I hope this Blog will be a blessing to everyone who reads it and hope that we can all grow in our Torah understanding.
|Posted by torahforgentiles on August 23, 2009 at 12:49 PM||comments (4)|
This Parsha is probably one of the most fundamental for understanding how proper societies should be set up.
The meaning of Shoftim, is Judge or Judges. It sets the tone for the parsha.
I found a nice summation of the points for this weeks parsha, here they are.
SEEING AND SEEMING
"Righteousness, righteousness, shall you pursue." (16:20)
Things seen are not always the way things seem. Oliver Cromwell had a large wart on his face. Lucky for him there was no television inthe seventeenth century or he probably never would have become the first non-royal ruler of England.
Nowadays he would have required extensive plastic surgery toeven think about competing in the primaries.
They say that the two basic requirements of a good television newscaster are "teeth and hair."
Politics has become a soap opera, and the actors in thisreal life sitcom have to look like movie stars. Television has reduced real life to soap opera. How people look is at least as important as who and what they are.
The Torah cautions us in this week's parsha that the sole qualification for choosing a judge is his righteousness: "Righteousness, righteousness, shall you pursue." Even if he doesn't have wealth and presence - attributes befitting a judge - yet, if he is the most righteous personyou can find, choose him despite what he lacks in those other areas.
It is for this reason that the Torah juxtaposes the command to appoint righteous judges with a seemingly non-sequitur:
"You shall not plant for yourself...any tree nearthe altar of Hashem... And you shall not erect for yourselves a pillar, which Hashem, your G-d, hates. You shall not slaughter for Hashem, your G-d, an ox ora lamb or a kid-goat in which there is a blemish..."
What do these three things have in common with the appointment of righteous judges?
Using mere physical eyes, one would think that a beautiful tree growing near the altar would lend a sense of grace and majesty to the service of G-d. Seeing is not always the way things seem.
The Torah with its spiritual "eyes" tells us that a tree planted near the altar is revolting to G-d. Why? A tree symbolizes growth.
A fatal idolatrous misconception is that G-d "grows" by Man's service of Him. Judaism says that the actions of Man can neither add to nor subtract from the Infinite One.
We see this idea expressed in the engraving of the Ten Commandments.
Why were they engraved on stone? Why not on wood? Stone doesn't change. It doesn't grow. The Holy Ark, on the other hand, had a wooden core. The Ark symbolizes Man. The tablets of the Torah, the unchanging Will of G-d, find their home in the Ark - the heart of Man.
When Man places the Torah in his heart, he grows. His spiritual core expands and develops like a tree. G-d, however, is, was, and will be. He is existence.
We cannot add to Him in any way.
What is despicable about a pillar? Drive along the mainboulevard of any capital and you'll see any number of statues. Soldiers on massive stone horses, foreleg raised, forever about to canter. Frozen in a remembrance of things past.
A pillar, a monument, always relates to things that were. AJew relates to G-d not just as He who created everything, but as the G-d whocontinues to create existence every nano-second.
The Jew's relationship with G-d is not just to build Him monuments for the past, as if to say "G-d - You did a great job. See ya."
The Jew recognizes that since G-d created us, He created uswith and for a purpose. Therefore we are obliged to fulfill that purpose. It's an ongoing relationship.
The third abomination is an offering with a blemish.
Most of us believe there's a G-d. But when it comes to serving Him wholeheartedly, with all our heart and soul, we would rather think like the ancient Greeks - that He made the world and went off to play golf;that He's not interested in what we do.
A blemish in an offering symbolizes that our service of G-d is lacking total commitment. It means we want a junior partnership with the Boss.
It's like saying "Look G-d, I know you rule the world and everything, but let me have a little space to run my own show over here." A Jew serves G-d on a full-time twenty-four-hour-a-day basis. Wenever close.
Sources: Sforno, Meshech Chochma, RabbiShimshon Rafael Hirsch, Rabbi Mordechai Perlman
To think that our sole purpose is to serve Him wholeheartedly and completely, is exactly what Jesus, Paul, and the Apostles taught. Jesus' one desire for the body was for us to live in unity.
To live in unity means we will follow the Judges edicts, of course as the texts say they need to be a proper Judge.
Our Judge is Jesus. He made it clear in the Gospels, all judgment has been given to the Son (Jn 5:22), the Living Torah (Jesus). He is the one arbiter between problems of ethics, community struggles, and personal character breakdowns.
The question arises though, how is He the Judge of these things. I do not see Him. Some people will say, I cannot feel Him when I pray. Others will say His teachings are cryptic and not understandable in this day and age.
To this I have to say, he lives in our hearts. As the above essay explains, we are the Ark, the wooden core, He is the Torah or the Tablets inside which defines the Holy Ark. His Will and heart needs to define us as well.
In Ezek:11:19-21 the Prophet was told about the redemption. The L-rd G-d would give a new Spirit and a New Heart to the people so they could properly do His Judgments.
His judgments have not changed, what changed was the Messiah came and become our sin offerring.
Now, Jesus (or Yeshua) by His Spirit can guide and direct us. What is needed is a new heart of flesh given to us. This comes in when we open ourselves to Him. Romans says in 10:9-10 to believe in your heart and you will be justified, but it also says we need to confess, which is an action. Both cement us to Jesus, allowing Him access to our stony hearts.
When He fills our Heart (or Ark), we then understand morality, righteousness, and how to live. It becomes a personal walk rather than a corporate walk. This is what is needed to be the lights he has called us to be.
|Posted by torahforgentiles on March 13, 2009 at 2:21 PM||comments (0)|
This Parsha consists of many diverse and amazing lessons, for Israel, and the Gentile Nations who Follow Messiah Yeshua. There is the so much I can only comment on what I took away from the Golden Calf rebellion, specifically how Moses Interceded on Israel?s behalf, not just the Israel of that day, but the Israel of the future and past as well.
It?s incredible the logic Moses used in his defense of Israel. G-d wanted to keep Moses and make him the Nation, then wipe out the twelve Tribes of Israel. Moses however, not only reminded G-d about Israel?s place, but also put himself one with Israel.
He never put himself above or below, but equal, because he was a part of Israel. He felt more a part of them, than he felt like their leader, sometimes leaders are aloof, and not really a part of the group. This was not so with Moses, he was accused of being this way by the people who made then worshipped Golden Calf, but he never allowed this idea to enter his heart. His Oneness with Israel was the guiding light, if you will, in his life.
I read some amazing insights from Rabbi Jacobson?s website www.meaningfullife.com, on the Anonymous Essence. He highlights the verses 31-33 in Chapter 33.
In these, Moses was interceding with G-d about the sin of Israel.
This is the one which struck me the most, it is commenting on verse 33 ?the Righteous emulate their Creator??
The writer of the essay on the Rebbe?s talks about Ki Tissa says this; (This is not verbatim but my understanding of what was said in the essay) The Sages explain this verse was referring to how Moses reminds G-d, Israel takes precedent over Torah. Moses wasn?t introducing anything new; he was following the Divine example.
The Torah was conceived as a Divine tool to enhance G-ds relationship with Israel, according to the Sages.
These two, Israel and Torah, predates the World, therefore what has to be asked is. What was made for what? Was the Torah made for Israel, or was Israel made for Torah? Is Israel?s only reason to exist to be Torah?s spokesman, or is Torah given as a gift for the People of Israel to understand their relationship to G-d?
Moses rightly points out that without the Torah, G-d still has a relationship with Israel. The Nation of Israel is and always will be God?s Nation; the Torah only solidifies this, and connects Israel even greater to G-d. So the answers as given by the Sages, Moses and all other people who look into these questions, conclusively reveal Israel is the reason for Torah, not the other way around.
I might say it this way. The Torah gives the outline about how deep, wide, and all encompassing the relationship with G-d, Israel has, but it isn?t the start or the essence of the relationship, the essence is the Covenant Abraham had with G-d. This is where the rubber meets the road so to speak.
Yeshua basically said the same thing when He taught some Jews who were going to Stone him this. Jn. 10:34 ?Is it not written in your Law, ?I said, you are gods??
If He called them gods, to who the Word of G-d came (and scripture cannot be broken), do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the World ?You are blaspheming? because I said I am the Son of G-d??
He reiterated the Torah was given to the Nation of Israel, not Israel given to the Torah.
He also said in Mark 2:23-28, in response to Pharisees questioning why His Disciples picked the heads of grain to eat, breaking the Sabbath prohibition of working on the Sabbath, he said v 27 ?The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.?
This is important to see because as we study Torah, and try to fulfill it?s commands, we must realize the Torah is the gate for entering into a right relationship with G-d, but it does not make us more than we already are.
If you?re from the Nation of Israel, you are part of G-ds chosen People. Chosen from the foundations of the World, and with this goes certain benefits, if I can use that term in a broad way.
If you?re a Gentile Following Messiah Yeshua, then you are in Relationship through what He accomplished. Our status is not in relation to what we do per se, but who we are.
The ones who set up the golden calf did wrong, they were punished for their wrongdoing, and that is only right. We all will have consequences for our actions, but it doesn?t detract from who we are.
If you?re in Yeshua?s Kingdom, and do something against Torah, or against Yeshua, or against yourself, there is a pool of forgiveness for you. Pass through it and you will be renewed to the place before your fall. You will still be the same however; it is with the Heart we believe, not the mind. The heart makes us who we are.
|Posted by torahforgentiles on March 3, 2009 at 11:45 AM||comments (0)|
The First Part of this Parsha focuses on how the Oil for the Golden Menorah is to be made. Rabbi Bechaye teaches us the phrase; “You will Command.” connects with Proverbs 27:9 and what Solomon stated about Oil and Incense.
Solomon wrote in Proverbs 27:9, Oil and incense gladden the heart, and a friend’s counsel is cherished.
What the Rabbi’s teach about these, is they are one and the same. Because the Oil and Incense gladden Hashem’s heart, we should also gladden the heart of others, not just our friends however. Our delight should be to gladden the heart of the Stranger and Poor. In proverbs, certain versions say, speak sweetly to your friend.
This refers to how we are to treat people, especially the poor. We should speak extra kindly and sincerely to them, if you gladden their hearts you have become their Oil and Incense.
When the Torah says, pressed oil Ex.27:20 (or pounded), the Rabbi’s teach that the First Temple stood for 410 years, the second Temple stood for 420 years, and this is a total of 830 years.
The word pressed, pounded, or whatever other English word your translation uses for this, has a gematria (or numerical equivalent) understanding of 830 in Hebrew. This Hebrew word shows that the Temple made by man would be pounded and destroyed after 830 years.
There is also the concept within this verse of pressed for Illumination; the oil being used was the Virgin Oil or the freshest oil as it came from the first pressing of the olives, immediately after they were harvested. It gave the purist light, but the light came from a violent pounding of the Olives.
If we remember, according to the Rabbi’s, Israel is like Olive Oil. We can see, in the same manner for the purist light to come from the olive, it needed to be pressed, so too, Israel was pounded and pressed. Now through the Messiah, Chassidus and Emuna, is Lighting the World, as the Olive oil lighted the Menorah in the first Two Temples.
The Rabbi’s also teach the Temple the Moshiach will build, is lighted by the Messiah Himself, because of this it will be everlasting, as there is no end to His Light. It comes from within Him.
In John chapter 3:10-21, Jesus was talking to a Rav of the Pharisees, (ruler in most English translations) named Nicodemus. In their conversation Nicodemus asked honest questions of Yeshua, whom he believed was the Messiah. One of his honest questions to Yeshua was this,
How can these things Be?(Jn 3:9)
In today’s vernacular he was wondering how to connect the dots on the statements Yeshua made to him. Yeshua then explained that He was indeed the Messiah, or Light to Come. He explained to Nicodemus He was the everlasting Menorah, which will bring Light to the World. Yeshua is a Menorah who needs no Olive Oil because He has His own Light source.
This is interesting, Yeshua referred to Himself as the Light of the World. The Menorah, as we have seen is the light of the Temple. We also saw that for it to receive it’s light, it needed pressed or pounded Oil. The Rabbi’s understood the Temple would only stand for 830 years, until the Messiah built another one.
One thing I didn’t share with you, is the purpose the Sage’s say of the Menorah. This purpose was two fold, it gave Light to the Temple for the Priests to do their duties of course, but the Windows in the Temple were not like ordinary Windows, according to the Sages. These windows were not made to let light in, but to allow the Light to burst out, to light the World (Bereshit Rabbah 59).
Yeshua was teaching Rav Nicodemus a special thing. For at the end of their discourse, which appears to have been one of Yeshua teaching, and Nicodemus listening,
Yeshua said, as was recorded in John 3:18-21(NKJV),
“18 He who believes in Him is not condemned, but He who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the Name of the only begotten Son of G-d.
19 And this is the condemnation, that the Light has come into the World, and men have loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil.
20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light, and does not want to come to the Light, lest his deeds be exposed.
21 But he who does the truth, comes to the Light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in G-d”
Remember who Yeshua is proclaiming himself to be here, the Light of the World, which the Rabbi’s knew was the Menorah, but in the Messiah’s Temple, would be the Messiah. This is very profound to realize. Yeshua knew what the Menorah was for and explained why what the Rabbi’s were teaching was true.
Before this question, Yeshua was explaining to Nicodemus why some students listened and followed Torah, and why others didn’t. When men choose to Follow Torah, this is when they want to go to the Temple to sacrifice, this is when they desire to have proper character, and this is when they will allow the Light of G-d shine on them to prove their deeds are from Him.
In all these things, I believe Nicodemus was there, I envision the Rav sitting next to Yeshua, with wine and bread on the tables in front of them, both waiting for the midnight hour for prayers, and Yeshua teaching the Teacher about why, not asking questions, but giving answers.
Look on Youtube and you can find a video of two Rabbi’s arguing over each other being better than the other, they are Rav Berenbaum and Rav Bakst. I believe this was the case here, Yeshua was explaining Tetzaveh to Nicodemus in a way previously not seen. He listened, and believed, but still continued to question the mechanics of why, and Yeshua kept explaining until it was time to Daven (pray).
|Posted by torahforgentiles on February 25, 2009 at 4:11 PM||comments (0)|
In Parsha Terumah, Exodus 25:1-27:19, there are many lessons to be learned for Gentile
I think the biggest lesson in this Parsha reading will always be about giving.
The Word Terumah, which is used as a name for this Parsha, literally means, something which is Uplifted, or elevated.
Rabbi Leib Scheinbaum of the Cleveland Hebrew Academy, explains that a Terumah, according to Bais Yisrael, was a donation given to a worthy cause (in the case of this reading the Israelites were giving to the Mishkan or Tabernacle), it also explains how the giver is a partner with the cause being given to.
I think this is important to realize when considering the truth of this Parsha, especially for a Gentile follower of Israels Messiah.
Yeshua said in Matthew 19:21, when answering an Observant Young Man on how to have treasure in heaven.
His sayings are printed here in the NKJV version,
"If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in Heaven: and come follow Me."
This Young man was doing very well, he followed everything he was supposed to, but what he lacked was treasure in heaven.
He decided to forsake this heavenly treasure, in order to keep his Earthly things. I think we are all like this Young Man with regard to giving from what we worked for, or what is dear to us.
Yeshua was explaining what this Teaching about giving is. Moses asked the Israelites to give from what they have honestly worked for, or what they had as family treasure, this was not mandatory, but voluntary. Yeshua was asking the same of this Young Man.
In Luke 11:41, 52, Yeshua explained it this way to some Pharisee's and Torah Teachers, Lk. 11:41
"But, rather give Alms of such things as you have; then indeed all things are clean to you."
He was even stronger here,
Lk: 52 "Woe to you Lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered."
These last men were probably Torah Teachers, or men who sat in Judgment of others, they knew that to give falsely was condemning them and the ones who used them as a role model, but they seemed to not care, so Yeshua used harsh words to try and bring them back to the truth of giving.
These teachings of our Messiah all have a basis in this Parsha Terumah. Yeshua or Jesus (whatever name you feel most comfortable with for the Messiah of Israel), pointed out that these people needed to give properly.
Our motives, the content of our giving, and why we give needs to be consistent with what is taught in the text of Parsha Terumah.
The four points below are things stressed in this Torah portion, according to Rashi, Rabbi Twerski, Rabbi Leib, and a score of other Torah Teachers I cannot name because of space.
Yeshua taught these things as well. It's incredible how men from thousands of years after, and thousands of years before Yeshua would be teaching what He, and the Torah teachers of His day taught.
This knowledge of the truth, goes back literally three thousand years, to at least Ezra's days. It's incredible to me how relevant Torah Portions were then, and are still now.
1. Give from what you have honestly worked for or have, do not give from something ill gotten, or it will be refused, and you will be condemned for what you’re presenting as a gift.
We can see why Yeshua was disgusted at the Pharisees for trying to use other people’s money as offerings to the Temple.
He was reminding them, that they were calling condemnation on themselves. It would have been one thing if they didn't know, but they were fully aware of what they were doing. They tried to use other Commands to hide behind, but Yeshua made it very clear to them what they should be doing.
2. When you give from a pure motive, and your own self, then you have not only given properly, but will be rewarded as you have brought the Infinite into the Finite, which is how we are lights to the World.
The second point I made was another thing Yeshua tried to open for the Israelite's. He continually explained that when we give we would be blessed.
This is a consistent principal He taught. From giving to the poor, to each other, to even the Governments of the day, He made His points from the Parsha's because G-d revealed proper understanding through these.
3. When we give properly, we also store for ourselves rewards in the World to Come, as we are now Partners with a greater cause, which unites us with our fellow man, fellow workers, etc. etc. We unite ourselves with Torah, which make us Lights to the World.
4. Terumah also teaches us that HaSHem had to limit Himself to a Sanctuary, because of the problems of humans giving in to the temptation to sin. When you do not sin then you can commune with G-d everywhere. The Israelites sinned almost immediately after saying they would do and obey Torah.
G-d understood this and made a Sanctuary, to focus the
Israelites Worship, Giving, and Meeting. Thereby limiting the possibilities of sinning, because there would only be one place to unite themselves with the Divine.
In every one of the teachings from this Portion of Scripture, we see Yeshua's teachings in a clearer light. He never pulled things out of thin air.
Yeshua always based His teachings on the Torah portions or the Weekly Parsha's. This was His lifeblood. He lived to explain to His people the Torah, so they could live it as they ought.
He was always immersed in Torah. You can be sure these men knew Parsha Terumah well, and probably were happy He rebuked them.
According to the Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, if a Father guides his Children to follow the straight and narrow path of Torah, there is both Spritual benefit, and physical benefit. They rescue their Children in this World, and save them in the World to Come (Kiddushin 82a)
Being that Yeshua was Israels Messiah, Teacher, and Guide, this would also apply to Him. The receivers of this rebuke, hopefully went home and did Teshuvah (repentance). As we should if we are giving improperly.
It's incumbent upon us as Gentiles, to realize these things as well, and focus our own lives on what was important to Yeshua.
He never shirked His responsibility, and neither should we.