Studying Torah Requires Searching the Scriptures

At the very center of the Torah are the words “Search, search!” The same words can be understood to mean, “Study, study!”

Portion Summary

Shemini is the twenty-sixth reading from the Torah and third reading from the book of Leviticus. The word shemini (שמיני) means “eighth,” and it comes from the first words of Exodus 9:1, which says, “Now it came about on the eighth day that Moses called Aaron and his sons and the elders of Israel” (Leviticus 9:1). The text goes on to describe the events of the eight day after setting up the Tabernacle, a phenomenal worship service followed by a tragic incident. The reading concludes with the biblical dietary laws regarding animals fit for consumption and prohibitions regarding those that are unfit.

Regular Shabbat Readings

  • Shemini (שמיני | Eighth)
  • Torah: Leviticus 9:1-11:47
  • Haftarah: 2 Sam. 6:1-7:17
  • Gospel: Matthew 3:11-17

Note: The regular readings are often interrupted with special readings on Jewish holidays, special Sabbaths, and Rosh Chodesh. Refer to the annual Torah Portion schedule for these special portions.

Portion Outline

  • TORAH
    • Leviticus 9:1 | Aaron’s Priesthood Inaugurated
    • Leviticus 10:1 | Nadab and Abihu
    • Leviticus 11:1 | Clean and Unclean Foods
    • Leviticus 11:24 | Unclean Animals
  • PROPHETS
    • 2 Samuel 6:1 | David Brings the Ark to Jerusalem
    • 2 Samuel 7:1 | God’s Covenant with David

Portion Summary

Shemini is the twenty-sixth reading from the Torah and third reading from the book of Leviticus. The word shemini (שמיני) means “eighth,” and it comes from the first words of Exodus 9:1, which says, “Now it came about on the eighth day that Moses called Aaron and his sons and the elders of Israel” (Leviticus 9:1). The text goes on to describe the events of the eight day after setting up the Tabernacle, a phenomenal worship service followed by a tragic incident. The reading concludes with the biblical dietary laws regarding animals fit for consumption and prohibitions regarding those that are unfit.


Leviticus 10:16 says, “Moses searched carefully for the goat of the sin offering, and behold, it had been burned up!” The words “searched carefully” translate the repeated Hebrew verb darash (דרש). Darash means “to search.” In Hebrew, the verse repeats the verb darash to indicate a diligent search. It says, “darosh darash,” literally, “searching, he searched.”

The same word applies to the study of Torah. For example, a short teaching on Torah is sometimes called a derashah, and a traditional interpretation of Torah is called a midrash (מדרש). Midrash comes from the same word—“to search.” Studying Torah requires searching the Scriptures.

The Torah actually commands us to study the Torah. Deuteronomy 6:7 says, “You shall teach the commandments of the Torah diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” The sages explain that this commands us to study Torah because to teach the Torah one must study it first. A person should search the Torah, study it, and discuss it, at home and on the way, evening and morning.

The Master repeats this commandment to search the Torah when He rebukes the Pharisees in John 5:39, saying, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me.” The Greek of John 5:39 can also be read in the imperative sense: “Search the Scriptures diligently. In them you have eternal life because it is these that testify about Me.” As we diligently search the Torah, we encounter Messiah.

Most printed editions of the Torah contain a masoretic note on Leviticus 10:16 stating that these two Hebrew words—darosh, darash–are the exact halfway mark of all the words of the Torah. That is to say that if one person started with the last Hebrew word of the Torah and started counting backward, one word at a time, and another person simultaneously started with the first Hebrew word and started counting forward, they would meet at the exact center, in Leviticus 10:16, where it says, “darosh, darash.” Right at the very center of the Torah are the words “Search, search!” The same words can be understood to mean, “Study, study!”

These two words are the exact halfway mark of the words of the Torah. This is to teach us that the entire Torah revolves around constant inquiry. One must never stop studying and seeking ever deeper and broader understanding of the Torah. (Degel Machaneh Ephraim) (Click to Source)

 

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The Imperishable

The holy Temple and all the sacrifices that take place in it point toward immortality and incorruptibility. The sacrifices are not about death; they are all about life.

Portion Summary

The twenty-fifth reading from the Torah and second reading from the book of Leviticus is called Tzav (צו), which means “Command.” The name comes from the first word of Leviticus 6:9, where the LORD says to Moses, “Command Aaron and his sons …” Tzav reiterates the five types of sacrifices introduced in the previous portion but this time discusses the priestly regulations pertaining to them. The last chapter of the reading describes the seven-day ordination of Aaron and his sons as they prepared to enter the holy priesthood.

Special Shabbat Reading

Special readings are applicable this Shabbat.

  • Shabbat HaGadol (שבת הגדול | The Great Sabbath)
  • Haftarah: Malachi 3:4-24
  • Gospel: Matt 17:9-13

Shabbat HaGadol (“Great Shabbat” שבת הגדול) is the Shabbat immediately before Passover. There is a special Haftarah reading on this Shabbat of the book of Malachi. Traditionally a lengthy and expansive sermon is given to the general community in the afternoon.

Regular Shabbat Readings

READ / LISTEN TO THESE PORTIONS

  • Tzav (צו | Command)
  • Torah: Leviticus 6:1-8:36
  • Haftarah: Jeremiah 7:21-8:3, 9:22-23
  • Gospel: Matthew 9:10-17

Note: The regular readings are often interrupted with special readings on Jewish holidays, special Sabbaths, and Rosh Chodesh. Refer to the annual Torah Portion schedule for these special portions.

Portion Outline

  • TORAH
    • Leviticus 6:8 | Instructions concerning Sacrifices
    • Leviticus 7:11 | Further Instructions
    • Leviticus 8:1 | The Rites of Ordination
  • PROPHETS
    • Jer 7:16 | The People’s Disobedience

Portion Summary

The twenty-fifth reading from the Torah and second reading from the book of Leviticus is called Tzav (צו), which means “Command.” The name comes from the first word of Leviticus 6:9, where the LORD says to Moses, “Command Aaron and his sons …” Tzav reiterates the five types of sacrifices introduced in the previous portion but this time discusses the priestly regulations pertaining to them. The last chapter of the reading describes the seven-day ordination of Aaron and his sons as they prepared to enter the holy priesthood.


In 1 Corinthians 15:53, Paul speaks of the resurrection, saying, “This perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.” As a Pharisee and a follower of Yeshua from Nazareth, Paul firmly believed in the physical resurrection of the dead. He looked forward to that day when our failing mortal flesh will be transformed into an immortal state.The laws of sacrifice allude to the transformation from mortality to immortality and from corruption to incorruptibility. In Leviticus 7:16-18, the LORD commands that the meats of the sacrificial service are not to remain beyond the third day:

But if the sacrifice of his offering is a votive or a freewill offering, it shall be eaten on the day that he offers his sacrifice, and on the next day what is left of it may be eaten; but what is left over from the flesh of the sacrifice on the third day shall be burned with fire. (Leviticus 7:16-17)

A person who offered a peace offering needed to eat the meat of the sacrifice within two days. One who ate of a sacrifice from the altar on the third day or later invalidated the sacrifice. Eating of the peace offering on the third day incurred the penalty of excision. The person was to be “cut off.” Three days after the slaughter, the meat began to turn rancid. As an earthly reflection of the heavenly dwelling place of God, the Sanctuary naturally shuns death and mortal corruption.

Though the sacrificial system requires the death of the sacrifice, it avoids the decomposition of the sacrificial meats. Better that the meat be burned than decompose. The same striving toward incorruptibility explains why all the sacrifices were salted, as Leviticus 2:13 says, “With all your offerings you shall offer salt.” Salt functioned as a preservative. The same striving toward incorruptibility explains why the construction of the Tabernacle used only the resinous shittim wood. Like cedar wood, shittim resisted decay.

The Tabernacle and its services symbolize immortality. The sacrifices and the Tabernacle worship point toward life, the imperishable world, and the worship of the Immortal One.

The peace offerings allude to the Master’s resurrection on the third day. The Master rose on the third day, as Scripture says of Him, “You will not abandon my soul to Hades, nor allow your Holy One to undergo decay.” The mortal body of Yeshua did not undergo decay. In this regard, the worship system of the Tabernacle foreshadows our transformation in Messiah. Through the resurrection in Messiah, human bodies will be changed from corruptible to incorruptible: “He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day, that we may live before Him” (Hosea 6:2). We will pass from the mortal to the immortal:

For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your victory? O Death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:53-55) (Click to Source)

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Messiah and the Sacrifices

In today’s world, when there is no Temple, the laws of the sacrifices seem obsolete and irrelevant. Are they really?

 

Portion Summary

The title “Leviticus” is derived from the Greek Septuagint (LXX) version of the Torah. The book of Leviticus is predominantly concerned with Levitical rituals. An older Hebrew name for the book was “The Laws of the Priesthood,” but in Judaism today, it is referred to by the name Vayikra (ויקרא), which means “And He called.” Vayikra is the first Hebrew word of the book, which begins by saying, “And the LORD called to Moses and spoke to him from inside the tent of meeting” (Leviticus 1:1).

Leviticus describes the sacrificial service and the duties of the priests. It also introduces ritual purity, the biblical diet, the calendar of appointed times, laws of holiness and laws relating to redemption, vows and tithes. In addition, Leviticus discourses on ethical instruction and holiness. The twenty-fourth reading from the Torah is eponymous with the Hebrew name of the book it introduces: Vayikra. This portion introduces the sacrificial service and describes five different types of sacrifices.

Vayikra

Regular Shabbat Readings

  • Vayikra (ויקרא | And he called)
  • Torah: Leviticus 1:1-5:26
  • Haftarah: Isaiah 43:21-44:23
  • Gospel: Matthew 5:23-30

Note: The regular readings are often interrupted with special readings on Jewish holidays, special Sabbaths, and Rosh Chodesh. Refer to the annual Torah Portion schedule for these special portions.

Portion Outline

  • TORAH
    • Leviticus 1:1 | The Burnt Offering
    • Leviticus 2:1 | Grain Offerings
    • Leviticus 3:1 | Offerings of Well-Being
    • Leviticus 4:1 | Sin Offerings
    • Leviticus 5:14 | Offerings with Restitution
  • PROPHETS
    • Isaiah 43:1 | Restoration and Protection Promised
    • Isaiah 44:1 | God’s Blessing on Israel
    • Isaiah 44:9 | The Absurdity of Idol Worship
    • Isaiah 44:21 | Israel Is Not Forgotten

 

The book of Leviticus begins with several chapters describing the sacrificial services. God called to Moses from within the Tent of Meeting and delivered to him the laws of the sacrificial system.

In today’s world, when there is no Temple, the laws of the sacrifices seem obsolete and irrelevant. Nevertheless, devout Jews continue to diligently study the laws of the sacrifices.

New Testament readers understand that there are no sacrifices today and that the Messiah’s suffering provided the ultimate sacrifice for sin. Believers often erroneously assume a direct cause-and-effect relationship. We commonly hear that the sacrifices are no longer brought because the death of Jesus fulfilled the sacrifices and made them obsolete. In reality, the cessation of sacrifice and the atoning sacrifice of Messiah are unrelated. The Jewish people (including the apostles) continued to offer sacrifices in the Temple for forty years after the death and resurrection of the Messiah.

Yeshua’s sacrifice transcends the earthly sacrifices spoken of in Leviticus. In a sense, one might say that His death fulfilled the prophetic foreshadowing of the sacrificial services, but that does not explain the cessation of the sacrificial services. The Jewish people ceased offering sacrifices only because of the destruction of the Temple.

Even when the Temple still stood, it provided only a shadow of the heavenly reality of the Temple above. Therefore, the sacrifices on earth were shadows of a greater, higher, and holier spiritual worship in the heavenly Sanctuary.

In what respect does Messiah fulfill the sacrifices? We understand fairly well that His death functioned as a sacrifice for sin, but only one or two of the five types of sacrifices listed in Leviticus pertain to sin. Consider the burnt offering, the bread offering, and the peace offering—these sacrifices were not brought for sin. In what sense does Messiah fulfill them? As we proceed through this Torah portion, we will briefly consider each of the sacrifices and their messianic significance.

The Messiah’s sacrifice cannot make the Levitical sacrifices obsolete because the Messiah’s sacrifice was already at work before the LORD introduced the Levitical sacrifices. Long before the days of the Tabernacle, long before God called to Moses from within the Tent of Meeting, even before Adam’s first sin, the Messiah was “the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.” (Revelation 13:8, NIV.) (Click to Source)

 

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Expounding the Torah

Did Moses speak in tongues? Tradition says that Moses spoke the words of the book of Deuteronomy in the seventy languages of humanity.

Portion Summary

Devarim (דברים) is both the title for the last book from the scroll of the Torah and the title of the first Torah portion therein. Devarim means “words.” The English-speaking world calls this book Deuteronomy. The Hebrew title for the book comes from the opening phrase of the book: “These are the words (devarim) which Moses spoke to all Israel across the Jordan in the wilderness” (Deuteronomy 1:1).

One ancient name for the book of Deuteronomy is Mishnah HaTorah (משנה תורה), which means “repetition of the Torah.” This is similar to the Greek Septuagint name Deuteronomos, which means “second law.” The English name Deuteronomy is derived from Deuteronomos.

The book of Deuteronomy is dominated by Moses’ farewell address to the children of Israel as he urges them to remain faithful to the covenant and prepares them for entering Canaan. During the course of the book, Moses reviews the story of the giving of the Torah at Sinai and the trip to the Promised Land, reiterates several laws of Torah and introduces new laws. The book seems to follow the general pattern of an ancient Near Eastern covenant treaty document.

As we study the first week’s reading from the book of Exodus, the children of Israel are assembled on the plains of Moab across the Jordan from Jericho.

Special Shabbat Reading

Special readings are applicable this Shabbat.

  • Shabbat Chazon (שבת חזון | Vision)
  • Haftarah: Isaiah 1:1-27

Shabbat Chazon (“Sabbath [of] vision” שבת חזון) takes its name from the Haftarah that is read on the Shabbat immediately prior to the mournful fast of Tisha B’Av, from the words of rebuke and doom coming from Isaiah in the Book of Isaiah 1:1-27. It is also referred to as the Black Sabbath due to its status as the saddest Shabbat of the year (as opposed to the White Sabbath, Shabbat Shuvah, immediately precededing Yom Kippur).

Regular Shabbat Readings

  • Devarim (דברים | Words)
  • Torah: Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22
  • Haftarah: Isaiah 1:1-27
  • Gospel: Matthew 24:1-22

Note: The regular readings are often interrupted with special readings on Jewish holidays, special Sabbaths, and Rosh Chodesh. Refer to the annual Torah Portion schedule for these special portions.

Portion Outline

  • TORAH
    • Deuteronomy 1:1 | Events at Horeb Recalled
    • Deuteronomy 1:9 | Appointment of Tribal Leaders
    • Deuteronomy 1:19 | Israel’s Refusal to Enter the Land
    • Deuteronomy 1:34 | The Penalty for Israel’s Rebellion
    • Deuteronomy 1:46 | The Desert Years
    • Deuteronomy 2:26 | Defeat of King Sihon
    • Deuteronomy 3:1 | Defeat of King Og
  • PROPHETS
    • Isaiah 1:1 | Introduction
    • Isaiah 1:2 | The Wickedness of Judah
    • Isaiah 1:21 | The Degenerate City

Portion Summary

Devarim (דברים) is both the title for the last book from the scroll of the Torah and the title of the first Torah portion therein. Devarim means “words.” The English-speaking world calls this book Deuteronomy. The Hebrew title for the book comes from the opening phrase of the book: “These are the words (devarim) which Moses spoke to all Israel across the Jordan in the wilderness” (Deuteronomy 1:1).

One ancient name for the book of Deuteronomy is Mishnah HaTorah (משנה תורה), which means “repetition of the Torah.” This is similar to the Greek Septuagint name Deuteronomos, which means “second law.” The English name Deuteronomy is derived from Deuteronomos.

The book of Deuteronomy is dominated by Moses’ farewell address to the children of Israel as he urges them to remain faithful to the covenant and prepares them for entering Canaan. During the course of the book, Moses reviews the story of the giving of the Torah at Sinai and the trip to the Promised Land, reiterates several laws of Torah and introduces new laws. The book seems to follow the general pattern of an ancient Near Eastern covenant treaty document.

As we study the first week’s reading from the book of Exodus, the children of Israel are assembled on the plains of Moab across the Jordan from Jericho.


The book of Deuteronomy opens, “These are the words which Moses spoke to all Israel across the Jordan in the wilderness, in the Arabah” (Deuteronomy 1:1). Those words preface more than thirty chapters of Moses continuously talking. The sages puzzled over this. How did the man who was slow of speech become so eloquent? Just a few verses later, it says, “Moses undertook to expound this Torah.” According to Jewish tradition, Moses expounded the Torah in the seventy languages. The Midrash Tanchuma takes up the discussion.

Come and see! When the Holy One, blessed be He, said to Moses, “Go and I will send you to Pharaoh,” Moses said, “Woe! You are giving over the mission to me? I am not a man of words.” He said, “There are seventy languages known in Pharaoh’s court, so that if anyone comes from a foreign country, they can speak to him in his language. I am going as your apostle, and they will question me, and I will tell them that I am an apostle of the Almighty, and it will be obvious to them that I do not know how to converse with them. Will they not mock me and say, ‘Look, the apostle of the Creator of the universe who created all the tongues! He is unable to comprehend or answer.’” This is what Moses meant when he said, “Woe, I am not a man of words.” … forty years after the exodus from Egypt, however, he expounded the Torah in seventy languages, as it says, “He explained this Torah.” (Midrash Tanchuma, Devarim 2)

According to this story, Moses felt unqualified to serve as an apostle of Hashem because he could not speak in all seventy languages. After the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai (i.e., Shavuot) Moses no longer suffered with that impediment. He demonstrated to the people of Israel that he could now teach Torah in all seventy languages.

We should be able to see the connection to our apostles who spoke the good news in all languages on the day of Shavuot. On that day that they became apostles of the Almighty and His risen Son, they received the gift of languages.

The seventy tongues represent the seventy mother-languages spoken by all humanity. The presentation of the Torah in every language alludes to the universal quality of the revelation of God through the Torah of Moses. Just as Moses is said to have expounded the Torah to Israel in every language, likewise, the disciples proclaimed the good news of Yeshua on Shavuot in every language.

Expounding the Torah is a job for every disciple. In the same way that it is incumbent upon us to spread the gospel in every place and at every time, it is also incumbent upon us to teach the Torah. After all the Torah is very much a part of the gospel, and the message of the gospel is quite meaningless without the Torah. Therefore, we are all called to emulate Yeshua, our teacher, who dedicated His life to proclaiming the gospel and teaching the ways of Torah.

When properly presented, the Torah should be an avenue to Messiah. It should be a central part of the good news of the kingdom and the call for repentance in the name of our Master. One who undertakes to teach the Torah to others is like one imbued with the Holy Spirit on the day of Shavuot. (Click to Source)

 

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The Complainer and the Atheist

SHELACH

Portion Summary

The thirty-seventh reading from the Torah is called Shelach(שלח), an imperative verb that means “send out.” The portion is so named from the first few words of the second verse: “Send out for yourself men so that they may spy out the land of Canaan” (Numbers 13:2). The Torah reading tells the tragic story of how the spies returned with a bad report about the Land of Promise and influenced the congregation of Israel to rebel against the LORD. Thus God consigned the generation of Moses to wander in the wilderness for forty years.

Regular Shabbat Readings

  • Shelach (שלח | Send)
  • Torah: Numbers 13:1-15:41
  • Haftarah: Joshua 2:1-24
  • Gospel: Matthew 10:1-14

Note: The regular readings are often interrupted with special readings on Jewish holidays, special Sabbaths, and Rosh Chodesh. Refer to the annual Torah Portion schedule for these special portions.

Portion Outline

  • TORAH
    • Numbers 13:1 | Spies Sent into Canaan
    • Numbers 13:25 | The Report of the Spies
    • Numbers 14:1 | The People Rebel
    • Numbers 14:13 | Moses Intercedes for the People
    • Numbers 14:26 | An Attempted Invasion is Repulsed
    • Numbers 15:1 | Various Offerings
    • Numbers 15:32 | Penalty for Violating the Sabbath
    • Numbers 15:37 | Fringes on Garments
  • PROPHETS
    • Joshua 2:1 | Spies Sent to Jericho

Portion Summary

The thirty-seventh reading from the Torah is called Shelach(שלח), an imperative verb that means “send out.” The portion is so named from the first few words of the second verse: “Send out for yourself men so that they may spy out the land of Canaan” (Numbers 13:2). The Torah reading tells the tragic story of how the spies returned with a bad report about the Land of Promise and influenced the congregation of Israel to rebel against the LORD. Thus God consigned the generation of Moses to wander in the wilderness for forty years.


The spies returned from Canaan with a giant cluster of grapes. The grapes should have encouraged the Israelites. The land was indeed a good land full of bounty, just as God had promised. The ten spies, however, interpreted the giant grapes differently. They used them as evidence that the land was inhabited by unconquerable giants. “What would you expect from the vineyards of giants?” Isn’t it strange how two people can look at the same thing—such as a cluster of grapes—and come to opposite conclusions? To Joshua and Caleb, giant grapes were a good thing. To the other spies, the giant grapes were a sign of despair.

God said He heard the grumbling and the complaints of the children of Israel. He hears our complaints too. The sin of grumbling is related to the sin of gossip. Both are forms of evil speech; both result from a critical spirit.

Gossip destroys others, breaks up friendships and severs relationships. Grumbling destroys your quality of life and that of those around you.

Imagine going to the zoo with a cranky and undisciplined five-year-old. You take the child to see the lions, but he is sulking because you did not buy him candy. You take him to see the zebras, but he is angry because he does not want to hold your hand in the crowd. You take him to see the monkeys, but he is having a fit because he wanted French fries. You buy him French fries, but he leaves them uneaten because he complains that they are soggy. At the end of the day, he did not see lions, zebras, and monkeys, nor did he eat French fries. He has had a miserable day, and so have you. The child transformed what could have been a wonderful experience into a horrible one for no good reason.

As an adult, it is easy to look at a situation like that and realize how foolish the unruly child is being. It’s harder to realize that our own complaints, grumbling and murmuring is just as petty. Adults are usually sophisticated enough to disguise their childish tantrums and inner discontentment. We disguise them as serious adult issues, concerns and complaints. On closer investigation, many of those issues tend to be no more than sulking over soggy French fries. The worst part is that this is not a trip to the zoo. This is your life. If you spend it fussing and sulking, you will never enjoy the good things God is continually doing for you. You will never even notice them.

The Torah teaches that God hears all of our complaints and negativity. That’s why the sages teach that the complainer is tantamount to an atheist. His complaints deny the existence of God as if there is no God to hear his bitter words. (Click to Source)

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