Maggid ben Yoseif / Jerusalem Torah Voice in Exile
4 Tevet 5760 / December 23, 1999
 
Counting the Omer

Helping non-Jews understand their Torah identity

in the death, burial and resurrection of Y'shua

A re-examination of the Gospel accounts of the crucifixion of Y'shua (seen through the spectacles of Torah), strongly indicates that the evening he was laid in a tomb commemorated the first day of the counting of the Omer … while an unblemished lamb was being offered as an "ascent" offering on the altar in the Temple courtyard.

 

This identity also may be a means of understanding Y'shua's identity mystically as a "Torah made flesh," which is a means of describing a tzadik or someone who has overcome his or her evil inclinations.  Mystically, this identity is earlier indicated in the timing of his conception and birth at Hanukkah and during Simhat Torah (the Feast of Tabernacles) respectively. See HANUKKAH: THE FESTIVAL OF JOSEPH.

 

The first day of the counting of the Omer, according to the halachic interpretation of the rabbis, is actually the second day of the 7-day Feast of Unleavened Bread. For 49 days or seven weeks while the Omer is counted, the people may not eat from the grain of that year's harvest and may only eat of "old" grain. Then, on the 50th day, on the 6th of Sivan, beginning the two-day festival of Shavuot, (Pentecost or Feast of Weeks), an offering from the grain of the present year's harvest is made, after which, the people may eat from their harvests of that year.

 

But the traditional date Christianity has associated with the crucifixion is the first day of the Festival and the day before the counting of the Omer begins. That day is called Passover, the name commonly associated with the entire 7-day Feast because it began as long as the Temple stood, with the meal in which the Passover lamb was eaten before midnight on 15 Nisan.

 

However, the Feast is properly called "Unleavened Bread" in the Torah.  The "morning" following the actual Passover, is found to be suspect as the date of the crucifixion, however, when it is established that:

 

l    Y'shua and his disciples followed the Oral Tradition in celebrating the "evening" of Passover. See First Day of Unleavened Bread (below)

l    The Passover Lamb was not the Lamb of God predestined to take away the sins of the world as Christianity teaches.   This distinction is given to the "ascent" offering on the First Day of the Counting of the Omer. See Passover Lamb (below)

l     Too many events had to transpire between the time of Y'shua's arrest on the night of Nisan 15 until he was alleged to have been crucified the following morning at the "third hour," or 9 a.m. See Within the time allotted (below)

l     The Roman Law required a time interval of usually two days between the sentence and execution in a capital crime. See Roman Law (below)

l     The chief priests who conspired to have Y'shua executed could not have been summoned by Pilate to his Praetorium on the morning of Passover, lest they would have been defiled and prohibited from offering the Chagigah sacrifices later that day in the Temple. See Defilement of Priests (below)

l     The conspirators themselves earlier expressed hesitation about having Y'shua executed "on the feast day." See Conspirators (below)

l     The phrase "three days and three nights" referring to the sign of Jonah, which Y'shua would enact in his death, burial and resurrection, was an idiom. See Three Days and Nights (below)

 

First Day of Unleavend Bread

 

Matthew 26:17 establishes that Y'shua celebrated the actual night of Passover with his disciples on the traditional date of 15 Nisan in accord with the Torah as interpreted by the  Oral Tradition.  The belief that he celebrated Passover the previous night or following night, is discredited when it is realized that the Oral Tradition fixes the afternoon of the 14th of Nisan until the dusk beginning the 15th, as the first "day" of unleavened bread, even though the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which begins with the Passover meal, does not commence until the evening. This means unleavened bread is actually required to be eaten for 7 days plus these preceding six or so hours.

 

Observant Jews are required to remove all chametz (unleavened bread) from their homes BEFORE they may present the Passover lamb to be inspected and slaughtered in the Temple, by the sixth hour of the day (around noon).

It was taught likewise: ‘[Even] the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses’: [this means] by noon (Nisan 14) on the eve of the Festival. (Pesachim 5a)

The actual Festival of Unleavened Bread begins at dusk on Nisan 15 and lasts through dusk beginning Nisan 22. See accompanying chart.

 

17   Now the first (day) of unleavened bread the disciples approached Y'shua saying, Where do you will that we prepare for you to eat the Passover?

 

Mark 14:12 further describes this first day of unleavened bread as the day the Pesah (Passover lamb) was slaughtered, on the afternoon of 14 Nisan. This distinguishes it from the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which begins with the evening of 15 Nisan when the lamb is already roasted.

 

12 And the first day of unleavened bread, when they killed the Passover, his disciples said unto him, Where wilt thou that we go and prepare that thou mayest eat the Passover?

 

The account in Luke 27 makes it clear that this is the mandatory time of the Passover meal:

 

7 Then came the day of unleavened bread, when the Passover must be killed.

 

Passover Lamb

 

Earlier in Matthew 26:1-2, Y'shua is quoted as stating the actual "Passover" (the hours between dusk and midnight of the 15th of Nisan), was the time he would be betrayed "to be crucified."  This means that his arrest and the crucifixion could NOT occur prior to the Passover meal which he ate with his disciples according to tradition, before midnight on 15 Nisan.

 

This statement categorically rules out the crucifixion occurring at the same time as the Passover lambs, called the Pesah offerings, were being slaughtered at the Temple for the special meals that occurred in each household that night. The ritual slaughters had to be inspected by the priests on 14 Nisan. So the "inspection" of Y'shua by the priests at the home of Caiaphas the high priest at the same hour on the same day is a fanciful interpretation of the events. It would be inaccurate therefore to represent him as the "Passover Lamb." Neither does he claim this distinction.

 

Part of the confusion in the reNEWed TESTAMENT text is the declaration recorded by Yohanan Ha-Machvil (John the Baptist), when he sees Y'shua approaching the mikveh for "baptism" beyond the Jordan River.  John declares, "Behold the Lamb of G-d who takes away the sin of the world."

 

The Christian world associates this lamb with the Paschal Lamb since Y'shua's death, burial and resurrection as recorded in the reNEWed TESTAMENT occurs during the Passover feast (Festival of Unleavened Bread)

 

But, according to the Torah, there is another unblemished lamb sacrificed as an "ascent" offering on the second day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, on the afternoon of the 16th of Nisan as required in Leviticus 23.  It is possible, although we have no precise record from the reNEWed TESTAMENT, that Y'shua was on the cross as THIS lamb was being slaughtered to commence the counting of the 49 days of the Omer. The count of the Omer ends with the 6th of Sivan, the day commemorating the Festival of Shavuot (Pentecost) and the anniversary of the initial receiving of the Torah at Sinai.

NOTE:  It is the contention of MbY, that when Y'shua's role is understood by a Torah foundation, the differences between the Jewish participants of this feast and the non-Jewish participants will be found not to exist!

 

Conspirators

 

Matthew 26:1-5 also hints that those who were party to the conspiracy to betray Y'shua were in some manner of agreement that he should NOT be executed "at the feast," because they feared a revolt by the people who were his followers.

 

5        But they said, "Not at the feast lest a disturbance occurs among the people."

 

It is clear from Matthew 26:30-31 that he was delivered the same night following the Passover meal, on the night of 15 Nisan.

 

30 And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.  

31 Then saith Y'shua unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.

Within the time alloted

 

What happens next deserves careful scrutiny and begs the question of whether everything could have transpired within the time allotted.

 

First, as recorded in the remainder of Matthew 26, Y'shua is removed to the house of Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and elders (the ruling Sanhedrin) already are assembled.  A hearing is held with numerous false witnesses testifying.  The Torah states that witnesses must agree in their testimony.  Finally false witnesses whose testimony agree are located but by this time it is morning (about 6 a.m. or the first hour).

 

Matthew 27:1-2 relates that morning had broken with Y'shua still in the custody of the chief priests and elders.

 

1        When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Y'shua to put him to death:

2        And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor.

 

In the reNEWed TESTAMENT accounts it is important to note that there is no indication of the precise day that the next event occurred. We can only conclude from Matthew 27:15 that Pilate's interrogation occurred sometime "during the feast." We also must note that according to recognized halachah, (Torah Law as interpreted by the rabbis), any chief priests and elders who would have stood before Pilate to accuse Y'shua that morning, (as per verses 12-13), would have defiled themselves for duty in the Temple and could not have entered the Temple until the evening after they were purified, much less offered the voluminous Chagigah offerings.  (Jerusalem Talmud Chagigah 76a)

 

The Chagigah offerings are the mandatory offerings that each male Israelite was to bring to the Temple during each pilgrimage feast (Chag) , so as not to appear empty-handed before Hashem. The Chagigah for the Festival of Unleavened Bread is also called, the "Pesah" or "Passover" in the Oral Tradition and is represented on the Passover Seder plate today as the roasted egg.  It should be noted that the Passover lamb is today represented by a different symbol, a roasted shank bone since the lamb can not be inspected without an existing Temple and priesthood.  Y'shua pointed to neither of these two symbols when he identified the Passover and himself in connection with the reNEWed COVENANT. See the four cups of the Passover Seder.

 

11 Y'shua stood before the governor: and the governor asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And Y'shua said unto him, Thou sayest.

12 And when he was accused of the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing.

13 Then said Pilate unto him, Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee?

14 And he answered him to never a word; insomuch that the governor marveled greatly.

15 Now at that feast the governor was wont to release unto the people a prisoner, whom they would.

 

Of course the people chose Barabbas instead of Y'shua to be released.  But verse 19 indicates that this choice may have occurred later in the day or possibly even the next day, because of the dream of Pilate's wife:

 

19               When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man (Ara. tzadika): for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.

 

Her dream obviously may have occurred the previous night, but whenever it occurred, it caused Pilate to pause before passing judgment.  In fact the account in Luke 23, indicates, he first had Y'shua sent to King Herod who was visiting in Jerusalem that day.  According to Historians, Herod lived in the old Maccabean Palace (which was located on the southwest side of the city nearer the residence of the high priest), when he visited Jerusalem.  Today, this location is identified as the Citadel of David just inside the Jaffa Gate.

 

This meant that since the first hour, about 6 a.m., Y'shua was first judged by the chief priests, then marched some 20 to 30 minutes from the residence of Caiaphas, where he had been imprisoned, to the Praetorium and another 20-30 minutes back to Herod's palace.  Then he is returned to Pilate, another 20-30 minute trek.  Fully an hour to 90 minutes was consumed just in transportation and we have no record of how long the chief priests' interrogation lasted.

 

4 Then said Pilate to the chief priests and to the people, I find no fault in this man.

5 And they were the more fierce, saying, He stirreth up the people, teaching throughout all Jewry, beginning from Galilee to this place.

6 When Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked whether the man were a Galilean.

7 And as soon as he knew that he belonged unto Herod's jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who himself also was at Jerusalem at that time.

8 And when Herod saw Y'shua, he was exceeding glad: for he was desirous to see him of a long season, because he had heard many things of him; and he hoped to have seen some miracle done by him.

9  Then he questioned with him in many words; but he answered him nothing.

 

Note that Herod's interrogation is defined as "many words."  Also, the following verses indicate that the chief priests and scribes joined in the interrogation with their chorus of attacks.

 

10 And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused him.

11 And Herod with his men of war set him at nought, and mocked him, and arrayed him in a gorgeous robe, and sent him again to Pilate.

12 And the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends together: for before they were at enmity between themselves.

 

The question is just how long did it take for Herod to interrogate Y'shua? If more than an hour, then the clock is running out fast on the possibility of crucifying him by the third hour. It is more likely that Herod, because of his interest in Y'shua, detained him for several hours before returning him to Pilate. Also, while the chief priests and scribes could (and did) appear before Herod without defiling themselves (since Herod was an Edomite but also a Jew), there was no hindrance to their lengthy diatribe or the risk of being defiled to prevent the offering of the Chagigah sacrifices later THAT day, which would not have been the case if they stood before Pilate on that day.

 

The reNEWed TESTAMENT account also disagrees as to whether it was Herod's men who mocked him and arrayed him in a "gorgeous robe" as in verse 11 above or whether it was the soldiers of Pilate, who did this (or both) after Y'shua was returned to him and the people chose Barabbas.  Regardless, this activity also had to consume valuable time if Y'shua was to be crucified by 9 a.m. (the third hour).

 

24 When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this tzaddik (just person): see ye to it.

25 Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.

26 Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Y'shua, he delivered him to be crucified.

27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Y'shua into the Praetorium, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers.

28 And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe.

29 And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!

30 And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head.

31 And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him.

 

As indicated above, we have other delays in the selection of Barabbas, and the punishment of Y'shua by the Roman soldiers who had their fun with him for an undisclosed time. But most noteworthy is the fact that Pilate called the chief priests and the rulers and the people together. This had to take some time and again, the priests would have defiled themselves appearing before the Gentile Pilate.  This would not be a problem AFTER the Chagigah offerings later in the day, but before 9 a.m. it would be a problem.  We submit here that this later meeting with Pilate occurred late in the afternoon of 15 Nisan or perhaps the following morning. Again, we have no evidence to the contrary from all four Gospel accounts.

 

13 And Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people,

14 Said unto them, Ye have brought this man unto me, as one that perverteth the people: and, behold, I, having examined him before you, have found no fault in this man touching those things whereof ye accuse him:

15 No, nor yet Herod: for I sent you to him; and, lo, nothing worthy of death is done unto him.

16 I will therefore chastise him, and release him.

17  (For of necessity he must release one unto them at the feast.)

 

Note that in the verse above, it is first parenthetical, meaning it was possibly added from a marginal note.  Also, the release was "at the feast", meaning it could have transpired on any day during the feast. If it had said "on the day of Passover," that would be different.

 

18 And they cried out all at once, saying, Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas:

19 (Who for a certain sedition made in the city, and for murder, was cast into prison.)

20 Pilate therefore, willing to release Y'shua, spake again to them,

21 But they cried, saying, Crucify him, crucify him.

22 And he said unto them the third time, Why, what evil hath he done? I have found no cause of death in him: I will therefore chastise him, and let him go.

23 And they were instant with loud voices, requiring that he might be crucified. And the voices of them and of the chief priests prevailed.

Defilement of the priests

 

Verse 23 indicates the chief priests were themselves present, another indication that they would have been defiled and prohibited from offering the Chagigah if this occurred before 9 a.m. on the day of Passover. But if this final judgment by Pilate occurred later in the day, it would not offer a problem in that the priests would have finished offering their quotas of Chagigah offerings.

 

24 And Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they required.

25 And he released unto them him that for sedition and murder was cast into prison, whom they had desired; but he delivered Y'shua to their will.

Matt 27:24 details an additional delay so that Pilate could have a basin of water brought and symbolically wash his hands before the multitude.

 

24 When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it.

 

Traveling from the Praetorium to the site of the crucifixion bearing the weight of a cross bar to which Y'shua was lashed would also have taken at least 30 minutes, longer than this if we believe the Hollywood account.

 

Mark 15:25 gives us the precise time of the crucifixion:

 

25 And it was the third hour, (about 9 a.m.)

So the question is whether within three hours, 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., Y'shua could have been marched from the home of Caiaphas, to Pilate's palace, be interrogated by Pilate, be marched back to the old Maccabean Palace occupied by Herod near Caiaphas' home, be interrogated by Herod, be mocked and scourged by Herod's soldiers, be marched back to Pilate, be interrogated by Pilate a second time, Pilate summon the high priests to the Praetorium and give them three chances to choose Y'shua over Barabbas, Pilate symbolically wash his hands of the matter, Y'shua be mocked and scourged by Pilate's soldiers, and a garrison of soldiers headed by a Centurion be assembled to carry out the crucifixion and be marched carrying the weight of the cross from the Praetorium to Golgotha?  All that in three hours!!

 

The marching back and forth alone will occupy most of two hours. Preparations also had to be made for the crucifixion not only of Y'shua but for the two thieves. This involved securing hammer, nails, food for the soldiers who would keep watch, appointing the Centurion, etc.  Since Pilate gave the people a choice about what he should do with Y'shua after releasing Barabbas, we cannot assume that the crucifixion was already planned.

 

Roman Law

 

Roman Law also usually mandated an interval, ordinarily of two days, between a sentence and its execution, although this was sometimes excepted in the Roman provinces. ( Nebe: Auferstehungsgesch.unser.Herrn Jesu Christi, vol 2, page 166-7)

 

After three hours on the cross, an impossible event is recorded ... impossible for a full moon. (Remember that 15 Nisan would be the mid-point of the month which begins with a new moon and which waxes to a full moon on the 15th and wanes to another new moon to begin the next month.)

 

45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour.

The impossible event for 15 Nisan would be a three-hour eclipse of the sun!  This is impossible unless the moon did unprecedented and strange gyrations, because the sun is eclipsed only when the moon passes between it and the earth.  But at the sixth hour, high noon, the moon would have to be full and directly overhead!  A full moon could not be in conjunction with the sun directly overhead at high noon. Rather, the moon would be situated relative to Earth on the opposite side of the globe at this time.

 

This is an indication that the crucifixion MAY even have taken place even later in the feast, perhaps toward its conclusion closer to a new moon ... and in accord with the high priests earlier concern that it not occur at all during the feast (defining feast here as the duration of the seven days). Either this or some event other than an eclipse of the sun darkened the noon-day sky.

 

46 And about the ninth hour (3 p.m.), Y'shua cried with a loud voice, saying, (in Aramaic), Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, for this I was allowed to live. (This was my destiny!  -- MbY's literal translation)

47 Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, This man calleth for Elias.

48 And straightway one of them ran, and took a sponge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink.

49 The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save him.

50   Y'shua, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.

Three Days and Three Nights

 

The Gospel of John adds a very significant detail that the crucifixion occurred on an Erev Shabbat (the day before the Sabbath). This means that in that year, the first day of the counting of the Omer occurred on a Friday and the Passover was on a Thursday (Wednesday evening to Thursday evening).  This also follows the Oral Tradition that the First Day of the Counting of the Omer follows the "morrow of the rest day." Contextually in Leviticus 23, this is the Passover Day as recorded in the Oral Tradition.

 

The intervening Shabbat between the beginning and end of Passover is called Shabbat Ha-Moed (Shabbat of the Festival) and is considered a high holy day, as is recorded in John 19.

 

31 The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the Shabbat, (for that Shabbat was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.

Continuing with the account in Matthew 27:

 

42 There laid they Y'shua therefore because of the Jews' preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand.

The preparation day is, again, the eve before the Shabbat or a Festival, in this case obviously  a Shabbat which was also the Ha-Mo'ed, (the intermediate Shabbat of Passover). Matthew continues:

 

59 And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth.

60 And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed.

61 And there was Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, sitting over against the sepulchre.

The next event occurred on the Shabbat itself.  It was so important that the chief priests and Pharisees deemed it worthy to defile themselves by appearing before Pilate.  Of course, on the Shabbat, they would have no sacrifices to offer, so would not need to enter into the Temple precincts that day.  Even though they would be defiled, they could still go to the mikveh to be immersed and be purified that same evening.

 

62 Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate,  

63 Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again.  

64 Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first.

 

Biblical time is reckoned by any portion of a day being counted as a separate day. The counting of these three days would begin with Friday, since Y'shua died at about 3 p.m. on the eve of the Shabbat.  The second day would be the Shabbat itself.  And the third day would begin at the close of Shabbat at dusk between Saturday and Sunday.  Y'shua therefore would have been resurrected sometime on the First Day of the Week, on Sunday morning.  Matthew 28 suggests this scenario:

1 In the end of the Shabbat, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.

Of course they find the tomb empty despite the garrison of soldiers dispatched to guard it.

 

But to allege the counting of three days in this manner, we must reconcile the "sign of Jonah," which Y'shua said would be given to an "evil and adulterous generation." As recorded in Matthew 12:

 

40          For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

 

First, we need to realize that the counting of days is ordinarily night or evening followed by morning as is the precedent set in  the Creation account in Genesis … "evening and morning was the … first, second, third, etc. day." Second, the reNEWed TESTAMENT definitely states that Y'shua rose on the morning of the First Day of the week, or Sunday. And he died at 3 p.m., (the ninth hour) on a preparation day (we suggest the hours before Shabbat began). This means he could not have spent three full days and three full nights in the "heart of the earth." For that to have transpired, he would have been resurrected at 3 p.m. on the third day following three nights and then to be literally correct, he would have spent three nights and three days in the heart of the earth, not three days and three nights.

 

Everything suggests an idiomatic usage of the phrase "three days and three nights. The only place the phrase appears in the context of Y'shua is that promise in Matthew 12. Elsewhere referring specifically to his death, burial and resurrection, the phrase is simply "three days." Contextually, I think we find that the promise in Matthew 12 does not pertain to his death, burial and resurrection at all and if it does, it is an analogy to the Temple being absent for a period of time and the emphasis is not on the time period, but on the fact that Jonah was delivered from the whale, so Y'shua would overcome the corruption and decay of death, which was an idiomatic reference to JUDGMENT!

 

First let us re-examine the context of Jonah 2:

2 Then Jonah prayed unto Hashem his God out of the fish's belly,

3 And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto Hashem, and he heard me; out of the belly of Sheol cried I, and Thou heardest my voice.

4 For Thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all Thy billows and Thy waves passed over me.

5 Then I said, I am cast out of Thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.

 

Jonah, a prophet of Israel, was sent to Nineveh, a Gentile city, which was believed to be one of the cities to which the Assimilation of the Northern Kingdom migrated. From his prayer inside the belly of the whale we can deduce that Jonah was most concerned about the prospect that he might never again see the Temple in Jerusalem. So even though he was far removed from Israel, he would recall the Temple in Jerusalem and pray in that direction (although how he did so from inside the belly of a whale must have been interesting).

 

And so, Y'shua stated in Matthew 12:39-42, that he would be sent as a "sign" not to the Jewish people but to the Assimilation and the Gentiles See Isaiah 49:5-6 and during this time of the Gentiles, which would last "three days and three nights," the Temple of Israel would not be standing.

 

39 But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:  

40 For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

41 The men of Nineveh shall rise in JUDGMENT with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.

42 The queen of the south shall rise up in the JUDGMENT with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.

Jonah's reference to the Temple in his prayer and the mention of Solomon, architect of the Temple cannot be ignored. Also, there is this matter of JUDGMENT.

 

According to the Zohar, Shemot, Section 2, Page 199b, the expression "three days and three nights in Sheol" alludes idiomatically to the "place of JUDGMENT." This is also contextually in line with the proclamation in Matthew 12, since it is the men of Nineveh who arise in judgment and the queen of the south rises up in judgment.

 

The Zohar states:

"But when a wicked man dies, the proclamation of judgment runs:

 

"Woe to that man, it would have been better for him had he never been born! Regarding such a man it is written, “and they cast him forth into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging”, that is, only after they have placed him in the grave, which is the place of judgment, does the judgment summons cease from its raging. For the fish that swallowed him is, in fact, the grave; and so “Jonah was in the belly of the fish”, which is identified with “the belly of the underworld” (Sheol), as is proved by the passage, “Out of the belly of the underworld (Sheol) cried I”.

“Three days and three nights”: these are the three days (in judgment) that a man lies in his grave before his belly splits open. After three days it ejects the putrid matter on his face, saying: “Take back what thou gavest me; thou didst eat and drink all day and never didst thou give anything to the poor; all thy days were like feasts and holidays, whilst the poor remained hungry without partaking of any of thy food. Take back what thou gavest me.” In regard to this it is written: “and I will spread dung upon your faces”, etc. (Malachi II, 3). Again, after the lapse of three days, the man receives chastisement (judgment) in each organ-in his eyes, his hands, and his feet. This continues for thirty days, during which time the soul and the body are chastised together. The soul therefore remains all that time on earth below, not ascending to her place, like a woman remaining apart all the days of her impurity. After that the soul ascends whilst the body is being decomposed in the earth, where it will lie until the time when the Holy One, blessed be He, will awaken the dead.

For the same reason, fasting and periods of mourning relate to the same idiom, "three days and three nights," as a means to mitigate judgment.

 

(The whole context of Matthew 12 relates to the judgment that Y'shua was casting out demons by the power of Ba'al Zevuv (the lord of the flies or maggots), who some believed was summoned at death, and was a servant of Satan).

 

To sum it up, Y'shua's single reference to the sign of Jonah's own resurrection from the belly of the whale, the proverbial Sheol. Three days and three nights for Jesus would mean simply that his body would survive the test of judgment of Sheol and be resurrected uncorrupted.

 

The duration of this stay in Sheol is clarified in other passages below and is even alluded to during his judgment by the chief priests and leaders. His resurrection is therefore Hashem's vindication of all their charges and the midah of their midah.  (The phrase midah k'negged midah means loosely that whatsoever a man sows, that also he reaps or the judgment befits the circumstance).

 

Matt 26:60-61:

But found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At the last came two false witnesses, And said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days.

 

Matt 27:40-41:

And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross. Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders.

 

Matt 27:63-64

Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first.

It is curious here that the request was not until the fourth day if three literal days and nights were intended.

 

Mark 14:58-59:

We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands. But neither so did their witness agree together.

Mark 15:29-30:

And they that passed by railed on him, wagging their heads, and saying, Ah, thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, Save thyself, and come down from the cross.

 

Most telling also is the re-telling of the story of the Passion of Y'shua by the JEWS he encountered on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24:

 

20 And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him.

21 But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed (Assimilated) Israel: and beside all this, today is the third day since these things were done.

 

Verse 21 above starts the count on the day of the crucifixion, when Y'shua spent only three hours at most in the grave. These passages also do NOT allude to the sign of Jonah which would judge the scribes and Pharisees who tried to judge him; rather they allude to what he spoke openly on other occasions:

 

Mark 8:31-32:

And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he spake that saying openly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him.

 

John 2:19-21:

Y'shua answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou tear it down in three days? But he spake of the temple of his body.   When therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this unto them; and they believed...

 

Contextually, if the death, burial and resurrection related to the Counting of the Omer, Y'shua's followers may have believed that Y'shua was pointing them to the Malchut HaShamayim (the Kingdom of Heaven) and a spiritual dimension to their faith that might use their existing religious form but far, far surpassed RELIGION!

 

SO WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN.  HOW SIGNIFICANT IS Y'SHUA'S IDENTITY WITH THE COUNTING OF THE OMER? AND DOES THIS CHANGE ANYTHING ABOUT OUR BELIEFS AND HASHEM'S EXPECTATIONS OF THE NON-JEWISH ASSIMILATION?

 

Perhaps Y'shua himself gave us an answer to these questions with an event that immediately preceded his death, burial and resurrection.

 

The Gospel account of John 12 records:

 

20 And there were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast:

21 The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Y'shua.

22 Philip cometh and telleth Andrew: and again Andrew and Philip tell Y'shua.

23 And Y'shua answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified.

24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a kernel of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.

 

Remember the Oral Tradition, that consorting with Gentiles defiled someone who was Jewish. It was as Gentiles were asking to see Y'shua that he realized the time of his glorification. His death, burial and resurrection was the means Heaven would magnify the Torah and make it glorious (Isaiah 42:21) or extend the Torah of Israel beyond Israel's spiritual borders.  But as a picture of the Torah, himself, being planted in the ground, he would sprout in three days time as a Torah inviting and encompassing the entire Assimilation of Israel among the Gentiles and Whosoever Will!

 

Hosea 6:2 refers to the revival of the Assimilation who identify with Y'shua's death, burial and resurrection into newness of life with Hashem:

 

2 After two days He will revive us; on the third day He will raise us up, that we may live in His presence.

 

The Counting of the Omer in Leviticus 23 is expressed in Hebrew as Sefirat Ha-Omer.  When Judah counts the 49 days of the Omer, they contrast the seven Sefirot which encompass what is known as the manifestation of the Elchuta (the Godhead).

 

This is a highly mystical concept but one which is alluded to by Paul in Acts 17:29, Romans 1:20 and Colossians 2:9. It is also mentioned twice in the Talmud, 15 times in the Zohar and six times in Midrashic literature.

 

Simply stated, the Elchuta is the upper three Sefirot which describe attributes of Hashem which the sages say are unattainable to any degree without Hashem's divine hand. These include the attribute of KETER, crown kingship (or rule), CHACHMAH wisdom and BINAH understanding. Hashem places dominions and wisdom and understanding are His to mete out.

 

The lower seven Sefirot are manifestations which come from or out of  the upper three. They include CHESED lovingkindness or benevolence, GEVURAH, justice or discipline, restraint or awe, TIFERET, beauty and harmony and compassion, NETZACH, endurance, fortitude and ambition, HOD, humility and splendor, YESOD, bonding and foundation and MALCHUT, nobility, sovereignty and leadership.

 

These seven sefirot, which could be termed qualities or attributes, are like the goals attainable by the Torah observant as they allow themselves to be conformed in the image of this "perfect man," which the sages called the Adam Kadmon (the Adam to follow or "Last Adam"). The first Adam at the time he was created was all of these things, but his sin in Gan Eden changed all of that. Also the Sefirot are called in the writings of the mystic sages, "the tree of Life."

 

Here is how Paul described the Last Adam in the context of a "spiritual body."

1 Cor 15:42-49
So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first Adam is of the earth, earthy: the last Adam is the master (lord) from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthly, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.

It is a clearly stated goal of Paul's to attain to the perfect man, this Last Adam by being conformed to that image, although only the tzaddik (righteous "son of man") would expect to obtain perfection in this life. And, as was the case with Ezekiel and Y'shua, the two in the Bible so-called "sons of man," that perfection is best served by suffering on behalf of those less righteous. But the observance of the commands of Torah are acutely designed to instill and nurture these attributes in whomever will take upon themselves the "yoke" of the Malcut HaShamayim (the Kingdom of Heaven).

 

The description of Y'shua as the "dwelling (manifestation) of the fullness of the Godhead bodily," (Colossians 2:9) means that he did attain unto the status of the perfect man.

 

In counting the Omer, the mystic sages would contrast the various Sefirot with one another.  The first week would be the House of Chesed, which would be contrasted with itself, Chesed in the House of Chesed, followed by Gevurah in the House of Chesed, Tiferet in the House of Chesed, etc., then proceed to the second, third, fourth through seventh weeks.

 

Different exercises were developed which assisted in this "self assessment and improvement" procedure so that by the time Shavuot arrived (on the 50th day), the mystic sages had a good understanding of their spiritual makeup, strengths, weaknesses, etc.  Those truly committed to the path of the tzaddikim, would welcome the mitzvot (commandments) that would help them work on their weaknesses.

 

Y'shua's burial as the Omer is counted (as an unblemished lamb is offered as an "elevation offering" in the Temple) is a picture of those who identify with him being led into the path of spiritual ascent through the seven lower Sefirot, the "manifestation of the "Godhead" -- NOT God -- bodily." But the means of that ascent is pointed out at the end of 50 days when the Ruach HaKodesh (Spirit of Holiness) is imparted to assist Y'shua's followers with their Torah observance.  This is especially necessary because they, being the Assimilation of Israel, have long departed from the Torah commands and have lost their way.

 

In other words, Y'shua came as the Manifest Torah (as we have written elsewhere, this describes a "tzadik" or "walking Torah").  His death, burial and resurrection in which we identify as part of the Assimilation, replants us as a spiritual tree that can bear fruit so long as we are nurtured "in him," which is to say "in the Torah."  But our key to understanding, wisdom and mastery of the Torah, comes from above, from the Ruach sent by Hashem. Through the mystery of our faith, this same Spirit of Holiness dwells inside of us increasing and decreasing to the degree we are Holy (set apart) to Hashem and avoid the defilements specified in the Torah.

 

All this suggests that the path Hashem has foreordained for the followers of Y'shua, which centuries have waylaid, is the path of counting the Omer … spiritual self-evaluation and improvement through the Torah with the help of the Spirit … and NOT counting sheep!

 

Maggid ben Yoseif