NUMBERS 30:2-36:13

Moral Destruction...

     This Torah portion includes the tribes and their journeys, the inheritance of the five daughters, the spoils of war, the consequences of disobedience, boundaries, towns for the Levites, cities of refuge, and vows.
     In chapter 31, Elohim instructs Moses to take vengeance upon the Midianites. Numbers 31:11 states: 'They took all the plunder and spoils including the people and animals and brought the captives, spoils and plunder to Moses and Eleazar the priest and the Israelite assembly at their camp on the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho. Verse 14--16: 'Moses was angry with the officers of the army...have you allowed the women to live?...They were the ones who followed Balaam's advice and were the means of turning the Israelites away from the LORD...' Verse 17 instructs them to kill every woman who had slept with a man. Obviously, those were the ones that had seduced the Israelites, the virgins were allowed to live.
     Moral Destruction. It can happen in a moment or over years. As we learn and study Torah there is an element at work that which seeks to lessen and destroy our relationship with Elohim. We may come to the point that we question the Sabbath, our inheritance, our duty as a follower of Elohim, even our motives. 
    To live in the statues of God, can be described as ethical monotheism, a concept stemming from the idea that there is a single incorporeal God who gives commandments which constitute a moral law for all humanity.This divine moral law is embodied in the codes set out in the first five books of the Bible, known as the Torah. All humanity, however does not live by the moral or ethical codes that God has presented for His people. Moral and ethical codes cross daily, and muddy waters.  It is perseverance that keeps His people afloat among all the garbage that piles up. 
     The beginning of this parsha, gives the instructions regarding vows and oaths.  The Hebrew word for vow is neder, (although there is no English equivalent for neder, it is translated at vow) and the Hebrew word for oath is shev'uah.  Although same in context each word is different in relating to God.  A vow is used in the Bible for a promise made to God to perform some deed. An oath is a swearing to oneself of either a blessing or a curse. People pledge vows and they invoke an oath. 
     What are the mechanics by which a vow takes effect? "Life and death are in the power of the tongue," advises Proverbs 18:21. Speech is the gateway between the thoughts of the mind and the physical actions of the body. "The good man brings good things out of the good treasure of his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil treasure of his heart. For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks." Luke 6:45.
      Through speech one begins the trek of turning intentions into the reality of action. It is for this reason that making a neder is so effective in binding a person into doing the right thing.  If one fails to realize the favor and consequences in living a Torah observant life then vows and oaths become inconsequential to them, making them even more important. Words are flippantly thrown around, promises and vows made, with never an intention to keep them.  A wrongly stated vow can lead one into moral decay.
     Mark 7:20-23 - And he said, "What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person."
     1 Corinthians 15:33 - "Do not be deceived: Bad company ruins good morals."
     Isaiah 5:20 - "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter."
     Galatians 5:19-21 - "Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God."

Baruch HaShem!
    Rabbi Jay Howard  


PINCHAS / NUMBERS 25:10-30:1

    Numbers 27:3-6 - 'Our father died in the wilderness, and he was not among the company of them that gathered themselves together against Elohim in the company of Korach: but he died in his own sin; and he had no sons. Why should the name of our father be taken away from among his family, because he had no son? Give to us a possession among the people of our father. And Moses brought their cause before Adonai.' 
    What do we inherit? How do we inherit? 
    To receive an inheritance, one has to return to the giver. The lawyer that acts as a representative to execute a will. The parent that leaves the business, or farm, or even a car. The point is that the gifted has to return to receive the gift.
     What is our gift? Our inheritance is that of life and light. That of living water, that of a breath. It is of The Father and to receive that gift we have to understand who the giver is.
                                                    The Giver is ONE:
     'And God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM" and so you shall say to the children of Israel: "I  AM has sent me to you.'"Exodus 3:14. 
     'And Yeshua said to them, "Most assuredly I say to you, that before Abraham was I AM.'" John 8:38.
     'Now see that I, even I am He and there is no God besides Me. I kill and I make alive. I wound and I heal.' Deuteronomy 32:39.  
     'Therefore, I said to you that you will die in your sins, for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.' John 8:24.
     'The LORD Himself is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath there is no other.' Deuteronomy 4:39.
     'No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is the Son of Man who is in heaven.' John 3:13.
                                The giver is Elohim. The LORD God/The LORD Yeshua.

                                                  What is the Gift?
The gift is the light of life... 
Proverbs 6:23 - 'For the mitzvah is a lamp and the Torah is light and reproofs that discipline are the way to life.' John 8:12 -  'Once again Yeshua spoke to the people and said, "I am the light of the world..."
The gift is living waters...
Isaiah 45:8 - '"Drip down, O heavens, from above, And let the clouds pour down righteousness; Let the earth open up and salvation bear fruit, And righteousness spring up with it. I, the LORD, have created it. "  John 7:38 -  "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'"
The gift is life...
Proverbs 3:17-18 - 'Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.
She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her:And happy is every one that retains her." John 11:25-26 - 'Yeshua said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.' 
The gift is truth...
Psalm 119:42 - 'Your righteousness is everlasting and your Torah is true.'  John 14:6 - 'Yeshua said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.
     The prodigal son returned home to receive his inheritance. One has to return home. 
               Baruch HaShem!  Rabbi Jay       

s that the gifted has to return to receive the gift.

  BALAK / DESTOYER  Numbers 22:1-25:9                                                                                                                                                                                               Our own influences, our own way...

        Humility is to make the right estimate of yourself - Charles Spurgeon. 

     Balak desired that Israel be cursed. He imagined himself to be ruler, yet he knew they were God's people and he was afraid. He summoned Balaam in Numbers 22:5-7 exposing his arrogance and fear: "...Now come and put a curse on these people for they are too powerful for me. Perhaps then I will be able to defeat them..."      Balak knew the power of God was with them, 'Now Balak son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites and Moab was terrified..."  Even knowing this fact, he surmised that he could out smart God by having Balaam curse the people. He sought to oppose them with through pagan divination.  He truly had a false image of himself, totally lack of humility.  He was his own influence and he formed his own way.                                                                                                                                Balaam was the same.  He had a false image of himself, so much so that he disobeyed direct orders of God, had to succumb to the fact that he was being questioned by a donkey, hung out with a ruler that was obsessed with cursing Israel, decided to return to his old way and eventually was killed by the Israelites. 

     'Then Balaam got up and returned home and Balak went his own way.' They were unmoved by God's unrelenting love for Israel and His Divine instruction. 

     The Word of God can only move people who are willing to change. Without the willingness to see oneself as they really are and without the humility to accomplish that directive, one is useless to God because they will refuse to either consciously or unconsciously pass the tests that He puts before them. If a person doesn't pass the test that God puts before them, how can that person bring glory to God? 

     Influences direct our paths.  If YHWH is our influence then we will allow Him to direct our paths. If we are under our own influence then we will direct our paths.  If we are under the influence of another, they will direct our paths. The path that a man chooses to follow is the path on which he is led for we have been given the freedom of choice from God to choose. 

          Influence: Noun - the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something, or the effect itself.  Verb - have an influence on.

     Proverbs 13:20 - 'Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.'

     Proverbs 14:12 - 'There is a way that seems right to a man, but it's end is the way of death.'

     Any other influence but The Father's will lead us away from that which is right, that which is pure, that which is His and that which is holy.  Slowly we sink to the influence of ourselves or another. By being offended - we yield to our own influence of ''I'm wounded'.  Lack of humility gives yield to arrogance in the supposition that we should be treated differently. Haughtiness gives way to the influence of 'I'm better'. 

     Any other influence other than that of The Father's is an influence of self, of arrogance. Even an influence of self debasement is linked to arrogance, for we loft ourselves first in our lives, mind and heart: "I'm no good..."  

     Balaak was an unwise association. We can surround ourselves with wise associations or unwise association. Proverbs 13:20 - 'He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will suffer harm.'

     Psalms 6:4-5 - 'I do not sit with deceitful men, Nor will I go with pretenders. I hate the assembly of evildoers, And I will not sit with the wicked.'

     Balak and Balaam both suffered from narrow mind. They were each the beginning and end of their own story. Narrow mind sees itself separate from the world, community and friend. The narrow mind is involved with those entities yet see's itself often alienated, above or distant.  Quickly able to disregard people as they tell themselves that something was done 'to them'. As Balaak was involved with himself and operated within narrow mind he saw himself as one who could destroy the people of God. To distance from a narrow mind one has to distance themselves from what is actually happening. But we get wrapped up in the moment and lose clarity. If Balaam would have looked at the entire whole picture, he would have been able to see the greatness of God.

     Balak was angry, Numbers 24:10, and he ordered Balaam to return home. Before he left, however, Balaam told Balak that the only way to harm the people of Israel was to seduce them into sin. For only then would God punish His people. Numbers 25:1-5.

Both Balaak and Balaam were wrapped up in fear, offense, pride and rebellion.They tried to change the will of God.

               Baruch HaShem!  Rabbi Jay       


The Rock of All... Numbers 19:1-22:1        

   The beginning of this Torah portion defies our human ability to rationalize, thus it is called the strange ritual. However, we are still commanded to accept it, as it really isn't ours to fully comprehend, or we would be as God. Clearly the purpose of the law of the red heifer was to purify those who had come in contact with death. This was to reconcile man back to God. 

     Unlike most other sin offerings, the red heifer was not male, but female.  A message in this metaphor might be: would the female sacrifice suggest that the ritual is life giving? Through women we are born and gain mortal life; through Messiah we become spiritually reborn and gain eternal life. Yeshua taught the Jews this principle when he said, "I am come that they might have life. . . . I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.' John 10:11.

   Numbers 19:1 through 19:9 are the instructions of the red heifer; the slaughtering, the blood, how it is to be burned and the bathing of the priest.  In Numbers 19:9-10 we are given a revelation: 'A man who is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer and put them in a ceremonially clean place, outside the camp. They shall be kept by the Israelite community for use in the water of cleansing, it is for purification from sin.' 

    The ashes are gather up by someone clean, not unclean, pure not impure. The ashes are to go into a clean place and kept by the community for use in the water of cleansing for the purification of sin.

     Isaiah 12:3 - 'Therefore you will joyously draw water from the springs of salvation.'

     John 4:14 - '...but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.'    John 7:38 - 'He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'

     The rites of the red heifer make the impure pure. It purifies. But the water is for the cleansing, the purification of sin. Yeshua is this water. He stepped into water, Matthew 3:13-17. He calmed water, Mark 4:35-41. He walked on water, Matthew 14:22-33, and He is the living water. John 7:37-39.

     Yeshua became the red heifer and removed the laws of sin and death. In John 1:29 Yochanan the Immerser calls Yeshua: 'the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.' The red heifer was for the sins of the community. 1John 1:9 reiterates this: 'If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.'     This parsha continues with the water from the Rock, Numbers 20:1-13.  The Rock that gives the water for the people to live...

     Psalms 18:2 - 'The LORD is my rock...'

     Psalms 78:35 - 'God is the rock...'

     Isaiah 44:8 - '...Or is there any other Rock? I know of none...'

     And the water of life - John 4:14. 

     By not connecting the red heifer to the Renewed Covenant (NT) so much is misunderstood and lost.  By not connecting the Renewed Covenant (NT) to the red heifer so much is mis- understood and lost. 

     Colossians 2:17 - 'These are a shadow of the things to come, but the body that casts it belongs to the Messiah.'  And Hebrews 10:1-4

      It is impossible to fully understand the depth of the Messiah if one does not know the total of Elohim's word.  We would wonder, why is Yeshua water?  What's the big deal about a rock, or a stone. What's with the red heifer?

    'Adonai has made His salvation known.' Psalms 98:2.           Baruch HaShem!  Rabbi Jay       



Korach / To Remove One's Covering  Numbers 16:1-18:32

Beneath the Surface...

   Swimming in Kauai  was amazing. But there is something about looking out into the deep that is overwhelming. It becomes dark. What is beneath the surface? What hides beneath the turquoise colored water with the white waves as the snorkelers swim on top, looking down. The color is vibrant yet deep into the sea it grows black. 

      What was beneath Korach? Was he always angry? Prideful? Rebellious? Who was he?

     You could say that Korach was a big fish in a big sea. He was a leader of the Kehatites, the most prestigious of the Levites. He was looked up to and respected. That is the main element why he was so successful in getting 250 men of Israel, leaders of the community, of those men of renown to join in the rebellion. 

     Korach's name is likened to frost and ice, and is synonymous with discord and conflict. His was such a jealousy that it drove his obsession for power. When he was confronted, even though there were 250 men standing behind him, God's truth held steadfast. Even though Moshes was and is just a man, he was called by God to do a certain job. No one else was called to do that, and Korah desired that position. Interesting that Korach appears as the man of equality. Rallying against a system that seems to have levels of holiness within the community. And then within the same manner he proclaims that he is the more worthy person for the High Priesthood. Korach was also a master at manipulation as is the case with Dathan and Abiram. 

      To get to that point, pride has to play a big role. It's not just pride, it's the jealousy that is fed by the pride that eventually contorts every bit of reality, sways the mind to swing into a "Me" thought and there the ball begins to bounce. 

     Korach thought very highly of himself. So much so that he assumed he had more authority than the leader. He became the leader within his mind and heart. In rallying the 250 men, he obviously had to discuss the ins and outs of Moshe. He had to sway the people, whether it was 1 or 250, he had to convince them that his story was right. That he was 'with' God. The utterly sad thing, is that these people listened and agreed. I often wonder, why didn't one, just one approach Moshe and talk, communicate?  Because they were under the influence of Korach.  The master of division. The sages say that: "Anyone who engages in divisiveness transgresses a divine prohibition, as it is written: 'And he shall not be as Korach and his company.' The seeds of rebellion had already been planted, Miriam, the 10 spies and now Korach and his followers.

     What motivates us?  'A person's ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord."  Proverbs 16:2.

     Influences can spread: 'Do not be misled.  Bad company corrupts good character.'  Corinthians 15:33.

      What about listening? 'Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions.' Proverbs 18:2. 

     Moses tried to instruct Dathan and Abiram: But they were too prideful. 'Pride goes before destruction and haughtiness before a fall.' Proverbs 16:18.

     God knew the character of Korach. His antics did not take Elohim by surprise. So why then? Was it a test for Moshe? For Aaron? For Korach? For the 250 men? Moshe stood firm in the presences of Elohim, even praying for the community as a whole in verse 16:22. But the choice that Korach made, the words he choose to use, the pride that he allowed to swallow him up, truly revealed his true character. It revealed what was beneath. And he lost. He failed the test. God removed his influence from the camp, and those that stood near him failed the test. 

     'As soon as he finished saying all this, the ground under them split apart and the earth opened up it's mouth and swallowed them with their households and all Korach's men and all their possessions. They went down alive into the grave with everything they owned; the earth closed over them and they perished and were gone from the community.' Numbers 16:31-33.

     In Numbers 16:41-50, even after the ground swallowed Korach and the men, the people of Israel grumbled against their leader. 14,700 more people had to perish as they followed the influences of Korach. Aaron stood in the gap, praying for the people. 

     May peace and wisdom rule our lives as we walk humbly before the LORD.      

               Baruch HaShem!  Rabbi Jay   


Shelach Lecha / Send for Yourself

Numbers 13:1-15:41

      In the first part of this Torah portion, Moses gives detailed instructions to the 12 men to explore the land of Canaan. 'Go up through the land and on into the hill country See what the land is like, what are the people like, is the land good or bad, what are the towns like? Walled? Fortified? What is the soil? And bring back some of the fruit of the land, for it was the season of the first ripe grapes. 

      The place where they cut off the cluster of grapes, which had to be carried by 2 men on a pole, they called the Valley of Eshcol. When the men returned in verse 13:26 instead of giving an in depth report of the land; which the only thing they said was that it does flow with milk and honey, and by the way here are the grapes; ten of the men immediately began to spread fear and a negative report. 

     This might just be the greatest lack of leadership in the Torah. Ten of the men that Moses sent out, excluding Joshua and Kaleb, brought back a report tended to demoralize the nation of Israel and render the people in fear.

     This was a testimony of lies, fear and complete foolish behavior. These people had left Egypt with the mighty hand of Elohim.  They crossed the Red Sea with super Divine intervention. They defeated armies, they witnessed miracles of God in their lives.  In Exodus 15:14-15 they sang about their great God and victories and how the peoples of the other nations have heard of them and they tremble. 

     In chapter 14 we are told that all the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, whining that if only they had died in Egypt!  Or even the desert! Then they began to speak about choosing a leader to take them back to Egypt!  Back to bondage!  This was the foolishness that was the result of the bad report. Caleb tries to explain that the land is exceedingly good, and IF the LORD is pleased with them, He will take them into that land, the land flowing with milk and honey and will give it to us. Only do not rebel. And do not be afraid. The Lord is with us. 

    In Numbers 14:11 God plainly speaks: "How long will these people treat Me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in Me in spite of all the miraculous signs that I have performed?"  God clearly explains that those who grumbled against what He was offering to His people were against God Himself. They were defying the instructions given to them, and twisting the outcome of the report. 

    Their own self induced outcome was grim: "So the men Moses had sent to explore the land, who returned and made the whole community grumble against him by spreading a  bad report about it, these men responsible for spreading the bad report about the land were struck down and died of a plague before the LORD. Of the men who went to explore the land, only Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh survived." Numbers 13:36. 

     A very important point in this is that in Numbers 13:1 it appears as if God gave the instructions to explore the land. He follows that instruction up with: "That I am giving to the Israelites."  That point, that God was giving the land to them, should have been forefront in the minds of all. If God is giving us something, where is the fear?  

     However, in Deuteronomy 1:22-23 it is recorded:  "And every one of you came near to me and said, 'Let us send men before us, and let them search out the land for us, and bring back word to us of the way by which we should go up, and of the cities into which we shall come.The plan pleased me well; so I took twelve of your men, one man from each tribe."  

     Regardless, God didn't need anyone to explore the land.  He was giving it to them, He was there with them, had they not remembered? Exodus 15:26 "If you diligently heed the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians.  For I am the LORD who heals you." Exodus 23:25 "So you shall serve the LORD your God, and He will bless your bread and your water. And I will take sickness away from the midst of you."
    The conclusion is that the report of negativity and fear was definitely against God.  As God reiterates in Numbers 14:11.  The stiff-necked people, as God Himself describes them, decide, after mourning for the 10 spies and admitting that they had sinned, go to the place the LORD promised. Moses tells them to wait to not go because God is not with them and that they will be defeated. Yet, they go anyway in their presumption, 14:44 and are attacked and beat down all the way to Hormah, Numbers 11:45. Yet God in all His mercy arranges offerings for unintentional sins. 'But if one sins defiantly, they are cut off because they have 'despised the Word of the LORD.' 

     This Torah portion also gives a clear account just how important the Shabbat is and the wearing of the tzit-tzits.  Numbers 15:32-41. It may seem trivial to some, but it was important enough to God that He spoke it. 

    The disobedient ones who caused the plague of fear became locked in their own perception and their own self induced fear. They lost their ability to progress and eventually died. These people did not focus on the strength of God, only their focus on themselves.  It was a way of self elevation, for in spreading the negative report of doubt against God and the fear that was so evident, they were able to gain the attention of the entire people.  They actually were able to turn the Israelites against Moshe.      

               Baruch HaShem!  Rabbi Jay   




Stepping Up...

           'For those blessed by Him will inherit the land, But those cursed by Him will be cut off. The steps of a man are established by the LORD, And He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, Because the LORD is the One who holds his hand....' Psalms 37:23


      The first part of this Torah portion are the instructions given to Moshe about the menorah. 'And the LORD spoke to Moshe saying: "Speak to Aaron say to him, 'When you light the lamps towards the face of the menorah shall the seven lamps cast their light.'" Numbers 8:1-2. 

     The menorah is such a metaphor for the light within us, the light of God, the direction of His Way for us, the light of Yeshua. It is the light of life, the light of prayer, the light of direction and hope. It is a light of miracles, a light of learning, of love and mercy.  It is the light of the Torah of Elohim. It is Israel and her people.  It is a sign. 

     When we light the menorah or when we light a chanukiah, we are demonstrating a love and a will for the will of God. It is a representation of His totality, complete in Revelation: "And from the throne proceeded seven lightnings, thunderings and voices. Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne which are the seven spirits of God.' Revelation 4:5. 

     It is taught that the menorah is God's light to the nations. The menorah was hammered out of a single piece of gold, quite a process.  And remaining as a single object and remaining as such through all the stages of construction right up to the end of the finished product. One True Light, One Torah, One King, One God.

     The instructions were to kindle the light toward the face of the menorah. It was required to kindle the lamp until the flame rises by itself, on its own accord. The Cohen stood on the step in front of the menorah to prepare the lamps. 

     There is a spiritual significance to this. We are to be lamplighters. We are to light the essence within us which is the glow of the Messiah then to bring glory to Elohim. We are to encourage others to illuminate the essence of truth, the light of the Messiah.  When we lift up another we lift up ourselves towards the glory of God.  We help someone. 

      When you are in the land, you feel this, you taste this, you live this. Living in the Diaspora can cause us to drift, to really not grasp the necessity of living under the true light of God,  We can become our own little menorahs, sometimes shining about ourselves, or our accomplishments, or our struggles, or our knowledge.  We shine so everyone can see us. Everything becomes about us. We can become our own little gods, even though we know He Is.

     That is why it is so important to up lift one another. To step up to kindle the lights within us, to help kindle, to encourage the true light of God within each other. 

     Our lights grow dim and diminish when we allow negativity to enter our soul. This is what happened to Miriam in Numbers 12. She spoke against the Cushite woman, the wife of Moshe. (His wife was a Midianite, but Miriam refers to her as a Cushite in regards to her beauty). 

     The negative thought and speech reflected her soul, thus the light within her, as with us, went out. She was inflicted with tzara'ath - as white as snow - which God likens the punishment to the humility of her father spitting in her face, Numbers 12:14. 'If her father had spit in her face, would she not be in disgrace for seven days?' 

     Negative people, negativity and negative thoughts will put out our light, maybe someone's light and possibly the light of all lights within us. Negativity is a darkness, a bleakness, a spirit of death. If a synagogue is to represent YHWH, how can it be occupied with negative people or negative thought?  It can't. It won't. God removes the murmur from the camp. Often this is done by the negativity itself. The person leaves, negativity in hand, thinking they are the ones making the choice, and in fact they are. But the cause is God behind them - removing the negative or murmuring spirit within them. The negativity must be outside the camp, it can not shine the light of God, the light of the Messiah.  It can not help or step up to kindle it's own light let alone help some one else.  It acts as one, as a lone sore. 

     'Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they set it on a lampstand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your father in heaven. Do not think that I have come to abolish the Torah or the prophets, I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill the.'   Matthew 5:16 -17.

Baruch HaShem!  Rabbi Jay   




NUMBERS 4:21-7:89

The Cycle of Blessings...

          Blessings are an integral part of the Hebrew life. From the moment we open our eyes until going to sleep there are virtually blessings for every second within the day .  These blessings are also called favors.  God has shown us favor by giving us the beauty around us, the air we breath, even to wake up for one more day.  These blessings serve to remind us constantly of God's graciousness, mercy and loving kindness.  It is our purpose in the life that we are given to raise the mundane and profane to holiness.  

     This Torah portion contains the Aaronic Blessing. This is also called the Priestly Blessing/Birkat Kohanim. In it's simplicity, it is comprised of three verses. One of 3, second of five and the third and final of seven Hebrew words. This is a blessing that has been somewhat diluted through time.  There is a teaching that the first sentence would include but not be limited to, 'May YHWH bow down before you and/or May YHWH kneel before you presenting you with gifts.'

     This mindset lessens the deity of the great God of the universe.  It brings Him into our realm, into our reality, where actually He is His own space, reality, and set of time. He kneels to no one.  

     In Hebrew, the root that means "bless" is b.r.kh, and the Sages explain that it means "to increase" or "bring down Divine abundance." When someone blesses you, they are asking God to increase your health, wealth, happiness or whatever it may be, to shine His light on you... in essence, to give you more of Himself. To find favor upon you. People do not bless one another. It only appears to be so. All we can do for and with one another is to invoke God's blessing. 

     To bring down Divine abundance is not the same as Elohim kneeling before us. The confusion can come because the root word can mean kneel. The confusion stems largely from difficulties in the translation. The Hebrew word "barukh" is not a verb describing what we do to G-d; it is an adjective describing G-d as the source of all blessings.

     Noah was blessed and found favor: Genesis 6:8.

     Joseph found favor: Genesis 39:21.

     Samuel found favor: 1 Samuel 2:26.

     God bestows life and favor: Proverbs 8:35.

     Miriam had favor: Luke 1:30.

     David found favor: Acts 7:46.

     His favor is for a lifetime: Psalms 30:5.

     Favor is bestowed with honor. Psalms 84:11.

How do we find favor?     

     By praying unto the LORD:Job 33:26
     By keeping the commandments of the LORD: Proverbs 3:1-4.

     By seeking and finding God's wisdom: Proverbs 8:35.

     By diligently seeking good: Proverbs 11:27-12:2.

     By living righteously: Proverbs 14:9.

    Believing that God is the source of all blessings is not the same as behaving as though God is the source of all blessings. In order to act upon this belief, we need to exhibit a profound sense of humility and to be conscious that we do not deserve everything that is ours. This is to realize that we are not in full control of our destiny. We need to realize that only God can bless.  We make choices but again, only God can bless.

     Instead of entitlements, we must begin with blessings. Instead of rights, we must begin with responsibilities. In this spirit, in this soul trait each of us can learn about the character of our lives as the children of God by counting our blessings and considering our responsibilities.  

     For at the end of the Aaronic Blessing God states: 'And they shall place My Name on the children of Israel and I shall bless them.' This verifies that He and only He can bless, it is Divine and that we are not the source of the blessing, merely the words spoken in which it is asked.  And it is there that we receive the cycle of blessings. Just as God's ways are circular not linear, as are His blessings. 


B'MIDBAR   NUMBERS 1:1-4:20  MAY 27, 2017

The Sovereignty of God and the Wilderness...

      What exactly is the sovereignty of God? Sovereignty: supreme power/authority. Jurisdiction, rule, supremacy, dominion, control influence. 

     The beginning of this parsha, Elohim instructs Moshe to take a census of the children of Israel. Instructions are given to the Levites, there are instructions on transporting the sanctuary, the coverings, the order in the camp and the formation when traveling. 

     It was God's sovereignty that controlled the Israelites in the wilderness.  Another example of His Divine Sovereignty are the instructions given to Moshe in Numbers 3:44. 'And the LORD spoke to Moses saying, Take the Levites in place of all the firstborn of Israel and the livestock of the Levites in place of their livestock. The Levites are to be Mine. I Am the LORD. To redeem the 273 firstborn Israelites who exceed the number of the Levites, collect five shekels for each one according to the sanctuary shekel...'

     What is it to redeem? 'The action of saving or being saved from sin, error, or evil.  The action of regaining or gaining possession of something in exchange for payment, or clearing a debt.

     Psalm 111:9 -'He sent redemption to His people; He has commanded his covenant forever. Holy and awesome is His name!'

     Isaiah 44:22 -'I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to Me, for I have redeemed you.'

     Psalm 107:2 - 'Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He has redeemed from trouble.'

     Colossians 1:14 - 'In whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.'

     Titus 2:14 - 'Who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works.'

     1 Corinthians 6:20 - 'For you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.'

     Notice that verse in Corinthians: bought with a price. 

     We were given a fresh start, we were cleared of a debt for His glory, for His sovereignty. He sent redemption, He redeemed us; from trouble, from sin and gave us forgiveness. He redeemed us from lawlessness to purify us for Him. And we were redeemed with a price.  As were the two hundred and seventy three in Numbers 3:44-47. 

     Psalms 111:9 combines redemption to His people with His covenant and His Holy Name. The three are synonymous. We can't have one without the other.  This is only because of the sovereignty of Elohim. It is His redemption. It is His covenant and it is His Holy Name. 

     Often, the wilderness is the very place that God removes us to, or allows us to remove ourselves to, to truly grasp the sovereignty of His redemption, His covenant and Holy Name. We often transpose truth into our truth. But there are really no versions of the truth. There is simply the truth.  We may make the truth into our reality, but that is tweaking the truth to fit us. God is not about being what is fair, He is about being what is. In John 17:17 Yeshua asks His Father to 'sanctify them with the truth. Your Word is truth.' He sanctifies us with His Truth/Word/Covenant.

     As we study B'midbar, we will see many examples of the wilderness experiences.  Numbers 14, 20:4, 21:5, 32:15. 

     The wilderness experience is a journey that every believe at one time or another, or quite often travels. None of us are exempt from these experiences. King David was no stranger to journeys in the wilderness and wrote about his experiences in the Psalms, pleading with God.  Yeshua was tempted and responded each time with Scripture. This can be a place where we question everything. But what we need to realize that Yeshua turned to the truth of God's Word, His sovereignty.  This is where King David and Yeshua found peace and answers. 

    A wilderness experience, if we allow it, will prepare us for His purpose. It gives us time to think, pray, be still and to clarify truth. It is a time where God shows us why we are thirsty and dry. Why we are in chaos and confusion.  In Jeremiah 29:13 The LORD says, "You will find Me when you search for Me with all your heart."

     It's just human nature when we begin to stray from His truth and little by little let our own version of truth creep in.  It is most important that we bring ourselves back to His sovereignty.  The sages teach that the 'Torah was given in the desert in order to teach us that if a person does not surrender himself to it like the desert, he cannot merit the words of Torah. And to teach us that just as the desert is endless, so is the Torah without end.'  (Pesikta d'Rav Kahana).

Shabbat Shalom!     

      Baruch HaShem!

              Rabbi Jay