1. Why is Shavu'ot celebrated, and what are the most common traditions
associated with it?
Shavu'ot (also called "Weeks," or "Pentecost," amongst other Bible nicknames) is the last of the spring feasts, celebrated as one of the three pilgrim festivals (in Hebrew "shalosh regalim"), and was primarily an agricultural holiday connected with the peak of the new wheat and barley crop. After the crop was harvested, a portion was brought to Yerushali'im and offered along with special sacrifices of thanksgiving at the Temple.
The Torah (Shm'ot [Exodus] 23:16) refers to Shavu'ot as Hag HaKatsir (the feast of the harvest) and is observed by offerings of the best ripe produce of the fields. D'varim (Deut) 16:12 gives the reason for its observance, "you shall remember that you were slaves in Egypt, and follow carefully these decrees."
The holiday also bids us to share what we have, in keeping with the Torah commands to feed the stranger, the orphan, the widow and other poor and unfortunate people within the redeemed community. It also serves as a conclusion to Pesach which began 7 weeks prior. Milk dishes are customary foods, symbolizing the Torah which is likened to milk, according to an allegorical interpretation of the Song of Songs.
The Talmud identifies Shavu'ot with the anniversary of the giving of the Ten Commandments. The sages, following the biblical account, calculated that the dates of this festival coincide with the events at Har Sinai recorded in Shm'ot.
In synagogues, it is customary to read Megilat Rut (the book of Ruth) whose setting also takes place in spring and at harvest time. One of the central messages of Shavu'ot, that of voluntarily taking upon oneself the instructions of G-d (Torah) is shared in the story of Rut who expressed her loyalty to the Torah and to the Jewish people by freely embracing both. Rut was the ancestor of King David, and according to the Talmud, David was born and died on Shavu'ot.
An additional custom connected with the holiday is that of spending the night before Shavu'ot in prayer and study so as to be prepared spiritually for the commemoration of the giving of the Torah.
Kabbalists (students of Jewish mystical literature) were the first to introduce this practice. They reasoned that at Har Sinai, thunder and lightening kept bnei Israel (the children of Israel) awake during the time Moshe was on the mountain awaiting to receive the Torah. In adapting this to modern times, the giving of the Torah was, for all intents, the wedding of the redeemed community to their G-d, and so it only fitting that we should be engaged in preparing the ornaments of the bride the previous night.
But there is a deeper reason that we don't sleep on the night of Shavu'ot.
Sleep is the taste of death. If fact, the Talmud tells us that sleep is 1/60th part of death. Similarly, Shabbat is a "taste" of life, better know as "the World-to-Come." It is precisely 1/60th of the World-to-Come.
Since Shavu'ot is both the anniversary of the giving of the Torah and the end of King David's life, we stay awake all night and immerse ourselves in the study of Torah because breathes life into Man.
But when the Mashiach, the scion of King David, arrives to herald the era of the resurrection of the dead, he will use the Torah, the dew of life, which will be the mechanism to awaken the body from its long sleep.
Then we will finally understand the words we have sung for so long:
"David, Melech Yisrael, chai v'kayam!"
"David, king of Israel, lives and exists!"
2. According to tradition, in the desert at Sinai, bnei Israel (the
Children of Israel) had the Torah delivered to them on engraved Tablets
on stone on Shavu'ot. Why did G-d choose this particular timing?
G-d choose to deliver the Torah at Har Sinai, 50 days after Pesach in order to communicate with us the deeper significance of our relationship with him as His chosen vessels of light to the rest of the world. Its such a pity that much of the church today has ignored the very contract which separates us out and sanctifies us for such a high calling to bring light to the nations.
As I previously mentioned, Shavu'ot literally means "weeks." Weeks suggests the interim period of waiting or preparing, which rather than describing its uniqueness, points to a period which leads up to it, namely the period of 50 days from Pesach to Shavu'ot.
In other words, Pesach needs Shavu'ot. Pesach, you see, is not really a festival celebrating freedom. The first seder took place in Mitzai'im (Egypt), when we were still subjugated by the Egyptians and even before the 10th plaque had occurred. Pesach is merely the promise of freedom. And even after the Jews left Mitzrai'im, it was only an exodus into the desert, which in reality turned out to be jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.
The real festival of freedom did not come until Shavu'ot, when bnei Israel would stand before G-d on their wedding day, complete with a canopy (Har Sinai), a ketubah (marriage contract), i.e. the Torah, and stipulations of the covenant which included a homeland and a Holy Temple which would serve to maintain the covenant.
Even from a spiritual vantage point, although Pesach is when G-d wrought great miracles for the Jewish people, demonstrating His love and concern, He did not yet completely reveal how it was that we should serve Him. It was not until we received the Torah on Shavu'ot, that spiritual liberation became a reality, for freedom is impossible without the Torah.
Thus, Shavu'ot is the culmination of time between redemption promised and redemption realized.
Pesach is when G-d promised to marry us; Shavu'ot is the marriage itself. The seven weeks in between, are like the 7 crucial days that a bride-to-be counts in preparation for her wedding, during which she purifies and readies herself. There can be no achievement of a goal without such preparation. It requires t'shuva or repentance-a willingness to turn to G-d, otherwise the redemption is but an elusive dream. "Weeks" is a name that speaks of the road which must be traveled which is the prerequisite for the accomplishment of our goal. The real test lies in our willingness and ability to count and prepare for the G-d of redemption, and to expect His power, as a gift in the form of His Spirit, which will enable us to reach that goal.
Now regarding why G-d choose to engrave His commands on tablets of stone, the rabbis deduced long ago that there are two kinds of letters. Letters which are written, and letters which are engraved. The difference is that written letters which are ultimately separate from what they are written on. They are not one with the paper or the parchment. The letters are of ink and they adhere to the paper, and then are they one.
However, when letters are engraved, the letters themselves are from the same medium as that on which they are written. There is no distinction between what is written and on what it is written. The letters are not something external, separate entities, rather they emanate from the stone itself.
The Torah was given in the form of engraved tablets to teach us that we should relate to it not as separate from ourselves, but rather as indivisible and identical. The words of the Torah will one day be engraved in the very fabric of our heart, not merely embroidered there, as they are today, where they often fade or fray. They must penetrate to the deepest and innermost chambers of our identity, and in fact according to the prophets, will soon permanently. The word in Hebrew for "engraving" is from the same root as the word for a decree that surpasses human understanding - chok. Our attitude to the entire Torah should be the same as to a chok. Even though we don't understand the chok, we still do it because it is the Will of our Father in Heaven. With this same attitude we should work out our salvation with fear and trembling--for no other reason than the fact that they will someday be engraved on the tablets of our hearts as decrees of the King of kings.
3. In Acts 2, it is recorded that tongues of fire were seen resting
on the heads of the Talmidim. What did this remind them of, and how does
it relate to the holiday of Shavu'ot?
From a Jewish point of view, which was the point of view most commonly held in the days of the Talmidim (disciples), the events of Acts 2 echo what occurred on Har (Mt.) Sinai, some 1400 years earlier. But, it wasn't only a "repeat performance," it was a sequel--"Mt. Sinai II," if you will, and for the Talmidim, the experience was far better than watching a re-make of Star Wars!
Take a look at verse 3...
"And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them."
From these two mountains, Har Sinai, and Har Tzion, the Lord of all the earth played out, as if from two grand stages, Israel's greatest revelations. From one mountain, the Law, our beloved Torah, the very instruction of G-d was revealed in booming voices that made Israel tremble. From the other mountain (Tzion), languages of every region made Israel wonder, as the Spirit of the Holy One, blessed be He, was given to enable us to keep those instructions.
Shavu'ot was originally marked as one of the feasts in which Jews were commanded to come up to Yerushali'im and worship in the Temple, but, as mentioned before, the most significant element was the commemoration of the giving of Torah on Har Sinai. The dates mentioned in Shm'ot (Exodus) reveal that Torah was given on Har Sinai fifty days after Israel had left Egypt. The instructions, therefore, that Yeshua left for the Apostles to wait at Har Tzion for the Spirit were not arbitrary, but part of G-d's larger plan to fulfill prophecy. It was designed so that the Apostles and all those who were present in the Temple Court that day would recognize this magnificent re-enactment of the giving of Torah on Har Sinai.
"When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear." (Shm'ot 20:18).
In Hebrew, the "thunder and lightning" in this passage literally reads "voices and torches." But when the Greek translation of the Torah was completed in the 3rd century BCE, "voices" was translated "thunders", because voices are normally heard rather than seen, and "torches" was translated "lightnings" probably because lightning seems more dramatic.
The other thing that is interesting to note in the text is that in Hebrew, the word "voices" is plural. "G-d is one", the Rabbis contended. "How then can He have more than one voice?" One rabbinical source describes their understanding of the event-"They (the voices) were heard by each man according to his capacity, as it is said, 'The voice of the Lord was heard according to strength.' (Ps 29:4)". What the people heard was one G-d, but many voices. This means that everyone heard the Torah in a way that they could understand it, even though they were a "mixed multitude" (Shm'ot 12:38). Contrast this to when men gathered to build the tower of Bavel, without a word from the Lord. Then, they also heard many voices, but they did not understand, because the voices were their own, and were brought forth in confused languages.
Now, back in Acts 2, we have:
"And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them."
The term "tongues as of fire" is very similar to the "torches" that the people saw at Har Sinai. What does this show us? Well, for one thing, it shows us the marvelous way in which G-d repeated the phenomena of Har Sinai in such a way that the people who looked upon it, would immediately make a connection to their past and to all that their ancestors saw (voices and torches) when the Torah was given, even as we were commanded and accustomed to personalizing the story of our redemption. "On that day tell your son, `I do this because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.' (Shm'ot 8:13).
In other words, the events in Acts were not just some unassociated miracles without rhyme or reason. When you put all of this together, you come to an very exciting conclusion, and its the very same conclusion that Peter arrived at. "These men are not drunk, as you suppose.... No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Yo'el." (Acts 2:15ff). What did Yo'el prophesy about?
Amongst other things, Yo'el said that that the Lord is going to do something very special in one location-Har Tzion. "And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved; for on Har Tzion and in Yerushali'im there will be deliverance..." (Yo'el 2:32). So we know that the pouring out of the Spirit is related to Har Tzion. But if we can connect Har Tzion to Har Sinai, we will have come full circle. And the key to this is found in Yishaiyahu (Isaiah) 2:2-3:
"In the last days the mountain of the LORD's temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the G-d of Ya'acov. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths." The Law will go out from Tzion, the word of the LORD from Yerushali'im."
So Har Tzion would become the spiritual capital and center of knowledge where the Remnant would gather for two reasons:
1. It would be the place where the Spirit would be poured out.
2. It would be the place from which the Torah would go forth.
This embodies the Messianic Vision. In place of Har Sinai, the Torah now comes forth from Tzion. And in this second giving of the Torah of G-d, this time, its written upon the hearts of men, instead of upon tablets of stone, by means of the Spirit of the Holy One, blessed be He. Yehezk'el (Ezekiel) 39:29 further implies that this New Covenant will be a revelation of the face of G-d.
Acts 2 then, is a neon sign, announcing the beginning of the Messianic Age. All of the markers that were present at the giving of the Torah, are present at the giving of the Spirit, by whose power we are able to appropriate the Torah.
Is it, therefore, any wonder why G-d choose Shavu'ot as an everlasting feast to the people of G-d, attesting to His faithfulness to call out and redeem a people to himself, and to do so twice, so that there would be no mistake in the interpretation?
4. How is that so many people were able to see and hear about the
events in Acts 2 from this place called "The upper room" (Acts
1:13)? Is this where the miracle took place?
It is a common misconception from Acts 2 to assume that the location of the event was in the same "upper room" from chapter 1 verse 13.
The word "house" is used to describe the place where they were sitting, but the word used in the Greek is not "oikia" meaning house or home, or a place of dwelling, but "oikon," from "oikos" which is predominately used to mean "the Sanctuary or House of G-d, (Matt. 12:4, Matt. 21:13) (W.E. Vines v. 2 p. 236)
The location was therefore not in some upper room where no crowd could comfortably gather, let alone 120 Believers, but apparently some place else where they were all gathered in one place.
"And when the day of Pentecost had come they were all together in one place."
The "some place" is none other than the Har HaBayit (Temple Mount) and specifically in the Temple courtyard. Now with that in mind, lets place this event into a pictorial context. The day of Pentecost (Shavu'ot) arrives, as it had for centuries, since the first Pentecost at Har Sinai, when Moshe received the Ten Commandments.
These men are sitting together, somewhere in the courtyard of the Israelites, when this awesome whirring, roar, like the rushing violent wind of a tornado blasts onto the Temple Mount and into the Temple courtyard of the Israelites, which is filled to capacity with men there for the Temple services of Shavu'ot.
This powerful manifestation of G-d's Spirit as it descends over this little band of believing men, sitting off to themselves to avoid persecution from the others on the Temple Mount. Yet, G-d will not have His people and word hidden, or placed under the proverbial basket, but to be heard and seen in its power and glory.
"And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent, rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.
So, what filled the place where they were sitting was this mighty whirring sound, which actually sounds much like an on coming roar of a very fast moving train. In actuality the breath of life is the same force in Breshit (Genesis,) of the Spirit of G-d, at creation. It was therefore not something imagined or proclaimed to be happening by someone, but a very powerful event that was completely unmistakable, and witnessed by thousands.
5. Does the Torah teach that G-d's decrees were made available solely to the Jewish People?
This question, of course, is "loaded," and entire volumes could be written to answer it. Most of these answers would simply be qualifying statements countering a myriad of objections against the concept of "Torah for the Gentiles," based upon a misinformed or misinterpreted view of Pauline theology, apart from its Jewish context.
However, here, I am going to confine myself to just a few high highlights which define the relationship of the non-Jewish person to the Torah as one of permission and encouragement. I am grateful that recently G-d has raised up a number of Jewish Messianic teachers and theologians who deal thoroughly with this important issue, and their materials are available today in print or over the Internet in various "Jewish Root" study groups.
Now, in short, the answer to the above question is, "No," the Torah does not teach that G-d's decrees are the sole possession of the Jewish people, nor were they given exclusively for them. On the contrary, they were given to all people who seek the "how to's", when up against the central theme of the Torah, which is to "love the LORD your G-d with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength, and love your neighbor as yourself."
One of the problems that the worldwide Body of Messiah faces today, is a lack of definition of what it means to be part of the redeemed community. While it is true that we are not under the curse of the Law, so many, running in fear of "legalism" and in search of "freedom in Christ" without the Torah, have had a knee-jerk reaction in which they have thrown away all the good stuff the Torah offers, and in the process have missed the beauty, the blessings and relevance of Torah in their lives. They have been taught that the Law is dead. It is no longer useful or required for the true believer. It was only given to the Jews, and then only for a limited time, until the Messiah showed up. But nothing could be further from the truth.
Avraham is a prime example. He was not a Jewish person. He was born a Gentile in the city of Ur of Kasdim. While it is true that Judaism began with Avraham when G-d entered into a covenant, signified by circumcision, Avraham lived several hundred years before Moshe who would receive the Torah on Har Sinai. Yet the Lord said of him, "Abraham heard My voice and guarded My commandments, My statutes, and My Torah." (Breishit [Genesis] 26:5)
It seems clear that Lord Himself somehow revealed to these non-Jewish men of G-d portions of His holy Torah, in the expectation that they would receive this teaching as His Word to them.
It should also be remembered that when the Torah was finally revealed to Israel, the stated external purpose was to attract the Gentiles. They were to live the Torah before the surrounding nations as a mighty witness of the ONE true G-d.
Once the nations heard about these decrees, they would say, "Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord their G-d is near them whenever they pray to Him? And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?" (D'varim [Deut] 4:5-8)
Suppose, for a moment, that it had worked! Suppose that some Gentile people groups had observed the wisdom of Israel's G-d as expressed through their living out of the Torah. And that, provoked to jealousy, they had chosen to embrace the G-d of Israel. What then? Would Israel have said to these non-Jews, "You can have our G-d, but not our Torah?" That would be ludicrous! The text in Genesis clearly implies that to accept Israel's G-d also meant to live by the revealed wisdom of His Torah.
It was for this reason, that the Prophets made provision for Gentiles. Now, nowhere in the Bible are Gentiles instructed to become "Jews" as if such a thing were possible, nor are they instructed to become adherents to "Judaism." or its particular cultural practices. But that doesn't mean that they are excluded from the "commonwealth" of the Jewish nation.
Isaiah, one of Israel's greatest prophets, wrote his book, with the intention of admonishing Israel and Yehuda to forsake their sins and to live by the Covenant of the Torah. But, Isaiah also had a message for the Gentiles. Particularly in chapter 56, we find words of encouragement for the remnant of Gentiles who followed the G-d of Israel. The chapter opens up with an encouragement to the remnant to continue following the Covenant of Torah. The prophet calls upon them to "maintain justice and do what is right" as well as to "keep the Shabbat." These are words which we might expect a prophet to speak to the Jewish people. But notice who Isaiah is addressing in verses 3 and 6. He speaks about "the foreigner" - - but not just any foreigner. These are foreigners who have bound themselves to the Lord. In other words, the prophet has some important things to say to non-Jewish believers.
First, he tells them that the Lord Himself will make certain to include them with the remnant of His people among Israel.
Second, he reminds them that the Lord will grant them access to "My holy mountain" and that He will accept their offerings at the Temple, because "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations." In other words, G-d was doing all He could to assure these non-Israelite believers that they were on equal footing with Israel, the people of the covenant. Yet He refers to them not as Israel, but as "foreigners!"
Third, Isaiah describes the lifestyle of these Gentile believers. He characterizes them in verse 6 as people "who keep the Shabbat without desecrating it and who hold fast to My covenant." This is a remarkable statement to make about believers not born physically into the nation of Israel, isn't it? Yet, it implies that although they cannot be called "Jews" because of their birth, they are nevertheless entitled to follow Torah - and even encouraged in their observance! They are described as participants in "the covenant."
Finally, Isaiah prophesies about the generations to come. He looks beyond his present situation and says, "The Sovereign Lord declares - He who gathers the exiles of Israel: I will gather still others to them besides those already gathered." The Lord is here promising that many from among the nations would believe in Him, thereby becoming a part of "them" - Israel - all of which would be living by the Torah! When would this happen? The natural answer to this would be at the ingathering of the Gentiles described in the Book of Acts.
Leading up to this, Yeshua was the first to encourage and introduce the Torah to the Gentiles. The passage, often referred to as the "great commission" is a classic example.
Here, Yeshua instructs his followers to teach the potential believers from the Gentiles with material he describes as "My commandments." Yet, it escapes the notice of many that the vast bulk of His teaching consisted of explicit Torah passages and Torah-based instruction. This would have been perfectly consistent with the prophecy of Isaiah 56 which I mentioned above.
Moving on from here, the next important passage we find is Acts 15, because it contains a record of how the Gentile believers were received by the early Jewish followers of Yeshua and how they should relate to the Torah.
The first point made by Acts 15 is that no one may follow Torah in order to achieve justification or salvation. Having stated this truth, however, the leaders then concluded in verses 19-21 that the new Gentile believers had a very definite relationship to the Torah. But, there were several aspects to this relationship.
First, to facilitate table fellowship between the Jewish and non-Jewish members of the Body of Messiah, the Jerusalem elders instructed the non-Jewish believers to follow the parts of the Torah which had to do with the dietary laws. They must have reasoned that it was through sharing meals together that true fellowship and unity could be fostered between the once estranged cultures.
Other aspects included their understanding of the role of idols, blood and family purity concerns. But without getting into detail here, the Jewish elders in Jerusalem were demonstrating by example, grace, patience and kindness to Torah-illiterate Gentile believers who had never been exposed to it before Sha'ul and other faithful followers of Yeshua brought them the message of Messiah.
The Jerusalem elders knew that the only existing body of teaching for believers, Jewish or Gentile, was the Torah. However, the elders could not demand that the Gentile believers follow the Torah with the same intensity that they did. Their message therefore in Acts 15:19-20 communicated to them that they were equal but that they still needed to gradually learn more of what it means to walk with G-d as time goes by.
The confirmation of this is in verse 21. "For Moshe has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Shabbat." This was the elders' encouragement to the Gentile believers to continue in their study of the Torah, since Torah instruction was available in the local synagogue of almost every city in the diaspora. In their wisdom, they knew the reality of Yeshua's teaching that "my sheep know My voice and follow Me." The Torah is the voice of Yeshua, and these young believers would hear and follow. Thus Acts 15, far from downplaying the role of Torah in the life of non-Jewish believers, instead provides an encouragement for them to pursue the Torah at their own pace.
It is beyond the scope of this article to deal with the various passages of Rav Sha'ul in his letters to the Roman and Galatian churches, but suffice to say here that with our understanding of Sha'ul and his life practices outlined in Acts 21, he never discouraged or spoke against Torah in the life of the Believer, but rather against forms of legalism which inevitably crept in to communities who had never before been exposed to the great body of G-d's instructions. Understood properly in this light, you will find Sha'ul's statements consistently upholding the Law as a good thing not to be discarded, but instead to be used as a tutor who is ever present to direct and teach us about our Messiah, Yeshua.
Thus the Church, firmly planted in Hebraic soil, would find its true identity in connection with Israel and with the covenants entrusted to Israel. The Church, Sha'ul taught, is fed, sustained and supported by that relationship, and the Torah is very much a part of it.
But lest there be any doubt about the new relationship between Gentile believers and the Torah of Israel, the prophet Yehezke'el (Ezekiel) in chapter 47 looks far ahead of his own time, and prophesies concerning the coming Messianic Age, when Yeshua will be seated on the throne of David in Yerushali'im.
In verses 21-23, depicted are those desiring to live among the people of Israel. These are Gentile believers. They are instructed regarding the distribution of the inheritance "for the aliens who have settled among you and who have children. You are to consider them as native-born Israelites."
What G-d is teaching here is that these Gentiles are so grafted in that they are to be considered native-born Israelites, with full rights of inheritance. Now, how did they get that way? They got that way because they embraced the same Torah as their Jewish counterparts did, which guided them to the same yeshuah (salvation) in the Messiah.
And so we see in this broad overview, that non-Jewish members of G-d's family were never meant to be left out of the framework of freedom which the Torah provides. They too can celebrate the Lord's redemptive work and worship the Redeemer in their lives, and even develop their own unique expressions of it within the context of Torah and their mo'adim (appointed seasons) of reflection.
Gentiles have a meaningful and significant relationship to the Torah of Moshe. Through this relationship, G-d Himself instructs His children to embrace the full revelation of His grace in their lives. That full revelation consists of the whole of Scripture, including the Torah.
In this way, many Gentiles who come to faith and are "grafted in" to the redeemed community can present a light to the nations in our generation, and even provoke the Jewish people at the same time, to jealousy that they might return to the G-d of their fathers in repentance. The Torah has not died. It is still very much alive for all of us. The Torah is FOR the redeemed community!
Bonus Question: What themes are expressed in Shavu'ot and Pesach,
which make both feasts mutually dependent upon one other?
The mutual themes hinted at in the previous discussions are that of revival and redemption. Salvation, and at the same time, the working out your salvation. Just as faith without works is dead, so is a Redeemed community, who after being set free from Egypt, enters the desert with a complaining, bitter spirit. And after a short time, they gather against the Torah, saying that, "This is not what we want! We want to be FREE without these silly laws. We want the golden calf instead. We want what feels good, not just some old boring instructions how to do things right. We may be redeemed but don't need to hear any more from G-d."
The only problem with the attitudes above is that eventually it leads to the same sin of Navav and Avihu.
"...And they brought before Hashem a strange fire that He had not commanded them..." (Viyikra [Lev] 10:1)
You see, the Torah is the instruction manual of the world written by the Maker of world.
No one knows better how to operate a machine than its maker. Imagine someone buying a new car. The salesman says to the proud new owner "Oh, yes sir. One more thing--your instruction manual." The driver says "Oh, I don't need that. I instinctively feel what the tire pressures should be, and I have a sixth sense when the car needs a major service. I know intuitively what octane fuel the car needs."
Few people when faced with operating something as precise and unforgiving as a car would leave these sorts of decisions to instinct and feeling. Life is no less demanding nor complex than a car. Rather more so!
And yet many people are happy to coast along, assuming that they are not putting water in their spiritual gas tank.
The purpose of life is to become close to the Creator of the world, and only the Creator of the world knows how the world can be utilized to become close to Him.
We live in an era where people are more interested in feeling spiritual than being spiritual. We are a TV generation taught to expect endless effortless instant gratification, where this-week's-guru, or mail-order offer tries to replace the hard work of real spiritual growth.
That is what the Torah is warning us against in the story of Nadav and Avihu. The "strange fire" may feel spiritual, but it cannot connect with the source. And the reason it cannot connect is the seemingly redundant phrase "which He had not commanded them." If it was a strange fire, then by definition it was not commanded by HaShem. Rather, the reason it was strange is because it was not commanded.
Our connection with HaShem is through doing His will. Because the will of a person and himself are indivisible-the self expresses itself as the will. Only when we do HaShem's will, do we bring ourselves close to Him. The mitzvot (commandments) are the will of HaShem expressed in concrete form.
Any other form of worship is merely feeling spiritual-it's not being spiritual. And for people on the level of Nadav and Avihu, that was a failing of a very fundamental kind. Its like having Pesach with Shavu'ot.
Shalom Uv'racha BaYeshua...
June 10, 1997
1. Orh Samayach archives
2. Articles by Shlomo Riskin (JP Shabbat Shalom column)
3. Articles and studies by Rabbi Shlomo Yosef Zevin
4. Torah Rediscovered by Arieh & D'vorah Berkowitz
5. Articles and studies by Yosef Shulam
6. Articles and studies by Peter Michas
Note added: I do not always agree with Uri Marcus on all matters of faith and the Bible. However I felt the above article brought out a number of fine insights especially beneficial to Gentile Christians who may be unfamiliar with the importance and symbolism of the Jewish Festivals and calendar. I have long felt we "wild olive branches" who have been grafted into the true olive tree of the faith of Abraham (Romans 11:16-24) need to learn more about Jewish culture and our Jewish Messiah, Yeshua. Do write Uri and ask him questions, or disagree with him if you wish. He is a dear brother in Yeshua and a valued friend living in Haifa. (Lambert Dolphin)
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