In our desire to provide you with the teaching of Messiah Yeshua in a Jewish context, we provide in-depth teachings of the weekly Torah portions throughout the year. Below are various perspectives from various teachers and staff members from Netivyah Bible Instruction ministry.
Note: This is a double Torah portion. To learn more about double Torah portions, read here.
Joseph Shulam: Brad TV Video Teaching – Matot-Masei [2022 - Matot]
Read the transcript below, or watch a video of the teaching by Joseph Shulam.
…Weekly Torah Portions( Matot Masei ) And sometimes we’ll mention the portions from the prophets or from the New Testament in our study and examination, trying to encourage our brothers and sisters in Korea, especially, but also around the world to keep reading the Word of God. There is nothing that replaces the Word of God itself.
That’s what’s inspired. Not the pastors, not the preachers, not the priests, but the Word of God itself is inspired. The way the apostle Paul tells Timothy, all scriptures were inspired, were spirit-filled, and they’re profitable for correction and for reproof, and for edification of the men of God to do all good works.
So, yes, the Torah is inspired by God. It is the foundation of everything else that follows it. It is the foundation for the books of Joshua and Judges and Samuel and Kings and all the prophets. Everything is based on the Torah. And if you don’t know the Torah, don’t study the Torah, ignore the Torah, you are very likely not to understand the Gospels because everything is based on that foundation.
So, we have arrived toward the end of the Book of Numbers. The portion is called Mattot, which is Numbers 31:1 to Numbers 32:42, and our portion from the prophets is from Jeremiah 1:1 to Jeremiah 2:3. And from the new Testament, connected with all of this, is from the Sermon on the Mountain of Yeshua, in Matthew 5:33 to 5:37. So the name Mattot means the tribal organization that ran the affairs of the camp of Israel in the wilderness of Sinai.
In English, we start reading from verse one of chapter 30:
“Then Moses spoke to the heads of the tribes concerning the children of Israel saying, ‘This is the thing which the Lord has commanded.’”
When you start anything in this kind of language, it means that you are about to enter into some kind of controversial issue. And what Moses is talking about here, now, in this Torah portion, has not stopped being controversial. And in our time, and in our day in the 21st century it’s even more controversial than it was in the days of Moses himself.
What is the controversy? According to this portion of the Torah, if a man, a male... verse three of chapter 30 of the Book of Exodus, “If a male takes a vow to the Lord (makes a promise that is contractual with the Lord and swears with an oath and binds himself)…”
A vow is not something that somebody else binds you. You bind yourself to do something for the Lord or for somebody else in the community, for the community itself. Then you have bound yourself and you are as a human being. And as a male, the fact that you bound yourself, you cannot unbind yourself. You made a vow, you made a promise to God and you are obligated to the nth degree to keep your promise to God.
And if you don’t, horrible! Because you will pay for it dearly, for making a promise to God and not keeping it.
Now, we know that Yeshua taught... Let’s look at the text from the New Testament, from Matthew 5:33. Yeshua is speaking to a crowd sitting on the side of a mountain near the sea of Galilee. Yeshua Himself is sitting.
“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely but shall perform your oath to the Lord.’ But I say to you do not swear at all, neither by heaven for it is God’s throne, nor by earth for it is his foot stool, nor by Jerusalem for it is the city of the great king, nor shall you swear by your head because you cannot make one hair white or black. Let your yes be yes and your no be no, for whatever is more than that is from the evil one.”
That’s the teaching of Yeshua, and it’s not only the teaching of Yeshua. There were other great rabbis around the period of Yeshua, around the 1st century BC/AD that said very similar things. That’s the wise thing to do.
Why take an oath? Why swear when you don’t have to swear? Say yes, yes, no, no. Keep your word. Why is Yeshua teaching this? Because from our Torah portion we discovered that it was a very serious thing to make a vow before the Lord.
We will see later on that Paul made a vow and he had to keep that vow. And when he was trying to be discouraged in Jaffa, by the believers in Jaffa, by a prophet named Agabus, not to go to Jerusalem because he is going to get arrested in Jerusalem.
Paul says, “Even if I die, I have to go to Jerusalem.” Even at the pain of death. Because he realized as a man there is no way that he can get released from the vow that he had taken. No way.
So Yeshua is teaching, “Don’t take a vow.” Of course, don’t take a vow unless you have to. Because if you go to court and the court wants you to take a vow and say that you’re going to speak the truth and nothing but the truth, you have to do it. By your own choice, from your own free will. If you don’t have to take a vow for some legal reason, don’t take a vow. Let your yes be yes and your no be no. That’s good enough for everybody.
Now, this gets complicated in the Book of Numbers. Going back to Numbers 30. What’s the complication in the Book of Numbers? That man takes a vow nobody can release him from that vow. He has to keep his vow. And if he doesn’t, God will reckon with him. But what about a woman that takes a vow?
Verse 3 of chapter 30 of the Book of Numbers:
“Or if a woman makes a vow to the Lord and binds herself by some agreement, while in her father’s house in her youth, and her father hears her vow, the agreement by which she has bound herself and her father holds his peace, then all her vows shall stand and every agreement which she has bound herself by shall stand.”
In other words, if a woman, a young woman still in her father’s house, didn’t get married yet, doesn’t have a husband, makes a vow and her father hears that she made a vow and he shuts up and doesn’t intervene, her vow stands just like a man and nobody can release her.
But verse 5 of chapter 30:
“But if her father overrules her on the day that he hears that none of her vows nor her agreements by which she has bound herself shall stand and the Lord will release her because her father overruled her aye.”
We are living in the 21st century, my dear brothers and sisters. We have women’s liberation, equality. In this case, the woman has an advantage over the man. An advantage that if a man makes a vow, if a young man makes a vow, an old man makes a vow, a young boy after 13 years old makes a vow, he has to keep his vow. Not a woman, not a girl. Her father can release her from that vow. If he does it immediately on that same day.
Ah, what an advantage that is. Wonderful advantage. Wonderful advantage. Now, if the woman is married and she’s no longer under her father’s authority in the house, she’s now under her husband’s authority in the house, the husband has the same right as her father. If he hears his wife make a vow then immediately he can annul that vow as her head.
The New Testament teaches us in 1 Corinthians 11, that the head of a woman is her husband. Just like the head of Christ is the father, and Christ is the head of man, and the head of a woman is her husband. So her husband has the same right as her father to annul her vow.
What a privilege; what a privilege. I know that my mother was badly damaged in a work accident. She was badly burned. She had more than 40 surgeries. She was hospitalized for two years in the Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. And when she got released from the hospital, after two years and more than 40 surgeries, she took a vow.
There was a crippled boy in the neighborhood. And her vow was to support that boy, to send him to university, to pay for his studies, to buy him a car so that he could get around as a crippled person with a wheelchair in the car, and get educated all the way to doctorate.
She did it. She kept her vow. She did for him what she didn’t do for me, for that Moroccan boy. She kept her promises because God had released her, healed her, saved her out of death to a new life. And finally she also became a believer. A wonderful, strong believer, even stronger than I was. Than I am, I should say.
So there is equality and inequality in the relationship of God, to men and to women. Women are in advantage not a disadvantage, that they can make vows, promises, and their head, whether their father or their husband, can release them from these promises. That is a great advantage and we men don’t have that advantage. We don’t have that advantage.
Yes, this is the portion of Mattot. One before the last portion in the Book of Numbers. What else do we have in Mattot? What else do we have in this section of the Torah? Our situation as believers in the 21st century. I’m jumping from verse 6 to verse 16 of chapter 30 of Numbers:
“These are the statutes, the laws, which the Lord commanded Moses between a man and his wife, between a father and his daughter in her youth, in her father’s house.”
In other words it’s a divine law that God has provided a gateway for women and daughters from making emotional decisions and taking vows and making promises by allowing the father or the husband of a woman to release her from these promises. Yes, the Torah takes account of the differences and the advantages that women have over men. And I think that that’s wonderful. I think that it is just, and it is kind, and it is beneficial for both the men and the women to know this biblical truth. That if a man makes a vow, he has to keep it.
Paul told Agabus in Jaffa, “I will go to Jerusalem. Even if I die going to Jerusalem, I have to do it.” Because he took a vow. Now it’s a very interesting situation. I want to go to the Book of Acts 18, and look at this vow that Paul has taken and try to understand Acts 18. And we are going to read from verse 18 on.
Paul is in Asia Minor, and he has gone to visit Aquila and Priscilla, and he wants to sail to Syria. And, by the way, the word Aquila, you know what Aquila means? In Latin and in Greek, Aquila is an eagle, the bird with the big wings. The eagle is Aquila. So he visited with them. And then he goes to Cenchreae, which is the port of Corinth.
He was with Aquila and Priscilla, and he went to the port, and he took a ship, and he went to Ephesus on his way to Jerusalem. And he entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews in Ephesus. And when they had asked him to stay a longer time with them, he did not consent. He didn’t agree. And he told them shalom, goodbye.
And listen to these words. I’m reading from the New King James.
“I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem, but I will return again to you, God willing.”
And he sailed from Ephesus toward the land of Israel. He lands in Caesarea. Not the Caesarea in the land of Israel, but the Caesarea in Asia Minor. And from there, he goes to Antioch in Syria, spent some time there with the region of Galatia and Phrygia. Not Syria. He goes to Caesarea, in Turkey, in Asia Minor, and then he spends time in Galatia and Phrygia in order to strengthen there the disciples of Yeshua.
We already see that there were disciples all over the Middle East, in Turkey, in Greece, in Syria, in the city of Acre, Ptolemais. On the way, he’s traveling by boat from one city on the coast to the other, ‘til he gets to Jaffa, then he cuts inland. And this is what he says in verse 21, in the King James Version:
“But took leave of them saying, ‘I must, by all means, keep this coming feast in Jerusalem but I will return again to you, God willing.’”
So let me start with the God willing. We are commanded by the letter of James, Jacob. Whatever we decide to do, to always say “God willing” in Turkish, in Arabic. In the land of Israel we say In sha’Allah, God willing. Everything that we do, we decide to go here, to go there, to buy this, to do… We always say, “God willing, we will do it.” which is a command in the letter of James.
But I’ve never heard pastors and preachers and elders. I don’t remember any time, over 60 years of ministry, a Christian leader say, “God willing. I will go to Israel, God willing. I will buy a car, God willing. I will buy a tie, God willing.”
No, they don’t do that, folks, but it’s a command. It’s a good command. It’s a right command. So Paul says, “God willing, I will return. But now I must go to Jerusalem.” But if you look in other English translations of this text, Acts 18:21, they circumcised the text in the NIV. And in some of the other texts, they circumcised the text.
Why? Because they didn’t understand Paul in Galatians 4. They thought he was talking about the Jewish feast. He was not talking… He was talking about the Roman pagan feast there, in verse 8-10 of Galatians 4. And since they were already… they cut themselves off from the Old Testament and from the Law of Moses they decided to circumcise Paul’s text.
He took a vow, and he kept that vow, and he came to Jerusalem, and he paid for the vow, and he released some of the other young men, the seven Gentile young men that accompanied him from their vows as well and paid them the fees of being released from the vow. Hallelujah folks.
The Torah is speaking loud and clear, even today, even through the Book of Acts and even through the Gospel of Matthew and the Sermon of the Mountains and the Word of Yeshua. Yes, it’s all one book, all written by the Holy Spirit. And we are blessed to have this revelation for us today to hear and obey. God bless you all. Amen.
Joseph Shulam: Brad TV Video Teaching – Massei [2022 - Massei]
Read the transcript below, or watch a video of the teaching by Joseph Shulam.
Shalom. My name is Joseph Shulam and together with Brad TV we are continuing doing week after week. The Torah portions that are being read in every synagogue around the world. This next Shabbat in all the synagogues around the world they’ll be reading from the book of Numbers chapter thirty three from verse one. All the way to the end of the book of Numbers.
It is the last Torah portion of the book of Numbers. After this, we’ll start with the book of Deuteronomy and I say, we’ll be in the home stretch to finish the year, according to the Jewish calendar.
With the Torah portions and Lord willing we’ll do something else next year. Maybe the portions of the Prophets that accompany the Torah portions every week. So we start from chapter thirty three, verse one, and almost actually the whole chapter thirty three is what’s called the travel log. It is a summary of the stations that, which the children of Israel went through during the forty years of wandering in the wilderness of Sinai.
There is not much that we can glean that is very valuable for us today. Especially very valuable for non-Jews, non Israelis that don’t live in the Middle East and in the land of Israel about all these stations because the refrain is the same. And they traveled from Sukkoth and they stopped in Etham. They traveled from Etham. They stopped in Mattot. They stopped in Mattot.
One after the other, the stations the same formula text appears. Except until we get to chapter thirty three, verse fifty two and down to the rest of the chapter it’s a very strange command and you shall inherit. The inhabitants of the land and you shall destroy all their valuable places their statues and their idols. And you will kill them.
Sounds terrible to the ears and to the the minds of the 20th century Western culture. These people wandered in the wilderness forty years. They were slaves when they left Egypt. Most of those that were born slaves died in the wilderness, except two people. Joshua, the son of Nun, and Caleb, the son of Jephunneh. Caleb in English. Even Moses is not going to cross the Jordan river into the promised land. He dies on Mount mitzvah across the Jordan and a foot of Moses does not step into the promised land. But we have this command that to our 20th century post Hollywood culture sounds terrible.
God wanted to cleanse the land from idolatry so that there will not be any influence on the children of Israel to leave the creator. God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, our forefathers and to be led into a spiritual slavery of idolatry which actually they didn’t keep His command. They didn’t destroy the Amalekites. And many years later, the Amalekite, Haman, the Agagite descendant of Agag, the king of Amalek that king Saul spared wanted to wipe out the Jewish people in the world.
You know, I live in a generation that is post World War II. I was born in 1946, a year after the end of World war II, but I was raised by people who actually experienced the Nazi influence in Europe. And not only in Europe, including North Africa, even Egypt with a desire to delete to remove the Jewish people off the face of the earth the way the Psalmist actually predicted thousands of years earlier, that it would happen.
So that’s why God commanded this command. Sadly to say the children of Israel didn’t do it. They didn’t keep God’s command. And therefore, as the text in this chapter says, the Canaanites, the Jebusites the Perizzites, the Hivites, the Canaanites became a snare a thorn on the flesh of Israel. All the way. Well into the Solomonic kingdom several hundred years.
Yes. Sometimes we think that we are smarter than God. We think that we are wiser than God. We think that we are kinder than God, more gracious than God, but God is the God of the whole world.
And every human soul is precious in His sight. Every human being is precious in His sight, but when the cup of iniquity is filled, even the cup of iniquity of Israel is filled, then yes, He punishes harshly.
We are still not over the punishment of exile that was punished on the children of Israel twice. Once in the Babylonian exile that lasted seventy years. They came back. They didn’t learn their lesson. And just a few hundred years later at 70 AD Jerusalem was trampled under the boots of the Roman legions. And the Jews were exiled from this land to return only from the middle of the 19th century.
And we are still in the process of returning and rebuilding this land that God gave us an eternal inheritance to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and to the people and the nation of Israel. And in chapter thirty three, verse fifty five the Holy Spirit says, openly, if you don’t this inherit kick out these idolatrous, immoral nations they will be like thorns in your eyes. They will be like spears on your sides. And they will terrorize you on this land that you are dwelling on.
Folks, we’re still there. It’s not over, it’s not over. So that’s chapter thirty three. Chapter thirty four of our Torah portion is wonderful. God says to Moses command the children of Israel and tell them when you come into the land of Canaan, the land that will fall into your hands as an inheritance, in all of its borders from the south to the east, to the west, to the north to all the borders of the land.
And it gives us the borders of the land. This is not a geography lesson. If it was biblical geography, I would get into all the borders, which is a very complicated biblical issue but it’s not a geography lesson. It’s a lesson that is out to teach you about God’s character and about God’s demands from us as His children.
So after He describes the borders of the land essentially from Dan to Beersheba and to the Negev desert and He describes the inheritance of every tribe and the borders of where these tribes are going to settle. After that, the Torah in our portion comes and tells us in chapter thirty five, verse ten tell the children of Israel that when you cross the Jordan into the land of Canaan, you will choose for yourself cities of refuge and whoever murdered by mistake by accident.
Somebody not premeditated by accident. Somebody can run into those cities of refuge and be protected from blood libel from the vengeance that the family of the murdered one. Of the one who died by accident will want to kill you. A soul for a soul, an eye for an eye, a life for a life.
No, there are cities of refuge scattered on both sides of the Jordan, three on each side in which you can run away, be living in those cities of refuge with other people who have run away from mistakes, accidents that they have caused. And when the high priest dies all those supposedly prisoners, not in prison but in the cities of refuge will be released and nobody can touch them.
This is the first time that we have a very, very important principle, which is at the heart of the New Testament. Death of an appointed person by God, like the high priest redeems the sinners that sinned inadvertently by mistake.
Yes, unique law among all the ancient laws of the Middle East, because vengeance, even until today in the Arab society in the Middle East, goes on. There is lots and lots of murders because of family feuds, because of family hurts, because of accidental deaths.
Family feuds that essentially, in the end, lead to murder. That leads to another murder from the other family. And then the other family vengeance to the other family. And it’s a chain of hate, murder, destruction. Unrighteousness. That God saw fit to create a system in which whoever sinned by mistake can survive. Whoever sinned by mistake can live. Whoever sinned by mistake can be forgiven and not allow this chain of reprisals and vengeance.
That is so common until this very day in the Middle Eastern cultures. I think that this city of refuge story from chapter thirty five of Numbers is a fantastic example of three things. One is God’s provision for His children, not only manna from the skies or the quail for in the desert or the land that he promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob but His provision for people who are sinners by mistake not on purpose, not premeditatively.
And they can run into the cities of refuge. And when the high priest dies, then everybody’s free and nobody can touch them. What a wonderful demonstration of God’s grace and provision for real justice and righteousness. I am at awe every time I read these texts from the last chapters of the book of Numbers.
One more thing. These six cities of refuge are unique. As far as I know, are unique, except in Greece. In Greece the temples of Artemis, Diana in Latin, in Roman language Artemis, in Greece were cities of refuge of a kind not exactly like the Torah prescribes, but cities of refuge.
But what had to happen is that any man that runs into the Diana’s temple had to give up his manhood so to speak and stayed there for the rest of his life. There was no release. Especially famous in this thing was the temple of Diana in Ephesus which was a huge temple.
Not much has remained of it for archeology because the Ottomans the Turks took it apart and ground. Some of the wonderful marble for lime. Both in Athens, in the temple of Apollo and in Ephesus. And in other places, the Ottomans the Turks didn’t have much appreciation for archeology or for history.
So yes, the cities of refuge are at the very end of the book of Numbers. The next thing that we see in the book of Numbers toward the end of the book of Numbers is the daughters of Zelophehad. Remember that earlier in the book of Numbers there was a man named Zelophehad that the poor guy had only daughter had no sons. And according to God’s law, only the man inherited the land of Canaan that they received by Lot from God and for the rest of their lives.
But this poor man had no sons. He had only daughters and the daughters came to Moses and said, listen, our father had no sons and it’s not fair that we will not inherit our father. Nobody’s going to inherit from our family our father and his land.
Moses said, you know what? There is something in what you say. Let me take it up with the boss. So Moses talks to God and God says, you know what? Moses, these girls are right. This is the first women’s liberation that we have in history. And it’s already from the days of Moses from the 12th century BC. Long before the emancipation of women in the beginning of the 20th century and the right to vote. Political vote.
Yep. God said, you know what? These girls are right. Let them inherit their father on one condition that they take measures that the land doesn’t move from one tribe to the other. They have to only marry men from their own tribe. And that way the land stays as property of the tribe. The way I gave it.
Wonderful. Wonderful provision of justice. Wonderful understanding of God. Wonderful for us to understand that God is not stiff. God is not inflexible. God is hearing our needs. God is caring about our needs. And God, if necessary, is changing the Torah changing the law to accommodate justice and righteousness for the sake of Earth. And for the sake of heaven.
May God have mercy on all of us. Keep reading. And next week we’ll be starting with the book of Deuteronomy. Fascinating book. Controversial book. And something that we can learn so much about God from the book of Deuteronomy. May God bless all of you and have you keep reading from the Torah from chapter thirty three verse one of the book of Numbers to the end of Numbers.
And then from Jeremiah chapter two, verse four and keep on reading from Jeremiah two verse four, until chapter four, verse twenty eight. And from Galatians chapter three twenty six to chapter four of Galatians, verse seven. So these readings they dovetail with each other, they enhance one another. And that’s why it’s important to read from the Torah from the prophets and from the New Testament.
But in Jeremiah, just a few minutes God commands the children of Israel and says to them what have your forefathers found bad in me, evil in me and kind of distanced himself and went after nonsense, after idolatry, instead of following me, the creator, the father of all mankind.
And this is what the people answered to Jeremiah. God, please forgive our nation for the past. And for the present. This is what they said, where is God that brought us out of the land of Egypt that led us through the desert and through the planes, through dry land, a place that no man can inhabit and brought us to this land of plenty to eat its fruit and all the goodness of it.
That’s what the people said. What did they want? What was their complaint? Their complaint is, Hey, we were in the wilderness 40 years. God took care of us. He gave us free bread from heaven the manna every day, fresh and for free. He gave us the quail every day for free. All we had to do is just pick them up clean them up and cook them up. No cost, no supermarket. This is one of the signs of the depravity of mankind.
Without God, without knowing God that depravity of mankind, we want free. We want to get and not to give. We want to receive and not to share. That selfishness that is bred into us from the days of Adam and Eve. From the days of Cain and Abel. That their jealousy killed one another. A brother killed his own brother. That aspect is what Jeremiah and God are fighting in our portion from the prophets.
Yes. That desire to be taken care of by God, without working. And to end this, I’ll ask you this question. Does cow give milk? The answer that most children, teenagers, and adults will answer is sure. Cow gives milk.
No, sir. Cow does not give milk. You have to milk her. You have to work to get the milk from the cow. And the same thing is true in the Torah, and in the Prophets, and in the New Testament.
We are born to work, not to just receive. To produce, not to just take. But that was the complaint of the children of Israel in the days of Jeremiah. God is not taking care of us anymore. We don’t have that manna from the wilderness for free, fresh every morning. No, we don’t.
Praise God and thank him that he gave us the right and the privilege of working and milking the cow and making cheese and butter for us to eat and to enjoy not receive everything free from heaven. God bless us and bless our labor in His kingdom in Yeshua’s name, amen.
Joseph Shulam: The Torah of the Lord Is Carved on Our Hearts 
The Torah reading this week is from the last two Torah portions of the book of Numbers, Matot-Massei, Numbers 30:2-36:13. From the prophets the reading is Isaiah 66:1-25. From the New Testament we read from James 4:1-12. I am tempted to write this week on the Haftarah of Isaiah 66:1-25. But there are a few things from the two Parashot of the end of Numbers Matot/Massei that I feel that I must mention.
The Torah Reading starts with the issue of taking a vow, a bond. This is something that is of great importance in our days because Christians have forgotten the teaching of Yeshua in the Sermon on the mountain.
“This is the thing which the Lord has commanded: If a man makes a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself by some agreement, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth. ‘Or if a woman makes a vow to the Lord, and binds herself by some agreement while in her father’s house in her youth, and her father hears her vow and the agreement by which she has bound herself, and her father holds his peace, then all her vows shall stand, and every agreement with which she has bound herself shall stand. But if her father overrules her on the day that he hears, then none of her vows nor her agreements by which she has bound herself shall stand; and the Lord will release her, because her father overruled her. If indeed she takes a husband, while bound by her vows or by a rash utterance from her lips by which she bound herself, and her husband hears it, and makes no response to her on the day that he hears, then her vows shall stand, and her agreements by which she bound herself shall stand. But if her husband overrules her on the day that he hears it, he shall make void her vow which she took and what she uttered with her lips, by which she bound herself, and the Lord will release her.’” – Numbers 30:1-9 [NKJV]
We are living in a season where words don’t seem to be worth much. Our culture is such that people speak and promise and make strong promises (vows) and even swear that they will keep their promises, but even don’t feel guilty or remorse if they don’t keep their promises and their vows. I find even so called “spiritual leaders,” “Messianic rabbis,” and pastors who act like the spoken word is not really binding.
For some even the written word or a legal contract is not necessarily respected because the court system in Israel is so very lenient. However, in this text and in the words of Yeshua we see how serious our words and promises are in the eyes of our Lord. Here is what our Lord says:
“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your “Yes’ be “Yes,’ and your “No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” – Matthew 5:33-37 [NKJV]
It is obvious that these words of Yeshua are based on our Torah portion of this Shabbat. Yeshua like a typical Pharisee rabbi is building a fence around the Torah commandment. He says that you can make a vow and swear to keep it, but it would be safer and better for you if you don’t swear at all or take a vow at all. Let you “Yes” by “Yes” and your “No” be “No.” In other words Yeshua is teaching us that if you get to a place where you have to swear that you are going to keep your promises and respect your words and agreements you are already in trouble. If you are not trusted for your words Yeshua says you are already falling into the trap of the “evil one.”
Our reputation in town and in the body of the Messiah is and ought to be based on our credibility and the value of our words. If the merchants in downtown Jerusalem don’t trust you as a pastor or a rabbi or just as a plain disciple of Yeshua, your spiritual credibility is also not worth a dime. It is such a shame for leaders and pastors to have a bad reputation in the business community in their cities. Why would anyone trust these pastors or rabbis for what they say from the pulpit more than for what they say and promise to the shop owners in town?
I have to share with you a story about one of the most famous and respected pastors in the United States. He had visited our congregation in Jerusalem and we asked him to preach and share God’s word with us. He looked at the suit that I was wearing and said, “I want to invite you to come to my city and preach in my church, but the way you are dressed I can’t let you on my pulpit. I will have to take you and get you a proper suit and dress you up right if you are going to preach from my pulpit.” I said fine! This pastor didn’t know that my suits were all handmade by an old Arab tailor that lived on the Mount of Olives, and that the material was purchased in London and was some of the best that money can buy. I said nothing.
When I arrived to his city the next day with pomp and ceremony the pastor came in the morning and picked me up and took me down town and to the fanciest men’s shop in that town. I looked at about 15 suits and none were good for me. Each one of these suits was from Italy and the cheapest were even on sale 3000 US dollars and up. After near two and a half hours of trying on suits, I was tired and decided to get the cheapest suit that was in my size even if it was not what I really liked. It was one of the cheapest suits in the shop. So, the pastor added shirts and socks and shoes and underwear to the purchase.
When we came to the cashier it was clear that the owner of the shop was very familiar with this pastor. Immediately I noticed that the owner is an Arab. I started to speak to the owner in Arabic and found out that he is originally from Egypt. When it came time for the pastor to pay for what we were getting he took out a wad of hundred dollars bills in what is called a Mexican bankroll.
The Pastor started to peal off 100 dollars bills to make the payment. The Egyptian owner said to me in Arabic: “Joseph do you know who comes to my shop and buys expensive cloths and always pays in cash?” I said in Arabic no sir! The Arab said: only pastors and pimps. The book of Proverbs says: “A good name is more valuable than expensive oil. Joseph. Please guard your name!” The first person who said that to me was a stranger that I met on the streets of Jerusalem near the orthodox Jewish neighborhood. It was Gordon Lindsay, who founded Christ for the Nations in Dallas. I was a stranger to brother Lindsay and He was a stranger to me. But, just this one meeting with this man of God and his words kept me many times from falling.
The Torah makes it clear if you make a promise or take a vow. You must keep it at all cost. The Apostle Paul made a vow to go to Jerusalem and celebrate the feast of Shavuot (Pentecost) and he had to keep his vow even at the cost of his life.
The second thing in our Torah reading this Shabbat that I would like to share is the faithfulness of the Torah to God’s promises.
The land of Canaan was promised to Abraham and to His seed. More than 400 years had passed from the time that the Lord promised the Land to Abraham and His seed forever (See Genesis 13:15-16). Now the Lord is keeping his promises and shows Moses how the land will be divided among the tribes of Israel and the families of each tribe.
The Lord has not forgotten the amendment that He corrected and the changes in the law that allowed the daughters of Zelophehad to inherit the land of their father who had no sons. The Lord keeps his promises and does not forget them. So, before they enter the land of promise, God gives Moses and the leadership of Israel the following instruction:
“This is what the Lord commands concerning the daughters of Zelophehad, saying, ‘Let them marry whom they think best, but they may marry only within the family of their father’s tribe.’ So the inheritance of the children of Israel shall not change hands from tribe to tribe, for every one of the children of Israel shall keep the inheritance of the tribe of his fathers. And every daughter who possesses an inheritance in any tribe of the children of Israel shall be the wife of one of the family of her father’s tribe, so that the children of Israel each may possess the inheritance of his fathers. Thus no inheritance shall change hands from one tribe to another, but every tribe of the children of Israel shall keep its own inheritance.’” – Numbers 36:6-9 [NKJV]
This was a major change both legally and administratively, but also it was the first time that women were allowed to inherit the property of their father. Provision was made to keep the property as a part of the tribal inheritance.
These daughters of Zelophehad had to marry within their tribe so that the total property of the tribe does not diminish and move to the hands of another tribe. But, it was a major change of the laws and the customs of the people and it showed the flexibility of the Torah and of our God that understands the need to adjust the law sometimes when the circumstances justly demand it.
This is for me of great importance as we too as disciples of Yeshua must have that same attitude as Moses and the Lord had. We must take our issues before the Lord in prayer and consult the word of God from Genesis to Revelation to find solutions to some of the issues that come up from the use of modern technology and not be stuck in a legalistic and frozen understanding of God’s Word.
We must observe these examples in the Torah, and the way that Moses and the Lord Himself see that the Torah as being a Torah for life and for living and not simply a frozen word carved on stone. The Torah of the Lord is carved on our hearts according to Jeremiah 31:31-37 and we must allow for the guidance of the Holy Spirit to guide us to live, and not to die, with the word, that kills, but live with the Spirit that brings the Lord’s word to life as a life-giving fountain of fresh and living water!
Joseph Shulam: Our Words, Our Witness- Matot-Masei 
We are reading a double portion of the Torah and the prophets on this next Shabbat! We are reading Matot (Numbers 30:1-32:42) and Masei (Numbers 33:1-36:13). From the prophets we are reading from Jeremiah 1:1-3:4. From the New Testament we read this Shabbat from Philippians 3;12-16, and from James (Jacob) 4:1-12.
The agenda of Numbers 30 is the legal force of promises and vows and binding obligations undertaken under oath. This issue is universal, and has importance for all ages and cultures.
Today the issue has doubled in importance because words are being written and recorded by audio and video and broadcast around the globe in seconds. There are records of what we speak and of what we do of which we are even unaware. Big Brother has us bugged at all times and in any location!
We might not like it but we can’t stop it as long as we continue to use our convenient and accessible devices – our smart phones, iPads, computers… so we must be doubly alert and more careful of what we say especially as disciples of Yeshua. Here is what Yeshua has to say concerning this issue:
“But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” – Matthew 5:34-37 [NKJV]
It is interesting that James (Jacob) in his letter repeats the teaching of Yeshua:
“Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door! My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful. But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No,’ lest you fall into judgment.” – James 5:9-12 [NKJV]
Yeshua and James (Jacob) are instructing us, Yeshua’s disciples, to have a firm word, a promise and an honest intent to keep and do whatever it is that was promised or agreed upon between the parties. It is always one of the hardest thing for me, and for others in Jerusalem to have some merchant in town who knows that we are believers in Yeshua, and he tells us that so and so, a known Jewish believer in Yeshua, has cheated him and made promises without any intention of keeping them.
Even much more serious are cases where some Christian missionary has taken a product from the shop with the promise to return it the next day after he shows it to his wife. Months later the Christian has not returned the product, has not answered his phone, has not kept his promise.
We see that both the Torah and our Lord Yeshua and James his brother all say the same thing – if you make a promise or take a vow or take an oath the Lord Himself obligates you to keep it and if you don’t keep it – it becomes a very serious sin that no one can absolve you of under normal circumstances.
Now here comes that not politically correct part of the Torah and I am happy that the Torah is witnessing against the politically correct cult that is ruling the culture and the streets of our modern Godless towns without pity.
How lucky are our women according to the Torah? Women can make a promise and even take an oath or make a vow, but if they have a father that is living or a husband, they can free their women, daughters and wives, from their vows and oaths and self-imposed binding obligation.
How wonderful and wise is our God who gave us the Torah and the Prophets and sent His only begotten Son to save us and has given our women, the privilege of having their vows and oaths and self-imposed binding obligations annulled. The Lord who designed us and who has provided us with a companion for life, knows our strengths and our weaknesses and makes provision to uncomplicate our lives as much as possible.
I believe in equality and would like to have equality with women if only for this privilege that women have received from the almighty God that their promises and vows and self-imposed obligations can be annulled by their father or their husband.
The last thing that I want to say is that we should all see how serious and what grave consequences our promises and words can have on us personally and upon our families and communities and also reflect upon our communities and our Lord.
The simplest thing is the best for us. Let those in our town and those with whom we do business and commerce know that our “yes” is “yes”, and our “no” is “no!” Let us all who claim to be disciples of Yeshua know that our words are a part of our witness and when our words put us to shame, they put Yeshua our Lord to shame as well.
Joseph Shulam: The Problem With The Pursuit of Happiness-Matot-Masei
This Shabbat the reading is from the last few chapters of the book of Numbers. This is a double Torah portion. The reading is from Numbers 30:2–36:13. The portion of the haftarah, the prophets, is from Jeremiah 2:4-28, 3:4,4:1,2. This next shabbat, August 3, 2019, is the second of Av, 5779. This means that Friday is Rosh Hodesh, the New Moon of the month of Av.
The month of Av is a very special month. Because it is the month on which so many calamities, and I dare say fulfillments of prophecies of the wrath of God, happened. The Temple of Solomon was destroyed on the ninth of Av. The Temple that Herod the great built was destroyed on the ninth of Av, the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 was on the same date, and so many other calamities happened on this date of the ninth of Av.
For me, this date is a horrible date for every Jew, and I think for everyone who believes in the God who created the world and still controls it, and dictates human history. You see, all these events in Jewish history happened as the prophets foretold that they would happen, but the prophets didn’t give dates. The fact that the same date has some 16 different events, bad events in Jewish history, is a proof that someone is actually directing history and controlling the affairs of mankind.
For the Jewish people, this month and this date, the ninth day of the month of Av, should be a sign and a wonder, a proof that our history is foretold by the prophets, as God said to Amos the prophet:
“Surely the Lord God does nothing, Unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.” – Amos 3:7 [NKJV]
Well, my dear brothers and sisters, if there is any proof that these words spoken to Amos the prophet, or by Amos, are clearly evident, it is in regards to the calamitous events that took place in Jewish history over more than a thousand years.
The portion of Matot starts with a very important subject and a very serious one for all people, but especially for men. This is what the Torah says:
“Then Moses spoke to the heads of the tribes concerning the children of Israel, saying, ‘This is the thing which the Lord has commanded: If a man makes a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself by some agreement, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth. Or if a woman makes a vow to the Lord, and binds herself by some agreement while in her father’s house in her youth, and her father hears her vow and the agreement by which she has bound herself, and her father holds his peace, then all her vows shall stand, and every agreement with which she has bound herself shall stand. But if her father overrules her on the day that he hears, then none of her vows nor her agreements by which she has bound herself shall stand; and the Lord will release her, because her father overruled her. If indeed she takes a husband, while bound by her vows or by a rash utterance from her lips by which she bound herself, and her husband hears it, and makes no response to her on the day that he hears, then her vows shall stand, and her agreements by which she bound herself shall stand. But if her husband overrules her on the day that he hears it, he shall make void her vow which she took and what she uttered with her lips, by which she bound herself, and the Lord will release her.’” – Numbers 30:1–8 [NKJV]
This text in God’s word, is for me a flag and a warning that especially in our time must be clearly spoken and pointed out for all who say that they believe the Bible. You see, culture is a very strong power, but it is not always God’s power. Today the religious world, both Judaism and Christianity, is being dragged and follows the modern culture of the West. A culture that is contaminated by two very powerful events that sound good and sound right and sound just, the French Revolution, and the American Constitution. Yes, don’t be shocked, please!
The French Revolution is an important event in the history of modern politically-correct culture. The American Constitution is even a more important document because is has done so much good for the American people and for all the West. I would not want to live in a world that does not know the American Constitution, that was created by mostly Christian men.
The problem is not with the constitution, but with how people in the 21st century interpret it. Equality is equality before the law, before the court of law, not anywhere and everywhere. When this equality is taken out of the context it creates the need to have in public places one bathroom for both men and women, and for the LGBTQ society.
When the promise of the constitution of the USA promises “the pursuit of happiness” to all citizens, this would work in a society that has biblical values and a damper on selfishness. But, when in our modern society selfishness is the “bon ton” and the chief motivator both in the workplace and at home, in school and even in the church, then the combination of the promise of equality to all, equality without borders, reason, or rhyme, and the promise of “the pursuit of happiness”, this creates a cultural and moral atomic bomb that will explode society and destroy this wonderful country of the United States of America. With this, Western Civilization and the Judeo-Christian faith and culture will also be greatly damaged.
What are we committed to? Look at the text above from Numbers 3:1-8, look at other texts in God’s word, like 1 Timothy 2:8-11, does God hold on to what He revealed to our forefathers and messengers of God like Moses, the prophets, and Yeshua and the apostles, or have these words lost their power and authority?
The teaching of this parasha is clearly showing that the women are being protected by God and allowed to make mistakes, and have someone clear their mistakes and help them. I am envious of the women in the Torah and in the New Testament. When I make a promise that I can’t keep, I wish there was someone who could release me from that promise.
For me, it would be a blessing to have someone who could say, “OK Joe, you should have taken into account all the ramifications of your promises, but you didn’t, so let me take this burden off your shoulders, I am your father and I release you!” What a blessing that would be to have that opportunity to have someone who would help you in that way.
God bless you all who study the word of God with the faith of a child, and don’t try to cut corners, and square the round, and fit the word of God into our modern ungodly culture by ignoring it or twisting it. We all must remember that God is also a bookkeeper, and our actions and even our words are recorded there in His books. In the end scene, in the judgment of all flesh, these same books will be opened and our sentence will be read, and all will know why the just and righteous God has given us the sentence that we really deserve.
Culture is culture, but the word of God is the only standard and rule by which all flesh will be judged. The good for good, and the evil for the evil that they have done.
Joseph Shulam: Our Commitment to the Greater Community-Matot-Masei 
The reading of the Torah this Shabbat is called Matot-Masei (Numbers 30:2–36:13). The reading in all the synagogues around the world is the end of the book of Numbers. As we read the word of God and come into reading the book of Deuteronomy, it is already a sign that we are approaching the Feast of Trumpets – that is the end of the reading of the Torah.
In this portion of the Torah, we see that two and a half tribes of Israel didn’t want to cross the Jordan River and settle in the land of Canaan. Their reason where primarily economic. There was a war between Israel and Sihon king of Heshbon. Israel was given a victory over this Amorite Kingdom.
The tribes of Gad, Reuben, and the half-tribe of Manasseh liked that land and desired to stay there with their flocks. These lands were not a part of the original plan of God. This request was to stay in a land that was outside the land of Canaan. The leaders of these two and a half tribes come to Moses and put their request before Moses.
“The children of Gad and the children of Reuben came and spoke to Moses, to Eleazar the priest, and to the leaders of the congregation, saying, ‘Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Shebam, Nebo, and Beon, the country which the Lord defeated before the congregation of Israel, is a land for livestock, and your servants have livestock.’ Therefore, they said, ‘If we have found favor in your sight, let this land be given to your servants as a possession. Do not take us over the Jordan.’” - Numbers 32:2-5 [NKJV]
Moses does not say to these tribes of Israel, “Sorry, brothers, this part of the land is not included in God’s promise to Abraham our father.” Moses says to them:
“But Moses said to the people of Gad and to the people of Reuben, ‘Shall your brothers go to the war while you sit here? Why will you discourage the heart of the people of Israel from going over into the land that the Lord has given them? Your fathers did this, when I sent them from Kadesh-barnea to see the land. For when they went up to the Valley of Eshcol and saw the land, they discouraged the heart of the people of Israel from going into the land that the Lord had given them.’” - Numbers 32:6–10 [ESV]
What was the concern of Moses? He was concerned that these tribes will not take a part in the cooperative effort to conquer the land of Canaan. He was worried that these tribes will settle in the good grazing land on the other side of the Jordan and abandon their brothers without taking a share in the war against the seven Canaanite nations.
For Moses, the most important part was not the land, but the unity of the nation of Israel. It was important for Moses, and I assume for God also, that the integrity of the nation will hold up, and that every one will take his share in the national burden and not run off leaving the work for the others.
What shall we learn today from this interesting story?
- From the previous chapters we learn that God is reasonable, and He can change the Torah (the law) when it is not longer applicable to the reality of the situation:
- God heard the complaints of the daughters of Zelophehad, that it is not fair for male children to inherit their father’s wealth, and God changed the Torah and made it possible for women in Israel to inherit their father when there are not male children in the family.
- Now with the tribes of Gad, Reuben and the half-tribe of Manasseh, God, through Moses, grants them their wish as long as they fulfill their obligation to the rest of the tribes of Israel.
- From the demands of Moses from these two and a half tribes we learn that the collective responsibility is greater than the private responsibility of the individual tribe. If I interpret this principle closer to home, the good of the community that we are a part of is greater than our own private desires or whims.
In conclusion of this point and bringing these principles home to our own situation today! We have a right as individuals and as communities to have our own agenda, our own opinions, and our private desire to see our particular “tribe” or “section” have the best possible for our group. However, we don’t have the privilege or right to abandon the whole of our nation or our faith community.
All of us have to see the broader picture and realize that we are a part of a much larger community, and our responsibility has to be graded from our smaller circles of fellowship, but it must not stop there. We must look for the good of our own smaller groups, but not forget that we are a part of the larger picture of all those who believe in one God and in Yeshua (Jesus) as our savior and redeemer.
If you look at the Christian denominations today, like the tribes of Israel in the ancient world, you might draw the right conclusion of what I am reaching out for. The unity of the body of the Messiah is something that we all must strive for and fight for, and the only way that it can be done is for all of us to change our own narrow-minded approach to the faith community, and broaden our tents to include and feel responsible for the good and welfare of those who might be out there in left field, but still hold the Bible to be the word of God, and Yeshua to be the Messiah, and the Holy Spirit to be alive and active in directing the disciples of Yeshua unto all truth.
There is no value to the restoration of the church if there is no sincere and honest drive for the unity of the body of the Messiah Yeshua. Everything that is restored by different groups pales in front of the need to unite to fight the last battle in the kingdom of God.
Joseph Shulam: Let Your Yes be Yes and Your No be No - Matot-Masei 
This week the reading in the synagogues around the world is called Matot. “Matot” is from the book of Numbers chapter 30:1-32:42, and the name is taken from the first verse of the reading:
“Then Moses spoke to the heads of the tribes concerning the children of Israel, saying, “This is the thing which the Lord has commanded…’” - Numbers 30:1 [NKJV]
The word “mateh” means “staff” – the same word is used for the wooden staff of Moses, and also for the staff of the generals in the Israeli army. In the English translation of the verse it was rendered “the heads of the tribes.”
The first major topic that is dealt with in chapter 30 is the issue of what oath or vows a person speaks out of his mouth. In short, according to the text, a man is obligated to keep his vows, his oath to man or to God are obligatory and sacred. This is what the Lord says:
“If a man makes a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself by some agreement, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.” - Numbers 30:2 [NKJV]
Now, the next issue that the Torah brings is not politically correct these days. There is a difference in obligation of a woman to her vow and her oath from that of a man. If a woman a daughter or a wife made a vow or promised a promise, and her father hears about it the same day, her father or her husband can annul the vow or the promise that the woman made.
You ought to read the text in Numbers 30 in order to understand better the details. There are of course many explanations why God made this difference between the obligation of a man and a woman. The bottom line is that it was done for the protection of a woman.
I personally wish that there were a way in which a man could have his oath to God and to man annulled. There is no way to annul man’s vow or promise before the Lord. For this very reason Yeshua gave this instruction to His disciples:
“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’. For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” - Matthew 5:33-37 [NKJV]
Yeshua is doing something very rabbinical in this teaching. He is building a fence around the commandment of God. God said in the Torah if you take make a vow or take an oath you must keep it. There is no way that you can be delivered from that oath or vow if you are a man.
Yeshua comes and says, don’t take an oath or make a vow at all. Just be faithful to your words and if you promise something, keep it, just say “Yes” or “No”. This is all that is necessary for people who are honest and have integrity. If more is required that means that there is no trust and no confidence in the faithfulness and trustworthiness of the person you are about to do business with. In this case it might better not to do business with people whom their words and promises are not trustworthy.
The second point that Yeshua brings is that most of the time that people make a vow or take an oath they hang their vow or oath by someone greater than themselves. People say: “By God, I will do this!” “By the Temple of God” “By Heaven…” In fact they could swear by their own mother or father if they wish, but it does not make their words worth more than just a simple “Yes” or “No” of a person who is honest and trustworthy.
This teaching of the Lord is often time ignored and “words” and promises often don’t mean much or carry a serious obligation in our days. I have had elders of a church who sat in a meeting with me and made promises, and when they went home and told their wives what they committed to, their wives changed their mind.
They called me back and said, “Joseph it would be better for you to forget what we decided in the elders meeting! It is not going to happen.” I said, “but you made this commitment and I have it recorded on tape.” The next day these same elders actually resolved the problem on a personal basis and not from the congregation. They were honest men, and they kept their promise unofficially without everyone, including their wives, knowing it.
As you can see from this Torah portion, Yeshua is like a good rabbi making a fence of protection around the commandment to keep us on the safe side, and prevent us from falling in disobedience to God’s command.
Yehuda Bachana: Family Comes Before Business 
Read the teaching below, or watch a video of the teaching by Yehuda Bachana.
This week's Torah portion discusses the topic of war. How ironic and sad is it that we, the State of Israel, are once again entangled in territorial conflicts, especially in Gaza. History continues to repeat itself, and we find ourselves with the sword unsheathed, with a rifle in hand, with the intent of defending the citizens of Israel.
The security mindset of the State of Israel is based on one need: preserving its existence. The basic assumption is that Israel must not lose any war, because failure to stop any existential threats could mean the destruction of the Holy Land.
The Three Weeks of Bein HaMetzarim
Our parasha touches on the darker sides of warfare: killing, looting, assassinations, collective punishment - in short, a raging fire.
The three-week period of Bein HaMetzarim commences with the day that the walls of Jerusalem were sealed until the fast of Tisha B'Av, the day the Temple was destroyed. These days mark the times of tribulation and distress associated with the destruction of the First and Second Temples. According to tradition, this is a time when the laws of mourning apply, and they become more and more stringent as they approach Tisha B'Av.
On the three Sabbaths during this period of mourning, we read the three haftarot (weekly readings from the prophets) that deal with the tribulations and punishments that will come about due to the sins of the people. After Tisha B'Av, in the next seven Sabbaths, we read haftarot that have a theme of comfort and forgiveness. These days commemorate the destruction of the Temple and the exiles of the people of Israel.
This week's portion, Parashat Matot, always falls during this period of Bein HaMetzarim. It emphasizes the contrast between promises, hope, our land and home, and between destruction, exile, and the hiding of God's face from His people.
“Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. ‘Do you see all these things?’ he asked. ‘Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; everyone will be thrown down.’” - Matthew 24:1,2 [NIV]
God has Not Abandoned His People
In these weeks we begin to think and talk about Tisha B'Av, about the meaning of this day, and about the destruction. However, it is very difficult to internalize and mourn the destruction of Jerusalem, which happened thousands of years ago, when today around us grows and blooms a large, progressive, and strong city.
The lesson of the people of Israel for generations to come is that there is always hope; the hope for salvation, redemption, for returning home from afar, from dispersion to assembly, from punishment to forgiveness and consolation. Today we are waiting for His face to be revealed, for the day when the people of Israel will proclaim, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,” and kneel before Yeshua the Messiah.
I believe with all my heart that God has not abandoned His people and that Yeshua continues to lead the people of Israel, even if in secret. Yeshua is the one who leads us and time again saves the State of Israel. The day will come when the veil will be removed and the people of Israel will accept Him as He is - as the Messiah, the King of Israel.
Why its Important to Remember the Past
There are numerous reasons why we are instructed to remember the past. First and foremost, in order to continue our existence and life, to always stand on our own, and to not allow anyone to hurt us.
Remembrance is essential to our continued existence as a people. It is necessary for the rehabilitation and building of a country in a physical and spiritual way. Likewise, remembrance is an important factor to bringing about change.
Having foresight doesn't necessarily mean having the gift of prophecy. But rather it means the ability to look at the past and the present, and predict what will happen in the future.
Does the Torah Excuse Military Service?
Another hot topic in the national arena, a matter that threatens even to topple the government, is the issue of recruiting orthodox Jews (Haredim) into the Israeli military.
The Haredim, who want their young men to spend those potential military years studying the Torah instead, cry out: “They want to kill us, the Torah is our life, this is a battle of life and death.”
From where does a Torah student get the excuse not to serve in the army - because of the Torah? The argument that a Torah student should refuse to enlist in the IDF is a very weak one, because the Torah encourages and possibly even demands, military service. The book of Torah that we have been studying for the past few weeks, Numbers, begins with the requirement for a military census of the tribes:
“You and Aaron are to count according to their divisions all the men in Israel who are twenty years old or more and able to serve in the army.” - Numbers 1:3 [NIV]
In Deuteronomy, there is a list of reasons for exemption from military service, like the building of a new house, getting married, etc. It should be noted that studying Torah is not one of those reasons. (Deuteronomy 20:5-8)
In our parasha, the tribes of Gad and Reuben saw the richness and greenery beyond the Jordan River, and they asked permission from Moses to settle there instead of entering into the Promised Land. At first, Moses was angry with them because he sensed a hint of the previous rebellion of the spies. Moses attacked them with a rhetorical question:
“…Should your fellow Israelites go to war while you sit here?” - Numbers 32:6 [NIV]
Only after the tribes of Dan and Reuben promised to enlist in the spearhead force for the purpose of conquering the Promised Land, did Moses calm down and allow them to settle across the Jordan River.
Enlistment and Messianic Faith
From here I want to continue to the context of the Messianic faith. In regards to enlistment in the military, opinions may vary, however the majority of Messianic believers in Israel agree to enlist and to do so with pride. However, the question of military ethics arise from time to time.
Some believers encourage enlistment, but not to combat units, because Yeshua commands us to treat our enemy with love. According to them, Yeshua spoke against holding the sword, in other words, He spoke against the possession of arms.
For my part, I'll say that precisely those God-fearing believing soldiers who serve in combat, right in the flash-points of military conflict, are the ones who can show love, caring, and mercy. They can do so through simple acts of kindness, which are expected as a part of military procedure.
Believing soldiers show how it is possible to maintain both security and humane treatment at the same time. I believe that the Messianic soldiers are the glory of the State of Israel.
What was Special about the Transjordan
Let us return to this week's parasha and the Transjordan question of the aforementioned tribes of Reuben and Gad.
Members of the tribes of Reuben and Gad went to Moses and asked for the Transjordan - why did they want this? They possessed large herds of livestock and we read that the land across the Jordan was rich and green. They said the following:
“…We would like to build pens here for our livestock and cities for our women and children.” - Numbers 32:16b [NIV]
The emphasis here is on building business, the business of agriculture.
In the response that Moses gave, he switched up the order of things:
“Build cities for your women and children, and pens for your flocks…” - Numbers 32:24a [NIV]
Here the word “build” first and foremost refers to children and family, and after that comes the work.
Family Should be Our First Priority
In today's world, we are dealing with the same story. We spend so much time at work that we hardly see our children. We often have no idea what's going on in their schools - and we don't have time to hear about the dreams, the hopes, and the ideas of our children. We come home dead tired every day, and we don't have the energy for a leisurely conversation.
The tribes of Reuben and Gad had much livestock, and the land beyond the Jordan was pleasing to them. They asked permission from Moses to settle there, and during the negotiation, the words slipped out, “We'll build pens and cowsheds for business, and we'll also build the rest, like homes for our families.”
Career is for the family and not the other way around, we forget that what matters is slow, and can not compete with the urgent. Paying the bills, property tax, rent, or a mortgage may seem much more critical than playing with legos or a good conversation.
When we retire, it will be too late. If we do not invest in the family, that ship will sink! I do not recommend dropping out of the race of life, but rather to change the order of thinking, and to put the family back at the top of our priorities.