In this week’s class, Ross shares some insights from the first two Torah portions of Genesis. He begins with the creation of man and follows the story through the flood of Noah pointing out the great potential of man for both good and bad. Why was man created in the first place? How did man’s story go so quickly from good to bad? What was it that caused God to regret that he made man in the beginning? What led to man’s banishment from Eden? As the story introduces Noah, we read that he was a righteous man, whole in his generation. What was it about Noah, and is righteousness something that can be attained by others? These questions and more are answered in this teaching. You will not want to miss this class.
In this message, drawing partly from Biblical passages, and partly from records of the dedicatory service of Temple Sinai in 1903, Ross shared an old vision for a new beginning for Roots of Faith from the Historic Temple Sinai Synagogue in Saint Francisville, Louisiana. Inspired by the hopes and dreams of Saint Francisville’s former Hebrew citizens, Ross set forth to encourage his listeners to seize their vision and bring it into fruition. You will not want to miss this inspiring message.
Today marks three years since the passing of Steve Jobs on October 5, 2011. As an owner of a MacBook Pro, an iPad Mini, and an iPhone, I guess you could call me an Apple man. I love these wonderful devices. I recall when the first iPhone was released. The Torah reading was Balak, which tells the story of Balaam, the pagan prophet who was hired to curse Israel but ended up blessing them instead. I found it interesting then, and still do, that this was not the first technological advancement that was associated with this ancient Torah reading.
On Shavuot (Pentecost), in the year 1844, a similar advancement in technology took place. At 8:45 AM on Friday, May 24th, 1844, Samuel Morse sent a communication from Washington to Alfred Vail in Baltimore. The technology revolution of that time was called the telegraph – formed by two Greek words; tele=far and graphy=to write.
Interestingly, the same words that were telegraphed on Pentecost 1844 were also read on the day that Apple released the first iPhone. In 1844, Annie Ellsworth sent the first telegraphed message. It was short, and taken from the King James Version of the Bible. The message said, “What hath God wrought?” Annie Ellsworth chose Balaam’s words to inaugurate the Technological Communication Age and then the latest “revolution” in Communication Technology was released on the day that these words were read again in synagogues throughout the world!
Is there something deeper in all of this? Is there a Divine hand at work? I am a fan of technology and continually seek new ways to utilize it in my efforts to teach the Bible. Steve Jobs and Apple have been very instrumental in providing innovative devices that enable me to reach the ends of the earth with my teachings. His work has been a blessing to me and to many others. Thinking of the genius today. May he rest in peace, and may his name be for a blessing.
Samuel Morse sent a final telegraph in June of 1871. It read, “Greetings and thanks to the telegraph Fraternity throughout the world, Glory to God in the Highest, on earth, peace, goodwill to men.” May we always find more ways to speak and communicate God’s prophetic word through modern technology! Indeed, what hath God wrought!
In today’s teaching, Ross covers some essential points from selected Yom Kippur readings in order to stress the meaning of the day. He begins with three readings found in the Bible’s book of Leviticus which discuss the 10th day of the 7th month (Leviticus 16; 23:26-32; and 25:8-10). Ross shares some key points from these three passages, highlighting a phrase that is translated to “afflict the soul.” What does this mean? How is one to afflict the soul? It is generally understood that this means to fast, but is refraining from eating enough? Is this what is required on the holiest of days? Ross goes on to show from various Scriptures how one is to afflict the soul and then he turns his attention to yet one more portion of Scripture associated with the Day of Atonement – the Book of Jonah. He shares parts of the story with the intent of challenging his listeners on this day. You will not want to miss this teaching.
On the third day of the 7th biblical month, the Jewish people observe a day of fasting. The observance is known as the Fast of Gedaliah. Who was Gedaliah, and why is his name associated with a day of fasting down to this day?
In the aftermath of the destruction of the First Temple by the Babylonians in 586 BCE, a few of the poorest of the land were left to be vine dressers and plowmen (II Kings 25:12; Jeremiah 39:10). The majority of the people were taken captive, their cities were left in shambles and their hope was gone. The King of Babylon appointed Gedaliah as Governor over the land and the small remnant of Judeans. The Governor tried to reassure his people that all would be well if they would but serve the King of Babylon and live in the land. He encouraged them to dwell in the cities and go about their lives without fear. He told them to gather wine and summer fruits and oil, and store them in vessels and to live without fear. Judeans began to return and inhabit the cities left vacant in the wake of Babylonian aggression. Gedaliah made his home in Mizpah (Jeremiah 40:7-12).
During these dark days, Nebuchadnezzar gave special instruction concerning the prophet Jeremiah. He ordered Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard to, “take him, look after him well, and do him no harm, but deal with him as he tells you.” Nebuzaradan released Jeremiah from his chains and offered him the choice of going to Babylon or returning to his own land to dwell with the appointed Governor of the land among the people. Jeremiah chose to live among his people in the land, in the home of the Governor (Jeremiah 39:11-14, 40:1-6). As it turns out, the two most likely knew each other quite well. Gedaliah’s father, Ahikam, had come to Jeremiah’s aid when he was accused of prophesying against the Temple and the city, pronouncing their ruin (II Kings 26:24). Gedaliah’s grandfather, and Ahikam’s father, also played into the story of Jeremiah. His name was Shaphan. It was Shaphan, who in the days of Josiah was part of an incredible discovery story. The High Priest Hilkiah discovered a scroll of the Torah in the Temple and he told Shaphan about it. Shaphan reported the discovery to King Josiah and read the scroll to him. King Josiah sent Shaphan, his son Ahikam, the priest Hilkiah (Jeremiah’s father? cf. Jeremiah 1:1), and two others to go inquire of YHVH about the words of the scroll. They all went together to a prophetess by the name of Huldah who told them of all that was to come (II Kings 22:8-20).
So why do we fast for Gedaliah? What happened to the Governor whose family plays so prominent a role in the life of Jeremiah? He was assassinated by a member of the royal family (Jeremiah 41:1)! Gedaliah had been warned of the plot but refused to believe it, but the warning was true. At a meal in Mizpah, eleven men rose up and struck down the Governor and those that were with him (II Kings 25:25; Jeremiah 40:13-41:3). The murder of Gedaliah seemed to mark the end of the Judean commonwealth. According to the biblical record, the murder of Gedaliah occurred in the seventh month (II Kings 25:25, Jeremiah 41:1, 2) and the people of Judah held a fast to commemorate his death. According to tradition, this is believed to be the fast to which Zechariah makes reference (Zechariah 7:5; 8:19). The fast of the seventh month is known as the Fast of Gedaliah. It has been kept since the days of Zechariah it would seem!
So on this day I am thinking of Gedaliah. He was a good man who had high hopes and best wishes for the restoration of his people and their land in a very dark period of history. He didn’t want to believe that one of his own people would seek his harm. I sit here today as I write this and wonder what conversations took place between Gedaliah and the prophet Jeremiah in his home. Gedaliah’s father had once defended and saved the life of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 26:24). His father and his grandfather had been part of a discovery that led to one of the greatest revivals in all of biblical history. Should we not on this day honor Gedaliah? I say we should. One day, the fast of the seventh month will be among the seasons of joy and gladness and cheerful feasts (Zechariah 8:19). Therefore love truth and peace. Gedaliah certainly did.