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Thanksgiving Facts and Feast

Thanksgiving is more than just a time to gather with family to enjoy a good meal.  It is a religious holiday that calls Americans to reflect upon their life, examine their ways, and give thanks for their blessings.   History records many lessons that can be learned from Thanksgiving.

In 1621 a group of religious Puritans left England to seek a land that would allow them religious freedom.  Persecution pushed them to make a “pilgrimage” to America.  It is from this journey that they became known as the “pilgrims.”  

These Christian Puritans were conservative Bible believers who kept much of the Law of Moses.  They were similar to the “Quakers” in that they promoted separation from pagan influences that still remain in Protestant Christianity.  The Puritan’s desire was to achieve and preserve simplicity or ‘purity’ of faith that they felt had been lost amid Christianity.  They came to America in order to continue the reformation away from Catholicism and the Church of England. 

The Pilgrims very likely kept a kosher diet and celebrated the feast days of Leviticus 23 like Passover or Sukkot.  “The pilgrims based their customs on the Bible,” says Gloria Kaufer Greene, a food and holiday expert. “They knew that Sukkot was an autumn harvest festival, and there is evidence that they fashioned the first Thanksgiving after the Jewish custom of celebrating the success of the year’s crops.” 

When the Pilgrims settled in America they were greeted by the Wampanoag Indians.  History records about 90 Indians and 50 Puritans shared a meal of thanksgiving together sometime between September 21 and November 9.  Based on the numbers, it was probably the Indians who brought most of the food.  And let us not be mistaken, it was the Pilgrims who were the visitors and not the hosts to this meal.  

For that first and historic Thanksgiving there was no football and there was most likely no turkey.  The only written eye witness account of the first meal was by colonist Edward Winslow to his friend in England.  In this letter he states that they ate “wild fowl and venison.”  He doesn’t specify if there was deep fried turkey or not.

Corn might have been a plenty but the cornucopia was surely missing.  The Puritans would have never allowed this now popular centerpiece.  The cornucopia, which dates back to the 5th century BCE, is a pagan symbol of Greek mythology and fertility.  Its origin and meaning is directly opposed to the personal holiness kept by the Puritan Pilgrims.

When they first gathered, the Pilgrims’ Thanksgiving was not a scheduled event.  It become an American ritual 200 years later.  President George Washington declared November 26, 1789 a day of thanksgiving and prayer in honor of the establishment of the new government.  Washington wanted this holiday to be renewed yearly but faced harsh criticism from Thomas Jefferson, who stated the government had no authority to observe a religious holiday.  It was in the midst of the civil war that President Abraham Lincoln declared the final Thursday in November as a national day of gratitude.  Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln all agreed that Thanksgiving is a spiritual holiday for worship and appreciation.

This year, millions will bow to their television and pay homage to sports.  Most will gorge with the gods of appetite and gluttony.  Some will recognize the spiritual significance of this day, reflect upon their blessings and give thanks.  May we all desire to be like the Pilgrims and return to a purity of faith that has been lost over the years.

By Daniel Rendelman


Why the Birthright Matters

The scriptures recount a story of Esav selling his blessing of birthright and position as the first born for a simple bowl of soup.  “Once when Ya’acov was cooking some stew, Esav came in from the open country, famished. He said to Ya’acov, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!”  Ya’acov replied, “First sell me your birthright.”  Esav said, “Look, I am about to die.  What good is the birthright to me?”  But Ya’acov said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Ya’acov.  Then Ya’acov gave Esav some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left.  Esav despised his birthright,” B’reisheet/Genesis 25:29-34.  Why did Esav do this?  Why was this exchange so important and tragic?  Did Esav trade his preeminence just because he was hungry or was there a deeper issue?  What is so bad about this event that because of this the scriptures say that Esau was “godless” and not worthy of following?

To answer these questions one must first understand the cultural and Biblical significance of the birthright of the firstborn.  The birthright of the firstborn is a central theme and part of the Israelite lifestyle and lifecycle.

The firstborn son of a Hebrew father is given special rights and is highly valued.  He is the heir to the family and head of the household when the father is absent.  The firstborn or “bikhor” in Hebrew would receive double the inheritance of the other sons when the father passed.  “The father must acknowledge the firstborn by giving him a double share of all he has. That son is the first sign of his father’s strength. The right of the firstborn belongs to him,” Devarim (Deuteronomy) 21:17.

The “mishpat bikhor” or “right of the firstborn” is to serve as a priest for the entire family and act as the family ruler.  This first child is to be dedicated to YHWH.  The firstborn of every womb is YHWH’s possession.  “YHWH said to Moses, “Consecrate to me every firstborn male. The first offspring of every womb among the Israelites belongs to me, whether man or animal,” Shemot (Exodus) 13:2.  The bikhor is YHWH’s special and unique treasure that is destined to serve as priest and minister unto YHWH Adonai.

The bikhor is to be redeemed, or bought back, in a service called the “pidyon ha’ben” meaning the “redemption of the firstborn.”  This Biblical custom is found in Shemot (Exodus) 13:11-15.  Just after the last plague, which was the death of the firstborn of Mitzrayim/Egypt, the Creator called the firstborn from each family to serve as priests.  This was until YHWH’s plan called for the Levites to take up the position.  The bikhor were still dedicated to YHWH through a service of sacrifice and prayer, the pidyon ha’ben.  Y’shua the Messiah went through this pidyon ha’ben in Luke 2:22-40 and was set apart as the bikhor of his family.  After this service the bikhor were free to serve YHWH through their family rather than be raised by the priesthood and work as a priest for life.
To put it plainly, the firstborn is YHWH’s and is to be dedicated to service to YHWH.  This is either full time service as a Cohen or priest or full time service as the leader of a family that serves YHWH.

According to the Torah, Esav “despised his birthright.”  He evidently did not want the inheritance and the power and responsibility that came with being the son of Isaac / Yitzchak and the grandson of the patriarch Avraham.  Hebrews 12:25-17 tells believers that Esav was “godless” and therefore would not be the rightful heir to the promise of the faith.  Clearly Avraham’s blessing of dominion, multiplication, and place in YHWH’s plan was to be passed on to the son of promise.

One might casually look at the story of Ya’acov and Esav trading the birthright and think that Ya’acov was being overly deceptive and took advantage of a famished man.  But this is simply not the case.  Esav did not sell his birthright simply because he was hungry.  Esav sold his birthright, his mishpat bikhor, because he had not concept of its meaning.  Again, Esav despised his position and inheritance.  This word for “despised” is “bazah.”  The Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance and Dictionary states that this word literally means, “to disesteem:-despise, disdain, contemn (-ptible), + think to scorn, vile person.”

Believers are to not be like Esav.  We must not despise our birthright, our destiny and inheritance as Isra’el.  The temptation is present and the trade looks pleasing but we must be careful not to follow Esav’s example.
Consider these verses…  
“YHWH says, ‘Isra’el is my firstborn,’” Shemot (Exodus) 4:22.
“If you belong to Messiah you are a seed of Avraham and heirs according to the promise,” Galatians 3:29.
“I am Israel’s father, and Ephraim is my firstborn son,” Yermi’yahu (Jeremiah) 31:9

As a physical descendant of Avinu Avraham (Father Abraham) you are Isra’el.  As a believer in Messiah you are Isra’el.  Don’t be mistaken and don’t be talked out of it.  You are Isra’el.  You are YHWH’s firstborn bikhor and you are YHWH’s special possession that is destined to inherit family leadership, serve as ruler, and minister as a priest.  “For you are a people set apart for YHWH as kadosh (holy) for YHWH your Elohim.  YHWH your Elohim has chosen you from out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be His Own unique possession,” Devarim (Deuteronomy) 7:6. 

We must not loose interest in the privilege of being YHWH’s bikhor and we must not fall into the sin of Esav who despised his birthright.  Esav did not esteem the honor of being the son of Elohim.  What about you?  The sin of despising the birthright can manifest in many ways.  Just think about these few areas…do you ever think that YHWH’s Torah is too hard to follow or too big of a burden?  Do you have any ant-Semitism hidden inside of you?  Have you accepted Israel as your identity?  Have you dealt with the false teaching that says the church has replaced Israel?  Do you live out your heritage and culture of Israel or are you scared of what others may think or say about you?  Do you ever feel that something the Bible commands you to do is simply “too Jewish?”  Is your lifestyle more like the world around you are is your life patterned after the Bible and it’s holy days and way of life?

As Isra’el you have been called to be in the family of faith.  The name Isra’el itself simply means, “one who reigns and rules with El.”  You have been given a special double portion inheritance from the Father through Messiah Y’shua.

What is the double portion?  “I have come that you might have life, and life more abundantly,” Y’shua said in Yochanan 10:10.  The Father’s legacy of life today is a way of living that has significance and meaning.  His legacy is also life in the hereafter – with Him in the realm of the Spirit.  This is possible through the Messiah, the firstborn of the dead and the firstborn resurrection.  “Y’shua Ha Moshiach, is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth,” Revelation 1:5.  The firstborn blessings were to follow YHWH in abundance and then multiply and fill the earth.

When Isaac blesses Ya’acov he tells him to “be fruitful and multiply.”  This is a direct repetition of words spoken to Adam, Noah, and Abraham.  When YHWH instructed Adam and Eve to be fruitful, He used the word “parah.” This Hebrew term means to “grow, increase, bear fruit like a vine, and bring forth, to open.” This word parah is used many times throughout the Scriptures in reference to the fruit of a vine.  “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing,” John/Yochanan 15:4-5.

Fruit is nothing more than the life giving seed source of a plant. The primary point of the family is to bear the fruit, or life, of the Almighty Vine. You are to produce the same life as the Savior. Remember that the book of John calls Y’shua the ‘word made flesh,’ so the Savior is the Living Word or Living Torah. Therefore to bear the fruit of the Vine Y’shua is to bear the fruit of Torah. To resemble Y’shua is to live His life and resemble the Torah. To put it plainly, the family is to live out the Divine Will as revealed in the first five books of the Bible.

So, when YHWH told Adam and Abraham to ‘be fruitful’ He was telling them to connect to the Vine and establish their lives as a place where the Almighty would be honored and therefore bring forth life. This wasn’t all though. They were also to ‘multiply.’

The word for multiply in the Hebrew is “rabah.” This Hebrew term means to ‘increase, excel, enlarge, continue, nourish, store, to shoot out like an arrow, to cast together, to multiply, ten thousands.” First you are to bear the fruit of Torah and then you should pass on the Biblical heritage to others.  We are to multiply the fruit of Torah and others will follow.

YHWH is the Elohim of the family of Avraham, his children, and his grandchildren. Avraham was indeed fruitful when it came to imparting belief to his children.  “For now YHWH hath made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land. And he went up from thence to Beersheba. And YHWH appeared unto him the same night, and said, I am the Elohim of Avraham thy father: fear not, for I am with thee, and will bless thee, and multiply thy seed for my servant Avraham’s sake,” Genesis/B’reisheet 26:22-25.

And to Ya’acov, “Elohim said unto him, I am Elohim Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins,” Genesis/B’reisheet 35:11. The same family mission given to Adam is passed to Noach and to Avraham, Yitzchak, and Ya’acov.

YHWH is calling out is bikhor – His first born son Israel to understand his identity and walk in the fullness of Torah.  As we understand the birthright of faith then we can be fruitful and multiply in the world.  Pray today for workers for the harvest, for the fields are plentiful but the workers – those who know they are bachor – are few.    

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