Torah: Leviticus 21:1-24:23
Haftarah: Ezekiel 44:15-31
Gospel: Matthew 26:59-66
Rosh HaShanah occurs on the biblical calendar as the next appointed time after the festival of Shavu’ot. Ever since the bestowing of the Spirit at Pentecost we have been awaiting His return. The years have passed and turned into centuries. His disciples still wait for the sound of His trumpet that will herald His return. The annual blast of the shofar foreshadows that day when the heavens will be rent by the sound of Messiah’s trumpet.
Jewish eschatology teaches that the fall festivals allude to the time to come. First comes the judgment on Rosh HaShanah when the court is convened, then the confessions of iniquity on Yom Kippur when the court issues its verdict, and after that, the rejoicing of Sukkot and Shemini Atzeret.
Likewise, the time to come commences with a great day of judgment, corresponding to Rosh HaShanah. After that, it is written, “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness” (Ezekiel 36:25). And the LORD says, “I will pardon those whom I leave as a remnant” (Jeremiah 50:20). These passages correspond to Yom Kippur.
After that comes Sukkot when we dwell in booths for seven days. In this regard, the prophet Isaiah says, “There will be a sukkah to give shade from the heat by day, and refuge and protection from the storm and the rain” (Isaiah 4:6). This is why it is called the season of rejoicing.
Finally, Shemini Atzeret concludes the festivals, corresponding to that day when the time of the nations will be finished and Israel will rejoice.
The sound of Messiah’s shofar will announce His arrival, the inauguration of His kingdom, and His coronation. The world will repent and renounce its wickedness. He will bring a fresh revelation of God to the world, transcending the revelation at Sinai, and the Torah will go forth from Zion as it once did from Sinai.
The trumpet blast that heralds His arrival will be a warning to the wicked. He will rebuild the holy Temple in Jerusalem. He is the son who was bound like Isaac, and in his merit God will forgive Israel their sins. He will fill the world with the fear of the LORD, and all nations will stand in judgment before Him. He will gather the exiles of Israel, for He “will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other” (Matthew 24:31). Then “the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable” (1 Corinthians 15:52).
According to the Talmud, the blowing of the shofar on Rosh HaShanah confuses Satan. The sound of the shofar on Rosh HaShanah frightens him because it reminds him that his time is short. He dreads the shofar blast of the Messiah that will signal the final redemption.
When Satan hears the shofar of Rosh HaShanah, he exclaims in terror, “It is the shofar of the day of judgment! The time is short when I will be swallowed up, as it says, ‘He will swallow up death for all time’” (Tosafot).
Torah: Leviticus 16:1-20:27
Haftarah: Ezekiel 22:1-19
Gospel: Matthew 15:10-20
The twenty-ninth reading from the Torah and sixth reading from Leviticus is named Acharei Mot (אחרי מות), two words that mean “after the death.” The title comes from the first words of the first verse of the reading, which say, “Now the LORD spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron” (Leviticus 16:1). Leviticus 16 describes the Tabernacle ceremony for the holy festival of the Day of Atonement. Leviticus 17 establishes general rules for sacrifice and sanctuary. Leviticus 18 lays down specific laws about permitted and forbidden sexual relationships.
The thirtieth reading from the Torah and seventh reading from Leviticus is named Kedoshim (קדושים), which mean “holy.” The title comes from the words in Leviticus 19:2, which says, “You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.” Leviticus 19 describes the holy community through a series of specific commandments. Leviticus 20 warns against the snares of sexual immorality and idolatry, mandating a death penalty for certain sins. Except in biblical leap years, Kedoshim is read on the same Sabbath as the previous reading, Acharei Mot.
Leviticus 16:1 | The Day of Atonement
Leviticus 17:1 | The Slaughtering of Animals
Leviticus 17:10 | Eating Blood Prohibited
Leviticus 18:1 | Sexual Relations
Leviticus 19:1 | Ritual and Moral Holiness
Leviticus 20:1 | Penalties for Violations of Holiness
Eze 22:1 | The Bloody City
Torah: Leviticus 12:1-15:33
Haftarah: Isaiah 66:1-24
Gospel: Luke 2:22-35; Mark 1:35-45
As the average Bible-reader dutifully slogs through the laws concerning biblical leprosy, he might wonder what this has to do with him, and why the Torah spends so much time on the details of this disease. Unless you are a son of Aaron serving in the Levitical priesthood, the laws of diagnosing and purifying lepers don’t have much application. The average person will never be responsible for distinguishing between one type of rash and another for purposes of declaring someone ritually unfit.
Nevertheless, the laws of biblical leprosy have spiritual applications. Traditionally, the rabbis have used these laws to teach about the grievous sin of evil speech (lashon hara, לשון הרע).
What is it that makes a leper so unique that the Torah says [in Leviticus 13:46], “He shall live alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp”? His gossiping separated a husband from his wife and a man from his neighbor. Therefore said the Torah said, “He shall live alone.” (b.Arachin 16b)
The association between evil speech and leprosy is derived from the story of Miriam’s leprosy (Numbers 12). Miriam was punished with leprosy for grumbling against her brother Moses. The sages inferred from this that biblical leprosy was a punishment for the sin of an evil tongue. Given that piece of information, the laws of the leper (metzora) became fertile ground for homiletic teachings about the sin of evil speech. The rabbis gave moral interpretations for the Torah’s regulations for assessing leprosy and the laws for effecting purification.
For example, the sages taught that the word metzora (leper) is derived from a combination of the Hebrew words motzi (מוציא), which means “wellspring” or “source,” and the Hebrew word ra (רע), which means “evil.” Put them together and it spells the word “leper” (metzora, מצורע)— sort of. It’s not a real etymology. The word metzora actually comes from the Hebrew word for leprosy (tzara’at, צרעת). The “wellspring of evil” explanation is meant as a illustrative reminder.
What is the source from which evil springs? It is the tongue! Therefore, one who speaks evil is a spiritual metzora. James the brother of Yeshua probably knew this interpretation. He alludes to it in his epistle where he compares the tongue to a wellspring:
From the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? (James 3:10-11)