Springtime in the Land of Milk and Honey.
1. ROSH HaKHODASHIM—ISRAEL’S “BEGINNING OF MONTHS.”
“Now the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, ‘This month shall be your beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you. Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying: ‘On the tenth of this month every man shall take for himself a lamb, according to the house of his father, a lamb for a household…Now you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month. Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight. And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it…Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 12:1-3, 6-7, 13).
A. This Saturday, March 17, is Rosh haKhodashim—the “Head” or “Beginning” of months in the Hebrew religious calendar. There are no records of this particular day ever having been celebrated as a “holiday” in Israel. (After the Captivity, Rosh HaShana, the head of the agricultural new year came to be celebrated on the day of the Feast of Trumpets in the fall.) There was certainly no command to “celebrate” it in a special way. Yet being aware of its significance and keeping it holy—set apart—was critical. From this day the dates for all of the “set times”, the “festivals of the LORD” throughout each year were to be calculated. As seen above, it was on this day that, in preparation for the first of these festivals, each Israelite household began counting towards the tenth day, when a lamb would be set aside until the evening of the 14th day, when it would be slaughtered to provide blood for the Passover. It was also on this Beginning of Months a year later (as read at the end of last week’s Torah Portion, Exodus 40:17-38), that the Mishkan— “Dwelling Place”/”Tabernacle” was completed and raised, and the Presence of the glory of the LORD came down into the midst of His people!
PLEASE PRAY: AS ISRAEL THIS WEEK ENTERS HER “BEGINNING OF MONTHS” and Jews begin preparation for Passover, that there will be a grace over them drawing them into an awareness of the times and seasons of their God. As we enter the season of Passover, pray that the veil obstructing them from the true significance of the Passover Lamb would be drawn back…that they will see clearly and with understanding the “blood which is a sign” for them, and turn to Seh haElohim hanoseh hatat haOlam—“The Lamb of God who carries away the sin of the world!”
B. ROSH KHODESH.
From this “head of months” each following month was known to the Hebrews by its number (First Month, Second Month, etc.). Occasionally their old Canaanite names were used: Aviv - 1st Month (Exodus 13:4, 23:15, a name now used for “Springtime” in Israel); Ziv- 2nd Month (I Kings 6:1, 37); Ethanim- 7th (I Kings 8:2); Bul- 8th (I Kings 6:38). After the captivity in Babylon, the returning Jews adopted the Babylonian names used on Jewish calendars today, beginning with Nisan(Nehemiah 2:1; Esther 3:7)
The beginning of each Month—the time of the “New Moon”—“Rosh Khodesh” is obviously an important day in the timings of the Lord. Numbers 28:11-15 carefully lists instructions for special offerings beyond the normal daily ones, which were to be presented on that day. The first of each month seems also to have been a day of special gathering for the Hebrew people—a “day of gladness” heralded by sounding of the silver trumpets (Numbers 10:10)! Psalm 81:3a calls for sounding the shofar on Rosh Khodesh— in the context of “singing aloud to God our strength, making a joyful shout to the God of Jacob, raising a song and striking the drum, the harp and the lute! This was not to be observed in a spirit of mere religious legalismas it obviously had come to be in Isaiah 1:14 where God was no longer pleased with the celebration.Yet, a careful reading of Ezekiel 45:17-18; 46:1,3 (from this week’s special Haftarah; see below) makes clear that, whatever may be the ultimate nature, time period and significance of the Temple described there, Rosh haKhodashim and Rosh Hodesh remain important to God, and for His people in honoring Him. There, it is a time for making offerings, for cleansing the Sanctuary, a time in which the people of the land shall worship at the entrance to this gateway before the LORD on the Sabbaths and the New Moons (Rosh Khodesh).
We find the beginning of each Hebrew Month to be an ideal time:
*For offering up thanksgiving to the Lord for His mercies over the previous month.
*For entrusting the new month to His care; for praying and proclaiming over it what He directs.
*For asking His Spirit to search us and purify anew our inner “temple” in preparation for His free dwelling and operating in and through us during the coming month.
*To enter into the “Gateway” of the New Month with Thanksgiving, Praises and Worship. For bringing to Him a “firstfruits” offering as we enter in!
THIS WEEK’S TORAH PORTION
The Parashah for this week 11-17 March 2018:
TORAH: Leviticus 1:1—6:7
Shabbat haKhodesh: TORAH: Exodus 12:1-20
HAFTARAH (Shabbat haKhodesh): Ezekiel 45:16—46:18
SHABBAT HACHODESH. To commemorate this special first month, an additional Torah portion is read and a Haftarah portion from Ezekiel 45 and 46 takes the place of the usual (Isaiah 43:21—44:23) reading from the Prophets.
This week’s reading brings us into the Book of Leviticus. This English name comes from the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures and means “Relating to the Levites”. However, the Hebrew name VaYikra is drawn from the first word in the book and refers to the LORD “calling” to Moses from the Tent of Meeting to give him instructions. He not only desires to dwell among us—He longs to speak and commune with us. Some 50 times in this book it is written that God “spoke” to Moses. The book’s emphasis is holiness—and regards primarily the services of worship at the Tabernacle—the way that the priestly intercessors or ‘go-betweens’ could accomplish their work on behalf of the people.
This week’s portion pertains to five specific types of offerings (divided generally by chapters):These sacrifices were for the common people as a whole. They deal with voluntary private sacrifices, for expression of gratitude, prayer, spiritual communion or desire for expiation, on the part of the individual. The mishkan (dwelling place of God’s presence), had been prepared by the sacrifice of all the people—men women, young and old—and these sacrifices are on their behalf, not just on behalf of the priests.
1. Burnt Offerings (Leviticus 1:3-17):
From cattle herd (3), sheep (10), birds, turtledoves or young pigeons (14). A “Burnt Offering” carried the idea of “submission of the worshipper to the will of God in its most perfect form, as the entire animal was placed upon the Altar to be burnt. The Hebrew word ohlah signifies “that which ascends”, symbolizing the ascent or rising of the soul in worship. “By making the offering ascend to heaven, the one who offers it expresses his desire and intention to ascend himself to Heaven; i.e. to devote himself entirely to God and place his life in God’s service.” (The Pentateuch and Haftorahs, 2nd Ed: The Soncino Press, 1960. Here and in all subsequent quotations).
2. Grain Offerings (Leviticus 2:1-16):
Offerings of Flour, Wheat or Barley prepared with oil and frankincense. “When anyone (‘a soul’) offers a grain offering…” The very poor who could not afford an animal, could offer a “meal offering” The Hebrew is mincha—here referring to a sacrifice not involving slaughter of an animal. The Meal and oil “are not natural products, but are obtained as the result of toil. The meal-offering typified the consecration of man’s work to the service of God” (Ibid.). (2:13) “Every offering of your grain offering you shall season with salt; you shall not allow the salt of the covenant of your God to be lacking in your grain offering. With all your offerings you shall offer salt.” (Salt acts as a preservative, preventing deterioration and putrefaction—which may be produced by leaven and honey). Salt typifies “that which is abiding.” On Friday evenings in Jewish households, salt is sprinkled on the bread as thanks is offered up for God’s provision.
3. Peace Offerings (Leviticus 3:1-17):
Zevach shelamim—sacrifices ‘made in fulfillment of a vow (zevach), or in gratitude for benefits received or expected. It would thus be an occasion when man seeks and obtains peace with his Creator. In the peace-offering there was inherent a feeling of joyousness, either in celebrating a happy occasion in the people’s life, or some important event in connection with a family or individual”. Taken from the cattle herd (1), the flock (6) (a lamb (7) or goat (12).
4. Sin Offerings (Leviticus 4:1-35):
Sin (het): For humankind, made in God’s image “to miss the mark” of set by His righteousness. All are under sin, even when as here, he or she did it in ignorance: the Anointed Priests (3); the congregation as a whole (13), civil rulers of the people (22), individuals from among the common people (27). Blood was required to make atonement for sin and to provide forgiveness.
5. Guilt and Trespass Offerings (Leviticus 5:1—6:7)
Special cases for sin offerings—coming into contact with impurity (5:2-3); omitting to fulfil a vow (5:4): “trespass”—unintentionally appropriating for one’s own use a ‘holy thing’ from the Sanctuary. Lastly, Chapter 6 deals with sins or trespass against God and against one’s neighbor and the offering required for restitution, atonement and forgiveness. In all of these it is the Priest (the Cohen) who “shall make atonement…before the LORD (6:7).
Martin & Norma Sarvis
[The readings for next week 18-24 March 2018 are called Tsav—“Command!”: TORAH: Leviticus 6:8—8:36: HAFTARAH (Shabbat haGadol): Malachi 3:4—4:6.]
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