Parashah Chukat 2019 (Statutes) Numbers 19 – 22:1

This parashah has some interesting events, some of which are hard, if not impossible, to understand.

First, a red heifer is completely burned up, mixed with cedar, hyssop, and scarlet yearn, to make ashes that are used to cleanse someone who has become unclean, such as when touching a corpse.

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Next, Miriam dies and Moses and Aaron bring water from a rock but do so without giving Adonai the proper respect and honor so are punished by not being allowed to enter the land. Imagine…after 40 years of perfect service to God, they make this one mistake and they do not get to see the land God promised to the people!

They come to Mount Hor where Aaron is to die, with Eliezer taking over his duties as Cohen HaGadol. Later, the people rebel against Moses (again), and God sends serpents to plague and kill the people, who repent and ask forgiveness. This is when Moses sets up the brass serpent, so that anyone who is bitten and looks at the brass serpent, will not die.

The parashah ends with the conquering of Og and Sihon, the kings that ruled the land East of the Jordan river.

Every year when I come to this parashah, I usually talk about the serpent. I discuss how later in 2 Kings 18 we read about it being worshiped as an idol, and how the prophecy Yeshua gave in John 3:14 doesn’t just talk about the method of his death, but how Christianity will turn him into an idol, replacing worship of God, just like what happened with the brass serpent.

But I’m not going there, today.

Today I want to talk about the title of this parashah, Chukkat, and what it means to us.

There are three types of laws in Judaism: Mishpatim, which are laws we can perform and understand the meaning for, such as do not murder, do not steal, do not lie, etc.  There are also the laws that come under the title of Eidot, which are like a testimonial, such as the commandments to wear Tefillin (phylacteries), to eat matzah during Hag HaMatzot (the 7 days after the Passover), or to rest on the Shabbat.

The third type of laws are the ones for which this parashah is named, Chukkim, which we accept as divinely ordered, even though they are, for the most part, incomprehensible. Some even seem to be contradictory.

For instance, in this parashah, we are given the process for creating ashes to make us clean, but everyone associated with that process becomes unclean. The ashes, themselves, are kept outside the camp where unclean things are, but their use makes one clean.

Huh?

Also, the dietary laws (Kashrut) don’t seem to make any sense at all. For instance, why is an animal that chews its cud and has a split hoof clean, but an animal with a split hoof or an animal that chews its cud, but doesn’t have both these features, is unclean?  Why are fish with scales and fins clean but lobster is off the menu?

And why do we have to have 12 loaves of showbread (Exodus 25:30) that sit for a week?

Would you like to know the answer?  So would I. There is no answer, really. Human beings just HAVE to know everything, so we make up answers that we think sound good. But, when it comes down to it, we don’t know why God gave us Chukkim, and we will probably never know why.

And even more important is that we don’t need to know why- we just need to know that God said this is what we should do. And, frankly, if that isn’t enough for you, then you will have a problem going forward with your spiritual growth.

Here is today’s message: don’t ask, don’t wonder, don’t complain, just do.

Any questions? I hope not, because if you do have questions then you haven’t learned today’s lesson.

Faith is more than just confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see (Hebrews 11:1); real faith is doing something when you don’t know why you are supposed to do it, but you do it because God says to do it, and that is enough for you.

It is easy for someone to say they have faith in God and faith in Yeshua, but how can we or anyone else know that? Yes, we all know that God knows, but it is almost as important for you to demonstrate that faith to others as an example of what it means to know and worship God.  My regular readers have heard me say this many times: people don’t mean what they say, they mean what they do. Someone who professes faith in God, but ignores God’s instructions and lives their life the way they want to, is demonstrating a lack of faith. That is not the type of example which will help bring someone into the kingdom of God.

I don’t know why God gave the instructions he did in the Torah, and I don’t care why. I don’t need to know, I just need to follow them the best I can. That’s it. No answers, no explanations, no divine inspiration, and no supernatural understanding. All I need to know is what God told me to do and to do it.

Human pridefulness is the main reason we must know why, and here is how I handle that: I say, “Get thee behind me, need-to-know!” You DON’T need to know… you just need to obey.  And if anyone tells you why these laws were given and which ones you don’t need to obey, they are not edifying you or helping you become more spiritually mature; what they are doing is leading you down the pathway to destruction.

Thank you for being here, and please subscribe. Also, check out my Gofundme campaign to send Bibles and Bible study materials to three Messianic synagogues in Uganda who follow this ministry and have asked me to help them. I have to close this campaign in two weeks or so and only have about 1/3 of the donation amount I need. Please help with anything, and send the link to the campaign to everyone on your contact list. Here is the link:

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

Parashah Korach 2019 (Korach) Numbers 16 – 18

The story of the rebellion of Korach, Dathan, and Abiram is pretty well known, even to those who are not very well versed in the Bible. Essentially, Korach (a Levite) with Abiram and Dathan (Reubenites) plotted against Moses and Aaron, having seduced some 250 of the tribal leaders to follow them in this rebellion. Moses’s authority as God’s representative was challenged, as was Aaron’s, and God took care of this rebellion by first getting rid of the rebels. He had the ground open up and swallow the families and all possessions of Korach, Abiram, and Dathan, and also had fire come forth from the Tent of Meeting to totally consume the 250 men that were following them.

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Next, to silence the people who now blamed Moses and Aaron for these deaths, God had each tribal leader, including Aaron, place their staffs in the Tent of Meeting, and the next day the only one that budded was Aaron’s. In fact, not only buds but flowers and ripened almonds appeared on Aaron’s staff to demonstrate that he was the sole Levite to represent and have the honor of performing the service unto God.

There is a lot to work with in here, no doubt. But what I feel the need to talk about is not directly related to the story but to how the people reacted to the punishment God performed on the rebellion leaders. It seems reasonable to think they would say something about the miraculous way God punished these men who rebelled against him, but they didn’t do that.

They blamed Moses and Aaron for what God did. Despite Moses telling the people, over and over, that he and Aaron are nothing other than the spokesmen for God, the people saw them as the cause of these actions.

This is how the Christian world has depicted Yeshua (Jesus) for millennia. Despite how often we read in the Gospels that Yeshua constantly told those he healed that it was their faith that healed them, Christianity has taught that the credit for these miracles belongs to Yeshua, himself, even though it is written, clearly, that Yeshua gave the credit to their faith in God. Yeshua never took credit for the miracles he performed, except (possibly) one time, in Luke 5:12 when the man with leprosy said that if Yeshua was willing, he could make him clean, and Yeshua said that he was willing and cleansed the man of leprosy.

But even then, Yeshua said not to tell how it was done but to go to the Cohen to be declared clean in accordance with the instructions in the Torah and to give the required sacrifice.

Today, all too often, we do not recognize the true cause of something. This is especially evident on a spiritual level. There is a rise in antisemitism that is a spiritual battle, but the Enemy wants us to focus on something other than him. He will do his nastiness all over the world, but through others, because he knows that people do not have the discernment to see the true cause of these events.

Just as the Israelites in the desert blamed Moses for what God did, the Devil will have his representatives seem to wield power, but it will be him behind them.

We who understand this must try to make everyone else aware of it, even though we will not be believed by the majority. We cannot save the world, only those who are willing to listen to us, but to find them we must announce the truth to the world. We are looking for the needles in the haystack, and the only way to do that is to go through the entire pile of hay.

God has always been the power behind those who have performed miracles in his name, and the Son of Perdition is the power behind those who rebel against God. The people of the world are a physical facade of the underlying spiritual battle between God and those who want to usurp him.  They will lose; in fact, they already have, they just don’t want to face the truth of it. And their denial will result in their eternal damnation.

You and I need to make sure that whether it be politics, interpersonal relationships, or international agreements that we look for the true cause of the events we are witnessing, and remember that those performing these actions are only the conduit for the ones with the real power.

Thank you for being here, and please remember to subscribe. Also, I will be closing my campaign in just a week or so to send Bibles and study materials to Ugandan Messianic Synagogues who have asked me for help, so please- if you haven’t given, do so now. Anything will help. Here is where you can donate:

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

Parashah Naso 2019 (Take) Numbers 4:21 – 7

Moses continues to outline the duties of the Levitical clans, which began in the last parashah. After having ordered each family of the Levites to perform their specific duties regarding the Tabernacle, Moses moves on to further outline how the camp is to be set up.

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The unclean were to be removed from within the camp and placed outside of it. This is to safeguard the ceremonial purity of the camp.

Next, Moses details the process for a husband who suspects his wife has been unfaithful to prove her faithful or adulterous. This involves providing a grain sacrifice and her drinking of special water, accompanied by the woman pronouncing a curse on herself if she has been unfaithful.

The instructions for taking the vow of a Nazarite are reviewed, and then in Chapter 6, verses 24-26 God tells us how he wants the Cohen HaGadol (High Priest) to bless the children of Israel, which we call the Aaronic Blessing. This is also used in Christian services, and it goes like this:

The Lord bless thee and keep thee;

The Lord make his face to shine upon thee, and be gracious to thee;

The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace. 

Each of the 12 tribes brings a gift for the tabernacle, which comes to a total of six covered wagons and 12 oxen. These were distributed to the Levitical families for their use in transporting the tabernacle.

The parashah ends with the people of Israel offering an additional gift, each tribe giving the exact same things in the exact same weight and number:

one silver dish and one silver basin, both filled with fine flour mingled with oil, one golden pan full of incense, one young bullock, one ram, and one he-lamb of the first year (for a burnt offering), one male goat for a sin offering, and 2 oxen, 5 rams, five male goats, and five male lambs all presented for a peace offering.

Each tribe presented their gift on a different day until all 11 tribes (Levites were excluded) had given their gifts.

Today I want to talk about the Aaronic (or Priestly) Blessing, which is so beautiful; it is both simple in its form yet complex in its meaning.

The prayer is composed of three short verses, of 3, 5, and 7 words (in the Hebrew), gradually asking first for material blessing, then a spiritual blessing, and finally for the ultimate gift from God- peace. Traditionally, the prayer is to be offered in Hebrew and only by a Priest.

As I have often stated, not all traditions are bad, and as far as this one goes I would have to say that within the Messianic community (which would include Christians who are “Born Again”) it would be OK for someone to ask a blessing from God for someone else, so long as they invoke the name of Messiah when they ask.

You see, the Jewish requirement for only a Priest to give the Aaronic Blessing is based on the need for the person offering the blessing to be not just sober, but also worshipful, faithful, ceremonially clean, and prayerful. For most people, this isn’t going to be their normal state of being.

However, for those that have accepted Yeshua as their Messiah and have the indwelling of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit), they should “measure up” to these standards. By also invoking the name of the Messiah, any shortcomings in their holiness would be offset, so to speak, through Yeshua’s intervention.

When I have served in the position of Rabbi or Cantor (although I am not officially ordained as either) in the houses of worship which I have attended over the years, I offered this prayer in Hebrew just as it is, not invoking the name of Yeshua. I also then repeated it in English for the benefit of those who didn’t know what the Hebrew meant. I do not believe that I was doing anything wrong by omitting “In the name of Yeshua, the Messiah” because at that time, I was in the position and authority of a Cohen. However, if I was asked to give this blessing to someone on the street, I might include a “B’shem Yeshua Ha Mashiach” at the end of it, just to be safe.

The Aaronic Blessing is both a prayer and a blessing because what we are really doing is requesting God to provide the things we specify; first, we cover material needs, then spiritual needs, and finally, we ask for God’s peace of body, mind, and spirit so that we can have complete joy.

In conclusion of today’s message, let me offer this blessing to you in the name of our Messiah, Yeshua (click on the link and make sure your audio is not muted):

Aaronic Blessing

 

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Tonight begins Shabbat, so Shabbat Shalom, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Parashah B’midbar 2019 (In the wilderness) Numbers 1 – 10

This parashah begins the fourth book of the Torah. This book is unlike Leviticus, which was mainly legislative in nature. Numbers (the title is taken from the Septuagint) is more of a historical narrative, telling us what happened during the 38 years the Israelites were wandering through the desert.

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Now that I think about it, can we really say they were “wandering”? After all, God was directing their every footstep, and he certainly knew where he was taking them, so I think we should say they were traveling through the desert because in all truthfulness, they may not have known where they were going, but God did.

The parashah begins with God saying to Moses that he must take a census of the men capable of waging war, the result being 603, 550 men. Next, God tells Moses how to place the tribes around the Tabernacle and the order of marching them when they travel. God chooses the Levites as his servants and this Sedra (another term for the weekly Torah reading) ends with the responsibilities of each Levite family with regards to the movement and care of the Sanctuary.

I am stuck! What spiritual message can there be in this parashah? All we have is how many people there were and where the tribes were located. What deep, spiritual meaning can there be in this?

Well, maybe there isn’t any deep, spiritual meaning in this. After all, the Torah is a story; it tells us of God and his instructions for the way we should worship and live, but it also tells us about battles, love, rebellion, infidelity, jealousy, and murder. Gee- no wonder it’s a best seller!

Sometimes we have to accept that what we are reading now may not seem to have any message, but when combined with other parts of the Bible, there may be something we just can’t see yet.

For instance, after 38 years in the wilderness, before entering the land of Canaan Moses took the last census of the people (Numbers 30:51)  and that number is 601, 504. This means that after nearly 40 years, an entire generation later, the difference between those coming out of Egypt and those entering the Land was barely a 3% change. In essence, the population size remained pretty much the same, which shows that the land to be inherited, which was originally meant for the prior generation, would still be inherited with almost no change in the distribution because there was almost no change in the number of people.

What seems insignificant in Numbers 3, after reading Numbers 30 we can see is significant and does have a message for us, which is this:

What God plans to do, he does.

Just because there may be a glitch here and there, such as the entire population of adult males refusing to enter the land God brought them to, the end result will be that God’s plan will be accomplished as he originally intended it to be.

The same type of revelation can be found regarding the Tent of Meeting and the way the tribes are encamped around it.

In Exodus 25-31, we are given the very detailed instructions for the creation of the Sanctuary, the Tent of Meeting, which relates that the most precious metals and skins were the ones closest to the Holy of Holies, and as we moved further away from the Holy of Holies, the materials became more common until we end up with brass used for the tent pegs. In other words, that which is closest to God, which is the holiest position, is that which is the rarest and most valuable.

The Levites had been separated by God from the other tribes, and as such were made holier than them, and they were the ones closest to the Sanctuary, where God had his presence. The other tribes were around the Levites, further away from the holiest place. Now that we see both these parts of the Bible together, we can see there is a message, which is this:

As we each cleanse ourselves of the common, we become holier and will be closer to God.

We will always be in one of three states of spirituality:

  1. Getting closer to God;
  2. Not moving at all; or
  3. Getting closer to the Enemy.

It is up to us to choose which way we go.

Wow! I guess there was something in here, after all, which brings us to today’s final lesson:

Even when it seems that what we are reading in the Bible doesn’t have any deep, spiritual message, it may be only part of the message and unrecognizable as such until we read the rest of the Bible.

This is partly what hermeneutics is about, the fact that every statement in the bible is in agreement with every other statement in the Bible. In other words, what God says here is the same thing God says there.  That’s why what we are reading now, which may seem insignificant, will become significant when we match it with something else we read later.

Final thought for today: even though what we are reading in the bible may not mean much to us right now, it might mean much more when we get to something later in the Bible. In the same way, our lives may have events that seem insignificant or meaningless at the time they happen but may be very important because it is preparing us for an event that is yet to happen.

I believe God has a plan for each and every one of us, and we can’t see it until he decides we need to know what it is. That means as we are being prepared for something, we won’t know that we are being prepared for it, and that is OK. This is what faithfully living for God means. We are to expect that when something happens to us, and we don’t understand why, we trust in God that there is a purpose, a reason and that this event is not the end of it; in fact, it may be just the beginning of something greater yet to come. That could be more tsouris (troubles) or more blessings- we won’t know what it is until it is here. Just be patient, wait upon the Lord, and faithfully accept that what we can’t understand we will be made to understand if and when God deems it necessary.

Faith isn’t just believing in that which is unseen and unproven, it is living your life trusting in God and moving forward, even though you don’t know where you are going.

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This is Friday, so I wish you all Shabat Shalom, and until next time…L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Parashah Bechukosai 2019 (In my statutes) Leviticus 26:3 – 28

This parashah is the final reading from the Book of Leviticus.

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Up to this point, God has given us his instructions for how to worship him, the responsibilities of the Cohen, and how to treat each other within the society. He also has included the punishments for failure to do as he instructs. Now, in this final section, God does what the Prophets have done throughout the Tanakh, which is to tell us what will happen when we obey, and what will happen when we disobey.

It is very similar to one of my favorite chapters throughout the Torah, which is Deuteronomy 28 and is called the Blessings and the Curses.

Whenever a covenant is made there is a standard formula:

(1) The one proposing the covenant states the conditions of the covenant;

(2) He states what the one(s) agreeing to the covenant must do;

(3) What will result from compliance, and (finally);

(4) What will happen as a result of noncompliance

Today, what I would like to talk about is what God says will happen if we do not follow his instructions in this book.

In Chapter 26, God says he will punish us for our sin of disobedience 7 times over (and another 7 times over if that doesn’t work, and another 7 times if we still refuse to obey, and even ANOTHER 7 times if we have still refused to do T’shuvah), but his purpose is not to be punitive, it is to be corrective.

In Ezekiel 18 God tells us that he gets no pleasure from the death of a sinner, but that he would rather the sinner turn from his sins, and live. Meaning live eternally with God. This is not possible if we choose to live a sinful life and never to T’shuvah (repent.).

You may ask, “If God wants us to stop sinning, why would he curse us with tsuris?” (Yiddish for troubles)

The answer is that the mother of all sins is pridefulness. Refusing to follow God’s instructions is evidence that we think we know better so we don’t have to trust or listen to God. It is rebellion and means we trust only in our own power. So, since we think we are so great we don’t need to listen to God, he shows us just how incompetent, weak, and powerless we really are. The way he does that is to withhold the rain so our crops fail; he will make us infertile so we can’t have successors to carry on the family heritage or maintain our property; he will allow us to get sick and lose our health; he will send our enemies to decimate our family and fields; essentially, his punishment is to remove his protection, which leaves us exposed to all the evil that exists in the world.

You see- God doesn’t really do anything bad to us, per se’, but when he removes his protection and blessings, all the bad things he says he will do to us the world will do for him.

Often we hear people say the God of the Old Covenant is cruel but the God of the New Covenant is all about love. I don’t know how anyone who actually has read or learned about the Bible can say something so ridiculous: God is the same today as he was in the beginning, and he will be the same throughout eternity. The only difference is that in the Old Covenant God was training his people to become a nation of Priests to the world and in the New Covenant he sent the Messiah to fine-tune that training. Same God, same teachings, same rules, same instructions, only with a deeper, more spiritual understanding being given.

Today’s message is very simple and short (I know- surprising that I would ever give a short message!), and this is it:

Punishment from God is not punitive, it is corrective. 

The next time you feel you are being punished, review your life. Have you been disobedient? Have you been trying to live under your own power and not trusting in God’s power? Are you doing God’s work in the world (sometimes our tsuris is from the Enemy to stop us doing what God wants us to do)? Answer these questions carefully; look deeply into the mirror and decide if you have walked away from God’s Kippah (covering)? if you think that is the case, then return to him and follow the instructions he gave us all.

If you believe you are being attacked by the Enemy, then call out to God for more protection and help to get through it.

Terrible things can happen to godly people; in fact, we are told that they will happen. Do you remember you were told you have to pick up your execution stake in order to be able to walk with Yeshua? So steel yourself for the tsuris to come, and be comforted by the knowledge that there will be blessings, as well. Look for them and know that what seems to be a curse today might evolve into a blessing tomorrow.

Having reached the end of a book in the Torah, before we start the next book we say:

                                           Chazak, chazak, v’nit’chazek! 

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

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Tonight begins the Shabbat, so I wish you all Shabat Shalom and Baruch HaShem!!

Parashah Behar 2019 (On the mount) Leviticus 25 – 26:2

In this reading from the Torah, we are given the instructions for celebrating the Sabbatical Year and the Year of Jubilee.

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The Sabbatical year (called the Shemita) is the Shabbat rest for the land. Just as every seventh day the people rested, every seventh year the land would also get a rest. God promised that the sixth year produce would be great enough to be able to feed the land-owner not just for the sixth year, but for the next two years, as well, until the planting that started in the year after the Sabbatical year was harvestable.

Sounds just like the promise (that God kept, of course) regarding the collection of Manna on the sixth day lasting for two days over the Shabbat instead of morning to morning, as it did on the other six days of the week.

The Shemita also gave us rest from the burden of debt, in that all debts were to be released in the Shemita year. This was only for debts within the Israelite community and did not affect debts to or from non-Israelites.

The Jubilee year (called the Yovel) occurs the year after every 7th Shemita year or every fiftieth year. It is a year of rest, as well. Not just a rest for the land, but a rest from slavery or debt-bondage. In the Jubilee year, all property was to be returned to the hereditary owner and all slaves (again, only fellow Israelites) were to be set free.  In fact, the Jubilee Year was the basis for buying and selling of land and people in debt-bondage, in as much as the cost of land or freedom from bondage was to be prorated (you could say amortized) based how much production from the land or person could be expected by the next Jubilee Year.

Why all this resting? Didn’t God know about Type A personalities? What are they supposed to do with themselves when there is no work to be performed?

Maybe God instructed these different times of rest (Shabbat, Shemita, and the Yovel) so that we could have a moment in which to stop worrying about our life and start thinking about our eternity? Maybe God was thinking that if he made sure we had nothing that required us to concentrate on ourselves or what we were doing we could then concentrate on what is really important- where we will be going?

People are inherently self-centered. That doesn’t necessarily mean we are selfish or egotistic, it just means that when we receive input from the world, we identify and relate it to personal experience and understanding. Essentially, we are each of us the center of our universe, and as such we relate everything to ourselves. When we have nothing to worry about, nothing to occupy our time doing, we then can settle down and expand our vision, so to speak, to see things from someone else’s eyes.

In the Bible, God gives us his view of the world and the people in it. We are given the opportunity to see and understand things from a different viewpoint. And, when there is nothing else to do but study the Bible, we can mature both spiritually and emotionally because we learn to see things the way others see it.

Notice that I say we have the opportunity to see and understand other’s viewpoint- as with everything in life, there are those who will open their minds and hearts to others, and there are those that refuse to acknowledge anyone else’s feelings or opinions.

Every covenant and promise God has given to us, he has given as an open-ended agreement. He always keeps his end of the bargain, but we have the choice to accept or reject his covenants and promises. The way we demonstrate acceptance or rejection is through obedience. When we obey God’s instructions that he gave in the Torah (which Yeshua confirmed and discussed in spiritual terms), we will receive those things that God promised. When we disobey, be it by volition, ignorance, or instruction from others (meaning a religion’s doctrine), we reject God and will not receive all the blessings he has for us.

God isn’t just willing to bless us, he desires to bless us tremendously, and how much we receive is directly proportional to how well we follow his instructions. He wants us to obey as a love response and result of trusting him, but he doesn’t care why we disobey.

I am going to finish this message with what I believe is a really interesting thought- you don’t have to wait for one of God’s Shabbat rests before you rest. You can take a Shabbat any time you want to. Since I have retired, I am still active (as my ministry work online shows) but I am now in what I like to call a perpetual Shabbat. I don’t hafta do nothin’ if I don’t want to, and I am much more relaxed than I ever was when I was a member of the Rat Race. Don’t get me wrong- I liked my job, but I like not having to do it even better!

Enjoy the Shabbat that God has instructed you to enjoy. Take a break from your own life and learn about others. Expand yourself, emotionally and spiritually, by concentrating on something and someone other than yourself. You’ll find it very restful.

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I welcome comments and whether you agree or vehemently disagree, all I ask is that your comments be made in a nice way.

Tonight begins God’s weekly Shabbat, so I wish you all Shabbat Shalom!

Until next time….L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Parashah Emor 2019 (Speak) Leviticus 21-24

These three chapters deal with three topics: the cleanliness of the Priests who serve in the Sanctuary (as well as the sacrifices brought there), the Holy Days God instructs us to celebrate, and the rules regarding punishment for blasphemy and murder.

As always, I find so much in here to talk about, all of which may be edifying to us and help us better understand what God requires of us. Yet, so that you don’t fall asleep during this message, I will choose just one topic to discuss. And this topic has been so zealously argued that I don’t think anyone will be yawning. At least, I hope not.

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For the purposes of this message, let’s separate Holy Days from holidays. A Holy Day is a festival or celebration which God has instructed us to observe, whereas a holiday is a man-made celebration. God’s Holy Days are found in the Torah, and holidays are found in the other books of the Old Covenant and in traditional religious doctrine.

The 7 Holy Days God has commanded we must celebrate are:

Shabbat, the day of rest;
Passover (a pilgrimage festival);
Feast of Unleavened Bread (7 days);
Shavuot (the second pilgrimage festival);
Yom Teruah (Day of Trumpets, later turned into Rosh Hashanah, a rabbinic celebration);
Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement); and
Sukkot (Tabernacles, and the third and final pilgrimage festival.)

Pilgrimage festivals are the only ones where it is required to travel to the location where God places his name. During the time of the Judges and up until King David moved it, that place was Shiloh, where the Tent of Sanctuary was located. King David moved the tent to Jerusalem and once Solomon completed the Temple, the Temple was the place to go. After the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, Jews worldwide have had nowhere to go to bring a sacrifice so they can be absolved of their sins or celebrate the pilgrimage festivals as God instructed us to do.

To those of us who have accepted Yeshua as the Messiah God promised to send, his sacrifice replaced the need to bring an animal to the Temple in Jerusalem so we are able to receive forgiveness; however, we have to settle to go to Shul (Synagogue) instead of Jerusalem to celebrate the pilgrimage Holy Days.

Now let’s get into that heated topic I referred to earlier, which is this: because God instructed us to observe only these 7 Holy Days, is the observance of any other holiday a sin? Especially those created by Christianity, whose origins are found in paganistic celebrations.

I suppose we should begin with identifying what sin is: a sin, for the purpose of this discussion (and I believe it is a good definition for any discussion), is when we do something that God says we shouldn’t do, or, conversely, don’t do something that God says we should do.

So, with that in mind, let’s look at other holidays and test them against our definition of sin.

Let’s start with the Jewish ones, of which there are many. How about Rosh Hashana?  The Jewish New Year, according to God, is the first of Aviv (now called Nisan), but the rabbinical or civic celebration is on what God said is the Day of Trumpets, a day to be a memorial. From that day on the 10 Days of Awe begin, in which we all look introspectively to determine how close, or how far, we have been from obeying God over the past year. Since Rosh Hashanah is a form of a memorial, I don’t see celebrating it the way we do as being sinful. There’s also Sh’mini Atzeret, also known as Simchat Torah, the 8th day of Sukkot. We honor God and his word by celebrating the turning back of the Torah from the end to the beginning so we can start reading it all over again. That doesn’t go against anything God said we should or should not do, and it is respectful, thankful and honoring to God.

There’s Purim (biblical but not commanded), the different fast days, the 9th of Av, and any number of lesser holidays, none of which dishonor God or go against anything he has decreed. So, since we celebrate God, honor him and his word, and aren’t doing anything against what he says, according to our definition of sin, celebrating these man-made Jewish holidays is not sinful.

Let’s now take a look at the major Christian holidays of Easter and Christmas…Oy Vey!! -now we are in for it.

Here is where the majority say celebrating them is sinful. The Maypole (a leftover from the Asherah pole), bunnies and eggs (paganistic fertility symbols), the name Easter (the pronunciation is the same for the fertility goddess, Ishtar), the use of a tree and ornaments to celebrate the birth of Yeshua (Jesus) is similar to graven images and Druidic practices…all of this is considered sinful. And the intention of the ones that worshiped false gods on these days and using these items was sinful.

But did God say we cannot celebrate the birth of the Messiah? Did God forbid us from celebrating the fulfillment of the work of the Messiah, demonstrated by his resurrection?

It is clearly a sin to celebrate and worship Ishtar, Molech, Ba’al, or any Semitic gods or the gods of other religions; but, if we are desiring to honor the one, true God and his Messiah with thankful worship in our hearts, will the paganistic origins of those days and items used overrule the current intent of our celebration? In other words, just because once, long ago these days were paganistic rituals, does that mean when we worship God and Messiah on these same days that they are unacceptable to God?

I don’t think so. God is clear that we are NOT to worship any other God but him, and if someone puts up a tree, adorns it, and does so solely to honor Messiah and God, they are NOT worshiping another God. Yes, maybe the things they are using and the way they are using them was once the way someone would worship a false god, but that is not what Gentiles Christians are doing. They are doing so with the intention of being worshipful and celebrating God’s gift of salvation through Yeshua.

For the record: I, myself, do not celebrate any Christian holidays because I am Jewish, but if I was a Gentile Believer, I most likely would still celebrate Easter and Christmas for the reasons I state above, to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and to celebrate salvation through Messiah Yeshua (Jesus Christ.)

Throughout the Bible, both Old and New Covenants, God constantly makes it known to us that he is not interested in anyone just “going through the motions” but in what is in our hearts.  He constantly told the Israelites that their bulls, sheep, and other offerings meant nothing to him because their hearts were not in it. I interpret this to mean that so long as what we offer to God is with a grateful and worshipful heart, God will accept it from us.

I absolutely believe that when we celebrate a day to honor and thank God, he is more interested in why we are doing it than in the way we are doing it.

Therefore, in my opinion, celebrating Easter and Christmas with the intention and desire to be thankful to God and the Messiah is not a sin. If you eat ham at your Easter or Christmas dinner, well…that is different. That is clearly something that is a sin because God said pork is off the menu, forever.  But having a Christmas dinner, being with family and enjoying each other, celebrating God and his Messiah…really, how can that be wrong in God’s eyes?

Finally, it comes down to individual choice. If you don’t want to celebrate any festivals other than the ones God gave in the Torah, that is great! So long as you do that because you want to, and not because you are trying to earn anything with God. Likewise, if you give up something you like for Lent, celebrate Easter, put up your Christmas tree every year and do so solely with the intention of honoring God and Messiah, I believe God’s is fine with that.

There is, however, this caveat: if you do not celebrate the festivals God commanded in Leviticus Chapter 23 because you have been taught they are “Jewish” and not important to Christians, then you ARE in sin! Remember that our definition of sin is not doing what God says we should, and he clearly instructs us to celebrate these festivals. Even Yom Kippur, asking for forgiveness, is not done away with by Yeshua- we all sin, we all need to ask for forgiveness, and doing so in accordance with God’s instructions is never going to be wrong.

So, nu! There you have it! The bottom line, the Acid Test to determine if celebrating a man-made holiday is not a sin is this: if you celebrate a day to honor God and you do so with proper worship, desire, respect, and thankfulness in your heart, you will be OK.

Thank you for being here, please don’t forget to subscribe and share me out to your friends and family. I always welcome comments so long as they are respectful.

Tonight begins the Shabbat, so I wish you all Shabbat Shalom, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Parashah Kedoshim 2019 (Holiness) Leviticus 19 – 20

The Hebrew word “Kadosh” means “Holy.”  If you were to ask people what it means to be holy, most everyone will say something along the lines of to “be like a saint”, to be “serious”, or to be “pious and religious.” The one thing you most likely will not hear is “to be separated,” yet that is really what being holy means- to be separated from the common.

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Holiness is a state of being which is identified by the way we act towards each other and the way we obey God’s instructions. Too often, this means the instructions given by people in the name of the Lord, which we call doctrine or traditional worship. Most of the time these aren’t exactly what God told us to do. Christian holidays and worship practices, for instance, or Talmudic (also referred to as rabbinic) Halacha (the Way to Walk) are good examples of this. The traditional teachings of any Judeo-Christian religion usually have their foundation somewhere in God’s instructions, but they add to or (sometimes) over-rule the instructions God gave us, which are found in the Torah.

This parashah gives us, in clear and easily understandable terms, God’s instructions telling us how we are to be holy. They boil down to respect for people, honesty, honoring the Shabbat and following the instructions regarding sacrifices, and (finally) prohibitions against following the religious and social practices of the surrounding people at that time. Those prohibitions include sexual perversities and inter-familial sexual relations, as well.

God tells us (more than once) to be holy as he is holy. Even at the very beginning of this parashah, Leviticus 19:2 he has Moses tell the entire congregation that they are to be holy, for he is the LORD, their God and he is holy.  The problem we have with this is that we cannot be holy as the Lord is holy because, well…he is SO holy. He is perfectly holy, and we are woefully inadequate, so how can God expect us to be as holy as he is?

The answer is he doesn’t expect that of us- he expects that because he is our God, and because he is holy, we should be holy, as well. We are not to be as holy as he is, but holy meaning separated from the unholy. That means not doing what the unholy do, such as to treat each other with disrespect and take advantage of people. We are not to use unequal weights (cheat each other), we are not to use divination or sacrifice our children. We are not to have sexual relations with close family members, or with others of the same gender.  We are to honor the elderly, honor the Shabbat, be considerate of the less fortunate and treat strangers with respect and equality under the law.

To be holy doesn’t mean to walk around like some monk or religious fanatic; it doesn’t mean to talk in spiritual ways (so that no one can understand what you are saying), and it certainly doesn’t mean you can’t joke around, dance, drink or have fun with others. It means you are to live in a way that is separated from the unholy- that is all.

Holy people do not gamble their rent money away; holy people do not drink themselves into a stupor; they don’t act mean and unforgiving. Holy people do not cheat others, gossip or allow anyone else to pick on the weak and helpless. Holy people help others, even if the others hate and disrespect them.

To be holy as God is holy means to act in the way God (or Yeshua, for that matter) would act if they were in the same place at the same time you are.

It means to be separated from the rest of the world, not so much physically but spiritually and demonstratively. We who are holy are to show the unholy how they are to be; we are to be an example of what God wants from everyone. That is a two-edged sword because when we say we are holy as God is holy, then if we screw up and act unholy it reflects poorly on God. I am guilty of this, and more often than I care to say, but I have to confess that I often do not act as one who is holy should act. When that happens, I ask forgiveness from God because I have damaged his reputation. I really hate it when I do that, too. Fortunately, I am able to say that I am making fewer mistakes as I continue to work towards being holy. It is a life-long activity.

Be thou holy by remembering God’s instructions and trying to live up to them. We hear people say “It is all about the Lord!” but when it comes down to it, they are really concerned with what God will do for them and not what he wants them to do for him. It isn’t about us, it IS about him, and the way to show that is to be what he wants us to be, which is separated from the unholiness in the world.  Not in a physical way, meaning to shun and stay away from non-Believers, but in our spirit and in our actions so we can be examples to the non-Believers.

God instructed us how to worship and how to live with others, and when Yeshua was on the earth he showed us exactly what that looks like. The world doesn’t see the spiritual, it sees the physical, so no matter how holy you may be in your spirit if you don’t demonstrate that in the physical world, then you won’t be holy the way God wants you to be holy.

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Tonight begins the Shabbat so Shabbat Shalom, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

 

Parashah Acharey Mot 2019 (After the death) Leviticus 16 – 18

Chapter 16 begins after the death of Aaron’s two sons. God gives Moses the instructions regarding the Yom Kippur worship, sacrifice and how to perform the ritual regarding the two goats.

Chapter 17 deals with how to properly present a sacrifice, which must be done at the door to the Tent of Meeting and the order to not eat blood, which is the life of the animal.

Chapter 18 outlines the restrictions on improper marriages (intermarriage between close relatives) and a warning that child sacrifice and the religious practices of the Egyptians is prohibited.

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Leviticus 16:8-10 gives the instructions for the handling of the two goats for the Yom Kippur sacrifice, and has been a source of confusion over the centuries. Here are the instructions God gave to Moses and Aaron (Chumash):

And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one for the LORD, and the other for Azazel. And Aaron shall present the goat for which the lot fell for the LORD, and offer him for a sin-offering. But the goat, on which the lot fell for Azazel, shall be set alive before the LORD, to make atonement over him, to send him away for Azazel into the wilderness. 

 

The confusion that this passage has caused is because no one really knows who Azazel is, or even what it is. I have found the explanation that my Chumash has to be the most logical and reasonable one I have seen, and that is what I would like to share with you now.

Time Out: The Chumash I use is the book called “Pentateuch and Haftorahs“, edited by Dr. J.H. Hertz and published by Soncino Press, London 1965. The term “chumash” comes from the Hebrew word for five (chamesh, pronounced kwah-masyh), representing the first five books of the Bible, the Torah. Now, back to the message….

The Chumash tells us that in the Septuagint, the Hebrew word “Azazel” means “the one sent away”, which agrees with the Mishnah use of that word. The Vulgate uses the word “scapegoat.” However, we are told that the Hebrew word “Azazel” is not a proper name; rather it is a noun, which is rarely used in Hebrew and means “dismissal’ or “entire removal.”

This ancient technical term is used to describe the entire removal of the sins and guilt from the people, symbolized by the sending of the goat into the wilderness.

Many years later, the Azazel goat was hurled off of a steep cliff because the Talmud translated Azazel as “steep mountain”, so to send the goat to Azazel was to throw it off a steep cliff or mountain. I don’t know how they could have thought that was OK since the Torah is clear that God commanded it was to be left alive.

At an earlier period, the word Azazel was personified, meaning given a life of its own. This also happened with the descriptive words Sheol (underworld) and Abaddon (destruction), which were originally meant as adjectives but later given their own identity as a noun. From this personification of Azazel (also called Azalzel) arose legends and theories. For instance, one such traditional belief is that Azazel is foremost among the fallen angels who taught unrighteousness to the children of men. This is from the Book of Enoch. This belief that Azazel is a demon living in the desert was actually shared by Ibn Ezra and the great Nachmanides, as well.

However, when we think about it, it seems untenable that God would command we send a goat as an offering to a desert goat-god. In fact, in the very next chapter (Lev. 7:7) God specifically forbids making an offering to any goat demon. Therefore, the idea that sending a goat as an offering to Azazel, a satyr demon, is just ridiculous.

The idea that something God commands us to do later becoming something idolatrous is not so far-fetched as you may think. In fact, it happened with the bronze snake God told Moses to make in Numbers 21:8-9. God sent snakes to kill the Israelites as punishment for their rebellion (yes, they were still rebelling even after years in the desert.) When they repented, the bronze snake God told Moses to make and place on a stake was a symbol that they could look to if they were bitten, so they wouldn’t die. Many centuries later, we read in 2 Kings 18:4 how that symbol was turned into an idol, called Nehushtan. Here we have another example of how what God gave us as a symbol of his holiness and forgiveness was turned into an idol, i.e. a thing personified into a being. The same thing happened with Azazel; and that was by learned, pious men of the Torah!

So what does this have to do with us, today?  The lesson is that anyone, learned or unlearned, pious or sacrilegious, can make something out of nothing and use it to turn people away from God. Sports figures, Hollywood celebrities, political power mongers, or even something as simple and seemingly innocent as a lottery ticket can cause us to fall into sin and idolize a thing as if it were a person or entity.

Remember this: anything that comes between us and God is an idol.

Another warning is that extra-biblical documents must be read with care, not given the same importance as accepted scripture and always compared against the Bible to make sure that it is hermeneutically accurate.

The personification of Azazel over the centuries has turned it from a symbol of God’s forgiveness to a symbol of idolatrous goat-worship. This is not the first or only example of this happening. For this reason, we need to remember that anything can become an idol if we are not careful.

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This is Friday, so I wish you all Shabbat Shalom, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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