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)

Nostalgia for the Familiar – June 22, 2019

Regular Shabbat Readings

  • Beha’alotcha (בהעלותך | When you set up)
  • Torah: Numbers 8:1-12:15
  • Haftarah: Zechariah 2:14-4:7
  • Gospel: Matthew 14:14-21

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 Summary

The third reading from the book of Numbers and the thirty-sixth reading from the Torah is called Beha’alotcha (בהעלותך), a word that literally means “When you ascend.” It comes from the first verse of the portion, which could literally be translated as “When you ascend the lamps” (Numbers 8:2), a reference to the fact that the priest had to step up to clean and light the lamps of the menorah. This portion is jam-packed, telling the story of the consecration of the Levites, the first Passover in the wilderness, the silver trumpets, the cloud of glory, the departure from Sinai, the grumbling in the wilderness, the first Sanhedrin and the punishment of Miriam.

Portion Outline

  • TORAH
    • Numbers 8:1 | The Seven Lamps
    • Numbers 8:5 | Consecration and Service of the Levites
    • Numbers 9:1 | The Passover at Sinai
    • Numbers 9:15 | The Cloud and the Fire
    • Numbers 10:1 | The Silver Trumpets
    • Numbers 10:11 | Departure from Sinai
    • Numbers 11:1 | Complaining in the Desert
    • Numbers 11:16 | The Seventy Elders
    • Numbers 11:31 | The Quails
    • Numbers 12:1 | Aaron and Miriam Jealous of Moses
  • PROPHETS
    • Zec 2:6 Interlude: | An Appeal to the Exiles
    • Zec 3:1 Fourth Vision: | Joshua and Satan
    • Zec 4:1 Fifth Vision: | The Lampstand and Olive Trees

Portion Summary

The third reading from the book of Numbers and the thirty-sixth reading from the Torah is called Beha’alotcha (בהעלותך), a word that literally means “When you ascend.” It comes from the first verse of the portion, which could literally be translated as “When you ascend the lamps” (Numbers 8:2), a reference to the fact that the priest had to step up to clean and light the lamps of the menorah. This portion is jam-packed, telling the story of the consecration of the Levites, the first Passover in the wilderness, the silver trumpets, the cloud of glory, the departure from Sinai, the grumbling in the wilderness, the first Sanhedrin and the punishment of Miriam.


In Numbers 11:4-9, nostalgia for the food of Egypt sweeps over the camp of Israel. “We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic, but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna.” (Numbers 11:5-6)

The same often happens to us after we take on a life of discipleship. For a while, it is fresh, new and exciting. It is invigorating, and each day is filled with new discovery. But after a period of time, the novelty wears off. We begin to miss the old vices and entertainments. We begin to feel nostalgic for ways of life that we have turned our backs on. When this happens (and it is normal that it does) we must press on all the harder in pursuit of our righteous Savior. It is normal for the heart to yearn for straying, but it is not normal to stray after the heart. We know better. If we will only press on, we will discover further joys, greater depths and new thrills in the pursuit of God.

Believers who begin to keep the commandments of God come from a variety of denominational and religious backgrounds. Typically, when they do, they commit to a life of Torah which they pursue with a proselyte’s zeal.

Everything changes. Your calendar, your holidays, your day of worship, your friends, your rhythm of life, the places you go, your style of worship, the entertainment you watch—everything is different—even the food you eat. It is normal to, at a certain point, long for some of the old things you have left behind. Believers in the Torah movement often feel bewildered by the strangeness of the new world they have entered. They reflect back on the simpler days when a Sunday morning worship service was nearly the full extent of their expression of faith. They long for the simplicity they once knew. “We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic…” (Numbers 11:5) But the manna on which we now feed is the one who has descended from heaven. He is the bread of life, and He beckons us to eat of Him alone, and to follow Him alone. This is the way to life. (Click to Source)

Do Not Do As They Do

He commands us to be a people set apart, easily distinguishable from the secular context around us. One of the most obvious ways in which we should be different is in the area of sexuality.

May 4, 2019

Portion Summary

The twenty-ninth reading from the Torah and sixth reading from Leviticus is named Acharei Mot (אחרי מות), two words that mean “after the death.” The title comes from the first words of the first verse of the reading, which say, “Now the LORD spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron” (Leviticus 16:1). Leviticus 16 describes the Tabernacle ceremony for the holy festival of the Day of Atonement. Leviticus 17 establishes general rules for sacrifice and sanctuary. Leviticus 18 lays down specific laws about permitted and forbidden sexual relationships.

Regular Shabbat Readings

  • Acharei Mot (אחרי מות | After the death)
  • Torah: Leviticus 16:1-18:30
  • Haftarah: Ezekiel 22:1-19
  • Gospel: Matthew 15:10-20; Mark 12:28-34

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 16:1 | The Day of Atonement
    • Leviticus 17:1 | The Slaughtering of Animals
    • Leviticus 17:10 | Eating Blood Prohibited
    • Leviticus 18:1 | Sexual Relations
  • PROPHETS
    • Eze 22:1 | The Bloody City

Portion Summary

The twenty-ninth reading from the Torah and sixth reading from Leviticus is named Acharei Mot (אחרי מות), two words that mean “after the death.” The title comes from the first words of the first verse of the reading, which say, “Now the LORD spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron” (Leviticus 16:1). Leviticus 16 describes the Tabernacle ceremony for the holy festival of the Day of Atonement. Leviticus 17 establishes general rules for sacrifice and sanctuary. Leviticus 18 lays down specific laws about permitted and forbidden sexual relationships.


As the children of Israel traveled from Egypt to the land of Canaan, the LORD warned the people of Israel not to imitate the ways of the Egyptians (do not turn back to the evil of your past), and He told them not to learn the behavior of the Canaanites (do not be seduced by new temptations).

You shall not do what is done in the land of Egypt where you lived, nor are you to do what is done in the land of Canaan where I am bringing you; you shall not walk in their statutes. (Leviticus 18:3)

The Egyptians and Canaanites practiced sexual immorality as if they were obeying a legal code. This is why the Torah says, “You shall not walk in their statutes” (Leviticus 18:3). Rashi explains that “their statutes” refers to matters etched into the fabric of the society—so basic to the culture that they are observed as if they are laws. He points to the entertainments found in “theaters and stadiums” as an example of pagan statutes. In other words, the statutes of the world are those reflected in the entertainment values of the world. We are not to walk in them. God’s people are supposed to be a completely different breed of people, “So that the land to which I am bringing you to live will not spew you out” (Leviticus 20:22).

In the first century, sexual immorality wove through the warp and woof of the Roman world. Devotees of the gods followed their mythological, sexual exploits and imitated their base behavior in temple rituals which, in some cases, even incorporated sanctified prostitution. Roman culture, for all its austere talk of moderation, indulged in all manner of perversity, lewdness, and depredation.

The apostles applied the laws pertaining to strangers in the midst of the people of Israel to the Gentile believers. Leviticus 18 specifically includes those strangers in its jurisdiction: “You shall not do any of these abominations, neither the native, nor the alien who sojourns among you” (Leviticus 18:26). Therefore, the laws that govern sexuality apply equally to Jewish people and God-fearing Gentile believers.

The apostles reinforced the ruling in their epistles. In passage after passage, the apostles exhorted the disciples to live lives set apart from the sexualized Gentile world and free from sexual immorality. The Gentile believers adopted Jewish standards of modesty, dress, and decorum. In the midst of the sexually charged atmosphere of the first century, the believers stood out as a people set apart. The apostle Peter observed, “[The other Gentiles] are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you” (1 Peter 4:4). (Click to Source)

 
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A People Ransomed by God

Looking for spiritual deliverance? The last day of Passover commemorates the crossing of the Red Sea, the final deliverance from bondage, and the miracle of immersion.

April 27,2019

Portion Summary

On the final day of Passover, which commemorates the crossing of the Red Sea, there is a custom to end the season of redemption with an additional, less formal seder. Called Se’udat Mashiach, this event focuses on the ultimate redemption and the messianic banquet that will take place in the future.

Regular Shabbat Readings

  • Shemini Shel Pesach (שמיני של פסח | Eighth Day of Passover)
  • Torah: Deuteronomy 14:22-16:17
  • Maftir: Numbers 28:19-28:25
  • Haftarah: Isaiah 10:32-12:6
  • Gospel: John 20:15-20

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 14:22 | Regulations concerning Tithes
    • Deuteronomy 15:1 | Laws concerning the Sabbatical Year
    • Deuteronomy 15:19 | The Firstborn of Livestock
    • Deuteronomy 16:1 | The Passover Reviewed
    • Deuteronomy 16:9 | The Festival of Weeks Reviewed
    • Deuteronomy 16:13 | The Festival of Booths Reviewed

Portion Summary

On the final day of Passover, which commemorates the crossing of the Red Sea, there is a custom to end the season of redemption with an additional, less formal seder. Called Se’udat Mashiach, this event focuses on the ultimate redemption and the messianic banquet that will take place in the future. Learn more about it here.


Paul wrote to the believers at Corinth, “For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were immersed into Moses in the cloud and in the sea” (1 Corinthians 10:1-2).In Paul’s day, one who wanted to become a disciple of Yeshua had to go through a ritual immersion. This rule applied to both Jews and Gentiles. Prior to the immersion, the new disciple confessed and renounced his sins in keeping with the tradition of John’s immersion. Then he descended into a gathering of living water “for the name of Yeshua.” The immersion brought ceremonial cleansing from Levitical impurity, and it symbolized spiritual cleansing, death, and resurrection.

Judaism teaches that one who immerses in a mikvah (immersion pool) symbolically dies as he descends into the water and is reborn as he leaves the water. The apostles applied the death and rebirth imagery of the immersion ritual:

Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Messiah Yeshua have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death … if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection. (Romans 6:3-5)

For the apostles, immersion into the name of Messiah represented the transition from death to life, from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. By way of analogy, Paul saw the same imagery at work in the crossing of the sea. The children of Israel left Egypt, Pharaoh, and slavery behind as they descended into the water, and they arose on the other side as free men—a people ransomed by God.

Paul warned the Corinthians not to think too highly of themselves. Paul warned them that the generation that perished in the wilderness had similar credentials to their own. They had all been “immersed into Moses in the cloud and the sea,” yet they did not enter the Promised Land (which is compared to the Messianic Era).

Paul was not the only Torah teacher to compare the crossing of the Red Sea to the water of the mikvah. In the Midrash Rabbah, the nation of Israel passes through the Red Sea to purify themselves in preparation for their journey to Mount Sinai:

The crossing of the sea can be compared to a woman who, having completed the days of uncleanness, purified herself and came to her husband. When he saw her he asked, “Who can testify that you are clean?” She replied, “Behold, my maid can testify that I have purified myself by immersion in the mikvah.” (Exodus Rabbah 23:12) (Click to Source)

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Pressed in Gethsemane

The Messiah (one anointed with oil) prayed in an olive grove at a place called Olive Press on a hill called Mount of Olives. He felt intense pressure like an olive in an olive press.


Yeshua concluded His seder and farewell discourse in the upper room of a house in Jerusalem’s upper city. He went out “as was His custom to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples also followed Him.” They did not return to Bethany that night because the Torah required those keeping Passover to remain in Jerusalem on the night of their seder. In those days, many Passover pilgrims camped on the face of the Mount of Olives. It was our Master’s custom to stay at a particular spot on the Mount of Olives during the pilgrimage festivals. “Yeshua had often met there with His disciples” (John 18:2).The Mount of Olives is a two-and-a-half-mile spur of mountainous ridge running parallel to Jerusalem’s eastern wall line, separated from the city by the deep ravine of the Kidron Valley. The Mount of Olives plays an important part in messianic prophecy. According to the prophecies of Ezekiel, the Shechinah departs and enters from Jerusalem by means of “the mountain which is east of the city.” In the future, the Messiah will appear on the Mount of Olives to rescue Jerusalem: “In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east” (Zechariah 14:4).The Sages of the Mishnah called the Mount of Olives “The Mount of Anointing (Har HaMeshichah, הר המשחה).” The messianic expectation associated with the mountain explains why devout Jews of Jerusalem favor the slopes of the Mount of Olives for burial. The resurrection of the dead will start there.Today, tombs cover the much of the western face of the mountain, but in the days of the Master, trees covered the slopes.

The Master and His disciples pitched their camp in a grove of olive trees near the foot of the mount and the Kidron valley. The grove was called Gat Shamnei (גת שמני), which means “Olive Press.” An olive press probably stood within a cave in the midst of the grove, and the disciples camped in the cave.

The name of the location hints toward the meaning of the events that took place there that night. One cannot overlook the convergence of symbolism when the Mashiach (Anointed One) prays in the midst of an olive grove, in a place called the “Olive Press,” on the slopes of the hill of messianic expectation called the “Mount of Anointing.”

In the days of the Master, the owner of the grove procured olive oil from his olives by crushing them into a mash in a stone mill and then pressing them under the intense weight of a beam-press to force the oil out. The olive imagery suggests the rite of anointing whereby the title mashiach (“anointed one,” משיח) is derived. As the Master prayed that night, he came under an intense pressure that can be compared to what an olive in an olive press must feel. He said, “My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death” (Mark 14:34). Luke 22:44 relates, “And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground.” (Click to Source)

 

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A Memorial

For the Jewish people, Passover is a day of remembrance of the exodus from Egypt, but disciples of Yeshua have another important aspect of Passover to remember.

Portion Summary

The sixteenth reading from the Torah is named Beshalach(בשלח), which means “When he sent.” The title comes from the first verse of the reading, which can be literally translated to say, “And it happened when Pharaoh sent out the people.” This is also the Shabbat reading when Passover coincides with the weekly Shabbat. The reading tells the adventures of the Israelites as they leave Egypt, cross the Red Sea, receive miraculous provision in the wilderness and face their first battle.

Regular Shabbat Readings

  • Pesach (פסח | Passover)
  • Torah: Exodus 12:21-51
  • Haftarah: Joshua 3:5-7, 5:2-6:1, 6:27
  • Gospel: John 19:31-20:1

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
    • Exodus 13:17 | The Pillars of Cloud and Fire
    • Exodus 14:1 | Crossing the Red Sea
    • Exodus 14:26 | The Pursuers Drowned
    • Exodus 15:1 | The Song of Moses
    • Exodus 15:20 | The Song of Miriam
    • Exodus 15:22 | Bitter Water Made Sweet
    • Exodus 16:1 | Bread from Heaven
    • Exodus 17:1 | Water from the Rock
    • Exodus 17:8 | Amalek Attacks Israel and Is Defeated
  • PROPHETS
    • Jdg 4:1 | Deborah and Barak
    • Jdg 5:1 | The Song of Deborah

Portion Summary

The sixteenth reading from the Torah is named Beshalach(בשלח), which means “When he sent.” The title comes from the first verse of the reading, which can be literally translated to say, “And it happened when Pharaoh sent out the people.” This is also the Shabbat reading when Passover coincides with the weekly Shabbat. The reading tells the adventures of the Israelites as they leave Egypt, cross the Red Sea, receive miraculous provision in the wilderness and face their first battle.


Fourteen hundred years after the exodus from Egypt, Yeshua went to Jerusalem with His disciples to keep the appointed time of Passover. He and His disciples had been to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover many times, but this time, as they neared Jerusalem, Yeshua said, “My time is near; I am to keep the Passover” (Matthew 26:18). He knew that He was going to fulfill the appointed time in a marvelous and unexpected way.

The Torah instructs the Jewish people to keep the first day of Passover as a “memorial” of the exodus from Egypt. It works as one of God’s reminders. God rescued Israel from Egypt and told the people to keep the festival as an appointed time and a remembrance of their salvation.

Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance. (Exodus 12:14)

The Master kept the seder meal with His disciples in Jerusalem. He took the unleavened bread and the customary Passover cup and instructed His disciples to do so henceforth in remembrance of Him. On the day of the sacrifice, He became a spiritual sacrifice—Israel’s Passover lamb. At the appointed time for the Jewish people to sacrifice their Passover lambs in remembrance of the nation’s salvation from Egypt, Yeshua went to the cross.

When believers keep Passover, we have two things to remember. We remember the historic salvation from Egypt as the Torah commands us, but we also remember the salvation granted to us through the sacrifice of Yeshua. The two remembrances are not mutually exclusive. They naturally complement one another.

Every year we keep Passover in remembrance of Yeshua. Messiah Himself told us to do so: “And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me’” (Luke 22:19). Did He have in mind only the breaking bread and a sip from the fruit of the vine? No. He spoke within the specific context of Passover. The commandment to do “this” in remembrance of Yeshua refers to the Passover Seder meal. It is not one cup but the traditional cups of Passover. It is not any bread; it is the unleavened matzah bread of Passover. What could be more appropriate for a disciple of Yeshua to do than to keep the festival of Passover in remembrance of Him, just as He told His disciples? (Click to Source)

Bat Kol at the Transfiguration

In our days it is even exceedingly rare to hear a voice speak from heaven, but it seems to have been more common in the days of the Apostles. Talmudic literature offers several anecdotes of “a voice from heaven” speaking during the late Second Temple Era.

The Hebrew term for the heavenly voice, bat kol, literally means “daughter of a voice,” a way to describe an echo or reverberation. The Talmud uses the term to refer to a voice heard from an unseen speaker. The Apostle Paul heard a voice from heaven speak to him as did the writer of the book of Revelation. The Gospels record three incidents involving a voice speaking from heaven: the voice at the Jordan, the voice at the triumphal entry (John 12:29), and the voice on the mount of the Transfiguration.

The voice from heaven that spoke at the Transfiguration repeated the same message which the Master heard at the time of His immersion in the Jordan. In that instance, the voice addressed Yeshua directly, saying, “You are my Son …” On the high mountain, the voice addressed the disciples, “This is My beloved son …”, and the message came with the addition imperative, “Listen to Him!”

This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him! (Matthew 17:5)

The mysterious declaration “This is my beloved son” alludes directly to Psalm 2 where the LORD tells His anointed one (messiah), “You are my Son; today I have begotten You” (Psalm 2:7). The sages regarded Psalm 2 as a psalm about the Messiah, and they frequently employed the psalm to provide proof texts regarding the Messiah.

The words “with whom I am well-pleased” (Matthew 17:5; 2 Peter 1:17) directly allude to the messianic servant song of Isaiah 42:1: “Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him …” (Isaiah 42:1). “With whom I am well-pleased” is a Greek equivalent for the Hebrew idiom, “In whom My soul delights.” By alluding to Isaiah 42:1, the first of the servant songs, the voice from heaven identifies Yeshua of Nazareth as the subject of all of Isaiah’s “Servant of the LORD” prophecies which culminate in the suffering servant of Isaiah 53.

The voice directed the disciples to “listen to Him,” alluding to the prophecy of the prophet like Moses. In Deuteronomy 18 Moses told the children of Israel that the LORD would one day raise a prophet like him from among the Jewish people. The Torah says, “You shall listen to him” (Deuteronomy 18:15). The heavenly voice identified Yeshua as the prophet like unto Moses to whom the people must listen. (Click to Source)

Buffalo, Bacon or Sloth?

I would certainly eat that delicious bacon, but My Father in heaven has forbidden me to eat of it, so I will not.

Special Shabbat Reading

Shabbat Parah: Special readings are applicable this Shabbat.

  • Shabbat Parah (פרה | Cow)
  • Maftir: Numbers 19:1-19:22
  • Haftarah: Ezekiel 36:16-36:38
  • Gospel: John 11:47-57

Shabbat Parah (“Sabbath [of the] red heifer” שבת פרה) takes place on the Shabbat before Shabbat HaChodesh, in preparation for Passover. Numbers 19:1-22 describes the parah adumah (“red heifer”) in the Jewish temple as part of the manner in which the kohanim and the Jewish people purified themselves so that they would be ready (“pure”) to sacrifice the korban Pesach.

Regular Shabbat Readings

READ / LISTEN TO THESE PORTIONS

  • 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.

 

Some people regard the thought of eating an unclean animal as revolting. Personal taste preferences and appetites are the wrong reasons for avoiding unfit foods. Likewise, health reasons alone are not a good motivation for keeping kosher. A famous rabbi once said that a person should not say, “I think pork is disgusting.” Instead he should say, “I would certainly eat it, but My Father in heaven has forbidden me to eat of it, so I will not.”

Why does God say that some animals are clean (ritually fit) while others are unclean (ritually unfit)? Surely God, in His wisdom, knew what foods would be good for His people and what foods would be harmful for them. But there is more to it than simply good health. The kosher laws are not God’s version of a health food diet.

The laws of what is clean and what is unclean have to do with being able to participate in the Levitical worship system. Things that make a person ritually unfit include death, leprosy, mildew, and human mortality. Some of the animals designated as “unfit” are predators or scavengers that feed on carrion. Some of them carry associations with ritual contamination. Perhaps the Almighty designated some animals as unfit because of their associations with ritual uncleanness. God desires His people to be a kingdom of priests, and that requires implementing ritual concern in daily life.

These are just guesses. We really do not know the reason some animals are called fit and others are not. The rabbis explain that the kosher laws belong to a category of commandment that has no rational explanation. Asking why a buffalo is kosher while a giant sloth is not kosher is like asking why the Sabbath is on the seventh day of the week and not the first day of the week or why the sun rises in the east instead of the west. Some things we have to accept simply because God says so. Who are we to question God? He decided that certain creatures are not food for His people Israel. That is completely within His prerogative.

If we obey God only when it makes good sense to us or when we happen to have a similar inclination, that is not really obedience. This can be compared to a child whose father insisted on an eight o’clock bedtime. On the first night, the child felt drowsy around seven thirty, so he obeyed his father. “How wise my father is to send me to bed at eight,” the child thought. The next night, however, he did not feel tired. He could think of no rational reason for going to bed so early. The eight o’clock bedtime mandate seemed arbitrary and unnecessary, so he chose to ignore it. It is not obedience if we only obey when it suits us to do so.

Though we may not be able to deduce why God designated some animals as clean and others as unclean, we do know why He imposed the dietary laws on His people Israel. The Torah tells us that it is a matter of holiness:

You shall not make yourselves unclean with them so that you become unclean. For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. And you shall not make yourselves unclean with any of the swarming things that swarm on the earth. For I am the LORD who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God; thus you shall be holy, for I am holy. (Leviticus 11:43-45)

God gave Israel the dietary laws to make them holy. The word holy does not necessarily refer to a moral or ethical quality. It means to be set apart for the LORD. The distinctive requirements of the Torah’s dietary laws accomplish that by forcing the Jewish people to cluster together in communities while limiting their potential interactions with other communities.

Do the prohibtions on eating unclean animals apply to Gentile believers? The dietary laws for God-fearing Gentile believers forbid them from food contaminated by idols, from blood, and from the meat of incorrectly slaughtered animals. Although the dietary laws of Leviticus 11 do not pertain directly to non-Jewish believers, many God-fearing Gentile believers abide by them in keeping with the spirit of the law and in honor of their position as strangers among the Jewish people and servants of the Jewish king. (Click to Source)

 

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A Response to Andy Stanley’s ‘Irresistible’ Replacement Theology

BY 

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Anyone who lives on the north side of Atlanta, like I do, and is connected to the body of Messiah has likely been impacted in some way by the ministry of North Point Community Church and Pastor Andy Stanley.

Pastor Andy founded North Point in 1995, and it has developed into the second-largest church in the United States (according to Outreach magazine). Each week 38,000 people gather at six campuses to attend North Point services. Online North Point has a massive impact globally. Many thousands download Pastor Andy’s sermons and watch his TV show. His books and conferences are popular as well. He is unquestionably one of the most influential Christian leaders in the world today.

I have lived in Atlanta since the late 1990s. I have engaged with Andy Stanley’s church and ministry on various levels. While not agreeing with all that I have heard from Pastor Andy through the years, my opinion of him and North Point has been generally positive. The church has been innovative and caring (and sometimes controversial) in how it has tried to get people to turn back to God, Jesus, the Bible, and church.

Through the years I have conversed with many people in North Atlanta who have been deeply blessed by Pastor Andy’s leadership and the ministry of North Point. Many of them have told me how they had given up on the church but that their time at North Point revived their interest and connection to God. I have also witnessed the great generosity of North Point. Therefore, despite my criticism of Pastor Andy’s new book that I am about to communicate, I felt that it was important to give some relevant history and personal perspective regarding the positives I have witnessed and experienced from Pastor Andy and North Point Church.

In 2018, Pastor Andy preached a sermon series called Reclaiming Irresistible. This series generated a significant response across the body of Messiah. Various Messianic Jews and Gentiles expressed their ire when Pastor Andy communicated that he thought Christians needed to “unhitch” the Old Testament from their faith.

I have several relationships with high-level staff at North Point. I expressed my own concern to them about this statement and other comments that Pastor Andy had made in this series regarding the relationship Christians should have to the Old Testament. In the course of these exchanges, they told me that Pastor Andy would be releasing a new book that would further elucidate his viewpoints. This fall the book Irresistible was released. The subtitle is Reclaiming the New That Jesus Unleashed for the World. As soon as the book was available, I read through it. Sadly, after reading it, my concerns that had been raised during Pastor Andy’s sermon series were not only confirmed but significantly increased.

Pastor Andy conveyed three major problems in Irresistible:

1. Pastor Andy advises that we create a disjunction between the Old and New Testaments (which he mostly uses as synonymous with old and new covenants).

On page 245, Pastor Stanley says, “To love the way Jesus called us to love requires a complete break with the inspired but retired, beautiful but obsolete, old covenant. As long as we continue mixing old with new, we will never be free to love as we have been called to love. Until we dispense with the old and embrace the new, our love will be leverage. And love that is leverage is no love at all.” On page 208, Pastor Stanley says, “When Paul writes, ‘But whatever were gains to me,’ he’s referring to old covenant accomplishments and pursuits. His whatever bucket was categorized and organized around the Jewish Scriptures. Our Old Testament. Paul dismisses the primary relevance of the Scriptures he grew up with.” But throughout his letters, Paul quotes the Tanach that he grew up with as a relevant and primary source of standards for holy living for his emerging communities of disciples. This viewpoint from Pastor Stanley is simply not defensible.

2. Pastor Andy advocates for a strong and clear version of replacement theology.

In my dialogue with a friend who serves on staff at North Point, he told me that Pastor Andy does not believe in replacement theology (the belief that the church has replaced Israel) and that his new book would make that clear. The book did make Pastor Andy’s viewpoint regarding replacement theology clear; unfortunately, what Pastor Andy spelled out was that he indeed believes that God’s covenants with Israel are finished. On page 65 of Irresistible, Pastor Andy says, “This [Israel] was his nation. The nation God had raised up from one man for one purpose — to bless the world. But that chapter was drawing to a close [in Jesus’ day]. God’s covenant with the nation had served its purpose. It was no longer needed … Ancient Israel was a means to an end. The end had come. The new was just beginning.” I respect Andy’s honesty and explicitness. However, this viewpoint is clearly supersessionist (a more theological term than “replacement theology” that refers to the church “superseding” Israel). Many biblical texts speak of God’s continued covenant with Israel.

3. Pastor Andy’s anti-Judaism perspectives can lead to anti-Semitism.

On page 146, Pastor Stanley says, “[Paul] knew the legalism, hypocrisy, self-righteousness, and exclusivity that characterized ancient Judaism would eventually seep into and erode the beauty, simplicity, and appeal of the ekklesia of Jesus.” I don’t think Andy Stanley is an anti-Semite. But this kind of rhetoric, which speaks of Judaism as something that has been replaced and that is characterized as “self-righteous” and “eroding” the ekklesia can and has led to common negative Christian stereotypes of both Judaism and Jews. Too often throughout history, such stereotypes and characterizations have led the way toward hostile, violent, and destructive actions toward the Jewish community by the hands of Christians. Pastor Stanley’s words are dangerous.

Again, despite my respect for Pastor Andy in other areas, I found Irresistible to express a deeply flawed viewpoint. I am an avid reader. However, I cannot remember reading a book in which I found so much with which to disagree. Sadly, the reality is that what Pastor Andy expressed is what many Christians believe but cannot articulate with the same clarity and boldness.

Those of us who are supportive of a Messianic Jewish viewpoint could respond to Pastor Andy’s book by dismissing it as irrelevant to our world. But I don’t think we can do that. Pastor Andy’s impact and reach are too significant to treat as unworthy of serious consideration and sufficient response. Since we are Christians and Messianics who stand against supersessionism and replacement theology, it is important that we be aware of what Pastor Andy is disseminating. More importantly, we need to be prepared to respond graciously and clearly with an answer that points out the errors and dangers of all forms of replacement theology—especially a kind that is as bold, forthright, and erroneous as Pastor Andy’s. May HaShem help each of us to be ready for such conversations if given the opportunity. (Click to Source)

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