Parashah Pinchas 2022 (Pinchas) Numbers 25:10 – 30:1

We left the last parashah with Pinchas driving a spear through a prince of the tribe of Simeon, who had flaunted his relationship with a Midianite woman right in front of Moses and the entire congregation, which was (at that time) being punished by God for having associated themselves with the Midianite women, being seduced into worshipping their gods.

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Now God rewards Pinchas for his zealousness for God by promising him that he, and his descendants, would always serve as the Cohen haGadol, the High Priest.

After this, God tells Moses that they are to go to war against Midian, and has Moses take a census to count how many people have survived the plague. And at the end of this census it was discovered that, except for Joshua and Caleb, every single one of the men who refused to enter the land when they first came to Canaan has died.

There arose a question regarding inheritance for a man who has no sons to inherit, but does have daughters, as was the case with the daughters of Zelophehad. God tells Moses that the daughters will inherit, but they must marry within their tribe so that the tribe doesn’t lose possession of the land.

Now God tells Moses to climb to the top of Mount Pisgah, also called Nebo, to view the land that the people will cross over into, but that Moses cannot enter. He has Moses commission Joshua to take his place in front of the leaders and people.

The parashah ends with God reviewing the rules for sacrifices and the Holy Days the people are to celebrate when they enter the land.

This parashah leaves me with questions: we know that Pinchas killed Zimri, but does that mean that Pinchas was then subject to being killed by Zimri’s closest relative, who is the avenger of blood?

Also, since God rewarded Pinchas, does that means God accepts murder as a means of showing one’s dedication to him? Isn’t that somewhat like human sacrifice?

And another question: I think it is pretty clear that Pinchas acted not just from zealousness, but really from anger, and since God rewarded him, does that mean acting from anger can be acceptable to God?

If so, then why was Moses punished? Moses acted from anger that the people were constantly kvetching about no water and no food, and at the rock of Meribah, when Moses struck the rock twice, he was also zealous for God in that his anger was against the people for their lack of faith.

But he was punished- severely- for his doing something in anger for God.

What’s up with that?

I have no answer for these questions.

The Torah is clear that an avenger of blood is acceptable, otherwise why would God have told Moses to separate 6 cities as Cities of Refuge for those who kill someone accidentally? So why wasn’t the avenger of blood for Zimri allowed to take his rightful vengeance against Pinchas? That wasn’t even an accidental killing- it was a crime of passion!

Pinchas kills two people in anger and is rewarded; Moses strikes a rock twice in anger and is punished. I don’t get it!

Maybe the answer is…there is no answer.

Maybe the idea here is that things aren’t always black and white, right and wrong, on or off?

Maybe we can’t always understand why God does what he does- well, that’s not really a maybe, that’s a rootin-tootin’ sure thing!

We can’t understand why God does what he does- sometimes he tells us, and sometimes he doesn’t. And when he doesn’t, we are expected to accept that and move on.

It is OK to question God, but it isn’t realistic to expect he will answer every question.

As Moses tells us in Deuteronomy 29:29, the secret things of the Lord belong to him, and that which is revealed belongs to us and our descendants forever.

So, today’s message is simple: when you don’t understand why God does something, ask him to explain it to you. If he wants you to know, he will tell you, and if he doesn’t answer you, then accept that the answer is a “You don’t need to know” thing, and move on.

Remember: trusting faithfulness is more than going to Shabbat services and reading the Bible. It is accepting that God doesn’t have to explain anything to us, but we do have to trust him and do as he wants us to do.

To paraphrase a well-known saying:

Ours is not to reason why, ours is but to do and… receive blessings now and live in God’s presence, joyful and at peace forever after.

Amen to that!

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

Parashah Balak 2022 (Balak) Numbers 22:2 – 25:9

We now come to the story of Balaam, the prophet who was asked by Balak, the king of Moab (for whom this parashah is named) to curse the Israelites encamped just outside his territory.

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Balaam, although a sorcerer and user of magic, apparently is also someone who knows the true God, and as such asked God for guidance regarding this request.

God says when it comes to cursing the Israelites, Balaam is not to do so because they are blessed.

In other words, they’re my people and you will not say anything against them.

Balaam tells the committee of princes sent by Balak that he cannot help them, and after they tell Balak, Balak sends more important men, with a greater promise of reward.

Here’s where Balaam’s faithful obedience begins to waver.

Even though God already told him “NO!” Balaam tells this second group that he will ask, again. God tells Balaam that if he is summoned, to go, but he is not to curse the people.

Well, Balaam goes to Balak and God, realizing that he is going with the intention to curse, anyway, sends an angel to stop him.

Balaam doesn’t see the angel, but his donkey does and three times goes off the path to avoid the angel. The third time Balaam beats the ass, and that’s when God allows the ass to speak; and, after the ass sets Balaam straight, the angel becomes visible.

Now Balaam realizes his ass saved his ass these three times, and says he will go home, but God tells him to keep going but say only what God tells him to say.

I believe God now intends to use Balaam to further bless the people and teach both Balaam and Balak a lesson.

Balak is happy to see Balaam, but after three separate attempts to get the people cursed, with Balaam obeying God and blessing them each time, Balak furiously sends Balaam home, without pay.

Before leaving, God gives Balaam a prophetic warning to Balak and the other kings there with him regarding the Acharit HaYamim (End Days).

So, nu? There’s a number of interesting issues here, but I am going to boil it down to reduce today’s lesson to one, simple message:

When God says something, that’s all there is to it.

Balaam at first did as God said, but when he was further tempted with more money, he tried to finagle a way for God to let him go. The Torah wording seems to say that God told him it was OK to go, but then sent an angel to kill him because he went!

When I first read this, I thought “What’s up with that?”

In Numbers 22:12, God tells Balaam “Thou shalt not go with them.” but after Balaam asks a second time, in Numbers 22:20, God says “If the men are come to call thee, rise up; go with them; but only the word which I speak unto thee, that shalt thou do”

I believe God now is telling him if he is summoned to go, i.e., if he is given a royal command to appear, then he shouldn’t disobey the king.

The Talmud states that Balaam’s second request wrested from God approval to go, but the statement God made about speaking as God says to is a warning that if Balaam really wants to disobey, go ahead and do so, but there will be consequences.

This makes a lot of sense, considering that God sent an angel to kill Balaam for having decided to go.

I said today’s message, or lesson (if you will) is simple: God means what he says. People don’t mean what they say, they mean what they do, but God isn’t “people”- he is God. He says what he means, and he means what he says, and besides that, he does what he says he will do.

That goes for punishment as well as forgiveness.

God’s instructions regarding how he wants us to live are given to all of us, by God through Moses, in the Torah. There is no other place, anywhere, throughout the entire Bible (Genesis through Revelation) where God specifically says to do certain things in a certain way.

What Paul says, what John says, or Peter, James, the Pope, the WCC, the Talmud… whatever and whoever within any religion that tells anyone to do anything other than what God said to do in the Torah, is a Balaam.

God tells us how to worship him and how to treat each other, and that is all we need to know. As I said before, when God says something, that is all there is to it.

In the Torah, God tells you, and me, and all of us how he wants us to live. You have the option to obey or reject what he says, but if you ignore it and chose to accept what some religion tells you to do instead, you are no better than Balaam trying to get God to change his mind about something he already told you to do.

God means what he says, and Balaam found out the hard way.

Later in Numbers we will see that Balaam still tried to win Balak’s favor, and that ended up costing him his life.

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

Parashah Chukat 2022 (Laws) Numbers 19 – 22:1

We are now beginning the 40th year of the Israelites journey through the desert.

God gives Moses the regulations regarding the cleansing of people who touch a carcass or in other way becomes unclean, and that is by a special water made from the ashes of a red heifer.

It is a remarkable thing, in that everyone associated with creating the Water of Purification becomes unclean by doing so, yet that water is what cleanses you.

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As they enter the wilderness of Zin, Miriam dies and the people immediately complain that they have no water, accusing Moses and Aaron, again, that Moses brought them into the desert to die.

God tells Moses to take Aaron’s rod and strike a rock to bring forth water, which he does, but he does so in such anger that it doesn’t bring any credit to God, and for that one mistake, God tells Moses that he will not enter the land.

They travel to the land of Edom, but are refused passage, and end up at Mount Hor, where Aaron dies. With the death of Aaron, Eleazar is appointed the new Cohen HaGadol. Aaron is mourned by the people for 30 days.

The king of Arad attacks the people and takes prisoners, so the people tell God that if he gives them victory, they will utterly destroy Arad, which he does, and which they do. They rename the place Hormah, which means utter defeat- the same Hormah that they were pushed back to when they were utterly defeated the first time they tried to enter Canaan, some 38 years earlier (Numbers 14:39-45).

The people again start to complain, and God sends poisonous snakes to attack and kill the people. They repent and ask Moses for help. God tells Moses to erect a snake, which Moses makes from brass, so when someone is bitten, if they simply look at the brass snake on the pole, they will not die.

This parashah ends with the battles against the two kings of Moab, Og and Sichon, ending with their utter destruction and the Israelites living in their land.

Oy! There is just SO much in this parashah, I could talk about it over half a dozen sermons. But don’t worry- I am going to hit on a couple of things that I feel are important, but not in great detail.

One quickie: you may be thinking that Mitzvot is the Hebrew word for “laws”, and you would be right. Chukat are those types of laws which we cannot understand why God gave them that way.

Maybe you will take the time to mull these things over in your mind later?

Let’s start with the red heifer- everything that is done to create the Water of Purification from the ashes of the heifer makes everyone involved unclean, yet the water they make is what cleanses you! What’s with that, right?

It’s like making mud pies, which make you filthy, then using those same mud pies to clean yourself up. It’s meshuggah!!

The lesson here is simple: we can’t understand why God does what he does, but as a holy people, who worship and follow a holy God, it is not our place to understand: it is our place to obey. Period.

To paraphrase an old saying:

Ours is not to reason why, our is but to do and live.

OK, next on my list is Miriam’s death and the need for water. In Jewish tradition, Miriam is called the “Well”, and as long as she was alive, there was water for the people. That’s why we read about the people having no water after her death, which brings me to the next thing I want to talk about…

How unfair is it that Moses did everything he was told to do, with humility, honor, and grace, obeying God to the letter, but here he makes one mistake, loses his temper, and for that the past 40 years of total obedience is out the window!

For 40 years he dealt with this group of kvetching, annoying, childish, and stiff-necked people, and never messed up. In fact, any number of times he risked his life to keep them alive, begging God to kill him if God was going to destroy the people, saving millions of lives.

But here, he makes one mistake. After 40 years of handling these annoying people, he loses it once and his most heartfelt desire, to enter the Promised Land, is taken away.

Why would God, who had constantly shown his compassionate understanding and forgiveness, punish his most trusted servant, a man who God spoke to as a friend (Exodus 33:11), so harshly?

I don’t know. Maybe it was because God really wanted Joshua to take over in the Land? Maybe it was because God was having a bad day? Who knows?

This brings us back to the previous lesson: we haven’t ever, can’t now, and never will understand why God does what he does.

Finally, a quick lesson on the snake.

In John 3:14, Yeshua says he will be lifted up, like the snake in the desert, and this is taken to be a prophetic statement to indicate the type of death he will have.

I have no problem with that, but I believe this is a dual prophecy, with an immediate future meaning and another meaning which won’t be realized until the distant future.

At that time, yes- Yeshua was to be crucified, lifted up where all could see him. And like the people who were bitten by snakes but when they looked to the brass snake, they lived, likewise, by looking to Yeshua (i.e., believing in him), spiritually speaking, we will not die from the second death.

Additionally, I see a future meaning of this reference to the snake, which we read about much later in 2 Kings 18:4.

You see, the snake was never destroyed but many years later, under King Hezekiah, the people called the snake Nehushtan (in Hebrew, the word “Nachash” (נחש) means “snake”) and worshipped it as a god.

In modern Christianity, many people believe Yeshua is God and pray to him, directly. This is, to me, exactly what happened with the snake: what was created to be a symbol of the salvation God provides, became an idol of worship and replaced God.

Well, these are the messages I see for us in today’s parashah reading. I pray that they make some sense to you, and if not, that you will look them up in the Bible, and ask God to give you understanding.

Don’t ever just take my word, or anyone else’s word, at face value.

If you don’t seek the truth for yourself from the Word of God, asking God for guidance, then whatever you do or don’t do, come Judgement Day your decisions will be totally, and solely, on you.

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

Parashah Korach 2022 (Korach) Numbers 16 – 18

The Israelites are in the desert, and three men, Abiram, Dathan (both from the tribe of Rueben) and their leader, the Levite Korach, rebel against Moses. They have also collected 250 leading men from the 12 tribes to join them in demanding that Moses and Aaron allow other men to act as Cohen to Adonai. They accuse Moses and Aaron of appointing themselves the leaders.

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Moses and Aaron, by instruction from God, tell the 250 men, as well as their leaders, to take their incense pans, fill them with fire and incense and bring them before the Tent of Meeting the next morning.

Note: the offering of incense was only to be performed by the Cohen. By having the 250 rebels do this, Moses had them take the place of the Cohen. Since God told Moses to do this, we see later that the result was their death, just as God destroyed Nadab and Abihu, to prove that God did not accept their offering because they weren’t the ones he wanted in charge.

Today, they would have received a nice letter saying that the position they applied for has been filled.

Dathan and Abiram refuse to attend this gathering, so Moses goes to their tents, warning everyone around them to leave that area or be caught up in what was to happen.

And what happened was that Moses said if he was not placed in charge by God, then these men would live a full life; but, if it is God who placed Moses in charge, then the earth will open up and swallow these men, their family, and all they have down to Sheol, alive.

And that is exactly what happened.

At the same time, fire comes forth from God and incinerates all 250 men.

Moses instructs the sons of Aaron and their cousins to take the fire pans and beat them into a covering for the altar, since they are now holy items, and to carry the carcasses out of the camp.

After seeing this, the people (still not getting the idea) accuse Moses and Aaron of killing these men. God becomes so angry with the people he tells Moses he will destroy them and sends a plague, which Aaron stops by taking incense into the middle of the dying people and thereby stopping the plague.

But not until after some 14,700 people died.

God tells Moses to have each tribal leader write his name on his staff, as well as Aaron, and place them in the Tent of Meeting. God will then show everyone his choice of Cohen by making that person’s staff grow buds. Aaron’s staff shows not just buds, but flowers and ripe almonds, as well.

The people are now afraid to even come close to the Tent of Meeting, as they believe anyone coming before the tent will result in their death.

The parashah ends with God reiterating the duties of and payments to the Levites, and how it is their responsibility to guard the Sanctuary by surrounding it to make sure none of the people get too close, which would incur God’s wrath and punishment.

We don’t know when this rebellion took place. I looked at a number of different websites, and they all talked about the rebellion, but none seemed to know when it took place during the trip from Egypt to the final entry into the land of Canaan.

The events in the Torah are not in strict chronological order, and I see two references in this parashah which could indicate the rebellion happened either on the way to Canaan, or just after the doomed attack on Canaan (Numbers 14:39-45).

One indication that this was before the Canaan attack is that one of the accusations made against Moses is that he failed to bring them into the promised land, leading them from the land of milk and honey” to die in the desert (Numbers 16:13-14). Even though the reference to the land of milk and honey has mostly referred to Canaan, I believe they might have been talking about Egypt. The reason for that is because up to this time, all the complaints referred to Egypt as a better place, one where they were well fed and happy (how soon they forget, right?).

On the other hand, it could also be right after Adonai told Moses to take the people away from Canaan so that the people who refused to enter would die in the desert (Numbers 14:28-30).

I don’t think it is necessary to know when this event took place, but if I had to guess, I would say it happened after the defeat of the people trying to enter Canaan the first time.

I feel this way because even though Moses told the people about God’s refusal to let them enter the land, they continued to blame Moses. They always blamed Moses for everything they didn’t like, and this time was no different. They just didn’t “get it”: they didn’t recognize that God was running the show and not Moses. Despite the many miraculous events God performed, they still thought Moses was doing it.

Another reason I think this happened just after the failed attempt to enter Canaan is that even though we know events in this book aren’t always in chronological order, the remaining chapters are about the death of Miriam, Aaron, and Moses, with some events happening just before they enter the land of Canaan.

One lesson we can glean from this story is to know when it is right to question authority. I have heard that Korach, Dathan and Abiram got together because they had similar objectives: Korach wanted to be in a position of authority, and the Reubenites wanted to be reestablished as leaders, since Reuben was the first born (but he lost that honor because he slept with his father’s concubine).

They could easily have planned this out as they travelled together since their positions in the order of march had them next to each other.

So when should we question those in authority over us, and how should we approach them? In this case, an open rebellion didn’t work out well, mainly because they had plenty of opportunity to see that God was unquestionably working through Moses.

I would have questioned the right of the 250 men to be in leadership because they so easily fell under the influence of Korach.

I suppose this is a really tough question, and depends on many factors: who first placed the people in leadership, are the leaders doing things against the people or just not explained to the people, and who would be available to replace the leadership?

The most important thing, I think, is what procedures are established for this type of problem? Impeachment? Recall? Vote of Confidence? Coup d’état?

I guess I’ll end today’s message, and answer my question with this: maybe the most important thing for us to learn is that when we are in a position of leadership, we need to be able to ensure that what we do is right with God, because if we have to deal with a Korach, it would be best to have God on our side.

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

Parashah Shelach L’cha 2022 (Send for you) Numbers 13 – 15

The Israelites are now at the border of the Promised Land, and they suggest to Moses to send spies in to reconnoiter the land before attacking it.

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This seems like a good idea to Moses, so he chooses one prince from each tribe (12 men in total) to search out the land and report back.

After 40 days in the land, the spies come back and report that it is a wonderful land, bringing back samples of the fruit and other natural resources. But they also report that the towns are fortified, and they saw the sons of Anak (giants) in the land.

Joshua and Caleb were excited to enter, and faithfully declared that they should attack because God will give this wonderful land to them. However, the other 10 princes said that they would be destroyed and had no chance of winning against such a strong and fortified people.

This distressed everyone so much they wanted to stone Moses, but God appeared and told Moses that he will destroy these people and make a new, better nation out of Moses.

Moses begs God not to do that, saying (as before) that if God destroyed the people, his name (meaning his reputation) would be weakened, as the other nations would say God destroyed the people because he wasn’t able to do as he said he would.

So God relents, and tells Moses that these people will not enter the land, and to turn towards the desert. Their punishment will be that whereas they cried their children would be taken as slaves, it will be their children who inherit the land, and not the parents.

Moses is told that for every day they were in the land, they will wander in the desert one year until all of the generation that despised God’s word by revolting against him and not entering the land will be dead.

Upon hearing of their punishment, the people immediately repent and say they will now do as God said, but it is too late. Moses warns them not to attack because God is not with them and they have no chance, but they follow one terrible mistake with another and ignore Moses’ warning.

Of course, they are defeated horribly, pushed all the way back to Hormah (which means “utter destruction”).

This parashah ends with God repeating the Levitical rules for sacrifices, the showbread, and the wearing of tzitzis. The final entry is a story of a man collecting sticks on the Shabbat, and for that sin God commands he be stoned to death.

I want to change up a little today, and instead of talking about the parashah, I want to talk about the Haftorah reading, which is in the Book of Joshua, Chapter 2.

This may be a good time to digress a bit, and review about the reading of the Torah.

A predetermined portion of the Torah, called a parashah, is read each Shabbat; there are 54 readings for the one-year cycle, with some readings doubled to keep pace with leap years. All Jews, everywhere, come to the final sentences of the Torah at the same time, which is the 8th day of Sukkot. We call that day Shemini Atzeret (8th day of assembly) and Simchat Torah (Joy of Torah). On this holiday, the Torah is paraded around the neighborhood, accompanied by singing and shofar blasts, and once back in the synagogue, as the congregation dances and sings, the Torah scroll is rolled back to Genesis.

The Haftorah is a section of the other books of the Tanakh (Old Covenant), usually from one of the books of the Prophets, which are read in addition to the parashah. The haftorah is chosen because the events there relate to the events in the Torah reading of that day.

OK, that being said, let’s get back to todays’ message.

The haftorah for today occurs some 38 years after the events in the Torah. Joshua is now the leader of the Israelites, and they are outside the land, having just defeated Og and Sichon.

Unlike the mistake Moses made when he sent 12 men into the land, Joshua sends only two men to spy out the land, knowing that he can trust these two to bring back a true report.

Remember: these men are not former slaves, for that entire generation (except for Joshua and Caleb) have died. These two are men raised in hardship, living and growing up in the desert, and aren’t conditioned with the mindset of a slave.

The men reconnoiter Jericho and while there, they come to the house of Rahab, a prostitute, who hides them from the King of Jericho making the spies promise to protect her family when the Israelites come to attack the people in the land.

The men do so, and report back to Joshua that the people in the land are scared stiff, and already emotionally defeated.

How does this reading relate to the Torah portion? Well, it seems pretty obvious: Joshua learned that the more people you send to do a job, the more reports you will have to deal with.

It is like that old adage: too many chefs spoil the soup.

We need to learn from this that when we trust people, the more people we trust to accomplish something, the less likely it will get done correctly. This doesn’t mean to take on everything alone- that is another type of mistake.

My father, God rest his soul, used to tell me when I was a young boy and asked to help him with a project, that he wanted to do it alone so that if it went wrong, the only person to blame was himself. That made sense to me at that time, but as I grew older and placed in positions of leadership, I realized how wrong that attitude was.

People in leadership positions have an obligation to teach all they know to the ones who they are in charge of, to make that person a greater asset to the company, or congregation, or just to help them become a better person.

For those of us in a position of spiritual leadership, that means when choosing shammashim (Hebrew for “leaders”) within the congregation, you must follow the biblical requirements for a leader.

In the New Covenant, you can find these in Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9; Hebrews 13: 7 and 17-19. However, you must also remember that these are all from the Torah portions in Exodus 18:21 and Deuteronomy 1:13.

We must be careful to not choose by friendship or by influence, and especially not by financial support. Too many congregations are led by those who are the greatest tithers, and that is not assigning by ability, but by bank account.

Moses sent too many people, and Joshua sent just the right number of people.

Moses sent those who were in positions of honor, while Joshua sent those who he trusted to give a proper report.

What’s the bottom line? We must choose those who demonstrate the qualities specified in the Torah when we assign people important positions within our congregations, following the example that Joshua set for us.

Thank you for being here and please share these messages with everyone you know. Subscribe to my website and YouTube channel, buy my books, and join my Facebook group called “Just God’s Word” (please make sure you read and agree to the rules).

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

Parashah B’ha’alotecha 2022 (When you set up) Numbers 8 – 12

Moses has set up the tabernacle and consecrated it. Now he consecrates all the Levi’im as separated for God, in place of all the firstborn that God destroyed in Egypt.

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We are told how the camp would remain where they were when the cloud remained over the Tabernacle, and how they travelled when the cloud moved. No matter how long the cloud stayed, or how long it kept moving, the people did as the cloud led them.

The people complained, as always, about no meat and how they had it better in Egypt, so Moses asks God to just kill him if he has to continue to deal with all these complaints. God tells Moses to pick out 70 trustworthy men and they will share the load with Moses, as God will place some of the spirit he gave to Moses on them.

The order of march is given to us, so we know how the people moved, who was first and who was last, and the final chapter deals with when Miriam and Aaron complained against Moses for marrying a Cushite woman. The punishment God meted out was to cause Tzara’at (leprosy) to appear on Miriam. Moses immediately prayed for her to be cured, and God did that, but also shut her outside the camp for a week.

There are some interesting things in here, at least, interesting to me.

One is the giving of the spirit to the 70 elders in the camp. Even though two of them did not appear with the others at the Tabernacle, as Moses had told them, they also received the spirit. That makes me wonder if they refused to come, or just forgot, or had something else come up. In any case, God did what Moses asked him to do, even though it seems that these two refused to be part of it.

But that’s not the only thing I wondered about- we are told in Exodus 18 that Moses’ father-in-law suggests delegating authority to others to take the load off of Moses in dealing with disputes, and even goes as far as to tell Moses that God commands it. Every time I read that passage, I wondered, “How did Jethro know God commanded it?”

And now, here in this parashah, we see that God does command Moses to pick 70 men to help him in dealing with the people, so is this the same event?

In this parashah we also read that Moses asks his brother-in-law to stay with the people as they travel. To me, it makes sense that when Jethro brought his wife and children out to Moses that maybe other members of the family came with them. If so, then the brother-in-law could have been there when Jethro made his suggestion to Moses.

I don’t know, absolutely, if these two Torah stories are the same event, but it seems so to me. After all, it is no secret that the books of the Torah are not in strict chronological order, and some events are repeated in different books.

Another part of this particular parashah that I love is the last chapter, Chapter 12, where Miriam and Aaron speak out against Moses. Not because of what happened, but because this parashah is the passage I read at my Bar Mitzvah, which I had on the same day I celebrated my 13th birthday, and guess what today is?

That’s right. Of course, it was quite a while ago that I was 13, but this is the very passage I read on this same day of the year, all those many years ago.

And I constantly use this particular Torah story when talking about praying. Especially when people pray on and on, or ask God to heal someone specifying exactly, in inordinate detail, what God should do in order to heal them.

I believe we should ask God for help by following Moses’ example. Here we have Moses seeing his big sister white as death, yet in his shock and anguish at her fate, all he says is:

Oh God, I beg you, please, heal her!” (CJB)

That’s all he said, and I believe it is because he trusted God to know what to do.

That’s called faith!

We should demonstrate that level of trust and faith, ourselves, when asking God to help someone. Wordiness is not faithfulness, and going an-and-on-and-on is not going to make God any more inclined to do something.

And I have to consider (disagree if you will) that God, as patient as he is, when someone is telling him how to heal and what to do and where to do it, he has to be thinking something along the lines of:

Really? You think I don’t know what to do?

So today’s message is this: trust in God to know what to do, how to do it, when to do it, and even if it should be done.

When it comes to asking God for anything, I go by the old KISS rule:

Keep It Simple, Schlemiel!

Thank you for being here and please share these messages with everyone you know. Subscribe to my website and YouTube channel, and while on the website please buy my books.

If you like what you get in these messages, you will like my books. I guarantee it.

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

Parashah Emor 2022 (Speak) Leviticus 21-24

These chapters begin with rules for the priests regarding not defiling themselves by having any contact with the dead (except for close family members) and marrying only a virgin. The Cohen HaGadol (High Priest) shall not even have contact with family members who die, nor shall he ever mourn (at least, not in public).

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No priest can offer any sacrifice or perform any priestly duties if they have any sort of deformity or blemish or are in a condition of uncleanliness.

Chapter 23 is where God instructs us about the 7 Holy Days, which are not to be confused with holidays, those being man-made. God’s required celebrations are the Shabbat, Passover, Hag HaMatzot (Passover is only the late afternoon until midnight, with the 7 days of unleavened bread being a separate festival), Counting of the Omer (not a Holy Day but important because it brings us to the next one), Shavuot, Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot.

God instructed Moses about the show bread and the Ner Tamid (Eternal Flame).

We are told of an incident where an Israelite man (Israelite mother and Egyptian father) blasphemed God’s name and cursed, and his punishment was to have all the people who heard him lay their hands on his head, then the entire congregation was to stone him to death. We are told that any punishment must be equal to the crime, which was described by God as “breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth.”

(I can make an entire message on the way this one statement has been misunderstood.)

Probably one of the most important instructions, and the final one for this parashah, is the commandment that there shall be only one law for both the natural Jew and the Gentile.

Okay, then…not much to analyze or look for deeper, meanings here. This is all pretty straight-forward.

But what does it mean to us? What do I have to worry about if I am not a descendant of Aaron, or a Levite?

Well, if you are a member of the body of the Messiah, or any sect of Judaism (even if you haven’t accepted Yeshua as your Messiah), then you are a priest.

YIKES! You mean to tell me that even as a Gentile Christian I am considered to be a priest?

I believe the answer is….YES!

Why? Because any one who sojourns with Israel, i.e., joins the chosen people of God, is considered to be an adopted son of Abraham (Galatians 3:29), and, as a member of God’s chosen people, you are also one of God’s priests to the world( Exodus 19:6).

Not what they told you in church, huh?

Did they also fail to tell you that as a adopted child of Abraham, that because God said there is to be one law for both the stranger (i.e., Gentile joined to the people) and the Jew, that means you are also required to obey his law (that means the Torah, people)?

Now that’s quite a kick in the pants, right?

Here’s how it works, folks: when you accept Yeshua (Jesus) as your Messiah, you are a spiritual sojourner with Israel and an adopted child of Abraham. This does NOT mean you are a Jew- that has to be by blood, not by choice (except maybe in the case of total conversion). But, as a member of Israel you are a priest for God, which requires you to obey the priestly requirements in this parashah, and throughout the Torah.

And as a natural-born Jewish person, you are already a priest, Believer or not, like it or not.

This is how I see it, based on how I interpret the Torah and some of what Shaul (Paul) wrote.

I understand that this does open a can of worms, as they say, because now we have to ask if your marriage is acceptable (if you didn’t marry a virgin); are you allowed to visit the graves of your loved ones; can you come into church (or synagogue) if you had sex recently and didn’t shower afterwards?

And these are just the easy questions!

If you expect me to answer them, I am sorry but I won’t go there. I think we all have to read the Torah and come up with the answers for ourselves, asking God to have the Ruach HaKadosh (Holy Spirit) guide us in our decision. I know this sounds like a cop-out, but I am not sure of the answers, myself.

I do know one thing- thanks to Yeshua, if I do sin accidentally by not properly observing the rules for a priest, then I can receive forgiveness through him.

Here’s an interesting thing I would like to share with you: when I worked at a Jewish cemetery, if the people looking to buy a burial plot had a last name that was Cohen or Levy, or anything similar, they had to buy a plot directly off the road because as a Levite, they couldn’t even stand on the ground without (ceremonially) becoming unclean. For me, as a salesman, that meant more money because those are the most expensive areas in any cemetery.

I have been told that my DNA analysis (my older sister, Wendy is our genealogist) shows I have the genetic marker of a Levite, so I know I have to be careful in how I live my life. My current marriage is a second marriage for both my wife and myself, so that would disqualify me, but these things happened before I became a Believer, so I hope that they are not counted.

After all, we are born a new creation every day (2 Corinthians, 5:17) so I am trying, each day for the rest of my life, to qualify for God’s requirements as one of his priests.

What about you? Do you feel “priestly”? You are, you know, whether or not you want to be, so if you like being blessed by God and want to act in accordance with what God says (not what some man-made religion says), then I suggest read this parashah for yourself and get with the program.

Thank you for being here and please share these messages with everyone you know. Subscribe to my website and YouTube channel, buy my books, and join my Facebook discussion group called “Just God’s Word” (please read and agree to the rules).

And I always welcome any comments you may have: feedback lets me know someone is listening, so please (at least) send me a “Good Job”, or “You’re crazy!”, and let’s drash it out, together.

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

Pesach Ha’yom Ha’shemini Reading 2022 (Passover Eighth Day Reading) Deuteronomy 15:19 – 16:17

As we come to the end of Pesach (Passover) we are reading from the Torah the section where God has Moses remind the people that all the firstborn of the flock and herd belong to God. He states that the sacrifice must be eaten at the place where God puts his name, and that we are not to eat the blood but, instead, pour it out on the ground.

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He further reminds us about the Passover rules and the 7 days of unleavened bread. Passover is, actually, just that first evening; the next 7 days are the Feast of Unleavened bread.

God gives us his instructions for the counting of the Omer, starting on the first Shabbat after the beginning of Pesach, and that when it is over we celebrate Shavuot.

This parashah reading ends with God telling us that three times during the year we are to appear at the place where he chooses to put his name: Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot.

The Haftorah reading for this special day is Isaiah 10:32-12:6, which is when he prophesized the coming of the Messiah and the regathering of God’s chosen people throughout the world. He also states that the Goyim (literally, the nations, but generally referring to non-Jews, i.e. Gentiles) will also seek out the Messiah. On that day, Isaiah tells us, everyone will give thanks to God for turning away his righteous anger and providing our salvation.

This Shabbat’s message is pretty clear- celebrate the Passover as God said to, and one day the Messiah will come to save us; when that day comes, even the Gentiles will seek him out.

Well, for those of us who recognize that Yeshua (Jesus) was, and still is, the Messiah, we are already saved from the eternal consequences of our sins. Of course, that isn’t automatic: we still need to repent of every sin we commit and ask God’s forgiveness, by means of the sacrifice that Yeshua made.

As I have mentioned before, God tells us, more than once, to make sure we don’t sacrifice to him just anywhere- that is what the pagans do. We are to sacrifice only where God chooses to put his name.

During the 40 years in the desert, that place was the Tent of Meeting (also called the Sanctuary or Tabernacle), and when the people entered the land the tent was set up in different places. Initially it was at their main camp in Gilgal and later at Shiloh, where it stayed for some 369 years until King David moved it and the Ark to Jerusalem (after a short stop-over in the house of Oved-Edom).

After Solomon built the temple and put the Ark of the Covenant inside, God chose that place (demonstrated by his Shekinah Glory filling the house) to be the only place where sacrifices to God could be offered.

Jews came from all over the Middle East to Jerusalem to make the Passover sacrifice; I would guess, although I don’t think the Bible tells us, that if someone lived a long distance away it just made sense to hang around the City of David instead of taking weeks to travel back, only to turn around and go to Jerusalem, again, for the mandatory appearance at Shavuot.

So, we have this Shabbat reading telling us of the requirement to go to the temple, and Isaiah telling us that when Messiah comes all the people will rejoice and give thanks to God for his salvation, one might wonder what these two have in common, since the rabbis have decided they should be read together.

The common factor, as far as I see it, is the requirement to sacrifice where God places his name and the Messiah’s role in salvation.

You see, when the temple was destroyed in 73 AD, there was no way for Jews to be forgiven of their sins, let alone perform the cleansing or peace offerings that are so much a part of our spiritual lives. That was the place God had put his name, the only place God allowed us to sacrifice, and now it was gone!

But through the sacrifice of the Messiah, Yeshua, we could receive forgiveness of sins without the temple. Yeshua’s once-and-for-all sacrifice meant that we no longer had to bring an animal to the place God put his name because Yeshua replaced that part of the sacrificial system.

For the record: when I say his sacrifice was a “once-and-for-all” sacrifice, I do NOT mean once it was done, for all time after that no one had to ask for forgiveness, as the “Once Saved: Always Saved” group would lead you to believe.

No! – What I mean is that his sacrifice was once, and for all PEOPLE!

By the end of the First Century, the Gentiles were already seeking out the Jewish messiah, which was good!

But, unfortunately, over the centuries these early Believers and their followers have so misinterpreted and misconstrued what people have written about Yeshua and what people taught the Gentile followers of Yeshua- who they call Jesus- should do or not do, that the Christian Savior is NOT the Messiah God sent to save them.

We can only pray that when the End Days do arrive, those Christians who have been misled by their leaders will come to know the lies they have been told, and seek out the real Messiah, the one God had Isaiah tell us about.

There is some good news, though: many Christians today are seeking out the real Messiah, and getting back to serving God as he said to.

In light of this, I am going to plug my latest book, “The Good News About the Messiah for Jews“, which is also for Christians. In this book, I debunk the traditional lies from both Christians and Jews have been taught about Messiah Yeshua. It’s available on Amazon Books in both paperback and Kindle formats, or use the link on my website.

Thank you for being here and please share these messages. Subscribe to my website and YouTube channel, and I always welcome your comments. You can make them on my website or on my YouTube channel or on my Facebook group called “Just God’s Word”.

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

Parashah Tazria 2022 (When she conceives) Leviticus 12 – 13

We now begin to move from the laws of kashrut to the laws of cleanliness. These two chapters cover the topic of cleanliness for a woman after giving birth, and for tzara’at, or leprosy (actually, it could also mean some other form of skin disease or mold).

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Without going into the details, women become unclean, ceremonially, after giving birth by means of the bodily secretions that occur as a result of the birth. There were two different times periods she had to wait before she was to make a sacrifice to be cleansed, depending on whether she gave birth to a boy or to a girl.

The rules for tzara’at are also very detailed: first the person goes to the Cohen for an inspection, cleans himself, is then separated from the camp for a week, and after the 7 days goes back for inspection. These rules also apply to any clothing that has tzara’at (except the clothing is locked away).

If the boils or sores do not go away, that person is unclean and remains separated, outside the main camp until such time, if any, the sores disappear. If the clothing doesn’t appear to be cleaned of the disease, it is burned.

If the sores do disappear, the process of inspection, waiting period, and re-inspection happen all over again. This time, if the Cohen determines the disease is gone, the person cleans him/herself, performs the sacrifice, and then is allowed back into the society.

There are two main arguments for these regulations: the hygienic and the levitical.

The hygienic argument is that these rules were given by God in order to maintain the general health of the population, keeping people from becoming infectious and possibly creating a plague.

I can understand God wanting to prevent someone causing a plague; reading the Tanakh, it seems to me that plagues are one of God’s favorite punishments, and I don’t blame him for not wanting to share that with some mere human.

The levitical argument is that the rules and regulations about cleanliness are religious in nature, dealing more with spiritual defilement than physical sickness. Those who were unclean were forbidden from entering the Sanctuary because their physical uncleanliness would also represent their spiritual uncleanliness, which would defile the Sanctuary.

God is very clear throughout the Torah that only those who were clean could come into his presence.

Now, these two apparently opposing arguments are, in fact, not exclusive but inclusive. Being infected with a contagious disease is a really good reason to be separated from the population, and as such, not allowed into the Sanctuary where people are gathered in prayer. And even when cleansed of the physical disease, the sacrifice is required to bring that person back into spiritual communion with God after having been physically separated from God’s presence (in the Sanctuary).

So what does it come down to? If I am muddy, I am dirty, but does that make me unclean according to the Torah?

No, it doesn’t, but you should clean up before going to Shul, that’s for sure!

The clean and unclean regulations did not apply so much to everyday living, but to being allowed into the Sanctuary. They were designed not just to help maintain a healthy population, but to also prevent any defilement of the holy things.

Holiness means to be separated: the holy is separated from the common, and in the same manner, the (spiritually) unclean is separated from the (spiritually) clean.

God tells us what he considers to be clean and unclean, and if we do not want to be separated from God, then we need to understand the difference and how to be cleansed when we become unclean.

Through Yeshua, the need to bring an animal to the Sanctuary to present as a sacrifice is no longer necessary, but we still need to obey the laws. So, if you have a bodily secretion, wash yourself and change your clothes, then in the evening (which for Jews is the next day) you will be clean and can go to the Temple. However, if you are a woman and in your time of Nidah (menstrual cycle), technically, you should not go to your house of worship until after the cycle is completed and you bathe, in accordance with the rules in this parashah.

NOTE: The bath that men and women take in order to become ceremonially clean is called the Mikvah. The baptism, which is not a ceremonial cleansing but a physical representation of a spiritual change, is called a T’villa. Yochanon the Immerser (John the Baptist) had people undergo a T’villa, not a Mikvah.

Do you know why Orthodox men will not shake hands with a woman or take something from her hand? It’s because they do not know if she is in her time of Nidah. It is not a form of abasement or disrespect, it is simply self-protection because if she is “unclean”, then touching her or taking something from her will transmit her uncleanliness to them.

Whether or not you obey these rules is up to you, just as it is with anything God says we should do in the Torah. But if you decide to ignore them, remember this: God didn’t give us the Torah so we could ignore it, or pick-and-choose what we wanted to do, and Yeshua never told anyone to ignore anything his father said to do.

God gave us commandments to live by. In Deuteronomy 28, he promises to bless us when we obey, and that we will be cursed when we disobey: just a little something to think about next time someone tells you that you don’t have to do any of that “Jewish” stuff.

Thank you for being here, and please share these messages with everyone you know. Subscribe to my website and YouTube channel, buy my books, and join my Facebook group called “Just God’s Word (please make sure you read and agree to the rules).

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

Parashah Shemini 2022 (Eighth) Leviticus 9 – 11

In these chapters we read about how on the 8th day, Moses called Aaron and his sons to make sacrifice for themselves, then (having been cleansed by means of their sacrifice) to make sacrifice for the people. Moses explains that when doing things in this manner the Lord will then appear to them.

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Aaron did as Moses commanded, which was in accordance with the instructions God gave to Moses, and after the sacrifices had been performed and the meat and fat laid upon the altar, God sent fire down from heaven to consume the sacrifice in the presence of all the people. When the people saw this, they shouted and fell on their faces.

Now we come to a sad event, caused by what the rabbis assume was jealousy fueled by drink: Aaron’s two eldest sons, Nadab and Abihu, put fire and incense in their censors (fire which was not from the altar) and made offering to the Lord. This was not only wrong, but sinful because they were not doing the right thing the right way, and so God punished them by sending his fire to destroy them. As sad as this was, Moses told Aaron that God said through those who are nigh unto him he will be sanctified, and in front of the people he will be glorified, meaning that those who serve God must maintain a higher level of obedience, and through their proper service they will glorify God before all the people.

As such, when Nadab and Abihu offered strange (unjustified and improper) fire before God, they neither sanctified nor glorified God, as their (assumed) purpose was to glorify themselves in showing that they also could do what their father was doing.

The last chapter in this parashah is the law of Kashrut, the kosher laws. In this chapter God tells us, very simply, what we may eat and what we may not eat. Consequently, you could say this chapter identifies what is “food” and what isn’t.

My message for this parashah is pretty much the same one I always give when we are covering the Kosher laws, or for that matter, any commandment, ordinance, regulation, or law that God gives that doesn’t have a simple, easy-to-understand explanation.

And that message is this:

If you don’t understand why God commands you to do something, you aren’t supposed to.

God doesn’t have to explain himself to you, or to me, or to anyone. The hard truth of the matter is that it comes down to that little, five-letter word that Jews and Christians throw around so much, without really understanding what it means: F-A-I-T-H.

It is really so simple. There is no need to complicate things, although complicating things is what humans love to do. We can’t just obey, we have to know why we should obey.

OK, here’s the best reason you can have to obey: God promises you will be blessed when you obey him. You can find a very detailed listing of all the blessings you receive when you obey God in Deuteronomy 28.

True faith is not just accepting, or even believing, but acting upon that acceptance and belief throughout your life. Just as Yaakov says in his letter to the Believers, faith without works is dead (James 2:14). That means no matter how faithful you think you are, if you aren’t doing things in your everyday life that demonstrate that faith, you are lying.

And the way to demonstrate faith is to do as God said you should do, faithfully believing that whatever God says to do is because he only wants the best for you.

This is the ultimate proof of one’s faith- obeying without question.

I don’t need to know why I can have a lamb sandwich anytime I want to, but if I want pork rinds while watching TV that is forbidden.

I don’t need to understand why God says some animals are clean and all others are unclean.

I don’t need to understand why some fish are good to eat and others aren’t.

What I DO need to know is what God tells me to do. I don’t need to know why.

So, either you trust God to have your best interests at heart, or you don’t.

Either you believe that God knows what he is doing, or you don’t.

Either you want to earn blessings, or you don’t.

Either you follow God’s rules or you follow human rules.

The bottom line is this: you aren’t supposed to understand why God tells you what to do, but you are supposed to obey him.

Thank you for being here, and please share these messages with everyone you know. Subscribe to my website and my YouTube channel, buy my books and share them with others, and join my Facebook group called “Just God’s Word” (please make sure you read and agree to the rules).

And remember that I always welcome your comments.

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