Torah Portion ~ April 14, 2018       תַזְרִיעַ    Tazriah / She Bears Seed   Leviticus 12:1-13:59      2 Kings 4:42-5:19   Mark 15:1-16:20                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     מְּצֹרָע   Metsora / Infected One   Leviticus 14:1-15:33       2 Kings 7:3-20        Luke 1:1-80

The purity of water and the sin of evil speech...


     The purification of water in the mikveh is remarkable. The whole theory of the mikveh takes us back to creation, when the waters appear first in the second verse of the story of Creation: "God's spirit (ruach) glided over the face of the waters" (1:2). From the very beginning, water is forever attached to the divine, to the spiritual. Rabbi Bebe writes: "Spirituality in relation to water is not necessarily about "purity." Purity was originally attached to the mission of the Temple; since the Temple exists no more, purification need not apply to contemporary immersion in the mikveh. Going to a mikveh is not only a means of washing away the past, of removing the legacy of some "sin," but also of preparing for the future."

     We know now, that Yeshua is the Living Water. He is our mikveh and He is referenced to water and He is the Water. The purity is not in the water, true, but in the obedience to the water of life. This was an example to us in 2 Kings 5 in regards to Naaman and leprosy as if this was setting the stage to the obedience of the purity of The Living Water, Yeshua - who came to glorify the Father.

     On the other end, we have the disease of metsor, a skin disease often mistranslated as leprosy. The Torah deals with tzara'at on three occasions. The first is in this parsha of Tazria and Metzora. The second time is in Numbers/BaMidbar where the Torah recounts an incident which resulted in Miryam becoming afflicted with the condition. It describes Miryam criticizing her brother Moshe. God rebukes Miryam for her ill-considered comments and she is afflicted with tzara'at. Then in the final instance - in Deuteronomy/Devarim - the Torah asks us to recall that Miryam spoke inappropriately about Moshe and was afflicted with the disease.

     In this parsha there is no reference to the disease, just what the result and instructions are. The second part is a direct example of the consequences, and the third part is for us to remember. 

     In Metzora, the Torah reveals that tzara'at can even afflict the walls of a home. The afflictions are treated like contagious diseases. The afflicted person is put in isolation and the clothing or even the  home is destroyed. We may wonder at this point, why the strict and extreme response and what were the causes?  No mention is made of the cause of the affliction at this point in this particular Torah portion. When we study further, as stated above we discover the cause of the affliction. The affliction is a Divine consequence. The punishment begins by striking the house. If the person repents, then the afflictions proceeds no further. If the person persists in the sin of slandering others or tale-bearing, or lashon ha'rah then the affliction persists - moving from the person's clothing to his body. The consequence of isolation makes complete sense. The tale-bearer has caused others to be ostracized by the community therefore he deserves to experience the same isolation that he has brought upon his victim. This all becomes much clearer after we read and study the later Torah portion about Miryam.

     Leviticus 19:16 - 'Do not go about spreading slander among your people. Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor's life.  I am the Lord.'

     Proverbs 16:17-18 - 'An ungodly man digs up evil, and it is on his lips like a burning fire. 28 A perverse man sows strife, and a whisperer separates the best of friends. An ungodly man digs up evil, and it is on his lips like a burning fire.'

     Titus 3:1-2 - 'Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men.'

    Remembering, the Torah was/is written in the Hebrew language. Therefore, we must be clear on the English definitions:

"Gossip" - Rumor or talk of a personal, sensational, or intimate nature." This word is used in the NKJV in 1 Timothy 5:13).

"Rumor" - Unverified information of uncertain origin usually spread by word of mouth; hearsay.

"Slander" - The utterance of defamatory statements injurious to the reputation or well-being of a person. ... A malicious statement or report.

"Backbite" - To speak spitefully or slanderously about a person.

"Talebearer" - A person who spreads malicious stories or gossip.

"Rail" - To condemn or attack in bitter, harsh, or abusive language...

     If a negative report is given about someone to someone regarding a person, that is considered lashon ha'rah, for the negativity will swallow up any positive emotions or reputation that a person has regarding the person with a 'negative' report. Words inflict wounds as stated in Proverbs 18:8, and often we are unaware or calloused, or so concerned with our own 'feelings' that we fail to see the pain and long lasting effect the bad report has. Especially if the negative action is false report or is a conversation of a past sin and that person has repented, and the LORD has forgiven. The conversation might go as such: "This person did such and such...' and then brings up a sin, something even the LORD does not do. How dare people do that? 

      This is clearly judging. Leviticus 19:15 states: 'In righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.'  If someone is a God-fearing person, we are commanded to judge them favorable, for we know that one who seeks God, and repentance is forgiven. And as we judge so shall we be judged.  

     Psalm 103:11-13 

'For as the heavens are high above the earth,
So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
12 As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
13 As a father pities his children,
So the Lord pities those who fear Him.'         . 

                               Shabbat Shalom ~ Rabbi Jay  


Torah Portion ~ April 7, 2018
Shemini / Eighth 

 Leviticus 9:1-11:47      2 Samuel 6:1-7:17         Hebrews 8:1-6

A Strange Thing vs. Holiness...
      Shemini contains several points that lead us to the holiness of God. In the instructions of the inauguration, there is the 8th day of completion for Aaron and his sons. There is the fire of God and His Divine Presence that consumes the offerings.  There is the death of Aaron's two sons, after they offer strange fire before Elohim. We are told about the silence of Aaron when his sons are consumed in God's fire. 
     Shemini also teaches about the Kosher laws which are the foods that are clean to us concerning which animals to eat and not eat. We are also taught about the purifying ritual of the mikveh and the instructions in seeking that which is pure versus impure.
     Shemini is about the holiness of the Divine. 
     In a world and a time in our lives of chaos and of evil is good/good is evil, Shemini is a solid foundation for us to come back to and to grasp the understanding of the holiness of Elohim.
     Have we forgotten this holiness of God? Has the church watered His Torah down so much that we have replaced His holiness with our perception of what His holiness should be?  Hasn't the cultures that we live in little by little whittled away at the Scriptures until it is anything one wants to make it? Yes and yes. Yet, we should be extremely concerned about the holiness of God, how we should respond to it, and how we live according to it.
     Leviticus 20:26 'And you shall be holy to Me, for I the Lord am holy, and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be Mine.'
     1 Peter 1:15-16 '...but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy."
     There are obviously certain attributes that we will never share with God. His omnipresence, His omnipotence, His omniscience. His total lack of sin. His complete ability to forgive. His complete agape love.
     But there are attributes that we can strive for as a goal, not as a present boast. Simple things we can change, thus separating us from the world. We can change our diet to the kashrut instructions that He gives us. We can leave the pagan holidays and embrace the Shabbat and His High Holy days. We can study the mikveh and learn what renders pure and impure. We can strive to have that agape love towards one another and forgive. We can let go of offenses and seek forgiveness for our attitudes. We can strive to be that holy set-apart people that we are told to be in 1 Peter 1:15-16.  
    Looking at 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13 'Now may our God and Father Himself, and our Lord Yeshua HaMashiach, direct our way to you. 12 And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you, 13 so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.'
     There a connection between His Way, His love and holiness. Verse 12 asks that the Lord increases our love to one another so that He, not us, but He may establish our hearts blameless in holiness before Him as we walk in His way.  This is a condition with parts to holiness; His way, and love towards one another. One without the other will change the results.  
     If we walk in ways different than God's, yet love one another, then in stark reality we lack true obedience and unselfish love towards the Father because we have changed His will to fit our needs.  We love Him because He first loved us. 
     On the flip side, if we walk in His ways, the Torah, yet hold onto offenses, bring up past sins, live in bitterness, walk in unforgiveness and judgement then we have again changed His will to fit our needs. 
     Shemini is a great Torah portion for us to study and seek His Ways and His Will. 
     May you be blessed with His wisdom as you study Shemini.   
                               Shabbat Shalom ~ Rabbi Jay  

SHABBAT HAGADOL    The Great Sabbath
Torah Portion ~ March 24, 2018
Tzav / Command   Leviticus 6:1-8:36
Jeremiah 7:21-8:3, 9:22-23        Mark 13:1-37  

Perpetual Fire...  
           'A fire shall always be burning on the altar; it shall never go out.'  תָּמִיד tamid  is the word used in Leviticus 6:13 for the perpetual fire.   
     There are many verses that liken God to fire:
Exodus 3:2-3 'The angel of the LORD appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed.'
Exodus 13:21 'The LORD was going before them in a pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way, and in a pillar of fire by night to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night.'
Isaiah 66:15 'For behold, the LORD will come in fire and His chariots like the whirlwind, to render His anger with fury, and His rebuke with flames of fire.'
     Now that we are the living Tabernacle, with the Living God, we are to be that perpetual fire.  The fire within us is a burning not of anger and wrath, but of a burning love for the God we serve.  It is a hunger, a thirst, a wanting, a needing for the Words of God, for His Ways and for His love. True obedience with Elohim means being on fire; the God of fire has no fellowship with icicles. No matter who we are, He does not adapt to please us; we always have to adapt to Him. He is a jealous God and He challenges us to get our fire burning. 
     Yeshua reiterates this : Yocanan the Immerser (John the Baptist) said, 'I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will clear His threshing-floor, gathering His wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.' Matthew 3:11-12; and Luke 3:16-17.
    We will cease to exist without fire. We would become cold and lifeless. Fire is all around us, it is the universe. The sun is fire, every star shines by its own fire, and even the center of our planet is fire - a molten core of metal. Every volcano is a powerful illustration of God's character. He is the perfect essence of goodness, life and energy.
     This parsah begins with the instructions for the guilt offering and the restitution of swearing falsely against someone, either in regards to property, stealing or being a false witness. When we sin against another, we sin against God. Anything we breach against a fellow man will separate us from the will of God.  
     When we spread a false report we kill three witnesses for God; the person spreading the false report, the one that is hearing it and the one that the negative report is about. It is at that moment that the fire within us becomes a negative consumption. Instead of being a fire for God, we become a raging fire that will eventually destructively burn within us. We may not realize it at first, but without true repentance, there is no forgiveness and therefore that raging fire consumes and suddenly we are but ash. Even evil thoughts, not yet carried out in deeds are sin to us. A person who entertains thoughts of sin and refrains from committing it still has bound himself to sin through those thoughts. His fear of God allows him to stop short of the act of a forbidden deed, but he does not escape a dangerous involvement and flirtation with the evil inclination. That involvement rises to the surface of activity in the form of a sin. As the Messiah states in Matthew 4:28-29 our thoughts can be sin.
     His fire will refine us, for each is in sin; 1 John 1:8 and all of us need to be refined from within, allowing us to be that pure perpetual fire for God. This is fighting fire with fire to give us a pure fire. 
     Malachi 3:2-4 ~ 'But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap.' 1 Peter 1:7 ~ 'That the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Yeshua...'
    This Shabbat HaGadol, may we all seek true repentance, forgive one another and walk in humility as we prepare for Pesach. 
                               Shabbat Shalom ~ Rabbi Jay  


Torah Portion ~ March 17, 2018
Vayikra / And He Called  Leviticus 1:1-5:25
Isaiah 43:21-44:23   Hebrews 10:1-8    

And He Called...  
     This Torah portion teaches us about the different offerings that the children of Israel were to bring. 
    The Olah, or ascending offering. The Minchah, meal offering. The Shelamim offering, which is the peace offering. Chatat or sin offering and the Asham, the guilt offering.
     The point of these offerings was to sanctify and clear the person of the offense. It was the purity of the offerings that mattered to God. The prior Torah portion, the end of Exodus was about the willing and pure heart to give. This ties into this parsha in regards to the purity of the offerings. 
     None of the offerings would have sufficed to God if the willing heart was void and stale, for: 'The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it?' Jeremiah 17:9.  Jeremiah 5:3 also states: 'They made their faces harder than rock, they refused to repent.' These generations after the great and miraculous Exodus had made their faces as stone, had hardened their hearts and had turned away from Elohim. Jeremiah was a prophet to the Southern Kingdom and eventually exiled to Egypt. He tried to warn the Hebrews about the time to come, about the bondage that was to return to them if they did not repent. 
    It is about three weeks from Pesach. This is the time of redemption, of cleaning not only our homes, but our lives of leaven. Rabbi Sha'ul tells us; 'Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.'
     What is sincerity? Noun: the quality of being free from pretense, deceit or hypocrisy. 
     None of these character traits will allow us to enter into the Kingdom of God. We may think that we are all that we are to be, we may be following the Torah, keeping kosher and Shabbat, but in truth we are outside the camp in our own arrogance. We all sin, we all make mistakes. But pretense, deceit and hypocrisy crosses those boundaries. It eats our hearts, our souls so we don't bring any offerings to God because we don't feel we have to. We are hardened souls with faces of stone.
     1 Samuel 15:22 'But Samuel replied: "Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord?  To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.'
     Part of obeying God is to walk in love and forgiveness. Hardened hearts will keep us from truly obeying God, for we walk in unforgiveness, which in turn keeps our offerings from purity and coming from a willing heart - for our heart is stone.  My prayer and encouragement is that we all seek out the leaven within us and strive to walk blameless before YHWH.  
                               Shabbat Shalom ~ Rabbi Jay