Posts Tagged With: fruit

No Need for the Sun and Moon

Rosh Chodesh Kislev 5782 (2021)

There is something about Kislev.

It’s the ninth month, the month of dreams, and the month of dedication (Chanukah). But, if one counts the months from the civil year beginning with Tishrei, then Kislev is the third month. In other words, Kislev has attributes that are associated with the number three such as trees, gathering, new life, and resurrection. Darkness, figurative death, and chaos come before any renewal. The themes and historical events that occurred during Kislev such as light overcoming darkness, defeating the enemy against insurmountable odds, and renewing and rededicating the House of Adonai all echo the resurrection power expressed in the number three.

It is in that sense of newness and renewal, which manifests in gathering and unity, that I aim to focus on this year. The twelve months mirror the twelve tribes of Israel. The moonths are like us, reflectors of light. But also like us, they can reflect something they were never meant to mirror: a lower, earthy, or even demonic realm. It’s not a coincidence that the enemy has perverted things associated with the luminaries and time, such as months, to the point that Believers are often leery of their purposes.

In The Creation Gospel Workbook One, Dr. Alewine says, “Pagan worship deifies the sun and moon, for even in ignorance, pagans can identify signs of spiritual authority. The problem is in turning the sign into the actual authority.” (p. 69)

As a Creation Gospel trainer, I’ve read that passage many times. This year, it struck me differently. I could not help but wonder if Believers have made the same mistake. We are notorious for having “calendar” controversies, varying dates for first fruit festivals, and arguments of when new months should begin. The lack of unity (oneness) in the Body gets rather frustrating, and is especially confusing for those just coming to the Torah. Are these indicators of losing one’s sense of time, rather than gaining it? For the most part, individuals and groups do what is right in their own eyes when it comes to “times and seasons.” Some are contentious in this area, and others emphasize respecting other’s opinions.

But, are our endless debates about the timing of the appointed times and months a symptom of “turning the sign into the actual authority?” There is test for Believers on Day Four. It is based in the action words of that day. For example, light separates, gives, and governs. Action is akin to one’s deeds or fruit. If natural light separates from darkness, gives light to the earth, and governs the days, months, years, and moedim, then so will those that follow the Creator of the luminaries. But there will be a constant need for discernment, because the heart of man is deceptive.

Jeremiah 17:9-10 (NASB) The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it? 10 I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds.

The discernment key is fruit. Because we are natural, earthy beings, we must look at physical fruit, deeds, and results to truly know or discern from which “tree” an idea, doctrine, teaching, or theory originates. In the New Jerusalem, the moedim and new moons will NOT be determined by the physical lights of day four. Instead, the “trees” will know when and how to produce fruit with only the Light of the Lamb.

Revelation 21:23 (NASB) And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb.

John continues into chapter twenty-two describing the glorious City, the wife of the Lamb:

Revelation 22:1-2 (NASB) Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, 2 in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

Revelation 22:5 (NKJV) There shall be no night there: they need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.

Revelation 21:23 says that the city is illuminated by the glory of the Lord, and it’s lamp (vessel that gives light) is the Lamb. This is a return to One Day, when the first spoken words of God in the Bible are, “Light be” or “Let there be light.” The light of One Day (day one) was not the physical lights placed in the rakiah or expanse; rather, it is the same light mentioned at the end with New Jerusalem. It is Spiritual.

Kislev is the last of the three autumn months on the Jewish calendar. It signals colder days, less daylight, and the coming winter. This makes it an opportune time to meditate on death that leads to new life, a type of darkness, and then Light. Winter, then spring. Seed, then sprouts and fruit. And, eventually, a time when those cycles will cease, and will become all light, and ever-bearing fruit.

Ezekiel 47:12 (NASB) By the river on its bank, on one side and on the other, will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither and their fruit will not fail. They will bear every month because their water flows from the sanctuary, and their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing (medicine).

What or who are these trees?

In Hebrew, the fruit that the trees bear is a “first fruit,” just as Messiah, and you and I, are a type of firstfruits of the Kingdom. Rosh Chodesh is the feast of the born again, or of those born from above, the first fruits of the earth. The renewal of the moonths testify of this heavenly reality. The “head” of the month is a picture of the whole, just as Messiah is the head, and we are His Body.

There is a reason that God chose to use the particular time frame of “months” to describe when the tree of life bears fruit in Jerusalem above.[1]

The trees are plural in Ezekiel. They refer not only to Messiah, but to His Body, who are grafted into Him and one another. His people partake of and abide in Him and the Word, and become echad, a perfect unity, like the menorah tree. Trees are common idioms for people in Scripture, and both are designed to produce fruit.

Psalms 1:1-3 (NASB) How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! 2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. 3 He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.

Proverbs 11:30 (NASB) The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who is wise wins souls.

Living in the realm of Jerusalem above, with only the Light of the Lamb, one knows the months and the moedim without the sun and moon. The result is abundant fruit, and the ability to bear that fruit every month in the Spirit of Adonai. If that’s true above, can it be true below, here in the earthly realm? If yes, what will it require from us?

During Kislev, Chanukah is celebrated with a menorah, a lamp, or a vessel that gives light.[2] In the Torah, the menorah was fashioned after the almond tree.[3] A menorah is a tree with LIGHTS. It represents Resurrection, Woman Wisdom, the Spirit of God, and the Tree of Life. Yeshua chose the menorah to represent His assemblies (churches) in the Book of Revelation, because He is figured as the One in the midst of this “tree” or lamp. He is the root and stem of Jesse, full of the seven fiery spirits of God.[4] We are One with Him, and should produce His light and fruit. The light of the menorah was to be an ever-burning flame. Spiritual light burns continually, but does not consume. This hidden light separates in order to gather in unity.

Exodus 27:20 (NASB) You shall charge the sons of Israel, that they bring you clear oil of beaten olives for the light, to make a lamp burn continually.

Believers all look to the same physical lights and earthly evidence and make judgments, to obediently meet the Creator at His appointed times. But, we don’t all come to the same conclusions. Rather than being unified in the calendar, which is the testimony of God’s authority in the earth, we are greatly divided. A lot of rotten fruit (false light) results from our endless debates.

In the Heavenly City, of which we are a citizen, the trees manage to do something no earthly tree can: they produce twelve fruits every month. This is enough for ALL twelve tribes of united Israel. They are all in one accord when they do not depend solely upon the shadow world’s earthly luminaries.

One Day the natural luminaries will fail, decay, and be no more.[5] In fact, like us, they are fading even now. It occurred to me this Kislev, that if our eyes trust only in the natural light (something decaying), we will never be unified, because death is a separation, not a gathering. Our new life in Messiah includes gathering with one’s brothers and sisters. Anything that works to their exclusion, especially private interpretations of prophecy (the feasts are prophecy!), is not a tree of life (or light) capable of yielding twelve kinds of fruit.

2 Peter 1:18-21 (NKJV) And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. 19 And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; 20 knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, 21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.

Being echad (one) is not possible without God and His Spiritual light. I believe that the calendar of God is intentionally ambiguous, because it is a test of authority in the hearts of mankind, especially Believers. I am not suggesting that we toss out the physical luminaries as the markers of Adonai’s set times. They are, in our natural realm, needed governors.[6] However, there remains a much greater reality, that cannot be ignored in our calculations.

Kislev ends within the days of (re)dedication or Chaunkah every year. Since we are a type of Temple, it’s always a good idea to cleanse and rededicate our hearts to Adonai. Sometimes things creep in while we are unaware, distracted with the cares of life, sleeping, sick, grieving, or when we’ve been under attack. At this season, while the feast cycle is dormant during the darkness of winter, reconsider God’s prophetic calendar. It should produce a harvest, not havoc in one’s life and the lives of fellow Believers. As a tree in the Kingdom, carefully inspect the fruit you have produced, and are producing, for the feast days center around these very things. May we continue to grow in fruit and love for the brethren. May we dream of being Echad!

Questions for Reflection:

  1. Why do you think the tree of life in Jerusalem above produces twelve kinds of fruit every month?
  2. Why did Adonai choose to use a “monthly” timeframe in Ezekiel and Revelation’s depiction of the fruit of the Tree of Life?
  3. If the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations, what or who are the twelve fruits for? (See footnote 1.)
  4. Can one keep the moedim and new moons without relying on the signs of the physical luminaries?
  5. Did the Maccabees have the authority to celebrate a late Sukkot in the form of Chanukah? Do you think the Spirit of God was pleased or displeased with their reasoning?
  6. Did Chanukah unify or divide the House of Adonai?
  7. Why did the sages choose to use a menorah to commemorate the days of dedication? Do you think their custom is spiritually valid? Why or why not?
  8. How does the symbolism of the menorah fit into the theme of trees, light, and Chanukah? Give at least two answers.
  9. According to John 13:35, will Yeshua’s disciples be known by their perfect calendars, or by their love for one another?
  10. What is the purpose of the months and the moedim?
  11. If the moedim prophetically figure the eternal oneness of Adonai, Messiah, His Body, and how God accomplishes this in and for us, what is disunity a testimony of?

Ephesians 4:1-6 (NASB) Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, 3 being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

12. Based on the passage above, how important is unity?

 


[1] To help see this, consider these questions: Who do we produce fruit for? Is it for ourselves or for others? To put it another way, who benefits when we keep commandments such as the feast days? Do we obey for ourselves or for others? If one says they do so for Adonai, why do so many mitzvot deal with how one treats their neighbor? Have we missed something vital that the Tree of Life teaches in Revelation 22:2? Who is reflected in the months? Adonai or His people?

[2] The Hanukkiah has eight branches and one shamash or servant candle, for a total of nine branches. The eight branches represent the eight days of Dedication or Chanukah, and the menorah itself figures the seven branched menorah in the Tabernacle/Temple that GIVES light. The ninth branch on the Hanukkiah is the servant light that ignites the other branches.

[3] Exodus 25

[4] Isaiah 11:1-3; Revelation 1:4; 3:1; 4:5; 5:6

[5] 2 Peter 3:10-13

[6] Genesis 1:14-19

Categories: Moedim, new moon | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Tu B’Shevat: The Lesson of Akhnai’s Oven

We are in the eleventh month of Shevat. Shevat comes from an Akkadian word that means a shoot, rod, or lashing, with the latter being a reference to the heavy rains of winter that end at this season. The fifteenth of Shevat (Tu B’Shevat) is the New Year for Trees in Judaism. In Temple times, it was vital for Israel to have a set time to separate one growing season from another in order to properly tithe and bring one’s first fruits to the priests. That is the purpose of the New Year for Trees. Which year does your fruit belong to? This is important for tithing in the natural and spiritual realms.

Winter might seem like an odd time of the year to celebrate trees and fruit, but in Israel’s more temperate climate, the fruit trees are budding and beginning to blossom in this month. In a sense, you are a tree, a planting of the LORD. What’s budding in your life right now?

“People have trunks and limbs. They grow roots, have seeds, and produce fruit. Trees and people feel pain and bleed when wounded. Both breathe and sway (move) when the wind (ruach) blows upon them. The growth of trees and people are deeply affected by the type of soil, the volume of water, and the amount of sunlight that they receive. Even the House (Temple) of YHWH is built with both trees and people. (2 Chron. 2, 1 Cor. 6:19) Thus, it is no wonder that the Scriptures abound with analogies, metaphors, similes, and puns that compare mankind to the majestic trees of the forest.”[1]

In tradition, the first of Shevat is when Moses began to deliver the Mishneh Torah, the second Law or repetition of the Law, or the Book of Deuteronomy. He spoke to Israel for thirty-seven days, passing away on the seventh of Adar. Because Moses delivered a full summary of the Law at this time, Rosh Chodesh Shevat is compared to Shavuot (Pentecost), when Adonai gave His Torah to Israel. Thus, this month and the first seven days of Adar are considered an auspicious time to study the Torah, as it teaches one how to produce proper fruit.

I’ve written elsewhere about the specifics of Shevat and Tu B’Shevat. This year, I will elaborate on the spiritual aspect of this season, specifically in regard to producing spiritual fruit.

Luke 6:43-45 (NASB) “For there is no good tree which produces bad fruit, nor, on the other hand, a bad tree which produces good fruit. 44 For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush. 45 The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.

You are a tree, and the fruit that you produce is your words and actions. No one can escape this reality. If one wants to know what is really in their heart, examine your words. What is coming forth from your mouth or from your keyboard? Life or death? Edification or accusation? Hymns and praise or rants and derision? Good news or mockery? If rotten buds are sprouting, repent before the fruit comes into full bloom, earmarked for destruction.

Proverbs 4:23-24 (NASB) Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life. 24 Put away from you a deceitful mouth and put devious speech far from you.

In Hebrew, the bolded words above are both about deception. Since the fall from the Garden, man struggles with the polarities of two natures. One must learn the difference between these two voices, and submit to the renewed man in Messiah, who is governed only by the Spirit of Adonai, not the old nature that is dying; and yet, continually trying to resurrect and rule. (Romans 7) Speaking through the prophet Jeremiah, Adonai reminds man that he is like a tree:

Jeremiah 17:7-8 (NKJV) “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, and whose hope is the LORD. 8 For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit.”

But, in the very next verses, Adonai warns that one’s heart, from which the issues of life flow, can trick, deceive, and distort. Therefore, it is imperative that we examine our fruit.

Jeremiah 17:9-10 (NKJV) “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? 10 I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings.”

What are we producing? What words are we speaking (typing)? What actions result from these words? Have we received seed/fruit from a tree that we should not be consuming that is producing fear, suspicion, doubt, paranoia, anger, strife, and division? And, are we then spreading that sort of “news” to others instead of the Good News? You will know them by their fruit. You will know whose seed you have received into the soil of your heart by examining FRUIT.

King David, the man after God’s own heart, prayed:

Psalms 141:3-4 (NASB) Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips. 4 Do not incline my heart to any evil thing, to practice deeds of wickedness with men who do iniquity; and do not let me eat of their delicacies.

Since the Garden, receiving words, whether they be of Adonai or from another, are likened to ingesting seed. Seed is found in fruit. Things and words that appeal to the flesh are “delicacies.” In Hebrew, these are man’ammiym. They refer to choice, luxurious portions of (spiritual) food. Above, David knows that receiving such morsels from the wicked and lawless might taste good to his flesh, but in the end, they lead to death. We must be careful of the fruit we partake of because it contains a seed that will grow into a full-grown tree. The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil produces more of the same. Just because something seems good or even is good, doesn’t mean it produces Life.

This is true in every area of life: marriage, family, child rearing, community, relationships, fellowships, education, careers, governments, politics, medicine/health care, and even in theology. Two seeds. Two trees. Two worldviews. Two Kingdoms. We are either of one or the other. Thus, it is vital that we become expert fruit inspectors, beginning with our own hearts.

 

Difficulty in Discernment

Aside from leaving Egypt, rarely are the people of Adonai required to act in haste. Patience is a fruit of the Spirit. Thus, while inspecting fruit is paramount, so is discretion. Things are not always as they appear. We must not be quick to judge, because we are not omniscient.

Proverbs 15:28 (ESV) The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.

One can listen to the voice of fear or other emotions, or even the voice of one’s own desires and be deceived. One can believe that they are full of light, and that light can, in reality, be darkness.

 Luke 11:35 (NASB) “Then watch out that the light in you is not darkness.”

This is just as true for the Believer as the unbeliever. The Hebrew worldview is not as black and white as western, Greek trained minds would prefer. Hebraic thought centers around the tension between opposites, and seeks to find balance. The Hebrew language reflects this. Most Hebrew words function as contranyms.[2] This is confusing for those trained in western logic. And yet, this is the mindset in which the Bible was written. It is also the mindset that produced Rabbinic Judaism and the Talmud.

Much of the Talmud is debate and argument, something westerners, particularly those of faith, do not wish to participate. If religious arguments become the norm in western faith circles, there is a strong likelihood that the group will choose sides and splinter into new groups. They do this to avoid debate, and to peacefully function in the echo chamber that agrees with one’s conviction.

While this isn’t an evil thing to do, and it certainly has some benefits, it is not spiritually healthy to never have one’s faith, beliefs, or doctrines challenged. The nature of growth, birth, and harvest is toil, pain, and struggle. This is how we learn. While hostile debate can be draining, or even damaging, especially for those young in the faith, having no challenge or debate is equally destructive. It’s akin to one dying on the vine. Hebraic thought challenges one to find the balance between these polarities.

“The nature of a man or doctrine or movement can be rightly estimated only when the results have had time to develop.” (F. B. Meyer)

Wait for the fruit. Do not be deceived. Many in religious (and secular) circles prey upon one’s ignorance of the “whole story” or all the facts. According to Scripture, ignorance leads to exile, separation, and destruction, not bliss.[3] The Talmudic story called “Akhnai’s Oven” has been used by detractors to speak evil about Jews, particularly those that adhere to Rabbinic Judaism.

Whether these accusers are ignorant, deceived, or willfully dishonest, I know not. What is obvious is their dependence upon the listener’s ignorance. By choosing to quote a small portion of the this aggadic story out of context, they build a vile strawman and attach it to Rabbinic Judaism. Their goal is to incite fear, doubt, suspicion, and hatred. And sadly, some will receive this seed and it will grow into a wicked tree of antisemitism in their hearts. The irony is that when one reads the entire story in context, it is a teaching about NOT disparaging others with words!

Akhnai’s oven is not a true story, rather it is a parable with great moral lessons about how brothers treat one another, especially in regard to speech. Like much of the Talmud, the rabbis are having an argument about halacha, rulings about “how” to properly keep or walk out the Torah. Hebraic Roots folks often do the same, so this little story has some pearls of wisdom if we have ears to hear, and can reserve judgment for a time.

I will warn you that this is NOT a simple story. It contains layers of moral truth that requires one to wrestle with what is “right.” But, isn’t that just like everyday life? Godly discernment often isn’t black and white. Consider Judah and Tamar. By Torah standards, she APPEARED to have played the harlot (and the irony is that she did), thus Judah wanted her to be burned alive.

When the accusations were brought to her, she said, “Discern, I pray thee, whose are these—the signet ring, cord, and the staff.” Tamar called for discernment. That is how she was vindicated, and that is how the line of Judah was secured. May we have that same discernment as we investigate Akhnai’s Oven.

 

Ahknai’s Oven

Proverbs 18:21 (NASB) Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.

On the surface level of this story, the ancient rabbis are arguing about whether an earthenware oven that has come in contact with a corpse is clean or unclean (pure or impure/ kosher/nonkosher). In the Torah, an earthenware vessel or oven contaminated by death is impure, and must be shattered. (Lev. 11:33-35) But, the debate arises because of the way in which the oven was built; in this form, is it still considered such a vessel?

The placement of this argument is key to the context of the story. It is sandwiched between sections of where the rabbis made rulings about PROPER SPEECH. Words and how one uses them indicates the state of one’s heart. One is meant to consider that he/she is from the earth, an earthenware vessel.[4] What does an “oven” have to do with this? It is a symbol in this story. Ovens bake BREAD – and bread is a metaphor for The Word and one’s words. What are we cooking up or eating from the ovens of others? “Those who love it WILL EAT its fruit.”

Bava Metzia 59a and 59b (quoted from Sepharia.org)

Apropos the topic of verbal mistreatment, we learned in a mishna there (Kelim 5:10): If one cut an earthenware oven widthwise into segments, and placed sand between each and every segment, Rabbi Eliezer deems it ritually pure. Because of the sand, its legal status is not that of a complete vessel, and therefore it is not susceptible to ritual impurity. And the Rabbis deem it ritually impure, as it is functionally a complete oven. (59a)

That’s the opening argument. R. Eliezer thinks that the oven shouldn’t be considered a complete “vessel,” thus the commandment in Leviticus 11 doesn’t apply. Whereas, the majority of the rabbis see it differently. They think that since it functions as a complete oven, it is also a complete vessel, and subject to ritual impurity. The story begins:

And this is known as the oven of akhnai. The Gemara asks: What is the relevance of akhnai, a snake, in this context? Rav Yehuda said that Shmuel said: It is characterized in that manner due to the fact that the Rabbis surrounded it with their statements like this snake, which often forms a coil when at rest, and deemed it impure. The Sages taught: On that day, when they discussed this matter, Rabbi Eliezer answered all possible answers in the world to support his opinion, but the Rabbis did not accept his explanations from him. (59b)

Consider a couple of things before moving forward. First, the rabbis immediately associate the oven with WORDS. The tongue is likened to the oven, because words originate in the heart. So, based on their explanation, consider whether the tongue is an incomplete example of one’s heart (a separate or incomplete vessel), or if Yeshua is correct when He says it figures the entire heart of a man (a complete vessel).

Second, notice that the “owner” of the oven is called Akhnai, which means SNAKE. Immediately, one is faced with the real issue. Snakes are “hissers,” and are associated with deception and damaging words. The rabbis surrounded it (the argument) like a coiled snake. And, Rabbi Eliezer counter argued (literally translated), “All the words in the world,” to support his conclusion. Both sides use many WORDS. At this point, you might be wondering which group in this story is the actual snake (or in the wrong). Keep wrestling with that idea as the story builds.

After failing to convince the Rabbis logically, Rabbi Eliezer said to them: If the halakha is in accordance with my opinion, this carob tree will prove it. The carob tree was uprooted from its place one hundred cubits, and some say four hundred cubits. The Rabbis said to him: One does not cite halakhic proof from the carob tree. Rabbi Eliezer then said to them: If the halakha is in accordance with my opinion, the stream will prove it. The water in the stream turned backward and began flowing in the opposite direction. They said to him: One does not cite halakhic proof from a stream.

 Rabbi Eliezer then said to them: If the halakha is in accordance with my opinion, the walls of the study hall will prove it. The walls of the study hall leaned inward and began to fall. Rabbi Yehoshua scolded the walls and said to them: If Torah scholars are contending with each other in matters of halakha, what is the nature of your involvement in this dispute? The Gemara relates: The walls did not fall because of the deference due Rabbi Yehoshua, but they did not straighten because of the deference due Rabbi Eliezer, and they still remain leaning.

 Rabbi Eliezer then said to them: If the halakha is in accordance with my opinion, Heaven will prove it. A Divine Voice emerged from Heaven and said: Why are you differing with Rabbi Eliezer, as the halakha is in accordance with his opinion in every place that he expresses an opinion?

This story is a type of Jewish literature called aggadah, which are parabolic stories meant to convey a moral lesson in support of halachic rulings. Rabbi Eliezer, a highly respected (and real historical) rabbi, stood alone in his opinion of the oven. This story exemplifies the tension between two schools of thought in first and second century Judaism, the struggle after the destruction of the Temple, a nation facing exile (again), and the necessity of unity to maintain Jewish identity. While all those issues can and should be explored, our focus is on the timeless issues of the tongue, and why WORDS will either justify or condemn us. (Mt. 12:37)

At first glance, it appears that Rabbi Eliezer is indeed correct. Miracle after miracle comes forth as a sign for him. But, the other rabbis are not persuaded by such signs. Then, R. Eliezer asks the walls of the house of study to prove that he is right. They began to fall inward and Rabbi Yehoshua rebukes them, so they stopped. It seems the walls decided to agree with both sides of the argument, which we will get to later. Finally, Rabbi Eliezer pulls out his ace card. He calls on heaven and a Divine Voice (Bat Kol) agrees with his ruling. You’d think that this would settle the dispute, but then:

Rabbi Yehoshua stood on his feet and said: It is written: “It is not in heaven” (Deuteronomy 30:12). The Gemara asks: What is the relevance of the phrase “It is not in heaven” in this context? Rabbi Yirmeya says: Since the Torah was already given at Mount Sinai, we do not regard a Divine Voice, as You already wrote at Mount Sinai, in the Torah: “After a majority to incline” (Exodus 23:2). Since the majority of Rabbis disagreed with Rabbi Eliezer’s opinion, the halakha is not ruled in accordance with his opinion. The Gemara relates: Years after, Rabbi Natan encountered Elijah the prophet and said to him: What did the Holy One, Blessed be He, do at that time, when Rabbi Yehoshua issued his declaration? Elijah said to him: The Holy One, Blessed be He, smiled and said: My children have triumphed over Me; My children have triumphed over Me.

Yikes! That last bit sounds rather sacrilegious. Indeed, it is typically where one promoting antisemitism will stop quoting the story to say horrible things about Judaism or Jews. But, reserve judgment for a moment. There is much more going on than meets the eye, and the story is far from finished.

Rabbi Yehoshua and the other sages do not trust in signs and wonders, not even a heavenly voice, because the Torah warns them about such things. Instead, they stand on the firm foundation of “it is written.” The heavenly Torah was given to earth at Mt. Sinai. And, the Torah plainly states that a contaminated earthenware vessel must be broken. Since the majority agrees with this, the ruling is settled.

In the eyes of an inexperienced reader of the Talmud, controversy arises when it says, “My children have triumphed over me.” That sounds like man has defeated Adonai (God forbid), which is NOT the moral of this story. Nor does it imply that man’s word or judgment is higher than YHWH’s. Instead, the rabbis point to this section to support the fact that God has given His Word (from Heaven) and EXPECTS man to make judgments based on His revealed truth. They also see this is as a support for Rabbinic authority, with the majority ruling in halachic matters. You don’t have to agree with the latter, because if Akhnai’s oven teaches one anything, it is that we are free to disagree. What matters is how we treat one another, and how we speak about each other during and after the fact.

One is also faced with another conundrum. Were the miracles and the heavenly voice false signs and wonders? The text implies that they were the real deal, hence the controversial phrase at the end of the above passage. Or, were the majority rabbis correct by strictly sticking to “it is written?” Two polarities. Two schools of thought. Divine tension. Who is correct?

The truth is that we face similar tensions in our faith walk all the time. In many instances, one could argue for either side and be correct (at least to a degree). However, there is a test that can help with discernment. Yeshua said, “You will know them by their fruit.” The second half of Akhnai’s oven reveals the aftermath (fruit) of this argument. It quickly becomes apparent that both sides were correct… and incorrect. There is a much greater Torah principle being taught in this story for those that have ears to hear.

The Sages said: On that day, the Sages brought all the ritually pure items deemed pure by the ruling of Rabbi Eliezer with regard to the oven and burned them in fire, and the Sages reached a consensus in his regard and ostracized him. And the Sages said: Who will go and inform him of his ostracism? Rabbi Akiva, his beloved disciple, said to them: I will go, lest an unseemly person go and inform him in a callous and offensive manner, and he would thereby destroy the entire world.

What did Rabbi Akiva do? He wore black and wrapped himself in black, as an expression of mourning and pain, and sat before Rabbi Eliezer at a distance of four cubits, which is the distance that one must maintain from an ostracized individual. Rabbi Eliezer said to him: Akiva, what is different about today from other days, that you comport yourself in this manner? Rabbi Akiva said to him: My teacher, it appears to me that your colleagues are distancing themselves from you. He employed euphemism, as actually they distanced Rabbi Eliezer from them. Rabbi Eliezer too, rent his garments and removed his shoes, as is the custom of an ostracized person, and he dropped from his seat and sat upon the ground.

The sages burned Rabbi Eliezer’s previous work, and then excommunicated him. Can you imagine the pain this caused R. Eliezer, whether he was right or wrong? His work, devotion, and service to God, were all destroyed because of one argument. The rejection must have been unbearable. Elsewhere, the rabbis teach that humiliating another person in public is akin to murder, as is destroying their livelihood. His colleagues did both. Hence, Rabbi Akiva dressed as a mourner when he delivered the news to R. Eliezer. Something had indeed died: their relationship.

In a sense, the sages knew what they were doing because they feared that if the news reached Eliezer in an unsavory manner, “he would destroy the entire world.” What does this mean? Surely, Eliezer didn’t possess such power, did he? This is symbolic, of course. Think metaphorically as you read the following:

The Gemara relates: His eyes shed tears, and as a result the entire world was afflicted: One-third of its olives were afflicted, and one-third of its wheat, and one-third of its barley. And some say that even dough kneaded in a woman’s hands spoiled. The Sages taught: There was great anger on that day, as any place that Rabbi Eliezer fixed his gaze was burned.

 And even Rabban Gamliel, the Nasi of the Sanhedrin at Yavne, the head of the Sages who were responsible for the decision to ostracize Rabbi Eliezer, was coming on a boat at the time, and a large wave swelled over him and threatened to drown him. Rabban Gamliel said: It seems to me that this is only for the sake of Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus, as God punishes those who mistreat others. Rabban Gamliel stood on his feet and said: Master of the Universe, it is revealed and known before You that neither was it for my honor that I acted when ostracizing him, nor was it for the honor of the house of my father that I acted; rather, it was for Your honor, so that disputes will not proliferate in Israel. In response, the sea calmed from its raging.

 When we have suffered great pain, loss, betrayal, rejection, or injustice is it not like the “entire world is afflicted?” At least “our” entire world has been destroyed in that moment. Why do you think the crops of harvest are affected in “thirds?” Have we read about judgment occurring in thirds elsewhere? The Book of Revelation has many judgments in thirds, and it is indeed a judgment on the seven abominations that all deal with the tongue in some way.[5]

Dr. Alewine points out the good side of thirds, which are the chaggim, the three pilgrimage or foot festivals, where brethren gather in unity at Mt. Zion.[6] No one is left out or ostracized. Tongues are used to praise and worship the King of kings. Moreover, they occur at the harvest times of the aforementioned crops (barley, wheat, olives). The destruction in this story symbolizes the consequences of both parties’ actions. No longer will they gather as one at the appointed times of the LORD; hence, a third of the chaggim harvest is afflicted. Likewise, the Sabbath dough is spoiled before it is baked, insinuating that the gathering spirit of breaking bread on Shabbat has been tainted.

Rabbi Gamliel understands that they mistreated Rabbi Eliezer, and that this is the reason his life is threatened, so he prays to the Almighty. What he really did was “explain himself” to the Almighty. I wonder how many of us do the same when we’ve taken our judgment too far with others? Do we tell God all the “good” reasons for our poor actions? Our intentions might be good, but the subsequent fruit reveals the tree.

At this point, we should understand that we can be so right that we are wrong. No matter which side of the argument one is on, there is a right and a wrong way to say things. And, there is a right and a wrong way to cast judgment or bring correction. The last part of the story ends with a woman called Imma (mama) Shalom. She is connected to both men, and both sides of the argument.

The Gemara further relates: Imma Shalom, the wife of Rabbi Eliezer, was the sister of Rabban Gamliel. From that incident forward, she would not allow Rabbi Eliezer to lower his head and recite the taḥanun prayer, which includes supplication and entreaties. She feared that were her husband to bemoan his fate and pray at that moment, her brother would be punished. A certain day was around the day of the New Moon, and she inadvertently substituted a full thirty-day month for a deficient twenty-nine-day month, i.e., she thought that it was the New Moon, when one does not lower his head in supplication, but it was not. Some say that a pauper came and stood at the door, and she took bread out to him. The result was that she left her husband momentarily unsupervised.

 When she returned, she found him and saw that he had lowered his head in prayer. She said to him: Arise, you already killed my brother. Meanwhile, the sound of a shofar emerged from the house of Rabban Gamliel to announce that the Nasi had died. Rabbi Eliezer said to her: From where did you know that your brother would die? She said to him: This is the tradition that I received from the house of the father of my father: All the gates of Heaven are apt to be locked, except for the gates of prayer for victims of verbal mistreatment.

Imagine Imma Shalom as a figure of the Holy Spirit or Woman Wisdom. She is wife and sister to the men who argued. Now, consider Adonai. Is He not intimately connected to us AND our opponents? Like Imma Shalom, He loves both sides, both men. They are close family. While she is devastated for her husband, R. Eliezer, she is also deeply concerned for the consequences that her brother will face if her husband pours his broken heart out to God.

Imma Shalom diligently watches over her husband. One day, she believes it is the new moon, a time like other feast days and Shabbats when one (in Judaism) doesn’t make personal supplications to God; rather, those days are all about worshipping and praising the King. So, with her guard down, she leaves him alone, not realizing that it is a normal week day, a time when one does make supplication and entreaties to God. She walks in to find Eliezer on his face before God, and says, “Arise, you already killed my brother.”

Suddenly, they heard the voice of the shofar come from the house of Gamliel. He had, indeed, died. Eliezer asks her how she knew this would happen. She quotes a tradition passed down from her father’s father, “All the gates of Heaven are apt to be locked, except for the gates of prayer for victims of verbal mistreatment (ona’at devarim).”

Ona’at devarim are stealing words. Words that fraud, oppress, and damage. There are no winners in this little tale. Both sides made grave errors in words and deeds, even though both sides served the Most High God. Neither Eliezer nor the rabbis were 100% correct in their halachic ruling or in the way they spoke to and treated one another. Words brought death in each case, not life. “Those who love it WILL EAT its fruit.” – even great rabbis.

This is the Snake’s Oven. It brings forth poisonous bread that once consumed cannot be undone – just like one’s words.

Perhaps, we are like Eliezer, eagerly looking for a loophole to make the unclean, clean. Maybe we are arguing “all the words in the world” to convince others that our private interpretation is right, even though the more words we use, the closer we align with Ahknai, the snake. Or, perhaps the majority is on our side, and there is a sense of safety in those numbers, so we take this as confirmation that we are “right,” and search no further for balance and truth. Maybe our conviction is so strong that even a heavenly voice won’t change our mind. Will we coil like a snake around the minority and choke them out? Can you see the irony on both sides?

The walls of the “house of study” are still leaning to this very day. In the Book of Revelation, the foundation and “walls” of heavenly Jerusalem consist of people, living stones. The overcomers in the church of brotherly love are promised to become “pillars” in the Temple of Adonai. These walls do not lean, they are straight, strong, and true.

But, this side of the Olam Haba (World to Come) the walls in the house of study continue to lean. It is all so precarious, and so are our relationships. They are what matter most, because God desires that we be One with each other, and Him. Anything that seeks to divide brothers should be a bright orange caution sign for Believers. (Pr. 6:16-19)

Last year was the Hebrew year 5780. Eighty is the letter peh, which is also the word for mouth. We have entered a decade of 80’s or mouths. Do you think it is a coincidence that the whole world has had to cover their mouth since mid 5780? In Biblical understanding, one’s (evil) words cause leprosy, a spiritual condition that requires one to be separated (socially distanced) from the camp.

Leviticus 13:45 (TLV) “The one with tza’arat who has the plague-mark should wear torn clothes, the hair of his head is to hang loose, he is to cover his upper lip and cry, Unclean! Unclean!’”

Perhaps, we collectively represent R. Eliezer and the Sages. Everyone in the case of Ahknai’s oven was found to be unclean and contaminated, just like the snake’s oven. And it was all on account of disguised evil speech by those that should know better. We must stop defending and justifying our big, fat mouths.

Maybe God has allowed this plague to come upon us because our words have been found wanting. Maybe we’ve coiled around others like a snake with hissing taunts or we have murdered someone’s reputation or livelihood with our words. Perhaps, our entire ministry is devoted to accusing the other side of wrong doing, which makes one a “satan.”

We have poorly represented the King of the Universe, which makes us false witnesses, an unclean earthenware vessel that needs to be shattered. Yeshua tells the assembly in Thyatira that He searches the minds and hearts of man, no one can explain away or justify their rotten words or deeds. In the end, His rod of iron WILL shatter the unclean human clay pots.

Revelation 2:23-27 (TLV) Then all of Messiah’s communities will know that I am the One who searches minds and hearts, and I will give to each of you according to your deeds. 24 But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold to this teaching and have not learned the so-called ‘deep things’ of satan—I place on you no other burden. 25 Only hold firm to what you have until I come. 26 To the one who overcomes and guards My deeds until the end, I will give him authority over the nations 27 and he shall rule them with an iron rod, as when clay pots are broken into pieces.

We will give an account for every idle word that we speak. Did they produce life or were they contaminated with death? (Mt. 12:36-37) In Greek, it literally says we will PAY BACK with logos, words. Middah kenedgo middah – measure for measure.

Yeshua comforts the Philadelphians, those immersed in brotherly love, by making the synagogue of Satan (accusers) bow down and worship (use words) at their feet to make them know that Yeshua loved them. I wonder how many of us will do this at the feet of those we have disparaged, hated, and spoken poorly of in this life?

Perhaps, we will be required to cover our lips until we admit that we are unclean. I pray that we freely repent (the rightful use of one’s tongue) before we are forced to do so by further judgments.

Matthew 12:36-37 (NASB) “But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. 37 For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

To learn more about Proper Speech click here.


[1] https://graceintorah.net/2017/01/28/tu-bshevat/

[2] A word with two opposite meanings, e.g. sanction (which can mean both ‘a penalty for disobeying a law’ and ‘official permission or approval for an action’).

[3] Isaiah 5:13 (NASB) Therefore My people go into exile for their lack of knowledge; and their honorable men are famished, and their multitude is parched with thirst.

Hosea 4:6 (NASB) My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest. Since you have forgotten the law (Torah) of your God, I also will forget your children.

[4] For example see: Is. 45:9, Jer. 19, Rom. 9:20-21, 2 Cor. 4:7-18, 2 Tim. 2:20,

[5] For more information, see The Creation Gospel: Workbook 1 and 2, by Dr. Hollisa Alewine. Also see Proverbs 6:16-19.

[6] See footnote 3.

Categories: Moedim, Mussar | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Tu B’Shevat

tree15th of Shevat (eleventh month)

February 11th, 2017 (begins at sundown on the 10th)

Rosh HaShannah La’ilanot

As of late, I’ve been reading a very interesting book called, The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben. While this isn’t a spiritual book, I cannot help but notice once again how the natural things teach spiritual truths. In the book, Mr. Wohlleben explains the marvelous activities of trees in life, death, and regeneration. Trees (in forests) live, communicate, support, and tend to one another. They detect and warn others of parasites and insects that cause harm, and can even release toxins to kill such threats. Deep in the soil, their roots work with fungi, creating a biological internet to communicate and share vital nutrients with sick trees and even the stumps of fallen family members, keeping them alive. However, trees can also shun other trees, robbing them of nutrients and sunlight. They tend to share only with those that are direct family members.

Interestingly, humans could not survive on earth without trees. They produce most of the oxygen that people and animals breathe. There would be no rain without trees, since trees absorb water from the soil and release it through evapotranspiration back into the air in the form of clouds. Forests are earth’s air filters, without which, we’d all die from pollutants. Trees prevent topsoil erosion, break the force of wind and rain, and their decaying leaves enrich the soil for other trees and plants.

In the Bible, trees (etz) were created on the third day, linking them with the Spirit of Counsel (Etzah), the Feast of early Firstfruits, and resurrection. The Biblical imagery of trees and their direct comparison to people is astounding. In fact, the only person that required a second touch from Yeshua for healing exclaimed, I see men like trees, walking.” (Mark 8:24 NKJV) Yeshua actually spit in this blind man’s eyes. I am of the opinion that Yeshua’s saliva “over-healed” this man, if you will, and he saw too well (spiritual), requiring an additional touch (a tamping down) to see as a man.

People have trunks and limbs. They grow roots, have seeds, and produce fruit. Trees and people feel pain and bleed when wounded. Both breathe and sway (move) when the wind (ruach) blows upon them. The growth of trees and people are deeply affected by the type of soil, the volume of water, and the amount of sunlight that they receive. Even the House (Temple) of YHWH is built with both trees and people. (2 Chron. 2, 1 Cor. 6:19) Thus, it is no wonder that the Scriptures abound with analogies, metaphors, similes, and puns that compare mankind to the majestic trees of the forest.

In this post, I hope to illuminate the surprising connections between the month of Shevat, trees (seed to fruit), Messiah, resurrection, water, and Torah. My hope is that you will be inspired to explore Judaism’s traditional New Year for Trees with fresh eyes, like the healed blind man. Tu B’Shevat or Shevat 15th is not mentioned in the Torah. However, it is mentioned in the Mishnah, where it is called the New Year for Trees.[1] Why in the world do trees need a new year and what benefit is this for a follower of Messiah?

First, it is helpful to understand the four different Rosh Hashanim[2] or New Years celebrated in Judaism. They are the following:

  • Nisan 1st is Rosh Hashanah for the months and the festival or feast calendar. (Ex. 12:2) It is also Rosh Hashanah for calculating the years of the reign of the Kings of Israel. No matter when a king was crowned, his first year ended and his second year began on that day. Thus, if a king was anointed in the month of Adar, the following month of Nissan would be the beginning of the second year of his reign.
  • Elul 1st is Rosh Hashanah for the tithing of animals. A farmer is obligated to tithe his livestock, consecrating every tenth animal. The 1st of Elul became the mark to separate the year for tithing cattle.
  • Tishrei 1st is Rosh Hashanah for years, Sabbatical years, and Jubilees. It is also marks the “change,” and judgment of mankind.
  • Shevat 15th or Tu b’Shevat is Rosh Hashanah for trees. The sages designated the fifteenth of Shevat as the boundary between one year and another regarding fruit trees for tithing purposes. All fruits which blossom before Shevat 15 are a product of the rains of the previous year, and are tithed together with the crops of the previous year. Fruits that grow after this date are produce of the new year. Like Elul 1st and the new year for cattle, this demarcation was instituted so one could tithe without confusion. This also helps one determine whether it is a permissible year to consume fruit from a tree (the first three years a tree produces, the fruit may not be eaten[3].

dsc_0687Below, we will briefly examine the following relationships:

  • The Early and Latter Rains (Water and Torah)
  • Pesach and Sukkot (Trees, People, and Torah)
  • Celebrating Tu B’Shevat (Seder: Wine, Seeds/Nuts, & Fruit)

 

Early and Latter Rains

The roots for Tu B’Shevat are found four months prior when Sukkot is celebrated. One of the major themes for the Feast of Tabernacles is water, especially in the form of rain. Prayers are offered up for rains in their season, which is a direct reference to the early rains in Israel.

“It shall come about, if you listen obediently to my commandments which I am commanding you today, to love the LORD your God and to serve Him with all your heart and all your soul, that He will give the rain (matar) for your land in its season, the early (yoreh) and late rain (malqosh), that you may gather in your grain and your new wine and your oil. (Dt. 11:13-14)

Rain in season is essential for trees that will bloom in spring. Thus, the prayers and water ceremonies from Sukkot look forward to the future feast and harvest cycles of the coming festival New Year of Nisan. The timing of the early and latter rains in Israel can be confusing to a westerner. We tend to associate the early part of the year with January or spring, but in Hebraic thought the civil year begins in the fall with the 1st of Tishrei. Thus, when the Bible speaks of the early rains, it is implying the time just after Sukkot in the fall. The latter rains fall near Pesach (Passover).

So rejoice, O sons of Zion, And be glad in the LORD your God; For He has given you the early rain for your vindication. And He has poured down for you the rain, The early and latter rain as before. (Joel 2:23 NASB) 

In Hebrew, the word for “early rain” in the underlined phrase above is moreh (H4175). This is also the word for TEACHER. The actual word for early rain is yoreh as used in Deuteronomy above. However, Joel chose to use one of its cognates, moreh, to ensure that we didn’t miss his connection between rain and teaching. They both share the Hebrew root yarah, meaning to cast or throw (like an arrow). This is also the root word for Torah.

The Torah of Adonai is like an arrow being shot at its target. It delivers precise information from teacher to student. It is also like the gentle rains that fall from heaven to soften up the soil (hearts) to receive His Seed.

“Let my teaching drop as the rain, My speech distill as the dew, As the droplets on the fresh grass And as the showers on the herb. (Dt. 32:2)

The NASB of Joel 2:23 states that YHWH gives the Teacher or early rains for our vindication, but the Hebrew texts actually says it is for our tzedakah or righteousness. Perhaps Young’s Literal Translation of this verse will put this into perspective:

And ye sons of Zion, joy and rejoice, In Jehovah your God, For He hath given to you the Teacher for righteousness, And causeth to come down to you a shower, Sprinkling and gathered—in the beginning. (Joel 2:23 YLT)

Very simply, the early rains are associated with the Teacher of Righteousness and His Word, the Torah. Why? Because the Word is a Seed and seeds require rain or water to sprout and grow and eventually produce fruit that has more of the same seed within it. The early rains (Torah) also soften the hard earth after a long, hot summer, allowing seeds to be planted in favorable soil.

Tu B’Shevat occurs between the early and latter rains. At this point, sap begins to rise through the veins of trees, pricking them to awaken from their winter sleep. This mirrors resurrection, new life, and renewal. Dormant seeds know that the time to spring from their earthly graves is near. Thus, the month of Shevat, the time between Sukkot and Pesach, is pregnant with the energy of new life. In fact, the sages teach that on the 15th of Shevat, a unique wave of Divine energy flows through all of creation as a forerunner to restoration and rebirth (in spring).

dsc_0773It was on the first day of the Hebrew month of Shevat that Moses recited the book of Deuteronomy to the people of Israel. Once again, this links Shevat with receiving the Seed and the Rain, YHWH’s divine instructions:

These are the words which Moses spoke to all Israel across the Jordan in the wilderness, in the Arabah opposite Suph, between Paran and Tophel and Laban and Hazeroth and Dizahab. It is eleven days’ journey from Horeb by the way of Mount Seir to Kadesh-barnea. In the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses spoke to the children of Israel, according to all that the LORD had commanded him to give to them. (Dt. 1”1-3)

Sukkot and Pesach

The Teacher of Righteousness (Messiah) was given to Israel in the season of the early rains, as He was born during Sukkot. He was also the Living Waters and the Lamb needed at Passover in the spring when the latter rains saturate Israel. If this still seems a little backwards to you, consider that time is a cycle or circle in Hebraic thought and that Passover and Sukkot mirror one another.

For example, Pesach and Sukkot are exactly six months apart and like Tu B’Shevat they always occur on the 15th of their respective month. This means that all three dates occur on the full moon when there is the most physical and spiritual light in the darkness. Both Passover and Sukkot commemorate the exodus from Egypt, slavery, and bondage. Moreover, they are the only two festivals that the Torah specifically calls a chag rather than a moed in Leviticus 23. The Hebrew word chag means to make a cycle or circle with your feet.[4]

lulavOne of the most astounding links between Tu B’Shevat and Sukkot are the commanded four species that are waved during the festival.

On the first day you are to take choice fruit of trees, branches of palm trees, boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook, and rejoice before Adonai your God for seven days. (Lev. 23:40 TLV) 

Have you ever wondered why trees are used to commemorate the Israelite’s trek through the desert? We know that their diet consisted of manna from Heaven and water from a Rock. Could it be that the trees (Lulav and Etrog) that are waved at Sukkot represent the people? The Torah asks us a rather odd question in Deuteronomy 20:19, “Is the tree of the field a man?” While the context deals with war and is meant to define which trees can be cut down as tools to besiege a city, the association with men and trees are found elsewhere. Consider these verses:

But I—I am like an olive tree flourishing in the House of God. I trust in God’s lovingkindness forever and ever. (Ps. 52:10 TLV) 

 The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree, He will grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Planted in the house of the LORD, They will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still yield fruit in old age; They shall be full of sap and very green. (Ps. 92:12-14 NASB)

“They will not build and another inhabit, They will not plant and another eat; For as the lifetime of a tree, so will be the days of My people, And My chosen ones will wear out the work of their hands. (Is. 65:22)

Does Sukkot’s mirror, Passover, have any associations with trees? Yes! The people were to take hyssop branches to apply the blood of the lamb upon their doorposts and lintels. (Ex.12:22) Many centuries later, on another Passover, Yeshua was crucified on a tree. When death was nearly upon him, he said, “I thirst.” They took a hyssop branch with a sponge on the end of it and soaked it in vinegar and myrrh. They lifted it up to his mouth, but Yeshua refused it. (Mt. 27:34, Mark 15:23, John 19:29) The hyssop tree is also mentioned along with the Torah, water, people and the blood of the covenant:

For when every commandment had been spoken by Moses to all the people according to the Law, he took the blood of the calves and the goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, “THIS IS THE BLOOD OF THE COVENANT WHICH GOD COMMANDED YOU.” (Heb. 9:19-20)

Trees are intrinsic to both the beginning and the end. In Genesis, we see both the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. In Revelation, Trees of Life line the banks of the River of Life. In Proverbs 3, the Spirit of Wisdom is a Tree of Life to those that cling to her. In Jewish tradition, the large spindles that carry Torah scrolls are called Trees of Life and the many sections of parchment are called its leaves.

The holy seven-branched menorah is also a Tree of Life, and is modeled after the almond tree. Interestingly, almond trees are the first trees to “wake-up” and bloom in Israel. The imagery of light, oil, buds, blossoms, and, eyes all add to the heavenly pattern of the menorah/tree being a symbol of resurrection and the power of the Holy Spirit. Moreover, the Hebrew word for tree, etz, is the same word for counsel, etzah. Thus, we find wise counselors like Abraham and Deborah near trees.

dsc_0701Messiah compares our ability to understand and discern His truth with four different types of soil receiving Seed[5], which are amazingly similar to the four-species waved at Sukkot. According to Yeshua, it is entirely possible to hear and see and not understand. Understanding is another Spirit of G-d, Binah.

Our good works and outward treatment of others is likened to fruit. Since we cannot possibly know the heart of another person, Yeshua reminds us that a tree is known by its fruit, for it reveals the seed from which it sprouted. (Mt. 12:33-37) YHWH even gave specific instructions for fruit trees in the Torah:

‘When you come into the land, and have planted all kinds of trees for food, then you shall count their fruit as uncircumcised. Three years it shall be as uncircumcised to you. It shall not be eaten. But in the fourth year all its fruit shall be holy, a praise to the LORD. And in the fifth year you may eat its fruit, that it may yield to you its increase: I am the LORD your God. (Lev. 19:23-25 NKJV)

Thus, discernment is key. For even if the fruit we see and taste came from good seed, it can still be uncircumcised and unfit for consumption in its sour immaturity. People are inherently connected with seeds, trees, and fruit. Hopefully, the tree we choose to partake of is the Tree of Life and not the one that simply makes one wise with the knowledge of good and evil. We must choose life.

The counterfeit tree is deceitful and its fruit enticing. Nebuchadnezzar had a dream of himself and his kingdom that YHWH equated to a mighty tree. (Dan. 4:10-16) Moreover, the wicked are planted in the earth like tree:

I have seen a wicked, violent man Spreading himself like a luxuriant tree in its native soil. (Ps. 37:35)

Israel is to be like the precious fruit trees that grow from the Seed of the Torah (Messiah) into a flourishing plant that gives sustenance and shade to others. Birds, like the sweet dove of the Holy Spirit, will nest in such branches. (Mt. 13:31-32) Notice the imagery and links between counsel, Torah, water, trees, leaves, and fruit that the psalmist uses in Psalm 1:

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, But they are like chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the wicked will perish. (Psalm 1)

In Romans 11, the Jewish people are called the holy, natural branches of an olive tree. Those of the nations are grafted into this tree and receive the same rich sap from its Root. Paul warns the grafted-in wild branches to not become arrogant against the natural branches, but rather to FEAR. Judah indeed holds a scepter of authority over the House of YHWH.[6] Not coincidently, the Hebrew word for scepter is shevet, the very name of this month (Shevat)![7] It also means a scion (graft), branch, rod, shepherd’s staff, and even a tribe.

In modern times, Jews have been planting trees in the land of Israel to honor righteous Gentiles such as Oscar Schindler and Corrie ten Boom, who helped save Jewish lives during the Holocaust.[8] These trees are planted in Jerusalem at the Holocaust museum in the Garden of the Righteous at Yad Vashem.

As you can see, the connections with people and trees are many. I have only briefly explored this concept. If nothing else, I hope you are inspired to research trees in Scripture during this season of transition. I pray that you bloom in the rich soil in which Adonai has planted you and that you continue to draw life giving nutrients from our Root, Yeshua.

Trees

By Joyce Kilmer

I think that I shall never see 
 A poem lovely as a tree. 
 A tree whose hungry mouth is prest 
 Against the earth's sweet flowing breast; 
 A tree that looks at God all day, 
 And lifts her leafy arms to pray; 
 A tree that may in summer wear 
 A nest of robins in her hair; 
 Upon whose bosom snow has lain; 
 Who intimately lives with rain. 
 Poems are made by fools like me, 
 But only God can make a tree.

 

Celebrating Tu B’Shevat

4-speciesHow can we make Tu B’Shevat meaningful? Consider some of the following activities:

  • Plant a tree! Or start some seeds for the spring.
  • Give the gift of fruit (or money) to the needy. Or volunteer to help feed or nurture them.
  • Study trees, tithing and/or the seven species of Israel in the Bible (Dt. 8:8)
  • Prepare a meal that includes various seeds, leaves, and fruit. Discuss with your family.
  • Take a walk or hike through forested land and thank the Creator for the mighty trees.
  • Recite Psalm 104.[9] Or the Psalms of Accent (120-134).
  • Host a Tu B’Shevat Seder. (Explained below.)

Intriguingly, the rabbis have developed a seder, complete with haggadah, to lead the family through the new year for trees, further linking Tu B’Shevat to Passover. Like the Passover haggadah, there many versions to choose from. A basic outline is as follows:

The service often begins by singing Psalm 133 or the “Hinei Ma Tov”. This song recalls our familial connections to Israel’s family TREE. During the ceremony, each participant will drink 4 cups of wine (or juice), starting with white wine, mixing increasing amounts of red wine with white, ending with a glass of red wine. YHWH is blessed before each cup by reciting Kiddush. These four cups symbolize the cycle of life in four seasons:

  • Pure White —represents the winter and the (seeming) void of life. It also symbolizes Day One of creation when divine light is separated from darkness.
  • Pale Pink (white with a few drops of red) —represents the approach of spring, and the splash of red signifies the emergence of color. It also symbolizes Day Two of creation when the earthly (red) and heavenly (white/fire) waters are separated from one another.
  • Dark Pink (a mixture of white and red) —represents the progression of spring. The ground has warmed to allow the seeds to take root, and the plants have started to grow. It also symbolizes Day Three when the waters (white) are gathered and dry land (red) appears with the life of seeds, trees, and fruit.
  • Pure Red (or with drops of white) —represents the arrival of summer. The trees are in full bloom and filled with fruit, ready for harvest. It also symbolizes Day Four when the sun, moon, and stars were given to govern our clocks and calendars to worship the King in proper seasons (moedim).

In between the cups of wine, participants eat a total of fifteen (or seven) types of nuts and fruits from three categories: fruits/nuts with shells, fruits with pits, and fruits edible inside and out. (Recall the Lulav and Etrog and the Parable of the Sower.) Each type of fruit represents a type of person and is intended to stimulate discussion around the table. The fourth element or fruit is spiritual and is not eaten. To represent the spiritual fourth fruit (Holy Spirit), the fragrance from cloves, cinnamon, rosemary or any other pleasant spice is inhaled by the participants. The entire seder is meant to increase awareness of Tu B’Shevat through nature, prayer, song, story, and dialogue.

The following links may be helpful in creating a meaningful Tu B’Shevat Seder.[10]

My jewish Learning

The Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL)

“My beloved responded and said to me, ‘Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, And come along. ‘For behold, the winter is past, The rain is over and gone. ‘The flowers have already appeared in the land; The time has arrived for pruning the vines, And the voice of the turtledove has been heard in our land. ‘The fig tree has ripened its figs, And the vines in blossom have given forth their fragrance. Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, And come along!'” (SOS 2:10-13 NASB)


[1] Rosh HaShana 2a: Chapter I, Mishnah. “There are four new years. On the first of Nissan is new year for kings and for festivals. On the first of Elul is new year for the tithe of cattle. R. Eleazar and R. Simeon, however, place this on the first of Tishri. On the first of Tishri is new year for years, for release and Jubilee years, for plantation and for [tithe of] vegetables. On the first of Shevat is new year for trees, according to the ruling of Beth Shammai; Beth Hillel, however, place it on the fifteenth of that month.”

[2] Shanah, the Hebrew word for year, is a feminine noun. It is one of the “rule breakers” in Hebrew grammar. In the plural, shanah takes the masculine ‘im ending rather than the usual feminine ‘ot.

[3] Lev. 19:23-25

[4] We use our feet to make cyclical pilgrimages to the mountain of YHWH in Jerusalem, hence they are called “foot-festivals.” Chag is also related to the circle dancing or whirling of worship.

[5] And He *said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How will you understand all the parables? (Mark 4:13 NASB)

[6] Gen 49:10  “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes, And to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.

[7] H7626 שֵׁבֶט  shêveṭ  From an unused root probably meaning to branch off; a scion, that is, (literally) a stick (for punishing, writing, fighting, ruling, walking, etc.) or (figuratively) a clan: –  X correction, dart, rod, sceptre, staff, tribe.

[8] Moody, Valerie. The Feasts of Adonai: Why Christians Should Look at the Biblical Feasts. Lubbock, TX: Gibbora Productions, 2009. Print. p.143

[9] Psalm 104 is traditionally read on Rosh Chodesh (the new moon), but it’s filled with all the rich imagery we just explored.

[10] Linking to these sites does not suggest that I agree with all their content.

Categories: Biblical Symbols, Moedim | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Brotherly Love Part II

For best context, read Part I.

By Kendall Watson

“You shall bring the very first of the first fruits of your soil into the house of the LORD your God. You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.” (Ex. 34:26)

“You shall not eat anything which dies of itself, You may give it to the alien who is in your town so that he may eat it, or you may sell it to a foreigner, for you are a holy people to the LORD your God. You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk. You shall surely tithe all the produce from what you sow, which comes out o father field every year.” (Deut.14:21-22)

 

Boiling a Kid in its Mother’s Milk

goat-mothers-milkThe prohibition of boiling a kid in its mother’s milk is mentioned a total of three times in Torah.[3] Have you ever noticed what it’s associated with? In each case, this command is juxtaposed with the first fruits or tithes. What can we glean (spiritually) from this? Since fruit can mean “the result of or results”, physical children are man’s literal fruit. The (ideal) result of a man and woman coming together as one flesh is reproduction. This is expressed as the “fruit of the womb” or the “fruit of the loins”.

The first year that I homeschooled my two children, we studied Botany. (I love to garden.) In the course, we learned that every flower that produces an encapsulated seed is a fruit. Therefore, most things that we eat are actually a type of fruit, even nuts! Seeds reside inside of fruit. This is true in the natural and the spiritual realm. Messiah emphasized this here:

“Now this is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the Word of God.” (Luke 8:11)

Whether you are a “spiritual parent” mentoring the Body or a literal parent, the picture is the same. Words are seeds planted in individuals who are the fruit of Elohim. The question we must answer is this: “Is the fruit we are producing the result of Messiah’s works or is it the result of our own flesh/works?” There is a huge difference between the two. We are designed to rest in Messiah’s works. Just as He only did the works He saw His Father doing, we are to only do the works we see Him doing.

Perhaps another analogy is helpful. Let’s consider working the ground. In order to get a harvest (or first fruits), we must cultivate the soil, sow seed into the ground, and water and weed the plot to ensure that the plants eventually produce fruit for nourishment. This is very hard work. It takes strength, persistence, and patience to reap a harvest. The seed must be nurtured and cared for in order to mature.

Bringing our first fruits to the House of the LORD demonstrates that the first of our strength and all of our hard work is ultimately HaShems. He is the one that enables one to work the soil. The least we can do to show our gratitude is to give him the first fruits of our toil. When we sow with our own works we fail to realize who “really” did the work, which is Messiah.

This same analogy can be made with people. Are we nurturing the congregation with mother’s milk (Torah) or are we killing our kids (first fruits) by boiling them in the very thing that should bring them to maturity and lead them to life?

Let that sink in for a moment. This idea is not far fetched. Paul said, that the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. Torah without the nurturing Holy Spirit kills. It will boil the “kids” alive or bring death. (2 Cor. 3:6)

Being a Creation Gospel trainer/student, numbers and their themes, such as creation days and feast days, stand out in the text. Therefore, I can’t help to point out the number three here. Three alludes to the feast of first fruits. Ultimately, Messiah IS our first fruits. He is the strength of our labor; everything else is vanity. What happened on day three of creation? Seeds and fruit trees were created! In Hebrew, the word for tree is etz. Etz is the Hebrew root for counsel, etzah. Wise counsel heals and corrects with words that bear the good fruits of justice, mercy, and faithfulness. It doesn’t injure the sheep or tear them to pieces with vicious words (unwise counsel) in order to be right or more correct. Godly counsel gathers and protects the plants and trees that are near bloom. Hopefully, we appreciate i071_th_wolf_sheep_clothesthe difference.

“Beware of false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit”. (Matt.7:15-17)

In Isaiah it says, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil.” The word evil, according to Strong’s, is ra (7451). It can mean “evil” or “adversity”. Let’s take a closer look at the word adversity. Adversity means difficulties. The root of this word is adverse and can mean, “not helping”. I don’t know about all of you, but in my mind, I always thought that evil meant “all those other people out there that aren’t believers“. The Hebraic view has expanded my understanding and challenges my old definition. Are we being helpful? What is the fruit of our lips? Is there any good fruit at all? Maybe evil is closer to home than we thought…

“But Jesus turned and said to Peter, Get behind Me Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me, For you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men”. (Matt 16:23)

Satan is Strong’s 4567. It means adversary, not necessarily some ethereal evil being. An adversary is someone that opposes or accuses others. We can actually be a satan! What?! The next time you are compelled to tell someone how wrong they are about keeping a commandment a certain way or feel led to push your spouse around because they don’t keep Shabbat, choose your words carefully. To be honest, I have been there. I was so angry at one point with someone close to me that I could have smacked him right in the face! (Really, I could have. If you’re honest, you’ve been there as well.) Later, I realized that my anger was rooted in fear. I was afraid that judgment would fall on us because certain commandments weren’t being kept. Do you think my volatile reaction worked (bore good fruit)? NO! It pushed my dear friend further away.

We do this very thing when we think thoughts such as:

We are not sure if so and so should be at our feast“.

We probably shouldn’t go to that assembly because they have some women teachers…

I need to control my spouse, kids, and other people because they just don’t know what I know…

Even though the Father didn’t tell me to give money to that family I’m going to anyway, because I can’t stand to see them suffer.”

The poor church is going to have judgment poured all over them“.

Those Jews are just so legalistic, too bad they don’t see Messiah“.

Fear is the fuel behind every evil and adversity in the world. It causes people to separate, point fingers, control, and manipulate all because YHVH’s love is not perfected in them. This is not the love of Messiah.

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. The one who fears has not been perfected in love.” (1John 4:18)

My dear sister in Messiah once visited an assembly with me. The speaker for that day got up and spoke on the Torah portion. Somehow, his message rabbit trailed into a lecture on what (he thought) was wrong with the Church. After leaving the service, she did not tell me what she thought about “our walk”. Years later, she divulged her thoughts and feelings on the experience. Tears run down my face every time I think about that conversation.

As she cried, she told me that she essentially felt like a whipped puppy with no hope. Tearfully, she asked me, “Kendall, are we not one in Messiah? And if we are, why do I feel like you all get offended at the mention of the word church?” She also stated that she was glad that she went because it showed her that what we were doing was not right. What this precious person witnessed in our midst was NOT the Light of Messiah. Instead of finding a place of refuge to learn and grow she found hate and strife among brothers. Any curiosity that may have been flickered was snuffed out by an attempt to “help” people “see” the “letter” of the commandments. The sad part is that I really don’t believe that the speaker she heard meant to cause destruction or bring words of death, yet that is what she perceived. The end result of this message (fruit) wasn’t nurturing milk for life and growth. Instead, it brought adversity, not help.

“Hatred stirs up discord, but love covers all sins.” (Proverbs 10:12) 

Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matt. 7:12-14)

“Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have wee not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in your name, and done many wonders in Your name? And then I will declare to them, I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness”. (Matt.7:21-23)

I don’t know about you but I want to know the Lord. Even in the contentions among brothers, Adonai still has great mercy and suffers long for His People. Praise our Elohim for His loving kindness! It’s time that we put aside strife among brothers and sisters. Do you need to ask forgiveness from someone? Then what is holding you back? Do you need to forgive? Then let it go. Do you have bone to pick with Judah about their oral laws? Then I would humbly urge you to not judge so quickly. I have seen the Spirit of Messiah in more Rabbis than I have in the Hebrew Roots movement. Are you worried that by letting outsiders into our feasts, you are sinning? Then, look to King Hezekiah for instruction.[3] According to scripture, he knew that the priests were not clean. Yet, he invited the dispersed to Jerusalem with a heart of joy despite the fact that they had been following the ways of Jeroboam (2Chronicles 30:1-20).

The Father is in His fields. He is searching the hearts and minds of His people. He LOVES the children He has created. His judgment is not bad but good. He wants to bring us life, joy, and peace. Has your flesh roused up to think it’s in charge of you and others? Then use your Fathers discipline to humble it and your mothers Torah to instruct it. Are you afraid that if you let go of control that everyone will fall? Listen to the words of Yeshua:

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.” Matt. 10:29

“So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows” (Matt.10:31)

I have found that my family draws closer to Yeshua when I let Him shine through me with my actions verses using my words. Our memory verse in homeschool this week happens to be:

“My beloved brothers, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteousness that God desires.” (James 1:19-20)

May all of you have a wonderful month of Elul! And may the Spirit of Messiah rest on each and every one of you!

 


 

[1] Ex. 23:19; 34:26, Dt. 14:21

[2] Thecreationgospel.com

[3] Rabbi Fohrman also has a great teaching on Hezekiah.

Categories: Moedim, Musings | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

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