Monday, June 19, 2017

Day Of Coverings

Many consider Yom Kippur to be the holiest day of the year, because it was the only day the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies of the Tabernacle. In English, we call Yom Kippur the Day of Atonement. However, it seems the word atonement has lost any real meaning - Yom HaKippurim [1]. Some people talk about being "at one" with God, but the Hebrew word kippur doesn't mean "at one", though that may be the ultimate result. "It is obvious that the English word 'atonement'  does not correspond etymologically with any Hebrew or Greek word which it translates." Bible Study Tools (Atonement)  [2]. The Bible doesn't even call the day Yom Kippur, it calls it Yom HaKippurim or Yom Kippurim, plural not singular kippur, whatever kippur means, which we will get to later. It would be better to say Day of Atonements. If you have achieved at-one-ment with God, how do you achieve more than one at-one-ment? Are you at one twice?

If you like this (or not), check out my other articles at the
Between The Ears BLOG INDEX, article titles and summaries.

Now I know what you're thinking - what's this got to do with Noah's ark? Well, the word kippur is used in describing the construction of the ark. This is also the first occurrence of kippur in the Bible, the first occurrence of a word often gives a word's root meaning. See Gen 6:14

"Make for yourself an ark of gopher wood; you shall make the ark with rooms, and shall cover it inside and out with pitch.

Modern Replica of Noah's Ark
Both the word "cover" and the word "pitch" are kippur. A number of translations say to "pitch in inside and out with pitch", ie. pitch it with pitch. In Hebrew, it reads to kafar it with kofer (In Hebrew, vowels don't matter, p and f are the same). Cover is the root meaning for kafar, though it has other meanings we will see later. "In fact, the English word "cover" can most likely be traced back etymologically to the Hebrew word kafar" - Yom HaKippurim [1]. That would make it "cover it with covering" - Ridiculous KJV Bible Corrections [3]. One meaning then of Yom HaKippurim is Day Of (The) Coverings.

Cover What?

To the Door Posts and Lintel

What is to be covered? The first answer is "cover our sins". The pitch of Noah's ark symbolizes the blood of Jesus which covers our sins. Note the similarity to the Passover Lamb's blood on the doorposts. Pitch is smeared on the ark, lamb's blood is smeared on the posts and lintel of the door frame, and Jesus' blood was smeared on the cross - all three made of wood. This is important - the covering is blood, and it cleanses us from sin.

Lev 16:30 for it is on this day that atonement (kafar) shall be made for you to cleanse you; you will be clean from all your sins before the LORD.
Lev 17:11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement (kafar) for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement (kafar).
Heb 2:17 (CJB) This is why he had to become like his brothers in every respect - so that he might become a merciful and faithful cohen gadol (high priest) in the service of God, making a kapparah for the sins of the people.
1 John 4:10 (CJB) Here is what love is: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the kapparah for our sins.
Here is how Dr John Hinton of the Bible Restoration Ministry [4] put it, "As kopher was used to cover the ship that provided for the salvation of the righteous, which amounted to God's forgiveness of mankind whom he would otherwise have destroyed completely, so those who accept Christ's offer are forgiven by being covered by his blood." - Ridiculous KJV Bible Corrections [3]. 

Second Covering

But remember Noah's ark was covered inside and outside with pitch - two coverings. And it is the Day of (the) Coverings. The first covering is to make us clean before the LORD, as it says in Lev 16:30. The second covering is to make us right with our fellow man.

The meaning (of Kippurim) has two connotations to it: One, that a person repents for his sins that he has committed against HaShem (God) and asks HaShem for His forgiveness, and the other is to ask for repentance from your fellow man for the sins that you have committed against him - Betemunah [5]. 

Cover What?

Cherubim Covering the Ark
Cover has another meaning that fits here. When we ask God for forgiveness, in a sense we are asking Him to cover His eyes, as if He didn't see sin happen. "The covering over of another's eyes to make it as if he didn't see certain events that happened in the past, specifically negative events. This 'covering' is usually accomplished by the giving of some kind of monetary reward or gift to the person in order to 'help' him forget." -  The Day of Getting Yehowah to Cover His Eyes And Forget [6]. A monetary gift would not work to buy God's forgiveness, but our fellow man may accept a payment in place of vengeance. This is my understanding of the real meaning of "an eye for an eye", payment instead of reciprocal injury. Covering the eyes works in a negative sense too, "for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise" - Exodus 23:8.


I mentioned above that kafar has other meanings, several in fact. Each meaning of kafar adds layers of meaning to Yom Ha Kippurim. According to Betemunah [5], kafar can mean  "to appease, make atonement, cleanse, disannul, forgive, be merciful, pacify, pardon, purge away, put off, and make reconciliation". And just as kafar has multiple meanings, so does Yom Ha Kippurim. Whether you believe that atonement is cover, or ransom, or substitution, or all three, the day and its rituals are full of symbolism.



Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Ark Of Moses

Lifesize Noah's ark -Ark of Noah [1]
An old joke goes like this.

Q. How many animals did Moses take onto the ark?
A. None, it was Noah who built the ark.

If a person answered anything else, you could Bible shame them. Ah, good times.

Ark of the Covenant
Some people might try to save face by pointing out that is was Moses who built the ark of the covenant, but the problem is that only works in English. In Biblical Hebrew, the ark of the covenant is the word "aron", the word for Noah's ark is "tevah". They both mean box, so close.

If you like this (or not), check out my other articles at the
Between The Ears BLOG INDEX, with titles and summaries.

The word tevah is only used in two stories in the Bible, Noah's ark, and Moses' ark. Yes, Moses had an ark. Remember the story of baby Moses in Exodus 2?
1 Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a daughter of Levi. 2 The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was beautiful, she hid him for three months. 3 But when she could hide him no longer, she got him a wicker basket and covered it over with tar and pitch. Then she put the child into it and set it among the reeds by the bank of the Nile. 4 His sister stood at a distance to find out what would happen to him.
That "wicker basket" was a tevah, that is, an ark.

Moses being "drawn out" of his ark - JW [2]

A Bible study principle that I learned from Grant Luton of Beth Tikkun [3] is to look for words, names, places that only occur twice. The idea is that the two passages are related somehow. And each helps to explain the other. As this example shows, you wouldn't guess that the ark and the wicker basket were both tevah, nor that Noah's ark and the ark of the covenant weren't the same word unless you examined the Hebrew.

What can we learn by comparing and contrasting these two uses of tevah? How are Noah and Moses alike? different? And what theme connects the two?


They both saved the occupants from a watery death.

They were both covered with waterproofing, "pitch" in English.

They were both boxes.

Both carried saviors.

Neither ark had propulsion or steering.

Mankind was given 120 years to repent before Noah's ark, Moses lived 120 years after his ark. "He was allowing even the most evil people of Noah’s time 120 years to repent of their sin before he would judge them with a global flood" - Longevity or Countdown [4].


Noah saved all who had the "breath of life", man and animals, Moses saved Israel (and eventually all mankind).

Noah’s ark was “a huge, rectangular box, with a roof" - Westermann,  LDS [5], it had three levels and rooms (nests), Moses' ark was a small basket that fit one baby.

Noah's ark was made of wood, probably cyprus, Moses' ark was made of papyrus.

While both arks were covered with pitch, the words used are different. Noah's ark was covered inside and out with "kopher",meaning cover or ransom - If I Could Teach the Bible [6], the same word as in Yom Kippur. Moses' ark was covered outside with "chemar", which the King James calls slime. The only other place chemar is used is the story of the tower of Babylon. Another double. What is the connection between Moses' ark and the tower?

Noah and family were in the ark over a year, Moses less than a day.

Noah and perhaps his sons built his ark, Moses' mother Jochebed built his ark, Miriam followed it, and the Egyptian princess and her maidens drew him out of the water. Four men versus three women.

Noah was a very old man (600 years), Jochebed was a young mother, and Moses was three months old.

Noah's ark floated during a worldwide flood, Moses' ark floated down a river.

Specific dimensions are given for Noah's ark, not for Moses' ark, we don't even know if it had a cover.

Noah knew what was coming, Jochebed did not, but she gave up her son to God in a very literal way, without knowing the outcome. I wonder how she came up with this plan, which did fulfill the literal word of Pharoah's decree to cast the Hebrew baby boys into the Nile.

So What?

The similarities and differences help us to see what characteristics of arks do and don't matter. The builder, size, dimensions, materials, and length of stay don't seem to matter. A tevah could be described as a waterproof box for people.

Water is obviously important in both stories. Normally water is associated with life, but here water means death. Note that the flood waters were bloody from the men that drowned, and the Nile was bloody from the Israelite boys Pharoah ordered drowned. God's first plague on Pharoah and Egypt was to turn the Nile to blood.  "From the first, then, the waters of Egypt are the waters of death; the Nile is a river of blood long before Yahweh makes this visible in the first plague." - Exegetica [7]. And Pharoah himself drowned in the Red Sea pursuing Israel (not the same Pharoah who ordered the boys be drowned however).

Moses strikes the rock

Speaking of water, Moses' name (Moshe) means drawn out, so named because the princess drew him out of the river. Moses later draws water out of a well for seven sisters in Midian, one of which, Zipporah, became his wife. Later still, Moses draws water out of a rock in the wilderness. And he drew Israel out of Egypt, by passing them through the Red Sea.

The arks (tevah) picture Jesus Christ. He is the one that saves from the watery death. Noah and Moses picture Jesus as well inasmuch as they are both saviors of mankind, but they also picture all of us. We need saving from the waters of death, just like Noah, Moses, and Israel. We need to be inside Jesus.

The Third Tevah

When Israel left Egypt, they were hemmed in by mountains and the Red Sea. God opened a completely new way for them through the Red Sea. Here is the description from Exodus 14

22 The sons of Israel went through the midst of the sea on the dry land, and the waters were like a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.

Dry land beneath them, walls to the right and left. To me, that sounds like a box, a tevah if you will. It protected them from a watery death like Noah's tevah and Moses' tevah. All Israel passed through the Red Sea via a tevah to the wilderness. The Bible doesn't call the opening in the Red Sea a tevah, but it served the same purpose.

The Fourth Tevah

Tevah has two other meanings. It can mean "word". Since a tevah pictures Jesus, and Jesus IS the Word, it is very fitting. If you're in Jesus, you're safe, if you're outside Jesus, you're not.

The Hebrew word tevah not only means “ark,” but it also means “word.” Thus a student of the Torah is prompted to “go into the word,” the sacred task of discovering hidden meanings enfolded into each tevah. - Worlds Within Words - [8].
Tevah can also mean "coffin" - Noah Had a Tevah [9]. Here the symbolism is reversed, coffins normally carry the dead, but in these cases, the coffin (tevah) carries the living, the dead are the ones outside the tevah. For an individual believer, the coffin carries us across the waters of death to the kingdom of God.

A New Life

People enter a tevah, people exit a tevah. And they exit to a new life. Noah entered the ark from one world, and exited to build a new world. Moses entered as a Hebrew baby, and exited an Egyptian prince. Israel entered the Red Sea as slaves, and exited as free men. At baptism, we enter as slaves to sin, and exit as slaves to God, which is freedom. And we enter the coffin at death, and exit in a whole new world. We all pass through the waters of death to a new life.

It's all about deliverance.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Evolution Of Matzoh

Those of us that keep Passover expect to eat square crackers called matzoh at the service, matzoh probably made by Mannishevitz. In nearly four decades of Passover observance, I don't recall anything but these matzohs. Some people love them, most just tolerate them, and some liken them to cardboard without all the flavor. I lose interest in matzohs after the Days of Unleavened Bread are over. The point is that when most of us think of matzoh, this is what we picture.

Between The Ears BLOG INDEX, with titles and summaries.

Rise of the Matzoh Machine

Matzoh Machine circa 1855
I'm told there are 512 perforations per square of matzoh, I leave that as an exercise for the reader. I was surprised to learn that these matzohs are a relatively recent invention, the machine for rolling the dough was invented in 1838 by a French Jew named Isaac Singer . And by 1903, Behr Manishevitz had automated the process with three machines to knead, roll, stretch, perforate, and cut the dough - Yesterdish, matzoh balls [1]. In 3500 years of Passover Matzohs, perforated, square matzoh boxed by Manishevitz has only been around for 100 years. Yet for decades, I thought this WAS matzoh, that there was unleavened bread, and there was Matzoh. But matzoh is simply the Hebrew word for unleavened bread, "From the evening of the fourteenth day of the first month until the evening of the twenty-first day, you are to eat matzo." - Exodus 12:18 - Wikipedia(Matzoh) [2]. And the word matzoh means sweet (bread), as opposed to sourdough (bread). In other words, all unleavened bread is matzoh.


Homemade Matzoh

Before Singer and Manishevitz, matzohs were made by hand, usually round and irregularly shaped. So You Think You Know Matzo [3]. Singer's machine was no doubt useful for keeping within the 18 minute time limit that flour could be in contact with water before spontaneous leavening occurred.  The 18 minute rule is from the Code of Jewish Law (Shulhan Aruch chapter 459  [4]), NOT the Bible. This requirement puzzles me, because ancient Israel took their unleavened dough with them when they left Egypt, while plundering the Egyptians for gold and silver, and walking to Succot took all day - Exodus 12:34-39, clearly more than 18 minutes. "The matzah our forefathers ate on their flight from Egypt would not be certified as 'Kosher for Passover' today." - Nazarene Israel [5]. Nevertheless, machine-made matzoh went from a controversial novelty to the default Passover matzoh in less than 100 years. Why were they changed from round to square? Manishevitz. "He made the matzoh square, rather than the circles it had always traditionally been." - Yesterdish, matzoh balls [1], Jonthan Sarna [6]. At first, Singer and Manishevitz faced resistance from Jewish rabbis for their machine-made matzoh, but they eventually won out -

There are many many recipes for unleavened breads, but according to the rabbis, most are not suitable for Passover use. However, even among the Jews, there is not universal agreement on what is appropriate for Passover use. Many believe that the matzoh eaten during the Days of Unleavened Bread (the seven days after Passover) need not follow the strict rules of Passover matzoh. In other words, it can be soft, thick, and have flavor. Sometimes the Days of Unleavened Bread are called Passover in some texts, as in this quote.

At the Passover seder, simple matzo made of flour and water is mandatory. Sephardic tradition additionally permits the inclusion of eggs in the recipe. The flour must be ground from one of the five grains specified in Jewish law for Passover matzo: wheat, barley, spelt, rye or oat. Matzo made with wine, fruit juice, onion, garlic, etc., is not acceptable for use at any time during the Passover festival. Wikipepdia(Matzo)  [2]
I have been unable to find a source that explains why matzoh must be only flour and water, the only justification I can think of is that it is called the bread of affliction. Some argue that Passover matzoh should also contain salt and olive oil, because that's the recipe for unleavened bread used in Tabernacle offerings, specifically the grain offering described in Leviticus 2. "Biblical matzo was made with flour, water, salt and olive oil" - Temple Sacrifices [7]. It is not clear to me why these rules should apply to the Passover offering, it was not a grain offering at the Tabernacle.

Shmurah Matzoh

Shmurah Matzoh
Dan Barber [8] describes a type of handmade matzoh called shmurah acceptable to Orthodox Jews, shmurah means guarded or watched. And it is watched from field to harvest to milling to baking. The Orthodox rules for shmurah are complex - only one of the five grains may be used, dried in the field to 14% moisture, rabbi inspected harvest, no wild garlic, no sprouting grains, then mixed, rolled, and baked by hand within 18 minutes. If you would like to try making it yourself, read Matzah Baking [9]. Shmurah matzoh and square matzoh are made from flour and water, nothing more. 
It appears that machine-made matzoh became popular so fast because the rules for making shmurah matzoh at home are simply too difficult. And thanks to Behr Manshevitz, store bought matzoh became affordable to even the poor. But I can't find Scriptural justification for the complexity. Or the ingredients for that matter. From the time of Israel leaving Egypt until Singer and Manishevitz, matzoh was made by hand. Now, machine-made matzoh is the default, especially at the Passover service.

But Wait, There's More

Nowadays, we assume matzoh to be a thin cracker. But according to Ari Zivotofsky [10], it was not always so.
What can be concluded is that until the middle rishonim (late Middle Ages) all matzot were thick and baked daily so its eaters could enjoy it warm and soft on the holiday. ... The Torah therefore was not only permitting, but mandating to bake and eat fresh “bread” each day of Pesaḥ (Passover festival).
Code of Jewish Law
known as Shulchan Aruch
Rather, it seems that the final stage in the evolution of the cracker thin matzah was because of another halakhik* ḥumra**: the concern that with thick matzah it is more difficult to prevent and to ascertain chimutz***. As seen above, the Ashkenazik authorities in the 17th–19th centuries were concerned about thick matzah becoming chametz and made a concerted effort to produce thinner and thinner matzah from drier and drier batter.  This became easier to do thanks to the powered machines that could knead very dry batter. ... The development of the modern thin, hard matzah thus seems to have been driven solely by halakhik concerns rather than sociological or practical issues.
* Jewish law
** obligation
*** leaven, also spelled chametz
What does that mean? Rabbis were concerned that the middle of thick matzoh might become leavened before the dough was fully cooked - that is, it might take more than the 18 minutes allowed by Jewish law to knead and bake. It is more difficult to "prevent and ascertain" leaven in thicker matzoh. So the rabbis pushed for thinner matzoh made with drier dough. This is where Isaac Singer's machine comes in - it made handling the drier dough possible. With a thin dry cracker, it is obvious no leaven got a foothold in the matzoh.
Why are modern matzohs thin crackers? Because the rabbis wanted to eliminate ANY chance of leavening. Isaac Singer invented key technology to help make that happen. It was simpler to buy Passover-ready matzoh than to follow all the rules to make it at home. And the end product could be mass marketed.

 I invite discussion on the following questions.
  • Why is Passover matzoh made with only flour and water?
  • Are other types of matzoh acceptable at Passover? (oil, salt, egg, ...)
  • Have you eaten hand made matzoh at Passover?
  • Have you made matzoh for Passover?
  • Does Passover matzoh have to be a hard cracker? Can it be soft unleavened bread?



Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Why Write A Blog?

In particular, why do I write this blog? I was prompted to ask myself this question after watching a TED talk called Start With Why [1] by Simon Sinek, recommend by Eryn Defoort [2]. I was poised over my keyboard and ready to answer that with a fairly short statement, and I thought "why do other people write blogs?" So I went off on an internet search, and realized there is more than one answer. 15 Reasons here [3], 9 Reasons there [4]. Top Ten Reasons here [5]. And more personal reasons there [6]. So now I have to research more - read what everyone else wrote, and decide what applies to me. Although somewhat painful, this is much easier and far more complete than figuring everything out for myself. In reading these, I realized my reasons have changed over time, and I could identify some unintended consequences of blogging, fame and fortune not among the consequences however.

Between The Ears BLOG INDEX, with titles and summaries.

Circa 1985 [8]
In 2011, I had a stroke which paralyzed my right side. Over time, I have regained a lot of movement, but I still have deficits. While I was in hospital for rehab, I blogged daily about my stroke and my rehab, first on Facebook and email, and eventually on CaringBridge [7], I was a little compulsive about it for a while. I was definitely hoping for a full recovery, but that hasn't happened yet. One thing I miss a great deal is playing piano. I think I was pretty good at it, see for yourself [8]. Playing piano kind of defined my role in my church too, I played for hymns, accompanied and directed choir for a few years, stuff like that. I was a musician. After my stroke, I felt like I had no role anymore.

Later that year, the minister started a speech club, which I normally wouldn't have signed up for, but I thought that this was something I could do to contribute again, and maybe God was opening a new door. But after a couple seasons, I grew tired of it, plus it didn't seem I had any more of a place than I did before club. So you will see that my earliest blog articles are transcripts of speeches I gave in club. It still took a while to start blogging though.

So why would I think my speeches would be worth listening to? In 2003, I began to study Hebrew. I'm not fluent at it, but I see interesting Biblical insights only available in the original language, no filters due to translation. I also began to study Hebrew commentaries, and learned there is a wealth of information out there that Christians don't ever hear because of a bias against anything Jewish and a bias against the Old Testament. It wasn't academic Old Testament stuff that I was learning - with the growing Messianic movement, I was learning more about Jesus Christ. I felt like I had a gold mine of interesting Bible info to share. You know that feeling when you learn something that you think is so cool, and you just want to tell people about it? Even if they don't want to hear it...

And books. I get interesting ideas from books.

Psalm 23 decoded by Haik-Vantoura,
and handwritten by her
Well, why did I decide to study Hebrew? Christians don't really need a reason to study Bible languages, but here's my story. This too goes back to music. I read a book called Music of the Bible Revealed [9] by Suzanne Haik-Vantoura. She claims the cantillation marks in the Hebrew can be decoded into melodies. As choir director, I took Haik-Vantoura's melodies of Psalms 23 and 150, and wrote them out for a choir, a fragment of Psalm 23 is at right. It was a challenge for everyone, but we did perform them. And for the first time, I was going through verses word by word in Hebrew. I was struck with the brevity of Hebrew. For example, "the Lord is my shepherd" is translated from "YHVH ROI", (יְהוָה רֹעִי).

Work didn't set me free either
After my stroke, it was really important to me to return to work, to prove my worth. I think everyone wants to feel important, well at least feel useful. In the long run, I may have done better treating rehab like a full time job instead of working at an actual full time job. But I did derive satisfaction, if not importance, at my job. For instance, I am coauthor on a few scientific papers - NEJM [10] for one, and I wanted to be first author on one of my own. I wrote a couple articles, but they never left the building. So, I'm a frustrated author with something to prove.

So I started writing this blog. Some of the reasons I still write have changed over the years. And the way I write has evolved. I do more research than at first, and I include references, mostly online references so the reader can click and read the quote or research for themselves, somewhat like writing a scientific paper, but you can't click on paper. I also have a few friends review articles before I publish them, the opposite of Andrew Sullivan's approach to blogging which is "We blog now—as news reaches us, as facts emerge." Why I Blog [6].

Should have read this [11]

I went through the 35 reasons listed in the articles I referenced above where other people advocate blogging. Some don't apply to me, laughably so. For instance, two articles mentioned making money. What? From blogging? For another instance, "become comfortable being known". Most of my articles get about 70 viewers, and none of them are throwing cash at me.

But there are some actual benefits in these 35 reasons I can relate to, here's a few.

Become a better writer/thinker, also expressed as turning messy ideas into neat ones - I read stuff and think "isn't that interesting?" But the process of writing it down so others can enjoy it too helps me to understand it better. Sometimes, you can't figure something out till you write it down, and maybe rewrite it a couple times. It becomes a way of doing Bible study.

Inspire others - If it inspired me, maybe it will inspire others. "Freely you have received, freely give" - Matt 10:8.

You’ll develop an eye for meaningful things - Now, when I hear or read something Biblical, I'm evaluating it for blog worthiness. There are topics I never would have studied into unless I had the intent to write about it. I'm discovering that I like Old Testament typology, where a character or a story or a place has Messianic symbolism, my favorite being the Tabernacle. I like finding things that make more sense in Hebrew, sometimes different from my previous understanding. I like seeing how interconnected the Bible is, written over many centuries, yet woven together. "Show me wonders in Your Torah" - Psalms 119:18.

One benefit not mentioned in these 35 reasons is simply to preach the gospel in some way (yes I know much of what I write gets a bit academic). Whether or not one believes in the priesthood of all believers - 1Peter 2:9, I think we all have a duty to do "what we can with what we've got, where we are" - Squire Bill Widener (NOT Teddy Roosevelt) [12]. In other words, it's something I can do. I am fond of the saying, "preach a good sermon, use words if you have to" - NOT Francis Assisi [13].

Oh, and the blog title "Between The Ears". I had to choose a title when I first set up this blog, and it's what came to mind. "The biggest battle a Christian will ever face will occur between your ears – in your mind" - Rodney Burton [14]. I learned there is another blog named Between The Ears [15] out there, go figure. If I started this blog today, I might choose the title "New Beginning", or maybe "Learning Things I Didn't Want To Know". The stroke forced me to start over in some ways, like a vine getting pruned. I don't know if I'm a better person, but I'm a different person.



Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Here Comes The Groom

Link to Between The Ears BLOG INDEX, with titles and summaries.

"Here Comes The Bride"
Modern weddings make a production about the entrance of the bride, inspiring music and lyrics we're all familiar with. Not so much for the groom. However, in the customs of ancient Jewish weddings, the arrival of the groom was the anticipated event. And many recognize that the arrival of the groom in ancient Jewish wedding custom parallels the (second) coming of Jesus. Many of these Jewish wedding customs from betrothal to the marriage supper foreshadow events in the Bible, past, present, and future. Many events and sayings in the Bible make more sense when viewed through the lens of a wedding. How do we know the parallels with Jesus? The Bible says so.

Rev 19:7 Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.
2 Cor 11:2  For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin.
Eph 5:31 For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. 32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. 

It is not just New Testament teaching however. When Israel entered into covenant with God after deliverance from Egypt, it was, among other things, a marriage covenant.

Jer 31:31 “Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord.

Let's look at some of the elements of a Jewish wedding and how the groom (Jesus) and the bride (the church) fulfill the typology.


The groom's father had the responsibility of finding a wife for his son. Matchmaking took place between the groom's father and the bride's father, ideally with input from the bride and groom. The groom and his father would visit the bride's family for formal negotiations. The groom, armed with the bride price and wine, would knock.  If the bride agreed to open the door, everyone would share the first of four glasses of wine, after which the couple was considered married - some say it was after the third glass. It was binding on the groom but not the bride who could back out at anytime. Otherwise, the groom could only  back out by divorce, recall the story of Mary and Joseph. Next, the fathers and the couple worked out the marriage contract, called a ketubah, paid the bride price, and the four of them would share a second glass of wine. At the conclusion of the ketubah, the bride and groom would
Ketubah [1]
drink a third glass of wine. The groom would not drink wine again till the wedding ceremony, where they would share the fourth glass. Notice the parallels with the "last supper", which was actually a Passover service.  A meal would follow the ketubah. The groom returned to his father's house to prepare a bridal chamber for her, this took from one to two years.

knock - Rev 3:20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.

bride price Acts 20:28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. 

wine - Mt 26:29 I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom."

bridal chamber - John 14:2 In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 3 If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.

Passover - Jesus Christ, our Passover, formally presented the New Covenant to His Bride, at Passover, in the format of a first century Jewish marriage proposal - Golden Sheaves [2].

Preparation Period

After the ketubah is worked out and dinner is eaten, the groom and his father go home. The groom gets busy preparing a place for his bride, while the bride prepares herself. They both do a mikveh, (baptism) symbolizing a major change in their lives. The bride would sew her wedding dress. The groom might send gifts to the bride to keep her interest alive.  When things were ready, the groom's father would send the groom to fetch his bride. The groom and the bride would know approximately but not exactly when, only his father. The bride waited with her friends. The groom friends would go before him blowing the shofar, and shouting.

prepare a place - John 14:2  for I go to prepare a place for you. 3 If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.

bride prepares herself - Rev 19:7 for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.

mikveh - Acts 1:4 Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, "Which," He said, "you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now."

wedding dress -  Rev 19:8 It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.

gifts - 1 Cor 12:4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.

fetching the bride
Mark 13:32 But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. 
Mt 25:6 At midnight the cry rang out: 'Here's the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!' 
1 Thess 4:16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.

Wedding Day

When the groom's father decides the time is right, he sends the groom to fetch the bride. She waits with her friends for the sound of the groom's friends announcing his arrival. They travel back to the groom's father's house where a wedding canopy (called a chuppah) is set up. The wedding ceremony takes place under the chuppah, where they drink the fourth glass of wine together. They smash this glass underfoot symbolizing that no one else may drink from this glass, that is no one else may partake of this special relationship. After the ceremony, the wedding is consummated, and the seven day feast begins.

bridesmaids - Since bridegrooms typically came for their brides in the middle of the night, to "steal them away", the bride would have to have her lamp and her belongings ready at all times. Her sisters or bridesmaids would also be waiting, keeping their lamps trimmed in anticipation of the late night festivities - ReturnToGod  [3]

groom's friends - As the bridegroom approached the bride's home, he would shout and blow the shofar (ram's horn trumpet) so that she had some warning to gather her belongings to take into the wedding chamber - ReturnToGod  [3]

canopy - Isaiah 4:5 then the Lord will create over the whole area of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, even smoke, and the brightness of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory will be a canopy (chuppah).

glass - Also a sign that the covenant broken can not be put back together - TASC [4].

consummation - On the wedding day, the bridegroom is seen as a king and the bride as a queen. During the consummation of the marriage, the bridegroom (Jesus) will be crowned King over all the earth and the bride (believers in Christ) will live with Him and rule with Him forever - Layman's Watch [5]. In other words, the consummation is a coronation.

feast - the newly weds went into the wedding chamber for a seven day honeymoon - Wild Olive [6], while the guests feasted for seven days.

Marriage Supper

After the seven days, the bride and groom emerge to share the marriage supper with the guests.

Rev 19:9 Then he said to me, “Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’”

That is good news (gospel) indeed.

From the betrothal where a ketubah is written, through the time of preparation where the groom prepares a place and the bride prepares herself, to the wedding day, a coronation as it were, the Bible in many ways pictures Jesus as marrying a bride*.

If you liked this, be sure to check out my other blog articles. The archive at the right side of this page is complete, but it does not give titles or summaries, it is more convenient to use my custom BLOG INDEX which does have titles and summaries of my blog articles. 



* Some object to aspects of the wedding analogy because of ways the analogy breaks down.  To give some examples: The Church is called the body of Christ, does that imply Jesus will marry Himself? God is already our Father, will He then become our father in law? If a man is to leave his father and mother, how is it Jesus goes to prepare a place for us in His Father's house? Every analogy eventually breaks down, but I see many more types fulfilled in the Jewish wedding analogy than I see contradictions.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Unleavened Beer?

Soon, many of us will be keeping the Days of Unleavened Bread, a week long feast which is marked by its name - unleavened bread. We remove leaven and leavened products from our homes, and during the festival we eat unleavened bread, taking in "the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth". The question always comes up, especially for newcomers, what is leaven? And at some point, what about beer? People ask because they know that bread and beer are both made with yeast. So it is a valid question. The instant reaction is "it's not the days of unleavened beer." But I think there is more to the answer than saying it's not the days of unleavened beer.

Credentials are in order for this discussion. I have made bread off and on for over 40 years. I have also made beer off and on for even longer. I am not a microbiologist nor do I play one on TV, for that I rely on "First Steps in Yeast Culturing" by Pierre Lajotte [1].

Leavened Versus Leavening

The Bible is clear that we should remove both leaven and leavened products, Ex 13:7 "Unleavened bread (matzoh meaning sweet) shall be eaten throughout the seven days; and nothing leavened (chametz meaning sour) shall be seen among you, nor shall any leaven (s'or meaning leaven)  be seen among you in all your borders." That would include bread crumbs not because they are leavenING (bread crumbs do not contain live yeast cells, they were killed in the baking process), but because they are leavenED (chametz). And it would include yeast because it is leavenING (s'or), not because it is leavenED (chametz). Note this is a New Testament command as well, 1 Cor 5:7 "Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed."

Give Us This Day Our Daily Beer

The Sediment Is Brewer's Yeast
The problem is that beer does contain live yeast cells. And the yeast cells in beer are exactly the same yeast used to make bread.   "Most yeasts used in baking are of the same species common in alcoholic fermentation." - Wikipedia Yeast [2]. The beer is not leavenED, but it does contain leavenING. One might argue that they are really different yeasts in beer versus bread. I have done the experiment of harvesting yeast from a batch of homebrewed beer (see picture) and using it to make bread. It made perfectly good bread. Remember it's the same yeast.

Sediment in a Bottle of Beer
One might argue that there isn't enough yeast in a bottle of beer to make a loaf of bread. But there are many websites that show how to culture the yeast from a single bottle of beer into a sufficient population for brewing or bread making, for example How To Brew []. It is simple enough, I've done it, maintaining sanitation is the biggest challenge. The best beers to culture from will have sediment on the bottom - that sediment is yeast, visible viable yeast. Note that the German beer hefeweizen means "yeast wheat". Filtered or pasteurized beer will not throw sediment. Only the larger commercial breweries filter or pasteurize their beer. And when "it's not the days of unleavened beer" was coined (the American dark ages of beer), nearly all beer was filtered if not pasteurized. Now the craft beer industry is producing lots of unfiltered beer with live yeast. Remember it's the same yeast.

Straining At Gnats?

Agar plate with yeast colonies
Well, how little is too little to worry about? Now we enter the gray area. Lajotte describes techniques for growing a single yeast cell into a culture, and eventually into a "pitchable" population. Technically, a single yeast cell is leavenING,  but without proper equipment and techniques, unlikely to leaven dough. Amy's Bread by Amy Scherber [3] describes a method for creating a sourdough bread starter beginning with nothing but flour and water. There are yeast cells on the grains (which get ground into flour) that reproduce and eventually ferment the flour and water into a viable population for bread making. For this reason, when making matzoh, Jews only allow flour and water to be mixed no more than 18 minutes before baking lest it begin to leaven spontaneously - Wiki Matzo [4]. Once the starter is viable, it is incorporated into bread dough and leavens it. A pinch of dough is saved as a starter for the next batch.   Yeast lives on the skins of grapes too, and there are yeast cells in the air.  So one can start with zero yeast cells and make leaven.

Ancient Israel would have only known the sourdough method. They did not have the option to buy a cake of yeast after Unleavened Bread was over. They would have started fresh with flour and water to grow a bread starter. This takes a few days.

Don't Read This Paragraph

Beer makers, in their quest to distinguish their brew from the competition, get creative in choosing sources of yeast for their "wild ales".  Rogue Brewing has created Beard Beer by culturing yeasts found in the master brewers beard - Mental Floss [5]. 7 Cent Brewery in Australia used the brewmaster's navel lint as a source for yeast, "the first beer in the world fermented from yeast captured from the brewer's belly button fluff." - CNET [6].

Back To Leaven

Sourdough Bread
One question newcomers don't ask is "what is bread?" Beer and bread are both made from grain, water, and yeast, but beer is not bread. Even though throughout history, beer has been known as liquid bread - Liquid Bread [7]. But is it "chametz" or "s'or"? At its simplest, bread is flour moistened with water and cooked, it is solid. Flour needs enzymes and yeast to rise without additional leavening, which narrows the field to a handful of grains. There is unfortunate complexity, confusion, and contradiction on the subject, among Jews and Christians and scientists, even among the Jews themselves. For example, the Jews say matzoh may only be made from five types of grain: wheat, barley, rice, oats and spelt, but this is from the Talmud, not the Bible - Wiki Chametz [8]. Science has concluded that the five grains are just different strains of wheat and barley  - The DAF []. What these five grains have in common is that they are self leavening, their flours plus water is enough to cause them to rise. Therefore, Jews argue they are the only grains that can make matzoh. And some Karaite Jews think "only the leavening of grains known to leaven are forbidden to eat as leavened" - Karaite Judaism [9]. Non gluten grains and non grain flours can be leavened with yeast (albeit poorly) or chemical leavening like baking powder, flours from oats, rice, lentils, coconut, or almond for examples. Scientists have even developed methods to make bread from cockroach flour - Neatorama [10]. Some don't think flours other than the Five count as "leavenable", some don't think chemical leavening is "chametz". As far as I understand it, over time the idea of leavening was merged with the the idea of self leavening grains. Most Jews would argue that since beer is made from barley (one of the Five) and fermented, it is chametz. I would argue that science has isolated the leavening agent yeast from the liquid beer, thanks to Anton van Leeuwenhoek, 1680 and Louis Pasteur, 1857 - Explore Yeast [11], and it is the leavening agent that's got to go, not the beer. One can separate yeast from beer, but one cannot separate yeast from a loaf of bread. Remember, it's the same yeast.

Don't Wine

Bread leavened with wine yeast 
Wine is commanded as the Passover service along with the unleavened bread. From this we see that fermented beverages are OK. But don't think it's because wine yeast is somehow different from beer yeast. It is still yeast (Saccharomyces). And yes, I did the experiment of making challah bread with wine yeast. It made perfectly good bread. According to Jeff Meyers [12], sourdough starters in ancient Israel were inoculated with the lees (sediment) from wine. Unlike beer, modern wine does not have yeast sediment in the bottle.

Back To the Future 

Something tells me no one has this leavening thing completely figured out. Like I said above, it is complex, confusing, and contradictory. Consider when the whole world keeps Unleavened Bread. Yes, they will. How is it possible to remove all the leaven from within your borders as a nation? or worldwide? This puts an undue hardship on bakeries. And breweries. Yeast is their livelihood. Many breweries jealously guard their particular strain of yeast, devoting laboratories and microbiologists to maintain it indefinitely. Chemicals and pharmaceuticals are routinely grown in Saccharomyces cerevisiae aka bread yeast Wiki Yeast[2]. I find it impossible that bakeries, breweries, and pharmaceuticals would have to start over every year. Is there a difference between home brewers and commercial breweries? Between the home baker and the commercial bakery? What about a brewer who wants to age a beer more than a year? Or a baker that needs to maintain his sourdough starter? Maybe I don't understand leaven completely.

Currently, people who keep Unleavened Bread rely on people who don't keep it. Some Jews will sell their leaven and beer and whiskey to a Gentile, then buy it back when the Days are done. Some of us keep our beer and whiskey, but throw out breads and leavening as we understand it. But still we rely on an outside source to replenish our bread supply the moment the Days are done.


What to do in the meantime, till Christ comes back? Take the simplistic approach that it's not the days of unleavened beer and ignore the whole question? Or put out (as in drink up) all barley based beer because barley is one of the Five self leavening grains? Or put out beer where sediment is visible? Or search for a better answer? I guess each of us has to decide. But decide based on the Bible and facts, not just traditions.