Parashah Vayyekhel 2019 (And he assembled) Exodus 35 – 38:20

Moses has come down from Mt. Sinai with the second set of tablets, and he assembles the people to ask for them to voluntarily give the materials needed for the construction of the Tabernacle. The people give all that is required, and so much so that even though Moses asked them to contribute what they would be willing to give, he had to command them to stop giving.

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This parashah tells us that Bezalel (Judah) and Oholiab (Dan) were the main leaders of the people constructing the Tabernacle and making all the accouterments for the service, therein. The entire reading is a repetition, in some ways, of Chapter 25 where God explains the detailed requirements of the tabernacle, to include the menorahs, the articles used for the sacrifice, the size and color of the tent skins, etc.

Some may ask how these slaves, being sent out of Egypt in a single night, had all these jewels, expensive skins, gemstones, gold, silver, etc.?  The answer is that when they left Egypt, God commanded Moses to have them go to the Egyptians and ask for these items (Exodus 12:35-36), which they did. The Egyptians were so glad to see them go they gave anything and everything the Jews asked for.

Normally, when one group conquers another group in battle, the winners despoil the losers. We see this all the time throughout the books of Kings and Chronicles. So, then, this taking of the valuables of the Egyptians as the Jews left, having conquered Egypt (well, actually we know that God conquered Egypt) is a culturally correct activity. But they didn’t take the items- they asked for them! Without a doubt, that is different than despoiling or (as some versions state) stripping them of their valuables.

I see something different at work here in God having the Jews ask for and receive these valuables. I see more than just a cultural activity- I see providence. As far back as Exodus 3:19-22, even before Moses went to Egypt, God knew what the people would need to make the tabernacle, and knowing that they had nothing of their own he commanded that they take spoil from the Egyptians. All through Moses’ debate with Pharaoh, he never once said that when they left they would take anything other than their wives, children, and cattle. Yet, when the time came to leave, the people took the last remnants of anything valuable the Egyptians had left.

God knows what we will need before we even know we will be needing it. That’s no surprise, and I am sure when you look back you can see God’s work in your life which led you to where you are today. And what is happening right now- at this very moment- may be something God is doing in your life that you will not realize he is doing until after it is done.

The lesson I am taking away from this parashah today is that I will probably never know what God is doing in my life at the moment he is doing it. Just as the Jewish slaves were thinking they would be set free, and happy for that, little did they know as the plagues started that when they left they would be richly gifted with all sorts of precious jewels and other materials. Neither can I know, even as I write this, what effect this message will have on someone or on myself down the road.

So what should we do? We should just keep walking and trust in God that so long as we walk the path he has given us he will direct our feet to his salvation. And, if I may, just to make sure we are all on the same page, walking the path God gives us means to obey God’s commandments. Specifically, the ones in the Torah.

To finish, let me share with you that when I pray, I don’t thank God only for what he has done for me throughout my life, but also for what he has planned for me. Whether his plans are blessings, or more fire to go through, I know that he sees where I will be and he is working to get me there. And for that, I am VERY thankful!

Thank you, too, for being here and please SUBSCRIBE in the right-hand margin. Also, use the link above to subscribe to my YouTube channel. Not that I do this for money, but if I get enough YouTube subscribers they will put advertising on my channel and I will receive some income, which I can use to send my books to people in third world countries who have asked for them, as I have been doing when I can afford to.

This being Friday I wish you Shabbat Shalom and until next time: L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Parashah B’ha’alotecha 2018 (When You Set Up) Numbers 8 – 12

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In the reading for this Shabbat the menorah is created, the Levites are sanctified for service in the Tabernacle, the people the first Passover since departing Egypt is celebrated and the rule for those who are unclean to celebrate Passover in the second month is established. The order of march when the cloud moves is established and we are told how the people moved or remained based on the cloud over the Tabernacle. God has Moses construct the silver trumpets to be used for celebrations, announcing gathering of the people and going to war.

We read about the murmurings and complaints of the people regarding no flesh to eat and how God miraculously sent so many quails that the people all had meat for a month. God also punished them by sending a plague against them, even as they took the first bites of meat. Moses also request help from God to lead the people, specifically to handle their constant kvetching, and God has Moses gather 70 Elders, to whom God gives some of the spirit that was on Moses.

The final chapter of this parashah retells when Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses by reason of his Cushite wife. God is angry with them for this and punishes Miriam with leprosy. Moses prays for her to be healed and God relents, but she must be shut up outside the camp for 7 days.

What to say…what to say…what to say? There is, as always, so much here to talk about. Let’s talk about the quails

So the people are complaining that they have nothing but manna to eat. This parashah starts around the second year of being in the desert so if the people brought as much meat and vegetables as they could when they left Egypt, how long could it have lasted?  A few days? Maybe two weeks?  In the heat of the desert the vegetables certainly wouldn’t last long. That means that we can safely assume the people had been eating pretty much nothing more than manna for months.

Yes, they had sheep, goats and cows they could have slaughtered, but that would be counterproductive. A dead goat feeds you for a few days but a live one gives you milk and from milk you can make cheese, and it does that for years. Moses is overwrought with the complaints of hundreds of thousands of people and actually asks God to kill him if this is what he is going to have to deal with. God tells him to gather 70 elders who will help, and also that the people will have meat. In fact, so much meat that it will come out of their mouths and nostrils.  Moses is amazed and even doubtful, but God sets him straight and says, essentially, watch and see.

A strong wind blows from the sea and millions of quails are carried right into the camp. There are so many of them that they are about 3 feet deep all around the camp for miles. We are told that the quails covered a day’s walk in all directions. The people have their meat. But no sooner do they eat it when they fall victim to a plague (could this be the first recorded case of Avian Flu?) and thousands die.

Why would God have given them the meat they asked for then caused it to turn against them?  If he was really angry that they complained against him, why not just refuse to let them have meat? I don’t have the answer- God knows why he did what he did and he didn’t think it important enough for Moses to write it down.  But, if I was to guess, I would say God had two reasons for doing what he did:

  1. He gave them meat to show he is able to supply all their needs;
  2. He punished them for their complaining, but not because they complained about no meat.

The punishment was because they said they had it better in Egypt.  I think it was bad enough when the people showed distrust in God by complaining, but when they went so far as to say they had it better in Egypt! Oy! That really cut it. For 400 years they were wailing and crying before God for freedom from their task masters, and here they are now- free! Not just free, but God got rid of the Egyptians, is giving them water and food in the desert, is bringing them to a promised land full of milk and honey, has said he will protect them, and even gives them a cloud by day and fire by night as a sign of his divine presence.

And after all this they say they want to go back to Egypt because it was better under the taskmasters of Egypt than to have the Living God in their camp…all because in  Egypt they had vegetables and meat.

These people were saying that they would rather have vegetable and meat instead of the presence and gifts of God. That’s really what it came down to, isn’t it? If they had it better in Egypt, then they are saying all that they have now is not as good.  Forget the Tabernacle, forget the freedom, forget the promised land- I’ll trade it all in right now for a good steak and potatoes dinner.

Are we any different today? Do we yearn for the physical pleasures of the flesh so much that we are willing to forget about the eternal joy that comes with living a holy life? How many eat what they want to because they would rather have a ham sandwich than receive blessings from God for obeying his law about not eating pork? And even if you want to argue that Kashrut (Kosher) laws are not necessary (by the way, you’d be wrong but that is for another discussion) God promises that we will blessed if we obey his laws (Deut. 28) so whatever your feelings about Kosher laws, obeying them will gain you blessings. Aren’t blessings from God the best thing we could hope for? Yes?

Then why do so many prefer pork rinds and shrimp cocktails to blessings? This is just an example of how we may be exchanging what God has planned for us for the things of the flesh that we are used to having.

I think this Shabbat we should all look in the mirror for a few minutes, and ask ourselves: “Am I ready to leave Egypt and what it has for me to be with God?”  Egypt, of course, representing the world and the desires of the flesh. God will lead us on our journey of righteousness, help us to find what we need, supply us with all we require, and deliver us to the Promised Land. But we must be willing to give up the vegetables and meat that we so loved in our slavery before we start walking in freedom with God.

It’s a tough decision to walk with God. Yeshua says we must give up pretty much everything and pick up our execution stake if we want to follow him, and following Yeshua means obeying God. That means honoring and obeying what God said we should do in the Torah. Torah obedience will not earn you salvation, but it will earn you blessings.

As for me, I prefer the blessings of God to the vegetables and meat of Egypt. What about you?

Parashah B’shallach (After He Had Let Go) Exodus 13:17 – 17:16

The freed slaves are led by God to the Red Sea, and Pharaoh comes back after them with chariots and his entire army.

God saves His people with the miraculous parting of the sea, and the Israelites walk across; when the army of Egypt follows, the waters come back down upon them and they are destroyed.

The people sing the Song of Moses at this wondrous escape from certain death, but soon after are kvetching about not having meat or water or bread.

God answers their complaints, but it doesn’t seem to appease their ingratitude or faithlessness.


Parashah Bo 2018 (Go) Exodus 10 – 13:16

The plagues continue, starting with the eighth plague of locusts, followed by the days of darkness, and the final and ultimate plague: the death of the firstborn.

And with this last and terrible event, God’s plan of salvation for the Israelites is completed and they are sent out of Egypt.

In this reading we have the first, the original, Passover and we learn about the Passover Lamb.

We call Yeshua the “Passover Lamb”, but is that really what He is?

Parashah V’Ayra 2018 (I appeared) Exodus 6:2 – 9

Moses goes back before Pharaoh to ask for the children of Israel to be freed to go into the desert and worship their God. Pharaoh continues to refuse, calling down on himself and all of Egypt the terrible plagues from God. This parasha describes the first 7 of these plagues, showing how they got more and more destructive as Pharaoh continued to pit himself against God.

And God tells Moses His name, but then again…what’s in a name?


Parashah V’yashev (and he dwelt) Genesis 37 – 40

The stories of Joseph and Judah are contained in this parashah: Joseph from the time of his childhood to his imprisonment after asking the Cup Bearer of the Pharaoh to remember him, and Judah from the death of his first two sons to the seduction of Judah by Tamar, his daughter-in-law and birth of her twins.

Why, in the middle of the exciting adventures (or more correctly, trials) of Joseph, would we be told about Judah? It’s like a long infomercial right near the end of a Columbo mystery.

The Chumash says that this is to show us the difference between how these two very influential sons of Israel, one who saves the nation and the other whose descendants lead the nation, reacted to temptation.

Joseph is tempted by Potiphar’s wife, and Judah is tempted by Tamar, his daughter-in-law (while in disguise.) Joseph, while he could easily have gotten away with the betrayal (of the trust) of his master, chose to resist sin. On the other hand, Judah fell easily into the sinful trap that Tamar set for him. Judah had no second thoughts about having sex with a cult prostitute, a representative of a foreign and forbidden god.

Yet, all Judah lost was his staff and seal, which could be replaced; Joseph, on the other hand, lost his position of importance and was thrown into prison for many years.

It just ain’t fair, is it?

Joseph never really showed any lack of morality (although as a child he showed a lack of judgement in the way he made his brothers angry with him) and Judah showed lack of morality in how he associated with prostitutes, but when Tamar revealed that Judah had neglected his duty to provide her a husband, he admitted his guilt and justified her actions, removing the stigma she was under as an unmarried woman who was pregnant. Judah showed the strength of character that is such an important part of true leadership in accepting responsibility for his actions when he was in the wrong.

Joseph also showed his strength of character by accepting the position he was placed in and continuing to do what is right, even when he was not responsible for doing anything wrong. Judah did wrong and accepted responsibility for it when he was made aware of it; Joseph did nothing wrong, yet he accepted the consequences of what happened and continued to do his best.

The lesson for us is that whether we do wrong or right, we will always be OK in God’s sight if we continue to strive to do what is right in God’s eyes. Judah sinned, Joseph resisted sin, yet Judah got off easy and Joseph suffered years in prison. It doesn’t seem fair, but in the long run Joseph was ruler over all the land, and through his trials not only did Egypt survive, but Israel, too. As Joseph tells his brothers later in this book, it was God that sent Joseph to Egypt so that he could save them from starvation. Joseph saw the truth of his suffering, the reason for it, and accepted it as God’s plan of salvation for him and his family. It’s interesting also that Judah’s story is placed smack-dab in the middle of Joseph’s story because it was Judah who first came up with the idea of selling Joseph into slavery, knowing that he would end up in Egypt. Although the brothers never got that chance (the Midianites found Joseph before the sale to the Ishmaelites could occur), Judah would have been the reason for Joseph ending up in Egypt.

When we have either strife or joy in our lives, we never really know where it will lead until we are already there, and by then it’s too late. So what can we do? We can do our best to always do what is right in God’s eyes. Judah did wrong but accepted responsibility for it, which was something that is right in God’s eyes, and ended up as the ancestor of Messiah. Joseph did right but was treated wrongly, yet because he continued to do what was pleasing to God, even in the midst of slavery and imprisonment Joseph was rewarded and honored. Joseph and Judah were like two sides of the same coin: Joseph in the right and Judah in the wrong, but both showed that, in the end, they did what was proper and pleasing to God, and both ended up in positions of honor. It doesn’t matter if you are always righteous, or if you perform an unrighteous act, God wants you to do what is right as you continue to go on with your life.

As God told us in Ezekiel 33:18:

“When the righteous turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, then he shall die in it. But when the wicked turns from his wickedness and practices justice and righteousness, he will live by them.”

Judah did wrong, but turned from his iniquity (when he took responsibility for it and vindicated Tamar); Joseph never did wrong even when wrongly accused of iniquity, and both were honored by God. It may seem to us that Joseph got the short end of the stick, that what happened to Joseph just wasn’t fair compared to the sin Judah committed (and sorta got away with), but from God’s perspective all went exactly as it should have.

Considering how everything ended up, I think God did alright, don’t you?

We need to remember that no matter what happens in our life, so long as we trust in God and continue to try to do what is right in God’s eyes, we will be OK.  We will all succumb to iniquity at one time or another, and we will all be mistreated at one time or another, but as long as we take responsibility, atone and try to stay on the path of righteousness, then no matter how many times we fall, God will always be there to help us back up.

I guess what it really boils down to is this: “fair” has nothing to do with it. “Fair” is something conceived of by someone who wasn’t treated the way he or she thought they should have been treated. “Fairness” is a condition of the flesh. I don’t care about “fair”, but I do care about God’s will, and how He says we should treat each other. “Fair treatment” isn’t in the Torah, but compassion is, love is, respect is, and justice is. They are in the Torah and they are how God wants us to treat each other.


Parashah Mikketz (and it came to pass) Genesis 41 – 44:17

Joseph is brought before Pharaoh, who has had the dreams of the 7 good cows and the 7 bad cows, and the 7 good ears of corn and the 7 bad ears of corn. Joseph interprets the dreams and even tells Pharaoh the best way to prepare for the famine to come.

Pharaoh recognizes Joseph’s ability to plan and organize, and immediately promotes him from Buck Private to Executive Officer over the entire land of Egypt. Joseph efficiently does what he said should be done and there is so much grain in the storehouses it can’t be measured. Then the famine comes, just as God had foretold through Joseph’s interpretation, and the land of Egypt is the only place in the world there is food.

Jacob hears of the food available in Egypt and sends his sons, all but Benjamin, to get food to keep them all alive. As they come to buy, Joseph is over-seeing the sales and making sure that everyone coming into the country is there peacefully. He sees his brothers, but they can’t recognize him; he is dressed as an Egyptian, speaks Egyptian and is the Grand Vizier- even if they thought he looked familiar, how they possibly even think that it could be their Hebrew brother running the entire land of Egypt?  They don’t know it’s Joseph, but Joseph knows it’s them. He treats them badly, accusing them of spying, and ends up keeping Simeon as a hostage until they verify their story about having another brother by bringing Benjamin to him.

Jacob is adamant that Benjamin not go anywhere, but when there is no food he has to relent. Reuben offers up his own two sons as collateral, but it is Judah’s promise to watch over Benjamin that Jacob accepts as trustworthy. They go back with Benjamin and Joseph treats them well, feeds them in his own house, then sets them up so that it appears Benjamin has stolen from him. The parashah ends with Benjamin found out a thief and to be held forever as the slave of Joseph.

Some people always try to demean and debunk the bible as nothing more than a storybook, but the details and historical accuracy of how Egyptians lived, the gold necklace, the re-naming of Joseph, all the details in this parashah indicate this is an historically and culturally accurate accounting.

Joseph is demonstrating here what Yeshua said to His Disciples in Mattitayu 10:16:

Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.

He is testing the brothers to see if they have learned their lesson regarding the way they treated Joseph. He already has remembered his dreams of the brothers bowing down to him, as they were right then and there doing exactly that same thing. He has overcome in many ways the pain and suffering he felt, which we can see in how he named his children. His shrewdness is demonstrated in that he did not reveal himself, giving the brothers the chance to act sorry and ask forgiveness simply because of Josephs’ powerful position. He didn’t speak Hebrew, he acted totally Egyptian, and in an instant he planned out how to test their loyalty to Jacob and their love for Benjamin. He remembered their jealousy of him, and I think he reconciled it not to his own actions but to the favoritism he received from Jacob as the son of Rachel. Maybe Joseph was testing the brother’s loyalty and protection of Benjamin, the only other child Rachel had, because he might have thought they would have the same hatred and jealousy of Benjamin they had for him.

Joseph was very shrewd, and yet we see he was also very gentle. Even though he accused them of being spies and talked roughly with them (essentially he gave them the “third degree”) he supplied them with the food they needed as they returned to bring Benjamin to him. Returning their money, I believe, was out of kindness- although it made it even harder for them to return because they were afraid that Joseph would not only think them spies but thieves, as well, having taken the food without paying for it. I don’t get that part- they had to have given the money when they received the food, and if it was in their packs later I would think they would wonder how anyone could possibly know they didn’t pay for the food. If someone who was responsible for giving out the food allowed them to get food without paying, that person was in trouble, not them. I guess this shows how people can be fearful even when there is nothing to be afraid of. Or, perhaps, they were concerned because they really thought this was God’s doing, as is evident in the way they talked to each other when Joseph was accusing them. They said it was the recompense and justice they deserved for what they did to Joseph, and God was bringing this down on their heads. Perhaps, even though there was no way the Egyptians could have known they didn’t pay, they figured they would know, anyway, since God is bringing this about.

We don’t see the fullness of Joseph’s acting gentle with them until the next parasha, but the lesson here is that we should be forgiving of those that harm us, even if they don’t care whether we forgive them or not. In fact, forgiveness has nothing to do with what the sinner feels. Joseph named his children Manasseh (God has made me forget all the trouble I have gone through) and Ephraim (God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction), demonstrating his acceptance of his life in Egypt and having forgotten the painful way he got there. He had already forgiven his brothers, he was gentle with them in his “mistreatment” because he wasn’t being vengeful, he was only testing them.

God tests us, too, and just as Joseph’s apparent cruelty was only an act, when we suffer through testing, God is not angry or vengeful, He is lovingly watching what we do so He can be ready to reward us when we pass the testing. He wants us to pass, He wants us to do what He has told us we should do, and when we fail, I am sure He is disappointed, but already thinking of a testing that is less harsh. We must pass through the fire to become purified, and if there is so much dross in us that we can’t be purified in a single testing, then we will go through the fire over and over and over until we are pure.  God is doing this to us out of love: we need to remember that when it feels more like punishment.

Joseph is showing us that we can forgive but still be wary; we can allow others back into our lives when they are repentant but we don’t have to trust them again until they prove their worth. Joseph had forgiven his brothers, but he needed to give them the opportunity to prove their repentance and trustworthiness so he could not just forgive, but accept them back into his life.

If there is someone who has done you wrong, do not wait for them to ask forgiveness- forgive them now. Remember what David said, even after he committed adultery with Bat Sheba and then planned Uriah’s death to cover it up: he said (in Psalm 51) that his sin was against God, and against God alone. The sin we commit may seem to be against someone, but it is really against God, and every single sin we commit has to be reconciled with God. When God forgives us, we are spiritually “saved” from the consequences. We will always, and I mean always, suffer the consequences of the sins we commit in the physical world, and we still need to ask those we sin against to forgive us.

Here’s the way forgiveness works: the only forgiveness that counts is the forgiveness we receive from God. That’s because we are not commanded to ask forgiveness, we are commanded to forgive. What that means is that if you sin against someone, you need to get yourself right with God first, then you can ask that person for forgiveness. However, it doesn’t really matter (from a spiritual viewpoint) if they forgive you or not. If they do, they are then making themselves right with God; if they don’t, they are sinning against God! To forgive is a commandment. If you feel someone doesn’t deserve to be forgiven, you are placing yourself above God! If God is willing to forgive, then you better be willing to forgive, too. Your willingness to forgive someone is between you and God- they are out of the equation. Once they sinned against you, they’re no longer important- now it is between you and God, and He wants you to forgive them. As for God forgiving them, well, that’s between them and God, and you have no part of that.

You know, we can learn a lot from from Joseph about forgiveness, and also about accepting where God has placed you.

Parashah V’Yashev (And he dwelt) Genesis 37 – 40

There is sooooo much here if I started, I couldn’t finish.

We are introduced to Joseph, Jacob’s favorite, and the jealous hatred of his brothers, fueled by Joseph telling them of his dreams. The coat of many colors, the treachery of the brothers, the narrow escape from death in the cistern and the eventual sale into slavery to Potiphar.  We also have a tangential telling of the story of Judah’s first born sons, and how Peretz was born out of his father’s (Judah) relationship with his own daughter-in-law, although Judah did not know it was Tamar at the time.

Back to Joseph, in Egypt, slave to Potiphar, but now because of his righteousness and competence, the slave is in charge of the masters household, and the masters wife wants the slave for her sexual partner. Joseph refuses to the point where the wife accuses him of doing just what he refused to do, and he is thrown into jail (probably because Potiphar was being merciful- normally an accusation of attempted rape would get the slave killed.)

In jail Joseph again shows his righteousness and is made a trustee, and this parashah ends with Joseph correctly interpreting the dreams of the baker and the cup bearer.

Like I said, just sooo much: but what I want to talk about today is not regarding any of these events, but what happens to the righteous in an unrighteous world.

Joseph was a Tzaddik, a righteous man. When he was younger he was a little immature, and didn’t show good judgement by telling his brothers about his dreams, but we see as he went through some tsouris that he matured to the point where his acts of righteousness talked for him.

So here we have this righteous man, a slave yet trusted by his master so much that he was, in truth, the de facto master of the house. But although Joseph was righteous, the environment he lived in wasn’t. What made Joseph stand out so well what also what got him into trouble so quickly.

Didn’t Izabel want to kill Elijah when he demonstrated the goodness and power of God? Wasn’t Jeremiah thrown into a cistern to die, then kept under arrest for years? Wasn’t Shaul (Paul) stoned, whipped and jailed for speaking righteousness?  John was marooned on Patmos, and James was killed. Many who spoke and did nothing but what the Lord had commanded of them, righteous, holy and moral people, became martyrs because of their service to God.

The story ends, we all know, with Joseph eventually reaping the fruits of his righteousness, and as such, showing for the first time the effect of God’s promise to Abraham that those who bless His people will be blessed- Joseph saved not just himself, but the Egyptians, and the people of God. Pharoah blessed and treated Joseph well, and God rewarded Pharaoh by saving his kingdom.

We all live in a cursed world, which wants anything righteous and godly to be gone. The righteous person has, as Paul described in 2 Corinthians, 2:16, the smell of death on them to those who are not righteous, to those who are of the world. That is because those who do as God wants, which should be all of us who profess to be saved and who have the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) living in us, speak to the very soul of the unrighteous reminding them that their ways will turn on them, that a judgement is coming, and that they will end up with the short end of the stick.

Think about it this way: you have been hiking and camping out for a week, no shower, no bathing, no toothbrush, and you walk into an elevator full of people. How do you think they might react to you? You don’t think there’s anything wrong- you are used to your smell, but they aren’t. You think you are OK, but the truth is you stink!!

That is sort of how it is with the righteous in the midst of the unrighteous, except instead of them realizing how much you stink, your “cleanliness” forces them to realize how much they stink!

And, just like Joseph suffered not for his sins but for his righteousness, we will suffer for our righteousness, too. The world hates us because it hates Yeshua. In fact, He told us all about that, didn’t He?  In Matthew 10:22, John 15:18, Mark 13:13, Luke 21:17, and throughout the Gospels we are told by Yeshua that following Him is no bed of roses. We will be hated, attacked, tortured, killed and…well, I guess once you’ve been killed it can’t get much worse.

Being righteous in an unrighteous world sucks. That’s all there is to it. The good news, however, is that this life is but a mist, a moment, the wink of an eye, and we can look forward to reaping our just rewards in the presence of the Lord of lords and King of kings, forever!  Things always seem to take a long time when looking forward to them, but when you have come into your time, looking back it seems to have happened in a flash!

When your righteousness gets you in trouble, don’t look to the present but think on the future. As we have been commanded to do, pray for those that hurt and harass you, give our enemy water and food and show compassion and forgiveness: it will demonstrate your righteousness even more, and thereby give glory to God. And, it will really eat at them, too.

Hey! There’s nothing wrong with knowing that your goody-little-two-shoes behavior will really rub their noses in it. After all, doesn’t God direct us with His staff (gently leading us) and His rod (giving us a good whack upside our heads) when it best suits His needs? We can allow our righteousness to foster some level of jealousy in others, hopefully which (with the help of our prayers for their deliverance) will lead them not into more sinning but make them jealous for our peace, our joy in the midst of tsouris, and bring them to the Lord.

The one thing you need to remember is this: being holier than another person doesn’t mean you are any better than they are- you are still a sinner! Yes, you are a saved sinner, but you are still a sinner. Righteousness has to be tempered with humility. That is what Joseph learned (probably sometime right after his brothers threw him into the cistern.) You can’t “lord it over” others (see Matthew 20:25, Mark 10:42, Luke 22:25) and you must be humble. Allow your actions to speak for you, and don’t talk of yourself as if you are any better than anyone else.

Remember that you were once like them, so be humble and thankful you are changing, that you are becoming holier. That doesn’t mean better, it means more righteous. There are plenty of unrighteous people who do righteous things. Even Nebuchadnezzar did good things, now and then. So be holier, just not “holier than thou.”

The world hates the holy, hates the righteous, and really, really hates to be reminded of the fact that they aren’t. That’s their problem: we need to be what God wants us to be, which is to be humble, to be compassionate, and to be righteous. And to be prepared to suffer for it.

It’s hot in the fire, but that is the only way to purify the gold.

Parashah Pinchas Numbers 25:10 – 30:1

The plague was just stopped by the zealousness of Pinchas, the grandson of Aaron, when he killed a prince of Israel who was with a Midianite woman (also of high birth) and blatantly showing disdain and rebellion against Moses’s command to not have any relations (especially physical ones) with the Midianites. God makes a covenant with Pinchas that throughout his generations his seed will serve in the Priesthood.

The Israelites are at the end of their wandering, and God has already demonstrated His support as they have defeated two kings and taken their lands. Now He has them take another census, and after 40 years of living in a desert, the difference in the size from when they came out of Egypt and now is less than 3/10 of 1%. Essentially, there are as many now before entering the Land as there were when they left Egypt. Some of the tribes are less but the nation, as a whole, is the same size.

The rules for inheritance are stipulated and God reminds the people about the regulations for sacrifices, Joshua is appointed as Moses’s replacement and Moses is allowed to view the land, although he is still not to cross over and enter it.

Isn’t it amazing that when the Jews were in Egypt as slaves, with plenty of food, water and shelter they were able, despite their slavery, to grow into a great nation, and then after 40 years in a desert, devoid of food, water and shelter, they were still able to maintain their great size? Well, maybe it is amazing to someone who is secular minded, but to me it is just what I would expect from God. He said that the generation which had rebelled would die in the desert, and they did, but still we read in this parashah that not only did God maintain the size of His people, but even the descendants of Korach have survived (26:11) to enter the land.

Now, as God prepares the people for what is to come, He reviews the laws for the daily sacrifice and the holy convocations, since these were first given to the prior generation (Leviticus) before they were to enter the land. They didn’t get in, though, and it has been 40 years, so God is reminding them what to do when they enter.

The lesson I see here is simple: God’s plans, whatever they are, will be accomplished. He is flexible enough to make it seem to us, with our limited ability to understand, that He changes His mind or doesn’t accomplish what He said, but what is really happening is that the ship is moving. We may have to take a round-a-bout way to avoid some reefs and rough waters that weren’t on the chart, but it is always going to the place it is sailing to.

God’s plan of salvation has been working itself out since before Adam was created. The Israelites in the desert got to see miracles daily, and these have been recorded for us because we are too “sophisticated” and too “scientifically wise” to see the miracles that are still happening today, every day. We think that just because we can explain how an event occurs that knowing how it happens makes it less of a miracle. I can describe how the digestive system works, but does that make it less of a miracle? Could anyone of us design that system? Could any one of us make a stomach? Can we create a physical being that can spontaneously create hydrochloric acid inside itself and not burn itself to death from the inside out?

God needed a nation to enter the land that was big enough and strong enough (and faithful enough) to be His weapon of judgement against the nations that had been defiling His land for centuries. The first group didn’t meet that criteria, so God got rid of them and had the second group, just as large but more faithful, do the job. When all was said and done, what God wanted was accomplished. Oh, yes, not all of the baddies were destroyed and, yes, the people screwed up royally and ended up being thrown out of the land, also. But has that stopped God’s plan? No, of course not: God is this very day actually completing His plan. We see the regathering of the people back to the land and the land becoming a fruitful garden, again. And we see the world starting to suffer the judgement that God promised would happen through the words of the Prophets and in Revelations.

This parashah shows us that whatever God plans to do gets done. Maybe not when it was first started, maybe not with the people that it was first intended to use, but it will be done, one way or another. That is something that the enemies of God should find totally frightening, and the children of God should find totally encouraging.

The generations we are reading about in today’s parashah got to see God up close; they saw Him on the mountain when they were children, they have been miraculously fed and watered by him in a desert for forty years, and now they see Him supporting them in their battles, allowing them to defeat bigger and stronger nations, easily. They saw His plan to free them from slavery and lead them into the land evolve and succeed. We, today, are also seeing His plan evolve and succeed. We have seen the Messiah overcome sin, we have seen the gathering of the people back to the land happening for the past 60 years, and we are seeing the earth being judged and in turmoil, weather-wise, politically and spiritually. The enemy is on the move, this is his time and we are seeing it happen. We need to steel ourselves against what is to come because it will come! Don’t listen to the prophets that advised Ahab, or the ones that told Zedekiah everything is fine. We are coming into the End Days, and it won’t be pretty.

Take hope, no matter how bad it gets, in the knowledge and the proven, historical evidence that God’s plan WILL be done, and the promises He made and the ones He will make are all absolutely trustworthy.

And also remember that you are responsible to do your part- God will keep His word to you, but you need to hold up your end of the bargain.