Parashot Tazria-Metzorah 2021(When she conceives / Tzararat) Leviticus 12-13 and 14-15

This Shabbat reading is a double-parashah. These four chapters deal with the uncleanliness of birth secretions and of the skin diseases we call leprosy.

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I have absolutely no idea why God makes a woman unclean after giving birth to a girl twice as long as when giving birth to a boy, and despite the many jokes I already have popping into my head, I will demonstrate restraint and wisdom and not post even one of them.

The age-old argument for why God gave us these instructions is that they are for hygienic reasons or they are strictly Levitical (religious). There can be, of course, valid arguments for both sides.

Obviously, if someone has leprosy you do not want them in the general population for the safety of all. On the other hand, leprosy was also used as a punishment for religious disobedience, as in Numbers 12, when God struck Miriam with leprosy for speaking against Moses; as such, it may represent being spiritually cut off from the people as well as physically.

I consider these regulations as the type of instructions we call Chukim, which are commandments and laws for which we cannot understand why God gave them to us. Yes, it is easy to understand separating a person with a contagious disease, but why is a woman unclean after giving birth to a girl twice as long as for a boy? We can understand she is unclean from the secretions caused by the birth but, then again, why is someone ceremonially unclean just because they had a secretion?

I have stated often when we come across a commandment from God, one for which we have no idea why he gave it to us, that obedience doesn’t require understanding, only faith and trust. I have stated this more often than not, I think when we are going through the book of Leviticus because, well, this is where a lot of chukim appear.

But that is not what I feel is something we should review now. No, I think the message for today is simply that when we come across a commandment that deals with hygiene, it can also represent both a physical and spiritual condition. For example, witches are almost always portrayed as ugly because their spiritual essence is so evil that it affects their physical appearance, as well. Conversely, spiritually pure people are displayed as beautiful.

So what about Samantha Stevens? In the TV show “Bewitched”, she was a witch and she was absolutely gorgeous! Oh, wait a minute- she was a “good” witch, wasn’t she? (If there can be such a thing.) Of course, for decades TV and movies have been portraying evil as good in order to get us conditioned to thinking that evil is not just acceptable, but desirable. After all, Satan is called the Prince of the Air, and how is TV transmitted?

But, we’re getting off topic, so let’s get back to today’s parashot.

The lesson I believe these parashot can give us today is that one’s physical condition doesn’t necessarily indicate their spiritual condition. Many people with horrendous physical ailments or handicaps can be pure as new-fallen snow, spiritually, and there are beautiful people who are more like what Yeshua accused the Pharisees of being: white-washed sepulchers full of dead people’s bones.

So here it is, pure and simple: do not judge from the outside but try to see people as God does, from the inside. It is hard to overcome the social conditioning we all – everyone in the world- have undergone, which is that beauty is better than ugliness, but when we look at people’s fruit instead of their bodies, we will be able to judge properly what their spiritual condition is, despite their physical appearance.

And one last thing: please try to avoid discussions about why God said we must or must not do something. They may be interesting from a scholarly view, but when it comes down to what is important, knowing why God wants you to do something is not going to save you, but doing what God wants you to do is certainly not going to hurt you.

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That’s it for this week, so l’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!

Parashah Shimini 2021 (Eighth) Leviticus 9 – 11

This parashah begins with the continuing sanctification of Aaron as Cohen HaGadol, the High Priest, and his sons, Nadab and Abihu, as the cohanim to assist him. But the sons offered unauthorized fire before the Sanctuary, and as such their punishment was to be killed by fire coming from the Sanctuary. Moses tells Aaron not to grieve for his sons as he is still being sanctified, but that the people will grieve for him.

The last chapter of this parashah is the chapter outlining the Laws of Kashrut, the Kosher Laws.

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At the risk of repeating myself, I am going to talk about a theme I bring up often, but probably can’t bring up too often. And that theme is this:

Obedience doesn’t require understanding, and in fact, wanting to understand is a form of faithlessness.

There is no end to the number of reasons people come up with why God has determined some animals are clean to eat and others aren’t. From the risk of catching a disease, such as trichinosis from pork, to the fact that some animals are scavengers which eat carrion.

Let’s digress for a moment to review the three types of laws: Mitzvot, Mishpatim, and Chukim.

A mitzvah is a commandment of religious duty; mishpatim are rules that govern inter-personal relationships, and Chukim are those laws for which we have no logical explanation.

For example, it is a mitzvah that we must celebrate the Shabbat, and it is a mishpatim that we love our neighbor as ourselves. However, the requirement for the showbread in the Sanctuary, and it being replaced once a week, well…who knows why God wants us to do that? That is a Chukim law.

Back to the parashah: for me, the Kosher Laws fall under Chukim. Yes, of course, they are all commandments, but why do some animals get specified as unclean and others not? No carnivores are clean, only herbivores, and of all the herbivores, only those that are ruminants with a split hoof are clean. Why just them?

And fish must have scales and fins, otherwise, they are unclean. What is the deal with that?

I don’t know why God wants things this way, but I do know that it doesn’t matter why- he is God, I am not, so what he says, goes. And you want to know something else? I don’t even care why God decided what is clean and what isn’t! It’s not important that I understand God’s reasoning because, frankly, if I could understand everything that God says and does, then he isn’t worthy of my worship.

So today’s message is short and sweet: we don’t need to understand why God says and does what he says and does; actually, we shouldn’t even try to! God is so far above us, and so much wiser than we could ever be, that faith demands we trust whatever he says we should or shouldn’t do as being for our benefit. Understanding why is not necessary.

Just obey, as best as you can, and reap the blessings that God promises for obedience (Deuteronomy 28). The covenants God made with us are not based on him doing what he said he would, but first and foremost on us doing as he said we should. Then, after we obey, he will fulfill his side and bless us.

I don’t know about you, but as for me, I am more than happy to obey God’s instructions as best as I can, totally and blissfully ignorant of the reasons why he gave them.

In my opinion, the need to understand why God gave his commandments shows a lack of trust and might even lead to faithlessness and what might be worse… apostasy.

Didn’t Yeshua say only those who come to God as a trusting child will be saved? So what would you prefer: knowledge in hell or ignorance in heaven?

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That’s it for this week, so l’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!

Passover 2021 Sixth Day Numbers 9:1 – 14

The parashot readings for the festival of Passover are designated one per day for the 7 days (8 days for those in the Diaspora), each day having a specific portion of the Torah relating to the Passover.

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Today’s reading covers when the second Passover in the desert was being celebrated, and there were some who had become unclean due to their having been in contact with a dead body. As such, they were banned from the ceremony; Moses asked Adonai what to do, and Adonai said that anyone who was either unclean or out of town on the Passover could celebrate it, just as it is supposed to be celebrated, but on the 14th day of the following month, which would be Iyar.

For the record, and I don’t think even most Jews know this, Passover is not 7 days long. The Passover is just that- the time when the angel of death passed over, and it is defined in the Torah as from twilight until midnight. Beginning on the 15th day (which would be after sunset on the 14th day, after the lamb was slain) begins the 7 days of Hag HaMatzot, the Festival of Unleavened Bread. So Passover and Hag HaMatzot begin at the same time, but Passover is only for that evening.

Recently in a discussion group on Facebook, someone asked if an uncircumcised person could share in the Seder now that there is no Temple service. The rules for the Seder are very clear in Exodus 12:48, in that no one who is uncircumcised may eat the Passover meal. Now, that is somewhat disquieting for me; you see, Donna and I have shared the Seder with many Gentile friends over the years, saved or not, in order to show them the relationship between Yeshua and the Passover. Yet, we never required (or for that matter, asked) any of the men if they were circumcised.

So what is the answer? Well, the point of the question was that because there is no temple in Jerusalem, there can be no sacrifice. In fact, this is why Jews do NOT eat lamb at Passover. So, if there is no sacrificial lamb being shared, does that mean the Seder, itself, is not “officially” a Seder?

Is the Seder a reflection or proxy of the real thing, which we can’t have until the Third Temple is built and the sacrificial system is reinstated?

I don’t know, but it is an interesting point.

Let’s try something…let’s try to combine the reading for today with this issue of “If no temple, then no sacrifice; ergo, Seder rules are suspended”.

God allowed for the continuance of the Pesach rules for those who were ineligible for the Seder on the commanded date. They were still required to celebrate it but at the same time the following month. To me, this means that God is open to allowing some form of dispensation to those whose hearts want to obey, but who are physically unable to do so.

If this is true, then because the Seder is not in complete compliance, in that we are not eating a sacrificed lamb, then maybe, just maybe, God is willing to allow dispensation to those who are not circumcised physically, but who’s hearts are willing to obey, to partake in these “pseudo” Seders?

I can’t say for sure, and if anyone wanted to really say one or the other, I would have to say go with what God said, exactly. You cannot go wrong if you do just as God says to do.

God has stated he wants circumcised hearts, as early as in Deuteronomy 10:16, and Shaul repeats this with regard to grace through Yeshua in Romans 2:25 and Colossians 2:10. In Acts 15, the letter from the Elders in Jerusalem that gave only four immediate requirements for the new Gentile Believers, who were for all intents and purposes converting from paganism to Judaism, did not specify circumcision.

In Galatians, Shaul verbally castrates the “Judaizers” (who were Jewish Believers in Messiah) when they insisted that new Gentile Believers make an immediate and total conversion to Judaism, and get circumcised right away, otherwise they can not be saved.

So it seems that those who have accepted Yeshua as their Messiah and were not circumcised physically but are circumcised spiritually may be accepted as an Israelite.

Now let’s see how today’s reading ties in with what we just went over:

  • God allowed those who were physically ineligible to celebrate when they were once more physically eligible;
  • Under the Grace we receive through Messiah Yeshua, those who are not physically circumcised have been spiritually circumcised;
  • The Seder we celebrate is not eligible to be the Seder commanded by God because there is no sacrificed lamb to eat;
  • Therefore, the Seder we celebrate as a physical meal is really a spiritual celebration.

So if the Seder we celebrate is essentially a spiritual event, then doesn’t it make sense that those who are spiritually circumcised would be eligible?

I hope so.

I pray that when Donna and I share our Seder with anyone who may be uncircumcised that God grants dispensation to us if we are doing wrong if, for no other reason, because our heart’s desire is to share his Grace and the truth about his Messiah with everyone.

As for you, if you also like to share your Seder with others, it is up to you to decide if you will require all the men to “drop trow” in order to see if they qualify.

That’s not going to be something I do because I believe, since the meal we eat on Passover is a spiritual Seder, that physical circumcision is not required.

Thank you for being here and please subscribe both here and on my YouTube channel, as well; share these messages with everyone you know (circumcision not required), and remember that I always welcome your comments.

That’s it for this week, so l’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!

Parashah V’yikrah 2021 (And he called) Leviticus 1 – 5

We now enter into the Book of Leviticus.

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In this book are many of the laws, commandments, regulations, and ordinances that God gave to us through Moses, which define how we are to worship God and treat each other.

These laws have been split into two categories: ceremonial and moral. As far as I am concerned, it doesn’t matter how we wish to categorize them but only that they are what God said we should do. That’s enough for me.

Instead of going through the different types of sacrifices and regulations for each, which are contained in this parashah, I would like to talk, in general, about these instructions from God.

Christianity has spent two millennia trying to separate itself from the Jewish roots from which it sprouted, and has been very successful at doing that. It has managed to grow into any number of different religions and sects, none of which seem to have anything in common with the others other than they profess to worship God and that Yeshua (Jesus) is the Messiah.

Oh, wait a minute….they also have this in common: they teach that the Son of God said whoever accepts him as their Savior doesn’t have to obey the commandments that God gave in the Torah.

Actually, they can’t reject all of them, of course: the “moral” commandments still are valid, such as don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, and don’t worship or bow down and pray to any graven image (the Roman Catholics still have a problem with this one.)

But what did Yeshua say, really?

In Matthew 5:17 (a favorite Christian verse to proclaim the Torah is null and void), Yeshua says he has come to fulfill the law, which (as I mentioned) Christianity loves to quote as their justification that having fulfilled it, he did away with it. But they ignore the first part of that sentence, where Yeshua says he did NOT come to change the law.

Now, at that time in history, the usage of the word “fulfill” with regard to the Torah did not mean to perform but to interpret. Matthew 5:17 should really say that Yeshua came not to change the law but to interpret it correctly. This is confirmed with the Sermon on the Mount, where Yeshua “fulfilled the law” by teaching the deeper, spiritual meaning of it (called the Remes). He starts with “You have heard it said…” then tells the people the literal meaning of the law (called the P’shat), which was all the Pharisees had ever taught. And then he goes further, saying “But I tell you…” teaching them the deeper, spiritual meaning.

For instance, he said that we have been told not to murder, but if we hate in our heart, we have already committed murder. He taught that we have been told not to commit adultery, but if we lust in our heart, we already have. Can you see? He fulfilled the law because he taught us the spiritual meaning of it, which is why so often in the Gospels we read how people said that he taught as no one ever had before.

Christianity has also misinterpreted the statement made by a man, they call Paul, who told the Messianic congregation he started in Colussus that our sins were nailed to the cross with Yeshua. Within Christian teachings, they say that this means the law (Torah) was nailed to the cross, but that is just plain wrong. Read Colossians 2:13-14: Paul never said the law was nailed to the cross, only the sins we had committed.

The ongoing and (I believe) never-ending argument about are Christians subject to the laws in the Torah will never be settled until Messiah rules the world, at which time everyone will be forced to acknowledge that whatever Yeshua says we should do, we had better do.

But I would like to ask those who have been taught the Torah is only for Jews to consider the following:

  1. If Yeshua is the Son of God; and
  2. If disobedience to the laws in the Torah were, at the time Yeshua lived, a sin; and
  3. If Yeshua taught people to disobey his father and obey only him …

Then wouldn’t that make Yeshua a traitorous son and a disobedient, sinful Messiah?

Where else in the Bible does a son, a prince, try to overthrow his father’s kingdom and replace him as king? (I really shouldn’t have to tell you, should I?)

If Yeshua taught anything that was against the laws God had given to the people, then he would be in sin and a traitor to his own father. He would not have ever been an acceptable sacrifice, but since we know he WAS an acceptable sacrifice, then he (obviously) never did anything against his father or break the law, nor did he ever teach anyone else to break the law.

The only justification that Christianity has used to show where multiple times someone has taught that the Torah is not valid or necessary for Christians is from the letters of Paul to his congregations throughout the Middle East and Asia.

Paul was not a prophet, he was never contacted by God telling him, as God did with Moses or the Prophets of the Tanakh, to tell anyone anything. He was a missionary who said and did whatever he needed to in order to get people to listen to the Good News of the Messiah. He never converted to Christianity, he never changed his name from Shaul to Paul, and he never went exclusively to the Gentiles. In fact, he always went to teach in the synagogues first, then he went to the Gentiles.

And he never said that we could ignore the Torah, only that within the Gentile congregations who were having issues with their faith, that they should learn the Torah and obey it a little at a time and not have to become converts to Judaism all at once.

Just the same way that Isaiah told the people in the Northern tribes of Israel, who were constantly at odds with their faith, that they are so spiritually weak they need to learn God’s ways little by little and line by line (Isaiah 28:10.)

I don’t want to get into an argument about whether or not Shaul’s letters should be included in the Bible, or whether or not you have to obey the Torah- these are decisions that you have to make for yourself because no matter why you decide how you worship, when you meet God you will be held accountable for what you do or don’t do.

My advice to everyone is that you best make sure whichever way you chose to live your life and worship God be an informed decision based on your own research because, as I said, you WILL be held accountable for that choice.

If a cop wants to give you a speeding ticket and you say you didn’t know what the speed limit was, he will tell you that ignorance of the law is no excuse. I believe God will have the same attitude.

Thank you for being here and please don’t forget to subscribe here and on my YouTube channel, as well. I hope you will share these messages with everyone you know and remember that I always welcome your comments.

That’s it for this week, so l’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!

Parashot Vayakhel-Pekudey 2021 ( And he assembled / These are the accounts) Exodus 35 – 40

These last chapters complete not just the detailed narrative of the building of the Tabernacle, but the book of Exodus, as well. And, as you may have noticed, this Shabbat we have a double parashah.

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The details of the Tabernacle,. from the itemization of the articles to the size and breadth of the coverings, to the number of support beams, is exacting. We are told about every single item in such detail that it is almost easy to picture them in our minds.

Moses asks the people to voluntarily give the materials needed, and they give so willingly that he later has to tell them to stop because they gave so much more than was needed. The workers were also volunteers, and God gave divine wisdom to them in order that they could perform all the work required.
Once everything was done and put in place, Moses saw that the people had done everything, just as God said, and he blessed them.

The book ends with the Tabernacle completely put together, and God’s shekinah so filling the tent that Moses could not even enter it.

And when we come to the end of a Torah book, we say:

הזק חזק ונת חזק

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

Every time I read these last chapters of Exodus, and drag myself (sorry, but that’s the truth) through every, single, exacting detail of the Tabernacle, I always wonder why such a detailed listing? Why do we need to know exactly how many beams, how many footings for the beams, how many rings in the curtains, etc.? Will knowing this help me to become saved? Will knowing the exact number of pomegranates that were attached to the Cohan Gadol’s robe secure my place in heaven?

Obviously, not. So why do we have to know this? And while we’re at it, why do we have to know such exacting details in Ezekiel and Revelation when the temple is measured?

If you think that now I will give you the answer, well…you’re wrong. I don’t have an answer: that’s why I keep wondering about it. DUH!

But I do know one thing, and that is this: it is there for a reason.

Just because I don’t know what that reason is, doesn’t mean there isn’t one, and my acceptance of this condition, i.e. I have no idea why but I know it is for a reason, is what we call faith.

Maybe one day, who knows? I might read this and find some divine revelation in the numbers that are there. Now don’t get me wrong- I do not believe that Numerology is a legitimate form of biblical exegesis, but I do recognize that God often plays around with words and numbers, so there can be a meaningful message somewhere in all these details. I just don’t see it, yet.

And the reason I said I don’t see it, yet, is because I will not allow my not understanding today to interfere with trusting that one day I will understand. It may not be until I am dead and resurrected, at which time it probably won’t matter to me, but in any event, I will know. Someday.

And until then, I will keep reading it, no matter how boring or tedious it feels at the time. And yes, I confess, there are things in the Bible I find a little tedious to get through, but I read them, anyway. It comes back to that faith thing, trusting that one day God will reveal to me whatever message he has in there because he wouldn’t have put it there if it didn’t mean something.

And that is all we need to know.

That which is referred to as The Word of God– the Bible- is not entirely the words God said. In fact, the places where God actually speaks directly to the people are mainly in Exodus and Leviticus. Throughout these books we read at the beginning of almost every new chapter the words, “And God spoke to Moses, saying…”, indicating that what Moses then relates to the people are the exact words from God. We also read God’s direct words in the books of the prophets, where he tells the prophet exactly what to say to the people. Almost everywhere else we read where people relate that which God has said in the Torah. The New Covenant has absolutely no direct instructions from God, other than in Matthew 17 when he speaks at the transformation on the mountain and tells the Apostles with Yeshua to listen to him. That’s it!

Everything else in the New Covenant, especially the Epistles from Shaul to his congregations of newly converting Gentiles, is a person relating what God said in the Tanakh, but it is not God speaking.

Faithful trusting is demonstrated by accepting that you won’t understand everything in the Bible, not now and maybe never, but knowing what is in there, especially where God himself is talking, is important.

So, nu… if you have been raised as a Christian and found your biblical training mainly within the New Covenant, you really need to consider giving the “New” a rest and getting into the “Old” for a while because that is not just the word of God, but the only place you will find the very words FROM God!

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That’s it for this week; l’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!

Parashah Ki Tissah 2021 (When you take) Exodus 30:11 – 34

Moses is still on the mountain, Mount Horeb (also called Sinai) and God continues to give Moses instructions regarding the Tent of Meeting. He instructs him about the laver, the spices to be used, and that Bezalel and Oholiab will be in charge of the workers because of the skills God has given them.

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The people below, wondering what has happened to Moses, begin to lose faith and revert to their Egyptian ways. They command Aaron to make a golden calf for them, and after he does they revel in sinful and sexually perverted activities, acting as pagans do.

God tells Moses about this and that he will do away with them, but Moses intercedes for the people, arguing with God (nicely, of course) that if God destroys them now, the surrounding nations will think God did that because he wasn’t able to keep his promise to bring them to Canaan. God relents, but when Moses sees the revelry, he becomes so angry that he breaks the tablets God had given him and grinds the calf into dust, places it in water, and makes the people drink the water.

Aaron gives Moses some lame excuse that he didn’t really make the calf, it just sort of came out of the fire. Personally, I don’t think Moses believed that not even for a second.

Moses calls on whoever is for the Lord to gird on their swords and kill the sinners, and the tribe of Levi immediately comes to Moses’ call and slew some three thousand of the people.

Moses went back up the mountain to plead with God, who said he would not travel with the people. When Moses related that to the people, they all felt shame and repented by removing their ornaments.

Moses convinces God that he needs to travel with the people, and then asks God to show him (Moses) God’s glory, to which God agrees to show his back, but no man can see God’s face and live.

As God covers Moses’ face with his hand, he passes by and proclaims himself, which we call the 13 Attributes of God.

Finally, Moses goes back up on the mountain for another 40 days and nights. God inscribes the 10 Words on a new set of tablets, and when Moses comes off the mountain to relate God’s commands, his face is shining. From this point on, Moses would wear a veil in the camp, but remove it when he met with God.

The sin of the Golden Calf is one of those Bible stories that is never told enough times, the lesson being so important, but I am not going to talk about that today.

What I want to talk about is Exodus 34:5 – 7 (CJB):

Adonai descended in the cloud, stood with him there and pronounced the name of Adonai. Adonai passed before him and proclaimed: “YUD-HEH-VAV-HEH!!! Yud-Heh-Vav-Heh [Adonai] is God, merciful and compassionate, slow to anger, rich in grace and truth;  showing grace to the thousandth generation, forgiving offenses, crimes and sins; yet not exonerating the guilty, but causing the negative effects of the parents’ offenses to be experienced by their children and grandchildren, and even by the third and fourth generations.”

These are called the 13 Attributes of God, and this is what God told Moses about himself when Moses asked to see his glory, meaning who he is.

I have a clear and simple message for us today based on this proclamation, and that message is that we don’t need to know anything more about God then what he told Moses about himself.

Yeshua told us to come to him as little children (Matthew 19:14), and most of the people I have read or heard agree that this means to be faithful. Little children accept what they are told, and even though (if you’re a parent, you know this well) they ask “why” continuously, they never ask, “How can I be sure you’re right about that?” They trust that what you tell them is what it is.

I have been studying about God for over 25 years, and the one thing I have learned that I believe is most important is that I don’t have to know anything more about God than what he says I need to know. These attributes of God are included in the Torah so that we know what to expect from God, and that is what God wants us to know. I am sure there is much more to God than what he told Moses, but since these are all he said, these are all we need to know.

Humans are a curious animal, and I am sure that God, being our creator, isn’t surprised about this. But as I learned in the military, despite how important something may be, there is not just access to the information (which would be your security clearance) but there is also a need to know, meaning you may have a Top Secret clearance, but that doesn’t mean you can look at anything that is rated Top Secret. If it isn’t something that you are directly involved in, you don’t need to know about it.

How does this fit in with today’s message?

I am sure, in my own mind, that there is a lot more to God than just these 13 aspects of his personality. But because I want to come to God with the childlike faith that Yeshua was talking about, I am not going to interrogate God or study his word to try to understand him or why he does what he does. To me, this is a problem with many people who zealously want to know all about God: there is a difference between studying God’s word to know him better and studying God’s word to understand him and why he does what he does. Again, for ME, there is a fine line between unquestioning acceptance and the need for “proof” through understanding why.

Why can’t we eat pork? Why is there a showbread that no one eats until it is a week old and inedible? Why can’t we have two threads together? Why? Why? Why?

Don’t get me wrong- I am not saying we should never ask God why or study the Bible, but what is wrong, in my opinion (for whatever that means to anyone) is when we try to figure it out so that we can understand why. I read a long time ago that any God who can be understood by the mind of Man is not worthy of the worship of Man. I believe that makes a lot of sense because to be on the same “level” as God, wouldn’t we have to be a god? And, therefore, trying to be on his level is a form of blasphemy, isn’t it? Saying that any one of us could be the same as God?

I will never stop reading the Bible, and each time I read it I get a better sense of God. I have seen “between the lines” and had revelations of the deeper meaning, the Remes, of what God says in the Bible. I believe this understanding is from God, given to me through the indwelling Ruach haKodesh (Holy Spirit) and which I would never have understood before. In fact, there have been passages I have read dozens of times, but then suddenly reading it one more time, I see something in there I never saw before that makes my understanding of God even deeper.

But I never ask God to prove why we should do what he says we should, and that is the important difference between wanting to know God better, and wanting to know what God knows.

Even though it may seem fine to some to try to figure out why God gave us his commandments, I think that it is no different than asking God to prove to us why we should do as he says to do. A child asks why, and then accepts the answer without asking to prove it to be so, and when God tells us this is what we should do, if we begin to try to understand why he says that, to me, it is no different than saying, “Convince me why I should!”

God is above everything we could ever know or understand, and as such, if we can’t be faithfully trusting that what he says is what we should do without asking for proof, then I believe we are being disrespectful.

And that is not the childlike faith Yeshua said we need to have.

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That’s it for this week, so l’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!

Parashah Teruma 2021 (Offering) Exodus 25 – 27:19

From this point on, the remaining chapters of Exodus deal exclusively with the construction and dedication of the Tent of Meeting, also called the Tabernacle.

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The details that are specified throughout these chapters are extensive and very exacting. The number of cubits for each area of the tabernacle, from the section we call the Holy of Holies (where the Ark of the Covenant was placed) to the outer courts and the surrounding area, is very exact, as are the types of metal and weight of the materials for the various articles that are to be used in the service of the Lord.

The message here for us is…well, I’m not sure. There are a number of places in the Torah, as well as within the writings of some of the Prophets, where exacting detail of a structure are found, and sometimes, I confess, I wonder why so much attention is paid to such minutia. I am sure there is a purpose for it, and now that I think about it, maybe I have a reasonable explanation:

God gave Moses such exacting detail in order to test the dedication and obedience of the people.

The reason I think this is the explanation is that when we get to the end of the book, in Exodus 39:43 we are told that they did it all, just as they were told to. This leads me to believe that listing every single exacting detail of every single item associated with the Tabernacle was how God tested the people. He wanted to see if they would obey, would be willing to do the hard work without complaint, and how willing they were to donate, or maybe I should say give away, the goods and valuables they had attained from the Egyptians.

I am sure that living their entire lives as slaves, after they had looted Egypt and received jewels, fine linens, expensive skins, etc. they might not have wanted to give them up. But the requirements for the tabernacle were gold, silver, fine linen, precious jewels, colored threads, and expensive woods, just to name a few. Having these wonderful articles for the first time, maybe, ever, and then being asked to give them away for the Tabernacle’s use, is quite a request and called for some real dedication.

If we were asked to give up something valuable that we had just attained in order to further God’s work, how willing would we be to do that? It is easy to say, “Sure, I’d give something to God if I had a lot to give.” but that doesn’t count. Remember how in Mark 12:41-43 Yeshua told how the rich gave their tithes, which they could easily afford, but the poor widow gave all she had? And that because of her dedication, she would be remembered?

Many years ago, I received an inheritance that at the time, to me, was significant, and I am somewhat proud to say I tithed it correctly. I also have to confess that there was somewhat of a trust issue, meaning I wanted to make sure the monies I gave to my synagogue were being used correctly for the furthering of God’s work. Fortunately, I was on the Council at the time so was able to make sure those funds were used in God’s name, but I can understand how someone without that ability to verify where the money goes to might think twice about making a large donation to any house of worship, or charity.

I think when giving to a charity, no matter how wonderful their sales pitch is, one should first find out how the monies are utilized.

For instance, as a veteran, I am open to giving to Veteran charities, such as one I often see advertised on TV (to be fair I won’t give the name), but when I checked them out this is what I discovered: In 2016 only 54% of all monies went to the program, the rest to administrative and marketing expenses. In 2018, that went up to 64%, and here’s a surprise: the CEO makes $280,000 per year.

And when I checked that out, according to the charity watchdogs, that CEO’s salary is NOT unusual!

Now, if we look at another charity, one we all know but shall remain un-named (I will say it is really popular around Halloween), they spend 88.9% of the money received on their charity programs, the rest going to administrative and marketing expenses.

In general, a charity is expected to spend 15% or less on administrative and marketing expenses. So, when you give to a charitable organization, make sure that what you are giving is going where you expect it to go.

The Israelites knew where all they gave went because they got to see it, and in fact, worked with it.

Charity is something that we are commanded to partake in since the Torah often tells us to care for the orphan and the widow, and that is NOT tithing- that is charitable giving. We are also told that God loves a cheerful giver, yet be wise and use discernment when you give.

The Israelites gave so willingly that Moses had to tell them to stop contributing (Exodus 36:5), and that is how I believe, God wants us to be- cheerfully willing to share the blessings he has given to us with others.

And here’s the really good news: God never runs out of blessings so there is no way you can ever give away more than what God can resupply to you.

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That’s it for this week, so l’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!

Parashah Mishaptim 2021 (Ordinances) Exodus 21 – 24

These ordinances are regarding slavery, accidental death caused by someone else, other torts, and reimbursement for different types of personal injury and loss.

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There are ordinances against witchcraft, sodomy, polytheism, and unfair treatment of people with financially less than yourself. We are also told about the treatment of people, in general, such as fairness in the courts, avoiding mob mentality (lynching), and respect for the property of others, even if they are your enemy.

The final ordinances are regarding the Shabbat and the pilgrimage festivals, and at the end of this parashah, we are told that Moses ascended Mount Sinai to receive the tablets of the law from God, and was there for 40 days and nights.

There are three different types of “laws” within the Torah: Mitzvot, Mishpatim, and Chukim.

The mitzvot are the laws that are plain to understand why we are given them, such as the law against murder.

The mishpatim, which we read in today’s parashah, can be understood to a point, but not all can be totally understood and some are considered to be Edot. For the most part, as we see today, they deal with laws that are more like misdemeanors and civil actions, such as torts, slavery, and social contracts.

The Chukim are those laws for which we have no idea why they exist. These include the rules about the showbread in the Sanctuary, the prohibition against wearing two types of cloth, and the Laws of Kashrut (Kosher.)

Over the past two-plus decades that I have known the Lord, accepted his Messiah, and studied his word, I have seen so many people try to explain why God gave us these rules. They say it is for health reasons, because the Hammurabi Laws already established them, because as a nation we now needed a constitution and penal code, and so on. These all may make sense and be valid, or they may just be someone’s imaginings, but here is what I say:

It doesn’t matter why God gave us these rules.

We have been given laws, ordinances, commandments, and rules regarding how we are to worship God and how we are to treat each other. There could be any number of reasons why God told us to do these specific things, but all we need to know is that he is God and he always wants what is best for us. We must trust that what he says we should do is the best way for us to act, and the best way for us to be able to be with God for all time in the hereafter.

I once read that any God who can be understood by the mind of man is not worthy of the worship of man. That being said, to try to understand why God gives us these laws is almost an insult to him, implying that we mere mortals, less than worms compared to God, could ever be on the same mental and spiritual plane that God is on.

Here is today’s simple, easy-to-understand message:

Stop trying to figure out why God does what he does
or says what he says!

You never will, and all you will end up doing is confusing yourself and possibly others. The only important thing to know about the rules we are told to obey that come from God is that they come from God, and if you can’t trust him enough to simply accept that and work within it, then you have issues of faith that you really need to work on.

Humans always want to understand the “why” of something, and I confess I am no different- my favorite TV shows are on the History and Discovery channels, especially “How It Works” and “How It’s Made”- I LOVE those shows!

The problem with us humans is that once we understand how something works, we think we are better than the one who first invented it! Oh, sure, I can take a car engine apart and put it back together, explaining how all the parts work, but I didn’t create it! I didn’t have that idea, that origination of thought that saw the internal combustion engine and was able to fathom how it works, designing the intricate parts and combining them in a way that made it function.

And when we try to understand why God says what he says, we are doing that same thing, which leads into the sin of thinking we are as good as God!

And you wanna know something? We aren’t!

So, if you are one of those who just have to know why God gave a specific instruction or regulation, please stop asking why and just accept that it is given for your benefit, to help you become more holy and to secure your salvation.

And, frankly, if that isn’t good enough for you, then you will just have to live with disappointment because you will never understand God, unless God, himself, tells you why.

And one last thing: if he does tell you why, keep it to yourself because I don’t want to understand why: I would rather obey from trust than from understanding.

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That’s it for today, so l’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!

Parashah Beshallach 2021 (It came to pass) Exodus 13:17 – 17

The Israelites are free, and instead of taking the quickest route to Canaan, God has Moses lead them away from that route and places them between the Red Sea and the desert.

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Pharaoh, after having had time to reconsider, sends his entire army after the slaves. The people become afraid and cry to God while accusing Moses of bringing them into the desert to die. Moses calls out to God, who tells him to stop being afraid. God opens the Red Sea so that the Israelites can walk through the sea on dry ground, while the Egyptian army is held back by a pillar of fire.

After Israel was mostly through, the fire disappeared, allowing the chariots to go after the people. God caused the wheels to get stuck in the muddy ocean bed, and when Israel was through and the army in the midst of the sea, God closed the waters on them and the entire army of the Pharaoh was drowned.

The people came to a place called Marah (bitter) where the water was not potable, but God had Moses throw a certain tree into the water, and then it was safe. Next, after two months or so, the people complained about the lack of bread and meat and said they should never have left Egypt (this becomes the standard kvetch for them throughout their journey). God tells Moses that the people will have meat and that he will provide them bread, as well, and he sends manna and has millions of quails land, literally, at their feet.

Immediately, the people rebel against God’s commands, taking more manna than they needed (which turned to worms the next morning) and gathering on the Shabbat.

The people travel on, coming to a place where there was no water, and again they complain. God tells Moses to take the Elders and his rod, with which he will strike a rock and water will flow from that rock. Moses, in his anger, asks the Elders, “Do you expect me to bring water from this rock?” He then strikes the rock twice, after which water comes out.

But God is angry with Moses for not giving God the credit for the water, and this one sin is enough to prevent Moses, despite all he does for the 40 years he leads the people, from entering the Land.

This parashah ends with the battle against Amalek, who came out and attacked the weak and defenseless Israelites who were at the rear of the marchers. In this battle, Hur and Aaron held up Moses’ arms, for when his arms were upheld, the Israelites prevailed, but when his arms got tired and he dropped them, the Amalekites prevailed. After they are defeated by Israel, God states that he will blot out the remembrance of Amalek.

Before I talk about this parashah, I would like to share some interesting information about Amalek and the Torah. God says he will blot out the remembrance of Amalek, which happens in Deuteronomy 25:19, and to honor that mitzvah, when the Sofer (the scribe who writes the Torah) is testing the ink or the quill pen, he writes “Amalek” down on a piece of parchment and then crosses it out several times to perform the very thing God said would happen, namely that the name of Amalek will be blotted out.

What I find interesting every time I read this part of the Torah is that when the army of the Egyptians comes out to the Israelites, they immediately assume it is to kill them. Why would they think that?

The Pharaoh didn’t want to let them go because they were serving as slaves- if there were no Israelites, then the Egyptians would have to do all that work. And, if he killed them all, then the Egyptians would have to do all that work. The Israelites were essential to the Egyptian economy, especially now that Egypt’s economy has suffered destruction. So, if anything, Pharaoh wanted to recapture the people, not kill them, but the people all cried to Moses that it would have been better for them to die in Egypt.

This makes no sense until we consider the one most important condition of these people- they were faithless. Hundreds of years of slavery created a slave mindset in all of them, and as such, they were unsure of themselves and had no faith in God. Even after the plagues, their faith was so weak that with each new challenge, they immediately felt lost and doomed.

The sad thing is that nothing has changed in the 3500 years or so since then. And not just with Jews, but with all people.

I’ll bet that when you read Facebook posts, or Tweets, or whatever, you see so many people who only see the worst possible solution. And not just with non-Believers, but within the body of Messiah, as well. Too often people only see the dark, the doom, the worst-case scenario, and those people are the ones who are, not surprisingly, also the most depressed, fearful, and sad.

I believe there is so much anger, fear, and depression in society today because we have kicked God out of his rightful position as king and savior. We reject his authority as creator, we remove prayer from school, we kiss-up to the godless who want to destroy Israel so that we don’t offend them, and we not only condone, but support sinfulness within the society, from gender-related issues to the murder of children as they are ready to leave the womb.

Instead of a society that honors God and his Messiah, we are a society that sacrifices to Molech (abortion) and emulates Sodom and Gomorrah.

Our government, schools, and (consequently) our society has rejected God and he will, as he has done throughout history, eventually reject us. In truth, I believe God has already rejected the United States, and we can’t expect any more blessings from him.

Now, don’t accuse me of being faithless, because I am not seeing a worst-case scenario: I am making a judgment based on how we have treated God and what has happened throughout history, which we read in the Bible. When God is rejected he waits, patiently, for those rejecting him to repent, but at some point, only God knows when (no pun intended), he decides the waiting period is over and it is time for judgment. I believe that given the state of things in America right now, we are entering into the judgment we deserve.

We have gone out of our way to be politically correct by not offending people who are, by their actions, themselves an offense to God, so when we side with those who offend God, well…what do you expect to happen?

The narrative of the Israelites traveling through the desert is a perfect lesson for any society, and that lesson is when you are faithless, you will never be happy. The books of the Prophets, Chronicles, and Kings demonstrate that when we are faithful and show that faith through repentance and obedience (James says faith without works is dead), then we are blessed and the people are secure. But, when we are faithless and show that faithlessness through disobedience, we become mired down with problems that we cannot solve, become subject to others, and live in fear.

There is little that we can do to change an entire society, although one person can make a difference- what about Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Castro, to name a few. If you ask me, the reason they were so influential was that they used the fear and faithlessness of the people to create a new god for them, one that did what they wanted it to do instead of the One who tells us what we should do for him.

This is one of the biggest lies that modern religion tells its followers: “God will do so much for you because he loves you, just as you are.”

God WILL do so much for you, and God DOES love you, just as you are, but there are two sides to the covenants he made with us, and the other side is that God will do these things AFTER we demonstrate our faith in him through obedience.

Salvation is free for the asking, but blessings have to be earned, and (for the record) the gift of salvation won’t be taken away from you, but you can throw it away.

Work on having faith, even in the darkest places, and temper faith with a bit of reality. God is faithful, one thousand percent, but that faithfulness means not only can we count on him for salvation, but we can also count on him for judgment and punishment for our sins. Remember this lesson from the Bible: we will be forgiven on a spiritual plane, but sin always has consequences in the physical world.

Faith in God doesn’t prevent tsouris in life, it helps us to persevere through that tsouris fearlessly, without losing our joy.

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That’s it for now: L’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!

Parashah Bo 2021 (Go) Exodus 10 – 13:16

As we continue with the plagues against Egypt, God sends locusts, three days of darkness, and the final and most terrible plague, the death of the firstborn.

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Before the angel of death passes, Pharaoh tells Moses that the next time Moses sees his face, he will die, and Moses says that is fine with him, but since Pharaoh has changed his mind all these times and still refuses to let the Israelites go, the final plague will be the death of all the firstborn of Egypt, from the lowliest animal to the son of the Pharaoh, himself.

God gives Moses the instructions regarding the lamb’s blood and how the Seder is to be performed. He tells Moses this is the first day of their year from now on, and that when they leave they are to ask for jewels and valuables from the Egyptians, who were more than happy to give so long as the people leave.

After the firstborn die, and Pharaoh tells Moses that all the people and all they have are to leave his land, God tells Moses that from now on every firstborn child or animal is to belong to God, as redemption for all the firstborn God took away from the Egyptians. Later we will see that this redemption was made through a tax.

I wanted to talk about how God kept his word to Moses when in Exodus 12:12 he said he would bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt, as well as Pharaoh, but as I read through the parashah something else “hit” me, so I will talk about that, but first, it is really interesting to see how God judged the false gods through the plagues.

Some of you may already know this, but I will present it quickly for those that aren’t familiar with the many gods the Egyptians have worshipped.

Egyptian godRealmPlague
Ra / AtumSunDarkness
OsirisAgricultureLocusts
SethStormsHail
GebSnakesMoses’ staff
ApisCattle / NileNile turns to blood
Cattle Blight
HequetFrog-headed goddessFrogs
Isisprotection from diseaseboils
AnubisUnderworld / deathdeath of the first born
PharaohDivinely empowered to protect and maintain orderAll the plagues

As you can see, these gods of the Egyptian polytheistic religion were, in one way or another, shown to be less powerful than the God of the Israelites.

That is interesting and of value for study, but there was something, as I mentioned earlier, that I find to be a spiritual message in what God told the Israelites to do, specifically regarding the feast of unleavened bread (Hag HaMatzot.)

As most of us know, chametz (leavening) represents sin and the feast of unleavened bread begins on the night of the Seder, lasting seven days. Seven, the number of completion, is also a special number with regards to the cleansing rituals which are described in Leviticus. When becoming unclean due to a discharge or after a woman’s’ time of Nidah (menstrual cycle) or after a skin disease clears up, the waiting period from the time of becoming unclean until being declared clean, after being inspected by the Cohen, is seven days.

I believe that God decreed Hag HaMatzot is to last seven days because it is representative of them being cleansed of the sin of Egypt that was on them all, for many of them had adopted the Egyptian lifestyle, diet, and even their religion. Now, this shouldn’t be a big surprise because they had been slaves for 400 years, but still and all, now they were being brought back into a relationship with the God of their Fathers, and he didn’t want any of the spiritual stench of slavery on them. By removing the chametz from their diet, they were undergoing both a physical and spiritual cleansing of the sin they had become accustomed to while in Egypt.

The Passover sacrifice is a thanksgiving sacrifice, not a sin sacrifice, and the purpose of this type of sacrifice is to bring us back into a relationship with God. The fasting of anything with chametz cleanses us, spiritually as well as physically, so that our communion can be complete.

Passover is coming around, again, and when you have your Seder and spend the next week eating matzabrie, matzo sandwiches, and other matzo recipes (my favorite is matzo with butter and salt), remember that you are not just obeying God, but you are cleansing yourself of both physical and spiritual chametz.

One last thought: generally, before the Seder, the Rabbi will inspect the home to ensure that all the chametz is removed, which reminds me of the Cohen’s inspection before someone was allowed back into the camp.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!