Friday, January 29, 2016

Sukkah as Divine Body of the Moshiach: Latent Incarnational Teachings in Rabbinic Judaism

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God....And the Word was made His sukkah among us, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth," John 1:1,14

The Apostolic Writings record in the Besorah of Yochanan (Gospel of John) that G-d made His sukkah (tent) among mankind by becoming flesh--by being born as a little Jewish baby on the festival of Sukkot in a town called Bet Lechem.

Cue the scoffs from many Orthodox Jews: Our Rabbis tell us that G-d would never dwell with mankind in a sukkah of flesh!

But what do the Rabbis really say?

First, it should be noted that the Rabbis say that the Word of G-d (i.e. the Torah) corresponds to the form of a man:
" 'The end of the matter, when all is said and done:  fear God and guard His commandments, for this is all of a person.'  'The end of the matter' is Adam, who was created last.  And the first in thought is the last in deed.  He was created at the end so that he could include everything in his image and likeness.  He was created with 613--248 limbs and 365 sinews, corresponding to the positive and negative commandments.  'Fear God' refers to the negative commandments 'and guard His commandments' refers to the positive commandments.  Thus it is written, 'for this is all of a person.'  For a person is constructed from limbs and sinews," Isaiah Horowitz, The Generations of Adam, pg. 216
Next, the Rabbis say that the sukkah represents the Divine Glory of HaShem:
" 'Rabbi Eliezer says--they were actual booths; R. Aqiba says--[they were Clouds of Divine Glory]," (Sifra Emor, Ch. 17)
This argument considers two positions:  one claiming that sukkot are meant to replicate and therefore symbolize the booths in which the Israelites dwelled in the desert following the exodus, and the other asserting that the ritual sukkot....symbolize the 'Clouds of Glory'--the Clouds of Divine Glory that protected the Israelites in the desert during the daytime hours (while a pillar of fire did so at night; see Ex. 13:21-2)....
    The tannaitic midrash, the Mekhilta d'Rabbi Ishmael...preserves a different version of the opinion attributed to R. Aqiba above.  Commenting on the biblical report that 'they travelled from Sukkot' (Ex. 13:30, where 'Sukkot' is clearly the name of a place) the midrash says, 'R. Aqiba says:  'Sukkot' is none other than the Clouds of Divine Glory.'  This association is partly suggested by the fact that the very next verse in the torah describes the children of Israel as travelling during the day with protection of the clouds.  But the simple meaning of 'Sukkot' leaves no room for doubt; it is unambiguously a place (the version of the midrash at pisha 14 records such an opinion explicitly).  So what we have here is an early tradition insisting that 'sukkot' should be seen as the Divine Clouds--protectors of redeemed Israel both in the past and, as the midrash goes on to teach, in the future.  This insistence shows the power of this interpretive tradition at the earliest level of rabbinic interpretation.  In fact, after having reviewed the traditions in detail, Rubenstein concludes that this interpretive tradition...is 'the dominant or at least majority opinion' in the rabbinic setting (Rubenstein, 1995, p. 243, n. 15)," David Kraemer, Rabbinic Judaism:  Space and Place
Next, consider that the Rabbis say that the "sukkah" in Amos 9 ("the fallen sukkah of David") refers to the Moshiach:
Nachman said to R. Isaac: “Have you heard when Bar Nafli will come?” “Who is Bar Nafli?” he asked. “Messiah”, he answered. “Do you call the Messiah Bar Nafli?” “Yes”, he responded, as it is written, “on that day I will raise up the fallen Sukkah of David.” (Sanhedrin 96b-97a)
So the sukkah represents both Moshiach and G-d Himself.  But this is not the first time that Moshiach has been identified with G-d in Rabbinic writings.  Observe:
"We conclude this section with a quotation from Genesis Rabbah 2.4.  Commenting on Gen. 1:2, R. Simeon b. Lakish is credited with saying, 'And the Spirit of God hovered':  this alludes to the 'spirit of the Messiah', as you read, 'And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him' (Isa. 11:2)...." McDonough, Christ as Creator
Here we see that the Rabbis equated the "Spirit of G-d" with the "Spirit of Moshiach."  

So it really shouldn't come as a shock to Orthodox Jews that the Apostolic Writings say that the Word of G-d made His sukkah with mankind, revealing the Divine Glory in the form of Yeshua, the Davidic Moshiach.  The Rabbis have already said that the "sukkah" represents the Divine Glory and that the "sukkah" represents the Moshiach ben David!  :  )

May G-d reveal His Glory to all Israel in our day!  May G-d bless the city of David and shelter it with His Peace!

Shalom,

Peter

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Hebrew Tip for Men

For us non-Jewish Messianics, it's sometimes difficult to remember all the rules of Hebrew.  For example, with the shin, if the dot is on the left side then the shin is pronounced with an "s" sound;  if the dot is on the right side then the shin is pronounced with a "sh" sound.  How can we as men remember the rule that a dot on the right means "sh"?  Use the following sentence as a memory device:

"She is always right."



Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Does G-d Really Want a Blood Sacrifice?

Ever since the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E., there has been an attempt in Rabbinic Judaism to downplay the importance of blood sacrifice.  It has been argued that sacrifice can be replaced with "comparable" means of atonement:
"It once happened that Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai was leaving Jerusalem and Rabbi Yehoshua was walking behind him, when the latter saw the Temple in ruins.  Said Rabbi Yehoshua:  'Woe to us that this is in ruins, the place where the sins of Israel were expiated!' He [Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai] replied to him:  'My son, be not grieved, we have a comparable means of atonement.  Which is this?  It is [acts of] loving kindness, as it is said, 'For I desire mercy, and not sacrifice, [Hosea 6:6]'" Midrash Avot D’rabbi Natan 4:5
The following verse is invoked to assert that G-d doesn't even want burnt offerings:
"For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings," Hosea 6:6
But were the Prophets really trying to overturn Torah?  Were they trying to turn people away from establishing the Temple with its system of blood sacrifices?  Heschel has the following insights:
"Sacrifice, the strength and the measure of piety, acts wherein God and man meet--all this should be called obnoxious?
     Of course, the prophets did not condemn the practice of sacrifice in itself; otherwise, we should have to conclude that Isaiah intended to discourage the practice of prayer (Isa. 1:14-15).  They did, however, claim that deeds of injustice vitiate both sacrifice and prayer.  Men may not drown out the cries of the oppressed with the noise of hymns, nor buy off the Lord with increased offerings.  The prophets disparaged the cult when it became a substitute for righteousness.  It is precisely the implied recognition of the value of the cult that lends force to their insistence that there is something far more precious than sacrifice..."  Heschel, The Prophets
Now the deepest mystery regarding blood sacrifice is that the blood represents the bond of kinship.  So all of these blood sacrifices serve as a metaphor for a bond of kinship.  But kinship with whom?  In Genesis we have a clue:
"Vayomer Avraham Elohim yir'eh-lo haseh le'olah beni vayelchu shneyhem yachdav," Genesis 22:8
"And Abraham said: 'God will  a provide Himself the lamb for a burnt-offering, my son.' So they went both of them together," Genesis 22:8 (Jewish Publication Society)
Israel broke the covenant because in the Old Covenant there is no way to perfect the heart.  So the Prophets speak of a New Covenant in which G-d perfects our hearts so that we will want to follow the Torah.  Our own hearts are desperately wicked.  We need the heart transplant that only the New Covenant provides.

The Prophets tells us that G-d wants both the sacrifice and the right heart attitude.  Only in Yeshua can we have both.  In Him G-d has provided the sacrifice--the blood of kinship--and created a way to change our hearts.

Shalom,

Peter