Parashah Emor 2021 (Speak) Leviticus 21 – 24

These three chapters each have their own instructions.

Chapter 21 gives us the instructions and requirements for priests regarding being allowed to become unclean for a close family member who died, rules regarding the eating of the holy food, and who the priest may marry.

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Chapter 23 is the chapter that defines the Moedim, the Holy Days. These are the only festivals that God has created and commanded that all who worship him must celebrate.

Chapter 24 is what we could call a Penal Code, specifying the punishment for specific crimes, in which we are told two very important things: the punishment must be equitable to the crime, and that whether a foreigner or a native-born the law is to be administered equally to both.

Many years ago, after I had been saved for only a few months, I was blessed to be part of a video that was made by the Assemblies of God church because the Messianic synagogue I was attending was supported in part by their outreach program to the Jewish people. In that video, I was asked to give my personal testimony about how I, a Jew, found my Messiah.

If you are interested in seeing this, here is a link to it: Steve Bruck Testimony.

That congregation of Messianic Jews was actually composed of more Christians who were seeking the Jewishness of their Messiah than it was Jews who found Yeshua. In fact, many of the Messianic synagogues and Hebraic Roots churches I have been to or heard about have more Gentiles than Jews as congregants!

Yet many of the Gentiles in these places of worship, seeking to know their Jewish Messiah, often maintain many Christian doctrines and holidays, rejecting much of what God said we should do in the Torah.

The point of all this, in conjunction with today’s parashah, is this: whether Jew or Gentile, anyone who accepts the Jewish Messiah, Yeshua, as their Messiah is grafted into the body of the Messiah (Romans 11) and, thereby, into the Jewish religion…like it or not.

Here is what God, himself, says about anyone who joins with the Jewish people:

Leviticus 24:22– Ye shall have one manner of law, as well for the stranger, as for the home-born; for I am the Lord your God.

Over the centuries, people have influenced the Gentiles who have accepted Yeshua as their Messiah to separate themselves from their Jewish roots. This started in the latter part of the First Century as a political strategy because the Jews living in Judea were being persecuted by the Romans for revolting against Roman rule. Later on, the letters that Shaul (Paul) wrote were being misinterpreted in order to further separate these newly converting pagans away from learning how to live a Jewish lifestyle and worship to something different.

You see, Shaul wrote in such a way as to slowly bring these Gentiles into Judaism, as we read in Isaiah 28, where he chides the people saying that they are so confused by their own sins that they must be treated like little children, learning the Torah line by line, precept by precept, a little here and a little there.

This is exactly the way that Shaul was teaching the Gentiles he brought into the body of Messiah how to live as a Jew.

What happened is after he died, and the ones following him were not Jews but converted Gentiles, this purity of worship was contaminated by a personal desire to create their own form of worship, which was cemented in time by the Council of Nicene when Emperor Constantine created (what is today) modern Christianity, with its own rules, holidays, and dogma.

He also rebranded the Jewish Messiah into some blue-eyed, blonde-haired Christian who wants all Jews to reject the Torah and convert to his religion, which worships Jesus instead of God.

So, to all who have accepted Jesus as their Savior (I am using Christin terminology), know this: as far as God is concerned, he tells us here in Leviticus 24 that because you have been grafted in you are to be treated as any natural-born Jewish person is to be treated under the Torah, and as such, you are also obligated to follow the laws which are in the Torah.

Not so nice a thing to consider, is it? I am absolutely certain I will get many who disagree, quoting every mistaken interpretation of the letters Shaul wrote to justify that as Gentiles they are NOT required to obey the Torah, except for, of course, those moral laws which God gave us.

How much more “moral” can one be than to obey ALL that God says? If God says to do something that isn’t moral, doesn’t that mean he is, himself, immoral? So if there are moral laws and ceremonial laws, does that mean the ceremonies are immoral?

No one will ever receive salvation through the Torah alone, for the simple reason that no one can be perfectly obedient to it. That’s why we had to have a Messiah, who came to the Jew first, then the Gentile, but not so that the Gentile would have a different set of rules and commandments!

Recently, someone told me that the New Covenant (he properly identified it as Jeremiah 31:31) supersedes the Mosaic Covenant because God says he will make a new covenant, and then he gives me the standard Christian misinterpretation of what Shaul says in Hebrews about what is new makes the old obsolete. What he didn’t do was actually read what God said through Jeremiah: he never said this new covenant replaces anything, he simply said it would be different from the old one, in that instead of being written on a scroll God was going to write his Torah on our hearts. Not a new Torah, not one making the old Torah obsolete, but the same, exact Torah he gave to Moses, only this time it would be spiritually a part of us; we would live and breathe it as our hearts pumped Torah throughout our bodies. This is the lesson that Yeshua taught- the Remes, not the P’shat, of God’s instructions for living.

So if you consider yourself grafted into the Body of the Messiah, that means you are both protected by and subject to the Torah. That’s not what I say, that’s what God said in Leviticus.

So, nu– you can go along with your traditional man-made religion called Christianity, or you can rethink your position. I suggest you read the Torah (if you haven’t already) – it’s the first 5 books of the Bible. And, by the way, it is the ONLY place where God dictated how we are to worship him and how we are to treat each other. The words he gave the Prophets had to do with returning to those laws, not changing them, and if you look for the term “God said unto (so-and-so), tell the people this is what the Lord says…” anywhere in the New Covenant, you won’t find it there.

But you will find it, as God’s direct instructions to all who choose to worship him, in the Torah.

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That’s it for this week, so l’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!

Forgiveness of Sin Requires More Than Just a Sacrifice

The Sacrificial System was designed by God. In Leviticus, Chapters 1 through 7, he tells us the different types of sacrifices and how each is to be performed. Throughout the Torah, God tells us other aspects of the sacrifices, and unless someone reads the first 7 chapters of Leviticus, as well as the places in Numbers where God reviews how sacrifices are to be made, you cannot fully understand how forgiveness of sin is accomplished.

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To understand why a sacrifice isn’t enough, we first need to understand the different sacrifices.

There are 4 main types of sacrifice: a sacrifice for sin, one for guilt, one that is a wholly burned sacrifice, and the Fellowship, or Thanksgiving sacrifice. I am not going to do a treatise on these today, but suffice it to say that these are the main types, and the only one of these where the person bringing the sacrifice gets to eat of it is the Thanksgiving sacrifice.

In fact, that is how the archaeologists knew they had found the place in Shiloh where the Tent of Meeting Moses constructed had been kept. I was told this by the guide who took us to Shiloh when I was there in 2016: they found a high spot that was devoid of any relics, but all around it there were hundreds of broken shards of plates. That indicated this is where the Sanctuary was because when you brought the Thanksgiving sacrifice you were required to eat of it there, in front of the altar and because the food was holy, the plates used became holy. As such, they were not allowed to be used with the common foods again, so the people broke them after eating the holy food.

The sin and guilt sacrifices required more than just a single animal sacrifice. There are a few places in the Torah where we are told that forgiveness comes from the sin offering, but there is also the requirement for a burnt offering and a Thanksgiving offering, which is the final act and represents communion with God, sort of like inviting him to dinner. That is why it is eaten by the Cohen and the one offering it, at the front of the Sanctuary to represent it is done in God’s presence.

The forgiveness of sin is a 5 step process:

  1. You must commit a sin. After all, what’s to be forgiven if you’ve done nothing wrong?
  2. You must acknowledge you have sinned. I have known of too many people who are sinning and refuse to admit it. You can never be forgiven of a sin if you don’t ask, and if you tell yourself you haven’t sinned, well, obviously you won’t feel any need to ask for forgiveness.
  3. You must repent of that sin and do T’shuvah, which means to turn away from the desire to sin. I have known too many people who sin, know that they are sinning, but make excuses. It is as I have often said: I used to be a sinner who rationalized my sins, but now I am a sinner who regrets my sins. God will not forgive a sinner who doesn’t repent of their sins.
  4. You bring a sacrifice to the place where God put his name, which was the temple in Jerusalem, place your hands upon the sacrifice and confess your sins, which by doing so transfers them onto the animal, which is then ritually slaughtered and by the shedding of that innocent blood you are then cleansed of your sin.
  5. You ask for forgiveness. That’s right- you still need to ask to be forgiven, by reason of the innocent blood that was shed on your behalf.

When Yeshua sacrificed himself, he didn’t do away with this process, but he did change it somewhat: Yeshua’s sacrifice replaced the 4th step, which is the need to bring an animal to be sacrificed on the altar at the temple. And good thing that he did, too, because the temple was destroyed in 73 AD and from that point on, without Yeshua we would have no means to be forgiven of our sins.

So you see, to be forgiven of sin requires more than just a sacrifice. We must first and foremost acknowledge and repent of the sin, we must also do T’shuvah, which was represented by the burnt offering, and then we must ask forgiveness, now not by means of a animal sacrifice but through the shed blood of the Messiah, Yeshua.

We can’t perform the burnt or Thanksgiving sacrifices, but that is not a sin because it isn’t our fault: there is no temple to bring the sacrifice to. But, then again, Yeshua’s sacrifice is not just for sin but is also a thanksgiving sacrifice because when we accept him as our Messiah we can come back into communion with God.

To be forgiven of sin is more than just believing in Yeshua or asking to be forgiven: you must also repent in your heart, do T’shuvah in your heart and actions, and rededicate yourself to obeying God with each and every sin you ask forgiveness from.

The animal sacrifice is just one part of the process of being forgiven for the sins we commit. The sacrifice Yeshua made is of no use to anyone if it isn’t accompanied with confession of one’s sins, repentance, and a heartfelt and honest rededication to obeying God’s instructions for how we are to worship him and treat each other.

And those instructions aren’t in the New Covenant, they are in the Torah.

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That’s it for now, so l’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Taking the Day Off

Sometimes it is a good idea to take a Shabbat rest, even if it isn’t Shabbat.

Many times I get my inspiration for these messages by either reading the Bible or when I am working out with a bicycle ride, which is usually for 20-22 miles. I do this, on average, three times a week. Since the rides take an hour or more, I have plenty of time for prayer, and more often than not, in the middle of praying my thoughts and conversation with God go off on a tangent, which is how many of my messages come to me.

But I haven’t been riding lately due to weather so don’t really have anything today, other than this:

Take a break from the ordinary every now and then just to do something different.

After all, what could it hoit?

I will be getting on my bike later today, so let’s hope I get something for Thursday.

L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Parashot Acharei Mot / Kedoshim 2021 (After the death / Holiness) Leviticus 16 – 18 / 19-20

This double-parashah begins with the regulations for the Cohen HaGadol (High Priest) when observing the Holy Day of Yom Kippur.

In Chapter 17, God tells us that any sacrifice must be made at the tabernacle, otherwise, the person sacrificing will be cut off from his people.

Chapter 18 gives us the prohibitions against familial sexual relationships, clearly stating that any sexual relationship with any close relative is forbidden.

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

The parashah Kedoshim deals with holiness, starting with God’s commandment that we should be holy because he is holy, i.e. we should emulate God. God reviews the laws regarding sacrifice, duties towards others, fundamental moral and ritual laws, and the most important of these is Leviticus 19:18, which is what Yeshua also repeated as one of the two most important commandments of all: to love your neighbor as yourself. The other being, of course, to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength.

One commandment that is repeated in both parashot is the prohibition against sacrificing children to Molech. This is clearly an abomination to God, and he says sacrificing children is something that never even entered his mind.

Here’s an interesting bit of information for those that may not know: if you have ever seen a Jewish man praying, you will see that as he prays he is also davening, which is a rhythmic swaying front to back. I have always heard that this act goes back to the Cohen HaGadol when he is in the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur, the only time he is allowed to be in there. The robe he wears has, all along the bottom hem, pomegranates and bells, so when he davens you can hear the bells ringing. On Yom Kippur, if the sacrifices are not done correctly or the Cohen HaGadol is not properly cleansed, when he enters the Holy of Holies he will die. By swaying back and forth as he prays, the ones outside can hear the bells ringing to indicate that he is still alive. They even tied a rope to his ankle so that if he did die, they could pull him out of there without violating the sanctity of the Holy of Holies. That is why, to this very day, when a Jewish man is praying, he stands and sways back and forth.

One continuing theme we see throughout the Tanakh is that God doesn’t totally destroy the children of Israel, even when they reject his sovereignty, violate his Torah and do unspeakable abominations before him. God constantly punished their sins, and after they repented, accepted them back; but, the truth be told, he had every right, both morally and legally (under the terms of the covenants) to totally destroy them.

Every sinful and detestable thing God said we shouldn’t do in these chapters was done, and not just once or twice, but regularly and for centuries, by both the northern and southern kingdoms. So why didn’t God just get rid of these stiff-necked and rebellious children and start over?

The most likely answer I expect to hear is that God is a compassionate and loving God, slow to anger and quick to forgive. After all, that is what he told Moses in Exodus 34:6-7, isn’t it?

Well, that isn’t the reason God gave.

Reading the Haftorah portion for the parashah Kedoshim, which is Ezekiel 20, God tells us exactly why he didn’t destroy the people when they were in the desert, which I believe was the same reason he has never destroyed us, as we often deserved. He told Ezekiel that he would have destroyed us except for the fact that because he took us out of Egypt by the power of his own hand, that for his name’s sake he relented on destroying us because it would have damaged his reputation with the nations that heard of his great power and works.

This is the same argument Moses used to keep God from destroying the people after their sin with the Golden Calf.

So God, who IS compassionate, understanding, and not just able to forgive but desiring to forgive, did not destroy the people because he didn’t want to spoil his reputation with the other nations.

It sounds very self-centered, doesn’t it? He didn’t destroy those who deserved it not because he is compassionate, and not because he is forgiving, but because he didn’t want to lose his street rep!

Hey, I’m the not one saying it was for selfish reasons, He is!

It appears that by saving the children of Israel from their slavery in Egypt and claiming them as his own, he sort of stuck himself with them. Now that he is their God, he has to deal with them and can’t do anything really bad to them because it would only ruin his reputation.

But is God really selfish? What is so important that he maintain the reputation he has with the other nations when it is really all about him and his people?

I believe God’s reputation throughout the world is one of the most important things there can ever be because only by recognizing the power and might and trustworthiness and holiness and ability to save that God, alone, can provide, there is no means for the Gentiles, the nations of the world, by which they can be saved.

When God made salvation available to the Gentiles, through the actions of the Messiah Yeshua, if they didn’t already have a good knowledge of who the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was, having heard of his power and ability to save his own people, they probably wouldn’t have paid any more attention to the Apostles than if they were hearing about any other god they already knew about.

The gods of the Romans and Greeks and Semitic tribes of the Middle East were also well known, but only the God of the Jewish people, by means of his reputation, held such awe with those who knew of his great power and majesty. And the Jewish people, themselves, as sinful as they had been over the centuries, demonstrated the compassion and trustworthiness of their God. In fact, it is the continual sin of the people, followed by their repentance, which has always shown how powerfully able God is to both punish and bless those who worship him. He saved when needed, he punished when deserved, he forgave when warranted, and he blessed when obedient.

Unlike any other god that existed, Adonai, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was the one who anyone with any seykhl (Yiddish for common sense) wanted to be on your side.

So, even though God often forgave the people just to protect his reputation, which seems somewhat selfish, it wasn’t. God needed to protect his reputation in order to make salvation possible for the pagans who would, later on, be able to receive that salvation through the Messiah.

By protecting his reputation among the pagan nations, God was actually ensuring their opportunity to be saved from their sins, along with his own chosen people.

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Well, that’s it for this week, so l’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!

What God Can’t Do

Before I even start to talk about what God can’t do, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Steve is wrong- there is nothing that God cannot do!”

But there is something God cannot do- he cannot sin. And to refuse to act as he said he would regarding someone rejecting his commandments would be a sin.

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I am reading in Numbers and have just this morning read Chapter 18, which is where God tells Aaron that he and his sons are responsible to make sure that the Levites do their job, and all the Levites are to make sure no one who is not authorized to come to the Sanctuary approaches it. God says this is to ensure that no one dies.

After the death of Aaron’s sons, God told Moses that the Levites are not to drink intoxicating liquids before serving him, so that they don’t die.

God told Moses to place barriers around the base of the mountain (Mt. Horeb) when he went up to receive the commandments from God to make sure no one approaches the mountain so that they don’t die.

After the man was stoned to death for collecting wood on the Shabbat, God said to make and wear tzitzit on their clothing to remind them of God’s laws, so that they don’t die.

Can you see what God is doing? He knows that despite the outcome of disobeying his commandments, we will do just that. And because he doesn’t really want to punish us but MUST punish us if we violate his rules, because he cannot sin, he goes out of his way to help protect us from ourselves!

In Ezekiel 18 God tells us he is not happy with anyone’s death and prefers that we all live, but the only way that can happen is to obey him. He will stick like glue to his covenants, so much so that even after we break the covenant, which we have done too many times to count, he will still keep his side of it.

But we won’t go unpunished. We have to be punished- God MUST punish the unrepentant sinner, and that is because God cannot sin. He cannot go against his own rules.

Of course, he could if he really wanted to. I mean, who can hold God accountable? You? Me? No one can make God do what he doesn’t want to do, or not do anything he wants to. No one, that is, except God, and he DOES hold himself accountable.

When we read the parts of the Bible where God is telling Moses how the people are to act and what they should do, it is always with the idea that when they are punished for violation of God’s rules, it is not God doing it to them so much as them doing it to themselves.

You see, God sets the rules: he tells us how we are to worship him and how we are to treat each other. He also tells us the blessings we receive for obedience and the curses we suffer for disobedience. God sends the blessings, but we call the curses on ourselves! God doesn’t really do anything bad to us: the truth is, the bad is already here, and when we reject God’s good all that is left for us is the world’s bad.

Because God cannot sin, he cannot allow any unrepentant sinner to go unpunished; God must punish the unrepentant sinner who rejects him and his Messiah because he said that is what will happen and not doing as he said he would do is a sin.

If we cannot trust God to punish the sinful, we cannot trust him to reward the righteous.

Before we end this today, I am going to change one thing I said earlier: I said we cannot hold God accountable, i.e. we cannot tell God what he must do, but I am now going to say there is one thing we can force God to do… we can force him to punish us. All we need to do is violate any of his laws, and because he must do as he said he would do, we can force God to do what we want.

Although for the life of me, I can’t think of a good reason anyone would want to do that.

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Until next time, l’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Pick Your Fights

When Yeshua sent his Talmudim (Disciples) out into the world to preach the Good News, he told them to be as wise as serpents and gentle as doves (Matthew 10:16). He also told them that if people in any town rejected their message, to shake the dust off their sandals as a warning to them (Luke 9:5).

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It seems to me that Yeshua was telling them they have the best and most important thing in the world to say to people, but still, they shouldn’t ram it down their throats (gentle as doves), and if they are rejected they should make sure the people know that their fate is now on their own heads (shake the dust).

But what about the part where he says be wise as serpents?

Aren’t serpents sneaky? I mean, they slide along on their belly in the deep grass hidden from view as they stalk their prey, or they camouflage themselves and stay perfectly still, for days or even weeks, until some innocent animal comes along and then they STRIKE!!!

That doesn’t sound very “holy”, if you ask me. It doesn’t even sound fair. But that isn’t what Yeshua was talking about.

Did you know that some venomous snakes can deliver a dry bite? That’s a bite where they do not inject their venom. Venom takes time to replace and energy to make, and reptiles do not have an abundance of energy, so to waste venom on a bite to a creature that isn’t food is not a wise thing for a snake to do.

When we are talking to someone about God, Yeshua, and salvation, we are injecting them; not with poisonous venom, but with a vaccine against death and destruction of their soul. We are giving them life eternal in our words, and they have the option to accept what we say or reject it.

Now, this is where we need to be wise as serpents, in that when we are in a discussion about the Bible, God, or Yeshua, and a confrontation begins to rear its ugly head, we need to step back and decide if we will continue to talk or shake the dust from our sandals. In other words, did we just deliver a dry bite?

We need to pick our fights: are we really just wasting our time or is the person still open to hearing the truth? If we find ourselves getting frustrated with someone, that is the signal we are no longer gentle or wise because frustration is the result of pridefulness.

Yes, when you are so fed up with this idiot who has no idea what he or she is talking about, spewing out traditional rhetoric that is just SO wrong that you want to wring their neck, well, this is the time to step back. You’ve delivered a dry bite, you have been rejected, and now it is time to shake off the dust.

You do NOT, and should NOT, tell that person anything else. Don’t tell them they aren’t really saved; don’t tell them they do not know God or Yeshua; do not tell them they are going to burn forever in hellfire. Even if all that is true, it is not for you or me or anyone to say.

Yeshua never told his Talmudim that they should verbally chop those who reject them into little pieces and insult their beliefs or tell them what will happen to them. He said to be gentle as doves, and only to shake the dust off their sandals. Truth be told, if someone won’t listen to the Good News of Messiah, then shaking off the dust won’t make them feel any different, but it isn’t really for their sakes as much as it demonstrates those bringing salvation, who have been rejected, have done their jobs.

You’re like the Lone Ranger saying, “Well, Tonto, we’ve done what we came here to do and it’s time to move on.”

I want to make one more point, and this is the one that I believe is most important: when you are in a discussion with other Believers, you need to be twice as diligent. How important this topic is to non-Believers is generally much less than it is to those who have accepted Yeshua because we are, in general, more certain (actually, I should say passionate) about our beliefs. So when we are discussing something with another Believer, we need to remember that they can reject us just as anyone else can, and we might be rejecting them, as well. No one knows everything, and another part of being wise is to be open to the fact that YOU might be the one with the wrong understanding.

Here’s a real-life example: I was adamant that I would never take one of the COVID vaccines that use mRNA. I was proud to announce that no one is going to screw around with my genome. I thought I was right, and I had many friends who agreed with me until one friend told me geneticists she knew debunked this rumor, and after doing the research I should have done from the start, I had to recognize and admit that I was wrong. In fact, mRNA vaccines have been used and researched for decades and after the mRNA teaches cells how to recognize and fight the COVID virus, it is destroyed; our DNA is protected inside the nucleus which the mRNA never enters.

Getting back to today’s message, we want to help those who don’t understand the truth about Yeshua’s teachings, who have been misled by the traditional misinterpretation of the letters Shaul (Paul) wrote, and especially those who think that the Torah is no longer valid because Yeshua did away with the need to follow God’s laws. We also want to lead the Jewish people to understand that Yeshua is NOT the Jesus Christ they have been told about, that he did not create a new religion, and that he never taught anything but to obey the Torah not just by doing as it says, but by spiritually letting it be written on one’s heart, which is the true New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31.)

So practice your delivery in order to be wise as serpents, and when you are feeling frustrated and rejected, pick your fight. If you have to ram it down their throats, stop! Now is the time to be as gentle as doves and shake the dust. Do NOT get into an argument, because once the discussion become an argument you have lost, and when you lose, they lose, too.

Salvation is available to everyone, but everyone won’t take it. In truth, most will reject it but what is even worse, if you ask me, is that many will accept Yeshua but because of wrong teachings, at the end they will find they never really had it right.

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That’s it for today so l’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!