representing each party on multiple sides of an issue.  In order to understand the full picture, we find heroes and traitors represented by the same person, depending on who was doing the writing and the judging. 

Any opinion a historian can make on this era will be denounced by some believers as evil, heretical, and fraudulent to the cause of (ISHO) Christ.  The polarity of the Jewish people allowed no shades of gray and multiple shades of black.  That polarity lives with us today as Christians and may even resurrect itself in this course of study.   So we enter cautiously, prayerfully, yet with a hope that looking at the history of the era and recognizing that all human are affected by the political, spiritual and social events of their day, we can enhance and enlighten that era recognized as the birth of Christianity.

The Historical Evidence – did it really happen?

So much of scholarship today is in reference to defining the question, did it really happen?  Was the life of Jesus a historical event? The first area to look at has to be the context of time.  It has been suggested that the life of Jesus was not an important figure in the Roman world and times.   We must come to this study with the understanding that the Jews in the diaspora, living outside the province of Judea were in constant touch with their homeland, and traveled frequently back to Jerusalem to attend the feasts of the tabernacle as required by every adult Jewish male living in the land.  The province of Judea was so strategically located that any unrest or revolt would quickly spread and could destroy the political stability of the entire Eastern Roman Empire.

There was an intense hatred against the Romans occupiers of Judea, known as the Edomites or the Kittim, by the Zealots or the nationalistic Jews, who were also known as those that were ‘zealous for the law’ and Sicarii.  Their passions based on their religious beliefs alone were always on the cutting edge of revolt.  To them, Yahweh had forbidden the allegiance and worship to any other ruler and that included the Emperor of Rome.  That the Roman citizens considered the emperor of Rome to be divine was only fuel for the fodder that recognized that this was blasphemy against the God of Abraham. Finally, Jesus came into earth’s history when the most intense fervor of messianic expectation occurred in Jewish life, including a long line of Davidian aspirants to the throne of David and the Hasmonean aspirants to the throne of the Maccabean rulers of Judea.

The Social and Political Sphere in Jerusalem

Jerusalem was the epicenter of one of the most dynamic centers of religious thought and passion in the ancient world.  At the millennium and the onset of a new era, the largest and most massive temple complex in the Roman world was being completed, the Temple of Herod.  The whole focus of the Temple cult was on the hope of a future Messiah and the apocalyptic entrance of the “kingdom of God” as seen by the emergence of an independent Jewish nation, ruled by a Messianic king which would usher in a new world of Peace and harmony for the whole world. 

Dedicated Disciples

For even to the Jew, this was a strange time to live.  Their whole life was telescoped into an obsession that human history was coming to a climax that the cosmic battle of good and evil, light and darkness was finally to end.  This was the high-water mark in a new form of religious thought, eschatology, or the study of events at the time of the end in which the world would end in a great apocalypse, ushering in a new world of the piece.  It is no wonder we are fascinated by this era for its similarities and affinities to our lives today are as apparent as multiple cultures and ideologies are competing for allegiance to their version of a coming world age.  Even the geopolitical forces of global government seeking to democratize the world into a ‘safer and more humane world’ is apart of this apocalyptic fervor of our present era.  For the thoughtful, was God leading or was the man taking history in his own hands and producing a self-fulfilling prophecy a portent of theirs and our own apocalyptic demise.

The Actors and Power Brokers

Sadducees:  The Sadducees, recognized as the official priesthood, were the central political and religious brokers that emerged from the political oppression of the Persian rulers, the Seleucids, and the Romans.  The latter, a former ally, now became their oppressor.  To them, it was the ‘political correct thought’ that it was better to work with the Romans who had brought them an international world of peace, the Pox Romania, in order to preserve the semblance of Jewish life and control.  To them, the Jewish Kingdom of God would be under the ‘control’ of the priest and the nobles.  It was they who would control the moral authority of Jewish law and the purity of the Jewish faith.  The wisdom of Jewish thought and the enlightenment that would emanate from the Temple service in the new and glorious Temple of Herod would vault Jerusalem as the rightful inheritor of the cultic, religious, center of the world.

Controlled by a few families, they were elitist and aristocratic.  Greed and corruption led to their wealth.  To maintain their wealth and power, they were not only accomplices to Roman oppression but also became oppressors in their right upon their own people. They had a virtual monopoly of all functions and appointments in the services of the Temple. The vast revenues in the commercialization of the Temple sacrificial service gave great wealth to these families.  It was this power, money, and greed that alienated them from the Jewish peasants.  It was their “large corporate management” in the buying and selling of the sacrificial animals that Jesus with righteous indignation called them a ‘den of thieves”.  Those not within the employment of the Temple controlled the administrative and civic job sector in Judah.

Theocracy to them came through the power of the mighty and cloaked with the ecclesiastical authority. They rejected the concept of divine intervention and as such, a messiah or redemption by divine cataclysm was a threat to their power and authority.  As such they rejected the Resurrection and future life.

It was the Sadducees who were the responsible agents in the death of Jesus and it was they who proclaimed, “His blood shall be upon us and our children.” (Matthew 27:26)  Jesus (ISHO), considered by many to be the rightful King of the Jews, was a challenge to Rome and to Caesar and was a threat to Sadducean political power base.  Jesus (ISHO), driving out the money exchangers, and taking control as Priest of the temple service for forty-eight hours was a threat to their religious and economic power base when the temple revenues from the extortion and graft from the sale of the doves and lambs for the personal sacrifices dried up.  For those two days during the Passover week, the population of Jerusalem, including the Essenes, the Zealots, and a large segment of the legitimate priestly class, were able to witness the “Kingdom of God” in real life and action.  They did not see a military royal aspirant leading the Jews towards a revolt.  They instead saw the “Son of God” reaching out for all His people in caring and love. 

When Herod’s Temple was destroyed in AD 70 and the central temple services were terminated, the Sadducees as a party ceased to exist.  

Pharisees:  The Pharisees were the legitimate anti-thesis and the political and religious rivals to the Sadducees.  As a close fraternity of teachers and instructors “in the Law”, they were the religious reformers in that day.  The Sadducees controlled the Temple sacrificial service (and the income derived from it).  The Pharisees controlled the religious thought, for their power base of authority was in the weekly synagogue service which became the central core of Judaism.  As such, they were anti-aristocratic and generally friends of the population.

Their religious reformation led to the certain exactitude of the law, or the 613 commandments of the Torah, at the same time their religious thought was flexible, adapting new ideas and concepts in religious teachings and philosophy.   Their schools of Pharisaic traditions were legendary, with famous teachers such as Hillel and Gamaliel, the latter the teacher of Paul and by some traditions, Luke, who himself was a secret follower of Jesus.   (ISHO) Jesus used Pharisaic thinking in his teachings including his famed, “Do unto others as thou would have others do unto you.”  Taken from the great Pharisaic teacher and scholar, Hillel, “What is hateful to yourself, do not do to your neighbor.”  (Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln, The Messianic Legacy, Dell Publishing, 1540 Broadway, New York, New York 10036, 1986, pg. 60)

Their daily life and conduct demanded strict forms of sanctity.  Their exactitude in tithe-paying, exaggerated and ostentatious prayers, their consuming details to the letter of the law earned them special rebuke by Jesus.  They looked forward to a messiah of the lineage of David, the Moshiach ben David, who would be a strong proponent of the Law.  This Messiah would restore a kingdom in which social justice would rule, the land of Israel would be redeemed with the arrival of the messianic era in which all the world would worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and Israel would once again become truly the ‘light of the world’.  As such, they believed in a resurrection and also in redemption.  Though Jesus (ISHO) on occasion attacked individual concepts of Pharisaic thought, this can also be looked upon a legal jargon, not associated with personal animosity.  As a group, they had a certain affinity with the message of Jesus.

Scribes and Lawyers:  The Scribes in Jewish life were the legal glue of Judaism.  These were the legal professionals, the attorneys, in Jewish life.  Like the Justices of the Supreme Court, they defended or attacked the various applications of the Mosaic Law, seeking to keep every nuance of life in legal conformity with the ancient writs of Jehovah.  

Many times associated with the Pharisees, these professionals were used by the Pharisees to provide their legal and religious challenges to Jesus (ISHO).  A careful study of the legal jargon and dialogue with Jesus (ISHO) has been likened to modern attorneys arguing over minute applications of the law, sometimes in the acrimonious debate, yet they would walk out of court in friendly and professional banter.

True professionals, they discussed issue-oriented topics and usually did not mix them with personal attacks on an individual basis.  On a personal basis, they could lean towards philosophically either to Sadduceism, Pharisaism, or Essenism.  As such many Pharisees, scribes and lawyers were counted on as admirers in the life and ministry of Jesus (ISHO). With their fervent belief in messianic ideals, many also accepted Jesus (ISHO) as the Messiah.

Essenes:  The tradition of the Essenes goes back to about 150 BC when the Chasidim, rebelled and split off from the Jewish hierarchy in protest to their secular accommodation with Persian and Roman authorities.  They were the most mysterious of all the sects in Judea.  Outside of Josephus and Philo, the early Christian scholar had very little documentation until the Dead Sea Scrolls were uncovered in the Qumran site near the Dead Sea.

Qumran has now been accepted as a library and manuscript production site, and possibly their major headquarters.  Hundreds of documents, scrolls, and fragments have been discovered and cataloged on every book of the Old Testament except the Book of Esther. Also included were scores of books and commentaries outside the Old Testament Canon. 

What was even more revealing were the words and the meaning of their literature such as, ‘the poor’, ‘the meek’, the ‘four thousand’, the ‘five thousand’, the ‘elect’, which were used in the teachings and ministry of Jesus.  They were a prophetic group with a defined apocalyptic mission.  They felt they were to await the soon coming Messiah and to protect him when he arrived.

Randall Price – Secrets of the Dead Sea Scrolls

The Essenes, about one hundred fifty years before Jesus’ birth, split as part of the Chasidim separatists, over the Sadducee party who were working as ‘accomplices’ with the Romans in the rule and security of Judea.  To them, the Sadducee was a usurper of the role of the temple priests.  To them, the High Priest could only come from the descendants of the Levitical priestly line of Zadok, the appointed High Priest of King David.  The Zidonians, according to some experts had set up a separate Temple service outside of Jerusalem, at Khirbet Mird, a Hasmonean Palace, which they claimed would be ministered by the pure line of Zadok temple priests.

It was to the Essenes in the first century BC, that the messianic congregation of followers of Jesus (Yahshua) in the 1st century drew many of its major religious concepts such as the sacraments of baptism, the Eucharistic meal (Communion), role of the Devil, the roles of the angels in the heavenly hierarchy, the pervasive emphasis of the doctrine of dualism (war or conflict in heaven), the time of the end eschatology, the origin and nature of evil, the concept of progressive revelation, the adoption of celibacy and communism (commune society).

Zealots: The Zealots were the ideological radicals of Jewish life.  They first came into prominence when the Herodian family rule came to an end in 6 AD, and the son of Herod the Great, Archelaus, was deposed as an ethnarch.   At this time, a Roman Legate assumed legal authority over Judea.  A census of persons and property brought a major revolt by Judas of Galilee and his associate Zadok.  

They were anti-gentile.  They felt that they would be contaminated if they associated with them. Philosophically, they were akin to the Essenes and the Nazarenes and along with all who were Zealots for the Law and the preservation of Jewish ideology and their national identity, came to be known as the Fourth Philosophy. 

As activists, they were inflexible in their quest for national freedom, especially from Roman rule.  They were willing to take to the defense of the Law with the sword. As such, they were the freedom fighters, the guerrilla, warfare fighters, and in the eyes of the Romans, terrorists. 

Simon the Zealot was a member of Jesus’ inner circle and as such, the cause of the Zealots was part of the messianic and apocalyptic message of Yahshua.

Sicarii:   The Sicarii were the radical ultra-right wing of the Zealots.  Whereas the Zealots worked on a national scale and fomented revolt against the Romans, the Sicarii, took the revolution on a personal basis.  They were named after the Sica, the saber daggers they kept hidden under their cloaks.  As such, they were the assassin squads, seeking to eliminate those individuals who were most accommodating to the Roman rulers.  Judas Iscariot was possibly known as Judas the Sicarii. 

Randall Price – Secrets of the Dead Sea Scrolls

Nazarenes:   Jewish followers of Jesus were commonly called Nazarenes.  This Greek word comes from the Hebrew Notsrim, meaning, Keepers or Preservers.  Jesus was called; Jesus the Nazarene and Paul was rightfully accused of being a leader of the sect called Nazarenes.  The followers of Jesus were initially identified as followers of the “The Way”. In Antioch in Syria, the Hellenized followers of Jesus were called ‘Christians’, about 50 AD. Yet for fifteen years, the hierarchy of the Jerusalem Church as identified in Acts of the Apostles, had so many features in common with the Essenes.  The massive ‘converts’ who joined the church by the thousands during the Pentecostal revival, can only be understood in light that a majority of those in the Essene community was converted to the message of Jesus by Peter and John. 

The early primitive Christian Church inherited the legacy of the Essenes but not the sectarian separateness and the cultic secret society aspects of the calcified Essene movement found in the first century.  

The Baptists: those disciples of John the Baptist (an Essene) who would not accept Jesus as the Christ became what we were called the Mandean Nazarenes and the Simonites.  The Zadokites, in the Zealot movement, and other Last-Day groups, “Way of the Law’ and the ‘Way of Freedom’ became splinters of an era of apocalyptic messianic seekers (Schonfield, Hugh Joseph, The Pentecost Revolution, The Story of the Jesus Party in Israel, AD 36-66, Macdonald and Janes’s, St. Giles, 49/50 Poland Street, London, W.I., 1974, p 282-287).

As such, this author will identify the Jerusalem Christian Church under the leadership of James the Just, brother of Jesus, as the Hebrew Nazarene Ecclesia in Jerusalem. The followers of Yahshua were authentic Jewish believers to their core.  They were Torah observing, Shabbat worshipping, temple worshippers, and festival observers from their infancy or early development onward.   

Peasants:   The majority of the Jewish population was the peasants, who were willing followers and sought leadership in the major parties or sects.  It must be understood that the major parties, only commanded at the most an estimated seven to eight thousand adherents each and the minor parties, Zealots, and Sicarii, only in the hundreds.  The peasants toiled unceasingly in predominately agrarian labor. During the Sabbatical year, they had a year off from the toil of manual labor. As such, they had the freedom to follow whatever the leader was in the area or the most prominent at the time.  Most peasants were not ideologically oriented. What they did understand is whether a teacher or a leader appeared to understand their needs and cares. 

The Jewish Sabbatical Year and the Roman Census
The Jewish Sabbatical Year of every Seven Years

According to Mosaic Law, every seventh year the land would rest, with no cultivation.  The only produce during that year could be that which grew naturally, whether it was fruits or grains.   As such, the population would have to stockpile provisions for that seventh year.  If this year were preceded by years of famine than the poor people in the land would be in great distress.  On the other side, the entire agrarian population was free from performing the normal labors of agrarian life. These years would find the people flocking to hear messianic preachers or following apocalyptic leaders fomenting nationalistic ideas and political protest

The Roman Census and Taxation Cycle of every Fourteen Years

Another historical cycle to identify in first-century Jewish history was the Roman census, which was a source of significant hatred and agitation to the Jewish people.  First of all, it dislocated the people who had to leave their area of employment and return to their native locality for an official census.  It came every fourteen years when the Roman census was completed and the taxes were computed from this documentation.  As a census, or the numbering of God’s people, was against Jewish Law which forbad the numbering of the people, it was viewed as a symbol of their ‘slavery’ to the Romans. (Schonfield, Hugh Joseph, The Pentecost Revolution, The Story of the Jesus Party in Israel, AD 36-66, Macdonald and Janes’s, St. Giles, 49/50 Poland Street, London, W.I., 1974, p 50-51)    

According to Jewish historian Hugh Schonfield in his book, The Pentecost Revolution, (Schonfield, Hugh Joseph, The Pentecost Revolution, The Story of the Jesus Party in Israel, AD 36-66, Macdonald and Janes’s, St. Giles, 49/50 Poland Street, London, W.I., 1974, chapter 3, Time Factors), he sets forth the thesis that the history of Jesus and the messianic movement of his later followers must be set in the historical setting which includes the understanding of the Sabbatical Passovers. 

According to the Mosaic Law, the soil in the land of Israel must lay fallow or uncultivated every seventh year and as such the peasants that were most closely associated with the agrarian culture of Judea were most affected.  Every seventh year they were not able to plant their crops and had to live off of what was grown naturally or by native growth of the grains.  That this Torah injunction was critically important to the Jews must be taken in light that the exile of the Jews to Babylon for seventy years was directly related that for seventy Sabbatical Sabbaths the Israelites had forsaken their covenant with their God and for four hundred ninety years, 70 x 7 years, the Sabbatical years were not followed. As such, the Lord of hosts put a curse upon the people and the land of Israel was allowed to rest for seventy years, while the Jewish people lived in Babylon and Persia. 

With the expectation that the agrarian farmers had to stockpile their provisions so that they could live for a year, the families and especially the males were free from their normal labor and could study under a special rabbi or many became involved in either religious or political foment that would erupt across the land.  It there was a famine or locust plaque prior to this year, the hardship upon the people of the land would be severe. Such is the Lucian story (Acts 11:27-30), of the great famine in Judea in 40 CE, the year prior to the accession of Claudius Caesar to the emperorship of Rome.  Out of this historical event comes the story in Acts. 

Acts 11:27-30 – “And in those days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch. Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar. Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea.  This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabus and Saul.”

As we shall see later, the political ferment in a starving population in Judea during a drought led later to reprisal by Claudius Caesar and the forced expulsion of the Jews in 44 CE.  This then caps the story of the Apostle Paul, moving from Athens to Corinth, met a certain Pontus Jews Aquilla and his wife Priscilla, who had just moved from Rome to Corinth “because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome.”  (Acts 18:1)  The fact that they were of the same occupation, tentmakers, only highlights another factor of biblical exegesis and history.

Some scholars suggest that living in a coastal city; they manufactured sails for the sailing vessels of the Mediterranean. Looking at the Greek word for tentmaker, skenopoios (skay-noop-oy-oi) (Strong’s 4635), we find that it comes from the root, skenos (skay-nos) or a tabernacle for God as the body was a tabernacle for the spirit of God and skenoma (skay-no-mah) the Temple as the dwelling place of the Lord.  This strongly suggests that instead of making tents, as this was not a Bedouin culture, they were making tallits or prayer shawls which represented to the Jews a tent to put over their bodies as they dwelled with the Lord in prayer. 

Looking over the historical events of Jesus, we find the first great public outcry that went across the land in the fall, 3 BCE to the fall, 2 BCE, the year after the death of Herod the Great.  The birth of Jesus and the massacre of the children under two years of age in Bethlehem is placed in the historical milieu of an era of paranoid derangement of Herod as he killed his wife, children and any other potential claimants to his throne, including trying to kill a babe, born of the house of David, in which three magi from the Parthian provinces east of Judea were coming to worship.  That the historian, Luke, knowing that Jesus was not older than two years of age, only would logically place the birth of Yahshua no earlier than the fall of 7 BCE and no later than the fall of 6 BCE.  

Also as stated by Jewish Historian Hugh Schonfield, according to the ancient custom for the Royalty Law and other passages from the Book of Deuteronomy to be read in the Temple on the first day of the Festival of Tabernacles, Sukkot, just after the close of the last day of the Sabbatical year.  According to the Mishnah, these passages were read by King Agrippa and according to the Sabbatical years can now be dated to October 41 CE, after the close of the Sabbatical year from 40 to 41 CE.  According to Sotah vii, 8, King Agrippa read, remembering that he was not fully Jewish, cried while he read, “You are not to set a foreigner over you who is not your brother”, while the crowds shouted ‘You are our brother, You are our brother.” From this date, we can now determine the date of the rise of Augustus Caesar. (Schonfield, Hugh Joseph, The Pentecost Revolution, The Story of the Jesus Party in Israel, AD 36-66, Macdonald and Janes’s, St. Giles, 49/50 Poland Street, London, W.I., 1974, p ).

The Sabbatical Passovers and the Rulers of Judea
Sabbatical  Passover came every Seven Years,  
The Roman Census came to every Fourteenth Year following the Sabbatical Year
The Year started in the fall (i.e. Sept. 3 – Sept. 2 BC.)

Death of King Herod the Great – 4 BCE
3-2 BCE –        Sabbatical Passover – 2 BC – The year following Herod’s Death.
5-6 CE –          Sabbatical Passover –
The first Roman Census – 6-7 CE by Quirinius, Governor of Syria.  
The process of the Roman census taking has now been documented by a papyri uncovered in Egypt.  It documents the rise of Judas of Galilee and a band of zealots who rose against the Romans because they were taking a numbering of the Jewish according to which was illegal according to the laws of the Jews.  (Schonfield, Hugh Joseph, The Pentecost Revolution, The Story of the Jesus Party in Israel, AD 36-66, Macdonald and Janes’s, St. Giles, 49/50 Poland Street, London, W.I., 1974, p 50 ).

12-13 CE –      Sabbatical Passover
19-20 CE –      Sabbatical Passover – The year preceding the Second Roman Census 20-21 AD. (The census papers have been located.)
The Second Roman Census – 19-20 CE
26-27 CE –      Sabbatical Passover

Models for the Date of the Crucifixion of Yahshua

30 CE –            The Model for a Spring, 30 CE, Crucifixion of Jesus – The crucifixion of Jesus would have occurred on the High Sabbath, which was recognized as the Passover Shabbat.  This day literally could have occurred on any day of the week.  This date according to the literal text of scripture should occur in the midst of the literal seven-day week cycle, yet it could also have occurred in the midst of the week of the Jewish Sabbatical Year from the Jewish New Years in the fall of 26 CE to the fall of 34 CE. As such this model for the date of Jesus’ death on the Passover of 30 CE meets two different criteria of the prophecy of Daniel that the sacrifices and oblations would cease in the midst of the week and the prophecy of Jonah, in which Jesus laid in the bowls of the earth for three days and three nights.  This date for the crucifixion would also have put Jesus to death forty years before the fall of Jerusalem to the Roman legions of Vespasian in 70 CE.

According to the traditions of the Jews, after the death of Jesus, the hierarchy of the temple priests became more and more aware that the sacrificial system within the temple was corrupted and not accepted in the eyes of the Lord of hosts.  Note what the Talmud states occurred at the time after the death of Christ.
Shabbat 15a – “Forty years before the destruction of Jerusalem, the Sanhedrin was banished (from the Chamber of Hewn Stones in the Temple) and sat in the Trading Station (in the Temple to the east of the former Chamber)”

Yoma 39b – “Our rabbis taught: During the last forty years before the   destruction of the Temple, the lot (‘For the Lord’) did not come up in the right hand; nor did the crimson-colored strap become white; nor did the westernmost light (the three lamp shaft with seven lamps each on the right side of the Menorah nearest the Holy of Holiest) shine; and the doors of the Hekel (the large doors into the Holy Place) would open by themselves.”

                        Within the traditions of the Jews may come the best indicators for the death of Yahshua.  Assuming the death of Jesus at 30 CE, forty years before the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, the omens that were reported during those years forty years can now be appreciated.  We must also comprehend the political consequences of the actions of Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin presiding over the illegal trial of Jesus in the Chamber of Hewn Stones in the Temple leading to His subsequent death on the tree. From that date forward, the Sanhedrin moved to the Trading Station.

This Manuscript will use the Model that the Death of Jesus did occur at 30 CE

33 CE –            The Model for a Spring, 33 CE, crucifixion of Jesus – This date for the crucifixion of Jesus has appeal to some Sabbatarians in that there is astronomical evidence that the Passover Sabbath fell on the seventh-day Sabbath day on the night of the full moon which occurred after the spring equinox.  According to this date, the day the full moon occurred was on Friday, April 3rd, at 5:13 p.m. fourteenth day of the Jewish month of Nisan in 33 AD.  (Furneaux pg. 124) 

Yet using the solar equinox cycle to determine Passover in which Yahshua died cannot be determined by a solar calendar, for the actual date of the Passover was not determined by the spring equinox but by the religious lunar calendar of the Hebrews. Using the spring equinox as the date calculation was non-Jewish and was instituted by the 3rd century Roman orthodox church in order to set the date for the Christian festival of Easter Sunday.

According to the Mosaic Law, the date of the Passover celebration would occur on the 15th day of Abib after the first sliver of the moon was sighted over Jerusalem after the first ripened barley was found in the fields around the base of the Mount of Olives.  Advocates of the 33 CE date for the crucifixion of Jesus and the slaying of the Passover (Pesach) lamb on the 14th day of Nisan so that the pilgrims could celebrate Passover on the 15th of Nisan, would truly have appeal to a Sabbatarian (Seventh-day Sabbath) worshipper, yet it was not compatible with Mosaic Law. 

The High Sabbath as spoken in the Book of John was the Sabbath of the Passover festival and once every seven years could have fallen on the seventh-day Sabbath.  If Jesus was literally crucified and stayed in the tomb for three days and three night according to the prophecy of Jonah, then the 33 CE model in which the crucifixion of Jesus would have fallen on Friday would not be compatible.  This date would also not be compatible with the ‘in the midst of the week’ prophecy which could have been a literal week or the ‘week of years’ on the Sabbatical year.

33-34 CE –      First Sabbatical Passover – The Crucifixion of Yahshua if He died on a Sabbatical Passover Year
The Third Roman Census occurred in 34-35 CE.

34 CE –            The Model for a Spring, 34 CE, Crucifixion of Jesus – The crucifixion of Jesus would have occurred on High Sabbath that literally could occur in the midst of the week and occurred on the Passover on the Sabbatical Year that occurred every seven years.  Yet the High Sabbath according to the Torah and Jewish law was not the day the Passover landed on the Seventh-day Sabbath, but actually, the High Passover Sabbath could land on any day of the week. 

On the other hand, according to the solar calendar used by the Essenes in the first century CE, the Passover occurred on Wednesday evening.  What gives this date particular appeal is that the last year of Jesus’ ministry, it was the Sabbatical Year, the land was not cultivated and all the peasants in the land were able to follow Jesus and participate in His ministry.  This would give further insight into the Galilean ministry with vast throngs of people and the social unrest that was fomenting in the land just prior to the upcoming third Roman census between the Jewish New Years in the fall of 34 and the fall of 35 CE. 

The Third Roman Census of 34-35 CE followed. – According to Jewish historian Hugh Schonfield, the census papers have been located for this year.  (Schonfield, Hugh Joseph, The Pentecost Revolution, The Story of the Jesus Party in Israel, AD 36-66, Macdonald and Janes’s, St. Giles, 49/50 Poland Street, London, W.I., 1974 p. 50).

Death of Emperor Tiberius Caesar – March, 37 CE
The accession of Gaius Caligula Caesar – March, 37 CE

40-41 CE –      Second Sabbatical Passover

Assassination of Gaius Caligula Caesar – January, 41 CE
Accession of Claudius Caesar – January, 41 CE

47-48 CE –      Third Sabbatical Passover – The Great Famine in Judah occurred in 46 CE.  Paul returns to Jerusalem with money for the poor in Jerusalem and was subsequently imprisoned following riots in the Temple court.
The Fourth Roman Census occurs in 47-48 CE; therefore the Sabbatical
The year was 47-48.

Death of Claudius Caesar – October, 54 CE
The accession of Nero – October, 54 CE

54-55 CE –      Fourth Sabbatical Passover
61-62 CE –      Fifth Sabbatical Passover – Jacob the Just executed on the Temple platform – The Fifth Roman Census occurred on 62-63 CE

Death of Emperor Nero – 68 CE
C. Iulius Vindes – 68 CE
L. Clodius Macer – 68 CE
Galba – 68 CE
C. Nymphidius Sabinus – 68-69 CE
Otho – 69 CE
Vitellius – 69 CE
Accession of Vespasian – 69-79 CE

68-69 CE –      Sixth Sabbatical Passover – The Siege of Jerusalem – 70 CE –
                        Fall of Jerusalem
75-76 CE –      Seventh Sabbatical Passover abolished – Temple destroyed and Jewish Passover as a temple rite in Jerusalem was ended.
The Sixth Roman Census 82-83 CE

Death of Vespasian – 79 CE
Accession and Death of Titus – 79 CE to 81 CE
The accession of Domitian – 81 CE

82-83 CE – 
89-90 CE –      The Seventh Roman Census occurred in 90-91 CE

Death of Domitian – 96 CE
Accession and Death of Nerva – 96 – 98 CE
The accession of Trajan – 98 CE

96-97 CE –
104-105 CE – The Eighth Roman Census occurred in 105-106 CE – papers have been located

Death of Trajan – 117 CE

Rulers and Procurators over Judah

The Roman governors over Judea came about the year 6 CE in the form of procurators when the son of Herod, Archelaus was banished.  As we shall see later, the Procurator was eventually given custody over the whole area of what would eventually be known as Roman Palestine after King Agrippa died in 44 CE.  The Procurator was essentially independent though politically joined to Syria, who was under the authority of a Roman Legate.  The geopolitical forces that would swing back and forth in Judea and Galilee would be very dependent upon the strength, wisdom, and stability of the Roman Procurator and how politically allied the High Priest in Jerusalem would be to the Roman Procurator. 

Only the Roman provinces that possessed a civilization that was more antiquated than the Roman themselves received the semi-autonomy of having their own Procurator.  Those selected for this position of governance usually came from the ranks of the Roman knights.  A notable exception was Felix who lived in the Praetorium or the former palace of Herod, whom Paul presented his case after the riots against him in the Temple of Herod, was once a free man who was appointed procurator of Judea. Yet this was due mainly that his brother Pallas was the secretary of the Roman treasury under Claudius Caesar (41-54 CE) and Felix was also married to a Jewish princess, Drusilla.

Copper Coin by Herod the Great with Macedonian shield with disk surrounded by rays (Madden, “History of Jewish Coinage)

Yet if the Procurator did not abide by the wishes of Rome, that is especially to appease the population, keep a stable political organization so the land would be productive (for taxes to Rome) and safe, then the Legates of Syria would have to step in and impose rule from a high level of Roman authority.  Vitellius, the Legate of Syria did such a thing in 36 CE when Pilate (26-36 CE) was deposed and later the Legate Quadratus sent Ventidius Cumanus the Procurator, between 48-52 CE, went to Rome to give an account of his actions before the Caesar whereupon he was banished. 

Between 6-41 CE, the procurator ruled over only the Roman province of Judea, who along with the Syrian legate had the power to supervise the activities of the Temple of Herod and the authority to appoint or depose the high priest.  For three years, 41-44 CE, Map of Judaea after 63 BCE. Copyright Jona Lendering.the authority reverted back to a Jewish governorship under King Agrippa I.  Then the Procurator again assumed the rulership after 44 CE not only over Judea but also Samaria and Galilee between the years 44-70 CE.  Yet during this later period, the high priests and the supervision of the Temple of Herod were given to the authority of the Jewish princes of the Herodian family dynasty.

The Kingdom of Herod the Great

Herod I the Great – founder of the Herodian dynasty (40-4 BCE)
Born the son of Antipater from Idumea, the rulership of Herod was predicted by an Essene named Menahem. Herod the Great began the great dynasty that ruled over some part of present-day Palestine until the fall of Rome in 70 CE.   The death of Herod was in 4 BCE and the next year was the celebration of the Sabbatical Passover. 

The Partition of the kingdom of Herod the Great to Archelaus, Antipas, and Philip

King Herod Archelaus (4 BCE-6CE)
Born in 23 BCE, the son of King Herod the Great and Malthace, Archelaus was the full brother to Herod Antipas and half brother to Philip. Though according to the will of Herod the Great upon his death he was entitled to the title of the King of Judea, Augustus Caesar informed him that he could only assume the title of Ethnarch ( ‘national leader’) of Judea, Samaria, and Idumea. 

The accession of King Archelaus was met quickly with resistance and the golden Roman eagle over the entrance to the Temple was pulled down by two popular Jewish teachers, Judas and Matthias.  On March 13, 4 BCE, they plus their students were burned alive in Jerusalem with massive throngs of angry Jews. The ensuing revolt of the Passover of 4 BCE was eventually quelled with three thousand Jews killed.  From there Archelaus quickly went to Rome to be crowned by Augustus Caesar.

While away new revolts erupted by Judas the son of Hezekiah, Simon of Perea, and Athronges the Shepherd and the Roman forces under the command of the Roman legate of Syria, Publius Quinctilius Varus had to come down and suppress the revolts because the forces of Archelaus were unable to suppress them totally.  Into this political unrest, the Apostle Matthew frames the story of the return of Joseph and Coin of Herod Archelaus.Mary with the babe, Yahshua, in which they were afraid to return to the land ruled by the Herod Archelaus (Matthew 2:22) and thereby settled in the province of Galilee. 

The Coin of Herod Archelaus of Judea with a cluster of grapes and a crested morion

The rulership of Archelaus was so inept that both the Jews and the Samaritans appealed to Caesar.  It finally took another bloody revolt this time by Judas the Galilean over the Roman taxation which is behind the story of the Second Birth ceremony of Jesus in 6 CE.  Archelaus was finally deposed in 6 CE to Vienne in Gaul in central France and died about 18 CE.

Archelaus’ troops were unable to cope with them, and the Roman governor of Syria, Publius Quinctilius Varus, had to intervene. Two thousand people were crucified, but not all leaders were caught. Ultimately, Archelaus came to terms with one of Athronges’ brothers, something that will not have made a good impression. Matthew implies that Jesus’ parents Joseph and Mary were afraid to go to the territories ruled by Archelaus, and therefore settled in Galilee (Matthew 2.22).

Coponius, Procurator of Judea (6 or 7-9 CE) –
During this period were the first census in Judea and the subsequent revolt by Judas the Galilean (Josephus, Antiquities, XVIII, I, 1)

Marcus Ambibulus (Ambivius), Procurator of Judea (9-12 CE)

Annius Rufus, Procurator of Judea (c. 12-15 CE)
During his governorship, Augustus Caesar died on August 19, 14 CE.

Vilarias Gratus, Procurator of Judea (15-26 CE)
During his tenure, it was the first time that the Procurator arbitrarily appointed and deposed the high priests in the Temple of Herod.   

Pilate, Procurator of Judea (26- 36 CE)
As will be discussed later, Pilate did have an unusually long appointment but eventually was deposed (Josephus, Antiquities, XVIII, iv, 2) before Vitellius, the legate of Syria made his first appearance to Jerusalem at the Passover festivals in the spring of 36 CE. (Josephus, Antiquities, XVIII, iv, 3 and v, 3)

Vitellius, Roman Legate of Syria – 36-39 CE
Vitellius visited Jerusalem for the first time at the Passover festival in 36 CE. (Josephus, Antiquities Book XVIII)  During this visit, he gave many concessions to the Jewish people, including remitting taxes on the sale of agricultural products and appeasement’s to the Jews by allowing them to keep the high priest vestments in the Temple.

The high priest Caiaphas was deposed for his acts of improper management of the Roman interest to pacify the Jews rather than incite the zealots in the land of Judea.  The zealot uprisings at the time of the crucifixion of Yahshua and even the surreptitious handling by this Machiavellian of Jewish politics by placing the blame of Yahshua’s death in the hands of the Romans did not sit well with the Caesar of Rome. 

Jonathan Ananias, the son of Annas was installed as high priest in the office held by Caiaphas.  When Vitellius returned to Jerusalem in the fall of 36 CE he quickly deposed Jonathan Ananias as the high priest and Theophilus, son of Annas was installed as High Priest.

Marcellus, Overseer of Judea (36-37 CE).
Marcellus was a personal friend of Vitellius and was authorized as a subordinate official to render an account of the political events occurring in Judea.  As such Josephus did not call him a Procurator by an ἐπιμελητής or an overseer. 

No Roman Appointee: Spring, 36 to fall, 37 CE – The Roman Census was completed 34-35 CE and the Jewish society was upset and restless due to the imposition of taxes after a Sabbatical Passover Year.  Pilate was banished in 36 CE due to his undue force and the unjust governorship.   No procurator was appointed and Vitellius was to assume Roman authority over Judah.  He appointed Jonathan Ananias son of Annas to be High Priest on his visit to Jerusalem during the Passover, 36 CE and gave the power of de facto rulership as he was involved in preparation for war with the Arabs who had beat Herod. From the Passover, 36 CE to the Pentecost, 37 CE when Vittelian returned to visit, Jonathan had full reign to take revenge on the infant Nazarene (Jerusalem) Church. This led to the stoning and Death of Stephen, the Deacon in 36 CE.
Marullus, Procurator of Judea, Samaria and Galilee (37-41 CE)

P. Petronius, Roman Legate of Syria – 39-42 CE

King Agrippa I – 41-44 CE
Agrippa, I assumed the rulership of Judea when he was 51 years old. A Herodian by birth and a Hasmonean by his grandmother, he was first sent to Rome for education at the age of six and became close friends with the son of the talented son of Tiberius Caesar, Druses Caesar. 

He lived the life of luxury and splendor found only by one accustomed to the court life of the imperial court of Rome.  With the untimely death of Druses in the year 25, Agrippa found himself suddenly out of favor with the Roman court life. Yet with the assistance of his sister, Herodias, who two years later married the tetrarch Herod Antipas, found an appointment for him as the market overseer in Tiberius in Galilee.  Unable to get along with his brother-in-law he resigned and for the next decade underwent many adventures until 36 CE, he came to the attention of the heir apparent to the throne of Caesar, Gaius Caligula.

The Herodian and Hasmonean genealogy of King Agrippa I

Not careful with his political rhetoric, in the company of others in the royal court, he wished for the day when Caligula would assume the throne of Rome.  When this came to the ear of the austere Tiberius Caesar, he suddenly found himself in prison until the death of Tiberius in 37 CE.  Gaius Caligula Caesar, the new ruler of Rome thanked his friend, Agrippa I, brought him out of prison and gave him the appointment to the tetrarchy of his Uncle Philip and also of Lysanias and the title of king, along with the Senate rights and title of praetor.   

His sister, now envious also of her brother, wanted the title of king for her husband Herod Antipas and by right the title of queen to herself.  It was Agrippa I who intercepted this message with the veiled suggestion that Herod Antipas was harboring ideas of treason and independence.  Herod Antipas was destroyed and the districts of Galilee and south Perea were transferred to King Agrippa I.

Gaius Caligula Caesar with the appointment of Petronius as the legate to Syria planned to install a statue of himself as the deity of the Romans in the Temple of Jerusalem.  King Agrippa I sought to mediate in this crisis but before the final orders could be acted out, Caligula was murdered by his own body-guard, Cherea.

Claudius Caesar, grateful to the services of Agrippa I, placed the territories of Samaria, Judea and Idumea which were governed by Archelaus under his rule in 41 CE.  Observing the consequences of evil passions, oppression and uncontrolled passions in the lives of ruler, Agrippa I grew into a ruler of moderation and control.  The Jewish people, though he was part Jewish through his grandmother, the Hasmonean princess, Marianne and part Idumean through his grandfather Herod the Great, the Jewish people learned to love him for he would celebrate like any commoner and carry his basket of first-fruits to the Temple of Herod in the Feast of Tabernacles and would appeal the heavy Roman taxation of his people to Rome.  Under his rule, prosperity appeared to return to the land of the Jews. 

Copper Coin of Agrippa I with the Royal Umbrella (From Madden, “Coins of the Jews’)

Early in his rulership, he was suspicious and paranoid of any Jewish rivals to the throne and those who had contact with Jewish nationalist who had feelings of animosity towards leaders of Judea that were accommodating to the Romans.  During the massive influx of Jewish pilgrims to Jerusalem during the Sabbatical Passover festivities in 41 CE, we also find the return of the Apostle James the Greater, the brother of the Apostle John, who had ties to the priestly families, coming back to Jerusalem after almost a decade in the Roman provinces of Spain and Sicily.  Soon after James returns to Jerusalem to meet at the Sabbatical Nazarene Council with the other apostles that were evangelizing the world, found him suddenly thrust into prison and beheaded by King Agrippa I.  Soon after this, the Apostle Peter also found himself in prison but was miraculously released by white cloaked emissaries and quickly made exit of the land of Judea.  The next place we find the Apostle Peter is in the home of the Senator Pudens in Rome in 44 CE. 

Then at the opening ceremonies of the Roman Olympiad Games held in the coliseum at Caesarea in 44 CE, he suddenly died in the prime of his youth, apparently the victim of poisoning by the geo-politics of his Roman enemies.  The Jewish followers of the Hebrew Nazarene Ecclesia in Jerusalem felt the death of King Agrippa I was by divine intervention and the oppression of the Nazarene Ecclesia soon ceased. 

C. Vibius Marsus, Legate of Syria – 42-45 CE
No Roman Appointee: 44 CE – Joseph of Arimathea and the Bethany family were banished from Caesarea by the Sadducee leadership after the death of King Agrippa I until the Roman Legate was able to come down to Rome.  This lack of Roman protection for Joseph of Arimathea, a Roman Decurion, led to the immediate evacuation of the Bethany family to Caesarea to the home of the Apostle Philip. 
Cuspius Fadus,  Roman Procurator – 44-47 CE

Cassius Longinus, Legate of Syria – 45-
Tiberius Alexander, Governor of Judea – 47-48 CE
Ventidius Cumanus, Governor of Judea – 48-52 (Banished) CE
Antonius Felix, Governor of Judea – 52-60 (Recalled) CE
Porcius Festus, Governor of Judea – 60- Fall, 61(Death) CE
No Roman Governor of Judea – 61-62 CE
Albinus, Governor of Judea – Spring, 62 – 64 (Recalled) CE
Gessius Florus – Governor of Judea – 64 – 66 CE

Understanding the nature of the Sabbatical Passovers and their relevance to the Jews, it is imperative of any historian into the history of the Hebrew Nazarene Ecclesia of Jerusalem to understand how the history of the apostolic ecclesia merged with the High festival season that occurred in the land every seven years. 

Parashat Nasso / פרשת נשא

Parshat Naso: Nezirut – An Ideal?

Source Sheet by Rabbi Joshua Koperwas
Source for Nezirut

במדבר ו׳:א׳-ז׳
(א) וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָה אֶל מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹר. (ב) דַּבֵּר אֶל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאָמַרְתָּ אֲלֵהֶם אִישׁ אוֹ אִשָּׁה כִּי יַפְלִא לִנְדֹּר נֶדֶר נָזִיר לְהַזִּיר לַיהוָה. (ג) מִיַּיִן וְשֵׁכָר יַזִּיר חֹמֶץ יַיִן וְחֹמֶץ שֵׁכָר לֹא יִשְׁתֶּה וְכָל מִשְׁרַת עֲנָבִים לֹא יִשְׁתֶּה וַעֲנָבִים לַחִים וִיבֵשִׁים לֹא יֹאכֵל. (ד) כֹּל יְמֵי נִזְרוֹ מִכֹּל אֲשֶׁר יֵעָשֶׂה מִגֶּפֶן הַיַּיִן מֵחַרְצַנִּים וְעַד זָג לֹא יֹאכֵל. (ה) כָּל יְמֵי נֶדֶר נִזְרוֹ תַּעַר לֹא יַעֲבֹר עַל רֹאשׁוֹ עַד מְלֹאת הַיָּמִם אֲשֶׁר יַזִּיר לַיהוָה קָדֹשׁ יִהְיֶה גַּדֵּל פֶּרַע שְׂעַר רֹאשׁוֹ. (ו) כָּל יְמֵי הַזִּירוֹ לַיהוָה עַל נֶפֶשׁ מֵת לֹא יָבֹא. (ז) לְאָבִיו וּלְאִמּוֹ לְאָחִיו וּלְאַחֹתוֹ לֹא יִטַּמָּא לָהֶם בְּמֹתָם כִּי נֵזֶר אֱלֹהָיו עַל רֹאשׁוֹ.

Numbers 6:1-7
(1) And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying: (2) Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them: When either man or woman shall clearly utter a vow, the vow of a Nazirite, to consecrate himself unto the LORD, (3) he shall abstain from wine and strong drink: he shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink, neither shall he drink any liquor of grapes, nor eat fresh grapes or dried. (4) All the days of his Naziriteship shall he eat nothing that is made of the grape-vine, from the pressed grapes even to the grapestone. (5) All the days of his vow of Naziriteship there shall no razor come upon his head; until the days be fulfilled, in which he consecrate himself unto the LORD, he shall be holy, he shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow long. (6) All the days that he consecrateth himself unto the LORD he shall not come near to a dead body. (7) He shall not make himself unclean for his father, or for his mother, for his brother, or for his sister, when they die; because his consecration unto God is upon his head.
Nezirut as an Ideal

במדבר ו׳:ח׳
(ח) כֹּל יְמֵי נִזְרוֹ קָדֹשׁ הוּא לַיהוָה.
Numbers 6:8
(8) All the days of his Naziriteship he is holy unto the LORD.
The Nazir Portrayed in a Negative Light

במדבר ו׳:י״ג-י״ד
(יג) וְזֹאת תּוֹרַת הַנָּזִיר בְּיוֹם מְלֹאת יְמֵי נִזְרוֹ יָבִיא אֹתוֹ אֶל פֶּתַח אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד. (יד) וְהִקְרִיב אֶת קָרְבָּנוֹ לַיהוָה כֶּבֶשׂ בֶּן שְׁנָתוֹ תָמִים אֶחָד לְעֹלָה וְכַבְשָׂה אַחַת בַּת שְׁנָתָהּ תְּמִימָה לְחַטָּאת וְאַיִל אֶחָד תָּמִים לִשְׁלָמִים.

Numbers 6:13-14
(13) And this is the law of the Nazirite, when the days of his consecration are fulfilled: he shall abring it unto the door of the tent of meeting; (14) and he shall present his offering unto the LORD, one he-lamb of the first year without blemish for a burnt-offering, and one ewe-lamb of the first year without blemish for a sin-offering, and one ram without blemish for peace-offerings,

Ramban, Bamidbar 6:14: Nezirut as a Mitzvah

וטעם החטאת שיקריב הנזיר ביום מלאת ימי נזרו, לא נתפרש. ועל דרך הפשט כי האיש הזה חוטא נפשו במלאת הנזירות, כי הוא עתה נזור מקדושתו ועבודת השם, וראוי היה לו שיזיר לעולם ויעמוד כל ימיו נזיר וקדוש לאלהיו, כענין שאמר (עמוס ב יא) ואקים מבניכם לנביאים ומבחוריכם לנזירים, השוה אותו הכתוב לנביא, וכדכתיב (לעיל פסוק ח) כל ימי נזרו קדוש הוא לה’ והנה הוא צריך כפרה בשובו להטמא בתאוות העולם

Until now he was separated in sanctity and the service of G-d, and he should therefore have remained separated for ever, continuing all his life to be consecrated and sanctified to G-d, as it is said, I raised up some of your sons for prophets, and your young men for nazirites (Amos 2: 11). Thus Scripture compares the nazirite to a prophet . . . Accordingly, [when he completes the period of his vow and returns to ordinary life] he requires atonement, since he goes back to being defiled by the [material] desires of the world

Nezirut as a Sin

תענית י״א א
אמר שמואל כל היושב בתענית נקרא חוטא סבר כי האי תנא דתניא ר’ אלעזר הקפר ברבי אומר מה תלמוד לומר (במדבר ו, יא) וכפר עליו מאשר חטא על הנפש וכי באיזה נפש חטא זה אלא שציער עצמו מן היין והלא דברים קל וחומר ומה זה שלא ציער עצמו אלא מן היין נקרא חוטא המצער עצמו מכל דבר ודבר על אחת כמה וכמה ר’ אלעזר אומר נקרא קדוש שנאמר (במדבר ו, ה) קדוש יהיה גדל פרע שער ראשו ומה זה שלא ציער עצמו אלא מדבר אחד נקרא קדוש המצער עצמו מכל דבר על אחת כמה וכמה

Taanit 11a

Samuel said: whoever indulges in [voluntary] fasting is called a sinner. This is in accordance with the view of Rabbi Eliezer Hakappar Berebi, who stated: What is the meaning of the phrase (Num. 6: 11), and make atonement for him, because he sinned against the soul (usually translated as “by coming into contact with the dead”). Against which soul did he sin? We must conclude that it refers to denying himself the enjoyment of wine. From this we may infer that if one who denies himself the enjoyment of wine is called a sinner, all the more so one who denies himself the enjoyment of other pleasures of life. It follows that one who keeps fasting is called a sinner.

Is There a Contradiction In the Rambam?

Rambam, Hilchot De’ot 3:1 – Do Not be Overly Righteous

שמא יאמר אדם הואיל והקנאה והתאוה והכבוד וכיוצא בהם דרך רעה הן ומוציאין את האדם מן העולם, אפרוש מהן ביותר ואתרחק לצד האחרון, עד שלא יאכל בשר ולא ישתה יין ולא ישא אשה ולא ישב בדירה נאה ולא ילבש מלבוש נאה אלא השק והצמר הקשה וכיוצא בהן כגון כהני העובדי כוכבים, גם זה דרך רעה היא ואסור לילך בה, המהלך בדרך זו נקרא חוטא, שהרי הוא אומר בנזיר וכפר עליו מאשר חטא על הנפש, אמרו חכמים ומה אם נזיר שלא פירש אלא מן היין צריך כפרה המונע עצמו מכל דבר ודבר על אחת כמה וכמה, לפיכך צוו חכמים שלא ימנע אדם עצמו אלא מדברים שמנעתו התורה בלבד, ולא יהא אוסר עצמו בנדרים ובשבועות על דברים המותרים, כך אמרו חכמים לא דייך מה שאסרה תורה אלא שאתה אוסר עליך דברים אחרים, ובכלל הזה אלו שמתענין תמיד אינן בדרך טובה, ואסרו חכמים שיהא אדם מסגף עצמו בתענית, ועל כל הדברים האלו וכיוצא בהן צוה שלמה ואמר אל תהי צדיק הרבה ואל תתחכם יותר למה תשומם

A person may say: “Desire, honour and the like are bad paths to follow and remove a person from the world, therefore I will completely separate myself from them and go to the other extreme.” As a result, he does not eat meat or drink wine or take a wife or live in a decent house or wear decent clothing . . . This too is bad, and it is forbidden to choose this way. Whoever does so is called a sinner. Indeed G-d says about the nazirite: “He [the priest] shall make atonement for him because he sinned against the soul.” The sages said: If the nazirite, who only abstained from wine, needs atonement, how much more does one who abstains from all [legitimate pleasures] need atonement.Therefore the sages commanded that a person only abstain from things forbidden by the Torah alone . . . Concerning these things and others like them, Solomon commanded, saying: “Do not be overly righteous or over-wise. Why should you destroy yourself?” (Eccles. 7: 16)

Rambam, Hilchot Nezirut, 10:14 – Nezriut as a Mitzvah

האומר הריני נזיר אם אעשה כך וכך או אם לא אעשה וכיוצא בזה הרי זה רשע ונזירות כזו מנזירות רשעים הוא, אבל הנודר לה’ דרך קדושה הרי זה נאה ומשובח ועל זה נאמר נזר אלהיו על ראשו קדש הוא לה’, ושקלו הכתוב כנביא (שנאמר) ואקים מבניכם לנביאים ומבחוריכם לנזירים

Whoever vows to G-d [to become a nazirite] by way of holiness, does well and is praiseworthy. Of such a person, Scriptures says, His consecration to G-d is upon his head . . . he is holy to the Lord. Indeed Scripture considers him the equal of a prophet, for it says I raised up some of your sons for prophets and your young men for nazirites.

How Do We Settle This Seeming Contradiction?

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Covenant & Conversation

Moral life is not always simple: a matter of black and white, good and evil, right and wrong. It usually is, but not always. Viewed from the perspective of personal perfection, the nazirite is good and holy. But from the perspective of Jewish faith as a whole, such a life is not an ideal. Judaism wants us to celebrate life, not retreat from it… It is holy to retreat from the world and its challenges – but holier still to engage with them.

The Holiday of Shavuot

The Holiday of Shavuot

Regarding the giving of the Torah, the Torah states (Shemot 19): “And they travelled from Refidim and they arrived at the Sinai Desert and they camped in the desert; and Israel camped there opposite the mountain.”

Rabbeinu Chaim ben Atar, the saintly “Or Ha’Chaim,” asks that in the previous verses the Torah states, “On the third month of the Jewish nation leaving Egypt, on this day they had come to the Sinai desert.” If so, why does the Torah repeat the fact that they “camped in the desert”? Is it not clear that if they arrived at the desert that they camped there as well? What does the Torah mean to teach us by writing this?

The saintly Or Ha’Chaim explains that the Torah is trying to convey to us three key principles regarding receiving the Torah without which accepting the Torah would have been impossible and because of which Hashem decided to give us the Torah.

The first is “Travelling from Refidim” (in Hebrew, “Refidim” is similar to the word “Rifyon” meaning laxity) before the giving of the Torah, for the Jewish nation experienced great carelessness and lethargy as all freed slaves do and even so, they prepared themselves and overcame their natural character-traits in order to be able to accept the Torah in a zealous and energetic manner by accepting upon themselves not to become lazy in their Torah learning. This is indeed the natural course of Torah learning that the Torah needs strengthening and recommitment at all times. It is for this reason that any time the Torah mentions learning Torah, the Torah adds a boost of encouragement as the verse states, “This Sefer Torah shall not budge from your lips and you shall delve in it day and night etc. have I not commanded you to be strong and courageous?” The Torah therefore needed to point out that they “travelled from Refidim,” for they had truly been slacking off, but even so they had energized themselves to accept the Torah with desire and joy and they had thus “travelled away” from the laxity they possessed beforehand, for this is a great principle and important condition for meriting receiving the Torah’s crown.

The second principle is “And they arrived at the Sinai desert and they camped in the desert.” This means that the Jewish nation reached the lofty level wherein they made themselves like a desert which is ownerless and everyone walks through and tramples on. Similarly, the Jewish nation reached a high level of humility and submissiveness, for without doing so, one cannot merit accepting the Torah as the Torah does not identify itself with the arrogant. It is also for this reason that Moshe Rabbeinu was the one chosen to receive the Torah, for he served as an outstanding symbol of extreme humility, the likes of which the world had never seen. Additionally, the Torah was given only on the lowest of mountains, Mount Sinai, for Hashem’s presence does not rest on the arrogant and the haughty; only because of their humility did the Jewish nation merit receiving the crown of Torah.

The third principle is “And Israel camped there opposite the mountain.” The Torah uses the singular form of the word “camped” in order to teach us that the Jewish nation was completely unified at that time, like one man with one heart. This also serves as an important condition in order to receive the Torah, for the Torah was not given to individuals among the Jewish nation; rather, it was given to the entire nation as one. It is for this reason that the Torah must be read in public. Indeed the verse states, “May a sword be to the loners” referring to those who learn Torah alone, for one cannot merit having a correct understanding of the Torah unless he learns with someone else who will be able to bring the errors he has made in his learning to his attention. (Once one masters the principles for how to properly learn Torah, one may then learn from the works of the Acharonim alone, for by delving in them one will likewise be able to realize if he has erred.) Praiseworthy is the nation whose people come together to learn Torah on the night of Shavuot in a place where the holy presence of Hashem rests. Regarding this does the verse state, “And Israel camped there opposite the mountain,” for they merited receiving the Torah as one. May we likewise merit gleaning from the eternal light of the Torah by virtue of our true humility through accepting the true interpretation of the Torah from those greater than us and admitting that their interpretation is indeed true. Let us try our very best to always be completely unified, for this will cause Hashem to rest His holy presence on us and we will thereby merit receiving the crown of the Torah.

Chag Sameach and Tizku Le’Shanim Rabbot!

Parashat Bechukotai / פרשת בחקתי

Universal Torah commentary
By Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum

Torah Reading: BECHUKOSAI, Leviticus 26:3-27:34
Haftara: Jeremiah 16:19-17:14 


Our parshah, BECHUKOSAI, puts the seal on the book of Leviticus, which is the “heart” of the Torah (Genesis being the “head”, Exodus the “arms”, Numbers the “legs” and Deuteronomy the “mouth”, Malchus). BECHUKOSAI marks the conclusion of G-d’s revelation to Moses in the Sanctuary in the camp at Sinai and the sealing of the Sinaitic Covenant, while the coming book of Numbers recounts the journeying of the Children of Israel on their way to the Promised Land.

As the seal on Leviticus, the book of the “heart”, BECHUKOSAI addresses the two sides of the heart: love and fear. Our love of G-d is aroused by the promises of blessing if we will GO in His statutes, while our fears are aroused by the dire punishments for failure to do so.

What does it mean to GO in His statutes? This is explained by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov:

The life of Torah and mitzvos should be one of constantly striving to move forward from level to level in our fulfillment of the actual commandments. In every commandment that we carry out, there is a level of meaning that we can grasp within our minds, yet at the same time, the mitzvah has profoundly deeper meaning that is now beyond our grasp. These two levels are those of NA’ASEH (“we will do”) and VENISHMA (“we shall hear”) respectively. NA’ASEH applies to that which is within our grasp now, the physical mitzvah with its plain intention — WE WILL DO. We must go ahead and do it now on the simple level even if as yet we do not have deeper understanding, even if the level of VENISHMA, WE SHALL HEAR — understanding — is still beyond us. To GO in G-d’s statutes means to strive constantly to turn that which is as yet beyond us — our VENISHMA — and make it into our NA’ASEH, something that we CAN meaningfully accomplish. This is brought about when we pray to G-d to help us in our practice and to give us deeper understanding. Deeper understanding also depends upon deeper study.

When we thus turn what was our VENISHMA into a new level of NA’ASEH — because we now incorporate our newly attained, deeper insight into our practice — we thereby discover that a new level of VENISHMA opens up ahead of us. It is this higher level of VENISHMA that we must now strive to attain and turn into a new, higher level of NA’ASEH for ourselves. We must continue this way striving to go from level to level, constantly integrating new levels of understanding into our practice. Thus we constantly GO from level to level in our practice (Likutey Moharan Part I, Torah 22).

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Rashi in his commentary on BECHUKOSAI explains how the terrible penalties for failure to follow the path of the Torah are built upon a seven-fold schema, because the essential cause of the exile was the violation of the Sabbath and the Sabbatical years. At the very core of the sins that invoke the terrible cycle of punishment are seven basic sins, each of which drags the next in train: (1) Neglect of study. (2) Neglect of practice. (3) Despising others who practice. (4) Hatred of the sages. (5) Preventing others from practicing. (6) Denial of the divine origin of the commandments. (7) Denial of the existence of G-d.

Graphic illustrations of the fulfillment of all of the terrible penalties described in our parshah in actual Jewish history are recounted in the Midrash. The infringement of the seven basic sins causing the exile has been a recurrent theme in all of Jewish history from biblical times until today. The rebellion of the Ten Tribes under Jereboam son of Nevat against the House of David under Rehav’am represented a craving for greater license than was permitted by the House of David, whose royalty depends upon constant study of the Torah and in particular the oral tradition. Under the northen king Ahab [whose influence is said to have been worldwide], hatred and persecution of the sages — the prophets — became institutionalized. Later on, the Assyrian King Sennacharib’s chief spokesman marching against Jerusalem under Hezekiah was a renegade Jew, Ravshekah.

After the end of the Babylonian exile, the return to the land and the building of the Second Temple, new challenges to the authority of the Torah arose, such as from those who denied the afterlife or the oral law, or denied the giving of the Torah at Sinai. Among the most notorious enemies of the Torah were those who hellenized in the Second Temple period, when it was “politically correct” to be Greek. The festival of Chanukah commemorates the miraculous saving of the authentic Torah pathway from the assault upon it by Greek culture.

Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, the Rambam (Maimonides) wrote a letter known as IGERET TEIMAN encouraging the Jews of Yemen to remain faithful to the Torah and give their lives if necessary rather than submit to forced conversion by their Moslem rulers. In this letter, Maimonides explains the difference between the assault upon the Torah by Greek thought and the assault upon the Torah by Christianity and Islam.

The Greek philosophers denied the existence of G-d (Level 7) and the revelation at Sinai (Level 6) and accordingly provided justification for preventing Jews from practicing the Torah, e.g. Shabbos, circumcision, etc. (Level 5). leading to open violation and vilification of the Torah by the Hellenists. Greek philosophy was a direct assault upon the Torah, leaving the Jews of the time with a choice — whether to go after the Torah or after the Greeks.

On the other hand, Christianity and Islam did not blatantly repudiate the entire Torah of Moses. What they did was to establish alternative Torah’s that were more acceptable to non-Jews, leaving the Jews of their respective periods with a different kind of choice: whether to remain faithful to the traditional Torah of Moses or to follow an alternative “Torah”.

Hatred of the sages of Israel is deeply entrenched in Christianity, because the claims of its founder and his followers about his divinity were a direct assault upon the authority of the sages and an attempt to steal the Torah from its true guardians, the House of David under Hillel (as later handed down in the Mishneh and Talmud). The adherents of the new religion wrote their own “Torah” openly mocking the Torah of Moses, as when their leader is displayed licensing the plucking of grain on the Sabbath for charitable reasons against the protests of the “Pharisees”, who are depicted as being mean. In the writings of the new religion, the Pharisees (i.e. the rabbis of the Mishneh) are characterized as the evil face of institutionalized religion. The new religion drew all of its teachings from the Torah, but detached them from the accompanying stringencies of the Law, while attaching them instead to its own devotional system focussing on its own saints and heroes. Particularly after the conversion of Saul (Paul), who was a Pharisee, the new religion institutionalized the systematic vilification of the Torah tradition of the rabbis, turning the written Torah (Torah, Nevi’im & Kesuvim, TaNaCh) into a mere introduction to its own new “Torah” or “Testament”, which was meant to replace the Sinaitic Covenant.

Denial of the pathway of the Torah of Sinai — the written Torah and the oral Torah — is thus deeply built into the very structure of Christianity, which became the dominant religion in the western and many other parts of the world and one of the main foundations of its culture, together with that of Greece and Rome. As Christianity gained strength, persecution of Torah-observant Jews together with burnings of Torah scrolls and Talmuds became a regular occurrence.

Denial of the Torah given to Moses at Sinai is also inherent in Islam, the founder of which claimed to have supplanted Moses as the ultimate Prophet. The founder of Islam was initially enamored of the Torah of Moses, but wanted to adapt it in his own way. Angered at the stubbornness of the Jews in resisting his changes, he established his own new “Torah” as an alternative to the “old” Torah. Islam saw itself as the stick with which to beat the recalcitrant Jews who despised and neglected their own Torah. In the writings of Islam the “People of the Book” are depicted as renegades to their own teachings.

During the long exile since the destruction of the Second Temple, the Jews who have remained faithful to the Torah of Moses have been surrounded until today by a most formidable cultural assault against their own tradition from the two younger sister religions, Christianity and Islam. This two have gained the ascendancy and taken all the glory, parading their own alternative Torahs in the face of the Torah of Moses.

It is understandable that over the generations, many Jewish souls, subject to this cultural onslaught, have fallen victim to the allurements of the surrounding religions. In addition, since the time of the European renaissance and the “Age of Reason”, secularism has become a new alternative to religion of any kind, creating yet another allurement from the stringent code of Judaism, which looks more irrelevant than ever in the modern world.

In this way the Torah of Sinai has been apparently completely marginalized by almost the entire world. The Sinai tradition is guarded by seemingly powerless networks of rabbis and their students, sitting in the Yeshivahs, daily studying the oral tradition as brought down in the Talmud, and by the numerically tiny proportion of the world’s population who are Torah-observant.

What is it about the real Torah that makes those who love her cling to her even in the face of adversity on every side? Throughout the generations until today, those who keep the Torah of Moses and abstain from the 39 forbidden labors on the Sabbath have been the butt of every jester and jeerer. Meanwhile Christianity, Islam and every other religion are on the ascendant, including the religion of Satanism and the universal religion of self-indulgence and material consumption.

What love is it that makes those who strive to follow the authentic Torah of Moses continue day after day in the face of all this? How do we keep on GOING in the Torah, even though her face is shrouded in a dark cover — for in this upside down world, the deeper meaning of the Torah is not revealed?

But if we keep studying the Torah, she will reveal her face to us. The way to keep GOING in the Torah is to GO ON STUDYING the Torah!

In the merit of our study of the book of Leviticus and our on-going study of all the Five Books of Moses, may we be blessed with all the blessings of our parshah: “If you will GO in My statutes.”

Shabbat Shalom!!!

Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum

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Universal Torah commentary
By Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum

Torah Reading: Numbers 1:1-4:20
Haftara: Hosea 2:1-22.


It was fitting that the Giving of the Torah took place in no-man’s-land amidst the stark desolation of the Wilderness. Here no temporal king could claim that he played host to the event, thereby meriting a special share in the glory. The Children of Israel were chosen to receive the Torah not because they were the most glorious, but because their hearts had been broken through exile and slavery. For the only way to receive the Torah is through humility, symbolized in the lowly Mount Sinai.

Having been appointed as guardians of the Torah, the task of the Children of Israel was to bring it up from Sinai to the Promised Land, from which they were to shine its light to all the inhabitants of the world. Genesis traces the roots of the Torah and of the souls of Israel who were to be its bearers, and Genesis is thus the “head” of the Torah. Exodus is the “hands”, describing how G-d redeemed the Children of Israel from slavery in Egypt “with a mighty arm” and made them into a unique nation through the gift of the Torah and the presence of His Sanctuary in their midst as the focus of their national life. Leviticus is the “heart” of the Torah, setting forth its main laws in all areas of life.

Now we come to the Book of Numbers — the “legs” — tracing the journeying of the Children of Israel on foot through the wilderness to the borders of the Promised Land, with all the accompanying trials and tribulations. Our parshah of BAMIDBAR begins in the Wilderness of Sinai, almost a year after the Children of Israel’s arrival to receive the Torah. By now they had been taught all the main laws of the Torah, and the Sanctuary was in place and fully functional. The next stage was to take to the road and carry the Ark of the Covenant — encompassing the entire Torah — up to the land. The commandment to Moses with which BAMIDBAR opens, to take a census of the people and organize them by tribes, was a preparation for their departure from Sinai, which is narrated in BEHA’ALOSCHA (Numbers ch. 10).

As described in our parshah, the twelve tribes of Israel were to be encamped around the Sanctuary in four groups of three tribes each. When they traveled through the wilderness, they were to travel in the same formation. The positions of the twelve tribes were the same as those of Jacob’s twelve sons when they carried his funeral bier from Egypt to the Cave of Machpelah.

Ramban (Nachmanides) opens his commentary on BAMIDBAR by pointing out that the way the people encamped around the Sanctuary was directly parallel to the way they encamped around Sinai at the time of the Giving of the Torah. We find in next week’s parshah that they were commanded to send those who were ritually impure away from the Sanctuary and out of the camp (Numbers 5:1ff). This parallels the command to Moses to put boundaries around Mount Sinai at the time of the Giving of the Torah — for “the stranger who draws near will die” (1:53; 18:7). At the end of our present parshah, we learn that even the Levites, whose task was to carry the Sanctuary parts during their travels, were forbidden to see the Sanctuary in its “moment of shame” while being dismantled (Numbers 4:20). Correspondingly, the Israelites at Sinai were forbidden to break through and go up the Mountain in order to feast their eyes.

These and other parallels point to the profound conceptual link between the Sanctuary (and Temple) and the Giving of the Torah. The Giving of the Torah at Sinai was a one-time event: the Torah “came down” from heaven to earth, providing man with a ladder of ascent to G-d. Having come into this world, the Torah had to remain the central focus of our attention forever afterwards. The Ark of the Covenant with the Tablets of Stone and Moses’ Torah scroll thus had pride of place in the Holy of Holies at the very center of the Sanctuary, with the Twelve Tribes encamped around it. [Similarly, in the Synagogue, it is customary to read the Torah from a desk in the middle of the Synagogue among all the people.] 

From the Wilderness of Sinai, the Children of Israel were to carry the Ark of the Covenant up to the center-point or “navel” of the earth in Jerusalem, “for the Torah will go out from Zion and the word of HaShem from Jerusalem”. This was the spot where Jacob dreamed of a ladder joining earth back to heaven. The Hebrew word for ladder is SuLaM, which has the same numerical value as SINaI (=130).

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The Zohar states that the form of the Sanctuary corresponds to the form of the work of creation. Thus the various different areas making up the Temple courtyards and buildings correspond to the different “worlds” discussed in the Kabbalah (as explained in “Miskeney Elyon” by Rabbi Moshe Luzzatto, RAMCHAL, translated in “Secrets of the Future Temple”). 

The arrangement of the twelve tribes in four camps around the Sanctuary corresponds to the “four camps of the Divine Presence” and the “four camps of angels” that channel the flow of divine sustenance into the world. These are aspects of the MERKAVAH (“chariot”) seen by the prophets, representing the system of providence through which G-d governs the world. The four camps correspond to the four roots of creation (Kindness, Judgment, Compassion and their manifestation in reality: “Kingship”) and to the four elements (Water, Fire, Air and Earth, which is the “vessel” of the first three). The various different names and numbers making up the account in our parshah of the census of the Twelve Tribes consist of codes and ciphers that are bound up with the root forces in the spiritual and physical worlds.

The difficulty which many find in relating to sections dealing with the different tribes and their names and numbers is compounded by the fact that today the majority have become disconnected and even alienated from their own “tribal” roots after thousands of years of exile and wandering. Originally the consciousness of tribal affiliation among the Children of Israel was very powerful, as is evident from the end of parshas EMOR, where the episode of blasphemy was caused when members of the tribe of Dan refused to allow the son of the Egyptian to camp with them because his lineage was flawed. 

Today, however, few Jews even know which tribe they come from, although the majority (besides Kohanim and Levites) assume that they are from the tribes of Judah or Benjamin, which were the only two that did not disappear when the Ten Tribes went into exile prior to the destruction of the First Temple. (Some believe that the Sefardic communities of Spain and Morocco came from the tribe of Judah while the Ashkenazi communities of Germany and Poland came from the tribe of Benjamin. This is mentioned by Rabbi David Kimchi — RADAK — in his commentary on the Bible.)

Besides being unaware of their own tribal affiliation, many Jews are also quite unaware that many people throughout the world whom they consider to be gentiles actually believe themselves to be the Children of Israel. Moreover, in many cases they believe they DO know to which tribe they belong. This includes enormous numbers of people in the Indian sub-continent, Africa and South America etc. as well as the Mormon Church, which considers America today to be the home of the Ten Tribes, and prominent members of British and European royalty and aristocracy, who believe they are the true Israelites (without explaining why they do not observe the Sabbath or other Torah laws).

Just to complete the mix-up, if you were to ask most Jews today to enumerate the different components that make up the nation, the answer would not be the twelve tribes but rather: ultra-orthodox, orthodox, traditional, conservative, reform, secular-right, secular-left, etc. etc.

Our fragmentation and disarray in today’s sophisticated “civilized” world is in sorry contrast with the order of the camp in the wilds of the desert that saw our birth! Perhaps we need to develop a new way of looking at the different types that make up the people of Israel in terms of the order set forth in BAMIDBAR: how near are they to the Sanctuary-Temple idea or how far away? 

Shabbat Shalom!!! Chodesh Tov Umevorach!!!

Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum

Parashat Emor / פרשת אמור

Torah Reading: Parshas EMOR, Leviticus 21:1-24:23


As discussed in Universal Torah #20 TETZAVEH, the Torah conception of the priests and their relationship with the people is radically different from the conception of the priesthood in other traditions. The Cohen of the Torah does not absolve the Israelite of his obligation to forge his own personal relationship with G-d. The Cohen is not an intermediary who performs mysterious rituals that magically guarantee that all will be well for the ignorant worshipper who stands by watching.

In many religions, the priests held or hold a monopoly on religious knowledge, often actually discouraging the pursuit of such knowledge by the masses, whose very ignorance is necessary in order for the priest to maintain his position.

By contrast, the Holy Torah was given as a fountain of truth and wisdom to Israel and to all others who want to drink its waters. The entire people of Israel is intended to be a Kingdom of Priests and a Holy Nation: the goal is for each Israelite to develop, build and cultivate his or her own bond with G-d in every detail of life. How can we do this? We need to learn how to do it. For this reason, the pride of place in the Torah tradition goes to the sage and teacher, because he is the one who can tell us how to do this. Even a MAMZER TALMID CHACHAM (an outstanding sage who is of illegitimate birth) takes precedence over the High Priest!

In our present parshah of EMOR, which is largely taken up with laws specifically relating to the priests, we see that Moses was commanded to instruct not only the priests themselves in these laws but also the Children of Israel. The Children of Israel are not to be excluded from all knowledge and understanding of the priesthood. On the contrary, they too are to study the laws relating to the priests. This is because the Israelites, as a kingdom of priests, have to have a model to learn from. The Cohanim are a kingdom within a kingdom. The Cohanim are to be to the Israelite what the Israelites are to be to the world.

The Temple is G-d’s palace on earth: a center-point for all the world to see, in order to contemplate the profundity of the message it contains and thereby to draw closer to the King. Everything about the Temple is about coming closer to G-d, particularly the KORBAN (“sacrifice”, from the Hebrew world KAROV, “close”). The entire Temple services center upon the sacrificial rites: the daily animal, grain, wine and incense offerings, the lighting of the Candelabrum, and so on. Like life in a royal court, life in the Temple was a spectacle. This was particularly so for the Israelite who brought a personal KORBAN, be it a SHLAMIM (“Peace”) offering, or an OLAH and particularly a CHATAS – sin-offering.

The animal is substituted for the person to undergo the slaughter, flaying, cutting and burning the sinner really deserves. (Those who worry about the alleged cruelty to the animal should first go and complain about the millions of animals daily slaughtered all over the world, often with great cruelty, as “sacrifices” for the gratification of men’s selfish lusts. To understand the meaning of the KORBONOS, we must be willing to think of the Temple as it actually was and will be, not try to adapt it to man-made moral “standards”.)

The SEFER HACHINUCH (explaining the meaning of the 613 commandments) discusses the sacrificial rituals at length in Mitzvah #95: Building the Temple. The ceremony consisted of various stages: SEMICHAH (the penitent’s laying on of hands on the animal’s head), SHECHITAH, the slaughter of the animal, KABALAH, collecting of its blood and sprinkling it on the altar, the flaying and cutting of the carcass, salting of the meat, the burning of the altar portions and eating by the priests of their share. The SEFER HACHINUCH explains in detail how the different stages of this unsettling and even shocking ceremony all communicated an unforgettable lesson to the penitent about how man must bring his animal side under control. We are to learn how to “slaughter” and elevate our animality by devoting our energies to G-d’s service and thereby burning our fat on His altar. (See also Nachmanides’ commentary on Leviticus 1:8).

The priests in the Temple, who conducted these ceremonies, were actors in a drama that was calculated to awaken people and induce them to think and repent rather than to hypnotize them with hocus-pocus. The role of the priest was as a facilitator, enabling people to understand the lesson for themselves.

Carrying the obligation to serve as ministers in the House and Court of G-d, the priests are a nation set apart, and are subject to an even more stringent code than the Israelites, as laid out in our parshah of EMOR. They are not allowed to defile themselves for the dead except in the case of their closest relatives. They are strictly forbidden to blemish their own bodies. They are not allowed to marry a divorcee or a woman who has been involved in a relationship tainted by immorality, etc. The Cohanim are to be a completely pure breed, fit to serve as G-d’s ministers on earth. The true Cohen is to be an exemplar in his very life of the elevated purity to which every Israelite should aspire, each according to his or her level.

The ultimate exemplar is to be the COHEN GADOL (“high priest”). Although the COHEN GADOL appears in costumes that are most gorgeous by the standards of this world, he must remain completely separated from this world. This is because his task is to keep our eyes focussed on G-d’s world. Thus the COHEN GADOL is not allowed to defile himself with the dead even in the case of his closest relatives. For in G-d’s world, there is no death but only life.

Everything about the Temple is designed to lift us up above the often tawdry world around us and to teach us how to draw closer to the underlying reality of G-d. For this reason, the Temple must be a place of the imposing splendor and beauty. Everything must be in the best repair. Not a flagstone must be loose nor an altar stone chipped. The vessels must be the finest gold and silver. And so too, the ministers themselves must be people of pleasing looks. Our parshah details the physical blemishes that disqualify a priest from participating in the Temple service itself (though not from eating sacrificial portions). The parshah also details the blemishes that disqualify an animal from being offered as a KORBAN. Everything offered to G-d has to be the very finest and most beautiful. So too, we must seek to beautify our offerings of prayers, our mitzvot, and acts of kindness, and take care that they should not be blemished.

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The calling of the COHANIM was very exalted. The separation and purity demanded of them is not required of the Israelites, who on the contrary are required to be involved in the world — farming, manufacturing, selling and buying, raising families, etc. As discussed in the commentary on the previous parshah, KEDOSHIM, it is precisely through bringing every area of our actual lives under the wing of the Torah that we attain holiness.

Only the Cohen Gadol is to remain within the Temple precincts or in his nearby home in Jerusalem all the time. The people are to be throughout the country, going about their lives. For the Israelite, the relationship of G-d is one of “running and returning”: “running” in the sense of regularly rising above the mundane to make a deeper connection with the underlying reality of G-d, but then “returning”, in the sense of going back to grappling with everyday reality.

The Torah appointed a rhythm of weekly, monthly and seasonal MO’ADIM, “appointed times”, whereby the Israelites rise above the mundane and restore and strengthen their connection with the divine. Our parshah is one of several in the Torah (Ex. ch. 23; Numbers ch. 23; Deut. ch. 16) that set forth the cycle of festivals and their associated practices, each with its own particular focuses.

In our parshah (Leviticus ch. 23) one of the main themes that run through the account of the various festivals and their associated Temple practices is that of drawing ecological balance and agricultural blessing into the world. During the ALIYAH LE-REGEL — the foot-pilgrimage to the Temple on Pesach, Shavuos and Succos — the Israelites would leave the work of making a living and tilling the ground in order to participate in ceremonies whose purpose was to bless that work with G-dliness. Pesach, and Shavuos are particularly bound up with grain, which is man’s staple food. The Matzahs eaten on Pesach may be made from one of the five kinds of grain. On the second day of Pesach, at the beginning of the grain harvesting season, an Omer measure is to be brought from the newly-ripened barley crop. During the coming weeks, while the wheat-harvesting is going on, the Sefirah count directs our minds forward to Shavuos, when a “new grain offering”, the first wheat offering from the new crop — two loaves of leavened bread — was brought.

The observances of Succos are particularly bound up with the water-cycle. The four species of Esrog (citron), Lulav (palm branch), Hadass (myrtle) and Arovos (willow branches) all require ample water. Succos comes after the hot, dry summer of Eretz Israel, prior to what should be the rainy season. We take these four species in our hands and pour out our hearts like water in thanks and praise, hinting to our heavenly Father how totally dependent we are on His blessings and mercy.

The chapter in our present parshah of EMOR relating to the festival cycle leads us in the direction of next week’s parshah, BEHAR, which sets forth the commandments relating to the cycles of Sabbatical and Jubilee years, which are also bound up with agriculture, ecological balance and reverence for the earth.

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Besides the cycles of festivals and Sabbaticals that give time its rhythm, the world is also governed by cycles that are often not apparent, because one generation does not know what happened in previous generations and therefore cannot understand how what happens today is cyclically rooted in what happened earlier.

To understand the incident of the MEGADEF (“blasphemer”) in the closing section of our parshah (Leviticus 24:10ff), it is necessary to understand that “the son of the Israelite woman who was the son of an Egyptian man” was, in fact, the issue of an illicit relationship. Our rabbis teach that Shulamis Bas Divri was the wife of the Israelite whom Moses saw being beaten by an Egyptian the first time he went out to visit his brothers. The Egyptian would daily drive the Israelite out of his home and send him to his labors, thereafter going into his wife. (See Rashi on Lev. 24:10 and on Exodus 2:11).

There is a deep counterpoint in the positioning of this episode in Parshas EMOR, which centers on the special purity demanded of the priests. Shulamis Bas Divri is the exemplar of the opposite: immorality. While the holiness of the priesthood requires separation and the making of distinctions between pure and impure, fine and blemished, she sought to erase distinctions, greeting everyone with a naive “Peace be upon you, peace be upon you”. As if friendly chatter is enough to turn evil into good. It was Shulamis Bas Divri’s endeavor to erase distinctions that laid her open to the immoral relationship which led to the birth of the blasphemer. The latter, however, discovered that, whether you like it or not, this IS a world of distinctions. While the blasphemer was an Israelite through his mother, he had no tribal affiliation, since this comes only through the father. Accordingly, the blasphemer had no place in the Israelite camp.

Contemporary political correctness will cry out in the voice of Shulamis Bas Divri that he should have been given a place — isn’t it unfair that he should be excluded because of a quirk of birth? Endless similar questions can be asked about other commandments in our parshah. Why should a blemished priest not be allowed to serve in the Temple? Why should a divorcee not be allowed to marry a priest? etc. etc.

Rashi brings a midrash that the blasphemer “went out” (Lev. 24:10) in the sense that he departed from the Torah: he mocked the idea that the Sanctuary Show-Bread (subject of the preceding section), which was eaten by the priests when it was nine days old, was a fitting institution in the Sanctuary of the King (Rashi ad loc.). The blasphemer could not accept G-d’s Torah the way it is. He wanted to adapt the Torah fit his own personal views.

There was a way that even the blasphemer could have found his place. As quoted at the outset, even a MAMZER TALMID CHOCHOM has precedence over the High Priest. If the blasphemer had been willing to submit himself to G-d and accept the position G-d put him in, he could have been saved. But he was not willing to submit and instead he opened his mouth and poured out a torrent of abuse.

Over sixty years previous to this, when Moses saw this man’s father striking Shulamis Bas Divri’s husband, Moses knew that there was no potential. “And he looked here and there and he saw that there was no man [that no man would come forth from him to convert, Rashi] and he struck the Egyptian” (Ex. 2:12). The rabbis taught that Moses “struck” him by invoking the Name of HaShem. It was precisely this name that the son of the Egyptian’s illicit relationship blasphemed. Prior to the Giving of the Torah, Moses inflicted instant justice on the father. However, after the Giving of the Torah, Moses was subject to the Torah like everyone else and he had to wait to hear from G-d how to deal with the blaspheming son.

The account of the punishment of the blasphemer includes related laws of punishments for killing and the damages that must be paid for inflicting injury to humans and animals. The cycles of crime and its penalties and payments revolve from generation to generation, but this is not apparent to the onlooker who sees only the here and now and does not understand what was before and what will come afterward.

Shabbat Shalom!!!

Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum

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How to Reach Your Personal Exodus

How to Reach Your Personal Exodus 
by Rabbi Dov Heller, M.A.
Liberate your will by embracing the power of small.

Passover is the holiday of freedom, the opportunity to expand and grow beyond one’s perceived limitations. In Hebrew, the word Egypt means “narrow.” Egypt was a place that limited human potential and enslaved the will. Freedom from one’s personal Egypt is the experience of expanding and moving beyond one’s personal limitations by harnessing and liberating one’s will.

One’s personal Egypt is the pain of wanting to improve oneself in a specific way but feeling powerless to bring about that change. In place of growth, one feels stuck and hopeless.

Gary has struggled with loving people and feeling connected to them for as long as he can remember. He has tried so many techniques hoping one of them would result in the breakthrough he longs for. He has a pattern of learning about some tool for loving people, getting excited about it, and after two weeks or so, quitting, as he realizes it’s not working for him. Recently he read about a technique called the “love game” – the suggestion is to study someone closely and make a list of five virtues that person possesses. Love being defined in this context as the pleasure we get when we identify someone with their virtues and excuse their faults. Gary once again felt a rush of excitement because the idea made so much sense. Unfortunately, after two weeks, he ran out of gas again. Feeling like a loser, he felt resigned to living a life of disconnection.

I think we all can identify with Gary’s frustration. There are aspects about who we are that we long to change so badly but have given-up, feeling resigned to living with our limitations.

Our sages taught, “Nothing can stand in the way of one’s will.” We have the power to improve ourselves in any way we truly want to. Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler taught that the secret of liberating one’s will is to identify where one’s free-will point lies, or what I call “our personal points of real possibility.” One’s true free-will point is that small step that one can make consistently, without herculean effort.

There always exists some meaningful change that a person can make, some step towards becoming better. That change may be so small that one may be inclined to discard it, thinking it’s not much of an accomplishment. That’s a big mistake. Making any real change, no matter how small, is significant and deeply fulfilling. This is the “power of small.” And it is the key power to liberating oneself from imprisoned will and attaining authentic growth and transformation.

A common reason why people fail in improving themselves is that they consistently set the bar too high with goals that are too difficult to reach. The Talmud tells us, “If you try to grab too much you’ll end up with nothing.” Realistic growth that takes an honest look at one’s free-will point is the best way to avoid what I call self-improvement burn-out. Don’t be seduced by the dramatic accomplishments encouraged by life coaches and mentors. For many people, this is a formula for chronic frustration and depression.

Know yourself and accept your limitations. Don’t compare yourself with others; competing with others distracts us from being honest with ourselves. Be secure with who you are – an imperfect person striving to grow. Avoid grandiosity and perfectionism. Celebrate instead every tiny step of growth.

Gary’s real problem was that he was always setting the bar beyond his free-will point. The tools he had tried were out of his range of real possibilities for him. If Gary were able to be honest with himself, he would discover that his free-will point would be a very small change. Fortunately, with some guidance, Gary discovered where his free-will point was. Once a day he would greet one person with a sincere and genuine smile. When he received a nice smile in return, he felt connected and more positive about that person.

After a month Gary was astonished by the change in the way he felt about himself and others. He was feeling empowered and convinced that he could maintain this change without pushing himself overly hard. Once Gary felt he had mastered this change, he felt ready to raise the bar a notch. He even felt that he could begin thinking about looking for virtues in others as his next step in loving people.

This approach to growth is truly empowering. The power of small is ultimately about living in reality and striving for genuine transformation. Every exodus from our personal Egypt begins with small steps that are located at our free-will points. With the power of small, we can understand why our Sages say, “Nothing can stand in the way of will.”

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