A Little More About Rosh Chodesh Chavurot (groups)

I was recently asked for a little more information about Women’s Rosh Chodesh meetings and how one might be set up.

First, though, I want to make everyone aware that we at LoveIsrael.org do not agree with all of the tradition surrounding this idea nor the way the liberal branches of Judaism have turned it into a feminist agenda.

This is a quote by Rabbi Eliezer from the Taamai Haminhagim.  This is the rationale some branches of Judaism use to pair women and Rosh Chodesh.

The reason women customarily refrained from doing

[mundane] work on Rosh Chodesh was due to the

fact that they did not remove their nose rings [to

avoid contributing] for the golden calf. Therefore,

Rosh Chodesh was designated to them as a Yom Tov.

Source: Taamai Haminhagim, Pirkei R’ Eliezer,chapter 45

Let me state again, this is a tradition and is NOT Biblical.  In fact, I believe Scripture says something quite different.

A Rosh Chodesh meeting is not so much different from any other women’s meetings, but the timing just helps us to be a little more aware of the Jewish calendar and helps us to incorporate it into our lives.  Here in Israel, because of Shabbat and the national observance of Biblical holidays, it is much easier to follow the Biblical calendar.

A Rosh Chodesh chavurah (group) is a great forum for exploring the roots of our faith and to help lead us to an enlightened, exciting and meaningful future, as we apply the entire Bible to our lives.  This is also a great time to study together issues impacting women, such as family purity, modesty, Shabbat, kosher laws, the various holidays, etc.

If you are considering starting a chavurah, it would be helpful to first put together a steering committee.  It doesn’t have to be formal, but a few women committed to the emerging group.  Once the chavurah is formed, you can consider making a more formal installation of officers.  Having “official” positions helps ensure that the planning and execution of the events are carried out.

Looking at a calendar with the Hebrew dates, you can plan out meetings for the coming year.  Then it is helpful to see which holidays, etc., fall in each month and that may help you plan out the meeting for that month.  It might be nice to have a study pertaining to what is going on that month and then some social activity or learning activity.  You might also consider having a d’var Torah (a little study on one of the Torah portions for that month) and prayer at the beginning of each meeting.

These are just a few ideas to get you started!

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Important Article/Parasha Commentary from Baruch

This is the new Parasha Commentary by Baruch.  There is much discord within the Messianic/Hebrew Roots movements.

A common question that I receive is in regard to Torah observance. Within the body of believers there is a movement called Messianic Judaism. Those that are a part of Messianic Judaism, whether they be Jewish or Gentile, want to worship HaShem and express their faith in Him and His Son Yeshua, in a manner that reflects many of the traditions of the larger Jewish community. Many of those who are part of Messianic Judaism want to distinguish themselves from another expression which is called “Hebrew roots”. The purpose of this article is not to define these movements or to even comment on them to any significant manner; rather clarify a term that is often used within these movements. This term is “Torah observance” or “keeping the Torah“.

The question to which I alluded at the opening of the first paragraph is whether or not I believe it is important or necessary to keep / observe the Torah. In this week’s Torah portion one reads,

It shall be that when you come to the Land which HaShem will give to you (as) He spoke, you shall observe / keep this service.” Exodus 12:25

Today, both leaders of traditional rabbinical Judaism and those of Messianic Judaism understand this verse as referring to the Passover Seder. Clearly, Moses intended the Children of Israel to observe / keep the Passover each year, sacrificing the Passover lamb on the 14th day of Nissan and eating it that evening with bitter herbs and matzah. The question that arises is today, without a Temple, i.e. an altar, and no functioning Priesthood, is it possible to actually do a Biblical observance of the Passover? All expressions of Rabbinical Judaism state emphatically NO! In fact, today when Judaism speaks about keeping the Law or observing the commandments, they are not referring to the Biblical Torah, rather the commandments of the sages. While it is true that rabbinical Judaism (I am referring to Orthodox Judaism, as other expressions of “Judaism”, such as Conservative or Reform “Judaism” do not mandate any mandatory observance or keeping of any law.) does incorporate those commandments which are not related to the Temple and can be “observed” today, into their Law (Torah); it is most important that one understands that this observance is to the Rabbinical Torah and not the Torah which was received at Mount Sinai! What does this mean?

The sages understand that the Torah should not be viewed as a number of individual commandments, but as one unit. This is the proper understanding as James stated,

For if one should keep the entire Torah (Law), but should stumble in one, he has become guilty of all of them.” James 2:10

Hence, the New Covenant agrees in this matter that the Law must be understood as a unit. The implication of this is that because many of the Biblical commandments cannot be observed / kept today, that the Torah from Mount Sinai is not בתוקף! I wrote this phrase in Hebrew, because when one translates it into English often an incorrect understanding is conveyed. Allow me to give an example.

Each year a car owner in Israel is sent a license for one’s automobile. This license has all the relevant information concerning the vehicle and its owner. I had received the new car license (for the new year), but had not paid the fee to validate it. I was stopped by the police at a random traffic check to see if those who were driving had their driver license, proof of insurance, and automobile license current and validated. My driver license had eight more years and my insurance was also paid, but I had not paid my automobile license yet. In other words, it was not validated. It happened that the computer system of the traffic bureau was down and all the relevant information that the officer could have received by entering my Identification number or license plate number into the system was therefore not available to him. What did he do? He simply looked at the automobile license, which although it had not been validated, still had all the pertinent information written upon it. This information was true and accurate; it was also beneficial for him in accomplishing his objective in filling out the ticket that I received.

The point is that the Torah is still true, accurate and useful today, but it is not בתוקף today because there is no Temple. (There are other implications to why the Torah is not בתוקף, but these are beyond the scope of this article). According to Judaism, when a person violates a Biblical commandment today, even one which is theoretically possible to do (not related to the Temple), he is only breaking the rabbinical law and not the Biblical Law. Why is this? There are two reasons for this. The first is to underscore the Scriptural view that the Torah is one unit.  And, as we learned, because there is no Temple, one must set aside the validation of the Biblical Torah.  This does not mean the Torah has no relevance, nor does it mean that the Torah does not contain truth, for it does.  Second, let’s take the commandment of “You shall not commit adultery”. Under the Torah Law, what happens to the one who commits adultery? The Torah states that this one should be stoned. This command is found of course in both Biblical Law and in rabbinical law. However, when one transgresses this commandment, do the rabbis advocate stoning him in accordance with the Bible? They do not, because the sin today is only seen as a violation of rabbinical law.

As believers in Messiah Yeshua, we are not under the law of the Jewish sages. We have the only true Rabbi, Yeshua. The proper application of the Biblical Torah today is for the believer to study each of the Biblical commandments and understand that because of Yeshua’s death, all the punishment from a heavenly standpoint, has been paid in full by Him. Why do I state, “from a heavenly standpoint”? The answer is if I should steal, I am already forgiven by the blood of Yeshua in regard to that sin (and all sins). However, that forgiveness does not mean that there will not be any earthly consequences. I could be fined by a court or sent to prison. This sinful act could destroy a friendship and ruin my reputation. There could be and probably will be numerous consequences upon my earthly life; but that sin nor any other sin, will not change the fact that I have been redeemed by the blood of Yeshua. Sin can certainly affect my relationship with G-d severely and also the work of the Holy Spirit in my life. However, when I stated that all the punishment from a heavenly standpoint has been paid, I am referringonly to the fact that the sins of a believer will not affect his salvation, i.e. where he will spend eternity, i.e. in the Kingdom of G-d).

Not only should one study the Biblical commandments, but each believer should pray for the Holy Spirit to teach him how he should apply the righteousness of the Law to his life. As Paul states,

But now, we have been made delivered from the Torah, having had put to death that which was working, so that we can serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.” Romans 7:6

It is necessary to make a few comments concerning this verse. First, the context of this verse is the outcome of Messiah Yeshua’s work. By His death, we have been made delivered from the Torah“. This means that by means of Yeshua’s death we have also died, and therefore the punishment of the Law, i.e. death, no longer is applicable for the believer. This does not mean that the Torah has no longer any value for the believer. The phrase, “having had put to death that which was working” refers to what Paul stated in the previous verse, where he spoke about how the Law can work in a person’s flesh to arouse one’s sinful desire. No longer should the revelation of the will of G-d cause the believer to desire to rebel, rather the primary purpose for accepting Yeshua was to turn away from sin, i.e. the violations of the commandments of G-d. Now, having been redeemed by the blood of Yeshua, the believer can “serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.” This is the reality for the Spirit-led believer.

Now having stated the position of the believer in regard to the concept of keeping or observing the Torah, allow me to respond to one more related issue. A friend recently sent me an article:

“One Law, Two Sticks”:

A Critical Look at the Hebrew Roots Movement: A position paper of the International Alliance of Messianic Congregations and Synagogues (IAMCS) Steering Committee. 1/15/2014

This paper states the IAMCS’s position in regard to the “Hebrew Roots Movement”. First of all, I do not believe that either Messianic Judaism or the Hebrew Roots movements have been clearly defined theologically. That is to say, there is exceedingly wide diversity within both of these movements and a great deal of overlapping. However this position paper tends to make a distinction between them in regard to the application of Torah Law. The paper opens with the statement:

We, as Messianic Jewish leaders, have become increasingly concerned that there are a growing number of individuals and groups today promoting the idea that all the world’s believers in the Messiah – Jewish and Gentile alike – ought to be keeping the Torah, particularly the Shabbat, the feasts, and kosher diet. The doctrine which is the subject of this paper has been around since the day of the Apostles, in different forms, but today it has come to be known as “One Law One People” or just “One Law,” for short. It insists upon Gentile Torah observance universally.” Page 1

In essence, the paper seems to say that proper Messianic Judaism asserts that the “keeping of the Torah” is for primarily the Jewish people and not incumbent on Gentiles. It is not my intent at this time to respond to the primary message of this IAMCS’s position paper. This I will save for an additional article. Rather my concern is the failure of the Messianic world to properly understand the meaning of what Judaism means when it uses the term “Torah Observance“.

Throughout this article, I did not see any distinction between מצוות דאורייתא וממצוות דרבנן, the actual 613 Biblical Laws and those commandments which rabbinical law places upon its adherents. I also found a problem that there was an artificial separation between moral commandments and ceremonial aspects with the Torah.

“While there clearly are universal moral laws in the Torah, there are many aspects of the Torah that have nothing to do with morality, and which therefore are not intended to be universal.” Page 4

Although one can divide the commandments under different sub-headings, this should not be thought of as a way to present one set of commandments which is for all humanity (moral and ethical aspects of the Torah) and a second set (along with the first set, of course) which is only for Jewish individuals (commandments related to the ceremonial aspects, such as tzitzit or circumcision, etc).

Let me state that there is a great problem when individuals, whether Jewish or Gentile, misuse or misapply traditions and elements of Torah observance (whether the Biblical Torah or rabbinical law) in a manner that is in conflict with the standard Biblical or traditional application. This can be and usually is a stumbling block to the wider Jewish community. As one who has participated seriously in several Orthodox communities both in Miami Beach (8 years) and in Israel (13 years) I can attest that most of what the Messianic community or the Hebrew Roots movement call Torah observance is far from what the Orthodox communities would label as observant. The point is that both camps need to stop utilizing the term keeping the law or observing the law, because such language is never accurate if the reference is the Biblical Torah, and the vast majority of the time, not accurate if the standard is rabbinical Jewish law. While people can obey the rabbinical law, NO ONE IS ABLE TO OBEY THE BIBLICAL LAW completely, and nearly 250 of the 613 Biblical commandments cannot be observed at all.

I was asked did I keep Passover last year. No I did not and neither did anyone else. Even if you had a Seder on the 14th day of Nissan in Jerusalem (actually on the eve of the 15th) and even if you slaughtered a lamb there on the Temple Mount, you did not keep Passover, because there was no altar and there were not the Kohanim serving. This is why I believe that each believer (Jew or Gentile) should study the commandments and ask the Holy Spirit how He wants him to apply the message of each commandment to his life. Furthermore, I prefer to identify the Torah as Truth given to Israel (the Jewish people) in order to practice it (in the days of the Temple and Tabernacle) and receive the favor of HaShem (favor here is not a reference to the concept of grace) and cause those of the nations to desire that same favor and thereby applying (practicing) Torah to their lives. When the Bible speaks about Israel being a light to the Gentiles, it is referring to the glory of G-d which is manifested through obedience to the word and once again causes the Gentile (and sometimes the fellow Jew) to be drawn to that same obedience.

In conclusion, the believing Jewish community might be making the same error has their non-believing fellow Jews, namely finding identity in lifestyle or perhaps cultural indicators or factors, rather than in the One Who created them. One is not Jewish as an outcome of tzitzit, Kippot, Kashrut, or any other action. He or she is Jewish because HaShem created this one to be a biological heir of Jacob. These outward expressions, when performed by those who are not Jewish, should not therefore be viewed as threatening the Jewish identity of those who are Jewish.

Headcoverings: The Biblical admonition concerning a woman’s hair

To fully understand the significance of this custom/law, we will look at this issue from 3 vantage points:  culture, rabbinical law and Biblical truth.

Culture.  Throughout the Middle East, there has been a cultural norm for women of morality upon becoming married to conceal their hair from public view.

Rabbinical Law.  The rabbinical basis for married women to cover their hair is found in one primary biblical text–Numbers 5:18.  “The Kohen (priest) shall have the woman stand before HaShem and uncover the woman’s head, and upon her palms he shall put the meal-offering of remembrance….”

The context for this verse is a woman being accused of adultery.  Numbers 5 outlines a process to discern whether a woman is guilty or not.  It is interesting to note that one entire volume of the Talmud is dedicated to this issue (Sotah).

Within this process, the Bible states that the accused woman is brought to a priest (Kohen) and during the process it states in Numbers 5:18 that the priest “uncovers the woman’s head.”  Since this verse seems to take for granted that this married woman has her head covered, the Sages (ancient rabbinical scholars) derive that all married women would have their heads covered.

The famous 12th century rabbi Rashi states, “It is a disgraceful thing for a woman to be seen bare-headed.”  Hence, it has become Jewish law that every G-d fearing married woman covers her hair from public sight.

Biblical Truth.  A close look at the Biblical passages from the Torah and the New Covenant reveal that the Biblical emphasis is not on the actual covering of a woman’s head, but the proper “style”.  In returning to Numbers 5:18, although most English translations say “uncover the woman’s head”, the Hebrew word “parah” does not mean to uncover but a thorough word study shows this word means “to make something unkept, in disarray or disorder”.  Rashi translates it “He (the priest) unlooses the locks of her hair”.  Most rabbinical authorities, however, say her hair would be pinned up because it is easier to cover.

However, in looking at the New Covenant, I Cor. 11:3-16, there is a significant emphasis on head coverings.  But, what must be point out, is that Paul is not speaking of a head covering as a scarf or hat, but rather wearing one’s hair up on top of her head.

Obviously, if one takes this passage (I Cor. 11:4) to mean some artificial covering, i.e., hat, we would have a conflict with the priest, who always covered their heads when serving in the Temple.

Verse 15 makes it very clear that hair is indeed the covering of which the Bible is speaking.

And finally, verse 16 is very clear.  BUT IF ANY MAN SEEM TO BE CONTENTIOUS, WE HAVE NO SUCH CUSTOM, NEITHER THE CHURCHES OF G-D.  Therefore, we can conclude that if a woman chooses to cover her head, that is fine.  It is also fine if she chooses not to.  We must not judge either way.  Shavuah Tov!

What Israelis talked about last week

The events in Paris and outside of Paris has captured the attention of most of the world.  Certainly here in Israel it has been at the forefront of all news broadcasts.  The increase in terrorism and in anti-Semitism is of course of major concern.  The Israeli news interviewed one Frenchman who had come to Israel on Saturday night to immediately purchase a home.  He had decided that enough was enough.  We know of a man who owned a hair salon in France for several years.  After his shop had been vandalized for the third time, he immigrated to Israel and opened up a shop here.  These events are going to bring about another time of ALIYAH to Israel.  The year 2014 showed a greater number of French Jews immigrating to Israel that those from Russia!

The second story concerned the weather here in Israel.  Jerusalem and the north received snow and the rest of the country received a significant amount of rain.  Rain in Israel is a blessing.  From May to October we usually do not receive any rain, so the more we can get in the winter the better.

Many things are happening around the world which are going to bring about G-d’s plans to be fulfilled.  Let’s pray for the Jewish people to return to the land in even greater numbers!

Shabbat Shalom!

Saying “Shabbat Shalom” is so common here in Israel that I sometimes wonder if people even internalize what it means.  “Shalom” means peace, but it also means complete or whole.  For example, one can buy chicken breasts at the meat counter “shalem”, meaning whole.

Taking Friday evening to Saturday evening to focus on our relationship with G-d, and to serve Him, more than the rest of the week, is such a blessing.  It should be a rest in the service of G-d. It is a time to turn off telephones, computers and televisions and all of the distractions of this world.  It completes us again for the coming week.

Recently I was reading some online news outlets and I was struck by the number of articles in their “lifestyle” sections which dealt with “digital detox”, incorporating more peace and quiet into our daily lives, how to regain balance, de-stressing, inner peace and increasing calm into our lives. G-d told us in the Bible what His plan is for how to do this.

“Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.  Six days shall you labor and do all your work, but the the seventh day is the sabbath of the L-rd thy G-d, in it thou shalt not do any work…”

As an aside, it is very interesting that while studying these verses, I read several commentaries.  None of them wanted to discuss the first part, which tells us which day not to do any work…the Sabbath day.  So many people say that you need to keep a sabbath day, and not the Sabbath day.  But G-d is very clear that He wants us to keep the seventh day, which is Saturday.

The point we need to remember is that G-d knows us perfectly and if we follow His word, He has provided for us in every way and for every need.  When you pray and seek His will for your life and how you are to serve Him, the Holy Spirit will guide and direct you and give you the rest you need.  But we need to seek it in His ways, not ours.  Have a blessed Shabbat.

Cafe Society

I’ve been doing a little reading lately on cafes and their history and influence.  Traditionally, they have been a place for artists, writers and even those on the political fringe to meet to discuss news and various topics.  They are also a great place to get together with a small group to talk about Scripture and what we’ve been studying.  Iron sharpens iron! (Proverbs 27:17)

Motzei Shabbat (Saturday night), after our study at the Study Center, a small group of us went to a nearby cafe to discuss Shmittah.  The cafe was very busy, but the five of us crowded around a tiny table.  As we drank our coffees, Baruch had his Bible out on the table and we had a lively discussion about Scripture.  Do you have a small group you can get together with to discuss something one of you has recently studied in your personal Bible study?

I really enjoy our Saturday night study where we can dive into Scripture and also enjoy fellowship.

Bill

We had a friend in Miami named Bill.  Bill, his wife and grown son were all legally blind.  But Bill, of all people, really had the gift of encouragement.  He and his family would visit many different congregations, most of which were small, in order to encourage the people and worship and fellowship with them.  He believed that the 3 extra bodies would bring more to a small, often times struggling congregation than to a large congregation.  It was truly a ministry that G-d gave to them.

I spoke to Bill a couple of days before he passed away.  He was feeling very badly but didn’t want to burden anyone with it.  It should be an inspiration to us all that someone who had blindness to cope with was still always wanting to encourage the Body.  One of Bill’s favorite sayings was that something “wasn’t worthy of breaking fellowship over.”  He was always looking for areas of unity not strife and division.  He would not compromise on the Gospel and other key theological issues, but he also was not looking to bring strife into the body of believers.

Perhaps we all could work to bring unity instead of bickering about small things and being divisive.