Parsha Behar/Bechukotai Leviticus 25:1-27:34

This week we have another double portion, which finishes up the book of Leviticus for this Torah reading cycle. While there are many different angles that could be pursued concerning this portion, my reading of this portion started immediately with a question. So let’s jump right into the text of the first verse of this reading. Leviticus 25:1 says, “And the Lord spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai…” If this verse doesn’t strike you as peculiar, then let me explain. The book of Leviticus begins with the words, “Now the Lord called to Moses, and spoke to him from the tabernacle of meeting…” Since then, throughout the book of Leviticus, God’s ongoing instructions to Moses seem to come from Moses’ encounters with God in the “Mishkan—Tabernacle.”
All of a sudden, at the end of the book of Leviticus, Chapter 25, begins by referring to Mount Sinai? Why bring up Mount Sinai all of a sudden? We can understand this verse perhaps by saying Moses is clarifying and expounding upon a law, which he received on Mount Sinai. But didn’t Moses receive the whole Torah on Mount Sinai? Why does this verse seemingly go out of its way to tell us something we already know? We know Moses received the Torah on Sinai, so shouldn’t every commandment be introduced with the wording used in Leviticus 25:1, “the Lord spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai?” Because of this, we are still left with the question, “why does this chapter go all the way back to Sinai?” Before I answer this question, I want to give a little background concerning Mount Sinai. There is a Rabbinic story concerning why Sinai was chosen as the place where God would give His Torah. The story goes as such, “And it happened that all the mountains began to argue with one another for the honor of being chosen as the spot for the giving of the Law. Finally, a voice thundered from heaven and said, ‘Silence! God’s presence will not rest upon mountains that are proud and that quarrel among themselves. As it is written, ‘Surely He scorns the scornful, but gives grace to the humble.’ The mountains ceased their arguing and listened to what the heavenly voice would say next. The heavenly voice continued and said, ‘Of all the mountains in the world, I choose the lowest, smallest, most insignificant of all, Mount Sinai.’ At this the other mountains were offended. But the heavenly voice went on to give an explanation. The voice said to Sinai, ‘I have chosen you for the honor of receiving my Torah, not only because of your humility, but also because no idol has ever been worshipped upon your slopes, because your height is far to low for the pagans.’ And so it was that Mount Sinai became the site for the giving of God’s law, and it is fitting that Mount Sinai was a mountain in the desert, because it tells the entire world, that the giving of the Torah wasn’t only for Israel, but rather Torah belonged to the entire world!” From this story we learn three reasons why the Torah was given on Sinai. First, the Torah was given on Mount Sinai, because no idol or false god had ever been worshiped on Sinai’s slopes. Second, the Torah was given on Mount Sinai, in the middle of a barren wilderness, to tell the world that the Torah doesn’t belong to some specific land or people, rather it is for everyone. Third, the Torah was given on Mount Sinai, because Sinai was one of the humblest and smallest of mountains. Keep this in mind as we move forward.   Sinai represents humility.
“The Ten Commandments
 Illustration from Bible card published by the Providence Lithograph Company. (1907)
So, how does this connect to our weekly Torah portion? Well, first let’s look at what this portion is about. Leviticus 25, God spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai and said, “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come into the land which I give you, then the land shall keep a Sabbath to the Lord.  Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather its fruit; but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the Lord… And you shall count seven Sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years; and the time of the seven Sabbaths of years shall be to you forty-nine years. Then you shall cause the trumpet of the Jubilee to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement you shall make the trumpet to sound throughout all your land. And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land to all its inhabitants…In this Year of Jubilee, each of you shall return to his possession… Therefore you shall not oppress one another, but you shall fear your God; for I am the Lord your God.’”
All of Leviticus 25 is about the Shmittah and Yovel years. Every seventh year there was to be a “Shmittah—Release” year, when the agricultural Land of Israel would be allowed to rest. Once 7 Shmittah cycles had been completed the nation of Israel would then celebrate the 50th “Yovel—Jubilee” year. This 50th year was like a new beginning for everyone. Debts were forgiven, slaves were freed, and the Land of Israel once again received a year of rest. Seeing that I’ve talked about these two concepts we find in the Torah portion = Mount Sinai and the Shmittah/Yovel years.  Now we must ask ourselves; what do the Shmittah/Yovel cycles and Mount Sinai have in common?
The giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai happened on the 50th day after the children of Israel left Egypt. It was a new time period for the nation of Israel, experiencing freedom from slavery. The Jubilee happened every 50th year since the time the nation of Israel came into the Land of Israel. Every Jubilee was a new time period for the nation of Israel, when slaves were freed and debts forgiven. It was a “restart” and reminder, as God says in this portion, “…the children of Israel are servants to Me; they are My servants whom I brought out of the land of Egypt…” In some ways, the “Yovel—Jubilee” year was a reminder of the Exodus from Egypt.
Another thing that connects Sinai to the Shmittah/Yovel years is the counting that takes place to get to each one. Seven sevens (49 days) is what it took to get Israel out of Egypt to Sinai, and Seven sevens (49 years) is the amount of time it takes to get to a Jubilee year = 50 years.
A few weeks ago I wrote about the meaning of the number Eight. Here’s part of what I said, “God created the world in seven days and after every seven days comes…the first day. But in this verse we read about an “eighth day.” Why is this important to note? Because if God fit all of creation into seven days, then anything done on an eighth day could be considered, “out of this world” right? The number eight represents the things beyond our realm. Think about it; if you flip the number 8 sideways you get the symbol for infinity.” The number Seven represents wholeness or completeness. As it says in Genesis 2:2, “…the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.”
Therefore, if seven represents completeness or wholeness, then seven times seven, or, seven sevens, (whether days, or months or years) can be said to represent complete completeness or whole wholeness. Seven sevens represent a complete fullness of something. But after a multiple of seven sevens comes the number 50! As aforementioned, eight represents the things beyond this realm. So, whether we read about an eighth day or a fiftieth year, both represent things beyond our realm and understanding. These numbers, 8 and 50, in Rabbinic terms can be related to the phrase, “The era of the Messiah.” The giving of the Torah on the 50th day, the jubilee during the 50th year, the counting of the Omer (7 days x 7 weeks) until “Shavuot—Pentecost” which was the day of the giving of the Law, or the counting of the years (7 years x 7 years) which lead to the Jubilee, all these things point to a time when the Messiah will reign on the earth.
Remember, earlier I said to keep in mind that Sinai was a perfect illustration of humility. Well, Mount Sinai is the perfect place of humility. But what is the time that represents a perfect day of humility? It is the very day when the Jubilee is announced. “Yom Kippur—The Day Of Atonement.” As it is written in Numbers 29, “On the tenth day of this seventh month you shall have a holy convocation. You shall afflict your souls; you shall not do any work.”
The Hebrew word used here for “Afflict” is the word “Anah” which can also mean, “to be bowed down, lowly, submissive.” In other words, Humble. “Yom Kippur—The Day Of Atonement” is a day of humbling oneself before God, yet, it is also the day when the Jubilee year of freedom is announced. So which is it, a day of humble affliction or a day of jubilating freedom? It is both.
“Yom Kippur—The Day Of Atonement” is also known as “The Day of Judgment.” The day when the books are opened and each individual is judged according to their own deeds, misdeeds and non-deeds. Yom Kippur, is not only a day when we remember the coming judgment, it is also the day, we should remember the coming Jubilee, when we all will rejoice at the freedom found in God. For those who put their trust in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Day of Judgment becomes a Day of Freedom!
                       
However, the correlations don’t stop there. “Shavuot—Pentecost” is fifty days after “Pesach—Passover” and the Jubilee is announced on “Yom Kippur—The Day Of Atonement” every fifty years. We see the connection here. But did you know there was a second giving of God’s law? There was. Moses went and received the “Torah—Law of God” on “Shavuot—Pentecost” but when Moses came back down the Mountain“As he came near the camp…he saw the calf and the dancing. So Moses’ anger became hot, and he cast the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain.” 
The Golden Calf incident happens and the two Tablets of stone = the 10 commandments, well, let’s just say, Moses managed to break them all at once.
In Exodus 34, God instructs Moses to “Cut two tablets of stone like the first ones, and I will write on these tablets the words that were on the first tablets which you broke.” Moses then ascends Mount Sinai and is up there again for 40 days and nights. What is interesting is that you can divide this whole incident up into 3 sets of 40 days. If you count 40 days from “Shavuot—Pentecost,” the amount of days Moses was on Mount Sinai the first time, you arrive at the date, the 17th of Tammuz, a fast day for the Jewish people. This fast commemorates some tragic events, which have occurred throughout Jewish history. Some of the more notable events are “the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem, [in which] the Jews were forced to cease offering the daily sacrifices due to the lack of sheep.” Another notable event was “The walls of Jerusalem were breached by the Romans, in 69 CE, after a lengthy siege.”
However, the day, which set this day apart as infamous in history, was the day of the Golden Calf incident when the “Aseret HaDibrot—The 10 Words—The 10 commandments” were smashed into smithereens. From this point, you can count 40 days, which will bring you close to the start of the Hebrew month of Elul. Elul begins a time of preparation for the High Holidays of “Rosh HaShanah—The New Year” and “Yom Kippur—The Day Of Atonement.” It would have been this date when Moses would have ascended Mount Sinai again. If you count 40 days from this point, you arrive at when the “Torah—God’s law” and the “Aseret HaDibrot—The 10 Words—The 10 commandments” would have been given to Moses a second time. What is this day on the calendar? The 10th of Tishrei, which is, “Yom Kippur—The Day Of Atonement.” The second set of tablets were given on “Yom Kippur—The Day Of Atonement.” Not only is it the Day of Judgment; not only is it the Day of the announcement of the Jubilee, it is also a remembrance of the day when “Torah—God’s law” was given to mankind a second time.
“On the eve of Yom Kippur (Prayer).”
By Jakub Weinles from the National Museum in Warsaw (1870-1935)
Ezekiel 36 gives a beautiful prophecy of a future that we are starting to see even today in our times. The prophecy is quite long so I’m going to shoot straight to the point, but I would encourage everyone to read the whole chapter, and maybe even read chapter 37 as well, just for good measure. God says to His people, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” In Jeremiah 31, God speaks of a “New Covenant” made with Israel and Judah, He says, “this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” Together these verses are referring to a time when God removes “hearts of stone” and instead “writes His law on His peoples hearts.” I think we could view these prophecies in a sense, as a “second-giving” of God’s law. The first time the Torah was given on Mount Sinai, the people of Israel still had “stony hearts” and strayed after the Golden Calf. However, the second time the Torah was given at Sinai, the people were ready to receive it. God is going to do this again in the future. He is going to give the Torah a “second time” in a spiritual sense. We often hear the phrase “Spirit of the Law versus the Letter of the Law,” but do we really understand what this means? It means God will transform our stony letter-of-the-law hearts into soft, spirit-of-the-law hearts of flesh that can receive and understand Him and His ways.
God is like a Sculptor. Even as He carved out the 10 commandments, He carves our hearts into hearts of flesh. You recognize that in order to create letters in stone, rock must be cut away, right? This is what God is doing in our hearts. The more of His word that we allow Him to carve into our hearts, the more our stony heart is chiseled away. A sculptor doesn’t chisel a stone into a statue, instead it is as Michelangelo, the great Renaissance artist said, “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” This is how God “chisels and carves” us into the people He wants us to be. He sees and knows who we are, and if we allow Him to, He will turn us into the masterpiece we were created to be.
  As we close out another Book of the Torah, we say:
“Chazak, chazak, v’nitchazek—
Be strong, be strong, and may we be strengthened!”
 
Grace and peace from God’s bondservant,
Shabbat Shalom,
Samuel

Parsha Emor “Say” Leviticus 21:1-24:23

This week’s portion starts off talking about the laws that apply to the “Big Kahuna” and his sons. I found it funny that the Hawaiian term “Kahuna—Priest/Master” can be translated as “Priest/Service” in Hebrew as well, though the languages themselves are totally unrelated to each other. The letter pattern “k-h-n” in Hebrew always relates to the Priesthood of Israel from the lineage of Aaron. After the laws which apply to the priests, the portion goes on to explain the yearly “Moadim—Appointed times” which are the cycle of festivals, as well as, the weekly “Moed—Festival” which is the Shabbat/Sabbath.  
The portion continues by ordering the Children of Israel to keep the Menorah lit and the showbread set continually before the Lord. And lastly, we read a story about the blaspheming of God’s name and the punishment that goes along with this kind of offense.
For this portion I am going to concentrate on the verses, which don’t concern the Festivals, because throughout the yearly cycle I will be able to address each holiday as it comes along. So, let’s start in Leviticus 21:1 and see where it leads us. “Vayomer Hashem el-Moshe Emor el-HaKohanim B’nei Aharon V’Amarta Aleihem—And the Lord said to Moses, ‘speak to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and say to them…’” What is interesting about this verse is that it uses the word “Emor—Speak” rather than the normal word used throughout Leviticus which is “Daber—Speak.”
Why is this the case? What does the change in wording signify?
Rabbi Binny Freedman writes in one of his articles concerning this verse that, “Rav Moshe Feinstein, in his Darash Moshe, notes that the word used twice for speaking here, “emor,” is a warmer, softer form of speech, as opposed to “daber,” which also means speak, but harshly and more directly. This is the tone (emor) one is meant to use with children…” But, what tells us that this verse is directed towards children? The words “B’nei Aharon—Sons of Aaron.” We already know that the “Kohanim—Priests” are the “Sons of Aaron,” so why are these words included in this verse but to point to the future generations of priests that must also be taught these laws and statutes. How are these laws to be taught? By “Emor—Speaking” in gentle and soft tones. Children grow through praise and encouragement, not criticism and harsh disapproval. When God tells Moses to speak to Adults, He says, “Daber el-B’nei Yisrael—Speak to the Children of Israel.” God uses the term “Daber” which signifies a more direct and commanding tone. But when God instructs the priests to educate their children, He says, “Emor el-HaKohanim B’nei Aharon—Speak to the priests, the sons of Aaron…” God uses the expression “Emor” which implies a gentler approach of giving a command.
“The boy Samuel, son of Hannah”
By Adolf Hult from the Library of Congress. Bible Primer. (1919)
What were the laws these “Gentle-Talking Priests” were to convey to their children? The laws regarding holiness and purity required of those who were of the priestly order within Israel. The “Kohanim—Priests” had an even higher criteria of holiness than the rest of the nation of Israel. The priests were the mediators between the nation and God; therefore, they were kept to a much higher standard of purity. As we read through the book of Leviticus there are several key words to listen and watch out for concerning the priesthood of Israel. Let me tell them to you in the words of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. “The key verbs for the cohen, the priest, are lehorot, to teach, instruct, deliver a judgment, make a ruling, and more generally to guide, and lehavdil, to distinguish, separate, divide. Among the most important words in the priestly vocabulary are kodesh and chol, holy and common, secular, everyday; and tahor and tamei, pure and impure…” The priests were not only instructed to “be holy.” In Leviticus 10:10, God tells Aaron and his sons to “…distinguish between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean…” This weeks Haftarah (Prophets) reading comes from Ezekiel 44, which is Ezekiel’s vision of a restored priesthood, in his revelation of a future Temple. It says of this restored priestly order, that “…they shall teach My people the difference between the holy and the unholy, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean.” This was and will be the job of the Aaronic priestly class. The “Kohanim—Priests” had the role of being intermediaries between God and mankind. Today, the role that a priest played in connecting heaven and earth is not possible with the absence of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. But there is one thing the priests have been mandated to do which is still possible in our time. Numbers 6 tells us, “…the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: ‘Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘this is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them: ‘The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.’ So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.’” Today, in our modern world, the sons of Aaron the priest can still “put [God’s] name on the children of Israel.” This is the job of every son of Aaron today, their mandate is to put God’s name upon God’s people. Notice, when the priests put God’s name on the children of Israel, that is when God says, “I will bless them.”  The blessings come in response to the obedience of the priests. Having God’s name upon oneself means that the responsibility of correctly representing the Name is applicable to that particular individual. That is why in this portion, Leviticus 22:32-33, God says, “You shall not profane My holy name, but I will be hallowed among the children of Israel…”
A priest’s job was to hallow God’s name among the nation of Israel and by so doing, Israel would be a light to the world. You see the Aaronic priesthhod was instituted to rectify the sin of Adam in the garden. In Eden, there were no priestly mediators, neither was there a need for them. Each person, in this case Adam and Chava/Eve, were their own “priests.” But disobedience led them to be exiled from their “Garden Temple” into the world we know of today. After leaving the Garden, Cain kills Abel/Hevel and in Genesis 4:25-26 we read, “And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and named him Seth, ‘For God has appointed another seed for me instead of Abel, whom Cain killed.’ And as for Seth, to him also a son was born; and he named him Enosh. Then men began to call on the name of the Lord.”
In Hebrew, the last line of this verse I underlined is, “Az Huchal Likro B’Shem Hashem.” From the English used here we would think that this is a good thing that “men began to call on the name of the Lord” right? Wrong…the word used here for “began” is the word “Huchal,” which can mean in Hebrew “to profane, defile, pollute, or desecrate.” After Cain kills Abel/Hevel and Seth has a son, Enosh, “then men profaned by calling the name of the Lord.” What does this mean? It means that mankind misused and abused the 4-letter name of God, which He uses to describe Himself by.
This brings me to an interesting point I want to bring up from a video I watched done by AlephBeta and Rabbi David Fohrman. The video I watched was on the portion Nitsavim/VaYelech from Deuteronomy, but the points that were brought up, I believe, are applicable to the desecration versus sanctification of God’s name, which we are reading about in these chapters of Leviticus. In Deuteronomy 31 God says to Moses, “…you will rest with your fathers; and this people will rise and play the harlot with the gods of the foreigners of the land…and they will forsake Me and break My covenant which I have made with them. Then My anger shall be aroused against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide My face from them…many evils and troubles shall befall them, so that they will say in that day, ‘Have not these evils come upon us because our God is not among us?’ And I will surely hide My face in that day because of all the evil which they have done, in that they have turned to other gods.”
In these verses, Israel leaves God for the idolatrous practices of foreigners to the point that God in His wrath forsakes His people. Then the nation of Israel repents and says “Have not these evils come upon us because our God is not among us?” So, if the children of Israel make a statement of repentance, why then does God continue and say, “I will surely hide My face in that day?” Because the repentance of the nation of Israel is not true “Teshuvah—Repentance.” Did evil come upon the children of Israel because God was not among them? Or, did evil come upon them because they played the harlot with the god’s of the nations? Instead of recognizing their own sin, they try and blame their current troubled situation on God not being with them. Yes, God isn’t with them… but why? They recognize God has left them, but they won’t recognize the why behind their situation.
Remember, God’s name is upon the nation of Israel through the blessing of the priests, so when Israel goes through troubled and evil times, the nations of the world say, Have not these evils come upon [them] because [their] God is not among [them]?” When the nations ask this question, the name of God is blasphemed. When the children of Israel are exiled from their land, the name of God is blasphemed. When the land of Israel becomes a desert and the nation of Israel is globally scattered, the name of God is blasphemed.
As it says in Ezekiel 36, “When they (Israel) came (were exiled) to the nations, wherever they went, they profaned My holy name—when they (the nations) said of them (Israel), ‘These are the people of the Lord, and yet they have gone out of His land.’” When the nations of the world say these words, then we know that God’s name has be profaned and blasphemed. In Ezekiel 36, God continues and says, “But I had concern for My holy name…” So what does God do? He says, “I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land.”
God’s name is proclaimed rather than profaned among the nations, when the people of Israel return to their own land. What should the nations of the world’s response be? Psalm 126 says, “When the Lord brought back the captivity of Zion…Then they said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’ The Lord has done great things for us (Israel), and we are glad.” Notice, it is only after the nations recognize and tell Israel that God has done great things for them, that the people of Israel realize the miracle for themselves. God’s Holy Name will be honored and glorified in this world, the question is, are you proclaiming or profaning it? If you are a “Kohen—Priest” then your role is to place the name of God upon the people of God, if you are Jewish then your role is to end your exile and return to the Land from whence God is calling you, if you are part of the nations then your role is to say to the Jewish people and the nation of Israel, look at what God has done for you! And when we all find our place in the great jigsaw puzzle of life, it will prepare the world to receive the God whose Name once again has a place of honor in this earth! 

Grace and peace from God’s bondservant,
Shabbat Shalom,
Samuel

Acharei Mot/Kodeshim Leviticus 16:1-20:27

This weeks Torah portion takes us back to where we left off in the story of Nadav and Avihu, who were “consumed” because they offered “Esh ZarahStrange Fire” to God. In Leviticus 10 we read about this incident, but we don’t conclude the story until chapter 16 of Leviticus in this portion, “Acharei Mot—After the Death.” It says, “Acharei Mot Shnei Bnei Aharon B’Karvatam Lifnei-Hashem V’Yamutu—After the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they drew near before the Lord, and died…” 
Two weeks ago, in Parsha Shemini, I brought up the idea that the error of Nadav and Avihu was their search for an “eternal spiritual high” while missing their true purpose “…to unite heaven and earth by inviting God into the world and [to] invite[e] humanity into God’s presence.” On the Chabad website concerning Nadav and Avihu, they write, “The Chassidic masters explain that life—the retention of a spiritual soul within a physical body—entails a tenuous balance between two powerful forces in the soul: Ratzo (striving, running away) and Shuv (return, settling). Ratzo is the soul’s striving for transcendence, its yearning to tear free of the entanglements of material life and achieve a self-nullifying reunion with its Creator and Source…however, every human soul also possesses Shuv—a will for actualization, a commitment to live a physical life and make an imprint upon a physical world.”
It was the force ofRatzo (a desire to return to the Creator and source) that overtook Nadav and Avihu and they were “TochalDevoured” by the fire of God. I believe I can sum up the thinking of Nadav and Avihu with one question, “If God is better than life, then why live?” And seriously, I think we need to ask ourselves the same question. It takes us back to one of the oldest questions that has puzzled philosophers throughout time…“What is the meaning of life?”
The answer is simple. It can be answered in one word, Shuv.  God continuously tells the people of Israel through the mouths of His Prophets to make “TeShuvahRepent/ Return.” God is crying out to His children “Shuvu Elai V’Ashuv Alaichem—Return to me and I will return to you.” God is telling Israel; turn from your wicked ways, begin the journey back to me, and I will meet you there. It reminds me of the story of the Prodigal told by Yeshua in Luke 15. In the story, the Prodigal is returning home to his father. As he returns home, it says, “…when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.” God wants to return to us! But remember, “God only dwells where He is invited.”
“Luke 15” By Jim Padgett, courtesy of Sweet Publishing and Gospel Light (1984)
If we continue on, in between chapter 10 and 16 of Leviticus, stuck in the middle of the story of Nadav and Avihu, we have the kosher dietary laws, purity laws, and the laws concerning leprosy.  Why are all these laws put between the start and conclusion of this story? If the story about Nadav and Avihu is to teach us about the importance of “TeShuvahRepentance,” then the other laws tell us what we are turning away from. The kosher laws teach us to separate ourselves from our animal nature, the purity laws teach us to “keep the marriage bed undefiled,” and the laws concerning leprosy teach us to guard against “Lashon Hara—The Evil Tongue.” True “TeshuvahRepentance” means we leave behind these cardinal sins and look towards the place we are returning to. Note: If “TeshuvahRepentance” does not lead to God, then it is NOT repentance. Just as switching from alcohol to cigarettes isn’t true change, its just replacing a bad habit with a different bad habit, so too, if we change our spiritual “habits” but don’t turn back to God, it is for naught. And that is why, right after we read about “Acharei Mot” the death of Aaron’s sons, we jump straight into the ceremony and order of “Yom HaKippurim—The Day of Atonements.” It is called “Day of Atonements” in plural because of the many different people and things being atoned for on this day. But what is this day really about? Why do we need one day a year to “afflict our souls?”
In Hebrew, the word “Afflict” in this verse uses the root word “Anah.” This word can also mean, “to be bowed down” or “humbled.” Because of this, many people think of “Yom Kippur—The Day of Atonement” as a very somber and serious occasion. And it is in some ways. In the days of the Tabernacle and the 1 and 2 Temples, there was a sense of foreboding, whether God would accept His people’s atonement or not. But when He did, the Day of Atonement was no longer a day of apprehension, but was instead a day of joy! To “afflict oneself” on this day has been understood to mean abstaining from the comforts of life. But food and the like aren’t everything to existence, as our Rabbi Yeshua said in John 4, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work….” What does it mean, “…to finish His work?” It means to bring the world back to a place of “Shuv,” a place of “returning to God.” Yeshua Himself said to Nicodemus the Torah Teacher, “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” = “Shuv,” that the world would turn back to God.
Most of us want the Ratzo (the soul’s striving for transcendence) version of things. God comes back, makes everything better and calls us to a heaven in the clouds. But God doesn’t do things this way. God wants to dwell among us in this realm. We know about the King, now we need to establish His Kingdom.
“Yom Kippur—The Day of Atonement” helps remind us that the Judge of the entire world is coming back to earth; we don’t go to Him, He comes to us. We shouldn’t ask ourselves “Am I going to Heaven when I die?” Instead, we should ask ourselves the question, “…when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?”
You see, God doesn’t surgically remove our sins and transgressions; He wants to elevate us above our sins and transgressions. We don’t pray that this world would be burned up and destroyed, instead, we should pray that this world would be elevated to having the ability to receive God in our midst. We are not “elevation offerings” in the sense that Nadav and Avihu were. We don’t live life only to evaporate into God’s essence. We live our lives as “elevation offerings” that bring the world around us to a heightened sense of God’s presence.
“Nadab and Abihu Destroyed”
Phillip Medhurst Collection of Bible illustrations of Revd. Philip De Vere. (1970)
As we read through this portion we arrive at one of the most important verses of the Torah. Leviticus 19:2 tells us, “Kedoshim Tihyu Ki Kadosh Ani Hashem Elokeichem—You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.”
The word holy in Hebrew is the word “Kadosh.” This word can also mean, “set apart, dedicated, or consecrated.” What is interesting to think about, is what makes something “KodeshHoly/Set Apart?” Well, holiness originates from God. Therefore, if true holiness originates from God, the only things that can become holy are the things He bestows His holiness upon. So the phrase “Kedoshim Tihyu Ki Kadosh Ani Hashem Elokeichem—You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy,” is actually an invitation to take His holiness upon one’s own self.
There is another famous verse in this portion as well, “V’Ahavta L’re’eicha Kamocha, Ani Hashem—You shall love your neighbor as yourself, I am the Lord.”  The instruction manual for these commands is the rest of the Torah. Torah is the practical application of these verses. As the Band 4Him sings, “To love God, love people, that’s the center of the mark.” We miss the mark however, when we don’t live separate/holy lives. When we compromise our holiness or we mistreat our follow human, we not only lower our own set-apartness, we also misrepresent the God we serve. When we say, “I have been crucified with Messiah; it is no longer I who live, but Messiah lives in me…” What do we mean by this? Do we really live lives that are “Messiah fueled?” Is it Him living through us, or are we still trying to get off the execution stake? (In a figurative sense) We all must learn to surrender our “rights.”
 
The last thing I wanted to write about is something I read on the FFOZ website. They wrote, “All of the commandments of Torah, in some aspect or another, reveal Messiah. They each reveal some essential element of His person or character.”
The Torah tells us who Yeshua is. Each commandment reveals something deeper about the nature of His true character. He is the “Living Word of God.” He embodies Torah in the flesh. God gave us the Torah for our benefit. As He (God) said in Leviticus 18:5, “You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live by them: I am the Lord.” What does this mean, “…if a man does, he shall live by them?” Of course…if someone keeps, say a traffic law, like not speeding, he is living by the law. You could interpret this to mean, an individual who keeps the law is kept alive by the law. But there is another interesting interpretation the Lubavitcher Rebbe makes concerning this verse. He writes, “The Hebrew phrase ‘to live by them’ can also be read, ‘in order to imbue them (the commandments) with life-force.’…By observing [the commandments],

we bring them to life.” How is the word of God alive today? Through us! We bring Yeshua and the Torah to life in this world. Yes, they are alive of themselves, but we are the representatives of God in this earth. Therefore, my last encouragement would be, make the word of God shine through you into a world that desperately needs it today!

Grace and peace from God’s bondservant,
Shabbat Shalom,
Samuel

If you have never heard of Otto Koning, often referred to as the “Pineapple Man,” he was a missionary to New Guinea. Check out his “Pineapple stories,” where he shares about his experiences while giving a great message on surrendering our rights to God.

Parsha Tazria/Metzora Leviticus 12:1-15:33

This week’s portion goes into the details concerning childbirth, leprosy and marital /personal purity. There is a lot we could explore in this portion even though these are probably the chapters most of us would want to skip over. For this observation I want to get into the chapters about leprosy and talk about how these ideas apply to our time. For some, I believe these will be new ideas, for others, not so much. But I hope to have something everyone can glean from in this observation.
For starters, let’s read a few verses starting in Leviticus 13 about leprosy, “When a man has on the skin of his body a swelling, a scab, or a bright spot, and it becomes on the skin of his body like a leprous sore, then he shall be brought to Aaron the priest or to one of his sons the priests…Then the priest shall examine him, and pronounce him unclean.” What is interesting here is that, according to these verses, someone with leprosy isn’t unclean until the priest says so. In a sense, this individual doesn’t have leprosy, until it is identified as leprosy. But is this really logical?
When someone goes to the Doctor, are they okay until the Doctor says they are sick? No, they are sick; therefore they go to the Doctor until he declares them okay. In this portion it is the exact opposite. What does this mean? If someone has leprosy isn’t he or she contagious as soon as they get it? Yes, they would be; if it were the leprosy that we understand today. But this is not the leprosy of today, though it is translated into English as “leprosy.” In Hebrew, the words used for leprosy in the above verse are the words “Nega Tzara’at—Afflicted Leprosy/Plague Mark.” This “leprosy” is talked of by Chazal (Acronym for “Our Sages, may their memory be blessed”) as connected to the sin of “Lashon Hara—The Evil Tongue.” In other words, this malady is connected to the sin of gossip, slander, and idle words.
In today’s world we don’t have “Tzara’at” anymore. Not because we’re better than those gone on before, rather, this “leprosy” was a blessing, because it would immediately come and plague someone with an evil tongue and convict them to repent. We don’t have “Tzara’at” in today’s world because current humanity is in a lower state of Godliness. God gave this plague to the children of Israel to immediately correct and reprove them. As it says in Proverbs 3, “For whom the LORD loves He corrects.”
Yeshua teaches us in Matthew 5, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.” And in 1 John we read, “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer…” If hatred in the heart against a person is equated with murder, then “Lashon Hara—The Evil Tongue” can be likened to the murdering of three people. The Rambam writes in Hilchot Deot 7:3, “And, again, the wise men said: ‘The evil tongue kills three persons, the one who speaks it, the one of whom it is spoken, and the one who receives it.’” Later in the book of Levitcus God clearly instructs us, “You shall not go about as a talebearer among your people; nor shall you take a stand against the life of your neighbor: I am the Lord. You shall not hate your brother in your heart.” Even James, the brother of Yeshua, dedicates a whole chapter of his book to the dangers of the tongue. This sin is one which God takes very seriously.
“Gossip” Painting by Eugene de Blaas (1903)
Before we go on, let’s look at a few Biblical examples of how “Lashon Hara—The Evil Tongue” is connected to “Tzara’at—Leprosy.” In Exodus 4, we read about Moses’ continuing encounter with God at the Burning Bush. God has just told Moses how the Exodus from Egypt will take place and Moses’ response is, “But suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice; suppose they say, ‘The Lord has not appeared to you.’”  Moses’ immediate response questions the character of the nation of Israel. Moses’ doubt in the nation of Israel can be seen as a form of “Lashon Hara—The Evil Tongue.” God then gives Moses signs to perform, to show Israel that he is sent from God. One of those signs was Moses’ hand becoming leprous. The Rabbis tell us that this sign was given because of Moses’ doubting accusation against the children of Israel before God. 
In Numbers 12, we read of Miriam and Aaron speaking against Moses. Here’s the story, Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married…they said, ‘has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us also?’…So the anger of the Lord was aroused against them…suddenly Miriam became leprous, as white as snow. Then Aaron turned toward Miriam, and there she was, a leper.” Miriam and Aaron’s “Lashon Hara—Evil Tongue” against Moses, caused Miriam to become a “Metzora—one afflicted with tzara’at” She became a “leper.”   
This brings me to an interesting note I was made aware of by FFOZ. They wrote, “…the sages taught that the word metzora (leper) is derived from a combination of the Hebrew words motzi (?????), which means ‘wellspring’ or ‘source,’ and the Hebrew word ra (??), which means ‘evil.’ Put them together and it spells the word ‘leper’ (metzora, ?????)— sort of. It’s not a real etymology. The word metzora actually comes from the Hebrew word for leprosy (tzara’at, ????).” The origin of the word “Metzora” comes from the word “Tzara’at—Leprosy” which means “one afflicted with tzara’at.” When you break the word “Metzora” into two parts you get the Hebrew words “Motzi Ra—Source of Evil.” Some of you may recognize the word “Motzi” from the traditional Hebrew blessing over bread. We say “Baruch Atah Hashem…Ha’motzi Lechem Min Ha’Aretz—Blessed are You, Lord…Who brings forth bread from the earth.”
We could say, a “Metzora—one afflicted with tzara’at” is someone “Ha’motzi Ra—Who brings forth evil.” I wrote earlier that this “Tzara’at—Leprosy” used to come upon people who spread/spoke slander and gossip. But gossip is not an “outward defect.” The mouth reveals what is truly in the heart. As Yeshua told us in Matthew 12, “…out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the Day of Judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” From these verses we understand that “Lashon Hara—The Evil Tongue” is a heart condition that must be dealt with. Gossip and slander are not just a “skin-deep” issue…when we speak these things, it is coming straight from the heart.
 
A few weeks ago I wrote Normally, anytime God speaks of someone…[He] uses the terms, ‘Eesh—Man’ or ‘Nefesh—Soul.’ In this verse however it uses the word ‘Adam—Man.’ The word ‘Adam’ can be used to refer to humanity as a whole…But the term ‘Adam’ is also the name of a particular character in the Bible. ‘Adam HaRishon—The First Man.’” When I wrote this, I was writing about the sacrifices mentioned in Leviticus 1, however, in this chapter here (Leviticus 13) we are again confronted with the word “Adam—Man.” Leviticus 13:2 says, “Adam Ki Yiyeh V’ohr-B’saro…—When a man has on the skin of his body…” Remember, the name Adam not only means “man” but also points us back to “Adam HaRishon—The First Man.” What does this chapter in Leviticus have to do with Adam from the Creation story?
Let’s go back to Genesis 3 and read about the “Sin of the Serpent” which led to mankind’s downfall. “Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, ‘Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” What is the sin here? “Lashon Hara—The Evil Tongue.” The serpent puts doubt about what God had said, into the woman’s mind. 2 verses later the serpent says to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Again, the serpent speaks “Lashon Hara—The Evil Tongue” against the Holy One, Blessed be He. It was the sin of “Lashon Hara—The Evil Tongue” that has brought all the malady and calamity into the world we live in today.
But if “Lashon Hara—The Evil Tongue” was the sin in the garden, where is the punishment of “Tzara’at—Leprosy?”
Let’s go back to our story in Genesis 3. In between the verses I used above concerning the serpent’s words, is the woman’s reply to the serpent’s first statement. “The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’The word “touch” is underlined in the verse above. The Hebrew word used here is “Teegu.” And this is where it gets interesting. The Hebrew root word is “Nega.” This word can mean, “touch, strike, plague, afflict.”
If you remember from earlier, I wrote about the “Leprosy” found in Leviticus 13 as “Nega Tzara’at—Afflicted Leprosy/Plague Mark.” Throughout these chapters in Leviticus concerning leprosy, we come across these two words. Sometimes together, as in, “Nega Tzara’at—Afflicted Leprosy/Plague Mark.” However, more often, they are used separately, as in just, “Nega—Afflict/Plague” or “Tzara’at—Leprosy/ Mark.” The word “Nega—Afflict/Plague” is often used throughout the Bible as a synonym referring to leprosy. Here is what “Chava/Eve” was really saying in her reply to the serpent. “…Of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you afflict/plague it, lest you die.’
What happens in the story though? Adam and Chava/Eve “Neegu—Afflict/Plague” the tree on account of the “Lashon Hara—The Evil Tongue” of the serpent and death transpires. The “Plague” that was on the tree was passed to humanity because they listened to the serpent. As the Rambam wrote in Hilchot Deot 7:3, “…the greatest harm comes to the one who receives the evil report.” Adam and Chava/Eve literally “ate”/received the evil report, hook, line, sinker and all.
Isaiah 53 is a fairly well known chapter among Christian circles. I have even heard some Christians claim that Jewish Rabbis hide this passage from their own people because it so obviously points to Yeshua. This may be the case in some instances, but every Jew I have ever met, usually knew Isaiah 53 better than I did. I’ve heard it said, “If the Jews need to read Isaiah 53, the Christians need to read the other 65 chapters.”
It’s true, Isaiah 53 does point to Yeshua in an amazing way, but if we read the Hebrew, it points to Him even better. We always talk about how Yeshua came to redeem us from sin. In 2 Corinthians 5 it tells us, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”  Do we really understand what this verse means though? Jewish tradition speaks of a messiah known as “HaMetzora—The Leper.” In Isaiah 53:4 & 8 it says, “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted…He was taken from prison and from judgment, and who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people He was stricken.” Notice the two words underlined in these verses. The word “stricken.” Both of these words come from the root word “Nega—Afflict/Plague.” What did Yeshua do? He took mankind’s plague upon Himself so that humanity could be free. Why do you think the Gospels talk so much about Yeshua healing “lepers?” Because Yeshua loved mankind so much that He took the plague upon Himself that we might be free! We were all “lepers,” from the sin of Adam and Chava/Eve. We all should have been cast out of the camp, but because of Yeshua, we are instead invited to where He stands as High priest, to the place where He pronounces us “Clean!”
                       
Grace and peace from God’s bondservant,
Shabbat Shalom,
Samuel

Parsha Shemini Leviticus 9:1-11:47

In this week’s Torah portion we read about the end of the Priests ordination. For seven days the Priests have been ministering inside the “Mishkan—Tabernacle.” This portion immediately launches into what happened “…on the eighth day…” For this observation, I want to jump straight into the first verse of this portion and work our way to the end. Leviticus 9:1 starts out, “It came to pass on the eighth day that Moses called Aaron and his sons and the elders of Israel.” God created the world in seven days and after every seven days comes…the first day. But in this verse we read about an “eighth day.” Why is this important to note? Because if God fit all of creation into seven days, then anything done on an eighth day could be considered, “out of this world” right? The number eight represents the things beyond our realm.
Think about it; if you flip the number 8 sideways you get the symbol for infinity. King David was the eighth son of his father and the Festival of Sukkot (Tabernacles) is eight days long. Both David and Sukkot, along with the number 8, represent the coming Kingdom of God to earth. Eight stands for the Kingdom of God manifest on earth; the eighth day referred to in this verse, was when “God’s House,” His tabernacle was finished, so He could dwell among His people. The eighth day mentioned in this verse was a picture of the ultimate eighth day when the whole world will become “God’s Home.” There was something about the completion of the Tabernacle and the consecration of the priests that brought Israel into this new and higher dimension.
It is written in the Talmud concerning the dedication of the Tabernacle, “On that day there was joy before the Holy One, Blessed be He, similar to the joy that existed on the day on which the heavens and earth were created.” (Megilah 10b) That is to say, God rejoiced at the completion of the Tabernacle as much as He had rejoiced when the creation of the world was accomplished. Why? The creation of the world and the creation of the Tabernacle served the same functions. They both allowed God to dwell among humanity.
In the next verse, Leviticus 9:2, it tells us, “Take for yourself a young bull as a sin offering and a ram as a burnt offering, without blemish, and offer them before the Lord.” Interestingly enough, the word used here for “young bull” is not the Hebrew word “Parah—Cow,” or the word “Shor—Ox,” or the word “Bakar—Bull/Herd.” Instead, the Hebrew word used in this verse is the word “Egel—Calf.” Do you recognize this word? Looking throughout the entire Torah, this word is used in reference to only one other story in Israel’s history. What was that event? The “Egel Masecha—Molded Calf.” The priests were instructed to offer an “Egel” as a sin offering to counter the sin of the “Egel Masecha—Molded Calf.” God reminds His people of their sin, to remind them of His mercy. It demonstrates to all of us, this important fact; the very things that once drew Israel away from God, in the end, were what brought Israel closer to God. Our goal should be to learn how to turn our sinful habits into sacrificial offerings for God. Learn how to turn the “Molded Calves” of life, into sacrifices of service upon God’s altar.
 
At the end of Leviticus 9, we read about the fire of God consuming the offerings made by Aaron the priest and his sons. Verse 23-24 says, “Then the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people, and fire came out from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar. When all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.” This was a euphoric moment as the whole nation experienced God’s presence in a tangible and inspiring revelation of glory. Rabbeinu Bahya, in his commentary on this verse writes “‘Fire emanated from heaven and consumed the burnt-offering on the Altar…’ This fire remained a constant phenomenon until the generation of Solomon when he built the Holy Temple. (Zevachim 61). In fact it did not cease until that Temple was destroyed…we find an allusion to this in Leviticus 6,6: ‘the fire on the Altar will remain constant, it shall not be extinguished.’” What is being communicated is the understanding that “the fire” that was on the sacrificial altar in the Tabernacle was started by God Himself. The fire we just read about in the above verse, the “fire from God,” is the very fire that remained on the altar until the times of the Kings of Israel. 
In this passage it says, all the children of Israel saw “Kavod Hashem—the Glory/ Presence of God.” It was a national revelation of God and the whole nation was in awe.
 
When suddenly, mid-story, we confronted with the deaths of “Nadav and Avihu—Nadab and Abihu.” What went wrong? In the middle of a beautiful ceremony, God’s presence is being revealed, the Tabernacle is finally dedicated and wait, what…two priests die? As I read through different commentaries concerning this story, each had their own “sin” to pin upon this pair, from drunkenness and celibacy, to power-hungry and disrespectful. Yet, as I read through their story, nowhere in the passage is the word “sin” ever mentioned. None of the “transgressions” I found listed actually made any sense. Obviously, they did something very wrong and were judged accordingly…but what if their intentions were pure and they actually got what they desired?
The Lubavitcher Rebbe writes in his commentary, “Nadav and Avihu were swept up in the ecstasy of the moment. In their intense desire to cleave to G-d, which they expressed through their unauthorized incense offering, they rose through spiritual heights even as they felt their souls leaving them. From this perspective, their death was not a punishment but a fulfillment of their wish to dissolve into G-d’s essence. Nevertheless, we are not intended to imitate their example…”
From this perspective, Nadav and Avihu thought that the whole purpose of life was to become totally encompassed in a sea G-dliness. The Rebbe goes on to describe their deed as “Spiritual suicide.” They thought the goal was to be completely consumed into the celestial essence of the Divine, in a constant “spiritual high” of sorts. Through their offering of “strange fire” (as it is translated from the Hebrew) they wanted to show their unique appreciation of God through their own imaginative inspiration. But as Michael Chighel from Chabad points out, “…a life dedicated to religious rapture is not really about what God wants, it’s about what you want. Even if what you want is to be close to God.” The fire from God that fell upon the altar and consumed the sacrifices is the very same fire that fell upon Nadav and Avihu, taking their souls from them. It is interesting because both of these verses start out with the same 5 words, “V’tetze esh milifnei Hashem vatochal…—And fire went out from before the Lord and consumed…” Nadav and Avihu saw what happened to the sacrifices and thought that God desired the same from themselves. It says in Hebrew that they “Vayakrivu lifnei Hashem—Drew near before the Lord.” They literally offered themselves as sacrifices to be consumed but they missed what God truly desired. God didn’t command Moses and Aaron to build a sanctuary that they could dwell with Him, but rather vice versa. God said, “Make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among/inside you.”  I have written quite a bit about becoming a “Spiritual Sacrifice” and within its proper context, it’s good. But we must be careful not to become “too heavenly minded and no earthly good,” or worse…God desires to dwell with us, in our daily lives. People wonder why God’s laws can be meticulous and detailed at times. Maybe it’s because He wanted to elevate life to an experience with Him. People are constantly running from conference to church to bible study to mission work to service group looking for some spiritual high, when all God really wants is for us to invite Him into our busy, daily routines.
” The Sin of Nadab and Abihu”
Illustration from a Bible Card (1907)
Our calling is not to be “consumed by God” but to “consume God.” Meaning we don’t float off into some heavenly dream of God consciousness, but we bring God consciousness into the daily reality we live in. God should not be separate from life. Nadav and Avihu wanted to cleave to God, but God wanted to experience life with them; He wanted to dwell in them on this earth, rather than them in Him elsewhere. Nadav and Avihu were “Kohanim—Priests.” A priest’s role is to unite heaven and earth by inviting God into the world and by inviting humanity into God’s presence. Their job was to make this world into “God’s Home.” But instead of fulfilling their calling and mission, Nadav and Avihu were euphorically raptured to cloud nine.Great way to go, but life isn’t all about spiritual highs and euphoric ecstasy with God. Life is about making God a place to dwell here, as it is beautifully conveyed by the Prophet Isaiah in one word, “Immanuel—God with us.”
 
But before you go and think life is all about living in the here and now. Think again. Right after this story about Nadav and Avihu, God speaks to Moses saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, saying, ‘these are the animals which you may eat among all the animals that are on the earth…” So we understand that God has rules we need to live by. But why on earth does He put the “Kosher” dietary laws right after the story about the death of two priests? I think it is no accident we have these laws here. The whole story concerning Nadav and Avihu basically tells us, “Don’t get over-spiritual.” Try and elevate this realm instead attempting to elevate yourself. The Kosher laws I believe, give us the other side of the story. Everyone knows the saying “You are what you eat?” From the Kosher laws, God isn’t just telling us, “Don’t eat this and don’t eat that.” The Ramban makes a statement concerning the kosher laws stating, “The birds and many of the mammals forbidden by the Torah are predators, while the permitted animals are not. We are commanded not to eat those animals possessive of a cruel nature, so that we should not absorb these qualities into ourselves.”
The kosher laws weren’t just about our eating habits; they were also to remind us that we are not to live the lifestyles of vultures and swine. Just because we aren’t always “spiritually flying in heavenly heights” doesn’t give allowance for us to walk in our natural and animalistic desires.
 
I had a dream a few years back that really shook me, and while the dream itself is for another time, at the end of it God truly spoke to me. It is one of the only times I can truly say, “I heard from God.” And this is what He said, “Choose your reality, choose your reality, choose your reality.” I think this may be one of the hardest life-choices of all, because it is a daily choice. And not only is it a daily choice, but I’m still in the process of daily figuring out what that reality even is. But I do know one thing; it has to do with shedding the lies I’ve believed and trusting what God has spoken over me in His word.
 
He called the nation of Israel in Exodus 19 and He called all of us as His followers in 1 Peter 2, “Mamlechet Kohanim—A Kingdom of Priests.”
Don’t be the kind of priests that Nadav and Avihu were, people who live for spiritual experiences. Neither be a “pig” who lives just for the moment. Choose your reality as a child of God and a priest in His Kingdom. And think on this: “God doesn’t want to invite us into His realm, He wants us to invite Him into this realm.” Because, It takes the mundane and ordinary to bring in the freight train of extraordinary. Coming to a stop near you!
 
Grace and peace from God’s bondservant,
Shabbat Shalom,
Samuel

Parsha Tzav Leviticus 6:1 (8)-8:36

This week we read basically a reiteration of the previous portion. It goes through the 5 different types of offerings, as well as the particularities concerning each. It then finishes with the inauguration of the Priesthood and the Tabernacle. Normally, when we read about God telling Moses to convey a message, He uses the wording “Daber—Speak.” In this portion however, God gives a stronger verbal order.
God says to Moses, “Tzav et-Aharon v’et-benav—Command Aaron and his sons…” The word “Tzav—Command” is root of the word “Mitzvah.” The word “Mitzvah” is literally translated as “Commandment,” but over time, this word has come to be understood as any action taken to accomplish the Torah’s obligations concerning how we ought to live. There is a saying found in Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers 4:2 which says, “Mitzvah goreret Mitzvah—One Commandment (kept) leads to another commandment.” This quote is probably more familiar to most as “One good deed leads to another.” This means to say, whoever keeps the commandments of Torah, the commandments of Torah will keep them. As King Solomon writes in Proverbs 19, “He who keeps the commandment keeps his soul…”
God is making clear that the instruction He is giving to Aaron and his sons is very important. Yet, what was the important commandment God gave to Moses to tell Aaron and his sons that He would need to use such a strong word as “Tzav—Command?” It was this one, found in Leviticus 6:2 (9), “This is the law of the burnt offering: The burnt offering shall be on the hearth upon the altar all night until morning, and the fire of the altar shall be kept burning on it…A fire shall always be burning on the altar; it shall never go out.”
Why is this the verse that God very strongly “commands” Aaron and his sons to keep? Let’s go deeper into this verse and look into some of the ideas and hints that can be found in this passage. First, what offering are we reading about? The “Olah—Ascent or Whole Burnt” offering. When this offering was given, the whole of the animal was placed upon the altar and entirely consumed with fire, being totally burned up (The only thing left was the hide of the animal). Fire was to be kept burning on the altar throughout the night because the Ascent/Burnt offering was to be kept on the altar all night.  This fire was called the “Esh Tamid—Eternal Flame” and was carefully tended every morning as one of the first tasks of the priests serving in the “Mishkan—Tabernacle.”
“Laying on of Hands—Burnt Offering”
The Art Bible by Publisher London G. Newnes (1896) 
In reading the Hebrew of this verse, we also find something else interesting. It says, “Hie HaOlah Al Mokdah Al-HaMizbe’ach Chol-HaLaila Ad-HaBoker V’Esh HaMizbe’ach Tukad BoThe burnt offering shall be on the hearth upon the altar all night until morning, and the fire of the altar shall be kept burning on it.” Because there are no vowel markings in the Torah, the word “Hie” which means “She” referring to the sacrifice, could instead be translated as “Hu—He” referring to the person offering the sacrifice. The Ramban writes in his commentary concerning Leviticus, “…he sprinkles the blood on the altar corresponding to the blood of his soul, so that a person think in doing all of this that he sinned to God with his body and his soul, and it is fit for him that his blood be spilled and his body burnt; were it not for the kindness of the Creator, who took an exchange and ransom from him [in] the sacrifice – that its blood be instead of his blood and its soul be instead of his soul.”
Basically, what the Ramban is saying is; when someone makes a burnt offering, they ought to see themselves in the place of the offering. Mankind deserved his own blood spilled and his own body burnt, but God’s mercy allowed for a substitute.
This brings me to a quick note I want to make concerning the sacrifices. I have written before about 2 of God’s names. The name “Elokim,” which represents God’s attribute of Justice/Judgment, and the name “Hashem,” which corresponds to God’s attribute of mercy. Throughout the Torah, when reading about the sacrifices, God’s name used in these sections is the name “Hashem.” What does this mean? It means that God’s merciful nature is revealed through the sacrifices rather than His nature of justice. Keep this in mind as we move forward through this observation.
Even though God allowed the substitution of an animal for a man, this did not remove the responsibility of the person involved in the sacrificial process. As I mentioned last week, the Proverbs tell us that The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination” to God. Just because a person offered the prescribed offering, it did not give an automatic checkmark of clearance. There had to be a repentant and contrite heart that went along with the actual physical offering itself. The physical animal being sacrificed was to reflect the spiritual contriteness of the person making the offering. People had to associate themselves with the animals being sacrificed, and in so doing, become a “spiritual sacrifice” themselves.
This brings me back to the verse from Leviticus 6:2 (9), where it says in the Hebrew that the offering must be “Tukad Bo—Kept burning on it (the altar).” The word “Bo” can also be translated as “in him.” Some think that the sacrifices were all a physical ordeal and somehow this physical act made everything in the spiritual realm okay again. NO!
If there was no spiritual transformation, then the sacrifices were for naught. If the fire of the burnt offering did not “Tukad Bo—Keep burning in him (the offeror)” then the physical sacrifice was invalid because the spiritual sacrifice had not taken place.
 
What do we learn from all this? There must be a spiritual transformation that takes place within the heart. Obviously, today, there is no possibility of offering a physical offering, but there is still the opportunity to study the physical sacrifices that tell us how to spiritually change. Just as the offeror was to relate to the burnt offering being made, we should relate to the concept of becoming a whole burnt offering to God. As I wrote above, the offering was entirely consumed by the “Esh Tamid—Eternal Flame” which was tended every morning that it might never go out. Can I ask you, yes, each person individually…have you devoted your life as a whole burnt offering to be consumed by the fire of God? Do you daily tend the flame of God in your life?
I feel very convicted right now…it is not easy to give everything up to the fire. It’s easy to say “I give everything to the Lord.” But do I really? Don’t I hold on to the few potshards I feel I have left of my normal life? BTW, does anyone know what a “normal life” even looks like? When I read through the Bible, I’m not sure I find anyone or anything normal by the world’s standards.
We’ve talked about becoming a whole burnt offering for God. Meaning, a life that is totally consumed by God, a life that is daily sacrificed on His altar, a life that has released all to God’s will. But this is only the beginning.
If we continue in this portion, we read in Leviticus 6:21 (28) about the sin offering. The “Chatat—Sin” offering has some interesting correlations that must be made as we read and think about the whole burnt offering.
“In the place where the burnt offering is killed, the sin offering shall be killed before the Lord. It is most holy…Everyone who touches its flesh [shall] be holy…the earthen vessel in which it is boiled shall be broken.”
In the same place where the whole burnt offering was to be offered, there is another process that must take place, the sin offering.  Clearly, we may be able to offer ourselves to God as whole burnt offerings, but what is the spiritual idea we take away from the sin offering? How do we become a spiritual offering that takes away sin?
In John 1:29, Yochanan HaMatbil, John the Immerser, sees Yeshua and declares, Hineh! Seh HaElokim HaNosea Chatat HaOlam—Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” Who becomes a spiritual offering that takes away sin? “Seh HaElokim—The Lamb of God.” Yeshua is the one who offered himself up in the very place we offer ourselves up…at the altar of God.
It says, “…The sin offering shall be killed before the Lord. It is most holy…” In Hebrew however, it doesn’t say It is most holy” instead it says “Kodesh Kodashim Hie—Holy of Holies is it.” Remember from earlier, how I wrote that “Hie” can also be translated as “Hu—He.” This means we could also translate this verse as “Kodesh Kodashim Hu—Holy of Holies is He.” What does this mean? Hebrews tells us, “…if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of the heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Messiah…cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” It is through Yeshua as High Priest, who makes intercession for us, that allows us to be 100% justified in the “Heavenly Holy of Holies.” The sacrifices prepare us for the ultimate reality of what Yeshua has done and what He will do in the future. Why will there be sacrifices again in the city of Jerusalem? To prepare us once again, to receive the ultimate sacrifice, Yeshua, the Lamb of God. For this is why He came, “To save His people from their sins.”

Everyone who touches its flesh [shall] be holy.” Whoever comes into contact with Him is imparted some of His holiness. Generally, holy things become defiled when touched by unholy things. Yet, in this case, everyone who comes into contact with this offering is made holy.

“…the earthen vessel in which it is boiled shall be broken.” So if Yeshua is the “Chatat—Sin” offering and we are earthen vessels in His hands, what must happen to the vessels that receive Him?
Broken Shards of Pottery
In Psalm 22, we read a prophetic Psalm of David concerning the future agony of Yeshua on the cross. In verse 16 it says, “Ka’ari Yadai V’Raglai—They pierced my hands and my feet.” The word “Pierced” in Hebrew comes from the root word “Karah” which can mean, “to dig, to hew, to bore.” Now, let’s flip over to Psalm 40 and read a verse from there. It says in verse 6, “Zevach U’Mincha Lo-Chafatz’ta, Az’naim Karita Li—Sacrifice and offering You did not desire; My ears You have opened.”
What does “opening my ears” have anything to do with “sacrifice and offering?” The Hebrew word used here for “Opened” also comes from the root word “Karah.” In other words, David writes, “My ears You have pierced.” Where else do we read about ear piercing? Exodus 21 tells us, “…if a servant plainly says, ‘I love my master…I will not go out free,’ then his master shall bring him to the judges. He shall also bring him to the door, or to the doorpost, and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him forever.”
What does this mean, “Zevach U’Mincha Lo-Chafatz’ta, Az’naim Karita Li—Sacrifice and offering You did not desire; My ears You have pierced?”
It means that God desires servants who devote themselves to Him forever. Sacrifices and offerings are “Korbanot,” they bring us “Karov—Close” to God, but a bondservant is always close to his Master. A true bondservant of God needs nothing to draw him close. We as humanity need sacrifices to rectify our state of impurity to draw this world closer to the Divine. That is the start; the finish is when all of creation becomes servants and children of God.
 
Take the spiritual “ear piercing” and devote your life to the one whose hands and feet were pierced for you. Become a broken vessel and accept Yeshua’s sacrifice because He was broken for you. Daily fan the “Esh Tamid—Eternal Flame” of God in your life, as you give your life as a whole burnt offering, because Yeshua gave His all for you.
 
To all the Redeemed of the Lord,
Grace and Peace from God’s Bondservant,
Shabbat Shalom,
Samuel
 
I pray this email would give everyone a new outlook on each individual’s calling. For me, writing this email was very emotional and there were parts I cried through as all of these concepts flooded over me. Yes, I’m an emotional individual, but I don’t cry every email…I’ll be honest; I didn’t stick to my notes for this observation, so I’m hoping this all comes across clear. Please let me now if anything needs clarification.

Parsha Vayikra Leviticus 1:1-5:26

This week we begin reading a new book in the Torah, the book of Leviticus. I know when everyone thinks about the book of Leviticus what probably immediately comes to mind are the verses, “…You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18) as well as the verse, “…Proclaim liberty throughout the Land.” (Lev. 25:10) Am I right? Okay, maybe those aren’t the first thoughts we think about. But I believe they should be. The book of Leviticus is found in the center of the Torah because it describes the heart of the Torah; namely, how to draw close and remain close to God. The previous two books in the Torah are given to set the stage for this book. In many Jewish religious schools, the book of Leviticus is the starting point from where all young children begin to study Torah. What is the great significance found in Leviticus that would cause even young children to start their education with this book? 
The answer is found in Vayikra Rabbah (The Great Leviticus) 7:3. It is written, “Children are pure; therefore let them study laws of purity” Leviticus is the book which instructs one in the way of holiness. In fact, the word “Holy” which is “Kadosh” in Hebrew is used extensively throughout the book, being translated as “holy, sanctified, separate, consecrated, etc…” In Deuteronomy 6 it says, “…These words which I command you today shall be in your heart.” What are those words? The Words of Torah, where it is commanded, 3 different times in Leviticus, “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” The laws of Torah are given specifically for this reason, for a people-collectively and people-individually, to become holy and separate unto/for God.
 
Before I get deeper into the ideas found in Leviticus and more specifically the lessons found in this portion, I wanted to talk about the name Leviticus. When I began searching for the exact definition of Leviticus, all the websites that came up were baby name sites. Now, I’m not sure who would name their baby “Leviticus,” but the word itself is of Greek origin, from the word “Leuitikon biblion,” which literally means“the book pertaining to the Levites.”  The problem with this title however, is that, the Levites are mentioned in only one section of the entire book. (Leviticus 25:32-34) How can this be a book for the Levites when the whole book says almost nothing concerning the Levites? 
In Jewish and Rabbinic sources, this book is referred to as “Torat Kohanim—Commands/ Laws concerning the Priests.” This is a better title, because we do read of numerous instructions in this book concerning the priesthood of Israel.
“Burnt Offfering”  
From the Phillip Medhurst Collection of Bible illustrations (1970)
Yet, at the same time, we find many directions given, which don’t pertain to the priests alone. The book of Leviticus has in fact slightly over 40 percent of all the laws found in the Torah. What then would be a good name to call this book of the Bible? In Hebrew, this book is called “Vayikra.” It comes from the first word of this book. “Vayikra el-Moshe—And (He) called to Moses.” If we read in the previous portion, which was the end of Exodus, Moses has just set up the Tabernacle and cannot enter the Tent of Meeting because “…the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.” One of the explanations given for why Leviticus-Vayikra starts the way it does, is that, God is calling Moses into the Tabernacle to show him the procedures for the sacrifices.
However, when we read the Hebrew that starts off this book, “Vayikra el-Moshe—And (He) called to Moses.” The “He” is added into the verse for clarity; meaning, in the Hebrew, it would really say, “And called to Moses.” What called to Moses? I read an interesting idea concerning this verse. The call to Moses was the “call of his calling.” Moses’ calling cried out to him, and then “Daber Hashem Eilav—The Lord spoke to him.” What do we understand from this concept? That there is an order that must take place to find one’s calling and hear from God.
Here is the order. Moses first built a Tabernacle where God could dwell, then he found his calling and only then did the voice of God instruct him concerning his task. This is the order we must apply in our lives as well. First, we must become a tabernacle where God can dwell. Secondly, as we pursue this transformation we will find our calling. Thirdly, when we find our calling, God will instruct us on how to put into action our specific mission and task assigned to us by Him.
What were Moses’ first instructions from God? “Adam Ki-Yakriv Mikem Karban L’Hashem—When any one of you brings an offering to the Lord…” How does this verse connect to Moses’ calling and what can we draw from this for our lives?
There are many ideas and spiritual/physical consequences regarding the necessity and purpose of the sacrifices that were done, but let me explain two quick reasons in order to move forward. The 1st reason…when a sacrifice was done, the person making the offering was to imagine that everything done to the sacrificial animal should have been done to himself/herself. The sacrifice was to shock the senses and make one realize the cost of sin. Not just monetary cost but also the life cost of an animal.
The 2nd reason…was that an animal represents each individuals animal/natural instincts which must be put to death. The sacrifice stirs a person to “crucify the flesh” (This should remind us of some New Testament verses). The physical sacrifice was to be a representation of a heart being transformed.
The reason we read throughout the Prophets, God despising His nation’s sacrifices, is because the heart transformation was lost and it had become a ritual instead. In Amos 5, God says, “I hate, I despise your feast days, and I do not savor your sacred assemblies. Though you offer Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them, Nor will I regard your fattened peace offerings…But let justice run down like water, And righteousness like a mighty stream.” What is God concerned about? Righteousness and Justice. Psalm 89 says that these two attributes are “the foundation of [His] throne.” Notice how many times God says “Your” in the above verse. God had given His people “His festivals and offerings” but the people had turned them into their own.
Proverbs 21 tells us, “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination…” This explains that, without repentance, a sacrifice has no purpose. “TeshuvahRepentance” is not “turning away from sin,” true “TeshuvahRepentance” means that one “turns to God.”
There is so much we could explore on this topic, but one of the interesting things I want to note on this subject, is one we find if we go back to God’s first instructions to Moses concerning the sacrifices. Leviticus 1:2 says, “Adam Ki-Yakriv Mikem Karban L’Hashem—When any one of you brings an offering to the Lord…” Normally, anytime God speaks of someone bringing an offering to God it uses the terms, “EeshMan” or “NefeshSoul.” In this verse however it uses the word “AdamMan.” The word “Adam” can be used to refer to humanity as a whole (This is why the Jewish people say non-Jews can make offerings to God; because of this verse).
But the term “Adam” is also the name of a particular character in the Bible. “Adam HaRishon—The First Man.” Why does it start of the book of Leviticus referring to the sacrifices while also making a hidden hint to Adam, the first man? Because Adam is the reason sacrifices are needed in the first place. The sacrifices are reminders of the relationship broken between God and man in “Gan Eden—the Garden of Eden.” If Adam had not broken relationship with God, the sacrifices would not have been needed. But sacrifices are needed because of mankind’s sin.
 
How do we reconcile the sacrifices found in Leviticus with the ultimate sacrifice of Yeshua our Messiah? Didn’t Yeshua come and put an end to the sacrifices? Wouldn’t doing sacrifices belittle the sacrifice of Yeshua?
These are all good questions, and they are only scratching the surface. I still wrestle with some of these answers and am always attempting to grow in my understanding of the sacrificial offerings found in the Torah. What we do know however, is stated well by Daniel Lancaster from FFOZ, in his book, “What about the sacrifices?” He writes, “…the Torah explicitly says that the laws regarding the priesthood, the Temple, and the sacrifices are ‘eternal statutes.’” (Highly recommend this book!)
All these laws are eternal statutes. If this is the case, then Yeshua could not abolish “eternal statutes.” But this is not my main point. Too often I hear people use the phrase “Yeshua abolished the sacrifices” as an excuse to not study the sacrificial institution. You cannot say Yeshua abolished something if you don’t understand what He abolished, if He even did? If the sacrifices all point to Yeshua, then don’t you think it would be important to understand the sacrifices? Whether you believe Yeshua abolished them or not? 
The sacrifices help us understand what Yeshua accomplished through His suffering and death. Yeshua came to rectify man back to God even as the sacrifices brought man closer to God. Rabbi Daniel Krentzman wrote it best when he said, “The need for the mission of Mashiach ben Yosef (Messiah son of Joseph) came about as result of the sin of Adam. In theory, had Adam not sinned and brought about tremendous spiritual damage to himself and the world, there would not have been a need for the tikun olam (restoration of the world) efforts of Mashiach ben Yosef, in every subsequent generation. Mashiach ben Yosef thus comes to rectify that damage and return mankind to the state of Adam before the sin.” This is what Yeshua came to do and does through us even today.
 
“Adam HaRishon—The first Man” sinned and brought separation between mankind and God. Romans 5 tells us, “…Through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin… through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation …by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners.”
The Disobedience and Fall of Man
Because of this, the second Adam, Yeshua, came to rectify all things back to God. Again Romans 5 tells us, “…By one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous… even so grace [will] reign through righteousness to eternal life through Yeshua Messiah our Lord.”
 
1 Corinthians comes along and clarifies things even better concerning the work that was accomplished through Yeshua our Messiah, that He might rectify the sin of Adam and his descendants, “For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Messiah all shall be made alive…‘The first man Adam became a living being.’ The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. [And] as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.”
 
What a beautiful promise! We will one day be conformed into the image of the heavenly man, who is, Yeshua our bridegroom! Adam was called to be a covering for his bride Chava, the wife God had given Him. Yeshua did what Adam could not do! Yeshua is the covering for His bride; those who believe and trust in the power of His saving, redemptive sacrifice! Even as Yeshua was a sacrifice, we are also called, in Romans 12, to present ourselves as “…living sacrifice[s], holy, acceptable to God, which is [our] reasonable service.”
 
There is one last thing I want to share, as this email comes to a close.
In Hebrew, the word “Korban” means “Sacrifice.” If I change the vowels to “Karban,” it can mean “Victim” or it can mean “Gift.” This is the question I believe we all need to ask ourselves. Yes, this is a big topic with many discussions to be had. But the most important thing is this. Do I view my life as a “victim of God” or a “gift to God?” The root word found in Korban/Karban is the word “Karov,” which means “Close or Near.” Are my actions in life, bringing me nearer to God or further away. Because if I am a true sacrifice to the Lord then I should daily be drawing closer to Him.
 
Grace and Peace to all,
Shabbat Shalom,
Samuel

Vayakhel Exodus 35:1-40:38

This week is a double portion that deals with the construction and raising of the Tabernacle. This was the first “Barn Raising,” if you could call it such, found in History; except a “Barn Raising” is when a community comes together to build for a certain individual while the “Mishkan Raising—Tabernacle Raising” was a community coming together to build a house for God. To compare the Tabernacle to a Barn may sound sacrilegious, until we come to the book of Luke and find that Yeshua was born in a stable and slept in a manger. God has a sense of humor. If we are created “B’tzelem Elokim—In the Image of God,” then we reflect Him. If we are a reflection of Him and we as humanity enjoy a good laugh, wouldn’t you think God enjoys a good laugh as well? I am currently in the process of reading a book by one of my favorite authors. The title of the book is called “Happiness is a serious problem” written by Dennis Prager. In the book, he makes the statement, “…unhappy religious people reflect poorly on their religion and on their Creator.”
Now to be sure, I am not equating laughter with happiness, I believe one can laugh without being truly happy. But laughter should become a reflection of the heart; it should reflect a person who is truly at peace with their Creator, at peace in their relationships, and at peace with their circumstances.
Oftentimes, we get caught up in the busy craziness of life that we lose the peace, joy and happiness that comes from a heart that is united with its Maker. That is why this week’s portion opens with this first particular commandment concerning the construction of the Tabernacle. The first commandment given for the construction of the Tabernacle was, “…“Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh day shall be a holy day for you, a Sabbath of rest to the Lord.” It is hard to see how this command is in anyway connected to the building of the Tabernacle. Why is this the command God starts the construction of the Tabernacle with? If I were to start a building project, my first instructions would not be “Remember everybody, the weekend is a mandatory break!” Why would these be God’s first instructions? Maybe it is because God knows mankind. God starts this construction project with the one command most of us struggle with—Take a whole day off from all your projects; forget about your work and rest. Spend time with God, with family and with Torah…
“The Sabbath Rest”  by Samuel Hirszenberg (1865–1908) 
What is the message God is trying to convey here? He is teaching the children of Israel, and by way of implication, us as well, that the most important command of all, is to take time for communion with God. The tabernacle was built exactly for this reason. For God to have a physical abode so He could dwell among His people. What God did not want, was for the Israelites to become so caught up in the building process, to the point, that they forget what the building is for. To become so focused on building the Mishkan—Tabernacle and forgetting the Shabbat—Sabbath, means one has forgotten what the tabernacle represents.
The tabernacle represents communion with God. As Dennis Prager notes in his Exodus commentary, “…the holiest day of the week takes precedence over the building of the holiest place.” The reason for this is because; the Shabbat is a Tabernacle/Temple in time. The physical tabernacle was the building where one could draw close to God; the Shabbat was the time where one could draw close to God.
How many people have we seen who started out in ministry with zeal to build “God’s tabernacle” or “God’s kingdom” and got burned out? I feel that this was the problem God was attempting to steer the Israelites clear of. To not get so caught up in the “work of God” that they forget to spend time in “communion with God.” My question to everyone would be; when was the last time you spent quality time communing with God? Have you become caught up in the “works of God” that you have no time for anything or anyone else?
Here’s the point, don’t get caught “building a tabernacle for God” that you become too preoccupied from resting when God says to rest. Asher Hirsch Ginsberg, better known as, Ahad Ha’am, a Jewish philosopher (1856-1927), famously said, “More than the Jews have kept the Sabbath, the Sabbath has kept the Jews.” A day of rest is what has kept the Jewish people from burning out as a nation for thousands of years.
Exodus 31 says, “…The children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath…” In Hebrew it says, “V’shamru v’nei­-Yisrael et-haShabbat.” The first word “Shamru” comes from the word “Shomer/Shamar” which means “to be careful, to guard, to protect, or to keep.” The children of Israel were to guard the Shabbat; and because they guarded the Shabbat, it in return, guarded them.
Abraham Joshua Heschel, another great author, noted, “…the holiness of the Shabbat preceded Israel’s existence (Genesis 2:3). Even if people fail to observe the Shabbat, it remains holy.” What this means is; the Shabbat is holy whether it receives recognition as a holy day or not. Just as the Shabbat guarded the people who kept it, it is also a holy day for a holy people. The Shabbat is holy even as God is holy. Neither have need of recognition in order to be holy. The Shabbat is one of the few things found in the Bible that has “holy origins” —meaning it was holy/distinct/set-apart from the very beginning of time. With all of this in mind, again I pose the question; when was the last time, you took time aside, to keep the Shabbat, commune with God and recognize the holiness found in both? And again I repeat, don’t get caught busy “building a dwelling place for God,” to where you miss the point behind the purpose of a dwelling place, which is, an intimate relationship with the Creator.
 
After God’s command to keep Shabbat, we get into the details of the Tabernacle’s construction. In Exodus 25:30-31, we read about the appointment of Betzalel as Master designer and craftsman of the “Mishkan—Tabernacle.” It says, “See, the Lord has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; and He has filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom and understanding, in knowledge and all manner of workmanship…” God chose a special person to accomplish the work of the Tabernacle. It says in Hebrew that Betzalel was “Maleh oto ruach Elokim—He was full of the Spirit of God.” This is important to understand as we expound upon this idea. Where in the Bible do we read the 1st mention of the “Ruach Elokim—the Spirit of God?” It’s in Genesis chapter 1 verse 2. It says, “The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.”
In Hebrew it says, “v’Ruach Elokim m’rachefet—and the Spirit of God hovered…” And now we must ask ourselves the question, why was the Spirit of God hovering? Was it maybe because there was no place for God’s Spirit to rest? There is only one mention about the Spirit of God being on/in something between the Genesis creation story and the building of the Tabernacle. This mention is found in the story of Joseph. Joseph has just interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams (Genesis 41), so Pharaoh says to his servants, “Can we find such a one as this, a man in whom is the Spirit of God?” If you go back to what I wrote about during that portion you will see how Joseph is connected to “Mashiach ben Yosef—Messiah son of Joseph,” who is Yeshua. But what do we learn from the Spirit of God hovering at the creation story to all of a sudden being inside of Joseph and filling Betzalel? It tells us exactly what I mentioned several weeks ago. God desires to dwell inside of us. We have the ability to be God’s resting places; the Tabernacle was a resting place for God. Remember, I mentioned a while ago, “God is everywhere, but He only dwells in the places where we allow Him.” 
This is exactly what God meant when He said, “V’asu Li Mikdash V’shachan’ti B’tochamAnd let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell inside of them.” God filled Betzalel with His Spirit for one purpose. What was Betzalel’s purpose? That he could make a Sanctuary for God to dwell in and among His people.
I see and hear a lot of people asking for God’s Spirit. But we cannot miss the first and foremost reason why God’s Spirit was and is given. God’s Spirit is given to build the Sanctuary of God that He may dwell among His people. It is not given for healing, or for spiritual insight, or for tongues, or for “walking in the supernatural.” Some of these may be side outcomes from the giving of God’s Holy Spirit. But the main focus of God’s Spirit is for the building of a Sanctuary where He may dwell among His people. Whether it is a physical structure or within an individual person, God’s Spirit is given to expand the places where He can dwell.
 
In Exodus 38:21 it says, Eleh P’kudei HaMishkan, Mishkan HaEidut—This is the inventory of the tabernacle, the tabernacle of the Testimony.” The last thing in this portion that really stuck out to me was a comment I read in a book called “Daily Wisdom” written by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson concerning this verse. He wrote, “The Torah refers to the Tabernacle as a ‘Testimony’ because it testified that G-d forgave the Jewish people for the sin of the Golden Calf. Moreover, the Hebrew word for ‘testimony’ (Eidut) is related to the word that the Torah uses for ‘jewelry’ (Edi) –i.e., the spiritual crowns- that the people received at the giving of the Torah and had to remove after the incident of the Golden Calf. Thus, the Tabernacle is also called ‘the Tabernacle of the jewelry.’” He goes on to explain that the Tabernacle was the means by which the Jewish people could regain the spiritual height they had received before the sin of the “Egel Masecha—Molded Calf.” 
As it is recounted, each Jewish person received 2 crowns from God when they all stood together at Mount Sinai and declared, “Na’aseh V’Nishma—We will do and we will hear.” One crown was given on the account of saying “Na’aseh—we will do” and the other crown was given on account of saying “V’Nishma—we will hear.” Though they lost these during the sin of the Calf, God “offered them back in the form of the ‘tabernacle of the jewelry.’” I don’t think it is mere chance that in this portion we literally see the nation of Israel give physical jewelry and treasure to build a tabernacle where spiritual jewelry and treasure could be found. In fact it says, Israel gave so much that Moses had to tell the people, “‘Let neither man nor woman do any more work for the offering of the sanctuary.’ And the people were restrained from bringing, for the material they had was sufficient for all the work to be done—indeed too much.”
It is as if the people understood how important this building was. This wasn’t just about having a literal physical building for God to dwell among them; this was for the spiritual well being and uplifting of the people.
“The Jewish Tabernacle and Priesthood”
by George C. Needham (1874) from the Library of Congress
After reading how generous the children of Israel were for the construction of the tabernacle, I think we all need to ask ourselves, how much am I giving and/or willing to give to build a Sanctuary for God -or- a place where God can dwell? When I stand before God, will I have given my all for Him to dwell among us? How important is it for me, to see God have a place in the world? If I had been an Israelite, would I have been one who would’ve had to have been restrained from giving?  Let’s consider these questions and then give some more. He is worthy and deserving of our everything and beyond. 
 
There is beautiful picture here of a Divine exchange. We give our wealth, jewels and crowns away to build God a tabernacle, a place where He can dwell, in and among us. When we do, God in return, as it says in the Psalms, “…crowns [us] with lovingkindness and tender mercies.” May His glory be the crown upon our head, as is written in Isaiah, “…the Lord of hosts will be for a crown of glory and a diadem of beauty to the remnant of His people.”
 
At the end of the day, may the words of Rav Shaul—The Apostle Paul be our words as well. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” May we be found as those who love the Day of His soon coming appearing! We have now completed the book of Exodus. It is customary to say:
Chazak, Chazak V’nitchazek!  Be strong, Be strong and may we be strong! Grace and Peace to all,
Shabbat Shalom,
Samuel

Parsha Ki Tisa Exodus 30:11-34:35

This week is definitely a full portion! It was very hard to decide what to write about, but I figured there is no better place than the beginning! Now, I know the verses we start with in this chapter are curious, but for some reason, these were the verses that fascinated me when I was studying this portion. 
This Torah portion begins by God giving His instructions concerning the census of the men of Israel; how it was to be conducted and who was to be included. This census counted all the men of Israel from 20 years old and above. It was at the age of 20 that one became a “man of war” in Israel. As it says in Numbers 1, “Take a census of all the congregation of the children of Israel…every male individually, from twenty years old and above—all who are able to go to war in Israel.” In this portion, it deals with the census of all the men of Israel, as it says, “When you take the census of the children of Israel for their number…everyone among those who are numbered shall give: half a shekel…from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering to the Lord. The rich shall not give more and the poor shall not give less… And you shall take the atonement money of the children of Israel, and shall appoint it for the service of the tabernacle of meeting, that it may be a memorial for the children of Israel…”
To sum everything up; Every man of Israel over 20 years old was required to give a half shekel (according to the shekel of the sanctuary), no more and no less. It was to be given for the service of the Tent of Meeting = the Tabernacle, as a memorial and covering for the children of Israel. What I left out of these verses are the two most important elements of this passage. Here are the verses for why the half shekel was to be given; “…that there may be no plague among them when you number them…” and “…that it may be a memorial for the children of Israel before the Lord, to make atonement for yourselves.” The half shekel was given not only as a census to count the people; it was given to protect Israel from plague and to make atonement for them. The reason a half shekel was the chosen amount was to show 2 things. The 1st reason was to show that every man who wanted to be counted among the people of God had to give something up. Bloodlines and family names confuse most of us, but in this case, it didn’t matter your bloodline or who your family was. One had to make a conscious decision to pay the half shekel in order to be counted among God’s people.
The 2nd reason a half shekel was the amount chosen to be given, was to show Israel that, no one person, can bring a full shekel for the service of the Tabernacle in and of himself. In order to bring a full shekel, one half shekel had to be joined with another half shekel, teaching us that the service of God’s house functions only when we join our half shekels together in unity, as one people.
“The Numbering of the Israelites”
engraving by Henri Félix Emmanuel Philippoteaux (1815–1884) 
In Hebrew, the words “to make atonement for yourselves” are “L’chaper al-
Naf’shotechem.” These words would be better translated as “to cover over your souls.” The word Naf’shotechem”has the root word “Nefesh,” in it, which means “Soul.” With this understanding, we could imply that each “soul” was valued at one half of a shekel. For complete clarity, here’s the equation, one soul = half a shekel. The giving of a half shekel was a physical action, which represented the giving of one’s own soul over to God. When an Israelite gave the half shekel, he was attaching his soul to God and to the things of God. It says that this census was to be done to “to cover over your souls” so that “no plague [could come] among [you].” But what was the covering needed for? And, what is the plague that is spoken of here?
In order to understand these questions we must skip in this portion over to Exodus 32. In this chapter we read about the “Egel Masecha—Molded Calf,” where Israel falls into the sins of idolatry and immorality.
The sages teach us that the half shekel was to be given as atonement for the sin of the “Egel Masecha—Molded Calf.” God knew what Israel was about to do and so therefore stepped in with the antidote before the sin was even committed. The concept that we learn from this is; the rectification and atonement of sin is already provided for, even before an evil deed is done. 
From the sin of Adam and Eve, to the evil committed by mankind around the world today, God has already provided the antidote. No transgression is done without God providing the way of atonement first.
Yet, this does not in any way, remove the consequences of sin. God tells Israel to take a census so that “no plague [can come] among [you].” But because of Israel’s transgression, guess what? It tells us at the end of Exodus 32, “…The Lord plagued the people because of what they did with the calf…” The half shekel for atonement was given to counteract the worship of the Golden Calf, but the plague of consequences still came to haunt the people for the transgression that had been committed. 
 
Now, back to atonement! I know this is hard to comprehend. Atonement, as we have always been taught, can only be found in Yeshua…right? How can the sin of idolatry be rectified through the payment of a half shekel? Even if we had all the money in the world, could we really “pay God off” to forgive our evil misdeeds?
Before we get in to this “hot topic” I want to pose some other questions. Why was there a census? Why did the men of Israel have to be counted after the sin of the “Egel—Calf?” Putting a half shekel forward provided atonement for idolatry, but why was a census also necessary?
The reason a census was needed after the sin of the “Egel—Calf” was to count how many men had perished for their idolatry. When Moses arrived in the camp of Israel and saw the idol worship, he called for every man who feared God to go and slay the idolaters. It tells us in the story that “…all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together… [Moses] said to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘Let every man put his sword on his side, and go in and out from entrance to entrance throughout the camp, and let every man kill his brother, every man his companion, and every man his neighbor.’’” It is from this story that the Levites are recognized as zealous for God and God takes them as helpers in the holy service of the Tabernacle. (Numbers 8)
In summary, this was the reason for the census…to count those who had perished and those who had not. As the Israel Bible notes, the “Sages point out that the numerous times God counts the people is also an indication of His love for them.” As we read in Deuteronomy 7, God calls His people an “Am Segulah—A Treasured People.” Even as a king counts his jewels and riches, so God counts His people, viewing each person as a precious jewel crafted and created for His good pleasure.
 
Before I get into atonement, because I want to save it for last, I want to ask one more question. A question that has been debated for many centuries and that has many interesting answers…a question whose many diverse answers point to different lessons from which we must learn. The question is: What was the sin of the “Egel Masecha—Molded Calf?” You probably already have the answer, right? It is stated plainly in the “Aseret HaDibrot—10 Commandments” in Exodus 20, “You shall not make for yourself a carved (or graven) image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them.” But was this really the sin of the “Egel—Calf?”
Only 3000 men were killed for idolatry out of the entire nation of Israel, which equaled 600,000 men not including women and children. Why did God plague the entire nation on account of 3000 idolaters? Maybe because the sin of the “Egel—Calf” wasn’t so much about the idolaters as much as it was about the entire nation of Israel that didn’t say a word when this debacle started. Out of 600,000 men, not one said a word to stop this disaster from taking place. There is a traditional story found in Vayikra Rabbah 10, which tells us that, before the people came to Aaron, they came to Hur, who was also a leader in Israel. The story goes as such, “At the time when the Israelites were about to commit the act [make the golden calf] they first came to Chur, and they said to him: ‘Make us a god!’ Since he did not listen to them, they rose up and slew him.” Whether this story is true or not, the reality is this, the Children of Israel allowed a graven image to be created and worshiped within their midst. If an Israelite participated in the idolatrous worship or not, it was permitted within the community of Israel. No one stood up and said: STOP!
First Fruits Of Zion writes in one of their articles, “The Tabernacle represents God’s way of doing spirituality. The golden calf represents man’s way of doing spirituality.”
“The Golden Calf”by James Tissot (Before 1903)
God declared the half-shekel census to be done to make atonement for the nation of Israel. This atonement was for all the of men Israel who had allowed the worship of an “Egel—Calf” to happen within their midst. But as I already asked before, “How can the sin of idolatry, or, the allowance of idolatry, be rectified through the payment of a half shekel?” Remember the equation from earlier? One soul = half a shekel. This is key to how we understand the atonement, which took place in this story.
Please bear with me here, because this is a very difficult topic to breach and remain clear on. If each soul equals half a shekel, then when each individual man of Israel gives his half shekel to the priest, his physical action ought to reflect the spiritual promise he is making. When the Children of Israel each gave their half shekel, as recorded in Exodus 38, the amount comes out to 100+ talents of silver. This silver is used for the sockets and bases to build the Tabernacle. The spiritual promise being made here by doing the physical action of giving the half shekel was this; “I am willing to be used as a dwelling place for God.”
Accountability and community are what the half shekel represented, unity with God and with one another. The atonement came from each individual soul = each individual half-shekel coming together as a dwelling place for God.
How does Yeshua fit into all of this? Here’s the really stirring part. When God gave Moses the command to take a census of the men of Israel, Moses didn’t understand what God meant by a half shekel. As the story goes in the Midrash, Numbers Rabbah 12:3,“R. Meir expounded: The Holy One, blessed be He, took what resembled a coin of fire from beneath the Throne of Glory and showed Moses, ‘This they shall give,’ namely, they shall give a coin that resembles this one.” God showed Moses the half-shekel coin that would be used to census Israel. From where did God take this coin?  From beneath the Throne of Glory…Do you know what is also traditionally underneath the Throne of Glory? In the Pesikta Rabbati it makes this statement, “What is meant by ‘in Your light do we see light’? What light is it that the congregation of Israel looks for as from a watchtower? It is the light of Messiah, of which it is said, ‘And God saw the light that it was good’ (Gen 1:4). This verse proves that the Holy One, blessed be He, contemplated the Messiah and his works before the world was created, and then under His throne of glory put away His Messiah until the time of the generation in which he will appear.”
The “coin of fire” which was under the Throne of Glory is also the place where it says God put His Messiah until His time to appear! This helps to understand the verse in Colossians 3, “[My] life is hidden with Messiah in God.” So here is my proposal, the half shekel which was equal to the soul of every Israelite was based upon the blueprint of the ‘coin of fire” which is equal to the soul of Mashiach! Every soul must be conformed to the image and seal of the coin of fire; who is Yeshua our Messiah. There is no atonement without conforming and submitting to seal of Yeshua upon our lives. The half shekel was used to build a physical house for God. The soul of every Israelite was created to be a spiritual house for God. But in order to have either, every Israelite and every one of us must become like the “coin of fire” = the soul of the Messiah. We must become even as He is.
We know we are created “B’tzelem Elokim—Imago Dei—In the image of God.” Now we need the seal of Messiah, the stamp of His “coin of fire” on and in our lives.
Yeshua Himself said, “Render to Caesar his stuff and to God the things that are His.” That’s a bad paraphrase, but you understand. We are all “half shekels,” meaning, we can’t accomplish anything alone. We need community. It also means, we were created to make spaces and places where God can dwell, whether that be in our individual lives or in a physical building. But first, we need to become a half shekel created in the image of God’s “coin of fire” = Mashiach = Messiah  = Yeshua. We can be a dwelling place for God and He can be a dwelling place for us, or, we can be a plague to Him and He can be a plague to us. Let’s choose the former. Let’s become who He created us to be. In Isaiah 8, the Lord says, “V’Hayah L’Mikdash Ul’Even Negef—And He will be a Sanctuary and a Stone of Plagues.”
We have the choice. We can choose His ways and receive Him as a Sanctuary or we can reject Him and He will come as a Plague. He coming anyway, so, if you don’t make the choice, He’ll have to make it for you. Choose Him, choose life, and choose today!
 
May you all be sealed with the “Coin of Fire,”
Grace be with you all,
Shabbat Shalom,
Samuel

“Tetzaveh” Exodus 27:20-30:10

This portion deals a lot with the Garments and Consecration of the Kohanim—the Priests. In great detail it describes the intricacies behind the attire specifically for the “Kohen Gadol—High Priest.” With all of these instructions concerning the outfit and vestments of the High Priest, it begs the question…Does God only look at the heart? Most of us have been taught the axiom “Come as you are.” Yet often, this phrase seems to be translated by the culture as, “stay as you are.”
In this portion I want to delve into some of the meaning behind the High Priest’s garments and the significance they have for us in our daily lives. As the writer of Hebrews wrote, the meaning of the Tabernacle is a “…shadow of the heavenly things…” If we can understand the garments of the Priests, then we gain understanding into Heavenly realm.
 
In the Talmud, Avodah Zarah (“Foreign Worship—Idolatry”) 3a, we read the following, “Rabbi Meir would say: From where is it derived that even a gentile who engages in Torah study is considered like a High Priest? The verse states: ‘You shall therefore keep My statutes and My ordinances, which if a person do, [they] shall live by them’ (Leviticus 18:5). It is not stated: Priests, Levites, and Israelites, but rather the general term person. From here you learn that even a gentile who engages in the study of Torah is like a High Priest.” Here we find that a non-Jew who delves into the depths of Torah; it is as if this person became a High Priest. Therefore, if when one studies Torah, they become as a High Priest; don’t you think the clothing, regulations and duties of a High Priest are important for us to understand?
 
If we go back to the book of Hebrews, chapter 4 and then chapter 8, we read these verses, “…we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Yeshua the Son of God…Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” And “We have such a High Priest (Yeshua), who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle…” In 1 Timothy it says, “…There is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Messiah Yeshua.” And lastly, from Romans 8, “Who is he who condemns? It is Messiah who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.” From these verses we realize that Yeshua is in the heavenlies, seated at the right hand of the throne of God, as High Priest and Mediator who makes intercession for us.
 
The order of the Priesthood, as we see laid out in the Torah, were the mediators between God and His people. Yeshua, our Messiah, is also a Mediator and Intercessor between God and mankind. Priests are those who stand in the gap for others. Priests represent God to the people and the people to God.
“The High Priest” Illustration from the Holman Bible (1890)
But what need do we have for priests or intermediaries when the study of Torah equates us with the status of a High Priest?
 
Let’s go back to the verse we looked at from the Talmud and read the last line again. “From here you learn that even a gentile who engages in the study of Torah is like a High Priest.” In Hebrew, the last 3 words are “Hu K’Kohen Gadol.” What we’re interested in is the word “K’Kohen” which is literally translated as “like a Priest.” Studying the Torah makes us “K’Kohen Gadol—Like a High Priest,” but it does not make us literal High Priests. We do not replace or usurp the Priesthood of Israel or the High Priest of Heaven. But we can become like them. In Romans 8 we read that we are being “conformed to the image of [God’s] Son.” The Son of God is Yeshua. Yeshua is the High Priest of the Heavenlies. If we are becoming more like Yeshua, then we are becoming more like a High Priest. The Torah tells us that Israel was to be a “Mamlechet Kohanim—A Kingdom of Priests.” Peter, one of Yeshua’s disciples, added to this idea in 1 Peter 2, “…you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people.” From these verses we understand that, God’s people are to become a nation of priests, who are being conformed to the image of the great High Priest, Yeshua.
 
Last week, I wrote about the idea of each one of us being “a Mikdasha Sanctuary” for God. This week I want to write about each of us becoming priests for God. A sanctuary is a place where God dwells, a priest is one who does God’s service. Many people want God to dwell inside them, but they don’t want to do the service of God around them. Yet, these two go together. Being a dwelling place for God means that you are a priest and intermediary between God and the world. 
 
I started off by asking the question, “Does God only look at the heart?” But before I started into this topic, I wanted us to understand our place as priests, even like High Priests in the Kingdom of God. If we recognize ourselves as priests of God, then I think asking the question “Does God only look at the heart?” changes the way we think about this question.
In Exodus 28, God instructs garments to be made, “holy garments for Aaron… for glory and for beauty.” In Hebrew it says “You shall make ‘Bigdei-Kodesh—Holy Garments’ for Aaron… ‘l’kavod ul’tiferet—for honor and for splendor.’” A good definition for a priest could be “a servant of God.” The “MishkanTabernacle” was God’s palace where He could reside, like a King among His subjects. Even as the kings of the world dressed their servants to represent themselves, so too, God wanted His servants = His priests to dress as representatives of Him.
 
If we are becoming more like Yeshua, then we are becoming more like a High Priest; and if we are becoming more like a High Priest, then we begin to dress the way a High Priest would dress. “…Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” God always takes things to the “heart of the matter” because our hearts do matter. Yet, the outward appearance is either a reflection or mirage of the heart. Our outward appearance shouldn’t be an illusion to camouflage our imperfection. Instead, our outward appearance ought to be a reflection of who we are as priests of the Living God. 
 
Most of us are familiar with Ephesians 6, where it lists out the spiritual “Armor of God” we all must put on “…that [we] may be able to withstand in the evil day.” Most often this armor is described as the armor of a Roman soldier. This is a plausible explanation being that the Romans were the World Power of that time period. But, we must remember that the Apostle Paul was also, Rav ShaulRabbi Saul. He had studied under Gamaliel, a great Torah teacher of the time. Rav Shaul wrote about very deep Torah mysteries and accompanied his letters with Midrashic style stories. Why would he suddenly switch to Roman armor and compare God’s word to the sword of those who eventually slaughter his people and destroy the whole of Jerusalem, including the Holy Temple?
Maybe, the Apostle Paul, when he wrote the last chapter of Ephesians was thinking about the “Priestly Soldier” who served in the Holy Temple.
There were two kinds of warriors in the Temple. The first were the literal “security guards” of the Temple complex. In Exodus 32, we read about the story of the worship of the “Egel MasechaMolten Calf,” where Moses said to the people, “‘Whoever is on the Lord’s side—come to me!’ And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together to him. And he said to them…‘Let every man put his sword on his side…’” The Levites slew the idolaters and set themselves apart for God. Because of this story, God chose the Levites to have a special role in the service of the Tabernacle; one of those services was being guards for the Holy House of God. Paul could have been relating his chapter to the literal “soldiers of God” found in the Temple.
But the other Warriors found in the Temple were the only “soldiers” who wore armor for a spiritual battle rather than a physical battle. Remember, Paul starts the section about the armor of God off as a reminder that we don’t fight “…against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
Why would Paul use the analogy of physical armor that is used for physical battle to describe spiritual warfare, when he could instead talk about physical “armor” that is used to fight spiritual warfare? 
 
The vestments of the High Priest found in Exodus 28, correlate to the armor of God as found in Ephesians 6. I don’t have time to get into all of the armor in depth, but I would like to take 2 and explore what they mean to us as followers of Yeshua, our great High Priest. In the Tanach we read that, God also arrays himself in armor. The two pieces of armor specifically referenced in Isaiah 59 are the pieces we will talk about in depth. Verse 17 says, “For He (God) put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on His head…” Interestingly enough, these are the two armor pieces mentioned by the Torah teacher, the Apostle PaulRav Shaul in 1 Thessalonians 5. He wrote, “But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation.”
 
I want to start with the Helmet of Salvation = The “Mitznefetthe Turban” and the “TzitzThe crown.” Upon the “tzitzcrown” was an inscription which said “Kadosh L’HashemHoly to the Lord.”  Psalm 103 tells us that God “crowns [us] with loving-kindness and tender mercies…” Psalm 3 tells us that God is, “[Our] glory and the One who lifts up [our] heads.” It is through the salvation that is found in Yeshua, that we are crowned with mercy and our heads are raised high. He is the one who places His crown of approval upon us. He is the one who calls us “Kadosh L’HashemHoly to the Lord.”
 
The Breastplate of Righteousness = The “Choshen MishpatBreastplate of Judgment.” Psalm 89 tells us, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your (God’s) throne; Mercy and truth go before Your face.”  Why is this important? Because while His throne remains unshakeable, His mercy and truth are extended and moving throughout the earth, as it says in James, “Mercy triumphs over judgment.”
The Hebrew word “ChoshenBreastplate” is equal in Gematria to the word “MashiachMessiah” which equals 358. In 2 Corinthians 5 we read, “For He (God) made Him (Yeshua) who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” We as believers in Yeshua will often say that we are righteous because of Yeshua’s sacrifice, but that is not what this verse says. It does not say we are righteous in God, it says we are the righteousness of God. These are two different ideas. One is about being righteous; the other is about becoming righteousness. What this verse is saying is, when the world looks for the righteousness of God, we are it!
How do we get to this position? When we put on the breastplate of righteousness given us by God. And if this breastplate is equal to the Messiah, then every time we put on the “ChoshenBreastplate” of righteousness, we are putting on the Messiah. As it tells us in Romans 13 “…put on the Lord Yeshua Messiah…”
“The Seven Trumpets of Jericho—Priests lead the People to Battle”
by James Tissot (1904)
We are the priests of God. We are His representatives, emissaries and intermediaries in this world. We must put on Messiah and walk as the righteousness of God in this world. Paul tells us to “…put on the armor of light…” Remember Yeshua instructs us to “…cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside…may be clean also.” But, the outside shows the true transformation of what has happened on the inside. Learn to live life as a priest to God. We are like a High Priest who intercedes, mediates and conduits God’s presence and light into this realm. As 1 Corinthians 10 puts it so well, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Take everything in life, even the little things to bring glory, honor and majesty to the King of Kings and Priest above all Priests. Because He is worthy and because we are His servantsHis priests, who have put on Messiah and walk outfitted with the armor of God “…thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
 
Shabbat Shalom,
Samuel