Teaching on Parashat Emor

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Read the transcript below, or watch a video of the teaching by Joseph Shulam.

Shalom. My name is Joseph Shulam. And in partnership with Brad TV in Korea, we are going through the whole five books of the Law of Moses, according to the weekly portions that are read in all the synagogues around the world on this same Sabbath.

Today we’re reading a section that is called Emor, which in English says, “And the Lord said to Moses.” Emor means said. And it’s commanding the priests of the sons of Aaron about their purity laws and about their responsibility to their fathers and mothers and children and sisters and unmarried sisters and married sisters.

But the main section of this portion of the Torah, has in it, the catalog of the times and the seasons and the holidays of the Lord. It appears in Leviticus chapter 23 from verse one. And I want to concentrate on this because I think it’s a hot topic in all of the Christian world today; when we talk about holidays and seasons and the commands of the Lord that are also in the New Testament and which are the holidays that the apostles and Yeshua himself, Jesus himself celebrated.

Christianity today is by the majority far far from the celebration of the commanded holidays in the New Testament. And we’re going to get to it, this teaching.

So, the feast of the Lord, most people say the Jewish feast. There is no such a thing as the Jewish feast. Everywhere where the holidays and the feast and the celebrations are mentioned in both the New Testament and the Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament, it talks about the feast of the Lord, not the Jewish feast, but the feast of the Lord commanded to the children of Israel when they received the law in Mount Sinai.

So, before I enter into the feast of the Lord, I want to go to the New Testament to a text that has been used, is being used and was very popular in the days of the fourth century, by the so-called church fathers.

And the text is from Galatians, Paul’s letter to the Galatians chapter four from verse eight. That’s the text that the church fathers and Crisostomo used more than anybody else. He was the Pope when the center of the church was in Constantinople and Istanbul. Istanbul is Constantinople named after Constantine the Roman emperor that supposedly converted to Christianity but he didn’t. It’s a myth that he converted to Christianity. But he used Christianity for his own political needs.

So, I am reading now from Galatians 4:8-11:

“But then indeed when you did not know God, you served those, which by nature are not gods. But now after you have known God or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn us again to the weak and bigly a elements to which you desire again to be in bondage? You observe days and months and seasons and years. I’m afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain.”

So, this is the mother text that is used, I should say misused,
by 99.9% of Christianity, in the history of the church from the fourth century till the 21st century; to deny the right of the Christians, of the believers of the disciples of Jesus to celebrate the seasons and the feast of the Lord.

Now, who is Paul talking to? The rule here, in understanding Paul’s letters, all of his letters, is to know Paul was a lawyer. He studied under the chief justice, the chief judge of the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem, his name was Gamaliel. And we know a lot about him. We have pages and pages and pages of history and discussions and rules, which he made.

And Paul was his disciple. He mentioned that several times in his letters. And what would he study under Gamaliel? Did he study macrame, maybe knitting, maybe cooking? No, he studied law because Gamaliel was a law teacher. Not a chef in the Bulgarian restaurant in Jerusalem in the 1st century. So, he studied law and he writes like a lawyer. Not like a pastor, not like a priest, but like a lawyer. And a lawyer is usually very consistent and exact in what he wants to say.

So anytime that Paul uses the word, you, he talks to the Gentiles and I can prove it to you. If you look at Ephesians 2:10-11 and in many places, you Gentiles. When he talks to the Jews and to the Jewish disciples he says us, we, ours. Not yours, ours.

So here he says, “But then indeed when you did not know God, you served those, which by nature are not gods.” Anybody that reads this text automatically should know that there’s not a day in the history of Israel, from the time that God called Abraham to come to the land of Canaan, in which Abraham and his seed did not know God. From the day that God called Abraham to leave his house, his family, his city, his country and to come to the land that he will show him, the land of Canaan, Abraham knew God. That’s why he left the big city of Ur with his father. And then in the big city of Haran. It’s like living New York and going to Podunk Kentucky. Yeah?

That’s how Abraham’s journey was. He left the big famous city, capital of the Assyrian empire, to come to a land that was torn to pieces with the Hivites and the Prevites and the Jebusites and the Philistines and the Girgosites, people from all over Asia and Europe gathered over here trying to get to Egypt. Was the Landbridge.

So, he’s talking to the Gentiles. And did the Gentiles have more holidays or did the Jews have more holidays or did the Bible have more holidays?

Well, I have here 14 pages from Wikipedia. Roman festivals dated to the time of the New Testament. 14 pages of holidays. I see, it is listed month-by-month. So here you have by date. Month-by-month by date. Let’s take February. We’re in February right now, let’s take February.

The 1st of February, a celebration of the mother and queen. Queen of heaven means Sospeter Juno. Juno Sospeter. 1st of February was her celebration. The 5th of February was Dies natalis, in the temple of Concordia on the Capitol hill. Yeah, on the 13th of February was the feast of Faunus. On the 13th of February to the 22nd of February, was Parentalia, the celebration of your ancestors that died and members of your family that died.

And the 15th of February, Lupercalia. Lupercalia. Lupos means wolf. And Rome was born from a she wolf that fed Ramos and Romulus the two babies and raised them, a she wolf. That’s on the 15th of February. On the 17th of February, was the oven festival, Fornacalia. Yeah? And celebrating the bakers, I guess, the people who use the ovens. And then you have Feralia, the public observation of Parentalia. On the 21st. On the 22nd is Caristia. The celebration of a meal provided by all the family and shared in the spirit of love and forgiveness, on the 23rd of February, in honor of Terminus. On the 24th of February, it’s the feast of Regifugium. And on the 27th of February, the feast of the horse-races just in front of the month of March.

And this goes month after month. I am talking about 14 pages full list of Roman holidays. Almost every day of the month. If I look at March, from the 1st of March, all the way to the 31st of March, every day was a holiday for something in Rome.

So, Paul is not talking about the seven biblical holidays. He is talking about holidays that are celebrated, that are by nature, celebrating those who are not gods. That’s not the biblical holidays.

Although the church fathers attributed that to the biblical holidays and prevented Christians from keeping the outright command in the New Testament for Christians to keep some of the holidays. Especially the Passover.

If you open your Bible in first Corinthians chapter five and read verse seven and eight, you’ll see that Paul commands the church in Corinth which was not 100% Jewish church, it was a majority of the people that were not Jews, they were Greeks, and came from pagan background. And he says, “clean up the leavened among you. And let us therefore celebrate the feast because Christ is our Passover.”

It doesn’t say don’t celebrate the feast. He says, you are unleavened bread. Talking to the Gentiles in Corinth, you are unleavened bread. Pure without leaven. Leaven is a symbol of sin. The leaven of the Pharisees Jesus talks, about it’s a symbol of sin. Yeah? And he says, you are unleavened bread, let us therefore celebrate the feast. Doesn’t say, don’t celebrate the feast. It says celebrate the feast. Why celebrate the feast? Because our Passover lamb, Christ is our Passover.

So, here we are now in the Torah, in the law of Moses, in the book of Leviticus. And we are in chapter 21. And we find out the laws of the priest. And in chapter 23, that’s how it starts. Verse one of chapter 23. “And the Lord spoke to Moses saying, speak to the children of Israel and say to them, the feasts of the Lord, which you shall proclaim to be holy, holy convocations, these are my feasts, says the Lord.”

Okay, the first one of all, I would say, is the mother of all the feasts for not only for Jews, for anybody. And we have that in Isaiah, specifically stated, is for the Gentile. The Sabbath is given to the Gentile. They deserve it just like anybody who works six days a week deserves one day of rest. And it says,

“Six days shall work be done. And the seventh day is a Sabbath day. A solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work on it. It is a Sabbath of the Lord in all your dwelling places.”

Let’s take this Sabbath a little bit into a deeper sphere. Deeper meaning. The world was created in seven days. The book of Genesis starts, the first verse of the book of Genesis in the Hebrew Bible has seven words. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Seven words in the Hebrew.

And then that pattern of seven is repeated. The world is created in seven days. And if you start following that pattern of seven in the whole Hebrew Bible, then you’ll find out that there is a geometrical pattern of seven that follows through in much of the dealings of the children of Israel throughout our history.

So, he says, this is the feast of the Lord. God says, this is my feast, in verse one and two of Leviticus 23. And verse three says you shall work six days. These six days are for you to work. Not for you to loaf, not for you to have fun, not for you to sit on the easy chair and watch others work and ask them to support you and to finance you and the government to give you the money.

No, six days you shall work. It’s a command. You shall work six days. And when you work six days, on the seventh day, Sabbath day, it’s a solemn rest. Solemn rest in the Hebrew language means full rest. Yeah, you have a right to rest. You’re not a slave. You’re a free person. And you have a right to rest, to spend time with your children, with your wife, with your neighbors, do whatever you want to, but you don’t have to work. It’s a privilege. It’s not a burden. Some Christians talk about the Sabbath is as if it’s a burden.

And that’s actually a new thing. Why? Because in the history of Christianity, Sunday became the Christian Sabbath day. Yeah? They moved it from the seventh day to the eighth day. It became the Christian Sabbath day. And in many of the countries in Europe, they had Sunday laws. Shops were closed and public transportation was closed, and only in the 20th century with the breakdown of the system, not only the religion and the faith, but breakdown of the whole western civilization and morality with it, they dispensed with any kind of Sunday laws in the west.

But the seventh day, you deserve rest. You don’t wanna rest? You wanna do something else? It’s up to you. Nobody’s gonna come with the police to arrest you. Not in Israel and not in Jewish history. But it’s a gift from God. It’s a gift from God.

This morning I was driving to the office from my home and I heard the Orthodox Jewish rabbi of the city of Odessa in the Ukraine, that was heavily bombed both by sea and by air, and he is a medic, besides being a rabbi, he’s a medic. I think he’s a doctor, actually, not a medic. He’s a doctor. And he said it very clearly, “It is a great privilege to work in the hospital and to heal people on the Sabbath day and to perform surgeries on the Sabbath day, because all the laws of the Torah are suspended in order to save lives medically.”

So, some Christians think that Jesus eliminated the Sabbath by healing on the Sabbath day. No, it is commanded. He had to heal because life is more precious than any of the commandments, except three. And they are incest, murder and the handing over of your friend, your brother, your partner, to the enemy. Those are the three commands that you die and you don’t pass them. All the other commandments you can break them in order to save lives.

So, the Sabbath day is one of the seasons of the Lord. Then after that, you have the 14th day of the first month, which is Nisan which is usually in March, April, in the Gregorian calendar. And it is the month of Passover. I already quoted to you from first Corinthians 5:7-8 and told you, Christ is our Passover. And Paul is telling that to the Gentile church in Corinth, let us therefore celebrate the feast. And now not only clean your house from leavened, clean your hearts from malice, Paul says. Not only your house, clean your hearts from malice, preparing for the Passover.

So yes, dear brothers and sisters, this very important chapter, has the catalog of all the feasts that God commanded his children. Not only Israel, his children. Because if you read Isaiah 58, you’ll see that he’s talking to the Gentiles, saying, celebrate the Sabbath. Take care of God’s business on the Sabbath day. Enjoy yourself, take care of your family. To the Gentiles also in Isaiah 58. Yes. And the same thing is true in other prophets as well.

So, folks read the Torah. Distinguish when you read the New Testament, especially in Paul’s letters between us and you and see what the word of God gives you to enrich your life. These seasons of the Lord, holidays of the Lord, are historical.

They’re also cosmic because they all have to do with the setup of the stars. For example, I read to you from the book of Leviticus that the Passover is on the 14th day of the month. And when you have a lunar month like Israel does, other countries and other cultures have lunar months, also in Asia they have lunar months, 28 day months. The 14th of the month is a full moon. It has something to do with the cosmos.

Not only with the agriculture, which is Passover at the beginning of the wheat harvest. The day after the Passover day, you start the wheat harvest. Even if it falls on the Sabbath day, you break the Sabbath day to start the wheat harvest. And even if the harvester says no today is Sabbath I don’t work on the Sabbath.

You tell him harvest, harvest, harvest. The rabbis, the priests tell him to harvest because the harvest is more important. The beginning of the harvest is more important because it has to do with the life. Sustaining of the life, bread. And he starts on the Sabbath day, the harvest. Yeah?

So, all these things are so important dear brothers and sisters. And I just want to urge you read it. Read the portion of the Torah that we are talking about. It’s from Leviticus 21:1, ends in Leviticus 24:23. And the portion from the prophets that is parallel from Ezekiel 44:15-31. And from the gospel, we read Matthew 13:1-30. Read these things. Enrich yourself by reading the Bible.

I’m going to just say something that may not be politically correct, but it’s okay. I’m not American and I don’t have to be politically correct. I’m Israeli Jew, disciple of my Lord, Jesus of Nazareth. And you can be disciple also of Jesus of Nazareth. Of Yeshua, in Hebrew.

What’s not politically correct, that I want to say is this; the law and the prophets and the gospels and the letters of the apostles, all of them are one unit. They are a unit that starts in Genesis and ends in Revelation. And if you ignore any part of it, you are missing something that will make your picture of our faith in God and in the Messiah, in Jesus, missing. It’s like having a puzzle with many pieces, and if you leave one piece out, the puzzle is incomplete.

That’s why you should be reading from Genesis, all the way to Revelation. And don’t trust anybody except the word of God and the holy spirit first, and after you trust the word of God and the holy spirit leading you, only then trust your pastors and the leaders of your church.

God bless you all. Keep reading. Shalom, from Jerusalem.

This article originally appeared on Netivyah and is reposted with permission.