Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Shaleeakh - Chukat "Statute"
Knowing the proper way to worship HaShem is critical to walking in holiness. In showing His people how to worship Him, HaShem commanded us to perform rituals that were reflections of His nature. For example, a priest had to perform the rituals required for purification in order to become the High Priest. HaShem used this ritual to teach us that holiness was required before an individual was allowed to approach Him. However, when we perform rituals routinely it is easy to forget why HaShem commanded us to perform the ritual. When we lose site of why the ritual is performed, it becomes easy to develop our own interpretation of the ritual. When this happens, the ritual becomes a tradition. As a tradition the ritual is passed on from generation to generation without knowledge of why HaShem wanted the ritual performed. The original meaning of the ritual is lost and this keeps us from gaining the understanding that HaShem wants to teach.
When we lose touch with HaShem's instruction, we become susceptible to deceiving doctrines. As a result, it becomes easy create a doctrine based on our own understanding, and not on the instruction of HaShem. When this happens our doctrine becomes more important to us then the original teaching HaShem intended. Yeshua experienced this and warned us of the consequences as Mathew 15:4-6 in The Complete Jewish Bible states "For God said, `Honor your father and mother' and `Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.' But you say, `If anyone says to his father or mother' "I have promised to give to God what I might have used to help you" then he is rid of his duty to honor his father or mother.' Thus by your tradition you make null and void the word of God." By introducing their own doctrines the meaning of the Torah became ineffectual. As a result, the truth of the Torah was misrepresented. Every teacher had their own understanding. This allowed the Torah to be interpreted many different ways. The body became disunified and each group claimed their interpretation was correct.
We can see this in Luke 13:14-16 when Yeshua confronted an individual that had developed his own doctrinal understanding. "The ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because that Yeshua had healed on the Sabbath day, and said unto the people, There are six days in which men ought to work: in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day. The Lord then answered him, and said, Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering? And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?" The ruler of the congregation interpreted healing as work. Therefore, the ruler did not want Yeshua to perform a healing on the Shabbat. Chukat holds a good example of how drifting away from the original intent of the Torah eventually leads to this type of false understanding.
In Chukat HaShem judges the Children of Yisrael for speaking against Him and Moshe. To execute His judgment HaShem sent fiery serpents into the camp as B'Midbar 21:6 states"The LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died." When the Children of Yisrael repented for their transgression, HaShem provided a way for them to escape judgment. HaShem commanded the Children of Yisrael to create a brass serpent that would deliver them from the penalty of judgment. We can see this in B'Midbar 21:8-9 which states "The LORD said unto Moses, Make thee 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. Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived." Anyone who looked upon the brass serpent would not die. Even an individual who had already been bitten by a fiery serpent. The brass serpent was Yisrael's protection against the consequences of judgment. Even though the fiery serpents still remained in the camp HaShem protected His people from the consequences of their bite. HaShem used the brass serpent as a reminder to Yisrael that He would protect them and redeem them from judgment.
As time passed The Children of Yisrael forgot about the Torah. They began to participate in idolatrous practices. The brass serpent that HaShem used for good became an object used for idolatry as M'Lakhim Bet 18:4 states "He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan." Neglect of the Torah had separated Yisrael from the truth of HaShem's teachings. The Children of Yisrael began to interpret worship the way they wanted. As a result, the brass serpent that HaShem had commanded them to create became an idol for them to worship. What HaShem had originally created to bring life, was now bringing death. Yisrael had separated themselves from the Torah and they did not know why the brass serpent had been created. The Children of Yisrael had completely perverted the meaning of the brass serpent.
The sin that the Children of Yisrael committed can happen in any generation. The Children of Yisrael fell into idolatry because they did not use the Torah as a base for understanding HaShem. As a result, the Children of Yisrael interpreted the meaning of the brass serpent differently then its true meaning. The brass serpent became an object of worship, and the creator of the brass serpent was forgotten. What HaShem had created for good, was transformed into a stumbling block that brought death. To avoid repeating their sin, we must understand the teachings of HaShem as presented in the Torah. When we use the Torah to understand HaShem, we can avoid creating false doctrines and protect ourselves from creating our own form of worship.
By Rabbi Yaakov benYosef ABOUT-Torah.org© 2010 About Torah