Posts Tagged With: pesach

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

Hezekiah’s Passover

The Strength of YHWH

The name Hezekiah comes from the root chazak which means “YHWH strengthens” or “The strength of YHWH”. You are probably familiar with this term if you follow the weekly Torah Portions. At the end of each book of Torah, there is a traditional chant that is recited. It is: be-strengthenedChazak, chazak v’nitchazek”, which means, “Be strong, be strong, and let us be strengthened”. What I hope to answer in this post is how King Hezekiah demonstrates YHWH’s chazak or strength in the Passover.

HezekiahPraying_JS_0015King Hezekiah was one of the few righteous kings to reign in the southern kingdom of Judah. You can read about this fascinating man in 2 Kings 18-20, Isaiah 36-39, and 2 Chronicles 29-32. Isaiah, Hosea, and Micah all prophesied during his reign. Hezekiah tore down the high places, destroyed the bronze serpent, rebelled against the king of Assyria, was miraculously restored to health, cleansed the Temple, and restored the observance of Passover. I’d love to explore all these aspects, but for the sake of space and time, we will focus on his restoration of Pesach (Passover).

Now it came about in the third year of Hoshea, the son of Elah king of Israel, that Hezekiah the son of Ahaz king of Judah became king. He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem; and his mother’s name was Abi the daughter of Zechariah. (2 Kings 18:1-2)

King Hezekiah was the son of wicked King Ahaz. (2 Kings 16) But he is also known by his mother, Abi or Abijah, the daughter of Zechariah. The Word of YHWH classifies people by their paternal lineage; while, maternal lineage is rarely given. Interestingly, several of the kings of Judah and Israel are identified by both their father and mother. King Hezekiah is one of them as you can see in the verses above.

Avi (Abi) means “my father” or “fatherly”. She is called Aviyah (Abijah) in 2 Chronicles 29:1, which has the similar meaning of “YHWH is my Father”. I find this fascinating since Hezekiah’s earthly father was wicked. It’s as if the text (in Hebrew) is hinting at his strong motherly role model, Avi. She was “like a father” to Hezekiah because she pointed him to our true heavenly Father, YHWH.

While Hezekiah was far from perfect (as we all are), he was a restorer and nurturer to all Israel. His invitation to Passover revealed a tender heart not just toward YHWH, but also toward his brothers and sisters. Instead of giving the wayward people a strict or harsh “fatherly” correction or direction, he opened his arms wide in gentleness and mercy, which are “motherly” traits. We can learn a thing or two from King Hezekiah about proper (Spirit-led) Passover observance.

If you’ve ever wondered or even speculated about the proper protocol in keeping YHWH’s Passover, King Hezekiah’s example must not be overlooked. I have witnessed too many people deny others the opportunity to participate in the Seder simply because the person in question fails to meet some perceived standard or expectation. While said “standard” might be based on Scripture, it is more often than not based on a private interpretation, tradition, or the preference of man — rather than on Spirit and Truth.

The following is a rather long quote, but its context sets the stage for Hezekiah’s Passover. I encourage you to read the entire passage.

Now Hezekiah sent to all Israel and Judah and wrote letters also to Ephraim and Manasseh, that they should come to the house of the LORD at Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover to the LORD God of Israel. For the king and his princes and all the assembly in Jerusalem had decided to celebrate the Passover in the second month, since they could not celebrate it at that time, because the priests had not consecrated themselves in sufficient numbers, nor had the people been gathered to Jerusalem. Thus the thing was right in the sight of the king and all the assembly.  

So they established a decree to circulate a proclamation throughout all Israel from Beersheba even to Dan, that they should come to celebrate the Passover to the LORD God of Israel at Jerusalem. For they had not celebrated it in great numbers as it was prescribed. The couriers went throughout all Israel and Judah with the letters from the hand of the king and his princes, even according to the command of the king, saying, “O sons of Israel, return to the LORD God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, that He may return to those of you who escaped and are left from the hand of the kings of Assyria.

“Do not be like your fathers and your brothers, who were unfaithful to the LORD God of their fathers, so that He made them a horror, as you see. “Now do not stiffen your neck like your fathers, but yield to the LORD and enter His sanctuary, which He has consecrated forever, and serve the LORD your God, that His burning anger may turn away from you. “For if you return to the LORD, your brothers and your sons will find compassion before those who led them captive and will return to this land. For the LORD your God is gracious and compassionate, and will not turn His face away from you if you return to Him.” (2 Chron. 30:1-9 NASB)

King Hezekiah tried to unify the people by inviting ALL of the tribes to a Passover service in Jerusalem. In his letter to the people, Hezekiah urges Judah and Israel to return to YHWH and His true sanctuary. He reminds them of the great compassion and grace of YHWH. Oh, that we would have a heart like this for our brothers and sisters! Hezekiah knew that the people were nowhere near where they should be in regards to obedience; and yet, he still invited his brethren to this monumental meal of the covenant. You see, it was more important, a weightier matter if you will, that the people simply COME at his invitation. (Does this remind you of Yeshua?)

king-hezekiah-s-ancient-seal-has-been-found-in-construction-dump-siteSadly, many mocked the king and his messengers.

So the couriers passed from city to city through the country of Ephraim and Manasseh, and as far as Zebulun, but they laughed them to scorn and mocked them. Nevertheless some men of Asher, Manasseh and Zebulun humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem. The hand of God was also on Judah to give them one heart to do what the king and the princes commanded by the word of the LORD. (2 Chron. 30:10-12)

Many from the northern kingdom of Israel could not imagine joining themselves with the southern kingdom of Judah. After all, they had their own places of worship, priesthood, and calendar. Why would they heed to the call of brother Judah? Thankfully, the hearts of some were pricked and they “humbled themselves” and went to Jerusalem. Can this be compared to anything we see happening in our “movement” today? I believe so.

While it’s true that many (in the church) mock those of us that desire to return to the Old Ways, there are also those in OUR midst that scorn the House of Judah and their traditions. Many follow the way of the northern kingdom of Israel and set up on their own houses of worship in (a figurative) Dan and Bethel. They also create their own calendars and make priests from those that they find fit in their own eyes. (1 Kings 12:25-33) The pride that comes from this type of self-righteousness creates huge rifts between them and the Church and also between them and the Jewish people. Thus, you will hear them mocking either or both of these groups to scorn. Instead of mirroring the prideful hearts of Ephraim, Manasseh, and Zebulun in the above verses, let’s HUMBLE ourselves and come to the Passover with Judah.

Now many people were gathered at Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread in the second month, a very large assembly. They arose and removed the altars which were in Jerusalem; they also removed all the incense altars and cast them into the brook Kidron. Then they slaughtered the Passover lambs on the fourteenth of the second month. And the priests and Levites were ashamed of themselves, and consecrated themselves and brought burnt offerings to the house of the LORD. They stood at their stations after their custom, according to the law of Moses the man of God; the priests sprinkled the blood which they received from the hand of the Levites. (2 Chron. 30:13-16)

Those that heeded the call of Hezekiah removed all of the false altars (high places –especially in their minds/hearts) from Jerusalem before sacrificing the Pesach lambs. They did this in the second month because the people had not gathered in the first month, nor had a sufficient amount of priests consecrated themselves to serve in the House of YHWH. The following verses explain the Torah regulations about observing Passover in the second month (Passover is so imperative that there is a “second chance” to celebrate it):

“Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘If any one of you or of your generations becomes unclean because of a dead person, or is on a distant journey, he may, however, observe the Passover to the LORD. ‘In the second month on the fourteenth day at twilight, they shall observe it; they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. ‘They shall leave none of it until morning, nor break a bone of it; according to all the statute of the Passover they shall observe it. ‘But the man who is clean and is not on a journey, and yet neglects to observe the Passover, that person shall then be cut off from his people, for he did not present the offering of the LORD at its appointed time. That man will bear his sin. (Num. 9:10-13)

Adding to Torah? Compromisers?

Notice that neither the people nor the priests actually met the requirements for the second Passover. Those from the northern tribes had not been on a long “journey” and many obviously were unclean on account of death (dead bodies).

For there were many in the assembly who had not consecrated themselves; therefore, the Levites were over the slaughter of the Passover lambs for everyone who was unclean, in order to consecrate them to the LORD. For a multitude of the people, even many from Ephraim and Manasseh, Issachar and Zebulun, had not purified themselves, yet they ate the Passover otherwise than prescribed.

For Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, “May the good LORD pardon everyone who prepares his heart to seek God, the LORD God of his fathers, though not according to the purification rules of the sanctuary.” (2 Chron. 30:17-19)

King HezekiahWhat was the remedy for those that “ate the Passover otherwise than (Torah) prescribed”? Our tenderhearted King PRAYED for the people. You aren’t going to find a precedent for this in the Torah, and yet Hezekiah did so anyway. He was far more concerned that the people return to YHWH and keep the covenantal Passover meal than he was for strict observance. I don’t believe that Hezekiah was snubbing his nose at YHWH’s Word, nor do I believe that he was a compromiser. I also don’t believe that his actions were “adding to” the Torah. Yet sadly, many in our midst today would have accused Hezekiah of all of these things and more. What we should concern ourselves with is YHWH’s response:

So the LORD heard Hezekiah and healed the people. (2 Chron. 30:20)

Instead of acting by the strictest judgment of His Torah, YHWH extended mercy to the people. In other words, according to the Torah, the people deserved to be “cut off” from Israel and to bear the full weight of their sins. The wages of sin is death; and thus, the holy Torah would judge them as guilty. But YHWH heard Hezekiah’s heartfelt prayer and HEALED the people. He CHOSE to exercise mercy and compassion toward the people even while they reeked of death. This is the SPIRIT of the Torah.

In light of the Torah commandments of Passover and this very real example of a Passover restoration, how do you suppose that YHWH expects us to deal with those that desire to eat of the Passover “other than what is prescribed”? Do we judge them based on the strictest sense of the Law? Or do we extend mercy and compassion unto them and pray for healing and complete restoration? While it is clear what the Torah says, we also have a very real example of what YHWH Himself did for Hezekiah. I believe cases like this are written so that our sword of Spirit and Truth remains balanced. It is vital that we understand righteous judgment AND divine mercy. For our Elohim is both!

Those that have been forgiven much, love much. (Luke 7:36-50) Can you even imagine the immense joy that was experienced at Hezekiah’s Passover? Beloved, we CAN have this same zeal!

The sons of Israel present in Jerusalem celebrated the Feast of Unleavened Bread for seven days with great joy, and the Levites and the priests praised the LORD day after day with loud instruments to the LORD. Then Hezekiah spoke encouragingly to all the Levites who showed good insight in the things of the LORD. So they ate for the appointed seven days, sacrificing peace offerings and giving thanks to the LORD God of their fathers. (2 Chron. 30:21-22)

Adding Even More to the Torah?

The people were so overwhelmed with the joy that comes from forgiveness and unity that they decided to celebrate the feast of Passover (Unleavened Bread) for an additional seven days.

Then the whole assembly decided to celebrate the feast another seven days, so they celebrated the seven days with joy. For Hezekiah king of Judah had contributed to the assembly 1,000 bulls and 7,000 sheep, and the princes had contributed to the assembly 1,000 bulls and 10,000 sheep; and a large number of priests consecrated themselves. All the assembly of Judah rejoiced, with the priests and the Levites and all the assembly that came from Israel, both the sojourners who came from the land of Israel and those living in Judah. (2 Chron. 30:23-25)

It seems as though this story once again challenges us to find the Spirit of the Torah rather than the Letter. Both matter a great deal. The decision of the assembly to add an additional seven days to the feast of Unleavened Bread wasn’t frowned upon by the Almighty. Instead, we are told that their voices were heard in Heaven.

So there was great joy in Jerusalem, because there was nothing like this in Jerusalem since the days of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel. Then the Levitical priests arose and blessed the people; and their voice was heard and their prayer came to His holy dwelling place, to heaven. (2 Chron. 30:26-27)

Perfect Before Pesach?

As you can see, the priests and the people did not come to the Passover table perfect. They had sin that had to be dealt with and many other areas where improvement was needed. But, if we think back to the original Exodus, this shouldn’t surprise us. The children of Israel were in the same boat before YHWH brought them out of Egypt. In fact, we could say the same thing about us. If we lose sight of what the Pesach meal really represents and begin demanding that others be “perfect” in order to celebrate this memorial, we become the ones that are “adding to the Torah”. Yet, that’s what I see happening all over the place.

asherah-poleWhile the false altars were removed from Jerusalem before Hezekiah’s Passover, the rest of the cities in the kingdom (where most of them lived) were still inundated with idols. And even still, YHWH received the people. It wasn’t until AFTER they had celebrated Unleavened Bread for two weeks that the rest of the kingdom was cleaned up. (2 Chron. 31:1)

Passover is the gateway, the bloody door of the covenant. It is the beginning of “our beginning” with YHWH through Yeshua. We are immature at our first Passover. We still carry baggage and junk and possibly a lot of leavened crumbs that we must LEARN to identify and remove. This is a process and a practice. We don’t say the old adage “practice makes perfect” for no reason. We say it because it is TRUE.

Can you imagine demanding that a very beginner piano student play a perfect concerto? That’s ridiculous, yes? Well, so is demanding others to meet an expectation that they have no training for. There must be a starting point. On our Abba’s calendar, that place is Passover. He wants all the whosoever’s at His Table — even the immature little children (spiritual babies included).

This requires a great deal of humility and even more mercy and compassion from those that are older (spiritually). The stricter things can be learned as they mature in the Torah. For now, go and make disciples of all nations. Be patient with those that want to sit at the feet of the Master. Give them a safe place to study, grow, and wrestle with the Word. If they fall down as they are learning to walk (Torah), don’t write them off, pick them up and offer a helping hand!

This is real godly “chazak” or strength. This is where Hezekiah excelled in the Spirit of Adonai. He strengthened his brothers and their unity. He reverted Jerusalem back into a safe womb where life could grow and mature.

The entire purpose of the Passover is to TEACH the CHILDREN, so go and do so!

 

Chag Sameach Passover!

Find more on Pesach here.


 

Categories: Moedim | Tags: , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

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