Parashah Vayikra 2020 (He called) Leviticus 1 – 5

I should start off wishing you all a Happy New Year for yesterday was the first day of Nisan (which used to be called Aviv) and is what God declared to be the first day of our year.

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We have come to the central book of the Torah. These first 5 chapters define the sacrificial system, starting with a description of the different types of sacrifice, followed by the specific procedures for the sins of an individual and for the sins of the community.

All that God has instructed us to do regarding sacrifice is not possible for us to do anymore, not since the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed. The reason we had to do these sacrifices at the temple was because of God’s instructions, which were that we are not to sacrifice anywhere we want to, but only at the place where he puts his name (Deuteronomy 12:.13). 

Each type of sacrifice, whether for sin, for guilt, for thanksgiving or the wholly burnt sacrifice is described in minute detail. God even accounts for those who cannot afford the required animal, allowing for them to substitute a different animal, one they can afford to give. This idea of being allowed to provide a substitute is something that will eventually provide for our salvation, many years later.

Every detail of how to perform the sacrifice is given in these chapters, but what I believe to be the most important part of the entire process is not explained.

The sacrifice is more, much more than just the spilling of blood. The physical actions we do, i.e. bringing the animal, killing it, dividing it up, splashing the blood and burning it on the altar are just physical things. We read throughout the Tanakh how these were being done but were, in many cases, unacceptable to God. In fact, through the prophet Amos God said that he hated the sacrifices and songs we made unto him (Amos 5:21-23), so if God wants us to perform these sacrifices, but in some cases, he says that he hates them, what was different? What was missing?

What was missing is something that is still missing today in many churches and synagogues: genuine repentance.

Let me share with you what I believe the sacrificial system should entail:

  1. We must sin. After all, if we do not sin, there is no need for a sacrifice to gain forgiveness, so for the sacrificial system to work, we need to sin (not that I suggest you should sin, only that this system is designed for when you sin);
  2. We must recognize and confess that we sinned. In today’s reading we are told that when we sin, whether or not we know it, we are still guilty. But to be forgiven, we must recognize that we did commit a sin. Too many people are taught that what God says is sin isn’t really sin anymore because the times have changed, or because all those laws were done away with by Yeshua. That is a total lie, but that topic is not something which we will be covering today;
  3. We must repent of our sin. This is probably the most essential part of the entire process because we can recognize and even confess that we sinned, but if we aren’t sorry we did it, then there can be no forgiveness, no matter what we do. It is repentance, more than anything else, which God is looking for from us. Not just that we are sorry we sinned, but that we are sorry we failed to do as God said we should. Repentance is not just feeling sorry we did wrong, but feeling sorry that we disobeyed God because in our hearts we should want to be obedient children. And, for the record, feeling sorry because you were caught does not count as being repentant;
  4. We must present a sacrifice. This step of the process was to be done with one of the prescribed animals but has been replaced by Yeshua. This is what is meant by the term “He died for our sins”; Yeshua’s sacrifice did not remove the sacrificial system or the laws that created it, but simply replaced the need to bring an animal to the temple in Jerusalem. This is one of the most misunderstood truths about what Yeshua did as our Messiah. Nothing of the Torah was removed or done away with, only the need to bring an animal to the temple when asking for forgiveness. Every step of the process I am describing here is still valid and necessary if one is to ask God to forgive their sins. And now, the last step is;
  5. We must ask for forgiveness. I know that seems to be an obvious step, but it is the one step that everything else before it leads up to. Forgiveness is available, and not only is God willing to forgive, but he desires to forgive. God wants every sinner to turn from his sin and live (Ezekiel 18:23), but forgiveness is NOT automatic. God will not automatically forgive us, so if you have been taught that because of Yeshua all your sins are always forgiven, you will be very unpleasantly surprised when you come before the Lord on Judgment Day. There is no such thing as once forgiven, always forgiven.

The truth is that God will always forgive us when we confess our sins, are genuinely repentant and ask for forgiveness by calling on the name of Yeshua, whose sacrifice was made as an eternal substitution for the animal we must bring to the temple.

Yeshua’s blood is the substitution for the blood of the sacrifice we are supposed to supply. It was never supposed to be our own blood, but the blood of an innocent. While the temple existed, that blood was supplied by a sacrificed animal and had to be performed for each and every sin we committed. Because of Yeshua, we do not have to bring an animal to the temple in Jerusalem.

That is why God sent the Messiah.

Throughout the Bible, we are told, over and over, that God knows our hearts and our minds, and whereas in today’s reading he outlines the physical steps of the sacrificial system, what really matters to him is not what we do, but why we do it.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!

Parashot Veyakhel / Pekudey 2020 (He assembled / Accounts) Exodus 35 – 40

Because we are in a Leap Year, in order to have the annual reading cycle of the Torah comply with the Gregorian calendar, there are some Shabbat readings where we will read two parashah instead of one. This Shabbat is one of those times, and it also takes us to the end of Sefer Sh’mot, the Book of Exodus.

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In these last chapters, we are told of the generosity of the people in giving all the materials needed for constructing the Tabernacle; in fact, Moses had to order them to stop bringing materials because they had contributed too much.  We are told how the construction and materials were made, and these chapters are almost a word-for-word repetition of the instructions God gave Moses earlier. The style of the last chapters of Exodus regarding the Tabernacle is like reading “Here is what you are to do”, in minute detail, then we read “This is what they did”, in minute detail, ending with “And this is what was done”, in minute detail.

The last chapters tell us that Moses blesses the people for their work (which is likely when he wrote Psalm 90), which they did exactly as God commanded, and we end this book with God’s presence filling the Tabernacle.

And we end this book of the Torah with the statement we use at the end of each book:

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

Regarding the building of the Tabernacle, we are given so many minute details of every aspect of this task. We are told how many loops, how many posts and bearings, what is made of which material, how many pomegranates, the dimensions of each section of the tent, and the weights of the materials used.

Would you like to know why there is so much detail regarding the building of the Tabernacle?

So would I. And you know what else? I don’t think we will ever know.

The same sort of minute detailing is given when Ezekiel measured the Temple, which we can read about in Ezekiel 40-43. It seems that there must be some reason, and maybe that reason is simply so that when we do rebuild the Temple, we will already know what we need to have and how to do it.

Who knows? Let’s move on…

What I found interesting in these readings is that Moses did not ask for God’s guidance or pray for success when they started to build the Tabernacle, and he did not bless the people for their work until after the entire task was completed correctly. I have always thought that when we start a project or begin a task, we should ask God for guidance and bless the people performing the task.

But the Chumash explains Moses held back his blessing until after the project was completed because it is an easy thing to start something difficult, but very hard and rare to complete it exactly as it was supposed to be done.

My take on this is that a blessing is not given but earned.

That also jibes with what we read in the Bible, as God’s blessings were given after something was done and not before.  We should ask for God’s guidance and help, but a blessing is not to be given until the task is completed.

The same holds true with obedience. God has many blessings, so many that if you put them into a bottomless pit they would spill out over the top, but we will not receive even one blessing if we do not do something worthy of one.

Yes, there are times when God will bless someone even though they don’t deserve one, and we know that he rains on the just and the unjust, alike, so there will be times a blessing is given that has not been earned, but that is God’s choice to do. After all, these are his blessings to give, and if he wants to give one for no reason that we can discern, then he can give it. And really…  who in their right mind would ever refuse a blessing?

The lesson for us from all this is that when we do as God says we should, we will receive a blessing. We will not get anything for not doing anything, and that means when you have a need and ask God to help you, he is willing and able to help but he will not do it for you.
Too many people sit around complaining about their life and asking for prayer from others. Yet, when they are given advice on how to get out of their slump or how to meet their needs, they always seem to have some excuse why that won’t work. Or they will say they have tied it and it didn’t work. I often wonder when someone says nothing works if they really tried hard enough to make it work. How many times have you tried to open a jar and found it too hard, but then you get angry at the jar and you can open it? Is it the anger, the adrenaline, or just simply that you finally put the effort needed into the task?

When you are in a slump or have a need, it is right and a good idea to ask God for help, but he won’t do anything until you walk in faith (as Abraham did) by getting off your kvetching tuchas and do what you would do as if you already had what you asked for. Yeshua tells us this is what we should do in Mark 11:24 when he said:

Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, trust that you are receiving it, and it will be yours.

Figure out what you want, determine how to get it, ask God for help and then get started. Don’t wait for the answer and don’t wait for a sign, for no sign shall be given. Just walk in faith trusting that what you asked for will be given to you. But keep your eyes open and your ears clear so that you can see where God leads you once you start walking; you never know, you may start in the wrong direction and God will have to redirect you.

God’s blessings are here for the asking, but they are not given until the work is done.

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I welcome your comments and until next time, L’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom.

Parashah Ki Tissa 2020 (When you take) Exodus 30:2 – 34

In today’s Torah reading we are told about the 1/2 shekel that every male of fighting age had to pay in order to ransom their souls. God then gives instructions regarding the laver (Mikvah), preparing the incense, and assigning Bezalel and Oholiab over the manufacturing of all the articles needed for the Tabernacle. He also instructs Moses about the Shabbat and gives some of the Kashrut (Kosher) laws.

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The Sin of the Golden Calf happens in this parashah, as well as God describing his very nature to Moses, which in Judaism we call the 13 Attributes of God.

The parashah ends with God forgiving the sin of the people (thanks to Moses’ intervention) and Moses receiving the second set of tablets.

When I started to read this parashah, I knew immediately that what I should talk about today was not the really big topics, meaning the Golden Calf sin or God’s nature, but the very first thing I read about- the ransom.

Many people are confused over the fact that God says we should not kill, yet he orders us to entirely destroy men, women, and children, whole societies. How can a God that hates killing order genocide?

The Torah is more than just a list of commandments. One of the things it does is to establish a penal code, and there is one penalty for murder and another one for accidental homicide. For a murder, meaning a premeditated and purposeful act of killing someone, the penalty is death. However, if someone commits an accidental homicide, they are allowed to pay a ransom for their life.

As an example, if I wait in hiding for you and when you come, I attack you and kill you, I am a murderer and the penalty is death.  However, if I lend you a bull that is known to gore people and it kills you, then I have committed the sin of causing someone to die and my penalty is death. However, because this death was unintentional I am able to pay a ransom for my soul and stay alive.

Of course, I may have to deal with the blood avenger at some point, but that’s not relevant to today’s message.

As I mentioned, the very first lines of this parashah say that everyone who is older than 20 years of age must pay a half-shekel ransom for their souls.  The reason for this payment is because God IS against people killing other people, which always is a sin. However, when a soldier kills while in battle, God does not consider that the same as intentionally murdering someone. As such, a ransom is able to save their soul from the penalty of sinning.

We read in other places how the soldiers, upon returning from a battle, would dedicate some or all of the spoils to the Sanctuary. This was their ransom payment, which they gave in order to avoid the penalty for having taken a life.

God hates anyone dying, and we read in Ezekiel 18 that he doesn’t want anyone to die, and wants only that those who sin would turn from their sin so they may live.  The ransom for one’s soul is how God allows for killing while still maintaining his overall commandment about not killing. The sin of killing is still a sin, but when done under orders by God or unintentionally, there is a means to avoid the immediate penalty (death), and that will also allow for forgiveness of the sin on a spiritual plane.

Ultimately, when we sin on earth we must suffer the consequences of that sin, even if we repent and are forgiven because forgiveness of sin is a spiritual event and secures our place in eternity. It does not let us avoid the consequences of that sin while we are still alive. The ransom for one’s soul when the killing is unintentional or a result of being in a war, is a “legal device” which will countermand the penalty.

There is a story in the Babylonian Talmud about how the angels, upon seeing the Egyptians drowning in the Red Sea, sang praises of joy for the salvation of the Israelites, but God rebuked them, saying, ‘The works of My hands are drowning in the sea, and you would utter song in My presence!”

The point is that God hates it when someone kills another person, but as a fair and perfect judge, he will take into consideration the cause and motivations behind the action. When killing is done by God’s command, we are not really going out on our own volition and killing someone, we are acting as God’s executioners. The slaughter of the people we read about in the Bible was not genocide, as much as it was punishment for the sins they had committed. Considering the thousands of innocent people, of all ages and gender, who were sacrificed to the pagan Gods, these people were all guilty of murder and when God sent the Israelites to destroy those cities, he was not murdering innocent people but was actually using the Israelites as his means of executing criminals. But even though they were killing under orders, so to speak, the people doing what God commanded still had to pay the penalty for taking a life.

God hates murder and hates the act of taking a life, but he is also a fair and righteous judge who knows and accounts for the motivation behind our actions.  That is good news for those who try to do right but fail and repent, and bad news for those who think they can go through the motions of being worshipful, righteous and repenting, but whose hearts and minds are really ruled by sin.

You can’t fool God.

Amen!

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!

PS: And wash your hands!  🙂

Parashah Tetzaveh 2020 (Command) Exodus 27:20 – 30:10)

God continues to give Moses detailed instructions for the building of the Tabernacle and all that is involved with it. In this reading, we are told how to manufacture the priestly robes, including the breastplate of judgment, the procedure for anointing the priests, and the construction of the altar.

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I don’t know why there is so much detail in these last chapters of Exodus, but today’s reading mentions something that has been a mystery to every biblical scholar of modern times, and that mystery is: what the heck are the Urim and Tummim?

The Hebrew words mean Lights and Perfections, and there has been an on-going argument over whether they are a separate part of the breastplate or incorporated into it. There is no question that they are an essential part of receiving the divine will when matters of great importance are discussed but what are they? Are they some kind of dice? And, whatever they were, how were they utilized?

I believe that the throwing of lots had to be a binomial action, meaning when asking God to indicate his will, the questions had to be presented as a “Yes” or “No” option. There are many references in movies to seers throwing pieces of bone with letters on them and diving an answer, but I don’t think that is how the Urim and Tummim worked; however, I really can’t say anything for sure since I don’t have any idea of what they were.

Another interesting fact about the Urim and Tummim is that they seem to have been used only up to the time of David, and the only mention of them after 1 Samuel 28:6 is in Ezra, where they were used to determine the genealogy of those who couldn’t identify their families when making aliyah from Babylon to Jerusalem.

I have my own idea about the loss of these devices and will share it with you. Again, this is my thought and is not to be taken as a definitive answer to what happened to them.

I believe the use of the Urim and Tummim was rejected because the kingship decided that it was able to make its own decision. There was the king, who had advisors, the prophets and the assigned Cohen. These people seem to be the ones who decided what to do, and even though we often read of David consulting Adonai with regards to what actions he should take, we don’t really read that much after Solomon’s rule. Actually, mention of any of the later kings of either Judea or Israel even consulting God is rare. Of course, the kings of Israel wouldn’t have consulted Adonai because they worshiped the pagan gods, but I would have expected that the kings of Judea, at least those who did right in God’s eyes, would have consulted him often, but I really don’t recall a lot of references to that.

We know that under Solomon, Israel had peace and Solomon had the supernatural wisdom that God gave him, so maybe a need for the Urim and Tummim didn’t exist? After many years of not being used, their existence could have been more or less forgotten, or maybe how to use them was lost?

To me, from the time of Shaul as king, and more so down the line of kings, it seems that the prophet took precedence over the priest with regard to knowing God’s word, and since the high priest was the only one with access to the Urim and Tummim, perhaps that is what led to the loss of their use?

No one knows, and probably will never know, what the Urim and Tummim were or how they were used, or why they weren’t used (except for one mention) after David’s kingship.

The Urim and the Tummim are a mystery, and people love to solve a mystery, and when I run across a mystery within the Bible I always check to see how it stacks up to my Acid Test question, which is: “How does this affect my salvation?”

And, as far as knowing all about the Urim and Tummim, the answer is: it doesn’t. It is an interesting mystery, and since I can’t answer it, and (frankly) no one ever has, I will leave you with this reminder from Moses (Deuteronomy 29:29):

Things which are hidden belong to ADONAI our God. But the things that have been revealed belong to us and our children forever, so that we can observe all the words of this Torah.

In other words, don’t sweat the small stuff and stay focused on what matters, which is to follow the instructions God gave us.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!

Parashah Terumah 2020 (Offering) Exodus 25 – 27:19

Except for the chapters devoted to the sin of the Golden Calf, from here until the end of this book of the Torah, we are given a detailed account of the manufacturing of the Tabernacle.

These chapters outline the instructions from God for building the Ark of the Covenant, the menorah, the table for the showbread, the altar and the types of materials to be used for the tent and its supports.

And that’s it for this parashah.

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The Tabernacle played an integral role in the lives of the Israelites as they wandered through the desert, as well as did the Temple in Jerusalem.

There have been different interpretations by Jewish biblical scholars of what the Tabernacle represents, and as a Messianic Jew, I am also familiar with the Christian thoughts (initiated by Saul/Paul) that we, as members of the body of the Messiah, are ourselves a tabernacle, or temple, or church, since we have the Holy Spirit, the Ruach HaKodesh, living within us. Just as God was known to be present in the Tabernacle in the desert, Christians believe that they are a tabernacle because God is present in them.

The Rambam (Maimonides) said the Tabernacle was the way God helped the Jewish people to wean themselves from the pagan practices many had adopted during the four centuries they served as slaves in Egypt, and that makes sense to me. Even much later, when Gentiles were accepting Yeshua as their Messiah and converting from their pagan practices, the four commands that the Elders in Jerusalem required of them (Acts 15) were designed to wean them from their pagan lifestyles and allow them to learn how to become Torah observant in a manner that wouldn’t be too difficult a change to do, all at once.

I think the churches and temples today are where same-thinking people can gather and support each other. They serve as a meeting place for communal worship, but I have always thought the communion with each other was as important as the communion with God.

Too many people go to church or shul once a week on their Sabbath and feel they have “done their part”; the rest of the week they live as they want to. I also have known people who feel that going to their congregational meeting place is a commandment, and by doing so they are worshipping God correctly.

That’s not true – there is no place, anywhere, in the Bible where we are commanded to go to the temple every weekend. We are commanded to go to where God places his name three times a year to sacrifice, but other than that our communion with God is to be daily, hourly, every second of our lives, no matter where we are.

In other words, going to church or to the temple doesn’t make you a good Christian or a faithful Jew; what does is our relationship with God and how we act when no one else is around.

I am sure you have heard the adage that an honest person will do the right thing even when they know no one else is watching. In the same way, a faithful person will be praying and doing as God wants, whether or not anyone else can see, whether or not they go to a house of worship.

Now don’t get me wrong…there is nothing bad or incorrect about attending church or shul on a regular basis. In fact, that is a good thing because we need to support and encourage each other, and the best way to do that is through getting together. But the Tabernacle, the Temple in Jerusalem, Westminster Abbey, or the small shul a Shabbat-walk away, are all just symbols of the presence of God in our life. It is not wrong to have one, as some might say, and the building of the third Temple is not a bad thing, either. Until such time as God completes his plan of salvation and his Shekinah glory is among us, forever, we need a physical place to meet and worship.

The point is that a place where we gather and worship together, as well as schmooze over coffee and sweets, is just as important a reminder of God’s presence in our lives as the Tabernacle was for the children of Israel as they wandered through the desert.

As I said above, except for a chapter or two, from here to the end of this book we are told, in extreme detail, about the building of the Tabernacle and it is, understandably, a little boring at times. I don’t know why there is so much detail, but I hope that as we delve further into the remaining parashot we may receive some revelation.

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Parashah Mishpatim 2020 (Ordinances) Exodus 21 – 24

This parashah deals with the laws regarding civil and capital punishment, witchcraft, sexually perverse activities, financial dealings, perjury, Kashrut (kosher), humane treatment of prisoners and enemies, about the Holy Days and the Shabbat. There is a sacrifice and Moses sprinkles the people with the blood of that sacrifice to establish the covenant between them and God regarding all these laws, regulations, and ordinances.

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The parashah ends with Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and 70 of Elders of the people approaching God, with Moses being called to the mountain top to receive the tablets.

According to Wikipedia, Thomas Aquinas pretty much summed up what has become the typical Christian viewpoint of the three different types of laws that are in the Torah, many of which are found in this parashah. He identified them as moral, ceremonial, and judicial. He taught, and this is pretty much still taught today, that the moral laws are and always have been binding because they are natural laws, existing even before the Torah. The ceremonial and judicial laws were supposed to be temporary and binding only until the coming of Yeshua; after his arrival, they were no longer valid, and (in fact) to obey them would be tantamount to rejecting that Messiah came and a mortal sin. However, in the case of the judicial laws, to enforce them would not be a sin.

Jewish thought is also that there are three types of laws, generally referred to as Mitzvot, which we call Edot, Mishpatim, and Chukim.

The Mishpatim, which are outlined in this parashah, are laws that are easy to understand. The Edot laws deal with ceremonies and rituals and we are told the reason for observing them.

The Chukim are laws that just don’t seem to make sense, and we aren’t even told why we should obey them.

For example, the laws against murder, rape, and perjury are Mishpatim. The Holy Day festival laws and regulations are Edot. An example of Chukim would be the requirement for the 12 loaves of showbread that are made weekly and placed by the altar.

The real question is: which laws are still valid for us, today?

Let’s look at the laws regarding Kashrut: back then, even though the people didn’t know about germs or bacteria, they knew that eating certain raw foods could make you sick. Of course, God knew all about these things and many people, even Jews, explain the laws regarding food in terms of being designed to keep us healthy. That being the case, many today (again, both Gentile and Jewish) feel that with the USDA and being able to properly cook foods we don’t have to worry about these diseases and can eat whatever we want to eat.

I guess they haven’t talked to someone who went to a good restaurant, ordered scallops but got a bad one in the batch and was sick as a dog for two days. Or maybe they never heard of SARS? Or they aren’t aware of the current health epidemic with the Coronavirus? If you know anyone in the restaurant business I can guarantee they will tell you that you should never watch the chef prepare the food you eat.

People accept readily the judicial laws because they make sense and they protect our rights and our welfare, but as far as many of the other laws God gave, they seem to have no problem questioning. My question is this: Why do people believe they can question any of God’s laws?

Does God need to explain himself to us? When I was a Company XO in the Marine Corps and told someone to do something, they never asked me why. And the reason for that was that they recognized my authority. I was just a human being, someone who had the legal authority to order them to perform a certain activity. However, with God, who has ultimate authority over the universe, people don’t think twice to question whether or not they have to do what he says.

And why do they feel they can ignore God’s laws? It’s because some human beings told them it was alright to do that! God said to not eat pork, but some human being said it was OK. I don’t know about you, but I remember in Matthew 10:28 Yeshua told his Talmudim (students) not to worry about what humans do to them because they can only take their life, but to be concerned about what God can do to because he can send your soul to hell forever.

In other words, when we come before God in the Acharit haYamim (End Days) and he asks us why we lived our lives as we did and we say that we only did what our Rabbi (or Priest or Minister or Pastor) told us to do, he might say something like this:

“My child, I understand that you only did what they told you to do, but it is what say that counts.” 

 

In the Torah, God says many times that his instructions (which include mishpatim, edot, and chukim) are to be observed: “throughout your generations.” He doesn’t say they are to be observed for a while, or only until the Messiah comes, or only if you want to. And he never said that someone else can overrule his commandments.

So, nu? How can anyone believe that God has no problem with some human being saying his laws were not really permanent?

I believe we should obey all the laws God gave through Moses, whether we understand them or not, whether they seem to make sense in the modern world or not, or whether someone else says I still need to or not. And the reason I believe we should obey them is simply that God said we should!

And if that isn’t good enough for you, then you will be very disappointed when you meet God and say, “It’s OK- I belong to Yeshua!” because if you ignore God’s word then Yeshua will say, “I know you not!”

Remember that Yeshua said in John 14:21 if we love him, we will obey his commandments; his commandments were to do as his Father in heaven said to do.

If you obey God you will belong to the flock of Yeshua and blessed in this life and forevermore; but, if you choose to obey what people tell you, you will be on your own.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom.

 

Parashah Yitro 2020 (Jethro) Exodus 18-20

Moshe and the people have been traveling and are nearing Midyan, so Moshe’s father-in-law, Yitro (Jethro is the English version of his name), comes out with Zipporah and Moshe’s two sons, Gershom and Eliezer, to meet him and return them to him.

The Chumash notes that Moshe must have sent them back in Exodus 4:24 when he stopped along the way to Egypt and the Lord was angry with him, which was quelled when Zipporah circumcised Gershom.

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While with Moshe, Yitro sees him judging all the people, all by himself, and recommends that he delegate his authority to others who are trustworthy. This was to make it easier on Moshe, as well as to ensure that the people waiting for judgment also had it easier. Consequently, this was such a good idea that this form of management has been used ever since.

Next, the people come to Sinai, and God gives the 10 Commandments to Moshe, saying that so long as the people obey God’s words, they will be his chosen people and a kingdom of priests.

When the people hear the sound of the shofar, see the burning mountaintop covered in thick smoke, and feel the earth trembling under their feet, they tell Moshe that he should go to God and they will do whatever God tells them to do through Moshe, but they are too afraid to bear witness to God. This is where the parashah ends.

This parashah has the 10 Commandments: how can I even begin to start to talk about them without writing a book? There is too much, and even if I did one message on each of the individual commandments, it would take a book for each one to truly do them justice.

So I am copping out on this one- maybe, if enough people ask me, I will do a teaching series on the 10 Commandments, but I am not going to talk about them today.

Today, I am going to talk about what I have talked about many times in postings and answers to questions raised in different discussion groups regarding the validity of the Torah for Christians.

Here is what God told Moshe to tell the people just before giving him the Big 10 (Exodus 19:5-6):

Now if you will pay careful attention to what I say and keep my covenant, then you will be my own treasure from among all the peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you will be a kingdom of cohanim for me, a nation set apart.’ These are the words you are to speak to the people of Israel.

God has given a commission, if you will, to the Jewish people, which is to be his nation of priests. But priests to whom?

I tried to find a standard definition or listing of the responsibilities of a priest, but couldn’t find any two that gave the same answer. The one I am to show you seemed to be the most generic (I apologize for the length, but I believe the entire thing really has to be seen, and the part underlined is by me):

There is no common definition of the duties of priesthood between faiths; but generally it includes mediating the relationship between one’s congregation, worshippers, and other members of the religious body, and its deity or deities, and administering religious rituals and rites. These often include blessing worshipers with prayers of joy at marriages, after a birth, and at consecrations, teaching the wisdom and dogma of the faith at any regular worship service, and mediating and easing the experience of grief and death at funerals – maintaining a spiritual connection to the afterlife in faiths where such a concept exists. Administering religious building grounds and office affairs and papers, including any religious library or collection of sacred texts, is also commonly a responsibility – for example, the modern term for clerical duties in a secular office refers originally to the duties of a cleric.

When Moshe was alive, he was the one who taught the people what God required of them; the priesthood was restricted to physical and clerical care of the Tabernacle and the performance of rituals, such as sacrifice and cleansing of those who had become unclean.

This role expanded after Moshe’s death and entry into the Land of Israel to include the teaching of the Torah and judging of the people in religious and civil matters.

Today the role of a priest or rabbi is pretty much to be the intermediary between the congregants and God and to teach them the way to live as God requires.

Now, let’s go back to God telling Moshe that the Jews will be his nation of cohanim: because the cohen serves God in the performance of the rituals and (God knew this) would eventually also be the ones to teach the congregants how to live and worship according to God’s commands, that means the answer to the question, “To whom will the Jews be a nation of priests?” is: to the world!

God separated within the Jews the tribe of Levi to serve as cohanim to the Jews; he then separated the Jews to be cohanim to the world, which means that the question of whether or not the Torah is still valid for everyone who worships the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is unquestionably declared by God to be: YES!! 

God gave the Torah to the Jews to bring to the world: God never said all laws were for Jews but only these for Catholics, those for Episcopalians, and here are 15 just for Protestants.  No, he didn’t do that: he gave Moshe his instructions on how we worship God and how we treat each other and told him that the Jews would be the ones to bring this to the rest of the world.

This means that if you have been taught the Torah is only for Jews, then what you have been taught is against what God said. Sorry- that is a hard word to hear: it means your religious leaders and family members who you love and trust have led you not to eternal joy but to eternal damnation for sinning against God, but, well…that’s how it is. They didn’t do it on purpose because they were told the same lies by those they trusted and loved, as well, who were told the same lies by those who they loved and trusted, all the way back to somewhere around the end of the 2nd and beginning of the 3rd Century CE.

So, there you have it. This parashah contains the most important set of rules that have ever been created or written down but are meaningless if people think these are the only rules God gave that apply to everyone.

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Until next time, Shabbat shalom, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Parashah Bo 2020 (come) Exodus 10 – 13:16

God continues the plagues against Egypt, this time with locusts followed by the three days of complete darkness. Yet Pharaoh is still unmoved, although he has been asked by his officials to let the people go because Egypt is being destroyed.

Pharaoh tells Moses that the next time he sees his face, he will die, and Moses pretty much says “That’s fine with me.”

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

The last plague now comes, the death of all the firstborn throughout Egypt. God gives Moses the instructions about how the Israelites are to protect themselves from the Destroyer coming at midnight, and also that this is now the first month of their year. He instructs them regarding the Passover lamb and the eating of unleavened bread for the week after the Seder.

Moses also has the people go to their Egyptian neighbors asking for what are essentially the spoils of war, and the Egyptians are happy to give all they have, all their valuables, in order to get these people out of their land.

Finally, after the firstborn of the royal family is dead, Pharaoh ejects the Israelites from the land, and they leave in such haste that they don’t even allow their dough to rise, so they have to bake the unrisen dough, which is what we call “matzo.”

Actually, they weren’t supposed to have any yeast in the dough, anyway.

The life of a thing is in the blood (Lev. 17:10); the blood that was brushed onto the lintels of the houses of the Israelites was life for them. God tells us many times throughout the Tanakh that it is by the life that is in the blood which provides us atonement for sin.

Blood is a double-edged sword because we need it to stay alive, but blood-borne diseases can kill us.  In today’s scientific world, we know that harmful germs and bacteria can be spread through the blood, just like Chametz (leavening) can spread through a batch of dough. So even though God tells us that blood is life, it may also cause death.

But how can that be? Blood is used to anoint and sanctify the holy items in the Tabernacle, which are used to worship God! If there is death in blood, how can it be used to sanctify?

This is sort of like the red heifer thing (Numbers 19): everything associated with creating the water of sanctification from the ashes of the red heifer, which is used to cleanse us, caused the person performing the actions to become unclean.

I think this is all part of the universal balance God created when he created the universe. Blood is what transports life, and when we care for our blood by doing what God tells us to do, the blood remains free of death. But, when we disobey or reject God’s instructions, that which brings life will bring death.

For an example, let’s look at the Laws of Kashrut: the one main difference between kosher animal meat and the rest is that to prepare the meat, the animal is killed in a humane way (called the Shechita) which drains the blood quickly. Then the meat is salted to draw out any of the remaining blood. Once this is done, the meat is always cooked thoroughly.

You won’t find someone getting a bloody steak at a kosher restaurant.

This obedience to God’s instructions regarding the eating of blood is what keeps our blood free of pathogens. On the other hand, rejecting this ordinance will likely result (especially in the olden days, way before the USDA) in some form of infection.

Look at what is happening today: in China, they have long had to worry about SARS, but now this new virus, the Coronavirus is absolutely deadly. In Africa, the Bush Meat trade is what caused AIDS. And science shows that drinking clean blood can still lead to death.

Blood can be life-giving, or life-taking, depending on how you treat it. The same is true with the Torah: through obedience, we can achieve everlasting life, but rejection of God’s instructions will result in death. This is why Moses told the people (Deut. 30: 15-20) it is up to them to choose life (through obedience) or to choose death (through rejection) of the instructions God gave in the Torah.

There are many things in your life that will carry one result or another, and it is up to you to choose the right way. Argue with your boss or keep your job; argue with your spouse or sleep in the bed; drive safely or have your car in the shop; do as we are told to do in the Torah or spend eternity in suffering.

Last Minute Edit: I am not ignoring the Messiah and his sacrifice, or that it is through faith that we are saved. True faith in God and the Messiah must lead to Torah obedience. We can’t be saved by Torah alone, but Messiah’s sacrifice never did away with the requirement by God to obey his instructions.

Blood can provide life or death, depending on how we choose to treat it. The Torah is our spiritual blood, which provides eternal life when we obey it, and death by ignoring it.

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Until next time, Shabbat Shalom and Baruch HaShem!

Parashah Va-ayra 2020 (I appeared) Exodus 6:2 – 9

In the previous parashah, Moses had complained to God asking why God hasn’t freed the people but instead, now they are treated worse than ever before. God told Moses that this was all designed so that God could now show his might.

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

This parashah starts with God telling Moses that he and Aaron will bring the people out, and that to Pharaoh Moses will be like God, and Aaron will be his prophet (we will come back to this later.)

From this point on we begin one of the most well-known and wonderful events in all of human history: Moses and Aaron continue to ask Pharaoh to let the people go, he refuses, and God sends his plagues on Egypt. These plagues start easily enough, meaning that Pharaoh’s magicians can mimic the miracles, but soon even the magicians cannot duplicate these events and by the 4th plague, everyone within Pharaoh’s government is asking Pharaoh to let the people go, but he refuses.

This parashah ends with the plague of hail that turns to fire when it lands.

We all know the story of the 10 Plagues. These plagues showed God’s strength as each plague overpowered one of the many Egyptian animal gods. First, they were duplicatable, then they were not, and soon enough God demonstrated not only his power to send these plagues on Egypt but his ability to keep his own people safe from them.

When I read a parashah I ask for some message, some insight that might be new, and today I think I received something. That’s what great about reading the Bible over and over – you never know when something you have read a million times will suddenly have a different meaning for you.

For me, it was when I read Chapter 7 in the book of Exodus, which begins with this:

And the Lord said unto Moses: “See, I have set thee in God’s stead to Pharaoh; and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet. Thou shall speak all that I command thee; and Aaron thy brother shall speak unto Pharaoh, that he let the children of Israel go out of his land.”

If we imagine that Pharaoh represents the people in the world, and Moses and Aaron are God and his prophet, respectively, then this can represent more than just God giving Moses and Aaron roles to play. What is interesting is that nowhere does it even imply Aaron was considered to be the progenitor of those miracles. No, it was always Moses who got the credit for the miracle: Moses turned the water into blood, Moses brought the locusts, Moses stopped the locusts, etc.

Throughout the ages we have seen prophets and judges perform great miracles, and when you think about it, how many times have those miracles been credited to the person? Elijah and the 400 Prophets of Ba’al, Gideon and his military victory, Samson and his strength: these and other stories are about the prophets and judges who performed great deeds, but wasn’t it God who actually did it all?

Too often we ignore the “man behind the curtain” and give credit to the false wizard who demonstrates the fearsome feats.

And the best example, which could just as well be called the worst example, is how so many people worship Jesus Christ and give him all the credit for what God wrought through him.

Messiah was no different from any of the prophets or judges God sent to do his work in the world.  True, Yeshua was a miracle baby, and he was the only prophet from God who died and was resurrected to life (Samuel being called from Sheol by Saul doesn’t count), and it’s true that Yeshua was the only one of all God’s prophets who was acceptable to act as a substitutionary sacrifice for us all.

But when it comes down to it, Yeshua tells us over and over, and over again throughout the Gospels that he was only doing what he was told to do. Just the same way that Aaron did what Moses told him to do. Yeshua should NOT be worshiped any more than Aaron should have been, or Moses (for that matter) because only God is deserving of worship.

Yes, I know the Bible tells us that people at times bowed down and worshiped Yeshua, but when I looked at dozens of biblical verses regarding the worship of Yeshua, the only place that I found anything indicating that Yeshua was worshiped was in the New Covenant.

One day I shall write about how the New Covenant, which is scripture which quotes from and is based upon the Tanakh, was composed by non-Jews for Gentiles who didn’t want to be Jewish anymore, and has many questionable references, such as making it seem to be okay to worship a man instead of God.
But…that is for another time.

How many times have you heard it said by people, Pastor’s, Ministers, Priests, or Rabbis that God deserves all the credit and our worship? I know that in my experience, almost every single time we have a Shabbat or Holy Day service, somewhere in there we are told that it is all about God.

Then we hear people pray to saints or to Yeshua for help, or ask a human being to provide forgiveness, or worship the Messiah and call him our God. In some places, people actually bow down before a graven image of a human being and pray to it.

There is only one savior- God. There is only one who can help us and forgive us- God. Even when someone performs a miracle, that person is only the tool through which the real power is working, and that real power is- God.

There is one God whose power is often manifested through whomever he chooses, and the rest of the world can accept that or reject it. And, for the record, when you reject the true originator of the power behind the Messiah, you have placed a wedge between you and God and are practicing idolatry.

Moses was, in fact, the prophet through whom God worked his power, and eventually (as we get further along in Exodus) we see that Aaron’s position changes from performing God’s miracles to being the intermediary between the people and God, teaching and leading them in the proper worship of God.

We are not saved by the sacrificial death of the Messiah, but in fact by his resurrection. That resurrection was not brought about by Yeshua but by God. So, you see, even though it is true that through Yeshua we can be saved, the actual “savior” is God because God provided the Messiah.

Always give credit to God, worship God alone, and ask God for what you need. Remember: Yeshua never said pray to him to receive, but when we pray (meaning to God) we are to ask for what we need in Yeshua’s name. When God answers a prayer that is made invoking the name of his Messiah, not only does it honor the Messiah but that, in turn, will glorify God.

We can credit Yeshua for all the suffering he endured on our behalf, and we can be thankful to him; we can honor him and praise him for what he did, but we cannot worship him or put him in the place of God, who is our true rock and redeemer.

To paraphrase the famous line from the Wizard of Oz,  “Don’t ignore the man behind the curtain.”

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Parashah Sh’mot 2020 (the Names) Exodus 1 – 6:1

This second book of the Torah begins with the history of Moses. He was born at the time when the Pharaoh wanted all male children killed, but his mother hid him until he was three months old, then she sent him down the Nile trusting in God to save him. He was found by Pharaoh’s sister, who took pity on him and saved him from being drowned.

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Miriam was following her brother, who the Egyptian named “Moshe”, and offered to get a Hebrew woman to nurse the child, bringing him back to his own mother. She raised him as a Hebrew child until he was weaned (back in those days that could have been until he was a toddler), and then he was raised by the Egyptians as one of the royal family.

As an adult, one day Moshe saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, and in anger, he killed the Egyptian. That became known and Moshe fled for his life, ending up in Midyan, marrying a Midianite woman and working for her father, a priest of Midyan.

When Moshe was 80 years old, he saw the burning bush and God told him to go lead the people out of Egypt. Moshe made any number of excuses, each of which God handled by giving him miraculous signs to perform, and eventually even allowing Aaron to act as the mouthpiece for Moshe. In the end, God had to order Moshe to go; yet, on the way, Moshe still did something that made God so angry he was going to kill him, but Zipporah saved him by circumcising Gershom, his oldest son.

Moshe comes to the people and shows them the signs, and they believe him. Then he and Aaron go to Pharaoh to ask to let the people go three days into the desert to worship Adonai, but Pharaoh refuses, and to make things worse, he orders that no straw be given the people but they must still make their quota of bricks, forcing them to work day and night, gathering stubble from the fields.

This parashah ends with Moshe asking God why he has made things worse, and God explains that this is so that he can now show all his wonders.

Of all the possible lessons, both historical and spiritual that can be found within this one parashah, I want to talk about something that is, essentially, social.

The reason the Israelites become enslaved was not due to riotous actions, rebellions, or anything criminal. It was that they were blessed by God and grew strong. Their numbers grew, and the absence of any reason to enslave them, other than what the Torah tells us, i.e. the fear of the Egyptian leadership that these people may one day turn against them, indicates that they were living peacefully and separate from the Egyptians. The Israelites did their thing, and the Egyptians did their thing, and neither bothered the other. In the end, it wasn’t what the Israelites did that caused them to become slaves, but what the Egyptians were afraid they might do.

God promised Abraham that his descendants would be a blessing to the world, and since we know that God gives us blessings in order that we can share them, the blessings to the world were first found within Israel. And throughout history, every time Israel shares their blessings with others, it is turned against them.

In Egypt, they were enslaved for being prosperous. In Isaiah 39, we read that after Hezekiah shows the emissaries of the King of Babylon his riches, the king of Babylon decides to take them for himself. In Spain, the riches and business success of the Jewish population led to their persecution and exile during the Inquisition. Even the Pope at that time told Isabella not to exile the Jews because they were beneficial to the Spanish economy, but she refused to listen.

And we all know what happened in Germany.

Even today, many (if not most) of the technological and medical advancements that have benefitted the world came from Israel: did you know that Israel is the leading technological contributor to the world today? Yet, despite all the wonderful blessings Israel has given to the world, the world supports the enemies of Israel!

Talk about killing the goose that lays the golden eggs!

God chose the descendants of Abraham, who the world knows as “the Jews” to be the way he, God, blesses the world. He has given us the gifts that have made the world better, but this blessing came with a curse: in a world that is sinful, egocentric and full of fear and jealousy, the gifts that the Jews share with the world have made them the targets of the world.

I have written before about the number of Nobel prizes given to Jews compared to the rest of the world. Currently, Jews represent .02% of the world’s population, which is 2 out of every 100 people. Yet, of all the Nobel prizes awarded, those won by Jews represent nearly 24% of all prizes, across the board.

Just as the King of Babylon wanted the riches that Hezekiah had, the world wants what God has given to the Jewish people. But, what the world doesn’t realize, is that these gifts from God are to be given to the world through the Jews. In other words, the Jewish people are the distribution means for God’s blessings; destroy the Jews, and there will be no more blessings.

God has certainly blessed us, but this blessing has also been the bane of our existence; God wants his people to bless the world, but in doing so the world has turned against his people.

Over and over we read in the Bible, and also see in human history, that the more the Jewish people bless the world, the more the world hates us. Even the greatest of all blessings, the Messiah, who came from the Jewish people, has been turned against us and under his name millions of Jews have been tortured, persecuted and murdered.

Yet, we persevere. God will never allow his people to disappear from the earth, and despite the terrible and unappreciative way the world treats us, we will continue to share our gifts and blessings with the world. Why? Because we fear God, and we want to do as God has told us to do.

When we obey God, he is on our side, and no matter what the world tries to do, we will NEVER be destroyed.

As Shaul said to the Jews in Rome (Romans 8:31): “…when God is with us, who can be against us?”

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Until next time, Shabbat Shalom and Baruch HaShem!