The Ask Rabbi feature is where you may email a question to the Rabbi and maybe get an answer. All questions will be reviewed, but all questions may not be answered in this forum. Questions that offer information that will help others who may have the same question are more likely to be included as public answers. Questions that are not answered publically will be answered privately.
Dear Rabbi Charlie, Why do you use a dash (-) instead of the ‘o’ in G-d and L-rd?
This is a good question and I’m glad you asked. There is no scriptural directive to leave the ‘o’ out of L-rd and G-d. It is simply an orthodox and Messianic rabbinical style of writing. Scripture expects us to revere the Name of the L-rd and handle it with respect. The third commandment (Exodus 20:7 and Deut 5:11) says “You shall not take the Name of the L-rd your G-d in vain, for the L-rd will not hold him guiltless who takes His Name in vain.” (The Christian numbering of commandments is different than the Jewish numbering, but that’s another question). While this commandment seems to be addressing ones’ use of the Name of the L-rd, much has been determined form the way that G-d had Moshe write the commandment.
The two most notable thoughts are the reverence that is due to G-d and the sanctity of His written Name. G-d commanded us to be careful not to use His Name carelessly (ie: in vain). To do so would make us guilty. If we were to write His Name down, it should only be for a worthy purpose. To erase His Name, or to handle it lightly or without thought, would be to use it in vain. If the Name of G-d were to be written out in an e-mail, and the person who received it printed it out, read it and discarded the paper, the name of G-d would end up in the trash. In other words, it would have been used in vain, so the person who threw it away would be held guilty of using G-d’s name in vain (along with the one who sent the e-mail).
In Pirkei Avot (The Ethics of the Fathers) the sages understood that a violation of the Third Commandment is a sin which is different from other sins. The reasoning is based in their understanding that all of man’s actions are recorded in a Heavenly Ledger. For example, if someone were to covet his neighbor’s belongings, then the verse which forbids that is written down next to his name. When he repents, the verse is erased. However, if a person sins by taking G-d’s name in vain, even if the person repents, it is not possible to totally erase the verse since it contains God’s Name. To erase G-d’s Name would mean that it was used wrongfully to begin with, and that means that it was used in vain; therefore that person would never be able to be fully absolved from the sin of taking God’s Name in vain.
Now I recognize that the act of asking for forgiveness and receiving forgiveness through Yeshua the Messiah is understood as being all encompassing, to which I agree totally, but only at the point of forgiveness, because sinning in ignorance is forgivable. However, willful sin is not covered by Yeshua’s sacrifice (Hebrews 10:26). If we know that we are not to take G-d’s Name in vain and we do it anyway, there may very well be merit to the sage’s concept about not being able to erase G-d’s name from the Ledger in heaven. “…for HaShem will not absolve anyone who takes His Name in vain.”
After the return from the Babylonian exile, the actual Name of G-d was no longer used by the sages. It was reserved only for the Cohen Gadol (High Priest) so that only he would utter G-d’s actual Name. This was a “safety fence: that was erected to protect the common person from accidentally using His Name wrongly and be held accountable for it.
There are many ways to write words that represent G-d’s Name so that we don’t actually use it, and thereby are protected from using His Name in vain. The reason for using the (-) instead of the ‘o’ is just another level of safety to help us avoid using His Name wrongly. The use of the dash allows us to convey an understanding of what we want to say without writing it out. This allows the people who receive our messages, to print them out and pass them around to others we don’t know – people who may not recognize or acknowledge the sanctity of G-d’s Name to the same level that we do. In essence, we are trying to protect them (and ourselves) from doing something that could be held against them or us by G-d.
The answer to the question about taking G-d’s Name in vain took me by surprise! It appears that taking G-d’s Name in vain is “the unpardonable sin”, or at the very least, one of the unpardonable sins. Is it? D.K.
I would not consider using G-d’s name in vain to be an unpardonable sin however, I would include it in a list of sins that are commonly committed by many. The third commandment in Exodus 20:7 gives us direction to not use His name in vain because He will not hold the person guiltless for doing so. This means that He will punish those who use His name lightly or for bring reproach upon His name, but it stops short of saying anything other than holding one guilty for punishment. This commandment only involves punishment, it does not address Blaspheming the Ruach HaKodesh as outlined in Luke 12:10. Therefore, it is a warning to be careful, but does not carry with it a condemnation unto death which is supported by 1John 5:16b
Dear Rabbi Charlie – Do you adhere with or agree to the fact that as Jews we should still burn a Yahrzeit candle in honor of our loved ones who have passed? RH
Dear RH, Yahrzeit is a Yiddish word that literally means “time of year,” but traditionally has been expanded to mean the anniversary date of the death of a close relative or another well-known person.
Lighting a candle as a remembrance on the date of our loved one’s death is a custom that has been derived from the Biblical directive to remember, but it is not a Biblical Commandment. There is a midrash that talks about G-d’s candle as being the human soul, and maybe this is the origin of the custom.
The scriptures give us repeated commandments to remember (a variety of things) and to teach them to our children. (The word “remember” is found 124 times in the JPS and another 37 times in the CJB Brit HaChadeshah). G-d has the ability to remember everything, without writing it down I suspect, but most of us are not that gifted. Lighting a candle that burns for 24 hours is one way to remember our loved ones. It gives us the opportunity to remember, and maybe even talk about, the one for whom the candle was lit. But a yahrziet candle is not the only way. My mother used an electric flicker bulb in a small ornate holder symbolizing a burning candle in the living room, while a yahrzeit candle was burning in the kitchen (usually on the stove).
There are some who are more concerned with starting a fire in the home than ritual defilement, so they may go to a gravesite as a remembrance. Visitors to a gravesite usually leave a small rock or stone on the grave marker as a remembrance. Some families choose to leave an empty chair at the Seder table at Passover as an honor and remembrance. Some share memories around the table at a family gathering, while others may choose to do something else.
The important thing to remember is that Judaism is not a religion of death. We celebrate life, and therefore there is a far greater emphasis placed on living as a Jew then there is on dying and death. Death is so much a part of life that even though our bodies die, our spirits live on forever, and that’s the reason for the remembrance. We always try to remember those who have passed on before us by celebrating their life, not their death.
The death of a loved one is often hard and sometimes a traumatic experience. We humans crave to have something that we can hold onto and at the same time we must release. The lighting of a yahrziet candle allows us to do both. Perhaps that’s why lighting a candle is one of the most widely observed traditions in Judaism. (Lighting a yahrziet candle should not be viewed as mandatory, but as a joyous privilege.)
Our daily lives are so busy that we rarely take time to remember and think about our loved ones. Having a candle burn for 24 hours gives us a flickering reminder to remember to release the negative thoughts and memories, and celebrate the good ones.
I have sometimes found myself away from home or even forgetting to light a yahrziet candle. When this happens, I simply light a belated candle and remember.
Dear Rabbi Charlie – My question is more of a statement that I live by. I am clear on foods – I am no longer concerned whether fish have scales or not, or whether an animal has cloven hoofs and chew a cud or not. G-d deals with this in the New Testament by stating that all foods are clean. CS
Dear CS, Because I think with more of a Jewish mindset than a Greek mindset, I recognize that this is a very common statement, but it just doesn’t line up with scripture. Most Bible translations that declare all foods clean or all things to be pure do a disservice to the reader. Please understand that I have no desire to destroy the work of G-d for the sake of food, but frankly everything we stick in our mouth is not food.
If G-d is the same yesterday, today and forever, why would He change His mind about food? If all it took was a simple prayer or statement to change something that G-d declared to be unclean for us to eat, why wasn’t it done sooner?
The subject of food is simple. G-d said that certain animals (Leviticus 11) were unclean for us to eat, and He said it for reason. Of the animals that are unclean, each has been shown by science to not have a blood purification system like the “clean” animals have. That means that the blood and flesh of the animal is not cleansed of impurities. Most of the unclean fish and animals are bottom feeders or what we might call garbage disposals. They eat whatever they can get their mouths around, and in many cases it doesn’t make a difference in what level of decay or putrefaction it is.
We have a friend whose husband is a food biologist. She was explaining to me that they have recently found enzymes in the animals, that are identified by scripture as unclean for human consumption, are stronger than the enzymes found in clean animals. The stronger enzymes work against the disease and decay that the animal consumes and aids in preventing it from becoming sick. When humans eat the flesh of the unclean animals, if those animal enzymes get into the body, they act as though they are super enzymes and begin to attack the host body. (Could this be where Mad Cow disease originates from – feeding flesh of sick and unclean animals to herbivores.)
Where does the approval to call all foods clean come from? For that matter, if we are told by G-d that unclean animals are not food, where does calling them food come from?
If you look at your Bible at Mark 7:19, you will most likely find wording that is not scripture. Most versions provide an additional statement of commentary that is not in the Greek and is very misleading. Now remember four things: (1)Yeshua is talking. (2)Yeshua is G-d. (3) He is the Torah that became flesh, and (4) Because He is G-d, He does not change.
Mark 7:18-19 “Are you so dull?”He asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him ‘unclean’? For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods “clean.”) What is written in blue is included in most versions of scripture but is not scripture.
The King James version2 comes closest to what the verse should read:
And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, (it) cannot defile him; because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats?
The food commandments in Torah were given to us for our health and safety, so why would G-d change His mind about that? Isn’t He our loving Father that wants us to have life and have it more abundantly?
We must remember that the New Testament was written by learned Jewish men. These men were trained in the things of Judaism. They knew what was acceptable to eat and what was not acceptable. When they used the word “food”, they were speaking of the acceptable things to eat. That which is not food for us should not go into our mouth, and they knew that.
Grocery stores do not follow scripture; they follow the wants and desires of the people who shop there.
Half of the items we find on the shelves of the grocery stores are either not food or contain ingredients that are not food. G-d wants us to be different from the desires of the world. He wants us to follow His design and His desires. That’s one of the things that make us different from the world – our desire to follow G-d’s desires.
If what I have written here is viewed as not correct, that’s acceptable to me, because I don’t judge a person by what he or she eats. Food does not make a person saved, nor does it make a person unsaved. Food simply sustains life. Therefore, like all of the commandments that are given to us by G-d, we must apply the dietary commandments by faith also. Our consumption of animals, designed by Him for our consumption as food, is accepted by faith that they will sustain us and not cause diseases. How can we have faith that what we are eating will not harm us, when the One we are placing our faith in is the One who told us to consider what we are eating (unclean animals) as non-food. He is the one who searches the heart and judges accordingly.
Dear Rabbi Charlie – Why do you march the Torah around the sanctuary during your services? Are there any scriptural references for doing it? NB
Dear NB, At El Ahava we have an abbreviated Torah Service every Shabbat. We take the Torah out and process it each week. Why do we do that?
We’re Jewish. We do Jewish things. We do our best to follow general halachah when it doesn’t contradict or circumvent scripture, and when there is a reasonable reason to follow it. We don’t follow halachah just to follow halachah. (Halachah is the established rule or guideline for the way things are done).
We recognize the Torah as Yeshua in written form. John Chapter 1 describes how the Word was with G-d and The Word was G-d, and in verse 14, the Word became Flesh.
Having this understanding encourages us to do a Torah Service each week.
We do not adhere to the halachah that requires a minion of 10 men in order to have a Torah Service. I am a firm believer that the Torah is a written representation of Yeshua, and when it comes time to read Torah, I refuse to say to Him that He has to stay in the closet because we don’t have enough men for Him to come out.
We try to adhere to a limited Torah reading with men only because of the issues of niddah (menstrual cycle). However, if we don’t have enough men to carry, read and do the lifting for all to see, we may call on women to read, but only if she is not in niddah. (Rebbitzin checks.) We have not had to call women to read since we first started the synagogue.
We don’t require women to wear tallitot (prayer shawls), but they do need to have head coverings when coming to the Bema. We usually call women to read from the Brit HaChadeshah and to pray for Jerusalem and USA.
When we start the Torah Service, we all stand to open the Ark and to emove the Torah. The Ark, also called Aaron HaKodesh, reminds us of the Ark that housed the tablets of the stone in the Kodesh HaKodeshim ( The Holy of Holies).
It is customary to stand when the ark is opened. This is reminiscent of Israel standing at the base of Mt. Sinai, waiting for G-d to reveal Himself when He gave us the stone tablets.
In our congregation, we stand in honor of whom the Torah represents, not because it is an idol.
As we start to process the Torah, we chant Va Y’hee Bensoah Ah-harone… “When The Ark Would Travel, ‘Arise, O L-rd and may Your enemies be scattered, and let them that hate You flee from before You. For out of Tziyon will go forth the Torah and the word of Adonai from Yerushalayim.” (Numbers 10:35 & Isaiah 2:3).
By reciting these verses, we are reenacting the march of the Israelites whenever the tabernacle with the Holy Ark would be moved.
We are still standing during the procession, and the men touch their tzit tzith to the Torah while women and children touch their scaves or Bibles to the Torah. Then we bring it to our lips and touch our hearts, as a reference that the Word of G-d is sweeter than honey to our lips and it is to be written on the tablets of our hearts. (Psalm 19:10 & Prov 3:3).
Either before or after the readings,we lift the Torah and cant V’ZOTE HATORAH – “This is the Torah that Moses placed before the Children of Israel, upon the command of HASHEM, through Moses’ hand (Deut 4:44 & Numbers 9:23b). We all stand again when the Torah is returned to the Ark.
We do all this because it is common in all synagogues in one degree or another. It is how I learned to do it when I was young. I don’t know how long this basic method has been used, but I imagine a long time.
Everything in Judaism is done for a reason, usually to act as a remembrance of how it was originally done, or as a foreshadow of what is to come. The Torah procession is both. When the Torah is processed and we reach out to touch it, we are looking back and we are looking forward, both in respect and in honor.
For our brethren who do not recognize Yeshua as the Messiah, we are looking back as though the procession is a reflection of what was done when the Ark was moved from place to place. This remembrance was brought into a ceremonial service after the destruction of the Temple to help us remember what G-d had provided for Israel.
For those of us who know Who holds the future, we know that we will be standing and honoring the presence of the L-rd. We will be just like the people in Brit HaChadeshah who wanted to touch Him simply because of Who He was. Our future hope will be to do the same; that is, to be able to reach out and touch the hem of His garment, in reverence and respect.
In this Rabbi’s opinion, The Torah procession is the most beautiful part of the Torah Service. It’s not only because everyone has an opportunity to get involved in the recognition of what and Who the Torah represents, but the best part is, we all get to reach out and make a solid contact with the Spirit of G-d. It is a faith booster that G-d is real and His Word does not change.
Dear Rabbi Charlie, I have done a great deal of thinking, praying and reading about the future of Jews who do not believe in Yeshua. I am not sure what will happen to my family who has not accepted the L-rd. I would like nothing better than to believe that my Jewish family will have some special dispensation if they do not believe in Yeshua during this life. Is there any hope or understanding you can give me? KM
Dear KM, We read in scripture that Moshe placed a veil over his face so that the people could not see the glow of his face caused by the Spirit of G-d (Exodus 34:35), and Sh’aul in 2Corinthians 3:14-15 tells us that this same veil is still over the Jewish people whenever they read the Tanach (Old Testament). We are told that Adonai has blocked their hearts, eyes and ears (Deuteronomy 29:4), and Isaiah 29:9-10 speaks volumes to this, which Yeshua commented on in Mark 4:10-12 and Luke 8:10, as did Sh’aul in Romans 11:8-10. John refers to Isaiah 6:8-10 by indicating that Adonai has blinded their eyes.
We, who are saved by the blood of Yeshua, tend to believe that we must accept Yeshua in order to be saved. I too believe that, but I have to point out something that remains a mystery.
In John 1 we read that in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with G-d and the Word was G-d. In verse 14 we find that the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us. The word that became flesh is the Torah. The Torah became flesh in the form of Yeshua. Yeshua is the Torah. In John 14:6, Yeshua said, “I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father except through Me.” Does that limit us to going through the man Yeshua as the only way? No. Look at Nicodemus. Yeshua didn’t tell him to wait until he died to accept Him to be born again. Yeshua said, “You must be born again. You are a teacher of Israel (meaning a teacher of Torah). You should know this.”
Evidently being “born again”, which is the changing of one’s heart to follow after G-d, is what is most important. Does that mean that we must go through the Torah, the way the Nicodemus did, to become born again? The obvious answer to that is “No”, because those who believe in Yeshua as the Messiah do not necessarily follow Torah. So here is a wide open question: Can one who follows the written aspect of Yeshua (the Torah) qualify as going through Yeshua to be born again, which brings them to the Father?
In John 14:9 Yeshua said, “Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father,” In John 10:30 Yeshua said “I and My Father are one”. In Colossians 1:15 we read that Yeshua is the visible image of our invisible G-d. These statements tell me that Yeshua is the fullness of G-d. They are united together as One. That means that when we go through Yeshua to get to the Father, we are actually going through the Father to get to the Father. In other words, in order for us to get to the fullness of G-d, we must go through G-d, with a right heart attitude in order for G-d to allow us to approach Him.
Having said that, we can recognize that the Torah is as much of G-d as Yeshua is. They are one. So the question becomes…” ‘Can a Jewish person, who is not able to see the man Yeshua as the Messiah because G-d has shielded him from seeing, and has been taught throughout his or her life that Yeshua is not G-d; … is it possible for that person to get to G-d by going through the Torah?
My answer is an unashamed “Maybe, but I’m not sure”. I personally would rather go the way of Yeshua the man, but the question about the Torah and a correct heart attitude aligns with what G-d wants from all of us. Didn’t Yeshua say in John 14:15 “If you love Me, keep My commandments”?
I thank G-d that I don’t have to judge the heart attitudes of people, because regardless of what I see on the outside, I can’t see the true heart attitude. I want to leave you with a 1 minute sermon that is prepared for radio broadcasting.
When People Die
We often wonder what happens to people who die without making a public confession that Yeshua is L-rd. All I know for sure is that G-d judges the attitude of the heart.
When Yeshua was baptized, He immediately went into the wilderness to be tested by HaSatan. In Luke 4 it says HaSatan showed Yeshua all the kingdoms of the world in a moment’s time. If HaSatan could do this, how much better can G-d do it?
Does Yeshua show dying people the Truth of His Word in a moment’s time, just before their last breath, and then ask them if they want to accept the truth before they die? I don’t know. I hope so. His Word says that He wants no one to perish. Shouldn’t we be planting seeds of faith in people’s spirits while they are alive, so that if this does happen, they will recognize the truth and say yes to Yeshua in that last moment when He asks? I think so… Rabbi Charlie