Don’t Camouflage the Truth

When I was in the Marine Corps one of the important lessons we learned was how to apply camouflage correctly. Camouflage is designed to allow you to be in view of the enemy but not be seen because, when applied correctly, it lets you blend into the background colors and also breaks up the recognizable contours and shapes of your face and body.

So, what does this have to do with truth?

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How many times have you read or heard someone talking about the Bible or a biblical truth to someone else in a derogatory or judgmental way? And when they were told they didn’t need to be nasty, they played that old, “I am just telling you the truth” card?

When someone does that, they may be telling the truth, but they have camouflaged the truth with their pridefulness.  And the result is that no good will come of it because the one who needs to see the truth will not be able to see it: it’s been camouflaged by pride and arrogance.

NOTE: When I say people camouflage the truth with their own pride, what I mean is that they are more interested in showing off what they know instead of using what they know to help someone else.

Shaul said he may have many gifts but if he doesn’t have love, he is nothing (1 Corinthians 13), and the same is true regarding telling the truth to someone about God’s word or Yeshua’s teachings. If you can’t show someone the truth without being nasty, sounding judgmental, or insulting them, then whatever truth you may actually have will not be seen because it has been camouflaged by your attitude. In other words, no matter how correct you may be, you might as well be talking to a wall.

The moment you start to insult or demean someone in any way their response will be “Shields up, Scotty!!” And whether or not you think you are being nasty doesn’t matter: another thing I learned in the Marine Corp is that if they think you are being nasty, then you are being nasty. When people camouflage the truth with their pride and arrogance, they have not only failed to help that person but have actually helped the enemy of God because they will turn that person off from any of God’s truth, even from hearing it from another person who knows how to communicate without letting their ego get in the way.

So here is the truth about speaking the truth: if you can’t say it nicely, then please don’t say it at all because your camouflage will prevent them from seeing it from you, and maybe even from someone else.

The bottom line is that if we cannot tell someone the truth about God or Yeshua without making them feel attacked, then we are wasting our time, failing to be effective, hurting the person’s chances of being saved, and dishonoring God and Yeshua, as well.

The next time you want to share the truth with someone, don’t camouflage it with pride but present it humbly and with compassion for the other person’s feelings. That way the truth will be obvious not just in your words, but in your attitude, as well.

Thank you for being here; please subscribe and share these messages out with friends and family. I am always open to comments and often can even see past the camouflage when they are submitted.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Which Books Make up the Torah, Really?

I mentioned in my last message to you that I would be talking about which books really make up the Torah, and what I mean is the Torah that Moses knew to be the Torah.

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Yes, we all know that the Torah is the first five books of the Bible, but when I did a search using the Complete Jewish Bible (because many other bibles – most, in fact- do not use the word “Torah” at all) I found that it was used only a few times outside of the book of Deuteronomy.

So let’s take a look at Deuteronomy, where Moses uses this word the most times.

But before we do that, let’s review the other books: Genesis talks about creation through Joseph, Exodus tells us of how God brought his people out of slavery up to the establishment of the Priesthood and construction of the Tabernacle. Leviticus gives the laws regarding food, worship, the sacrificial system, and moral standards. Numbers is the narrative of the travels through the desert and ends with the preparations for dividing the land when the people enter it.

Each of these books is a separate narrative, each dealing only with one aspect of the history of God and his chosen people.

Now we come to the last book of the Pentateuch (Greek for “5 books”), Deuteronomy. The Hebrew name for this book is D’Varim, which means “the words”, and these are all the words Moses spoke to the people of Israel just before they entered the land God promised them.

Remember, this isn’t the generation that left Egypt, all of whom died in the desert; this generation, the ones entering the land God promised to their fathers, are the children that were babes when Moses led them from Egypt or who had been born and grew up in the desert.  Moses takes this time, before he dies, to make sure that God’s rules and instructions are clear to them.

Within this book, we have Moses retelling how the people assigned Moses to be their intercessor with God. Moses reminds them of the sinfulness their fathers demonstrated throughout their travels, and how God punished them for it, yet here they are proving that God kept his promise to bring them, this new generation, to the land he promised their fathers.

In Chapter 5 he reviews the 10 Commandments; in Chapters 12 and 13 Moses instructs them about proper worship, warning against idolatry of any kind. Chapter 14 reviews the laws of Kashrut (Kosher), Chapter 15 is about societal rules, Chapter 16 instructs the proper celebration of the festivals of the Lord, and Chapter 17 instructs how to establish the government.

The remaining chapters deal with the penal system, torts, criminal and sexual crimes, and marital regulations.

At the end of this book, Moses tells the people that they are to confirm this covenant, and when they enter the land to write in on the mountains and declare it publicly to the peoples living there.

Throughout this book, Moses also promises that if they follow these instructions he is giving them that God will keep his promise to protect and bless them. If they choose life (i.e., to follow God’s instructions) then they will live long and happy lives; but, if they rebel and reject his instructions and live as the people that live there now do, then God will punish them and eventually the land will vomit them out, as it is doing to the ones there now. This is in Chapter 28, known as the Blessings and the Curses chapter.

This is important to Note: the instructions Moses constantly talks about throughout this book are the ones he is giving to the people then and there- these are found in all of the other books, but he is condensing them all in this one book and giving them to the people right at that moment!

Now we come to my original question: Which books make up the Torah, really?

My answer is that the Torah Moses speaks about is the book of Deuteronomy, alone. When he says to obey all the laws and regulations he is giving them that are in the book, he means Deuteronomy, alone. That one book has all the important aspects of worship and interpersonal relationships that God wants us to obey.

In the days when Moses first put all this down on parchment, although I couldn’t find any historical confirmation, I think it makes sense that we would not expect Moses to have written the entire Torah scroll we have today as a single scroll. Because of the diversity of the first 4 books, I believe that each was, at first, a separate scroll and only when they were put together did they become the one Sefer Torah (Book of the Torah) we use today. I believe that when we read in 2 Chronicles 34 how Hilkiyahu found the scroll of the Torah and it was read to the king, it seems to me that even though he had no plans to binge-watch Vikings on Netflix that night, to read the entire 5 books would have been too much at one time. However, to read through one book, Deuteronomy, would take only a few hours, if that much. And later, when they sought the advice of the prophetess Huldah, who said that Adonai will bring upon them all the curses written in this book, she must be referring to Deuteronomy, where curses are stipulated in Chapter 28, as well as in Chapter 11.

I believe the “Torah” Moses talks about throughout the book of Deuteronomy is just that one book, and the references to Torah in the other parts of the Bible were assumed scribal translations added later. The separate scrolls comprising the 5 books of the Torah we know, were probably put together sometime after the people entered the land, maybe in the time of Joshua or the Judges. The oldest known Torah dates back only to 1250 CE. The oldest Jewish manuscripts we know of, I suppose, are the Dead Sea Scrolls and they are all separate scrolls. According to Wikipedia:

Of the scrolls found, about a quarter (220 in all) are books of the Hebrew Bible, or what Christians call the Old Testament: all the books, in fact, except Esther and Nehemiah. The most common books found are Psalms and Deuteronomy.

So…Deuteronomy was, at one point, a separate scroll, which would seem to confirm my assumption that the scroll Moses refers to as the “Torah” is just the one book we know as Deuteronomy, which is the scroll found in the Temple by Hilkiyahu and read to King Yoshiyahu.

Does this message have anything to do with your salvation? Of course not, it is just something that I believe might help us better understand what Moses was saying to the generation of Israelites just before they entered the land, and also to help us better realize what Moses meant when he said that these laws were not so hard to know, or so far away from us. There are 613 separate commandments in the Torah we know today, the 5 books Moses wrote during the 40 years in the desert; however, all that Moses said we really need to know is found in the one book we call Deuteronomy.

Thank you for being here and I hope you found today’s message interesting, if not educational. Perhaps it will help someone, someone who doesn’t feel like reading the entire Bible but is interested in what it says. By reading Deuteronomy, they will get all they need to know.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

 

Why Did God Give Us the Torah?

That seems to be an easy question to answer, doesn’t it? I would think we are all thinking the same thing: God gave the Torah to the Jews so they could know the difference between sin and righteous living.

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That’s true; in fact, according to Shaul, the Torah created sin (Romans 7) and without it, we wouldn’t know what was right or wrong.

Now, as true as the above statement is, I would call it a Christian view because many Christians believe the Torah is just for the Jews. Which is, of course, absolutely wrong.

A more Jewish view, if you will, is that God gave the Torah to the Jews, who he chose to teach it to the rest of the world. That is why God tells Moses in Exodus 19:6 that he is choosing the Jewish people to be his nation of priests to the world. That statement can only mean that the Torah is for everyone, not just for Jews.

It is the same thing as when someone learns all they can about mathematics and after becoming an expert in performing mathematical calculations and finding solutions, becomes a teacher of mathematics so that others can learn how to do it.

God chose the Jewish people, descendants of Abraham, to be trained in the way God wants us to worship him and treat each other so that we could then teach the world through example and education.

What went wrong was when men invented religion.

The Torah has always been referred to as the first 5 books of the Bible, and most often misinterpreted to mean “laws.” In truth, the word “Torah” means teaching. It is more than laws, it is a constitution, a marriage certificate (in Hebrew, called a Ketubah) and it is also a penal code establishing the rights, and legal remedies for the abrogation of those rights, of each citizen of the Torah-observant community.

The real answer to the question “Why did God give us the Torah” is so that we could live long, happy lives in the land we possess. This is told to us more than 4 times in the book of Deuteronomy, alone. When we follow the instructions God gave in the Torah, then we will live secure, happy, bountiful, blessed, long and protected lives in the land we possess. For modern people, that means where you live, now.

The next question is “What books make up the Torah, really?”, and that will be for my next message.

Thank you for being here and please subscribe, share this out with others, and check out my books on my website and at Amazon (just put my full name in the search window), because if you like what you read or see in my video’s, I can tell you that you will like what you read in my books.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch Ha Shem!

The All-American Religion

I like to listen to the Oldies station, and the one here in Melbourne, Florida has a weekday session at 1400 (that’s 2 PM to you non-military types) they call “The Impossible Question”, where they ask a question that has an answer which is hard to know, and when someone guesses the correct answer they get a $25 gift certificate to one of the restaurant sponsors of the show.

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The other day I was in the car listening to the station and the question was something along the lines of “18% of all relationships break up for this reason.”

I thought the answer would be money, how to raise the kids, abusiveness, cultural or religious differences, or something along those lines.

Would you like to know what the answer is?

(I hope so because this entire message is based on it.)

The answer is the relationship fails because one of the partners cheers for a different NFL team.

That’s right- not something as significant as money, children, addiction, mental illness or abusive treatment, but simply that I like the New York Giants and you cheer for the Greenbay Packers. Hey – pack your trash and go!

Even if we have a relationship based on mutual trust, love, and common interests, we cannot have a lasting relationship unless you are a fan of my favorite football team.

I guess that also means if I am going to start dating someone, I better do it at the end of football season so that I might have a chance at getting 7 or 8 months with this person before we have to break up.

When I thought about it, I realized that the relationships fail because of religious differences: those people follow that All-American religion called:  Professional Sports.

It is a pantheistic religion because there is not a singular deity but multiple deities we call Athletes. There are demigods called Coaches and the Priest is called an Announcer, and the temple where they worship is called ESPN.

They read their Bible every day, which is found in the newspapers under the title “Sports Section”, and they tithe monthly through their cable channel. Every February there is a pilgrimage to whichever place their god says the Super Bowl will play, and some pay thousands of dollars for choice seating at the altar, which we call a Stadium.

How many people do you know that are devotees of this religion?

I’ll bet those who pay thousands for season seating at their favorite team’s stadium, and monthly fees for sports channels, don’t spend anywhere near as much money for tithing to their church or synagogue (if they even go to one.)

Idolatry is allowing anything to come between you and the one, true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. If you have more devotion to something or someone than you do to God, that is idolatry.

I know you feel physical and emotional love for your spouse more than what you feel for God, but you know what I mean. Of course, your spouse may not be all that important to you if he or she cheers for the wrong NFL team.

I am not saying that anyone should cancel ESPN and forego any sports events from now on; I would ask that they think about their level of devotion to a bunch of guys who probably don’t even know they exist. People don’t just honor their skills, which are God-given, to begin with, but many people literally worship their favorite sports star. They hang pictures of them, want their autograph, follow their life and read everything they can about them. And when they die, they are devastated.

But do they read their Bible every day? Do they pray to God for peace or salvation for their friends? I know that if they pray at all, it is probably that God will let their team win, which, I think it is safe to say, isn’t really all that important to God.

I don’t want you to stop watching your favorite sports teams or participating in your favorite sports but think about this situation for a second: one out of every four relationships in America is ruined because of something that has nothing at all to do with the other person’s personality or compatibility. One out of every four relationships is ruined because of a difference between which sports team they prefer.

Would they break up if I like steak and she likes fish? Would we break up if I loved purple and she loved Yellow? What about if she drove slowly and I drove like the New York driver I am? Probably not, but if I am a NY fan and she is a California fan? Then our chance of having a meaningful, rewarding and lasting relationship has an 18% chance of failing, right from the get-go.

If that statistic doesn’t shake you down to the soles of your feet, then if you’ll excuse my saying so, I believe you need to sort out your priorities.

The Enemy wants us to worship him, but if he can’t get someone to worship him he is satisfied to get them to stop worshiping God through seducing them (as Balaam did) to worship something or someone else.

Think about that the next time you watch a football game.

Thank you for being here and please subscribe and share this ministry with others. I welcome your comments and look forward to the next time we get together.

Until then, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

To Judge or Not to Judge: There Ain’t No Question

Because I am a member of a number of different Facebook discussion groups, some Christian, one or two that are Messianic or Hebrew Roots, and others somewhere in between, I get to see a lot of different opinions about the same topics. And more often than not, someone will “correct” someone else’s understanding. Sometimes it is done respectfully, and sometimes the other person is just, plain nasty and insulting.

However, no matter how the correction is stated, there will always be someone else who says, “We are not to judge others!”

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Let’s get something straight: God NEVER said we should not judge others. What he does say about judging is not that we shouldn’t, but that when we do it must be righteous and fair.  Let’s see an example or two of what God tells us about judging:

Deuteronomy 16:18-20 (CJB):

You are to appoint judges and officers for all your gates [in the cities] ADONAI your God is giving you, tribe by tribe; and they are to judge the people with righteous judgment.  You are not to distort justice or show favoritism, and you are not to accept a bribe, for a gift blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of even the upright.  Justice, only justice, you must pursue; so that you will live and inherit the land ADONAI your God is giving you.
In the very next chapter, this command is further defined.

Deuteronomy 17:8-9 (CJB):

If a case comes before you at your city gate which is too difficult for you to judge, concerning bloodshed, civil suit, personal injury or any other controversial issue; you are to get up, go to the place which Adonai your God will choose, and appear before the cohanim, who are L’vi’im, and the judge in office at the time. Seek their opinion, and they will render a verdict for you.

We are told in 1 Corinthians 6:2 that those who follow Messiah are to be the ones who judge the world, and if any of you have ever had to judge someone, such as writing a work evaluation, then you know (assuming you are fair and just in your evaluation) how hard it is to judge someone. You need to have copious notes that you have made during the evaluation period because memory can’t be trusted when talking about someone’s career, and you need to be able to overcome personal feelings and concern for what others might think of you.

Judging the way God wants us to judge is hard.

I can tell you from personal experience, writing fitness reports on the men under my command when I was an XO in the Marine Corps, and as a manager for many years writing evaluations of the people who worked for me, that when you realize what you are doing is literally shaping their future, well, it’s very humbling and quite a burden to judge others correctly.

As far as what we read posted in discussion groups or may hear in person, there is a fine line between what is a judgment and what is being judgmental. Let’s see if I can give a good example…

If someone says something that is clearly wrong according to the Bible, I will tell them they are wrong, then give my reasons why I have judged them to be wrong using biblical references to support my position. This is a proper form of judging someone else.

However, if I tell them they don’t know what they are talking about and obviously have no understanding of the Bible or God because this is what he says (quoting the same verses I used in the other example), that is being judgmental, and is not a righteous form of judging someone.

To judge correctly we must make our judgment based on the facts and not the person.

This is evident in the way God tells us to judge because he says judge the poor and the rich the same way, and accept no bribe. That bribe doesn’t have to be a monetary bribe, either: I could be bribed by making a judgment that benefits someone else who might one day help me, or I could be bribed by myself, in that I might make a judgment I know to be wrong but would be a popular one with the public, ensuring my next election. A bribe can be anything that unfairly influences a decision.

To render fair and equitable judgments, the kind that is righteously originated and factually justified takes practice. You can’t go through this life never making a judgment about someone and then be expected to suddenly make good ones when we are resurrected in the Acharit HaYamim (End Days), so you need to practice. Now, I am not saying you should go around correcting everyone you see- that won’t really help you, but may end up speeding you towards the first step of your resurrection, which is the one where you die.

No, do not go around judging everyone you see, but when you are in a position where you will need to make a judgment, remember God’s rules for how we are to judge others and make it a fair, factually-based and righteous judgment.

The best “Acid Test” question you can pose to yourself when judging someone is to remember this: you will be judged by God, in the same manner, you judge others.

Thank you for being here and please don’t forget to subscribe. I welcome comments and proper judgments.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Beware of Spiritual Misdirection

If you have ever watched magicians, one of the basic skills they possess is to misdirect their audience. They do this with sleight of hand, lighting, mirrors, and more often than not (all the major stars use this) one or more really attractive assistants who dance seductively around.

Sometimes they are so distracting that you could walk the tiger into the cage in front of everyone and no one would notice.

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Through the Prophets in the Bible, God warns us that there will be false teachers, and these people will use a form of spiritual misdirection to turn our attention away from what is important for us to do; their goal is to make us do what we think is right but actually it will lead us away from salvation.

The way you can identify being misdirected is not difficult: you simply have to know which direction is the right one. Let’s say you know how to get to a building but someone tells you there is a short cut you can use, if you know your way around then you will be able to immediately know the path they are sending you on is a false one.

It is the same with the path to salvation. When you know what God says he wants of you from reading the Bible, and that means the entire Bible – Genesis through Revelation – then if someone tells you to take a different path, one you know is not what the Bible has mapped out, then you can avoid being misdirected.

Often times this misdirection will not be obvious but might be hidden, like a Trojan horse, within a conversation or a discussion. Numerology, Gnosticism, the argumentation over the correct way to pronounce the name of God or the Messiah, when to celebrate holy days, and many other topics that appear to be a legitimate bible study topic are often misdirection. They take one’s focus away from the worship of God to the worship of knowing things about God.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with learning about God; in fact, he tells us exactly who he is in Exodus 34:6-7. We call these The 13 Attributes of God; it is when God passed by Moses and announced himself. If you ask me, this is all we need to know about God. I believe if there was more he wanted us to know, he would have told us.

True faith is not dissecting everything about God or the Bible, it is humbly accepting what we are told as all we need to know. Once we start to get too deep into details, we lose sight of the goal; after all, you can’t find your way out of a forest if you only stare at the tree directly in front of you.

That goal, the one everyone should be seeking, is Salvation. Salvation must be the goal of everyone, even though most don’t know or even care about being saved. Atheists don’t believe God exists, so salvation means nothing to them. Most Christians have been taught that Jesus died for their sins, which are now automatically forgiven, and as long as they are a “good person” they go to heaven. Jews believe that we have no salvation without Messiah, but sadly enough, mainstream Judaism has rejected their Messiah, and only those who learn the truth about Yeshua and accept him will have a chance at being saved from the second death. Muslims are completely off-road.

Because salvation is the ultimate goal, we must know the way to get there, and the Bible tells us how in a way that is clear, understandable, and direct: the path is to do as God instructs us to do in the Torah. Yeshua never taught to ignore or avoid the Torah, but modern Christianity (if we want to be accurate, it should be called Constantinianism) teaches to ignore pretty much all the instructions God gave.

And my own people, the Jews? The Rabbis have added so much more onto the Torah through Talmudic dogma that most Jews are practicing what I would have to call Rabbinic Judaism instead of just what God said we need to do.

Anyone who teaches to divert from the Torah is a false teacher, and anyone who allows themself to be misdirected will be led off the path to salvation. That is a simple truth; if you don’t walk the roadmap God gave you then you are going somewhere else. And since we have only two pathways, an eternity in God’s presence or eternity outside of his presence, we better know which way we are going.

That’s it. That’s all I want to say to you today. But this isn’t all there is to it, because reading the Bible is a lifelong activity, and the more you read it, the better you will understand it. God has a message in there for you, and you may not realize what it is until the third or fourth reading, or maybe it will take even longer. The thing to do is to keep reading, ask for Holy Spirit guidance in understanding, and realize that there are many, many people out there who might misdirect you, even though they may think they are doing God’s work.

Satan has a lot of Three Card Monty tables set up along your walk through this life, and he wants you to play, so don’t be misdirected and stay on the pathway God made for you.

Thank you for being here and please subscribe and share these messages with others. Please help this ministry to grow- I am not in it to make money, just to get the right information to people. Hosea said his people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; you’ve got to make your own decision, so make it – just make sure it’s an informed decision.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Don’t be Confused by Labels

I often see people posting, and this is exclusively by Gentile believers, asking if they can be called “Jewish”, or (most recently) if they can be a “Hebrew” if they are not Jewish by birth.

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Some people answer them with factoids, such as the word “Hebrew” means “crossed over”, so if they have crossed over to Yeshua then they are a “Hebrew.” Others say you have to be Jewish by birth because Jews and Hebrews are the same. And others answered with something in between these two extremes.

My answer was that it doesn’t matter.

There were some who took my answer as an insult to Judaism and to God since the Jews are his chosen people, but they didn’t see the deeper, spiritual meaning of my answer.

Hebrew, Jew, Christian, Believer, Protestant, Catholic…these and any other specification of one’s religious position or belief are nothing more than social connotations identifying a belief system. They are labels, and as such, they are only as accurate as what a person hearing that label understands it to mean.

In other words, getting all caught up in what people call someone is a form of legalism, concentrating on a social identifier instead of the spiritual condition of the person.

When Yeshua taught from the Torah, he didn’t teach the plain language meaning, which in the Jewish form of biblical exegesis is called the P’shat.

(If you are unfamiliar with this terminology, do a search for “PaRDeS.”)

What Yeshua taught was the Remes, the deeper, spiritual understanding of the law. You can see this best when you read the Sermon on the Mount, where he says they have heard one thing, (which is the P’shat) and then he says that he tells them this (which is the Remes); for instance, he says you have heard it said Do Not Murder (P’shat) but I tell you if you hate your brother in your heart, you have already committed murder (Remes).

My answer regarding labels is a spiritual answer because when we are with God, he doesn’t care about what people called us. He doesn’t care if we were Jewish, or Episcopalian, or Catholic or AME or Muslim, even: all God cares about is where are now, spiritually, and not where we were. And where we are doesn’t have a label, other than (if we have to have one, maybe this is the best label): “Faithful Follower of the Torah.”

That has to be the best label because if we believe in God and Yeshua, we have to follow the instructions God gave us in the Torah, which are the same instructions Yeshua taught us. Through Moses and the Pharisees, we were given a plain language understanding of God’s instructions, and when Yeshua came he took us into the next level of understanding, the spiritual one. Think of it this way: The people were going to God College and from Mt. Sinai until Yeshua, they were taking “Torah 101”, and when Yeshua came those who wanted to advance in their knowledge accepted him and were being taught the advanced class “Torah 202.”

And for those who are studying the Bible every day and striving to understand the deeper, spiritual meaning of God’s word, they are attending Torah graduate school.

There is so much importance given to things that are physical, things of the world, such as labels, pronunciations (if God knows our heart and mind, he knows who we mean when we pray), calendar dates, or anything else that is of the physical world. All of this is nothing more than social convention, something that is P’shat and useful only to identify a physical condition.

Anyone who is adopted or has adopted someone, please let me know if I am wrong about this, but I believe that when parents with their own biological children adopt other children, they do not introduce them as “Johnny is my real child and Harry is only my adopted child.” I believe they say, “These are my sons, Johnny and Harry.”  It is the same with God: when he sees us, he doesn’t care what label the world puts on us, he knows who we are he doesn’t care about what we are called.

I hope I have made myself understandable. It seems to me that there are people who are so passionate about labels, minutia, and non-salvation issues that they literally worship these things, and are so involved in the trees they can’t see the forest anymore.

Are you seeing only the trees? Do you think it is really important to God if you are able to say you are Jewish or a Hebrew, or that your calendar has the exact correct date for Yom Kippur this year, or that you know the only correct way to pronounce the Tetragrammaton?

God sees and knows the heart, which is something we are told throughout the Bible, so why would anyone think that a social convention such as a label or a name would have any importance to God?

I pray that this message gets through to someone because I really believe, and know in my heart, that God wants us to live our lives as best as we can in accordance with his instructions. What label we call ourselves by, what pronunciation we use when addressing God, or what calendar we go by is of no real importance to God- it is only important to people who have little spiritual depth and are concerned about what other people think of them. I am sorry if someone feels insulted or mistreated by that statement, but it is what I believe based on my understanding of God and what he has shown me in his Word.

Let’s finish today with you asking yourself this question: Does God know my feelings without me having to say anything?  If you answered Yes, then he doesn’t need words and therefore, all the labels, pronunciations and other things that are of social use are of no use to him, so work on seeing and learning the spiritual things of God and don’t let yourself get all wrapped up and misled by legalistic definitions or labels. They have no eternal value at all.

Thank you for being here and please subscribe, share this ministry with others, and I welcome comments. Even if you disagree, all I ask is that you do so nicely.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Why Isn’t Simchat Torah in Nissan?

For those of you who may not be familiar with Simchat Torah (Joy of Torah), it is the holiday that comes on the 8th day after Sukkot.  On this day we all get together in the Synagogue and read the end portion of Deuteronomy, then as the congregation sings (and in some places will also have Davidic dancing, usually a Hora since everyone can dance the Hora) the Torah is rolled back to the very beginning, and after that is done the first portion of Genesis is read.

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I have been blessed in that many times I have helped to roll back the Torah, and believe-you-me if you want to have forearms that look like Popeye’s, you will get them when you roll back a heavy Torah. You have to be very, VERY careful because it is made of animal skin and tied with animal gut (Kosher animals, of course.) The cost of a Torah can be anywhere from tens of thousands of dollars to well into hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The Torah is separated into 54 Parashot (portions), which are read on each Shabbat. In leap years they are read separately and in non-leap years sometimes two will be read at the same time, in order that at the end of the year, on Simchat Torah, every synagogue in the world will be reading the end of Deuteronomy and turning their Torah back to the beginning. Except for some synagogues which use a three-year cycle of reading instead of a one-year cycle: after all, we’re Jewish and it just wouldn’t be right if we all agreed on something.

BTW…I have written a book that is a commentary on each of the 54 Torah parashot, which can also be used for Bible study or even as fodder for a sermon. Here is a link to where you can buy it if you are interested (Parashot Drashim.)

In Leviticus 23:23 God says the first day of the 7th month is a day of remembrance, a day for blowing on the shofar and a day of complete rest. In Judaism, we say it is the first day of the Ten Days of Awe, during which we look, introspectively, to see how far short of the way God wants us to live we have been and thereby prepare our souls for Yom Kippur, the 10th day of this month when we come before God to ask for forgiveness of our sins over the past year.

If we consider that Rosh Hashanah is a new year celebration, it seems to make sense that the annual reading cycle of the Torah should be associated with it. But God said (Exodus 12:2) that the new year begins on the first day of Aviv (in Hebrew this means “Spring”), which has been renamed to Nissan. Therefore, if God says that is our new year, why isn’t Simchat Torah also celebrated at that time?

I don’t really know if anyone has the answer to that. From the little research I did, it seems that the three-year reading cycle was the norm in Israel until the Babylonian exiles returned to Jerusalem, taking many of the Babylonian influences with them, such as the names of the months and the annual reading cycle, which led to this holiday beginning sometime in the Second Millennia.

For me, it makes sense that Simchat Torah could be celebrated either at the beginning of the Holy Day cycle (before Passover) or at the end of the Holy Day cycle (Sh’mini Atzeret, the eighth day after Sukkot) because each is an annual cycle. The connection to Sh’mini Atzeret, though, makes more sense because that is after we have been cleansed of our sins and just finished an entire week living in Sukkot, to commemorate the way God took care of our ancestors and how they could commune with him because his presence was among them in their camp.

The Torah is more than a list of commandments; it tells us who God is. He reveals himself to Moses and, thereby, to us and that is why I think it is best celebrated after Sukkot. In Judaism, it is said that the reason God told us to have an eighth day added to Sukkot is that he so enjoyed being with his people for those 7 days that he added an additional day. And when we turn the Torah back to the beginning, it is like reliving that first kiss.

For me, that is the true joy we get from Simchat Torah -to get to know God all over again.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Yeshua: Rejected by Jews and Recreated by Christians

Pretty much everyone knows that when Yeshua walked the earth the Jewish population, for the most part, rejected him as the Messiah, although there were many who accepted him. After his resurrection, he was introduced to the Gentiles in the Middle East and Asia, and they much more readily accepted him as the son of God. By the end of the Third Century, the group called Christians far outnumbered the Jewish population, both in the land and within their own group and had separated themselves so much from how Jews lived and worshiped that they created an entirely new religion.

If you prefer to watch a video, click on this link: Watch the video.

By the end of the Second Millennia, Christianity had become so diversified that there are now dozens of Christian sects and religions, all purporting to worship the same God and believe Jesus Christ to be his son and the Messiah, yet their religious rites, doctrine and dogma are significantly different.

So, why do Jews, after all this time, still reject Jesus Christ as their Messiah?

The answer is simple, really: the guy that Christianity proposes to be the son of God and Messiah to the world not only has nothing to do with Judaism but has persecuted, murdered, and forced Jews to convert against their will since the 4th Century. PLUS…they have completely misconstrued and/or replaced what Yeshua taught when he walked the earth.

I mean, when you think about it, that’s a pretty good reason for Jews not wanting to have anything to do with this fair-skinned, blond-haired, blue-eyed Aryan You-Know-What who hates their guts.

Yeshua was, still is, and always will be Jewish. He is the Messiah who was promised to be sent to the Jewish people to bring them back into communion with God and lead them in their own country. He lived in accordance with the laws that God gave to the Jewish people (he had to- otherwise he would have been a sinner and as such, his sacrifice would not have been acceptable) and he taught others to do the same as he did.

“Wait a minute!”, you say, “If he taught the same things that the Jews already knew, why didn’t they believe him?”

That’s the problem, isn’t it? Why didn’t they believe him?

In my opinion, there are three reasons that the mainstream Jewish population has rejected Yeshua as their Messiah, despite his teachings and the miracles he performed. Two of them were present at the time he was actively teaching, and they were:

  1. The people were praying for a political Messiah, someone to free them from Roman rule and that was not why Yeshua came; and
  2. Jerusalem in the First Century had one of the most corrupt, if not the most corrupt, political and social environment ever within the history of the Jewish people. The king wasn’t a son of David, the Cohen HaGadol (High Priest) wasn’t a descendant of Aaron, and many of the members of the Sanhedrin throughout the land were political “hacks” and not truly Levites. The Pharisees and Sadducees, despite their differences, were a strong political and social power, and Yeshua’s teachings were exposing their hypocrisy and corruption. In essence, Yeshua’s influence on the people was a threat to the Jerusalem “Power Elite” and, as such, he had to be gotten rid of. The people would do what their leaders said to do, so they rejected him not on a personal basis, but as a result of being told that if they followed Yeshua they would be ostracized.

The third reason didn’t really come into play until nearly 60 years after his resurrection.

You see, as more and more Gentiles converted from their pagan religion to what was, essentially, Judaism, they had trouble making that paradigm shift from a religion centered on hedonistic pleasure to a religion centered on self-control, righteous living and respect for others. So, the original Disciples who were now the first leaders of the people who had accepted Yeshua were trying to make that conversion more palatable, if you will, by initially having only 4 requirements that had to be immediately followed (Acts 15.) The assumption was that the other instructions that are in the Torah, which is what Yeshua taught, would eventually be incorporated into their lives as they continued to practice Judaism.

And that’s where the whole thing fell apart.

You see, the Jewish population in the First Century was in rebellion against Roman rulership and were being politically persecuted. These neophyte Believers, composed of both Jews and Gentiles, were being persecuted by the mainstream Jews (under orders of the Power Elite) and the last thing they needed was the Romans on their backs, as well. So, what they did was separate themselves from the Jewish population to avoid Roman persecution.

Of course, that backfired because the Jews were allowed to worship their religion but Rome would not stand for any new religion forming in a land they ruled.

In order to separate from Judaism, these followers of “The Way” changed the Shabbat to Sunday, they did not continue to follow the Torah and even disowned their Jewish roots. After Emperor Constantine got involved (circa 325 AD), the people who professed to follow the teachings of Yeshua were a totally different religion than the one Yeshua taught about! Modern-day Christianity is what Constantine invented, as well as this guy Jesus Christ. Jesus is nothing like Yeshua, doesn’t worship God as Yeshua did, doesn’t teach what Yeshua taught, and hates Jews.

Can you see now why Jews rejected, and still do reject, Jesus Christ as their Savior?

So, nu? Now that we understand the problem, how do we solve it? I am sorry to say that I see no way for this problem to be resolved by human means. We can pray for individuals to find the truth about Yeshua, as I did, and for the Christian leadership to retrace their steps back to where the schism between Judaism and Christianity began, and heal that fissure so that we are all on the same path.

Yeah- like that’s gonna happen.

Those of us who know the truth about Yeshua have to be able to present him in a way that Jews will accept him, meaning teach what he taught and try to overcome the many centuries of wrongful teaching regarding Yeshua. We need to show Jews who Yeshua is, and help them to realize that Jesus Christ is NOT the one God sent or the one to believe in: they must know about Yeshua that he is the one to accept.

We also have to teach those practicing all forms of Christianity so they know that the Jesus Constantine created is not the Messiah God sent, and what they have been told Jesus Christ taught is not what Yeshua taught.

This will not happen easily or quickly and we will be fighting an uphill battle because, to be frank, Christianity is a lot easier than Judaism. Jews have the Torah commandments to live up to, but Christians are told Jesus died for their sins and as long as they are a “good person” they go to heaven. They don’t even care about the Acts 15 requirements anymore.

When Yeshua returns and God’s plan of salvation is completed, there won’t be different religions anymore: in truth, there won’t be any religions, only the one way of life that God gave us from the start. Judaism is called a religion, but that is not what God intended it to be: God gave us the instructions on how to worship him and how to live with each other in the Torah and he didn’t expect us to do anything else.

The Torah was never meant to be the rulebook for a religion, but to be the User Manual for how to live.

Thank you for being here and please subscribe and share these messages with others to help this ministry grow. I always welcome your comments and until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

 

 

The Bible and Weight Watchers

I’ll just bet you are wondering how I can realistically put the Bible and Weight Watchers together.

It’s easy, but first a little personal history.

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I am 5’8″ tall, and somewhat muscular, so when I tell people what I weigh, I often get a surprised look, and am told, “You don’t look that heavy.”  Yet, I am. In 2010 I weighed almost 215 pounds and felt terrible about it. So, when a Weight Watchers representative started a weekly lunch meeting at work, I joined in. I was motivated to do their plan and about a year and a half later, I was down to my ideal weight of 175. That is when I felt I knew the program, knew pretty much how many points foods were worth and could stop paying the monthly fee for the phone app because I knew I could keep track of what I was eating on my own.

So I quit WW. And do you know what happened then? That’s right- I went back up. Not all the way back up, but up to about 205.

I have recently started NOOM, a different type of weight regimen that doesn’t just keep track of your food intake but helps you to understand the psychology of your desire to eat and gives you ways to change that behavior.  So far, after two weeks I have lost about 10 pounds, but I know (from experience) that the closer I get to my ideal weight, the longer it will take to lose those last few pounds.

“OK- thanks for all that personal info, Steve, but what does any of this have to do with the Bible?  Oh, wait- I get it! You are saying that because David says in Psalm 119:

          How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

and in Psalm 34:

          Taste and see that the LORD is good; 

that what you’re saying is the Bible is fattening!”

No, that is not what I mean.

The thing that makes Weight Watchers or NOOM, or for that matter, any regimen work is that it is not just something you do constantly but is something that you track constantly.

The Bible is not to be read once in a while but should be read every day. And you shouldn’t use one of those “Bible Verse per Day” calendars or notepads because that throws you all around the Bible and you do not get to see the continuity or the interrelationships within the Word of God. It is like reading a mystery novel starting at the beginning, then going to the middle, then near the end, then back to the beginning where you left off, to the middle, and so forth. No one reads a book like that, and even though the Bible books aren’t in perfect chronological order, you need to read it from Genesis through Revelation in the order that it is presented so that what you learn is contextually correct.

I consider it a real danger when people use these “verse a day” type of study guides: they teach single verses that are taken out of context and so you do not get a full understanding of what you are reading.

Learning God’s word is a regimen, a life-long regimen, and as such needs to be tracked and maintained. I read a couple of pages a day: I start at the start and go until I reach the end, then I turn it back to the start and start all over, again. Just like with NOOM, where I am keeping a record of what I eat to make sure I am staying on track to become more physically healthy, reading the Bible every day is how you stay on track to become more spiritually healthy.

Make reading the Bible -the whole Bible- part of your spiritual diet plan, and keep track of it every day. Make this a new, life-long regimen. They say that after doing something 21 times it becomes a habit, so starting today and for the rest of this month read a few pages a day, and by February you will start to see a spiritually healthier you.

And nothing is as attractive as someone who is spiritually healthy.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!