The “Official” Snarky Guide To The Differences Between Christmas and Hannukah – Jeff Dunetz

bfb161220-hanukkah-harryIt is that time of year that Christians celebrate Christmas and Jews celebrate Hannukah, and all of us Messianic and Hebrew Roots folks are somewhere in the middle.

Actually, we’re not really in the middle.  Most of us have opted out of Christmas and opted into Hannukah.  Not because we have rejected Messiah Yeshua (Jesus Christ), mind you.  We understand that His birth happened in the fall, most likely at the Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah in modern Jewish practice) rather than in December.  We also understand that all the Feasts of the Lord presented in Leviticus 23 are connected to Messiah’s redemptive and restorative work for the nation of Israel and all the world. 

The fact is, we celebrate Passover (Pesach), Unleavened Bread (Matzot), Firstfruits (Yom Habikkurim), Pentecost (Shavuot), Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah), Atonement (Yom Kippur), and Tabernacles (Sukkot) because God established them and called on His people to observe them “as a statute forever”.  That’s different from Christmas, which is a human tradition rather than a Divine decree.  Christmas is a Christianization of the old festivals our ancestors celebrated in honor of other gods before they learned about the One True God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  We have learned that our Messiah is Jewish, which is why we prefer to follow His example rather than the traditions which overshadowed and obscured His Jewishness and the Hebraic origins of our faith.

One might argue that Hannukah is a tradition as well.  Indeed it is, but it is rooted firmly in history as a tale of our God’s salvation of His people in a time of great distress.  Why is it not in the Bible?  Well, it is, in some canons.  The Catholic Bible still has 1st and 2nd Maccabees, the books that tell the Hannukah story.  There is also a mention of it in the New Testament:  John 10:22 tells us that Yeshua was in the Temple during the Feast of Dedication, which is another name for Hannukah.  The point is, the origin of Hannukah is no less real and no less miraculous than the origin of Purim as recorded in the book of Esther.  Our Jewish brethren established both feasts to commemorate the provision of the Almighty and His faithfulness to His covenant.  Is there a better reason to celebrate?

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Fox Byte 5775 #32-33: Behar (On the Mount); Bechukotai (In My Statutes)

אַחֲרֵי מוֹת / קְדֹשִׁים

The search of the “Interstellar Other” in film.  Clockwise from top left:  A mysterious monolith enlightens pre-human primates in 2001:  A Space Odyssey (“Arthur C. Clarke's 3001 to become SyFy miniseries “, Wired.Co.UK, November 4, 2014); arrival of the alien spaceship in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (“Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)”, Steven Spielberg Movies, December 18, 2009); crop circles indicate alien activity in Signs (“Signs Movie Review”, MediaCircus.net, 2002); the end of the world according to Knowing (“Movie Review – Knowing”, Firefox.net, March 19, 2009).
The “Interstellar Other” in film.  Clockwise from top left: A mysterious monolith enlightens primates in 2001: A Space Odyssey (“Arthur C. Clarke’s 3001 to become SyFy miniseries“, Wired.Co.UK, November 4, 2014); arrival of the alien spaceship in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (“Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)”, Steven Spielberg Movies, December 18, 2009); crop circles indicate alien activity in Signs (Signs Movie Review”, Media Circus, 2002); the end of the world according to Knowing (“Movie Review – Knowing, Firefox News, March 19, 2009).

What is this fascination with the possibility of life beyond this planet?  Are we so insecure in our human existence that we cannot bear the thought of dwelling on the only inhabited territory in the entire universe?  Or is it, perhaps, a deep-seated sense of being incomplete in ourselves?  Whatever the reason, since the dawn of human existence we have sought for something, or Someone, beyond ourselves who shares our experience of sentience and can explain it to us.

For over a century the search for the Interstellar Other has found expression in science fiction.  Novelists like H.G. Wells, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and Arthur C. Clarke have made their marks on several generations of impressionable youth, yet the massive explosion of science fiction onto popular consciousness came not with books, but with movies.  Clarke’s collaboration with Stanley Kubrick in the 1968 film 2001:  A Space Odyssey took science fiction movies to a new level.  It combined world-class writing with world-class filmmaking to proclaim to audiences that we are not alone, but in so doing left more questions than answers.  Ten years later, Steven Spielberg sought to answer some of those questions in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, proposing that the Interstellar Others have been visiting earth for a long, long time, and asserting that humanity had reached a point where these advanced beings could take us into their confidence and educate us further.  Movies produced over the next generation investigated different aspects of this question.  Some, like M. Night Shyamalan’s 2002 thriller, Signs, explored the dark possibility that alien visitors are not friendly.  Signs clings to the hope that humanity can defend itself from alien intruders, and that the hostile encounter restores a sense of purpose we did not know we had lost.  And then there is Knowing, a 2009 drama in which Dr John Koestler, played by Nicholas Cage, embarks on a search for the meaning behind clues predicting one global disaster after another.  He learns at last that he can do nothing about the disasters; they themselves are clues all-knowing alien watchers have tracked through time to warn humanity about the imminent destruction of our planet in a massive solar flare.  The aliens have no intention of letting the human race pass into extinction.  Their clues guide people like Koestler in gathering children so the aliens can take them to a place of safety where humanity can begin again.

A recurring motif in these science fiction films is the search for meaning behind the evidence of alien presence.  In 2001 the evidence is a mysterious monolith, and in Close Encounters it is the connection of unexplainable phenomena across the globe.  In Signs it is the appearance of crop circles, and in Knowing it is the incomprehensible code of numbers and letters scratched by a child and left in a time capsule.  The story tellers would have us believe that the answers to human existence are all there if we can only decipher the patterns.

The science fiction story tellers are correct in that an Interstellar Other has left patterns for us to decipher.  What they have missed is that the Interstellar Other is the Holy One of Israel.  His clues are in Torah, and His answers are in the rest of Scripture.

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Comment on Peter Vest’s Review of Give Me A Place Where I May Dwell

BFB150428 Orthodox Messianic Judaism - Mt SinaiRecently Peter Vest, author of Orthodox Messianic Judaism, reviewed my book, Give Me A Place Where I May Dwell.  His is the first critical review of which I am aware.  Critical, that is, but not scathing.  His perspective provides ample opportunity for discussion and refinement of our understanding, and much room for agreement.  Peter invited me to comment on his review, and I am glad to accept the invitation in hope of advancing a very useful dialogue.  Here is his review.  My comments follow.


My Review and Response to McCarn’s “Give Me a Place Where I May Dwell”

Posted on Orthodox Messianic Judaism, April 19, 2015

by Peter Vest

I just finished reading a book that is attempting to do for the Ephraimite Movement what Theodor Herzl’s book “Der Judenstaat” did for Zionism.  Some of what it says is good…other portions are very troubling indeed.

First, here’s the author, Albert McCarn:

110811 AJM DA Photo

As you can see, he is a well-decorated ex-military officer.  And we can all be very thankful for his many years of service to our country.

Here’s the book which, you will note, displays a proposed national flag for the Ephraimite Nation:

Give Me A Place Where I May Dwell is a meticulously researched book that makes a compelling biblical and contemporary case for building a global consciousness among Hebrew Roots believers—and eventually finding a homeland for these Ephraimites in Israel.

So let’s get into it.

Every book is about a problem and a proposed solution.  This book frames the problem something like this:

You very well could be a descendant of the 10 Lost Tribes of Israel which means that you’re living in exile from your homeland (the tribal territories of the Northern Tribes of Israel), deprived of a sense of national community with your people–the Ephraimites, suffering from the onslaught of increasingly hostile, anti-Biblical culture in your host country or even outright oppression.

But there is hope for you to rejoin your lost community and reclaim your birthright to the Northern Tribal Territory of Israel:

You can help restore national consciousness to Ephraim by (1) envisioning the kinship you share with other Ephraimites all over the world and (2) joining many others in a mass exodus from all of their various host countries as they embark on an epic quest to reclaim the “land of the fathers.”

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Fox Byte 5775: Matzot (Unleavened Bread)

מַצּוֹת

The Ossuary of Douaumont, final resting place of over 130,000 unidentified French and German soldiers whose bodies were broken in the great Battle of Verdun, February 21-December 18, 1916.
The Ossuary of Douaumont, final resting place of over 130,000 unidentified French and German soldiers whose bodies were broken in the great Battle of Verdun, February 21-December 18, 1916.

It was in May of 1986 that I first visited the great World War I battlefield at Verdun.  Along with Auschwitz, Verdun is on my Top 10 list of places every human being should visit to learn the extent of evil that people can inflict on one another.  Over the course of 10 months in 1916, nearly 2,500,000 French and German soldiers flung death at one another.  Total casualties cannot be known, but the estimates range nearly as high as one million, of whom 300,000 were killed in action.  The toll does not end with the soldiers; over the course of the battle nine French villages ceased to exist, and an area the size of Manhattan suffered such devastation that the French government deemed it unrecoverable and left it to nature to repair.  To this day much of the battlefield remains a poisoned wasteland and graveyard for over 100,000 missing soldiers of both sides.

France has done its best to honor the dead.  In 1932 President Albert Lebrun opened the great Ossuary at Douaumont, one of the villages destroyed in the battle.  The Ossuary ranks among the most impressive monuments of Western civilization, attempting both to remember and honor the dead, and to remind the living of their sacrifice.  Some might consider the reminders grotesque.  Beneath the Ossuary is a crypt which contains the bones of at least 130,000 unidentified French and German soldiers.  They are there for all to see, together in death, having surrendered their lives that the lives of their nations might continue.  Of course their nations did continue , and still do, although much diminished and much broken, even as the bones of their lost sons and daughters.

Looking at these bones one might be reminded of another collection of bones – the ones Ezekiel saw in his vision (Ezekiel 37:1-14).  Can these bones live?  The Lord knows.  In some strange way the bones resemble matzah, the unleavened bread broken and eaten during this seven day feast after the Passover.  Perhaps that is part of the reason the Jewish sages paired Ezekiel’s vision in the Valley of the Dry Bones with the Torah readings for the Passover season.

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Fox Byte 5775: Pesach (Passover)

פֶּסַח

Tolkien in 1972, in his study at Merton Street (from J. R. R. Tolkien. A Biography by H. Carpenter; accessed on lotr.wikia.com)
Tolkien in 1972, in his study at Merton Street (from J. R. R. Tolkien. A Biography by H. Carpenter; accessed on lotr.wikia.com)

Professor J.R.R. Tolkien insisted that there was no hidden meaning behind his works on Middle Earth.  Such was his assertion in his Foreword to The Lord of the Rings:

I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence.  I much prefer history, true or feigned, with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers.  I think that many confuse ‘applicability’ with ‘allegory’; but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author.

– J.R.R. Tolkien, Foreword to the Second Edition of The Lord of the Rings

Yet there are allegorical elements throughout his writings, however unintended.  Tolkien’s Catholic world view infused his work with well-known Christian concepts such as atonement, salvation, redemption, and fulfillment of prophecy.  A consistent story line appears throughout his writing, repeated on several levels.  It is the story of paradise defiled, of blessed people tempted by evil into betrayal of their calling, of their exile and dissolution, and their restoration at last after the struggles of their exile produce the required degree of contrition and of resolve to live up to their destiny.  In The Silmarillion the tale plays out in the long defeat of the Noldor in their forlorn quest to regain the Silmarils from Morgoth the defiler of Middle Earth.  The cycle ends and begins anew in their redemption beyond all hope by the Valar, the powers over the earth who had exiled the Noldor from the blessed realm of Valinor because of their rebellion.  In The Hobbit it is the restoration of the House of Durin as the Dwarves under the leadership of Thorin Oakenshield set in motion the events that bring the death of the great dragon Smaug and the coronation of a new Dwarf King Under the Mountain.  And in The Lord of the Rings it is the return of Aragorn as King Elessar of Gondor, restoring the long lost (and nearly forgotten) kingdom of the Númenóreans after the defeat of Sauron, Morgoth’s chief lieutenant.

Among the many things we learn from Tolkien is that things happen in cycles.  Life is cyclical, not linear.  What happens to the fathers happens to the sons, and what has come before will come again.  Whether he realized it or not, that is the Hebraic way of looking at the world.  And it is quite biblical.  As Solomon, the son of David, teaches us:

That which has been is that which will be, and that which has been done is that which will be done.  So there is nothing new under the sun.  (Ecclesiastes 1:9 NASB)

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