Thursday, August 18, 2016

Va’etchanan (“and I pleaded”)

Va’etchanan (“and I pleaded”)

Deut. 3:23-7:11

On the Biblical/Jewish calendar some significant events have taken place between last week and this week that can be somewhat related in our weekly Torah portions. Last week we had the event of Tishah B’ Av, the ninth day of the month of Av which is an annual day of mourning that recalls the many tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people, in particular the destruction of the first and second Jewish Temples, also the expulsion of the Jews from both England and Spain on this very day. The consequences of some very bad decisions from the Jewish people can be seen in other Torah portions before this one that have lead them to this tragic and sad event that we have on the Jewish calendar. I have heard commentaries by some Jewish Rabbis that “the Jewish people not having faith/trust in Hashem to enter the Promise Land and receiving a bad report from the twelve spies”, to say that Hashem will truly give the Jewish people something for them to mourn about due to their lack of trust in Him.

Another mini-holiday on the fifteenth day of Av, the Jewish people celebrate Tu B’Av: Love and Rebirth. On this day Jewish law instructs that “tachanun” (confession of sins) and similar portions should be omitted from the daily prayers and that you should increase one’s study of Torah. The full moon of the tragic month of Av is a festival of the future redemption of the Jewish people, which in essence it’s an unknowable day. These two Jewish holidays can be looked at in a positive way in the aspect of turning our mourning into joy, pointing us to when the Jewish people will enjoy a redemptive a state with Hashem in the future.

This Torah portion is a building up of Moshe rabbeinu’s speeches to the Jewish people, about what truly it is to listen to Hashem and to keep His Torah/Instructions in the right manner. Moshe is retelling them some of the greatest events that have taken place in this world, of having the almighty God which is the creator, reveling Himself to and giving the Jewish people the Torah for righteous living from a loving father to his people. Moshe knows that his time is limited and he will soon by passing away, so therefore would like nothing more then to know that the Jewish people understand and grasp all that Hashem has told them. Some other basic fundamental key elements are retold like the “Ten Commandments” and one of the greatest religious proclamations of the oneness of God, know as the Shema, which are strongly emphasize here in this Torah portion. Moshe’s speeches can be seen as a call to obedience for the Jewish people to Hashem.

Moshe states that acknowledging the oneness of God, found in the Shema, to be the first fundamental principle that the Jewish people need to have. If there’s only one God, then he would be the source of our existence and the source of all our needs. The fact that He has made a covenant (Deu 5:1-27) with the Jewish people right before this declaration, we see a binding factor of respect in His relationship with them. Only when someone takes into consideration the welfare being of others, by giving them instructions and guidelines, that one can truly say that it’s no longer about oneself and that would lead to show a caring attitude towards that other individuals. This is exactly what Hashen has done and Moshe doesn’t want the people to forget this. Everything that Hashem has done for his people has been out of love and wanting them to be an example to the other nations in bringing a restoration to all humanity through them, the Jewish people. Deu 6:7-8 states “It was not because you had greater numbers than all the other nations that God embraced you and chose you; you are among the smallest of all the nations. It was because of God’s love for you, and because He was keeping the oath that He made to your fathers. God therefore brought you out with a might hand, liberating you from the slave house, (and) from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” Also in Deu 4:5-8 See! I have taught you rules and laws as God my Lord has commanded me, so (that you) will be able to keep them in the land to which you will be occupying. Safeguard and keep (these rules), since this is your wisdom and understanding in the eyes of the nations. They will hear all these rules and say, “This great nation is certainly a wise and understanding people.” What nation is so great that they have God close to it, as God our Lord is, whenever we call Him? What nation is so great that they have such righteous rules and laws, like this entire Torah that I am presenting before you today?

We see great pleads of exhortations from Moshe to love God with all of our hearts and with all of our souls and all of our might, by doing this we show our desires to follow Him fully. Truly Moshe wants to get his point across when basically going thru almost all of the Torah in the book of Deuteronomy. Point by point we start to see in this Torah portion and to include the whole book of Deuteronomy of a complete break down of Hashem’s laws and the reasons behind them. May we also take heed from these instructions and not overlook the mistakes that the Jewish people have done in the past, so that we to may hear and obey (Shema), to be a witness onto other people by living a life reflecting God's essence, which is His Word. 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

D’varim (Deuteronomy) 1:1 – 3:22 “Words” parashah / portion #1 (1:1 – 11)

            This week we begin the fifth book of Torah, the book of D’varim.  Most of this book, we will find, are words of Moshe as he reiterates to the people what Adonai Elohim has said previously.  Why?  Moshe is nearing the end of his life, Y’hoshua (Joshua) is about to take over, and it is right and proper to remind the people from whence they came and to where they were going.
            As this reading commences, it is the first day of the eleventh month in the 40th year following the exodus of the people from Egypt.  Because they had refused to enter the land of promise, almost forty years have been spent in the wilderness.  More than 2-1/2 months remain in their “wandering”; all the generation of men who were capable of war have died at the time of Moshe’s speech (cp. 1:1-5 w/ 2:16).
            HaShem had directed them to leave Mt. Horev eleven days prior and head northward in preparation for entry into His land.  In a way of emphasizing this, Moshe told the people that they were going to take possession of the land that HaShem had promised to Avraham, Yitz’chak, and Ya’akov…and their descendants – who we recognize as this horde of people being addressed.
            He tells them that HaShem has multiplied their numbers, but let us realize that this multiplication came during the 200+ years they were in Egypt.  Regardless, the multiplication was a proof of the promise made to Father        Abraham back in B’resheit (Genesis) 15:4 – 6.  Moshe then blesses the people by desiring the Holy One to increase them another thousand-fold and to bless them as He promised.  I look forward to that day when there are the 600,000,000 men (plus women and children) Moshe has “seen” in the future.


Thursday, July 14, 2016

Parashat Chukat ("Decree of") Numbers 19:1-22:1

Parashat Chukat ("Decree of")   Numbers 19:1-22:1
The Red Heifer (Parah Adumah)
I found it interesting that the Talmud states that of all the 613 commandments, this is the only one that King Solomon could not fathom, since this sacrifice is the most paradoxical of all the sacrifices found in the Torah.   Even modern day scholars have not been able to fathom the depth of this mitzvot.   I can see attempts by some Messianics to ascribe this particular sacrifice as a forshadow of Yeshua, but I am not yet satisfied in their reasoning. 

The parah adumah had to be a perfect specimen that was completely red, "without blemish, in which there is no defect ."  It had to be absolutely perfect without any discolouration or abnormality.  This is the only sacrifice in the Torah where the colour of the animal is explicitly required.   Some point out that the red symbolises the blood that covered Yeshua during his ordeal.  Eitherway, the parah adumah was never to have had a yoke upon it, meaning that it must never have been used for any profane purposes.

Unlike all other sacrifices offered at the altar at the Mishkan, the parah adumah was taken outside the camp, slaughtered before the priest who then took some of its blood and sprinkled it seven times before the Mishkan.   Hyssop, scarlet yarn, and a cedar stick would be thrown upon the burning parah adumah, which were the same items used to cleanse from tzara'at (skin disease). Unlike other offerings, all of the blood of the sacrifice was to be burned in the fire.  It was a complete offering.
The ashes of the sacrifice, which were then gathered and mixed with water to create what was called the "waters of separation" (i.e., mei niddah: מֵי נִדָּה).   Anyone (or anything) that came into contact with a corpse (the embodiment of sin and death) was required to be purified using the mei niddah.  Interestingly the word “niddah” refers to menstrual impurity and is used in the prophecy found in Zechariah 13:1: "On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and from niddah."

The purification procedure took a full seven days.   On the third day stalks of hyssop are dipped into the water / ash mixture and shaken over the ritually defiled person.  This occurs again on the seventh day.  After the second sprinkling, the defiled person was immersed in a mikvah and would be declared clean on the following evening.
Maimonides wrote, "Nine Parot Adumot were prepared from the time the Commandment was given until the destruction of the Second Temple. Moses our Teacher prepared one, Ezra prepared one and seven more were prepared until the Destruction of the Temple. The tenth will prepared by the Mashiach."   

It was the only sacrifice that ritually contaminated the priest who offered it, but made the one who was sprinkled by it clean.  This paradox can also be found in Numbers 21:8, “And the LORD said unto Moses, Make you a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looks upon it, shall live.”   The abomination of the serpent will bring life?

It was the only sacrifice where the ashes were preserved and used (other sacrifices required the ashes be disposed outside of the camp). It is a tradition amongst members of the Temple Mount Institute that they know where a vial of the previous ashes can be found.   
Whilst there is enough disagreement within the Messianic community as to the identity and purpose of the Parah Adumah, I do see how one can come to the conclusion about Yeshua.
1.       He was completely without sin or defect (2 Cor 5:21; John 8:46);
2.       He was sacrificed outside the camp (Heb 13:13);
3.      He made Himself sin / a sin offering for us (2 Cor 5:21);
4.      Claimed to be as the snake upon the pole (John 3:14-15).
5.      His sprinkling makes us clean (1 Pet 1:2; Heb 12:24);
6.      The "water of separation" that His sacrifice created is the means by which we are made clean from the impurity of sin (Eph 5:25-6; Heb 10:22).
Either way, the mystery of the Parah Adumah is yet to be understood.     I do find it interesting that we live in a time that the long forgotten red heifer is making a come back.   Additionally interesting is that right now is only the second time in history that an ark has been built.  Signs?  Maybe.


Jon Eaton

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Parashah Naso (נָשֹׂא "Lift up!") Numbers 4:21-7:89 by Jon Eaton

Parashah Naso (נָשֹׂא "Lift up!")   Numbers 4:21-7:89  by Jon Eaton
Today’s parashat begins with the Lord directing Moses to take a census of the Levites who were responsible for transporting the Mishkan (Tabernacle).

“The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, take a census of the sons of Gershon also, by their fathers' houses and by their clans””. (Numbers 4:21-22).  These Levites were responsible for carrying the “tent of meeting”.

Earlier in Exodus chapter 13:2, we learn that the firstborn son of each Hebrew family was consecrated to the Lord on behalf the family, “Consecrate to me every firstborn male. The first offspring of every womb among the Israelites belongs to me, whether human or animal.”    But after the sin of the golden calf, the role of the firstborn was handed over to the Levites. It should have been the firstborn sons who would perform the sacrifices, carry the sacred objects and also carry the weight of the Tabernacle in the household but these duties were assigned as follows:

Gershonites, descendants of Levi's firstborn son Gershon, were responsible for caring for the Mishkan's woven articles. They were placed on the West side of the Mishkan.
Kohathites, descendants of Levi's middle son Kohath, carried the sacred objects of the Mishkan. They were placed on the South side of the Mishkan.
Merarites, descendants of Levi's youngest son Merari carried the wooden parts of the Mishkan as well as the ropes and sockets used for the curtain of the courtyard.  They were placed on the North side of the Mishkan.
Kohanim, descendants of Levi's great grandson Aaron were responsible for performing all of the korbonot (sacrifices) and other rituals on behalf of all of Israel.  They were positioned on the East side of the Mishkan.     

Some commentators have noted that the outlay of the tribes made a large cross figure.

 But I would rather go to the 4th Aliya about Sotah; "if she has strayed" (verb:שטה satah) in Numbers 5:12.

I’m not choosing this particular Aliya as a sexist statement, but from what I have read, it has been often called the most misunderstood passage in all scripture. 

The Sotah is a woman who has been warned in advance by her husband not to seclude herself with a particular man.  Interestingly, the Lord also warned Israel (His betrothed) not to become curious of other gods in Deuteronomy 12:30  “do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’”

Numbers 5:19 states, “Then the priest shall put the woman under oath and say to her, ‘If no other man has had sexual relations with you and you have not gone astray and become impure while married to your husband, may this bitter water that brings a curse not harm you”.

But where is the male counterpart in the adultery?? !!!!  Well, tradition states that the bitter waters affected BOTH parties.

“While it is the accused woman who must actually drink the bitter waters, the waters affect her male partner in adultery identically. Just as the waters examine her, they also examine him”. (Talmud, Sotah 27b)  Tough ey..   Not sure how the waters affected his thigh and belly but that conversation is up for another day.   I wonder if the woman was the one to drink the waters because the guys are often emotional wimps and wouldn’t show up for the test.  Haha.
But regardless of that, we should remember that this test is completely self-administered.   

You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.  Not that I am comparing a woman to a horse but if the wife has been adulterous, than she can simply avoid the test by admitting to adultery and accept a divorce.   Also, it states clearly here that this test occurs when there are NO witnesses, so in ways she doesn't even have to admit to anything.     She could avoid the test by feigning anxiety etc.

Maybe HaShem was explaining how Israel would be punished when they too became adulterous and forget their first love – Him.  When they ignored his warning of following other gods and became Sotah.  They would be cursed and ashamed;  in need of redemption.  In-fact we read of the curse that would come upon Israel, due to their disobedience in Hosea 9:11, “No birth, no pregnancy, and no conception!”

So why take the test?   Possibly to humble an overbearing husband.  In fact the Hebrew states clearly that, “if a man, a man (
אִישׁ אִישׁ ish ish ) whose wife goes astray….” (Numbers 5:12)..  The double wording implies a man’s man (too much of a man);   Maybe a controlling, obsessive jealous type man.  Still, the drinking of bitter waters would be a real test of fire.  Very scary indeed.

Charles Spurgeon stated, “It looks very hard to believe that a child of God should be tried by the loss of his Father’s presence, and yet should come forth uninjured by the trial. Yet no gold is ever injured in the fire. Stoke the furnace as much as you may, let the blast be as strong as you will, thrust the ingot into the very center of the white heat, let it lie in the very heart of the flame; pile on more fuel, let another blast torment the coals till they become most vehement with heat, yet the gold is losing nothing, it may even be gaining.”

If she is innocent, the woman is physically and legally protected. The ceremony removes the judgment from society, the gossiping tongues, the overbearing husband and puts it all in the hands of the Creator.   It has been stated that this is the only test and command that HaShem is personally co-involved in.  It literally takes a visit from the devine.  Which means the wife is placed in a uniquely intimate relationship with the Lord.   Walking away from this test of fire would bring honor to her life, joy to her heart and a special encounter with Heaven that few have enjoyed.

Don’t let the tests of this life overwhelm us.   Our King will always use it to be glorified and to honor His name in our lives.

The Talmud comments that "goes astray" (i.e., tisteh: תִשְׂטֶה) is written so it can be read as "goes insane" (i.e., tishteh: תִשְׁטֶה).   Haha….  I like that.