Posts Tagged With: fruit

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 field.

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 festival or feast day 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. But all ten animals counted must be born in the same year. The 1st of Elul became the mark to separate the year for tithing cattle.
  • Tishrei 1st is Rosh Hashanah for years, for Sabbatical years and Jubilees, and for the judgment of mankind. It is also Rosh Hashanah for the calculation of orlah (the first three years of a fruit tree when its produce may not be eaten[3]), and for the tithes separated from grains and vegetables.
  • 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 fruit. 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.

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, & 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 to 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 —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: , , , , , , , , , , | 5 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

Brotherly Love Part I

The next couple of articles will be a two part series by guest poster Kendall Watson. Kendall is not only my sister in Messiah, she is also my sister in the flesh. 🙂 Her heart in this vital message echoes my own. I pray it blesses you during this season of Elul. May we never forget the Spirit of the Commandments, which is Love. – K. Gallagher 

 

img_0360By Kendall Watson

During the month of Elul, it is said that the “Father is in His fields”. He is searching His people and seeking intimacy with His Bride. He longs to be with His children. If only His children would draw close enough to “shema” His voice. That is, if only they would listen and obey. What is His message, you ask? I believe the Father is telling His children to love not only Him but love one another as well. Love is a concrete thought. In Hebrew, love is not just an emotion but also something you do. In other words, someone can say that they love you all day long, but if their actions are not behind those four letters, then the word love means nothing.

In a healthy family, it is natural to love one’s parents. However, the love for one’s siblings is not only different, it is also more difficult. They are the competition for the parent’s affections. Consider what parent’s do for children. When they fall down, parents pick them up. When they cry, a parent’s loving embrace provides comfort and safety. Parents root and cheer for their progeny’s efforts at sporting events. They celebrate every accomplishment of the child as if they were the ones receiving the award. And if there is only one cookie left in the cookie jar, guess who gets to enjoy every bite? Not the adult, of course. Mothers and fathers sacrifice large and small everyday for their children…because they LOVE.

Children don’t generally reciprocate this type of love to their parents. While they certainly love, that love is expressed differently. Parents love, nurture, and discipline with wisdom. In a way, mothers and fathers pour out their very lives to give their children the best opportunities in this world. Over time (in a ideal home setting), the child intuitively learns this truth. This is why the child expects the last cookie, and why the parent usually gives it to them. Even in the most brutal homes, there is evidence from psychiatric studies that the children long for mom’s and dad’s love and approval. In our example, the cookie is simply the child seeking these things.

On the other hand, brothers and sisters don’t love one another quite as sacrificially, do they? Consider your childhood (if you had siblings.) Brothers and sisters aren’t usually very nice or giving. When we fell down, they were usually the one who had pushed us. When we cried, it was usually a brother that had hit us. Over and over again, jealousy takes over siblings in a rivalry. This enmity has its own mantra, “Mom and dad loves me more than you“.

Siblings incite one another with their words. “Oh, you won an award? Well, guess what? Mine is bigger!” Sister ate the last cookie in the cookie jar with a smirk on her face. She smugly thinks to herself, “I’m faster, smarter, and well, just plain better than you kid“.

img_0366Needless to say, contentions among siblings are too numerous to count. Praise the Father for the children that grow out of the immature bickering, and learn to love one another unselfishly. There is much to learn from these family dynamics. Sadly, many never overcome the battles of youth. Instead, they choose (or are forced) to not communicate with family members due to past hurts, jealousy, or other issues.

What spiritual significance can we learn from these life lessons? Loving YHWH is easier than loving our very imperfect and often immature siblings. I submit to you that Moses, Yeshua, and the disciples speak of these very things in the Word. When Yeshua was asked what the greatest commandment was, He answered:

You shall love the Lord you God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it; You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt.22:37-40, Mark 12:29-31,Luke 10:27-28)

This teaching was not new. Those with trained ears heard the words of Moses coming from Messiah’s lips.

” Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” (Deut. 6:4-6)

“You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord”. (Lev. 19:18)

To love the Lord, is to keep His commandments. For it says,

If you love Me, keep My commandments” John 14:15

He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me, And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and reveal Myself to him”. (John 14::21) 

How many times have you quoted these scriptures to a challenger of your beliefs? Maybe you’ve even quoted them to someone that is curious about why you don’t eat pork. Is it wrong to quote scripture? As Paul would say, “Certainly not!” What I am submitting to you is to consider the Spirit behind the commandments. The question I was confronted with not so long ago was, “Who in me, is keeping the commandments?” And the second internal question was, “Is this pleasing to my Elohim?” I hate to admit that I did not get an “A” on this test. My response to the first question was: Me. My answer to the second question was: Yes! Of course! I honestly couldn’t see anything wrong with my answers. I was doing what I was supposed to be doing, at least by the letter.

Torah portion “Ekev” caused me to reevaluate my answers to this “test”. Ekev means heel. The heel is the lowest part of the body. It can be likened to the “nefesh” or “flesh”. For example, Jacob grasped the “heel” of Esau, who is the epitome of the beast or flesh. Jacob overcame the “heel” or flesh and was later named Israel. Hence, in portion Ekev, this is what stood out to me:

“Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth. ‘you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm His covenant that He swore to your fathers, as it is this day”. (Deut. 8:17-19) 

“Do not say in your heart, after the Lord your God has thrust them out before you, ‘It is because of my righteousness that the Lord has brought me in to possess this land, whereas it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is driving them out before you” (Deut. 9:4) 

“Know, therefore, that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people” (Deut. 9:6) 

The Father has delivered us from bondage, brought us to the wilderness to test us and show us love, and now He is giving us land flowing with milk and honey with houses that are already built and vineyards that have already been planted. But, be careful! Don’t forget who delivered you and brought you into this good land. The temptation is to think that it’s all about ME. To put it another way, one may think that they have this “keeping the commandments” thing all figured out.

It’s a deep, slippery pit when we haughtily begin to think, I’m the one following the commandments, so I have to be doing something right.” Or: “Maybe everyone should keep Shabbat and keep kosher just like me. If only everyone could see what I see. Sigh… Then we all could get along. Until then, I’ll separate myself from all these sinners.”

Yikes! Thoughts like this are very dangerous. The Father is the reason ANY of us keep the commandments. It is YHVH that gives us the strength and power to do anything. It is by His mercy that we even see one of these precious “Words” or “Utterances”. When we act out the commandments in our own strength, we are nothing more than a dry, parched branch needing to be burned. Yeshua reiterated this here:

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who remains in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.” (John 15:5-6)

Fruit in the Greek concordance is karpos (2590), and can mean “the result of” or “result”. When we read the scripture from this point of view, what Yeshua actually states is, “He who remains in Me, and I in him bears much results. If you do not remain in Me, you are a branch that is withered and needs to be burned”. In the Greek, burned is kayo. [1] While this word is often translated as “burned”, it also means “light”,[2] which is reminiscent of these verses:

“Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your vision is clear, your whole body also is full of light. But when it is poor, your body is full of darkness. Be careful, then, that the light within you is not darkness”. Luke11:34-35 

“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20) 

We as a people, for the most part, focus on the literal application of the above scriptures. We tend to associate these things with those we deem on the “outside”. Few in Messianic circles argue that we each need Yeshua’s atoning sacrifice to inherit Life, which inspires obedience to the commandments. But our zeal often overshadows a vital component to our walk. The temptation is to forget the works of Messiah and focus on our own. When the emphasis shifts from Messiah’s loving salvation to our own works, the resurrection Spirit is left out and all that remains is a bag of fleshy letters. This “other” spirit has the tendency to put burdens on others in the Body because they begin to believe that they “know what’s best”. Unknowingly, the person working in the flesh is taking the life giving Torah and twisting it to bring death to the Body of Messiah.

Could this be one of the spiritual applications of “boiling a young goat in its mothers milk?”

“You shall bring the choice first fruits of your soil into the house of the LORD your God. You are not to boil a young goat in the milk of its mother.” (Ex. 23:19) 

In Part II, we will continue with the notion that boiling a kid in its mother’s milk is rooted in first fruits that are not of Messiah, loving our brother, or the weightier matters of the Torah.


[1] Strong’s G2545

[2] It’s translated as “light” in Matthew: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. (Mt. 5:14-15)

Categories: Moedim, Musings | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Fruit Loops

photo (1)When describing her experience with the Messi-antics movement at a recent women’s retreat, my new friend, Deborah F., used the most clever analogy to describe the people she encountered. She called some fruit loops, some fruit punch, and others fruit snacks. Therefore, I must give her credit for inspiring me with this post. Thanks Deborah, I’m very grateful that the Father saw fit for our journeys to cross paths and I look forward to a great friendship.
 

 Fruit of the Spirit

There is no mystery that the followers of the God of Israel and His Messiah are supposed to produce godly fruit. After all, that is how we are told we will know one another… by their fruit. But there is some controversy as to what that fruit will look like. Regardless of your view, if you follow the God of Israel, we can all agree to this:

Gal. 5:22-26 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, (23)  gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  (24)  Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  (25)  If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.  (26)  Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.

Fruit is definitely associated with our deeds or works in Scripture. And what we do (and don’t do) matters greatly to the King of the Universe. But this post isn’t about what commandments we are to keep or how much or how little Torah we are to observe. It is about the fruit of the Spirit.

If we belong to the Messiah, there should be nine obvious qualities that perfume everything we do. If these qualities are NOT present, then we are missing the mark and are in need of repentance. Thus, as people of the “Book”, we should be great “fruit inspectors”. We should well know the difference between good and bad fruit, works, or deeds. But sadly, there is an awful lot of stuff out there that poses as fruit that in reality is nothing more than human flesh.

Unripe Fruit

Ironically, I have noticed that many of those that are returning to the Torah of Messiah struggle with producing real fruit.  It’s as if they have forgotten the weightier matters of Torah as they learn to keep Shabbat, festivals, and kashrut (dietary laws).

My personal experience and opinion on this phenomenon is that what occurs is an “over” purge. Like throwing the baby out with the bath water. Seeking to rid your life of error requires you to revert back to an immature state. It’s one in which you must separate and discern the basics all over again — except this time, the arrangement and configuration is different than what you first believed.

The paradigm of living outside of the Torah most your life produces different works or deeds (and beliefs) than one that has been nurtured from birth inside of a Torah lifestyle. Thus, coming into the knowledge of a whole new worldview requires you to search out every nook and cranny of your walk and reassess its relevance and godliness. It’s difficult. This is not something you want to ever experience again. You want to know that you know what you know! And why. And where. And when. And how. Many people that have experienced such a profound paradigm shift have told me, “It’s like being born again—- again!”  And I must agree with that statement. The experience is very much like this for non-Jewish people who embrace the fullness of God’s Word AND keep the testimony of Yeshua.

This process requires a period of separation and examination. Things you thought you knew have been turned on their head and others have been revealed to be flat out lies! Thus, there is also a great level of caution and dare I say, doubt, when it comes to receiving new information OR embracing old information. Everything is weighed in the balance and sometimes that scale is unwittingly unjust.

If you happen to meet someone in this process (for some it can take years), their behavior may have been perplexing to you. You see they are keeping “truth”, but the fruit is inedible. I have come to realize that these are all maturity issues. Hopefully, they will move from a place of separation to a place of gathering. For separation that doesn’t lead to gathering of like kind and unity, is nothing more than death.[1] You might know about the Sabbath, feast days, dietary laws, and even the Hebrew language, but if you cannot produce the fruit of the Spirit, then you are a baby. Your fruit isn’t ripe and should not be eaten by ANYBODY. Partaking of your fruit will only produce stomachaches and diarrhea. In other words, your antics make people sick.

Fruit Punch

The simple truth is that all the Torah observance in the world doesn’t matter and profits you nothing if you do not FIRST walk in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Those that try to force others to accept their idea of obedience or observance are like a rebellious toddler trying to get her way. She thinks she knows what’s going on, but really she knows nothing.

They use their Bibles to PUNCH others in the face. They especially like to beat up on those still in the church or denominational Christianity. Any fruit they may possess is not eaten but used as a weapon of war. My Mom calls them watermelon throwers. A watermelon can be refreshing and healthy if eaten one bite at a time, but if thrown at the head, it can cause considerable damage, even death. Be careful where you think you stand, lest you fall.[2]

When will we stop beating people up with our truth? Fruit punch has very little real fruit juice in it. Most of it is chemicals, colored dyes, and corn syrup. It’s not healthy and gives the Body no sustenance. The same is true for those that try to bully the Body into doing things “their way”. If it’s all you consume, it will “kill” you. (This is why the letter of the Law must be balanced with the Spirit. The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.)

Fruit Snacks

I think most people will find themselves in this category at some point or another. Fruit snacks also contain some real fruit juice but with the addition of dyes and artificial flavorings. Sometimes real fruit gushes out and other times it’s just a bunch of junk.

I freely admit I’ve been nothing more than a fruit snack at certain times in my life. However, I’m better than I used to be and with Abba’s continued mercy and grace, I grow every day. A fruit snack person is very similar to the unripe fruit people in that they lack maturity. They differ in that they also have a weaker foundation in the Word of Truth.

Fruit snacks aren’t as annoying as some of the other fruit people, but written right on their labelling it clearly says, “Not intended to replace fruit in the diet.[3] We need more vitamins and nutrients than these people can offer us. We might find them cute and entertaining in the short term, but they just can’t go the distance. They will run out of gas because they are not filled with the Ruach (Spirit). When their gas goes, so does any semblance of fruit.

Often, they just won’t let the Spirit of Adonai have full reign of their lives. Unfortunately, this means there is still a lot of junk that needs to be worked out of them. (Flesh) The trials of life are meant to goad us unto maturity. Fruit snacks usually resist this process. May they learn to produce fruit in keeping with repentance[4] and leave all the sugar, fluff, and “fakeness” behind.

Fruit Loops

I think this is by far the most bizarre of the bunch. I think of a fruit loop as someone that’s way out in left field. These guys believe they have discovered or cornered the truth. (They’ve found the secret “loopholes” everyone else has missed!) As such, they are usually in the corner of the field yelling to everyone else that home base is really in left field. For example, they may claim that Sabbath is actually on a different day of the week than Saturday. Some people may call them LUNAtics, but I think the term fruit loop is more fitting.

Often, they are gung ho on observing some “new” thing (secret revelation). Or, perhaps they believe they have figured out the Creator’s “correct” calendar— and all others are false. They forget that Judah not only holds the scepter and authority on these issues, but they childishly blow off centuries of wisdom, care, and diligence that only the Jewish people have maintained for the rest of us.

Sadly, fruit loops do not contain ANY real fruit. They might look and taste good, but again there is no real sustenance. You can eat and eat them and still starve to death. Fruit loops sometimes engage in fruit punch tactics when dealing with the Body. But instead of throwing a watermelon (real fruit) they want you to eat a sugary substitute (falsehood). Beware!

Fresh Fruit

There is nothing more succulent to our taste buds than fresh, ripe fruit. (Non GMO and organic, of course!) Consider for a moment not only how sweet, juicy, and tasty real fresh fruit is, but what it does for our bodies. Real fruit gives LIFE to our being. It nourishes, sustains, and sates hungry souls.

fruitNow let’s think back to the fruit of the Spirit. Truth (the Word) can only nourish, sustain, and satisfy a hungry soul if it is given in the form of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. If these qualities are not present, the fruit tastes bitter, it has added ingredients, and it cannot produce LIFE.

This is such a simple concept. Why do we have so much trouble “getting” this? Why do we walk over to the dessert table and CHOOSE junk or the likeness of fruit instead of the real thing? I think it is because we have been fed the artificial stuff for so long that we no longer can tell the difference; or worse, we actually prefer it.

By the way, where we seem to lack the most discernment is when examining our OWN fruit. We might be producing fruit punch, fruit snacks, and fruit loops and really believe it is proper. But, it’s very simple. Does my walk, life, and mouth produce love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? Remember, this isn’t a box of cereal; you don’t get to choose which qualities you will produce. The fruit is singular. It’s ONE fruit with nine beautiful qualities. If something is lacking, it’s not the real thing. (Think GMO)

Answer for yourself:

  • Am I loving? Do I grant others mercy and forgiveness when they hurt me?
  • Do I have joy? Or do I wallow in pity, regret, and anger?
  • Do I have peace? Or am I a discontent murmurer and complainer?
  • Am I patient? Or do expect to have everything go “my way”?
  • Am I kind (even to those who are unkind to me)?
  • Do I act with goodness (to benefit others and not myself)?
  • Am I faithful to YHWH and others? Can others count on me or am I unstable?
  • Am I gentle and respectful with others? Or am I judgmental and hyper critical?
  • Do I have self-control? Or am I ruled by my emotions?

If our walk fails to produce even one of these qualities, then there is need for REPENTANCE. I don’t know about you, but I have some more work to do…


[1] These ideas were first impressed upon me while learning the Creation Gospel by Dr. Hollisa Alewine.

[2] 1 Cor. 10:12

[3] http://www.generalmills.com/Home/Brands/Snacks/Fruit%20Snacks/Brand%20Product%20List%20Page.aspx#{FC107858-D028-4A34-AF2B-BB1714F13E12}

[4] Mat. 3:8-10  “Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance;  (9)  and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham.  (10)  “The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

Categories: Messianic Issues, Musings | Tags: , , , , | 7 Comments

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