The Way, the Truth and the Life? – Yes and No!

The standard translations of The Gospel of John chapter 14 verse 6 have raised concerns with me for many years, as this statement is, in many ways, so contradictory to virtually everything else that Yeshua said and especially to everything he did. This passage is also used to justify an exclusiveness for many Christians, and even with some, perhaps far too many, an elitist attitude.

Firstly though, I have no doubt that Yeshua walked The Way, was a Man of Truth and that through him we are offered Life Eternal.

But Yeshua always pointed to the Father, to Yehovah. He very rarely placed the focus on himself. He told us how to be part of his family, to be his brothers and sisters, and that was by living as he did, and living and acting in the will of God and following the Almighty’s Instructions (i.e. Torah). See for example his statement in Mark 3:35.

A decade ago now, Pastor Aubrey Burt wrote a short but very powerful article on this fact that Yeshua preached God, not himself – I wrote a short reflection on his message at the time – see it here:

Add to this that this phrase screams out Psalms 119, which begins with ”How happy are those whose way of life is blameless, who live by the Torah of Yehovah!”.

For example:
Psalms 119:1 “Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the Torah of Yehovah.”
Psalms 119:142 “Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and your Torah is truth.”
Psalm 119:151 “You are near, Lord, and all your commands are truth.”
Psalms 119: 37 “Turn my eyes away from worthless things; with your ways, give me life.”
Psalms 119:40 “See how I long for your precepts; in your righteousness, give me life

Psalms 32:8 “I will instruct you and show you the way to go; with my eye on you, I will give counsel.”
Exodus 18:20  ”And you shall teach them the statutes and the laws, and show them the way in which they must walk and the work they must do.”

When reading this verse I always heard echoes of Psalm 119 and the foundational principle that the way of life and truth is Torah.

So, I have lived with the cognitive dissonance of this passage (and a couple of others) for many years.

Now, at last the Bible translator Uriel ben Mordechai has given us a much more faithful and Torah-centric translation of this verse from P66 (circa 150 CE), the earliest extant Greek manuscript for this verse.

It reads:

“Yeshua replied, “I represent that pathway along with the legitimacy. And on that path of life, none WILL appear adjacent to Ha’Ahv except for me.”. – Yochanan 14:6

And his amplified version (the words in the square brackets are not in original but added for clarity):

“Yeshua replied, “I represent [i.e., live-out, personify or animate] that pathway [of the Writings] along with the legitimacy [or genuineness, validity or integrity of the Torah]. And on that path of life, none WILL [or can] appear adjacent to [or to the right of, or before] Ha’Ahv [ i.e., the Father] except for me.”

He also makes the critical point that the Greek  εἰμί  (ee’mee) used here normally means “I stand for, am a figure of, or represent …”.  That is, Yeshua represents The Way (of Torah) but he is not stating here that he is himself the one and only “Way”. Rather, the context of the exclusiveness of the ‘except for me’  is that Yeshua is telling his disciples that where he is going, they cannot come, and only he can go to sit to the right of HaShem.

That is, no-one else is going to Heaven, only Yeshua! Heaven is not our ultimate home, the Olam HaBah, the Coming Age, the Kingdom of God on Earth is!

There is a sense in which an exclusiveness is relevant and that is with respect to Yeshua’s role as the High Priest on Yom Kippur (in the Coming Age), when only Yeshua is permitted to approach Yehovah.

To quote Uriel ben Mordechai is discussing his translation here:
“Yeshua is not talking about his future role as Kohein, who alone will be permitted to approach Ha’Shem on behalf of AHM Israel in the Olam Ha’Bah during the Yom Kippur service. In any case, if we will refuse to approach Ha’Shem apart from the Kohein Gadol, Ha’Shem will not receive us.”

An awesome message that is not in contradiction with the Tanakh and Torah. A message for all people. A practical message of hope coming from the greatest preacher and prophet of hope who ever lived!

So in conclusion, what is Yochanan really telling us in this first portion of 14:6?

That Yeshua declared that he has walked the pathway of Torah and demonstrated its truth, its legitimacy as the correct (and really only) path to walk to have a relationship with Yehovah and ultimately live on in the Coming Age and in the New Creation.

This translation may not have the poetic beauty that the King James translators gave the verse, but it has much more, because it has the power of truth!

The Heart Defines The Person

Consider a wrong heart attitude, for example someone who is a thief at heart. A thief is not just someone who has stolen something, but anyone who, if given the opportunity, may indeed steal something. The heart needs to be open to God, to be circumcised, to be so in tune with the Spirit of God, that it naturally does what is right at all times.

What is meant by a circumcised heart?

I like Moshe Avraham Kempinski’s answer:
“Why does G-­­d use the term a ‘circumcised heart’? It is because circumcision involves removing a covering. We believe that every human being was born with the heart of G-­­d. When G-­­d breathed His breath into Adam, every single human being had the heart of G-­­d placed within him. But what have we done?

Since our youth we have covered this heart with our own ego, our won needs, and our selfish desires. We have covered or hearts and separated ourselves from true equilibrium. This is why G-­­d asks us to uncover our heart -­­ to uncover the heart of G-­­d that is already beating inside. In this way we re-­­kindle what is most natural to us. … having a relationship with G-­­d is essentially returning to what is most natural.

The Hebrew word for repentance, ‘teshuvah’ means ‘to return’. This is a return to the original state of affairs, being in harmony with what was always meant to be. It is not something new to be attained, nor is it some higher state of consciousness. It is returning to what is already ingrained within every single soul and in every single heart. It is about re-­­establishing the divine connection set in place at creation. -­­-­­-­­ Moshe Avraham Kempinski -­­ from “The Teacher and The Preacher -­­ a dialogue” p37

Yeshua prayed that we would be one in spirit with him as he is with the Father. This is a spirit of unity of purpose, of love and loving relationship.

I have come back to reflect on this issue after being asked again about my understanding of the Ephesians 2:15 ‘dividing wall’ passage. In addressing it again I looked at Uriel Ben Mordechai’s recent translation and was challenged even more by his interpretation, especially by his argument that the removal of the wall did not occur with Yeshua’s crucifixion and resurrection but will only occur in the Olam HaBah (the Coming Age and the Kingdom of God).

My new discussion on this passage (which was part of my ‘Siblings of the King’ article) is now here:

It probably needs to be read in the context, both historically and biblically that I expand on in this article:

If you have read these articles, regardless of the conclusions you may personally have come to, there arises quite naturally a few questions:

Is your heart uncovered before Yehovah?

Have you returned to Him?

Have you begun, or continued, to walk The Way of Psalm 119, the way of Micah 6:8, with faith in the Almighty, that is with the ‘faith of Yeshua’1?

Ps 119:1-7
1 How happy are those whose way of life is blameless, who live by the Torah of Yehovah!
How happy are those who observe his instruction, who seek him wholeheartedly!
They do nothing wrong but live by his ways.
You laid down your precepts for us to observe with care.
May my ways be steady in observing your instructions.
Then I will not be put to shame, since I will have fixed my sight on all your commandments.
I thank you with a sincere heart as I learn your righteous rulings. …

1) The Faith of Yeshua

Grace, Justice and Righteousness – the Delight of Yehovah

The Chabad site has this short excerpt of Jeremiah on the Haftorah for the Torah Portion Tzav:

This week’s haftorah touches on the subject of sacrifices, the main topic of the week’s Torah portion.

G‑d tells the prophet Jeremiah to rebuke the Jewish people, saying that His primary intention in taking their forefathers out of Egypt wasn’t the sacrificial offerings, rather in order that they observe the commandments. But despite the fact that G‑d repeatedly dispatched prophets to admonish the people, “They did not obey nor did they incline their ear, but walked according to [their] own counsels and in the view of their evil heart, and they went backwards and not forwards.” G‑d further informs Jeremiah that the people will also not hearken to these words that he will speak to them now.

The haftorah concludes with G‑d’s admonition:

“Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom, nor the strong man boast of his strength, nor the rich man boast of his riches. But let him that boasts exult in this, that he understands and knows me, for I am Yehovah practicing grace, justice and righteousness on the earth; for in these things I delight, says Yehovah” – Jeremiah 9:22-23

‘… grace, justice and righteousness …’ – we hear here the call of Micah in Micah 6:8 and the call of Yeshua in Matthew 23:23b.

These really are the core or ‘weightier’ elements of Torah:

“Woe to you, experts in Torah and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You give a tenth of mint, dill, and cumin, yet you neglect what is more important in the Torah —justice, mercy, and faithfulness! You should have done these things without neglecting the others.” – Matt 23:23

Grace (mercy), justice and faithfulness (righteousness). These three – we, like Yeshua and like Yehovah are to exercise grace – to show kindness, to love kindness, and in doing so to overflow with love. Like Yeshua and Yehovah we are to exercise judgement and discernment, to exhibit fairness in all our actions. And also like Yeshua, we are to have faithfulness or trust in Yehovah, such faith being displayed in our acting within the bounds of Torah, in being obedient to Torah, and through this trust acting righteously.

Everything else can be built on this core and in exercising these foundational truths, we can help repair a broken world and raise up truth-seekers.

I have briefly addressed Micah in a number of articles and one of the insights that I think is most salient is that we are called to love being kind. Not just being kind, but to love acting this way!

In part I wrote:

“… But note that if we use the translation ‘loving-kindness’ in particular to help us see the full picture here, we have the injunction that we are called to ‘love loving-kindness’.

We are to love showing and giving grace; to love acting with mercy, to LOVE being kind. We are not to just BE kind, but to LOVE being kind!

Kindness, mercy, grace should be so much a part of our heart that we can’t help practicing this attribute of the Almighty whose image we are made in! You may ask ‘How do we get this way if we are not already in this place?’ I think part of the answer is to act as if our heart already loves being kind and gracious and full of compassion, and therefore we must do acts of loving kindness. It’s almost like ‘fake it to you make it’.

The more we act this way, the more the neural pathways in our brains will be stimulated to create a new pathway of truth and a new mindset, and a new heart, where we increasingly become ‘lovers of loving-kindness’.

In other words, in living this call we in fact circumcise our own hearts! (Deuteronomy 10:16, Jeremiah 4:4).” – from

Can you also hear an echo of Micah and Jeremiah in the words of Ya’acov (James): “So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the Torah of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” James 2:12-13.

At the very least any sense of humility and working out our salvation in fear and trembling as extolled by the Apostle Paul should lead us to conclude that the showing of mercy, of grace to others could well prove to be of benefit to ourselves when the great Day arrives.

Grace though is such an important cornerstone that we should always be prepared to revisit it’s meaning and ramifications.

In the Talmud, there is a very famous statement that:The world rests upon three things: Upon Torah study, upon Divine service (i.e., prayer and sacrifices), and upon the practice of chesed (grace). – Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) 1:2

It appears that the third of these pillars is derived from Psalm 89:2, so that we can say “And upon the practice of chesed (grace)” – as it is written, “The world will be built through kindness (grace)”. That is, it is man’s practice of grace in his dealings with his fellow man that truly creates and sustains the world. It is man’s practice of grace that most perfectly embodies his being made in the ‘image of God’.

It was the ‘overflowing love’ (grace) of the Almighty that created and continues to sustain the world, and it is the ‘overflowing love’ (grace) of mankind that day by day and moment by moment creates and sustains a world worth living in!

Every day we can all play a part as we seek more and more to love being kind and showing overflowing love, and as we seek to walk in absolute trust (faithfulness) of Yehovah’s Instructions for us.

As the Apostle Paul (Rav Sha’ul) explains, let us all seek to have the same trust, the same faith in Yehovah that Yeshua had (‘The Faith of Yeshua – What’s in a word?’).

For more on grace please see my article: ‘Amazing Grace’.

And He Called – Seeking Your Higher-Calling

Vayikra (Leviticus 1:1–5:26) (וַיִּקְרָא ‎ — Hebrew for “and He called,”) is the first word in this week’s Torah Portion.

When you look out from within, the world in a very real sense revolves around you.

You see it, feel it, experience it, though your senses and your perspective. You can heighten specific senses to then perhaps experience something a little different, a little more enhanced or deeper, and you can significantly change your perspective and this can bring about huge and life-changing epiphanies. Yet it is still you and it is still a world that surrounds you.

But if you try to fly out (in your mind’s eye) beyond the atmosphere, beyond the moon, past the sun and the solar system, out of the Milky Way galaxy to view a trillion+ other galaxies, then from this perspective, you are now less than a dot, less than a grain of sand and less significant than a moon or planet or star. From this perspective, you may seem to be pointless and valueless.

Yet, the Creator of this vast Universe, created you.

He choose you, a totally unique person and placed you into this world at a specific time and place for a purpose. He wanted you here as He has a task for you. A task or tasks that you are uniquely qualified for. While it may be true that if you reject His purpose for your life, He is more than capable of finding another way to achieve His purposes.

But His hope really is in You!

Yehovah has called you. He has a task, a vocation for you. It could be a gift to give the world; a kindness to ease someone’s pain, a love to share that heals a broken life, or a smile to light a dark corner.

Discerning that task, hearing Vayikra, God’s call, is one of the great spiritual challenges for each of us.

For example, being a care-giver for a partner or parent or even parent-in-law with Alzheimer’s Disease is a modern day example of a sacrifice almost beyond reason, beyond rationale foresight. Yet many willingly take on this sacrifice.

Rabbi Sacks argues that “We are willing to make sacrifices when we feel they are part of the task we are called on to do.

Obviously, if the family member with Alzheimers for example is very much loved, then it may seem very natural to take up the challenge of being a care-giver and sacrifice much of your own life for a season.

Whether the care-giver would see this as the task or role that Yehovah has called them to is another matter. Perhaps though, the lessons learned though this great challenge and sacrifice may prove crucial in future situations where the call may even be more vital.

The very nature of spiritual challenges and the natural changes over time in a persons life journey would seem to me to suggest that discernment and clarity of purpose is never easy and even when attained it may prove only temporary and fleeting.

 Rabbi Sacks also argues that “Where what we want to do meets what needs to be done, that is where God wants us to be.”. This certainly has a synergy about it and perhaps may resonate with your soul.

I think we all need to stop and take stock at times (this is actually one of the reasons that the Almighty gave us the gift of Shabbat!). So to seek this synergy and find our unique task and purpose, we may also need to refresh and replenish our soul.

And it also seems timely that once again Passover (Pesach) approaches, as this too is an ideal time for some soul-searching and seeking of your higher-calling.

Please see my article ‘Searching for the Soul’ for more on this:

The Sabbath is Spirit in the Form of Time:

In this week’s Torah Portion, Vayakhel (Exodus 35:1–40:38) Moses assembles the people of Israel and reiterates to them the commandment to observe the  Shabbat (Sabbath):

Exodus 35:
“1 Moses assembled the whole community of the people of Israel and said to them, “These are the things which Yehovah has ordered you to do. 
On six days work is to be done, but the seventh day is to be a holy day for you, a Shabbat of complete rest in honour of Yehovah…”

Why is the Sabbath so important. Of what significant benefit to mankind is it?

These are worthwhile and important questions to ask. What follows is just a small attempt to offer some of the answers.

The Sabbath was and is one of the most significant indicators of freedom ever!

In the ancient world no other people group had a day off each week; no other nation had such freedom. The Sabbath is one of the greatest gifts God has ever given man – a day free from labour and a day to honour the King of the Universe, our Creator!
In the desert wanderings of the Exile from Egypt, a double portion of the manna was collected on the 6th day to last through the Sabbath. When this was tried on other days the manna rotted. God demonstrated in this miracle alone, how important it was Him, that His people observed a day of ceasing or abstaining from their normal labours of providing for themselves and their families.

The Sabbath day; a day spent with community and family in study, prayer, discussion, and peace, reminds us how we should regulate and perfect our spiritual, intellectual, physical, domestic and social behaviours.
Observing the Sabbath reminds and instructs us to sanctify our lives, the way God has sanctified the Sabbath day.

This commandment does not limit our freedom, it gives us distinct guidance toward holiness and therefore meaningfulness for our lives.

The first six days God made good, the seventh He made holy.

We may struggle to stop working on the Sabbath (‘Shabbat’ in Hebrew), but because it is commanded by God, their should be no guilt about having some downtime.

The Sabbath also reminds us of our potential for doing good. We, human beings, created on the 6th day are the bridge between the worldly and the divine – between the rest of creation (on the first 5 days) and the sanctified 7th day.

The appreciation of a non-productive day is predicated on a week of labour. Six days you shall labour, and do all your work” Ex 20:9 (ESV)

During the week we emulate the creative side of God.

The Sabbath is then the culmination of a productive week on which the non-productivity can be appreciated only when preceded by creativity.

Community prayers and fellowship are an important part of the Sabbath. The Sabbath was given to the Israelites as a reminder of God’s freeing them from slavery – as a reminder then of both God and the sanctity of human freedom. It should serve the same purpose for all followers of Yeshua who, along with all his disciples and the Apostle Paul also observed Shabbat every week.

On the Sabbath we search for the essence of God.

Shabbat is the antidote to the tendency toward self-idolatry.

Every time we live a day dedicated to holiness we have the opportunity to bring some residual effect into our daily lives.
The Sabbath is not about time off, it is about sacred time.

The Sabbath is a real day, NOT some theoretical, spiritual inner delusion of rest when the real man/woman continues to sweat blood and tears!

“The Sabbath is spirit in the form of time.” (Abraham Joshua Heschel – ‘The Sabbath’ 1951) 

For more on the Sabbath I recommend my book ‘Doctrinal Pitfalls of Hellenism’ (available from as a Kindle eBook It is also available in paperback or as a free pdf on the Links page at

Also I highly recommend: “The Ten Commandments: The Significance of God’s Laws in Everyday Life” by Dr Laura Schlessingger and Rabbi Stewart Vogel.

The New Heavens and the New Earth: Life in the Coming Kingdom

Following are …
7 characteristics of the new creation – the new heaven & earth:

  1. Radically different creation laws and constants (no thermodynamics, no gravity, no electromagnetism);
  2. No evil, no death, no decay;
  3. No regrets, no grief, no pain;
  4. No darkness, no shadows, possibly no sun and no stars, and yet light everywhere;
  5. Possibly a different dimensionality i.e the ability to move in more than the current 4 dimensions;
  6. Unimaginable splendor, joy, beauty, peace, and love;
  7. Wholly meaningful and satisfying work.

7 things that we will be, as we will be in the likeness of Yeshua:

  1. Immortal beings of glory;
  2. Completed – we the bride will consummate our relationship with our bridegroom; we will for the first time in our lives be truly and fully complete, perfected people made in the image of God; Fully alive and capable – no handicaps; no depression; no sin around us so no need for sorrows or grief; no longer will we see innocent blood being shed and feeling impotent and unable to adequately respond;
  3. Able to enjoy eating without needing to for sustenance;
  4. Able to travel in some extra-dimensional manner that allows us to be transported from one location to another instantly and even move through locked doors or walls
  5. Able to communicate with our ‘ministering spirits’; the ‘messengers of God’ (angels)
  6. People of inexhaustible creativity – without tiring; without exhaustion; without aging and loss of faculties
  7. Identified by a new name; something that most likely will fully identify our uniqueness and our value before our heavenly God

7 things that we will experience in the Kingdom of God;

  1. Fellowship with God & see the Creator in His fullness; in some sense see God face to face!
  2. Touch and communicate face-to-face with our Messiah
  3. A place of no regrets, no grief, no permanent pain;
  4. Reunion with long dead, departed loved ones
  5. Meet & converse with the hero’s of the faith, from Abraham to the Apostle Paul
  6. Rewards – for over-comers; for profitable servants;
  7. Power, possessions and pleasures!

7 things that we will do in the Kingdom of God:

  1. Glorify and worship our God and our Messiah Yeshua and have fellowship with them
  2. Have authority over the new creation
  3. Eat and have many banquets – for pleasure and relationships
  4. Create – cook, compose, write, paint, carve, build
  5. Play music, games, sport; and laugh – joy, fun, excitement!
  6. Travel and experience new wonders of our infinitely amazing God
  7. Continually learn more about our God, who can never be exhausted

For Biblical support of the lists above please see my article here.

 Isaiah 65:17a  “For behold, I create[1] a new heavens and a new earth … “.

Some other more detailed presentations and articles on the Kingdom of God, the Olam HaBah:
It’s Life Jim, but not as we know it: KoG Restoration Fellowship speech Part 1 Aug 12.pdf (

Resurrected to Life: Heaven Booklet April 2007.pdf (

THE GREAT REUNION OF THE TWO OLIVE TREES: On their shoulders – CRF Nov 2008.pdf (

A Commentary on Isaiah 49: A Commentary on Isaiah 49 (

The Ulitmate Reboot:

[1] THe Hebrew word ‘bara’ is used here – it is a significant creation term – it is only used 3 times in Gen 1: verses 1, 21 & 27 for the creation of universe; animals and mankind. Other creation events use the Hebrew word ‘assah’ which manes make or shape. Isaiah 65 refers to the new universe; the new holy city  and the new humanity!

Righteous Anger – Moshe’s Tablets and Yeshua’s Whip:

This week’s Torah Portion, Ki Tisa (Exodus 30:11–34:35) introduces an interesting question about anger, and about sin. Is anger always bad? Is it wrong and unhelpful or is it good when properly directed? 

Firstly, here is part of the Chabad’s ‘Torah Portion in a Nutshell’ summary:  

“When Moses does not return when expected from Mount Sinai, the people make a golden calf and worship it. G‑d proposes to destroy the errant nation, but Moses intercedes on their behalf. Moses descends from the mountain carrying the tablets of testimony engraved with the Ten Commandments; seeing the people dancing about their idol, he breaks the tablets, destroys the golden calf, and has the primary culprits put to death. He then returns to G‑d to say: “If You do not forgive them, blot me out from the book that You have written.” G‑d forgives, but says that the effect of their sin will be felt for many generations. At first G‑d proposes to send His angel along with them, but Moses insists that G‑d Himself accompany His people to the promised land. Moses prepares a new set of tablets and once more ascends the mountain, where G‑d reinscribes the covenant on these second tablets …” – from  

As in every Portion, there is so much great insight and wisdom that can be drawn from these narratives. I would argue that the most significant event here is the giving (twice) of the Ten Commandments (the Ten Words). I have already addressed this a little in an earlier blog post, so for now I wish to consider Moshe’s anger. 

If you read Exodus Chapter 32 from the start you will note that God informed Moses that the people had made a golden calf. So Moses descends the mountain already knowing this and yet when he sees it with his own eyes he gets angry and throws down and smashes the Ten Commandments, the Instructions of God!

The most important instructions ever given to mankind are destroyed!!   

But Moses already knew about the sin of the golden calf, so why did he bring the Tablets down the mountain at all, and why did he still lose it and smash them in anger? 

Well notice that the verse states: “It happened as he drew near the camp, he saw the calf and the dances, and Moses became angry, he threw the tablets down from his hands and shattered them at the foot of the mountain” (Ex 32:19). 

The new information here is that the people were dancing. Not only had they sinned in creating this idol to worship, but they were so lost in their sin that they were celebrating it, dancing around it and fully embracing it, perhaps to the point of not even noticing Moses.  So perhaps his anger and smashing of the very words of Yehovah was needed to open their eyes; for them to see him; to hear him and to have any chance of recognizing and repenting of their error.   

Moses anger was righteous anger, and his anger and corresponding actions (read on with horror) would have clearly stopped many in their tracks and lead them to recognize the gravity of their actions.  So we read: The next day Moshe said to the people, “You have committed a terrible sin. Now I will go up to Yehovahi ; maybe I will be able to atone for your sin. …” – Exodus 32:30 

If many or most of the people had not recognized and repented of their sins, then it is most unlikely that Moses would have make this statement of intent and shared some hope that Yehovah might accept their repentance and have their sin atoned. (It seems that this concept is not well understood – please see my blog post on what atonement really means – 

So on reflection we should see that Moshe’s anger and consequent actions ultimately lead to a positive outcome. His righteous anger has a positive effect. It did not mitigate the sin of the people nor in any way reduce the reality of their sin, but it does appear to have lead to much repentance from the children of Israel, and a consequent return to fellowship with Yehovah.   

Now consider as well the anger of Yeshua: 

13 “It was almost time for the festival of Pesach in Judah, so Yeshua went up to Jerusalem. 
14 In the Temple grounds he found those who were selling cattle, sheep and pigeons, and others who were sitting at tables exchanging money. 
15 He made a whip from cords and drove them all out of the Temple grounds, the sheep and cattle as well. He knocked over the money-changers’ tables, scattering their coins; 
16 and to the pigeon-sellers he said, “Get these things out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market?” 
17 His disciples later recalled that the Tanakh says, “Zeal for your house will devour me.”

– John 2:13-17 

Yeshua also displayed righteous anger here. It was not a total spur of the moment thing either. He saw a serious lack of respect for the Temple and went and made a whip from three or more chords before using it to angrily usher these sacrilegious business people out of the Temple of Yehovah. 

Did Yeshua’s anger bring a positive benefit (apart from its immediate, though probably very temporary, restoration of the sacred and holy)? 

Yes, because it helped confirm to his disciples that they could trust in the Tanakh and in the words of Yeshua as well: 
22 “Therefore, when he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they trusted in the Tanakh and in what Yeshua had said.”  – John 2:22

These are just two examples of righteous anger. Mussar (a form of Jewish ethics which has now been around for 600+ years), argues that all attributes of our characters and personality can be used for good if controlled and directly in the correct and godly way.  

Anger can be bad, yet anger at injustice helps motivate us to try to correct that injustice.  

I discuss this important Mussar approach in my article ‘You Shall Be Holy’:      

May you seek to see injustice in the world that also drives you to righteous anger and further helps motivate you to do ‘tikkun haolam’. It is a sin not to serve – we all have talents; we are all are called to use those talents to help repair or better the world. –

Holiness Breeds Loyalty, And Strengthens Morality

In the Torah Portion, Tetzaveh (Ex 27:20 – 30:10), we are introduced to the Levitical Priesthood and we learn about the special garments that they were to wear when serving in the Sanctuary.

For example in Exodus 28 we read:
40 “For Aaron's sons you shall make coats and sashes and caps. You shall make them for glory and beauty. 
41 And you shall put them on Aaron your brother, and on his sons with him, and shall anoint them and ordain them and consecrate them, that they may serve me as priests. 
42 You shall make for them linen undergarments to cover their naked flesh. They shall reach from the hips to the thighs; 
43 and they shall be on Aaron and on his sons when they go into the tent of meeting or when they come near the altar to minister in the Holy Place, lest they bear guilt and die. This shall be a statute forever for him and for his offspring after him."

The Priests were servants of the living God and their garments added to the aesthetic dimension of the service of the sanctuary. These very special garments added to the beauty of the Sanctuary and added a sense of occasion, a sense of majesty that surely induced a reverence and a sense of ‘separateness’ (holiness) to any ceremonies and prayer that occurred there.

Adding the music (choirs of Levites singing psalms) would have increased the emotional impact and sense of specialness to the events in the Sanctuary. Thus, these priestly garments and associated rituals added a sense of holiness to the life of the Israelites and this in turn surely strengthened the peoples sense of  loyalty and respect. Further these garments, etc., created a sense of reverence for the great majesty and power of the Almighty in their midst.  They would surely have sensed they were in the presence of the King and acted appropriately with a strong sense of the sacred.

Such reverence in turn can lead to a strong sense of community, of a shared foundation and purpose, and a shared appreciation of the responsibility to maintain the collective vision and support each other. Thus again we see loyalty. Loyalty to Yehovah, loyalty to the ‘tribe’, loyalty to every member.

Marriages can’t survive without loyalty and respect.

Surely this is also true of all societies, of all communities and even nations. It is within this shared vision that justice and compassion can exist and be exercised with some reasonable degree of efficacy.

Loyalty means being prepared to make a stand for justice and truth on behalf of my family, my team or tribe and even my nation. Thus loyalty is a foundational aspect of morality. It seems then that the holiness of the priesthood and sanctuary induces reverence and respect with in turn generates loyalty and shared community values and in turn strengthens the moral fibre of a society.

Today it appears we are losing this aspect of holiness as we are losing the community practice of a shared faith and faith community with its rituals and ceremony that also induced reverence and respect. So I think that we are losing loyalty in turn and this is resulting in a serious loss of morality in general, from an increasing breakdown in relationships to a weakness evident in the growing number of people not prepared to stand up for truth, for free-speech, and against tyranny in general.

Holiness then leads to freedom. True freedom is the liberty and choice to seek the best for you, for your family; for your community, for your nation and for your world. This ‘liberty and choice’ grows and is enhanced by developing the ethical and moral aspects of loyalty, reverence and respect.

A personal reflection:
I left the mainstream church environment over a decade ago. I first ran Home Groups and helped start a couple of churches. I also co-started a Theological Seminar group that meet monthly and ran some annual National Conferences. I then took a sabbatical from all of this and have only recently started a family Shabbat Torah study and children’s Bible Study.

So have I lost that induced loyalty, respect and reverence for the sacred? No, I don’t think so. Perhaps I wouldn’t have the same sense of reverence if I have never partaken of the sacred with its rituals, but being away from it has not seen a loss of these values (in my opinion after some introspection).

I still seek to exhibit constant and empowering love, and to practice justice in my interactions and seek to live righteously in all things.

 23 Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, 
24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.
” –  Jeremiah 9:23-24 ESV

For more on holiness please see

How Your Pain Can Be Other’s Gain

One of the most powerful messages of life is hidden in the Torah Portion Mishpatim ( משפטים ).

It is the foundational importance and great value of empathy.

“You shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the heart of a stranger: you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus. 23:9).

Unless you too have suffered and experienced pain, you can not be fully empathetic. It is only when we have experienced something similar to the pain and suffering of another that we can truly empathise with them and come alongside them in support and encouragement.

So all the challenging and painful experiences of your life can really be a blessing to others when they are in need.

But this is not always the way it turns out as Rabbi Sacks notes:“People who have suffered pain often respond by inflicting pain on others. The result is violence, sometimes emotional, sometimes physical, at times directed against individuals, at others, against whole groups. The only genuine, non-violent alternative is to enter into the pain of the other in such a way as to ensure that the other knows that he, she or they have been understood, their humanity recognized and their dignity affirmed.”.

Perhaps today, as you reflect on the moral imperative of empathy, you can change or refocus your perspective on your past trials and thank Yehovah for them as the experiences they have gifted you can be used to show empathy to those you meet who are hurting.

I believe that it is through our trials and suffering, our pain and heart-ache, that we can come to fully appreciate the message of Yeshua when he called us to turn the other cheek‘:

Revisiting the First Tablet from the Moral Code of the Universe:

Revisiting the First Tablet from the Moral Code of the Universe:

This week’s Torah Portion Yitro (Exodus 18:1–20:23): includes the miracle of the Ten Words given by the Creator of the Universe and written on two tablets of stone, five on one and five on the other. The first five relate to our relationship with Yehovah and the second five speak to our relationship with each other.

The Giving of the Torah (The Ten Commandments) was a revelation given to many thousands of people at the same time. They knew that Moses was a Prophet of God. There was no question – they had experienced the reality of God and the reality of the two Tablets on which were written the Ten Commandments or Ten Words.

There was no question, no argument, no logic, or spiritual vision that could shake the nation of Israel’s experience and conviction that God had visited them, and that the Torah of Moses was the very words of God, of Yehovah.

Some argue that as many as 600,000 or more experienced this event. While many Biblical scholars today may question the actual numbers present, there is little doubt that they were a great many and most likely at least many ten’s of thousands. And there is also no doubt that the transformational power of that great cloud of witnesses has travelled down to us through a great many generations.

See my article here for more on what the impact of this has been –

Many of the faithful within Judaism and Christianity would agree that these commandments are the Moral Code of the Universe. And if so, they are more than important and most vital to know and study. So in this short article I wish to look at a few aspects of the first four of the Ten Words.

The 1st Word:

I am the YEHOVAH your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me Ex 20: 2-3 (ESV)

This was a novel idea around 1300 BCE. The idea of a relationship with God that was not casual but covenantal. “I am the Lord your God”. That is, He is a personal God, a God who wants a relationship with us, His creation.

So a vital principle here is that in our relationship with God, the observation of a commandment brings us closer to God and every time we violate a commandment we become further estranged from God.

The 2nd Word:

You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. Ex 20:4-6 (ESV)

In Akiva Judaism this is one of the three sins that one must be willing to die for rather than violate – murder and sexual prohibitions against incest and adultery are the other two. When you have studied this Word sufficiently to recognize why it is seen as so important, then you are really on the way to establishing a deep and personal relationship with Yehovah that can be sustained.

Whenever anything, anything at all besides God and acting out of godliness, that is displaying kindness, charity, and compassion, etc., (see Micah 6:8 and Matthew 23:23b) becomes the actual endpoint of your attentions and activities, then that is idolatry, and your actions are not longer in accordance with the 2nd Word.

Consider Psalms 128:1-2: Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways! 2 You shall eat the fruit of the labour of your hands; you shall be blessed (happy), and it shall be well with you. and Ps 97:11 Light is sown for the righteous, And gladness (happiness) for the upright in heart.

Yehovah is the ultimate source of meaning and therefore happiness – seek Yehovah and find happiness.Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart‘ – Ps 37:4

If instead, you fall for the worship of idols, you in turn, turn your back on the 2nd Word and move away from God.

Any activity taken to extreme, in spite of obligations to family and society, is a behavior that serves the self and is a form of idolatry.

What is the consequence of idolatry: “The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands. 16 They have mouths, but do not speak; they have eyes, but do not see; 17 they have ears, but do not hear, nor is there any breath in their mouths. 18 Those who make them become like them, so do all who trust in them!”Psalms 135:15-18 (ESV)

That is, the more we lead idolatrous lives the more we become blind and deaf and dead to God!

The scary thing here is that as we turn our eyes more and more on our idols, Yehovah hides Himself more and more, even to the point that we are unaware that He is hiding!

Please see my article ‘Moses and the King Who Hides’-

The 3rd Word:

You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. Ex 20:7 (ESV)

The importance of a ‘good name’ or reputation is emphasised in the fact that this command is also repeated with regard to people in the 9th commandment, that is, we are not to bear false witness against others.

God is about relationships – if you give a bad name to Him you may diminish or demolish people’s belief, respect and awe. A name defines something.

God’s name in Ex 3:14-15, ‘I Will Be What I Will Be’ (see ) also speaks to his permanency, his reliability.

When we curse God, we are in a sense blaming Him for problems and not taking our responsibility to stand between the evil and innocent. Since it is our duty to emulate God: Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy (Lev 19:2); a clear way to sanctify God’s name is to behave in holy ways. When we fail to do so we are profaning His name, especially if we are trying to declare our faith as believers.

Similarly, trying to argue that God has condoned your sinful acts is a form of profaning His Name.

As we are all tasked with the being a light in a world of darkness, and reaching others with the greatest message of hope, we must take great care to act and speak worthy: But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.Deut 18:20 (ESV)

God swears on his Name:

… establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13 I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, Gen 9:11-14 (ESV) and He said, By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, 18 and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.Gen 22:16-18 (ESV)

Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Cursed be the man who does not hear the words of this covenant 4 that I commanded your fathers when I brought them out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace, saying, Listen to my voice, and do all that I command you. So shall you be my people, and I will be your God, 5 that I may confirm the oath that I swore to your fathers, to give them a land flowing with milk and honey, as at this day.” Jeremiah 11:3-5 (ESV)

God’s name imparts a seriousness above and beyond anything else we might attempt to invoke.

Whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death. Lev 24:16 (ESV)        

“Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”—  for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.” Mark 3:28-30 (ESV)

Invoking God’s Name while involved in evil (e.g. The Crusades) and making vows in God’s Name which you don’t intend to keep are examples of defying the Third Commandment.

The 3rd commandment speaks to the sacred nature of our relationship with God and our responsibilities to each other in His name.

The 4th Word:

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labour, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. Ex 20:8-11 (ESV)

A double portion of the manna was collected on the 6th day to last through the Sabbath. When this was tried on other days the manna rotted. God demonstrated in this miracle alone how important it was Him that His people observed a day of ceasing or abstaining from their normal labours of providing for themselves and their families.

The Sabbath day, a day spent with community and family in study, prayer, discussion, and peace, reminds is how we should regulate and perfect our spiritual, intellectual, physical, domestic and social behaviours.

Observing the Sabbath reminds and instructs us to sanctify our lives. The way God has sanctified the Sabbath day. This commandment does not limit our freedom, it gives us distinct guidance toward holiness and therefore meaningfulness for our lives.

The first six days God made good, the seventh He made holy.

We struggle to stop working for Shabbat but because it is commanded by God, their should be no guilt about having some downtime.

The Sabbath reminds us of our potential for doing good. We are the bridge between the worldly and the divine – between the rest of creation (on the first 5 days) and the sanctified 7th day.

The Sabbath is spirit in the form of time. (Herschel)

The appreciation of a non-productive day is predicated on a week of labour.Six days you shall labor, and do all your work.Ex 20:9 (ESV)

During the week we emulate the creative side of God.. The Sabbath is then the culmination of a productive week on which the non-productivity can be appreciated only when preceded by creativity.

Community prayers and fellowship are an important part of the Sabbath.

The Sabbath was given to the Israelites as a reminder of God’s freeing them from slavery – as a reminder then of both God and the sanctity of human freedom. It should serve the same purpose for Gentile followers of Yeshua who have also been freed from the slavery of sin.

On the Sabbath we search for the essence of God. Shabbat is the antidote to the tendency toward self-idolatry.

Every time we live a day dedicated to holiness we have the opportunity to bring some residual effect into our daily lives. The Sabbath is not about time off, it is about sacred time.

The proper recognition of this most holy day is worthy of serious reflection. Please see the chapter on the Sabbath in my book ‘Doctrinal Pitfalls of Hellenism’,  as well as this article, ‘The 4-Step Approach to The Sabbath’ available here:

The 5th Word

Honour your parents!

“Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” – Exodus 20:12 (ESV)

The only one of the Ten Words that contains a promise, a promise of a longer and better life, and also a promise to Israel that they would possess the Land of Israel for a much longer time-frame.

There is a great deal that could be written about this Word, both in what it says and what it doesn’t. We are called to honour our parents, to show deference; to remember the sacrifice they made in raising us up; not to shame them or belittle them, not to neglect them or their memory. And in doing so we can expect the same honour to be shown to us by our children, and even in this way alone to prolong our life and length or broaden its impact.

But we are not commanded to love our parents, as love, though principally a commitment, is also much more and sometimes perhaps too much to expect if our parents have not lived up to all that Yehovah created them to be.

It is very hard to love parents who have abused you; or have never even been half-decent at the parenting role. But regardless, Yehovah does ask us to honour them. Our parents represented the Almighty to us as we grew up – they were  His Representatives in our young lives; they were like gods to us. So, when we reach adulthood and honour our parents, we are in turn honouring the Almighty.

Sadly, too many are not even aware of this very special instruction from our Creator and instead treat their parents with a serious lack of honour and respect.

The 5th Word is the last Word on the first tablet. The 6th Word and first on the second tablet is ‘do not murder’.  There is an implicit bond between these two Words, these two instructions from our Creator. Can you sense what it is?

I will address this in my blog post on the second tablet.

For a serious review of all of the 10 Words, I also recommend “The Ten Commandments: The Significance of God’s Laws in Everyday Life” by Dr Laura Schlessingger and Rabbi Stewart Vogel