Parashah Naso 2019 (Take) Numbers 4:21 – 7

Moses continues to outline the duties of the Levitical clans, which began in the last parashah. After having ordered each family of the Levites to perform their specific duties regarding the Tabernacle, Moses moves on to further outline how the camp is to be set up.

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

The unclean were to be removed from within the camp and placed outside of it. This is to safeguard the ceremonial purity of the camp.

Next, Moses details the process for a husband who suspects his wife has been unfaithful to prove her faithful or adulterous. This involves providing a grain sacrifice and her drinking of special water, accompanied by the woman pronouncing a curse on herself if she has been unfaithful.

The instructions for taking the vow of a Nazarite are reviewed, and then in Chapter 6, verses 24-26 God tells us how he wants the Cohen HaGadol (High Priest) to bless the children of Israel, which we call the Aaronic Blessing. This is also used in Christian services, and it goes like this:

The Lord bless thee and keep thee;

The Lord make his face to shine upon thee, and be gracious to thee;

The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace. 

Each of the 12 tribes brings a gift for the tabernacle, which comes to a total of six covered wagons and 12 oxen. These were distributed to the Levitical families for their use in transporting the tabernacle.

The parashah ends with the people of Israel offering an additional gift, each tribe giving the exact same things in the exact same weight and number:

one silver dish and one silver basin, both filled with fine flour mingled with oil, one golden pan full of incense, one young bullock, one ram, and one he-lamb of the first year (for a burnt offering), one male goat for a sin offering, and 2 oxen, 5 rams, five male goats, and five male lambs all presented for a peace offering.

Each tribe presented their gift on a different day until all 11 tribes (Levites were excluded) had given their gifts.

Today I want to talk about the Aaronic (or Priestly) Blessing, which is so beautiful; it is both simple in its form yet complex in its meaning.

The prayer is composed of three short verses, of 3, 5, and 7 words (in the Hebrew), gradually asking first for material blessing, then a spiritual blessing, and finally for the ultimate gift from God- peace. Traditionally, the prayer is to be offered in Hebrew and only by a Priest.

As I have often stated, not all traditions are bad, and as far as this one goes I would have to say that within the Messianic community (which would include Christians who are “Born Again”) it would be OK for someone to ask a blessing from God for someone else, so long as they invoke the name of Messiah when they ask.

You see, the Jewish requirement for only a Priest to give the Aaronic Blessing is based on the need for the person offering the blessing to be not just sober, but also worshipful, faithful, ceremonially clean, and prayerful. For most people, this isn’t going to be their normal state of being.

However, for those that have accepted Yeshua as their Messiah and have the indwelling of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit), they should “measure up” to these standards. By also invoking the name of the Messiah, any shortcomings in their holiness would be offset, so to speak, through Yeshua’s intervention.

When I have served in the position of Rabbi or Cantor (although I am not officially ordained as either) in the houses of worship which I have attended over the years, I offered this prayer in Hebrew just as it is, not invoking the name of Yeshua. I also then repeated it in English for the benefit of those who didn’t know what the Hebrew meant. I do not believe that I was doing anything wrong by omitting “In the name of Yeshua, the Messiah” because at that time, I was in the position and authority of a Cohen. However, if I was asked to give this blessing to someone on the street, I might include a “B’shem Yeshua Ha Mashiach” at the end of it, just to be safe.

The Aaronic Blessing is both a prayer and a blessing because what we are really doing is requesting God to provide the things we specify; first, we cover material needs, then spiritual needs, and finally, we ask for God’s peace of body, mind, and spirit so that we can have complete joy.

In conclusion of today’s message, let me offer this blessing to you in the name of our Messiah, Yeshua (click on the link and make sure your audio is not muted):

Aaronic Blessing

 

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Tonight begins Shabbat, so Shabbat Shalom, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Parashot VayYakhel and Pekudey 2018 Exodus 35 – 40:38

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

 

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

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

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

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

Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 6:19:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                                                                            Hazak, hazak, v’nit’chazek!

                                                                                             Be strong, be strong, and be strengthened! 

 

Parashah Terumah (donation), Exodus 25 – 27:19)

From this point on, except for Chapters 32 through 34 (the sin of the Golden Calf) the remaining chapters of this book deal with the construction of the Tabernacle and the articles in it.

The Tabernacle is where God talks to Moses. His instructions were first to built the Ark, after the Ark (which is the holiest of all the items) the rest of the construction was done from that point outwards: the Ark, then the Holy of Holies, then the articles in the area where only the priests were allowed (only the Cohen haGadol, the High Priest, was allowed in the Holy of Holies, and only once a year on Yom Kippur), then the Court, etc., all the way to the main entrance at the far end of the court.

The materials used were of dyed linens, tanned hides, acacia wood, gold, silver and bronze. The people were asked to contribute from their personal stores, much of which they received from the Egyptians when they left Egypt (Exodus 12:36); so, in a way, Egypt helped make building the Tabernacle possible. The most valuable materials were the ones closest to the Holy of Holies, with the less valuable materials being used as the Tabernacle was being built outwards.

We have all heard or used the expressions, “Closer to God” and “Farther from God”, representing, clearly enough, one’s spiritual maturity and faithful obedience to God’s commands. When I think of how the Tabernacle was built, with the purest items items being closest to the center of the Tabernacle (where God was present), I see this as representing how we need to be in our worship life: in order for us to come closer to God, we must first become purer.

Gold and silver are metals unto themselves, bronze is an alloy of copper and tin, and each one needs to go through a firing process in order to remove the dross so it can be in it’s purest state; gold is purified using temperatures in excess of 1000 degrees Celsius, silver at about 800 degrees Celsius and bronze at a temperature between 230 and 630 degrees Celsius. The purer the metal, the higher the heat used to purify it.

I see people and their relationship to God similar to the way these metals are forged: the closer we want to come to God, the hotter the fire of purification will have to be. Yeshua tells us this when He tells us that anyone who wants to be His Disciple will have to carry His execution stake to follow Him (Matthew 16:24; Luke 9:23), so we are adequately warned that getting closer to God will not be easy. Consequently, as we are further from faithful obedience and fear of the Lord, we are more like the less pure metals- we will be forged, but at a lower heat. For those who may be no more spiritual than having some recognition of God, such as type who go to services during the High Holy Days only, or at Christmas and Easter, their “spiritual purity” is still full of dross and slag.

The dross is the sin inside of us: that is why, since sin is part of our nature and formed when we are formed, it must be burned out for us to be purified, separated from the world (sin) and brought closer to God.

Oy! That is a very hard word to hear. Basically, what I am saying is that the Tabernacle represents what we need to go through, spiritually and physically, when we decide to worship God as He wants us to do. We are all built with some copper, tin, silver and gold inside of us, and as we approach God, we will have the base metals separated, and the fine metals purified. This is done through Tsouris (suffering) in our lives. It sounds unfair, but that is what is needed. You can’t get rid of the dross without going through the fire, and the reason we do this is to be closer to God.

Even after we have been purified, we will still have Tsouris in our life. But as we become more purified we will be able to abide the suffering and stay focused on the reward we are all striving to receive: eternal joy and peace in the presence of God, Almighty.

I don’t mind going through the fire because I know what is on the other side.

What metal are you? Have you accepted your level of purity? Realistically, everyone wants to be gold but very few are willing to go through the fire, so if you really, really want to be gold, then here is what you need to do:

  1. Prepare yourself for troubles
  2. Read the entire bible (Genesis through Revelations) and accept that it is all one book, one God, one way to worship Him (His way) and that all the commandments, from beginning to end, are valid
  3. Accept that Yeshua is the Messiah God promised and ask for forgiveness of sin on your own, meaning that you ask for forgiveness from your heart and not because your Priest or your parents said you had to.
  4. Prepare for even more troubles and steel yourself (gird your loins) for a lifetime of rejection, problems, harassment and persecution.

Read Matthew 5:10, 1 Peter 4:12-19 and James 1:2– all of these verses warn us that we will be persecuted in Messiah’s name, but that it is a blessing we should all strive to achieve.

Doesn’t this sound crazy? I want to have the joy and peace of spirit that worshiping God can bring, which it does, but to get that I have to suffer. Sounds like the ultimate oxymoron- suffer persecution and hatred to have peace of mind and spirit. Huh?!?

But that’s how it works, and it does work. Ask anyone who you know to be devoted to God and they will tell you of all the problems they have had to undergo, but also of all the joy they have felt and blessings they have received from God. It sounds crazy, but that which the world thinks is right is usually the exact opposite of what is acceptable to God.

It’s all up to you- do you want to be bronze or gold? Your choice, your decision, your eternal future.

Fear of the Lord or Afraid of the Lord?

This coming Shabbat Parashah is the story of Korach. I was preparing my message (our Pastor is on vacation and when he is gone I help by leading the liturgy and delivering the message) and, although I usually keep that message separate from these postings, I really feel that it is important enough (well, I would hope they all are) to share here, as well.

After the rebellion is put down by God, Abiram and Dathan are swallowed by the earth, Korach and the 250 mutineers (in the Chumash they call this “The Great Mutiny”) are burned up alive, and the staffs that were placed in the Tabernacle have shown that Aaron’s is the one God has chosen, the people all cry that they are going to die if they come before the Tabernacle.

We can read in B’midbar (Numbers) 17:12-13:

The Israelites said to Moses, “We will die! We are lost, we are all lost!  Anyone who even comes near the tabernacle of the Lord will die. Are we all going to die?”

And, in truth, you can’t really blame them for being afraid. After all, Abihu and Nadab offered unauthorized fire before the Tabernacle and they were burned alive, and now these 250 men (not to mention Korach), all of whom were righteous (well, maybe we won’t mention Korach here) and well-respected leaders of their individual tribes, were also burned alive.

Maybe, just maybe, standing in front of the Tabernacle isn’t such a good idea because even those people who were good were killed.

Of course, we can also say that the people weren’t considering the sin these men committed against the Lord as the real cause of their death.

The truth is that any sinner can come before the Lord if he or she comes with a penitent heart and a contrite spirit. David says so in Psalm 51 (verse 17):

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise

The people were afraid of God at Sinai, too, but I believe there was a big difference between how they felt then and what they are feeling now: back then their heart was different. Their fear then was a righteous fear- they felt their unworthiness before the Lord and asked Moses to be their representative because they were so unworthy that if they heard God’s voice again they would die, and this attitude God appreciated (Deuteronomy 5:27-29):

“Go near and hear all that the LORD our God says; then speak to us all that the LORD our God speaks to you, and we will hear and do it.’ “The LORD heard the voice of your words when you spoke to me, and the LORD said to me, ‘I have heard the voice of the words of this people which they have spoken to you. They have done well in all that they have spoken. ‘Oh that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me and keep all My commandments always, that it may be well with them and with their sons forever!…”

This verse, which Moses tells the people when preparing to turn them over to Joshua, shows us the remorse and pain God felt from the knowledge that this healthy and righteous fear of Him will turn into the type of fear that will lead His people to resent, rebel and (ultimately) reject Him.

Proper “Fear of the Lord” means to respect His holiness and honor Him by being lovingly obedient. Faithful obedience is what God wants more than sacrifice and more than anything else we could ever give Him. He has created everything- there is nothing we have that He cannot give to Himself, except for our love, faithful obedience and worship. Those things God cannot have unless we give them to Him, and that is what He wants more than anything else.

If we are afraid of God, if our “Fear of the Lord” is not awesome respect for Him but is being afraid of what He might do to us, that serves the enemy of God. That is what Satan wants you to feel- Satan wants you to be afraid of God, because that kind of fear will be a wedge separating you from God’s loving protection and blessings. Then, being alone and unprotected, you will suffer the curses of living in a fallen and cursed world, and you will turn against the Lord and curse Him to His face for all your Tsouris. That is what Revelations 16:10 tells us will happen:

“And the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness, and men began to gnaw their tongues in anguish and curse the God of heaven for their pains and sores; yet they did not repent of their deeds.”

We need to remember that for those who have accepted Yeshua (Jesus) as their Messiah, there is no more condemnation (Romans 8:1), and we can march boldly up to the throne of God (Hebrews 4:16), unafraid and confident that He will listen to us and that our Intercessor, Yeshua ha Maschiach, is sitting there at His right hand saying to Him, “Father, this one is mine.”

What we need to be afraid of is ourselves. We are the biggest stumbling block to salvation there is: the enemy can’t do anything to us unless we let him, and God will do everything for us, again, if we let Him.  It is our choice, and we are (and will be held) accountable for the choices we make.

Have a healthy “Fear of the Lord”, which will keep you in His Grace, and be afraid only of your own sinfulness and pride, which will separate you from it.

 

Parashah Vayyakhel (and he assembled) Exodus 35 – 38:20

Moses calls all the people to him and asks that they offer up, each according to his or her own desire, the materials needed to build the Ark of the Covenant and the Tabernacle. Everything from wood to precious metals, base metals and gemstones were required, as well as cloth and people to do the work. God names Bezalel and Oholiab, from the tribes of Judah and Dan (respectively) to oversee the work because of their skills, and to teach others how to do the work needed. They were to be both the skilled craftsmen and skilled instructors.

The rest of this parashah, in fact, most of the rest of the book of Exodus,  is a very detailed and exacting narration about the construction of the Tabernacle and the Ark, and of the other items associated with the Tabernacle.

There is always a message, even in what seems to be a simple description of constructing the Tabernacle. The contributions came from the old, from the young, from men, from women, from the common people and from the nobles. In chapter 35 we read about how every man who had wood brought it, every woman who could spin spun the linen, and the rulers brought the stones needed for the ephod.  Both common and ruler, men and women, any and all who had what was needed brought their possessions (much of which they received when they left Egypt) and didn’t just hand them over, but gave them to the workers, gladly and eagerly. Shaul tells us in 2 Corinthians, 9:7 (which he is quoting from the Septuagint) that God loves a cheerful giver, and all the people gave cheerfully. So much so, in fact, that in 36:5 the workers ask Moshe to tell the people to stop bringing stuff- they already have way too much!

Yet, what? Only a month or so before this these same people who are happily and faithfully obeying the Lord, were dancing and reveling before a Golden Calf! Can they really be as faithful as they appear, given their proclivity to change faith and belief with the changing of the wind?

Yes, they can. Yes, they do, and yes, they did. I am not a “people person”- I have been in customer service in one form or another most of my career, and I have been (and am, now) in a position of leadership at the place where I worship, yet I am not really all that interested in “people.” A friend once told me that humanity is a wonderful thing: it’s the people that screw it all up! I couldn’t agree more.

And after having confessed my lack of compassion for and trust in people, I am still happy to say that I believe the message (at least, for me) in this parashah is not so much about the building of the Tabernacle as it is about the people giving so cheerfully and selflessly so soon after such a terrible sin. The difference between then and now is only one thing: they repented. They repented and God forgave them, and now they are cleansed.

Ever get so dirty that you can’t remember what clean felt like? I have, many times. Not just working around the house for a day, but when I was in the Marine Corps and we did training in the field. I was in woods, in desert, covered with dirt, sweat, and camouflage paint. You get used to it, and when you get back home you spend a good amount of time in the shower, cleaning everything two or three times. Then, when you come out all squeaky clean and neat, you feel GREAT!!

I imagine that is how the people felt, after they did T’Shuvah (turning from sin) and Moshe told them that God had forgiven them and would maintain His presence among them.

Sin is like a crust of foul smelling and filthy dirt that covers us, and when we are in it long enough we don’t smell it anymore. It’s only after being cleansed that we remember how good it feels to be clean. So, even after a terrible sin such as the one with the Golden Calf, being cleansed can make us more joyful and faithful than we thought possible.

The more we live in dirt the less we remember what it feels like to be clean. The more we allow sin to rule our lives, the dirtier we get, and the further from the joy and peacefulness we can feel only when in God’s presence. We may not smell the sin, but God does. He will not associate with sin and will not allow sinfulness in His presence, so when we stink from sin we can’t get close to God.

The Grace He provided through Yeshua is what cleans us so that we can come into His presence, and allows us to experience the joy and peace His “touch” brings.

We all sin, we are sinners from our birth, but we can also be cleansed. Yes, this is a job for Clorox- spiritual Clorox, that is. And that Clorox of the spirit is called Grace, and it is delivered by the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit). This Clorox isn’t bleach- it is the blood of the Messiah, Yeshua. And whereas bleach cleans your clothes, the blood of Yeshua cleans your soul. Whiter than Clorox could ever get it, too!

We will sin, we will fall, but we can also get up. That is what happened at Mt. Sinai. They learned the temporary nice feeling we get from sinning is nothing compared to the complete and overflowing joy we get from obeying the Lord.

Sin feels nice for a little while, but the joy of the Lord feels great all the time. Which would you prefer?

Parashah Ki Thissa (When you take) Exodus 30:11 – 34

Big stuff in here: the sin of the Golden Calf and the 13 Divine Attributes of God (announced when He passes by Moshe), which make up the major restrains of almost every Jewish prayer of repentance. Also we are told what spices to use for anointing oil and incense before the Lord, and it ends with Moses coming down (the second time) from the mountain with the Ten Words, his face beaming so much that from then on he wears a veil, except when he goes in the Tabernacle to talk to the Lord.

I asked myself why this time?  Why didn’t his face beam after being 40 days on the mountain the first time? My answer to myself was that there was one major difference between the first meeting with God and the second one: the second time Moses saw the Glory of God. In Exodus 34:5-7 God walks by Moses, covering Moses’ face as He passes so Moses can only see His back. God actually, physically was there, close enough to cover the face of Moses. I believe that Moses’ face shone from that day on because he was so close to the Glory of the Lord that the Shekinah glory infused his body. That’s why his face shone, and from what I read it sounds like his face shone for the rest of his life.

What I find of interest is not the great story of the Golden Calf- there is so much for us to learn there. What I want to talk about today is much simpler, much “smaller”, but no less important.

The parashah starts out with God telling Moses that everyone who is called up to fight in a war must pay a ransom for their soul of a 1/2 Shekel. Now the word of God is very clear that there shall be no ransom for a murderer, that is, someone who has committed murder purposefully. But this ransom is for those who have murdered during a war. Even though the wars the people of Israel performed were not just sanctioned  by God, but actually commanded by Him in many cases, they were still guilty of murder.

This shows us that God is true to His word, that His laws are always laws, that forgiveness is possible but only with real repentance. Those who go to a “holy” war for God and kill those God says should die (effectively being the executioner of the Lord) are still murderers. They have killed, and God said we shall not kill, but unlike the murderer who kills for passion or gain, and does so on purpose, this “murder” is different, so a ransom is acceptable. Again, even though this form of murder is commanded by God, we must ransom our soul to the Lord. The monies were to be used exclusively for the maintenance of the Tabernacle, so that this ransom did go, wholly, to the Lord.

God is always willing to forgive a repentant sinner, but He is also more than willing, and frighteningly able, to punish those who are unrepentant. And God must punish the wrongdoer. If God doesn’t punish those who do wrong and do not repent, then His promise of salvation is empty. God said that the guilty will be punished- He says it over and over throughout the Tanakh; He has the Prophets tell us over and over that we shall suffer if we do not obey the Lord (and we did, too!), and Yeshua also tells us this. At the end of the Lord’s Prayer, Matthew 6:14, Yeshua tells us that if we do not forgive on Earth, then we will not be forgiven by God in heaven.

Torah is valid: it was valid when God gave it to us, it was valid when David was king, it was valid when Herod ruled, it was valid during and after Yeshua’s ministry, and it is valid, today. Not just to Jews, but to everyone.  Just because we can be forgiven doesn’t mean we can ignore God’s word: God told us to ransom our soul even though we were doing what He commanded, so even when we obey Him we can still be guilty! His laws are absolute.

Christianity has been teaching for centuries that the Jews have Torah and Christians have the blood of Christ. That is totally wrong- everyone has Torah, and everyone has the blood of Christ! The Torah was given to the Jewish people so they could live it as an example for everyone else to learn from, and follow. The blood of Messiah was shed so that everyone could have salvation because no one can live perfectly in accordance to Torah. How absolutely inane to say that Christians have the blood of Christ, as if they were the only ones He died for! He died for Jews, He died for Buddhists, He died for Muslims, He died for Devil worshipers, He died for E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E!!!   

And Torah was given to the Jews, but Torah is also for everyone. Torah tells us how God wants us to worship Him and treat each other, Yeshua told us the deeper meanings of the Torah and that we shouldn’t try to just follow it legalistically (i.e., just obey the letter of the law), but that we need to follow it spiritually. Jeremiah 31:31 tells us that the New Covenant will be that God will write His Torah on our hearts, which is exactly what Yeshua was telling us to do! It will be more than words to follow, it will be the very thing we are!

The Torah was given to guide us, Yeshua died for us because we can’t follow Torah perfectly (but NOT in place of the Torah) and the blood of Christ is for everyone to be able to have their sins washed away and be reconciled to God. God isn’t stupid- if you call upon His name and hold up the blood of Christ as your means of forgiveness, but you are unrepentant, you will not be accepted. And the proof that you are repentant, or that you are not repentant, will be by your fruits, by how you act towards others and towards God.

The Torah tells us how to show our repentance, so to refuse to follow Torah is to refuse to be repentant.

Look…no one can obey Torah completely, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t supposed to try.

Parashah Beha’alotcha (Numbers 8:1-12:15) When you set up…

We begin this portion of the Torah with the lighting of the menorah. The Tabernacle has been constructed and anointed, then Aaron and his sons, now the menorah is lit and Aaron is told that he and his descendants are the ones blessed and honored to perform that duty. The Levites are separated, cleansed and appointed (officially) to their duties, and the people are reminded that God has separated the Levites unto Himself for serving Him, as a ransom for all the firstborn that were killed in Egypt. The term of service is to be between the ages of 25 and 50, after which the Levite is still to serve as a teacher and leader, but not physically to work in the Tabernacle or move it.

The beginning of the second year God tells Moses to have everyone celebrate the Pesach festival, and the ruling is given that if a person is unclean and cannot celebrate it in the first month, then that person is to do so on the 14th day of the second month. The rule is the same for both the native and the person who sojourns (a convert) with the people. This is repeated many times throughout the Torah: whether born Jewish or converted, once you have chosen to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob you are an adopted child, and you are not only privileged to be given all the rights of a native, but you are also responsible to follow all the laws.

As an aside, here’s where this has ended up today:

– Christianity wants to be accepted as a child of the same God that the Jewish people worship, have accepted that Yeshua is their Messiah, but worship Him instead of God and have rejected Torah;

– Judaism worships God, follows Torah, yet they have (for the most part) rejected Yeshua as their Messiah;

– the only ones who have it right (in my opinion) are the Messianic Jews and Hebraic Roots movement Christians, who worship God, have accepted Yeshua as their Messiah and also follow Torah, just as Yeshua did.

Back to the Parashah: now it’s the second year since leaving Egypt, the second month so everyone has had the chance to celebrate Passover, the Tabernacle has been up for a while, the Levites are serving and the Cloud has been over the Tabernacle all this time. Now is the first move. We read about how the tribes march out, the Ark of the Covenant in the lead and the wonderful invocation that Moses gives when the Ark leads, and when it comes to rest. These words are still repeated to this day when the Torah is removed from the Ark, and when it is returned.

God commands that two silver trumpets be made for calling the people to gather and to prepare for war. These are ceremonial trumpets, and different from Shofarot.

As the people start to move, they begin to grumble, as they will often, against Moses and their situation. This time it is about not having any meat. I personally think that if they had asked God respectfully He would have obliged them, but as such, with their faithless and selfish grumbling and kvetching, God sent them meat and then made them sick of (and from) it to the point where a plague broke out against the people. Maybe it was a form of Avian Flu? Whatever it was, it wasn’t pleasant, or maybe I should say, it wasn’t pheasant (ouch!)

The final chapter relates how Aaron and Miriam complain against Moses for marrying a Cushite woman. Most likely that means she was Ethiopian, although it could refer to Zipporah, a Midianite. It was either a second marriage or just that Zipporah was from Midian- we do not know for sure, but we do not for certain that Miriam is the instigator and Aaron is drawn into the issue by her. That is clear from the Kumash. Miriam is summarily punished by God for speaking against Moses, and Moses immediately asks God to forgive her. Here we learn about how meek and humble Moses is. God allows her to be healed of the leprosy He inflicted on her and makes her wait outside the camp, as one unclean, for 7 days.

The lesson for us today from this that I want to talk about is how simple and manifest the prayer of Moses was to heal his sister. All he said was, “Heal her now, oh Lord, I beseech thee!” Simple, heartfelt, and (if I may use the word) …pure. It is a pure prayer, asking what is needed for both the person making the prayer and the person for whom the prayer is offered for.

How many times do we hear people pray on and on, andonandonandonandon….sometimes I can sense them stumbling, trying to think of something else, anything else, to say. As if the Lord doesn’t get it, like God doesn’t know what we want so while we have His attention let’s just get everything we possibly can out. Sometimes after a service, when we are going to do the blessings over the wine and bread (the Kiddush) the leader will go on praying about the sermon, the communion act, and other things, and I wish that he would just give the blessings. Those blessings are simple and say it all- thank you, Lord, for bringing forth bread from the earth and for creating the fruit of the vine. Maybe a quickie reminder, that this is what we do not just to thank God but in memory of the Messiah’s request that we remember Him, also, when we do this. Communion is not communion with Yeshua, it is communion with God, and serves additionally as a memorial to Yeshua’s sacrifice. Together, the prayers and Yeshua’s sacrifice bring us into communion with God.

When you pray, don’t go on. Your Father in heaven knows what you need (didn’t Yeshua tell us that in Matthew 6:8?) so just ask with a simple, heartfelt request for what you need now. Don’t go on about tomorrow- today has enough problems of it’s own (oh, my- didn’t Yeshua say that, too?) and we are only to ask for what we need now. And don’t ramble on (Yikes! Yeshua said that, too!) We can’t possible need so much that a prayer to God will take more than a few minutes. It should take no time at all. The only thing that should take up a lot of time is recounting all the wonderful blessings God has given us. If I was to thank God, one-by-one, for all the blessings He has bestowed on me (most every one of them undeserved) I would be praying non-stop, 24/7/365 (366 on leap years) from now until I died, and I would still be short.

Make your prayer meaningful by filling it full of meaning. When we say to somone, “I love you”, is there really anything else to say? We all know what that means, the words evoke the myriad emotions and feelings and memories of what loving and being loved has meant to each individual who says those three words. If humans can understand so fully what it means to tell someone you love them, then how much more can the Lord of Lords and King of Kings, our very Creator, know about what we want, need and feel when we talk to Him?

Let your prayer life conform to the KISS rule: Keep It Simple, Schmo!

God knows what you want and he knows what you need, so ask for what you want and He will give you what you need. Don’t try to speak in perfect Shakespearian language, don’t try to emulate Solomon, don’t make King James roll over in his grave listening to you. Just pray as Moses prayed, and as Yeshua told us how to pray in Matthew 6:9-14.

Start by giving honor to God, ask for forgiveness (to cleanse yourself before Him), then ask Him for only that which you need right now, and only what you need to survive, tell God what you desire, and then finish with praising the Lord and recognizing His worthiness and power. Finally, invoke the name of Yeshua ha Mashiach, for we were told that when we pray in Yeshua’s name, God will grant us whatever we ask for. That’s it- if you are praying much more than 1-2 minutes, you’re probably getting off the mark.

I have prayed to God for more than 2 minutes, but it was more like talking with Him. I converse with Him (well, I talk and He listens) and sometimes it does go on for a while, but it is a conversation. And it is totally private. But my prayers, my orisons, my requests and my deepest feelings that I pour out to Him are simple and short.

Do what you feel good about; if you really feel good when you pray for a long time, than don’t let anything I do or say get between you, your prayer life and your communion with God. I just ask that you review what you are doing, and if Moses was comfortable with a 5 or 6 word prayer to heal his sister from a death-like existence, then maybe we should be comfortable with asking God simply and honestly for what we need.

Prayer only has to be from the heart, from a broken and contrite spirit, honest, heartfelt and to God. That’s all it takes.

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.

How Do You Use Your Gift?

If we look for verses in the Manual which talk to us about “gifts” we can find a number of them. There is the gift of prophecy, of teaching, the gift of Grace, and many others.

1 Peter 4:10 tells us that the gifts we receive we should use to help each other, and James 1:17 reminds us that every good gift comes from God.

1 Corinthians 12:12-26 exhorts us to use our gifts collectively, that no one gift is above any other, but we all are given gifts to be used collectively as in the body, meaning as one group working together to serve the Lord.

Exodus 35:30-35 tells us that Bezalel and Oholiab were given the gift of skills in all types of artistry to allow them to serve God by managing the construction of the Tabernacle.

One thing that I have noticed about gifts, which is the same (to me) as the use and administration of the Ruach Ha Kodesh (Holy Spirit) is that prior to Messiah Yeshua fulfilling His role as the final sacrifice for sin, the gifts and spirit were given to people as needed, but then revoked. The Spirit fell on Shimson (Samson) and it fell on Elijah, as well as other prophets and the heroes in the Book of Judges, but that Spirit was lifted up, again, and returned to God. It was a gift that was revocable.

However, after Messiah Yeshua gave up His Spirit, that same spirit was given to all who believe and accept Him as their Messiah as a gift that is irrevocable. God will send the Comforter to all who Believe and ask for it, and it will not come and go anymore: it will dwell within, for as long as we allow it to remain.

That’s right- I said for as long as we allow it to remain. Irrevocable means it won’t be taken back, but we can give it away, or more correctly, we can throw it away. That’s the thing about a gift: once given, it belongs to the one who possesses it, to do with it as they please. In my case, I try to use and listen to the Ruach all the time, but I am still learning and maturing in the Spirit. There are those that have accepted the Spirit but it proves too much for them to handle, so they ignore it or just throw it away, they become apostatized, and even the Bible tells us that once we have known the Ruach, known Messiah and then rejected Him, we have trampled His blood into the dirt (Hebrews 10:26-31.)

To know best how to use your gift, I guess you first need to know what it is. Yes, I believe there may be many who are not really sure what their gift is. We humans are easily led astray, and I do not doubt for a second that there are many who are trying to use what they believe to be their gift, which is really no more than a gift they want to have. As such, they are blinding themselves to their true gift. If you’re thinking you don’t feel quite right about what you think your gift is, talk with other Believers who know you and ask them to tell you, honestly, what they think your gift is. Nothing wrong with getting confirmation from those who have spiritual maturity.

Once you are sure about your gift, use it to please the Lord. The answer to the question, “How should I use my gift?” is given to you: read Colossians 3:17.

God has many gifts to give, and every gift He gives to us is precious and is to be used to honor Him. It’s all about God.

Regarding your gift: find it, know it, develop it and use it to help others in order to honor the Lord.

Remember what Yeshua told us: that which we do the these, even the least of His brethren, we do unto Him.

Parashot Tazria / Metzora Leviticus 12:1-15:33

This Shabbat is a double parashah reading. There are times when we read two parashot instead of one to sort of “catch up” so that we stay on the annual schedule. We read out of sequence for the Pesach Shabbat, and now we are reading two parashot so we can get back on schedule.

These parashot deal with cleanliness of women after childbirth, as well as leprosy (which might be any skin-related infection or disease, from leprosy to a rash of some sort that looks similar) on people, clothes and even their homes (perhaps this is a form of mildew? We know today there are some forms of mildew that are deadly.) Finally there are the laws about issuances from the body, such as oozing sores and chronic loss of fluids. The readings tell us how to identify the contagious from the non-contagious forms, and what sacrifices should be made to complete the cleansing of the person or article that was unclean.

What I want to talk about is really simple- it has (pretty much) nothing to do with these laws, but it does have it’s basis in why we have these laws.

The reason for these laws is….I don’t know why. Do you? Obviously, we don’t want people with contagious diseases being allowed to walk amongst the non-infected, but why does a girl birth require a longer period of waiting before being cleansed than a boy? How can killing an animal and placing it’s blood on my ear, thumb and toe clean me?

These laws fall into the category (for me, at least) of Chukim: laws for which we do not understand the reason. And what I want to say about these today is simply this: it doesn’t matter why. That’s right- do you really think that understanding why God gave us these laws and what their meaning is all about will get you any closer to salvation?  All it can do is satisfy our curiosity, and (maybe) make us feel a little more desirous to obey. I think we can easily understand that these laws of cleanliness are another form of making sure the people of God are separated from the rest of the world, of clean not being soiled by the unclean, where our physical cleanliness represents our spiritual cleanliness.

But, again, if we ask the “Acid Test” question, “How does this affect my salvation?”, the answer has to be that understanding the reasons behind these laws will not “save” us. Obedience is how we get blessings, but it is faith alone that saves us. Faithful observance is how we demonstrate our faith, so it doesn’t matter why God wants a woman to wait a month after giving birth to a girl but only two weeks after a boy before she presents herself to the Kohan for cleansing. It doesn’t matter why we wait outside the camp 7 days and not 10, or 3, or at all. It doesn’t matter why God gave us these laws and it doesn’t matter why He wants us to do these things.

What does matter is that He tells us these are to be done. That’s it; that’s all we need, and all anyone should be concerned about. I once read that any god that can be understood by the mind of Man is not worthy of the worship of Man. I think that’s a great statement- it certainly makes sense to me. If I can understand God’s purposes, and I can understand all that He does and why, how much more “holy” can He be than me? The Bible tells us God is holy and high above us, that our holiness is but filthy rags compared to His holiness. I mean, just looking upon His presence will kill us! So how can I expect, in any way, to understand Him? To be at the same level with God, intellectually or spiritually, to make sense of everything He says and demands?

How many people have you met during your lifetime that drive themselves crazy (and eventually those around them, too) worrying about things that they have no right or need to worry about? Don’t they drive you nuts, along with themselves, when they worry about the price of eggs in China, or how someone may feel about something that someone else might do or say? If I do this, then someone, somewhere, might have some problem with it so I better not do it. Oy! I hate that! There’s nothing wrong with being compassionate, but don’t waste compassion on self-doubt and a poor self-image. And don’t waste your intellectual and spiritual energy trying to make sense of something that you will never understand. Stay focused on what you need to do to keep yourself right with God.

These laws in Leviticus, as well as other places in the Torah, are given to us by God to separate us from the rest of the world, to show us how to be holy because He is holy and because we are to represent Him; they are to guide us in our everyday lives with regard to worshipping God and treating each other. That’s it. That’s all we need to know.

And if that isn’t enough for you, then the strength of your faith is what you should be worrying about, and not why turtle doves can be an acceptable substitute for lambs.