Remembering and Preparing to Remember

preparing to remember - the Last Seder

It occurred to us today, that the observances decreed by God in Scripture involve not only ‘remembering’ but ‘preparing’.  He calls us to remember the Sabbath day to keep in holy, remember when we were sojourners in the desert by building a Sukkah, and to remember when the Lord led us out of Egypt by observing the Passover. Throughout our 3,500 year history — 3,200 years of that in the Land, we are a people called to remember and with that remembering, comes a great deal of preparation.  This article is about the Jewish concept of preparing to remember.

Today is eruv Yom Kippur, the day before the holiest day in the Jewish calendar.  It is the culmination of the ten Days of Awe that started at Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year).  At sunset today (Tuesday September 22, 2015) begins a day of fasting, in accordance with God’s command to ‘practice self-denial’ and ‘afflict our soul’ (Leviticus 23:26-32).

“The tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. You are to hold a sacred assembly and practice self-denial; you are to present a fire offering to the Lord. On this particular day you are not to do any work, for it is a Day of Atonement to make atonement for yourselves before the Lord your God. If any person does not practice self-denial on this particular day, he must be cut off from his people. I will destroy among his people anyone who does any work on this same day. You are not to do any work. This is a permanent statute throughout your generations wherever you live. It will be a Sabbath of complete rest for you, and you must practice self-denial. You are to observe your Sabbath from the evening of the ninth day of the month until the following evening.”

Leviticus 23:27-32

[You can read more about this feast and its significance in our recent post on the High Holy Days and the Ten Days of Awe here: http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/the-high-holy-days-and-the-ten-days-of-awe/].

Even in advance of a solemn day of fasting, comes preparation.

In Biblical times, for the Jews to do no work meant that fires had to be stoked to burn until the next day and preparation for the evening meal to be eaten to break the fast had to occur before sundown the night prior. Without refrigeration, this likely meant a meal that was put over a slow fire to cook until sunset the following day.

Today Jews including us, are preparing a sweet dish to break the fast and setting a single pair of candle sticks that will be lit tonight at sundown to welcome in this Sabbath of Sabbaths – a day where no work is done.  There is no challah and no wine on this Sabbath, for this is a fast day.

For observant Orthodox Jews, the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are days of repentance – where they rise in the wee hours of the morning (4 am) and gather in synagogue to recite Selichot; communal prayers for divine forgiveness.  In the Sephardi tradition (Jews of Middle Eastern background) these corporate penitential prayers begin a full month before Rosh Hashanah. In the Ashkenazi tradition (Jews of Eastern European background), recitation of these corporate prayers of repentance begins on the Saturday night before Rosh Hashanah.  While Yom Kippur is a one day observance, there is as much focus on preparing to remember as there is to remember and observe the day itself.

It occurred to us that there seems to be a fundamental difference between the way we, as Jews observe holidays and the way it appears to us that our Gentiles friends observe them.  Firstly, while celebration and rejoicing is a part of many of our observances, we as Jews don’t celebrate holidays as much as observe them.

Observance of our Feast Days and Holy Days were established by God with the entire chapter of Leviticus 23 outlining the dates and specific observances of the seven annual feast days of the LORD;

  1. Passover / Pesach
  2. Unleavened Bread
  3. First Fruits
  4. Pentecost / Feast of Weeks / Shavuoth
  5. Feast of Trumpets / Rosh Hashanah
  6. Day of Atonement / Yom Kippur
  7. Feast of Booths / Tabernacles / Sukkot

Our Feast Days and Holy Days involve specific proscribed practices set out by God so that we remember.

For example, Passover in Scripture is associated with the taking of a lamb, killing it and then roasting in with fire.  As Messianic believers, our Passover Seder (meal and order of remembrance) centers on the evening meal of roasted lamb, unleavened bread and cups of wine and the remembering of the night we came out of Egypt. We remember the night our forefathers took those first lambs and placed the blood of those lambs on the doorposts and lintel and the Angel of the LORD passing over them.

We remember too, the night that Jesus gathered with His disciples at the Last Seder (what the Church calls the Last Supper) to eat the meal of lamb, unleavened bread and wine and to remember that same deliverance.

We also remember that on the night He was betrayed, He took some of the matzoh (the unleavened bread) and one of the cups of wine (the third cup — because He said will not drink the fourth until He drinks it together with us in His Father’s kingdom) and spoke of how the fulfillment of this is in Him.  He is the Lamb that takes away our sin. He the matzoh that is striped, pierced and broken for us.  The wine represents His blood, poured out for us for the forgiveness of sins – the blood of the Lamb that spares us of from judgement and death.

The corresponding holiday for our Gentile brothers and sisters is Easter.  In the evangelical church, this is often observed by a meal of turkey and/or ham with whatever side-dishes the hostess decides to make. It is a time for family to gather, to enjoy a good meal and while Gentile Christians have this meal after attending Easter services at church where they commemorate the Lord’s death and resurrection, the meal itself and the foods offered have no relationship to the observance. The Greek Orthodox retain the custom of a roasted lamb on Easter which makes sense to us as Jews – connecting the meal to the observance.
As Messianic believers, we commemorate Jesus’ birth during the Feast of Booths / Tabernacles / Sukkot – which is when many scholars believe He was born.

[for more info: http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/jesus-born-at-sukkot-feast-of-tabernacles/].

Of course we enjoy sharing Christmas dinner with our Gentile Christian extended family, when invited. It seems everyone has their favorite stuffing recipe and way of preparing turkey and that along with Brussel sprouts, people have a love-it or hate-it relationship with fruit cake.  From our vantage point, we see both Easter and Christmas observed similarly – with a religious observance at church and then a festive meal with friends and family that has little or no connection to the holiday. While lovely, this is foreign to us as Jews.  The foods we eat and share with friends and family on these Feast Days and Holy Days are connected to the Holy Day and our remembrance of the events they commemorate.

For us as Jews, “holidays” are not about ‘days off’ as ‘days dedicated’ to remembering.

As Jews, there is no separation between religious observance and how we carry that out in our everyday lives — because such as separation does not exist.  We have a separation between the sacred and the common – between every day and the Sabbath days and Feast Days, but we don’t have a concept of the secular – of something that is not connected to our faith and lives as Jews.

Our entire calendar – in fact, our entire lives center on times of remembering and preparing to remember. Last week, before Rosh Hashanah, we were gathering branches for the Sukkah we would build after Rosh Hashanah and after Yom Kippur. Yesterday, we were checking to make sure that we had all the pieces to assemble our Sukkah before we start the observance of Yom Kippur, tonight.

Every week, we prepare for Shabbat; with the preparation or purchase of challah (sweet braided egg bread) and the preparing of the best meal of the week.

For Rosh Hashanah, we prepare special dishes made with honey to signify a sweet year.

For Passover, there is the preparation of the lamb roasted over fire and for obtaining sufficient matzoh (unleavened bread) for the week-long celebration of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

We think that the institution of what the Church calls the Lord’s Table may be the only commemoration that exists today in which Gentile Christians regularly participate that embodies this Jewish concept of remembering and preparing to remember. The Christians at Corinth (a largely Gentile church) were exhorted by Paul to “examine themselves” so that they do not “eat the bread or drink the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner” (1 Corinthians 11:28). They were called to remember, yes – but also to prepare to remember.  This is no small matter, as the bread and the wine are not “just” food, but foods with a specific significance – in fact a significance set out all the way back to that first Passover when God led the Jews out of Egypt and which God Himself commanded all Jews to remember (Exodus 12). Jesus, as a Jew was observing the Passover, as the Law required.

“This day is to be a memorial for you, and you must celebrate it as a festival to the Lord. You are to celebrate it throughout your generations as a permanent statute.”

Exodus 12:14

The bread that He took was the unleavened bread of the Passover, which begins the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  The wine that He took represented the blood that was applied to the doorposts and lintels the night He lead us out of Egypt.

Say what?

Yes, the Old Testament seems to say that it was God Himself that lead us out of Egypt. The account of the Jew’s deliverance from Egypt in Exodus reads that we were to not only listen and obey the “Angel” that would lead us out, but that we should not defy Him because He will not forgive our acts of rebellion, for God’s Name is in Him.

“I am going to send an angel before you to protect you on the way and bring you to the place I have prepared. Be attentive to him and listen to his voice. Do not defy him, because he will not forgive your acts of rebellion, for My name is in him.”

Exodus 23:20-21

How do we know this isn’t just any angel?

Would it be a sin requiring forgiveness if we defied an ordinary angel?  To defy this Angel would be an act of rebellion that He (the Angel) would not forgive – and who but God, can forgive sin?

It is for this reason that theologians speak of this Angel as being the pre-incarnate Jesus, appearing as He does in other places in the Old Testament.

Jude 1 speaks of Jesus and some manuscripts saying Christ as being the One that lead us out of Egypt;

“Now I want to remind you, though you know all these things: The Lord Jesus (some manuscripts say Christ) first saved a people out of Egypt and later destroyed those who did not believe.”

Jude 1:5

From these passages, it would seem that on the night that He was betrayed, Jesus was commemorating the deliverance that He Himself wrought for the Jews the night He led them out of Egypt.

The foods they were eating were not arbitrary – but each had a specific meaning that was known to the Jewish disciples present.

The foods that Jesus took were not novel. The bread that He took was the unleavened bread of the Passover and the wine that He took represented the blood that was applied to the doorposts and lintels the night He lead us out of Egypt.

Jesus was not giving the bread and the cup new meaning, either!  He was applying the original meaning to Himself – saying as the Lamb of God, the wine represented the blood of the Lamb that bought our freedom when He Himself freed us from slavery in Egypt and that represents His blood that buys our freedom from sin. Jesus was using the unleavened bread which represented the haste in which the Jews left Egypt to also represents His sinless body, broken for us.

Note: ‘Leaven’ or yeast is a symbol of sin – see Galatians 5:9 and 1 Corinthians 5:6, hence the unleavened bread of the Passover represented Jesus’ sinless, thus perfect sacrifice.

Jesus was explaining who He is and what He came to do to the Jewish disciples in terms they already understood and with foods that already had very specific meaning to them.  It is this – in its all fullness that He calls His disciples to remember.

The Apostle Paul passes on the Jewish inextricable link between specific foods used to celebrate the Feasts of God and the events they represent when he exhorts the (largely Gentile) Church in Corinth to prepare to remember. 

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: On the night when He was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and said, “This is My body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way, after supper He also took the cup and said, “This cup is the new covenant established by My blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy way will be guilty of sin against the body and blood of the Lord. So a man should examine himself; in this way he should eat the bread and drink from the cup.  For whoever eats and drinks without recognizing the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself. This is why many are sick and ill among you, and many have fallen asleep. If we were properly evaluating ourselves, we would not be judged.

1 Cor 11:23-31

Hmm…”the cup of the New Covenant“.  What is Jesus referring to?

Jesus is referring to the promise in the Old Testament passage in Jeremiah 31 where God promises the New Covenant (or Testament) to the Jewish people.

Yes, as shocking as it may sound, God promised the New Covenant “to the House of Israel” and the “House of Judah” in the Old Covenant!

Furthermore, He says He will make a New Covenant with us, because we broke the one He made with us at Sinai when He brought us out of Egypt…the very thing that Passover celebrates!

“Look, the days are coming”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. This one will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant they broke even though I had married them”—the Lord’s declaration. “Instead, this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days”—the Lord’s declaration. “I will put My teaching within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people. No longer will one teach his neighbor or his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least to the greatest of them”—this is the Lord’s declaration. “For I will forgive their wrongdoing and never again remember their sin.”

Jeremiah 31:31-34

It was quite intentional that Jesus instituted the New Covenant at Passover because He said it advance in Jeremiah 31 that this New Covenant was to replace the (old) covenant that He made with us at Sinai when He led us out of Egypt!!

Is it any surprise then that He used the very same foods used at Passover to implement the New Covenant and calls us to remember His death for us using them? No, this is no coincidence.

In the same manner that the Church observes the Lord’s Table and remembers His death on our behalf as the Passover Lamb that we, as Messianic Jews observe the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. We do it to remember.

As we covered in our previous article on the 10 Days of Awe beginning with Rosh Hashanah and ending with Yom Kippur [http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/the-high-holy-days-and-the-ten-days-of-awe/], we do not believe that the Day of Atonement has anything to do with the rabbinic belief of our names being sealed in the Book of Life for the coming year. Our names were written in the Book of Life when we accepted His death as our Passover Lamb, once for all sacrificed for us.

Just as we remember His death in the unleavened bread and 3rd cup at Passover and when we share in the Lord’s Table with our Gentile brothers and sisters, we remember His death in our observance of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.  He is our covering — our “kippurah”. This is what we remember.

“…the Messiah has appeared, high priest of the good things that have come. In the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands (that is, not of this creation), He entered the most holy place once for all, not by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow, sprinkling those who are defiled, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of the Messiah, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to serve the living God?”

Hebrews 9:11-14

We keep this day as He called us to “throughout our generations” (Leviticus 23:26-32) and remember that He is the ‘eternal azazel’ (see previous article) — the scapegoat that bore our sins and removed them forever.  And through repentance of our individual sins and confession our corporate sins, we prepare to remember Him and His atoning death on this Day of Atonement.

For us as Jewish believers, keeping Yom Kippur is no different than the Church celebrating the Lord’s Table – remembering His death with the broken bread and cup.  Communion doesn’t ‘save’ and neither does observing Yom Kippur – but in both we remember and prepare to remember the Lord’s death till He comes.

It is also a somber and holy time where, as the ‘faithful remnant’ of our people, we have the privilege to come before Him and confess the sins of our people and ask for His mercy and salvation, in accordance with His will.

Paul speaks of the future salvation of Israel in Romans 11:1-25;

“I ask, then, has God rejected His people? Absolutely not!.

For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin.

God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew.

Or don’t you know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah—how he pleads with God against Israel?

‘Lord, they have killed Your prophets

and torn down Your altars.

I am the only one left,

and they are trying to take my life!’

But what was God’s reply to him?

“I have left 7,000 men for Myself who have not bowed down to Baal”.

In the same way, then, there is also at the present time a remnant chosen by grace. Now if by grace, then it is not by works; otherwise grace ceases to be grace.

What then?

Israel did not find what it was looking for, but the elect did find it. The rest were hardened, as it is written.

Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. In view of the fact that I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if I can somehow make my own people [the Jews] jealous and save some of them.

For if their rejection brings reconciliation to the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?

Now if the firstfruits offered up are holy, so is the whole batch. And if the root is holy, so are the branches.

Now if some of the branches were broken off [the Jews] and you [Gentiles], though a wild olive branch, were grafted in among them and have come to share in the rich root of the cultivated olive tree, do not brag that you are better than those [Jewish] branches. But if you do brag—you do not sustain the root, but the root sustains you.

Then you will say, “Branches [Jewish] were broken off so that I, [a Gentile] might be grafted in.”  True enough; they were broken off by unbelief, but you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural branches [the Jews], He will not spare you either.

Therefore, consider God’s kindness and severity: severity toward those who have fallen but God’s kindness toward you [as Gentiles] —if you remain in His kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.

And even they, if they do not remain in unbelief, will be grafted in, because God has the power to graft them in again.

For if you [Gentiles] were cut off from your native wild olive and against nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree [Jews], how much more will these—the natural branches [unbelieving Jews]—be grafted into their own olive tree [Israel]?

Romans 11:1-25

As Jews around the world are fasting and praying and repenting for our sins as a nation, we too will join them.

Would you, as those who have been “grafted in” to the commonwealth of Israel through Messiah join us in praying for God to soften the hearts of our people?

Would you pray along with us this Yom Kippur (this year that is Wednesday September 21, 2015 — beginning at sundown on Tuesday night) that the day that Zechariah spoke of in Chapter 12 would come about soon and in our time!

We would ask you to join us in prayer that we as a nation would ‘see Him who we have pierced and mourn for Him as one mourns for an only son’!

“Then I will pour out a spirit of grace and prayer on the house of David [the Jews] and the residents of Jerusalem and they will look upon Me whom they pierced. They will mourn for Him as one mourns for an only child and weep bitterly for Him as one weeps for a firstborn.”

~ Zechariah 12:10