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Parashat Shelach Lekha - פרשת שלח־לך


 

[ The following entry concerns this week's Torah reading, parashat Shelach Lekha. Please read the Torah portion to "find your place" here. ]

05.30.10  (Sivan 17, 5770)  This week's Torah primarily concerns the infamous "Sin of the Spies" (chet ha-meraglim). Instead of leaving Sinai to immediately take possession of the Promised Land, the Israelites first called for a "spying expedition" - a tragic error that would result in the LORD's decree that the entire generation that was rescued from Egypt would die in the desert. Only Joshua (יְהוֹשֻׁעַ) and Caleb (כָּלֵב) were spared this judgment from Heaven (for more information, see the commentary on the Torah portion).

How did Joshua and Caleb escape this great national tragedy? A passage from the Talmud (Tractate Sotah 34b) states that Moses foresaw the treachery and faithlessness of the spies (meraglim) and therefore renamed Hoshea (הושׁע) to Yehoshua (יהושׁע) -- in order to remind him that YHVH (י) must always come first.  Another passage from the Talmud (Sanhedrin 107a) states that the extra Yod came from Sarai (שׂרי), who had "given up" the Yod to form the name Sarah (שׂרה). In this story, the Yod appeared before the LORD and "complained" about being deleted from this righteous woman of valor. The LORD, however, reassured Yod that the day would come when it would become the first letter of a great tzaddik's name (i.e., Yehoshua/Joshua).

Rashi notes that the Sin of the Spies was essentially that of lashon hara -- speaking evil by producing an evil report -- in this case, speaking against the nation of Israel (or more precisely, against God Himself, since His promise to give the land to the people was not held in sufficient esteem -- despite the miracles the Exodus generation had witnessed).  The spies terrified the people by referring to the "children of the giants" (יְלִדֵי הָעֲנָק) and the heavy fortifications of the cities in the Promised Land. Essentially the spies claimed that "the people are stronger than God" (the phrase כִּי־חָזָק הוּא מִמֶּנּוּ can be understood in this sense), and the Israelites wept all that night and wished for death (Num. 14:2).

Moses' appeal on behalf of Israel was also based on avoiding chillul HaShem (i.e., the desecration of God's Name): Wouldn't the Egyptians likewise think that God did not have the power to bring the people into the land if He should kill them in the desert? (Num. 14:12-14). Moses then reminded the LORD of the revelation of His Name YHVH (יהוה) which was disclosed to him after the Sin of the Golden Calf (Exod. 34:6-7). Appealing to the shelosh esrei middot shel rachamim - the thirteen attributes of God's mercy - is a model for our intercession for one another as well...

The LORD is El Rachum (אֵל רַחוּם), "the Compassionate God" (the word rechem means womb, see Deut. 4:31, Isa. 49:15). Practicing compassion is therefore one of the middot ha-lev (qualities of heart) that should mark our lives -- especially in light of the rachamanut (compassion) given to us through Yeshua the Messiah (Col. 3:13, Eph. 5:2).


 

Proverbs 11:27 states: "He who seeks good [for others] seeks [God's] favor, but he who searches out evil [in others] upon him shall it come." The sages remark that he who prays for another and is in need of the same thing is answered first (Talmud: Bava Kamma). For example, when the prophet Job prayed for his friends, God restored Job's own fortunes (Job 42:10). There is always a shared blessing when we pray for others, as King David said in Psalm 35:13: "may what I prayed for happen to me!" (literally, "may it return upon my own breast" [תְּפִלָּתִי עַל־חֵיקִי תָשׁוּב]).

This truth works both ways. When we seek the good of others, we find God's favor, but when we show indifference or apathy, it likewise shall "return upon our own breast."
 

Make His will as your own,
so that He will regard your will as His own (Pirkei Avot 2:4a)
  

Indeed, the very "law of Messiah" (תּוֹרַת הַמָּשִׁיחַ) is to bear one another's burdens (Gal. 6:2). The word translated burden is βαρος ("weight"), from which we derive the word barometer. This same word is used in 2 Cor. 4:17 to refer to the "weight of glory" that we will experience in Olam Haba (the world to come). Bearing one another's burdens -- taking upon ourselves some of their "pressures" -- reveals the glory of the One who bore our sin and shame at Moriah (1 Pet. 2:24).


Note: May 31st is observed as a Memorial Day for those men and women who lost their lives while serving their country in the military, as well as a day to honor US veterans and their families.... Our hearts go out to all veterans and their families at this time...


 




 

Kivrot Ha-Ta'avah
Graves of Craving

Marc Chagall Detail
 

[ The Torah reading for this week is parashat Beha'alotekha. Please read the Torah portion to "find your place" here. ]

05.27.10
  (Sivan 14, 5770)  With this Torah portion, the earlier narrative of the Exodus from Egypt resumes, after having been interrupted first by the Chet Ha-Egel (sin of the Golden Calf) and then later with the account of the construction of the Tabernacle (Exod. 35-40). The first part of the Book of Numbers records the census of the people at Sinai (Num. 1), the arrangement of the camp (Num. 2), the duties of the Levites (Num. 3-5), the dedication of the Tabernacle (Num. 7), and so on. However, about halfway through this week's Torah portion the Jews left Mount Sinai for the desert of Paran, and a series of sins began that led to the Sin of the Spies, the rebellion of Korach, the worship of the idol Baal Peor, and ultimately to the LORD's decree that the generation that left Egypt would die in the desert.

According to the the Talmud (Shabbat 116a), the very first sin in this chain of sins is: "They traveled from the mountain of the LORD" / וַיִּסְעוּ מֵהַר יהוה (Num. 10:33). The Ramban (Nachmanides) explains that the Jews "turned away from God with joy - like a child who runs away from school saying, 'Perhaps He will give us more commandments if we stay!'" In other words, by this time the people were eager to remove themselves from God's presence - to "run away from the Teacher" - and it was this attitude that eventually led to the series of catastrophic judgments upon Israel. The Ramban continues that were it not for this hardness of heart, God would have brought them into the Land immediately. The subsequent decree of exile for that generation was due to their unbelief (Heb. 4:6). Instead of regarding Torah as an opportunity and a privilege, the people regarded it as burden.... So significant was this lapse of faith that the soferim (scribes) noted it as a dividing point of the entire Book of Numbers (see the Seven Books of Moses). After the departure from Sinai, the people began to regularly complain and lust -- and this led to inevitable judgment... As it is written in Pirke Avot 4:2, "the reward of one mitzvah is another mitzvah, while the reward of one sin is another."

After three days journey from Sinai to the Promised Land, the people complained of their difficulties and the LORD sent fiery judgment (Num. 11:1). The Hebrew root for the word "complain" (אנן) suggests sighing, engaging in self-pity, and feeling victimized (the Greek word used in the LXX (γογγύζω) means speaking "under the breath" words of discontent, criticism, and protest). Despite personally seeing all the miracles that led to their deliverance from Egypt and witnessing the awesome revelation at Sinai, the people found fault with God's plan for their lives... The LORD was angry with the Jews for losing sight of their deliverance and for losing faith in their future.  The Shekhinah Glory that surrounded the camp became a burning fire, and the outskirts of the camp were ravaged. Many people died, including the 70 original elders of Israel.  Moses' prayer of intercession caused God's anger to relent, though Israel's first steps toward the Promised Land resulted in disaster and the episode was commemorated by Moses as Taverah (תַּבְעֵרָה), a "burning."

Marc Chagall Detail
 

After this judgment, the "mixed multitude" or "erev rav" (Exod. 12:28) began openly lusting while the children of Israel began weeping for the "free fish" and onions of Egypt (as the Maggid of Dubno asked, how could they remember the fish and onions of Egypt but forget the plagues and miracles of redemption?) Despite the miraculous provision of manna (Exod. 16:14-31; Num 11:7-9), the people now wept for meat or "flesh" (בָּשָׂר) to eat.  It is worth noting here that the midrash states that manna acquired its taste according to the gratitude of the one who ate it. For the tzaddikim (righteous ones), manna tasted wonderful, but to the reshaim (wicked and faithless ones), it tasted dry and boring. 

Now the manna fell every night with the dew in exact proportion to the needs of the people, "an omer apiece according to the number of people that are in his tent" (Exod. 16:16). According to Rashi, when the people wept "family by family, every man at the door of his tent" (Num. 11:10), it was because the amount of manna that fell exposed the sin of incest. If there was an illegitimate child born, the manna would fall at the father's tent - not the mother's - revealing that an illegitimate union had occurred, and it was this that caused the weeping in Israel...

Moses was exasperated by the people's weeping because he labored under an illusion. He was under the impression that the people were complaining about the lack of meat to eat. He therefore (rhetorically) asked the LORD, "Did I conceive all this people, did I bear them, that You should say to me, 'Carry them in your bosom as a nurse carries an infant,' to the land that You have promised on oath to their fathers? How am I to give meat to all this people? (Num. 11:12-13). Moses went on to beg the LORD to do him the favor of putting him out of his misery -- by killing him (Num. 11:15).

Moses' reaction to all this seems out of character for him. After all, he had successfully interceded on behalf of the people for the dreadful sin of the Golden Calf as well as the more recent episodes at Massah and Taverah, but now when the people expressed dissatisfaction with the manna and demanded meat, he yielded to utter despair and asked the LORD to end his life. Why this reaction? Why did Moses feel so defeated in this case?

Abraham Twerski links Moses' despair with the (self)deception of the people. While the people overtly expressed discontent over their food choices, their underlying complaint was with the laws regarding intra-family marriages and incest. In other words, they disguised their real concern by blaming their problems on the menu (or on God)...  Twerski speculates on Moses' frustration in this case, "I can deal with any complaint they have, provided they are forthright about it. However, if they are deceitful and do not say what it is that they want, I cannot deal with that" (On Chumash, 298). In other words, if people are unwilling to disclose what they really want, they often offer a deceptive complaint; and to the extent that they don't admit their true desire to themselves, they engage in self-deception.

The pretense of desiring "meat" led to further judgment, of course, as the LORD sent a torrent of quails from the sea to overwhelm the camp.  The people went out to gather the carcasses as they did the manna, but while the meat was "between their teeth" God sent "a very great plague (מַכָּה רַבָּה מְאד) that killed all those who lusted.  The place was therefore named Kivrot Ha-Ta'avah (קִבְרוֹת הַתַּאֲוָה), "the graves of lust," because they buried the people who lusted there (Num. 11:34).

Carnal lust or natural desire is a symptom of a lack of ruchaniyut (spirituality) in a person's life. "The flesh (הַבָּשָׂר) lusts against the spirit [of God]" (Gal. 5:17). Note that the word translated "lusts" here (ἐπιθυμέω) is the same Greek word used in the LXX to describe the lust of those buried at Kivrot Ha-Ta'avah. As Twerski notes, the lack of spirituality often manifests itself as a sense of pervasive discontentment with life. And as some of the sages have noted, the yetzer hara (the evil inclination) is invariably expressed as a form of restlessness that is never at peace or truly satisfied... (Boredom is the "spirit" of the flesh.) Discontentment often leads to escapism of various kinds (drugs, sex, overeating, fantasy, etc.), but when that fails to alleviate the stress (as it always does), people tend to project their dissatisfaction by blaming others or feeling victimized. To have shalom, peace, is to practice godly contentment, with acceptance and thankful surrender to God's will.  Discontent is a form of ingratitude based on an entitlement mentality. It is the mode of the victim who is ready to blame others but who refuses to take responsibility for his actions. It is also self-deceptive because it disguises the real reason for the heart's dissatisfaction (i.e., the lack of authentic spirituality) by inventing other reasons for the soul's malaise.  The flesh would rather die than accept the rule of the spirit, and tragically that is the case in many shattered lives in our world today...


 

Chaverim, let us ask the LORD to give us hearts that are full of godly contentment, which is "of great gain" (1 Tim. 6:6). May we be walking in true spirituality (רוּחָנִיּוּת) - in the power of the Holy Spirit (רוּחַ הַקּדֶש) - by practicing emotional honesty with ourselves and with God (James 5:16).  Trials and tribulations - the "squeezing of grapes" - are part of the walk of faith, but we are invited to come "boldly" before the Throne of Grace (παρρησίας τῷ θρόνῳ τῆς χάριτος) to find help for our lives (Heb. 4:16). Note that the word translated "boldly" in this verse (παρρησίας) means that we can speak honestly and freely to God from the center of the chaos of our hearts -- without fear or shame. We don't need to conceal ourselves from the Divine Light, since this is the very Light that overcomes the hidden darkness within us. Those who accept that God is in complete control of their lives are set free from the terrible burdens of fear and anger.  Abiding in ahavah shlemah (אַהֲבָה שְׁלֵמָה, God's "perfect love") means that you can let go...

May it please God to help us all remember: חֶרְדַּת אָדָם יִתֵּן מוֹקֵשׁ וּבוֹטֵחַ בַּיהוה יְשֻׂגָּב / "The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe" (Prov. 29:25). May the LORD help us abide in His perfect love, free from the ravages of fear and anxiety. The LORD has promised us great comfort and help on our journey back home to Him. Amen.




The Menorah as Tree of Life


 

[ The Torah reading for this week is parashat Beha'alotekha. Please read the Torah portion to "find your place" here. ]

05.25.10  (Sivan 12, 5770)  Our Torah portion this week begins with the LORD instructing Aaron to light the seven lamps of the menorah (מְנוֹרָה) so that they would give light "toward the face of the menorah" (אֶל־מוּל פְּנֵי הַמְּנוֹרָה). The sages understood this to mean that the seven lamps must all be "turned" toward the central stem (or shaft), which is regarded as "the face of the menorah" (Exod. 25:37; Num. 8:4).

The sages link the design of the menorah with the Torah, which is regarded as the source of Divine light in the world. The instructions for making the menorah were given earlier, in the Book of Exodus (Exod. 25:31-40), when the pattern (i.e., tavnit: תַּבְנִית) was revealed to Moses while he was at Sinai (Exod. 25:40; Num. 8:4). The divine lampstand had seven branches, twenty-two "goblets" (flower cups), eleven "knobs" (buds), and nine flowers. According to the Talmud, the menorah measured seventeen "handbreadths" in height and weighed "one kikar" (nearly 100 pounds). Some of the ancient commentators link these numbers with the five books of the Torah as follows:
 

  1. Seven branches (i.e., kanim: קָנִים) with seven lamps (נֵרוֹת). Unlike modern depictions of the menorah, it is thought that the branches were all straight (yashar), not curved. In that sense, the menorah itself resembled a tree, just as the Torah is referred to as a Tree of Life (עֵץ־חַיִּים):


     

    The branches were made of beaten gold from the same piece as the main shaft or trunk line. According to Maimonides, the central lamp faced the Holy of Holies. A three-stepped stone was placed in front of the menorah for kindling the wicks.

    The "tree of life" itself is based on plant-light analogy. The sages link the root/branches with the first verse of Genesis, which begins with 7 words. Genesis is the "root" from which the Torah grows. The vision of Zechariah (see below) revealed seven "pipes" leading to each of the seven branches. Note that the 7x7 image is a symbol of perfection.
     
  2. Twenty-two Flower Cups (i.e., gevi'im: גְבִעִים). The "goblets" or "flower cups" were really chalice-like containers used to hold larger quantities of liquid (Jer. 35:5). They are likened to "stems" that supply the liquid for the blossoms and fruit.  They support the buds as a "vascular" system of the tree symbolism.   There are 22 letters of the Hebrew Alphabet - considered the "building blocks" used in Divine Revelation.  The sages link the flower cups (and letters of Torah) with the Book of Deuteronomy (the first verse of which begins with 22 words).
  3. Eleven Buds (i.e., kaftorim: כַּפְתּוֹרִים)  These were ornamentations that protruded on the shaft and the branches, at the top, just before the lamps themselves. The Talmud (Menachot 28b) states they were shaped like fruit.  They are likened to the "buds" that develop into fruit. The sages connect the buds with the Book of Exodus (the first verse of which begins with 11 words).
  4. Nine Flowers (i.e., perachim: פְּרַחִים)  These were ornamental parts intended to announce the blossoming and fruit of life. The sages connect the flowers with the Book of Leviticus (which begins with 9 words).
  5. Seventeen handbreadths (i.e., tefachim: טְפָחִים). This refers to the height of the menorah. The first two tefachim were the base itself. The other elements (cups, buds, and flowers) were then placed up the tree. The sages connect the height of the menorah with the Book of Numbers (the first verse of which begins with 17 words).

    As a matter of added curiosity, the total number of these elements equals 66 - the number of the Books of the Bible (i.e., the Tanakh plus New Testament books)... 
     

The menorah symbolizes light, growth, unity, and the Tree of Life (i.e., unity of Torah).  All its parts were formed from a single piece of pure gold (זָהָב טָהוֹר) that was "beaten" or "hammered" into shape (Exod. 25:36). This is a symbol of the divine substance (gold has a hint of the color of blood combined with the pure white). Note further that the menorah sat upon a three-legged base - a hint of hashilush ha-kadosh (the triune nature of the Godhead that is the Root of all reality).  This is another image of the concept of echdut - unity in plurality found in the Torah. Just as the many parts of the Mishkan were put together to form "one Tabernacle" (הַמִּשְׁכָּן אֶחָד), and the prophet Ezekiel was told to join together two sticks to form "one tree" (עֵץ אֶחָד, see Ezek. 37:17), so the many parts of the menorah were likewise fashioned to form "one menorah" (Exod. 25:36, 26:6). The Torah itself is made up of five separate Books, but it is nevertheless one Torah, just as the children of Israel were divided into Kohanim (priests), Levites, and Israelites, though together they form one nation... Yeshua likewise taught us there would be one flock culled from both Jews and Gentiles, having one Shepherd (John 10:16).

As already mentioned, the menorah was to be made by hammering the single piece of solid gold into shape (Exod. 25:36). Note that the word translated "hammered" or "beaten" (מִקְשָׁה) comes from the word for "difficult" in Hebrew (קָשֶׁה). The midrash states that the method for constructing the menorah was very difficult for Moses to comprehend, so the LORD first showed him one in the fire and told him: "This is how you will make it." Moses was unable to do so, however, so the LORD told him to take a block of gold and have Betzalel (the carpenter from Judah) throw it into the fire. After a flash of dazzling light, a menorah came out formed by God Himself.  In other words, the pronoun "he" in the phrase "so he made the menorah" is said to refer to God, not Moses (Num. 8:4). Another image of "hammered" gold suggests that it is shaped and refined through pressure and testing.

The light from the menorah is a spiritual light. It was not seen from the outside of the Tabernacle, but only while inside the holy chamber. It enabled service to God to be performed, though it was not a light to be used for profane purposes. Notice that the six lamps faced the central lamp -- a picture of Yeshua, the Light of the World whose arms and legs were "hammered" for our sins....  He is the suffering servant (shamash) who lightens everyone in the world. He is the center, the supporting trunk for the other branches (John 15:5).

In the prophet Zechariah's vision of the menorah (Zech. 4:1-10), seven "pipes" (מוּצָקוֹת) led to each of the seven lamps - 49 pipes in all - indicating the perfection of the Spirit of God (Zech. 4:2). Two olive trees stand next to the menorah, one on the right, and one on the left (Zech. 4:2-3). The two olive trees may picture the priesthood and the kingship united in the Person of Yeshua our Messiah, or they may refer to Israel and the Church, respectively. Note that the portion ends with, "he shall bring forth the top stone (הָאֶבֶן הָראשָׁה) with shoutings of 'Grace, grace, unto it' (Zech. 4:7).


 

The light of the menorah, the symbol of Divine Light, was only visible before the holy place of sacrificial atonement.  The light itself came from the burning of pure olive oil - a symbol of anointing and the Holy Spirit (רוּחַ הַקּדֶשׁ). It was kindled by the hand of a man of peace and humility. Likewise, when we are given light to behold the sacrifice of Yeshua for our atonement (כַּפָּרָה), we are filled with the divine light (John 8:12; 1 John 1:7, Eph. 5:8). When we come to the cross, we can behold the truth of God's unfailing love that draws us to be united with Him.
 

בֵּית יַעֲקב לְכוּ וְנֵלְכָה בְּאוֹר יהוה

bet  Ya·a·kov  le·khu  ve·nal·chah  be·or  Adonai
"O House of Jacob! Come, let us walk in the light of the LORD" (Isa. 2:5)
 





The "Seven" Books of Moses


 

[ The Torah reading for this week is parashat Beha'alotekha. Please read the Torah portion to "find your place" here. ]

05.24.10
  (Sivan 11, 5770)  The Torah portion for this week includes a textual oddity that warrants a close look from believers in the Mashiach Yeshua.  An "inverted Nun" (called Nun Hafuchah) appears both before and after Numbers 10:35-36:
 

 

And whenever the ark set out, Moses said, "Arise, O LORD, and let your enemies be scattered, and let those who hate you flee before you." And when it rested, he said, "Return, O LORD, to the ten thousand thousands of Israel." (Num. 10:35-6)
 

Some of the sages state that this passage is (deliberately) out of place in the narrative, and the inverted Nun alludes that it should have been inserted some 50 (נ) verses earlier.  In the Talmud (Shabbat 115b, 116a), however, it is stated that any part of the Torah with 85 or more letters is itself considered a "book," and therefore according to some of the Jewish sages this passage of Scripture actually demarcates a separate book of the Torah! If so, instead of the five books of Moses, we would have seven:

    1. Genesis
    2. Exodus
    3. Leviticus
    4. Numbers (1:1-10:34) [i.e., Numbers, Book 1]
    5. Numbers (10:35-36) [i.e., Numbers, Book 2]
    6. Numbers (10:37-ff) [i.e., Numbers, Book 3]
    7. Deuteronomy
     

So what does this "book" of the Torah say? Well, before Moses would lead the Israelites to a new station in the wilderness, he would order the ark to be moved by the Levites and then would chant "Arise, O LORD, and let your enemies be scattered, and let those who hate you flee before you!" In Hebrew:
 

קוּמָה יהוה וְיָפֻצוּ איְבֶיךָ וְיָנֻסוּ מְשַׂנְאֶיךָ מִפָּנֶיךָ

ku·mah  Adonai  ve·ya·fu·tzu  oy·ve·kha,  ve·ya·nu·su  me·san·ey·kha  mi·pa·ne·kha

"Arise, O LORD, and let your enemies be scattered,
let those who hate you flee before you" (Num. 10:35)
 

When the Shechinah rested, Moses would stop the procession of the camp and chant, "Return, O LORD, to the ten thousand thousands of Israel." In Hebrew:
 

שׁוּבָה יהוה רִבְבוֹת אַלְפֵי יִשְׂרָאֵלָ

shu·vah  Adonai  ri·ve·vot  al·fei  yis·ra·el

"Return, O LORD, to the many thousands of Israel" (Num. 10:36)
 

This "book" was left unfinished, however, because of the "Sin of the Spies" (chet ha-meraglim) and the Exodus generation's loss of access to enter into the Promised Land. The "story" of what follows after Numbers 10:35-36 - namely, the outbreak of fiery judgment, the subsequent exile from the land, the various sins of the wilderness generation - was written as historical "sequel" instead. What should have been written is that the LORD (as symbolized by the presence of the ark) entered the land with the redeemed Israelites on account of their faith in His promises. Moses would have led the people directly to Zion! According to these sages, this part of the Torah is "yet to be written" and will be altered when the Messiah comes (i.e., returns).

Why don't the Nun's face each other? According to the Talmud (Yoma 54a), the two Nuns picture the two keruvim (cherubs) which hovered over the Ark of the Covenant. When the Jewish people pleased God, the cherubs would face one another; if, however, they were disobedient, these angelic creatures would turn away from one another in the direction of the Holy Temple. Sin causes a rip in the fabric of spiritual reality, causing the angels of God (symbols of the Divine Presence) to turn away....


 

From a Messianic perspective, it is fascinating to see that what immediately preceeds this "book" is the story of Yitro (Jethro), Moses' Gentile father-in-law, who was offered to partake of the blessings of Israel. This is a perhaps a picture of the so-called "Church age" - i.e., the time when God would offer His salvation to the nations of the world (as represented by Jethro) just before a time of purging of national Israel. In other words, we can read this parenthetical "book" as a time of special dispensation for the nations of the world to turn to the "Son of Life" and be saved.




Parashat Beha'alotekha - בהעלתך


 

[ The Torah reading for this week is parashat Beha'alotekha. Please read the Torah portion to "find your place" here. ]

05.23.10  (Sivan 10, 5770)  The midrash states that Aaron was completely humble in his office as the first Kohen Gadol (High Priest) of Israel. It is said that his daily task to light the lamps of the menorah never became routine for him, but he remained entirely focused and reverent every time he performed this avodah.

Aaron's seemingly modest act of faithful service again indicates that what man esteems and what God esteems are very often two entirely different things. After all, since it only shined within the confines of sacred chamber of the Tabernacle, the light of the menorah wasn't even visible to those of the camp of Israel.  Only the priests who served could behold this light; otherwise it remained hidden from the eyes of man...

There is a "transposition" of values, a "holy irony," in the realm of the Spirit.  From God's perspective that which considered great in the eyes of men is considered of little account, and that which is considered insignificant in the eyes of men is considered of great importance (Luke 9:48). The wisdom of this world (i.e., pragmatic, self-promoting egotism, etc.) is regarded as folly before God (1 Cor. 1:20, 3:19). Therefore Yeshua "made himself nothing" and disguised himself in the form of a lowly servant (ἀλλὰ ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσεν μορφὴν δούλου λαβών).  Unlike various systems of religion that attach merit and status to those who have attained "respectable levels" of personal sanctity, those who are called great (גָּדוֹל) in the Kingdom of Heaven will be identified as the servants of all (Mark 9:35; 10:44). Like the hidden light of the menorah in the Tabernacle, the the deeds of the spiritually humble are beheld inwardly, where the Heavenly Father sees in secret (Matt. 6:4). As Yeshua Himself said, כִּי מַלְכוּת הָאֱלהִים בְּקִרְבְּכֶם / "The Kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:21).

Spiritual pride is inherently self-flattering, self-exalting, and therefore antithetical to spiritual life.  Indeed, the term itself is an oxymoron (e.g., like "bittersweet"), since genuine spirituality is always rooted in humility (עֲנָוָה). The humble soul understands its finitude and radical contingency -- and therefore understands its absolute need for God's help. Spiritual pride is really a disguised mode of intolerance, a cocksure smugness regarding matters of infinite significance, and therefore represents a state of negation toward others... It is impatient to listen, spurns self-questioning, and refuses to accept uncertainty about some of life's deepest questions. Such pride often pretends to "have the answers" regarding all the riddles and mysteries of life. Humility, on the other hand, confesses that it does not always know and is not always so sure. It is a state of openness, of listening, of being teachable. It is aware of our insufficiency, our frailties, and our limitations...

The Hebrew word beha'alotekha (be-ha-a-LOH-te-khah) comes from the root alah (עלה) meaning to ascend or "go up," though in the causative stem (such as the hiphil, as in this case), it can also mean to "offer" or "set up."  The olah offering (same root) is a whole burnt offering in which the sacrificial animal is turned into smoke that ascends heavenward. All of the flesh must be consumed by fire. Likewise, God's priests and kings of the New Covenant (1 Pet. 2:9; Rev. 1:6, 5:8-9) are called to present their bodies as korban chai (קָרְבָּן חַי), a "living sacrifice," in service to the Lord (Rom. 12:1). We must die to ourselves -- die to our own sense of self-sufficiency, to our own sense of "goodness," to our all-too-human dreams, and even to our "religion" and its rituals -- in order to find life (John 12:24, Matt. 16:26). We have been bought with a price and therefore our lives are no longer our own (1 Cor. 6:20). Each day we are given the opportunity to surrender ourselves -- to "ascend into smoke" -- in service to God.... May God give us all the willingness to serve Him in the truth.




Prayer Request

05.21.10
  (Sivan 8, 5770)  I have been struggling lately, with sadness, weariness, and especially with discerning the Lord's will for the future of this ministry.... Please keep us in your prayers.  Our book sales, etc. have fallen and I am beginning to grow anxious about how I will be able to care for my family in the months ahead.  This is not an appeal for donations or pity, chaverim, but rather an earnest cry of the heart for God's leading and direction. Please agree with me in your prayers that God's will is done.  I am here to give glory to Yeshua our Lord -- nothing else really matters....  Thank you so much.

And now, Shabbat Shalom! Let's remember to "enter into His Sabbath rest."




Shavuot Sameach!


  
 

05.19.10  (Sivan 6, 5770)  Today is the holiday of Shavuot ("Weeks" or "Pentecost"), the climax of the Passover Season. Chag Sameach and Happy Shavuot to each of you!  Tonight we are going to have a small Shavuot home service and eat some cheesecake. We sincerely wish you a renewed sense of God's love and presence in your life during this appointed time of the LORD God of Israel, chaverim.






Happy Shavuot! (May 18th-20th)


 

05.17.10  (Sivan 4, 5770)  Tuesday, May 18th (at sundown) marks the end of the 49 days of counting and the beginning of the "Jubilee" of Shavuot ("Weeks" or "Pentecost"). Though it occurs on Sivan 6 on the Jewish calendar, like most other Jewish holidays Shavuot is appended with an extra day (called yom tov sheni) and therefore runs from May 18th until May 20th this year. "Shavuot Sameach!" - Happy Shavuot to you!

According to the sages, Shavuot marks the culmination of the experience of redemption, sometimes called Atzaret Pesach ("the Conclusion of Passover"). Since the Exodus from Egypt led to the revelation of Sinai, the goal of Passover was the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people, just as the deliverance given by Yeshua led to the revelation of Zion so that the Torah would be "written upon our hearts."  And just as God took the Jews out of Egypt so that they would be His own treasured people (עַם סְגֻלָּה), holy and separated from the pagan cultures around them, so He calls followers of Yeshua to "die to the world" and live sanctified lives. Indeed, all of the mo'edim (holidays) are connected with this event, including the fall festivals of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot.


 

In light of the great Passover redemption, it is clear that Shavuot was "given" in order to express God's chesed (faithful love) for His people. It was the glory of God (כְּבוֹד אֱלהִים) that provided for the redemption in Egypt (by the blood of the sacrificial lamb), but redemption would be incomplete apart from joyous and fruitful life in the land of God's promise....  In other words, the Exodus -> Sinai connection really is the Exodus -> Sinai -> Zion connection (originally the Jews were to have gone directly to Zion under Moses' leadership). The ultimate goal of salvation - it's end or goal -  was the gift of living with God as His redeemed children.  This was foreshadowed by the bikkurim offering itself.  Before the basket of fruit was presented to the priests, an abbreviated synopsis of Jewish history was recited by the worshipper (Deut. 26:5-11). God wanted His people to remember that the life of promise was possible only because of the chesed (חֶסֶד) and love of God (אַהֲבַת הַשֵּׁם).
 

    Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem, Thus says the LORD, "I remember the devotion of your youth (חֶסֶד נְעוּרַיִךְ), your love as a bride (כְּלוּלָה, from כַּלָּה), how you followed me in the wilderness, into a land not sown" (Jer. 2:2)
     

After the LORD delivered the Jews from slavery in Egypt, He said, "Follow me into the wilderness, to an unsown land." The people willingly followed with a passion that a young bride shows her betrothed. Indeed, the story of the Exodus can be read as a great "Cinderella-like" love story. The beloved is imprisoned in far away castle, made to do the lowliest of labor, but the Lover soon appears to heroically rescue her from her distress. Together they run away into the dangerous desert where the Lover woos, protects and cares for his beloved. Eventually they pledge their undying love for one another and their married life begins... The vision of "living happily after" is the dream of Shavuot in Zion...


Shavuot Torah Readings


 

At the synagogue, it is customary to start the Erev Shavuot service later than usual in the evening, to ensure that the 50th day has arrived (see "counting the omer").  Many people remain awake for the entire first night of Shavuot reading a special book (tikkun leil Shavuot) that includes the first and last verses of each Torah portion, the first and last passages of each tractate of the Mishnah, and various passages from the Zohar. This book is read to "repair" the night of Shavuot from the error of sleeping so soundly before the Torah was given at Sinai that God had to awaken the Jews with shofar blasts, thunder, and lightning the following morning.

In addition to the weekly Torah reading (parashat Naso), there are special Torah readings traditionally associated with the holiday of Shavuot.

Day

Torah

Haftarah

Brit Chadashah

Erev Shavuot
(Tues. May 18)

Tikkun Leil Shavuot

 

 

Shavuot 1
(Wed. May 19)

Exod. 19:1-20:23
Num. 28:26-31
(M)

Ezek. 1:1-28; 3:12

John 1:32-34; Mt 3:11-17;
Acts 2:1-21, 37-41

Shavuot 2
(Thurs. May 20)

Deut. 14:22-16:17 Num. 28:26-31 (M)

Habakkuk 3:1-19
Ruth (K)

Acts 2:1-13









 
Jewish tradition states that in every generation each person should consider himself as having personally received the Torah at Sinai. The climax of the Shavuot morning service is the recitation of the famous Akdamut poem followed by the reading of Ten Commandments, when all the congregation stands to "relive" the experience at Sinai.  A second Torah scroll is then taken out of the ark and the portion is read (Num. 28:26-31) that describes the sacrificial offerings made at the Temple during Shavuot, and the Haftarah (Ezek. 1:1-28; 3:12) concerns the amazing revelation of God in the form of the Throne/Chariot.

The Scroll of Ruth (מגילת רות) - a beautiful story about God's redemptive love - is read on the second day of Shavuot. As the Goel (kinsman-redeemer), Boaz was a wealthy man of the tribe of Judah (Bethlehem) who married a Gentile bride.  Boaz's name means "in Him is strength," a picture of the Mashiach Yeshua, his greater Descendant, who also redeemed for himself a bride from among the nations. Among traditional Jews, the Book of Ruth is is read since the events recounted took place during the time of the spring harvest (linking it to the agricultural aspect of Shavuot), and Ruth is a picture of willing acceptance of a Jewish lifestyle (linking it to the events of Sinai).

For the Messianic Jew, Shavuot is the time of celebrating the birth of kallat Mashiach - the Bride of the Messiah (or "Church"), since the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) was poured out to the believers in Jerusalem during this festival.  But note that the fulfillment of the New Covenant (בְּרִית חֲדָשָׁה) implied that the Torah (תּוֹרָה) would be given "inwardly" and "written upon the heart" (Jer. 31:33).
 

הִנֵּה יָמִים בָּאִים נְאֻם־יְהוָה וְכָרַתִּי אֶת־בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל
וְאֶת־בֵּית יְהוּדָה בְּרִית חֲדָשָׁה׃
לא כַבְּרִית אֲשֶׁר כָּרַתִּי אֶת־אֲבוֹתָם בְּיוֹם הֶחֱזִיקִי בְיָדָם
לְהוֹצִיאָם מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם אֲשֶׁר־הֵמָּה הֵפֵרוּ אֶת־בְּרִיתִי וְאָנכִי
בָּעַלְתִּי בָם נְאֻם־יְהוָה׃
כִּי זאת הַבְּרִית אֲשֶׁר אֶכְרת אֶת־בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל אַחֲרֵי הַיָּמִים
הָהֵם נְאֻם־יְהוָה נָתַתִּי אֶת־תּוֹרָתִי בְּקִרְבָּם וְעַל־לִבָּם אֶכְתֲּבֶנָּה
וְהָיִיתִי לָהֶם לֵאלהִים וְהֵמָּה יִהְיוּ־לִי לְעָם׃
 

"Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD (יהוה), when I will make a new covenant (בְּרִית חֲדָשָׁה) with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my Torah (תּוֹרָה) within them and I will write it on their hearts.
And I will be their God, and they shall be my people." (Jer. 31:31-33)



Torah Given Inwardly...

When the Jews exclaimed at Sinai, kol asher dibber Adonai na'aseh ("all that the LORD speaks we will do" [Exod. 19:8]), they signified an abandonment to God's will for their lives. In other words, they first chose obedience before they understood the terms of the covenant. Only later, after Moses wrote the book of the covenant (sefer habrit) did they add v'nishmah (and we will hear/obey, from shama [Exod. 24:7]). The Jews first chose to do whatever the LORD commanded and then hoped to "hear" these words in order to understand their meaning.  It is the quality of hearing that matters.  As Anselm said, we believe in order to understand. The decision to serve God comes first, and then comes understanding. This principle is still true when we come to the greater mountain of Zion.

According to Jewish tradition, God created the universe itself on the condition that Israel accepted the Torah.  By extension, God created the universe for the sake of imparting Ruach HaKodesh and adopting us as His children of God through Yeshua the Messiah.  The promise of the New Covenant is that the Torah would be given "within our inward parts" and written upon our hearts (Jer. 31:31-33). Each of us is called to likewise order our lives as if the existence of the universe depends upon our faith.  Abraham was a tzaddik on account of his faith, and we are likewise called to "receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38).

Jewish Midrash states that the Ten Commandments were spoken all at once, in a single divine utterance, and then repeated one-by-one to the Israelites. Unlike the other commandments of the Torah, these ten are unconditionally given. The LORD identified Himself as Elohim (not YHVH) when proclaiming them, indicating His role as Judge of the universe, and He used the second person singular (not plural) for the verbs: You shall not steal..."  Please review the Ten Commandments pages on this site for some additional commentary.

The holiday of Shavuot is one of the shelosh regalim (three pilgrimage festivals) given in the Torah (Exod. 23:14-17; Deut. 16:16) and therefore reveals profound spiritual truth for followers of Yeshua (Luke 24:44; 2 Tim. 3:16). God did not want us to miss the significance of this holiday, since it expresses the freedom and truth of the New Covenant of Zion. There is a "zeal for the law" in our lives, but it is not the zeal that is displayed in outward forms of righteousness.  Since Yeshua is the "Voice of the Living God speaking from the midst of the fire" at Sinai (Deut. 5:26), the of "tongues of fire" given to His followers comes from the fire of God's glory given at Zion... The New Covenant is "Christ in you," the hope of glory (Col. 1:27), and is the means of the heart's transformation both to will and to do God's good pleasure (Phil. 2:13).

From our family to you: Shavuot Sameach - "Happy Shavuot!"  May this be a time of renewal and great joy in your lives...




Parashat Naso - נשא


 

05.16.10  (Sivan 3, 5770)  The Torah portion for this coming Shabbat is parashat Naso ("take"), the second portion of Book of Numbers (i.e., Bamidbar). Among other things, this portion of Torah gives the commandment for Aaron and his sons to bless the people of Israel (Num. 6:23-27), which later came to be known as the "priestly blessing" (birkat kohanim). To learn more about this blessing, click here (you can also listen to this blessing chanted by clicking here).




Anticipating Shavuot ("Pentecost")


 

[ The following is related to the holiday of Shavuot (i.e., "Pentecost"), which begins Tuesday May 18th after sundown this year... ]

05.14.10  (Sivan 1, 5770)  The holiday of Shavuot is called "Pentecost" in Christian tradition. The Greek word Pentecost (πεντηκοστή) means "the holiday of fifty days," and refers to the 50th day after "Easter Sunday" when the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples and Peter first preached the gospel in Jerusalem (Acts 2:1-43). Unlike the major Jewish holiday of Shavuot (which was one of the three required festivals of the LORD, see Exod. 23:14-17; Deut. 16:16), most Christian denominations regard Pentecost as a minor festival, and sadly many do not observe it as a holiday at all.

It is unfortunate that many Christian churches seem to overlook the significance of Shavuot, since this holiday really represents the climax of Passover itself -- 'the endpoint' of the redemptive experience.  Just as the blood of the lambs smeared on the door posts led directly to the Sinai experience 50 days later, so the crucifixion of Yeshua led directly to the descent of the Holy Spirit to empower His followers to serve God under the new covenant of Zion....

There are two distinct priestly rituals commanded for Shavuot: 1) the waving of two loaves of (new) wheat bread (called Shtei Ha-Lechem: שְׁתֵּי הַלֶּחֶם), and 2) the offering of korban shelamim (peace sacrifices). Both of these aspects of the priestly avodah (service) were fulfilled in the greater sacrifice of Yeshua made on our behalf. Moreover, just as worshippers at the Temple would present bikkurim (בִּכּוּרִים)- their choicest first fruits - and attest to God's faithfulness before the altar (Deut. 26:3), so we are called to walk in the fruit of the Holy Spirit (פְּרִי הָרוּחַ) and to proclaim the message of God's faithful love for us.

Though it is not explicitly mentioned in the five books of the Torah, the Jews have long associated the giving of the law with the holiday of Shavuot.  The earliest source that explicitly links Shavuot with the revelation of the Torah at Sinai is the Book of Jubilees (i.e., Sefer haYovelim: ספר היובלים), dating from the 2nd century BC. Extant manuscripts of this book were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, indicating that the Shavuot-Sinai connection was made before the advent of Yeshua.  The (non-canonical) book is a parallel account of Genesis and parts of Exodus, and includes the observance of Shavuot by Noah before the time of the Flood. In Jubilees, Noah is told to observe the festival of Weeks and Firstfruits every year as a commemoration of God's covenant to renew the earth (Jubilees 6:15;22). Abraham and the patriarchs were said to observe it, though it was forgotten by the Jews in Egypt until Moses reinstated it at Sinai.  Shavuot is also mentioned in the apocryphal Book of Tobit (טוביה) and the Book of Maccabees, c. 2nd century BC.

The Talmud (or oral law) also attests to the connection between Shavuot and Sinai. The earliest Talmudic statement on the date of the revelation at Sinai is found in Tractate Shabbat 86b. According to these sages, the Jews left Egypt on Friday, Nisan 15, and the Torah was given exactly 50 days later on Saturday, Sivan 6th.  This date later became fixed in the Jewish calendar, and was further supported by reference to Exodus 19:1: "On the third new moon after the people of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that day they came into the wilderness of Sinai." (For details about the exact timing for this event, see the main Shavuot article.) The Midrash Rabbah also explicitly makes the Shavuot-Sinai connection as well.  The later rabbis refer to Shavuot as "Atzeret" (עֲצֶרֶת), a word that means  "withdrawal" (i.e., to the desert to receive the law) and "conclusion" (or the goal of the Passover redemption).  Today Jewish tradition regards Shavuot as Zman Mattan Torateinu (זְמָן מַתָּן תּוֹרָתֵנוּ) - "the anniversary of the giving of the Torah."  Shavuot is also called Yom HaKahal (יוֹם הַקָּהָל) - the "Day of Assembly" (Deut. 18:16).

At the synagogue, it is customary to start the evening Shavuot service later than usual, to ensure that the 50th day has arrived.  Many people remain awake for the entire first night of Shavuot reading a special book (tikkun leil Shavuot) that includes the first and last verses of each Torah portion, the first and last passages of each tractate of the Mishnah, and various passages from the Zohar. This book is read to "repair" the night of Shavuot from the error of sleeping so soundly before the Torah was given at Sinai that God had to awaken the Jews with shofar blasts, thunder, and lightning the following morning. 

Jewish tradition states that in every generation each person should consider himself as having personally received the Torah at Sinai. The climax of the Shavuot morning service is the recitation of the famous Akdamut poem followed by the reading of Ten Commandments, when all the congregation stands to "relive" the experience at Sinai.  A second Torah scroll is then taken out of the ark and the portion is read (Num. 28:26-31) that describes the sacrificial offerings made at the Temple during Shavuot, and the Haftarah (Ezek. 1:1-28; 3:12) concerns the amazing revelation of God in the form of the Throne/Chariot.

The Scroll of Ruth (מגילת רות) - a beautiful story about God's redemptive love - is read on the second day of Shavuot. As the Goel (kinsman-redeemer), Boaz was a wealthy man of the tribe of Judah (Bethlehem) who married a Gentile bride.  Boaz's name means "in Him is strength," a picture of the Mashiach Yeshua, his greater Descendant, who also redeemed for himself a bride from among the nations. Among traditional Jews, the Book of Ruth is is read since the events recounted took place during the time of the spring harvest (linking it to the agricultural aspect of Shavuot), and Ruth is a picture of willing acceptance of a Jewish lifestyle (linking it to the events of Sinai). 

Paradoxically, the conversion of Ruth was actually against the law given in the Torah itself! According to the Torah (Deut. 23:3), an Ammonite (or Moabite) cannot enter into the family of Israel, and therefore the question arose regarding how Ruth was accepted. Indeed, not only was Ruth accepted, she became the great grandmother of King David through whom the Messiah Yeshua would come (Ruth 4:17).


 

Shavuot is often portrayed metaphorically as a marriage ceremony between God and the children of Israel. The LORD is the Heavenly chatan (groom) who said, "Accept Me"; the Jewish people represent the beloved kallah (bride); and the Torah represents the ketubah (marriage contract). In some Sephardic traditions, a ketubah is literally read under the traditional chuppah, or wedding canopy, that is set up in the synagogue. Some of the sages note that the idea of marriage comes from the resemblance of the word Shavuot with the word shevuot (oaths). On Shavuot two oaths were taken. One was from God who pledged that He would not exchange the children of Israel for another people, and the other was from the Jews who pledged they would not exchange God for another deity...

This is analogous to the wedding cup that Yeshua offered us in the upper room, before His crucifixion. The Holy Spirit was given to escort us into the heavenly bridal chamber... Collectively, the followers of the Messiah are called Kallat Mashiach - the Bride of Messiah (Rev 21:2,9), and we eagerly await the marriage supper to come (Rev 19:9).

Shavuot marks the time when God entered into covenant with the Jewish nation. During the first Shavuot at Sinai, God instituted the Mosaic covenant and gave the Torah in written form, but during the Shavuot at Zion, after the resurrection of Yeshua, God established the New Covenant when He wrote the Torah on the hearts of Yeshua's followers.

  • Shavuot at Mount Sinai is sometimes considered the day on which Judaism was born.  Shavuot in Jerusalem (Mount Zion) is the day on which the church was born when the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the followers of the Mashiach.
  • Just as the resurrection of Yeshua represents the Firstfruits of those who have died (1 Cor. 15:20) and fulfills the prophetic ritual of the waving of the omer on the festival of First Fruits, so the giving of the Holy Spirit to the followers of Yeshua fulfills the wave offering of the leavened wheat loaves on the day of Shavuot.
  • At Mount Sinai the Ten Commandments were written on tablets of stone by the "finger of God" (Exod. 31:18), but at Mount Zion, the Torah is written on tables of the heart by the Spirit of God (2 Cor. 3:3;  Heb. 8:10).
  • Just as the Israelites were affirmed as God's chosen people on Shavuot with the giving of the Torah, so the followers of the Messiah are affirmed as God's chosen people at Shavuot after Yeshua's ascension into heaven as the Mediator of a Better Covenant (Hebrews 8:6). The 3,000 that were added to the church that day were firstfruits of the redeemed people of God.
     


The holiday of Shavuot is one of the shelosh regalim (three pilgrimage festivals) given in the Torah (Exod. 23:14-17; Deut. 16:16) and therefore reveals profound spiritual truth for followers of Yeshua (Luke 24:44; 2 Tim. 3:16). God did not want us to miss the significance of this holiday, since it expresses the freedom and truth of the New Covenant of Zion.

From my family to you: Shavuot Sameach - "Happy Shavuot!"  May this be a time of renewal and great joy in your lives....




New Office Space - Canceled

05.14.10
  (Sivan 1, 5770)  Due to finances and other concerns, I have decided to give up my new office and will continue working from home. I am thankful I signed a "month-to-month" lease, though we are still responsible for next month's rent over there.  I feel a bit foolish that I made this mistake, chaverim, though we are still trusting that the LORD will guide this ministry in whatever way He deems best. Please keep us in your prayers. If the Lord wants me to go back to the secular workplace, please pray that I receive clear guidance and direction.  Thank you, chaverim.




Your Family Name


 

[ The Torah reading for this week is parashat Bamidbar ("in the wilderness").  Please read the Torah portion to "find your place" here. ]

05.12.10  (Iyyar 28, 5770)  As mentioned earlier, Bamidbar (בַּמִּדְבָּר) means "in the wilderness" and is the name associated with the fourth book of the Torah scroll. Traditionally, the first portion of Bamidbar is always read on the Sabbath before Shavuot. Since several censuses are recorded in it, the sages sometimes called the book sefer ha-pekudim (the book of counting), so named because of the phrase bemispar shemot (בְּמִסְפַּר שֵׁמוֹת) - "they were counted according to their names" (Num. 1:2). Each name was associated with the "lifting up" of the heads of the people. The Hebrew text literally reads,  שְׂאוּ אֶת־ראשׁ כָּל־עֲדַת בְּנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵל / "lift up the heads of all the congregation of Israel."  When God sees you, he lifts your head up to be counted among His own (Matt. 10:30).

Rashi notes that the people were counted according to their descent from the house of their fathers (לְבֵית אֲבתָם). One whose father belonged to one tribe and whose mother to another was counted with the father's tribe. In other words, one's position as a Kohen (כּהֵן), a Levite (לֵוִיִי), or an Israelite (יִשְׂרְאֵלִי) derives from the father's house. Since Yeshua came from the royal tribe of Judah (יְהוּדָה), those who are adopted into the Father's House are made heirs (κληρονόμοι) of the tribe of Judah (Eph. 1:5). Indeed, we are given the heritage of God Himself (נַחֲלַת אֱלהִים) and are made fellow heirs with the Messiah (Rom. 8:17). We now have the "Spirit of adoption" (רוּחַ מִשְׁפַּט) within us as members of God's own household.  Ultimately, then, followers of the Messiah get their "family name" from Yeshua....


Personal Update:   Last week we decided to rent a small office for me to do my work away from home, though I am finding it difficult making the transition. The office is very hot, without a window, and I think it's adjacent to a heating vent or something.  At any rate, we had hoped to find a place for me to work outside the home, since otherwise I work late at night.  Please offer up a prayer regarding this decision, chaverim. I am renting month-to-month, so I can get out of the lease quickly if that's the right decision.  Thank you!




Anticipating Shavuot



 

[ The following is related to the holiday of Shavuot (i.e., "Pentecost"), which begins Tuesday May 18th at sundown this year... ]

05.12.10  (Iyyar 28, 5770)  We are nearing the end of the 49 day "countdown" that runs from the second day of Passover until the holiday of Shavuot ("Weeks" or "Pentecost"). This seven week countdown period is called "Counting the Omer" (סְפִירַת הָעוֹמֶר) in Jewish tradition (Lev. 23:15-16), and the 49 days between Passover and Shavuot create a growing "chain" that link the two festivals together:


 

Here are a few reasons why the appointed time of Shavuot is significant for followers of Yeshua (additional reasons are provided on the Shavuot pages):
 

  1. Shavuot is regarded as the culmination of the experience of redemption, sometimes called Atzaret Pesach, the "Conclusion of Passover." It is therefore the end (τέλος) or goal of the redemption experience for believers. Just as the redemption by the blood of the lambs led to Israel's deliverance and the giving of the Torah at Sinai (סִינַי), so the redemption by the blood of Yeshua led to the world's deliverance and the giving of the Holy Spirit at Zion (צִיּוֹן). And just as the covenant at Sinai created the nation of Israel, so the new covenant at Zion created the worldwide people of God, redeemed from "every tribe and tongue" (Rev. 5:9).

    The goal of Passover redemption was to set us free to become God's own treasured people (עַם סְגֻלָּה, am segulah), a light to the nations: ambassadors for Heaven's voice. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit (רוּחַ הַקּדֶשׁ) is therefore the climax of redemption, imparting the presence of the Comforter (παράκλητος) to help us live a sanctified lives (Acts 1:8).

     
  2. Shavuot at Mount Sinai is sometimes considered the day on which "Judaism" was born, remembering the time when the sefer habrit (סֵפֶר הַבְּרִית) was sprinkled with blood and ratified by the elders of Israel (Exod. 24:3-11) and the giving of the Ten Commandments to Israel. Shavuot in Jerusalem (i.e., Mount Zion) is the day on which the church was born, remembering the time when the New Covenant of the LORD was ratified by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the followers of Yeshua.
     
     
  3. Agriculturally, Shavuot commemorates the time when the firstfruits (בִּכּוּרִים) were harvested and brought to the Temple, and is known as Chag ha-Bikkurim (the Festival of the Firstfruits).  Followers of the Messiah evidence spiritual fruit in their lives as the direct result of the Holy Spirit's regeneration of the heart.

    Traditional Judaism identifies various middot ha-lev (qualities of heart) that attend to a genuinely Jewish life. These include Talmud Torah (studying Scripture), ahavat Adonai (loving God), gemilut chasidim (doing works of righteousness), bikkur cholim (visiting the sick), and so on.

    The follower of Yeshua likewise must evidence middot hav-lev, though the Source for such comes directly from the power of the Ruach Ha-Kodesh (Holy Spirit) working within the heart of faith. The fruit of the Spirit (פְּרִי הָרוּחַ) listed in Galatians 5:22-23 represent nine visible attributes of a true follower of Yeshua:


     
  4. Note that these priot (fruits) are not obtained through self-effort or various attempts at human "reformation," but rather are a supernatural outgrowth of the grace and love of God in the life of one who puts their trust in Yeshua as Mashiach. See John 15:1-8.  Our lives are sanctified in the manner in which they were initially justified: wholly by faith in the love and grace of God - not by works of our own righteousness (Titus 3:5-6). If we are saved by God's grace through faith, we are likewise sanctified by God's grace through faith...

    The tough question we need to ask ourselves is whether our lives genuinely give evidence of the power and agency of the Holy Spirit within us. Strictly speaking, these nine attributes are qualities that only God Himself possesses, since He alone is perfectly loving, perfectly joyful, and so on. But since we are created b'tzelem Elohim (in the image of God) and were given the Holy Spirit to help us resemble our Teacher (Luke 6:40), spiritual fruit should be seen in our own lives (John 14:12; 15:1-8; 26-7). Obtaining such fruit is invariably a matter of faith - trusting that God will help us live our lives in truthful union with Him. (May it please our Heavenly Father to make each of us fruitful l'shem shamayim - for the sake of the Name of our beloved One!)

     

  5. Shavuot stands in contrast to Passover that requires unleavened bread (matzah), since the two loaves of bread made from the first fruit of the wheat harvest (shtei ha-lechem) were baked with chametz (yeast) before being "waved before the LORD" (Lev. 23:15-20). There is some uncertainty among Jewish sages regarding the meaning of the use of the otherwise forbidden leaven (Lev. 2:11), though prophetically it pictures the "one new man" (composed of both Jew and Gentile) before the altar of the LORD (Eph. 2:14). The waving of the "two loaves" of leavened bread therefore prophesied the firstfruits creation of the "one new man," both Jew and Gentile, that would "firstfruits" of the Kingdom of God.  As Yeshua plainly taught, ultimately there will be one flock, and one Shepherd (John 10:16).

    Each of us - and this is especially true and vital for those who belong to Yeshua the Mashiach - are connected to one another as ish-echad chadash (אישׁ־אחד חדשׁ) "one new man" (Eph. 2:15). Our welfare, blessing, and ultimate salvation is bound up with one another.  Just as the midrash says that each soul is linked to a letter of the Torah, so each of us is linked to the LORD Yeshua who gave Himself up for us in order to reconcile us to God.  Each child of God is part of the message of Yeshua's life and love in this world.

     
  6. At Mount Sinai the Ten Commandments were written on tablets of stone by the "finger of God" (Exod. 31:18), but at Mount Zion, the Torah is written on tables of the heart by the Spirit of God (2 Cor. 3:3; Heb. 8:10). Regarding the prophecy of the New Covenant, it is written: "I will put my law (תּוֹרָה) in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts" (Jer. 31:33). We are "letters of Messiah, written with the Spirit of the Living God (2 Cor. 3:2-3).


     
  7. Just as the Israelites were affirmed as God's chosen people on Shavuot with the giving of the Torah, so the Church was affirmed as God's chosen people at Shavuot after the Mashiach's ascension into heaven (on Mem B'Omer) as the Mediator of a Better Covenant (Heb. 8:6). The 3,000 souls that were added to the church that day were first fruits of the redeemed people of God. Followers of Yeshua are "chosen people" through sanctification of the Holy Spirit and faith in the truth (2 Thess. 2:13). We are chosen to be priests and kings to show forth the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Pet. 2:9; Rev. 5:10)

     
  8. In the Jewish tradition, Shavuot is compared to a wedding, for it was at this time that the covenant between God and the Jewish People was sealed at Mount Sinai (Passover is considered the time of Israel's "betrothal" or engagement to God). The LORD is the Heavenly chatan (groom) who said, "Accept Me"; the Jewish people represent the beloved kallah (bride); and the Torah represents the ketubah (marriage contract). Likewise, the church is called Kallat Mashiach - the Bride of Messiah (Rev. 21:2,9), and we eagerly await the marriage supper to come (Rev. 19:9).


     
  9. The Scroll of Ruth (מגילת רות) is read during Shavuot - a beautiful story about God's redemptive love. As the Goel (kinsman-redeemer), Boaz was a wealthy man of the tribe of Judah (Bethlehem) who married a Gentile bride. Boaz's name means "in Him is strength," a picture of the Mashiach Yeshua, his greater Descendant, who also redeemed for himself a bride from among the nations.


Personal Note: Like some of you, we've been struggling lately. We are in great need for a renewal of the Holy Spirit within our hearts... We are therefore asking the LORD for a renewed experience of His glory and grace during this season.... Shavuot Sameach, chaverim... May you be filled with the Holy Spirit, fruitful in your service, and "clothed with power from on high..."




Parashat Bamidbar - במדבר


 

[ The Torah reading for this week is parashat Bamidbar ("in the wilderness").  Please read the Torah portion to "find your place" here. ]

05.10.10  (Iyyar 26, 5770)  It is customary to refer to "books" of the Hebrew Bible according to their initial word(s).  For example, the first book of the Torah is called Bereshit ("in the beginning").  When the Hebrew Scriptures were later translated into Koine Greek (c. 3rd-2nd century BC), individual books were assigned names based on the interpretations of the sages. Therefore the Septuagint (i.e., the ancient Greek translation) named the first book of the Torah Γένεσις ("birth" or "origin"), which later made its way into English (and other languages) via Latin as the word "Genesis."

It's important to note that the names of the books were "coined" by the Greek translators and are not part of the original texts of Scripture themselves.... Therefore the "Book of Leviticus" is a transliteration of the Greek phrase βιβλίον το Λευιτικόν, ("book of the Levites"), though in a Torah scroll it was simply identified according to its first significant word: Vayikra (וַיִּקְרָא - "and he called"); likewise, the "Book of Numbers" comes from the Greek word Ἀριθμοί ("numbers"), though in a Torah scroll it was identified by the keyword Bamidbar (בְּמִדְבַּר - "in the wilderness"); and so on for the rest of the seforim (books) of the Hebrew Bible.  In Jewish tradition it is customary to refer to the names of the books in Hebrew (not Greek, etc.): Bereshit (for Genesis), Shemot (for Exodus), Vayikra (for Leviticus), and so on.

Bamidbar means "in the wilderness" and is the name associated with the fourth book of the Torah scroll.  Since several censuses are recorded in it, the sages sometimes called the book sefer ha-pekudim (the book of counting), so named because of the phrase bemispar shemot (בְּמִסְפַּר שֵׁמוֹת) - "they were counted according to their names" (Num. 1:2). The sages stress that unlike earlier censuses (e.g., Exod. 30:12-14), this one was personal because it was based on individual names (shemot).  Accordingly, and because the idea of personal counting was considered central, the book was translated in the Septuagint using the Greek word Ἀριθμοί ("numbers") as its title. As Yeshua said, even the very hairs on our heads are all numbered (Matt. 10:30).

The Tribe of Levi was the smallest of the tribes of Israel (both before and after the sin of the Golden Calf).  According to midrash, this was because the Levites were faithful to God while in Egypt and therefore did not come under the special blessing of God to supernaturally multiply those who persecuted the tribes (Exod. 1:12). Even when going out of Egypt, the LORD preserved a remnant for the sake of His Name.

The book recounts Israel's adventures in the wilderness (מִדְבָּר) from their second year of the Exodus until the 40th year. In general, it details how the tribes of Israel were counted and meticulously arranged into military camp formation around the Mishkan (tabernacle).

 

Led by the Shekhinah (שְׁכִינָה) cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night, at first the Jews were en route to the Promised Land - the land of Canaan - which the LORD swore to give to Abraham and his descendants forever.  However, the people rebelled (i.e., their complicity in the "Sin of the Spies") and were therefore condemned to wander for 40 years in the desert. This 40 year period is often thought of as a time of punishment, though it was also a time of refinement for the nation, and it was during this time that God demonstrated great love for Israel by feeding the people with manna, giving them water from rock (i.e., the so-called Well of Miriam), protecting them with the Clouds of Glory, instructing them through the teaching of Moses, and so on. God loves his people -- even when they are faithless -- and his punishments are ultimately healing and redemptive.

The Great Assembly (כְּנֶסֶת הַגְּדוֹלָה‎) decreed that parashat Bamidbar would be read on the Sabbath before the festival of Shavuot "so that the year and its curses will be terminated." This phrase refers to the "Great Rebuke" - called the Tochachah (תּוֹכָחָה) - that was delivered in the previous Torah reading (i.e., Bechukotai, the last portion of Vayikra).  Recall that this portion used 11 verses to describe the blessings for obedience (i.e., "if you follow my laws...") but used three times as many (33 verses) to describe the curses for disobedience to the Sinai covenant ("but this is what will happen if you do not listen to me"). Since the curses (קְלַלוֹת) included the destruction of the Temple and the great exile (galut) from the land, and since Shavuot commemorates the giving of the Torah at Sinai, it was thought that recommitting to the Sinai covenant during Shavuot would "reverse the curse" and cause blessing to come upon Israel. This explains why Shavuot was regarded as time for Israel to recommit themselves to talmud Torah (the study of Torah) and to renew the decision to live as a Jew. And this also explains why the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) was given to Yeshua's disciples precisely during this time after His resurrection. Instead of recommiting to Sinai we were given evidence that the New Covenant was beginning to be established at Zion....

The Hebrew word midbar ("wilderness") shares the same root (דבר) as davar, which means "word." The desert (word) of Sinai is the word of humility (ענוה). When God spoke the Torah to Moses (mattan Torah), it was from a nondescript mountain (Mount Sinai) -- a place of emptiness, brokenness and need. Indeed, another word for Sinai is Chorev (חרֵב), a word that refers to the dryness and desolation.  That is the starting point -- not the lush places of future promise.  We receive Torah bamidbar because we can only hear God's davar in a place of humility and inner quiet.  God brings us to an arid place -- inhospitable, and dangerous -- to reveal our need for Him. This is a necessary excursion to prepare us to look for the greater hope of Zion. The giving of the law was meant to offer gracious discipline until the Mashiach would come (Gal. 3:19, 24-25). Yeshua is the Greater Hope, the One who delivers us from the curse of Sinai to bring us to Zion (Gal. 3:10). We enter into the realm of promise when we personally put our trust in God's love for us -- not by redoubling our efforts to obtain favor through adherence the terms given at Sinai (Heb. 8:13). "For the Torah made nothing perfect; but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, and that is how we draw near to God" (Heb. 7:19).

Special Note: Happy Mother's Day to all you great moms out there!  What would we do without our loving mothers?




"End of Days" Ministry


 

05.10.10  (Iyyar 26, 5770)   As each day passes, I become more convinced that we are fast approaching the prophesied "End of Days" (אַחֲרִית הַיָּמִים). If you can tolerate reading the world's "news," you understand that cataclysmic, global change is being quite literally forced upon us.  Social engineering, political propaganda, disinformation campaigns, psychological warfare, economic deconstruction, junk science, etc., are routinely used by those in power (the "princes of this age") to further their hidden agendas.  We see this perhaps most clearly in the realm of economics and politics today. Many "educated" people today are functionally powerless to resist the deception foisted upon them, however, since they've been inculcated by the mass media and public indoctrination centers (i.e., public schools) to implicitly accept a "dialectical" approach to truth (see the Devil's Logic). Critical thinking, basic logical inference, testing and questioning truth claims, and so on, are generally not taught in today's schools (much less are they promoted in the mass media). Indeed, most of today's "leading intellectuals" believe that truth -- including moral truth -- is malleable and changing. The binary view of a truth claim (true/false) has been replaced with a trinary formula and "fuzzy logic."  What matters today is the pragmatic concern of "what works," and therefore we have become a culture that is enchanted by technology (i.e., power) more than by righteousness and honor.

This approach to truth is found in the halls of Christendom as well... Those of us who understand the vital importance of the Jewish roots of the Christian faith are routinely dismayed to learn that the gatekeepers of "Christianity" are unwilling to engage in serious dialog about Christian tradition and theology in light of the Jewishness of Jesus and his followers. Tragically it seems that many of today's church leaders are more interested in preserving the status quo than earnestly seeking the truth. They forget the words of the Master who said, "For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world -- to bear witness to the truth (ἀλήθεια). Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice" (John 18:37). At heart such church leaders are technological pragmatists who blindly follow a recipe of ministry that "works" -- even if it's based on traditions that have more in common with pagan Greek theology than the teachings of the Jewish Messiah. Because of this, many of us have sadly chosen to "opt out" of the traditional church world altogether.... (For more on this, see "Is Christianity Anti-Jewish?")

On the other hand, many so-called "Messianic" organizations are confused about the relationship between Torah and Covenant. They forget that the new covenant really is new. They forget that "when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the Torah as well" (Heb. 7:12). Many of these "Torah-Observant" groups confound Christians into believing that they need to "observe the law" and contradict the message of the Scriptures with the opinions and assumed authority of the "rabbis" and traditions of Judaism. (For more on this, see the Role of Torah articles.)

Ultimately we are living in the midst of a great spiritual war -- the war for truth. This has been the battle from the beginning.  The very first recorded words of Satan (הַנָּחָשׁ) questioned God's truth: "Did God really say...?" (Gen. 3:1). In the end there will be found two types of people: those who love the truth and those who love the lie.  These are the children of light (בְּנֵי הָאוֹר) and the children of darkness (בְּנֵי הַחשֶׁךְ), respectively. Followers of Yeshua the Messiah are told to "walk as children of light" / ὡς τέκνα φωτὸς περιπατεῖτε (Eph. 5:8). May God help you walk in the light...

This ministry is different than many others because it is somewhat "lonely." We're not at home among mainline Christian churches nor among Torah-observant Messianic groups. We attempt to walk a "fine line" by balancing positions and embracing paradox when necessary. And we are comfortable with questioning, engaging in earnest dialog, considering nonlinear ways of understanding the Hebrew Scriptures, and plainly confessing that we simply don't know everything.  Nonetheless, we maintain that the Gospel message simply cannot be understood out of context -- that is, apart from its Jewish origin -- and therefore the study and appreciation of the Jewish Scriptures is foundational for understanding the truth of the message of Yeshua (Luke 24:27). Therefore we study the Torah and take its message seriously. Moreover, we accept Yeshua as none other than YHVH "come in the flesh" and affirm that the salvation of God comes entirely from His love and grace -- not by our own merits or righteousness (Titus 3:5-6). As such, we attempt to provide solid Biblical truth and wisdom as a real alternative to the apostasy and confusion promoted by innumerable other groups disseminating their religious doctrines today. 

So please keep us in your prayers.  This ministry is perhaps the smallest of all ministries in the world, and we rely on you to stand with us in this fight (1 Tim. 6:12; Jude 1:3). Time is very short, and we believe that we were "raised up for such a time as this." We must therefore strive to proclaim the message while we are still free to do so. As Yeshua said, "The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light" (John 12:35-36). There is a time when the lights dim while the stage is set for something new to come. There is a day of judgment coming on this earth, and that day is drawing nearer and nearer...
 

בְּעוֹד הָאוֹר עִמָּכֶם הַאֲמִינוּ בָאוֹר לְמַעַן תִּהְיוּ בְּנֵי הָאוֹר

be·od  ha·or  im·ma·khem  ha·a·mi·nu  va·or,  le·ma·an  ti·he·yu  be·nei  ha·or

πιστεύετε εἰς τὸ φῶς, ἵνα υἱοὶ φωτὸς γένησθε
"While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light"
John 12:36

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If you believe the message and purpose of this ministry is important, please prayerfully consider supporting this work. May we all be found to be truly "walking in the light, as He is in the light" (Eph. 5:8, 1 John 1:7). Thank you and shalom.




Feeding on Faithfulness...


 

[ The following entry concerns this week's Torah (Behar-Bechukotai). Please read the Torah portion to "find your place" here. ]

05.07.10
  (Iyyar 23, 5770)  In this week's Torah we learn that God commanded the Jews not to work the fields during the Sabbatical year. Once every seven years the land was to lie fallow and not be seeded or harvested (Lev. 25:4). This "Sabbath for the land" was called Shenat Ha-Shemittah (שְׁנַת הַשְּׁמִטָּה), or the "Shemittah year." It is further called a "Sabbath for the LORD" (שַׁבָּת לַיהוה). Any produce of the field or trees that grow during the Shemittah could not be sold and were simply free for the taking, and any private loans were canceled as well. As you might imagine, in an agricultural economy the observance of shemittah was a real test of faith, since it required complete trust (emunah shelemah) that the LORD would provide despite "letting go" of the usual means of doing business... In response to the natural question, "What will we eat in the seventh year?" (Lev. 25:20), the LORD promised to regularly bless the preceding harvest to last for three years - the sixth, the seventh (shemittah), and the eighth - because planting was not permitted in the shemittah year (Lev. 25:21).

The sages note that the underlying blessing from heaven is actually the gift of contentment (שְׂבִיעוּת רָצוֹן), or being completely satisfied with little.  Rashi stated that the preceding promise, "you will eat to be satisfied" (Lev. 25:19) meant that "in your intestines there will be a blessing."  This idea is repeated parashat Bechukotai when the blessings of obedience are described (Lev. 26:5). The blessing to be satisfied - to be free of inner craving, to be unconstrained by lust, hunger, etc. - is considered a greater miracle than even the threefold provision of harvest promised for observing shemittah.  Indeed, it is often the sign of a curse to be well-off, since the rich tend to forget God and vainly believe that their own efforts bring them blessing (see Deut. 8:17). As David wrote, "Let their table be a snare for them..." (Psalm 69:22; Rom. 11:9).

When we seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, "all these things" will be added to us (Matt. 6:25-33). Those who have faith and do not question whether God will provide for them are thereby enabled to receive miraculous provision from God. Moses lived 40 days and nights on Sinai without food because he trusted that God would meet his needs (Exod. 24:18). Likewise, the wilderness generation never worried about shoes and clothing, and therefore these things never wore out (Deut. 8:4; 29:4). On the other hand, the manna that fell from heaven might have been given as a concession to human frailty, since Israel would have miraculously survived without food just as Moses had on the mountain as they made the journey from Sinai to Zion.  According to midrash, the manna itself tasted either satisfying or repulsive based on the attitude and faith of each person. For those who believed in the goodness of God, the manna tasted delectable; for those who mistrusted God, it tasted like gravel in the mouth.

Ultimately it may be said that God satisfies us based on our desire or will. As Yeshua said, "According to your faith be it done for you" (Matt. 8:13, 9:29). "Let it be as you have trusted." This idea is also expressed by King David in the Psalms:
 

פּוֹתֵחַ אֶת־יָדֶךָ וּמַשְׂבִּיעַ לְכָל־חַי רָצוֹן׃

po·te'ach  et-ya·de·kha  u·mas·bi·a  le·khol-chai  ra·tzon

"You open your hand and satisfy the desire
 of every living thing" (Psalm 145:16)
 

The LORD sustains us according to the expression of our ratzon (will or desire). When we eat food, the hunger within us is a signal of our will to live, and God in His goodness provides food for us to eat. God rewards people according to their desires: the wicked in this world and the righteous in the world to come. Often the righteous do not receive any reward for their faith in this world and yet the wicked seem tranquil and content. Indeed, the Midrash states, "From the righteous, God collects payment in this world for the misdeeds they have committed, in order to give them reward in the World to Come; which God gives peace to the wicked in this world, paying them for the few good deeds they have done, so as to inflict punishment upon them in the World to Come." According to their desires, God rewards the wicked in this world and the righteous in the world to come. As C.S. Lewis once said, "There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, 'Thy will be done,' and those to whom God says, in the end, 'Thy will be done.'"
 

    Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matt. 6:19-21)
     

In this connection, Kierkegaard tells the story of a poor old couple that possessed nothing but poverty. As they grew older, their anxiety about the future increased:
 

    They did not assail heaven with their prayers, for they were too pious for that; but nevertheless they continually cried to heaven for help. Then it happened one morning that the wife, going out to the oven, found a precious stone of great size upon the hearth. She immediately showed the stone to her husband, who saw at once that they were well supplied for the rest of their life. A bright future for this old couple – what joy! Yet, God-fearing as they were, and content with little, they resolved that since they had enough to live upon for another day, they would sell the jewel not that day, but the following. And then a new life would begin.

    That night the woman dreamed that she was transported to paradise. An angel took her around and showed her all the glories an oriental imagination could invent. Then the angel led her into a hall where there were long rows of armchairs adorned with pearls and precious stones, which, the angel explained, were for the devout. Finally the angel showed her the chair that was intended for her. Looking more closely, the woman saw a large jewel was missing from the back of the seat. She asked the angel how that had come about.

    Now be alert, here comes the story! The angel answered, "That was the precious stone you found on the hearth. You received it in advance, and so it cannot be inserted again." In the morning the woman related the dream to her husband. She felt they should hold on to the stone for a few years longer rather than let the precious stone be absent throughout eternity. And her devout husband agreed. So, that evening they laid the stone back on the hearth and prayed to God that he would take it back. In the morning, sure enough, it was gone. Where it had gone the old couple knew: it was now in its right place. (Attack upon Christendom, 246)


In the end, you can only "keep" what you give away (John 12:25). This old couple's treasure was stored in the "right place," free from the vanity and illusions of this world and its comforts, and free from the concessions made to human frailty that would result in an eternal loss...


Feed on Faithfulness

The blessing we regularly recite over bread (hamotzi lechem) is really a prophecy of sorts. "Blessed are You, Lord our God, who will bring bread up from the earth." This applies first of all to the resurrection of Yeshua from the dead, but it also applies to Yeshua as lechem ha-chayim (לֶחֶם הַחַיִּים), the Bread of Life (John 6:35). We may not be tested to see whether the LORD will provide for us in obedience to His commandment to observe the Shemittah year, but the principle of being fed by faith still applies to us:
 

בְּטַח בַּיהוה וַעֲשֵׂה־טוֹב שְׁכָן־אֶרֶץ וּרְעֵה אֱמוּנָה׃

be·tach  ba·Adonai va·a·seh-tov,  she·chon-e·retz  ur·reh  e·mu·nah

Trust in the LORD and do good;
dwell in the land and feed on faithfulness. (Psalm 37:3)
 

Are you trusting in the Lord's care for your life, despite the shock waves of a world that is beginning to face judgment?  Are you "feeding on the faithfulness" of God? Or are you more anxious about the present economy than about your future life in heaven?  God has promised to never leave nor forsake you (Josh. 1:5, Heb. 13:5). Where is your treasure being stored, chaverim?  The trials and testings of this life are meant to prepare us for eternity. They are God-given opportunities to exercise faith! We have one chance to walk this life and then we face judgment. "Let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not" (Gal. 6:9). I pray we do not miss the reward that comes from living in genuine faith in God's Presence and provision.
 

לא אַרְפְּךָ וְלא אֶעֶזְבֶךָ

lo ar·pe·kha  v'lo  e·ez·ve·kha

"I will not fail you nor abandon you" (Josh. 1:5)



Personal Update: I found a small office space that I will be renting on a month-to-month basis, beginning next week.  Hopefully this will allow me to work on some larger projects during "normal" working hours. Please keep this work in your prayers, chaverim. It's been a struggle, but a "good fight of fight," we believe... And we sincerely appreciate your love and support along the way. We couldn't be here without you.  Shabbat Shalom.




Strangers and Settlers...


 

[ The following entry concerns this week's Torah (Behar). Please read the Torah portion to "find your place" here. ]

05.05.10
  (Iyyar 21, 5770)  Parashat Behar includes two special laws that were intended to radically affect the social, economic, and spiritual well-being of Jews in ancient Israel. The first law was to "release the land" every seventh year, called ha-shemittah (הַשְּׁמִטָּה), which meant that the land would lie fallow by not being seeded or harvested. The shemittah law involved far more than simply refraining from agricultural labor, however, since it implied that everyone was required to forgive all their debtors as well (Deut. 15:1-4). This recurring cycle of "rest and forgiveness" was to be commemorated as an appointed time (מוֹעֵד) when everyone would gather together during the festival of Sukkot to listen to the Torah read aloud (Deut. 31:10-12). God's word was proclaimed from Zion; the land would breath and rest; people's burdens were lifted; and everyone would dwell in booths (sukkot) to recall their temporary status on the way to obtaining an eternal inheritance... No wonder Sukkot was regarded as the most joyous of the moedim!

The second law was even more joyous. After seven of these seven-year sabbatical cycles (shemittot) had elapsed, the 50th year (called Yovel (יוֹבֵל) or the "Jubilee" year) was proclaimed, and all servants would be set free (i.e., "released"), all debts would be forgiven, and the land would be "reset" to its original condition (Lev. 25:8-17). This joyful occasion is called the "Jubilee Release" and signifies the life of redemption (גְּאֻלָּה) for the community of God. It is also called Shemittah LaAdonai: "the LORD's Release" (Deut. 15:2). Just as Shavuot comes after seven cycles of seven days (i.e., the 50th day of Sefirat HaOmer) and therefore represents the perfection of freedom, so the Jubilee Year (Yovel) signals a time of freedom, dignity and equality for all people.

On Yom Kippur of the Year of Jubilee, a great shofar blast (i.e., teruah: תְּרוּעָה) would be sounded throughout all the land to proclaim liberty: "You shall sound the shofar on the tenth day of the seventh month, on the Day of Atonement (וֹם הַכִּפֻּרִים) shall you sound the shofar throughout all your land. And you shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land to all its inhabitants thereof: it shall be a Jubilee (יוֹבֵל) for you. And you shall return every man to his estate, and you shall return every man to his family" (Lev. 25:8-10). Despite the fact that part of this verse appears on the "Liberty Bell" in Philadelphia, this verse ultimately refers to the coronation of the Mashiach Yeshua as the true liberator of the Jewish people....

The observance of shemittah (שְׁמִטָּה) was a real test of faith, since it meant that the Jews had to completely trust that the LORD would provide for them, despite abandoning their usual farming and banking practices. God repeatedly warned the Jews not to oppress one another (Lev. 25:14,17) and explicitly promised His protection and care despite these counterintuitive practices (Lev. 25:18-22). Sadly, the people did not observe the laws of shemittah, and this eventually lead to the 70 year captivity in Babylon, one year in captivity for each year that shemittah was disregarded (2 Chron. 36:20-21).


 

Regarding the laws of Shemittah and Yovel, the LORD states: "The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine, for you are strangers (גֵּרִים) and settlers (תּוֹשָׁבִים) with me" (Lev. 25:23). This is a paradoxical phrase, since a ger is one who is just passing through, like a visitor or tourist, whereas a toshav is one who is a resident, like a settler or citizen. How can someone be both a visitor and a resident of a place, or a stranger and a citizen at the same time? How can one "pass through" a place he is said to dwell?

Concerning this paradox the Maggid of Dubna comments: "If you see yourselves in this world as strangers and remember that you are here only for a short visit, passing through the hallway of this world, then I will settle among you. However, should you see yourselves as settlers on this world, "owners" who are here to stay, then I am but a stranger among you. Either you are the settlers and I the stranger, or you the stranger and I the settler."

In other words, God "settles" among those who are exiles in this world...  Those who "settle" here, who lay claim to this world, therefore make God their stranger. As James the Righteous warned, "Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God" (James 4:4). Likewise the Apostle John admonished: "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him... For the world is passing away along with its lusts, but whoever does the will of God shall abide forever" (1 John 2:15,17). Those who walk in faith invariably regard themselves as gerim v'toshavim (גֵּרִים וְתוֹשָׁבִים) - "strangers and exiles" upon the earth (Heb. 11:13).


 

Abraham "sojourned" in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with his children because he looked for a city whose builder and maker was God (Heb. 11:9-11). Likewise we are strangers and exiles here, on the journey to the reach "the City of Living God, to heavenly Jerusalem, to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven" (Heb. 12:22-23). When we take up the cross and follow Yeshua, we die to this world and its dreams. We die to ourselves in order to find life (Mark 8:35-36). We give up houses, lands, all our possessions, family relationships, and even our own lives in order to find residence with God (Matt. 19:29; Luke 14:26). We reckon ourselves "dead" to this world as our home and "look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal" (2 Cor. 4:18). We walk by faith, not by sight.  Faith is the conviction (ἔλεγχος) of things unseen (Heb. 11:1) - and that includes the conviction that God will visibly care for our needs even if we let our gardens go fallow and release our claim on all our debtors...

We must venture out to take hold of the miraculous Presence of God. "According to your faith be it done unto you" (Matt. 9:29). I pray that we do not miss this awesome opportunity to truly share the present exile with God, chaverim, for one day those who are "strangers" with Him shall share His glory.... Meanwhile, we are not without comfort, though we still groan for the great homecoming to come.




The Lost Passion for Zion...


 

[ The following is related to Yom Yerushalayim, which occurs Wed. May 12th this year. ]
 

    "If the war was over tomorrow, Zion is where the party would be." - The Wachowski brothers (from the 1999 film, "The Matrix")

    "What does Athens have to do with Jerusalem?" - Tertullian


05.03.10  (Iyyar 19, 5770)  Undoubtedly we are living in that "dystopian" age that C.S Lewis (among others) foresaw -- a time when people, controlled by propaganda, social engineering ("political correctness"), postmodern relativism, etc., would be rendered virtually unable to hold to genuine conviction. The world system (κόσμος) makes parades for cultural diversity; it celebrates and applauds our differences; it preaches sensitivity and consensus for "alternative lifestyles"; and it always panders to the crowd: but God forbid that an individual should seriously stand up for objective truth in the public square and exercise sincere moral conviction... No, today's insidious propaganda machine regularly inculcates that the only "absolute truth" is that there is no absolute truth; that the only "true god" is the fictive god of relativism, plurality, and metanarrative diversity; and that the only real virtue is a promiscuous tolerance that lends itself to secular syncretism (producing gutless acquiescence and passivity).  Violation of the world's code leads to collision and eventual persecution (i.e., "hate/thought crimes," etc.).  The spirit of our age derives from the Hegelian dialectic, that is, the "triangulation" or "mediation" of historically conditioned ideas with the aim of "reinventing truth" as something to be (dynamically) shaped, controlled, managed, manipulated, and directed...  It's the foundation of social control theories of various kinds (see the Devil's Logic), and it's the prevailing creed of the "movers and shakers" of this world system....

Sadly, this all-pervading ethos has even infiltrated many "Bible-believing" churches of our time, so that many church leaders regard the ideal of "Zion" (צִיּוֹן) and its great hope as something quaint and perhaps even a little bit naive.  Many of today's Evangelical teachers, for example, seem to regard the ancient hope of Zion and the reestablishment of the modern State of Israel as an historical accident, without any theological significance. They do not regard the Jewish people's regathering to their ancient homeland as a miracle, nor do they regard it as a sign that we are beginning to see the prophesied period known as acharit hayamim - the End of Days. (As I've written about elsewhere, this indifference ultimately comes from an allegorical reading of the Scriptures that confuses the "Church" with the Israel and therefore regards the historical presence of the nation of Israel as something of an embarrassment.) 

The world "Zion" is mentioned over 160 times in the Scriptures. That's more than the words faith, hope, love, and countless others... And since Zion is a poetic form of the word Jerusalem, the number of occurrences swells to nearly 1,000! It is therefore not an overstatement to say that God Himself is a Zionist.... "Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth" (Psalm 50:2)Zion represents the rule and reign of God in the earth and is therefore synonymous with the Kingdom of God. The entire redemptive plan of God -- including the coming of the Messiah Himself and our very salvation -- is wrapped up in the concept of Zion. It is the "historiography" of God -- His philosophy of history, if you will. And this perhaps explains why the world system (and its agency, the devil) routinely mischaracterizes and condemns "Zionism" as a form of racism or injustice... (It is remarkable that the ideal of Zion was reintroduced to popular culture in the 1999 movie "The Matrix," where a member of the resistance said, "If the war was over tomorrow, Zion is where the party would be at." This is remarkable because this message should be regularly preached in our churches rather than given voice through a Hollywood movie).


 

Friends, how can we forget Zion, "the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem" (Heb. 12:22)? Is she not "our mother" (Gal. 4:26)? Are we not her citizens, indeed, her exiles in this age?  As the psalmist said, "If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill! Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy!" (Psalm 137:5-6). Of course we are instructed to "pray for the peace of Jerusalem" (Psalm 126:6), but we are further told to "badger" the LORD until he makes Zion "the praise of the earth" (Isa. 62:7).

God loves Zion since it symbolizes His redemptive program in human history. In a sense, Zion is the heart of the Gospel message and the focal point of God's salvation in this world.  Zion represents our eschatological future -- our home in olam haba (the world to come). Even the new heavens and earth will be called Jerusalem -- Zion in her perfection (Rev. 21). "This is what Adonai Tzeva'ot says: I am very jealous for Jerusalem and Zion, but I am very angry with the nations that feel secure" (Zech. 1:14-15). "For Zion's sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem's sake I will not remain quiet, till her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch" (Isa 62:1). "The builder of Jerusalem is God, the outcasts of Israel he will gather in... Praise God, O Jerusalem, laud your God, O Zion" (Psalm 147:2-12).




25 Reasons why Jerusalem Matters


 

05.03.10  (Iyyar 19, 5770)  This year, Wednesday May 12th is "Jerusalem Day" (Yom Yerushalayim), commemorating the reunification of Jerusalem on June 7th, 1967 (during the Six Day War). Yeshua called Jerusalem the "City of the great King" (Psalm 48:2; Matt 5:35). It is the place where He was crucified, buried, resurrected, and from whence He ascended to heaven. It is also the birthplace of kehilat Mashiach (i.e., the "church") and the focal point of humanity's eschatological future. One day (soon) Yeshua will physically return to Jerusalem as Mashiach ben David to restore the throne of King David.  At that time, all the New Covenant promises given to ethnic Israel will be literally fulfilled as the Kingdom of God is manifest upon the earth. May that day come speedily, and in our day...

Spiritually speaking, Jerusalem, and in particular Mount Moriah (i.e., the Temple Mount), is considered the most important place on earth, for the following reasons:

  1. According to the Jewish sages, God began the creation of the universe there, and the bedrock at Moriah is called Even ha-Shetiyah (אֶבֶן הַשֶׁתִייָה), "the Foundation Stone," referring to the creation of the earth on the First Day (Isaiah 28:16).
  2. The dust of Moriah is said to have been used to create Adam (who was later placed in the "garden which lay to the East"). As will be seen, man was created from the place of his atonement.
  3. According to common Jewish tradition, Moriah was the place that Adam first offered sacrifice, as did his sons Cain and Abel. So did Noah and Abraham. King David and Solomon set the altar for the First Temple there. 
  4. It was in Jerusalem that Abraham met with Malki-Tzedek (Gen 14:18; Heb 7:1).
  5. Abraham offered Isaac on Mount Moriah (Gen 22:1-19). This is known as Akedat Yitzchak or "the binding of Isaac" and clearly prefigures the sacrifice of God the Father of Yeshua His Son.
  6. After the Akedah, Isaac is not mentioned again until he met his bride there (Gen 24:63-67). This is a picture of the bride of the Messiah.
  7. Jacob had his dream of the ladder to heaven there (Gen 28:10-22).
  8. Moses foresaw the Holy Temple (Ex. 15:17) and was given its blueprint at Sinai (i.e., the Miskhan or Tabernacle).
  9. According to the Talmud, Jerusalem was named by God. The name has two parts: Yira, which means "to teach," and shalam, which means "peace."  Jerusalem is the place where God would teach humanity the meaning of peace, through the Prince of Peace, Yeshua the Mashiach, and His sacrifice for humanity.
  10. King David made Jerusalem the capital of Israel (2 Sam 24:18-25).
  11. Solomon built the First Temple there (1 Kings 6-8; 2 Chron 3:1-2).
  12. Zerubbabel and Nehemiah built the Second Temple there (Neh 4-6). Later, King Herod (37-4 BC) remodeled and enlarged it, but the Romans destroyed it in 70 AD (the massive retaining wall (the Kotel or Wailing Wall) that encompass Mount Moriah is all that remains of the Second Temple).
  13. We are explicitly commanded to pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Ps 122:6).
    שַׁאֲלוּ שְׁלוֹם ירוּשׁלם יִשְׁלָיוּ אהֲבָיִךְ / sha'alu shalom Yerushalayim...
  14. The Messiah Yeshua called Jerusalem the "City of the Great King" (Matt 5:35) and had special affection for it (Matt 23:37). He attended the festivals there (Luke 2:43, John 2:23), taught there, and performed His sacrificial work there (Matt 16:21).
  15. Yeshua was crucified in Jerusalem, just to the north of Moriah at Golgatha (Matt 27:33). There is also sound archaeological evidence to suppose that the place of the crucifixion of Yeshua was at the summit of Mt. Moriah, probably near the present-day Damascus Gate.
  16. Yeshua was raised from the dead in Jerusalem (Luke 24:46-7).
  17. Yeshua ascended from Mount Olives in Jerusalem (Acts 1:12).
  18. The "church" (kehilat Mashiach) was born in Jerusalem (Acts 1:4,8,12; 2:1-40).
  19. The Apostle Paul kept the Jewish festivals and ceremonial laws in Jerusalem (even after coming to faith in Yeshua as Adonai - see Acts 18:18; 20:6; 21:20-24) and was willing to be killed there for the sake of Messiah (Acts 21:13).
  20. The writer of the book of Hebrews calls Jerusalem "the City of the Living God" -
    הַר צִיּוֹן אֶל־עִיר אֵל חָי (Heb 12:22).
  21. Jerusalem is the place where the Third Temple (tribulation temple) will be built
    (Rev 11; Matt 24).
  22. Jerusalem is the place where Yeshua the Messiah will return in glory
    (Zech 14:4; Acts 1:12; Matt 24).
  23. Jerusalem is the place where the Fourth Temple (millennial temple) will be built (Ezekiel 40-45).
  24. Jerusalem is the name of the coming paradise of God, which descends upon the earth after the millennial reign of Messiah (Rev  3:12, 21:2, 10).
  25. Jerusalem is the most frequently occurring place name in the Scriptures, mentioned over 800 times (Zion is mentioned an additional 152 times). Note that although Scripture sometimes calls all of Jerusalem "Zion," Mount Zion lies about half a mile to the West of Moriah. In ancient times a deep valley separated Mount Zion from Mount Moriah, but today rubble from Jerusalem's many destructions completely fills this valley. Just east of Mount Moriah is the Mount of Olives which is about 300 feet higher than the high points of Mt. Zion or Mt. Moriah. Yeshua ascended to heaven from the summit of the Mt. of Olives according to Acts 1:1-12 and will make his triumphant return to earth from the same location, according to Zechariah 14:4.

     

A famous midrash sums up the sentiment of many Jews regarding Jerusalem and the Holy Temple:

    "As the navel is set in the center of the human body, so is the land of Israel the navel of the world; as Jerusalem is in the center of the land of Israel, so is the sanctuary in the center of Jerusalem; as the holy place is in the center of the sanctuary, and the ark is in the center of the holy place, and the foundation stone is before the holy place, so from it the world was founded." (Adapted from Midrash Tanchuma, Kedoshim)
     

Since the status of Jerusalem is presently in grave peril, I earnestly appeal to all followers of Yeshua to "pray for the peace of Jerusalem" (שַׁאֲלוּ שְׁלוֹם ירוּשׁלם / Sha'alu Shalom Yerushalayim) -- and for the protection of our Jewish friends living in Israel (Psalm 122:6).




Parashat Behar-Bechukotai


 

[ This week we have another "double portion" of Torah: parashat Behar and Bechukotai, sometimes collectively referred to as Behar-Bechukotai. ]

05.03.10  (Iyyar 19, 5770)  Why is it, the sages reasoned, that the LORD bypassed all of the world's great and lofty mountains and chose to give His Torah on the humble mountain of Sinai?  Because God's Spirit (רוח) rests with the lowly, the humble of heart. Therefore humility (ענוה) is considered one of the greatest of middot ha-lev (heart qualities).

It is perhaps in this connection that we should understand the commandments given in this parashah to refrain from harvesting the land every seventh year (the shemittah - שׁמטּה) and to cancel all outstanding debts every 50 years (during the Yovel - יובל). Each of us must live in conscious dependence on God's provision and care for our lives... The earth is the LORD's and the fulness thereof, and in the end everything reverts back to God, since He alone owns all things. "From Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things."

 

God reveals Himself to the lowly in spirit (שְׁפַל־רוּחַ), that is, to those who understand their own nothingness and complete dependence on Him.... Notice that the word dakka (דַּכָּא) refers to being crushed to the very dust, as Yeshua was verily crushed for our iniquities (Isa. 53:10). From the point of view of our dependence on God for salvation, dakka refers to humility and contrition we evidence in light of God's love and grace for our souls... Pride, arrogance, and self-righteousness are antithetical to the awareness of God in the truth.

According to the Sages, of all the various berachot (blessings) mentioned in this portion of Torah, the most desirable is that of shalom (שָׁלוֹם), or peace.  The Birchat Kohanim (the priestly blessing) ends with the word shalom, as does the Shemoneh Esrei (sometimes called the "Amidah") -- the central prayer of the synagogue. The root שׂ-ל-מ indicates not merely the absence of strife but completion and fulfillment, a state of wholeness and unity, and this implies a restored relationship with God and man. Hence the word can be variously understood to mean "peace, prosperity, well, health, completeness, safety." Shalom is a necessary precondition for all other forms of goodness.  It represents the Presence and Rule of God over the hearts and souls of humanity. May God grant you His shalom, chaverim.




Lag B'Omer and Kabbalah

    
 

[ Sunday, May 2nd is the 33rd day of the Omer Count, or "Lag B'Omer" (which technically began at sundown on Saturday). Lag B'Omer is regarded as a mystical holiday in Judaism. ]

05.02.10
  (Iyyar 18, 5770)  Last night I read (in the Jerusalem Post) that a half a MILLION Jews traveled to the city of Meron (near Tzfat, Israel) to celebrate Lag B'Omer this year. That is an astounding number, especially when you consider that the total population of Israel is just over 7 million people.  To put this in some perspective, that would be like 21.5 million Americans traveling to a single city to celebrate a religious festival.... The incredible popularity of Lag B'Omer reveals just how pervasive and entrenched Kabbalistic mysticism is in the land of Israel today. It's clear that among many Israelis today Kabbalah is synonymous with "spirituality." Mt. Meron even functions somewhat like ancient Jerusalem did during the time of the Temple!

The study of Kabbalah has become nearly "mainstream" these days, even outside of Israel. Go to any major book store and take a look through the Judaism section.  There you're likely to see a number of books, tapes, and DVDs offering to guide you into the "mystical side" of Jewish spirituality. Several Hollywood stars openly promote its teachings, and various TV stations run specials on the subject. Indeed, the fastest growing movement in Judaism is Chabad-Lubavitch, which is Kabbalistic in its approach.

Because of its growing influence, I have written some preliminary articles exploring the subject of Kabbalah -- both for "apologetical" purposes and because understanding it may help share your faith with your Jewish friends.  Of course we must be careful to use discernment that comes from the Holy Spirit to "test the spirits" (1 John 4:1) -- and that especially pertains to the those who teach any kind of mysticism.  Satan is a deceiver who can disguise himself as an "angel of light" (2 Cor. 11:4). Moreover it is clear that God has not chosen to reveal all of His secrets to us in the Scriptures, and there is much that will remain a mystery: "The secret things belong unto the LORD our God; but the things that are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever" (Deut. 29:29). Nonetheless if we ask the true Light of the world (אוֹר הָעוֹלָם) - Yeshua our LORD - to give us the wisdom, understanding, and knowledge that we need to truly love and serve Him, He will surely answer our prayer....
 

    "My people have been lost sheep. Their shepherds have led them astray, turning them away on the mountains. From mountain to hill they have gone. They have forgotten their fold." (Jer. 50:6) 
     

The popularity of Kabbalah is lamentable. Many of these dear people are sincerely seeking spiritual life; many have never been given the opportunity to study the message of Yeshua impartially, apart from oversight of religious authorities and the bias of tradition. Please never forget that Christians owe their salvation to the Jewish people, as Yeshua himself said: "Salvation is of the Jews" (John 4:22). Please pray for the beloved Jewish people... They need Yeshua, the true Tree of Life! We love the Jewish people and pray for their teshuvah. May the day soon come when all of Israel cries out, Baruch Haba b'shem Adonai ("Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the LORD") in reference to Yeshua -- the rightful King of the Jews (Matt. 23:39).

Note:  Today I read another article about how Mr. Obama is now threatening to politically abandon Israel unless they submit to the idea of a two-state "solution." Please remember Israel in your prayers....




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