Saturday, March 31, 2007


Passover is coming up again. It's a time to remember how God has redeemed us by the blood of the Lamb, first from slavery to Egypt, and then from slavery to the world and sin. It is a time to partake of our Lord, to eat Him symbolically in the form of the lamb, the bread, and the wine, to act out taking Him into us physically to demonstrate the spiritual reality.

In most of the Christian world, the day to celebrate our Lord's sacrifice, Good Friday, is scarcely noted, all the attention being on Easter. For those of us who are Messianic, while we also observe the true Resurrection Day, the Feast of Firstfruits, Passover is the main event, as it were. It is the ultimate Lord's Supper, containing not only the bread and the wine, but every element that the talmidim (disicples) would have had at their Last Seder: The bitter herbs (which Judas "outed" himself when dipping into; Mat. 26:23), the haroset (a sweet mixture of apple, herbs, and wine which resembles the mortar the Hebrews used to make bricks), the Lamb, etc.

There are a few questions that those not in the Messianic movement often ask. For example, "Can you find any evidence in the New Testament that the Christians kept the Passover?" You mean besides the Last Seder? Indeed, I can. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Sha'ul writes,
Your boasting is not good. Don't you know the saying, "It takes only a little hametz (leaven) to leaven a whole batch of dough?" Get rid of the old hametz, so that you can be a new batch of dough, because in reality you are unleavened. For our Pesach lamb, the Messiah, has been sacrificed. So let us celebrate the Seder not with leftover hametz, the hametz of wickedness and evil, but with the matzah of purity and truth. (1 Co. 5:6-8, CJB)
One might argue, "Ah, but Paul meant that we should keep the Passover in a spiritual sense." I agree, we should keep it in a spiritual sense, just as we keep the Lord's Supper in a spiritual sense--but that doesn't mean that we forego keeping it physically as well. Every ritual in the Scripture is designed to let us "act out" something spiritual physically, so that full participation in God's blessings would not be limited to intellectuals and mystics, but be available to everyone.

The second question frequently asked is, "Don't you have to be circumcised to observe Passover?" Indeed you do (Exo. 12:48). However, the issue of circumcision is more than just a matter of a cutting of the flesh. By the 1st Century CE, it was an entire rabbinic ceremony by which a Gentile ceased to be a Greek, a Roman, etc., and became a full Jew, expected to keep all of the Torah and the Jewish traditions. It was believed that only the circumcised Jews could be saved (see Acts 15:1), basically excluding Gentiles from God's Kingdom. Now note that in Exodus 12:48, it does not say that the foreigner becomes a Jew when he is circumcised, nor does the ritual act make him a citizen of Israel. When the Apostles discouraged physical circumcision in favor of spiritual circumcision, they were dealing with a rabbinical tradition that committed the sin of adding to the Torah (cf. Deu. 12:32) and of Gentile exclusion.

It is wholly necessary for anyone celebrating God's deliverance of His people to be numbered among and fully identified with those people. However, in Col. 2:11, we are told that we are indeed circumcised spiritually ("without hands") when we trust in the Messiah, whether we are Jew ("circumcised" physically) or Gentile ("uncircumcised"). Therefore we are grafted in to Israel (Rom. 11), adopted into the family of Abraham (Rom. 4:11f, Gal. 3:29), whether or not we have been circumcised under the extra-Biblical ceremony that the non-believing Jewish rabbis and community would recognize.

Besides, if Sha'ul told the Corinthians, a mixed congregation (ch. 7-9) to keep the Passover, it must be appropriate for all believers to observe it. Any other decision would re-erect the wall of separation (Eph. 2:14) that Messiah came to break down.

And finally, the question arises whether it is appropriate to have lamb, when the Temple has been destroyed these last 2000 years (cf. Deu. 16:2). Many Messianic Jews do forgo lamb and substitute another meat in accordance with Jewish tradition and their own understanding about the requirement to have the lamb only in Jerusalem. That's fine, and it's possible that they are right. Now, it is correct that the proper Passover sacrifice, like all sacrifices (Deu. 12), must be offered only in Jerusalem at the Temple. However, as Christian commentators have so often observed, our proper sacrifice has already been offered in the proper place.

Therefore, to us, the Passover is no longer a proper sacrifice, but a memorial: "Do this in remembrance of Me" (Luke 22:19). Note that Yeshua does not repeat that formula for the wine, and yet every Christian considers it to include the wine in the Lord's Supper. Messianics understand it it include the whole of the Passover Seder as well, and at Beth HaMashiach, we believe it to include the lamb as well.

To those readers who have never experienced the joy of having the Passover Seder, I greatly encourage you to do so. It was one of the three life-changing events that led me to becoming Messianic, for truly, every single element speaks of our Lord.


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Sabbath Debate After-Report

On Sunday March 25, 2007, Patrick Donahue ( and I debated the resolution, “The Sabbath is no longer binding for believers.” Pat of course took the affirmative position and I took the negative (double-negative?) position. We should have the audio up on the HebrewRoot site soon for those who are interested.

I have to confess that this was the first public debate that I’ve been in since college; all of my other debates have been informal affairs online. I am very grateful to Pat for the opportunity, as well as to all of those who came to support us from both synagogue and church. And finally, I’m grateful to Rabbi Gavri’el for his support in putting on the debate.

As always in such a format, there were arguments that I simply didn’t get around to addressing or which I had to address so briefly that I’m not sure the audience picked up on it; there were also missed opportunities, thrusts and ripostes that occurred to me only after the debate. I’m sure Pat would say the same. Nevertheless, I’ve been told that I did a fine job of defending my position. Many of my arguments have appeared on this blog and on already; others will be appearing soon.

Pat’s strategy was to attempt to establish that the Sabbath was part of the “Old Law” and that the Law had been done away with. Many of his arguments have been refuted on HebrewRoot; others I have yet to write articles for. He opened with a very rapid-fire presentation designed to put me on the defensive and leave me scrambling to just keep up with trying to counter his arguments, without any time left to really present my own. As a result, I countered what I felt were the essential arguments and ignored others while I built up my own argument.

My position hinged on three main thrusts: 1) Yeshua kept the Sabbath as well as the whole Torah, and commanded us to do the same (Mat. 5:17-19); 2) the Apostles likewise keep the Sabbath and the Torah; and 3) so why then should we who are saved by grace not follow their example? I also showed from Hebrews 4 that we are indeed told in the NT that there still is a “Sabbath-keeping” on the seventh day for the people of God and showed from Isaiah (56:2-7 and 66:23) that the “foreigners,” the Gentiles, were called to keep the Sabbaths and Rosh Chodeshim (New Moons).

As always in such public debates, opinions will doubtless vary on who won. I’m sure Pat would agree with me that if we inspired those watching and listening to thought and to digging into their Bibles for themselves, that G-d was the true winner here. As it should be.


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Updates to Hebrew Root

Tonight (technically, this morning) I put up the first major changes to the Hebrew Root website. Among them, I accidentally removed the bookstore link, and it's a bit late (or early) for me to try to figure out what I did wrong.

On the plus side, I've added several new articles, many of which are expansions of articles first posted here, others of which are brand new. Just click articles and look for the (new) tags.


Monday, March 05, 2007

Stolen Sign

We've been hanging a banner advertising the synagogue off of 78 from a couple of steel posts sunk into the ground, putting it up either Thursday or Friday and taking it down Saturday night. Since we're only putting it up for a couple of days at a time, it counts as temporary advertising and we don't have to get a permit for it.

So I go out Saturday night after service to retrieve the sign. The banner was gone.

The bungee cords securing it to the posts were gone.

The posts were gone.

That's right, folks. Somebody hated our banner so much that they not only stole it, but also stole the metal posts that it was attached to just to make it that much more difficult and expensive for us to replace it. Hopefully I'll be able to at least find the posts tossed into the bushes on the side of the road in the daylight.

*chuckle* It's almost funny that our first act of vandalism (and we've been expecting this sort of thing) was so petty.