Articles by Aaron Eby
Aaron Eby is the Vine of David Director and an author and translator for FFOZ. He was the chief translator of The Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels and works to develop liturgical resources that will strengthen Messianic Judaism.
Passover Seders take a long time. That is a scientifically proven fact. But there is no sense in making them drag on longer than they need to be. And even though they do take a lot of time, they don't have to feel like an eternity.
Just when you think the Passover seder is over, it’s time to start singing some more. One of the most famous after-seder songs is Chad Gadya, which means “one little goat.” It starts out like a silly nursery rhyme, but by the end it takes a dark, mysterious, and prophetic turn.
A great freedom will come with the ultimate redemption. If time equates to freedom, then ultimate freedom will come in a world where time itself is an unlimited resource. The only way to achieve this is with eternal life, a life that transcends time. This is one reason why Shabbat is a “foretaste of the age to come.”
In Judaism, time flows like a rolling wave that loops back on itself even as it pushes forward. That means that instead of commemorating the redemption, we have a brief opportunity to re-live it. Instead of rehearsing a future event, we experience a foretaste of it.
As the month of Nisan approaches, in our synagogues we read several special passages that are important for the season. One of these readings, Parashat Parah is the passage regarding the red heifer. This mysterious ritual fills us with anticipation for the final redemption through Messiah.
Planning a Passover Seder can be daunting, especially if you have never done it before. We’ve put together a concise list of planning tips that can ease the stress and help keep you organized. Plus, we have a brand new Haggadah that was designed with you in mind!
On the day before Purim, we fast from the first light of dawn until after reading the book of Esther. This fast trains us in the most ancient of all martial arts: spiritual combat. Even today, otherwise godly people fret about perceived existential threats. While evil must be opposed, let us not forget where the true battle rages.
Imagine if the President declared, "I have fulfilled every aspect of the Constitution of the United States perfectly. Now that it is fulfilled, its authority over this nation has been put to an end in me. Today I tell you, the United States has only one law: that you love one another."
Romans 14 is sometimes pushed as proof that disciples of Jesus need not worry about kosher laws or keep the Sabbath on the seventh day. Did Paul grant people license to eat truly anything? Can any day be kept as the Sabbath? In what sense is nothing unclean in itself?
In the Torah, God said to Abraham, “To your offspring I will give this land.” Hebrews says that Abraham was looking forward to a heavenly country, to “the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” Does that mean that the promises of land to his offspring are not to be literally fulfilled?
When man was first created, God crafted the perfect environment for humans to thrive: a garden—an orchard, really. He was surrounded by fruit-bearing trees. Trees are important in the Torah's agricultural system and subject to special laws of holiness.
The concept that all Pharisees are evil is so ingrained that people often completely ignore or dismiss passages that present Pharisees in a positive light. The Gospels provide both positive and negative depictions of Pharisees. They also assume a cultural setting that esteemed Pharisees, and this fact should mitigate and contextualize the criticisms leveled against them.
It was on the first day of this lunar month that Moses began to deliver his final words to the Israelites shortly before his death. He repeated and clarified the Torah to the new generation. This incident was their Sinai experience, the moment when the Torah came alive in their hearts.
While a compilation of Messianic proof-texts is still perhaps the most common tactic employed by evangelists to Jews, such lists are not effective. In the unlikely case you succeed in convincing a Jewish person that Jesus is the Messiah without first revealing him to be a devout Jew, committed to his people and to the Torah, then what kind of disciple have you made?
Unsavory caricatures of the Pharisees leave people confused about what Yeshua might have meant when he instructed his followers to follow Pharisaic teaching. Was he being sarcastic? Rather than employing a convoluted hermeneutic to resolve this puzzle, it is more straightforward and consistent with history to accept that Yeshua upheld a theory of life and practice that aligned with Pharisaic norms.
No more Sabbath? Colossians 2:16-17 tells us not to let others pass judgment on us regarding what we eat and drink or regarding the Sabbath and festivals. When Paul is seen as a faithful and observant Jew, his brilliant teachings such as this one inspire us to pursue Torah with joy.
There are four components to the “light of the world”: the Jewish people, the Torah, the land of Israel, and Messiah. Any combination of these things increases the light of the revelation of God in the world, but the full potential is realized only when all four unite as one.
When life presents challenges, our first instinct should be to cry out to God for help. One should not be tempted to say, “I got myself into this mess; I’ll get myself out.” When we cry out to God, we confess that he alone has the power to change outcomes.
The Psalms are a powerful source of guidance. They make it possible to pray in alignment with God’s will even when words fail us. By virtue of the messianic nature of the Psalms, which are in the voice of Messiah, and which the Messiah surely prayed, we participate with Yeshua in his own prayer.
Over time, poets, prophets, and scholars have composed powerful and inspiring odes, psalms, hymns, and petitions that are treasured by the Jewish community, but the art of simple conversation has never been lost. Constant awareness of God’s presence can make one’s whole life feel like a conversation with our Father in heaven.
Prayer, from a Jewish perspective, is wrestling with God. It sounds audacious to think we might win. It does not seem appropriate to barge into the heavenly throne room, throw tantrums, and make demands before the King of the universe. But we have no other choice. Prayer is our lifeline.
When Yeshua says that he did not come to bring peace on earth, people interpret his words to mean that he never intended to bring earthly, political peace but only spiritual peace in people’s hearts. But does this explanation hold up when seeing the Gospels in a Jewish context?
Sukkot is seven days long, but oddly, it also has an eighth day. This mysterious holiday called Shmini Atzeret has no special mitzvot, nor is its purpose explained in the Torah. By noting the parallels between Shmini Atzeret and Shavu’ot, we can learn a lot about the meaning of the day.
According to Zechariah, there will come a time when people from all nations “will go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles.” But what is that? Learn about the biblical festival of Sukkot and its meaning for Jews and Christians.
Looking at a Jewish calendar at this time of year can be overwhelming. There are so many festival days! Where do they all come from, and what do they mean? Here is a simple rundown of each of the significant days connected with Sukkot, sometimes called the “Feast of Tabernacles” or “Feast of Booths.”
The Bible says that the first day of the seventh month is a “memorial.” A memorial is a time or place where one calls attention to past events. But what does this day commemorate? Some hints can be found in the ancient prayers that we recite in our synagogues on Rosh HaShanah.
Just as the sacrifices were powerful and effective in bringing the Presence of the infinite God to our finite earth, so too, prayer draws the Spirit of God into our hearts. When we draw near in prayer we capture the attention of the infinite, all-powerful Being who created us, chose us, and loves us.
If we wish to hasten the Messiah’s coming we have work to do. Exile and redemption may be national processes, but repentance begins with individuals. Today, the world is still experiencing the exile that began almost two thousand years ago. Yeshua’s teachings hold the keys that will bring that exile to an end.
Prayer and sacrifice go hand in hand. The sacrificial service in the Temple somehow caused the Presence of God to connect with a physical place on earth. Prayer has the same effect, except instead of drawing the Spirit of God into a courtyard or building, he takes residence inside our hearts.
In the Hebrew Roots world, it is common for shofarot to appear at nearly every function. Shofar blasts introduce the start of everything from Shabbat services to Passover seders, since it supposedly “confounds the Satan.” But by setting the shofar in its proper context, we are able to perceive its powerful biblical messages
In Middle Eastern culture it is customary to use the right hand for most activities. Striking a person on the right cheek with the right hand would require using a backhanded motion. A backhanded slap is considered twice as offensive as an openhanded slap and thus subject to double the fine.
The special prayer that our Master taught his disciples can be found in both Matthew 6 and Luke 11. The wording of each varies slightly, but both contain the mysterious Greek word epiousion, the word conventionally translated “daily” as in “daily bread.” So what is “daily bread” really?
To see the final redemption, we must begin by recognizing what we are missing without it. Shabbat Chazon is an opportunity to glimpse the world as it once was and as it one day can be. Then we must heed the words of Isaiah and reflect the beauty of Torah in our lives.
Jews all around the world turn to face Jerusalem for prayer. This custom has a strong biblical basis and goes back to ancient times. God transcends the universe and the whole earth is full of his glory. And yet Jerusalem is special. It is a place where one can hear the heartbeat of God.
When the Messiah returns, he will establish the kingdom of heaven on earth, which will span the entire world; Jerusalem will be the capital, where Yeshua will establish his throne. By turning toward Jerusalem it places our prayers in the context of the Messianic Kingdom and expresses our hope in the soon-coming Messiah.
There is a Jerusalem below and a Jerusalem above. This shows that our Jerusalem on earth is a physical representative of a tremendous spiritual reality. Like other Jews, first-century followers of Messiah faced Jerusalem when they prayed. It represented for them the hope of redemption and the return of Yeshua.
As the summer month of Tammuz begins, we look to the fruit trees expecting an ample harvest. Yeshua instructed us to see the growth of new fig branches as a prophetic sign of apocalyptic events, but this seems like a strange comparison. Insights from Ezekiel and first-century Hebrew provide a new interpretation of Yeshua’s parable.
Yeshua taught that the weighty matters of the Torah are justice, kindness, and faith. But what about Shabbat, which was given at Mount Sinai amidst fire, smoke, and the booming voice of God? Resting on the seventh day is more than recuperating from work. It’s an expression of faith in the God who created everything.
Why was the precise number of fish noted in the narrative of John 21:11? Surely it would have sufficed to say “many fish,” or at perhaps “more than 150.” The mention of the exact number seems to imply that there is something significant about that number, especially in such a symbolic and mystical book as John.
The people who left Egypt were broken and battered victims of appalling abuse. The people who stood at Mount Sinai were regenerated, both physically and spiritually whole. Whether the cure comes in a miraculous way or through medical treatment, we must never forget that all healing comes from God who created us and keeps us alive day after day.
In Messianic Judaism, the resurrection of Yeshua is one of our most treasured truths. How can we give this foundational belief the attention it deserves and yet remain within thoroughly Jewish space? An ancient custom based on the life and death of King David could provide the perfect setting and unite us with the earliest Jewish followers of the Messiah.
The Torah says nothing about Purim because the story of Esther did not happen until about a thousand years later. And yet, four mitzvot of Purim are observed today. How could new commandments be given to the Jewish people so long after the revelation at Mount Sinai?
Given that Christmas Eve was a favorite time for raids, pogroms, and marauding, certain practices developed in Jewish communities as a result. Some of them were pragmatic, a matter of survival; others were symbolic, to show disdain for the enemies of the Jewish people. May we never see those dark times again.
The art, music, and drama of Christmas paints an image of the birth of Yeshua that has very little in common with reality. Misconceptions like these can adversely alter our view of who Yeshua was and what he came to do. We would all do well to re-examine our presuppositions every so often.
A complete study into the Star of Bethlehem will take a person into biblical prophecy, rabbinic literature, Jewish history, astronomy, and the complex interaction between the Jewish people and the Parthians who ruled over all the lands of “the east.” Beyond this, it requires research into the methods and concepts of the ancient magi.
Yom Kippur is a day of complete fasting and intense prayer. It is the holiest day of the year, when we are purified from our sins. Many traditional Jewish prayer books for the Day of Atonement contain a surprising passage that describes the suffering, forgiveness, and new creation found in the Messiah.
Although the Torah specifically commands only one fast day, the Day of Atonement, certain other days and times have been marked by Jewish tradition as solemn days—days for mourning, supplication, introspection, repentance and fasting. These days, though not joyous, are also part of our heritage as the Master's disciples.
Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are holidays for which intense liturgical prayers have been written and carry a very different range of emotion. These days (and the days in between) are known as the High Holy Days. In Hebrew, they are called Yamim Nora'im, "Days of Awe."
When I first began to practice and learn about Messianic Judaism, I found Jewish prayer to be fascinating. The expressions and phrases in the blessings and liturgies seemed to transport me to another world. The Hebrew language seemed to sing to me. Through Jewish prayer I felt a connection.
Vine of David’s website has been completely remodeled and refreshed. The beautiful, mobile-friendly interface gives you access to lots of new and updated content. It is a fantastic hub for information and resources pertaining to Messianic Jewish heritage and modern practice.
Troy Mitchell has released a brand new Messianic Jewish album entitled Light of the World through First Fruits of Zion’s Zealot Records label. A couple weeks ago on motza’ei Shabbat (Saturday night) those of us from Troy's home congregation Beth Immanuel had a great time singing and laughing around campfires at the release party in...