Parashah Pekudey 2019 (These are the accounts) Exodus 38:21 – 40

We come to the final reading in the Book of Exodus. For the last couple of chapters, we have read about the details of the building of the Sanctuary, as per God’s instructions, and in this reading, we are told how the work was completed, exactly as God had instructed.

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The parashah ends with the separate parts of the Tabernacle being put together and the entire structure being set up on the first day of the first month, in the second year of the freedom from Egypt. Once built, the holy items are placed inside the tent, and God’s Shekinah glory fills the tent, so much so, that even Moses cannot enter it. At the end of this book, we are told how the cloud stays over the tent during the day, and fire during the night, and how the people moved only when the cloud moved.

When I read this parashah, and came to Chapter 39, verses 42-43 I thought about Nehemiah. In Exodus we are told:

And Moses saw all the work, and, behold, they had done it; as the LORD had commanded, even so had they done it. And Moses blessed them.

and in Nehemiah 6:14-15 we read:

So the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty and two days. And it came to pass, when all our enemies heard thereof, that all the nations that were about us feared, and were much cast down in their own eyes; for they perceived that this work was wrought of our God.

What struck me about these two passages is what they have in common: when the people did exactly as God had commanded them to do, with glad hearts and zeal to please God, they accomplished great works in a very short time.

This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who knows about God and certainly isn’t some great revelation that I have had, but it is significant and important (I believe) for us to remember and repeat.  When we do as God instructs, we accomplish much that we would never have been able to do if it was just for us, alone.

I love my wife, and when I do something that I know will please her, I put much more effort into it than I would if it was just something I wanted for myself. We are told throughout the Bible about love; we are told God loves us, we are told to love each other, and we are even told that without love we are nothing. All good stuff, no doubt. But there is something else about love that we aren’t told, which is obvious in the two passages, above: when we do something out of love for God, we are capable of performing miracles.

I am sure that I could wax prolific about that one sentence, but I won’t. It is something that you either understand and agree with, or you don’t. For those that do understand and agree, there is nothing else I need to say; for those that don’t, there is nothing I can say.

So I will leave today’s message with this: when you love God and show it through your actions and obedience to his instructions (which is what “Torah” really means) you will accomplish so much more than you ever thought possible, and just as Moses blessed the people, God will shower you with blessings.

I wish you a joyous and peaceful Shabbat, and as we say after reading a book of the Torah:

                                                          Hazak, hazak, v’nit’chazek!

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

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Parashah Vayyekhel 2019 (And he assembled) Exodus 35 – 38:20

Moses has come down from Mt. Sinai with the second set of tablets, and he assembles the people to ask for them to voluntarily give the materials needed for the construction of the Tabernacle. The people give all that is required, and so much so that even though Moses asked them to contribute what they would be willing to give, he had to command them to stop giving.

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This parashah tells us that Bezalel (Judah) and Oholiab (Dan) were the main leaders of the people constructing the Tabernacle and making all the accouterments for the service, therein. The entire reading is a repetition, in some ways, of Chapter 25 where God explains the detailed requirements of the tabernacle, to include the menorahs, the articles used for the sacrifice, the size and color of the tent skins, etc.

Some may ask how these slaves, being sent out of Egypt in a single night, had all these jewels, expensive skins, gemstones, gold, silver, etc.?  The answer is that when they left Egypt, God commanded Moses to have them go to the Egyptians and ask for these items (Exodus 12:35-36), which they did. The Egyptians were so glad to see them go they gave anything and everything the Jews asked for.

Normally, when one group conquers another group in battle, the winners despoil the losers. We see this all the time throughout the books of Kings and Chronicles. So, then, this taking of the valuables of the Egyptians as the Jews left, having conquered Egypt (well, actually we know that God conquered Egypt) is a culturally correct activity. But they didn’t take the items- they asked for them! Without a doubt, that is different than despoiling or (as some versions state) stripping them of their valuables.

I see something different at work here in God having the Jews ask for and receive these valuables. I see more than just a cultural activity- I see providence. As far back as Exodus 3:19-22, even before Moses went to Egypt, God knew what the people would need to make the tabernacle, and knowing that they had nothing of their own he commanded that they take spoil from the Egyptians. All through Moses’ debate with Pharaoh, he never once said that when they left they would take anything other than their wives, children, and cattle. Yet, when the time came to leave, the people took the last remnants of anything valuable the Egyptians had left.

God knows what we will need before we even know we will be needing it. That’s no surprise, and I am sure when you look back you can see God’s work in your life which led you to where you are today. And what is happening right now- at this very moment- may be something God is doing in your life that you will not realize he is doing until after it is done.

The lesson I am taking away from this parashah today is that I will probably never know what God is doing in my life at the moment he is doing it. Just as the Jewish slaves were thinking they would be set free, and happy for that, little did they know as the plagues started that when they left they would be richly gifted with all sorts of precious jewels and other materials. Neither can I know, even as I write this, what effect this message will have on someone or on myself down the road.

So what should we do? We should just keep walking and trust in God that so long as we walk the path he has given us he will direct our feet to his salvation. And, if I may, just to make sure we are all on the same page, walking the path God gives us means to obey God’s commandments. Specifically, the ones in the Torah.

To finish, let me share with you that when I pray, I don’t thank God only for what he has done for me throughout my life, but also for what he has planned for me. Whether his plans are blessings, or more fire to go through, I know that he sees where I will be and he is working to get me there. And for that, I am VERY thankful!

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This being Friday I wish you Shabbat Shalom and until next time: L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Is the Truth Any Good if It Isn’t Practical?

What is “practical“? According to Google dictionary, it is:

of or concerned with the actual doing or use of something rather than with theory and ideas.

OK- so that’s what practical means. Next, we need to know what the “truth‘ is, don’t we?

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The truth is, for all practical purposes, whatever someone wants to the truth to be. I know certain truths from the word of God of which I have no doubt about their meaning, but those same verses which convince me of one truth, convince someone else of a totally different and (often) opposite truth.

So, again, what is the truth? Didn’t Pontius Pilate ask that of Yeshua at his trial? And what did Yeshua answer him? It was in John 18:37-38 so let’s see what Yeshua says the truth is:

 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”  “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him. 

Wait a minute! Yeshua never told him what the truth is…or did he? He did say that everyone on the side of truth listens to him, and he preached from the Tanakh, so I suppose what Yeshua was saying is that the truth is in the Tanakh- the word of God.

But that brings us back to the first thing I said, which is that the truth comes from the Word of God.

Here is the real truth as I see it: any given Bible verse can mean different things to different people depending on what they want it to mean!

I recently posted on how Bible verses can’t always be trusted; click here to go to that message. It is because Bible verses mean different things to different people that we find the truth so difficult to find.

Here is my suggestion on how to tell what the truth is: is that “truth” practical? Can it be used in everyday life to make a change for the better?

For example, some say that the Mosaic Law was done away with when Yeshua was hung on a stake. Others say it wasn’t, so who is telling the truth? I mean, really- you can’t have both.

If the law was done away with, the practical application of that “truth” would be lawlessness, resulting in a lawless society of Believers (there’s an oxymoron if I ever heard one!) who live their life without law and, thereby, without repentance but they still get to “go to heaven.”

I don’t think so.

On the other hand, if the law is still valid, then those that follow the law would be showing that obedience to Torah in their daily lives., They wouldn’t cheat people, they would be considerate of others, they would respect God and worship him as he said we should, and they would be an example to the world of how God tells us to behave. Not perfect examples, of course, but certainly much better than someone who has no obligation to follow the rules.

I am not making a case either for or against Mosaic Law here- what I am making a case for is that whatever we want to prove as “true”, specifically regarding God and the Bible, if it isn’t something that can be used in a practical way, it probably isn’t a real “truth.” It is more likely someone else’s “truth”, and as such we should reject it.

I read posts all day long from many different people in a half dozen or so discussion groups on Facebook, all of them Christian or Hebraic Root or Messianic, and do you know what I find? Truths that have no value because they aren’t practical.

I see people post the same exact truth over and over, in different ways saying the same thing, and it is always impractical, meaning that they never tell me how to apply it to my daily life? If I know God loves me, how do I apply that when I am going shopping?  If I know God will always care for those that obey him, how will that help me when I am sick or financially strapped?

James gives us a good example of what I am talking about in James 2:16:

Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you tells him, “Go in peace; stay warm and well fed,” but does not provide for his physical needs, what good is that?

The same holds true for posting about the wonders and graciousness of God without providing the way to experience or (better yet) demonstrate it to others.

If you believe that you should love your neighbor as yourself, then go out and show others you believe it by giving to charity, volunteering where you can help others, or doing something for someone else without expectation or desire for reward. And remember that Yeshua said when doing a mitzvah or Tzadakah, don’t make a big show of it; don’t let the right hand know what the left hand is doing.

When I used to preach at Shabbat services I led, I always ended up with some practical way for us to be an example of the biblical truth I was talking about. We need to be able to not just teach people about God but to teach them how to live in a godly way. We need to take the truth of the Bible and perform it in a practical way so that those in the dark can see the light.

Just talking and posting about the wonderful things of the Lord is putting a lamp under a cover, if you ask me. Yes, tell us God’s truth but then tell us how to make practical use of that truth in the real world. Our God is not a God of words and ideas, he is a God of action!

Here’s my final word on this: in order for God’s word to be proven as true, we need to take it off the pages of the book and make it practical in the real world.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch haShem!

Parashah Bo 2019 (Come) Exodus 10 – 13:16

We continue with the plagues God is sending on Egypt, yet sparing the Israelites in Goshen. Finally, the 10th plague, the death of the firstborn comes and God tells Moses how to protect his people living in Goshen from this plague. After such a terrible loss of life, including Pharaoh’s own son, the people are told to leave. They take many gifts (spoil) from the Egyptians, who are more than happy to give them anything to get out of Egypt, and God institutes the Passover and states this shall be the beginning of our year.

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The parashah ends with the commandment that every firstborn, whether human or animal, belongs to God as the substitution for the firstborn God took from the Egyptians.

There is a term used during the narrative of the 10 plagues that comes up very often; actually, two terms which appear no less than some 19 times. One is that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart (9 times) and the other is that Pharaoh hardened his heart (10 times.) Now, for God to purposefully harden someone’s heart so that they sinned, then punish them for that sin is obviously unfair and sinful, in and of itself, so how could a sinless and perfectly holy God do that? The answer is: he didn’t.

First off, we must understand that in the biblical days, everything that happened was ascribed to God. God has a plan for the universe, and whether things happen as a direct result of Divine intervention, or just unfold as God knew they would, in the Bible it is considered a direct result of God’s will. So, even if someone does something entirely on their own, it is (in the Bible) considered to be a direct act of God.  This is not meant to blame God, it is just the cultural understanding of that time.

We all have the freedom to decide if we will obey God or not. There can be a million and one reasons why we shouldn’t, and really only one reason why we should. That one reason is simple: He is God and we are not. As for why we shouldn’t, or don’t have to (anymore), people can rationalize any desire to be justified, at least in their own mind. What happens is this: we make up our own reason for disobedience, and repeat it to ourselves. Once we succumb to sin, it gets easier and easier to continue to sin, and harder and harder to overcome it. I learned from many years as a Salesman that the more you tell someone something, even if it is ridiculous, they will eventually believe it. God knew about Pharaoh from the start, and the warning to all of us is the same warning he gave to Cain in Genesis. 4:7

If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.

The first response Pharaoh had to Moses was in Exodus 5:2, where he said, “Who is Adonai, that I should obey when he says to let Israel go? I don’t know Adonai, and I also will not let Israel go.” Pharaoh had the opportunity to obey God, and he chose to reject God’s command. God knew this would happen, as he told Moses in Chapter 3 (Ex. 3:19- “I know that the king of Egypt will not let you leave unless he is forced to do so.”), so the first “hardening” came from Pharaoh. And as I stated earlier, because the Bible states everything is from God, when it continues from this point on to say “God hardened his heart:” that is not an actual accusation but an expression. Pharaoh was the sole cause for the plagues coming upon the Egyptians, and Pharaoh had the opportunity to obey God every step of the way, but HE chose not to.

We have the same freedom to choose that Pharaoh had, and we have sin crouching at our door, just like Cain did. I remember the comedian Flip Wilson, and his character Geraldine always said, The Devil made me do it!” That was funny, but in truth, the Devil can’t make us do anything- we do it. Old Nick may provide opportunity and even give us a strong incentive to do evil, but in the end, it is our choice.

You have no one to blame but yourself for what you do.

God is in control of everything, but that doesn’t mean he does control everything. God allows us to make up our own minds, and to choose whether we accept or reject him. And don’t think for a moment there is a middle-of-the-road position with God- he is totally binomial. It is or it isn’t, right or wrong, black or white, you is or you isn’t. Period.

Moving forward, next time you think the Enemy is attacking you, or that God is punishing you, think again. Think about what choices you have made recently, and make sure that if you really are under a curse that you didn’t bring it on yourself. Thank God that when we do screw up, we have forgiveness available to us through Messiah Yeshua. Do Teshuva (repentance), ask forgiveness in Yeshua’s name and make a better decision in the future.

If you ask me, this is the pathway we must walk. We will always sin, and as long as we continue to repent, ask God for forgiveness through Messiah and also through the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) guidance and the strength to improve our ability to resist sin, working to sin less and less every day, we will be walking the path of salvation.

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Tonight begins the Sabbath, so Shabbat Shalom, and may you have a blessed weekend.

Parashah Va-Ayra 2019 (And he appeared) Exodus 6:2 – 9

In this Parashah we continue with the story of God freeing the Israelites. Previously, Moses and Aaron were unsuccessful in getting Pharaoh to free the people, and in fact, made things worse. Now God tells Moses that he certainly will redeem the people, and the rest of this Parashah goes through the plagues sent against Pharaoh and Egypt, ending with the 7th plague: the hail that fell and burned on the ground.

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The lesson I want to talk about today deals with a very sensitive topic in the “Believing” world, which is the name of God, the Holy Name which is called the Tetragrammaton. The 4 letters that God uses to identify who and what he is, and was first used when Moses saw the burning bush.

I, personally, do not believe it is necessary to use or know exactly how to pronounce God’s name- he knows who he is and when I pray to him, he knows who I mean. The arguments I constantly see in Christian and Messianic discussion groups on Facebook are always, ALWAYS, a waste of time and energy and knowledge. However, I really like what the Chumash says, based on the great Rabbi, Rashi, as to how to understand these 4-letters, and I think this might be a good, meet-in-the-middle sort of teaching for all sides of the “Holy Namers” issue.

Up to this point in the Torah, God has been identified as the Lord or Adonai. In Exodus 6:3 he tells Moses that to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob he made himself known as God Almighty, but not by Y-H-V-H.  The scripture doesn’t say (I am taking this from the Soncino edition of the Chumash) ‘My name, Y-H-V-H, I did not make known to them’ but it says, ‘By my name, Y-H-V-H, I was not known to them.’

The difference here is significant. Rashi is saying that God is talking about the understanding of his nature and everlasting faithfulness to keep his promises. What they did not know was the eternal ability of God to perform what he said he would perform.

God told Abraham that his descendants would inherit the land, but Abraham never saw that happen. Abraham’s understanding of the name “Adonai” and “God, Almighty” was a finite understanding; he knew that God would do what he said he would do here and now. But to Moses, some 400 years later, God is announcing himself as not just trustworthy for the here and now, as the Patriarchs understood him to be, but forever. God is saying that his name meant God almighty, but now means God whose faithfulness and promises extend over centuries and millennia. What the Patriarchs understood was a promise to occur, but now God is telling Moses that this name, Y-H-V-H represents the fulfillment of that promise.

The Tetragrammaton is more than a name- it is an understanding, a significance and a manifestation of the promises God makes.

This is confirmed also by the many other references in the Bible to “God’s name”, which (most of the time) doesn’t mean the actual name, the letters that compose an identifying title or label, but his renown, his reputation, and the understanding of who he is.

The Tetragrammaton is not a label, it is a definition.

God is so far above us that even his name is beyond our ability to understand. The important thing is to know who God is, read and study his instructions to us so we can always please him, and accept that his Messiah is Yeshua, who sacrificed himself so that through him we can have eternal life. Those are the things that are necessary to know; how to pronounce a couple of letters is insignificant and will not affect your salvation at all. God sees the heart and has told us that numerous times through his Prophets- try to believe him on that and not believe the teaching of someone who tells you if you mispronounce God’s name you are praying to idols. They have no real understanding of what God’s name means.

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Shabbat shalom, and Baruch HaShem!

 

Parashah VaYelach 2018 (And he went) Deuteronomy 31

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God informs Moses that he is about to die and has him bring Joshua before all Israel to the tent of Meeting. God appears in a cloud and Moses tells Joshua (and the people) that even though he is now going to die, God will still be with them and Joshua will lead them over the Jordan into the Promised Land. God will be with them just as he has been in the past, to defeat those peoples that are now in the land, so Joshua and all the people should not be afraid but have courage because although Moses won’t be with them, God always will be.

God also tells Moses that in the future the people will disown God and break his covenant, and he will then hide his face from them. They will be ravaged by the surrounding peoples and the country will be taken over. God tells Moses to write down a song (which I believe means that God dictated this song) so that when this happens, the song will testify on God’s behalf that it was the people who caused this Tsouris to come upon themselves. 

You may ask why God, knowing all that is to happen and the terrible things that his people will have to suffer through, would allow that to come about.  After all, isn’t God all-powerful? All-knowing? Couldn’t he easily make sure the people don’t turn against him and suffer? Doesn’t he love them? 

Yes, he does love them, but he is God. He knows that loving means to allow freedom of choice. He gives us Free Will so that we can choose to love him, which is the only real way to love- by choice. He never uses his punishment for disobedience as a means to force us to love him, but rather as a means to get us to return to his protection. We are protected by God when we are in his will, which means living in obedience to his commandments. God is all about love, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t about justice, fair judgment and following the rules he establishes. 

God is as subject to his commandments as we are- when he says we must do something, if we reject his words and ignore him, he must judge us as we deserve. He told us that the commandments he gave us are to be obeyed “throughout your generations”, which means forever. Fortunately for us, God’s judgments are filtered with mercy. Still and all, they are terrible when we have forsaken him. The worst thing is that he just lets us “do our own thing”, which means we are then left to defend ourselves against the world with no divine help. That is a no-win situation. 

If you find yourself in the midst of trouble, you can blame the Enemy for attacking you. But unless you are doing something that is very godly, that probably isn’t the real reason. The devil doesn’t care about you unless you are doing something that furthers God’s kingdom. So, back to you are having troubles: what you should NOT do is look to God or to the Devil until after you have first looked in the mirror. I think that in the majority of cases when we find ourselves in a teapot full of Tsouris, the real reason is something we have done or failed to do.

God will always judge those who disobey him and do so with the intent to bring them back to his protective love and divine intervention in their life.  God judges us constantly throughout our life in order to get us to change our ways when we walk away from him. He is patient and always will try to get us to protect ourselves by obeying his Torah. However, when we come before him at the Final Judgment it will be too late to change. So make sure you get your head on straight before that time comes, which may be at any moment during your life. None of us knows how or when we are going to die, so we better be prepared to meet our Maker every moment of every day. That starts with doing Teshuvah, accepting Yeshua as your Messiah and asking forgiveness of your sins through his name. From that point on, you must try to live in accordance with the Torah God gave to all people, through the Jews to the Nations.  Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, whatever- God is the only God and we are to worship him as he said we should. 

God has no religion- he gave us his laws and commandments and statutes so that everyone would know what he expects of them. And he will judge you not according to what a clerical leader has told you to do, but what HE has told you to do!

Parashah Re’eh 2018 (Behold) Deuteronomy 11:26 – 16:17)

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   God has Moses remind the people of the requirements when they enter and live in the land. This Third Discourse of Moses is all about what they are to do now that they will be in the land promised to their Fathers. 

   God reviews with the people that they are to take their sacrifices, vows, and tithes only to the place where God places his name. They are to destroy all the altars and Asherim (poles) they find throughout the land. Anyone or even any town or village that turns to worship other gods, and tries to get others to do so, is to be completely destroyed, even if a close family member or loved one.  

   One of the things they are to do, as soon as they can, is to place the blessings on Mount Gerizim and the curses on Mount Ebal. These two mountains are called the “Shoulder” mountains because they are next to each other, and they overlook the Shechem Valley. When the Israelites got there (under Joshua) and they all shouted the blessings and curses, all the people in the Shechem Valley were able to hear them. 

   God reviews the Kashrut laws and tithing rules, to include the 2nd tithe and the 3rd and 6th-year tithes for the Levites and the poor.  The commandment regarding the Shemittah (7th Year) release is given, which applies only to fellow Hebrews.

   The final part of this parashah is a review of the regulations regarding the Festivals.

   So much to talk about, so many things in here that are valuable to know and understand. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is pick one. I usually just open my mind and as I read through the parashah I pray for God to show me something, a little pop-up, so to speak, or to implant an idea in my skull. What popped into my head today was this: the importance of bringing the sacrifice to the one place in the entire country where God placed his name. 

   The pagan sacrifices were made anywhere the people wanted to, usually on high grounds and under leafy trees.  There was no real management since everyone could do whatever they wanted to do. God told the Israelites this is not what they are to do- they have to bring their sin forgiveness, vow, and tithe offerings to one place, and one place only. That place is the location where God, himself, will decide upon. They are not to offer anything to the Lord anywhere else.

   This rule is, for me, the set-up for needing Messiah. God knows all that will happen, and he knew (of course) that the Romans would destroy the Jerusalem temple, which (because of this rule) would prevent the Jewish people from having the opportunity to ask forgiveness of their sins. You may ask, “Why would God not want people to be forgiven? He gave us the sacrificial system specifically so that we could be forgiven, so why take that away? Doesn’t he tell us in Ezekiel 18:23 that he prefers we turn from sin and live?  How can we turn from sin and ask for forgiveness if he takes away the one place we are allowed to do so?” 

   That’s a good question, and the answer is that God took away our only means of forgiveness under the sacrificial system because the sacrifice of Messiah Yeshua is to be the alternative to the animal sacrifice at the temple. Prior to Yeshua, we sacrificed something that we owned and had value to us. That valuable thing was to be taken from us and given up to God. Messiah was given up by God and given to us, then taken from us back to God. Whereas the animal sin sacrifice was geographically mandated, Messiah’s sacrifice is a universal atonement, allowing all people everywhere to ask forgiveness without having to bring anything anywhere. God sacrificed his most valuable possession, his son, in lieu of us giving up something of our own. 

Because God’s laws are forever the only way God could keep his commandments regarding sacrifice for sin valid but “upgrade” them to the newer version, which is by Yeshua’s sacrifice, was to make obedience to the original sin sacrifice commandments impossible. With the destruction of the temple, the only way anyone could be forgiven of their sins was through Yeshua.

So, way back when, even as the Israelites were just beginning to enter the land, God already had his plan for forgiveness of sin through Messiah configured. He first set the rules for sin sacrifice (in Leviticus), then he set the rules for where that sacrifice should be done (this parashah), then he sent Messiah to replace the sacrifice and, finally, took away that place so that there was no other way to be forgiven except through the Messiah.

   If you haven’t accepted Yeshua as your Messiah, you will have a second chance when he returns. May I suggest, enthusiastically, that you don’t wait.  Review the Messianic prophecies in the Tanakh (there are about 135 of them) then read the New Covenant writings and make a decision. Don’t let the prejudice and hatred between Jews and Christians over the millennia get in your way- it got in my way for over 40 years, but when I made my own decision to study, research and then choose to faithfully believe, I found that my worship and my “Jewishness” became stronger and more fulfilling than it had ever been before. 

Parashah Korach 2018 (Korah) Numbers 16:1 – 18:32

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The great mutiny.

Korach, Abiram and Dathan were all leaders within their respective tribes. Korach was a Levite and the other two were from the tribe of Reuben. They came against Moses and Aaron with accusations of tyranny, in that they accused Moses and Aaron of taking on all the authority of leadership. Korach said that they all God’s people should share in the leadership and offerings, not just Moses and Aaron.

Essentially, they were saying, “Who died and left you both in charge?”

These three had convinced 250 other men, all leaders within the 12 tribes, to follow them and God had them all bring their offering pans to the front of the Tent of Meeting. What happened next was terrible: at the tent of the three who started this rebellion Moses said if these men were correct then they would live long lives, but if they were wrong then the earth would split open and swallow them alive. As soon as he was done speaking, the earth did split open and swallowed Korach, Dathan and Abiram and their family alive, then it came back over them. At the same moment, fire came out from the Tent of Meeting and incinerated the 250 men. The fire was so hot the fire pans, made of bronze, were all melted.

You would think that would satisfy the people that Moses and Aaron were God’s choice, but it didn’t. The very next morning the people accuse Moses and Aaron of murdering God’s people, and God is so angry he sends a plague out that kills tens of thousands. The plague was stopped only when Aaron risked his life by carrying embers from the eternal flame in his fire pan directly into the crowd where the plague was running wild to stop it.  God commanded that the 12 tribal leaders and Aaron place their staffs in the Tent of Meeting to show God’s choice of leader, and in the morning nothing changed except for Aaron’s staff, which not only grew buds but had ripened almonds on it. God then charged the Levites to surround the Tent of Meeting and that they should not allow any of the common people (non-Levites) to come close to it, or to inter-marry with them or have them partake of any of the holy foods. The Levites were to be separated and apart from the rest of the tribes, with no inheritance or job other than the service of the Tabernacle. They are also to give a tithe from the tithes they receive.

The Haftorah reading for this parashah is 1 Samuel, 11-13, which is the story of Samuel anointing Shaul as the first king.  The reasoning is that both Moses and Samuel had to take a rag-tag group of people and form them into a nation, all the while being accountable to God and subject to the same rules and laws that the people were. Whereas Korah rebelled against the leadership of Moses, the people (in the Haftorah) rebelled against Samuel by asking for a king.

I think this Haftorah choice is a good one, but I would add one more thing. I would add Micah 6:8 to the reading, which says:

He has told you, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: Only to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Today’s drash is about the motivation behind Korach’s rebellion, which is obviously jealousy and an over-active desire for power. He thought he was also entitled to be in charge. It is obvious from the influence he had that he was, indeed, an authoritative and important person in his own right. But that wasn’t enough. He found like-minded men in Dathan and Abiram, and their combined influence allowed their little rebellion to grow from just those 3 to a total of 250 people. Jealousy and a desire for power were the motivations, but was that the real cause of their rebellion?

I believe this rebellion was not the result of desiring something but from the lack of something. That something that was lacking was…humility.

The grass always seems greener on the other side of the fence and we humans don’t seem to be satisfied with anything. It is ironic that sometimes those who have the least are generally the ones that are most satisfied with what they do have. The rich only want to get richer and when we have plenty we still want to have more. Proverbs 15:17 tells us it is better to have a meal of vegetable in a house full of love than meat in a house full of strife, meaning that appreciating what you have it is better than having but not appreciating it. We also get this same message in Ecclesiastes, where no less than three times we are told to simply eat, drink and be merry and to enjoy whatever God has provided, for that is our lot in life.

Clearly the men in this rebellion did not have the humility to accept God’s chosen leaders or what God had provided for them. Korach was a leader in the tribe of Levite, but he wanted more because he didn’t appreciate the position of importance God had given him. The same went for Abiram and Dathan. As for the 250 men that followed them we are not really told anything about their motivation, but it seems safe to say they were also wanting to have more.

I have often said pridefulness is the mother of all sin, and lack of humility is a symptom of pridefulness.  We must be humble in our lives if we are to be able to serve the Lord. That means accepting what we have and appreciating what God has done for us, every day. I am not saying we should sit by idly and not try to improve ourselves or our financial situations. I am saying that we are to be appreciative for what God has given us and share it willingly with others. We are to respect God’s choice of leadership just as Shaul (Paul) said we should in Romans 13:1:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.

Finally, trust that God is in charge and will provide what you need. If you want a better job, ask yourself why? Is it only to make more money and have more “toys”? If so, maybe that’s not the best reason. However, if you want a new job so you can be a better provider for your family that is unquestionably a proper reason for wanting more, and when you pray to God for help he will help you.

We must remain humble in our attitude towards God and towards each other. We must be satisfied with God’s provision and make sure that whatever we want, it is for the proper reasons. We can want more, but not if it is for selfish reasons, such as just to have more money, power or influence.

Wanting that is a result of prideful desire will only lead to ruin, whereas a humble desire to do more to please God and provide for others will yield blessings.

Parashah Shelach Lecha 2018 (Send out) Numbers 13 – 15

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The people have been travelling in the desert for a little more than 2 years and have come to the border of the Promised Land. Moses, per God’s command, sends out spies to reconnoiter the land; one member from each of the 12 tribes. They come back 40 days later and of the 12 men, only Caleb from the tribe of Judah and Joshua from Ephraim give a favorable report. The other’s announce that they saw fortified cities and the Nephalim there (giants who were traditionally fallen angels) and that they could not possibly conquer those peoples. They spread fear and disappointment among the Israelites to the point where the people wanted to stone Moses. God tells Moses he will destroy these people and make a new nation out of Moses, but Moses intercedes (again, as usual) for the people. God relents what he was thinking of doing and decides to kill the 10 men by plague who started this rebellion, and that everyone over the age of 20 would die in the desert for their part of the rebellion. The people decide to attack anyway, and get their tuchas waxed. The parashah finishes with a man gathering sticks on Shabbat being stoned for his blatant disregard for God’ commandment, and the wearing of ztit-ztit  (fringes hanging on four sides of the garment) so that people will see this on other’s garments and remember to obey God.

Should we discuss the importance of the number 40, here in 40 days of spying and 40 years of wandering? Or maybe we can discuss how could people remain so faithless after 2 years of living with wondrous miracles happening every day (cloud, fire, manna)? The faithfulness of Joshua and Caleb is also something that could have deep meaning for us, in that we need to show faith is still alive even when living among faithless people.

I would like to talk about something that we see in this parashah but isn’t actually part of the story.

It came to me as I was reading about how God said he would make a nation out of Moses. My thought went right to: really? Moses is already in his 80’s, and I know that God can certainly give Moses more children at this age. But to make a nation out of him? It took some 400 years living in one of the most fertile areas of Egypt for the family of Jacob (initially numbering about 63 people) to grow into the nation Moses was leading.  Was God really willing to put everything on hold for another 400 years or so before the people entered the land?

As I was asking myself this question I thought about the idea of predestination. First off, I do not believe in predestination, but I do believe in predetermination. The difference is the former implies we have no choice and there is no real free will, whereas the latter means we have been chosen but we have free will so we can choose to accept or refuse. The “glitch” in predetermination is this: if God has chosen me for something and I refuse to do it, then what?

The answer is what Mordecai said to Hadassah (Esther) when she refused to see the king to intercede for the people (Esther 4:14) :

For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place,{underlining added} but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?

God had predetermined that Hadassah would be the means for him to save his people from the enemy of the Jews, Haman. She had the option to do nothing to help, and some people won’t like hearing this but the fact is that at first that’s exactly what she did. Her message back to Mordicai the first time he asked her to intercede was that the king normally will kill anyone (meaning wife) not called to him. Essentially, she was saying, “No way!” Then Mordecai pretty much threatened her with discovery and death herself, and then she realized she didn’t have much of a choice.

Now, back to the parashah. Moses could have told God “Fine with me- I’ll get busy with Zepporah tonight.” And then the bible we know today would be different, but the end result would be the same.

That’s the point. God promised the land of Israel to the descendants of Abraham. It was predetermined that Moses would lead those descendants into the land. If the ones Moses had with him chose not to enter, so be it. God would raise another nation out of Moses to enter, but one way or another the children of Abraham would have that land.

This is the reason that throughout history God’s promise that Abraham’s seed would be in the land has been dependable.  It doesn’t matter when something God wants to be done gets done, the point is that it WILL get done, sooner or later.

How many people do we read about in the bible who refused to do God’s calling and never changed their minds? No one, you say? You don’t recall anywhere in the bible reading about someone who God had determined to do something wonderful but never accepted the calling? Of course not. I am sure there were many who fit that description, but because they did not accept the call, they never made it into history.

God’s will is insurmountable. His will will be done; if you are called to do it and do so, you will receive wonderful blessings for obedience. If you are called to do it and refuse, you just keep on going as you are and someone else will be raised up to take your place.

This is why it is so important for us to keep our eyes open and our ears cleaned out. When we hear God’s calling on our life we need to be willing to answer with “Whatever you say, Lord.” or we will be missing out. This doesn’t mean a faithful worshiper of God will be refused his or her place in eternity- not accepting the call from God doesn’t necessarily mean you are going to be damned. It just means that the wonderful things that God had planned for you will go to someone else. I don’t know about you, but I would rather take God’s blessings than give them away.

I confess to you that my biggest fear in life is to not hear or ignore God’s calling, if and when I have one. Right now I believe this ministry is what God wants me to do, and I pray for its success (for his glory) and also that I am right when I think this is his calling for me. I really do fear that I may miss the calling God has for me.

Pray that you hear the calling God has for you, and even more so, pray for the strength to accept and fulfill that calling if, and when, you hear it. It’s one thing to hear the phone ringing and another thing altogether to be willing to answer it.

Parashot VayYakhel and Pekudey 2018 Exodus 35 – 40:38

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This Shabbat we have a double parashah, which brings us to the end of the book of Exodus.

Moses gathers all the people and asks that they voluntarily give the materials needed for the construction of the Tabernacle. The people give freely, and in fact, they give so much Moses has to tell them to stop bringing any more because there is too much for the work.  God appoints men with extraordinary skills to supervise the work and both men and women help. This is a totally united effort, and the chapters relate in great detail every single item, how it was all constructed in exacting detail and in perfect accordance to God’s commandments.

The Haftarah for these readings are from 1 Kings telling about all the work Hiram led in the construction of the Temple in Jerusalem and Solomon’s prayer.

After the Tabernacle is set up and anointed God’s presence fills it with a cloud so thick Moses cannot enter. This also happens in 1 Kings after the construction of the Temple is completed. In both these cases, the work was done in a whole-hearted way to honor God, and once completed as God ordered it was acknowledged by God as acceptable in a very visible manner with the indwelling of His Ruach (Spirit) in physical form.

Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 6:19:

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? 

We are also a temple when we invite the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) to dwell in us. As such, are we constructing ourselves with as much fervor, love and obedience to detail that the people did in these readings? Do we voluntarily give of ourselves to others, and these people did to God? (That which you do tho these, my brethren, you do unto me-Matthew 25:40)

When we read these passages, it seems redundant and a little boring, if you will, because there is so much detailed minutia about every little thing. The reason for this is to show how all the people paid attention to what God told them to do. Now, it’s one thing to build a structure and another thing altogether to build up holiness in ourselves. Yet, the message is the same for both: when we do what God asks of us, as He asks us to do it, we will be successful and then God will bless our efforts with His presence.

When I first came to God I did so intellectually, and after three months or so of attending Messianic Shabbat services, I felt I wasn’t any different from before. That’s because I was still being an intellectual Believer, not a spiritually open Believer. It wasn’t until I was spiritually open and emotionally empty that I was able to receive an anointing from the Rabbi and then I felt the Ruach haKodesh enter my body. That was a moment that has lasted my entire lifetime. If you are interested in hearing it, you can go to this video: Steve Bruck Testimony

Over the years I am afraid I have become inured to that wonderful sensation of the Ruach filling my soul, and I miss it. I know that it’s my fault I don’t feel it as often as when I started to believe. In Psalm 51 King David asks God to “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation;” : I also want to feel that joy again, that elation when I first felt the Ruach enter me.

My “temple” needs repair so that I am once more in accordance with God’s instructions. And those instructions aren’t as detailed as the ones we read this Shabbat; no, they are very much simpler. In fact, they are in Micah, 6:8:

And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?

I want the Tabernacle of my body to be acceptable to the Ruach haKodesh, and to allow it to fill me so much that I can’t be inside it any more. We call that “Dying to Self” and it is the aim (or should be) of everyone who worships God. I am not confessing I have fallen from faith; no, not at all! It is my faith that makes me want to be better and be more acceptable to God than I am now. But I do confess I need to work at it more, just as Shaul told us in Philippians 2:12-13:

–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

Let each of us, starting this very moment, renew the work on our own Tabernacle and continue to perform whatever maintenance we need to do so that we are always acceptable to God, so that His Ruach can fill us as He filled the Tabernacle in the desert and the Temple in Jerusalem.

This completes the book of Exodus (Sh’mot), and in accordance to tradition we cry:

                                                                                                            Hazak, hazak, v’nit’chazek!

                                                                                             Be strong, be strong, and be strengthened!