Shabbat Chol HaMoed Sukkot
Torah Reading: Exodus 33:12-34:26
Haftarah: Ezekiel 38:18-39:16
Because this Shabbat falls within the Festival of Sukkot, the normal Torah reading is replaced with a special reading for the holiday. This reading from the Torah is the same one which is read on the Shabbat during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The second half of the reading speaks of Moses receiving the Ten Commandments the second time. The question which must be asked is, “Why is this passage read during these two festivals?” The answer is that in the same way that Israel fell into sin at Mount Sinai, so also at other times of celebration, i.e. the festivals, can people lose sight of their calling and fall into sinful behavior.
In other words, the sages of old wanted the people to remember the Torah during these joyful times of celebration and to reflect upon the call which HaShem had placed upon them. It is very easy for believers as well to lose track of the fact that the grace which has been afforded to us is to not only save us from eternal punishment, but to cause us to be conformed to the image of the Messiah. One needs to always remember that Yeshua was sinless. This also can be stated by saying that He obeyed the Torah. In regard to this, John’s Gospel states,
“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with G-d and G-d was the Word.” John 1:1
It is clear from this passage that the Gospel writer was referring to Yeshua when he wrote “the Word”. The intent of this verse is to reveal to the reader that Yeshua perfectly expresses the Word of G-d, i.e. the Torah. Later on in this passage one reads about Yeshua that,
“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we saw His glory, the glory as of the only Son before His Father full of grace and truth.” John 1:14
This verse is often referred to as possible evidence that Messiah Yeshua was born during Sukkot. The theory is that the Greek word translated “dwelt” in this verse is related to the tabernacle and is pronounced similar to the English word “skin”. Hence, some have conjectured that Messiah became flesh, i.e. was born, during the feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot). They also cite the fact that John the Baptist was conceived shortly after his father Zachariah, a priest, finished serving in the Temple (See Luke 1:5-25). It is in regard to this I would like to respond.
Luke’s Gospel states that Gabriel announced that Miryam (Mary) would conceive in the sixth month. This would be the Jewish month of Elul. This month falls either in August or September on the Gregorian calendar. This would mean that Yeshua was born close to the month of Sivan (May or June) and not during the Festival of Sukkot, which is in the month of Tishrei (September or October). Some have objected to the view that Luke 1:26-27 refers to the sixth month of the calendar.
“And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by G-d to a city of the Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Miryam.”
Even though some have said that the phrase “And in the sixth month” refers to the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, and not to the sixth month of the calendar, this is not correct. This supposition means that the reader does not know when on the calendar these events occurred. Greek is a very precise language and it is required to include the pronoun “her” if in fact the text was only referring to the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy and not the month of Elul. This is what is done in this chapter in verse 36. It is from this verse that the reader learns that it was in fact not only the sixth month of the calendar but also Elizabeth’s sixth month of pregnancy. Hence, Elizabeth entered into pregnancy during the first month, the month of Nissan.
Another related issue is the timing of when Zachariah was serving in the Temple. According to the Torah, there were 24 rotations of priests. However, after the Babylonia exile, they were divided into only four rotations (See Ezra 2:36-39) and not much is known concerning how these rotations actually functioned. Hence, it is only from the fact that the angel Gabriel announced to Miryam she would conceive and that her cousin was in her sixth month of pregnancy, that we know that Zachariah was serving in the Temple during the month of Nissan.
Those who maintain that Yeshua was born in Tishrei, during Sukkot, would have to explain how the Roman Empire, which had a history of accommodating Jewish tradition, would abruptly issue a census that would require every Jew to report to his family hometown to be registered. This would mean that Joseph and Miryam, who we are told were Torah-observant, violated the Torah and obeyed Caesar and did not go up to Jerusalem for Sukkot, rather to Bethlehem. Not only would they have had to violate the Torah, but also those who had to be registered in a place far away from Jerusalem. Obviously, this census would have caused a revolt among the Jewish citizens and therefore is impossible to have happened during one of the three pilgrim festivals of Judaism.
By the way, I am not asserting that Yeshua was born on Shavuot, simply that He was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the 6th month and since He was a normal-term delivery (Luke 2:6), that He was born around the latter half of Iyar to the first half of Sivan.
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Semeach
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