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!

Parashot Behar/Bechukotai 2021 (On the Mountain/By my regulations)Leviticus 25 – 26:2/26:3 – 27

God gives the instructions regarding the Sabbatical year and the Year of Jubilee. He further gives the regulations regarding the redemption of one’s property, which includes slaves, when the Jubilee year arrives, as well as regulations for the proper way to price the property in relation to the expected value received between the time of sale and the Jubilee Year.

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The last parashah of Leviticus is also the end of this book. Leviticus has different sections which relate to the different aspects of one’s life: the rules for the Priesthood are the sacerdotal sections, then we have the ceremonial rules, followed by the ethical rules, and now we are in the final section, which is an admonition to the people to maintain proper worship, followed by the warning against disobedience. In this final chapter, God tells of the increasingly terrible curses that will fall on the people as they continue to disobey and reject God’s instructions.

Chazak! Chazak! V’nit Chazek!!
(Be strong, be strong, and let us be strengthened!)

Leviticus is the central book of the Torah, and the instructions we are given in this book are the foundation upon which we build proper worship of God.

I wonder how many people really know what the term “worship of God” means? From my experience with people throughout my life, whether they are spiritual or secular, I think they see the worship of God to mean going to synagogue or church each week and trying to be a “good person”, whatever that means.

For Jews, it is a little more complex: you see, we believe all the laws, statutes, and commandments in the Torah are still binding, whereas so many Christians have been taught they are exempt because they believe in the son of God. I still don’t understand how someone can say they follow the son of God, who was 100% obedient to his father, and then in the same breath say they are exempt from obeying the father, which is something the son never did! I mean, if the son says he obeys his father, and you say you follow the son, then shouldn’t you also obey the father?

In my opinion, the proper way to worship God is to live in the manner he tells us we should. We should not reject his commandments regarding what foods are to be eaten, although we can reject the Talmudic rules of Halacha (Way to Walk) because those are man-made laws. I am not saying we have to reject the entire Talmud; actually, I say we should study the Talmud because there is much wisdom and understanding in there. There is also a lot of drek (Yiddish for “rubbish”) so we need to tread carefully, separating the wheat from the tares.

So, am I “under the law” because I believe the Torah is still valid and binding on anyone who says they worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? No, I am not, and the reason I am not is that I know no one can obey the Torah perfectly, which is why we needed the Messiah. And I also know that salvation comes through faith, but having faith doesn’t mean we don’t have to try to be obedient to what God says we should do! God provided the Messiah explicitly because he knew we would fail to obey him perfectly, so to protect us from ourselves he sent Yeshua.

Yeshua was our ideal example, and when we accept him as our Messiah we should try to emulate Yeshua, just as God has always said we should emulate God: remember the statement God made often?

“Be thou holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.”

The justification Christianity gives for rejecting God’s commandments and regulations, which (like it or not) is exactly what you do when you don’t obey the Torah, comes from the misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the letters Shaul (Paul) wrote to the different congregations he formed throughout the Middle East during his missionary work. And, for the record, they were never “churches”, they were Kehillot, which is the plural form of Kehillah, which is the Hebrew word for “congregation.” Did you know that the word synagogue is not from Hebrew? It is from Greek and means a place of assembly, which is also a definition of the word ecclesia. It is only in modern times that synagogue has become associated solely with Jews, and ecclesia is considered to be the Christian church.

There is no statement anywhere in the entire Bible, from Genesis through Revelation, where anyone says “Jews must obey Torah but Christians don’t have to” or anything in any way that states God allows anyone to reject any of his laws. However, there are plenty of places where God tells us that to obey him is to live but to reject him is to die. The New Covenant tells us faith is shown through works (James 2:14), and that even though Grace trumps sin, it is not a license to sin (Romans 6:15.)

The one absolute command that is found throughout all religions is to obey. In Judaism, the Orthodox more often than not go to the Talmud before they go to the Tanakh and in Christianity, they go to the Pope or the World Council of Churches, or whichever body their religion gets its rules from, but in all these cases they are going to human beings and not to God.

It is up to each of us to decide how we will worship God, and that depends on who will we obey: we can obey our religious leaders or we can obey God.

As for me and my house, we choose the Lord. Whom do you choose?

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

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.

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

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!

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!

Parashot Tazria-Metzorah 2021(When she conceives / Tzararat) Leviticus 12-13 and 14-15

This Shabbat reading is a double-parashah. These four chapters deal with the uncleanliness of birth secretions and of the skin diseases we call leprosy.

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

I have absolutely no idea why God makes a woman unclean after giving birth to a girl twice as long as when giving birth to a boy, and despite the many jokes I already have popping into my head, I will demonstrate restraint and wisdom and not post even one of them.

The age-old argument for why God gave us these instructions is that they are for hygienic reasons or they are strictly Levitical (religious). There can be, of course, valid arguments for both sides.

Obviously, if someone has leprosy you do not want them in the general population for the safety of all. On the other hand, leprosy was also used as a punishment for religious disobedience, as in Numbers 12, when God struck Miriam with leprosy for speaking against Moses; as such, it may represent being spiritually cut off from the people as well as physically.

I consider these regulations as the type of instructions we call Chukim, which are commandments and laws for which we cannot understand why God gave them to us. Yes, it is easy to understand separating a person with a contagious disease, but why is a woman unclean after giving birth to a girl twice as long as for a boy? We can understand she is unclean from the secretions caused by the birth but, then again, why is someone ceremonially unclean just because they had a secretion?

I have stated often when we come across a commandment from God, one for which we have no idea why he gave it to us, that obedience doesn’t require understanding, only faith and trust. I have stated this more often than not, I think when we are going through the book of Leviticus because, well, this is where a lot of chukim appear.

But that is not what I feel is something we should review now. No, I think the message for today is simply that when we come across a commandment that deals with hygiene, it can also represent both a physical and spiritual condition. For example, witches are almost always portrayed as ugly because their spiritual essence is so evil that it affects their physical appearance, as well. Conversely, spiritually pure people are displayed as beautiful.

So what about Samantha Stevens? In the TV show “Bewitched”, she was a witch and she was absolutely gorgeous! Oh, wait a minute- she was a “good” witch, wasn’t she? (If there can be such a thing.) Of course, for decades TV and movies have been portraying evil as good in order to get us conditioned to thinking that evil is not just acceptable, but desirable. After all, Satan is called the Prince of the Air, and how is TV transmitted?

But, we’re getting off topic, so let’s get back to today’s parashot.

The lesson I believe these parashot can give us today is that one’s physical condition doesn’t necessarily indicate their spiritual condition. Many people with horrendous physical ailments or handicaps can be pure as new-fallen snow, spiritually, and there are beautiful people who are more like what Yeshua accused the Pharisees of being: white-washed sepulchers full of dead people’s bones.

So here it is, pure and simple: do not judge from the outside but try to see people as God does, from the inside. It is hard to overcome the social conditioning we all – everyone in the world- have undergone, which is that beauty is better than ugliness, but when we look at people’s fruit instead of their bodies, we will be able to judge properly what their spiritual condition is, despite their physical appearance.

And one last thing: please try to avoid discussions about why God said we must or must not do something. They may be interesting from a scholarly view, but when it comes down to what is important, knowing why God wants you to do something is not going to save you, but doing what God wants you to do is certainly not going to hurt you.

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

Parashah Shimini 2021 (Eighth) Leviticus 9 – 11

This parashah begins with the continuing sanctification of Aaron as Cohen HaGadol, the High Priest, and his sons, Nadab and Abihu, as the cohanim to assist him. But the sons offered unauthorized fire before the Sanctuary, and as such their punishment was to be killed by fire coming from the Sanctuary. Moses tells Aaron not to grieve for his sons as he is still being sanctified, but that the people will grieve for him.

The last chapter of this parashah is the chapter outlining the Laws of Kashrut, the Kosher Laws.

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

At the risk of repeating myself, I am going to talk about a theme I bring up often, but probably can’t bring up too often. And that theme is this:

Obedience doesn’t require understanding, and in fact, wanting to understand is a form of faithlessness.

There is no end to the number of reasons people come up with why God has determined some animals are clean to eat and others aren’t. From the risk of catching a disease, such as trichinosis from pork, to the fact that some animals are scavengers which eat carrion.

Let’s digress for a moment to review the three types of laws: Mitzvot, Mishpatim, and Chukim.

A mitzvah is a commandment of religious duty; mishpatim are rules that govern inter-personal relationships, and Chukim are those laws for which we have no logical explanation.

For example, it is a mitzvah that we must celebrate the Shabbat, and it is a mishpatim that we love our neighbor as ourselves. However, the requirement for the showbread in the Sanctuary, and it being replaced once a week, well…who knows why God wants us to do that? That is a Chukim law.

Back to the parashah: for me, the Kosher Laws fall under Chukim. Yes, of course, they are all commandments, but why do some animals get specified as unclean and others not? No carnivores are clean, only herbivores, and of all the herbivores, only those that are ruminants with a split hoof are clean. Why just them?

And fish must have scales and fins, otherwise, they are unclean. What is the deal with that?

I don’t know why God wants things this way, but I do know that it doesn’t matter why- he is God, I am not, so what he says, goes. And you want to know something else? I don’t even care why God decided what is clean and what isn’t! It’s not important that I understand God’s reasoning because, frankly, if I could understand everything that God says and does, then he isn’t worthy of my worship.

So today’s message is short and sweet: we don’t need to understand why God says and does what he says and does; actually, we shouldn’t even try to! God is so far above us, and so much wiser than we could ever be, that faith demands we trust whatever he says we should or shouldn’t do as being for our benefit. Understanding why is not necessary.

Just obey, as best as you can, and reap the blessings that God promises for obedience (Deuteronomy 28). The covenants God made with us are not based on him doing what he said he would, but first and foremost on us doing as he said we should. Then, after we obey, he will fulfill his side and bless us.

I don’t know about you, but as for me, I am more than happy to obey God’s instructions as best as I can, totally and blissfully ignorant of the reasons why he gave them.

In my opinion, the need to understand why God gave his commandments shows a lack of trust and might even lead to faithlessness and what might be worse… apostasy.

Didn’t Yeshua say only those who come to God as a trusting child will be saved? So what would you prefer: knowledge in hell or ignorance in heaven?

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

Passover 2021 Sixth Day Numbers 9:1 – 14

The parashot readings for the festival of Passover are designated one per day for the 7 days (8 days for those in the Diaspora), each day having a specific portion of the Torah relating to the Passover.

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Today’s reading covers when the second Passover in the desert was being celebrated, and there were some who had become unclean due to their having been in contact with a dead body. As such, they were banned from the ceremony; Moses asked Adonai what to do, and Adonai said that anyone who was either unclean or out of town on the Passover could celebrate it, just as it is supposed to be celebrated, but on the 14th day of the following month, which would be Iyar.

For the record, and I don’t think even most Jews know this, Passover is not 7 days long. The Passover is just that- the time when the angel of death passed over, and it is defined in the Torah as from twilight until midnight. Beginning on the 15th day (which would be after sunset on the 14th day, after the lamb was slain) begins the 7 days of Hag HaMatzot, the Festival of Unleavened Bread. So Passover and Hag HaMatzot begin at the same time, but Passover is only for that evening.

Recently in a discussion group on Facebook, someone asked if an uncircumcised person could share in the Seder now that there is no Temple service. The rules for the Seder are very clear in Exodus 12:48, in that no one who is uncircumcised may eat the Passover meal. Now, that is somewhat disquieting for me; you see, Donna and I have shared the Seder with many Gentile friends over the years, saved or not, in order to show them the relationship between Yeshua and the Passover. Yet, we never required (or for that matter, asked) any of the men if they were circumcised.

So what is the answer? Well, the point of the question was that because there is no temple in Jerusalem, there can be no sacrifice. In fact, this is why Jews do NOT eat lamb at Passover. So, if there is no sacrificial lamb being shared, does that mean the Seder, itself, is not “officially” a Seder?

Is the Seder a reflection or proxy of the real thing, which we can’t have until the Third Temple is built and the sacrificial system is reinstated?

I don’t know, but it is an interesting point.

Let’s try something…let’s try to combine the reading for today with this issue of “If no temple, then no sacrifice; ergo, Seder rules are suspended”.

God allowed for the continuance of the Pesach rules for those who were ineligible for the Seder on the commanded date. They were still required to celebrate it but at the same time the following month. To me, this means that God is open to allowing some form of dispensation to those whose hearts want to obey, but who are physically unable to do so.

If this is true, then because the Seder is not in complete compliance, in that we are not eating a sacrificed lamb, then maybe, just maybe, God is willing to allow dispensation to those who are not circumcised physically, but who’s hearts are willing to obey, to partake in these “pseudo” Seders?

I can’t say for sure, and if anyone wanted to really say one or the other, I would have to say go with what God said, exactly. You cannot go wrong if you do just as God says to do.

God has stated he wants circumcised hearts, as early as in Deuteronomy 10:16, and Shaul repeats this with regard to grace through Yeshua in Romans 2:25 and Colossians 2:10. In Acts 15, the letter from the Elders in Jerusalem that gave only four immediate requirements for the new Gentile Believers, who were for all intents and purposes converting from paganism to Judaism, did not specify circumcision.

In Galatians, Shaul verbally castrates the “Judaizers” (who were Jewish Believers in Messiah) when they insisted that new Gentile Believers make an immediate and total conversion to Judaism, and get circumcised right away, otherwise they can not be saved.

So it seems that those who have accepted Yeshua as their Messiah and were not circumcised physically but are circumcised spiritually may be accepted as an Israelite.

Now let’s see how today’s reading ties in with what we just went over:

  • God allowed those who were physically ineligible to celebrate when they were once more physically eligible;
  • Under the Grace we receive through Messiah Yeshua, those who are not physically circumcised have been spiritually circumcised;
  • The Seder we celebrate is not eligible to be the Seder commanded by God because there is no sacrificed lamb to eat;
  • Therefore, the Seder we celebrate as a physical meal is really a spiritual celebration.

So if the Seder we celebrate is essentially a spiritual event, then doesn’t it make sense that those who are spiritually circumcised would be eligible?

I hope so.

I pray that when Donna and I share our Seder with anyone who may be uncircumcised that God grants dispensation to us if we are doing wrong if, for no other reason, because our heart’s desire is to share his Grace and the truth about his Messiah with everyone.

As for you, if you also like to share your Seder with others, it is up to you to decide if you will require all the men to “drop trow” in order to see if they qualify.

That’s not going to be something I do because I believe, since the meal we eat on Passover is a spiritual Seder, that physical circumcision is not required.

Thank you for being here and please subscribe both here and on my YouTube channel, as well; share these messages with everyone you know (circumcision not required), and remember that I always welcome your comments.

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