Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, April 16, 2023
Shavuah Tov,

Day 8 of counting the Omer
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָֽׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו, וְצִוָּֽנוּ עַל סְפִירַת הָעֹֽמֶר
Baruch Atah Adonai Elohenu Melech Ha-Olam, Asher Kid’shanu B’mitzvotav, Vitzivanu Al Sefirat Ha-Omer.

Blessed are You O Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us by his commandments and commanded us about the counting of the Omer.  Today is one week and one day of the counting of the Omer.

Follow up that prayer by remembering a blessing from the Lord and give Him thanks.


Yeshua Lives, Even Though Crucified! – Part 2
by Dr. Raymond Finney

INTRODUCTION: I am taking a brief hiatus from the death and dying series to  insert this diversion about Resurrection Sunday. (Confused? As long as I know what I’m talking about, it may be okay.) Resurrection Sunday this year was April 9 on most Western Believers’ calendar.

THE JEWS’ SIN OFFERING REJECTED BY GOD: God instructed His people to make an offering on the most somber of Israel’s Feast days– the Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur (Leviticus 16:7-10): Then he [Aaron] is take the two goats and present them before Adonai at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting. Aaron will then cast lots for the two goats– one lot for Adonai, and the other lot for the scapegoat. Aaron is to present the goat on which the lot for Adonai fell and make it a sin offering. But the goat upon which the lot for the scapegoat fell is to be presented alive before Adonai, to make atonement upon it, by sending it away as the scapegoat into the wilderness.

Three scarlet threads were used in this observance. Jewish writings record that the two goats chosen for Yom Kippur rites were to be as identical as possible. The High Priest drew two lots (markers) from a wooden box. One lot was inscribed, “For Azazel;” and the other, “A sin offering for the LORD.” [Azazel is an obscure name associated with the scapegoat used in the Yom Kippur rite.  The name may represent a desolate place in the wilderness.]

In nearly all cases, the first lot drawn was the lot for the LORD. According to the Mishna, an ancient Jewish commentary, a scarlet thread was tied between the horns of the goat set apart for the LORD, and this goat was then sacrificed to God. After this, the priest took the goat for Azazel, tied the second scarlet thread around its neck, placed his hands on the goat, and made the following confession to God: “O God, Your people, the house of Israel, have sinned and transgressed before You.”

The scapegoat was handed to another priest, who ran the goat deep into the wilderness and pushed it off a steep jagged cliff, where the goat was killed from the fall. The scapegoat vicariously took the sins of the people out of their presence and was killed in the wilderness, that the people’s sins might not come back to them.

The third scarlet thread, although not mentioned in the Torah, is a well known part of the Yom Kippur feast day. It was by this third scarlet thread that Israel knew whether God had forgiven their national sins through that year’s atonement. According to Jewish historians, this third scarlet thread was usually affixed to the Temple door on Yom Kippur. Historians wrote that when the scapegoat died in the wilderness (and if God accepted that year’s sacrifices offered to Him), this scarlet thread supernaturally turned white. This change in color may represent what the prophet Isaiah wrote (Isaiah 1:18): “Come now, let us reason together,” says Adonai. “Though your sins be like scarlet, they will be as white as snow. Though they be red like crimson, they will become like wool.”

A Talmudic verse (Rosh Hashanah 31b) states: “For forty years before the destruction of the Temple, the thread of scarlet never turned white but it remained red.” This forty-year period was the time between the commencement of Yeshua’s ministry (ca AD 29-30) and the destruction of the Second Temple (AD 70). During this forty-year period (a common Biblical length for a generation), God did not accept the scapegoat as the sacrifice for the sins of the people. The generation during this time (AD 30 to AD 70) sinned by refusing to accept Yeshua as Messiah. Is America’s current generation sinning by refusing to accept Messiah Yeshua? After Yeshua’s crucifixion, God no longer accepts animal sacrifices. He accepts only the Lamb of God (Yeshua) as the sacrifice for the sins of all people for all time (see Hebrews, chapters 9 and 10). Incidentally: Can you imagine the uproar of PETA, the news media, and others, if we sacrifice animals in Shomair Yisrael’s parking lot?

MYSTERY OF THE TITLE ON THE CROSS: John recorded what might seem to be an insignificant statement (John 19:19-22): Pilate also wrote a sign and put it on the execution stake [cross]. It was written, “YESHUA HA-NATZRATI, THE KING OF THE JEWS.” Many Judeans read this sign, because the place where Yeshua was executed was near the city; it was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. The ruling kohaim of the Judeans were saying to Pilate, “Don’t write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that He said, ‘I am King of the Jews.’” “What I have written, I have written,” Pilate answered.

In a “Romeo and Juliet” soliloquy, William Shakespeare wrote: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose || By any other name would smell as sweet;….” To priests and other religious leaders in first century Jerusalem during the Passover season, the name under which their “Enemy” (Yeshua HaMashiach) was crucified was of monumental importance.

The Romans nailed a title board (Latin for “title board” = titulus) to a cross to let the people know why the victim was being crucified (that is, the nature of the capital offense). Crucifixion was more about indoctrination of the masses than it was about execution of criminals. The charge against Yeshua– as written on the title board in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew– was nailed to His cross. If the goal of Jewish religious leaders was only to have Yeshua crucified, why did they care about a simple sign on His cross? The title, “Yeshua of Nazareth, the King of the Jews,” reads in Hebrew: Yeshua HaNazarei vMelech HaYehudim. Reading from right to left as Hebrew is read, these four Hebrew words started with the Hebrew letters: yod, hey, vav, hey, (English equivalent = YHVH). Any Jew would immediately recognize these four letters (English equivalents of YHVH) as the acrostic of the Tetragrammaton, the holy four-letter name of God, Yehovah (or, in the more commonly used English format, Jehovah).

Yeshua’s “crime” was being “King of the Jews.” In the Roman-occupied Holy Lands, only Roman Emperor Tiberius was “King” of the land and its people. If Yeshua considered Himself to be King of the Jews, He would be committing treason (insurrection). Such status would be an intolerable situation for a petty Roman official, Pontius Pilate. The penalty for treason was death.

What we do not notice in the English translation is that the acrostic made up of the first letter of each word (YHVH) spelled God’s holy (ineffable, unutterable) name– Yehovah (Jehovah in English). Hebrew words were spelled only with consonants (no vowels). We pronounce this name today, but the Jews so respected and feared God’s holy name that they would not say it. They likely feared breaking one of the Ten Commandments by “taking the name of the Lord in vain” (see Exodus 20:7). Even today, English editions of Israeli newspapers write “G-d” for God. [Question: Why is it permissible to misspell God as G-d  purposefully, but not permissible to misspell God accidentally?]

Ancient Jews substituted Adonai (“my Lord”) or HaShem (“the Name”) in public reading and speech, so that they would not mistakenly mispronounce YHVH and possibly be guilty of misusing God’s name. Other names for God were available to the Jews, but God’s unutterable name (yod hey vav hey) was avoided.

The Sacred Tetragrammaton– Yod Hey Vav Hey– is written in the original Hebrew text of the Bible, but is usually translated in our English Bibles as LORD (all capital letters). The Sacred Tetragrammaton is spelled in Hebrew יְהֹוָה , and may be translated the “Existing One.”

It is controversial whether the Tetragrammaton is YHVH (for Yehovah) or YHWH (for Yahweh). It probably does not matter because first century Jews would never pronounce either YHVH or YHWH. They feared mispronouncing God’s holy name. We Believers sometimes argue over issues that really do not matter.

If the Jewish leaders could have persuaded Pilate to change the titulus’ wording, even by just a single word, Yeshua would not have been crucified under the title of the Tetragrammaton, the Holy Name of God. But, Pilate refused, and the title board sign displayed for the world, then and forever, the relationship between a Man (Yeshua), crucified that day by the side of a dusty Jerusalem road, and YHVH (Yehovah, God the Father).

“IT IS FINISHED!” Most scholars believe Yeshua was crucified on Passover. At the end of the Passover sacrifices (the ninth hour– 3:00 pm), the High Priest would make the sign of the Hebrew letter shin with his hands. Shin resembles the hand sign of Mr. Spock (actor Leonard Nimoy) of the “Star Trek” television series. Actor Nimoy, a Jew, revealed that he learned this hand gesture as a young Jewish boy in his synagogue. Shin ( שׁ ) – forming an sh sound– was the first letter in a name for God– El Shaddai (“The All Sufficient God,” sometimes translated “God Almighty”). The Jewish High Priest would raise his hands to form the letter shin (signaling El Shaddai), and would emphatically announce, “It is finished!” That is, the Passover sacrifices were completed for that year.

As Yeshua died, He made the same announcement, recorded only in the Gospel of John (John 19:30b): … [Yeshua]  said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit. Other Gospel Scriptures tell us that Yeshua died at the ninth hour (3:00 pm).

Thus, the Jewish High Priest, dressed in the splendor of bejeweled priestly robes, announced that the Passover sacrifices in the magnificent Temple were finished at the same time Yeshua, our eternal High Priest, stripped naked of all clothing, announced along a dusty, Jerusalem roadside at Golgotha that the one and only acceptable Passover sacrifice was finished. Never again would God require or accept the blood sacrifice of animals (see Hebrews, chapters 9 and 10), because the perfect sacrifice of our Passover Lamb, Yeshua HaMashiach, paid the price for our sins. Truly, Yeshua’s sacrifice for us is finished!

SIDELIGHT: Protestant churches may display a cross, but usually choose not to do so. Catholic churches always display crosses– many crosses– throughout their properties. In a Protestant cross, Yeshua is never depicted as nailed to the cross. In a Catholic cross, Yeshua is always depicted as nailed to the cross. Protestants would explain to Catholics that Yeshua’s death on the cross was a one-time sacrifice, and that He was taken down from that cross never to return. If He chose not to return to the cross in ca AD 33, why would we “force” His return in AD 2023 religious icons? Therefore, Yeshua’s cross is more appropriately free of Yeshua’s body. END sidelight.

The debt for our sins has been paid in full by Yeshua! We need to accept that sacrifice (Yeshua’s payment for our sin debt) to atone for our sins. “It is finished” would be Yeshua’s last recorded utterance on the cross. Although Yeshua may have spoken Aramaic on the cross, the Apostle John recorded Yeshua’s last word as the Greek tetelestai. Tetelestai is translated as a phrase, “It is finished” (“It is completed”).

Yeshua did not announce His death (“It is finished,” that is, “My life is finished”), as some suppose. He knew He would be resurrected to live eternally. Rather, He announced that the mission entrusted to Him by God the Father had been finished. No other sacrifice would ever be required for the remission of humankind’s sins. God established the New Covenant for humans through Yeshua’s death. Sin forgiveness requires four parts– (1) confession, asking for forgiveness, forgiveness of others, and repentance of sin by the sinner; (2) the grace of God the Father, (3) the blood shed by Yeshua, and (4) a person’s acceptance of that sacrifice through faith.

Incidentally, John apparently borrowed the term tetelestai (“it is completed”) from the first century Roman Empire business world. Merchants wrote tetelestai on a sales bill or contract to show that the bill had been paid in full and the merchant required no additional payment. Yeshua’s death redeemed us (bought us back from sin) and paid in full the debt for our sins. No further payment is required.

DARKNESS AT NOON: The Gospels record a most unusual event (Matthew 27:45): Now from the sixth hour, darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour. (This time frame converts from our noon – the “sixth hour” – until 3:00 pm. – the “ninth hour.”) The same event is also recorded in Mark 15:33 and Luke 23:45.

This daytime darkness was not caused by a solar eclipse. Yeshua was crucified on Passover– which is the time of a full moon. A solar eclipse cannot occur when there is a full moon. (The sun and moon are opposite each other at this time. For a solar eclipse to occur, the moon’s orbit must pass between the orbits of the sun and earth.)

Is there evidence outside of the Bible to substantiate this extraordinary claim? Yes. Thank you for asking. Corroborating examples include:

● The Syrian Greek historian Thallus, a pagan, wrote in his book of history, Third History, in AD 52 (approximately two decades after Yeshua’s crucifixion) that darkness totally covered the land at the time of the Jews’ Passover in the year historians believe Yeshua was crucified.

● A little later, Julius Africanus quoted Thallus’ historical account, providing evidence that Thallus’ manuscript was authentic and not written at a later date.

● Another Greek pagan historian, Phlegon, in AD 138 in the Olympiades wrote about the “great and extraordinary” darkness of the sun that occurred at the time historians believe Yeshua was crucified.

● The Christian historian Tertullian (AD 160-220) consulted official Roman government archives available in his day, and found that these documents recorded an unusual darkness that occurred at noon at the time of Yeshua’s crucifixion.

● The Christian teacher Lucian of Antioch wrote about reading the account of darkness during the service of Pilate in official Roman archives, before Lucian  died as a martyr in AD 312.

Early Believers knew about this supernatural darkness because they experienced it. Later Believers read about the darkness in official Roman records, before the records were destroyed when the barbarians destroyed Rome and Rome’s records. This darkness was known and discussed throughout the Roman Empire, but not one person wrote that this event, claimed by Believers and pagans alike, did not occur.

Amos, who wrote his prophecies nearly eight centuries before Yeshua’s crucifixion, prophesied this darkness (Amos 8:9-10): “It will be in that day” – declares my Lord Adonai– “I will make the sun go down at noon, yes, I will darken the earth in daylight. I will turn your festivals into mourning and all your songs into a dirge. I will pull up sackcloth on every waist and baldness on every head. I will make it like the mourning for an only son– its end a bitter day.” Note Amos’ references to a darkness beginning at noon (compatible with first century eyewitness accounts), darkness during a feast (Passover), and mourning for an only son (God’s only Son, read John 3:16).

The significance of this supernatural darkness is that humans tried to kill the Light of the world (see John 9:5), and God withheld the light of the sun for three hours. When we rebel against God, we have no assurance that He will continue to bless us.

RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD: “Many” were resurrected at Yeshua’s death (Matthew 27:52-53): And the tombs were opened, and many bodies of the kedoshim who were sleeping were raised to life. And coming forth out of the tombs after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.

Why were so many resurrected after Yeshua’s death and resurrection? Yeshua was the First Fruit of God’s New Covenant (and He was resurrected during the Jews’ Feast of First Fruits). Resurrection was provided for Him. Resurrection of Yeshua and many saints provided Believers proof of the promise that those who believe in Yeshua as Savior will also have eternal life (Titus 2:13-15): [Yeshua]  gave Himself for us so that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and so that He might purify for Himself a chosen people, zealous for good deeds. So communicate these things, and encourage and correct with complete authority. Let no one look down on you. 

Yeshua’s tomb is now empty, and some day all Believers’ graves/ tombs will be empty. Yeshua is in Heaven now, and His followers will some day also be there with Him (John 5:28-29): [Yeshua said] “Do not be amazed at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in their graves will hear His voice and come out! Those who have done good will come to a resurrection of life, and those who have done evil will come to a resurrection of judgment.” 

Every person will most assuredly be resurrected from death (Hebrews 9:27). Will he/ she be resurrected to a life of blessing and reward, spending eternity in Heaven? Or, will he/ she be resurrected to a life of condemnation, spending eternity in Hell? Each person controls his/ her final destiny, whether that destiny is spent as eternity in Heaven or eternity in Hell.

CONCLUSION: I will complete this series on Yeshua’s resurrection next Sunday. Until then, Shalom and Maranatha.

POSTSCRIPT: I close my RRs with “Shalom and Maranatha.”

● You know Shalom as Hebrew for “Peace” (and other meanings).

● You may not be as familiar with Maranatha, but this expression is applicable for Resurrection Sunday. Maranatha is of Aramaic origin. Depending on subtle pronunciation differences, Maranatha may mean either “the Lord comes” (a statement of hope and prophecy) or “the Lord has come” (a statement of fact and history). The Apostle Paul used Maranatha in 1 Corinthians 16:22. It was a common watch word for the early Jerusalem church, where worshipers greeted each other in their coming and going with “Maranatha!” They voiced two statements of faith: “The Lord has come” and “The Lord will come.” In a single-word greeting, they summarized both the Tanakh and B’rit Chadashah doctrines of the Lord Yeshua HaMashiach. In this Resurrection Sunday season, we should all say boldly and confidently, “Maranatha!

Daily Bread, reading plan by Lars Enarsson (https://www.thewatchman.org/)
Day 8 of the Omer
Sun 16 April-2023 25th of Nisan, 5783 Day 8 of the Omer
Le 12:1-13:23 Isa 44 Job 2 Jas 4 (Mt 4)