We Are Bereans

Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.
Acts 17:10-11

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Yom HaKippurim

Yom HaKippurim is the holiest day of the year. To be technically correct, Scripture does not call it the "Day of Atonement" [Yom Kippur], but the "Day of Atonements" [Yom HaKippurim]. You may wonder about that. You see, bound up in that little misnomer is some significant theological error - and some profound misreading of the Apostolic Scriptures. Because many of us have been taught well regarding the substitutionary atonement of Messiah, we can sometimes miss what is happening with regard to Yom HaKippurim. It is all about Messiah, but maybe not in the ways that we may have previously thought. Yom HaKippurim was never about personal atonement.

If you've studied the korbanot [offerings] in the Torah as every good student of the Bible should, then you already may know that none of offerings were ever about permanent personal atonement. The "personal" offerings were about worship; and about receiving an atonement for the time when you were in the Tabernacle/Temple... just to keep from dying while in the Presence of the Holy One, blessed is He. That is why we hear very few of the korbanot called "sin" offerings or "guilt offerings." No, instead, most of the major korbanot were worship offerings only. The korban olah, and the korbat shalem were about worship. Some of the korbanot were for atonement, but in a corporate sense, not for individuals. Now, if that sounds odd to you, it is because you probably do not read your Bible in Hebrew. You see, in Hebrew the "you" in most of the instructions regarding atonement are plural. These are about the whole House of Israel. And that is what is true about Yom HaKippurim as well.

"This shall be a statute forever for you: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether a native of your own country or a stranger who dwells among you. For on that day the priest shall make atonement for you, to cleanse you, that you may be clean from all your sins before HaShem. It is a sabbath of solemn rest for you, and you shall afflict your souls. It is a statute forever. And the priest, who is anointed and consecrated to minister as priest in his father's place, shall make atonement, and put on the linen clothes, the holy garments; then he shall make atonement for the Holy Sanctuary, and he shall make atonement for the Tabernacle of meeting and for the altar, and he shall make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly. This shall be an everlasting statute for you, to make atonement for the children of Israel, for all their sins, once a year." And he did as HaShem commanded Moses.
Leviticus 16:29-34

Atonement for:

  • For the High Priesthood and the Priests
  • For the Holy Sanctuary
  • For the Tabernacle
  • For the Altar
  • The assembly (the people, plural)

No personal atonement. It is not about "getting your personal sins forgiven" for the year. Notice atonement for the Holy Sanctuary, the Tabernacle, and the Altar. Did they "sin?" Of course not. Beloved, pay attention because this will help unravel 1,900 years of bias against the Temple and the korbanot. Yom HaKippurim was about keeping the Place of the Almighty's abode holy, thereby making it a place for His Presence to dwell. After all, that is what the Tabernacle and the later Temple were for. Not simply a "dwelling place" but a Place where He could dwell among His people. For that to happen, the Place had to be sanctified each year. It was not about taking away sin - it was about cleansing the Temple. While the statute is eternal, the cleansing effect was temporal. That is what the Epistle to the Hebrews teaches as well:

For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies [present tense] for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Messiah, Who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to G-d, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living G-d?
Hebrews 9:13-14

Notice the comparative statement? It compares the fact that the offerings do sanctify (make holy). They make the outside holy. Because that is a true statement, how much more is there eternal internal cleansing through the blood of the Perfect Offering, Messiah Himself?

Yom HaKippurim worked. If there was a Temple today, it would work. That does not diminish the atoning work of Messiah, it confirms it. Messiah's atoning work takes away sin - permanently - from the individual. Yom HaKippurim sanctifies and purifies, but does not take away sin from, the corporate body and the Place of His abode, the Temple. May it be rebuilt soon and in our days!

So, what does Yom HaKippurim mean for us these days, when we have no Temple? First, the commands are eternal. That means we cannot simply say, "Old Law - No Foul" - that is the antithesis of faith. Our G-d is unchanging, although the world around us changes. We cannot observe Yom HaKippurim corporately as we were commanded. There is no Holy Temple. There is no sanctified Priesthood because there are no Ashes of the Red Heifer. HaShem's promises are clear - these we will one day have again, as we enjoy the Presence of the Almighty in His City of Jerusalem.

Until then, we have only the personal application of Yom HaKippurim - repentance and fasting. For twenty-five hours, beginning before sundown at the beginning of Yom HaKippurim, until after sundown at the end of Yom HaKippurim, we fast from water and food. We consider ourselves as standing before the Judge of Heaven and Earth. We forgive others who have wronged us, and we seek out those whom we have wronged. We read the Book of Jonah and consider the mercy of our G-d toward those who respond in humility and repentance. We do not bathe, nor do we put on fragrances, or wear leather. In all these things, we afflict our souls that we might consider that we are but grass before the Eternal and Holy G-d.

Beloved, we are not observing Yom HaKippurim to obtain forgiveness for sin. We are observing Yom HaKippurim because we have been commanded to by the Holy One of Israel. We are observing so that we may realign ourselves to the Holy G-d. We are observing in anticipation of that day when we will observe it in the Presence of Messiah in His Holy City, Jerusalem. May it be soon, and in our days.

We are observing it, because we love and fear our Creator.

Tzom kal.


We Are Messianic Disciples

And Yeshua came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, immersing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:18-20

Matthew 28:18-20 tells us what a faithful disciple of Messiah Yeshua is: someone who makes more disciples of Messiah. Someone who teaches others to do all that Messiah commanded, immersing them into Messiah Yeshua, as His disciples. We recognize that as faithful Jews, Yeshua and His first disciples were blameless in obedience to all of Scripture – even that which later variations of Christianity rejected as the “Old Testament.”

With regard to historical Christianity’s practical abandonment of three fourths of the Bible, we “Messianics” might immediately say that we are not therefore disciples of Baptists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Catholics, or any other Christian sect.

However, there is another concern with whom some “Messianics” align themselves. We are not disciples of Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, Chasidic, Talmudic, or Mishnaic Judaism either.

We are disciples of Yeshua.

We recognize from Matthew 16:19 that Messiah’s first disciples are our Sages. We are not disciples of Hillel, Shammai, Akiva, Meir, Judah the Prince, RASHI, RAMBAN, RAMBAM, the Ba’al Shem Tov, Nachman of Breslov, or Schneur Zalman of Liadi.

We are not Baptists, Catholics, or Lutherans. Nor are we Breslovers, or Lubavitchers.

We are disciples of Yeshua.

While we may admire and even study men and women from various backgrounds, and attempt to emulate them, we are not their disciples.

Read more....


The First Slip

Over the years some have complained that I am too “rabbinic” in my teaching. Perhaps some of that is because I have often cited Jewish teachers – many of them, from Hillel to Heschel.

The sages of Israel add deep understanding and context to the Bible - especially the Apostolic Scriptures [New Testament]. The writings of the sages provide an insider’s look into the language and culture of the first disciples of Yeshua. While the Oral Torah contained in the Mishnah, Talmud, Tosefta, and Midrashim do not control me, they most certainly inform me. Even later works such as the Zohar, and commentaries from Rashi and Ramban add better understanding to not only the words of the Apostles, but even the Master, Yeshua Himself.

However, to doubt or to ignore the Apostolic Scriptures is the first slip on a slippery slope.

It is actually quite predictable. Read more....

When Fences Become Walls

And HASHEM said to Moses, “Go down and warn the people, lest they break through to HASHEM to look and many of them perish. Also let the priests who come near to HASHEM consecrate themselves, lest HASHEM break out against them.” And Moses said to HASHEM, “The people cannot come up to Mount Sinai, for you yourself warned us, saying, ‘Set limits around the mountain and consecrate it.”
Exodus 19:21-23

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for G-d has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the L-rd is able to make him stand.
Romans 14:1-4

“Children want boundaries.” You have heard that, or perhaps you have said it yourself. It is true of course. Human beings seem to almost crave limits to our behavior. No doubt this part of our G-d-given conscience – our sense of “right and wrong.”

Let’s be honest though, our conscience is not the same thing as right and wrong – it simply is our sense of what we think is right and wrong. Sadly, some people seem to have no conscience at all, and it is equally sad when some think everything is wrong.

When Conscience Becomes a Choice

In order for our conscience to be a positive tool in our relationship with HaShem, we need to be careful what choices we make in establishing new (or new to us) “fences” (boundaries put up to protect particular commandments) and how we maintain a distinction between those fences and the written commandments of HaShem. Once a standard is a part of our conscience, it is difficult to undo that without damaging our conscience.

It is common in newly observant communities for individuals to grab hold of standards that are new to them. This can be very good. The danger is when individuals make these fences matters of conscience. This is a matter of choice if the fences are not clearly distinguished from the actual commandments of HaShem. “So, if the standard is upheld, and the individual conscience is not offended, what is the downside?” you might ask. The dangers are:

  • An ever-increasing more-observant-than-thou attitude
  • Adding to your personal “I will be offended if…” list
  • Your children as they grow older may have difficulty distinguishing between HaShem’s commandments and your newly established fence
  • By choice, becoming the “weaker brother”

Safely Embracing Fences

In the case of neighbors with literal fences along a property line, it is easy to understand that one neighbor cannot move the fence without affecting the other. This is also the case of “fences around the Torah.” To best understand how to safely embrace fences, we must remind ourselves what fences are and how they might affect others. A fence is a standard that is beyond of the literal words of HaShem. Notice, that man did not initiate the fence around Mount Sinai in Exodus 19 to keep the people safe. HaShem commanded that it be built. So the Exodus 19 model does not apply to “fences around the Torah” – that is, unless you are also willing to disregard the very sober words in Deuteronomy 4:2:

You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of HaShem your G-d that I command you.
Deuteronomy 4:2

Yeshua alludes to this in His admonition:

And why do you break the commandment of G-d for the sake of your tradition?
Matthew 15:3b

I am very encouraging to people who want to embrace Jewish tradition, making the lifestyle of Judaism, their own. I offer this personal caution however: as you adopt traditional halacha and make it your own, do not make the traditional halacha a matter of conscience. That is truly your choice. Distinguish between the literal commandment, and the traditional “how to” in walking out that commandment. Here are my personal recommendations:

  • Context. Do your best to mirror the community in which you find yourself. If your community does not adhere to your newfound fence, be careful to not promote it as a community standard. Do not broadcast your fence. It is personal, or for your family only. On the other hand, be careful to reflect the community in which you are currently a part. Do not offend your brothers and sisters by what you permit or by what you forbid.
  • If you have children, as they get older, make it clear that your “family rules” are not “more right” than any other families' rules.
  • Be gracious. Recognize that everyone errs in some way. Make sure you do not begin to look down on those who do not share the same fences that you do.
  • Remember Romans 14:4:

Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the L-rd is able to make him (and you) stand.
Romans 14:1-4

Don’t let your fences become walls. Walls that keep out the blessing of a healthy relationship with HaShem, or walls that make your circle of brothers and sisters ever more small.

Moadim Apps for iPhone, iPad, and Mac

  • I have free apps in the iTunes App Store and the Mac App Store: Moadim for iPhone, for iPad, and for Mac
  • All Scripture passages are displayed in English, in a modified version of the World English Bible (public domain). Compete text of the Torah is included, broken down by weekly parasha. Parashiot follow Ashkenazi Diaspora rules.
  • All Holy days, Sabbaths, New Moons, and fast days are identified, along with the traditional Scripture passages
  • Moadim HD for iPad and Moadim for Mac have full calendar view
  • Includes prayer times (including candle lighting and havdalah) for any date from your location (or lat/long)
  • Direct access to Bereans Online Torah commentary


The Mideast Update News Site

In 2007, my eldest son moved to Jerusalem working as a journalist and writer. Since then he has done interviews with government officials, academics, and "the man on the street." Joshua maintains a news web site that draws from his contacts in the middle east: the Israeli government, middle eastern universities, and public relations outlets. His reporting, analysis, and insights are unique in reporting on Israel and the middle east.

Check it out: www.themideastupdate.com

Daily Aliyah App for iPhone/iPad

My friend Brock Wright has written an iPhone/iPad app called "Daily Aliyah" that displays the Torah and haftarah portion for the current week, as well as the daily aliyah for the day of the week. Get it for free in the iTunes App Store.

Wise Messages App for iPhone

  • This little app will use your iPhone's notifications to remind you of Scripture, wise sayings, and quotes at set intervals or random times
  • Chose from different sources such as Proverbs, Pirkei Avot, Letter for the Ages, etc.
  • Import your own list of encouraging reminders to display
  • Customizable





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