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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Shabat Shalom!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Parashah Mattot 2019 (Tribes) Numbers 30:2 – 32

In the previous parashah, Moses had been reviewing the sacrifice requirements that were to be followed when the Israelites entered the land God promised to them. In this parashah, he begins by explaining the rules regarding when a vow is made. God had told Moses he was to die, but before that was to happen God had one more thing for Moses to do: destroy the Midianites.

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Moses took 1,000 warriors from each tribe and sent them to battle with Midian, in retribution for the sin they caused Israel to do at Ba’al-Peor. The 5 Midianite kings were killed, as well as all the males, and much booty was taken. The warriors had saved alive all the women and children, but this made Moses mad because these were the same women who, under the advice of Bilyam (who, by the way, met his end during this battle), had seduced the men of Israel into sin.  These captives were all killed, except for the virgin women. In accordance with the Torah, the men stayed outside the camp for 7 days, undergoing the cleansing ritual God had proscribed.

This parashah ends with the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of the tribe of Manasseh asking to remain on the east side of the Jordon because they were cattle farmers, and that land was perfect for raising cattle. Moses said that unless they first go into Canaan and do battle with the other tribes to conquer the land, they could not separate themselves from the rest of the people. If they are willing to first fight alongside their brothers, then once the land was conquered they could return and have their own land outside of God’s Promised Land. They agreed to that, and Moses gave them his blessing to remain on the east side of the Jordon.

For the record: although we are told that half of the tribe of Manasseh stayed on the east side of the Jordon, in Numbers 26:29-32 we learn there are actually 8 sub-tribes of Manasseh and only 6 of those remained on the east side.

The subject of vows, specifically how a man (father or husband) is allowed to void the vow of a woman, would certainly be an interesting topic to discuss, given this age of empowerment of women and equal rights. However, although I am not a coward, I am not going there because I do have something else to discuss.

Rueben was one of the tribes that rebelled against Moses and Aaron in the desert, under the influence of Dathan and Abiram. Gad and Reuben had, I am sure, become close to each other because they were next to each other in both the camp and the march for 40 years. Now, Reuben, along with Gad and Manasseh, seem to be continuing on this path of rebellion.

Moses acquiesced to their request only on the condition that they fight alongside the other tribes to do as God had commanded them, and to make sure that the other tribes are as well settled as they would be, before they could completely settle in their own land, outside of God’s Promised Land.

And that brings me to the point of today’s message: they chose to reject God’s Promised Land because they liked what they saw and wanted it now, instead of trusting that God would provide for them later. Yes, the land there was favorable for cattle, but there were places in the land of Canaan that would have served just as well.  Their choice to live where they liked, instead of doing as God had told them and trusting in him to make sure they would be provided for, demonstrated more of the same faithlessness that resulted in the death of 250 of their leading men. Eventually, they would be conquered by the Assyrians and disseminated throughout the world.

How often do we think that what we have now is better than what we might get? It’s like being on Let’s Make a Deal, and Monty Hall is asking if you want the prize you can see before you or the one in the box that Johnny is bringing down the aisle now? I suppose that Gad, Reuben, and Manasseh felt that way when they saw the beautiful cattle land before them and had no idea what was on the other side of the Jordon. They decided not to trust that God knew what they needed and was able to provide it for them, so they said they will stick with what they have now. Even though they were told that they would be on their own, they decided to take what’s here now instead of trust in God for later.

How often do we do that? How many times have we accepted what we see in front of us and settle for something that may not be what God has planned for us because it is easy and here, now?  Why wait for something that may or may not be better when I see something I like that is here and available to me right this second?  This is what God meant when he warned Cain, all those years ago, that sin is crouching at his door and he must conquer it. The here and now is what this world loves, but God is not subject to linear time and his timetable is based on what he knows is best for each of us. We want it now, and God wants us to have it when we are ready for it- BIG difference! And you know what? His timing is always perfect, and ours is almost always wrong.

The message today is that we must trust in God and not trust in our own feelings. We are, by nature, impatient and when we want something that we know God hasn’t provided, we are asking for trouble. We may not want to follow all the instructions in the Torah because they are harder than listening to our religious leaders who tell us we don’t have to follow them all. We may see a baked goods display at a banquet during Hag haMatzot (the seven days of no leavened products after Passover) and decide that we can forego the fast just for now because we can start it again tomorrow.  Or maybe we will accept that invitation to go somewhere or do something we know we really shouldn’t be doing, but it just sounds like so much fun we can have and I am really bored right now.

Selfishness and pride will always lead us to the same place…Sheol. God knows what we need, God how much we need, and God knows the perfect time to give it to us. We, on the other hand, have no idea what we need, and whatever we think we need we want more of it than we really do need. And we want it N-O-W!!

Gad, Reuben, and Manasseh rejected the promise God gave them to provide a land rich in good things and accepted what they saw in front of them which they liked and wanted to have now. We all have that same potential to reject God’s good things promised to be given to us later for the good things the world offers us right this minute.

We think in terms of immediate satisfaction whereas God’s plans for us are eternal.

Let me finish today with this question: why settle for a moment of pleasure when you can have an eternity of joy?

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

Parashah Pinchas 2019 (Pinchas) Numbers 25:10 – 30:1

At the end of the previous parashah, we read how Pinchus killed the Israelite man and the Midianite woman who were making a spectacle of Moses. Now, starting in this reading, God makes a covenant with Pinchus that his descendants shall all be high priests, because of the zealousness of Pinchus, which stayed God from destroying the sinful Israelites.

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Next, God orders a new census, and the results show very little difference in the overall number of the 12 tribes from 40 years earlier when they first came out of Egypt, although some tribes were significantly less, specifically Reuben, Simeon, Gad, Ephraim, and Naphtali. Note that when encamped and marching, Gad, Simeon, and Reuben were always next to each other; when I read this I remembered how Yeshua said a just little hametz in the dough spreads throughout it.

The new census confirms that all those who rebelled against God by refusing to enter the land when they first came to it were now dead.

There is one member of the tribe of Manasseh named Zelophehad, who never had a son but had 5 daughters, and they ask Moses for a ruling regarding their inheritance. God tells Moses that when a man has no sons, his daughters will be allowed to inherit the land, but they must marry within their tribe so that the land does not revert to a different tribe.

God has Moses climb a mountain to observe all the land and will soon be gathered to his people. Moses’s first response is not a plea for himself, but for the people to have a leader. Even when he is told he will die, his first thought is of protecting and caring for the people. God tells Moses to give some of his authority to Joshua by laying his hands on him in front of the entire assembly, and also before Eliezer the Cohen HaGadol.

The parashah ends with God reviewing the rulings regarding the daily and festival sacrifices.

When Moses laid hands on Joshua, symbolizing Moses giving his authority to Joshua, the Hebrew word used in that verse (Numbers 27:18) is:

וסםכת

which is pronounced “v-sam-chat”; from this word is derived the Hebrew noun Samicha (pronounced sah-me-cha), which in the Talmudic age meant to be given the rights and duties of a Rabbi. It is, in a way, a form of ordination.

We hear this word used in the Gospels. Not the Hebrew word, of course, because nearly every New Covenant Bible is based on Christian interpretation, but that word is what the one they used when the Pharisees asked Yeshua who had given him the authority to teach.

This occurs in Luke 20:2:

And spake unto him, saying, Tell us, by what authority doest thou these things? or who is he that gave thee this authority?

And in Mark 11:27-28:

After their return to Jerusalem, Yeshua was walking in the temple courts, and the chief priests, scribes, and elders came up to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you the authority to do them?”

The word that the Pharisees, Scribes, etc. would have used would have been “samicha”, which is what they were given when they were appointed to their position of authority. They were basically asking, “Who died and left you in charge?”

Yeshua’s answer was the typical Jewish response, which is to answer a question with a question. He never admitted to his authority coming from God, which should bring up the question, “Why didn’t he?”

I am not sure, but my guess is that it wasn’t yet time for his true mission on earth to be revealed. He told his mother when she asked him to help with the wedding that ran out of wine (John 2) that it wasn’t yet his time, and he also told his Talmudim (Disciples) not to tell people that he is the Messiah when that revelation was made by Kefa (Peter) in Matthew 6:13. Just the same way that when he healed people, many times he told them not to tell anyone that he did it.

Do we, as “Born Again Believers” also have a samicha? Do we have the authority to interpret the Bible, to preach, to advise or to explain to others about the kingdom of God?

I would say, “Yes, we do!”, because we have the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) indwelling in us and as such, we get a direct message from God. Well, we should- not everyone who professes to be “saved” acts the way they should. Myself, included. Yet, still and all, we are human and will never be as righteous as Yeshua was, so what we can do is take the samicha we have through the Ruach and use it as best we can, recognizing the tremendous responsibility we have to teach accurately and correctly.

And therein lies the biggest problem of all- how do we know we are teaching correct interpretation and leading people towards God, and not away from God? Even with the best intentions, we can deprive people of their salvation by leading them not to heaven but to Sheol with improper interpretation and wrongful teachings. As the old saying goes, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

My answer to that question is …I don’t have an answer. I can only say that the best way to be secure in your own knowledge is to read the Bible, listen to people who demonstrate through their actions they are God-fearing (words mean nothing- people don’t mean what they say, they mean what they do) and ultimately ask God to show you what he wants you to learn from his Word. The same passage can have different meanings to different people, and each person could be correct in their own interpretation.

What I would also recommend, as I finish this message, is that when you hear someone tell you what something from the Bible means, and whether it sits well with your spirit or doesn’t sit well with your spirit, go to the Bible and verify for yourself what is written, and ask God to show you what he wants you to know from it.

I chose to listen to read the Bible daily, pray for understanding, listen to others, verify it in God’s Word, and decide for myself rather than just accept what I hear from someone simply because they have a samicha. My ministry is all about making sure that you know what you are doing and saying because we will all be held accountable for our actions, and for my money, I want to make sure that whether I am right or wrong, it isn’t because I was too lazy to check it out when I had the chance.

Thank you for being here, and please don’t forget to subscribe to both the website and my YouTube channel, as well (the link is above.)

I have been running a Gofundme campaign to raise money to buy bibles and Bible study materials for three rural Ugandan Messianic synagogues who have asked me for help, so if you haven’t donated I only have about a week left before I have to close this campaign, and I am way short of my goal, so please donate something. Here is the link:

Ugandan Messianic Synagogue Help

I always welcome comments and only ask that you be nice.

Shabbat shalom and until next time…L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Parashah Balak 2019 (Balak) Numbers 22:2 – 25:9

The Israelites had just defeated Og and Sihon and were encamped outside the border of Moab. The king, Balak, has emissaries go to Bilyam (that is the correct pronunciation of his name), a sorcerer of renown, asking that he come and curse the Israelites so that they will not be able to defeat Balak’s armies. Bilyam, who is a sorcerer and user of divination (both of these considered sinful by Adonai) sacrifices and calls on Adonai for guidance. And Adonai answers him! He tells him not to go, and Bilyam obeys, sending the emissaries back to Balak.

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

This isn’t acceptable to Balak, who sends more important men with promises of greater reward. Bilyam tells this second group of emissaries (Numbers 22:18):

 And Bilyam answered and said unto the servants of Balak: “If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the Lord, my God, to do anything, small or great.”

However, after saying he can’t go against God, for some reason he again asks God if he can go, and God says if he is called then he can go. On the way, God sends an angel to prevent Bilyam from going, and although Bilyam doesn’t see the angel, his donkey does. The donkey avoids the angel no less than three times, the third time (with no way to pass) the donkey stopped and dropped to its knees. As Bilyam beats it with a stick, the donkey is given the power of speech by God and talks to Bilyam.  Then God allows Bilyam to see the angel, sword drawn and ready to kill, and Bilyam asks forgiveness for going and says he will return.

But God has a better plan and tells Bilyam to go, ordering him to say only what God gives him to say. Bilyam arrives, and three times instead of cursing the people, he blesses them. This infuriates Balak, who sends Bilyam back without pay.

The parashah ends with the Israelites being seduced into sin by the Moabite women, and in the midst of a plague sent by Adonai to punish them, Pincus, the son of Aaron, stays the plague by killing an Israelite and Moabite woman who were flaunting their sinful relationship right in front of Moses.

Later in the Bible, we learn that this seduction (which was designed to make the people sin and have God destroy them) was the brainchild of Bilyam!

There is just so much in here to work with. However, I am going to do something different than I usually do with this parashah, and talk about Bilyam’s seemingly schizophrenic personality.

Let’s first look at something Jeremiah will say hundreds of years from this time, in Jeremiah 17:9:

 The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceeding weak- who can know it?

Bilyam is a study in contradiction. He comes from Mesopotamia, the same place where Abraham came from, and we know that Bilyam knows of God because (as we saw above) he refers to God as “the Lord, my God.”  This makes him a “Believer”, yet he is also a known sorcerer and diviner, which God strictly forbade his people to perform.

Like Bilyam, our desires, our thoughts, and our actions are not always completely in accordance with our stated beliefs. We may be cruel to our loved ones, yet gentle and compassionate to a pet. We may worship every Shabbat and be “Born Again”, but we sin during the week and figure it will be OK because we will ask for forgiveness at services later that week.

Human beings are not perfect (oh- really? What a surprise!) and we will often do that which we don’t really want to do, and more often than not, not do what we want to do. Hmmm….doesn’t that sound like someone else you know? Maybe that nice Jewish tent-maker from Tarsus? (Romans 7:18.)

Bilyam did as God said when he first asked to go with the king’s men by refusing to go. But the second time they came back Bilyam was told that if the men call him, he can go but speak only what God tells him to say. Yet, after giving Bilyam the OK to go, God sends the angel to stop him, even if it had to kill him.

Why did God say go if he didn’t want him to go?

The Talmud says that audacity may prevail even before God. It states that Bilyam’s insistence to go wrested from God his consent to go, but God also warned him of the consequences, saying that he finds no pleasure in the destruction of sinners, but if he (Bilyam) is bound to go, then go. In that case, it makes sense: God already said not to go, but Bilyam insisted that he really wanted to go, so God said, essentially, “If you are determined to go, then go but remember that I already told you not to go and when I say something, I mean it!”

With all due respect to the Talmud, I have a different idea. I believe that the second time Bilyam asked if he could go, knowing that God already told him these people cannot be cursed because they are blessed, God said that if Bilyam was being summoned by the king by royal order, then he can go.

In other words, if Balak was giving a royal command that Bilyam must go to him, then God would give permission to go only so that Bilyam does not disobey a royal order. However, this second group was not ordering him to go, they were still just asking. There was no royal command to appear, so when Bilyam went, he was really going because he wanted the reward and intended to do as Balak asked, going against God’s commandment not to curse the people. That is why God sent the angel to stop him.

We all have the potential to be obedient and disobedient, based solely on our innate selfishness and iniquity. This is something that must be conquered, but to conquer it we must first take possession of it. What I mean is that we must recognize our own natural sinfulness; when we recognize what we are (know thyself?) then we can recognize what we are doing. How many people do you know that do something terrible without really realizing what they are doing? They speak cruelly to others, they act without compassion, or they steal and cheat but excuse it away. They do these things, and many times think they are really a nice person.

Since I have been saved by Messiah Yeshua, I say: “I used to be a sinner that rationalized my sins; now I am a sinner who regrets my sins.”

This confession of mine demonstrates what I am talking about- we were sinners who were saved when our sins were forgiven, but we are still sinners!! Being forgiven for our sins means being forgiven for the ones we have performed, not for anything that comes after. We are required to repent and ask forgiveness for every single sin we commit throughout our lifetime. There is no automatic forgiveness clause in the “Sinner’s Prayer.”

The lesson to learn from this parashah is that we are all sinners at heart, and only when we can own up to our own iniquity, realize that it is always there, and always will be there whether we are “saved” or not, then we will better be able to recognize when we do sin. We will also know when we want to sin and thereby work (with God’s help through his Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit) to overcome that sin.

One sin at a time. We can never be sinless, but we can always sin less; pray for forgiveness, ask for help in recognizing sin before you do it, and settle for one less sin each day.

That is my daily prayer, and I think it is a good one.

Thank you for being here. Please (as I always ask) subscribe and my campaign on Gofundme to send Bibles and Bible study materials to three Ugandan Messianic synagogues will be shut down next Friday, July 19 so if you haven’t donated, please do so now. Here is the link:

Ugandan Synagogue Help

Tonight begins the Shabbat, so Shabbat Shalom!

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

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.

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

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:

Ugandan Messianic Synagogues 

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.

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

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:

Ugandan Synagogue Help Effort

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.

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

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

 

Thank you for being here and please don’t forget to subscribe.

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