From the Desk of Loren Abraham
This week we begin our study of the book of Deuteronomy. The Hebrew name, Devarim, meaning “Words,” comes from the opening line of chapter 1: “These are the words Moses spoke to all Israel across the Jordan in the wilderness ”. Parashat Devarim is always read on the Sabbath before the 9th of Av, which, by most accounts is the date on which both the first and second temples fell. The Haftorot for the weeks leading up to the 9th of Av contain prophecies of rebuke for the sins that were held to be the spiritual cause of the destruction of the first temple in 587 B.C. This week’s Haftorah, the famous “Vision” of Isaiah, gives its name to the day on which this portion is read—Shabbat Chazon, the “Shabbat of the Vision.” Although this Hebrew word is often translated as simply "vision," a better translation would be "prophetic vision," i.e., the kind of vision that recognizes the pinnacles - the most important events in human history across an extended period of time. This can be likened to how we might see a series of mountain peaks and ranges in a vast vista spanning a great distance.
This year Tisha B'Av begins at sundown on Saturday July 17. The gravity and importance of this date is that it is without question the most auspicious day in the history of the Jewish people. In addition to being the date both temples were destroyed, some of the other events which occurred on this day or the next are:
1) The Spies Returned with a Bad Report (Numbers 13);
2) The Romans crushed Bar Kokhba's revolt and destroyed the city of Betar, killing over 500,000 Jewish civilians, 135 A.D.;
3) The Jews Were Expelled From England, 1290, expelled from France, 1306, and from Spain 1492, all on the 9th of Av;
4) Heinrich Himmler formally received approval from the Nazi Party for "The Final Solution" initiating the Holocaust, 1941;
5) Mass deportation of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto, en route to Treblinka began, 1942;
6) The bombing of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, killed 85 and injured 300 on July 18, 1994;
7) The Israeli disengagement from Gaza began, expelling 8000 Jews; August 15, 2005
So, it is not hard to understand why our Jewish brothers and sisters would mourn and fast on this day. True to the Chassidic tradition of seeing Divine blessing in an apparent curse, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, one of the early Chassidic teachers, saw in it a distant “vision” of the Third Temple of Messianic times. Accordingly, he traces the connection between this idea and the content of the text of Parashat Devarim, which is the introduction to Moses' repetition of the law to the Israelites as they prepare to enter the Land. This supports the belief that every Jew is given a personal vision of the third temple which will accompany the coming of Messiah – at the opening of the millennial kingdom. The question is: what will that vision look like? Will it be that of an architectural edifice or will it look like something completely different from a physical structure?
Whereas the Jewish people still lament the destruction of the earthly temple, longing for the day when it may be rebuilt in Jerusalem and the day that all its rituals, sacrifices and priesthood will be re-instated, believers in Jesus Christ - Yeshua HaMashiach – do not place the same significance in an earthly temple in Jerusalem, nor lament its destruction. We hold that the more perfect temple of Messiah is already under construction and its glory far exceeds that of the former temples. Consider the following texts from the New Covenant writings:
Ephesians 2:19-22 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
Whereas the Jewish people today long for a return to the days when the Temple was the center of Jewish Faith and Jewish life, prior to 70 A.D., we believers in Yeshua as the Jewish Messiah long for the completion of the glorious edifice in which each one of us are living stones used in the building and joined with the vital cornerstone, Yeshua.
1 Peter 2:4-6 As you come to him, the living Stone – rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him – you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”
The return of Yeshua the Messiah does not necessarily climax with the reconstruction of an earthly temple, although that may well accompany His appearance. At some future time, we will yet see a New Jerusalem whose inhabitants are those who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.
Revelation 21:3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.”
Revelation 21:22 And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.
Now that is a vision we can all look forward to!
References: Isaiah 1:1-27; Jeremiah 1:9-15 1:9-15; Ezekiel 43:1-4; Matthew 24:2; 1 Peter 2:4-6; Ephesians 2:19-22; 1 Corinthians 3:16; Revelation 21:3, 16-23
Blessings and Shalom,