The ancient rabbis had always called it torat khayim, Torah of Life, or Living Torah, the living water, font of mercy. Two thousand years ago, as the center and purpose of salvation history, the Torah, to become true life and perfect love, took life to itself. The Torah literally “took flesh,” and in that flesh revealed the very nature of perfect love.
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father” Jn 1:14.
When Rabbi Yeshua approached Jerusalem riding on an ass’s colt: “As he was now drawing near, at the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, ‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’” Lk 19:37–38.
Anyone who heard him would have thought, “This is hyperbole. Stones do not cry out.” Even by the standards of Scripture exegesis, Rabbi Yeshua‘s statement, taken in isolation, would be considered figurative.
But look what happened. “The crowds that went before him and that followed him shouted, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!’” Mt 21:9. They knew Rabbi Yeshua, loved him, followed him. However, “When he entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, “Who is this?” Mt 21:10. They did not know him. The crowds that had accompanied Rabbi Yeshua on his long journey had to introduce him. “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth of Galilee” Mt 21:11.
The crowds in Jerusalem who did not know Rabbi Yeshua heard of him mainly from the Sanhedrin’s bet din, which had called for his death but did not want to carry out the Torah penalty for blasphemy, stoning Deut 17:2–5. And so the Sanhedrin religious authorities gathered a crowd to go with them and shout, “Crucify, crucify him!” Lk 23:21. And we saw what happened. At exactly the moment of Rabbi Yeshua‘s death on the Cross the stones did cry out proclaiming him!
And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom; and the earth shook, and the rocks were split; the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe, and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” Mt 27:51–54.
The tearing of the Temple curtain revealed again the Jewish people torn in two and Holy of Holies as an empty room. Many Jews followed Rabbi Yeshua, great multitudes, but the Jewish nation, in the person of the Sanhedrin, was an empty Holy of Holies Acts 4:16–17. However, the centurion’s cry, “Truly this was the Son of God!”, Mt 27:54 revealed his authentic faith. He, a pagan, had seen, and he believed.
Rabbi Yeshua had told Rabbi T’oma, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” Jn 20:29. Rabbi Paul, who had been “ravaging the church, and entering house after house,” Acts 8:3 “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord” Acts 9:1, became “filled with the Holy Spirit” Acts 13:9 and became Christianity’s greatest apostle to the Gentiles Rom 11:13.
The New Ten Commandments
The Sermon on the Mount
Pope Benedict XVI affirms, “It should be clear by now that the Sermon on the Mount is the new Torah brought by Jesus.”1 And we remember his companion observation that, “Christ is the new, the true Moses (this idea runs through the whole Sermon on the Mount).”2
Which mountain? We do not know for certain. By tradition, it is a hill north of Lake Gennesaret called the Mount of the Beatitudes.3 The Catholic Church traditionally uses the Beatitudes Mt 5:3–10 given by Rabbi Yeshua in the Sermon on the Mount, quoted by Rabbi Matityahu, who wrote for Jews. Moses had given the Torah from Mt. Sinai. Rabbi Yeshua also presented his new Torah from a mountain to connect it with the Torah of Moses.
The hill on which Rabbi Yeshua stood is humble among mountains, but Rabbi Matityahu‘s Greek definite article ho identifies it as the mountain. We have seen this use of the definite article before, to identify ha’isha, the woman, who is also ha’almah, the virgin. Just as the ancient Temple became the person of Rabbi Yeshua, the new and definitive Temple, the Mount of the Beatitudes became the “new and definitive Sinai.”4
What is this “new and definitive Sinai?” Pope Benedict XVI explains from the Sermon’s opening verse: “Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them (Mt 5:1–2).”5 The Holy Father continues,
Jesus sits down—the expression of the plenary authority of the teacher. He takes his seat on the cathedra of the mountain. Later on he will speak of the rabbis who sit in the cathedra—the chair—of Moses and so have authority (cf. Mt 23:2); for that reason their teaching must be listened to and accepted, even though their lives contradict it, even though they themselves are not authority, but receive authority from another. Jesus takes his seat on the cathedra as the teacher of Israel and the teacher of people everywhere.6
The Sermon on the Mount was for the Jewish nation Mt 15:24. The Beatitudes are part of a long tradition of Old Testament teachings beginning with the very first psalm. “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked … but his delight is in the law of the Lord” Ps 1:1–2. They are Rabbi Yeshua‘s covenant with his chosen people, called beatitudes because they promise blessings, joy on earth and eternal happiness in heaven. Each promises a distinctive form of happiness.
The first Beatitude is “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” Mt 5:3. The poor in spirit are those who voluntarily become poor to follow Rabbi Yeshua, those who are detached from material things, those who maintain a low opinion of themselves while others esteem them, and those who are patiently satisfied with what they have. The promised kingdom of heaven is the state of grace on earth and the beatific vision in heaven.
The second Beatitude is, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” Mt 5:4. St. Jerome, describing the darkness at the time of Rabbi Yeshua‘s death on the Cross, spoke of “the mourning of the universe at the death of its Creator.”7 This mourning also offers up our own suffering in union with Rabbi Yeshua‘s suffering on the Cross to get to know him better. The promised comfort is spiritual strength to remain steadfast in the Faith. But the second Beatitude is also for those who cry out in their hearts as God commanded the Man Clothed in Linen, “Go through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark upon the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it’” Ezek 9:4. The “mark” was a tav, the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, which was then written as a + cross.
The third Beatitude is, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” Mt 5:5. Be humble. “Now the man Moses was very meek” Num 12:3. “Learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” Mt 11:29. The promised inheritance is the Holy Land.
The fourth Beatitude is, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” Mt 5:6. Righteousness is doing things God’s way even when it is not our way. “Not my will, but yours, be done” Lk 22:42. The promised satisfaction is deep spiritual joy in spite of our trials and sufferings.
The fifth Beatitude is, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” Mt 5:7. Mercy requires that we forgive those who have offended us. Rabbi Yeshua was clear. “With the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get” Mt 7:2. He taught us to pray, “And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” Mt 6:12. He even taught us the parable of the unmerciful servant Mt 18:23–35. The promised mercy is God’s mercy towards us on the day of judgment.
The sixth Beatitude is, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” Mt 5:8. Purity is freedom from whatever weakens or changes a person or activity. Purity in heart is the practice of chastity in our state in life, a wide chastity that embraces everything in harmony with God and rejects everything discordant with him. The promised vision of God is the beatific vision in heaven.
The seventh Beatitude is, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” Mt 5:9. Peacemakers are those who work to reconcile sinners who have been apart from God, and also those who work to heal discord between men. The promised sonship of God is the attainment of heavenly glory as part of God’s family.
The eighth Beatitude is, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” Mt 5:10. Those persecuted for righteousness’ sake are persons opposed and harassed for faithful service to Rabbi Yeshua. If we persevere to the end, we all enter the promised kingdom of heaven.
The Beatitudes are an interior portrait of Rabbi Yeshua. He is poor in spirit. “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them” Mt 6:26. “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well” Mt 6:33. “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head” Mt 8:20. Rabbi Yeshua is serene even though he owns nothing. He absolutely knows that, as long as he devotes himself entirely to our Father’s service, he will have what he needs. God will not be outdone in generosity.
The Sermon on the Plain
On a different occasion, in his Sermon on the Plain Lk 6:20–26, Rabbi Yeshua taught a similar lesson in paired beatitudes and woes, quoted by Rabbi Lucas, who wrote for both Jews and Gentiles Lk 6:20–26.8
Rabbi Yeshua spoke on a plain, a level place, to emphasize that his message would be for all Israel, Jews and Gentiles alike. Pope Benedict XVI explains that the woes are “not condemnation, but a warning that is intended to save.”9
Love Your Enemies
Rabbi Yeshua taught us,
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” Mt 5:43–48.
Our Father taught us: “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; for you will heap coals of fire on his head, and the LORD will reward you” Pr 25:21–22. Rabbi Paul quoted, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head” Rom 12:20.
These references to burning coals are figurative, not literal. When an enemy attacks us, he expects us to attack him in response, and is prepared. Rabbi Paul tells us that if instead we respond charitably, an enemy who is part of the Christian community will burn with embarrassment at his own ill behavior, as much as if burning coals were heaped on his head. We may hope that the enemy will react by ceasing to be an enemy and instead become a friend.
The Old Testament Days
The Torah of Moses, deeply understood, has always supported love for all without regard to whether one is a friend or an enemy. The 613 mitzvot, broadly taught God’s people Israel to love him, and to love one another. Rabbi Hillel’s “Torah on one foot” was, “And what you hate, do not do to any one.” He added, “That is the entire Torah. The rest is commentary.” Among the fourteen mitzvot that teach love for one another and the thirteen that urge help for the poor, none distinguishes between friend and enemy. Our Father had commanded the people Israel to live apart from the other Canaanite tribes; some of these mitzvot therefore are limited to fellow Israelites, and some of the six regarding Gentiles call for justice rather than mercy, but none urges harm.
Even the punishments, such as death by decapitation, express God’s love for his people Israel. These sentences were meted out for sins against God or man. In the Old Testament days, sin and crime were the same thing. Today we call offenses against God’s law sin, and against man’s law crime, but in a well-ordered society they are identical or similar 1 Tim 2:2. Our Father taught his children to hate and destroy pagans because he wanted them to utterly destroy near occasions of sin. The Israelites were obliged to treat everyone with love, except those who put at risk their election to witness for God.
However, the temptation to hate our enemies runs deep in our fallen nature. “A time to love, and a time to hate” Ecc 3:8. After our Father opened the Red Sea so that Moses and the Israelites could cross and then closed the sea over the Egyptians, they sang a song of victory that emphasized their enemies’ pain. “The horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea” Ex 15:1. The Israelites relished every detail. “Pharaoh’s chariots and his host he cast into the sea; and his picked officers are sunk in the Red Sea. The floods cover them; they went down into the depths like a stone” Ex 15:4.
Even after receiving the Torah, Israel, the people who struggle with God, struggled against the temptation to hate. After Barak’s ragtag Israelite army had defeated Sisera’s Canaanite army, Deborah, the prophetess and judge of Israel Judg 4:4–5:15, sang a joyful song. She relished every detail of Sisera’s death at the hands of a Canaanite woman, Jael. “[Jael] put her hand to the tent peg and her right hand to the workmen’s mallet; she struck Sisera a blow, she crushed his head, she shattered and pierced his temple. He sank, he fell, he lay still at her feet; at her feet he sank, he fell; where he sank, there he fell dead” Judg 5:26–27. That much can be reconciled with the Torah; Sisera had threatened to destroy Israel. But it is astonishing that a woman could relish the pain of a mother whose son would not come home from war. Deborah sang: “Out of the window she peered, the mother of Sisera gazed through the lattice: ‘Why is his chariot so long in coming?’” Judg 5:28.
This same loving protection of God’s elected people Israel was behind King David’s proclamation, “Do I not hate them that hate you, O Lord? And do I not loathe them that rise up against you? I hate them with perfect hatred” Ps 139:21–22.
The New Testament Days
Rabbi Yeshua, teaching his flock at the highest level of the Torah, taught directly: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” Mt 5:44. But Rabbinic Judaism, perhaps from yeridat hadorot, continues to accept hate for evil men.10 At the end of the yom kippur service, Jews worldwide recite the neilah, closing prayer, often called the avinu malkenu, “Our Father, our King.” It begins:
Our Father, our King, we have sinned before You,
Our Father, our King, we have no king but You.
Our Father, our King, return us in wholehearted repentance before You.
But then, near the end, there is, “Our Father, our King, avenge, before our eyes, the spilled blood of your servants.” This near the end of a plea for mercy! To this day, Orthodox Jews, speaking of an evil man, sometimes use the Hebrew phrase yemakh shmo, may his name be blotted out. However, the moral dilemma of hatred becomes clear when we apply a specific instance of the Golden Rule Mt 7:12:
If we accept in principle that hate is appropriate we must accept the same principle when it is invoked against us.
Rabbi Yeshua had warned, “For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get” Mt 7:2. The Jewish nation recognized it. “I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live” Deut 30:19.
Holy Mother Church includes the imprecatory psalms in her Liturgy of the Hours.11 When we pray them we may reflect that saints across the centuries have asked God in prayer to smite their enemies, but always in the sense of releasing them from the darkness of sin so that they might see the light of the living Rabbi Yeshua, just as he had done to Rabbi Paul. “Now as he journeyed he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed about him. And he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’” Acts 9:3–4.
“The way,” as on a pilgrim journey. Literally, halakha comes from the Hebrew root hlkh, which means “walk,” and through the root from halakh, “he walked,” which refers to Moses leading God’s people Israel to the promised land. It applies the Written Law and the Oral Law, the Talmud, and the rabbinic legislation and commentaries on every aspect of Jewish law as God’s map for the journey, showing us the way, which paths will lead to life, and which to death.
“Here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come” Heb 13:14. We are all on a pilgrim journey across earthly life in preparation for eternal life. Halakha (Hebrew: the way) is God’s map for the journey, showing us the way, which paths will lead to life, and which to death.
In the New and Eternal Covenant, Rabbi Yeshua is the halakha, leading his people to heaven. He said, “Jesus said to him, “I am the way [halakha], and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me” Jn 14:6.
“But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way [halakha], men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem” Acts 9:1–2. “She followed Paul and us, crying, ‘These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation’” Acts 16:17. “He had been instructed in the way of the Lord” Acts 18:25. “He began to speak boldly in the synagogue; but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him and expounded to him the way of God more accurately” Acts 18:26. “… but when some were stubborn and disbelieved, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them, taking the disciples with him, and argued daily in the hall of Tyrannus” Acts 19:9. “About that time there arose no little stir concerning the Way” Acts 19:23. “But this I admit to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the law or written in the prophets, having a hope in God which these themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust” Acts 24:14–15. “But Felix, having a rather accurate knowledge of the Way, put them off, saying, “When Lysias the tribune comes down, I will decide your case” Acts 24:22.
Halakha and Hagada
Jewish religious writing is broadly divided between halakha, law, and hagada, lore. While halakha deals separately with each legal requirement, hagada deals with the whole of Jewish life as a body of wisdom and experience, usually relating to ethics and morality. Hagada comes from the Hebrew root hgd, “speak” or “tell.” The Seder hagada tells of the Passover experience through blessings, questions and answers, the story of the Exodus, and songs.
A King in the Line of David
The Son of David
Our Father had promised that the Mashiakh would be in the line of David:
Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David, and over his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and for evermore” Is 9:7. “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land” Jer 23:5. “In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring forth for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land” Jer 33:15. “David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel” Jer 33:17. “And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them; I, the Lord, have spoken” Ezek 34:23–24. “My servant David shall be king over them; and they shall all have one shepherd Ezek 37:24.
And there is more. Rabbi Matityahu tells us that, “All the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations” Mt 1:17.
In gematria, fourteen is the number of David. In Hebrew, “David” is spelled dalet-vav-dalet. Dalet is the fourth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and so it has a gematria value of 4. Vav, the sixth letter, has a value of 6. Dalet again is 4. The gematria value of dalet-vav-dalet therefore is 4+6+4, or 14.
Rabbi Matityahu affirmed that Rabbi Yeshua was in the line of David: “Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel” Mt 1:12. Some rabbis try to say that the line of David in Rabbi Matityahu’s Gospel was broken, quoting Jeremiah:
“Write [Coniah, also called Jeconiah], down as childless, a man who shall not succeed in his days; for none of his offspring shall succeed in sitting on the throne of David, and ruling again in Judah” Jer 22:30. But God forgave Jeconiah, and he fathered seven sons: “And the sons of Jeconiah, the captive: Shealtiel his son …” 1 Chron 3:17. And so the line of David remained intact in Rabbi Matityahu‘s Gospel Mt 1:12. Of course, the line of David also remained intact in Rabbi Lucas ’ Levirate genealogy, in which Shealtiel’s father is Neri rather than Jeconiah.
Rabbi Yeshua was in the line of David because Joseph was in the line of David. As we can see in the Hebrew Scripture and Gospel genealogies, the halakha clearly passes ancestry through patrilineal descent.
Twelve hundred years earlier, our far-seeing Father had grafted Ruth the Moabite, a foreigner, into the House of Israel by choosing Boaz of the tribe of Judah to be her earthly husband and protector Ruth 4:13. Now the Father would graft his Son into the House of David by choosing Joseph of the tribe of Judah to be Mary’s husband and protector. The angel told Joseph, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit” Mt 1:20. The angel could have addressed Joseph in the traditional manner, “Joseph, son of Jacob,” but he specifically said, “Joseph, son of David” Mt 1:20 to present the Son to be born as being in the line of David.
Only a father or mother has authority to name a child. St. Gabriel the Archangel had told Mary before the Child was conceived, “You shall call his name Jesus” Lk 1:31. The angel’s command to Joseph three months later, “You shall call his name Jesus” Mt 1:21, meant that Joseph was to be a true halakhic father to baby Yeshua and Yeshua was to be a true son of David.
The Navarre Bible says, “Since it was quite usual for people to marry within their clan, it can be concluded that Mary belonged to the house of David. Several early Fathers of the Church testify to this — for example, St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Irenaeus, St. Justin and Tertullian, who base their testimony on an unbroken oral tradition.”12
Zechariah and Elizabeth were both in the line of Aaron, therefore of the tribe of Levi. “In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth” Lk 1:5. St. Luke’s phrase, “A wife of the daughters of Aaron,” tells us that St. Elizabeth’s family was of the preferred tradition in which the daughter of a kohen married a kohen. It adds to our sense of St. Elizabeth as a very holy woman, appropriate for the mother of St. John the Baptizer. Mary was in the line of David, therefore of the tribe of Judah. Yet St. Gabriel the Archangel, speaking to Mary, refers to Elizabeth as her “kinswoman.” How can this be? Catholic tradition tells us that the Blessed Virgin’s parents were St. Anne and St. Joachim. St. Joachim would have passed his Davidic ancestry to his daughter Mary. On St. Anne’s side we have no source in Catholic tradition, but there is private revelation that St. Elizabeth was her aunt. Ven. Anne Catherine Emmerich, in The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary, says that St. Anne’s parents were Ismeria and Eliud, a Levite. Since ancestry is patrilineal, St. Anne would have taken Eliud’s Levite ancestry. Ismeria’s parents Emorun and Stolanus, were the common ancestors. Their other daughter Ermentia married Aphras, a Levite. His daughter was St. Elizabeth. Based on this account from private revelation, St. Anne and St. Elizabeth were cousins. It would follow that the Blessed Virgin carried, and therefore passed to her Son, the Levite genes of her mother St. Anne as well as the Judahite genes of her father St. Joachim. However, Jewish law is clear: Rabbi Yeshua was a Judahite.
Why Jewishness is Matrilineal
Catholics who read the patrilineal Hebrew Scripture and Gospel genealogies may wonder how we know that Jewishness itself is matrilineal, that a Jewish mother passes her Jewishness to her children while a Jewish father does not. The rabbis point to three signs that God ordained it that way.
Abraham, a Hebrew, had a son with Sarah, a Hebrew woman, and a son with Hagar, an Egyptian woman. But only Sarah had Jewishness to pass on to her son, so Isaac, Sarah’s son, was part of God’s covenant with Abraham, “Through Isaac shall your descendants be named” Gen 21:12. Hagar, the Egyptian woman, had no Jewishness to pass on, so Ishmael, Hagar’s son, had no part in Abraham’s election.
God had commanded through Moses that Israel was to live as a people apart. “You shall not make marriages with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons. For they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods” Deut 7:3–4.
The words giving your daughters to their sons warned that the children of Jewish women who married pagan men would turn away from God. Some translations say “they would turn away your sons,” but the original Hebrew word is yasir, he. God said, “He [the non-Jewish husband] would turn away your sons.” The sons of a Jewish wife would be turned away from God. The command did not include the Hebrew word tasir, she. God did not say, “She [the non-Jewish wife] would turn away your sons,” because the children of a non-Jewish wife would not be Jewish and therefore would have no Jewish religious obligations.
During the Babylonian Exile, many Jews no longer lived as a people apart, but instead took wives from other nations and had children with them. “For they have taken some of their daughters to be wives for themselves and for their sons; so that the holy race has mixed itself with the peoples of the lands” Ezra 9:2.
Ezra the priest saw that this was a terrible calamity. “When I heard this, I rent my garments and my mantle, and pulled hair from my head and beard, and sat appalled” Ezra 9:3. In Jerusalem, at the suggestion of Shecaniah the son of Jehiel, he gathered the tribes of Judah and Benjamin and told them, “You have trespassed and married foreign women, and so increased the guilt of Israel. Now then make confession to the Lord the God of your fathers, and do his will; separate yourselves from the peoples of the land and from the foreign wives” Ezra 10:10–11. The foreign wives had no Jewishness to pass on to their children. As Ezra had commanded, the men abandoned their foreign wives and their children Ezra 10:12–17.
Ezra’s command would have been impossible if the children had been Jewish. The Mosaic halakha required that Jewish children be raised within the people and land of Israel, so that they might learn and keep their religious obligations. When the fathers were Jewish and the mothers were not Jewish, Ezra considered the children to be not Jewish.
“Joseph had two sons, whom Asenath, the daughter of Poti-phera priest of On, bore to him. Joseph called the name of the first-born Manasseh … The name of the second he called Ephraim” Gen 41:50–52. Ephraim and Manasseh each fathered an Israelite tribe. Their mother was the Egyptian daughter of an Egyptian priest, yet every rabbi says their tribes were Israelite based on their patrilineal ancestry.
God’s wisdom in making Jewishness matrilineal became especially visible during the medieval era, when men in authority had their way with any attractive woman, and new brides in particular. If Jewishness had been patrilineal there would have been tormenting questions about whether a particular child could be circumcised and raised as a Jew. But because God had made Jewishness matrilineal, charity could prevail. The child might look like the local landowner, but he was considered the child of his parents and raised within the Jewish community. This is also why the rabbis during that era began to celebrate the kidushin and nisuin on the same day. They did not want any married Jewish woman walking around without her husband’s protection.
Proclamation of the Kingdom
Our Father in heaven has always set apart special days for His children’s recreation and refreshment. He began by resting after the Creation, even though he never needs rest, and Adam and Eve had done no work for which they would need rest. Adam had to till the garden and keep it, but the JPS Torah Commentary, p. 20, tells us, “It is his responsibility to nurture and conserve the pristine perfection of the garden. This he must do by the labor of his hands. Yet, no strenuous exertion is required, for nature responds easily to his efforts.” Rabbi Yeshua told us: “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light” Mt 11:30.
And you shall count seven weeks of years, seven times seven years, so that the time of the seven weeks of years shall be to you forty-nine years. Then you shall send abroad the loud trumpet on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the day of atonement you shall send abroad the trumpet throughout all your land. And you shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants; it shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his family. A jubilee shall that fiftieth year be to you; in it you shall neither sow, nor reap what grows of itself, nor gather the grapes from the undressed vines. For it is a jubilee; it shall be holy to you; you shall eat what it yields out of the field Lev 25:8–12.
The Hebrew word yovel, anniversary, gives us our English word “jubilee.” The yovel, an extraordinary occasion itself, was fifty years. God commanded: “And you shall hallow the fiftieth year” Lev 25:10. During the Old Testament days few people knew what year it was according to the Hebrew calendar. The priests announced the yovel and the people forgave whatever debts they held. Our Father also forgave their debts to him. The yovel Isaiah had prophesied would be a jubilee among jubilees: “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound” Is 61:1.
Rabbi Yeshua read Isaiah’s announcement of the jubilee year in the synagogue, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” Lk 4:18–19.
Rabbi Yeshua closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he said to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” Lk 4:21. These words, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled,” arrest our attention. St. Luke’s Greek was, Semeron peplerotai he graphe haute. Literally, word-by-word, “today has-been-filled the scripture this.” The New Testament uses graphe to mean Scripture, the Word of God. In Hebrew, fulfillment is hitgashmut, from the root gshm. Anything gashmi is “earthly” or “flesh.” Rabbi Yeshua’s original words were probably hayom hadivrah hitgashmah, “Today the word is-made-flesh.”
In His Name
The Jews recognized Rabbi Yeshua’s words, “I Am,” from the Torah‘s original Hebrew. “God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM’” Ex 3:14. The Torah‘s original Hebrew for “I AM” was Ehyeh. The Septuagint’s original Greek was, Ego eimi.
In Rabbi Yokhanan‘s Gospel, when others spoke those words the Jews accepted them as routine, but when Rabbi Yeshua spoke them, his audiences understood that he was declaring, “I and the Father are one” Jn 10:30. They would later remember this when Rabbi Yeshua prayed, “The glory which you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one” Jn 17:22.
Rabbi Yeshua often spoke these words to declare that he is the Son of God. “I am the bread of life” Jn 6:35. “I am the bread which came down from heaven” Jn 6:41. “I am the bread of life” Jn 6:48. “I am the living bread which came down from heaven” Jn 6:51. “I am the light of the world” Jn 8:12. “When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will know that I am he” Jn 8:28. “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am” Jn 8:58. “I am the door” Jn 10:7–9 “I am the good shepherd” Jn 10:11–14. “I tell you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he” Jn 13:19. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” Jn 14:6. “I am the true vine” Jn 15:1. In every one of these, St. John’s original Greek was: Ego eimi.
Was this just an ordinary manner of speaking? At Gethsemane, when Rabbi Yeshua asked the crowd, “Whom do you seek,” Jn 18:4, he replied, “Jesus of Nazareth” Jn 18:5. “When he said to them, ‘I am he,’ they drew back and fell to the ground” Jn 18:5. They drew back and fell to the ground! They knew. Our English translations often render Rabbi Yeshua‘s reply as “I am he,” but St. John’s original Greek was, again, Ego eimi. Rabbi Yeshua was even more clear during his bet din. When Caiaphas asked him directly, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed” Mk 14:61 he replied, “I am; and you will see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven” Mk 14:62. In this too, St. Mark’s original Greek was: Ego eimi.
Rabbi Yeshua Fulfilled the Torah
Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI ’s book, Jesus of Nazareth, p. 100, in his section, “The Torah of the Messiah,” declares, “The ‘Torah of the Messiah’ is totally new and different—but it is precisely by being such that that it fulfills the Torah of Moses.”
The Holy Father describes the Torah of the Messiah pp. 101-102: “At the very beginning there stands, as a sort of epigraph and interpretive key, a statement that never ceases to surprise us. It makes God’s fidelity to himself and Jesus’ fidelity to the faith of Israel unmistakably clear: ‘Think not that I have come to abolish the Law and the Prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”13
If the Law does not change until all is accomplished, what is totally new and different? The Holy Father explains on p. 115: “In Jesus’ case it is not the universally binding difference to the Torah that forms the new family. Rather, it is adherence to Jesus himself, to his Torah.”
How can we understand this? The Holy Father says that, “The ‘Torah of the Messiah’ is totally new and different,” yet he takes as his interpretive key Rabbi Yeshua’s statement that till heaven and earth pass away nothing will pass from the Law. Rabbi Yeshua was “born of woman, born under the law” Gal 4:4, but we have already seen that his arrival brought into being the beginning of another world.
Fulfillment is the accomplishment of something promised, or the acquisition of something hoped for. Also the performance of something demanded or required. Let us see how the Son of God fulfilled the Torah of Moses.
Mosaic Judaism had been complete in its day. Our Father told us, “Moses … is entrusted with all my house. With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in dark speech; and he beholds the form of the Lord” Num 12:7–8. The Son also spoke figuratively to the people but plainly to His chosen shlikhim. “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given” Mt 13:11. Within the folds of Mosaic Judaism was all that our Father willed to reveal to his covenant children, though they could not understand it at the time Is 6:9; Mt 13:14.
. St. Augustine wrote, “The New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New.”14
The Holy Father says, “The fundamental commandment of Israel is also the fundamental commandment for Christians: God alone is to be worshiped.”15
The Holy Father begins his explanation: “The intention is not to abolish, but to fulfill, and this fulfillment demands a surplus, not a deficit of righteousness, as Jesus immediately goes on to say: ‘Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven’ Mt 5:20. Is the point, then, merely increased rigor in obeying the Law? What else is this greater righteousness if not that?”16
He observes, “True, at the beginning of … this new reading of essential portions of the Torah—there is an emphasis on extreme fidelity and unbroken continuity. Yet as we listen further, we are struck by Jesus’ presentation of the relationship of Moses’ Torah to the Torah of the Messiah in a series of antitheses: ‘It was said to them of old … but I say to you …’”16
And the Holy Father answers:
What is happening here is an extremely important process whose full scope was not grasped until modern times … Concrete juridical and social forms and political arrangements are no longer treated as a sacred law that is fixed ad litteram for all times and so for all peoples. The decisive thing is the underlying communion of will with God given by Jesus. It frees men and nations to discover what aspects of political and social order accord with this communion of will and so to work out their own juridical arrangements.17
Rabbi Paul saw it at the beginning: “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” Gal 5:13–14.
God’s plan, as always, is awesome. Rabbi Yeshua opened the underlying communion of will with God that had always been central in Mosaic Judaism to a world of vastly different cultures and institutions. Yet, in the end, it was the same communion of will in every geographic region, and the same communion of will that Mosaic Judaism had known. Rabbi Yeshua told us, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me” Jn 7:16, adding, “I and the Father are one” Jn 10:30. The Father told us, “I the Lord do not change” Mal 3:6.
The Holy Father gives us another essential observation.
This universalization of Israel’s faith and hope, and the concomitant liberation from the letter of the Law for the new communion with Jesus, is tied to Jesus’ authority and his claim to Sonship. It loses its historical weight and its whole foundation if Jesus is interpreted merely as a liberal reform rabbi. A liberal interpretation of the Torah would be nothing but the person opinion of one teacher—it would have no power to shape history. The leap into universality, the new freedom that such a leap requires, is possible only on the basis of a greater obedience. Its power to shape history can come into play only if the authority of the new interpretation is no less than the authority of the original: It must be a divine authority.”18
He adds: “The Law has become a person.”19
Twelve was the symbolic number of Israel—the number of the sons of Jacob. From them the twelve tribes of Israel were descended, though of these practically only the tribe of Judah remained after the Exile. In this sense, the number twelve is a return to the origins of Israel, and yet at the same time it is a symbol of hope: The whole of Israel is restored and the twelve tribes are newly assembled.20
The Holy Father adds,
Twelve—the number of the tribes—is at the same time a cosmic number that expresses the comprehensiveness of the newly reborn People of God. The Twelve stand as the patriarchs of this universal people founded on the Apostles.20
Jewish Sages of the Middle Ages
The Virgin Birth
Isaiah had prophesied, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son.” Isaiah’s original Hebrew word for “young woman” was almah, which the rabbis who wrote the Septuagint translated into Greek as parthenos, virgin. The Greek language had a word neanis which means “young woman” but does not imply virginity, but the rabbis who translated the Septuagint did not use it. For two centuries no sage objected to the parthenos translation, but once Catholics began to point out that parthenos supported Rabbi Yeshua‘s virgin birth, the rabbis disavowed the entire Septuagint.
Rashi, in his great commentary on the Old Testament, sought to discredit the prophecy of the virgin birth. Rashi says on this verse, “She is a young girl and has never prophesied, yet in this instance, divine inspiration shall rest upon her.” Rashi uses the Hebrew word nitnavel, prophecy, a visible attempt to change the subject from virginity to prophecy. He also uses the Hebrew word na’arah, a girl, in place of almah. Na’arah does not mean virgin unless modified, na’arah betulah.
Rashi translated almah as virgin elsewhere in Hebrew Scripture, such as in the Song of Songs 1:3 and 6:8, and he states that almah in that context is synonymous with betulah, which the rabbis always translate as virgin.
The Suffering Servant
Rashi also argued that the suffering and exaltation passages in Isaiah 53 applied to the people Israel, not to the Mashiakh. It was inconsistent with Isaiah’s own words, and is not found in earlier Jewish tradition. There are clearly two different “persons” in Isaiah 53, he and our. Isaiah says, “… he grew up … he had no form or comeliness … He was despised and rejected by men … he has borne our griefs … we esteemed him stricken … he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed” Is 53:2–5. Isaiah was a Jew who prophesied to Jews. Our is God’s people Israel. He therefore cannot be the same people Israel; he can only be the Mashiakh.
If a king arises from the house of David who studies the Torah and pursues the commandments like his ancestor David in accordance with the written and oral law, and he compels all Israel to follow and strengthen it and fights the wars of the Lord–this man enjoys the presumption of being the Mashiakh. If he proceeds successfully, defeats all the nations surrounding him, builds the Temple in its place, and gathers the dispersed of Israel, then he is surely the Mashiakh. But if he does not succeed to this extent, or is killed, it is evident that he is not the one whom the Torah promised.22
In a classic medieval Jewish disputation, Nachmanides used a traditional Jewish argument, that Rabbi Yeshua could not have been the Mashiakh because the prophecies of knowledge of God and universal peace were not fulfilled.
A Reply to the Sages
Rabbi Yeshua fulfilled all of the conditions, but in an unexpectedly spiritual way. He defeated all the nations around him as a tzadik, a mighty spiritual warrior who at the highest level of the Torah conquered even death itself. He rebuilt the Temple, which had always represented the image of a man. “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” Jn 2:19. He gathered the dispersed of Israel; the ten tribes who merged into the local populations were restored as Ezekiel had prophesied. They spread the Father’s election of Israel to all who followed the Son. And he fulfilled Nachmanides’ condition of universal peace by using the tree of life to open the kingdom of heaven, where universal peace prevails.
Rabbi Yeshua on the Cross heard Dismas’ confession: “We are receiving the due reward of our deeds” Lk 23:41. Rabbi Yeshua could read thoughts; we may believe that Dismas implicitly expressed true contrition. Rabbi Yeshua gave him absolution. “Today you will be with me in Paradise” Lk 23:43. St. Dismas fulfilled his penance by participating in the Crucifixion, physically rather than sacramentally, and thereby participated in the Resurrection.
The Shulkhan Arukh
During the Middle Ages, the rabbis did much more than deny that Rabbi Yeshua was God’s Mashiakh. The great Sephardic Rabbi Joseph Caro wrote his Shulkhan Arukh, “prepared table,” during the early 1500s, in Safed, now Israel’s highest altitude town. It became the classic summary of Rabbinic Judaism’s halakha because it was the first to include the legal rulings of both Sephardic and Ashkenazic Jewry. Maimonides’ earlier Mishne Torah, by contrast, had addressed only the Sephardic halakha. As always, God was in it. While Rabbi Joseph was compiling his Sephardic legal code, Rabbi Moses Isserles of Poland was working on an Ashkenazic legal code. The two rabbis realized that neither code alone could meet the needs of all Jews. Rabbi Joseph published his Shulkhan Arukh with his Sephardic listings first, and Rabbi Moses’ dissents and addenda included in italics. The Shulkhan Arukh has acquired such authority among Orthodox rabbis that they grant smikha, rabbinic ordination, only after examining the candidate on his knowledge of it.
Catholics see even in this intensely Jewish book a shadow of the Catholic Church, which unites its Western and Eastern rites in a rock solid body of faith and authoritatively interprets God’s law for man.
Summary of the Commandments
Absolute And Relative Interpretation of the Law
Moses, Aaron, and the original Sanhedrin fully understood our Father’s Oral Law. But, as the centuries passed, yeridat hadorot set in. On Mt. Sinai God taught Moses perfectly. Moses and his contemporaries taught their children with near-perfect accuracy. But perfection eludes our concupiscent race. Each generation added its own tiny imperfections, in a sense descending slowly step-by-step from Mt. Sinai. By Rabbi Yeshua’s time sixty generations of descents had accumulated.
Rabbinic interpretation, therefore, has always been an opinion on what our Father wants. The rabbis have the Torah, the Written Law and the Oral Law; from it they form as deep and broad an understanding as they possibly can of our Father’s will for us. Due to yeridat hadorot the early opinions, closest in time to Moses, were considered more authoritative than recent opinions, so the rabbis particularly consulted them. Out of all these opinions the rabbis decide what to apply to life. The Written Law and the Oral Law, together with the Talmud and that body of decisions, constitutes the rabbinic halakha.
Hillel And Shammai
After Shimon HaTzadik passed into eternity, there were always two rabbis at the head of Jewish tradition, so that if one fell into sin the other could still rally faithful Jews. In the Sanhedrin, Rabbi Hillel was nasi, prince, and Rabbi Shammai av bet din, father of the court. Rabbi Hillel ruled leniently and Rabbi Shammai far more strictly on how the Torah mitzvot were to be observed. One of their disputes centered on whether a man should tell a bride on her wedding day that she is beautiful even if it is not true. Rabbi Shammai said that it was always wrong to lie. Rabbi Hillel said that a bride is always beautiful on her wedding day.
Bet Hillel (the House of Hillel) believed that our fallen race before the Mashiakh’s redemptive sacrifice needed his leniency, but that after the Mashiakh came the world would be filled with the knowledge of God and Rabbi Shammai‘s much stricter rules would be appropriate. The Talmud tells us, “A heavenly voice declared: ‘The words of both schools are the words of the living God, but the law follows the rulings of the school of Hillel.’”
The difference between Rabbi Hillel and Rabbi Shammai was the level of honesty before God in the halakha. The rabbis of bet Hillel were kindly and modest. They studied their own rulings and those of bet Shammai, and were even so humble as to mention the actions of bet Shammai before their own. The halakha follows Hillel to this day. “If any one would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” Mk 9:35.
The Most Jewish Jew of All
Rabbi Yeshua was the most Jewish Jew of all. The Catechism § 578 teaches:
§ 578 Jesus, Israel’s Messiah and therefore the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, was to fulfill the Law by keeping it in its all-embracing detail – according to his own words, down to the least of these commandments. He is in fact the only one who could keep it perfectly.” It adds: “The Jewish people and their spiritual leaders viewed Jesus as a rabbi. He often argued within the framework of rabbinical interpretation of the Law.
Rabbi Yeshua was the most Jewish Jew of all. The Catechism § 578 teaches: “Jesus, Israel’s Messiah and therefore the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, was to fulfill the Law by keeping it in its all-embracing detail – according to his own words, down to the least of these commandments. He is in fact the only one who could keep it perfectly.” It adds: “The Jewish people and their spiritual leaders viewed Jesus as a rabbi. He often argued within the framework of rabbinical interpretation of the Law.”
Rabbi Yeshua was the only man in all salvation history who kept all of the 613 commandments that applied to him. He told Rabbi T’oma, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” Jn 14:6. In Hebrew, “I am the halakha.” Halakha means, “the way,” as on a pilgrim journey. Remember God’s command to Abram, lekh lekha, move yourself on an interior journey to holiness. In the New Covenant Rabbi Yeshua is the halakha.
The Old Testament prophets spoke of the halakha as “the way.” King David wrote: “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” Ps 139:23–24. Isaiah told us, “A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God” Is 40:3. What was “the way of the Lord”? Jeremiah wrote of “the way of the Lord, the law of their God” Jer 5:5.
Rabbi Yokhanan prepared us for Rabbi Yeshua the Halakha. “In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight’” Mt 3:1–3. But Rabbi Yeshua told the chief priests and elders: “For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him” Mt 21:32.
Isaiah prophesied: “And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together” Is 40:5. Rabbi Yokhanan explained the fulfillment: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father” Jn 1:14.
Rabbi Paul spoke of Rabbi Yeshua‘s teaching as the halakha. “But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, [halakha], men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem” Acts 9:1–2. “And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, arguing and pleading about the kingdom of God; but when some were stubborn and disbelieved, speaking evil of the Way [halakha] before the congregation, he withdrew from them, taking the disciples with him, and argued daily in the hall of Tyrannus” Acts 19:8–9 “I am a Jew, born at Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, educated according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as you all are this day. I persecuted this Way [halakha] to the death” Acts 22:3–4.
Rabbi Yeshua Wore the Tzitzit
We know that Rabbi Yeshua wore the tzitzit (tassels or fringes). The tzitzit were to be worn at all times, “to look upon and remember all the commandments of the Lord, to do them.” Rabbi Yeshua probably wore his tzitzit as part of a talit katan, the small talit worn every day under the outer clothing and often called simply the tzitzit. The tassels may hang below the shirt so they are visible to passersby.
The tzitzit are God’s sign among the people Israel. The Septuagint used the Greek word kraspeda for tzitzit. God commanded Moses, “Speak to the sons of Israel, and bid them to make tassels [kraspeda] on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put upon the tassel [kraspeda] of each corner a cord of blue” Num 15:38. Rabbi Matityahu, quoting Rabbi Yeshua, used the same Greek word when describing the Pharisees. “They make their phylacteries broad and their fringes [kraspeda] long” Mt 23:5.
Rabbi Matityahu tells us, “And behold, a woman who had suffered from a hemorrhage for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe [kraspedou] of his garment; for she said to herself, ‘If I only touch his garment, I shall be made well’” Mt 9:20–21. Rabbi Lucas used the same word. “And a woman who had had a flow of blood for twelve years and had spent all her living upon physicians and could not be healed by any one, came up behind him, and touched the fringe [kraspedou] of his garment; and immediately her flow of blood ceased” Lk 8:43.
So we know that the woman touched Rabbi Yeshua‘s tzitzit. She knew that, “When the men of that place recognized him, they sent round to all that region and brought to him all that were sick, and besought him that they might only touch the fringe [kraspedou] of his garment; and as many as touched it were made well” Mt 14:35–36. Rabbi Marcus also tells us that, “Wherever he came, in villages, cities, or country, they laid the sick in the market places, and besought him that they might touch even the fringe [kraspedou] of his garment; and as many as touched it were made well” Mk 6:56.
The Mosaic halakha commands, “Place a mezuza (scroll of the first two paragraphs of the shma prayer) on the doorposts and gates of your house” Deut 6:9. God commanded Israel, “And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” A mezuza is a scroll containing the shma prayer, handwritten, in a decorated case with the Hebrew letter shin, the first letter of the Hebrew word shma, on the outside. It is placed on the doorpost of each Jewish home.
The mezuza’s placement on the doorpost recalls the redemptive blood of the lamb that was placed on the doorposts and lintel of each Israelite home during the original Passover. Every time a Jew passes through a door with a mezuza on it, he kisses his fingers and touches them to the mezuza, expressing love for God and his commandments, much as we Catholics entering a church dip our finger in the holy water font and make the Sign of the Cross.
The shin on the outside of every mezuza has the appearance of three vertical lines connected at the bottom, reminding us of the Blessed Trinity, of Rabbi Yeshua’s position on the Cross with His head at the center and two upraised arms, of the first letter of the commandment shma, “Hear,” and perhaps even the appearance of fire. It is also the first letter of the Hebrew word by which the people Israel often call God, Shadai, Almighty.
The shin represents fire. Our Father descended on Mt. Sinai in fire to give the Torah. “Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire” Ex 19:18. God commanded: “Fire shall be kept burning upon the altar continually; it shall not go out” Lev 6:13. The Holy Spirit descended upon the shlikhim in “tongues as of fire” Acts 2:3.
The ancient rabbis often prayed in the orans position, making their bodies into a shin, reminding all present that they were praying to God, and asking that he hear their prayer. The early Christians also prayed in the orans position, representing the shin, but also Moses holding his arms in the form of a crucified man Ex 17:12 and above all Rabbi Yeshua‘s position on the Cross. When a Catholic priest prays In Persona Christi Capitis, in the person of Christ the Head [of the Church], with his hands in the orans position, in all prayers but especially the Eucharistic Prayer, he calls us to witness for the Word Made Flesh.
Justice Fulfilled in Charity
“Justice (Hebrew: tzedek), and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land which the Lord your God gives you” Deut 16:20. “And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God” Lev 19:10.
Maimonides’ eight stages of tzedaka, reflecting the Torah perspective, tell us that we should give to the poor such that the giver does not know the recipient and the recipient does not know the giver. Traditionally, every Jewish home had a pushka, a tin can with a slot that children were taught to fill with small coins for charity. The local rabbi would collect the money and distribute it among the needy.
Every synagogue also has a tzedaka (accent on the second syllable) box into which the congregation puts money. The rabbi then distributes the tzedaka to the poor so that no one from the congregation knows to whom he has given, and no one among the poor knows who gave.
The ancient rabbis taught that we are to take more care about tzedaka than of any other positive mitzvah. In God’s revelation to Moses, Rabbi Yeshua fulfilled this teaching by changing the motivation from tzedek, justice, to rakhamim, loving kindness, from a law of holy words to a law which permeates the flesh.
In Rabbi Yeshua‘s revelation to his shlikhim, justice and charity converge. God gives us everything in the universal destination of goods. § 2402: “In the beginning God entrusted the earth and its resources to the common stewardship of mankind to take care of them, master them by labor, and enjoy their fruits. The goods of creation are destined for the whole human race.” Since God gives us goods to share with one another, sharing with others what we have been given is justice.
Mercy Embedded in the Halakha
In describing mercy, the books of the Old Testament use two expressions in particular, each having a different semantic nuance. First there is the term khesed, which indicates a profound attitude of “goodness.” When this is established between two individuals, they do not just wish each other well; they are also faithful to each other by virtue of an interior commitment, and therefore also by virtue of a faithfulness to themselves. Since khesed also means “grace” or “love,” this occurs precisely on the basis of this fidelity. The fact that the commitment in question has not only a moral character but almost a juridical one makes no difference. When in the Old Testament the word khesed is used of the Lord, this always occurs in connection with the covenant that God established with Israel. This covenant was, on God’s part, a gift and a grace for Israel. Nevertheless, since, in harmony with the covenant entered into, God had made a commitment to respect it, khesed also acquired in a certain sense a legal content. The juridical commitment on God’s part ceased to oblige whenever Israel broke the covenant and did not respect its conditions. But precisely at this point, khesed, in ceasing to be a juridical obligation, revealed its deeper aspect: it showed itself as what it was at the beginning, that is, as love that gives, love more powerful than betrayal, grace stronger than sin.
The second word which in the terminology of the Old Testament serves to define mercy is rakhamim. This has a different nuance from that of khesed. While khesed highlights the marks of fidelity to self and of “responsibility for one’s own love” (which are in a certain sense masculine characteristics), rakhamim, in its very root, denotes the love of a mother (rekhem = mother’s womb). From the deep and original bond—indeed the unity—that links a mother to her child there springs a particular relationship to the child, a particular love. Of this love one can say that it is completely gratuitous, not merited, and that in this aspect it constitutes an interior necessity: an exigency of the heart. It is, as it were, a “feminine” variation of the masculine fidelity to self expressed by khesed. Against this psychological background, rakhamim generates a whole range of feelings, including goodness and tenderness, patience and understanding, that is, readiness to forgive.
Love is Stronger than Death
King Solomon wrote, “Love is strong as death” Song 8:6. Rabbi Yeshua showed that love is stronger than death when he told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,” Jn 11:25 and commanded, “Lazarus, come out” Jn 11:43.
God is pure light. When we talk to him we too become light. “Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God” Ex 34:29. Rabbi Yeshua‘s transfiguration, seen through Moses’ karnaim, his “horns” of radiance, was a sign of his divine authority. Our Father confirmed it. “A bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him’” Mt 17:5.
Rabbi Matityahu’s word overshadowed meant much more than “covered.” Rabbi Marcus used the same word, “And a cloud overshadowed them” Mk 9:7. There on Mt. Tabor, our Father spread his talit over them, bringing Rabbi Yeshua, Rabbi Kefa, Rabbi Yaakov and his brother Rabbi Yokhanan briefly into his eternal presence. When Rabbi Yeshua ascended to the Father, “He was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight” Acts 1:9.
Rabbi Yeshua in this way gave his three closest shlikhim a preview of heaven, which he would soon open, that they would later be able to tell others with the greatest conviction, “No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him” 1 Cor 2:9. He knew they would need this help to sustain them in the trials ahead. Rabbi Kefa would lead the Church. Rabbi Yaakov would be the first shaliakh martyred. His brother Rabbi Yokhanan would be exiled to Patmos Rev 1:9.
The Alpha And the Omega
In Hebrew, “I am the first and the last” Rev 1:8 was ani rishon v’einsof. Rishon, from the root rosh, is not merely the first but the head, as rosh hashanah is the head of the year. We see the same root in bereshit, the first word of Genesis Gen 1:1. This is an absolute primacy. Similarly, einsof is not merely the last of a finite series like an alphabet but rather is endless, eternal.
After reassuring his shlikhim, Rabbi Yeshua prayed his high priestly prayer, which began, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you” Jn 17:1. It is called the high priestly prayer because Rabbi Yeshua prayed, “And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be consecrated in truth” Jn 17:19. I consecrate myself! God had commanded Moses, “You shall consecrate them, that they may be most holy; whatever touches them will become holy. And you shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may serve me as priests” Ex 30:29–30. Rabbi Yeshua consecrated himself because, in the Final Sacrifice soon to come, he would be both High Priest and Victim, offering himself to redeem us.
To consecrate something is to reserve it entirely for holy use. At the time of the first Passover, God commanded Moses, “Consecrate to me all the first-born; whatever is the first to open the womb among the people of Israel, both of man and of beast, is mine” Ex 13:2. What is consecrated is also sacrificed. “But if it has any blemish … you shall not sacrifice it to the Lord your God” Deut 15:21. All the sacred vessels of the ancient Temple were consecrated.
Then you shall take the anointing oil, and anoint the tabernacle and all that is in it, and consecrate it and all its furniture; and it shall become holy. You shall also anoint the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, and consecrate the altar; and the altar shall be most holy. You shall also anoint the laver and its base, and consecrate it. Then you shall bring Aaron and his sons to the door of the tent of meeting, and shall wash them with water, and put upon Aaron the holy garments, and you shall anoint him and consecrate him, that he may serve me as priest Ex 40:9–13.
We do the same in our Catholic parish churches today. The diocesan bishop consecrates all of the sacred vessels, including the altar, the chalice, ciborium, corporal, cruets, paten, purificator, pyx, thurible, etc., before they can be used during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
At Baptism, we are consecrated. Lumen Gentium § 10 teaches: “The baptized, by regeneration and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, are consecrated as a spiritual house and a holy priesthood, in order that through all those works which are those of the Christian man they may offer spiritual sacrifices and proclaim the power of him who has called them out of darkness into his marvelous light.” The Catechism § 1273 re-states: “Incorporated into the Church by Baptism, the faithful have received the sacramental character that consecrates them for Christian religious worship. The baptismal seal enables and commits Christians to serve God by a vital participation in the holy liturgy of the Church and to exercise their baptismal priesthood by the witness of holy lives and practical charity.”
It is an abomination to sully a consecrated person or object. Our Father said to us, “Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, `We are delivered!’ Only to go on doing all these abominations? Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes?” Jer 7:9–11.
Three years after Antiochus IV had sullied the Temple, Yehuda HaMaccabi performed a hanukkah to re-consecrate it. Two hundred years later the Pharisees themselves had sullied the Temple. Rabbi Yeshua, was himself the hanukkah. “And Jesus entered the temple of God and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, ‘It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer; but you make it a den of robbers’’” Mt 21:12–13.
Father Hardon observed, “The Jesuit saint and Doctor of the Church, St. Robert Bellarmine, in one of his conferences to his fellow Jesuits, told them: “Whatever we may think of sin; however casually we may take sin; however we may minimize the gravity of sin; sin must be something terrifying in the mind of God–because God became man.”23
The Last Supper
Rabbi Yeshua warned his shlikhim, “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of man will be delivered up to be crucified” Mt 26:2. Perhaps, at table, one of the shlikhim asked the Rabbi, “Why is this Seder different from all the other Seders?”
In the Old Testament days, solemn agreements were often ratified by participation in a solemn meal. We see it in connection with the pact between Jacob and Esau Gen 26:30–34, and between Laban and Jacob Gen 31:54. By far the greatest pact was the giving of the Torah, celebrated by a todah sacrifice meal shared by God and man Ex 24:9–11.
We recall that the first todah sacrifice was the original Passover meal. The todah sacrifice always recalled a mortal threat to the people Israel and thanked God for saving them. The mortal threat is always ultimately from Satan, “A murderer from the beginning” Jn 8:44. Holy Mother Church has always called the Sacrament of Rabbi Yeshua’s Body and Blood by the Greek word eucharistia, thanksgiving. The Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. The Sacrament of Holy Thanksgiving. Rabbi Yeshua consecrated the matzah as the Sacrament of Holy Todah. Today after the deacon’s dismissal, “The Mass is ended, go in peace,” the congregation proclaims, “Thanks be to God!”
We recall Cardinal Ratzinger’s comment: “The whole of Eucharistic Christology is present in the todah spirituality of the Old Testament.”24 Already in the time of Moses, there had been a full todah sacrifice. “They beheld God, and ate and drank” Ex 24:11. At the Last Supper, Rabbi Yeshua‘s shlikhim beheld God and ate and drank Mt 26:26–28. At the wedding feast in heaven we will behold God, and eat and drink Rev 19:9.
The Same Sacrifice
The Catechism § 1367 tells us: “The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice.” His glorified body was the Holy Eucharist. “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have” Lk 24:39.
Rabbi Yeshua taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” Mt 6:11. § 2837 “‘Daily’ [epiousios] occurs nowhere else in the New Testament …Taken literally [epi-ousios]: ‘super-essential’), it refers directly to the Bread of Life, the Body of Christ, the ‘medicine of immortality,’ without which we have no life within us. Finally in this connection, its heavenly meaning is evident: ‘this day’ is the Day of the Lord, the day of the feast of the kingdom, anticipated in the Eucharist that is already the foretaste of the kingdom to come. For this reason it is fitting for the Eucharistic liturgy to be celebrated each day.”
One Sacrifice for One Body
St. John Chrysostom explained the Final Sacrifice. “We always offer the same Lamb, not one today and another tomorrow, but always the same one.”25 His commentary on these words is profound and perceptive: “For what is the bread? It is the body of Christ. And what do those who receive it become? The Body of Christ–not many bodies but one body. For as bread is completely one, though made of up many grains of wheat, and these, albeit unseen, remain nonetheless present, in such a way that their difference is not apparent since they have been made a perfect whole, so too are we mutually joined to one another and together united with Christ.”26 St. John Paul II, in Ecclesia de Eucharistia § 12, expressed its sacrificial meaning: “The Mass makes present the sacrifice of the Cross; it does not add to that sacrifice nor does it multiply it. What is repeated is its memorial celebration.”
Rabbi Yokhanan explained how through the Holy Eucharist we participate in both the Last Supper and the Final Sacrifice on the Cross as “one flock, one shepherd” Jn 10:16. Rabbi Paul added, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” 1 Cor 10:16–17.
In its final words, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass reminds us that it is the todah sacrifice. When the deacon says, “The Mass is ended, go in peace,” the congregation replies, “Thanks be to God.” We thank Rabbi Yeshua for his New and Eternal Covenant.
The Light of the World
The Seder began with lighting the traditional white candles. In Jewish tradition, the mother of the family lights the candles. Most likely Rabbi Yeshua‘s ima, his Blessed Mother, lit the candles, praying, Barukh ata Adonai, Eloheinu melekh ha’olam, asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu l’hadlik ner shel yom tov. “Blessed are You, Lord our God, king of the universe, who has made us holy by the law and has commanded us to kindle the festival light.”
Rabbi Yeshua had earlier told his shlikhim, “I am the light of the world” Jn 8:12. He had told them, “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you” Jn 20:21. And he had told them, “You are the light of the world” Mt 5:14. The light of the world sat at table, illuminated by white candles, as the light of the world prepared to bring into being the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, from which would come the Church.27
Rabbi Yeshua‘s Passover Seder plate had on it the traditional six foods that together symbolize Israel’s redemption and deliverance: karpas and salt water, hazaret, maror, kharoset, beitza, and zeroah. The lesson he would teach on this night was all about redemption and deliverance.
He Washed Their Feet
During the Seder, Rabbi Yeshua “Rose from supper, laid aside his garments, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him” Jn 13:4–5. “When he had washed their feet, and taken his garments, and resumed his place, he said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you’” Jn 13:12–15.
First, he was preparing them to be humble. When a man walked the hot dusty roads of that time, often in sandals, his feet got dirty and smelly. When he entered a home he would often track in the dirt. Families who could afford servants always sent the lowest servant to wash the feet of a guest before he entered. Rabbi Yeshua, by teaching us to wash one another’s feet, reminded his shlikhim that we are to be humble before God and man. His introduction of humble service to others into a celebration of freedom when people eat reclining reminds us of who we are. He would redeem us. We, his image and likeness, have free will. Before God we are all poor. We should humbly redeem one another.
Second, he was preparing them to be priests. The ancient Aaronic priest was required to wash his hands and feet at the time of the service. Rabbi Yeshua‘s shlikhim had already washed their hands; to prepare for the meal, they needed only to wash their feet. At the burning bush our Father had told Moses the shepherd, “Put off your shoes from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground” Ex 3:5. The church sanctuaries his priests would soon enter to re-present the Final Sacrifice would also be holy ground. As the tabernacle laver reminds us, we are to walk toward God’s promised land with clean footsteps.
During the Passover Seder the head of household takes three pieces of matzah to teach his children the importance of planning for the future. Now Rabbi Yeshua would teach his shlikhim to prepare for eternal life.
The seventy elders who had gone up with Moses to celebrate the todah sacrifice beheld God, and ate and drank. At the Last Supper, Rabbi Yeshua‘s shlikhim beheld God, and ate and drank as he offered his todah sacrifice: “He took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me’” Lk 22:19. From the beginning, Rabbi Yeshua‘s Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity has been called Holy Eucharist (Greek: eucharistia, thanksgiving).
“I am with you always” Mt 28:20. The Holy Eucharist does not belong to the Church. The Church belongs to the Holy Eucharist. The Holy Eucharist existed before the Church, and is the head of the Church. We, the body, God’s image and likeness, participate through the Holy Eucharist in the New and Eternal Covenant that unites us with Rabbi Yeshua.
The youngest shaliakh asked, Ma nishtanah ha-lailah ha-zeh mikol ha-lalot. “Why is this night different from all the other nights of the year”? “They shall eat the flesh that night” Ex 12:8. At the first Passover Seder, the body of a sacrificed lamb saved the people Israel from physical death. But this night was different even from all other Passover Seders, because on this night the Body of the sacrificed Lamb would save the people Israel from spiritual death by opening heaven for us all.
Perhaps Rabbi Yeshua reminded the shlikhim of what he had taught in the synagogue at Capernaum. “I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die” Jn 6:48–50. We can imagine them asking questions, and Rabbi Yeshua insisting, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh” Jn 6:51. We can imagine the astonished shlikhim asking how Rabbi Yeshua could give them his flesh to eat.
Rabbi Yeshua had so recently told Rabbi Kefa, “If I do not wash you, you have no part in me” Jn 13:8. Rabbi Kefa had replied, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jn 13:9. Rabbi Yeshua probably presented the same argument again, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” Jn 6:53–56.
This was the first great test for the shlikhim. Noah’s seven simple laws prohibited taking flesh from a live animal, which the rabbis understand to include the eating of a human person. They knew what our Father had told Noah for all men, “Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood” Gen 9:4. They knew that he had spoken more forcefully to his chosen people. “Moreover you shall eat no blood whatever, whether of fowl or of animal, in any of your dwellings. Whoever eats any blood, that person shall be cut off from his people” Lev 7:26–27. He repeated the consequences for emphasis: “I will set my face against that person who eats blood, and will cut him off from among his people” Lev 17:10. This was a matter of faith. The halakha, God’s law for man, had no category for the arrival on earth of a divine person. The Torah never prohibited consuming the Mashiakh’s glorified body.
The shlikhim knew too that Rabbi Yeshua had taught, “He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me” Mt 10:37. Abraham could become the Father’s witness to the Israelite people only if he could sacrifice his son Gen 22:10. Only a Jew who absolutely believed that Rabbi Yeshua had “all authority in heaven and on earth” Mt 28:18 could accept being cut off from his natural family to witness for his supernatural family by consuming Rabbi Yeshua‘s flesh.
At the Last Supper, Rabbi Yeshua invited his eleven remaining shlikhim to the wedding feast in heaven Rev 19:9. He invites us all to enter the wedding feast in heaven through the New and Eternal Covenant, in which he gives us his life, whole and entire, and we give him our life, whole and entire. Rabbi Yeshua consecrated the cup of redemption as his blood of the New and Eternal Covenant and invited all his shlikhim to drink it. “He took a chalice, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins’” Mt 26:27–28.
This was the second great test for the shlikhim. They knew the Torah mitzvah, “Moreover you shall eat no blood whatever, whether of fowl or of animal, in any of your dwellings. Whoever eats any blood, that person shall be cut off from his people” Lev 7:26–27. Only a Jew who absolutely believed that Rabbi Yeshua was the Son of God could obediently consume his blood, serenely confident that in some way it was consistent with the Torah.
It was fully consistent. As with the flesh, the sages always interpreted the Torah‘s prohibition against man consuming blood to mean human or animal blood. It was never interpreted to prohibit our consuming divine blood.
Rabbi Yeshua did not end his Seder according to the ancient tradition. Instead, he told his shlikhim, “I tell you I shall not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” Mt 26:29. He did not drink the hallel cup, the Fourth Cup, that night. Many Catholics believe that Rabbi Yeshua drank his Fourth Cup on the cross. After the Last Supper Rabbi Yeshua prayed at Gethsemane by moonlight, “Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from me” Mt 26:39. After being captured he asked Kefa, “Shall I not drink the chalice which the Father has given me?” Jn 18:11.
Hyssop is associated in the original Passover with the blood of the sacrificed lamb. Moses had told the elders of Israel, “Take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood which is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood …” Ex 12:22. King David associated hyssop with cleansing. “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow” Ps 51:7. On the Cross, where Rabbi Yeshua redeemed us from sin, we again find hyssop. “They put a sponge full of the vinegar on hyssop and held it to his mouth” Jn 19:29.
Rabbi Yeshua during the Last Supper transubstantiated wine, making it his blood of the new and everlasting covenant. Vinegar comes originally from the Latin vinum, wine, and acer, sharp or sour. Over time it became the French vin aigre, sour wine. A wine left alone long enough can ferment and turn to vinegar. In the Crucifixion context the Roman soldiers might unwittingly have used the fourth cup to mock Rabbi Yeshua, as they mocked his true kingship with a crown of thorns Mt 27:29.
It Is Finished
During the Passover Seder, immediately after all present drink the fourth cup, the head of household declares the Seder complete. Rabbi Yeshua declared his Seder complete. “When Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, ‘It is finished’; and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” Jn 19:30.
While declaring his Seder complete, the head of household prays, “Next year in Jerusalem.” Rabbi Yeshua on the Cross told St. Dismas, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” Lk 23:43. The New Israel shows us Jerusalem on High. “And in the Spirit he carried me away to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal” Rev 21:10–11.
Our Father through Moses blessed Israel, “The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace” Num 6:26. Rabbi Yeshua rising from the dead told his shlikhim, shalom alekhem, “Peace be with you.” Jerusalem be with you. He in his own person was Jerusalem on High.
Rabbi Yeshua repeated his shalom alekhem three times Jn 20:19, 21, 26, connecting his fulfillment with the shma, our Father’s great Trinitarian proclamation, Shma Israel, Adonai Eloheinu Adonai ekhad, “Hear O Israel, my Lords our Gods my Lords, one” Deut 6:4.
When Rabbi Yeshua declared, “It is finished” Jn 19:30, he announced that his fulfillment of the Old Law was complete. St. Gregory Nazianzus observed, “A few drops of blood renew the whole world.”28 It was only after Rabbi Yeshua‘s redemptive sacrifice and the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment that the shlikhim understood the full meaning of our Father’s words to his chosen people. “For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it for you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement, by reason of the life” Lev 17:11.
The Royal Priesthood
Our Father told his Israelite children, “… You shall be to me a kingdom of priests …” Ex 19:6.
Only the Levites proved themselves worthy to sacrifice to God by sacrificing their sons Ex 32:29, recalling Abraham Gen 22:10, so only Levites could be Aaronic priests. Rabbi Yeshua taught the same. “He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” Mt 10:37.
Isaiah had written, “I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people” Is 43:20. Rabbi Yeshua gave his followers “living water” Jn 4:10–11; 7:38. Rabbi Kefa tells us: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” 1 Pet 2:9.
Rabbi Kefa’s reference to a “chosen race” meant that Rabbi Yeshua‘s followers were now added to the ranks of God’s chosen people in the Eternal Election through Acts 1:8. The Jews remain God’s chosen people: “As regards the gospel they are enemies of God, for your sake; but as regards election they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers” Rom 11:28. Rabbi Yeshua‘s followers of Gentile descent were grafted in: “Some of the branches were broken off, and you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted in their place to share the richness of the olive tree” Rom 11:17.
Rabbi Kefa’s reference to the “royal priesthood,” a fulfillment of our Father’s prophecy of a kingdom of priests Ex 19:6, began to be realized in the original Passover sacrifice of the lambs by ordinary Israelites, after which each family had to consume its sacrificed lamb, a foreshadow of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The royal priesthood went back to the crown of Torah. Mishna Abot 4:13b quotes Rabbi Simeon, “There are three crowns: the crown of Torah, the crown of priesthood, and the crown of sovereignty.”
Maimonides explains the ancient teaching. “Whoever’s heart impels him to fulfill this mitzvah properly and to be crowned with the crown of Torah may not interrupt his mind with other matters. He should not consider that he will acquire Torah together with wealth and honor”29 Rabbi Yeshua taught the same. “You cannot serve God and mammon.” The crown of Torah belongs to the Torah scholar whose life is governed by study of the Torah. He works in the world to support his Torah observant family and studies the Torah at every opportunity.
The crown of priesthood and the crown of sovereignty were physical, but the crown of Torah was a spiritual crown. Rabbi Paul observed, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness” 2 Tim 4:7–8.” Rabbi Yaakov said, “Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love him” Jas 1:12. Rabbi Yokhanan received Rabbi Yeshua‘s prophecy, “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” Rev 2:10.
Rabbi Yeshua made those baptized into his redemptive sacrifice a “living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God”30 Holy Mother Church teaches that God § 782 “acquired a people for himself from those who previously were not a people: a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation,” and that § 782 “One becomes a member of this people not by a physical birth, but by being born anew, a birth of water and the Spirit, that is, by faith in Christ, and Baptism.”
The royal priesthood does not consist of everyone who sits on a wooden pew each Sunday morning. “An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules” 2 Tim 2:5. Holy Mother Church teaches, “The faithful, in virtue of their royal priesthood, join in the offering of the Eucharist … receiving the sacraments, in prayer and thanksgiving, in the witness of a holy life, and by self-denial and active charity.”31
We recall that in Mosaic Judaism people were often named for their identity and mission. The “name,” in the sense of reputation, goes back to the tower of Babel, when the people sought to make “a name for ourselves” Gen 11:4 in defiance of God.
A “good name” meant a good reputation. Rabbi Simeon in Mishna Abot 4:13b added, “But the crown of a good name is best of them all.” Only those who have a good name are part of Rabbi Yeshua‘s royal priesthood. One whose very existence becomes his God-given mission has the good name or title associated with his mission. Thus, the person who wears the crown of Torah has the good name of a Torah scholar. We who devote our lives to Rabbi Yeshua, the Word Made Flesh, have the good name of “royal priesthood” 1 Pet 2:9.
The greatest name of all was Yeshua. “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” Phil 2:9–11.
But why a royal priesthood? It is royal because we bear the crown of a good name, but in what sense are we priests? We are priests because, in the New and Eternal Covenant we offer the sacrifice of ourselves, our body, blood, soul and humanity, to Rabbi Yeshua. The ministerial priesthood also offers the sacrifice of Rabbi Yeshua to the Father for us.
God is so holy that even his smallest manifestation contains all of him. The rabbis believed that the Torah, the Word of God, was similarly indivisible. Every fragment of the Torah, even a single letter, contained within it all of the Torah. Today we know Rabbi Yeshua, the Torah Made Flesh, is whole and entire in even the smallest sliver of the consecrated Host.
Mishna Eruvim 13a tells us that the old sofer Rabbi Ishmael, told the young sofer Rabbi Meir, “My son, be careful in your work, for your work is heavenly. In case you delete even one letter or add even one letter, you may destroy the entire world.” Every word, letter and mark in the Torah is the will of God and the Word of God, with divine force, so that to add or delete one letter is to change the very structure of creation.
Moses commanded the Israelites, “Take this book of the Law, and put it by the side of the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may be there for a witness against you” Deut 31:26. Mishna Kidushin 46b says that we should always view ourselves as if we have an equal amount of merits and sins, and as if the world is hanging in perfect balance with an equal balance of merits and sins. A man who performs a mitzvah tilts himself and the entire world to the side of merits. If he commits a sin he tilts himself and the entire world to the side of sin.
Just as the rabbis taught integral observance of the Torah, Rabbi Yeshua taught integral observance, “Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” Mt 5:19. His disciples knew it. Rabbi Shaul ha-Tarsi declared, “I testify again to every man who receives circumcision that he is bound to keep the whole law” Gal 5:3. Rabbi Yaakov added, “Whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it” Jas 2:10.
All of it. Each Torah scroll contained 304,805 letters carefully arranged in 245 columns. If we count the gaps between the words and the tagin, crowns on top of the letters, it comes to about 600,000, corresponding to the 600,000 Jews who received the Torah on Mt. Sinai. Mishna Menakhot 29b tells us that these crowns are significant, and that Rabbi Akiva was able to discover many new halakhot, laws, by searching out their meanings.
§ 579 “This principle of integral observance of the Law not only in letter but in spirit was dear to the Pharisees. By giving Israel this principle they had led many Jews of Jesus’ time to an extreme religious zeal. This zeal, were it not to lapse into casuistry, could only prepare the People for the unprecedented intervention of God through the perfect fulfillment of the Law by the only Righteous One in place of all sinners.”
Integral observance was based on the shma as the summary of all the Torah. A sin against any mitzvah is a sin against the shma. This is also the basis for the pre-Christian sages’ teaching that all the mitzvot were of equal importance, since all were expressions of God’s will for us.
And Rabbi Yeshua told us about his fulfillment of the Law. “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” Mt 5:20. We are to keep a higher level of the Torah, higher than the teachers of the Law, higher than Hillel and Shammai, by grace above human possibility.
The Highest Level of the Torah
Did Rabbi Yeshua observe all the Torah mitzvot? On one shabat, Sabbath, he entered the synagogue and healed a man with a withered hand Mt 12:10–13. On another shabathe healed a man born blind Jn 9:1–7.
The Torah had positive ordinances directing us to help one another. They were broader than they might appear. “Help a beast that has fallen down under its burden,” did not apply only to animals; we are to help our neighbor whenever our situation allows it, for instance as a goel. Rabbi Yeshua was under a positive command to help the man with the withered hand, the man born blind, and the arthritic woman.32 He was also under a negative command: “Do not work on the Sabbath.” The Jewish authorities knew the rabbinic principle for resolving such issues: Aseh dokheh lo ta’aseh. A positive command is more important than a negative command. Rabbi Yeshua was consistent with the halakha when he healed on the Sabbath.
There was an even higher principle: pikuakh nefesh, to save a life. Our Father told us, “I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live” Deut 30:19. In ordinary Jewish life it superseded all other mitzvot. The sole exceptions to earthly pikuakh nefesh are the three mitzvot for martyrdom. If someone commands that a Jew worship idols, commit murder, or enter into a forbidden marriage, he is to accept death rather than do them. These particular sins are most offensive to God, and so, when absolutely necessary, Jews glorify God by being martyrs. We recall the time of the hanukkah, when Antiochus IV tried to make Eleazar, one of the scribes 2 Mac 6:18–19, and then the mother and her seven sons 2 Mac 7:1–23 accept his idols by eating pork, they accepted death rather than idolatry. But Jews are to commit any other sin when it becomes absolutely necessary to save a life.
Rabbi Yeshua had come to keep all the mitzvot, and to teach us how. “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” Mt 19:26. Rabbi Yeshua explained, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets” Mt 22:37–40.
Rabbi Yeshua elevated the second great commandment. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you” Jn 15:12–14. This is the agape love that Rabbi Yeshua showed us. If we fulfill these two mitzvot at a very high level of honesty we intend to fulfill our Father’s will for us in all things.
The rabbis also teach that tzedaka, the Jewish legal obligation to support our brother in need, is among the highest mitzvot, but that pikuakh nefesh, to save a life, is the highest of all. Rabbi Yeshua lived these two mitzvot at the highest level of honesty during all his mortal life. His Final Sacrifice redeemed us in the greatest possible act of love for the Father and for us. In this he fulfilled in himself the entire Halakha.
“He humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” Phil 2:8. Rabbi Yeshua told Philip and Andrew, “And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, for this purpose I have come to this hour” Jn 12:27. He prayed at Gethsemane, “My Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt” Mt 26:39. He prayed again, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done” Mt 26:42. Rabbi Yeshua the Mashiakh set aside his own will and obediently embraced the Cross.
Paradise had been closed since the Fall of Adam. “He drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life” Gen 3:24.
Rabbi Yeshua, the Mashiakh, used the tree of life, the Cross, to reconcile God and man. The tree of life was located in a garden Gen 2:9. “Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb where no one had ever been laid” Jn 19:41.
Rabbi Yeshua‘s reconciliation opened heaven Lk 23:43 so that God and man might have Holy Communion with one another in the New and Eternal Covenant. In this he gave our Father the greatest gift, the souls of all the faithful, his image and likeness Gen 1:26–27, from the beginning of time until the end of time, as eternal company in heaven. And he gave his faithful the greatest gift, eternal life in God’s presence.
Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews
Through this national revelation our Father revealed that Rabbi Yeshua was truly king of the Jews. Rabbi Yokhanan tells us that Rabbi Yeshua for his Final Sacrifice had above his head the title Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews. It was written in Hebrew, the language by which God revealed him self to man, Yeshua haNotzri, Melekh haYehudim. It was also in Latin, the language of the Roman Empire, representing authority, Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum. Finally, it was in Greek, the international language of commerce, representing universality, Iesous ho Nazoraios ho Basileus ho Ioudaion, “Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews.”
Rabbi Yokhanan, who was present, tells us that the inscription was in Hebrew. In his time Hebrew, the leshon hakodesh, “Holy language,” was the language of Torah, of Temple liturgy, and generally of educated Jews. Aramaic was a street language used by working class Jews. St. Jerome, who spoke both Hebrew and Aramaic fluently, translated St. John’s Greek word Hebraisti into his Latin Vulgate, the Church’s reference standard Bible, as hebraice. However, during the first century, the word Hebrew was loosely used to include Aramaic, which the Jews picked up during the Babylonian Exile. Most Jews in Jerusalem spoke Aramaic every day, reserving Hebrew for religious uses. If Pilate wanted as many people as possible to read and understand the epitaph he may have written it in Aramaic.
The Easter Vigil Mass, celebrating the risen Rabbi Yeshua, begins with the Exsultet, or Rejoicing. Its words, “O truly necessary sin of Adam … O happy fault …” highlight for us a most remarkable truth.
Our far-seeing Father uses evil to make good. He knew from the beginning that we would fall from grace and have to leave paradise on earth. He wanted to prepare us for the day when Rabbi Yeshua would take down the flaming sword Gen 3:24, call us to the tree of life Rev 2:7, and open paradise for us Lk 23:43.
Our Father’s plan was elegant in its simplicity. In the dawn of creation he had kicked the disobedient angels out of heaven. They immediately began to make war against our first parents, darkening their intellects and weakening their wills.
The angelic intellect instantly apprehends all that is open to its perception. The fallen angels, spiritual persons who live in eternity, had known Rabbi Yeshua in heaven; when he came to earth they recognized him . “He would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him” Mk 1:34. “And demons also came out of many, crying, ‘You are the Son of God!’ But he rebuked them, and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Christ” Lk 4:41.
Once Rabbi Yeshua was on earth, he never explained exactly how he would “give his life as a ransom for many” Mt 20:28. Satan thought he could abort Rabbi Yeshua‘s mission by having him crucified. Only after the Final Sacrifice was complete did Satan realize that Rabbi Yeshua‘s mission was to be crucified, to open heaven so that God could begin to move us, creatures below the demons in the order of creation, one by one, out of Satan’s reach to the very place the demons had once enjoyed.
Marriage Supper of the Lamb
The tree of life is the Cross, through which we pass to reach the Resurrection. Its fruit is the Holy Eucharist, the “marriage supper of the Lamb” Rev 19:9, which we foretaste in this life to brighten our intellect and strengthen our will.
Rabbi Yeshua prepared us for the Marriage Supper of the Lamb Rev 19:9 in heaven when he instituted the marriage covenant in the earthly paradise, “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh” Gen 2:24. Rabbi Yeshua raised marriage to a sacrament with his words, “So they are no longer two but one. What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder” Mt 19:6. God himself is a Holy Trinity, a divine family, who creates each human family in his image. The human family is therefore a divine association above the state or any other human organization. When a Catholic marries, he knows that only his parish church wedding is a marriage. One day the man, and one day the woman, will stand before Rabbi Yeshua for judgment and will be eternally grateful for having cherished his true law.
In our time, states have arrogated to themselves authority over marriage, elevating themselves to idols, violating God’s solemn First Commandment. States pretend to make marriages, but they are no more successful than a man and woman who voluntarily decide that the man will carry and give birth to this particular baby. Say what they will, God will put the baby in the woman’s body.
Rabbi Yeshua’s Mirror
“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face” 1 Cor 13:12.
Our Father had called the Torah “a witness against you” Deut 31:26. Rabbi Yeshua held a mirror up to the world to show us how the Fall of Adam wounded us. His arrival on earth had been beautiful and he radiated holiness all his life, but men did to him whatever they pleased and he died in bloody agony. In his mirror fallen humanity saw itself, and tried to break the mirror and those who held it.
The Pharisees saw themselves in his mirror. They sought obedience to Mosaic Judaism in living as a people apart. But our Father had commanded that the people Israel live apart from demons, not apart from his Son. Our Father calls us to “walk humbly with your God” Mic 6:8, but the Pharisees walked proudly before men. “They make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long” Mt 23:5. In Rabbi Yeshua‘s mirror the Pharisees saw a series of people the Mosaic Law taught should not be touched because they defiled. But Rabbi Yeshua healed the leper by touching him Mt 8:3, healed the pagan centurion’s servant Mt 8:13, exorcised two demon-possessed men in a cemetery Mt 8:28–32, healed a menstruating woman who touched his tzitzit Mt 9:20, and resuscitated a dead woman by touching her Mt 9:25. They saw that these people could not defile Rabbi Yeshua, but that his power could heal them. However, instead of embracing him, they turned their sin of pride around and accused him. “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Mt 9:11. The Hebrew word for accuser is satan.
Rabbi Yeshua‘s shlikhim also saw themselves in his mirror. During his Last Supper Rabbi Yeshua lovingly gave eleven of his shlikhim the greatest gift he could offer, his living presence, and the power to make him present again on their altars at any time. “Do this in remembrance of me” Lk 22:19. Yet, hours later, the man he would make his vicar on earth, when confronted, “Certainly you are one of them; for you are a Galilean” Mk 14:70, replied, “I do not know this man of whom you speak” Mk 14:71. He and the other shlikhim, except for John, were not even present at the Cross. Among his followers beneath the Cross, most were women. “Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene … and the disciple whom he loved [John]” Jn 19:25–26.
Some of the early city-churches also struggled. Rabbi Yeshua, speaking through the early Church, told them: “For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brethren” 1 Cor 1:11. “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel—not that there is another gospel, but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ” Gal 1:6–7. “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first” Rev 2:4. “But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice immorality. So you also have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans” Rev 2:14. “But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and beguiling my servants to practice immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols” Rev 2:20. “I know your works; you have the name of being alive, and you are dead” Rev 3:1. “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth” Rev 3:15–16.
We see ourselves dimly in Rabbi Yeshua‘s mirror, but we also see his victory at the end of time. Rabbi Yeshua told us, “In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” Jn 16:33. We who follow him work through spiritual exercise to conquer the darkened intellect and weakened will that we inherited from our first parents. When we persevere to the cross, we receive the promise of the Holy Spirit, “To him who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” Rev 2:7.