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.

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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!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Parashah Tzav 2019 (Command) Leviticus 6 – 8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

and in Nehemiah 6:14-15 we read:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                          Hazak, hazak, v’nit’chazek!

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

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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