Parsha Terumah Exodus 25:1-27:19

In this weeks Portion we read about the construction of the Mishkan—the Tabernacle. Much of the Torah is dedicated to the construction, implementation and functioning of the Tabernacle and its Service. The construction of the Tabernacle is such a prevalent topic dealt with in the Torah, that it is impossible to turn a blind eye and ignore it.
The amount of detail God gives in the Torah concerning the Tabernacle, tells us, that this building is one of the most important topics to be studied in the Bible. Not Creation, not the Flood, not the Exodus from Egypt. The building of the Mishkan—the Tabernacle, is one of the most intricately described processes that covers detailed chapter after chapter of information concerning this building project, the order of ceremony, the protocol and dress of the Kohanim—the Priests, and much, much more! 
 
The Vilna Gaon (Rabbi Eliyahu ben Solomon Zalman. 1720-1797) compared the creation of the world to the building of the Tabernacle. He stated, “The Holy Temple – God’s Sanctuary – was a microcosmic model of the entire universe.” If this is true; then the more we understand about the formation of the Mishkan, the more we understand about the structuring behind the universe. The Vilna Gaon continues, “…man is a ‘little world’ who also encompasses within him all the elements of existencein this sense, he too is a ‘Sanctuary’…when man sanctifies himself…the Divine Presence resides within him as it resided within the Holy Temple of Jerusalem.” The Mishkan is a microcosm of Creation, and Mankind is a microcosm of the Mishkan.  
These three all have something in common, and this commonality is related to the word “Mishkan.” For the rest of this observation I’m going to refer to the Tabernacle as “the Mishkan.” Why is this important? Because a Tabernacle is, as defined by the Merriam Webster dictionary, “a house of worship…a large building or tent…a tent sanctuary used by the Israelites during the Exodus…a dwelling place…a temporary shelter.”
Whenever someone thinks of a Tabernacle, they immediately think—big tent in the desert. But a Mishkan is not just a big tent. God tells Moses in this portion, “And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.” In Hebrew it says, “V’asu Li Mikdash V’shachan’ti B’tocham.”
“The Tabernacle in the Wilderness” Illustration from the Holman Bible (1890)
Now before I get into the Hebrew, I want to break this verse down. There is a command given in this verse and then there is the consequence of obedience or non-obedience to the command. The command is “V’asu Li Mikdash—Let them make me a Sanctuary.” If the Sanctuary is not built, then the second half of this verse means nothing…this is an if-then principle. If they (Israel) “make me a Sanctuary,” then “Shachan’ti B’tocham—I may dwell among them.” Now, back to the Hebrew. The first word we’re interested in, is the word “V’shachan’ti” or more precisely, the root word “Shachan.” This root word means, “to inhabit, to dwell, to live.” It is the root we get the word Shekinah from. It is also root to the word Mishkan. What does this mean to our verse? God is telling Israel, “Make me a dwelling place in your midst.” The Mishkan, or, the Tabernacle, wasn’t a large circus tent in the middle of the desert for Israel to meet with God in. It was God’s home among His people. So, instead of using the word Tabernacle—a big tent in the desert, I want to use the word Mishkan—a home for God among His people. This is where we get the idea of the “Shekinah Glory of God.” What does this mean? It means, the manifest presence of God as seen in this physical realm. God wanted a Mishkan built, so that He could dwell and interact with His people in this realm.
This helps us understand more of the meaning behind the Mishkan, but how do we reconcile the Universe, with the Mishkan, with humanity, as I mentioned earlier? What do these three things have in common with each other?
To find the unity between these seemingly different subjects, let’s go back to the verse from this portion and review one other Hebrew word. The word is “B’tocham,” which is generally translated as “among them.” But a literal translation of the phrase “Shachan’ti B’tocham” would be, “[that] I may dwell b’tocham—inside of them.” From this verse we understand, that God desires, not just for a building among us, He wants to “shachan-dwell” inside of us. He wants all of us to become “Mishkanot,” dwelling places for God. The universe, the Tabernacle-Mishkan, and we as mankind all have the ability to be dwellings for God. This is the connection between these three.
The more I know about the Mishkan, the more I will discern about myself and who I am to become. The more I discern about myself, the more I will understand the universe and my purpose within the creation. Because all three are places where God can dwell.
 
Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk. Better known as the Kotzker Rebbe (1787–1859, Poland), once posed the question, “Where is God?” His talmidim—disciples answered this seemingly heretical question by replying “God is everywhere!”  “No,” the Kotzker Rebbe responded, “God dwells wherever we let God in.”
You see, God is everywhere, but He only dwells in the places where we allow Him. Where can God be found? In the places where He has been permitted entrance; God, doesn’t force Himself upon us. He desires that we yearn and desire Him. The building of the Mishkan allowed everyone in Israel to participate and invite God to dwell among them. As it says, “From everyone who gives it willingly with his heart you shall take My offering.” The nation of Israel gave the materials necessary to build a house for God. They desired God to dwell among them; they realized that gold and silver, precious stones and cloth, all these material things, were to be used to bring the physical reality of the spiritual mentality. All of us know that God is everywhere. But, have we invited Him to dwell among us? In our homes and families? In our communities and social groups? In our states and countries? Remember, God is everywhere, but He only dwells where He is invited.
 
With this being said, there is an order that must be in place if we want to invite God to dwell inside/among us. Everything that God does is done in order, by order and for order.
The whole Mishkan was arranged and ordered for the service of God. What is interesting to note, is, when we open up this Portion for the blueprint of the Mishkan, it starts in the reverse order of how we would normally go about making plans for a building.
While a typical building project would start with the outer walls and foundation for the building, the work of the Mishkan starts immediately with plans to build the items that would be inside the Tabernacle. God works from the inside out and not the outside in. He starts immediately with the most important items of the Mishkan and works His way outward, from the “Kodesh HaKodeshim—The Holy of Holies,” to the “Kodesh—Holy,” to the inner courtyard and beyond.
The first item on the list to be created was the “Aron HaBrit—The Ark of the Covenant.”  The Rabbis tell us that this ark was created using some of the gold from each individual Israelite, so that no one could claim ownership of the place where God said, “…there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat.” The lesson from this idea is that it takes all of us as a collective to create a place where God can meet with His people. From the collectives perspective, each individual person must be in order, so the nation can move forward.
This is why I want to move from collective responsibility to individual responsibility. It was the “community of Israel” that came together to build the Mishkan, but the people had to give to the cause and prepare themselves independently to receive God’s presence in and among them. God not only said He would dwell among them collectively; He said He would dwell inside of each of them individually.
Each of us has the ability to become a house for God. This is God’s desire. From the time of the Garden of Eden until now, God has wanted to dwell with mankind.
The Heart of a man, spiritually speaking, is his “Aron HaBrit—Ark of the Covenant.” Because we as humans are microcosms of the Mishkan, we function or should function just as the Tabernacle functioned. God’s Shekinah should be found upon the “mercy seat” of our heart. When the children of Israel were instructed on how to craft the Ark, there is an important verse that must be brought out. Exodus 25:10-11 tells us, “And [you] shall make an ark of acacia wood… And you shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and out you shall overlay it…”
Why is this verse so important? If the Ark represents mans heart, then the terms “overlay inside and out” gives us an important concept. This verse is telling us that we cannot be one person on the outside and another on the inside. Both inside and outside must be coated with gold. Yeshua Himself came out hard against the Pharisees of His day saying, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence…cleanse the inside of the cup and dish that the outside of them may be clean also…you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” If each of us is, as 1 Corinthians 6 says, The temple of the Holy Spirit,” then we must daily live a life of introspection and self-betterment. Many people think the words “Self betterment” sound selfish; but if your betterment makes you a nicer person and more intune with God, then what’s the problem? There is nothing wrong with improving your Mishkan-Tabernacle-Temple for God!
 
Ultimately the whole world will become God’s dwelling place, but the first step starts when we invite and allow Him to dwell in us. We in Him and He in us, is what will transform the world back to how it was in Garden Eden!
Learn to live by another of the Kotzker Rebbes quotes, “People are accustomed to look at the heavens and to wonder what happens there. It would be better if they would look within themselves, to see what happens there.”
 
I want to leave us with this idea that we learned earlier in this observation: God is everywhere, but He only dwells where He is invited. Invite God to come and dwell in your heart = your Aron HaBrit—Ark of the Covenant. And when you invite Him in, may His light, presence, essence and glory shine through you, bringing the whole world closer to being a Mishkan for God.
 
Shabbat Shalom,
Samuel

“Mishpatim” Exodus 21:1-24:18

For people who hear the word “Torah” and immediately think of a list of laws and regulations, then this portion is for you. This portion contains quite a list of commandments, racking up a whopping total of 53 laws—23 compulsory and 30 prohibitory commandments. In this portion we are getting down to the “nitty gritty” things of the Torah, but that sounds too dirty. As it says in Psalm 19, “The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes…” So, if the commandment of the Lord is pure, then I’ll call this portion, the beginning of the “nuts and bolts” of the Torah. In other words, this is the “practical application of the Torah’s aspiration.”
Many people skip or gloss over these laws and go straight back to the exciting stories of the nation of Israel. But these portions can be more profound than any story we read in scripture, because it is from these laws that we better understand the nature of God.
I know I have used the term? “Torah?” a lot, using the word to describe the 5 books of Moses. Yet, I have never done an observation concerning what the Torah is, in and of itself. The word Torah is commonly mistranslated as “law,” a better translation would be “instruction.” It is in these instructions that we better understand the nature and character of the One who gave them to mankind.
I’m sure we are all familiar with the idea professed by many in Christianity who say, “The law has been done away with.” And to be quite honest, it is tempting to go along with this idea, being that there are many complex issues in the Torah that would seemingly (in the human mind) be good to abolish. Yet, as stated so well by First Fruits of Zion in their article for this Torah portion, they write, “the mouth of God spoke every commandment of Torah.” If the mouth of God spoke every commandment into existence, then “As soon as we begin to discard commandments, we have begun editing God and reshaping the Almighty into an image which we deem more appropriate.”
We cannot change the Torah to fit our version of God. As Psalm 18 says, “Ha’El Tamim Darcho, Imrat Hashem Tz’rufah—God, His way is perfect; the word of the Lord is proven.” But the word “tz’rufah” doesn’t necessarily have to be translated as “proven.” The word “tz’rufah” deals with the concept of something being tested, purified or flawless. From this verse we gain the understanding that God’s word and His way are perfect and flawless, and as Isaiah the Prophet wrote, “…the word of our God stands forever.”
The study of the Torah is the study of God, and the more we understand the Torah, the more we will understand God. If we continue in this line of thinking, then, if someone were to fully understand Torah then they would understand God, and if they fully understood God…then He’s not God, because God is beyond our intellectual capacity. We can “know God” but only in the fullness He allows. We can understand Torah, but only in the limited capacity of our knowledge and experience. We change based on the circumstances and situations around us, but God never changes and neither does His word. The Torah communicates to us God’s divine nature and every commandment imparts a “pure revelation of His person.” FFOZ
“Moses with tablets of the Ten Commandments”by Rembrandt (1659)
This is a concept that must be understood before we even get to the starting gate. As Yeshua Himself said, “I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.” The Torah tells us who God is and who we are to become. It describes God’s nature and tells us how to be just as He is.
 
Hopefully, I’ve now brought more clarity to the concept of the importance of Torah. But before we jump right into the “instructions” found in these passages, I want to take a short journey to sum up the Torah as best as possible. Before we start I want to ask a question: Why is a summary important before we begin exploring the laws found in the Torah? Because if we know the summary, then we will know how to interpret the laws presented throughout the Bible.The summary will give us the Heart of the Torah, and when we understand the Heart of the Torah we will be able to “rightly divid[e] the word of truth.”
 
Rabbi Simlai lived during the time of the third century in the Galilee area of Israel. He is best noted for being the one to state the number of Torah commands as 613. His statements are recorded in the Talmud and can be found in Makkot 23b. With the idea of 613 commandments, many Rabbis began hunting for a verse from the Tanach (Tanach is an acronym used to describe the whole Hebrew Bible) that could be used that would summarize the Torah in its entirety. We are all familiar with the 10 commandments and they are a good starting point to quickly reduce our number from 613 to 10. The 10 sum up the 613. Rabbi Simlai himself was also on the hunt to figure out how to summarize the entire Torah with one commandment and verse. He began with Psalm 15. In this Psalm, King David asks the question, “Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill?” Then David goes on to describe the attributes and qualities one must have. We can summarize the 10 commandments using one chapter, Psalm 15. How do we summarize even better? Rabbi Simlai next takes Isaiah 33:15 and says the entire Torah is summed up by these 6 commandments, found in this one verse. Then in Micah 6:8, Micah instructs the people with 3 commandments “to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” Continue on and we find that Isaiah 56 instructs us to “Keep justice, and do righteousness” Now we’re down from 10 commandments to 2. But what is the one verse and one commandment that sums up the whole Torah? Rabbi Simlai sums up his thoughts and concludes with Amos 5:4 saying that the whole Torah centers on this one commandment and verse, “Seek Me and live.”
 
Of course, for most of us as Christians, we sum up the Torah through the words of Yeshua when He was asked about the “greatest—all encompassing” commandment of the Torah. His reply is found in Matthew 22. “Yeshua said…‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
However, what many people don’t know is that this summarization by Yeshua was not a new concept to the Jewish people of the time. Yeshua was actually quoting a Rabbi of His era known as Rabbi Hillel. As the story goes, “A certain heathen came before Hillel and asked Hillel to teach him the entire Torah while standing on one foot. Hillel replied, ‘What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor: that is the whole Torah while the rest is commentary; go and learn it.’” Hillel wrapped up the entire Torah with the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I love his ending…once you understand the simple statement of what it truly means to love your neighbor, “the rest is commentary.” Basically he’s saying, “love your neighbor” is the commandment, the rest of Torah is how to apply that commandment to everyday life. That is really what the Torah is about. As I already wrote, most of the commandments we read about are the “practical applications of the Torah’s aspirations.” We aspire to love God and love our neighbor, but what that looks like in reality is defined in the “nuts and bolts” of this Parsha and Parashot (portions) like this one.
 
This Parsha is titled “Mishpatim” which means “Judgments.” In the Torah the commands—instructions, are divided into 3 different categories. The first and most basic of these categories is titled the “Mishpatim—Judgements.” These are the laws that govern between people and are necessary to allow for a civilized society to retain social order. These commands would include such laws as “Do not murder” or “Do not steal.” In basic terms, these laws deal with human interactions between each other.
 
The next category is called “Edut—Testimonies.” These are laws and rulings that commemorate and remind us of past events through physical deeds. For example, we are told to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy, but the Sabbath itself reminds us of Creation. Instructions are given on how to keep the feast of Passover, but Passover is about reminding us of the Exodus from Egypt. Tefillin—Phylacteries are worn by Jewish men during prayer as a reminder of the verse that says to bind God’s words as a sign on the arm and as frontlets between the eyes. These are the laws that give physical reality to a spiritual mentality.
 
The last category is titled, the “Chukim—Statutes.” These laws are ones that cannot be understood but are kept anyway because they are God’s laws. These laws would include commands such as, the red heifer sacrifice or the kosher dietary food laws. We don’t necessarily have a complete grasp on why God gave these laws or what their implications are; yet we keep them because they are important to God.The “Chukim” are done to honor God, though we don’t completely comprehend what they mean. These laws have come to be referred to by the Rabbis as “The Torah of Messiah,” because these are the laws that the Messiah will explain upon His arrival.
 
Though this Parsha (portion) is called “Mishpatim,” we find all three categories of laws mentioned in this portion and even some overlap regarding different commands. For example, take this verse, “The first of the firstfruits of your land you shall bring into the house of the Lord your God.” This verse contains an essence of all three kinds of Mitzvot—Commandments. It is a physical command (Physical reminder-Edut) to bring to God’s house and to the Kohanim-the Priests, the first of the crops. (Taking care of your fellow man-Mishpat) It is through this command that you rise above the routine of everyday and connect to God (Chukim). So, through this command you fulfill all three types of commandments. Let me clarify—you do a physical act, which encourages peace between man and his fellow, whereby you find greater connection to God. That’s what this means. You bring to realization all three levels of the commandment by fulfilling one law in God’s Torah. God’s laws should always accomplish this work. Let me rephrase this again, because, this is what it means to follow God’s laws, and this is what it should accomplish…by keeping a physical command of God, it should encourages peace between man and his fellow and bring you to a closer connection with God.

With all that being said, I am running out of space and time to get into some of the commandments we find mentioned in this portion. So quickly let’s dive right into the first chapter of this portion and look at some of the specific commands that God gave to the children of Israel. In Exodus 21:2-6, God talks about how to deal with a Hebrew servant. One thing to mention before we get really deep into this portion is that the word “Slave” used in the Bible, is often, if not all the time, the Hebrew word “Eved.” This word can also mean “Servant,” even as Moses himself was called an “Eved Hashem—A Servant of God.”
Biblical slavery is not the same slavery that we as Americans understand from our horrific history. What we are dealing with in these specific verses of chapter 21 deal with how to care for a Hebrew indentured-servant. These verses are actually directed toward those who are rich rather than vice-versa. These verses are telling those that are well off, that it is not okay to pass up a fellow Hebrew who has fallen on bad times. It is a Torah command that the rich take care of their fellow man. This does not mean the government step in and redistribute wealth, which is not in the Torah. The main point is…take care of each other. Verses 5 and 6 go on to deal with the procedure, if a Hebrew servant should want to remain with his master.
I don’t have time to get into the intricacies of the process, but it is important to note that this was looked down upon within Jewish culture and practice. And now we must ask the question, Why? We can find our answer in the first verse of the 10 commandments. “Anochi Hashem Elokecha Asher Hotzeticha M’Eretz Mitzraim M’Beit Avadim—I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the Land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.”
God brought His people out of Egypt to be a people unto Himself. When someone willingly puts himself or herself in the position of serving under another person forever, they take for granted the freedom that God wanted everyone in Israel to experience. God wants servants who are grateful to Him and who are not indebted to anyone or anything else besides Him. Notice, nowhere in the Torah does God demand that the Israelites bend the knee to worship and serve Him. God wants us to stand before the world upright and erect, without shame, because He is our God. He doesn’t want us to bow to Him because He demands it; He wants us to bow before Him because He deserves it! May we be those who are reserved of God and have not bowed the knee to anything or anyone but Him!
 
With that, I want to leave you with some parting words in summarization of everything we have discovered. Firstly, remember that the Torah was given that we may become even as He is. Secondly, as Rabbi Simlai revealed to us, the whole Torah is summed up in the verse “Seek Me and live.”
And finally…live Torah! Don’t live as slave to anyone. Keep your head up, heart open, face set towards Jerusalem, and kneel to the King of Kings, not because it’s required, but because He deserves it!  
 
Shabbat Shalom,
Samuel

Parsha Yitro Exodus 18:1-20:26

In this portion we arrive at one of the most important events in all of human history. In Hebrew this occasion is known as “Mattan Torah” or in English as, “The giving of the Torah.” But this portion doesn’t start off with the giving of the Torah, it starts with Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law. And so we must ask the question, “Why is the giving of the Torah preceded by the visit of Moses’ father-in-law?”
According to most Scholars and Rabbis, this meeting between Moses and Jethro would have actually taken place after the giving of the Torah and it is very easy to come to this conclusion when we read the text. In Exodus 18:16 Moses says to Jethro, “I make known the statutes of God and His laws.” But how could Moses expound upon Torah = God’s laws, if they have not yet been given?
At this point I need to bring in a Jewish saying that will help bring clarity to this situation. The saying is “Ain Mukdam Meuchar B’Torah?.” This saying can be translated literally as “There is no early and late in the Torah.” Meaning, the events of Torah are not necessarily in chronological order, but rather, are put in the order God saw as fit in the recounting of the Tanach. (Tanach is an acronym used to describe the whole Hebrew Bible) Why does God put the story of Yitro/Jethro before the story of the giving of the Torah?
 
In Exodus 19:5, God says, “…if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people…” This is where the Jewish people get the phrase “Am Segulah—A Treasured People.” God describes His calling for the Jewish people over the next several verses. But also in the Torah, God puts the story of Jethro, a pagan priest of Midian, before the story of “Mattan Torah—The giving of the Torah” though the stories happened in reverse order…Why?
Here is the reason; to teach us that truth can be found anywhere and from anyone. Before Israel could truly receive Torah and be an “Am Segulah—A Treasured People” they had to recognize and value the opinion of a non-Jew. Israel was chosen by God to be “Mamlechet Kohanim—A Kingdom of Priests.” Priests are intermediaries between God and man. Israel was to be the world’s mediators. But God is teaching Israel, that they can also learn truth from the nations. Jethro actually teaches Moses a Biblical truth we find earlier in the Bible. But first let’s do a quick overview of the story; Jethro arrives with Moses’ family and “…rejoice[s] for all the good which the Lord had done for Israel.”  He makes a proclamation of faith in the God of Israel and then he (Jethro), Moses, Aaron and the Elders all come together for sacrifices and the breaking of bread before God.
Then, “…the next day, Moses sat to judge the people…So when Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he did for the people, he said…‘Why do you alone sit, and all the people stand before you from morning until evening?’ And Moses said to his father-in-law, ‘because the people come to me to inquire of God. When they have a difficulty, they come to me…and I make known the statutes of God and His laws.’ So Moses’ father-in-law said to him, ‘The thing that you do is not good.’” Jethro has some advice for his son-in-law. Basically, he says, “you can’t do this on your own, your going to wear out yourself as well as all the people…select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. And let them judge the people…” This is good, common-sense advice from a father-in-law, but it is actually a Torah truth that Jethro has reminded Moses about. In the Torah, there are only two references that use the words “Lo Tov— Not Good.”
One is here, and the other is in the Genesis story, when God says “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” Jethro’s reference was a reminder to the order God had set in place from the very beginning of creation. We were never meant to do the work of God alone. What is interesting to note, is that the Hebrew word used in Genesis for “comparable” is “Neged,” which can also mean “opposite” or “against.” 
When God created a helper for man, He didn’t make someone who would play “follow-the-leader.” Helper’s aren’t necessarily there to “follow our instructions” as much as they are there to “instruct us in our following.”  Helpers, whether that be a wife, as in the case of Adam, or Judges, as in the case of Moses, are there to help us accomplish the mission set before us by God. If they challenge us on our journey, it may just be what we need, in order to accomplish God’s will. I just recently saw a movie clip from the new animated version of “Pilgrim’s Progress.” The pilgrim has just slipped into the slough of despond and is drowning when he calls out for help. Help, one of the King’s servants rescues the pilgrim and tells him, “Help in some form or another is never far away.” God will send help on our journey, but sometimes the help we receive is the help we need, not necessarily the help we want. Hebrews 4:16 reminds us to “…come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
 
Jethro, through his desire for truth and his openness to hear and give advice, added one of the most important institutions to the nation of Israel; the implementation of just Judges. This is how the Torah would be passed down from generation to generation; through the implementation of Torah by judges, concerning how to keep God’s instructions.
I am going to use this as a segue to jump right into “Mattan Torah— The Giving of the Torah.” Without judges, the Torah would have been everyman for himself and his own interpretation. On the other hand, without the Torah, judges would be making judgments according to their own philosophy of right and wrong. It takes both legislation (done by God) and implementation (done by men of God).
Jethro taught us the attitude we must have in order to receive the Torah. In Exodus 18:1 we read, “…Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses’ father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses and for Israel His people…and Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, came…to Moses in the wilderness, where he was encamped at the mountain of God.” Notice I underlined the word “heard.” Why is “hearing” important when we come to receive God’s word? Because “…faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17) If we do not hear, then we do not have faith, and if we don’t have faith, then “it is impossible to please [God].” (Hebrews 11:6)
There’s a Midrashic story about the giving of the Torah, which I will sum up in a sentence or two. “God offered the Torah to all the other nations in the world before offering it to the Jewish people. The other nations all rejected the Torah because it went against their particular cultures or because they wanted to know everything that was in it before agreeing to follow it.” While it is just a story, I think it is important to connect this idea to our new understanding about “hearing” Torah. All other nations rejected the Torah without hearing what was in it, or, rejected it after hearing only one commandment. The Jewish people on the other hand responded “Na’aseh V’Nishma—We will do and we will hear.” (Exodus 24:7) The Children of Israel committed to “doing/keeping” Torah before even “hearing/understanding” Torah. They knew that whatever comes from God is good! We can commit to God before understanding everything about Him or His Torah because we know He is good. This is the attitude one must have in order to follow God’s instructions. The attitude of “Naaseh V’Nishma—Do and Hear.” This is the same attitude the Prophet Isaiah had in Isaiah chapter 6, where he says, “Hineni, Shlacheni—Here am I, Send me.” He didn’t ask what job it was or if the hours and pay were good… he heard God needed someone and volunteered. The attitude of Isaiah was “I will do whatever I hear you say.”
King Solomon also had this kind of heart. He desired a heart that could “rightly divid[e] the word of truth.” Many people think Solomon asked for wisdom, and it is true that he did, as recorded in 1 Chronicles 1. But in 1 Kings 3, Solomon doesn’t ask for wisdom, he asks God for a “Lev Shomea—A Hearing Heart.” I heard a friend of ours in Israel, Ari Abramowitz make a comment about this verse, he said, “I never understood Christians talking about being ‘led by the Spirit this’ and ‘led by the Spirit that’ until I read this verse.” (paraphrased) Asking God for a “hearing heart” is like asking to be led by His Spirit. This is the kind of heart God seeks to pour His Spirit into. God chose the Jewish people to be “Ohr L’Goyim—A light to the nations,” but that doesn’t mean anyone is excluded from God’s family. The Rabbis explain the reason the Torah was given in a barren wilderness, with no country having claim over Mount Sinai, was to show the nations that the Torah is for the entire world!
 
It tells us in John …the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”The Word of God = The Torah of God. Just as at Mount Sinai, the Torah of God was revealed in a physical way, Yeshua came and lived out the Torah of God in a revealed, physical way as well. The Torah given at Sinai is referred to as the “Torah of Moses,” but the Rabbis speak of a coming Torah known as the “Torah of Messiah.” This season of the Messiah’s revelatory teaching arrives when He comes to bring God’s order back to the world.
Yeshua came and brought the world a taste of the Messianic Torah. He explained that hatred leads to murder and lust leads to adultery. He didn’t say, “Don’t sin because God doesn’t sin.” It is not enough to not sin…He tells us to “be holy as God is holy.” He explained what the Kingdom of God ought to look like in our everyday dealings.
Let me ask you, when is the last time you read and applied the words of Yeshua? If He is our teacher, then why are we so slow to learn His ways? If He is our Healer, then why are we so slow to apply His medicine? If He is our King, why are we so slow to give everything up to Him? Remember, He is good! Israel trusted Him, Isaiah trusted Him, and now we have the opportunity, to put our trust, in the one who not only does good, but Whose very nature, is Good. 
I want to close with some points that are hopefully thought provoking and practical at the same time. Bear in mind, all head and no hands is worthless in the end. In other words, grow from what you sow. Another way to put it, try and apply before you buy…you get the idea.
This Torah portion deals with the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, which is recognized today as the Holiday of Shavuot, or, Pentecost. When is another time in the Bible associated with Shavuot/Pentecost? It’s in Acts 2, as it says, When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place (Temple in Jerusalem). And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and…they were all filled with the Holy Spirit…”
“Apostles receive the gift of tongues”
People are always talking about getting back to these points in history…We need to get back to the true Sinai revelation, or, we need to experience another Holy Spirit outpouring. There is a key to these experiences if we want to see a revelation of God in the kind of magnitude we read about. What is it? Unity!
In Exodus 19:2 it says “So Israel ‘camped—v’yichan’ there before the mountain.” The word used for “camped—v’yichan” is written in a masculine singular form. This means that Israel camped as “one man,” before the giving of the Torah. What do we notice in Acts 2? It specifically states, They were all with one accord.”  Why is this mentioned both times except to tell us that unity is important in order for God to “make His move.”
How do we become one and fulfill the Torah of Messiah? How do we bring Messiah to the world?
The book of Galatians can be difficult at times to understand, but these verses should be self-explanatory. This is how we bring Messiah to the world and unity between each other. “…Through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’…Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the Torah of Messiah.”
    
The Apostle John is famously known for the line “My little children, love one another.” There is a well known story about someone asking John about this particular statement, they asked, “John, why is it that every week you say exactly the same thing, ‘little children, love one another?’”
To this John replied: “Because it is sufficient.” And it is sufficient. If we loved one another, it would bring unity and Messiah would be proclaimed. As Yeshua himself said, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” So may it be!
 
Shabbat Shalom,
Samuel

“Beshalach” Exodus 13:17-17:16

Out of all the portions we have been through these past months, I believe I can truly say, this has to be one of my favorites! Before I get into this portion, I want to write that some mornings it is amazing to wake up knowing that I am a “friend of God.” This is one of those days, and it definitely gives me a fresh perspective concerning everything! I’m reminded of the line of a song by Dillon Loving, the song is titled “So Blessed” and the line goes like this, “I woke up this morning feeling lovely. First thing, Holy Spirit said He loved me!” That’s how I felt waking up this morning! I pray we would all consistently and constantly remember the love God has for each of us!
 
This portion fits the entire story of the exodus from Egypt into 2½ chapters. And one of those chapters is a song, so, even less actually tell of “…the Lord [bringing] the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt according to their armies.” (Ex. 12:51) There truly is a lot in these passages, but in order to write everything I want to get to, let’s jump straight to Israel being camped next to the “Yam Suf—Sea of Reeds.” Israel has just left Egypt and has camped in a location next to the Sea of Reeds, when suddenly Pharaoh comes charging in behind them. Israel is stuck between “a rock and a hard place” or…between Pharaoh and the Sea. Israel cries out to God and God tells them, “Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward…” Many people are familiar with the movie scenes that recount this event; Moses holds the rod of God over the waters, while the sea opens up, allowing the Children of Israel to cross over on dry ground to the other side. What most people don’t know is that there is a Midrashic story that goes along with this account. (The Midrash is an elaborative narrative and ancient commentary on the Torah)
You see, everything God does in the world generally involves people. The splitting of the Sea is no exception, and so therefore we read a Midrash in the Talmud that explains it was not God’s grace alone, nor Moses lifting his staff, but someone else’s audacity that God used to bring forth the Split Sea miracle…The story goes as follows, “Nachshon, the son of Aminadav (future Prince of Judah), stepped into the water. His family and friends looked on with horror and amazement. They cried: “What are you doing? Where are you going?” Nachshon walked forward like a man possessed — up to his knees, his waist, his chest. The second the water came up just over his nostrils, the second when he [was] fully submerged, at that moment and not a second before, the sea split. And the people were able to walk behind Nachshon to liberation, to a place of singing and joy. (c.f. Babylonian Talmud, Sotah 36b-37a, Mekhilta Beshallach 6)
What can we learn from this story? God uses people to accomplish His work. He uses willing people. Nachshon knew God had told the people to “move forward,” so he moved forward. He didn’t let his family or friends distract or discourage him from the words of God. Every one of the children of Israel had the same calling, but only Nachshon trusted God to be faithful, and because of Nachshon’s faithfulness, the whole Nation of Israel crossed the Sea of Reeds on dry ground. Moral of the story: Some of us will have to get wet in order to prepare dry ground for those coming along behind! One man’s faith in the faithfulness of God opened up a chasm of walled waters so that all God’s people could enter into liberating freedom!
This truly was a “rebirth” for the children of Israel. Just as when a baby is born it must pass through the birth canal to the other side. The children of Israel had to pass through the water, like passing through a birth canal, to find life and freedom on the opposite seashore! Not only can Israel’s experience be described as a birth, Rav Shaul (The Apostle Paul) writes about Israel’s experience in 1 Corinthians 10, he says, “…all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea…” Baptism is recognized as a renewing from our old self into the newness of life we receive from God! Baptism is synonymous with birth. But why does it say in 1 Corinthians that Israel was “baptized into Moses?” What does being “baptized into Moses” even mean?
 
Before I answer this question, I want to quickly bring in a quote I heard from a Rabbi over in Israel about the Exodus story, he said, “It took 1 day to bring Israel out of Egypt, it took 40 years to get Egypt out of Israel.” Israel was freed from Egyptian bondage, but they had yet to shed their slave mentality. This is a reality I believe we all face in life. The freedom we receive in Yeshua comes immediately on the day we choose to follow Him. Our struggle is that even though we are free, we still have a slave mindset; this is why so many believers still walk as if they were in bondage. They still have a slave mentality. This is why it is so important to speak God’s promises over ourselvesas we speak His promises into and over our lives, we begin to believe them and when we believe the promises, then we begin to live by them! We must learn to see ourselves as God sees us! I believe this is a key element that all believers need to understand…if this is not making sense then please read over this paragraph again or reach out to me for clarification. This idea has changed the way I live my life and I have found more freedom in declaring and believing God’s promises over me than I have ever experienced “fighting my sin.”
 
Now, back our question, what does it mean that Israel was “baptized into Moses?” In Exodus 14:31, right after Israel crossed the Sea and the water covered the Egyptians, it says, “Thus Israel saw the great work which the Lord had done in Egypt; so the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord and His servant Moses.”
Believing and baptism in Moses seems to have had a lot to do with the redemption of Israel. How? In the Mechilta (a compilation of Scriptural exegesis by Rabbi Ishmael and his students) it is written, “If they believed in Moses, how much more so, in the L rd!” The idea written here is one I thought was well expressed by First Fruits of Zion in one of their articles, they wrote, “One who believes in the Torah (Moses) believes in more than just a vague sense of higher power; he believes in the God of the Bible…” When one says he is a follower of Moses this implies he follows the Torah of Moses given by the God of Moses…so in reality, a follower of Moses is a follower of the God of the Bible. So, believing and being baptized into Moses implies a belief in God and a baptism into the family of God. The reason I bring this up and why it is so important is because of something else FFOZ mentions in their article, they write, “We find that many people today are willing to confess faith in God, but they seem embarrassed to confess faith in Yeshua.” It is once people are asked to give specifics that many become uncomfortable in talking about who their “god” actually is. Whether it be the true God or some other god… 
Let’s not be those who confess a belief in God, the true God, but then are ashamed or shy to acknowledge that we do know truth. I know it can be hard in conversations and it can come across as arrogant that we have truth. But if we really do have truth, then why should we be ashamed or arrogant? Today, I want to encourage all of us to not be “followers of God,” get more specific! We are believers in Moses and baptized into Yeshua! (Matthew 28:19)
 
When Israel believes in “the Lord and His servant Moses,” what happens next? Let’s take a look at the next verse. Well actually, there is no next verse. That was the last verse of chapter 14.  But remember, there are no chapters in the Torah. Portions not chapters divide up the Torah; therefore, there is no division between the end of chapter 14 and the beginning of chapter 15. If we were to read the last verse of chapter 14 with the first verse of chapter 15 without division it would read as such, “…so the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord and His servant Moses. Then Moses and the children of Israel sang this song to the Lord…”
So, to answer our question, “When Israel believes in “the Lord and His servant Moses,” what happens next?” We find the answer is, they sing! The whole chapter of Exodus 15 is the song of Moses and Miriam that was sung right after the Sea of Reeds showdown.
 
People are familiar with the song of Moses from its mention in the book of Revelation, where it says, “They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb…” But how many people know that there are 2 songs of Moses? The first song occurs right here in Exodus 15, right as the children of Israel enter into their new freedom. The second song is found in Deuteronomy 32 right before the children of Israel are about to end their journey and enter the Promised Land.
During the Morning prayer service, the Jewish people pray a certain prayer called the T’hilot. It comes right before the Amidah prayers, which could be considered the central prayer of Jewish liturgy. The T’hilot is generally recognized because of the exclamation made during the prayer, “Mi chamocha ba’elim Hashem—Who is like You among the gods O Lord?” This verse actually comes from Exodus 15:11 and the T’hilot prayer deals with the story of what happened at the Sea of Reeds. In this prayer there is an interesting line, it says “Shirah Chadasha Shib’chu Geulim L’shimchaWith a new song the redeemed praise Your Name.” We’re interested in the words “Shirah ChadashaA New Song”
Moses sung two songs, right? Well, at the Sea of Reeds the children of Israel sang a “Shirah ChadashaA New Song.” What is interesting is the words used here are in the feminine. (Hebrew uses Masculine and Feminine words)
“Miriam and Women at the Seashore” Women of the Bible (1861)
According to the Rabbis, the reason these words are in the feminine is because after every “birth” in the nation of Israel and after every Shirah Chadasha (New Song) comes another time of testing and trial. It is in the feminine because another “birth” has yet to take place. Israel must go through more labor pains for the redemption to come…But there is coming a time, when Israel will not sing a Shirah ChadashaA New Song (Feminine) anymore, instead they will sing a Shir ChadashA New Song (Masculine) from Psalm 98. What is Psalm 98 about? It is about the triumph of the coming Mashiach, the coming Messiah! Why do we suddenly sing a New Song in the Masculine? Because there are no more coming labor pains, no more births, no more waiting for redemption, because the redemption has come! Why do we sing a Shir Chadash (Masculine) when the Messiah comes? Because none of the Shirot Chadashot (Feminine) are good enough!
 
One of my favorite traditional Hebrew songs is “Yibaneh HaMikdash” (To find my favorite version of this song, look up the band Moshav for their song “Yibaneh”)
Here are the words “Yibaneh HaMikdash Ihr Tzion Timaleh V’Sham NaShir Shir Chadash Uvirnanah Na’alehLet the Temple be rebuilt, the city of Zion overflow, and there we will ascend singing a New Song.” There aren’t many words, but if we now understand that the only time we sing a Shir Chadash is when the Messiah returns, it suddenly transforms this song. We ascend to Jerusalem singing a Shir ChadashA New Song because the Messiah has returned!
 
Moses had two songs, right…One was sung right after the Children of Israel crossed the Sea of Reeds, the second was sung right before the children of Israel crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land. All of us who follow Yeshua as our Rabbi have come out of bondage/Egypt, have been “baptized into Moses,” and have been given a New Song. (Psalm 40:3) However, it is right before the ultimate redemption, right before we enter into the “Promised Land” that we are given a Brand new “Shir Chadash” with which to welcome King Messiah back into the world! We can sing a song of redemption even now in exile, but we long to sing it in the redeemed city of Zion. Even as the exiles in Bablyon said, “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” (Psalm 137)
 
I like the Rabbis idea behind Shirah ChadashaA New Song (Feminine) and Shir ChadashA New Song (Masculine). But maybe there will be a Shirah ChadashaA New Song (Feminine) when the Messiah comes? Remember, we are the bride of Messiah…Maybe when the Messiah comes, He will sing a Shir ChadashA New Song (Masculine) while we, His bride, will sing a Shirah ChadashaA New Song (Feminine)…Maybe, just maybe…and as the Heavenly Bridegroom harmonizes with his refined and pure bride, it will truly be heard in the world, just as Jeremiah the prophet once prophesied, “…in the cities of Judah, in the streets of Jerusalem…the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of those who will say: ‘Praise the Lord of hosts, For the Lord is good, For His mercy endures forever’—and of those who will bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord.”
May it be soon and in our days! May our exile come to and end and may a New Song soon be upon our lips, until then; keep singing the song He’s already given you!
 
Shabbat Shalom,
Samuel

Parsha Bo “Go” Exodus 10:1-13:16

This weeks Parsha has some amazing and interesting statements that I want to dive right into. But just to recap…remember, in our story, we are in the middle of Plague-ridden Egypt. Despite the plagues brought into existence by God, through Moses and Aaron, Pharaoh has refused to let the children of Israel leave his land. And then we arrive at a very interesting verse that is written several times throughout this story that has perplexed scholars and Rabbis alike. The first time it is mentioned is in Exodus 9:12, but we are confronted with this same statement at the beginning of this portion as well. In Exodus 10:1 we read, “Now the Lord said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh; for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his servants, that I may show these signs of Mine before him…” Look at the underlined text…what does it mean “God hardened the heart of Pharaoh?” Did Pharaoh have freewill or was God playing him like a cat plays a mouse? Exodus 9 it seems to agree with the latter idea, “…for this purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.” God was declaring His power and His name throughout the known world and He was using Pharaoh to do it. But does this idea really stick? Do you really think that, first of all, God was out to “prove” His power? And second of all, do you really think that God would take away Pharaoh’s freewill and right of choice?  
As we all have learned from past observations, when you don’t understand something, get back to the Hebrew! So, let’s break this verse down and reconstruct it in a way that will hopefully make more sense.  
In Hebrew, “I have hardened his heart” is “Ani hich’badeti et-libo.” I want to take a look the word “hich’badeti.”  In Hebrew, the root word used here is “kavad.” I know in transliterated English these two words have seemingly no similarities, so, you’re going to have to trust me on this one…We find this root word throughout the Bible, but one of the notable places is in Isaiah 6. In Isaiah 6, Isaiah is having a revelation of the Lord enthroned in His temple, and in this encounter, he says that the seraphim are calling to one another, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!”  The word used here for glory is the word “k’vodo” which is related to the word “kavad.” This is interesting, the word for Pharaoh’s heart being hardened and the word for God’s glory are the same…or, I should say, share the same root word.                              What does this mean? 
“The Art Bible” published by George Knewnes in 1896
Before I keep going, let me say; we read in previous chapters before Exodus 9:12, about 6 times Pharaoh himself “hardened his heart.” 3 times it says, he “strengthened his heart,” and 3 times it says, he actually “hardened his heart.” This was without God’s intervention. Pharaoh did this of his own “freewill.” This is important to remember before we jump to the conclusion that God just randomly hardens peoples hearts. Pharaoh already had a history of rebellion against God, and this all happened before we come to the verse where it specifically states, “God hardened the heart of Pharaoh.” When we get to this verse, we find the true meaning behind God hardening Pharaoh’s heart. If we take what I’ve already explained and apply it to this verse, we could read it as, “I have ‘glorified’ his heart,” rather than “I have hardened his heart.” The word “kavad” can also be translated as “honored or respected.”
We could also translate this verse as “I have honored/respected his heart.” This actually shows the opposite idea of God infringing on Pharaoh’s freewill. God is not “hardening Pharaoh’s heart” with the idea that Pharaoh has no freewill, rather, God is “respecting Pharaoh’s heart” which allows Pharaoh to walk as he has already chosen without God’s intervention. In this case, God’s intervention is by not intervening.
Romans 1 explains this well and I would like to take a few verses to better explain this concept. “…what may be known of God is manifest…for God has shown it to them… because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God…Professing to be wise, they became fools…Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts…For this reason God gave them up to vile passions…And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind…” Two things to notice here; the first is, “Man rejects God and does not glorify or honor Him as God.” And because God is not honored or glorified by man, He gives “them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts…” He gives “them up to vile passions…” and He gives “them over to a debased mind…”
What is happening here? Exactly the same thing that is happening to Pharaoh…When a man, a people, or nation walk contrary to God, God removes the “moral compass” we all carry. In other words, when we walk in continued rebellion against God, God turns off the alarm bells that tell us we’re going the wrong way. He allows us to take the road of our choosing. As it is written in Leviticus 26, “…they also have walked contrary to Me, and…I also have walked contrary to them…” If we continue in our rebellion and contrary ways, God will eventually “give us over…” to our rebellious ways. But only with the hope that eventually we will “…turn from [our] wicked ways…” And when that happens, God will “…hear from heaven, and will forgive [our] sin and heal [our] land.”
Verse 1 of chapter 10 continues with another interesting twist. Right after God tells Moses that He has “hardened” or rather “respected” Pharaoh’s heart and desire, He says He did this so “that I (God) may show these signs of Mine before him (Pharaoh).” If we go back into the Hebrew of this verse we find that the word for “before him” is “b’kirbo.” This is fascinating because the word “b’kirbo” could also be translated as “in close proximity to him” or even as “within him.” God is saying that He is showing His signs “within Pharaoh.” So, with our new understanding, let’s go back and read Exodus 10:1, “Go in to Pharaoh; for I have respected/honored/glorified his heart and the hearts of his servants, that I may show these signs of Mine within him…” The choice that was before Pharaoh is the same choice we all face in life. God gives us the choice on how He will be glorified in our life, but you can be sure, no matter our choice, whether we are contrite or we rebel, He WILL be glorified in and through us. God won’t force us to conform, but He can and will remove His covering from us, even as He did in the case of Pharaoh or Job, in order to bring us back to Him.
 
When we read through the plagues of this portion, I have to say, the one that struck me was the plague of darkness. Why would darkness even be a plague? We have darkness every night, what’s the big deal? In Exodus 10:21 we read, “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, darkness which may even be felt.’” The difference was that this was a “darkness that could be felt.”
I want to quickly skip two chapters, over to Exodus 12:5-6. We read there about the Passover Lamb and it says, “…the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight.” What is fascinating is that the word used here for twilight is “Bein HaArbayim.” What this phrase literally means is “between the evenings.” Here, we’ve just talked about  “darkness that can be felt” and “twilight—between the evenings.”
In Genesis 1, we read that God created light. God said, “Yehi Ohr V’Yehi Ohr—Let there be light and there was light.” But look at the Hebrew…the way this verse should really be translated is, “Let there be light and let there be light.” The Rabbis teach that we are to learn from this verse, that there were 2 lights created. Both were the same light, but they were reserved for different times. The light that God created was the light of the Messiah that emanated into Creation. But after man’s “fall” the light of Messiah was hidden until the coming final redemption. When man was sent into exile after the Fall, this was the start of darkness coming upon the world. In other words, it was “twilight.”  But there are two evenings, remember…because the Passover Lamb was to be sacrificed “between the evenings.” Who do we know as the Lamb of God? John the Baptist declares Yeshua to be that Lamb in John 1, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
Yeshua was the Passover Lamb who was sacrificed to bring freedom and deliverance to all who put His blood on the doorposts of their hearts.
When did Yeshua come? “Between the evenings.” I wish I could draw this on a whiteboard to better explain this. But think of what I’ve been writing about like this…The light of the Messiah was revealed at creation and then concealed after the fall to be revealed again at the final redemption. Between these two revelations of the light of Messiah come two evenings, or, two nights. Two dark nights where the “darkness can even be felt.” But, what separates the dark into “two nights?” The arrival of the Passover Lamb; The Lamb of God, who is Yeshua, the one who came to take away the sin of the world. He is the one who broke through the dark night and brought a glimpse of the coming light of the Messianic Kingdom to humankind. It is through Him that we even purify ourselves to prepare for this coming light. After the Passover Lamb comes another evening, another twilight, another night. Right now we are in this second night waiting for the revealing of the coming light of Messiah. It is neat to know where we are in the timeline of God. This is not to say I know when He’s coming, but I do know where we are in God’s timeline.
Even as the Israelites were enslaved in the land of Egypt, we also are in the “galut,” the “exile” awaiting the complete redemption that comes when the dawn of Messiah breaks through into this dark world. Yet, there is comfort even in exile. Even when the “creepy crawly darkness” was covering Egypt when no one left his house; yet in Goshen, “all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings.” 
God goes into exile with His people, with His children. Yes, we await a greater light, a light that consumes all darkness, the fullness of the light of Messiah. But even now, when we must “walk through the valley of the Shadow of death” in this world, what do you need to have in order to have a Shadow? Light!
“Bible Primer-Old Testament” by Adolf Hult (1919)
Whenever God’s people go through trial and tribulation, we read of God’s light being with His people. In the book of Esther too, when God’s people are threatened with extinction, we read, “For the Jews there was light, gladness and joy…” Israel was commissioned in Isaiah 42 to be “A light to the Gentiles” We are the light of Messiah to this generation and to all generations! Let us live up to the commission given to us by Yeshua our Messiah. He says in Matthew 6, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Remember, I wrote earlier, God will be glorified through us. Whether we choose His ways or not, He will be glorified! As Deuteronomy 30 advises us, “Choose life!”
Micah recognized that despite all the obstacles and odds of life, that God would be with him, he wrote, “Do not rejoice over me, my enemy; when I fall, I will arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me.”
To this I say, Ken tih’yeh lanu-so may it be for us. May we all come to see the complete redemption, when darkness is expelled and the “Shachar shel Mashiach—The Dawn of Messiah” is fully revealed to the world! May it be soon and in our days!  
Shabbat Shalom,
Samuel
 
P.S. So sorry for not getting this out sooner…I thought I had lost all my work around 4.30, and it took some time to recover. The Love of Messiah be with you all!

Parsha Va’era Exodus 6:2-9:35

This week I’m excited to dive into this portion because this is the portion that coincides with my birthday. At the age of 13 I was expected to be able to read and sing part of this portion in Hebrew and also give a “drash—short exposition” on this section of text. I am rather partial to this portion (because it relates to me), but since I am starting with this topic, I want to encourage all of you to find out what Torah portion coincides with your birthday. You can find out your Hebrew birthday and matching Torah portion at Chabad.org. It’s an awesome feeling to study a portion of Torah, when you know that it relates to your existence in some small sense.
 
Before I start, I want to explain the Names of G-d I will be using in this observation. Maybe sometime in the near future I can do an observation dealing solely with the specifics concerning G-d’s Names, but for this portion I have some other “tunes I want to unload.”
For this portion there are 3 Hebrew names, which refer to G-d that need to be understood. The first of those names is “Kel Shakkai.” It is the name G-d uses when He says in this portion “I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as G-d Almighty” 
For many of you, this Name is probably familiar from the song sung by Amy Grant, Michael Card, or even Lecrae/Cam. “Kel Shakai” literally means “G-d Almighty” and represents G-d working within His creation.
The next name of G-d is “Elokim” which is generally translated as “G-d” and is understood in Judaism to represent G-d’s attribute of Justice in the world.
The last name of G-d that I want use in this observation is the name “Hashem.” Translated as “L-rd” from Hebrew, the name Hashem literally means “The Name,” and is used to represent G-d’s Divine 4-Letter Name found in the Torah. This name represents G-d’s divine attribute of mercy that is displayed in creation.
 
Simply put…
“Kel Shakai” = G-d Almighty = G-d working in creation.
“Elokim” = G-d = Attribute of Justice.
“Hashem” = L-rd = G-d’s Divine 4-Letter Name representing the attribute of mercy.
 
This portion starts from the very beginning with G-d’s introduction to Moses, saying, “I am the L-rd. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as G-d Almighty, but by My name L-rd I was not known to them.”  Many people think this verse means that G-d had not revealed his Divine 4-Letter Name “L-rd” to the Patriarchs. But yet, we find that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob all had experiences with Hashem—with the L-rd. It seems all three of the Patriarchs knew G-d by His name Hashem, or L-rd. (See Genesis 12:7, Genesis 26:24 & Genesis 28:13) What does G-d mean when He says “…by My name L-rd I was not known to them.” 
“I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as G-d Almighty”
“Abraham’s Journey from Ur to Canaan” by Jozsef Molnar (1821-1899)
There are 2 ways we can reconcile these verses…The first way to understand this verse it to say, “the Patriachs knew G-d’s name as Hashem, but they only saw Him expressed as Kel Shakkai.” Meaning, they only saw Him expressed as “working within the framework of creation.”
It wasn’t until the time of Moses that we actually see, the fully realized attribute of G-d’s Mercy revealed, as the He is the One who “heard the groaning of the children of Israel whom the Egyptians ke[pt] in bondage.” It was in Moses’ era that G-d was going to reveal Himself as Hashem/The L-rd of Mercy to the world.

The second understanding that I came across was one I read in Moshe Kempinski’s article for this week’s Torah portion. If the first reason wasn’t enough to answer the question “Why does G-d say the Patriachs didn’t know His name as Hashem when we read that they did?” then hopefully this explanation will help clarify things even more! 
Let’s go back to verse 2 of Exodus 6, the first verse of this portion and read, “I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as G-d Almighty, but by My name L-rd I was not known to them.” The Hebrew for the words “…I was not known to them…” is “Lo No’dati L’hem.” The word we’re interested in, is the middle word “Nodati,” which can be understood to mean “I was known to.” And it is here Moshe Kempinski brings up an interesting point, “…NODATI…is more accurately translated as ‘I did not make myself known (No-Daati) through them…’” G-d did not reveal Himself “through” the Patriarchs the same way that He was about to reveal Himself in the “Yetziat Mitzrayim—The Exodus from Egypt.” Moshe K. goes on to write, “Hashem revealed Himself to the world through His redemption of the Israelites…”
 
In the Exodus from Egypt story, something was being revealed about G-d that even the Patriarchs hadn’t grasped or understood. G-d was Kel Shakai, but He was also Hashem; not just in name, but in action. His attribute of mercy was about to be revealed to the world, through His people Israel. What hadn’t been revealed through the Patriarchs was about to be revealed through, and to, the entire nation of the people of Israel. The world was about to experience who Hashem was in real-time!
 
This is where I want to bring in the name “Elokim.” Remember, Elokim is the name of G-d that represents His attribute of Justice. In Exodus 5, we read of Moses and Aaron’s first encounter with Pharaoh.  Here is the exchange that took place, “Moses and Aaron…told Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the L-rd G-d of Israel: ‘Let My people go, that they may hold a feast to Me in the wilderness.’’ And Pharaoh said, ‘Who is the L-rd…I do not know the L-rd…’” Key words in this verse are when Moses and Aaron say “L-rd G-d of Israel” and when Pharaoh responds “Who is the L-rd?” The Hebrew used here for Moses and Aaron is “Hashem Elokei Yisrael.” Notice that they use both of G-d’s names. Hashem = G-d’s name for mercy and Elokei, related to Elokim which is G-d’s name for Justice. Yet, in Pharaoh’s reply he doesn’t ask “Mi Hashem Elokei Yisrael?—Who is the L-rd G-of Israel?” He only asks “Mi Hashem-Who is the L-rd?” 
Pharaoh didn’t have to ask who “Elokim” was…He already knew what a G-d of justice looked like. Pharaoh, believed himself to be a god and he operated as one of the elokim, or, as a god of justice.
What Pharaoh didn’t understand was the name “Hashem—L-rd.” Pharaoh couldn’t comprehend a G-d of mercy. It wasn’t an attribute of any god he knew.
 
The Patriarchs had experienced a G-d who only worked within creation “Kel Shakkai,” and Pharaoh only understood G-d or the gods as concerned about justice. “Elokim.”
But the G-d who displayed Himself in the Exodus story showed himself to be a G-d who worked outside of creation (in the miraculous) to deliver a nation from out of the bondage of Egypt into the glorious freedom of His mercy. “Hashem.” 
 
G-d was showing Himself to truly be “Ekye-Asher-Ekye—I will be who I will be,” as His name is stated in Exodus 3:14. He was showing that you don’t need numerous gods. You only need one G-d. The one who will be what He will be. The G-d whose justice is wrapped up in mercy, as it states in James 2, “Mercy triumphs over judgment.”
 
Interestingly enough, in Gematria, the numerical value of the name “Ekye-Asher-Ekye—I will be who I will be” (543) has the inverse numerical value of the name “Kel Shakai—G-d Almighty.” (345) This shows even more so that the G-d who works within creation is the same G-d who works outside of creation. The G-d whose justice upholds the world is the same G-d whose mercies overflow our cups. It is the same G-d revealing Himself in different ways to His creation. The Bible is full of hints that should continually point us toward the character and nature of G-d.
 
Moses came before Pharaoh, before all the court of Egypt, before the leaders of Israel and before the slaves who were in bondage and declared the Merciful name of Hashem, but no one understood it, as it says in John 1 “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness [could] not comprehend it.” Everyone was trying to understand, what G-d, Moses was referring to. Who had ever heard of a G-d of mercy? The gods didn’t give mercy; they demanded judgment…yet G-d, our G-d, sent a deliverer to rescue His people in mercy.
…before all the court of Egypt”
“Moses and Aaron before Pharaoh”
by Benjamin West (1738-1820)
Remember, last week I brought up the idea from the Midrash Rabbah where it said, “the last redeemer will be just as the first.” The “first redeemer,” Moses, was a shadow, a forerunner for the last Redeemer. As we continue reading in John 1, “For the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Yeshua Messiah.”  Moses was G-d’s representative who carried
G-d’s name of mercy right into the courts of Pharaoh and brought the children of Israel into freedom. Yeshua also carried the name of G-d into the world, and though He was “despised, rejected and acquainted with grief” He brought and still brings, all those who follow Him into freedom. Moses brought the “wisdom—chochmah” of G-d into the world through the Torah. This is why we call it “The Torah of Moses.” But it is said when the Messiah comes He will bring the “hidden wisdom—chochmah nistara” into the world. As it is written in Isaiah the Prophet, “The Spirit of the L-rd shall rest upon Him, The Spirit of wisdom—chochmah…” When you take the first letters from the 2 words “chochmah nistara—hidden wisdom,” you get the word “Chen” which means grace. What does John 1 tell us? “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
 
Do you know what “Chen” can also mean? Merciful. Yeshua came full of Hashem, full of the Spirit of the L-rd and full of “Chen—Mercy.” Do you know who went before Yeshua before he came? Yochanan Hamatbil. John the Immerser. What does Yochanan mean? It means “Hashem/the L-rd is gracious/merciful.” And if I were to turn the letters to the word “Chen” around, it would spell the Name “Noach—Noah.” Noah means rest. Noah was also a type of Messiah and shadow of the coming redeemer. The picture that G-d is painting is continually pointing to Him! As He says throughout the Bible, “Return to Me, and I will return to you.” He has revealed Himself as the G-d of mercy. It is His nature, His name, His character and His essence. As it says in 2 Timothy, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.” As I wrote before,“Mercy triumphs over judgment.” G-d upholds the world in Justice, but He strengthens His children in mercy.
May we be the modern day John the Baptists of today’s world, calling out “Make straight the way of the Lord…” and who declare “G-d is gracious! His mercy endures forever!”
 

Shabbat Shalom,
Samuel

Miracle Makers. Parsha Chukat Numbers 19:1-22:1


Parsha Chukat “Statutes” Numbers 19:1-22:1

In this week’s Parsha we read of the passing of two of Israel’s “Greats.”
Miriam and Aaron, both of whom die in the wilderness.
In the midst of this, Israel is totally dependent upon God for all their needs. Miracles are a common daily reminder of God’s providence.
Psalm 78 sums up the daily miracles quite poetically, “…In the daytime also He led them with the cloud, and all the night with a light of fire. He split the rocks in the wilderness, and gave them drink…He had commanded the clouds above, and opened the doors of heaven, had rained down manna on them to eat, and given them of the bread of heaven. Men ate angels’ food…”
 
Amazing miracles happened for the children of Israel every day! So then, why bring up Miriam and Aaron? What is the connection between Miriam and Aaron with the miracles of the desert?
 
We read in Taanit 9a:9 (Tractate in the Mishnah)
“… Rabbi Yosei, son of Rabbi Yehuda, says: Three good sustainers rose up for the Jewish people during the exodus from Egypt, and they are: Moses, Aaron and Miriam…The well was given to the Jewish people in the merit of Miriam; the pillar of cloud was in the merit of Aaron; and the manna in the merit of Moses…”
So we read, it was on account of Moses and Siblings that the Israelites even received these heavenly miracles. Here is a summary of these claims…
 
When Miriam dies, (Numbers 20) “…Miriam died there and was buried there. Now there was no water for the congregation…” the well of water disappears.

Aaron dies. (Numbers 20-21) “Now when all the congregation saw that Aaron was dead, all the house of Israel mourned for Aaron thirty days. (Next Chapter) The king of Arad, the Canaanite, who dwelt in the South, heard that Israel was coming on the road to Atharim. Then he fought against Israel…”
In Hebrew, Chapter 21 starts out saying: “And, the King of Arad…” therefore, the death of Aaron was connected to what this king heard and why he felt courage to fight against Israel. What did he hear? Rabbi Yosei goes on to explain, (Taanit 9a:10) “He heard that Aaron had died and the clouds of glory had disappeared, and he thought that the Jewish people were no longer protected by Heaven…” The death of Aaron meant the disappearance of the guiding Pillar of Cloud.
 
Lastly, after the death of Moses, (Deuteronomy 34) the Children of Israel enter into the Promised Land; celebrate the festival of Pesach (Passover) and the manna from heaven ceases.
 
Why is it that some of the greatest miracles in the history of the Jewish people disappear right before their entrance into the “Promised Land”? Wouldn’t it have made more sense that as the Children of Israel come closer to entering the land, that miracles would become more commonplace, not less?
 
We can recognize with the death of Moses, Aaron and Miriam that an era is coming to a close. But wasn’t everything about the desert wilderness excursion preparing Israel to enter into the “Land flowing with Milk and Honey”?
Joshua, the newly appointed leader was about to take Israel into the Promised Land. He needed all the encouragement he could get…why then do the daily miracles stop?
And, what are the correlations between the Israel of today and the Israel of the wilderness?
 
When Israel came back to the Land in 1948, the world looked on in astonishment and shock as literally a nation was “born in a day”. No pillar of Cloud, no manna from heaven, no miraculous springs followed them. They had been kept through the centuries, which was a miracle in itself. They had survived the horrors of the Shoah. A dead language was revived. There were signs of God’s hand protecting His people. God had kept them throughout the world, sustaining them with heavenly bread (Torah) and living springs of water (His Divine Presence). He had kept an invisible pillar of cloud over the Land of Israel that called every Jew back to their homeland.
 
When Israel entered the Promised Land under Joshua, it looked as though God had left them. The daily miracles were gone and instead Israel had to fight for the land and gather their own food.
It was much the same when the Jewish people returned after 2000 years of exile. The nations thought obviously “God has left them.” Upon their arrival to Israel, they had to fight for statehood and work the land for food.
Back then just as today, no one recognized Israel’s entrance to the Promised Land as a miracle by God.
 
Here’s the key; the Divine miracles were there, only to get the nation of Israel where they needed to be to accomplish what God had set before them. The miracles were not an end in and of themselves. They had purpose and meaning. God didn’t feed a throng of people just so they could be wilderness wanderers for the rest of their lives.
Instead, He fed His people and brought them through the wilderness to enter into His land according to His promise to their forefathers.
 
When the obvious daily miracles stopped, did this mean God had finished with them? Absolutely not! It meant it was now that He would glorify Himself—through His people, instead of —to His people.
 
In the wilderness, God was showing Himself faithful to His people; this was the point of the Divine miracles. Once they prepared to enter into the land however, He chose to use His people to show Himself strong.
As Isaiah the prophet wrote, “…For the Lord has redeemed Jacob, and glorified Himself in Israel.”
God is glorifying Himself in Israel today. But He is choosing to use His people to do His work. Oftentimes, the miracles He performs can appear to be mere coincidence and chance. Israel’s existence throughout history even up until today can be blown off as pure luck… but when we look at Israel through God’s eyes we see how He has loved them, kept them, and finally returned them home. Just as He promised!
 
I feel that today, many people are looking for Divine miracles and the Glory cloud, not realizing that in our times God is looking for people willing to make the miraculous happen!
Sometimes, miracles can be as simple as planting a tree on the mountains of Israel, or having dinner with a Jewish pioneer, or playing soccer on Jerusalem’s rebuilt streets.
Miracles are when we do God’s work. Bringing hope to the hopeless, help to the helpless, and strength to those in weakness.
As it says, “How beautiful…are the feet of him who brings good news.” 
The phenomenon of today isn’t about getting to watch divine miracles from the sideline. Instead the wonder of today is we get to walk in miracles that, though in the eyes of man may seem happenstance, we know it can only be God fulfilling His word through us.
 
Sometimes, when we are in the thick of the fight it can seem to us that God and His divine providence and miracles have left us. Often, we can look at God’s work in our lives and explain them away as mere coincidence. Don’t! Recognize God working out His plan through the daily simple miracles we receive from Him. 
 
Today, don’t be distracted running around looking for miracles, instead recognize the daily, simple miracles we receive! Don’t run toward the “great signs and wonders,” run toward the great spiritual battles of the world, because there you will find the Lord at work. Let’s not sit on the sidelines as receivers, let’s run to the battle and be difference makers in today’s world. Until the day comes when, “… the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing, with everlasting joy on their heads…”

Parsha Korah Numbers 16:1-18:32

With last week’s portion behind us, we would think we would read of a more humbled people who recognize their sin and are in repentance asking God for mercy and compassion. But instead, this week’s portion immediately starts out “????????? ?????—And Korah took”
 
The Rashi explains, “He betook himself on one side with the view of separating himself from out of the community so that he might raise a protest regarding the priesthood…”
 
We understand that Korah took Datan and Aviram as accomplices in his protest against the Leadership of Israel. (i.e. Moses and Aaron) But, according to Rashi, it wasn’t just taking/selecting co-conspirators that was the problem, it was that he took himself out of the congregation of Israel. He distanced himself from the community and raised others up with him in his rebellion.
Only once he had gathered a confederacy around him, did he start a propaganda campaign to gather the nation of Israel with him.
Korah was in this rebellion for himself. How do we know this? From the first 2 words of this portion, “Korah took.” Korah was a man who took and did things for his own gain. He wasn’t concerned about the congregation, but was instead trying to settle a personal grudge against Moses and Aaron by using his influence to turn the tide of opinions negatively
toward Israel’s leadership.
 
Korah knew if he could turn the people to him, by convincing them that they were good and holy; they would rebel against Moses and Aaron. He convinced the people that it was Moses’ fault they were not entering the land and showed the people how the laws Moses had put in place could be used to benefit his extended family, Aaron and his sons. (Look up “Korah’s Parable”)
 
He used his own personal grudge to stir up and gather leaders around himself; he took his bitterness and embittered those around him. It was a poison that spread and became a national incident because evil speech and festering rebellion weren’t dealt with.
 
We can hear the tone in the first words of this confrontation, when Korah says, “You take too much upon yourselves…”
It was an accusation against Moses and Aaron’s Leadership. A verbal barb saying –You think too much of yourselves. You want to control everything. You’re control freaks–
Then he (Korah) continues by saying, “…all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them…”
Here he backs up his point by bringing the congregation to his side, using wording that connect the hearers with his viewpoint. It may have started with selfish motivations, but now in order to challenge Moses’ authority he needs the backing of the nation.
“…Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?”
Basically, Korah is offended not to be part of the “in-group.” If he can’t be a leader in the community, then no one should be. It’s all or nothing. Period.

So, here is the challenge Moses gives from God to the rebellious throng, “…Do this: Take censers, Korah and all your company; put fire in them and put incense in them before the Lord tomorrow, and it shall be that the man whom the Lord chooses is the holy one…”
 
And this is the verse I want to focus on for this week. After a lot of back-story we finally arrive at the showdown of this weeks Torah portion.
 
In Midrash Tanchuma, Korah 5:24-25, Moses addresses the rebellious crowd,
“…In the religions of the nations there are many laws, and they do not all assemble in one house. Now as for us, we only have one God, one Torah, one justice, one altar, and one high priest; but you two hundred and fifty men are [yet all] seeking high priesthood…”
 
Now we see Korah’s instigated rebellion has spread to where there isn’t even a leader in the sense that everyone in Korah’s Company is vying for position as High priest. Every one of those 250 men thought themselves fitting to replace whom God had already chosen.
 
How have they already forgotten the “strange fire” offered by Nadav and Avihu? How they went into the tabernacle and were consumed? Aish l’aish?—fire to fire; a profane fire consumed by a holy blaze…they would have all remembered the episode of Nadav and Avihu’s sudden deaths. (Leviticus 10:1-3) Yet they still carried on with their rebellion. It shows us how arrogant this company was, to actually carry out this challenge.
 
We know that incense represents our prayers as it says in Psalm 141,“Let my prayer be counted as incense before You…”
 
So, if the censers were full of “prayers” to God, and each man was lifting up his requests, they were actually inviting God’s fire to come and consume their offering.
 
Here was the problem, “…these people draw near with their mouths, and honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me…” (Isaiah 29:13)
 
Their intentions were not pure. They did not desire to bring a sweet smelling aroma to the Lord, they did not desire to do things the prescribed way as ordered by God, they did not desire to heed the voices of the ones God had raised up. And so, in a way, they offered their incense to another god = themselves.
(One side note here: no matter how pure our intentions, when we disobey God there are consequences. (See 2 Samuel 6:6-7))
 
Their offering was received, but they were consumed with their offering, because of the sin in their heart. The lifting of their censers was “each man for himself.” Each man playing the role of High priest in the place of God’s chosen. They were all about themselves…
 
Later in this chapter we read another interesting story, dealing with a censer and incense… Numbers 16:41. ‘On the next day (After Korah’s rebellion) all the congregation of the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, saying, “You have killed the people of the Lord”…Moses said to Aaron, “Take a censer and put fire in it from the altar, put incense on it, and take it quickly to the congregation and make atonement for them; for wrath has gone out from the Lord. The plague has begun”… And he stood between the dead and the living; so the plague was stopped.’
Here we also see an instance where a censer with incense is used. But its bearer (Aaron) is not consumed by fire.
 
What was the difference between Korah’s incense censer and Aaron’s?
They both were representatives of the people, they both were men of high standing in the congregation, they both had a special calling from God placed on them…What made one different from the other? Why was Korah consumed while Aaron was not?
 
From these questions we could go in many different directions, but I would propose one thought to cap this lesson.
 
Korah claimed to represent the people, but was all about personal gain and glory.
Aaron who did represent the people, was all about peace and humility.
Korah placed himself (along with 250 other men) in the position of High priest.
Aaron who was High priest, recognized it was not a position he had achieved.
Korah used a censer of incense to promote himself and set himself apart from the people.
Aaron used a censer of incense to stand in the gap and make atonement for the people.
 
As we pray for Israel today. Pray that God would keep her leaders from the spirit of Korah and Co. and instead cause them to walk as Aaron, in humility and making atonement for the people of God.
This is what true leaders do.

 
This is our own calling as well. That we should not walk in the spirit of Korah, nor use the things of God for our own personal gain; but we would use the gifts God has given each of us individually to edify and make atonement for the people of God.
 
May each of us daily walk in the spirit of Aaron: who stood in the gap between the living and the dead, offering a pure sacrifice of prayer and the holy fire of action in an acceptable and pleasing way to God. And when we do that, may the fragrance of the Messiah become ever stronger in
this world as we approach the day of His coming!


 

Parsha Sh’lach Numbers 13:1-15:41

This week we enter into the climax of the wilderness journey. The whole purpose of the “????? ?????” or Exodus from Egypt was to get to this very moment, a moment that Abraham the Patriarch had only dreamt of. His descendants were entering the Promised Land after 230 years of slavery and exile in Egypt. A new chapter in Israel’s history was about to begin.
 
In this week’s Torah Portion as Israel arrives at the edge of the Promised land, we would expect to see a triumphal entry as God’s chosen People enter God’s chosen Land, but instead we see that men are sent in, “…to spy out the land of Canaan… And they returned from spying out the land after forty days…and they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out…”

Here is the report that 10 of the 12 spies gave after their return, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we…The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. There we saw the giants…and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.”
 
We must ask 2 questions here: “If God told them to go in to the Land, why did they need spies?” and “Who told them ‘we were like grasshoppers… in their [the inhabitants] sight’?
 
In order to answer the first question we need to start from the beginning. This portion is called “Sh’lach” or “Send” as in “Send men to spy out the land…” (12 spies)
But something we don’t notice in English stands out very apparent in Hebrew.
Right after the word “Sh’lach” comes the word “Lecha”, which means “for yourself”.
Put these words together and you get “Send for yourself men.
 
Deuteronomy 1 gives more clarity on this story. Moses is recounting for the children of Israel everything that has transpired since their exodus out of Egypt; here is how he describes sending out the 12 spies, “And every one of you came near to me and said, ‘Let us send men before us, and let them search out the land for us, and bring back word to us of the way by which we should go up, and of the cities into which we shall come.’ “
 
From reading these stories, it becomes blatantly obvious that the idea of sending spies into the land of Canaan was not God’s idea.
 
Ibn Ezra writes concerning Num. 13:2, “…God said to the Israelites ‘Go up and conquer.’ The Israelites then said to themselves: ‘Let’s send people first.’ After this, God said: ‘Send forth men.’”
And the Rashi continues along this same thought train, “I (God) have told them long ago that it (the land) is good…I swear that I will give them now an opportunity to fall into error through the statements of the spies, so they should not come into possession of it.”
 
Israel knew God’s promises of a “land flowing with milk and honey.” Why did they need the spies to bring back a taste of the fruit of the land? Israel knew God’s promises of them prevailing over their enemies. Why did they need spies to inspect the fortified cities?
 
The New Testament tells us in Hebrews 3:19, “…we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.” They didn’t trust God’s promises and sent a reconnaissance mission out to see if what God had promised was true. They followed the will of their hearts and so died in the wilderness, while the children they said would perish, were the very ones who entered in.
 
The second question was, “Who told them they were like grasshoppers
in the sight of the giant inhabitants of the Land?”
 
When the Children of Israel prepared to enter the promised land a second time, Joshua sent spies into Jericho where a woman named Rahab hid them and told them, “…the terror of you has fallen on us…all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you…our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you…”
 
Remember, this is 40 years after the Exodus from Egypt, and the inhabitants are still in terror of the Children of Israel. The fear of the Lord and dread was upon the inhabitants of the Land. The spies saw themselves as grasshoppers and assumed that is how the giants saw them. They forgot that the Lord was with them, as the young shepherd boy named David said when facing the giant Goliath in the land, “I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand… that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.”

Instead of walking in the spirit of Joshua, Caleb, and David, the nation of Israel elected to send spies, causing them to believe the bad report and did not enter into the promises of God. Then, they saw themselves as grasshoppers, when in reality the peoples of the land were in terror because they knew God was with them.
 
How does this apply to our time? What can we learn and apply to our own lives?
 
First, let’s apply this to our world. We see the “giants in the Land” of Israel today. Called terrorism, BDS, anti-Semitism, and contested-land. They go by different names today, but they are still doing the same thing as the giants of old—keeping the children of Israel from entering the land.
One interesting thing to note about the 10 spies report was everything they said could have well been true. The same is in Israel today, the “giants in the Land” are real and could be viewed as obstacles—if we’re looking at it through man’s eyes.
 
But when we look at the Land of Israel through God’s eyes, we see His heart being shown to the world. As a God of restoration, of faithfulness, and of mercy; He’s showing He is a covenant keeping God.
 
And if He has been faithful to Israel, and will work everything together for His glory in the Land, then we can also know He will be faithful to us.
We must remember that even when there are giants in the land, we can take God at His word. Even when we feel like grasshoppers, and the obstacles seem like giants, we must keep in mind that God is faithful to perform His will and establish His covenants, just as in days of old.