The 5th Word: Honour your parents!

The ‘Ten Commandments’ (or 10 Words) contain enormous truth and the deepest wisdom.

They were referred to many times by both Yeshua and the Apostle Paul as the bedrock of true faith; and they are summarized in what Yeshua declared the two greatest commandments as well as when the Apostle Paul quotes Leviticus 19:18 and states that:  “For the whole Torah is fulfilled in one word: You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”  – Gal 5:14.

Recognition and acknowledgment of these 10 Words as the Moral Code of the Universe is vital to our well-being. So what about the 5th Word?

Honour your parents!

“Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” – Exodus 20:12 (ESV)

The only one of the Ten Words that contains a promise, a promise of a longer and better life, and also a promise to Israel that they would possess the Land of Israel for a much longer time-frame.

This Instruction being part of the 1st Tablet is first and foremost about God. The 1st tablet gives us 5 Words, 5 Instructions about how we are to relate to the Almighty and the 2nd Tablet gives us 5 Words/Instructions on relating to our fellow man.

Yet the 5th Word is also a bridge to the 2nd Tablet as it introduces us into life via our generation as children of our parents.

We are called to honour our parents:

  • to show deference to them;
  • to remember the sacrifice they made in raising us up;
  • not to shame them or belittle them,
  • not to neglect them or their memory.

And in doing so we can expect  or at least have some hope  that the same honour will be shown to us by our children, and even in this way alone it may prolong our life and length or broaden its impact.

This Instruction may seem very easy to heed if you have been blessed to have great parents (though no-one is perfect).

Yet even here, you may take them for granted or perhaps not even have the insight to recognize how blessed your upbringing has been. And then, if you were to, in some way abuse them, it would seem such abuse would cut even deeper.

If your parent(s) considers that they have generally made a good effort of raising you and you reject them in some way such as through expressing disgust or dissatisfaction in an offensive manner, even to the point of not wishing to be associated with them anymore, then clearly such parents would be extremely offended.

On the other side of the coin, as adult children, we need to give our parents a fair bit of slack. This is I think part of what honouring them entails. It can mean seeing them with ‘rose coloured’ glasses to some degree; being more tolerant of this short-comings at least as they relate to us, their children. Honouring and respecting perfection is easy; honouring and respecting flawed individuals not so much.

On a personal note, my Dad was an awesome Dad, yet when I got much older I noticed that he seemed to use me a little as a ‘punching bag’ (in a non-physical manner) when angry due to some incident and, especially it seemed, if my Mum had caused him some grief. He seemed to have so much respect for her (and perhaps a little fear of getting on her bad side!) that he looked for something or someone to take his anger or frustration out on and I felt this fell to me much more than anyone else, including my siblings. Some in the family felt it was because I was the most like him and this may have been true (though I deny it!).

My wife also thought this! Regardless, while it upset me, to the best of my recollection I never reciprocated in any way but just sucked it up. I think my great love and respect for this amazing man overrode any desire to ‘return fire’. So, I do believe I have for the most part really lived up to the 5th Word and to this day my love and respect for my late father and for my Mum remains extremely strong and deep.

But we are not commanded to love our parents, as love, though principally a commitment, is also much more and sometimes perhaps too much to expect if our parents have not lived up to all that God created them to be.

It is very hard to love parents who have abused you; or have never even been half-decent at the parenting role. But regardless, the Almighty does ask us to honour them. Our parents represented the our Father in Heaven to us as we grew up – they were His representatives in our young lives; they were like gods to us.

So, when we reach adulthood and honour our parents, we are in turn honouring the Almighty. This last point may not be obvious. The 10 Words were given to adults, for adults to heed. They were not given to children. Under Jewish jurisprudence over many centuries, children only reach an age of accountability at 13 years, so until then these Instructions are only of secondary importance to them.

But when adult children abuse their parents in some way whether through insults, shaming them or even physical or financial abuse, it is really a rejection by these adult children of the Almighty Himself. Clearly it brings great hurt to the parent(s), and the emotional pain may be much longer lasting than any physical pain, but I wonder how much more it grieves our Father in Heaven?

The 5th Word is one that really is in play for almost all adults (even once you parents have passed away, you still need to honour them memory and not bring shame to their good names). So I think we would all do well to reflect on this Word/Instruction on a regular basis and look to right any wrongs we may have committed in this regard in recent memory.

Shavuot/Pentecost and the Torah

Shavuot, also called the Festival of Weeks, is at the centre of the three main Biblical Feasts periods. Shavuot is to be celebrated 7 weeks + 1, that is 50 days after the Sabbath of Pesach (Passover). While it appears clear from Scripture that these 50 days are to start on the Sunday, the first day after the regular weekly Sabbath that falls during the Feast of Unleavened Bread/Passover, most of Judaism (the Karaites are an exception) counts from the day after Passover/Pesach, that is from the 15th Nisan.

Personally, I have tended to celebrate with Israel for the sake of unity.

While it would also appear that the 2 Tablets (the 10 Words)  were not actually given to Israel on this day, nonetheless Israel celebrates the giving of the 10 Words on this day or at the very least the preparedness of Israel to accept the Torah.

Rabbi Moshe Kempinski argues that:
“… the festival of Shavout represents not the giving of the Torah, but rather the Jewish people’s resolve to stand at the foot of the mountain to receive the Torah. That decision to stand and enter into a covenant of obedience to G-d’s direction marks the power of that day. Shavuot represents the wedding of the Jewish people to their Creator. G-d is seen as the groom beckoning His bride, the people of Israel, to stand under His cloud-huppah covering and to accept His marriage contract (ketubah), His Torah. The joy of this festival is that this people agreed to enter the huppah.”

This take seems to me to be in good harmony with the events of Shavuot as described in Acts 2, as this incredible outpouring of power and spirit on some 3000 zealous Jews from around the world resulted in these people taking the message, joy and goal of Torah[1] to the entire world (even though the message has been seriously distorted and disturbed over the centuries since).

We read in Acts 2 that the followers of Yeshua waited for Shavuot in Jerusalem, after Yeshua had ascended some 10 days before. They waited and then received great power from HaShem which was witnessed by thousands and which resulted in some three thousand becoming followers of Yeshua and believing his message that very day.

In Numbers we read:

“Then the LORD said to Moses, Gather for me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them, and bring them to the tent of meeting, and let them take their stand there with you.

And I will come down and talk with you there. And I will take some of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them, and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you may not bear it yourself alone.” – Numbers 11:16-17

Note here that God’s Spirit, His Power ‘emanated’ from Moses to these followers, these elders who loved HaShem and were obedient to Moses. Thus, Moses no longer bore the burden alone, but even more importantly, the light of Torah and the power to proclaim it was now in the hands of many more so that the truth of the Almighty could be shared with a great many more and begin to emanate throughout the whole people of Israel gathered in the desert.

Fast forward to the miracle of Shavuot/Pentecost in Acts 2, and we see a very similar event, where just as Yeshua had predicted his proclamation of the Gospel and Torah was now able to emanate into the world through his followers, these ‘elders’ of The Way, who would now have the Power of the Almighty to enable them to proclaim Yeshua’s message, which was of course the message of the Almighty, just as Moses had been told when HaShem declared that He would sent a prophet who would speak His Words.

Deut 18:18-19

“I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.”

In Jerusalem for Shavuot at that time were very many zealous believers from the Diaspora, who saw this great outpouring of the Spirit of God. In returning home, the message of the Kingdom, the message of Yeshua was thus powerfully magnified and ‘emanated’ throughout the world so that Yeshua and his followers could truly be a ‘Light to the Nations’, that is, a revealer of Torah, of The Way (Ps 119) and of the Good News of the Kingdom (Luke 4:43).

There are also some interesting parallels when we investigate the chiastic structure of the 10 Words and also a summary of a midrashic commentary on the delegation/emanation of Numbers 11:16-17 (quoted  above).

The Ten Words are ordered in a triple chiastic structure:

Chiastic structure is a literary structure used in ancient literature including the Bible.

For example, suppose that the first topic in a text is labeled by A, the second topic is labeled by B and the third topic is labeled by C. If the topics in the text appear in the order ABC…CBA so that the first concept that comes up is also the last, the second is the second to last, and so on, the text is said to have a chiastic structure. [Also, a chiastic structure can be of the form ABBAABB…ABBA. i.e. when only 2 ideas are being repeatedly referenced rather than 3 or more].

So to help visualize this we write it in this indented manner:


There is normally an inverted parallelism in the sequence.

For example, Matthew 7:6 contains a simple chiastic structure:

A  “Do not give what is holy to dogs,

                B  and do not throw your pearls before swine,

                B’ lest they trample them under their feet,

A’  and turn and tear you to pieces”

In this instance, the propositions A and B are reflected as in a reversed mirror image by the propositions B’ and A’.

This helps us understand this verse better as we can see that the dogs (A) tear to pieces (A’), and the swine (B) do the trampling (B’).

A very good example of formal chiasmus may be found in Genesis 17:1-25:

A   Abram’s age (1a) 

           B  The LORD appears to Abram (1b)        

                       C  God’s first speech (1b-2)           

                                           D  Abram falls on his face (3)               

E  God’s second speech – Abram’s name changed (4-8)                  

  X  God’s Third Speech -the covenant of circumcision; (9-14)                     

                                                         E’ God’s fourth speech – Sari’s name changed (15- 16)                                                  

                                             D’  Abraham falls on his face (17-18)      

        C’  God’s fifth speech (19-21) 

           B’  God “goes up” from Abraham (22)

A’  Abraham’s age (24-25)


The ordering of the Ten Words can be seen to have a chiastic structure when placed into one of three categories of:
– emotion,  speech, and action

The first two commandments, 1) Belief in God and 2) Not worshipping other gods, both have to do with what is in our hearts, what we feel to be true.

We are then told not to take God’s name in vain; this is clearly speech. The fourth Word, ‘Keeping the Sabbath’ is all about action, as is the fifth, as ‘honouring our parents’ is all about how we act toward them.

Beginning with the top of the second tablet (the 2nd 5 Words) we have: Murder, Adultery, and Stealing which are all ‘action’ sins. The 9th Word, ‘Bearing false witness against your neighbour’ is a transgression through speech. The final commandment, coveting that which belongs to your neighbour, is contained within one’s heart, one’s emotions.

Thus we can see that the Ten Words; the Ten Commandments follow the chiastic structure of  AABCC – CCCBA.







This order and categorization also helps us appreciate which are more difficult as it is always hardest to control the heart[2]. The above is mostly paraphrased from an article by Stacey Goldman.

Her conclusion is also well worth contemplation:

“Through this literary analysis, we discover a very deep lesson from the Torah. When it comes to our relationship with G‑d, we need to work on our belief so that we can control our speech which will help to refine our actions. This will then further control our actions towards other people which will help to control our speech and refine our thoughts and beliefs about ourselves. This is what it is all about. We cannot respect and treat one another properly unless we respect and care about ourselves, and we can only truly care about ourselves when we recognize that we were created for a reason and that we need to have a relationship with our Creator.”

In Leviticus 19:18 we read ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’. This is surely the greatest principle of the Torah. God is involved in the human-to-human relationships. He is manifest when neighbours and friends get along, when people treat one another with mutual respect and caring. The “greatest principle of the Torah”, then, must be read as a rejoinder to behave towards one another in a manner that brings God into our personal and collective lives. This is the path to holiness; indeed, loving your neighbour as yourself becomes the epitome of holiness.

And the inclusion of God in this ‘greatest principle’ is evident when we read the conclusion of verse 18 where we read  “I am God”.

“… but you shall love your neighbour as yourself: I am God.” – Lev 19:18b

God is part of the equation. Loving your neighbour is a summation of the 2nd Tablet. And when it is done in the ‘fear of God’ it sums up the whole of Torah as the Apostle Paul stated: “For the whole of the Torah is summed up in this one sentence: “Love your neighbour as yourself” – Gal 5:14

Thus the holiness of man is connected to keeping the commandments – specifically, the Ten Commandments, the “essentials of Torah.” And the Almighty provides the strength and power to heed this call and be holy.

Yeshua had told his disciples that they would receive the power of the holy Spirit and to wait for this event. As it was only 10 days until Shavuot in seems likely that they would remain in Jerusalem until then.

“But you will receive power when the Ruach HaKodesh comes upon you; you will be my witnesses both in Yerushalayim and in all Y’hudah and Shomron, indeed to the ends of the earth!” – Yeshua in Acts 1:8

What this incredible event seems to illustrate is the delegation of the Gospel message to a much greater number of people from all lands of the Diaspora. It seems then to match the events we read in Numbers as below:

Numbers 11:16-17 and Delegation

“If the burden is too heavy for you to bear alone, says G-d to Moses, “Gather to Me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people, and officers over them; and bring them to the Tent of Meeting, that they may stand there with you.”

And I will come down and talk with you there. And I will emanate of the spirit which is upon you, and will bestow it upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, that you bear it not yourself alone.

On the most basic level, this is the difference between physical and spiritual giving. In physical giving, the givers resources are depleted by his gift–he now has less money or energy than before. In spiritual giving, however, there is no loss. When a person teaches his fellow, his own knowledge is not diminished if anything, it is enhanced.

Upon deeper contemplation, however, it would seem that spiritual giving, too, carries a “price.” If the disciple is of inferior knowledge and mental capability than the teacher, the time and effort expended in teaching him is invariably at the expense of the teachers own intellectual development; also, the need for the teacher to “coarsen” and simplify his ideas to fit the disciples mind will ultimately detract from the depth and abstraction of his own thoughts. By the same token, dealing with people of lower moral and spiritual level than oneself cannot but affect one’s own spiritual state. The recipients of this “spiritual charity” will be elevated by it, but its giver will be diminished by the relationship, however subtly.

Indeed, we find an example of such spiritual descent in Moses bestowal of the leadership upon Joshua. In contrast to the appointment of the seventy elders, where he was told to “emanate” his spirit to them, Moses is here commanded to “Take Joshua the son of Nun, and lay your hand upon him… and give of your glory upon him” (Numbers 28:18-20). Here the Midrash comments, “Lay your hand upon him like one who kindles a candle from a candle; Give of your glory like one who pours from one vessel into another vessel.”

In other words, there are two kinds of spiritual gifts: a gift that “costs” the giver nothing (“emanation”, which is like “kindling a candle from a candle”), and a gift that involves a removal of something from the giver in order that the recipient should receive something (“pouring from one vessel into another”).

There are times we indeed sacrifice something of ourselves for the benefit of a fellow. But there are also times when we commit ourselves to our fellow so absolutely–when the gift comes from a place so deep and so true within us–that we only grow from experience, no matter how much we give of ourselves.”

 – by The Lubavitcher Rebbe (see for a fascinating article on the Rebbe which also relates to the ‘outpouring’ or ‘emanation’.

In the case of the Shavuot experience of Acts 2 the spiritual gift was really from the Almighty who can’t in anyway be diminished.

May you experience something of the joy and power of being filled with the Spirit of the Almighty this Shavuot and may the joy of Torah be yours as well and bring you into a deeper holiness.


[2] see

The Evangelists’ sources originated from an environment of both spoken and literary Hebrew …

In scientific circles when a hypothesis is presented, evidence is given to support this thesis. It is also implied and expected that over time future findings should for the most part add support to the hypothesis, if it is indeed a valid and accurate one.

In 2013 I completed my book, ‘The New Testament: The Hebrew Behind the Greek’. While I have made some minor edits and included some minor additional material through 2014 – 2016, it is simply not possible to be aware of all the supporting and/or contrary evidence that might have since been found and detailed. So it is only today in February 2023 that I came across this paper (see link below) from 2014 that adds some strong supporting evidence to my basic contentions and main hypothesis. Thus, I would argue that this paper adds some strong support to the basic premises and hypothesis that my book presents and hence further validates it. In fact, this paper by R. Steven Notley and Jeffrey P. García even concludes with essentially the same contentions:

“So we witness once again that the method and meaning of Jesus’ use of Scripture attests to his intimate familiarity with the contours of the Hebrew Bible. … It is clear that his exegesis was not based on a Greek or Aramaic translation, but upon the Hebrew Bible.

… The value of taking into account the original language of the discourse—Hebrew—can hardly be overstated in understanding the sense and purpose of the biblical allusions that undergird these ideas. Indeed, our aim throughout this modest study has been to demonstrate the importance of the Hebrew language and a thorough knowledge of the contours of emerging Jewish thought in order to grasp better both the method and meaning of Jesus’ exegesis of the Hebrew Scriptures.”

In this paper they also offer some supporting evidence, excerpts below (I quoted Grintz, but not Safrai and Breuer):

“Scholars had been of the opinion that, after the return of the Babylonian exiles, Hebrew no longer served as a spoken language. On this account Hebrew retained its status as a holy tongue and was used in prayer and in Torah study, and for this reason the Mishnah and contemporary Tannaitic literature was composed in Hebrew, but in everyday life Aramaic alone was spoken. Today this view is no longer accepted, the scholarly consensus now being that Hebrew speech survived in all walks of life at least until the end of the tannaitic period (the beginning of the third century CE)” (authors’ emphasis).

– Safrai, “Spoken and Literary Languages”; Buth, “Language Use”; Joshua M. Grintz, “Hebrew as the Spoken and Written Language in the Last Days of the Second Temple,” JBL 79 (1960): 32–47. Yonathan Breuer, “Aramaic in Late Antiquity,” in The Cambridge History of Judaism. Vol. 4, The Late Roman-Rabbinic Period (ed. S. Katz; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 457–58.

“It should be noted, however, that in terms of the New Testament (for Josephus, see Instone-Brewer, Techniques and Assumptions, 184) the majority of scholars have argued that the LXX was the authors’ primary source. While it is expected that authors in the Diaspora utilized the Greek version of the Scriptures, there is little reason to presume that within the confines of the land of Israel matters were the same. For all intents and purposes, it appears that Second Temple exegetical traditions developed out a reading of the Hebrew text. Furthermore, as several articles in the present volume indicate, it appears that the Evangelists’ sources originated from an environment of both spoken and literary Hebrew. In their conclusion: It is clear that his exegesis was not based on a Greek or Aramaic translation, but upon the Hebrew Bible….

The value of taking into account the original language of the discourse—Hebrew—can hardly be overstated in understanding the sense and purpose of the biblical allusions that undergird these ideas.

… Along with the colloquial Hebrew attested in the Bar-Kokhba documents, it is now accepted that in the New Testament era Hebrew was still utilized for oral communication. Second, it is routinely assumed, but rarely explicitly stated, that the ancients most often utilized the Hebrew Bible for matters of interpretation. The terseness of biblical narratives and linguistic nuances of the Hebrew language inspired the exegetical traditions which appear in various translations (e.g. the LXX, Targumim), as well as the Dead Sea re-workings of the Pentateuch —in addition to the wealth of exegetical materials that appear elsewhere in Second Temple period texts. The five Synoptic narratives that will be examined here—“Jesus’ Preaching in the Nazareth Synagogue” (Luke 4:18–19), “Jesus’ Witness Concerning John” (Luke 7:27; Matt 11:10), “And You Shall Love . . .” (Luke 10:25–37), “The Cleansing of the Temple” (Luke 19:45–46; Mark 11:11–17; Matt 21:12–13), “Jesus and Caiaphas” (Luke 22:66–71)—preserve rabbinic exegetical techniques that appear for the first time in written record. The earliest iteration of these exegetical methods (i.e. middoth) is first attributed to Hillel (a Jewish sage who flourished in the first century b.c.e.) and appears for the first time in the Tosefta (t. Sanh 7.11)—a supplement to the Mishnah which has been shown to be an amalgam of pre-mishnaic, mishnaic and later Rabbinic traditions. Yet, already in the Gospel of Matthew there is evidence of at least one of them, קל וחומר (a minori ad maius14): εἰ δὲ τὸν χόρτον τοῦ ἀγροῦ σήμερον ὄντα καὶ αὔριον εἰς κλίβανον βαλόμενον ὁ θεὸς οὕτως ἀμφιέννυσιν, οὐ πολῷ μᾶλον ὑμᾶς, ὀλιγόπιστοι; (“But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O ones of little faith?,” Matt 6:30).

Prof. R Steven Notley

In the passage, the comparison of God’s care for the grass in light of its impermanence with the more important concern for humanity reflects the transition from minori (קל) to maius (חומר). Certain middoth, especially those that are found in pre-70 c.e. texts, were conveyed orally and likely intended to be utilized in teaching contexts (e.g. bet midrash). The employment of these exegetical techniques reflects the manner in which a sage might readily interpret Scripture in the process of teaching or in regular conversation. Coupled with the acknowledgment of spoken Hebrew in the first century, we suggest that these exemplify a fluid development of interpretive techniques (middoth) that were derived out of a speaking environment rather than a literary/scribal one. Therefore, the fact that the Synoptic Gospels preserve stories with contemporaneous methods of exegesis and that most of these accounts portray a setting where Jesus is teaching, it indicates not only the language of exegesis (i.e. Hebrew) but also the primary language of discourse. …”

Should our pre-suppositional approach to the New Testament be Hebraic or Hellenistic?

Almost all of Christian scholarship approaches the NT from a Western and Hellenistic (Greek) mindset, and for most they are not even aware of their pre-suppositions. This may be in part because so many historical and cultural understandings over the centuries re-enforced this approach.

But since as early as the 1950’s these false understandings began to be questioned and re-evaluated. Sadly though the new evidence and understandings have for the most part not been reflected in new  editions of our Bible translations or even in much recent scholarship (with very notable exceptions being scholarly groups such as the Jerusalem School for Synoptic Research[1], and some Bible translators such as Ann Nyland[2] and Uriel ben Mordechai).

I have written and presented a number of articles on the Hebraisms in the NT as well as discussing the evidence is some depth in my book ‘The New Testament: The Hebrew Behind the Greek’[3].

But a question that was raised recently is how to open the minds and hearts of Bible scholars and students to at least consider that their inherent pre-suppositional understandings may need to be re-evaluated.

The approach of have used in the past is to look at some of the apparent contradictions between different accounts of the same event and try to demonstrate that a Hebraic approach seems to best resolve the apparent conflict and contradiction.

I have detailed many of these in my articles, but I raise just one here to highlight this issue.

Yeshua is asked who might sit next to him in the Kingdom. Mark gives us the impression that Yaa’cov (James) and Yochanan (John) themselves personally asked whether they might sit next to Yeshua in places of royal authority (Mk. 10:35-40).

Matthew though tells us that in fact it was the mother of Zebedee’s children who actually made the request to Yeshua (Mt. 20:20-23). Here we see the Hebraic principle of agency at play. The agent fully represents the principal in any transaction. All the Gospels, as well as other books of the NT make use of this Hebraism and many others.

Many have argued that these Hebraisms are not evident in John’s Gospel. I have addressed this question in depth here:’s%20Gospel.pdf

I would also like to highlight how easy it is to totally miss these Hebraisms and the strong Hebraic Mindset and perspective used throughout the NT. Some of the examples are staring us in the face, yet we can not see them without an indepth knowledge of the historical and cultural context.

Just one example for now comes from ‘Non-Septuagintal Hebraisms in the Third Gospel: An Inconvenient Truth’by R. Steven Notley (of the Jerusalem School for Synoptic Research).

“Luke’s terminology reflects Post-biblical Hebrew idioms that he has not adopted from the Septuagint, the other Gospels or any other known Jewish Greek literature of the period. The problem is that scholarship is often looking for the obscure, enigmatic idiom when the examples are right in front of the reader. Their sense is so obvious and the reading so familiar that we simply over-look their Hebraic character. [My emphasis] For example, Luke refers to the work of Isaiah as βιβλίον τοῦ προφήτου Ἠσαΐου (Luke 4:17). Yet, nowhere else in the corpus of Jewish Greek literature (i.e., Septuagint, Greek Pseudepigrapha, Josephus, Philo, etc.) in late antiquity is this prophetic work designated a βιβλίον (or βίβλος). It is likewise not designated by the Hebrew equivalent (ֵסֶפר) [sefer == book] in the Hebrew Scriptures.

Yet, the work of Isaiah is called exactly that in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Indeed, at Qumran the Lukan phrase—the book of the prophet Isaiah—appears in its precise Hebrew equivalent on four occasions (ספר ישעיה הנביא: 4Q174 f1.2i.15; 4Q176 f1.2i.4; 4Q265 f1.3; 4Q285 f7.1).”[4]

As I document in my ‘Hebrew Behind the Greek’ text, Luke and all the authors of the NT were very much Hebraists in their perspective, though having been translated into Greek their Hebraic mindset is not as easy to distinguish. Further, I discuss some of the serious damage that has resulted from the failure to view the NT through Hebraic eyes in my book ‘Doctrinal Pitfalls of Hellenism[5].






‘Let the Dead Bury Their Own Dead’

I have argued a great many times, and in many forums, articles and books that the Bible can not be understood and interpreted at all well unless you understand the context, the culture and historical setting, and most especialy the Hebraic Mindset involved.

The Hebraic Mindset is seriously at odds with the Hellenistic Mindset that the Christian church has used to arrive at a great many doctrines that are more pagan than Biblical.

On my main website you will find a number of articles on the Hebraic Mindset and an article ‘Understanding the Bible 101’ that argues for a more appropriate methodology for approaching Bible study than the way most Christians approach it from their churches Hellenistic leanings.

While I have worked at this for some 20+ years now, only today I found a great example that highlights so vividly the need for a cultural (Hebraic) understanding, and it is the passage in Matthew 8:21-22 where we have the statement by Yeshua ‘Let the Dead Bury Their Own Dead’.

This statement has troubled Bible scholars for many years and I have not seen any really satisfactory interpretations of it until now. And the solution is found in understanding the tradition of a second burial that existed in Israel in the first century CE.

Without a good grasp of this tradition, I would argue that a deep study and reflection on this statement by Yeshua will not lead to a coherent and fully satisfying resolution.

I have raised this specific quote to highlight the value of an Hebraic approach to Bible study, but if you are interested in this specific issue then please check out “’Let the Dead Bury Their Own Dead’: Secondary Burial and Matt 8:21-22’ by Byron R. McCane (

Once you understand the second burial issue and that this disciple may have needed to wait some weeks and even up to 11 months to perform this traditional practice for his father, you might also appreciate that Yeshua saw a real urgency to preaching the good news of the Kingdom of God and if this man was really serious, then there was no time to waste. This also seems to imply that Yeshua, at this stage of his ministry, expected the Kingdom of God to dawn in the very near future (as did the Apostle Paul after Yeshua’s death and resurrection). Sadly, we are still waiting, praying and waiting! Come Yeshua ben David, come quickly!!

So a possible paraphrase of Yeshua’s call is:

“Now, as we have no time to waste, instead of waiting for the flesh of your father to decompose, and then reburying his bones with his ancestors, come and preach the Kingdom of God! Let the bones of your dead father’s ancestors gather his bones and place them in an ossuary. You follow me!” 

Faith Is Not Certainty

In this week’s Torah Portion (Vayeira: Genesis 18-22) is the famous episode of the binding of Isaac. Much has been written about this as many scholars, Rabbi’s and Christian apologists try to unravel this complicated and contradictory event.

I think though that the late Rabbi Sacks, saw something different here. He saw a narrative that involves Abraham growing in his faith and learning to deal with contradictions and to have the courage to deal with uncertainty and through it all maintaining and strengthening his faith.

I will share below my understanding based on Rabbi Sack’s initial thoughts.

Abraham, like every one of us, needed to walk the long journey of growing in faith and relationship with the Almighty. Despite his early heeding of the call to leave his home and family and travel far, he still had much growing to do and part of that was appreciating that ‘there is a long and winding road between promise and fulfilment.’

Abraham was charged from the beginning with a new thing. He, and a special portion of his descendants, were being called to be a light to the world, a beacon of hope and strength to all.

The Almighty would need to teach Abraham that this pioneering movement that he was to be the progenitor of would demand extraordinary strength of character. Nothing great and transformative happens overnight.

Even when you appear to see a miracle happen in one day (think the founding of the State of Israel) or in one moment when some amazing blessing suddenly falls in your lap, yet it is, in reality, the result of many days or years of toil and struggle to be in the place to receive the blessing.

Life’s journey to true peace, joy and fellowship with God requires us to keep going in and through the hardest of times, even when we are tired and lost, exhausted and despondent.

As Sacks writes:

“God will bring about everything He promised. But not immediately. And not directly. God seeks change in the real world of everyday lives. And He seeks those who have the tenacity of faith to keep going despite all the setbacks. That is what the life of Abraham was about.

Nowhere was this clearer than in relation to God’s promise of children. Four times, God spoke about this to Abraham:

[1] “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you.” (Gen. 12:2)
[2] “I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted.” (Gen. 13:16)
[3] “Look up at the sky and count the stars-if indeed you can count them.” Then He said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” (Gen. 15:5)
[4] “No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you.” (Gen. 17:5-6)

Four ascending promises: a great nation, as many as the dust of the earth, as the stars of the sky; not one nation but many nations. Abraham heard these promises and had faith in them: “Abram believed the Lord, and He reckoned it to him as righteousness” (Gen. 15:6).”

Against these promises and this background, the trial that Abraham faced with the apparent call to sacrifice Isaac, was more of a trial was to see whether Abraham could live with what seemed to be a clear contradiction between God’s word now, and God’s word on all these previous occasions, promising him children and a covenant that would be continued by Isaac.

It would appear from the Biblical narrative that Abraham did not know what to believe or how it would all end, but he did know that through all this traumatic uncertainty he needed to trust HaShem.

Abraham understood that faith is not certainty; it is instead the courage to live with uncertainty.

Abraham had faith that the promises from the Almighty would all somehow come to pass, but he was being asked to leave the how and when, the specifics, to God.

As we read in Proverbs 21:31 “The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory is of YHVH.” – Proverbs 21:31

We need to be prepared, to step out in faith and do our part but the ultimate outcome, the ‘victory’ is accomplished by God. To truly trust is to accept this uncertainty.

Reflect, if you can, on the times when all seemed close to lost but then doors were opened and HaShem walked you through them into His blessings. Normally such ‘miracles’ are the outcome of much effort and faith prior to the time of the miracle.

I had such an experience very recently which I write about in ‘Our Passover of 2022’ –

I have also reflected on this Torah Portion in blog posts such as this one:

From ‘Rameses to Sukkot’ – from safety to trusting:

I have written and spoken about Sukkot a few times over the years, but today, as Sukkot ends for another year, I wish to share a very different perspective on Sukkot, but one that I think leads us back to the core message that Sukkot really celebrates and is a portent to.

Let me start by quoting Rabbi David Fohrman of AlephBeta who shared this most intriguing new perspective:

“One of the strange things about Sukkot is that, if you think about it, one of the ways in which it is an outlier among the three pilgrimage festivals, Sukkot, Shavuot and Passover, is that the event that it commemorates is apparently never mentioned in the text outside of the verse that tells you about this holiday. Imagine if you never knew about the Exodus in the Torah, and the only way you knew about the Exodus is because you looked in Leviticus 23 and there was a holiday called Passover. The Torah says, by the way, you should always celebrate the holiday called Passover because God took you out of Egypt. You’d think that was a little strange, right? I mean, you would say, but where’s the story about God taking me out of Egypt? That’s why, of course, the whole first half of the book of Exodus is devoted to the story of God taking us out of Egypt. We hear about the story of Exodus and then in Leviticus 23, we hear about this holiday that commemorates that story back in Exodus. Same thing with the Revelation. You hear about the Revelation in the middle of Exodus and there’s a holiday that commemorates the Revelation later on in Leviticus.

When it comes to Sukkot, though, that pattern is broken, because all you have is Leviticus 23 telling you that you should celebrate this holiday called Sukkot. “Ki basukkot hoshavti et B’nei Yisrael behotzi’i otam me’eretz Mitzrayim’ – because when I took you out of Egypt, I caused you to dwell in sukkot.”

Now, if it were not for that holiday, if it had never mentioned that you were supposed to celebrate this holiday, we wouldn’t know the event that we’re supposedly commemorating, because never anywhere else in the Torah does it specifically say that we slept in these huts. The only way that we actually know that we slept in these huts is because there’s a verse that says we’re supposed to celebrate the holiday of Sukkot. We do that because we slept in these huts, but it’s never told to us in the story part of the Torah. It’s just told to us as a law….”.

While the Rabbi does not mention it, it is even more noticeable in my understanding, that there is no reason given as to why Yom Teruah should be celebrated. I discuss this at length here ‘Yom Teruah – the Day of Trumpets & the arrival of Messiah’ –

But back in Exodus 12 there is a very significant verse:

“The people of Isra’el traveled from Ra‘amses to Sukkot, some six hundred thousand men on foot, not counting children.” – Exodus 12:37

Note here that when the people of Israel first left Egypt (from Ra’ames’) the first place (perhaps a ‘shantytown’ of sorts) that they arrived at was Sukkot.

What was the city of Rameses? It was built by the Israelites themselves during their slavery in Egypt. It was a storage city. It had silos full of grain. Egypt at that time was was the breadbasket of the ancient world, so Rameses was a very secure city, and also for slaves it was the place where their food came from. So in a perverse sort of way, when you have accepted your slavery over hundreds of year, it represents the safety of a known place, a known source of sustenance, whereas Sukkot was in the desert and a place of insecurity; doubt and potential starvation.

In fact, Sukkot was probably named after the huts that people slept in. In Genesis we read about Jacob leaving the house of Laban. When he leaves the house of Laban, it just turns out that after he escapes Laban’s house and after he escapes Esau, the very first place he comes to (see Genesis 33) is Sukkot:

 “Ya‘akov went on to Sukkot, where he built himself a house and put up shelters for his cattle. This is why the place is called Sukkot [shelters].” – Gen 33:17

So even if this is not the same location, it appears to be named Sukkot because of the ‘shelters’ made for the cattle.

And as you can surmise that Israel was travelling with a lot of cattle as well, and there was no large town with motels, etc. to accommodate them, we can imagine that they would have slept for the most part in the shelters they made.

So we can perhaps see why Rabbi Fohrman argues that ‘ … this was the moment of great trust, the gift of trust, which Israel gave to God. And Jeremiah talks about this: … God is talking and saying that, you followed me into the desert, in a place where there was absolutely no way to make any food. You trusted that I would be there for you and you were willing to sleep that night. That night, if you imagine what it was like, … there was that, sort of, mixed bittersweet feeling.

On the one hand, you’re free, the first taste of the air of freedom. Yet, on the other hand, you are terrified. …”

The Israelites had left a land of plenty, with a roof over their heads, where they had been settled down for hundreds of years and then in one night, they left and put themselves in God’s hands and God took care of you. God protected them that night, that first night of freedom in Sukkot after leaving the slavery of Rameses.

Isn’t that something worth remembering, worth celebrating every year?

But there is of course much more.

As I discuss in my podcast on Sukkot from a decade ago now (link here), it is really in many ways a dress rehearsal for the greatest marriage celebration ever!

Below is the basic script of the podcast if you prefer to read rather than listen.

The Joy of a Wedding Feast: Sukkot foreshadows the greatest wedding ever!

We have entered the Festival of Sukkot (or the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles). Of all the joyous Holy Days ordained by the Almighty, this is the last in the yearly cycle and surely the most joyful. It also in  a sense rises in joy to the last great day (Simchat Torah), the day when the giving of the Amighty’s Instructions to mankind, and specifically to His representatives of mankind, the newly freed Jewish people at Mt Sinai in the desert.

Before I expand a little on this here are some questions and answers about Sukkot (this form the core of the Podcast on Sukkot freely available here –

  1. Where does the feast of sukkot or Tabernacles originate from?

From the Torah; specifically from Leviticus 23: 33-43:

33 ADONAI said to Moshe,

34 “Tell the people of Isra’el, ‘On the fifteenth day of this seventh month is the feast of Sukkot for seven days to ADONAI.

35 On the first day there is to be a holy convocation; do not do any kind of ordinary work (i.e. a Shabbath). 36 For seven days you are to bring an offering made by fire to ADONAI; on the eighth day you are to have a holy convocation (another Sabbath) and bring an offering made by fire to ADONAI ; it is a day of public assembly; do not do any kind of ordinary work.

37 “‘These are the designated times of ADONAI that you are to proclaim as holy convocations and bring an offering made by fire to ADONAI -a burnt offering, a grain offering, a sacrifice and drink offerings, each on its own day –

38 besides the Shabbats of ADONAI, your gifts, all your vows and all your voluntary offerings that you give to ADONAI.

39 “‘But on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered the produce of the land, you are to observe the festival of ADONAI seven days; the first day is to be a complete rest and the eighth day is to be a complete rest.

40 On the first day you are to take choice fruit, palm fronds, thick branches and river-willows, and celebrate in the presence of ADONAI your God for seven days.

41 You are to observe it as a feast to ADONAI seven days in the year; it is a permanent regulation, generation after generation; keep it in the seventh month.

42 You are to live in Sukkot (plural of sukkah)  for seven days; every citizen of Isra’el is to live in a sukkah,
43 so that generation after generation of you will know that I made the people of Isra’el live in sukkot when I brought them out of the land of Egypt; I am ADONAI your God.'”

Another good reference is Deut 16:

“12 Remember that you were a slave in Egypt; then you will keep and obey these laws.

13 “You are to keep the festival of Sukkot for seven days after you have gathered the produce of your threshing-floor and winepress.

14 Rejoice at your festival – you, your sons and daughters, your male and female slaves, the Levites, and the foreigners, orphans and widows living among you.

 15 Seven days you are to keep the festival for ADONAI your God in the place ADONAI your God will choose, because ADONAI your God will bless you in all your crops and in all your work, so you are to be full of joy!

God wants a PARTY!! He wants, he commands joy! Joy from the full appreciation of their freedom and their blessings!

The Torah commands the Jewish people to celebrate the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles for 7 days, from the 15th to the 21st of the Seventh month (Tishrei). This holiday is also known as “Succos” and the “Feast of Tabernacles”. Work is forbidden on the 1st day of the seven days.

  • What does the word sukkot means and where it comes from?

The central theme of Sukkot is rejoicing – following from repentance (Yom Teruah) and the 10 Days of Awe)  & redemption (Yom Kippur).

The word ‘sukkah’ means a temporary dealing – as per the dwellings of Israel during the 40 years in the desert.

It is understood from Lev 23:40  & Neh 8:14-16 that it should be built with the 4 species listed there.

Both males and females are expected to dwell (at least spend some time in and eat a meal) in a Sukkah (Booth) for all 7 days of the Festival whether at home or in Jerusalem.

Building a Sukkah:
The Torah calls for the building of this ‘tent’ but does not state how many walls it should have, etc. In Nehemiah 8:14-16  we learn of a national gathering in which the Torah is read to the people and they rediscover what is commanded in it. – around 2400 years ago – possibly as much as 1000-1600 years have elapsed since Moses.

1 All the people assembled as one man in the square before the Water Gate. They told Ezra the scribe to bring out the Book of the Torah of Moses, which the LORD had commanded for Israel.
2 So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand.
3 He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law…. 
13 On the second day of the month, the heads of all the families, along with the priests and the Levites, gathered around Ezra the scribe to give attention to the words of the Torah.
14 They found written in the Law, which the LORD had commanded through Moses, that the Israelites were to live in booths during the feast of the seventh month
15 and that they should proclaim this word and spread it throughout their towns and in Jerusalem: “Go out into the hill country and bring back branches from olive and wild olive trees, and from myrtles, palms and shade trees, to make booths”–as it is written.
16 So the people went out and brought back branches and built themselves booths on their own roofs, in their courtyards, in the courts of the house of God and in the square by the Water Gate and the one by the Gate of Ephraim.
17 The whole company that had returned from exile built booths and lived in them. From the days of Joshua son of Nun until that day, the Israelites had not celebrated it like this. And their joy was very great.
18 Day after day, from the first day to the last, Ezra read from the Book of the Law of God. They celebrated the feast for seven days, and on the eighth day, in accordance with the regulation, there was an assembly.

In Israel it is a very big deal.

I was in Israel in 2011 for three weeks including Yom Kippur and Sukkot. In Jerusalem we saw many people with succah’s on their balconies or roofs, or in front of their houses or hotels. Often very brightly decorated on the inside and traditionally open at the top so that they can see the heavens at night. The Gold Hotel in Jersualem where we were staying had its own sukkah; and we visited a couple in the suburb of Gilo who had turned there patio into a large succah. We had a great supper together and a time of sharing and asking these Jewish people who had made aliyah how they found Israel etc.

  • What does this festival represent?

First, it is a great holiday in Israel; but it represents a desire to cleave to God, a desire to be united; to be one with the Almighty.

Sukkot, at its core, carries one message: “God, we want to stay with You.” In remembering the days in the wilderness; the Jewish people are to remember how reliant and how close they were to God.

Just as God’s Clouds of Glory embraced and protected them for 40 years in the desert, they desire to experience again that intimate sense of closeness.

Intriguing this is also very much a day for the Nations as well, for the Gentiles; not just in the past and increasingly today but most emphatically in the Coming Age!

This day is a day in which there were sacrifice offerings in the Temple for each of the Gentile nations. According to the Rabbis, there were 70 Gentile nations in ancient times – from the Tower of Babel. Beginning in Numbers 29:13, you can read about the sacrifices that were offered on each of the days of Sukkot. On the first day, 13 bullocks were offered as a burnt offering. On the second day, 12 bullocks, on the third day, 11 bullocks, until finally on the seventh day, only 7 bullocks were offered, making a total of 70 bullocks-one for each of the Gentile nations.

Numbers 29: 12
“‘On the fifteenth day of the seventh month you are to have a holy convocation. You are not to do any kind of ordinary work, and you are to observe a feast to ADONAI seven days.
13 You are to present a burnt offering, an offering made by fire, bringing a fragrant aroma to ADONAI. It is to consist of thirteen young bulls, …
17 “‘On the second day you are to present twelve young bulls,
20 “‘On the third day eleven bulls,
 23 “‘On the fourth day ten bulls,
26 “‘On the fifth day nine bulls, 
29 “‘On the sixth day eight bulls,
32 “‘On the seventh day seven bulls,

Consider how specific the Almighty is here – yet he doesn’t explain why.
We are seeing an increasing recognition amongst many Christian groups of the importance of Sukkot and of their desire to share it with Israel, in Israel.

As it was to be a time full of great joy, not surprisingly dancing was very much a part of the Feast of Tabernacles and is an ancient tradition. The following passage in the book of Judges shows the custom of the young maidens dancing during Sukkot.
This custom is mentioned in Scripture because of a special situation that had taken place with the tribe of Benjamin. Because of a terrible sin and slaughter within Israel, only a remnant of men from Benjamin were left and they had no native maidens left to marry. So the elders of the congregation came up with a plan so that the tribe would not die out.

“Then they said, Behold, there is a feast of the LORD in Shiloh  yearly … Therefore they commanded the children of Benjamin, saying, Go and lie in wait in the vineyards; And see. And, behold, if the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in dances, then come ye out of the vineyards, and catch you every man his wife of the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin.”(Judges 21:19-21)

Shiloh was where the Tabernacle and the Ark was sited for some 379 years when it first entered Israel until the first Temple was built in Jerusalem.  So for almost 400 years this was the site the 12 tribes of Israel came to 3 times a year for Pesach (Passover), Shavuot (Pentecost) and Sukkot. It was here the Eli was High Priest with the boy Samuel attending him. It was here that the Ark was taken out into battle and lost for a time to the Philistines.

There is a model of the Tabernacle at the site of Shiloh, in Samaria that you can look at as well as the most likely site for the Tabernacle. It was from here that King David took the Ark to Jerusalem.

4) What has Sukkot got to do with Weddings?

The Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) pictures the celebration of the wedding by the wedding party and invited guests.

A traditional Jewish wedding festival has the following characteristics:

  • Seven days long
  • Command to rejoice/have joy
  • A temporary dwelling – the bride and groom will only enter their house after the wedding feast is over
  • The many invited guests (– all the Nations)

Perhaps Isaiah 2:3 is speaking of Sukkot or at least Sukkot represents the beginning of this process:

“Many peoples will go and say, “Come, let’s go up to the mountain of ADONAI, to the house of the God of Ya’akov! He will teach us about his ways, and we will walk in his paths.” For out of Zion will go forth Torah, the word of ADONAI from Jerusalem.”

5) Does Sukkot apply to future events as well as the other festivals we have discussed?

We see the future connection in Zech 14
“16 Finally, everyone remaining from all the nations that came to attack Yerushalayim will go up every year to worship the ADONAI, the Lord of Hosts and to keep the festival of Sukkot.
17 If any of the families of the earth does not go up to Jerusalem to worship the king, ADONAI, the Lord of Hosts, no rain will fall on them.
18 If the family of Egypt doesn’t go up, if they refuse to come, they will have no [annual] overflow [from the Nile]; moreover, there will be the plague with which ADONAI will strike the nations that don’t go up to keep the festival of Sukkot.
19 This will be Egypt’s punishment and the punishment of all the nations that don’t go up to keep the festival of Sukkot.” (
Zech. 14:16-19)

But if it is truly a Marriage Festival, a ‘Wedding Breakfast’ or ‘Wedding Reception’ as we call it here in Australia, then it appears to foreshadow the time of the great Marriage Supper of the Messiah; when the faithful will sit down at the feast table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Isaiah 25:
“6 On this mountain Adonai-Tzva’ot
will make for all peoplesa feast of rich food and superb wines,delicious, rich food and superb, elegant wines.
7 On this mountain he will destroy
the veil which covers the face of all peoples,the veil enshrouding all the nations.
8 He will swallow up death forever.
Adonai Elohim will wipe awaythe tears from every face,and he will remove from all the earththe disgrace his people suffer.For Adonai has spoken.
9 On that day they will say,
See! This is our God!We waited for him to save us.This is Adonai ; we put our hope in him.We are full of joy, so glad he saved us!
10 For on this mountain
the hand of Adonai will rest.

5) In the future how will this festival be kept?

As discussed and following the instructions of Zechariah 14– with all the nations sending representatives to Jerusalem.

6) Is it true that in the future all nations will be required to keep Sukkot?

Clearly that is what Zechariah 14 tells us.

7) Is there anything of significance where we read of Yeshua observing this festival?

On the seventh day of Sukkot, this ‘great day’ of the feast there was a Water Pouring Ceremony where the people would circle the altar and sing the verses from Psalm 118 seven times as they beat the willows.

“Therefore with joy shall you draw water out of the wells of salvation.”Isaiah 12:3

“For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon your offspring: and they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses.”-Isaiah 44:3-4

“In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness.”Zech. 13:1

“Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, wilt I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.”Ezek. 36:25-27

The water ceremony represents a cleansing; a renewal and purification before the great ‘8th Day Shabbat’

John 7 “1 After this, Yeshua traveled around in the Galilee, intentionally avoiding Judah because the Judeans were out to kill him.

 2 But the festival of Sukkot in Judah was near;

3 so his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go into Judah, so that your disciples can see the miracles you do;

 4 for no one who wants to become known acts in secret. If you’re doing these things, show yourself to the world!” …
14 Not until the festival was half over did Yeshua go up to the Temple courts and begin to teach.

37 Now on the last day of the festival, Hoshana Rabbah, Yeshua stood and cried out, “If anyone is thirsty, let him keep coming to me and drinking!
38 Whoever puts his trust in me, as the Scripture says, rivers of living water will flow from his inmost being!”

This day is also associated with the prayer for rain:

We read in the beginning of this weeks Torah Portion called Parshat Haazinu (Reading of the Song of Moses –  see earlier Blog post) the following words;

“Listen, O heavens, and I will speak! And let the earth hear the words of my mouth! My lesson will drip like rain; my word will flow like dew; like storm winds on vegetation and like raindrops on grass.” (Deuteronomy 32:1)

This is not the only time heaven and earth are brought as a witness throughout the text of the Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible). The terms “heaven and earth” clearly are not used by accident or inadvertently.

The “Heavens and the Earth” serve as eternal witnesses on the one hand and God’s language with His people on the other.

Yet we are also told that the “Heavens and the Earth” will be used as a rod of judgment as well: “Take care that you not be seduced and turn away to serve other gods. Then G-d’s fury will turn against you. G-d will block the sky. There will be no rain. The earth will not grant its produce. You will quickly perish from the good land that G-d grants you” (Deuteronomy, 11:17).

And again in the book of Amos ; “And I also have withholden the rain from you, when there were yet three months to the harvest; and I caused it to rain upon one city, and caused it not to rain upon another city; one piece was rained upon, and the piece whereupon it rained not withered.”(Amos 4:7 ).

Yet those same “Heavens and the Earth” provide eternal comfort as well. When HaShem exiles His people from the land of Israel he declares that the land would feel it and show it. The land would become desolate. So desolate that any nation that would try to inhabit it would become desolate as well (Leviticus 26:32-35).

 Ezekiel 36:8 ‘But ye, 0 mountains of Israel, ye shall shoot forth your branches and yield your fruit to my people Israel for they are quickly returning”

The Historian, Rabbi Ken Spiro concludes from this that: ‘When the Jewish People are in the Land of Israel, the Land of Israel flourishes; when the Jewish People are not in the Land of Israel it becomes desolate.’

There is much physical evidence for the reality of this miraculous phenomenon.

While the Land of Israel is clearly NOT a conscious being, God’s intention is very clear that this Land  is ONLY to be inhabited successfully by the Jewish people.

So long as Israel are not on their land it will not yield its produce as it should; but when it will resume yielding its produce, that will be the clear sign that the time of the redemption is near, when Israel is to return to its land.
“For the land to which you are coming to possess is not like the land of Egypt, out of which you came, where you sowed your seed and which you watered by foot, like a vegetable garden. But the land, to which you pass to possess, is a land of mountains and valleys and absorbs water from the rains of heaven”  – Deuteronomy 11:10-11

That is to say, that in the rest of the world when one wants water one must turn to sources like the Nile, yet in this land if one wants water one must turn to GodSo the heavens and the earth have served as eternal witnesses. They have served to make God’s declarations of judgment a harsh physical reality. Yet they will also serves as sure signs of comfort.A land that had lain barren and fallow begins to bloom.

A land that seemed to have been cursed shakes off its ancient curse. A land that is waiting for its children to come home. Every blade of grass, every flower, every tree and every fruit become a testimony to the truth of the Divine promise.

When we taste some fruit of Israel today and marvel at how good it tastes, e should realize that this is so because we are not just eating a piece of fruit, but we are actually eating a piece of prophecy fulfilled!

8) What is Simchat Torah?

Joy of Torah or Feast of the 8th Day (Shemini Atzeret)

The “8th day” of this 7 day Festival is a day of rest called in the Torah “Shemini Atzeret”. This holiday is widely known today by the Rabbinic misnomer “Simhat Torah” (“Celebration of the Torah”). The Rabbanites made up this name which refers to their annual reading of the Torah in weekly portions which ends on Shemini Atzeret. Neither the annual reading of the Torah nor the name Simhat Torah appear in the Bible and these are later Rabbinic corruptions of God’s law. Shemini Atzeret is not part of Sukkot and the laws of Sukkot do not extend to this day (i.e. Pilgrimage, dwelling in a booth). As a day of rest all work is forbidden on Shemini Atzeret.

I believe that just as after the Marriage ceremony, the married couples new life together begins; after the Great Sukkot, the Marriage Supper of the Lamb od God; the New Life will begin; the Kingdom of God will start.

Thus Semini Arzeret or Simchat Torah represents the first day of the New Age!

The Power of Gratitude

This week’s Torah Portion Ekev (Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25 ) reminds us of the power and importance of gratitude.

Gratitude is in large part about recognizing where your blessings truly come from.

Moses warned:

“When you have eaten your fill and have built fine houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks have multiplied, and your silver and gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied, do not exalt yourself, forgetting the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery … Do not say to yourself, ‘My power and the might of my own hand have gained me this wealth.’ (Deut. 8:11-17)

As Rabbi Sack’s relates:

“The worst thing that could happen to them, warned Moses, would be that they forgot how they came to the land, how God had promised it to their ancestors, and had taken them from slavery to freedom, sustaining them during the forty years in the wilderness. This was a revolutionary idea: that the nation’s history be engraved on people’s souls, that it was to be re-enacted in the annual cycle of festivals, and that the nation, as a nation, should never attribute its achievements to itself – “my power and the might of my own hand” – but should always ascribe its victories, indeed its very existence, to something higher than itself: to God. This is a dominant theme of Deuteronomy, and it echoes throughout the book time and again.[1]

As I wrote only a few months ago my wife and I have experienced our own escape to freedom (from tyranny and oppression) –

And every day (so far, praise Yah), I look around at my “Garden of Eden’ and am still stunned in the power of the Almighty and his great blessing to us. I never dreamed of the life I am now living – it is beyond my dreams – so fortunately gratitude is still coming easily to me. May it remain so!

There has been a great deal of research in gratitude over the years and again quoting Sacks:

“… we now know of the multiple effects of developing an attitude of gratitude. It improves physical health and immunity against disease. Grateful people are more likely to take regular exercise and go for regular medical check-ups.

Thankfulness reduces toxic emotions such as resentment, frustration and regret and makes depression less likely. It helps people avoid over-reacting to negative experiences by seeking revenge. It even tends to make people sleep better. It enhances self-respect, making it less likely that you will envy others for their achievements or success. Grateful people tend to have better relationships. Saying “thank you” enhances friendships and elicits better performance from employees. It is also a major factor in strengthening resilience.

One study of Vietnam War Veterans found that those with higher levels of gratitude suffered lower incidence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Remembering the many things we have to be thankful for helps us survive painful experiences, from losing a job to bereavement.  (mostly from ‘Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life’ at )”

In our case I lost my job (and my wife had already had to retire due to il-health) and so then we also lost our home. But while we went through a stressful time, the Almighty produced a miracle and blessed us enormously such that these painful experiences seem to be more a number of blessings as our life took a new direction and opened up new vistas of splendour!

Again, HaShem be praised and exalted!!


But I Have Promises To Keep And Miles To Go Before I Sleep

In discussing this week’s Torah Portion, Matot-Masay (Numbers 30-36 ) the late Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sack makes some very profound statements about Life’s Journey:

After discussing some myths and their typical topology he states:

“… the Torah is not myth but anti-myth, a deliberate insistence on removing the magical elements from the story and focusing relentlessly on the human drama of courage versus fear, hope versus despair, and the call, not to some larger-than-life hero but to all-of-us-together, given strength by our ties to our people’s (or family/tribes) past and the bonds between us in the present.

The Torah is not some fabled escape from reality but reality itself, seen as a journey we must all undertake, each with our own strengths and contributions to our people and to humanity.

We are all on a journey. And we must all rest from time to time. …

In life, there are journeys and encampments. Without the encampments, we suffer burnout. Without the journey, we do not grow. And life is growth. There is no way to avoid challenge and change.

The late Rav Aharon Lichtenstein zt”l once gave a beautiful class on Robert Frost’s poem, ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,’ with its closing verse:

The woods are lovely dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

He analyses the poem in terms of Kierkegaard’s distinction between the aesthetic and ethical dimensions of life. The poet is enchanted by the aesthetic beauty of the scene, the soft silence of the falling snow, the dark dignity of the tall trees. He would love to stay here in this timeless moment, this eternity-in-an-hour. But he knows that life has an ethical dimension also, and this demands action, not just contemplation. He has promises to keep; he has duties toward the world. So he must walk on despite his tiredness. He has miles to go before he sleeps: he has work to do while the breath of life is within him.

The poet has stopped briefly to enjoy the dark wood and falling snow. He has encamped. But now, like the Israelites in Massei, he must set out again. … ethics takes priority over aesthetics. Yes, there are moments when we should, indeed must, pause to see the beauty of the world, but then we must move on, for we have promises to keep, including the promises to ourselves and to God.

Hence the life-changing idea: life is a journey, not a destination. We should never stand still. Instead we should constantly set ourselves new challenges that take us out of our comfort zone. Life is growth.”

My life has changed dramatically this year. Out of trauma and challenge due to making a strong ethical stand, the Almighty has blessed me most surprisingly and abundantly. My ‘tree-change’ has been beyond and better than my dreams.

And yet, I feel I have  ‘pause(ed) to see the beauty of the world’, despite the horror that I also see. I am loving this ‘pause’ but also wondering on this Shabbat (Sabbath) when my ‘sabbatical’ may be over and what new challenges may lie ahead.

I hope and pray that all who read this may be able to reflect on this life’s journey and whether you are currently ‘encamped’ or walking hard and facing new challenges, that you may see the hand of HaShem on your life leading you ultimately to being the best version of yourself and approaching all that He designed and planned you to be, this side of the Olam HaBah (the Coming Age).

Shalom and the Priestly Blessings

Peace isn’t merely the absence of war or strife. It means completeness, perfection.

This week’s Torah Portion (Naso: Numbers 4:21-7:89 ) contains one of the oldest prayers in the world still in continuous use and that is the priestly blessings.

And this is not just within Judaism, but also very common in all Christian circles as well.

22 YHVH said to Moshe, 
23 “Speak to Aaron and his sons, and tell them that this is how you are to bless the people of Israel: you are to say to them,

24 ‘May YHVH  bless you and keep you.
25 May YHVH  make his face shine on you and show you his favour.
26 May YHVH  lift up his face toward you and give you shalom.’

27 “In this way they are to put my Name on the people of Israel, so that I will bless them.”
– Numbers 6:22-27

This amazing prayer informed the people of Israel that they were HaShem’s People, that He was placing His Name, His character, His strength and protection on them to bless them and give them shalom (peace). When used by anyone today (and not just the Levite priests) it also signifies a desire to bless the hearers with an attachment to the Almighty and with His Peace.

In an analysis of the blessing by the 15th century Spanish Jewish commentator Rabbi Isaac Arama he argued that shalom does not mean merely the absence of war or strife. It means completeness, perfection, the harmonious working of a complex system, integrated diversity, a state in which everything is in its proper place and all is at one with the physical and ethical laws governing the universe.

Read that again. What an amazing situation to live in if you could have such shalom!

Similarly, Isaac Abrabanel writes, “That is why God is called peace, because it is He who binds the world together and orders all things according to their particular character and posture. For when things are in their proper order, peace will reign” (Abrabanel, Commentary to Avot 2:12).

Peace though is easily damaged and hard to repair.

We seem to spend a fair portion of our lives seeking to restore peace and harmony in relationships. When the proper order of things is damaged it is very shocking and sad how far we can fall from peace and harmony! There is perhaps no more striking example than the loss of peace in a marriage where much love and joy first abounded. The quick and very harsh loss of this shalom that can lead to separation and possibly divorce is most saddening.

In reflecting again on this amazing and uplifting prayer, I think we need to speak it and seek it more often; first in our personal lives and also in our communities and nations.

And I suspect we should seek to better understand how to maintain peace within our relationships as well, so as not to fall too far from it.

I discuss some approaches to maintaining peace in a few of my articles such as these: