This reading starts with God telling Moses that every male over 20 needs to pay a half-shekel as a ransom for their life. This ransom is in accordance with the ransom one pays when killing someone accidentally, as in when in battle.
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Moses is further instructed on how to make the incense to be burnt before the Lord, which no one else is to make for personal use. Men are assigned (Bezalel and Oholiab) to help Moses construct all that God has ordered to be done.
Moses has been on the mountain now for 40 days and nights, and what happens in Exodus Chapter 32 is the Sin of the Golden Calf, when the people turned away from God and backslid to their comfort zone, reestablishing the Egyptian religious practice of worshipping the calf.
God tells Moses to go to the camp to witness their great sin, and when he sees it for himself, Moses becomes enraged, breaking the two tablets God gave him with the Ten Words, grinding the calf to powder, and telling the people that those who are for the Lord should come to him.
The tribe of Levi comes to him, and Moses charges them with assassinating all those who sinned against God, resulting in the death of thousands.
Moses pleads before God for forgiveness, and God says that he will no longer go with the people because he fears that if he continues to dwell among them, he will destroy them for their constant wickedness and stiff-necked rebellion. He tells Moses to inform them that he will send an angel to guide them instead of being with them.
The people are so distraught over this they repent and strip themselves of their jewelry (as a sign of humility). Moses goes before God and says that if God won’t go with these people, please let them remain where they are because if God doesn’t travel with them, how will the nations know that they are God’s chosen? God relents and agrees, based on his relationship with Moses, to continue to travel with the people.
At this point, Moses asks God to teach him what God wants from them so that he will know, and thereby be able to make sure the people always stay within God’s will. Moses also asks God to show his Glory to Moses, which God agrees to do but Moses may see only his back as he passes, for no man can see the face of God and live.
As God passes by, he announces himself, which is called the 13 Attributes of God (Exodus 34:5-7).
Finally, God gives Moses another set of tablets and reviews the commandments, again orders Moses to utterly destroy all the pagan peoples, along with their idols and standing stones when they enter the Land. The Israelites are not to intermix with the surrounding peoples not to be destroyed and they must never worship their gods.
The parashah ends with the story of how, after meeting with God this second time, Moses’ face puts out beams of light, which scares the people, so he begins to wear a veil over his face except when talking with God in the Tent of Meeting.
Oy! So much stuff here- the sin of the Golden Calf, Moses’ pleading with God to forgive the people (this is something he will end up doing all too often), and the commandment for the people to remain totally separated from the surrounding nations.
I don’t believe in coincidences when it comes to things of God, and this morning before I started this message I was commenting on a post from a friend in my Facebook group (Just God’s Word) about how the Jews, during the time of the Judges, intermixed with and ended up being seduced into sin by the surrounding people because they did not keep totally separated from them. I think my comment to my friend on his post is appropriate here, as well.
God tells us to remain separate, and that is good advice. But when we read about the Pharisees condemning Yeshua (Jesus) for eating with sinners, Yeshua’s answer is that he did not come to call the righteous, but the sick. So here we have a bit of a conundrum: God says stay apart from sinners, and his son the Messiah, says socialize with them.
You might say the difference here is that God was talking about Jews socializing with Gentiles, but Yeshua was talking about Jews socializing with other Jews, who were sinful. After all, Yeshua says he was sent only to the lost tribes of Israel (Matthew 15:24), so he was staying within God’s commandment to be separated from the Gentiles.
But what about in Matthew 28:19, when Yeshua was being lifted up into heaven and told his Talmudim to make disciples from all the nations on earth?
God said to remain totally separated from the Gentiles, but here Yeshua is saying to socialize with them, in order to bring them into God’s kingdom.
There’s that conundrum, again.
So, how do I reconcile these polar opposite positions?
I can’t, at least not until we come to Acts 10, where Kefa (Peter) is given a vision that leads to God allowing the Gentiles to receive the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) and through their repentance and conversion to God’s commandments given to Moses, be allowed to also enter the Kingdom of God. And this is hermeneutically validated by the prophecies of Isaiah, where we read that the Messiah will be a light to the Goyim (literally, “nations”, meaning all the Gentiles.)
So the conundrum has been resolved- we are not to marry with or worship with those who do not believe in God, and we are not to have intimate (meaning close, personal relationships) with sinners.
But we can socialize with them to the degree where we are a light to their darkness, and by our example provide a means for them to have the opportunity to repent from their sin and enter into God’s Grace.
So, remain separate from sinners when they are sinning and do not intermarry with sinful people. Do not develop a close friendship with them, but do socialize with them enough to provide an example of God’s influence and blessings in your life.
Bring the Good News of the Messiah to everyone, to the Jew first and then to the Gentile, but do not become so friendly that you are ensnared by their sinful lifestyle. Keep an invisible parochet between you and them, and if they repent and accept the Messiah, the parochet will (again) be torn from top to bottom allowing them to pass through to God’s side.
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That’s it for this week, so l’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!