Rosh Hashana is the beginning of the Jewish civil, fiscal, and agricultural year. Our fathers view it as the crowing of the King of Kings Messiah. Synagogue readings revolve around the stories of Abraham and Isaac, especially the 'Binding of Isaac' on the altar on the mountain. With the crowning of King Messiah, we also view Rosh Hashana as the onset of the Fall Festivals which also speaks of the final establishment of Messiah's Kingdom on earth.
Yochanan the Immerser, Yeshua, the disciples of the Master and their disciples all preached the same Gospel: "Repent, for the kingdom is at hand." The idea behind this message was to clean our hearts, "get our act together," inclining ourselves towards obedience to HaShem through living by His Toratic instructions and that, all in preparation for the Kingdom to come.
Deuteronomy 30 is the most 'gospel בשורה -like chapter. it tells us about:
- The return from Great Exile;
- The establishment of the Kingdom under King Messiah all at once.
והיה כי־יבאו עליך כל־הדברים האלה הברכה והקללה אשׁר נתתי לפניך והשׁבת אל־לבבך בכל־הגוים אשׁר הדיחך יהוה אלהיך שׁמה׃
ושׁבת עד־יהוה אלהיך ושׁמעת בקלו ככל אשׁר־אנכי מצוך היום אתה ובניך בכל־לבבך ובכל־נפשׁך׃
ושׁב יהוה אלהיך את־שׁבותך ורחמך ושׁב וקבצך מכל־העמים אשׁר הפיצך יהוה אלהיך שׁמה׃
אם־יהיה נדחך בקצה השׁמים משׁם יקבצך יהוה אלהיך ומשׁם יקחך׃
והביאך יהוה אלהיך אל־הארץ אשׁר־ירשׁו אבתיך וירשׁתה והיטבך והרבך מאבתיך׃
"When the time arrives that all these things have come upon you, both the blessing and the curse which I have presented to you; and you are there among the nations to which Adonai your God has driven you; then, at last, you will start thinking about what has happened to you; and you will return to Adonai your God and pay attention to what he has said, which will be exactly what I am ordering you to do today - you and your children, with all your heart and all your being. At that point, Adonai your God will reverse your exile and show you mercy; he will return and gather you from all the peoples to which Adonai your God scattered you. If one of yours was scattered to the far end of the sky, Adonai your God will gather you even from there; he will go there and get you. Adonai your God will bring you back into the land your ancestors possessed, and you will possess it; he will make you prosper there, and you will become even more numerous than your ancestors. Then Adonai your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your children, so that you will love Adonai your God with all your heart and all your being, and thus you will live. (Deu 30:1-6)
In the previous parashas, Moshe sees Israel's disobedience and exile. In this one the patriarch sees the repentance and return of Israel. In this chapter, it is easy to see the reason for Israel's punishment and exile: disobedience. But one cannot believe some parts of the prophecies and omit the others. If you believe in Israel's exile because of its disobedience, you must also believe in its return to the land and former glory because of its repentance.
Since its early beginning, Israel has been faithful, for the most part, in the practice of physical circumcision. In our parasha this week, HaShem speaks of the circumcision of the heart, something that prophets later on saw as lacking in Israel. In the world of the Bible, the heart doesn't represent the seat of the emotions, but rather the brain's front lobe which determines the will. The term "Circumcise your heart" (Deut 10:16; 30:6; Jer 4:4) means to yield ourselves to HaShem's leading, will, and ways in our lives. It is the diametrical opposite of arrogance and stubbornness.
The circumcision of the heart is not an event that waited for the earthly manifestation of the Messiah as is so often taught. In Deut 10:16, Moshe was already encouraging the second generation of Israelites to "Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn.", and in Jeremiah 9:25-26 HaShem punishes Israel for its uncircumcised heart, which infers they were already supposed to display the life of a circumcised heart.
The circumcision of the flesh is actually an outward sign of the already accomplished circumcision of the heart. One doesn't go without the other. Of course, it is easy to make claims of integrity by virtue of an outward sign, but whereas one can easily boast of a flesh circumcision, his personal life will be an unfailing witness as to the circumcision of the heart. It is always easier to demonstrate "religion" through outward elements such as eating kosher, wearing tsitsits, not working on Shabbat, but HaShem is the One who knows if our hearts are truly circumcised or not. We may be able to fool some of the people all the time, or all of the people some time, but we can never fool all of the people all the time. HaShem who created us makes sure of that!
Physical circumcision is done at eight days old. No-one asks for our permission when they do it. But the circumcision of the heart is a personal decision and commitment to HaShem upon which the final redemption depends,
... But if their uncircumcised hearts will grow humble, and they are paid the punishment for their misdeeds; then I will remember my covenant with Ya`akov, also my covenant with Yitz'chak and my covenant with Avraham; and I will remember the land. (Lev 26:41-42)
Jeremiah speaks of Moshe's promise that HaShem will circumcise Israel's heart...
"For this is the covenant I will make with the house of Isra'el after those days," says Adonai: "I will put my Torah within them and write it on their hearts; I will be their God, and they will be my people.
Jeremiah deplored people with circumcised flesh and uncircumcised hearts,
"The days are coming," says Adonai, "when I will punish all those who have been circumcised in their uncircumcision --(9:25) Egypt,
Y'hudah, Edom, the people of `Amon and Mo'av, and all those living in the desert who cut the edges [of their beard]: "For although all the Goyim are uncircumcised, all the house of Isra'el have uncircumcised hearts." (Jer 9:25-26)
In the days of Paul, there were some non-Jewish proselytes who wanted to seal their adoption into the covenant of Israel through their owns "works." They felt that their appurtenance to the covenant of Israel depended on their application of all the rituals and demands of traditional Judaism in their day, including circumcision. Paul's contention was that all that was needed for adoption into Israel was the baptism of repentance in the immersion waters, and the spiritual covering of confession that Yeshua is the Messiah through whom they have access to HaShem. In his contention, Paul borrows from Moshe and Jeremiah's theme of the superior virtue of the circumcision of the heart vs the circumcision of the flesh,
For the real Jew is not merely Jewish outwardly: true circumcision is not only external and physical. On the contrary, the real Jew is one inwardly; and true circumcision is of the heart, spiritual not literal; so that his praise comes not from other people but from God. (Rom 2:28-29)
Paul sealed the argument with this famous statement,
Only let each person live the life the Lord has assigned him and live it in the condition he was in when God called him. This is the rule I lay down in all the congregations. Was someone already circumcised when he was called? Then he should not try to remove the marks of his circumcision. Was someone uncircumcised when he was called? He shouldn't undergo b'rit-milah. Being circumcised means nothing, and being uncircumcised means nothing; what does mean something is keeping God's commandments.
But whether Jew or grafted-in Gentile, Rosh Hashana is the time when we can imagine ourselves standing before HaShem and hear Him say to us,
"Look! I am presenting you today with, on the one hand, life and good; and on the other, death and evil - in that I am ordering you today to love Adonai your God, to follow his ways, and to obey his mitzvot, regulations and rulings ; for if you do, you will live and increase your numbers; and Adonai your God will bless you in the land you are entering in order to take possession of it. But if your heart turns away, if you refuse to listen, if you are drawn away to prostrate yourselves before other gods and serve them; I am announcing to you today that you will certainly perish; you will not live long in the land you are crossing the Yarden to enter and possess. "I call on heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have presented you with life and death, the blessing and the curse. Therefore, choose life, so that you will live, you and your descendants, loving Adonai your God, paying attention to what he says and clinging to him - for that is the purpose of your life! On this depends the length of time you will live in the land Adonai swore he would give to your ancestors Avraham, Yitz'chak and Ya`akov."
MAY WE YIELD TO HIM, TO HIS WILL, AND TO HIS TORAH.
MAY WE ADOPT LIFESTYLES THAT REFLECTS THE TORAH AS TAUGHT BY OUR MASTER YESHUA.
MAY WE LET HIM CIRCUMCISE OUR HEARTS.
MAY WE CHOOSE LIFE!