Starting from the second night of Passover, the Bible encourages us to all become “Pentecostals” by initiating a forty-nine-day minor festival culminating on the Day of Pentecost—“Pentecost,” meaning “fifty.” The first fruits festival, known as “The Counting of the Omer” or simply “The Omer,” marks a culmination of three unique historical events and has enormous significance in the life of a disciple of Yeshua – Jesus.
We see Passover’s “core purpose” in Exodus 13:8, “You are to tell your son on that day saying, ‘It is because of what Adonai did for me when I came out of Egypt.'” In a previous “Holiday Mirrors” article, we briefly discussed how communal storytelling finds its zenith in Passover. We can say the same regarding the traditional liturgies of Easter (and the lead-up to it).
El Shaddai appears in the Bible seven times, or as just Shaddai an additional forty-one times. English translators typically (and conveniently) render El Shaddai as “God Almighty.” Its meaning is murkier and will require some verbal archaeology to uncover. Moreover, it is one of the few biblical names of God that is virtually absent from the Jewish liturgy, only finding its place when we read Psalm 91:1 in the evening service, “He who dwells in the shelter of Elyon, will abide in the shadow of Shaddai.”
In Jewish thought, depression is seen to be one of the most dangerous and destructive forces in our spiritual lives. It is a curse that cripples us. Depression can rob us of our ability to love and serve God and others. We are in the midst of the Purim season, which is supposed to be one of the happiest times on the Jewish calendar. It’s a time of great simcha (celebration). Joy is to abound during this holiday and the entire Hebrew month of Adar. Esther 9:22 refers to this time as “the month which was transformed from sorrow to joy.”
We should also keep in mind that the half-shekel tax funded the operation of the Tabernacle/Temple. As to the value of each individual—existentially and liturgically (i.e., pertaining to the significance of their worship)—each Israelite was equal. There were no spiritual giants or supermen whose worship and prayer were more valuable. Neither were there spiritual infants whose spiritual service was worth less.
By observing Rosh Chodesh, we “invite” God into the entire month and make Him Lord over all “our” time. The observance of Rosh Chodesh starts with, “This month will mark the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year for you” (Exodus 12:2). In response to this text, the Midrash notes, “‘For You’, God said to Israel, ‘Until now, the sanctification of months was in My hands, from now on it is given to you.’” The first and critical part of Rosh Chodesh observance is the sanctification of the month. As a general principle, sanctification or holiness means “set apart,” and in biblical thought, set apart to God.
The people saw glimpses of both Elohim and YHVH, but most could not understand who Yeshua was. His hidden divinity as Elohim made it hard for people to see beyond His physical being. His true identity was hidden like that of God’s identity in nature. The Divine clothed and concealed in the garments of gashmius—physicality. But after the Resurrection, those who had “eyes to see” recognized Him as both Elohim and YHVH.
Should Followers of Yeshua celebrate Christmas if it is based on a pagan holiday? I think you will be surprised by this answer and may even learn a few things about the ‘root’ of other holidays as well.
Holiday Mirrors: What Hanukkah and Christmas Have in Common. The rich tradition and theological substance of holidays like Hanukkah bind us together as a community. Why wouldn’t we want to remember and celebrate an event that caused heaven’s armies to pause and erupt in lavish praise? As much as the Nativity and Hanukkah have some profound differences, they also have some deep similarities. As such, they both deserve a place in our practice and our communal storytelling.
What is Thanksgiving? It is so much more than a holiday—it’s a lifestyle for Followers of Yeshua – Jesus! Being thankful when things are going well in our lives is one thing, but “always”? “In everything”? The Apostle (and Rabbi!) Paul gave clear directives to those early believing communities. He expected thanksgiving would be a constant among them, even when enduring challenges. Frankly, this seems a bit idealistic, don’t you think? How can believers be thankful all the time?