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.
By collecting the half-shekel one month in advance, the Sanhedrin ensured that the new flock of animals sacrificed from the beginning of the month of Nisan would be paid for with the new shekels. This system allowed everyone to have a share in the daily sacrifices.
The siege was headed up by the notorious Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar and eventually led to the total destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. Therefore a fast takes place every year in the tenth month (Tevet) on the tenth day.
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.
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.
On the ninth day of the month of Av (Tisha B’Av), 70 CE, the world lost the Holy Temple, which was meant to be the house of prayer for all nations. Now not one stone of it rests upon another, as our Master predicted. What destroyed it? It wasn’t Rome.
Tisha B’Av is, depending upon one's perspective, a time of deep reflection prior to the time of deep reflection during Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. It is, as it were, a “dress rehearsal” so that we might spend this time looking at our goals and objectives for the coming year, and deciding upon courses of action.
Even at the beginning of exile and the destruction of the Temple, God promises that one day the Messiah will come and redeem Israel. The story is not so much about predicting when the Messiah will be born but to point out that even in total darkness there is light in the distance.
Minhag is defined as a particular and specific custom. Great rabbis had their own unique set of customs, and students of these sages would carry out these customs exactly the same way their beloved rabbis did. As imitators of the Master, we should learn about our Master's customs.
Praying alone with our Father and talking to him from our heart can do nothing but strengthen our walk with him. In the daily hustle and bustle of life we need time alone with HaShem. What better method of attaching ourselves to God is there than the one that Yeshua has shown us in his life of prayer?
The seventeenth of Tammuz begins a three-week period of mourning which culminate with the ninth of Av, the fast day that commemorates the destruction of the Temple. The Three Weeks should be a time of increased Torah study and giving of charity—in keeping with the verse, “Zion shall be redeemed by justice, and those in her who repent, by charity” (Isaiah 1:27).
Three weeks before the fast of Tisha b’Av is the Fast of Tammuz. This is traditionally associated with the “fast of the fourth month” in Zechariah 8:19 and takes place on the seventeenth of the fourth month. It is said that this day is the anniversary of Moses breaking the first set of tablets at Mount Sinai upon seeing the Golden Calf.
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?
The month of Adar offers evidence that, no matter how bad things may seem to be, they are going to get better. The same God who transformed the month of Adar from a month of mourning into a month of joy will surely transform our sorrows into joys.
Every experience life has to offer, from the mundane to the extraordinary, is ensconced in specific and verbally spoken blessings by the traditional Jew. There is even a blessing for when one hears exceptionally bad news, such as the death of a close friend or family member. But why?
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.
Hanukkah is more than just the Jewish substitute for Christmas. In fact, Hanukkah elicits ancient prophecy and prophetic archetypes, all pointing to the coming and the redemption of the Messiah. The messianic expectation during this holiday points us to investigate the books of Haggai and Hebrews.
Chanukkah is a Jewish holiday. It’s kind of like, we think, some kind of Jewish substitute for Christmas. They saw all the fun we were having every winter and came up with something a little different that they could do, too. So we imagine them putting Chanukkah presents under the menorah, or maybe a Chanukkah bush of some kind.
Jewish law prohibits using the light of a chanukiah for ordinary purposes such as lighting up a darkened room or light for reading. It might sound hyper-litigious, but the rule has a real basis in the meaning the Hanukkah menorah, its connection to the Temple, and the meaning of holiness.
Peter’s vision of the animal-filled sheet has been used as a polemic against kashrut for centuries; very seldom is this story used by Orthodox Jewish thinkers as proof for strict kosher observance. Imagine our surprise when my friend and I dropped in on a Modern Orthodox rabbi’s Torah study that did just that.
The Jewish people were given the Torah and the commandments contained therein. The sages believed that it was appropriate to beautify the commandments by going above and beyond what was required. Here is a fun and unique way to do just that.
We joined together to bless, to encourage, and to rejoice with the couple. For a brief instant, our grievances melted away in the mutually satisfying revelry and camaraderie in our approval of the union. We forget ourselves in service to someone else. This is how it should be.
Just moments after HaShem has held us, forgiven us, and renewed us, he places us outside and subject to the elements, making the week of our joy also the week of our testing. We place ourselves outside of our own comfort, joining our brothers and sisters, exposed to our vulnerabilities and ourselves.
Many Jews do not believe in God and yet a large number of them religiously attend services on Shabbat and the holidays. While this may seem like a great contradiction, it is actually a sign of God’s stamp upon his people.
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.
The Hebrew in Numbers 15 where this commandment appears is in the masculine form. Additionally, in Deuteronomy 22, where the mitzvah of tzitzit appears again, the commandment appears in close conjunction with the mitzvah “A woman shall not wear a man's garment
There is an ongoing debate as to what the source of the techelet blue in the Bible really was. This new discovery has caused some to say that this adds significant credibility to the argument that the techelet blue dye of the Bible was from the Murex trunculus.
In Numbers 15 the Torah commands the Israelite males to place fringes (tzitzit) on the four corners of their garments. The purpose of these fringes was so that the Israelite would look upon them and remember the commandments of the Torah and do them.