Parashah Nitzavim 2021(Standing) Deuteronomy 29:9 – 30

This is the first parashah message I have given in nearly three weeks, due to vacations and such, so it is nice to be back.

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Moses has just finished giving the people his discourse on what will happen when they obey the Lord, which will be blessings upon blessings in the land. And he also told them what will happen when they reject God and disobey: they will suffer curses upon curses, leading to death, destruction, and ultimately ejection from their land.

Now he holds them, as well as their offspring there with them that day and those that haven’t even been born yet, to cleave onto God and his Torah; otherwise, the destruction he told them God will send upon them will happen. Then, prophetically, Moses tells them that after they reject God, and after all these terrors and curses come on them, and after they have been dispersed among all the nations, they will finally turn their hearts back to God who will then bring them back into their land.

Let’s talk about one of the things Moses tells the people, which is that those who know the Torah and what God wants, but secretly say to themselves (as if we could keep any secrets from God!) that they will still do whatever their sinful heart’s desire is to do, well, they will be found out and separated from the people.

He says that if anyone thinks that because he or she is among the righteous that God will not destroy them because the righteous provide a sort of protection, like fish swimming in a school, well…that ain’t gonna work! God will seek out and find the ones who purposefully defy him and they will suffer.

I wondered why anyone thought God would ignore their sins just because they are among righteous people. Perhaps they got this idea from the story of Abraham negotiating with God for Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:16-33)? After all, Abraham sort of called God out, asking why the judge of the earth would destroy the righteous with the unrighteous, and God went along with him, promising not to destroy the entire city if he found as few as 10 righteous men in it.

We all know what happened with that

But this is not the case, anymore. These people aren’t the pagans living in Sodom, no- these are God’s chosen, the ones he brought out of Egypt, and they are seen by God as one people, a single unit. If one should sin, they are all guilty, especially if they do not do something about it.

What about us, today? Do we see sin and do nothing about it? The answer is a resounding, “You bet!”, but to some degree, there isn’t a whole lot we can do. We can’t stone sinners we know, we cannot remove people from public office without going through the proper channels, which could take years. We cannot just move to another town or country as they could back then because our society is so much more complex and interwoven.

No, we see sin and we want to do something about it, but in many ways we are helpless, and that is really sad because God will punish the sinful country, and the good and the bad alike will suffer.

What we can do is maintain our faith and be an example to the sinners of how they should live. Throughout the Tanakh, God has stated that even though the good people will have to drink from the same cup of his fury that the evil will drink from, those who remain faithful and obedient will survive. Even if our lives are the only thing we retain, that will be more than what the sinful will have.

By the way, for the record, you really can’t be faithful without obedience.

So as things continue to spiral downward in the world, as is happening in America this very day, steel yourself for more because the worst is yet to come. Maintain faith, read the Torah so you can know for yourself what God says you should do. Too many people have been brought up believing what humans have told them to do, instead of knowing and doing what God says to do.

And I think you already know this: God will not give up his authority to a Pope, a Rabbi, a Minister, or a Priest. I don’t care what traditional Christian drek you have been told about the Torah, which is usually that Yeshua (Jesus) made obedience to the Torah obsolete for Christians because that is NOT what he taught. The fact is most modern Christian doctrine was created by Constantine and the Council of Nicene, nearly three hundred years after Yeshua!

So many times I hear Christians decry man-made traditions while living their entire spiritual and physical life obeying nothing BUT man-made traditions! Yeshua obeyed God, and if you have been told you should “Do as Jesus does”, well, that is a good thing. The problem is too few Christians have any idea what Jesus did, and go by what they have been told by men they should do, based on misunderstanding and misconstruing the letters that a man, Shaul (Paul) wrote to his different congregations, all of which were having inter-personal and faith-related problems.

It’s real easy: read the Bible, the whole Bible, and just look for what God says you should do, then do your best to do it. You will know what God says because it will come directly from him or through his prophets, and you will find it only in the Tanakh because God didn’t give any new or different instructions in the New Covenant.

And Yeshua never said to disobey or ignore his Father.

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

Parashah Re’eh 2021 (Behold) Deuteronomy 11:26 – 16:17

The Lord commands the people that when they have entered the land they are to go to Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim, and with the people split into two groups, some on the one mountain and the rest on the other mountain, they are to announce to the land the blessings and curses that God will give them.

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Moses further relates that God also commands the people, once they are in the land, to utterly destroy all of the pagan altars, standing stones, and every remnant of the religious articles of the people they conquered.

God tells the people they are not to sacrifice anywhere they want to, but only where God will choose to place his name.

The other warnings that Moses gives deal with false prophets, and that a religious seducer (someone trying to get the people to follow pagan practices) must be killed as an example, even if members of one’s own family.

The laws regarding Kashrut (Kosher) and holiness are repeated, as are the rules for tithing and the Year of Release, treatment of slaves, and the Pilgrimage Festivals.

What I would like to talk about is the passage where God says we must not sacrifice unless it is where he says we should. Initially, this was at the Tent of Meeting which, during the time of the Judges, was located in Shiloh. Later, King David moved it to Jerusalem, and when King Solomon completed the Temple God then said that is where his name shall reside.

So why was it so terrible to sacrifice elsewhere? Isn’t God everywhere? If I sacrifice to him in my backyard, why is that different than in Jerusalem?

I’ll tell you why: because when we do whatever we want to do, we screw it all up.

The pagans would sacrifice under large trees and on the high places and God didn’t want us to do what they did, in any shape or form. In the Book of Judges, we read no less than three times that there was no king, and the people did as they wanted to. We know by reading that book, that every time the Israelites did what they wanted to, they ended up doing the wrong thing and were punished.

God gives us instructions for worship and treatment of others, and these are not just so that he can demonstrate his authority over us: he gives these to us so we can be protected. He is trying to keep us from harming ourselves, and I don’t mean falling off a ladder or burning our hands, but condemning ourselves to hell for all eternity. When we ignore what God says we should do, we ignore God.

This is a lesson that, unfortunately, Christianity hasn’t learned. They ignore most of the instructions God gave and justify it by referencing what men said, men like Paul, Peter, and James. And even though there are many good things that these men said, none of them is God, and not one of the Apostles or anyone after them has professed himself to be a prophet, hearing directly from God.

When King Solomon dedicated the temple in Jerusalem, the Jewish people had a place where they could go to be forgiven of their sins. That was the only place, and when the Romans destroyed it in 73 AD, the Jewish people were devastated because now there was no means of receiving forgiveness.

This is why they have to accept Yeshua as their Messiah because the resurrection of Yeshua was, in a way, a replacement of God’s name.

God said we could only sacrifice at the temple, and that has never changed, but when God raised Yeshua as a sign of his sacrifice being accepted, Yeshua then replaced the need to bring an animal to the temple. The commandment that we cannot sacrifice anywhere except where God places his name still exists and is valid; the only thing that has changed is where God put his name, which is now “on” Yeshua.

By accepting Yeshua as our Messiah, we have a new place where the sacrifice for sin is acceptable to God; through Yeshua, we can ask forgiveness without having to make a sacrifice at the temple.

All the other instructions in the Torah still stand- there is no “Get Out of Jail Free” card just because someone accepts Yeshua as their Messiah. We are ALL still expected to obey what God said we should do in the Torah.

Through Yeshua God has made forgiveness available to everyone, and he did it without ever changing his Torah.

Thank you for being here and please subscribe, share these messages and check out my Facebook discussion group called Just God’s Word.

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

Parashah Ekev 2021 (Because) Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25

Moses continues to advise the Israelites that when they obey the Lord’s instructions they will be blessed. God will go ahead of them into the land and slowly weaken the people there so that they will be more easily defeated.

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Moses reminds the people how God has tested them, afflicting them when they ignored him and yet, keeping them alive and protected for 40 years while they were in the desert.

Moses again warns the people that when they have settled in the land and are happy and safe, that they should not abandon God or think that they have all they do because of anything they did. He tells them that when they do that, the Lord will drive them out of the land, just as he did the ones that were there before them.

This discourse continues, reminding the people of the sin of the Golden Calf, God separating the Levites for service to him, and how he, Moses, suffered for them to have God spare them and give him the 10 Words, again.

Over and over Moses tells the people to remember all that God did for them and what happens, or will happen, when they reject God. He relates the story of the rebellion under Dathan and Abiram and pleads with the people to maintain their faithful obedience to God so that it will go well with them when they are in the land.

When I read this book, I sometimes think the name should be the Book of Redundancy. Over and over, and over, and over Moses tells the people the same darn thing: when they obey God’s commandments they will be blessed; when they reject God, they will be cursed and driven out of the land. He says this so many times, that you’d think the people would reply, “All right already! I get it!”

But history shows that they really didn’t get it.

Despite the many miraculous demonstrations of God’s power and ability to save, the people were no different then than they are now: if it is right here in front of me, I see and know, but once I am on my own, I don’t care and will do what I want to.

Even with strong and righteous leaders, such as Moses, Joshua, and many of the Judges, later on, people need to be strictly controlled in order to remain righteous. We desire to do evil, which is called iniquity, and it is part of our DNA! What we really need is to be strictly controlled by strong and righteous leadership in order to keep us in line.

So what can we do? If you’re asking me, and even if you’re not, I believe the only thing to do is for each individual to determine what they want from eternity. This life is temporary, and quite short, even insignificant compared to forever, but it is all the time we have been given to decide where we want to spend eternity.

And what is worse is that we never know when our time is up!

So do as Moses wanted his people to do, and faithfully accept that God is the one to listen to: not Moses, or your Rabbi, or the Talmud, or the Pope, or your Pastor, Minister, or Saint Paul, or non-Believing family or friends, but G-O-D.

And God tells you exactly what he expects from you here, in this Torah. Nowhere else in the entire Bible does God say what he wants us to do, how we are to worship him (Leviticus 23) or what we are to eat (Leviticus 11) or what kind of intimate relationships are righteous (Leviticus 18), and other ordinances and regulations found throughout the Torah that outline the kind of society and lifestyle we should have.

People think that religion is the way we are to worship God, but it isn’t. God has no religion, but people created religion in order to have power over other people, and the best way to disobey God is to obey a religion.

If you want God’s blessings, all you have to do is live your life the way God said you should. It’s really that simple: the reason there are so many different ways to do that is that religion has confused everything.

And for those who refuse to believe in God, or accept that Yeshua really IS the Messiah God promised to send, well…you’re on your own.

Good luck with that.

If I may, I suggest you check your history books because every civilization that rejected the God of Israel or came against Israel has been so decimated that it has never recovered its full strength, or is no longer in existence. Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Spain, and more currently the Nazis- all gone. And no matter how many times Syria or Jordan or Iran or Iraq or anyone else surrounding Israel tries to defeat and destroy them, they fail.

Not because of how great Israel is, but because of how great God is, and as long as Israel tries to do as God has commanded them, they will continue to survive and flourish.

God isn’t just for Israel, though- the good news for everyone else is that this is possible for them, too; all they have to do is reject their religion and worship God as he said to do.

Thank you for being here and please subscribe, share these messages, and check out my books on my website. I have a Facebook page and discussion group called Just God’s Word which everyone is invited to join, so long as you agree to the rules.

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

Parashah V’Etchanan 2021 (I pleaded) Deuteronomy 3:23 – 7:11

Moses continues his first discourse, pleading with God (again) to allow him to cross over the Jordan, to which God refuses but tells Moses to climb Mount Pisgah and look at the land. God tells Moses to charge Joshua to take the people into it.

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Moses reminds the people of all God did to bring them to the land, how his glory was seen at Mount Horeb but not in any physical form so do not make statues or any representation of God. He tells them, in a prophetic way, of what will happen when they abandon God and serve other gods.

Moses tells the Israelites they are representatives of the living God, and how as such when the nations see them live in accordance with God’s commandments they will remark how wonderful our God is because of the wonders and splendor of Israel. On the other hand, when Israel abandons God and they are destroyed and scattered among all the nations, how the people will see Israel as the representation of what happens when they abandon the God of their fathers.

In other words, Israel is to represent to all people how God wants all people to live.

Moses then begins his second discourse of the foundations of the covenant, reviewing the Ten Commandments and other laws that God has decreed. In Chapter 4, verses 4-9 Moses recites the Shema, the very watchword of our faith, the essence of monotheism, the declaration of the oneness and uniqueness of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

The Shema is then followed by the V’Ahavtah, the prayer that tells us to love the Lord, which my Chumash noted is the first time in human history when a religion required love of God.

This parashah ends with Moses warning the people to remain separate from the nations around them, who God will remove, or they will fall into sin with them and be expelled from the land.

What I am going to say today may sound very prejudicial, and even like bragging, but it is based on what Moses says.

Moses tells us throughout the Torah that one thing the Israelites are to be is an example to the world: not of how great, or how strong, or how intelligent we are, but how all these blessings demonstrate how wonderful our God is.

Recall that God told Moses way back when they received the commandments that God chose Israel to be his nation of priests (Exodus 19:6) and as such we are to be an example to the entire world how to live in accordance with the way God wants us to live.

The greatness of Israel is not its’ people but its’ God!

In John 14:9, Yeshua said that when we see him, we see his father, meaning that as the image of God he demonstrates God’s wonder, power, and holiness. In this same way, the Israelites are also to be an image of God. When we see the wonders of this nation of priests, how they work together, how they worship, how they are blessed, their strength, and their wealth, it demonstrates the greatness of the God who chose them as his own.

Every person who professes to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and especially those who have accepted Yeshua (Jesus) as their Messiah, are obligated –no, we are commanded!– to demonstrate the goodness and holiness of God in everything we do and say.

This is why the V’Ahavtah prayer not only tells us to love the Lord our God with all our heart (representing the mind), all our soul (spirit), and all our might (how we act in the physical world) but to also teach this to our children. We are to have God’s instructions before our eyes and on our hands (which is the tefillin), on our doorposts and gates (which is the mezuzah), and to speak of them when rising and going to bed, which are the daily prayers.

   * The three daily prayers Jews recite are the Shacharit (morning), Mincha (afternoon), 
      and Maariv (evening). Each prayer is only 10-15 minutes long, as defined and
      instructed by Halacha, which is found in the Talmud. 

It is the responsibility of the Jewish people to show the world how God wants everyone to live, and as that example to remain steadfast in their worship and lifestyle. Unfortunately, we have rarely lived up to that standard, but still, we have demonstrated the power of God, as well as his unwavering desire and ability to forgive those who repent.

I have occasionally posted how the Jews have truly been a blessing to the world, just by looking at all the Nobel prizes won by Jews compared to the other religions. Jews represent about 4/10 of one percent of the total population, but since the Nobel Prize has been awarded, they have accounted for nearly 28% of all Nobel prizes given out. Besides that, today Israel is a world leader in cyber technology, agriculture, and medicine, all of which help everyone.

Did you know that Israel developed a facemask that is guaranteed to kill the Covid-19 virus? It can be washed up to 55 times and is still guaranteed to protect you for 1 year.

God has placed on the Jewish people an enormous responsibility to represent him, just the same way that within any religion the religious leader is required to act and live to a higher standard of righteousness. Overall, Jews have done this, but we have been as unstable as the ocean, shifting from righteous to sinful, then back again. In today’s world, where sin is becoming more prominent than ever, as God’s chosen representatives of his power and glory, the Jewish people are being accused of crimes and human rights violations by the ones who are the REAL violators.

And the world hates to hear the truth but loves to accept the lies, promulgated by the media, the United Nations, and even by members of our own government!

But, in the end, God will win and the Jewish people will continue to fulfill their calling to be priests to the world, with the High Priest (Cohen Gadol) being the greatest Jew who ever lived, Yeshua the Messiah!

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

Parashah D’varim 2021 (Here are the words) Deuteronomy 1 – 3:22

We reach the final book of the Torah, which is a review of the past 40 years.

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Moses reviews the travels, and travails, of the Israelites from when they refused to enter the land until that moment. He wrote this book in three separate discourses: the first being a review of their journey and events during that journey. The Second Discourse reviews the covenant God made with us and the 10 Commandments, as well as other aspects of the Mosaic Laws. Moses recites the Shema and reviews all the laws that God gave us during the 40 year travels in the desert, such as Kashrut (Kosher), the penal code, the Moedim (Holy Days), and miscellaneous laws such as marriage, removing landmarks, laws for warfare, cutting down of trees, etc.

The Third (and final) Discourse from Moses regards the enforcement of the law. He reviews how the laws are to be enforced throughout the tribes, and in this last discourse is one of my favorite chapters, Chapter 28, which we refer to as the “Blessings and Curses Chapter.” This is where God gives us his promise of the many blessings we receive for obedience to his Torah, as well as the warning and specification of all the curses that will befall us if we reject his instructions, which is tantamount to rejecting God.

The Torah is the ONLY place in the entire Bible where we can read that God tells Moses exactly what he is to tell the people; we aren’t talking about Moses’ interpretation of a vision, but dictation directly from the Almighty, himself!

Yet, despite the fact that the Torah is the direct word of God, the Torah is one of the first things that Christianity rejected in lieu of its own holidays, dogma, rituals, and laws. They kept the 10 Commandments as part of their religion, but that was about it.

Even though I know the history behind the separation of the “mainstream” Jews and the followers of Yeshua in the First Century, and how that schism developed into totally different religions composed almost exclusively of Gentiles with totally different laws, I still can’t understand how anyone could have so easily rejected God’s instructions. Especially when he warns us so vividly in Deuteronomy 28!

And looking back through history, we can see that God didn’t mislead us about what will happen when we ignore him.

If you want the “Reader’s Digest” version of the Torah, then this is the book for you. Everything that is essential to know about the first 4 books is in this one book, and to demonstrate how complete it is, Moses tells us that we shouldn’t add or subtract anything from this book. In fact, it is such an important thing that Moses gives this instruction twice: once at the beginning (Deut. 4:2) and again in the middle (Deut. 12:32).

The final act of leadership from Moses is to teach Israel what we call “The Song of Moses”, which is really the song of God since God told Moses to teach it to the people as a testimony against them when they turn away from the Torah in the future (Deut. 31:19); and finally, before ascending Mt. Nebo to die, Moses blesses the people.

As we go through this book over the next few months, until we come to Simchat Torah at the end of Sukkot when we turn the Torah back to Genesis to start reading it all over again, we will be able to relearn the most important of all the instructions God gave to us through Moses, which are the only ways (according to God, himself) by which we can earn as many blessings as God can give us.

And let me tell you something: God will never run out of blessings!

Thank you for being here and please subscribe to my website and YouTube channel, as well as share these messages with everyone you know to help this ministry grow.

My latest book, Parashot Drashim, is a commentary and bible study of each of the parashot in the Torah, so if you are interested you can get it through my website, or order it directly through Amazon books.

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

Parashah Pinchas 2021 (Pinchas) Numbers 25:10 – 30:1

In the last parashah, Pinchas, the grandson of Aaron, had just run through with a spear a prince of the tribe of Simeon named Zimri and the Midianite woman he was using to mock Moses and his warning against being involved with the Midianites.

God says that thanks to Pinchas’ zeal for God, the plague God sent had been stopped, and he promises his peace on Pinchas and the position of the priesthood to Pinchas and his descendants, forever.

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God commands Moses to take another census, which shows that the generation doomed to die in the desert have all died.

The daughters of Zelophehad came to Moses because their father died and left no sons and they didn’t want their inheritance to be forfeited. God told Moses that women could inherit if there were no sons, but they must marry within their tribe to maintain the proper distribution of the land.

Moses, now coming to the end of his journey, asks God to appoint a leader to bring the people into the land. God appoints Joshua, who Moses charges before all the people.

The parashah ends with God reminding Moses about the daily sacrifices to be made, as well as those for the High Holy Days, so that the people, this new generation, will know what they are to do when they enter the land.

As I was reading this, it struck me that the action of one man, Pinchas, was enough to make a change in the lives of every single Israelite that was present when the man, Zimri, mocked Moses and God in front of everyone, even in the midst of the plague that God sent to punish the sin of the people.

Initially, God had Moses and the Chieftains hang those who had aligned themselves with Ba’al, but when Pinchas showed his righteous anger from his zeal for God, God stopped the plague. It seems that hanging those who had sinned wasn’t enough to stop the plague, but Pinchas’ actions were inspired by such an overwhelming love for God that it, alone, was enough to turn God’s anger from the people.

My question is this: can one person’s actions be so significant as to change God’s plan? It seems that God was willing to have the plague continue, even after the sinners were hung, but Pinchas changed all that with his one deed of righteousness.

Shaul, in his letter to the Romans, said that through the actions of one man sin entered the world, and by the actions of one man salvation became attainable. In the case of the Israelites, there were many who sinned but it was the actions of just one man who turned God’s anger away from everyone.

Can I do that? Can you do that? Can anyone of us do something so wonderful in God’s sight that it will change how God treats all people?

I believe the answer is yes; anyone can affect what God does. Now, do I think I can? Well, that’s a different issue, as I don’t believe I am anywhere near “holy” or “zealous” enough to initiate such actions; but, then again, who am I to tell God what he can or cannot do through me?

The lesson I see in today’s parashah is that when we have a heart for God and do not allow what others think to influence our showing that love and devotion to God, we can initiate actions on God’s part that can affect many people. Within a congregation, within a discussion group, and maybe even within a simple, small ministry such as mine.

So do something BIG for God today, and see what happens. If you don’t notice anything, then do something BIG for God tomorrow and every day after that. You may just do something, one day, which will cause God to bless others.

Hey, even if you don’t see how this influences God’s actions in other people’s lives, I guarantee it will have a positive influence on your life.

That’s it for this week. Please remember to share these messages and subscribe to the website and my YouTube channel, as well.

L’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!

Parashah Korach 2021 (Korach) Numbers 16 – 18

In this parashah, we read of the great rebellion, which Korach led along with Abiram and Dathan. Korach was a Levite and Abiram and Dathan were of the tribe of Reuben.

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We all know what happened: the 250 leading men of Israel whom Korach convinced to follow him, along with Korach were all destroyed when they took their censors to the Tent of Meeting, and Abiram and Dathan, with their family and possessions, were swallowed alive by the earth.

Then the people accused Moses and Aaron of killing God’s people, so God ordered that the 12 tribal leaders should put their staffs into the Tent of Meeting, and the one that has buds the next morning will be proof of who God wants to lead. Aaron’s staff not only had buds but flowered and also had ripened almonds.

One last thing that God ordered was that the Levites were to surround the Tent of Meeting so that no one may come close to it without proper authority.

There is so much to talk about here, but what I want to do is deal with is with one verse, one verse that represents the way Israel treats all people fairly and respects all life, even the lives of those that hate us.

In Numbers 16:21, God tells Moses that he will destroy the entire congregation, but Moses prays that God will only deal with the ones who are sinning. God relents and tells Moses to tell the people who are close to the tents of Abiram, Dathan, and Korach to move far away from them, for their own safety so that they will not be destroyed along with those sinners.

In other words, get away from where the battle is coming so you aren’t collateral damage.

In 1 Samuel 15:6, after God has Samuel tell Shaul that he must completely destroy the Amaleki for the evil they did against Israel, Shaul warns the Keni living with the Amaleki to go away from them or they will be destroyed along with the Amaleki.

In other words, get away from where the battle is coming so you aren’t collateral damage.

Just recently, Israel defended itself from further rocket attacks by bombing the tunnels that Hamas and PIJ used to launch rocket attacks at Israeli civilians. The Hamas / PIJ tunnels and military headquarters were placed in civilian areas, so Israel dropped millions of pamphlets and made millions of text messages and cell phone calls to the people living there, warning them of the coming attack and telling them to flee before Israel takes out these military targets.

In other words, get away from where the battle is coming so you aren’t collateral damage.

For the record, hundreds of Gaza Strip resident deaths were not caused by Israel but by the rockets that Hamas and PIJ launched falling short of their target; instead of killing Israeli civilians, Hamas and PIJ rockets fell right on the heads of their own people.

From the time of Moses, some 3500 years ago to this very day, God’s people have respected the lives of all people, treating them fairly and with compassion. Even our enemies have been given way more leeway to attack us before we take defensive actions. And all the attacks Israel has ever made against their neighbors, who refuse to just leave Israel alone because they say they won’t settle for anything but the total destruction of Israel, have been defensive.

The media wants to show Israel as an apartheid and invasive country, and the world seems to want to go along with that lie. The truth is that Israel takes up such a small percentage of the land that is Arab controlled and occupied that it is almost insignificant. Historically, before the state of Israel existed, the land Israel now occupies was wasteland-undeveloped, uncultured, uninhabited except by nomadic people who came and left as the fodder for their herds was used up.

The Jews, even though we are (still and forever) God’s people, have constantly done wrong throughout our long history, yet we have also constantly done right. God has punished us for our sins, and forgiven and saved us from our enemies when we do right. One thing the Bible shows we have always done right, and still do to this very day, is to respect the lives of others in accordance with God’s commandment in Leviticus 19:18.

In Israel, Arabs and Jews live and work together without animosity, each receiving equal pay, equal opportunity for advancement, and mutual respect for each other.

Can we, in the United States of America, make that claim? Does our history show racial equality and mutual respect between religions? Do women have the same opportunity as men? Do different races co-exist well together?

Korach and his followers were jealous of the authority God gave to Moses and Aaron, and I believe that the Arab people are no different. The Media and the United Nations, just like the 250 men who went along with Korach, because of their own sense of self-importance accept these lies and want, instead, to destroy the country that has shown itself superior in every way, especially in the arena of human rights.

The sad fact is that Israel, being accused by the world of being a violator of human rights, is the only country in the world today that truly treats all people in the country with the same rights and privileges, just as God said they should way back when he first gave us the Torah (Exodus 12:49.)

The next time you hear some idiot say that Israel is unfair to the Palestinian people (who aren’t really a people, but a propaganda creation of Yasser Arafat), please correct them with the truth. There are no “Palestinian people”; Hamas and PIJ have hidden behind women and children to attack Israel’s women and children; Israel has always tried to defend only against military targets (which the Arabs hide among schools, hospitals, and civilian homes), and that when Israel takes action, before doing so they do something NO ONE does or ever did- they warn the innocents to get out of the way!

God’s people have made many mistakes, but we have always come back to God and done many of the things God wants us to do, and that is why we are still here; for nearly 6, 000 years everyone in the world has tried to destroy us, but they can’t because God protects us, and through Israel the world is blessed.

One day Yeshua will rule from Jerusalem, the truth will come out, and the world will be ashamed.

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

Parashah Shelach Lecha 2021 (Send out) Numbers 13-15

At the beginning of this parashah, the Israelites have come to the border of Cana’an, and 12 men, one prince from each tribe, are sent into the Land to reconnoiter and bring back a report.

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The 12 men, of whom Joshua and Caleb are members, spend 40 days in the Land. Upon their return, they all say how wonderful the land is; Caleb and Joshua are ready and eager to go in and take possession. But, the other 10 princes say they see the giant Anakim there and that the cities are well fortified and protected. They say if the people try to conquer the land they will all be destroyed and their children taken as slaves.

The people are utterly demoralized, and as their fear overtakes them they again complain against Moses and Aaron, whining like they always have about why he ever took them from Egypt to die in the desert. They are so upset they talk about choosing a new leader and returning to Egypt.

God tells Moses that he is fed up with these people and will destroy them and make a new nation from Moses. Moses, interceding on their behalf, reminds God (using the same argument he used at the sin of the Golden Calf) that if God did that, then the nations who are in awe of God now will say that God wasn’t able to deliver on his promises. He asks God to show the forgiveness and mercy that he declared about himself earlier (Exodus 34:6-7), and God says he will do as Moses asks.

However, the guilty will be punished and the people will spend one year in the desert for each day they were in the land until the entire generation that defied God and rebelled against his order to possess the land is dead. The children they said would be slaves in the land will, instead, be the ones to inherit and own the land.

After Moses tells them what God has decreed, the people feel even worse and in their desire to make atonement, they again rebel against God and decide that they will go in and take possession. Moses warns them not to go because God is not with them, but they fail to listen. Again. So, when they attack they are routed and completely defeated (which is why the place they were defeated is called Hormah, which means “utterly destroyed”.)

God sends them into the desert and instructs Moses to remind them of the things they must do with regard to sacrifices and first fruits when they do enter the land.

This parashah ends with the story of a man who was caught collecting sticks during the Shabbat, and upon asking God what is to be done, God says the man must be stoned to death. God also commands that thereafter, every man is to wear tzitzit, the fringes around their clothes, in order that each one will see the tzitzit of the other and by seeing that, remember to obey God.

One of the most important things that God says in this parashah, which he says continually throughout his instructions to us, is in Numbers 15:15-16 (CJB):

For this community there will be the same law for you as for the foreigner living with you; this is a permanent regulation through all your generations; the foreigner is to be treated the same way before Adonai as yourselves. The same Torah and standard of judgment will apply to both you and the foreigner living with you.

In our modern world, the idea of “sojourning” is pretty archaic, and we would more likely say that someone has converted instead of saying they sojourn. A very (pardon my saying it this way) Christian term, that many are more comfortable and familiar with, is to say that one is “grafted in”, which is, in essence, the same thing as sojourning. Whatever label you wish to put on it, the idea is the same: someone has decided that they would rather be associated with and part of one organization than another, whether the defining difference is religion, geography, or lifestyle.

The Pharisee living in the First Century called Shaul, that nice tentmaker from Tarsus, talked a lot about grafting in, specifically the Gentile ex-pagans he helped become grafted onto the Tree of Life, which is the Messiah. He talks often of Grace being given to these Gentiles who can now receive it as the result of their decision to spiritually sojourn with the Jewish people (I say spiritually sojourn with them because they were already living with them.)

But what has happened to his teachings is that they have been twisted around, and instead of the Grace he was talking about, Grace has been made into a system by which people are allowed to reject the Torah! Modern Christianity has turned Grace from being received for joining the Jewish people and accepting their Messiah to rejecting the Jewish people and using God’s Grace as an excuse to reject the Torah.

Don’t they know that by rejecting the Torah they are rejecting God?

I have, for years, heard people preach against the Torah in favor of Grace, making it seem that Torah and Grace are exclusive of each other: in other words, you can’t have obedience to the Torah and receive Grace. You are either under Grace or under Torah, also called being under the law.

Hmmm…well, if I am not under the law that means, by definition, I am above the law. So, nu? do you think that you are above the law? Does God’s Grace give you the authority to reject God’s instructions, the ones he gave, which are the ones Yeshua taught regarding how we are to live and worship?

I have heard often how Shaul (supposedly) says Believers are under Grace and don’t have to obey the Torah, and how people have taken that to wrongly equate obedience to the Torah with Legalism, but let’s see what God says. And guess what? God tells us exactly how he feels about those who reject the Torah, right in this parashah, Numbers 15: 30-31 (CJB):

But an individual who does something wrong intentionally, whether a citizen or a foreigner, is blaspheming Adonai. That person will be cut off from his people. Because he has had contempt for the word of Adonai and has disobeyed his command, that person will be cut off completely; his offense will remain with him.

This is what God says about anyone who disobeys the Torah commandments, whether they think they are allowed to or not. He doesn’t say those who do something wrong because they think they are allowed to are fine: no, God says that those who disobey on purpose will be cut off from his people. And this command is also addressed, just before this verse, to both the native-born and the foreigner who sojourns with (is grafted into) the society of the chosen people of God.

And that means anyone who receives Yeshua as their Messiah; period, end of line, discussion over: shut the door on your way out!

Like it or not, if you profess to believe in Yeshua (Jesus) as the Messiah and the son of God, then you are grafted in, i.e. an adopted son or daughter of Abraham and thereby (at least) spiritually one of the chosen people of God.

And that means you are subject to the same rules as the chosen people of God because God said so!

Being under the law is not a bad thing; in fact, it is the best thing that can happen to anyone because God promises, in Deuteronomy 28, that when you obey his instructions you will be bountifully blessed!

Obedience to the Torah is basically from one of two motivations: you either obey because you are trying to earn something or you obey as a result of your love and respect for God. Obedience to the Torah that stems from trying to earn salvation is called Legalism; obedience to the Torah because you love the Lord and want to please him, the same way you would do what your father or mother tells you out of respect and knowing that they only want the best for you, is called faithful obedience.

And God tells us that obedience to the Torah pleases him in Ezekiel 18:23.

Grace and Torah are not exclusive, they are inclusive. As we can see from Numbers 15:30, God says anyone who disobeys his instructions on purpose will be cut off, i.e. not accepted into God’s presence. Even if you profess to believe in Messiah, try to live a righteous life, but do so expecting that Grace is all you need, you are fooling yourself.

Grace cannot be given to someone who rejects God, and when you disobey the instructions that God gave, you are rejecting God.

Obey the Torah not to earn anything but to show God that you respect his authority, love him, and want to do only that which pleases him; when you do, you will receive from God all that God can give you.

However, if you like the idea that you don’t have to do what God says because of what men tell you, then expect only that which men can give you.

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

Parashah B’haalotecha 2021 (When you light) Numbers 8 – 12

This parashah begins with the anointing of the tribe of Levi to perform the service of the Sanctuary. They are washed and all Israel lays their hands on them, then the Levites laid their hands on and sacrificed a bull and a burnt offering. God reminds Moses to tell the people that the firstborn of everything belongs to the Lord, but that he has substituted the Levites for those who are firstborn.

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When some who were unclean to celebrate the Pesach asked Moses why they shouldn’t get to participate, he asks God for help. God says that those unable to celebrate in the month of Aviv (now called Nissan) can celebrate it on the 14th day of the following month (Iyar.)

We are told how the people traveled based on the cloud over the Sanctuary: when it moved, they moved. We are also given the rules for the silver trumpets. Moses’ father-in-law is asked to join the people and it sounds like he refuses to go with them. But in Judges 1:16, we are told that the descendants of Moses’ father-in-law went from the City of Date Palms (Jericho) with the tribe of Judah into the desert of Yehuda, so it seems that he did travel with the people.

The people kvetch, which may have been initiated by the Gentiles with them (Numbers 11:4), about not having meat and Moses cries to God asking that he kill him instead of having to make him endure these constant complaints. God places some of the spirit he had given to Moses on 70 of the Elders to help out, and then sent quails to appease the hunger of the people. But, no sooner had they started to eat, then a plague God sent killed many of them, as punishment for their complaining and faithlessness.

In Chapter 12, we read how Aaron and Miriam spoke out against Moses for taking an Ethiopian woman as his wife, and God punished Miriam by giving her leprosy. Moses begs God to heal her, and God makes her stay outside of the camp (after healing her) for 7 days. Aaron, on the other hand, isn’t stricken with the disease. Most likely this is because as Cohen HaGadol (High Priest) he couldn’t become unclean for that long a time. But it seems that he was scared to death when he saw what happened to Miriam.

This chapter has special meaning to me because this was the parashah reading I did for my Bar Mitzvah.

I mentioned above that in Numbers 11:4 we are told the people complained how they missed eating meat, and also craved the vegetables and spices that they had in Egypt. To me, this is an example of the difficulty of being set apart, as well as having to be set apart while still living in a dark and faithless world.

The lesson for today is simple: salvation is free and easy to get, but costly and difficult to keep.

To be forgiven of our sin and set up for life eternal, all we have to do is confess our sins, repent of them and accept Yeshua (Jesus) as our Messiah, asking for forgiveness by means of his sacrifice. If we do that and mean it (yes- you DO have to mean it! God isn’t stupid, you know) then we will be forgiven.

That’s the easy part, now for the hard part.

Once you accept Yeshua as your Messiah, you are grafted into the chosen people of God and an adopted child of Abraham (Romans 11); as such, you are to be treated just like all the other chosen people (Exodus 12:49), which means not only do you receive the same rights as they do under the law but you are expected to obey that law, just as they do.

In other words, to be a child of Abraham and grafted onto the Tree of Life, you must draw from the root of that tree, which is the Torah.

You can’t have salvation without the obligation to obey God’s instructions.

And, to make things even harder, just as the Israelites in the desert had Gentiles with them who complained, influencing them to complain as well, in the world we have faithless and evil people who will try to influence us to join them in their sin.

As I often say, it is very hard to work in a fish market all day and not come home smelling of fish. Likewise, living in the world and trying to remain free of its stench is what makes being set apart so difficult to maintain.

And it is costly, in that many Believers have lost friends and been ostracized by family for their beliefs.

But you must maintain your separation! That doesn’t mean going from home to shul or church, and nowhere else, or never talk to anyone but other Believers; no, it means going into the darkness to be the light we are but not allowing the darkness to overcome you.

How can that be done? Through constantly recharging your spiritual battery by communing with other Believers, by choosing to stay faithful to what you have learned from reading God’s word, which you should do every day, and by constantly looking for God’s blessings in your life, which confirm you are on the right track.

That’s right- sometimes we have to look really hard to see the blessings, often disguised as bad things happening to us because God always blesses those who obey him (this is his promise in Deuteronomy 28) and he always answers prayer, although very often it isn’t what you expect or when you expect it.

If you would like to know more about prayer, please get my book, “Prayer: What It Is and How It Works”. It is available on Amazon and there is a link to it on my website.

We are to be holy as God is holy, which means set apart from the world, even though we still have to live in the world. That is the hard part- working with fish but not smelling like one, and the only way to do that is to keep washing with the blood of the Messiah and cleaning your hands with God’s word, which will also keep your spirits up and your mind cleansed.

Salvation cannot be taken away, but we can throw it away. To avoid doing that, even by mistake, we must obey God’s instructions in the Torah and not what some Rabbi says in the Talmud or what some Apostle says in a letter.

It is what God says that counts.

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

Parashah Naso 2021 (Take) Numbers 4:21 – 7

As we read at the beginning of this book, the first thing that God had Moses do was to take a census to determine the number of men able to go to battle. In this parashah, God has Moses count the Levites and identifies who is to carry which parts of the Tabernacle.

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God gives instructions that all lepers must be placed outside the camp, in order that the camp not become defiled because Adonai will dwell within the camp.

He also gives instructions regarding when a husband suspects a wife of adultery, restitution for sinning against a brother Israelite, laws for vow-making, and the manner in which the Cohen shall bless the people, known as the Aaronic Blessing (Numbers 6:23-26.)

This parashah ends detailing (in exacting detail) the gifts that each of the twelve tribes brought to the Tabernacle after it had been set up and anointed.

In my Chumash, the commentary states the gifts were identical because there was such harmony between the tribes that no one tribe wanted to outdo the other, therefore they all gave the same gifts.

But then it goes on to state how the gifts were representative of the history of each tribe, whereas each identical item had a different significance, relating specifically to that tribe. These different meanings were based on the tribe’s history.

For example, Numbers 7:12 tells us the first tribe to bring their gifts was Judah, presented by Nahshon, and the Midrash tells us that Nahshon was honored to be the first to present the gifts because when the Red Sea was parted and the Israelites were hesitant to enter, Nahshon boldly plunged in, trusting that God would protect them.

Another example was that the silver charger presented by Reuben’s tribe recalled to mind that Reuben’s words saved Joseph’s life, quoting Proverbs 10:20 which says “The tongue of the just is as choice silver.”

Of course, none of this is found anywhere in the Torah. These stories and comments are the fabrication of the Rabbis over the years, which is what the Talmud really is all about: it is called the Oral Law but in reality, it is rabbinical mythology that tries to explain things we read in the Torah.

Another example is that we read at the end of Genesis 17 about the circumcision of Abraham, and the very next chapter starts with the visitation of the three angels. Well, the Torah has no defined timeline between these two events, but the Talmud tells us the angels visited on the third day after Abraham’s B’rit Milah, the day when the pain is the worst, and that it was a sign of Abraham’s devotion and humility that despite his pain, he got up and served these strangers.

Total fiction, not biblically substantiated in any way, but still and all a really nice story, and probably not that far from the truth, with regards to the type of man Abraham was.

I believe the Talmud is a wonderful book, full of much wisdom from many of the most studious and scholarly Rabbis of the past couple of millennia. BUT…it is not scripture. It is a work of fiction based on scripture, not unlike Hollywood making up what seems to be a nice way to see things that happened in history, but it’s not real.

Now, having said that, we can’t say all of it wasn’t real, because the truth is we do not know the time between the visitation of the angels and Abraham’s circumcision. It could have been days or even months later- we just don’t know, so the Talmud narrative could be true. Who knows? Maybe God gave a special insight to whoever came up with that, or maybe it is just something someone thought would fit in nicely.

We’ll never know, but to read it doesn’t weaken our faith, and that is an important point to understand when confirming my belief that studying the Talmud is not a bad idea. What we read may be man-made, but it doesn’t do anything to reduce our faith, and actually is designed to increase our understanding of God and his ways, which can only strengthen our faith.

Studying the Talmud will, at the very least, give you a good “feel’ for the Jewish mindset, and it will especially help you to understand Jewish Logic, which is my term for the way Jews argue. A Jew will never tell you what something is until he first tells you everything it isn’t. When you learn to recognize this methodology, then the letters that Shaul (Paul) wrote will become much easier to understand, and you will be able to see why they have been misunderstood and misinterpreted by Christians for so many years.

The Talmud also instructs us in how we are to obey the Torah in our everyday lives, which is called Halacha (The Way to Walk), and is what the Orthodox and Chasidic Jew learns from the time they can understand right from wrong. In the more religious sects of Judaism, the study of the Talmud comes even before the study of the Torah!

Sometimes we read instructions in the Torah and we can’t understand the reasons why God gave them. Often, there seems to be something missing: for example, we read about sacrificing an animal, and the Torah states we must treat our animals humanely, but there is nothing anywhere in the Torah telling us how to kill the animal humanely. However, the Talmud describes this process, which is called the Shechitah. So, the Talmud sort of “fills in” the missing parts, and even though it is all man-made tradition, I have never seen anything in the Talmud (although I am certainly not well-versed in it) that would be detrimental to our faith in God. The underlying foundation of the Talmud is the very word of God, so it builds on this and adds to it in a manner that is designed to help us better worship and obey the Torah.

And although Yeshua certainly had trouble with some of the rabbinic regulations, which later were part of the Talmud, he wasn’t against all man-made traditions, only those which had been given precedence over the instructions from God.

So, with regard to today’s parashah reading, reading the Torah narrative seems remarkably redundant, each of the twelve tribes presenting the exact same things, so why didn’t Moses just write what was given, and end it by saying each tribe gave the same? I don’t know, but we do know that when we see things repeated in the Bible it is usually to make an impact on the importance of what we are reading. Maybe, just maybe, Moses repeated each tribe’s gifts so that later someone, like whoever wrote about this in the Talmud, could explain how each identical item represented something unique to the tribe that presented it?

That’s why the Talmud isn’t such a bad book to know: you just have to be able to separate the wheat from the tares, so to speak, when reading it. Knowing the Tanakh is the first step, so that when you read the Talmud stories you can know which is biblical and which is not.

A funny aside: when I was touring Israel in 2016, I was the only Jew in the group and our Israeli guide was an expert in relating the Bible stories to the geography we were visiting. However, he was relating Talmudic stories as well as biblical stories, so throughout the trip, I kept raising my hand and saying, “Yosi- that was from the Talmud, right?” to which he would confess it was. I don’t know if he appreciated that or not, but we are still friends on Facebook, so I guess it didn’t really bother him.

In my opinion, a student of the Bible should not ignore the Talmud but become at least a little familiar with it as a means of better rounding out one’s understanding of Judaism and the Jewish mindset.

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