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.
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 Sabbath commandment was given directly to the children of Israel. This means that here in Exodus we have evidence of Gentiles joining themselves to Israel and voluntarily observing the Sabbath in solidarity with the Jewish people and in honor of the God of Israel.
A sanctuary consists of defined holy space. In the days of Moses, as soon as a person set foot within the Tabernacle he had entered into holy space. Levitical guards watched over the boundaries and guarded the gates of the Sanctuary to prevent people from inadvertently profaning the holy space. Like the Tabernacle, specific defined limits demarcate the holiness of the Sabbath.
God gave the Sabbath as a sanctuary from the constant rush and hurry of the week. He desires for us to maintain an active relationship with him and to stay firmly rooted in his ways. Unfortunately, the materialistic focus of our culture pulls us in the exact opposite direction.
As disciples of the Master I think we have some additionally reasons to partake in fish on Shabbat. For one, many of the Master’s disciples were fishermen and many of the gospel stories involving food make mention of fish. The point is that we are tasting something physical to remind us of something spiritual.
Jew and Gentile both need to set aside a holy day for rest and sanctification. We need a time to reconnect, both with our family and with God himself. Sabbath is the day we prepare for ahead of time, so all that we have left to do is to enjoy and delight in this precious gift.
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.
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.
The Shabbat that precedes the first of the month of Adar (or, in the case of a leap year, Adar II) is known as Shabbat Sh'kalim. This is the first of four Shabbats with special Torah readings all happening before Passover. The reading for Shabbat Sh'kalim is found in Exodus 30:11-16, which tells the commandment of the half shekel historically collected before Purim.
I have decided that, God willing, I would like my next house to have a big front porch where I can have a couple of rocking chairs to sit in. I have a feeling that we established a relationship with the community in Baton Rouge that will continue for years to come and I look forward to seeing all the fruit it will produce.
Every time I visit Israel, I see something I’ve never seen before. While there are sites such as the Kotel, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Master’s cave in the Galilee that I feel must be a pilgrimage each time I travel to Israel, there is just too much to see to not visit some places for the first time.
Our dogs, better guardians of the Sabbath than they are of our house, anticipate the Sabbath as much as we do, if not more, and like clock-work usher it in, as they searched out every last morsel. We humorously drew parallels to the Syrophoenician woman and her undeterred effort and expectations of the Messiah despite her dismissal at his hands.