Prior to going to sleep, many Jews recite The Bedtime Shema consisting of following prayers which are believed to bring peace and comfort to one as they sleep. Scholars used to teach that during the night demons come searching for innocent souls, however, completing The Bedtime Shema would protect them from such dangers.  The Bedtime Shema prayers are structured around the Shema which many Jews believe will protect them in the afterlife if they unexpectedly die while sleeping.


We take a moment to examine our actions of the day and search for any negativity we may have caused others or others may have caused us. Through this blessing, we seek to correct any damage done, as well as forgive those who may have done damage to us. This is not said on Shabbat and Festivals.

Ribono shel olam,
Ruler of the universe,
hareini mochel l’chol mi
I hereby forgive anyone who
shehichis v’hiknit oti,
angered or antagonized me,
o shechata k’negdi,
or who did wrong against me,
bein b’gufi bein b’mamoni,
whether against my body or whether against my property,
bein bichvodi
whether against my honor
bein b’chol asher li,
or whether against anything that is mine,
bein b’ones bein b’ratzon,
whether they did so accidentally or whether willfully,
bein b’shogeg bein b’mezid,
whether carelessly or whether purposely,
bein b’dibud bein b’ma-aseh,
whether through speech or whether through deed,
bein b’machashavah bein b’hirhur,
whether in deliberation or whether with fleeting thought,
bein b’gilgul zeh
whether in this transmigration
bein b’gilgul acher,
or whether in another transmigration,
l’chol bar Yisra-el,
all of the children of Israel,
v’lo ye-anesh shum adam b’sibati.
and may no one receive negative effects because of me.
Y’hi ratzon mil’fanecha,
May it be Your will before You,
Adonai Elohai
Adonai my Elohim
v’Elohei avotai,
and Elohim of my ancestors,

shelo echeta od,
that I will not transgress again,
umah shechatati l’fanecha
and whatever transgressions I have done before You
m’chok b’rachamecha harabim,
may You erase in Your abundant mercies,
aval lo al y’dei yisurim
but not by means of suffering
vachalayim ra-im.
or evil illnesses.
Yih’yu l’ratzon imrei fi
May the words of my mouth
v’hegyon libi l’fanecha,
and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to You,
Adonai tzuri v’go-ali.
Adonai my Rock and Redeemer


This blessing ensures that our soul safely departs our body while it sleeps and returns to
our body when we awake.

Baruch atah Adonai
Blessed are You Adonai
Eloheinu melech ha-olam,
our Elohim Sovereign of the universe,
hamapil chevlei shenah al einai,
Who casts the bonds of sleep upon my eyes,
utnumah al af-apai,
and slumber upon my eyelids,
ume-ir l’ishon bat ayin.
and Who illuminates the pupil of the eye.
Vihi ratzon mil’fanecha,
May it be Your will before You,
Adonai Elohai v’Eilohei avotai,
Adonai my Elohim and Elohim of my ancestors,
shetashkiveni l’shalom,
that You lay me down to sleep in peace,
v’ta-amideni l’chayim tovim
and raise me up for life that is good

and for peace.
V’ten chelki b’Toratecha,
Grant that my portion be in Your Torah,
v’targileni lidvar mitzvah,
and may I be occupied with matters of mitzvot,
v’al targileni lidvar averah,
and may I not be occupied with matters of wrongdoing,
v’al t’vi-eni lo lidei chet,
and do not bring me into a state of negativity neither,
v’lo lidei nisayon,
nor into a state of trial,
v’lo lidei vizayon,
nor into a state of scorn,
v’yishlot bi yetzer tov,
and allow the the Good Inclination to dominate over me,
v’al yishlot bi yetzer hara,
and do not all the Evil Inclination to dominate over me,
v’tatzileni misatan umipega ra
and rescue me from the Opponent and from an evil mishap
umechalayim ra-im.
and from serious illnesses.
V’al y’vahaluni rayonai,
And may I not be confounded by my ideas,
vachalomot ra-im,
and bad dreams,
v’hir-hurim ra-im,
and bad fleeting thoughts,
ut-he mitati sh’lemah l’fanecha,
and may my bed be unharmed in Your care,
v’ha-er einai pen ishan hamavet,
and may You illumine my eyes lest I sleep the sleep of death,
Baruch atah Adonai,
Blessed are You Adonai,
hame-ir l’olam kulo bichvodo.
Who illumines the entire world with Your glory.


Before we begin the Sh’ma, we must think about the concept of loving our neighbors as we love ourselves. The first verse of the Sh’ma is chanted while we cover our eyes. The second verse is said in a whisper.

Sh’ma Yisra-el, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Echad!
Hear O Israel, Adonai is our Elohim, Adonai is One!

Say in an undertone:

Baruch shem k’vod malchuto l’olam va-ed!
Blessed is Your glorious Name, Your Realm is forever and ever!

Barukh sheim k’vod malkhuto l’olam va’ed.
Blessed be the Name of His glorious kingdom for ever and ever.
V’ahav’ta eit Adonai Elohekha b’khol l’vav’kha uv’khol naf’sh’kha uv’khol m’odekha.
And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
V’hayu had’varim ha’eileh asher anokhi m’tzav’kha hayom al l’vavekha.
And these words that I command you today shall be in your heart.
V’shinan’tam l’vanekha v’dibar’ta bam
And you shall teach them diligently to your children, and you shall speak of them
b’shiv’t’kha b’veitekha uv’lekh’t’kha vaderekh uv’shakh’b’kha uv’kumekha
when you sit at home, and when you walk along the way, and when you lie down and when you rise up.
Uk’shar’tam l’ot al yadekha v’hayu l’totafot bein einekha.
And you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be for frontlets between your eyes.
Ukh’tav’tam al m’zuzot beitekha uvish’arekha.
And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Part 2: Deuteronomy 11:13-21

The second part of the Shema repeats many of the themes from the first part but adds promises of rewards and punishments.

V’hayah im shamo’a tish’m’u el mitz’votai
And it shall come to pass if you surely listen to the commandments
asher anokhi m’tzaveh et’khem hayom
that I command you today
l’ahavah et Adonai Eloheikhem ul’av’do b’khol l’vav’khem uv’khol naf’sh’khem
to love the Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and all your soul,
V’natati m’tar ar’tz’khem b’ito yoreh umal’kosh
v’asaf’ta d’ganekha v’tirosh’kha v’yitz’harekha.
That I will give rain to your land, the early and the late rains,
that you may gather in your grain, your wine and your oil.
V’natati eisev b’sad’kha liv’hem’tekha v’akhal’ta v’sava’ta.
And I will give grass in your fields for your cattle and you will eat and you will be satisfied.
Hisham’ru lakhem pen yif’teh l’vav’khem
v’sar’tem va’avad’tem Elohim acheirim v’hish’tachavitem lahem
Beware, lest your heart be deceived
and you turn and serve other gods and worship them.
V’charah af Adonai bakhem v’atzar et hashamayim v’lo yih’yeh matar
v’ha’adamah lo titein et y’vulah
And anger of the Lord will blaze against you, and he will close the heavens and there will not be rain,
and the earth will not give you its fullness,
va’avad’tem m’heirah mei’al ha’aretz hatovah asher Adonai notein lakhem.
and you will perish quickly from the good land that the Lord gives you.
V’sam’tem et d’varai eileh al l’vav’khem v’al naf’sh’khem
uk’shar’tem otam l’ot al yed’khem v’hayu l’totafot bein eineikhem.
So you shall put these, my words, on your heart and on your soul;
and you shall bind them for signs on your hands, and they shall be for frontlets between your eyes.
V’limad’tem otam et b’neikhem l’dabeir bam
And you shall teach them to your children, and you shall speak of them
b’shiv’t’kha b’veitekha uv’lekh’t’kha vaderekh uv’shakh’b’kha uv’kumekha
when you sit at home, and when you walk along the way, and when you lie down and when you rise up.
Ukh’tav’tam al m’zuzot beitekha uvish’arekha.
And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
L’ma’an yirbu y’maychem vi-y’may v’naychem al ha-adamah
asher nishba Adonai la-avotaychem latayt lahem ki-y’may ha-shamayim al ha-aretz.
In order to prolong your days and the days of your children on the land
that the Lord promised your fathers that he would give them, as long as the days that the heavens are over the earth.

Part 3: Numbers 15:37-41

This third part of the Shema does not mention the need to speak of these things morning and night. It talks about the tzitzit (fringes) that are traditionally worn like a string around the finger as a reminder of the commandments, like the tefillin and mezuzot that are commanded in the first two paragraphs. The passage is also included to fulfill the mitzvah to remember the Exodus from Egypt every day of our lives.

Vayo’mer Adonai el mosheh lei’mor
And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying…
Dabeir el b’nei Yis’ra’eil v’amar’ta aleihem
Speak to the children of Israel and say to them
v’asu lahem tzitzit al kan’fei vig’deihem l’dorotam
v’nat’nu al tzitzit hakanaf p’til t’kheilet
they should make themselves tzitzit (fringes) on the corners of their clothing throughout their generations,
and give the tzitzit of each corner a thread of blue.
V’hayah lakhem l’tzitzit ur’item oto uz’khar’tem et kol mitz’vot Adonai
va’asitem otam v’lo taturu acharei l’vav’khem v’acharei eineikhem
asher atem zonim achareihem
And they shall be tzitzit for you, and when you look at them you will remember all of the Lord’s commandments
and do them and not follow after your heart and after your eyes
which lead you astray.
L’ma’an tiz’k’ru va’asitem et kol mitz’votai viyitem k’doshim lei’loheikhem
In order to remember and do all My commandments, and be holy for your God.
Ani Adonai Eloheikhem
I am the Lord, your God,
asher hotzei’ti et’khem mei’eretz Mitz’rayim lih’yot lakhhem leilohim
who lead you from the land of Egypt to be a God to you.
Ani Adonai Eloheikhem
I am the Lord, your God.


This Psalm reminds us that our only protection and refuge is in the Most High, and when
we put our trust in Hashem we have nothing to fear.

Yoshev b’seter Elyon,
Whoever sits in the refuge of the Most High,
b’tzel Shadai yit-lonan.
in the shade of the Almighty shall they dwell.
Omar la-Adonai ma-ch’si um-tzudati,
I will say of Adonai, my refuge and my fortress,
Elohai ev-tach bo.
my Elohim in whom I put my trust.
Ki hu yatzi-l’cha mipach yakush,
For the One will deliver you from the snare that entraps,
midever havot.
from pestilence that is devistating.
B’evrato yasef lach,
With the Eternal’s wing will you be covered,
v’tachat k’nafav te-ch’seh,
and under the Eternal’s wings will you find refuge,
tzinah v’socherah amito.
the shield and armor are the Eternal’s truth.
Lo tira mipachad lailah,
You shall not fear the terror of night,
mechetz ya-uf yomam.
nor the arrow that flies by day.
Midever ba-ofel yahaloch,
Nor the pestilence that walks in gloom,
miketev yashud tzahorayim.
nor the destroyer who lays waste at noon.Yipol mitzi-d’cha elef, urvavah
A thousand may fall victim at your side, and a myriad
miminecha, elecha lo yigash.
at your right hand, but to you it shall not approach.
Rak b’einecha tabit,
Merely with your eyes will you peer,
v’shilumat r’sha-im tireh.
and the retribution of the wicked shall you see.
Ki atah Adonai machsi,
For You Adonai are my refuge,
elyon samta m’onecha.
the Most High have you made the abode of your trust.
Lo t’uneh elecha ra-ah,
Evil will not befall you,
v’nega lo yikrav b’ohalecha.
and a plaque shall not come near your tent.
Ki malachav y’tzaveh lach,
For angels will the Eternal One command for you,
lishmorcha b’chol d’rachecha.
to protect you in all your ways.
Al kapayim yisa-uncha,
On their palms they will carry you,
pen tigof ba-aven raglecha.
lest you strike your foot against a stone.
Al shachal vafeten tidroch,
Upon the lion and the viper you shall tread,
tirmos k’fir v’tanin.
you will trample the young lion and the serpent.
Ki vi chashak va-afal’tehu,
Because for Me have they yearned and I will deliver them,
asag’vehu ki yada sh’mi.
I will elevate them because they know My Name.
Yikra-eni v’e-enehu,
They will call upon Me and I will answer them,
imo anochi b’tzarah,
together with with them I am in distress,
achal’tzehu va-achab’dehu.
I will release them and I will bring them honor.
Orech yamim asbi-ehu,
I will satisfy them with length of days,
v’arehu bishu-ati.
and I will show them My salvation.
Orech yamim asbi-ehu,
I will satisfy them with length of days,
v’arehu bishu-ati.
and I will show them My salvation.

PSALM 3:2-9

This psalm instills serenity within us and reaffirms our trust in the Creator.

Adonai mah rabu tzarai,
Adonai how numerous are my tormentors,
rabim kamim alai.
the great rise up against me.
Rabim om’rim l’nafshi,
The great say of my soul,
ein y’shu-atah lo
there is no salvation for him
Velohim selah.
from Elohim, selah!
V’atah Adonai magen ba-adi,
But You Adonai are a shield for me,
k’vodo umerim roshi.
for my soul and the One Who raises my head.
Koli el Adonai ekra,
With my voice I call out to Adonai,
vaya-aneni mehar kodsho selah.
and from Whose holy mountain the One answers me, selah.
Ani shachavti va-ishanah,
I lay down and slept,
hekitzoti ki Adonai yism’cheni.
yet I awoke for Adonai supports me.
Lo ira meri-v’vot am,
I fear not the myriads of people,
asher saviv shatu alai.
that all around are deployed against me.
Kumah Adonai hoshi-eni Elohai,
Rise up Adonai, save me my Elohim,
ki hikita et kol oy’vai lechi,
for You struck all of my enemies on the cheek,
shinei r’sha-im shibarta.
the teeth of the wicked You broke.
La-Adonai hayshu-ah,
To Adonai is salvation,
al am’cha virchatecha selah.
upon Your people is Your blessing, selah.


This blessing invokes divine protection over us during the night.

Hashkivenu Adonai
May we lie down, Adonai
Eloheinu l’shalom,
our Elohim, in peace,
v’ha-amidenu malkenu l’chayim.
and may we arise, our Sovereign, to life.
Ufros aleinu sukat sh’lomecha,
Spread over us the shelter of Your peace,
v’tak’nenu b’etzah tovah mil’fanecha,
guide us with Your good counsel,
v’hoshi-enu l’ma-an sh’mecha,
and save us for the sake of Your Name.
v’hagen ba-adenu,
and protect us for our sake,
v’haser me-aleinu oyev, dever,
and remove from us enemies, disease,
v’cherev, v’ra-av, v’yagon, v’haser
and war, and famine, and anguish, and remove
satan mil’faneinu ume-achareinu,
the Opponent from before us and from behind us,
uvtzel k’nafecha tastirenu,
Under the shadow of your wings hide us,
ki El shom’renu umatzilenu atah,
for the One who guards us and saves us is You,
ki El melech chanun v’rachum atah.
for You are the Sovereign of mercy and compassion.
Ushmor tzetenu uvo-enu,
Guard us when we go out and when we return,
l’chayim ulshalom,
for life and for peace,
me-atah v’ad olam.
from now until eternity.

Baruch Adonai bayom,
Blessed is Adonai by day,
baruch Adonai balailah,
blessed is Adonai by night,
baruch Adonai b’shochvenu,
blessed is Adonai when we retire,baruch Adonai b’kumenu.
blessed is Adonai when we arise.
Ki v’yad’cha nafshot
For in Your hands are the souls
hachayim v’hametim,
of the living and of the dead,
asher b’yado nefesh kol chai
that in the Eternal’s hand is the soul of all the living
v’ru-ach kol b’sar ish.
and the spirit of all humankind.
B’yad’cha afkid ruchi,
In Your hand I shall entrust my spirit,
paditah oti, Adonai, El emet.
You redeemed me, Adonai, Eternal One of truth.
Eloheinu shebashamayim,
Our Elohim who is in heaven,
yached shimcha,
bring unity to Your Name,
v’kayem malchut’cha tamid,
and establish Your kingdom forever,
umloch aleinu l’olam va-ed.
and reign over us for ever and ever.Yiru eineinu, v’yismach libenu,
May our eyes see, and may our heart be gladdened,
v’tagel nafshenu bishu-at’cha
and may our soul rejoice in Your salvation
be-emet, be-emor l’Tziyon,
in truth, when it is told to Zion,
malach Elohayich.
Your Elohim has reigned.
Adonai melech, Adonai malach,
Adonai reigns, Adonai has reigned,
Adonai yimloch l’olam va-ed.
Adonai shall reign for ever.
Ki hamalchut shel’cha hi,
For the kingdom is Yours,
ulol’mei ad timloch b’chavod,
and forever and ever You will reign in glory,
ki ein lanu melech ela atah.
for we have no Sovereign except for You.

Hamalach hago-el oti mikol ra
May the angel who frees me from all evil
y’varech et han’arim,
bless the youth, v’yikarei vahem sh’mi,
and declared upon them may my name be,
v’shem avotai Avraham v’Yitzchak,
and the names of my ancestors Abraham and Isaac,
v’yidgu larov b’kerev ha-aretz.
and like fish may they proliferate abundantly within the land.
Vayomer, im shamo-a tishma
He said, If you diligently heed
l’kol Adonai Elohecha,
the voice of Adonai Your Elohim,
v’hayashar b’einav ta-aseh,
and do what is right in My eyes,
v’ha-azanta l’mitzvotav,
and you listen closely to My mitzvot,
v’shamarta kol chukav,
and you observe all My decrees,
kol hamachalah asher samti
the entire malady which I inflicted
b’mitzrayim lo asim alecha,
upon Egypt I will not inflict upon you,
ki ani Adonai rofecha.
for I am Adonai Your Healer.

Vayomer Adonai el hasatan,
Adonai said to the Opponent,
yigar Adonai b’cha hasatan,
Adonai shall denounce you the Opponent,
v’yigar Adonai b’cha
and Adonai shall denounce you again
habocher Birushalayim,
Who chooses Jerusalem,
halo zeh ud mutzal me-esh.
is not this a firebrand rescued from a fire?

Hineh mitato sheli-Shlomoh,
Behold the bed of Shlomo,
shishim giborim saviv lah,
sixty mighty ones surround it,
migiborei Yisra-el.
from among the mighty ones of Israel.
Kulam achuzei cherev,
All gripping the sword,
m’lum’dei milchamah,
trained in battle,
ish charbo al y’recho
each with his sword on his thigh
mipachad baleilot.
from terror in the nights.

Y’varech’cha Adonai v’yishm’recha.
May Adonai bless you and protect you.
Ya-er Adonai panav elecha vichuneka.
May Adonai shine Its countenance upon you and give you grace.
Yisa Adonai panav elecha v’yasem
May Adonai lift Its countenance towards you and give
l’cha shalom.
peace to you.

Recite three times:
Hineh lo yanum v’lo yishan,
Behold neither slumber nor sleeps,
shomer Yisra-el.
the Guardian of Israel.

Recite three times:
Lishu-at’cha kiviti Adonai.
For Your salvation do I yearn Adonai.
Kiviti lishu-at’cha Adonai.
I do yearn for Your salvation Adonai.
Adonai lishu-at’cha kiviti.
Adonai for Your salvation do I yearn.

Recite three times:
B’shem Adonai Elohei Yisra-el,
In the Name of Adonai the Elohim of Israel,
mimini Micha-el,
may Michael be at my right,
umis’moli Gavri-el,
and may Gabriel be at my left,
umil’fanai Uri-el,
and may Uriel be before me,
ume-achorai R’fa-el,
and may Raphael be behind me,
v’al roshi Sh’chinat El.
and may the Sh’chinah of the Eternal One rest above my head.


Shir hama-alot,
A song of ascents,
Ashrei kol y’re Adonai,
Happy is each person who is in awe of Adonai,
haholech bidrachav.
and who walks in His ways.
Y’gi-a kapecha ki tochel,
The labor of your hands when you eat,ashrecha v’tov lach.
you are happy and it is well with you.
Esht’cha k’gefen
Your partner will be like a vine
poriyah b’yark’tei veitecha,
fruitful in the inner chambers of your house,
banecha kishtilei zetim,
your offspring will be like shoots of olive trees,
saviv l’shulchanecha.
surrounding your table.
Hineh chi chen y’vorach gaver,
Behold for thus is blessed the person,
y’rei Adonai.
who is in awe of Adonai.
Y’varech’cha Adonai mi-Tziyon,
May Adonai bless you from Zion,
ureh b’tuv Y’rushalayim,
and may you gaze upon the goodness of Jerusalem,
kol y’mei chayecha.
all the days of your life.
Ureh vanim l’vanecha,
And may you see offspring to your offspring,
shalom al Yisra-el.
peace upon Israel.

Recite three times:
Rigzu v’al techeta-u,
Tremble and do not miss the mark,
imru vilvavchem al mishkavchem,
reflect in your hearts while on your beds,
v’domu selah.
and be utterly silent, selah.





Tikkun Chatzot in English

Tikkun Chatzot Laws

The scriptures tell us “Arise, cry out in the night, at the beginning of the watches, pour out your heart like water, facing the Presence of G-d.” (Lamentations 2:19) It is the custom among the pious to rise up during the night and pray for the rebuilding of Temple and the redemption of Jewish People. The ideal times appointed for saying this devotional prayer is at the true celestial midnight; which is the actual midpoint of the night. This will vary depending on the season and location. The Baal HaTanya (S.A.HaRav; MB, Hashkamat HaBoker, 1:8) teaches us to calculate this as 12 hours after high noon when the sun is directly overhead; this is agreed upon by many authorities including the Ben Ish Chai (Vayishlach §4). If one finds they cannot say Tikkun Chatzot at the appointed time then it is appropriate to say it at the first third of the night, or the second third of the night; or the end of the night, up until 1 hour before sunrise. There are various automated Zmanim resources available online, such as at, that will calculate the halachic times for your location.  If one rises to say these prayers and has slept during the night then one should say “The Morning Blessings” and the “Blessing of the Torah.” If one woke up before it’s time, one should wait until chatzot (true-midnight) to say these blessings. However, if one cannot sleep and has awoken early then one may say the “Blessing of The Torah” and study until chatzot, then say “The Morning Blessings” and repeat the “Blessing of the Torah” together at that time. One will not have to repeat these blessings later, even if they return to sleep; their requirement to say them for that day has already been fulfilled. The prayers of Tikkun Chatzot are divided into two sections, Tikkun Rachel and Tikkun Leah. The central theme of Tikkun Rachel is mourning over exile and distress, and therefore is not appropriate to say on days of celebration. However, Tikkun Leah carries the theme of praise and longing for the Presence of G-d. Tikkun Rachel is only said on days in which Tachanun is said; it should not be said on days of celebration, including Shabbat and Festivals. Tikkun Leah, according to the Ashkenazi tradition, may be said on days even when Tachanun is not said; including Shabbat, Festivals, minor holidays, etc. (it is the custom of Sephardim to not say Tikkun Chatzot at all on Shabbat or Festivals). When saying Tikkun Chatzot, it is the custom to sit close to a door that has a mezuzah affixed to it. It is to be said in a solemn tone, singing according to the melody of Lamentations or merely read aloud.

Tikkun Chatzot English Text

Tikkun Rachel

While saying Tikkun Rachel one should sit low to the ground either on a sheet on the floor or on a low stool, and remove their shoes. One should also take ashes and place them on the forehead at the place where the Tefillin of the head is laid, and cover their head with a shawl or cloth. Such symbolism represents the act of mourning.

It is the custom of most Chassidim and Sephardim to include this confession at this point on days when Tachanun is said. This text is not included in the Lubavitch siddurim at this point, as it is the custom to say this with “The Bedtime Shema”; however, it is being included for the use of those who follow this custom. This confession should be said while standing, upon completion one may be seated again:

“I acknowledge unto Thee, O my God and God of my fathers that both my cure and my death depend on Thy will. May it be Thy will to heal me. Yet if Thou hast decreed that I shall die of this disease, may my death expiate all my sins, iniquities and transgressions which I have committed before Thee. Grant me shelter in the shadow of Thy wings and a portion in the Garden of Eden, and let me merit the resurrection and the life of bliss in the world to come, which is reserved for the righteous”

Ashamnu-we have trespassed

Bagadnu- we have dealt treacherously

gazalnu-we have robbed

Dibarnu dofi- we have spoken slander

heevinu- we have acted perversely

v’hirshanu-we have done wrong

zadnu- we have acted presumptuously

hamasnu- we have done violence

tafalnu sheker- we have practiced deceit

yaatsnu ra- we have counseled evil

kizavnu- we have spoken falsehood

latsnu- we have scoffed

maradnu-we have revolted

niatsnu-we have blasphemed

sararnu-we have rebelled

avinu- we have committed iniquity

pashanu-we have transgressed

tsararnu-we have oppressed

kishinu oref-we have been stiff-necked

rashanu- we have acted wickedly

shichatnu- we have dealt corruptly

tiavnu-we have committed abomination

tainu- we have gone astray

titanu- we have led others astray

Tikkun Rachel

Psalm 137

1 By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.

2 Upon the willows, in the midst thereof we hanged up our harps.

3 For there they that led us captive asked of us words of a song, and our tormentors asked of us mirth: {N}
‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion.’

4 How shall we sing the LORD’S song in a foreign land?

5 If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.

6 Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I remember thee not; {N}
if I set not Jerusalem above my chiefest joy.

7 Remember, O LORD, against the children of Edom the day of Jerusalem; {N}
who said: ‘Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation thereof.’

8 O daughter of Babylon, that art to be destroyed; {N}
happy shall he be, that repayeth thee as thou hast served us.

9 Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the rock. {P}

Psalm 79

1 A Psalm of Asaph. {N}
O God, the heathen come into Thine inheritance; they have defiled Thy holy temple; {N}
they have made Jerusalem into heaps.

2 They have given the dead bodies of Thy servants to be food unto the fowls of the heaven, {N}
the flesh of Thy saints unto the beasts of the earth.

3 They have shed their blood like water round about Jerusalem, with none to bury them.

4 We are become a taunt to our neighbors, a scorn and derision to them that are round about us.

5 How long, O LORD, wilt Thou be angry forever? How long will Thy jealousy burn like fire?

6 Pour out Thy wrath upon the nations that know Thee not, {N}
and upon the kingdoms that call not upon Thy name.

7 For they have devoured Jacob and laid waste his habitation.

8 Remember not against us the iniquities of our forefathers; {N}
let Thy compassions speedily come to meet us; for we are brought very low.

9 Help us, O God of our salvation, for the sake of the glory of Thy name; {N}
and deliver us, and forgive our sins, for Thy name’s sake.

10 Wherefore should the nations say: ‘Where is their God?’ {N}
Let the avenging of Thy servants’ blood that is shed be made known among the nations in our sight.

11 Let the groaning of the prisoner come before Thee; according to the greatness of Thy power set free those that are appointed to death;

12 And render unto our neighbors sevenfold into their bosom their reproach, {N}
wherewith they have reproached Thee, O Lord.

13 So we that are Thy people and the flock of Thy pasture will give Thee thanks for ever; {N}
we will tell of Thy praise to all generations. {P}

Chapter 5 Eicha

1 Remember, O LORD, what is come upon us; behold, and see our reproach.

2 Our inheritance is turned unto strangers, our houses unto aliens.

3 We are become orphans and fatherless, our mothers are as widows.

4 We have drunk our water for money; our wood cometh to us for price.

5 To our very necks we are pursued; we labour, and have no rest.

6 We have given the hand to Egypt, and to Assyria, to have bread enough;

7 Our fathers have sinned, and are not; and we have borne their iniquities.

8 Servants rule over us; there is none to deliver us out of their hand.

9 We get our bread with the peril of our lives because of the sword of the wilderness.

10 Our skin is hot like an oven because of the burning heat of famine.

11 They have ravished the women in Zion, the maidens in the cities of Judah.

12 Princes are hanged up by their hand; the faces of elders are not honoured.

13 The young men have borne the mill, and the children have stumbled under the wood.

14 The elders have ceased from the gate, the young men from their music.

15 The joy of our heart is ceased; our dance is turned into mourning.

16 The crown is fallen from our head; woe unto us! for we have sinned.

17 For this our heart is faint, for these things our eyes are dim;

18 For the mountain of Zion, which is desolate, the foxes walk upon it. {P}

19 Thou, O LORD, art enthroned for ever, Thy throne is from generation to generation.

20 Wherefore dost Thou forget us for ever, and forsake us so long time?

21 Turn Thou us unto Thee, O LORD, and we shall be turned; renew our days as of old.

22 Thou canst not have utterly rejected us, and be exceeding wroth against us! {P}

Shake thyself from the dust; bariseand sit down, O Jerusalem: loose thyself from the cbands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion.

Tikkun Leah

Psalm 24

1 A Psalm of David. {N}
The earth is the LORD’S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.

2 For He hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods.

3 Who shall ascend into the mountain of the LORD? and who shall stand in His holy place?

4 He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; {N}
who hath not taken My name in vain, and hath not sworn deceitfully.

5 He shall receive a blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.

6 Such is the generation of them that seek after Him, that seek Thy face, even Jacob. Selah

7 Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors; {N}
that the King of glory may come in.

8 ‘Who is the King of glory?’ {N}
‘The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle.’

9 Lift up your heads, O ye gates, yea, lift them up, ye everlasting doors; {N}
that the King of glory may come in.

10 ‘Who then is the King of glory?’ {N}
‘The LORD of hosts; He is the

Psalm 42

1 For the Leader; Maschil of the sons of Korah.

2 As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after Thee, O God.

3 My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: {N}
‘When shall I come and appear before God?’

4 My tears have been my food day and night, {N}
while they say unto me all the day: ‘Where is thy God?’

5 These things I remember and pour out my soul within me, {N}
how I passed on with the throng and led them to the house of God, {N}
with the voice of joy and praise, a multitude keeping holiday.

6 Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why moanest thou within me? {N}
Hope thou in God; for I shall yet praise Him for the salvation of His countenance.

7 O my God, my soul is cast down within me; {N}
therefore do I remember Thee from the land of Jordan, and the Hermon, from the hill Mizar.

8 Deep calleth unto deep at the voice of Thy cataracts; {N}
all Thy waves and Thy billows are gone over me.

9 By day the LORD will command His loving kindness, and in the night His song shall be with me, {N}
even a prayer unto the God of my life.

10 I will say unto God my Rock: ‘Why hast Thou forgotten me? {N}
Why go am I mourning under the oppression of the enemy?’

11 As with a crushing in my bones, mine adversaries taunt me; {N}
while they say unto me all the day: ‘Where is thy God?’

12 Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why moanest thou within me? {N}
Hope thou in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the salvation of my countenance, and my God. {P}

Psalm 43

1 Be Thou my judge, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation; {N}
O deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man.

2 For Thou art the God of my strength; why hast Thou cast me off? {N}
Why go I mourning under the oppression of the enemy?

3 O send out Thy light and Thy truth; let them lead me; {N}
let them bring me unto Thy holy mountain, and to Thy dwelling-places.

4 Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God, my exceeding joy; {N}
and praise Thee upon the harp, O God, my God.

5 Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why moanest thou within me? {N}
Hope thou in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the salvation of my countenance, and my God. {P}

Psalm 20

1 For the Leader. A Psalm of David.

2 The LORD answer thee in the day of trouble; the name of the God of Jacob set thee up on high;

3 Send forth thy help from the sanctuary, and support thee out of Zion;

4 Receive the memorial of all thy meal-offerings, and accept the fat of thy burnt-sacrifice; Selah

5 Grant thee according to thine own heart, and fulfill all thy counsel.

6 We will shout for joy in thy victory, and in the name of our God we will set up our standards; {N}
the LORD fulfill all thy petitions.

7 Now know I that the LORD saveth His anointed; {N}
He will answer him from His holy heaven with the mighty acts of His saving right hand.

8 Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; {N}
but we will make mention of the name of the LORD our God.

9 They are bowed down and fallen; but we are risen, and stand upright.

10 Save, LORD; let the King answer us in the day that we call. {P}

Psalm 24

1 A Psalm of David. {N}
The earth is the LORD’S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.

2 For He hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods.

3 Who shall ascend into the mountain of the LORD? and who shall stand in His holy place?

4 He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; {N}
who hath not taken My name in vain, and hath not sworn deceitfully.

5 He shall receive a blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.

6 Such is the generation of them that seek after Him, that seek Thy face, even Jacob. Selah

7 Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors; {N}
that the King of glory may come in.

8 ‘Who is the King of glory?’ {N}
‘The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle.’

9 Lift up your heads, O ye gates, yea, lift them up, ye everlasting doors; {N}
that the King of glory may come in.

10 ‘Who then is the King of glory?’ {N}
‘The LORD of hosts; He is the King of glory.’ Selah {P}

Psalm 67

1 For the Leader; with string-music. A Psalm, a Song.

2 God be gracious unto us, and bless us; may He cause His face to shine toward us; Selah

3 That Thy way may be known upon earth, Thy salvation among all nations.

4 Let the peoples give thanks unto Thee, O God; let the peoples give thanks unto Thee, all of them.

5 O let the nations be glad and sing for joy; {N}
for Thou wilt judge the peoples with equity, and lead the nations upon earth. Selah

6 Let the peoples give thanks unto Thee, O God; let the peoples give thanks unto Thee, all of them.

7 The earth hath yielded her increase; may God, our own God, bless us.

8 May God bless us; and let all the ends of the earth fear Him. {P}

Psalm 111

1 Hallelujah. {N}
I will give thanks unto the LORD with my whole heart, in the council of the upright, and in the congregation.

2 The works of the LORD are great, sought out of all them that have delight therein.

3 His work is glory and majesty; and His righteousness endureth for ever.

4 He hath made a memorial for His wonderful works; the LORD is gracious and full of compassion.

5 He hath given food unto them that fear Him; He will ever be mindful of His covenant.

6 He hath declared to His people the power of His works, in giving them the heritage of the nations.

7 The works of His hands are truth and justice; all His precepts are sure.

8 They are established for ever and ever, they are done in truth and uprightness.

9 He hath sent redemption unto His people; He hath commanded His covenant for ever; {N}
Holy and awful is His name.

10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all they that do thereafter; {N}
His praise endureth for ever. {P}

Psalm 51

1 For the Leader. A Psalm of David;

2 When Nathan the prophet came unto him, after he had gone in to Bath-sheba.

3 Be gracious unto me, O God, according to Thy mercy; according to the multitude of Thy compassions blot out my transgressions.

4 Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

5 For I know my transgressions; and my sin is ever before me.

6 Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in Thy sight;{N}
that Thou mayest be justified when Thou speakest, and be in the right when Thou judgest.

7 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.

8 Behold, Thou desirest truth in the inward parts; make me, therefore, to know wisdom in mine inmost heart.

9 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

10 Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which Thou hast crushed may rejoice.

11 Hide Thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.

12 Create me a clean heart, O God; and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

13 Cast me not away from Thy presence; and take not Thy holy spirit from me.

14 Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation; and let a willing spirit uphold me.

15 Then will I teach transgressors Thy ways; and sinners shall return unto Thee.

16 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, Thou God of my salvation; {N}
so shall my tongue sing aloud of Thy righteousness.

17 O Lord, open Thou my lips; and my mouth shall declare Thy praise.

18 For Thou delightest not in sacrifice, else would I give it; Thou hast no pleasure in burnt-offering.

19 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; {N}
a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise.

20 Do good in Thy favour unto Zion; build Thou the walls of Jerusalem.

21 Then wilt Thou delight in the sacrifices of righteousness, in burnt-offering and whole offering; {N}
then will they offer bullocks upon Thine altar. {P}

Psalm 126

1 A Song of Ascents. {N}
When the LORD brought back those that returned to Zion, we were like unto them that dream.

2 Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing; {N}
then said they among the nations: ‘The LORD hath done great things with these.’

3 The LORD hath done great things with us; we are rejoiced.

4 Turn our captivity, O LORD, as the streams in the dry land.

5 They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.

6 Though he goeth on his way weeping that beareth the measure of seed, {N}
he shall come home with joy, bearing his sheaves. {P}

Ad Ana Bechiya Song

“How long will there be crying in Tzion and eulogy in Jerusalem? Have mercy on Tzion and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.”

Prayer by Natan of Breslev

May it be Thy will the L-rd my G-d, and G-d of my forefathers, that you assist me and grant me the merit of Your great compassion and your awesome kindness, that I speedily merit to truly feel the pain of my many abundant and awful sins, transgressions, and willful violations of the Torah that are piled up high to the sky, as innumerable as the sands of the earth – especially the sexual sins that I committed which blemished the Covenant of the Brit, the blemishes to the seminal drops that issue forth from the brain, that I spilled in vain, whether accidentally or knowingly, whether against my will or willfully.

If I were to begin to feel the depth of the anguish of this awesome and terrible blemish, I do not know if I could continue to exist, even for an hour, since You have taught us through Your righteous Tzaddikim the magnitude of this stain which prolongs the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash, and delays the Redemption, and causes the Shechina to descend into exile, G-d forbid, and dooms the disembodied souls to the realm of the klipot, where from each drop of wasted semen a destroying agent is created, may the Compassionate One have mercy. And many other vast and terrible blemishes result from this, for all of the Torah is dependent on the Rectification of the Brit, which is the foundation of everything. For this transgression damages all of the twenty-two letters of the Torah, because the seminal drop is composed of them, as is known.

Truly, my heart is closed, and confused, and crooked, to such an extent that I don’t feel at all the pain over my numerous and weighty transgressions, even when I speak about them. O, what is with me, what is with me? Even if I were to say a thousand times, “Oh, what is with me?” I still feel nothing at all. What can I say? What can I claim? What can I ask for? How can I justify my deeds?

Nonetheless, You are compassionate with all mankind, and You see to the end of all generations, and you will perfect all of us one day as You have promised. Therefore, to You, I raise my hands in supplication. O mighty Redeemer, help me! Teach me and instruct me at every moment, in whatever manner, in whatever way, how I can merit to return to You in truth, from evil to good, from death to life, for my existence is very bitter.

My Father, my Creator, and my Redeemer help me and save me quickly, that I merit to truly return to You with a whole heart. Circumcise the evil foreskin of my heart, and open my heart in a manner that I will be able to feel the anguish of my innumerable transgressions, so that I will be able to cry out from my heart a great and bitter cry, fitting to my station – to cry out again and again Oy, Oy, Oy, over these weighty and terrible sins, to scream out in truth with a full and broken  and saddened heart, from its very depths, until the hearts of all of the souls of the seminal drops that emanated from me, wherever they may be, will also feel my anguish, both the drops that went forth in a permitted manner and became my real children, may they live a long and healthy life, and, on the contrary, the drops that I spilled in vain, whether accidentally or willfully, and became what they became, each and every one of them, woe is me, woe is me.

May my cry awaken them and cause the foreskins of their hearts to be circumcised also so that all of them, wherever they may be, will feel the depth of their pain and sorrow, understanding that they are imprisoned in the abyss of the underworld, in polluted places so frightening that it cannot be spoken, that such a thunderous noise be raised amongst them, that all of them be awakened to return to the Blessed One in truth, to begin to yearn, and to feel genuine sorrow, and to truly desire to be rectified and to return to G-d in truth, until Your benefiting compassion is awakened, Your hidden  mercy, Your great and goodly compassion, over me and over them.

Please act to heal us and redeem us speedily from the depths of the grave, and from all of the impure and polluted realms into which we have fallen. Save us, redeem us, extract us from all of these places in safety. Rectify us. May the King quickly return His scattered outcasts, for Your providence extends over everything. Circumcise our hearts to love Your Name, as is written, “And the L-rd your G-d will circumcise your heart and the heart of your seed to love the L-rd your G-d with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.”

Our Father, our King, the living G-d, our Maker, our Portion, save our beloved remnant from destruction for the sake of the Covenant that You stamped in our flesh. Grant me the merit to quickly circumcise the foreskin of my heart and that of my offspring, especially during these holy days of Elul. Grant me the merit that I may now truly prepare myself spiritually so that I may merit that these special holy days of Elul work in my behalf to help me completely circumcise the foreskin of my heart and the hearts of my offspring in truth, so that I may merit in this present lifetime to completely rectify my wrongdoings and blemishes in the merit of the true Tzaddikim (Righteous Jews), myself and my offspring and all those who are dependent upon me, that I not be ashamed and embarrassed and fail forever, being left in my initial shame, so that my transgressions have no power to hover in waiting over the opening of my grave, G-d forbid. Rather, allow me to rectify everything in this lifetime, in the power and merit of the true Tzaddikim, for I have no hope or support without them, for we are still waiting for the good and promised salvation that will come in their merit and strength.

You who is full of mercy, consider me in kindness and have compassion upon me and rescue me from shame and humiliation, that no destructive or evil agent will have the power to approach me at the time of my death, and that they should not follow after my coffin, G-d forbid. Please in your great mercy, cast them far from me, and totally wipe them out, now and forever more. Have mercy on me in Your abundant pardon and mighty forgiveness that I merit to rectify in my life everything that I damaged with my sins. Forgive me for everything in this lifetime, so that I will not have to face any judgment and sentence in the world to come. Even though I know that in truth I am far from deserving this kind of salvation, for through what do I merit such a thing? Nevertheless, I trust in Your great compassion and I rest on Your kindness, on Your forgiveness I wait, and on Your salvation I yearn, through the merit and power of the true Tzaddikim of our time, and through the merit of the true Tzaddikim who rest in the earth, on them we lean for support, and on their merit I have come before You with my plea.

Therefore, I stand and anticipate and hope for Your mighty salvation, that I speedily merit the fulfillment of all that I have asked for in Your Presence, for You look toward the evil-doer and desire his repentance and his return to the righteous way. And if I have greatly delayed in returning to You, and even added more and more frightful transgressions each day, nevertheless, I still anticipate each day that my salvation will come with my soul’s redemption, that I may quickly merit to awaken from my slumber, and to rise from my fallen state, to rise up from my descent, and to return to life from the death that has seized me, to return to You in truth and with a whole heart, me and my seed, and my children’s offspring, and all the seed of Your nation the House of Israel, from now until forever, Amen, Selah.

Kabbalistic secrets of Pesach (Passover) 1-9 Rabbi Ephraim Goldstein

Kabbalistic secrets of Pesach (Passover) 1-9 Rabbi Ephraim Goldstein. Exodus Pesach According to Kabbalah of Arizal Shaar HaKavanot (Gate of Meditations) If you want to find out the secrets behind Pesach (Passover), Passover Seder, Haggadah, matzah, Afikomen, four cups of wine you should listen to this lecture. You will find out why we eat matzah, drink four cups of wine, read Haggadah etc. Kabbalistic secrets of Pesach 1 is an introduction and deals with why Jews were slaves in Egypt, what Pharoh actually wanted from Jews. Why we could only leave Egypt with the hand of G-d. What and why there were the 10 plagues sent by G-d.

Ten Ways to Answer Jews for Jesus Propaganda

How to stop Jews for Jesus Christian Missionaries that are “committing holocaust” by assimilating Jews, pray for their organizations to be closed down with G-ds help they will be shut down. Like this Jew’s heroic act at the Western Wall burning fake missionary bible. Do not listen to fake messianic Jews that are “committing holocaust” by assimilating Jews, they are worse than Hitler because they doing it like the sly snake lied to Eve in the garden. Fake messianic jews lure you in with sweet talk such as love, compassion etc. don’t believe it for a second they are sneaky liars may G-d destroy their plans.

The best response to those challenging our faith and identity is to provide information, encourage critical thinking, and demonstrate the spiritual beauty and relevance of Judaism. Jews for Judaism has dedicated its efforts to this for more than 30 years. This pamphlet is just one example, and it is our newest addition to our Jewish Response to Missionaries series. Our highly acclaimed handbook, with this title, is available for free download in nine languages at Jews For Judaism.

Some people are reluctant to explore non-Jewish texts. Where do we find a biblical mandate to engage in this form of preventive education?

Before entering into the Land of Israel, God commanded the Jews to prepare themselves for encounters with nations whose beliefs are contrary to the Torah. In Deuteronomy 18:9, God said, “You shall not learn to do” – the ways of those nations. Our sages*point out that this statement seems to contain superfluous words because it could have said either, “you shall not learn” or “you shall not do.

In fact, the additional words teach that although it is forbidden to learn false beliefs to do them, it is permissible to learn them to educate our children to avoid false beliefs.

The teaching, “Know what to answer” in Ethics of our Fathers 2:14 is another powerful directive to learn how to respond to theological challenges. We hope this article will enlighten you, and provide the answers you need.

*See the commentaries of Rashi, Sifre, and Maskil LaDavid.

Answering the Challenge – Sin, Sacrifices, and Atonement?

There is a fundamental question posed by Christian believers that warrants a thoughtful response.

The question is often phrased, along with several incorrect assumptions, like this: “We are all sinners1, and the only way to get rid of sin is by offering a blood sacrifice. Since the Jewish Temple no longer exists, and you can’t offer sacrifices, how do you get rid of your sins today?”

This issue is compounded by two additional assumptions, based on the New Testament book of Romans – written by Paul whose authority is questionable because he never met Jesus.

The first assumption is that mankind inherited a state of eternal damnation as a result of the “original sin” of Adam. They attribute this to Romans 5:18, “Through one transgression there resulted in condemnation to all men.”

The second assumption is that the divinely authored biblical commandments were intended only as a stumbling block to proving that frail humanity could not achieve perfection in observing them.2 Therefore, salvation could only come about through belief in the righteousness of Jesus who, they allege, fulfilled all the commandments in the believer’s place and who died an atoning death on the believer’s behalf. They bring as proof, Romans 4:15; “The Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, there is no violation.” 3

To some with a cursory understanding of the Bible, this line of reasoning may sound logical. However, it should be scrutinized carefully (albeit within the limitations of this brief essay) to determine if it is the true biblical intent, as it says in Proverbs:

The one that brings his case first seems right, but then his neighbor comes and examines him.” Proverbs 18:17.

So let’s see what the Bible really says. To begin with, according to the Bible sin is an act of rebellion, not an intrinsic state of being. The Bible actually teaches that as a result of Adam and Eve’s sin, mankind was given4 an inclination – or temptation – to do evil.

This inclination is described in Genesis as,

The inclination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” Genesis 8:21

An inclination is a pull or a drive. It acts upon the person, but it is not the person. This inclination does not make the person a sinner, nor is he in a constant state of sin. Rather, via the temptation to do evil5 a person is endowed with freedom of choice and the ability to choose good over evil. This is expounded in the following verses:

“I have placed before you today life and what is good, and death and what is evil. Deuteronomy 30:15

I have placed life and death before you, blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live.” Deuteronomy 30:19.

The ability to rule over evil is not just wishful thinking. It is a directive expressed in the following verse, which mentions sin by name the very first time in the Bible,

Sin is crouching at the door; and it desires you, but you are able to rule over it. Genesis 4:7

If sin is an insurmountable condition that no one can overcome, wouldn’t this be the logical place for the God to say so? However, this passage teaches that although it is inevitable that we will be tempted to sin, we clearly have God’s promise of an inner ability to overcome the temptation. King David said this in his well-known words,

Turn from evil and do good.” Psalm 37:27

What does Christianity do with this clear biblical teaching that we can master sin? Christianity simply changes the Bible. It presents a contradictory and incorrect translation of how God instructed mankind to turn from sin, as is demonstrated in a blatant Christian mistranslation of Isaiah 59:20. In the Hebrew original, this verse says:

A redeemer will come to Zion; and unto those who turn from transgression.” Isaiah 59:20

This verse clearly demonstrates two points: 1) People can turn from transgression; and, 2) The redeemer of Israel will come to Zion and to those who turn away from sin on their own accord.

However, in the Christian New Testament, the same verse in Isaiah is incorrectly quoted to give the impression that it is the messiah who removes sin. Romans 11:26 says:

The Deliverer will come from Zion,6 He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.” Romans 11:26

The mistranslation of the words to Zion” to from Zion” and, “those who turn from transgression” to “He will remove ungodliness,” distorts the meaning of the original text. This is an attempt to support the incorrect Christian belief that a messianic redeemer will remove sin.7 According to the Bible, sincere repentance has always been the fundamental method of removing sin.

What is Repentance?

The Hebrew word for repentance is Teshuvah – and it literally means “to return” to God.8 This is a process of regretting and forsaking sin, as demonstrated in the following verses:

Let the wicked forsake his way and let him return to the Lord.” Isaiah 55:7

“When a wicked man turns away from his wickedness which he has committed and practices justice and righteousness, he will save his life.” Ezekiel 18:27

Furthermore, the Book of Chronicles says,

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14

While there is absolutely no mention of blood in the above verses, the Bible does command sacrifices under a very narrow and specific set of circumstances, solely as a means of motivating sincere repentance. Biblically-mandated sacrifices were required primarily9 for certain unintentional sins, as it says;

“If a person sins unintentionally in any of the things which the Lord has commanded not to be done… he must present to God an unblemished bull.” Leviticus 4:1

An example of an unintentional sin would be violating the Sabbath because you mistakenly thought it was a weekday, or, accidentally eating a forbidden food while thinking it was permissible.10

In an attempt to build a case that all sins need blood sacrifices, Jews for Jesus often cite a non-existent, passage: “There is no remission without the shedding of blood.”

The intention of this fabricated passage is refuted by a verse in the New Testament, that says;

According to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” Hebrews 9:22

Incredibly, the inclusion of the words, “one may almost say” in this New Testament passage supports the correct biblical teaching that only some sins required blood sacrifices. There is absolutely no blood sacrifice prescribed for the majority of intentional sin, only for an unintentional sin.

So, in addition to referring to unintentional sins, the limited nature of blood sacrifices can also be seen in Chapter 5:13 of Leviticus11 that directs a poor penitent person, who could not afford an animal offering, to offer a non-blood, flour offering in its place.

So why were unintentional sins, rather than intentional sins, singled out for sacrifices? Because when you do something accidentally you commonly minimize its seriousness and downplay the need for repentance. We rationalize and tell ourselves, “It was just an accident.”

The process of bringing a sacrifice focused attention on the seriousness of the unintentional transgression. An animal was offered12 to remind us that we were careless with our animal passions; the animal needed to be unblemished, so during the examination process, we would look for and contemplate our own blemishes. The taking of the animal’s life reminded us of the severity of disobeying God.

Animal sacrifices were a means to a specific end. But they were not a panacea. Someone who brought numerous sacrifices without repentance would accomplish nothing. This point was made by King Solomon, the wisest of all men. He referred to sacrifices offered without repenting or acknowledging one’s sin, as “the sacrifices of fools.” As it says in Ecclesiastes;

Draw near to listen rather than offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong.”13 Ecclesiastes 4:17

Jewish Scriptures makes it clear that God wants a sincere and changed person and not rote sacrifices:

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart.” Psalm 51:22

“The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is His delight.” Proverbs 15:8

I desire kindness and not sacrifices, the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” Hosea 6:6

Doing charity14 and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.” Proverbs 21:3

Almost all sins committed intentionally required only sincere repentance without an animal sacrifice because when a person sins intentionally, they know they are doing something wrong.

So when sinners make up their mind to return to God they do so because they cannot delude themselves into thinking it wasn’t serious or was just an accident.15

This is confirmed by the following verse:

When the wicked man turns away from his wickedness that he has committed, and does that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive.” Ezekiel 18:27

It is essential to remember that God is just and merciful and does not torment us or make it difficult to return to Him. This is attested to throughout the Jewish scriptures.

“We do not present our supplications before you because of our righteousness, but because of your abundant mercy.” Daniel 9:18

Return to Me and I shall return to you.” Malachi 3:7

“God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol, for He will receive me.” Psalm 49:15

“Israel shall be saved by the Lord, and not ashamed or confounded to all eternity.”16 Isaiah 45:17

How do Christians cope with the fact that the majority of intentional sins are atoned for without blood? They quote the non-existent passage that supposedly says, “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin.” But as shown above, that statement is false.

This presents a stunning refutation to the validity and foundation of the tenants of Christianity, because in truth we do not need blood at all for intentional sins, nor do we need blood for unintentional sins when there is no Temple to offer a sacrifice.

What do we do without a Temple?

Why does that absence of the Temple preclude us from offering sacrifices today? Considering God’s reverence for life – both human and animal – sacrifices were severely restricted. Unlike pagan rituals, human sacrifice is absolutely forbidden in Judaism and animals could only be sacrificed in a place of extreme sanctity – the Jewish Temple situated on the “Mountain of God” in Jerusalem. As we are taught:

“Be careful that you do not offer your burnt offerings in every place that you see: But only in the place which the Lord shall choose in one of your tribes.” Deut. 12:13-14

As a result, after the Temple’s destruction, it is prohibited to offer animal sacrifices.

However, since repentance remains the primary way to return to God, we can still access this spiritual tool in any place and circumstance, just as we do with intentional sins. As the prophet Joel says,

“Yet even now, says the Lord, turn to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: and rend your hearts…” Joel 2:12

In fact, having foreseen the destruction of the Temple, the prophets teach that although we will be without sacrifices for a long time, we will still be able to return to God.

“For the sons of Israel will remain many days without a king or prince, without sacrifice… Afterwards Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God and David their king17 and they will come trembling to the Lord and to his goodness in the last days.” Hosea 3:5

The prophets share additional instructions on how to return to God without Temple sacrifices. One of the most striking is also found in Hosea;

Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity, Take words with you and return to the Lord…so we offer the words of our lips instead of bulls.” Hosea 14:1-2

This passage is so powerful; it is not surprising, that some Christian Bibles mistranslate, “the words of our lips instead of bulls” as “the fruit of our lips. By changing “lips” to “fruit” and removing mention of “bulls” they seek to deny the fact that prayer can replace sacrifices.

In context, Hosea was speaking to Jews at a time when they were unable to bring sacrifices to the Temple in Jerusalem. He instructs these Jews to use their words in place of the sacrificial bulls as the means to motivate them to return to God.

The theme, that words of prayer play a vital role in repentance and restoration, is repeated elsewhere in the Jewish scriptures. For example, Jeremiah says:

“Then you shall call upon me, and you shall go and pray to me and I will hearken to you…and I will restore you from your captivity and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places into which I have driven you.” Jeremiah 29:12-14

Furthermore, Daniel was exiled in Babylon and could not offer sacrifices. He would turn toward Jerusalem and pray three times a day corresponding to the three times sacrifices were offered in the Temple.

He [Daniel] had windows open towards Jerusalem; and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God.” Daniel 6:10

Daniel was righteous and obviously achieved atonement without sacrifices as demonstrated by the fact that he reached a state of holiness to be a prophet and survived the “lion’s den.”

Facing toward Jerusalem during prayer is a universally accepted custom; it traces back to a prophetic utterance of King Solomon when he foresaw that our enemies would destroy the Temple and take the Jews into exile.

Solomon instructs the Jews to pray toward Jerusalem and repent and be forgiven without blood.

If they return back to you with all their heart and soul in the land of their enemies who took them captive, and pray to you toward the land you gave their ancestors, toward the city you have chosen and the temple I have built for your Name; then from heaven, your dwelling place, hear their prayer and their plea, and uphold their cause. And forgive your people, who have sinned against you.”18 I Kings 8:47-52

Words and confession are one of the most powerful motivators, so much so that when the Jews sinned with the Golden Calf, it was Moses’ words of prayer that accomplished forgiveness. As it says,

And God said, “I have forgiven them according to your words.” Numbers 14:20

The Torah teaches that through repentance, prayer, fasting, and doing what is right, everyone can return to God directly. This concept is beautifully illustrated in the book of Esther which takes place after the destruction of the first Temple when the Jews were under Persian domination.

Despite being under an edict of absolute annihilation because of their transgressions, a holocaust was averted because of repentance, as it says:

“There was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping, and wailing…” Esther 4:3

Another example – so powerful it is read each year on Yom Kippur – is in the Book of Jonah where non-Jews repented, prayed to God and were forgiven without any offering and animal sacrifices.

“Let men call on God earnestly that each may turn from his wicked. When God saw their (the citizens of Nineveh) deeds; that they turned from their wicked way, than God relented concerning the calamity.” Jonah 3:9-10

The New Testament itself attests to the successful repentance of the citizens of Nineveh.

The men of Nineveh will stand up…for they repented at the preaching of Jonah.” Matthew 12:41

In fact, non-Jews were never commanded to offer sacrifices and relied solely on repentance. Consequently, the argument that they need blood or something to replace blood sacrifices is wrong.

How do Christians deal with these stunning revelations?

When biblical arguments prove insufficient to validate their beliefs, some Christians such as Jews for Jesus resort to the misuse of rabbinical sources in an attempt to prove their beliefs.

There are two statements from the Talmud that are frequently quoted. The first one is:

There is no atonement without blood.” (Talmud – Yoma 5a)

It is important to explore what the Talmud’s actual intention was when it made this statement.

It is unthinkable to conclude that this statement means that the only way to make atonement is through blood sacrifices because there are numerous biblical and Talmudic examples of atonement achieved in ways that do not include blood. Silver half coins, incense, gold vessels and confession are some examples, as these passages demonstrate:

You shall not decrease from half a shekel (silver coin) to give the portion of God to atone for your soul. Exodus 30:15

But Aaron offered the incense and made atonement for them.” Numbers 17:1119

So we have brought as an offering for God: what any man found of gold vessels, anklet, and bracelet, rings, earrings and claps, to atone for our soul before God.” Numbers 31:50

Confession makes atonement.” (Talmud -Yoma – 36b)

Clearly the Talmudic statement, “There is no atonement without blood” is not teaching the exclusivity of blood for atonement; it does, however, teach that in order for a sacrifice to be valid it must be carried through to its final procedural stage of ensuring that the blood (which represents the essence of the animal) is thrown on the Altar.

In another attempt to prove that blood is the only means of atonement, Christians claim the book of Leviticus says:

There is no remission of sin without the shedding of blood.”

As noted earlier, this statement is a total fabrication and does not exist anywhere in the Jewish Bible. It is also contradicted by the New Testament statement (Hebrews 9:22) that blood sacrifices were not for all sins.

When asked where this “no remission of sin” passage is found in the Jewish Bible, Christians typically attribute it to Leviticus 17:11. However, the verse does not say this.

The verse actually says,

For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves20 on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life. Therefore I say to the Israelites, “None of you may eat blood, nor may any foreigner residing among you eat blood.” Leviticus 17:11-12

It does not say that without blood there is no remission of sin. Rather, in context, it says that blood is special because it is the life-source. And since it plays a pivotal role in the sacrificial process, under the narrow and specific criteria where blood is required, it should not be eaten. Additionally, the verse does not use the word “forgiveness,” but rather “atonement” which is different, as will be explained.

The second Talmudic statement quoted out of context by Christians is:

The death of the righteous atones.” (Talmud – Moed Katan 28a)

This rabbinical statement is completely misinterpreted by Christians su as Jews for Jesus. The totality of rabbinical literature demonstrates this pertains to two situations.

First, the alleviation of a Divine punishment decreed upon the Jewish people as a whole.

The story of the sin of Achan son of Carmi in Joshua chapter 7 demonstrates that as the result of one person’s sin the entire Jewish people, despite an individual’s innocence, can experience the collective consequences of the transgression. This is because the Jewish people are compared to one unified body.21

Conversely, innocent individuals can absorb a portion of the communal punishment. The Talmud Sanhedrin 39a, in reference to Ezekiel chapter 4, makes it clear that the suffering of the righteous refers to atonement that “washes away” a portion of the punishment of exile.

This is further supported by the fact that the actual meaning of the Hebrew word for atonement (Kaporah) is “covering” or “cleansing.” The essential point is that atonement obtained by death or suffering only removes communal punishment and not an individual’s sin.22

Every individual has the responsibility to repent directly to God for his own transgressions.

“The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity… the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself.” Ezekiel 18:20

Additionally, nowhere does it say that a person needs to believe in the righteous person, or for that matter, be aware of the righteous person’s suffering, to benefit from it.

So Christians can’t apply this rabbinical statement to their belief that you must accept and believe in Jesus to be saved. It is also ironic that Christians attempt to leverage support for their doctrines from the very rabbinical (oral law) they deride as being non-biblical.

The second teaching concerning the above mentioned Talmudic passage is another example of something that motivates an individual to repent. Specifically, when someone is moved by the death of a righteous individual, this can be the catalyst that motivates the person to repent.

The Talmud (Shabbat 105b) teaches that if a person mourns over the death of an upright man, this can arouse the individual to tears and repentance, thereby eliciting God’s forgiveness.

Whoever weeps for an upright man is forgiven all his iniquities.” (Talmud – Shabbat 105b)

Clearly, the Talmud does not teach that someone can take away another person’s sins.

Law of Life and Connection to God

Contrary to the New Testament’s statement, “the Law brings about wrath” Romans 4:15, which portrays the commandments as a curse and stumbling block; the Torah and the commandments are God’s greatest gift to mankind. King Solomon describes the Torah in uplifting words as follows,

She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her.” Proverbs 3:18

Indeed, the Hebrew word Torah derives from the word for “instruction and light,” which is very different from the negative Christian connotation of harsh legal decrees.23

The literal meaning of the word Torah is “instruction” from the root word “horah –” which means – instruction, – as seen in the verses,

“Teach them the right way to live.” Deuteronomy 4:35

I have not departed from your laws, for you have taught me” Psalm 119:103

The Torah is also referred to as “light” as we can see in the following verse,

The commandments are a candle and the Torah is light.” Proverbs 6:23

The Hebrew word for commandment “mitzvah” which are described in the above verse as a “candle” comes from the word “Tzavta” which means a “connection.” This is because God’s commandments connect us to Him in a way we could never have achieved on our own.

Furthermore, King Solomon said that the main purpose of humanity is to believe in God and keep his commandments as is stated in Ecclesiastes;

The end of the matter, when all is said and done: Be in awe of God and keep his commandments, for that is the whole person.” Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

The Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible, is dedicated to the beauty and eternal nature of the Torah and its commandments.

We can now appreciate an eye-opening admission from a New Testament passage.

“If righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.” Galatians 2:21

In truth, the Torah and the commandments are God’s greatest gift to mankind.24 This includes the commandment of repentance which was given to enables us to achieve forgiveness, salvation, atonement, and righteousness and return to God.

The Torah and its laws are described as follows:

The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul.” Psalm 19:8

Through Torah, we have a direct and personal connection to the compassionate God. We go directly to God with no need for an intermediary.

“Who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity, and passes over the rebellious act…He will again have compassion on us. He will tread our iniquities underfoot. Yes, You will cast all their sin into the depths of the sea.” Micah 7:18-19

The Jewish people have outlived and survived every oppressor who tried to destroy us. The empires of the Babylonians, Greeks, Persian, Romans, Crusaders, Turks, Nazis and the Soviet Union no longer exist; but the Jews are still here.

This is proof of God’s everlasting covenant25 with the Jewish people, love of Israel, and the eternal nature of God’s Torah that unites us in a common purpose based on our values, commandments, and beliefs.

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1. Christians reference Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God“, to support the idea that all mankind has sinned. There is a similar statement in the Jewish Scriptures but it means something very different. In Ecclesiastes 7:20 it says, “Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins.” This verse does not imply that unless we are perfect we fall short of serving God. To the contrary, the verse says that a person could be deemed righteous even if they are not perfect or if they lack something. This is validated by a more careful examination of the Hebrew word chata – ( חטא) which usually means sin. However, the more literal meaning of the word is “to miss the mark” or “to lack” as we see in Judges 20:16 “sling a stone at a hair and not miss and 1 Kings 1:21 “I and my son Solomon will be considered lacking.

2. In fact, the commandments are not too difficult to keep, as it says, “what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach.” Deuteronomy 30:11

3. A former Christian, who converted to Judaism, once shared an explanation of why the Christian understanding of “where there is no law, there is no violation” is absurd. Imagine a city plagued by dangerous and out-of-control drivers. In fact, the traffic court can’t handle the overflow of hearings and traffic tickets. So the city council decides to do away with all traffic laws and thereby avoid anyone being found in violation of reckless driving. This does not reduce the chaos on the roads; it makes things more chaotic.

4. Genesis 2:7 says that, “God formed ‘yatzer’ – ( ייצר) a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath ‘neshmat’ ( נשמת) of life ‘nefesh’ – ( נפש). The word “yatzer” also means inclination and the fact that it is written here with two letter “yuds” – ( יי) alludes to a man being created with two inclinations. A good inclination related to the word “neshmat” which corresponds to the spiritual soul, and an evil inclination related to the word “Nefesh” which corresponds to the animal soul which is the source of desires and temptations.

5. Contrary to the Christian view of Satan as a rebellious angel that desires a man to fail, the Bible metaphorically describes “Satan” as an instrument of God used to challenge and test mankind. The first place the word Satan ( שטן) is used is in the Bible is Numbers 22:22, and in this case, it concerns a good angel (lit: emissary) of God who attempts to “impede” or “oppose” – ( לשטן) the evil Balaam from cursing the Jews. This view, of Satan as an emissary, can also be seen in the book of Job where Satan tests Job and does so only with God’s permission. See also Isaiah 45:7.

6. Jesus did not fulfill the messianic requirements in the Jewish Scriptures, for example, Ezekiel 37:24-28. The majority of proof texts attributed to Jesus are based on mistranslated and out of context passages. My essay on this topic goes into greater detail.

7. In a similar vein, there is another astonishing misquote in the New Testament. Hebrews 10:5 says, “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me.” The use of the word body is a contrived attempt to allude to Jesus. In fact, the original Hebrew quotation from Psalms 40:6 states “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but my ears you have opened.” This means that God prefers obedience more than sacrifice as it says, “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.” 1 Samuel 15:22

8. The word ( תשובה) can be broken up into two words ( תשוב) “to return” and ( ה) “God” and read as, “to return to God.”

9. Although the overwhelming majority of intentional sins did not require a blood sacrifice there were a few exceptions. For example, an unusual case of robbery mentioned in Leviticus 5:20-26 (Chapter 6:1-7 in Christian Bibles – see footnote 13). This particular intentional sin required a guilt offering because of special circumstances associated with it. However, this does not diminish in any way the fact that it is absolutely incorrect to claim that all sins needed blood sacrifices.

10. There were certain cases when unintentional sins did not require a blood sacrifice. For example, if someone committed involuntary manslaughter (Numbers Chapter 35) they were exiled to a “city of refuge” to protect them from a relative seeking revenge. The exile served as a means of punishment and atonement, without a blood sacrifice.

11. The chapter discusses another form of sin offering known as a guilt offering, and referred to in Hebrew as an “asham” – אשם)).

12. An unintentional sin implies that the person was misinformed or careless, and he needs to pay more attention. The cost of the purchasing the animal sacrifice helps to remind you that there are actual consequences.

13. Since the chapter and verse numbering is sometimes different in Christian Bibles, you may find this verse in Ecclesiastes 5:1. The Jewish bible’s formatting is almost identical to the ancient Dead Sea Scrolls and was established centuries before the Christian format.

14. In fact, charity is so powerful, King Solomon says, “Charity saves from death.” Proverbs 10:2. This is because charity represents: 1) True faith in God as the provider of our needs and 2) An opportunity to elevate back to God the life-force we put into earning money.

15. You don’t bring a sacrifice because you need to change and do true repentance on your own from the deepest recesses of your heart.

16. Additionally, both, Isaiah 45:17 and Psalm 49:15 refute the Christian idea of eternal damnation. These verses are two of the sources for the Jewish belief in Gehinom which is similar to the spiritual punishment of purgatory that is temporary and not permanent.

17. This verse also demonstrates the essential point that, “God and David their king (the Messiah)” are separate entities, and not one and the same as Christians incorrectly claim. The refutation of the Trinity and the bodily incarnation of God is the subject of another essay concerning the Unity of God and Idolatry.

18. The wording in this verse is very similar to 2 Chronicles 7:14 quoted earlier in this essay.

19. Reference Number 16:47 in some Christian Bibles.

20. In Hebrew the words “to make atonement for yourself” are “L’Kaper al Nafshotechem” – ( נפשתיכם על לכפר). This is the exact same phrase used in Exodus 30:15 which says, money makes “atonement for yourself.” The word “yourself” is Nefesh-( נפש) and is usually translated as “person” or “soul.” However, there are three different words for soul in the Hebrew Bible: Neshama refers to the spiritual soul, Ruach means the spirit and, Nefesh refers to the person’s basic life force that mankind shares with animals.

21. Examples of the Israel being referred to as a singular unit are, “All the people gathered as one man.” Nehemiah 8:1; “Israel is my son my first born.” Exodus 4:22; and “When Israel was a youth I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My son. Hosea 11:1.

22. Christians claim Isaiah 53 refers to a Suffering Servant of God (Jesus) who died for our sins. In my essay on Isaiah 53, I demonstrate that this is not true. This chapter refers to the suffering of the Jewish people who are depicted as one individual – God’s servant – as it says, “Israel you are my servant” Isaiah 41:8. The Jews suffered from the oppression of the nations of the world. This explanation is obvious when the chapter is read in context, and when we recognize that Isaiah 53:5 is mistranslated in Christian Bibles as “He was wounded for ( מ) our transgression.” The Hebrew letter “mem” – ( מ) in this verse means “from” and not “for.” The verse should read “He (the Jewish people) was wounded from our (the nations) transgressions.”

23. This can also be demonstrated in the significant difference between the translations of the word “Torah” into the Jewish Aramaic translation, and the Hellenized Christian Greek translation. In Aramaic the word Torah is translated as Oraita – (אורייתא) which means “light” – אור, which has an uplifting connotation, and in Greek the word Torah is translated as Nómos – (νόμος), which means “law” connoting something harsh and restrictive.

24. Imagine two groups of people on opposite sides of a mountain carrying heavy stones from the bottom to the top. The people on one side are distraught and the people on the other side of the mountain they are in a state of ecstasy. The difference is that the unhappy people are carrying granite and the happy people are carrying gold. If we view the commandments as gold rather than granite then they will obviously be appreciated as a gift and not a burden.

25. Christians misinterpret Jeremiah 31:31 claiming it speaks of a “New Covenant” that makes the covenant of Torah Law obsolete, as the New Testament says, “By calling the new covenant ‘new’, He has made the first obsolete” – Hebrews 8:13. This claim contradicts dozens of passages that say the commandments are eternal, for example, “The statutes, the ordinances, the law, and the commandment which He wrote for you, you shall be careful to observe forever.” – 2 Kings 17:37, and “He has commanded His covenant forever” – Psalm 111:9. God also promised He would never break His covenant with the Jews as it says, “I will not reject them or abhor them so as to destroy them completely, breaking my covenant with them” – Leviticus 26:44. In context, Jeremiah 31 speaks of a new and improved covenant. In addition to not being broken by God, this covenant will no longer be broken by the Jewish people because, in the future messianic age, God will give the Jews a new heart, and they will no longer be tempted to transgress the commandments. (See Ezekiel 36:26-27)

Who is Jesus to the Jews?


For the past two thousand years, Christians have been trying to convert Jews. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on this effort — “Jews for Jesus,” and “Chosen Peoples Ministry” are just two dedicated to this goal.   Those organizations will tell less educated Jews (and non-Jews) that you can be Jewish and “follow Jesus.”  They reason that “Jesus was a Jew, and his followers were Jews, so to follow Jesus is a very “Jewish” thing to do.”

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Just because a Jew does something does not make it Jewish (or right).  Consider all those Jews in the bible (which Jews call the T’nach) who worshiped false gods like Moloch and Ba’al.   Did the fact that they were Jews make it acceptable to the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah?

The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the Jews dwelling in the land of Egypt. . .because of their evil, which they did to provoke Me, to go to burn incense to worship other gods, which they did not know, [neither did] you nor your forefathers.   And I sent to you all My servants the prophets, sending them betimes, saying: Now do not do this abominable thing which I hate.  But they did not hearken, nor did they incline their ear[s] to repent of their evil, not to burn incense to other gods. . .”  Yirmiyahu / Jeremiah 44:1-5.

Those people were Jews.   G-d did not approve of them following gods “they did not know” (at Mount Sinai).   This is the key.   We are warned time and again that if someone entices a Jew to any form of worship that we were unfamiliar with at Mount Sinai it is FALSE.  Just because someone is a Jew doesn’t make what they do correctly.

Ask yourselves:  did the Jews at Mount Sinai know Jesus as G-d?   Did they pray in the name of Jesus?

The answer is, of course, “no.”

The Jewish Bible tells us that we are not to pray to any “god” our fathers did not know (at Sinai). This is the absolute death knell to the missionary claim that Jesus IS G-d. If we did not “know” Jesus at Sinai he is a false god. Read D’varim 11 and D’varim 13 (Deuteronomy):

“. . . .the curse, if you. . .turn away from the way I command you this day,  to follow other gods, WHICH YOU DID NOT KNOW.” 
D’varim / Deuteronomy 11: 28

“[This is what you must do] if your blood brother, your son, your daughter, your bosom wife, or your closest friend secretly tries to act as a missionary among you, and says, ‘Let us go worship a new god. LET US HAVE A SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE PREVIOUSLY UNKNOWN BY YOU OR YOUR FATHER.’ 13:8 [He may be enticing you with] the gods of the nations around you, far or near, or those that are found at one end of the world or another. 13:9 Do not agree with him, and do not listen to him.”  D’varim /  Deuteronomy 13:7 


or gods “YOU DID NOT KNOW.”

When did “our fathers,  present at Sinai, have a spiritual experience with Jesus? Was Jesus “known” to them? Did they pray to Jesus or through Jesus? Of course not! Jesus was unknown to them.

Ergo G-d warned us against both Christianity and Islam — any spiritual experience not known to us at Mount Sinai is false.

A Jew cannot believe in Jesus and remain Jewish.

This website is dedicated to exploring the “Judeo-Christian Myth.”   Many people seem to think that the only difference between Judaism and Christianity is that Christians believe Jesus was the Messiah and Jews don’t.    While that is a difference, it is only one and not as major as one might think.    What are the differences?     This website is dedicated to explaining them.

It must be a little worrisome for the average Christian (if he ever thinks about Jews at all) to ask himself “since Jesus was a Jew, and he taught and preached to Jews why didn’t all the Jews en masse become Christians?”

But we haven’t.

For 2000 years that never happened.

How can missionaries justify their belief in Jesus as the “Jewish Messiah” when Jews don’t accept him as such?

Some will say “well, Jews are blind.” This may satisfy some, but most would admit that Jews, though a very small minority, are a pretty smart people. Even world-renowned atheist Richard Dawkins has said he is bewildered at the disproportionate amount of Nobel prizes won by Jews. Between 1901 and 2013, the Nobel Prize has been awarded to approximately 855 laureates. At least 193 (22%) of them have been Jewish even though the global Jewish population is 0.02%!

So, no we’re not stupid people.

Why would G-d “blind” the very people He calls His firstborn son? (Sh’mot / Exodus 4:22), his beloved? Why would G-d tell us Torah and our covenant with Him are eternal — only to “blind” us to the “truth” that it was all a joke, we were just waiting for Jesus to show up?

The problem for the missionary (where the Jew is concerned) is whether all those promises by G-d were lies — or are they mistaken and Jews are not blind. . . were they lied to by the Christian bible and their teachers?

Jews believe in G-d.

Jews believe that G-d does not lie.

Jews believe that G-d is not a man and He does not change His mind. (Bamidbar / Numbers 23:19).  Thus when He says that Torah is eternal, His promises to the Jews are eternal He is not lying.

  • “So I will keep Your Torah – continually forever and ever.” T’hillim / Psalm 119:44;
  • “He remembered His covenant forever, the word He had commanded to the thousandth generation,. . . they keep His statutes and observe His Torah” T’hillim / Psalm 105:8-45;
  • “The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our G-d will stand forever.” Yeshayahu / Isaiah 40:8;
  • “He sent redemption to His people; He commanded His covenant forever; His name is holy and awesome.” T’hillim / Psalm 111:9;
  • “For I give you good doctrine, forsake not my Torah.” Mishlei / Proverbs 4:2.

Jews are not blind. There is a reason we have not become Christians. If someone tells you that you can be Jewish and a Christian run, don’t walk, quickly in the opposite direction. It is a lie — one that has been told for over 2000 years.

My purpose is not to convert Christians to Judaism.  Jews are here to help teach non-Jews what G-d expects of them — a nation of priests and a light to the nations.  You don’t have to be a Jew to be loved by G-d.   I also do not want to upset any Christians.   If anyone stumbles on this page and has no interest in learning the differences between Judaism and Christianity please leave.   My goal is to help educate people who want to understand emet — the truth.   Welcome, and I hope I can be of some service.

Zohar – Beha’alotecha: Woe to the man who says that the Torah came simply to relate stories and tales of mundane matters.

Zohar – Beha’alotecha Rabbi Shimon says Woe to the man who says that the Torah came simply to relate stories and tales of mundane matters. If it was so, even at the present day we could produce a Torah from simplistic matters, and perhaps even nicer ones than those. If it came to illustrate worldly matters, even the rulers of the world have among them things that are superior. If so, let us follow them and produce from them a Torah in the same manner. However, all matters in the Torah are of a superior nature and are uppermost secrets.

Come and see: the world Above and the world below are measured with one scale. The children of Israel below are opposite the lofty angels above. It is written about the lofty angels: “Who makes the winds His messengers. (Psalms 104:4) When they descend downwards, they have donned with the [physical] vestments of this world [for they have no physical bodies of their own]. If they had not acquired the dress for this world, they would not be able to exist in this world, and the world would not be able to stand them. And if this is so for the angels, how much more so is it for the Torah that created these and all the worlds, that exist due to her. Once it was brought down to this world, if it had not donned all these covering garments of this world, the world would not have been able to tolerate it.

Therefore, this story of the Torah is the mantle of the Torah. He who thinks that this mantle is the actual essence of the Torah and that nothing else is in there, let his spirit deflate and let him have no part in the World to Come. Therefore, David said, “open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Your Torah,” (Psalms 119:18) what lies under that garment of the Torah.

Come and see: There is a garment that is visible to everyone. The simple people, when they see a person dressed beautifully do not observe any further, and they consider the garment as the body [of a man] and the body like his soul.

Similar to this is the Torah. It has a body, which is composed of the commandments of the Torah that are called the ‘body of the Torah’. This body is clothed with garments, which are stories of this world. The ignorant of the world look only at that dress, which is the story in the Torah, and are not aware of anything more. They do not look at what lies beneath that dress. Those who know more do not look at the dress, but rather at the body beneath that dress. The wise, the sages, the servants of the loftiest King, those that stood at Mount Sinai, look only at the soul which is the essence of everything, the real Torah. In the world to come, they are destined to look at the soul, the soul of the Torah.

Woe to those wicked who say that the Torah is merely a story and nothing more, for they look at the dress and no further. Praised are righteous who look properly at the Torah. Wine lasts only if it is in a jug. Similarly, the Torah does not endure, except in this mantle. Therefore, there is no need to look except at what is beneath the mantle. That is why all these matters and all these stories are garments.

Are you eating kosher GMO-Genetic Modified Organisms products?

This Kosher certification program is the latest group to denounce kosher GMO ingredients.DO NOT EAT  KOSHER GMO EVEN IF IT IS TRIPLE KOSHER CERTIFIED.  Genetically modified (“GM”) crops are plant products which have been genetically altered for certain traits. Such traits include resistance to viruses, bacteria, fungi, nematodes, insects, herbicides, and drought, as well as aspects of product quality like improved yield, nutritional value, and longer shelf life.  (See here and here.)

The characterization is somewhat of a misnomer. Modification of biological organisms is not a new process. It has been occurring in nature for billions of years. Indeed, the natural selection of some traits over others is the driving force of biological evolution, the process by which a species over time secures a competitive advantage in its environment. Today, though, the label of GM foods is meant to identify those products that have been modified or engineered by human means.


Michael Green, a British-based Jewish commentator, who espouses Orthodox Judaism, argues that there is no consensus within Judaism about GMO food technology and he cites a prominent Jewish environmental group in the United States, the Teva Learning Centre (TLC), to support his position. The TLC believes that the GMO food technology is a violation of Kilayim, the mixed breeding of crops or livestock [30]. Green also refers to two Bible verses, Leviticus 19:19 and Deuteronomy 22:9– 11, where God prohibits the mixing of species, as proofs that God made “distinctions in the natural world”, which Jews must not breach by eating GMO food or be engaging in GMO food research. Green believes that genetic engineering in its entirety endangers nature and human beings. Similarly, in a paper published in 2000, a Conservative Jewish Rabbi, Lawrence Troster, argues that religious traditions should be more cautious before endorsing genetically modified foods. He calls for an acknowledgment of humankind’s “limitations in the face of the depth and grandeur of the order of creation”








DON’T WASTE YOUR MONEY EATING ARTIFICIAL KOSHER GMO FOOD THAT’S KILLING YOU                                                                                                                                                          


“While according to the strict letter of Kosher food law a GMO food ingredient is not prohibited, in our view it is not natural.  Additionally, there is a Torah (religious)-based law to ‘guard your health’. GMOs are the number-one growing concern among health-conscious consumers and for businesses in the natural and organic food market, as well as in the conventional food industry,” said Rabbi Flamer.


There is a petition currently pending at the FDA that would allow genetically modified salmon into the food supply. These salmon have been genetically engineered to contain the gene of an eel in order that they will grow to market weight more quickly. Eels, however, are not kosher animals and therefore the question is not at all hypothetical as to whether these salmon would be kosher. Not to mention that kosher animals that are fed GMO foods (currently common practice) are less likely to be kosher at the time of slaughter, given their higher rates of organ defects and susceptibility to disease that would preclude an animal from being considered kosher.



In Jewish Kosher law, a person is not permitted to eat food that is detrimental to one’s health. Nonetheless, the OU views the determination of whether or not a particular substance poses a health danger to be outside of the realm of its expertise. This issue is not under the purview of a kashruth organization and should be decided by responsible government agencies and health professionals. In practice, the OU would generally agree to certify a product that the USDA considers to be safe. The presence of an OU symbol on a product should not be misconstrued as an endorsement of the safe status of a product, since, as stated, we view this matter to be outside our domain. “

In other words, kosher does not mean “fit to eat” and a kosher sign does not mean that a product is safe. If the OU is not qualified to make judgments on food that is detrimental to one’s health, then we must make those decisions for ourselves. This means that we as Jews must look beyond the OU symbol and look for an Organic Symbol or other GMO-Free certification (organic foods are not allowed to contain GMO’s, per the USDA’s current regulations). What’s the point of the OU symbol then, I was left to wonder, as I turned to the second dimension?

The second issue is as follows. If a non-Kosher genetic material is introduced into a Kosher product, does that render the genetically altered material as non-Kosher? For example, if a new strain of tomatoes is developed by introducing genetic material from a pig cell, is the tomato a Kosher entity?

In our opinion, the genetic engineering does not affect the Kosher status. This is the case for two reasons: Firstly, the genetic material is generally microscopic and is not significant enough to change the Kosher status. Secondly, the generic material is only introduced in the initial stage. Subsequently, the genetically altered item produces new offspring, which has not been the recipient of non-Kosher genetic material. The presence of a non-Kosher gene in a tomato does not render as non-Kosher all subsequent tomatoes that are “descendants” of the genetically altered tomato.”

The OU here misses the point completely. Genetic manipulation might be small in size in terms of the genes involved, but the implications are nothing short of huge. Think of fish that could be engineered not to have fins or scales (would they then be kosher?) or pigs engineered to have cloven hooves. In fact, there is a petition currently pending at the FDA that would allow genetically modified salmon into the food supply. These salmon have been genetically engineered to contain the gene of an eel in order that they will grow to market weight more quickly. Eels, however, are not kosher animals and therefore the question is not at all hypothetical as to whether these salmon would be kosher. Not to mention that kosher animals that are fed GMO foods (currently common practice) are less likely to be kosher at the time of slaughter, given their higher rates of organ defects and susceptibility to disease that would preclude an animal from being considered kosher.

Other Jewish Responses to the question of GMO’s

Being frustrated with the OU’s ignorance of the issue, I researched other Jewish views on the issue. To the extent that the issue of Genetic Modified Organisms has been examined by Jewish legal scholars, the conclusions have been, “fraught with problems” and 

Jews, Judaism and Genetically Modified Crops




David Instone-Brewer


The Munich Talmud manuscript of b.San.43a preserves passages censored out of the printed editions, including the controversial trial of ‘Yeshu Notzri’(Jesus Of Nazareth Trial). Chronological analysis of the layers in this tradition suggests that the oldest words are: ‘On the Eve of Passover they hung Jesus of Nazareth for sorcery and leading Israel astray.’ This paper argues that other words were added to this tradition in order to overcome three difficulties: a trial date during a festival; the unbiblical method of execution; and the charge of ‘sorcery’.

1. The Origin of Censorship

The Munich Talmud is the earliest full manuscript Talmud, penned in 1343.1 A few manuscripts of the Talmud have survived from before the invention of printing as well as many fragments, and these are particularly important because they contain material censored out of the printed editions, most of which concerned Jesus.

Daniel Bomberg, a Christian printer in Venice in the early 1500s, spent most of his professional life and family fortune printing 230 major Jewish works, including the Jerusalem Talmud and the massive editions of the Babylonian Talmud and the Mikraot Gedolot (the Rabbinic Bible) with their surrounding commentaries. He worked mainly with Felice da Prato, an Augustinian friar who had converted from Judaism. They followed the page layout invented by the Soncino family for printing the tractate Berakhot in 1483, which has a central

1 H. L. Strack and G. Stemberger. Introduction to the Talmud and Midrash (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1991): 227-30.

270 TYNDALE BULLETIN 62.2 (2011)

Talmud passage with commentaries arranged around the edge of the page. They applied this system to all the tractates and completed the first full printed Talmud in 1520.2 This page layout was so useful that it became standard, and exactly the same layout is still reproduced today for printing the Talmud.

Bomberg’s printing of the Talmud ensured its survival because a few years later, in 1553, Pope Julius III ordered the burning of all Talmuds,3 but multiple printed copies had already spread everywhere. One was sold in London in 1628 for £26, then went missing, and was rediscovered in 1991 in Sion College’s basement.4 Without Bomberg’s printed edition, the Munich Talmud might be the only full copy of the Talmud which survived. His printing is essentially identical to the normal nineteenth-century edition usually known as ‘Vilna’ though some of these tractates were printed in up to four separate and subtly different editions.5

Censorship helped Bomberg get papal permission to print the work. In 1518 he petitioned the Venetian Senate to renew his printer’s licence, and took the opportunity to buy the exclusive rights to print the Talmud, which had to be officially endorsed by Pope Leo X.6 The censorship was meant to remove all disparaging passages about Jesus, which included any passages concerning Jesus or Mary and most passages which might involve disputes with Christians.

There is some uncertainty about the origin of Bomberg’s censorship. Possibly Bomberg inherited censorship which was already present in the manuscripts he used. His edition is based on various manuscripts which were compared to produce his text. However, for the few tractates already printed by the Soncino family in the late 1400s, he

2 Marvin J. Heller, ‘Earliest Printings of the Talmud’ in Printing the Talmud: From Bomberg to Schottenstein, Sharon Liberman Mintz and Gabriel M. Goldstein (New York: Yeshiva University Museum, 2005): 61-78, esp. 73;

3 Richard Gottheil and William Popper, ‘Confiscation of Hebrew Books’ in The Jewish Encyclopedia, ed. Isidore Singer, Cyrus Adler, (12 vols; New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1901–1906).
4 -lambeth-palace [accessed 16 June 2011].

5 Avraham Rosenthal, The Talmud Editions of Daniel Bomberg: A Comprehensive Collection of All Tractates of the Four Editions by Bomberg, Venice 1520-1549 (Microfiche collection, Jerusalem: IDC, 1997). He discusses the differences in ‘Daniel Bomberg and His Talmud editions’ in Gli Ebrei e Venezia, XIV-XVIII (Proceedings of the international conference in Venice, 1987): 375-416.

6 Heller, ‘Earliest Printings’, 73.

INSTONE-BREWER: Jesus’ Trial in the Talmud 271

was accused of simply copying their edition without comparing manuscripts. This copying is particularly blatant in Sukkah where he left gaps on pages where there are diagrams in the Soncino edition. Apparently he did not have time to commission his own woodcuts before the printing deadline.7 Some of the manuscripts used by Soncino (including Sanhedrin) had been censored by the Spanish authorities after the Disputation of Tortosa (1414)8 so Bomberg may have inherited this censorship, and he may have used other similarly censored manuscripts.

However, self-censorship is more likely because Bomberg’s missing and altered passages are not identical to anyone else’s. For example, the text in b.Git.57a, which says Jesus was punished with boiling faeces in hell, is uncensored in surviving manuscripts which have this section (Vatican 130, 140; Munich 95) but censored in two different ways in the early printed editions: Soncino simply removes the name ‘Jesus’ while Bomberg substituted ‘the sinners of Israel’.9 Similarly the passage about Jesus’ trial (considered in this paper) is uncensored in surviving manuscripts which include this section (Herzog 1, Firenze II.1:8-9, Karlsruhe 2, Munich 95) but it is censored differently in the early printed editions: the Soncino edition (sometimes called Barco, after the town where it was printed) erased Jesus’ name; but Bomberg’s edition omits the whole passage.10

Censorship was therefore imposed on Jews in the Fifteenth Century, but Bomberg and the Soncino family felt it was necessary to continue this practice, and Jewish councils later ratified this decision.11

7 Heller, ‘Earliest Printings’, 74.
8 ‘Tortosa, Disputation of’, Encyclopaedia Judaica (Jerusalem: Encyclopaedia Judaica, 1972): XV 1270-71.
9 Peter Schäfer, Jesus in the Talmud (Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press, 2007): 141, where ‘Vilna’ is the Bomberg edition.

  1. 10  Schäfer, Jesus in the Talmud, 139.
  2. 11  Paul L. B. Drach, De l’harmonie entre l’Eglise et la synagogue, ou, Perpétuité et

catholicité de la religion chrétienne (Paris: P. Mellier, 1844): I 168 cites a rabbinic encyclical from Poland in 1631: ‘we enjoin you, under the pain of excommunication major, to print nothing in future editions, whether of Mishna or of the Gemara, which relates whether for good or evil to the acts of Jesus the Nazarene, and to substitute instead a circle like this ‘O’, which will warn the Rabbis and schoolmasters to teach the young these passages only viva voce. By means of this precaution the savants amongst the Nazarenes will have no further pretext to attack us on this subject.’ <http:// stream/ delharmonieentr00unkngoog#page/ n206/ mode/ 2up> accessed 12 Oct.2011.

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2. Censored Passages

The Munich Talmud is therefore the only uncensored copy of the whole Talmud, though even this is censored in some respects. The name of Jesus and other words are frequently very faint, as though someone has attempted to erase them. In the passage about JESUS OF NAZARETH TRIAL, the two occurrences of the name ‘Yeshu ha-Notzri’ have been partially erased in this way, as well as parts of the following passage about the names of his disciples. However, the original Hebrew is still visible, and it has been reconstructed by examination of the manuscript. These reconstructions are usefully collected in an appendix by Herford.12

The censored passages are almost all late anti-Christian polemics. They have been collected and analysed by Herford and more recently in great detail by Schäfer.13 The name of Jesus does not always occur in censored passages. Some refer to ‘Ben Stada’ (בן סטדא) or ‘Ben Pandira’ (בן פנדירא), but there is good evidence that these are pseudonyms for Jesus in such passages. In b.San.67a both these names are used for the same person who is described as ‘hung on the Eve of Passover’—the same phrase which is used of Yeshu ha-Notzri in ישו בן ( ’b.San.43a. Also, Tosephta refers to ‘Yeshu ben Pandira and it has a story about a follower of him, Jacob of Kephar ,)פנדירא Sekhania who met Eliezer b. Hyrcanus (late First or early Second Century) in Sepphoris near Nazareth (t.Hull. 2:23). Tosephta’s version of this story says that he taught Eliezer a saying of the minim—a term which refers to heretics, including Christians. The saying itself is found at b.AZ.17a, where the Munich Talmud attributes it to ‘Yeshu ha- .)ישו הנוצרי( ’Notzri

When later Talmudic rabbis debated these names, they concluded that the same person was called both ‘ben Stada’ and ‘ben Pandira’ because one was the name of his mother’s husband and the other was her lover, so they concluded that Yeshu was illegitimate. One rabbi thought that ‘Stada’ was the name of his mother, because it is similar to soṭah (ס ֹוטָה, ‘unfaithful’), but others pointed out that her name was actually Miriam—i.e. Mary (b.Shab.104b).14

12 R. Travers Herford, Christianity in Talmud and Midrash (London: Williams & Norgate, 1903; New York, KTAV, 1975): 406.

  1. 13 Herford, Christianity; Schäfer, Jesus in the Talmud.
  2. 14 This discussion is only in uncensored Talmuds.

INSTONE-BREWER: Jesus’ Trial in the Talmud 273

Some scholars have concluded that these multiple names represent a more than one individual, who have become confused,15 though Schäfer argues that the alternative names may be intentionally enigmatic or offensive.16 The prehistory of these traditions is probably impossible to trace but, as Schäfer points out, the congruence of the date of execution—the day before Passover—is too striking to ignore, and the differences between the details in the Talmud and Gospel could be due to deliberate misrepresentation by later Jews.17

The passage about JESUS OF NAZARETH TRIAL at b.San.43a is unique among these censored traditions because part of it may date back to the time of Jesus (as argued below). Most scholars dismiss its historical value, arguing that details like the herald for forty days show it is hopelessly inaccurate. Any similarity to the Gospel account is explained as dependence on Christian traditions—probably on the Gospel of John because this alone states that Jesus was killed on Passover Eve.18 However, this dismissal is perhaps an overreaction against earlier uncritical readings.19 Others, with a more nuanced approach, have recognise that an earlier core has been heavily edited20 so unhistorical details do not require a rejection of the complete tradition.

15 John P. Meier. A Marginal Jew Volume 1: Rethinking the Historical Jesus (The Anchor Bible Reference Library; New York: Doubleday, 1991): 96 n. 44 refers to Johann Maier. Jesus von Nazareth in der talmudischen Überlieferung (Erträge der Forschung; Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1978): 237, and others who conclude that Ben Stada was certainly a separate individual, and possibly Ben Pandira, and that their traditions became linked with the Jesus traditions at a very late stage, and calls this ‘a common opinion’.

  1. 16  Schäfer, Jesus in the Talmud, 16-18.
  2. 17  Schäfer, Jesus in the Talmud, 12.
  3. 18  This is the general conclusion of Paul Winter, On the Trial of Jesus (Studia

Judaica, Forschungen zur Wissenschaft des Judentums 1; Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1961): 201-202; Simon Légasse, The Trial of Jesus (London: SCM, 1997): 4-6; Raymond E. Brown, The Death of the Messiah (London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1994): 2:376-77; Walter Grundmann, ‘The Decision of the Supreme Court to Put Jesus to Death (John 11:47-57) in Its Context: Tradition and Redaction in the Gospel of John’ in Jesus and the Politics of His Day, ed. Ernst Bammel and C. F. D. Moule (Cambridge: CUP, 1984): 300.
19 This is exemplified in Joseph Klausner, Jesus of Nazareth: His Life, Times, and Teaching (London: Allen & Unwin, 1925); see the historical survey in David R. Catchpole, The Trial of Jesus: A Study in the Gospels and Jewish Historiography from 1770 to the Present Day (Studia Post-biblica 43; Leiden: Brill, 1971): 1-71.
20 See Ernst Bammel, ‘The Titulus’ in The Trial of Jesus: Cambridge Studies in Honour of C. F. D. Moule, ed. Bammel (Studies in Biblical Theology SS 13; Naperville, IL: Alec R Allenson, Inc, 1970): 353-64: esp. 360-61; William Horbury, ‘The Benediction of the “minim” and Early Jewish-Christian Controversy’, JTS NS 33 (1982): 19-61 esp. 55; Catchpole, The Trial of Jesus, 4-9.

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This paper will argue that the tradition, as preserved in Talmud, has -been edited, but the common pattern of editing in rabbinic traditions is to expand the text while leaving the original words unaltered. So the original words may have survived because rabbinic editors were reluctant to change words they had inherited, though they were willing to add words which would help the reader to understand the meaning.

One of the consistent findings in the TRENT project (which aims to identify all rabbinic material which can be shown to originate before AD 7021) is that rabbinic editors were generally conservative with traditions from the past. They rarely changed wording, even when they did not understand the vocabulary, and they tended to add words to the end of an inherited tradition, though they sometimes interrupted a tradition by inserting explanatory phrases. Identifying the earliest core of a tradition is often difficult because it depends on occasional attributions and coherence with other datable sources, so conclusions are often conjectural. However, in the case of this tradition, more than one source has survived and these can help us to identify the early core of the tradition.

3. The Censored Text at b.San.43a

The reference ‘b.San.43a’ is artificial, because this refers to the folio page numbers of Bomberg’s edition and subsequent editions which use the same page layout, but all these editions omit this passage. If this passage had been included in the Bomberg edition, it would have occurred at the very bottom of the folio side 43a, and this is where some modern versions insert it. In the actual manuscript of the Munich Talmud, this passage occurs on page 679 of the facsimile:


2 3 4 5 6

This image shows that at various points there has been an attempt to erase the text. The following reconstruction is based on the facsimile, with some standardised spelling, and on Herford who consulted the

21 David Instone-Brewer, Traditions of the Rabbis from the Era of the New Testament (vols. 1-2A; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2004-).

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manuscript itself, and dotted underlining represents the partially erased text.

1 לא׃ והתניא בערב הפסח תלאוהו לישו הנוצרי והכרוז יוצא לפניו ארבעים יום ישו הנוצרי יוצא ליסקל על שכישף 2 והסית והדיח את ישראל כל מי שיודע לו זכות יבוא וילמד

עליו ולא מצאו לו זכות ותלאוהו בערב פסח אמר עולא 3 ותסברא הנוצרי בר הפוכי זכות הוא מסית הוא ורחמנא אמר:

לא תחמול ולא תכסה עליו שאני ישו הנוצרי דקרוב למלכות 4 הוה ת”ר: חמשה תלמידים היו לו לישו הנוצרי,

מתאי, נקאי נצר ובוני ותודה. אתיוה למתי, אמר להו: מתי 5 יהרג? הכתיב מתי אבוא ואראה פני אלהיםִ אמרו לו: אין, מתי

יהרג דכתיב מתי ימות ואבד שמו. אתיוה לנקאי, אמר להו: נקאי 6 יהרג? הכתיב ונקי וצדיק אל תהרג אמרו לו: אין, נקאי יהרג, דכתיב במסתרים יהרג נקי. אתיוה לנצר, אמר להו: נצר יהרג?

הכתיב ונצר

The tradition investigated in this paper includes most of the first two lines in this image. In the translation below, the words in bold are those that this paper will conclude were the original core of this tradition, and the ones in grey are those which have been partly erased in the Munich manuscript:

It was taught: On the Eve of Passover they hung Yeshu the Notzri. And the herald went out before him for forty days [saying]: ‘Yeshu the Notzri will go out to be stoned for sorcery and misleading and enticing Israel [to idolatry]. Any who knows [anything] in his defence must come and declare concerning him.’ But no one came to his defence so they hung him on the Eve of Passover.

Other manuscripts which have this tradition contain a few variants. The Florence manuscript has ‘on the Eve of Shabbat and Eve of Passover’ and only the Munich manuscript includes ‘ha-Notzri’.

This passage is followed by a later comment by Ulla bar Ishmael (about AD 300) and another censored passage that lists and discusses the supposed names of Jesus’ disciples. These sections have no evidence of originating before the Third Century, and will not be considered further in this paper:

Ulla said: ‘And would it be expected that the Notzri revolutionary had a defence? He was a “misleader”,’ and the Merciful said (Deut. 13:9) ‘You shall not spare and shall not shield him.’ But it was not so for Yeshu the Notzri for he was close to the government.



Our rabbis taught: Yeshu the Notzri had five disciples—Matai, Nekai, Netzer, Buni, and Todah.
They brought Matai [before the judges]. He said to them: ‘Will Matai be killed? It is written (Ps. 42:2) “When [matai] shall (I) come and appear before God.”’ They said to him: ‘Yes, Matai will be killed as it is written (Ps. 41:5) “When [matai] shall (he) die and his name perish.”’

They brought Nekai. He said to them: ‘Will Nekai be killed? It is written (Exod 23:7) “The innocent [naki] and the righteous you shall not slay.”’ They said to him: ‘Yes, Nekai will be killed as it is written (Ps. 10:8) “In secret places he slays the innocent [naki].”’

They brought Netzer. He said to them: ‘Will Netzer be killed? It is written (Isa 11:1) “A branch [netzer] …
[Here the image and transcription end. The passage continues:] … shall spring up from his roots.”’ They said to him: ‘Yes, Netzer will be killed as it is written (Isa 14:19) “You are cast forth out of your grave like an abominable branch [netzer].”’

They brought Buni. He said to them: ‘Will Buni be killed? It is written (Exod 4:22) “My son [beni], my firstborn, Israel.”’ They said to him: ‘Yes, Buni will be killed as it is written (Exod 4:23) “Behold, I slay your son [bincha] your firstborn.”’

They brought Todah. He said to them: ‘Will Todah be killed? It is written (Ps. 100:1) “A Psalm for thanksgiving [todah].”’ They said to him: ‘Yes, Todah will be killed as it is written (Ps. 50:23) “Whoever sacrifices thanksgiving [todah] honours me.”’

4. Dating the Edited Tradition

The Talmud is an edited and severely abbreviated record of discussions by rabbis over a period of 300 years, starting in about AD 200 when the document they were discussing was edited. They were discussing the Mishnah which was itself a record of previous discussions covering about 200 years concerning how to live out the commands of Torah in practice. This means that both documents contain older and later material which has been skilfully compiled and edited. The process of unravelling the layers of editing is still in its infancy. Most commentaries on the Talmud originate from a precritical era when such questions did not arise. The principles employed in this paper are commonplace among rabbinic scholars, but there is no standard commentary on the Talmud to which one can turn for an analysis to help with dating individual units.22

22 Many commentaries have been written on the Talmud, but there are no modern commentaries except on some individual sections—see Strack, Introduction, 234-41. The nearest attempts are Jacob Neusner, The Talmud of Babylonia: An Academic Commentary (22 vols; Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1994-); and Hersh Goldwurm,

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The Talmud progresses through Mishnah, discussing one small unit at a time, much like a modern Bible commentary. It frequently appears to contain irrelevant digressions, though most of these can be related back to the discussion in hand. Often, as with this tradition in b.San.43a, an older tradition is cited because it throws light on the subject. If the cited tradition is one which has not been preserved in Mishnah, they often cite it in full, and when it is closely linked with another tradition or traditions which were transmitted as a single unit, then the whole unit is included. This practice tends to introduce seemingly irrelevant material which sometimes creates discussions which digress from the original subject. However, this practice has the beneficial side effect of preserving some traditions which would otherwise be lost.

In b.San.43a, the tradition about Jesus’ trial relates to the preceding discussion, but the tradition about the trial of Jesus’ disciples has no relevance to any nearby discussion. Therefore it is likely that these two traditions were transmitted together as a single unit and inserted together at this point.

The discussion at this point in the Talmud relates to Mishnah Sanhedrin 6:1 which concerned how a trial should end and how a herald should proclaim the verdict. The discussion is commenced by Abaye, a Babylonian Amora functioning about AD 320–350. His comment is followed by a separate comment from an anonymous rabbi who introduced the older tradition about JESUS OF NAZARETH TRIAL. This tradition is then commented on by R. Ulla bar Ishmael (about AD 290–320), after which the editors have recorded the tradition about executing Jesus’ disciples. This is followed immediately with two comments by R. Joshua b. Levi (about AD 220–250), first about a sacrifice of thanksgiving (relating to the end of the tradition about Jesus’ disciple Todah), and a second about a sacrifice of burnt offering and confession. This second comment leads into the discussion about the next unit of Mishnah, Sanhedrin 6:2, which concerns confession before execution, though this Mishnah unit is not quoted till after his contribution.

Talmud Bavli—Schottenstein Edition (Artscroll Series; 1st edn; New York: Mesorah Publications, 1992). The commentary in the former consists of introductory paragraphs and in-line explanations for difficult phrases, and in the commentary in the latter is an abridgement of classical rabbinic commentaries. The former inserts the censored text from another translation without comment, and the latter omits it.

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So, in outline, this section of the Talmud consists of:
1. Quotation of m.San. 6:1 (edited c. AD 200) 2. Discussing m.San. 6:1 by Abaye (in Babylon c. AD 320–350) 3. Discussing m.San. 6:1 by an anonymous rabbi
4. Quotation of Jesus’ trial tradition
5. Discussing Jesus’ trial tradition by Ulla (in Babylon c. AD 290-320) 6. Quotation of Jesus’ disciples’ trial (Mattai to Todah)
7. Discussing Todah’s trial by Joshua b. Levi (Palestine c. AD 220-250) 8. Discussing m.San. 6:2 by Joshua b. Levi(in Palestine c. AD 220-250) 9. Quotation of m.San. 6:2 (edited c. AD 200) 10. Discussing m.San. 6:2 by various rabbis …

This final text developed slowly during the Third to Sixth Centuries. The history of development can often be inferred from internal factors, and for this text there are enough indicators to allow us to infer the development in considerable detail.

Quotations of Mishnah normally occur immediately before the start of a discussion of them, so the quotation at (9) is slightly misplaced—it should be before (8). However, the addition of Mishnah quotations was one of the latest stages in the development of Talmud, so its placement here may be either a simple error (because the editor did not realise Joshua’s second saying related to the next Mishnah unit) or (more likely) because the editor did not want to break up Joshua’s two sayings.

The dates given for Ulla and Abaye represent the dates of the ‘generations’ into which rabbis are categorised. We do not know dates of the active careers of individual rabbis, so we cannot define the dates of these rabbis any more accurately. This means that they may well have overlapped so they could take part in a discussion together at around AD 320. However, it is not possible that Joshua could have been there at that time, so this section includes and merges at least two separate discussions.

The two traditions about the trial of Jesus and his disciples, (4) and (6), have been separated by Ulla’s comment (5). This suggests that Ulla’s generation inherited a text which already included these two traditions, and that he no longer regarded them as a single unit. His generation therefore felt free to insert his comment after the first one where it was more relevant. Ulla’s comment shows that he had profound problems with this tradition, but he did not propose any amendment of it, which suggests that the wording was already too fixed to allow any alteration.

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The anonymous rabbi who introduced the traditions about Jesus and his disciples must have been earlier than Ulla by one or more generations. He was also earlier than or contemporary with Joshua b. Levi, because Joshua’s first comment is based on the end of the tradition about the trial of Jesus’ disciples. The simplest solution is that this anonymous rabbi was debating with Joshua, which means he was in Palestine at the start of the Third Century. This is very soon after the editing of the Mishnah which they were discussing, so it is unlikely that this anonymous rabbi could have been from an earlier generation.

The discussion at m.San. 6:1 refers to a herald who walks before the condemned person on their way to execution, calling for any last minute evidence for the defence. This caused the anonymous rabbi to introduce this tradition about JESUS OF NAZARETH TRIAL because it too referred to a herald. However, these two references to a herald are very different and somewhat contradictory. In the Mishnah the herald’s announcement follows the trial and occurs only on one day, during the condemned man’s journey to the place of execution. In the tradition about JESUS OF NAZARETH TRIAL, the herald’s announcement is made for forty consecutive days preceding the trial. No rabbis proposed a correction to either tradition to solve this contradiction, which implies that they were both being treated as having comparable standing in terms of age and authority.

Although these two traditions about the JESUS OF NAZARETH TRIAL and his disciples were transmitted as a unit, they were originally independent units, because they both have a separate introductory formula: ‘It is taught’ and ‘Our rabbis taught’. Both of these formulae are normally used for traditions originating with Tannaim—i.e. rabbis of Mishnaic times before AD 200—though the presence of such a formula is not an infallible marker of an early origin. However in this case, it is likely that these formulae are accurate because this helps to explain why the rabbis regarded this Jesus tradition as if it had comparable authority to Mishnah.

Therefore the historical layers which have been merged in this unit of Talmud are:

1. Mishnah (though actual quotations were added later) (ed. c. AD 200) 2. Traditions of the trials of Jesus and his disciples (ed. c. AD 200) 3. Discussion: Joshua b. Levi with another (in Palestine c. AD 220-250) 4. Discussion between Ulla and Abaye (in Babylon c. AD 320)

These traditions of the trials which were cited in the early Third Century were already considered to be authoritative, so they must have

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become fixed by at least the end of the Second Century. The form of the tradition at this time already included the reference to the herald, which the discussion below will conclude is one of the later additions to this tradition. This would mean that the form of this tradition at the end of the Second Century was already edited and expanded. We will now attempt to find the earliest core of this tradition.

5. Other Sources for the Tradition of JESUS OF NAZARETH TRIAL

The tradition about Jesus’ trial, as preserved in Talmud, includes internal indicators which suggest that it has been edited. In order to identify the earliest tradition, we first look for other places where the tradition has been preserved, and then examine the internal coherence of the tradition itself. The tradition of JESUS OF NAZARETH TRIAL has been partially preserved in four other sources:

1. Another censored passage at b.San.67a includes the words ‘on the eve of Passover they hung’, followed by other names used for Jesus, ‘Ben Stada’ and ‘Ben Pandira’.
2. and 3. The words ‘for sorcery and enticing Israel’ occur at Sanhedrin 107b with a parallel at Sotah 47a.

4. Outside the Talmud, two charges are recorded by Justin Martyr who said that as a result of Jesus’ miracles, the Jews ‘dared to call him a magician and an enticer of the people’ (μάγον.. καὶ λαοπλάνον in Dial. 69). Stanton pointed out that these two charges also occur together in the Third Century Acts of Thomas 96 where Thomas is charged with them, though clearly as a proxy for Jesus. They also occur in Josephus’ Testimonium but this is widely believed to be a Christian addition of unknown date.23

There is some confusion over the charges. Only two charges are recorded in b.San.107b and in Justin, though b.San.43a and some versions of b.San.107b insert ‘and misleading’ between the two. It is likely that b.San.107b originally had just two charges, because a scribe would be more inclined to add a missing charge in b.San.107b to harmonise with b.San.43a than to delete a charge. It will also be suggested below that there was a good reason for adding the charge of ‘misleading’. The earlier record by Justin helps to confirm that

23 Graham Stanton, ‘Jesus of Nazareth: A Magician and False Prophet Who Deceived God’s People?’ in Jesus of Nazareth: Lord and Christ: Essays on the Historical Jesus and New Testament Christology, ed. Joel B. Green and Max Turner (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans/, Carlisle: Paternoster Press, 1994): 164-80, esp. 169-70.

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originally there were only two charges. He only needed to cite the charge of ‘sorcery’ to make his point, so one would expect him to quote the only the first and third charges, which would be a strange decision if he had known that the intervening charge existed.

It is not immediately clear whether Justin’s term λαοπλάνος is equivalent to “misleader” (mesit, מֵסִית) or “enticer” (maddiyah, These English translations convey something of the .)מִַדּיהַ etymological meaning of these terms, but they are arguably synonymous in Deuteronomy 13:5-13 (Eng. 6-14—סות is in Eng. v. 6 and נדח is in vv. 5, 10, 13). However, the Mishnah manages to find a distinction which is continued into Talmud and became the legal definition of these words in Jewish law. The terms ‘enticer’ in this passage is used only for the crime of leading a whole town into idolatry (Deut. 13:13), so the Mishnah concluded that a ‘misleader’ was someone who merely leads a single person into idolatry (m.San. 7:10). The term λαοπλάνος is (etymologically) a ‘people deceiver’, and although it does not occur in the LXX, it is used by Josephus concerning prophets who lead the nation astray.24 Josephus is therefore using it as an equivalent of an ‘enticer’ who leads a large number into idolatry, rather than a ‘misleader’ who leads only one astray.

Günter Mark has argued that mesit was central to the purpose of this tradition in later centuries. When Ulla equates it to someone who is ‘close to the government’ he was indicating a new meaning for this term as not only someone who leads an individual astray, but a Jew who apostasises and sides with non-Jewish rulers. At the time of Ulla, Christianity was becoming institutionalised, and Mark regards this as the halakhic response to a wave of new apostates.25

Horbury noted the significant fact that all these sources agree about the order of the two earlier charges (i.e. ‘sorcery’ followed by ‘enticing’), whereas this is opposite to the order found in all legal discussions—in Deuteronomy, Mishnah and the relatively independent

24 Josephus, Ant. 8.8.5 [225] retells and elaborates the events of 1 Kgs 13:1-3: ‘Jeroboam … built an altar before the heifer, and undertook to be high priest himself. … A prophet, whose name was Jadon… said thus: ‘God foretells that there shall be a certain man of the family of David, Josiah by name, who shall slay upon thee those false priests that shall live at that time, and upon thee shall burn the bones of those deceivers of the people, those impostors and wicked wretches.’

25 Günter Mark, ‘Jesus “was close to the authorities”: The Historical Background of a Talmudic Pericope’, JTS 60 (2009): 437-66.

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account in Tosephta.26 One would expect that the common occurrence of these charges as a pair in a particular order would be reflected in the tradition of JESUS OF NAZARETH TRIAL, and yet none of the versions of this tradition referred to the charges in this order. This suggests that this pair of charges in these traditions about Jesus did not originate in halakhic discussions, but they had a separate and authoritative source.

The fact that various sources have survived with parts of the tradition about JESUS OF NAZARETH TRIAL suggests that this tradition was widely known and well preserved. However, the origin of the tradition remains difficult to identify. The Talmudic sources are difficult to date because although some named rabbis are involved, they are citing older traditions and, as often occurs, the origin of these traditions is not identified. Justin is writing in about AD 150, and he appears to be citing something which is common knowledge because he makes no effort to verify it for his Jewish opponent whom he is addressing.

We therefore have confirmation from three rabbinic sources and from one Christian source for the words: ‘On the eve of Passover they hung Yeshu for sorcery and enticing Israel’. The fact that these words form a coherent tradition by themselves makes it possible that this was the historic core from which the rest has resulted by the addition of explanatory comments. The fact that the other words cannot be paralleled elsewhere is not an indication by itself that they originated later than this core tradition, but there are internal criteria which do suggest that this was the case.

6. Problems Implicit in the Expanded Tradition

The final form of Jesus’ trial tradition has four difficulties or inconsistencies which have been introduced by the explanatory additions. These internal problems will be explored first, before looking for possible reasons for making these additions.

The first internal problem concerns the method of execution. The tradition says a herald proclaimed that Jesus was due to be stoned for his crimes, and yet it also says that he was ‘hung’. The obvious solution is that he was first stoned and then his corpse was hung as a public warning. However, the hanging receives far more emphasis in

26 Horbury, ‘The Benediction of the “minim”’, 55; Deut. 13:6-11, 12-18 [7-12, 13-19] then 18:10; m.San. 7:10 then 7:11; t.San. 11:5.

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this tradition than his punishment by stoning—the tradition opens with the fact that he was hung on a specific date, and this is repeated at the end of the tradition, and the only reference to stoning occurs on the lips of the herald as something which should happen. This is not an insurmountable problem, but it suggests that more than one hand has composed this tradition, which has resulted in a confusing emphasis.

The second problem is the issue of the forty days during which the herald called for witnesses to the defence before the trial. The only Mishnaic law about a herald refers to someone who precedes the condemned person while being led from the trial to the place of execution (m.San. 6:1). It is this problem which caused the anonymous rabbi to introduce the tradition of Jesus’ trial into the debate. Referring to the Mishnah, he pointed out that ‘This implies, [the herald goes out] only immediately before [the execution], but not previous thereto’. He then cited the tradition about Jesus’ trial to contradict this. In the Talmudic discussion, this issue is left unresolved.

This mention of a herald who goes out before the trial introduces a third problem: he is said to go out for forty days. There is no authority anywhere for this number of days relating to a trial. The closest is a reference to thirty days in m.San. 3:8. This says that a judge may allow a delay of thirty days for finding evidence in support of someone, though this procedure was not mandatory or even normal, and we know of no case where a court actively helped the defence in this way. This problem provoked Ulla’s question, which pointed out that even if it was customary, it would not apply to someone on such a seriously dangerous charge. Someone answered Ulla that Jesus must have had friends in high places.

The fourth problem involves the list of charges, because the second one is implied in the third. As seen above, in Mishnaic and Talmudic times, the term ‘misleader’ referred to someone who leads a single person into idolatry whereas an ‘enticer’ leads a whole town or more into idolatry. This means that any ‘enticer’ is, by definition, also a ‘misleader’. Both are listed as capital offences (m.San. 7:4), but no one would be charged with both, because this would be like charging someone with both genocide and murder. One crime implies the other and there would be no purpose listing the lesser crime unless it added to the penalty, or unless this was a list of possible charges before the trial. However, in this case we have a list of charges which Jesus was found guilty of, all of which carried the death penalty. There would

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therefore be no point in adding that the person who led the whole of Israel into idolatry also led an individual into idolatry—i.e. the charge of ‘enticing’ makes the additional charge of ‘misleading’ entirely redundant.

7. Problems Implicit in the Core Tradition

None of these internal inconsistencies existed in the core tradition: ‘On the Eve of Passover they hung Yeshu for sorcery and enticing Israel’. However, this does not mean that this core tradition was without problems. The wording of this tradition would cause three difficult problems for Jews, especially in the Second Century and beyond, though these problems may not have existed in the early First Century.

The first problem was the date of the trial and execution. The Passover Eve refers to the whole day preceding the Passover meal— much like Christmas Eve refers to a whole day. Although Passover Eve was not officially part of the Passover festival, it was important as the day when leaven was searched for and cleared out of each home. This grew in importance especially after the destruction of the temple in AD 70, when the sacrifice of a lamb became impossible, though it was already important in temple times. A timetable was instituted by which leaven had to be found by noon on Passover Eve, and a signal was given at the temple when this search should end (m.Pes. 1:5). The School of Shammai (which effectively disappeared after AD 70) agreed with the School of Hillel that the whole day should be devoted to searching for leaven so no other work should occur (m.Pes. 1:1; 4:5).

This meant, in effect, that the whole day of Passover Eve was devoted to sacred tasks and it was certainly not the right time for a trial or an execution. We have no evidence that this date would be illegal for a trial, but it is certainly not a date which would be chosen by any court interested in observing Jewish customs. In the First Century it would be an embarrassment that Jewish leaders had chosen this date, though it was not a great difficulty. Different branches of Judaism had different regulations, and some chose to continue working normally on Sabbath Eve (m.Pes. 4:1). However, in the Second Century when the ceremony of finding leaven had become more important and Judaism was united around rabbinic law, this would be a much greater problem.

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The second problem in this core tradition is the suggestion that the execution was by hanging rather than by being stoned, as prescribed by Torah and Mishnah. Torah was very clear that stoning was the punishment for ‘enticing’ (Deut. 13:6-10) though it did not prescribe a death penalty for ‘sorcery’ (Exod. 22:18; Deut. 18:10). However, in a second-century debate, the rabbis concluded that sorcery was punished by stoning, partly because the sorceress is listed alongside the woman guilty of bestiality which was punishable by stoning (see the debate at b.San.67a). Mishnah makes a tidy list of crimes punished by stoning, which included ‘sorcery’, ‘enticing’ and ‘misleading’ (m.San. 7:4).

The term ‘hang’ could refer to execution by hanging from the neck, execution by crucifixion, or the hanging of a corpse after another form of execution. Without any reference to another form of execution, the assumption in the First or Second Century would be that ‘hang’ refers to crucifixion. This is what R. Meir assumed when he expounded Deuteronomy 21:23 (about hanging as an indication of God’s curse) by telling a parable about crucifixion. So someone reading the core tradition without any mention of stoning would conclude that Jesus was executed by crucifixion.

This conclusion would create problems in the Second Century when Judaism was attempting to follow a uniform rabbinic halakha. They sometimes reinterpreted history to imply that the rabbinic halakha had already been followed by everyone before AD 70. They even said that Sadducean priests had been forced by the Pharisees to obey this halakha.27 They would therefore like to believe that executions were carried out in accordance with rabbinic halakha. However, Jews living in the First Century would not be embarrassed by a tradition which said they had used a Roman form of execution, because they had a more realistic understanding of what was possible, and they knew the Romans were in charge of capital punishment.

The third problem was the most important because it threatened to draw many more people to revere Jesus. The charge of ‘sorcery’

27 For example, they thought the High Priest on the Day of Atonement obeyed the Pharisees: ‘they forced [the High Priest] to swear [to obey the Sages]’ (t.Kipp. 1:8)— cf. b.Yom.19b: ‘the father [of a priest who disobeyed the Sages] met him [and] said to him: My son, although we follow the Sadducees we fear the Pharisees’; m.Yom. 1:6: ‘If [the High Priest] was a sage, he expounds [the Scriptures], and if not, disciples of sages expound for him; if he was used to reading [Scriptures], he read, and if not, they read for him.’

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implies that Jesus had real power, because rabbinic law did not prescribe death for magic tricks carried out by illusionists.

Second-century rabbis made a very clear distinction between real and imaginary magic, and they were quite sophisticated at recognising illusions. For example Rab Abba b. Aibu reported: ‘I myself saw an Arabian traveller take a sword and cut up a camel; then he rang a bell and the camel arose’. R. Hiyya saw through it: ‘Was any blood or dung left behind? If not, it was merely an illusion.’(b.San.67b). R. Joshua (start of Second Century) had a saying about how someone charged with sorcery and someone charged with illusion might look identical to the uneducated: ‘Two people are gathering cucumbers: one gatherer is innocent, and the other gatherer is guilty.’28 This type of saying was presumably well known because it is similar to the collection of sayings at Luke 17:34-36 which share the common formula: there are two people doing something, one person doing it will die and the other person doing it will live.

In the Second Century many Jews believed that Jesus had learned magic in Egypt. This is already believed by Celsus who debated with Origen in the late Second Century (Origen, Contra Celsum, i. 28), and it later caused the traditions of Jesus to become linked with traditions about magic in Talmud (b.San.107b/b.Sot.47a). Among the amulets and incantation bowls surviving from the Second and Third Centuries, some contain the name of Jesus along with mainly Jewish names such as the angels named in 1 Enoch.29 This had even spread to Gentiles, who made spells such as ‘I conjure you by the god of the Hebrews,

28 In the Kaufman MS, this is changed to ‘one gatherer [qal part.] is innocent and the other causing to gather [piel part.] is guilty’. This brings it into line with the story which developed later about spells for harvesting cucumbers (b. San.68a).
29 See Gideon Bohak, Ancient Jewish Magic: A History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008): 278; John Michael Greer, The New Encyclopedia of the Occult (St. Paul, MN : Llewellyn, 2003): 248. Markham J. Geller, ‘Jesus’ Theurgic Powers: Parallels in the Talmud and Incantation Bowls’, JJS 28 (1977): 141-55. We are not sure how incantation bowls were used, but they are frequently found buried upside down under houses, especially thresholds, as though they could trap evil spirits which tried to enter the house from below. Similarly, Jesus is named in Jewish exorcism rites—see Hans Dieter Betz, The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation V.1: Including the Demotic Spells (2nd edn; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992): 62, PGM IV, 1230-62 ‘Hail God of Abraham; hail God of Isaac; hail God of Jacob; Jesus Chrestos’—this is a Jewish exorcism because the patient is later kept safe by hanging phylacteries round his neck.

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Jesus’.30 The synchronistic nature of these inscriptions makes it possible that Gentiles liked to use Jewish holy names, but the presence of so many Jewish names and even rabbinic formulae31 makes it certain that Jews were also among those who used them.

In the First Century, the verdict that Jesus’ miracles were sorcery would be regarded as a condemnation of his ministry. But in the latter part of the First Century these amulets became popular in Palestine32 and Jews became enamoured with such spells. The eclectic lists of names suggest that people were no longer concerned with the source of healing power, but with power itself. In this context, the fact that Jesus was convicted of ‘sorcery’ became a dangerous enticement in itself because it confirmed that Jesus had power to heal.

8. Explanatory Additions to Solve These Problems

It was not possible to solve these problems by changing the words of the original tradition because they were too well known. We can see how widespread this tradition was from the fact that it has survived in three separate places in rabbinic sources and one in a Christian source. In any case, it was not normal practice for rabbinic editors to change the wording of texts they had received. Even when the older texts used vocabulary which was archaic and even when they disagreed with its meaning, they preserved the older wording. Sometimes they added explanations for older words or to ‘correct’ the meaning of the tradition, and sometimes their explanations reveal that they were not sure what the original words meant. In these situations it is significant that they nevertheless preserved the older version, even though it was a possible source of confusion for later generations.

The normal method of editing was to add explanatory glosses, preferably after the end of a tradition, but also within a tradition when this was more helpful. A useful example is the list of things one may or may not wear on a Sabbath in m.Shab. 6:1-4, the core of which almost certainly originated in Temple times because the ruling required

  1. 30  PGM IV, 3020 in Betz, Greek Magical Papyri, 96.
  2. 31  See Geller, Jesus’ Theurgic, 150-51.

32 Amulets and bowls had already been used for centuries, but they spread to Palestine and Syria—see Haim Gitle, ‘Four Magical and Christian Amulets’, Liber Annuus 40 (1990): 365-74.

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making a sin offering. This list grew with time, becoming interspersed and followed by later glosses. The second half of this passage reads:

3. A woman may not go out:
with a needle [which is] pierced, nor with a ring which has a seal, nor a snail, nor an ankle chain, nor a bottle of spikenard perfume.

But if she goes out, she is liable for a sin offering.

[The above are] the words of R. Meir, but the Sages exempt the ankle chain and the bottle of spikenard perfume.

4. A man may not go out: not with a dagger, nor with a bow, nor with a shield, nor with a spear, nor with a lance.

And if he goes out he is liable for a sin offering.

R. Eliezer [b. Hyrcanus] says: They are ornaments for him …
And the Sages say: They are nothing but shameful, as it is said: ‘And they shall beat their swords into ploughshares …’ [Isa. 2:4] A garter is pure and they may go out with it on Sabbath.
An ankle chain is impure and they may not go out with it on Sabbath.

Most additions in halakhic discussions are made at the end of a complete tradition, like the comments of Eliezer and the sages at the end. Even though these included comments about the ankle chain mentioned in (3), they wait till the end of this tradition. But sometimes it is more efficient to interpose an addition in the middle of a tradition, such as the comment that the ankle chains and perfume bottles had been added by Meir. Meir’s addition is interesting because it appears to be an explanatory gloss of an unusual word in this old tradition—the strange prohibition of a ‘snail’ (kokhliar, כֹּוכְלִיאָר). Instead of changing this word, Meir added a possible explanation based on the similar sounding ‘perfume-charm’ (kokhelet, כ ֹוכֶלֶת), and because this also was an unusual word he added ‘bottle of spikenard perfume’. Unfortunately Meir’s first word was subsequently miscopied as ‘ankle- chain’ (kobelet, כ ֹובֶלֶת). This illustrates the reluctance of later rabbis to change what they have inherited but their willingness to help the reader by adding explanations.33 It is also a salutary warning that scribal accidents can happen.

33 This tradition is analysed in more detail in David Instone-Brewer, Feasts and Sabbaths: Passover and Atonement (Traditions of the Rabbis from the Era of the New Testament 2A; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2011).

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All of the problems with the core tradition which were identified above can be solved by adding explanations within the tradition and following it. There are three likely additions:

On the Eve of Passover they hung Yeshu the Notzri.

  1. And the herald went out before him for forty days [saying]: ‘Yeshu the Notzri will go out to be stoned for sorcery
  2. and misleading and enticing Israel [to idolatry].
  3. Any who knows [anything] in his defence must come and declare concerning him.’ But no one came to his defence so they hung him on the Eve of Passover.

These explanatory glosses may have been added at one time, or they may have been added at separate times by more than one editor. The first gloss and third gloss are linked and were perhaps added at the same time. However, the tradition makes sense as a complete unit without the third gloss, so it is possible that this was added later. We will consider each possible gloss in turn.

The first gloss solves two of the three problems identified above: the unusual trial date and the non-Jewish method of execution. The latter is solved simply by adding a mention of stoning as the prescribed execution. This means that the ambiguous term ‘hung’ can now refer to hanging a corpse in public as a warning to others.

Hanging up a corpse is discussed at b.San.45b. This concludes that a corpse is hung up if the person was stoned for blasphemy or idolatry— which would presumably include those ‘enticing’ others to idolatry. Eliezer ben Hyrcanus (AD 80–120) disputed this by reasoning that if you hang people in this way, you should do it for everyone who is stoned. Eliezer had Scripture on his side because the context of Deuteronomy 21:23 concerns the stoning of a stubborn and rebellious son which is one of the lesser categories of crime deserving death. Later rabbis argued that a ‘rebellious son’ was not hung because he was not yet ‘a man’. They also argued that blasphemers and idolaters were hung because they had cursed God, so it was right that they should be seen to be cursed by God (Deut. 21:23; b.San.45b-46a).

The fact that this discussion took place during Eliezer’s generation demonstrates that hanging idolaters was not the normal practice at the end of the First Century. It is difficult to imagine that idolaters who had been stoned in the early First Century could be hung up in public view. Although it is likely that mobs occasionally stoned someone (as at John

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8:2-7 and Acts 7:58), this was outlawed by Rome (John 18:31). Therefore hanging up the corpse in public would attract the attention of soldiers who would be compelled to investigate such a public flouting of the law.

In the Second Century it was still difficult to carry out stoning and hanging, but it was possible to rewrite history and assume that this had been possible in the past. They wanted to show that Judaism in temple times followed rabbinic halakha to help inspire those in the present. And it was especially important to show that this high profile case had been dealt with correctly, according to the law of Moses.

Therefore, by the mere addition of the herald’s announcement that Jesus was supposed to be stoned, the whole meaning of this tradition was changed. This addition did not subvert the meaning of the passage, as far as the rabbinic editors were concerned. They would have regarded it as helping the reader understand the meaning of the ambiguous term ‘hung’ so that they would know it referred to the hanging of a corpse, and not to the hanging of crucifixion.

The problem concerning the trial date was more difficult to solve. The date of the trial was clearly on a holy day when work was forbidden by many branches of Judaism before AD 70 and by all Jews after AD 70. For later editors, this was not a suitable date for a trial, so they concluded that this date must have been forced on them by problems inherent in the trial. The addition said that a herald had gone out for forty days to give notice of the trial. The anonymous rabbi who introduced this tradition into the discussion was confused about this, because m.San. 6:1 said the herald should go out after the trial and only on the day the trial ends.

As suggested above, the forty days might relate to the ruling at m.San. 3:8 that a judge could allow up to thirty days for a defendant to find evidence, though this was not normal. This gloss therefore implies that the court was especially lenient in the case of Jesus, because it allowed more than thirty days. This leniency had to end at forty days because the Passover holiday was starting. Perhaps the public nature of this crime meant that justice had to be seen to be done before the holiday, in case the crowds start talking amongst themselves about the lack of law in the land. So the trial was held at the last possible legal moment. Although it was held on a day when rabbinic law said no work should be done, it was not held on a day when Mosaic law prohibited work.

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The addition of the single word ‘misleading’ creates problems while trying to solve others. The first problem is that this addition contradicts the other sources which record only two charges. But the bigger problem is that it creates an illogical set of charges. As seen above, ‘enticing’ refers to leading a town or country into idolatry, and ‘misleading’ refers to leading a single individual into idolatry, so the charge of ‘misleading’ one person is already implied by the charge of ‘enticing’ many people and the inclusion of both charges is illogical.

However, the presence of ‘misleading’ would make sense if it was added as an explanatory gloss rather than a separate charge. If a rabbinic editor regarded the charges as confusing or ambiguous, they could add a gloss like Meir did to explain the meaning of ‘snail’ in m.Shab. 6:3 (above). So perhaps ‘misleading’ was added to explain either the term ‘enticing’ or ‘sorcery’. Normally an explanation would be added after the thing being explained, which suggests that it is inserted to help the reader understand the meaning of ‘sorcery’.

Although this addition appears illogical at a later date, it is possible that this was not a problem in the Second Century. There was still some dispute in the Second Century about whether or not ‘enticers’ should be strangled (t.San. 11:5) and while this remained undecided, the inclusion of ‘misleading’ would explain why the execution was by stoning instead of strangling. This addition would not make sense before the addition of ‘stoning’ to this tradition, and it would start to appear illogical after the dispute about the mode of punishment had been settled—as it was in m.San. 7:4 perhaps near the end of the Second Century. Therefore, for some time during the Second Century, this addition helped the reader understand the tradition in the way the rabbinic editors understood it without creating additional problems.

It is proposed here that the addition of ‘misleading’ was made in order to help the reader realise that Jesus’ sorcery was suspect. The charge of sorcery still implied that Jesus’ miracles were genuine, because illusions did not warrant a death sentence, but the editor added a warning that this might be misleading.

9. Dating the Earliest Core Tradition

We concluded above that the traditions concerning the trials of Jesus and his disciples were added at or before the time of Joshua b. Levi (in

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Palestine about AD 220-250) who commented on the trial of the disciples. Joshua was from the first generation of rabbis commenting on the Mishnah, so the anonymous rabbi who introduced this tradition was unlikely to be earlier. The fact that this anonymous rabbi commented on the ‘herald’ of Jesus’ trial implies that this tradition already contained this and presumably the other two additions as well.

It is difficult to know when the first addition was made, but the addition of ‘misleading’ was not known to Justin Martyr when he replied to Trypho in about AD 150. The other two charges however were already common knowledge, because Justin was able to cite them in the assurance that Trypho would know what he was referring to. These charges were therefore put together some time between the last year of Jesus and some decades before AD 150.

When looking for an origin of the core tradition, we need to explain the order of the charges. As detailed above, these two charges often occur together—in Deuteronomy, Mishnah, Tosephta and consequently in the Talmuds—but they are always discussed in the order of ‘enticing’ and then ‘sorcery’. If this tradition originated as a comment based on scripture or halakha, the tradition would have followed this common order. The reverse order is found in all three sources which contain this tradition. This consistent reversal suggests that these charges were based on an original tradition concerning the trial.

The origin of this tradition cannot be traced to Christian sources. The Gospels say that Jesus was convicted of blasphemy by the Jews and of treason by the Romans (Matt. 26:65; Mark 14:64; Luke 23:2). For the gospel writers, these were the most significant charges because they confirmed what the Gospels themselves were trying to show: that Jesus was divine and a king. The gospels do not present blasphemy as a charge in the arrest warrant, but as a charge that was introduced during the trial (Mark 14:60-64; Matt. 26:63-65). The original charge in these gospel accounts concerned destroying the temple, which might have been an initial piece of evidence for the charge of enticing Israel into a new religion, but it is unlikely to make the reader infer that this was a charge brought against Jesus.

The charges of sorcery and leading Israel astray are recorded in the Gospels, but not as charges at his trial. The Synoptics record the charge that he cast out demons in the power of Satan (Mark 3:22; Matt. 12:24; Luke 11:15 and John records the accusation that he was ‘leading Israel

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astray’ (John 7:12).34 Therefore they are not absent from the Gospels, but they are merely two of several accusations, such as being a glutton and drunkard (Matt. 11:19; Luke 7:34—which warrant the death penalty, cf. Deut. 21:20), being of illegitimate birth (John 8:41) and blasphemy (Mark 2:7; Matt. 9:3; John 10:33). Therefore the Gospels do not contradict the charges of sorcery and enticing Israel, but neither can they be inferred from the Gospels. The Gospels are silent about the actual charges though the questioning at the start of the trial is consistent with a charge of ‘enticing’ Israel.

The origin of this tradition is also unlikely to be rabbinic or Pharisaic, even though it has been preserved in rabbinic literature. A rabbinic author or their Pharisee predecessors would cite the charges in the order found in Torah and rabbinic halakha. Also, rabbinic traditions and the major Pharisaic schools tried to dissuade people from working on Passover Eve, so they would not have invented a tradition which said that they decided to try Jesus on this date. Even if the tradition merely reflected the fact that the trial actually occurred on Passover Eve, the author of the tradition could have chosen to simply say that it happened ‘before Passover’ rather than emphasise the fact that it happened on a day contrary to their halakha.

Passover Eve was not kept as a holy day by all of the disparate factions which made up Judaism before AD 70. A tradition we have no reason to doubt says that those in Galilee avoided work all day, while those in Jericho allowed work all day, and those in Judaea allowed work only till noon (m.Pes. 4:5, 8). This may indicate that Sadducees or priests were more generally relaxed about Passover Eve than others, because a large number of priests lived in Jericho (b.Taan.27a) and it is likely that Judaea was influenced more by the Sadducees than by the Pharisees. This makes it likely that the original tradition about Jesus’ trial came from a Sadducean source rather than a Pharisaic one, though the evidence on this point is not strong.

It is worth asking why this tradition was created. As a piece of fiction it conveyed little of interest to Jews. It was a matter of public knowledge that Jesus was executed, and the Jewish world would have liked to forget this rather than be reminded about this false prophet who caused so much trouble. And if someone had created this tradition to warn would-be messiahs, they would have omitted the embarrassing

34 For a fuller discussion see Stanton, ‘Jesus’, 170-80.

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facts about the date and mode of his execution, and they would probably have omitted the charge of sorcery.

Taking all these factors into consideration, the simplest solution is that this tradition originates from the actual charge sheet for the trial of Jesus. This would explain how it carried enough authority to ensure that all the sources maintain the reversed order of the charges, the unscriptural mode of execution and the impious trial date.

10. Conclusions

The traditions about the trials of Jesus and his disciples which were censored from b.San.43a were brought into the Talmudic discussions early in the Third Century and removed in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries. External evidence gives independent witness that the earliest core in this tradition was: ‘On the Eve of Passover, they hung Jesus of Nazareth for sorcery and enticing Israel [to idolatry].’ The rest of the tradition was added later as explanatory glosses to help the reader with problems which became particularly acute in the Second Century: the date of the trial; the method of execution; and the charge of ‘sorcery’. These explanations had already been added by the end of the Second Century, because part of them is debated as an authoritative text by rabbis in the early Third Century.

The earliest development of this tradition cannot be traced with any certainty. The third charge was not present in about AD 150 when Justin Martyr cited two charges, though only the first was pertinent to his argument. He cited them as something which his Jewish opponent would be familiar with. The consistent order of the charges, which is opposite to that in Torah and rabbinic halakha, suggests they came from another authoritative source. The wording of the rest of the earliest core of this tradition is not what would have invented to help the case that Jesus was tried and executed according to Jewish law.

The least difficult explanation is that the earliest core of the censored tradition of Jesus’ trial came from the time of Jesus. Succeed- ing generations felt they could not change it, despite difficulties presented by the wording. Instead, later editors added explanatory phrases during the latter half of the Second Century to help readers understand the correct meaning of this tradition, as they saw it.

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