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Bits of Torah Truths, Parashat Re’eh, Why does Scripture always Draw us back to the Land, the Place, and the People of God?

In this weeks reading from Parsahat Re’eh (Devarim / Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17), Moshe says רְאֵה אָנֹכִי נֹתֵן לִפְנֵיכֶם הַיּוֹם בְּרָכָה וּקְלָלָה: meaning “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse.”  Moshe says the blessing comes if we “listen and obey.”  The curse comes to those who turn aside from the way God has commanded.  The blessing is for those who remain “within” the covenant with God and the curse are for those who remain “outside” of the covenant suggesting that those who turn away from the way the Lord wants one to live is synonymous to turning away from the covenant.  Those inside the covenant live inside of the Promised Land, walk according to the commands, and enjoy the blessing and protection of God.  Those outside have no part in God’s promises and do not regard God’s word as a guide for life.  In this week’s reading, remaining within the covenant is emphasized as Moshe continues to speak to the people stating over and over again, “But you shall seek the LORD at the place which the Lord your God will choose from all your tribes, to establish His name there for His dwelling, and there you shall come.”  According to these scriptures, God is establishing His name in the Land, the Place, and the People of His choosing.  Today, in Yeshua the Messiah, the Lord has established a place for His name in us.  With this in mind, does the Land and the Place remain as important to us as it did to Israel in the days of the giving of the Torah?

ספר דברים פרק יא
כו   רְאֵה אָנֹכִי נֹתֵן לִפְנֵיכֶם הַיּוֹם בְּרָכָה וּקְלָלָה: כז   אֶת-הַבְּרָכָה אֲשֶׁר תִּשְׁמְעוּ אֶל-מִצְוֹת יְהוָֹה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוֶּה אֶתְכֶם הַיּוֹם: כח   וְהַקְּלָלָה אִם-לֹא תִשְׁמְעוּ אֶל-מִצְוֹת יְהוָֹה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם וְסַרְתֶּם מִן-הַדֶּרֶךְ אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוֶּה אֶתְכֶם הַיּוֹם לָלֶכֶת אַחֲרֵי אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים אֲשֶׁר לֹא-יְדַעְתֶּם:   ס   כט   וְהָיָה כִּי יְבִיאֲךָ יְהוָֹה אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֶל-הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר-אַתָּה בָא-שָׁמָּה לְרִשְׁתָּהּ וְנָתַתָּה אֶת-הַבְּרָכָה עַל-הַר גְּרִזִּים וְאֶת-הַקְּלָלָה עַל-הַר עֵיבָל: ל   הֲלֹא-הֵמָּה בְּעֵבֶר הַיַּרְדֵּן אַחֲרֵי דֶּרֶךְ מְבוֹא הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ בְּאֶרֶץ הַכְּנַעֲנִי הַיּשֵׁב בָּעֲרָבָה מוּל הַגִּלְגָּל אֵצֶל אֵלוֹנֵי מֹרֶה:

Devarim / Deuteronomy 11:26-30
11:26 ‘See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: 11:27 the blessing, if you listen to the commandments of the Lord your God, which I am commanding you today; 11:28 and the curse, if you do not listen to the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside from the way which I am commanding you today, by following other gods which you have not known. 11:29 ‘It shall come about, when the Lord your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, that you shall place the blessing on Mount Gerizim and the curse on Mount Ebal. 11:30 ‘Are they not across the Jordan, west of the way toward the sunset, in the land of the Canaanites who live in the Arabah, opposite Gilgal, beside the oaks of Moreh? (NASB)

Reading through Moshe’s statement of the blessing and the curses, the question I have is “have we lost a tangible aspect of the covenant today that is found within the the list of blessings and curses?”  In Midrash Rabbah Devarim, Part 4, Part 1 (מדרש רבה דברים פרשה ד סימן א) the rabbis speak of the issue of dividing up the public readings with regard to the list of curses.  The reference is made specifically to the section of Scripture that contain the curses that are pronounced when one chooses to disobey God’s word.  The midrash states the following:

Midrash Rabbah Devarim, Parashat 4, Part 1
1.  Halachah: Is it permissible to divide up the public reading of the Curses amongst several persons?  Our Rabbis have learnt thus, The curses must be read without interruption, one person only reading them all.  Our Rabbis have taught us, Why is it not permitted to interrupt the reading of the curses?  Rabbi Hiyya son of Gamda said, Because it is written, My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord, neither spurn (takotz) you His correction (Mishley / Proverbs 3:2).  This means, Do not make the Rebukes appear as if cut in pieces (kotzin), but one person must read them all.  Another explanation, Why is it not permitted to break up the reading of the curses?  Rabbi Joshua of Siknin said in the name of Rabbi Levi, The Holy One Blessed Be He, says, I have written concerning Myself, I will be with him in trouble (Tehillim / Psalms 41:15), it would not be fair that my children should be cursed and I be blessed.  How could this come about?  Should the reading of the curses be frequently interrupted then every one called to the reading would have to recite two benedictions, one before it and one after it; therefore, one only should read them all.  The Rabbis say, God said, I do not give them (Israel) the Blessings and the curses for their hurt but only to show them the good way which they should choose in order to receive reward.  Whence this?  From what we have read in the context under comment, BEHOLD, I SET BEFORE YOU THIS DAY, etc (11:26).

The main objective of this midrash is to ask the question on whether it is right to divide up the Torah reading across multiple persons with the possibility that multiple persons would read through the curses.  The problem is that if this happened one would recite a blessing before and after a curse.  The rabbis ask whether this would be OK to do?  Midrash Rabbah Devarim, Parashat 4, Part 1 ends with God saying that He did not give the blessings and cruses for Israel’s hurt, but so that they would choose to receive reward and blessing over against the curse and destruction.  The point is doing what is right is not something that just come naturally.  We are to consciously choose to do what is right because we love God and the Lord gives us the strength to do just that in our daily lives.  The Torah principle of doing what is right, walking in truth, and in faith, is connected to walking in the covenant as we read in this week’s portion.  Righteousness, truth, and faith, according to the Scriptures, is always connected to the Lord God Almighty, the Land, the Place, and the People of God.  The reason being God dwells in the midst of His people.  According to the Apostolic Writings, in Yeshua the Messiah, the Lord dwells in our midst, in our hearts, and we have that connection to the Lord being graft into Israel (Romans 11).  But today, have we lost that tangible connection to the Land, the Place (Zion), and the People that is based upon a modern interpretation of the Bible?  To help understand this question, let’s look at Midrash Tehillim 48, Part 1.

Midrash Tehillim 48, Part 1 opens with the Dibur Hamathil (דיבור המתחיל) saying “A song; a Psalm of the sons of Korach.  Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, in the city of our God, His holy mountain (Tehillim / Psalms 48:1-2).”  The homiletic introduction (פתיחתא, Petihta) to the Midrash states “The ministering angels said, From the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same My name will be great among the nations (Malachi 1:11)…”  Here, the Psalm speaks of the name of God being great whereas Malachi chapter 1 speaks of the disobedience of Israel.  The people would take the sick and diseased, the blind and the lame animal for the sacrifice before the Lord which is in itself an act of unfaithfulness and disobedience to the command that the animals chosen for sacrifice are to be perfect and without blemish (Shemot / Exodus 12:5, Vayikra / Leviticus 22:24, Devarim / Deuteronomy 17:1, etc).  Here Israel is described as walking in their unfaithfulness in the sacrifices, by bringing blemished animals as an offering to the Lord.  Throughout the Scriptures the relationship that is described between Israel and the Lord is that of the marriage relationship.  (Note that this relationship is carried forward into the NT by the apostles.)  When Israel goes off to worship false gods, the relationship is spoken of as one of infidelity (e.g. Ezekiel 16).  In most instances, the act of idolatry was considered the adulterous affair before God, e.g. the infidelity of Israel.  However, when thinking on infidelity, does infidelity always necessarily refer specifically to sexual relations?  The idea of infidelity is typified by the phrase: “When the relationship has to be kept secret from your partner it is wrong. Otherwise you could bring the person in and sit them down in the living room and visit like a friend!”  A November 14, 2012 article posted on “cnn.com” discussed a survey regarding infidelity and what people today believe constitutes infidelity in a marriage relationship.  Drawing the line at sex was actually the second most popular choice, but it only got 20% overall.  The other forms of unfaithfulness involved touch like kissing (13%) and hugging (less than 1%).  There were some who drew the line at flirtatious behavior (11%).  A few readers stated that fantasizing was an important aspect of infidelity (8%).  The overall conclusion was that the readers seemed to place a lot of power in the mental aspect of love.  The point that can be taken from the survey is that infidelity comes first as a mental aspect of love and the Lord God desires that all of our mental facilities be devoted to Him.  The people in the days of Malachi felt the command could be fulfilled by bringing a sacrifice but it was not done out of a love for God, and for the commandments; the sacrifices were chosen from the worst of the flock to give to God.  Today do we choose from the worst of what we have to give to the Lord?

The Midrash goes on to say the following:

the sons of Korach said, Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, in the city of our God, His holy mountain.  Does this mean that our God is great only in His city?  No, the sons of Korach really meant, in His sanctuary.  So too, Scripture says, The Lord is great in Zion; and He is high above all the peoples (Tehillim / Psalms 99:2) (Midrash Tehillim 48, Part 1)

The sons of Korach praise the name of the Lord and the rabbis ask whether God’s name is great only in His city?  Here we are drawn back to the Land, the Place, and the People in the minds of the rabbis based upon the Scriptures (the Psalm of David).  The conclusion is that Korach really meant God’s Sanctuary, that His name is praised in His Sanctuary.  The Lord being great in Zion places Him high above all the peoples.  Based upon this line of reasoning, the midrash states:

If He has done such a thing to His city, how much more will He do to the peoples of the earth, for it is said, Lo, I begin to bring evil on the city, upon which My name is called, and should you be utterly unpunished?  You will not be unpunished; for I will call for a sword upon all the inhabitants of the earth, says the Lord of hosts (Jeremiah 25:29). (Midrash Tehillim 48, Part 1)

The point is that the Lord has brought judgment down upon Jerusalem because of her infidelity, her unfaithfulness to God.  The rabbis discuss the idea that if God has done such a thing to His city, how much more will He do to the peoples of the earth?  The point is that those who do not believe in the God of Israel will one day be held accountable to the God of Israel by reason of His being the creator of all things.  Faith can get you into right standing with the Lord, but can it keep you from His wrath if you live in open disobedience to His commands?  What do the apostles have to say about this topic?  The writer of Hebrews and the apostle John have the following to say:

Hebrews 10:26-31
10:26 For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 10:27 but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. 10:28 Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 10:29 How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? 10:30 For we know Him who said, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.’ And again, ‘The Lord will judge His people.’ 10:31 It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (NASB)

1 John 1:5-10
1:5 This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. 1:6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; 1:7 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1:10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. (NASB)

The author of Hebrews speaks of willful sin after having received the truth.  Willful sin leads to one not having atonement but only a terrifying expectation of judgment and fury with fire that consumes the adversaries as described in the Torah (e.g. Parashat Korach).  He speaks of those who “set aside the Law (Torah) of Moshe,” and dying without mercy.  The midrash states that the wicked will not go unpunished; all of the inhabitants of the earth will be accountable before the Lord.  Scripture says that even we who are in Yeshua the Messiah will be accountable for what we have done.  John says that if we walk in darkness, we do not practice the truth, we speak a lie.  The person John is speaking of is he who says he has no sin, he do not confess his sins, and he says he walks in the light but in truth he walks in darkness.  Does this fit the concept of infidelity as described in the rabbinic midrash?  The concept of “infidelity” as described earlier, we know today that it is very easy to be unfaithful, not only to our spouses (i.e. internet, television, etc), but also to the Lord God of Heaven.  Unfaithfulness can come in the form of what we do, the way we talk to people (flirtatious) what we look at (internet or TV), what we listen to, and where we consider our treasure to be (sports, house, cars, etc) in heaven or hear on earth?  By these things do we trample the blood of Christ under foot by the uncleanness of our lives which have been sanctified in His blood like the author of Hebrews is saying?  The Scriptures state (Hebrews 10:30) that the Lord says “Vengeance is Mine,” and this is what we are seeing in the midrash which says “You will not be unpunished; for I will call for a sword upon all the inhabitants of the earth, says the Lord of hosts (Jeremiah 25:29)”  The Midrash concludes saying “And so, the sons of Korach really mean, Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, because of the city of our God, because of His holy mountain.”  Throughout the Scriptures, as well as the Psalms, we are consistently drawn back to the Land, the Place, and the People, because of the actions of the Lord to make a place for His name to reside.  We see even today He is saving the Land and His People, and these things are greatly to be praised.  The midrash states “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, because of the city of our God, because of His holy mountain.”  Not just because of what He has done in the past as we read in the Torah, but also because we know that “He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” in Yeshua the Messiah.  Halleluia!

In Parashat Re’eh, the curse come by those who turn aside from the way God has commanded and the blessing comes for those who turn towards the way God commanded.  As we have read, all of Scripture draws its authority from God’s Torah and ultimately we are being directed to His Messiah Yeshua.  The reason God draws us back to the Land, the Place, and the People in the Scriptures is for the purpose of having good reason (the knowledge of) to give God the praises for what He has done and continues to do in our lives.  It is in this way we are able to see how the Lord has worked in the past and how he is working in our lives even today.  His faithfulness is forever and now we too are to remain faithful to Him because of what He has done for us and what He continues to do daily in our lives.  The importance of the Land, the Place, and the People is Historical, Prophetic, and Eschatological.  We see what God has done in the past, we know what He is doing in the present, and we live with the expectation of what He is going to do in the future.  Isn’t that just the greatest blessing of all?  Praise the Lord! BTT_Parashat Re’eh-2014

 
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Tehillim / Psalms 47, Part 2, Living as the Shields of God and the need for Circumcision

Published on August 13, 2014, by in Tehillim.

This week’s study is from Tehillim / Psalms 47:1-9, David says that ו   עָלָה אֱלֹהִים בִּתְרוּעָה יְהוָֹה בְּקוֹל שׁוֹפָר:  47:5 God has ascended with a shout, The Lord, with the sound of a trumpet. (NASB)  The Lord who ascends with a shout of the trumpet sounds like a parallel to our Lord Yeshua who returns with the trumpet sound.  The shout and trumpet sound have the power to call the dead to life during the resurrection.  The Psalmist continues saying ז   זַמְּרוּ אֱלֹהִים זַמֵּרוּ זַמְּרוּ לְמַלְכֵּנוּ זַמֵּרוּ: ח   כִּי מֶלֶךְ כָּל-הָאָרֶץ אֱלֹהִים זַמְּרוּ מַשְֹכִּיל:  47:6 Sing praises to God, sing praises; Sing praises to our King, sing praises. 47:7 For God is the King of all the earth; Sing praises with a skillful psalm. (NASB)  The phrase “sing praises” is repeated three times.  What is the significance of singing praises unto the Lord?  The Psalm states that ט   מָלַךְ אֱלֹהִים עַל-גּוֹיִם אֱלֹהִים יָשַׁב | עַל-כִּסֵּא קָדְשׁוֹ:  47:8 God reigns over the nations, God sits on His holy throne. (NASB)  If God reigns over the nations, why does He allow the nations to attack Israel, or even us today?  The Psalm concludes saying י   נְדִיבֵי עַמִּים | נֶאֱסָפוּ עַם אֱלֹהֵי אַבְרָהָם כִּי לֵאלֹהִים מָגִנֵּי-אֶרֶץ מְאֹד נַעֲלָה:  47:9 The princes of the people have assembled themselves as the people of the God of Abraham, For the shields of the earth belong to God; He is highly exalted. (NASB)  Why does David say that the princes of the people of the earth have assembled themselves as the people of the God of Abraham?  The princes of the people of the earth, are they not from the unsaved nations?  How can he say that they call themselves the people of the God of Abraham?  Is this a messianic expectation of the messianic age?  The psalmist mentions the “shields of the earth.”  What are the shields of the earth that belong to God?  Might this be a reference to the nations and the Lord sitting and reigning over the nations? Read More Here: Tehillim 47-Part1-and-2

 
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Bits of Torah Truths, Parashat Ekev, Encouraged by the Faithfulness of Our Father in Heaven

In this weeks reading from Parsahat Ekev (Devarim / Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25), Moshe says וְהָיָה | עֵקֶב תִּשְׁמְעוּן אֵת הַמִּשְׁפָּטִים הָאֵלֶּה וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם וַעֲשִֹיתֶם אֹתָם וְשָׁמַר יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ לְךָ אֶת-הַבְּרִית וְאֶת-הַחֶסֶד אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּע לַאֲבֹתֶיךָ 7:12 ‘Then it shall come about, because you listen to these judgments and keep and do them, that the Lord your God will keep with you His covenant and His lovingkindness which He swore to your forefathers. (NASB)  Is this a statement that one must earn their right to be in the covenant?  Note that when studying the Hebrew text, Moshe explains the Lord God will keep the covenant, the mercy and grace (הַחֶסֶד) that He swore to our fathers and that the Lord will bless the people in the land if they remain faithful to Him (7:12-16).  These warnings are contrasted with the mighty works God did to preserve His people in the wilderness.  The major concepts brought out in this week’s Torah portion is having a humble heart before God, and a hunger for Him, and God’s provision of Manna (“bread from heaven”).  In Devarim / Deuteronomy 8:1-3,  Moshe writes “man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord does a man live.”  Matthew 4 records Yeshua using these Scriptures to answer Satan during the temptation, drawing his words into the context of the Torah.  Yeshua laid claim to the Torah as having authority over his life.  Today, can we lay the claim that the Torah is for each and every person who places their faith and trust in Yeshua the Messiah for their salvation?

ספר דברים פרק ז
יב   וְהָיָה | עֵקֶב תִּשְׁמְעוּן אֵת הַמִּשְׁפָּטִים הָאֵלֶּה וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם וַעֲשִֹיתֶם אֹתָם וְשָׁמַר יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ לְךָ אֶת-הַבְּרִית וְאֶת-הַחֶסֶד אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּע לַאֲבֹתֶיךָ: יג   וַאֲהֵבְךָ וּבֵרַכְךָ וְהִרְבֶּךָ וּבֵרַךְ פְּרִי-בִטְנְךָ וּפְרִי-אַדְמָתֶךָ דְּגָנְךָ וְתִירשְׁךָ וְיִצְהָרֶךָ שְׁגַר-אֲלָפֶיךָ וְעַשְׁתְּרֹת צֹאנֶךָ עַל הָאֲדָמָה אֲשֶׁר-נִשְׁבַּע לַאֲבֹתֶיךָ לָתֶת לָךְ: יד   בָּרוּךְ תִּהְיֶה מִכָּל-הָעַמִּים לֹא-יִהְיֶה בְךָ עָקָר וַעֲקָרָה וּבִבְהֶמְתֶּךָ: טו   וְהֵסִיר יְהוָֹה מִמְּךָ כָּל-חֹלִי וְכָל-מַדְוֵי מִצְרַיִם הָרָעִים אֲשֶׁר יָדַעְתָּ לֹא יְשִֹימָם בָּךְ וּנְתָנָם בְּכָל-שֹנְאֶיךָ:

Devarim / Deuteronomy 7:12-16
7:12 ‘Then it shall come about, because you listen to these judgments and keep and do them, that the Lord your God will keep with you His covenant and His lovingkindness which He swore to your forefathers. 7:13 ‘He will love you and bless you and multiply you; He will also bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, your grain and your new wine and your oil, the increase of your herd and the young of your flock, in the land which He swore to your forefathers to give you. 7:14 ‘You shall be blessed above all peoples; there will be no male or female barren among you or among your cattle. 7:15 ‘The Lord will remove from you all sickness; and He will not put on you any of the harmful diseases of Egypt which you have known, but He will lay them on all who hate you. (NASB)

Based upon the words from this week’s portion and from Yeshua in the Gospel of Matthew, are we faced with the question of how important are the words of the Torah for us today?  The Apostle Paul told us in Romans 7:14 saying “For we know that the Law is spiritual…”  The Torah is spiritual?  If the Law is spiritual, how relevant is the Torah for our lives today?  Throughout various locations within the text of the five books of Moshe, we find a statement like the one we read in Devarim / Deuteronomy 8:1-3.

Devarim / Deuteronomy 8:1-3
8:1 ‘All the commandments that I am commanding you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the Lord swore to give to your forefathers. 8:2 ‘You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. 8:3 ‘He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord. (NASB)

א   כָּל-הַמִּצְוָה אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ הַיּוֹם תִּשְׁמְרוּן לַעֲשֹוֹת לְמַעַן תִּחְיוּן וּרְבִיתֶם וּבָאתֶם וִירִשְׁתֶּם אֶת-הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר-נִשְׁבַּע יְהוָֹה לַאֲבֹתֵיכֶם: ב   וְזָכַרְתָּ אֶת-כָּל-הַדֶּרֶךְ אֲשֶׁר הוֹלִיכְךָ יְהוָֹה אֱלֹהֶיךָ זֶה אַרְבָּעִים שָׁנָה בַּמִּדְבָּר לְמַעַן עַנֹּתְךָ לְנַסֹּתְךָ לָדַעַת אֶת-אֲשֶׁר בִּלְבָבְךָ הֲתִשְׁמֹר מִצְוֹתָו [מִצְוֹתָיו] אִם-לֹא: ג   וַיְעַנְּךָ וַיַּרְעִבֶךָ וַיַּאֲכִלְךָ אֶת-הַמָּן אֲשֶׁר לֹא-יָדַעְתָּ וְלֹא יָדְעוּן אֲבֹתֶיךָ לְמַעַן הוֹדִיעֲךָ כִּי לֹא עַל-הַלֶּחֶם לְבַדּוֹ יִחְיֶה הָאָדָם כִּי עַל-כָּל-מוֹצָא פִי-יְהוָֹה יִחְיֶה הָאָדָם:

God is telling His people that the commandments are meant to enable one to live and multiply in the land he/she will be living in (Israel), the land that He swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  This is a very important statement.  As a result of this statement and others, these questions come to mind: “How is the Torah spiritual?”  “Can the non-Jewish peoples lay claim to the Torah?” and “If gentile believers can not lay claim to the Torah, are the patriarchs consider our fathers?”  In light of the doctrine of Supersessionism (replacement theology), these Torah verses are not to be considered as applicable for us today, right?  The Lord did all of these things and He continues to do these things because had sworn to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and He continues doing for His name’s sake.  According to both Yeshua and Paul we are the sons of Abraham.  “Do Paul’s words refer to a spiritualization of the Torah?”  “Does literal physical lineage overrule spiritual fatherhood?” and “is there a connection between the physical and the spiritual in the context of the covenant of grace we have in Yeshua?”  These are important questions for us today with regard to the relevance of the commandments in our lives.

Studying the Hebrew Scriptures, the word Torah (תורה) means “instruction” or “teaching.”  The meaning of this word is a very important concept because the five books of Moshe were not designed to be used simply as a story or history book.  This is best understood by contextualizing the meaning of the Torah in our own lives.  For example, are you able to say that God’s Law is the primary source of “instruction” or “teaching” in your life?  To bring this into greater context, here is a short (non-exhaustive) list of some areas in our lives that we have the most concern for.

Areas of Concern in our Lives

  • Marriage and dating
  • Career and money
  • Happiness
  • Health
  • Children
  • Recreation and fun
  • Personal development
  • Education
  • Politics
  • Friends, family, and relatives, etc…

Based upon this short list of topics, ask yourself “Do I view the Torah as ‘instructional’ or as ‘teachings’ to personally apply in these areas of my life?”  If  you are unable to associate the five books of Moshe to these real-time every day events listed above, then a major portion of the Scriptures has become irrelevant for your life.  If God’s Law becomes irrelevant, there is a significant gap between what is intended in our lives and what is actually taking place.  Yeshua found the Torah to be very relevant for his life and similarly we should too.  This is why we go through the Torah every year.

Based upon these Scriptures and Moshe’s warning “to keep and to do” the commands, the rabbis wrote a parable of two gems referring to the commandments according to Midrash Rabbah Devarim, Parashat 3, Part 7 (מדרש רבה דברים פרשה ג סימן ז):

Midrash Rabbah Devarim, Parashat 3, Part 7
Another explanation, THAT THE LORD YOUR GOD WILL KEEP FOR YOU THE COVENANT AND THE MERCY.  R. Simeon son of Halafta said, This may be compared to a king who married a noble lady, who brought with her into the house two gems, and the king too had two corresponding gems set for her.  The lady lost her gems, whereeupon the king took away his.  After some time she arose and set herself right with him by bringing back the two gems.  Thereupon the king too restored his.  The king decreed that a crown should be made of both sets of gems and that it should be placed on the head of the noble lady.  So you find that Abraham gave his children two gems (to guard), as it is said, For I have known him, to the end that he may command his children and his household after him to do righteousness and justice (Bereshit / Genesis 18:19).  God too set up corresponding to them two gems, namely, lovingkindness and mercy, as it is said, God will keep for you the covenant and the mercy, and it further says, And He will give you mercy, and have compassion on you (Devarim / Deuteronomy 13:18).  Israel lost theirs, as it is said, That you have turned justice into gall, and the fruit of righteousness into wormwood (Amos 6:12).  God thereupon took away His, as it is said, For I have taken away My peace from this people says the Lord, even mercy and compassion (Jeremiah 16:5).  Israel then arose and set themselves right with God and restored the two gems.  Whence do we know this?  For so it is written, Zion will be redeemed with justice, and they that return of her with righteousness (Isaiah 1:27).  God too restored His.  Whence this?  For so it is written, For the mountains may depart, and the hills be removed, but My kindness will not depart from you, neither will My covenant of peace be removed, says the Lord that has compassion on you (Isaiah 54:10).  And after Israel had restored theirs and God had given back His, God will say, Let both pairs be made into a crown and be placed on the head of Israel, as it is said, And I will betroth you unto Me forever, yes, I will betroth you unto Me in righteousness and in justice, and in lovingkindness, and in compassion.  And I will betroth you unto Me in faithfulness; and you will know the Lord (Hosea 2:21).

The rabbis compare the commands of God to a king and his bride and two sets of gems.  The wife lost her gems.  This suggests a certain amount of carelessness with regard to the very precious gift of the king.  These gems appear to be something that draws the king and queen together, notice how the gems of the queen are dependent for the gems of the king to be brought near.  The wife then finds the gems, and the king decides to make a crown with both sets of gems set into the crown that may be placed upon his wife.  The gems are known as “righteousness and Justice.”  The parable is paralleled to Israel who lost her gems because she walked away from righteousness and justice.  Because of God’s kindness, mercy, and grace, He is constantly working to restore His relationship with His bride.  The Torah describes what pleases God, how we are to live in righteousness and justice.  This is why the Apostle’s spoke so often about doing what is right, serving God and others (maasim tovim), being merciful to everyone and even our enemies.  We need to  merge the Torah into the context of our lives so that we can be a reflection of our Savior Yeshua the Messiah and this occurs only with the help of the Holy Spirit of God.

Considering the warnings that Moshe gives in the Torah portion, the warnings are contrasted with the mighty works God did to preserve His people which is illustrative of God’s faithfulness to His people.  Considering the faithfulness of God who extends His mercy and grace to an unfaithful people, we are encouraged with the hope and trust in our Father in Heaven because of what our Lord Yeshua the Messiah has done on our behalf.  Despite the fact that often we are unfaithful, we sin, and we let Him down, He will never go back on what He has promised.  It is within this context of God’s continual faithfulness that we are able to lay claim to the Torah for our lives.  We who are grafted into Israel, are partakers of both an earthly blessing as well as the coming heavenly blessing because of what the Messiah has done for each one of us.  These things God does are based upon the promises that are listed in the Torah which we are to continually keep in mind so that we are able to Praise His Name regardless of what happens in our lives.  By God’s mercy, grace, and faithfulness we are saved every day and this Salvation is built upon a solid foundation of the Torah, which describes the character of a loving God.  What a wonderful God we serve and wonderful Salvation we have in Yeshua the Messiah!  Can you say an AMEN to that! BTT_Parashat Ekev-2014

 
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Tehillim / Psalms 47, Part 1, Living as the Shields of God and the need for Circumcision

Published on August 6, 2014, by in Tehillim.

This week’s study is from Tehillim / Psalms 47:1-9, David opens the Psalm saying, א לַמְנַצֵּחַ | לִבְנֵי-קֹרַח מִזְמוֹר: For the director of music. Of the Sons of Korah. A psalm. (NASB) The Psalm is written for the sons of Korach. The Psalmist continues saying ב כָּל-הָעַמִּים תִּקְעוּ-כָף הָרִיעוּ לֵאלֹהִים בְּקוֹל רִנָּה: ג כִּי-יְהֹוָה עֶלְיוֹן נוֹרָא מֶלֶךְ גָּדוֹל עַל-כָּל-הָאָרֶץ: 47:1 O clap your hands, all peoples; Shout to God with the voice of joy. 47:2 For the Lord Most High is to be feared, A great King over all the earth. (NASB) The Psalmist says that the people are to clap and shout for joy because the Lord is to be feared. How does the fear of God bring joy? The psalm continues saying ד יַדְבֵּר עַמִּים תַּחְתֵּינוּ וּלְאֻמִּים תַּחַת רַגְלֵינוּ: ה יִבְחַר-לָנוּ אֶת-נַחֲלָתֵנוּ אֶת גְּאוֹן יַעֲקֹב אֲשֶׁר-אָהֵב סֶלָה: 47:3 He subdues peoples under us And nations under our feet. 47:4 He chooses our inheritance for us, The glory of Jacob whom He loves. Selah. (NASB) What is the inheritance that God chooses and what is the glory of Jacob? David says that ו עָלָה אֱלֹהִים בִּתְרוּעָה יְהוָֹה בְּקוֹל שׁוֹפָר: 47:5 God has ascended with a shout, The Lord, with the sound of a trumpet. (NASB) The Lord who ascends with a shout of the trumpet sounds like a parallel to our Lord Yeshua who returns with the trumpet sound. The shout and trumpet sound have the power to call the dead to life during the resurrection. Read more here: Tehillim 47-Part1

 
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Bits of Torah Truths, Parashat Va’etchanan, Entering into the Presence of God

In this weeks reading from Parsahat Va’etchanan (Devarim / Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11), Moshe asks the Lord if he can to go into the Promised Land and the Lord tells him no. The Lord told him to go up to the top of Pisgah and see the Promised Land with his own eyes (look north, east, south, and west). Moshe then proceeds to urge Israel to obey God’s instructions for life (the Torah). He says to keep your soul diligently and to not forget the things the Lord has done so that the testimony (the Torah) does not depart from your heart all the days of your life. He goes on to say they should teach God’s word to their sons and grandsons, so they too learn to fear the Lord all of the days they live on this earth (4:9-10). The Ten Commandments are repeated and then we are told how Moshe interceded on behalf of the people at the mountain of Sinai. We are told to obey the Lord, His commands, His statutes, and His judgments so that the Lord will prosper you. Moshe warns the people who are entering the Promised Land to tear down the altars, smash the sacred pillars, cut down the Asherim, and burn the graven images with fire the people have set up in Canaan. God says that you are a holy people, the Lord God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all peoples who are on the face of the earth (7:4-6).

At the mountain of Sinai, the people feared God and asked that Moshe speak for them on their behalf. They were afraid to hear the voice of the living God speaking from the midst of the fire so they asked Moshe to draw near, to hear the word of the Lord, and then bring that word back and they will do what God has commanded (Devarim / Deuteronomy 5:27-29).

ספר דברים פרק ה

כד קְרַב אַתָּה וּשֲׁמָע אֵת כָּל-אֲשֶׁר יֹאמַר יְהוָֹה אֱלֹהֵינוּ וְאַתְּ | תְּדַבֵּר אֵלֵינוּ אֵת כָּל-אֲשֶׁר יְדַבֵּר יְהוָֹה אֱלֹהֵינוּ אֵלֶיךָ וְשָׁמַעְנוּ וְעָשִֹינוּ: כה וַיִּשְׁמַע יְהוָֹה אֶת-קוֹל דִּבְרֵיכֶם בְּדַבֶּרְכֶם אֵלָי וַיֹּאמֶר יְהֹוָה אֵלַי שָׁמַעְתִּי אֶת-קוֹל דִּבְרֵי הָעָם הַזֶּה אֲשֶׁר דִּבְּרוּ אֵלֶיךָ הֵיטִיבוּ כָּל-אֲשֶׁר דִּבֵּרוּ: כו מִי-יִתֵּן וְהָיָה לְבָבָם זֶה לָהֶם לְיִרְאָה אֹתִי וְלִשְׁמֹר אֶת-כָּל-מִצְוֹתַי כָּל-הַיָּמִים לְמַעַן יִיטַב לָהֶם וְלִבְנֵיהֶם לְעֹלָם:

Devarim / Deuteronomy 5:27-29

5:27 ‘Go near and hear all that the Lord our God says; then speak to us all that the Lord our God speaks to you, and we will hear and do it. 5:28 ‘The Lord heard the voice of your words when you spoke to me, and the Lord said to me, ‘I have heard the voice of the words of this people which they have spoken to you. They have done well in all that they have spoken. 5:29 ‘Oh that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me and keep all My commandments always, that it may be well with them and with their sons forever! (NASB)

In this portion of Scripture, the people recognized that it is a dangerous thing to enter into the presence of the living God. The Lord God’s response is שָׁמַעְתִּי אֶת-קוֹל דִּבְרֵי הָעָם הַזֶּה אֲשֶׁר דִּבְּרוּ אֵלֶיךָ הֵיטִיבוּ כָּל-אֲשֶׁר דִּבֵּרוּ, 5:28 ‘The Lord heard the voice of your words when you spoke to me, and the Lord said to me, ‘I have heard the voice of the words of this people which they have spoken to you. They have done well in all that they have spoken. (NASB) saying the people have done well to realize to whom it is that they are drawing near to. God says that this is the type of heart one is to have, to fear Him and obey His mitzvot (commandments). It is this action of recognizing the importance and the sanctity of the One whom they draw near to in prayer. This is the concept known as Kavanah (כונה) in Judaism. According to Rabbi Hayim Halevy Donin, Kavanah may be defined in the following way:

 

Kavanah (כונה)

The Talmud speaks of the importance of being aware that it is God who is being addressed, to “know before Whom you are standing.” (Talmud Bavli Berakhot 28b) For example, simply reading from a prayer book does not mean you are praying. The Hebrew word for Kavanah states that “he who prays must direct his heart to heaven” (Talmud Bavli Berakhot 31a). Without Kavanah one is only making a mechanical and perfunctory reading of words. One cannot have proper kavanah when one is in a mood of extreme anger, sorrow, distraught over problems, is extremely fatigued, or when there are external distractions. (Quoted from the book by: Rabbi Hayim Halevy Donin, To Pray as a Jew, 1980, Moreshet Publishing Co, Jerusalem, pg 18-20)

 

In the Torah portion, the people were afraid and asked for an intermediary, someone who would go on their behalf before God, hear the word of the Lord, and then bring that word back to speak and teach what the Lord had said. This is the general attitude that Rabbi Bachya ben Yoseph ibn Paquda (בחיי אבן פקודה) had towards prayer and drawing near to the Lord. Rabbi Bachya was a Jewish philosopher who lived at Zaragoza, Spain, in the first half of the eleventh century; he wrote in his book titled “Chovot HaLevavot” (“Duties of the Heart”) giving three general categories for Kavanah under the heading “the different ways of serving God:”

The Different Ways of Serving God 

    • Duties of the heart alone (the subject of his book).
    • Duties of the body and heart together. These involve prayer, Torah study, praising and glorifying God, teaching wisdom, enjoining right conduct, warning against evil, and the like.
    • Duties of the limbs, in which the heart has no part except for initially directing the act towards God. For example, sukkah, lulav, tzitzis, mezuzah, observing the Shabbat, the festivals, and giving charity, to name a few.

The topic of prayer and the One whom we draw near to based upon the Torah portion has led to many written works in Jewish thought and practice. The importance of prayer, drawing near to the Lord, knowing whom it is we are standing before, should permiate every area of our daily lives. Because of the magnitude of God’s words in Parashat Va’etchanan, that what the people were asking for was good and their fear of the Lord, the rabbis pick up on this in Midrash Devarim Rabbah on drawing near to the Lord. Let’s read what they have to say regarding this topic.

Midrash Rabbah Devarim, Parashat 2, Part 10

“… Rabbi Judah son of rabbi Simon said, You will find that idols are near and yet distant, and the Holy One blessed be He, is distant and yet near. How are idols near? A heathen makes an idol and places it within his house, then that idol is near unto him. And whence do we know that this very idol is distant? For it is said, Yea, thou one cry unto him, he cannot answer, nor save him, etc. (Isaiah 46:7); thus the idol is distant. And God is distant and yet near. How? Rabbi Judah son of Simon said, From here the earth unto heaven is a journey of five hundred years; hence He is distant. Whence do we know that He is also near? A man stands at prayer and meditates in his heart and God is near unto his prayer, as it said, O You that hears prayer, unto You does all flesh come (Tehillim / Psalms 65:3). David said before God, Master of the universe, when the nations of the world come to pray before You do not answer them, for they do not approach You with a perfect heart, but they first appeal to their idol, and when it does not answer them and they see their sore plight they approach You; then do You also not answer them, as it says, They cried, but there was none to save; even unto the Lord, but He answered them not (Tehillim / Psalms 18:42). What is the meaning of, They cried? They cried to their idol. And when they then approached You, Unto the Lord, but He answered them not. But when Israel call unto You, You hear our prayer immediately, as it is said, Answer me when I call (Tehillim / Psalms 4:2). God said to him (David), You say, Answer me when I call; by your life, even before you call will I answer you, as it is said, Before they call, I will answer (Isaiah 65:24); for I have no other nation but you. Whence do you know this? From what we read in the same context, For what great nation is there that has God so near unto them, ans the Lord our God is whensoever we call upon Him?

Midrash Rabbah Devarim, Parashat 2, Part 2

Another explanation, AS THE LORD OUR GOD. This bears out what Scripture says, But as for me, let my prayer be unto You, in an acceptable time (Tehillim / Psalms 69:14). Rabbi Khanina son of Papa asked rabbi Samuel son of Nakhman, What is the meaning of the verse, But as for me, let my prayer be unto You in an acceptable time? He replied, The gates of prayer are sometimes open and sometimes closed, but the gates of repentance always remain open. He then asked him, When do you know this? Rabbi Samuel replied, Because it is written, With wondrous works do You answer us in righteousness, O God our salvation; You the confidence of all the ends of the earth, and of the far distant seas (Tehillim / Psalms 65:6). Just as the ritual bath is sometimes open and sometimes closed, so too the gates of prayer sometimes open and sometimes closed; but as the sea ever remains open, so is the hand of God ever open to receive the penitent. Rabbi Anan said, The gates of prayer also are never closed, for it is written, As the Lord our God is whenever we call upon Him; and calling is nothing else but prayer, as Scripture in another context has it, And it will come to pass that, before they call I will answer (Isaiah 65:24). Rabbi Khiyya the elder said, It is written, Waite for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; yea, wait you for the Lord (Tehillim / Psalms 27:14); pray and pray again, and you may light upon the hour when your prayer will be answered. Another explanation, But as for me, let my prayer, etc. David, because he prayed as an individual, said In an acceptable time; but the prayer of a community never remains unanswered. This is the force of the expression As the Lord our God is whenever we call upon Him.

In Midrash Rabbah Devarim, Parashat 2, Part 10, a discussion proceeds on idols, drawing near and yet being far away whereas the Lord God Almighty is far away but yet is near. The question is asked about the idol being near; the heathen makes an idol and places it within his house and the idol is near, it is also distant because the heathen pray to the idol and it does not answer. The Lord God on the other hand is distant but yet near because the man who prays the Lord is near to him. The idea is that when one prays one is standing in the very presence of God. The nations do not hear from God because they do not approach the Lord with a perfect heart (or in the way or manner in which God has designed). In Midrash Rabbah Devarim, Parashat 2, Part 2, the midrash speaks of the gates of prayer being open or closed whereas the gates of repentance are always open. A parallel is drawn to the mikvah (the ritual bath) being open and closed to the gates of prayer being opened and closed. The ritual bath, which is understood to be synonymous with repentance, is always open because the sea can be used as a valid mikvah to receive the penitent. Rabbi Anan disagrees with the previous conclusions and states the gates of prayer are always open because the Lord God is at every place that we call upon His name in prayer, drawing the conclusion that when one prays he/she is standing in the presence of God. The obvious conclusion based upon the midrash is that the drawing near to speak to the Lord is possible only for the penitent, the humble, the innocent, and for those who seek the Lord with a pure heart.

The point of this week’s Torah study and mentioning the rabbinic tradition on Kavanah is not that every person reading the Torah commentary should begin “praying as a Jew,” as Rabbi Hayim Halevy Donin wrote in his book. The point and the use of the rabbinic commentary is that the rabbinic tradition contained within the Jewish commentaries from the Midrashim, the Talmud, and the Mishnah, are meant to facilitate a deeper discussion regarding our faith and who we are in Christ. Taking the example the topic of Kavanah and prayer, we can ask ourselves questions like “what does my pray life look like today?” “Am I doing what the Lord wants me to do, to humble myself and pray?” (2 Chronicles 7:14) “Am I holding the proper respect and reverence for the Lord when I go before Him in prayer?” “Am I spending enough time praying, one hour, thirty minutes, or even fifteen minutes each day?” I have run into quite a few people who when the rabbis are mentioned there is a “knee jerk” reaction where one gets upset or angry saying “we are only supposed to study the Bible” (i.e. Sola fide) or even “we only need to study the NT.” The point and importance of this topic is that it is possible to understand Judaism and the Jewish literature (the Midrashim, Talmud, and the Mishnah, etc) within the framework of the teachings of Yeshua the Messiah and the disciples according to the Gospels and the Apostolic Writings in a way that is not a contradiction to who Yeshua is the Messiah of God. Our goal should be to deepen our faith and relationship with the Lord, and to draw nearer to Him, while learning more about His word (the Bible). We can also learn a lot while trying to understand first century Judaism, culturally and rabbinically because many things the rabbis say actually sheds light on some of the discussions that Yeshua had with the Pharisees in the Gospels. As the children of God, we should get excited about these things and we should be actively engaged in studing and searching the Scriptures with the confidence and the hope that we have in Yeshua who is the Messiah of God! Studying the rabbinic commentaries helps to add a new dimension to the context of the Scriptures. The rabbis during the Talmudic period wrote extensively using midrash in their study of the Torah and the Psalms and examining the rabbinic thought process can actually help us to think deeply about our own faith and walk before God in Christ. In the Torah portion, the people recognized the meaning of entering into the presence of the living God and hearing His words. Do we have the same sense of sanctity today when we pray? The Lord said it is good what the people are asking because they have humble hearts, they fear Him, and this will cause them to come to Him with Kavanah. Do we have the proper kavanah when we pray today? Do we have the proper respect for who He is? Do you really believe you are entering into the presence of the Most High God when you call upon our Father in heaven in the name of His Son Yeshua the Messiah? We have read and heard it said “there is power in the name of Yeshua.” Do we really believe in the power and sanctity of that name? This is serious food for thought… BTT_Parashat Va’etchanan-2014

 
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Tehillim / Psalms 46, Part 2, Under what Condition is God our Refuge and Strength?

Published on July 30, 2014, by in Tehillim.

This week’s study is from Tehillim / Psalms 46:1-11, David says ז   הָמוּ גוֹיִם מָטוּ מַמְלָכוֹת נָתַן בְּקוֹלוֹ תָּמוּג אָרֶץ: 46:6 The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered; He raised His voice, the earth melted. (NASB) However, ח   יְהֹוָה צְבָאוֹת עִמָּנוּ מִשְֹגָּב-לָנוּ אֱלֹהֵי יַעֲקֹב סֶלָה: ט   לְכוּ-חֲזוּ מִפְעֲלוֹת יְהֹוָה אֲשֶׁר-שָֹם שַׁמּוֹת בָּאָרֶץ: י   מַשְׁבִּית מִלְחָמוֹת עַד-קְצֵה הָאָרֶץ קֶשֶׁת יְשַׁבֵּר וְקִצֵּץ חֲנִית עֲגָלוֹת יִשְֹרֹף בָּאֵשׁ: יא   הַרְפּוּ וּדְעוּ כִּי-אָנֹכִי אֱלֹהִים אָרוּם בַּגּוֹיִם אָרוּם בָּאָרֶץ: 46:7 The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah. 46:8 Come, behold the works of the Lord, Who has wrought desolations in the earth. 46:9 He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariots with fire. 46:10 ‘Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’ (NASB)  The Lord is our strength, He saves us from our enemies, He causes wars to cease breaking the weapons of war, and the psalmist calls the people to cease their striving, the Lord will be exalted among the nations.  The Psalm concludes saying  יב   יְהֹוָה צְבָאוֹת עִמָּנוּ מִשְֹגָּב-לָֹנוּ אֱלֹהֵי יַעֲקֹב סֶלָה:46:11 The Lord of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah. (NASB) Read More here: Tehillim 46-Part1-and-2

 
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Bits of Torah Truths, Parashat Devarim, Washing our Cloths White as Snow

In this weeks reading from Parsahat Devarim (Devarim / Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22), Moshe retells the story on what happened that led the people to remain in the wilderness.  The Hebrew name of this book in the Masoretic Text is “Devarim,” which is derived from the opening words in this week’s Torah portion, אֵלֶּה הַדְּבָרִים “Eleh ha’devarim” meaning “These are the words.”  The English translation of the book of Devarim is “Deuteronomy,” derived from the Greek translation Δευτερονόμιον (Deuteronomion) which means “second law.”  Here the phrase אֵלֶּה הַדְּבָרִים translated as Δευτερονόμιον shows a movement from the traditional name of the book derived from the Hebrew text which was influenced by the Greek speaking culture.  According to Midrash Rabbah, the rabbis spend a considerable amount of time making halakhic decisions based upon the opening words from the book of Deuteronomy on the phrase, “Eleh ha’devarim” (אֵלֶּה הַדְּבָרִים).

ספר דברים פרק א
א   אֵלֶּה הַדְּבָרִים אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר מֹשֶׁה אֶל-כָּל-יִשְֹרָאֵל בְּעֵבֶר הַיַּרְדֵּן בַּמִּדְבָּר בָּעֲרָבָה מוֹל סוּף בֵּין-פָּארָן וּבֵין-תֹּפֶל וְלָבָן וַחֲצֵרֹת וְדִי זָהָב: ב   אַחַד עָשָֹר יוֹם מֵחֹרֵב דֶּרֶךְ הַר-שֵֹעִיר עַד קָדֵשׁ בַּרְנֵעַ: ג   וַיְהִי בְּאַרְבָּעִים שָׁנָה בְּעַשְׁתֵּי-עָשָֹר חֹדֶשׁ בְּאֶחָד לַחֹדֶשׁ דִּבֶּר מֹשֶׁה אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְֹרָאֵל כְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְהוָֹה אֹתוֹ אֲלֵהֶם: ד   אַחֲרֵי הַכֹּתוֹ אֵת סִיחֹן מֶלֶךְ הָאֱמֹרִי אֲשֶׁר יוֹשֵׁב בְּחֶשְׁבּוֹן וְאֵת עוֹג מֶלֶךְ הַבָּשָׁן אֲשֶׁר-יוֹשֵׁב בְּעַשְׁתָּרֹת בְּאֶדְרֶעִי: ה   בְּעֵבֶר הַיַּרְדֵּן בְּאֶרֶץ מוֹאָב הוֹאִיל מֹשֶׁה בֵּאֵר אֶת-הַתּוֹרָה הַזֹּאת לֵאמֹר:

Devarim / Deuteronomy 1:1-5
1:1 These are the words which Moses spoke to all Israel across the Jordan in the wilderness, in the Arabah opposite Suph, between Paran and Tophel and Laban and Hazeroth and Dizahab. 1:2 It is eleven days’ journey from Horeb by the way of Mount Seir to Kadesh-barnea. 1:3 In the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses spoke to the children of Israel, according to all that the Lord had commanded him to give to them, 1:4 after he had defeated Sihon the king of the Amorites, who lived in Heshbon, and Og the king of Bashan, who lived in Ashtaroth and Edrei. 1:5 Across the Jordan in the land of Moab, Moses undertook to expound this law, saying, (NASB)

According to the preface to the volume containing Midrash Rabbah Devarim, the author/editors (Harry Freedman (Author), Maurice Simon (Editor)) of Soncino Midrash Rabbah state that Midrash Devarim Rabbah is a collection of Halakhic (הֲלָכָה) decisions on various topics rather than a verse by verse exposition as compared to the previous midrashim.  So this week we will be discussing Halachah.  Historically, the purpose of Halachah was to provide a way for Jewish communities to enforce civil and religious law.  The Halakhic decisions were used as a basis for life, how to live, and how to serve God in the diaspora and even at home in the land of Israel.  The word “halakhah” is derived from the Hebrew word halakh (הָלַךְ) meaning “to walk” or “to go.”  The word taken literally translates as “the way to go” rather than “law.”  Halakhah constitutes the practical application of the 613 mitzvot in the Torah, as developed through discussion and debate in the classical rabbinic literature, particularly the Mishnah and the Talmud, and as codified in Rambam’s Mishneh Torah and the Shulchan Aruch.

According to the editors of Midrash Rabbah, the rabbis spend a considerable amount of time making halakhic decisions based upon the opening words (אֵלֶּה הַדְּבָרִים “Eleh ha’devarim”) from Parashat Devarim, and according Midrash Rabbah Devarim, Parashat 1, Part 4 (מדרש רבה דברים פרשה א סימן ד) the rabbis make the following comments regarding these words, “Eleh ha’devarim” (אֵלֶּה הַדְּבָרִים).

Midrash Rabbah Devarim, Parashat 1, Part 4
4.  Another explanation, THESE ARE THE WORDS.  R. Aha son of R. Hanina said, it would have been more fitting for the rebukes to have been uttered by Balaam and the blessings by Moshe.  But had Balaam uttered the rebukes, then Israel would say, It is an enemy who rebukes us; and had Moshe uttered the blessings then the other nations of the world would say, It is their friend who blesses them.  Therefore, the Holy One blessed be He, commanded, Let their friend Moshe reprove them, and their foe Balaam bless them, so that the genuineness of the blessings and the rebukes of Israel may be clear beyond question.

The midrash states that the opening phrase “THESE ARE THE WORDS” are interpreted as a reference to the blessing and rebuking and discuss the importance of who it is that blesses and who it is that rebukes.  They say that it would have been better to have Bilam do the rebuking and Moshe the blessing.  However, if Bilam had spoken a rebuke rather than a blessing, Israel would say that an enemy rebukes, whereas, if Moshe had given the blessing, the nations would have said it is a friend who blesses.  According to the rabbis, the way God worked in these peoples lives, bringing a blessing by the mouth of an enemy and a rebuke by the mouth of a friend, has great significance.  The purpose was so we could see the genuineness of the blessings and the rebukes would not have been questioned.  The Lord God rebukes us and it is not because He is an enemy but because He is a friend and He loves us.  The truth is, when the Lord rebukes, a blessing is often hidden within the rebuke.  The motivation of the Lord’s rebuke is the “great love of God.”  This should be the approach of a loving earthly father and is also true of the Lord God Almighty, who rebukes us with love.  Rebuke is in fact a sign of love.  Loving parents know they must put rules in place and rebuke their children if they disobey the rules so their children will learn to grow and to refine their ways.  On the other hand, parents who do not establish rules nor rebuke their children at all, only cause them harm as we see occurring with King David’s son Adonijah.  David neglected to rebuke his son which resulted in tragic consequences.

Summary of Adonijah

After the death of his elder brothers Amnon and Absalom, Adonijah became heir-apparent to the throne, but Solomon, a younger brother, was preferred to him. Adonijah, however, when his father was dying, caused himself to be proclaimed king. But the prophet Nathan and Bathsheba induced David to give orders that Solomon should immediately be proclaimed and admitted to the throne. Adonijah fled and took refuge at the altar, receiving pardon for his conduct from Solomon on the condition that he showed himself “a worthy man” (1 Kings 1:5-53). He afterwards made a second attempt to gain the throne, by trying to marry David’s last woman, Abishag from Shunem, but Solomon denied authorization for such an engagement, even though Bathsheba now pleaded on Adonijah’s behalf. He was then seized and put to death (1 Kings 2:13-25).

According to the Torah, the Lord loves us and gave us His commands.  When we neglect His commands he rebukes us.  Parashat Devarim (this week’s reading) can be divided into 3 sections: (i) Moshe restates the journey from Egypt to the Promised Land, (ii) the people are reminded to obey God and His ways, and (iii) Moshe explains that unfaithfulness to God will cause the people to lose their right to the land.  If the people neglect the commands in their unfaithfulness, the Lord will rebuke them and bring a punishment upon them that is purpose to draw them back to Him.  Knowledge of the commands and having violated the command gives us the knowledge that we have sinned which leads us to repentance.  Thus, repentance is an important part of remaining secure in the land as we read according to the Torah.  The narrative of the exodus journey tells us that Israel entered into a covenant agreement with God, received His Torah, and then proceeded to the Promised Land.

The parallel we find today from the Torah portion is as we place our faith and trust in Yeshua the Messiah, our lives “turn” in repentance and we are set on a journey of living for God for the purpose of bringing glory to His Name.  The question is though how do we do that?  How do we live for God in a way that brings glory to His name?  In the book of Revelation we are given a message from God regarding what the Lord expects of His children, how we are to turn in repentance and live for Him.  Reading through the book of Revelation, in the narrative, two principal characters appear to be described, the “Harlot-Babylon” and the “Bride-New Jerusalem.”  We can see this in the variety of parallels that are drawn between the Babylon (see Revelation 17-18) and the New Jerusalem (see Revelation 21-22) the author of Revelation (John) is contrasting the two, one against the other.  We can see this by the way John adopts similar introductory phraseology, thematic sequences, and verbal patterns (Jan Fekkes III, Journal of Biblical Literature,Vol. 109, No. 2 (1990), pp. 269-287, Publisher: The Society of Biblical Literature).  In Revelation 21, the Apostle John introduces the bride (19:9-21) where the bride is described using terminology from the Torah to explain the marriage symbolism, relationship, and role of the faithful bride to her husband.

Revelation 19:7-9
19:7 ‘Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.’ 19:8 It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. 19:9 Then he said to me, ‘Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’‘ And he said to me, ‘These are true words of God.’ (NASB)

Reading through this section of Revelation, it is interesting to observe the way the bride is described having “made herself ready” for the day of her marriage.  Revelation 19:8 states that “It was given her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.”  This is an important text because it speaks of something that was given to be used as clothing, and this thing that was given is “acts of righteousness.”  The thing that was given occurred during Shavuot, the giving of the Torah, and the purpose of the Torah was for the righteousness of Israel.

There is a lot of confusion among believers today regarding righteousness.  Some say that we are righteous because of our good works, and others say our righteousness comes by faith apart from our works.  Why is there so much confusion?  One reason may be that the word “righteous” is used in two different ways in the Apostolic Writings.  In order to understand what John is writing in Revelation, we must understand the difference between the two usages.  In the Apostolic Writings, there are times when the word “righteous” refers to “righteous acts.”  Examples may be found in 2 Timothy 2:22, 3:16, and Titus 3:5:

2 Timothy 2:22
2:22 Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. (NASB)

2 Timothy 3:16
3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; (NASB)

Titus 3:5
3:5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, (NASB)

These scriptures among others use “righteousness” to describe “doing what is right before God.”  Rightly so, we should do our best to live in a righteous manner before the Lord God because this honors God and Yeshua the Messiah.  Another way “righteousness” is used in the Apostolic Writings is to describe the position of those who place their faith in Yeshua the Messiah.  The righteousness described in this way has been traditionally understood to be separate from the works we do (righteous acts).  Is this be the approach we should take regarding “righteous acts” and “our righteousness in Yeshua the Messiah?”  How do we harmonize this hermeneutic with Revelation 19?  I would propose that it is not possible to harmonize this hermeneutic with Scripture.

Thinking about righteousness, the “righteous” are described in the Scriptures as the people who stand before God justified and accepted.  Traditionally this is taught as “righteousness by faith” that was not available before the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The difficulty is when considering all of Scripture, and for consistency sake, the “righteousness by faith” is understood to always be accompanied by “righteous deeds/acts” which the Apostle Paul describes as our “spiritual act of worship” in Romans 12.  On the other hand, Paul says in Romans 3:20-25:

Romans 3:20-25
3:20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin. 3:21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 3:22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 3:24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 3:25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; (NASB)

The issue here regarding the Torah, Righteousness, and being Justified before God is the approach some people were taking in first century Judaism.  The mind-set was one could perform “righteous deeds” and be justified before God without the requirement of inward righteousness also known as the “circumcision of the heart,” which was a work of God alone.  Paul is saying righteous deeds (the works of the Law) are not what brings justification before God.  The reason being that we are to “walk by faith.”  Walking by faith does not mean we are floating 3 feet above the ground, but that we are humbly seeking the Lord for our salvation, we have repentant lives, and our ways exhibit the ways of God according to the Commands.  Our lives are transformed in this way by the power of the Holy Spirit.  This is the way in which the bride performing “righteous acts” and washing her cloths in preparation for the coming of her husband (Yeshua the Messiah) in Revelation 19:7-9.  This is helps our understanding the meaning of Revelation 22:12-14.

Revelation 22:12-14
22:12  And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. 22:13  I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. 22:14  Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. (KJV)

12 και ιδου ερχομαι ταχυ και ο μισθος μου μετ εμου αποδουναι εκαστω ως το εργον αυτου εσται 13 εγω ειμι το α και το ω αρχη και τελος ο πρωτος και ο εσχατος 14 μακαριοι οι ποιουντες τας εντολας αυτου ινα εσται η εξουσια αυτων επι το ξυλον της ζωης και τοις πυλωσιν εισελθωσιν εις την πολιν

Revelation 22:14 states “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.”  According to the last few verses in the Bible, it appears that those who “do the commandments” are the one’s who will have the right to the tree of life.  The KJV is translated from the Textus Receptus, which states “poiountes tas entolas auton” ποιουντες τας εντολας αυτου translating literally to say “doing the commandments.”  The Vaticanus and the Alexandrinus codex state:

Μακάριοι οἱ πλύνοντες τὰς στολὰς αὐτῶν, ἵνα ἔσται ἡ ἐξουσία αὐτῶν ἐπὶ τὸ ξύλον τῆς ζωῆς καὶ τοῖς πυλῶσιν εἰσέλθωσιν εἰς τὴν πόλιν.

“Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.” (NIV)

These manuscripts say “blessed are those who wash their cloths.”  Earlier, John explained the meaning of washing the cloths, and the bride who prepares herself in Revelation 19:6-8.  This is the halachah (the way of life) that God seeks from each one of us, we are expected to make the conscious daily decision to walk in righteousness, truth, holiness, and justice.  These are important verses because today we are told that all one really needs to do is to be “nice” to people and you are good, assuming one is exempt from the rest of the commandments and have a right to the tree of life.  The point is that I know a lot of “nice” people who do not even know God.  The command to “love your neighbor as yourself” was a sum of all the Torah.  The definition of “sum” is addition, which is inclusive, additive, not subtraction.  All of Torah is included in the command to love your neighbor and to love God.

The point of week’s Torah reading regarding אֵלֶּה הַדְּבָרִים “Eleh ha’devarim,”  “These are the words” from the book of Deuteronomy is that these words and all of Scripture applies to our lives today.  We are called to walk humbly before God, seeking the Lord for our salvation, and to live repentant lives which are expressed by walking in God’s ways according to the Commands.  Walking by faith in this way, our lives are transformed with the help and power of the Holy Spirit and we are daily seeking to intentionally bring Glory to God’s name.  As His bride, we perform “righteous acts” because we love Him, this is a selfless action to give of ourselves to the Lord.  We are called to live humble lives and part of being humble is submitting our lives to God’s Word as a guide for life (i.e. biblical halachah).  Taking this approach to life and faith, we wash our cloths in preparation for the coming of our husband our Messiah Yeshua.  What a wonderful and exciting thing this is don’t you think? BTT_Parashat Devarim-2014

 
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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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