Give the Argument About Shabbat Rest a Rest

Every Friday and Saturday I see posts all over the Hebraic Roots and Christian Discussion Groups I am a member of about the Sabbath (Shabbat, in Hebrew), which is the 7th day. Most decry the Christian moving of the Shabbat to a Sunday, and many are very confused about what can and what cannot be done on the Shabbat.

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The Bible tells us all one, definitive thing about the Shabbat- it is to be kept holy. Holy, as I have said many times, simply means to be separated, and the Shabbat is to be holy, i.e. separated from our regular activities and dedicated to rest and to God. There can’t be any reasonable argument against this simple definition of what the Shabbat is: a day to be separated from our regular scheduled activities and dedicated to resting and to God.

The next question is: what, exactly, does it mean to rest?  And, as Shakespeare wrote, “There’s the rub!”

I will not tell you what you should do on the Shabbat. I will also not accept anyone telling me what I should do on the Shabbat; anyone, except God, of course, and he told me that I should rest from my regular work. To me (and you each have to determine what this means for you), resting is not doing that which I normally do on a regular basis that is not restful for me. As for dedicating the day to God, I dedicate every day to God and in this, I may be guilty of not separating the Shabbat from the rest of the week.

Will I follow the strict limitations that are found in the Talmud? No, I will not. I don’t believe that God thinks walking a certain distance is not work, but going a few feet further is work. I do not believe that driving my car is forbidden, and if I want to do work in the garden or around the house, which I don’t normally do during the week, although I will work up a sweat and it is often hard toiling, it is also restful for me in my spirit and my body (I love a good workout.)

Why is driving a car forbidden? We are told not to light a fire on the Shabbat (Exodus 35), and when you drive you are lighting a fire every time the spark plug creates the spark to ignite the atomized fuel in the cylinder.

There are so many rabbinic restrictions on people regarding the Shabbat, and I see neophytes in the Hebraic Roots Movement confused about them. The pressure from others to conform to strict restrictions is a new form of the legalism that the Galatians were being subjected to.  Look- if you want to spend the entire day in a Synagogue or sit quietly at home, not walk very far, not spend any money or doing any kind of physical activity at all (not even making the bed), I do not think that is wrong or a bad thing IF it is what you believe God wants from you.

Personally, on Saturday I will ride my bike, I will spend money if I need to go to the grocery store and I wil go out to brunch with Donna if we feel like it. I will drive my car if I need to go somewhere, and I will do many other things that many people (especially Orthodox Jews) would say I should not be doing. Do I do this in order to purposefully sin against God? Of course not! I do what I do on the Shabbat because I find it restful; if Donna and I want to see a movie on a Saturday, we will go. It is time together, it is restful, and it is not denying God our attention and devotion. That I give to God 24/7/365…and 366 in Leap Years!

I am not telling anyone that they can do whatever they want to do on the Shabbat, but if what they do is restful, enjoyable, connect’s them with family, and includes worship of and communion with God, then as far as I am concerned, that can’t be a bad thing. Maybe I am wrong, and if so, then I will have to ask forgiveness from God for misunderstanding him. I believe he will let me know if I am really off the mark.

If you don’t feel comfortable doing something on the Shabbat, then don’t do it. But don’t not do something just because someone else told you that you can’t. Ask God to show you what he wants from you, and always remember that it is our intrinsic nature to avoid God’s instructions, so filter what you want to do from what you think God wants you to (or not do), and when in doubt go with what you think God wants.

Thank you for being here, and please subscribe, share me out and buy my books. I use the income (what little there is) to send my books and Bibles to people who ask me for them.

And I always welcome comments, so long as you are nice.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch Ha Shem!

Salvation From Both a Jewish and Christian Perspective- Part 5

In part 4 of this series, we learned how these different perspectives evolved. Today we will look at ways that we can try to reconcile these vastly different ideologies to come to a singular, correct understanding of who the Messiah is and what we can expect from him.

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To truly understand the Messiah, we need to look at what we are told about him from the original source, which is the Tanakh (the “Jewish” Bible) and with a proper interpretation of the prophecies we find there. When I say a proper interpretation, I am referring to the dual prophecies regarding the salvation of Israel. In some of the Messianic prophecies, the rabbinical interpretation has been that the prophecy is about Israel, the nation and is not about the Messiah. However, this teaching (looking back in history) is only half-true.

Prophecy can be both spiritual and physical. For example, Isaiah 9:6 (about the child being born and the government on his shoulders) was referring to King Hezekiah- no doubt about that, but that was the physical interpretation. The spiritual interpretation was for the distant future and clearly points to the Messiah. The prophecy in Matthew 24:29 (actually this comes from Isaiah 34:4 and Haggai 2:6 and 2:21) physically means that Jerusalem will be destroyed by Rome, but spiritually refers to the final Tribulation when Messiah returns.

The “New Covenant”, which we find in Jeremiah 31:31, refers physically to the return to Jerusalem of the exiled Babylonian Jews under Cyrus, and the covenant that we can have through Yeshua ha Maschiach (physical return and spiritual salvation.)

One last example: In 2 Samuel 7:12-13, God tells David that he will establish his kingdom forever through one of his descendants who will build a house for his (God) name. The physical prophecy is about Solomon and the spiritual side is about Yeshua. The house Solomon build did not last forever, but the house Yeshua has built, the spiritual house, is an everlasting dominion.

Now that we have established prophecies can be dual, we need to first approach Jews who reject Jesus and Christianity with the truth about Yeshua and his teachings, as well as the truth about Christianity. The first rule of approaching a Jewish person with the Good News of Messiah is this: do NOT use anything from the New Covenant.

First off, Jews do not recognize it as scripture. To use verses from the New Covenant to convince a Jew about Jesus is no different than using verses from the Quran to convince a Jew Allah is their God. Ain’t gonna work:  no how, no way!

Next rule: do not use “Christian” terminology, especially the term “under the blood” because this is a filthy thing to the Jewish mindset. Do not use the name “Jesus Christ” because of what that name represents to Jews (as we discussed in Part 2 of this lesson.) Instead, use Yeshua ha Maschiach when you talk about the Messiah. And, again, use “Messiah” not “Savior” because Jesus Christ is a Savior, but Jews expect a Messiah. I know they mean the same thing, but Jews rarely use the term ‘Savior” so it will help them stay open to hearing you.

The most important thing is for you to know the prophecies about the Messiah that are in the Tanakh. If anything comes up from them about the New Covenant refer back to the original prophecy in the Tanakh.

You can also use extra-biblical writings to help. The works of Josephus are considered to be historically accurate and trustworthy, and he mentions in his history of the Jewish and Roman Wars about Yeshua (referred to as Jesus in some manuscripts) and even how he rose after the third day.

Most Jews, as we have discussed, expect one appearance of Messiah. To offset this we can use Isaiah 9:6 and Isaiah 53: Isaiah tells us the kingdom of the son of David will be established and rule forever, yet he later says that the Messiah will die. The only way to have a dead person rule forever is for that person to make two appearances, or (more accurately) to be resurrected.  We can also find this in Hosea 6:2-3, where Hosea prophecies that after being torn we will be healed and that after 3 days we will be raised up (physical Israel and spiritually the Messiah.) There are also the prophecies in Zachariah: Zachariah 9:9 tells of the king of Israel riding into Jerusalem on a donkey and Zachariah 14:4 tells us about the return of Messiah in the Acharit HaYamim (End Days) and how God will rescue his people. There is also the reference here of the humble king and the fierce king, which coincides with Talmudic prophecy.

In the Talmud, Succah 52a it says the Messiah is the son of Joseph who must be slain, which coincides with Daniel 9:26 declaring that the Messiah will come and be put to death. The Talmud, the Targum and even the Zohar (which Judaism considers heretical) all agree that the Messiah will be both a suffering servant and a conquering king. You cannot have one Messiah fulfilling two totally opposites roles at the same time, so there have to be two comings.

The last thing to cover today is to know the Jewish roots of Christianity so that you can show where today’s Christian thoughts and beliefs about Messiah are similar, if not the same, as the Jewish beliefs. Here are some of those similarities:

  • Through the work of the Messiah the people will be reconciled back to God by the forgiveness of their sins;
  • the miracles that the Messiah will perform;
  • the regathering of Israel in the End Days (use “Acharit HaYamim” and get some extra points!) and all will live in peace;
  • there will be a one-world government, a Theocracy, with Messiah as King over all the world;
  • death and sickness will be done away with; and
  • there will be a great battle that Messiah will win.

We are getting close to the end of this lesson. The next time we get together for this we will continue to learn how to approach the Jewish people with the truth about Yeshua by debunking the many misinterpretations of New Covenant writings which have contributed to the rejection by Jews of anything Christian.

 

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Thank you for being here, please don’t hesitate to comment (just be nice) and until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Salvation From Both a Jewish and Christian Perspective- Part 2

In Part 1 of this teaching series, we reviewed the meaning of “salvation” and the Jewish expectations of what the Messiah will do when he comes, based on both the Tanakh and the Talmud.  Today, in Part 2, we will examine why Yeshua was not, and still isn’t, accepted as the Messiah by the majority of the Jewish population.

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For the purposes of this discussion, when we talk about “the Jews” during the time of Yeshua’s ministry we are referring to the main portion of the Jewish population living in and around Jerusalem during the First Century. And we need to remember that these people were mostly “Am Ha’aretz“, which means people of the land. The reference is not very complimentary and refers to those who are not well educated regarding the Bible or Jewish tradition. At that time, people looked to the Sanhedrin and their local Levites for instruction and guidance in their worship and how to live. Even today, most of the Jewish people look to their Rabbi for instruction and interpretation, and not to God through the guidance of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit.)

As we are told in the New Covenant writings, Yeshua performed many miracles and taught in a different and more meaningful way. Yet, he was not accepted by the majority of the Jews. And, even with the publication of the B’rit Chadashah (New Covenant), in modern times “mainstream” Judaism still rejects him, not just as the Messiah but some even reject the idea that he ever existed! And, as we will soon see, the actions “Christianity” has performed against the Jewish people over the millennia have made it nearly impossible for a Jewish person to believe anything a Christian says.

The Jews living during the time of Yeshua’s ministry rejected him based on his inability to meet the expectations they had been taught regarding their Messiah.

First off, Yeshua had no father. The Tanakh tells us the Messiah will be a son (i.e., descendant) of David, and because Judaism is a Patriarchal religion, one’s heritage comes through the father’s line. Because Yeshua was not conceived by Joseph he had no father, therefore he couldn’t be a son of David.

Another reason for the Jewish rejection of Yeshua is because the Bible says that God will raise up a prophet like Moses; however, Jewish tradition stated that the age of prophecy ended circa 300 BCE, centuries before Yeshua was born. Because the Talmud taught there were no more prophets, Yeshua could not be a prophet like Moses.

One of the major expectations was that the Messiah will rebuild the Temple and reestablish the Levitical service. Well, when Yeshua walked the earth, the Temple was there! The service was actively being performed! Therefore, how could Yeshua be the Messiah? Besides, this, there was no peace throughout the world, and under Roman rule there most certainly wasn’t a world government that recognized God as the one and only King of kings ruling from Jerusalem.

The Pharisees, who saw Yeshua as a threat to their political power over the people, also spread lies about him that last to this very day. One of these was that Yeshua changed the Torah because he violated the Shabbat (see John 9:14.) The Rabbis since then have added that Isaiah 53, one of the strongest and most accurate prophecies about Yeshua found in the Tanakh, was not prophesizing about the Messiah but about Israel. They say the references to the suffering servant are a metaphor about the nation of Israel and should not be taken as a literal prophecy about a person. In fact, in modern times this one chapter from the book of Isaiah is not even read in the Synagogue!

One of the strongest and hardest to refute arguments against Yeshua being the Messiah is that the Messiah was to bring salvation to the world, a universal redemption for the people of Israel. Yet, while Yeshua lived that did not happen. There was neither spiritual nor political nor even a social redemption of any kind.

It is easy to understand why it was so difficult for the Jewish people at that time to accept him: he didn’t perform many of the expected events the people had been taught by the Rabbis he was supposed to do, and he was rejected by the leaders of the people.  As we are told in John 12:42, even those in leadership who accepted him as their Messiah kept that fact a secret out of fear of retribution by the Sanhedrin.

But what about since then? What about all that we have learned, the additional events recorded in Acts, the miracles of the Gospels that many other Jews have been able to read about who didn’t know about it then? Why, with all this historical evidence, haven’t the Jewish people readily accepted Yeshua as the Messiah God promised to Israel?

The reason is simple: early Christianity totally separated itself from Judaism at the Council of Nicene, and since then has been such an enemy of Judaism that no Jew in his or her right mind would accept anything “Christian.”

Huh? What could they have done that was so terrible? Good question. Here are some examples:

  1. During the Crusades hundreds of thousands of Jews were slaughtered because they refused to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior and reject Judaism (even his name was changed from Yeshua to Jesus to remove any trace of “Jewishness” from their Messiah);
  2. The Inquisition also saw the torture and slaughter of thousands upon thousands of Jews, not to mention all Jews being expelled from Spain, if they refused to reject Judaism and accept Jesus as their God (by now God, himself, was being left behind as Christianity gave all glory to Jesus);
  3. Because to a Jew, all non-Jews are Gentiles, a Gentile is the same as a Christian. During the Second World War, the Nazi’s (really, only a select group of them) murdered millions of Jews, but do you know what was inscribed on their belt buckles? “Gott mit uns”, which means “God is with us.” This statement of divine hatred for Jews was no different than what had been heard by Jews being killed by Christians since the second century; and
  4. The on-going persecution of Jews by the Gentile (Christian) world.  The Pogroms in Russia, the rejection by America of Jews trying to escape Nazi Germany, and even today we see the constant unjustified accusations by the media against Israel through the use of fake news and purposefully not showing the Israeli side. Don’t even ask me about the unbelievable injustice against Israel being done at the United Nations. As far as I am concerned, it should be renamed “The United Nations against Israel!”

To conclude today’s lesson, let’s review why the Jewish people haven’t accepted Yeshua as their Messiah.  The answer is two-fold: first, during his ministry, Yeshua did not perform many of the activities that the Messiah was supposed to perform based on Talmudic interpretation of the Tanakh, and he was rejected by the power elite of the Jewish people.

Secondly, and I believe even more influential in why Jews have rejected Jesus, is the historical and continual hatred for and persecution of Jews by “Jesus-loving” Christians that began as early as the end of the First Century. That was when the Gentile followers of Yeshua first began to separate themselves from their Jewish roots and reject the Torah. This separation was “set in stone” with Constantine and the Council of Nicene in the Third Century, which created the dogma and traditions of modern Christianity.

Should we really be surprised that Rabbis throughout the centuries have taught against Jesus Christ and the religion he created, which has tried to destroy Judaism? Why would any Jew even think of accepting or believing anything that is in the Christian Bible?

The rejection by the Jewish people of Jesus Christ as the Messiah is completely understandable when we consider the above reasons.  I was, as most every Jew is, brought up being taught that Jesus Christ was a Jew who rejected the Torah and Judaism, creating his own religion that wants to destroy Jews.

Next time we will look into what Christians believe their Messiah will do, and why there is such a difference between the Jewish and Christian expectations.

 

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Until then, l’hitroat and Baruch Ha Shem!!

 

What Does Do Not Add or Take Away Really Mean?

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There are many times within the Bible, from Genesis through to Revelation, that we are told we are not to add to or take away from the commandments we are given. The most specific commands I could find regarding this can be found in Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32; 13:1; and in Revelation 22:18-19.

Too often I have noticed that people use these admonitions as a means of denying the validity of both Jewish and Christian traditions, rites and holidays that are not specifically commanded in the Torah. They believe the words “do not add to or take away from” as universally encompassing any and all words, ceremonies, activities or regulations outside exactly what is written in the Torah.

This is a form of legalistic interpretation, and although their heart is in the right place, their understanding is incorrect.

When Moses warned against adding to or taking away from the instructions God gave us he meant not to change only those things which he just instructed us to do. Rabbi Rashi gave an example by saying that we are told to use 4 species for the Lulav, so we shouldn’t use 5 or 3. The idea is that we are not to make arbitrary changes to the laws; that, however, does not mean we cannot make new additions to the Mosaic laws, as conditions require. Obviously, with the advent of new technology and moving from an agrarian economy to a service economy, the Mosaic Laws, taken in a stoic and unbending literal meaning, in many cases cannot be applied.

Let us consider that we do not change anything in the Torah at all- literally, not one word is to be added or taken away. If that is the case, then the only way we can be sure we obey that command is to read the Torah in the original Hebrew it was written in. For example, if we are not to add to the words in the book, then English cannot be used to translate the Bible because we would have to add many, many words.

Here’s an example: in Hebrew, the possessive is usually the noun with the ending having a “-nu” added. “Adonai” means “Lord” but when we write “Adonainu” it means “our Lord” The Hebrew is a single word but the English translation requires the use of two words, which is a violation of the command not to add anything to the words in the book. Imagine how many uses of the possessive we find in the Bible, and how many words will have to be added just to interpret the Hebrew correctly. Not to mention that the Torah has been translated into scores of different languages, each of them having their own need to add or remove certain words to make the translation fit.

Can you see how ridiculous it becomes if we insist on an absolutely literal interpretation of that command?

The Torah is a book of instruction- it is the ultimate User’s Manual for worshiping God and treating each other. Torah doesn’t mean “law”, it means “instruction” and the instructions we are given are to be performed as God said to. That means we are to do what God said to do the way God said to do it, but it does NOT mean we cannot adjust to a changing world. R. Maimonides has said that the sages (Sanhedrin) are allowed to temporarily suspend some requirements or allow that which is forbidden under extreme circumstances. These are not to be permanent changes, but under extreme conditions and only to allow what needs to be done only while there is a need for it.

And under no circumstance can additional requirements be considered as Divine instructions- that is what it really boils down to when Moses said do not add to or take away from what God gave us:  the instructions in the Torah are not to be changed, deleted, altered or modified in any way. However, what new “fences around the law” are required (aka, Talmudic instruction) are acceptable so long as they are not presented as Divine instruction. 

This is where Judaism has violated the Torah- the Talmud is studied and revered as scripture by some of the more Orthodox sects of Judaism, and that is what Moses said we should not do. There is nothing wrong with traditional forms of worship if they do not nullify or over-rule God’s commands, AND if they are recognized as man-made and not presented as Divinely ordered.

Here is an example: the Divine order in Torah is that we are not to boil a calf in its mother’s milk; the fence around that law (given in the Talmud) is that we are not to even mix meat and dairy. I, myself, will never boil a calf in its mother’s milk but I will go to Steak and Shake and order a cheeseburger, fries and a milkshake (Oy! Now I’m hungry.) I am not violating God’s commandment, and the truth is even if I never mix meat and dairy, I am not violating God’s commandment, and I am not sinning- I am simply doing a little more than the minimum to ensure I do not violate the Divine order. That is really what the Talmudic/Rabbinic traditions are designed to do- they are to help us perform God’s commandments properly and not accidentally violate them (hence the term “fences around the law”, i.e. a way to prevent us from accidentally trespassing the law.)

So, here is how I look at “traditional” rites and holidays: do they change what God has said? Is celebrating Hanukkah (not specified in Lev. 23) a violation of God’s commandments? In my opinion, it isn’t because God couldn’t include it when he gave the Moedim to Moses simply because it hadn’t occurred yet. Is thanking God for a miraculous military victory which saved Judaism wrong? How could it be? How can anything that is a loving and worshipful celebration of the Lord and what he has done for us ever be wrong?

On the other hand, is failing to honor the Sabbath OK? Certainly not! Or if we decided we wanted to celebrate Sukkot for only 5 days, would that be OK? Certainly not! But what if I want to have a party and read the Magillah of Hadassah on Purim, is that OK? It certainly is!

God gave us the Torah so we can know how he wants us to live. It is not all-encompassing, it does not cover everything we will run into as the world changes, and it is not absolutely the exact words God gave to Moses. There is no way we can know that. So, nu? What is it? It is a collection of instructions that are the minimum we should do to obey God. Anything outside of the Torah that is required by our religious leadership is not a sin as long as that requirement is in accordance with God’s instructions; they must not nullify, overrule or change them, and they must not be presented as a Divine instruction.

What we are given in the Talmud and Constantinian Christian dogma is man-made instruction. It is not Divine, it is not absolutely required, and if it goes against what God said (such as changing the day we celebrate the Sabbath) it is a sin.

So, celebrate the Lord, give thanks in every way you can and don’t restrict your thankfulness to only what is in the Torah.

Is Absence of a Commandment a Commandment?

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Once again we are celebrating the holiday of Hanukkah. This is the celebration of the military victory the Israelites had over the last of the Seleucid kings, Antiochus Epiphanes who was instigating Hellenism- the obliteration of any religion, language and culture that is not Greek. It also celebrates the cleansing and rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem, which had suffered what Daniel prophesied as the abomination of desecration caused by the Greeks sacrificing pigs to their gods using the altar in the Temple. The miracle of the one day supply of holy oil lasting for 8 days is why we call this the Festival of Lights.

Here’s something to consider: if it wasn’t for God’s intervention and the Maccabees leadership, it is possible that the Enemy of God, that old lion HaSatan, could have wiped out not just the Jewish people, but Judaism, altogether! And, because the Messiah comes from the Jewish people, if Antiochus had been successful, there would be no salvation for the world.

This event occurred roughly 165 years before Yeshua’s ministry, and Yeshua, himself, celebrated it in Jerusalem (John 10:22), yet it is not a festival that God commanded us to observe (the celebration of Hanukkah at that time is also confirmed by Josephus in his Antiquities of the Jews 12.7.323-326.)

The story of Hanukkah, found in the books of the Maccabees (1 and 2) are not in the Tanakh, but in the collection of extra-biblical books called the Apocrypha. These are not considered to be scripture by any of the Judeo-Christian religions, except Roman Catholicism. The celebration and rituals for Hanukkah are Talmudic, meaning Hanukkah is a man-made tradition created by the Rabbis of old and found in the Babylonian Talmud tractate Shabbat 21b.

For this reason, there is some contention whether or not we should celebrate it at all. The main reasons for ignoring it are that it is not a commanded Holy Day and that it is a tradition, and Yeshua said that we should not follow the traditions of men.

So…let’s take a look at these objections, and let’s start with the latter objection: Yeshua said all traditions of men are bad. The only thing wrong with this argument is that it is, well… wrong!

One of the most quoted New Covenant verses to justify that all traditions of men are wrong is Mark 7:6-13. That chapter starts with the Pharisees complaining to Yeshua that his Talmudim (Disciples) do not wash their hands before eating, which is a violation of the tradition of N’tlat Yadayin. Here is Yeshua’s answer to them:

He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules. You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.” And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother, and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death. But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God)— then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”

The complaint Yeshua had was not against our traditions, but that the Pharisees were using these traditions to nullify God’s commandments. In other words, Yeshua is not against our traditions but when they are used to nullify God’s commandment.

And you might be surprised to know that the Talmud agrees with Yeshua!! Here is an excerpt from a report on the website yashanet.com regarding this topic:

The Talmud states that the ritual of hand washing (Netilat Yadayim) is invalid if the mind and heart is not also “cleansing.” In the Talmud, Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai, stated: “In life it is not the dead who make you unclean; nor is it the water you wash your hands with, but rather the ordinances of the King of Kings that purifies.” Much later, Rabbi Maimonides (Rambam) made a similar comment, “For to confine oneself to cleaning the outward appearance through washing and cleaning the garment, while having at the same time a lust for various pleasures and unbridled license … merits the utmost blame.”

Sounds like whitewashed sepulchers full of dirty bones, doesn’t it?

This report goes on to cover many other issues of Yeshua and the Talmud, and the general conclusion is that Yeshua was a Torah observant man who also followed the traditions of the Rabbis (I am adding-when they did not nullify God’s commands!)

Here are other conclusions from that report:

Rabbi John Fischer, Ph.D. Th.D wrote: “The Gospels provide sufficient evidence to the effect that Jesus did not oppose any prescription of the written or oral Mosaic Law.”

Finkel; G. Friedlander wrote: “In effect, Yeshua built a “fence around the Law” – as indicated by the Aramaic and Hebrew underlying “fulfill” – much as the earlier sages cited by the Talmud did (Pirke Avot 1.2). And, his fence is remarkably similar to that of the sages.”

Tim Hegg wrote: “Yeshua certainly follows the halachah of the Sages in spite of the fact that such traditions are not explicitly stated in the Written Torah.”

Shemayah Yardin wrote: “There is no evidence that suggests the Netzarim abandoned their Orthodox Judaism, and there is no evidence that proves the Netzarim rejected the Oral Torah. There is however, ample evidence in scripture and history, as shown extensively, that Rebbe Yeshua, his Shlichim (Apostles) and all his followers (the Netzarim) all supported, endorsed, taught and lived according to Written and Oral Torah, and the halachot, customs and traditions of the Sages.”

David Stern wrote: “Based on all of my research, myself and my colleagues, have found without any doubt, that Yeshua’s teachings and life style was closer to Hasidic Judaism than any other form of Judaism.”

So it is clear when we look at the Talmud and the research of biblical scholars (Jewish ones, to boot!) that Yeshua was NOT against traditions. He was against those people who used traditions to overrule what God commanded from us.

Now that we know traditions are not bad and that Yeshua did not reject all man-made traditions, we can look at the first objection to celebrating Hanukkah: it is not a festival created by God.

Since we know that tradition is not unacceptable when practiced correctly, the real question regarding celebrating anything that is not specifically defined and commanded in the Torah is this- is the absence of a commandment a commandment?

In other words, if we are not told to do something, does doing it automatically make it a sin?

Well, we know the converse is true- if we are told not to do something and we do, that is a sin. No problem there, right? We all agree? Good.

But…if we are NOT told, for instance, to celebrate a particular event, is celebrating it a sin?

Sin is a violation of God’s commandment, but if God doesn’t give us a commandment about something, then what?

There are many verses in the Torah about which animals are allowed for the different sacrifices but there is nothing telling us how to kill them. Based on other laws about treatment of our animals we can infer that the Torah would require that we kill them humanely, but (again) God does not give us a specified procedure. However, we do have one- it is called the Shechita, and it is found in the Talmud. It is a man-made tradition. However, it is obvious that God allowed it since that is how the sacrifice was performed by Aaron and his descendants up to the time Yeshua taught at the Temple in Jerusalem and even past that time until the Temple was destroyed.

And all that time these sacrifices had been accepted by God.

There is no specified or commanded procedure for performing the B’rit Milah (circumcision) but God has accepted it from Abraham’s day onward. The procedure is outlined in the Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Shabbath 133a and b.

Here we have looked at two of the most important elements in the Jewish worship of God, and how we are to perform them is not commanded in the Torah. The Talmud defined how we are to perform them and this has been accepted by God- even though they are man-made traditions.

It is clear that Jewish traditions are not unacceptable to God and that Yeshua did not deny the validity of man-made traditions. These wrongful teachings were designed and propagated by the Enemy to separate us from God, and it is my passionate opinion that anyone who universally denies the validity of the Talmud or Jewish traditions that do not specifically nullify God’s commandments are doing the work of the Enemy of God.

Those celebrations and traditions which are man-made and designed to give thanks to God and demonstrate a heartfelt worship and love for him are acceptable to God. It is not the tradition that is the issue, but the manner in which it is practiced.

Washing of hands before the meal is not a sin, but telling someone who doesn’t wash their hands before eating that they are sinning is a sin. Celebrating Hanukkah as a way to give thanks to God for his intervention which caused the miraculous salvation of his people is certainly acceptable to God. Celebrating Hanukkah as nothing more than a day to exchange gifts and eat latkes (I believe) is not acceptable to God as a form of true worship.

I certainly hope this settles the matter for people, once and for all. As Isaiah said (which Yeshua quoted), it isn’t what we do that is the issue, it is what is in our hearts when we do it. Following the Torah exactly with a heart bent on simply following the rules is nothing more than legalism, and celebrating or practicing man-made traditions with heartfelt thanksgiving and to show our love for and worship of God is righteous and acceptable to God.

Parashah Shemini 2018 (Eighth) Leviticus 9 – 11

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

 

In this reading we continue with the sanctification ceremonies of the Tabernacle and the Cohanim (Priests.) Starting with Chapter 11, we are given the Laws of Purity that God has commanded for all people.  But before we get to the first of these laws, the Dietary Laws (Kashrut, or Kosher Laws) we have to deal with an unhappy incident: the death of Aaron’s two oldest sons, Nadab and Abihu.

Chapter 10 describes the events that led to the death of these men, and the aftermath of their actions. Nadab and Abihu were under the influence of liquor, and took it upon themselves to take fire that was not from the sanctuary (“strange fire”) and place themselves in their father’s position by offering it to the Lord. Their punishment was to be struck dead by God. Aaron was told (by Moshe as instructed by God) not to mourn for what happened. Aaron and the other priests (his other sons) did not eat of the sacrifice and although this was another rebellious action (as High Priest he was to partake in the eating of that sacrifice), the Rabbi’s explain that Aaron’s answer to Moses meant that they all felt unworthy and spiritually unclean because of their emotional pain. Moses accepted this as understandable.

Chapter 11 contains the commandments regarding Kashrut- the Kosher Laws. I could write a book on this chapter alone, but all I will say today is that whether or not there is an explanation for these laws that makes sense to a human being, God is not required to make us understand why he does what he does, or why he tells us what to do. He is God, we are his creation, his children and his authority is over us from eternity past and will be over us until eternity future. The only “reason” we need to obey the Kosher Laws is because God said we should.  In fact, that is the only reason we need to obey any of God’s commandments. And if that isn’t enough for you, then you need to be more concerned with the strength of your faith and trust in God than what’s on your table.

The message for us today is what Moses tells Aaron that God says, right after Nadab and Abihu are executed, and this is in Leviticus 10:3:

“…I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified.”

The meaning of this, as explained by the Rabbis, is that God holds those who are closest to him and who have been given authority to lead his people to a much higher standard of behavior than others. Unlike most of the world, where if you have a greater level of social or political power you are extended more privileges (meaning you are not subject to the law like others), with God the more power you are given the more responsible you must be with that power.  Consequently, when the people see the example of righteousness that their leaders provide, God will be glorified in their eyes, as well.

The Talmud says, “With the righteous, God is exacting even to a hair’s breadth.” What this means to us is that as we are more obedient, more self-disciplined to act in righteous ways and more of an example of how God wants all people to worship him and treat each other, then God, himself, will be glorified in the eyes of all that see us.

In other words, the more godly we become in our everyday lives the more people will respect and admire God. Think of it like this: when you hear a concert orchestra play a beautiful piece of music, you admire the composer even more than the ones playing his music.

Going forward let’s remember that every day we must watch our tongues and be aware of what we do so that we will not be held accountable for doing anything that reflects poorly on ourselves, for when we do that we dishonor the Lord. I know the pain of dishonoring God for I do it constantly; I get comfortable in a situation or with people, and I act more like myself which, inevitably, leads to me doing something that dishonors God. It really hurts, and I am embarrassed to confess it, but confess I must. Why? Because I want to hand my sin over to God, but you cannot give away something that you do not own, right? Therefore, before I can give away my sin, I must own it, or should I say, own up to it? If we excuse our sins, we don’t “own” them and will not be able to give them up to the Lord. Yeshua took on our sins, but he can’t take them away from us- we have to give them to him. That’s a difficult word to understand for many because they just want to believe “Jesus took on your sins” and there’s nothing you have to do. WRONG!! What we are learning from the Torah today is that if you profess to be a Believer in God and Messiah, then you are to be held more accountable for your actions, and as such you must confess and take ownership of the sins you commit. That is the only way you can be free of them: once you own your sin, you can give it up to Yeshua who is able to take it from you, but only when you offer it up to him.

Yeshua doesn’t take your sin away from you automatically- you have to offer it up to him, and unless you “own” it you cannot give it away.

We are to be holy, as God is holy, and that is a very, VERY difficult calling. We will fail, we will need to try and try again and again to be better, and we need to remember that the closer we get to God, the more accountable we are for our actions. It is a constant uphill battle against ourselves and our Yetzer Hara (evil inclination; iniquity) but with God’s help and by calling on the Ruach haKodesh (Holy Spirit) for guidance and strength, we can do it.

As you will often hear me say, we can never be sinless but we can always sin less.

Do You Think God is Your Drinking Buddy?

Having been raised Jewish, even though we were not at all “religious” when I was young, the one thing that I have found universally true with all my Jewish friends and family is a respect for God and for His Holy name.

What I have found prevalent with Messianic and Hebraic Roots Christians (maybe as a left-over from being raised Christian) is a nearly universal disregard for the holiness of God’s name, in that it is used as often as any other person’s name.  People constantly use the Holy Name of God, the Tetregrammaton, in postings and banners and as often as we would use the words “Lord”, “God” or “Adonai.” I don’t get it- if they want to be more “Jewish” why do they do what Jews would never do?

You know what? Maybe that’s the difference- maybe that’s what I have been missing all along! I have been thinking that Hebraic Roots and Messianic Christians want to be more “Jewish”, in their worship and their obedience to Torah, but that may not be what they want. I may be the one who’s missing the point here- maybe they want to worship more like Yeshua did, but they don’t want to be Jewish. They want to be comfortable with what they are used to and ignore what they don’t want to do. Christians grow up using “Jesus” all the time, and much of Christianity teaches He is God. Now that they have this zeal to know the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, I suppose they think they can use His name as often as they used “Jesus”, although Jews almost never use the Holy Name of God.

And more than that- some change how it is spelled! Many substitute a “W” for the “V” in the third letter, citing that this is how it was pronounced in Paleo-Hebrew. There isn’t a Jew anywhere that does that, but these new “scholars of Judaism” think they should change thousands of years of respect for God’s name because they are, what? Better than the Jews? More knowledgeable than the Jews? Closer to God than His own people?

I’ll tell you why they do this: it’s to make Judaism more comfortable, to make certain parts of it more like the Christian ways of worship they were brought up with. Just like the “Church” fathers of old that separated themselves from their Jewish roots, these new “converts” to Jewish worship want to keep what they are comfortable with, even if it goes against (and insults) the Jewish worship that they want to partake in.

Why do Jews distrust Christians? One of the main reasons is that Christianity has persecuted Jews, and why? If you ask me, it’s because Christians feel that Jews are “wrong.” They feel that because Jews haven’t universally accepted Yeshua that they are wrong, that they have rejected God, and (some believe) are no longer considered by God to be His people. And as such, Christianity has felt fully justified in changing all the Jewish laws and festivals to what they think they should be. No wonder Jews feel like second class citizens in a Christian world. And , at least to me, when I see someone using the Holy Name and/or changing it, or hear someone use Yahweh or Jehovah, over and over, I get a sick feeling in my stomach and feel like saying, “Excuse me, but God chose us and we have known Him a LOT longer than you have, so what makes you think you can just come in and change how we should address God?”  The misinterpretation of Micah and other scripture to try to justify that God, Himself, says we should constantly use His Holy name (which He has kept hidden all this time) is just a way to “Christianize” Judaic worship, and is an insult to Jewish tradition.

It is one of the most important Jewish traditions that we never use the Holy Name of God. The Orthodox won’t even use the word “God”, and will substitute HaShem (The Name) or Adonai (which translates to “Lord”) instead. They would never, ever think of using Jehovah or Yahweh (which is not His name) in speech, or write the four letters in normal usage.

Traditions are important: they bind us culturally and religiously, and give a sense of comfort to those who see these traditions pass from generation to generation. I have introduced a few traditional Jewish prayers into the Hebraic Roots congregation I worship with, and some of those who had been raised Jewish felt a sense of “home” and belonging when they heard the prayers they were brought up with being used again.

The problem Yeshua had with traditions was not anything to do with traditions, per se- His issue was with those specific man-made traditions that were over-ruling the commandments from God. There is nothing wrong with tradition, so long as it doesn’t replace or change the commandment from God that it is based upon. For instance, Kosher laws are very difficult to work with, and the Rabbinical Halacha (“Way to Walk”, defined in the Talmud) adds many stringent regulations over the simple laws of Kashrut God gave us in Leviticus 11. But that’s not a bad thing because it doesn’t detract from or over-rule anything God said. As such, I keep Kashrut according to bible only, but if I wanted to have separate dishes, pots and pans, and if I turned lights on Friday before sunset so that they were on during Saturday, and if I didn’t walk any further than the distance I am allowed for a “Shabbat walk”, etc., I would not be doing anything “wrong.”  If, however, I celebrated Shabbat on Sunday, that would present a problem, since God said Saturday is Shabbat and the traditional (i.e., man-made) tradition (of Christianity) is to celebrate it on Sunday. In that case, the tradition is wrong and I should not be a part of it.

For the record: traditions performed from love and respect for God and/or the Jewish people as their motivation is not “legalism”.

Using the Holy name is like calling God by His first name., and just because Hebrews 4:16 says:

So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. 

that doesn’t mean we can slap God on the back and ask, “Yo! Big Guy- WASSUP?”

Using God’s Holy Name is disrespectful- that is all there is to it. When you go to a restaurant, and the waiter says, “Hi guys– I’m Steve and I will be your server tonight.” don’t you feel a little put-off by the uninvited intimacy of addressing you as “guys”? Maybe I’m just an old fogey, but I do. I also feel insulted for my wife, who is not a “guy”. I am sorry, but I expect to be addressed as “Sir” and my wife as “Ma’am” until such time as I offer my name. We are not college pals or go bowling together, and  as such this person should address us respectfully. If we are to address each other with respect, how much more so should we do it to the Lord of Lords and King of Kings?

We are told that God spoke to Moses face-to-face, as with a friend, but do you really think Moses talked to God using God’s Holy name? Moses was the humblest of all men, so it doesn’t seem likely he would have taken it upon himself to address God as he would have to Aaron or any of the other Israelites.

David was a man after God’s own heart, but do you really think he addressed God using the Holy Name? Everything we read about David showed he had the utmost respect for God and admiration. It doesn’t seem likely that he would have taken it upon himself, as with Moses, to use God’s Holy Name often, if ever.

I have gotten to the point of ignoring people that use the Tetregrammaton and change it’s spelling because as often as I have tried to get it through to them they are being disrespectful to God and to Judaism, they ignore me. I am tired of “kicking against the goads” and will leave it up to God to decide how He feels about it. As for me, I am not ever using God’s Holy name- not ever. If God tells me it’s OK, if He comes from heaven and stands in front of me and says, “Steve- you are allowed to address me as you would your drinking buddies because you and me, we’re mates!” , THEN I might use it. But probably not.

The name of God is spelled with a Yud, a Heh, a Vav, and another Heh, and no matter what anyone says, we really do not know exactly how it was pronounced by Moses, or the Hebrews up to the destruction of the Temple by Babylon. Or afterwards, for that matter. There are many different ways to pronounce it, and as many arguments that we shouldn’t use it as there are that we should. For me it all comes down to this: my people have respected God and not used His Holy name for millennia, so who am I to change that?

I will do what Jews have done since before the Exodus: I will show respect for God by not using His Holy name.

God is so far above us, He is the holiest of everything that is holy, and He is our Lord and King, so what makes someone think they can address God like He is their drinking buddy?

What’s Important and What Isn’t ?

In discussions I have had with people about God, like the one I had with Believers I met at breakfast on a cruise this weekend, and also those discussions (cat fights, mostly) I  have followed in some discussion groups on Face Book, I have come to ask myself this question: “What is important, and what isn’t?”

Is it really necessary to know if there is a difference between the Ashkenaz mentioned in the bible and the Ashkenazim Jews from Eastern Europe? Are they descendants of Noah through Japheth? If so, does that mean they aren’t really Jews? Or is the term “Ashkenazim” just being used to identify them as different from the Sephardic Jews?

Better yet…does it matter?

Also, the pronunciation of the Tetregrammaton is vehemently argued, many using a “W” instead of the “V” in the third letter, justifying it by saying that in Paleo-Hebrew  the letter V (vov)  also was pronounced with a “W” sound.  I see the same thing with the Hebrew name for Jesus, Yeshua, being restructured into Yehashua. Which is correct? Is God’s holy name Yahweh? Jehovah? Yehoveh?   Yeh-veh?

Does it matter? Or, more realistically in this case- are we supposed to even know it? Are we supposed to use God’s own name, the Holy Name, as easily as Tom, Dick or Irving?

I have nothing against extra-biblical knowledge and study being used to help better understand the bible, the history of the Jewish people, the history of the split between Jews and Messianic Jews during the 1st to 3rd Century C.E. (that devolved into the many Christian religions we have today), or biblical archaeology. I have always said that when we interpret the bible, in order to properly understand what they meant when they said it, we need to know the cultural and grammatical meanings of the words and expressions they used back then. That knowledge of etymology, archaeology and history isn’t always found in the bible, so we need to look elsewhere.

What I am absolutely certain of, though, is that it is not necessary to know any of that in order to be saved. To be saved we only need to do T’Shuvah (repent), accept that Yeshua (Jesus) is the Messiah God promised and to ask forgiveness of our sins through His name. That’s all- repent of sinning, accept Yeshua as our Messiah, ask forgiveness of sins through His name, and change your life by living more for what God wants than for what you want.

After that, it’s all just gravy. Leaning more about God and what He wants from you is important, and all you need to know about that is in the bible. You do NOT need to go anywhere else. Learning about the history of the world at that time, about Judaism from a Rabbinical viewpoint (through the Talmud and even the Zohar) is OK, so long as you don’t let it get in the way of your salvation!  

What I mean is this: Yeshua died for you so that you could have forgiveness of sin and commune with God in the Olam Haba (world to come) forever. That is all you really need to know for salvation. What you learn from Rabbinical readings will not do any more for you regarding salvation; when you are reading Talmud and Zohar you are going beyond what is in the bible, entering into the realm of man-made information, and you need to step cautiously. Where you are is not where God sent you because what is in these volumes is not from God, it is from men. As such, you will need to remember that no matter how wise (and the Talmud is rife with wisdom) or how holy sounding, or how miraculous, or even just how sensible something sounds….it is not the inspired word of God, it is the inspired word of people.

Let me restate that I have nothing against knowledge. I love to know everything. Throughout my career (and I have had three different carers) I have always been the “Duty Expert”, the one with the answers. I have out-performed many of my peers over the years only because I made sure I knew more about what I was dong than they did. But when it comes to God, salvation and all the related topics, I try to keep it simple because… it is simple.

Moshe told us how simple it is in Deuteronomy 30:11-15:

Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach.  It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?”  Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?”  No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.

Therefore here is my warning, if I may use so strong a word, to those who are new to salvation, or Judaism, or anyone who is thirsty to know more about anything involving God: PLEASE keep focused on the bible as the verifying document. If it isn’t explained in the bible, then whatever it is, it isn’t something God thought you need to know. And another thing- please maintain a humble and open attitude towards others who have different opinions. God gave us all Free Will so that we could choose Him or reject Him, as well as everything else in our life. We should respect that everyone has a right to choose to believe (or not believe) as they want to. If we are certain they are on the wrong path, we should try to convince them of what we know to be the truth, but you can never catch flies with vinegar so do not be nasty, derogatory or cruel and insulting when you meet someone with a different “spin” on something. When someone says something I find hard to believe, I ask where they leaned that, and if I am certain they are wrong I will suggest that what I learned was different, and will have to check out what they say. I would then politely suggest they may want to verify it with the bible, and I give them this advice:

For me, the “Acid Test” question is: “How will this affect my salvation?” So, when it comes down to it, will knowing (fill in whatever topic you want to) make me “more saved” or “less saved” than someone who (1) believes in God; (2) believes Yeshua is the Messiah and (3) tries to live as Yeshua said, by loving God and loving each other?

Isn’t that what the One who died for us said is all we need to know? To love God and to love each other?

All the rest is just “nice-to-know” stuff, and not important for your salvation.

Parashah Shemini (Eighth Day) Leviticus 9 – 11

We pick up from the last parashah with the Priests completing the 7 days of consecration, and today they finalize the ceremony with a sin offering, a burnt offering and a peace offering. That is the proper order: first, be cleansed of sin so you can approach God; next, show total obedience and worship of God; lastly, enter into His presence in peace and thanksgiving.

Then Aaron’s two oldest sons, Abihu and Nadab, thought they could just go ahead and offer their own fire before the Lord, ignoring the rules and (according to some Rabbinic thought) coming to the Sanctuary drunk (DUI– davening under the influence.) This sin was immediately addressed by God, who sent fire to destroy them. 

The next chapter, Chapter 11, is the chapter that outlines the laws of Kashrut: the Kosher regulations. 

I do not eat pork or shellfish, or any of the other animals mentioned as unclean, yet I will have meat and dairy together (I LOVE cheeseburgers.) I don’t keep Kosher according to the rules the Rabbi’s have stipulated in the Talmud, but I do keep kosher according to the Bible’s rules.  God tells us what He wants us to do, and we should do that. As Moses says, it isn’t too hard to do, it isn’t so far we can’t reach it, but religious leaders have historically placed a heavier yoke on us.

The Rabbi’s mean well. Their basic motivation is that we don’t want to trespass (violate) God’s word, so since we are weak and foolish, let’s put a “fence” around the law so we can’t cross over it, even by accident. Of course, being Jewish, we need to point out that maybe I can fall over the fence, so let’s put another fence around the first fence, because I can’t accidentally trespass both fences. Oh, wait- maybe my car brakes fail, and I run through the second fence, then when I get out to see the damage to my fender, in shock I fall back and stumble over the first fence…it could happen. Oy- OK, so let’s put a third fence around the second fence, which protects the first fence which is there to keep us from trespassing God’s law.

Maybe I was driving a truck? If I was driving a truck, it might be going so fast, and it’s so big, that it goes through two fences, and then….get the idea? It never stops, so today we have Kashrut laws that say we need three sets of dishes, cups and silverware, a Rabbi to observe the slaughter and preparation of commercially prepared Kosher foods, and so many other rules of Halacha (the Way to Walk) in the Talmud that the yoke is overwhelming.  

I could write an entire book on the way Kashrut is misunderstood by both Jews and Gentiles, whether “Believers” or not. The B’rit Chadasha (New Covenant) writings in Acts and the Gospel of Mark have references that have historically been used as a polemic against Kosher laws, but when taken in context (both grammatically and historically) they have nothing to do, whatsoever, with kashrut ( for a detailed explanation please buy my book, Back to Basics: God’s Word vs. Religion because there is an entire chapter devoted to this misunderstanding.)

Let me make a simple statement regarding the regulations of Kashrut stipulated in this parashah: they are still as valid today for everyone who worships the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as they were the day God first gave them to Moses. Like it or not, that is the truth. In the Torah, every law, regulation, commandment, and even the suggestions (just kidding- God never suggests, He commands) are valid for everyone in the world.

The Torah is not just for Jews: it was just given to the Jews, in order that they may live it as an example to everyone else how God wants everyone else to live.   

If we obey the Lord, we get blessed (Deuteronomy 28);  Yeshua (Jesus) did not change the law, and certainly did not give anyone permission to ignore the commandments in the Torah. If you worship God, then you are subject to Torah. If you are one of the millions upon millions over the millennia who have been taught to worship Jesus- not the real Jesus but the one Constantine created- then you are told Torah is for Jews and you are OK ’cause Jesus has got your back. Sorry to burst your bubble, but (as the song goes), it ain’t necessarily so. 

There are so many things that humans have done to make worshiping God so much more difficult than what God told us to do. Even if we give the benefit of the doubt, and assume that these regulations and rites and rituals are all designed to honor God, still and all, they just get in the way of pure worship. I find it so disheartening that the Elders in Jerusalem correctly realized that putting too much on the new converts to Judaism (colloquially called the “early church”) was not right, yet three centuries or so later, the Council of Nicene destroyed any semblance of proper worship by totally separating the (now called) Christians from their Jewish roots, and since then have created so many rituals, regulations and requirements that Christianity today isn’t even what they started with back then. What a shame. 

So, nu? What’s my point? My point is the same one I make over and over, and over- before you accept what anyone says about anything dealing with God, check it out yourself by reading the Bible and asking God to direct your understanding. Everything you do, or don’t do, is a decision that you will be held accountable for; so, whichever way you worship God, please make sure it is your choice based on your own understanding and not just what someone else told you you should do.  

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?