Parashah Emor 2019 (Speak) Leviticus 21-24

These three chapters deal with three topics: the cleanliness of the Priests who serve in the Sanctuary (as well as the sacrifices brought there), the Holy Days God instructs us to celebrate, and the rules regarding punishment for blasphemy and murder.

As always, I find so much in here to talk about, all of which may be edifying to us and help us better understand what God requires of us. Yet, so that you don’t fall asleep during this message, I will choose just one topic to discuss. And this topic has been so zealously argued that I don’t think anyone will be yawning. At least, I hope not.

If you prefer to watch a video, click on this link: Watch the video.

For the purposes of this message, let’s separate Holy Days from holidays. A Holy Day is a festival or celebration which God has instructed us to observe, whereas a holiday is a man-made celebration. God’s Holy Days are found in the Torah, and holidays are found in the other books of the Old Covenant and in traditional religious doctrine.

The 7 Holy Days God has commanded we must celebrate are:

Shabbat, the day of rest;
Passover (a pilgrimage festival);
Feast of Unleavened Bread (7 days);
Shavuot (the second pilgrimage festival);
Yom Teruah (Day of Trumpets, later turned into Rosh Hashanah, a rabbinic celebration);
Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement); and
Sukkot (Tabernacles, and the third and final pilgrimage festival.)

Pilgrimage festivals are the only ones where it is required to travel to the location where God places his name. During the time of the Judges and up until King David moved it, that place was Shiloh, where the Tent of Sanctuary was located. King David moved the tent to Jerusalem and once Solomon completed the Temple, the Temple was the place to go. After the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, Jews worldwide have had nowhere to go to bring a sacrifice so they can be absolved of their sins or celebrate the pilgrimage festivals as God instructed us to do.

To those of us who have accepted Yeshua as the Messiah God promised to send, his sacrifice replaced the need to bring an animal to the Temple in Jerusalem so we are able to receive forgiveness; however, we have to settle to go to Shul (Synagogue) instead of Jerusalem to celebrate the pilgrimage Holy Days.

Now let’s get into that heated topic I referred to earlier, which is this: because God instructed us to observe only these 7 Holy Days, is the observance of any other holiday a sin? Especially those created by Christianity, whose origins are found in paganistic celebrations.

I suppose we should begin with identifying what sin is: a sin, for the purpose of this discussion (and I believe it is a good definition for any discussion), is when we do something that God says we shouldn’t do, or, conversely, don’t do something that God says we should do.

So, with that in mind, let’s look at other holidays and test them against our definition of sin.

Let’s start with the Jewish ones, of which there are many. How about Rosh Hashana?  The Jewish New Year, according to God, is the first of Aviv (now called Nisan), but the rabbinical or civic celebration is on what God said is the Day of Trumpets, a day to be a memorial. From that day on the 10 Days of Awe begin, in which we all look introspectively to determine how close, or how far, we have been from obeying God over the past year. Since Rosh Hashanah is a form of a memorial, I don’t see celebrating it the way we do as being sinful. There’s also Sh’mini Atzeret, also known as Simchat Torah, the 8th day of Sukkot. We honor God and his word by celebrating the turning back of the Torah from the end to the beginning so we can start reading it all over again. That doesn’t go against anything God said we should or should not do, and it is respectful, thankful and honoring to God.

There’s Purim (biblical but not commanded), the different fast days, the 9th of Av, and any number of lesser holidays, none of which dishonor God or go against anything he has decreed. So, since we celebrate God, honor him and his word, and aren’t doing anything against what he says, according to our definition of sin, celebrating these man-made Jewish holidays is not sinful.

Let’s now take a look at the major Christian holidays of Easter and Christmas…Oy Vey!! -now we are in for it.

Here is where the majority say celebrating them is sinful. The Maypole (a leftover from the Asherah pole), bunnies and eggs (paganistic fertility symbols), the name Easter (the pronunciation is the same for the fertility goddess, Ishtar), the use of a tree and ornaments to celebrate the birth of Yeshua (Jesus) is similar to graven images and Druidic practices…all of this is considered sinful. And the intention of the ones that worshiped false gods on these days and using these items was sinful.

But did God say we cannot celebrate the birth of the Messiah? Did God forbid us from celebrating the fulfillment of the work of the Messiah, demonstrated by his resurrection?

It is clearly a sin to celebrate and worship Ishtar, Molech, Ba’al, or any Semitic gods or the gods of other religions; but, if we are desiring to honor the one, true God and his Messiah with thankful worship in our hearts, will the paganistic origins of those days and items used overrule the current intent of our celebration? In other words, just because once, long ago these days were paganistic rituals, does that mean when we worship God and Messiah on these same days that they are unacceptable to God?

I don’t think so. God is clear that we are NOT to worship any other God but him, and if someone puts up a tree, adorns it, and does so solely to honor Messiah and God, they are NOT worshiping another God. Yes, maybe the things they are using and the way they are using them was once the way someone would worship a false god, but that is not what Gentiles Christians are doing. They are doing so with the intention of being worshipful and celebrating God’s gift of salvation through Yeshua.

For the record: I, myself, do not celebrate any Christian holidays because I am Jewish, but if I was a Gentile Believer, I most likely would still celebrate Easter and Christmas for the reasons I state above, to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and to celebrate salvation through Messiah Yeshua (Jesus Christ.)

Throughout the Bible, both Old and New Covenants, God constantly makes it known to us that he is not interested in anyone just “going through the motions” but in what is in our hearts.  He constantly told the Israelites that their bulls, sheep, and other offerings meant nothing to him because their hearts were not in it. I interpret this to mean that so long as what we offer to God is with a grateful and worshipful heart, God will accept it from us.

I absolutely believe that when we celebrate a day to honor and thank God, he is more interested in why we are doing it than in the way we are doing it.

Therefore, in my opinion, celebrating Easter and Christmas with the intention and desire to be thankful to God and the Messiah is not a sin. If you eat ham at your Easter or Christmas dinner, well…that is different. That is clearly something that is a sin because God said pork is off the menu, forever.  But having a Christmas dinner, being with family and enjoying each other, celebrating God and his Messiah…really, how can that be wrong in God’s eyes?

Finally, it comes down to individual choice. If you don’t want to celebrate any festivals other than the ones God gave in the Torah, that is great! So long as you do that because you want to, and not because you are trying to earn anything with God. Likewise, if you give up something you like for Lent, celebrate Easter, put up your Christmas tree every year and do so solely with the intention of honoring God and Messiah, I believe God’s is fine with that.

There is, however, this caveat: if you do not celebrate the festivals God commanded in Leviticus Chapter 23 because you have been taught they are “Jewish” and not important to Christians, then you ARE in sin! Remember that our definition of sin is not doing what God says we should, and he clearly instructs us to celebrate these festivals. Even Yom Kippur, asking for forgiveness, is not done away with by Yeshua- we all sin, we all need to ask for forgiveness, and doing so in accordance with God’s instructions is never going to be wrong.

So, nu! There you have it! The bottom line, the Acid Test to determine if celebrating a man-made holiday is not a sin is this: if you celebrate a day to honor God and you do so with proper worship, desire, respect, and thankfulness in your heart, you will be OK.

Thank you for being here, please don’t forget to subscribe and share me out to your friends and family. I always welcome comments so long as they are respectful.

Tonight begins the Shabbat, so I wish you all Shabbat Shalom, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Constantine Wasn’t the First

With the Christmas season already upon us (thanks to advertisers) there is a lot of “chatter” on Face Book regarding the pagan origins of this holiday (‘holiday’ meaning man-made, whereas ‘holy day’ is God-ordained) and how Constantine used it to bring the pagan Romans under the Christian banner, so to speak, by substituting this holiday for the pagan one.

But did you know that he wasn’t the first leader to do something like this?

Special Reading for Sukkot- Chol Hamoed (Weekday of the Festival) Exodus 33:12 – 34:26

This reading is from the parashah Ki Thissa, and recounts Moses asking God to stay with the Israelites as they travel through the desert. Moses also asks God to show His Glory, which God agrees to do but Moses can only see His back as He passes by. God tells him He will put him in a cleft of a rock and cover Moses’ face as He passes because no one can see God’s face. As God passes He declares (what in Judaism is called) the “13 Attributes of God’s Nature” to Moses, and (consequently) to us. The reading ends with God reiterating commandments regarding idolatry, ransom of the first-born, not allowing intermixing with other cultures, the Shabbat, the festivals of Shavuot, Bikkurim (First Fruits) and Sukkot and certain Kashrut (Kosher) laws.

The way Moses prayed when he asked God to forgive the sins of the people is one of the most identifying aspects of Jewish prayer: we pray communally, not individually. Moses certainly was not one of the sinful, rebellious types that were rampant within the million or so Israelites he was leading, but yet when he asked God to forgive the sins that they (not him, but they) committed, he included himself with them. Jewish prayer is communal, we know that in God’s eyes we are one entity, one nation, one people, and when one of us sins we are all covered with that sin. It is one of the things that is really unique about the Jewish relationship with God. This is not meant as an attack or accusation, but most every Christian prayer I have ever heard is on an individual relationship with God; it is a one-to-one, personal relationship that doesn’t include anyone else, take responsibility for anyone else, or even acknowledge anyone else as part of that relationship. When a Christian prays for forgiveness it is only for themself.

In Judaism we pray differently. Yes, we ask God for forgiveness of our own sins, but we also always take responsibility for the sins of the nation. On Yom Kippur we recite the Ashamnu prayer which translates as “We are guilty”; the prayer “Act for the Sake of” ends with asking God to act for His sake if not “our” sake; the Al Het (All Sins) prayer is a recitation of every sin you could ever think of, and we ask for forgiveness of each one, but (as I said) it is not “For the sin I committed in Your sight”, but it is “For the sin WE committed in Your sight”, and what is repeated throughout this prayer is:

ועל כלמ, אלוה סליחות, סלח לנו, מחל לנו, כפר-לנן  (Forgive us all sins, O God of forgiveness, and cleanse us.)

Jewish prayer and relationship with God goes way beyond just “You-and-me.” And even though we pray as a nation, we still have a personal relationship with God: being one people doesn’t mean we aren’t each uniquely loved and known by God.

After Moses has interceded for the people and gained God’s forgiveness, God hides Moses in the rock cleft and passes by announcing His 13 attributes (these definitions are from my Chumash):

1. and 2.- The Lord, the Lord. The Rabbis interpret this as meaning God is the same before we sin, and the same after we sin, indicating that change must be from the sinner’s heart because God is the same all the time;

3. God– the allmighty Lord of the Universe;

4. Merciful– full of affectionate sympathy for the sufferings and miseries of human frailty;

5. Gracious– assisting, helping, consoling the afflicted and raising up the oppressed. In Man these attributes are temporary but with God they are inherently eternal.

6. Long-suffering– slow to anger and not rushing to punish the sinner but affording opportunities for the sinner to retrace his evil courses;

7. Abundant in goodness– plentiful in mercy and blessing beyond what Man deserves;

8. Truth– eternally true to himself pursuing His plans for the salvation of mankind and rewarding those who are obedient to His will;

We need to take note that the Hebrew used here is “v’rav chesed v’emet“: loving-kindness (rav chesed) comes before truth (emet), indicating that we are always to tell the truth, but to tell it in love.  We see this message often in Yeshua’s teachings and the Epistles of the New Covenant…Gee, I wonder where they got it from?

9. Keeping mercy unto the thousandth generation– remembering the good deeds of our ancestors and reserving reward to their descendants;

10. Forgiving iniquity– bearing with indulgence the failings of Man;

11. (forgiving) Transgression– deeds that spring from malice and rebellion against God;

12. (forgiving) Sin– the shortcomings of Man due to heedlessness and error; and

13. Will by no means clear the guilty– no matter how willing or how strongly God desires to forgive us our sins, He is also holy and will not allow the impenitent to go unpunished.

 

So nu…  there you have it! You want to know God? Here He is. This is what God wants us to know about Him, and for me that is all I need to know about Him. I think the most important attributes we human beings (and especially worshipers of God) need to remember above all are long suffering and willingness to forgive. The old saying, “To err is human; to forgive, Divine.” is absolutely in line with Torah.

We are to imitate God, but (of course) we can’t imitate God- He is eternal, spirit, holy and ineffable. But we can imitate some of His attributes, such as His forgiveness, His charity, His love for others, His desire to help the needy and to prosecute the guilty. Love of righteousness and hatred of evil: these things we can imitate, and I believe God wants us to do exactly that- imitate those of His attributes which we can imitate!

God gave us this “To Do” list, so let’s get to work on it.

 

Parashah Chol HaMo’ed Sukkot (Intermediate Day of Tabernacles) Exodus 33:12 – 34:26

This parashah is the one between the end and start of the Torah reading schedule. On the eighth day of Sukkot, called Sh’mini Atzeret (also called Simchat Torah, Joy of Torah) we celebrate turning the Torah back from the end of Deuteronomy to the beginning of Genesis. Today’s parashah is the intermediate parashah, and (I think) very apt for both ending and starting the Torah reading cycle because this parashah is, to me, the essence of Torah.

Moses has already broken the first tablets (with the commandments) and asked God to forgive the sins of the Golden Calf incident. He is talking with God, and asks that God remain with the people as they travel, or not send them anywhere at all. He asks to know God’s ways, meaning how he, Moses, is to rule in a way that will always be within God’s will. He asks to see God.

Moses wants to know God intimately; he wants to know God better and more fully than any human, ever, because he wants to lead the people in the way that will always please God. In this parashah we see the true nature of Moses, a man who is humble and fearless, almost demanding of God that He stay with the people, arguing that His divine presence is the only real sign to the other nations that Israel truly is God’s chosen people.

God agrees with all Moses asks, and we have in 34:6-7 the 13 Attributes of God, the Divine nature identified for all to know. Most every prayer in Judaism is based on, repeats and acknowledges God with these attributes.

God is “the Lord, the Lord”: the Talmudic “take” on this is that this repetition means that God is the same God before we sin and after we sin, defining His attribute of mercy; he is the all-mighty Lord of the Universe, Ruler of Nature and Mankind; He is merciful; He is gracious; long-suffering; abundant in goodness; abundant in truth; keeping mercy to the thousandth generation; forgiving of iniquity; forgiving of transgression; forgiving of sin; not allowing the guilty to remain unpunished; visiting the iniquity of the of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation.

The last aspect is meant to identify that although forgiveness of sin is available, it is the spiritual forgiveness that we receive: the physical consequence of sin in the real world will still be felt, down as far as the 4th generation. However, mercy will be given to the 1,000th generation.

The end of this parashah is the repetition of the Covenant God made with the children of Israel at Mt. Sinai. I would think that these conditions God identifies here must be the ones that are really important to Him, since we know there are many more laws, rules, regulations and commandments than the handful given here.

The reason I stated above that I feel this parashah is so appropriate between the end and beginning of the Torah reading cycle is because we have it all here: the proof of the Jewish people being God’s chosen people is by His presence, and that presence will be with us as long as we act as he requires. His divine attributes identify who and what God is; the requirements of the covenant are that God will do marvelous things, we are to worship only God and not the idols of the Gentile people, we are not to intermarry so as to have the pagan’s influence us to turn from God to idols, we shall keep the feasts of the Lord as He decreed us to, especially the Shabbat, and all the first born belong to God, of both animal and man. No blood is to be offered with the sacrifice and we should not do as the other nations do in how we eat (I get this from the restriction of boiling a lamb in it’s mother’s milk. I don’t think anyone really knows why this law was given, but it must be important because it is repeated three times in the Torah.)

Here we have it all: who God is, how we are to worship Him, and the promise that when we do as He says He will do wonderful and marvelous things for us. Really, isn’t that all we need to know?

God’s presence goes with His people, and who are His people? The ones who worship Him as he says they should. Throughout the Tanach we read how those sojourning with the Israelites are to be considered as natural-born Jews when they do as the Israelites do. Having the same rights as the people, they also have the same obligations, meaning to fulfill the requirements in the Torah just as the Jews do.

What I am getting at here is that everyone is a child of God physically, but only a child of God, spiritually, when they do as God says. That means if you are a Catholic, but you respect and honor the Torah, you don’t bow down to the statues in the church and you ask forgiveness from God and not the Priest, praying not to Jesus but in His name to God, then you are one of God’s chosen people.

On the other hand, if you were baptized, had your Holy Communion, answered all the questions correctly at your Confirmation, studied the Sacraments and went to church every Sunday, but you don’t honor God’s Torah and you bow to statues, pray to saints (ignoring God) and generally reject the Torah as valid, don’t expect to be welcomed with open arms when you go before the Lord.

When Jesus died for our sins He did so to make up for the fact that no matter how hard we try, we cannot live up to Torah’s standards of behavior. His death was to cover the sins we can’t stop doing, but it was not license to continue to sin. Ignoring the Torah and the requirements that God gave us to show that we are His people was not done away with when Yeshua died; in fact, they were confirmed as necessary because He was resurrected!

Read this parashah, and read it as someone who knows nothing about religion or God. Look at it fresh, anew, and ignorant of whatever you have been told by your religious leadership; allow your heart to be open to what it says and your ears to hear the Holy Spirit. It tells us who God is, it tells us what he requires, and it tells us that He is there as long as we walk with Him.

God is the leader, He knows the way, and He desperately wants us to walk with Him. In fact, God so desires that we walk with Him that He is willing to walk with us, so long as we walk correctly. God led the people through the desert, but this parashah says that He went with them: in other words, when we walk the way God wants us to walk, He will be with us. I believe we are being told that where we walk is our decision, our choice, and that we are always walking to our eternal destination. We are on the way, whether or not we want to be, and we are all walking along a path that leads to eternal joy (this is the one that God is on) or to eternal damnation.

The question to ask yourself is: which path will you choose?

Parashah Chol HaMo’ed Sukkot (Exodus 33:12-34:26) Feast of Tabernacles Intermediate Sabbath

This special reading recounts when Moses asked God to travel with the people. This is right after the sin of the Golden Calf, and God has agreed not to destroy the people but Moses has removed the Tent of Meeting from within the camp, due to the sin of the camp. Moses asks God to allow him to see His Glory and God agrees, but only from the back.

God has Moses make another set of tablets for the 10 Commandments and after Moses begs God to stay with the people, God tells Moses He will travel with them. God also tells Moses He will destroy the enemies of the people and that the Israelites are to totally demolish all forms of idol worship and all the standing poles and idols they find of the conquered peoples. They are not to intermarry or allow them to be part of their lives. This commandment is also a warning that by not doing so the people will become seduced into idol worship. This special reading ends with God reminding Moses about the major festivals when the people are to go to worship where God has determined to place His name.

It seems pretty obvious why this reading is for this special Shabbat- the Feast of Tabernacles is all about the joy God has when He is able to be with His people, and the joy we have when He is with us. Tabernacles is more than just living in a booth for a week- it is symbolic of the love God has for us: so much love, in fact, that the spiritual wants to dwell with the physical. It is an image of what it was like in Eden, when God was able to walk side-by-side with Adam and Eve. Two different planes of existence, ethereal and corporeal, existing together. That is what Tabernacles is really about: a reminder of Eden past, and a vision of the future when we will live in God’s presence again, forever.

I read once that the “Rabbi’s” said it is impossible for God to “come down” to the Earth, as it is said in the Tanakh, because He is already here. God is everywhere, all the time, so He can’t really “go” anywhere because wherever He wants to go, He is already there! So why, then, do we need the Feast of Tabernacles? If God is always with us, why do we need a special time to dwell with Him?

I think it’s because even though God is always here, we don’t recognize His presence because we are too busy paying attention to ourselves. How many times have you been told that you totally missed the turn you knew you had to take while driving because you were paying attention to someone walking, or talking to another person, or just thinking to yourself about something else?  How many times have you thought of something important, then got distracted for a moment and the thought was gone?

God is always right here. Doesn’t Moses tell us that the Law is not far from us? So close we can reach out and touch it? (Deut. 30:11) God is Torah, and the Torah is God. Just as John said that the Word became flesh (Yeshua), the Word is God- it is who He is, what He is about, His thoughts and desires. That’s why this time is so important. We need to refocus our gaze off of us and back onto God.

When you wake up in the morning and it is still dark, you can see much of what is there. Your eyes have adjusted to seeing in the darkness, although we don’t see everything. When you turn on the light, it makes you squint because the brightness is overpowering. As our eyes adjust to the light, we see much more of what was always there but, in the darkness, we couldn’t see.

We live in a very dark place- a cursed world. We grow up in it, we are used to seeing in it (although we can’t see many things all around us, and I am talking figuratively as well as factually) and for those of us who see the Light (have come to know God), we see as if in the brightness of the noon day. God has opened our eyes to what there is all around us that we couldn’t see in the darkness of our godless existence before- and what we see is sin. Being in God’s presence lights up the sin that is hidden to those still seeing only in the dark.

The world sees TV shows about vampires in love; I see the world accepting demonic creatures as being OK- they’re just like us.

The world sees people who live in defiance of God’s commandments as normal and acceptable, and I see the governments of the world accepting the mark of the enemy.

The world sees technology as wonderful and I see people and nations building their houses on sand (Matt. 7:24-27: the silicon chip is what makes today’s technology possible, and silica is sand.)

Those of us who have accepted God, accepted Messiah Yeshua and who have devoted our lives to T’Shuvah (turning from sin) so that we can honor and glorify God in all we do, we are living in the light and we are commanded to be a light to those still in the darkness. That’s why it is so hard talking to people about God- the light hurts your eyes when you first see it.

Tabernacles is a physical reminder of the spiritual truth that God wants to dwell with us. Although we do it once a year, we should be spiritual tabernacles to the world every day of the year.  And just as God comes from His perfectly wonderful environment and suffers to dwell in this physical world, we should also be willing to go into the darkness to seek those who need the light.

Celebrate this time of the year with joy, and honor God all the rest of the year with your service to His desire for you to bring light into the darkness.

As the End Approaches, so Does the Beginning

Next Tuesday is Sh’mini Atzeret, the Eighth Day of the Feast of Tabernacles. It is also Simchat Torah, the Joy of Torah.

This is the one day of the year when the Torah is taken outside for a walk. We parade the Torah, blow our Shofers, and in the Synagogue the last lines of Deuteronomy are read, then as the people sing the Torah is rolled back (carefully- if you have ever tried to roll up a towel with the edges perfectly aligned, try doing it with a Torah, which is fragile and very, VERY expensive!) and the first few lines of Exodus are read.

Coming to the end of the Torah means it is time for the beginning of it.

That’s sort of what it is going to be like after all the End Days (Acharit HaYamim) mishigas is done. Yeshua said, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.…” (Matthew 5:17-18) His meaning, taken in 1st Century cultural context, was that He interpreted the Torah correctly.

BTW…Torah is not “law”, it means “teachings” and has been mislabeled for a long time.

What I take from what Yeshua said is when the Millennium is over, the enemy freed, the final battle done, all the bad guys are now treading sulfur while the elect are ruling with Yeshua, the new heaven and the new earth are situated, the temple is in Jerusalem and God is dwelling, again, with His people (all His people)…when all this has happened, the Torah will no longer be the teachings we have always used it for.

The Prophets tell us that the Torah will be written on our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33) and that God will pour out His Spirit on everyone (Joel 3:1-2) and we will all know the Lord, so there will be no further need for Torah.

This is also discussed in Hebrews and by Shaul (Paul) when they talk of the old being replaced by the new (Hebrews 8:12-13; 1 Corinthians 13:8-12) and how things will change once all has come to pass.

There are other areas in the Bible where we are told that the Torah was given to sanctify us, to separate us from the rest of the world and bring us closer to God. When the Tribulation is over, when all things have come to pass, then we will be living Torahs, and as such, the physical scroll will no longer be needed.

Until then, it is essential for life. Without Torah, in this plane of existence, we have no way to know what is good in God’s eyes and what is not. Read Judges- then everyone did what seemed right to them, and Proverbs tells us exactly what that leads to- death! (Proverbs 14:12)

As the High Holy Days approach their end for this year, we look forward, joyously, to being able to start all over again to read God’s word , and we faithfully ask God to let His Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) lead our understanding and enrich our souls even more than He has done in the past year.

Each time we turn the Torah back, each year we complete the Parashot, every day we read His word, every breath we take and every single heartbeat brings us that much closer to the Messiah’s return. No man knows when that will be, so be ready at all times. For all we know, this evening we may be sitting at Yeshua’s table.

Frankly, I don’t see any reason whey we shouldn’t try to get a little ahead of the curve and start to write the Torah on our hearts, now. Of course, we can’t do that as well as God will.

But, then again, we won’t really be getting in His way if we get an early start on making ourselves living Torahs, right?  What can it hurt to try?

Parashah Chol HaMo’ed Sukkot (Intermediate Reading for Sukkot: Exodus 33:12 – 34:26)

Sukkot is one of the Holy Days which we are commanded to celebrate in Leviticus 23. It is one of the three Holy Days when we are to go to the Temple in Yerushalayim (Pesach and Shavuot being the other ones.)

At this time we build a Sukkah, which is essentially an open roofed tabernacle or tent, and we are to live in it for the next 7 days. This is a reminder of how our fathers lived in the desert.

This festival is more than just a memorial to our ancestors; it is a celebration of our relationship, our close relationship, with God. And not just as a people, but individually.

This parashah relates how Moshe asked God to go with the people- it comes after the people rebelled against God while Moshe was on the mountain, when Moshe destroyed the first set of tablets God gave him. Moshe is back on the mountain, and begging God to continue to live with the people as they travel through the desert. In fact, Moshe asks God to just  leave them there if He won’t go with them because it is not the people that matter, it is God’s presence with them that demonstrates who they are.

When God is with us, it proves we are His people. His presence is what separates us from the rest of the world, and for those who accept Messiah Yeshua as being the Messiah, the Anointed One of God and the promised salvation, and who have received the Ruach HaKodesh (the Holy Spirit), they have God’s presence with them, just as the children of Israel had His presence in the desert.

In the desert, He traveled as a cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night, but today as we walk through this desert we call “life”, God is with us always by means of the indwelling Ruach. That means that our bodies are, in a way, the ultimate Sukkah. This correlates to what Shaul said when he told us that our bodies are the temple housing the spirit of God. I have heard Christian teachings that allude to this, too, calling our bodies the Church.

As a Jewish man, I am not, and probably never will be, comfortable with the idea that I go to “church”, let alone that I am a “church.” I know it’s just a word, but words have power and the image and memories that the word “church” bring forth are not pleasant to me.

On the other hand, I like considering myself a Sukkah, where God and I congregate. Add to that how joyful it is to tabernacle with the Lord God, and that is an image I can live with!

Sukkot lasts seven days, but we celebrate for 8 days. The eighth day is called Sh’Mini Atzeret, and that is also called the holiday of Simchat Torah (note: holiday, not Holy Day.) This is a Rabbinical day of celebration, not a biblical one. The Rabbinical explanation is that God was so happy being with His people during those seven days that He extended it an additional day. Again, not in the bible as a God-declared festival, but a nice thought and a joyful way to celebrate the Torah, which is also God’s presence with us, is it not?

See: I’m not against everything that is traditional, just those that go against what God wants or says.

Final thought for today: in the desert, God’s presence was shown through His manifestation as a cloud and as fire. Moshe wrote the Torah, and after they came into the Land, God’s physical presence no longer went with them. But they had the Torah, which is not just God’s laws, regulations, and (overall) teachings, but it is, in a way, God, Himself. He tells us who He is (this portion also contains the 13 Attributes of God, which He announces as he passes by Moshe) and who we are, in relation to Him. Therefore, in my thinking, the Torah is God; not a manifestation, but it is who and what He is. Yochanan says that first there was the Word, then the Word became flesh. Do you think the “Word” he refers to is the Torah? I do. That’s why I feel comfortable believing that the Torah is God- not a manifestation of Him, but His essence and (thereby) His presence.  In the same way that our bodies are a Sukkah, the Torah is God; it is a spiritual relationship expressed by a tangible thing.

So, the Torah is with the people always, representing God’s presence. And the ultimate demonstration of God’s presence with His people is the Ruach HaKodesh. Unlike the cloud or fire, which appeared visible to all, and unlike the Torah, which is  tangible thing, the Ruach is His presence living inside of us. Every breath, every heartbeat, every thought…He is here sharing our life, living every moment of it in total communion.

Sukkot is one of the more joyful Holy Days we have, and for those who have accepted the Grace of the Almighty, we get to celebrate Sukkot every single day, and for the rest of our life.

Sweet!