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Jewish Resources for Biblical Study compiled by Dr. Terry Harman

Updated: Apr 3


Photo Terry Harman 2018

Tabernacle Man Where do you get your information?

I receive emails, texts and phone calls on a regular basis. I do my best to personally answer as many as I can respond to. The other day I was contacted by Stuart G. from Arizona. It touched me deeply and I want to share it with you.


“I am 78 years old, and I am just calling for Rabbi Terry Harman. I am listening to some of the things that he has been saying and my wife is really into it. I am learning so much that I never knew existed. I was wondering where is he getting the information? I would like to read some of those books. I just want to thank you rabbi and say hey, keep up what you are doing. It is amazing and I love the way you are saying give back to your temple.”


Thank you, Stuart, for your kind words. Being transparent, I must clarify, I am not an ordained Rabbi or Pastor. But thank you for the compliment and confidence. I served as a Chaplain, serving all faiths, for over 35 years in jails, state prisons and state mental health hospitals. Working with people who were hurting, feeling broken and sometimes hopeless, caused me to search the scripture for meaning that I might understand myself and others in this broken world. My intention is to be part of the healing of the world around me.

In reality, I am just a guy who loves the Bible and prop making and have been fortunate enough to be able to take advantage of a formal education under some of the most amazing mentors who were Reform Rabbis and Christian professors. My mentors are the ones who deserve the accolades - Rabbi Minard Klein, Rabbi Michael Stevens, Dr. Ken Hendrick,

Dr. George Lyons and Dr. William Woodruff. My goal is to


“Teach biblical principles to a sight and sound generation.”

Pattern for Study

The answer to your question about the source of my information: I generally stick to a pattern as I study and prepare teaching lessons. Sometimes I spend two or more weeks re-reading information and developing an outline for a potential video or blog.


1. Set aside time to pray to get my head and spirit in the right place before I begin to study.

2. Find a quiet place to read and study. I’m a night owl so that time is 10:00 pm to 1:00 am.

3. Keep paper, pens, and highlighters at my side.

4. Read the selected Bible verses in several different English translations.

5. Make a humble attempt at translating the verses into English from the Hebrew or Greek.

6. Read about any names, geographical locations, customs or rituals in biblical encyclopedias or biblical dictionaries.

7. Write a summary or bullet points of what I have uncovered or find interesting.

8. Ponder on the biblical principles that are relevant for today.

9. Then and only then do I turn to commentaries. I find if I start with commentaries I am influenced by their bias and may miss what the biblical portion is saying to me.

10. Build a teaching prop whenever possible.


Resources

First, a list free sources that are easily found on the internet. This way if you do not have the money to purchase Bible study materials you still can find reliable Jewish sources of information. Second, a general examination of the lamb question will be explored citing various sources I routinely use in my studies.


Bibles

Jewish Publication Society 1917

https://jps.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Tanakh1917.pdf


NeXt Bible

https://bible.org/article/how-use-inext-biblei


The NET Bible

http://classic.net.bible.org


Hebrew – English Bible

https://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0.htm


Books of the Bible with Grammar and Hebrew word study

https://biblehub.com/text/exodus/12-1.htm


General Jewish Knowledge - Topics

www.myjewishlearning.com


Encyclopedia

Jewish Encyclopedia 1917

https://jewishencyclopedia.com/


Library of Jewish Texts such as Talmud, and Midrash

https://www.sefaria.org/texts


Commentaries

https://torah.com/learn/


https://www.thetorah.com/


www.aish.com


www.chabad.com


Insights in the Torah by Rabbi Zalman Sorotzkin 5 volume set on Torah.

https://www.artscroll.com/Books/9781578199242.html (Tabernacle Man favorite!)


The Torah Anthology - Me'am Lo'ez initiated by Rabbi Yaakov Culi in 1730, is a commentary on the Tanakh written in Ladino - it is perhaps the best known publication in that language. English versions available.

https://seforimcenter.com/Torah-Anthology-/-Meam-Loez__c-p-0-0-75.aspx


Example of Notes Gathered

Like Stuart, others have asked me what sources I use to develop my teaching series. The purpose of this blog is to examine one aspect of the Passover story. Often, I start with questions that arise for me from the plain sense of the verse.


1. Why was a lamb chosen for the Passover sacrifice?

2. Why wasn’t another animal selected by God?

3. What was the symbolic nature of choosing a lamb in Egypt?


Which is it, Passover Lamb or Goat?

Wait a minute! I thought the Passover animal had to be a lamb which is a sheep. Where did the goat come from? And why were sheep the chosen animal? The answer is found in the Bible in Exodus 12:1-6 JPS 1917.


And the LORD spoke unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying: 2’This month shall be unto you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you. 3Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying: In the tenth day of this month, they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household; 4and if the household be too little for a lamb, then shall he and his neighbour next unto his house take one according to the number of the souls; according to every man’s eating ye shall make your count for the lamb. 5Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year; ye shall take it from the sheep, or from the goats; 6and ye shall keep it unto the fourteenth day of the same month; and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at dusk.

Sacrificing a Lamb in Egypt on Passover was an act of defiance by the Hebrews.

And Pharaoh called for Moses and for Aaron, and said: ‘Go ye, sacrifice to your God in the land.’ And Moses said: ‘It is not meet so to do; for we shall sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians to the LORD our God; lo, if we sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians before their eyes, will they not stone us? We will go three days’ journey into the wilderness, and sacrifice to the LORD our God, as He shall command us.’ And Pharaoh said: ‘I will let you go, that ye may sacrifice to the LORD your God in the wilderness; only ye shall not go very far away; entreat for me.’ Exodus 8:21-24 JPS 1917


The Talmud relates what happened when 600,000 Jewish heads of household began rounding up their lambs on the 10th of Nissan. The lamb was worshiped as a deity in ancient Egypt, so this caused quite a commotion. The firstborn of Egypt, who held the key social and religious positions in Egyptian society, confronted the Jews, and were told: "We are preparing an offering to G‑d. In four days, at the stroke of midnight, G‑d will pass through Egypt in order to execute the tenth and final plague; all firstborn will die, and the people of Israel nation will be freed." https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/117352/jewish/War-of-the-Egyptian-Firstborn.htm


Sacrificing Lambs symbolic of collapse of Egyptian Society

In the Hebrew year 2448 (1312 BCE), the Jews in Egypt offered the Passover lamb, to be eaten later that night at the first Passover Seder. This was an act of great courage, as sheep were regarded as idols in Egyptian society, and the Jews were technically still subject to Egyptian slavery. This was God's way of emphasizing the idea that Egyptian society was in a state of collapse. https://www.aish.com/dijh/Nisan_14.html


Lambs were considered Egyptian idols.

Lambs were considered Egyptian idols at the time so the act of trusting in G-d and fulfilling a commandment, which went against the accepted practices of the day, shows amazing certainty. The elimination of idol-worshiping in our lives today, including spiritual slavery to money, bad relationships, health problems, our ego or a dead-end job allows us to obtain freedom and become our highest selves. https://www.torahmystic.com/wisdom-rosh-chodesh-nissan


Killing a lamb taboo because it was considered a sacred animal by the Egyptians.

Neither the Egyptian gods nor the Egyptian cult plays a very significant role in the book of Exodus. Only one passage briefly alludes to the worship of sacred animals, the most striking peculiarity of the Egyptian cult. Exod. 8:22 (=26) mentions a ritual conflict between Hebrew and Egyptian beliefs, during which Moses objects to Pharaoh’s suggestion to hold the requested feast for the god of the Hebrews not in the wilderness, but in Egypt.


This passage suggests that Moses recognizes that the Israelites are going to sacrifice an animal that is sacred to the Egyptians, and that this would be an abomination for the Egyptians (תועבת מצרים). Ostensibly, this is because the ram was the sacred animal of two Egyptian gods, Amun and Khnum. https://www.thetorah.com/article/sacrificing-a-lamb-in-egypt


Lamb Symbolism and the Temple Service

Our sages also teach that the lamb was worshiped by the Egyptians. The very fact that the Jews were commanded to take a lamb on the tenth day, and to keep it for another four days to be sacrificed was a great trial for the Jewish People. The Egyptians were aware that the Jews intended to sacrifice their deity on the 14th day. By sacrificing the lamb, the Jews the idol worship of the Egyptians and all peoples. They negated the Divine source of the Egyptian deity by sacrificing it to the ultimate and infinite source. Then its life force is elevated and it draws down Divine influx. https://www.inner.org/responsa/leter1/RESP3.HTM


Lamb had to be “perfect?”

Your lamb must be perfect, 2 a male, one year old; 3 you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. http://classic.net.bible.org/verse.php?book=Exo&chapter=12&verse=5


2 tn The Hebrew word תָּמִים (tamim) means “perfect” or “whole” or “complete” in the sense of not having blemishes and diseases – no physical defects.

3 tn The idiom says “a son of a year” (בֶּן־שָׁנָה, ben shanah), meaning a “yearling” or “one year old”.


Lamb or Goat could be used for the Passover sacrifice.

https://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/11926-paschal-sacrifice


The sacrificial animal, which was either a lamb or kid, was necessarily a male, one year old, and without blemish. Each family or society offered one victim together, which did not require the "semikah" (laying on of hands).


Layperson not the priest sacrificed the lamb.

The killing took place in the court of the Temple, and might be performed by a layman, although the blood had to be caught by a priest, and rows of priests with gold or silver cups in their hands stood in line from the Temple court to the altar, where the blood was sprinkled. These cups were rounded on the bottom, so that they could not be set down; for in that case the blood might coagulate.


Sacrificed at the Temple and then returned home for the roasting and home ceremony.

The lamb was then hung upon special hooks or sticks and skinned. When the sacrifice was completed and the victim was ready for roasting, each one present carried his lamb home, except when the eve of the Passover fell on a Sabbath, in which case it might not be taken away.


When they took their lambs home and roasted them on a spit of pomegranate-wood. No bones might be broken either during the cooking or during the eating. The lamb was set on the table at the evening banquet and was eaten by the assembled company after all had satisfied their appetites with the ḥagigah or other food.


The entire lamb had to be consumed the same evening. No leftovers for the next day!

The sacrifice had to be consumed entirely that same evening, nothing being allowed to remain overnight. While eating it, the entire company of those who partook was obliged to remain together, and every participant had to take a piece of the lamb at least as large as an olive. Women and girls also might take part in the banquet and eat of the sacrifice.


Prayer recited before the lamb was eaten.

"Blessed be Thou, the Eternal, our God, the King of the world, who hast sanctified us by Thy commands, and hast ordained that we should eat the Passover."


Teaching portion of the banquet included the Hallel.

The "Hallel" was recited during the meal, and when the lamb had been eaten the meaning of the custom was explained, and the story of the Exodus was told.


Passover is a “home ceremony” for a “shelamim” (peace offering) type of sacrifice.

The paschal sacrifice belongs to the "shelamim," thus forming one of the sacrifices in which the meal is the principal part and indicates the community between God and man.

Passover seder is a communal meal between God and the family/community of participants.

The shelamim are integrally related to the personal generosity a person feels as a servant of God, who desires to bring his animal to God. As such, God invites him to join in the feast and the two of them (together with God's servants - the priests) eat from the sacrifice. https://www.etzion.org.il/en/nature-shelamim-sacrifice


Second Temple period the Passover lamb sacrificed at Temple but roasted at home.

It is really a house or family sacrifice, and each household is regarded as constituting a small community in itself, not only because the lamb is eaten at home, but also because every member of the family is obliged to partake of the meal, on pain of excommunication ("karet"), although each man must be circumcised and all must be ritually clean.


The fact that the paschal lamb might be killed only at the central sanctuary of Jerusalem, on the other hand, implies that each household was but a member of the larger community; and this is indicated also by the national character of the sacrifice, which kept alive in the memory of the nation the preservation and liberation of the entire people.


Trumpets were blown.

Trumpets were blown in the Temple courtyard in preparation for the sacrificial rituals of Passover. Talmud - Pesachim 64a:11


When the Temple courtyard became filled with them, they closed the doors of the Temple courtyard. They sounded uninterrupted, broken, and uninterrupted trumpet blasts, as was done while sacrificing any offering. Talmud - Pesachim 64a:11

https://www.sefaria.org/Exodus.12.6?lang=en&with=Pesachim&lang2=en


Conslusion

We have just scratched the surface of the first Passover in Egypt. What have we learned? The first Passover sacrifice was a home ceremony in the Hebrew homes in Egypt. Later the ceremony transitioned to the offering becoming ritualized and being made at the altar of the Second Temple. The one presenting the korban, the offering, took the life of the lamb but the catching of the blood required to assistance of the priest on duty. Whether the ceremony was performed at the home or the ritual at the Temple, both symbolized that the participants were part of their family of origin as well as the family or congregation at large.

When the Hebrews slayed the lamb and applied the blood to the doorposts of their homes it was not only an act of defiance against the Egyptian rule but a decision to publicly acknowledge the One God as the God of the Hebrews. During our Passover Seders in 2020 we too, had a "plague" outside our doors. We were sheltering in place due to Covid-19. Our homes provided protection from the plague outside the door as we reenacted the home ceremony of the Passover offering.

The Bible can't get any more relevant than that!

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