Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, April 9, 2023
Shavuah Tov,

Day 1 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 no weeks and one day of the counting of the omer.

Yeshua Lives, Even Though Crucified! – Part 1
by Dr. Raymond Finney

INTRODUCTION: I am taking a brief hiatus in the death and dying RR series, including the near-death experience, in order that I may write a three-part seasonal RR series based on Resurrection Sunday.

In most of Western Christendom, today is Resurrection Sunday– a celebration of the day Yeshua was raised from His tomb– resurrected to eternal life– nearly two-thousand years ago. Resurrection Sunday varies on the calendar, typically occurring on a Sunday between March 22 and April 25.

This Sunday is commonly called “Easter,” but this is a name derived from  Eastre, a pagan goddess of spring and fertility. Such customs as Easter eggs and bunnies come from ancient pagan fertility rites.

In the King James Version (KJV), there is a mistranslation of Acts 12:4. Here, the KJV translators used the word “Easter.” No one had heard of Easter when the Book of Acts was written (AD 63-70). The word in the Greek text is Pascha, from Hebrew Peçach, correctly translated “Passover.” The Jewish-Christian author of the Book of Acts would never have used a pagan name for the holy Feast of Passover.

Regardless of what we call this day, it should be the holiest day of the year for Believers. Our Savior defeated death by rising from the dead, giving hope– our Blessed Hope (Titus 2:13) – to His promise that we Believers, too, can live eternally because of our faith.

YESHUA’S FIRST MIRACLE: As Yeshua began His ministry, He attended a wedding in Cana of Galilee with His mother, Miriam, whom we call Mary (see John 2:1-11). Marriage was the most important event in a couple’s life, and the couple’s friends and relatives would be invited to a several-day marriage feast.

Wine, a symbol of joy for the married couple’s future life, would be provided in abundance for the guests. An unthinkable lapse in hospitality occurred– the host family ran out of wine. There were present in the home six jars of water– stone jars of the type used in the Jews’ purification rituals. Yeshua told the servants to draw wine from the jars they thought contained only water. Obeying Yeshua, the servants drew “good wine” for the guests, instead of water.

In beginning His ministry as our High Priest, Yeshua signaled that He came to transform Old Covenant worship practices (ritual purification of sin by bathing in water) to better New Covenant worship practices (purification of sin by  cleansing through His blood shed on the cross). During His Communion teaching, Yeshua explained that His blood sacrifice, notes]which washes sin from a person’s life, is symbolized by fruit of the vine (whether in stone jars in Cana of Galilee or in Communion cups at Shomair Yisrael Synagogue in Knoxville).

THE TORN VEIL: In the Second (Herod’s) Temple, there was a veil which separated the Holy of Holies– where Jews believed Adonai lived– from the people. This woven linen veil was massive, measuring four inches in thickness, sixty feet in length, and thirty feet in height. Many men labored with great difficulty to set the veil in place. As Yeshua breathed His last breath on the cross, the veil was torn in two, from top to bottom (see Mark 15:38).

God explained that He would never again be separated from the people by a veil or any other barrier. In tearing the veil from the top (the heavenly side) to the bottom (the earthly side), God affirmed that He would always be with us. God does not live in a Temple, but His Spirit inhabits every person’s body (1 Corinthians 3:16): Don’t you know that you are God’s temple and that the Ruach Elohim dwells among you? Where you go, you take God with you. What you do with or to your body, you do with or to God.

JOSEPHUS’ HISTORY (YES, IT’S LENGTHY): The respected Jewish (non-Christian) historian, Flavius Josephus (born ca AD 37, died ca AD 100), was a contemporary of the time the following history occurred. He recorded most unusual, seemingly impossible events that took place primarily between AD 66 and AD 70 (see Josephus: Wars of the Jews, Book VI, Chapter V, Paragraph 3, written ca AD 75). Recall that the Second Jewish Temple was destroyed in AD 70, forty years (the duration of a generation) after Yeshua began His ministry.

Not only does Josephus’ history relate to a most important phase of Jewish history (including the beginning of the Diaspora), but it also contains embedded actions of Adonai as punishment for a disobedient Jewish nation. It takes little insight to understand that Adonai may also punish a disobedient American nation in like manner. I reprint, following, a lengthy excerpt of Josephus’ history. Historians, such as Josephus, write detailed, often tedious accounts. You would benefit from reading this historian’s account, though:

BEGINNING of Josephus’ history excerpt [with my Notes]: Thus were the miserable people persuaded by these deceivers, and such as belied God himself; while they did not attend nor give credit to the signs that were so evident, and did so plainly foretell their future desolation, but, like men infatuated, without either eyes to see or minds to consider, did not regard the denunciations that God made to them. Thus there was a star resembling a sword, which stood over the city, and a comet, that continued a whole year. [See Note 2a, below.] 

Thus also before the Jews’ rebellion, and before those commotions which preceded the war, when the people were come in great crowds to the feast of unleavened bread, on the eighth day of the month Xanthicus [Nisan], and at the ninth hour of the night, so great a light shone round the altar and the holy house, that it appeared to be bright day time; which lasted for half an hour. [See Note 2b, below.] This light seemed to be a good sign to the unskillful, but was so interpreted by the sacred scribes, as to portend those events that followed immediately upon it. 

At the same festival also, a heifer, as she was led by the high priest to be sacrificed, brought forth a lamb in the midst of the temple. [See Note 2c, below.] 

Moreover, the eastern gate of the inner [court of the] temple, which was of brass, and vastly heavy, and had been with difficulty shut by twenty men, and rested upon a basis armed with iron, and had bolts fastened very deep into the firm floor, which was there made of one entire stone, was seen to be opened of its own accord about the sixth hour of the night. [See Note 2d, below.] Now those that kept watch in the temple came hereupon running to the captain of the temple, and told him of it; who then came up thither, and not without great difficulty was able to shut the gate again. 

This also appeared to the vulgar to be a very happy prodigy, as if God did thereby open them the gate of happiness. But the men of learning understood it, that the security of their holy house was dissolved of its own accord, and that the gate was opened for the advantage of their enemies. So these publicly declared that the signal foreshadowed the desolation that was coming upon them. Besides these, a few days after that feast, on the one and twentieth day of the month Artemisius [Jyar], a certain prodigious and incredible phenomenon appeared: I suppose the account of it would seem to be a fable, were it not related by those that saw it, and were not the events that followed it of so considerable a nature as to deserve such signals; for, before sun-setting, chariots and troops of soldiers in their armor were seen running about among the clouds, and surrounding of cities. [See Note 2e, below.] 

Moreover, at that feast which we call Pentecost, as the priests were going by night into the inner [court of the temple], as their custom was, to perform their sacred ministrations, they said that, in the first place, they felt a quaking, and heard a great noise, and after that they heard a sound as of a great multitude, saying, “Let us remove hence.” [See Note 2f, below.] 

But, what is still more terrible, there was one Jesus, the son of Ananus, a plebeian and a husbandman, who, four years before the war began, and at a time when the city was in very great peace and prosperity, came to that feast whereon it is our custom for every one to make tabernacles to God in the temple, began on a sudden to cry aloud, “A voice from the east, a voice from the west, a voice from the four winds, a voice against Jerusalem and the holy house, a voice against the bridegrooms and the brides, and a voice against this whole people!” This was his cry, as he went about by day and by night, in all the lanes of the city. However, certain of the most eminent among the populace had great indignation at this dire cry of his, and took up the man, and gave him a great number of severe stripes; yet did not he either say any thing for himself, or any thing peculiar to those that chastised him, but still went on with the same words which he cried before. Hereupon our rulers, supposing, as the case proved to be, that this was a sort of divine fury in the man, brought him to the Roman procurator, where he was whipped till his bones were laid bare; yet he did not make any supplication for himself, nor shed any tears, but turning his voice to the most lamentable tone possible, at every stroke of the whip his answer was, “Woe, woe to Jerusalem!” 

And when Albinus (for he was then our procurator) asked him, Who he was? and whence he came? and why he uttered such words? he made no manner of reply to what he said, but still did not leave off his melancholy ditty, till Albinus took him to be a madman, and dismissed him. Now, during all the time that passed before the war began, this man did not go near any of the citizens, nor was seen by them while he said so; but he every day uttered these lamentable words, as if it were his premeditated vow, “Woe, woe to Jerusalem!” [See Note 2g, below.] Nor did he give ill words to any of those that beat him every day, nor good words to those that gave him food; but this was his reply to all men, and indeed no other than a melancholy presage of what was to come. 

This cry of his was the loudest at the festivals; and he continued this ditty for seven years and five months, without growing hoarse, or being tired therewith, until the very time that he saw his presage in earnest fulfilled in our siege, when it ceased; for as he was going round upon the wall, he cried out with his utmost force, “Woe, woe to the city again, and to the people, and to the holy house!” And just as he added at the last, “Woe, woe to myself also!” there came a stone out of one of the engines, and smote him, and killed him immediately; and as he was uttering the very same presages he gave up the ghost. END of Josephus’ history excerpt. 

Question 1: What did Josephus tell us? Recall these things:
● Yeshua prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem and Herod’s Temple (the Second Jewish Temple) a generation before its destruction (Matthew 24:1-2): Now when Yeshua went out and was going away from the Temple, His disciples came up to point out to Him the Temple buildings. “Don’t you see all these?” He responded to them. “Amen, I tell you, not one stone will be left here on top of another– every one will be torn down!” Yeshua’s prophecy was fulfilled in AD 70, when Roman legions under Titus’ command destroyed Jerusalem and Herod’s Temple, and killed or enslaved able-bodied Jews.

The Temple was an important storehouse of gold and silver, serving as both the national treasury and the “bank” of wealthy Jews. (Banks, as we know them, did not exist in the first century.) The Temple accidentally caught fire. The molten precious metal flowed between the floor’s paving stone joints, and the Roman soldiers dismantled the Temple by prying the stones apart to recover the cooled precious metals– exactly as Yeshua had prophesied (Matthew 24:2): “… not one stone will be left here on top of another– every one will be torn down!” 

● Josephus described most unusual events (see following paragraphs), which occurred shortly before the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish Temple in AD 70. These events clearly were warnings and signs from God, which were neither understood nor heeded. THINK: Is God giving warnings and signs today for America? Will America be judged by God for our sins, as He judged Israel for her sins? Is America failing to understand and heed God’s warnings? Will America’s sins cause our nation to be destroyed? Is America now in the beginning of God’s judgment?

Question 2: Now, what significant, supernatural events did the historian Josephus record? Consider the following comments embedded in Josephus’ history. These comments were obscure, when written, but are plain for us, as we have the benefit of having read the B’rit Chadashah. Bible knowledge is built up, layer by layer, as more revelations are made known to different generations. Our generation knows more of God’s truth than did earlier generations.

Note 2a: Josephus wrote: “Thus there was a star resembling a sword, which stood over the city, and a comet, that continued a whole year.” Comment: God used/ uses heavenly signs to announce special events, such as, the “star” which announced Yeshua’s birth (see Matthew 2:2). These heavenly bodies recorded by Josephus portended disaster for the Jews. It is significant that this star resembled the symbol of war and death– a sword. God previously used a flaming sword to remove people from a land He had given them (Genesis 3:24): And He [Adonai] expelled the man [Adam]; and at the east of the Garden of Eden He had cheruvim dwell along, with the whirling sword of flame, to guard the way to the Tree of Life. God once again was ready to drive His people from their homes, and He used the same symbol (a flaming sword).

Note 2b: Josephus wrote: “A great light shone round the altar and the holy house.” Comment: This light may mean that the Light of the world (Yeshua) shone around God’s altar and the Holy of Holies, providing yet another reference to our true High Priest (John 8:12a): Yeshua spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world.”

Note 2c: Josephus wrote: “A heifer, being led by the high priest to be sacrificed, brought forth a lamb in the midst of the temple.” Comment: The sacrifice of a red heifer was necessary for Jewish purification rituals (see Numbers, chapter 19). There are certain symbolic similarities in the sacrifice of the red heifer and the crucifixion of Yeshua. However, some scholars believe that the red heifer is a type (prophecy, foreshadow) of Israel. Only a perfect, blemish-free, three year-old heifer could be sacrificed. A heifer is a virginal cow (one which has never been bred). The priests would have carefully examined the heifer before bringing her for sacrifice, and they certainly would not have brought a pregnant cow ready to calve.

Even more supernaturally, the heifer (considered a symbol of Israel) gave birth to a lamb (considered a symbol of Yeshua) in the middle of the Temple. A cow can give birth only to a calf, and never a lamb. The symbolism of this miracle is: The heifer (Israel) gave birth to a lamb (our Passover Lamb, Yeshua) in the Temple (the place of worship of God), affirming the change from the old Aaronic (Levitical) priesthood to the High Priesthood of Yeshua HaMashiach. Upon His return, Yeshua will serve in an unusual capacity, as both High Priest and King, on the order of Melchizedek (see Psalm 110:4 and Hebrews 7:3, 17).

Note 2d: Josephus wrote: “The massive eastern gate of the inner temple opened of its own accord.” Comment: The meaning of this event is obvious and has the same significance as the Temple veil being torn in two at Yeshua’s death. God opened worship of Him to all men and women, without need for a special place of worship. (That is, God inhabits each person’s body, not a special building.) In New Covenant worship, we do not need an order of priests, because each person is his/ her own priest, under the High Priest Yeshua. New Covenant worship does not require temple sacrifices of animals, because Yeshua is our one and only Passover Lamb sacrifice. This one-time sacrifice has been completed and will never again be repeated.

The heavy gate opened to show that God is always open to man’s worship and petitions. I may be placing too fine a point on Josephus’ account, but it is interesting that God opened the gate, but “the captain of the temple” (a religious leader) closed it. Since the early Christian church, we have had a constant parade of religious leaders who have had the audacity to insert themselves between man and God. They re-live the temple captain’s closing of the gate opened by God by closing that door again for the people they should be leading.

Belief in Yeshua as Savior should not be a “religion,” but should be a movement of men and women who attempt to heed Yeshua’s simple command, “Follow Me.” Yeshua had harsher words for the religious leaders of His time than He had for “ordinary” sinners (prostitutes, thieves, murderers, and so forth). We are commanded to worship with and support a body of Believers (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. But, do not let any man or denomination get between you and the simple message of the Bible. You are personally responsible for your salvation (Philippians 2:12b-13): … work out your salvation with fear and trembling. For the One working in you is God– both to will and to work for His good pleasure.  Any pastor’s words or denomination’s doctrines which are contrary to the Bible come from man, not from God, and we must follow God (Acts 5:29): Peter and the emissaries replied, “We must obey God rather than men.”

Note 2e: Josephus wrote: “Chariots and troops of armored soldiers were seen running about among the clouds and surrounding cities.” Comment: This vision was probably a warning of the soon-to-come siege of Jerusalem, destruction of Jewish life in Judah, and carrying off of the Jews throughout the world. This dispersion of the Jewish nation, the Diaspora, extended from AD 70 to 1948.

Note 2f: Josephus wrote: “At the feast of Pentecost, as the priests were going by night into the inner court of the temple, they felt a quaking, and heard a great noise, and after that they heard a sound as of a great multitude, saying, ‘Let us remove hence.’” Comment: God has frequently used earthquakes to accompany important messages for man. Pentecost has dual significance. “Pentecost” (from Greek Πεντηκοστή || transliteration, Pentēkostē || pronunciation, pen-tay-kos-TAY) || translation, “the fiftieth day”). In Judaism, Pentecost marks the day God gave His Law to Moses on the fiftieth day after the Israelites were delivered from bondage in Egypt. In B’rit Chadashah times, Pentecost marks the day God gave birth to the “called out [ones]” (variously translated as “church,” “community,” or “congregation”) on the fiftieth day after Yeshua’s resurrection (see Acts, chapter 2). The command, “Let us remove hence,” may be a preview of the command Believers will hear as they are caught up in the clouds (the Rapture) to meet Yeshua (see 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17; Revelation 4:1).

Note 2g: Josephus wrote: “[Yeshua, son of Ananus, warning,] ‘Woe, woe to Jerusalem!’” Comment: This Yeshua (not Yeshua MaMashiach) may have been a prophet of God. God shows a pattern before allowing judgment to befall any people. He gives warning; followed by grace to allow repentance; followed by judgment, if repentance does not occur. Yeshua, son of Ananus, may have provided the warning for the Jews to repent. Notice the interesting similarity in the two men named Yeshua. Yeshua HaMashiach ben Elohim (Yeshua the Messiah, Son of God), preached repentance, but was rejected, beaten, and crucified. Decades later, Yeshua ben Ananus (Yeshua, son of  Ananus), preached repentance, but was rejected, beaten, and killed. The hardened hearts of sinful mankind usually reject warnings from God to repent. God’s warnings flood America, calling for repentance. Is America– are you personally– repenting?

Now is the time to seek God! There may be a future time when it is too late to repent (Nahum 3:19a): There is no cure for your brokenness, your wound is severe…. Certainly, a sinner cannot repent after death or after the Lord returns (Isaiah 55:6): Seek Adonai while He may be found, call on Him while He is near. – AND – (John 9:4): [Yeshua said] “We must do the work of the One who sent Me, so long as it is day! Night is coming when no one can work.” [I paraphrase this verse (not a direct quotation from the Bible): “Work for forgiveness in the daytime of life, before Yeshua returns; after He returns, it may be too late to work for forgiveness in the nighttime of life.”]

CONCLUSION: I apologize for reprinting a lengthy passage of Josephus’ history. Some may find it interesting; others, tedious. We need to know something about the fall of Jerusalem in the days before AD 70. God warned  B’nei Yisrael that their nation was about to fall, but few listened. I believe God may be warning America that our nation is about to fall, but few are listening. In His ancient warning, God foretold to the Jews the basis for belief in Yeshua, but few listened. In His modern warning, God foretells to Americans the basis for belief in Yeshua, but again relatively few listen. Unfortunately, history may repeat itself, and woke, smug, disinterested Americans may some day witness Chinese troops marching victoriously through America’s streets (Ecclesiastes 1:9): [Kohelet said] “What has been is what will be, and what has been done will be done again. There is nothing new under the sun.”

Neither you nor I can change the direction of America’s leaders or people. God already knows the fate of America, and such fate is out of our hands. We can, though, prepare ourselves, our families, and our friends for that day when we meet Yeshua face to face. I frequently remind in these RRs that our home is not America; we are only temporary sojourners in this country. Our true, eternal home is New Jerusalem. Until next Sunday, Shalom and Maranatha.

Daily Bread, reading plan by Lars Enarsson (https://www.thewatchman.org/)
Day 1 of the Omer
Sun 9 April-2023 18th of Nisan, 5783 Pesach IV
Ex 22:25(24)-23:19, Nu 28:19-25   Isa 40   Pr 29 Ac 28 (Rev 22)