I just noticed that I was in the United States of America and when I checked the Parasha on the internet – I forgot that in Israel the reading of Phinehas is this week and in Israel the reading this shabbat is from Parashat Matot – Numbers 30:2 – 36:13.  Well, I have already written again on Phinehas and there are some new ideas.  So, maybe in the middle of next week on the flight between Los Angles and Seoul, Korea I can write something on Matot.  For now, enjoy Phinehas with some new insights.

The Torah reading this next Shabbat is from Parashat (Portion) Phinehas.  The reading starts in Numbers 25:10 and ends in Numbers 30:1. The Haftarah (The portion read from the Prophets is from Jeremiah 1:1 – 2:3.   From the New Covenant the reading is from John 2:13-22.

This Parasha like all of God’s word has teachings that are relevant for today.  The opening of the reading in Numbers 25:10 is a jump in the context back to the previous reading.  The former Torah reading from last Shabbat, Chukat, ends with the terrible events that came about by Balaam’s advice to Balak the king of Moab.  Balaam was the greedy pagan prophet who had a relationship with the Almighty God of Israel: God spoke to him, Balaam had a conversation with God, there was instruction given to Balaam by God, Balaam said that he would do nothing unless God gave him permission to do it. In the end, Balaam blesses Israel with some of the most famous blessings in the Torah.  Then, Balaam still wants to the gold and the silver that Balak promised him, so he gives Balak advice.  The Israelites like beautiful women; send them some of those Moabite beauties to seduce the Israelite men.

This brings about one of the most difficult moments in the history of Israel during the 40 years of wilderness wandering.  The men of Israel fall for those seductive Moabite women, including one of the princes of Israel from the tribe of Simeon, Zimri the son of Salu who took the Moabite princes Cozbi the daughter of Zur.  This man and woman decided to show Israel that they don’t hold any respect for Israel’s leadership or for the God of Israel.  They copulated in the entrance to the courtyard of the Tent of Meeting, the house of God in the Wilderness.  The punishment that God told Moses to execute was terrible: “Then the LORD said to Moses, “Take all the leaders of the people and hang the offenders before the LORD, out in the sun, that the fierce anger of the LORD may turn away from Israel.” So, Moses said to the judges of Israel, “Every one of you kill his men who were joined to Baal of Peor.”

And indeed, one of the children of Israel came and presented to his brethren a Midianite woman in the sight of Moses and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, who were weeping at the door of the tabernacle of meeting.  (Num. 25:4–6 NKJV)

The acts of the Israelite men and even of the leaders was so horrible that the punishment that God offered was also horrible.  The killing and impaling of the whole body of Israel’s leadership.  Impaling was just like crucifixion. As you can see the idea was that these leaders and men of Israel would die a slow death being impaled in the sun until they died.  Just before the execution of these men of Israel and of the leaders who sinned this terrible sin started, a young man from the family of Aaron named Phinehas son of Eleazar took the law into his own hands (as well as his javelin) and speared the couple that was having sex in front of the Tabernacle through and through, pinning them to the ground.

Yes, Phinehas took the law into his own hands.  Yes, there was no court of law that sentenced these two law breakers.  Yes, Phinehas was young and impetuous.  Yes, in today’s world Phinehas would go to jail and be accused of the terrible crime of murder.  But the most wonderful thing that we can learn from this Torah portion is that God can appreciate and understand people like Clint Eastwood’s cop movie character “Dirty Harry.”  There is a time when the system is at a loss of words or deeds.  In this case, the great leader and shepherd who carried Israel 40 years in the Sinai wilderness was helpless and speechless.  What we don’t often pay attention to in this story is that this act was not only a public sex act in a holy place; it was an act of worship to Baal-Peor, the god of Moab.  The closest description of something similar I can tell you that you can see is in the Indian Jones movie “The Temple of Doom.”

God not only accepted this outside-the-box act of Phinehas, but God stopped the terrible killing of those worshipping Baal-Peor by having sex and sacrificing to this horrid Moabite god, and He praised and rewarded Phinehas.  In fact, reading the rest of the Torah, we learn that Phinehas became the chief of staff of Israel’s army as a result of his brave and courageous act, all-be-it outside the box and without due process of law.

This story of Phinehas makes me happy because it teaches me that religion—all religion—has been petrified and has made the Creator of the Universe into a spiritual-technocrat—dry, legalistic, square, old and inflexible.  The story of Phinehas is a bright light that shows me that God is not old, and not square, and not technocratic and legalistic.  I praise the God of Israel for this wonderful understanding of the Father and Creator of the world and all that is in it.

The second story is also similar to that of Phinehas. When Moses started to divide the land of Canaan to the tribes and to the families in the tribes, the five daughters of Zelophehad came near and stood before Moses, Eleazar the priest, and the entire community in the entrance of the Tent of Appointed Meeting. These five women stood and said, “Our father died in the wilderness. He was not among the company that banded together against God. He was not among Korah‘s allies, but he died because of his own sin, and he had no sons. Why should the name of our father disappear from the midst of his family, just because he did not have a son? Please give us a possession too.”

The request of these five women was a first in the history of Israel. Women did not have the right to inherit their father. The logical reason is that they would get married to some man outside of their tribe and the land would shift from tribe to tribe, or if they married a foreigner the land would be a total loss of the tribal allocation given to Israel from God. So, the Torah said clearly that the men of the family inherited the land and the possession of the men who died. (see Leviticus chapter 25).

This story of the daughters of Zelophehad coming before Moses and demanding to have the right to inherit their father’s possessions because their father did not have a son is not a 21st century women’s liberation, but it is a big step toward understanding how God works. The God of Israel—wonderful, Fatherly, understanding, and gracious—was willing to change the Torah to open the way for women to inherit their husbands and their fathers and be considered as legal entities on their own without being totally dependent on the men in their family.

As for Moses, he too was not legalistic. There are people, both men and women, who are in places of authority, holding a position of authority, who are square and legalistic. If you go to them with some unusual request that needs a little creative thinking, the answer is automatically “NO!” Their answer is something like this: “This is the Law and the Law is the Law, and it can’t be changed.” ““Sorry” they say, I can’t break the Law!” “You ask them, can you take up this problem to someone above you, your director?” “No, this is the law and you have to live with what the law commands.” Moses could have given the daughters of Zelophehad this answer, and there would be nothing that they could have done. But, Moses was able to ask a higher authority, the highest authority – God Himself. He did ask, and the answer that God gave Moses for the daughters of Zelophehad was creative, because the Torah belongs to God, and God can change it and adopt it to the circumstances of time and space.

I wish that both Jewish leaders and Christian leaders would lean from the Torah the following important teachings:

1. The laws of God are eternal, but God can change them: See the story of Zelophehad’s daughters. See all the book of Deuteronomy that every single law given to Israel in Mt. Sinai has been changed just before they entered the land of Canaan to inherit it. See also Jeremiah 31:28-30, and Ezekiel chapter 18, the whole chapter.

2. God is an understanding God who only wants what is right for us and good for humanity. He is not some old gargoyle seated on a ledge up near the ceiling of the church looking down at humanity and seeking how to make life difficult and sad. He is a loving God that loves us, sinners and criminals, enough to send Yeshua and accept His sacrifice to save us all from our sins.

3. We have access to the almighty God of Israel. He hears our prayers, and especially when our prayers are not selfish. We have a channel of communication with the Great Creator of the World and He is waiting to fellowship with us, if we just allow Him into our hearts.

4. God honors people who are law abiding, but also have enough spunk and courage to act when the action is unusual and “outside the box.”

5. Let us all learn to appreciate those men and women who are faithful to God and who care so much for their fellow men that are willing to step “outside the Box” and get things done although they are at times not in the P.C. Zone. Yes, those are the men who have changed history and have improved humanity. Among the people who were functioning “outside the Box:” King David, never ever was inside the box of society, but always did things outside the box. Elijah, Elisha, Jeremiah, Moses, Gideon, Jephta, YESHUA, Paul, Peter. . . Outside the Bible, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Edison, General Patton, Bobby Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln, this is in American history. In every nation there are such people and they are the ones who change history and improve the state of humanity. In Modern Israel, David Ben-Gurion, Ariel Sharon, Golda Maier, Rehavaam Zeevi. In the world, people like Mahatma Gandhi, and Nelson Mandela, and Pablo Picasso, and Da-Vinci, even Steve Jobs.

6. Let us learn that those who stay in the box, in the safe-zone, always in the P.C. Zone, are good people but they don’t change the world, they live, and work and do a job, but the big picture stays the same and their name is often forgotten in decades.

7. The daughters of Zelophehad and Phinehas, King David, and Jeremiah, and Yeshua and Paul will always be symbols of men’s courage and willingness to sacrifice themselves and their position in society for the sake of the people. These are the people who have changed the world.

We are not called to be spiritually constipated, religious people whose legalism has caused them to be set in their traditions without imagination and self-initiative or courage to step out and do what is right without having to go through three committees and boards of directors. We are children of the King of Kings and a chosen people, and we must have the zeal of faith and the guidance of the Holy Spirit like Phinehas had and like the other heroes of our faith had. The non-Jews in the Body of the Messiah are part of the same people of God, chosen and added to the commonwealth of Israel. The place and honor of the leadership is and must be preserved and protected, but we must remember that no person is infallible. Young leaders and old leaders all make mistakes, and at times we must remember that even if you are not a leader, you are not exempt from responsibility.

We have several examples of people who were not leaders but who won battles for Israel. In fact, the one case that stands out in my mind is the case of Yael, a member of the tribe of the Kainaites. Yael is not an Israelite. In modern terms one could say, Yael is not Jewish. But it falls in her hands to save Israel by killing the general of the city of Hazor, one of the major city states in the lower Galilee. Yael takes the opportunity to kill Sissra who leads the war against Israel in the Valley of Jezrael. Deborah is chosen by the people and by God to lead the battle against Sissra. Deborah was aware that she, as a woman, is an exception as a judge of Israel who will lead the Israelite tribes in the war. She demands a man to be at her side and fight the enemy. God intervenes by making a strong rain to fall in the Valley. The chariots of the enemy bogged down in the mud that was caused by the strong rain. Sissra has to leave his chariot and run on foot toward Hazor. He is tired and comes to the tent of Yael. She welcomes Sissra into her tent. He asks for water and she gives him milk. He falls asleep in Yael’s tent and she takes the tent peg and nails Sissra’s head to the ground. By doing this, without asking permission and without due process of law, Yael, like Phinehas, received praise and honor in the Bible, and Deborah dedicates a good portion of her victory poem to Yael, the non-Jew who saved Israel in that crucial battle that enabled the northern tribes of Israel to keep their land that God gave them.

 

 

Please pray for Daniel Stern’s young son Roehe who is only 4 years old and is in the hospital with an unknown problem where he can’t walk and his legs are swollen.  Pray for David Stern who has also had a setback in his health, hurt his eye and now has a respiratory problem.

Praise God that Noaam our granddaughter who had a tonsillectomy two weeks ago is feeling much better and can work as a babysitter during this conference.

Please keep Marcia’s father and mother in your prayers. They are old and sick, and living on the other side of Tennessee in the mountains. They both need special prayers, because of their age and their illness.

Israeli politics are still the same, a total mess, and Israel needs the prayers of faithful Christians to intercede before God’s mercy-seat for the fulfillment of His promises, and for the quick return of Yeshua the Messiah to Jerusalem, to set all things in order, and establish His Kingdom forever! All this will be without democratic elections! This would be the most wonderful Kingdom, and it will be eternal, and it will even be without income tax and shopping! Praise the Lord of all forever!

There is an additional element, and drums of war between Israel and Iran and between Israel and the Hamas. The situation is extremely serious and needs for every disciple of Yeshua, and everyone who believes the Bible, to pray and pray and pray for the Lord of all to intervene in only the way that He can intervene, to stop this serious deterioration in the relationships in the Middle East.  The political parties are at each other and all sides are spreading fake news and lies about each other.  The mess is going on and growing like leaven in a warm and wet lump of dough.

Please praying for our dear sister Emma in China, and add to your prayers a dear sister called Deborah Ruth who also lives in Beijing, China.  Add to these specific prayers also special prayers for all our brothers and sisters in China who are followers of the Messiah.  They are going through some not so simple times.

Keep Netivyah in your prayers. We have been blessed by brothers from around the world who love God, love Yeshua, and love Israel, and the funds for a new van are almost there, but almost is not enough, and we ask people who have not contributed for the van to make a little bigger effort and help Netivyah get the van. Transportation of people and supplies for the HaMotzi food distribution program and for the youth and the elderly is essential. This is not a van for private use, and the old van was not for private use, it served the community, and the food distribution program HaMotzi, for more than 15 years.

Please make an effort to join Netivyah’s 40th anniversary tour and seminar in November 2019. Our intention is to have one big tourist bus that holds 55 people. The numbers are approaching the limits, and I urge you that if you are interested to attend, you should be immediately registering and making your financial deposits.  Time is getting very short, dear brothers. Would you like to take part in this very special time in the land of Israel with unusual and special events that will inspire and refresh and encourage and bless you from the land of Israel and from fellowship with Netivyah?  Please act quickly and register and send your deposits as soon as you can.

I ask all of you to mobilize your prayers to pray for the Aliyah and the return of the Anussim, both spiritually, outside of the adulterated brands of Christianity back to the pure waters of God’s word, and also physically, to the land of our forefathers, the land of Zion, Jerusalem.

Please don’t forget to pray for my family, and especially for Marcia my dear wife, and Danah and Noaam, and Barry, Beth, Joey, and all those on this prayer list – that God will be glorified in their lives and in their healing.

Keep Elena Litvak, Efim’s widow, in your prayers, and sister Altamiro from Belo-Horizonte who also lost her dear husband Dr. Altamiro. Our brother Bob Weiner is still in need of our prayers. Please remember our dear brother Jacob Damkani in your prayers.

Please pray for Dr. Song and his dear wife Dr. Kim. They are Korean brothers for whom I have the most special respect and love. Also keep the other group of brothers and sisters in Korea who love God and love Israel, and work for the salvation of Israel and the Jewish people.

Please keep the whole Abu-Eid family in your prayers. Please continue praying for baby Lion from the Huch family in DFW.

Please pray a special prayer for Anna West (she is 99 years old and continues praying for the salvation of Israel daily). You can also include Ann’s dear son Roger and his family in your prayers.

Pray for our Jewish brother Hillel from Helsinki, and Keijo and Salme in Nokia, and for Tim Tucker, Anne-Mirjami, Satu-Maria and Anna-Majia, Sinni Tuuli, Erki and Sirpa Murto, Evelina, and Eva H., all in Finland. Pray for our dear sister Leah, who is traveling to Finland this week. She is one of those volunteers from Finland who came in 1973, during the war, and has served the Jewish nation as a volunteer nurse for many years. She just had her 88th birthday.

Pray for Patty, Andrea, and Tineke – and our brothers and sisters in the Netherlands that need healing from God.

Continue to pray for Julia and Victor. Pray for our dear sister Paula in Switzerland who needs a divine breakthrough. I want to also add Barry and Dalia, two dear brothers who live in Tiberias and are suffering from illness and pain, and are in need of prayer and help.

I would like to add a dear brother and the son of a dear family of Netivyah supporters in Finland. Their son Aaron Tani is a young man with diabetic problems. Aaron has a family and children and he needs our prayers urgently. Please pray for Aaron Tani.

Please keep praying for a dear sister named Zhou WenriIan living in China. Please intercede for Pastor Isaac in Chennai. Pastor Isaac needs healing for his kidneys.

Please lift in your prayers the following brothers and sisters who need the Lord’s gracious touch of healing: George, Gary, Melanie, and Aaron and Nancy Hook. Also, our congregation members, Sarit, David S., Gabriela the adult, Ahuva, Leah, Ilana, Hannah, young Gabriela, Zvi D. and Batsheva, and Jonathan B. and his wife Aviva, and our dear sisters Laurel, Orna, Sima, and Aviva.

A special prayer is needed for one of my godsons, David B.A., and his family, and especially Elhanan and Julie, David’s father and mother, my dear friends and brothers. Keep the whole family in your prayers.

These are brothers and sisters from around the world who need your prayer and your intercession, and healing: Paulo and Noami, Marcelo’s parents, Curita Sensei, the Abe family, Toru, Takeo Sensei, Daisuke Sensei, Tomoko San, Yumi, and her father and family.

This prayer list is very special because we are not only praying for the physically sick brothers and sisters. We are praying for healthy brothers and sisters who are a blessing in God’s Kingdom, but they need that extra “what do you call it” to succeed and become a bigger blessing for the Lord and His Kingdom.

In Hong Kong, we pray and ask you to join us and pray for Louisa and Tony. Keep our dear brother Goh and his family in your prayers. In Korea pray for Sister Christy. Please keep brother Michael Knezevich in prayer. Please add Ismael Alves who lives in Portugal, and Asher Gabriel in Kenya.

I wish all of you, who stand with Israel and who pray for Jerusalem, the best of the Lord’s blessings and the fulfillment of all His promises to His faithful children. Those who hear God and do His will are the ones who are called wise! Those who only hear His word and don’t do it are called foolish! Let us all strive to be wise and never foolish! The best is yet to come!

Next week God willing, Marcia shall fly to Tennessee and I shall fly to Seoul, Korea.  In Seoul Korea our dear brothers have some major challenges to meet and deal with.  The dark-side is trying to destroy and to damage every good work that is blessing Israel and at times the dark-side is almost succeeding.  I pray and ask you to pray for a special blessing on our Korean brothers and sisters who love God and love Yeshua and love the Jewish people and the State of Israel.  Pray for unity, cooperation, strength and love of God and His Kingdom.  Pray for the spirit of unity and cooperation to overtake all the sides and restore unity and efficiency for both sides of the equation. The Lord God of Israel and the Grace of Yeshua our Messiah, King, Teacher, Rabbi, and Lord be with you all!

Joseph Shulam