To the Jew first and also to the Gentile To the Jew first and also to the Gentile

Jewish Jewels

What is the little cap some Jews wear?

It's called a "yarmulka" or "kippa." It is a fairly new tradition (about 200 years or so) but it comes from the older habit of covering one's head when praying (usually the head was covered with the talit, the Jewish prayer shawl - Elijah in 1 Kings 19:13; David and the crowd in 2 Samuel 15:32; Esther 6:12; David says G-D covers his head in the day of battle Psalm 140:7; Yeshua in the garden of Gethsemane probably covered His head to pray because it was such a fervent prayer Matthew 26:39, Mark 14:35, Luke 22:41 - 44, John 17). Orthodox Jews wear hats or kippot (plural of kippa) all the time. Others only wear them during services or feasts like Passover. The hat itself carries no particular religious meaning. It's just a head covering.

Does the prayer shawl mean the same thing as the yarmulka?

No, not really. The wearing of the "talit" (pronounced tal-eet), also called the "talis" or "prayer shawl", was commanded by G-D (Deut. 11:12 and Num. 15:37-41). Most Old Testament Jews wore a robe that served as an outer covering to protect them from the elements. This was similar to a pancho or serape, and had multiple purposes. It was to this garment that G-D commanded fringes be attached. When a Jew prayed, he would cover his head with his talit as a sign of reverence. Weddings are sometimes performed under a talit held up during the ceremony by four poles called a chupa. The fringe is called "tzitzit" (tseat-seat). We know Yeshua wore one, because the woman who had an "issue of blood" (Matt. 9:20) touched his tzitzit or fringe. The corners with the fringe are also called the "wings" of the talit. Maybe this is why Malachi said, "There is healing in His wings" (Mal. 4:2). (Also see "What is the little cap some Jews wear?" above for more information and Scripture references regarding the talit.)

Is Jesus' name really Joshua?

Yes. Jesus' Hebrew name is Yeshua. The name "Jesus" comes from the Greek transliteration (Iasu) of His Hebrew name. Yeshua is the same as the name of the man who marched around Jericho (Joshua 6). Also the word "yeshuah" (the origin of the name) means "salvation" in Hebrew. That is why in Matthew 1:21 the angel tells Joseph of Mary's conception saying, "She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Yeshua, for He will save His people from their sins." So think about that anytime you're reading Scripture and you come across a passage (especially in the Old Covenant) which is talking about salvation. You can replace "salvation" with "Yeshua" and it becomes that much more meaningful!

Why do Jews break a glass at a Jewish wedding?

The custom of breaking a glass at a Jewish wedding comes from a medieval tradition that loud noises warded off evil spirits. Christian church bells come from the same time and idea. The glass was originally thrown against the north wall of the room, since the spirits were thought to come from the north. Today the custom is said to symbolize the breaking of the childhood commitments between the bride and groom and their parents. Usually a cheaper glass is used, and because of the extra noise, some rabbis use an old light bulb. If you want to check into this and other Jewish wedding customs, I got it from "The Jewish Book of Why" by Alfred J. Kolatch, and published by Jonathan David Publishers, Inc.

Why do Jews place a stone on someone's grave?

Like the ceremony you may have seen at the end of "Schindler's List" placing a stone on someone's grave is very traditional. It's origins are obscure, but it seems to have come from eastern Europe. The meaning is very clear to Jews today. It is a visual statement that "This person has affected my life in a positive way, and I for one will never forget them." The action also states that "I will speak of this person to others so that they will know." You can see a similarity with The Shema (Deut 6:4-9).

If I try one of the celebrations, what if I do it wrong?

Good question, but don't worry. How many different ways do families you know celebrate Christmas, or Easter, or a national or local holiday? Lots, right? Well these celebrations are no different, almost every family has their own tradition. There are certain things we will tell you about like no rolls or other bread at Passover, remember, no leaven, nothing that rises like cake or some cookies. Other than that, it's just a special feast with a special story to tell. Follow the instructions, and if in doubt ask a Jewish friend. They may not know Yeshua, but they will be very impressed that you are interested in their customs and most will go out of their way to help you do it right.

Why do many Messianics not celebrate Christmas or Easter?

Well, first, neither is commanded by G-D, and neither is traditional to a Jew. Both events go back to a time when the early church was being persecuted by the Romans. In order to celebrate those events that were special to them, early Christians would try to do so during a time the Romans were celebrating a pagan feast or holiday of their own. This allowed believers to gather and celebrate without being persecuted for their faith.

It is generally accepted that the Nativity did not take place in winter. Since the census was traditionally taken just after the harvest, but before cold weather, this would place the birth of Yeshua sometime around the end of October. This would coincide with Sukkot, or The Feast of Tabernacles. The birth of the Messiah at this time would have been a prophetic fulfilment of that feast in the same way that His death was a fulfilment of the Passover, calling to mind the sacrifice of the Passover lamb to atone for the sins of Israel. (See our SUKKOT and PASSOVER sections for more information.) Therefore the Dec. 25th timeline with its secular connotations has no real meaning to Messianics. We do have Hanukkah however which is a time of family and gifts, and we know Yeshua celebrated it (John 10:22).