Parashah Metzora 2019 (laws for the leper) Leviticus 14 – 15

These two chapters deal with the instructions for cleansing a person from the skin disease usually identified as leprosy (Tzara’at in Hebrew), as well as cleansing of the house if there is a form of Tzara’at (probably an infectious or dangerous mold) in the plaster of the house.  Chapter 15 deals with the instructions regarding any issuance of a bodily fluid.

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The prior chapters taught us how the Cohen (Priest) is to identify Tzara’at in a person and these chapters give God’s instructions for the cleansing, once it has been determined that the person is no longer unclean (or infectious.) Only after the person has been completely cleaned may they re-enter the camp and the Sanctuary.

The basic formula is to bring two animals for sacrifice: one is a sin sacrifice and the other a burnt offering. The sacrifices are performed in this order since the sin sacrifice cleanses the person (spiritually) and the burnt offering represents their rededication to total commitment in obeying God’s instructions.

What I would like to talk about is the instruction in Leviticus 14:14, which is the placing of some of the blood of the guilt offering on the tip of the right ear, the thumb of the right hand, and the big toe of the right foot.  This is the same procedure when anointing a Cohen.

This placing of the blood represents a consecration of the entire body. We know that placing the blood of the sacrifice on the horns of the altar, as well as sprinkling it on something, makes that thing holy. So, too, the placing of this blood on a person makes them holy, or more correctly in this case, re-consecrates them to the Lord.

The reason for placing it on the ear, thumb, and foot is explained in the Chumash this way: the priest must have his ears consecrated so that he will always be attentive to the commands of God; his hands are consecrated so that at all times he will do God’s will; and his feet consecrated to walk from that time on in holy ways.

When we review the anointing of the Cohanim and the cleansing of people from their sins, we see a pattern. We first ask for forgiveness through the sin and/or guilt sacrifice (this places us in a spiritually clean condition), followed by a burnt sacrifice which represents our total devotion to God. Finally, the blood which cleanses us from the sin is also used to anoint and consecrate us to doing as God instructs.

Only after we have been made “whole” again can we re-enter the camp (physical world), the community (spiritual world), and the Sanctuary (presence of God.)

Today, we don’t bring our sacrifice to the Temple in Jerusalem for two reasons: first, it isn’t there anymore (DUH!) and second, we don’t need to because the sacrifice of Messiah Yeshua replaced that one part of the sacrificial system. Thanks to Yeshua, we can be forgiven of our sins right in the comfort of our own home. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t perform, at least in our hearts and minds, the placing of the blood on our ear, thumb, and foot! That action was very important because of what it symbolized, and if we forget about it (because we don’t really have any blood with us) we might neglect to mentally and spiritually rededicate ourselves.

You may ask, “Why do we have to rededicate ourselves at all?” The answer is because when we sin we separate ourselves from God: sin places us outside the camp of the Almighty. We are not under his wings, not in his presence, and thereby unable to properly serve him in whatever house of worship you go to.

This is a hard word to hear, but the Torah tells us it is a fact: when we sin, we are separated from God and outside of his presence. In order to reenter his presence, we must first be cleansed of that sin, then rededicate ourselves to hearing, doing and walking as God directs. Those directions are on the roadmap called the Torah.

So, the next time you ask for forgiveness in Yeshua’s name by means of his bloody sacrifice, don’t forget to place some of his blood on your right ear, thumb, and foot. Mentally, emotionally and spiritually present yourself before the Lord with a heartfelt desire to start all over again, but this time with an even stronger will to sin less than you had sinned before. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you won’t sin again- we all will. Sinning is something God expects of us, and he assumes it might be by accident. That is why he gave us instructions in Leviticus 5:17 specifically for sins we committed accidentally or didn’t know we had done.

Every time we sin we are in the same position Yeshua was just before he gave up his spirit and cried out:

“Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” (“My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?”)

He was forsaken, meaning ejected from God’s presence, the very moment he took on the sins of the world because sin separates us from God.

Don’t beat yourself up when you sin, but do make sure when you ask for forgiveness by means of the blood of the Messiah that you remember to place that blood on yourself; consecrate yourself to hear, work and walk in obedience to God’s instructions, and rededicate yourself to do better.

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This being Friday, I wish you all Shabbat Shalom and until next time, Baruch HaShem!

Parashah Shemini 2019 (the 8th day) Leviticus 9 – 11

This parashah picks up from last week’s reading, where we left Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu in the Tent of Meeting for 7 days as part of their anointing to be Cohanim (Priests) to the Lord.

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Now, on the eighth day, they are to perform a series of sacrifices to complete their anointing ritual, but after doing so Aaron’s two sons present their own incense before the Lord, which was not part of the ritual, and the punishment for that was their immediate death. Moses commands that drinking alcoholic beverages when serving the Lord is forbidden, which the rabbis have understood to mean that Aaron’s sons were drunk, causing their irrational and sinful behavior.

The next chapter, Chapter 11, is the one that gives the instructions for Kashrut, the kosher regulations.

This is probably one of the most argued against instructions in the entire Bible. Christians have misinterpreted Mark 7 and Acts 10 for centuries as doing away with these instructions; even within Judaism, Reform Jews (within my experience) generally do not keep Kosher and many Conservative Jews I have known may maintain a kosher home, but when outside their home will disregard these instructions.

Rabbinical thought categorizes the Kashrut instructions as Chukim, which are regulations we are expected to obey, although the reason for them transcends human understanding.

We can know this one thing about the instructions in Leviticus 11: they help to make us holy, where holy means to be separated.

I keep kosher according to the instructions in the Bible, but I am not kosher according to the rabbinic regulations in the Talmud, which greatly expand the ones in this chapter. As such, I can tell you, absolutely, that I am separated from those who do not maintain this diet.  For instance, when I go to an Italian restaurant I have to ask if there is pork included in the meat that they use for their lasagna and meat sauce. For breakfast, I have to double-check that there is no bacon fat added to the home fries, which many chefs use to enhance the flavor. When going out for breakfast, I know the turkey sausage I order will probably be cooked on the same grill with the regular sausage, but the heat of the grill is enough to destroy the treif (Yiddish for unclean) germs left behind. The fact that the heat of the grill makes it OK to have kosher next to treif comes from the same reasoning the Rabbis give for using the same plates for meat and dairy (fleishig and milchig), so long as the dishwasher is hot enough to sterilize the dinnerware.

My obedience to Kashrut is what separates me from the rest of the patrons, and when asking about the food preparation I have an opportunity to demonstrate obedience to God’s instructions and (maybe) set an example to others.

What presents a serious problem, to me, is when people argue about why certain animals are kosher and why others aren’t. The problem I see with this is that it shows a need to know why God does something.  We are allowed to question God, but this human need to know everything works against faith.

Faith is believing that which can’t be seen or proven, and I believe when we have to know “why” it represents a lack of faith: I say this because by having to know why we apparently don’t trust that God will only have us do that which is good for us. When it comes to obedience to the instructions God gave us on how to live, worship and treat each other, I think we should follow the motto from the Nike shoe company: Just do it!

I am not saying we cannot ever question the Lord; he is big enough and compassionate enough to allow this. My concern is that constantly questioning God’s reasons might result in losing faith when we don’t get the answers. This is what the writer of Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) found out- trying to understand God at God’s level is like chasing the wind. It was impossible and resulted in disappointment and depression.

Obedience to the instructions in Chapter 11 of Leviticus, as well as any other instructions God gave to us throughout the Torah, should not be based on understanding the reasons why God gave them. Obedience for the sake of obedience is what many think will help us earn our entry into heaven- it won’t. This is what I call “Performance-based Salvation”, and is the “legalism” that Shaul spoke against when he wrote to the congregation in Galatia.

Obeying the instructions for Kashrut (as well as every other instruction in the Torah) should be based solely on faithfully accepting that God would not tell us to do anything other than that which is good for us. He says, over and over throughout the Tanakh, that we should obey so that we will live. He doesn’t mean live this life but to live eternally with him. When we are truly faithful, that faith generates a desire to obey. The more faithful, the more obedient.

What is really sad is that there are many, many people who do have faith, but their obedience has been stifled with wrongful teaching through traditional Christian (meaning Constantinian) doctrine that was not designed to honor God. Neither was it created by the early ‘church” fathers to separate Christians from the unholy, but to separate Christians from the Jews.

God sent the Messiah to bring all people back to God, but men have distorted that event into further separating people from God by teaching disobedience.

Each one of us has the right to choose what we will do. God has given us all the instructions he wants us to know, which are all the instructions we need to know. And we do NOT need to understand why he has given any of them, we just need to faithfully accept they are what is best for us, and obey them. God has said many times in the Tanakh that he has presented to us life and death, and tells us to choose life, that we may live.

So, nu? You can choose life or death- which one do you want?

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Tonight is Shabbat so Shabbat Shalom, and until next time…L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Parashah Tzav 2019 (Command) Leviticus 6 – 8

This parashah gives all the details for the submission of the different parts of the sacrifices to be presented to the Lord. Which parts go up in the fire, which parts go to which Priests performing the duties, and it ends with a detailed description of the anointing ceremony Aaron and his sons underwent when they were first anointed as priests (Cohanim) to the Lord.

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The book of Leviticus can be somewhat tiresome to read because there is so much minutia. Every single detail of the activities regarding the presenting of the sacrifice is covered completely. We are told which parts go to God and which parts are for the priest, what to do with the ashes, the presentation of the sacrifice and the laying on of hands, etc.  It is a rather cumbersome amount of detail to take in.

I once wondered how they could possibly remember every little detail, then realized that this was something being done daily. Every day someone would have been presenting some form of a sacrifice for some reason, whether it was guilt, sin or a vow.

I am certain that there is a message in this parashah that can affect every one of us…I wish I knew what it was. I have read this with my spiritual ears open to hear something, and I only get crickets.

You know what? Maybe that is the message: sometimes, there just isn’t anything we get from reading the Bible. Sometimes we read it just to get to the next section or chapter. And I think that’s OK.

How many times have you read something and then suddenly, one day- BAM! -you now understand exactly what God is saying in that passage and you wonder how you never saw it before? When that happens to me I think that the reason for not seeing it before was simply because I wasn’t ready to see it or to understand it.

God knows our heart and our mind; he knows what we are thinking and more than that, he knows what we can understand and what we can’t yet grasp. As we grow in knowledge, we grow in understanding, and as we grow in these we also grow in wisdom, discernment, and spiritual maturity. And when we are knowledgeable and spiritually mature enough to grasp the Remes or Sud of a passage, that is when God opens our eyes to it.

If you are not familiar with Remes or Sud, click on this link to read the definition of the Jewish exegesis system of Pardes.

This is a wonderful thing because it means that no matter how many times we read the Bible, we never know what new and exciting revelation God may have in store for us.

So, nu? What are you waiting for? Finish this message and get your Bible. Start at the beginning and read a chapter or two every day. I often state that I keep my Bible in the bathroom because there I am guaranteed at least 5-10 minutes every day when no one will disturb me.

But wherever you keep your Bible, make sure it is handy and that you find 5 minutes or so every day to read a chapter.

Tonight begins Shabbat so Shabbat Shalom and may you have a restful and blessed day.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

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Parashah Vayyikra 2019 (And he called) Leviticus 1 – 5

We are now starting the third book of the Torah, which is the central book. This book has also been called the Torah of the Priests, mainly because it is almost exclusively about the priestly duties, to include knowing what is sinful and what is not with regards to our everyday activities.

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The first 7 chapters deal with the sacrificial system, and this parashah outlines the regulations for the sacrifice, which also includes offerings. There are two main offerings: the meal offering and the First Fruits offering. This parashah also tells us the rules for the Sin and Guilt sacrifice.

Sin sacrifices are for those sins committed against other people and the guilt sacrifice is for those sins committed against the tabernacle by causing a loss of holiness, such as misappropriation of property belonging to the Lord or failure to give the Priest his due share of the sacrifice.

One of the things that demonstrates God’s compassion and understanding is that God takes into account those people who may be too poor to be able to give a bull or an ox, or even a sheep. He states that even though a sacrifice may call for the slaughter of a bull, if the person is too poor to afford the animal that is required, he can offer grain and oil and he will receive the same forgiveness as the one sacrificing a bull.

If you ask me, the most important thing we learn from this parashah is Leviticus 5:17, which says:

And if any one sin, and do any of the things which the Lord has commanded not to be done, though he know it not, yet he is guilty and shall bear his iniquity.

I could do an entire series on that verse, alone, but the lesson I want to share with you today is that the sacrificial system was not done away with when Yeshua was sacrificed. In fact, the sacrificial system is still in effect and just as valid today as it was back when God gave these commandments to Moses.

What stopped us from sacrificing animals was the destruction of the Temple, because in Deuteronomy 12:5-6 we are told that the sacrifice must be made only where God places his name, which was (of course) the Temple in Jerusalem. Before the Temple, the sacrifices were made at Shiloh, where the Tent of Meeting Moses constructed was located.

The sacrificial system is a process that involves 5 separate steps:

  1. The first thing we have to do is sin;
  2. We have to recognize and admit that we have sinned;
  3. We need to repent of that sin- without heartfelt repentance, no sacrifice will be accepted;
  4. The next step is to slaughter the animal called for; and
  5. We must humbly ask for forgiveness by means of the innocent blood that was shed for us (Leviticus 17:11);

When Yeshua died on the execution stake, his innocent blood was shed so that through him, we can be forgiven. The sacrificial system is still in effect, but what changed with Yeshua was that the 4th step- bringing the animal to be slain to the Temple in Jerusalem- was replaced with the substitutionary sacrifice of Yeshua.

The animal sacrifice, which has never been done away with but was replaced by Yeshua, will continue in the Acharit HaYamim (End Days) when the Temple will be reconstructed. The only difference is that there will not be a need for the sin or guilt sacrifice, but the wholly burnt and thanksgiving/peace sacrifice will once again be performed.

There is no biblical reference I can give that absolutely confirms what I just said about the sacrifices continuing in the End Days. However, there is nothing in the Bible that confirms the sacrificial system was ever done away with, either. Today’s message is strictly from my understanding of how the sacrificial system works and how it will be utilized in the End Days.

Whether or not I am right about what will happen in the End Days will not be known for certain until the End Days. In the meantime, I think we can all agree that we should thank God for Yeshua’s substitutionary sacrifice which allows us to fulfill our requirements under the sacrificial system to receive forgiveness of sin.

 

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Tonight begins the Sabbath, so Shabbat Shalom, and until next time L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Parashah Pekudey 2019 (These are the accounts) Exodus 38:21 – 40

We come to the final reading in the Book of Exodus. For the last couple of chapters, we have read about the details of the building of the Sanctuary, as per God’s instructions, and in this reading, we are told how the work was completed, exactly as God had instructed.

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The parashah ends with the separate parts of the Tabernacle being put together and the entire structure being set up on the first day of the first month, in the second year of the freedom from Egypt. Once built, the holy items are placed inside the tent, and God’s Shekinah glory fills the tent, so much so, that even Moses cannot enter it. At the end of this book, we are told how the cloud stays over the tent during the day, and fire during the night, and how the people moved only when the cloud moved.

When I read this parashah, and came to Chapter 39, verses 42-43 I thought about Nehemiah. In Exodus we are told:

And Moses saw all the work, and, behold, they had done it; as the LORD had commanded, even so had they done it. And Moses blessed them.

and in Nehemiah 6:14-15 we read:

So the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty and two days. And it came to pass, when all our enemies heard thereof, that all the nations that were about us feared, and were much cast down in their own eyes; for they perceived that this work was wrought of our God.

What struck me about these two passages is what they have in common: when the people did exactly as God had commanded them to do, with glad hearts and zeal to please God, they accomplished great works in a very short time.

This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who knows about God and certainly isn’t some great revelation that I have had, but it is significant and important (I believe) for us to remember and repeat.  When we do as God instructs, we accomplish much that we would never have been able to do if it was just for us, alone.

I love my wife, and when I do something that I know will please her, I put much more effort into it than I would if it was just something I wanted for myself. We are told throughout the Bible about love; we are told God loves us, we are told to love each other, and we are even told that without love we are nothing. All good stuff, no doubt. But there is something else about love that we aren’t told, which is obvious in the two passages, above: when we do something out of love for God, we are capable of performing miracles.

I am sure that I could wax prolific about that one sentence, but I won’t. It is something that you either understand and agree with, or you don’t. For those that do understand and agree, there is nothing else I need to say; for those that don’t, there is nothing I can say.

So I will leave today’s message with this: when you love God and show it through your actions and obedience to his instructions (which is what “Torah” really means) you will accomplish so much more than you ever thought possible, and just as Moses blessed the people, God will shower you with blessings.

I wish you a joyous and peaceful Shabbat, and as we say after reading a book of the Torah:

                                                          Hazak, hazak, v’nit’chazek!

                                         (Be strong, be strong, and let us be strengthened!) 

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Parashah Vayyekhel 2019 (And he assembled) Exodus 35 – 38:20

Moses has come down from Mt. Sinai with the second set of tablets, and he assembles the people to ask for them to voluntarily give the materials needed for the construction of the Tabernacle. The people give all that is required, and so much so that even though Moses asked them to contribute what they would be willing to give, he had to command them to stop giving.

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This parashah tells us that Bezalel (Judah) and Oholiab (Dan) were the main leaders of the people constructing the Tabernacle and making all the accouterments for the service, therein. The entire reading is a repetition, in some ways, of Chapter 25 where God explains the detailed requirements of the tabernacle, to include the menorahs, the articles used for the sacrifice, the size and color of the tent skins, etc.

Some may ask how these slaves, being sent out of Egypt in a single night, had all these jewels, expensive skins, gemstones, gold, silver, etc.?  The answer is that when they left Egypt, God commanded Moses to have them go to the Egyptians and ask for these items (Exodus 12:35-36), which they did. The Egyptians were so glad to see them go they gave anything and everything the Jews asked for.

Normally, when one group conquers another group in battle, the winners despoil the losers. We see this all the time throughout the books of Kings and Chronicles. So, then, this taking of the valuables of the Egyptians as the Jews left, having conquered Egypt (well, actually we know that God conquered Egypt) is a culturally correct activity. But they didn’t take the items- they asked for them! Without a doubt, that is different than despoiling or (as some versions state) stripping them of their valuables.

I see something different at work here in God having the Jews ask for and receive these valuables. I see more than just a cultural activity- I see providence. As far back as Exodus 3:19-22, even before Moses went to Egypt, God knew what the people would need to make the tabernacle, and knowing that they had nothing of their own he commanded that they take spoil from the Egyptians. All through Moses’ debate with Pharaoh, he never once said that when they left they would take anything other than their wives, children, and cattle. Yet, when the time came to leave, the people took the last remnants of anything valuable the Egyptians had left.

God knows what we will need before we even know we will be needing it. That’s no surprise, and I am sure when you look back you can see God’s work in your life which led you to where you are today. And what is happening right now- at this very moment- may be something God is doing in your life that you will not realize he is doing until after it is done.

The lesson I am taking away from this parashah today is that I will probably never know what God is doing in my life at the moment he is doing it. Just as the Jewish slaves were thinking they would be set free, and happy for that, little did they know as the plagues started that when they left they would be richly gifted with all sorts of precious jewels and other materials. Neither can I know, even as I write this, what effect this message will have on someone or on myself down the road.

So what should we do? We should just keep walking and trust in God that so long as we walk the path he has given us he will direct our feet to his salvation. And, if I may, just to make sure we are all on the same page, walking the path God gives us means to obey God’s commandments. Specifically, the ones in the Torah.

To finish, let me share with you that when I pray, I don’t thank God only for what he has done for me throughout my life, but also for what he has planned for me. Whether his plans are blessings, or more fire to go through, I know that he sees where I will be and he is working to get me there. And for that, I am VERY thankful!

Thank you, too, for being here and please SUBSCRIBE in the right-hand margin. Also, use the link above to subscribe to my YouTube channel. Not that I do this for money, but if I get enough YouTube subscribers they will put advertising on my channel and I will receive some income, which I can use to send my books to people in third world countries who have asked for them, as I have been doing when I can afford to.

This being Friday I wish you Shabbat Shalom and until next time: L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Parashah Ki Tisa 2019 (When you take) Exodus 30:11 – 34

One of the greatest sins ever committed by a people occurs in this parashah reading. I am talking about the sin of the Golden Calf. And later on in this parashah, we are also given one of the greatest blessings we can receive when God shows himself to Moses and tells us who and what he is, which in Judaism we call The 13 Attributes of God’s Nature.

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We start this reading with God commanding that a census must be taken, and for everyone in the census, a half-shekel tax is to be paid. This tax was a ransom required for the taking of a life (not through murder), which was assumed to be necessary since this census was to know the size of the army, and everyone in the army would, at one time or another, probably take someone’s life.

God gives the formula for making the holy incense and other sanctuary items the worship of God requires.

All of this is happening while Moses is on the mountain. After some 40 days the people get worried and ask Aaron to make a god for them because they don’t know what has become of Moses (meaning, most likely, they think he is dead.)  Aaron submits to them and when the calf is made, the people revel in paganistic worship. God tells Moses to get down and take care of this, and when Moses sees for himself what has happened, he becomes so mad he smashes the tablets God made for him, the ones with the 10 Words on them. He splits the camp into those who will follow God and those who reject him, and the Levites are the tribe that takes action to kill the ones who have sinned.

God says that he is fed up with these people and he will send an angel ahead of them, but he, himself, will not go with them. Moses intercedes and God relents, and this reading ends with Moses asking to see God’s glory, which God allows him to see. God passes before Moses but prevents Moses from seeing his face. It is just before he passes that God announces his nature, which lets us know exactly what he wants us to know about him.

Obviously, there is so much in this parashah I could spend a year discussing it…but I won’t. In fact, you may expect that I will talk about the Golden Calf, or maybe God’s nature, but that isn’t what I felt today’s message should be.

I want to talk about Bezalel and Oholiab. Actually, not about them, per se’, but about what God says regarding them. We read that God tells Moses in Exodus 30:1-3:

And the Lord spoke unto Moses, saying: “See, I have called by name Bezalel ……and I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, …

and then later in Exodus 30:6:

And I, behold, have appointed with him Ohaliab, …and in the hearts of all that are wise-hearted I have put wisdom, that they may make all that I have commanded thee.

It should not come as a big surprise to anyone that the world refuses to see God’s influence within it. When I read about how God gave the skills and understanding to Bezalel and Oholiab, as well as other people, I thought about how we often talk about God’s intervention in our lives and give testimony to miraculous healings and other wonderful works of God in our life. These testimonies are always nice to hear, but what about when God intervenes and it isn’t miraculous? Have you ever thought that what you considered to be “normal” things was really God taking care of you?

I just underwent some kidney stone operations, and the Urologist was really great. As I am recovering and feeling 1,000% better, I am thanking God not just for helping me to heal, but also for the skills he gave the doctor to whom he led me. Not that an angel brought me in the spirit to the doctors’ office (which, I admit, would have been really cool!), but for the events that occurred before I got to the Urologist. I especially thank him for the doctor at the hospital where I had a CAT scan done who said I should go to a Urologist and recommended one to me.

You see, I first called my regular (soon-to-be-not regular) doctor’s office and told them I needed a urologist STAT (that’s doctor talk for ASAP) because I was in severe pain, and they didn’t even call me back for 6 hours. After one hour I decided to call the doctor that was recommended, and he saw me within a few hours that same day. The lack of response from my regular doctor also helped me to get to the doctor I needed, so (again) I see God’s intervention.
But what really is the most important thing is that God gave the wisdom and understanding to the doctors and nurses that helped me through this, and he did that for them many, many years before I needed them.

The lesson for today is this: we need to not just look for God’s intervention in our daily life, but also to appreciate that it is more often than not through the skills and talents he has given others. I believe we each have a gift from God, and that in his perfect time he will make us aware of that gift. This gift should be used to give glory to God, so when we have someone who is gifted help us, we need to praise God for that person. And I mean not just saying “Thank you, God” (which, of course, is the correct thing to do), but saying “Thank you, God, for this person and the skills you have given him/her.” I think in this way not only do we show God our thanks, but also acknowledge the blessing to the world he gives by means of the gifts of wisdom and understanding he gives to people.

Maybe I am making a mountain out of a molehill, maybe this isn’t such a big thing, but I think it is important to recognize not just what God does but to show our appreciation for how he does it.

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I wish you all a pleasant Shabbat Shalom, and until next time… L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Parashah Yitro 2019 (Jethro) Exodus 18 – 20

In today’s Torah reading we come to one of the most earth-shattering and influential statements ever made throughout the history of Mankind: God gives the world his Ten Commandments.

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I am so unworthy of commenting on God’s commandments- where do I start, and even more difficult to determine than that, how do I stop?

Let me cover some basic things without going into a lot of detail.

The first two commandments are generally thought of as one: the first is only that God is our God- I am the Lord, your God, who brought you out of Egypt. That is it. It is the second commandment that tells us not to have any other gods before the one and only true God.

The third commandment not to use the Lord’s name in vain to a Jew means not to use it at all, unless in a court of law. We do not use the Tetragrammaton (Y-H-V-H) at all, substituting Adonai (Lord) or HaShem (the Name) or Elohim instead of pronouncing the Name. This is done as a sign of respect for the holiness of God’s name.

As far as the Sabbath day commandment, I find it interesting that here God says to remember the Sabbath because, after creation, God rested on the 7th day. However, in Deuteronomy 5:14 God says to remember the Sabbath day because he freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. This remembrance of being slaves in Egypt is repeated throughout the Tanakh. I read that this is wrongly accepted as the reason to celebrate the Sabbath is to remember freedom from Egypt, but it really refers to the 7 days a week that they had to work when in Egypt. The Sabbath is (originally and still) a remembrance of God’s rest after creating the world.

The commandments also have a definite order of priority: the first four commandments are about our relationship with and duties to God, the next commandment about our duties towards family, and the last 5 commandments about our duties towards our fellow human beings.  This shows us how we should live our lives: in obedience to God, with respect for our family and with respect for others.

Too many religions teach that these commandments are the only important ones, and if we obey these alone we will be in heaven. Yet, there are a total of 613 commandments in the Old Covenant, and the New Covenant is based entirely on the Old one. There is nothing “new” in the New Covenant: Yeshua taught from and about the Torah (he was, after all, the Torah in the Flesh) and the Disciples and Apostles also taught from and about the Torah. The only thing that is new, if anything, in the New Covenant, is the fact that Yeshua taught us the spiritual meaning of these commandments. The Pharisees taught the literal meaning (P’shat) and Yeshua went beyond that to the spiritual (Remes) through the use of Parables (Drashim) so that we could grow stronger in spirit.

Yeshua told us that the two most important commandments are to love the Lord your God with all your strength, heart and mind, and to love each other, right? Did you realize these are not in the Ten Commandments? Yes, the first commandment tells us that the Lord is our God, but Yeshua quoted the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4), which is not in the Big Ten. The commandment to love God with all our heart, soul and strength is from the V’ahavta prayer, which is in Deuteronomy 6:5 and Numbers 15:40. The other commandment he quotes is in Leviticus 19:18, to love your neighbor as yourself. So does that mean Yeshua has done away with the Ten?

Of course not!

The Ten Commandments are absolute and the other 603 (from both the Torah and the Talmud) are the ways in which we obey these ten. What Yeshua gave us was (again) the spiritual understanding of what these Ten Commandments spell out in physical terms. We see this when he gives the Sermon on the Mount, saying, “You have heard it said…., but I tell you….”; he was confirming the Ten Commandments and expanding on their meaning.

I suppose this message is nothing more than just a simple reminder of what we are reading in the Torah. I don’t feel any particularly deep spiritual or revelatory statements coming from me. Perhaps something in here will spark an idea or God will use what I am saying to show you something you haven’t seen before. I hope so because I am drawing a blank as far as spiritual insight for today, so I will leave you with this last thought…. if you believe in God, accept Yeshua as your Messiah, and keep these commandments in your heart and daily activities, I think you will be alright.

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Tonight begins Shabbat, so Shabbat Shalom! May you have a restful and blessed Sabbath.

Parashah Beshallach 2019 (It came to pass) Exodus 13:17 – 17

The Israelites are now out of Egypt, and roaming in the desert. God places them against the Red Sea and Pharaoh decides he wants them back, so sends his entire army against them. God splits the sea and the Israelites walk safely across, with the army of Egypt following. God brings the waters down on the Egyptians and they are destroyed.

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After this miraculous salvation, Moses composes a song of praise to the Lord. The people continue on, and start to complain about no food or water. God sends manna and quails for them to eat, and when they come to a large pool of poisoned water God shows Moses how to make it potable. The parashah ends with the attack upon the Jews by Amalek, and through God’s help, Amalek is defeated.

Before I talk about today’s message, I would like to share a bit of interesting information regarding Amalek and the Torah. Some of you may be familiar with the stringent requirements for writing a Torah, which is done by a specially trained scribe called a Sofer. To test the ink and the quill pen used, the Sofer will write the name “Amalek” on a piece of parchment and then he crosses it out with a number of strokes in order to fulfill the commandment of blotting out the name of Amalek, in accordance with what is written in Deuteronomy 25:19.

 

What I want to point out from this Torah reading are the events just before the parting of the Red Sea (Exodus 14:10-16), which is when the Israelites saw the army coming after them and cried out to Moses, asking why he brought them into the desert to die. Moses, faithfully believing God will do something, tells them not to cry to him but to wait for the salvation that God will provide. Then what does God do? He asks Moses, essentially, “What are you waiting for?  Raise your rod and part the sea, then walk across it.”

We are continually told throughout the Bible to be faithful and trust in God, which Moses unquestionable did when in the face of certain destruction he told the people to wait for God to take care of them. But God wasn’t happy with that- he chided Moses for not taking action. That is a problem I see with too many people who profess to trust in the Lord, but who really think he is a God of enablement. He is not! He is a God of action.

In Isaiah 40:31 we are told to wait upon the Lord for renewed strength, but that doesn’t mean to literally sit around on your tuchas and wait for God to do something. Yes, sometimes we are to be patient and wait, such as when waiting for an answer to prayer, but for the most part, we are to walk in faith (2 Corinthians 5:7.)

We have all heard the expression “Take a leap of faith”, but what does that really mean? Does it mean to trust someone without any reason to do so? Yes, it can. Does it mean to take a chance and hope for the best? Yes, it can mean that, too. Does it mean to blindly rush into a situation and pray to God that he will make it come out alright? Well, that might be a little further than I would take it, but I suppose you could do that as well. I wouldn’t recommend it, though.

A real leap of faith is when we trust God, as he tells us we should, but not to the point where we are foolishly taking chances and expecting him to make it turn out well- that isn’t faithfully walking, that is testing the Lord. And we all know that is not something we should do (Deuteronomy 6:16, and again in Matthew 4:7.) What we should do is to trust in God by asking for his help in what we have discerned is the right thing to do, then instead of throwing the fleece before the Lord, we should just go ahead and start doing what we ask God to bless. If we are doing what is right, he will support and help us. If what we are doing is not in his will or is wrong in his eyes, we will fail. But, either way, we should be walking in faith by taking that first step to getting the ball rolling, and trusting in God to provide as we go.

Do not be like those people who always seem to be complaining that they are cursed or the Enemy is ruining their chances to do anything: sometimes they may be right, but in my experience I believe that most of the time people are just making up their own excuses and faithlessly waiting for some sign from God that he approves. They want to do something but are, in truth, afraid and faithless, so they blame God for their inaction by saying they are waiting for his sign of approval.

They will probably be waiting a long time- God wants us to walk and he will clear the path, but not until we start walking. It is our act of faith that generates God’s provision.

Therefore, if you have something you want to do that you believe is a calling from God, don’t be like the man in Matthew 8:22 who told Yeshua he wanted to follow him but first had to bury his father; if you feel a calling from God to do something, get out there and do it! Don’t wait for confirmation from people or from God- just get started. If God is with you, you will know it. And if God is not with you, then you will know that, too. I believe that when you ask for guidance and discernment from the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit), both before you start and all during your work, God will answer you.

We are to walk in faith, not sit around waiting in faith, so as the old song lyric says, “Boots- start walking!”

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Thank you for your interest and I always welcome comments, just please be nice when you make them.

Tonight begins Shabbat, so Shabbat Shalom and Baruch haShem!

Parashah Bo 2019 (Come) Exodus 10 – 13:16

We continue with the plagues God is sending on Egypt, yet sparing the Israelites in Goshen. Finally, the 10th plague, the death of the firstborn comes and God tells Moses how to protect his people living in Goshen from this plague. After such a terrible loss of life, including Pharaoh’s own son, the people are told to leave. They take many gifts (spoil) from the Egyptians, who are more than happy to give them anything to get out of Egypt, and God institutes the Passover and states this shall be the beginning of our year.

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The parashah ends with the commandment that every firstborn, whether human or animal, belongs to God as the substitution for the firstborn God took from the Egyptians.

There is a term used during the narrative of the 10 plagues that comes up very often; actually, two terms which appear no less than some 19 times. One is that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart (9 times) and the other is that Pharaoh hardened his heart (10 times.) Now, for God to purposefully harden someone’s heart so that they sinned, then punish them for that sin is obviously unfair and sinful, in and of itself, so how could a sinless and perfectly holy God do that? The answer is: he didn’t.

First off, we must understand that in the biblical days, everything that happened was ascribed to God. God has a plan for the universe, and whether things happen as a direct result of Divine intervention, or just unfold as God knew they would, in the Bible it is considered a direct result of God’s will. So, even if someone does something entirely on their own, it is (in the Bible) considered to be a direct act of God.  This is not meant to blame God, it is just the cultural understanding of that time.

We all have the freedom to decide if we will obey God or not. There can be a million and one reasons why we shouldn’t, and really only one reason why we should. That one reason is simple: He is God and we are not. As for why we shouldn’t, or don’t have to (anymore), people can rationalize any desire to be justified, at least in their own mind. What happens is this: we make up our own reason for disobedience, and repeat it to ourselves. Once we succumb to sin, it gets easier and easier to continue to sin, and harder and harder to overcome it. I learned from many years as a Salesman that the more you tell someone something, even if it is ridiculous, they will eventually believe it. God knew about Pharaoh from the start, and the warning to all of us is the same warning he gave to Cain in Genesis. 4:7

If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.

The first response Pharaoh had to Moses was in Exodus 5:2, where he said, “Who is Adonai, that I should obey when he says to let Israel go? I don’t know Adonai, and I also will not let Israel go.” Pharaoh had the opportunity to obey God, and he chose to reject God’s command. God knew this would happen, as he told Moses in Chapter 3 (Ex. 3:19- “I know that the king of Egypt will not let you leave unless he is forced to do so.”), so the first “hardening” came from Pharaoh. And as I stated earlier, because the Bible states everything is from God, when it continues from this point on to say “God hardened his heart:” that is not an actual accusation but an expression. Pharaoh was the sole cause for the plagues coming upon the Egyptians, and Pharaoh had the opportunity to obey God every step of the way, but HE chose not to.

We have the same freedom to choose that Pharaoh had, and we have sin crouching at our door, just like Cain did. I remember the comedian Flip Wilson, and his character Geraldine always said, The Devil made me do it!” That was funny, but in truth, the Devil can’t make us do anything- we do it. Old Nick may provide opportunity and even give us a strong incentive to do evil, but in the end, it is our choice.

You have no one to blame but yourself for what you do.

God is in control of everything, but that doesn’t mean he does control everything. God allows us to make up our own minds, and to choose whether we accept or reject him. And don’t think for a moment there is a middle-of-the-road position with God- he is totally binomial. It is or it isn’t, right or wrong, black or white, you is or you isn’t. Period.

Moving forward, next time you think the Enemy is attacking you, or that God is punishing you, think again. Think about what choices you have made recently, and make sure that if you really are under a curse that you didn’t bring it on yourself. Thank God that when we do screw up, we have forgiveness available to us through Messiah Yeshua. Do Teshuva (repentance), ask forgiveness in Yeshua’s name and make a better decision in the future.

If you ask me, this is the pathway we must walk. We will always sin, and as long as we continue to repent, ask God for forgiveness through Messiah and also through the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) guidance and the strength to improve our ability to resist sin, working to sin less and less every day, we will be walking the path of salvation.

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Tonight begins the Sabbath, so Shabbat Shalom, and may you have a blessed weekend.