ADAR – The Twelfth Hebrew Month

BLESSING OF THE NEW MONTH – BIRKAT HA’CHODESH 

May it be Your will, O Lord, our God and the God of our forefathers, that You inaugurate this month of Adar upon us for goodness and for blessing.

May You give us long life,
a life of peace – Shalom,
a life of goodness – Tovah
a life of blessing – Bracha
a life of sustenance – Parnassa
a life of physical health – Hilutz Atzamot
a life in which there is a fear of heaven and fear of sin – Yirat Shamayim ve’ Yirat Chet 
a life in which there is no humiliation – Ein Busha u’Chlimah  
a life of wealth and honor – Osher ve’Kavod 
a life in which we will have love of Torah and awe and reverence of God – Ahavat Torah ve’Yirat HaShem  
a life in which Adonai, the Lord, fulfills our heartfelt requests for good.
Amen. Selah.

Purim 1

“Be Happy – It’s Adar!” 

Adar is the twelfth and last month of the biblical year, which begins in Nissan, the month of liberation from Egyptian slavery. The happy holiday of Purim, when the scroll of Esther is read in commemoration of God’s salvation of the Jews of Persia, always falls on 14th Adar. In a leap year it is celebrated in Adar Bet. The story of Esther speaks of God’s people who are in exile and the defeat of the enemy who plots to destroy them. It illustrates the historical threat of Amalek, the archetypal enemy of the Jewish people; and the timeless promise of God’s salvation and ultimate victory. Esther’s cry echoes the cry of her matriarch Rachel, who wept for her children who were in exile*, and God again hears from Heaven and brings deliverance. Faithful God and mighty Deliverer! A good reason to celebrate with a party, and to put up a sign to remind yourself, “Be Happy – it’s Adar!”

 

The month of Adar corresponds with the tribe of Naftali.* As recorded in Genesis 30:8, he was the second son born to Rachel’s maidservant, Bilhah, Why did Rachel name him Naftali? And what is his tribe’s connection with the month of Adar?

10375943_737678699608942_6335007809923498816_n

The Blessings of Naftali 

When Jacob assembled his sons to his deathbed, he blessed Naftali as follows: “Naftali is a hind let loose, who delivers – imri shafer – beautiful sayings” (Genesis 49:21).
The Midrash explains that the word shafer alludes to the word m’shaper, to perfect or to beautify, and to the word shofar. Interestingly, Proverbs 5:19 compares the Torah to a “beloved hind”. A possible reason for this is found in a verse in the Talmud, which states that just as a hind always remains beloved to her mate so too the Torah remains beloved to those who study it.*** The tribe of Naftali would obey and perfect, i.e., teach and clarify the words, or sayings, of the Torah that were given at Sinai with the sound of the shofar.

By comparing him to a hind, a female deer, let loose, we can surmise that a characteristic of the tribe would be alacrity – the ability to swiftly reach “high places” and to be fruitful in their undertakings. Indeed, once the Israelites were in the Land, the northern Galilee area allotted to Naftali proved to be extremely fertile and was the first to rapidly produce much fruit.

The Scriptures also describe how the tribe of Naftali were ready and able soldiers, quick to defend their nation. With alacrity this tribe, led by Barak ben Avinoam, joined the prophetess Deborah and fought to defeat Sisera and his mighty army (Judges 4:10).

When Moses blessed the tribe, he proclaimed, “Oh Naftali, satisfied with favor, and full of the blessing of the Lord…” (Deuteronomy 33:23). This was a blessed tribe indeed; those satisfied with their lot in life. They studied and shared Torah, produced an abundance of olives, fish, and fruits of the Land, and enjoyed the good favor of God and man.

It is not surprising to find that this is the area where Simon Peter and his brothers lived and which Yeshua loved. Here he performed many miracles and gave his discourse on blessings on the Mount of Beatitudes. The green, fruitful surrounding and the beauty of the fresh water Lake Kinneret glimmering below could not have stood in greater contrast to the dry, barren wilderness landscape of Mount Sinai. However, a dark spiritual shadow covered the land and the people were suffering under harsh Roman domination; their hearts yearned for Messiah and Redemption. Now, here in the Galilee stronghold of the Roman gentiles, they beheld the Light of the Torah Incarnate in their midst.

…And leaving Nazareth [Jesus] went and dwelt in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naftali, that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “In the land of Zebulun and the land of Naftali, toward the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the gentiles, the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death, light has dawned” (Matthew 4:13-16).

Then our mouth was filled with laughter And our tongue with joyful shouting; Then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” (Psalm 126:2).

IMG_0028

IDF soldiers having fun!

Humor often puts things into perspective and in a world that sometimes makes no sense, often combines sorrow and laughter. In Adar we find a laughter which springs from joy.

As Rabbi Lubliner describes, in Sanctity of Laughter,  

Humor is also a path to God. For to laugh at something is to recognize its limits, its boundaries. Humor shatters a variety of idols — be they our leaders, our enemies, our own foibles. Only God is absolute. All Jewish humor points to the fact that nothing else in this universe even comes close [to Him].

The message of Adar is not to wear a mask of joy to cover up your true feelings. Pain and suffering touches every life, but this month of Adar reminds us that joy is our birthright.

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full (John 15:11).

In the face of the ongoing historical threat and violence of Amalek, we can trust in the timeless promise of God’s salvation and ultimate victory.

As Queen Esther reminds us during this month of Adar, even when we cannot see Him God always is whispering to us: “I am with you, as I have been all along. I will always be here for you. Choose in faith to see Me in all circumstances, and let your heart be filled with joy and peace.”

~ Keren Hannah Pryor

 Footnotes:

* Jeremiah 31:15-17

** Pri Tzaddik, Rosh Chodesh Adar, quoting Shaarei Orah  

*** Talmud Bavli, Eruvin 54b

SHEVAT – The Eleventh Hebrew month – and the blessings of Trees

Blessing for the  New Month – Birkat Ha’Chodesh – בירכת החודש

 May it be Your will, O Lord, our God and the God of our forefathers, that You inaugurate this month of Shevat upon us for goodness and for blessing.

May You give us long life
and a life of peace – Shalom,
a life of goodness – Tovah 
a life of blessing – Bracha
a life of sustenance – Parnassa
a life of physical health – Hilutz Atzamot 
a life in which there is a fear of heaven and fear of sin
Yirat Shamayim ve’ Yirat Chet 
a life in which there is no humiliation – Ein Busha u’Chlimah 
a life of wealth and honor – Osher ve’Kavod 
a life in which we will have love of Torah and awe and reverence of God
Ahavat Torah ve’Yirat HaShem 
a life in which Adonai, the Lord, fulfills our heartfelt requests for good.

Amen. Selah.

The holiday of Tu B’Shevat is described in the Hebrew calendar as the New Year for Trees. It is not specifically listed with the Feasts of the Lord in the Bible; however, Tu B’Shevat is the time allocated in Israel for calculating the tithes on fruit and crops based on the injunction in Scripture: “You shall tithe all the yield of your seed, which comes from the field year by year” (Deuteronomy 14:22). The date is in accord with the botanical fact that this is the time the sap rises in the trees to feed the buds; which effectively marks the start of the growth of the new crop.

At the time of Tu B’Shevat, the fruit of one’s lips is offered in prayer and praise to God particularly for His provision of all the trees and their fruit and the harvests to come. Because, outwardly, it is still deep into winter and food may be scarce, a very worthwhile custom has arisen of remembering the poor at this time and of giving to those in need that they might be fed. Where possible, a family can supply goods or a contribution to a pertinent charity or a local Soup Kitchen or, better still, volunteer to serve there for a day.

 

543764_10151347299943898_187823334_n

A significant element of the celebration of Tu B’Shevat is that it is a herald of Spring. The almond trees are the first that begin to burst forth in a profusion of beautiful blossoms, sometimes even surrounded by sparkling snow. Then the trees, which stood bare through the previous cold winter months, begin to sprout green leaves and buds as they bear the promise of the fruit harvest. We can happily anticipate the proclamation of the Beloved, as described in the Song of Songs (2:10-13):

 Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away; for lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree puts forth its figs, and the vines are in blossom; they give forth fragrance.

 

10371525_10152072553501128_1053064684539112064_n

In Jewish literature, an interesting connection is made between the 12 months of the year and the pattern of encampment and order of procession of the 12 tribes in the wilderness.

Based on the order of encampments, [Shevat] corresponds to the tribe of Asher, and [the stellar constellation associated with the month] is Aquarius [the water bearer]. 
(Bnei Yissachar, Maamarei Chodesh Shevat
1:8)

Shevat is the 11th month of the Hebrew calendar and Asher was 11th in the tribal formation. What do we know about Jacob’s son Asher, who was born to Leah’s maid Zilpah? At his birth Leah declared, “Happy and prosperous (bosher) am I! For the women will call me happy” (Gen. 30:13). Asher, thus, is related to happiness. Other connotations of osher are: to be straight (yashar), honest, to go forward, to prosper.

Jacob’s deathbed blessing of Asher reads, “Asher’s food shall be rich, and he shall yield royal delicacies” (Genesis 49:20). This richness is attributed to the fact that his territory in the Land would be filled with an abundance of olive trees. The symbol on the standard of the tribe of Asher as they camped and traveled through the wilderness was a large, fruitful olive tree. When Moses later adds his blessing to the tribes, he says of Asher, “He will dip his feet in oil” (Deuteronomy 33:24). The harvest of olive oil would flow like a spring. Despite the abundance and prosperity, we may consider that Asher remained down to earth and humble of character as the stone on the breastplate of the High Priest representing the tribe was the agate. Its colors of green, black and brown reflect the olive tree and it is but a common gemstone.

 Jay's Olive Tree MenorahOriginal picture by Jay Myers. m.jay@yetsirah.com

In the science of Astronomy [and not, please, connected with Astrology] the constellation associated with Asher and the month of Shevat is Aquarius, known in English as the Water Bearer. The liquids of oil and water are not very similar. Water mixes easily with other liquids, whereas oil does not. Rather than mixing, oil floats to the top. How, then, can both these liquids be connected with Asher?

Regarding water, the prophet Isaiah proclaims: “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation (Yeshuah)” (12:3).  Of the restoration of the land and the people of Israel, he prophesies: “The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly” (35:1-2) and, speaking of God’s great salvation, he says, “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; …for waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert” (35:6).

We can see the effects of physical water in redeeming the dry land, but the water of revelation that brings sight to spiritually blind eyes and deaf ears is the water of the Word of God. The prophet Amos foretells of a famine in the earth that will not be for bread, nor “…a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord” (8:11). Here we find the link between water and oil. The symbol of the Torah, the Living Water of the Word of God, in the Holy Place of the Temple is the golden Menorah. The vital fuel that provides its light is pure olive oil. The Word of God and the illumination of the Spirit of God; Life and Light; water and oil – both are needed for the fullness of understanding and abundant joy (osher) to be found in His Presence. This creates a beautiful picture of the delight of echad, the unity and oneness of God. Yeshua, who came from the Father as the Word made flesh, said: “If anyone is thirsty come to me and drink the water of life.” Together with the Spirit of Holiness, the soothing, light-bearing oil, we find wisdom, anointing, and knowledge of the Father, in whose Presence is “fullness of joy”- osher!

We read of a special woman of the tribe of Asher in Luke’s wonderful account of the revelation by the Spirit of God to Simeon, in the court of the Temple, of the Messianic identity of the baby Yeshua:

And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher; she was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years from her virginity, and as a widow till she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the Temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour [of Simeon’s revelation] she gave thanks to God, and spoke of  him [Yeshua] to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem (Luke 2:36-38).

The Hebrew name of the constellation Aquarius is Dli – דלי, which means ‘bucket.’ The purpose of a dli is to draw water from a well and to make it available for use. Here we see that Anna did indeed draw the ‘water’ of life from the ‘well of salvation’ and she was quick to pour it out, joyfully, to quench the thirst of others.

It also is of interest to note that the day Moses began his last famous discourse to the Israelites, just five weeks before his death, was the first day of Shevat (Deut. 1:3,5). This underscored the fact that he, “the most humble of men,” saw himself as a mere vessel – a bucket – in the hands of the Lord. His purpose was solely to draw from the Source and to pour out the water of God’s Word to His people.

And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work (2 Corinthians 9: 6,8).

May the Garden of our lives abound this month with the fruit of the Spirit of Holiness: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control.

~Keren Hannah

images-4

Stamps of Israel

1 Zvi Ryzman, The Wisdom of the Hebrew Months, Mesorah Publications Ltd., NY, 2009;  87.

Blue ManIf you enjoyed this post you might also enjoy the following:

Behold The Trees – read by Keren
TU B’SHEVAT – and a Tu B’Shevat Seder / festive meal

TEVET – The Tenth Hebrew Month

Blessing of the New Month of Tevet – Birkat Ha’Chodesh

May it be Your will, O Lord, our God and the God of our forefathers, that You inaugurate this month of Tevet upon us for goodness and for blessing.

May You give us long life:   a life of peace – Shalom,
a life of goodness – Tovah,
a life of blessing – Bracha,
a life of sustenance – Parnassa, ,
a life of physical health – Hilutz Atzamot, 
a life in which there is a fear of heaven and fear of sin – Yirat Shamayim ve’ Yirat Chet,
a life in which there is no humiliation – Ein Busha u’Chlimah, 
a life of wealth and honor – Osher ve’Kavod, 
a life in which we will have love of Torah and awe and reverence of God – Ahavat Torah ve’Yirat HaShem, 
a life in which Adonai, the Lord, fulfills our heartfelt requests for good.

Amen. Selah.

ALittleBitLight-logo (1)

The Hebrew month of Tevet begins during the last days of Hanukkah. While we enjoy the radiant final lightings of the candles, we remember that we are facing the prospect of the dark months of winter to come. Thus, we are all the more grateful for the bright, dancing flames of the Hanukkah menorah, and we are encouraged and strengthened by the rededication of our lives to the One God who is above all gods.

We can look forward two months, to the month of Adar and the joyous festival of Purim, when we happily celebrate the beginning of spring and are let loose from the constraints of winter, but now we are entering the somber month of Tevet.

Why is Tevet a time of mourning? An answer is recorded in Jewish literature:

Behold, that the retribution [in the era of the first Holy Temple, when Jerusalem was besieged, leading to its destruction] began in this month, was surely for a reason. It seems to me that this was because [Tevet] corresponds to the tribe of Dan, who were the first people to worship an idol…

(Bnei Yissachar, Maamarei Chodesh Kislev-Tevet 14:2)

What can we understand from the relationship between Dan and Hanukkah and the month of Tevet? Let us begin by examining the blessing that Jacob bestowed on Dan.

Dan will judge his people like the unique one of Israel. Dan shall be a serpent in the way, a viper by the path that bites the horse’s heels so that his rider falls backward. I wait for Thy salvation, O Lord.

(Genesis 49:16-18)

The name Dan is derived from the Hebrew root word din, to judge. Before David was instituted as the first king of Israel, the judges and prophets were recognized as the leaders of the people. The traits of the tribe of Dan were most clearly reflected in one of its most famous descendants, Samson. Israel was united under his leadership, and he avenged his people by bringing retribution upon the Philistines. Just as a snake attacks the rider by striking his horse, so did Samson bring down the Philistines without actually touching them.

Jacob’s cry, “For Your salvation do I long, O Lord,”  echoes in the blinded Samson’s desperate plea that God restore his lost strength before he toppled the pillars of the pagan temple (Judges 13–17). God heard his cry and the temple of Dagon collapsed killing Samson and all the Philistine governors, as well as three thousand people who had come to scornfully watch the spectacle of the captured Israelite leader.

Dan and Yehudah were the largest tribes numerically, and also the strongest physically, and both are compared to lions. As the tribes of Israel travelled through the wilderness, Yehudah was at the head and Dan travelled last, to guard the rear. The Midrash deduces a partnership between the two tribes from the verse, “Dan will judge his people like the unique one [k’echad] of Israel”. The Hebrew word k’echad is related to ha’meuchad – the unique or special leader of Israel. The great leader Samson was actually a product of a union between Dan and Yehudah. His father, Manoach, was from Dan and his mother from Yehudah. The unique one, however, can only refer to King David, who was a descendent of the tribe of Yehudah, and who is the predecessor of Messiah Yeshua – the Lion of the tribe of Judah!

A Challenging Month!

Historically, Israel faced and endured tragic calamities during the month of Tevet. The great tragedy of the siege of Jerusalem, the destruction of the Temple and the exile to Babylon is commemorated each year by fasting during the day on the tenth of Tevet, Asarah b’Tevet (22 December, 2015).

Many other tragedies that occurred during Tevet are recorded. For example, in 1496 the Jews of Portugal, many of whom had immigrated there after their expulsion from Spain only four years before, were presented with the edict that they must be baptized into Catholicism or leave the country within a year.

How fitting, then, that the dark days of Tevet are illuminated by the light of Hanukkah, a reminder that at Creation God created the light and saw that it was good. The name Tevet comes from the Hebrew root tov, meaning good. His light dispels every darkness. His deliverance is always at hand. Interestingly, it was on Rosh Chodesh Tevet that, after their ordeal in the Ark, Noah finally saw a sign of their deliverance,

…in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains were seen

(Genesis 8:5).

We can go forward into the unknown and often dark and threatening future in the knowledge that in the God of Israel lies the overcoming against all odds. He has provided the triumph of light over darkness, of victory over Israel’s enemies; the many are delivered into the hands of the few, the strong into the hands of the weak, the wicked into the hands of the righteous. All in order that His Name be lifted up in the earth and all darkness be banished forever.

You deliver a humble people, but Your eyes are upon the proud to bring them down. You are my lamp, O Lord, and my God lightens my darkness.

(2 Samuel 22:28-29)

ALittleBitLight-logo (1)

It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive commendation from God.

(1 Corinthians 4: 4-5)

KISLEV – The Ninth Hebrew Month

1452584_181793808696141_494585009_n

KISLEV – The ‘dark’ month that is one of the brightest!

May it be Your will, O Lord, our God and the God of our forefathers, that You inaugurate this month of Kislev upon us for goodness and for blessing.

Abba, Father, may You give us long life,
a life of peace  –  Shalom
a life of goodness – Tovah
a life of blessing – Bracha
a life of sustenance – Parnassa
a life of physical health – Hilutz Atzamot 
a life in which there is a fear of heaven and fear of sin –
Yirat Shamayim ve’ Yirat Chet 
a life in which there is no humiliation – Ein Busha u’Chlimah
a life of wealth and honor – Osher ve’Kavod
a life in which we will have love of Torah and awe and reverence of God –
Ahavat Torah ve’Yirat HaShem
a life in which Adonai, the Lord, fulfills our heartfelt requests for good.

Amen. Selah.

In Israel and the northern hemisphere, the month of Kislev falls during the final days of Autumn. The surroundings are vibrant with the reds and golds of the season, but the days are shorter and the hours of darkness lengthen. The cold of Winter is beginning to set in. The historical festival of Hanukkah is celebrated at this time of the year, always on 25th Kislev, and it’s flickering lights invite us into this sacred space of warmth and holiness.

A Talmudic story reflects a central theme of the season of Hanukkah:

“When Adam and Eve first saw the sun go down they were panic-stricken, thinking that the setting of the sun was a consequence of their sin, and that this new, intense darkness would spell their death. They spent that entire first night weeping, until dawn broke and they realized, to their immense relief, that this was simply the way of the world — day was followed by night, and night was followed by day.”*

154238_1555377677153_1016529752_31255773_1921442_n
“A human being is created to light up this world.”**

 Light is a shining thread that is woven through the Feasts of the Lord. It is, in truth, a major theme from the very beginning of Creation through the close of Time – from Genesis to Revelation.

At Creation: “And God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light” (Genesis1:3).

“And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light,  and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it.” (Revelation 21:23-24).

Hanukkah is celebrated on the 25th day of Kislev every year, and the birth of Messiah Jesus, as the Light of the world, traditionally is celebrated every 25th of December.
We discover an interesting “coincidence” in that the 25th Hebrew word of the Torah is “ohr” – light! This is the first mention of light in the Bible (Genesis 1:3).

In Genesis, God tells Abram, “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” We see the obvious fact that Abraham’s descendants will be too numerous to count but Hassidic sage R. Yehudah Leib Alter gives an interesting midrash on this promise. He imaginatively suggests to look at God’s promise as qualitative, not quantitative. Abraham’s descendants should be like stars in the vast darkness of the night sky …light up the darkness of the most depraved and immoral parts of the world. Do the impossible by His Spirit (Zech. 4:6).

The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord. (Proverbs 20:27, KJV)

 

Hanukkah Stories 2

Kislev and the Tribe of Benjamin.

“According to the order of the encampments [of the tribes of Israel around the Tabernacle in the wilderness], Tishrei corresponds to Ephraim, Cheshvan to Menashe [Manasseh] and Kislev to Binyamin [Benjamin]…”

~ Bnei Yissachar: Maamarei Chodesh Tishrei 1:2

 There is a special connection between the tribes of Benjamin, Judah and Levi in that they are each associated with the Beit HaMikdash, the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. The reference ‘hidden’ in the gospels that tells us that Yeshua celebrated the festival of Hanukkah places him in the Temple and there is a hint of his Messiahship.

At that time the Feast of Dedication [Hanukkah] took place at Jerusalem.
It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” (John 10:22-24)

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, in his commentary The Pentateuch, writes that Benjamin merited having the Temple stand in his allocated portion of the Land for three reasons:

  1. He was the only one of Jacob’s sons to be born in the Land of Israel.
  2. He was the only brother who did not take part in the sale of Joseph.
  3. He cared for his father Jacob in his old age.

These factors establish that Benjamin reflected the characteristics represented by the House of God itself. His Holy Temple was only built in the Land of Israel. It was intended to be a symbol of God’s Presence – a place of His Divine Love that united His people as family in their love for Him and for one another. This love is expressed in the honoring of parents and in caring for the elderly and the weak and needy.

The Temple was also partially situated on a strip of land in Judah’s territory. Judah, after all, had inherited the kingship of the Davidic dynasty, and from his line would come the King of kings, Messiah, who at the end of days will reign from that very place. The Levites and kohanim (priests) were included with Judah as they performed the worship and services in the Temple (Genesis 49:27).

This month of Kislev, with its glowing Festival of Lights, Hanukkah, epitomizes dedication, wholehearted commitment, and devotion to God to the point of laying down one’s life for His Name’s sake, as did Messiah, Yeshua, and the Maccabees of old, and martyrs through the ages to this present day. It is a perfect time to dedicate our lives afresh to our God and His Word, and to allow His Light to shine more brightly through our lives to bring hope to those in darkness around us.

Footnotes:

Rabbi Shai Held, Babylonian Talmud, Avodah Zarah 8a

** Sefas Emes, Hanukkah, 1874; Matthew 5:14

CHESHVAN – The Eighth Hebrew month

dscf1390*

Blessing of the New Month – Birkat Ha’Chodesh

May it be Your will, O Lord, our God and the God of our forefathers, that You inaugurate this month of Cheshvan upon us for goodness and for blessing.

May You give us long life,

a life of peace – Shalom,

a life of goodness – Tovah

a life of blessing – Bracha

a life of sustenance – Parnassa

a life of physical health – Hilutz Atzamot

a life in which there is a fear of heaven and fear of sin – Yirat Shamayim ve’ Yirat Chet

a life in which there is no humiliation – Ein Busha u’Chlimah

a life of wealth and honor – Osher ve’Kavod

a life in which we will have love of Torah and awe and reverence of God

Ahavat Torah ve’Yirat HaShem

a life in which Adonai, the Lord, fulfills our heartfelt requests for good.

Amen. Selah.

The cycle of the moon, with its waxing and waning, is symbolic of renewal. It is a constant illustration of the fact that, as we journey through life, we too continually experience phases of growth and decline, prominence and hiddenness. Every day, week, month and year are opportunities for new beginnings. Biblically, the number 7 indicates completion – the Shabbat crowns and completes the week. The number 8, as in the eigth day, indicates a new beginning in a special way and is seen by the Sages as representing Olam HaBa,  (the World to Come or Eternity) once Olam HaZeh, this world, has reached its completion.

It is also worthy of note that the observance of Rosh Chodesh was the first commandment given to Israel as a newly formed nation (Exodus 12:2). Israel thus has a special, God ordained, identification with the moon. It serves as a reminder that Israel’s glory may fade and seemingly disappear but the nation will always re-emerge and grow to fullness, as does the moon.  For Israel, and those who stand with her – particularly at this time of God’s restoration of the nation and the violent attempts of the enemy to prevent it –  the blessing of the New Moon is an event of inspiration and importance.

After the Exodus from Egypt, the verse that references the first month set in place by God to mark the deliverance from Egypt reads,

“This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you.”

Notice that He says it is for you! The months are set in place for our benefit. It is as though our Father has stored a gift for us at the start of each new month – a fresh opportunity of renewal –  to strengthen ourselves in our relationship with Him and in our service to Him.

A connection is made between Rosh Chodesh and the festivals in all three sections of the Hebrew Scriptures – the Torah, the Prophets and the Writings [the TanakhTorah, Nevi’im and Ketuvim].

1. Numbers 29:1 

“On the first day [New Moon] of the seventh month [TishreiRosh HaShanah] you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not work at your occupations. It is a day for you to blow the trumpets…”

2. Isaiah 66:23 

“From New Moon to New Moon, and from Sabbath to Sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me”, says the Lord.

3. 2 Chronicles 2:3

“I am now about to build a house for the name of the Lord my God and dedicate it to him for offering fragrant incense before him, and for the regular offering of the rows of bread, and for burnt offerings morning and evening, on the Sabbaths and the New Moons and the Appointed Festivals of the Lord our God, as ordained forever for Israel.”

The main differences between Rosh Chodesh and the Festivals are:

  1. On Rosh Chodesh work is permitted as if it was an ordinary workday; unless, of course, it falls on a Shabbat or a Festival. However, due to the particular identification of women with the moon (for many reasons, e.g., the menstrual cycle) it was long a tradition that women refrained from working to whatever extent possible. Today women are again discovering Rosh Chodesh and are creating ways to celebrate it together.
  2. It is commanded in the Torah that we be joyful on the Festivals and celebrate with festive meals, but this is not the case with Rosh Chodesh. It is, nevertheless, considered a day of gladness.
  3. A significant difference is that the Festivals are celebrated in a physically overt fashion. They are obviously different from ordinary week days; there is a transformation, an aura of holiness that encompasses these “holy” days. Rosh Chodesh, on the other hand, appears to be a regular weekday, with no special meals, dress or concrete actions taken. Like the shy moon, it quietly and softly comes and goes. This reticence, however, does not diminish its value and holiness.  A renowned Torah teacher of this generation, Rabbi Yosef Dov Solovetichik, explains that Rosh Chodesh was celebrated more visibly in the times of the Temple. The Levites would sing and conduct the same ceremony as they did on the Festivals. Without the Temple, that external stimulus is lacking.

The Tribe of Menashe.

“According to the order of the encampments, Tishrei corresponds to Ephraim and Marcheshvan [Cheshvan] to Menashe [Manasseh]…”

(Bnei Yissachar: Maamarei Chodesh Tishrei 1:2)

In his writings, Rabbi Soloveitchik also describes the character of a person, whom he calls an Ish Rosh Chodesh – one who embodies the nature of Rosh Chodesh; one who knows how to combine holiness, especially hidden holiness, with the outwardly mundane. He notes that the first person to embody this synthesis was Yosef Ha’Tzaddik – the Righteous Joseph.

Joseph was a ruler in Egypt, adept in worldly matters of government, and he was holy and upright, imbued with knowledge of the God of Israel and His ways. Joseph’s inner purpose was to do the will of God in every circumstance, whether he was in a prison or a palace. As a result, all his actions were holy and to the glory of God.

Joseph loved his sons, Manasseh the firstborn and Ephraim the younger. He was surprised when his father Jacob, as he was bestowing his final blessing upon them, placed his right hand on Ephraim’s head and his left on Manasseh.

Yad ha’Yamin, the right hand, is of great significance in the Hebrew Scriptures.

Why did Jacob favor Ephraim over Manasseh? Jewish sages comment that both sons were of sterling character and were great leaders. However, Ephraim, like his grandfather Jacob in his youth, was more inclined to “remain in the tents” and study the teachings of God, while Manasseh (who, as firstborn, no doubt accompanied his father and learnt of matters of governance) excelled in worldly, communal matters. Jacob was indicating that spiritual service to God came before material service to one’s fellow man.

The ideal is to combine the two, as did their father Joseph. No doubt, as they grew older and more experienced in the leadership they were given over a tribe of Israel, each young man would become an Ish Rosh Chodesh like Joseph. To this end, parents bless their sons on Shabbat to be like Ephraim, one who excels in the study of the Word of God and walks in His ways, and also like Manasseh, one who enjoys success in business and worldly matters.

In many ways, the Righteous Joseph is a forerunner of the Messiah, the Anointed one to come – Yeshua, the fully righteous one, in whom was found no sin and who lived only to do the will of his Father in Heaven.

“Let Your hand be upon the one at Your right hand, the one whom You made strong for Yourself” (Psalm 80:17).

Yeshua is the Son, seated at the right hand of the Father, where there is fullness of joy forever (Psalm 16:11; 110:1; Matthew 26:64; Mark 14:62;16:19; Luke 22:69).
He is glorious in power (Exodus 15:6), the “right hand” extended to save; our help and the place of refuge from one’s enemies (Psalm 17:7).
In him is the victory (Psalm 98:1-2; Isaiah 41:10).
God exalted him at His right hand as Leader and Savior, that He might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins (Acts 5:31).
As High Priest, Yeshua intercedes for us before the Throne (Romans 8:34) and he pours upon us the gift of the Holy Spirit from the Father (Acts 2:33).

He is the Lamb who was slain, who is worthy to receive the scroll with its seven seals from the right hand of the Father (Revelation 5). And the myriads around the Throne sing,

“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”

The author of Revelation, Yochanan (John), concludes:

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing, “To the One seated on the Throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and might, forever and ever!” (5:11-12)

Amen and HalleluYah!

 

  •  Artwork – Matt Doll 

TISHREI – The Seventh Hebrew Month

The holiday of Rosh HaShanah, the New Year of the Hebrew calendar, is celebrated on the first two days of Tishrei. Due to the significance of the start of a new calendar year, Tishrei is not regarded as an ordinary month and thus the Birkat HaChodesh, the Blessing of the Month, is not recited. Rosh Chodesh – the new month – is overshadowed by Rosh HaShanah – the New Year and its blessings.

5777 ~ SHANA TOVAH VE’TIKATEVU!  

May you be inscribed [in the Book of Life] for a good and healthy year! 

390483_10151032081571426_1046384226_n

At Rosh HaSahanah we acknowledge our Creator as the Source of all life and light. This festival, therefore, is more a reflection of the light of the sun, which eclipses that of the moon. As the moon is hidden in the sunlight, so Rosh Chodesh is hidden at Rosh HaShanah.

Time can be seen chronologically and historically as a linear sequence of events; yet, in a natural and spiritual sense, time really moves forward in reoccurring cycles (picture a circle in a spiral – a pulled out Slinky). This dual nature of time is echoed in the Hebrew word for year – shanah which is a derivative of shoneh – change. Time repeats itself but in a new form. We pass through the same set appointments in time each year, yet each year offers a new experience. Our journey from Egypt toward Mt. Sinai happened, is happening and will happen again in a constant ebb and flow of darkness and light, resting and growing.

In general, the focus of every new month is one of community; we celebrate that the Lord has brought us through the past month and together we now can go forward with hope and trust into the one before us.

images-10At this season, with the intense reflective nature of the preceding month of Elul, of Rosh HaShanah and the subsequent ten Days of Awe culminating on Yom Kippur, each individual is engaged in a deep and thorough accounting of one’s life before God. This causes the emphasis to shift to the individual and the start of the new year is a more deeply personal beginning.

The letters of the month, Tishrei, can be rearranged as Reishit, meaning ‘beginning’ as in the first word of the Bible, B’reishit – In the beginning. Therefore, we focus again on the Creation of the world and the dawning of life, and God’s creation of the first man and woman. We celebrate the birthday of Adam and Eve and the year which is numbered from Creation – this new year being 5777.

Another name for Rosh HaShanah is Yom HaKeseh, “the day of the hiding.” Unlike the happy hester panim (hiding of the face – presence of God) on Purim, when we realize God’s hidden provision for the people of Israel, the hester panim of the Days of Awe has to do with Divine absence and teshuvah. If we hide our face from God, he hides his face from us.

To quote Abraham Joshua Heschel  from God in Search of Man, 

The extreme hiddenness of God is a fact of constant awareness…God is a mystery, but the mystery is not God. He is a revealer of mysteries.

“He reveals deep and mysterious things; He knows what is in the darkness and the light dwells with Him”

(Daniel 2:22).

 

In the words of the liturgy of the Days of Awe:

“Thou knowest eternal mysteries and the ultimate secrets of all living.” The certainty that there is meaning beyond the mystery is the reason for rejoicing.

THE TRIBE OF EPHRAIM

Tishrei is the seventh Hebrew month, therefore Tishrei corresponds to Ephraim, the seventh tribe to travel when moving camp in the wilderness. The singular characteristics of a tribe are often reflected in an outstanding leader who represented the tribe during the course of biblical history.

The first, and foremost, leader who emerged from Ephraim was Yehoshua ben Nun. Joshua – the servant and closest disciple of Moses. He was a beautiful example of a moon to Moses’ sun. The Sages of Israel describe how “Moshe’s countenance was like the sun, and Yehoshua’s was like the moon… he only reflected what he received from Moshe” (Bava Batra 75a).

This also is a beautiful description of Yeshua the Messiah. Jesus reflected the Father’s glory and he shared the Word of truth and life given him by the Father, as we read in these verses from the gospel of John:

“… the One who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what  I have heard from Him.” (8:26).

Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me…”  (8:54).

In turn, as we lift our lives before the Throne of Mercy on Rosh HaShanah, we remember that we are to reflect the light of the Son. He has brought us from darkness into the light of the Kingdom of God, and we now are enabled to carry that light into the darkness… for the Father’s glory.

~Keren Hannah Pryor

gif

ELUL – The Sixth Hebrew Month

BLESSING OF THE NEW MONTH – BIRKAT HA’CHODESH

May it be Your will, O Lord, our God and the God of our forefathers, that You inaugurate this month of Elul upon us for goodness and for blessing.

May You give us long life,
a life of peace – Shalom
a life of goodness – Tovah
a life of blessing – Bracha
a life of sustenance – Parnassa
a life of physical health – Hilutz Atzamot
a life in which there is a fear of heaven and fear of sin
Yirat Shamayim ve’ Yirat Chet
a life in which there is no humiliation – Ein Busha u’Chlimah
a life of wealth and honor – Osher ve’Kavod
a life in which we will have love of Torah and awe and reverence of God
Ahavat Torah ve’Yirat HaShem
a life in which Adonai, the Lord, fulfills our heartfelt requests for good.

Amen. Selah.

421592_321470861232189_100001078334896_943129_1246758088_n

Preparation for the Days of Awe

The month of Elul is considered a particular time for repentance and reconciliation with God. There are forty days between the first day of Elul and Yom Kippur. These correspond biblically with the forty days between the day (1st Elul) Moses saw the Israelites worshipping the Golden Calf, when he broke the first set of tablets carrying the Ten Words or Commandments of God, and the day (10th Tishrei) that he returned with the second set of tablets, after ascending Mount Sinai to intercede and plead for God’s Divine pardon. In response to Moses’ heartbroken and persistent intercession, God forgave the sin of idolatry and the gift of His Word was evidence of His forgiveness. This manifestation of Divine pardon has marked these forty days as a time for self-examination and repentance, and for giving and receiving forgiveness.

The name of the month is a reminder that this season of repentance (teshuvah) and spiritual reflection is not to be a time of morbid introspection or conducted with heaviness. E,l,u,l (aleph, lamed, vav, lamed) is an acronym for the Hebrew verse, Song of Songs 6:3,

Ani le’dodi ve‘dodi li.
I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.

The month affords a special opportunity to turn one’s heart to God in love. We are reminded that teshuvah, repentance, is a gracious gift from our faithful Father. It is, in fact, a supernatural gift – a process above the forces of nature. The Creator set the laws of nature in place. Day follows night, time marches on, death follows life and penalty follows sin. Teshuvah/repentance, however, demonstrates that the same Creator is able to counteract His laws of nature. As Jewish author Avraham Finkel describes:

Time is reversible, the past can be undone, a wasted life can be restored;
“God is close to all who call to Him – to all who call Him with sincerity”

(Psalm 145:18).*

Teshuvah enables the light of God’s Presence to enter any areas of darkness in our hearts, to allow purification and illumination. The Baal Shem Tov** uses a beautiful analogy to describe the concept of repentance:

When you enter a dark room carrying a burning lamp, the darkness vanishes without leaving a trace. So too a baal teshuvah [one who repents and turns to God and His Word] even though until now he lived in the total darkness of sin, when the light of Torah begins to shine in his soul, all the darkness is gone.***

Teshuvah is always linked with tzedakah, charity. In this respect, Bnei Yissaschar says: “Behold, Elul corresponds with the tribe of Gad.”**** The Sages record that the letters of Gad’s name – gimmel, dalet – stand for gemol dalim, which translates as: “Bestow kindness upon the poor.” As God blesses and prospers us, we need always remember to give and to share what we have with those less fortunate.

Haitiangirl - determined amongst the rubble - David Darg

Psalm 27

Psalm 27 is read every day during Elul. Orthodox Jews recite it morning and evening through both Elul and Tishrei, until the close of Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles). It is a worthwhile exercise to write it out yourself, also in Hebrew if you are able, and keep it available for easy access.

The psalm reminds us, in view of the approaching Day of Repentance, Rosh HaShanah, that the Lord is our Light. When we repent, His light dispels any darkness in our lives and the light of His Truth guides our feet into and through the coming year.

As we look towards Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, ten days later, we proclaim that God is our Redeemer and in His Messiah Yeshua is the salvation of the nations and we joyfully anticipate the coming Redemption for all. We know, as enacted on Sukkot, that He literally hides us in the Sukka – the tent, or tabernacle, of His Presence (yitzfeneini b’sukka). He protects us from all harm and, as we allow the powerful truths of this season to infuse our innermost beings, He leads us forward and will guide our steps through the coming year b’orach yishor, on a straight path of righteousness. What joy to realize, as David proclaims, that one can in faith “…dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life!”

Passover 2 - 8

Know Before Whom You Stand

The weekly Torah portion of Nitzavim – ‘We are Standing’ (Deuteronomy 29:9 – 30:20) is always read during the month of Elul, specifically on the Shabbat before Rosh HaShanah. The opening verse is a clear, resonant reminder of the central theme of Elul and the Days of Awe: “Today you are all standing before God your Lord”. In the authority of Messiah Yeshua, the great High Priest who constantly is interceding on our behalf, we have the guarantee that we can approach the Throne of God in full and free forgiveness.

Nitzavim also carries a Divine promise of the joyful time when the hearts of all Israel will return to God and will yield to His will in loving obedience:

“You will do everything that I am commanding you today; you and your children will repent with all your heart and with all your soul” (30:2).

On that Great Day the Shofar of God will sound with a triumphant blast to announce the arrival of the King of kings before whom every individual will stand to give an account. The shofar is thus sounded at the morning and evening synagogue services every day through Elul in the hope that its stirring blasts will awaken those who are “asleep” in the stupor of sin, apathy, and ignorance. The clarion call moves us to repent and turn again to the Almighty; to receive the power to break any negative patterns of the past and to walk forward in new hope and inspiration.

This Hebrew month of Elul affords us the opportunity to draw aside spiritually, to press in to the Presence of our Beloved. We can rejoice and rest in the knowledge that we are forgiven and can stand confidently before the “Judge of all flesh” when the shofar resounds on Rosh haShanah, the Day of Trumpets, and on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:24;27). We then can eagerly anticipate another year of devoted service in joyful worship of our God and King.

 

561857_409938405729866_560790614_n

 ~Keren Hannah Pryor

Footnotes:

Avraham Yaakov Finkel, The Essence of the Holy Days, Insights from the Jewish Sages, Jason Aronson Inc., New Jersey, London, 1993; 2.
** Israel Baal Shem Tov (1700 – 1760), founder of the Hassidic movement in Eastern Europe.
*** Avraham Yaakov Finkel, The Essence of the Holy Days, Insights from the Jewish Sages, Jason Aronson Inc., New Jersey, London, 1993;12.
**** Bnei Yissaschar, Ma’amarim Chodesh Elul 1:8.

AV – The Fifth Hebrew Month

BLESSING OF THE NEW MONTH – BIRKAT HA’CHODESH 

May it be Your will, O Lord, our God and the God of our forefathers, that You inaugurate this month of Av upon us for goodness and for blessing. May You give us long life,

a life of peace – Shalom
a life of goodness – Tovah
a life of blessing – Bracha
a life of sustenance – Parnassa
a life of physical health – Hilutz Atzamot
a life in which there is a fear of heaven and fear of sin – Yirat Shamayim ve’ Yirat Chet
a life in which there is no humiliation – Ein Busha u’Chlimah 
a life of wealth and honor – Osher ve’Kavod
a life in which we will have love of Torah and awe and reverence of God –
Ahavat Torah ve’Yirat HaShem
a life in which Adonai, the Lord, fulfills our heartfelt requests for good.

Amen. Selah.

father and child There are a number of interesting and paradoxical details to note regarding the Hebrew month of Av.
1. The name of the month literally means ‘a father’. We see an example in Psalm 103:13, K’rachem av al banim… “As a father is merciful to his children, so has YHVH shown mercy to those who fear Him.” We can rest securely, knowing that our lives are in the hands of a loving, all-knowing and faithful Father.

2. On the other hand,the 9th of Av –Tisha b’Av (26th July, 2015) is a day of deep mourning and fasting, which marks the destruction of both the First and Second Temples as well as the tragic exile of the majority of God’s people from the Land. Tisha b’Av also commemorates the many persecutions and pogroms, Crusades and Inquisitions perpetrated against the Jews throughout the centuries that followed.

Interestingly, the ninth of Av always falls on the same day of the week as the first day of Passover of the same year. And yet, Passover is a festival of freedom and redemption while Tisha b’Av commemorates bondage and destruction.*  We can deduce that the matzah and bitter herbs of Passover, as well as representing the remembrance of slavery in Egypt, are also a reminder of the long and bitter exile from the Land of Israel.

It is only due to our Father’s great mercy that the Jewish people have endured and survived much torment and persecution in foreign lands. In recent generations, God’s people have heard the sound of His great trumpet, shofar, calling them back to His Land where they belong.

Tisha b’Av, however, still is observed with mourning and fasting because the full Redemption has not yet come and Israel continues to suffer unrelenting and egregious attacks from the enemy. Nonetheless, the hope has been fulfilled and in that we rejoice. Through all the long years of exile, at the conclusion of every Passover Seder the prayer of hope has been proclaimed: Le’Shana ha’ba’ah b’Yerushalayim! “Next year in Jerusalem!” What added joy we experience when we now can say in Israel, “This year in Jerusalem!”

3. Although the first half of the month is marked with sadness, the second half is brightened with joy. The fifteenth of Av – Tu b’Av – was celebrated as a joyous festival hundreds of years before the First Temple was built.

An account in the book of Judges relates how certain men of the tribe of Benjamin had committed acts of rape and murder against members of the other tribes. In response, the tribes gathered together and attacked and destroyed the small tribe of Benjamin. Only 600 men escaped the battle and fled to the cliffs of Rimmon, which are situated northeast of Jerusalem. Later the tribes repented of the severity of their action and they made peace with the Benjaminites.

Realizing that the men now needed to find wives in order to build up the tribe once again, they advised them to go to Shiloh, where the Tabernacle with the Ark of the Covenant was housed, to attend the celebration of an annual agricultural feast. They advised, “Go and hide in the vineyards and watch; if the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in the dances, then come out of the vineyards and seize each man his wife from the daughters of Shiloh, and return to the land of Benjamin (Judges 21:20-21).

It was the celebration of Tu b’Av, a grape harvest, and the time the white squill blooms all over Israel. The tall tapered stems, covered with small white flowers, stand out brightly against the yellow and brown fields at the end of a long, hot summer. They are a clear season marker, for Tu b’Av signals the summer solstice and there is a subtle change as the days begin to shorten and clouds start to appear in the sky, announcing the approaching rains of winter.**

White Squill - Neot KThe virgin maidens, to reflect the blossoming white squills, would don white dresses and dance in the vineyards of Shiloh, and wedding matches were made.

To this day the fifteenth of Av is celebrated in Israel as “Sweetheart’s Day”! (31st July, 2015)

 

 

4. The actual date of death of only one person is recorded in the Torah, that of Aaron, the brother of Moses. We read that forty years after the Israelites left Egypt, the Lord called Aaron to Mount Hor and he died there “…in the fifth month on the first of the month” (Numbers 33:38) – the first of Av. Aaron, the High Priest, was deeply loved by the people and this was an occasion of deep mourning. The sadness of the High Priest’s death in the same month seems fused with the mourning of the destruction of the Temples.

Av, Shimon and Judgment

In keeping with the initial sadness of the month is the fact that the tribe of Shimon (Simeon), associated with Av, is the only tribe that was not blessed by Jacob on his deathbed, nor later by Moses. Jacob denounces both Shimon and Levi for their rage and murderous attack on the town of Shechem to avenge the rape of their sister Dinah (Genesis 49:5-7). Levi was redeemed and blessed by Moses, but Shimon forfeited this blessing due to the tribe’s flagrant immoral conduct with the foreign women at Shittim (Numbers 25:1-6, 17). Later, once established in the Land, this behavior also cost the tribe the privilege of ever having a judge of Israel appointed from their ranks.***

 SHIMON

The tribal symbol represents Shimon and Levi, two ‘stars’ or ‘shields’ in Israel. The one carried a weapon for defense and the other a vessel of service to the God of Israel.

 

 

Ironically, in Jewish commentary it is considered that all Shimon’s deeds were motivated by a standard of overly strict justice. He judged others and easily found them guilty. It is considered that it was he who “sentenced” his brother Joseph and threw him in the pit (Genesis 37:19-20). This is highlighted when the brothers first appear before Joseph, now Viceroy of Egypt and Shimon is the only one he keeps behind as a hostage. Also, in judging Shechem guilty, Shimon instigated the retaliation and attack in angry vengeance. Although he may have had a keen sense of justice, it is this trait of anger that precludes Shimon and his tribe from producing a true judge in Israel.

Anger will always distort any fair and balanced judgment. Anger also prevents a person from truly rejoicing in one’s service and worship of the Lord, and eventually can cause one to become isolated from other people. Justice, to be true, must be tempered with mercy and weighed from a basis of trust and joy in the Lord. We can therefore appreciate the wisdom of Jacob when he cannot bless the judgmental anger of this tribe and he says: “I will separate them within Jacob, and I will disperse them in Israel” (Genesis 49:7). Their hope lay in mingling with the other tribes in order that their anger might be diffused and they might learn to interact with others in peace and to serve the Lord with joy.

 Av celebrates the constant truth of new life in the One who is the Source of all life.

The month of Av ultimately represents the balance of elements we deal with constantly on our journey through life – sadness and joy, justice and mercy, anger and grace, discord and unity, what is hidden and what is revealed. Undergirding it all is the knowledge that our Father, in His abundant love and mercy towards us, is in control and He is preparing the way before us. Only when the physical and the spiritual elements of life are in balance and yielded to the Lord can there be true victory and peace.

Interestingly, in some rabbinic literature Tisha b’Av, the day of great mourning, is the date reckoned to be the birth date of the Messiah – the Savior-King who brings new life. We can indeed rejoice in the Lamb who is our Shepherd and who guides us to the “springs of living water” that bring mercy, grace, hope and truth and Joy in the Presence of God.

For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.(Revelation 7:17).

 

~Keren Hannah Pryor

 

Footnotes:

*  Zvi Rysman, The Wisdom of the Hebrew Months, Artscroll Series, NY, 2009, 168.

** Nogah HaReuveni, Nature in Our Biblical Heritage, Neot Kedumim, Israel, 1980, 93-94.

**** Zvi Rysman, The Wisdom of the Hebrew Months, 170.

 

 

TAMMUZ – The Fourth Hebrew Month

 TAMMUZ  

BLESSING OF THE NEW MONTH – BIRKAT HA’CHODESH

May it be Your will, O Lord, our God and the God of our forefathers, that You inaugurate this month of Tammuz upon us for goodness and for blessing.

May You give us long life, a life of peace – Shalom,

a life of goodness – Tovah, a life of blessing – Bracha

a life of sustenance – Parnassa, a life of physical health – Hilutz Atzamot

a life in which there is a fear of heaven and fear of sin – Yirat Shamayim ve’ Yirat Chet 

a life in which there is no humiliation – Ein Busha u’Chlimah

a life of wealth and honor – Osher ve’Kavod

a life in which we will have love of Torah and awe and reverence of God – Ahavat Torah ve’Yirat HaShem

a life in which Adonai, the Lord, fulfils our heartfelt requests for good.

Amen. Selah.

We read in the first verses of the book of the prophet Ezekiel that it was on the fifth day of this month that Ezekiel, then exiled with his people in Babylon, received his mysterious and glorious vision.  We may wonder why he received this vision in Tammuz, a month of disaster, when the walls of Jerusalem were breached, a prelude to the destruction of the Holy Temple and the city being razed to the ground.  An answer may be that the Holy One chooses to send compassion to the people at the time of their pain, an assurance of His Presence with them in the season they were exiled. Tammuz thus contains both suffering and it’s remedy, hesed – lovingkindness.

Historically, the Jewish people have experienced many further tragedies during this month and three weeks of the month, called “Bein HaMitzerim” – In the Narrow Places or Dire Straits, are demarcated as a time of semi-mourning in remembrance of the suffering. Tammuz thus brings together loss (and all loss contains – grief, anger, pain… brokeness) and the quality of hesed, with it’s potential for healing, restoration and rejoicing.

The book of Ezekiel  is especially noted for showing God’s saving purposes in the history of the world and His future work in history.  Therefore, this month is a perfect time to ask the question, “How does God’s faithful loving-kindness play a saving purpose in the world and how can I partner with Him in His healing work?”

 

REUBEN – SEE, A SON!

10371525_10152072553501128_1053064684539112064_n

The tribes of Israel journeyed through the wilderness in a specific formation. When they camped, the Tabernacle was erected in the center with the priestly tribe of Levi situated around it. The other tribes were divided into four groups of three that encamped on each side. As we have seen, when examining the order of the tribes in connection with the twelve months of the year, the group that led the formation each time they set out was comprised of Judah, Issachar and Zebulon. They were situated on the East side of the Tabernacle. The next group, to the South, is made up of Reuben, corresponding with Tammuz, this month, and Simon (next month, Av) and Gad (the month of Elul).  

Sunset_in_the_Negev_Desert_near_Yeruham,_Israel

The emblem on the standard of the tribe of Reuben is depicted as mandrakes or the rising sun. The latter possibly signifies that he was the first-born, and with him the family and ultimately the tribes of Israel had their beginning. The rising sun is also a sign of redemption; the dawn of new life, restoration and beauty. Through the family of Jacob and the nation of Israel, the Messiah would be born, and the light and beauty of the God of Israel would shine forth in His Anointed to be “the Light of the world”.

The matriarch Leah named her first son Reuven, which means “See, a son!” She describes her reason for choosing this name: “Because God has seen my humiliation” (Genesis 29:32). Leah was painfully aware that she was Jacob’s wife through the deceptive manipulation of her father, and that Jacob’s true love was her sister Rachel, now his second wife. Leah is the first to conceive and bear a son, and she sees this as a vindication and a gift from God. He had seen her distress and had honored her with Jacob’s first-born. Rabbinic literature thus associates the month of Tammuz with the sense of sight, or vision (re’iyah). 

Leah’s second son, Shimon, is so named: “Because God has heard (she’miyah) that I am unloved” (Gen. 29:33). Thus, the month of Av that follows Tammuz is associated with the sense of hearing. 

SEE … AND REPENT

The two older brothers, Reuben and Simon, fathered strong and influential tribes. Once they had arrived at its borders, Moses sent a leader from each tribe to spy out the Promised Land. The representatives from Reuben and Simon are listed first; before Caleb, who is third on the list and Joshua, who is fifth. The twelve spies were in Canaan for forty days, including the month of Tammuz. Regrettably, they sinned through their sense of sight as they viewed everything negatively and then carried a distorted vision of the Land back to the waiting Israelites. As the leader, Reuben’s representative was undoubtedly a large influence in this perversion of vision.

 A Torah portion read during Tammuz  is Chukkat (Num. 19:1-22:1), where we find the dramatic incident of the invasion of poisonous snakes into the camp. It appears that this is a response to the ongoing complaints of the Israelites to Moses regarding their boring diet of manna and the lack of water. Offering an antidote to the snakebites, God instructs Moses to make “… a fiery [serpent] and place it on a pole, and it will be that anyone who was bitten will look at it and live” (Num. 21:8).

We know that God does not use magic charms, rather, as the dying people would need to consciously raise their eyes to look at the serpent, it would trigger a process of interpretation in their minds that should lead to repentance. They would see a representation of the cause of their pain and impending death and should realize that it was a consequence of their sin of ingratitude towards God. He had been guarding them all along and now had removed His hand of protection. They owed Him their very lives. They had lost sight of the fact that He protected them and provided for their needs day after day, and they had become bitter and complaining. Now, in His mercy, they had the opportunity to “see” and repent! We can look at the bigger picture of redemption in Yeshua. How much more should all sinners repent when they see Messiah, the Anointed of God, as mankind’s representative, lifted up on a stake carrying the sin of the world with its poison that leads to death? If one but looks up and “sees” and comes to repentance, one’s life is spared and restored. 

13413603_301981973476827_3232646303434095970_n

We learn from these accounts that what we see with our “mind’s eye” is even more important than our physical vision. The understanding of our heart is far deeper and will affect all we see with our eyes. It is our inner vision that directs us to pursue the things of God rather than to stray after the worldly pursuits and pleasures designed to attract the eye!

The strongest “antidote” to the poisonous effects of the sinful and ungodly ways of the world is God’s Word, given for that purpose. May our eyes constantly be occupied with the treasure of His Word of Truth and Life; and may our hearts continually be filled with unbounded gratitude and praise to our Father in heaven for the good and bountiful gifts He bestows.

SIVAN – The Third Hebrew Month

BLESSING OF THE NEW MONTH – BIRKAT HA’CHODESH

May it be Your will, O Lord, our God and the God of our forefathers, that You inaugurate this month of Sivan upon us for goodness and for blessing.

May You give us long life:
a life of peace – Shalom
a life of goodness – Tovah 
a life of blessing – Bracha 
a life of sustenance – Parnassa 
a life of physical health – Hilutz Atzamot 
a life in which there is a fear of heaven and fear of sin – Yirat Shamayim ve’ Yirat Chet 
a life in which there is no humiliation – Ein Busha u’Chlimah 
a life of wealth and honor – Osher ve’Kavod 
a life in which we will have love of Torah and awe and reverence of God –
Ahavat Torah ve’Yirat HaShem 
a life in which Adonai, the Lord, fulfills our heartfelt requests for good.

Amen. Selah.

The Hebrew month of Sivan is an auspicious month that marks significant celebrations! The highlight of the month is the conclusion of the counting of the forty-nine days of the Omer and the celebration of the fiftieth Jubilee day of Shavuot, or Pentecost.  Traditionally, the same date of 6th Sivan is the birthday of King David and also the date upon which he died.

This month of harvest is singularly associated with the book of Ruth, King David’s great-grandmother, and sets the background for her story. The time is the ingathering of the wheat harvest, the setting is Bethlehem in Judea, and the events will culminate in a wedding and new life. Ruth had left her people and country of Moab both to support her mother-in-law Naomi and to cleave to her, and to her people, her land and her God – the God of Israel. Among the descendants of Ruth and Boaz would be born, in the little town of Bethlehem, the shepherd and future king of Israel, David, and also the Messiah, Yeshua, who, in the fullness of time, will be crowned King of God’s Kingdom in all the earth.

1545720_286061674878688_139963711_n

Picture: Kenneth Berg

“The beauty of this story, which occurred during the time of men like Gideon, of whom it is written ‘he had many wives,’ and Samson, whose affairs with the opposite sex were notorious, would touch the hardest heart with profound wonder of the love of a great man for a noble woman. The honest love of a great man and a good woman is born in the heart of God, and this kind of love is noble and ennobling, and is described in the poetry of the Holy Spirit:
“…for love is strong as death…Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be despised.”

~ J. Vernon McGee  ~Song of Songs 8:6,7.

 

   Shavuot also is the birthday of the Israelites as a nation. It was the day God gathered the redeemed slaves at the base of Mount Sinai and gave them His Word and established a covenant with them, saying:

And I will make my abode among you, and my soul shall not abhor you. And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and you shall be my people. I am YHVH your God, who brought you forth out of the land of Egypt,  that you should not be their slaves; and I have broken the bars of your  yoke and made you walk erect.

~ Leviticus 26:11-13

Centuries later, after his birth, life, death, and resurrection as the first-fruits of  new creation life, Yeshua, after meeting with his disciples during the days of the Omer, told them to wait in Jerusalem after he had ascended to the Father. This occurred on the fortieth day of the Omer. Ten days later they were in the Temple celebrating this Festival of First Fruits, Shavuot, when the awaited promise was fulfilled. The Almighty God met with His people again. A “mighty rushing wind” with the sound of a shofar filled His House and tongues of fire came to rest on the disciples, and “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4).

What joy they experienced at this confirmation by the Father of Yeshua’s words to them! He was who he had proclaimed himself to be – Mashiach El, the Messiah of God! Hardly able to contain their jubilation, they began to share the good news of Messiah with the thousands of Jews who had poured into Jerusalem for the Festival. Many were from different nations and they heard them share in their home tongue as the disciples “began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4).

Messiah had come, the Holy Spirit was poured out on prepared hearts, the good news of the Kingdom of God was about to spread to all corners of the earth; it was indeed a new and joyous day!

seventyfaces (1)

ZEBULON – THE GIVER

You will find in the order of the tribes according to their encampments, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulon correspond to the months of Nissan, Iyar and Sivan.

The people of Zebulon were successful merchants who travelled widely to provide support not only for themselves but also for others, particularly their neighboring tribe of Issachar who were Torah scholars and teachers. This outstanding charity to others earned Zebulon the honor and respect of others and also great favor in God’s eyes.

The precious stone designated by God to represent Zebulon on the breastplate of the High Priest is the strongest and most radiant gem of all – the yahalom, the diamond. Zebulon’s portion of the land of Israel along the North-East seacoast also contained the only source of something very meaningful and valuable to all Israel – the chilazon, a small snail from which the blue dye called techeilet is extracted.

The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the people of Israel, and bid them to make tassels (tzitziyot) on the  corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put upon the tassel (tzitzit) of each corner a cord of blue (ptil techeilet); and it shall be to you a tassel to look upon and remember all the  commandments of the Lord, to do them, not to follow after your own  heart and your own eyes, which you are inclined to go after wantonly.”

~Numbers 15:37-39

The tassel on each corner has three white strands and one strand of blue. They are threaded through a hole in the corner and knotted, which results in a tassel of eight strands. Four sets of eight make a total of 32, the number that spells the Hebrew word lev (heart). This is a significant pointer that part of the purpose for tzitzit is a reminder to love and serve the Lord with all one’s heart. To the Orthodox Jew, and others who wear them, tzitzit can be compared to “heartstrings” that represent both a constant longing for the Presence of God and the means of drawing closer to Him – the ‘thread’ that connects heaven and earth.

SEASKYTZ-224x150

The sages commented that the blue thread (ptil techeilet) “…resembles the sea, the sea resembles the heavens, and the heavens resemble the Throne of Glory”. White is commonly associated with the purity and righteousness of God, and techeilet, blue, signifies His majesty and sovereignty over the earth, as well as His constant gracious Presence with us. Although, historically, the use of royal blue and purple dyes was restricted to nobility, God instructed that every Israelite was to include this one thread on each corner of their garment as a reminder that as children of the Great King of the Universe and they are indeed royalty!

HandsTying-224x150* For more information on techeilet, also spelled tekhelet you can visit www.tekhelet.com

Today tzitzit are worn on the tallit – prayer shawl – and, for every day use, on a light, cotton undergarment called a tallit katan (small tallit). When donning the prayer shawl a beautiful prayer is uttered:

“How precious is your loving-kindness, O God! The sons of man take refuge in the shadow of your wings. May they be satisfied from the abundance of your house; and may You give them to drink from the stream of Your delights [the living water of Your Word]. For with You is the source of life; by Your light we see light. Extend Your loving-kindness to those who know You, and Your righteousness to the upright of heart.”

 

The Arab-Turkish conquest of Israel  under Salahadin, circa 638 CE/AD, is believed to have brought an end to the dyeing industry and the chilazon disappeared from the shores. The loss of the blue thread for tzitzit was widely lamented by the Jewish people. It was only after the modern restoration of the people of Israel to their Land that, through archaeological investigation, the locations of the dyeing industry with remains of massive mounds of chilazon shells were discovered. Through the twentieth century, extensive searches and tests established that the snails have now returned and the method for creating the authentic techeilet dye was discovered. The latter was achieved by Prof. Otto Elsner of Shenkar College of Fibers in Israel, together with Ehud Spanier of Haifa University – located in the ancient portion of Zebulon!

Just as this small living creature, the chilazon, gives of itself, indeed its very life, to provide God’s people the means of obeying a command of God, so did Zebulon epitomize generosity in freely giving means to their brothers to enable them to pursue the study and teaching of God’s Word. The essence of the month of Sivan and the joyful appointed time of Shavuot is the celebration of the foundational truth that, just as it is the Creator Himself who provides the snail that contains the means to fulfill one of His commandments, so is He the all-knowing Father who in great loving-kindness provides all our needs as His children.

seventyfaces (1)

~Keren Hannah

 

IYYAR – The Second Hebrew Month

BLESSING OF THE NEW MONTH – BIRKAT HA’CHODESH

May it be Your will, O Lord, our God and the God of our forefathers, that You inaugurate this month of Iyyar upon us for goodness and for blessing.

May You give us long life:
a life of peace – Shalom
a life of goodness – Tovah 
a life of blessing – Bracha 
a life of sustenance – Parnassa 
a life of physical health – Hilutz Atzamot 
a life in which there is a fear of heaven and fear of sin – Yirat Shamayim ve’ Yirat Chet 
a life in which there is no humiliation – Ein Busha u’Chlimah 
a life of wealth and honor – Osher ve’Kavod 
a life in which we will have love of Torah and awe and reverence of God –
Ahavat Torah ve’Yirat HaShem 
a life in which Adonai, the Lord, fulfills our heartfelt requests for good.

Amen. Selah.

IYYAR (pronounced ee’yar) is the month of the ripening harvest and of counting the Omer in anticipation of Shavuot, the festival of Revelation.

The Independence of the modern State of Israel was officially proclaimed on the 5th of this month in 1948 – a wondrous, historic reconnection of God’s people with His Land. Yom Ha’Atzmaut –  Israel’s Independence Day – is celebrated this year on May 2nd.

575944_3836790842921_1372487879_3534694_740868427_n

A distinguishing feature of the month of Iyyar is that the entire month falls within the time of the Counting of the Omer – Sefirat ha’Omer; the seven-week connection between Passover and Shavuot. Similarly, Iyyar is like a bridge that connects the month of our Salvation (Nissan) and the month of the Revelation of God’s Word and Spirit (Sivan).  In fact, this season recognizes and celebrates the connection of one thing to another. The evidence of the Kingship of God is presented at Passover, in Nissan, and the establishment of His Kingdom with its laws, statutes and ordinances is accomplished at Shavuot, in Sivan.

Relationship

The central and deepest connection is that of relationship between God and His people. He delivered the Israelites from Egypt in order to bring them to Himself. Passover marks the time of the Bridegroom’s choosing of His beloved and their betrothal (kiddushin) when they are set apart uniquely, one unto the other. Shavuot marks the occasion of their marriage (nissuin) when the ketubah, marriage document, is presented by the bridegroom, and the relationship is sealed by the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit. The interim period serves an important purpose in that it provides valuable time to bring to completion what was begun. The betrothal is brought to completion by the marriage; salvation is brought to fullness by revelation and transformation.

Sight and Sound

Another connection to consider is that of sight and sound. At the exodus from Egypt, the Israelites witnessed the mighty miracles of God. They saw the wonders with their own eyes, and Moses instructed them,

“…you shall remember what the Lord your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt, the great trials which your eyes saw, the signs, the wonders, the mighty hand, and the outstretched arm, by which the Lord your God  brought you out…”  (Exodus 7:18-19).

At Mount Sinai, however, at Pentecost the emphasis is on hearing God. The people are rallied by the loud, piercing sound of a divine shofar.  When they are assembled at the base of the mountain the Presence of God, concealed in a thick cloud that covers the peak, is signaled by the increasing volume of the sound.

“And as the sound of the trumpet (shofar) grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder.  And the Lord came down upon Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain…”
(Exodus 19:19-20).

images-8

Then God’s voice thundered the Ten Words. These were His first words of instruction to His newly formed people. The powerful sounds they heard were overwhelming and “…the people were afraid and trembled; and they stood afar off, and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will hear; but let not God speak to us, lest we die”  (Exodus 20:18-19).

Moses, the great prophet and teacher of God’s people, knew the vital importance of hearing – the practice of listening in order to understand with the intention to act upon what is heard. When he eventually gathers the Israelites on the border of the Promised Land, he addresses them for the last time before his death. The keynote of his address is:

Shema Yisrael! Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.
And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children…” (Deuteronomy 6:4-8).

1536681_515543515220295_1602420663_n

In every Torah scroll the final letter ayin of the word shema is enlarged. Interestingly, ayin means ‘eye’; so although shema means ‘hear’ it implies, “Hear with the eyes of your understanding!” The final letter dalet of the word echad also is enlarged. This is the last word of the proclamation, “Hear O Israel! The YHVH is our God, YHVH is Echad/One”.

The two enlarged letters, ayin and dalet, together form the word ed, meaning ‘witness’! To be a true witness of the truth of God we need first to hear and to understand His Word. Then, once we “see” it, we can share it!

I am the Lord, your Healer!

The Hebrew letters that spell Iyyar are alephyodresh – א י ר. They are an acronym for: “Ani YHVH Rofecha” – “I am the Lord your Healer!”

God proclaims this powerful promise to His children during this month, shortly after the redemption from Egypt:

“If you will diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord your God, and do that which is right in His eyes, and give heed to His commandments and keep all His statutes,
I will put none of the diseases  upon you which I put upon the Egyptians;
for I am the Lord, your  healer”  (Exodus 15:26).

Iyyar was a month of healing for the newly redeemed slaves. While they were being prepared spiritually to meet with God, they received healing of physical ailments. They would all stand strong and well in body at Mount Sinai, where they would receive the means to gain spiritual health and strength. An important ingredient of this physical healing was the manna that first fell during this month. This indicates the important role of the stomach and of eating foods that are compatible with the bodies God created. The manna, provided supernaturally by God, was a “spiritual food in physical form, and therefore did not need to be naturally processed by the body.” The weakened bodies of the slaves were restored to the good health intended for them by God.

Yeshua was a type of manna, or Bread of Life, sent from Heaven. During this same month of Iyyar, He appeared to his disciples after his Resurrection in a body made perfect and filled with resurrection life. He broke bread, ate and talked with them and gave them deeper understanding of the will and heart of the Father.  He opens the way, makes possible the connection, for all to come into the Presence of the Almighty and Most High God. In him, all mankind may come into a healed and fully restored relationship with our Father.

The Tribe of Issachar

According to the order of encampments, Iyyar corresponds to the tribe of Issachar.

ISSACHAR _ David Mail

“Issachar is a strong ass, crouching between the sheepfolds (or burdens); he saw that a resting place was good, and that the land was pleasant; so he bowed his shoulder to bear, and became a servant of tribute (labor).” (Genesis 49:14-15)

 Rashi, the renowned medieval Torah commentator, describes that Issachar, like a strong donkey that carries a heavy burden, bears the yoke of Torah and carries it to his brothers. This fits the theme of connection associated with Iyar. A donkey serves to transport goods, or a rider, from one place to another. Issachar, as a teacher of Torah, commits his life to the study of God’s Word and to share it with others. He thus serves to connect people with their God and unites them in an understanding of God’s will.

The precious stone on the High Priest’s breastplate that represented Issachar was the sapphire (sapir). The word sapir is formed with the same letters found in s’fira – counting, as in S’firat ha’Omer, the Counting of the Omer; providing another connection with the month.

The beautiful blue of the sapphire, which reflects flashes of light, is comparable with the time of day that connects day and night – the deep blue of twilight or early dawn. It is therefore a fitting stone for this tribe who carry the truth of God to others, allowing light to penetrate the darkness and to restore the connection between the sheep who are lost and have gone astray with the Good Shepherd of their souls.

During this month of Iyyar, and the Counting of the Omer, may we strengthen our connection with God’s Word and grow richly in spirit. May we also trust our faithful Healer for physical health and full restoration, for ourselves and for all Israel.

images-2

~Keren Hannah Pryor

NISSAN (AVIV) – The First Hebrew Month

Blessing of the New Month – Birkat Ha’Chodesh

May it be Your will, O Lord, our God and the God of our forefathers, that You inaugurate this month of Nissan upon us for goodness and for blessing.

May You give us long life:
a life of peace – Shalom,
a life of goodness – Tovah
a life of blessing – Bracha
a life of sustenance – Parnassa
a life of physical health – Hilutz Atzamot
a life in which there is a fear of heaven and fear of sin
– Yirat Shamayim ve’ Yirat Chet
a life in which there is no humiliation – Ein Busha u’Chlimah
a life of wealth and honor – Osher ve’Kavod
a life in which we will have love of Torah and awe and reverence of God
– Ahavat Torah ve’Yirat HaShem
a life in which Adonai, the Lord, fulfills our heartfelt requests for good.

Amen. Selah.

945212_534205803292026_242380947_n 2

The symbol and standard of Jerusalem – Yerushalaim.

The present names of the Hebrew months have their origin from the time of the exile of the Jews to Babylonia and Persia, where the science of astronomy flourished. Originally, in the Scriptures, the months are  numbered; e.g., the first month, the second month. Some have names according to the season, Nissan, for example, was called Aviv / Spring because it was the month that heralded the end of Winter and the beginning of the new life of the Spring season. The Babylonian-Persian names also can be found in later books of the Bible, such as the book of Esther.

This ‘first month’, Nissan or Aviv, was established by God at the Exodus from Egypt:
This month shall be for you the first of the months” (Exodus 12:2).
It was a new day for the slaves who stood on the threshold of freedom. Now their days, as the chosen people of the King of the Universe, would be counted. Nissan, with the festival of Passover on the fifteenth of the month, always signals the season of new beginnings, the time of rebirth and new life. As it is the first, or “king”, of the months, the kings of Israel were inaugurated on Rosh Chodesh Nissan and the years of their kingship were measured by this date.

Zvi Ryzman informs, from Bnei Yissachar, Ma’amerei Chodesh Nissan 1:4,

“In the order of encampments, [Nissan] corresponds to the tribe of Yehudah, from whom ‘the stump of Jewish royalty’ will emerge.”*

The symbol on the standard of the tribe of Judah, as they led the formation of the tribes of Israel through the wilderness, was the lion – the “king” of the animal world.

Daniel pic

When Jacob blessed his sons before his death, he proclaimed to Judah: “Yehudah, you, your brothers shall acknowledge!” (Genesis 49:8). The translation Onkelos suggests that Yehudah would be acclaimed by all his brothers due to the honesty and courage he evidenced in the issue with his daughter-in-law, Tamar. He immediately and openly acknowledged his guilt and said, “She is more righteous than I…” (Genesis 38). His admission saved her life. This same regard for innocent life is illustrated when Judah wisely advises his brothers not to take Joseph’s life after they had thrown him in the pit (Genesis 36:26-27). The Midrash notes the interesting fact that all his brothers would eventually be called by Yehudah’s name. “No one would introduce himself as a Reuvenite or a Shimonite – they would all refer to themselves as Yehudim.”2

Indeed, we see in the book of Esther that Mordechai, although he was of the tribe of Benjamin, is described as a Yehudi. “Now there was a Jew (Yehudi) in Susa the capital whose name was Mordechai, …a Benjaminite” (Esther 2:5). Also, the enemy “Haman sought to destroy all the Jews (Yehudim), the people of Mordechai, throughout the whole kingdom…” (3:6).

This phenomenon appears to be a result of the exile, which, despite the tragedy of dispersion, served to unite the tribes as one people – named, as Jacob had prophesied, in honor of their brother Yehudah.

We also find evidence of this categorization in the book of Daniel, when “…certain Chaldeans came forward and maliciously accused the Jews (Yehudim) …to King Nebuchadnezzar” (3:8-9). Their charge being: “There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, pay no heed to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up” (3:12). As was the case with Mordechai, the factor that separates the Yehudim from the people of the nations is that they reject the worship of idols.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego chose, in their faithfulness, to face the flames of the most intense furnace and Daniel chose to be thrown into a den of hungry lions rather than bow to a foreign idol – and the Messiah of the tribe of Yehudah met them there and preserved them!  It is no surprise, therefore, that the God of Israel chose to place His Name and to build the Temple, the House of His Holy Presence, the Beit HaMikdash, in the portion of the Promised Land allocated to the tribe of Judah. There, in His Holy city,  stands the Holy Mount where Abraham bound Isaac to the altar and God provided the ram; the place where Yeshua said, “Abraham saw my day and was glad,” and where he lay down his life in faithful obedience – in Jerusalem, the City of King David, and the City of the Great King who will reign there forever.

When King Solomon built and dedicated the Temple, God promised:

Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. For now I have chosen and consecrated this House that My Name may be there forever; My eyes and My heart will be there for all time.
(2 Chronicles 7:14-16)

From there, too, the King of kings, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, will rule and reign and God’s Kingdom will be established in all the earth. HalleluYah!

10259874_1432588063657983_5693184155575055796_n

 Pic: Sign on the street leading from the Lion’s Gate, in the walls of the Old City, through which the IDF entered to liberate and regain Jerusalem in 1967.

Footnotes:

*    Zvi Ryzman, The Wisdom of the Hebrew Months, Mesorah Pub., NY, 2009; 127
**   Bereishit Rabbah 98:5-6
***  Ephesians 2:12

The New Month – Rosh Chodesh

New Moon

The cycle of the moon, with its waxing and waning, is symbolic of renewal. It is a constant illustration of the fact that we too continually experience growth and decline as we journey through life. The observance of Rosh Chodesh (the ‘‘head’’ or beginning of each new month, signaled by the new moon) was the first commandment given to Israel as a newly formed nation (Exodus 12:2). Israel thus has a special identification with the moon. It serves as a reminder that Israel’’s prominence may fade and seem to disappear but the nation will always re-emerge and grow to fullness, as does the moon. For Israel, and those who stand with her, the sighting and blessing of the new moon is an event of inspiration and provides an opportune time for special prayer and intercession for Israel. Interestingly, the importance of the recognition of each Hebrew month is underscored by the fact that its observance was forbidden in Eretz Yisrael during the rule of the Syrian-Greek King Antiochus, and also during that of the Romans, together with the prohibitions against the study of Torah, keeping the Sabbath and circumcision.

Exodus 12:2 references the first month set in place by God to mark the deliverance from Egypt, ““This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you.”” Notice that He says it is for you! The months are set in place for our benefit. It is as though our Father has stored a gift for us at the start of each new month –– a fresh opportunity of renewal, to strengthen ourselves in our relationship with Him and in our service to Him.

A connection is made between Rosh Chodesh and the festivals in all three sections of the Hebrew Scriptures [the Tanakh], the Torah, the Prophets and the Writings [Torah, Nevi’’im and Ketuvim].

1. Numbers 29:1 “
“On the first day [New Moon] of the seventh month [Tishrei – Rosh HaShanah] you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not work at your occupations. It is a day for you to blow the trumpets……””

2. Isaiah 66:23
““From New Moon to New Moon, and from Sabbath to Sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me,”” says the Lord.

3. 2 Chronicles 2:3 “
“I am now about to build a house for the name of the Lord my God and dedicate it to him for offering fragrant incense before him, and for the regular offering of the rows of bread, and for burnt offerings morning and evening, on the Sabbaths and the New Moons and the Appointed Festivals of the Lord our God, as ordained forever for Israel.””

Another similarity between Rosh Chodesh and the festivals, according to rabbinic tradition, is that it is permissible to fast on any day with the exception of Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh, Festival days and Chol Ha’’Moed [the interim days of the weeks of Pesach & Sukkot].[1]

It is written in the Torah that we be joyful on the Festivals and celebrate with festive meals but this is not the case with Rosh Chodesh, which is like an ordinary week day. It is, nevertheless, considered a day of gladness and great hope.

~Keren Hannah

Footnotes:

1. Zvi Ryzman, The Wisdom in the Hebrew Months, Mesorah Publication, Ltd., NY, 2009, 48.
2. Ibid, 53.