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 https://www.chabad.org/parshah/article_cdo/aid/2833/jewish/Ki-Tisa-in-a-Nutshell.htm  

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 – https://globaltruthinternational.com/2020/06/20/atonement-covering-our-sins-from-ourselves/). 

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’:  https://globaltruthinternational.com/2015/03/21/you-shall-be-holy-introduction/      

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. – https://globaltruthinternational.com/2012/12/21/the-rarity-of-repentance/

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 https://globaltruthinternational.com/2015/03/21/you-shall-be-holy-introduction/

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‘:

https://globaltruthinternational.com/2016/09/07/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 – https://luke443.blogspot.com/2016/05/600000-traditions-that-establish-truth.html

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’- https://globaltruthinternational.com/2012/09/23/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 https://globaltruthinternational.com/2021/01/08/i-will-be-what-i-will-be-yehovah-the-god-of-the-future/ ) 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)

Also:
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’, https://www.amazon.com/Doctrinal-Pitfalls-Hellenism-Studies-Greek-ebook/dp/B00DO17CK8/  as well as this article, ‘The 4-Step Approach to The Sabbath’ available here:  http://circumcisedheart.info/The4StepApproachToTheSabbath.pdf

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

All The World Will Sing A New Song

In this week’s Torah Portion, Beshalach (Exodus 13:17–17:16) we read of the Song of Moses, the Song of the Sea.

Exodus 14:31 And Israel saw the great hand, which the Lord had used upon the Egyptians, and the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in Moses, His servant.
Exodus 15:1 Then Moses and the children of Israel sang this song to the Lord, and they spoke, saying, I will sing to the Lord, for very exalted is He; a horse and its rider He cast into the sea.

15:18  The Lord will reign to all eternity

The prelude to the ‘Song at the Sea’ states that the people “believed in Yehovah and in his servant Moses”—the first time they are described as believing in Moses’ leadership.

The song starts with verse 1 of chapter 15 and goes through to verse 18.

“Song lies at the core of life; its source is in the most supernal ecstasy.” And he explained: “A river went out from Eden to water the garden . . .” (Genesis 2:10) from the source of all delight, the river of life flows downward, branching outward to each world and every created being. Each thing thirsts to rejoin with its source above, and from that yearning comes its song, and with that song it comes alive. The heavens sing, the sun, the planets and the moon; each animal, each plant, each rock has its particular song, according to how it receives life. Until the entire cosmos pulsates with a symphony of countless angels and souls and animals and plants, and even every drop of water and molecule of air, singing the song that gives it life. …”. – Chabad Rabbi Dovber

Music and singing songs can bring a  sense of new life and some healing, they can sweetens the bitter soul and fill a home with light.

A song can also bring unity and a sense of  oneness.  A song can unite those who sing and hear it: When words are spoken, we each hear the words according to our understanding.

But in song, we are all united in a single pulse and a single melody.

Surely the singing of Mose’s song after the parting of the Red Sea was an amazing event of such great unity and ecstasy as the people of Israel were fully united behind the leadership of Moses and in awe of the power of Yehovah.   

Such incredible unity may not have occurred on such a large scale since, yet it would appear that it will occur again with the coming of Mashiach and on the Day of Judgement. We see this implied in Psalm 96 which starts with “All the world will sing a new song,”.

The messianic era is surely within sight and hearing and it will bring that new song, a song of essential oneness expressed throughout the world!

Psalm 96 Sons of Korah

Worship the thou and tremble in awe now 
Worship the in the splendorof all of His 
holy re", let tie nitlonsall say The LORD 
• reigns He is great 
and rnost worthy Of praBe

And singing leads to dancing as we see with King David. So on that great Day I hope you dance as well!

Ronan Keating – I Hope You Dance

Moshe on Education

Torah Portion – Bo (Exodus 10:1-13:16)

“There is only one way to change the world, and that is by education. You have to teach children the importance of justice, righteousness, kindness and compassion. You have to teach them that freedom can only be sustained by the laws and habits of self-restraint.” – Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.

Freedom may be fought for and won, but it can never be kept without the foresight to educate the children of freedom about justice and compassion.  And also about history and truth, and to supply them with critical thinking skills.

Without such a deep and broad education they will grow to falsely claim that communism or socialism offers them freedom; that fascism is good because those in power only have the best wishes of the masses at heart.

The kingdoms, empires and countries of the past all declare that freedom does not last, when a full and proper education is denied to the people.

Sadly, this is the reality here in Australia today and in many other countries including the USA. The education system has rejected the teaching of true justice, of righteousness and self-restraint, but just as significantly it has neglected developing in students the vital skills of discernment and critical thinking.  

Moshe (Moses), inspired by Yehovah clearly recognized this when he addressed the people of Israel as they were about to leave Egypt:

And when your children ask you, “What do you mean by this rite?” you shall say, “It is the passover sacrifice to the Lord, because He passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt when he smote the Egyptians, but saved our houses.” (Ex. 12:26-27)

And you shall explain to your child on that day, “It is because of what the Lord did for me when I went free from Egypt.” (Ex. 13:8)

And when, in time to come, your child asks you, saying, “What does this mean?” you shall say to him, “It was with a mighty hand that the Lord brought us out from Egypt, the house of bondage.” (Ex. 13:14)

Here Moshe speaks into the future; he tells the people of Israel what they are to do in the future, that they are to educate their children about the past, about the escape from Egypt, from slavery at the hand of the Almighty.

Also note that when children ask about their parent’s actions in observing Pesach (Passover), Moshe tells them they are to explain that the activities of this Festival are to recognize and remember the power and blessings of Yehovah; that freedom from bondage is thanks to the hand of God and that the memory of this would keep them on the narrow path of righteousness in heeding the instructions of God (i.e. the Torah),

Rabbi Sacks states that:
“Moses’ insight was profound. He knew that you cannot change the world by externalities alone, by monumental architecture, or armies and empires, or the use of force and power. How many empires have come and gone while the human condition remains untransformed and unredeemed?

There is only one way to change the world, and that is by education. You have to teach children the importance of justice, righteousness, kindness and compassion. You have to teach them that freedom can only be sustained by the laws and habits of self-restraint. You have continually to remind them of the lessons of history, “We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt,” because those who forget the bitterness of slavery eventually lose the commitment and courage to fight for freedom. And you have to empower children to ask, challenge and argue. You have to respect them if they are to respect the values you wish them to embrace.

This is a lesson most cultures still have not learned after more than three thousand years. Revolutions, protests and civil wars still take place, encouraging people to think that removing a tyrant or having a democratic election will end corruption, create freedom, and lead to justice and the rule of law – and still people are surprised and disappointed when it does not happen. All that happens is a change of faces in the corridors of power.

In one of the great speeches of the 20th century, a distinguished American justice, Judge Learned Hand, said:

‘I often wonder whether we do not rest our hopes too much upon constitutions, upon laws and upon courts. These are false hopes; believe me, these are false hopes. Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it; no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it.’

What God taught Moses was that the real challenge does not lie in gaining freedom; it lies in sustaining it, keeping the spirit of liberty alive in the hearts of successive generations. That can only be done through a sustained process of education. Nor is this something that can be delegated away to teachers and schools. Some of it has to take place within the family, at home, and with the sacred obligation that comes from religious duty. No one ever saw this more clearly than Moses …”. – https://www.aish.com/tp/i/sacks/237883671.html

When children are well educated in the value of freedom and the power of the Almighty, as adults they are a lot more likely to recognize His hand at work in the most challenging of times and also then to search their hearts and repent of any and all sins rather than curse Him and reject Him.

The Book of Revelation describes the end-times of great calamity when many will curse Yehovah rather than repenting and turning to Him:

Then I heard the altar say, “Yes, Yehovah, God of heaven’s armies, your judgments are true and just!”
The fourth one poured out his bowl on the sun, and it was permitted to burn people with fire. People were burned by the intense heat; yet they cursed the name of God, who had the authority over these plagues, instead of turning from their sins to give him glory.
10 
The fifth one poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom grew dark. People gnawed on their tongues from the pain, 
11 yet they cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and sores, and did not turn from their sinful deeds.”

– Rev 16: 7-11

It is a proper and deep education that can save people from this devastating state of affairs. So not only is it as Rabbi Sacks states that “There is only one way to change the world, and that is by education…”,but it is also through such a deep, broad and biblical education that people can be saved from themselves and turn to the only One who can truly save, Yehovah, King of the Universe!

I Will Be What I Will Be – Yehovah, the God of the Future!

This week’s Torah Portion Shmot (Exodus 1:1-6:1) contains the extremely powerful declaration from the Almighty Himself!

Exodus 3:14 אֶֽהְיֶ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר אֶֽהְיֶ֑ה ‘… ‘ehyeh asher ehyeh …’ – I will be what I will be.

Exodus 3:
“13 And Moses said to God, “Behold I come to the children of Israel, and I say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?”
14 God said to Moses, “Ehyeh asher ehyeh (I will be what I will be),” and He said, “So shall you say to the children of Israel, ‘Ehyeh (I will be) has sent me to you.'””


These 3 keys words have been consistently very poorly translated into Greek as ‘ego eimi ho on‘, and into Latin as ‘ego sum qui sum‘, meaning ‘I am who I am’, or ‘I am He who is’, and even more fraudulently and sadly the focus that has followed has been on the words ‘I AM’, as if this is somehow a name for Yehovah and more.

But much more significantly, “I will be what I will be” is really a statement that Yehovah is the God of the future tense.

In the context of when this declaration was made at the Burning Bush, the People of Israel were not in a good place and had surely given up hope. Moses asks what name to tell the people, perhaps asking by what authority he is speaking. By declaring this name, that God is a God of the future, it appears that Yehovah is both telling them to see and recognize Him by His future actions in dis-arming Egypt and in saving them, and also that as the God of the future, their future, He is very much involved in their lives and in saving them.

This should give us all real hope.

But in “I will be what I will be” there is also a sense that they could not know Him until he acted. It would be His actions that would show who and what He was. His saving them would demonstrate His love and compassion.

The Creator of the Universe is not just involved in the past, in creation and getting us to this point in time, He is very much involved in the future and it is in the future where we will perhaps see His greatest works. We should take courage from this and be lifted up. No matter how dark the present may appear and the hopes for a good future may seem to be fading, we need to remember that our Father in Heaven will be there in our future and He will act for great loving kindness toward those who are His children.

But there may be even more that we can take from the sense and meaning behind this name.

The late Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks also explains in a speech at Berkley, how this declaration of the Almighty’s, when asked His name by Moses is a declaration of God being a radically free agent.

That is, he argues that God is declaring He is a God of the present and future who can and will do and be what he wants. Thus the future is not pre-determined but open to the will of God.

Rabbi Sacks then goes on to explain that, in being made in the image of God, we human beings are also creative beings who are also radically free to create our own futures, to choose what we want to become and what we want to be.

This is a liberating concept that is at the heart of the Bible. 

The understanding that, while we may have ‘two hearts’ or two inclinations (Yetzer HaRa and Yetzer HaTov), we also have a great capacity to create a good and positive future for ourselves and those whom we touch. 

We are not ‘totally depraved’ sinners as Christian Reformed theology teaches (based on the false doctrine of ‘Original Sin’ – see ‘Original Sin and the Seed of Abraham’ by Frank Selch).

So the Almighty declares His freedom and power over the future; power to bring great blessings to man, as well as to bestow curses and punishment. At the same time He gives us the power and freedom to choose to heed His direction and receive His blessings or to turn our back on Him and ultimately receive some unwanted and painful attention from Him.

This understanding should give all who acknowledge the God of Israel great hope. That is we should trust that together we  can make things better. 

This is true faith and this faith is not a faith in the past but a faith in and for the future.

So you can be radically free; create your future; work to turn both your ‘hearts’ to true trust and obedience in God and be overwhelmingly rewarded!

This idea of being a radically free agent was presented by Rabbi Sacks in a brilliant talk at Berkley late 2012 – watch here(- this is a long video – Rabbi Sacks starts talking some 10 minutes in). 

PS: Many ‘Christian’ translators have translated Ex 3:14 and the phrase  ‘ehyeh asher ehyeh’ as ‘I am that I am’ and then tried to argue that this ‘name’ is used by Yeshua to label himself in John 8:58. The leading Hebrew scholars from Rashi to today inform us that this phrase is properly translated as ‘I will be what I will be’ and not ‘I AM’.

Note: While I would not suggest that Google Translate is a most authoritative source for translations it does very nearly translate the Hebrew אֶֽהְיֶ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר אֶֽהְיֶ֑ה into ‘I will be what I will be’ (it just has who instead of what).

A Song for Ex 3:14 I will Be What I Will Be

The ‘Sceptre’ Will Not Depart – Genesis 49:10

In this Torah Portion,  Vayechi we find the  famous verse of Genesis 49:10:

“The sceptre (שֵׁבֶט = shevet) shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, as long as men come to Shiloh; and unto him shall the obedience of the peoples be.”http://mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0149.htm

Or: The staff shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet  until Shiloh arrives, and his will be an  assembly of nations.” – Genesis 49:10

Note: Google Translate translates שֵׁבֶט as ‘tribe’, not stick, staff, rod or sceptre.

I caught up with some very dear old friends, Gordon and Kathy during the week and Kathy pointed out to me that ‘sceptre’ was not really a good translation of   שֵׁבֶט  (pronounced ‘shevet’) which originally meant branch or staff.

Some support for her insight:

“Citing an explanation from Rabbi Shmuel Dovid Luzzatto (1800-1865), Rabbi Yaakov Tzvi Mecklenburg (1785-1865) … explains that the word shevet originally referred to the leader of a tribe… The leader of a tribe is similar to a mast upon which a flag is mounted because all of the members of the tribe rally around the leader. In this way the word for a leader of a tribe is homonymous with the word for stick. Since all the members of a tribe are united behind their leader, references to them can be subsumed under the word used for the leader. Thus, the word shevet also came to mean members of a tribe because the leader of the tribe embodies the entire tribe itself. In terms of sticks, he argues that shevet and mateh can both refer to the exact same type of stick, but they refer to different parts of the stick. The word shevet refers to the top of the stick (just as the leader sits atop the hierarchal structure of a tribe), …

Malbim (to Gen. 49:28) writes that the word shevet does not literally mean “stick”, rather it means “branch,” which was the most common item used as a stick. Based on this, he explains that shevet means branch and tribe because each of the Tribes of Israel is simply a branch of the greater family tree of Jacob’s descendants.”
What’s in a Word?, “Tribesmen Stick Together” by Reb Chaim Haqoton

This verse is very often used as a prophecy about the Messiah given the interesting allusions to Shiloh and the fact that the eschatological Messiah will come from the tribe of Judah.

However, most Bible students who are critical thinkers will have recognized that this verse can not be used as a prophecy for Yeshua as Messiah or for any other Messianic figure for that matter.

But what Kathy pointed out is that when we see this word ‘shevet’ as staff or if you like as ‘flag-bearer’ for the Tribe of Judah and its allegiance to Yehovah, we can see that this prophecy was and is still true.

The Jewish people and in particular the Tribe of Judah (including of course Yeshua ben Yosef) have indeed been the flag-bearers for the ‘oracles of God’.

Romans 3:1-2  Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God.”

This was clearly true when the Apostle Paul made this statement and it has been true in the almost 2000 years since. However, unless Mashiach/Messiah returns soon, it may not remain true for many more years.

As Tal Keinan points out in his excellent book God Is in the Crowd: Twenty-First-Century Judaism (https://www.amazon.com/God-Crowd-Twenty-First-Century-Tal-Keinan/dp/0525511164/) the very survival of Israel and of Judaism is in serious jeopardy. I think his analysis is excellent and most disconcerting though I don’t see his solution, while perhaps of great merit, being implemented to any effective degree (see some comments in a footnote below).

Rabbi Mendel Kessin in his talk from just a few days ago ‘21st Century #61 | The Turmoil that Surrounds the Coming of Mashiach’ (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7mHtGW_Q5Ds&feature=youtu.be) argues that of the world-wide 14 million Jews at most only 3 million are still in any way Torah observant. Clearly the remaining Jews place a much lower emphasis on the centrality and foundational importance of the Hebrew Bible and hence are not as likely to maintain and pass on the ‘Oracles of God’ that are really the very foundation of morality and and the successes and freedoms of the Western World.

So what hope the future?

I would recommend Tal Keinan’s book for some great background to this growing concern with respect to the end of Judaism and Israel, and Rabbi Kessin’s talk for some insights into the possible future.

God’s testimony to mankind is of key importance as testified repeatedly by the prophets.   From my observation all our attention has been focused on the Messiah rather than God’s message of “the Way” to us.

May Mashiach come soon!!

PS: When I was writing this short reflection on Gen 49:10 I also emailed Kathy and asked if she had any supporting evidence for her insight with respect to this verse. Today I was blessed and thrilled to receive her comprehensive and most insightful reply. With her permission I have posted it below:

Quote:


“Further to your question re Genesis – it’s simply my own study – from what I can see everyone assumes this verse applies to the Messiah.  Anyway my reasoning is below and would welcome criticism as I certainly don’t place myself as some great authority here but this scripture has perplexed me for a long time.

Genesis 49:10 The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be. NKJ

The sceptre shall not depart from Judah not a scholar from among his descendants until Shiloh comes and his will be the assemblage of nations.   Artscroll

Of all the brothers, Judah’s prediction is unique in that it lasts through perpetuity.  In retrospect we know that the messianic line was be through Judah so translators conclude it describes kingship.  There is also the enigma that no one seems to know what the term “Shiloh” means.  In the Hebrew it could be “Shiloh coming” or “Coming to Shiloh” it is unclear.  However, we understand “the gathering of nations” will occur in what we believe at the “end times”. 

However, this has always been a troubling verse and nagging contradictions persisted at the back of my mind. 

  1. Historically perpetuity of kingship was not the case as Judah only had a king for 538 years.  It was probably around 500 years after Judah’s death that David become king.   During the Babylonian exile there was no king right through to the 2nd Temple period. 
  2. What has always been poignant is Israel’s rejection of God as their King.  God expresses sadness and betrayal in this verse.  If God preordained a messianic line there is no hint here.
    1 Samuel 8.7      And YHVH said to Samuel, Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say: for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.  
  3. Jacob’s message is somewhat enigmatic.  From my research scholars seems to agree that Jacob was prevented from telling his sons what would happen at the “end times”.  He goes on to describe the attributes of his sons and how these would influence them.  Certainly, we do not have solid evidence of most of these tribal predictions manifested today or in the last 2500 years. 
    In checking the definition of “latter days” can mean: “end, posterity or remainder”.  It implies stating an outcome, as in Moses giving his last admonitions to Israel in Deuteronomy.  Today, prophetically we do not know the identity of the scattered lost tribes since their dispersal.  We do know through Ancestry.com that most of us are a great mixture across Europe Scandinavia, the Steppes, the Baltic, UK.   We recognise some of those prophecies in reading the history of Israel. 
  4. Despite Israel’s rejection, God still claims to be King over Israel.  Isaiah 43.15
    I am YHVH, your Holy One, the Creator of Israel, your King.
    And YHVH shall be King over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord, and His Name One.
  5. In future:  Ezekiel 34: 23-24  I will establish over them a single shepherd and he will tend them – My servant David; he will tend them and he will be a shepherd unto them.  And I, YHVH, I will be a God to them, and My servant David a prince among them, I YHVH have spoken it.

What exactly was Jacob wanting to communicate to Judah?  What was Judah to understand?  Biblical accounts record Judah’s life.  Despite his errors of judgement eg. with Tamar he responded honourably when tested and the tribe of Judah became the national standard bearer to this day after the reign of Solomon and the dispersal of the northern kingdom by Assyria. 

SCEPTRE
We naturally make the connection of “kingship” when we read “sceptre”.  In Hebrew the word is shevet.  Virtually every translation of Genesis 49.10 translates the word as sceptre.  The concept of Messiah became a dominant theme due to the oppression by Greeks and Romans during the 2nd Temple period and the subsequent birth of Christianity.

LAWGIVER
The word “mchkek” (Mem Chet Kuf Kuf) comes from the Hebrew word “chok” – it means “statute”.  So, it seems Judah was to be the statute bearer/administrator.  “Lawgiver” is outside Judah’s prerogative therefore this term is not strictly correct.

What is special about Judah and that claim of perpetuity? 

Out of all the tribes, it is only Judah and part of Levi that remains to this day. 

Therefore, felt I needed to more closely examine what indeed could be meant by the 2 biblical terms of “sceptre not departing from between Judah’s feet” (feet possibly indicating halacha or “the way”) and “lawgiver” in this verse.

Sceptre (Hebrew):
The only way we can define a word is to observe its scriptural use.  According to Strong’s “8275” there is a specific Hebrew word for sceptre “shavrit” and it is only found in 4 places in the book of Esther and the sceptre is carried by a Gentile king.  There is no record of an Israelite or Jewish king  having such a sceptre.

Hebrew “Shevet” SHIN BET TET  (Strongs 7626) –can mean: rod, staff, power, correction, tribe.

In scripture the principal use of this word is “tribe” we find that use around 140 times.

The other uses of “shevet” are found below: a total 41.

Based on the King James “shevet” is interpreted as “sceptre” in six other places:

For example, Artscroll and other translations we see sceptre can be used interchangeably and I have bracketed other translations of this word.

Numbers 24:17  A star has issued from Jacob and a sceptre bearer from Israel and he shall pierce the nobles of Moab.  (Balaam’s prophecy when Balaak feared Israel could conquer Moab)
Psalms 45.6  Your throne is from God it is forever and ever, for the sceptre of fairness is the sceptre of your kingdom.  (Psalm written by sons of Korah)
Isaiah 14.5  YHVH has broken the staff of the wicked and the rod (power)of rulers
Amos 1:5,8  the one who holds the sceptre from Beth Eden…I will turn My hand and the one who holds the sceptre (rules/ symbol of power/leader) from Ashkelon
Zechariah 10.11  the pride of Assyria will be brought down and the staff  (power/taskmasters/dominion/ruler) of Egypt will depart
Ezekiel 19.11  It has strong rods for sceptres of sovereigns

In the remaining scriptures we see “shevet” used as “rod” “staff” “tribe” “stick”

Exodus 21.20 If a man strike his slave with the rod….
Leviticus 27.32  Any tithe of cattle…that passes under the rod
2 Samuel 7.14 I will chastise him with the rod of men
Job 9.34  Were he to remove the rod from me and his terror not frighten me
Job 21.9 the rod of God is not against them
Psalms 2.9  You  will smash them with an iron rod
Psalms 23.4  I will fear no evil for your rod and staff they comfort me
Psalms 74.2  You redeemed the tribe of your heritage
Psalms 89.32  I will punish their transgressions with a rod and their iniquity with plagues
Psalms 125.3  For the rod of wickedness shall not rest on the righteous
Proverbs 10.13 In the lips of an understanding one will be found wisdom but a rod on the one who lacks an understanding heart
Proverbs 13.24 One who spares his rod hates his child
Proverbs 22.8  One who sows injustice will reap iniquity and the rod of His fury will destroy it
Proverbs 22.15  Foolishness is bound in the heart of a youth, the rod of discipline will distance it from him
Proverbs 23.13 If you strike him with a rod he will not die
Proverbs 23.14  You should strike him with a rod and you will rescue him from the grave
Proverbs 26.3  A rod for the back of fools
Proverbs 29.15  The rod and rebuke bring wisdom
Isaiah 9.4  For the yoke of the burden and the staff on its shoulder, the rod that oppressed them
Isaiah 10.5  Woe to Assyria rod of My anger, My wrath is a staff in their hand,
Isaiah 10.15  It is as if a rod could shake those who lift it as if a stick could lift one who is not wood.
Isaiah 10.24 though he will strike you with a staff raise his rod over you in the manner of Egypt
Isaiah 11.4  He will strike the wicked with the rod of his mouth
Isaiah 14.29  Do not rejoice Philistia because the staff that beat you has been broken
Isaiah 28.27  It is with a staff that caraway is beaten
Isaiah 30.31  For Assyria will become devasted by the voice of YHVH as if He struck with a rod
Jeremiah 10.16  Unlike these is the portion of Jacob, for He is the Molder of everything and Israel is the (rod) tribe that is His heritage,
Jeremiah 51.19  Unlike these is the portion of Jacob, for He is the Molder of everything and Israel is the (rod) tribe that is His heritage,
Lamentations 3.1  I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of His anger
Ezekiel 20.37  I will make you pass under the rod and bring you into the bond of the covenant
Ezekiel 21.10,13  The staff that beats my son scorns every wood
Because it is testing what will be if this sword scorns even this rod
Micah 5.1  He has laid siege against us with a stick they strike on the cheek the judges of Israel.
Micah 7.14  Shepherd Your (YHVH) people with your staff, the flock of Your heritage

From the above references we see the use of shevet as: a tool of power, punishment, rebuke, measurement, judgment, comfort as well as tribe.

So, what is it that Judah has given us in perpetuity?  God told Israel they were the “priesthood nation” – “a light to the nations” – through preserving and observing the word of God. 

As they say, more than the Jews kept the Sabbath, the Sabbath kept Jews.  Today the covenant is being enacted – a nation scattered amongst the nations is now a growing nation in its own homeland.  Throughout the ages the remnant of Jews has safe guarded scripture with their lives.  They endured conquests, exile, persecution yet scripture has been preserved to the highest of quality standards.  There is no book like it in the world and it forms the basis of both Judaism and Christianity.

At our fingertips we can access the Torah, Niviim (prophets) and the Ketivim (writings)  which contain God’s laws (torah) statutes (Hookim) judgements (mishpatim), commandments (mitzvot). 

Primarily, it is the revelation of the enduring word of God that Judah has faithfully performed the task of administrator and as well as the historic active participant in this legacy.  It is the “shevet” between his feet – (feet imply to walk – ie to walk in His way – halacha)

Seems it is God’s message to us of “His way” that feet should follow until “Shiloh comes” or vice versa. 

Even into the future this role remains with Judah where Zechariah 8:23 tells us
Thus said YHVH, Master of Legions ; In those days it will happen that ten men of all languages of the nations, will take hold of the corner of the garment of him a Jewish man, saying, Let us go with you: for we have heard that God is with you.

My conclusion is that the tribe of Judah has carried out its mission throughout the ages even when faced with destruction and exile.  God predicts this role will indeed be the case in the future. 

Therefore, the Messiah (described as a shepherd/prince/king) plays a vital part in administering that testimony God had given to the tribes of Jacob as their heritage.  The application of the word “shevet” beautifully embraces all those definitions discussed above.  We can only conclude that the tribe of Judah or its issue cannot be the lawgiver though in this age the Jews are responsible for holding and applying those “source documents”.  Even though mankind has been given dominion over the earth as expressed in Genesis and Psalms 8 says all of creation has been put under his feet. However, I cannot find any reference where God would delegate the role of “lawgiver” to anyone but Himself.

Isaiah 33.22 For YHVH is our judge, for YHVH is our Lawgiver, YHVH is our King, He will save us
Isaiah 32.8  I am YHVH: that is My Name: and My glory will I not give to another
Micah 4.7 and YHVH will reign over them in Mount Zion from now and forever.

God has always been and remains “the lawgiver”  The key is that it will be this very same testimony/revelation of YHVH contained in the Torah, Prophets and the Writings that the “holy nation” and Messiah will administer in YHVH’s Kingdom. 

The “shevet” shall not depart from Judah, nor “an administrator” from between his feet  until the time when God actively returns to rule from Zion and establish His kingdom and gather the nations.”

End Quote…

Some thoughts on God Is in the Crowd – Twenty-First-Century Judaism By: Tal Keinan

Having finished this book I feel rather despondent with respect to the future of Israel, of Judaism and of the world.

Tal has such insights into the state of Jewry in the Diaspora as well as Israel and the state of Israel’s continued ability to prevent it’s own demise. He very powerfully sums up the serious complexity and granularity of the people and the State and the increasing and very sobering signs of their demise.

This book makes it ever more clear that both Israel and the world need to hold their breath for Mashiach. There is no other long term solution it would seem.

Tal explains that their are really 4 significant and very distinct groups of people in Israel and with the Diaspora which is very much concentrated in the USA, and also increasingly distinct and separate, a total of 5 groups that will ultimately determine the long term fate of Judaism, the Jewish people and Israel.

In summary, these groups are the

  1. The theocrats (the Ultra-Orthodox in Israel who have significant political power but do next to nothing to defend Eretz Israel which is surrounded by enemies intent on her demise). Theough their rabbinic rulings they are also increasingly rejecting, separating and isolating the other groups;
  2. The Territorialists, those Jews who have populated Judea and Samaria and the other Territories that are ‘disputed’ and that require a very significant budget to defend. This group at least is very supportive of Israel (as most are the true Zionists and therefore have a strong sense of loyalty to the State of Israel and are willing to defend it). So while they are over-represented in the Israeli Defence Forces, as a group they are a net drain on the economy of the State.
  3. The Secularists (who mainly live in Tel Aviv) are the true backbone of the economic and defensive support of Israel, though their loyalty is being increasingly questioned as the Theocrats continue to disenfranchise them.
  4. The Fourth Israel are those Israelis, Jews, Arabs and others who are struggling for economic survival and who are not therefore able to support to significantly support the State of Israel and who may not even share the visions of any of the other three groups.
  5. The Diaspora Jews (mostly American Jews) are increasingly off-side with all of these groups in Israel, even the Securalists and are in rapid decline as well because of factors such as inter-marriage so that their financial, logistic and even physical support  of Israel continues to decline.

Tal is able to paint a clear picture of the diverse nature of the Jewish people today and of the complex and deterioating nature of Judaism as well.

It is a bleak and scary picture – for a country and people chosen to be a light to the nations, the future extinction of the State of Israel would clearly appear to be antithetical to HaShems plans for humanity. Yet it could also demonstrate unequivocally that we need Mashiach to step into this bleak portent and finally bring into full bloom the Great Day of Redemption.

PPS:

The scenes of Jerusalem in this Priestly Blessing song by Joshua Aaron bring back so many wonderful memories – my heart longs to return! See – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kzqrWae5lK4   

Yevarechecha Adonai, VeYishmerecha
The LORD bless you and keep you
 יְבָרֶכְךָ יהוה, וְיִשְׁמְרֶךָ⁠

Ya’er Adonai Panav Eleycha ViChuneka
Make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you
 יָאֵר יהוה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ, וִיחֻנֶּךָּ⁠

Yisa Adonai Panav Eleycha, VeYasem Lecha Shalom
The LORD turn His face toward you and give you peace
יִשָּׂא יהוה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ, וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם

 Yehi chasdo aleicha le’alfei dorot
May His favor be upon you to a thousand generations
 יהי חסדו עליך לאלפי דורות

Mishpachtecha viladecha
Your family and your children
 משפחתך וילדיך

Dorotecha achareicha
Your generations after you
 דורותיך אחריך

Rucho telech lefaneicha
May His presence go before you
 רוחו תלך לפניך

Letsidecha achareicha
Beside you and behind you
 לצידך, אחריך

Misvivecha belibecha
All around you and within you
 מסביבך, בליבך

Hu itcha
He is with you
 הוא איתך

Baboker uvaerev
In the morning in the evening
 בבוקר ובערב

Betzetecha uvoecha
In your going and your coming
 בצאתך ובואך

B’sivlotecha beoshrecha
In your weeping and rejoicing
 בסבלותיך ואושרך

Hu itcha
He is for you
 הוא איתך

Hu itanu im kulanu
He is for us, He is with us
 הוא איתנו עם כולנו

Hu itcha
He is for you
 הוא איתך

Shalom
Peace
 שָׁלוֹם

 

Vayechi: We are, at best, co-authors of our lives

This week’s Torah Portion Vayechi (Genesis 47:28-50:26) contains a great message for all of us at this momentous time in history. Yosef (Joseph) states to his brothers who had rejected and betrayed him, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.”

The situation that led Yosef to be in such an exalted position and able to save his family from a disastrous famine could not have been seen by anyone. The Almighty was working through it all despite appearances to the contrary such as the very long two years that Yosef spent in jail after accurately foretelling the dreams of the chief baker and chief cup bearer:  “Only remember me, when it is well with you, and please do me the kindness to mention me to Pharaoh, and so get me out of this house.  – see my article https://globaltruthinternational.com/2020/12/16/do-not-despair-waiting-on-the-lord/

Yosef came to see the work of Divine Providence in all of this as he declared to his brothers “It was not you who sent me here, but God.”. It appears that Yosef understood the powerful hand of Yehovah in everyone’s lives and that therefore there is a sense in which we are no more than co-authors of our lives.

If we can grasp such a perspective it should engender in us a much greater trust in God. It should help us to survive events that can bring despair and even resentment, and help us maintain the energy and enthusiasm to continue to walk faithfully before Yehovah as we also continue to act justly and love grace  – https://globaltruthinternational.com/2015/04/02/love-loving-kindness-micah-68/.

I also think that reflecting on the dramatic turn of events that occurred in the life of Yosef from his childhood to becoming second in authority to the Pharoah of Egypt should also open our minds and hearts to re-evaluating what we think we know and have been taught.

One example that has come back into my purview is the analogy of the wineskins. When, as an adult I come dramatically face to face with the reality of life of Yeshua ben Yosef and its incredible implications for the future of mankind, I was fairly naturally I think, indoctrinated into many common Hellenistic Christian misconceptions. The concept of Christianity being the new (and better) ‘wineskin’ and Christians being the better ‘wine’ was very much one of them.

So to study and learn that Yeshua stated that it is the old wine, not the new wine in new wineskins that is better was a dramatic discovery and new perspective!

I have written on this in a number of articles and books – please see below for a short excerpt.

I mainly want to emphasis here though that we really need to first TRUST God and secondly, as we act with trust or faithfulness towards Him, we need to always be open to new perspectives that if nothing else, can help strengthen that trust and deepen our faith as it deepens and solidifies our knowledge of Yehovah and his Messiah ben Yosef, Yeshua.

And also then, as we look at the dramatic and worldwide events that have made 2020 a year like no other in recent memory, we should try to trust Yehovah and know that He is at work through all this and He will find a Way where there seems to be no way. We need to hold onto to Him as we continue to stand for truth and justice and against the increasing tyranny of most of those in leadership over us.

“I am doing something new; it’s springing up — can’t you see it?
I am making a road in the desert, rivers in the wasteland.
” = Isaiah 43:19

The New Wine (an excerpt from ‘Doctrinal Pitfalls of Hellenism’):

The long history of Replacement Theology in the church and the almost unthinking acceptance of its veracity has lead many to uncritically accept arguments that assume such veracity even if the person presenting the argument might otherwise explicitly reject many of the implications of Replacement Theology. Here is a very good example of this. I had been debating an article published by the Christian scholar, David Maas. As part of the exchange of viewpoints he wrote an email, which included this quote:

“Jesus warned against pouring new wine into old wine-skins.  Attempts to domesticate the Christ of scripture by pouring the new wine of the Spirit into the old wine-skins of Second Temple Judaism are doomed to fail.  If they do not burst the old skins the sweet wine of the Spirit will be turned into the vinegar of the death-dealing letter of the Law (2 Corinthians 3:6).” – David Maas, (from email correspondence on Oct 15, 2011).

I was of course familiar with the ‘wineskins’ analogy that Yeshua had used, but here for the first time I critically examined the common consensus that I had shared, perhaps only because it had been used to reach a conclusion I rejected. Here is part of my response at the time:

When I read this statement, it struck me very forcefully, how emphatically this ‘wineskins’ statement of Yeshua was been used to support a very strong doctrine of ‘Replacement’. That is, that the church has replaced Israel in God’s affections and plans.

David Maas is very clear here in equating the Jewish religion of Yeshua’s day (what he terms ‘Second Temple Judaism’) that adhered to the Hebrew Scriptures (The Tanakh), with the ‘old wineskin’, and Christianity as the ‘sweet (new) wine of the Spirit’. Here he also very clearly equates this so-called ‘Old Covenant’ (Second Temple Judaism) with the ‘letter of the Law’ and the so-called ‘New Covenant’ of Christianity with the ‘Spirit of the Law’.

This ‘Replacement Theology’ whether intention or not (surely most ‘Christians’ who support it are not intentionally anti-Israel and against the Jewishness of Yeshua), has resulted in a great deal of anti-Semitism which has ultimately led to great persecutions and pogroms against the Jewish people.

In fact, it could be argued that the miss-understanding of this parable has been instrumental in much evil (‘bad fruit’) against the Jewish people and helps explain why when Jewish lovers of the Almighty look at the ‘fruit of the tree’ of Christianity, they do not see ‘good fruit’ but bad, and consequently reject the messenger because of the falsehood of the message. In this vein you may wish to revisit Matthew 7:16-20, Luke 13:6-9 and then John 15:2-16.

In seeking commentary where this parable was first used to argue that the church had replaced Israel and Judaism, I found that it appears to have been first proposed by the seriously anti-Semitic Marcion (85 – 160 CE) in his ultimately successful efforts to separate Christianity from Judaism.

So, thanks to Mr. Maas comment, which I found very disturbing, I was interested in returning to and reconsidering this parable.

Thanks to the incredible work of the late David Flusser (Hebrew University, Jerusalem) and the Jerusalem School of Synoptic Research, I now understood that the Gospel of Luke was most likely written before the Gospels of Mark and Matthew, and these well before John’s gospel.

Therefore it seemed sensible to start in Luke (Luke 5:36-39):

“He also told them a parable: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and sews it on an old garment; otherwise the new will be torn, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But the new wine must be out into fresh wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine desire new wine, but says ‘The old is good’.” (Some manuscripts, such as the KJV have ‘The old is better’) – The Jewish Annotated New Testament

I had read and listened to this scripture a great many times and even heard preachers speak on it but I had amazingly missed the last sentence where Yeshua said the old wine is better! You may need to do a double take yourself here. Yeshua states that it is the old wine, not the new wine in new wineskins that is better!

It is also perhaps worth noting some different ways verse 39 is translated into English:
“ … And no one who has ever tasted fine aged wine prefers unaged wine.” – The Message

“Of course, nobody who has been drinking old wine will want the new at once. He is sure to say, ‘The old is a good sound wine.’” – JB Philips

“And no one, after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says, ‘The old is good enough.’” – NASB

I am not sure though that these translations bring anything new or more helpful to the simple comment that the ‘old wine is better’.

When we turn to the two references to this same parable in Mark (2:22) and in Matthew (9:17) we find this last sentence missing. Without this concluding sentence it is much easier to interpret this parable as Marcion and David Maas have. Perhaps this part of the parable was excluded from the Gospels of Matthew and Mark deliberately by copyists or translators, for this very reason.

It should not take much reflection then, to see that this parable can in no way be suggesting that the ‘sweet (new) wine’ of Christianity is somehow superior to the old wine of Judaism. If these were the two concepts and approaches being compared, it would mean that Yeshua was saying that Judaism was better!

So now, we need I think to ask, is this what the parable is suggesting or is it something a little more subtle?

The late Dr Robert L Lindsey (a Baptist Pastor and student of Prof. Flusser) argues most convincingly in his book ‘Jesus, Rabbi and Lord’ (see Chapter 19) that all throughout the Gospel of Luke the structure of each narrative is three fold:

1) An incident in Yeshua’s life is related;

2) this is followed by a teaching discourse by Yeshua; and

3) which then concludes with 2 parables.

Consider how this ‘wineskins’ parable fits with this approach. We see in Luke 5:27, that the tax collector (Matthew Levi the possible author of the Gospel of Matthew or at least the original Hebrew ‘History of Yeshua’) has prepared a great feast for Yeshua. A number of the Pharisees and scribes question Yeshua about spending time with these ‘sinners’ (the tax collectors had chosen their unrighteous occupation which meant they had chosen to separate themselves from community welfare and fellowship with their ‘healthy’ or righteous brethren).

Yeshua then makes the classic statement, or teaching, that the healthy do not need a doctor. He was saying here, as he had elsewhere, they he had come to call the unrighteous, the ‘lost sheep of Israel’ back to the Covenantal relationship that the family of Israel had with their Father, the Almighty.

It is in this context that he gives the two parables; the parable about sewing a piece of new clothe onto an old garment and the wineskins parable. In this context, I would argue that the ‘old wine is better’ refers to those of Israel who have been, and remain in, communion with the God of Israel. That is the healthy sheep of Israel that are not lost (the mainstream Jewish ‘man in the street’ represented in the religious context by the Pharisees – Yeshua himself being essentially a Pharisee[1].

They are ‘better’ or ‘good enough’ because they have a developed intimacy with the Almighty, which the Jewish tax collectors and other sinners, through no longer walking right with God (‘halacha’), have turned their backs on.

In calling these ‘sinners’ back to the Father, Yeshua sees them as like new wine needing a different treatment and approach (new wineskin), which he offers.

The same can surely be said when many years later, Gentiles would be accepted into the Kingdom of God, the movement of Yeshua. They would also need a ‘new’ or different approach, as they would not have grown up with the ‘oracles of God’, with anything like the knowledge of the Tanakh and mitzvot (commandments) that the Jewish people have from birth.

This ‘new wineskin’ essentially encompasses the Ten Commandments plus the four Noahide Laws as detailed in Acts 15. I have dealt in a little detail with the edicts of the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) in my article ‘Circumcision – A Step of Obedience?’.

This parable[2] has nothing to do with a comparison between living under the ‘letter of Torah (Law)’ or the ‘Spirit of Torah’[3].

So, the conclusion presented by David Maas, with its strong ‘Replacement Theology’ pre-suppositions, was based on a faulty reading of this analogy or parable. Once again we see that this (Hellenistic) doctrine is invalidated on closer inspection of the relevant Scriptures.


[1] See ‘Jesus’ by Flusser, or the discussion of this point in my ‘The Times of Yeshua’ article @ circumcisedheart.info.

[2] For a much more in-depth look at the ‘wineskins’ parable I highly recommend ‘The Old is Better: Parables of Patched Garment and Wineskins as Elaboration of a Chreia in Luke 5:33-39 about Feasting with Jesus.’ By Anders Eriksson – http://www.ars-rhetorica.net/Queen/VolumeSpecialIssue2/Articles/Eriksson.pdf

[3] I have dealt with this issue elsewhere. See for example, ‘Siblings of the King: Living in the Will of the Father’The well-known scholar James DG Dunn also discusses these very commonly misunderstood phrases in ‘The Theology of Paul the Apostle’.

Yehovah Yoshiah

I listened to an interesting talk by Michael Rood with Nehemia Gordon recently where they discussed an interesting verse in George Howard’s (the late Professor of Religion at the University of Georgia) ‘Hebrew Gospel of Matthew’.

The verse in question is Matt 28:9 where the women, who have gone to the tomb of Yeshua after the crucifixion and burial, met Yeshua and he greets them.Most manuscripts have something like: “But Jesus met them, saying, “Greetings!” They came to him, held on to his feet and worshiped him.”.

Obviously, he didn’t use the actual English word we use today of ‘greetings’ and many translations have something like ‘All hail’ (according to Nehemia) which would be very Greek.

The CJB has ‘Shalom …’ which would certainly be more likely.But this Hebrew version of Howard’s is very different.

This version is based on the Shem Tov’s ‘Evan Bohan’ of the 14th century and which Howard and Gordon, et al, are convinced is not based on any Greek or Latin versions that pre-date it but some earlier Hebrew version(s). There are now at least 28 distinct Hebrew versions that have been discovered in recent years.

I argue in my book ‘The New Testament: The Hebrew Behind the Greek’ that this gospel was in fact originally written in Hebrew as well. See: https://www.amazon.com/New-Testament…/dp/B009XO0NQU/

Here in the Hebrew Gospel of Matthew we read:
‘As they were going Yeshua passed before them saying: May the Name deliver you. They came near to him, bowed down to him, and worshipped him.’ (this is Howard’s English translation).

Howard’s and Shem Tov’s Hebrew has השם (HaShem) which means ‘The Name’.

By around the 6th century Jewish scholars and Rabbi’s were no longer quoting and speaking the tetragrammaton (i.e. Yehovah) out of reverence for it and great fear of mis-using it and had replaced it typically with either Adonai or HaShem.

So, we can be fairly sure (as there is no evidence of this practice in the first century CE) that the original version has the tetragrammaton (that is Yehovah).

Thus it appears Yeshua’s first two words after his resurrection were ‘Yehovah Yosiah’ (that is, God saves or God will save or deliver you).

Think about it, the first man to be so faithful and obedient to the Almighty to the very point of giving his life comes back to life to proclaim ‘God does indeed save you’!

Follow Yeshua in trusting and being obedient to the Almighty (i.e. be one of his brothers or sisters – those who do the will of the Father – Mark 3:35) and you to will be resurrected!

Makes sense to me and it is such a powerful statement in such a context!!