Beginnings (2): Genesis 1

By Julia BlumJanuary 8, 20202 comments

As we advance with the days of this year, we are also advancing with the days of Bereishit  and continuing to watch in awe God’s work of creation. Today, first of all let us consider different verbs that describe His work during these days.

VaYomer – and He said

And God said: “Let there be light.” And there was light.

Nine times, during six days of creation, we read: “And God said” –   וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים.  For me personally, these verses are the most wonderful evidence of that glorious beginning—that glorious order of things, when everything was so different from now.  In our fallen world we live by faith, by the evidence of the things not seen, and seldom in our lives do we experience this amazing turn of events: “God said” – and that is how it was, without any pause or delay in between. There are many things that we know God said – and we also know that these things will eventually come to be; but this glorious immediate embodiment of God’s word, this immediate visible fulfillment of what He said, is called and perceived as a miracle in our fallen world. Mostly, we see these things by faith, not by sight. But it was not a miracle then—it was the normal course of events in a world not distorted by evil.

Moreover, from this verb  VaYomer – and He said – we see absolutely clearly that not only is God the only one who has life-giving power, but the source of this life-giving power is His word—that He gives life by the authority of His Word only. According to the New Testament, Jesus is the Word of God, and therefore, we are not surprised to find almost the same description of the beginning of the creation in the New Testament—in the Gospel of John. The language of John clearly and purposely echoes the language of Genesis 1:1: both in the Genesis account and in John’s Gospel, it is the Word of God that brings forth life. This is one of the foundations of New Testament faith: “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God.[1]

For instance, we see a huge difference between how people restore life in the Tanach, and how Jesus restored life. Read, for example, the description of how the prophet Elisha raises a child from the dead. He prays, he stretches himself out on the child’s body to warm him, he prays again—then the Lord answers Elisha and the child is restored to life.[2] Jesus, on the other hand, restores life in exactly the same way God creates it, by the authority of His Word only: In every gospel story where Jesus raises the dead, He simply speaks: Talitha, kumi!” “Lazarus, come forth!” “Young man I say to you, arise!” This means that the gospel writers clearly saw His spoken word having the same life-giving, creative power as in Genesis: for the New Testament writers, the same Word creates life in Genesis, and restores life in the gospels.

VeYavdel  –and He separated

And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness.

We have to understand that during the first days of creation, God’s main action is lehavdil, “to separate”. We find this verb “separate” used several times in these verses. It occurs in Gen. 1:2, 6,7,14,18. On the first three days of creation, God separates 1) light from darkness, 2) the waters above from the waters below, 3) dry ground from the waters. The very first fruits of the land come only on the third day, after the work of havdala, separation, is complete. Like everything else in the Tanach, it definitely has profound spiritual meaning: God always wants to separate darkness from light, and in order to do the work of God, we must choose light and separate ourselves from darkness. One can bring forth fruits in one’s life only if the work of separation comes first—only if one separates oneself  from the darkness.

VaYikra –and He called (gave names)

As we have already seen, God’s word is the main part of the whole creative process – and this verb, VaYikra, also reflects this.

God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night[3].

And God called the firmament Heaven[4].

And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas[5].

God gives names to elements of His creation, and this becomes an essential part of their existence. In this light, it is extremely significant that the very first thing we see Adam doing is giving names – VaYikra – to all the animals (Gen. 2:19, 20). We will address this subject at length in my next posts, when we will talk about Adam.

The Creation of Man

The First, Second and Third days of creation prepare us for days Four through Six. On these days, He creates by 4) by providing lights in the firmament; 5) filling the sky and sea with winged life and sea creatures; and 6) finally creating animals and man to fill the dry land. Undoubtedly, there is a deep structure to this chapter: a careful reader gets a clear sense that there is a plan, and we are going somewhere with this. The first chapter of the Torah presents the ascent of the cosmic drama culminating in the creation of man. As we read the description of each day of creation, we feel the story building up, then in Genesis 1:26-27 we come to the crescendo: “So God created man in His own image…“[6] Everything that has been created so far, has to be seen now in the light of this verse—according to Jewish understanding, it is only when a man was created that the whole of creation became meaningful.

That is why, by the way, the day Jewish people celebrate as Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) – the first of Tishrei – is not perceived as the anniversary of Creation, it is the anniversary of the sixth day of Creation, when Adam and Eve were created. The anniversary of the first day of Creation would be five days before, on the twenty-fifth day of Elul. Why? – Because once again, in rabbinic tradition it is the birth of humanity that made the whole creation meaningful by adding to the universe the possibility for God to be proclaimed King. Next time, will speak more about this fascinating Sixth Day, and discuss in detail the creation of a man, and his relationship with his Creator.

[1] Heb. 11:3

[2] see 2 Kings 4:32-36

[3] Gen.1:5

[4] Gen.1:8

[5] Gen.1:10

[6] Gen.1:27

Mercy in Hebrew

“Mercy” in Hebrew Thought

Hebrew רחמים (pronounced rakhamim) is usually translated as “mercy.” However, it is actually plural in form, like many common Hebrew words including “face” (פנים, panim), “water” (מים, mayim), and even God (אלהים, elohim). What is very interesting is that the singular form רחם (rakham) looks identical to the word for “womb” (רחם, rekhem), which is in fact closely related.

Hebrew is a very physical language, and concepts that may seem unconnected to us often share the same root. What is the deep connection here? In ancient times in particular, if a woman was able to get pregnant and give birth it meant that God had bestowed mercy on her and opened her womb (Luke 1:57-58).

This is one obvious connection between rekhem (“womb”) and rakhamim (“mercy”). Another connection may be understood from the “compassion” typically felt by a mother for her own offspring, the “fruit of her womb” (Isaiah 49:15).

Prayer from a Neshnabe perspective

Prayer—-madmowen, dodaskewen, dotmowen, najdowen, nokanawen, etc. (Bodewadmimwen inspired)

What is it?

Prayer is seeking

Prayer is worship

Prayer is praising the Powers that be

Prayer is meditating and reflecting

Prayer can be deep introspection

Prayer is intercession, interceding for somebody or something

Prayer is travailing or asking for somebody else or something to happen

Prayer is maintenance in one’s life

Prayer is thoughtful

Prayer is heartfelt asking

Prayer is inclusive of all

Prayer is never exclusive

Prayer is compassionate

Prayer is gentle

Prayer is faithful

Prayer is pervading strength of purpose

Prayer is from the heart

Prayer is grounding or centering

Prayer is seeking guidance when needed

Prayer is enlightening

Prayer is wisdom activated

Prayer is wisdom, understanding, knowledge and prudence in all

Prayer is gratifying….

In the English language, prayer is largely defined by the idea of asking. In old English one could say, either to God or to anyone else: “I pray thee to do such and such.” The basic concept here is heart-felt request. The Jewish concept of prayer, however, is best defined by its Hebrew word “tfilia” (תפילה).

The primary meaning of the verb “lehitpalel” (להתפלל), the verb behind the noun, is self-judgement or introspection. Especially in Jewish Hassidic traditions, tfilia is understood to be an introspection that results in bonding between the creature and the Creator, as a child would bond with his/her father.

It is not a surprise that when the Jewish Christ was asked by his disciples how they should pray, he taught them what to request, making sure to address their Heavenly King as “Our Father” (Matt. 6:9). Shortly before that Jesus warned them to avoid using vain repetitions that characterized pagan approaches to prayer (Matt. 6:7).

In Isaiah we find a curious text: “… these I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in the house of my prayer” (וְשִׂמַּחְתִּים בְּבֵית תְּפִלָּתִי). Note the wording: not “my house of prayer”, but “the house of my prayer.” (Isaiah 56:7; Barachot 7A) But how is it possible for God to engage in prayer? And with whom?

The answer lies in understanding that Hebrew prayer is not only a “request-making session.” It is a communal bonding between God and his child. The house of “his prayer” is, therefore, where God himself engages in introspection and in so doing bonds deeply with his people. They in turn reciprocate this action in their own prayers and bond with Him.

Hau Mesho,

Oh Grandfather

Odo pi ébyayak

At this time we come

Éndodmoyak i jitmowen

We ask for this help 

Mine I zhawendagsewen ge ninan shote ednesyak

And this blessing upon us who live here

Énizhopamséwat se ode Aki

As they walk together on this Earth

Nizhokmoyak émnozhewébsiyak ode nwézhobmadsewen

Help us to live this long life

Nizhokmoshek jayék gé ninan

Help all of us

Nishokmoshek épandewébniyak

Help us as we search

I géte myéwen

For the true way

Mine i débwéwen

And the truth

Mine i bémadsewen

And the way of life

Gin se mteno éje penmoyak odo pi

You alone we depend on at this time

Ahau, Migwéch.

Ho, thank you

Iw énajmoyak odo pi

That is all we say at this time

A General Prayer.

Hau nmeshomes

Oh my Grandfather

Mine gi meshomsenanek

And all of our grandfathers

Mine Mamogosnan eshe ne kasyen gego

And Creator as you are also known

Mine o Nokmeskignan

And our Grandmother Earth

E bya ygo ngom

So we come today

Ebgednegoygo ode sema

To put down our tobacco

Mine anet se ode wisnewen

And some of this food

Ik she gwien ekedgoygo

To say thank you

Mine ode kigdowen nake ode madwomen

And this talk or our prayers

Emno widoktadwiygo jayek se ninan

That we may all interact well together all of us

Mine eminangoygo i mnobmadsewen

And we may receive this good life

Ewi mnomajishkaygo mine ewi

That we may be healthy and

Ni zhokmagomen jayek

We may receive the health/help we all need

Pene shna emnobmadziygo

That we always live good lives

Ewi pamseygo se ode kiwen

As we walk about this Earth

Mine ewi mno wdabjetoygo

And that we use in a good way

Jayek gi nozhownen emingoygo

All those gifts we’ve been given

I ye i endotmoygo ngom

That is what we ask of you today

Pene shna emno widoktadwiygo

That we always live well together

Epa bmadziygo shote

Where we live about here

Gego wnikeken gode pwagnen

Don’t forget these pipes

Ewi nizhokmagoygo epenmoygo gi

That we depend on to help us

Ibe pi ebodyego gi pwagnen

When we fill them those pipes

Mine engemwiygo gode gemwenen enajdoygo

And as we sing these songs all of us asking

Gnizhokmagejek ewi byewat shote ednesyego

These powers to come here where we live

Enizhokmagomen emneseygo

To help us in things we need

Ode bmadsewen

Of this life

I ye i wa je penmoygo pene

That is why we depend always

Shna i mendowen etoyen

On this spiritual power you have

Ibe ednesyen

There where you are

Iw enajmoyan…..

That is all I have to say…….

The Hidden Jesus/Yeshua

From Jerusalem To Rome: The Hidden Messiah

By Julia Blum August 26, 2021No comments

By now, we know what Peter revealed: the great mystery of the Gospel, the secret things that Father has hidden …from the wise and prudent and revealed to babes, is the messiahship of Jesus. In Luke’s Gospel, this secret is hidden and concealed from Israel; in Acts, Peter is sharing this secret with all the house of Israel. This contrast between the Gospel and Acts is a dramatic one. No words can better describe this abrupt change in the atmosphere from the Gospel to Acts than this verse from Luke himself: What you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops[1]. As against the hidden, concealed, only in the ear revealed secret of the messianic dignity of Jesus in the Gospel, there is an open proclamation of his messiahship in Acts. Not only in this first speech but in his first three public speeches – in chapters 2, 3, 4 of Acts – Peter proclaims loudly, almost literally on the housetops, that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah. “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus who was crucified both Lord and Christ (Messiah – JB)[2]let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel…[3] All of a sudden, the secret, esoteric knowledge of the Gospel becomes a widely broadcasted message in Acts. Why? For what reason do we see Jesus consistently hiding his messiahship in the Gospel, and even commanding his disciples to keep silent?  And on what account does his messiahship yield to the public proclamation in Acts? Why this drastic difference between “before” and “after”?

“Hidden Savior” in Second Temple Judaism.

Jesus was Jewish and undoubtedly was influenced by contemporary Jewish ideas—by his Jewish upbringing and by the completely Jewish context of his life. Can we find an explanation of this New Testament quandary in contemporary Jewish thought of the day? Indeed, we can!

The literature and historical evidence prove that almost every trend of Second Temple Judaism held some beliefs concerning the Hidden Messiah. Of course, different patterns can be discerned regarding this messianic incognito. There are some texts—mainly apocalyptic ones, but also Targums (Targums are free Aramaic renderings of the Old Testament for use in synagogues)—referring to a “hidden” Savior proper; to the one who had been concealed from the beginning and will be revealed only when the appointed time comes. The texts of the second group are built around the “unrecognized” motif: Messiah, when he comes, would be hard to identify; he would be “hidden, without esteem, unknown, his secret sealed up”[4].This motif is present to a certain extent in some Qumran texts and becomes especially clear in later rabbinic literature. In any case, if Messiah is not supposed to be recognized, that means that he would need to remain silent concerning his messianic status, and would go unrecognized until God makes him manifest. The thought that Messiah needed to remain hidden and silent and could not reveal who he was,  became the prevailing idea in Jewish religious thought at the turn of the era.

Hidden Prophecy

To sum it up, we can say that referring to Messiah as hidden and revealed may be taken as representative of Second Temple Judaism. We can now ask our next question: how and why was this “hidden savior” paradigm developed in Jewish thought? Since all the Jewish texts were shaped and influenced by Scripture, we probably need to turn to the Tanach (Old Testament) to try and find the “Hidden Messiah” there.

For most Christians today, it is the 53rd chapter of Isaiah that presents a prophetic Messianic program that Jesus actually did fulfill to the letter. However, there is nothing about a hidden Messiah in this chapter you might say – and I would agree. There is nothing about a hidden Messiah there now, after all the translations that the text went through; but it is in this Chapter that we will discover a “hidden prophecy” that was completely lost in translation and which explains why Jesus, if he was to fulfil this program, needed to be silent about His messianic status.

What do I mean? A literal translation of the Hebrew text of Isaiah 53:3 would go like this: He was despised and rejected by men, a man of pains and knowing disease. And like (as though) one hiding his face, he was despised and we did not consider him. However, instead of “like one hiding his face” (an action referring to the Suffering Servant himself), in translations, we read: And we hid our faces from Him. Thus, the Suffering Servant is transformed from the object to the subject of this action: it is no longer his action, but something that the people around him did. I won’t go into detail showing how this happened – you would need to know some Hebrew for me to explain it properly (once again, those interested can read my book). The result, of course, is very different: The original meaning of this verse: as though hiding his face from us…  implies that the Suffering Servant hid his status, but this part of the Messianic program became completely lost in translation, and the prophecy itself became the “hidden prophecy”.

If we know that, according to Isaiah 53:3, the hiding of the face had to become an important step in the Messianic program, we would understand that probably, the “Hidden Messiah” motif in Second Temple Jewish literature had been developed under the strong influence of this verse. Furthermore, if a man considered himself to be the messiah, he had to be silent about his messiahship until the appointed time. Jesus had to fulfill every single step of this messianic program, and therefore, the hiding of the face in Isaiah 53:3b contained the main reason for him to hide his messiahship: He was supposed to hide the face; His messianic status had to be concealed during his life and ministry. Thus, we arrive at a new and deeper (and quite unexpected, I would say) understanding of the Messianic Secret: the silence of Jesus concerning his messianic status was precisely what was expected of the Messiah when came. The secret of his messiahship would be revealed on the Day of Revelation—on that glorious Shavuot day in Jerusalem that we witness in Acts 2 right now!

Thus, the two volumes of Luke, if read in the light of this “hidden prophecy” and in the light of the “hidden savior” paradigm, show clearly that Luke describes Jesus’ life and ministry in terms of a Messiah “hidden and revealed”—hidden until the appointed time for it to be revealed. This is the powerful and drastic transition that is marked by Peter’s speech: from Messiah visible, but hidden and not recognized – to Messiah revealed, recognized, but invisible. We really need to be aware of this dynamic if we want to understand the book of Acts.

[1] Luke 12.3

[2] Acts 2.36

[3] Acts 4:10

[4] 1QH xi 11