Parashah Ekev (Because)

This parashah has so much, as does everything in the D’Var Adonai (Word of the Lord). For instance, it is only 4 1/2 chapters (or so) but within it Moshe orders the people to obey the Lord’s mitzvot and other commandments no less than 9 times. That seems to be important, telling them 9 times to remember to obey the Lord. But do they listen? Noooooooo.

The section I want to talk about today is 8:12-8:20. Moshe warns the people that when they have come into the land, and have all good things, that they are not to forget it is because God made it all possible. He is actually telling them their future. He is warning them that if they become prideful, thinking they have obtained all these wonderful things by their own power and worthiness, then they will forget God and stop following Him. Despite the fact that all these people know it was God who fed them in the desert, gave them water and protected them, even to the point of keeping their clothes from falling apart, yet still they will forget Him and abandon Him if they aren’t careful. And, if and when they do, God will destroy them and throw them out of the land, just as he is doing to the people living there now.

When will we learn? As we know, they did go into the land. They conquered it and took possession, and did (mostly) as God had ordered them to do. And that was because Joshua made sure they kept on track.

After he dies, as we read in Judges (Shof’tim), the people did forget God and throughout that book we are told how people did as they wanted. This is how we are, to this day. Maybe even more so.

Back then there weren’t people saying that everything we see around us, including ourselves, are the result of some mutation or haphazard arrangement of chemicals. Back then there wasn’t a government that said it is illegal to have the Ten Commandments displayed as we enter our courts of law and justice. Back then we would naturally expect that both good and bad things were a result of our worship, unlike today when everything bad that happens is because we are victims of someone else’s wrongdoing, and whatever happens that is good for us is something we deserve and should have.

When are we going to learn? When are we going to humble ourselves and accept that God is in charge? Sure, yeah- we can do things of our own. We can be proud of accomplishments we have. But we need to remember that the gifts and talents we have that allow us to accomplish things are from God. I didn’t give myself an intellect (you could make an argument God didn’t, either), you didn’t give yourself the talent for music, or an ability to draw beautifully, or whatever. God gave these to us, and more often than not, God made it possible for us to discover these gifts and to utilize them.

I think the saddest people are the ones who have gifts they haven’t discovered or had the chance to utilize. We need to remember that it is God who gives the talents and abilities, and it is God who provides. He does, that is, so long as we follow His commandments, mitzvot, regulations and rulings. When we turn from Him, we are cursed.

Not that God curses, so to speak. At least, not as a human curses. When humans curse, they wish bad things on someone. They actively desire and work to make horrible events happen in another person’s life.

Gods curses are passive. The world is a cursed place. God protects us from the cursed environment in which we live. Those are His blessings. He actively makes good things happen. When we disobey and forget (i.e., reject) Him, then the curses fall on us. Not that God makes bad things happen- He just stops protecting us from the world.

Think of Him as a Kippur (covering), like an umbrella. When we follow Him, we are under His protective covering. When we walk away from Him, we are uncovered and the rain of injustice, hatefulness, and everything else that humans do to each other falls directly on our head.

Stay under God’s kippur. Follow His steps and remain under His wings, and you will be blessed. Oh, yes, there will be times when you are doing everything correctly and you will have suffering. I didn’t say God puts us in a bubble- sometimes the winds of misfortune blow so hard the rain gets under the umbrella. That’s no reason to say the umbrella isn’t working anymore! Stay under it, keep walking in His ways, and your life will be more blessed than you can imagine.

Accept Messiah, accept God’s Grace, and follow His laws. That means all His laws- there are no Jewish laws and Christian laws. Whatever God said to do, whether in the front of the Bible or the back, are His laws. God has no religion.

Don’t forget who He is, and who you are ( I believe Isaiah said we were worms. Pretty close.) And above all, remember that whatever you have that is good is from God.

All the bad stuff in your life you can take full credit for.

Shabbat Shalom !!

Parashah Va’etchanan

Today’s Parashah is D’Varim (Deuteronomy) 3:23 to 7:11. Within this part is the repetition of the Ten Commandments. I could do a whole book just on those. I mean, really? Who couldn’t?

But don’t worry, I’m not doing that now.

Actually, what I feel I should talk about is just one line, 5:26. Moses relates how the people said they were too frightened to approach God and told Moshe he should talk with the Lord, then tell them what God said. God thought what the people said was good, and then God added, “Oh, how I wish their hearts would stay like this always, that they would fear me and obey all my mitzvot; so that it would go well with them and their children forever.”

To me this shows God’s love for us, but also the fact that God’s love is “tough” love. God loves us, and that is important to know, because His love is not like human love. However, because it is not like human love He will not coddle or enable us to do wrong. He will not be like the mother or father that thinks their child is a good kid, even when everyone else knows the brat is a stinker.

I hear so many people who become Believers because all they can talk about is God’s forgiveness and His love, and I think they are not getting the whole picture. This line, this one statement, really sums up what God feels for us- He loves us, and He wants nothing more than to give us the best there is, always. He wants us to be happy in every way. Yet, He knows we will screw it up, every time. He feels the righteousness of the people, and at the same time He is saddened by the knowledge of what will come in the future. His love is real love, the kind that will be just and true, totally dependable. So is His punishment.

Think about this: God wants to forgive. He isn’t just willing to forgive, He wants to forgive us. But He won’t if we don’t do as we should. All we need to do is ask for forgiveness, and do Teshuva (turning/atonement) in our hearts. God’s a loving and forgiving God, but He’s not stupid and He knows the heart. Asking for forgiveness and then not showing you mean it is not going to work. His love is stronger than anything we can ever understand, but so is His holiness and righteousness, which demands that He judge fairly. This is why Yacov (James) says that faith without works is dead.

If God forgives those who are not turning from their sins, then why should we try to turn from our sins? God will judge, and if we cannot count on His promise to punish those who are not truly repentant, then we cannot count on His promise of salvation, either.

God is love, but that’s not all He is. He is also our God, He is our Father, and He is our Judge and Executioner. He is the one who will decide.

Don’t just think of His love, but think also of what He demands of us and that He will keep His word about both salvation and punishment. To “Fear the Lord” means to worship Him with awe and respect, and we shouldn’t be afraid of God. However, we should be afraid of His judgement and punishment. His promise of salvation is absolute, and His gift of salvation is irrevocable. That means what He promised He will not take away, but that doesn’t mean we can’t throw it away. That’s why He said what He said in this Parashah- He wants to save us, He wants us to be happy, He does love us beyond our understanding. BUT…He is God and will do what He said, and will punish those who are not faithful. And that’s why He was at once both happy that we were so worshipful, and sad because He knew it wouldn’t last. Staying faithful and doing Teshuva- that’s our side of the promise of salvation: we need to keep that in our hearts, always, and work everyday to be more like Him.

We can’t be totally holy, and we can’t do everything in Torah. That’s why we need Messiah. However, we can become better. We can try and continue to run the good race, as Shaul  (Paul) says. Keep our eyes on the prize and so long as we make progress, even if it’s three steps forward and two steps backwards, we are still one step closer to God. I believe that is what will please God and will demonstrate our love for Him. Yeshua told His Talmudim (students) that if they love Him then they will obey Him. That’s the exact way His Dad feels.

God loves us, He wants the best for us, and He will deliver what He promises. Above all, He will judge.  We absolutely need Yeshua as our defence lawyer when we enter His courtroom. If you don’t have Yeshua as your Messiah, don’t wait another second. Ask God for forgiveness, accept that Yeshua is the Messiah and ask Him to send you the Comforter, God’s Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) to come into you and guide you. Ask for Grace, and do Teshuva in your heart right now. You will then know God’s love, and you will know His truth. And you will also know His joy and peace of spirit.

Parashah D’Varim

We are approaching the end of the Torah scroll. D’Varim (words) is the Hebrew name for the book of Deuteronomy. In the Torah (which doesn’t mean “law” but is translated as “teachings”) each new book is named from the first words of that book. D’Varim comes from the first line of the book, which starts,  “These are the words Moshe spoke…”.

What we see throughout this book is Moshe, at the end of the forty years , telling this new generation the history of how they got to where they are. He reminds them, in this parasha, of how he assigned men to help him adjudicate and lead the vast throng of people, how they were in the desert for forty years and never wanted for anything (God’s providence), how when they first came to the land they refused to enter, then were defeated after trying to enter because God said not to try. Moshe is reminding this generation why it is they who are entering the land. This parasha ends with Moshe (Moses) reminding them of how, because God was with them, they defeated the two kings Og and Sichon, whose lands were given to Gad, Reuben and the half tribe of Menasheh, and his encouragement to Joshua to go into the land and defeat it because God will continue to be with them as He has been all this time.

One thing I find interesting is in Chapter 2, where Moshe relates that  God said to leave the people of Edom and Amon alone. Edom is the descendants of Esau and Amon the descendants of Lot. This is important to me because what I see here is that God’s promises are not just to the Jewish people, and He is just as faithful to anyone He makes promises to as He is to those who follow Him. Remember, Esau and Lot weren’t the most “Godly” people we find in the Bible. They also were not the receivers of the covenant God made with Avraham, but they were still remembered by God.

We need to remember that God is watching out for everyone. Not just those of us who are “Born Again”. Not just those of us who profess to have a “special relationship” with Him. From God’s point of view, everyone is special to Him. We need to keep our pridefulness at bay. We need to remember that God has done wonderful things for us, none of which we really deserved, and He did this because of who He is, not because of who we are. I bet if you think about it, you can see where God intervened and did wonderful things for you, even before you accepted His grace. He does wonderful things because He chooses to. He rules, He decides, and He can do whatever He wants to do. That’s important to remember.  This new generation, about to enter the land and fight for it, is not being given the land because they deserve it, but because God promised it to their forefathers, and God’s promises are absolute.  We are not given salvation because we deserve it, but because of God’s promises to our forefathers. and through His Grace.

We should use this as an example for ourselves of how we must live and treat others. Our promises should be absolute: that means don’t make promises you can’t keep. That is a sin. It is better to say no than to say yes without meaning it, and it is better to seem unwilling to help than to make a show of your compassion and not follow through. As Yeshua told us, simply let your “yes” be “yes” and your “no” be “no.”

God tells us to be holy for He is holy, well, that’s a tall order given how human beings are. I doubt I will ever be “holy”, but that’s not saying I can’t be holier than I am now. God keeps His promises, even to those who ignore or reject Him, so we should also be honest in what we say, and do what we say we will do. It doesn’t matter what the other person does or doesn’t do- our promise to anyone is our promise to God. You don’t want to be breaking promises to the Almighty!!

I learned a long time ago, when training to be a salesman, that people don’t mean what they say, they mean what they do. God does what He says, and we should follow that example.

Masei: Ever Wonder if You’re Just Wandering?

The parashot for this Shabbat is Masei, and it reviews the wanderings of the people in the desert from the time they left Egypt to that moment. It is in B’midbar (Numbers) starting at Chapter 33.

Did the people really wander? According to Bing (not Crosby), wandering is:

“travel without destination: to move from place to place, either without a purpose or without a known destination.”

That certainly seems to be what they did. When the cloud above the Tent of Meeting stayed, they stayed. When the cloud lifted and travelled, they travelled. They didn’t know where they were going, or how long they would stay in any one place. And, miraculously, over a million people and millions of animals all had food and water in the desert. Not just for a day or a week, but for forty years.

But, again, let me ask: Did the people really wander? From a human perspective, yes, but from God’s perspective, no. I don’t think so. I think God was simply moving them in a pre-planned route which kept them going to where He had already prepared for their needs. From their perspective it was, “Oy! I just got the bathroom remodeled (dug a new hole) and now we have to move again!”  but God knew where they were going and how long they would stay there.

Our daily lives are the same. Doesn’t it seem like we just go through the motions? Sometime it feels like years, and we don’t really know where we will end up. Many times we expect to stay, and then we have to move. We think this job is “The One” and the company goes under. We think this job stinks and we’ll be gone as soon as something better comes along, and we stay for 20 years.

In the Book of Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) the writer talks about how he can’t understand why things happen. He says that we should just enjoy what we produce, and what we have because it is all a gift from God. This is something along the lines of what I want to do in my life.

I don’t say never make plans, and I don’t want to just wander through life. Yet I know that the best thing I can do for myself is trust in God and let Him make the decisions. So, how do I plan my life and still let God direct  me? I don’t know. I guess I will plan for what I would like to do and keep looking for the cloud, to see if I am wandering off the path instead of walking on it. Walk in faith, look for confirmation, and be prepared to change direction.

Hey- that sounds good! Let’s try to walk along the path instead of wandering off of it. Listen for God, look for the cloud, follow it and you won’t be wandering. And, if you aren’t hearing anything from God, well…listen more carefully.

I guess it boils down to the difference between walking and wandering is whether or not you believe that you are following God. If you are, you’re walking. If you aren’t, well, you’re really just wandering.