It’s that time of year again, and we seem to be surrounded by jack o’lanterns, witches, ghosts, demons, monsters, and various other representations of the American holiday which will happen on October 31st – Halloween.
Everywhere you look there are Halloween cereals, toaster pastries, cookies, cakes, treats, and candies at every counter or end cap at every store. You cannot avoid seeing these everywhere – even in commercials or on advertisements. When you drive to the gas station around the corner from your home, THERE IT IS! Someone’s yard filled with artificial grave markers, zombies, blow-ups, and such depicting the latest of Halloween hooplah. It might even be right at your neighbor’s house next door or across the street.
Even local churches are getting strongly involved with Halloween festivals and the well-known trunk-and-treat event where children are encouraged to dress up as families decorate the interiors of their vehicles with ghouls and goblins. Whether people are given the opportunity to dress up in what-ever-they-want costumes, or the church has decided on a policy of no “monsters, witches, or demons,” children and adults will be dressed up. Some will even make it appear to be a “holy” event by asking parents to have children only dress up as their favorite biblical character in the hopes of sterilizing the evil side of the holiday.
The big question, though, is this: What would Yahweh say?
I tell Jim all the time, “Sometimes I imagine Abba watching us, head in his hand, just shaking his head and wondering what on earth are my people thinking!”
I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He is not happy about believers following the pagan holiday of Halloween. And, I am sorry if it messes up someone’s plans, but let’s face it: Halloween is not a godly holiday. Period.
Halloween, All Hallows Eve, Dia de Muertos, All saints day – these are all celebrated at this time of year – the end of October. These events will be going on from October 31st to November 2 depending on which one is being celebrated. To be honest, it doesn’t matter which one you choose to honor; all are based on/come from the same historical background.
In ancient times, the Celts had a holiday at the end of their summer, celebrated at this time of year. Honored as a harvest festival, with some ghostly worship tossed in. History.com has a great article about it which goes into depth about the way it has changed over the years.
To summarize, the Celtic festival was when they believed the lines between the other world and this one were blurred, and the ghosts of the dead returned to the earth. These alleged ghosts would cause trouble all around the farms. At this time, too, their druid priests would feel it easier to predict the future because of the openness into the other realm. Many would attempt to consult the dead for information and ideas of how the future was going to play out for them, their families, farms, and friends.
They would put out the fires in their homes, light a bonfire on the hills, and participate in festive activities. These would include sacrifices of animals and harvested crops dedicated to their many gods. Also, they would wear costumes made up of animal heads and skins; some believed they did this to hide their true identities from the visiting spirits.
When the festivities ended, they would light a torch from the bonfire, and take it home to relight their hearth fires that were extinguished earlier. This relighting from the bonfire, they believed, helped them to ensure a blessed winter to come for their home and family. They believed it brought them great protection.
This holiday, over time, was combined with other pagan traditions by various religions and societies to become the different celebrations that many recognize today. It has also been expanded to include various forms of worship of the dead. All of which are spoken against in Deuteronomy 18:10-12.
These verses teach against witchcraft, divination, sorcery, conjuring, spells, fortune telling, omens, necromancy, and more. All of these mystical evils are incorporated into Halloween in some form or another. People dress as witches, warlocks, and wizards as they go about pretending to conjure up spells and charms, and even the simple phrase “trick or treat” implies a form of “charm” that unless someone grants a “wish” in the form of a treat, a trick of some sort will be played upon them or their household.
One of the biggest excuses for continuing this holiday in America is “It’s for the children.” I hear this every year from parents, grandparents, Church Sunday school leaders, pastors, and more. Don’t fool yourselves, please – it isn’t for the children.
It’s for the adults – why do I say this? Because it is easier on the grown-ups if they don’t make waves by saying no to the children. If we, as adults, as righteous parents or grandparents decided to stand against this event, we will make “waves” and likely cause conflict because it has been a part of family traditions around the globe for too long.
People will express frustration with you, and will often say, “It is JUST for the children!” Is it fun? Yes. Because we have made it fun - the kids get to choose a costume, play dress up, participate in parades and trick-or-treating, get lots of candies, and some will even have parties filled with fun activities like bobbing for apples, scavenger hunts, and contests.
Today, everything is white-washed to look safe and adorable – everything from vampires, werewolves, ghosts, and haunted houses; even Jack O’Lanterns and witches are made to look harmless and adorable. Just look around you in the stores and gift shops at the lovely decorations you can put up all around your house. Even lawn ornaments are made to look safe and silly.
It’s for the children because we have created it to be for the children. And sometimes I feel this concerns me more than the celebrations that take place. Why? Because we are to train up a child in the way they should go so that when they are old, they will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)
Throughout scripture, we are warned against paganism and not just paganism, but witchcraft, necromancy, and so many other demonic belief systems. We are told point blank not to partake of them. Yahweh has warned us to be so very careful to stay focused on Him and His teachings.
If we are warned so strongly, and He tries to protect us, the adults, so fervently, why would we teach the opposite of His truths to our children, our grandchildren, and those who are our charges? Why would we sterilize the holiday’s evil traditions by making them appear cutesy and harmless when they blatantly go against scripture? Do we truly want our children to dabble in the occult and open themselves up to further teachings and influences? Do we want to introduce our children and teens to a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7) through fright nights, haunted houses, ghost hunting, and haunted hayrides?
Our prayer is that what we have shared will help those who celebrate Halloween or a “cleaned up” version of Halloween to take a serious and prayerful look at avoiding this celebration in any form. If we want our children to be righteous, strong, faithful warriors in these last days, how can we expect that of them if we compromise and make evil appear good or introduce them to the occult?
We are warned in scripture that times will come when things are upside down. Isaiah 5:20 talks of woes:
Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
Those who make Halloween look like it is nothing more than a harmless holiday are at risk of being people who call evil good, put darkness for light, and bitter for sweet. It is destructive enough when dabbled in, much worse if it is done in the name of Yahweh.
One of our favorite topics is the scriptures – and we often get asked about the different translations that are available. There are older versions, such as the King James with its more formal English, as well as modern printings such as New Revised Standard Version (1989) and The One New Man Bible (2011). Each new translation or interpretation comes with its explanations of why it is the most accurate or best version available for studying Yahweh’s Word.
In our home library, we have several versions to reference, and each has served its purpose in our studies and in ministry. Each has specific elements that help us in very different ways – we have a parallel Bible, the 1611 King James Version, New King James, and many more.
Recently, I was asked several different questions about translations, and I felt that many could benefit from the answers we shared with this person. Here are some of their statements or questions.
1) “Some teachers claim that the Hebrew does not translate very well into English.”
If we are using modern English as an example, I would have to say this statement can be true. Over the last 150+ years, especially in America, the English language has changed dramatically. We have words that today mean something completely different than what they meant 100+ years ago. One that is easy to use as an example is the word “gay” – if you go to the 1828 Online Webster’s Dictionary, you can find that the definition used to mean “Merry; airy; jovial; sportive; frolicksome. It denotes more life and animation than cheerful.” That is not the modern definition of the term in our current dictionaries.
Let’s illustrate this from a scriptural perspective. The word Torah is a great example – many translate it to mean “law” – which from our more modern mindset gives the impression of a civil rule with a legal and binding consequence. We tend to interpret it as a statute or regulation recognized and enforced by a judicial decision. We also conclude that not following this “law” is equal to a “crime.”
That is not what Torah means, though. Studying the Hebrew word Torah will reveal that it means “teaching, directions, instructions.” The Torah is Yahweh's teachings which help us to hit the target or the mark. Getting that bull's eye helps our individual character to be more like Yeshua so that we can exemplify Him.
The definition of teaching or instruction is much different in our modern mindset than the word LAW.
Teaching is related more to educating and has less negativity attached to it than the word law. It is beneficial for you to put it in this perspective and to remove the stigma, anxiety, and intimidation attached to not following the Torah.
We have been actively encouraging people lately that they must understand WHAT Torah means, and that we do not follow the teachings in the Torah for our SALVATION - we have salvation through Yeshua alone.
2) Can we only get the true translation from the Hebrew and Greek?”
I have to disagree with this claim. With all the scholarly resources that we have available to study through the internet and libraries, we can easily get an accurate definition and translation very quickly by searching things out. BUT we must be WILLING to study and not take things at a glance or surface value. We need to be cautious about not applying our modern mindset to the scriptures.
I can demonstrate this modern mindset dilemma by sharing situations shared with me about Shabbat. Some sisters of faith get very hyper-literal when they read the scriptures about Sabbaths: “Thou shalt not work.”
Sadly, I see these sisters go to an extreme with “no work” because they see every single daily task as their “work” – they refuse to do anything during Shabbat or have their family do anything, including simple tasks of cleaning up after oneself. Then at Sundown, they are overburdened by the massive amounts of dishes, trash, and toys left all over the house. I had one sister contact me so upset by the stress that she was willing to give up Shabbat because it took her until the wee hours of the next night to clean up all the mess! After one particular Shabbat, she was up until almost 5 am doing dishes!!! My heart ached for her dilemma.
I told her that it could be as simple as having each child who is able, AND EACH ADULT, simply wash their own dish after using it, then reuse it for the next meal. Plus have the children put away what they had played with before taking out something new. When I said these things, she was horribly offended! I tried to explain to her about what scripture meant by “work,” I have not heard from her since. I guess she was offended by the idea that Shabbat was created for us and our rest and we weren’t created to suffer and be a slave to Shabbat.
We need to be willing to study beyond what we know, beyond what we perceive – sometimes that means delving into the historical details of the era, the lifestyles of people that are similar to how they would have lived during the Exodus – in this case, and even archaeology can help. I tried to share with this sweet sister that people during Exodus often did not even own individual dishes. Many families would make a large pot of soup, stew or porridge, then dip bread into the communal pot to eat – no utensils. Archaeologists have discovered many ancient households in the mid-East deserts who evidenced this kind of lifestyle. I share these examples often with sisters who are new to Torah in the hopes that I may be able to help them overcome the conflicts that arise from being too legalistic.
So, you see, the Torah is not as difficult as we often make it. We just need to be willing to look at things from many different sources to see the bigger picture.
3) “There are many translation errors in the Bible especially the NJKV.”
Are there discrepancies in translations? Yes, there are some verses in different translations that are not quite the same as in older texts such as the Septuagint. This can be especially true with a few of the more modern translations. We have seen some errors ourselves in a couple of versions that we have in print here at home. We have also seen some modern Hebrew Roots translations of scripture that have serious errors.
Some of these differences are easy to pick out. Like recently, when I saw a verse in Young's Literal Translation bible that made me giggle. The literal way it was translated into English made it sound like Yoda from Star Wars was reading scripture!!!
We do need to point out that there are also a few versions that are easier to understand because of how they are written. One example of this would be the NLT – it may not use a word for word Hebrew to English translation, and yet it carries forward the literal concept from the Hebrew to the English. Often this makes the content and context easier for people to understand.
4) “The Old Testament, or Tanakh was originally written in Hebrew, then translated into Greek and Latin.”
This is partially correct – it was written in Hebrew and Aramaic, not solely Hebrew. The Hebrew/Aramaic text found in our Bibles today was written around 1000 – 1100 AD (Masoretic text). Jewish scholars also translated an earlier Hebrew text into Greek around 300-200 BC, called the Septuagint. Then we have the Dead Sea scrolls Old Testament written in Hebrew and Aramaic. All three of these are pretty much in agreement with each other, proving the accuracy of the Old Testament. The Septuagint has other extra-biblical books added for history and commentary, but they are not scripture. The Catholic church claims them as scripture, but they are not. Even the Jews don’t count them as scripture. These books are called the Apocrypha. A good version of the Septuagint which we often use is the Apostolic Bible Polyglot available online at studybible.info.
5) “I automatically thought that the whole bible was originally written in Hebrew and then again translated into the Greek and Latin, THEN into English.”
A lot of people believe this, but it is not true. In fact, there are thousands of Greek texts of the New Testament that are much older than any that are claimed to exist in Hebrew. The oldest so far discovered or revealed in Hebrew is supposedly around 750-900 AD. Greek texts out-date these by quite a few centuries. Most of the so-called Hebrew texts of the New Testament are known by scholars and are likely just Hebrew translations of Latin or Greek texts. You may hear some people tell you the Peshitta (Syriac) New Testament is the original New Testament text, but that text is nothing more than a translation of the Greek text.
6) “I am surprised the New Testament was written in Greek. Why was it not written in the language of the authors who were all Jewish and must have spoken Hebrew at the time?”
Yes, people did speak Hebrew, but they also spoke Greek the most prominent language of the two would have been Greek. The areas where Yeshua traveled, where the apostles lived, and Paul taught were very Hellenized at this time. Let’s take Paul, for example. He was raised a Hebrew, a trained Pharisee and the son of a Pharisee, a Roman citizen, yet he was also very Greek. He talks in scripture of things like wrestling and racing, as well as other details which were very much a part of Greek influence in society.
Many of the towns the disciples went into after Yeshua’s death, places where they brought His teachings, were Greek communities. Many converts were Greek or spoke Greek. Many Jews lived in Greek-influenced countries and spoke Greek. So, you see, the influence was very strong on the culture. Paul, Timothy, and Titus were addressing issues and influences mentioned in the epistles that were creeping into the churches – these issues were leftovers of the Greek religions and cults that were prominent in those areas at the time.
7) “So, the New Testament, Brit Hadasha, was written only in Greek?”
There are some Hebrew texts that people claim they discovered, but many of these are flawed. One example we are familiar with is a Hebrew text which describes Yeshua having been hung by a noose on a rope, and not crucified. This is not what happened based on the countless examples of evidence for crucifixion. That is just one example of the falsehood hidden amongst these Hebrew writings.
Not many people are aware that there are enough New Testament scripture quotes from the early church writings (discussions, early historians, leaders, and theologians before 400 AD) that if someone took those extra-biblical writings and put them all together, an entire and complete copy of the New Testament could be easily constructed just from those early writings alone. This is a second witness to prove the accuracy of the Greek New Testament text.
A lot of people are making a big fuss over one Hebrew scholars claim of discovering “over 1000” alleged copies of Hebrew manuscripts with Yehovah written mostly during the middle ages or supposed New Testament text written in Hebrew. These “texts” are NOT an entire New Testament, but merely small sections which appear to be translated into Hebrew by rabbis.
In comparison, there are about 6,000 Greek New Testament copies written by the early church, as early as 200 AD - pre-dating the Hebrew-text claims. If you count very early copies of the Greek texts translated into Syriac, Coptic, Latin and other languages, then you have about 24,000 early texts. This is evidence that’s far superior to writings written by rabbis. These small pieces, partial pieces, or small segments of Hebrew writings from around 700 – 1,000 AD were used to attack believers in Yeshua and not written by believers in Yeshua.
Just so you know, we don’t actually have any originals written by the hand of the apostles, prophets, etc. However, we know the Bible is accurate because we have so many copies of biblical texts and witnesses that we can sort through variations of texts and come up with a consensus that verifies the truth.
Another note: There are times when you can’t use the biblical Hebrew OR Greek to help you understand a word because there is a term called an hapax legomenon: a term only used once in context. When these appear in the scriptures, finding an accurate interpretation or translation into English (or any other language) can be challenging. We need to research these words using other sources. Sometimes you can find them in literature from the period. When you see it in context like that, you can often get an idea of what is meant in English in the Bible.
These are the many reasons why we try to teach how very important it is to study things out with credible resources.
Let me begin by saying that I have learned over the years that discussing Easter or Christmas during the weeks before and shortly after those times – it’s never fruitful. It tends to cause contention and anger. It also sometimes makes those who believe in celebrating those days dig their heels in deep and become defensive about even the kindest of words. No matter how hard we try to explain the Biblical truth with kindness and love, it is not often taken very well. My prayer now is that people will just hear our explanation with an open heart and mind, and then test it for themselves in scripture.
That is why I am talking to you now – off-season, so to speak. First let me say, I am not trying to “convert” you or change your mind. If you personally choose to continue celebrating Easter or Christmas, that is your choice. I am just here to explain why we choose not to – for this conversation I am going to focus mostly on Easter, and yet Christmas is easily interchangeable with Easter.
A lot of family and friends ask (or wonder but don’t want to ask): why don’t you celebrate Easter any longer? Especially since we profess to be followers of the Bible and believe in Yeshua (Jesus) as our Messiah. We often get the question, “Are you Jewish now?” The real question I know people are asking is: are we practicing JUDAISM.
The answer to that question is: No. We have not converted to either Judaism or Messianic Judaism. Both of those religions are filled with many beautiful traditions, as are many Christian denominations. And yet, all forms of Judaism and all forms of Christianity are filled with false, man-made traditions that contradict the Bible. Many of these man-made traditions are just invented from nothing, while others are copied from pagan traditions.
Our reasons for not celebrating Easter can be summed up with a simple comparison because it boils down to the difference between:
A man-made holiday - Easter, Including Maundy Thursday and Lent
The God-made HOLY days - Spring Feasts - These include Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, then after counting 49 weeks, Shavuot (AKA Pentecost).
If you have run into others who believe similar to us, then you may have heard about all the pagan traditions tied to Easter. I could go into great detail on all of those, too, but I would rather show you from a biblical perspective as to why we choose to celebrate the Biblical Feast Days. So, for this conversation, let’s talk about what the Bible says bout Yahweh's Feasts.
Passover and Unleavened Bread are foreshadows of Christ. Yeshua celebrated Passover, he WAS the Passover Lamb. He was not the Easter Bunny. This may sound silly, and yet there are those who try to liken Yeshua to the Easter bunny.
The Easter Bunny was brought to the United States from, most likely, Germany sometime during the 1700’s. It is nothing more than a tradition to entertain children. Sadly, both the rabbit, an ancient sign of fertility, and the coloured eggs can be traced to deep pagan origins. They are not biblical symbols or scriptural “celebrations” in any way. In these modern times, people try to justify both as pretty and cute, even claiming they continue these traditions “for the children.” My question would be, what are you then teaching the children about pagan tradition versus biblical tradition?
Some believers and even churches have tried to rationalize Easter bunnies and eggs by likening them to Yeshua. Taking the characteristics of Yeshua and trying to correlate them with those of the bunny or the egg. For example, making the egg symbolize the empty tomb on resurrection day, or claiming it symbolizes the new life of Resurrection. The bunny is soft and gentle, just as Yeshua’s character is loving, kind and gentle. This is merely taking something unbiblical and applying attributes to it in an effort to justify using it for celebration and tradition.
The bunny, eggs and chocolate have become well-known symbols of Easter through commercialization over the last 60 years or so in the U.S. These have all but replaced Jesus in the Passover, crucifixion and resurrection celebration. All of the focus has been taken from Christ and placed on pagan symbols, then turned to allegedly symbolize Christ again. I would have to ask, are people trying to “make themselves feel better” by bringing the objects full circle to be “types of Christ” when they truly are not?
I am not fault finding here, I am merely asking you to think about it for a time and examine it from a biblical perspective, just as we have done for ourselves. We have been there and done that, too: We raised our children to participate in all those annual traditions, bought baskets and stuffed rabbits, even ate the Easter Ham. Something changed in us, though, when we started to study the scriptures more in depth together, and we recognized there were things that we had not seen before in scripture.
~~ Yahweh says in the Old Testament that we are to celebrate the feast days “forever” – believers claim that he does not change; He is the same yesterday today and forever. Yet then will claim He changed by saying He did not mean “forever”, and we are no longer obliged to follow the commandments of His Feast Days. Some proclaim, “the law is dead” and those commandments no longer apply. Yet, while loudly stating we no longer need to follow those commandments, they will declare we MUST follow others such as tithe, or the list of the Ten Commandments.
~~ We are taught that we should be following worldly, man-made traditions of Easter, instead of the biblical truths of Passover (Exodus 12 ), Feast of Unleavened Bread for seven days (Exodus 12, Leviticus 23; Numbers 28; Deuteronomy 16), and First Fruits. These Holy Days happen in the Spring and are what ought to be honored in His name, as He tells us to do – NOT man-made traditions. Especially those which contain blatant pagan elements. We should even be counting the Omer for 49 days, finally finishing out with Shavuot (Pentecost – Leviticus 23) shortly before the summer season starts.
These are beautiful times of celebration, feasts, prayer, gatherings, and honoring Yahweh. Imagine taking His Word and implementing family events which include celebration, a HUGE dinner, socializing and even prayer while honoring Yahweh. You could attend “church,” also called assembly. The funny thing about all of this is that there are families doing these same activities on Easter Sunday – they go to church, then have a big feast together with family and sometimes friends. Many have prayer before they eat, and dedicate their meal to God, thanking Yeshua for His sacrifices for us. Sounds a lot like what we are commanded to do with His Feast Days.
Of course, Yeshua (Jesus) would NOT have been eating HAM – just to clarify that little detail. You see, Yeshua ate only clean meats (Leviticus 11) because he was Torah observant. And THAT is a topic for another day!
How we know what to do during the Holy days is simple - Scripture tells us how to celebrate each one. Now, I will say that many of the details we cannot do because they are to be done where Yahweh places His name, which in ancient times was the Temple. There are also things that are commanded to be done by Levite priests, which we do not currently have available to serve because there is no Temple, and there are details such as sacrifices which are no longer necessary because of Yeshua’s ultimate sacrifice. Yet scripture still tells us to honor the Feast Days in memorial.
What does it mean to honor them in memorial? It means we can do the best as we can to follow the commandments for the Feast Days and share those teachings with our families and friends. For example, the Passover and Unleavened Bread of the Exodus as commanded in chapter 12, verse 14 “This day shall be to you for a memorial, and you shall keep it a feast to Yahweh: throughout your generations you shall keep it a feast by an ordinance forever.” (WEB) Do you see now why we choose to celebrate this time in honor of the sacrifices of Yeshua? We follow as many of the directions found in scripture as we can.
Here I would like to mention that for the Biblical Feast Days we follow the Hillel II calendar (The Hebrew Calendar). We have studied this topic of calendaring in depth and have published a free e-book on the topic that explains our reasons why. Yahweh has an order for things and a line of authority, and that includes the calendar. He has appointed people in the past to set those things in place, and the last calendar which His appointed authorities sanctioned is the Hillel II.
As the Feast Days fall on the calendar, we can incorporate these details in memorial celebrations:
For the Day of Passover:
- Clean out all the leaven from you home before sundown. (Exodus 12:15) There is a lot of tradition and confusion about what leaven is. It is yeast, yeast bread, or any foods that contain yeast. This would include sourdough. For more on this you can read our blog on TorahForWomen.com, titled “Pesach Panic!” It is actually very simple – just don’t bake or buy any yeast or products that use yeast shortly before and during Passover and Unleavened Bread.
There are a lot of man-made traditions wrapped around Passover, such as the Seder and Seder Plate, reading the Haggadah which contains the story of the Exodus, to give a few examples. This is merely tradition establish by the rabbis and Judaism. Most of these are not required or commanded, and most are not even in the bible.
In our home, we have an opening prayer which begins the Feast of Unleavened Bread, talk of the Exodus, and have a wonderful feast. Often the meal includes lamb, and always includes unleavened breads, and bitter herbs. Sometimes this unleavened bread IS manufactured matzah, other times we make traditional mid-East unleavened breads like lefse or naan, which go wonderfully with roasted lamb!
For Unleavened Bread:
- The first and seventh days are Sabbaths – holy convocations, where you should try to gather together with others and worship. This might be difficult if the days fall on weekdays and the rest of family and friends do not follow the Feast Days. You may need to find like minded people to celebrate with, and yet that too, can be difficult at times depending on where you live. We do the best we can and often find it is just the two of us. There are some congregations which broadcast online, and we have been known to participate with their assembly during the broadcasts.
- We are to do NO servile work – this means your job, and other work that your normally do. This would include yard work, house cleaning, laundry, and heavy work like this. You are allowed to cook on these two days, that which needs to be prepared so that feasts may be served.
- We are to eat unleavened bread for 7 days. Many believe you have to buy certified matzah from a certified Kosher manufacturer. Yet, honestly, there are so many wonderful recipes for different ethnic breads that are completely unleavened: naan, lefse breads, tortillas (the ones without yeast added!), as well as other varieties. You do not need to look for 1001 ways to serve matzah crackers for Passover – although you will find at least that many out there!
- Begin counting the omer: each day you simply call out how many days have passed as you approach day 50 and the Feast of Shavuot.
For First Fruits:
- There really are not any actions that we can do for this Feast because the act of waving the omer of harvest before Yahweh is to be done at the Temple. It is nice to remember this day, though, in honor of the time that His people entered the promised land. (Exodus 23:14-19; Leviticus 23) If you have a garden and are harvesting foods already from your garden by this time, it is especially nice to share the first fruits with others in your family or neighborhood, and to praise Yahweh for that blessing of fruits from your own soil and the literal fruits of your labors.
We simply acknowledge that it has taken place, and praise Yahweh for these blessings. First Fruits memorializes the time when Joshua entered the promised land with the Israelites and they were commanded to honor Yahweh with the first fruits of the land.
Shavuot is found in Deuteronomy 16:9-12, KJV Seven weeks shalt thou number unto thee: begin to number the seven weeks from such time as thou beginnest to put the sickle to the corn. And thou shalt keep the feast of weeks unto the LORD thy God with a tribute of a freewill offering of thine hand, which thou shalt give unto the LORD thy God, according as the LORD thy God hath blessed thee: And thou shalt rejoice before the LORD thy God, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite that is within thy gates, and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are among you, in the place which the LORD thy God hath chosen to place his name there. And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in Egypt: and thou shalt observe and do these statutes.
The Bible does say that for three feasts a year the men are to travel to Jerusalem for these special times – Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot. This is not always feasible for every family – the financial burden can be overwhelming for someone who lives in the U.S. or another nation. The greatest blessing that we have been given is the gift of Yahweh’s grace upon us through Yeshua. We are not under the curse of the law (Deuteronomy 28:15-68), so in a case where we can not accomplish the commandments, we can ask for forgiveness and know that Yahweh is kind and loving. We are saved through Yeshua and through him alone – our works (following the commandments) do not grant us salvation. But, because we have been saved, we seek after holiness and want to follow his word which leads us to follow His commandments as a part of our journey.
This is usually about the time someone may ask, “Well, you say you won’t celebrate ‘man-made holidays,’ but do you still celebrate Memorial Day? Fourth of July? Mother’s and Father’s Days? Those are man-made celebrations too.” They are not wrong, Yes, these are man-made traditions and celebrations. The key difference between those man-made celebrations and the celebrations of Easter and even Christmas is that these two holidays are man-made traditions which contain pagan elements and are done in the name of Jesus, in honor of God. Those other holidays are NOT done in Yahweh’s name. For this we turn to the scriptures where Yahweh (God) Warned his people against doing what the pagans did and using it to honor HIS NAME.
Leviticus 18:1-5 Yahweh spoke to Moses: “Speak to the Israelites and tell them: I am Yahweh your God. Do not follow the practices of the land of Egypt, where you used to live, or follow the practices of the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. You must not follow their customs. You are to practice My ordinances and you are to keep My statutes by following them; I am Yahweh your God. Keep My statutes and ordinances; a person will live if he does them. I am Yahweh.
Deuteronomy 12:4 shows us an example as well, “"Do not worship the LORD your God in the way these pagan peoples worship their gods.” (NLT)
You see, we are told to not worship Yahweh in the way the pagans did in ancient times, and the same applies to our own practices. We clearly should not be worshipping pagan items and doing it in His name. In addition, a sad example is how Easter has elements which have taken over the worship in so many families – they have become a form of idol. Many do not bother to go to church any more, and instead have egg hunts, ham dinners, and so many more activities riddled with traditions that are not of Yahweh. The Scriptures against idols are even more clear:
Romans 1:25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
This is another big reason why we opt for Yahweh’s Holy Days rather than man-made holidays. We have been led to make this choice for ourselves for three reasons: Feast Days are commandments; we are told to honor them “forever” or for all our generations because Yahweh does not change; and because we are not to do pagan traditions in His name.
As far as the issue of idol worship, many will say that they don’t “worship” the bunny or the eggs, yet these have become the centerpiece of celebration for many years. I will just ask you at this time, please, take a close look at what is prominent in stores, businesses, your home and family during your Spring celebrations? Is it TRULY Yeshua, or is it eggs, baskets, ham, chocolate and rabbits?
It hasn’t always been an easy change for us, truthfully. It is difficult as others in family and many friends continue to follow their traditions, we do often feel left out and “abnormal.” It hurts, sometimes, too – what people say and do, and yet it all boils down to where our faith lies, where our devotion stands.
Joshua 24:15 "If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."
Shalom. . .
History of the Easter bunny
Justifying Pagan Easter traditions
The short answer to this is: No and no. Dying your hair is not against the scriptures, and dying hair is not a sin. We find nothing in scripture forbidding coloring hair for men or for women. Although there are a number of scriptures we can point to which discuss a woman’s appearance, nothing is specifically mentioned about dying the hair.
During ancient times, dying the hair did become popular in certain circles. In fact, there is evidence which shows that at one point it was a law in Rome that the prostitutes were to dye their hair blonde to set them apart from the rest of society. Interestingly enough, during that same period, blond hair became popular amongst both men and women as they tried to look more like those who were from what is now France and Germany. Black dyes became popular also, which included one method that involved fermenting leeches for several weeks in vinegar. This concoction was then applied to the hair and allowed to bake in by sitting in the sun for hours. Thankfully, modern dyes are more palatable.
Although many will say that because dying hair was known to have been done by the Romans and by the prostitutes, as Believers in Yahweh we should not colour our hair, there is nothing in scripture that directly forbids it. Nowhere in scripture are we commanded “Thou shalt not dye thy hair.” Our conclusion from scripture is that if someone chooses to colour their hair, it is their personal choice to do so.
I do want to say that there are some words of caution I would place here: take a bit of time and examine your reasons for wishing to do dye your hair. The reason I ask you to do this is simply because you will likely, at some point, be told that it is “vanity,” or that you are altering Yahweh’s creation. You may also be told that you need to “be happy with what Yahweh gave you.” All of these are valid points for you to explore, and they will give you a good opportunity to do a spiritual check-up. Yet we stand firm on the fact that dying your hair is your personal decision.
The simple answer to this question is: No. Preparation day, Day of Preparation, or Prep Day is NOT a commanded day that needs to be honored, memorialized, or dedicated to Yahweh according to scripture. Scripture does not say, “Thou shalt prepare on Preparation Day.”
But, the Sabbath is a commandment from Yahweh on which scripture says we are not to work. Yahweh commands that you should not do any servile work on the Sabbath which means none of your normal daily work or employment. The question is, though, what of someone who is not employed outside the home? What of those who are stay-at-home moms or dads? Should they put aside their daily “work” just as those who work outside the home do, or is their daily “work” not truly work?
Much of what needs to be done to get ready for a day of rest is laborious - there is the cooking, cleaning, lawn care, organizing, laundry, and more, especially for a larger family. Clearly, staying at home can be just as much work during your day and week as that of someone who is employed outside the home. Because of this, the daily tasks of a wife, mother, or father who is a home-keeper can be considered their daily WORK. Wouldn’t it truly be a blessing for the stay at home person to be able to not do any of that on Shabbat, to be able to truly rest? For that to happen, a home would need to be prepared for Shabbat in every way humanly possible. Thus the term “Preparation Day” is used for that day before Shabbat when all the work is done that will allow everyone in the family to rest on Shabbat (husband, wife, and children).
Now, although there is no specific commandment for a “Prep Day” in scripture, there are scriptures in both the Old and New Testaments that show there is a need to be prepared for Sabbath, and, there are days of preparation that are mentioned in the bible. There are also specific preparations which are commanded at certain times.
Where? Well, let’s start with the Exodus.
1. Moses was told to have the people prepare for the Passover. Exodus 12 has many instructions that Moses was given by Yahweh for the Israelites so they would be ready for what was to come.
2. Moses was told to teach the people to prepare for the Sabbath by gathering enough manna on the sixth day to feed their household for two days. And we can see this in Exodus 16:22-23. It happened that on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for each one, and all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moses. He said to them, "This is that which Yahweh has spoken, 'Tomorrow is a solemn rest, a holy Sabbath to Yahweh. Bake that which you want to bake, and boil that which you want to boil; and all that remains over lay up for yourselves to be kept until the morning.'" This is a great example of a weekly Sabbath Prep day in ancient times.
3. Before the Feast of Unleavened bread, we are commanded to prepare our homes by removing the leaven. Exodus 12:15
4. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (the Gospels) all talk of the Day of Preparation before Yeshua’s crucifixion and death. By using these examples, it’s easy to see that it is important for our homes and all who live there to be ready to fulfill the weekly Sabbaths and Sabbaths which accompany the Feasts. Think of how much more restful your weekly Sabbath would be if you were able to truly rest and spend time with Yahweh and the Word, rather than be concerned for any of your family’s needs.
How can you do this? By following the example of what Yahweh commanded the Israelites to do in ancient times: Be prepared!
Now, many families believe that all of the preparations must be done on that day before the Sabbath. Have you ever found that it is difficult to get it all squeezed into that one day? I do – and there are only two of us! The challenge is even more complicated and exhausting for someone who has several children to tend to as well.
Here is what I do:
I learned a couple years ago: Winter is my enemy. The days are so very short. Some weeks, no matter what I do, it seems there are not enough hours in the day. With sunset coming at around 4:15 PM here in the mountains, winters taught me that we need to get as much done through the week as humanly possible. That is when I decided to make some changes to reduce the stress of trying to “do it all” before sundown on Friday.
Sunday and Thursday I try to get all the laundry done – washed, dried, folded and put away. I often will do dusting on these days, too, because laundry pretty much washes and dries itself. So while the machines are running I do other things to maximize the effort. This is also a great time to squeeze in some baking! Yum!
Tuesday and Wednesday I like to get as much of the dusting and bathroom cleaning accomplished as possible. A lot of times you can whip out a bathroom right before you jump in the shower. Then as you shower, you are rinsing down the stall so that it’s spotless! Mutli-tasking helps. I always try to accomplish room by room so that I know which rooms have been finished. Thursday I will vacuum the carpets, then sweep and mop the kitchen. This all helps me so that on Friday, pretty much all I have to do is cook, which I try to get done as quickly as possible so that I can run a quick broom or microfiber sweeper tool around to wipe away any final spills or messes I made that day. Then when sundown comes, I can breathe a sigh of relief and rest!
The week takes a bit more planning during gardening, harvest, and canning seasons. I still try to spread things out so that Friday is not packed so full that I am exhausted and can't enjoy time with my husband and relax in Yahweh's Shalom.
Often times I see sisters who get overly concerned about having to do it all on Prep Day before sunset. There is no way Jim and I could accomplish everything our home needs in 8 or so hours and cook all our Shabbat meals as well. If we find it challenging, I can only imagine how difficult it would be for a family to try and squeeze it all in before Sundown.
Doing things throughout the week also helps on those rare occasions when we have no choice but to run to town on Friday or deal with something when something throws us a curve. My hope is that this will give you some ideas on how to organize your week as well as explain more clearly about Prep Day, so that your Sabbath is more restful and peaceful.
PS: Jim wanted me to share his favorite tip to make Prep Day even easier for us (for ME!):
Make your Prep Day extra special by ordering your favorite takeout for Friday evening and Saturday meals. Buy your favorite snacks and drinks and enjoy the day. This eliminates cooking and clean-up, plus kids will look forward to Shabbat every week. This is a great way to build lasting family traditions. Rotate weekly. One week can be Pizza Friday, another can be tacos, and another BBQ Chicken Friday -- You get the idea. Cut down on the cooking and make Shabbat different from the rest of the days in the week. Just remember to purchase enough takeout and snacks for Friday evening and Saturday for lunch and dinner. Breakfast can be leftovers, hardboiled eggs, sandwiches, bagels, cold cereals, or something toasted, etc. You can adjust this idea to your families needs and abilities. Just a great way to give mom a break and not accumulate a lot of dishes for mom to wash after Shabbat.
Not long ago, I was asked my thoughts on Herbert W. Armstrong and his teachings. I was honest and said that I knew little about him. He just is not someone I have cared to delve into. The few teachings I HAVE read of his had been provided by others, and honestly, I was not impressed.
What little I read of those writings sent to me, I could clearly tell that many of his ideas were against Yahweh;s Word. Yet, he was not something I felt impressed to teach about or against. I recognized that some people I know enjoy his writings, and just left it at that.
Over a very short time, though, the Armstrong topic became more of a challenge when a few people I know attempted to take advantage of my lack of knowledge about Armstrong, his teachings, and his prophecies. It was claimed that Armstrong had never prophesied about anything directly, that he merely speculated, and all his ideas were contingent upon something else happening or not happening. I was also told that what he had speculated about IS coming true. This last idea implied that he, therefore, was spot on – making him a legitimate prophet.
What little information I had at the time was basic, not studied out, and I truly was hoping that the others who were fighting for Armstrong would simply understand I did not wish to argue over him. It was clearly causing contention, and I did not want it to end that way. So I cleared my head and my pre-conceived notions, then I sought out a list of prophetic statements from Herbert W. Armstrong himself. Not his church, not others from his church, simply from him.
Sadly, the person fighting hardest for Armstrong and his teachings did not wish to give me time to study it out over a few weeks time to see if any of their defensive claims were accurate. After blocking me, I don’t know if they will see the result of my studies, yet I have definitely come to my own conclusions and opinions now on Herbert W. Armstrong. I can also provide the evidence to back it up.
~~ My Conclusion: Herbert W. Armstrong was a false prophet who made MANY false predictions and claimed to be prophesying in the name of Yeshua through the Holy Spirit.
1) In 1934 Herbert W. Armstrong stated that he used ancient dates to calculate that 1936 would bring an end to the Gentiles, as well as a continuation of the depression and war which would in turn lead to the Biblical heavenly signs appearing. He stated people could expect to see the sun and moon becoming dark, stars falling from the sky, AND we would see the Day of The Lord. (The Plain Truth, June-July, 1934; p. 5)
Clearly this did not happen in the time frame he predicted.
2) In 1939, Armstrong prophesied that the World War would continue and carry on through the Great Tribulation. Again he claimed there would be the heavenly signs, which he also believed in 1934 would happen shortly after 1936. Contradictory? Yes.
He continued by claiming that the plagues of the Day of the Lord would come and then the Second coming of Yeshua. He even went so far as to state that war could start within six weeks and that the second coming was just that close. (The Plain Truth, August, 1939; p. 6)
I don’t see anywhere in history showing that any of these signs happened. No evidence of The Great Tribulation, no heavenly signs, no plagues, and certainly Yeshua has not come again.
3) Another prediction from 1939, Armstrong Stated that Mussolini would fight Yeshua. (The Plain Truth, January, 1939)
This brings us directly to number 4:
4) Where in 1943 Armstrong claimed another would fight Yeshua – by this time history made it clear that Mussolini did not do it, otherwise why would Armstrong need to make his new prediction? This time claiming it was HITLER and the false prophet who would fight against Christ. (The Plain Truth, March-April, 1943; p. 6)
5) In 1962, Armstrong made claims that biblical prophecies for great famines would be coming true around 1970-72 because of drastic changes in weather. As a result of this great world-wide famine problem, disease and epidemics would take hold and that 1/3 of the United States and British nations would die. (The Plain Truth. February; 1962; pp. 5,7)
The 20th century was a time of great industrialization. Because of this, farming changed dramatically, as did ocean travel. These improvements resulted in greater crop success world-wide, and faster ways to get dry goods to nations who were suffering, the latter making it less likely for infestation during shipping. With all this increased crop and delivery yield as well as quality, the actual number of people affected by famine world-wide DECREASED, especially post-1960’s. Decrease in famine effects on nations and health caused decreased diseases which then decreased the number of deaths.
The BIGGEST falsehood in this prophecy, though, is the deaths of 1/3 of the U.S. and British populations. It DID NOT HAPPEN.
6) The final example is one that truly doesn’t need to be shown, except that we have already seen that he prophesied the second coming at least twice by 1967. Yet, he stated the great day of the eternal prophesied in Ezekiel would happen within 5 to 10 years from that time period. Again, look at history. Did it happen between 1972 and 1977? No. Give him the benefit of the doubt – maybe he was off a year or two either way – still nothing.
Scripture tells us if a person prophesy and it not come true, they are a false prophet.
Deuteronomy 18:22 “When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously:”
There you have it – not one, not even two, but SIX examples of times when Armstrong claimed to be speaking on behalf of Yahweh delivering messages proclaiming things that never came to pass. I have read and studied these myself. There may be some on the list that supporters make claims are contingent upon other things happening, yet through my study of Armstrong’s publications, I see each of these as very clearly false.
My husband gave a great example the other night of his ability to make a flexible, contingent prophetic statement: Our car will drive to town this week. . . .IF I go outside and get behind the wheel. The car’s going to town is clearly dependent upon him getting inside, starting it up and driving away. Armstrong’s prophetic claims are not dependent or flexible. He used strong declarations and statements such as “will,” “IS going to (happen),” and “are going to (happen).” Many also contain statements such as “(this event will happen) which will lead to (these events taking place). Although this may appear to be contingent because for the second half to take place, the first has to as well. Yet, Armstrong repeatedly said that the first thing was a definite. That in itself removes the dependency.
There are plenty more prophetic claims that I could list to demonstrate how false Armstrong’s teachings are, but I would hope that would not be necessary after including six blunt false prophesies. Although I know there are many people who still follow him, my question to you would be “why?” When scripture clearly tells us not to follow false prophets.
1 John 4:1 Beloved, don't believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
I am sorry that I lost a friend over this topic, but my prayer is that they will take this information to the source, study it out as I did – with an open mind and heart, and do as 1 John 4 recommends – TEST IT.
In any event, we are counselled that things like this may happen:
Then many will stumble, and will deliver up one another, and will hate one another. Many false prophets will arise, and will lead many astray. Because iniquity will be multiplied, the love of many will grow cold. Matthew 24:10,11,12
Recently Torah for Women was asked for suggestions on wearing tassels in a professional situation when having them hanging long is not possible. Many sisters work in offices that have strict dress codes. Although it might be possible for some to claim religious exemption and still attach their tzitzit dangling longer, this is not the case for every woman.
Because of this we asked our followers for suggestions on how to wear tzitzit, while still maintaining a professional and fashionable office style. These are some of the suggestions we received from the ladies who have also found themselves in this situation.
1) Pinning or gently attaching them to the inside of the waistband of skirts or pants.
2) Wearing a scarf with their business attire helps several ladies be fashionable and still wear tzitzit. Some wear the scarf as a belt around the waste, while others will wear it as an accessory around the neckline.
3) Make them short enough to be hidden under a blouse that is not tucked in.
If these options are not compliant with the office or work setting, the following ideas are more discreet and could also be used by those who must keep them hidden for safety purposes.
4) Pin them around the bottom band of the bra. They will be completely hidden but can still be a reminder to the ladies.
5) Because a woman's slip tends to be a bit shorter than a skirt tends to be, several women pin very small tzitzit to the hem of their slip, under their skirt. Another sister pins them to the waistband of the slip.
6) Attaching them in some way to the bottom edge of a camisole worn under a top or blouse. The camisole can be worn outside, untucked, or even tucked in and the tzitzit would be tucked inside the skirt or pants.
A truly great idea was suggested called “break away tzitzit.” One husband works in a situation where he would be at risk of injury if his tzitzit got caught in machinery. These break away tzitzit are attached around his belt using snaps, and when tugged on they will break off his belt, allowing him to ensure his own life and limb are not harmed. We truly love this idea for those who work in manufacturing settings!
We hope these ideas will help for those who are seeking innovative ideas to help follow Yahweh’s commandments in scripture. A special thank you to all the sisters who contributed with these great ideas. I know that I plan to use a few of them myself in the future.
Olive Tzitzit created and shared by Larry.
See the comment below for his testimony.
I have been into genealogy for a long time, trying to trace my family lineage. Sadly, circumstances beyond anyone’s control seem to have stalled a lot of my efforts and there is no way to find out exactly where some of my parent’s relatives came from. My mom’s side is the worst. I was told a sad story many years ago while interviewing someone about the records for the orphanage my grandfather’s father was in as a child. With such a small area to keep records in they used to burn records when they got to many. His birth certificate was in those records one year as they were burned and there is no current way to track down his information. On mom’s mother’s side, a lot of the records were destroyed in WWII. Her parents were from, according to family stories, somewhere in Hungary.
Well, Yahweh has a way of working all things out for our good and what he did a few years ago was miraculous.
I had talked with my mom several times about how I had left mainstream Christian denominations and was studying the bible more in depth. I had hoped to find where I belong in God’s earthly kingdom and how I truly believed. When it came to religious discussions, she did her best to politely listen, but mom was mad at God for a lot in life.
Four years ago, this month (February), mom went into the hospital for an emergency – something wasn’t right. She had stomach pains, and her heart rate was off. So, the doctor felt she should get some tests. When the tests came back, she and I cried together – doctor said she had cancer in her liver and it had spread to her colon. We explored a number of options, but mom just kept saying she was “tired and I just want to be done.” It hurt, but I understood. She was 73 and felt that she had lived long enough. Dad was gone, her mom was gone, and so many of her friends had died. She had already beat breast cancer years earlier, and she just didn’t want to fight any more.
Unhappily, we all accepted what was happening and decided to let mom do things her own way. That same year, 2014, I had decided to make some delicious, traditional Purim cookies for Jim and I to celebrate the holiday. I was on the phone with mom one day, and I felt a strange need to tell her I was baking "Purim cookies." She asked me what these cookies were all about – she wanted all the details. So, I told her about the Purim story, about Esther, Haman, the King, Mordecai. She listened as patiently as she always did when we talked Bible. Then I described the traditions for celebrating Purim and the Hamantashen, describing what they traditionally meant.
Suddenly she became excited and said, “My mother used to make me cookies like that every year when I was little!” She explained just how my grandma used to make them and said they were her favorite cookies! I said something about how it must have been at Christmas that grandma baked them because she used to bake so many different things for the holidays when we were little. Mom insisted that it was NOT at Christmas and it was NOT at Thanksgiving, either. She was adamant!
Mom explained that her mother baked her cookies just like Hamantashen, but she only baked them AFTER the typical American holiday season. She said her mother always said these cookies were special for “this time of year” and she always baked them sometime in February or March. Her mother never explained to her why “this time of year” was important, nor did grandma ever explain to my mom what was so special about the cookies. Grandma said her own mother had always made them yet didn’t explain why they were such an important family tradition. Mom just knew beyond doubt that her mother always baked the cookies sometime before my mom’s birthday in mid-March.
There were some differences between Grandma’s cookies and mine:
~ Mom called Grandma’s klotchkes. I have researched this term so many times but have not found a single recipe or reference to this spelling anywhere. The closest I can find is kolaches, which are very similar to Hamantashen. They have similar fillings but are a different shape. Mom was insistent on the spelling, though, and even said she would try to find her mother’s recipe. Sadly, mom got very sick too quickly and was never able to find it for me in her recipe box.
~ Grandma filled her cookies with poppy seed, apricot, or date fillings, while I much prefer date, fig, apricot, and raspberry jelly filled cookies.
~ My dough recipe is always citrus flavored with lemon or orange juice and natural oils, while grandma’s was more like a sugar cookie or almond flavored.
It was such fun listening to my mom who sounded like a little girl recalling how her mom baked cookies each year, filling the house with the smell of fresh baked sugary treats and yummy, homemade fillings. She reminisced about dipping her fingers in the fillings and snitching pieces of dough when her mom wasn’t looking. Talked of giggling and enjoying that time together and getting scolded when she got caught sneaking bites. She wished and wished that I could send her some cookies, and she imagined how she would just relish the flavor and savor every bite.
You know what I had to do, don’t you? Of course, I had to bake enough cookies for mom to enjoy some, too! I set to work making the pastry, homemade fillings, and baking cookies. I packed some very carefully into plastic tubs and tried to cushion them with paper towels inside the containers, so they wouldn’t jiggle and break. I wanted them to arrive as safely as possible, and then we mailed them.
I tracked the package and then called mom the day before they were to arrive and told her she had to go pick up the mail that next day. She asked why, and all I told her was I sent a little something. Even though she tried, I did my absolute best to not even hint what it was! I was so giddy with excitement and couldn’t wait for her to get her box.
In the meantime, Jim and I talked about the whole thing. Why would my grandmother, every year, bake a traditional Jewish Purim cookie around the time of year that Purim happens? Why would her mother teach her to make these cookies every year and why a family tradition? What made them so special for my mom’s family at “this time of year”? I then recalled how my grandmother used to use a lot of Yiddish phrases. I had realized that fact months earlier and had wondered why she knew them. Suddenly, it fit more into my family’s history than ever before. Little bits and pieces seemed to fall into place and we found ourselves asking, “Is my mom’s ancestry Hungarian Jewish???”
The next day I received the most precious phone call I had gotten in a long time. Mom was even more excited than before. She had opened her package and said she almost started to cry. My sister, who was visiting her, said mom opened the box and exclaimed, “OOOOOH! COOKIES!!!” And dove right in! Mom offered a cookie to my sister and niece who were both in the car with her, and they tried them but did not like them. Mom said, “So I told them, don’t you dare throw them away! Give them here! I will eat them!!! I will eat them all! And, Judith, I DID!!! I ate them every one of them!” Oh, my goodness I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry. She bragged about how they melted in her mouth, reminded her of the ones she used to eat. They were so fresh and buttery. In spite of how she had been feeling, she was clearly happy!
Mom went on to tell me how they were perfect and tasted “wonderful.” They were exactly like she remembered from when she was a little child. She talked that day for the longest time about her childhood and about those cookies. Suddenly it occurred to me to talk to her, instead of from a religious perspective, but to tell her all about Jewish Purim traditions to see if she recalled any of them. We discussed Purim briefly from the Bible, then I brought up how the holiday is always around “this time of year” and then I talked of some of the typical Jewish traditions for Purim.
Mom didn’t recall anything about costumes or giving gifts of food. She didn’t recall a feast, special prayers or anything about the story of Esther. Yet she sure could remember those cookies and how important and special they were to her mother. She also recalled more Yiddish phrases than I remembered grandma saying. She told of her mother’s parents using Yiddish words and phrases all the time as she was growing up. I asked why they used them and how they knew so many of them. She honestly said she had never thought about it before – she had never asked.
I finally said something to her about how she and I have always wondered about her family history and how she and I have never been able to find anything. I teased her about how many times she would call me after reading a new novel where she had seen a name similar to one of her parents’ last names. She would always exclaim, “JUDITH! I think we are (Irish, Italian, British, etc.)” She would then go on to explain how she saw a name in the novel that was similar. She would deduce how we must be that nationality. We would go online and search, and throw different spelling possibilities at each other, always to no avail. Each one simply leaving us still unsure of Grandma’s family history.
That is, until Purim 2014 when this cookie story erupted. I asked her, “Mom, do you think your mother might be Jewish? Hungarian Jewish?” She was quiet for a bit, but then she started to put other little memories together – most of them I forgot to write down. Looking back, I wish I had recorded them all. They are gone now unless Yahweh blesses me to recall them all and write them in my journals. All those little bits and pieces, alone, meant nothing all those years, but pieced together with the memory of cookies, all that Yiddish clearly means there is a history of Jewish tradition in our family.
After she and I talked that day, I searched to find information about the name again. Nothing, as usual. But this time, I approached it from the angle of grandma’s parents being Jews who were fleeing Hungary. I discovered plenty of references which explained that during the era from the beginning of World War I to the end of World War II some Eastern European Jewish families changed their last names to more Gentile names. In addition to changing their name, some adopted a Catholic belief system in an effort to hide their Jewish ancestry and faith. Looking back at my mother’s family, she didn’t recall much about being taught the Catholic doctrines and she didn’t have any understanding of the faith, but she did know her mother and grandparents claimed to be Catholic.
Suddenly, we both came to the same conclusion. Mom’s family were Hungarian Jews. There are too many coincidences for them to be coincidences, too many things that line up. I pray that one day we will be able to trace her family’s journey from Hungary to the United States through records and such that might not have been available in the past. Yahweh is good to us always and he has already revealed so very much about my family.
Mom passed away that year, in July, 2014. I miss her greatly at certain times of the year. Purim seems to be the time I miss her most. The memory of her excitement over a simple box of cookies and the stories she told with such joy will be a treasured memory for years to come. I still don’t fully understand what exactly prompted me that one day to start telling her about the cookies and about Purim, but I thank Yahweh for inspiring me to do so. It gave us both such a giggle and such sweet memories.
I guess it was for such a time as this. . . . .
Not long ago, my husband asked me a thought provoking question on our way home from errands. As biblical teachers we often like to discuss stories and scenarios we see or hear, and go over hypotheticals, so that we are better prepared for times when people pose spontaneous questions to us. He asked me how I would respond to a story about a Torah observant minister. After hearing the story, my initial answer was that I would do what I always do. Yet I could not find a reason nor a way to scripturally defend my answer. His question made me really think because the example he gave made very clear sense at the time, but something felt “off” about what the minister had chosen. What the minister did was the opposite of what I knew in my spirit was right, yet I still could not come up with biblical proof to counter his decision and his scriptural justification. I was stumped.
So I spent some time thinking and praying about the example Jim had given me, along with his questions and BINGO! I had a response!
Here is the scenario Jim gave and the questions he asked me:
A minister shared a story about attending a function with several other ministers. The local ladies had fixed a big dinner for them, including a main dish which contained pork sausage. Because he followed a biblical diet of clean foods, he wondered if he should “show love” and eat the dish, or should he stand on principle by finding a kind way to follow his biblical dietary decision? This minister opted to “err on the side of love” and ate the dinner without a word.
1 Corinthians 10:31-33 KJV Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.
The conclusion of the minister, based on these verses was that the commandment to love others “trumps” the food laws. His focus is on the section which says “Give none offence. . . “
My husband asked me what I felt about this and would I eat the main dish or not? Also, how would I counsel this person, based off their scriptural justification and their actions?
As I said before, my initial response was that I would NOT eat the dish. Yet no matter how hard I tried, other than explaining to him that I would find a kind way to get out of eating it, I could not find any strong reasons why I wouldn’t eat it. I also couldn’t find any good ways to say no because I would NOT want to offend anyone in any way. I knew that in not eating the dinner, I could run the risk of offending others, which I would never want to purposefully do. Yet, I also believe in standing firm on my faith as a living example.
During prayer, Yahweh impressed upon me what he would feel was right in this situation. It did not take long for me to come to my conclusion: YES! I would stand firm on my belief that I choose to eat a biblical diet. And NO, I would not eat the sausage dish.
Here are my reasons why:
1. The first thought that popped into my head is, why should there be any difference between a PHYSICAL reason to say no and a SPIRITUAL reason to say no? Here’s what I mean – imagine you had Celiac disease which had not yet witnessed a miraculous healing. Would you eat a pasta dish, bread and cakes they served and risk your own physical health simply to not offend the cooks? Better yet, what if they had made peanut butter sandwiches and you were allergic to peanuts?! Would you eat those sandwiches to not offend others, risking anaphylaxis and possibly death?
NO, you wouldn’t, nor would anyone cooking the food or serving your dinner expect you to eat it once they learned of your health situation. Yet we question it for spiritual reasons. We would not set aside our physical beliefs, why would we set aside our spiritual beliefs?
2. What love am I showing by not being an example of my beliefs? Yahweh has called us each to be an example of our faith and of the Word. By saying for months or years on end that I stand for a biblical eating plan, why would I sacrifice that example when served dinner that contains pork? Would it be LOVING for me to give the impression that I don’t practice what I preach? After eating that pork dish, one day in the future, those lovely ladies who fixed that dinner may be sitting in a conference or class where you are teaching on the topic of “clean meats.” How will they believe what you teach when you did not stand for what you claim to believe? Have you not made yourself into a hypocrite? Which would show more love for these sisters – a good example or a poor example, good fruit or bad fruit?
Galatians 6:3 NLT If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves.
Luke 12:2 NLT There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed or hidden that will not be made known.
3. I also question why anyone would be offended if what I said and did to apologize was done with such kindness and love, and without condemnation. My prayer would be that they would be kind and understanding in return and that, in standing up for my beliefs, they might see the Spirit in me.
Galatians 5:22-23 the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Matthew 7:16 WEB By their fruits you will easily recognize them. Are grapes gathered from thorns or figs from brambles?
We must find a loving way to express to these beautiful sisters their work and service is appreciated, while at the same time standing firm on your beliefs and principles. It may take a few minutes of heartfelt prayer, asking Yahweh to fill your mouth with words of wisdom, but you CAN be an example for Yahweh – one who is filled with such love that it overflows and fills them with understanding. Before even approaching them, I would even pray for their hearts to be softened and opened to the words you share.
Looking at the same verses that the other minister used to justify his decision, you can see that it would clearly support my decision. 1 Corinthians 10:31-33 KJV Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved. I would eat and drink everything to the glory of Yahweh to ensure that I not offend them with a bad example of not standing up for my beliefs. For, if I am a bad example of my faith, clearly it might cause someone to stumble or find fault in me and could hinder their belief in Yahweh and cause them to question.
What a great testimony of truth you will be to others as they see you are willing to stand for what you believe! The witness you bear to them will stick with them for some time to come – my prayer is that it will be the most beautiful witness possible, a seed that will bring fruit in the life of others.
This is not a political statement of any kind. It is not intended to be political in any way. It is a God statement. Period.
Several years ago, Yahweh put the burden on my heart to teach women His truth. He blessed us to create Torah For Women ministry where we discuss and teach principles based on the bible. NOT on what mankind has taught about the scriptural writings for 2000 years. Often I find myself having to cover modern day issues from a biblical perspective because, let’s face it, not every micro detail in our modern society is covered in the scriptures. BUT the principles from scripture can be applied in our lives.
Last year, Yahweh placed another burden on my heart to re-focus Torah for Women to encourage women in avoiding false doctrines and teachings while seeking after Spiritual gifts. I also felt impressed upon to teach that they need to teach their children rightly to be able to defend the faith as they grow older. In all this, Yahweh kept leading me to the verse in 2 Timothy 3:6 -7 “For some of these are people who creep into houses, and take captive gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” Repeatedly, Yahweh has pushed that verse in front of me as a warning of what will, and is, happening amongst the women of faith.
A few months ago, He placed another burden on my heart for our youth and to pray diligently for our children. Children ages 8 to 30 have been led astray by so many influences in their lives, which is why women need to be strong, faithful teachers. From school teachers, club leaders, college professors, friend’s parents, friends and more, our young people have been influenced to forsake their morals, upbringing, righteousness, and faith in the name of “let’s all get along” and “we need to love everybody.” In the midst of all this, they have even been fooled into thinking that we need to give up our basic rights in an effort to “make everyone happy” and avoid “offending anyone.”
None of these principles are biblical. Not one. They all go against what the bible teaches, and although I could spend hours focusing on that topic alone it is not why I am here today writing this message. In fact, I did not expect to be writing this message at all. I did not want to speak about this, and I certainly did not want it to be a part of our ministry, but it must be. I must say what is on my heart – because this week during my personal prayer time Yahweh impressed upon me to speak up against what I see and hear happening with the youth who have been touched by this horrific shooting in Parkdale FL. Again, as I said, this is NOT a political message. It is a GOD message. Plain and simple.
On February 14, 2018 something terrible happened in Marjory Stoneman Douglas School in Parkdale, FL. Something that changed thousands of lives forever. We all know the details, we all know the accusations and the stories coming out, so there is no need for me to go into details here, especially as they are still unfolding. What I will talk about today is simple: those children and adults whose hearts are so broken by what has happened that they have yelled out that they don’t want our prayers and sympathies. They don’t want our love and kindness. These people are calling out, “Where was God during all this?!” and “Why didn’t God stop this from happening?!”
Well, here is MY answer to those thoughts and questions:
I am sorry that you do not want my prayers. It breaks my heart that you do not want me to pray for your comfort, courage and strength. But, I am going to pray anyway. I will pray for solace in your grief, peace in your heart and in your community, for strength to get through, for love to prevail as people struggle with the trauma. I will pray for protection over each and every person touched by this and may there be no residual deaths from this incident. Suicide following such a traumatic event is a reality sometimes. I do NOT want that to be the case in your community.
Your anger, your hurt and bitterness, your pain and anguish, your heartsick words – all of that is perfectly understandable at this time, and it all only strikes a chord in me even deeper than before. It tells me that you, your families, friends, children, loved ones, all need our prayers so much more than we ever knew or imagined. You need deep, heartfelt intercessory prayers and prayers for supplication. I wish this never happened to you and your community. I can’t take it away, but I can still pray for you going forward and I will.
"As soon as I heard these words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.” Nehemiah 1:4-6
I do not know your pain, I cannot imagine what you are going through, and I won’t pretend that I do. What I do hear, though, in those words and tears is that people don’t understand how this could happen if we have a loving God. I hear hearts crying out “why” and calling to be filled with understanding yet aren’t finding it. I don’t know that my words here today will bring understanding to anyone. But my hopes and prayers are that you will see God did not abandon you.
God WAS there that day in Parkland FL. God has been there for over a year. God was there when the first concerned teacher tried to get help for the young man. God was there when the first student felt impressed to report his odd behavior. God was there when he impressed upon so many people to report every incident with this young man. Students, teachers, administration, leaders, friends all reported different things that could have brought his problems to light and could have prevented this shooting from happening.
“MAN” was not there for this school and community – for at least a year prior to the shooting, and even on that very day. “Man” failed these children, teachers, and families, not God. “Man” did not listen to all the voices telling them what was happening. We cannot blame God for what man refused to do.
God was there on February 14th during the shooting, and he tried to clean up the mess that “Man” made when they didn’t listen. Just look at the selfless people, people of great character, He had in place that day:
~ The Geography teacher, Scott Beigel, who died after unlocking a door for students and getting them inside to protect them.
~ The coach, Aaron Feis, who ran toward the shooting and shielded students from bullets.
~ The young JROTC student who died holding the door so other students could run out to safety.
~ The two JROTC students who escorted several students back into a classroom and covered them with Kevlar panels, blockaded a door, and stood ready to take out the shooter if he attempted to enter the room.
~ The librarian whose friend had been through Sandy Hook and survived by helping people hide. Because of her friend’s story of survival, she knew just what to do, ushered kids inside, into a small area, hid them and turned off the lights.
~ The miraculous healing of those who were critically injured.
There are countless other stories that will come out over time of heroes and heroines who were willing to do whatever necessary that day for those around them. Where did these people get the courage, strength, selfless nature that they have inside them if not from how He created them? Each one was in the right place at the right time to help to care for those in need and to help minimize what could have been horrifically much worse because that young man was determined that day to kill.
God was there that day, in so many ways, and I will continue to pray to Him for all those involved. I will continue to pray that somehow, someway Yahweh can touch the hearts of those in the community to come to know Him even more than before. I will continue to pray that in spite of the political noise, all will learn to focus on everything Yahweh was able to do during the the tragedy, all he has done since, and all that He will keep doing.
You have our love and our prayers.
Shalom. . .
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Lead Author (Bio)
Jim, (Judi's husband), has Sephardi Jewish ancestry and is a minister and head of Shofar Productions. Jim was a denominational pastor, hospital chaplain, and former director of a non-profit community organization.
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