Thursday, March 31, 2022

Kalanit - A Silent Message


KALANIT - A Silent Message

"For the winter is past, the rain is over, the flowers appear on the earth…" (Song of Solomon 2:11), and this is the season for creation's beauty to grace the land of Israel. One of the most conspicuous spring flowers is the anemone. This Greek-derived name means "daughter of the wind". It carpets the land, north to south, with its red, purple, and white flowers, but its bright luminous redness is definitely the most predominant of them all. It is one of the earliest spring flowers to appear and when its blossoming season is over, other red flowers are 'waiting in line' to present themselves, each with its unique beauty. However, more than any other spring flower, the anemone has gained a place of prominence in our culture; in song, poems and prose. So much so, that it even became the code name, used by the Jewish residents, for the red beret-donning special division of the British army during the Mandatory Era (1917-1948).

But with all of its special attributes what stands out the most about the anemone is its name in Hebrew – Kalanit (kaf, lamed, noon, yod, tav). Kalanit is a diminutive form of the noun "kala" – bride.

"A bride dressed in red?" you may ask. Aha, but this "bride" has a white veil, a veil that surrounds its black stamens, conveying the message that the Lamb's blood washes and makes white (Rev. 7:14) and that "the royal daughter is all glorious within" (Psalm 45:13). Hiding her white wedding veil, covered by the blood, and being made ready for her Husband "like a lily among the thorns, so is [His] love among the daughters" (Song of Songs 2:11). 

Hebrew Insights into Parashat Tazri'a –Vayikra (Leviticus) 12-13

 Aside from dealing with the purification rites of a post-birth woman, the beginning part of Parashat Tazri'a also touches on the eighth-day circumcision (12:3). Last week's Parasha was called "Shmini," meaning "eighth". And while the bulk of Parashat “Tazri'a” deals with regulations of "tzara’at" (leprosy and other skin conditions) it is the next Parasha that bears the name of the leper ("Me'tzorah"). Thus, even when there appears to be no connection between two successive Parashot (plural of Parasha), one is often threaded into the other, even if very loosely. However, that is not true of Parashat Me'tzorah, which forms a sequel to Parashat Tazri’a and is in fact very closely related to it.

"If a woman conceives seed [literal translation] and gives birth to a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days…" (12:2). "Conceives seed" - "tazri'a", after which our Parasha is named, is a very unusual form since its root word "zera" - z.r.a. -  (zayin, resh, ayin) is "seed" or "semen" (and by implication also "offspring"). S.R. Hirsch translates it: "When a woman has matured a human germ…" and goes on to comment: "Germ, basically the seed of plants and hence herb-yielding seed (Gen. 1:11), the seed-forming activity of plants for the continuation of their species, when applied to human beings is the usual term for the offspring by which Man continues his generation.  By the use of the expression "tazri'a" here, which only occurs in B’resheet (Genesis) 1:11 and 12, referring to the activity of plants for the continuation of their species, the mother's role in producing progeny is looked at in purely material physical character of its physiological process. Thus, with one word the whole idea of the uncleanness, spoken of here, is shown" [[1]] In this manner Hirsch also provides one of several answers to the question, "Why should a mother be declared 'unclean' for fulfilling a Divinely-ordained mission?" The sages especially question the need for a sin offering. [[2]]  The expression "tazri'a," however, brings to mind not only B’resheet (Genesis) 1:11 and 12, as Hirsch points out, but is also reminiscent of the usage of the term "zera," “seed” in B’resheet 3:15, where there is a reference to the "Seed of the woman" Who is destined to crush the head of the serpent. Thus, by one word the “purely material physical character” of birth is singled out and at the same time also introduces its contrast – by an allusion to the future “Seed of Woman.” The seven initial days of the woman's "impurity" mentioned here, are comparable to the week of impurity during the menstrual cycle.

 However, in verse 5, where mention is made of the birth of a female, it is no longer “conception of a seed”, but rather… “to give birth”. Thus, in the birth of a son his future is already foretold, in that he will be carrying the seed, whereas if it is a daughter that is being born there is no need to mention the “seed”. We see here how the future generations are encompassed even in the life of an individual.

 "When the days of her purification are fulfilled, whether for a son or a daughter, she shall bring to the priest a lamb of the first year as a burnt offering, and a young pigeon or a turtledove as a sin offering, to the door of the tabernacle of meeting" (12:6). The burnt offering, according to some of the sages, was a token of thankfulness to the Almighty for having preserved her through the labor pains and hazards, and for having been granted the strength to bear a child. "The new life within her made [the mother] deeply conscious of the greatness of the creator, as also of her insignificance as 'dust and ashes' and impurity; hence the need for a sin-offering. [3]

 The sin offering may be linked to the fact that we are "brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me" (Ps. 51:5), as expressed by David. He was not pointing out to his mother as a sinner for having conceived him, but emphasized the fact that man's sin nature is hereditary, and simply passes through the bloodline. The fact that it is transmitted from generation to generation is illustrated by what we have already observed, that contained in Man is the seed for the perpetuity of his (sinful) race, and thus the fruit will resemble the parent plant. The unusual usage of "tazri'a" could therefore be the clue to unraveling the 'mystery' of the mother's "impurity" after giving birth, and the requirement of a sin offering. Incidentally, Miriam, Yeshua's mother, did likewise (ref. Luke 2:24), even though her son's conception had been totally different. In this case, following the Torah ruling was most likely performed in the same vein as Yeshua's immersion, which was for the purpose of "fulfilling all righteousness" (Mat. 3:15). The usage of "seed" in connection to bearing an offspring, therefore, underscores the heredity nature of sinfulness. But the "Seed of the woman" (Gen. 3:15) is a reminder that the sinless Seed will likewise be propagated after His own kind.

In one breath with the birth of "a male", mention is also made of the eighth-day circumcision (12:3). When we reviewed Parashat Shmini mention was made of the significance of the figure “eight” which stems from the root sh.m.n, being the root for “fat” (hence “oil - shemen"), following the fullness of seven ("sheva"), thereby indicating an overabundance (at times with negative connotations, such as "and Yeshurun waxed fat…" Deut. 32:15, emphasis added). The eighth-day circumcision also indicates that it takes precedence over Shabbat, and a child who is born on Friday, notwithstanding, will be circumcised on the following Shabbat. In this regard, take note of the connection between the “seventh” and the “eighth” day.

 Having just encountered the “seed conceiving” woman, we are now looking at the act of male circumcision, which denotes the covenant in the flesh marking the organ of procreation, so that the seed (“zera”) issuing forth would be ‘enrolled’ in the process of redemption from the hereditary sin that we have just noted.  If “tazr’ia,” as used for a woman, is indicative of the perpetual seed of sin, then circumcision is a symbolic act pointing to the beginning of the solution to the problem of the inbred sin in the present condition of Man. This sign of the covenant, being applied to the organ of procreation foreshadows the entire removal of sin by the spiritual circumcision (of the heart), aimed at the circumcised seed which is the recipient of the ‘chain’ of covenants of promise - all the way to the ultimate one. In the same way that the ‘covenant-marked’ seed (still) comes forth sin-ridden, it will one day come forth in the image and likeness of its Creator. And so, the promise stands: “And just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly” (1st Cor. 15:49).

 The next part of the Parasha (chapter 13) is also devoted to issues of purity and impurity, this time relating to skin diseases, as well as to contaminated houses and clothes. Since dealing with this variety of conditions was up to the priests' discernment, they are the ones mentioned, and it is, therefore, A'haron who is addressed here (whereas he was not mentioned in the first part of the Parasha). The various conditions described and elaborated upon all come under the general heading of "tza'ra'at" (tz.r.a, tzadi, resh, ayin).

In spite of the many regulations regarding "tzarat", there are no instances cited in the entire Tanach of these regulations being put to practice and of lepers turning to the priesthood. However, in the Brit Chadasha texts, in the Gospels there are several instances of lepers being cleansed by Yeshua, who then admonished them to show themselves to the priest (e.g. Matt. 8:2-4; Mark 1:40-44; Luke 17:12-14).

 The root tz.r.a (tzadi, resh, ayin) means “project outward”. If the sins resulting in this affliction are mostly committed in secret, then this condition reveals them, whether on one’s body, clothing, or home. The New Brown, Driver, Briggs, Gesenius Lexicon defines the root verb "tza'ro'a" as "to throw down, prostrate, humble oneself"[[4]. The various forms of "tzara'at" certainly placed the one declared as contaminated in a humbling, if not a humiliating state, described in verses 45 and 46: "Now the leper on whom the sore is, his clothes shall be torn and his head bare; and he shall cover his mustache, and cry, `Unclean! Unclean!' He shall be unclean. All the days he has the sore he shall be unclean. He is unclean, and he shall dwell alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp". The word for "unclean" is "tameh" (t.m.a, tet, mem, alef) with its literal meaning being "ritually polluted". 

 The concept, "outside the camp," like many others in Scripture, is twofold. Whereas here the "tameh" is separated from the community, in Shmot (Exodus) 33:7, after the Golden Calf episode we read: "Moses took his tent and pitched it outside the camp, far from the camp, and called it the tabernacle of meeting. And it came to pass that everyone who sought YHVH went out to the tabernacle of meeting which was outside the camp" (italics added). Likewise, in Hebrews 13:12-13: "Therefore Yeshua also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach". Hence this separation can be dual – disconnecting one’s self from a sin-contaminated camp, or, removing one’s self so as not to contaminate the camp.

 In our recent reading of the book of Esther, we read the following: "The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman" (7:6). In Hebrew "adversary" and "wicked" are denoted, respectively, by "tzar" and "ra". If combined, these two words form "tzar-ra", which are also the consonants that form the root "tzara'at" (tz.r.a, as we saw above), and can be read (in Hebrew) as "a wicked adversary".

 The latter part of chapter 13 deals with “tzara’at” as it contaminates leather or clothes (vs. 47-59). Several times mention is made of “sh’ti va’erev”, that is, the “warp and woof” of the cloth (the threads woven lengthwise and crosswise respectively). The woof which is threaded through the warp is thought of as being “mixed in” and is therefore designated by the well-known term “erev” (ayin, resh, vet), which we have been following in many instances, but primarily in the word for “evening”, which is a state of light being mixed with darkness.

Nechama Leibowitz concludes: "According to most commentators tzara'at is not a common disease, but supernatural infliction by Divine Providence through which man is reminded of his sinful ways, and called upon to abandon them". The appended footnote says: "It is noteworthy that medical research fails to associate the Biblical tzara'at with any known disease. Its diagnosis as leprosy is rejected by modern medicine". Earlier the commentator pointed out that plagues in general had a special role as warning signs against sinful behavior [5], or were its consequences (e.g. 2nd Sam. 24:1, 15; 2 Ch. 26:16-21).


[[1] ]   New Studies in Vayikra Part 1, Nechama Leibowitz, trans. Aryeh Newman. Eliner  Library, Department for Torah Education and Culture in the Diaspora. Hemed Books Inc.,  Brooklyn, N.Y.

]2[  Ibid

]3[  Ibid

]4[   The New Brown, Driver, Briggs, Gesenius Lexicon, Francis Brown Hendrickson,   

       Publishers  Peabody, Mass. 1979.

]5[   New Studies






Thursday, March 24, 2022

Hebrew Insights into Parashat Shmini – Vayikra (Leviticus) 9 - 11


 "It came to pass on the eighth day that Moses called Aaron and his sons and the elders of Israel" (Lev. 9:1). "Shmini", translated “eighth”, denotes a new beginning. The previous Parasha ended with A'haron and his sons being charged to "not go outside the door of the tabernacle of meeting for seven days until the days of your consecration are ended. For seven days he shall consecrate you" (8:33). And again in 8:35: “Therefore you shall stay at the door of the tabernacle of meeting day and night for seven days, and keep the charge of YHVH…" Thus, on the eighth day, A'haron was to "take… a calf as a sin offering and a ram as a burnt offering, without blemish, and offer them before YHVH" (9:2). It is no mistake or coincidence that on this eighth day, symbolic of a departure from the 'former things', A'haron, who had played a major role in the golden calf episode, was to offer, first and foremost, a calf. This offering is rendered a cut-off mark, in the course of which "all the congregation drew near and stood before YHVH" (9:5 emphasis added). In this way, the atonement was fully made (see v. 7, and then all the way to v. 22) and YHVH's relationship with Yisrael could be restored.

Following this procedure as specifically prescribed by YHVH resulted in “… the glory [kavod] of YHVH appear[ing] to all the people" right after Moshe and A’haron blessed them (v. 23). According to Nechama Leibowitz, "The revelation of the Divine glory here denotes a reward for their efforts in erecting a Sanctuary for the Shekina".[1] “And fire came out from before YHVH and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar. And all the people saw it, and they shouted and fell on their faces" (v.24). These sin offerings, therefore, became a demarcation point, separating sinfulness and profanity from YHVH's Holiness and Glory. The motif of the holy or clean versus the profane or the unclean is threaded throughout this Parasha, as we shall continue to observe.


 When the above-described scene reached its peak, with "fire [coming] out from before YHVH… consuming the burnt offering…", as we just observed, we are suddenly transferred without as much as a breather into the next one, with its parallel yet contradictory elements. And so, we read in 10:1 about A’haron’s sons, Nadav and Avihu, taking censors and putting fire and incense on them, which YHVH had "not commanded them". Theirs was a fire of their own making ("zara" - foreign, strange, of a different kind), which they brought near before YHVH, and "so fire went out from YHVH and devoured them" (v. 2). When the Children of Yisrael and their leaders did as they were commanded (ref 9:10) and drew near to YHVH, His fire consumed the offering and He showed them His Glory. But when Nadav and Avihu brought near that which YHVH did not command, the consequence was that a fire went out from Him, but consumed them (ref. 10:1-2). The similar or identical terms used to describe both episodes make for a sinister symmetry, one that demonstrates that often there may be but a fine line that separates the holy from the profane, the desirable from the detestable. An example of contrasting terms, that serve to highlight certain situations is seen in 9:24, where we read that the people "shouted" - (va)yaronou - joyfully. In contrast, after Nadav and Avihu's sad annihilation, it says that A'haron was utterly silent, or even motionless - (va)yidom – root of d.o.m, dalet, vav, mem (ref. 10:3). In Psalm 94:17 the expression "dwelling in silence" ("shachna duma”), denotes death. In Psalm 115:17 it is written: "The dead do not praise YHVH, nor any who go down into silence" (duma, once again).


    "By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; And before all the people I must be glorified" (10:3) is the explanation as to why Nadav and Avihu, because of their lofty positions, had to be totally obedient to YHVH and could not misrepresent him as they had done. In fact, they are called here by YHVH "k'rova'i" - those who are close (or near) to Me - and as such, YHVH was to be rendered holy" ("eka'desh") by, or through, them.  In addition, their actions were supposed to glorify YHVH and this way to also influence others to do likewise, with "eka'ved" being the term used (in 10:3), meaning "heavy", and by implication "highly esteemed".


In the second part of chapter 10, Moshe instructs A'haron and his two "remaining sons" (v. 12) to not display any signs of mourning. On the other hand, the rest of Yisrael was given permission to "bewail the burning which YHVH has kindled" (v. 6, italics added). Interestingly, the “burning” here is eerily detached from the particular individuals who had just perished, neither is it in any way connected to human beings in general or even to death. The word used, which sounds so dreadfully detached, is "s'refa", meaning "burning” or “to burn". It appears that emphasis is put here on the calamity inflicted by YHVH, with the priests being expected to identify with His approach (hence His strict orders to them not to display signs of mourning over the death of their relatives), whereas the “whole house of Israel” was given permission to “bewail the burning”. In addition, the priests were to remain inside the tent (cf. 8:33,35, mentioned above) as long as YHVH's anointing oil was on them, and were also prohibited from drinking wine and intoxicating drink in the course of their service in Ohel Mo'ed ("Tent of Meeting", 10:6-9). This latter requirement led some commentators to surmise that YHVH's anger against Nadav and Avihu was kindled because they may have been inebriated while ministering. The purpose for these measures was, so “that you [i.e. the priests] may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which YHVH has spoken to them by the hand of Moses" (v. 11). But in order to be able to do so, they had, according to verse 10, to "…distinguish between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean". It is this verse that encapsulates or summarizes the motif (as mentioned above) of the entire Parasha.


In the following section (10:12-20), Moshe reproves A'haron and his remaining (“nota'rim”) sons, El'azar and Itamar, for not having eaten the remaining (“noteret”) offering, which was rightfully theirs. Instead, they burned the goat for the sin offering ("soraf" v. 16 – identical word to the “fire” mentioned in 10:6 above, which consumed Nadav and Avihu), making a fire of their own and getting rid of that which they were supposed to consume. In trying to be over-cautious, they too were not fully obedient to the instructions of YHVH. Notice the application of identical terminology to the priests and to their work of service, be it the fire or the sacrifices (as we noted also above concerning Nadav and Avihu).


Here we also hear A'haron expressing himself for the first time after the loss of his two older sons, a loss he refers to tersely as, “such things [that] have befallen me" (v. 19), and wondering if the eating that was required “would have … been good - (ha)yitav - in the eyes of YHVH. And Moses heard and it was good - (va)yitav - in his eyes" (vs. 19-20). The echoing of A'haron's "good" in Moshe’s response seems to indicate that the brothers were once again in one accord.


The “remaining offering” that the priests were to eat is called here that which is “due” to the priests because in Hebrew it is derived from “chok”, the ‘legal’ portion (see 10:15 translated there "statute"). A similar reference to one’s portion is referenced by the writer of Proverbs. There it says: “Give me neither poverty nor riches -- Feed me with the food allotted to me” (30:8). The “food allotted to me” is “lechem (literally bread), which is legally apportioned or allotted to me”. The same expression is found, of course in the “Lord’s Prayer” in Matthew 6:11: “Give us this day our “lechem chok” – the bread/food that is legally our portion.


Our Parasha clearly brings out the role of the priests in the Israelite society, and their view of their office. S.R. Hirsch elaborates on this issue: "The Hebrew priest is part of the nation, and his position is not an isolated one before God, but one that he occupies only within and through the nation….” Regarding the sacrifices and their function relative to the Almighty and to the worshipper, he says: “The closeness of and approach to God… may only be found through obedience to and acceptance of God's will…  The offering means to place the offerer at God's service, i.e., he wants to fulfill God's wishes through his offering. All offerings are therefore forms of Divine demands which the offerer, through his offering, accepts as the guidelines for his future conduct".[2]


In line with the theme of separating the clean from the unclean, the rest of the Parasha (chapter 11) is devoted to the type of animals, fish and fowls permitted for consumption, as well as to those that are forbidden. It is interesting that verses 4-7 constitute a list of four animals, all of which have one of the two traits required but are devoid of the other. However, the first trait mentioned in all four cases happens to be the one that fulfills the requirement, whereas the specification of the missing one is second. The lesson to be learned here is simple:  even though things may seem 'right' or 'proper' at first sight, they should be investigated further, lest deception sets in (e.g. notice the order of adjectives in the title of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil). The above tragic scene, with Nadav and Avihu, A’haron’s sons, who may have had ‘good’ intentions, illustrates this point even more poignantly. YHVH’s holiness and His charge upon His people, to be “set apart as He is”, cannot be measured by human standards of ‘good’ and ‘evil’, and requires unquestionable obedience.


"You shall not make yourselves abominable with any creeping thing that creeps; nor shall you make yourselves unclean with them, lest you be defiled by them, for I am YHVH your Elohim. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy, for I am holy. Neither shall you defile yourselves with any creeping thing that creeps on the earth, for I am YHVH who brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your Elohim. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy" (11:43-45). The Israelites were separated for YHVH’s sake by being brought out of Egypt, the land of bondage, where they belonged to someone else (whose servants they were). Now, however, they belonged to their Maker. They were, therefore, to reflect His nature of holiness.


Aligning themselves with their Elohim and His ways is what makes the Israelite Nation a "holy nation". Partaking of that which is abominable in His sight or even coming into contact with it renders those who choose to do so just as abominable - "sheh’ketz". “You shall not make yourselves (lit. “your soul”) abominable – teshak’tzu - with any creeping thing that creeps” (v. 43).  The "abomination (of desolation)" in Daniel 11:31 and 12:11 employs the same word, with a certain modification (“shikutz”).


Our Parasha, quite characteristically, ends with a clear reminder of its theme: “to distinguish, [or separate], the unclean from the clean…" (11:47).



1. New Studies in Vayikra Part 1, Nechama Leibowitz, trans. Aryeh Newman. Eliner  Library, Department for Torah Education and Culture in the Diaspora. Hemed Books Inc., Brooklyn, N.Y.

2. Ibid




Friday, March 18, 2022

Behind the Mask of Purim

 The book of Esther is probably one of the most mysterious books in the entire bible.  It contains multiple references to other scriptures. It doesn’t mention once the name of Elohim, or, does it refer to Him in many other ways? Actually, when scriptures speak about YHVH’s people, who are His namesake and carry His sign, that in itself is evidence of His name and presence. The book of Esther is a historical marker in YHVH’s time, place, and purpose.  We know that everything Elohim does is in relationship to the covenants and promises to those whom He has called and chosen. "He watches over His word to perform it” (Jeremiah 1:11). His Word is bound up in His people, the whole House of Israel.

In this story we are told that, the Jews lived in most of the 127 provinces of the Persian Empire and that they were strong enough to defeat their enemies, killing 75,000.  How could this have taken place if their grandmas and grandpas had all gone back to Jerusalem?

During the course of the 70 years of Jewish exile in Babylon, the Babylonian Empire was taken over by the Medes and Persians. After that conquest, King Cyrus, in the first year of his reign, gave permission to a small remnant from the House of David and Levi to return to build a Temple for the Elohim of Heaven in Jerusalem. He apparently believed that it was their God who granted him success: "Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, 'YHVH the Elohim of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah'” (Ezra 1:2).   True to Jeremiah's prophecy (25:11-12) this took place at the end of the 70 years of exile.  The Mede-Persian empire lasted 229 years before Alexander the Great defeated them in 330 BCE. Almost every Mede-Persian emperor had periodic wars with the Greeks, one of them being Ahasuerus I who had lost several battles to them. Because of this, many viewed him as a weak ruler. In order to compensate, he threw big elaborate banquets to shore-up support from all the governors and military leaders of the provinces, and also prepared celebrations for his own citizens.

This sets the stage for the story of Esther, Mordechai, and Haman.  One can see why there was political unrest and why the two would-be assassins wanted to do away with the king, which actually did happen years later.

Jeremiah told the Judeans to go to Babylon, live there, and build houses.  The first wave of the diaspora was in 605 when Daniel and many of Judah's leaders were taken there. Approximately 20 years later, in 586-7, Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed and more of the Judeans, specifically from the house of David and the Levites, were also deported to Babylon.

The book of Esther highlights a hidden history of an ongoing battle with an enemy who is unceasingly trying to destroy the Jews.  Haman the arch-villain in this story had hatred for Mordecai the Jew because he would not bow and pay homage to him.  But when we look back at the ancestry of both men, we find that they had the same father and thus were together in the womb of their mother.  It is hard to believe that Isaac, the son of promise who came forth from Sarah's dead womb, could produce two sons so different from each other, such as Esau and Jacob. Even before birth, there were already enmity and strife between them as recorded in Genesis 25:22: “But the children struggled together within her; and she said, 'If it is so, why then am I this way?' So she went to inquire of YHVH”.  YHVH’s answer to Rebekah is the key to unlocking an age-old conflict that still rages today. 

 "And YHVH said to her, 'Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples shall be separated from your body, and one people shall be stronger than the other, and the older shall serve the younger'" (Genesis 25:23).

Esau proved himself the stronger in that he pushed his way out of the womb first, receiving the princely portion of the birthright and later expected to receive from his father’s right hand the double portion.  However, YHVH’s word to his mother was going to work against him, as the younger was destined to rule over the older.  Thus, the desire of a firstborn from Esau’s linage, Haman, to rule over Jacob’s seed - Mordechai – wasso al doomed to fail.  As a matter of fact, Haman’s wife's comment verified this fact:  "If Mordecai, before whom you have begun to fall, is of Jewish origin ['seed' in the original], you will not overcome him, but will surely fall before him." (Esther 6:13).

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Hebrew Insights into Parashat Tzav – Vayikra (Leviticus) 6:8 – 8 (Hebrew Scriptures 6-8)


"Command Aaron and his sons, saying, 'this is the law of the burn offering...'"(Lev. 6:9), are YHVH's words to Moshe at the beginning of our Parasha, named after the imperative form for “command - "tzav". "The law (of the burnt offering)" is rendered "torah", making the usage of this word here, “binding instructions”. This is one of several examples of the way this multi-faceted term is utilized. The usage of the term “the torah of the…” offering/sacrifice, instead of when “a person” or “a soul” offers or sacrifices, indicates that here the issue at hand is the work of the priests as it pertains to sacrifices and offerings, and not to the general public as we saw last week.


But before attending to the subject matters included in the Parasha, let us pause and look at an all-important word that appeared three times in last week’s Parashat Vayikra (in Lev. 4:3, 5, 16, being its first appearing in Scripture), and once in ours (6:22). This word is “mashi’ach”, translated “anointed”. In Hebrew, however, there is a clear distinction between “anointed” in verb form (such as in 6:20), which is literally “to coat with oil”, as well as the adjective form such as in Sh’muel Bet (2nd Samuel) 3:39 where David declares:And I am weak today, though anointed (“mashu’ach”) king”, AND the noun: “Mashia’ch”.  In order to illustrate the difference, we can take, for example, the verb “to appoint”. An “appointed person” is an adjective, whereas “appointee” is classified as a noun. Similarly, “mashi’ach” is not someone who has been merely smeared or coated with oil, whether for a singular function or several functions or even for a permanent position or calling. “Mashi’ach’s” function and nature, his very being, are all embodied in this calling. And even though this term was used regarding the priests (or the people of Yisrael -  “m’shi’chim” – plural, in Ps. 105:15), these were obviously not The Messiah.  Yet this rendering was employed with the long-term view to the coming of the one and only “Mashi’ach” –  the Anointee if you will.    


Back to the Parasha’s topics, with the main one being the listing of the various sacrifices/offerings, with added specifications. The interaction and connection that exists between them is one more feature introduced in this Parasha. Thus, we read about the meal-offering - "mincha" (6:17b): “It is most holy, like the sin offering, and like the guilt offering" (italics added). In verse 25, it says about the sin offering ("chatat"): "This is the law [torah] of the sin offering: In the place [the north] where the burnt offering is killed, the sin offering shall be killed before YHVH" (italics added). Likewise, regarding the guilt offering ("a'sha'm"): “In the place where they kill the burnt offering, they shall kill the guilt offering" (7:2, italics added), and again in 7:7: "As a sin offering is, so (is) a guilt offering. One law [torah] is for them. The priest who makes atonement by it, it is his" (italics added).


It says about Messiah Yeshua, who "knew no sin" that He was "sin for us" (2nd Cor. 5:21). And although there are parallels to Yeshua's sacrifice in each of the sacrifices and offerings, this statement emphasizes His role as the "korban chatat". This offering is "most holy", and what's more, "the priest who offers it for sin shall eat it" (Lev. 6:26). Thus, the proverbial partaking of Yeshua's body, as He admonished His disciples to do, is an act that denotes the priesthood of those who do so.

In summation, the meal offerings' holiness is identical to that of both the sin and guilt offerings, all of which are denoted by the term "kodesh kodashim" - holy of holies – i.e. the "holiest of all".  The animals for the sin and guilt offerings are to be killed in the same place as the burnt offering.  Similarly, both the sin and guilt offerings are to have one "torah," according to which they actually belong to the priest who makes the atonement of these two offerings. Thus, status (of holiness), place, and ownership are the three common elements shared in some way by all four of these sacrifices/offerings.


These three attributes may be quite easily related to the person of Yeshua, to what He has accomplished, and hence to the benefits that we derive thereby:


1. Holiness: The Holy One and the Just” (Acts 3:14 in reference to Yeshua, italics added). "According to as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, for us to be holy and without blemish before Him in love" (Eph. 1:4, italics added).


2. Place: "I am going to prepare a place for you" (John 14:2, italics added). “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28 italics added).


3. Ownership by the Priest: "I am the Good Shepherd, and I know those that are mine, and I am known by the ones that are mine" (John 10:14, italics added).  "I guarded those whom You gave to Me" (John 17:12, italics added). "Of those whom You gave to Me, I lost not one of them" (John 18:9, italics added).  “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Yeshua the Son of Elohim” (Hebrews 4:14 italics added).


Following the instructions for the "guilt offering" is the "torah of zeh’vach sh’lamim”, or the law of the sacrifice peace offerings” (7:11-21), which appears to stand on its own. However, its conspicuous placement after the mention of the "guilt offering" may be significant. Last week, in Parashat Vayikra, we noted that the "guilt offering" was accompanied by reparations for damages incurred (5:6-8). Peace and reconciliation cannot take place before one is relieved of one's guilt (through YHVH’s provision, such as making good for damages).  We also noted that "sh'lamim" is of the root sh.l.m, meaning "complete or whole", as well as "peace, reconciliation, and payment". But the actual term for "peace offering" - sh'lamim - is rendered in the plural form. This is not surprising, as this type of sacrifice includes three different aspects or categories: thanksgiving, vow, and a freewill offering (7:12-16).


Thanksgiving is "toda", from the root y.d.a (yod, dalet, hey) connected to "hand" or “arm” – “yad” (and confession, as we observed last week). Interestingly, in quite a few cases carrying out a vow is conveyed as "paying the vow/oath" - "shalem neh'de'r" - making use of both these terms (“peace/whole/pay” and “oath”) together (e.g. 2 Sam. 15:7; Ecc. 5:4; Is. 19:21*; Jonah 2:9). The freewill offering is termed "n'dava", which is a word we encountered in Parashat Trumah (in Ex. 25:2). The root n.d.v. speaks of generosity and free giving. “Vow” as "neh'de'r” (n.d.r) is connected to another root, n.z.r, which is the root for "nazarite", being the adjective for 'he who is bound by a neh'de'r - oath' (see for example Numbers 6:2). The root n.z.r also appears in our Parasha. In 8:9, toward the end of the Parasha, we read about the consecration of A'ha'ron and his sons: "And put the miter on his head, and on the miter, on its front, he put the golden plate, the holy crown; as YHVH commanded Moses." The "holy crown" here is "nezer ha'kodesh", the “crown of holiness”.  Since the nazarite is a person who is "consecrated or dedicated" (having taken a vow, a nehd'er), the root n.z.r appears to be a fusion of that which pertains to a priestly ministry (even as the priests were to wear this crown) and at the same time also referring to a crown, an item associated with royalty. Does the term “nezer”, therefore, allude to the office of king-priest, particularly as it was to be fulfilled in Yeshua? (Ref. Zech. 6:13. See also Hebrew Insights into Parashat Va’yechi, re Genesis 49:26).


"As to the flesh of the sacrifice of the thanksgiving peace offerings, it shall be eaten in the day of his offering. He shall not leave of it until morning" (7:15). This idea engendered a variety of comments on the part of the sages and rabbis. Maimonides, writing in The Guide for the Perplexed- part 3, proffers the following reason: “‘The offerings must all be perfect and in the best condition, in order that no one should slight the offering or treat it with contempt’. And according to Sefer haHinuch: ‘There is an allusion [here] to our trust in God; a man should not begrudge himself his food and store it for the morrow, seeing that God commanded to utterly destroy sanctified meat after its time, when no creature - man or beast - is allowed to partake of it’”. This point of view is comparable to the way the Israelites were supposed to regard the manna.2 Notice that the Pesach lamb also had to be consumed without leaving its remains overnight (Ex. 12:10). In addition, if the offerer was to partake of the peace offering, he had to be ritually clean or else be cut off from his people (ref. 7: 20, 21). Similarly, in 1st Corinthians 11:20-34, we read that those who were breaking bread together were not to do so “unworthily, [such] that one will be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread, and let him drink of the cup; for he who is eating and drinking unworthily eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord" (v. 27-29).


Some more on “zeh'vach sh'lamim" (sacrifice of peace offerings) and its above-mentioned traits… This offering may be seen as an analogy to Yeshua's perfect (shalem) and "one [time] offering… [that] has perfected the ones being sanctified for all time" (Heb. 10:14, italics added), who are thereby able "through Him… [to] offer up a sacrifice of thanksgiving to Elohim always, that is, the fruit of the lips…” (Heb. 13:15, italics added).


"Any person who eats any blood, even that person shall be cut off from his people" (7:27). In last week's Hebrew Insights we looked at Vayikra 17:11, regarding the “blood which makes atonement for the soul". It also says there that, “the life is in the blood". And while Mankind - "adam" - is of the earth ("adama"), he is also of blood, which is "dam".  Man cannot partake of the very substance which is divinely designed to both give him life AND cover his sin and iniquity.


In chapter 8, dealing with the consecration of the priesthood, one of the words used for "consecration" is "milu'im" (vs. 22, 28,29,31,33), of the root m.l.a (mem, lamed, alef), meaning "full, to make full or fulfill”, and by implication "consecrate", as is seen in verse 33: "…until the days of your consecrationmi’lu’ey’chem” are fulfilledm’lot. For He shall consecrate – ye’maleh - you seven days" (italics added). The connection of "maleh" (singular form) to consecration seems rather obscure. Yet when looking at the items pertaining to the act of consecration, in verses 25 and 26, all of which were to be placed on the palms of A'ha'ron's hands and his sons’, we get a glimpse of the connection between 'making holy' and 'full.'  This is how it is described in the Gill Commentary: "And thou shalt put all in the hands of Aaron, and in the hands of his sons" [&c.], which accounts for the use of the phrase, filling the hand for consecration". Gill goes on to say - "For all the above things of the ram, bread, cakes, and wafers were put into their hands when consecrated, denoting their investiture with their office: all things are in the hands of Messiah, relative to the glory of God and the good of his people. Their persons are in his hands, and all grace and blessings of it for them; a commission to execute his office as a priest is given to him.  And as it was proper that he also should have somewhat to offer (Heb. 8:3), his hands are filled, and he has a sufficiency for that purpose, as Aaron and his sons had".3  And to that, we add: “And out of His fullness we all received, and grace on top of grace. For the Torah was given through Moses, and grace and truth came through Messiah Yeshua" (John 1:16,17, italics added).


 The Parasha ends with A’ha’ron and sons doing as they were commanded, that is sitting for a complete seven days and nights at the door of the Tent of Meeting, thus fulfilling the “charge of YHVH” (8:35) for their sanctification - “milu’im” (again, literally, “fullness” or “completion”). This charge takes us back to Sh’mot (Exodus) 40:34-38, and seems to actually be a continuation of the said passage which describes the coming down of the cloud of glory upon the completion of the Mishkan.


Lastly, another interesting encounter with the term “fulfill” or “fulfilling” by the “hand” is found in Divrey Hayamim Bet (2nd Chronicles). At the inauguration of the (first) Temple, Shlomo addressed YHVH, and then “turning around”, he blessed Yisrael saying: “Blessed be YHVH the Elohim of Israel, who spoke by his mouth to David my father, and with [or by] his hands fulfilled…”  (6:4, literal translation).  The question whose hands did the “fulfilling” (as in Hebrew verse 4 is ambiguous) is answered by Shlomo in verse 15 of the same chapter: “… You spoke by Your mouth, and with Your hand You fulfilled [it, on] this very day” (literal translation).  And as we saw above (in John 1:16), YHVH does not only do the fulfilling, He is also grants the FULLNESS.


* “Then YHVH will be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians will know YHVH in that day and will make sacrifice [ze’vach] and offering [mincha]; yes, they will make a vow [neh’der] to YHVH and perform [shi’lemu]”. Although this text from Isaiah 19:21 is referring to Egypt (a repentant Egypt, we may add), notice the usage that is made here of the same terminology that appeared in last week’s Parasha and also in the present one.


2. New Studies in Vayikra Part 1, Nechama Leibowitz, trans. Aryeh Newman. Eliner Library, Department for Torah Education and Culture in the Diaspora. Hemed Books Inc., Brooklyn, N.Y.


3. Gill Commentary, On Line Bible. 

Friday, March 11, 2022

Gog's War or God's Temple?

 Gog’s War or God’s Temple?

In today’s world, one of the hardest things to do is to stay focused on our new life in Messiah.  There are so many distractions that keep our attention away from the truths that we are to believe and hold on to by faith! A case in point; in my nearly 50 years of being a believer in Messiah Yeshua I have noticed that the evangelicals and charismatics have been, and still are, almost obsessed with trying to figure out how and when the ‘Gog and Magog' war of Ezekiel 38 will take place, and whether it will occur in their lifetime.  This type of diversion can keep one’s eyes turned away from Yeshua, “the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).

Because of the above preoccupation, Mr. Putin and Russia have more ‘followers’ (meaning those who are following Russia’s current moves) than Yeshua and Israel, as it is assumed that Russia is the Gog-Magog that unlocks the key to Yeshua’s return or to the ‘escape’. There is a tendency to forget the sovereignty of Elohim and the multitude of other scriptures that speak of Yeshua’s return.  To fix our attention on prophetic speculation is relying on man’s wisdom and knowledge.  Our Heavenly Father is not concerned with our ability to figure out these matters, but whether or not we know Him and His Son, and their power and authority over the affairs of this world. This becomes evident in the discourse between Pilate and Yeshua. “Do You not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?" Pilate asked Yeshua. “Yeshua answered, ‘You would have no authority over Me unless it had been given you from above” (John 19:10-11).  Then again, in Miriam’s prayer, as she exults in Elohim her Savior: "He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has exalted those who were humble” (Luke 1:52). Mr. Putin, as well as any world ruler or oligarch, is in his position because the Almighty is working out His plan for His people. “The earth is YHVH's, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it” (Psalm 24:1).

The ones who ‘get stuck' on chapter 38 of Ezekiel and make it the only component for what is to take place in end-time eschatology, will actually find themselves missing out on Ezekiel 37, which connects them to an identity that they never knew they had.   Besides, there are certain conditions which precede the ‘Gog and Magog’ war: "After many days you [Gog] will be summoned; in the latter years you will come into the land that is restored from the sword, whose inhabitants have been gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel which had been a continual waste; but its people were brought out from the nations, and they are living securely, all of them” (Ezekiel 38:8 emphasis added).   Anyone who is living here in Israel will agree that this nation is anything but united and living securely.

What is urgently required of the Hebrew Roots Movement today, is a vision of the unity of ‘echad’. We are all familiar with the scripture that states clearly, “A house divide against itself cannot stand” (Mathew 12:25). The latest Torah portions enumerate in detail the instructions that Moses received from YHVH regarding the construction of the Mishkan. Every article is described in minute detail, as well as the auxiliary components for joining all the parts together to make ONE Holy tent of meeting.  Believe it or not, the Ezekiel 37 scenario is the ultimate fulfillment of the final Temple that will be filled with YHVH’s glory upon its completion, just as were the Mishkan and Solomon’s Temple!

In the case of the Mishkan, YHVH chose Bezalel, from the tribe of Judah, to be the chief builder. It is not a coincidence that his name means, “in the shadow of El” – Be’tzel’El (‘tzel’ being Hebrew for ‘shadow’). In Hebrews 3 (especially verses 2-6), it is stated that we are Messiah’s house: “But Messiah as a Son over His own house, whose house we are…” (v. 6 emphasis added). According to this text, the Builder of this house is Elohim (v. 4). The image of Elohim that He accorded to Adam and Eve, His “tzelem”, which is even more than a shadow, has now been restored (having been marred by mankind’s abysmal fall) after YHVH offered up His Son for the redemption of humanity. Thus, those who truly make up Messiah’s house (or Mishkan) (see Rom. 8:10; 2nd Cor. 13:5; Gal. 2:20, 4:19; Eph. 3:1; Col. 1:27, etc.) abide under the shadow (tzel) of the Almighty (Psalm 91:1), having regained His image – tzelem.   

Bezalel is said to have been “filled with the Spirit of Elohim, in wisdom and understanding, in knowledge…” (Exodus 35:31). Does this strike a familiar chord? The ‘seven spirits’ of Elohim endowed upon the Rod from the stem of Jesse, include, in the same order, “the spirit of Elohim, the spirit of wisdom, understanding…. knowledge” (Isaiah 11:1-3). “In the shadowtzel – of His [YHVH’s] hand He has hidden Me”, declares the One whom YHVH “has called… from the womb of” [His] mother” (Isaiah 49:2 emphasis added). Upon becoming pregnant, this mother had been told that her Son "…will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High and Adonai Elohim will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end" (Luke 1:32-33).

Now back to the topic of all of Israel, living securely in their land. When is that due to happen? The answer is given in Ezekiel 37. "And I will make a covenant of peace with them [the stick of Joseph and the stick of Judah v.16]; it will be an everlasting covenant…” (v.26). Paul points out this covenant of peace and its fulfillment in Romans 5:1: “Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with Elohim through our Lord Yeshua the Messiah”. But this is not where the promise, as expressed through Ezekiel, ends. YHVH continues to declare: “And I will place them and multiply them, and will set My sanctuary [mikdash/temple] in their midst forever. My dwelling place [mishkan/tabernacle] also will be with them, and I will be their Elohim, and they will be My people. (Ezekiel 37:26b-27). 

Yeshua has been given the task of restoring the house of Jacob (see Isaiah 49:5-6). Taking those dry bones from the valley of the shadow of death, He raises them up to be not only a mighty army but the very sanctuary of His presence. As the proverbial articles of the Mishkan, the ‘raised bones’ have no intrinsic significance or value in and of themselves, but only by making up the Mishkan as a whole (see Exodus 38:21). However, the ‘mustering’ of the Israelites in the desert with the half-shekel that each was enjoined to give as ransom money, was indicative of a different approach (Exodus 30:11 ff.). There, it appears that the assembly’s value depended on the ‘worth’ of each of its members.  In YHVH’s living Mishkan or Mikdash, these two points of view are reconciled into one; each member is unique and worthy in the sight of Yah, but at the same time, only as a one people in whose midst He lives as His set-apart abode, is every part fulfilling his/her destined role and call.

Thus, Elohim is looking for those with willing hearts (just like the Israelites who were engaged in the Mishkan’s construction in the desert - Exodus 35:5) to join in His heavenly project here on earth, so that "…the nations will know that I am YHVH who sanctifies Israel when My sanctuary [mikdash/temple is in their midst forever" (Ezekiel 37:28).