Congregation Bat-Tzion Spring/The Woodlands, TX Shalom! Congregation Bat-TZion in The Woodlands, Texas A Torah observant, Messianic congregation,
making talmidim and building the Body of Messiah

Here is a list of the customs we will address that you will see lived out at Bat-Tzion in the expression of our faith and worship:

Synagogue attendance

Prayer

Facing Jerusalem

Parasha

Tallit / Tzit-tziyot

Kippah

Torah Ceremony and Service

Siddur

Immersion

Sabbath Candles

Bread and Wine

Weddings

Brit Milah

Bar/Bat Mitzvah

Mezuzah

Custom: a habitual practice; the usual way of acting in given circumstances; a practice so long established that it has force of law.
Customs give communities their identity.  Every community, large or small, generates customs.  Cities have customs, towns, even families have customs of their own.  It is human nature, and it is by design.  [The Designer being G-d Himself].  Customs are not always evil.  We see many customs alluded to in scripture which יהוה neither commanded nor condemned.  He specifically condemns many customs and practices.  Those we stringently avoid.  But, the reason to embrace a custom is to express with others a desire to identify and unify.  We, as Messianic Jews and Gentiles, wish to identify with the Messiah Yeshua, and with His people, His community.  He IS a Jew!  So, we embrace the customs of His people which we can easily identify as biblical.  This article identifies those customs, and demonstrates their biblical foundation.


Jewish culture is the most ancient, rich, and biblically symbolic, lasting culture in the world.  The custom of Brit Milah, or circumcision, is the oldest religious rite in the world, and is still practiced today.  Many christian customs derive in some way from Judaism, though many endeavor to REPLACE Jewish biblical custom, or blend them with pagan sources.  But, biblical Jewish customs have their root in scripture, and in some way point to Messiah Yeshua.


In our society, unique culture is virtually lost.  The human heart desires, and even needs customs.  יהוה designed us that way.  But, the heart needs customs that are handed to us from G-d and HIS Word, and not foisted on us by hasatan.  Some Jewish culture is not implicit in scripture, but is present in scripture nonetheless.  This was true in the days of the Prophets, and in the days of the Exile, the times of Yeshua, and in the days of the Apostles as well, as we will demonstrate.


Is it wrong for the Jews to have created customs on their own?  According to Torah, it CANNOT be wrong!  In Genesis 32:32, we learn that the Jews created a custom of not eating the meat of the inner thigh, as Ya’akov’s sinew there was made lame.  יהוה did NOT command them not to eat it, but they, as a community, CHOSE not to eat it to memorialize the event, and they STILL do so to this day.  Since the CUSTOM is acknowledged in scripture and not followed by a reprimand, it cannot be wrong.  The same is true of offering gifts at Purim.  Esther’s salvation of Israel was something to celebrate, and a custom of giving gifts was created, and acknowledge in scripture approvingly.  יהוה did not command them to celebrate, nor to give gifts, but neither did He reprimand them for doing so.  The customs were created for “remembrance” and celebration, and to teach Israel about things יהוה had done for them.  It is only the customs that Jews created that go against Torah for which Yeshua chides Israel, and NOT all their customs.  He participated in, spoke about, and approved of many Jewish customs that are not directly commanded in scripture.  There are customs that are useful, and do not violate Torah.  These are the customs Yeshua acknowledged and followed, and which we practice, for the purpose of elevating our reverence for יהוה and teaching our children His precepts, and for giving our Community a Biblical identity.  Identity as a community is virtually lost in our homogenous world.  For this reason, many wander from their faith.  Customs help us “impress” the Torah upon our children.  Our children are a huge part of our lives, and one of our greatest responsibilities.  It is not good enough to tear them away from pagan custom; we must give them an identity which they can embrace, and which teaches them of G-d their Father and His Savior and Son, Messiah Yeshua.


Our congregation is made up of many people who were not at all familiar with Jewish culture, or customs, before attending.  Many of them have said that having an explanation of the customs would be very helpful, and would have been helpful upon their first visit, so we have attempted to summarize the more frequent and more important customs of the Jews that we as a Messianic Jewish congregation embrace. 


Customs sometimes do not come without controversy, especially when they seem ‘new’.  For instance, ‘christmas’ was a ‘new’ custom in the United States in the Victorian age, as the earliest settlers and the founders had outlawed this custom, viewing it as “papal” and not biblical.  But the tide has turned, and now that many christians have been practicing that custom for some time, but are now beginning to leave it behind again, or atleast some facet of it for its lack of biblical root, controversy follows swiftly.  Change is difficult to accept at times.  But, sometimes change is necessary where truth is concerned.


Again, the Jewish culture is the most ancient, lively culture that is full of customs which have survived the ages and the constant effort by the world to exterminate them.  Yes, many customs have changed slightly, due to the Diaspora and the need to adapt some of the customs into a more modern lifestyle.  But, at their root, the biblical Jewish customs which Bat-Tzion embraces have their original purpose and message in tact, and do not violate or contravene Torah.


Our customs have meaning.  They convey a message to us, and more importantly to our CHILDREN.  That message is that Messiah Yeshua is the salvation of the WORLD.  Every biblical custom we embrace points to Messiah and some important facet of His ministry.  He is the goal of our faith, and by extension, the goal of the practice of our faith, or, our customs.  Faith without “doings” is dead faith.
Before we get too far, we will first assert that there are SEVERAL places in the Brit Chadasha [New Testament] where we see Yeshua AND  the apostles KEEPING Jewish customs, AND teaching GENTILES to do the same:


First, Messiah prayed often.  There is NO COMMAND to pray!  But, Yeshua prayed frequently, in a Jewish manner, which will be elaborated upon.  But, suffice it to say that prayer itself is a CUSTOM and NOT a “law”!  Yet, Messiah practiced this custom often.  Matt 14:23, Luke 9:18, 11:1


Likewise, Yeshua attended the synagogue on the Sabbath.  This was not a command, but a CUSTOM, and He made it HIS custom!  Luke 4:16. 

“And He came to Natzaret, where he had been raised, and as HIS CUSTOM was, He went into the Synagogue on the Sabbath Day”.


There are many places in all the gospels where we see Messiah in the Synagogue [never a ‘church’], but here we see that it was HIS CUSTOM!  See below the explanation as to the fact that SYNAGOGUE attendance is NOT commanded!
In the early congregations, there was a rumor circulating that the JEWISH followers of Messiah were trying to do away with the CUSTOMS of MOSES.
“[they] set up FALSE witnesses which said….that this Yeshua of Natzaret shall destroy this place, and shall CHANGE the CUSTOMS which Moshe delivered to us”. Acts 6:15
Second, Shaul is seen in Jerusalem with many Jewish believers in Messiah Yeshua who PRACTICED THE TORAH AND the customs of the Jews

“You see, brother, how many THOUSANDS of Jews there are which BELIEVE; and they are ALL ZEALOUS for the TORAH!  And they are informed of you, that you teach all the Jews to forsake Moshe, saying they ought NOT to circumcise their children, neither TO WALK AFTER THE CUSTOMS!”  Acts 21:26


So, we see here that the Jewish believers in Messiah Yeshua not only followed the Torah zealously after they believed in Yeshua, but also CONTINUED to DO the customs of Jews!  And, when reading further, we find that Shaul agreed to PROVE that He did NOT teach Jew NOR Gentile not to follow the CUSTOMS.  In later scripture, we find that he TAUGHT the CUSTOMS of JEWS to gentiles! 

Shaul ends up having to defend his OWN keeping of the CUSTOMS at a later time.

“I went up to Jerusalem to worship”…I believe “all things which are written in the Torah and in the Prophets [a Jewish way to say “old testament”]…and herein do I practice myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward G-d, and men….” I came to bring alms to my nation, and offerings [torah commands/customs]…Acts 25
“I have fulfilled my duty to G-d in all good conscience to this day”  Acts 23
“I have committed NOTHING agains the [Jewish]  people, or the CUSTOMS of OUR fathers, yet I was delivered prisoner from Jerusalem…” Acts 28:17
Since we see that Shaul not only practiced the customs, but vehemently and passionately defended the fact that he did, as a matter of PUBLIC RECORD, we now must decide whether he taught them.  He did.
Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the [Jewish] CUSTOMS which you have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle. 2Th 2:15
Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our LORD Yeshua the Messiah, that you withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the [Jewish] CUSTOMS which he received of us.  2Th 3:6
Hold fast to the [Jewish] CUSTOMS which I have delivered to you.  1 Cor 11:2
In each of the Brit Chadasha portions above, the word in the greek text is “paradosis”, which means JEWISH CUSTOMS.  So, not only did Shaul practice them, but he TAUGHT GENTILES to KEEP THEM, and encouraged them to KEEP THEM after he heard they began again NOT TO!  Probably one of the bigger violations he was addressing was their turning away from SYNAGOGUE worship on the Sabbath, as he also expressed in his letter to the JEWS.
“Do not forsake the ASSEMBLING of yourselves together, as the CUSTOM of some is!” Heb 10:25

We will address this custom first.

Synagogue Attendance

Why would we need to address this?  Because attendance in a facility other than the Beit HaMikdash [Temple of Jerusalem] is nothing more than CUSTOM, whether it be ‘christian’ OR Jewish!  It would seem everyone would understand the need to attend some sort of worship?  While this is true on one level, the need to attend the ‘synagogue’, or ‘beit ha’k’nesset’, is different than the impetus of christians to “go to church”.  What do we mean?  There is a direct command in the Torah to “assemble”.  We as Messianics follow Torah.  There is an implicit command to ‘assemble’ [which is where the greek word for ‘synagogue’ comes from], but the command to assemble is related to specific times, and implicitly to the TEMPLE.  There is no implicit command to assemble IN THE SYNAGOGUE, neither in the ‘church building’.  But, the command to ASSEMBLE on the SABBATH is there, though it does not specify what venue to use.

"Speak unto the children of Yisra'el, and say unto them: The appointed seasons of יהוה, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are My appointed seasons. Six days shall work be done; but on the seventh day is a sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation; you shall do no manner of work; it is a sabbath unto יהוה in all your dwellings."

So, we see that there are many holy convocations, and that the Sabbath is the first one listed.  What, then, is a ‘holy convocation’?, and why is the Sabbath called a “Shabbat to יהוה in ALL YOUR DWELLINGS?”  A Holy Convocation is a “separate and distinct cause or “calling” to CONGREGATE”.  Mikraiy comes from the word “who are called” in Hebrew.  So, an ‘assembly’ is a “calling out of our homes”.  And the Sabbath is one that is ‘to יהוה in ALL YOUR DWELLINGS.  Is this perhaps because יהוה foreknew that His “Kahal”, or “Congregation” would one day envelop ALL the earth?  We believe He did.  The Sabbath is unique in this regard, as there are some facets of some of the feasts which He would later command can only be performed in Jerusalem in the Beit HaMikdash, but the Sabbath He commanded for ALL our dwelling places.  It’s important to note that He did not say “in all your houses”, but in all your “dwelling places”, or places where we would settle.  We, Congregation Bat-Tzion, have ‘settled’ in The Woodlands, Tx., and its outlying areas.  But, we ‘assemble’ for our mikraey kadosh, or holy assemblies, in our sanctuary as a ‘kahal’, an ‘assembly’.


The customs of the Synagogue emerged in the times of Daniel, and Ezra, and Nehemiah, and many of the later prophets, including Zechariah, Amos and Malachi.  The custom to ‘assemble’ in a LOCAL building  OTHER than the Beit HaMikdash, or ‘Temple’, comes from this period and before.  The ROOT purpose for this assembling together on the Sabbath was to HEAR THE TORAH.  Torah scrolls are sacred, were very expensive and hard to come by, and had to be handled very carefully.  Very few people had a Torah scroll in their home.  So, in areas outside of Jerusalem, and also when Israel was in Babylon, synagogues, or “houses of assembly” were built, in order to keep the command to “assemble in all your dwelling places”.  We see this still being played out in the times of the Apostles, which is detailed in other places on our website, but suffice it to say that Ya’akov, or James, the brother of Yeshua, implied that ALL believers would continue to do this, when He said that MOSHE [or the Torah] is read in the SYNAGOGUES on the SABBATH. [Acts 15:21].  It has already been pointed out that Yeshua Himself attended the synagogue customarily when He was not in Jerusalem.   There are at least TWELVE places in the gospels where Yeshua is seen worshipping in the Synagogue.


The Jewish leaders in Babylon were Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Zechariah, Mordechai, and Malachi.  They established many of the customs associated with Synagogue worship.  They coined the term “synagogue”, or “house of assembly”.  They fashioned the building after the temple, with a “bimah” from which the Torah is read, with its separate “courts”, and with the prayers they used in reading the Torah.  Since we view Daniel, Ezra, and the other afore mentioned prophets as prophets, we view their practices as approved by יהוה.  Yeshua confirms that יהוה accepted the practices Himself by attending the Synagogue on Shabbat, and even reading at the Bemah.  Luke 4:16 states that he ‘STOOD UP TO READ’ as part of His CUSTOM!

Christianity models “church attendance” after this, but of course has changed the day and the other ‘customs’ associated with it, not reading the Torah being the biggest diversion.

 

Prayer

As stated previously, prayer is NOT commanded in scripture.  Nowhere does יהוה tell His people to pray, yet Abraham prayed in the morning, Isaac prayed in the day, and Jacob prayed at night.  David, the author of many biblical prayers [T’hillim, or “Psalms”], echoed this sentiment in Psalm 55:18:

“Evening, and morning, and afternoon do I pray and cry out, and He will hear my voice”

Daniel is seen praying these three times a day in Babylon [Daniel 6:11].  Ezra created the ‘liturgy’ of prayer that would be used in Synagogues throughout the ages, and the times of the prayers coincide with the times of the offerings that were made in the Temple according to Moshe’s instruction in Torah.  This liturgy has changed only slightly over time.  Bat-Tzion has endeavored to go back to the original prayer liturgy of Ezra as instituted in the Synagogues very early on, consisting predominantly of blessings from the Torah and prayers from the Psalms,  with the additions of prayers that we read in Brit Chadasha. 
The predominant prayers in our liturgy are [but not limited to]:

The Shemah

Barchu

V’shamru

The Ma Tovu

Aaronic Benediction

Blessing over the Children [Yeh’simcha]

L’Yom HaShabbat [Psalm 92]

Daily Psalms [seen on home page]

The Disciples Prayer [or the Amidah]

Eshet Chaiyil

There are other blessings and prayers that we pray both privately and corporately, but these are the more significant ones that warrant background explanation. 

The Shema is customarily the “Greatest Command” in Judaism, and Messiah Yeshua supports that custom!  Nowhere does the Torah say “The Shemah is the greatest command”!  BUT, Messiah Yeshua does in the Brit Chadasha, and in so doing, He supports a CUSTOM that was prevalent in Judaism in the first century, and still is today!

“Yeshua answered, “the most important commandment is this: “Shema!  Yisrael!  יהוה Eloheynu, יהוה Echad!” [HEAR, O Israel!  יהוה is our G-d, יהוה is ONE”.  Mark 12:29

Ezra and the prophets of his day established this, and instructed Israeli men to pray this passage, Deuteronomy 6:4-9, each day, twice a day, once in the evening and once in the morning.  We do this, as it reminds us to love Elohim [G-d] with ALL of our being, spiritual and material.  We also sing this prayer each Shabbat as the Torah is presented, to remind us to HEAR it!  Shema means not only ‘hear’, but HEAR AND DO!

In our worship, we bless יהוה with the “Barchu”, which simply means “we bless יהוה who is forever blessed”, [Ps 28:6, 41:12-13] and is basically a formal call to prayer for the congregation. 

The Jewish concept of “prayer” comes from the word התפלל hitpalel, and has in it the concept of “self transformation”, the root of the word meaning “to judge”.  Since we are commanded not to ‘judge’ others, we know it is יהוה who judges, and we are to judge ourselves in order to receive mercy from Him.   We at Bat-Tzion do not view prayer as a time of seeking G-d for goodies, but a time of endeavoring to be “conformed to the image of the Son of G-d” by worshipping Him in our hearts, desiring to bring His pureness and Presence into our bodies and souls and our world, and to be transformed by HIS WORD.  We do this “yachad”, “together”, at the times of assembly, seeking transformation as a Body into the image of the Son.

After the Barchu, we pray the V’shamru [Exodus 31:16-17], which is the command to Israel to keep the Sabbath FOREVER!  It is a SIGN!  We believe this is the “Sign of the Son of Man”, since Yeshua Himself was a Sabbath keeper.  It is also a remembrance of the Creator, and of the Creation, two things the world has deliberately chosen to forget.  [ II Peter 3:5 ]  Might mankind’s deviation from Shabbat have contributed to evolutionary thought?

The Ma Tovu is “How beautiful are your tents, o Jacob, your tabernacles O Israel”, [Num 24:5, and other scriptures] which we believe alludes to the tallit we wear, and calls to mind the BLESSING that was meant by a gentile to be a CURSE.  This reminds us that no matter how men try to curse us, יהוה will turn it into a BLESSING!  Many are the curses of the world upon those who follow Messiah, but we overturn those curses with blessings. 

The Aaronic Benediction is Numbers 6:24-26, which is done at the end of our services, since יהוה says ‘you shall bless Israel in this manner: you shall say to them….”.   This reminds us that His NAME is upon us, so we go out in right behavior into the world.  This blessing is sung with an ancient melody attributed to Aaron himself, which causes the words of the blessing to be firmly planted in the soul of the hearer, as music is well reputed to promote memory.  The ‘difference’ with this blessing done by the leader is that his hands are raised, with his tallit over his head and arms.  This is only a ‘picture’, demonstrating the ‘covering’ of the Ruach HaKodesh over the congregation.  But this rite is likely the most ‘unusual’ to the visitor.  See the information on “tallit” for more explanation.

Yeh’simcha is “May He Make YOU”, and comes from Gen 48:20, which is how Israel instructed his twelve sons to bless all successive generations’ children as fathers.  Abraham blessed Isaac, and Isaac blessed Jacob, Israel [Jacob] blessed all twelve of his sons, but instructed his sons to bless their children with this blessing: “May יהוה make you like Ephraim and like Menashe”.  We believe this is for several reasons: first, Ephraim and Menashe were YOUNG when they received this blessing, while everyone else was a GROWN MAN when they received their fathers’ blessings.  “In truth I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of Elohim LIKE A LITTLE CHILD shall in no wise enter therein.” [ Yeshua, Luke 18:17 ].  Further, Ephraim means “fruitful”, and Mehashe means “forget”.   Yeshua said, “Here is how MY Father is glorified, the you bear MUCH FRUIT, so that you shall be my disciples”.  [John 15:8]  And to ‘forget’ our former ways and the offenses of those who offend us, and press on to the mark of the High Calling of Elohim, we are also instructed to forget, just as Joseph forgot how his brothers had treated him.  [Phlm 3:13] And finally, Ephraim and Menashe were NOT part of the betrayal of the brothers.  Ya’akov made Ephraim and Menashe HIS OWN CHILDREN.  He adopted them!  And as such, they were brothers with their father Joseph, who had been betrayed by the other brethren.  Ephraim and Menashe, then, were the part of Israel that did not betray.  All of these things are great desires we at Bat-Tzion have for our children, so we bless our children in this manner as well, also praying the Aaronic benediction at the same time.  We do so at the Sabbath table in our homes, and during Shabbat as a community.  On Shabbat, the dads gather around the children and the blessing is recited while it is sung.  This is a ‘picture’ of Israel being gathered at the foot of the mountain entering into covenant with יהוה, [Exodus 19, Exodus 24] which we also desire for our children.

The Daily Psalms were prayed in the Temple each day.  We see ourselves as the Beit HaElohim, the “House of G-d” [I Cor 3:16 ], and as priests in His House, so we pray the same prayers the Priests prayed daily in the Beit HaMikdash [Temple].

The Disciples’ Prayer is the prayer that Messiah taught to His Disciples in Mark 6:9-13.  This prayer is modeled very similarly to the Eighteen Benedictions which the Pharisees were teaching to the Jews in the time of Messiah.  As the Eighteen Benedictions are very long, we believe Messiah summarized what Ezra was communicating in The Disciples’ Prayer.  Some of us pray the Amidah [Standing Prayer – another name for the 18 Benedictions], but some only pray the Disciples’ Prayer.  Yeshua told His disciples, “when you STAND praying, forgive”.  The Disciple’s Prayer is rooted in forgiveness, teaching us that whatever measure we use to forgive will be measured to us.  It is important to remember to pray for our own forgiveness through Messiah Yeshua, but ALSO to remember TO FORGIVE others.  This was also the sixth “benediction” of the 18 Benedictions of the Amidah.  If we, as Messianic Jews, pray the Amidah, we do not recite number 12, which is actually the NINETEENTH, and is a CURSE.  Our Messiah instructs us “Bless and DO NOT CURSE”, so we differ with mainstream Judaism on this prayer, which was added by Jews FOR Messianics in 150AD, who would not join mainstream Jews who believed Simon BarKochba was the Messiah.!  But, we overturn this prayer as well with the Ma Tovu!

Eshet Chaiyil is a prayer that is traditionally sung by the husband in the home at the beginning of Shabbat.  It means “Virtuous Woman”.  It is a beautiful prayer contained in the book of Proverbs, chapter 31:10-31, and is thus “prophetic”.  A proverb is a “mashal”, and is the same word used for “parable” in the Brit Chadasha, and for the first “prophecy” in scripture.  This is the description of the “Bride” of Messiah, and as such, is prayed over our wives in our homes on Shabbat.  The Shabbat has long been called “The Bride”.  An ancient prayer, “L’cha Dodi Likrat Kallah”, or “Go out!  my beloved, to meet the Bride”, speaks of the Sabbath as ‘the Bride’.  L’cha Dodi is quoted in the book of Ephesus.  Eshet Chaiyil speaks of a ‘woman of valor/virtue’.  Every Jewish man is commanded to “make your wife happy” [Deut 24:5].  Recognizing her many accomplishments before יהוה certainly helps to do this.  This prayer is therefore prayed over Jewish wives in the home on Shabbat.

Our Sabbath liturgy varies at times during the month, and on the feasts, but all of the prayers allude to Temple worship and the practices that were prevalent in the Temple and in the Synagogues, which Yeshua would have gladly participated in.  It was, after all, His CUSTOM!

Facing Jerusalem

In the synagogue, when we remove the Torah from the Aron Kadosh [Ark], we face east toward Jerusalem, as Jerusalem is in the east from Texas. We know other religions do something similar, and that this is strange to some believers, but those other religions are the false ones! They rob from Judaism and pervert the truth. Our faith is rooted in Judaism, and the Jewish tradition of facing Jerusalem to pray when outside of The Land is in scripture! The rite goes all the way back to the prophet Daniel when he was in exile! It goes even further, if one considers what Shlomo [Solomon] prayed when he dedicated the first Temple:

"and of Your people, Yisra'el,, when they shall pray toward this place; yes, hear in heaven, Your dwelling-place; and when You hear, forgive". I Kings 8:30

and, "when they do sin against You; if they pray toward this place, and confess Your name, and turn from their sin, when You afflict them; then hear from heaven, and forgive the sin of Your servants, and of Your peopleYisra'el, when You teach them the good way wherein they should walk..." 8:35-36

and, "of his own heart, and spread forth his hands toward this house; then hear Thou in heaven Thy dwelling-place, and forgive, and do, and render unto every man according to all his ways, whose heart You know..." 8:39-40

and, if there is any question whether gentiles should do this custom: "Moreover concerning the stranger that is not of Your people Yisra'el, when he shall come out of a far country for Your name's sake--for they shall hear of Your great name, and of Your mighty hand, and of Your outstretched arm--when he shall come and pray toward this house; hear from heaven Your dwelling-place, and do according to all that the stranger calls to You for; that all the peoples of the earth may know Your name, to fear You, as do Your people Yisra'el." 8:41-43

So, Daniel had plenty of reason to pray toward Yerushalayim! And, he did so in spite of the fact that the Temple was destroyed!

"And when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house--now his windows were open in his upper chamber toward Yerushalayim--and he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his Elohim, as he did aforetime".

Yisra'el, both spiritual and natural, is in exile; all Yisra'el awaits the day of returning to The Land and living under the Peace of Messiah. Turning toward Yerushalayim in prayer, then, is an expression of the desire for the beginning of the Messianic Reign, when all the world will bow the knee to Messiah, who will rule the whole earth from Yerushalayim. This tradition was instituted by Shlomo, began during the Babylonian exile, was practiced in the time of Messiah in the synagogues outside Yerushalayim, including where Shaul and the Shlichim preached [Paul and the other Apostles]. We at Bat-Tzion honor this tradition, as we long for the day when Peace will rule from Yerushalayim.

 

Parasha

The Parasha is a schedule of reading the Torah in a three year period. Many synagogues do so on a one year cycle, but the practice in the time of Yeshua was a 3 year cycle, to which Bat-Tzion has returned. This is not commanded, but is a custom, and one that Yeshua also yielded to, and demonstrated was even PROPHETIC! Since the schedule is the same each year, the portion being read at any given time of year will always be the same year to year. There is a “portion”, [which is what Parasha means] of Torah read on each Shabbat, a portion of the Prophets,called “haftarah”, which means ‘parting’, and for Messianic Jews, a portion of the Brit Chadasha is also read. Each portion has it’s own name, such as “B’resheet”, the first portion, getting it’s name from the first word in the portion, “In the beginning”. In Messiah’s time, it becomes clear that the CUSTOM of Torah AND Haftarah reading was in place, though we cannot know precisely what their Haftarah divisions were to the verse. But, we see the practice as He approached the Bimah to read and the Isaiah scroll was HANDED TO HIM, suggesting that it was TIME to read from the Isaiah scroll! We believe it was, as Yeshua read a prophecy about Himself when He read! [ Luke 4:16 ]. Ezra and Nehemiah and the other prophets of their day established a reading schedule, which ensures that if a person attends Synagogue, he will HEAR the whole Torah over a period of time, repeatedly for the rest of his life. Ya’akov also alludes to this in Acts 15:21, “For Moshe is read each Shabbat in the Syngagoues”This is what the goas was: to make sure everyone heard/read the Torah completely! At Bat-Tzion, we do not read the full portion in Synagogue, but task our members to do so during the week, as we all now have Torah scrolls in our homes! [Bibles]. In the time of Messiah, they did not, so this was the only way to hear/study the Word. The important part of the Parasha is that it is done TOGETHER. Rebellious people tend to think they do not need the guidance of community, and reject a schedule, as well as other customs which are meant to unify us and give us identity. But, Israel is seen as ONE MAN!


Exodus 4:22 “Israel [ the nation ] is my firstborn Son”.
Psalm 133  “Behold, How GOOD and how PLEASANT it is when brethren DWELL TOGETHER in PERFECT ONENESS.”  This is the same concept mentioned in the Shabbat command, of keeping the Sabbath in “all your DWELLINGS [settlements]”.   What better place to DWELL TOGETHER than in His WORD!
Ezra 3:1 And when the seventh month was come, and the children of Israel were in the cities, the people GATHERED THEMSELVES together AS ONE MAN to Jerusalem.
A similar event occurs in Brit Chadasha
Acts 2:1 “And when the day of Shavuot was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place”.

There are HUNDREDS of scriptures that speak about unity/unison, crying out in ONE VOICE, et cetera, in both “Old and New” testaments.  Unity in prayer and in reading, therefore, is not about losing self-identity and autonomy, but recognizing that we are NOT our own, that we are BOUGHT at a price from slavery just as Israel, and that we are part of something greater than the individual.  The parasha gets us focused on the Torah TOGETHER, but leaves us room as individuals to “glean” from the Ruach what He would speak.  It is indeed a beautiful picture, since we are indeed individuals who are part of ONE BODY.  And Messiah honored the custom while He was in Israel.


Tzit-tziyot - Tallit

The tallit is probably the most “visible” custom we practice.  The tallit is called such, as it is considered these days to be a “prayer garment”.  Fastened to the tallit are the tzit-tziyot, the “fringes” or “tassles” which are on the corners of the garment.  The fringes themselves are implicitly commanded in Torah:

"And יהוה spoke unto Moshe, saying:'Speak unto the children of Yisra'el, and bid them that they make them throughout their generations fringes in the corners of their garments, and that they put with the fringe of each corner a thread of blue. And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that you may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of יהוה, and do them; and that you go not about after your own heart and your own eyes, after which you use to go astray; that you may remember and do all My commandments, and be holy unto your Elohim."

It is not the “fringes” that have changed, but the garments themselves.  We as western people do not wear an outer garment that also functions as a blanket, and as a prayer covering, having four corners.  Very few modern garments have corners at all, especially for men.  But, in the times of Moshe, the Prophets, and Messiah Yeshua, men wore a garment that served as a blanket, a prayer covering, and a burial shroud.  This goes way back into antiquity and is common historical knowledge of all the middle-eastern cultures .  It is on this garment, which was once called an “abayah”, upon which יהוה commands the tzit-tzit.  יהוה is seen clothing man from the beginning, which is a spiritual picture.  In our sin, we are naked.  He clothes us.  He clothed Adam and Chavah in the garden.  He “covered” Noah in the ark, Himself the only one capable of closing the door.  He covered Moshe in the cleft of the rock.  He covered Israel in the pillar of cloud and fire for forty years.  He covered Yeshua in the Ruach HaKodesh when Yochanan HaMatbil immersed Him in the Jordan River.  The idea of “covering” is throughout the Torah AND the Brit Chadasha.  “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem!  How often I have longed to gather you, as a hen gathers her chicks UNDER HER WINGS”  [Matt 23:37].  The word “wings” here is the same word, “K’naph”, for ‘corners’ in the commandment on where to fasten the tzit tzit. The idea of clothing being associated with holiness is given the same treatment in both ends of the book as well.  Elijah’s cloak was seen as the bearer of his ANOINTING, which is why Elisha coveted it.  The practice of men covering their heads when praying comes from way back in antiquity, and is hardly debatable.  The tallit seen in the synagogues today is not worn daily because of the universal change in common attire, but smaller forms of it are, in order to affect the wearing of the commanded tzit-tzit.  While the tallit itself is smaller than the original abayah, the desired result is the same: having the tzit tzit on the CORNERS of the garment that protects us, and under which we pray.  There is no doubt that Yeshua wore a garment that bore the tzit-tzit.  The woman who had the bleeding touched the “wing” [corner/ hem] of His outer garment, upon which the tzit tzit hang, and was healed.

The fringes were specially tied, representing the numeric value of the name of יהוה, 26, and Echad, 13 in the number of knots tied, totaling 39: יהוה ECHAD!  This is the ‘custom’ part of the ‘command’, showing how customs and commands are often “intertwined”. In Rev. 19:11-16 we read  “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of G-d. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean.  Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. "He will rule them with an iron scepter." He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of G-d Almighty.  On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”

Himation (vesture/robe), used two times in this passage, is the Greek word which refers to the Hebrew Tallit. He is clothed with this vesture. “Clothed” here is the Greek word periballo, meaning cast or thrown about, like a shawl is worn, which is how a Tallit is put on. A Tallit also rests upon the thighs and there is writing upon it.   This dispels the notion that modern writing on the tallit is unbiblical or completely a manmade concept.  The picture here is extremely Jewish, and we need to consider that since the Torah forbids tattoos in the flesh, that this NAME “written” on His thigh is not actually in His flesh, but the tzit-tzit hanging at about that level, as most tallits do.

Today it is traditional for the Tallit to have stripes on each end. The stripes are usually blue and this is associated with the blue strand of the Tzitzit. The number and meaning of the stripes may vary, but for believers the stripes symbolize that we are healed by the Messiah’s stripes.
One last application we see in the Brit Chadasha (New Testament) is the spirit of G-d descending on Yeshua as a Dove. Doves have wings, or kanfot, as does a TALLIT. The dove descended upon Him as a Tallit on His shoulders. This began Yeshua's ministry.  So, the tallit is a “picture” of the anointing we are ALL supposed to have, since “Messianic” means ‘anointed ones’ [as does ‘christian’], where the tzit tzit is the “dripping” of the oil being poured. [Psalm 133].  These are “pictures” of what is taking place spiritually.

Shaul, a teacher of the customs, we learn, had a craft.  Where does a theocratic lawyer, a Pharisee, as Shaul was, learn a manual craft?  In Acts 18:3, we learn that he shared a craft with two Jews, Aquila and Priscilla.  He did not learn it from them, but knew it already when he met them. That craft is listed as “tentmakers”, but this is an obscure word in both the Aramaic and Greek originals, used only this once in all of scripture.  The greek comes from two words meaning “tabernacle” and “to make”.  Is it likely that this elite Pharisee [Acts 28] learned a menial task of making leather-hide tents, as most assert, or that he, as a religious leader, knew how to make the most important garment to Jews and did so to make ends meet, and shared that skill with two other Jews in Corinth?  It is our contention that Shaul was a tallit maker, and that he used that skill to earn his living in Corinth, making tallits for both Jews and Gentile believers.


Kippah (yarmulke)

The Kippah is a ‘covering’ that is only slightly reminiscent of the priestly mitre commanded in scripture.  [ Exodus 28:4 ] The fact that Jews wore head coverings in antiquity is well documented, with probably the most compelling being the marble relief of Sennacherib, where Jews are seen in the time of Hezekiah and Isaiah visiting the Assyrian king, wearing head coverings.   The origin of wearing a kippah is indeed a later custom of Jews, and is not commanded in Torah.  According to Jewish tradition, it is done to remind the wearer that “G-d is above my head”, or, “He rules over me”.   There is a blessing that is said by some who wear a kippah, “Blessed are you oh יהוה our G-d, King of the Universe, who crowns Israel with splendor”.  This is compelling, considering the psalm:

"What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you think of him? Yet You have made him but little lower than the angels, and have crowned him with glory and honor."

Psalm 8

The kippah in its current form is therefore seen as a “crown”, hence the small shape.  Interestingly, it is the book of Revelation that states “Let no man take thy crown”.  Obviously, this is not speaking of the kippah, but for Messianic Jews, the kippah alludes to the future crown we will receive.  In its current form, the kippah has been the article of clothing that identifies Jewish men as Jews customarily.  In Orthodox Judaism, in some sects, it has become “law” that a man must always wear a kippah.  Some of our men who are Jewish do wear a kippah in order to be in some way yet unified/identified with the wider Jewish community, but we do not wear it as a matter of “law”, but customarily.  For the Messianic Jew, it has even deeper meaning, considering that Kepha wrote, “When the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of glory that will not fade away”.   [ I Peter 5:4 ]

 

Torah Service

The Torah service is a very ancient Synagogue ritual.  It hearkens back to the day David rejoiced when the Ark, which contained the Stone Tablets, a Torah Scroll, entered into his city.  The Torah in a synagogue resides in a cabinet which is also called an “Ahron”, a “Cabinet” or “Ark”.  The Ark is typically on the east wall, so that when facing it, we are facing the Holy City of Jerusalem, where the actual Ark was in the Holy of Holies, and where it will be again when Messiah, the “Ark” of theTorah of יהוה, rules there.  During the Shabbat worship, after the prayers are prayed and it is time to read the Torah, the Torah is removed from the Ark with much reverence and ceremony.  A casual glance at scripture shows that ceremony is very prevalent in Temple Worship. 

The Torah descends from its elevated station, is escorted through the congregation.  Congregants endeavor not to turn their backs on the Torah.  It proceeds throughout, and every congregant is given an opportunity to reverence the Torah, by touching it, either with their hand, or with their own Tanak, or with their tallit.  Usually, a kiss is offered, in a display of affection for the Word of the LORD.  The Torah then ascends and is placed on the elevated Bemah, from there to be declared to the congregation, as it is “above” every word man utters.


This custom is an ancient Jewish ritual, but is probably one of the more vivid images of Messiah Yeshua the Jews could give.  Yeshua IS the Torah!  He came out of the heart of Elohim the Father.  The Torah comes out of the “ark” in like fashion.  The scroll itself is cloaked in a Robe fashioned after that of the High Priest.  Yeshua IS our High Priest!  It has a “breastplate” and “crowns”.  Yeshua bears the same in the book of Revelation.  It descends, is touched by all equally, as we desire and strive not to turn our backs on Him, and then it ascends and is declared.  Yeshua “descended” to us from Heaven, touched all who would touch Him, and then ascended to heaven, and now speaks to us by the Ruach ha Kodesh.  The scroll hangs on a “tree”, the wooden spindles to which it is fastened.  It is “opened”, just as Yeshua was “opened” on the tree, gushing forth life for all who would believe. It is then placed back in the Ark.  The Ark is the picture of a “heart”.  We are supposed to, after hearing His WORD, HIDE IT IN OUR HEARTS.

Few Jewish ceremonies point as clearly to the Messiah Yeshua as this one.  During this ceremony, the Shema is chanted.  The Shema is Deut 6:4-9.  “Shemah” means HEAR AND ACT UPON.  Our greatest desire is to HEAR the Will of the Father through the Ruach of Messiah Yeshua AND ACT UPON IT!  This ceremony is powerful in helping us to ‘see’ this picture.


Siddur

For protestants, the siddur might be the most ‘imposing’ custom.  While it is certain the siddur did not exist in the time of Messiah, many of the prayers therein did.  In those days, time was more available, and men entered the synagogue DAILY in order to memorize scripture, including the prayers.  These prayers are alluded to in the book of Acts:  “And they continued daily in the apostles’ teaching, in fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in THE PRAYERS.”  [Acts 2: 42]  The fact that they attended the synagogue daily to study is also seen in Acts.  “They continued DAILY in the TEMPLE with ONE ACCORD” [Acts 2:46].  The Temple was basically Jerusalem’s “Synagogue”, or “house of assembly”.   The Berean Synagogue is now famous: they “received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so”.  Acts 17:11  This tradition continued for years, until modern life busied men so it became impractical to do so.  It also became more difficult to commit to memory all the prayers, so they were compiled into a “siddur”.  A siddur is a book of prayers.  The word siddur comes from the Hebrew word that means “order”.  It is the “order of worship”.  Shaul used this word in telling us that everything in our assemblies should be “in order”.  The siddur is a guideline, then, in the pattern of worship, and assists the worshipper in remembering the common prayers.  Many eventually do memorize ALL the prayers, and no longer need a siddur!.  But the guiding tool is always there.

The prayers are listed separately in this article, but we will just reiterate here that they all come from scripture.  “The WORD will be in your heart and IN YOUR MOUTH”.  This is one way that we keep His Word in our mouths, collectively.


Sabbath Candles

Lighting the Sabbath Lights is something Messianic Jews and Gentiles do in order to acknowledge that the Sabbath has started IN OUR HOMES, and that it is time to elevate our contemplation to a greater focus on יהוה and His Messiah Yeshua. It is customarily done some twenty minutes before sundown on the evening of the sixth day [Fri], since the Biblical day starts at sundown. There is indeed no command in the Torah which explicitly tells us to light candles on the Sabbath. However, we know through common sense that Jews in the time of Messiah lit candles each evening as the sun began to go down: they had no electricity with which to constantly light their homes.

Customarily, since antiquity, the woman lights the lights in the home on Shabbat, and prays a prayer of blessing upon doing so. In this way, the Sabbath is ushered in through "the light of woman". For Messianic Jews, there is a double picture here. Miriam, the mother of Yeshua, is the one who brought Messiah into the world in flesh, through the power of the Ruach HaKodesh. In so doing, she brought the Light of the World to mankind. Since Messiah is "Master of the Sabbath", as He called Himself, it is a fitting picture that a woman light the Sabbath candles and start the Sabbath in the home. It is a picture of the woman participating in crushing darkness, redeeming herself back from the curse spoken in Genesis 3.

There is no command to light the two candles, but in the Beit HaMikdash, there was a command to have the Menorah burning EVERY evening, EVEN on the Sabbath. The first thing Aaron did before beginning to minister in the Tabernacle was to light the Menorah [Numbers 8]. It was the first commandment spoken after the Ark had been put in place in the Holy Place!

So, in remembrance of these things, Jews light the Sabbath lights. For Messianic Jews, we do so to remind us that Messiah is the Light of the World AND the Master of the Sabbath [Matt 12:8], and to tangibly consecrate ourselves unto Him on the Sabbath.  The blessing recited is, "Blessed are you, O יהוה our G-d, who has set us apart by His commandments, and has commanded us to kindle the Sabbath Lights", and we as Messianics add, "And has given us Messiah Yeshua, Light of the World". In so doing, we are acknowledging and remembering Temple Service, especially as it still goes on in Heaven, [there is a Menorah always burning before the throne, according to Rev 4 and 5] and we are bringing our awareness of the Holiness of Sabbath into the natural world.

 

Bread and Wine

Bread and wine are the sacred elements of the Sabbath meal.  It is this meal that was the context of what the greek scriptures call “communion”, done on a weekly basis.  In ancient Judaism, the Sabbath celebration was considered a “mini-Pesach”.  Messiah Yeshua is the “Bread that came down from Heaven” [John 6].  At His last Pesach Seder, He declared the matzah, or unleavened bread, to be “His Body”.  At Shavuot [Pentecost] the bread of the ceremony is two very large “full” loaves, which ALSO represent Yeshua, who sent the Ruach and “filled” the believers with power on that day.  ,We are told in the book of Hebrews that Yeshua is our High Priest, in the order of Melchi-Tzedek.  Melchi-Tzedek brought BREAD AND WINE to Avraham, after his victory in battle over the kings of the plains.  Bread and wine are very symbolic elements.  They are symbolic of strength and refreshing, of unity, of the source of life.  Bread sustains us, and wine relaxes us.  But, spiritually, bread and wine do these:

"And wine that makes glad the heart of man, making the face brighter than oil, and bread that stays man's heart." Psalm 104


In these elements, when properly prepared and blessed, we continually remember the body and blood of Messiah Yeshua, and our spiritual connection to the Father through Him.  His blood “gladdens” us because through it we obtain atonement for sin; His Body strengthens us because through the suffering He endured in His Body, we are healed.  They are reminders that He is the one who sustains our lives in every way, who forgives us, who blesses us with His Presence, and who will ultimately raise us from the dead.  Yeshua is seen blessing the bread in many, many places in the gospels, demonstrating that the use of these elements is relevant to us as His followers.


Weddings

The Jewish wedding ceremony is not clearly elucidated in total in the scriptures, but the elements of it are sprinkled throughout the scriptures, especially in Messiah’s own words.  He used the Jewish wedding traditions to teach PROPHECY!  He tells us that He is the groom, and that those who follow Him faithfully and keep themselves unspotted from the world by following His commandments are His “Bride”.  This is not an arbitrary reference, but drives us to some very specific scriptures to learn about the end times.

A Jewish wedding takes place under a “chuppah”.  This used to be the actual home that the groom was expected to build for his bride, but, the further along we’ve gotten the harder it is for a groom to actually build a suitable home for a bride before they are married, so, the custom of the Chuppah was created, BASED ON SCRIPTURE.

There are actually two words that refer to it in the scriptures:  cheder AND chuppah. These are seen in Isaiah 26 and Joel 2, among other places.  Isaiah tells the bride to go into the “cheder”, and Joel tells us that at a certain time the Bride will come out of the “chuppah”.
Each of these happen on certain days, according to their context.  The going in occurs at Rosh HaShannah [the opening of the gates], also the time of year that Jewish kings married.  The coming out of the chuppah occurs on Yom Kippur [The Day of the LORD], with seven days spent in between.  Messiah’s reference to the wedding in His discussion of end things, then, is a ‘hint’, to cause us to find the scriptural references which tell us of His coming.

In the Jewish wedding, the couple drinks wine together under the chuppah, which seals the Ketubah, or  contract, to which the Bride and Groom have both agreed, and which they sign with witnesses on the day they marry.  This is a shadow of Yeshua presenting the Torah to us, and ‘sealing’ the covenant with us in His blood, which He taught was signified with wine.

Blessings over the Bride and Groom are prayed, and we see these alluded to in the book of Revelation.  So, the Jewish Wedding, which is the foundation of most western wedding ceremonies, is rife with prophecy, and serves as a picture of the Messiah and His relationship to the Kahal [congregation].

 

Brit Milah

Brit Milah is the Covenant of Circumcision.  The command is to perform Brit Milah on a male on the eighth day after his birth [Lev 12:3].  Yeshua was circumcised on the eighth day [Luke 2:27].

There is much contention among Christians as to the validity of this custom/command for the believer, but there should not be.  The debate stems from an argument AMONG JEWS that existed even before the time of Messiah. 

That argument was between two “schools of thought”, or two teachers who differed on what should be required of Gentiles if they wanted to worship in the Synagogue among Jews.  One “school” or “house” was the House of Hillel, the other was the House of Shammai.  The House of Hillel taught that Gentiles who wanted to worship יהוה and learn Torah could do so freely in the Synagogue, as long as they adhered to the seven laws of Noah from Genesis 9.  The House of Shammai, however, wanted ALL gentiles to CONVERT TO JUDAISM FULLY, BEFORE they could worship in the Synagogue.  They viewed conversion to Judaism, with the final ‘sign’ of circumcision, as the requirement for “salvation”, placing their trust in their OWN works. 

We see this argument manifest in several places in Brit Chadasha, predominantly in Acts 15 and Galatians, but the argument has been skewed, and turned toward a Gentile vantage point, and even used as the seedbed of hatred against Jews.  This is a perversion of scripture, which leads to destruction [II Peter 3:16] It is the House of Shammai that sent “certain men” from Jerusalem to the congregations in Galatia.  They WERE NOT MESSIANIC! [They did not believe that Yeshua was the Messiah].  They were called the “Synagogue of Satan” by the House of HIillel!  Because they perverted the definition of a “Jew”.   They hinged “Jewishness” on works of the flesh.
Hillel never taught this, and the House of Hillel, at the time of Messiah, was the ruling house in the Sanhedrin.  Yeshua and the apostles agreed with the House of Hillel on this issue. Shaul [Paul the apostle] was a very advanced student of the House of Hillel, having been taught by Gamliel, the grandson of  Hillel himself.  He taught that circumcision was NOT necessary for SALVATION.  We agree with him.  Ya’akov [James], the brother of Yeshua and Pakid [bishop] of the Kahal at Yerushalayim, also agreed.  However, neither one of these men believed they should stop circumcising their children NOR gentile converts!  In fact, AFTER this argument was settled, Ya’akov asked Shaul to keep a TORAH vow with four other Jews to prove his Jewishness and faithfulness to Torah; AND, Shaul CIRCUMCISED TIMOTHY HIMSELF, a grown man and a half Jew. [Acts 16].

Circumcision is a “sign”, and a “covenant FOREVER” between יהוה and the Jewish people.  A Jewish male should be circumcised.  Should a Gentile?  NOT if he thinks it’s going to earn him SALVATION!  Or make His status in the community of יהוה any better.  But, the usefulness of circumcision should not be dismissed.  It is a constant reminder in the flesh of the sanctity of the covenant, and the righteous requirements of it, and should remind a man to “possess his vessel”,  that his very flesh belongs to יהוה.  Shaul taught that if a Gentile undergoes this rite for the purpose of salvation, then he is required never to break Torah in any other way.  But, he clearly did NOT deny anyone circumcision who wanted the mark of the covenant in their flesh for righteousness’ sake.

Bat-Tzion encourages its Jewish men to circumcise their children according to the covenant.  We have so far had two children undergo Brit Milah in the congregation, and it is a joyous occasion.  It is the parents of the child who make that decision.  We instruct our Gentile men to study Torah, and determine for themselves if it is something they want to do if they currently do not bear this sign of the covenant in their flesh.  But we do NOT, in ANY way, REQUIRE it.  True circumcision is circumcision of the HEART, having our very hearts ‘cut away’ from the corruption of the world and the flesh.

 

Bar/Bat Mitzvah

Bar Mitzvah means “Son of the Commandment”.  The term is Hebrew/Aramaic, and names a very ancient custom of giving the male child a ‘rite of passage’ into manhood.  A Jewish man was considered a man when he decided to follow the commandments, and “do everything written in the Torah”.  This was done at the age of 12/13 [In ancient Israel, the age of the child was calculated from conception, and not from birth].  Up until that age, the child would study the Torah, starting with the book of Leviticus.  Upon his 12/13th birthday, the child would demonstrate his proficiency in Torah by singing/reading the Torah portion for that week and the Haftarah.  He might also give a “D’var Torah”, or a ‘word of Torah’, elucidating his own understanding of that portion. 

When the rite is accomplished, the child is now a man.  With that comes new responsibility and privilege.  No longer is the child ‘covered’ by the prayers of His parents, but is responsible for his own moral actions.  The following is a list of the changes in the child’s life, according to ancient Judaism:

Morally responsible for his own soul

Eligible to be a reader at the Bemah

Eligible to be in a minyan [congregational prayer group]

Required by the community to keep the commandments

May own property

May marry

The rite usually comes at the anniversary of the child’s birth, and includes his reading his own “parasha”, which was the Torah portion scheduled for reading during the week of his birth.  Yeshua’s coming of age is also seen in scripture, and He is seen demonstrating clearly His excellence in Torah, and even announces that it is now time that He should be about His Father’s business! [Luke 2].  In all likelihood Yeshua had His bar-mitzvah in Natzaret in the previous fall, at Sukkot, the time of His birth, and here is seen demonstrating His ‘adulthood’ and his ‘Son-ship’ to the wider community. 


As our children these days do not have a “rite of passage”, they rarely enter into maturity with a greater sense of moral responsibility.  We are commanded to “Train up a child in the WAY in which he should walk”.  [That “Way” is biblically the Torah]  We are commanded by the greatest command to “IMPRESS upon our children” the commandments of יהוה.  The Bar/Bat mitzvah process does just that, and gives the child a sense of accomplishment, of ‘growing up’, and of being a part of a righteous community.  With that, it is more likely that the child will not stray from the Way when he/she leaves home.


Bat-Tzion offers Bar/Bat mitzvah classes, and requires the parents’ participation in the process.  The teacher, the parents, and the child determine when he/she is ready, and not necessarily age, though it is still a factor to be considered.  Many children see it as a challenge, and a joy.  Some are shy about it.  We do not put any undue pressure on the child, but try to encourage them to participate in the process.  It is one way to “follow in the footsteps of the Messiah”, and to ensure growing in maturity and understanding.


Mezuzah

The Mezuzah, an object affixed to the doorpost of our homes, is an ancient way of keeping the command “write them [the commandments of יהוה] on the DOORPOSTS of your house, and upon your gates” [Deu 6:9].  The Shema, the greatest command, is written on a very small parchment, and rolled up like a scroll, and affixed to the doorpost [mezuzah] under a decorative encasement.  This encasement has come to be called a “Mezuzah”, even though mezuzah means “doorpost”.  It is upon the “mezuzah” that the blood of the Passover Lamb was applied in the Exodus, so it hints to us about our hearts, where the blood of Messiah is applied. 

יהוה does not clearly command “how” to write the commandments on our doorposts, but only that we should.  The command to do so is clear and inarguable.  How to do so creates some variation.

We at Bat-Tzion do NOT “require” a Mezuzah, and will not inspect our members’ homes for one!  But, many of us have done this, with a small ceremony affixing the mezuzah to the doorpost, so that the last thing we do before we go out into the world is remember the great command: “HEAR, O ISRAEL!  יהוה is our G-d, יהוה IS ONE: and you shall love יהוה your Elohim with ALL YOUR HEART, with all your SOUL/MIND, and with ALL YOUR EFFORT.  And these commands that I command you today shall be IN YOUR HEART; And you shall IMPRESS them upon your children, and you shall talk about them when you sit in your house, when you  walk on the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up; and you shall bind them as signs on your hands, and fasten them as frontlets for your eyes; and you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates”.

Affixing the mezuzah then is “part of” the method or process of writing them on our doorposts; in the natural realm, it is a tangible way to involve the body/mind one more time in the process of getting the Words of Elohim into our hearts, keeping them constantly fresh before us, since all humans are such wayward and easily distracted people!  Upon leaving the home, if one simply remembers the great command, one can affix it in his/her mind to walk in it through the day.  Upon returning, it actually helps us to remember to bring the commands into the home, and NOT the cares and filth of the world!  It can actually help prepare the heart to treat the members of the household he is about to enter as the beloved of Elohim, and not as ordinary people.  In this way, the mezuzah can play a role in “transforming/renewing the mind”.  This helps us allow יהוה to enforce the Brit Chadasha [Renewed Covenant]: “I will put my Torah within them, and upon their hearts I will write it”. [Jer 31:33]