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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and then later in Exodus 30:6:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can We Blame God for Who We Are?

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13)

 

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I don’t think any of us doubt that God has given us gifts and talents. We learn about these gifts as we grow older through our interactions with others, and they are developed based on our experiences.

But what about when these “gifts” cause trouble for us? For example, I have been gifted with a sense of humor, but this humor of mine has developed with a “blue” side to it that just doesn’t seem to want to go away.  Consequently, I sometimes (thankfully a lot less than I used to) make a joke that is funny, but not to everyone hearing it.

We all know someone who has an intellect that is remarkable, but they don’t know how to react to social clues and often their intellect makes it nearly impossible for anyone to relate to them, and vice-versa.

A gift that is God-given which has resulted in pain or social ostracization for the donee makes me wonder if we can blame God for this problem. After all, he gave me that gift, he made me the way I am, so why should I change? Why should I try to be different than what I am if God made me this way?  If so many other people don’t like what I say, maybe that’s because they aren’t spiritual or understanding that this is a gift from God?

There is definitely something to the idea that what the world hates is probably something that God likes, but that isn’t a cop-out to be impolite, to be judgmental, or to ignore your effect on other people.

My answer to this question is no- we cannot blame God for the way we act in society. We can thank God for whatever gift(s) he has given us, but the bottom line is that we need to use these gifts in a way that will glorify God. That is the key; that is the answer to the question “Why am I this way?”

We are what we are because God made us a certain way in order that we can glorify him.  The gifts and talents God gives us are there to be used in his favor, for his purposes and to glorify him. When we use them to glorify ourselves (such as me telling a “dirty” joke because I know the guys I am with will like it) that gift is sullied and stained with pridefulness. When we take the insight God has given to some for teaching but use it to generate dissension and argument, just so that we can come into that argument (we started) and then tell everyone what we know, that is not edifying anyone or glorifying God- that is ego and pride misusing God’s gift.

God has a plan for everyone- I truly believe that. Whether someone is a Believer or an Atheist, God can use that person for his purposes in order to bring about whatever plan he has. We saw Pharaoh used to introduce God to the world; we saw Moses used to show God’s protection and love for his people; we saw Daniel used along with Nebuchadnezzar to tell us about the coming of Messiah and the future of the world. We saw John used to let us know how the Acharit HaYamim (End Times) will come about and what to expect.

Look to see what God has done in your life to use you and others. I know in my life he has used both Believers and non-Believers to shape and develop me into what he wants. I am still somewhat of a blob, still being shaped, but I can see a difference from where I started to where I am now.

This ministry is, I believe, what God wants me to share. I believe he has given me a gift for teaching (which has been confirmed by many others who are Believers and spiritually mature) that I am trying to use in order to edify and teach others about God. I try to use this ministry to reach out to those in a more “worldly” way to teach them about the spiritual truths. As Shaul, that nice Jewish tent-maker from Tarsus once said, I will do and say whatever I have to d and say to get the Gospel out to people.

And despite my attempts, I find myself still falling back into the self-centered use of some of God’s gifts to me. It is an uphill battle to fight our own iniquity, but it is a battle we must never stop fighting.

We must use the gifts and talents that God has given us and bring them back to him with interest. Remember the parable about the Master who gave talents (meaning money) to his slaves before traveling? When he returned, the two slaves that gave him back double what he had given them were welcomed into their Master’s joy. The one who did nothing with the talent he was given was called wicked and sent into the darkness.

What gifts has God given you? Are you aware of them? The most important question of all: are you using them to glorify God? Search yourself if you aren’t sure, and when you do discover the gifts God has given you, use them to glorify him and you will be rewarded with blessings on earth, and in the Olam Haba (world to come) you will be welcomed into your Master’s joy.

Parashah Naso (Take) Numbers 4:21 – 7

We continue with the census of the tribe of Levi, which is where we left off from the previous parashah.

Next, God gives the commandments regarding how to tell if a woman has been unfaithful when there is nothing to go on other than the suspicion of the husband, and laws regarding restitution of property, which (I believe) would be equivalent to a “Tort” in today’s penal system.

The last part of this parashah records the gifts that the leaders of the twelve tribes gave to the Sanctuary for the service, therein. Each tribe gave the exact same number and weight of the exact same items to show complete unity, in that no one tribe was over any of the other tribes. The Midrash accounts for the sum of all the gifts in this way:

the 12 chargers given correspond to the 12 constellations;

the 12 bowls to the 12 months;

the 12 spoons to the 12 guides to men (heart, kidneys, mouth, palate, windpipe, esophagus, lungs (2), liver, spleen, crop and stomach);

all the silver weighed 2,400 shekels, which corresponded to the number of years since the creation of the world to Moses’ 40th year,

all the gold of the spoons weighed 120 shekels, the length of Moses’ life.

The part of today’s Torah portion that I want to talk about is Number 6:23-27, which is known as the Aaronic Benediction (also called the Priestly Blessing.) This is the blessing that God specifically told Aaron and Moses to use when blessing His people. You are probably familiar with it, as I have heard it used not just in Jewish places of worship, but in Christian churches, as well:

The Lord bless thee and keep thee;

The Lord make His face to shine upon thee and be gracious to thee;

The Lord lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.

The final part of God’s command regarding this blessing is that this is the way we shall put His name upon the people, and thereby God will bless them.

The simplicity of this prayer is what impresses me: God is telling us that all we need is His blessing, His countenance and His peace. His blessing will result in health, life and prosperity. In the bible light represents happiness, purity, and friendship, so to cause His face to shine upon us is saying that we would have His divine love and salvation. It can also represent, as the Rabbis have said, the spiritual gifts of knowledge and moral insight.

Peace, the final blessing, is considered a pillar of the world, and there cannot be any level of social order without it. We are not only to receive the peace of God, but we are to employ it and make peace with others. Most every synagogue ends their prayers with, “May He who makes peace in His high places, make peace upon us and upon all Israel.”

It is the the burden of the people of God to make peace in their hearts, and then extend that peace to others, in order to help them find the same peace we have. Peace starts internally, and that comes from being able to commune with God, which comes from the Ruach Ha Kodesh (Holy Spirit); this is the same spirit that Yeshua (Jesus) said He would send to His followers and which He called “The Comforter”, because that is what it does.

If anyone reading this has ever felt a sensation of complete rest, total peace of spirit, and a tingling feeling throughout your body that makes you cry for joy, then you know the peace of the Lord that His Ruach can bring. I have felt that, more than once, yet due to the hardness of my heart I haven’t felt it as much in the last couple of years. I know it is my fault, and I constantly pray for the Spirit to come upon me again. Sometimes it does, often it doesn’t, and (again) it is because I am not opening my heart. Still and all, every now and then, when I am in the proper condition of worship… BAM!! His presence is felt mightily. What a great feeling!

I want to see this wonderful, overwhelming peacefulness come on my wife, on my children, on friends and family and even acquaintances. I want this to come over my enemies (I don’t have any enemies, but suspect that some consider me their enemy) and everyone who doesn’t know the Lord. Even if they could feel it for just a second, it could change their life.

God has so much for every single person on earth, and He is just waiting for us to ask Him for it. That is the saddest thing I have come to realize as I become more and more familiar with God’s ways: He is so anxious for each one of us to come to Him for wonderful blessings and for total peace of mind and spirit, but so few of us do. And some of those that do often abuse it, thinking that they can continue to act as they want because God is forgiving, so as long as they say they are sorry they will  be OK. We all stubbornly want to have things our way, and the history of mankind proves, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that we do not know what is best for us.

God knows what is best for us, and has constantly told us, but have we listened? Are you listening right now?

If you haven’t known the peace that God’s spirit can bring through His blessings, you still have hope for it. If you really, really want to know the Lord, He is just dying to get to know you (pun intended), and all you need to do is admit you need Him, choose to change from ignoring Him to following His commands, and confess you believe Yeshua is the Messiah God promised who died for you- yes, just for you- and you want to be forgiven by means of that sacrifice.  That’s all you need to do- perform T’shuvah (turning) from sin in your heart, confess Yeshua is Messiah (this is very hard for Jews but should be easy for Gentiles), and ask God to send His Ruach to indwell and lead you for the rest of your life. This will bring you peace of heart, spirit and mind, and you will then be able to share that peace with all whom you love and care about.

You won’t be free of trouble and strife, for that is inescapable when living in a cursed and fallen world, but the Ruach (Spirit) is like a nice, cleansing hot shower after a long, dirty and sweaty day of hard work.

 

How Do You Use Your Gift?

If we look for verses in the Manual which talk to us about “gifts” we can find a number of them. There is the gift of prophecy, of teaching, the gift of Grace, and many others.

1 Peter 4:10 tells us that the gifts we receive we should use to help each other, and James 1:17 reminds us that every good gift comes from God.

1 Corinthians 12:12-26 exhorts us to use our gifts collectively, that no one gift is above any other, but we all are given gifts to be used collectively as in the body, meaning as one group working together to serve the Lord.

Exodus 35:30-35 tells us that Bezalel and Oholiab were given the gift of skills in all types of artistry to allow them to serve God by managing the construction of the Tabernacle.

One thing that I have noticed about gifts, which is the same (to me) as the use and administration of the Ruach Ha Kodesh (Holy Spirit) is that prior to Messiah Yeshua fulfilling His role as the final sacrifice for sin, the gifts and spirit were given to people as needed, but then revoked. The Spirit fell on Shimson (Samson) and it fell on Elijah, as well as other prophets and the heroes in the Book of Judges, but that Spirit was lifted up, again, and returned to God. It was a gift that was revocable.

However, after Messiah Yeshua gave up His Spirit, that same spirit was given to all who believe and accept Him as their Messiah as a gift that is irrevocable. God will send the Comforter to all who Believe and ask for it, and it will not come and go anymore: it will dwell within, for as long as we allow it to remain.

That’s right- I said for as long as we allow it to remain. Irrevocable means it won’t be taken back, but we can give it away, or more correctly, we can throw it away. That’s the thing about a gift: once given, it belongs to the one who possesses it, to do with it as they please. In my case, I try to use and listen to the Ruach all the time, but I am still learning and maturing in the Spirit. There are those that have accepted the Spirit but it proves too much for them to handle, so they ignore it or just throw it away, they become apostatized, and even the Bible tells us that once we have known the Ruach, known Messiah and then rejected Him, we have trampled His blood into the dirt (Hebrews 10:26-31.)

To know best how to use your gift, I guess you first need to know what it is. Yes, I believe there may be many who are not really sure what their gift is. We humans are easily led astray, and I do not doubt for a second that there are many who are trying to use what they believe to be their gift, which is really no more than a gift they want to have. As such, they are blinding themselves to their true gift. If you’re thinking you don’t feel quite right about what you think your gift is, talk with other Believers who know you and ask them to tell you, honestly, what they think your gift is. Nothing wrong with getting confirmation from those who have spiritual maturity.

Once you are sure about your gift, use it to please the Lord. The answer to the question, “How should I use my gift?” is given to you: read Colossians 3:17.

God has many gifts to give, and every gift He gives to us is precious and is to be used to honor Him. It’s all about God.

Regarding your gift: find it, know it, develop it and use it to help others in order to honor the Lord.

Remember what Yeshua told us: that which we do the these, even the least of His brethren, we do unto Him.

Teaching is a Double-Edged Sword

I believe, and have had it confirmed by others, that God has given me a gift for teaching. My mother was a teacher, so I learned some of how it’s done while still in the womb. Her sister was also in teaching, as a Vice-Principal. My older sister is a teacher with specific skills for handling troubled children. You could say the defective gene for teaching is in my system, but I like to think that God gave me the gift, also.

Here’s the problem: when you take on the responsibility of teaching, whether it be teaching Math or the Bible, you are shaping someone’s life. If you don’t mold that person correctly you could send them to hell in a handbasket.

The Bible is pretty specific about this: check out these verses:

Proverbs 22:6       Yacov (James) 3:1-2    Luke 6:40 (this one demands we teach by example)

2 Timothy 2:15     Mattitayu (Matthew) 5:19    Nehemiah 8:8      Romans 2:21

There are other verses, but from these you can get the idea that there is great power in teaching. The power to mold and shape someone, which is the same power to turn them aside from the truth and lead them to wrongful decisions. There is the power to save, and the power to destroy.

In the world today there are many teachings, both right and wrong. There are teachings that tell us somethings are bad and there are teachings that tell us the same, exact things are not bad.  The Catholic church says priests are not to get married, but the other Christian religions and the Torah teach that the Kohanim (Priests) are allowed to marry (but there are restrictions on the type of woman they are allowed to marry.) Another teaching is that being kosher is only for Jews, but Yeshua was kosher and we are told to be like Yeshua, to “Do what Jesus would have done”, so why is it taught that we don’t have to keep kosher? If you read my book you will learn more on how this idea that kosher laws are done away with is wrong.

The world teaches you to look out only for yourself and the Bible teaches us to care for others as much as ourselves. The world teaches to live for today and the Bible teaches us to live for Eternity.

So many different things, and all seemingly opposing each other. For those of us who want to teach about God’s way and to lead others to the salvation that Yeshua made possible, we have to work against the world and all the teachings therein. Then, we have to work against all the wrongful teachings that the Christian world has proliferated: Yeshua did away with Torah, Torah is just for Jews, Jews are Christ-killers and because they rejected Jesus God has rejected them so the Christians are the new Chosen People (this is called Replacement Theology), the church leadership shouldn’t get married, or (at the other end) the church leaders can be homosexual. Eat anything you want but you can’t drink alcoholic beverages or dance, and there are hundreds of other teachings, each religion with it’s own ideas, and all claiming this is God’s way.

God has no religion, only commandments. They’re all in the Torah- there is nothing “new” in the New Covenant writings. Get with the program , people!

Then there’s the big one, which I think will send more people to hell than anything else we are being told: if you’re a good person you get to go to heaven. That is a lie from the pit of Sheol (hell) and even Yeshua says He is not good, only His father in heaven is good. So, then, who can be good if only God is good?

What we are being taught is a roadmap, a sort of spiritual GPS, and it is sending us somewhere… but to where?

Here’s is a lesson I offer that is true: we are all sinners. No one is good, no one is worthy, and no one has a snowballs’ chance in Heck of being saved without Yeshua HaMashiach. Simple, straight-forward, Biblically sound, and awesome to realize. Scary actually.

If you want to teach about God, make sure you read the verses I quoted above, and don’t forget this: Yeshua said those who sin and teach others to sin will be the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. The good news is that you may be teaching wrong things and still be saved, as this verse implies, and the bad news is I don’t think you will hear Yeshua say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Not if you teach others to sin. Here’s the really bad news: how will you feel if you are in Heaven and people you taught did not make it because of your teachings? Through all eternity you will know they are suffering because of you.

To teach God’s word means you need to live God’s word, and I am the biggest failure of all in doing this. I am teaching do what I say (actually, what God says) and not what I do. Truthfully, we all do this, teach what we can’t do, since we are all sinners without hope of redemption on our own, so no one is going to live a perfect life. That was done already, and we only needed it for the one time. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, because we can sin less.

Here is another lesson you can count on as being true: we will never be able to say we don’t sin at all, but we can always sin less than we do now.

If you want to teach, think about it. You don’t know what you are getting into. If you have the gift, use it, but if you aren’t sure then ask those who are faithful and spiritually mature. Trust their judgement and, more than anything, ask God what He wants you to do. Ask Him to show you what gift(s) He has given you, and work with those. There is nothing more satisfying than doing good for the Lord, and if my gift was toilet cleaning, I would clean the toilets so well that no one would even want to use them, for fear of making them dirty again.

Of course, I am glad that’s not my gifting, but my point is this: whatever God leads you to do, do it well. Do what we are told to do in Colossians 3:23 (I am really breaking my rules about not giving exact locations today, aren’t I?) and you will always feel a sense of fulfillment from your work.

I love doing what I do…this blog, writing my book (c’mon, already- buy it!) and being able to give the message at my place of worship, now and then. And I always, always, always  hold myself up to the Word of God, making sure everything I say and teach about is able to be found in the Bible. I also tell everyone, including you, to test me and verify whatever I say is in the Bible to really be there.

I once read you shouldn’t believe everything you read, but then I didn’t know what to do!

Be careful when you teach because the ones you are teaching are depending on you to guide them to the truth and to their salvation. Don’t let them down.

Our Gift to God

God already owns everything. David said it, the Prophets said it, we are told this throughout the Tanakh. God is the Creator of everything.

When we tithe, we only give Him back what He already owns.

When we give to the poor, the orphaned and the widow, we give them what God gave us. It was His to begin with.

Our property- His; our gifts and talents- His; our very life- that’s right, it’s His, too. He gave it all to us, and we only give Him back that which He already owns.

Nu? What gift can we give God that is really a gift? What can we give God that is something we own, totally ours and no one else’s, something that He cannot have without us giving it to Him?

What can we possess that God doesn’t have, wants to have, but can’t have unless we give it to Him?

The answer is: our love and our faithful obedience.

God has given each one of us Free Will. We decide what we will do and what we won’t do; consequently, He made us in such a way that He doesn’t already own our love or obedience. And He wants it. He tells us so, doesn’t He? In the Bible, from front to back, we are told that what God wants is faithful obedience. More than sacrifice (maybe because He already owns the animals?), more than lip service, more than anything else. The V’Ahavta prayer (found in D’Varim/Deuteronomy right after the Shema) tells us, first and foremost, we are to love the Lord with all our heart, soul and strength. The Prophets tell us constantly to return to the Lord, and that means to do as He says we should do. Why? For His sake? No, for our sakes!  In Ezekiel God says that He is not glad to see the sinner die, but rather that the sinner turn from his sins and live. God isn’t concerned with this corporeal existence when He says “live”, He means to have everlasting life in His presence. And He desires our love and obedience.

We are told  God can do anything, but that isn’t true. I remember a funny paradox that George Carlin used to say, even though some may think it’s not all that respectful (God has to have a sense of humor- I mean, He created us, right?): George would ask, “If God can do anything, can He make a rock so big He can’t lift it?” I’m sorry, but that’s funny.

But, I digress.

There is one thing God can’t do, and that is sin. Oops! Make that two things God can’t do- sin, and make us love Him. Well, He could make us love Him, I suppose, but He won’t! As much as it hurts the Lord to see even one of His children suffer, He is just and fair. He laid down the rules and we can follow them or reject them.  It’s totally up to each one of us.

I just remembered a story I once heard. No idea where it comes from, and I don’t even know if it’s valid as Jewish folklore, but it certainly sounds correct. I will put it out here and you decide if you like it or not.

Just after the Hebrews safely crossed the Red Sea, and as the waters engulfed the Egyptian army, the angels in heaven said to God, “Let’s sing a song of joy, for the children of Israel are safe!”, but God was sad. When they asked why He was sad, God said, “Because my children are dying.”

If you love the Lord, and you want to give Him something that is truly from your heart that really means something to Him, something He doesn’t have already, then love Him. And show that love by obeying Him.

Yeshua told His Talmudim that if they love Him, they will obey Him. He was just repeating what His Father has always said.

Give God your love and faithful obedience, and you will give God the only thing that exists which He doesn’t already own.