Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Special Parashah: Numbers 29:17-35
Haftarah: Ezekiel 38:18-39:16
B’rit Chadashah: John 7:37-39
This parashah focuses on the offerings given in the Temple during the festival of Sukkot. The sheer number of sacrifices that represent money is astounding and should cause us to consider whether anyone individually or collectively has any justification for begrudging tithes and offerings.
Another interesting aspect of these offerings is that there are 70 bulls given during Sukkot to protect the people from afflictions corresponding to the biblical number of Gentile nations identified in Genesis 10. This presents a stark contrast to how the majority of the Gentile nations treated Israel in the past and to the present day. By and large, they prefer to see Israel eradicated to include all Jews. What these nations are unaware of is what a true Jew is as defined by Yahshua in Romans 2-3. They would soon realize that simply killing anyone with a name or appearance of a stereotype Jew would not serve their objective. Yahshua instructs us to love our enemies and pray for them. Judah, without the benefit of Yahshua, already practiced this doctrine that so many claim as their own yet fail to practice.
Israel is represented by the Lamb in contrast to the bull that represents the Gentiles. The number of lambs offered each day is 14 for a total of 98. The consistency in the number sacrificed each day symbolizes that Israel’s adherence to G-d and His Torah does not depend on the greater or lesser power of its adversaries. Ninety-eight sacrificed lams also represent sacrifices to ward off the curses described in Deuteronomy. The offering of bulls starts with 13 and decreases by 1 each day. This symbolizes the eventual acceptance of G-d’s Torah and dominion by the Gentile nations. The bull symbolizes the power of those who oppose G-d while the Lamb is gentle and represents Israel’s small size and status compared to the powerful Gentile nations.
In verse 18 we read “and their libations.” The Sages noted that the Torah departs here from the singular form libation used in other passages. Also of interest is that this word is spelled with a superfluous “mem.” In verse 31 it is spelled with a superfluous “yud.” In verse 33 it is again spelled with a superfluous “mem.” This is important to note these deviations as their deviation from the correct spelling signals a hidden message from G-d. These extra letters in Hebrew spell the word water or mayim pronounced as one syllable similar to the English word “mime.” This is the basis for the ceremony of the Drawing of Water by the priests which was placed into one of the two pipes at the Southwest corner of the Altar and mixed with wine; the symbol that Yahshua used to draw attention to Himself at this festival as the Source of Living Water.
Most people fail to recognize that Shemini Atzeret, the Eighth day of restriction or Assembly is a separate holiday. Jewish tradition in the majority does not differentiate between Sukkot and this day. The reason is that it signals the beginning of a new cycle of reading the Torah. To traditional and Messianic Jews, it represents the gift of the written Torah, and for Messianic Jews, also the Living Torah (Yahshua). Therefore, it is a special day for celebration on its own. Yet, there are no Sukkot symbols incorporated into this day. Many consider it a separate Holy day. We are commanded not to any kind of ordinary work (Lev. 23:36).
Many Sages have labored over the word “restriction” and its meaning in the context of this holy day. Rashi states it is not only a restriction to not work, but also a restriction against travel. The rationale is that the pilgrim should remain in place to avail himself to remaining in the sukkah one more day. It is analogous to the Great King being able to enjoy the company of His subjects at a banquet. Onkelos translates the Hebrew word translated as “restriction” by Rashi, as “assembly.” This is the common translation lending itself to restricting travel in order to attend the festival of a holy convocation or assembly. Some use this wording to allow themselves to work, but I submit it means both. Each person must make their own decisions regarding this matter. It is not for us to make decisions for each other or judge those who interpret the verse differently that we choose to interpret it. G-d is our Judge.
Haftarah: Ezekiel 38:18-39:16
The subject of this haftorah is the war of Gog and Magog that will precede the Final Redemption. It is connected to Sukkot by a tradition that holds that the war will take place during the month of Tishrei, the month when the designated time of Sukkot falls. In addition, this war is identical to the one described in the fourteenth chapter of Zachariah, the haftorah read on the first day of Sukkot, which concludes by saying that the gentile survivors of this war will be required to go to Jerusalem every year on the holiday of Sukkot to pay homage to G‑d. This alludes to the reinstitution of the sacrificial system also described in Ezekiel that will take place during the millennial kingdom. Not only gentiles will be required to offer sacrifices at that time, but anyone who has not accepted Yahshua as Messiah.
The prophet describes Gog’s war against Israel and G‑d’s furious response. G‑d will send an earthquake, pestilence, great floods and hailstones and fire that will decimate Gog’s armies.
“And I will reveal Myself in My greatness and in My holiness and will be recognized in the eyes of many nations, and they will know that I am the Lord. . .. I will make known My Holy Name in the midst of My people Israel, and I will no longer cause My Holy Name to be profaned, and the nations will know that I, the Lord, am holy in Israel.”
The haftorah concludes by saying that “those living in Israel’s cities will go out and set fire to the weapons, to use as fuel- the shields, breastplates, bows, arrows, clubs and spears; they will use them for fire for seven years; so that they will not need to gather wood from the fields or cut down any from the forests; because they will use the weapons for fire. Thus, they will plunder those who plundered them and rob those who robbed them, says Adonai Elohim.” Gog and all of his hoard will be buried and it will take the house of Israel seven months to bury them in order to cleanse the land. G-d says it will be a day for Him to be glorified. The land will be cleansed G-d’s way.
B’rit Chadashah: John 7:37-39
“Now on the last day of the festival, Hoshana Rabba, Yahshua stood and cried out, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him keep coming to me and drinking! Whoever puts his trust in me, and the Scripture says, rivers of living water will flow from his innermost being!’ (Now, he said this about the Spirit, whom those who trusted in him were to receive later- the Spirit had not yet been given, because Yahshua had not yet been glorified).”
This scripture provides further support that Yahshua celebrated all of G-d’s (His) festivals. Also note that Yahshua says “let him keep coming to me and living water will flow from his innermost being.” This sentence validates other scriptures that support a progressive salvation and not an instantaneous “once and for all” event.
This reading is perfect for the time of year in which we read and meditate on it, for we are celebrating Sukkot; G-d’s provision; the time of year Yahshua was born; the Messiah who died for our PAST sins and provided a way for us to be reconciled to Himself (G-d). Those who come to Him start with a new slate; a clean easel from which to begin a new life in Him; a life that seeks to obey His commands, laws, and statutes out of love. And what of our future sins? G-d provides forgiveness for true repentance; a turning from the sin and a stronger resolve not to repeat it. We are held accountable, but we can be forgiven if we return to the King’s Highway and seek His ways.
May G-d bless and keep you. May He enlighten you through His Living and Written Torah to a successful and blessed year ahead.
Rabbi Tamah Davis