Mussar

Tevet: Be Angry, and Sin Not

Eph. 4:26-27 (NASB) BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not give the devil an opportunity.

This year, I’ve been concentrating on the sense of anger for the upcoming month of Tevet. Tevet is the tenth Hebrew month, which denotes a completion of sorts or a representation of the whole, like a tithe. For example, see number ten in this post, or consider how ten men make a minyan for prayer, or that Abraham negotiated with YHWH down to ten righteous souls to save Sodom (Gen. 18). In what way does Tevet express aspects of ten? The answer to that question has partially eluded me until this year. As it turns out, anger is the key.

First, consider that every year Tevet begins at the end of Chanukah. One’s lamp should be full of candles or light when the tenth month arrives. This is in stark contrast to what is happening in the natural. Outside, the days are short and cold. There is less “light,” physically and spiritually. And yet, followers of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are meant to be the light to those in darkness.

The spiritual darkness at this season is recorded in the apocryphal book of 1 Maccabees:

1 Mac. 1:44-50 (KJVA) For the king had sent letters by messengers unto Jerusalem and the cities of Juda that they should follow the strange laws of the land, 45 And forbid burnt offerings, and sacrifice, and drink offerings, in the temple; and that they should profane the sabbaths and festival days:  46  And pollute the sanctuary and holy people: 47 Set up altars, and groves, and chapels of idols, and sacrifice swine’s flesh, and unclean beasts: 48 That they should also leave their children uncircumcised, and make their souls abominable with all manner of uncleanness and profanation: 49 To the end they might forget the law (Torah), and change all the ordinances. 50 And whosoever would not do according to the commandment of the king, he said, he should die.

Denying proper sacrifices, profaning the Shabbat and Feast days of Adonai, polluting the holy altar with swine’s flesh, and forbidding circumcision, all served to make the people forget the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. (These things are still true of the anti-messiah spirit.) The end goal of the anti-christ spirit is for God’s people to forget His Torah, His Word. So, what is one actually “forgetting” if this spirit is successful?

Pro. 6:23 (TLV) For the mitzvah is a lamp, Torah a light, and corrective discipline (mussar) the way of life.

The Torah or instructions of Adonai provide spiritual light to those that follow HaShem. They are a light unto one’s path. (Ps. 119:105) They train and teach one in the Way of Life. Chanukah comes from the same root as the Hebrew word for education. (Chet, nun, chaf) Chanak means to train, to dedicate. At the time of the Maccabees, the Greeks were determined to force Hellenism upon the Jewish people, and sadly, they were mostly successful. This necessitated the reeducation of the larger Jewish population with Adonai’s Torah. Celebrating Chanukah reminds one that we are always at war with false ideologies, paradigms, and mindsets.

Interestingly, the Maccabees urged the people to celebrate “the feast of Tabernacles in the month of Kislev” as a commemoration of their victory.

2 Mac. 1:1-9 (KJVA) The brethren, the Jews that be at Jerusalem and in the land of Judea, wish unto the brethren, the Jews that are throughout Egypt health and peace: 2 God be gracious unto you, and remember his covenant that he made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, his faithful servants; 3 And give you all an heart to serve him, and to do his will, with a good courage and a willing mind; 4 And open your hearts in his law and commandments, and send you peace, 5 And hear your prayers, and be at one with you, and never forsake you in time of trouble. 6 And now we be here praying for you. 7 What time as Demetrius reigned, in the hundred threescore and ninth year, we the Jews wrote unto you in the extremity of trouble that came upon us in those years, from the time that Jason and his company revolted from the holy land and kingdom, 8 And burned the porch, and shed innocent blood: then we prayed unto the Lord, and were heard; we offered also sacrifices and fine flour, and lighted the lamps, and set forth the loaves. 9 And now see that ye keep the feast of tabernacles in the month Casleu (Kislev).

Chanukah literally means dedication; the Maccabees cleansed and rededicated the Temple or House unto Adonai. Like in English, dedicate (chanak) in Hebrew means to devote or set apart for a special purpose. In this case, the Temple was rededicated and devoted solely for the purpose of worshipping YHWH and Him alone. But, dedicate can also mean to devote oneself completely unto someone or something. In this sense, it is related to training. A student devotes or dedicates himself to his studies.

Pro. 22:6 (NASB) Train up (chanak) a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Chanukah reminds one to rededicate their house or Temple for the purposes of Adonai, and to live a life devoted to learning His Word. This conforms and molds one into His image in the earth. In this way, we become vessels of His Light, shining brighter each year. All other ideologies fail and fall as truth is etched onto one’s heart.

2 Tim. 2:15 (KJV) Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

Therefore, it is with this knowledge fresh on one’s mind that we enter the tenth month of Tevet.

The Head of Tevet

The new moon is the “head” of each month. As such, the first of each month figuratively contains all the raw material and spiritual light for that particular season. In other words, the head (of the month) directs the body (of the month). The head of Tevet begins with the last and brightest lights of the Chanukiah. Thus, Chanukah points the way through Tevet. It trains one how to war against spiritual darkness.

Although we’ve been celebrating the victory of the Maccabees, the rededication of the Temple, and overcoming the enemy despite great odds, Tevet immediately casts one into the throws of seeming peril. It is so great that Zechariah reminds the forlorn people that one day, four traditional fast days WILL become a time of joy. One of those fasts occurs in the tenth month:

Zec. 8:19 (NASB) Thus says the LORD of hosts, “The fast of the fourth, the fast of the fifth, the fast of the seventh and the fast of the tenth months will become joy, gladness, and cheerful feasts for the house of Judah; so love truth and peace.”

The fast on the tenth of the tenth month (Asarah B’Tevet) recalls the siege on the First Temple by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. The fast is from just before sun up until nightfall.

2 Ki 25:1 (NASB) Now in the ninth year of his reign, on the tenth day of the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came, he and all his army, against Jerusalem, camped against it and built a siege wall all around it. (see also Jer. 52:4)

Wait! You mean right after celebrating a victory of overcoming the enemy and rededicating the House to YHWH, we are supposed to recall yet another attack on the Temple? Yes. A better question to ask is, “Why?”

The Temple or House is a physical picture of the Body and the heart of mankind. Just as your physical body and your spiritual body are both essential to life, Adonai’s earthly Temple AND spiritual Temple each serve the God of the Living. In the natural, there is an ongoing war for the place that Adonai placed His name.[1] Likewise, there is an ongoing war for the temple of your body and your heart, where Adonai dwells.

Nebuchadnezzar’s army pitched their tents around the city, and then built siege weapons (dayek) like towers, mounds, and bulwarks, in which they could shoot their arrows and cast their stones.

  • The enemy SURROUNDS the city.
  • They pitch tents.
  • They build siege works to cast arrows and stones past the city walls.

Spiritually or figuratively, at this season has the enemy surrounded you, set up a camp, and began building siege works? Casting arrows or stones can metaphorically refer to words that cut, pierce, or crush another person. We need to not only be on the defensive for such tactics; but even more importantly, we need to ensure that we guard our own tongue and lips! We don’t want to be found with an unruly member.Like Yeshua, it is often best to be silent before one’s accusers.

The story and commemoration of Chanukah and Nebuchadnezzar’s siege on the walls of Jerusalem before the destruction of the 1stTemple, inform the warfare of the tenth month. There is judgment regarding the “House” at this season. Do you recall another month on Adonai’s calendar where this is the case?

In many ways, Tevet mirrors the fourth month of Tammuz. On Tammuz the 17th, the fast of the fourth month marks another siege on the walls of Jerusalem, this time though, it is a breach of the 2ndTemple.[2] Compare the following account from the Mishnah about the 17thof Tammuz with 1 Maccabees 1:44-50 above.

There were five events that happened to our ancestors on the seventeenth of Tammuz and five on the ninth of Av. On the seventeenth of Tammuz: The tablets were shattered; The tamid (daily) offering was cancelled; The [walls] of the city were breached; And Apostomos burned the Torah, and placed an idol in the Temple. On the ninth of Av It was decreed that our ancestors should not enter the land, The Temple was destroyed the first And the second time, Betar was captured, And the city was plowed up. When Av enters, they limit their rejoicing.[3](Taanit 4:6)

Look at the clock face below. Rather than thinking of hours and minutes, allow each number to represent one of the twelve months. Adonai’s calendar is cyclical like the clock face.

Now, look at number one and number seven. Do you see how they are directly opposite one another on the clock/calendar face? How are month one and month seven alike? The first and seventh months contain all but one of the sacred moedim or appointed times in Leviticus 23. Together they envelop the entire harvest season and the “light” part of the year. Just as Pesach mirrors Sukkot, month one mirrors month seven.

Look at the clock face again. Trace each number to find it’s opposite in the year. (1-7, 2-8, 3-9, 4-10, 5-11, 6- 12.) We can learn much by studying opposites. Connections that one would otherwise miss are revealed through opposite counterparts. This is how male and female are meant to function, they are alike and yet opposite. (To understand this better, see The Biblical Role of Women.)

By looking at each month’s counterpart on the calendar, one can learn a great deal about what is happening (spiritually) at that season. For example, month 6 (Elul) and month twelve (Adar) are both months of spiritual preparation. Yom Hakippurim is a day (yom) like Purim if one takes the time to investigate it. The forty days of repentance begins on the first of Elul and concludes on Yom Kippur. Besides repentance, this forty day period of examination includes renouncing and annulling careless words, promises, and vows made in the previous year. Just before Yom Kippur, the Kol Nidre service serves to finalize this process.

Queen Esther nullified the vows of her husband at Mordecai’s suggestion, which was a topsy turvy play on Numbers 30. Pur doesn’t just mean “lots,” but also annulments. Purim commemorates much more than Haman’s wicked “lots.” It also celebrates the “pur” or annulments of Queen Esther![4] Ideally, one repents, prepares, and annuls impulsive vows before Yom Kippur in Elul, the mirror of Adar.  Thus, by examining each month’s counterpart, one gains a deeper understanding and appreciation of the rhythm of the Creator’s calendar.

The tenth month (Tevet) mirrors month four (Tammuz). The theme of each month is centered on the siege of the walls of Jerusalem, and the eventual destruction of Adonai’s House. According to tradition, the House or Temple was destroyed because of:

1stTemple – idolatry

2ndTemple – baseless hatred against brothers

The rabbis teach that, in reality, both sins were present at each destruction. Besides being a direct infraction of the two greatest commandments (love Adonai, love neighbor), what else do these destructions have common? Meditating on this, I had a realization about the sense of anger. The Bible says to, “BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not give the devil an opportunity.”

Anger Brings Destruction

According to psychology, anger is a secondary emotion; meaning, it is rooted in the more primary emotion of fear. Anger is the “fight” side of the “fight or flight (or freeze)” instinct that one has when faced with danger or a threat. With fear and anger, one’s heart rate accelerates, blood pressure rises, and adrenaline increases blood circulation to the muscles. These physical responses enable one to run quickly, or to stand and fight the enemy or threat one is facing.

These physical responses can save your life if you meet a bear in the woods. But, while they enable the physical body to perform with increased speed and strength, they simultaneously decrease one’s executive brain. In other words, anger (and fear) reduces one’s ability to perform risk assessment. One’s actions are managed without forethought about how they will affect the future. These emotions are pinpointed on the moment of threat with survival being the only goal in sight. The sad part, is that what we perceive as a threat can simply be someone else’s opinion. This is especially true in the age of lighting fast global communication.

The Talmud equates anger with the sin of idol worship, which is an affront to the first and greatest commandment, and one of the reasons YHWH allowed the Temple to be destroyed. Why do you suppose the rabbis consider anger to be on the level of idolatry?

When one is enraged, who is on the throne? It can be fear, but it can also be self, a form of pride. Think about this for a moment. Imagine a time when you were infuriated. Did you not have a strong sense of righteousness at that time? Couldn’t you list off a litany of reasons why you had the “right” to be furious? Whether you were right or wrong at that moment in time, you became the judge. Likely, you were also the executioner spewing out reprimands, insults, and judgments. In this way, anger, became a false god. Or more accurately, anger ruled your heart, not Adonai.

The Jewish sages have some profound messages on anger. In Pesachim 66b, it says, “Whosoever yields to anger, if he be a wise man his wisdom leaves him, and if he be a prophet his prophecy leaves him.” Nedarim 22a says, “The angry person is overcome by all forms of hell.” The sages realize that an angry person doesn’t think straight. They have a one track mind that the Bible equates to foolery.

Ecc. 7:9 (NASB) Do not be eager in your heart to be angry, for anger resides in the bosom of fools.

I don’t know one person that has not said or done something that they regret when they were angry. There is a reason that in Hebrew anger is expressed with words like boiling, seething, and burning. It is the emotion most akin to hell, because if acted on, fists of fury and injurious words of death blast out like a machine gun bent on destruction. These actions are never righteous, though many believe they are justified if the other person is in error or wicked or _________ – you pick an excuse. It behooves us to stick with the wisdom of James:

James 1:19-21 (NASB) This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.

Man’s anger does NOT achieve the righteousness of God. This doesn’t mean that it is a sin to get angry, especially over sin and injustice. Knowing this, many people use the coined term “righteous anger” to differentiate between sinful anger and non-sinful anger. The problem is that I have witnessed many people use the term “righteous anger” to say (or type) horrible, hurtful things to others. Their actions produce anything but “righteousness.”

If you are a Believer and are truly seeking after the righteousness of God, then you know how easy it is to deceive yourself. Anger comes from a place of fear, which only the perfect love of Adonai can cast out. If not from fear, it comes from pride, which is superiority – a form of idolatry. Thus, the emotion of anger is not the problem; rather, it’s what one does with that anger.

When we are angry, we cannot achieve the righteousness of God. In the heat of the moment, it is imperative to ask yourself whether the anger is coming from fear or pride. (These are actually two sides of the same coin.) Ask yourself: What am I afraid of? Why do I feel superior in this situation? How can I turn my anger into an action that will be restorative for the other person, myself, and perhaps others? These are some of the questions that can cool off one’s hot head. They also remind one to LOVE their neighbor, the second failure of Israel that caused the Temple to be destroyed.

Pro. 12:15-16 (KJV) The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise. 16 A fool’s wrath is presently known: but a prudent man covereth shame.

Even if the other person is wrong, a wise man or woman will cover the shame of the other. Rather than go on a tirade exposing the flesh of their neighbor, a wise person has learned to REACT differently. This is incredibly difficult, a test I’ve failed many times. Mussar teacher Alan Morinis put it this way:

“The issue is not anger; the issue is how we act in response to that trigger. And what we learn from Jewish wisdom is that we should strive never to lose our mastery over our emotional lives. We see that in the liturgy that has us praise God’s quality of being slow to anger. On festival days and especially on Yom Kippur, we intone, ‘Adonai, Adonai! Compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and faithfulness .…’ Notice that being “slow to anger” is high on the list of characteristics we ascribe to God.”[5]

If you are reading this post, I believe, like me, you desire to be like Adonai. This includes being long nosed, the Hebrew idiom for being “slow to anger.” A long nose takes a long time for air to travel in and out. It is akin to taking a deep breath and slowly releasing it. This is a scientifically proven method to help one to calm down. Before reacting, pause, and practice some deep breathing.

Pro. 16:32 (NASB) He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.

Be Angry, and Sin Not

This Tevet, consider once again the siege on the walls of Jerusalem, and the eventual destruction of the Temple. Be angry about what brought Israel to this devastating predicament, which was idolatry and baseless hatred. Search your heart for hidden idols and hate. Get angry about those things. Use this time as an opportunity to root out darkness in your own heart. Don’t take the bait in the MANY traps and siege works of the enemy. They are there to incite anger and to get you to react in an unrighteousness manner.

Adonai’s clock is pointed at the ten and the four. Four is about authority, and ten is a tithe representing the whole. How we handle anger will reveal whether destruction or restoration occurs. It also reveals who sits on the throne of one’s heart. If it’s anger instead of our compassionate, slow to anger God, the siege works will continue. But, even that is His mercy. Getting to the root of anger is one of the keys to spiritual wholeness.

If you know you’re angry, get alone with Adonai and let it out. Read the Psalms. David poured it all out to Adonai, anger and all. Allow Adonai to show you the root behind your rage. Let Him cast out your fears one by one. If pride is the issue, find ways to humble yourself before Adonai and others. Seek to honor people, especially those you think don’t deserve it.

The political climate in America is ripe with tensions meant to make you seethe like a beast in the field. Choose differently. Religious spirits, likewise, have set crafty traps to do the same. Instead of becoming burning mad, exploding like a nuclear bomb, or blasting others with the flame torch of your tongue (or keyboard), be a simple flame of light, like the candles on the Chanukiah. Shine brightly and humbly. Bring warmth, hope, forgiveness, and honor to those in darkness.

Luke 11:33-36 (NASB) “No one, after lighting a lamp, puts it away in a cellar nor under a basket, but on the lampstand, so that those who enter may see the light.  34 “The eye is the lamp of your body; when your eye is clear, your whole body also is full of light; but when it is bad, your body also is full of darkness.  35 “Then watch out that the light in you is not darkness.  36 “If therefore your whole body is full of light, with no dark part in it, it will be wholly illumined, as when the lamp illumines you with its rays.”

Happy Chanukah and may your tenth month of Tevet be blessed! Learn more about Tevet here.


[1]Dt. 12, 1 Kings 11:36

[2]Learn more about Tammuz and The Three Weeks here.

[3]https://www.sefaria.org/Mishnah_Taanit.4.6?lang=en&with=all&lang2=en retrieved 12/26/19

[4]For a deeper look at this truth, see: The Queen You Thought You Knew by Rabbi David Fohrman. See also Esther’s Mystery Behind the Mask by Dr. Hollisa Alewine.

[5]https://mussarinstitute.org/Yashar/2016-03/mussar_lens.phpretrieved 12/26/19

Categories: Moedim, Mussar, new moon | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

The Perfect Bond of Unity HNR

In preparation for Elul and the Women of Valor conference last weekend, I delivered a message called “The Perfect Bond of Unity.” That message was both audio and video recorded, and I will share them soon on Grace in Torah. But today, I had the pleasure of joining Dr. Deb Wiley Gold and Miriam Stalsworth on their Hebrew Nation Radio program: Faith in Focus. We discussed the month of Elul and the perfect bond of unity and had a lively discussion.

You can listen here:

Categories: Moedim, Mussar, new moon | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Inspiration Through Torah in 5776: Mikeitz

I loved this post by my friend Sarah at Sewnolivette on this week’s Torah Portion, Mikeitz. She included some great links and a fantastic video on “trust” by Brene Brown. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Be sure to click on the source link below.

Happy Chanukah! –K

Happy Chanukah


 

My youngest son’s birthday is during the festival of Chanukah. This is his Torah portion and it holds a special place in my heart, because my husband read it to me when I was in labor with my…

Source: Inspiration Through Torah in 5776: Mikeitz

Categories: Mussar, Torah Portions | Leave a comment

Know Your Place

The Spirit of Shavuot

After reading this past week’s Torah portion, B’midbar,[1] and celebrating the fourth Biblical festival of Shavuot (Pentecost), I began to think about our various “positions” before Adonai. The Mussar middah (character trait) humility has at its core the question of a person’s proper place. A balanced person neither thinks too highly of himself nor too lowly. Likewise, he or she doesn’t focus too much on self or on the faults of others. This sounds so simple, but the issue of humility is a great struggle for most of us. (Me included!)

signIn parsha B’midbar, HaShem described not only the placement of each individual tribe as they camped, but also outlined the order in which they would travel and go to war. The tribal leaders were named and the duties of the priests for the movement of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) were established. Adonai is very specific and organized. There was no question as to one’s duty or placement in the body of Israel. Today, instead of knowing our place, we seem to be “all over the place” in both physicality and deed; each thinking his way, interpretation, or understanding is higher or better.

This creates confusion, not unity. Instead of being united like the believers at Shavuot in Acts Chapter 2, we seem to be more scattered and divided like they were after Messiah’s last Passover and subsequent crucifixion. Using this as a model, we know that Yeshua’s desire was for them to come back together as one people at Shavuot. This is why the risen Messiah told them during the days of the Omer count to go to Jerusalem and WAIT for the promise of being “clothed with power from on high.”

“And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”  (Luke 24:49 NASB. See also Acts 1:4)

We all know what happened next.

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. (Acts 2:1 KJV)

When we fully come into the Spirit of Shavuot, we know our proper estate. Can you even imagine how glorious the unity of the people was? Look at what their actions produced; it’s eerily similar to when God spoke the Ten Words to the people standing at the base of Mt. Sinai at an earlier Shavuot:

And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.  (3)  And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.  (4)  And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:2-4 KJV)

So it came about on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunder and lightning flashes and a thick cloud upon the mountain and a very loud trumpet sound, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled.  (17)  And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain.  (18)  Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the LORD descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently.  (19)  When the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him with thunder. (Ex. 19:16-19 NASB)

Adonai descended upon Mount Sinai in fire at the giving of the Ten Commandments and the people trembled. Later He descended in fire again, but this time, instead of manifesting on a mountain, the fire sat upon the people that had gathered at His Mountain (Zion). Like the mountain, the people were not consumed. In both cases, the Word of Adonai went forth like FIRE at the feast of Shavuot!

The people in each of the above examples were unified. I dare say that their theology was NOT what united them. It’s difficult to find two people that have the same opinion on any given matter. Jews have a saying to express this: “two Jews, three opinions.” So, what did unite the people? Or better yet, what CAN unify us?

The two most memorable Shavuot festivals have at their heart two great leaders. And there is one trait that both are said to possess that I find most fitting for us to focus on within the theme of unity. Moses is called the most humble man on earth.[2] Later, the one like unto Moses[3] is also called humble.[4] By following Moses’ and Yeshua’s example, it’s not our theology and opinions that binds us into one accord. Rather, it’s our willingness to “know our place” or live in a state of humility.

The Humility of Shavuot

“Always seek to learn wisdom from everyone, to recognize your failings and correct them. In doing so you will learn to stop thinking about your virtues and you will take your mind off your friend’s faults.”Cheshbon ha-Nefesh by Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Satanov.

If there is one thing that I notice more than anything on television, the blogosphere, and social media, it is that our focus is continually on the faults of others. I see very little introspection and meekness. As Rabbi Menachem mentions in the above quote, it is by seeking to learn wisdom from EVERYONE that we are enabled to really see our own failings and correct them.

Everyone? Even the heathen, pagan, atheist, and cult follower? Most would squawk that these lost souls have no wisdom. Is this true? The last time I checked, they too were made in the image of God. While they may need redemption, they too, are a holy soul and Adonai cares greatly for them. Pride is what causes us to assume that we have nothing to learn from these precious ones.

But, this is also true of those that we interact with from the redeemed. Just because Joe Schmoe doesn’t think, believe, or act out his walk with the LORD exactly like you do, doesn’t mean that you are better than him or that he doesn’t have something to teach you. Again, it’s PRIDE that keeps us from gathering together. I’ll give you an example from my own life.

Years ago, I was part of a congregation in FL. The local Seventh-Day Adventist (SDA) church allowed us to meet in their building. I personally don’t think or believe like SDAs. Other than obeying the Sabbath, I thought I didn’t have much in common with these folks. One day, the SDA group asked us to join with them to break bread. To be honest, I didn’t really want to go. My prideful little self secretly thought, “What could they possibly teach me at this point?” I know you’ve never had a thought like that about a person or group, but I freely admit my debauchery to you anyway.

FootwashingLong story short, I went… begrudgingly. The meal was fine. It was more or less a communion service in their fellowship hall. Since I associate communion with Passover, I felt that the meal wasn’t quite “accurate.” (More pride.) Then, something odd happened. The people rose from their seats and began to break off for a foot washing ceremony. Without anyone leading, spontaneous songs and hymns began to flow from the lips of these people. A sweet Spirit entered our midst and I think my mouth hung open, lol.

Married couples went to one room. Singles of the same sex went off into two other areas (children included). A sink and a stack of basins were in each room for us to gather water. One spouse sat while fresh, warm water was poured over the other’s feet. Song and praise continued to flow throughout the building. It was one of the most touching experiences I’ve ever had in my life. The water was just water, but it felt like SO much more than that.

It was SO much more than that! Adonai humbled me in a way that day that I will NEVER forget. Washing someone else’s feet is the epitome of humility. But, I honestly believe it takes even MORE humility to have someone else wash YOUR feet.

Feet are the lowest part of our bodies. Since they are what touch the earth and because they are what carry our every weight and burden, they are likened to our nephesh (soul/flesh). They are our beast (of burden). And they get dirty. They, more than any other part of us, need frequent washings. You can walk around in the dirt all day and your hands can remain clean, but not your feet.

Some of you may know that I’m a licensed manicurist. I give pedicures (wash, clean, and manicure of the feet) all the time. I actually enjoy it. I consider it a privilege to care for a person in this way that is often difficult for them to do for themselves. But without soap, sweet ointments, or even toenail polish, the foot washing that I gave and received at that little SDA church has stood out as the best of the best.

Having my feet washed in the presence of Adonai and His people nearly overwhelmed me. The chip on my shoulder fell off the minute the water touched my toes. This is the Spirit of Shavuot. I wanted to separate myself out like the disciples did at Passover and Unleavened Bread, but Abba wanted me to humble myself and gather together with His people in one accord and one place.

Shavout isn’t about perfect doctrine or halachah. It is one of the pilgrimage feasts and as such, it is literally a FOOT festival. You must tame your feet and direct them to Jerusalem to receive the promise of the Father. The journey will make your feet both tired and dirty, but when you arrive, true disciples will be there with fresh water and songs of praise on their lips. Better yet, YOU will be there happy to wash the grime and mud off of your neighbor’s feet.

The heart of the commandments is LOVE. And there is no better way to express the love for your brother than to wash his feet. In a sense, this humble act says; let me wash the dirt from your lower nature. I know walking through life gets your soul muddy. I understand. I too, have a dirty nephesh. Let me refresh you. Allow me to care for you by meeting a need we all share regardless of our theology or lack thereof. I love you anyway. Let me learn something from you. You matter to me.

If we think about Moses and Yeshua, didn’t they do exactly this? Both dealt with imperfect and challenging people. Both humbled themselves and SERVED the people. They knew their place. Instead of calling fire down from heaven to destroy those with dirty feet, they tenderly washed the people.[5] The result was a fiery Word in the mouth of Israel.

Since Shavuot is about the Bride receiving her ketubah (Torah Covenant) and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, I thought it would be fitting to conclude with the words of Abigail, a bride of King David. Let’s see what wisdom this model bride can teach us:

woman-kneeling-in-prayerWhen the servants of David came to Abigail at Carmel, they spoke to her, saying, “David has sent us to you to take you as his wife.” She arose and bowed with her face to the ground and said, Behold, your maidservant is a maid to wash the feet of my lord’s servants.” (1Sam. 25:40-41)

Abigail was a humble bride; one any king would desire. She proved this through the selfless action of foot washing. Shavuot beckons us to ask: “What do I do with the feet of those I encounter? Do I step on their toes? Do I turn my nose up at their grime? Or do I bow down low and tenderly wash them clean?” May we become a maidservant like Abigail. When the King comes to take us as His Bride, may we know our place as ones who wash the feet of His servants!


[1] Numbers 1:1- 4:20. B’midbar literally means “in the wilderness”.

[2] Now the man Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth. (Num. 12:3)

[3] “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me [Moses] from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him.” (Dt. 18:15)

[4] “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Mat. 11:29-30)

[5] Ex. 19:10-11; John 13:5-13

Categories: Moedim, Mussar, Torah Portions | Tags: , , , , , | 8 Comments

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