This week’s teaching is from Torah Reading Ki Tetzay. It contains more commandments than any other Torah portion. The more than 70 commandments in this Torah reading cover a wide range of subjects, but Ross focuses his teaching on the underlying theme of keeping the commandments. He begins the class by speaking of an age old enemy known as Amalek and then relates that this enemy is fighting against the very Kingdom of God, a kingdom based upon justice and righteousness. Today, the enemies of the kingdom oppose “the way” of that holy kingdom, a way summed up in the commandments. They express this opposition by declaring that living by the commandments is legalistic, archaic, according to the flesh, etc. But this is in direct contradiction to the plain teaching of Scripture. Living the commanded way brings life, blessing and good. Ross shows that Torah living is a challenge, that it is not easy, but neither is it too difficult. You will not want to miss this teaching.
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In this week’s teaching, Ross shares a message from Torah reading Shofetim. It is based upon two Hebrew words often translated as Justice and Righteousness. He illustrates how these two words form the foundation for Israel’s eternal mission, and define the Way of YHVH. Ross then demonstrates from Scripture that Israel is the Servant of YHVH – a servant with a task. The task is shown to be “messianic,” and as Ross explains, many of the prophecies attributed to a messiah figure are actually referring to the nation of Israel. Is Israel referred to as messiah? Can all YHVH’s people be prophets? What is required of a prophet? You will not want to miss this challenging teaching.
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In this week’s lesson, Ross teaches on the great test of faith contained in Torah Reading Re’eh. He begins by presenting two ways – the blessing and the curse. The way of blessing is for those who listen to the commandments, the way of the curse is for those who will not listen to the commandments, and who turn aside from the commanded way. Ross goes on to point out that the way of the curse is associated with walking after other gods. He goes on to describe the distinction between the true faith and a way of apostasy. Is your faith good and upright in the eyes of YHVH or right in your own eyes? How does one demonstrate love for God? You will not want to miss this teaching.
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In this week’s class Ross teaches on the subject of Israel’s status as the chosen people. More and more, this status is challenged in the world today. It is more important now than ever before, that Israel understand and embrace this status, but what does the Bible mean when it speaks of being chosen? Chosen for what? This subject is one that many are uncomfortable with. Does this imply that Israel is God’s favorite? In this teaching, Ross carefully works through some key passages to shed light on this important topic. What does it mean to be called God’s special treasure among all the peoples? Is Israel the chosen people because of their righteousness, or are they to be righteous because they are the chosen people. You will not want to miss this informative class.
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In this class, Ross covers what could arguable be considered, Moses’ greatest sermon. Torah reading Va’etchanan contains some of the greatest passages in all of Scripture. This reading has an account of the Ten Words, the Shema, and explains why YHVH chose Israel as His special people. Delivered in the land of Moab, across the Jordan, this sermon still speaks to us today. Ross works through some of the key points of the sermon, illustrating the importance of the words contained therein. Click here to listen to this class.
As sunset falls on this eighth day of the 5th lunar month, known in Judaism as the month of Av, Tisha b’Av–that is, the 9th of Av–is marked on the calendar. Last Sabbath (August 2nd or 6th of Av) began the reading of Deuteronomy and is called Shabbat Chazon, which means the “Sabbath of Vision,” taken from the first word (חזון) of Isaiah 1:1-27, which is the reading from the Prophets for this day. These opening words of Isaiah set the tone for remembering Israel’s sinfulness that brought about the destruction of the holy city of Jerusalem.
Tisha b’Av is mentioned in Zechariah 7:3 and 8:19, as the “fast of the fifth month.” It is a 24 hour fast observed first and foremost to commemorate the destruction of both the 1st and 2nd Temples of Jerusalem, in 586 BCE and 70 CE respectively–first by the Babylonians, the subsequently by the Romans. Josephus, the Jewish historian, who records the history of the latter, and lived through it, makes the connection between the strange coincidence of the Temple going up in flames on the same fateful day on the Jewish calendar (Wars, 6:249–50). ((The First Temple, built by King Solomon, was destroyed by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C.E. on the 10th of Av, according to Jeremiah 3:12, whereas in the corresponding record in II Kings 25:8–9, the date is given as the 7th of Av. The Tosefta Ta’anit 4:10 (also Ta’an. 29a) explains this discrepancy by stating that the destruction of the outer walls and of the courtyard started on the 7th of Av while the whole edifice was destroyed on the 10th of Av. R. Johanan declared that he would have fixed the fast on the 10th of Av because it was on that day that the greater part of the calamity happened. The rabbis however decided that it is more fitting to commemorate the “beginning of the calamity.” The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 C.E., on the 10th of Av, according to the historian Josephus (Wars, 6:249–50). This day is still observed as a day of mourning by the Karaites. The Talmud (Ta’an. 29a), however, gives the date as the 9th of Av, which became accepted as the anniversary of both destructions. The Jewish Virtual Library)) Those twin destructions marked the day as a time of sorrow and mourning forever after, marked by solemness and fasting without food or drink for 24 hours. The customs associated with Shiva, the Jewish mourning for the death of a close relative are followed, and the book of Lamentations is read in a special mournful chant. Ironically, according to some rabbinic tradition, the Messiah either was or will be born on Tisha b’Av, as a way of affirming that Light comes in the midst of the deepest Darkness and Despair. Those who take this literally, that he has already been born, believe he is hidden away waiting for the time of redemption (y. Berachot 2:4; Eichah Rabbah 1:51). Over the centuries this day has grown large in both history, legend, and tradition, remembered as a dark day of dire news and impending disaster. What follows below is a summary of some of that tradition, compiled by Yoram Etinger and based on many sources:
1. The 9th Day of (the 11th Jewish month) Av is the most calamitous day in Jewish history. Fasting on that day commemorates national catastrophes, in an attempt to benefit from history by learning from critical moral and strategic missteps, thus preventing future catastrophes. It was first mentioned in the book of Zechariah 7:3.
2. The Passover holiday of liberty and the fast of the 9th Day of Av are commemorated on the same weekday. The fast of the 9th day of Av is succeeded by the 15th day of Av – a holiday of love and rapprochement. The 9th Day of Av is treated simultaneously as a day of lamentation and holiday, thus highlighting a cardinal lesson: In order to fortify liberty and advance deliverance, one must commemorate calamities, avoid wishful-thinking and be mentally and physically prepared to face crises, and never lose optimism. A day of destruction/oblivion is the first day of the path toward construction/deliverance. A problem is an opportunity in disguise. According to the Jerusalem Talmud (Berachot 2:4), the Messiah is destined to be born on Tisha Be’Av.
3. Major Jewish calamities occurred on the 9th Day of Av (Tisha B’Av in Hebrew):
*The failed “Ten Spies/tribal presidents” (VS. Joshua & Caleb) –slandered the Land of Israel, preferring immediate convenience and conventional “wisdom” over faith and long term vision, thus prolonging the wandering in the desert for 40 years.
*The destruction of the First Temple and Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon (586BC) produced a massacre of 100,000 and a national exile.
*The destruction of the Second Temple and Jerusalem by Titus of Rome (70CE) was accompanied by a massacre of 1MN and a national exile.
*Bar Kochba (Great) Rebellion was crashed (135CE) with the fall of Beitar (in Judea & Samaria) and the plowing of Jerusalem by Quintus Tinius Rofus, the Roman Governor – 580,000 killed.
*First Crusade Pogroms (1096) – scores of thousands slaughtered.
*Jewish expulsion from Britain (1290).
*Jewish expulsion from Spain (1492).
*WW1 erupted (1914).
*The beginning of the 1942 deportation of Warsaw Ghetto Jews to Treblinka extermination camp.
4. The centrality of Jerusalem in Jewish history is commemorated on the 9th day of Av. It is highlighted by Psalm 137:5 – “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.” According to the constructive/optimist spirit of Tisha’ Be’Av: “He who laments the destruction of Jerusalem will be privileged to witness its renewal” (Babylonian Talmud, Ta’anit 30).
5. The Book of the five Lamentations (The Scroll of Eikhah which was composed by Jeremiah the Prophet, who prophesized destruction, exile and deliverance) is read during the first nine days of Av. The numerical value of the Hebrew letters of Eikhah (איכה) is 36, which is equal to the traditional number of righteous Jewish persons. The Hebrew meaning of Eikhah could be construed as a reproaching “How Come?!”, as well as “Where are you?” or “Why have you strayed away?” The term Eikhah stars in the first chapter of Deuteronomy and the first chapter of Isaiah, which are annually studied in conjunction with the book of Lamentations on the 9th day of Av. Thus the 9th day of Av binds together the values of Moses, Jeremiah and Isaiah and three critical periods in the history of the Jewish People: deliverance, destruction, renewal.
6. The 9th Day of Av concludes a series of three Torah readings of Jewish calamities (two by Jeremiah and one by Isaiah), and launches a series of seven Torah readings of consolations, renewal and ingathering (by Isaiah).
7. Napoleon was walking at night in the streets of Paris, hearing sad voices emanating from a synagogue. When told that the wailing/lamenting commemorated a 586BC catastrophe – the destruction of the First Temple – he stated: “People who solemnize ancient history are destined for a glorious future!”
8. The commemoration of the 9th day of Av constitutes a critical feature of Judaism. It strengthens faith, roots, identity, moral clarity, cohesion and optimism by learning from past errors and immunizing oneself against the lethal disease of forgetfulness. Memory is Deliverance; forgetfulness is oblivion. The verb “to remember” (זכור) appears almost 200 times in the Bible, including the Ten Commandments. Judaism obligates parents to transfer tradition to the younger generation, thus enhancing realism and avoiding the curse of euphoric or fatalistic mood.
9. The custom of house-cleaning on the 9th day of Av aims at welcoming deliverance. Fasting expresses the recognition of one’s limitations and fallibility and the constant pursuit of moral enhancement and humility.
10. The 9th Day of Av is the central of the Four Jewish Days of Fast, commemorating the destruction of the First Temple: the10th Day of Tevet (the onset of the siege that Nebuchadnezzar laid to Jerusalem), the 17th day of Tamuz (the walls of Jerusalem were breached), the 9th day of Av (destruction of both Temples) and the 3rd day of Tishrey (The murder of Governor Gedalyah, who maintained a level of post-destruction Jewish autonomy, which led to a murder rampage by the Babylonians and to exile).
11. The 9thDay of Av culminates the Three Weeks of Predicament (ימי בין המצרים), starting on the 17th day of the month of Tamuz, when the walls of Jerusalem were breached by Nebuchadnezzar (1st Temple) and by Titus (2nd Temple).
12. The month of Av launches the transformation from Curse to Blessing. The Hebrew spelling of Av (אב) consists of the first two letters of the Hebrew alpha-Beth. These letters constitute the Hebrew word for “bud” and they are the first two letters of the Hebrew word for “spring” (אביב , which means the father of twelve month). The first letter, א, stands for ארור (cursed) and the second letter, ,ב stands for ברוך (blessed). The Hebrew letters of Av constitute the letters of Father (אב) and the first two letters of אבל (mourning). The numerical value of Av (Aleph=1 and Bet=2), which is three, the combination of the basic even and odd numbers (King Solomon: “A triangular string/knot cannot be broken”). The zodiac sign of Av is a lion, which represents the Lion of Judah, rising in the aftermath of destruction caused by Nebuchadnezzar, whose symbol was the lion. Moses’ brother, Aharon – the embodiment of human kindness – died on the 1st day of Av.
This incredible 13 x 17 foot zinc model of 19th century Jerusalem created was created by Hungarian Catholic Stephan Illes in the 1870s. It was first exhibited in 1873 at the Vienna International Exhibit, then lost and forgotten until the 1980s until tracked down by an enterprising Hebrew University instructor Rehav Rubin:
Rehav Rubin, an instructor of historical geography at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem was researching ancient maps at the National Library in Jerusalem. Among the 300 maps of Jerusalem donated to the library by collector Eran Laor—rated by experts at the British Museum as one of the world’s most complete private collections of Levant and Holy Land maps—Rehav Rubin was struck by a fine black-and white illustration of the city, made around 1872 and identified only as “A Bird’s Eye View of Jerusalem by Stephan Illes.” Delving further into the archive, Rubin discovered that Illes had made a “relief plan,” or model, of the city for the Ottoman Pavilion at the Vienna International Exhibition in 1873. But of the model itself, there was no trace.
You can read the full story of its remarkable rediscovery story here. It is now on display in the lower level of the Jerusalem Citadel. Unfortunately it is hard to find and many visitors to the Citadel, right inside Jaffa Gate, miss this important attraction.
Essentially this is “Mark Twain’s” Jerusalem, capturing the Old City as it was just after 1864 when Samuel Clemens made his historic visit chronicles in Innocents Abroad. It is fascinating to see how “lonely” and isolated the Old City sat with nothing of Western Jerusalem other than the Mishkenot near the Montefiore Windmill, the Mt of Olives virtually bare, and Silwan was a tiny village with both Yemenite Jews as well as Muslims living side by side together. Notice the “City of David” area is completely bare and desolate, despite claims of modern residents to have lived there for many hundreds of years. In fact, the Jewish population of the Old City exceeded that of the Arabs and the Christians in the late 19th century–despite much of the ahistorical political talk today about restoring “Arab East Jerusalem,” referring the the Old City.
Here is a representative gallery of the model looking at the Old City from all directions. You can click on the images for a larger view. They were all taken by Lori Woodall in March 2014. Thanks Lori!
In today’s teaching, the final in the Wilderness series, Ross shares a message of relevance for the awakening tribes. He begins by calling people to stand with the Jewish people during this period of time known as Bein HaMetzarim. Citing examples of growing anti-Jewish sentiments around the globe, Ross declares that the proverbial line has been drawn in the sand. On one side of the line are those who bless Israel, and on the other are those who do not. Ross points his listeners to a promise declared to each of the patriarchs and then goes on to show that a Jewish presence in Israel in modern times is the beginning of a prophetic fulfillment. Carefully weaving ancient prophecies with modern realities, Ross suggests that we are living in exciting “biblical” times. What side are you on? Click here to listen to this class.
In this week’s class, Ross relates an ancient message from Torah reading Mattote with a modern reality between Hamas and the Jewish State. Ross points out that the present crisis faced by the Jewish people requires the involvement of those who support Israel in the face of her enemies. He compares a story contained in Numbers chapter 32 with the modern reality of certain Israelites who are fighting while others are not. What can we do to support Israel in the present situation? Ross shares with his listeners that we have entered a 3 week period known as Bein HaMetzarim. This period of time has proven to be a time of distress for the children of Israel historically and therefore Ross expresses a sense of caution, but encourages a biblical confidence at the same time. What should we avoid during this crisis? Do the words of Moses offer any guidance for us? Ross suggests that they do. Click here to listen to this teaching.
In this teaching, Ross shares a message of faith from Torah Reading Chukat (Numbers 19:1-22:1). This reading is the 6th in our study of the book of Numbers. The focus of the class is on chapter 20 and a situation that took place in the Wilderness of Zin, at Kadesh. Ross refers to this lesson as the Mistakes at Meribah. The mistakes made at Meribah led YHVH to tell Moses and Aaron that they would not lead Israel into the land sworn to the patriarchs. What was it that they did that led to such consequences? Ross shows that many great Torah commentators have entertained this problem. Carefully working through passages throughout the Tanakh, Ross shows that the problem is tied to a lack of faith and then sets out to define faith and prove the point. Given the mistakes at Meribah, how then should we live? How can we ensure that we do not make the same mistakes in our own walk? These and other questions are answered by this teaching. Click here to listen to this teaching.