WHY I WALKED OUT OF SYNAGOGUE (again)
This is the SECOND ESSAY ENTITLED: “WHY I WALKED OUT OF SERVICES TODAY”
Last time I walked out was after I had been startled to hear the rabbi ask “who hasn’t heard of the Tea Party?” Knowing his political philosophy, I turned to my wife and asked, “Did he just mention The Tea Party?” Her apparent lack of hearing my question answered for itself. But it was confirmed when he made several ignorant MSNBC-parroted straw man arguments, based on deliberately false “impressions”. Hearing “truthers” and “birthers” being rebutted on my way out, I was thankful to make it to the exit before exploding! Like coming up from water deeper than you had expected to be, I yanked off Tallit as I reached air.
I would never be back there again! But, then it was the “High Holy Days”. And in the interim I went back to the messianic synagogue I had left in disgust at the political indoctrination that intertwined with increasingly weak theology. I gave them another try, but the very first morning announcements contained a reminder to sign up for the “Awakening The Dreamer Within” program. This sounded at the least somewhat neo-pagan. Later I researched it, and found it applauded by Van Jones, and spoke of Holy rowdiness in preaching Social Justice. It would have been less loathsome to me if it merely spoke of Wiccan and Gnostic Wisdom. No, no point returning to that one either.
Today was the Shabbot of Hanukkah, and we went to services. Ironically, I was given a card inviting me up to the bema to begin the recitation of the Blessing for the United States. “Ironic” will be explained below. The parsha was Miketz, one that contains several very important verses; important to my understanding of Prophecy.
The Haftarah was the Haftarah for Hanukkah. It is Zechariah 2:14-4:7. This is an awesome passage, and offers avenues to discussions of the Messianic Age, and it is a view into the Heavenly Court. It has the High Priest Joshua, which is the same Hebrew name as Yeshua or Y’shua (mis-transliterated into “Jesus”), wearing the Sins of his people as filthy rags. He will be garbed in clean new vestments. Messianic or mainstream, this is a deep Haftarah and parsha. Though anyone reading this ought to have the Scripture open to it, I will summarize.
Art Scroll Commentary states “The prophet begins by looking ahead to the times when all the world will acknowledge Israel’s primacy as God’s chosen people under the leadership of the tribe of Judah, the tribe of David”. This might be the fertile ground for a sermon! Sing and be glad, O daughter of Zion for behold, come and I will dwell in your Midst word of the LORD! This is a powerful reminder, or ought be, that Judaism is expecting a Messiah to dwell amongst us. It is not a “Messianic Age” which it is our job through “social justice, and Carbon footprint reduction” to usher in. No, it says I “will dwell in your midst”. Leaving it at that is awesome enough. But to read this with an actual Messianic lens reveals a miraculously privileged view of a phenomenal event.
After the initial glorious sentences, the Haftara settles down into what appears a more historic focus. It takes place just after the end of the Babylonian Exile, with the returning Jews reestablishing a Temple, and inaugurating for the first time its Menorah. (This is not to be confused with the re-lighting and rededication of the second temple after its desecration by the Greeks. This previous scene is read to commemorate the later event, which is the story of Hanukkah.)
While in Babylon some of the Jewish men took non-Jewish wives. This presented a problem when they returned and rededicated a second Temple. I will again quote the summary from Art Scroll: “Then the prophet turns to (the High Priest) Joshua, who victim of the same sin that plagued most of the nation in the wake of the Babylonian Exile: His sons had married gentile women and Joshua had failed to chastise them. In his vision, Zechariah sees the Satan condemning Joshua for the lapse, which was symbolized by the soiled garments he was wearing. But God defends Joshua on grounds that he is a firebrand rescued from the flames; he was immersed in the flames of the exile’s physical and spiritual destruction and as such cannot be condemned for the past. The angel garbs him in the pure vestments and turban of the High Priesthood—but warns him that he henceforth must obey the commandments. Only then can he be assured that his heirs will succeed him as Kohen Gadol (High Priest). And only then can he be assured constant progress among the angels who are immobile, in the sense that they can only do what God commands them, but cannot choose and grow as man can. ” Joshua then welcomes Zerubbabel, the flourishing one and sees the cornerstone of the Temple which figuratively has all eyes upon it. “Finally, Zechariah is shown a Menorah, complete with a bowl containing oil, tubes bringing oil to its seven lamps and even two olive trees to supply a continuous supply of fuel. This symbolizes that all man’s needs are provided by God— man, however, must have eyes the eyes to see it. Impassable mountains become hospitable plains if God so wills it.”
I have quoted much from the Art Scroll Chumash commentary on this Haftarah. It can be analyzed, in great depth and with truly staggering interpretations. As a Messianic Jew, I cannot ignore the name “Joshua the High Priest”, since Yeshua is the same name as Joshua. (Just to sure, this is NOT the Joshua who fought the battle of Jericho. Though again, names are significant.) And of course Messianic Jews believe that Yeshua was, is and will be the Messiah. And we believe that he was crucified and became the High Priest, the intermediary between Man and God. Mainstream Jews will dismiss this with a “we do not need any intermediaries”. But, if not, to what purpose was the entire Temple apparatus? To what ends were the ritual drama of the High Priest and the sacrifice of the bulls and lambs? I believe that despite their disbelief, Yeshua right now is the High Priest for Israel. Nothing has changed since the time of the Temple and its destruction and now. So if ever a High Priest were required, he would still be required today!
Yeshua, or Joshua is seen in heaven being accused by Satan. He is dressed in the filthy soiled garments of sin. And his sin was? It was His countenancing marriage to non-Jews. Messianic Imagery takes much from Marriage. Thus, The Song Of Solomon is read as a Messianic account, by even mainstream Jews. How much more so might a Messianic Jew read this as Messianic! Yeshua will be instrumental in marriage of the two Houses of Israel, Judah and Ephraim. And in the engrafting of gentiles into the Tree of Israel, Yeshua will be the means. And finally Yeshua brings the entirety of the human harvest, which IS Israel as a bride to the Creator!
The scene described by Zechariah is almost another view of the scene described by John of Patmos. Yeshua is worthy of a miracle. So behold, he will be shown (as?) Zemach. This means flourishing seed. In the Amidah prayer for Davidic Reign, the last sentence reads: “Blessed are you, LORD, Who causes the pride of salvation to flourish.” In Hebrew much is revealed! “Who causes the pride of salvation to flourish” is matzmiach keren y’shuah. “To cause to flourish” is matzmiach in which the same root that makes the word Zemach is seen. Keren is pride. And Salvation IS Y’shua! In the Amidah we see the very conjunction of Joshua and Flourishing Salvation (Y’shua, Zemach)!
Despite some difficulty with translation, the next few verses speak of Joshua and the angel telling him “I will remove the iniquity of the Land in one day.” Then Ba yom ha hu “On That Day”, the phrase most identified with the Aleynu, usually one of the final prayers in any Jewish service, which describes the day Of The Lord, is spoken. On That Day you will invite each man his neighbor, to join him under a vine or under a fig tree. Zechariah then describes again the Menorah, fed oil by two olive trees, one on the left and one on the right. I see these last points as describing the reunification of the two Houses Of Israel; Judah and Ephraim. In Jacob’s prophecies to his twelve sons of what will befall the in the latter years, Judah is described amongst other things as an ox tied to a vine. And Joseph, (the father of Ephraim, and whose names are often interchangeable) is described three times as having over him “luscious fruit (from a tree, like a fig.)”. And of course the two olive trees refer to the two houses.
The parsha itself describes the birth of Manasseh and Ephraim to Joseph in Egypt. Manasseh is said in the parsha to mean, “God has Caused Me To Forget My Father’s House”.
My contention is that as Ezekiel 37:15 through the end of the chapter describes the Messianic Day, it is very much a function of the reunification of Ephraim and Judah. The mystery is “where is Ephraim”? Since Ba Yom Ha-Hu hasn’t occurred, Ephraim must still be present. But, as his brother Manasseh was named “to forget”, so Ephraim was named for the great fertility of his future land. Two brothers, both prophesied to “gore the nations to the ends of the world”, have forgotten who they are! But, they must still exist.
I know who they are. And so would you if you took the time to study Bible Prophecy and History.
BUT, why did I walk out of Synagogue today? With the depth of provocative directions the Rabbi could have gone with this material, do you know where he did go? He honed in on the fuel of the olive oil, as a segue to state that his dream, his great dream (drum roll) is to have the synagogue covered in Solar Panels! (Even funnier, he had just finished praying for rain!)
Oh, yes! The irony of me being invited to read the blessing for the United States of America is not explained. In the parsha, Genesis 41:51,52 speaks of the birth of Joseph’s sons, and the meaning and reason for their names; Manasseh and Ephraim. I believe the United States of America is Ephraim. Not “like” Ephraim, but the actual core of the original colonists was of the tribe of Ephraim. And every single immigrant has become a part of Joseph. And, as you recall, after the death of Solomon the Kingdom split apart into Judah and Israel. The Northern Kingdom, Israel was predominantly Joseph, and his sons’ descendants’ land. The Puritans explicitly likened themselves to Israel. Other than in America, you will not find places named for rivers and towns of the Levant. Some of the founders even considered changing the language from English to Hebrew!
On the day of the reading of the parsha of the origins of Ephraim, I am called to bless America! And then I leave in a huff!