Tefillah – Part 7 The Siddur

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Tefillah – Part 7 The Siddur

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Tefillah – Part 7
The Siddur

 


 

 

Onkelos (35CE-120CE) was a prominent Roman nobleman, a nephew of the Roman emperor Titus. The Roman Emperor, advised Onkelos to go out and find something that wasn't worth much today but would be invaluable in the future. Onkelos found Judaism and subsequently converted. He went onto become a notable Sage.

 Onkelos is responsible for Targum Onkelos תרגום אונקלוס‎, which is the official eastern (Babylonian) targum (Aramaic translation) of the Torah.

The Roman Emperor felt that his conversion was an insult, so he sent soldiers to arrest the young man. However, before they could seize him, Onkelos taught the men about HaShem, and they converted to Judaism.

The Emperor sent a second troop of soldiers to capture Onkelos. As they were bringing him back to Rome, he asked, "Can I speak with you about something besides religion?" The soldiers agreed and listened to his words. Onkelos went from subject to subject, until finally he began to discuss the concept of One Elohim. The second group of soldiers, too, became converts.

Furious, the Emperor sent a third group of soldiers. This time, he ordered them, "Do not talk with Onkelos at all!" They obeyed. As they were taking Onkelos out of his house, however, he touched the Mezuzah and smiled.

"Why are you smiling?" a guard asked.

Onkelos replied, "Usually a king stays inside his palace, and his guards stand outside. But the Mezuzah teaches us that Adonai Himself stands outside guarding our homes, while we sit inside." The men were so impressed that they converted, too!

A Jewish Prayer book is often called a siddur. But to say ‘prayer book’ in Hebrew is Sefer Tefillah. (In Leviticus 24:6 where it discusses the arrangement of showbread  it uses the word maarechet מערכת  meaning ‘row,’ or ‘battle line’. 

Onkelos translated maarechet into Aramaic as seder, which has the same meaning - "to order, arrange". The word siddur only appears once in the TaNaK in Job 10:22 as סדרים  siddurim. “A land of darkness, as darkness itself; and of the shadow of death, without any order, and where the light is as darkness. (Job 10:22)” 

 

Siddur is related to the Hebrew word שדרה - sdera - also meaning "row" as in 2 Kings 11:8 which means ‘a row of soldiers.’ In Modern Hebrew it also means ‘boulevard, avenue’ and Sderot שדרות is a town in Southern Israel famous for being attacked by Kassam rockets. It got its name from the rows of trees planted there at the founding of the State.

A common mistake in Hebrew is to pronounce sdera שדרה as shdera and as שדרות Shderot. This is probably due to confusion with the word שידרה shidra – ‘spinal column, backbone’ - which also has a sense of something straight. However, according to one authority, shidra has a very different etymology: it is related to the word שזרה shizra (dalet and zayin can interchange), also meaning ‘backbone’ as in ‘to interweave, intertwine, twist.’

The Siddur is perfectly described in all these citations as in it being a backbone to formal prayer. 

This is the key purpose of the siddur, to maintain an orderly manner in which we approach and entreat Yahweh. “For Elohim is not a Elohim of disorder but of shalom--as in all the congregations of the Kedoshim (set-apart ones). (1 Corinthians 14:33)” 

“…everything must be done in a proper and orderly manner. (1Corinthians 14:40)”

The Siddur is not to replace inspired, conversational or situational prayer, but rather it is a guide line for addressing the King of Kings by bringing to mind every general need in a given encounter in an acceptable order. 

Even in general conversation with a benefactor, we begin the discussion with greetings and general inquiries into the benefactor’s own wellbeing and lead into thanks for his current provision before requesting additional support. 

 

The role of a siddur is to affirm a person’s role and worth in relationship with a holy community and with a Holy Elohim through Yahshua HaMoshiach. Every relationship requires action and the siddur reinforces how we should behave. Tefillah approached with the backbone of a siddur is not simply a matter of personal transformation or reflection; it is meant to assist us in moving us toward something greater. The siddur is not just to reflect who we are, but who we might become. Nevertheless, it is a tool that can be misused in that tackling its recitations with empty or double-minded thoughts can do us more harm than good. 

In its best state a siddur will underpin your prayer with a coherent framework and guard against a hodgepodge of blindly wielded emotional lunges at the Almighty.       

 

The Origin of the Siddur

In Biblical times, books had not yet been invented so there is no example anywhere in Scripture of the use of a siddur. 

In actual fact, siddurs came into circulation much later. In early times the capacity of memory recall was significantly greater than what it generally is today. The Torah was originally taught 100% orally to the student and an advanced student was said to be considered wicked if he reviewed a given subject 100 times and righteous if he reviewed a subject 101 times.  No doubt reviewing a new piece of Torah knowledge 101 times would cement it fairly firmly in the mind. Today, in our current generation of brokenness it is considered that a review of a subject 41 times as opposed to 40 times is meritorious. What happened, why the drop-off? 

For many centuries, the Jews refrained from setting down their teachings on parchment because of the dangers of learning without a teacher. Books have a way of containing information that can get misinterpreted. With an actual teacher in front of a student, the student can relay what he has been taught back to the teacher and the teacher can correct any misinterpretation. Learning from words alone prohibits monitoring a reader’s comprehension as he pours over the text. 

In ancient times, customary daily prayers were recited by heart, or a reader prayed aloud and the congregation responded to the blessings with ‘Amein.’ There were no books containing the texts of the prayers. 

It was said, “The writers of blessings are like those who burn the Torah.” (Tosef. To Shab. 13:4). Writing down the text of blessings was considered forbidden.

“The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails--given by one shepherd. Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them. Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body. (Ecclesiastes 12:11-12)” 

Today, our capacity for great mental recollection suffers with such a heavy reliance on the written word. Ask yourself, next time you are about to write down a phone number or an address, are you writing it down so you’ll remember it or are you writing it down so you don’t have to remember it? If we don’t use it, we lose it! In this walk memory is everything. 

“You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of Yahweh, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by chasing after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes. Then you will remember to obey all my commands and will be consecrated to your Elohim. (Numbers 15:39-40)” The act of teshuvah (returning) comes by way of memory recall. 

 “Therefore, remember from where you have fallen, and teshuv and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your menorah out of its place-- unless you teshuv. (Revelation 2:5)” 

 “Remember that at that time you were separate from Moshiach, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. (Ephesians 2:12)”

“Be careful that you do not forget Yahweh your Elohim, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. (Deuteronomy 8:11)”

One of the chief ways to improve memory is regular study and review of the text or words of a lecture you’re attending. 

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to Elohim as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately dividing the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)” The Jews hold great emphasis on regular study and review. 

One who is lax and does not review his studies, thereby forgetting things that he has learned, violates a negative commandment : “Only be careful to protect your soul exceedingly, lest you forget these things.” As the Gemara teaches:

Sanhedrin 99a Rabbi Yehoshua ben Korcha says, ‘Whoever studies Torah and then forgets what he learned resembles a woman who gives birth and then buries her child’.

“Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.” (James 1:23)

So if written material that pertains to the Torah (other than the written Torah) itself was forbidden, why is it accepted now and should we be throwing out all our written commentaries, teachings, notes and siddurim based of this? At the commencement of the Babylonian exile it became very apparent that vast amount of Torah knowledge might be lost due to the passing of so many wise Torah scholars. As a consequence, many teaching began to be documented in written form. After all, a written direction that might be misinterpreted or executed wrongly is better than no written direction at all. The written word, whether in the form of a letter or a specific subject or series of subjects, began to fill the void left by the deliberate removal of so many Torah scholars during exile.  

So the answer is a resounding ‘NO!’ don’t throw out any commentaries or teachings. Rather, you should get someone to take you through any text that purports to shed light on the Torah wherever possible (especially for a beginner). Even the very words of Scripture itself scream out for a guide.

 

“Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. "Do you understand what you are reading?" Philip asked. ‘How can I,’ he said, ‘unless someone explains it to me?’ So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. (Acts 8:30-31)”

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Rabbi Amram ben Sheshna haGaon, the leader of the Talmudic Academy at Sura in Babylon, wrote the first Siddur in about 875CE. This Siddur was written especially for scholars. One of his successors, the famous Saadia Gaon, compiled a siddur for general use in 882-942CE.

During the Middle Ages prayer books grew longer and longer, as Jews wanted to spend more time in prayer. New supplications, new penitential prayers, new poems on a variety of religious themes were all added. No rabbinical synod met to vote on which prayers should or should not be included. Individuals made content selections in a very informal manner.

It was not only the desire to pray that stimulated the expansion of the siddur, but also the fact that Jews could read. Literacy was extremely high amongst Jews at a time when most men in Europe could not even sign their own names. The serious concern of the learned Jews for women’s spiritual needs led to the production of a special translation intended for women. (Whereas boys were routinely taught Hebrew so that they could understand prayers and religious texts, girls were not at that time.)

Before 1446 all prayer books were written by hand. With handwriting came minor changes and errors, which confused the original text. The first printed prayer books appeared in the early 1500s, but since their type was set by hand, the errors multiplied. A German Jewish scholar, Seligman Baer, printed a definitive siddur in 1886, after he had carefully traced all sources and compared all manuscript versions available. This text is used in all recently published traditional Siddurim. As some Jews in the 16th century lost the skills in Hebrew that their ancestors had possessed, translations became necessary. 

Every Nazarene Israelite should own a siddur. There are many to choose from. Choose the one that best suits you. 

The next subject to tackle is how one uses the siddur. The best advice is to ‘aim small and miss small.’ The place to start is with the Shema our declaration of faith.  The Shema is the central prayer in the Jewish prayer book. It is generally one of the first prayers a Jewish child learns. The Shema defines what it means to be Jewish as it has since the days of Moshe: Shema Yisrael Yahweh Eloheinu Yahweh Echad—“Hear, O Israel: Yahweh our Elohim, Yahweh is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4). The Scripture declares emphatically that “there is no Elohim besides (Yahweh)” (Deuteronomy 32:39), “I am Yahweh and there is no other” (Isaiah 45:18), together with similarly strong declarations in Isaiah 43:10, Isaiah 46:10, Exodus 3:14, and elsewhere.  

The Shema is the central creed of Israel and it serves as a focal point of Yahweh’s unified oneness. Sha’ul attests to this oneness. 

“Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no Elohim but one. For even if there are so-called elohim, whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many elohim and many adonai, yet for us there is but one Elohim, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Adonai, Yahshua HaMoshiach, through whom are all things, and we exist through him (1 Corinthians 8:4-6).”

The Hebrew people have clung to this simple, central creed, which is personified in the story about a second-century Jewish martyr. His name was Rabbi Akiva, and he may be familiar to you because he hailed Simon Bar Kokhba as the Messiah in the second Jewish revolt which ended in disaster in 135CE.

After the failed revolution of the Jews against Rome, the policy was set that the Torah (the Law) could no longer be taught on pain of death. Rabbi Akiva loved Yahweh so much that he taught Torah despite the Roman law forbidding it. When the Romans found out, they sentenced him to a painful death. They took a large iron comb and began to scrape off his 90-year-old flesh. When Rufus condemned the venerable Akiva to the hand of the executioner, it was just the time of day to recite the Shema. Full of devotion, Akiva recited his prayers calmly, though suffering agonies; and when Rufus asked him whether he was a sorcerer, since he felt no pain, Akiva replied, "I am no sorcerer; but I rejoice at the opportunity now given to me to love my Elohim 'with all my life,' seeing that I have hitherto been able to love Him only 'with all my means' and 'with all my might,'" and with the word 'One!' he expired" (Yer. Ber. ix. 14b, and somewhat modified in Bab. 61b). Akiva wanted to be able to love Yahweh with everything, which included the idea of loving Yahweh to the point of pouring out his soul to death.

King Messiah Yahshua taught his talmidim that the greatest commandment in the
Torah is the SHEMA and the second greatest commandment is to love your neighbour as yourself. 

“One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Yahshua had given them a good answer, he asked him, ‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’ ‘The most important one,’ answered Yahshua, ‘is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: Yahweh our Elohim, Yahweh is one. Love Yahweh your Elohim with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these. (Mark 12:28-31)’”

The Talmud tells a story of Rabbi Hillel, who lived around the time of Yahshua. A pagan came to him saying that he would convert to Judaism if Hillel could teach him the whole of the Torah in the time he could stand on one foot. Rabbi Hillel replied, "What is hateful to yourself, do not do to your fellow man. That is the whole Torah; the rest is just commentary. Go and study it." (Talmud Shabbat 31a)

Now, we’ve established where to start, how do we learn it? In English? No, you know it in English already. We learn it in Hebrew. Join with me now as we close the lesson today in a short video on learning the Shema in Hebrew. 

(Cue Video)


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Making the Omer Count

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Making the Omer Count

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Making the Omer Count

 

Introduction: 

We have seen in previous teachings that the Counting of the Omer has been such a special time among the Nation of Yisrael for so long and recognised as a great Mitzvah or commandment as given in the Torah. Today therefore I wish to expand our understanding of the significance of this unique time in the hope that we will enhance our passion in performing our daily remembrance of it. We have already seen that traditionally it is practised among the Yahudim (the Jews) as a great time of reflection hopefully leading to the removal of character traits that could be perceived as “Leaven” with the hope of producing a purer Soul by adding positive traits to each one’s character. For faithful taught ones of Yahshua this should also be a special time of reflection, that we may be better able to reflect the personality of our Master Yahshua. Shaul (Paul) implies this when he writes to the Corinthians “be you imitators of me even as I imitate Messiah.” Today therefore I want to look beyond our basic journey and dig deeper to see if we can discover an even greater purpose of this time since at its conclusion we will finally arrive at Shavuot (Pentecost) which in itself is a most powerful remembrance to be greatly revered. 

The Review of the Count:

To understand the need for the count we first need to answer a more basic question: Why did YHWH wait 50 days after the Yisraelites left Mitsrayim (Egypt) before giving the Torah? Why didn't He simply give it to them in Egypt, or immediately after their departure?

The answer is that Yisrael was not yet spiritually equipped to receive the Torah. For over 200 years, they had been living in a Mitsrite (Egyptian) society known to be the world center for immorality and vice. Even without direct participation, these influences nonetheless permeated the air and seeped into their consciousness. 

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The primary book of Kabbalah, "The Zohar," reports that in Mitsrayim (Egypt) Yisrael had slipped to the 49th level of spiritual impurity. (50 being the very lowest.) YHWH could not impart his set-apart Kadosh Torah at this point knowing how impure and immature Yisrael was at this point. 

Knowing how the Society around Yisrael had so grossly affected them, is there any reason to think that we are exempt from the influence of the society that we live in. 

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Every day we are bombarded with our Society’s beliefs through Media, Education & many other means and even the Religious world that most of us come from, has for thousands of years discarded many of the observances and beliefs in Scripture considering them as being unnecessary, irrelevant and unpopular and so we, most assuredly like Yisrael still need much time to break free of those constraints that we have been held by, so the same process of development is needed for us as well. 

YHWH however in his mercy had given Yisrael an opportunity over the journey to Mount Sinai to mature, develop character and willingly remove Mitsrayim (Egypt) out of their minds and hearts and though they failed often and their journey was fraught with trouble they finally arrived at the place that YHWH would descend before his people on Mt. Sinai. What we can all learn from this is that we are all on this journey of refinement so that YHWH is able to impart his truth to us. 

The Counting of the Omer we can now say for the small group of Talmidim (taught ones) was much more than just the process of refinement of Character as it should be for us. It was in fact the revelation of the most monumental action that YHWH had taken in this world to bring about the redemption of the World that would finally culminate in the fulfilment of His promise at Shavuot (Pentecost). Therefore it is my desire to ponder why it was so essential for the Taught ones to wait with great expectation upon the promise of the Father though they had already experienced the Resurrection in all its magnificence. 

The Failure to wait:

Since waiting is a theme related to the counting of the Omer it needs to be taken very seriously as having enormous personal importance in the journey of preparation, something that in our day many lack. We have some amazing examples of its failure in the Fathers, so first we begin with Abraham whom we call the Father of Faith but he too had a problem of not waiting on YHWH:

We read of the promise given him from YHWH in:

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Bereshith (Genesis) 15:1-4 After these things the word of YHWH came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.”

2 But Abram said, “Master YHWH, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 Then Abram said, “Look, You have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir!”

4 And behold, the word of YHWH came to him, saying, “This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.”

We read further that Abram in his desperate desire to see the promise come to pass, could not wait on YHWH to fulfil his promise but rather took the slave of Sarai who was called Hagar and she gave him a son whom he named Ishmael and we know, that by not waiting on YHWH to perfect the promise his pre-emptive action caused much problems that even have repercussions in our days.

And then there is Ya’acov (Jacob) whose mother when she had conceived and the children within her struggled we read this in the Torah:

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Bereshith (Genesis) 25: 22b- 23 she said, “If all is well, why am I like this?” So she went to inquire of YHWH:

23 And YHWH said to her: “Two nations are in your womb, two peoples shall be separated from your body; One people shall be stronger than the other, And the older shall serve the younger.” 

 

In her deep desire to obtain the promise of YHWH we see Rivkah (Rebecca) conspiring with her son Ya’acov (Jacob) to deceive Yitzchak (Isaac) since she loved Ya’acov (Jacob) knowing that Yitzchaq (Isaac) loved Esaw and wanted to bless him. The result of their scheme was that Rivkah (Rebecca) never saw her son Ya’acov (Jacob) again and Ya’acov (Jacob) spent 20 years out of the land of promise. Rivkah (Rebecca) therefore could not wait and trust that YHWH would work out his supernatural plan in whatever circumstances that arose.   

 

Finally however we come to the great man Mosheh (Moses) whom all revere as the one that YHWH used to redeem Yisrael out of the Land of Mitsrayim (Egypt). However in his passion to help his people he too took matters in his own hands as we read:

 

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Shemot (Exodus) 2: 11-12 Now it came to pass in those days, when Mosheh (Moses) was grown, that he went out to his brethren and looked at their burdens. And he saw an Mitsrite (Egyptian) beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren. 12 So he looked this way and that way, and when he saw no one, he killed the Mitsrite (Egyptian) and hid him in the sand. 

 

Again the result of his premature action was that upon the discovery of his action we find him fleeing to Midian. It seemed that a man in the greatest position to help his people thinking himself to be great was temporarily disqualified until he saw himself as nothing and incapable of being the deliverer of his people after many years in obscurity. 

We could even say that it was these great men’s failures that began to qualify them for the promise. Also we could say that all these men in their journey of faith obtained it after failures but their end was far greater than their beginning;

 

Abraham finally trusted YHWH so much that the messenger of YHWH says these great words:

 

Bereshith (Genesis) 22: 12b For now I know that you fear Elohim, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son from me. 

 

Also the many years of Ya’acov (Jacob) under the harsh deceptive hands of Laban saw Ya’acov (Jacob) a transformed man so that when he faced death at the hands of Esau he turned his hope to YHWH to rescue & bless him and would not let go of the messenger of YHWH until these words were spoken to him:

 

Bereshith (Genesis) 32:28 And the Messenger said, “your name is no longer called Ya’acov (Jacob) but Yisrael because you have striven with Elohim and with men and have overcome.  

 

It truly seems that YHWH had a great purpose in humbling his people so that he could raise them up again to be people of spiritual worth able to fulfil his divine purpose. When we look at all the great men of faith this seems to be a common thread and so we need to learn from that. We see it in the life of Yoseph (Joseph) and of course in the life of David which also seems to be repeated in the life of Kepha (Peter) who hit rock bottom with his denial of the Master after which he wept bitterly. This should encourage us when we find we fail but the quote of Prime Minister Churchill will suffice to help here: 

 

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he said: “Failure is not Fatal.”

 

The aim of these examples is to show that the counting of the Omer is more than just a time of building refined character but it is a time of expectant waiting for the appointed time of YHWH which for the Yisraelite slaves would be Mt. Sinai with the giving of the Torah and for the Talmidim (the Disciples) it was the expected promise of the Father as Yahshua had explicitly promised before, as we read in the following:

 

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Yochanan (John) 16:7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.

 

In truth Shavuot (Pentecost) became a remembrance of the great day that YHWH came down to deliver his Torah to mortal man therefore every year the Yahudim (Jews) make it a point to prepare themselves to be able to receive the Torah again, since life has a tendency of dragging us backwards so this time helps to renew & refine ourselves for spiritual growth. The point I would like to emphasis is that we need to learn to wait with an expectancy believing that YHWH has promised and will complete his work in us and Shavuot (Pentecost) is our yearly remembrance of the faithfulness of our Heavenly Father.

 

Phase One of the Journey:

 

With the Resurrection of Yahshua we can clearly divide the Counting of the Omer in two distinct Phases. Phase one being the Forty days that Yahshua appeared numerous times to the believers so it is prudent to consider how forty is so unique in Scripture. So often we find the number 40 appearing as a time of Judgement, a time of testing but also a time of purification:

 

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Some well-known examples of 40 include:

  1. In the days of Noach (Noah) it rained 40 days & 40 Nights. (Gen 7:12)
  2. Mosheh (Moses) fled to Midian & spent 40 years there and then was called to lead Yisrael out of bondage. (Acts 7:30-33)
  3. After 40 days, Moses descended Mt. Sinai with the Torah on tablets (he did this twice) (Ex. 24:12-18 & Ex. 34:27-28)
  4. The Yisraelite spies spent 40 days spying out the land of Canaan. (Num 13:25)
  5. The Yisraelites spent 40 years in the wilderness before the second generation entered into the Promised Land. (Deut. 2:7)
  6. Yahshua spent 40 days in the wilderness before he began His earthly ministry. (Matt. 4:1-11)
  7. Yahshua spent 40 days after the resurrection appearing at different times before ascending to heaven on the 40th day of counting the Omer. (Acts 1:1-3)

There are still more examples but this lets us see the uniqueness of 40 and how much significance is associated with it remembering that all of Yahshua’s appearances were within the 40 days of the Counting of the Omer.

 

What then were the Talmidim (Disciples) doing during these days: 

 

Just to repeat what I suggested in my previous teaching unlike many that think the Talmidim (Disciples) returned to their fishing until near the end of the 40 day period I suggested, based on the revelation to the women that they went to Galil (Galilee)shortly after the appearance to Toma (Thomas) after the end of Matzah (the Feast of Unleavened Bread) since we read in Mark the words of the Malakim (Angels) to the women and in MattithYahu (Matthew) the words of Yahshua as follows:

 

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MattithYahu (Matthew) 28:10 Then Yahshua said to them, “do not be afraid. Go report to my brothers, to go to Galil and they shall see me there.  

 

The suggestion therefore is that the Talmidim (Disciples) went to Galil and while waiting upon the Master some of them went fishing until the encounter with Yahshua by the lake followed by the instruction on the mount appointed in Galil as reported in Mark.

 

I am strongly supporting the idea that after that they returned to Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) to complete the days of the Omer they engrossed themselves in intense study of the Torah after the appearances of Yahshua to prepare themselves Spiritually for the great Ministry that Yahshua was calling them to. What I hope we see from all this is that just as the great men of Old these Talmidim (Disciples) began the journey in fear and failure since Kepha (Peter) before Yahshua’s death had denied him three times and the others had run away at his arrestbut with the appearances of Yahshua they returned to Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) to wait but this time was spent in devoted study and discussion of Scripture, in intense prayer & fellowship with an extremely heightened expectation of the great promise of the Father that would be theirs.  Therefore the empowerment by the Ruach Ha Kodesh (The Holy Spirit) would see them be complete as ministers of the “Good News” of Yahshua.  I believe therefore that they absolutely were making “the Omer” count in ways that were so superior than just seeing it as a spiritual exercise in preparing each year for Shavuot (Pentecost) since this particular time had a great promise with it of strength, and though they were in general not highly educated in the various Schools of the Pharisees they believed for revelation from on high to complete what they lacked.

 

Our Personal Revelation:

 

It is my hope that we begin to see that if we are going to make the Omer count we must realize that in our own strength we cannot change and ultimately for any of us to change it must be the work of YHWH through his Ruach (Spirit). Our part to play is ultimately in partnership with the Ruach Ha Kodesh (The Holy Spirit) believing that as we wait on YHWH with all our hearts he is able to do what we in our human strength and wisdom cannot. From the Prophet we read this:

 

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YeshiYahu (Isaiah) 40:31 But those who wait upon YHWH shall renew their Strength; they shall mount up with wings like Eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. 

 

The encouragement here is that though we may not have the power to significantly change, the promise of his Ruach (Spirit) should help us to know that the real blessing of Shavuot (Pentecost) is the picture of spiritual empowerment. The Disciples drastically needed this to fulfil their call and we are faced with the same need that we are able to fulfil our call.

Shaul (Paul) says it this way when speaking of the Grace or the Favour of YHWH being his empowerment:

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Corinthyah Aleph (1 Corinthians)15:10 But by the Chesed (grace) of Elohim I am what I am, and His chesed (grace) toward me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the chesed (grace) of Elohim which was with me. 

Slide M 13 

Conclusion:

The strange truth I am putting forward is in fact that the Fathers of faith did not achieve their worthiness by their apparent perfection but through their failures. When they experienced failure it caused them to put their hope in YHWH and their journey was built on their failures. The Disciples likewise through their failures were then able to put their hope in the promise of the Father rather than in themselves and so were able to wait with great expectation for the empowerment of the Ruach (Spirit) through whom they would be the true Sh’lichyim (Apostles) that could bring the complete message of redemption to the world.

If we can learn anything from the counting of the Omer it is this. We are not made worthy to receive the Torah by perfection built on some sort of behavioural modification technique but rather by identifying our failures and weaknesses and through that revelation desiring the compassion and power of YHWH to rebuild our personalities with the help and power of his RUACH (Spirit). This is the divine means by which we are made acceptable to receive his Holy Torah implanted on humble hearts. The mistake Yisrael made was that they thought they had the strength in themselves so they said “all that YHWH has said we will do and hear.”  Amein!



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Tefillah Part 6 - The Avinu

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Tefillah Part 6 - The Avinu

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The Avinu – Tefillah Part 6

 

“One day Kepha and Yochannan were going up to the Temple at the time of prayer—at the ninth hour (three in the afternoon). 2Now a man crippled from birth was being carried to the Temple gate called Beautiful (Sha'ar Hatiferet), where he was put in front every day to beg from those going into the Temple Courts. 3When he saw Kepha and Yochannan about to enter, he asked them for money. 4 Kepha looked straight at him, as did Yochannan. Then Kepha said, "Look at us!" 5So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them. 6Then Kepha said, "Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Messiah YahShua HaNotzri (the Branch), walk." 7Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man's feet and ankles became strong. 8He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising Yahweh. 9When all the people saw him walking and praising Yahweh, 10they recognised him as the same man who used to sit begging at the Temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. (Acts 3:1-10)”

 

The opening passage of Acts 3 can be more accurately rendered, “One day Kepha and Yochannan were going up to the Temple at the time of the prayer... Which prayer? The only prayer that accompanies all the three daily prayers – The Amidah, the Standing Prayer. 

The rabbis referred to the Amidah as ha-Tefillah – “The Prayer” The name Amidah came later.

In fact, in the first century, the Amidah had only between 12 to 14 benedictions. It wasn’t until after the destruction of the 2nd Temple in 70 C.E. that it received additional petitions owing to the significant change that occurred to Jewish life after such a disaster. 

Kepha’s action was a fulfillment of Isaiah 35:6 which says, “Then will the lame leap like a deer…” In doing this he enabled a man, lame from birth, to עָמַד amad (to take his stand), which is the root of the word that describes the prayer that was prayed at that very hour!  

 

Okay, now let’s talk about the Avinu, otherwise known as the Lord’s prayer. The word Avinu means “Our Father” from the Hebrew word “Ab” or “Abba.” The name “The Lord’s Prayer” didn’t appear until 1540. 

 

Though the Lord’s Prayer is the most venerated of all Christian prayers, it was not originally a Christian Prayer, but a Jewish one. Its entire construction is completely in line with hundreds of variants of Jewish prayer. If it wasn’t for its association with Christianity, the recitation of it in its Hebrew form would cause it to be completely unremarkable from hundreds of other prayers constructed by Pharisees and rabbis throughout the centuries.  Aaron Eby states that the Avinu, “is woven from the same raw material as all other Jewish prayer.” In fact, the entire prayer could be pieced together from pulling sections out of common Jewish liturgical prayer. Its vocabulary is completely in sync with the standard formula of Jewish praise, petition and thanksgiving.  Apart from the prayer’s association with Christianity, there is nothing in it that an Orthodox Jew would object to. Not in the slightest. 

 

 

The Avinu is a surprisingly uncontroversial prayer. Unlike Yahshua, whose very name causes mayhem, the prayer he taught is surprisingly conservative.

Furthermore, it can almost be entirely pieced together from Scripture itself. The first part in 

 

 

Isaiah 63:15–16 (“Look down from heaven and see, from your holy and beautiful habitation ... For you are our Father ...”) and Ezekiel 36:23 (“I will vindicate the holiness of my great name ...”) and Ezekiel 38:23 (“I will show my greatness and my holiness and make myself known in the eyes of many nations ...”), the second part in Obadiah 1:21 ("Saviours shall go up to Mount Zion to rule Mount Esau, and the kingdom shall be Yahweh’s") and 1 Samuel 3:18 ("... It is Yahweh. Let him do what seems good to him"), the third part in Proverbs 30:8 ("... feed me with my apportioned bread"), the fourth part in Sirach 28:2 ("Forgive your neighbour the wrong he has done, and then your sins will be pardoned when you pray"). "Deliver us from evil" can be compared with Psalm 119:133 ("... let no iniquity get dominion over me.").

Now, you might have noticed that there is no Scriptural support for the statement about temptation. Some Scholars assume that this has no premise in the Bible because Yahweh does not tempt people. 

 

The Greek word "πειρασμός", which is translated as "temptation", is more accurately translated as "test" or "trial", making evident the attitude of someone's heart. There are well known examples of Divine tests in Scripture. There is the test of Abraham in Genesis 22:1 and David’s test following on the heels of his request to be tested in Psalm 26:2. Now David’s problem was desire and his test came in the manner of the thing he dragged himself to do. But interestingly enough, Avraham’s problem was kindness! Excessive kindness is a problem. If is a transgression to show when it is not appropriate, such as to a child that has done something wrong.  This sends the wrong message. But unlike David, Avraham didn’t ultimately have a problem with it by agreeing to offer up his son. This is why he passed his test and David failed his. 

In addition to the various sources in Scripture that make up the Avinu, there is a sequence in 1 Chronicles 29 that carries many similar features. See if you can spot them. 

 

“So David blessed Yahweh in the sight of all the assembly; and David said, "Blessed are You, O Yahweh Elohim of Yisrael our father, forever and ever. Yours, O Yahweh, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O Yahweh, and You exalt Yourself as head over all. Both riches and honour come from You, and You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and might; and it lies in Your hand to make great and to strengthen everyone. Now therefore, our Elohim, we thank You, and praise Your glorious name. (1 Chronicles 29:10-13) 

How the Avinu Came into Being and was it Meant to Replace the Amidah?

So, let’s look at how the Avinu came about. One of the first things to note, is that the prayer came on the back of a request in Luke. Though Yahshua taught the Avinu as part of his Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, it would have certainly been after an occasion when one of his own talmidim asked him privately: 

“One day Yahshua was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his talmidim said to him, ‘Adonai, teach us to daven, just as Yochannan taught his Talmidim. (Luke 11:1)’”

Yahshua’s talmidim watched every move of their Messiah like hawks as all good Torah students were known to do. The key events in Yahshua’s ministry that have come to us from the viewpoint of four of his students attests to this. We don’t often remember, that some of Yahshua’s most devoted followers feverishly observed and often recorded many of his activities. This is a common theme in Judaism. Rav Nachman of Breslav’s students wrote many works documenting his teachings and wrote many of their own works expounding on them. In Luke 11:1 the talmid almost certainly had just observed his master praying, waiting to speak to Yahshua when he’d finished. The reference to Yochannan’s prayer that he taught his followers also provides more context as to the type of prayer Yahshua’s talmid was expecting to hear. He was expecting to hear a prayer that was unique to His Master’s role. The extract that has survived of Yochannan’s prayer speaks of having Moshiach revealed. 

 

“Avinu HaKodesh, consecrate me through your strength and make known the glory of your excellence and show me your son and fill me with your spirit which has received light through your knowledge.”- Old Syriac Manuscript

Now, many scholars have gone on record saying that because of Yahshua’s criticism of lengthy prayer, that the Avinu (Lord’s Prayer) is an alternative to the Avinu. 

 

There is an interesting extract from Mishnah Berakhot 4:3, which carries the opinions of three Torah heavyweights, Gamaliel II, Joshua ben Hananiah, and Akiva. They are considered regarding the requirement to pray the Amidah. Gamaliel argued that the whole text of the then eighteen benedictions should be prayed, while Joshua said only an abstract of them is required. By abstract he meant a shortened prayer that contains the essence of the whole eighteen. Rabbi Akiva says, if the prayer is familiar to him, he should pray the full Shemoneh Esrei but if not, then he should pray a shorter version” (4:3).

In the Mishna and Talmudic writings we find a very simplified version of the Amidah by Eliezer ben Hyrcanus.

 

 May your will be done in the heavens above,
and grant the ease of spirit to those who fear you,
and do what is good in your eyes,
Blessed is he who listens to prayer.
-Tosefta Berakhot 3:7

Mishnah (Berakhot 4: 4), compiled at the end of the second century, exonerates the Jew facing a crisis from reciting this lengthy prayer; advising him to substitute for it a far shorter prayer and one in which there is a greater sense of urgency: ‘Rabbi Joshua said: if one is travelling in a dangerous place, he says the following short prayer: “Save, O Adonai, The people, the remnant of Israel: in every time of crisis may their needs be present to You. Blessed are You, O Adonai, who hears prayer.”

Rebbe Yahshua said: “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.  And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.  Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (Matthew 6:5-8)”

If we breakdown Rebbe Yahshua’s teaching on prayer here we get: 

  • Do not pray in highly visible public places. Pray in secret. Don’t make a fuse and say, ‘Well everyone I’m going off to pray now!’ 
  • Do not pray like foreigners (people outside the covenant). Here Rebbe Yahshua is warning against quantity over quality. He is not criticising many words per se, rather, he is criticising many words without meaning. He himself prayed all night! “One day soon afterward Yahshua went up on a mountain to pray, and he prayed to Elohim all night. (Luke 6:12)” Sha’ul (A.K.A) The Apostle Paul, wrote to pray without ceasing in 1 Thessalonians 5:16.

Yahshua taught to go above the letter of the law. He never taught in a way that provided shortcuts. Never ever. He was, however conscious of new converts, as was his half-brother Ya’akov HaTzadik, who wrote a document stating minimum requirements for eligibility to be taught the covenant. As it is the Amidah can be prayed in all of seven minutes. I can’t imagine Yahshua having a problem with the Amidah’s length. On the contrary, it’s a work of genius, in its brevity and the myriad of things it contains. So too is the Avinu, it’s even shorter and contains arguably an even greater bulk of information in proportion to its size than the Amidah carries in proportion to its size! In a sense, those of you who are familiar with Doctor Who, these prayers are like a mini Tardis, on the outside they look small, but on the inside they are huge!  

 

So the answer is: The Avinu should be a supplemental prayer to those who are already familiar with the Amidah and an alternative to the Amidah to those who are not familiar. It should also be prayed in an emergency if time is not permitted to pray the Amidah.   

The alternative option is only until a person able to sufficiently learn the Amidah. 

Furthermore, Luke 11:1 is also the enactment of a tradition where rabbis taught a unique prayer to their followers that supplemented “The Prayer” (The Amidah). Rabbinical schools (Yeshivot) taught a prayer that was particular to the presiding rabbi that officiated at that school. Talmud preserves several examples of short prayers distinctive to a certain sage and his school of disciples. For example:

“When Rabbi Eleazar concluded his recitation of prayer, he prayed, ‘May it be Your will, O Yahweh our Elohim, to cause love, brotherhood, peace, and friendship to swell in our midst, and may You set our portion in the Garden of Eden, and grant us good companionship and a good inclination in Your world, and may we rise early and obtain the desire of our heart—to fear Your Name, and may you be pleased to satisfy our desires.’” 

When Rabbi Yochanan concluded his recitation of prayer, he prayed, ‘May it be your will, O Yahweh our Elohim, to look upon our shame and behold our affliction and clothe Yourself in Your mercies and cover Yourself in Your strength and wrap Yourself in lovingkindness and gird Yourself in Your graciousness, and may Your attributes of kindness and mercy prevail.’” (b.Berachot 16b)

Rabbi Yizerah’s prayer was, “Let it be your will O Yahweh our Elohim, that we not sin and that we may not be Ashamed or humiliated before our fathers.”

Rabbi Chiaya’s prayer was, “Let it be your will Yahweh our Elohim, that your Torah will be our occupation. Do not let our hearts be pained or our eyes be darkened.”

Rav said, “Let it be your will O Yahweh our Elohim, that You grant us a long life, a life a peace, a life of goodness, a life of blessing, a life of livelihood, a life of bodily strength, a life in which there is fear of sin, a life in which there is no shame of humiliation, a life of wealth and honour, a life in which there is love of Torah and fear of heaven, a life in which You fulfill all of our hearts requests for good.” 

 

Rabbi Yahudah is said to have recited daily the following supplication on finishing the obligatory prayers (Ber. 6b; comp. Shab. 30b): “May it be Your will, my Elohim and the Elohim of my fathers, to protect me against the impudent and against impudence, from bad men and bad companions, from severe sentences and severe plaintiffs, whether a son of the covenant or not.”

 

The Avinu is also found in a document known as the “Didache,” which is Latin for “The Teaching of the Twelve.” This manuscript is believed to be the entire scroll as compiled by Ya’akov HaTzadik, which is briefly summarised in Acts 15:29.  

The Didache constitutes the oldest surviving written catechism (summary or exposition of doctrine) of the Netzarim. It is divided into sections dealing with ethics, rituals such as immersion, attitudes towards new converts, and directions on appointing leaders and teachers. The Didache is considered the first example of a document containing formal orders and procedures to be adhered to by the growing Netzarim community. 

CHAPTER 8

(CONCERNING FASTING AND PRAYER [THE LORD’S PRAYER])

1. And let not your fastings be with the hypocrites, for they fast on the second and the fifth day of the week; but do ye keep your fast on the fourth and on the preparation (the sixth) day. 

2. Neither pray ye "as the hypocrites," but as the Messiah commanded in His Gospel, "thus pray ye: Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, as in heaven, so also on earth; give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our debt, as we also forgive our debtors; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one;" for Thine is the power and the glory for ever and ever. 

3. Three times in the day pray ye so (Sharcharis [Morning], Mincha [Noon], and Marriv [Evening] Prayers). 

In conclusion. All Jewish prayer, including Netzarim prayer, is comprised of praise, partition and thanksgiving. Many of the prayers devised by the Pharisees, rabbis and Sages were quite short prayers. In fact, the Avinu, is quite a long prayer in comparison to John’s prayer and many other rabbinic prayers, which just consist of one or two lines. In fact, the siddur we use is knit together with many of these prayers that have been taught by great men over the centuries. Yahshua’s arrival, teachings, crucifixion and ascension did not cancel out the Torah or anything taught by righteous individuals who came before him. The Torah is discovered as we journey through the generations and we have the opportunity to stand on the shoulders of Yahshua and every great man and woman who have come before or after him who have imitated his ways. One thing I’ve noticed, is that some people’s focus is so fixated on Moshiach, that they see nothing else, but in actuality, if you are truly focused on Yahshua, you can see so him everywhere! 


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