Category Archives: Celebrate

Elijah Has Come

Elijah's Coming“In haste and in our days may he come to us
with the Messiah son of David.”

Passover 2013

As I type this it’s the first day of Passover. This year Passover started yesterday evening, Monday, March 25th and lasts until the evening of Monday, April 1st. This year marks our family’s sixth year in observing the Passover festival, which is also known and used synonymously with the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This year’s celebration is by far the most unique and exciting Passover that we’ve ever celebrated to date. I’m not just talking about unique and exciting in the fact that it’s a new year and we might have different guests at our Seder table. Or that we have a better understanding and relevance of the holiday or a fresh perspective on the Scripture and Haggadah reading to be enamoured with this year. Nope, all of those things could be true and exciting for many different individuals and families this season. Though the reason this year is different for our family does include a new year to celebrate and to be thankful for, plus a very special, unique and exciting guest at our seder. More on this in a little bit.

For this Passover season I felt compelled to study and write a little bit more about the Prophet Elijah and his connection to the Holiday and this season we find ourselves in.

Who is Elijah?

Elijah’s origins are a mystery. There is no mention of his parents, siblings or any other immediate familial particulars including his upbringing. The Bible mentions only of him being part of a clan from Gilead. “Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead” 1 Kings 17:1

Elijah’s original name is Eliyahu in Hebrew and it meansMy God is YHVH“. Elijah’s name in Greek is Elias.

Elijah is one of a shortlist (Abraham, Moses and David) who have a major impact on the Hebrew and New Covenant Scriptures. Elijah continues to play a prominent role each and every year within Jewish Holiday (Passover – more below) and Life cycles (Circumcision). At the Brit Milah (Circumcision ceremony), like Passover, Elijah is given his own chair. Elijah is also known as the “Angel of the Covenant” for this reason.

Elijah Brings The Fire!

Elijah is amongst the most famous of all the Prophets of Israel and has one of the coolest (literally one of the hottest) showdowns in Scripture. Elijah calls out King Ahab whose wife has introduced the false worship of the pagan god Baal to the nation. Elijah puts a curse on the land of Israel which causes a devastating drought for a few years during which time Elijah seemingly disappears from the scene. Eventually, Elijah steps back onto the stage and throws down a challenge to the 450 prophets of Baal. Elijah’s challenge to the prophets of Baal took place on Mt. Carmel and it involved slaughtering a bull to see whose God would consume the sacrifice. After the prophets of Baal couldn’t entice their so-called god to consume the sacrifice, Elijah started doing some of the best trash talking to the prophets of Baal ever recorded in Scripture “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” 1 Kings 18:27. After this episode, Elijah brought it (or you could say God brought it for Elijah)! Elijah set up 12 stones and built an altar for YHVH. Then he dug a trench around the altar and had water poured on top of the wood and the sacrifice three times until the whole altar was soaking wet and the water even filled up the trench. Then Elijah prayed to the God of Israel and “the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.” 1 Kings 18:38

After this, Elijah tells the people of Israel to kill the prophets of Baal and they do. The people agree to serve only the God of Israel and Elijah goes to the top of the mountain and prays for rain again and behold a massive thunderstorm comes and the drought is lifted. Job well done and all is well right? Well, not exactly…..Elijah flees in fear of Jezebel, the People of Israel don’t remain faithful to their commitment to YHVH and Elijah has a few other encounters with calling fire down from heaven and even riding in a fiery vehicle (perhaps the first Hot Rod?) into the Heavens. I haven’t the time to elaborate on these adventures but of course you can read all about them in 1st and 2nd Kings.

Elijah Before Messiah?

It has been a long-held tradition amongst the Jewish sages that the Prophet Elijah would announce the coming of the Messiah and thus usher in the Messianic Age. In fact, this tradition is symbolized and put into practice each year at Passover. During the Seder a seat is reserved, a cup of wine poured, and a door is opened for the Prophet who is expected to arrive during the Passover season to bring the good news of Messiah’s coming. For this reason, one of Elijah’s titles is the Prophet of Passover. The two primary Hebrew Scriptures that this idea comes from are both found in Malachi.

“Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.” Malachi 3:1

 “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers” Malachi 4:5

By the time we reach the 1st Century, we have evidence of this Elijah before Messiah theme recorded in the Gospel’s and alluded to by the Qumran Community as evidenced in the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Gospel of Luke records that Zechariah the Priest was serving in the Temple when the Angel Gabriel appeared to him next to the Altar of Incense and gave Zechariah the news of him having a son that should be named John. “And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” Luke 1:16-17

Zechariah was stunned and in disbelief. He must have recognized the Scriptures that the Angel Gabriel had quoted him from Malachi about the Prophet Elijah. He must have also been perplexed that this most honorable distinction and highest task of “preparing the way of the Lord” would be assigned to a son that he would call his own. True to the Angel Gabriel’s word, when John was an adult he had become great and well-known amongst those in Israel. When the Jewish leaders from Jerusalem sent Priests and Levites to try to figure out who this John was who was making such waves down by the river Jordan, they ask him “Who are you?” He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” John 1:19-23

Amazingly, during the 1st century amongst the Jewish people there was a great anticipation for the return of Elijah and a great expectancy for the coming of the Messiah. The Jewish sages knew the Scriptures well and they had calculated that Messiah could appear on the scene at any point and they were searching and investigating hard for that news – news that would be brought by Elijah of course.

There was another man at this time named Yeshua of Nazareth (Jesus of Nazareth) who had become very popular with the people by his teachings and the signs that he performed. In fact, he was now even more popular than John had been and the same questions that had been being gossiped through-out the land as to John’s identity were now being directed towards Yeshua, even amongst those that were closest to him and Yeshua asked his disciples “Who do the crowds say that I am?” And they answered, “John the Baptist. But others say, Elijah, and others, that one of the prophets of old has risen.” Luke 9:18-19  

Then at sometime later a few of the disciples saw what is undoubtably one of the most amazing things ever at the top of a mountain in the Land of Israel. Just like as before in the days gone by when the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob appeared at various times to the patriarchs and the children of Israel, this man Yeshua’s true identity was revealed “And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.” And who appeared with him during this transfiguration of glory? And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him.” Matthew 17:2-3

You got it! None other than Moses who represented the Torah (Law) and Elijah who represented the Prophets! It’s at this point that the disciples get back to the question of Elijah coming first to announce the coming of Messiah? “And the disciples asked  him, “Then why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” He answered, “Elijah does come, and he will restore all things. But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man will certainly suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.” Matthew 17:10-13

There are some profound takeaways from just these few verses of Scripture to consider about the Elijah before Messiah theme:

  1. The ancient Jewish Sages had been right in their interpretation of Malachi
  2. It was a common thought even amongst the Disciples of Yeshua to think The Elijah would literally return to Earth
  3. Yeshua himself confirmed the Elijah before Messiah Theme
  4. God had raised up someone in the Spirit like unto Elijah to announce Messiah’s 1st coming
  5. It is logical to suppose that “Elijah” will announce Messiah’s 2nd coming as well
  6. Modern Judaism and some eschatological interpretations are still valid and relevent to expect Elijah’s return
  7. Like Messiah, Elijah has come – Like Messiah, Elijah will come again

Our Elijah

Back to that unique and exciting part I mentioned at the beginning……

Back in July of 2012, we were given a date – March 26th, 2013. We were pregnant and going to have our 3rd child. We have a bit of an affinity with holiday birthday’s in my family that as far as I know started with my dad who was born on Mother’s Day, 1958. I was born on Cinco de Mayo, my brother was born on Thanksgiving, my daughter was born on New Year’s Eve and my 1st son was born on Rosh Hashannah. So immediately after we received the due date, we looked on the calendar and lo and behold what day is March 26th, 2013 – you know by now, it’s Passover! Wow we thought, that would be amazing.

A couple of months went by and we found out that the sex of our new baby was going to be a boy, so it didn’t take much imagination for us to come up with a name – Elijah John – of course knowing the symbolism with the date and Biblical accounts and similarities of the two men. So we waited months and months and months (you get the picture) and on Saturday morning, March 23rd, we thought “it looks like he’s really going to make it to Passover”. Afterall, it would be just 2 days and we had no indication he was coming anytime before then. It looked like we were well on our way to having another holiday baby in the family, but then something started to happen.

That evening after Shabbat was over we were on our way to the grocery store to pickup some supplies for Passover week when my wife began having frequent contractions. We thought, probably “braxton-hicks” right, you know the practice contractions. We made it through the grocery store and went to dinner afterwards and the contractions hadn’t went away yet. At this point my wife was starting to get nervous and couldn’t eat. I started to think this is probably the real deal and we just passed one holiday (Shabbat) and knew there was a good chance we wouldn’t make it to the next (Passover). All we had between now and then if we had this baby was Sunday and all of Monday until Passover started that evening – nothing special there I thought. By midnight on Sunday morning it was becoming ever so apparent that we were going to have this baby soon – real soon – I mean like in a few hours soon.

We had a family friend staying with us and we turned on the tv after we had watched the movie Argo and TBN was playing The Passion of Christ and it hit me “Today is Palm Sunday”! Palm Sunday – the traditional date of Yeshua’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem on a lowly donkey and the start of Holy Week. I had called my mom by this point to inform her of the baby’s imminent arrival and she looked at the calendar and exclaimed its Palm Sunday! To all of our amazement, this day had been completely off of our radar the whole entire time until the date was actually here. So there we were, on the traditional date that Yeshua’s triumphal entry is celebrated, our Elijah made his own triumphal entry into the world at 4:01am on Palm Sunday. This post is primarily for him which is a bit ironic since he won’t be able to read it for a few years and when he does it may be many more years before he actually appreciates it. One day I hope!

Elijah sleeping

He’s been sleeping beside me for almost 2 hours while I put this reading together which is amazing in and of itself – Here’s to looking at you Elijah John Bennett Bond! May the grace and shalom of our Messiah Yeshua bless you and yours through-out this season and always – Amen!

Happy Passover 2013 – The Bond Family

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Thankful for my Y

For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food,
For love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson – Poem of Thanksgiving

 

 -The YMCA Mission-

To put Christian values into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all.

“that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” John 17:21 (Official YMCA Bible verse adopted in 1881 to reflect its mission)

A few days before a recent board meeting with the Coppell Family YMCA I was asked to give what we call a “missional moment”. The missional moment is designed for board members to share how the YMCA has impacted their lives and what impact they have had on or experienced with others. At first I was somewhat at a loss for what I would say and share. I felt my story or impact in my short 4 years of serving would surely pale in comparison with others who have given more time, lended more talent and shared more resources than I could hope to bestow in multiple lifetimes of service. 

-My introduction to the Y-

I didn’t grow up in a town with a YMCA. I didn’t know much at all about the YMCA other than what I heard the Village People sing about in their hit song “its fun to stay at the YMCA….” and surely everyone knows the dance that goes along with it. In fact, I didn’t even step foot inside a YMCA until I came to serve on the Board of Management with the Coppell Family YMCA in 2008 when I was 28 years old! I was 28 and the first time I stepped foot inside the YMCA I had no idea what it was all about. Well sure, I could see the gym equipment and I knew it was a Christian based organization but I still had no idea what that combination really meant and or how the Y made their impact on the community.  A “Christian gym” I originally thought, must be a super friendly place to workout and you probably wouldn’t have trouble finding someone to explain how a machine worked or getting someone to spot you with the weights. Nevertheless, I started my board service eager to learn about the inner and outer workings of the YMCA, but extremely nervous about the board setting and strange protocols of “motions” “minutes” and “seconds”. Soon enough though I was working my first fundraising campaign and a short time later I was chairing a sub-committee evoking some of those strange protocols of “motions”, “minutes” and “seconds” myself. How far I had come in such a short time:-).

-Interview with my kids-

To get back to my “mission moment”, I had an idea. I would interview my 5-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son and ask them a few questions about the YMCA and get their thoughts from their perspective about the YMCA’s mission. I thought a quick and genuine video from them would be much better than anything I could share. So I came up with 3 questions and we did a practice run and hit record. What they said is all them as I didn’t have a script for them to go by. So I made this video to share at my board meeting but due to a string of technical difficulties the video didn’t play. I found myself standing there in front of the board unprepared to share my missional moment. So I offered verbal gratitude to those in attendance for their service to the YMCA Mission and thanked them for the encouragement and inspiration they have provided for me in my years of service. So I decided to write this blog in part to share the video. You can watch by clicking the link below.

***Watch the video here***

-Thankful for my Y-

In my time with the Coppell Family YMCA, I’ve heard some amazingly heart wrenching stories of overcoming by some truly amazing people. I’ve witnessed first hand the impact that everyday people who volunteer in various capacities along with the local community can have and how it can affect and completely change someone’s life, a family’s life, a mother, father, daughter, son, someone just like myself and my family. Unfortunately we live in a broken world and bad things do happen to good people. Disease, Disability, Natural Disaster, Job Loss, etc is a reality everywhere and not one community on this earth is immune from it. It is here where the rubber meets the road and the Y has its greatest impact on changing lives. If there is a YMCA in your city, check them out and get involved. You will be the one who is better off for it! As part of the Body of Messiah, we are called to be the “hands and feet” of our Master and the YMCA is one way to make His love known and presence felt in a real and tangible way in your city for His Kingdom!

So from my family to yours, we are Thankful for the Y and hope you have a very Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving 2012!

The Bond Family


Passover on the Plains of Jericho

“Let the people of Israel keep the Passover at its appointed time.” Numbers 9:2 ESV

Our family Passover preparations are now in full swing as we prepare to host a Seder at our home with family and friends in just a couple of days. Passover begins this year on Friday evening, April 6th. Today we are busy finalizing our guest list, grocery shopping, studying, rehearsing, writing this blog and doing plenty of Spring cleaning (which also means we have to drink up all the beer in the fridge really soon – it’s not that much I promise:-)!

Last week I wrote about The “Egyptian Passover” and gave a brief history of that very first Passover event and what made it unique in comparison to all others after it. For this post, I originally wanted to take a quick look at the post-Exodic (not “exotic”, but “exodic” as in after the Exodus) Passover up until the time of the Men of the Great Assembly. But as I begin to research the Passover from the Biblical and extra-biblical sources starting with the Book of Joshua to King Josiah on to the Book of Jubilees and The Wisdom of Solomon, I quickly realized that this would not be a quick survey after all. Instead of writing a 4,000 word blog of which I have scarcely the time, I decided to split this chronological theme up into much smaller sections over a longer period of time (I have Passover ideas to blog about for many years to come now:-). Makes sense right?

Passover on the Plains of Jericho

“While the people of Israel were encamped at Gilgal, they kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the month in the evening on the plains of Jericho.” (Joshua 5:10 ESV)

This phrase “on the plains of Jericho” sounds very idyllic to me, like some sweeping grandiose setting from a bygone era that gets romanticized in a Hollywood movie. I can picture the scenes in my mind well and imagine some of the interactions of the people. The sweeping Jericho plains at sunset with Palm trees shadowed in the background and the Jordan river flowing in the distance. The tent sites are abuzz with campfires crackling and the excited chatter of the relatively youthful Israelites, almost all who are under the age of sixty with the majority not even forty years old yet. These young generations of Israelites who had weathered the sins of their parents and the harshness of desert life, have just crossed over the Jordan river into this Land they have heard only stories about since they were born. Now it is coming to pass before their very eyes, all of their hopes and dreams will soon be realized in this Land that had been promised to the generations of old, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Joshua, who is one of only two who are left from their parents generation, is their courageous and very capable leader. Joshua was Moses’ right hand man while Moses was alive and Joshua was ordained by God to take Moses’ place after his death. Joshua gives a speech to this young nation that is both inspiring and sobering at the same time. He recounts the faithfulness of the Lord in leading them to this Promised Land and details the blessings spoken of to Moses about how God will shower them with so much provision and abundance that it will be like the Land breaking forth into song and dance all around them. Yet, Joshua also reminds them of the dangers of disobedience and rebellion, of a lack of trust in the Lord and the byproduct of that behavior that they know all too well. The youthful crowd responds to Joshua, “We will take care to do all that the Lord has commanded us to do”!

Many of the young men of the camp were anxious to go forth and “conquer” the Land. They were confident and not a few a bit cocky after they had seen what had happened to the Kings of the Amorites and Canaanites (Joshua 5:1). They knew well the report of the their brethren who had went to spy on the city of Jericho and had brought back this report to Joshua, “Truly the LORD has given all the land into our hands. And also, all the inhabitants of the land melt away because of us.” (Joshua 2:24 ESV). But before the next battle was to begin, the Lord commanded patience, an obedient patience in the form of circumcision.

 Circumcision?! This second generation of Israelites had not been circumcised in the wilderness due to the sins of their fathers, which had delayed the Israelites from entering into the Promised Land in the first place for 40 years. That ancient rite of passage “hadn’t been practiced in many years” some of them said and others cringed at the thought of the pain it entailed. Nevertheless, the whole nation was obedient to the Lord’s command through Joshua and they remained in their camp at a place called Gilgal until they were healed.  After Joshua had all the males circumcised, God told Joshua, “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.” (Joshua 5:9 ESV). This circumcision was important for multiple reasons;

  1. According to the Covenant God made with Abraham in Genesis 17:10-11, all of Abraham’s descendents should be circumcised as an act of obedience.
  2. Circumcision is a sign of the Israelites being in covenant with God and the Land of Canaan is a Promise of that Covenant (Genesis 17:8).
  3. According to Exodus 12:48, no one uncircumcised may partake of the Passover sacrifice.

During the time of healing and waiting, their was another rite, albeit a much more “modern” one that perhaps some had never took part in and others had but it had been since their teenage years or earlier – The Passover. Passover was the memorial and commemoration of God’s deliverance of His people Israel, that culminated in the Exodus out of Egypt and set in motion the journey that led them here, to the plains of Jericho – the gateway to the Promised Land.

Sure, they all knew what the Passover was and what it meant to them historically, but most had never actually experienced this sacred event. So here they were on the plains of Jericho, on this side of the Jordan river, with their tribes and divisions of families and they were about to fulfill God’s command to Moses to “Observe the month of Abib and keep the Passover to the Lord your God, for in the month of Abib the Lord your God brought you out of Egypt by night.” (Deuteronomy 16:1). On this night so long ago in the shadow of the infamous walls that would soon come tumbling down, I can imagine all the families remembering the past 40 years gone by since the Lord’s redemption from Pharaoh and his army and a young son of Israel probably no more than 4 or 5 years old asking his father “what does this night mean?” and his father replying with the words of Exodus 13:8 ‘It is because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ I could also imagine the words and thoughts of the evening not just dwelling on the past but looking forward to the future redemption as well, when God will deliver yet again the people who He saved for all eternity in peace and glory. At least that’s how I suppose it could have all happened out on the plains of Jericho over 3,000 years ago. This was the first Passover celebrated in the Promised Land!

May grace and shalom be multiplied upon you in the name of Yeshua the Messiah, our Passover!

Chag Sameach Pesach 5772!!! Happy Passover 2012!!!

The Bond Family

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The “Egyptian Passover”

‘The blood shall be a sign for you……And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you” (Exodus 12:13 ESV)

Passover is less than two weeks away. This year Passover begins on the evening of Friday, April 6th, which is also the day that Christians through-out the world will be observing Good Friday (the traditional day of the week that Yeshua was crucified). On Passover Eve, Jewish families gather to have a festive meal called a “seder” in which there are special readings that tell about the Exodus from Egypt. Through a book called a “haggadah”, Jews remember the plight of their ancestors and how God through Moses miraculously saved and redeemed them from their oppressive state in Egypt. This celebration of Passover, which has been  an institution of the Jewish people for thousands of years also has special significance for the Messianic community today that is made up of Gentile Christians as well as Jewish believers of Messiah Yeshua(Jesus).

My home congregation Baruch HaShem Messianic Synagogue (BHS) is not having a corporate Seder this year. This is the first time that I know of that they are not hosting a congregational Seder. The reasoning is that they wanted to go smaller this year and encourage greater fellowship amongst the BHS family by having members host a home seder (which is how the first Passover recorded in Scripture is celebrated as well as all subsequent Passover’s since the destruction of the 2nd Temple) and invite other BHS attendees and guests. In preparation for this Rabbi Marty Waldman taught a very demonstrative and interactive Passover Seder training course in which he walked through the entire Haggadah. In addition to this, I have also been studying The JPS Commentary on the Haggadah by Joseph Tabory in preparation for the home seder I will be leading this year. In the Foreward to The JPS Commentary, Professor David Stern says that Tabory is “one of the world’s leading authorities on the Haggadah”. Needless to say I came across plenty of insight and I got the idea to chronicle a short summary of that First Passover up to the time of Rabbi Hillel, Rabbi Shammai and the Rabbi Yeshua from Natzeret, who they call Mashiach.

A Quick History Lesson (Exodus 1-13)

Under the Pharoah of that time, the Israelites had become enemies of the state and the Egyptians  feared them causing a revolution. Due to this, the Israelites endured many hardships including  infanticide and harsh slavery.  Through Moses and his brother Aaron, God made Himself known to His people Israel, as well as the Egyptians by His judgment upon the so-called gods of Egypt. God’s power and sovereignty was made known through the 10 plagues, which culminated in the death of the firstborn. The Israelites were told to apply the blood of a lamb to their door posts so that the Angel of Death would “passover” their homes. Due to the Israelites trust in this provision of God, they were saved from death and given the opportunity to have a new life no longer bound by the shackles of their previous existence but freedom to serve the God of their ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

The “Egyptian Passover”

Some scholars refer to the Passover spoken of in Exodus 12 as the “Egyptian Passover”. The Rabbincal Sages considered the instructions from Exodus 12:11 to be a onetime occurence and a permanent distinction of that first Passover and every other that would come after it.  “In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the LORD’s Passover.”  Modern Samaritans on the other hand still consider this instruction to be applicable today.

The Torah itself doesn’t make any other distinction in regard to the timeliness of the meal, but it is assumed that Passover in post-Exodic times were festive and leisurely. The Torah does suggest a change in setting, from home based to Temple based in Deuteronomy 16:2  “And you shall offer the Passover sacrifice to the LORD your God, from the flock or the herd, at the place that the LORD will choose, to make his name dwell there.” This change in setting would happen once the Israelites had settled in the Promised Land and God had chosen a place for His dwelling (The Temple).

The only items mentioned in Scripture that were on the table that first Passover were: 1. Lamb (The actual Passover sacrifice) 2. Unleavened Bread 3. Bitter Herbs as it says in Exodus 12:8  “They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it.” The cups of wine, haroset (apple and nut mixture), debates about lettuce or horseradish, etc etc. were much later additions.

The Torah also omits any instructions for any specific ceremony connected with the meal though the Torah does suggests that some type of narrative or commentary would accompany the meal for later generations in Exodus 12:26-27  “And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the LORD’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.’” Also in Exodus 13:8 “You shall tell your son on that day, ‘It is because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ I agree with Tabory when he states that it would be “hard to imagine that a meal in the memory of the Exodus would not be used by parents to transmit the story of the Exodus to the younger generation – even if there were no specific Torah mandate.”

It was a night of watching by the LORD, to bring them out of the land of Egypt; so this same night is a night of watching kept to the LORD by all the people of Israel throughout their generations.
(Exodus 12:42 ESV)

For additional insight into the “Egyptian Passover” check out Rabbi Derek Leman’s recent post on the matter The First Passover.

Next Time (Hopefully by next weekend:-): Post-Exodic Passover to the Men of the Great Assembly

May grace and shalom be multiplied upon you in the name of Yeshua the Messiah!

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Esther: A Diaspora Story of Israel

“Who knows whether you have come to the Kingdom for such a time as this” Esther 4:14

The Jewish festival of Purim is coming upon us rather quickly. In fact, it begins this evening and might just last until Friday evening (depends on how long you would like to extend the party:-). Purim is traditionally celebrated on the 14th of Adar according to the Hebrew calendar and Shushan Purim is celebrated on the 15th of Adar. What’s the difference in dates? According to the Book of Esther, those who lived in unwalled villages at the time defeated their enemies on the 14th of Adar and those in walled villages (Shushan) by the 15th of Adar. Purim is celebrated as a very joyful festival with a carnival like atmosphere that includes a lively and participatory reading of the Book of Esther, plays, masquerading, customary food and plenty of drink. It is also interesting to note, that Esther is the only book of Scripture, outside of the Torah that addresses the origin of a new festival. In true diaspora style, you could easily celebrate this holiday for 2 days; after all it is a diaspora story!

Last year I picked up the JPS Bible Commentary for Esther by Adele Berlin and decided to put it on the shelf until the time was right in the year to break out the “scroll”. Just the introduction to the commentary is formidable in its own right and is probably 2-3 times longer than the actual Biblical book.

Berlin begins her commentary by alluding to the question of which came first; Esther or Purim? That is, did the book precede the festival or did the festival precede the book?

Berlin says that the book’s fame is largely based on its association with Purim. And without the celebration of Purim with its annual reading of Megillat Esther (Scroll/Book of Esther) as its core tradition, “Esther would languish in obscurity”. But on the other hand, without the Book of Esther, “there would be little reason to perpetuate the observance of Purim.” So, however it happened and whatever the order (Berlin gives her educated opinions – she believes Purim existed in some form or fashion as a festival before the events recorded in Esther actually happened), Esther and Purim are forever attached and bundled up together for the benefit of all who might enter into this Biblical story of comedy and drama that is mixed with a heavy dose of courage and carousing.

What do I mean by “A Diaspora Story on the Continuation of Israel”?

The term “diaspora” is an ancient Greek term which literally means “scattered” or “dispersed”. As in a people or ethnic group living outside of their ancestral homeland. This is the setting and condition of the Jewish people in the book of Esther. The majority of modern scholarship dates the writing of Esther to the late Persian period or early Greek period, somewhere between 400-200 B.C. Berlin personally thinks the book was written between 400-300 B.C., after the reign of Xerxes (486-465 B.C.), but before the Hellenization of the East that was spurred on by Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.).

Outside of establishing an “official” reason for the observance of Purim, Berlin states that a main purpose of the book was to “promote pride in Jewish identity and solidarity with the Jewish community and with Jewish tradition”. Esther reflects the all too common circumstance of the history of the Jewish people where they are a “minority in a larger society and where it fell to the individual Jew, not the state, to ensure Jewish continuity”. The Book of Esther is not alone in this mode of “diaspora stories” for the time period. The Biblical Book of Daniel (especially chapters 1-6), as well as the Apocrypha Book’s of Judith and Tobit, also have similar settings and features of “pious Jews overcoming all odds to defeat the oppressive enemy”.

Berlin also stresses an important dimension of Jewish Diaspora stories that she says are rarely adequately noted. That is, “these stories not only provide models for Jewish success and Jewish pride in foreign lands; they also provide answers to the critical question of how a Jewish community in exile can see itself vis-a-vis the Israel of the Bible”. It is clear that Esther has accomplished its two primary goals;

  1. To establish the festival of Purim in perpetuity for Jews of all generations
  2. To tie the fate of the Jewish Diaspora community to the story of Biblical Israel

I encourage you to pick up your Bible and read Esther in lively fashion to your family this year, you could even have everyone dress up and have a part. Go to your congregation or synagogue for a play or Purim party and participate in the “boos” and “cheers”. Eat some Hamantaschen or chocolate, have a few strong drinks (not for the kids) and watch One Night With The King (one of my wife’s top 3 favorite movies). Whatever you do, do it unto the Lord and have fun, a lot of it – now’s the time!

May you be filled with the joy and strength of the Spirit which comes from HaShem in Messiah Yeshua this season and always!

Happy Purim 2012!!!

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Chanukah and a kosher Christmas?

(My 4-year-old daughter approved the picture for this post because she thought it represented the title well….I couldn’t agree more, nice job mija!)

I’ve read many different blogs and articles in respect to these holidays over the past couple of weeks. Feelings run the gamut of excitement to loathing, from celebratory to critical. I’ve seen many Facebook posts and Twitter tweets with healthy doses of “hot” holiday opinions and “scholarly”comments. So, I thought to myself, self, since I have a computer with some online “space”, I might as well share IMHO as well.

Conventional wisdom (along with the majority of my family, friends and just about everyone else I know :-)) would say that these two holidays wouldn’t mix and match well, unless that is;

A. You’re a retailer who could benefit from the dual marketing schemes and crafty advertising to create a shopping frenzy that is even grossly above the one that we see today. This would skyrocket the revenue from tapping into the commercialism of both holidays or………

B. You’re a kid who gets not only one day to reap the proverbial harvest but an additional eight nights to flood your bedroom with things you will be tired of in three weeks, which will lead to your parents to constantly remind you to clean up your mess until they give up and just start to do it themselves or……….

C. You could combine both A & B, plus order in, or eat out Chinese food and go watch a movie on the big screen.

On the other hand, we could all save ourselves lots of money, headaches and arguments and just celebrate Festivus! No? What do you mean it was just made up for tv? Ok, ok, enough of my bad seasonal holiday humor. On with the subject at hand!

What about these two holidays from a traditional Christian and Jewish religious perspective? For the majority of Christians and Jews this is a non-issue. “Christmas is for Christians and Chanukah is for Jews.” A significant part of Christian history has rejected “all things” Jewish and in turn Judaism on a whole has rejected the Messianic claims of Yeshua (Jesus) espoused by Christianity. “The religions, less alone the holidays clearly don’t belong together!” this is an unfortunate, but common sentiment shared by followers of both. [As Morning Meditations blogger James states in the comments below; apart from the time of year, Chanukah and Christmas “really have nothing to do with each other”. On some levels this is true. As James notes, Christmas is a major holiday for Christianity and Chanukah is a relatively minor holiday for Judaism. They are also not equivalent in the sense that you could interchange either one culturally and basically end up with the same holiday, i.e. Chanukah would not be the “Jewish Christmas”. For additional response to these thoughts see the comments below.]

But for those of us involved with the Messianic movement in some form or fashion, it isn’t always so simple. I know some inter-married couples (where one spouse is Jewish and the other Christian) who struggle at this time a year with their extended family tugging on their coat-tails to focus on Chanukah and non-assimilation this or Christmas and Joy to the World that. I have non-Jewish friends and family who avoid “all things” Christmas and others who “redeem” all things Christmas. And still I know of others in the Messianic realm that won’t have anything to do with either holiday because it’s not a “biblical” holiday.

On this topic I could think of many questions that would be worthy of discussion:

  • As a Messianic Jew, could you or should you for that matter, celebrate Christmas as a legitimate expression of your faith in Messiah?
  • As a Christian informed by Judaism, what reasons or benefit could there be in celebrating Chanukah in respect to the Christ?
  • What about celebrating Christmas in solidarity with Christendom?
  • What about celebrating Chanukah in solidarity with Israel?
  • What is their shared history, themes and theology?
  • What about the pagan/secular influences of both?
  • Does pagan mean it’s inherently evil and unable to be given the right theology?

I’m probably not going to directly answer any of these ?’s in this post and even if I did it would not likely please anyone on this topic. Instead, I primarily want to share some of my journey and where I am now in respect to these two winter celebrations.

***Disclaimer*** I’ll answer a question I usually get when talking about anything “Jewish” related; “Are you Jewish?” No, the simple answer is No. The main problem with this answer is that it doesn’t set the heart of the person asking the question at ease. If my answer was “Of course I’m Jewish”, then everything would make sense and all things in the world would be right (sigh). We could at the least move on to whatever else we wanted to discuss in peace. But when I say “No” to the “Are you Jewish?” question, confusion abounds and further explanation must be given in a way that communicates “Why in the world would you do that for if you’re not Jewish?”. I digress………..

Last year I wrote A Christmas Conversation, which was a brief look at my personal history and some thoughts as it relates to Christmas. I was brought up in what I would consider to be a typical “Christian” household in Small Town, USA. I had a loving family and for the most part everything was good. I have fond memories of Christmas growing up as a kid. Since I was a child there has always seemed to be something a bit magical and mysterious about Christmas and this season in general. As I mentioned in A Christmas Conversation, I was shocked when my parents came to me at 18 or 19 years old and said that we weren’t going to do Christmas anymore but we were going to celebrate Chanukah!

Chanukah O’ Chanukah?

As mentioned above, I’m not Jewish. I also didn’t have any friends as a child who were Jewish, I didn’t know any of my parents friends who were Jewish and I didn’t date anyone that I knew of who was Jewish either that would have influenced me. So how did I end up celebrating Chanukah?

It started somewhere around 1999 or 2000. My parents had been introduced to the Jewish roots of Christianity by a Bible teacher and I think my parents originally thought of Chanukah as a nice Jewish alternative to Christmas. It was a holiday that was celebrated around the same time of year, but without the Pagan influences of Christmas. It was also not nearly as commercialized and had less pomp and circumstance about it. I was 20 years old and I couldn’t even spell Chanukah (I came to find out later it could also be spelled Hanukkah) and the only thing I knew about Chanukah at the time were the things I had learned from the Adam Sandler song.

So for the next few years I was a bit confused to say the least when it came to this time of year. I couldn’t give up Christmas cold turkey after almost 20 years, it was all I had ever known and yet I didn’t have a problem including Chanukah, but early on I didn’t really have the slightest idea of how to truly make it meaningful. It was mostly this type of struggle for me until 2007. That year was a watershed year for my faith. I was young in my walk with God and Yeshua (Jesus) and I begin to study for the first time on my own accord the pagan influences of Christianity in general but Christmas and Easter in particular. At this same time I was also introduced to Baruch HaShem Messianic Synagogue and began to study the Jewish roots of Christianity. In the beginning of learning both the Jewish roots as well as the Paganism of Christianity I was shocked at first and then I became angry. It was like I went through the 5 stages of grief in relation to this:

  1. Denial – This can’t be true! Say it ain’t so. Has this really happened.
  2. Anger – I was angry at the Church for suppressing this info and angry towards others who didn’t understand my new-found knowledge.
  3. Bargaining – I wanted to share with anyone who would listen and try to have them understand my position so I would feel understood and justified.
  4. Depression – Nobody cares about this. Everyone is right in their on mind and theology. I’m one of the few who knows the truth and that is a lonely position.
  5. Acceptance – I continued to research and ask ?’s year after year and begin to get a broader perspective and a greater understanding and depth of what is truth.

Ok, so maybe it wasn’t exactly the same, but I could relate to that model. Thankfully God in his rich grace, hasn’t left me to that same level of anger, confusion and pride that I had a few years ago in relation to this subject.

After a couple of years like that, in 2009 I begin to have a new perspective on both Chanukah and Christmas that continues to be reflective and thoughtful to this day. I don’t go into anything blindly accepting everything that has been told or shown to me and I don’t expect you to either. Below are some additional thoughts of mine and some links to blogs and articles that I found to be helpful on the Chanukah and Christmas quest for balance and truthfulness:

Chanukah for Christians? Here is a link to a blog I wrote last year called Consider Christ, Chanukah!

Also see, A Bissell of Hanukkah How-To’s and Inspiration, MJ Style by Rabbi Derek Leman.

A kosher Christmas? As far as my ghosts of recent Christmas past are concerned, they don’t haunt me the way they used to anymore. I think it was a blessing that I was able to learn the intricate history of Christmas and struggle for a few years with its implications. This is a healthy and necessary practice and process to keep integrity in our faith expressions. I should do more of this and so should you. Here are a few thoughts on what I’ve learned and where I am now:

  • The birth of Yeshua (Jesus) by the virgin Miriam (Mary) is historical.
  • The Bible gives details about the birth of Yeshua but doesn’t call it Christmas.
  • Christmas is a man-made holiday by Christians for Yeshua.
  • The Bible doesn’t prohibit celebrating Yeshua’s birth.
  • The Bible emphasizes and makes much of Yeshua’s death.
  • The Bible contains many God ordained festivals that reveal Yeshua.
  • Most scholars put Yeshua’s birth in the Spring or Fall and not the Winter.
  • Celebration of Yeshua’s birth most likely began in the late 2nd Century.
  • His birth became wide-spread and official by the Church in the 4th Century.
  • This was likely done to combat paganism, not to conform to it.
  • Most Biblical Festivals have almost identical practices that predate them.
  • The Winter solstice has been celebrated since before Yeshua was born.
  • Many Christmas customs seem to have their origins in non-biblical religions.
  • Some practices and customs can be redeemed, some can’t. Use discernment.
  • All of creation is good and from God but mankind can form into idols.
  • Trees in the Bible were used as decoration and symbolism by God’s people.
  • Trees in the Bible were made into idols and used in false worship by pagans.
  • God created light and He is the Light of the World. We are to be His reflection.
  • Christmas music can be worshipful, uplifting, inspiring and theological.
  • Peace, Joy and Goodwill for all men is a disciples goal and Messianic ideal.
  • Giving gifts and helping others is a good, fun and Christ-like thing to do.
  • Excessive consumerism is a sin.
  • Santa Claus is not real and we shouldn’t lie to children about him being real.
  • Santa Claus did start as a historical figure in the person of St. Nicholas.
  • It’s good to see churches and believers emphasizing Advent vs commercialism.

Here is a link to a very interesting article that was written in 1910 by the early 20th Century Messianic Jew Chaim Yedidah Theophilis (Lucky) called “Hanukkah or Christmas?”.

For some additional Jewish background to the Biblical “Christmas” story go to Yeshua In Context and watch the three recent videos Bethlehem Shepherds, Bethlehem Star, and Magi’s Gifts.

I’m of the opinion that if you are a Christian who identifies with Judaism and gleans from its rich tradition or if you are a Messianic Jew and find depth and beauty in a Messiah centered Christian tradition, you can (gasp) definitely celebrate both Chanukah and a kosher Christmas. What does that look like? It will vary on the individual level and from family to family. For my family, we put the emphasis on Chanukah in our home. We make use of Chanukah’s light and miracle themes and relate them to God, Yeshua and His people. We tell the story of the Maccabees and the miracle of the oil. We light the menorah on all eight nights, bless God, give gifts, play driedel and texas driedel (for the adults), and eat latkes and donuts. For Christmas in our home, you won’t find any of the traditional decorations that you might expect. One of the primary reasons we do this is that for us and our kids, in the culture of America, we have no shortage of exposure to Christmas in its many forms. When we walk out the door of our house, it’s all over our neighborhoods, shopping places, work, school, etc. Chanukah on the other hand is harder to find, it’s less exposed and that to us makes it even more special and intimate. It is primarily limited to our house, a few friends, family and our synagogue.

Chanukah begins on the evening of December 20th this year and as I write this post that is only 9 days away. I think we all know when Christmas is.

I pray that this year your heart is warmed by God’s mercy and provision in your lives and you carry that glow or spark into the new year and I hope that the embers of His Spirit would grow day upon day into a full-fledged wildfire for Him and His ways. May He lead all of us to do mighty works for His Name and Glory!

May grace and shalom be multiplied upon you in the name of Yeshua the Messiah!

The Bond Family 2011

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Thankful For Thanksgiving

I find it a pretty easy task to celebrate the majority of our holidays in the good ol’ USA. I work for a bank, so I get the opportunity to partake in just about every holiday you can think of in this country. For me, it’s not a hard sell; you give me a day off and I can make the most of it, I’ll guarantee it! Celebration runs in my blood. It must! Out of all the American Holiday’s, I do have a favorite though, one that is a cut above the rest. This particular holiday is just a tad bit more filling and sweeter in my opinion than the others. It also probably has something to do with this holiday falling within my favorite season, Autumn. The Holiday that I’m most thankful for is Thanksgiving.

My memory of Thanksgiving runs back as far as I can remember to when I was a child and every year, my Mom, Dad, Brother and I would travel about 30 minutes down the country back roads of Northeast Texas to have Thanksgiving dinner with my Grandparents in a little community called Monkstown. The atmosphere was always so warm and inviting, I can still almost smell and taste all the goodness from that old house to this very day. We did this for about 15 years, until they moved to be closer to my parents and my brother and I moved to Big D to be a little further away from everyone:-). We had other family in Monkstown as well for many of those years, Great-Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, etc, that you would very rarely, if ever see if you didn’t see them at either Thanksgiving or Christmas. Example – It’s been 10 years now since we’ve had a Thanksgiving in Monkstown and I don’t think I have seen a single one of them in person since (save maybe a funeral). This is a bit sad I know, but the majority of the family that I’m aware of just aren’t the reuniting type. I share the blame at this as well, but maybe one day this will change.

In 2005, my soon to be wife and I decided to host our first Thanksgiving together with both sides of our family. We both wanted to have family gatherings similar to what we had growing up and since we didn’t want to trade-off every other year we thought “why not bring them over to our house”. My wife is from West Texas and I’m from Northeast Texas, so being in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area it made sense to us for everyone to “meet in the middle”. This inaugural gathering of our families worked out really well as we had a dozen or more family members who are rarely at the same place, at the same time, to get a chance to fellowship together with some who had never even met each other before.

Fast forward to 2012 and we are extremely blessed to be hosting our 7th annual Thanksgiving this year (for more on the significance of the #7 check out my friend Coley’s recent post 7 onto 8). We have always had a dozen or so join us every year and that doesn’t look like its changing this year either. My family has grown by two (3 if we count the dog) since 2005 and it seems we always have a new face or two join us each year to make up for someone else who couldn’t make it this time around. We cherish these few precious hours that we get to spend in this setting once a year.

Starting back in 2008 (minus last year due to a last-minute weather change) we have made the Capital One Bank/Dallas YMCA Turkey Trot a part of our Thanksgiving Day tradition. This is a fun way to “shotgun” start the day with 40,000 of our “friends” from our “community”. In addition to the Turkey Trot, we wanted to find a way to extend this holiday a bit more and have something unique to do with whoever would be free or in town early on the night before our big day. A couple of months ago, Elizabeth and I came up with the idea to have a “Pilgrim Party” the night before Thanksgiving – a throwback party 1621 style to usher in the holiday for us. I had originally sat down to write this post about what this Pilgrim Party might “look” like and then my thoughts were taken in the direction of everything else you’ve read up to this point. The basic idea of the Pilgrim Party is to have an “original” type Thanksgiving meal somewhat similar to what we now call that first Thanksgiving. This would include a brief look at the history, type of dress, menu selections (you might be surprised what they had and didn’t have to eat), games, etc. Lord willing I will get a post out about our Pilgrim Party experience at some point.

For now though, this holiday is upon us. Take the time to reflect in the midst of the prep and business (in a day or two its only going to get crazier for the next month). Collect your thoughts and count your blessings. Be joyful and grateful. Smile big and laugh hard. Have light conversations and deep ones. See to remember, listen well and breathe in deeply your surroundings. Be thankful for others and yourself. Be thankful for someone or many and make sure they know it. Be thankful on Thanksgiving, but not only on Thanksgiving. Be thankful daily. Be thankful to Him Who makes all things according to His will for His glory!

Happy Thanksgiving 2011!

May grace and shalom be multiplied upon you in the name of Yeshua the Messiah!
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