Parashah Vayyera (And he appeared) Genesis 18 – 22

We begin with Abraham sitting under the terebinths just chilling out when three men (who are really angels) appear to him. He performs the usual act of kindness that was culturally expected of him, asking them to stay, wash their feet and giving them food and drink. After partaking of his hospitality, one of the three tells him that next year Sarah will have given birth to a boy. Sarah laughs (hence the name Yitzchak, which means “to laugh”) and as they leave one of them tells Abraham what is to happen to Sodom and Gomorrah.

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Abraham, thinking of Lot, pleads with the angel not to destroy the cities if there are but 50 righteous men found there, and the angel agrees. Abraham manages to negotiate down to saving the city for the sake of just 10 righteous men, but there weren’t even that many.

The angels find Lot and are invited to his house overnight, but the men of the city come to force the strangers to participate in homosexual sex  (hence the term “sodomize”), and to prevent that Lot offers his two virgin daughters instead. Before anything can happen, the men of the city are struck blind by the angels, who tell Lot to get out of Dodge now. Lot delays until the early morning and is forcibly taken out, with his daughters and his wife. The wife lags behind and looks back, which results in her being turned into a pillar of salt, while Lot escapes the destruction with his two daughters,

They live in a cave and the daughters get him drunk so that without his knowledge they sleep with him, one daughter one night and the other daughter a second night. They are each impregnated and their children give rise to two of the ancient enemies of Israel, the Ammonites and the Moabites.

Meanwhile, Abraham is moving on, as well, and settles near the kingdom of Abimelech.  As he had done in Egypt, he asks Sarah to pretend to be his sister and when Abimelech sees her, he takes her for himself as a wife. He never approaches her and God comes to him in a dream, warning him against doing anything to Sarah because she belongs to Abraham. God tells the king to have Abraham pray for him, and eventually, Abraham and Abimelech swear an oath of friendship and Abraham secures his rights to a well he dug, the Well of Seven (Beer-Sheva.)

The final chapter of this parashah is called the Akedah, the Binding of Isaac. This is one of the earliest and best known Messianic references since Abraham is asked to sacrifice his only son, indicating the future sacrifice of the Messiah by God. We all know the story: Abraham takes Isaac to a place God tells him about, which is Mount Moriah. Isaac is bound and placed on a pyre, and just as Abraham is about to kill him, an angel calls from heaven to stop. God tells Abraham that because of this act of faithful obedience, the promises he has made will be fulfilled. Abraham sees a ram stuck by its horns in a bush, and sacrifices that to God (which is why the ram’s horn is the preferred horn to be used for the Shofar.)

I am interested in the situation with Lot’s two daughters who escaped with him. We read in Genesis 19:14 that Lot went to his sons-in-law to ask them to join him in leaving the city, so it seems that Lot also had two married daughters. Sadly, they and their husbands did not take Lot seriously when he told them the city would be destroyed. Those daughters had become subjects of their environment, choosing to reject salvation in order to remain in the sinful city, despite the fact that their father told them of the coming destruction.

The two daughters who escaped with Lot performed a heinous act by seducing their own father in order to make sure that his bloodline continued. They were true “daughters of Sodom” and by their actions demonstrated not only were they comfortable with the sexual perversity of the place where they grew up but that they also had no faith in God.

Abraham was truly unique, growing up in a paganistic environment, yet knowing and believing in the one, true God. His environment didn’t affect his righteousness or his morals. However, even though Lot was raised by Abraham, a righteous man, Lot did not learn anything from Abraham. Abraham was humble and generous, but Lot was self-centered and selfish. We can see this when Abraham asked Lot to choose where he will settle, and Lot chose the best possible land, despite its proximity to the sinful city of Sodom.  Lot married into this culture and allowed his daughters to also marry into the culture of Sodom, whereas Abraham made Eliezer promise to get a wife for Isaac from his own people, even though it was a fair distance away (Genesis 25:20.)

Are we allowing our children to be influenced by their environment to the point where they might accept sin over our advice? Are we careful to watch what they see on TV and in the movies? To control which video games they play? To know who their friends are and what their parents are like?

I was not able to raise my children, who lived with their mother two states away. Although I tried to see them every weekend, I was unable to influence them because the few hours I spent with them couldn’t overcome the “24/7/365” their mother had with them. Eventually, because I tried to show them the right way to act and get them to know God, which was against what their mother had been doing, my efforts resulted in them cutting me out of their lives. Thanks be to God, I have reconciled with my son, but his older sister still has nothing to do with me, despite my earnest pleas in a letter to her every year on her birthday. And it kills me that I have not been able to save their eternal souls by teaching them how to overcome their environment.

I see young people today that are totally blinded by technology and trust what they are exposed to by the Internet and the media, which are tools of Satan. Satan is the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2) and that is how what our children see and hear every day is delivered to them. Too many parents today are more concerned about being a friend to their child than being a parent, and the Bible is clear that without proper discipline, a child will not be saved (Proverbs 23:14.)

You may say that in today’s world it is impossible to prevent a child from being exposed to the sins and perversity of the world, and you would be correct. So how do we keep them from being absorbed into this culture of corruption?

By example. Parents, uncles, aunt, grandparent, friend…whatever relationship you have with a child, you must be an example of righteousness. Even if you are fearful of losing that child’s love or companionship, you must present yourself as an example of proper moral and spiritual living. The Bible tells us that if we bring up a child in the way they should go, they will remain in it (Proverbs 22:6); personally, I find this not to be true in every case. I am sure Abraham was an excellent example to Lot, and we know how that turned out. However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

You never really know in which way you are influencing a child until they grow up. I know many of the things I found uncomfortable and annoying about my parents ended up being good for me. And I didn’t realize this until I was fully grown, and appreciated it, even more, when I had children of my own.

Lot wasn’t a good example to his daughters, and what resulted from that was his children became sworn enemies of his uncle’s children. Eventually, the descendants of Lot (children raised to accept sinfulness) were destroyed by the descendants of Abraham (those raised to obey God.)

It’s never too late to start being righteous or to teach your children to obey God. I believe that the world is overpowering the youth of today, influencing them in a way that makes it very difficult for parents to fight against. When I was a child, we didn’t have anything that was as powerful an influence as the Internet, TV, movies and the media are today. The parents of today have an especially hard job when it comes to keeping their children “clean” because there is really no way, other than physical isolation, to prevent our kids from being exposed to the sinfulness of the world.

The only chance our children have is for us to be the kind of example that will shine so brightly and make such a lasting impression on them that even if they should stumble and fall victim to the world, they will always have in their memory the image of righteousness that might, one day, bring them out of the dark and back into the light.

Be the best example of righteousness you can be, keep vigilant, keep watching what they do, and keep praying to God for the spiritual and physical protection of your children. Just as Yeshua prepared and warned his Talmudim before sending them out into the world, we must do the same for our children.

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I wish you Shabbat shalom, and until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Parashah Noach 2019 (Noah) Genesis 6:9 – 11:32

In this second parashah of the annual Torah reading cycle, we read about one of the best known biblical stories, one which is found in nearly every civilization: the Flood.

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God is fed up with the evil things mankind has been doing and finds Noah to be the only righteous man, so he tells Noah to build an ark and that he and his family will collect all the animals of the earth to save them from a flood God will send. The flood comes, the people are destroyed, and after about a year or so Noah and his family, as well as the animals that were saved, can come out of the ark and repopulate the earth.

The lineage of the sons of Noah is given, leading to the story of the Tower of Babel. The parashah ends with the lineage from Noah’s son, Shem, to Abram (not yet called Abraham) and his brothers, and the names of the wives they took while they were still living in Ur.

Here are a few interesting notes about the flood:

  1. Before the flood there was no rain;
  2. Before the flood people and animals were herbivores; and
  3. Noah didn’t have one pair of every kind of animal: he had one pair of unclean animals but 7 pairs of clean ones.

We all know this story and I feel led to talk about something that is a lesson we can learn from it regarding parenting skills.

In Chapter 9, we read how Noah, drunk from wine, passed out and was in a compromising position, meaning he was not just “four sheets to the wind”, but he was also butt naked. Now Ham, the youngest son, sees this and laughs about it with his brothers. Instead of showing respect for his father as he should have and do what his older brothers did (which was to cover their father), he made a joke about it.

For this show of disrespect, he was cursed by Noah and from his line of descendants, we have the perpetual enemies of the Jewish people.

I read in my Chumash that Noah may have become drunk because this was the first wine ever made, and Noah was ignorant of the intoxicating effects of it. Personally, I don’t by that for a moment. What I see in this part of the parashah is a lesson for all of us, and especially for those who have children still living with them.

What we do as parents, whether on purpose or accidentally, will be seen, remembered and probably repeated by our children. We shape them with everything we do and say, and if we don’t show them how to respect and compassionately treat others, they will grow up and have a very difficult time in society.

Parenting is the greatest challenge anyone can face. Besides the handicap we all face, which is either trying to be like or be unlike our own parents, the lessons that were imprinted on us from the moment we were born are not only difficult to overcome but sometimes nearly impossible to recognize.

My mother was a strict disciplinarian and believed in corporal punishment, but my father did not. Consequently, there were arguments between them and often I felt this was my fault. Children always think it is their fault when their parents are arguing, especially if it is over something that has to do with the child. I remember sometimes my Dad taking me to the garage, slapping his belt on something and telling me to cry out, so that my mother was satisfied and he was, too; obviously, I thought that was a really good compromise.

Noah’s actions resulted in Ham being cursed and his descendants, for all time, serving his brothers. Now, of course, Ham isn’t blameless, and the fathers can’t be held totally responsible for their son’s sins (the Bible tells us this in Ezekiel 18), but we can’t totally absolve parents of responsibility for what their children do because we, as parents, are the ones who are responsible to train them.

In today’s world, mostly in the last 40 years or so, parents have lost track of their obligation to properly train their children by wanting to be friends to their children instead of parents. They try protecting them from stress and problems, tell them they are OK no matter what they do, and even deny that the children are “problem children.”

How many times have you seen a news report where a young man has brutally attacked someone and the police report that he is well known for doing this, yet the mother says her boy is a good boy? Parents who enable their children and don’t have the time to spend with them because they are so tired from working has led to a society of uncaring, discompassionate and sinful children. And they grow up teaching their kids the lessons their parents taught them.

This has resulted in our society becoming what it is today: composed of self-centered, ignorant and overly sensitive youth who feel entitled to whatever they want. If I want something, not only am I entitled to it but you have to make sure I get it. And if you say something that bothers me, you are wrong; it doesn’t matter if it is true or if you are saying it for my own good, if I don’t like to hear it, you are wrong.

The world demands people to speak compassionately, but it doesn’t want to listen compassionately,

I will not delve into all the different proverbs about how the wise person receives criticism well because we all know that is true. The way we tell people something that might be distasteful to them should be done with respect and compassion, and when someone tells us something about ourselves, we should listen with respect and compassion, understanding that if they say something cruel or nasty or just too frankly, maybe they are having a hard time, too.

Parents influence their children, who influence not just their children, but every single person they will ever meet for the rest of their lives. The way we treat each other is something like a geometric progression, growing and spreading out like hametz in the dough. If my parents don’t teach me respect, then I will not respect others and my children probably will live the same way. As will their children, as will theirs, ad infinitum or until someone breaks the mold.

Maybe this is why God told Moses that he will punish the children for the sins of their parents down to the third or fourth generation. I think God isn’t saying that the children will be caused to sin, but that their parent’s sins will be learned by them and this might take three or four generations before the cycle can be broken.

Always be aware of how you treat your children, as well as when they see you interacting with other people; listen as you would want to be heard, and if you know you have bad habits you have picked up from your parents, try to overcome them.

Remember all that God has done for you and always try to act in a way that will please him because although the third or fourth generation will suffer for your sins, he also told Moses that he will have compassion on those that obey him to the thousandth generation.

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

 

Sukkot Shabbat 2019 Message

This Shabbat is the Shabbat during the days of Sukkot, and the traditional reading is from the parashah Pinchus, specifically the chapter dealing with how to celebrate this festival. The Haftorah portion is from Ezekiel, where he relates the future of Gog and how Israel will conquer them as they attack and the victory will be so great that it will take months before the dead are buried.

But we’re not going to go into that today.

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The last day of Sukkot is called Sh’mini Atzeret (the eighth day) and known as Simchat Torah (Joy of Torah); in the Torah it is not named as anything other than the eighth day, but the traditional name is given because on this day we have reached the final parashah in the Torah and we turn it all the way back to the beginning.

And I can tell you this, having been blessed to be able to turn it back many times, that if you want forearms that look like Popeye’s, you can get them turning back a Torah!

The traditional thought is that God loved to be with his people during Sukkot so much that he extended it to eight days. The commandments in the Torah state we should celebrate for 7 days starting from the 15th day of the 7th month, but then after instructing us about which sacrifices to make, day by day, God tacks on the 8th day during which we are to assemble, again.

The reason we live in a Sukkah during this festival is not just to serve as a reminder of how God took care of us in the desert, but to also be a way to commune with God. It is thought that the Messiah will return during the Feast of Tabernacles, which makes sense. We have gone through Yom Teruah, beginning the Ten Days of Awe when we retrospectively look inside ourselves and see how far short we have come to meet God’s requirements, generating feelings of repentance. Then we come before God on Yom Kippur to ask forgiveness and be cleansed of these sins. Finally, we celebrate Sukkot, once again remembering how God has saved us and communing with him in the ancient ways our forefathers did, by living in tents. So, since we are cleansed of our sins and communing with God, that seems to be a really great time for the Messiah to come back, doesn’t it?

The last celebratory day, Sh’mini Atzeret, is when we turn back the Torah and get to read it, all over again, which is why it is also called the Joy of Torah. Remember what King David said about the Torah? In Psalms 19 and 119 he says this:

Psalm 19:9-10…The precepts of the LORD are right, bringing joy to the heart; the commandments of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever; the judgments of the LORD are true, being altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.…

and

Psalm 119:103How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

 

Reading the Torah is a joy because we learn who God is, see how much he has loved us, and are reminded of the promise of a Messiah who will one day bring us into eternal communion with God. Those of us who know the Messiah, Yeshua, already have that absolute joy of knowing we are “saved” from ourselves, and even though we aren’t yet in the presence of the Lord forever, we will be so long as we persevere by maintaining our faithfulness.

This year’s Sukkot is almost over, so we still have a few days for Messiah to return. But even if he doesn’t come back this Sukkot, don’t be upset. After all, it is only a traditional thought that he will return on Sukkot. The truth is no one knows when, and he told us that, so, sorry to say, there’s a really good chance you will still have to go to work come Monday.

Live each day as if it is your last, not letting go of yourself and being hedonistic, but preparing yourself for your Master’s return which will bring God’s Judgment Day.

My aim is not to convert or tell anyone what they must do, but simply to give you the right information so that you can make up your own mind. This is the time of the year (as I say above) when we expect Messiah to return, and once we come before God there will be no more opportunity to change what we do. Whether you worship and act as you want to based on your understanding of God’s word, or you worship and act based on what someone else told you to do, it is still your choice and you will be held accountable for it!

So… make sure you know why you are doing what you do. Amen!

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!

Parashah Haazinu 2019 (Hear) Deuteronomy 32

We are now very close to the end of the Torah. Moses is going to teach the song that God gave him to the children of Israel, so that when they go astray in the future and wonder, “Why has this happened to us?” they will remember the song, and know that it is because of their own transgressions that they have been left defenseless.

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The song, itself, basically tells how God raised up Israel to become a great nation, but they have been disobedient and rebellious children, and because they spurned their God, Adonai, he spurned them and allowed their enemies to triumph over them. But, at the end of the song, God states that the enemies, themselves, also have no wisdom in thinking that their victory came at their own hands, and was not allowed by God, so because their sins are just as bad as Israel’s, once Israel has suffered the punishment they deserve, God will rise up against their enemies and destroy them, saving his people.

After Moses gives this song to the people, God tells him to climb Mt. Nebo and look upon the land the people will inhabit, and after that Moses will die.

Pretty simple stuff here, isn’t it? God tells the people all he has done for them, all they did against him, rejecting him and disobeying, and that they will be punished. But, once they return to him, they will be saved.

And we, having the benefit of knowing the history that hadn’t happened to them yet, can see exactly how all this came true.

Today, Israel is a world leader in technology, farming, and military strength, fulfilling the promise God made to Abraham thousands of years ago, which was that his seed would be a blessing to the world.  Despite the fact that they are surrounded by enemies that vastly outnumber them, they have survived and are still surviving. Every attempt to dislodge them from their land has failed and based on what God said, it will always fail.

Israel has undergone her punishment; she is no longer being judged because now is the time for judging the Goyim, the other nations of the world.

Europe is being overtaken by militant Islamic population growth, and even Canada and Great Britain are kowtowing to Islamic pressure. The United States is still behind Israel, but within our country, we are so divided, politically and morally, that I fear we are being judged, as well. And when the US and Europe fall, the evil governments left in the world will take charge. At that time, all the nations of the world will come against Israel (Zachariah12:3) and then God will unsheathe his sword to drink the blood of those nations which have rejected him and attacked his people.

You know what? That’s all I have. Really! What else is there in this parashah except that we have been told by God exactly what will happen in the future, and why. When will it happen? No one knows- even Yeshua said that only God knows when this will come about; for us, the best thing we can do is to live every day as if it was our last one on earth. And not in a depressed, sad mood but joyfully. Get the most out of what you do, enjoy your family, work to maintain your friendships and don’t hesitate for a nanosecond to tell those you care about that you love them and are grateful they are in your life.

Finally, the last thing I want to ask of you is to always remember to praise and thank God for all he has done, all he is doing right now, and for whatever he has planned. The Acharit HaYamim (the End Days) will be terrible, and going through them will be horrendous, but just as the pain of childbirth is forgotten and replaced with total joy once the birth is over, so too, will we feel that complete and overflowing joy when we are lifted up into the clouds with Messiah.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and this being Friday, I wish you all Shabbat Shalom.

Parashah Vayyelach 2019 (and he went) Deuteronomy 31

Moses has come to the end of his road and the Lord tells him that he is to charge Joshua with taking the people across the Jordan into the land God promised to give them. Moses repeatedly tells all the people not to be afraid and tells Joshua in front of all the people, not to be afraid to go into the land or of the people there because God will go before them and destroy the people there, as he did with Og and Sihon.

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God tells Moses of the future, how the people will rebel against God and that he will have to punish them, which Moses relates to all the leaders. God also dictates to Moses a song which he is to write down and teach to the people so that when they fail to obey God and his instructions the song will be a witness for God that he warned them of what is happening.

As I was reading this parashah, I came to verse 4, where Moses says:

And the Lord will do unto them as he did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites, and unto their land; whom he destroyed.

and I thought to myself, “Surely there must have been someone who partook in those battles and was thinking, ‘I killed those men, myself. God didn’t kill them, I did!'” and at that moment I realized what I need to talk about today.

People, as a rule, are self-centered and usually don’t like to give credit for something they have done to anyone or anything else. Here we have a perfect example: the Israelites were the ones who fought a hand-to-hand battle against the Amorites, yet Moses is saying that it was God who destroyed them. How can that be if people were against people?

Now, with the Egyptians and the Sea of Suf (Red Sea), it was clearly God who split the waters and caused them to fall in on the Egyptians, and it was clearly God who caused the plagues, but when Israel fought against the people of Og and Sihon, it was man against man. How can Moses say God destroyed them?

The reason Moses said God destroyed the Amorites (and, for the record, he was right in saying it that way) is that more often than not God works through people.

The Bible is rife with examples of God’s plan coming to fruition through the actions of people. We have the case where the first king of Israel, Saul, had to be taken out of the way to allow David to become king. God struck him down by forcing him to commit suicide)because the Philistines were about to capture him on Mt. Gilboa (1 Samuel 28:4); when the house of Ahab was to be punished for all it’s evil, especially Jezebel, it was done through Yehu; the Northern Kingdom of Israel was punished by the Assyrians; and the Southern Kingdom of Judah was punished for their sins, especially the sins of King Manasseh, by the Babylonians.

Not all things God does through people are bad. He arranged for the timing to be perfect for Joseph to be freed from jail; he made sure that Samson’s strength returned to him in his last moments; he touched the heart of King Koresh of Persia and allowed the exiles in Babylon (under Ezra) to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple and the wall.

If we are doing our best to honor God in all we say and do and to follow the instructions he gave to us regarding worshiping him and treating each other, then he will bless us. He promises this to us in Deuteronomy, Chapter 28. He also promises that when we rebel and reject him and his instructions, we will be cursed. The difference between God blessing us and cursing us is that the blessings are actively given by God, and the curses come upon us when God no longer protects us, so they are passively allowed.

Blessings are given, curses are the result of not being under God’s protection.

And when wonderful things happen, even when we have worked hard to achieve them, it is still because God has worked it out for us by working it out through us.

If you are an artist and paint or sculpt a masterpiece, you may have been the one doing the actually work, but it was God who gave you the talent and the inspiration that allowed you to complete your task. If you are a teacher and you receive accolades for your work, it is because God has given you that talent and provided the proper students for you to make the best use of that talent.

Here is something that we all have to remember and be grateful for: God is behind it all, and when we do what is good we must first give the credit to God for making it possible. When I write or say something that is edifying and useful to spiritual growth, it is because God has given me the insight and the ability to do so.

It is as I always say: when I do something good, it is God working through me, and when I totally screw up, then I can take all the credit.

Always be grateful to God for all the good that happens in your life; not just for your successes, but also for your failures which he sometimes will orchestrate so you can learn a valuable lesson. When we are for God, he will be for us.

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Until next time, Shabbat Shalom and Baruch HaShem!

Message for Yom Teruah (Rosh HaShanah) 2019

This coming Sunday evening, September 29, 2019, begins the Holy Day of Yom Teruah, the Day of Trumpets.  This holy day, meaning a day specified by God to be a festival to him, is also a holiday (meaning a man-made celebration) called Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish New Year.  The first two days are to be a holy convocation, although this festival is not one of the three where we are required to go to where God placed his name, which was the Temple in Jerusalem.

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The traditional reading from the Torah on the first day is Genesis Chapter 21, and for the second day, Genesis 22; this chapter is known as the Akedah -the binding of Isaac. What is interesting is that these two chapters are more than just the story about Abraham’s sons; they also give us the reason for the continuing wars in the Middle East.

Chapter 21 tells us of that after Isaac is born, when Ishmael is 14 years of age, Ishmael makes fun of Isaac. Sarah, knowing that Ishmael is not her son and as Abraham’s firstborn would be the inheritor, tells Abraham to send Ishmael away. God confirms to Abraham that this is acceptable to him, as it is Isaac who is the son of the promise, and God also (knowing Abraham’s love for his son, Ishmael) promises Abraham that Ishmael will grow and become a great nation because he is a son of Abraham.

Hagar and Ishmael are given some provisions and ejected from the camp, left to live or die in the desert. When their provisions run out and Hagar is crying because she knows she and her son will die, an angel comes to her and shows her a well, where she gets water. The boy grows and does become a father to 12 tribes.

At the beginning of the next day’s reading, Chapter 22, we are told that after these things happened God called to Abraham and told him to take Isaac and offer him up to God. We don’t know how much time had elapsed from the ejection of Ishmael and this testing of Abraham, but most scholars believe that Isaac was a man by now, probably in his early 20’s or even older. We all know the story: Abraham faithfully takes Isaac the very next morning to where God leads him, Mount Moriah (the eventual site of Solomon’s Temple), ties him up and is about to kill him when an angel calls out to stop Abraham. Abraham is told that his faithful obedience will be rewarded with blessings and that his descendants will be a blessing to the entire world. Abraham sees a ram stuck in a bush, and sacrifices that to God.

For this reason, we use the horn of a ram for the Shofar, as a memorial to that ram which replaced Isaac on the altar.

Abraham is the patriarch of both the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 tribes of the Ishmaelim (descendants of Ishmael), who have been enemies from that time until now. The sons of Ishmael are today the majority of the Arab nations. I did a quickie Internet search and didn’t find anything that tells me exactly which current Arab nations are direct descendants, but it appears that the Assyrians, Babylonians, possibly the Philistines, and other tribes located throughout the Middle East all are descendants of Ishmael.

We also have to take into account what God told Hagar when she ran away from Sarah (Genesis, Chapter 16.) Hagar did this because Sarah was treating her poorly out of jealousy for Hagar having conceived by Abraham, even though Sarah gave her to him to bear a child Sarah could have for her own. God told Hagar to return to Sarah because the child she is carrying will become a great nation, but he will be a wild donkey of a man, with his hand against everyone and everyone’s hand against him. (Gen. 16:12)

I said earlier these two chapters give us the origin of the reason for the continuing war in the Middle East, and now I will explain why.

Ishmael is the firstborn of Abraham, and according to the ancient rules of inheritance he would normally be entitled to inherit from Abraham all that Abraham had. However, God told Abraham that Isaac should be the one who inherits, rejecting the rule of the firstborn. This may be the first time we see this happening, i.e. the firstborn not receiving the proper inheritance according to tradition, but it won’t be the last. Jacob is second born but will end up with the blessing and rights of the firstborn, as well as Joseph, who was far from being firstborn but was given those rights. Also, we see this happen between Ephraim and Manasseh, and many years later Solomon is given the kingship over his older brothers.

The constant battles in the Middle East, not just between the Arabs and the Jews, but within the Arab nations, Arab against Arab, are still about inheritance. The desire for the property and wealth of the land is what is behind these battles, although we who see the spiritual side know that it is really a battle of powers, not of people. It may be that the rhetoric is all about rights to the land, but in truth the land represents wealth. People may think that the Arabs are well off because they have all the oil, but Israel has water, fruit, produce, technology, and the best land available outside of the fertile belt in Egypt.

Sarah did not want Ishmael to inherit from Abraham, and that is still the basis for the Middle East wars, today. This is why no matter what people try to do to make peace there, it cannot be. The descendants of Ishmael are, by God’s decree, never going to be at peace with anyone. And Israel, by God’s decree, will possess all of the land that God proclaimed they should own, sooner or later. They have never had the entire territory God gave them to possess to themselves, although they came closest during the time of King Solomon. That is not God’s fault- the Israelites did not destroy the people living there when they should have so these indigenous inhabitants never really left.

The children of Ishmael may lay claim to the land by reason of their constant habitation, but the truth is that even though they have lived in the area, they never worked the land, never cared for it, never settled permanently, and were supposed to have been totally ejected when Israel first entered the land under Joshua. They are not there because they have a right to the land, they are there because of the incompetence of the Israelites when they entered the land, which has been a thorn in the side of Israel for thousands of years.

Rosh HaShanah is usually celebrated as a joyous time, but it is to be a memorial and ushers in what is called the 10 Days of Awe, during which we reflect on the past year and how well (or how poorly) we have lived according to the instructions God gave us in the Torah. We are to take it as a serious time for inner reflection and humble contrition.

However, most Jews will celebrate it as a happy time and greet each other with “L’shanah Tovah” (to a good year) and share foods that are sweet, to signify the hope for a sweet year to come.

I hope that you will celebrate this festival as God intended, but if you prefer to have a happy time, enjoy! But don’t forget to reflect and prepare for Yom Kippur because even though our sins can be forgiven through the sacrificial death of Yeshua, we still need to come before God humbly and contritely to ask for his forgiveness.

I will end today’s message as I always do, thanking you for being here, and asking that you remember to subscribe to this website and to my YouTube channel, as well. So, until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Parashah Ki Tavo 2019 (When you come) Deuteronomy 26:1 – 29:8

Deuteronomy is the final book of the Torah, and it is pretty much a recap of all that has come before it.

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

Moses has been going through his Third Discourse, and reminding the people of the instructions God has given them, how they have rejected him and been punished, and how he has forgiven them when they repented and blessed them, now (finally) bringing this new generation, born into freedom, to the very edge of the Promised Land.

This parashah begins with Moses giving the instructions for presenting the Firstfruits and goes through the blessings and the curses in Chapter 28: blessings for obedience and curses for rejection of God’s instructions.

What I want to talk about is not the Blessings and Curses, which is usually my favorite chapter in the entire Torah. Today I want to talk about what is written in Chapter 26, verses 13-15:

Then say to the Lord your God: “I have removed from my house the sacred portion and have given it to the Levite, the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, according to all you commanded. I have not turned aside from your commands nor have I forgotten any of them.  I have not eaten any of the sacred portion while I was in mourning, nor have I removed any of it while I was unclean, nor have I offered any of it to the dead. I have obeyed the Lord my God; I have done everything you commanded me.  Look down from heaven, your holy dwelling place, and bless your people Israel and the land you have given us as you promised on oath to our ancestors, a land flowing with milk and honey.” (bold print added)

This statement was to be made after the person presented the basket of firstfruits to the Levite. I have purposefully put the last sentence in bold print because it signifies, to me, the major difference between Judaism and Christianity.

Christianity stresses the personal and individual relationship between the person being saved, and their Savior. As a Christian, it is all about me and Jesus. But that is not how things are in Judaism: as we can see from this prayer, the individual takes responsibility for his or her own actions, but the resulting relationship is between God and the nation of Israel.

Jews are a nation, and act and work together as a single entity. One person’s actions affect the entire nation. We take personal responsibility, as well as social responsibility for all that we do. Christianity is a collection of individuals who have professed faith in Jesus, but Jews are a nation- one people, one purpose, one set of rules (well, with 6 sects of Judaism that all disagree, even within themselves, I confess we have screwed that part up ) and one relationship: God and Israel.

I am not saying to insult Christianity, but only to point out the significant difference in the relationship between Christians and God and Jews and God.

As an example of what I mean, after Joshua attacked Jericho, the next battle against Ai was a terrible defeat by Ai, a smaller and weaker force than the Israelites. How could that be? It was because of one man. In Joshua 7:1 we are told:

But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the Lord burned against the people of Israel.

Notice how it says the people of Israel broke faith: not one man, but the entire nation, even though only one man sinned. God sees his people as a person, and likewise, we Jews know that one person’s sin affects us all.

The relationship you have with God and with Messiah Yeshua is a personal one, in that God knows every hair on your head and hears every prayer you submit to him. This is a good thing, and there is nothing wrong, in and of itself, with the Christian view of an individual and personal relationship with your Savior. What that relationship needs, though, is more of a Jewish perspective, which is to see the bigger picture, the one where all those who worship God must act as a single entity; one mind, one set of rules (the ones God gave) and one purpose, which is to do what pleases God.

Too often Christianity focuses on what God does for you instead of what you must do for God, and even though they often say
“It is all about God”, what they “sell” is personal salvation, personal relationship, and personal blessings all coming from God to you.

It IS all about God: the whole idea of firstfruits is not just the apples and grapes, and not even your firstborn child, but your first thought, your first motivation, and your first desire must be to please God, which is done through following his instructions. Not doing what you think Shaul (Paul) said, not doing what Timothy does, but doing what God said to do, and taking it to the next (spiritual) level, which is what Yeshua taught.

My ministry will probably never be popular because I don’t teach what God will do for you, I teach what you must do for God. People don’t want to serve but to be served, and that is the exact opposite of how it works with God. God makes promises to bless and to save us from the consequences of our sin, but we have to make the first move.

God wants to take your hand in his and have that special relationship, but you must first reach out to him.

Thank you for being here and please subscribe and share me out.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Shabat Shalom!

Parashah Ekev 2019 (Because) Deuteronomy 7:12 – 11:25)

Moses continues to speak to the children of Israel, constantly reminding them of their travels through the desert and their sins along the way, and admonishing them, over and over, to remember all that God has done for them. He has kept them safe in the desert, their clothes and sandals didn’t wear out, and they received manna and water miraculously every day.

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

Moses told them not to become proud and think the land was given to them because they deserved it -they didn’t! They are a stiff-necked people, and the Lord was giving it to them in order to fulfill his promise to the Patriarchs, as well as to have the Israelites act as his weapon to rid the land of the unrepentant and sinful peoples living there. Moses tells the people that they are not to be afraid of the nations they are to dispossess because God will fight for them, as he has done in the past.

More than once Moses confirms that when the people obey God, they will be blessed, and when they disobey they will be punished and that if they continue to be sinful, then God will eject them from the land just as he did the sinful people before them.

Moses also repeats the command to remember these words, to teach them to the children, to wear them, and to post them on their house and gates, which is called the V’ahavta (and you shall love) prayer which was originally given to us in Deuteronomy 6:5.

What Moses was really telling the people was to trust in God to take care of them, but he didn’t say it that way. I think he was right in not coming out and saying something as simple to comprehend as “Just trust God and you will be fine” because, in my opinion, people can’t really trust. Whether it is God or their friends, or even themselves -people are, in general, untrustworthy and we know we are untrustworthy. It’s no wonder that we have trouble trusting in God because we can’t trust that which we can see and feel, so how can we trust that which is invisible?

Moses didn’t ask them to trust God, in exactly those words, but he did tell them to do something they could do: remember all that has befallen them over the past 40 years and that what God has done for them so far, he can, and will, continue to do so long as they do what they are supposed to do.

I think we can all agree that in those days, it was much easier for people to accept there was a God, some superior being that was the cause of the events that happened during their lifetime. Today we are so scientific and faithless that people tend to trust in their own power instead of some supernatural power. They want to be the ones in control of their life and often refuse to accept that there is any other way.

That is why today’s message is this: REMEMBER.

Remember the times when you had a close call and almost died; remember the times that you were sick but got better; remember the events in other people’s lives that you found hard to believe, either good or bad, and remember that the Bible has been proven, over and over, more and more, to not just be a storybook but an accurate historical document. That means that if the places and people in the Bible really existed, which archaeology has proven to be true, then the events these people witnessed must also be true.

We can’t see the wind as it blows past our window, but we can see the evidence of it by watching the trees and bushes move. We can’t see the birds in the trees, but we can hear the evidence of their existence. Most of the time we can’t see the pollen in the air but our sneezing, runny nose and itchy eyes prove it’s there. We know these things exist because either we have seen birds in the air and pollen on our cars, and many other things that may be invisible to the naked eye science has been able to make visible.

But science will never make God visible.  But even though we can’t see God, we can see the evidence of his existence everywhere. The only difference is that whereas science can prove these things exist when it comes to God, we have to be willing to accept the evidence as factual.

When it comes to the existence of God, you have to choose to believe in it: you must choose to believe that God exists, and the same goes for the Messiah, Yeshua -not just that he existed but that he was, and still is, the Messiah God promised to send. And that he is coming back to finish the job.

Whenever you find your faith wavering or your trust being tested, remember the evidence of what you believe and confirm for yourself the truth of you know.

Thank you for being here, and please don’t forget to subscribe. Share me out to help this ministry grow. I welcome your comments.

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

Parashah V’et’chanan 2019 (I Pleaded) Deuteronomy 3:23 – 7:11

Moses pleads, once again, with God to allow him to cross over the Jordan and enter the land, but God is firm and tells Moses he may see the land but will not cross over. Then he says, essentially, put a sock in it: Joshua will take the people into the land, you will die on the mountain, und das is alles!

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

Moses reminds the people about the wonders God has done, separates three cities on the east side of Jordan where the slayer can flee (Cities of Refuge) and tells the people that at Mt. Horeb (when God talked to them) they never saw God so they must never make any image of God. Then he reviews the 10 Commandments.

Throughout this First Discourse, Moses constantly reminds the people about how unique their experience is, having heard the voice of the living God and remained alive; he reminds them of how they asked him, Moses, to be their intercessor with God because they were afraid to hear God, directly.  As we will see throughout this last book, Moses is constantly reminding the people to obey the instructions God has given them through Moses so that they will be able to remain in the land.

Near the end of this parashah, Moses gives the people two of the most sacred and wonderful prayers in all of Judaism: the Shema and the V’ahavtah.

There is an entire lifetime of spiritual knowledge just in the Shema and V’ahavta prayers, and as wonderful and edifying as a study of these prayers would be, I am not going to be dealing with them today.

I want to talk about the 10 Commandments, specifically the first two. Do you know what they are? You may think you do, but I have found them mistranslated and misaligned (or should I say, maligned?) depending on from which religion you learned them.

Let’s start with the most accurate of all the translations, which is the one in the Torah. In the Torah, at this parashah (and it is confirmed hermeneutically when we compare it with the first time we hear these commandments in Exodus 20) Moses tells the people exactly what God said:

I am the Lord, thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee a graven image, even any manner of likeness, of any thing that is in the heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down unto them, nor serve them; for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the third and upon the fourth generation of them that hate me, and showing mercy unto the thousandth generation of them that love me and keep my commandments. 

I searched a number of different versions on the Internet and also looked at the JPS Hebrew-English Tanakh, my Chumash, and even my Tikkun, and did not find any three versions of this first commandment that matched. The Torah (from the Tikkun) has the statements about being the Lord and not making graven images as one continuous statement, yet in the Chumash, it is split into two separate commandments. A Catholic version I saw had the first commandment about being the Lord and the second about having no gods before him but did not state anything about not making or bowing before any type of image (no surprise there, considering the Catholic Church has graven and painted images that they bow before throughout their houses of worship.)

I saw a children’s rug that had the first two as (1) Love God more than anything and (2) let him be first in your life, while a non-denominational plaque had nothing about being the Lord thy God but the first two commandments were (1) not to have any other gods and (2) not to make any graven images.

From what I saw in these dozen or so different versions, the commandments always manage to come out to 10, but the majority of the time either they split the first one into two and have a single commandment at the end dealing with coveting, or they have the first commandment covering I am the Lord and no graven images and split coveting into two.

And, as we saw, some people think they can just restate and change the entire wording, thereby changing the meaning and impact of the commandments.

The important thing is, of course, that all of God’s commandments are there, and stated as he stated them. Considering the detailed manner in which each and every Torah is written to ensure that it is exactly the same as the one it was copied from, and how historical evidence has shown that ancient scrolls have matched almost word-for-word to the modern books in the Bible, we can be certain that what is in the Torah is as close as possible to what God actually told Moses to tell the people.

So, nu? What’s my point?  My point is that we need to read and understand these commandments as God gave them, not as people want to write them down. The Torah has the first commandment as I gave you above, which absolutely identifies God as the only God, the one true God, and the only God that brought us out of slavery. And we are not to have any images of him or any form of worship (including praying to) any other gods or persons, as well. That includes not just statues or paintings of God, but the image of Yeshua (Jesus) on a cross or the representation of a saint. And this includes the worship of sports figures, celebrities, or possessions.

Too many people have been taught too many things that are wrong, or at least, not with the impetus or meaning that God intended us to have. And the only way to know what is correct and what is not is to know the Torah, which is the most accurate rendering of God’s instructions. All the other books of the Bible, from Joshua through Revelation, do not have God speaking directly but only have people quoting what God told Moses. Even Yeshua’s teachings are taken from the Torah and the rest of the Tanakh, which is what God told the prophets to say, but was (in almost every case) said in the prophets own words; everything after the Torah is divinely inspired writing but not a divinely dictated statement.

My ministry is a teaching ministry. I am not going to tell you what to believe, but I will tell you where to find the information that you need so you can make an informed decision. I will also give you what I believe to be the correct meaning of God’s word, although I always warn and admonish you to read it for yourself. I try to hear the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) leading me to proper understanding, but I am a weak and sinful human being, so I do not trust myself to always be correct. That is why you need to not just hear, but test what I say. And, of course, that means to test what anyone tells you, whether they have a Doctorate in Theology or just read the Bible for the first time.

God can give different people a different understanding of the same passage, and each can be correct in its own way, so never accept anything from anyone at face value.

Let me finish with this: please remember that what you believe is your choice, and yours, alone, and you will be held accountable for it. So choose wisely.

Thank you for being here and please subscribe and share me out. I welcome comments and only ask that you be nice.

Tonight begins the day of rest so I wish you all Shabbat Shalom, and until next time… L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

 

Parashah D’varim 2019 (Words) Deuteronomy 1-3:22

This is the final book of the Torah. Moses recalls all that has happened and also reviews all that is to be done when the people enter the land that God has promised them.

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

There are three separate discourses in this book. The first recounts the past 40 years in the desert. The second discourse deals with the code of laws regarding worship, government, the penal code, and domestic life. The third discourse is all about the enforcement of the laws, with special attention paid to both the blessings for obedience and the punishment for disobedience. At the end of this last book of the Torah, we are told about the death of Moses.

In this parashah, Moses begins with retelling how he appointed men over the tribes to help him with judging and managing of the people. Next, he reminds them of how when, coming to the land, the people requested that Moses send out spies before they enter in. He relented to their request, which he said seemed good to him to do, but when the spies came back they gave a bad report which caused the people to rebel and refuse to enter. He reminds them that God sent them into the desert for that generation to die, and talks about their travels through the desert. This parashah ends with Moses telling of the destruction of Og and Sihon, the kings on the East side of the Jordan and his giving of their land to Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh.

Something is in here that was not in the Book of Numbers, where we first are told of the spies going into the land. The very first line of Numbers 13 says that the Lord told Moses to send out 12 men, leaders from each of the 12 tribes, to reconnoiter the land. Now, Moses is saying that it wasn’t God’s idea, but the people who suggested sending spies. Does that mean that the Torah is wrong? No, it doesn’t, but it does mean that an understanding of Hebrew and the cultural idioms of that time will result in a better understanding of the Torah.

The (alleged) order by God to send men uses the Hebrew words shelach lecha, which mean “you send out”, or in a more ancient form, “send for yourself.”  In other words, God was saying, “If you really want to, then go ahead and do it.” He wasn’t prohibiting this, but he certainly wasn’t commanding it. He was going along with what Moses decided was a good idea.

Now, in this parashah (Deut. 1:29-34) some 40 years later, as Moses recalls this, he chides the people for not having trusted in God in the first place. Yet, didn’t Moses allow these spies to go? Didn’t he think it was a good idea? So, even though the people initiated what turned out to be a rebellion and caused them to wander for 40 years in the desert, Moses was just as much at fault. Being the leader, whatever the people do he is, ultimately, responsible for. In this case, he wasn’t just responsible but an active participant. He also showed a lack of faith in God by allowing the spies to go. He should have simply said, “No! We dun need no stinkin’ spies! All we need to do is to trust in God, go in and take the land.”

What at first seemed to be something God commanded turns out to be what the people wanted, and what Moses agreed to allow despite God not confirming it. This is why I said before it is so important to read the entire bible, and it really, REALLY helps to know Hebrew (and Greek, I suppose, for the New Covenant writings) as well as the cultural norms of that time in order to have a proper and complete understanding of God’s word.

I am not saying you need to be a biblical Hebrew scholar or have to learn Greek in order to understand God and the Bible. I am saying that we all need to do more than just read the Bible, we need to study it. We need to have a library of biblical study materials, such as a Chumash, a Tikkun, the Interlinear Bible set and a good Concordance. These will help us to see the many diversified connections within the word of God. Hermeneutically, the entire Bible (Genesis through Revelation) is homogeneous, and no one part contradicts any other part. However, there are many places where it seems to be contradictory, which is why we need to study and examine everything in the Bible using good biblical references and study materials. Only through a detailed and thorough examination of the passages in the Bible can we find the real meaning of God’s word, and overcome the superficial misunderstandings that a cursory reading can sometimes result in.

Of course, the first and most important thing to do is pray for the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) to guide you and for God to show you what he wants you to know. Secondarily, use these study guides, Who knows? Maybe what God wants you to know he wil show you through one of these other books.

If you don’t have the study materials I listed, please consider investing in them. You don’t have to get them all at once, but when you use even just one of them, you will find more substance and have a better understanding of God’s word than you will ever get just by listening to someone else tell you what it means. Besides, how do you know that they even know what they are talking about? How many misinterpretations and outright wrong teachings have been promulgated throughout the centuries?

Each one of us will come before the Lord on Judgement Day, and each of us will have to account for what we have done during our lifetime. Those who have Yeshua as their Intercessor will be saved, but those who have not obeyed God’s word will have to stand on their own, and when they say “I was just doing what I was told to do”, I suppose God might reply with something like this:

“I understand you were doing what they told you to do, but it’s what I say that counts! And I told you everything you need to know in the Torah”

So, don’t miss out on what God is saying because you don’t want to invest the time in really getting to know the Bible. What you might be missing just may be the one thing that saves you from destruction.

Thank you for being here and please SUBSCRIBE if you haven’t done so, already, I welcome comments and only ask that you be nice.

I wish you all Shabbat shalom and until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!