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!

Parashah Ki Tisa 2019 (When you take) Exodus 30:11 – 34

One of the greatest sins ever committed by a people occurs in this parashah reading. I am talking about the sin of the Golden Calf. And later on in this parashah, we are also given one of the greatest blessings we can receive when God shows himself to Moses and tells us who and what he is, which in Judaism we call The 13 Attributes of God’s Nature.

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We start this reading with God commanding that a census must be taken, and for everyone in the census, a half-shekel tax is to be paid. This tax was a ransom required for the taking of a life (not through murder), which was assumed to be necessary since this census was to know the size of the army, and everyone in the army would, at one time or another, probably take someone’s life.

God gives the formula for making the holy incense and other sanctuary items the worship of God requires.

All of this is happening while Moses is on the mountain. After some 40 days the people get worried and ask Aaron to make a god for them because they don’t know what has become of Moses (meaning, most likely, they think he is dead.)  Aaron submits to them and when the calf is made, the people revel in paganistic worship. God tells Moses to get down and take care of this, and when Moses sees for himself what has happened, he becomes so mad he smashes the tablets God made for him, the ones with the 10 Words on them. He splits the camp into those who will follow God and those who reject him, and the Levites are the tribe that takes action to kill the ones who have sinned.

God says that he is fed up with these people and he will send an angel ahead of them, but he, himself, will not go with them. Moses intercedes and God relents, and this reading ends with Moses asking to see God’s glory, which God allows him to see. God passes before Moses but prevents Moses from seeing his face. It is just before he passes that God announces his nature, which lets us know exactly what he wants us to know about him.

Obviously, there is so much in this parashah I could spend a year discussing it…but I won’t. In fact, you may expect that I will talk about the Golden Calf, or maybe God’s nature, but that isn’t what I felt today’s message should be.

I want to talk about Bezalel and Oholiab. Actually, not about them, per se’, but about what God says regarding them. We read that God tells Moses in Exodus 30:1-3:

And the Lord spoke unto Moses, saying: “See, I have called by name Bezalel ……and I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, …

and then later in Exodus 30:6:

And I, behold, have appointed with him Ohaliab, …and in the hearts of all that are wise-hearted I have put wisdom, that they may make all that I have commanded thee.

It should not come as a big surprise to anyone that the world refuses to see God’s influence within it. When I read about how God gave the skills and understanding to Bezalel and Oholiab, as well as other people, I thought about how we often talk about God’s intervention in our lives and give testimony to miraculous healings and other wonderful works of God in our life. These testimonies are always nice to hear, but what about when God intervenes and it isn’t miraculous? Have you ever thought that what you considered to be “normal” things was really God taking care of you?

I just underwent some kidney stone operations, and the Urologist was really great. As I am recovering and feeling 1,000% better, I am thanking God not just for helping me to heal, but also for the skills he gave the doctor to whom he led me. Not that an angel brought me in the spirit to the doctors’ office (which, I admit, would have been really cool!), but for the events that occurred before I got to the Urologist. I especially thank him for the doctor at the hospital where I had a CAT scan done who said I should go to a Urologist and recommended one to me.

You see, I first called my regular (soon-to-be-not regular) doctor’s office and told them I needed a urologist STAT (that’s doctor talk for ASAP) because I was in severe pain, and they didn’t even call me back for 6 hours. After one hour I decided to call the doctor that was recommended, and he saw me within a few hours that same day. The lack of response from my regular doctor also helped me to get to the doctor I needed, so (again) I see God’s intervention.
But what really is the most important thing is that God gave the wisdom and understanding to the doctors and nurses that helped me through this, and he did that for them many, many years before I needed them.

The lesson for today is this: we need to not just look for God’s intervention in our daily life, but also to appreciate that it is more often than not through the skills and talents he has given others. I believe we each have a gift from God, and that in his perfect time he will make us aware of that gift. This gift should be used to give glory to God, so when we have someone who is gifted help us, we need to praise God for that person. And I mean not just saying “Thank you, God” (which, of course, is the correct thing to do), but saying “Thank you, God, for this person and the skills you have given him/her.” I think in this way not only do we show God our thanks, but also acknowledge the blessing to the world he gives by means of the gifts of wisdom and understanding he gives to people.

Maybe I am making a mountain out of a molehill, maybe this isn’t such a big thing, but I think it is important to recognize not just what God does but to show our appreciation for how he does it.

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

Parashah Yitro 2019 (Jethro) Exodus 18 – 20

In today’s Torah reading we come to one of the most earth-shattering and influential statements ever made throughout the history of Mankind: God gives the world his Ten Commandments.

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I am so unworthy of commenting on God’s commandments- where do I start, and even more difficult to determine than that, how do I stop?

Let me cover some basic things without going into a lot of detail.

The first two commandments are generally thought of as one: the first is only that God is our God- I am the Lord, your God, who brought you out of Egypt. That is it. It is the second commandment that tells us not to have any other gods before the one and only true God.

The third commandment not to use the Lord’s name in vain to a Jew means not to use it at all, unless in a court of law. We do not use the Tetragrammaton (Y-H-V-H) at all, substituting Adonai (Lord) or HaShem (the Name) or Elohim instead of pronouncing the Name. This is done as a sign of respect for the holiness of God’s name.

As far as the Sabbath day commandment, I find it interesting that here God says to remember the Sabbath because, after creation, God rested on the 7th day. However, in Deuteronomy 5:14 God says to remember the Sabbath day because he freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. This remembrance of being slaves in Egypt is repeated throughout the Tanakh. I read that this is wrongly accepted as the reason to celebrate the Sabbath is to remember freedom from Egypt, but it really refers to the 7 days a week that they had to work when in Egypt. The Sabbath is (originally and still) a remembrance of God’s rest after creating the world.

The commandments also have a definite order of priority: the first four commandments are about our relationship with and duties to God, the next commandment about our duties towards family, and the last 5 commandments about our duties towards our fellow human beings.  This shows us how we should live our lives: in obedience to God, with respect for our family and with respect for others.

Too many religions teach that these commandments are the only important ones, and if we obey these alone we will be in heaven. Yet, there are a total of 613 commandments in the Old Covenant, and the New Covenant is based entirely on the Old one. There is nothing “new” in the New Covenant: Yeshua taught from and about the Torah (he was, after all, the Torah in the Flesh) and the Disciples and Apostles also taught from and about the Torah. The only thing that is new, if anything, in the New Covenant, is the fact that Yeshua taught us the spiritual meaning of these commandments. The Pharisees taught the literal meaning (P’shat) and Yeshua went beyond that to the spiritual (Remes) through the use of Parables (Drashim) so that we could grow stronger in spirit.

Yeshua told us that the two most important commandments are to love the Lord your God with all your strength, heart and mind, and to love each other, right? Did you realize these are not in the Ten Commandments? Yes, the first commandment tells us that the Lord is our God, but Yeshua quoted the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4), which is not in the Big Ten. The commandment to love God with all our heart, soul and strength is from the V’ahavta prayer, which is in Deuteronomy 6:5 and Numbers 15:40. The other commandment he quotes is in Leviticus 19:18, to love your neighbor as yourself. So does that mean Yeshua has done away with the Ten?

Of course not!

The Ten Commandments are absolute and the other 603 (from both the Torah and the Talmud) are the ways in which we obey these ten. What Yeshua gave us was (again) the spiritual understanding of what these Ten Commandments spell out in physical terms. We see this when he gives the Sermon on the Mount, saying, “You have heard it said…., but I tell you….”; he was confirming the Ten Commandments and expanding on their meaning.

I suppose this message is nothing more than just a simple reminder of what we are reading in the Torah. I don’t feel any particularly deep spiritual or revelatory statements coming from me. Perhaps something in here will spark an idea or God will use what I am saying to show you something you haven’t seen before. I hope so because I am drawing a blank as far as spiritual insight for today, so I will leave you with this last thought…. if you believe in God, accept Yeshua as your Messiah, and keep these commandments in your heart and daily activities, I think you will be alright.

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Tonight begins Shabbat, so Shabbat Shalom! May you have a restful and blessed Sabbath.

Parashah Beshallach 2019 (It came to pass) Exodus 13:17 – 17

The Israelites are now out of Egypt, and roaming in the desert. God places them against the Red Sea and Pharaoh decides he wants them back, so sends his entire army against them. God splits the sea and the Israelites walk safely across, with the army of Egypt following. God brings the waters down on the Egyptians and they are destroyed.

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After this miraculous salvation, Moses composes a song of praise to the Lord. The people continue on, and start to complain about no food or water. God sends manna and quails for them to eat, and when they come to a large pool of poisoned water God shows Moses how to make it potable. The parashah ends with the attack upon the Jews by Amalek, and through God’s help, Amalek is defeated.

Before I talk about today’s message, I would like to share a bit of interesting information regarding Amalek and the Torah. Some of you may be familiar with the stringent requirements for writing a Torah, which is done by a specially trained scribe called a Sofer. To test the ink and the quill pen used, the Sofer will write the name “Amalek” on a piece of parchment and then he crosses it out with a number of strokes in order to fulfill the commandment of blotting out the name of Amalek, in accordance with what is written in Deuteronomy 25:19.

 

What I want to point out from this Torah reading are the events just before the parting of the Red Sea (Exodus 14:10-16), which is when the Israelites saw the army coming after them and cried out to Moses, asking why he brought them into the desert to die. Moses, faithfully believing God will do something, tells them not to cry to him but to wait for the salvation that God will provide. Then what does God do? He asks Moses, essentially, “What are you waiting for?  Raise your rod and part the sea, then walk across it.”

We are continually told throughout the Bible to be faithful and trust in God, which Moses unquestionable did when in the face of certain destruction he told the people to wait for God to take care of them. But God wasn’t happy with that- he chided Moses for not taking action. That is a problem I see with too many people who profess to trust in the Lord, but who really think he is a God of enablement. He is not! He is a God of action.

In Isaiah 40:31 we are told to wait upon the Lord for renewed strength, but that doesn’t mean to literally sit around on your tuchas and wait for God to do something. Yes, sometimes we are to be patient and wait, such as when waiting for an answer to prayer, but for the most part, we are to walk in faith (2 Corinthians 5:7.)

We have all heard the expression “Take a leap of faith”, but what does that really mean? Does it mean to trust someone without any reason to do so? Yes, it can. Does it mean to take a chance and hope for the best? Yes, it can mean that, too. Does it mean to blindly rush into a situation and pray to God that he will make it come out alright? Well, that might be a little further than I would take it, but I suppose you could do that as well. I wouldn’t recommend it, though.

A real leap of faith is when we trust God, as he tells us we should, but not to the point where we are foolishly taking chances and expecting him to make it turn out well- that isn’t faithfully walking, that is testing the Lord. And we all know that is not something we should do (Deuteronomy 6:16, and again in Matthew 4:7.) What we should do is to trust in God by asking for his help in what we have discerned is the right thing to do, then instead of throwing the fleece before the Lord, we should just go ahead and start doing what we ask God to bless. If we are doing what is right, he will support and help us. If what we are doing is not in his will or is wrong in his eyes, we will fail. But, either way, we should be walking in faith by taking that first step to getting the ball rolling, and trusting in God to provide as we go.

Do not be like those people who always seem to be complaining that they are cursed or the Enemy is ruining their chances to do anything: sometimes they may be right, but in my experience I believe that most of the time people are just making up their own excuses and faithlessly waiting for some sign from God that he approves. They want to do something but are, in truth, afraid and faithless, so they blame God for their inaction by saying they are waiting for his sign of approval.

They will probably be waiting a long time- God wants us to walk and he will clear the path, but not until we start walking. It is our act of faith that generates God’s provision.

Therefore, if you have something you want to do that you believe is a calling from God, don’t be like the man in Matthew 8:22 who told Yeshua he wanted to follow him but first had to bury his father; if you feel a calling from God to do something, get out there and do it! Don’t wait for confirmation from people or from God- just get started. If God is with you, you will know it. And if God is not with you, then you will know that, too. I believe that when you ask for guidance and discernment from the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit), both before you start and all during your work, God will answer you.

We are to walk in faith, not sit around waiting in faith, so as the old song lyric says, “Boots- start walking!”

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Thank you for your interest and I always welcome comments, just please be nice when you make them.

Tonight begins Shabbat, so Shabbat Shalom and Baruch haShem!

Parashah Bo 2019 (Come) Exodus 10 – 13:16

We continue with the plagues God is sending on Egypt, yet sparing the Israelites in Goshen. Finally, the 10th plague, the death of the firstborn comes and God tells Moses how to protect his people living in Goshen from this plague. After such a terrible loss of life, including Pharaoh’s own son, the people are told to leave. They take many gifts (spoil) from the Egyptians, who are more than happy to give them anything to get out of Egypt, and God institutes the Passover and states this shall be the beginning of our year.

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The parashah ends with the commandment that every firstborn, whether human or animal, belongs to God as the substitution for the firstborn God took from the Egyptians.

There is a term used during the narrative of the 10 plagues that comes up very often; actually, two terms which appear no less than some 19 times. One is that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart (9 times) and the other is that Pharaoh hardened his heart (10 times.) Now, for God to purposefully harden someone’s heart so that they sinned, then punish them for that sin is obviously unfair and sinful, in and of itself, so how could a sinless and perfectly holy God do that? The answer is: he didn’t.

First off, we must understand that in the biblical days, everything that happened was ascribed to God. God has a plan for the universe, and whether things happen as a direct result of Divine intervention, or just unfold as God knew they would, in the Bible it is considered a direct result of God’s will. So, even if someone does something entirely on their own, it is (in the Bible) considered to be a direct act of God.  This is not meant to blame God, it is just the cultural understanding of that time.

We all have the freedom to decide if we will obey God or not. There can be a million and one reasons why we shouldn’t, and really only one reason why we should. That one reason is simple: He is God and we are not. As for why we shouldn’t, or don’t have to (anymore), people can rationalize any desire to be justified, at least in their own mind. What happens is this: we make up our own reason for disobedience, and repeat it to ourselves. Once we succumb to sin, it gets easier and easier to continue to sin, and harder and harder to overcome it. I learned from many years as a Salesman that the more you tell someone something, even if it is ridiculous, they will eventually believe it. God knew about Pharaoh from the start, and the warning to all of us is the same warning he gave to Cain in Genesis. 4:7

If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.

The first response Pharaoh had to Moses was in Exodus 5:2, where he said, “Who is Adonai, that I should obey when he says to let Israel go? I don’t know Adonai, and I also will not let Israel go.” Pharaoh had the opportunity to obey God, and he chose to reject God’s command. God knew this would happen, as he told Moses in Chapter 3 (Ex. 3:19- “I know that the king of Egypt will not let you leave unless he is forced to do so.”), so the first “hardening” came from Pharaoh. And as I stated earlier, because the Bible states everything is from God, when it continues from this point on to say “God hardened his heart:” that is not an actual accusation but an expression. Pharaoh was the sole cause for the plagues coming upon the Egyptians, and Pharaoh had the opportunity to obey God every step of the way, but HE chose not to.

We have the same freedom to choose that Pharaoh had, and we have sin crouching at our door, just like Cain did. I remember the comedian Flip Wilson, and his character Geraldine always said, The Devil made me do it!” That was funny, but in truth, the Devil can’t make us do anything- we do it. Old Nick may provide opportunity and even give us a strong incentive to do evil, but in the end, it is our choice.

You have no one to blame but yourself for what you do.

God is in control of everything, but that doesn’t mean he does control everything. God allows us to make up our own minds, and to choose whether we accept or reject him. And don’t think for a moment there is a middle-of-the-road position with God- he is totally binomial. It is or it isn’t, right or wrong, black or white, you is or you isn’t. Period.

Moving forward, next time you think the Enemy is attacking you, or that God is punishing you, think again. Think about what choices you have made recently, and make sure that if you really are under a curse that you didn’t bring it on yourself. Thank God that when we do screw up, we have forgiveness available to us through Messiah Yeshua. Do Teshuva (repentance), ask forgiveness in Yeshua’s name and make a better decision in the future.

If you ask me, this is the pathway we must walk. We will always sin, and as long as we continue to repent, ask God for forgiveness through Messiah and also through the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) guidance and the strength to improve our ability to resist sin, working to sin less and less every day, we will be walking the path of salvation.

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Tonight begins the Sabbath, so Shabbat Shalom, and may you have a blessed weekend.

Parashah Va-Ayra 2019 (And he appeared) Exodus 6:2 – 9

In this Parashah we continue with the story of God freeing the Israelites. Previously, Moses and Aaron were unsuccessful in getting Pharaoh to free the people, and in fact, made things worse. Now God tells Moses that he certainly will redeem the people, and the rest of this Parashah goes through the plagues sent against Pharaoh and Egypt, ending with the 7th plague: the hail that fell and burned on the ground.

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The lesson I want to talk about today deals with a very sensitive topic in the “Believing” world, which is the name of God, the Holy Name which is called the Tetragrammaton. The 4 letters that God uses to identify who and what he is, and was first used when Moses saw the burning bush.

I, personally, do not believe it is necessary to use or know exactly how to pronounce God’s name- he knows who he is and when I pray to him, he knows who I mean. The arguments I constantly see in Christian and Messianic discussion groups on Facebook are always, ALWAYS, a waste of time and energy and knowledge. However, I really like what the Chumash says, based on the great Rabbi, Rashi, as to how to understand these 4-letters, and I think this might be a good, meet-in-the-middle sort of teaching for all sides of the “Holy Namers” issue.

Up to this point in the Torah, God has been identified as the Lord or Adonai. In Exodus 6:3 he tells Moses that to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob he made himself known as God Almighty, but not by Y-H-V-H.  The scripture doesn’t say (I am taking this from the Soncino edition of the Chumash) ‘My name, Y-H-V-H, I did not make known to them’ but it says, ‘By my name, Y-H-V-H, I was not known to them.’

The difference here is significant. Rashi is saying that God is talking about the understanding of his nature and everlasting faithfulness to keep his promises. What they did not know was the eternal ability of God to perform what he said he would perform.

God told Abraham that his descendants would inherit the land, but Abraham never saw that happen. Abraham’s understanding of the name “Adonai” and “God, Almighty” was a finite understanding; he knew that God would do what he said he would do here and now. But to Moses, some 400 years later, God is announcing himself as not just trustworthy for the here and now, as the Patriarchs understood him to be, but forever. God is saying that his name meant God almighty, but now means God whose faithfulness and promises extend over centuries and millennia. What the Patriarchs understood was a promise to occur, but now God is telling Moses that this name, Y-H-V-H represents the fulfillment of that promise.

The Tetragrammaton is more than a name- it is an understanding, a significance and a manifestation of the promises God makes.

This is confirmed also by the many other references in the Bible to “God’s name”, which (most of the time) doesn’t mean the actual name, the letters that compose an identifying title or label, but his renown, his reputation, and the understanding of who he is.

The Tetragrammaton is not a label, it is a definition.

God is so far above us that even his name is beyond our ability to understand. The important thing is to know who God is, read and study his instructions to us so we can always please him, and accept that his Messiah is Yeshua, who sacrificed himself so that through him we can have eternal life. Those are the things that are necessary to know; how to pronounce a couple of letters is insignificant and will not affect your salvation at all. God sees the heart and has told us that numerous times through his Prophets- try to believe him on that and not believe the teaching of someone who tells you if you mispronounce God’s name you are praying to idols. They have no real understanding of what God’s name means.

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Shabbat shalom, and Baruch HaShem!

 

Parashah Vayyechi 2018 (And he lived) Genesis 47:28 – 50:26

This is the last Sedrah of the Book of Genesis. Jacob is now living in the land of Goshen along with his entire family. He calls to Joseph and tells Joseph that he will adopt Joseph’s two sons so that they will have an equal share with the other tribes of Israel. He makes Joseph swear to him that when he dies, Joseph will bury him in the cave with his fathers and not in Egypt.

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Before dying, Jacob blesses his sons; however, when we hear the blessings they don’t all come out very nice. He chides Reuben for having slept with one of his concubines and he tells Simeon and Levi they have a terrible temper and they will be split amongst the other tribes (which comes true- Simeon’s inheritance is within that of Judah and the Levites are distributed throughout the land, each of the other tribes giving them a little piece of their inheritance.) The other sons receive more favorable blessings, and Joseph receives the most compassionate and loving blessing of all. Jacob also tells his sons that these blessings are what will happen to them in the future.

Finally, Jacob dies and is carried by his sons into the land of Canaan so he can be buried in the cave at Machpelah with Isaac and Abraham. After this, when they have returned to Egypt, the brothers make up a story saying that Jacob said they should ask Joseph to forgive them. They did this because they were afraid that with their father dead, Joseph would exact revenge on them for what they did to him as a child. However, Joseph consoles them and tells them that what they meant for evil, God meant for good and they shouldn’t worry. This is the same thing he told them many years before when he first revealed himself to them in Genesis 45. Before Joseph dies (at the ripe old age of 110) he tells his brothers that God will bring them back to the land of their fathers, and when that happens they are to carry his bones there and bury him in the plot Jacob purchased for him in Shechem. Then Joseph dies and is embalmed.

This ends the Book of Genesis.

There is one line in this parashah that is considered to be Messianic, but not so much by Jews. It is part of the blessing Jacob gave to Judah and is found in Genesis 49:9-10. This is what Jacob says (NIV):

You are a lion’s cub, Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness—who dares to rouse him? The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his. 

Yet, in the NKJV there is a significant difference:

Judah is a lion’s whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up? The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.

Other versions include the word “Shiloh” in some form of the phrase, “until Shiloh come.”  Shiloh, which is the place where the Tabernacle was located until David brought it up to Jerusalem, has also been considered to represent the Messiah.

In the JPS Hebrew-English Tanakh, considered one of the best Tanakh translations, they don’t use the word “Shiloh” in the English translation, although it is present in the Hebrew. There is a footnote referencing the use also of “until Shiloh come” but in the translation, they say, “So that tribute should come to him and the homage of peoples be his.”

Why such a different translation? The Hebrew uses the word Shiloh, so why isn’t it used in the English? And why not the same with all translations? To me, the answer is obvious: the Jewish rejection of Yeshua as the Messiah is weakened if we recognize “Shiloh” as representing the Messiah in this verse. Jacob said he will tell his sons what will happen to them in the future, so this is not just a blessing, it is also a prophecy. Judah will be the leader of the tribes until a new leader come who will have the homage and rule over the peoples. This has to be the Messiah.

When Yeshua began his ministry, the king of Judea was Herod. He was not of the tribe of Judah. The people of Israel lived in their land but did not have a member of the tribe of Judah as king over them, so the scepter had passed from between Judah’s legs. In the past, under Babylonian rule, they still had a member of the tribe of Judah ruling over them; although he reported to Babylon, there was still a “scepter between the legs of Judah.” However, under Roman rule with Herod as king, the Sanhedrin was the high court but they were not able to pass a capital punishment sentence; that power rested with the Governor, Pontius Pilate, and the power over life and death is the ultimate form of kingship.

I believe the prophecy about the scepter passing from between the legs of Judah is a Messianic prophecy that definitely points directly to Yeshua. I understand, being a Jewish man, why the translation in the Jewish texts may not reflect this. In the Chumash, they talk about this usage of Shiloh at the end of chapter notes, under the title “Alleged Christological References in Scripture.” My, my… do you think the commentator was trying to dissuade us from accepting this as a legitimate Messianic prophecy?

Ultimately, no matter who translates what we find written in the Bible, it will be up to the individual to choose what he or she will believe. For those that have accepted Yeshua as their Messiah, asked for and received the gift of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit), trusting in the spirit will help them to see the truth of scripture. For those that are not so blessed, it will be much more difficult to discern truth from bigotry. Yes, bigotry: there are as many anti-Christian inferences in the Jewish translations as there are anti-Semitic inferences in the Christian translations.

But, we can take solace and have faith in what Joseph told his brothers in this parashah (Genesis 55:20): that which you intended for evil, God turned to good. The translations that reflect the personal and religious bias of the translator can still be overcome by God’s Spirit within us showing us the truth. And since Isaiah (55:11) told us that the word of the Lord never returns void, we can trust in God to make sure that those who are open to hearing the truth will find the truth, no matter which translation they are using.

As we say at the end of each book of the Torah: Hazak, Hazak, v’nit’chazek! (Be strong, be strong, and let us be strengthened!)

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Until then, tonight begins Shabbat so Shabbat Shalom and Baruch HaShem!

Parashah Vayigash 2018 (And he drew near) Genesis 44:18 – 48:27)

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We left the last parashah with Benjamin being taken into slavery by Joseph for having stolen his cup. Now Judah, who had told Jacob he would guarantee Benjamin’s safety, comes before Joseph and explains how if Benjamin doesn’t return to Jacob, it will kill the old man. Judah offers himself up to be Joseph’s bondsman in exchange for Benjamin’s freedom.

With this act of self-sacrifice, as well as previously having heard the brothers blaming their rough treatment by Joseph as their rightful punishment for what they did to their brother (they didn’t know he could understand them), he is no longer able to contain himself and reveals his true identity to them. Once they get over the shock of who Joseph is, he orders them to go back to Canaan and bring the entire family down to Egypt to stay in Goshen. Pharaoh hears of this and confirms Joseph’s orders, giving them wagons to carry everything and giving them the land of Goshen to live in.

The famine continues and the Egyptian people have no more money left to buy food, so over the remaining years of the famine they end up selling their cattle, their land and even themselves, so that at the end of the famine Pharaoh is not only the ruler over all of Egypt, but he also owns all the land, the people and receives 20% of all they produce.

I have found the reference in Genesis 46:3 to be of interest for today’s message. Jacob has stopped at Beer-sheba to offer sacrifice to God, and apparently to see if this trip is OK, since God had told his father, Isaac, not to go to Egypt. God tells Jacob that it is permitted for him to go; and, not just that, but God will go there with him, and also will bring him back to the land of his fathers. God promises that while in Egypt he will make a great nation out of Jacob.

An interesting note in the Chumash is that Rashi and Kimchi commented that when God promised to bring Jacob up again, he was referring to Jacob, alone, meaning that he would be brought back to Hebron to be to be buried. This event happens in Genesis 50:13. However, I believe (with all due respect to these learned men) that God was looking more down the road, and meant that he would return the entire nation of Israel to their land, not just Jacob. In either case, both of these things did happen, so perhaps God was speaking of both the man Jacob and the nation of Israel?

Back to the main discussion…Joseph tells his brothers, when he reveals himself to them, not to be upset with themselves because it was really God who sent him to Egypt. This indicates Joseph’s faith and spiritual maturity to understand that God is behind everything, but often uses people to intervene for him. Joseph is saying that although the brothers thought they were acting on their own, God was behind it. We see this throughout the Bible: God is behind Pharaoh refusing to let the people go in order that God’s glory be made manifest throughout the world; God is working behind the scenes with Shimshon (Samson) inciting him to marry a Philistine woman, which leads to a cause for his revenge, which leads to the beginning of freeing Israel from the Philistine rule; God worked through Nebuchadnezzar to show Daniel the future; God was working through the Assyrians to punish Israel (the Northern Tribes); God was working through Babylonian rule to punish Judea; and God’s influence was behind Pontius Pilate and the Sanhedrin to help Yeshua in his plan to provide salvation for the world.

God is in charge and able to make happen whatever he wants to make happen. And, even though we all have Free Will to choose what we will do, he can still make things happen as he wants them to. It may mean waiting for another person to come along, it may mean intervening miraculously, and it may mean using a backup plan.

I like the imagery I once was told (supposedly a Jewish mindset) of how free will and predestination can exist together: God is the captain of a ship that is going from one port to another. As it stops along the way, people can get on or get off, according to their own desire. The ship may sail straight, it may take a detour, or it may not move at all for a while. No matter how the captain guides the ship, and no matter how many people get on or off, the ship will eventually arrive at its destination with whatever crew it has. The idea is that God’s plans will always reach fruition, but at his pace, at his command, and under his guidance.

We all find ourselves suffering Tsouris (problems) throughout our lifetime. It may be loss of job, money, property, people we care about, or our health. Everything that is important to us in this plane of existence will be taken away, sooner or later, to one extent or another. Too often we blame God for this, or at least, we ask why he allows it to happen. It is OK to wonder why things that are unpleasant happen to us, especially if we think we are doing what is correct in God’s eyes. We can look to satanic intervention, and that could be because we know that Satan will come against those doing God’s work. We could also look in the mirror because maybe we think we are doing what is right in God’s eyes, but really, it is only right in our own eyes. We could also just give it up as to what happens when you live in a cursed and fallen world.

Drek happens sometimes; it is like the ship has come up to a reef, and while the captain is thinking of the best way around it, we have to deal with our life seemingly going nowhere. Sometimes while waiting, we are ordered to clean the bilges or paint the deck. One way or the other, we need to suffer through this, trusting that the captain knows what he is doing, our suffering will be for a good purpose and he will get us on our way, again.

Joseph suffered 12 years or so and went from being a beloved favorite son to being a slave to being a prisoner. It must have seemed to him that his life was going down the toilet, things getting worse and worse. Yet, he never lost faith in God and did the best he could in each situation, always giving glory to God and trusting in him.

This is our lesson for today, something we all have been told more than once, and something most of us will forget the moment we most need to remember it: trust in God! Trust that God knows what is happening, trust that God can save you no matter how terrible things seem to you, and trust in God that he knows what he is doing. Look to yourself, stare into the mirror to make sure there isn’t something you may be doing wrong, and if you feel certain that you are living in a way that God would want you to live, then hang on for dear life and wait out the storm.

The most stable figure that exists is a triangle, and the triangle of our life should be built upon these three legs:  Faith, Trust, and Patience. Faith in God and Messiah, trust that God knows what is happening and can always save you, and patience to wait on the Lord, who in his good time will deliver you.

Remember that it is your patience which will demonstrate to everyone the strength of your faithfully trusting in God.

 

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Tonight is Shabbat, so Shabbat Shalom and Baruch HaShem!