Book Review: The Concealed Light

The Concealed Light by Tsvi SadanThe Concealed Light:
Names of Messiah In Jewish Sources
by Tzvi Sadan
Vine of David, 2012

Ordering Info

They say that quite often big things come in small packages. This is definitely the case with Tsvi Sadan’s, The Concealed Light. It is the most recent publication put forth by Vine of David, a ministry arm of First Fruits of Zion that specializes in early Messianic Judaism and the development of Messianic liturgical resources. Committed to excellence in both academic integrity and aesthetic presentation, Vine of David pushes the envelope in their latest offering. First, let me introduce you to Dr. Sadan.

“Dr. Tsvi Sadan is uniquely qualified as the author of this book. Born in Israel, where he currently resides, he holds a Ph.D. in Jewish History from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and has researched Jewish and Christian views of the Messiah for more than twenty years. Tsvi has taken on the task of becoming familiar with traditional Jewish materials. In this book he draws on this knowledge to give a picture of the Messiah found in Jewish literature but known to few Jews and fewer Christians.” 1 He also had an article published in the latest issue of Messiah Journal, entitled Halachic Authority in the Life of the Messianic Community.

Now, let us move into the actual book.

Acher (Different), Even (Stone), Adoni (My Lord), Or (Light), Ar’yeh (Lion)… The list goes on from Alef (א) to Tav (ת). These are the names of the Messiah of Israel according to what the sages have derived from the Holy Writ. In this beautifully crafted book, you will find one hundred and one names in all, each presented in Hebrew with their English translations, explained in laymen’s terms by native Israeli and Hebrew scholar Tsvi Sadan. In The Concealed Light, Sadan goes deep into familiar rabbinic sources, such as the Talmud, Midrash Rabbah, Sifrei, Pesikta Rabbati, Zohar, etc. to pull obscure references to Messianic titles expounded upon by the sages, and clearly explain the significance of each one. But then he takes it one step further by delving into little known sources such as Sefer Yeshu’ot Meshicho and the Perushei Siddur HaTefillah laRokeach—many of which are only available in Hebrew—to bring out even more insights into the Messianic identity as affirmed by Judaism.

Here is a sampling of the amazing research he has pulled together for this:

Orphan

“‘We have become orphans without a father (Lamentations 5:3 NAS). … God said to Israel: ‘You have said to me, “We have become orphans without a father”; therefore the redeemer I will bring from among you has no father, for it is said … “Today I have begotten You””’ (Psalm 2:7). [He] “concluded from this that their Messiah … has no human father” (Sefer Yeshu’ot Meshicho). (page 116)

Olive

“‘Oil … for the light’ (Exodus 27:20)—this is King Messiah, who is also called ‘Green Olive Tree’ (Jeremiah 11:16). [He is called] ‘pure oil’ (Exodus 27:20) because he will light up the darkness for Israel, as it says: ‘That You may say to the prisoners, Go forth’ (Isaiah 49:9), and it also says, ‘The Gentiles shall come to your light’ (Isaiah 60:3)” (Otzar Midrashim, 138). (page 75)

Gold

“On ‘one day which is known to the LORD’ (Zechariah 14:7)—that day is a day of vengeance, when the Holy One, blessed be he, intends to wreak vengeance upon other nations. When he does, then ‘I will make a man more precious than gold’—this is King Messiah, who will transcend and be more precious than all the inhabitants of the world, all of whom will worship and bow down before him, as is written: ‘Those who dwell in the wilderness will bow before Him … The kings of Tarshish and of the isles will bring presents’ (Psalm 72:9-10)” (Zohar, Vayera, 107b). (page 186-187)

Glorious

In an outstanding Jewish commentary from the ninth century CE on Psalm 36:9, “In Your light we see light,” the author offers an imaginary conversation between God, Satan, and Messiah which reflects his own understanding of who is Messiah and what is his role. In this conversation, Satan attempts to deter God from honoring Messiah. Challenged, God asks Messiah what he intends to do in light of the suffering inflicted upon him because of those whom he came to save, and the Messiah answers:

“Master of worlds, with the joy of my soul and the pleasure of my heart, I accept upon myself that none from Israel will perish and that not only the living will be saved in my day but also those hidden in the soil…and not only those will be saved, but all hosts whom you have thought to create but have not. This is what I desire, this is what I accept upon me” (Pesikta Rabbati, 36). (page 120-121)

This is just a small sampling of what this little package has to offer. In a sense, it is somewhat akin to Raphael Patai’s The Messiah Texts, in that it culls from a large volume of sources to offer us the very best gems. Couple this along with Sadan’s fluid elucidation, and you have a very palatable work. For Christians, this is a wonderful introduction to the Jewish concepts of Messiah and will help bridge the gap between the very limited understanding of the role of Messiah within Christianity and the dynamic range of insights found within Judaism.

In addition to the quality of the text itself, Vine of David has done a brilliant job of packaging this gem to make it outwardly appealing as well. With its darkly contrasted tone-on-tone cover, deckled page edges and beautiful typesetting, The Concealed Light is not only a unique reference source, but could also double as a daily devotional or inspirational coffee table book. With its list of resources, which will inspire further research from the more scholarly, and its quick reference list of the various messianic titles in English, The Concealed Light will definitely be an attention grabber wherever it goes. I highly recommend it as an addition to your reference library, book club discussion or coffee table adornments. This book is available to purchase online from the Vine of David bookstore.

Disclosure: I received an advanced copy of this book from Vine of David.

  1. Taken from the book jacket.

Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels Released

Delitzsch release

As many of you know, Vine of David (a division of FFOZ) has been working diligently on an English translation of Franz Delitzsch’s Hebrew translation of the Gospels for the past few years. It is officially called the Delitzsch Hebrew-English (DHE) translation. As of yesterday, it has been released and is available for pre-ordering.

Another Translation?

Why is such a work important? Because it attempts to place Jesus and his apostles back into their proper place among Jewish history and spirituality. It is an attempt to reconnect Jesus and his message with his people. It is an attempt to bring the reader into the Jewish world of Jesus. While David Stern’s The Complete Jewish Bible attempts the same, it only works to bring the non-Jewish reader into the Jewish text. The DHE takes it another step by trying to connect Jewish people with their Messiah. This has been done through presenting the full text of the Gospels in a parallel Hebrew translation, along with traditional blessings for the studying of the Holy Text, all in an elegant presentation as you would expect from publishers such as Artscroll. This text hopes to help Jewish readers see Jesus and his Jewish message as part of Judaism, rather than an outside voice from a separate religion.

Delitzsch & His Translation

Franz Delitzsch (1813–March 4, 1890) was a German Lutheran theologian born in Leipzig, Germany who grew into a unique man of God. Widely known and respected as a “Christian Hebraist,” he was a pioneer in the area of Jewish studies in the New Testament and in the development of the Hebrew language. Delitzsch was a prolific writer, translator, and biblical commentator. His greatest and most enduring work is his New Testament translation into Hebrew. At his eulogy, Delitzsch was memorialized with the following words: “Indeed, not only in the Christian, but also in the Jewish world the name of Delitzsch has shone. For he was at home in the literature of the Rabbis as none other among the living, and perhaps as none before him. We may say the truest friend of Israel is dead. A great man has fallen in Israel.”

Delitzsch’s work is important, because of his “extensive knowledge of mishnaic Hebrew and first century Judaism… [which created] a translation and reconstruction of the Greek text back into an original Hebrew voice.” It is reported that the famed Dr. David Flusser, a devout Orthodox Jew and renowned New Testament scholar of Hebrew University, said that the Delitzsch Hebrew New Testament was the best translation of the New Testament extant in any language.

Needed Support

Much support is needed for this project. It is going to take people like yourself to purchase the DHE and share it with others. You can do that on a personal level, or at a larger level. Vine of David is also publishing a Levy Hirsch Memorial Edition, which will is available solely for the purpose of distributing to Jewish people who do not yet know their Messiah. Vine of David will be taking donations to dedicate a specific number of these editions toward distribution among Jewish people.

If you would like to a part of this momentous event, then support Vine of David and order your copy now.

Website Link

http://vineofdavid.org/resources/dhe/index.html

Pagan Influences in Christianity & Judaism

Beth Alpha synagogue mosaic
Beth Alpha synagogue mosaic

Many people have disparaged Judaism as being filled with paganism, particularly orthodox Judaism’s rabbinic leadership. Some even claim that it is satanic at the root (G-d forbid). Many people have had similar remarks about Christianity, especially when they discover Messianic Judaism and discover all that Christianity has forgotten over the last two thousand years in relationship to it Jewish origins. Everything is then questioned, and its origins suspect. For instance: What is the origin of the Christmas tree? Was it originally an asheroth pole? What about the Easter bunny, and the name “Easter” itself? Are they connected to Ishtar, the pagan goddess of fertility? Was the star of David originally a magical symbol used by the pagans? Questions such as these continue to pound away at both Judaism and Christianity.

Biblical Archaeology Review recently published an article examining pagan symbols in Jewish worship, specifically looking at the various synagogues unearthed in Israel which portray zodiac symbolism in their floor mosaics. The most famous is the Beth Alpha synagogue, which sports a very large floor mosaic (28×14 meters, roughly 90×30 feet) whose central panel shows the complete zodiac. It is described as follows:

Figures of four women were at the four corners, with inscriptions (in Hebrew) identifying each as a season of the year. Inside the square was a wheel, 3.12 meters in diameter, with a smaller circle (1.2 m) in its center. The wheel was divided into 12 panels, each with a figure and a name identifying it as a sign of the zodiac. And in the center, a man was pictured driving a quadriga (four-horse chariot) through the moon and stars. Rays of the sun were coming out of his head; it was clear that he was Helios, god of the sun.1

This article continues to describe in detail several such synagogues found in Israel with this type of imagery. Although there is still some mystery surrounding the use of these symbols (particularly in a house specifically designed for study & worship), I feel the author’s explanation of them plausible.

This brings a lot of questions to mind (for which I do not have the answers). When and how were pagan symbols introduced into Judaism and Christianity? What do we “accept” and what do we “reject”? Where do we draw the line? How far is too far? Are there such things as coincidence? What are the “majors” and what are the “minors” in all of this? If others believers continue to unknowingly incorporate pagan symbolism in their sincere worship, what is our responsibility? These are a lot of difficult questions. Fortunately, someone has done a lot of homework on the subject.

What About Paganism?

First Fruits of Zion has recently published a 4-disc audio teaching on this very subject. It’s called “What About Paganism?” Toby Janicki tackles this subject and brings in a ton of information relating to both Christian and Jewish practice which may or may not be pagan in origin and gives suggestions as to our response. This is a good starting point to get some honest discussion on the table in regard to this topic, rather than living on our assumptions. It is based on historical evidences and the teachings of Yeshua. When we abide in the teachings of our Master, Yeshua, we will “know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).

  1. From the BAR article.

Celebrate Tu Bishvat!

PLANT and BLOOM from FFOZ

What do wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, honey and/or dates and this month have in common? Two weeks from today is a minor holiday called Tu Bishvat. Tu Bishvat means the 15th (ו + ט) of the Hebrew month of Shevat. A few years ago our family started celebrating Tu Bishvat, and it has been a unique and fun time for the family to remember the provision of Hashem in our lives, as well as to do something for Him in a practical way.

So, you don’t understand Tu Bishvat and are not sure why you should celebrate it? First Fruits of Zion has just released two new resources to help believers both understand and celebrate this yearly event in a meaningful way, fully centered on Messiah Yeshua.

Since the second Temple, Tu Bishvat is a day that has been designated to demarcate time in regard to how the tithe from the produce of trees was given (I won’t go into the details now, but it is an interesting study). Since the destruction of the Holy Temple, this date has lost much of its significance. However, during the Middle Ages there was a resurgence which made the celebration of Tu Bishvat once again significant and meaningful. Once again, this date is being restored, but to believers.

PLANT, FFOZ’s first booklet, is designed to help you learn:

  • that the fifteenth of Shevat (Tu Bishvat) was recognized in Temple times as an important day in Temple worship
  • that Yeshua was aware of this day, and perhaps even taught about it
  • the evolving history of its observance post-Temple
  • activities and ideas about how to celebrate Tu Bishvat
  • stories and encouraging testimonies from believers in the land of Israel about modern observances

BLOOM is a Tu Bishvat Haggadah, similar to a Passover Haggadah, which will walk you through enjoying a Tu Bishvat seder in your home with family and friends. It is the most recent addition to the Vine of David “branch” of FFOZ.

BLOOM is inspired by the story of the early pioneers of the modern State of Israel. This seder reflects upon the dreams of a Jewish national homeland in the Promised Land throughout the centuries and its culmination with Zionism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Bloom is simple and not deeply mystical. It focuses the modern return of the Jewish people to their land as a part of the broader plan of world redemption.

Contemplate our Master Yeshua’s heart of thankfulness for the land and his lament as he perceived its destruction. Share in the vision of the Messianic Jewish luminaries who longed to see that hope restored in the State of Israel, the “beginning of the sprouting of our redemption.”

Since all of the observances related to Temple worship are not currently in effect, modern Tu Bishvat has observances similar to Arbor Day in which trees are planted in Israel, often in memory of a loved one. This year, we have a special goal. We want to send the funds to Israel to plant a sapling in the name of our unborn child we recently lost. Maybe you have a similar situation and would like to remember a loved one. The Jewish National Fund is a great place to accomplish this.

Tu Bishvat for 2011 is Thursday, January 20th

If you’ve never experienced Tu Bishvat, this year can be your first. Don’t delay. Order these resources today so that you will have them in time for your seder. Experience something unique and special with your family while making a difference in the world.