Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, October 29, 2023
Shavuah Tov,

God’s promise for Israel… please pray today.  Psa 43:1  Vindicate me, O God, and champion my cause against an ungodly nation. From a deceitful and unjust man, deliver me!

Jer 30:10  So now, do not fear, Jacob My servant,” says Adonai, “nor be dismayed, O Israel, for behold, I will save you from afar, your seed from the land of their exile. Jacob will again be quiet and at ease, and no one will make him afraid.  Lord, would You bring this to pass, speedily and in our days?  In Yeshua’s name, amen.

What Do Halloween, Christmas, and Easter Have in Common?
by Dr. Raymond Finney

INTRODUCTION: Consider three statements: 

● Humans should be ruled by God. 

● Humans should obey, seek to follow, worship, and honor God.

● The sinful, rebellious nature of humans tends to corrupt or destroy the good things of God given to them. 

At least some of these statements should:

● Comprise basic “Religion 101” requirements for Believers; 

● Summarize basic tenets of faith stated by Yeshua, as well as Tanakh and B’rit Chadashah prophets; and

● Re-state the “first and greatest commandment” for humans. << See Matthew 22:37-38: And [Yeshua] said to [the Pharisee lawyer], “‘You shall love Adonai your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.” >>

God established a beautiful worship platform for humans to serve Him and each other. Unfortunately, we humans tend to corrupt and debase the holiness of God for selfish purposes. Unless you have lived in a cave for your entire life and have been completely estranged from society, you know that some of the preceding statements do not describe the current God-human relationship. Worldwide, we humans reject God’s rule of our lives and do not obey, seek to follow, worship, and honor God.

Yeshua condemned the religious elite of His day. (For example, see the seven woes Yeshua pronounced against religious leaders in Matthew, chapter 23.) The religious leaders were morally bankrupt and decaying from within, even though appearing to be holy and advising others how to be holy. We are likened to  trees, and the fruit we produce gives evidence whether we are good or bad. << See Matthew 12:33: [Yeshua said] “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree rotten and its fruit rotten; for the tree is known by its fruit.“ >> The ways we worship God– even in such trivial matters as the observance of “holy days” –  bespeak whether we bear good or rotten fruit.

ANSWER TO QUESTION POSED IN TITLE: In today’s RR, I choose three widely celebrated “holy days” which have one thing in common. These days, originally set aside to worship God, have been corrupted by humans and presently bear little resemblance to their original intent.

Corruption of “holy days” is part of a larger problem of our estrangement from God. I am incapable of including all ways we have separated ourselves from God. By discussing seemingly mundane examples– corruption of three “holy days” by transforming them into unholy days (or at least, secular celebrations having little to do with the worship of God) – perhaps we may be more aware of humankind’s never-ceasing rebellion against God.

Although much of the world may turn against God, each Believer must stand firmly with God. << See 1 Corinthians 15:58: Therefore, my dearly loved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord– because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. >> A person is judged for his/ her words and actions, not the words and actions of society (see Matthew 12:36-37, Romans 2:6, 2:12-16, and 14:12, etc.).

The three corrupted “holy days” chosen for this RR follow:

THE CORRUPTED “HOLY DAY” OF HALLOWEEN: Next Tuesday, October 31, is celebrated as Halloween. Halloween began as Samhain, an ancient Celtic (Irish, British, French) festival. This day, the day before the ancient new year’s day, marked the end of summer. Following were the dreaded cold, dark days of a northern European winter. Since many deaths occurred during these bleak winter months, bizarre customs about death, dying, and the living dead arose.

Celtic priests (Druids) wore frightening costumes and told fortunes. This day was a day of dread. By AD 43, the Roman Empire had conquered Celtic lands and adopted their customs, commingling Roman and Celtic pagan traditions. 

On May 13, AD 609, Pope Boniface IV dedicated the Pantheon in Rome to honor all Christian martyrs. The Catholic feast of All Martyrs Day was established in the Western (Roman Catholic) Church. Pope Gregory III later expanded the festival to include all saints as well as all martyrs, and moved the observance from May 13 to November 1. By AD 1000, the Church expanded the day as All Souls’ Day to honor all dead Believers. This day, All Souls’ Day, was also called All-hallows Day. The day before this holy day was called All-hallows Eve, eventually becoming Halloween.

● How do we observe the holy day of Halloween today? A holy day set aside to honor the saints who preceded the living in death has been corrupted to the present abomination. There is nothing holy about today’s Halloween. Ghosts, ghouls, death, witches, devils, and other unholy beings are celebrated. Halloween glorifies death. We think it is cute to see “little goblins” (children) dressed in death-glorifying costumes “extorting” candy from neighbors in the bizarre trick-or-treat custom.

Death is the opposite of the eternal life promised by our Savior, the Lord Yeshua HaMashiach. Yeshua conquered death for us. Halloween should celebrate life, not death. The Apostle Paul, quoting Tanakh prophets, praised life. << See 1 Corinthians 15-51-58: Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed– in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last shofar. For the shofar will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruptibility, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this corruptible will have put on incorruptibility and this mortal will have put on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory. Where, O Death, is your victory? Where, O Death, is your sting?” Now the sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the Torah. But thanks be to God, who keeps giving us the victory through our Lord Yeshua the Messiah! Therefore, my dearly loved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord– because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. >> This event– the gift of eternal life– is something to celebrate!

THE CORRUPTED “HOLY DAY” OF CHRISTMAS: Christmas is a fixed day on the calendar– December 25 in the West (Roman Catholic and Protestant Christianity) or January 7 in the Orthodox (Eastern) Church. December 25 occurs a half week following the winter solstice. The winter solstice is the shortest sun-lit day of the year– the day the sun makes its farthest descent in the south and begins its trek north. 

Imagine living in Europe before electricity. In the dead of winter, darkness and bitter cold dominated everyday life. Centuries before Yeshua’s birth, Europeans burned logs and observed other festivities to break the gloom of winter. The end of December was a perfect time for mood-lifting celebration in most areas of Europe. At that time of year, most cattle were slaughtered so they would not have to be fed during the winter. At this time, families had a supply of fresh meat. Wine and beer were finally fermented and ready for drinking.

Christmas– commemorating Yeshua’s birth– was set aside as part of European winter festivities. Was Yeshua born on December 25? No. This date was promulgated by the Catholic Church and unthinkingly accepted by most Believers for generations. Yeshua’s birthday was first celebrated by the Romans (Emperor Constantine I) on December 25, AD 336. This day became a widely celebrated Church holy day in the ninth century. 

Mithras was a Roman god much admired by the Roman military, including  Emperor Constantine I. Mithras’ birthday was December 25. The Church probably blended pagan Mithraism and Christianity, giving Mithras’ birthday to Yeshua. 

For several reasons, many sholars believe Yeshua may have been born during the Jewish feast of Sukkot. He was probably born in a few years BC. (BC stands for “Before Christ.” AD abbreviates the Latin Anno Domini (“Year of the Lord”), not After Death as some suppose. Since there is no Year Zero, had Yeshua  been burn in 1 BC and crucified in AD 1, He would have been crucified as an infant. In reality, Yeshua was born a few years BC and was likely crucified in AD 33.

Since Yeshua’s birth was important to completion of Tanakh prophecies and establishment of the New Covenant, what better day than this event to hold a special church pageant– a mass? Christ’s Mass (later, Christmas) was added to the Church calendar. Interestingly, the Church once taught that it was sinful even to contemplate the date of Yeshua’s birth. 

But, what day should the Church hold this Mass? The B’rit Chadashah offers a few clues about the date of Yeshua’s birth, but no actual date. The authors of the Bible were not interested in history; they were interested in theology. The ancients did not celebrate birthdays, as we do today. Everyone has a birthday. So? It would be like having a holiday for everyone who has a navel. (No one has ever said to me, “Happy Navel Day, Ray.”) Okay, you have a navel, but so does everyone else. Get over yourself.

● How do we observe the holy day of Christmas today? Although Christmas is clearly celebrated on the wrong day, it represents a celebration of the birth of Baby Yeshua to the Virgin Miriam. This virgin birth, a natural impossibility, was essential to Yeshua being the immaculately conceived Son of Man. Tankah prophecies were fulfilled by the Virgin Miriam giving birth to Immanuel (Yeshua).  If Miriam had been married or had been a prostitute, how could we claim that Yeshua is the Son of God?

However, the Christmas season has become a secular feeding frenzy for merchants and patrons of merchants. How often do we hear, “Only five shopping days left until Christmas?” Do we ever hear, “Only five days left to celebrate the birth of the Messiah?”

Christmas has become a popular, beloved secular holiday. Lights, family get-togethers, gift-giving, decorations, the message of good will to all, and other trappings of Christmas have become firmly ingrained in the minds of billions of people. The social, familial, and economic impact of Christmas cannot be over-estimated. 

Even though the season of Christmas is enjoyed by many, have we corrupted the true meaning of Yeshua’s birth? << Of many Scriptures, see Matthew 1:23: [The prophet Isaiah wrote] “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and give birth to a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which means ‘God with us.’” >>

THE CORRUPTED “HOLY DAY” OF EASTER: The holiest day for Believers should be “Easter.” (I prefer to use “Resurrection Sunday,” as this day should celebrate Yeshua’s resurrection from death rather than ancient fertility rites.)

Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the full moon occurring on or after March 21 (the March equinox). Easter may occur any Sunday between March 22 and  April 25. In 2024, Easter will occur on Sunday, March 31.

The death, burial, and resurrection of Yeshua are directly connected to (an extension of) the three ancient Jewish Spring feasts of Passover (Pesach), Unleavened Bread (Chag HaMotzot), and First Fruits (Yom HaBikkurim).

The etymology of Easter is complex and involves several languages and interpretations. Various views on “Easter” are tied to ancient fertility goddesses (Eostre), the direction of the dawn (the East), and so forth. If linguists cannot agree, I will not embarrass myself by expressing my view.

The King James Version (KJV) of the Bible is popular among some Believers. They might argue that Easter is mentioned (therefore, was observed) in the first century. << See Acts 12:4 (KJV): And when he had apprehended him, he [King Herod]  put him [the Apostle Peter] in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people. >> Neither Herod nor Peter had ever heard of Easter, because this “holy day” did not exist in the first century. KJV translators surely knew this, adding this verse to other KJV mistranslations. The mistranslated “Easter” is Pascha in the Greek text. Pascha is derived from the Hebrew Pesach (Pesah). Pascha and Pesach both should be translated “Passover.” Herod and Peter were most knowledgeable about Passover.

● How do we observe the holy day of Easter today? The resurrection of Yeshua confirms His deity and offers proof that death can be defeated. Yeshua fulfilled the Blessed Hope, when the stone was rolled away from His borrowed tomb and He walked among and talked to the living after His crucifixion. Living witnesses confirmed Yeshua’s resurrection.

Although religious celebrations do mark the observance of this most important event in all Christendom, much of the day is secular and filled with ancient fertility symbols– eggs, bunnies, and so forth. Eating chocolate bunnies and hunting dyed eggs seemingly has become more important to many than the message of Yeshua’s crucifixion for the sins of humankind and His resurrection from death to prove that eternal life is possible. 

We should marvel that God, in the Person of Yeshua, while sinless, would accept and die for our sins. In various religious teachings, a god may kill men but men never would kill a god. Yeshua, though, permitted Himself to be humiliated, tortured, and killed in a most barbaric manner, in order that an acceptable blood sacrifice might be made for the remission of sin.

Being crucified in the Passover season, Yeshua became our Passover Lamb sacrifice, as identified by John the Baptizer. << See John 1:29-34: The next day, John sees Yeshua coming to him and says, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is the One about whom I told you, ‘He who comes after me is above me, because He was before me.’ I didn’t know Him, but I came immersing with water so that He might be revealed to Israel.” Then John testified, “I have seen the Ruach coming down like a dove out of heaven, and it remained on Him. I did not know Him; but the One who sent me to immerse in water said to me, ‘The One on whom you see the Ruach coming down and remaining, this is the One who immerses in the Ruach ha-Kodesh.’ And I have seen and testified that this is Ben-Elohim.” >> 

CONCLUSION: Why must we embellish– and corrupt– God’s message for us? In this RR, I have selected three “holy days” to make a point:

● Halloween, established to honor the dead and martyrs, has been corrupted into a day of celebrating evil spirits. 

● Christmas, established to honor the birth of the Baby Messiah to the Virgin Miriam, has been corrupted into a commercial season to sell more and more “things.”

● Easter, established to celebrate Messiah’s resurrection from death to life to assure us that we, too, can achieve eternal life, has been corrupted into a day to follow subtly ancient fertility rites.

Originally, establishment of these holy days may have had pure intentions, but humans tend to take pure intentions and messages and twist them into selfish secular events. The examples in this RR may seem trivial, but the Bible has so  been twisted for various denominational doctrines and rituals that a pure Bible-based message is hard to find. May we all base our faith on what we read in the Bible and not corrupt God’s pure word with our selfish desires. Could it be that God knows more than we humans know? Let God be God. Until next Sunday, Shalom and Maranatha.

Daily Bread, reading plan by Lars Enarsson (https://www.thewatchman.org/)
Sun 29-Oct-2023 14th of Cheshvan, 5784
Ge 18:1-14 Jos 21 Ps 20 Mt 16 (2 Jn)