Parashah B’Har (On Mount) Leviticus 25:1 – 26:2

God instructs us to be fair to each other in our economic dealings, to use a pro-rata system of valuation when we are exchanging  and redeeming property, and that slavery is an acceptable form of servitude, except that other Israelites were to be treated with more respect and allowed to go free in the Jubilee Year (Yovel) whereas slaves which had been purchased were slaves forever, and property that could be transferred in one’s estate to one’s heirs.

I am not sure what happens if you are a foreigner who is a slave, then you convert, i.e. become a fellow believer, and the Yovel year comes. There isn’t anything I saw that covered that, but I wonder because in all other areas, one who sojourns with the people and worships as they do is to be considered as one of them, and equal in the eyes of the law.

Anyone got an opinion?

This book is all about the everyday relationship between people and God, and between people and people. We are told about cleanliness, personal hygiene, the festivals, the sacrifices, the selling of property and the methodology of evaluation when redeeming that property. We are also told that all property belongs to God and we are just temporary residents. This goes well with the prior statements God made, and ones He will make later in the Torah, regarding how the land vomited out the prior residents because of their sinful ways, and will do the same to this people if they follow that example.

We are reminded about the Shabbats, rest for the people and now, too, rest for the land. And the wonderful law of the Jubilee Year, the Yovel, where all the followers of God are brought back to their land, a year of rest for the land and the people. Since this happens every half-century, given the normal lifespan of a person, everyone would most likely get to enjoy a Yovel, at least once, during their lifetime.

What I see in this parashah is a legal description of what Yeshua brings to us spiritually: redemption. The main difference being that in the physical world, when someone is redeeming their land, there is a pro-rata evaluation of the worth of the land. When Yeshua redeems us spiritually, there is no valuation: we are redeemed, totally, and forever. No matter whether our sins outweighed our righteousness, or vice-versa, this redemption is complete and once-and-for-all.

Just as God told the people (this comes later in the book) that so long as they do as they should their lands will be productive, we who are redeemed by Yeshua’s sacrificial death are to do T’Shuvah, to turn, and live our lives as representatives of God. Our redemption is immediate, and just as the people had to obey God and follow His laws for the land to be productive,  we are to do the same with our spiritual lives in order to produce “fruit.” We are to obey God’s commandments, the ones in the Torah (there is nothing ‘New’ in the New Covenant- everything Yeshua taught and said we should do is from Torah. Same for Paul, John, and all the other writers of the B’rit Chadasha) and when we do so, we will be blessed. If we reject God, even after He has redeemed us from our sin, we apostatize and throw away our redemption.

That is what I said: I have said it before and will continue to say it because it is so very, very important to understand: salvation is irrevocable, but that only means God will not take it back. It doesn’t mean we can’t throw it away, and if you want Biblical evidence that what I say is true, go to Hebrews 6:4-6; John 15:6; 1 Corinthians 15:2; 2 Peter 2:20-21. There are many other verses demonstrating clearly that salvation gained can be rejected, how in the End Days many will turn away from and betray Yeshua, and Revelations tells us that most will be turned from the true faith. Believe it- salvation is guaranteed to be given, but it can (and by most, will) be easily lost.

Redemption is the underlying theme of the entire Word of God, and we see here one aspect of it- the one that is in the physical world. Both the redemption of property and of self; God-granted freedom from slavery. Even freedom from work during the seventh year Shabbat for the land (Shmita) and the Yovel.

Redemption of your life and property in this world, and redemption of your soul in the next. This is what the Bible is all about, this is the plan God has for all of us.

Redemption: easy to get and hard to keep.

Parashah Emor (Speak) Leviticus 21 – 24

We have now gone past the middle of Leviticus, the central book of the Torah, which means we are on the “downside” of the Torah, getting closer to the end than we are from the beginning. That doesn’t mean what is coming is less important, it just means that we can start to build up the joy of knowing that as we get closer to the end, we get closer to starting all over again at Simchat Torah in the fall.

As such, let’s take a moment and remind ourselves that Leviticus is all about being holy- how to know clean from unclean, the different types of sacrifices and how to perform them, the many duties and obligations of the Priests, and generally that being holy means being separated. Not better than, not worse than, just different from.

In Judaism we are told that Torah should be a mirror- when we look in it, we are to see ourselves reflected back. It is not so when the world looks at us: when the world looks at us, we are not to reflect the world back to them but they should see Torah. Yeshua said that when we see Him, we see the Father, and if we know Him we will know the Father, too. Yeshua is the living Torah, and the Torah is the Word of God which (really) tells us who God is.

To be holy, or as the prayers say, to be sanctified, we need to be separated from the world. Our family life, our relationships, our diet (yes, our diet!) and our speech…even how we treat our pets and property, personal hygiene, EVERYTHING we do should be done as God tells us we should do. You can’t be a light to the darkness when you don’t shine. Remember what Yeshua said about lamps?

When we read Leviticus, we see the Jewish people (which really should be all those who worship God) separated from the world and sanctified by these commandments….actually, not by the commandments but by following the commandments…and within the separated peoples, the Levites are separated to maintain the Sanctuary and teach the people, as well as judge for them. Then within the separated Levites, the Kohanim (Priests) are further separated to service the Lord, directly, by offering the sacrifices on behalf of the people.

This reminds me of those cute Russian dolls- you  know, a doll inside a doll inside a doll inside a doll.  The world is sinful, and the followers of God are separated, and within them the Levites, then the Kohanim. And even within the Kohanim there is only one Kohen HaGadol.

What this represents to me is that as we get further and further away from the world, we get closer and closer to God.

This parashah includes a very important chapter, Chapter 23. That is the place where God defines the festivals He commands us to celebrate unto Him. These are Holy Days, not holidays. I define holidays as created by religion, and Holy Days as commanded by God. Nothing wrong with holidays (well, some do have questionable origins) so long as they do not overtake or replace when God says we should worship Him, and they should never change what God says. And if the celebration to the Lord is not one that totally honors Him, then I would say don’t partake in it.

My book has an entire chapter devoted to this, so if you are interested in knowing what I think the important differences are, please buy the book (or the downloadable version) and see if you agree with me. There are links to different places you can get it in the right margin.

Being separated means, by it’s very nature, not being equal. The Supreme Court of the United States recognized that axiomatic truth in the case of Brown vs. The Board of Education (of Topeka, Kansas) back in 1954. That decision was based on race, but it holds true for spirituality as well (not religion…spirituality. God has no religion: He is spirit.) We are to be separate, and thereby not equal. But that, as I said above, doesn’t mean better or worse, it just means different. Never “hold it over” someone else because you think you are more holy than they are. In truth, if you are more holy than someone else, you should follow Yeshua’s example and be a servant to that person.

Be separate, be an example, let everything you do and say bring honor to the Lord. Torah should be a mirror for the Believer, and the Believer should be a kind of one-way mirror to the world: we should see the world clearly as it is, but when the world looks at us all they should see is God looking back at them.

Parashot Acharey Mot / Kedoshim (Leviticus 16 – 18; 19 – 20)

Acharey Mot starts with the regulations about how to celebrate Yom Kippur, then about not eating blood and ends with forbidden types of marriages and worship. This is a continuation of the main theme throughout this entire book, which is to teach the people how to be holy.

Kedoshim is the central book of the Torah because it is right in the middle. It is the center of Vayikra, and also the center of Torah. As such, the Rabbis have regarded it as “the essentials of Torah” ( Pentateuch and Haftorah, Soncino edition) and a brief description of it’s main points follows:

* holiness and imitation of God

* moral and ritual laws

* Duties to and treatment of other people

* Prohibitions against hatred and violence

* additional precepts and ordinances

* prohibition against the pagan lifestyle

* ethical injunctions

* penalties for disobedience

* laws regarding immorality

* final exhortation to be holy and set apart

As I say above, this book is not just a set of laws and rules. It is how we become sanctified, holy and separated for God from the rest of the world.

In America, the court cases of Plessy vs. Ferguson and Brown vs. The Board of Education (of Topeka, Kansas) are well known to almost everyone, lawyer or not. “Plessy” was a Supreme Court ruling (in 1896) which stated separate accommodations, if equal in quality and standards, is not unconstitutional. Half a century later (1954), “Brown” was the reversal of that decree stating the very nature of things being separate means they can’t be equal (I ask any law professionals to excuse any minor misstatements I may have made in condensing these.)  The belief that separate cannot be equal is also what we are told in Leviticus, and throughout the Bible. If we want to be holy, as God is holy, we need to be separate and NOT equal. We need to be different.

Let’s get something straight here: different is not better than; it is not worse than;  it is just different from. The only thing that separates Believers from the rest of the world is Messiah Yeshua. We are still sinners: the only thing different is that we are saved sinners. And because we profess to accept the truth that Yeshua is the Messiah, and accept God’s Grace provided through Yeshua’s sacrifice, we are bound to change our way of living to that which God decrees in the Torah. Doing that makes us different from the world. God tells us to be holy for He is holy, and in Leviticus He gives us all the rules, regulations, and ordinances that will teach us how to worship Him properly and how to properly treat each other so that we can be holy.

Problem is…we ain’t holy! God gave us all we need to be holy, but it’s beyond us, that’s why God also provided Yeshua, and why we so desperately need Him, our Messiah, to bring us into the communion with God that we cannot bring ourselves into, by means of His sacrifice cleansing us of our sins.

We need to be different, and in the way God says to be different. Not as a means of rebellion (of course, if you’re a teenager, rebellion is mandatory behavior) or as a means of acting “holier-than-thou”, but as the proof that we worship God. It’s just that simple. We worship God, Adonai; the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Holy One of Israel, the one, true God. And when we do this as He said we should (not as a religion tells us) then we are separated from the world.

The world says “holier-than-thou” as a condemnation against someone thinking they are a better person than someone else. Yeshua told His Talmudim (Disciples) that the Goyim (nations, or Gentiles) lord it over each other and they should not, so He also teaches us not to think we are any better than anyone else. But, in the long run, we are supposed to be “holier than thou”, but not because we are better: we are to be holier because our God is holy and we represent Him. We aren’t better, just saved. The difference between heaven and hell is certainly much more than that between railroad cars (Plessy vs. Ferguson) and we definitely want to be in First Class.

I believe this about Leviticus: the central theme of this central book of the Torah is to be holy so that we can represent God correctly.

The book tells us exactly how we achieve holiness by telling us how we are to worship, how we are to treat each other, how we are to marry, how we are to have intimate relationships, how we are to eat; essentially, Leviticus tells us that we should be, and how we are to be, separated from the world.

The brokerage firm Smith-Barney had a great commercial where their spokesman used to say (something like), “We make money the old fashioned way…we earn it!”  That’s the way the world works, and there’s nothing wrong with that- you work hard and you earn your reward.

With God, it isn’t like that. Salvation cannot be earned through hard work, it can only be gained by asking for it.

It’s not until after we have been saved that the hard work starts.

Parashot Tazria / Metzora Leviticus 12:1-15:33

This Shabbat is a double parashah reading. There are times when we read two parashot instead of one to sort of “catch up” so that we stay on the annual schedule. We read out of sequence for the Pesach Shabbat, and now we are reading two parashot so we can get back on schedule.

These parashot deal with cleanliness of women after childbirth, as well as leprosy (which might be any skin-related infection or disease, from leprosy to a rash of some sort that looks similar) on people, clothes and even their homes (perhaps this is a form of mildew? We know today there are some forms of mildew that are deadly.) Finally there are the laws about issuances from the body, such as oozing sores and chronic loss of fluids. The readings tell us how to identify the contagious from the non-contagious forms, and what sacrifices should be made to complete the cleansing of the person or article that was unclean.

What I want to talk about is really simple- it has (pretty much) nothing to do with these laws, but it does have it’s basis in why we have these laws.

The reason for these laws is….I don’t know why. Do you? Obviously, we don’t want people with contagious diseases being allowed to walk amongst the non-infected, but why does a girl birth require a longer period of waiting before being cleansed than a boy? How can killing an animal and placing it’s blood on my ear, thumb and toe clean me?

These laws fall into the category (for me, at least) of Chukim: laws for which we do not understand the reason. And what I want to say about these today is simply this: it doesn’t matter why. That’s right- do you really think that understanding why God gave us these laws and what their meaning is all about will get you any closer to salvation?  All it can do is satisfy our curiosity, and (maybe) make us feel a little more desirous to obey. I think we can easily understand that these laws of cleanliness are another form of making sure the people of God are separated from the rest of the world, of clean not being soiled by the unclean, where our physical cleanliness represents our spiritual cleanliness.

But, again, if we ask the “Acid Test” question, “How does this affect my salvation?”, the answer has to be that understanding the reasons behind these laws will not “save” us. Obedience is how we get blessings, but it is faith alone that saves us. Faithful observance is how we demonstrate our faith, so it doesn’t matter why God wants a woman to wait a month after giving birth to a girl but only two weeks after a boy before she presents herself to the Kohan for cleansing. It doesn’t matter why we wait outside the camp 7 days and not 10, or 3, or at all. It doesn’t matter why God gave us these laws and it doesn’t matter why He wants us to do these things.

What does matter is that He tells us these are to be done. That’s it; that’s all we need, and all anyone should be concerned about. I once read that any god that can be understood by the mind of Man is not worthy of the worship of Man. I think that’s a great statement- it certainly makes sense to me. If I can understand God’s purposes, and I can understand all that He does and why, how much more “holy” can He be than me? The Bible tells us God is holy and high above us, that our holiness is but filthy rags compared to His holiness. I mean, just looking upon His presence will kill us! So how can I expect, in any way, to understand Him? To be at the same level with God, intellectually or spiritually, to make sense of everything He says and demands?

How many people have you met during your lifetime that drive themselves crazy (and eventually those around them, too) worrying about things that they have no right or need to worry about? Don’t they drive you nuts, along with themselves, when they worry about the price of eggs in China, or how someone may feel about something that someone else might do or say? If I do this, then someone, somewhere, might have some problem with it so I better not do it. Oy! I hate that! There’s nothing wrong with being compassionate, but don’t waste compassion on self-doubt and a poor self-image. And don’t waste your intellectual and spiritual energy trying to make sense of something that you will never understand. Stay focused on what you need to do to keep yourself right with God.

These laws in Leviticus, as well as other places in the Torah, are given to us by God to separate us from the rest of the world, to show us how to be holy because He is holy and because we are to represent Him; they are to guide us in our everyday lives with regard to worshipping God and treating each other. That’s it. That’s all we need to know.

And if that isn’t enough for you, then the strength of your faith is what you should be worrying about, and not why turtle doves can be an acceptable substitute for lambs.

Parashah Sh’Mini ( On the eighth day ) Leviticus 9:1-11:47

Every time I read this parashah I do not understand the answer Aaron gives to Moses after Nadab and Abihu are destroyed for offering incense that was done in a disrespectful and unauthorized manner. I suppose it has to do with God accepting the sacrifice but since Aaron lost his children, he was not in the proper spirit of thankfulness to eat the sacrifice.

What do you think?

The main section of this parashah is all about one of my favorite pet peeves with Christians, and one of the foundation stones of my ministry- not that everyone has to stay Kosher, but that the Kosher laws are just as valid today, for everyone who worships God, as they were then. Just as valid as not murdering, God is the only God, not to have graven images, and not to commit adultery.

My ministry is all about the fact, yes- the FACT– that God has no religion.

The Kosher laws are about more than clean or unclean, because the word used here is not just clean, as in shiny and white, and nice smelling. It is used one other time in the Bible- it is used to describe the violation of Dinah when she was forcibly raped. God doesn’t see the Kosher laws, as I read what He says, as just about food: to God, that which He says we should not eat is not even to be considered a “food.”

Here is a translation of the last lines of today’s parashah, taken from the JPS version of the Tanakh:

43 You shall not draw abomination upon yourselves through anything that swarms; you shall not make yourselves unclean therewith and thus become unclean. 44 For I the Lord am your God: you shall sanctify yourselves and be holy, for I am holy. You shall not make yourselves unclean through any swarming thing that moves upon the earth. 45 For I the Lord am He who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God: you shall be holy, for I am holy. 46 These are the instructions concerning animals, birds, all living creatures that move in water, and all creatures that swarm on earth, 47 for distinguishing between the unclean and the clean, between the living things that may be eaten and the living things that may not be eaten.

Notice that God doesn’t say which food is clean and which isn’t. He says “living things”; in other versions I have read He calls them beasts, but not “food.”

To violate the laws of Kashrut (Kosher laws) is more than just eating something you aren’t supposed to eat. It is a violation of all that being separated from the world means, it is a violation of what being holy unto the Lord means. It is a violation of all that God wants us to be, and all that God represents.

Maybe that’s why it comes right after we are told how Aaron has cleansed himself before the Lord. Being clean he was able to present the sacrifice to cleanse the people, which then separated them from the world and, thereby, could bring them in communion with God. That communion with God, that closeness to Him, was evidenced by the fact that once these sacrifices were presented, correctly, the presence of the Lord appeared to all the people.

When we do as God commands, His presence is able to be with us.

Yeshua did away with sin’s bite and the sting of death, but He did NOT do away with any of the commandments of God found in Torah. Just the opposite- He confirmed them all by living them correctly, and teaching others what they really meant. Yeshua (Jesus) is called by Yochanan (John) the Word that became flesh- the Living Torah. If Yeshua is the living Torah, how could He teach anything against Himself?

I have written about this before, so search for “kosher laws”, “mark 7″ or Acts 9” because I am not going into the different misinterpretations of “Kosher” today. I just want to leave today’s message with this simple statement: being separated from the world is the only way we can come closer to God. I mean, it just makes sense, doesn’t it?: God is holy and the world is cursed. Not much in common there.

If you want to be closer to God, you need to get yourself further from the world. True, eating ham will not send you to hell and not eating ham will not get you into heaven. On the other hand, eating ham will separate you more from God and not eating ham will being you closer to God.

It’s your choice- is pleasing your palette more important than pleasing the Lord? Is ham more important to you than Ha Mashiach?

Here’s the real choice: do you want to be closer to God or further away?

Parashah Shemini (the Eighth day) Leviticus 9 – 11

The first part of this Parashah has Aaron completing the offerings he is to make as his entry into the priesthood, and his sacrifice is accepted by God, as evidenced by God’s fire coming down to burn up the offering. This miraculous event was witnessed by the people. Then God sends His fire, again, but this time to burn up Aaron’s two oldest sons, who have acted wrongly by offering their fire before the Lord in a way that was disrespectful and unwarranted.

We don’t really know exactly what they did; it seems clear that they were drunk when they did it because the very first thing God says after destroying them is to Aaron, and He says that Aaron and his sons should never have intoxicating drink when serving the Lord. Aaron and his remaining sons were not even allowed to mourn, but the people were allowed to mourn for them. I believe this shows that those of us who are to serve the Lord are to be separated from the people to serve only the Lord, so even our most personal connections are secondary to serving God.

The last chapter of this parashah defines the laws of Kashrut, the Kosher Laws. I believe that too often people think Kosher means clean, and that is the general understanding and meaning, but these laws go beyond just clean and unclean. These laws are part of the Chukim: ordinances and regulations that are supra-natural, meaning these are regulations for which we don’t or can’t understand the reason why God gave them to us. To remain Kosher is more than a physical clean- it is spiritual. To disobey is a violation of everything that God stands for.

Just because we don’t understand the reason for these laws doesn’t mean they aren’t to be obeyed. If you allow me to paraphrase: Ours is not to reason why, ours is to obey or die.

Thanks to Yeshua, the absoluteness of the prior statement is somewhat reduced, since His sacrifice keeps us from the death we deserve for violating Torah.

The Kosher Laws are simple when you break it down to it’s base components: don’t eat any mammal that isn’t a ruminant, and only eat fish that have scales and fins. For birds, no raptors, no ratites, just stick to ducks, chickens, turkeys and pigeons.

All the more difficult regulations, no meat and dairy together, separate dishes, specially prepared, etc. are Rabbinical and although they are not bad, in and of themselves, they are much more difficult to observe than what God says we are to do.

The Rabbinical laws are not Chukim, Mishpatim or Mitzvot- they are human in origin and not God-given. They are the same sorts of things that Yeshua had trouble with: human regulations made more important that God’s commandments. God said don’t boil a calf in it’s mothers milk; He never said eating a cheeseburger is a one-way ticket to hell. These extreme Rabbinical regulations do have a good purpose- they are there to help prevent us from trespassing the law. It is called “Building Fences Around the Law”: let’s say you have a law which you don’t want to disobey, or trespass against, so, nu? How do you keep out trespassers? You build a fence. Well, as we are Jewish and one question with one answer is just never going to be enough, we need another question: “What if I accidentally tripped over the fence?” The answer: build another fence around the fence so it is harder for you to get past them both. This is then repeated, and repeated, ad infinitum, until we end up with the plethora of kosher regulations we have today, which are so numerous and complicated that the simple rules of “no shellfish, no pork: only ruminants, chicken, duck and turkey, and nothing else” have gotten completely lost. We are so concerned about which fences we should build that we have lost sight of the laws they are designed to protect.

The real issue with Leviticus 11 is the teaching in the Christian world that it is not important anymore. Misinterpretations of Acts 10 and Mark 7 have been used to teach people that Yeshua told us that you don’t need to be Kosher anymore. I devote an entire chapter in my book about this, and have mentioned it often in blogs. Essentially, it comes down to this: if Yeshua is the living Torah and the Word that has become flesh, then how can He tell us to do anything that is against what the Torah says? It is the same as denying Himself. It also means that, since God the Father said these commandments are to be throughout your generations, if Yeshua taught to ignore them then He is calling God a liar and going against the word of God. Does that sound like Yeshua, to you?

Kosher laws are as valid today as they have always been: following them won’t get you into heaven, and ignoring them won’t send you to hell (any faster than violating any of the other 613 commandments in Torah, at least a few of which we all violate every day.) I am not condoning ignoring Kashrut, or any commandment from God. When I say not obeying will not send us to hell, it is only because we disobey something in the Torah every day, every one of us. Yes, if you were perfect in every other commandment but you had pork rinds last night watching the game, and if you died prior to being able to offer a guilt sacrifice to be forgiven for eating pork rinds, you would die in your sin. God doesn’t grade on a curve- if you sin, any sin, you are a sinner and unable to be in His presence.

That’s how Yeshua’s sacrifice works for us- His once and for all sacrifice is what keeps us close to God so if we die in our sin, His righteousness will cleanse us before the Lord.

Kosher is still valid, as are all the other mitzvot, mishpatim and chukim in Torah. All valid, all required, none to be ignored. Yeshua did NOT do away with the law- He confirmed it, He explained it to us so we could could understand the deeper, more spiritual nature of these laws, and He lived them to demonstrate what we should be doing.

If you have time, go to the Search button at the bottom right of the page and search for “WWJD?”, then read that blog to see in more detail what I am talking about, and please consider taking the simple challenge I offer there. I truly believe that if you accept my challenge it will make a major difference in your life, even if only to help you better understand Yeshua.

Please don’t think I am saying you need to be “under the law” to be saved; you don’t. On the other hand, that is no reason to disobey them.

Parashah Pesach (Exodus 12:21 – 12:51)

Weren’t we in the book of Leviticus last week? How’d we get back to Exodus?

Today, actually tonight, begins Passover (‘Pesach’, in Hebrew.) As such, this being one of the most important and happiest of all the Holy Days God gave us, we read this portion of the Torah and then get back to Vayikra next week.

Passover is a Holy Day that is somewhat misunderstood, by both Jews and Christians. If you ask most any Jewish person how long Passover lasts, I’ll bet the answer you get is “7 days”, but that’s wrong. “Passover” only lasts from evening until midnight, when the angel of death passed over Egypt. The 7 days that we fast (no leavened products, i.e.. nothing with yeast) is called Hag Ha Matzot. It is the Feast of Unleavened Bread that lasts 7 days. Another thing that is misunderstood is that Passover is when God said we should celebrate the new year; God never said that Rosh HaShannah is the Jewish new year. In Exodus God tells Moshe that this day (the day the Jews left Egypt) is to be the first day of your year. Rosh HaShannah, the Jewish New Year, is a Rabbinical holiday and not a God ordered Holy Day. The day that it is celebrated on is a God-ordered Holy Day, but that day is called (by God) Yom Teruah, or Day of Trumpets. It is a memorial day.

From the Christian viewpoint, because of the undeniable association of the sacrificial death of Yeshua (Jesus) on the day after Passover, leading to His resurrection on the third day (Sunday, the beginning of the Jewish week, as we are told in the Bible) the sacrifice of the Passover lamb is considered to be what Yeshua underwent, which was a sacrifice to absolve us of our sin. Especially since He is often referred to as the Lamb of God. Even the Jewish people, for the most part, believe that the Pesach lamb was a sin sacrifice.

Oh, oh…not so, oh no. The Passover lamb was sacrificed, yes, but it was a thanksgiving sacrifice, a peace offering, not a sin or guilt offering.

Go back and read the first chapters of Leviticus we just went through- it describes how the different sacrifices are to be administered by the Kohen. There is only one type where the person offering the sacrifice also partakes in the eating of the sacrifice, and that is the peace offering. God demands that the Passover lamb be roasted and eaten by those offering it, so that makes the Passover sacrifice a peace offering, not a sin offering.

But didn’t Yeshua offer Himself as a sacrifice for sin? Yes, He did. Well, when do the Jewish people offer their sin sacrifice? That’s on Yom Kippur.

You see, Yeshua is both sides of the coin, so to speak: His sacrifice to overcome our sin was on Passover, and the Passover sacrifice is a peace offering to God. When we think about it, isn’t the Messiah supposed to bring us all back into relationship with God?  So when He sacrificed Himself as a sin offering, didn’t that also allow us to come into relationship with God? Wasn’t the curtain torn from the top down? From God to us? When Yeshua died on that execution tree, His sacrifice was both the sin sacrifice that comes at Yom Kippur (the final one that will be at the End of Days) and the peace offering that brings us back into relationship with God. His sacrifice counted then as two- the sin sacrifice to cleanse us before God and the peace offering that will bring us into relationship with God. They may be a little backwards to us, since our time is linear, but God’s time is different. What Yeshua did back then was for then, and for now, and for the rest of time; one sacrifice to accomplish two things, from then until forever.

Isn’t God just amazing?!? It gives you goose-bumps. Now do you see the real association between Passover and Yom Kippur? We usually associate Passover with freedom from physical slavery and follow it up with Shavuot, the giving of the Law on Sinai as a “one-two punch” against sin. For those that accept Yeshua’s Messianic calling as true, these two Holy Days also represent the freedom from spiritual slavery and the giving of the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit, which only because of Yeshua’s sacrifice can now indwell forever. Prior to Yeshua the Ruach fell on the person, but was lifted up later. Only because of Yeshua can that Ruach now indwell and remain.

And there’s another misunderstanding- as nicely as this all fits, Passover is not really associated with Shavuot, but with Yom Kippur. Passover and Yom Kippur are the two sides of the same coin, sacrifice for sin to cleanse us and peace offering to bring us back into relationship with God. Again I ask, isn’t that what the Messiah is supposed to do?

I also do two things at once to my Christian friends at this time of the year: I teach them by kidding with them and rebuking them at the same time. I ask them if they ever considered that as they are celebrating and honoring the resurrection of Yeshua, they are eating something that He would find to be an abomination and an insult on His table?

Think about it before you buy that Easter ham. Also think about it when you have bread and cake all next week. Yeshua told his Talmudim (Disciples) to beware the Hametz (yeast) of the Pharisees;  Yeshua and all His followers fasted from yeast during the celebration of Hag ha Matzot. Do you want to do as Yeshua did? Do you really want to please God?

If you do not normally fast during the 7 days after passover, try it. I am sure there are many who fast from something for a day or a week to get closer to God. Don’t you think that fasting as God says you should would bring you that much closer to pleasing Him? To being in communion with Him?

Forget the ham- do a turkey or a chicken. No lamb- that is not allowed because the lamb is the demanded sacrifice and it must be done at the Temple, but the Temple doesn’t exist anymore so we don’t do lamb on Passover. Chicken, turkey, maybe a nice brisket, no bread- only matzah for the next week. No cakes, no nothing with any yeast in it at all.

Try it. Do what God says and He promises to bless you (read Deuteronomy 28.) Don’t get all caught up in that drek about obeying Torah means you aren’t under the blood- that’s nothing but a bunch of fertilizer taught by those who don’t understand and don’t want to obey God to those who don’t want to make their own decision about how to worship God.

Here are my two most favorite ways to eat matzah: spread butter lightly over it with salt (warm the butter a bit first or it will crack the matzah)- YUM!!! And for breakfast eat Matzah Brei: soak matzah in warm water, when it’s soft wring out the water (carefully) and then drench the matzah is an egg wash with a little milk (and cinnamon), then fry in a frying pan greased with butter. Serve hot with syrup or sugar. It’s sort of a Jewish french toast, and I cannot believe you won’t LOVE it!

Chag  Sameach!!

Parashah Tzav (Command) Leviticus 6 – 8:36

The prior chapters are addressed to the entire congregation, whereas these next chapters are more specifically to the Priests, describing the way the different sacrifices should be offered, and which portion of the sacrifice is for the Priests, who may eat it, and it ends with the anointing of Aaron and his sons into the Priesthood.

The Sacrificial System was a major part of the lives of the Jewish people. Of the 613 Commandments in Torah, nearly 1/3 deal with the sacrificial system. There are different offerings: a sin offering, a guilt offering, a burnt offering, a peace offering and a thanksgiving offering. The peace offering is considered to be classified in three ways: (1) thanksgiving for deliverance from sickness or danger; (2) fulfillment of a vow made in times of distress; and (3) a free-will offering made when the heart is moved at the remembrance of God’s tender mercies (Pentateuch and Haftorahs, Soncino Edition.)

With the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, the sacrificial system came to a halt; more like running into a brick wall! All of a sudden, that was it! One day we can be cleansed from our sin, the next day there is no way for the Jewish people to atone for their sins. Because God decreed that these sacrifices had to be made at the place where He placed His name, when the Temple was destroyed we couldn’t sacrifice as we should, and the Jewish people had an even stronger need for their Messiah. It’s too bad that “Mainstream” Judaism still hasn’t accepted the truth about Yeshua, who is the Messiah and through whom our sins have been forgiven. That is why the Temple was destroyed: the sacrificial system was no longer needed, but since God’s word is like He is- the same today, yesterday and forever- and He declared these sacrifices had to be made at the Temple, by destroying (or more correctly, allowing the destruction of) the Temple He put an end to a system that He said should be forever, without going against His word or changing His mind.

Does this mean that we don’t have to sacrifice anymore? Even though I can’t bring an animal to the Temple and offer it up to the Lord, does that mean I don’t need to perform any kind of sacrifice? When David went to buy the threshing floor in 2 Samuel 24 to stop the plague he caused, when it was all offered free to David, we read, “But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on buying it, for I will not present burnt offerings to the Lord my God that have cost me nothing.”

Don’t we still have ways to offer to God thanksgiving sacrifices? Can’t we still be moved to wanting to thank him? Don’t we still sin? Yes, Yeshua’s blood covers our sin, but can’t we still live up to the spirit of the law by giving up something that is valuable and desired by us to demonstrate our willingness to obey God’s commandments?

We all sin, and we all will continue to sin. As I have said before, we will never be sinless but we can always sin less, and even though we have our sins forgiven when we ask in the name of Yeshua, is that all we should do? Just say, “Thanks, Yeshua, for dying for me, so that when I ask forgiveness in Your name I am cleansed.”

Nice deal- He suffered, and we get off. Is that really good enough for you?

It’s not good enough for me. I don’t want to just accept all He did for me and do nothing to show my gratitude. And I don’t want to sacrifice something that costs me nothing. Yeshua’s death cost me nothing, but it cost Him everything, and when I sin I feel that I need to do more than just call upon His name. But what can I sacrifice? Where can I go? I don’t even own a goat or a lamb; I have two cats, but they are not acceptable sacrifices (lucky for them, too.)

So, nu? What do I do to show God I want to sacrifice a guilt or a sin offering, and especially a thanksgiving offering (because every day He does so many wonderful things for me?) Wait- didn’t David say he wouldn’t sacrifice anything to the Lord that didn’t cost him anything? Maybe what we can do, if you feel like I do, is sacrifice something that is valuable to us. I am not talking about a special monetary gift towards something that honors God, although that would be something, but let’s give something that is as valuable to us today as a lamb or a goat would have been to the people of Jerusalem in Yeshua’s day and before: let’s give up our time.

Today we work so hard, we commute so many hours a week, and when we get home (at least I know I do) all we want to do is rest. And the weekends are play time. Well, God already tells us to rest on the Shabbat, but that is a commandment we obey anyway (hopefully) so we need to do more than that if we want to make a sacrifice.

Give of your time to something that is “God-honoring.” Maybe volunteer to help with something at your place of worship, or go to a soup kitchen and serve others, or volunteer at an animal hospital (God did tell us that we are to care for His creation, did he not?) or at a human hospital. Do something that takes away from your personal time, or give money if that is more important to you than your time, but offer something up to the Lord as a sacrifice to show Him how much you appreciate what He has done for you, and to honor the sacrifice Yeshua made for you.

Yeshua gave up His divinity, His supremacy, He took off His robes of holiness and put on a mantle of stinking, dirty flesh, then wore it for 30-something years. And finally, He allowed Himself to be humiliated, beaten and tortured to death, all so that you and I can be saved because of our failure to be able to obey the Lord. Don’t you think that if Yeshua was willing to do all that for you that you should do something for Him to show your gratitude?

I volunteer at the Brevard Zoo (with Donna, my wife) and I help out at the place I worship during, before and after services, and I am available to help people there if they need computer work or training. These things take time, and I gladly sacrifice my time because it is an offering to the Lord. I don’t say this to brag or get accolations, but to show you one way in which you can do the same.

God gave up His only son, and that son gave up everything, even to the point of death, just so you can have a chance to enter God’s presence for eternity.

Don’t you think that deserves some thanks? If so, find something that will cost you something and offer it up to the Lord.

Parasha Vayikra (He Called) Leviticus 1:1 – 5:26

This book is also known as the Torat Kohanim, or Laws of the Priests. It is all about the Priesthood, regulations for how they are to act, how they get paid and also how to identify clean from unclean. The 7th Sabbatical year known as the Jubilee Year, as well as rules on tithing and redemption of the first born, all are part of being holy unto the Lord and for being a priest.

Of course, it’s good to know stuff even if you aren’t a priest.

The most important parts of this book, to me, are Chapter 11 (Kosher regulations), Chapter 23 (God’s Festivals, or Holy Days) and verse 19:18 (love they neighbor as thyself.)

What is important about this book is that we can learn what God’s perspective is about things. Men have interpreted the word of God so differently for so long that now we have all these different religions and teachings, and His word has become so polluted that we have lost His perspective. Reading Leviticus will help us see what God wants us to do.

For instance, Chapter 11 does NOT tell us what foods are clean and what foods are not- it tells us what IS food. In other words, what God says is unclean is not even to be considered “food.” He uses the word “unclean”, but also “abomination” and “detestable” to describe what we are not to eat. The Hebrew word that identifies the beasts (not food, but beasts) that are unclean is the same Hebrew word used in Exodus in the story of the rape of Jacob’s daughter Dinah, where it said she had been violated by the son of the Hivite king. The word is used to mean eating these unclean things results in a total violation, physically and spiritually, of the person- eating an unclean thing is a violation of all that is holy, from God’s perspective. It is not food we are not supposed to eat- it is simply not “food” at all. This is important when we read in Mark when Yeshua declared all food clean- although the story has nothing to do with kosher laws (it was about a hand washing ceremony.) When Mark said Yeshua declared all food clean, he did not mean pork and shellfish. To a First Century Jew that was not “food”, because God says it is not “food” here in Leviticus. Without understanding God’s perspective correctly by understanding Leviticus, we can be misled and taught incorrectly  without even knowing it.

There is also a difference between holy days and a holiday- the former is what God says we should celebrate to honor Him and the latter are what humans made up to honor God. The 7 Holy Days in Leviticus (Chapter 23) are the ones, and the way, we should honor God as He said we should. Two of those have been altered by the Rabbi’s: Rosh Hashanah and Shavuot. Rosh Hashanah is not a Jewish New Year according to God. God said that Pesach (Passover) is the beginning of our year. Rosh Hashanah is, from God’s perspective, Yom Teruah (Day of Trumpets) and a memorial day. It is the beginning of the Ten Days of Awe during which we review our failure to do as God has commanded, in preparation for Yom Kippur. Also Shavuot is different- the traditional celebration is that of the giving of the law on Mt. Sinai, but God said it is to be a spring harvest festival and a presentation of the first fruits.

Hey- there’s nothing wrong with holidays (well, maybe Easter and Christmas need a strong review, but they have become so socialized and commercialized I don’t know if anyone really thinks they are religious anymore, except from a historical viewpoint), as long as we know which are the true Holy Days God wants us to celebrate, and we celebrate them as He said we should.

The Golden Rule is also found here, which is one of the two most important commandments that exist, according to Yeshua (and many of the great Jewish Rabbi’s, as well.) Even this simple and easy to understand rule has been attacked by Bible critics, stating that Hillel and Tobit stated the rule in a negative way (do not do unto others as you would not want them to do to you) but Jesus said it “correctly” by stating it in a positive way (do unto others as you would have them do unto you.) Horse apples! In the days when these arguments were made, it was considered the same to say it either way. People just have to screw up everything. Oy!

This book tells us how we should live- wholly holy, because our God is holy. How many times does God say that we should be holy because He is holy? I can’t even count that high. This book tells the Priests (Kohanim) how they should live and their duties as Priest, and since the nation of Israel is to be a nation of Priests to the world, this book is as important to know and follow to any member of the other 11 tribes as it is to the members of the Tribe of Levi. And it also applies to anyone who sojourns with the Jewish people (that means anyone who worships the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob), whom God said is no different than a “natural born Jew” when it comes to both the rights under the Torah, as well as the obligations under the Torah.

That’s what makes it so hard for Christian-raised people who are trying to get back to their Hebraic roots (or become Messianic Jews)- they like being given the same rights under Torah that the Jewish people have always had, but they often balk when it comes to living under the same regulations that the Torah demands.

You can’t have one without the other, so if you want to worship God as He said to worship Him, you need to live by this book (remember- God has no religion, only His commandments, regulations and ordinances which He declared in the Torah.)

To worship God as He says we should, we must stop choosing and picking what are ceremonial laws (Mishpatim) from moral laws (mitzvot) from civil laws, from other laws we can’t understand (Hukkim), from whatever- whether moral, ceremonial or any other “type” of law, these are the ways God said we should live and how to worship Him. Anything else, ANYTHING ELSE, is not from God.

So, nu? Do you want to worship God as He said to, or not? What would…no, make that what did…. Jesus do?

Parashot Vayak’hel/Pekudei (And he assembled…) Exodus 35:1-40:38

These last two parashah are read together, bringing us to the end of the book of Exodus, or you might say, this is an exodus from Exodus. Ouch!! 🙂

As an aside, there are often times when we will read two parashah together. The parashah schedule is designed so that we always end up with the last reading of D’Varim (Deuteronomy) on Simchat Torah, the 8th day after Sukkot (also called Sh’mini Atzeret) so there are times during the year that we need to read two portions instead of one to keep to the schedule.

These last chapters are all about the Tabernacle. We have the exact dimensions, size, weight, and every little detail of the Tabernacle, which Moses was told to erect on the first day of the first month. Aaron and his sons are anointed in their holy garments, and thus the place of worship and the means of worship are completed.

With everything done as required, God’s presence fills the Tabernacle. He has moved from the mountain to the Earth, and now resides with the people.

I see here the picture of how we, as a sort of Tabernacle, must prepare ourselves for the presence of the Holy Spirit by being “correct” in weight, size and construction. This doesn’t mean to get platform shoes, a haircut and go on a diet if you want to be saved, but it does show that once we are ready, in accordance to what God has designed, we can accept the Holy Spirit, the Ruach HaKodesh, and God will dwell with us.

In Ezekiel God says He will give us a heart of flesh, and in Jeremiah He promises

I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,”

We need to prepare ourselves for the presence of the Lord, just as the Tabernacle was prepared. Once we are ready we can be filled with His Spirit.

So, what is “ready”? I know, absolutely, that the Ruach dwells inside me, but I am not perfect, I am still sinful. So if I am not perfectly built as the Tabernacle was, how can the Ruach enter me?

Because God is not interested in my body; He is interested in knowing what is in my heart. And in my heart is T’Shuvah, is repentance, is the desire not to do what  I want to do, but to do what God wants me to do. And even though I am not able to be the perfectly erected Tabernacle that Moshe built, I am good enough because I am repentant, broken of the spirit of self-importance, desiring God’s forgiveness, and accepting of the Messiah Yeshua. Only because I accept Yeshua as my Messiah, and ask forgiveness in His name (and all the other stuff, too) am I able to be a properly prepared tabernacle of the Holy Spirit.

Here’s the part I don’t understand- I know that God cannot abide sin, and that I am a sinful sinner, yet His Ruach can live within me. I just don’t get it: it seems to be self-negating that the Holy Spirit, which cannot abide sin, can survive and even grow within this sinful body. Hallelujah, and thanks be to God, Almighty, that He is able to give me His spirit while I am still a sinner to help me become a more perfect tabernacle than I am now.

Like so many things about God and His plans, I do not understand how many of these things are possible, but that isn’t important. What is important is that it is being done.

The Tabernacle of God that Moshe built, once properly prepared, allowed the Lord to dwell with His people. The tabernacle of our heart, when properly prepared, will allow the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) to dwell within us. The preparation is not nearly as complicated or expensive as the one for the Tabernacle Moshe built. All we need to do is go to the Lord with a broken spirit, a contrite heart acknowledging and owning up to our sinfulness and inability to overcome it alone, and a desire to do T’Shuvah, to turn from our sins and do what pleases God. Oh yes, the final ingredient for the recipe of salvation: we need to acknowledge Yeshua as our Messiah and ask, in His name, for forgiveness and for the Ruach to dwell within us. That is the final, and ultimate, preparation. That finalizes the construction of the tabernacle in our heart, in which the Ruach will dwell.

If you haven’t built your own tabernacle, you need to get to work. You have until your very last breath to do this; however, unless you know the exact moment you will die, you better not wait.