Give the Argument About Shabbat Rest a Rest

Every Friday and Saturday I see posts all over the Hebraic Roots and Christian Discussion Groups I am a member of about the Sabbath (Shabbat, in Hebrew), which is the 7th day. Most decry the Christian moving of the Shabbat to a Sunday, and many are very confused about what can and what cannot be done on the Shabbat.

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The Bible tells us all one, definitive thing about the Shabbat- it is to be kept holy. Holy, as I have said many times, simply means to be separated, and the Shabbat is to be holy, i.e. separated from our regular activities and dedicated to rest and to God. There can’t be any reasonable argument against this simple definition of what the Shabbat is: a day to be separated from our regular scheduled activities and dedicated to resting and to God.

The next question is: what, exactly, does it mean to rest?  And, as Shakespeare wrote, “There’s the rub!”

I will not tell you what you should do on the Shabbat. I will also not accept anyone telling me what I should do on the Shabbat; anyone, except God, of course, and he told me that I should rest from my regular work. To me (and you each have to determine what this means for you), resting is not doing that which I normally do on a regular basis that is not restful for me. As for dedicating the day to God, I dedicate every day to God and in this, I may be guilty of not separating the Shabbat from the rest of the week.

Will I follow the strict limitations that are found in the Talmud? No, I will not. I don’t believe that God thinks walking a certain distance is not work, but going a few feet further is work. I do not believe that driving my car is forbidden, and if I want to do work in the garden or around the house, which I don’t normally do during the week, although I will work up a sweat and it is often hard toiling, it is also restful for me in my spirit and my body (I love a good workout.)

Why is driving a car forbidden? We are told not to light a fire on the Shabbat (Exodus 35), and when you drive you are lighting a fire every time the spark plug creates the spark to ignite the atomized fuel in the cylinder.

There are so many rabbinic restrictions on people regarding the Shabbat, and I see neophytes in the Hebraic Roots Movement confused about them. The pressure from others to conform to strict restrictions is a new form of the legalism that the Galatians were being subjected to.  Look- if you want to spend the entire day in a Synagogue or sit quietly at home, not walk very far, not spend any money or doing any kind of physical activity at all (not even making the bed), I do not think that is wrong or a bad thing IF it is what you believe God wants from you.

Personally, on Saturday I will ride my bike, I will spend money if I need to go to the grocery store and I wil go out to brunch with Donna if we feel like it. I will drive my car if I need to go somewhere, and I will do many other things that many people (especially Orthodox Jews) would say I should not be doing. Do I do this in order to purposefully sin against God? Of course not! I do what I do on the Shabbat because I find it restful; if Donna and I want to see a movie on a Saturday, we will go. It is time together, it is restful, and it is not denying God our attention and devotion. That I give to God 24/7/365…and 366 in Leap Years!

I am not telling anyone that they can do whatever they want to do on the Shabbat, but if what they do is restful, enjoyable, connect’s them with family, and includes worship of and communion with God, then as far as I am concerned, that can’t be a bad thing. Maybe I am wrong, and if so, then I will have to ask forgiveness from God for misunderstanding him. I believe he will let me know if I am really off the mark.

If you don’t feel comfortable doing something on the Shabbat, then don’t do it. But don’t not do something just because someone else told you that you can’t. Ask God to show you what he wants from you, and always remember that it is our intrinsic nature to avoid God’s instructions, so filter what you want to do from what you think God wants you to (or not do), and when in doubt go with what you think God wants.

Thank you for being here, and please subscribe, share me out and buy my books. I use the income (what little there is) to send my books and Bibles to people who ask me for them.

And I always welcome comments, so long as you are nice.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch Ha Shem!

Parashah Kedoshim 2019 (Holiness) Leviticus 19 – 20

The Hebrew word “Kadosh” means “Holy.”  If you were to ask people what it means to be holy, most everyone will say something along the lines of to “be like a saint”, to be “serious”, or to be “pious and religious.” The one thing you most likely will not hear is “to be separated,” yet that is really what being holy means- to be separated from the common.

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Holiness is a state of being which is identified by the way we act towards each other and the way we obey God’s instructions. Too often, this means the instructions given by people in the name of the Lord, which we call doctrine or traditional worship. Most of the time these aren’t exactly what God told us to do. Christian holidays and worship practices, for instance, or Talmudic (also referred to as rabbinic) Halacha (the Way to Walk) are good examples of this. The traditional teachings of any Judeo-Christian religion usually have their foundation somewhere in God’s instructions, but they add to or (sometimes) over-rule the instructions God gave us, which are found in the Torah.

This parashah gives us, in clear and easily understandable terms, God’s instructions telling us how we are to be holy. They boil down to respect for people, honesty, honoring the Shabbat and following the instructions regarding sacrifices, and (finally) prohibitions against following the religious and social practices of the surrounding people at that time. Those prohibitions include sexual perversities and inter-familial sexual relations, as well.

God tells us (more than once) to be holy as he is holy. Even at the very beginning of this parashah, Leviticus 19:2 he has Moses tell the entire congregation that they are to be holy, for he is the LORD, their God and he is holy.  The problem we have with this is that we cannot be holy as the Lord is holy because, well…he is SO holy. He is perfectly holy, and we are woefully inadequate, so how can God expect us to be as holy as he is?

The answer is he doesn’t expect that of us- he expects that because he is our God, and because he is holy, we should be holy, as well. We are not to be as holy as he is, but holy meaning separated from the unholy. That means not doing what the unholy do, such as to treat each other with disrespect and take advantage of people. We are not to use unequal weights (cheat each other), we are not to use divination or sacrifice our children. We are not to have sexual relations with close family members, or with others of the same gender.  We are to honor the elderly, honor the Shabbat, be considerate of the less fortunate and treat strangers with respect and equality under the law.

To be holy doesn’t mean to walk around like some monk or religious fanatic; it doesn’t mean to talk in spiritual ways (so that no one can understand what you are saying), and it certainly doesn’t mean you can’t joke around, dance, drink or have fun with others. It means you are to live in a way that is separated from the unholy- that is all.

Holy people do not gamble their rent money away; holy people do not drink themselves into a stupor; they don’t act mean and unforgiving. Holy people do not cheat others, gossip or allow anyone else to pick on the weak and helpless. Holy people help others, even if the others hate and disrespect them.

To be holy as God is holy means to act in the way God (or Yeshua, for that matter) would act if they were in the same place at the same time you are.

It means to be separated from the rest of the world, not so much physically but spiritually and demonstratively. We who are holy are to show the unholy how they are to be; we are to be an example of what God wants from everyone. That is a two-edged sword because when we say we are holy as God is holy, then if we screw up and act unholy it reflects poorly on God. I am guilty of this, and more often than I care to say, but I have to confess that I often do not act as one who is holy should act. When that happens, I ask forgiveness from God because I have damaged his reputation. I really hate it when I do that, too. Fortunately, I am able to say that I am making fewer mistakes as I continue to work towards being holy. It is a life-long activity.

Be thou holy by remembering God’s instructions and trying to live up to them. We hear people say “It is all about the Lord!” but when it comes down to it, they are really concerned with what God will do for them and not what he wants them to do for him. It isn’t about us, it IS about him, and the way to show that is to be what he wants us to be, which is separated from the unholiness in the world.  Not in a physical way, meaning to shun and stay away from non-Believers, but in our spirit and in our actions so we can be examples to the non-Believers.

God instructed us how to worship and how to live with others, and when Yeshua was on the earth he showed us exactly what that looks like. The world doesn’t see the spiritual, it sees the physical, so no matter how holy you may be in your spirit if you don’t demonstrate that in the physical world, then you won’t be holy the way God wants you to be holy.

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Tonight begins the Shabbat so Shabbat Shalom, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

 

Is God’s Name Really a Name?

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I will unquestionably be opening a can of worms with this post, so to all reading this (or watching the video) I ask that you please do not shout back at the monitor or bang your fist on the table shouting “NO! NO! NO!” until the end.

I think this will blow a lot of people’s minds. I know it did mine.

Let’s start with the simple question: What is a “name?”  When I searched on line for an answer, it said, “a word or set of words by which a person, animal, place, or thing is known, addressed, or referred to.”

In the ancient days, many names were more than just a means of identifying someone. Some of the names were almost prophetic in that they described who the person was. Jedidiah is someone beloved by God; Joshua is God’s salvation; Abraham is father of multitudes; Emmanuel means God is with us.  These names didn’t just identify the person but also indicated what we should expect from them during their lifetime.

What about God’s name? There are many names that are used to identify God: God (of course), El, Yah, Shadai, and the Holy Name that is called the Tetragrammaton (I will use the term ‘Tetra” in this discussion just to make it easier to type) which is Y-H-V-H, or also shown as Y-H-W-H.

Most people believe this is God’s Holy Name, the very one he told Moses to use when Moses asked to know what name to tell the people in Exodus 3:13-15. But they are wrong! This is what God told Moses:

Then Moses asked God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is His name?’ What should I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” God also told Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’ This is My name forever, and this is how I am to be remembered in every generation.…  (Berean Study Bible) 

So God didn’t give a specific name, he gave a description of who he is when he told Moses to say “I am has sent me to you.”

I have looked in the JPS Hebrew-English Tanakh (one of the most respected interpretations of the Tanakh today), my Chumash (The Pentateuch and Haftorahs) edited by Dr. Hertz (Soncino Edition) and also my Tikkun.

NOTE: For those who may not be familiar with the Tikkun, it is a book of the Torah scroll with the Torah Hebrew (a very different font of Hebrew), the modern Hebrew with vowel points and the English translation with commentary of the scriptures. It is used for preparation of chanting the Torah when reading the weekly parashah.

In every one of these highly authentic Jewish volumes, the word used for God in this passage is Elohim (generally meaning is “God is judge”) and he doesn’t use the Y-H-V-H anywhere in this passage. What is used is: אה’ה אשר אה’ה, which means “I am who I am.”

So, nu?  What’s this mean? It means that the Tetra is not the name God gave to Moses to identify who he is to the children of Israel. So now we have to ask, “Where did the Tetra come from?”

It was first used in Genesis 2:4. The very first appearance of the Tetra in the Torah is right after God finished making the earth, in the second half of verse 2:4. The Hebrew says: ב’ומ עשות ‘הוה אלה’מ which in English is translated as ‘When the Lord God..”, which tells us the Tetra is translated from the Torah as “Lord.” The word we use for the Tetra in Judaism is “Adonai”, which means “Lord.”

The Tikkun explains what the Tetra means: it is really an acronym. Each of the letters represent a word, and those words are (I will transliterate): Hah-yah  Ho-veh  veh-yee-yeh, which means “He was, he is and he will be.”

So after all the hullabaloo about the correct spelling of God’s name and how it should be pronounced, we find out that what we have always thought to be God’s Holy Name isn’t really a name! It is an acronym for words that describe the eternal nature of God.

And that fits with God’s command to Moses in front of the burning bush that the name he gave to Moses is how he should be remembered in every generation.  God was not giving Moses a name we should use to call him but how we should remember and refer to him. Remember at the beginning the definition of a name can also mean how we refer to someone? God doesn’t want us to have a specific name for him, he wants us to refer to him for who and what he is. He is our eternal Lord. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And that is what he told Moses he wants us to call him.

People are given a name we can call them during their lifetime, but because God has no lifetime he is known only by his eternal nature.

He is and he was and he shall be: that is what the Tetra means. It is not a name as we define what a name is, it is a memorial to remind us that God is eternal.

And from the very first time we see the Tetra in the Torah it is interpreted as “Lord”, who are we to change it?

So where do we go from here? I suspect that those who absolutely must use the Tetra and pronounce it as they believe it should be pronounced will continue to do so. I hope at least some will reconsider their understanding and verify what I have said here. And there may be some who will start to use “Lord” or “Adonai” as we Jews have been doing forever.

Others may just wander around the house muttering to themselves, “What should I believe? What is right? Who can I trust?”

I can answer that last one: trust God and trust his word. Trust that the interpretation Jews have been using for thousands of years is more dependable (and probably more accurate) than the one many Gentile’s just now learning about God and Yeshua are using.

And always, always, ALWAYS go to the Jewish versions of the Torah and Tanakh (Old Covenant) to see what the Hebrew says. The Torah is absolutely dependable to be the exact same way it is today as it was when it was first written. If you knew all the different ways the Torah is verified when a new one is written you would be able to trust that it is absolutely dependable. The Hebrew, that is- the interpretations are subject to individual bios and predetermined understanding.

I have been reading and studying the bible for over 20 years and after all this time I just now learned that what I have always known to be the Holy Name of God isn’t a name at all. OY! I just love the exciting and new things we learn from God’s word when we really look at it.

When is Being Polite Not Being a Friend?

Do you have one of “those” friends? You know…the type that are really nice and fun to be with, but have no recognition of their terrible breath, or smelly clothing, or that their house stinks from dog pee? Or some other socially unacceptable aspect of their person that they are so used to that they never notice it, but everyone else does? And, because we like them and don’t want to hurt their feelings, we have learned to ignore it, ourselves?

Are we really doing them a favor? Are we being polite at the expense of being a good friend and telling them, lovingly and softly, that they have this “problem” they really need to attend to? I would say, “No!”- if we really like someone who does something (or doesn’t do something) that is affecting their ability to be more acceptable in society (in general), we owe it to them to point it out. Even if it means they may be distressed or embarrassed. In the case of socially unacceptable dress or hygiene, ignorance is NOT bliss. In certain cases, we may be hurting their feelings a little but we may also be saving their life: bad breath can be an indication of gum disease which can cause all sorts of health problems, and failing to shower may cause skin lesions that can lead to infections, and…well, you get the point. We may be doing them more of a favor by being honest with them about their personal hygiene than we are by being afraid to tell them.

As important as personal hygiene is, what about one’s spiritual hygiene? We know people, all of us do, that are socially clean but spiritually filthy. Don’t we owe it to them to help them “clean up” their act, too? Of course we do, but you will find (I am willing to bet) that your spiritually dirty friends would rather you told them they stink and need a shower than that they are sinning and setting themselves up for eternal damnation. They would rather be told they have bad breath and ring around the collar than be told about Yeshua’s sacrifice and how it can save their soul.

So, nu? What do we do? I say we try to help them, no matter what, but we do it intelligently. We need to, first and foremost, not say anything until we provide an example of what we are talking about. People do not accept “Do as I say, not as I do” under normal conditions, so with something as difficult as spiritual issues, they absolutely need to see you practicing what you preach before you can address their lack of repentance. As Yeshua tells us in Matthew 7:5, we must first remove the log from our own eye before we tell our brother about the splinter in his eye.

This doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t say anything until we are perfect- that just isn’t going to happen. What we do is live our own life as best as we can to remain obedient to God’s commandments (i.e., Torah- you won’t find anything new or different from Torah anywhere in the New Covenant writings, since that is all that Yeshua and His Disciples taught), and when we screw up make sure that we admit it, ask forgiveness and do better. This is the example I believe is best to show a non-Believer: we are still human, we still make mistakes, and we aren’t expected to stop having fun, making jokes (they just have to be more acceptable in mixed company, that’s all) or living our lives as we want to. The only real difference being that now we want to live our lives in obedience to God instead of obedience to sin, which means we care about how we live our life, we care about others, we care about doing what is right (even when everyone else seems to be doing wrong) and we are repentant when we mess up. It is a life-long commitment to being better tomorrow than we are today. Both spiritually and socially.

Being “holy” means to be separated from the rest. The Supreme Court said that being separate cannot be equal (Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka-1954), and they were right, but separate doesn’t mean better. We need to separate ourselves just from those things that are not godly. We can still be with the same friends, but we don’t have to partake in things they do which we shouldn’t now; we can still be with family, but we don’t have to partake in events that aren’t spiritually correct (like going to the horse races, for instance); we can still go out on a date, but we won’t stay the night, even if asked.  This is what I think is important when telling friends and family about God and their salvation: they are afraid of what they will lose, and we need to tell and show that they don’t really lose anything except what they didn’t need, in the first place.

Don’t worry so much about hurting someone’s feelings when you know they are ignorant of the bad impression they are leaving on others. And don’t be afraid to tell them, as well as show them, the advantages of accepting Yeshua and committing to being holy.

Being holy is harder than being with the rest of the world, but it really does feel better.

Parashah Korach (Korach) Numbers 16-18

Korach was a Levite, a member of that family which was granted the responsibility to attend to the Sanctuary items. This was an honorable position. However, he wasn’t satisfied with that and wanted to possess the position that Aaron and his sons were given, that of the Cohen, the High Priest who was allowed to enter and service inside the Sanctuary. He organized men and formed a rebellion against Moses and Aaron, which was to be brought before God.

Korach was not alone in this rebellion. Dathan and Abiram, leaders of the tribe of Reuben, also convinced men, leaders within the entire community, to rebel against Moses’s authority.

Moses and Aaron faced these 250 men and had them bring their censors with incense before the Tent of Meeting. God would have destroyed the entire assembly (i.e., all the people) but Moses stood in the way of God’s anger (as he had done before) and convinced God to only punish the leaders and not everyone. Korach, Dathan, Abiram, with their entire families and possessions, were literally swallowed up by the ground under their feet in the full sight of the entire community. Then at the same time, fire broke out from the Tent of Meeting and engulfed the 250 rebels, fire pans and all, leaving only melted fire pans and ashes.

The people were absolutely terrified, but the next morning they got up, and continued to rebel, calling Moses and Aaron killers of Adonai’s people. In God’s righteous anger at this continual rebellious attitude, He sent a plague out that killed 14,700 people. Now the entire community was so terrified of the Tent of Meeting, which is where these events took place, that they cried anyone who even came near the Tent of Meeting would die.

God commanded that the tribal leader’s staffs, 12 in all (Aaron’s staff representing Levi) be gathered , identified and placed in the Tent of Meeting. He said that the staff of the one He chooses to be His priest would have buds the next morning, and that morning Aaron’s staff not only had buds, but blossomed and had grown ripe almonds.

Having established that God picks His priests, and that God decides who is in charge, He reaffirmed the position of the Cohen HaGadol (High Priest), the Cohanim and the Levites with regards to their positions, their payments from the tithes and offerings, and that they are not to possess lands as an inheritance because God is their inheritance.

As I often say, there is so much here to work with. What I feel led to discuss, which “popped” into my head as I was reviewing this parashah, is how God continually states that the people should do this or do that or not do these things in order that they don’t die. That sounds OK in and of itself- don’t do anything that will cause you to die. But then I thought, “Hey, wait a minute! God is saying don’t do this so you don’t die, but He is the one killing them! What’s up with that?”

The punishment God sends among the people is certainly one that would put fear and terror in anyone’s heart, yet He says at the same time He is killing thousands of people that He doesn’t want them to die. Doesn’t this seem to be a contradiction? It seems to be, but it isn’t: God is holy, and just, and He keeps His word. He is also, during these 40 years in the desert, weeding out the tares.

This rebellion occurs after the defeat of the Israelites trying to enter Canaan after God told them they would remain in the desert for 40 years. They rebelled against God by not entering the land, then they rebelled against God by trying to enter when He said not to, and now they are rebelling against God and blaming Moses for not keeping God’s promise to bring them into the land. Uh, people- you were right there, Moses was all set to bring you in, and you refused to go. It wasn’t Moses’  fault you’re not in the land, it’s yours!

Rebellion after rebellion after rebellion, carping , crying, whining, complaining: that’s all these people did, all the time. No wonder Moses was so upset, and no wonder God was so fed up with them. God did what He needed to do, and not because He was pissed off (although He was) but because He is holy, righteous and fair, and their actions demanded that He do something about it.

OK, so what am I trying to say here? God is a loving, compassionate and forgiving God, but He is also God- holy, above everyone and everything, and He is our Judge. When He gives a command, He expects us to follow it, and as such when we refuse He is obligated by His own holiness to punish us. That is why, even as He is destroying the guilty, He is warning us not to continue to force Him to do this. It is almost like we actually have some power over God: even though His heart is full of compassion, love and forgiveness, when we rebel, reject, blaspheme and turn our backs on God, we force Him to take action for the sake of His name. That is why God seems to be a destructive, punitive God in the Old Covenant, whereas the New Covenant makes Him out to be all about love and forgiveness and nicey-nicey stuff.   He is all nicey-nicey when we are obedient, and He is all about love and compassionate forgiveness when we are repentant and ask for forgiveness.

On the other hand, when we are obstinate, rebellious and blatantly reject God, then He is Judge, Jury and Executioner. And once He has made up His mind, there is no court of appeals because His decision is final.

This is one of those things that confuses people because they want to make God act the way they want Him to act, and don’t respect His authority or recognize that He is so far above us that whatever we think is right or good or fair, it has no hold on Him.

The point to take home today is this: God is loving, compassionate and just, but He is also holy, and for the sake of His name He will enforce His commandments when people are obstinately rebellious and flaunt His authority. So stay on His good side, OK?

Parashot Acharey / Kedoshim (after the death / holy) Leviticus 16-20

This double Parashah deals with the rules regarding Yom Kippur, then gives us regulations and commandments regarding appropriate inter-personal relationships, such as moral standards against incest, adultery, and homosexuality (to name a few.)

Of all the laws and commandments, rules and regulations within these chapters of the Torah, the most important (and maybe best known) is Leviticus 19:18:

” Thou shalt not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of the people, but shall love thy neighbor as thyself: I am the Lord”

This one statement is the foundation for three of the most important teachings of Yeshua:

  1. To not take vengeance is in accordance with Yeshua’s teaching that we should turn the other cheek;
  2. To not bear a grudge is what Yeshua taught us when He said to leave our sacrifice at the alter and first make things right with our brother if there is any animosity between us;
  3. To love they neighbor as thyself is, clearly, the Golden Rule.

Here we have the basis for nearly every moral law and action we need in order to become Kadosh, holy, as God is holy.

I have read articles and seen TV shows that try to degrade the value of these moral and ethical laws, saying they weren’t originally from God because they existed in other, older civilizations. Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t- it would seem likely they were already being practiced by others, to some degree, because they are so basic to civilized living. But no where else had there been a written set of laws that were so humane regarding how people should treat each other, whether in inter-personal relationships or under a penal code.

Today some of these laws are questioned, even rejected, by society. We are told some are misogynistic, some are racist, some are hateful (this is usually used against the laws against homosexuality) and some are outdated.

Outdated? Since when did morality and ethical treatment of each other become outdated? Well, you know, maybe they’re right: when I read the papers or hear the news, whether local or international, it seems that society’s morality and ethics are being defined by those that have none. The way God wants us to act towards each other isn’t the way the world wants us to act.

Despite the many good laws still on the books, how many loopholes are there now that allow lawbreakers to go free, or barely suffer for their crimes? And when they do go to jail, instead of being given a chance to repent, they are just receiving a higher education in criminality. A person may go to jail as a beginner, but he or she can come out with a PhD in crime, learning from the experienced criminals that are already there.

Yeshua told us how to be holy: love God and love each other. That isn’t always easy; in fact, sometimes it seems darn near impossible! But we can get better at doing this as we keep trying.  Maybe that is what makes us holy? trying to do what God wants instead of not even caring what He wants.  Being holy isn’t having an aura around you, or a halo over your head- it simply means being separated. The world doesn’t care what God wants, so if we care, and demonstrate that care through our words and actions, then (by definition) we are holy. And the more we do, the better we get at it, and the holier we become.

That’s the ticket- care about what God wants, and care more for what He wants than for what the world, or even you, want. If we can do that, all these morale and ethical rules and regulations will automatically fall into place for us.

That’s what Yeshua meant in the second part of His teaching: love God and each other, for on that pivots all the Prophets and the Writings.

Jesus and the Torah

Chag Semeach to all my friends out there. That is the Hebrew greeting that translates, roughly, to Joyous Festival.

We just celebrated Shavuot, the giving of the law on Mt. Sinai. This is one of the three Big Ones, the festivals that God commanded us to celebrate only at the Temple in Yerushalayim. The other two being Pesach (Passover) and Sukkot (Festival of Tabernacles.)

This Holy Day is also called by the Greek term for 50 days, Pentecost. I have always heard people refer to Pentecost as a Gentile celebration, but it is a Jewish holy day. The 50 days comes directly from the counting of the Omer, which God decreed we should do starting with the first Shabbat after Pesach. The Gentile celebration is from Acts, where the Disciples receive the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit, from God while celebrating Shavuot.

This year Shavuot also falls right at the end of the readings from Leviticus, which is the book in the Torah that has the most laws and regulations, especially referring to the priestly duties. The past week or so I have found myself writing more and more about how Torah is still a necessary and valid book of laws that all Believers, not just Jews but all Believers, should be trying to follow.

The historical teachings of the Christian world are that the Torah is for Jews and Jesus is for Christians; the God of the Old Covenant is an angry and punishing God and the God of the New Covenant is loving and compassionate (funny- I always thought He was the same guy!); the Jews are living under the law and the Christians are under the blood, so the law doesn’t apply to them.

That last one is the stupidest thing I have ever heard. The law doesn’t apply because we are under the blood of Christ? So what, then? Messiah said to ignore the Torah? To quote one of the disciples, Shaul (Paul), who wrote about ignoring the Torah in his letter to the Romans, “Heaven forbid!” The Torah is what Jesus, Yeshua, taught from, and it is what He lived, and it is what He said we should obey.

Yeshua did NOT do away with the Torah. One of the verses from the Gospels that people love to trespass against (meaning, as in Yeshua’s day, to misinterpret) is Matthew 5:17. They say that since Yeshua fulfilled the law, by doing so He completed it and thereby, it is not longer applicable. By completing it fully He did away with it.

Horse Apples!!  If that is a valid statement, then if someone comes to a complete stop at a stop sign, looks left, right, then left, and only then continues to drive they lived that law completely, so no one else ever has to stop at a stop sign.

Oh, yes- and if someone lived their entire life without committing murder, it’s OK for you to go kill someone. And let’s not forget the person who never had sex- that’s the one for me! Thank goodness for that someone who never fornicated during their entire life so that now we all can do it. I’m going back to college!!

Ridiculous, isn’t it? Just because someone obeyed a law, that did away with it? Absurd, stupid, and very, very wrong.

Yeshua did live the Torah to it’s fulfillment, He lived it completely and correctly but not to do away with it (which He confirms in Matthew 5:17.) No, He lived it fully to show us how we are to live it! When He said He came to fulfill the law He meant that He came to interpret it correctly: in the First Century , to “fulfill the law” meant to interpret it correctly, whereas to misinterpret the law was to “trespass the law.” That’s why the “Lord’s Prayer” says we should forgive those who trespass against us- meaning those that sin against us, since misinterpreting the law is a sin.

I have gone over this many times: John says the Word was first, then that Word became flesh. The only “word” John had was the Torah. The flesh that Torah became is clearly Yeshua. As such, that also is hemeneutically accurate since Joel and Jeremiah tell us that in the end days we will have Torah written on our hearts, meaning we will be living, breathing Torahs, ourselves. We won’t ask our brother if they know the Lord because all will know Him. Yeshua says that if we know Him, we know the Father, so it all comes down to Yeshua is the living Torah.

Now, if He is the living Torah, how can He teach anything but what He is? Did you ever read Yeshua telling anyone that they should not do as He does? Didn’t He say a house divided against itself cannot survive, yet His kingdom will never be torn down? If He is the Torah, as we have shown, then to teach or even suggest that those who follow Him do anything except what the Torah says is to teach against Himself, dividing His house and thereby, His kingdom will not stand.

Doesn’t He say that if we love Him we will obey Him? If so, then show me where He said ignore the Torah. Show me where He said Torah doesn’t matter. Show me where He said the heck with God and His rules and regulations, I want you to follow me, instead.

Oh, wait- someone else says that, doesn’t he? That is the one who wants to usurp God and calls Him a liar. Is that who you want to follow? If you follow anyone telling you the Torah is not valid and you can ignore it, you are not following God. That leaves just one other.

The Torah is who God is. He tells us about Himself, he tells us about ourselves, He shows us how to live and how to treat each other. It is what God says we should do, it is what Yeshua did perfectly (in order that He could be the sacrifice He was meant to be) and what He taught from, and it is just as valid today as when Moshe brought it down from the mountain some 3500 years ago.

The Torah is the ultimate User Manual for life. In fact, it is the User Manual for Eternal life! If you ignore it, you will miss out on much that God has for you.

Here’s the part that confuses people: when we live Torah perfectly, we will be saved. The problem is this: we cannot live the Torah perfectly. That is why God sent Messiah Yeshua, to provide the means for us to have a single, once and for all sacrifice that will take away our sins as the Torah’s sacrificial system was designed to do. And Yeshua will take them away not just once, but again, and again, and again until everyone can have their sins forgiven, not once a year at Yom Kippur, but every second of their life. Yeshua came to Earth to live as a human, perfectly in accordance with Torah so that He could then act as our ultimate sacrifice (as it is pointed out in Hebrews) once and for all.

The difference between Torah being lived correctly and incorrectly is what Shaul pointed out, over and over, in his letters to the Messianic Kehilot (communities): if we think we can be saved by living according to the Torah we are dead: not because the Torah is not the way to salvation, but because we have no chance of living the Torah perfectly. If we use Torah as the only means of our salvation we lose before we even start. Yeshua is the only way we can be saved. He did not replace the Torah, He made salvation through it attainable by giving us a “handicap”, so to speak. His sacrifice is our salvation, His death is our life, and His teachings are to live Torah as best we can and to trust in Him to do the rest.

We will all stand before God at the final judgement, and Yeshua will be at the right hand of God. When we, who have given ourselves to Yeshua and who accept and trust Him to be our Messiah and Savior, fall short of Gods commands and are faced with our own sinful lives, Yeshua will stand forth and say, “Father, this one is mine.”

That’s all it will take. Yeshua will stand between us and God, between our sinfulness and His righteousness; God will see us through the righteousness of Yeshua, and as such, we will be acceptable. His blood will cover us, encapsulate us like a cocoon, and we will emerge clean and righteous, forever. We will be transformed from sinful flesh into righteous spirit.

The Torah is the road map to salvation, but there is a great chasm we need to cross that Torah cannot get us across. The only way to span that chasm is to use Yeshua as our bridge between death and salvation. The Torah is what we need to live by, as best we can, and Yeshua is who we need to accept as our guide, our Messiah and our Savior to get us across the chasm between our sinful nature and God’s complete holiness.

The truth is this: Torah is valid and God expects us to live according to it’s rules, regulations, laws, commandments and ordinances. Yeshua is the Messiah, and He also expects us to live in accordance to the Torah. It is what He taught, what He used to explain Himself, and what He is: He is the Torah, in the flesh. Why, oh why, would He teach us to do anything else but live as He did?

Following Torah will not save you, following Yeshua will, but Yeshua said to obey Him and what He taught was the Torah. God promised us (in the Torah) that when we obey we will receive blessings, so don’t follow Torah to be saved- that is a waste and the wrong reason to follow Torah. Follow Torah to receive blessings, to hold God to His promises, and to do as Yeshua did to show Him how much you really love Him.

When it comes to following the Torah, you have to make up your own mind. Read Deuteronomy 28 to see what blessings God has in store for those that obey Torah. And what He has for those that reject it.

Torah won’t get you saved, but it will make life on Earth soooooo much better.

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.

Holy Doesn’t Have to Mean Boring

Do you think that when Yeshua was at that wedding (you know, the one where He turned water into wine) that He was standing all alone in the corner, a wallflower not dancing or joining in the fun? I don’t. The Bible doesn’t specifically say anything about that, but it does tell us He cried when Lazarus was dead, so we know He is willing to show emotions. When He felt compassion for the people, He had to be showing feeling, don’t you think? I have to think that when Peter stepped out of the boat and walked on the water, then almost immediately lost faith, Yeshua had to be disappointed and the tone of His voice must have shown that.

If we are to love God and love each other, how can we do that if we are emotionally dead, being stoic and serious all the time?

I like to joke around, sometimes to excess, and sometimes a little more blue than some might think a “Believer” should be (you should have heard me before I cared what God thought; actually, it’s probably better that you haven’t), and I can often relieve tension with a funny comment. This is a gift from above, and when I use it as it should be used, I have to think that God is pleased with what I do.

I can’t believe that Yeshua was dry and always serious. In the Bible He is always talking about God and the way that God wants us to act (that’s called Torah!) After all, the Bible is the manual and what’s important is to have it full of the truth of God and how to please Him. So it’s only natural that the main text will be composed of those things Yeshua did and said that relate directly to His announcement and demonstration of the Kingdom of God. But don’t you wonder, even a little, if Yeshua ever just “talked” with the Disciples? Maybe a little kibbutzing over a nosh?

I think He had to. There had to be “normal” discourse at times because to get through to people you need to be able to communicate effectively, and effective communication is two-way. I can’t think that Yeshua never had a normal conversation about something other than God.

Maybe I am wrong (it wouldn’t be the first time and won’t be the last time): I will be the first to say we can’t make an argument from nothing, and there is nothing (I can recall) in the Gospels that indicates Yeshua had conversations that were not about God. I am not totally confident about this, either (in case you hadn’t picked up on that) because I also believe that to be holy we need to be separated, we need to talk and act differently from the rest of the world. But what about amongst ourselves? Can’t we joke with each other? Can’t we have a little fun?

God gave us a sense of humor, so shouldn’t we be using it? If we are to do what Yeshua did, and we have a sense of humor, can I make a “backward” argument that Yeshua, therefore, must have also joked around now and then; at least, with His Disciples?

I am rambling on a bit today; maybe I won’t get a whole bunch of “Likes” for this blog. Maybe I will get some conversation going. Maybe I am just shouting into the wind.

I want to be holy as God says we should be, and I want to use the gifts He gave me in a way that will glorify Him. I will keep on joking, and making every effort I can, worm that I am, to make the humor acceptable in all circles. And still, I will make jokes to get the attention and to give happiness to those that need a little “blue” in their humor. I will do as Shaul (Paul) did (Corin. 9:22) and be whatever I have to be to get the attention of the person I am talking with so that I can get the message of God to them. I know I was afraid to seek the Lord and turn myself over to Him because the image of “holy” people is one of being stoic, never laughing, never smiling, always talking about God and, basically, boring to be with. I love the Lord and love talking about Him, but I need a break now and then to just have regular conversation. How can I know how to comfort someone if all I do is relate to God and not to that person?

I want to show that God’s influence in my life has been wonderful, and that since I gave myself over to Him I am not becoming a different person, I just am becoming a better me. I didn’t lose myself when I came to God; yes, I found “it”, but I also found myself, and I found the completeness of worship that was always missing. What I found was what had been calling to me since I was a child: I found relationship with the Lord and completeness in my Judaism. I have come full-circle, a Jewish person who knows his Messiah. The Jewish people were separated for God, and promised that in the Acharit HaYamim (the End Days) God will bring us back to Him, and that our Messiah will be the means to which we are rescued from not just dispersion throughout the Diaspora, not just from separation from our ancestral lands, but separation from God.

This news about Messiah ain’t boring: this is good stuff! We should be joyful and happy, we should show that in all we do. And if we can’t present, and represent, the Lord in a emotionally strong manner than how “happy” can we be, really? If we are always emotionally contained, and “proper” and “in control” then who would believe that we are joyous, elated and free? Can you be ecstatic without a smile? Can you talk about your most enjoyable experience without a tear in your eye? Or jumping up and down? Maybe being a little “Pentacostal” is important to demonstrate the uncontainable joy that knowing the Lord gives us.

Being holy doesn’t mean being boring; it just means being separated, and separated doesn’t mean being “bad” different, it just means being different.

As the French say, “Vive la différence!”

 

Remember to Forget

Have you heard the one where two guys are talking about their ex-wives. The first one says, “My Ex isn’t too bad to me. She is still mad at me but she is getting over it.” The other guys says, “My Ex is the kind to forgive and forget- only she never lets me forget what she forgave!”

God forgives and forgets, and He tells us we should forgive, also. In fact, it is a commandment. Check out Mattitayu 6. After Yeshua gives us a template for prayer, He warns us that we are to forgive otherwise we won’t be forgiven.

Do as you would have others do means not just be a nice guy, but treat and consider the other people in your life, all the other people, as you would want them to do to you. That means don’t remember their sins that you have “forgiven” and move on with your life. And I am not talking about reminding them of what you’ve forgiven, as in the story above; what I am saying is that we all must really forget. We have to put it totally out of our mind.

I think God gave us scabs over our wounds to help us remember to forget. Ever peel off a scab too soon? It hurts, and then the wound starts to bleed, all over again. It’s the same way with sin and forgiveness- the sin hurts, we forgive (which forms a scab over the painful part) but if we keep picking at the scab, eventually it starts to bleed again and we have to try to heal all over. And if the wound is deep enough, and we keep working at it, we can not only take much longer to heal (if we ever do) but we may end up scaring ourselves in the process.

Sounds really stupid when you sit back and think about it, doesn’t it?

Forgiveness takes work; it doesn’t come naturally or easily. It requires humility, strength, and compassion. It is the Godly thing to do. Don’t you recall the old saying: To Err is Human; to Forgive, Divine? Methinks there’s a lot more truth in that old Saw then we realize. God forgives our sins when we ask for forgiveness, Yeshua took on our sins to provide forgiveness that is now an everlasting forgiveness, and after all they did for us, the Father and Son simply ask that we do what they did, also.

There’s the parable about the man who owed a fortune and was forgiven the fortune, but then he didn’t forgive a measly sum he was owed. Do you remember what happened to him?

Leave the scab alone. Make an effort to forgive. I say this not because I am better at it than you are, but because I am no better at it! I still have some level of anger about things that happened to me from many, many years ago. The people who sinned against me are probably dead now, and when I think about what their final fate may be, it does make it easier to forgive them for what they did to me because what they will be going through for eternity is so much less than what they did to me, and so much worse than anything imaginable. How can I still have any animosity against them? I can only feel pity for them. Even if it is a deserved torture, it is torture and I don’t think anyone who professes to love God and follow Yeshua can see another living creature suffer and not feel compassion for it.

I don’t believe I can have the Ruach HaKodesh inside me but not feel pity and remorse at knowing about the suffering of another. It just doesn’t seem possible. I know that we will always have the poor, and that suffering is natural in a cursed world. I also probably won’t do a whole lot about most of it. But I still should feel that remorse and pity, otherwise I need to ask myself if I really have accepted Yeshua, if I really have the Ruach HaKodesh inside me, and if I really have done T’Shuvah.

In the criminal justice system, to prove a person is guilty of a crime you need three things: a motive, a means (to commit the crime), and the opportunity.

Salvation is our motive, Yeshua is the means by which we can receive salvation, and God will constantly provide us the opportunity to show we have done T’Shuvah. We live in a sinful and corrupted world, so there will always be someone more than willing to sin against us. There’s the opportunity for you- that’s where you can do what is Godly and right, that’s where you can please the Lord, and that’s where you can show your holiness by forgiving. That’s where you can obey the commandment.

All we need to remember is to forget.