Posts Tagged With: passover

The Bread of Affliction

This is the bread of affliction 
that our fathers ate in the land
of Egypt. Whoever is hungry, let 
him come and eat! Whoever is 
needy, let him come and celebrate 
Passover! Now, we are here; next
year may we be in Jerusalem! 
Now, we are slaves; next year may
we be free men! (The HaLachmah Anya - the invitation to eat-
in the Passover Haggadah)

 

This article is based on a quick message at our local new moon gathering. You can listen here: New Moon Meeting Nisan 2019

Adonai calls matzah the bread of affliction. He requires His people to eat it for seven days every year to recall the hasty exodus from Egypt, and His mighty judgments that wrought Israel’s freedom. Messiah compared His body to this bread, and also told His followers to partake and remember. (Mt. 26:26) Why does Adonai want us to celebrate by eating bread that reminds us of affliction? Why is this “bread” at the heart of the Passover Seder and the following seven days of unleavened bread?

Dt. 16:3 (NASB) You shall not eat leavened bread with it; seven days you shall eat with it unleavened bread, the bread of affliction (for you came out of the land of Egypt in haste), so that you may remember all the days of your life the day when you came out of the land of Egypt.

 Affliction is the Hebrew word oni from the root anah:

H6040 (Brown-Driver-Briggs) עני ‛ŏnı̂y: 1) affliction, poverty, misery 1a) affliction 1b) poverty Part of Speech: noun masculine. A Related Word by BDB/Strong’s Number: from H6031

Hebrew Word Study H6031 עָנָה ‛ānāh: A verb indicating to be afflicted, to be oppressed, to be humbled. It refers to being oppressed, in a state of oppression. It means to bow down, to humble oneself, to be humbled (Exo 10:3; Isa 58:10). In some senses of the verb, it means to inflict oppression, to subdue, to humble someone: of Israel’s oppression in Egypt (Gen 15:13; Exo 1:11-12); to deal with persons harshly, to oppress them (Gen 16:6); to humble a woman (Deu 21:14); to afflict, humble oneself (Gen 16:9; Lev 16:29; Psa 132:1). It is used of raping a woman (Gen 34:2). It is possible to humble oneself, to afflict oneself by fasting (Ezr 8:21; Dan 10:12). The psalmist was often disciplined by affliction from God (Psa 119:71); the Suffering Servant of Isaiah was afflicted by the Lord (Isa 53:4).

Oni or Affliction

The first mention of oni is in Genesis. Consider the context of the following account:

Gen. 16:4-11 He (Abram) went in to Hagar, and she conceived; and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her sight.  5  And Sarai said to Abram, “May the wrong done me be upon you. I gave my maid into your arms, but when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her sight. May the LORD judge between you and me.”  6  But Abram said to Sarai, “Behold, your maid is in your power; do to her what is good in your sight.” So Sarai treated her harshly, and she fled from her presence.  7  Now the angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur.  8  He said, “Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where have you come from and where are you going?” And she said, “I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai.”  9  Then the angel of the LORD said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit yourself to her authority.”  10  Moreover, the angel of the LORD said to her, “I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they will be too many to count.”  11  The angel of the LORD said to her further, “Behold, you are with child, And you will bear a son; And you shall call his name Ishmael, Because the LORD has given heed to your affliction.

The second mention is also in Genesis:

Gen. 29:31-32 Now the LORD saw that Leah was unloved, and He opened her womb, but Rachel was barren.  32  Leah conceived and bore a son and named him Reuben, for she said, “Because the LORD has seen my affliction; surely now my husband will love me.”

In each of these cases, two women are struggling with one another. One man (husband) is involved, and he favors one woman or wife. Each woman has an “affliction” or hardship that she suffers in this life. One, though loved by the man, is childless and barren. The other woman is either unloved or a mere handmaiden given to the man as a surrogate. Adonai gives the handmaid and the unloved wife a child. Both boys are named for Adonai recognizing their “affliction.” Ishmael (Shema – el) means “God hears,” and Rueben (Ra’ah Ben) means “see a son.” YHWH hears and sees affliction and gives new life, as a result. 

But the other women, the beloved wives, are not left to wallow in despair and remain childless. They, too, eventually have sons, but not right away. Adonai required them to wait on Him and His timing. Their progeny includes the promised (covenant) son, Isaac (laughter), and Joseph (gather, add, increase) – both types for Messiah.

The third mention involves children as well, but notice the twist:

Gen. 31:42-43 If the God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac, had not been for me, surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed. God has seen my affliction and the toil of my hands, so He rendered judgment last night.  43  Then Laban replied to Jacob, “The daughters are my daughters, and the children are my children, and the flocks are my flocks, and all that you see is mine. But what can I do this day to these my daughters or to their children whom they have borne?

Much like Pharaoh, Laban presumes to “own” all that is Israel’s or Jacob’s, including the new life, which is the children and the flocks. Jacob understood that all his toil and labor and changed wages was an oni, or affliction under the rule of Laban. He also recognized, like Hagar and Leah above, that Adonai saw his affliction and acted on his behalf.

The fourth mention:

Gen. 41:51-52 Joseph named the firstborn Manasseh, “For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.”  52  He named the second Ephraim, “For,” he said, “God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.”

Joseph understood Egypt to be the “land of affliction.” Though at the time of the birth of his sons he enjoyed the lofty rank of second in all the land of Egypt and served under a Pharaoh that loved him, Egypt wasn’t home. Being the right hand of the king paled in comparison to being with his family. And yet, that’s where he suffered trouble. His brothers sold him. He was mocked, disliked, and ultimately betrayed by his own flesh and blood. Egypt, for Joseph, began with servitude and then imprisonment. Adonai saw Joseph’s affliction and made him fruitful in a foreign place.

Do you see a theme emerging? 

The first four mentions of oni (affliction) are connected to children (fruit), usually their physical birth. Affliction is supposed to have a favorable result – a very favorable outcome – such as children, which are NEW LIFE. We call child birth a delivery. Birth pangs, contractions, sweat, and toil, will accompany new life. The deeper, spiritual message is: deliverance will require the same types of affliction.

The Hebrew root of oni is anah (defined above). Take a look at its first mention:

Gen. 15:13 (NKJV) Then He said to Abram: “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years.

When terror and great darkness fell upon Abram during the cutting of the Covenant of Pieces, he had just been told that he would indeed have an heir that would come forth from his own body – despite Sarai’s barrenness. But, his descendants would certainly be strangers in a land that wasn’t theirs for four hundred years. They would serve this people and suffer affliction at their hand. Can you imagine? Hopefully, we can. This is the pattern for the children of Abraham. Affliction, but also:

Gen. 15:14 “But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with many possessions.

And afterward… This is a phrase we need to remember. Afflictions, trials, and tribulations WILL come. (John 16:33) But that’s not where Adonai wants us to focus. We will eat the bread of affliction just as surely as Messiah is the matzah. We eat it, because it is the staff of life, our sustenance. Though it may be bitter to the stomach (flesh), it is sweet on the tongue of the righteous. (Ezek. 3:1-4, Rev. 10:8-11) Consider Jeremiah:

Jer. 15:15-16 You who know, O LORD, Remember me, take notice of me, And take vengeance for me on my persecutors. Do not, in view of Your patience, take me away; Know that for Your sake I endure reproach.  16  Your words were found and I ate them, And Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart; For I have been called by Your name, O LORD God of hosts.

Jeremiah was afflicted by multiple enemies within Israel and without. But he knew that he had to eat the bread, the word of Adonai. And afterward, it “became” a joy and the delight of his heart. All pain, all affliction, is birth pain. It is meant to result in JOY, just like the birth of child. Paul knew this truth very well.

Rom. 5:3-5 And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance;  4  and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;  5  and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

2 Cor. 4:16-18 Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.  17  For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison,  18  while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Eating the matzah, the bread of affliction, isn’t a punishment. It teaches the children of Abraham the Way of New Life, Birth. It teaches what comes “and afterward.” As you go through the Seder each year, the matzah is transformed, just as you are spiritually. It ceases to be the bread of affliction; and instead, becomes the bread of faith, hope, renewal, transformation, and new life.

The third step of the seder is eating Karpas dipped in salt water. It is a reminder of the tears and sweat of bondage. The fourth step is Yachatz, the breaking of the middle matzah. The reminder of affliction and the necessary breaking comes before the fifth step, which is the telling or maggid (testimony). Read that again – consider the process.

The order or seder IS our order; it shows the way. We are afflicted and broken. Messiah was afflicted and broken for us. This is the pattern to reach “and afterward” – our testimony and joy. Look at the fifth step, the telling/testimony again:

After the matzah is broken, the larger piece becomes the hidden Afikomen, and the remaining piece is held up high. (Both picture Messiah) Then, a grand invitation is announced to the whole world – this is the beginning of the telling, the testimony:

This is the bread of affliction that our fathers ate in the land of Egypt. Whoever is hungry, let him come and eat! Whoever is needy, let him come and celebrate Passover! Now, we are here; next year may we be in Jerusalem! Now, we are slaves; next year may we be free men! (The HaLachmah Anya – the invitation to eat- in the Passover Haggadah)

The next time you are afflicted, remember:

Ex. 3:7-8 The LORD said, “I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have given heed to their cry because of their taskmasters, for I am aware of their sufferings.  8  “So I have come down to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Amorite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite.

Adonai sees your affliction. He is aware of your suffering. He has “come down” to deliver you. He will “bring you up” to the Land that flows with milk and honey.

 

Chag Sameach Pesach!

 

More on Passover

Rosh Chodesh Nisan 5779 (2019)

The Four Cups of Passover

Hezekiah’s Passover


More Verses on Affliction

Do you see the theme?

Exo 3:17 (NASB)  “So I said, I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Amorite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite, to a land flowing with milk and honey.”‘

Exo 4:31 (NASB)  So the people believed; and when they heard that the LORD was concerned about the sons of Israel and that He had seen their affliction, then they bowed low and worshiped.

1Sa 1:9-11 (NASB)  Then Hannah rose after eating and drinking in Shiloh. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat by the doorpost of the temple of the LORD.  10  She, greatly distressed, prayed to the LORD and wept bitterly.  11  She made a vow and said, “O LORD of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a son, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and a razor shall never come on his head.”

Job 36:15 (NASB)  “He delivers the afflicted in their affliction, And opens their ear in time of oppression.

Psa 9:11-15 (NASB)  Sing praises to the LORD, who dwells in Zion; Declare among the peoples His deeds.  12  For He who requires blood remembers them; He does not forget the cry of the afflicted.  13  Be gracious to me, O LORD; See my affliction from those who hate me, You who lift me up from the gates of death,  14  That I may tell of all Your praises, That in the gates of the daughter of Zion I may rejoice in Your salvation.  15  The nations have sunk down in the pit which they have made; In the net which they hid, their own foot has been caught.

Psa 22:24 (NASB)  For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; Nor has He hidden His face from him; But when he cried to Him for help, He heard.

Psa 25:16-18 (NASB)  Turn to me and be gracious to me, For I am lonely and afflicted.  17  The troubles of my heart are enlarged; Bring me out of my distresses.  18  Look upon my affliction and my trouble, And forgive all my sins.

Psa 31:7 (NASB)  I will rejoice and be glad in Your lovingkindness, Because You have seen my affliction; You have known the troubles of my soul…

Psa 119:50-51 (NASB)  This is my comfort in my affliction, That Your word has revived me.  51  The arrogant utterly deride me, Yet I do not turn aside from Your law.

Psa 119:92-94 (NASB)  If Your law had not been my delight, Then I would have perished in my affliction.  93  I will never forget Your precepts, For by them You have revived me.  94  I am Yours, save me; For I have sought Your precepts.

Psa 119:153-154 (NASB)  Resh. Look upon my affliction and rescue me, For I do not forget Your law.  154  Plead my cause and redeem me; Revive me according to Your word.

Psa 132:1 (NASB)  A Song of Ascents. Remember, O LORD, on David’s behalf, All his affliction

Isa 48:10 (NASB)  “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.

 

 

 

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

Rosh Chodesh Nisan 5779 (2019)

Blessing the First Month of Aviv

May it be thy will, Adonai our God and God of our forefathers, to renew for us Aviv for good and for blessing. Grant us long life, a life of peace, a life of goodness, a life of blessing, a life in which we earn a livelihood, a life of physical vigor, a life that reflects reverence for God and dread of sin, a life that is free from shame and disgrace, a life of wealth and honor, a life in which a love of Torah and an awe of Heaven shall be within us, a life in which the desires of our heart shall be fulfilled for good. Amen.

He Who performed miracles for our forefathers, and redeemed them from slavery to freedom, may He soon redeem us and gather our dispersed from the four corners of the earth, for all Israel is united in fellowship, and let us say, Amen.

Video

Learn about new birth, faith, speech, and the humble matzah cracker:

Audio Only version failed to record.

Chodesh Nisan Video Notes 2019

 

Mentions in the Video

Taste Your Words

A summary of Dr. Alewine’s Torah teaching mentioned in the video can be found here.

Passover Articles of Interest

The Four Cups of Passover

Hezekiah’s Passover

Moedim

 

Categories: Moedim, new moon | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Passover 2017 (5777)

Chag Sameach Pesach!

This Pesach was the first year that my family has had room to host a Seder in several years. I wanted to make it extra special and was inspired by the clever decorators on Pinterest. I bought a bunch of items from Amazon hoping it would all come together for a beautiful Passover table scape. As it turns out, it was beautiful and fun to create! For those of you seeking ways to make your table special next year, I thought I’d post pics from our Seder and links to the items I bought for this look.

I wanted to recreate the scene of Moses leading the children of Israel through the Reed (red) Sea on dry ground. I had the pleasure of seeing this sea a few weeks ago in Eilat, Israel. The water was truly many shades of blue from aquamarine to deep navy; it was breath-taking. I used small glass beads to mimic this look. I bought an inexpensive blue tablecloth to represent the Yam Suf and a simple roll of burlap as a runner that doubled as “dry ground.” I also wanted to depict the pillar of fire that protected Israel from the Egyptians. I found some micro LED lights on wire strands that I wound around my Sabbath candles. To showcase Pharaoh, I bought a pyramid meant for a fish tank. The little wood people are simple arts and crafts figures meant to be painted, but I loved that they are “faceless” —- they can be anyone. Me. You. Anyone. The Moses and Pharaoh figurines came in a set together from the toy department on Amazon. Below the photographs, I’ve linked to each item on Amazon. The whole table scape is only about $115! Save them in your cart and buy one at a time throughout the year for a beautiful Passover table in 2018.

Next year in Jerusalem!

© K. Gallagher

© K. Gallagher

© K. Gallagher

If you look closely, you can see Pharaoh (and his pyramid) in the background on the far end of the table, behind the pillar of fire (candles).
© K. Gallagher

© K. Gallagher

From this view, Pharaoh (and his pyramid) are on the left with the pillar of fire (candles) blocking him from the children of Israel.
© K. Gallagher

© K. Gallagher

© K. Gallagher

© K. Gallagher

© K. Gallagher

Gulf of Aqaba (Red Sea) March 2017
© K. Gallagher

Amazon Links for Table Setting

Click on description for link to the items. You can have this whole look for about $115! Best of all, most of it can be reused every Pesach.

Moses and Pharaoh

Wooden People

Pyramid

Glass Beads  

Micro LEDs  (I only used 2 strands, so I still have 8 more to use for something else or 4 more Passovers!)

Blue Tablecloth 

Burlap Runner  ( I have lots leftover for future projects.)

Categories: Moedim | 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 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: , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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