Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, May 23, 2021
Happy Shavuot,

Daily Bread, reading plan by Lars Enarson (https://www.thewatchman.org/)
Sun    23 May-2021        12th of Sivan, 5781
Nu 8:1-14     Jer 22    Job 41    (Mk 8)    1 Co 5

The Ruach ha-Kodesh’s Shavuot/ Pentecost Gifts
by Raymond Finney

TWO IMPORTANT EVENTS: Recorded in Acts, chapter 2, two critically important events occurred on this Day of Shavuot/ Pentecost:

● Yeshua empowered His followers to take the Gospel message– the message of God’s New Covenant– from Jerusalem into all of the world through the coming of the Holy Spirit.

● Yeshua created the organizational basis for His followers– “the ekklesia, the called out ones” (whether followers gather in churches, synagogues, or other congregational meeting places), there to meet together to worship, work, encourage, and magnify their good works.


INTRODUCTION: In recent RRs, I have discussed the death, burial, and resurrection of Yeshua; the hundreds of witnesses of Yeshua’s resurrection; and Yeshua’s promise of the coming of the Third Person of the Trinity– the Ruach ha-Kodesh. That Third Person, the subject of today’s RR, was foretold by Yeshua as “the Helper” sent for our benefit (John 14:26): [Yeshua said] “But the Helper, the Ruach ha-Kodesh whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you everything and remind you of everything that I said to you.

SIDELIGHT 1: Translated “Helper” in the Tree of Life Version, other versions use different words– Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor, Consoler, and so forth. The word in the Greek text is Пαράκλητος = Paráklētos = Paraclete (in English). Literally translated, a Paraclete is “One who is called (to a person’s side),” that is,  “One who comes to a person’s aid.” B’rit Chadashah authors made multiple attempts to emphasize that God in all Three Persons no longer lives in a Temple, but lives inside our bodies to accompany us (walk alongside) with every step we take (John 14:17; 1 Corinthians 6:19; Romans 8:16; and 2 Timothy 1:14). We no longer believe we must travel to Jerusalem (the Jewish Temple) or to a sacred building (say, St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City or Shomair Yisrael Messianic Synagogue in Knoxville) to worship and commune with God. He is as near to us as a thought or a simple prayer. END sidelight 1.

SIDELIGHT 2: I will mention something that confuses me. (I am very easily confused.) I will not try to answer the question I ask, because I have no answer. In the preceding verse, Yeshua said, “… the Father will send [the Ruach ha-Kodesh] in My name,….” In this and other verses (such as, Yeshua praying to the Father; Yeshua admitting that only the Father knows the day and hour or His return; etc.), does it seem there is a hierarchy in Heaven, with Father God being more powerful than the Son (Yeshua), and with the Ruach ha-Kodesh being the least powerful of the Three? But, we traditionally teach that all three Persons of the Godhead are equal in power. Since this question is probably unanswerable, I will add it to my list of God’s mysteries. (I see I am learning. from the Apostle Paul.) Incidentally, I have had people complain to me, “Well, I just can’t understand everything written in the Bible.” Good. Such confusion means one thing– that person is human. I am not so presumptuous to think I can know everything God knows. If He does not know infinitely more than I know, we are in trouble! Adonai has answered many of our concerns about not understanding Divine ways (Isaiah 55:9): [Adonai said] “For as the heavens are higher than earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” END sidelight 2.

I concluded last Sunday’s RR with approximately 120 of Yeshua’s followers obeying His request that they should wait for Adonai’s next move. They gathered in an upper room in Jerusalem for “something” to happen. Very dramatic, important events did occur, which began to be disclosed in Acts, chapter 2:1-4: When the day of Shavuot had come, they were all together in one place. Suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And tongues like fire spreading out appeared to them and settled on each one of them. They were all filled with the Ruach ha-Kodesh and began to speak in other tongues as the Ruach enabled them to speak out. 

God’s Third Person– His Spirit Person– visited the assembled Galileans that day. He, the Ruach ha-Kodesh, imparted three gifts:

Gift 1: His Ruach (His Spirit): The probable author of the Acts of the Apostles, Luke the Evangelist, wrote that there was heard “a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.”

Apparently, this was the Ruach’s way of announcing He was present, and He was present in a powerful way. The Holy Spirit is discussed in both the Tanakh and the B’rit Chadashah. In Hebrew of the Tanakh, He is called Ruach ha-Kodesh (literally, Kodesh = “holy, sacred” and Ruach = “wind , breath, spirit”). In Greek of the B’rit Chadashah, He is called Hagios Pneuma(literally, Hagios = “a most holy thing” and Pneuma = “wind , breath, spirit”). Thus, the Hebrew Ruach and the Greek Pneuma have similar translations– “wind, breath, spirit.” It seems appropriate that God’s Spirit would be manifested by a mighty wind (mighty Ruach, mighty Pneuma).

Note that this wind was supernatural, being heard indoors, not outdoors. Also, note that “Ghost” is not a translation for either Hebrew Ruach or Greek Pneuma. King James Version translators wrote this Person in the Bible as “the Holy Ghost,” and this name has unfortunately stuck in the minds of religious folk. Modern readers are more likely to associate “Ghost” with Casper the Friendly Ghost or a  spooky Halloween spirit than they are with God’s Holy Spirit Person. I personally believe we would communicate God’s message better by using “Holy Spirit” exclusively, discontinuing the use of “Holy Ghost.” We need to communicate the Bible accurately, clearly, and unambiguously, rather than follow 400 year-old traditional jargon (even if “authorized” four centuries ago by a king of England). It is possible to make an idol out of a translation of the Bible.

THIS GIFT PREPARED TO SPREAD THE GOSPEL: Yeshua was preparing to send His followers into a most dangerous world. In fact, many of those in this upper room would suffer, be persecuted, and die as martyrs. They needed to be assured that no matter what might befall them in the Roman Empire, they were Yeshua’s ambassadors. Yeshua assured them, then, and assures us, now and in the future, that the Helper, the Ruach ha-Kodesh will assist us in at least seventeen ways, which have been listed in: www.westhillscc.com/uploads/1/2/9/6/12965109/17_ways_the_holy_spirit_helps_us.pdf .

Gift 2: His fire: We read that “tongues like fire spreading out appeared to them and settled on each one of them.” Several times the author of Acts emphasizes the power of the Ruach. We serve an all-powerful God. We should enter the world boldly and powerfully as His witnesses, not as hand-wringing weaklings. What better symbol of strength and power could there be than flames of fire lapping over the followers’ heads and backs?

THIS GIFT PREPARED TO SPREAD THE GOSPEL: Yeshua’s followers were about to enter a dangerous, hostile world to spread the Shalom of Yeshua. Many would be deprived, persecuted, imprisoned, tortured, and martyred. In several passages, Yeshua tried to warn those who “would take up their cross and follow Him” of such dangers. They had to be extremely strong (stronger than I am, unfortunately), but they also needed reassurance that the Ruach of God would always be by their sides. Yeshua told them, then, and tells us, now and in the future, that the Ruach ha-Kodesh will inform us what to say, when we come before men who would harm us.

Gift 3: His gift of language: The technical name for speaking in tongues is “glossolalia.” We read that all followers “were filled with the Ruach ha-Kodesh and began to speak in other tongues as the Ruach enabled them to speak out.” Jerusalem was crowded on this feast day, and strangers, hearing this exuberant  mixture of unintelligible languages, assumed the celebrating Galileans were drunk. The Apostle Peter, who was Jewish, addressed the worshippers he encountered, who were also Jewish, explaining Yeshua’s followers were not drunk but were filled with the Spirit of God. Peter quoted the prophet Joel, with whom they would all be familiar, to explain this event (Joel 2:28-32 *): “‘And it shall be in the last days,’ says God, ‘that I will pour out My Ruach on all flesh. Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions and your old men shall dream dreams. Even on My slaves, male and female, I will pour out My Ruach in those days, and they shall prophesy. And I will give wonders in the sky above and signs on the earth beneath– blood, and fire, and smoky vapor. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the great and glorious Day of  Adonai comes. And it shall be that everyone who calls on the name of Adonai shall be saved.’” * NOTE: This passage is presented as Joel 2:28-32 in most Bible translations, but is presented as Joel 3:1-5 in the Tree of Life Version.

THIS GIFT PREPARED TO SPREAD THE GOSPEL: Yeshua’s final instruction before His ascension into Heaven was straightforward (Acts 1:8): But you will receive power when the Ruach ha-Kodesh has come upon you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and through all Judah, and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Yeshua commanded evangelism to all persons. An obvious impediment then, as it is now, is that the peoples of the world speak many languages. Missionaries from America must now go to school to learn the native language of the country in which they will work. In the first century, there were no “missionary schools” to teach foreign languages. God effectively handled this problem by giving Yeshua’s followers the gift to speak and understand foreign languages.  (This is not the glossolalia mentioned earlier, but another manifestation of God’s power.)

SIDELIGHTS: Although three gifts of the Spirit are mentioned in the preceding paragraphs, God is boundless in His generosity and resources. Other gifts are available for us, for example, the gifts of the Spirit outlined in 1 Corinthians, chapter 12. Notice that this famous chapter segues into chapter 13– Paul’s beautiful chapter on love– in which he calls love “a far greater way.”

For several years, I worshiped with a Pentecostal (Church of God) congregation. (Great experience.) More emphasis was given to the Ruach there, than is given at Shomair Yisrael. Speaking in tongues was occasionally heard, but not prompted. Such speaking was considered meaningless, unless someone could interpret the speech. In pentecostal and charismatic faiths, speaking in tongues is viewed as the initial manifestation of baptism by the Holy Spirit. (See Pentecostal and Charismatic Churches of North America “Statement of Faith: “We believe that the full Gospel includes holiness of heart and life, healing for the body, and baptism in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues as the Spirit gives the utterance.”) The B’rit Chadashah has several references to glossolalia (“tongues”), other than this reference in Acts, chapter 2. The Apostle Paul was thankful he frequently spoke in tongues (1 Corinthians 14:18). Nonetheless, speaking in tongues in today’s congregations remains a divisive, contentious topic. END sidelights.


INTRODUCTION: In Acts, chapter 2, we read that the Ruach ha-Kodesh was sent to Believers to empower them. Empower them for what? Yeshua answered this question immediately before ascending to the Father (Acts 1:8): [Yeshua said] “But you will receive power when the Ruach ha-Kodesh has come upon you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and through all Judah, and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

SIDELIGHT: Today, we have the same calling to be a witness for Yeshua in our home community (“Jerusalem”), our state and nation (“all Judah”), and internationally (“to the end of the earth”). For various reasons (age, infirmities, logistics, finances, etc.) many of us cannot physically go to these peoples abroad, but we can support financially those who can and are willing to go. Through our gifts, we can fulfill Yeshua’s Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). We can share the Apostle Paul’s understanding of evangelism (Romans 10:15, 17): And how shall they proclaim unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who proclaim good news of good things!” … So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Messiah. END sidelight.

Notice the logical progression of our faith in its infancy:

● God’s New Covenant– His final Covenant– was announced by Yeshua at a Passover Seder just hours before His crucifixion. He illustrated Communion with unleavened bread and fruit of the vine so that we may have a tangible lesson for this Covenant.

● Yeshua, knowing He would be absent for a time (as He had previously taught His disciples by parables), requested through prayer that the Third Person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit, be sent in His place as a personal Paraclete to assist Believers in multiple ways. The Holy Spirit manifested Himself as a roaring wind (confirmation that the Ruach [Hebrew] or Pneuma[Greek] of God had come to the world), as tongues of fire (the power, even supernatural power, that would be required to take the Gospel message into a hostile world), and speaking in foreign languages (an essential requirement to communicate with people in distant nations).

● A Believer’s faith requires organization or structure. Yeshua and His disciples had worshiped in Herod’s Temple in Jerusalem and in synagogues, where He witnessed and approved the value of corporate worship. The true structure of a Believer’s faith is two-fold:

□ Believers form different parts of Yeshua’s body (Romans 12:4-8): For just as we have many parts in one body– and all the parts do not have the same function– so we, who are many, are one body in Messiah and everyone parts of one another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace that was given to us– if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; or the one who teaches, in his teaching; or the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who gives, in generosity; the one who leads, with diligence; the one who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

□ God no longer lives in a special place (the Temple’s Holy of Holies), but He lives in each person’s body (1 Corinthians 3:16-17): Don’t you know that you are God’s temple and that the Ruach Elohim dwells among you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.  – AND – (1 Corinthians 6:19-20): Or don’t you know that your body is a temple of the Ruach ha-Kodesh who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price. Therefore glorify God in your body.

To provide this organization or structure, Believers meet together (just as Yeshua met with fellow Jews in His lifetime) to worship and serve God. We have different names for such meeting places, depending on the way faith is expressed.

□ Jews typically meet in synagogues (since the Second Temple was destroyed in AD 70).

□ Christians typically meet in churches (although grander buildings may be called basilicas, cathedrals, and other names).

□ Messianic Jews typically meet in messianic synagogues. Our congregation meets at Shomair Yisrael Messianic Synagogue, 3811 Boyds Bridge Pike, Knoxville, Tennessee.

Which name is correct for Believers’ meeting places? I can find no word in the Bible which should be translated “church.” Whenever Believers are mentioned as  a group, the Greek word used is: ἐκκλησία = ekklēsia = literally, “the called out (ones).” “Church” is, truthfully, the congregation of people assembled to worship God, not a building or a denomination. The Bible repeatedly tells us that God has called out a group of His children to be His own (example: Exodus 19:5-6, Isaiah 42:6), and (1 Peter 2:9): But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.

“Synagogue” is found in the B’rit Chadashah as the Greek συναγωγή = synagōgē = English synagogue. Temple is found in both the Tanakh (Hebrew הֵיכָל = hêḵāl) and the B’rit Chadashah (Greek ναός = naos).

There are pragmatic reasons we meet together in churches, synagogues, and the like. We humans are social creatures. We work and interact better when we are in a social setting. The author of Hebrews encourages us to work together for the Lord Yeshua (Hebrews 10:24-25): And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good deeds. And do not neglect our own meetings, as is the habit of some, but encourage one another– and all the more so as you see the Day approaching. When we meet together, this verse assures us that we  may stir up one another to love and good deeds (if we are not busy complaining and stirring up trouble among ourselves).

SIDELIGHTS: First, a popular question asked of a stranger in eastern Tennessee is, “Where do you go to church?” The answer may be something like, “First Baptist Church.” The proper question should be, “With which congregation do you worship?” We properly worship with “called out ones,” not a church building.

Second, since I know almost nothing about horses, I must listen to others who do know about horses. One factoid I find interesting is that a team of horses (two horses) can pull more weight together than can two horses pulling individually,  with weight totals added. According to https://horserookie.com/how-much-weight-can-a-horse-pull/, “teamwork makes dream work.” If one horse can pull a sled weighing 6,000 pounds, two matched horses harnessed together should pull 12,000 pounds (6,000 + 6,000 = 12,000). Right? Actually, the harnessed team can pull 18,000 pounds. Instead of pulling two times the weight one would expect, the team can actually pull three times the expected weight. Teaming the draft horses improves their ability to work! Do not be offended by this illustration. I am comparing no congregant to a draft horse. But working together, we can accomplish more as a congregation than working singly. If Rabbi Weiner met alone every Shabbatin the Shomair Yisrael sanctuary, he would accomplish some good things. If the sanctuary is filled with many worshipers, though, he, combined with the other congregants, can accomplish much more than the Rabbi can accomplish alone. END sidelights.

The very first congregation in Jerusalem (in the Tree of Life Version = a New Covenant Community), formed immediately after the Acts chapter 2 visit from the Holy Spirit, met simply (Acts 2:42-47): They were devoting themselves to the teaching of the emissaries and to fellowship, to breaking bread and to prayers. Fear lay upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were happening through the emissaries. And all who believed were together, having everything in common. They began selling their property and possessions and sharing them with all, as any had need. Day by day they continued with one mind, spending time at the Temple and breaking bread from house to house. They were sharing meals with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And every day the Lord was adding to their number those being saved.

SIDELIGHT: Note the activities of the first congregation. They enjoyed fellowship with each other. They “broke bread” (was this Communion?). They prayed. They espoused a form of Marxism (“selling their property and possessions and sharing them with all, as any had need”). Well, we can forgive their Marxism on two grounds– they thought Yeshua would soon return and they had no need for possessions and no congregation is perfect). They were clearly Jewish in their beliefs (worshiping in the Temple). They were happy, letting Yeshua take their burdensome yokes on His shoulders. Their neighbors found favor in them (probably because of their joy and gentleness of heart). They were effective (daily “adding to their number those being saved”).

Early Believers adopted the fish as their symbol. Fish in Greek is spelled ΙΧΘΥΣ (English transliteration = ICHTHUS). The five letters of ΙΧΘΥΣ (English ICHTHUS) could form the first letter of five words (Iesous Christos Theou ‘Uios Soter), which translates to ”Jesus Christ of God, Son, Savior.” Thus, their symbol of safety also became a statement of faith. They– fishers of men– could sketch a fish outline with two curved lines, letting fellow Believers know they were in safe company with each other.

The first century church in Jerusalem combined a fish (Christianity) and a menorah (Jewish) to create what has been called “The Messianic Seal of the First Church.” The triangular tail of the fish and the triangular base of the menorah overlapped to form the six-pointed Magen David (“Star of David”). This fish-menorah symbol appears in several places in Shomair Yisrael’s sanctuary. (Some Shabbat before the service begins, encourage your young child to see how many places he/ she can spot this Seal.)

Read more about this Seal at  https://www.threemacs.org/themes/jewish/answers.htm . Incidentally, one “of the Macs” in this threemacs.org site is Chris McDonald. Some of you older members may remember fondly Chris, who attended Shomair a number of years ago. I had much respect for Chris. Look at his site to see this Messianic Seal of the First Century Church in Jerusalem. END sidelight.

In the next week or two, I will write RRs about the seven church ages– five past, two still existent (Revelation, chapter 2 and 3). Until next Sunday, Shalom and Maranatha.