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D'varim/Deuteronomy 16:8 Six days you shall eat matzah; on the seventh day is a festival to the L-rd your G-d
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How are we to understand the contradiction between this verse and the time when the command is first given? Here it says "six days you shall eat matzah"; there is says "seven days you are to eat matzah" (Shemot 12:15). The early rabbis tell us that "grain of the new crop is permitted once the wave offering has been brought on the second day of Pesach, so there are only six days remaining during which matzah may be made from the new grain, whereas there were always seven days to make matzah from the old crop" (Sifrei 134). Rashi proposes an alternative: that matzah must be eaten for six days, but that eating it is optional on the seventh day: the day of the feast. Of course, leavened bread may not be eaten until the eighth day, once the week of unleavened bread has ended, but if your gums are sore from six days of eating crunchy matzah, you don't have to eat it on the seventh day.
The seventh day, a day of , restraining - from the root , to hold back, restrain, detain - from work, is a festival shabbat when we don't do any of our normal work (Sifrei 135, b. Chagigah 9a, 18a). Instead, the Sages tell us, it is a day to gather for eating and drinking (b. Beitzah 15b, y. Shabbat 15:3). Whether matzah is eaten on the seventh day or not, the seven days designated as , the festival of Matzah clearly form a significant seven day block, starting with the Pesach Seder on the first evening and ending with a day of celebration at the end. Rather than seeing this as a time of penance, when we are not allowed to eat normal bread - bread made with chametz/yeast - let's see this as seven special days each year when we can set normality aside and, eating instead simple unleavened bread, we can hear what the Spirit has to say to us about the cycle of new birth, the time of Spring, the annual renewal of life that we might otherwise miss.
The traditional haftarah reading for the eighth day of Pesach is taken from the book of Isaiah and talks about the branch that will sprout from the stem of Jesse. This is the one who will gather the scattered tribes of Israel from the four winds of the earth and establish justice in the earth. This is not Hezekiah, king of Judah for 29 years in the 7th/8th century , as the rest of the chapter makes clear, whom the first audience might have hoped might be the target of Isaiah's words. This is the figure recognised by both church and synagogue as the Messiah.
Isaiah 11:2 And the Spirit of the L-rd will rest upon him: the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and fear of the L-rd.
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Isaiah sees a seven-fold Spirit ofHaShem resting on the Messiah. Although the word only appears four times in the verse, seven attributes are given: the Spirit of HaShem, of wisdom, of understanding, of counsel, of strength, of knowledge and of fear of HaShem. What an endowment and equipping to serve as HaShem's Anointed One, the Messiah! The verb implies a permanent settlement as Messiah will never be without the fullness of the Spirit. As followers of Yeshua, we believe that this 'resting' or falling happened when He was baptised by John in the river Jordan. John reported, "I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on Him" (John 1:32, ESV), using the word , "to remain, rest, live dwell". Luke's account tells us that the whole crowd saw that "the Holy Spirit descended on Him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, 'You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased'" (Luke 3:22, ESV), using the word , "to come or go down, descend". We know that the book of Revelation will later describe Yeshua as "the one who has the seven spirits of God" (Revelation 3:1), but what more can we learn about the way the Spirit operates in Yeshua?
The Spirit of HaShem identifies the Spirit as HaShem's Spirit, given by HaShem Himself. The Torah records the Spirit being given to Betzalel - "I have filled him with the Spirit of G-d" (Shemot 31:3) - and to Moshe: "I will take some of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them" (B'Midbar 11:17, ESV). The Spirit of wisdom and understanding are judicial and governmental attributes, given to leaders and kings - such as Solomon, "Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind" (1 Kings 3:12, ESV) - that they may govern correctly. Wisdom is seen as a more general overview gift - grasping the big picture - while understanding or discernment is the ability to see right into the heart of things and to grasp what is really going on inside. The Spirit of counsel and might correspond to strategy: the ability to plan and devise the right course of action; and the power and endurance to carry it through to successful completion. The Spirit of knowledge is the ability to see and acknowledge truth and apply it to life. The fear of the L-rd, here to be understood as 'awe' - always being in 'awe' of HaShem. We can regroup the words in this stanza from "knowledge // and // fear-of-the-L-rd" to "knowledge-and-fear // of-the-L-rd" bringing everything together in relation to G-d Himself.
It is the presence and empowering of the Spirit that will enable this future 'king' to do all the things that the human Davidic line could not do. More, in the same was as both David and Solomon were recognised as having a measure of these attributes, the Messiah will be obvious by His possession of them all in fullness. We might consider Yeshua's entry into Jerusalem - "Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before Him and that followed Him were shouting, 'Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!'" (Matthew 21:8-9, ESV - or His teaching in the synagogues: "On the Sabbath He began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard Him were astonished, saying, 'Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to Him? How are such mighty works done by His hands?'" (Mark 6:2, ESV). The people recognised the power and authority of the Spirit in Moshe; they heard the Spirit of wisdom in Solomon; they saw the miracles of the Spirit wrought by Elijah and Elisha; and they felt the awe and agony of the Spirit in David when Yeshua cried out, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?" (Matthew 27:64, Psalm 22:1).
We have seven days of matzah so that we might experience the fullness of unleavened bread witnessed by our ancestors. We have a day of joy and feasting at the end of the week that so that we can know the reality of Yeshua's words, "It is finished" (John 19:30), followed three days later by the angels' words, "He is not here, for He has risen, as He said" (Matthew 28:6, ESV. We study the Bible so that we can say, "Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on the road, while He opened to us the Scriptures?" (Luke 24:32, ESV). We have the annual count of the Omer before us, "fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath" (Vayikra 23:16, ESV), so that we too may hear Yeshua say, "you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now" (Acts 1:5, ESV) and arrive at the certainty of the festival of Shavuot, neither one day early or one day late, exactly in G-d's timing, so that Yeshua's words will echo in our hearts: "Receive the Holy Spirit" (Johns 20:22, iBible(ESV)), 6, 76); (John 20:22, ESV).
But now here's the challenge. Yeshua very deliberately told the disciples that "whoever believes in Me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father" (John 14:12, ESV). If Mark's gospel is to be believed, Yeshua also told the disciples, "these signs will accompany those who believe: in My name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover" (Mark 16:17-18, ESV). Indeed, Luke tells us in the book of Acts that Rav Sha'ul did most of these things. If we are the current generation of disciples, speaking and teaching in Yeshua's name, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of G-d, should we too not expect that "God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to His will" (Hebrews 2:4, ESV). Perhaps this year we should do more than just count the Omer; we should expect G-d to fulfil His word. We should cry out to Him day and night, giving Him no rest "until He establishes Jerusalem and makes it a praise in the earth" (Isaiah 62:7, ESV), calling on Yeshua's promise that "Whatever you ask in My name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son" (John 14:13, ESV). If the "Spirit of Him who raised Yeshua from the dead dwells in you" (Romans 8:11, ESV), then we too can experience and move in the gifts of the Spirit that Isaiah described and that Yeshua fully lived.
Chag Matzah Sameach!
Further Study: Isaiah 61:1-3; Acts 13:32-33; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11
Application: Do you lack any of the attributes of the Spirit in Isaiah's list? As a follower of Yeshua and a child of the Most High G-d, a co-heir with Messiah and a son or daughter of the King, cry out to our Father today and ask Him to fully empower you for the ministry and witness that He intends you to have so that you may carry it out as Yeshua would and bring glory to Him.
© Jonathan Allen, 2022
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