Parashah Metzora 2019 (laws for the leper) Leviticus 14 – 15

These two chapters deal with the instructions for cleansing a person from the skin disease usually identified as leprosy (Tzara’at in Hebrew), as well as cleansing of the house if there is a form of Tzara’at (probably an infectious or dangerous mold) in the plaster of the house.  Chapter 15 deals with the instructions regarding any issuance of a bodily fluid.

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The prior chapters taught us how the Cohen (Priest) is to identify Tzara’at in a person and these chapters give God’s instructions for the cleansing, once it has been determined that the person is no longer unclean (or infectious.) Only after the person has been completely cleaned may they re-enter the camp and the Sanctuary.

The basic formula is to bring two animals for sacrifice: one is a sin sacrifice and the other a burnt offering. The sacrifices are performed in this order since the sin sacrifice cleanses the person (spiritually) and the burnt offering represents their rededication to total commitment in obeying God’s instructions.

What I would like to talk about is the instruction in Leviticus 14:14, which is the placing of some of the blood of the guilt offering on the tip of the right ear, the thumb of the right hand, and the big toe of the right foot.  This is the same procedure when anointing a Cohen.

This placing of the blood represents a consecration of the entire body. We know that placing the blood of the sacrifice on the horns of the altar, as well as sprinkling it on something, makes that thing holy. So, too, the placing of this blood on a person makes them holy, or more correctly in this case, re-consecrates them to the Lord.

The reason for placing it on the ear, thumb, and foot is explained in the Chumash this way: the priest must have his ears consecrated so that he will always be attentive to the commands of God; his hands are consecrated so that at all times he will do God’s will; and his feet consecrated to walk from that time on in holy ways.

When we review the anointing of the Cohanim and the cleansing of people from their sins, we see a pattern. We first ask for forgiveness through the sin and/or guilt sacrifice (this places us in a spiritually clean condition), followed by a burnt sacrifice which represents our total devotion to God. Finally, the blood which cleanses us from the sin is also used to anoint and consecrate us to doing as God instructs.

Only after we have been made “whole” again can we re-enter the camp (physical world), the community (spiritual world), and the Sanctuary (presence of God.)

Today, we don’t bring our sacrifice to the Temple in Jerusalem for two reasons: first, it isn’t there anymore (DUH!) and second, we don’t need to because the sacrifice of Messiah Yeshua replaced that one part of the sacrificial system. Thanks to Yeshua, we can be forgiven of our sins right in the comfort of our own home. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t perform, at least in our hearts and minds, the placing of the blood on our ear, thumb, and foot! That action was very important because of what it symbolized, and if we forget about it (because we don’t really have any blood with us) we might neglect to mentally and spiritually rededicate ourselves.

You may ask, “Why do we have to rededicate ourselves at all?” The answer is because when we sin we separate ourselves from God: sin places us outside the camp of the Almighty. We are not under his wings, not in his presence, and thereby unable to properly serve him in whatever house of worship you go to.

This is a hard word to hear, but the Torah tells us it is a fact: when we sin, we are separated from God and outside of his presence. In order to reenter his presence, we must first be cleansed of that sin, then rededicate ourselves to hearing, doing and walking as God directs. Those directions are on the roadmap called the Torah.

So, the next time you ask for forgiveness in Yeshua’s name by means of his bloody sacrifice, don’t forget to place some of his blood on your right ear, thumb, and foot. Mentally, emotionally and spiritually present yourself before the Lord with a heartfelt desire to start all over again, but this time with an even stronger will to sin less than you had sinned before. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you won’t sin again- we all will. Sinning is something God expects of us, and he assumes it might be by accident. That is why he gave us instructions in Leviticus 5:17 specifically for sins we committed accidentally or didn’t know we had done.

Every time we sin we are in the same position Yeshua was just before he gave up his spirit and cried out:

“Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” (“My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?”)

He was forsaken, meaning ejected from God’s presence, the very moment he took on the sins of the world because sin separates us from God.

Don’t beat yourself up when you sin, but do make sure when you ask for forgiveness by means of the blood of the Messiah that you remember to place that blood on yourself; consecrate yourself to hear, work and walk in obedience to God’s instructions, and rededicate yourself to do better.

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This being Friday, I wish you all Shabbat Shalom and until next time, Baruch HaShem!

What Jews and Christians Agree on That is Wrong for Both

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How many of you have heard someone say “Jews have the Torah and Christians have the Blood of Christ” when talking about the commandments in the Torah and who is supposed to obey them? I know I have, and the general understanding is that Jews and Christians are separated by this idea that Jews need to obey the Torah but Christians don’t because Jesus died for their sins.

Both sides seem to agree to this: Jews say the New Covenant is only for Christians and Christians say the Old Covenant is only for Jews.

Jews use only the Tanakh and Christians reference the Tanakh, sometimes, but generally stay only within the New Covenant. In fact, I believe the vast majority of Christians who have been taught from the Gospels and the Epistles don’t even realize that the writers of those books and letters are all quoting from the Tanakh.

So if both Jews and Christians feel “their” Bible is only for them, why is this wrong?

Well, I’ll tell you why- because the Torah is for everyone and Yeshua died for everyone. Yeshua taught the Torah and the Apostles taught the Torah: that was the only “Bible” around. The New Covenant letters and Gospels were being written as early as the middle of the First Century but didn’t come together until around 367 C.E., nearly three centuries later.

What has happened is that the “grafted in” are trying to take over the tree, and the tree is letting them!

The Old and New Covenants are one Bible, one story that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It starts with the creation of everything, then God chooses a man (Abraham) to be the father of a nation dedicated to serving God; later, God tells that nation they are to be a nation of priests to the world (Exodus 19:6) and he gives them the Torah, his User Manual (if you will) on how they should live their lives. As priests, of course, they are not only to live their lives in accordance with the Torah but they are to teach the rest of the world how to do that, as well. The story continues as we read how the people of God fail to perform their priestly duties, and after the nation suffers a civil war leaving two nations, Shomron in the North and Judah in the South, their constant sinning forces God to disperse them throughout the world. However, that isn’t the end of the story.

There has, from the beginning, been the promise of a Messiah to come and reconcile the chosen people to God, and then all the world will worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in accordance to God’s commandments (Torah) when God regathers his people into their land, Israel. The promise of a Messiah comes to fruition in the New Covenant, which is the continuation of the Old Covenant. It starts some 400 years or so after the last entries in the Tanakh and it is Yeshua who is the Messiah. As prophesied, he is not accepted by the masses although he was supernaturally born and portrayed God’s power throughout his ministry. The prophecy that all people will come to worship God begins (properly) with the Messianic Jews (early followers of Yeshua) adding to their numbers from the Gentiles who were converting to Judaism. Despite what has been taught, first century Jews that followed Yeshua never converted to Christianity because Yeshua was, is and always will be a Jew teaching the Torah. As his ministry grew in strength and numbers more and more Gentiles were added as fewer and fewer Jews came to accept him as their Messiah. I suppose at some point there had to be a limit, since there were so many more Gentiles than Jews in the world then, just as it is today.

Starting around the end of the first century, the separation of Yeshua’s followers from Judaic worship to what is today Christianity begins to really “take off” and with the Council of Nicene, Christianity is a totally different religion, persecuting the Jews and re-branding Yeshua as Jesus Christ, the blue-eyed, blond-haired Teutonic image that is what people think of today.

The story ends with the regathering of the Jewish people to their homeland and the Acharit HaYamim (End Days) that we read about in Revelation. And, when all is said and done, all people will recognize and proclaim Yeshua as the Messiah and worship God on his Holy Mountain in Jerusalem (the new Jerusalem) as God told us we should, which is found (you guessed it!) in the Torah.

So, nu? What’s my point? My point is this: we need to bridge that gap that people created which God never intended to exist. We need to overcome the bigotry and hatred between Jews and Christians and realize that there is one God who does not have any religion, just laws, commandments, rules, ordinances, and regulations that tell us how we are to worship him and how we are to treat each other.

One God, one set of laws, one people under God and one Messiah for all. The separation between Jews and Christians serves only to help the enemy of God to be able to take over the world. Anyone, therefore, who promulgates that Jews and Christians should remain separated and that following the Torah is no longer valid or needed is an agent of Satan, whether or not that person realizes it.

If you are Christian, read the whole Bible and you will see there is nothing “new” in the New Covenant. If you are Jewish, rebuke the bigotry and fear that Jews have of the New Covenant. Read a Messianic version of the New Covenant (NOT the King James version, please!) and see that what Yeshua said was not in any way different from what Moses said. Yeshua taught the deeper, spiritual meaning of the Mosaic law by using a Drash to teach the Remes (look up the exegesis system called PaRDes to see what I am talking about) but never, ever taught against the Torah. He couldn’t! He was and still is, the Living Torah.

For Jews that are waiting for Messiah, you must be open to the idea that maybe, just maybe, he already came and he will be coming back. You can still wait, and I pray you accept him when he returns, or you can open your heart and mind and just simply study about Yeshua now. Remember, the Talmud talks about the Messiah as the Son of Joseph and also as the Son of David, indicating two separate Messianic occurrences.

For Christians, you must be open to hearing that the Torah is what Yeshua taught and the Canon of Modern Christianity is not what Yeshua taught but what Constantine created. You need to read the Old Covenant to really be able to understand what Yeshua was teaching and accept that following the Torah isn’t just for Jews.

Yeshua is Messiah to the world: Jews, Gentiles, Buddhist, Muslims ….everyone! God has no religion and when all is said and done, we who will survive through faith will worship God in the way he instructed his chosen nation of priests to teach us.

The First Hurdle to Overcome When Talking to Jews About Yeshua

If you have ever tried to talk to a Jewish person about Jesus, you are already done. The moment you use the name “Jesus” pretty much any Jew you are talking to will be screaming, “Shields up, Scotty!!” because, to a Jew, Jesus is a Jew who betrayed Judaism and created his own religion, which has historically hated and persecuted Jews.

As I have talked about before (check out the blogs under the category “Jews and Jesus”), approaching a Jewish man or woman with the Good News is something that has to be done with total respect for, and only referencing, the Tanakh. Use “Yeshua” or “Messiah/Maschiach” when referencing Yeshua. Do not use the terms “Under the blood” or “Under the law” or even imply that Torah is not still valid and necessary, and do not, under any circumstances, use anything from the New Covenant writings to justify a position.

This teaching within Judaism, that Jesus created Christianity, is the major hurdle preventing Jews from even wanting to listen to anything about Jesus. And what makes this even more potent, as a wedge between Jews and Christians, is that Christians believe it, too! The fact is that Jesus did NOT create Christianity as it is practiced today. He did not create anything new, all He did was better define the existing laws in the Torah. Yeshua (let’s practice not using “Jesus”) did not change or delete or teach against anything in the Torah. Christianity teaches that He was the living Torah, that the Word became flesh (the only “word” at that time was the Torah) and that Yeshua lived a perfectly sinless life, which is why He was an acceptable sacrifice for our sins. Christianity teaches and is based completely upon that truth: Yeshua was sinless. Yet, much of Christianity teaches that the Torah is no longer necessary; in other words, Christians are told to live and do what Yeshua did, but in the next breath they are told that they don’t have to obey Torah, which is what Yeshua did! Huh??  Do as Yeshua did, but don’t do what He did? The popular idea of living as Jesus did with the bracelet that has written on it, “WWJD?” (What Would Jesus Do) is creating a lie, because what Christianity teaches is “DDWJD” (Don’t Do What Jesus Did).

To be fair I should say, most of Christianity teaches this. There are the Messianic and Hebraic Roots Christian movements which are turning back to the roots of Christianity and accepting Yeshua as a Jew, and also accepting the Torah as a valid and necessary list of commandments that are, and always have been, as much a part of the New Covenant God made with us (through Yeshua) as the Old Covenant. Mosaic laws are still valid and need to be obeyed for blessings and to remain saved. Ignoring or rejecting Torah is rejecting God, and rejecting Messiah. We are told this in 1 John 2:4-6:

Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person.  But if anyone obeys his word,love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him:  Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.

So, how do we overcome this hurdle? It ain’t gonna be easy, I can tell you that!

First, we should re-train the “Church” to recognize that being saved by Yeshua’s sacrifice does not mean they are no longer subject to the commandments in the Torah. We all need to recognize that the Torah is God’s commandments to the world, not just to Jews.

Second, the “Church” needs to understand that Constantine created modern day Christianity. Before then, there was growing political and social upheaval that caused the rift between Jews and followers of Messiah Yeshua (which was composed of Jews and Gentiles converting to Judaism.) Once the Christian world understands how and why the rift between Jews and Gentiles began, we can begin to overcome the wrongful, hateful and Satanic (yes, Satan is behind the split between Jews and Christians- no doubt about it!) teachings that came from the early “church elders.”

When I use the term “church elders” I am referring to Gentiles who took control of the early followers of Messiah. Even though there may have been thousands upon thousands of Jews that initially accepted Yeshua (and never, ever changed their Jewish lifestyle or worship), by the beginning of the Second Century people following “The Way” were being led by Gentile converts, and the majority of Messianic followers were Gentiles who had been converting from their pagan practices to Judaism. Those Gentile leaders did not want to get in any more trouble then they were already with Rome, so they began to separate themselves from the Jewish lifestyle and worship practices (if you read the letters from Shaul/Paul to his Messianic Communities, you can see between the lines that already they were beginning to fall away from Judaism in their worship and lifestyle, which is what he was trying to prevent.) In the same way Jeroboam separated Israel from Judea when he first took over the 10 Tribes that rebelled against Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, these elders became so passionate about no longer being associated with Judaism that they literally created a new religion, which Constantine made “official” at the Council of Nicene; those canon are the foundation for what we today call Christianity.

Finally, the third step in this process is to approach Jews with the truth about Yeshua: He was a Jew and is still a Jew, Torah is what He preached and followed and that He taught others to do so. His Disciples (use the term “Talmudim”, which means students) also lived a Jewish lifestyle, worshiped as Jews do, and taught others to do so. The early “church” was not a church at all, but made up of Messianic communities (use the term “Kehillot” (ka-hee-lote), which is Hebrew for communities) that were Jews who accepted Yeshua as their Messiah and pagans converting to Judaism.

God willing, once we can get past the wrongful teachings, which are from Satan’s desire to weaken God’s union of those who follow the Messiah, we may then have our Jewish Brothers and Sisters give the order to “lower shields”, and communication can begin.

The truth WILL set you free, and it will also bring us into union as one new person, under Messiah, worshiping God and treating each other as God commanded us to do.

 

 

Aspirin for the Soul

Is there anyone out there without some level of pain in their soul? I know the pain of missing my children, who have been torn from me by a hateful and unforgiving mother I divorced nearly a quarter of a century ago. I visited the children every weekend for the first couple of years (I lived a 1 1/2 hour drive away, if there was no NY traffic. And there’s no such thing as “no traffic” when talking about New York City), took them to the beach, to parks, to movies. I spent money I didn’t have at first, and when I did have money, I spent more of it on them. I did all I could to teach them to be self-aware, considerate and able to get along with others. It was all against what their mother had taught them, which was that they are the center of everything, they are just children so they aren’t responsible for themselves; if they have a reason ‘why’ that is a valid excuse so they don’t have to be responsible for what they do, don’t do, say or don’t say. And as soon as they reached majority, even though we still sent them money, they decided that they didn’t need to have me in their lives anymore. I was treating them as adults, not excusing them, and trying to get them to see how what they had been taught would make them outcasts. So I became the outcast.

It hurts. It has been nearly 4 years since my son disowned me, and about 7 for my daughter. She will be 29 next month, and he will be 24 in October. I still send them birthday cards, remind them how much I miss them and still love them, and ask for reconciliation. At whatever level they are comfortable with. I don’t know what is going on in their lives, and what really kills me is that I know, without a doubt, that if (God forbid) something serious happened, or even if they died, their mother wouldn’t even tell me.

That’s my biggest hurt, and it is a big one, isn’t it? Yet I go on. I don’t mope, I don’t complain (well, not nearly as much as I used to) and I tell you this now only to demonstrate that there is hope for those who have this kind of hurt.

It is the hope we have in Messiah, the knowledge that God loves everyone, and in the power of prayer.

I pray for my children, and I pray for their mother. Yes, I do, and I mean it, which surprised me more than anyone when I started doing it. That is the aspirin for our soul- forgiveness. The pain of being hurt is never going to go away if we review it, rehearse what we want to say to the person who has hurt us, and refuse to accept that they must be hurting, inside, even more than they hurt us to do such a terrible thing. That’s what really got me on the right track- when I thought about the pain she was going through, the hurt, the feeling of desertion and rejection, which is what I was doing. Yes- I was leaving her. I had many, many good reasons for doing that, and even though I was no longer in love with her, I still waited for two years before divorcing her, legally. That was time for her to do T’shuvah, to turn from her prideful hatred and decide which was more important- the marriage or her pridefulness.

We all know what decision she made.

So, what did I have left except the pain? I had more pain to come- constant berating by her every time I visited, my children repeating the foul accusations she made against me and my parents to my face when I was with them, and many other atrocities.

I am so grateful to God and the Ruach HaKodesh for teaching me that the only way to overcome the pain of this situation was to pray for them and forgive them, only after doing that could I ask His forgiveness for them.

Oh, now- don’t get the wrong idea. This wasn’t something that came to me right away: it took years and years for me to get to the point where I didn’t talk about it all the time to anyone unfortunate enough to be within earshot. Then it took years after I was saved for me to realize that forgiveness was the only way to relieve the pain. The pain persists, so long as the reason for it persists, but forgiveness and prayer is how I deaden and dull the pain. It is my hope for the future and my trust in God to do all He will to help turn my children back to me (although I know that it has to be their decision), and when I think of the pain and suffering that her hatefulness has caused her, all her life, I can’t help but feel pity for my “ex”.  No matter how much she has hurt me, I have God and the promise of eternal joy to look forward to. When I think of what she has to look forward to, how can I not pity her and pray for her salvation?

Even Ebeneezer Scrooge would have removed some of the chain that Jacob Marley had to wear, if he could have.

Forgiveness is the only way to stop the pain that we have when someone hurts us.

Proverbs tells us to feed and give water to our enemies, David showed respect and forgiveness to King Saul, sparing his life even though he was trying to take David’s; Yeshua tells us to leave our gift at the alter if there is any animosity between us and someone else, and also that we should love our enemies.

And Yeshua also tells us, in Matthew 6:14-15, that if we do not forgive, we will not be forgiven. That’s a hard word to hear, but it is essential we understand it. Forgiveness has nothing to do, really, with the person we forgive, and everything to do with our relationship with God. When anyone sins it is, first and foremost, a sin against God. David knew that and says so in Psalm 51. The person who sins against another is sinning against God. That needs to be worked out between them, and nothing we do will make much of a difference. God will not forgive them if they do not ask for it, no matter how often we ask for it.

So, then ,why should we ask for their forgiveness? Because it is important to maintain our proper relationship with God, that’s why. Because we need to forgive them to stop the pain, that’s why. Because we are commanded to forgive, that’s why!

To err is human; to forgive, divine. That is a truth that is not written in the bible, but is exactly what the bible teaches us.

We all have some pain- how can we possibly avoid it living in a cursed world?  So what? Pain is part of life: for a headache we take aspirin, for a backache we take Ibuprofen, and for the heartache of being sinned against, we take a daily dose of prayer with a glassful of forgiveness.

Forgiveness is aspirin for your soul, and prayer is the way to administer it. Pray for those who hate you, forgive those who sin against you, and you will survive the pain.

And besides that, you will please God, who will bless you for your obedience.

That’s a pretty good remedy: you forgive, which relieves the pain, and then you receive blessings from God.

 

Parashah Bemidbar (In the Wilderness) Numbers 1 – 4:20

This is the 4th book of the Torah, and whereas Vayikra was mostly ordinances and regulations, this book is more historical, although we do have the laws about wearing tzitzit, the regulations regarding jealousy, the Red Heifer, the menorah and Nazarite vows.

The name “Numbers” comes from the Septuagint and is (probably) based on the beginning of this book recounting the counting, so to speak, of the Israelites that are old enough for war, and also of the Levites old enough to serve with the maintenance and moving of the Tent of Meeting.

It is interesting to me that there are census takings that are commanded by God and there are census takings that are forbidden by God. The census in the desert (there were two of them) were at God’s command, but when David took a census (2nd Samuel 24) it resulted in severe punishment. Why? What was the difference? I think it is because when God commanded it He did it to establish something that served His purposes, but when David took it the purpose was selfish, and centered in confirming his own power and rulership instead of trusting to God to win the battle.

I also find it interesting that these numbers, from the leaving of Egypt , in the desert and when coming to the Land, are so very close to each other. It’s like God knew just how many people could be supported, and even though He could have supported any number of people He wanted to, the number of the Children of Israel seems to remain stable throughout the 40 years they travel.

This Parashah tells us the number of members in each tribe, their positioning when encamped and their order of travel when they are moving. It also shows us how God positions the Levites between Himself (the Tabernacle) and the people, which was to protect the people from themselves, since we already saw Abihu and Nadab destroyed by acting unrighteously before God. God knew the foolishness of the people and so to prevent them from coming into the holy area and dying, He positioned the Levites to keep the people away. Just as the commandments separate the holy from the unholy, the Levites kept the unholy people separate from the holy God.

I would like to think that this can also represent the opposite for us, today: we who worship the Lord are to between God and the world, not as a blockade but as a bridge to bring them together.

God reminds Moses (in Chapter 3) that the firstborn belong to him, and here the Levites serve another purpose: they are not just to serve God but to represent the people as their firstborn. There is a census of the firstborn of the Levites, which is substitutionary for the entire nation’s first born sons.

The idea that the firstborn belong to God goes against the familial system at that time. Back then, the firstborn inherited a double share, and usually was the leader of the family. If the firstborn belongs to God, then the next in line ends up leading and inheriting. And we see this a lot: Jacob was second born, Ephraim was second born, and David was way down the line.  The cultural norms mean nothing to God, so we should remember this when we are torn between what the world says is right and what God says is right.

The beginning of this book is a little boring, what with all the numbers and such. This tribe has this many, that tribe has that many, but these numbers and the fact that they are given here means something. What, I don’t know, but it means something. There isn’t anything in the bible that doesn’t have a meaning for us; after all, it is the Word of God and we are told that His Word never returns void. Just because we don’t understand or see the meaning of something doesn’t mean it isn’t important to read and know. One day the Ruach may lead us to an understanding that we never had before. I know that I have read the bible many times, front to back, and each time I do I get a new meaning from things I never even saw before.

Reading the bible is like digging for gold: at first, you see nothing but rock, but you keep digging. Soon you hit some gold, which you can now recognize because you have seen so much rock you now can easily see the difference when gold is present. And as you keep digging, you start to recognize other things in the rock, which before you only saw as rock. You can see fossils, specks of nickel and iron, and the more you dig the more you uncover what has always been there for you to see but, until you saw it often enough, couldn’t recognize it for what it is.

The more we read the bible, and the more we allow the Ruach (Spirit) to lead our understanding, the more we will see that which God has for us to learn.