The Tale of Two Christmases

And the rabbis argued:

1. Celebrating birthdays is a Pagan holiday.

2. Christmas in December is a pagan timing for holidays.

3. The whole Christmas season and meaning are a an extrapolation of Sukkoth, the Feast of Tabernacles, Wikipedia has a  project on the subject.

And the Pastors argued:

  1. Among Christians, it is the most joyful day of the year, a family reunion time;
  2. It’s a good time to do good things;
  3. On the 8th days is the new year;
  4. Christmas is a season to be jolly, forgiving, grateful;
  5. Christmas is a time to give, to be generous, to invite in the poor and the needy;
  6. Christmas is a time for charity, prayers, praises, carols,
  7. Christmas is a time to receive guests, renew broken or distant friendship
  8. Christmas is a time to decorate the house with lights
  9. On Christmas,  trees are used to decorate the house and to be decorated originally with fruits.
  10. On Christmas, the Star of Bethlehem shone
  11. Jesus was born in a shelter/stable
  12. Farm animals were around
  13. Shepherds were in the field
  14. Guests came to join Jesus’ party: the Magi
  15. The angels are said to have come and sung praises to the highest

And the Rabbis argued:

  1. Among Jews, Sukkoth is the most joyful day of the year, a family reunion time;
  2. It’s a good deed to celebrate it and to do good unto others;
  3. On the 8th days is the beginning of the new year  Shemini Atzeret;
  4. Sukkoth is a season to be jolly, forgiving, grateful;
  5. Sukkoth is a time to give, to be generous, to invite in the poor and the needy;
  6. Sukkoth is a time for charity, prayers, praises, song;
  7. Sukkoth is a time to receive guests, renew broken or distant friendship;
  8. Sukkoth is a time to decorate the booth-tabernacle with lights;
  9. On Sukkoth trees are commanded to be used to decorate and build the sukkah-booth and it is decorated with fruits;
  10. On Sukkoth, the stars must be seen shining through the roof of the sukkah;
  11. The sukkah is a shelter which can be used as a stable, and it is a commandment to live in it for 7 days;
  12. Farm animals are around if your sukkah is in the fields;
  13. Shepherds would be in those fields, especially in Jerusalem at this time of the year;
  14. Guests are highly expected to join the party with gifts; and
  15. The angels are hoped to come and sing praises to the highest.

Now, let’s not attempt here to attack the origin of the date chosen by the councils, said a rabbi, nor the origin of the various pagan traditions that were introduced into Christianity for the occasion of Christmas, I will content myself to guide you to understand when the plausible Christmas date was.

Rumors rose in the room!! ‘A rabbi explaining about Christmas!!’

He continued: ‘Many articles have been published on the Christmas tree, Yule, Santa Claus, the 12 days, etc.[ Click on the links, go explore and be surprised! Meanwhile, in here…”] –  but let’s explore the Jewish ‘Christmas season’.

Now, If what you say is true, said the rabbi to the pastors, Mary was to also dedicate Jesus to the temple as her first born, but not because of the census! the famous census was not a timed event, people had about 3 years to register themselves.

The audience murmured… But the rabbi, undaunted continued:

‘In light of all of that, it is said in:

Leviticus 23:33

The LORD said to Moses, 34 “Say to the Israelites: ‘On the fifteenth day of the seventh month the LORD’s Feast of Tabernacles begins, and it lasts for seven days. 35 The first day is a sacred assembly; do no regular work. 36 For seven days present offerings made to the LORD by fire, and on the eighth day hold a sacred assembly and present an offering made to the LORD by fire. It is the closing assembly; do no regular work.

-We know, we know, said a couple of voices in the audience. The rabbi continued:

37 (” ‘These are the LORD’s appointed feasts, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies for bringing offerings made to the LORD by fire—the burnt offerings and grain offerings, sacrifices and drink offerings required for each day. 38 These offerings are in addition to those for the LORD’s Sabbaths and [e] in addition to your giftsThe rabbi paused and looked up briefly- ‘and whatever you have vowed and all the freewill offerings you give to the LORD.)

He paused, and before anyone opened their mouth:

39 ” ‘So beginning with the fifteenth day of the seventh month, after you have gathered the crops of the land, celebrate the festival to the LORD for seven days; the first day is a day of rest, and the eighth day also is a day of rest. 40 On the first day you are to take choice fruit from the trees, and palm fronds, leafy branches and poplars [or willows], (- the 4 species) and rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days.

Seven days! he repeated.

41 ‘Celebrate this as a festival to the LORD for seven days each year. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come; celebrate it in the seventh (pause again) month. 42 Live in booths for seven days: All native-born Israelites are to live in booths 43 so your descendants will know that I had the Israelites live in booths when I brought them out of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.’ “

-Now hear this: the Gift Giving and merry meals are also in the Torah for that festival:

Numbers 29:39

” ‘In addition to what you vow and your freewill offerings, prepare these for the LORD at your appointed feasts: your burnt offerings, grain offerings, drink offerings and fellowship offerings. [peace Offerings] ‘ “

And be Merry:

Deuteronomy 16:13

Celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days after you have gathered the produce of your threshing floor and your wine-press. 14 Be joyful at your Feastyou, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, and the Levites, the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns. (A Christmas party!) 15 For seven days celebrate the Feast to the LORD your God at the place the LORD will choose. For the LORD your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete.

Now the audience was getting a bit restless, what was that Feast about?

The rabbi said: do you think that the manger was out in the open or inside? And if they were inside a stable, was it really a stable like we have now? with solid timbers? have you ever been in a poor countryside where cattle or sheep are raised? do you think there would have been Gold and other fancy ornaments? Well, why not! To me, the ‘stable’ housing the ‘manger’ that you guys show all the time and in which Jesus was born (as you say), is indeed very much looking like a sukkah (a booth or tabernacle, however you want to call it). According to the Rabbis, our sages of blessed memories, when you build a Sukkah, through the roof , you must see the stars!

-much like the star of Bethlehem!! the audience shouted

– Hmmm! The rabbi pondered for a while… Then he showed a picture of a Nativity scene.

-Notice the angels above, on the roof of this picture like the Cherubim onto the ARK, and the flimsiness of the structure. See that the animals can be inside. It is a shelter for all. This is a sukkah, you have taken our sukkah!

Look at these Sukkoth:

A murmur again in the audience. The pastors caught up and said: it’s the plural form of Sukkah.

there were some: oh’s. and the room quieted down again.

The rabbi started again:

So why would Mary being about to give birth would travel to Jerusalem for a census for which they had 3 years to complete? If it weren’t because of the High Holidays which are mandatory? Hear this:

Deuteronomy 16:16

Three times a year all your men must appear before the LORD your God at the place he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Tabernacles. (Pause again)No man should appear before the LORD empty-handed: 17 Each of you must bring a gift (he looked up) in proportion to the way the LORD your God has blessed you.

He explained: ‘knowing she was to give birth, and was to dedicate the first born to the temple, they left for Jerusalem. Because it is commanded in

Exodus 4:22b

‘This is what the LORD says: Israel is my firstborn son, 23a and I told you, “Let my son go, so he may worship me.”

then further:

Exodus 13:13b
Redeem every firstborn among your sons.

Exodus 13:2
“Consecrate to me every firstborn male. The first offspring of every womb among the Israelites belongs to me, whether man or animal.”

Exodus 13:12
you are to give over to the LORD the first offspring of every womb.

because in:

Deuteronomy 21:17b
That son is the first sign of his father’s strength. The right of the firstborn belongs to him.

The pastors conferred. The one looked up and shouted, with an open bible, reading:

-It also says that :

Micah 6:6

With what shall I come before the LORD
and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?

7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousand rivers of oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?’

The rabbi paused. Then He smiled and finished the same passage:

-‘  8 He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

and This is what is expected in a sukkah!’

The pastor who spoke answered:

– Thereby this is mentioned to express two very important points:

-And that would be? asked the rabbis all at once.

The pastor continued:

  • 1: That the First Born redeems the sin of the soul and
  • 2: that one must love mercy and be humble.

The rabbi paused, murmurs again in the room. One of them asked:

-How do you deduct that the first born does redeem?

-Because if it weren’t so, the prophet would not have even mentioned it as a possibility of happening. Plus isn’t it the commandments that the sacrifices that redeem should be the first born?’

The rabbis argued among themselves, then agreed.

– ‘Furthermore, this sacrifice of the first born happened to Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph.

– What do you mean? The Rabbis grew restless. Jacob inherited Isaac and Isaac from Abraham.

-Exactly! Not their first borns but their second ones! Look, Ishmael was the first born, but he was sacrificed to redeem the lack of faith of his father’s wife Sarah. He didn’t die and had his blessings, but did not inherit.

– True! But Isaac was to be sacrificed.

– Yes but precisely, the angel did not allow that, to teach us that the second one inherits. And Jacob was born second and inherited too.

– OK, agreed the rabbis, Esau indeed did not inherit because he sold his birthright, but how do you see that as a sacrifice?

– Simply that he did not inherit the blessings allowed Jacob to do so.

– Hmm! And Joseph?

– Well wasn’t Manasseh the first born? Yet Israel blessed Ephraim as the first. And the same for Cain and Seth. Cain went into oblivion and Seth the younger inherited, Cain redeeming the sins of mankind and his own sin. The teaching there is about that the first is last and the last is first. This is about humility and submission.’ The pastor was done.

– ‘This is found in Christmas! said one pastor.

– And under the Sukkah!’ Called a rabbi.

All eyes turned toward him. He continued:

– ‘Well, the Torah further explains that the offering must be done where God is to be present:

Deuteronomy 12:17

You must not eat in your own towns the tithe of your grain and new wine and oil, or the firstborn of your herds and flocks, or whatever you have vowed to give, or your freewill offerings or special gifts. 18 Instead, you are to eat them in the presence of the LORD your God at the place the LORD your God will chooseyou, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, and the Levites from your towns—(incidentally…:)and you are to rejoice before the LORD your God in everything you put your hand to.

– That was Jerusalem, since when the commandment was given, Jerusalem was not yet in the picture, but, as we all know it was at the time of your Jesus’ birth.

And, as we know, because on the Eighth day, there is a circumcision as a sign of dedication:

Genesis 17:12
For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring.

And when being dedicated to the Lord, then:

Leviticus 27:28

” ‘But nothing that a man owns and devotes (irrevocably) to the LORD -whether man or animal or family land—may be sold or redeemed; everything so devoted is most holy to the LORD.

And so your Miriam had to take the baby to the temple at some point after the birth. But let’s dig deeper first.

-Who? someone asked – Mary, Miriam, in Hebrew.- oh…

– Look, said the rabbi, the Sukkah is to be built as in the wilderness, thus preferably outside the city, but at least outside the house for obvious reasons. This is why Mary and Joseph were somewhat forced to end up around Bethlehem, a few miles away from Jerusalem, but still a part of the greater area.

– No, it says there was no room in any inn! cut a pastor.

– Well, according to you, weren’t they supposed to go to Joseph’s town for that census?

Unanimous yes! from the pastors.

– Then how come they didn’t go there and see his folks to seek refuge for her there but instead chose to look into inns or stables? Especially if the woman was about to give birth. I tell you, they were outside because of  Sukkoth. Furthermore, the High Holidays happen after the harvests, when all goods and raised animals are at their best. Because it is commanded:

Leviticus 23:39a (see above)

” ‘So beginning with the fifteenth day of the seventh month, after you have gathered the crops of the land, celebrate the festival to the LORD for seven days;

Exodus 23:16b
“Celebrate the Feast of In-gathering at the end of the year, when you gather in your crops from the field.

– Now  the Fall Feasts, Yom Teruah and Yom Kippur followed by the mandatory Sukkoth have a very special meaning in the process of salvation. These MUST be understood to get the reasoning behind Jesus’ birth on Sukkoth.

The pastors started to raise some eyebrows. Someone in the audience shouted: Absurd!

– ‘Look, said the rabbi, if you want us to believe that any of your Jesus stories is right in any part, we must get first our pieces right! You guys need to know your bible a bit better: Rosh Ha-Shana/Yom Teruah (that’s like the new year) is a training to listen to the last Trump and represents your call to repentance, followed by a week of repentance, followed by the bridal communion back with our creator on Yom Kippur, demonstrated by the High Priest (your soul) entering the Holy of Holies (your heart) and receiving the Spirit (the Shekinah, the light), which now symbolizes that God has come down in our lives, and as we are forgiven, we are walking His ways, we enter his tabernacle in complete union with Him as he is now with us. It’s all in the bible, all in details. And another thing, to remind us the crossing of the desert when God was with us, so we name the festival of Sukkoth: Immanu-el, God with us.’

The audience murmured again. The Jews nodded their heads in approval, the pastors looked at each other with eyes wide opened.

– ‘On another level it seems to represent the coming of the Messiah’, said one of them. A rabbi continued:

– ‘The bridegroom comes to teach us how to live in Oneness with each other. It therefore makes sense that Jesus, if you want us to believe that He is the suffering Messiah, would be born there and then.

– How do you figure? said another pastor. The rabbi continued:

– ‘Well because, more importantly, Sukkoth is given for our own practice, to train our mind and body into submission and experience of the divine will. It is also to remember the crossing of the desert:

Leviticus 23:43

so your descendants will know that I had the Israelites live in booths when I brought them out of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.’ “

We build a Sukkah to physically experience and remember what it is to walk in the ways of God with the 4 species representing, righteousness, faith, meekness, and pure passion, under the Mercy of God (the roof is like the Seat of Mercy of the Ark.’

-‘I see Jesus’ meekness and obedience to Father’s will, his Passion, quest for unity, faith, and righteousness, a pastor shouted. The rabbis kept quiet. Then one continued:

– ‘Look, in Chabad‘s point of view:

Jewish unity is one of the central themes of Sukkot. The four kinds (species) you are holding symbolize four types of Jews, with differing levels of Torah knowledge and observance. Bringing them together represents our unity as a nation—despite our external differences. So in this spirit of unity, be sure to share your Arba Minim (four species) with your Jewish friends and neighbors!

One body, one mind, one spirit. And then again in:

Nehemiah 8:14

They found written in the Law, which the LORD had commanded through Moses, that the Israelites were to live in booths during the feast of the seventh month 15 and that they should proclaim this word and spread it throughout their towns and in Jerusalem: “Go out into the hill country and bring back branches from olive and wild olive trees, and from myrtles, palms and shade trees, to make booths”-as it is written.

16 So the people went out and brought back branches and built themselves booths on their own roofs, in their courtyards, in the courts of the house of God and in the square by the Water Gate and the one by the Gate of Ephraim.

The festival of booth is so important for the whole world that the prophet warned us:

Zachariah 14:16

Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. 17 If any of the peoples of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, they will have no rain. 18 If the Egyptian people do not go up and take part, they will have no rain. The LORD [d] will bring on them the plague he inflicts on the nations that do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. 19 This will be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles.’

The rabbi paused and looked at his opponents. They seemed to be arguing among themselves. Was it the Law? Why no one told them that? The rabbi continued:

– ‘Look, your Miriam was a Jew according to your book, and also according to those same book, she was very pious, so she had to do what she had to do. But anyway, that festival became a mega international market for nomads and local alike. Probably 2-3 million people could go through Jerusalem in those High Bays.

The pastors frown, thinking. The rabbi continued:

– ‘Can you imagine the amount of cattle and other heads present, sprawling around the little fortified town of Jerusalem! Animals for offerings, animals for sacrifices, oxen, heifers, donkeys, sheep, goats, pigeons, doves, horses, camels; and the feed for all of them and food for their owners, and the oils and the grains, and the baking for offering, and the firewood for the cooking and the heating, and materials for building the Sukkoth. All the surrounding fields were occupied, rented out to merchants, nomads, herders, caravansary from Egypt, Ethiopia, Arabia, Babylon, Turkey, Rome, Greece, buying and selling spices, myrrh, incense, oil, grain, fabrics, gold, silver, amulets, jewelry.

– A pastor commented: ‘That was the best time Jesus could have been born, when the whole world was present, in the field, thousands of shepherds looking up seeing the Star.

-The starsss! interjected a rabbi, the stars! We want to see the sky to demonstrate our faith in God’s mercy. Also this is a holy time where expect to receive Elijah (as in the Spirit of God), or another prophet, as is the custom, and guests, many guests; and because the souls of the people have been cleansed on Yom Kippur, sin is gone, forgiven at the end of the feast.

-Well, said a pastor, you are able to see the sky so as to be able to see that Star of Bethlehem. [Murmurs among the rabbis.] But as for the prophets and the guests, it seems that the Magi could have been those guests. They didn’t seem to have caused much surprise, if you say it was expected to receive guests with gifts, just like for Christmas: getting together and giving. I could go for that.

-Yes, Sukkoth is a reunion time, added one rabbi, a time when all the world is to come together. One rabbi said this:

Bringing together seemingly separate entities is illustrated, most vividly and memorably, in the Four Species. Like a family reunion, the consolidating all parts, “one for all”, generates much joy and happiness. The peaceful harmony of the festival – as in our prayers “Succos Shlomecha, booth of peace” – is the period of being “completely joyous” (Deuteronomy 16:15). Together, we joyously come together – as one body and as one nation – under the protection of G-d to serve and become one with Him. R. Osher Chaim Levene

-I read somewhere that the first Jews called Christians celebrated His birth on Sukkot, said a pastor. Indeed Jesus did teach that unity and prayed for it:

John 17:22

I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one.

A rabbi noted: ‘it does remind me this scripture:

Malachi 2:10
Have we not all one Father ? Did not one God create us? Why do we profane the covenant of our fathers by breaking faith with one another?

A pastor added: ‘And that is why Jesus who demonstrated that his walk under the Law was being in the Spirit as well.

Murmur again among the rabbis: ‘we don’t see how a man can walk under the law and call himself God!

-Later, said one of them, let’s clear this issue first.’

A pastor added

– ‘Isn’t it said:

Psalm 37:11
But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace.

and Jesus said:

Matthew 11:29
Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

One of the rabbis shouted: ‘That is the teaching behind the experience of being in a Sukkah! It is written:

Zephaniah 2:3
Seek the LORD, all you meek of the earth, Who have upheld His justice. Seek righteousness, seek humility. It may be that you will be hidden In the day of the LORD’s anger.

– Exactly! As of the argument that Jesus was trying to take over God’s work, it is a lie. In his meekness He said: ‘whatsoever i Hear, i do’; and that ‘we are to worship our father in heaven in spirit and in truth’, that we must ‘seek first the kingdom of heaven’ so we can get rewarded with earthly things, that’s in your ‘Torah’:

Deuteronomy 8:2

Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. 3 He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.

– We know! we know!!

– And,’ the pastor continued:

‘ Deuteronomy 28:1

If you fully obey the LORD your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. 2 All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the LORD your God.

As for the dying of a human as an atonement, it is in the Torah (Pentateuch).

– What? what are you talking about? Shouted the rabbis in unison.

– When Phineas (Pinchas) the grand son of Aaron kills the Israelite prince and his Moabitess hoar, which made an atonement for all the people, and God stopped the plague which was decimating the Israelites:

Numbers 25: 10

The LORD said to Moses, 11 “Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, has turned my anger away from the Israelites; for he was as zealous as I am for my honor among them, so that in my zeal I did not put an end to them. 12 Therefore tell him I am making my covenant of peace with him. 13 He and his descendants will have a covenant of a lasting priesthood, because he was zealous for the honor of his God and made atonement for the Israelites.

The Jews kept quiet, pensive.

-Jesus said that his commandments are to love each other…

– That is Torah! said a rabbi

– When Jesus said he was one with God, he clearly explained in so many ways that he was just a vessel through whom God acted, and that if we submit and become the same, we can do even more. These who do the will of God are the true sons and thus his brothers.

When we do the word of God, listen to his still voice and obey, we become the living Torah, we bring true life into the word.

– Well said pastor! said a rabbi, This is the meaning of entering the Sukkah, we are the living Ark entering the Tabernacle!

Now it was the pastor’s moment to get thinking.

– ‘And so you say that it is how Jesus being born into your sukkah, demonstrated his whole life that meekness?

_ Well the sukkah is more than that. It is also about obedience, innocence, passion, and purity what the 4 species represent, and that we must have when entering the sukkah, having your Christmas-like experience, without your pagan themes: your trees and your santas, and your other fallacies.

A pastor was to reply, but another shook his head at him. A rabbi continued:

– ‘Just being a Jew or a Christian or not does not insure the kingdom, but union with God, the source of life, does. This is why the Sukkah is so important as it teaches submission to God and oneness with each other.[ See this article.] Indeed, the rabbis say that only one who believes in one God and are spiritually cleansed should enter the sukkah.

– That is the true ‘Christmas’ spirit! The pastors concur, perhaps this is why we only have one sukkah: that of Jesus, the only one who was pure enough to enter one.’

The rabbi conferred among themselves:

– ‘We’ll give you that possibility, but give a shot to the experience of the sukkah anyway. If your Jesus is whom you say he is, then he MUST have celebrated the feast very carefully, otherwise, he would have broken a commandment.

– Christmas in September… No more snow, hmmm?

-Hey, we still have your New Year… Ultimately, the Torah does not prohibit a second Sukkoth.

Published on July 22, 2010 at 4:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

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