Parashot Veyakhel / Pekudey 2020 (He assembled / Accounts) Exodus 35 – 40

Because we are in a Leap Year, in order to have the annual reading cycle of the Torah comply with the Gregorian calendar, there are some Shabbat readings where we will read two parashah instead of one. This Shabbat is one of those times, and it also takes us to the end of Sefer Sh’mot, the Book of Exodus.

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In these last chapters, we are told of the generosity of the people in giving all the materials needed for constructing the Tabernacle; in fact, Moses had to order them to stop bringing materials because they had contributed too much.  We are told how the construction and materials were made, and these chapters are almost a word-for-word repetition of the instructions God gave Moses earlier. The style of the last chapters of Exodus regarding the Tabernacle is like reading “Here is what you are to do”, in minute detail, then we read “This is what they did”, in minute detail, ending with “And this is what was done”, in minute detail.

The last chapters tell us that Moses blesses the people for their work (which is likely when he wrote Psalm 90), which they did exactly as God commanded, and we end this book with God’s presence filling the Tabernacle.

And we end this book of the Torah with the statement we use at the end of each book:

Chazak! Chazak! V’nit Chazek!
(Be strong! Be strong! And let us be strengthened)

Regarding the building of the Tabernacle, we are given so many minute details of every aspect of this task. We are told how many loops, how many posts and bearings, what is made of which material, how many pomegranates, the dimensions of each section of the tent, and the weights of the materials used.

Would you like to know why there is so much detail regarding the building of the Tabernacle?

So would I. And you know what else? I don’t think we will ever know.

The same sort of minute detailing is given when Ezekiel measured the Temple, which we can read about in Ezekiel 40-43. It seems that there must be some reason, and maybe that reason is simply so that when we do rebuild the Temple, we will already know what we need to have and how to do it.

Who knows? Let’s move on…

What I found interesting in these readings is that Moses did not ask for God’s guidance or pray for success when they started to build the Tabernacle, and he did not bless the people for their work until after the entire task was completed correctly. I have always thought that when we start a project or begin a task, we should ask God for guidance and bless the people performing the task.

But the Chumash explains Moses held back his blessing until after the project was completed because it is an easy thing to start something difficult, but very hard and rare to complete it exactly as it was supposed to be done.

My take on this is that a blessing is not given but earned.

That also jibes with what we read in the Bible, as God’s blessings were given after something was done and not before.  We should ask for God’s guidance and help, but a blessing is not to be given until the task is completed.

The same holds true with obedience. God has many blessings, so many that if you put them into a bottomless pit they would spill out over the top, but we will not receive even one blessing if we do not do something worthy of one.

Yes, there are times when God will bless someone even though they don’t deserve one, and we know that he rains on the just and the unjust, alike, so there will be times a blessing is given that has not been earned, but that is God’s choice to do. After all, these are his blessings to give, and if he wants to give one for no reason that we can discern, then he can give it. And really…  who in their right mind would ever refuse a blessing?

The lesson for us from all this is that when we do as God says we should, we will receive a blessing. We will not get anything for not doing anything, and that means when you have a need and ask God to help you, he is willing and able to help but he will not do it for you.
Too many people sit around complaining about their life and asking for prayer from others. Yet, when they are given advice on how to get out of their slump or how to meet their needs, they always seem to have some excuse why that won’t work. Or they will say they have tied it and it didn’t work. I often wonder when someone says nothing works if they really tried hard enough to make it work. How many times have you tried to open a jar and found it too hard, but then you get angry at the jar and you can open it? Is it the anger, the adrenaline, or just simply that you finally put the effort needed into the task?

When you are in a slump or have a need, it is right and a good idea to ask God for help, but he won’t do anything until you walk in faith (as Abraham did) by getting off your kvetching tuchas and do what you would do as if you already had what you asked for. Yeshua tells us this is what we should do in Mark 11:24 when he said:

Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, trust that you are receiving it, and it will be yours.

Figure out what you want, determine how to get it, ask God for help and then get started. Don’t wait for the answer and don’t wait for a sign, for no sign shall be given. Just walk in faith trusting that what you asked for will be given to you. But keep your eyes open and your ears clear so that you can see where God leads you once you start walking; you never know, you may start in the wrong direction and God will have to redirect you.

God’s blessings are here for the asking, but they are not given until the work is done.

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I welcome your comments and until next time, L’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom.

Parashah Sh’mot 2020 (the Names) Exodus 1 – 6:1

This second book of the Torah begins with the history of Moses. He was born at the time when the Pharaoh wanted all male children killed, but his mother hid him until he was three months old, then she sent him down the Nile trusting in God to save him. He was found by Pharaoh’s sister, who took pity on him and saved him from being drowned.

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Miriam was following her brother, who the Egyptian named “Moshe”, and offered to get a Hebrew woman to nurse the child, bringing him back to his own mother. She raised him as a Hebrew child until he was weaned (back in those days that could have been until he was a toddler), and then he was raised by the Egyptians as one of the royal family.

As an adult, one day Moshe saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, and in anger, he killed the Egyptian. That became known and Moshe fled for his life, ending up in Midyan, marrying a Midianite woman and working for her father, a priest of Midyan.

When Moshe was 80 years old, he saw the burning bush and God told him to go lead the people out of Egypt. Moshe made any number of excuses, each of which God handled by giving him miraculous signs to perform, and eventually even allowing Aaron to act as the mouthpiece for Moshe. In the end, God had to order Moshe to go; yet, on the way, Moshe still did something that made God so angry he was going to kill him, but Zipporah saved him by circumcising Gershom, his oldest son.

Moshe comes to the people and shows them the signs, and they believe him. Then he and Aaron go to Pharaoh to ask to let the people go three days into the desert to worship Adonai, but Pharaoh refuses, and to make things worse, he orders that no straw be given the people but they must still make their quota of bricks, forcing them to work day and night, gathering stubble from the fields.

This parashah ends with Moshe asking God why he has made things worse, and God explains that this is so that he can now show all his wonders.

Of all the possible lessons, both historical and spiritual that can be found within this one parashah, I want to talk about something that is, essentially, social.

The reason the Israelites become enslaved was not due to riotous actions, rebellions, or anything criminal. It was that they were blessed by God and grew strong. Their numbers grew, and the absence of any reason to enslave them, other than what the Torah tells us, i.e. the fear of the Egyptian leadership that these people may one day turn against them, indicates that they were living peacefully and separate from the Egyptians. The Israelites did their thing, and the Egyptians did their thing, and neither bothered the other. In the end, it wasn’t what the Israelites did that caused them to become slaves, but what the Egyptians were afraid they might do.

God promised Abraham that his descendants would be a blessing to the world, and since we know that God gives us blessings in order that we can share them, the blessings to the world were first found within Israel. And throughout history, every time Israel shares their blessings with others, it is turned against them.

In Egypt, they were enslaved for being prosperous. In Isaiah 39, we read that after Hezekiah shows the emissaries of the King of Babylon his riches, the king of Babylon decides to take them for himself. In Spain, the riches and business success of the Jewish population led to their persecution and exile during the Inquisition. Even the Pope at that time told Isabella not to exile the Jews because they were beneficial to the Spanish economy, but she refused to listen.

And we all know what happened in Germany.

Even today, many (if not most) of the technological and medical advancements that have benefitted the world came from Israel: did you know that Israel is the leading technological contributor to the world today? Yet, despite all the wonderful blessings Israel has given to the world, the world supports the enemies of Israel!

Talk about killing the goose that lays the golden eggs!

God chose the descendants of Abraham, who the world knows as “the Jews” to be the way he, God, blesses the world. He has given us the gifts that have made the world better, but this blessing came with a curse: in a world that is sinful, egocentric and full of fear and jealousy, the gifts that the Jews share with the world have made them the targets of the world.

I have written before about the number of Nobel prizes given to Jews compared to the rest of the world. Currently, Jews represent .02% of the world’s population, which is 2 out of every 100 people. Yet, of all the Nobel prizes awarded, those won by Jews represent nearly 24% of all prizes, across the board.

Just as the King of Babylon wanted the riches that Hezekiah had, the world wants what God has given to the Jewish people. But, what the world doesn’t realize, is that these gifts from God are to be given to the world through the Jews. In other words, the Jewish people are the distribution means for God’s blessings; destroy the Jews, and there will be no more blessings.

God has certainly blessed us, but this blessing has also been the bane of our existence; God wants his people to bless the world, but in doing so the world has turned against his people.

Over and over we read in the Bible, and also see in human history, that the more the Jewish people bless the world, the more the world hates us. Even the greatest of all blessings, the Messiah, who came from the Jewish people, has been turned against us and under his name millions of Jews have been tortured, persecuted and murdered.

Yet, we persevere. God will never allow his people to disappear from the earth, and despite the terrible and unappreciative way the world treats us, we will continue to share our gifts and blessings with the world. Why? Because we fear God, and we want to do as God has told us to do.

When we obey God, he is on our side, and no matter what the world tries to do, we will NEVER be destroyed.

As Shaul said to the Jews in Rome (Romans 8:31): “…when God is with us, who can be against us?”

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Until next time, Shabbat Shalom and Baruch HaShem!

Parashah Vayyiggash 2020 (He approached) Genesis 44:18 – 27

We left Benjamin being taken into life-long slavery for having stolen the cup from Joseph. This parashah begins with Judah coming to Joseph and explaining how very valuable Benjamin is to Jacob and begs Joseph to take him in place of Benjamin as his slave for life and release Benjamin back to his father; otherwise, Jacob will die of a broken heart.

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At this demonstration of brotherly love and devotion, Joseph can no longer contain himself, so glad that his brothers have shown they are no longer as they were when they sold him into slavery. He clears the Egyptians from his presence and reveals his true identity to his brothers. After a moment of disbelief, Joseph reunites with them. He tells them to bring Jacob and all they have into Egypt because the famine is not over yet and that he, Joseph, will take care of all their needs from now on.

Pharaoh hears that Joseph’s brothers are there and confirms Joseph’s request to bring the family into Egypt; not only that, but he also gives them wagons to carry everything.  The brothers return to Jacob and tell him about Joseph, and once he gets over the initial shock, he desires to go to Joseph just as fast as he can. On the way they come to Beersheba, where Jacob was raised, God confirms to Jacob he may go to Egypt.

Remember that Isaac wanted to go to Egypt when he was in the midst of a famine, but God forbade it (Genesis 26:2) so, naturally, Jacob wanted to have God’s approval before he went there, and the altar that Isaac set up at Beersheba was the perfect place to ask permission.

Upon arrival in Egypt, Pharaoh confirms (again) Joseph’s desire to have his family settle in Goshen, which seems to be the best land in Egypt. They settle in and the famine continues, although thanks to Joseph his family is well fed. The rest of Egypt, in the meantime, is starving and they run out of money to buy food, so Joseph trades their cattle for food. Eventually, Pharaoh owns all the cattle (although Joseph had the people care for the cattle) and the famine is still with them, so Joseph buys the land the people own and allows them to work it, giving Pharaoh a percentage of their crops in exchange for letting them work the land. By the end of the famine, Pharaoh owns everything in Egypt: the land, the cattle, and even the people.

Meanwhile, the children of Israel are growing stronger and multiplying like rabbits.

When I read this all I could think about was how amiable Pharaoh was to Joseph. He appreciated all that Joseph had done not just for him, but for his people, as well. He was kind to Joseph, and when Joseph brought his family down, even though (compared to the Egyptians) they were crude and their habits and lifestyle an abomination, Pharaoh gave them the best land to live on and even made them supervisors of his own cattle. The government appreciated what this lowly Jewish man had done for it.

Then I thought about the treatment of Jews today.

Do you have any idea of the technological advancements to make life better that have come out of Israel?

First off, consider that Jews make up less than 4/10’s of 1 percent of all the people in the world, which means that out of every 10,000 people only 4 of them are Jewish. Yet, even at that minuscule percentage, in the last century, nearly 22% of all Nobel prizes have been awarded to Jews.

As for technology, here are some examples (just a few of the many) of what Israel has contributed to the world:

  • the cell phone was a Motorola invention, but it was developed at their Israel R & D location;
  • an exoskeleton device to help paraplegics walk;
  • PillCam, which is a camera in a pill people can swallow for diagnosis of gastronomic illnesses;
  • a flexible stent for heart patients that has already saved millions of lives;
  • some of the most advanced firewall software available today;
  • the very first USB flash drive patent was from an Israeli;
  • Netafim is an advanced irrigation system;
  • Israel has invented a device for farming that can pull water directly from the air; and
  • the car camera system that makes driving safer? Israeli invention.

And these are just a few of the many inventions that Israel has not only developed, but shared with the world. They even share it with their neighbors, who refuse to accept what Israel can give them to make their lives better, Instead, they do all they can to completely destroy Israel.

Talk about killing the goose that lays the golden eggs!

The governments of the world, unlike that Pharaoh so many millennia ago, don’t appreciate a thing that Israel has done. In fact, instead of recognizing the benefits that Israel gives to the world and demanding that the Arab nations leave Israel alone, they side with the ones trying to destroy Israel. How blind can you be? How can the world not see that they are supporting the destruction of the one country that is doing more than anyone else to make their lives better?

I don’t have an answer to that one, except maybe that Satan has so influenced the world leadership, meaning the United Nations, that the world is willing to drink the Kool-Aid (if you understand my reference.)

The worst part is that I know this will not get better, but in fact, it will get worse.  God’s plan for the redemption of his people has been done: we are gathered from the four corners of the earth and are back in our own land. Now comes the judgment of the nations, the Goyim, who will pay for their attempts to destroy God’s chosen people. But, as that judgment comes, Israel is still part of the world, they will also undergo suffering. Pray that during this suffering they come to recognize and accept the Messiah God already sent to them, Yeshua.

God has his plan for the world, which is outlined in the Bible books, especially the one called Revelation. It tells us how terrible it will be, and we can see the events beginning to unfold. Yes, there have been “doomsday sayers” for millennia, but I really think that we can count on it happening soon because the one definitive sign is that God will first regather his people, which he has done. That, and the inexplicable stupidity of the world, believing and supporting the PLO, who are liars and murderers, not just of Jews but of their own people, as well. And the UN is so blind that they are blaming Israel for all the problems that Israel’s neighbors are causing.

We can pray for Israel, and we should, but what we should pray for now is not a peace that comes from men, because history proves that peace men make is never more than temporary. We need to pray for the peace that God will bring, and that peace will not come (per God’s word) until after the Tribulation.

Pray for the Tribulation to come soon, and pass quickly.

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Until next time, Shabbat Shalom and Baruch HaShem!

Parashah Vayyelach 2019 (and he went) Deuteronomy 31

Moses has come to the end of his road and the Lord tells him that he is to charge Joshua with taking the people across the Jordan into the land God promised to give them. Moses repeatedly tells all the people not to be afraid and tells Joshua in front of all the people, not to be afraid to go into the land or of the people there because God will go before them and destroy the people there, as he did with Og and Sihon.

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God tells Moses of the future, how the people will rebel against God and that he will have to punish them, which Moses relates to all the leaders. God also dictates to Moses a song which he is to write down and teach to the people so that when they fail to obey God and his instructions the song will be a witness for God that he warned them of what is happening.

As I was reading this parashah, I came to verse 4, where Moses says:

And the Lord will do unto them as he did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites, and unto their land; whom he destroyed.

and I thought to myself, “Surely there must have been someone who partook in those battles and was thinking, ‘I killed those men, myself. God didn’t kill them, I did!'” and at that moment I realized what I need to talk about today.

People, as a rule, are self-centered and usually don’t like to give credit for something they have done to anyone or anything else. Here we have a perfect example: the Israelites were the ones who fought a hand-to-hand battle against the Amorites, yet Moses is saying that it was God who destroyed them. How can that be if people were against people?

Now, with the Egyptians and the Sea of Suf (Red Sea), it was clearly God who split the waters and caused them to fall in on the Egyptians, and it was clearly God who caused the plagues, but when Israel fought against the people of Og and Sihon, it was man against man. How can Moses say God destroyed them?

The reason Moses said God destroyed the Amorites (and, for the record, he was right in saying it that way) is that more often than not God works through people.

The Bible is rife with examples of God’s plan coming to fruition through the actions of people. We have the case where the first king of Israel, Saul, had to be taken out of the way to allow David to become king. God struck him down by forcing him to commit suicide)because the Philistines were about to capture him on Mt. Gilboa (1 Samuel 28:4); when the house of Ahab was to be punished for all it’s evil, especially Jezebel, it was done through Yehu; the Northern Kingdom of Israel was punished by the Assyrians; and the Southern Kingdom of Judah was punished for their sins, especially the sins of King Manasseh, by the Babylonians.

Not all things God does through people are bad. He arranged for the timing to be perfect for Joseph to be freed from jail; he made sure that Samson’s strength returned to him in his last moments; he touched the heart of King Koresh of Persia and allowed the exiles in Babylon (under Ezra) to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple and the wall.

If we are doing our best to honor God in all we say and do and to follow the instructions he gave to us regarding worshiping him and treating each other, then he will bless us. He promises this to us in Deuteronomy, Chapter 28. He also promises that when we rebel and reject him and his instructions, we will be cursed. The difference between God blessing us and cursing us is that the blessings are actively given by God, and the curses come upon us when God no longer protects us, so they are passively allowed.

Blessings are given, curses are the result of not being under God’s protection.

And when wonderful things happen, even when we have worked hard to achieve them, it is still because God has worked it out for us by working it out through us.

If you are an artist and paint or sculpt a masterpiece, you may have been the one doing the actually work, but it was God who gave you the talent and the inspiration that allowed you to complete your task. If you are a teacher and you receive accolades for your work, it is because God has given you that talent and provided the proper students for you to make the best use of that talent.

Here is something that we all have to remember and be grateful for: God is behind it all, and when we do what is good we must first give the credit to God for making it possible. When I write or say something that is edifying and useful to spiritual growth, it is because God has given me the insight and the ability to do so.

It is as I always say: when I do something good, it is God working through me, and when I totally screw up, then I can take all the credit.

Always be grateful to God for all the good that happens in your life; not just for your successes, but also for your failures which he sometimes will orchestrate so you can learn a valuable lesson. When we are for God, he will be for us.

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Until next time, Shabbat Shalom and Baruch HaShem!

You Don’t Deserve Squat

Normally, I turn the sound off when a TV commercial comes on. So many times what they say is such an insult to someone’s intelligence. One of the worst things, in my opinion, is how they constantly try to sell you on the idea that you deserve what they have for you, and don’t let anyone take it away.

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You deserve this coverage, you deserve to feel better, you deserve more interest, you deserve a better car, you deserve to feel loved, you deserve…actually, if you listen to this drek, you deserve anything and everything you want.

The truth is you don’t deserve squat… unless you earn it.

Wait a minute, Steve! What about our inalienable rights? The U.S. Constitution says we deserve them.

No, it doesn’t. It says you have the right to them, but we didn’t deserve the freedom to exercise those rights until after we earned it through warfare and bloodshed.

The current generation is known as “Millennials”; they all seem to have a sense of entitlement (of course, not all Millennials fit this description, but certainly, enough do to justify the stereotype), and I believe a lot of this is due to their having been brought being told they deserve whatever they want. I want a new car, well, I deserve it. I want better insurance rates, well, I deserve them. I want a better insurance plan, well I deserve one.

Get real, people! You don’t deserve anything you haven’t earned, but there are many things available to you. If I work hard and save my money, or if I invest wisely, then I can say I deserve to have those things because I have earned them.

By definition, if I already deserve something then all I should have to do is ask to receive it, right?  What do you think will happen if you go to your insurance company and tell them you deserve better rates? Do you think you will get them without giving up some benefits or paying more? If you go to a car dealer and offer to give them your car for that better car you deserve, will they accept your old car and give you the better one at no additional cost?

No one deserves anything that they haven’t earned.

What about salvation? Yeshua died for our sins, and haven’t we been told by our religious leaders that all we need to do is ask and we shall receive? If we can get it simply by asking, doesn’t that mean we deserve it?

You would think so. Even by my own definition, something that we deserve we should be able to get with the asking. Yeshua did die for our sins, and he did make salvation something that we can have simply by asking, but it isn’t something we deserve.

It is available to us, but we haven’t, and (frankly) none of us ever will, deserve it. That is the reason Yeshua had to die – no one can earn salvation.

What about blessings? Doesn’t God give blessings to everyone even when they are sinful? Doesn’t it say in Matthew 5:45 that God sends rain to the just and unjust alike?  If that is true, then we must all deserve blessings.

It is true that God will bless even those who reject and curse him, which he does because he is a loving and compassionate God. But we don’t automatically deserve a blessing; however, blessings can be earned by obeying God’s instructions in the Torah (Deut. 28.) God promises that when we are obedient to his instructions he will bless us, and God always keeps his word.

Yeshua earned his salvation through a lifetime of perfect obedience to God’s instructions, something none of us can do. He did that so salvation could be available to all people. We do not deserve it, but we can have it.

I’ll finish with this: we can’t earn and we don’t deserve salvation, but we can have it; the hard part is deserving to keep it. And that, my friends, is for another message.

Thank you for being here and please subscribe if you haven’t done so already. I welcome comments and look forward to our next time together, so until then…L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Parashah Bechukosai 2019 (In my statutes) Leviticus 26:3 – 28

This parashah is the final reading from the Book of Leviticus.

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Up to this point, God has given us his instructions for how to worship him, the responsibilities of the Cohen, and how to treat each other within the society. He also has included the punishments for failure to do as he instructs. Now, in this final section, God does what the Prophets have done throughout the Tanakh, which is to tell us what will happen when we obey, and what will happen when we disobey.

It is very similar to one of my favorite chapters throughout the Torah, which is Deuteronomy 28 and is called the Blessings and the Curses.

Whenever a covenant is made there is a standard formula:

(1) The one proposing the covenant states the conditions of the covenant;

(2) He states what the one(s) agreeing to the covenant must do;

(3) What will result from compliance, and (finally);

(4) What will happen as a result of noncompliance

Today, what I would like to talk about is what God says will happen if we do not follow his instructions in this book.

In Chapter 26, God says he will punish us for our sin of disobedience 7 times over (and another 7 times over if that doesn’t work, and another 7 times if we still refuse to obey, and even ANOTHER 7 times if we have still refused to do T’shuvah), but his purpose is not to be punitive, it is to be corrective.

In Ezekiel 18 God tells us that he gets no pleasure from the death of a sinner, but that he would rather the sinner turn from his sins, and live. Meaning live eternally with God. This is not possible if we choose to live a sinful life and never to T’shuvah (repent.).

You may ask, “If God wants us to stop sinning, why would he curse us with tsuris?” (Yiddish for troubles)

The answer is that the mother of all sins is pridefulness. Refusing to follow God’s instructions is evidence that we think we know better so we don’t have to trust or listen to God. It is rebellion and means we trust only in our own power. So, since we think we are so great we don’t need to listen to God, he shows us just how incompetent, weak, and powerless we really are. The way he does that is to withhold the rain so our crops fail; he will make us infertile so we can’t have successors to carry on the family heritage or maintain our property; he will allow us to get sick and lose our health; he will send our enemies to decimate our family and fields; essentially, his punishment is to remove his protection, which leaves us exposed to all the evil that exists in the world.

You see- God doesn’t really do anything bad to us, per se’, but when he removes his protection and blessings, all the bad things he says he will do to us the world will do for him.

Often we hear people say the God of the Old Covenant is cruel but the God of the New Covenant is all about love. I don’t know how anyone who actually has read or learned about the Bible can say something so ridiculous: God is the same today as he was in the beginning, and he will be the same throughout eternity. The only difference is that in the Old Covenant God was training his people to become a nation of Priests to the world and in the New Covenant he sent the Messiah to fine-tune that training. Same God, same teachings, same rules, same instructions, only with a deeper, more spiritual understanding being given.

Today’s message is very simple and short (I know- surprising that I would ever give a short message!), and this is it:

Punishment from God is not punitive, it is corrective. 

The next time you feel you are being punished, review your life. Have you been disobedient? Have you been trying to live under your own power and not trusting in God’s power? Are you doing God’s work in the world (sometimes our tsuris is from the Enemy to stop us doing what God wants us to do)? Answer these questions carefully; look deeply into the mirror and decide if you have walked away from God’s Kippah (covering)? if you think that is the case, then return to him and follow the instructions he gave us all.

If you believe you are being attacked by the Enemy, then call out to God for more protection and help to get through it.

Terrible things can happen to godly people; in fact, we are told that they will happen. Do you remember you were told you have to pick up your execution stake in order to be able to walk with Yeshua? So steel yourself for the tsuris to come, and be comforted by the knowledge that there will be blessings, as well. Look for them and know that what seems to be a curse today might evolve into a blessing tomorrow.

Having reached the end of a book in the Torah, before we start the next book we say:

                                           Chazak, chazak, v’nit’chazek! 

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

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Tonight begins the Shabbat, so I wish you all Shabat Shalom and Baruch HaShem!!

Parashah Behar 2019 (On the mount) Leviticus 25 – 26:2

In this reading from the Torah, we are given the instructions for celebrating the Sabbatical Year and the Year of Jubilee.

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The Sabbatical year (called the Shemita) is the Shabbat rest for the land. Just as every seventh day the people rested, every seventh year the land would also get a rest. God promised that the sixth year produce would be great enough to be able to feed the land-owner not just for the sixth year, but for the next two years, as well, until the planting that started in the year after the Sabbatical year was harvestable.

Sounds just like the promise (that God kept, of course) regarding the collection of Manna on the sixth day lasting for two days over the Shabbat instead of morning to morning, as it did on the other six days of the week.

The Shemita also gave us rest from the burden of debt, in that all debts were to be released in the Shemita year. This was only for debts within the Israelite community and did not affect debts to or from non-Israelites.

The Jubilee year (called the Yovel) occurs the year after every 7th Shemita year or every fiftieth year. It is a year of rest, as well. Not just a rest for the land, but a rest from slavery or debt-bondage. In the Jubilee year, all property was to be returned to the hereditary owner and all slaves (again, only fellow Israelites) were to be set free.  In fact, the Jubilee Year was the basis for buying and selling of land and people in debt-bondage, in as much as the cost of land or freedom from bondage was to be prorated (you could say amortized) based how much production from the land or person could be expected by the next Jubilee Year.

Why all this resting? Didn’t God know about Type A personalities? What are they supposed to do with themselves when there is no work to be performed?

Maybe God instructed these different times of rest (Shabbat, Shemita, and the Yovel) so that we could have a moment in which to stop worrying about our life and start thinking about our eternity? Maybe God was thinking that if he made sure we had nothing that required us to concentrate on ourselves or what we were doing we could then concentrate on what is really important- where we will be going?

People are inherently self-centered. That doesn’t necessarily mean we are selfish or egotistic, it just means that when we receive input from the world, we identify and relate it to personal experience and understanding. Essentially, we are each of us the center of our universe, and as such we relate everything to ourselves. When we have nothing to worry about, nothing to occupy our time doing, we then can settle down and expand our vision, so to speak, to see things from someone else’s eyes.

In the Bible, God gives us his view of the world and the people in it. We are given the opportunity to see and understand things from a different viewpoint. And, when there is nothing else to do but study the Bible, we can mature both spiritually and emotionally because we learn to see things the way others see it.

Notice that I say we have the opportunity to see and understand other’s viewpoint- as with everything in life, there are those who will open their minds and hearts to others, and there are those that refuse to acknowledge anyone else’s feelings or opinions.

Every covenant and promise God has given to us, he has given as an open-ended agreement. He always keeps his end of the bargain, but we have the choice to accept or reject his covenants and promises. The way we demonstrate acceptance or rejection is through obedience. When we obey God’s instructions that he gave in the Torah (which Yeshua confirmed and discussed in spiritual terms), we will receive those things that God promised. When we disobey, be it by volition, ignorance, or instruction from others (meaning a religion’s doctrine), we reject God and will not receive all the blessings he has for us.

God isn’t just willing to bless us, he desires to bless us tremendously, and how much we receive is directly proportional to how well we follow his instructions. He wants us to obey as a love response and result of trusting him, but he doesn’t care why we disobey.

I am going to finish this message with what I believe is a really interesting thought- you don’t have to wait for one of God’s Shabbat rests before you rest. You can take a Shabbat any time you want to. Since I have retired, I am still active (as my ministry work online shows) but I am now in what I like to call a perpetual Shabbat. I don’t hafta do nothin’ if I don’t want to, and I am much more relaxed than I ever was when I was a member of the Rat Race. Don’t get me wrong- I liked my job, but I like not having to do it even better!

Enjoy the Shabbat that God has instructed you to enjoy. Take a break from your own life and learn about others. Expand yourself, emotionally and spiritually, by concentrating on something and someone other than yourself. You’ll find it very restful.

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I welcome comments and whether you agree or vehemently disagree, all I ask is that your comments be made in a nice way.

Tonight begins God’s weekly Shabbat, so I wish you all Shabbat Shalom!

Until next time….L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Do All Blessings Come from God?

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Now for today’s drash

We know that God loves to bless his children and that he rains on both the just and the unjust, alike (Matthew 5:4.) To me, that means even someone who rejects God will receive blessings from him, if for no other reason than God loves all his children.

Besides those blessings God gives to us simply because he loves us, we can earn blessings through obedience to his commandments (Deut. 28), which means that there is an awful lot of really nice stuff God has for all of us, and he never ever runs out of blessings for us.

But what about the Enemy, the Devil, that old lion HaSatan stalking each and every one of us, trying to place a wedge between us and God? Does he ever do nice things for people?

You bet he does!!

In fact, I believe that Satan gives more good things to people than he does bad things. Why? It’s because when we are given things we like, especially things that are worldly and appeal to our base nature, we become prideful and unappreciative. The Israelites in the desert are a perfect example of this, and for those who are not Jewish don’t think for a moment you are any better than they were. Even after 40 years of seeing bread fall from heaven, water come from rocks, clothes and shoes not worn from the rough terrain, having food and water supplied for over a million people (not to mention millions of animals) and yet, the moment they were had any trouble, they carped and complained and lost faith in the One who had been providing this all along.

They had the same attitude towards God that I used to hear when I was in Sales:

“I know you’ve been the best producer this branch has ever had, but what did you do for me today?” 

I believe that Satan gives many blessings so that when they are taken away, we will curse God. Look at the Bible verses that support this:

Job 2:9– His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”

Matthew 4:9Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. “All this I will give You,” he said, “if You will fall down and worship me.”

Revelation 16:11– And the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness, and men began to gnaw their tongues in anguish and curse the God of heaven for their pains and sores; yet they did not repent of their deeds.

We know that Job did not fall victim to the Devil’s tricks, and neither did Yeshua. But we are told that in the Acharit HaYamim (End Days) many will curse God for the pain and suffering they will be going through without realizing that this is as much a chance for them to be saved as it is having to suffer God’s just punishment for their sinfulness.

The Enemy knows that after being blessed with fleshly desires we not only get used to them, we think we deserve them. And when they are taken away, we feel rejected, unjustly punished and we take it out on the one who we think gave us these in the first place- God!  How many people who have been given blessings (Satanists notwithstanding) think that the Devil made it happen? Probably none. We blame the Devil for bad things happening in our lives, but not for the good things. And because we think God is blessing us, when the Devil takes away those things he gave us we don’t blame him- we blame God. We ask “Why?”; we look for reasons we are being punished;  we tend to get sad, melancholy and resentful, which results all too often in our rejecting God.

Can you see how by blessing us the Enemy can turn us against God?

So, nu?  How can I know who gave me the blessings I have? Actually, it’s not so hard to figure it out: if you are being obedient to God’s Torah you will receive blessings. That’s God’s promise, and all his promises are trustworthy. If you know that you are not obedient to Torah and yet, you are receiving blessings, then you have to ask yourself, “Who is giving me so many wonderful things for rejecting God’s commandments?” The answer is obvious, isn’t it? There is only one entity in the universe who will reward people for disobeying God.

One last note on this: if you are doing your best to obey the Torah and find yourself devoid of blessings, or at least having a lot of tsouris, then be happy for that. It means you have successfully rejected the Enemy’s attempt to seduce you and you are getting closer to God, which is why now he is attacking you. Maintain your faith and the blessings will come, eventually, just as they did for Job.

Blessings are able to be earned and also given freely by God to those who love him and show that love by obeying his commandments. If you know that you are disobedient to God’s commandments but have many blessings, you can be fairly certain those blessings are not from God.

This may sound like an oxymoron, but the Bible shows us it is true:

The Enemy gives us wonderful things to take us away from God; God takes away what we have in order to bring us back to him.

Always be certain your blessings are the ones earned through obedience.

Parashah Lech Lecha 2018 (Get yourself out) Genesis 12-17

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Abram (he’s not yet called Abraham, but soon will be) is told to leave Haran (his father has recently died) and take everything and everyone with him. He leaves Haran and settles in the area around Shechem. He did have to go to Egypt due to a famine, where he sins by lying about Sarai, saying she is his sister so he isn’t murdered by Pharaoh to take Sarai from him. This happens twice, and each time God intervenes to protect Sarai, in the end making Abram wealthy from the gifts he received from those kings that took her to be their wife.

Eventually, he and Lot have to separate because there isn’t enough pastureland for both of their herds, so Abram gives Lot first choice. Lot goes to the Jordan Valley near Sodom and Abram goes west of the Jordan.

Sodom and Gomorrah are attacked by the surrounding kings, and Lot and all his possessions and family are also captured, but when Abram hears of it, he takes a small force of some 300 men and using guerilla tactics attacks the larger force at different areas simultaneously, making them think they are being attacked by a much larger force and defeats them. He returns the possessions and people and tithes 1/10th to Melchizedek.

The parashah ends with God renewing his covenant with Abram, renaming him Abraham and Sarai Sarah, and promising not only that he will become a great nation but that all the land he sees will belong to his descendants forever.

This message is going to be one of those that is all about the Torah and the laws and commandments within it still being valid, even to this very day and beyond. It may seem a little off-topic, but it isn’t.

At the very beginning of this parashah, God promised Abram that he will become a great nation and the whole world will be blessed by his descendants in Genesis 12:2-3:

I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.

God says that all people on the earth will be blessed through Abraham, but he doesn’t say how. We can go through the number of blessings the world has received through Jewish art, music, scientific discovery (even today Israel is one of the most advanced countries in the world in both technology and medicine), but that is not all there is. The blessings to the world through the Jewish people have been numerous- if you want to get a small sample, do a search on the Internet for “number of Nobel prizes won by Jews” to get just a taste of the ways in which God has blessed the world through his people.

And I believe these things, as wonderful as they are, are not the most wonderful blessings the world has received.

I know what you are probably thinking right now:

“He must be talking about the Messiah, Yeshua (Jesus) who came from the Jewish people, who came through Abraham!”

Well, you are correct about the Messiah being the greatest blessing the world has ever received, and that he did come through Abraham, but that is not the blessing I am talking about.

The blessing I am talking about came long before the Messiah: I am talking about the Torah.

The Torah was given to Moses for the Jewish people to learn so that they could become a holy people unto God. But that’s not all it was to be used for: the Jewish people are to be a nation of priests for God. God tells this to Moses in Exodus 19:6:

Now if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, you will be My treasured possession out of all the nations—for the whole earth is Mine. And unto me you shall be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you are to speak to the Israelites.

To recap, first God promises Abraham the world will be blessed through him, and then the Torah is given to Moses so that the Jewish people (from Abraham, of course) can be a nation of priests. I say that they are a nation of priests to the world because as God’s people, when we consider that the entire earth and all that is on it belongs to God, his priests would, naturally, teach and lead what belongs to God. So, naturally, as a nation of priests, the Jewish people would teach the rest of the people on earth how to worship God and how to treat each other, which is what the Torah is all about.

Finally, the Torah promises us blessings for obedience in Deuteronomy 28:1-12. These blessings deal with nearly every aspect of our life.

God said he would bless the world through Abraham, and that was done with two things: the Torah and the Messiah. The Messiah did not overrule or do away with the Torah but confirmed and enhanced it by teaching more than just the written word (P’shat)– Yeshua taught us the spiritual meaning (Remes) behind the written word through the use of a drash, or parable. The Torah is God’s blessing to the world that preceded Messiah, and Messiah is the ultimate blessing to the world. However, Messiah did not overrule or do away with the laws in the Torah, he confirmed and demonstrated how to live them the way God intended for us to do, both physically and spiritually.

To finish today’s message I will leave you with this advice: if you want to receive the blessings that God promised to the world through Abraham, consider Deuteronomy 28.

 

Parashah Nitzavim 2018 (You are standing) Deuteronomy 29:9 – 30

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The previous parashah ended with the blessings and the curses, and this one continues from there. Moses advises the people that everyone listening to him is subject to this covenant and he then prophecies that when the people turn to their own desires and sin, all the curses will fall upon them and they will be a byword to the other nations, asking “Why has this happened?”, to which the answer will be because they rejected God and his commandments.  

But as with all prophecies of destruction for disobedience, Moses assures the people that once their hearts turn back to Adonai, no matter how far he has scattered them, he will bring them back to their own land and bless them. 

Moses ends with the decree that these laws are not too hard to do, and he offers them the options of live or die, blessings or curses, and the suggestion that they take the blessings.

My message today is regarding what Moses says about those that bless themselves in their heart (Deut. 29:18-20), meaning those that hear the word and purposefully disobey, thinking that because God promises to regather the people they will be selected with the others. Moses assures that person that this will not happen; indeed, the one who persists in indulging himself (or herself) in evil will certainly not be blessed or forgiven. That person will be cut off from the people and all the curses of the covenant will fall on his head. 

When I read this I thought of all those that have been taught that once they are saved, they are always saved. Shaul (Paul) refutes this in his letter to the Romans. In that letter he says (Romans 6:15-16):

For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law, but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that when you offer yourselves as obedient slaves, you are slaves to the one you obey, whether you are slaves to sin leading to death, or to obedience leading to righteousness?

The sins we commit can be forgiven through the Messiah’s sacrifice, but that is only those sins we have committed to that point, i.e. to the exact moment we confess, repent and ask forgiveness in Yeshua’s name.  Whatever sins we commit after that are on our head until we repent of that sin and, again, ask for forgiveness. 

If we sin and continue to sin, without asking forgiveness, then we are- by definition- unrepentant. There is no doubt in my mind after reading the Bible over and over for 20 years and more that God will not forgive an unrepentant sinner, whether they know they are unrepentant or not.  We may feel sorrow in our heart for doing something wrong, but if we do not confess that wrongdoing and ask forgiveness, it is NOT automatically given. We need to have a contrite and humbled heart when we repent and ask forgiveness, but we need to do it all: heartache, repentance (T’shuvah), request for forgiveness (in Yeshua’s name.)  

I also thought of all those who have been taught that Yeshua did away with the law; all those poor souls who blindly follow the blind. Even if they think they are obeying God, they are not. And this is a form of blessing themselves in their heart and they WILL be held accountable. The covenant Moses made was not just with who was there, but those who were not there, as well (Deut. 29:13-14). In other words, this covenant is for all who claim to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Not just the Jews, but all people: those there at that time and those who are not there. 

What this means for you is that you need to make sure you read the entire Bible- Genesis through Revelation- and accept that if you worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob then you are also under this covenant. You may not like hearing that, you may want to argue (as if it will do you any good with God) that God didn’t mean Gentiles who accept Yeshua as their Messiah ( remember that Yeshua taught the Torah) or that Believers aren’t under the law but under Grace (remember what Shaul said to the Romans) or even that Yeshua did away with the law. 
Which is a total lie: Yeshua is the living Torah, the Word that became flesh so how could he have done away with himself? Duh! 

The Torah is still valid: God said these commandments were to be throughout all your generations. That means forever. And those that join themselves to God’s chosen people are not only able to enjoy all the rights of natural born Jews, but they are also subject to all the laws natural born Jews are subject to, and that means the Torah. 

What it boils down to is this: God gave the Jews the Torah to learn and teach the rest of the world, and those that obey are blessed while those that disobey are in BIG trouble. 

The Pharisees were teaching performance-based salvation, and Yeshua gave us faith-based salvation. We obey God’s commandments as a love-response to God’s goodness and because we are obedient children.

Grace is not a license to sin, it is the means by which we can avoid the eternal consequences of our sin; however, faith doesn’t overrule obedience.