June 2014 Meeting – Shavuot & Hebraisms in John

It is ironic that Shavuot is such a little-known holiday, given that it commemorates the single most important event in Jewish history – the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai.

Shavuot occurs at the culmination of a seven-week period, “counting of the Omer,” that occurs following Passover. The very name “Shavuot” means “weeks,” in recognition of the weeks of preparation and anticipation leading up to the Sinai experience. Since Shavuot occurs 50 days after the first weekly Sabbath during Passover, it is sometimes known as “Pentecost,” a Greek word meaning “the holiday of 50 days.”

Three millennia ago, after leaving Egypt on the day of Passover, the Jews traveled into the Sinai desert. There, the entire Jewish nation – 2+ million men, women and children – directly experienced divine revelation:

“God spoke to you from the midst of the fire; you were hearing the sound of words, but you were not seeing a form, only a sound. He told you of His covenant, instructing you to keep the Ten Commandments, and He inscribed them on two stone tablets. (Deut. 4:12-13)

The giving of the Torah was an event of awesome proportions that indelibly stamped the Jewish nation with a unique character, faith and destiny. And in the 3,300 years since, the Torah’s ideals – monotheism, justice, responsibility – have become the moral basis for Western civilization. In the words of U.S. President Calvin Coolidge, “The Hebraic mortars cemented the foundations of American democracy.”

At synagogue services on Shavuot morning, most Jewish communities will read the biblical book of Ruth.

Ruth was a Gentile whose love for God and Torah led her to convert to Judaism. The Torah intimates that the souls of eventual converts were also present at Sinai, as it says: “I am making [the covenant] both with those here today before the Lord our God, and also with those not here today.” (Deut. 29:13)

Ruth has a further connection to Shavuot, in that she became the ancestor of King David, who was born on Shavuot, and died on Shavuot.

On Shavuot, it is customary to decorate the synagogue with branches and flowers. This is because mid-rashic commentary argues that Mount Sinai blossomed with flowers on the day the Torah was given.

The Bible also associates Shavuot with the harvest of wheat and fruits, and marks the bringing of the first fruits to the Holy Temple as an expression of thanksgiving. (see Exodus 23:16, 34:22, Numbers 28:26)

Israel celebrates the giving of the 10 Words on this day. While this is not explicitly stated in the Torah, it is a reasonable assumption and again has much mid-rashic/Talmudic support.

We read in the NT, in the Book of Acts, that the followers of Yeshua waited for Shavuot in Jerusalem, after Yeshua had ascended some 10 days before.

They waited and then received great power from HaShem which was witnessed by thousands and which resulted in some 3000 becoming followers of Yeshua and believing his message that very day (see Acts 2).

Intriguingly this weeks Parshah (Torah Portion) is Numbers 8:1-12:16, which includes this passage:

Numbers 11:16-17 “Then the LORD said to Moses, Gather for me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them, and bring them to the tent of meeting, and let them take their stand there with you.

And I will come down and talk with you there. And I will take some of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them, and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you may not bear it yourself alone.

Note here that HaShem’s Spirit, His Power ‘emanated’ from Moses to these followers, these elders who loved HaShem and were obedient to Moses.

Thus Moses no longer bore the burden alone, but even more importantly, the light of Torah and the power to proclaim it was now in the hands of many more so that the truth of the Almighty could be shared with a great many more and begin to emanate throughout the whole people of Israel gathered in the desert.

Fast forward to the miracle of Shavuot/Pentecost in Acts 2, and we see a very similar event, where just as Yeshua had predicted, his proclamation of the Gospel and Torah was now able to emanate into the world through his followers, these ‘elders’ of The Way, who would now have the Power of the Almighty to enable them to proclaim Yeshua’s message, which was of course the message of the Almighty, just as Moses had been told when HaShem declared that He would sent a prophet who would speak His Words.

Deut 18:18-19 “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.

Acts 1:3-8 “After his death he showed himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. During a period of forty days they saw him, and he spoke with them about the Kingdom of God.
4 At one of these gatherings, he instructed them not to leave Yerushalayim but to wait for “what the Father promised, which you heard about from me. 5 For Yochanan used to immerse people in water; but in a few days, you will be immersed in the Ruach HaKodesh!”
6 When they were together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore self-rule to Isra’el?” 7 He answered, “You don’t need to know the dates or the times; the Father has kept these under his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Ruach HaKodesh comes upon you; you will be my witnesses both in Yerushalayim and in all Y’hudah and Shomron, indeed to the ends of the earth!”

In Jerusalem for Shavuot at that time were very many zealous believers from the Diaspora, who saw this great outpouring of the Spirit of God. In returning home, the message of the Kingdom, of the Coming Age, the Olam Ha’Bah’; this central message of Yeshua, was thus powerfully magnified and ‘emanated’ throughout the world so that Yeshua and his followers could truly be a ‘Light to the Nations’, that is, a revealer of Torah, of The Way (Ps 119) and of the Good News of the Kingdom (Luke 4:43).

Acts 2:1-12 “The festival of Shavu‘ot arrived, and the believers all gathered together in one place. 2 Suddenly there came a sound from the sky like the roar of a violent wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 Then they saw what looked like tongues of fire, which separated and came to rest on each one of them. 4 They were all filled with the Ruach HaKodesh and began to talk in different languages, as the Spirit enabled them to speak.

5 Now there were staying in Yerushalayim religious Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd gathered; they were confused, because each one heard the believers speaking in his own language. 7 Totally amazed, they asked, “How is this possible? Aren’t all these people who are speaking from the Galil? 8 How is it that we hear them speaking in our native languages? 9 We are Parthians, Medes, Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Y’hudah, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, 10 Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome; 11 Jews by birth and proselytes; Jews from Crete and from Arabia. . . ! How is it that we hear them speaking in our own languages about the great things God has done?” 12 Amazed and confused, they all went on asking each other, “What can this mean?”

So here we see this similar emanation and sharing of the spirit of God to not only the 120 disciples, but the 3000 zealous Jews from the Diaspora as well, who would go and spread this message not only to their brethren but to all the Gentiles of all the Lands they had come from.

The Torah allowed man to become one with God, to find true unity, to recognize the presence of the Almighty in everything so that we can see that HaShem is the only reality.

A great video from AISH.COM on the Torah – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKi3dhT7FUY#t=27

Here also is a such link to the short teaching on the Hebraisms in John


About PF Herring

Husband, father of 5, grandfather of 7, Teacher & Theologian
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