Parashah Haazinu 2019 (Hear) Deuteronomy 32

We are now very close to the end of the Torah. Moses is going to teach the song that God gave him to the children of Israel, so that when they go astray in the future and wonder, “Why has this happened to us?” they will remember the song, and know that it is because of their own transgressions that they have been left defenseless.

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The song, itself, basically tells how God raised up Israel to become a great nation, but they have been disobedient and rebellious children, and because they spurned their God, Adonai, he spurned them and allowed their enemies to triumph over them. But, at the end of the song, God states that the enemies, themselves, also have no wisdom in thinking that their victory came at their own hands, and was not allowed by God, so because their sins are just as bad as Israel’s, once Israel has suffered the punishment they deserve, God will rise up against their enemies and destroy them, saving his people.

After Moses gives this song to the people, God tells him to climb Mt. Nebo and look upon the land the people will inhabit, and after that Moses will die.

Pretty simple stuff here, isn’t it? God tells the people all he has done for them, all they did against him, rejecting him and disobeying, and that they will be punished. But, once they return to him, they will be saved.

And we, having the benefit of knowing the history that hadn’t happened to them yet, can see exactly how all this came true.

Today, Israel is a world leader in technology, farming, and military strength, fulfilling the promise God made to Abraham thousands of years ago, which was that his seed would be a blessing to the world.  Despite the fact that they are surrounded by enemies that vastly outnumber them, they have survived and are still surviving. Every attempt to dislodge them from their land has failed and based on what God said, it will always fail.

Israel has undergone her punishment; she is no longer being judged because now is the time for judging the Goyim, the other nations of the world.

Europe is being overtaken by militant Islamic population growth, and even Canada and Great Britain are kowtowing to Islamic pressure. The United States is still behind Israel, but within our country, we are so divided, politically and morally, that I fear we are being judged, as well. And when the US and Europe fall, the evil governments left in the world will take charge. At that time, all the nations of the world will come against Israel (Zachariah12:3) and then God will unsheathe his sword to drink the blood of those nations which have rejected him and attacked his people.

You know what? That’s all I have. Really! What else is there in this parashah except that we have been told by God exactly what will happen in the future, and why. When will it happen? No one knows- even Yeshua said that only God knows when this will come about; for us, the best thing we can do is to live every day as if it was our last one on earth. And not in a depressed, sad mood but joyfully. Get the most out of what you do, enjoy your family, work to maintain your friendships and don’t hesitate for a nanosecond to tell those you care about that you love them and are grateful they are in your life.

Finally, the last thing I want to ask of you is to always remember to praise and thank God for all he has done, all he is doing right now, and for whatever he has planned. The Acharit HaYamim (the End Days) will be terrible, and going through them will be horrendous, but just as the pain of childbirth is forgotten and replaced with total joy once the birth is over, so too, will we feel that complete and overflowing joy when we are lifted up into the clouds with Messiah.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and this being Friday, I wish you all Shabbat Shalom.

Secular Judaism is an Oxymoron

One of my oldest, dearest and closest friends discovered she was Jewish on her mother’s side. This was a family secret that had been one since her mother was a child in Germany, born just before Hitler’s rise to power began. Her family converted and changed their name, which is what many Jewish families did during the late 1930s and early 1940s to protect themselves.

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Having a desire to know her Jewish roots better, she recently told me she is going to attend services at a local synagogue, which she explained to me is a Secular Jewish synagogue.

When she told me that I thought I heard her incorrectly, but she confirmed that this synagogue follows a humanistic theology.

Huh? Jews that aren’t centered on God but on humanism? That can’t be. But…it is.

Here is what I found on Wikipedia about Secular Judaism:

According to historian Shmuel Feiner, the onset of modernism in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries witness the appearance in Europe of Jewish communities who rejected the religious norms and discipline demanded by the rabbinical elite and whose identities as Jews were increasingly separate from beliefs and practices from the Torah or the commandments.

As far as I know, the Reconstructionist sect of Judaism is close to this description, although they do have some deist factions. Here is the Wikipedia definition of their theology:

Most “classical” Reconstructionist Jews (those agreeing with Kaplan) reject traditional forms of theism, though this is by no means universal. Many Reconstructionist Jews are deists, but the movement also includes Jews who hold Kabbalistic, pantheistic (or panentheistic) views of God, and some Jews who believe in the concept of a personal God.

To settle this confusion, one could simply identify what being a Jew means, or to rephrase my statement, we could ask, “What is a Jew?”  This is a question that seemingly has no one answer. Some say it is by birth, some by spiritual attachment to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Some say it is those who live a Jewish lifestyle, but that opens up an entirely new can of worms, for what is a Jewish lifestyle?  Is it being Torah observant? Is it celebrating all the holidays that are identified as “Jewish”, or just the ones God specified in the Bible? Is it wanting your son to grow up to be a lawyer or a doctor?

Frankly, there are as many opinions as to what a “Jew” is as there are people answering the question, but there is one thing that I do not believe any can argue against, which is that the Bible has told us God chose the Jewish people, meaning the direct descendants of Jacob (later called Israel) to be his nation of priests to the world (Exodus 19:6) and gave them the Torah to learn, then teach to the rest of the world.

Yes- the Torah is for everyone because when you are a priest to the world that means you teach the world how to worship God.

So to be “Jewish” according to the Bible is to worship God as he said he should be worshiped, and to live our lives in accordance with the instructions he gave us in the Torah. Not that anyone can do that perfectly, but if we want to- if we try our best to live as God says to in the Torah- then we are, by definition, “Jewish.”

This means there is no way to separate Judaism from God, or vice-versa: God is the very foundation of Judaism, the roots of the Tree of Life, the rock upon which the house of David (Messiah) is built. According to the Bible, you cannot reject God or his Torah and still be Jewish.

You can reject much, if not all, of the Talmudic regulations, called Halacha (the Way to Walk) because they are man-made traditions and rules, but to reject God and his rules? No way, Jose!!

Judaism has been identified as a religion for thousands of years, but when God told Moses how we are to worship him and treat each other, it wasn’t a religion -it was how you were to live your life. The Torah is more than just a set of laws; it is a marriage certificate between a people and their God, it is the Constitution for a nation outlining the organization of the government, creating a justice system, establishing a penal code, and defining societal standards of behavior.

The idea of secular Judaism is an oxymoron. For me, you can’t be Jewish when you reject God as the way he presents himself in the Bible.

We will never know exactly what a “Jew” is, and that doesn’t really matter. What matters is how we feel towards God, other people, and how hard we try to live according to the instructions God gave to all human beings (through the Israelites) in the Torah.

Jews, the Torah, and God are inseparable.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Yom Kippur 2019 Message

Today I would like to share a message that I had given every Yom Kippur service when I was still living in Northeast Philadelphia and attending Beth Emmanuel Messianic Synagogue. For about 2 years we didn’t have a Rabbi and the Council members (of which I was one) kept the temple going, with me serving (pretty much) as Rabbi-pro-tem. The following is an updated version of the sermon I had been giving on this day.

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There is an undeniable relationship between Yom Kippur and Passover, and together they provide total atonement which allows us to have life everlasting. Yeshua is called the Lamb of God, the Pesach Lamb, and by means of his death and the blood he shed, we can find atonement for our sins. But, it wasn’t just as the Passover lamb that He accomplished this.

It’s important to know that the sacrifice of the Passover lamb, as we read of it in Exodus, Chapter 12, was not a sin sacrifice: it was a thanksgiving sacrifice. And the blood was not a sin atonement, but rather a kippur, a covering, which was meant to identify the people of God. It was spread on the sides and over the doorway of the house and as the identification of God’s people, it protected those people from being killed by the angel of death.

The blood from the sacrificed lamb on Passover provided protection from physical death for the people of God, and today Yeshua’s blood not only identifies us as God’s people, but also protects us from spiritual death. Yeshua’s sacrificial death may have occurred on Passover but is actually what the sacrifice of the Yom Kippur goats is all about.

The Yom Kippur goats (the one killed and the one released) together provide for our atonement (Lev. 16:9-10.) The scapegoat (which is the one released into the desert) had the sins of all the people transferred to it before being released into the desert, or as the Bible tells us, to Azazel. Let’s take a moment and talk a little about Azazel:

  • The Talmud interprets this word to mean a steep mountain, and for many years the scapegoat was not released into the desert but instead was thrown off of a steep mountain;
  • In the Book of Enoch, Azazel is a fallen angel. Of course, it is unthinkable that we would be told by God to sacrifice a goat to a god-like satyr in the desert;
  • According to Rabbi Hertz, the Late Chief Rabbi of the British Empire, in his 1965 edition of the Chumash, Azazel is a rare Hebrew noun that means “dismissal”, or “entire removal”. The transference of the sins of Israel by the Cohen HaGadol onto the goat released into the desert symbolized the total removal of sin from the community of God’s people.

I had always wondered why we needed two goats. If all the sins were removed by the scapegoat why kill another one? It’s because sin can only be forgiven by the shedding of blood (Leviticus 17:11) so the goat’s blood had to be shed.  That still leaves me with the question, what did the scapegoat represent?

The scapegoat released into the desert represents our T’ShuvahIt represents our willingness to let go of our sinful desires and remove them totally from our lives. That is why all the people were present when the goat was released. It meant that we all were giving up our sinful ways and desires.

Atonement is a five-step process:

  1.  You commit a sin (after all, without sin there is nothing to be forgiven for);
  2. Recognizing and taking responsibility for that sin;
  3. Doing T’shuvah (repentance);
  4.  Shedding innocent blood to atone for the sin, and finally
  5.  Asking forgiveness from God by means of the first four steps we took.

Yeshua’s sacrifice was more than just as the “Passover Lamb”; his death fulfilled the meaning of the two Holy Days most associated with freedom from both physical and spiritual death: Passover and Yom Kippur.

On the execution stake, Yeshua took upon himself all our sins just as the Yom Kippur scapegoat does, and when he died, just as the scapegoat sacrificed to Azazel, he carried them not just into the desert but beyond the grave. He also fulfilled the role of the goat sacrificed on the altar, the one whose blood atoned for the sins and made it possible for God to forgive us.

The blood of the Passover lamb gave protection from death and the Yom Kippur blood allows forgiveness of sin. Passover and Yom Kippur, although two separate Holy Days, through Yeshua have become spiritually one and the same thing.

In the Acharit HaYamim (the End Times) when Yeshua returns and we are all gathered up into the clouds with Him, then will the ultimate fulfillment of both of these festivals be realized. Yeshua is both the Passover Lamb and the Yom Kippur scapegoat. When He said He was the beginning and the end it meant more than just some timeline: he is the beginning of our eternal life and the end of our sin.

Praise God for his goodness and mercy, and give thanks to Yeshua, ha Maschiach for his sacrifice so that we could all be saved.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and may you have an easy fast.

Do We Really Drink His Blood and Eat His Flesh?

In each of the 4 Gospels, there is a statement that Yeshua makes where he tells his Talmudim (Disciples) that they are to drink the wine of the Kiddush, which is now his blood, the blood of the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31), and they should eat the bread (actually, it was matzo) which is his flesh and his body.

Sounds really pagan and disgusting, doesn’t it? Nothing at all that any self-respecting, God-fearing Jew would ever do.

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Of course, we all know he was speaking metaphorically. Or do we?

The Roman Catholic Church believes in Transubstantiation, which is the transformation of the bread and wine into the actual flesh and blood of Yeshua. Yuck!! They explain this in the same way they explain most of the doctrine they have created: it is what it is and we can’t understand how it is that way. In other words, I ain’t got no idea where this came from but I was taught this is how it is, so don’t ask questions and just believe what you are told to believe.  Typical RCC stuff.

(Sorry, Pope your Grace, but Yeshua would never tell anyone to actually eat flesh or drink blood, which is a sin.)

Let’s get back on topic…Yeshua says this in Matthew 26:28, Luke 22:20, Mark 14:24, and John 6:55. It is also repeated by Shaul (Paul) in 1 Corinthians and elsewhere in other Epistles of the New Covenant.

To understand why Yeshua said this, which was meant to be metaphorical, we need to go back to the Tanakh, then to John’s Gospel.

Let’s start at Leviticus 17:11, which says this:

For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.

Next, let’s go to Deuteronomy 8:3 (Moses is talking to the Israelites just before they enter the land of Canaan):

He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

And the last thing we need to read is John 1:14:

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.

When we take these three verses and put them in their proper perspective, Yeshua’s blood is the life we gain by reason of the atonement he performed for us on the execution stake, and his body is the word of God which we must take “inside” ourselves, meaning to have it be a part of us, indwelling and written on our hearts.

Yeshua was talking about the new covenant as God promised it should be, from way back when Jeremiah first told us about it.  Yeshua was speaking to Jewish men using terms that they could understand because they knew what the blood and the body represented. The ones we read about in John 6:53-59 who thought he was speaking literally did not have the spiritual sekhel to know what Yeshua meant.

Many acceptance ceremonies within societies include toasting and sharing food; maybe they are based on the Kiddush? We can cite anything from a wedding to a Bar Mitzvah, to a military Hail and Farewell at the Officer’s Club (this is when new officers coming into the company and officers being transferred out get together for drinks and dinner.)  The ceremony where Yeshua shared drink and food was the Passover Seder, so it was very appropriate at that time for him to make this “toast”, which would be the way for all people to enter into communion with him and the Lord throughout all eternity.

Whenever we, those who have accepted Yeshua as the Messiah, perform the Kiddush prayer, we do it in memory of him. Whereas we are literally eating bread and drinking wine, we are metaphorically taking into ourselves the word of God and the life that it gives us.

To answer the question posed in today’s message title, what Yeshua meant when he said to drink his blood and eat his flesh is that when we accept him as the Messiah we will have eternal life (yeah, there is a little more to it than just that, but that is for a different message.)

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Parashah Vayyelach 2019 (and he went) Deuteronomy 31

Moses has come to the end of his road and the Lord tells him that he is to charge Joshua with taking the people across the Jordan into the land God promised to give them. Moses repeatedly tells all the people not to be afraid and tells Joshua in front of all the people, not to be afraid to go into the land or of the people there because God will go before them and destroy the people there, as he did with Og and Sihon.

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God tells Moses of the future, how the people will rebel against God and that he will have to punish them, which Moses relates to all the leaders. God also dictates to Moses a song which he is to write down and teach to the people so that when they fail to obey God and his instructions the song will be a witness for God that he warned them of what is happening.

As I was reading this parashah, I came to verse 4, where Moses says:

And the Lord will do unto them as he did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites, and unto their land; whom he destroyed.

and I thought to myself, “Surely there must have been someone who partook in those battles and was thinking, ‘I killed those men, myself. God didn’t kill them, I did!'” and at that moment I realized what I need to talk about today.

People, as a rule, are self-centered and usually don’t like to give credit for something they have done to anyone or anything else. Here we have a perfect example: the Israelites were the ones who fought a hand-to-hand battle against the Amorites, yet Moses is saying that it was God who destroyed them. How can that be if people were against people?

Now, with the Egyptians and the Sea of Suf (Red Sea), it was clearly God who split the waters and caused them to fall in on the Egyptians, and it was clearly God who caused the plagues, but when Israel fought against the people of Og and Sihon, it was man against man. How can Moses say God destroyed them?

The reason Moses said God destroyed the Amorites (and, for the record, he was right in saying it that way) is that more often than not God works through people.

The Bible is rife with examples of God’s plan coming to fruition through the actions of people. We have the case where the first king of Israel, Saul, had to be taken out of the way to allow David to become king. God struck him down by forcing him to commit suicide)because the Philistines were about to capture him on Mt. Gilboa (1 Samuel 28:4); when the house of Ahab was to be punished for all it’s evil, especially Jezebel, it was done through Yehu; the Northern Kingdom of Israel was punished by the Assyrians; and the Southern Kingdom of Judah was punished for their sins, especially the sins of King Manasseh, by the Babylonians.

Not all things God does through people are bad. He arranged for the timing to be perfect for Joseph to be freed from jail; he made sure that Samson’s strength returned to him in his last moments; he touched the heart of King Koresh of Persia and allowed the exiles in Babylon (under Ezra) to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple and the wall.

If we are doing our best to honor God in all we say and do and to follow the instructions he gave to us regarding worshiping him and treating each other, then he will bless us. He promises this to us in Deuteronomy, Chapter 28. He also promises that when we rebel and reject him and his instructions, we will be cursed. The difference between God blessing us and cursing us is that the blessings are actively given by God, and the curses come upon us when God no longer protects us, so they are passively allowed.

Blessings are given, curses are the result of not being under God’s protection.

And when wonderful things happen, even when we have worked hard to achieve them, it is still because God has worked it out for us by working it out through us.

If you are an artist and paint or sculpt a masterpiece, you may have been the one doing the actually work, but it was God who gave you the talent and the inspiration that allowed you to complete your task. If you are a teacher and you receive accolades for your work, it is because God has given you that talent and provided the proper students for you to make the best use of that talent.

Here is something that we all have to remember and be grateful for: God is behind it all, and when we do what is good we must first give the credit to God for making it possible. When I write or say something that is edifying and useful to spiritual growth, it is because God has given me the insight and the ability to do so.

It is as I always say: when I do something good, it is God working through me, and when I totally screw up, then I can take all the credit.

Always be grateful to God for all the good that happens in your life; not just for your successes, but also for your failures which he sometimes will orchestrate so you can learn a valuable lesson. When we are for God, he will be for us.

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Until next time, Shabbat Shalom and Baruch HaShem!