Ask the Rebbe Session #1
The misuse of a symbol does not define it. It simply illuminates the motivation of the user.
Questions for consideration:
1. What is the origin of the Star of David?
Firstly it is important to understand that Jews do not call the symbol in question the Star of David. This is a name given to it because of its association with the Jewish people. Jews call this symbol “Magen David”, literally, “Shield of David”.
Secondly, many Christian conspiracy theorists use this symbol to support their theory that Jews as a whole practice witchcraft and are the enemies of God. They say that because the Mekubbalim (Practitioners of Kabbalah) and Freemason movements use this symbol, that it is therefore a symbol of Satan, and that those who use it are subject to him. Hitler was able to use this same underlying anti-Semitic bias to vilify and literally label the Jewish people with the so called Star of David during the Second World War.
If you were to search the internet, you would find numerous results alluding to the Star of David as being an occult symbol. Those who lack discernment, consider these articles to convey the truth, they fail to understand that the internet, like the library and the universal visual media, is a place of information and that truth and information are not synonymous.
Thirdly, those who see the Star of David as being an occult symbol often attach power to it. Making it a type of occult talisman. This is the result of poor theology that attaches spiritual power to inanimate objects. In both Biblical Judaism and Christianity this is known as witchcraft.
Each of these perspectives form a firm foundation for anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism (synonymous terms).
So what is the origin of this symbol?
The short answer is, “Nobody can be certain”. A number of ancient eastern cultures used this symbol, all for different reasons and all understanding it in different ways. There is no explicit evidence showing why, how or what this symbol was used for within ancient Judaism. There are in fact only positive and negative explanations based on legend and these are propagated by conjecture alone.
The earliest piece of archaeological evidence to date, linking the Magen David to the Jewish people, is a carving on an ancient 6th Century BCE (approx. 550 years prior to the birth of Messiah) Synagogue in northern Israel. The carving depicts a victorious Babylonian ruler and a defeated king of Judah with a Magen David above his head. We can only guess at its meaning, however, it is clearly not representing an amulet that holds spiritual power to defeat Israel’s enemies and is therefore unlikely to have been used as a means of practicing witchcraft or as a symbol representing occult belief. What is more likely is that in keeping with some of the rabbinical explanations, it is a symbol of God’s relationship to Israel and His present protection over Israel’s continued existence, even in the face of defeat and subjugation.
While it is true that practitioners of Kabbalah used this symbol, this was not until the teaching of Kabbalah emerged in the 12th century CE, some seventeen hundred and fifty years after the earliest Jewish connection to the symbol. It is also true that the symbol was subsequently used by Christian sects and Freemasons. However, the misuse of a symbol does not determine its meaning. For example, candles are used in a séance, should we not use candles? The cross was used for hundreds of years in relation to ancient idolatrous worship practices, long before the birth of Messiah, does that mean the cross is an occult symbol? The Freemasons misuse the Holy Name YHVH in their pictograms and symbolism, are we therefore not to continue to write God’s Holy name in our Torah scrolls? A curse on the idea! When we think this way we are allowing ourselves to come under bondage. We become superstitious and ironically, practitioners of the same witchcraft we accuse others of.
There are a wide range of rabbinical explanations regarding the Magen David and its meaning:
Some say that it was the symbol that adorned the shields of David’s army, others that it represents God’s relationship to humanity, one triangle pointing up representing man’s desire to connect with God and the other triangle pointing down showing God’s desire to connect with humanity. There are those who see the twelve tribes represented in the twelve lines that make up the border of the shape and those who see the six points as representing the six flames of the menorah with the centre space representing the seventh central flame. Still others, the Mekubbalim (Followers of Kabbalah) attribute mystical power to the symbol, however there is no explicit historical or archaeological support for this claim.
So what do we know for certain about the so called “Star of David”?
2. Is there Biblical support for the rabbinical method of Bible interpretation known as PaRDeS?
Firstly, PaRDeS is an acronym that describes the traditional rabbinical method of interpretation. P = P’shat (Surface: Plain meaning), R = Remez (Hint), D = Drash (Inquire: Comparative), S = Sod (Secret: Mystery). All subsequent interpretations are subject to the plain meaning. The word Pardes means Orchard or Garden and is a reference to paradise.
Secondly, there is no explicit Biblical instruction that gives a schematic for Bible interpretation. Those who claim therefore that Christianity’s Greco-Roman Schematic detailing exegesis, hermeneutics etc., is divinely appointed but that the rabbinical schematic of PaRDeS is not, are being intellectually dishonest. It is equally foolish to claim that textual criticism is more trustworthy than the traditional rabbinical method. It is the Torah that critiques us and not the other way around.
So, is there any implicit support for the rabbinical method within the texts of the Bible?
The P’shat or plain meaning is self-explanatory. There is no need to explain to a reader that the book means what it says. Therefore, there is no need to show evidence from the Bible that God intends for us to take it at face value relative to context, figurative, poetic and metaphorical language.
The first mention of the practice of examining the Scriptures in an exegetical way is in the book of Ezra the scribe.
The root “Darash (Drash)” is used specifically in relation to the Torah and therefore describes a practice of interpretation and an intention to walk according to that interpretation and teach it to others. This is the perfect example of what it means to make a Drash, or comparative teaching.
As Jews who follow Yeshua, we should look to Him and His disciples for evidence of the use of rabbinical interpretive method. If He doesn’t teach using the PaRDeS method, then why would we?
Let’s take a look at just a few of the many New Testament examples of PaRDeS found in the book of Matthew.
As stated earlier, every part of Scripture has a plain meaning, therefore P’shat is the basis for the subsequent methods of interpretation.
Matthew 2:15 - "Out of Egypt I called my son." This is a quote from Hosea 11:1 and is being applied to Yeshua by Matthew. If we read it to refer to the p’shat (plain meaning) of Hosea 11:1, we must interpret it to refer to Israel. However, Matthew, the disciple of Yeshua, divinely inspired by God, interprets it as a remez (hint) which is alluding to the Messiah King as God’s Son. This is just one of many examples of Matthew’s use of remez.
Matthew 18:18 - "... Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." This verse taken literally and out of context is often used by Christians to demand that spiritual powers submit to them. However, within the context of Matthew 18:14-18 the p’shat (plain meaning) refers to the practical application of principals concerning those who are sinning within the body of believers. Thus the plain meaning indicates a d'rash (comparative teaching) concerning the binding and loosing of our own actions according to Halakhah the way we walk (Yet another rabbinical teaching that Yeshua and His disciples applied to daily life).
Matthew 26:28 - "Then He took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them saying, Drink from it all of you, This is my blood ..." If the figurative language here were taken literally it would not only violate the Torah commandment against consuming blood, but along with other verses concerning the eating of Yeshua's flesh (John 6:51-56), could be understood as teaching cannibalism. Yeshua explains to His disciples that it is the Spirit that produces the deeper understanding (John 6:63), and that His words are spirit and life. This is evidence of a sod (mystery) that cannot be gleaned from the p’shat (plain meaning) of the text. A concept that is illuminated through spiritual revelation alone and by no other means. This particular sod (Mystery) would be fully revealed following His death and resurrection.
So what can we conclude?
3. Can a Jewish person determine their tribe based on the month of their birth?
Firstly, no human being can determine their ethnicity or blood lineage based on the date of their birth. This idea is in fact an occult concept attached to Astrology.
In order for this to be viable, every member of a certain tribe would have to be born in the same month. My brothers and I are born in March, July and August respectively and yet are all descended from the same tribe of Israel. Likewise our children are all born in different months and yet are descended from the same tribe within Israel.
What can be determined by our birth date is the Torah portion read on the Shabbat closest to our birth. My Torah portion is Pinchas (Numbers 25:10-30:1). As is customary, I chanted this portion at my bar-mitzvah in honour of its relationship to my birth. This method of assigning Torah portions is related to the modern annual Torah cycle, however the Torah cycle of the first century CE was triannual and therefore divided differently and assigned accordingly. Thus there is no connection here to tribal affiliation.
4. I have heard the name Yahashua used, what does it mean?
Firstly, this name and names like it are prolifically used, by ill-informed Messianic Gentile Bible teachers. They are a vain attempt to unite the Holy Name with the Name of Yeshua. However, in doing so they are in fact desecrating both names.
Linguistically speaking the combining of the names YHVH and YeSHuA is equivalent to the combining of the English names JaCoB and JuLia, and concluding that the name for the unified couple must be JauLCoBia.
A number of modern bible teachers and Christian/Messianic/Hebrew Roots leaders claim that the name Yahshua/Yahashuah is the correct pronunciation of the Holy Name and or the name of the Messiah and the Holy Name combined. This name is said to combine the names YHVH and Yeshua/Yehoshua (Jesus). I can only surmise that these individuals have no real understanding of the Hebrew language.
Each of the Hebrew proper nouns in question has an entirely different 3 Character Hebrew root form: YHH verses YSA. They are therefore incompatible linguistically speaking. Add to this that the vav in Yeshua is a vowel marker and the vav in YHVH is a consonant and we are even further from any possibility of a legitimate argument for combining the two names. The Hebrew language does not allow for the contraction of these names, it is linguistically incorrect to join them and it makes a mockery of both names to do so.
In fact, the real root of this teaching regarding the so called divine name Yahashua is not the Holy Spirit but the spirit of occult. It is an attempt by the enemy Ha-Satan to defile the minds and mouths of followers of Messiah.
The blasphemous name, “Yahshuah,” was originally found in the works of Athanasius Kirchner, Johann Baptist Grossschedel (1619), a Jesuit Christian Occultist. It is also found in subsequent esoteric/occult sources from the Renaissance period.
The blasphemous name, “Yahshua,” is the progeny of the more recent Sacred Name movement. The English spelling Yahshua originates at least as early as 1950 from associated teachings dated as early as the 1930’s.
This is a misguided attempt to unify the names Yeshua and YHVH, without due consideration being given to the linguistic nature of this contraction. The irony is that in attempting to show Yeshua as divine by uniting His name with YHVH, they have in fact impugned His nature as the fully G-d and fully man Messiah of Israel.
As I have said previously, Hebrew linguistics do not allow for the combining of the unrelated Hebrew nouns “YeSuA” and “YHVH”, therefore, "Yahshua" is a nonsense. Furthermore, this name is not attested to in antiquity or Scripture, unlike the names “Elohiym”, “YHVH”, "Yehoshua" (Joshua) and Yeshua (Jesus).
The Sacred name cult teaches that the use of the name, “Yahshua,”—which is in fact a nonsense and not a name at all—will aid a person’s salvation. This is in direct contradiction to the teachings of Scripture and makes the use of this blasphemous name a form of witchcraft.
A secret knowledge of a sacred name used as a tool for our salvation can only be motivated by our own efforts to save ourselves, it spits in the face of grace and denies the power of Yeshua’s saving sacrificial death. Worse still, those who use it often consider themselves, “The true Church,” thus denying the salvation of numerous other Christians throughout the world. Any effort we view as being necessary on our part for earning salvation is a deception which teaches works based salvation and therefore contradicts the Gospel of Messiah.
“For by grace you are saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any human being should boast.” –Ephesians 2:8-9
In conclusion I give this warning to those who are using these names and teaching others to do the same:
”You shalt not take the name (Ha-Shem) of the L-rd (יהוה) your G-d in vain; for the L-rd (יהוה)will not hold him guiltless that takes His name in vain.” –Shemot/Exodus 20:7
© Yaakov Brown 2017
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Founder of the Beth Melekh International Messiah Following Jewish Community,