- After the Deliverer encountered the Holy One…
- The covenant meal and reception of the tablets of stone
- Shavuot and HaBikkurim (Agriculture)
- The Jubilee of Shavuot
- The Solution to the leaven of pride
- The Leaven of Humility must replace the leaven of pride
After the Deliverer encountered the Holy One…
After His encounter with Adonai (the LORD), Moses reported to us all the words of Adonai and we all as ‘one man’ responded in unison:
“kol hadevarim asher diber Adonai na’eseh.”
“All the words which Adonai has said we will do.” Moses wrote down the words of the covenant (sefer habrit). He built an altar at the foot of Mount Sinai with twelve pillars (one for each of our twelve tribes). He ordered sacrifices be made to the Adonai. The he took the sacrificial blood from the offerings, threw half upon the altar, and read the covenant to us. We ratified the covenant with the words:
“kol asher diber Adonai na’aseh v’nishma.”
“All that Adonai says we will do and obey.” Upon hearing our confirmation of the covenant, the Prophet Moses took the other half of the sacrificial blood and sprinkled it on us saying, “Behold the blood of the covenant that Adonai has made with you in accordance with all these words.”
The covenant meal and reception of the tablets of stone:
Next, Moses, Aaron (and his sons Nadav and Avihu), and seventy of the elders of our twelve tribes of ascended Mount Sinai to eat a “covenant affirmation meal” between klal Yisrael and Adonai. It was there that our elders beheld the awesome glory of Elohei Yisrael, under whose feet was “a pavement of sapphires, like the very heaven for clearness.” After Moses returned from Mount Sinai with our elders, the Holy One instructed him to once again ascend up the mountain to receive into his care “luchot ha’even” (the tablets of stone) inscribed with the Ten Commandments. The Deliverer remained on the mountain for 40 days and 40 nights learning Torah while we waited at the camp down below. The rest of ‘our story’ you know. You will recall that due to the disobedience of many of us it took us two generations before we could enter the Promised Land.
Shavuot and HaBikkurim (Agriculture):
After we entered the Promised Land the meaning of Shavuot became an agricultural holiday for us. In Adonai’s fifth book of the Torah, He had Moses review our history and the laws given to us to faithfully observe His feasts of Passover (Deuteronomy 16:1-7), Unleavened Bread (Deuteronomy 16:8), the Omer Count (Deuteronomy 16:9), and Shavuot:
“You shall count seven weeks. Begin to count the seven weeks from the time the sickle is first put to the standing grain. Then you shall keep the Feast of Weeks to Adonai Eloheikha with the tribute of a freewill offering from your hand, which you shall give Adonai Eloheikha blesses you. And you shall rejoice before Adonai Eloheikha you and your son and your daughter and your male and female servants and the Levite who is in your town, and the stranger and the orphan and the widow who are in your midst, in the place where Adonai Eloheikha chooses to establish His Name” (Deuteronomy 16:9-11).
The Hebrew word sheva means seven. The Hebrew word shavu’ah means week. The Hebrew word shavu’ot means weeks. Therefore, exactly seven weeks after the first harvest of barley each year we now celebrate Shavuot. The first fruits of our crops are called “bikkurim.”
This refers to “Shivat Haminim” (the seven species of fruits) of the Promised Land: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates. Immediately after one of our farmers sees the first sign of ripening fruit in his orchard or field, our elders designate it as bikkurim by tying a ribbon or string around it. Later our farmers cut the “select, chosen” firstfruits sheaf of grain (barley, wheat or pick the fruit) to be offered as an offering to the Creator.
In the case of the wheat harvest, the farmer will put the firstfruits of wheat in a basket woven of gold and silver (our poor used to use wicker baskets of peeled willow branches) and then take this wheat offering to the priests at the Mishkan-Tabernacle to offer his firstfruits offering for use in the festival of Shavuot (later, this offering was given to the priests at the first and second Temples in Jerusalem).
Since Shavuot is one of our three required pilgrimage festivals (the other two being Pesach and Sukkot), all of us would join the large parade of our farmers who would be seen each year carrying their baskets on the road, singing songs of joyful praise. Our farmers in temple times would place their baskets containing the firstfruits of wheat on oxen adorned with garlands of flowers. Then we would march together with them in a grand procession to Jerusalem. As we paraded with the farmers through the various towns along the way, the farmers (and others of us) from those towns would be added to the procession until one great assembly of farmers and their invited friends formed up and assembled before the Temple in Jerusalem.
At the Temple in Jerusalem, each family of farmers would present the basket of their firstfruits of wheat to a kohen (priest) to be placed before the altar while reciting the following passage from the book of Deuteronomy: You shall answer and say before Adonai Eloheikha:
“A wandering Aramean was my father. And he went down into Egypt and sojourned there, few in number, and there he became a nation, great, mighty, and populous. And the Egyptians treated us harshly and humiliated us and laid on us hard labor. Then we cried to Adonai, Elohei Avoteinu, and Adonai heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. And Adonai brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great deeds of terror, with signs and wonders. And He brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. And behold, now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground, which you, O Adonai have given me.’ And you shall set it down before Adonai and worship before Adonai Eloheikha.” (Deuteronomy 26:5-11; MT)
The Jubilee of Shavuot:
In the priestly avodah (service) at the Temple, our 49 day countdown to the holy day of Shavuot is called Sefirat Omer (“Counting of the Omer”). Each day of this seven week count-down a special blessing is recited for us. With the reading of the blessing our priest would announce exactly how many more days were left just “before” the climactic and most joyous 50th day of Shavuot. The “Jubilee” (50th day) of Shavuot is representative of the climax of our sanctification process that is set in motion by the redemptive act of the Korban Pesach (the Lamb sacrificed at Passover). This developmental and transformational process extends from Passover to Shavuot (the Feast of the 7 weeks).
Just as a freshly cut sheaf of the first crop of barley was waved before the altar during the festival of firstfruits, so on Shavuot a sheaf of the first crop of the wheat harvest was brought to our priests, processed, and baked into two loaves of leavened bread (shtei halechem), and then waved (tenufah) before the altar as a concluding rite of the season.
The yeast used in baking the two loaves of wheat bread was required to be derived from the “fermentation” of the firstfruits barley offerings. This was the only time leavened bread has ever been allowed to be used (by our priests) for the avodah (cf. Levitucus 2:11).
In matters of fermented bread the festival of Shavuot stands in stark contrast to our predecessor feast, Pesach. This is so because Passover symbolizes our redemption, it requires that all of the leaven be removed from all of our houses and that all of our bread, therefore, must be unleavened bread (matzah). This is the case because the leaven of “pride” (our false-belief in our own self-righteousness) is wholly unacceptable to our Righteous Father. The central problem that the redemption of Passover addresses for us is the sin of pride. The chametz of Pride “exalts” the will of the self above the the will of the Most High.
The Solution to the leaven of pride:
The solution to the wreckage caused by our idolatry of self over the will of the Holy One is the redemption of the Korban Pesach (Passover Sacrifice). This sacrifice of the Lamb (that symbolizes the saving work of Messiah our Redeemer) cleanses us of all our sin. Our judgment for sin (past, present, and future) is transferred from all of us to Him (the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53).
This Sacrificed One is our Kinsman Redeemer, our Strong One (Boaz) who has paid the forensic price for our sins. At the right time in human history, while we were yet estranged as law breakers from the Most Holy One, our Strong One reconciled us to the heavenly Father.
The solution to our rebellion against our Creator is that we must deny self and we must—as did our father Abraham—profess the righteousness that comes solely through faith in the “Righteous One.” Then and only then are we treated by the Father as justified; that is we are pronounced legally cleansed of sin and declared to be righteous by our Father of Mercies who dwells on His throne in heaven.
Thereafter, not by our own tainted good works but by the untainted perfect works of the Holy Spirit of the Most Holy One are we changed from “glory to glory.” In this way the rejected leaven of pride is “forever” removed from our spirits. Then our pride (self-vanity) is “replaced” with humility.
Humility is the only holy, good, and perfect fermentation process (leaven) that is compatible with the glorious presence of the Holy One. Therefore, it is not our personal righteousness (piety, vanity) but our humility that the Father seeks; for the Father only is pleased to approve and delight in His own perfect, blameless, righteousness. The heavenly Father only gives the sanctifying gift of His perfect righteousness (the permanent Indwelling Presence of the Holy Spirit) to the humble.
Our Righteous Father opposes all who rely on the “sufficiency” of one’s own self-righteousness (the proud). He is gracious only to those who rely on the all-sufficiency of “His” righteousness; a righteousness that comes to us only when we exercise faith in “His” mercy. Our sole reliance on the grace and mercy of our Merciful Father has put to an end our boasting of anyone or anything other than Him!
The Leaven of Humility must replace the leaven of pride:
When our old sinful pride and self-reliance is repented of at Pesach and Chag HaMatzot, then the old leaven (religious lifestyle) of our justification by our own (deficient) works is removed and replaced. Then at the bikkurim (firstfruits) of the barley harvest and the counting of the omer we begin to develop within our inner-being the new leaven of humility toward the Merciful One. Once this fermentation of humility (symbolized in the fermented barley) is complete after 49 days, then are we joined with the firstfruits of Shavuot.
It is this new righteous leaven of the humility that causes the two glorious, golden, loaves of wheat bread to rise.
This saying is True: “only the leaven of humility can make the Glorious Presence of the Holy One rise within our hearts, souls, minds, and bodies.” It is now a personal insult to the Spirit of Grace (רוּחַ הַחֶסֶד) for anyone to demand to be declared righteous by Him for “their” personal deeds. For the prophets have already revealed to us that none of us are righteous; and that not one of us (for we all lawbreakers) will ever be declared by the Holy One to be righteous by our own works. Only by the redemptive works of the Righteous Father through the once-in-eternity sacrifice of the Korban Pesach will anyone ever be justified. For as the Prophet Hoshea has said, “the just shall live by faith” in the Holy One; and “not” in we ourselves.
Therefore, now there is given to the humble the forgiveness of the Father of Mercies and the “gift” of His Righteousness that comes only by exercising faith in His sacrifice for sin, the sacrifice of His Lamb (the Messiah; our Suffering Servant). This is truth our Kinsman Redeemer has removed the old lump of our prideful works of self-righteousness from our inner-life and in the old lump’s place the Father of Lights has most graciously made of us a “new lump” that is in all purity (humility) “solely” a product of the perfect works of Adonai our Father. Therefore, only the post-redemption yeast of the barley is acceptable to the Holy One.