Parashot Chukkat / Balak 2020 (Statutes / Balak) Numbers 19-25:9

There is so much here that I have to just give the highlights.

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We start with the regulations regarding the Red Heifer and the purification procedures involved with it.  Next, we read of the death of Miriam, and the water coming from the rock after Moses struck it. But in his anger, Moses did not give credit to God so God tells Moses that he will not be allowed to enter the Promised Land.

They come to Mount Hor, where Aaron dies and Eliazar takes his place as Cohen HaGadol (High Priest).

The people are still wandering around the desert, and as they are now nearing the end of the punishment God decreed for them, they again complain about no meat generally kvetch about their lives, so God sends snakes against them as punishment.  After repenting and asking forgiveness, God tells Moses to make a brass serpent and place it on a pole as a symbol so that when someone is bitten, if they look at the serpent they will not die.

This first parashah end with the defeat of both Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, king of Bashan.

The next parashah we will read for this double-parashot Shabbat is Balak, the story of how Balak, the king of Moab hired Balaam to curse the Jews. Balaam tells the messengers from Balak he refuses to go, as per God’s instructions, but Balak sends more important men with greater promises of reward and Balaam agrees to go. God sends an angel to block Balaam, and even though Balaam doesn’t see the angel, his ass does and three times avoids the angel. The third time Balaam begins to beat the ass for her disobedience, but God allows the ass to talk to Balaam, and then God opens Balaam’s eyes to see the angel, with drawn sword and ready to kill.

Balaam asks forgiveness and says he will return, yet God says to keep going but say only what God will tell him to say. Balak takes Balaam on a high hill to see the multitude of God’s people, and instead of cursing them, Balaam blesses them. Balak tries to get Balaam to curse the people three times, but all he does is bless them. Finally, enraged, Balak sends Balaam back home.

This parashah ends with the sin at Ba’al-Peor when the men of Israel began to associate with the Midianite women, sinning and worshiping their gods with them (we learn later, in Numbers 31, that this was Balaam’s idea). As Moses is telling them to stop, one of the princes of the tribe of Simeon is with a Midianite woman, and mocking Moses in full view of all the people; meanwhile, God has sent a plague as punishment for this terrible sin. Phineas, the son of Eleazar, is so enraged at the Simeonite prince that he thrusts a lance through both the prince and the woman with him, and this act of zealousness for God stays the plague, and that is where this second parashah ends.

As I said at the start, there is so much here.

Chukkat are the laws that God gave to us for which we can’t understand their meaning. The laws regarding the Shew Bread on the table, for instance, and this law about the Red Heifer, in which everything associated with preparing the heifer makes one unclean, but that which has made you unclean is then used to cleanse you.

The snake in the desert is so important for two reasons: first, the snake represented God’s salvation for those who would die, which has the spiritual message that when we look to, i.e. call upon God, we will be saved from death. Second, the snake is mentioned by Yeshua (John 3:14) as a foretelling of his form of death, as well as a prophecy about the distant future when he is held up and worshiped as God, just as the snake was later called Nehushtan and turned into an idol (2 Kings 18).

And finally, the lands that were taken from the two kings, Sihon and Og, are later given to Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, which ended up separating them from the protection of their brothers and their eventual destruction and dispersion throughout the world by the Assyrians, well before the Northern Tribes suffered the same fate.

Oy! Where to start, how much to say, and how can I stop once I start (which is always a problem)?

I am going to make this a simple lesson because as I reviewed these chapters, one thing stuck out in my mind: in my Chumash, the commentary on the Red Heifer gave a story about Rabbi Yochanon Ben Zakkai telling his talmudim (students) “…but the law concerning the Red Heifer is a decree of the All-holy, whose reasons for issuing that decree it behooves not mortals to question.”

This is pretty much what God told Moses later, which we read in Deuteronomy 29:29:

 The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.

Too often I hear people asking questions about the secret things, such as the pronunciation of God’s name, are he and Yeshua the same or separate beings, when does a certain holy day on the calendar really begin, and other such Gnostic-like questions.  They want to know every little detail about every single line of the Torah and use the excuse that they are trying to be obedient as their reasoning.

God told us everything we need to know, and beyond that, he told us to mind our own business. God doesn’t care if we understand why he said what he said, or why he wants us to do something, he only cares that we do it. The Torah is the first time people were told they don’t have the need to know. To me, the willingness to accept that because God said something, that is all the justification we need is a demonstration not just of obedience, but of our respect, trust, and faithfulness.

So today’s message is this: if you don’t understand why God wants you to do something, it’s OK to ask God to explain it to you; but, if he doesn’t give you an answer, accept that his silence means it isn’t necessary for you to understand, it’s just necessary for you to obey.

The ultimate demonstration of our faith in God is to come to him like little children (sound familiar?), meaning we don’t question why we have to do something, we just do it.

You don’t get on God’s good side by trying to understand him, you get on God’s good side by trusting that he knows what is best for you and faithfully obeying him.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!

Parashah B’ha’alotecha 2020 (When you set up) Numbers 8 – 12

The people have been in the desert for a year and have completed building the Tabernacle. Now God tells Moses to have Aaron set up the lampstand, or menorah so that the light will shine in front of it. Next, the Levites are cleansed and dedicated to the Lord for service unto him, and they are to be the substitution for all the firstborn among the people of Israel; all the firstborn of the people are ransomed to God since he took all the firstborn of Egypt as a ransom for the people.

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The Levites are to serve from the ages of 25 through 50; afterward, they are to help with the service but not to perform any of the actual work.

As Passover begins this second year, some men were made unclean and God said that those who could not celebrate Passover in the first month could do so the exact same way on the same days in the second month.

The cloud over the Sanctuary would be the signal for moving or remaining, and when it was taken away from the Tabernacle the people followed it. On the 20th day of the second month of the second year of freedom, the cloud moved to the desert of Paran. I believe this happened on the 20th day as there were those who were still celebrating the Passover because they were unclean in the first month.

As they are getting ready to move, Moses asks his father-in-law to come along and act as a guide, but he refuses. Moses asks a second time, but we aren’t told what answer he was given; however, in Judges 1:16 and 4:11 we read about the descendants of Moses’s father-in-law, so it appears that he did stay with the Israelites.

The final chapters of this parashah deal with the people complaining about not having any meat to eat, which leads Moses to ask God for help because their whining and rebellion is too much for him to bear. God gives some of the spirit he gave to Moses to 70 of the Elders, to help Moses lead the people, and then sent quails to feed them. However, as punishment for their complaining, the people were also cursed with a terrible plague.

In Chapter 12, Aaron and Miriam complain against Moses because of the wife he took, and God calls them to the Tent of Meeting where he chides Aaron and Miriam for speaking out against Moses, who God speaks to as a friend. Miriam is struck with leprosy, although Aaron is not punished. Aaron begs forgiveness from Moses, and Moses begs God to heal Miriam, which he does but requires her to be shut outside the camp for a week.

There certainly is a lot happening in this Shabbat reading, which has special meaning for me because the last section of Chapter 12 was the portion I read for my own Bar Mitzvah, oh so many years ago.

What struck me when I read this week’s parashah is at the beginning, and actually has very little to do with the happenings in this parashah. It was during the instructions for the Levite’s cleansing (Numbers 8:12) where God tells them they must sacrifice a sin offering and then a burnt offering.

The sin offering is, of course, to be able to receive forgiveness of sin, and the burnt offering (also called a wholly burnt offering) is to signify total rededication to the covenant between God and the descendants of Abraham, i.e. renewing one’s promise to obey God’s instructions.

There is a teaching within Christianity that is called OSAS, which stands for Once Saved, Always Saved and it is part of the other (wrongful) teaching that the “law” was nailed to the Cross. This is, of course, not justified by anything in the Bible, anywhere, and teaches people that they don’t have to repent or even ask forgiveness because when Jesus died for their sins, he covered all their sins: past, present, and future.

The truth is Yeshua did die for our sins, past, present, and future, but that forgiveness is NOT automatic.

God will not forgive someone who is not repentant, and also only when he is asked for forgiveness. It is clear that the sacrificial system, which states once we have offered up our sin sacrifice we must follow it immediately with a burnt sacrifice, shows that God requires more than just repentance and asking for forgiveness: God also requires our rededication to obedience. The teaching of “Once saved, always saved” is not how God told us it works.

When we sin, we must first repent; if you don’t really care about having sinned, then you don’t really care about being forgiven, and you certainly wouldn’t consider rededicating yourself to obedience since obedience isn’t all that important to you, anyway.  Right?

Sin is pervasive, and it is also very hard to overcome. Our very nature is sinful, and it is only through the leading of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) that we can overcome our sinful desires and sinful thoughts, which (as Yeshua taught us) are just as bad as having actually sinned.

So, the lesson I would like us to learn from this parashah is that repentance is the beginning of forgiveness, sacrifice makes forgiveness possible (thank you, Yeshua), but without your heartfelt rededication to obedience, it will all be unacceptable to God.

Sin will happen, we can’t avoid that, and without the temple in Jerusalem the only way forgiveness is possible is through Yeshua. Yeshua made forgiveness available to us, but without your heartfelt and honest rededication to obedience to God’s instructions, Yeshua’s sacrifice will be rendered impotent.

Yeshua died a mortal death so that you can have eternal life, but if you have an unrepentant heart, do not ask for forgiveness for each and every sin, and refuse to rededicate yourself to obedience after asking for forgiveness, the only future you have is one of eternal punishment.

Hey, don’t blame me! Look, these are God’s rules and if anyone chooses to accept man-made rules over God’s rules, well, then they have no one to blame but themselves! Amen!

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!

Parashah Behar / Bechukotay 2020 (On the mountain/ If you walk) Leviticus 25 – 27

We come now to the last three chapters of Leviticus.  These chapters cover the Sabbatical Year, the Year of Jubilee, the regulations regarding the redemption of lands and of people in slavery, as well as the rules regarding how to treat a slave.

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God tells us how he will prosper and bless us when we obey these regulations, and he also tells us what will happen to us if we reject and disobey his regulations.

I have a short and sweet message today, which is this:

When God says something will happen, you can be as certain that it will happen as if it was already a part of history.

For example, lets’ look at Leviticus 26: 33-35 (CJB), which is what God says will happen if the people fail to observe the regulations regarding the resting of the land during the Sabbatical year:

I will scatter you among the nations and will draw out my sword and pursue you. Your land will be laid waste, and your cities will lie in ruins.  Then the land will enjoy its sabbath years all the time that it lies desolate and you are in the country of your enemies; then the land will rest and enjoy its sabbaths.  All the time that it lies desolate, the land will have the rest it did not have during the sabbaths you lived in it.

Does this warning sound familiar? The prophet Jeremiah said that after the king of Babylon defeats Jerusalem, the people will be taken to Babylon and will be there, while the land becomes a desolate wasteland for 70 years (Jeremiah 25:11), and this is confirmed in 2 Chronicles 36:21. 

When Judea was sinning, just as Israel had sinned, they rejected God’s commandments and failed to give the land its rest. We can figure that for (at least) 490 years leading to the exile of the Jews to Babylon, the Sabbatical Year rest for the land was not observed. That is why the exile lasted 70 years, in accordance with God’s word given through Jeremiah, which was the fulfillment of the warning God gave to Moses nearly a millennia before it happened; the same warning we read in today’s parashah.

Every warning God gave to the Children of Israel regarding disobedience, which they tested over and over, came true.

Just as God always ended his prophecies with a statement of hope, I will end today’s message with this: because every bad thing that God said would happen if we disobeyed came true, we can be positive that every promise of blessings when we do obey will also come true.

Given the absolute certainty that we will receive blessings if we do as God says, why would anyone teach others that we don’t have to obey?

We have reached the end of a book of the Torah, so we say:

Chazak! Chazak! V’nit chazek! 

(Be strong! Be strong! And let us be strengthened!)

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!

Parashah Mishpatim 2020 (Ordinances) Exodus 21 – 24

This parashah deals with the laws regarding civil and capital punishment, witchcraft, sexually perverse activities, financial dealings, perjury, Kashrut (kosher), humane treatment of prisoners and enemies, about the Holy Days and the Shabbat. There is a sacrifice and Moses sprinkles the people with the blood of that sacrifice to establish the covenant between them and God regarding all these laws, regulations, and ordinances.

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The parashah ends with Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and 70 of Elders of the people approaching God, with Moses being called to the mountain top to receive the tablets.

According to Wikipedia, Thomas Aquinas pretty much summed up what has become the typical Christian viewpoint of the three different types of laws that are in the Torah, many of which are found in this parashah. He identified them as moral, ceremonial, and judicial. He taught, and this is pretty much still taught today, that the moral laws are and always have been binding because they are natural laws, existing even before the Torah. The ceremonial and judicial laws were supposed to be temporary and binding only until the coming of Yeshua; after his arrival, they were no longer valid, and (in fact) to obey them would be tantamount to rejecting that Messiah came and a mortal sin. However, in the case of the judicial laws, to enforce them would not be a sin.

Jewish thought is also that there are three types of laws, generally referred to as Mitzvot, which we call Edot, Mishpatim, and Chukim.

The Mishpatim, which are outlined in this parashah, are laws that are easy to understand. The Edot laws deal with ceremonies and rituals and we are told the reason for observing them.

The Chukim are laws that just don’t seem to make sense, and we aren’t even told why we should obey them.

For example, the laws against murder, rape, and perjury are Mishpatim. The Holy Day festival laws and regulations are Edot. An example of Chukim would be the requirement for the 12 loaves of showbread that are made weekly and placed by the altar.

The real question is: which laws are still valid for us, today?

Let’s look at the laws regarding Kashrut: back then, even though the people didn’t know about germs or bacteria, they knew that eating certain raw foods could make you sick. Of course, God knew all about these things and many people, even Jews, explain the laws regarding food in terms of being designed to keep us healthy. That being the case, many today (again, both Gentile and Jewish) feel that with the USDA and being able to properly cook foods we don’t have to worry about these diseases and can eat whatever we want to eat.

I guess they haven’t talked to someone who went to a good restaurant, ordered scallops but got a bad one in the batch and was sick as a dog for two days. Or maybe they never heard of SARS? Or they aren’t aware of the current health epidemic with the Coronavirus? If you know anyone in the restaurant business I can guarantee they will tell you that you should never watch the chef prepare the food you eat.

People accept readily the judicial laws because they make sense and they protect our rights and our welfare, but as far as many of the other laws God gave, they seem to have no problem questioning. My question is this: Why do people believe they can question any of God’s laws?

Does God need to explain himself to us? When I was a Company XO in the Marine Corps and told someone to do something, they never asked me why. And the reason for that was that they recognized my authority. I was just a human being, someone who had the legal authority to order them to perform a certain activity. However, with God, who has ultimate authority over the universe, people don’t think twice to question whether or not they have to do what he says.

And why do they feel they can ignore God’s laws? It’s because some human beings told them it was alright to do that! God said to not eat pork, but some human being said it was OK. I don’t know about you, but I remember in Matthew 10:28 Yeshua told his Talmudim (students) not to worry about what humans do to them because they can only take their life, but to be concerned about what God can do to because he can send your soul to hell forever.

In other words, when we come before God in the Acharit haYamim (End Days) and he asks us why we lived our lives as we did and we say that we only did what our Rabbi (or Priest or Minister or Pastor) told us to do, he might say something like this:

“My child, I understand that you only did what they told you to do, but it is what say that counts.” 

 

In the Torah, God says many times that his instructions (which include mishpatim, edot, and chukim) are to be observed: “throughout your generations.” He doesn’t say they are to be observed for a while, or only until the Messiah comes, or only if you want to. And he never said that someone else can overrule his commandments.

So, nu? How can anyone believe that God has no problem with some human being saying his laws were not really permanent?

I believe we should obey all the laws God gave through Moses, whether we understand them or not, whether they seem to make sense in the modern world or not, or whether someone else says I still need to or not. And the reason I believe we should obey them is simply that God said we should!

And if that isn’t good enough for you, then you will be very disappointed when you meet God and say, “It’s OK- I belong to Yeshua!” because if you ignore God’s word then Yeshua will say, “I know you not!”

Remember that Yeshua said in John 14:21 if we love him, we will obey his commandments; his commandments were to do as his Father in heaven said to do.

If you obey God you will belong to the flock of Yeshua and blessed in this life and forevermore; but, if you choose to obey what people tell you, you will be on your own.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom.

 

Parashah Vayyera (And he appeared) Genesis 18 – 22

We begin with Abraham sitting under the terebinths just chilling out when three men (who are really angels) appear to him. He performs the usual act of kindness that was culturally expected of him, asking them to stay, wash their feet and giving them food and drink. After partaking of his hospitality, one of the three tells him that next year Sarah will have given birth to a boy. Sarah laughs (hence the name Yitzchak, which means “to laugh”) and as they leave one of them tells Abraham what is to happen to Sodom and Gomorrah.

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Abraham, thinking of Lot, pleads with the angel not to destroy the cities if there are but 50 righteous men found there, and the angel agrees. Abraham manages to negotiate down to saving the city for the sake of just 10 righteous men, but there weren’t even that many.

The angels find Lot and are invited to his house overnight, but the men of the city come to force the strangers to participate in homosexual sex  (hence the term “sodomize”), and to prevent that Lot offers his two virgin daughters instead. Before anything can happen, the men of the city are struck blind by the angels, who tell Lot to get out of Dodge now. Lot delays until the early morning and is forcibly taken out, with his daughters and his wife. The wife lags behind and looks back, which results in her being turned into a pillar of salt, while Lot escapes the destruction with his two daughters,

They live in a cave and the daughters get him drunk so that without his knowledge they sleep with him, one daughter one night and the other daughter a second night. They are each impregnated and their children give rise to two of the ancient enemies of Israel, the Ammonites and the Moabites.

Meanwhile, Abraham is moving on, as well, and settles near the kingdom of Abimelech.  As he had done in Egypt, he asks Sarah to pretend to be his sister and when Abimelech sees her, he takes her for himself as a wife. He never approaches her and God comes to him in a dream, warning him against doing anything to Sarah because she belongs to Abraham. God tells the king to have Abraham pray for him, and eventually, Abraham and Abimelech swear an oath of friendship and Abraham secures his rights to a well he dug, the Well of Seven (Beer-Sheva.)

The final chapter of this parashah is called the Akedah, the Binding of Isaac. This is one of the earliest and best known Messianic references since Abraham is asked to sacrifice his only son, indicating the future sacrifice of the Messiah by God. We all know the story: Abraham takes Isaac to a place God tells him about, which is Mount Moriah. Isaac is bound and placed on a pyre, and just as Abraham is about to kill him, an angel calls from heaven to stop. God tells Abraham that because of this act of faithful obedience, the promises he has made will be fulfilled. Abraham sees a ram stuck by its horns in a bush, and sacrifices that to God (which is why the ram’s horn is the preferred horn to be used for the Shofar.)

I am interested in the situation with Lot’s two daughters who escaped with him. We read in Genesis 19:14 that Lot went to his sons-in-law to ask them to join him in leaving the city, so it seems that Lot also had two married daughters. Sadly, they and their husbands did not take Lot seriously when he told them the city would be destroyed. Those daughters had become subjects of their environment, choosing to reject salvation in order to remain in the sinful city, despite the fact that their father told them of the coming destruction.

The two daughters who escaped with Lot performed a heinous act by seducing their own father in order to make sure that his bloodline continued. They were true “daughters of Sodom” and by their actions demonstrated not only were they comfortable with the sexual perversity of the place where they grew up but that they also had no faith in God.

Abraham was truly unique, growing up in a paganistic environment, yet knowing and believing in the one, true God. His environment didn’t affect his righteousness or his morals. However, even though Lot was raised by Abraham, a righteous man, Lot did not learn anything from Abraham. Abraham was humble and generous, but Lot was self-centered and selfish. We can see this when Abraham asked Lot to choose where he will settle, and Lot chose the best possible land, despite its proximity to the sinful city of Sodom.  Lot married into this culture and allowed his daughters to also marry into the culture of Sodom, whereas Abraham made Eliezer promise to get a wife for Isaac from his own people, even though it was a fair distance away (Genesis 25:20.)

Are we allowing our children to be influenced by their environment to the point where they might accept sin over our advice? Are we careful to watch what they see on TV and in the movies? To control which video games they play? To know who their friends are and what their parents are like?

I was not able to raise my children, who lived with their mother two states away. Although I tried to see them every weekend, I was unable to influence them because the few hours I spent with them couldn’t overcome the “24/7/365” their mother had with them. Eventually, because I tried to show them the right way to act and get them to know God, which was against what their mother had been doing, my efforts resulted in them cutting me out of their lives. Thanks be to God, I have reconciled with my son, but his older sister still has nothing to do with me, despite my earnest pleas in a letter to her every year on her birthday. And it kills me that I have not been able to save their eternal souls by teaching them how to overcome their environment.

I see young people today that are totally blinded by technology and trust what they are exposed to by the Internet and the media, which are tools of Satan. Satan is the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2) and that is how what our children see and hear every day is delivered to them. Too many parents today are more concerned about being a friend to their child than being a parent, and the Bible is clear that without proper discipline, a child will not be saved (Proverbs 23:14.)

You may say that in today’s world it is impossible to prevent a child from being exposed to the sins and perversity of the world, and you would be correct. So how do we keep them from being absorbed into this culture of corruption?

By example. Parents, uncles, aunt, grandparent, friend…whatever relationship you have with a child, you must be an example of righteousness. Even if you are fearful of losing that child’s love or companionship, you must present yourself as an example of proper moral and spiritual living. The Bible tells us that if we bring up a child in the way they should go, they will remain in it (Proverbs 22:6); personally, I find this not to be true in every case. I am sure Abraham was an excellent example to Lot, and we know how that turned out. However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

You never really know in which way you are influencing a child until they grow up. I know many of the things I found uncomfortable and annoying about my parents ended up being good for me. And I didn’t realize this until I was fully grown, and appreciated it, even more, when I had children of my own.

Lot wasn’t a good example to his daughters, and what resulted from that was his children became sworn enemies of his uncle’s children. Eventually, the descendants of Lot (children raised to accept sinfulness) were destroyed by the descendants of Abraham (those raised to obey God.)

It’s never too late to start being righteous or to teach your children to obey God. I believe that the world is overpowering the youth of today, influencing them in a way that makes it very difficult for parents to fight against. When I was a child, we didn’t have anything that was as powerful an influence as the Internet, TV, movies and the media are today. The parents of today have an especially hard job when it comes to keeping their children “clean” because there is really no way, other than physical isolation, to prevent our kids from being exposed to the sinfulness of the world.

The only chance our children have is for us to be the kind of example that will shine so brightly and make such a lasting impression on them that even if they should stumble and fall victim to the world, they will always have in their memory the image of righteousness that might, one day, bring them out of the dark and back into the light.

Be the best example of righteousness you can be, keep vigilant, keep watching what they do, and keep praying to God for the spiritual and physical protection of your children. Just as Yeshua prepared and warned his Talmudim before sending them out into the world, we must do the same for our children.

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I wish you Shabbat shalom, and until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Parashah Lech Lecha 2019 (Get thee out) Genesis 12 – 17

There is so much that happens in this parashah:

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  1. Abram (not yet called Abraham) is called by God to leave his father’s house, and he does so, receiving the promise from God that his seed will be a blessing to the entire world (which, by the way, has certainly been proven true);
  2. Abram gains wealth when the Pharaoh of Egypt takes Sarai (not yet called Sarah) as a wife, but God causes a plague to fall on his house so that Sarai is protected;
  3. Abram returns to Canaan and he and Lot separate, then God promises Abram his descendants will inherit all the land Abram can see, in all directions;
  4. There is a war with Sodom and Lot, with his whole family and possession, are taken captive, but Abram saves him;
  5. We are introduced to Melchizedek;
  6. God makes a physical covenant with Abram reiterating the promise to inherit the land and also tells Abram of the Egyptian bondage that will happen later;
  7. Abram gives birth to Ishmael, Hagar runs from Sarai but God has her return, promising her son will also be the progenitor of many nations, but will always be a wild ass of a man, with his hand against every other person, and their hands against him;
  8. When Abram is 99 years old, God tells him that he will now be called Abraham (and Sarai wil be called Sarah) and that he and all his descendants are to be circumcised;
  9. God promises Abraham that Ishmael will become the father of many nations, but it will be his own son, Isaac who will be the inheritor of the promises God made with Abraham.

Well, that should be enough to keep us talking for what? a year? Don’t worry- I won’t keep you here that long.

The challenge of having a teaching ministry is that there is so much to teach, and it is often difficult to determine what to teach about. I try to do everything in a way that glorifies God and edifies those who hear me, and more often than not I count on the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) to have something “hit” me when I am reading through the parashah.

What hit me today was how Abraham was not only willing to do as God told him but that he did it…immediately.

When God told Abraham to leave everything he knew, where he was comfortable, where his family and friends were, and go somewhere that God will show him when he gets there, he goes. Just like that; packs up everything and leaves. He doesn’t even know where he is going, but he goes, all the same (Gen. 12:1.)

When God tells him after he has set up camp coming out of Egypt, to go walk the length and breadth of the land, he goes (Gen. 13:17.)

When God tells him he will be a father of many nations, he believes him, which is counted to Abraham as righteousness (Gen. 15:6.)

I know that isn’t really doing anything, but it is such an important foundational aspect of salvation, I had to make sure I added it.

When God tells Abraham to circumcise every male as the sign of the covenant God has made with him, that very same day he circumcises himself, Isaac, and all the males in his household (Gen. 17:26.)

Abraham is the ultimate example of faithfully obeying God. Moses asked not to go to Egypt, then hesitated on the way; Gideon threw the fleece before the Lord (twice!) to test him; Jonah ran in the opposite direction; and even the great prophet, Isaiah, asked God to kill him because he felt wasn’t making a difference (he was wrong, of course.)

So many of the great Bible heroes showed some form of hesitation when called by God, but Abraham never hesitated for a second. Whatever he was told to do, he did ASAP.

How many of us can claim to have faith that strong?  Of course, to be fair, how many of us have heard God calling us to do something? I haven’t had a divine revelation to teach, but it came about slowly as I grew more and more in the Lord. Yet, I have had a calling on me, twice, when I was asked to be a member of the Council at the places where I have worshiped. And you know what I did? I hesitated. I asked if they were sure, not because I felt unable to do the job, but because I didn’t really want to. I knew it would involve me putting in extra time and energy and would carry great responsibility.  It was a calling that I didn’t answer immediately. Eventually, I did accept and what I thought would happen did; when in Philadelphia, I ended up taking on the job of the Rabbi when our Rabbi left to have his own ministry, and here in Florida I ended up holding three of the four executive positions on the Council and also teaching every other week.

This isn’t about me, though, it is supposed to be about you. I shared my own experience with you so you can see that I am no Abraham. But what about you? Have you been called by God to serve in some way? Did you answer right away or hesitate? Did you make excuses or immediately “pack up and leave”, as Abraham did?

Do you even think you have a calling from God? I ask God to not only show me what he wants from me but strengthen me to do it because I know whatever God wants me to do, it will be outside my comfort zone and will entail work that will get in the way of what I want to do.

But that is how it has to be. Staying inside our comfort zone is the same as never going anywhere; to be comfortable all the time is to be stagnant. To serve God we have to be more than willing to do something, we have to actually DO IT!!

I am going to conclude today’s lesson from this week’s parashah with this: when you hear the calling from God, don’t think about it, just do it.  I know, really, how easy that sounds and how hard it is to do, so you need to prepare yourself. The best way to do that is just read the Bible every day to see how, throughout history, God has taken care of those that obey his calling. Trust in God and demonstrate that trust through faithful obedience (I just posted about obedience yesterday) and no matter what God asks of you when you obey his calling you will be blessed beyond your understanding.

Thank you for being here and please subscribe if you like what you are hearing. Also, share me out and visit my website to check out other articles and videos. I always welcome comments and would love to hear what you think of this ministry.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!

 

By Direction of the Commanding Officer

For those who have served in the military, the signature line “By Direction of the Commanding Officer” should be very familiar. For those who aren’t familiar with it, it means that whatever has been written has been done so by someone under the authority of higher command and although the letter (or orders, whatever) come directly from the writer, they are done so as if the commanding officer had issued them, personally.

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For example, when I was in the Marine Corps I was a Company XO (Executive Officer), and as such, I had authority over 350 men and millions of dollars in equipment. What I said, went, but I was under the authority of the Company Commander. I was most often the one issuing commands, but when the CO (Commanding Officer) issued a command through me, written below my name was the signature line “ByDir“, which meant that what I said was an order directly from the Company Commander.

Yeshua is the Messiah God sent to the world: to the Jew first, then to the Gentile. What Yeshua told us about how to live, worship and treat each other was not just from his own authority as Messiah, but was “ByDir” of God.

And when Yeshua used “ByDir” it was from the universe’s Million-Star General, the Lord, God Almighty!

Many times Yeshua told us that he does only what his father in heaven tells him to do or to say. There are too many references in the Gospels to annotate each time this is done, but when you read the Gospels (especially in John) you see this often. We read how people say of Yeshua that he speaks as no one ever did and that his teachings have the tone of authority to them. Well, of course, they do! He is speaking ByDir of the Lord! Yeshua’s every teaching, parable, riddle or lesson was directly from Adonai.

When we consider the above, we have to ask this question:

“How can anyone say that Yeshua did away with the instructions God gave us in the Torah if he was always speaking “ByDir” from God?”

Anything Yeshua said that was not in accordance with the “commands” God had already given would be like disobeying a direct order, wouldn’t it? If God told us to eat certain foods, but Yeshua said we didn’t have to do that, then he would have been disobeying God, right? Or, if Yeshua had taught that the Sabbath was on the first day of the week and not the 7th, he would have been in a state of sin, wouldn’t he?

The fact is Yeshua never disobeyed God or taught anyone to do so. His authority was given to him directly from God and was evident in the miracles he performed. And when people praised him, Yeshua always gave the credit to that person’s faith in God and in Yeshua, who was only acting under the ByDir authority from God as God’s Messiah.

When people preach to us, they should be preaching not from their own authority but ByDir; however, too often they don’t. They preach what they want to, such as when the Shabbat day was changed, the kosher laws were said to be only for Jews, and the festivals God ordered to be celebrated should be replaced with man-made “Christian” celebrations. These, and many other unauthorized doctrines and teachings have polluted God’s word and his plans for humanity. The ByDir from God has been misused and abused by those who teach not to edify but to create and maintain power over others.

We all have the God-given right to choose what we will believe, and God has given us all the information we need to make a choice. He has instructed us how to live and how to worship and how to treat each other. And through the Prophets, he has advised us to choose life (meaning obedience) because the only other option is death.

Don’t find yourself in the Brig for all eternity by refusing to accept the ByDir of Yeshua. Always question what your religious leaders tell you God meant and read it for yourself in the Bible, asking God to show you what he really meant.

God is the ultimate power and authority in the Universe, and there have only been two XO’s God has assigned: Moses and Yeshua. Those two, and only those two had God’s ByDir authority Remember that when you are reading the New Covenant Epistles, so you can understand them correctly, or when you hear people telling you that you are saved by the “Blood of Jesus” and the Torah is just for Jews.

Those people do not have ByDir and you don’t have to listen to what they say.  You are responsible for what you do, and what you don’t do, so make sure you know exactly who gave what commands so you follow the ones that are under God’s ByDir.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

We Can’t Reject Our Cake and Eat It, Too.

No video for this one, but please take a minute or two to read it.

This message came to me in the middle of the night, and I couldn’t sleep until I shared it with you.

There was once a small town in a valley that was protected by a dam. In this town, there was a man of God who constantly professed faith in the Lord.

One day the dam began to fail and the townspeople had to be evacuated. The man of God ran around warning people to leave. The water level was up to his knees and he was wading through it when a truck came by and the driver said for the man of God to get on so he could be taken to safety.

The man replied, “God will protect me and save me- go save someone else.”

The water was now up to his waist and climbing quickly, and a rowboat came by. The people asked the man to get in, but he replied, “God will protect me and save me- go save someone else.”

Now the water was up to his neck and he was half-walking/half-swimming when a helicopter came overhead and through a loudspeaker, the pilot said, “Man of God- get on because the dam is about to burst!”

The man replied, “God will protect me and save me- go save someone else.”

Finally, the dam burst and the man of God was drowned.

In the heavens, the man saw God and said to him, “Why did you let me drown? I told all those people you would save me and you didn’t!”

God replied, “What are you talking about? I sent you a truck, then I sent you a rowboat. I even sent you a helicopter!”

Remember this story- we will return to it soon.

Yeshua told us in Matthew 5:17 that he did not come to change the law.  He also told us, in John 13:20 that whoever accepts someone he sends, accepts him, and whoever accepts him accepts the one who sent him. And in Luke 10:16 he tells us the converse is true, which is that whoever rejects him (Yeshua) rejects the one who sent him (God.)

One more verse- John 1:14 tells us the Word (meaning the Word of God, which is the Torah) became flesh and dwelt among us, who was Yeshua.

Putting these together, we see that the written Torah is from God, Yeshua (also from God) is the living Torah, so they are one and the same thing. Yeshua said he did not come to change anything in or about the Torah, and that when we accept him we accept God but if we reject him we also reject God.

Everybody with me so far?

Shaul said in Colossians 2:14 that the crimes against us were nailed to the cross with Yeshua, which is true, but those were only our own sins which we had already committed. Traditional Christian teaching is that this means the Law (Torah) was nailed to the cross and through faith in Yeshua we don’t need the law anymore. In other words, once saved, always saved and the need to obey the Torah was done away with.

This is the exact same thing that the snake said to Eve when he told her it was okay to eat the apple because she wouldn’t really die.

You cannot accept Yeshua as your Messiah and reject the instructions God gave us in the Torah because they are both one and the same thing. 

Now we can see the true meaning of the story: God has been telling us, first through Moses (the truck), then through the Prophets (the rowboat) and finally through Yeshua (the helicopter) that people who are trusting traditional Christian rhetoric to save them are really rejecting the salvation God has provided and will end up drowning.

For those who profess faith in God and Yeshua, but reject the Torah, they will be in the same situation as the ones we are told about in Matthew 7:21-23:

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.  Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

How can anyone say that the law was done away with and not admit that they are practicing lawlessness?

Faith is how we are saved, and genuine faith will motivate us to obedience. You can’t have one without the other- they are both sides of the same coin. It is a never-ending circle of righteousness: faith generates obedience, obedience brings blessings, blessings confirm faith, faith generates obedience, ad infinitum…

Let go of the comfort zone that Christian teaching has provided by telling you that all you need is “faith in Jesus”! Yes, you need to have faith in Yeshua as the Messiah, but that doesn’t replace faith in God, and true faith (as James says in James 2:14) is shown through good works, meaning obedience to the instructions God gave us how to worship him and how to treat each other- which are found in the Torah!

You can’t accept the living Torah and reject the written Torah at the same time.

 

Parashah Shemini 2019 (the 8th day) Leviticus 9 – 11

This parashah picks up from last week’s reading, where we left Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu in the Tent of Meeting for 7 days as part of their anointing to be Cohanim (Priests) to the Lord.

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Now, on the eighth day, they are to perform a series of sacrifices to complete their anointing ritual, but after doing so Aaron’s two sons present their own incense before the Lord, which was not part of the ritual, and the punishment for that was their immediate death. Moses commands that drinking alcoholic beverages when serving the Lord is forbidden, which the rabbis have understood to mean that Aaron’s sons were drunk, causing their irrational and sinful behavior.

The next chapter, Chapter 11, is the one that gives the instructions for Kashrut, the kosher regulations.

This is probably one of the most argued against instructions in the entire Bible. Christians have misinterpreted Mark 7 and Acts 10 for centuries as doing away with these instructions; even within Judaism, Reform Jews (within my experience) generally do not keep Kosher and many Conservative Jews I have known may maintain a kosher home, but when outside their home will disregard these instructions.

Rabbinical thought categorizes the Kashrut instructions as Chukim, which are regulations we are expected to obey, although the reason for them transcends human understanding.

We can know this one thing about the instructions in Leviticus 11: they help to make us holy, where holy means to be separated.

I keep kosher according to the instructions in the Bible, but I am not kosher according to the rabbinic regulations in the Talmud, which greatly expand the ones in this chapter. As such, I can tell you, absolutely, that I am separated from those who do not maintain this diet.  For instance, when I go to an Italian restaurant I have to ask if there is pork included in the meat that they use for their lasagna and meat sauce. For breakfast, I have to double-check that there is no bacon fat added to the home fries, which many chefs use to enhance the flavor. When going out for breakfast, I know the turkey sausage I order will probably be cooked on the same grill with the regular sausage, but the heat of the grill is enough to destroy the treif (Yiddish for unclean) germs left behind. The fact that the heat of the grill makes it OK to have kosher next to treif comes from the same reasoning the Rabbis give for using the same plates for meat and dairy (fleishig and milchig), so long as the dishwasher is hot enough to sterilize the dinnerware.

My obedience to Kashrut is what separates me from the rest of the patrons, and when asking about the food preparation I have an opportunity to demonstrate obedience to God’s instructions and (maybe) set an example to others.

What presents a serious problem, to me, is when people argue about why certain animals are kosher and why others aren’t. The problem I see with this is that it shows a need to know why God does something.  We are allowed to question God, but this human need to know everything works against faith.

Faith is believing that which can’t be seen or proven, and I believe when we have to know “why” it represents a lack of faith: I say this because by having to know why we apparently don’t trust that God will only have us do that which is good for us. When it comes to obedience to the instructions God gave us on how to live, worship and treat each other, I think we should follow the motto from the Nike shoe company: Just do it!

I am not saying we cannot ever question the Lord; he is big enough and compassionate enough to allow this. My concern is that constantly questioning God’s reasons might result in losing faith when we don’t get the answers. This is what the writer of Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) found out- trying to understand God at God’s level is like chasing the wind. It was impossible and resulted in disappointment and depression.

Obedience to the instructions in Chapter 11 of Leviticus, as well as any other instructions God gave to us throughout the Torah, should not be based on understanding the reasons why God gave them. Obedience for the sake of obedience is what many think will help us earn our entry into heaven- it won’t. This is what I call “Performance-based Salvation”, and is the “legalism” that Shaul spoke against when he wrote to the congregation in Galatia.

Obeying the instructions for Kashrut (as well as every other instruction in the Torah) should be based solely on faithfully accepting that God would not tell us to do anything other than that which is good for us. He says, over and over throughout the Tanakh, that we should obey so that we will live. He doesn’t mean live this life but to live eternally with him. When we are truly faithful, that faith generates a desire to obey. The more faithful, the more obedient.

What is really sad is that there are many, many people who do have faith, but their obedience has been stifled with wrongful teaching through traditional Christian (meaning Constantinian) doctrine that was not designed to honor God. Neither was it created by the early ‘church” fathers to separate Christians from the unholy, but to separate Christians from the Jews.

God sent the Messiah to bring all people back to God, but men have distorted that event into further separating people from God by teaching disobedience.

Each one of us has the right to choose what we will do. God has given us all the instructions he wants us to know, which are all the instructions we need to know. And we do NOT need to understand why he has given any of them, we just need to faithfully accept they are what is best for us, and obey them. God has said many times in the Tanakh that he has presented to us life and death, and tells us to choose life, that we may live.

So, nu? You can choose life or death- which one do you want?

Thank you for your interest and please share me out to help this ministry grow. Also, don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE by clicking on the button in the right-hand margin. Also, use the link above to subscribe to my YouTube channel. If I get enough subscribers I will earn a little advertising money and I use that to send my books to foreign countries that are asking for hard copy (it cost me over $100.00 to send 6 books to Uganda earlier this year.)

Tonight is Shabbat so Shabbat Shalom, and until next time…L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

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!