What is a tradition? Webster’s dictionary defines it as an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior (such as a religious practice or a social custom).
How many traditions do we see our Messiah keeping? Plenty, but what happens when we begin to use the traditions as a tool for control or even truth. I think its good to know why we do the things we do. I never knew why I kept Easter or what tithes and offerings were or why I just went to ‘church’ every Sunday. I just did what I was raised to do. When a person starts looking into the roots of their faith or making changes due to teachings, I think its good to know when the tradition started and who came up with it.
We must ask ourselves if we are just doing what Isaiah warned of—honoring Him with our mouths when our hearts are far away or if we are truly being obedient to His commandments. We all have traditions. My point is, when we define Elul with only what our brother Judah has taught us and do not exalt our Messiah, we lack any means of making them jealous.
“I ask then, did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Certainly not! However, because of their trespass, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel jealous.” (Romans 11:11).
Topics in this Blog Series:
- Origins of rabbinical traditions that have crept into the month of Elul, the fall feasts, and the Body of Messiah.
- The prophet Haggai, Ezekiel, Ezra, Nehemiah during the month of Elul
- The King is in the field.
- 40 days of introspection.
- Reciting Psalm 27 daily.
- No correction for 40 days.
The month of Elul (6th-month counting from Nisan) gets its name from an Akkadian word for harvest.
The month of Elul (August/September) has multiple rabbinical traditions, but what are their origins, and what was the prophet’s role during Elul?
At times, Christianity and reformed Jewish traditions have rewritten the Torah commandments to fit their own agendas. In order to know the truth so it can set us free, we must dig for treasure and search out the leaven. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. (Galatians 5:9 ESV).
Some are told not to correct anyone during the month of Elul. We are told to do introspection for 40 days. Let’s peer deeper into the traditions of Elul and their origins so we can see how they have evolved over time.
In John 10:27, Yeshua says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”
If we are following Yeshua and walk with Him, shouldn’t we be so close to Him that He rebukes us of our sins and brings correction when we need it? Correction can happen at any time during the calendar. At times, the Father uses others to correct us. His Word corrects us. It is the washing of water by the Word.
Continuing in John 10,
“Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am, the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:9-11).
The thieves in Yeshua’s day were the corrupt leadership. This passage is not about satan. The Pharisees and Sadducees placed heavy loads on the people, so heavy; indeed, they could not bear them. Yeshua said they made their converts more wicked than they were before.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you go about the land and the sea to win one convert, and when he is won, you make him a son of Gehenna twofold more than yourselves” (Matthew 23:15, ISR).
These corrupt leaders wanted to kill the Messiah, and when he healed on Sabbath, they were enraged. When his disciples didn’t fast when they were fasting, they questioned Yeshua. These corrupt leaders were the thieves who came to steal (the Truth of Torah), kill (The Spirit), and destroy (His Father’s commandments by adding and taking away).
In Mark 7, we learn more about these traditions of men:
“Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, a holding to the tradition of the elders, and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” (Mark 7:1-8).
Yeshua said, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” (Matthew 16:6) Leaven is a Biblical symbol for the sin of pride, which causes humans to become puffed up and think more of themselves than they ought to.
Do we keep Yom Kippur as a Jew under rabbinical traditions or do we keep it as one who knows that our Messiah entered into the Holy of Holies once for all?
We are told to humble ourselves and do no work.
“But when Messiah appeared as Kohen Gadol of the good things that have now come, passing through the greater and more perfect Tent not made with hands (that is to say not of this creation), He entered into the Holies once for all—not by the blood of goats and calves but by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Messiah—who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God—cleanse our conscience from dead works to serve the living God? For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, in order that those called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—since a death has taken place that redeems them from violations under the first covenant.” (Hebrews 9:11-15).
The prophet Haggai who brought a word of correction for the people on Elul 1. Here is a portion from Haggai during the new moon of Elul:
In the second year of King Darius, in the sixth month (Elul), on the first day of the month, the word of Adonai came through Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel. . .
Thus says Adonai-Tzva’ot: “Set your heart on your ways! Go up to the hills, bring wood and build the House. Then I will delight in it and I will be glorified,” says Adonai. “You have looked for much, but indeed, there is little. What you have brought home, I have blown away. Why is this?”—it is a declaration of Adonai-Tzva’ot—“because My House lies in ruins, while you are running, each to his own house.” (Haggai 1:1-9).
Adonai was speaking through His prophet on Elul 1, Rosh Chodesh, and He was bringing correction, and towards the end of the message, Haggai brings encouragement.
Haggai, as a prophet, did not think to himself, I must not correct these people. It was just the opposite, and if you are a prophet or have wondered about your role and gifts in the body, you may have a different assignment than others.
- “Go take yourself a wife of harlotry, Hosea” (Hosea 1:2)
- Now Hosea, name your children Jezreel, Lo-Ruhamah, and Lo-Ammi, which were translated, “No Mercy” and “Not my People.” These three names represent God’s judgment against faithless Israel.
- “at that time Adonai spoke by Isaiah the son of Amoz saying, “Go, remove the sackcloth from your loins and your sandals from your feet.” So he did so, walking naked and barefoot” (Isaiah 20:2).
- Then the word of Adonai came to him saying: “Leave this place, turn eastward, and hide yourself by the Wadi Cherith, east of the Jordan. It will come about that you will drink from the wadi. I have also commanded the ravens to feed you there.” (I Kings 17:4).
- “See, I have given you cow dung instead of human dung. So you will prepare your bread on it.” (Ezekiel 4:15).
(# 6 from top list) Where did “a month of no correction” originate from?
Various customs arose sometime during the first millennium that designated Elul as the time to prepare for the High Holy Days. A man named Judah Loew ben Bezalel, known as simply Maharal of Prague, 1525–1609), rabbi, Talmudist, moralist, and mathematician, said, “All the month of Elul, before eating and sleeping, a person should look into his soul and search his deeds, that he may make confession.”
This is one place where introspection during Elul evolved. I am not disputing or denying that it’s good to do introspection daily or even more carefully before Yom Kippur, but, again, let’s look at this deeper and remember the body has different roles and gifts. There is a time to speak and a time not to speak.
It is implied by some that there should be absolutely no correcting others, only looking inward. In saying that, here are a few questions to ponder.
1.Wouldn’t we correct our children when we see them doing wrong or causing harm?
2.If we saw a brother or sister causing harm, shouldn’t we correct them?
3.If our brother or sister offends us or we know we have offended them, we are told to go to them and point out the sin. If this happens during Elul, we shouldn’t wait a month to address it, for it surely would grow, and more bitterness set in, leaving us not very peaceful during Yom Kippur. (Matthew 5:23) (Mark 11:25).
4.If Paul witnessed Peter acting in a way he shouldn’t during Elul, wouldn’t he call that sin out just as he did regardless of what month it is?
“But when Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong— 12 for before certain people came from Jacob, he regularly ate with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and separate himself, fearing those from the circumcision. 13 And the rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that they were not walking in line with the truth of the Good News, I said to Peter in front of everyone, “If you—being a Jew—live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” 15 We are Jews by birth and not sinners from among the Gentiles. 16 Yet we know that a person is set right not by deeds based on Torah, but rather through putting trust in Messiah Yeshua” (Galatians 2:11-16, TLV).
You may be thinking this is common knowledge, and people already know this. Still, many people who come into the Hebrew of their faith take things too literally at times. They are persuaded to keep traditions, and some do this harshly adding ignorance.
I heard a story recently about a spouse who would not stop at a store and buy candy or juice for a diabetic spouse who was having dangerously low sugar while traveling on Shabbat. If one were to get technical, the person had already started a fire when they started their vehicle. Life and quality of life are always the most important issue at hand and especially with the one you are ONE with. Yeshua made sure to point this type of sin out by healing on Shabbat.
With so much knowledge coming from various sources, we often forget the most important thing recorded concerning Elul–an angel visited Miriam.
“Then, in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by Adonai into a town in the Galilee named Natzeret and to a virgin engaged to a man named Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Miriam. And coming to her, the angel said, “Shalom, favored one! Adonai is with you.” But at the message, she was perplexed and kept wondering what kind of greeting this might be. The angel spoke to her, “Do not be afraid, Miriam, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you shall call His name Yeshua.”
Talk about introspection! Can you imagine carrying the Messiah in your womb? I don’t think any of us can, but isn’t that what we are to do daily? Carry Him in the place of life. Out of our belly should flow LIVING waters. We are to be pregnant with Him all the time and if we hear His Voice, and He is our Good Shepherd, will Yeshua not correct us and show us when and how we err? Did He not die and rent the veil in half? The Bible says that Yeshua can sympathize with our weaknesses. What the High priest did once every year, He did once and for all.
“Therefore, since we have a great Kohen Gadol who has passed through the heavens, Yeshua Ben-Elohim, let us hold firmly to our confessed allegiance. For we do not have a kohen gadol who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all the same ways—yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near to the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace for help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14-16).
The amount of guilt and shame put on many for not keeping traditions is horrible. And at a season when we should be rejoicing that we know a risen Savior who is not far away and only close by during one month of the year. We should do summersaults knowing that, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar, and His word is not in us” (I John 1:9-10).
(#5 from top list) Why do some read Psalm 27 daily during Elul?
The Midrash says “my light” is associated with Rosh Hashanah (Feasts of Trumpets) and “my salvation” is associated with Yom Kippur, and a later verse in the Psalm, “That He will hide me in His tabernacle” is associated with Sukkot.
Yet the custom of reciting this psalm from Rosh Chodesh Elul until the last day of Sukkot does not appear for well over a thousand years later.
“The earliest mention of the custom seems to be the work Sefer Shem Tov Katan, by the Kabbalist Rabbi Binyamin Benish Cohen, published in 1706. He writes that one who recites this psalm in a state of holiness, purity and great concentration will have his prayers answered and that it has the power to nullify Divine decrees.” (Chabad.org)
If reading Psalm 27 every day is helpful for you, then, by all means, do so, but it’s not listed in Leviticus 23 as a requirement. Psalm 27 has helped me in times of despair. It is a psalm of David, but it’s good to know where the tradition originated from— (1706 Rabbi Binyamin Benish). But if you want to read the Gospels every day or the book of Acts every day during the month of Elul, that is your choice. No one was reading Psalm 27 everyday in Yeshua’s day during Elul.
My greater concern for some is that they have traded Messiah and His Resurrection glory for traditions of men. Not all traditions are bad or harmful, but some are. Remember, a little leaven leavens out the whole lump. Even prayers that are prayed during the Feasts of Trumpets and Yom Kippur need looked at.
The Amidah was composed at the beginning of the Second Temple period by the Men of the Great Assembly– 120 great leaders, some of whom were prophets, including Ezra, Nehemiah, Mordechai, Zerubbabal, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi. Over time, this prayer has been updated. And guess what was removed?
“The traditional Amidah Blessing uses the Hebrew words מְחַיֵּה מֵתִים (resurrect the dead). The words demand a doctrine of resurrection. But the contemporary Amidah (Reformed) removes this idea. In the rewritten blessing resurrection is no longer an accepted belief. Now God brings life and improves people. As the commentary suggests, “This prayer does not say anything about winning or defeating enemies.” Not even death, apparently. This isn’t the only place where Reformed Jewish social justice trumps traditional theology. This is a case where contemporary ethical concerns and political correctness are taught as the words of the Sages and, ultimately, God’s words.” Christian Replacement Theology is an insidious attempt to replace the Hebrew God with a Greek substitute by shifting God’s choice of Israel to the Church. But is it any less disastrous than the Jewish attempt to remove God’s promise of a resurrected life?” (Dr. Skip Moen)
“But if we should walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (I John 1:7)
If we sin, we have an advocate and not just for 40 days out of the year, but for every day.
“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” (I John 2:1)
This might sound prideful to some, but I honestly don’t feel the need to repeat prayers, read a passage over and over, duct tape my mouth for 40 days. I know I am a worm. I know I need a Savior daily. I know I don’t fast two times a week. I know I daily have to repent. Oh, Yah, be merciful to me!’
Each person has to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling.
Giving alms or making daily lists of what we may have done wrong is traditions for Elul. When we sin we have an advocate. We are told to come boldly to the throne room of grace. Eph. 2:5-6; “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” but Paul doesn’t stop there Paul tells the believers in Colossians 2:6: “ As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.” Walk in HIM.
There was a point in Paul’s writings that he became so dead, he was deader than a door knob, dead. He had been beaten, stoned to death, imprisoned, shipwrecked at sea hanging to a plank for dear life, and in prison waiting to be executed. After bringing strong correction in his letter to the Galatian’s he says, “From now on let no one cause trouble for me, for I bear on my body the marks of Yeshua. May we bear on our bodies the marks of Yeshua Messiah. May we keep Yom Kippur and with a humble spirit, fasting and remembering our Redeemer and praying for His people to see Yeshua Messiah.
In Part II we will look at more of the traditions, prophets and the month of Elul.
PART II HERE
Dr. Skip Moen
Photos: Unsplash (bride–Dylan Nolte)
The Way photo–Tim Wildsmith
Yeast dough–Adam Bartoszewicz