Counting the Omer

Why didn’t the LORD simply specify the date on the Hebrew calendar, 6 Sivan, on which to celebrate Shavu’ot? Counting the Omer links Shavu’ot explicitly to Pesach. Counting each day is like adding a link to a chain. In a sense, therefore, Shavu’ot is the ultimate fulfillment of Pesach.

Shabbat HaGadol

Judaism considers the Festivals of Passover and Unleavened Bread as the prototype for the final redemption. The tradition of setting a place at the seder table for Elijah the prophet reflects the ardent belief that Messiah will bring redemption at Passover. As the anticipated herald of the Messiah, Elijah will need to be present as the festival begins.

Rosh Chodesh Nisan: A Time of Renewal

Rosh Chodesh is a time of renewal. Just as the moon is made new again so there is a spiritual power present at that time for us to begin again and transform our lives. But Rosh Chodesh Nisan is even more special.

Parashat HaChodesh: Transcending Time

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.”

A Different Night: The Timing of the Seder

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.

Eight Connections between the Red Heifer and Redemption

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.

The Fast of Esther and the Spiritual Art of War

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.

Something Fishy about Adar

Adar is the month in which we observe the joyous festival of Purim and the symbol for the month of Adar is the fish. What do fish have to do with Adar and Purim? In Jewish mysticism the fish represents a concealed reality. This is because the fish swims under the water and is hidden from plain sight. The book of Esther is full of concealed realities.


Adar and the Search for Joy in a Discontented World

When we view the world with eyes that look forward to the beauty and bounty of the world under the rule of King Messiah when he returns, our hearts should be filled with hope. Our Master teaches that we should rejoice in the hope of his coming.

Shevat: When the Torah Comes Alive

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.

Let No One Judge You

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.

Asarah B'Tevet: The Fast of the Tenth Month

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.

The Month of Ethanim

Remembering the original name of this month can hold value for us. The mysteriousness of the word eitanim opens the door for extrapolation and creative interpretation. Theophilus Lucky decided to be creative in his interpretation, and in doing so he found useful hints in this name that caused him to piece together a famous story in the Gospels.

The Fast of Gedaliah

The Fast of Gedaliah is another wonderful opportunity for both Messianic Jews and Gentiles to connect with the Master’s words, mourn, and pray for the current state of the world, and it serves as a physical reminder that we need to be eagerly anticipating and working toward Yeshua’s second coming.

Rosh HaShanah in Israel: Renewal and Rejoicing

The fall holidays, or, as they are commonly known, the High Holidays, are a time of refreshment, renewal, taking stock of our lives and our goals, and refining who and what we are and want to become. It is a new year in Israel—a year ripe with the anticipatory promise of the goodness and mercy of God.

The Day of Remembrance

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.

Don Henley, Elul, and Forgiveness

Without directly referencing God, Yeshua, the Bible, Judaism, or Elul, Don Henley’s song gets to the heart of some matters that are very important for us to consider as we approach the high holidays.

The High Holidays in the Early Church

With Rosh HaShanah and the beginning of the High Holidays only a few days away, I thought I would post a blog reviewing some of my material on this from my book, God-Fearers. It should be no shock to anyone that the early believers both Jew and Gentile celebrated the festivals of Israel even after coming to Messiah.

Is the Jewish Calendar Wrong?

Some teachers in the Hebrew Roots movement attempt to persuade people to abandon the Jewish reckoning of the biblical calendar and adopt an alternative calendar. They perceive their interpretation of the calendar and how to reckon the lunar year to be more biblically correct. But is it?

I Am My Beloved's and My Beloved Is Mine

HaShem is righteous, a lover of righteous deeds, and there is no end to his mercy. That which he has said he will do, and he will surely have compassion just as he said. HaShem is near to all who call upon him in truth.

Rosh Chodesh Elul: Confounding the Satan

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

Assumptions about the Assumption

It’s time to redeem Miriam the mother of our Master and give her the honor and respect that she deserves and is in fact given in the Gospels themselves. The best way to do that in Messianic Judaism is to look at how holy figures are honored in Jewish tradition.

Comforting Words

When something traumatic or emotionally painful happens to someone we care about, we try to comfort the person, offering words of consolation and sympathy. We try to point out the bright side, and we try to lift the person’s spirits by invoking future hopes. That’s what the Sabbath of Consolation tries to do for Israel.

Job, Gentiles, and the Ninth of the Month of Av

Many non-Jewish disciples of Yeshua with whom I come into contact express a lack of interest and disconnect with these fast days and the traditions that surround them. They dismiss them as “traditions of men” that are “not biblical, just Jewish” as if somehow just because they are Jewish they are not for us or, worse yet, are not important.

Preparing for Tisha B'Av

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.

From Despair to Hope: The Month of Av

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.

Remembering Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles

The date the the death of the Apostle Paul has been preserved in the Syriac Church tradition. The source is called “The Book of the Bee.” It was compiled in the twelfth century by Solomon, the Bishop of Bassora and preserves a lot of very Semitic-sounding material, which may indeed go back to the early Jewish believers.

A Time to Pray for the Redemption

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).

The Fast of Tammuz

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.

Rosh Chodesh Tammuz and the Summer Harvester

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.

When Heaven Kissed Earth

Each year on Shavu’ot we have the opportunity to relive the experience of the Revelation at Sinai. Judaism encourages us not just to learn about the giving of the Torah, we should be there for it. When we do, we become part of the story.

Fire on the Mountain

Jewish tradition hails the Festival of Weeks as the anniversary of the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. In Exodus 20:18 the Hebrew really says, “They saw the voices and the torches.” What does it mean, “the people saw voices”? How does one see a sound? How does one see a voice?

The Forgotten Festival

Both Rosh Chodesh Sivan and Shavu’ot are continuously paired with a theme of spiritual unity and love. During this month of Sivan, we should not only focus on remembering the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, but also make an effort to bring our communities to a place of unity and peace.

The Beloved City

During the Six-Day War, one of the most stirring moments occured, which was captured on camera and tape, when Lt. General Mordechai Gur announced, "The Temple Mount is in our hands … the Temple Mount is in our hands!" Why was this so very significant?

Yom HaAliyah: The Celebration of Ascension Day

Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy still celebrate the day as one of the great feasts of the Christian year. So what about Messianic Judaism? Should we be celebrating Ascension Day? I think the answer is a resounding “yes!” It represents an event in the life of the Master that is at least as important as his death and resurrection.

Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai

What is Lag Ba’Omer, and why would a Messianic Jew care? Meet Rashbi (Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai), a second-century hero of the Jewish people and a favorite subject of legend. Messianic Jewish pioneer Theophilus Lucky believed that Rashbi was inspired by the Holy Spirit and the teachings of Yeshua.

Dag BaOmer: A Fishy Holiday

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.

I Am the LORD, Your Healer

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.

Counting Up the Days

The Torah commands that Jews keep the festival of Shavu’ot (known to Christians as Pentecost), but does not give us a date for when we must do so. How are we to know? What if we don’t have a calendar to tell us when it occurs?

Thoughts from the Upper Room

In this age of historical revisionism some people want to believe that this schism was simply a debate about a day versus a date; but that is simply not true. The early church was rife with anti-Semitism and it deliberately chose to sever the connection between the celebration of Passover and Yeshua’s resurrection.

A Window in Time

We have not truly left the slavery of Egypt until we have received God’s instructions and his Holy Spirit dwells within us enabling us to perform his will. In that sense the Counting of the Omer is a count that should count for something. This is not a passive count but an active count.

A Taste of Freedom

For most of us, participation in a Passover Seder begins with readying our homes and congregational buildings, preparation for what we’ll be wearing and/or whether or not we’ve purchased our dinner tickets prior to the event, then ends with the seder. What more is there that requires devotional preparation?

The Red Heifer in the Epistle of Barnabas

In Temple times, the special reading of Numbers 19 reminded those in attendance at the synagogue that they needed to prepare for Passover. They needed to undergo the ritual purification with the ashes of the red heifer prior to Passover. Otherwise they would not be ritually fit to eat the Passover sacrifice.

The Sabbath of the Cow

In Temple times, the special reading of Numbers 19 reminded those in attendance at the synagogue that they needed to prepare for Passover. They needed to undergo the ritual purification with the ashes of the red heifer prior to Passover. Otherwise they would not be ritually fit to eat the Passover sacrifice.

When Adar Enters, Joy Increases

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.

This Year in Jerusalem!

In 2016, First Fruits of Zion will be hosting two tours to Israel, and our annual Shavu’ot conference will be held at Beth Immanuel in Hudson, Wisconsin. Now is a good time to make a decision to join us. Get the dates on your calendar.

Do I Have to Follow the Jewish Calendar?

When we were young and our parents asked us to mow the grass, we might have responded, “Do I have to?” But we never responded like that when they told us it was Tuesday. No one asks “Do I have to?” of a calendar. It just doesn’t make sense.

The Suffering Messiah in the Prayers of Yom Kippur

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.