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After Moses received the commandments on Mount Sinai, Scripture says that he “took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people” (Exodus 24:7). Immediately, the Children of Israel responded by saying, Kol asher diber Hashem na’aseh v’nishmah — “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will hear.” They immediately resolved to submit to the voice of the Holy One and live within the parameters set forth for them as a redeemed people. However, as we know, this resolve did not have lasting results. Shortly thereafter, their Redeemer quickly took a back seat to the egel hazahav, the golden calf. It seems that within both Judaism and Christianity, this has been the struggle of our spiritual existence ever since.

James, the brother of our Master, reminds us that even after the coming of Messiah, his followers continued to struggle with the same duplicity. He commissions the disciples of Yeshua to “be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing” (James 1:22–25). Do we, as Believers, struggle with these issues even today?

Happy Elul, everyone! May you be inscribed for a WONDERFUL new year!

Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God , and of instruction about washings … (Hebrews 6:1-2)

The third component of the “elementary doctrine of Christ” as found in Hebrews 6:1–2 is “instruction about washings.” It seems this one, seemingly ambiguous phrase has given translators and commentators difficulty since nearly the time it was written. Our various English translations disagree and vary from “instruction about washings” (ESV), to “the doctrine of baptisms” (KJV), to “instruction about cleansing rites” (NIV). Commentators as well seem to have differing perspectives as to its meaning. Regarding this phrase, Franz Delitzsch comments, “the author of our epistle could hardly have chosen a more ambiguous and unsuitable expression than this, which is capable of such various interpretations.” 1

So what is so difficult about this particular instruction and why do translators and commentators have so much difficulty with it? The answer is this one little Greek word, βαπτισμῶν (baptismōn). Generally, the word is found in the singular, βαπτισμός (baptismos). But here, in this passage, we find the plural form which throws a wrench into traditional theology and interpretation. Since, according to Ephesians 4:5 there is only “one baptism,” reading this passage as instructions regarding “baptisms” would seem to indicate something other than Christian baptism. Commenting on this, the ESV Study Bible says,

The Torah is the terms of the covenant between God and His redeemed people. It was given, not just to Moses, but to an entire people at Sinai nearly 3500 years ago. It was God’s initial self-disclosure of His holiness and righteousness to an entire people group.

Although the word messiah literally means “anointed one,” its connotation is that of king. It is a reference to the one who will bring all of Israel (and the entire world) into submission under a central authority. The king of Israel is required to write for himself a copy of the Torah in order to remember that he doesn’t have authority over the Torah, but that the Torah gives him his ruling authority and he must rule within its parameters — those parameters established at Sinai by the Creator of the Universe. Deuteronomy spells out these terms: And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel (Deuteronomy 17:18–20).

Just a few chapters before this, we are given a few of the parameters which would be among those which would determine if Jesus (or any person) met the qualifications of a prophet or leader of Israel:

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Latest Book Review

The Magerman Edition

Author: Daniel Rose & Jay Goldmintz
Publisher: Koren Publishers
Year: 2014

The Koren Ani Tefilla Siddur is one of the latest in Koren’s growing collection of siddurim (prayer books) geared towards a specific demographic. Koren describes Ani Tefilla as “an engaging and thought-provoking siddur for the inquiring high school student and thoughtful adult.” Koren says that Ani Tefillah has been developed in order “to help the user create their own meaning and connection during the Tefilla [prayer] experience.” The name of the siddur is connected with its objective. Ani Tefilla means “I pray.” 

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