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Tehillim / Psalms 46, Part 1, Under what Condition is God our Refuge and Strength?

Published on July 23, 2014, by in Tehillim.

This week’s study is from Tehillim / Psalms 46:1-11, David opens the Psalm saying, א לַמְנַצֵּחַ לִבְנֵי-קֹרַח עַל-עֲלָמוֹת שִׁיר: For the director of music. Of the Sons of Korah. According to alamoth. A song. (NASB) The Psalm continues saying ב אֱלֹהִים לָנוּ מַחֲסֶה וָעֹז עֶזְרָה בְצָרוֹת נִמְצָא מְאֹד: ג עַל-כֵּן לֹא-נִירָא בְּהָמִיר אָרֶץ וּבְמוֹט הָרִים בְּלֵב יַמִּים: 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. 46:2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; (NASB) Based upon Parashat Ha’azinu, on the time-scale of mankind, the earth is considered to be unmovable. The idea of the earth changing and the mountains slipping into the sea appears to be an impossible thing, yet in the midst of these things the Lord is our strength and refuge, He is able to help us no matter what the circumstance as in the case of the waters roaring and foaming and the mountains quaking (ד יֶהֱמוּ יֶחְמְרוּ מֵימָיו יִרְעֲשׁוּ הָרִים בְּגַאֲוָתוֹ סֶלָה:).  Read More here: Tehillim 46-Part1

 

 
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Bits of Torah Truths, Parashat Massei, Being Reckless or Unintentional in our walk before God

This weeks reading is from Parsahat Massei (Bamidbar / Numbers 33:1-36:13), Moshe recounts the various places that Israel had traveled during the wilderness journey.  Following these things, the Lord speaks to Joshua to be sure that Israel gives to the Levites cities and land for their cattle.  The Scriptures go on the describe the cities of refuge where one may flee to if one accidentally kills another person.  In Parashat Shoftim (Devarim / Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9) we read of the cities of refuge by which a man who accidentally killed someone could flee and find sanctuary.  Here we read that the one who accidentally kills may flee to the city of refuge for sanctuary and a fair trial.  According to Parashat Massei, we are told the person who accidentally killed someone is required to remain in the city of refuge until the death of the high priest who was anointed with the holy oil.  Based upon today’s society, if a person accidentally kills someone, he is tried in a court of law, and is released if he is found to be innocent, he is free to go about his business as a regular member of society.  But according to the Torah, the one who accidentally kills is forced to remain in the city of refuge until the death of the high priest, this could be a very long time and depending upon one’s age, could be a lifetime.  Does this seem fair?

ספר במדבר פרק לה
כב   וְאִם-בְּפֶתַע בְּלֹא-אֵיבָה הֲדָפוֹ אוֹ-הִשְׁלִיךְ עָלָיו כָּל-כְּלִי בְּלֹא צְדִיָּה: כג   אוֹ בְכָל-אֶבֶן אֲשֶׁר-יָמוּת בָּהּ בְּלֹא רְאוֹת וַיַּפֵּל עָלָיו וַיָּמֹת וְהוּא לֹא-אוֹיֵב לוֹ וְלֹא מְבַקֵּשׁ רָעָתוֹ: כד   וְשָׁפְטוּ הָעֵדָה בֵּין הַמַּכֶּה וּבֵין גֹּאֵל הַדָּם עַל הַמִּשְׁפָּטִים הָאֵלֶּה: כה   וְהִצִּילוּ הָעֵדָה אֶת-הָרֹצֵחַ מִיַּד גֹּאֵל הַדָּם וְהֵשִׁיבוּ אֹתוֹ הָעֵדָה אֶל-עִיר מִקְלָטוֹ אֲשֶׁר-נָס שָׁמָּה וְיָשַׁב בָּהּ עַד-מוֹת הַכֹּהֵן הַגָּדֹל אֲשֶׁר-מָשַׁח אֹתוֹ בְּשֶׁמֶן הַקֹּדֶשׁ: כו   וְאִם-יָצֹא יֵצֵא הָרֹצֵחַ אֶת-גְּבוּל עִיר מִקְלָטוֹ אֲשֶׁר יָנוּס שָׁמָּה: כז   וּמָצָא אֹתוֹ גֹּאֵל הַדָּם מִחוּץ לִגְבוּל עִיר מִקְלָטוֹ וְרָצַח גֹּאֵל הַדָּם אֶת-הָרֹצֵחַ אֵין לוֹ דָּם: כח   כִּי בְעִיר מִקְלָטוֹ יֵשֵׁב עַד-מוֹת הַכֹּהֵן הַגָּדֹל וְאַחֲרֵי-מוֹת הַכֹּהֵן הַגָּדֹל יָשׁוּב הָרֹצֵחַ אֶל-אֶרֶץ אֲחֻזָּתוֹ:

Bamidbar / Numbers 35:22-28
35:22 ‘But if he pushed him suddenly without enmity, or threw something at him without lying in wait, 35:23 or with any deadly object of stone, and without seeing it dropped on him so that he died, while he was not his enemy nor seeking his injury, 35:24 then the congregation shall judge between the slayer and the blood avenger according to these ordinances. 35:25 ‘The congregation shall deliver the manslayer from the hand of the blood avenger, and the congregation shall restore him to his city of refuge to which he fled; and he shall live in it until the death of the high priest who was anointed with the holy oil. 35:26 ‘But if the manslayer at any time goes beyond the border of his city of refuge to which he may flee, 35:27 and the blood avenger finds him outside the border of his city of refuge, and the blood avenger kills the manslayer, he will not be guilty of blood 35:28 because he should have remained in his city of refuge until the death of the high priest. But after the death of the high priest the manslayer shall return to the land of his possession. (NASB)

In the United States, the Model Penal Code makes killing a human being murder if the killer purposes to kill or knows he is killing (Model Penal Code § 210.2(1)(a)(1962), § 210.2(1)(b). “Recklessly” finds its definition in section 2.02(2)(c): A person acts recklessly with respect to a material element of an offense when he consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the material element exists or will result from his conduct. The risk must be of such a nature and degree that, considering the nature and purpose of the actor’s conduct and the circumstances known to him, its disregard involves a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a law-abiding person would observe in the actor’s situation.).  Studying Parashat Massei, according to Bamidbar / Numbers 35:6, 9-15 the text says  טו   לִבְנֵי יִשְֹרָאֵל וְלַגֵּר וְלַתּוֹשָׁב בְּתוֹכָם תִּהְיֶינָה שֵׁשׁ-הֶעָרִים הָאֵלֶּה לְמִקְלָט לָנוּס שָׁמָּה כָּל-מַכֵּה-נֶפֶשׁ בִּשְׁגָגָה: 15 These six cities shall be for refuge for the sons of Israel, and for the alien and for the sojourner among them; that anyone who kills a person unintentionally may flee there (NASB) providing a standard for making a distinction between capital and non-capital punishment by using the word “unaware” (בִּשְׁגָגָה).  The meaning of this term is that the person “by mistake” or “in error” rendered as “unintentionally” caused the death of a person.  The word is used to reflect the sense that the error resulted in the death of a person.  The question is though a person who is unaware, mistaken, in error, or unintentional, whether such a person is still responsible for his actions and accountable before God and therefore required to be under citizen arrest and remain in the city of refuge the rest of his life?

In the midrashic literature, the rabbis have their own commentary on these verses according to Midrash Rabbah Bamidbar, Parashat 23, Part 13 (מדרש רבה במדבר פרשה כג סימן יג):

Midrash Rabbah Bamidbar, Parashat 23, Part 13
13.  Then you shall appoint you cities of refuge that the man-slayer may flee thither (35:2).  This bears on the Scriptural texts, Good and upright is the Lord, therefore does He instruct sinners in the way (Tehillim / Psalms 25:8).  Remember, O Lord, Sovereign of the Universe.  Were it not for Your mercies which came to the timely assistance of Adam, he could not have survived.  For it says, In the day that you eat you will surely die (Bereshit / Genesis 2:17).  But You did not do so unto him.  You did merely exclude him from years, and only then did he die.  What did You do to him?  You did merely drive him from the Garden of Eden; as it says, So He drove out the man (Bereshit / Genesis 3:24).  Why was he driven out?  Because he brought death upon future generations, and deserved to die immediately, but You did have compassion upon him and did drive him out, as is the fate of one who commits murder in error, such a man having to be an exile from his own home to the cities of refuge.  Consequently, it says, Remember O Lord, Your compassions and Your mercies, for they have been from old (Tehillim / Psalms 25:6).  When Moshe came and the Holy One blessed be He, said to him, Then you will appoint cities, moshe replied, Sovereign of the Universe.  If a man slays a person unwittingly in the north or in the south, how is he to know where the cities of refuge are, so as to flee thither?  Said He to him, You will prepare (takin) you the way (Devarim / Deuteronomy 19:3), implying, You will make for yourself straight (tekawen) roads so that they will not miss the way, and being found by the avenger of the blood, be killed, Whereas he was not deserving of death.  Still he asked Him, How?  Said He to him, Put up for them resting stations on the direct route to the cities of refuge, so that he may know how to get there, and on every station let there be an inscription saying “The man-slayer to the cities of refuge” as it says, You will prepare you the way.  Accordingly, David said, Good and upright is the Lord; therefore, does He instruct sinners in the way.  Now, if for man-slayers He prepared a path and a road, by which they might escape and be delivered, how much more so, in the case of the righteous, is it true that He guides the humble in justice; and teaches the humble His way (Tehillim / Psalms 25:9).  That the man-slayer that kills any person through error may flee thither (Bamidbar / Numbers 35:2).  Through error, but not presumptuously.  If he should slay a man presumptuously and say, I have slain him in error and flee to the cities of refuge, the Holy One blessed be He, states, Even if he flees and comes to My altar, slay him; as it says, And if a man come presumptuously upon his neighbor to slay him with guile; you will take him from My altar, that he may die (Shemot / Exodus 21:14).

The midrash describes the cities of refuge and the mercy of God that allows a man to flee to one of these cities so he may receive a fair trial.  The idea in the midrash is that God instructs sinners in His ways and Adam is given as an example of God’s mercy and instruction, driving him from the Garden of Eden rather than killing him outright for disobeying the command.  The mercy of God is brought under the context that Adam by his sin brought death to future generations, because the children of Adam would be given to sin, for this he deserved death, but God showed mercy.  The midrash goes on to parallel the one who fled to the city of refuge (man-slayer) to the one who fled to the altar (Joab).  The one who fled to the altar that was slain was Joab.  The rabbis go on to speak of being presumptuous of one’s neighbor to slay him, of those who are slain by a court of law are not laid in their father’s graves but in a grave by themselves which might be a reference to an unmarked grave because such a person violated the covenant by taking an innocent life.  The midrash continues by drawing a parallel to various descendents of David to describe who was paid back or slain for the death of Uriah.  It seems strange that the command of the fathers not being guilty of the sins of their sons, and the sons will not be guilty of the sins of their fathers, is contrasted with the descendents of David receiving punishment for the sin of killing Uriah.  How does that reasoning work?  It could be that David taught his children murder by his actions.  The result of this sin, learning to sin, resulted in wickedness being passed down from generation to generation.  This illustrates the importance of being godly parents.

David said in Tehillim / Psalms 25:8-9, 25:8 Good and upright is the Lord; Therefore He instructs sinners in the way. 25:9 He leads the humble in justice, And He teaches the humble His way. (NASB)  The land of Israel is the place in which God is going to place His name, the place He will be worshiped, the location of His house, His dwelling place, and we are told this place is to be sanctified by destroying the graven images, the groves, the high places of pagan worship, etc, and there is one way to approach the Lord God Almighty and to commune with Him.  That will be in the way and the place He chooses.  Because of these things it is necessary to destroy the places of wickedness that snare people away from the life and righteousness God expects from us.  The purpose is to prevent future idolatry and spiritual adultery.  We are told to choose to live righteously, to choose truth and justice.  Today, the choice to act wickedly and bring darkness into ones heart is very easy.  Making choices between right and wrong also can have an effect on our relationship with God.  Both the Torah portion and the midrash seem to speak about making choices in this life.  If we make the right choices, we will not be found in the situation of the man-slayer who must flea to a city of refuge.  If one makes a presumptuous decision and has a disregard for life (being unintentional) and accidentally killing someone, there are consequences that will follow regardless of the reasons why.  According to Parashat Vayikra, the Scriptures says that even if one is unaware of their sins, they are still guilty and will bear the punishment.

Vayikra / Leviticus 5:17
5:17 ‘Now if a person sins and does any of the things which the Lord has commanded not to be done, though he was unaware, still he is guilty and shall bear his punishment. (NASB)

יז   וְאִם-נֶפֶשׁ כִּי תֶחֱטָא וְעָשְֹתָה אַחַת מִכָּל-מִצְוֹת יְהֹוָה אֲשֶׁר לֹא תֵעָשֶֹינָה וְלֹא-יָדַע וְאָשֵׁם וְנָשָֹא עֲוֹנוֹ:

Here the Torah speaks of the one who “does not know” (וְלֹא-יָדַע) whereas the man-slayer is “mistaken” or “unintentional” (בִּשְׁגָגָה).  In the case of the man-slayer, he knows the difference between right and wrong but yet has a disregard for life.

In Parashat Massei, a stern warning is given Bamidbar / Numbers 33:51 ‘Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When you cross over the Jordan into the land of Canaan, 33:52 then you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, and destroy all their figured stones, and destroy all their molten images and demolish all their high places.’ (NASB)  This warning is for all of us to be careful not to bring the accursed thing into our heart, mind, and soul that will damage our relationship with God.  As believers we are still capable of straying into enemy territory and coming under bondage by the evil one.  In the book of Joshua, the accursed thing brought immediate failure in battle which marked the Lord’s judgment of sin.  If we wink at sin in the lives of others or even in our own lives, the direct evidence may be observed in the repeated failure into habitual sin.  The battle for us today is in our hearts, in our imagination, this is one of the reasons why the Lord told us that he will make a new covenant with us and write his Torah on our hearts according to Jeremiah 31 and  Hebrews 10:16.  Studying the Word of G0d, memorizing scripture, and keeping G0d’s Word hid in our hearts will help to overcome sin, and identify the practices that lead up to the work of sin in our lives.

2 Peter 1:2-12
May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness (ESV)

According to the Apostle Peter, self-control, self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness… Parashat Massei suggests that we pay particular attention to others (loving one another), and not be reckless, in error, mistaken, or unintentional in our walk before God. BTT_Parashat Massei-2014

 

 
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Tehillim / Psalms 45, Part 2, What is the Horse of the Kingdom and how does that relate to the Torah?

Published on July 17, 2014, by in Tehillim.

This week’s study is from Tehillim / Psalms 45:1-18, David says, ח אָהַבְתָּ צֶּדֶק וַתִּשְֹנָא רֶשַׁע עַל-כֵּן | מְשָׁחֲךָ אֱלֹהִים אֱלֹהֶיךָ שֶׁמֶן שָֹשֹוֹן מֵחֲבֵרֶיךָ: 45:7 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of joy above Your fellows. (NASB) He says the Lord’s garments are fragrant with myrrh, aloes, and cassia. Are these a description of the temple incense? It is interesting that the Psalmist requests that the daughter forget her fathers house (45:10), why do you think he is asking her to forget her fathers house? The daughter of the king is described as “all glorious within (45:13), her clothing is interwoven with gold, she has beautiful embroidered work, they will be led with gladness and rejoicing (45:15). The Psalmist concludes saying יז תַּחַת אֲבֹתֶיךָ יִהְיוּ בָנֶיךָ תְּשִׁיתֵמוֹ לְשָֹרִים בְּכָל-הָאָרֶץ: יח אַזְכִּירָה שִׁמְךָ בְּכָל-דֹּר וָדֹר עַל-כֵּן עַמִּים יְהוֹדֻךָ לְעֹלָם וָעֶד: 45:16 In place of your fathers will be your sons; You shall make them princes in all the earth. 45:17 I will cause Your name to be remembered in all generations; Therefore the peoples will give You thanks forever and ever. (NASB) The sons appear to carry on the memory of the king. This is an example of a king who passes his knowledge of the Lord on to his children and they in turn pass this on to their children.  Read more here:Tehillim 45-Part1-and-2

 

 
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Bits of Torah Truths, Parashat Mattot, Allowing our Wealth to Draw us away from God

 

This weeks reading is from Parsahat Mattot (Bamidbar / Numbers 30:2-32:54). the Lord commands the men of Israel saying נְקֹם נִקְמַת בְּנֵי יִשְֹרָאֵל מֵאֵת הַמִּדְיָנִים assemble to make war against Midian to “avenge the children of Israel of the Midianites.”  The men went and made war with Midian, burning their cities and killing the men but they kept the women and children alive.  Moshe was angry with the military officers for keeping the women alive because they were the ones who caused the people to sin against the Lord at Baal Peor on the counsel of Bilam.  In addition to this, the Scriptures tell us that the sons of Reuben and Gad had a large number of cattle and they desired to remain on this side of the Jordan to make their homes.  The Scriptures say they asked to not be taken across the Jordan river into the Promised Land.  Based upon the war with Midian, the people keeping the women and children alive, and these people wanting to remain on this side of the Jordan, these Scriptures appear to be speaking to us about bondage and the lust of our own desires verses a life that is surrendered to God’s will and purpose.  Did the sons of Reuben and Gad desire God’s will for their lives?  Remember the Torah says that God will bless and prosper Israel in the Promised Land, did they lack faith in God’s promises?

ספר במדבר פרק לב
א   וּמִקְנֶה | רַב הָיָה לִבְנֵי רְאוּבֵן וְלִבְנֵי-גָד עָצוּם מְאֹד וַיִּרְאוּ אֶת-אֶרֶץ יַעְזֵר וְאֶת-אֶרֶץ גִּלְעָד וְהִנֵּה הַמָּקוֹם מְקוֹם מִקְנֶה: ב   וַיָּבֹאוּ בְנֵי-גָד וּבְנֵי רְאוּבֵן וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֶל-מֹשֶׁה וְאֶל-אֶלְעָזָר הַכֹּהֵן וְאֶל-נְשִֹיאֵי הָעֵדָה לֵאמֹר: ג   עֲטָרוֹת וְדִיבֹן וְיַעְזֵר וְנִמְרָה וְחֶשְׁבּוֹן וְאֶלְעָלֵה וּשְֹבָם וּנְבוֹ וּבְעֹן: ד   הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר הִכָּה יְהוָֹה לִפְנֵי עֲדַת יִשְֹרָאֵל אֶרֶץ מִקְנֶה הִוא וְלַעֲבָדֶיךָ מִקְנֶה:   ס   ה   וַיֹּאמְרוּ אִם-מָצָאנוּ חֵן בְּעֵינֶיךָ יֻתַּן אֶת-הָאָרֶץ הַזֹּאת לַעֲבָדֶיךָ לַאֲחֻזָּה אַל-תַּעֲבִרֵנוּ אֶת-הַיַּרְדֵּן:

Bamidbar / Numbers 32:1-5
32:1 Now the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad had an exceedingly large number of livestock. So when they saw the land of Jazer and the land of Gilead, that it was indeed a place suitable for livestock, 32:2 the sons of Gad and the sons of Reuben came and spoke to Moses and to Eleazar the priest and to the leaders of the congregation, saying, 32:3 ‘Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Sebam, Nebo and Beon, 32:4 the land which the Lord conquered before the congregation of Israel, is a land for livestock, and your servants have livestock.’ 32:5 They said, ‘If we have found favor in your sight, let this land be given to your servants as a possession; do not take us across the Jordan.’  (NASB)

In Parashat Mattot, the sons of Reuben and of Gad say 32:5 “… ‘If we have found favor in your sight, let this land be given to your servants as a possession; do not take us across the Jordan.’”  (NASB)  This is a significant statement to make having come all this way and all those many years to turn around and ask that they would not be taken over the Jordan into the Promised Land.  Based upon their request, Moshe and Aaron thought they were again trying to discourage the sons of Israel from crossing over into the Land.  In the process of trying to explain what the sons of Reuben and Gad were thinking at this point in time, the rabbis expound upon the Section of Scripture from Parashat Mattot in Midrash Rabbah Bamidbar, Parashat 22, Part 9 (מדרש רבה במדבר פרשה כב סימן ט) saying the following:

Midrash Rabbah Bamidbar, Parashat 22, Part 9
An alternative exposition of the text, Now a very great multitude of cattle (Bamidbar / Numbers 32:1).  This bears on what Scripture says, A wise man’s understanding is at his right hand; but a fool’s understanding at his left (Ecclesiastes 10:2).  The expression, A wise man’s understanding is at his right hand, applies to the good inclination which is set on one’s right, while the expression, A fool’s understanding at his left, applies to the evil inclination which is set on one’s left.  Another exposition is that the expression, A wise man’s understanding is at his right hand, refers to the righteous who apply their minds to the Torah, which is on the right; as it says, At His right hand was a fiery law unto them (Devarim / Deuteronomy 33:2), while A fool’s understanding at his left, alludes to the wicked, who set their minds on getting rich; as it says, In her left hand are riches and honor (Mishley / Proverbs 3:16).  Another exposition, the expression A wise man’s understanding is at his right hand, applies to Moshe, while A fool’s understanding at his left, applies to the children of Reuben and the children of Gad, who made the main thing the subordinate, and put the subordinate thing first, for they cherished their property more than human life, saying to Moshe, We will build sheepfolds here for our cattle, and cities for our little ones (Bamidbar / Numbers 32:16).  Moshe said to them, That is not right.  Rather, do the more important things first, build you cities for your little ones (Bamidbar / Numbers 32:24), and afterwards Folds for your sheep.  Thus, we have explained the expression, A wise man’s understanding is at his right hand as applying to Moshe, and a fools understanding at his left as applying to the children of Reuben and the children of Gad.  The Holy One blessed be He, said to them, Seeing that you have shown greater love for your cattle than for humans souls, by your life, there will be no blessing in it.  Of them it says, an estate may be gotten hastily at the beginning; but the end thereof shall not be blessed (Mishley / Proverbs 20:21).  In the same strain it says, Weary not yourselves to be rich; cease from your own wisdom (Mishley / Proverbs 23:4).  And who is rich?  He that is contented with his lot; as it says, When you eat the labor of your hands, happy will you be, and it will be well with you (Tehillim / Psalms 128:2).

The midrash opens with the wise man having understanding at his “right hand” and the fool, his understanding at his “left hand.”  The idea taken out of the midrash is that the righteous stand on the right side, whereas the wicked are on the left.  The rabbis equate the fools understanding to the left hand, to the wicked, and to the children of Reuben and Gad because they desired to get rich by remaining on this side of the Jordan.  Note how they say that they cherished their wealth over life.  The last time the congregation decided not to go over to the Promised Land they had to stay 40 years in the wilderness and many died.  The rabbis say that the Lord (the Holy One blessed be He) said to the children of Reuben and Gad “Seeing that you have shown greater love for your cattle than for humans souls, by your life, there will be no blessing in it.”  The idea is that they desired wealth rather than human souls and since their focus was on material things, there would be no blessing from God not to mention that the blessing was supposed to come inside of the Promised Land and not outside.  Remember mount Ebal and Gerizim, the blessing and the curses in Parashat Re’eh (Devarim / Deuteronomy 11:29) the blessing and the curses, inside and outside of the Promised Land respectively, the curse is paralleled to those who are outside.  The midrash also equates the right hand with Moshe, and the left hand with a fool’s understanding.  The interesting point here is with regard to the right-verses-left imagery that is being illustrated.  Why do the rabbis correlate the right hand with righteousness and the left with wickedness?  In the Scriptures, we often find the use of the right-verses-left imagery and so the question is “why do the Scriptures emphasize the right hand so often?”

Today we have a phrase that is known as one’s “Right hand man.”  According to Merrian-Websters Dictionary, the definition of “Right hand man”  is the following:

Websters’ Definition of “Right hand man”

  1. A soldier holding a position of responsibility or command on the right of a troop of horses
  2. A valuable assistant upon whom one is accustomed to rely

The idea of the right hand man is as a servant who works on behalf of his master, the one who is at the right hand has the authority of the master to go forth on his behalf, similar to the soldier who has authority to command the troop of horses.  The Scriptures also equate the right hand to the “arm of the Lord” in the Torah.
According to the book of Exodus and Deuteronomy, Israel attained her liberation from slavery (Egypt) by the power of God, symbolized by his victorious conquering arm.  There are several expressions used to describe the victorious arm, two stand out as being the most frequently occurring, yad hazaqah (ְיָד חֲזָקָה) “hand / arm of strength,” and zeroa netuiah (ִזְרוֹעַ נְטוּיָה) “outstretched arm.”  These two expressions are found most frequently in Exodus and Deuteronomy.

yad khazakah (ְּיָד חֲזָקָה)       
Shemot / Exodus 3:19
Shemot / Exodus 13:3, 14, 16
Shemot / Exodus 32:11
Devarim / Deuteronomy 3:14
Devarim / Deuteronomy 6:21
Devarim / Deuteronomy 9:26
zeroa netuiah (ִּזְרוֹעַ נְטוּיָה)Shemot / Exodus 6:6
Devarim / Deuteronomy 9:29
Devarim / Deuteronomy 26:8

Both expressions are paralleled in Devarim / Deuteronomy 4:34, 5:15, and 7:19.  For example, according to Devarim / Deuteronomy 4:34:

Devarim / Deuteronomy 4:34
4:34 ‘Or has a god tried to go to take for himself a nation from within another nation by trials, by signs and wonders and by war and by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm and by great terrors, as the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes? (NASB)

לד   אוֹ | הֲנִסָּה אֱלֹהִים לָבוֹא לָקַחַת לוֹ גוֹי מִקֶּרֶב גּוֹי בְּמַסֹּת בְּאֹתֹת וּבְמוֹפְתִים וּבְמִלְחָמָה וּבְיָד חֲזָקָה וּבִזְרוֹעַ נְטוּיָה וּבְמוֹרָאִים גְּדֹלִים כְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר-עָשָֹה לָכֶם יְהוָֹה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם בְּמִצְרַיִם לְעֵינֶיךָ:

The Scriptural use of the “right hand” range from a description of direction to the opposite of doing wrong (doing what is right).  Being on the right suggests that one lives with justice and righteousness and conforms to a standard of holiness (Torah principle) thus the right hand is a place of honor and authority.  According to Bereshit / Genesis 48:13-14 (48:13 Joseph took them both, Ephraim with his right hand toward Israel’s left, and Manasseh with his left hand toward Israel’s right, and brought them close to him. 48:14 But Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on the head of Ephraim, who was the younger, and his left hand on Manasseh’s head, crossing his hands, although Manasseh was the firstborn. NASB) Jacob divided the blessings over Joseph’s sons and emphasis is given making the distinction between the right and the left hands, and the older and younger sons.

In the first century, the believers understood the “right hand” as a place of honor, dignity, and authority according to the Apostle Paul’s words to the Ephesians in Ephesians 1:19-21 (1:19 and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might 1:20 which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places 1:21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. NASB)  Paul says that our Father in heaven exalted Yeshua above all others and seated Him at His right hand.  The “right hand” is used in prophecy relating to the Messiah looking forward to what God was going to do, to give the Messiah power and authority to subdue His enemies (see Tehillim / Psalms 110:1 and 118:16).  Yeshua being seated at the right hand of God enables him to intercede on our behalf (Romans 8:34).

In addition to this, the Mishneh Torah (מִשְׁנֶה תּוֹרָה‎, “second Torah”) is subtitled “Sefer Yad HaHazaka” (ספר יד החזקה, “Book of the Strong Hand”) written by Maimonides (Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon) also known as Rambam.  This Torah principle of the “right hand” has made its way into Judaism in the following manner.  Based upon Tehillim / Psalms 118:15, the Scripture says “God’s right hand does valiantly” which has become the source text for the right hand taking preference to the left.  For example, when performing the ritual washing (netilat yadayim) the right hand is washed first.  When one lays hold of an object such as the cup of wine for the Kiddush, one holds it in the right hand to illustrate its importance.  When holding food for the Berachah (the blessing) one holds it in the right hand.  When giving charity, one is to give money with the right hand to illustrate how we are to give back to the Lord with great importance (Midrash Rabbah Devarim, Parshah 5).  The midrash states “two things are in the right hand of the Holy One – charity and Torah. Charity, as it says (Tehillim / Psalms 48) Charity fills your right hand.”  According to the Shulchan Aruch (OH 651:3), is the teaching that a left-handed person should hold the mitzvah in their right hand – as the right-hand side is spiritually always on the right; e.g. the laws of shaking lulav and etrog, where the Ashkenazi and Sephardi traditions are explained.  There are many more ways in which the “right hand” illustration is used in Judaism, but I think you get the point that based upon the Scriptures there is a significance to the use of the right hand that not only brings glory to God but is known as a reference to honor, power, and authority that is given by both man and God.

The important point about this weeks Torah reading, the sons of Reuben and Gad had a large number of cattle, they desired wealth and they wanted to remain on this side of the Jordan to make their homes.  Midrash Rabbah opens with the rabbis saying a wise man has understanding at his “right hand” and the fool, his understanding at his “left hand.”  The righteous stand on the right side, whereas the wicked are on the left.  The fools understanding is equated to the children of Reuben and Gad because they desired to get rich by remaining on this side of the Jordan in the wilderness rather than going over into the Promised Land to take hold of the promises of God.  All of these things taken into context speak to us about the bondage and lust of our own desires verses a life that is surrendered to God’s will and purpose.  Have you surrendered your life and will to God’s purposes or do you desire to take hold of a blessing while remaining in the wilderness of sin?  When the children of Israel finally got almost across the wilderness previously, they were afraid to go in and take what was theirs.  Their own sin, stubbornness and lack of faith held them back.  Is sin, stubbornness, and lack of faith holding you back today?  The Scriptures say “Those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5:4)  Have you done this or are you actively seeking God for help to do this?  The theme here in Parashat Mattot (Bamidbar / Numbers 30:2–32:42) is the reality and difference between spirituality and life.  Today, there are people who are primarily active in the world of commerce and the professions, while there are others who devote themselves to studying Torah (and/or the Scriptures).  The lesson of the Parshah is that today we are faced with having to make a living, but there is also the necessity of spending time in God’s Word and Seeking His presence in our lives.  Let’s not allow our wealth or our freedoms to draw us away from the Lord and His promises to serve our own passions, wants, and desires.  Let’s take some time out of our busy days for the Lord to serve others, to seek His face, and to Pray. BTT_Parashat Mattot-2014

 
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Tehillim / Psalms 45, Part 1, What is the Horse of the Kingdom and how does that relate to the Torah?

Published on July 9, 2014, by in Tehillim.

This week’s study is from Tehillim / Psalms 45:1-18, the Psalm opens saying א לַמְנַצֵּחַ עַל-שׁשַׁנִּים לִבְנֵי-קֹרַח מַשְֹכִּיל שִׁיר יְדִידֹת: ב רָחַשׁ לִבִּי | דָּבָר טוֹב אֹמֵר אָנִי מַעֲשַֹי לְמֶלֶךְ לְשׁוֹנִי עֵט | סוֹפֵר מָהִיר: For the choir director; according to the Shoshannim. A Maskil of the sons of Korah. A Song of Love. 45:1 My heart overflows with a good theme; I address my verses to the King; My tongue is the pen of a ready writer (NASB) The Psalmist continues saying 45:2 You are fairer than the sons of men; Grace is poured upon Your lips; Therefore God has blessed You forever. 45:3 Gird Your sword on Your thigh, O Mighty One, In Your splendor and Your majesty! 45:4 And in Your majesty ride on victoriously, For the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness; Let Your right hand teach You awesome things. 45:5 Your arrows are sharp; The peoples fall under You; Your arrows are in the heart of the King’s enemies. 45:6 Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of uprightness is the scepter of Your kingdom. (NASB) The Psalmist describes the Lord as a warrior, girding His sword, his arrows hit the heart, and His throne is eternal. He continue saying ח אָהַבְתָּ צֶּדֶק וַתִּשְֹנָא רֶשַׁע עַל-כֵּן | מְשָׁחֲךָ אֱלֹהִים אֱלֹהֶיךָ שֶׁמֶן שָֹשֹוֹן מֵחֲבֵרֶיךָ: 45:7 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of joy above Your fellows. (NASB) He says the Lord’s garments are fragrant with myrrh, aloes, and cassia. Are these a description of the temple incense?  Read More Here:

Tehillim 45-Part1

 

 
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Bits of Torah Truths, Parashat Pinchas, My Food and My Offerings

In this weeks reading from Parashat Pinchas (Bamidbar / Numbers 25:10-30:1) the Lord speaks to Moshe saying that Pinchas, the son of Eleazar, has turned away His wrath from the sons of Israel because he was zealous for the Lord.  Pinchas’ Jealousy for the Lord is found in Bamidbar / Numbers 25:7-9.  Pinchas saw the sin of the sons of Israel and took action against a man who was sinning.  In this week’s Torah reading, the Lord commands the children of Israel to be careful that they bring the food offerings in their appointed times.

ספר במדבר פרק כח
א   וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָֹה אֶל-משֶֹה לֵּאמֹר: ב   צַו אֶת-בְּנֵי יִשְֹרָאֵל וְאָמַרְתָּ אֲלֵהֶם אֶת-קָרְבָּנִי לַחְמִי לְאִשַּׁי רֵיחַ נִיחֹחִי תִּשְׁמְרוּ לְהַקְרִיב לִי בְּמוֹעֲדוֹ: ג   וְאָמַרְתָּ לָהֶם זֶה הָאִשֶּׁה אֲשֶׁר תַּקְרִיבוּ לַיהוָֹה כְּבָשִֹים בְּנֵי-שָׁנָה תְמִימִם שְׁנַיִם לַיּוֹם עֹלָה תָמִיד: ד   אֶת-הַכֶּבֶשֹ אֶחָד תַּעֲשֶֹה בַבֹּקֶר וְאֵת הַכֶּבֶשֹ הַשֵּׁנִי תַּעֲשֶֹה בֵּין הָעַרְבָּיִם: :

Bamidbar / Numbers 28:1-4
28:1 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 28:2 ‘Command the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be careful to present My offering, My food for My offerings by fire, of a soothing aroma to Me, at their appointed time.’ 28:3 ‘You shall say to them, ‘This is the offering by fire which you shall offer to the Lord: two male lambs one year old without defect as a continual burnt offering every day. 28:4 ‘You shall offer the one lamb in the morning and the other lamb you shall offer at twilight; (NASB)

Note how the Scriptures are worded here, the Scriptures say “My food (bread)” (לַחְמִי) and “My offerings” (קָרְבָּנִי).  The idea here is that the Lord is calling the offerings of food and sacrifice His.  The people are not to think in terms of their offering being “theirs.”  Consider the tithe for a moment.  When giving to a particular ministry, do you think in terms of the offering being yours that “you” are giving away?  The Scriptures tell us that the Lord fed our fathers in the wilderness for the purpose of humbling them and He tested them to see if they would choose to do what is right.  The Scriptures were given so that we may learn we do not gain our wealth by the power of our own hand but by the mercy of God.  Devarim / Deuteronomy 8:18 states that the Lord gives us the ability to work so that He can confirm the covenant that He has made with us and that he swore to our fathers.

Devarim / Deuteronomy 8:16-18
8:16 ‘In the wilderness He fed you manna which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do good for you in the end. 8:17 ‘Otherwise, you may say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.’ 8:18 ‘But you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day. (NASB)

The rabbis pick up on the words “My food” (לַחְמִי) and “My offerings” (קָרְבָּנִי) and write the following in Midrash Rabbah Bamidbar, Parashat 21, Part 16 (מדרש רבה במדבר פרשה כא סימן טז).

Midrash Rabbah Bamidbar Parashat 21, Part 16
My food which is presented unto me for offerings made by fire (28:2).  The Holy One blessed be He, said to Moshe, Tell Israel that I ask for this not because I require sacrifices.  The whole world is Mine.  The beasts which you will sacrifice I created.  In the same strain it says, If I were hungry I would not tell you (Tehillim / Psalms 50:12).  For Me, it implies, there is neither eating nor drinking.  R. Simon said, Thirteen attributes of mercy are recorded of Him; as it says, And the Lord passed before him, and proclaimed, The Lord … merciful, etc. (Shemot / Exodus 34:6), and is it conceivable that the merciful would entrust his food to the cruel?  This explains the text, If I were hungry, I would not tell you.  R. Judah cites the following in the name of R. Simon, the Holy One blessed be He, said, I have put at your disposal then clean animals.  Three are in your domain and seven are not in your domain.  I did not trouble you to run about among the mountains to fetch a sacrifice from those that are not in your domain.  I only bade you bring from those that are reared by your own crib.  This explains the text, Do I not take bullocks out of your house or goats out of your folds? (Tehillim / Psalms 50:9).  This explains, If I were hungry, I would not tell you.  R. Isaac said, It is written, My food which is presented unto Me.  But is there such a thing as eating and drinking for Him?  You can learn the answer by analogy with the ministering angels, of whom it says, His ministers are a flaming fire (Tehillim / Psalms 104:4).  Whence do they derive their sustenance?  R. Judan, citing R. Isaac, said, From the lustre of the shechinah they derive their sustenance; as it says, In the light of the king’s countenance is life (Mishley / Proverbs 16:15).  R. Simeon b. Lakish said, It is written, A continual burnt offering, which was offered in mount Sinai (Bamidbar / Numbers 28:6).  If you assume that I (God) eat and drink, you may learn the contrary from Moshe.  See what is written of him, And he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water (Shemot / Exodus 34:28).  Now if I ate and drank, he would have done the same.  This explains the text, If I were hungry, I would not tell you.

The midrash discusses the present topic of “My food” and “My Sacrifices.”  They say the Lord does not require sacrifices because He is the creator and owner of all life on earth.  They also discuss whether the Lord needs to eat and they conclude the Lord does not need to eat and therefore does not require that one brings the Sacrifice.  This seems to fly in the face of the doctrine that Israel needed to “earn” their salvation by bringing sacrifices at the Tabernacle doesn’t it?

Note how the sacrifices are a picture of sin and death and the requirement of innocent laying down for the guilty (bearing the guilt) so one may be forgiven of sins.  The sacrifice represents death and this is the reason why God does not glory in sacrifice, because it would lead one to think in terms of our God being a god of death.  Our Lord glories in life, in righteousness, and in holiness.  According to Isaiah, the Lord has a passion for His glory, so much so that he will delay His wrath for the purpose of His name’s sake.  His wrath brings death, whereas His mercy brings life.

Isaiah 49:9-11
48:9 ‘For the sake of My name I delay My wrath, And for My praise I restrain it for you, In order not to cut you off. 48:10 ‘Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. 48:11 ‘For My own sake, for My own sake, I will act; For how can My name be profaned? And My glory I will not give to another. (NASB)

Notice what the Lord is saying in Isaiah 49:9-11, He says “For My name’s sake,” “For the sake of My praise,” “For My own sake,” “How should My name be profaned,” and “My glory I will not give to another.”  The point is that the Lord desires to display the glory of His name and according to Midrash Tehillim 45, Part 1, the Lord plans on doing this in the world to come by placing His glory upon us in the Olam Haba.  The Apostle Paul’s interpretation on this is that we are given the praise and glory of His grace in Yeshua the Messiah according to his letter to the Ephesians.

Ephesians 1:4-6, 12, 14
1:4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 1:5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 1:6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. (NASB)

1:12 to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory. (NASB)

1:14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory. (NASB)

Paul interprets the words of Isaiah and agrees with the rabbis that the Lord desires to place His presence (glory) in His children (Isaiah 43:6-7 Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, every one who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory.)  Yeshua had the same purpose in mind for the glory of God in John 12:27-28 in the garden when he said, “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’”  The Apostle Peter says the Lord  wants us to serve Him in a way that will glorify His name, “Whoever serves, [let him do it] as one who serves by the strength which God supplies – in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (l Peter 4:11)  Note again this is a parallel to Parashat Ekev in Devarim / Deuteronomy 8:18.  Paul also tells us that Yeshua will fill us with fruits of righteousness for God’s glory in Philippians 1:9, 1:11, “It is my prayer that . . . [you be] filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”

In this world, the Lord allows the bad things to happen to us so that we make the choice to choose righteousness and justice for His name’s sake, even in the midst of evil that is being done to us.  The purpose is to bring glory to His name and we fulfill our purpose of being created, which again is to bring glory to His name!  The Torah’s instruction to be conscious to bring “My food (bread)” (לַחְמִי) and “My offerings” (קָרְבָּנִי) in their appointed times is a reminder of what we have in this life, what we set before the Lord does not truly belong to us but to our Father in heaven.  With this kind of attitude, we can with great joy give to the Lord and be disciples unhindered by the me, myself, and I, mentality.  In Isaiah 54:13 we read, יג   וְכָל-בָּנַיִךְ לִמּוּדֵי יְהֹוָה וְרַב שְׁלוֹם בָּנָיִךְ:  “All your children will be disciples of YHVH and great will be the peace of your children.”  The context of Isaiah 54 says, in righteousness you will be established, whoever assails you will fall, no weapon that is formed against you will prosper, there is a heritage in the Lord for His servants, the Lord will give water and food who need them, and working for wages that perish and do not satisfy.  The Lord says to listen to Him, eat what is good, listen and obey so we live and the Lord will make an everlasting covenant with us, and will call a nation Israel does not know.  Isaiah is speaking of listening and obeying God’s Word.  According to the rabbis, we know that eating and living is paralleled to studying Torah and having life (e.g. shomer mitzvah shomer nafsho).  Note, Yeshua uses a similar hermeneutic in John 6 (e.g. he who eats my body and drinks my blood will have life).  Our Father God through Isaiah instructs the wicked to forsake his ways and the unrighteous to forsake his thoughts and let these men return to the Lord and He will have compassion on him and forgive his sins.  Yeshua‘s words in John 6:45 are reminiscent of Isaiah 54-55 and of the Torah portion for this week.

John 6:44-47
6:44 ‘No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. 6:45 ‘It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught of God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me. 6:46 ‘Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father. 6:47 ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. (NASB)

Yeshua says that “Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.” (6:45)  How do we learn and hear from our Father in heaven if we are not studying the Torah and the life of Yeshua?  The Lord in His calling men to Himself, he gives an internal peace that leads to outward peace with one another, safety, happiness, righteousness, and truth; the Lord is setting up His kingdom in each of us in righteousness and holiness in the Messiah.  According to Habakkuk 2:14 we read, “For the earth will be filled With the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, As the waters cover the sea.” (NASB)  Here we find a future expectation of the glory of God indwelling His people.  This is accomplished by understanding this Torah concept of “My food (bread)” (לַחְמִי) and “My offerings” (קָרְבָּנִי) that we have nothing to offer besides our faith in the One whom God had sent to save us from our sins, Yeshua the Messiah.  Believe, trust, place your faith in Him (Yeshua) today and enter into the peace and inheritance that He has for you for the glory and praise of the Lord God Almighty, our Father who is in Heaven! BTT_Parashat Pinchas-2014

 
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Book Review – Two Books – Rags to Rabbi and Destroyed from Within

Published on July 4, 2014, by in Anouncements.

Hello Everyone,

I had the opportunity to read two books recently, titled “Rags to Rabbi,” and  “Destroyed from Within.”  Reading through these books the author uses her own life story to describe the power of God to bring healing, in Yeshua the Messiah, even under the worst of circumstances.  The author has a unique ability to draw the reader into the storyline and it was difficult to put the books down until finished reading. Carmen Welker, in brutal reality, speaks of her struggles in life, and how gracious and merciful our Father in Heaven is to each one of us.  I highly recommend the following books…

 

Rags To Rabbi
Authored by Carmen Welker
Edition: 2

“Rags to Rabbi” – the author’s own story – pulls no punches as it reveals, in graphic detail, the horrors of sexual abuse. It should be read by anyone who has ever been mentally or sexually abused because, in the end, the book shows that there IS healing – and that this healing comes NOT from secular psychiatrists, but ONLY from God, who is able to heal from the inside out. The story, which unfolds chronologically from early childhood on, is one of rejection, mental and sexual abuse and indescribable horrors at the hands of Carmen’s natural mother and adoptive father, who happened to be a raving pedophile. It follows her struggles with life and relationships as she fought the demons of her past – which remained well into middle age, when she finally found peace in God. This book should be required reading for any pedophile/sexual predator so they can finally see an “in your face” description of the terror they impose on their innocent victims, whose lives are usually ruined!

Publication Date:  May 08 2013
ISBN/EAN13: 162374010X / 9781623740108
Page Count: 352
Binding Type: US Trade Paper
Trim Size: 6″ x 9″
Language: English
Color: Black and White
Related Categories: Religion / Christian Education / Adult

 

Destroyed from Within

Authored by Carmen Welker
Edition: 1
“Satan just walked through the door!”Those were Rebecca Ritter’s initial thoughts when handsome rancher, R. B. “Rex” Lambert, walked through the front door of the synagogue!And she was right. Not only did Rex end up wreaking havoc in the congregation, but he also devastated the leadership, caused some to lose their faith in God, and even managed to destroy the Rabbi’s marriage. Making matter worse, his very presence caused “flashbacks” for the forty-something Becca – flashbacks to a childhood fraught with unspeakable horrors at the hands of her demented father, Klaus-Dieter Behringer – a former guard at the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp, who had a few sinister “skeletons in his closet”….Set in the beautiful countryside near Seymour, Missouri, “Destroyed from Within” is an intense, fast-moving psycho-thriller revealing how the “sins of the father” are passed along from generation to generation…while depicting the many ways in which weak faith and poor leadership can lead people completely away from God.

Publication Date: Jun 14 2014
ISBN/EAN13: 1623740134 / 9781623740139
Page Count: 298
Binding Type: US Trade Paper
Trim Size: 6″ x 9″
Language: English
Color: Black and White
Related Categories: Fiction / Thrillers / Suspense

 

 
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Tehillim / Psalms 44, Part 2, For the Glory of God

Published on July 2, 2014, by in Tehillim.

This week’s study is from Tehillim / Psalms 44:1-26, David says the Lord brings victories (44:4), He defeats the enemy (44:5), He puts the enemy to shame (44:7), David does not trust in his sword (44:6) but trusts in the Lord and gives Him thanks forever (44:8).  The Psalmist then states that the Lord has brought dishonor upon their army (44:10), He has caused them to be scattered and to turn back from their enemy (44:10), He has given them as sheep to be eaten (44:11), the people have been sold cheaply (44:12), He made them to be a reproach to the neighbors (44:13) and to become a byword among the nations (44:14).  David says יז  מִקּוֹל מְחָרֵף וּמְגַדֵּף מִפְּנֵי אוֹיֵב וּמִתְנַקֵּם: 44:16 Because of the voice of him who reproaches and reviles, Because of the presence of the enemy and the avenger. (NASB)  Who is he referring to?  He says even in the midst of all these things, they have not forgotten the Lord and have not dealt falsely with God’s covenant (44:17).  What does it mean to deal falsely with the covenant?  He continues saying they have not deviated from the way of God (44:18) and have not forgotten the name of their God (44:20).  The Lord knows the secret things of the heart (44:21).  David says they are killed all day long for the Lord’s sake (44:22).  Why is their dying all day long for the sake of God?  He asks the Lord if He is asleep, to raise up and help (44:23-25).  David concludes his Psalm saying כז   קוּמָה עֶזְרָתָה לָּנוּ וּפְדֵנוּ לְמַעַן חַסְדֶּךָ: asking the Lord to rise up, to help, and to redeem him for the sake of His grace (חַסְדֶּךָ). Read more here: Tehillim 44-Part1-and-2

 
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Bits of Torah Truths, Parashat Balak, Greed and Reasoning around the Command

In this weeks reading from Parashat Balak (Bamidbar / Numbers 22:2-25:9) Balak king of Moab saw what the children of Israel had done to the Amorites and both he and the people of Moab were afraid being very anxious about Israel’s presence.  As a result, Balak asks for help from a man called Bilam.  Now Bilam was well known according to Balak saying, כִּי יָדַעְתִּי אֵת אֲשֶׁר-תְּבָרֵךְ מְבֹרָךְ וַאֲשֶׁר תָּאֹר יוּאָר “For I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed.” (22:6).  According to the Torah, Bilam was a man who had the ear of the Lord God in Heaven.  He had a reputation that he could hear from God.  As the story goes, at the persistence of Balak, Bilam travels with the men from Balak and God’s anger burned against Bilam.  The Angel of the Lord stood in the way of Bilam’s donkey to slay him.  Bilam is very persistent; three times he turns to continue on his way being unaware that his life was in eminent danger.  How often do you think we walk in eminent danger if we are not walking and living according God’s Word?  Last week, Moshe and Aaron failed to sanctify the Name of God (Bamidbar / Numbers 20) with dire consequences.  In this week’s reading, Bilam failed to obey God’s Word and if it wasn’t for the mercy of God, Bilam would have died.

ספר במדבר פרק כב
כא   וַיָּקָם בִּלְעָם בַּבֹּקֶר וַיַּחֲבֹשׁ אֶת-אֲתֹנוֹ וַיֵּלֶךְ עִם-שָֹרֵי מוֹאָב: כב   וַיִּחַר-אַף אֱלֹהִים כִּי-הוֹלֵךְ הוּא וַיִּתְיַצֵּב מַלְאַךְ יְהוָֹה בַּדֶּרֶךְ לְשָֹטָן לוֹ וְהוּא רֹכֵב עַל-אֲתֹנוֹ וּשְׁנֵי נְעָרָיו עִמּוֹ:
•  •  •
לד   וַיֹּאמֶר בִּלְעָם אֶל-מַלְאַךְ יְהוָֹה חָטָאתִי כִּי לֹא יָדַעְתִּי כִּי אַתָּה נִצָּב לִקְרָאתִי בַּדָּרֶךְ וְעַתָּה אִם-רַע בְּעֵינֶיךָ אָשׁוּבָה לִּי: לה   וַיֹּאמֶר מַלְאַךְ יְהֹוָה אֶל-בִּלְעָם לֵךְ עִם-הָאֲנָשִׁים וְאֶפֶס אֶת-הַדָּבָר אֲשֶׁר-אֲדַבֵּר אֵלֶיךָ אֹתוֹ תְדַבֵּר וַיֵּלֶךְ בִּלְעָם עִם-שָֹרֵי בָלָק:

Bamidbar / Numbers 22:21-22, 34-35
22:21 So Balaam arose in the morning, and saddled his donkey and went with the leaders of Moab. 22:22 But God was angry because he was going, and the angel of the Lord took his stand in the way as an adversary against him. Now he was riding on his donkey and his two servants were with him. •  •  • 22:34 Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, ‘I have sinned, for I did not know that you were standing in the way against me. Now then, if it is displeasing to you, I will turn back.’ 22:35 But the angel of the Lord said to Balaam, ‘Go with the men, but you shall speak only the word which I tell you.’ So Balaam went along with the leaders of Balak. (NASB)

In Bamidbar / Numbers 22:28, the Scriptures say that God opened the donkey’s mouth and we read the following, כח  וַיִּפְתַּח יְהוָֹה אֶת-פִּי הָאָתוֹן וַתֹּאמֶר לְבִלְעָם מֶה-עָשִֹיתִי לְךָ כִּי הִכִּיתָנִי זֶה שָׁלשׁ רְגָלִים: God opened the mouth of the donkey, and it said to Bilam, “What have I done to you, that you hit me these three times.”  While reading this text, it is noteworthy the word the donkey uses to describe Bilam striking him three times.  In the Torah, the word that is generally used for “times” in the case of repetition is “Pe’amim” (פעמים), however, when the donkey spoke he used the word “regalim” (רְגָלִים) which generally denotes the “Festivals.”  What is the Lord trying to tell us by inspiring this donkey to speak to Bilam saying “Shelosh Regalim” (שָׁלשׁ רְגָלִים) regarding the three times Bilam struck him?  We read the following from Targum Pseudo Jonathan on Bamidbar / Numbers 22.  The Aramaic Targum has the following to say on the incident:

Targum Pseudo Jonathan, Numbers 22
“… And the ass saw the angel of the Lord, and fell under Bilam; and Bilam’s wrath was strong, so that he smote the ass with his staff. ‑ Ten things were created after the world had been founded at the coming in of the Sabbath between the suns, ‑ the manna, the well, the rod of Moshe, the diamond, the rainbow, the cloud of glory, the mouth of the earth, the writing of the tables of the covenant, the demons, and the speaking ass. And in that hour the Word of the Lord opened her mouth, and fitted her to speak: and she said to Bilam. What have I done to thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times? And Bilam said to the ass, Because thou hast been false to me; if there was now but a sword in hand, I would kill thee. And the ass said to Bilam, Woe to thee, Bilam, thou wanting‑in‑mind when me, an unclean beast, who am to die in this world, and not to enter the world to come, thou art not able to curse; how much less (canst thou harm) the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, on account of whom the world hath been created, but whom thou art going to curse! So hast thou deceived these people, and hast said, This is not my ass, she is a loan in, my hand, and my horses remain in the pasture. But am I not thine ass upon whom thou hast ridden from thy youth unto this day? And have I been used to do thus with thee? And he said, No.  And the Lord unveiled the eyes of Bilam, and he beheld the angel of the Lord standing in the way, his sword unsheathed in his hand; and he bowed, and worshiped on his face.”

In the middle of the narrative the rabbis add a comment on the ten things God created after the word has been founded at the coming of the Shabbat.  The ten things are (i) manna, (ii) the well, (iii) the rod of Moshe, (iv) the diamond, (v) the rainbow, (vi) the cloud of glory, (vii) the mouth of the earth, (viii) the writing of the tables of the covenant, (ix) the demons, and (x) the talking donkey.  Notice that the rabbis list food and water, the rod which is a symbol of power, wealth / money (diamond) the covenant and the glory of God, destruction (“the mouth of the earth” e.g. Parashat Korach), evil spirits and then the donkey that spoke.  Why do you think these things are added into the Targum translation?  Bilam’s reason for beating the donkey was because he was false to him.  The beast responds pointing out that he is an unclean beast and Bilam is unable to destroy him (he has no sword).  Considering the list of ten things God created, these ten things are immutable.  Man is not able to change these then things that God has done.  The way the Lord has saved Israel and worked in her deliverance, the covenant He has made with her, all of these things can be drawn out of the context of the beast speaking “Shelosh Regalim” (שָׁלשׁ רְגָלִים).  The parallel is that though Bilam desires to curse and destroy Israel, he is unable to do so because the world itself was created on behalf of the righteous, the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  In your walk before the Lord God, are you counted as one of the righteous, in the Messiah Yeshua, as a child of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?
The rabbis of the Mishnah teach in Mishnah Avot 5:22:

Mishnah Avot 5:22
Those who have an evil eye, an arrogant spirit, and an insatiable soul are pupils of the wicked Bilam.

In another Mishnah we read:

Mishnah Avot 4:28
Rabbi Elazar HaKappar says, “Jealousy, lust, and the desire for honor remove a man from the world.”

According to the Mishnah, the evil eye is synonymous to jealousy and the arrogant spirit to the desire for honor, and the insatiable soul to lust.  Bilam had an evil eye to do harm to Israel and in the process to be honored by men and get wealthy at the same time for cursing Israel.  Consider also what the donkey said to Bilam asking him why he struck him “Shelosh Regalim” (שָׁלשׁ רְגָלִים)?  According to the Torah, the Shelosh Regalim are Pesach, Shavot, and Sukkot.

  1. Pesach – According to the Torah, Passover was the first time when Israel was drawn away from the idols of Egypt and brought under God’s protection.  The matzah (unleavened bread) is a symbol of the poor and humble of spirit.  This typifies the rejection of the path of Bilam who was arrogant, prideful, and an idolater.
  2. Shavuot – Is the time the Torah was given to Israel at the mountain of Sinai.  This represents the nation turning from sin and from the ways of the world and receiving God’s love, mercy, and covenant.  In preparation for the receiving of the Torah, one was told to separate themselves (consecrate) for three days.  This typifies the rejection of the path of Bilam and his desires of lust, wealth, and fame.
  3. Sukkot – This is the festival in which we set in booths, setting aside our differences in wealth and riches and come together to celebrate the deliverance of the Lord.  This typifies the rejection of the path of Bilam which corresponds to jealousy and the evil eye.

After the beast had said these words, the Lord opened Bilam’s eyes and he was able to see the angel of the Lord standing against him with his sword drawn.  The Lord stands against evil men who seek to do harm to others, and who follow the path of Bilam.

Today, do we take our walk, our faith, and our relationship with God seriously enough?  What about prayer; do we understand prayer according to the Bible or do we understand prayer like Bilam understood prayer?  In Bamidbar / Numbers 22:34-35, the Hebrew text is written in the past tense, Bilam says “Khatati” (חָטָאתִי) “I have sinned” and “ki lo yadati” (כִּי לֹא יָדַעְתִּי) “because I did not know.”  The verb tense indicates that Bilam recognized his sin and says, וְעַתָּה אִם -רַע בְּעֵינֶיךָ אָשׁוּבָה לִּי “now if it is evil in your sight then I will ashuvah.” The word “ashuvah” is from the same root for “Teshuvah” meaning to turn, repent, go in a different direction.  Bilam recognized his sin and is repenting, “turning back,” “turning away” from the sin that he was committing.  An interesting point is that Bilam was not given the Torah, so his repenting and turning was not in the way God wanted.  This might be one explanation for the Lord seeking to kill Bilam after having given him permission to go to Balak.  The most interesting aspect of the text for this week is that even though Bilam was seeking God’s will and praying, He failed to understand the purpose of drawing close to the Lord God Almighty.  Based on the text, Bilam believed that through prayer and by his actions, he would be able to force God to do his will.  Bilam failed to understand that the function of prayer is not to influence God but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.  When you pray, do you have this kind of mind-set that through prayer we can make God do what we want?  How about with regard to Torah observance?  Do you think you can get God to do what you want if you obey His commands?  Is that the purpose of the Mitzvot?  Are we begging the Lord to do our will when we pray if we think He will hear our prayers if we live a certain way?  According to the Scriptures we know that prayer is not intended to manipulate God into giving us our own way, but to be in His will.  Yeshua spoke of this in Matthew 6:5-14, saying that when we pray, we are not to be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and be known of men.  He taught his disciples to pray saying, “Our Father who art in Heaven, holy is Your Name, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven …” (Matthew 6:9-13).  In addition to this, if we walk in the path of Bilam, arrogant, prideful, having a lust for wealth and fame, being jealous and having the evil eye, regarding sin in our hearts, will the Lord hear our prayers?  Bilam did not know the truth and he followed the path of destruction all the way up until the end.  Based upon the narrative in Parashat Balak, a donkey can see God’s will, but a greedy person will always look for a way around it.  The Apostle Paul’s exhortation to the believers in Thessalonica on the will of God is given in 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8.

1 Thessalonians 4:1-8
4:1 Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more. 4:2 For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. 4:3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4:4 that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 4:5 not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; 4:6 and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you. 4:7 For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. 4:8 So, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you. (NASB)

Paul says the will of God is to sanctify ourselves by abstaining from sexual immorality and not to live in lustful passion like the Gentiles do who do not know God.  He also says we should not transgress and defraud our brothers because the Lord sees and avenges in all these things.  Lustful passion can come in many forms, as in the case of Bilam, arrogance, pride, desiring wealth and fame, jealousy and having the evil eye towards a brother.  The question before us based upon this week’s Torah reading, “do we want to follow God’s truth or the path of our own destruction?”  According to the Scriptures, God’s truth is believing in Yeshua the Messiah which is followed by an obedient lifestyle (abiding in the Messiah).  The way, the truth, and the life is found in Him, and the fruit of this life in Him is found in the Holy Spirit that is given to overcome our lustful passions and turn from the path of Bilam to God’s ways of righteousness, justice, and truth!  BTT_Parashat Balak-2014

 
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Tehillim / Psalms 44, Part 1, For the Glory of God

Published on June 25, 2014, by in Tehillim.

This week’s study is from Tehillim / Psalms 44:1-26, the Psalm opens saying “For the director of music. Of the Sons of Korah. A maskil. 44:1 O God, we have heard with our ears, Our fathers have told us The work that You did in their days, In the days of old.” (NASB)  How have the fathers told David what the Lord did in the days of old?  He continues describing what the Lord did saying “44:2 You with Your own hand drove out the nations; Then You planted them; You afflicted the peoples, Then You spread them abroad. 44:3 For by their own sword they did not possess the land, And their own arm did not save them, But Your right hand and Your arm and the light of Your presence, For You favored them.” (NASB)  David says the Lord brings victories (44:4), He defeats the enemy (44:5), He puts the enemy to shame (44:7), David does not trust in his sword (44:6) but trusts in the Lord and gives Him thanks forever (44:8).  The Psalmist then states that the Lord has brought dishonor upon their army (44:10), He has caused them to be scattered and to turn back from their enemy (44:10), He has given them as sheep to be eaten (44:11), the people have been sold cheaply (44:12), He made them to be a reproach to the neighbors (44:13) and to become a byword among the nations (44:14).  Read More Here: Tehillim 44-Part1

 
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