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!

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.

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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!

 

 

Parashah Vayyechi 2020 (And he lived) Genesis 47:28 – 50:26

Jacob and his entire family are now in Goshen, and Jacob lived there for another 17 years. Joseph is told that his father is ill and he brings his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim to Jacob so that they can be blessed by him.

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Jacob makes Joseph swear to bury him with his fathers, and tells Joseph that he (Jacob) is adopting Joseph’s sons as tribes of Israel under Joseph’s inheritance. After this, Jacob blesses the sons of Joseph and places the younger over the elder (just as had happened with him and his brother, Esau.) After this, he blesses all his sons (although some of what he said doesn’t sound much like a blessing) and dies.

Joseph tells his brothers, who were worried that with Jacob dead Joseph may still yet take vengeance on them, that what they designed for evil God turned into good, saving their lives and many others, so he will always take care of them.

The parashah ends, as does this first book of the Torah, with Joseph’s death.

And as we come to the end of a book of the Torah, we recite this saying:

Chazak! Chazak! V’nit Chazek!
(Strong, Strong, and let us be strengthened) 

 

When Jacob is blessing his sons, part of the blessing for Judah says (Genesis 49:10):

The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, as long as men come to Shiloh; And unto him shall the obedience of the peoples be. 

This verse has been considered for many centuries to mean that Judah will be in charge of the other tribes until such time as Shiloh comes, with “Shiloh” meaning the Messiah. This is a messianic interpretation that has been pretty much universally accepted by Christians and Messianic Jews, and pretty much universally rejected by mainstream Judaism.

I often use the 1965 Soncino edition of the Chumash, with commentary by Dr. J. H. Hertz, C.H. (the late Chief Rabbi of the British Empire) as reference material for these messages.  His insight and understanding of the Jewish mindset, as well as his scholarly knowledge of the writings of many other Jewish scholars, has been exceptionally helpful in my understanding of the text of the Torah and its meaning.

However, when it comes to messianic interpretations used by Christianity, he was just as prejudiced against Christianity as any other Jew I ever knew while I was growing up in a Reform Jewish household, or have met during my lifetime.

Let me show you what I mean: here are some excerpts from his notes on the Book of Genesis.

Regarding the use of Shiloh as the Messiah:

Despite the fact that nowhere in scripture is that term applied to the Messiah, Christian theologians assume that Shiloh is a name of the founder of Christianity. In this sense, ‘Till Shiloh come’ is a favorite text of Christian missionaries in attempting to convert illiterate Jews or those ignorant of scripture.

As he further discusses Christian misinterpretation of the Tanakh for missionary use, he brings up Isaiah 53, and with reference to that says:

For eighteen hundred years Christian theologians have passionately maintained that it is a prophetic anticipation of the founder of their faith. 

In his commentary on Jacob’s blessings, Dr. Hertz said that when Jacob referenced Reuben’s sleeping with one of Jacob’s concubines (Genesis 44:4), he suddenly started to talk in the third person instead of the second person because the event was so loathful to him. Yet, when Dr. Hertz refers to Yeshua, he doesn’t even use his proper name.

How hateful must someone be to not even use the name “Jesus Christ” when talking about him?

And did you notice that he refers to Yeshua as the “founder of their faith”? How could such an intelligent and knowledgeable scholar of the Bible not know that Christianity, as it existed in his time, was nothing like what Yeshua taught, but (in truth) the real founder of that religion was Constantine?

The answer is simple: he was never taught the truth about Yeshua because the bigotry between Christians and Jews was so solidified that no one cared about the truth, and believed only what they had been taught growing up.

I was taught the same thing that Dr. Hertz was taught, that Jesus Christ was a Jew who rebelled against Judaism and created his own religion, which hated and killed Jews.  Actually, that reference would be a lot more accurate if we applied it to Martin Luther, but it is not at all accurate or true with regard to Yeshua.

I hate the hatred between Jews and Christians that has been developed over the Millennia, and as much as I try to expose the truth in this ministry of mine, it will never have an impact except, God willing, on a few people who may be exposed to my messages and books. And that is fine with me; in fact, if I can help just one Jewish person (Gentiles would be OK, too) during my entire life to come to know the truth about Yeshua, then it will be worthwhile work.

The animosity between Christians and Jews is two-sided, and built upon ignorance, which is the foundation stone of bigotry; I am sorry to say it will not be alleviated (apologies to Dr. Hertz) until Shiloh comes, again. Once Messiah Yeshua returns in the Acharit HaYamim (End Days) and God’s plan will come to completion, then everyone will know the truth about who the Messiah really is, about who really created Christianity and that God really does exist and his word is absolutely truthful and trustworthy.

So, until that time arrives (which I believe is almost upon us), we will have to deal with defeating this age-old misunderstanding one person at a time.

Thank you for being here and please subscribe, here and on the YouTube channel as well, and I always welcome comments.

Until next time, Shabbat Shalom and Baruch HaShem!

 

Why Three Sacrifices at a Time?

The Sacrificial System is outlined, in detail, in the first 7 chapters of Vayikra (Leviticus.) In those chapters, we learn about the sin, guilt, peace, thanksgiving, and burnt offerings; what animals are to be used and what condition they must be in, how they are to be treated, what to do with the different parts of the animals, and finally how the ones presenting them must act.

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The next couple of chapters deal with the consecration of the Cohanim (Aaron and his sons) and the general rules for what the people are to do when they sin.

In Chapter 9, when God tells Moses that he will appear before the people, there isn’t just a single sacrifice to be made in preparation for that event; God commands that the Cohen must make three separate sacrifices for the assembly before God can appear to them.

The first sacrifice is a sin sacrifice, followed by a burnt offering, and the third sacrifice is a peace offering, also called a friendship or thanksgiving sacrifice.

Why three sacrifices? If I sacrifice for my sin, why do I need to do more? Doesn’t God promise that we will be forgiven when we confess our sins and sacrifice, asking for forgiveness by means of the innocent blood (of the sacrifice) that was shed on our behalf? If that’s true, why do more?

That’s a good question, and it has a good answer.

The sin sacrifice is the innocent blood to be shed by which we are forgiven- we all know that. And when we ask for forgiveness, it is assumed that the sin we committed is one we don’t want to commit again. In fact, when we are forgiven, we want to remain “clean” for as long as we can. Asking to be forgiven with the attitude that once forgiven, I am free to sin again is a wrong attitude (although many times this has been part of the traditional Christian doctrine of “once saved, always saved”, which isn’t true.)

The burnt offering, which comes next, represents a total commitment to God, which translates into one word: obedience. We sacrifice something valuable to us without giving up any of its parts- the whole thing gets the altar treatment. It is burned up completely to demonstrate that we not only atoned for the sin we committed but that we are recommitting ourselves to obey God’s instructions going forward. It is our T’shuvah, our turning from sin that the burnt sacrifice represents.

The last sacrifice, the peace or friendship offering, is what now completes the cycle, bringing us into communion with God because having been cleansed of our sin and recommitted to him, we can now come into his presence.

The three sacrifices do this:

  1. Cleanse us of our sin;
  2.  Renew our commitment to stay in covenant with God; and
  3. By reason of our cleansing and recommitment, allow us to be in the presence of the Almighty.

The question now is, with the temple in Jerusalem gone, is the sacrificial system gone, as well? God said the only place we can sacrifice is where he put his name (Exodus 20:24 and Deuteronomy 12:11), which was the temple in Jerusalem, so without a temple how can we sacrifice and be cleansed of our sins?

The answer to that question is the sacrificial system is NOT gone, but it has been changed somewhat: the need to bring your sacrifice to the temple has been replaced by Yeshua. We still need to recognize, own up to, confess, and want to atone for the sins we commit. We still need to ask for forgiveness, but bringing a sheep or a goat to the temple has been replaced by the sacrifice of Yeshua.

Although the burnt and peace offerings cannot be performed, through our union with Yeshua we can come into God’s presence.

There is a constant debate about whether or not the sacrificial system will be reinstituted in the Olam Haba, the World to Come. Personally, I believe it will be, but not for sin or guilt sacrifices. The burnt and peace offerings will continue because they are designed to strengthen our relationship with God. I believe the Olam Haba will be a world returned to the peaceful way of life that is found in an agricultural economy; especially when the world we live in will be like Eden, with no bad weather or drought or famine.

The ancient sacrificial system, realistically, couldn’t work in our current service economy and has little chance to exist in the technological world we all live in today. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t perform the steps that the system is founded on: recognize and accept our sins, atone and ask for forgiveness, and recommit to God to sin less in the future so that we can continue to come closer to him.

Thank you for being here and please subscribe and share these messages with friends and family, or anyone you know who they might help. And don’t forget to check out my entire website (Messianicmoment.com) because there are pictures and some fun videos you may enjoy, as well as links to be able to purchase any of the books I have written.

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

Parashah Vayyiggash 2020 (He approached) Genesis 44:18 – 27

We left Benjamin being taken into life-long slavery for having stolen the cup from Joseph. This parashah begins with Judah coming to Joseph and explaining how very valuable Benjamin is to Jacob and begs Joseph to take him in place of Benjamin as his slave for life and release Benjamin back to his father; otherwise, Jacob will die of a broken heart.

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At this demonstration of brotherly love and devotion, Joseph can no longer contain himself, so glad that his brothers have shown they are no longer as they were when they sold him into slavery. He clears the Egyptians from his presence and reveals his true identity to his brothers. After a moment of disbelief, Joseph reunites with them. He tells them to bring Jacob and all they have into Egypt because the famine is not over yet and that he, Joseph, will take care of all their needs from now on.

Pharaoh hears that Joseph’s brothers are there and confirms Joseph’s request to bring the family into Egypt; not only that, but he also gives them wagons to carry everything.  The brothers return to Jacob and tell him about Joseph, and once he gets over the initial shock, he desires to go to Joseph just as fast as he can. On the way they come to Beersheba, where Jacob was raised, God confirms to Jacob he may go to Egypt.

Remember that Isaac wanted to go to Egypt when he was in the midst of a famine, but God forbade it (Genesis 26:2) so, naturally, Jacob wanted to have God’s approval before he went there, and the altar that Isaac set up at Beersheba was the perfect place to ask permission.

Upon arrival in Egypt, Pharaoh confirms (again) Joseph’s desire to have his family settle in Goshen, which seems to be the best land in Egypt. They settle in and the famine continues, although thanks to Joseph his family is well fed. The rest of Egypt, in the meantime, is starving and they run out of money to buy food, so Joseph trades their cattle for food. Eventually, Pharaoh owns all the cattle (although Joseph had the people care for the cattle) and the famine is still with them, so Joseph buys the land the people own and allows them to work it, giving Pharaoh a percentage of their crops in exchange for letting them work the land. By the end of the famine, Pharaoh owns everything in Egypt: the land, the cattle, and even the people.

Meanwhile, the children of Israel are growing stronger and multiplying like rabbits.

When I read this all I could think about was how amiable Pharaoh was to Joseph. He appreciated all that Joseph had done not just for him, but for his people, as well. He was kind to Joseph, and when Joseph brought his family down, even though (compared to the Egyptians) they were crude and their habits and lifestyle an abomination, Pharaoh gave them the best land to live on and even made them supervisors of his own cattle. The government appreciated what this lowly Jewish man had done for it.

Then I thought about the treatment of Jews today.

Do you have any idea of the technological advancements to make life better that have come out of Israel?

First off, consider that Jews make up less than 4/10’s of 1 percent of all the people in the world, which means that out of every 10,000 people only 4 of them are Jewish. Yet, even at that minuscule percentage, in the last century, nearly 22% of all Nobel prizes have been awarded to Jews.

As for technology, here are some examples (just a few of the many) of what Israel has contributed to the world:

  • the cell phone was a Motorola invention, but it was developed at their Israel R & D location;
  • an exoskeleton device to help paraplegics walk;
  • PillCam, which is a camera in a pill people can swallow for diagnosis of gastronomic illnesses;
  • a flexible stent for heart patients that has already saved millions of lives;
  • some of the most advanced firewall software available today;
  • the very first USB flash drive patent was from an Israeli;
  • Netafim is an advanced irrigation system;
  • Israel has invented a device for farming that can pull water directly from the air; and
  • the car camera system that makes driving safer? Israeli invention.

And these are just a few of the many inventions that Israel has not only developed, but shared with the world. They even share it with their neighbors, who refuse to accept what Israel can give them to make their lives better, Instead, they do all they can to completely destroy Israel.

Talk about killing the goose that lays the golden eggs!

The governments of the world, unlike that Pharaoh so many millennia ago, don’t appreciate a thing that Israel has done. In fact, instead of recognizing the benefits that Israel gives to the world and demanding that the Arab nations leave Israel alone, they side with the ones trying to destroy Israel. How blind can you be? How can the world not see that they are supporting the destruction of the one country that is doing more than anyone else to make their lives better?

I don’t have an answer to that one, except maybe that Satan has so influenced the world leadership, meaning the United Nations, that the world is willing to drink the Kool-Aid (if you understand my reference.)

The worst part is that I know this will not get better, but in fact, it will get worse.  God’s plan for the redemption of his people has been done: we are gathered from the four corners of the earth and are back in our own land. Now comes the judgment of the nations, the Goyim, who will pay for their attempts to destroy God’s chosen people. But, as that judgment comes, Israel is still part of the world, they will also undergo suffering. Pray that during this suffering they come to recognize and accept the Messiah God already sent to them, Yeshua.

God has his plan for the world, which is outlined in the Bible books, especially the one called Revelation. It tells us how terrible it will be, and we can see the events beginning to unfold. Yes, there have been “doomsday sayers” for millennia, but I really think that we can count on it happening soon because the one definitive sign is that God will first regather his people, which he has done. That, and the inexplicable stupidity of the world, believing and supporting the PLO, who are liars and murderers, not just of Jews but of their own people, as well. And the UN is so blind that they are blaming Israel for all the problems that Israel’s neighbors are causing.

We can pray for Israel, and we should, but what we should pray for now is not a peace that comes from men, because history proves that peace men make is never more than temporary. We need to pray for the peace that God will bring, and that peace will not come (per God’s word) until after the Tribulation.

Pray for the Tribulation to come soon, and pass quickly.

Thank you for being here and please subscribe and share this ministry with others, and please remember that I welcome your comments and suggestions.

Until next time, Shabbat Shalom and Baruch HaShem!

To Xmas or Not to Xmas: What is the Answer?

Now that all the annoying open registration for Medicare commercials are gone we have a new hot topic, which rolls around every December: the argument about Christmas, specifically addressing this question: “Is celebrating Christmas a sin or not?”

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Let me say, first and foremost, I will not present an answer, mainly ’cause I ain’t got one. I know what is right for me, and what is right for others, whether they agree with me or not. There are valid arguments from both sides of this debate, all of which are verifiable in the Bible.

Let’s start with some things we can all agree on (at least, I hope we can):

  1. We should never worship any God but the true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob;
  2. God knows our hearts and minds, and is a compassionate, understanding God who loves his children;
  3. A Holy Day is a celebration (or festival) we are commanded to observe and can be found in Leviticus Chapter 23, whereas a holiday is a man-made celebration not specifically required by God;
  4. Yeshua (Jesus) was not really born on December 25, but most likely sometime around Sukkot;
  5. Constantine created Christmas, which occurs around the same time as the pagan celebration called Saturnalia;
  6. Christmas, which was originally created to celebrate the arrival of the Messiah, has been corrupted and mutated into a marketing machine.

If we are all on the same page so far (which would be really good!), let’s keep going.

First off, Yeshua did not condemn all man-made traditions, only those that superseded the instructions God gave us. As far as holidays go, just because they aren’t required by God does not mean they are forbidden by God. This misuse of the Law of Contraposition is one of the main arguments put forth by those that say if it isn’t in the Bible, it is a sin.  If so, then you also have to do away with Purim, Rosh Hashanah, Hanukkah, the Fast of the 9th Day of Av, Yom HaShoah, as well as the non-religious holidays of New Year’s, Fourth of July, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Thanksgiving, Memorial Day, Labor Day….need I go on?

God said we must observe specific festivals, he also said, more than once and through different prophets that sometimes our celebration of his commanded festivals and sacrifices was an abomination to him. He said that in some cases the sacrifice wasn’t a pleasant aroma but a stench in his nostrils (look it up if you don’t believe me), and that he finds no pleasure in the blood of sheep or bulls.

Now, if God commanded us to perform these rituals, and we did, why is he saying he won’t accept them? Actually, more than that, he said not only won’t he accept them but that he hates what we are doing!

The answer is because our hearts were not in it. We were just going through the motions and not because we loved him and wanted to honor him.

In other words, God is not interested in our performance as much as he is interested in our intentions. Can we agree on that?

The Bible is clear that God doesn’t want performance, but heartfelt worship and honor; what we do in celebration of God is supposed to be done with a genuine desire to honor God. That is what he tells us he wants.

Remember how Yeshua told of the Pharisee and the tax collector both praying in the Synagogue? (Luke 18:9-14) This is a perfect example of what I am talking about, which is that God sees the heart and knows the mind, and when we come to him in supplication, with a contrite spirit and humility, he hears us and appreciates what we are doing. In this drash, Yeshua pointed out that the prayer of the “righteous” Pharisee, who was doing things as they should be done but had an improper attitude, was less acceptable then the prayer of the tax collector, who was a sinner but came before God humbly and spoke from his heart.

My wife was raised Roman Catholic, and Christmas to her represents family time together; the traditions of the tree, decorations around the house, and the gathering of family and friends are all that matters to her. Why Christmas was invented, what this time of the year used to mean, and any other reasons that Christmas is supposedly a sin, have nothing to do with her celebration. Our celebration isn’t even about the birth of Yeshua but is a non-religious activity.  And I think it is that way for many Gentiles.

I also believe that God knows why she is celebrating Christmas and doesn’t have a problem with that. It is no different than Thanksgiving or New Year’s or a birthday (oh, yeah- I forgot that celebrating our birthday is also a sin to some people.)

When Constantine created Christmas, he did not just rebrand Saturnalia but used it to replace Saturnalia, a pagan holiday. Allow me to point out there is a BIG difference between rebranding and replacing. When we rebrand something, it is the same thing with a different name. When we replace something, it is a different thing, altogether.

Here is an example: In January of 2018, Coca-Cola rebranded Diet Coke to be more appealing to the Millennial demographic. According to the website, Marketwatch: “The beverage giant said Diet Coke isn’t being reformulated, but is “re-energizing” for a different consumer demographic.” This is what rebranding means- the same thing with a different name.

Now, to stay with Coca-Cola, when they came out with New Coke, that wasn’t a rebranding but a replacement of “old” Coke. And, as you may recall, it was such a dismal failure that they had to bring the original Coke back into the market. Those were two totally different things.

Christmas, whatever you may think of it, is NOT Saturnalia and it is not associated with Pagan worship. As for the Christmas tree, it is not a pagan symbol: in fact, within Judaism, the tree is very important. There is the Tree of Life (Aitz Chaim Hee), which has been an integral part of our prayers, and the Bible uses the tree symbolically to represent the grafting in of Gentiles. If anything, the tree is the one thing about Christmas that is totally biblical!

I hope we can all agree that when we do something, whatever it is, to honor God and/or honor the Messiah (not worship Messiah, but honor him), and what we do is NOT in direct violation of a given commandment, God will consider our reasons and our desires, and look to our heart to see if we are genuinely desiring to please him.

If we can agree to that, then the celebration of Christmas could be acceptable to God, if he looks at it on an individual, case-by-case basis. That means the question of celebrating Christmas being right or wrong is between God and the person celebrating.

And, being God, even with the millions who celebrate this holiday, he can know each and every person’s heart and reason for celebrating.

Thank you for being here. I welcome comments and hope you will subscribe and share this ministry with others.

Until the next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

What Does “Freedom in Christ” Really Mean?

I did a search on the Internet asking what freedom in Christ really means. Now, I know you can’t trust the Internet, but it does give us an idea of what others are being told.

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One site said it means freedom from regulations and following rules. Another said it is freedom from being a slave to sin. Another said it was freedom to make our own choices (I thought we could do that anyway), and still, another said it is freedom to see things clearly.

The prevalent idea seems to be freedom from being under the curse of the law, which means freedom from sin since we are taught that Yeshua took our sins upon him when he was crucified.

All of these ideas have a grain of truth to them, but I think it is simpler than what they say. Yes, Yeshua made it possible for us to be forgiven of our sins because he is the substitution for the animal we are commanded to bring to the temple in Jerusalem. God’s Torah states we cannot sacrifice to him anywhere other than where he places his name (Deuteronomy 12:13); when the temple was destroyed in 73 AD, Jews had no way to be forgiven of their sins.

Except through Messiah Yeshua.

Yeshua and his Disciples never taught that the freedom in Yeshua was the freedom to disobey. That is what the Enemy of God wants us to think; it is no different than the line he used on Eve (Genesis 3:4) when he told her, “you will surely not die“, and we all know how that turned out.  Anyone who teaches freedom in Christ means freedom from the law is working for the wrong guy.

I believe that the true freedom in Christ is simply and solely what the Bible tells us it is: freedom from the second death.

Isaiah 25:7-8 says:

On this mountain he will destroy the veil which covers the face of all peoples, the veil enshrouding all the nations.  He will swallow up death forever. Adonai Elohim will wipe away the tears from every face, and he will remove from all the earth the disgrace his people suffer.

which is referenced by Shaul in 1 Corinthians 15:54-57 when he says:

When what decays puts on imperishability and what is mortal puts on immortality, then this passage in the Tanakh will be fulfilled: Death is swallowed up in victory. Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting?  The sting of death is sin, and sin draws its power from the Torah; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Yeshua the Messiah!

The freedom we have when we accept Yeshua as our Messiah is not so much freedom from our sins, but freedom from the spiritual consequences of our sins, which is the second death. All will die, and all will come before God for judgment. Those who do not have Yeshua as their Intercessor will have nothing more than their own righteousness to save them from eternal separation from God’s presence.

And we all know how righteous we are compared to what God wants from us: as Isaiah said, all our righteous deeds are but filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6.)

Yeshua did not free us from obedience to God; in fact, he reinforced everything that we are instructed to do in the Torah. What he did that was different was that he taught us the Remes, the deeper, spiritual understanding of the law.  The Pharisees only taught the P’shat, the literal meaning of the words, but Yeshua gave us a deeper, more spiritual and more intimate understanding of God’s instructions.

We still need to do as Yeshua did, which is to follow (to the best of our ability) the instructions God gave to all people that are in the Torah. We can’t be perfectly obedient, and that is why God sent the Messiah to us: through the Messiah, we can find freedom from the second death. We all sin and therefore we all deserve death, and ever since that day when the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, without Yeshua, there is no forgiveness of sin.

The true meaning of freedom in Christ is that when we accept Yeshua as our Messiah, we will be free from the spiritual consequences of our sins.

One last point and warning: being free from the spiritual consequence of our sins doesn’t mean we won’t suffer those consequences while we are still alive.

Thank you for being here and please subscribe if you haven’t done so, already. I welcome your comments and look forward to our next time together. Until then, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Can We Have Too Much Knowledge?

I know there are probably (at least) some of you who are thinking to yourselves, “We can never have too much knowledge!”, and you may be right. I think knowledge is a weapon, and like any other weapon -knife, gun, club – it isn’t the weapon itself that is dangerous but how we use it.

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I accepted that Yeshua (Jesus) was the Messiah Adonai (Y-H-V-H) promised to send us and that as a Jewish man I could accept him and not be a traitor to my people or to our 5,000-year-old history.  That was about 21 years ago, and since then I have constantly been learning more about God, the Bible, and the history and culture of my people.

I have also joined more than a few (and left more than a few) “Christian” or “Messianic” discussion groups on Facebook. I have done this so I can spread my ministry and also learn from others. In all this, I learned one thing that I believe is absolutely necessary for all of us to be aware of: everyone thinks that what they know is the absolute truth.

I am just as guilty of this as anyone else, except I do give myself credit for this…I know I may not always be right. I still think what I think is right, but I leave room for doubt, and that is why I believe I can say to you that you need to leave room for doubt, as well.

Too much knowledge can lead us to idolatry. Really! In our heartfelt desire to know more about God and what he wants from us, we can become so obsessed with knowing that we begin to worship learning instead of the one we are learning about. We get crazy over the pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton; we get crazy over the proper calendar; we get crazy when someone disagrees with us; and we get crazy when someone else tells us it isn’t that important, which I have done many times and am doing again now.

I think the most important thing to know is what is important to know.

For example, let’s say someone learned something new about the pronunciation of God’s name, do you think that when you prayed to him before, using that “bad” name, he ignored you? Do you believe that if you had never learned what you believe now to be the correct pronunciation that despite your prayers, worship, and works you would have gone to hell because you used that “wrong” name?

I hope not! From what I have learned about God, he is not just compassionate and understanding but he desires to forgive us when we repent of something we did that was wrong. And if you are thinking about Leviticus 5:17, where he tells us that even if we are ignorant of sin we committed, we are still guilty, well…you’re right! So, what do we do then?

We ask for forgiveness of the sins we did not know we committed, and (this is what I do) pray to be guided by the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) to recognize sin before we do it, and to be given the strength to overcome it.

Yeshua says that unless we come to him as a child, meaning innocent and trusting, we cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven. If you believe that, then the search for knowledge is dangerous in that a child is not a scholar. Wanting to know everything will drive you crazy, just as it did Kohelet (Ecclesiastes), and may lead you down the wrong path. What I mean by that is this: what if, just IF, what you think you know is wrong? Then you would be sinning against God while trying to be obedient. People who ignore the instructions God gave because they have been taught that could be in that group, as well as those who do what God instructs only because they want to be “right” instead of doing it because they want to honor God.

The Gnostics believed in secret messages within the Scriptures, and that this special knowledge was necessary for salvation. It wasn’t, and it still isn’t.

For the record, and to make sure no one misunderstands me, I am not saying knowledge is a bad thing, or that learning should not be a life-long endeavor. What I am saying is that you need to be careful when you are learning not to become so obsessed with learning that you neglect to trust the one you are learning about; trust that he is more concerned about your desires than your pronunciation, trust that he knows your heart and what you truly want, and trust that God can lead you where you need to go, even if you don’t know the way.

And, finally, trusting God enough to not need to know why.

I have used the pronunciation of God’s holy name as an example, and I will, undoubtedly, get responses justifying a particular pronunciation of his name, which will be a shame. It will only prove that the ones responding with that are so obsessed with their desire to demonstrate their knowledge that they have completely missed my point, which is that the search for knowledge can lead to idolatry and Gnosticism, and take us away from the path of righteousness.

Continue to read, continue to study, and continue to seek out God and knowledge of him. There is nothing wrong with this. My warning is that you need to make sure that your need to know doesn’t outweigh your ability to simply trust without knowing.

As for me, I like to learn and will continue to do so, and the most important thing I have learned is what I don’t need to know.

Thank you for being here and please, if you like what you hear, subscribe and help this ministry to grow. I also welcome your comments and suggestions.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

What God Cannot Do

“What? What are you talking about? How can you say that the creator of the Universe, the all-mighty and all-powerful God of our Fathers can’t do something? He can do anything!”

No, he can’t.

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He can’t sin. He can’t abide with sin. He can’t judge unfairly. He can’t allow the unrepentant to go unpunished. He can’t do evil, although he will allow evil to be done.

He is all-powerful, true, but he is also restricted by both his faithfulness and his holiness to do only those things that he allows himself to do.

“But what about what he says in Deuteronomy 28? He promises to curse us if we are disobedient, and his curses are terrible. That’s evil, isn’t it?”

The curses he promises to fall on the disobedient are terrible, but God doesn’t actively curse us. He actively protects us from the curses that are already in the world.

We live in a fallen and cursed place, and those who live in the world without the protection of God will be affected by the curses that already exist. The reason the world is a cursed place is that this is where HaSatan was thrown when he was ejected from heaven (Revelation 12:7) and he is the Prince of the Power of the Air (Ephesians 2:2.) Satan rules the world (for the time being) and anyone living in the world is subject to his cursed realm. When we are obedient to God, God will protect us from the world.

That is why when we read the blessings and the curses in Deuteronomy 28, we see that the curses are the exact opposite of the blessings.

For the record: there is a difference between failing to follow God’s instructions and refusing to follow them, so don’t think that you will be punished every time you mess up. Yes, God tells us in Leviticus that anyone who sins, whether they know it or not, is guilty. But God is understanding of our weaknesses and is very compassionate; he isn’t just willing to forgive, he desires to forgive the repentant sinner. Therefore, when you mess up, repent and ask forgiveness (in Yeshua’s name, of course) so you will not have to suffer the curses.

When we have health problems or tsouris in our life, we shouldn’t automatically blame God, and we shouldn’t automatically assume we are under satanic attack, either. Sometimes bad things happen for no other reason than we live in a bad place, and you can’t walk through a sheep pen without getting something on your shoes, no matter how careful you are.

The great comic George Carlin once asked, “If God can do anything, can he make a rock so big he can’t lift it?” I have always thought that to be a wonderfully thoughtful and funny joke. I don’t see it as impertinent or disrespectful, but as something for us to ponder simply because it raises a legitimate point, i.e. is there something that God can’t do?

Today’s drash is all about what God can’t do. But what is even more important is to realize that those things God can’t do should be a comfort for us. Because he can’t sin, we can trust him to always be there for us in a supportive way.

Because he can’t do evil, we can always count on him to keep evil away from us (when we walk in his will.)

Because he can’t judge unfairly, we know that those who sin against others will be punished.

There are so many things that God can be counted on because there are things he can’t do.

Trust God to always be there for you, and even in the midst of your trials and tribulations, God is standing by with a towel and a refreshing drink of cool water for you when you turn to him, and that is because one other thing that God cannot do is to not love you.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Obedience or Legalism?

I suppose before we begin this discussion you should know what I mean by “legalism.”

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For the purpose of this discussion, legalism is obeying the instructions God gave in the Torah, but not because we want to do what pleases God. On the contrary, legalistic obedience is when we obey because we want to earn God’s acceptance; in other words, faithfully and respectfully doing what God says because we recognize his authority and only want to do what pleases him is NOT the motivation behind legalistic obedience. Legalistic obedience is doing what we are told to do in order to earn salvation, and to be a “good little Believer.”

Obedience is also something that we need to identify. I wrote about obedience recently, and if you haven’t already read it, I suggest you take a moment or three and read it now before we go on. Here is a quick link to it: obedience message.

Now that we have these definitions out of the way, the question I want to discuss is this: Can our faithful desire to be obedient mutate into legalism?  I believe it can, and it does once we become more interested in the details of how to observe than the reason why we observe.

As an example: I have seen many people who are absolutely infatuated and obsessed with the lunar calendar. They are asking which lunar cycle to observe, and when a festival or Shabbat really begins. This is, in my opinion, a form of legalism because the moon phases aren’t what God wants us to observe- he wants us to observe the festival that the moon phases initiate.

In the ancient days, they didn’t have ABC news and weather to tell them the exact moment the new moon begins. They didn’t have the Internet or even a set of walkie-talkies so that the northern tribes could know when the moon was seen over Jerusalem.

What they had was a system of lighting fires on the tops of selected mountains as a signal to the other parts of Israel. Once the new moon (Rosh Chadosh) was officially spotted over Jerusalem, the word went out to the other parts of the country by means of these alert fires. And if the night sky was cloudy or they had bad weather, the new moon might have been already a day or two in that phase before the word went out that the festival started. Yet, we don’t read about God denying the people rains and making them infertile because they were a day late when celebrating Sukkot, do we? No, we don’t.

God, himself, tells us that legalistic obedience means nothing to him. The best place we see this is in Isaiah 1: 11-17 (CJB):

“Why are all those sacrifices offered to me?” asks Adonai“I’m fed up with burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fattened animals! I get no pleasure from the blood of bulls, lambs and goats! Yes, you come to appear in my presence; but who asked you to do this, to trample through my courtyards? Stop bringing worthless grain offerings! They are like disgusting incense to me! Rosh-Hodesh, Shabbat, calling convocations — I can’t stand evil together with your assemblies! Everything in me hates your Rosh-Hodesh and your festivals; they are a burden to me — I’m tired of putting up with them! “When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; no matter how much you pray, I won’t be listening; because your hands are covered with blood. “Wash yourselves clean! Get your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing evil, learn to do good! Seek justice, relieve the oppressed, defend orphans, plead for the widow.”

God is not looking for the type of obedience that is performance-oriented. He wants us to do what is right! He wants us to treat each other with love and compassion, and understanding…just as he does when we try to do what he wants from us. That is why if your observance is a day late, or based on the Gregorian calendar instead of a lunar calendar perfectly oriented to Jerusalem, God doesn’t care. What he cares about is that you do observe the festival.

Remember that a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like a day to God (Psalm 90:4); do you really think he is so nick-picky that a couple of hours or starting your celebration half-a-day or so off from Jerusalem will make it unacceptable to him?
I don’t think so.

Other legalistic activities that I have seen deal with God’s holy name, which is the four letters we call the Tetragrammaton. Too many people want to use his name as often as they would use anyone else’s name. They justify it with the improper interpretation of the biblical terms that are similar to “call on his name” or “proclaim his name”; the proper meaning of those types of terms, given the cultural usage at that time, was meant to proclaim who and what God is, with regards to his renown, his authority and his reputation. To call on the name of the Lord doesn’t mean to pronounce the Tetragrammaton; no, it means to look to God for salvation, help, and guidance. To call upon his name is to pray to God. It doesn’t mean you have to know how to pronounce his name, and it certainly doesn’t mean to use his name whenever and as often as you want to. In my opinion, those who we would label as “Holy Namers” are being legalistic and missing what calling on the name of the Lord really means.

There are other versions of legalism, and there is probably at least one version of legalistic observance for every commandment God gave. The difference is not in what you do, but why you do it.

If you are really into details and want to be as perfectly observant as you can be, there is nothing wrong with that SO LONG AS your heart is set on pleasing God and doing what he says because he says to do it. That is faithful obedience. Even when you miss the mark, forget a festival, eat a Hostess pie during Hag haMatzot (by accident, of course) or go out to buy something you need on Shabbat, God understands. I am not saying that to sin is OK, but being perfectly obedient to earn God’s acceptance will not be accepted.

God knows the heart, and he knows who you are praying to when you seek him. Don’t get so involved in the details of what you are doing that you lose sight of why you are doing it. Be obedient because you love God and your obedience is the result of your trust in his judgment, your desire to please him, and your faithful belief that whatever God says to do, it is for your own good. Don’t try to understand why, don’t make excuses why you don’t have to, just be honest with God and with yourself and do what you can because God said you should.

Anything more than obedience from love, thankfulness, respect, submission to his authority, or desire to please him will lead you to legalism, and then no matter what you do or how well you do it, it will be a waste of time.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!