Parashot Acharey Mot / Kedoshim (Leviticus 16 – 18; 19 – 20)

Acharey Mot starts with the regulations about how to celebrate Yom Kippur, then about not eating blood and ends with forbidden types of marriages and worship. This is a continuation of the main theme throughout this entire book, which is to teach the people how to be holy.

Kedoshim is the central book of the Torah because it is right in the middle. It is the center of Vayikra, and also the center of Torah. As such, the Rabbis have regarded it as “the essentials of Torah” ( Pentateuch and Haftorah, Soncino edition) and a brief description of it’s main points follows:

* holiness and imitation of God

* moral and ritual laws

* Duties to and treatment of other people

* Prohibitions against hatred and violence

* additional precepts and ordinances

* prohibition against the pagan lifestyle

* ethical injunctions

* penalties for disobedience

* laws regarding immorality

* final exhortation to be holy and set apart

As I say above, this book is not just a set of laws and rules. It is how we become sanctified, holy and separated for God from the rest of the world.

In America, the court cases of Plessy vs. Ferguson and Brown vs. The Board of Education (of Topeka, Kansas) are well known to almost everyone, lawyer or not. “Plessy” was a Supreme Court ruling (in 1896) which stated separate accommodations, if equal in quality and standards, is not unconstitutional. Half a century later (1954), “Brown” was the reversal of that decree stating the very nature of things being separate means they can’t be equal (I ask any law professionals to excuse any minor misstatements I may have made in condensing these.)  The belief that separate cannot be equal is also what we are told in Leviticus, and throughout the Bible. If we want to be holy, as God is holy, we need to be separate and NOT equal. We need to be different.

Let’s get something straight here: different is not better than; it is not worse than;  it is just different from. The only thing that separates Believers from the rest of the world is Messiah Yeshua. We are still sinners: the only thing different is that we are saved sinners. And because we profess to accept the truth that Yeshua is the Messiah, and accept God’s Grace provided through Yeshua’s sacrifice, we are bound to change our way of living to that which God decrees in the Torah. Doing that makes us different from the world. God tells us to be holy for He is holy, and in Leviticus He gives us all the rules, regulations, and ordinances that will teach us how to worship Him properly and how to properly treat each other so that we can be holy.

Problem is…we ain’t holy! God gave us all we need to be holy, but it’s beyond us, that’s why God also provided Yeshua, and why we so desperately need Him, our Messiah, to bring us into the communion with God that we cannot bring ourselves into, by means of His sacrifice cleansing us of our sins.

We need to be different, and in the way God says to be different. Not as a means of rebellion (of course, if you’re a teenager, rebellion is mandatory behavior) or as a means of acting “holier-than-thou”, but as the proof that we worship God. It’s just that simple. We worship God, Adonai; the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Holy One of Israel, the one, true God. And when we do this as He said we should (not as a religion tells us) then we are separated from the world.

The world says “holier-than-thou” as a condemnation against someone thinking they are a better person than someone else. Yeshua told His Talmudim (Disciples) that the Goyim (nations, or Gentiles) lord it over each other and they should not, so He also teaches us not to think we are any better than anyone else. But, in the long run, we are supposed to be “holier than thou”, but not because we are better: we are to be holier because our God is holy and we represent Him. We aren’t better, just saved. The difference between heaven and hell is certainly much more than that between railroad cars (Plessy vs. Ferguson) and we definitely want to be in First Class.

I believe this about Leviticus: the central theme of this central book of the Torah is to be holy so that we can represent God correctly.

The book tells us exactly how we achieve holiness by telling us how we are to worship, how we are to treat each other, how we are to marry, how we are to have intimate relationships, how we are to eat; essentially, Leviticus tells us that we should be, and how we are to be, separated from the world.

The brokerage firm Smith-Barney had a great commercial where their spokesman used to say (something like), “We make money the old fashioned way…we earn it!”  That’s the way the world works, and there’s nothing wrong with that- you work hard and you earn your reward.

With God, it isn’t like that. Salvation cannot be earned through hard work, it can only be gained by asking for it.

It’s not until after we have been saved that the hard work starts.

Parashah Pesach (Exodus 12:21 – 12:51)

Weren’t we in the book of Leviticus last week? How’d we get back to Exodus?

Today, actually tonight, begins Passover (‘Pesach’, in Hebrew.) As such, this being one of the most important and happiest of all the Holy Days God gave us, we read this portion of the Torah and then get back to Vayikra next week.

Passover is a Holy Day that is somewhat misunderstood, by both Jews and Christians. If you ask most any Jewish person how long Passover lasts, I’ll bet the answer you get is “7 days”, but that’s wrong. “Passover” only lasts from evening until midnight, when the angel of death passed over Egypt. The 7 days that we fast (no leavened products, i.e.. nothing with yeast) is called Hag Ha Matzot. It is the Feast of Unleavened Bread that lasts 7 days. Another thing that is misunderstood is that Passover is when God said we should celebrate the new year; God never said that Rosh HaShannah is the Jewish new year. In Exodus God tells Moshe that this day (the day the Jews left Egypt) is to be the first day of your year. Rosh HaShannah, the Jewish New Year, is a Rabbinical holiday and not a God ordered Holy Day. The day that it is celebrated on is a God-ordered Holy Day, but that day is called (by God) Yom Teruah, or Day of Trumpets. It is a memorial day.

From the Christian viewpoint, because of the undeniable association of the sacrificial death of Yeshua (Jesus) on the day after Passover, leading to His resurrection on the third day (Sunday, the beginning of the Jewish week, as we are told in the Bible) the sacrifice of the Passover lamb is considered to be what Yeshua underwent, which was a sacrifice to absolve us of our sin. Especially since He is often referred to as the Lamb of God. Even the Jewish people, for the most part, believe that the Pesach lamb was a sin sacrifice.

Oh, oh…not so, oh no. The Passover lamb was sacrificed, yes, but it was a thanksgiving sacrifice, a peace offering, not a sin or guilt offering.

Go back and read the first chapters of Leviticus we just went through- it describes how the different sacrifices are to be administered by the Kohen. There is only one type where the person offering the sacrifice also partakes in the eating of the sacrifice, and that is the peace offering. God demands that the Passover lamb be roasted and eaten by those offering it, so that makes the Passover sacrifice a peace offering, not a sin offering.

But didn’t Yeshua offer Himself as a sacrifice for sin? Yes, He did. Well, when do the Jewish people offer their sin sacrifice? That’s on Yom Kippur.

You see, Yeshua is both sides of the coin, so to speak: His sacrifice to overcome our sin was on Passover, and the Passover sacrifice is a peace offering to God. When we think about it, isn’t the Messiah supposed to bring us all back into relationship with God?  So when He sacrificed Himself as a sin offering, didn’t that also allow us to come into relationship with God? Wasn’t the curtain torn from the top down? From God to us? When Yeshua died on that execution tree, His sacrifice was both the sin sacrifice that comes at Yom Kippur (the final one that will be at the End of Days) and the peace offering that brings us back into relationship with God. His sacrifice counted then as two- the sin sacrifice to cleanse us before God and the peace offering that will bring us into relationship with God. They may be a little backwards to us, since our time is linear, but God’s time is different. What Yeshua did back then was for then, and for now, and for the rest of time; one sacrifice to accomplish two things, from then until forever.

Isn’t God just amazing?!? It gives you goose-bumps. Now do you see the real association between Passover and Yom Kippur? We usually associate Passover with freedom from physical slavery and follow it up with Shavuot, the giving of the Law on Sinai as a “one-two punch” against sin. For those that accept Yeshua’s Messianic calling as true, these two Holy Days also represent the freedom from spiritual slavery and the giving of the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit, which only because of Yeshua’s sacrifice can now indwell forever. Prior to Yeshua the Ruach fell on the person, but was lifted up later. Only because of Yeshua can that Ruach now indwell and remain.

And there’s another misunderstanding- as nicely as this all fits, Passover is not really associated with Shavuot, but with Yom Kippur. Passover and Yom Kippur are the two sides of the same coin, sacrifice for sin to cleanse us and peace offering to bring us back into relationship with God. Again I ask, isn’t that what the Messiah is supposed to do?

I also do two things at once to my Christian friends at this time of the year: I teach them by kidding with them and rebuking them at the same time. I ask them if they ever considered that as they are celebrating and honoring the resurrection of Yeshua, they are eating something that He would find to be an abomination and an insult on His table?

Think about it before you buy that Easter ham. Also think about it when you have bread and cake all next week. Yeshua told his Talmudim (Disciples) to beware the Hametz (yeast) of the Pharisees;  Yeshua and all His followers fasted from yeast during the celebration of Hag ha Matzot. Do you want to do as Yeshua did? Do you really want to please God?

If you do not normally fast during the 7 days after passover, try it. I am sure there are many who fast from something for a day or a week to get closer to God. Don’t you think that fasting as God says you should would bring you that much closer to pleasing Him? To being in communion with Him?

Forget the ham- do a turkey or a chicken. No lamb- that is not allowed because the lamb is the demanded sacrifice and it must be done at the Temple, but the Temple doesn’t exist anymore so we don’t do lamb on Passover. Chicken, turkey, maybe a nice brisket, no bread- only matzah for the next week. No cakes, no nothing with any yeast in it at all.

Try it. Do what God says and He promises to bless you (read Deuteronomy 28.) Don’t get all caught up in that drek about obeying Torah means you aren’t under the blood- that’s nothing but a bunch of fertilizer taught by those who don’t understand and don’t want to obey God to those who don’t want to make their own decision about how to worship God.

Here are my two most favorite ways to eat matzah: spread butter lightly over it with salt (warm the butter a bit first or it will crack the matzah)- YUM!!! And for breakfast eat Matzah Brei: soak matzah in warm water, when it’s soft wring out the water (carefully) and then drench the matzah is an egg wash with a little milk (and cinnamon), then fry in a frying pan greased with butter. Serve hot with syrup or sugar. It’s sort of a Jewish french toast, and I cannot believe you won’t LOVE it!

Chag  Sameach!!

Parashah Tzav (Command) Leviticus 6 – 8:36

The prior chapters are addressed to the entire congregation, whereas these next chapters are more specifically to the Priests, describing the way the different sacrifices should be offered, and which portion of the sacrifice is for the Priests, who may eat it, and it ends with the anointing of Aaron and his sons into the Priesthood.

The Sacrificial System was a major part of the lives of the Jewish people. Of the 613 Commandments in Torah, nearly 1/3 deal with the sacrificial system. There are different offerings: a sin offering, a guilt offering, a burnt offering, a peace offering and a thanksgiving offering. The peace offering is considered to be classified in three ways: (1) thanksgiving for deliverance from sickness or danger; (2) fulfillment of a vow made in times of distress; and (3) a free-will offering made when the heart is moved at the remembrance of God’s tender mercies (Pentateuch and Haftorahs, Soncino Edition.)

With the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, the sacrificial system came to a halt; more like running into a brick wall! All of a sudden, that was it! One day we can be cleansed from our sin, the next day there is no way for the Jewish people to atone for their sins. Because God decreed that these sacrifices had to be made at the place where He placed His name, when the Temple was destroyed we couldn’t sacrifice as we should, and the Jewish people had an even stronger need for their Messiah. It’s too bad that “Mainstream” Judaism still hasn’t accepted the truth about Yeshua, who is the Messiah and through whom our sins have been forgiven. That is why the Temple was destroyed: the sacrificial system was no longer needed, but since God’s word is like He is- the same today, yesterday and forever- and He declared these sacrifices had to be made at the Temple, by destroying (or more correctly, allowing the destruction of) the Temple He put an end to a system that He said should be forever, without going against His word or changing His mind.

Does this mean that we don’t have to sacrifice anymore? Even though I can’t bring an animal to the Temple and offer it up to the Lord, does that mean I don’t need to perform any kind of sacrifice? When David went to buy the threshing floor in 2 Samuel 24 to stop the plague he caused, when it was all offered free to David, we read, “But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on buying it, for I will not present burnt offerings to the Lord my God that have cost me nothing.”

Don’t we still have ways to offer to God thanksgiving sacrifices? Can’t we still be moved to wanting to thank him? Don’t we still sin? Yes, Yeshua’s blood covers our sin, but can’t we still live up to the spirit of the law by giving up something that is valuable and desired by us to demonstrate our willingness to obey God’s commandments?

We all sin, and we all will continue to sin. As I have said before, we will never be sinless but we can always sin less, and even though we have our sins forgiven when we ask in the name of Yeshua, is that all we should do? Just say, “Thanks, Yeshua, for dying for me, so that when I ask forgiveness in Your name I am cleansed.”

Nice deal- He suffered, and we get off. Is that really good enough for you?

It’s not good enough for me. I don’t want to just accept all He did for me and do nothing to show my gratitude. And I don’t want to sacrifice something that costs me nothing. Yeshua’s death cost me nothing, but it cost Him everything, and when I sin I feel that I need to do more than just call upon His name. But what can I sacrifice? Where can I go? I don’t even own a goat or a lamb; I have two cats, but they are not acceptable sacrifices (lucky for them, too.)

So, nu? What do I do to show God I want to sacrifice a guilt or a sin offering, and especially a thanksgiving offering (because every day He does so many wonderful things for me?) Wait- didn’t David say he wouldn’t sacrifice anything to the Lord that didn’t cost him anything? Maybe what we can do, if you feel like I do, is sacrifice something that is valuable to us. I am not talking about a special monetary gift towards something that honors God, although that would be something, but let’s give something that is as valuable to us today as a lamb or a goat would have been to the people of Jerusalem in Yeshua’s day and before: let’s give up our time.

Today we work so hard, we commute so many hours a week, and when we get home (at least I know I do) all we want to do is rest. And the weekends are play time. Well, God already tells us to rest on the Shabbat, but that is a commandment we obey anyway (hopefully) so we need to do more than that if we want to make a sacrifice.

Give of your time to something that is “God-honoring.” Maybe volunteer to help with something at your place of worship, or go to a soup kitchen and serve others, or volunteer at an animal hospital (God did tell us that we are to care for His creation, did he not?) or at a human hospital. Do something that takes away from your personal time, or give money if that is more important to you than your time, but offer something up to the Lord as a sacrifice to show Him how much you appreciate what He has done for you, and to honor the sacrifice Yeshua made for you.

Yeshua gave up His divinity, His supremacy, He took off His robes of holiness and put on a mantle of stinking, dirty flesh, then wore it for 30-something years. And finally, He allowed Himself to be humiliated, beaten and tortured to death, all so that you and I can be saved because of our failure to be able to obey the Lord. Don’t you think that if Yeshua was willing to do all that for you that you should do something for Him to show your gratitude?

I volunteer at the Brevard Zoo (with Donna, my wife) and I help out at the place I worship during, before and after services, and I am available to help people there if they need computer work or training. These things take time, and I gladly sacrifice my time because it is an offering to the Lord. I don’t say this to brag or get accolations, but to show you one way in which you can do the same.

God gave up His only son, and that son gave up everything, even to the point of death, just so you can have a chance to enter God’s presence for eternity.

Don’t you think that deserves some thanks? If so, find something that will cost you something and offer it up to the Lord.

Parashah Tetzaveh (Command) Exodus 27:20 – 30:10

This parashah describes the way the priestly robes are to be manufactured, and the process for the anointment and consecration of the priests (Aaron and his sons), as well as the rules for their share of the sacrifice, and about the incense.

In the description of the breastplate, the Urim and Thummim are mentioned. According to the Chumash (Soncino Edition) the words are translated as “The Lights and the Perfections”, possibly to imply “perfect lights.”  There is still to this day the question of just what the Urim and Thummim were: were they a kind of dice, or is it a term for the breastplate, being one and the same with the precious gems?

They are mentioned also in Leviticus, Numbers and 1 Samuel. But after the reign of David they are no longer being used for determining God’s will; in fact, they aren’t mentioned at all.

So what were they? I would like to submit that what they are is less important than what they represent, which is the need to ask for God’s opinion and judgement on important matters. We know that whatever the Urim and Thummim were, when important matters of state or judgement was needed this “thing” was used to determine God’s will. In Joshua, after the failure to attack Ai, God commanded Joshua to call forth all the families and draw lots to determine the person at fault for the sin Israel committed. We read in other places about the use of lots to determine the outcome, always with the underlying understanding that it is God who is making the lot come out as it should. This could have been the Urim and Thummim.

In the “real” world, we “know” that the use of dice or some other form of determining a result from a random process is all luck and statistics-with each throw of the dice you have a 1 in 12 chance of a certain number coming up. It’s just dumb luck.

That doesn’t explain why the lots used in the Bible were always accurate. The party that was chosen never said, “It’s not me- I didn’t do it! Throw those dice again.” No, indeed- those chosen by lot confessed. If you knew that you were going to be killed because of the results of the Urim and Thummim, wouldn’t you lie through your teeth to prevent it?

I don’t think it is important to know what the Urim and Thummim were because the point is that they were used to ask for God’s guidance before taking action. That is what we need to remember. And that is, I believe, why we don’t hear about them after the days of David. What happened after David’s rule? The kingdom split in two, the Northern Kingdom of Israel (Shomron) began a long and ugly degradation of it’s worship, immediately prostituting itself to the Semitic gods of the area and eventually being destroyed by God. The Southern Kingdom of Judah did the same, although it was a longer decline due to a number of righteous kings, but in the end they also were destroyed by God. Not totally, like the Northern tribes, but it was devastating and lasted from about 750 BCE up to the 1950’s.  Not once during this time do we hear of anyone consulting the Urim and Thummim: it is like America today. First we took God out of the schools (1962 Supreme Court decision from a New York suit) and then in 2003 they removed the monument to the Ten Commandments from the Alabama Courthouse, taking God out of our system of judgements.

The use of the Urim and the Thummim remind us more than just that we need to ask God for His guidance in (not just) important matters, but it also reminds us that God is in charge, that what might seem to be a random chance event may be God determining the actions of men, all designed to accomplish His will. No one will be able to accept this unless they faithfully believe God is in charge. However, when we leave God out of our decisions, when we ignore His will, and when we tell Him, basically, to “mind His own business”, He will do just that. He will not keep us in His will, He will not influence our outcomes, and He will leave us to our own devices.

Not a good idea. We are totally incompetent, self-centered and foolish. I like to say the ultimate proof that God exists is to look at the history of Mankind: if there wasn’t a compassionate, all-powerful and protective God watching over us, how could we have possibly survived this long?

We must look to God for guidance in everything we do. We must trust that He is not just willing to help us, but is (in every way) able to guide us away from sin and self-destruction towards righteousness and everlasting life. He tells us throughout the Tanakh that He gets no pleasure from people dying in their sin, but wants us all to do T’Shuvah, and live. The Urim and Thummim were more than just a method for determining His will, they represent the understanding and acceptance that God is in charge, that God is willing to help, and that God wants us to ask Him for guidance. So much so, that He even provided the means to ask Him.

I am not suggesting that you carry a pair of dice or a “lucky” coin and toss them every time you need to make a decision. What I am saying is that we need to seek God’s guidance in everything we do. Heck, maybe tossing a silver dollar and leaving it up to God to determine the course of action we should take isn’t such a bad idea, after all. It worked for the Patriarchs, it worked for Joshua, who knows? Maybe it will work for you?

Whichever way you want to seek God’s will in your life is not as important as the fact that you do seek His will before you make important decisions. As a Believer, as a country, and as a people we need to seek the Lord’s will and guidance in what we do. And this needs to be done at all levels, from the lowest to the highest, because the highest human level is still way, way, way below God. Way below!

By the way, asking God for guidance is no excuse to do nothing and blame God for not answering you. We are to seek His guidance, and we are to walk in faith. The need for action was already determined when the Urim and Thummim were consulted, so do not use asking God’s guidance and waiting for an answer as an excuse to sit on your tuchas and do nothing.

Ask and He will answer, walk in faith and He will guide you.

Many are Called, Few are Chosen, but Who Chooses Whom?

You probably know the parable about the king and the wedding guests, If not, go to Matthew 22.

To understand what I am going to talk about, you need to know about the cultural norm of the day. When people were invited to a wedding, the Semitic custom was for the host to provide proper clothing for the guests when they arrived. The guest would then use those clothes and in this way everyone was properly dressed. Although it is not specifically stated here, since the people were invited to come from the streets, the alleys, wherever the servants could find them, how could they have all had proper clothing unless the custom of providing the clothes was in effect?

The one man who did not have the proper clothing was singled out because to be there with the wrong clothes meant that he had refused to accept the clothing he was given. He did not “put on the Lord”, as the saying goes. As such, having refused to accept the “terms” of the invitation, he was rejected.

So…did the host reject the man, or did the man reject the host?

We are all called by God to accept His Grace, the gift of salvation. Whether Christian, Messianic, Jewish, or just plain confused we all are called by God, to God. That’s because God wants all His children saved. In Ezekiel God says that the death of a sinner does not please Him, rather that He would see the sinner do T’Shuvah (turn) and live. That’s why the parable states that all people, good and bad, were invited. Those that came were then offered the clothing that was appropriate for them to wear at the wedding. In real terms, that means we need to strip ourselves of our own clothing (sinful nature) so that we can put on the new clothing, i.e. we need to be “covered” by the sacrificial death of the Messiah, who is Yeshua (Jesus). Or, as the Christian world likes to say, we need to be covered by the blood of Jesus.

I know Jewish people don’t like that saying, being “covered by the blood”, and I think the main reason is because they don’t really know the Torah. When Moshe anointed Aaron as Cohen HaGadol (High Priest) he sprinkled the blood of the sacrifice on him. Same for Pinchus, and all the priests after that. The sprinkling of the blood of the sacrifice upon something is what made that thing holy, whether it was a person, the altar, or the Tent of Meeting. It is totally “Jewish” to be sprinkled or covered with the blood of a sacrifice to make one holy.

The people who were called and accepted the “clothing” of the host represent (today) those who accept Yeshua as their Messiah and make a commitment to change their lives to live in accordance with God’s way. That means living in accordance with Torah, since that is the only “way” God has told us to live. Yeshua lived according to Torah, so if you are being told to do as Yeshua did, well, guess what that means?

The man who was not wearing the proper clothing represents those who reject God’s call. You may have been taught that it is the Jews, but after reading a couple of different commentaries about this, the general consensus is that it is about Jews and Gentiles, anyone who rejects God’s call to holiness.

So next time you meet someone who says that God rejects the Jews and references this parable, please set him or her straight. And remember to always think of the cultural environment at the time when trying to understand what the Bible is saying( go to the Search button at the bottom of this page and search for Circles of Context to learn about this.)

God has already invited you to join Him in eternal joy; it is up to you to choose Him.

The Torah is All We Need: Everything Else is Commentary

When Yeshua was asked what is the most important commandment of all, His answer was simple- Love the Lord and love each other; on these two commandments pivot all the writings and the Prophets.

Notice He didn’t say , “…and all the other stuff that will be added later.”

The Christian world has historically tried to get away from Torah. They have taught (what I should say is: mis-taught) that the Torah is done away with because Yeshua lived it perfectly. Oh, yeah- that makes sense: once something is done right we never have to do it that way again? Duh!!

The Torah is everything we need to know, and all the commandments we are to follow if we want to obey God the way He said we should. Like it or not, that’s the truth. Yeshua/Jesus had to die for our sins, which were the sins outlined and defined in the Torah. There was no other Bible then.

The fact that our sins are paid for is not license to continue sinning, and not doing what God told us to do in the Torah is still a sin. We still need to be forgiven, and if we don’t really want to stop and we don’t really care about what God said to do (as Christianity often teaches) then we are sinners that the blood of Messiah won’t clean.

That’s right- the Grace of God can cover any sin, but it will not cover a sin that is done over and over because the sinner doesn’t care about what God says.

Our human legal system is all screwed up when you consider that a criminal, one who acts outside the legal system and doesn’t care about what the laws are, often has more protection under those laws than the victim. We protect the guilty with the very laws the guilty reject.

Not so with God. His laws are for everyone, and when we reject His laws we are rejecting Him. He loves us and wants us to live, but He is also our Judge, Jury and Executioner so if we choose to ignore and reject His laws (thereby rejecting Him), those laws will not protect us. Reject God and you will be rejected- the Bible is clear on that point.

The Torah tells us 2 things: how to worship God and how to treat each other. Torah is just the first 5 books- the ones that Moshe wrote in accordance with what God told him to write- and all the books that come after the Torah are commentary. They show us how the Torah was used, and misused, by the people throughout the centuries. When the people did T’Shuvah and cried out to God, and meant it,  He provided them with a judge or a king that could protect them from their enemies. When they were sitting pretty, they went back to ignoring and rejecting God.

It is a cycle of rejection, suffering, coming to their senses and repenting, salvation, happiness, boredom, rejection, suffering, ….over and over. And here’s the kicker: after all the mistakes the Jewish people made between 1500 BCE and the time of Yeshua, since then the Christian world has not only made all the same mistakes, but they have brought it to a much higher level of rejection by making Yeshua their God and “the Father’ nothing more than a secondary thought. And teaching that the Torah, the very word of God and the Word that became the Flesh we know as Jesus, was done away with.

Consider this: if Jesus is the Word become flesh, and He said to do away with the Word, then isn’t He saying to ignore Him? Isn’t that a form of spiritual suicide? Does that make sense at all?

If the Torah was all Yeshua needed to teach about the Kingdom of God and the only set of laws and commandments He needed to follow to be an acceptable sacrifice, why do we need anything else? The New Covenant writings are comprised of the Gospels and the Epistles. The Gospels are historical in nature and the Epistles are clearly informative, outlining the details of how to live and treat each other and the proper way in which to worship God. If you read and interpret them carefully you will see that there is nothing “new” in the New Covenant writings- Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, James, Saul- they all wrote to the new Believers, a combination of Jewish people and pagans who were converting to Judaism, about how to live in accordance with the Torah.

Romans is a very misunderstood book. Shaul writes in it about the Torah and how it is to be reconciled with Yeshua’s teachings. The problem is that Shaul can’t say something straight out- too much education. He beats around the bush and talks in ways that are convoluted to the biblically uneducated. The result is that Romans has been historically quoted as a polemic against the Torah when it is, in fact, an apologetic. Shaul is talking in reverse- arguing about what he is trying to point out as wrong, and making a short, almost invisible statement at the end of a long argument that says, essentially, “NOT!” Read it, slowly and carefully, and you will see what I mean. In nearly every chapter he talks about how Yeshua overcame sin and how the Torah is fading away and how we are forgiven, and ends up with asking if that means the Torah is no longer valid, then says “God forbid!”

The Torah is God’s word. Moshe wrote down what God told Him to write down, which is all we need to know in order to properly worship God. That’s it. Das ist alles! Der ain’t no mo!!

Everything after the book of Deuteronomy is for us to read and understand as commentary, as “I have told you what you need to know and all the rest is to show you how lousy a job you have done with it.”  Love God and love each other: the Son of God told us that is all we need to do. If we do that, the rest falls into place all on it’s own.

BUT…you still need to read and know the entire Bible so we can learn from the mistakes of others, and that way we won’t make the same mistakes (yeah- like that’s going to happen! Good luck with that!)

At the end of Deuteronomy we are commanded not to add to or take away from anything in the book. The Torah is one book, with 5 separate sections. Even though we call them “books”, in the Torah the separation between chapters is almost invisible, and the separation between books is little more than extra space between the lines of writing. It is, when you look at it, a complete, harmonious, and homogenous writing. It is the singular and definitive methodology for worshipping God and for treating each other. It is, as I like to say, the ultimate Users Manual.

It is what God commands anyone and everyone who professes to worship Him how to worship Him and how to treat each other. It tells us we do not need anything else, and commands us to not require anything else. The Torah is complete: we need do no more than what is there, and no less than what it says.

In the end, we all need Yeshua’s sacrifice to atone for us because the one thing I think everyone will agree on is this: we are sinners.  We sin, we have sinned, we can’t stop sinning, and we will continue to do so. Individually and collectively. Yeshua died to give us a chance to escape the fate we all deserve and have earned for ourselves. The Grace of God is shown in His compassion and mercy, which is embodied by Messiah Yeshua. Those of us who have accepted (first) our own sinfulness and inability to stop committing sin, which has led us (next) to repentance and accepting the Grace of God through the sacrificial death of Yeshua, who we (finally) accept as the Messiah God promised, are saved from the judgement Torah requires.

That doesn’t mean the Torah is dead or meaningless. Being saved from our sins doesn’t give us license to continue sinning, and a sin is, by definition, doing something God says we shouldn’t do. It’s really quite simple: God says, “Do as I say because that is as I do. Be thou holy because I am holy.” He provided Yeshua because we can’t do as He says and we will never be as holy as He is.

God is the designer of the game; The Torah are the rules of the game.; Yeshua is our Get Out of Jail Free card.

Decide if you are going to play by the rules or not, and don’t let anyone else tell you what the rules are. Read them for yourself.

L’Shana Tovah- A Rosh HaShanah Drash

For me, a Holy Day is described by God in Leviticus 23, and a holiday is something religion created. This day is sort of both, since the Holy Day is a memorial (Yom Teruah, or Day of Trumpets) and the holiday is the Jewish New Year. Actually, the new year as God tells us, is Pesach (Passover). In Exodus He tells us that the first day we are free from slavery to Egypt is to be the first day of our calendar.

On this day, the traditional Torah reading is the Akedah, or binding, of Isaac (Gen. 21:1-24.) In keeping with this tradition (not all traditions are bad), I would like to offer this Drash:

The fact that God tests us is seen throughout the Tanakh. He does so not to tease or tempt us to do wrong, but to strengthen us. To help us mature, spiritually.  The way to be prepared for a test, any test, is to study. But to study correctly, in other words, to study that which will help you overcome the challenges you are to face, you need to know the subject matter. You don’t study Algebra for a History test, and you don’t develop spiritual maturity through blessings.

That’s right- blessings are the gold star you get after the test. The test is the hard part, and the test stinks to high heaven. The tests are difficult, and never too much for us, so long as we remember to look to God for the strength to pass.  If we try to pass God’s spiritual testing on our own, we will most likely fail. We can’t do it, we need the Ruach to help us overcome our natural sinful sinfulness.

Isn’t that redundant, Steve? Sinful sinfulness? Maybe; the point I want to make is that we don’t just sin, we are sinful, too. We don’t just sin, we want to sin, we need to sin, it’s our natural state of mind. So, we don’t just sin, we live to sin, we desire to sin, we are sinfully, sinful. Thank God that Yeshua overcame this for us.

That’s why testing is so hard, but it doesn’t have to be. God’s tests are an open book test because the Bible is always close at hand, the Ruach is waiting for us to give it a “Shout Out”, and God is standing all around us, waiting to catch us.

Yet, we fail. We manage to avoid the safety net, the harness and the protective gear (that’s in Ephesians) and find a way to still fall flat on our faces. And sometimes when we fall, we land hard on someone else.

That brings us to another tradition: to ask forgiveness of those we have, or may have, sinned against during the past year. This is a Jewish tradition that Jews (probably) don’t know is also confirmed by Yeshua. Yeshua tells us before we bring our offering to God, if someone has something against us we should leave the offering at the altar, go to that person, and ask forgiveness. Gee- you mean Yeshua did something Jewish? Duh!!!

The next 10 days are called “The Days of Awe”, when we become introspectively aware of the many ways we have fallen short of what God has wanted of us. It is time to take off the blinders, to see ourselves as we are, to ask forgiveness of others and at the end, repentant and contrite of heart and spirit, to ask forgiveness of God when this period culminates on Yom Kippur.

I call it the “Days of Aw”, as in ,”Aw, shucks!” because that’s how I feel when I realize how much I know about what God wants, all the knowledge and insight I have gained from His spirit, and look at me- still stupid, still unwilling, still sinning and still trying. I guess the last part is the difference that His spirit has made in me- before I was saved, I was a sinner that rationalized my sins, now I am a sinner that regrets my sins. And even though I sound down on myself, I am glad that I sin less, that I want to do what is right, and that I am improving. Slow as molasses going uphill against the wind in January, but….making progress.

We all fail now and then, Brothers and Sisters, but do not let your failures make you sad- let them be a “test” to strengthen you to do better. And when we fail we only need to remember that Yeshua did not fail, that He passed every test presented to Him, and that because of His success we can get back on track. We must always strive to do better. Do not allow a letdown to cause you to give up on His calling in your life. That’s a cop-out!

Praise the Lord, because when we ask His forgiveness He forgets our failures, and praise the Lord that He always remembers our successes.

One last thought for the day: the Akedah introduces martyrdom to the Bible (even though Isaac was not killed, he was willing to die.) This will become a sadly regular part of the devoted Believer’s life for the rest of history (until the final victory is accomplished.) It is the ultimate testing of faith.

A modern Jewish poet named J. L. Gordon wrote this poem in memorial of a tragic slaughter that occurred in England at the Castle of York in the year 1190:

“We have sacrificed all. We have given our wealth.
Our homes, our honours, our land, our health
Our lives- like Hannah and her children seven-
For the sake of the Torah that came from Heaven.”

Yeshua is the living Torah and when He died on that tree the Torah that was a works-driven Torah died with Him. When He was resurrected, the Torah also was given new life, as a faith-driven path to Redemption. That means that nothing has changed in the Torah: it is still Torah (2nd Timothy 14) and is still valid for everyone who worships the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. What cannot be accomplished through the works-driven Torah, can be accomplished in the  faith-driven Torah that lives in us! Yeshua fulfilled the Torah, in works, in interpretations, in the sight of all the peoples. He is in us, and through Him we can be victorious over sin.

Use these next 10 days to look into yourself. The Torah is supposed to be a mirror that we look into. Look in the mirror- what do you see? Look harder- Torah is there, Brothers and Sisters. How can I be so sure? Because God Himself told us in Jeremiah 31:31 that it will be written on our hearts, and I believe God!

Each of us who have accepted God’s Grace through Yeshua Ha Meshiach, all of us who are children of the Everlasting God- we all are one in Messiah and He is in us!

Look deep within yourself over these next 10 days and seek Him out!