Sukkot Shabbat 2019 Message

This Shabbat is the Shabbat during the days of Sukkot, and the traditional reading is from the parashah Pinchus, specifically the chapter dealing with how to celebrate this festival. The Haftorah portion is from Ezekiel, where he relates the future of Gog and how Israel will conquer them as they attack and the victory will be so great that it will take months before the dead are buried.

But we’re not going to go into that today.

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The last day of Sukkot is called Sh’mini Atzeret (the eighth day) and known as Simchat Torah (Joy of Torah); in the Torah it is not named as anything other than the eighth day, but the traditional name is given because on this day we have reached the final parashah in the Torah and we turn it all the way back to the beginning.

And I can tell you this, having been blessed to be able to turn it back many times, that if you want forearms that look like Popeye’s, you can get them turning back a Torah!

The traditional thought is that God loved to be with his people during Sukkot so much that he extended it to eight days. The commandments in the Torah state we should celebrate for 7 days starting from the 15th day of the 7th month, but then after instructing us about which sacrifices to make, day by day, God tacks on the 8th day during which we are to assemble, again.

The reason we live in a Sukkah during this festival is not just to serve as a reminder of how God took care of us in the desert, but to also be a way to commune with God. It is thought that the Messiah will return during the Feast of Tabernacles, which makes sense. We have gone through Yom Teruah, beginning the Ten Days of Awe when we retrospectively look inside ourselves and see how far short we have come to meet God’s requirements, generating feelings of repentance. Then we come before God on Yom Kippur to ask forgiveness and be cleansed of these sins. Finally, we celebrate Sukkot, once again remembering how God has saved us and communing with him in the ancient ways our forefathers did, by living in tents. So, since we are cleansed of our sins and communing with God, that seems to be a really great time for the Messiah to come back, doesn’t it?

The last celebratory day, Sh’mini Atzeret, is when we turn back the Torah and get to read it, all over again, which is why it is also called the Joy of Torah. Remember what King David said about the Torah? In Psalms 19 and 119 he says this:

Psalm 19:9-10…The precepts of the LORD are right, bringing joy to the heart; the commandments of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever; the judgments of the LORD are true, being altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.…


Psalm 119:103How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!


Reading the Torah is a joy because we learn who God is, see how much he has loved us, and are reminded of the promise of a Messiah who will one day bring us into eternal communion with God. Those of us who know the Messiah, Yeshua, already have that absolute joy of knowing we are “saved” from ourselves, and even though we aren’t yet in the presence of the Lord forever, we will be so long as we persevere by maintaining our faithfulness.

This year’s Sukkot is almost over, so we still have a few days for Messiah to return. But even if he doesn’t come back this Sukkot, don’t be upset. After all, it is only a traditional thought that he will return on Sukkot. The truth is no one knows when, and he told us that, so, sorry to say, there’s a really good chance you will still have to go to work come Monday.

Live each day as if it is your last, not letting go of yourself and being hedonistic, but preparing yourself for your Master’s return which will bring God’s Judgment Day.

My aim is not to convert or tell anyone what they must do, but simply to give you the right information so that you can make up your own mind. This is the time of the year (as I say above) when we expect Messiah to return, and once we come before God there will be no more opportunity to change what we do. Whether you worship and act as you want to based on your understanding of God’s word, or you worship and act based on what someone else told you to do, it is still your choice and you will be held accountable for it!

So… make sure you know why you are doing what you do. Amen!

Thank you for being here and please subscribe to my YouTube channel (use the link above) and this website. Share me out to your friends and family, and help this ministry to grow.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!

Parashah Shoftim 2018 (Judges) Deuteronomy 16:18 – 21:9

Watch for my new book, Parashot Drashim- Commentary on the Weekly Torah Readings for Both Jews and Gentiles, to be released sometime in September 2018.


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In the previous parashah, God reminded the people of the Holy Days (the Moedim) that they are to observe when they are in the Promised Land. Now God tells them to appoint judges in all their cities who are to judge rightly:

(Deut. 16:20) “Justice, justice shalt thou follow, that thou mayest live, and inherit the land which the Lord, thy God giveth thee.”

God instructs the judges that no one is to be executed unless there are two or three witnesses, and if a witness gives a false testimony then what was to happen to the accused will be done to that false witness.  God also tells them when they ask for a king that the king must be an Israelite and also read and follow every commandment God has given.

God reminds the Levites of their role, and how they are to receive payment from the offerings brought to God.

God tells the people that he will raise up for them a prophet like Moses who will have God’s words in his mouth. God also confirms his commandments against worshiping any other gods, and that those living in the land now are to be totally destroyed because of all the evil they have done.

There are commandments regarding the laws of warfare, which include not destroying fruit trees, reasons some men can be excused from military service and that those people who were not to be utterly destroyed would be given a chance to make peace before the Israelites attacked them.

Finally, God gives the means by a city or town that has an unsolved murder can be absolved of the blood guilt.

How can there be justice if the Canaanites were to be totally destroyed? Women (not virgins) and young males were to be slaughtered, often along with all their animals, as well. This is justice?  On the other hand, causing the sin of a false witness to fall on his own head and requiring more than just one witness in a case of capital punishment certainly is a just and fair system. So how do we reconcile these two, apparently opposite decrees?

We do so by remembering one of the most basic and repetitious of all God’s commandments to his people- they are to be holy, as he is holy.

That means not even a trace amount of sin should be found anywhere in their camps, towns, cities or homes. Keeping animals that are unclean, or devoted to another god, would be wrong. Allowing those who God has judged to death for their sinful, unrepentant pagan religions and worship would be sinful, rebellious and would lead the people of God into sin (as we saw happen in Numbers 25.)

The regulations about keeping any form of sin out of the camp, which can be expanded to mean out of the lives of the people of God, was necessary to help maintain the holiness of God’s chosen people. Remember, these were a people that were to be priests to the world (Exodus 19:6) so everything they did, every day, must be designed to avoid sin. Although it seems cruel to us today, in those days total destruction of the conquered peoples was standard. The fact that God said people who were not on the “Holy Hit List” could be allowed to live if they surrendered is a demonstration of the compassion that God has for all people.

And the complete destruction of the sinful people is a demonstration of the awesomeness of God’s judgment.

Micah tells us (Micah 6:8) that what God wants is justice, mercy and to walk humbly with God. We cannot walk anywhere near God, let alone with him if we are sinful. Justice was the first thing God had Micah tell the people was what he wanted of them. Justice, then mercy and finally to walk humbly with God.

To the Jewish mindset, justice is an important and holy thing which encompasses more than just hearing both sides of a story. The Greek idea of justice  (under Plato’s definition) means a harmonious social arrangement which confirms separation of human rights in that slaves are subservient to their masters and should be content to be so. The Hebrew form of justice is that which requires the equality of human rights.  Even a condemned criminal that has been hanged must have his body removed before sundown (Deuteronomy 21:23) as a sign of respect for him as a human being.

Each of us must respect everyone as a separate human being with rights, even when they are sinning and unrepentant. Justice must be given fairly- no bribes, no special treatment for poor or rich, and there must be multiple witnesses whose witness has to be validated and truthful.

When we deal with the darkness in the world, we must be a light which exposes sin and also shines brightly to lead others to the truth.

Do not allow yourself to be turned one way or the other when you are in a position to judge others. This means not just in a criminal court but in your everyday life. If you are a manager and have to write an evaluation, your personal feelings towards the person, good or bad should not influence your evaluation of their value to the company or the quality of their work. If you are in a social group where people are gossiping about each other, you must separate yourselves from those who gossip and be an example of fairness. Try not to talk about someone else unless you are complimenting them; if you have nothing good to say about someone else, then say nothing.

These are hard things for us to do, as human beings, because we are so full of emotion, which is so easily affected by our iniquity. Justice is something that must be above emotion, above personal desire and above our own idea of what “should be.” Justice must be based on established law and accepted behaviors, whether or not we individually agree with those laws or behaviors, and always based on the person’s rights as a human being and a child of God.

To be holy as God is holy is not easy; when we have to judge someone else, for whatever reasons, maybe the best way to start is to “put ourselves in their shoes.” Everyone has a right to decide for themselves what they will do and how they will act, whether that be the judge or the judged. The downside of this right to decide is that God will hold each of us accountable for those decisions, whether you make it yourself or you just do what someone else told you to do.

That should be a very sobering thought.

Parashot Mattot / Massai 2018 (Tribes / Stages) Numbers 30:2 – 36

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These parashot (the Hebrew plural for parashah) cover a number of different issues. We start with the making of vows by women, and how those vows are either allowed to stand or are nullified by the dominant male in the family, be that the father of a single woman or girl living under his roof or a husband.

Moshe is commanded to have Israel attack Midian before he dies, and 12,000 Israelites attack and kill thousands upon thousands of Midianite men, the 5 kings, and Balaam. Afterward, it is found that not one Israelite died in the battle from which hundreds of thousands of animals and people were captured. The booty was then shared among all the people, with a tithing made to the Levites and to God.

The tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of the tribe of Manasseh ask Moses if they can remain on the east side of the Jordan River because the land is perfect for cattle, and they are cattlemen. Moses is at first upset that they refuse to enter the land, but after they agree to help the other tribes settle the land before they settle down on the east side, Moses acquiesces and allows them to stay in that land.

The second parashah contains God’s commands for the distribution of the land among the 12 tribes. The leaders of each tribe, the boundaries for each tribe, the commandment to give land to the Levites and the rules regarding the Cities of Refuge are specified here.

Finally, the daughters of Zelophehad are brought before Moses with the concern that if they marry outside their tribe the tribal property they inherit will be forfeited. It is commanded that they marry inside their tribe and that no tribe should marry outside so that the lands inherited by a tribe remain always with that tribe.

As I was reading through these Torah portions one word kept coming to mind: accountability.

The father and the husband are responsible to either let the woman’s vow stand or be nullified. Their responsibility is not without accountability: if they do not nullify the vow the moment they hear it, but decide later to nullify it, then the sin of breaking a vow is on their head, not the one who made it. They are responsible to allow or deny the vow, and with that responsibility comes accountability for failing to act correctly.

When the Israelites returned from the war against Midian, they had captured women that were not virgins. Moses was very upset that these women who led the people into sin at Pe’or were not killed. But he was upset with the leaders, the captains of hundreds and thousands, and not with the soldiers. It was the leadership which was held accountable for the actions of those whom they were responsible for.

When Gad, Reuben and the half tribe of Manasseh asked to stay on the east side of the Jordan River, Moses held them accountable to ensure that the other tribes received their inheritance first.

Finally, when the land was divided among the 12 Tribes, each tribe was accountable to provide a portion of their land to the Levites, some of which would be assigned as a City of Refuge.

We are given many wonderful things by God: physically, financially and (most important) spiritually. And for all that we receive, we are also held accountable to use it properly and in accordance with God’s commandments. Too many churches have preached a “Once Saved, Always Saved” program of salvation, which creates a lack of accountability. If I can ask forgiveness one time, then never have to ask forgiveness again because once I am saved I will automatically be saved, then how can I feel accountable for the sins I commit later? And if I don’t have accountability, then how can I feel repentance? What I am saying is this: if I am automatically forgiven for any sin I commit for the rest of my life, then I stop asking for forgiveness. That leads to my not feeling concerned or upset when I sin, and that has to prevent me from feeling repentance in my heart. Does anyone who is reading this really believe that an unrepentant sinner will be allowed into God’s presence?

Of course not! We are saved when we ask for forgiveness in Yeshua’s name, but we are not automatically forgiven every sin we commit from that point on. When we are forgiven our sins (which are the ones we have collected to that point), they are what is “nailed to the Cross” that Shaul refers to in Colossians 2:13-14:

When you were dead in your trespasses and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Messiah. He forgave us all our trespasses, having canceled the debt ascribed to us in the decrees that stood against us. He took it away, nailing it to the execution stake! 

This passage is very often misunderstood to mean that the requirement to obey Torah was done away with when Yeshua was crucified. That is a lie from the very pit of Sheol. God wants us to act in a godly way- how many times throughout the Tanakh does God tell us that we should “Be thou holy as I am holy?” If we do not act in a holy way, how can we be holy? And if we do not have rules, ordinances, and mitzvot (laws)  to follow, then how can we know what is holy and what is not? That is why Shaul tells us (in Romans, Chapter 7) that the Torah created sin: the Torah tells us what is right and what is wrong.

Salvation is the gift of God which we can now only receive through the sacrificial death of Yeshua the Messiah. When the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, because the Torah commanded the sin sacrifice must be done at that temple, we had no path to salvation. Yeshua replaced the step in the sacrificial system that required bringing a sacrifice to the Temple, and that is why through him we can receive forgiveness.

BUT– that doesn’t mean we aren’t still held accountable for what we say and do every day for the rest of our life. We must still be holy as God is holy, and the only way to do that is to obey the Torah. God gave the Torah to the Jews to bring to the world because it is the ultimate User Manual for attaining holiness.

As you life your life, remember that we are always held accountable: our bosses hold us accountable to produce our work as they want it to be done; our spouses hold us accountable to our vows to love, cherish, honor and remain loyal to each other; and God holds us accountable to obey his commandments and repent of our sins every single time we sin. Salvation saves us from the eternal consequences of our sins, but it doesn’t relieve us of accountability for what we do and say.

With these last two parashot we come to the end of the Book of Numbers, and at the end of each book of the Torah tradition says we repeat the following:

Hazak! Hazak! v’nit’chazek! 

(Be strong! Be strong! And let us be strengthened!)


Parashah Korach, Numbers 16-18

Monday, July 4 I wrote about this parashah, and about how fear of the Lord is not the same as being afraid of the Lord. This parashah is the story of what my Chumash calls “The Great Mutiny”, when Korach (a Levite), Dathan and Abiram (Reubenites) came together, and under Korach’s leadership gathered 250 men- righteous, respected leaders- from the 12 Tribes and led them in rebellion against Moses and Aaron. The reason was to discredit Moses as the one God choose to be in charge by accusing him of taking on too much responsibility, and by association also accuse Aaron of doing the same by being the only person allowed to offer fire before Adonai.

I can’t do this story justice repeating it, and if you don’t know it you really need to read it. Spoiler alert!– Dathan and Abiram (who refused to go before the Tent of Meeting with the others) were destroyed right in their own tents, swallowed up by the earth, and the others in front of the Tabernacle offering incense met their fate as Aaron’s sons, Abihu and Nadab, met theirs- consumed by God’s fire.

The people, after they stopped running around screaming in abject horror and fear for their own lives, came against Moses again the very next day (Again? How long will they remain stupid, right?) and accused him, Moses, of killing God’s people! Well, that pissed the Lord off so much that as He was telling Moses how He was going to destroy them, a plague already started, and Moses had to tell Aaron to take fire from the alter and incense, run in the midst of the people (now remember there is a plague killing people right where Aaron is running to) and stop the plague. Aaron risked his life to help people that were there to stone him.

There is more to the story, and near the end all the people cry out that they are all going to die if they even come near the Tabernacle.

These people may have looked like they were made of skin and bone, but they were really made out of Polytetrafluoroethylene. You may know it better as….Teflon.

Teflon people, like the frying pans and cooking pots, never have anything “stick” to them. They have been in the desert for 2 years, they have seen God destroy Egypt with miracles and wonders, they have seen Him split open the sea, they have received water from rocks and manna from the sky, birds enough for a million people to eat for a month and a pillar of fire every night and a cloud leading them every day.

Yet all they know is that they were told to stone a man to death for collecting sticks on the Shabbat, Aaron’s sons, Korach and 250 leading members of their nation were burned alive, Abiram and Dathan with their entire families were swallowed up by the earth, they were struck with a deadly plague and to top it all off- they are not going to get the land they were promised. And who do they blame for all this T’souris? Moses and Aaron.

Oy! What a bunch of Meshuggahs!

The real reason all these terrible things happened is because they sinned: the man collecting sticks on Shabbat showed irreverence and rejection of God’s commandment, Aaron’s sons refused to follow Adonai’s orders about worship, Korach and all his associates refused to accept God’s authority and choose to follow a man (Korach) instead, and the people, well, the people just rebelled against God over and over. They complained about no meat when they had provisions from God that met their needs, they complained about no water, and they refused to take the land God gave them (then, after being told they were not allowed in, they tried to get in, anyway.) These people all earned their punishment, and proved over and over that their repentance was superficial and not really heart-felt. Their T’Shuva, turning from sin, was not a 180 degree turn- it went a full 360 degrees so they ended up going in the same direction that got them into trouble in the first place.

Teflon people are the hardest to work with, and the slowest to learn because, as the name implies, nothing “sticks” to them, i.e., they take no responsibility for their actions and are not accountable, in their minds, for what they do and say. As such, how can they ever learn anything?

I think we all have a little Teflon in us; I confess that there are many times I do something wrong or make a mistake and I would like to redirect the blame somewhere else, to someone else. I feel that way because I am a sinner and sinners don’t like to ‘fess up’ to their wrongdoing. But I also have the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit, indwelling which reminds me and admonishes me to accept the blame and not just confess, but ask for forgiveness. And more than that, it convicts me of my errors and when someone else does wrong to me it forces me to forgive them. That is the only reason I do anything that pleases God- it is because of His spirit in me, not because of who I am.

His spirit in me doesn’t make me a different me, it just makes me a better me.

We all have to deal with Teflon people, mainly because there are just so many of them out there. The best way to deal with them is not to waste your time trying to convince them or change them. What we, as Believers, should do is show them how to act in a way that is pleasing to God. If they throw their problems at you because they know things stick to you, you need to be gentle as doves and wise as serpents to CYA in everything you do so that when they throw stuff at you it bounces off your shields.

Daniel was upright and just in all he did, which is why the Satraps trying to trap him could only do so by fooling the king into making a law regarding something they knew Daniel did which was a righteous thing in and of itself (Daniel Chapter 6.) I’m not saying we can all be like Daniel- I know I sure ain’t gonna be that righteous, ever- but we can follow his example.

Teflon people are out there, everywhere, and they need to find someone who is stickier than they are. That would be you and me, because the Ruach haKodesh makes us accountable. And when you feel unjustly accused or you are in trouble for something you know isn’t your fault, accept it with humility and trust that God will justify you, sooner or later.

These Teflon people will one day come before the judgment of the Lord; He will strip off their Teflon and leave them with raw, unprotected skin that will have the lemon juice of their sins poured on it by the gallon. They will be held accountable for what they never felt accountable for, and they won’t be able to do anything about it.

Brothers and Sisters, all we should feel for these poor, ignorant sheep is pity.



hands off = don’t care

Another gossip column rant this morning- this time it’s not Dear Abby, but Ask Amy (Donna likes to read the newspapers, and with two papers I get twice as many word puzzles.)

The question this morning was asking how tough a parent should be with activities such as having your children learn piano, get all A’s in school, etc. The parent writing was raised in a strict Asian family with very little “kid” time, and the other parent is (the writer says) a ‘hands-off’ type.

Amy did OK, and ended up saying kids have their friends, and if you’re the Mom or Dad, you are NOT one of their friends, you’re their parent- act like one!

Amen to that, Sister!

Hands off is not allowing your children to grow- it is removing accountability and preventing them from learning there are limitations in life and in relationships; it keeps them from being able to be aware, and respectful, of other people. Allowing children to be unaccountable for their actions and words (or lack thereof, if that is the case) is not helping them at all. Yes, there are times when we need to remember that they are just children, and still learning, but that doesn’t mean to allow them to ignore the consequences of what they do. It means we need to make them experience the consequences with mercy and patience. God is a great example of doing that, being understanding and merciful when He knows that is best, and striking you down when that is what is needed. And always, always, always willing and able to forgive.

I tried to be a parent to my children when I visited them; they are from my previous life, which ended in divorce, but I never left them- only their mother. However, since she was a ‘hands off, let’s be friends, you’re just children’ type of mother, who never felt responsible or accountable for anything she did or said, they were growing up the same way. Because I tried to be a parent, they now have rejected me and I am not allowed to be a part of their life. It’s been almost 4 years since I was able to talk or even email my son, and about 7 years with my daughter. My 4-6 hours with them every other Sunday or Saturday for over 20 years did not match up against the 24/7/365 teachings from their mother.

Here’s one example of how hands off is not helping the kids, at all:

I was with my children, Alexandra was about 8 and Bryce was about 3, and we were walking across the street. I held Alex’s hand and told her to look both ways for traffic to make sure it was safe, and her reply was that she didn’t have to look because I was the parent and I was supposed to make sure she is safe. Of course, that is an accurate statement- I am the parent, I am supposed to protect them, but that doesn’t remove her responsibility to protect herself. How will she learn to be a protective parent when she grows up if she isn’t taught this now? That was my argument- what happens when they become adults? If they are not taught how to be one, does it magically come to them in a flash the moment they turn 18? Maybe when they turn 21 they suddenly know what to do?

Proverbs tells us many things about disciplining our children, and how God disciplines us because He loves us. I am not saying a parent that is not a disciplinarian doesn’t love their children, or that one who is Machiavellian in their attitude is the most loving of all. What I am saying is that ‘hands off’ is the same as ‘I don’t care’, and children will pick up on that. Oh, believe-you-me, they know! If you don’t show concern and discipline for them, they will stretch that inch into a light year. Even if you are “strict”, they will still try to get away with as much as they can- that is what being a child is all about. To stretch the limits, to push to the edge, and further, until they are reeled in. It is a parents obligation to their child to teach them the ropes, so to speak, and that means how to tie things up and how not to get all tied up. A rope can lift you up or it can hang you: it all depends on knowing how to use it correctly.

I believe that the world is falling into satanic control, more and more each day. Look at the video games- violent, demonic, totally unconcerned for human rights or dignity. Look at the TV shows- sexual improprieties, killing, “justified” violence to each other, and just plain stupid…and I mean, REALLY stupid!

Look at the advertisements our children see on TV and in the magazines- people are sexual objects, products make you a better person, the more you have the more popular you will be. All focused on material items, which is all the enemy of God can offer. God doesn’t care about material things- He cares about our eternal soul.  Yeshua tells us to seek first the kingdom of God, and all these other things (what we need to survive while alive) will be given to us.

If you have kids, I am happy for you. I know you may not always feel that way for yourself, but as someone who has lost his children to hatred and unforgiveness (for the record, I wasn’t “Mr. Right”, either. I was no “Father Knows Best”, believe me) you should be grateful for being able to raise your children.

So raise them correctly, teaching them with proper levels of discipline, always tempered with forgiveness, love, mercy and patience. And remember-like it or not, this IS how it is- you are their example. They will not accept “Do as I say and not as I do” because no one does! They will be like you because your are in their very DNA, and what is good about you they have, and what is bad about you they have, also. And they will also have what is uniquely theirs. Appreciate their uniqueness and help them learn to develop it.

Hand off is (and I won’t accept any argument to the contrary) no different than saying you don’t care. It is condemning them to death (that’s what Proverbs tells us happens if we don’t discipline our children), and what parent wants to do that?


Will I or Won’t I?

Will I or won’t I …what? What is this thing I am supposed to do or not supposed to do?

That thing is: make a choice.

We are all given free will so that we can make our own choices, yet we abrogate that right, over and over. How? By allowing others to make that choice for us.

Do you read the entire bible? I mean, from Genesis all the way through to Revelations? And if you do, that’s good, because like it or not, you are going to be held responsible for everything that is in that book, from Genesis through Revelations.

In the bible God tells us what He wants from us: how to worship Him and how to treat each other. Yeshua said on these two laws, to love God and to love each other, rest the entire meaning of the bible.

Yet, how many people accept what they are told they should do without reading it for themselves? How many people (maybe you, too?) accept from “learned” men and women what the bible means, and what God wants you to do?

Wait a minute! Didn’t I just say God told us how to worship Him and treat each other? If God has said what we should do, then why is someone else telling me something different? If we all worship the same God, then why are there so many ways to worship Him? Why do some religions say drinking is OK and others call it a sin? Why do some people only eat what God said to eat and others ignore it? Why do some people think that it is OK to do some things and others say it is a sin?

The answer is: God has no religion, but people do. People created religion in order to further their own goals, to make you do what they want you to do, and to gain power and authority over you that they should not have.

Will I or won’t I? Will you or won’t you? That’s the question: will you accept what you are told to do and follow whatever form of worship you have been raised with, or will you read the word of God, the ENTIRE word of God, and accept only that whatever God said, in the old and the new, is what He wants from us. If you can start with this, just make a choice to read what God says and willfully accept that His words are just as valid today as they were that day when the Israelites heard Him on the mountain, then you are beginning a journey that will bring you closer to God, gain you more blessings on Earth (when you start to obey all His commands) and help to secure your salvation.

I am not saying to disrespect your spiritual leaders, but I do ask that you remember they are human, and just as full of human weaknesses as we all are. They are also just as willing to accept what they have been told (or maybe I should say, just as unwilling to question what they have been told) as you are.

The people who worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob have been led astray from the pure word of God. When God showed Himself to the Israelites, and (consequently) the world, there was only God’s laws or paganism. That was it. And for the next 1600-1700 years or so, there were Jews that worshiped God and there were the pagans. After the resurrection of Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) and the giving of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit), the pagans began to convert. Not to Christianity- there wasn’t any such thing then. They were converting to Judaism, or more accurately, they were converting to the belief in a single, all -powerful God whose commandments about how to live were in the Torah. They were learning how to worship God as He said to.

Then all heck broke loose- the government took over the religion. The Jews became separated from the converting pagans, and out of the midst of that confusion came Christianity. Government regulated, government decreed and government ran. Worship of God became state-run religions: Italy and Spain are Catholic, Great Britain is Protestant, Germany is Lutheran, …must I go on?  Yes, and Israel is Jewish, but there is a difference- Israel has always been Jewish because that is where Judaism began and because that is what God decreed. God didn’t come down from the mountain and tell Henry VIII to separate from the Roman Catholic Church, Henry did that so he could divorce his wife.

I could go on, but the point is being lost in the history- you have to make a choice. Like it or not, you are going to be held accountable for how you worship God, and that will be weighed against is what is in the Torah. It is not going to be based on what your Priest, Minister, or Rabbi told you is allowed, and when you try to use that lame, childish excuse, “But that’s what they told me to do” you will not get very far with that, at all.

I am very concerned for people. I am intolerant of what I call “Programmed Stupidity”, which is people misusing their gift of free will to freely choose to not choose but be told. Faith is all about making a choice. We all choose what we will believe, and that choice will follow us not to the grave, but beyond the grave to the Throne of Judgment.

They say you can’t take it with you, and they are right, except for one thing: the choice we make about God. That will follow us past this life into the next. You can’t tell me I am wrong, anymore than I can tell you you are wrong, because neither of us has died and come back from beyond the grave. However, I respect your right to make your own choices and you should, at least, respect my right to do the same.

Will we or won’t we? We are all in this together- there is only one planet, only one species dominating the planet (the different colors and facial formations don’t matter- they are only skin deep), and there are many, many different religions, each with it’s own god. Even within Judeo-Christian religions, each religion has it’s own god, because the god of Lutherans says to do things differently than the god of Jews, than the god of Western Orthodox, than the god of Latter Day Saints, then the god of….well, you get the picture.

One God, one way to worship, one way to treat each other- what God told Moses, Yeshua told His disciples- nothing new, nothing different, just a more detailed and thorough explanation of the same thing. God told us what do do, Yeshua showed us how to do it.

That is what I have chosen to believe, and that is what I will take past the grave. When I present myself to God, I will be able to say, if nothing else, that I tried to follow what He told me to do from the commands He gave us.

Will you be able to say the same thing?

Parashah Chaazinu (Hear), Deuteronomy 32

This chapter of the Torah is known as “The Song of Moses”, which is really the second song of Moses, since he also sang of God’s great triumph after the people crossed the Sea of Suf (Red Sea.)

Moses also gave us Psalm 90.

The Torah is called the Mosaic Law, but it really was given to Moses by God; Moses just wrote it down and taught it to the people. This song, I believe we can safely say, was also given by God to Moses to write down because we read in the previous parashah where God tells Moses to “write ye this song for you, and teach thou it the children of Israel” (Deut. 31:19.) It seems pretty clear that God gave the song to Moses since He said to write this song: if God had wanted Moses to write a song He would have said, ” write a song”, or “make a song” for them to remember, or something to that effect. However, God said to write this song, implying that the song was already known to God and that Moses was to take dictation.

In any event, the song is supposed to be a conviction of the people- they are to remember it so that when they stray from God and He brings upon them the destruction and Tsouris that they have (really) brought upon themselves, this song will be a testimony for God- a reminder that the people were warned years, even centuries before about the cost of rebellion against their God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, their Rock, their Redeemer, their Salvation. That was the purpose of the song.

How sad that we have forgotten this song, how sad that today we are no different than the people at that time- we do wrong, and we blame everyone else for it. When troubles come upon us we don’t accept the fault but instead find someone else to blame. “Yes, I did wrong but it’s not my fault- it was because (whatever)”; we are all victims, and if we can throw the stench of our own sin on others, it makes them smell as bad as we do, so by comparison we are less guilty. I killed, I committed adultery, I gossiped, BUT they asked me, he made me mad, s/he seduced me. There’s always an excuse.

The difference between people who are godly, trustworthy and respected is that they take accountability for their mistakes. The rest of the world (maybe I should say the majority of the world) is more interested in spreading the blame than accepting it.

This song is to be a conviction against the children of God. Not just the Jewish children, but all His children- the Catholic ones, the Baptist ones, the Buddhist ones, the Islamic ones, ….ALL God’s children, for we are all His children. And like sheep, we have been led astray (by religion) because it is easy to do so. We seek only our own hedonistic desires, and only when we are devoid of help, of hope, of guidance and all the other things we think we can find on our own or from others, only then do we (finally) turn to God.

Or we curse God.

That’s how we roll, as a people- we either turn to God recognizing that our punishment is just and deserved, and ask forgiveness, or we continue, even at the very gates of Sheol, to reject God and His justice and insist that we are innocent.

If you are a God-fearing person, if you readily accept your own sinfulness and have asked God for forgiveness through Messiah Yeshua, and if you demonstrate daily your true T’shuvah, then this song isn’t for you. This song is for the ones who reject God, who ignore or despise His laws, and who say they are OK. This song is for those who think God should do and accept what they want Him to do and accept, that certain sins are not sins (because that’s how they want to live) and that all foods are OK, and it’s not a sin to have sex out of wedlock, and divorce is normal.

Funny- Mosaic law is almost universally ignored, and many Christian religions say Torah was done away with by Yeshua (a total lie!) Yet when it comes to divorce, they ignore Yeshua’s admonition that divorce is hateful to God (Matthew 19 and Mark 10, for example) and eagerly accept the Mosaic law that a man can give his wife a Get (divorce decree) pretty much for no other reason than she displeases him (Deuteronomy 24:1.)  Isn’t that what happens today? The divorce rate is nearly 40% within the first 15 years. God said that they become one flesh, and Yeshua said the only justification for divorce is adultery. Shaul (Paul) said in an unevenly yoked marriage if the unsaved partner wants to divorce, that is an acceptable reason. But other than adultery or unevenly yoked marriage (only where the unsaved wants a divorce), marriage lasts as long as you both are alive. And, for the record, biblically acceptable marriage is for men to women, and women to men.

This song is for those who need it most, and probably will care the least about it.

That’s the sad truth of salvation: it is readily available for anyone who asks for it, and those that need it most are the least likely to want it.

You Can’t Give Away What You Don’t Own

We have a column in our local paper that is a forum where people can post short little carps about things that bother them.

I am thinking of writing to that column complaining about the childish and inane complaints that people make.

Today I read someone’s complaint about the fast food tacos and burritos they buy: the issue centered around the wrapper sticking to the food, and how because of that, when eating the food and driving the person sometimes eats the paper.

Stop eating while you are driving! DUH!!

Just like the little old lady who sued McDonalds for burning herself with their coffee. Supposedly she placed the cup between her legs to pull the cover off so she could drink the hot coffee, all the while driving her car. Of course, it spilled and she got burnt, and who paid? We all did. The truth is, as I hear it, she didn’t do as well as everyone thinks, and her lawyers got the best of the suit (no surprise there), but the point is the same.

And what is the point? The point is that today no one is responsible, as a people or as a nation, for what happens to us, even when we are the cause.

Actually, it’s not all that new. Cain was a victim, too. No, really! Didn’t he complain to God that his punishment was too much to bear? And that he might be killed by someone if God sent him all alone into the world? Uh, what about Abel? Hello? Didn’t you just murder him?

Somewhere we lost the understanding that we are responsible for what we do and say. Somewhere we lost that maturity, that sense of ownership for our actions. We want to be recognized for any good deed we do, we want to get raises for simply showing up and doing the minimum, we want medals and trophies for nothing more than being there, but when we screw up it isn’t our fault.

In the parable of the man who hired workers for a denarius, he paid all the same amount, whether they started early in the day or joined just before sundown. The workers who were there all day complained about everyone getting the same pay, no matter how long they had worked. The man said that they (the ones there all day) got what they agreed to, and what he paid others isn’t their business. This has a real lesson for people today, which is that we should not complain about what anyone else gets and be concerned only with what we have.  If we are getting what we agreed to receive, then nothing else matters.

Oh, but that’s not fair! Really? Do you remember this:

Yet the house of Israel says, ‘The way of the Lord is not fair.’ O house of Israel, is it not My ways which are fair, and your ways which are not fair? Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways,’ says the Lord God.” Ezekiel 18:24-30

God will forgive a life-long sinner who does T’Shuvah and turns from his sin, even on his deathbed, and a man who has been righteous all his life, but then becomes a sinner (meaning purposefully turning to the “dark side” ) will be punished, even if this change of heart comes on his deathbed. And the world says that’s not fair. That’s what the story of the man paying the same wage to everyone, no matter when they started working, is all about, isn’t it? God looks to the heart, and what you did yesterday doesn’t really matter as much as what and who you are today.

When I was in Sales, we joked that you might be the top salesperson for the year, 5 years in a row, but what did you sell yesterday? And how many appointments do you have today? History is nice, but we live day to day, and we don’t know what will happen tomorrow, so we need to be in the moment, every moment. What others do or say may impact us, but it is what we do and say that we are responsible for, no matter what others have done.

We need to own up to our own actions. That means we need to “own” our sinfulness, “own” our mistakes, and willingly be accountable for them. When you own something, you have the right and the ability to give it away. If I have a mortgage, I can offer to sell my house but I can’t really sell it until the bank releases the lien. When I go to sell my car, I can’t really close the deal until the holder of the loan is paid because that is the legal entity that releases the registration to transfer the title.

The same is true with our sins- we can’t give them up to God until we own them. And if we keep thinking that we are the victims, that we aren’t accountable for what we do and say, and (ultimately) that it “isn’t our fault”, then how can we really be free of our sin?  If we don’t own it, we can’t get rid of it.

I am sure we all know someone, or some people, who pretend to be Believers, who talk the talk, but they don’t ever really admit their sinfulness, and they always seem to be a victim. I have known people that screw up their lives with foolish and immature decisions, then blame God for the Tsuris they get. I have heard people say that God is punishing them when it is clear that they are just making bad decisions. They don’t own up to their own stupidity and immaturity, so bad things happen. But it’s not their fault, oh no! They are Believers, they are godly people who pray all the time, but yet they must have done something wrong because God is against them, or they say they are under attack (presumably from the Enemy.)

The Enemy won’t attack you unless you are getting closer to God; if you don’t take responsibility for your own actions, there is no way the Enemy will be after you since you already are far from being able to get closer to God. Your sin keeps you away; the sin of irresponsibility, the sin of self-righteousness, the sin of rejecting the very essence of what God is telling us all- that He is the Judge, He is the one whose way is fair, and that He is the one who will repay.

Forget fair, forget what someone else did to you, forget why, just remember this: we are, each and every one of us, accountable to God for what we do and what we say. That’s all that will matter when we are before His Throne of Judgement. If we defend ourselves saying we cursed them out because of what they did to us, God will still hold us accountable for cursing someone out, won’t He? If we “get back” at someone, won’t God, fairly and rightfully, say that He told us not to repay for evil with evil, but wait upon Him? Didn’t He say that He will repay? Aren’t we commanded, over and over, to forgive?

And for those of us who will stand before the Throne with Yeshua at our side as our advocate, how will Yeshua be able to say that He has taken our sins when we haven’t really let go of them? We can’t give our sins to the Lord if we don’t own them. It’s true that Yeshua’s blood can cleanse away all sin, but if we don’t take off our “filthy rags” and place them in the washing machine, how will they be cleaned?

Our sins are our own;  when we are personally and completely accountable for them, only then can we truly be able to give them away.

Are you ready to own your sins? It’s the only way to be rid of them.