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.

Yehuda Bachana: Holiness in every aspect of Life [Kedoshim 2024]

We finish yet another very emotional week. This week began with the Holocaust Memorial Day which obviously always is a very sad and emotional day; and yet, this year it was even more loaded.

We should be careful not to compare the tragedies of the 7th of October to the Holocaust. The horrors of the Holocaust cannot be compared to any other disaster that happened to the Jewish People. Even though, we are aware of testimonies how the 7th of October has awakened all kinds of memories for Holocaust survivors. We can only imagine... Our hearts go out to them especially!

It was good to hear how the President and the Prime-Minister of Israel both addressed the Holocaust and the 7th of October, and clarified that there is no connection between the two. And yet, it’s clear that the Nazis and their accomplices adhered to the same ideology – to exterminate the Jews – just like Hamas, Iran and Hezbollah.

The difference is that now we have a country – the State of Israel – as well as an army that is strong and able to prevent the extermination of the Jews.

This week, Israel began a new (yet limited) military mission in Rafah. This mission is the result of the explosives and missiles that were fired from Rafah by Hamas towards the Kerem Shalom crossing (which is where the humanitarian aid enters the Gaza strip), which resulted in wounding – and even killing - several Israeli soldiers.

Hamas gets strengthened from Israel’s hesitation to decide, but mostly from the peer pressure on Israel by the international community. Hamas understands there’s a firm pressure for Israel to end the war, even in case our goals aren’t reached (to eradicate the Hamas and to return all the hostages). Such surrender would only strengthen the Hamas and enable them to rebuild their military capabilities.

In the meanwhile, the humanitarian aid that enters Gaza, falls directly into the hands of the Hamas, and this terror organization receives even more help, like the new sea port right off of the Gazan coast. And so, the only things left to do for Hamas, is to stand firmly and stick to their demands, to use the supplies they receive, and prepare their forces to continue their fight now (or for the next attack).

Israel should act firmly to crush the Hamas and create a better reality in the Middle East. They should do so without taking the international pressure into account, because those countries never turned out to be our true friends.

We remember the hostages in prayer, who are living in terrible and ungraspable circumstances. Our hearts go out to each and every one of them and to their families! We also strengthen our dear soldiers, and pray for their physical and emotional protection so we can live life as normal as possible.

It’s important to note that most of our soldiers aren’t ‘professional’, meaning the military isn’t their daily profession. Our reservists have a different day job, as teachers, lawyers, air conditioner technicians, financial advisors or even pastors, Each and every one, serves to protect our homeland and literally protect the home front with their body.

A healthy and moral army fulfills two main points. Firstly, it has the strong wish to live; and, secondly, it lacks the wish to kill. Soldiers should fear death and wish to return home after the battlefield, having something good to return to, and that’s worth it to risk their lives for at the battlefield.

God gave us life and that’s holy and good. It’s a gift. Beyond our own life, we must internalize the sanctity of life towards others. And so, a bloodthirsty soldier isn’t a good soldier, but rather one that looks to pick a fight, to go to war, and even aims for death.

We must strive for peace, tranquility and togetherness. But even with those morals at heart, we understand there is a true need for self-defense. A soldier who is driven by self-defense is a good soldier.

I’m proud of the IDF and of its morals. Of the courage and determination of the soldiers. The main mission of our army is to protect our homeland and to stop terror. I know first handily, that IDF-soldiers safe-guard the sanctity of life and the purity of arms.

This week we read and study Parashat Kedoshim. The name ‘Kedoshim’ is very interesting:

How can we reach holiness – for our personal life - as well as, live in a way that’s more holy?

This approach fundamentally opposes the foundations of faith that most of us were brought up with. We were taught that humans are bad, sinners and law-breakers by default! And we deserve to be punished in hell.
If I ask who considers themselves holy, probably nobody would raise their hand. That isn’t just humility, but the way we were taught: we are broken from the beginning and only Yeshua can save us.

Here I ask myself: Who created me?

God created the world and saw that it was good. God created a very good world, with man in His image. Does God created broken people by default?

Or perhaps (yet another option), God created a good person: pure and like Him. And man - thanks to the power that God gave him - is able to ruin it for himself.

This Shabbat we talk about holiness, and living a holy life-style, based on the commandment:

“You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy” (Leviticus 19:2)

‘Kedoshim’ answers the question how we can live a holy life by offering a variety of examples:

Don’t steal, don’t lie, save someone in distress, judge righteously, keep the shabbat, don’t put a stumbling block before the blind, and 50 more commandments that all belong to the category: holiness. With the most important and most essential commandment - according to Yeshua - being:

“love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18)

As believers, we’re asked to preserve holiness in every aspect of love:

“but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’.” (1 Peter 1:15-16)

Being holy means to not oppress your neighbor, to not hate your brother in your heart, to not slander, to not reap the harvest up to the edges of the field (but to leave the gleanings for the poor and the sojourner).

Being holy includes not putting a stumbling block before the blind:

“You shall not (…) put a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:14)

Who is blind? Blindness refers to having less than 1/10 of normal vision in the more efficient eye, which makes putting a stumbling block in front such a person a purely cruel act.

However, blindness could also refer to someone who lacks knowledge. Our sages rightfully decided that blindness could refer to someone who can’t discern, due to the lack of information. Meaning, someone who cannot see clearly and asks for advice before making a decision.

Leviticus 19:14 warns us especially to be careful and ‘fear your God’ when guiding someone in trouble who’s in need of advice. If we mislead someone – for our own good – who depends on us (& our ‘eye sight’ rather than their own), that’s like putting a stumbling block before the blind.

This verse opposes taking advantage for our own good. We’ve probably all heard stories about companies who take advantage of the innocent and trusting elderly by selling them useless products, service and warranty, that only serves the company (but not the client).

That’s an example of putting a stumbling block before the blind, and so we’re warned to ‘fear God’, because after all we’re responsible to Him.

How do we preserve holiness?

According to the New Testament and ‘Kedoshim’, we should preserve sanctity in every area of life, whether it’s our personality, family, work, business or agriculture. We don’t safe-guard holiness from the outside nor from a distance, and not disconnected from society, but actually from the hustle and bustle of life.

Paul summarizes Yeshua’s teachings with the two most important commandments in the Torah, adding that the entire Torah stands on these two things and everything points to the idea of love. And so, if you love your neighbor, the person beside you, you actually fulfill the spirit of the Torah:

“Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,’ and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” (Romans 13:8-10)

And so, all the commandments between others and ourselves can be summed up with ‘love your neighbor as yourself’.

The right to live and to live in the Promised Land, is connected to the holiness of the people. This shows yet another layer of holiness, because it’s plural and not singular:

“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. (…) and you shall keep my Sabbaths (…) you shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another” (Leviticus 19:2-3, 11)

Sanctity of the people is yet another type of holiness. God says that, if we want to live and live in the Promised Land, we must preserve holiness and honesty in every aspect of our life:
It’s not just about an individual bank robber, which is a wrong, but also rare.

It’s about not lying in politics (something that became very common). It’s about not lying nor stealing concerning taxes, and not using business tricks and fine prints in contracts.
It’s about not needing a lawyer to check every contract and agreement, from fear of being lied to and cheated.
It's about not finding loop holes in the legal system to cheat people.
God commands us, as a society, to purge the evil from our midst and to be holy, also in a public setting.

What can we learn from this Torah Portion?

Holiness isn’t only part of the sacrificial worship or the Temple service, but is also an essential part of how we help and interact with our neighbors with love and patience.
Holiness isn’t only about caring for the orphans and the needy, and not just about doing good deeds, but it’s also when we keep the commandment to honor the Shabbat.

Holiness isn’t just for our private life as believers, because it’s possible and required for the entire society, as well.
Holiness is possible in every aspect of life.

Let’s end with the following words of Yeshua:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Mathew 22:36-40)

Yehuda Bachana: Love The Lord Your God With All Your Heart – Kedoshim [2023 – Parashat Acharei Mot-Kedoshim]

Read the transcript below, or watch a video of the teaching by Yehuda Bachana.

After several weeks of dealing with issues of ritual purity and the clean and unclean foods, this week we move forward and we talk about holiness. We are commanded to:

“Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.” (Leviticus 19:2)

We will also talk about faith, religion and ceremony, and discuss the practical aspects of life, as our Torah portion answers the question, how can we practically live a life of holiness? It gives us examples of such a life, and we’ll talk about them later.

But first, I would like to speak about the interesting combination of the words “decrees and laws”, which appear more than 20 times in the Bible, and several times in today’s reading.

“You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees. I am the Lord your God. Keep my decrees and laws, for the person who obeys them will live by them. I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 18:4-5)

The same pair of words also appear in prophetic writings, like in our weekly Haftorah from Ezekiel chapter 20 verse 11:

“I gave them my decrees and made known to them my laws, by which the person who obeys them will live.”

What are they, these laws and decrees, and what is the meaning of the phrase; “Live by them?” which often comes right after mentioning “laws and decrees”?

According to Judaism, there are 613 commandments in the Bible, with the first and immediate division into two groups “to do” and “not to do” commandments.

The second division of the commandments is between “laws” and “decrees;” these are two different categories: “Laws" are commandments with a clear reason and purpose and their benefit is obvious. They are part of any legal regulations that are necessary in every society, such as the prohibitions not to murder, not to steal or not to give a false testimony. These are clear and logical. Such laws exist in every civilized society or country, and even if they are not exactly the same, then similar arrangements are in place. For example, instead of “appoint a king over you” (Deut. 17:15) most countries have an elected president or prime minister; but the principle is the same.

“Decrees”, on the other hand, are commandments, without a clear logical reason behind them. In this category we include the ritual commandments, the regulations between people and God, and everything else, that is not part of the civil law. Commandments like building a booth, a Sukkah, during the Feast of Tabernacles.

If you do not belong to the people who were redeemed from Egypt, and unless it is part of your collective memory, such a commandment, to build a booth, will have no meaning or reason for you. Only in connection to Israel, this commandment has spiritual, religious, and even national meaning. Also, the Sabbath, repeated again in our portion, has no social meaning.

It is related to the story of Creation. God rested on the seventh day, so He sanctified the seventh day. Here as well, the meaning of the Sabbath is religious, Biblical, and maybe even national, but it is not part of civil law.

I am not saying, that these commandments are less important; not at all. They protected our people in exile and kept us from assimilation. I am just saying that these commandments are not kept and not enforced anywhere outside of the Torah-observant world. These commandments are called “decrees.”

The “laws” that are similar to the civil laws of society, are meant to add moral qualities to our life. They are meant to build a better society and better relationships between people.

The “decrees” are meant to give us holiness; to bring us closer to God.

The laws and decrees compete each other and together, these two groups cover our relationships with each other and with God.

In my opinion, this is the reason why, when Yeshua was asked, which is the greatest and most important commandment, he mentioned the two, equally important.

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. ‘All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Mathew 22:36-40)

When Yeshua is asked what is the greatest and the most important commandment, he gave his answer in two parts, the first - between man and God, and the second, between man and his neighbor.

If we are working in both directions, if we have love and the desire to serve God, as well as love and the desire to serve those around us, to help other people, then we fulfill the entire Torah. Because the Torah is dealing with these two questions: proper relationships between people, and how to bring people closer to God.

One of the questions that always come up in every religious dispute is about a good person; one who always tries to help others, and why isn’t it enough?

The answer is simple. If this person keeps only half of the requirements, he is keeping the laws. But what about the decrees that are supposed to bring people closer to God, that give people holiness?

The same claim can be addressed to people of faith, those who are religious. What about those who keep everything between man and God and keep all the religious requirements; is that enough?

The answer is the same. If such a person only keeps half of the requirements, what about the laws that are supposed to bring us closer to other people, and give us holiness?

What is it, that gives holiness to a man?
This is exactly what our Torah portion is talking about. It lays out before, us everything we have to do:
it is forbidden to steel, forbidden to lie, we are obligated to save a person in danger, our court system must be just, we must keep the Sabbath, it is forbidden to put an obstacle before the blind, and an additional 50 commandments, all of which can be categorized as requirements for holiness. Then, the most important and fundamental among them, according to Yeshua is:

“Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18)

In his first letter, Peter is asking us, the believers, to be holy in all aspects of our life:

“But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1st Peter 1:15-16)

When thinking of holiness or a holy person, we usually imagine someone who is separated from the world, who lives in a desert. Or a monk in deep meditation on a high mountain in Tibet, or a rabbi, whose life is completely dedicated to study the Torah.

But this is not what Peter is talking about. On the contrary, ‘be holy in all you do’ means - in the way you live. A person is asked to keep holiness in the very stir of life, actively participating in it.

Peter equates two passages from Leviticus. The first from chapter 11, deals with the most basic aspects of life; the kitchen and food. Holiness is not limited to the Temple, or to a certain religious ceremony. Holiness exists in every place, in every time, and in every person and even in food. After a long list of creatures, we are not allowed to eat, comes God’s order:

“Be holy, because I am holy.” (11:44)

This order comes in connection with prohibition to eat defiled food. Here, in our Torah portion, the concept of holiness and the demand to be holy appears again. This is where Peter’s second quote comes from; the demand to “Be holy in all you do.”

To be holy means not to take advantage of your neighbor, not to hate your brother in your heart, not to slander. It means to reap from your field, but leave its fringes for the poor and needy.

To be holy means not to “…put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but fear your God. I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:14)

And who is the blind?

It could be a person with a disability who literally cannot see with his eyes? In such case, putting a stumbling block before him would be a really cruel joke; it would be a pure evil.

But, at the same time, a blind man can be someone, who is lacking knowledge or information. Our sages already said that someone without knowledge, someone who comes to you for advice or a recommendation, is like a person who is blind in a certain area and is asking which way to choose: what decision to make.

And we must be careful in what we advise them. The Bible tells us to “fear… God”. In this context, the blind is a person in trouble, who needs good advice, and if we mislead the one who trusts us, for personal gain, it is as if we put a stumbling block in a street in front of the blind.

This verse speaks of taking advantage of others for personal gain. For example, the horrible stories of companies that are selling appliances, guarantees and services to the elderly.

Charging them extra and taking advantage of their trust and lack of knowledge, while knowing with certainty, that they are giving bad advice; misleading and over-charging the elderly, all for the sake of greed and personal gain. This is an example of placing an obstacle before the blind, and “fear of God” is written exactly for these kinds of wrong practices, and we should be very careful not to do it.

How do we keep holiness?

According to the New Testament, and according to our Torah portion, we ought to keep holiness in every aspect of our life; in our personal and family life, in agriculture, at work and in business. The holiness is not kept from outside, from afar, but from within the activities of life.

Paul summarizes Yeshua’s teaching about the two most important commandments of the Torah, saying that everything boils down to love. If you love your neighbor, love the person next to you, you fulfill the purpose of the Torah. In this way, the entire Torah is fulfilled in one commandment:
“Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Paul Summarizes the whole Torah with these verses:

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Romans 13: 8-10)

All the commandments concerning people and their neighbors, are included in the verse “Love your neighbor as yourself”.

Now we need to understand the meaning of the phrase “live by them” in connection with the laws and the decrees. In this Torah portion, God warns us not to follow the ways of Egypt, or the ways of the local inhabitants of Canaan, who did not keep purity or holiness, who corrupted and defiled the Land, and because of this, God drove them out.

God warns the people of Israel and us today, if we want to be worthy of living in Israel, in the Holy Land, we have to keep the Word of God.

All of this appears in the conclusion of our Torah Portion:

‘Keep all my decrees and laws and follow them, so that the land where I am bringing you to live may not vomit you out. You must not live according to the customs of the nations I am going to drive out before you. Because they did all these things, I abhorred them. But I said to you, “You will possess their land; I will give it to you as an inheritance, a land flowing with milk and honey.” I am the Lord your God, who has set you apart from the nations.” (Leviticus 20:22-24)

This text is talking about the continuity of the nation and the family; about the duty to keep the commandments. But also about passing the Word of God to the next generations, so that they will continue to live and prosper in the land of Israel.

I will like to conclude with the statement of Yeshua:

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Mathew 22:36-40)

Joseph Shulam: Humility Toward God [2023 – Parashat Acharei Mot Kedoshim ]

This week we have a double Torah Portion to read and study. We read from Acharei Mot and Kedoshim. It is an interesting combination of Torah Portion names. Acharei Mot means after the death of two of Aaron’s sons from the last Torah portion. Kedoshim means Holy. The combination of Acharei Mot Kedoshim implies that after the death comes the saints.

We will read in the Torah from Leviticus 16:1-20:27. In concert with the Torah reading, we have a fascinating and very important Haftarah reading in the Prophets from Amos 9:7-15, and from the New Testament, Galatians 5:1-26.

Every one of these readings is monumental and of great importance. I am debating with my self what, of these important portions of the Word of God, to tackle in this week’s Jerusalem Prayer List. My decision is to do a kind of smorgasbord and take a little from each of these readings.

From Acharei Mot portion I will take the following verse:

“He shall be dressed in a sacral linen tunic, with linen breeches next to his flesh, and be girt with a linen sash, and he shall wear a linen turban. They are sacral vestments; he shall bathe his body in water and then put them on.”

Aaron, the High Priest of Israel, had very elaborate clothes with the golden breast plate, that had 12 precious stones; one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel, and a special hat with a golden diadem on which the holy name of God was carved. Aaron, under normal circumstances, had a special uniform: very fancy. You can read the record of what Aaron, the Brother of Moses, had to wear in the book of Exodus chapter 28.

In our reading on this Shabbat, in the portion of Acharei Mot, it seems that after the death of Aaron’s two sons, by divine fire from heaven for bringing “Strange Fire” to the Altar of the Lord, God instructs Aaron to wear the simplest, cleanest, clothing as he approached the people and the Altar.

Linen clothing were actually used for the underwear in those days. If you visit Cairo, Egypt, and the Egyptian Museum, you can actually see the linen underwear of the pharaoh, made of simple linen cloth. Also the death cloths for Jews were made from pure linen.

What can we learn from these instructions for the High Priest? Here is my understanding. 1) Coming to serve God in all and any circumstances ought to be with humility. Humility requires inward attitude with sincerity and purity of heart. Humility means that the servant of God doesn’t see himself above the people whom he serves, in anyway. Humility means clean, and simple, beautiful in the simplicity.

Look, I like nice clothes and there is no doubt that I have some that I collected over the years. I wouldn’t say that they are expensive, but they are nice and most of my suites were made by an old Arab/Palestinian tailor who lived on the mount of olives in Jerusalem. For years he tailored suites for me charging 170 US dollars per suite. The cloth I found in places around the world from market places for cheap. Yes, I like nice clothes and nice things.

However, reading the Torah every week does something interesting for me. Every week after reading the Torah and the Prophets and sometimes also from the New Testament, there seems to be something in the text of God’s Word that just gives me a pinch in my heart, and little guilt feeling, a little remorse. With the coronavirus two and a half years ago, I also retired from the directorship and leadership of Netivyah Bible Instruction Ministry and decided that I have plenty and don’t need to buy more suites and shirts. The only thing I might need to buy in the future is underwear and socks.

Let me take you back to the text of Leviticus 16 and mention that these instructions for Aaron, the High Priest of Israel, to wear only linen garments as he approaches the Lord and His altar, is especially fitting the time after the death of his two first sons. What motivated these two well trained sons of the High Priest, Nadav and Avihu?

1) They had the impression that they are the sons of Aaron the High Priest, well trained and accomplished priests and that they know what is right and had freedom to improvise. What different it would make where we get the fire from, fire is fire is fire, and why should we walk to the other side of the Tent of Meeting when we have fire just very close to the entrance? They had a casual attitude toward their calling as servants of God.

2) They could have had a theological attitude that allowed them to take God lightly. God is full of love and grace, God wouldn’t mind us to bring fire from close to the Tabernacle. Why would God force us to walk another 50 meters to bring simple fire.

Dear brothers I have been teaching the word of God for 63 years in Israel and around the world. I have had so much experience and have made more than a few mistakes myself. We all have anemia, a severe shortage of THE FEAR OF GOD and also a shortage of humility.

As leaders and servants of God, we must take a big humble pill and another big pill of fearing the Almighty God, who sees all and knows all and especially judges His servants more harshly. FEAR GOD. “And now, O Israel, what does your God יהוה demand of you? Only this: to revere your God יהוה, to walk only in divine paths, to love and to serve your God יהוה with all your heart and soul…” Deuteronomy chapter 10.

Now I want to glean from the Haftarah of Amos 9:7-15. This text has one of the most important principles in all the prophetic literature of our Bible. Verse 7 has this extremely important principle. If I state this principle in my own words it would be:

“People of God, you should know that I, the Lord, am the Lord of the whole earth and of every nation. Don’t think that you have any ownership over me. Just like you Israelites, know that I am your God and I took you out of slavery in the land of Egypt. I have also moved other nations from one location to another. Stop thinking that you are exclusive for me.

I am the God of all nations and all people on the face of MY earth. Verses 11-15 have important principles more specifically for the restoration of the nation of Israel, back to God and to the Land of Israel.

“On that day I will raise up The tabernacle of David, which has fallen down, And repair its damages; I will raise up its ruins, And rebuild it as in the days of old; That they may possess the remnant of Edom, And all the Gentiles who are called by My name,” Says the LORD who does this thing. “Behold, the days are coming,” says the LORD, “When the plowman shall overtake the reaper, And the treader of grapes him who sows seed; The mountains shall drip with sweet wine, And all the hills shall flow with it. I will bring back the captives of My people Israel; They shall build the waste cities and inhabit them; They shall plant vineyards and drink wine from them; They shall also make gardens and eat fruit from them. I will plant them in their land, And no longer shall they be pulled up from the land I have given them,” Says the LORD your God.” (Amos 9:11–15 NKJV).

The importance of these words of God for the gentiles in the body of Christ is enormous and most of the time it is ignored. You see this is the texts that saved the Gentiles in the Church from needing circumcision.

This text is the quotation that Jacob (James in English), the brother of the Lord ,is bringing to the conference of Acts chapter 15, in the debate of what to do with the Gentiles who are leaving idolatry and joining with the Apostles and the Jewish Disciples to people of God.

Starting from Amos 9:7, God is setting the stage to announce that He is the God of all people, all nations, and is acting among the nations of the world. From Amos 9:11-15, the topic is the nation of Israel. In order to keep this Jerusalem Prayer List short here is the quotation that Jacob (James) brings to close the argument for all the participants in that Acts 15 discussion:

“And after they had become silent, James answered, saying, “Men and brethren, listen to me: Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name. And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written: “After this I will return And will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins, And I will set it up; So that the rest of mankind may seek the LORD, Even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, Says the LORD who does all these things.’ “Known to God from eternity are all His works.Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.”” (Acts 15:13–21 NKJV)

Here are the points that Jacob (James) brings from Amos chapter 9:
1. “I will rebuild the tabernacle of David which has fallen down.” Speaking of the relationship of Israel to God, He is not speaking of the temple in Jerusalem that was probably still standing in Jerusalem.

2. “I will set it up so that the rest of mankind may seek the LORD.

3. “Even the Gentiles who are turning to God.”

4. We have some requirements for them to observe:

a. “Stay away from idolatry or anything that resembles idolatry.”

b. “Stay away from sexual immorality.”

c. “Stay away from meat that is strangled.” (This means meat that is not slaughtered according to the laws of the Torah.) The neck of the living animal has to be cut just right like the Jews and the Muslims still keep and wouldn’t eat meat that is killed in any other way. For the Jews it is called Kosher and for the Muslims it is called Halal.

d. There is a tacit recommendation for the Gentiles to go to the synagogues on the Sabbath day because there they can hear the preaching and the reading of the Torah on the Sabbath day.

These are the instructions that the Apostles agree upon and sent letters to the congregations of the Gentiles in the known world, recommending and instructing them what to do in order to be in fellowship with the Jewish disciples of Yeshua in the same congregations. It is interesting that I don’t know even one church who pays any attention to the apostolic demands / recommendations / commands.

There may be some who do, but I don’t know of any and I have been around the world a few times in my life and ministry. Should Christians continue to ignore the Apostolic commands?

From Galatians chapter 5, there is so much that I would like to share with you, but I am going to keep it short:
Galatians chapter 5 has two paradigms that are essential and those two paradigms are also ignored by the majority of Christians: “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this:

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another! I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.” (Galatians 5:14–17 NKJV)

The first thing that I would like to point out is that the Apostle Paul is not releasing the Christians from obedience to the Torah. Not at all! There is a condition that is the principle taken from Leviticus chapter 19. Paul’s statement here is conditional not absolute. If

“You love your neighbor as yourself.”

And “If you walk in the Spirit (of the Torah).” And “if you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh… “so that you don’t do the things that you wish.” Only then you are not under the Torah.

Off course, the most difficult and the most ignored of this apostolic paradigm, is the last statement: “so that you don’t do the things that you wish!” Just think of this Apostolic paradigm / command / instruction. Most of us, 99% of all the time, we struggle and fight and wish and strive to do only what we WISH.

I don’t remember my self thinking, I know that I wish to buy this Apple Watch, but I am not going to buy it because I am commanded by the Apostle Paul not to do the things that I wish. I must deny myself this wish / this pleasure / this possibility / this desire! No I will not do what I wish. I will abstain from doing what I wish. I will go home and pray about this and ask God’s SPIRIT to give me a sign and guide me what I should do in this case! May be I ought to do something for my neighbor in place of doing for myself?

You see dear brothers the text that follows this part from Galatians chapter 5 is the works of the flesh and the works of the Spirit. Please read and meditate on these very serious instructions given to us by the Holy Spirit from the pen of the Apostle Paul.

Joseph Shulam: The Call to be Holy [2022 – Parashat Kedoshim]

Reading the word of God these days is almost like reading newspapers or watching television news. It seems like there is one scandal after another.

The world has not been improving much since Adam and Eve sinned in the garden. Humanity has advanced and has grown in numbers. There are many new tools (electronics) that are supposed to help us, humans, to cope better with our lives, and supposed to make our lives more pleasant and easier. Travel has improved, and we can do continental hopping much faster than “Around the World In 80 Days”.

However, one thing that has not moved forward and has not improved at all is our sanctity! We can sing in church about being holy, and we can read the word of God, with verses like:

“To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” – Romans 1:7

“If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.” – 1 Corinthians 3:17

“For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise, your children would be unclean, but now they are holy.” – 1 Corinthians 7:14

“Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren who are with me greet you.” – Philippians 4:21

“…but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.’” – 1 Peter 1:15,16

(This text is taken from Leviticus 19:2, from this week’s Torah portion.)

Do I dare today write a letter to some eldership in some evangelical church and address that church as “saints” – and be taken seriously? I doubt it. The pastor himself will think that I am a little bit funny!

The reading this Shabbat is from Leviticus 19:1 - 20:27. From the prophets, Ezekiel 20:2-20 and 22:1-19. From the New Testament we are reading 1 Peter 1:13-16.

Peter is using this week’s portion of the Torah. He is saying to these disciples of Yeshua in the diaspora that they are called “holy”, by the Holy One who called them to be holy.

I have a problem with this statement from Peter’s letter to the diaspora, especially that he addresses the letter to Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. We know about the problems in Galatia, we know about the problems in the churches in Asia Minor (Turkey of today).

These churches that are being addressed are churches not so much different from the churches that I know in Israel, or in the United States, Europe, Japan, China, Korea, Singapore, Indonesia, and Brazil.

I have a problem calling myself a saint. If I did, my children and my wife would be the first to laugh and think that something is wrong with me.

The problem increases dramatically when we think about the children of Israel in the 40-year trek through the Sinai desert. The command of the Lord from the mouth of Moses is:

“And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them: “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.”” – Leviticus 19:1,2

You see this is not a recommendation. It is a command. It is a demand. “You shall be holy!”

The most wonderful thing is that God doesn’t command the children of Israel, and us today, without giving us the booklet, the manual, of how to operate this machine, called “disciples of the Messiah.” Right after the command comes the “how to” – the instructions of what it means to be holy and how to become holy.

The first thing that a disciple ought to do is start practicing holiness in the closest circle around him:

“Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father, and keep My Sabbaths: I am the Lord your God.” – Leviticus 19:3

Immediately after “revere” (honor, respect, take care of) comes the reward: the Sabbath. A time of rest and refurbishing for both your physical and your spiritual life.

God knows His creation, and He knows that we all need rest, a change of pace, and a time for the emotional, physical, and especially spiritual recharging of our batteries. This is why He gave us the Shabbat – the seventh day – as a day of rest. And He gave us an example from Himself, that God also rested and stopped the work of His creation on the seventh day.

After giving us the first basics for being holy, that is, honor, respect, and obey your father and mother, God gives us more practical and clear instructions:

“Do not turn to idols, nor make for yourselves molded gods: I am the Lord your God.” – Leviticus 19:4

You see, you can’t have a holy, or even an honorable, relationship with anyone – not your wife, not your boss at work, not your friends – without being faithful and trustworthy.

The paradigm is simple: “no one can serve two masters!” As Bob Dylan said, “it may be the devil, or it may be the Lord, but you gotta serve somebody.”

This includes the more detailed instructions in verses 5-8. There is only one God that we worship, because there is only one true God that exists. The one that created our universe is the same one who so loved the world and sent His only begotten Son to save us eternally.

The Lord God has care and love for the poor and for the suffering of His world. He gives us wealth and prosperity, homes and fields, so that we can care and provide for those who are less fortunate.

But, please note how dignified and how honorable the Lord’s way of providing charity for the poor is. They don’t have to come to you, Mr. Richman, and beg and ask for you to give them some charity.

You initiate the charity and the alms for the poor, so that they can come to your fields and glean and gather, without seeing you and without having to look at them and say to yourself, “Oh, what a wonderful person I am, look at all these poor and miserable people that I am feeding.”

No, you will not see them harvesting the edges of your fields. No, you will not have a chance to look into their faces and enjoy the popularity of a charity-giving businessman. No, you will leave their last ounce of dignity and allow them to come to your fields and harvest their own grain or pick for themselves from what you and your workers left in the vineyard for them.

This text I believe is so powerful, and it includes the most famous text in the New Testament, “you shall love your neighbor as yourselves.” These are core teachings that are so basic that most of us don’t think about them, but it is important to me to mention them and let you think about them.

I also have a personal reason for emphasizing the following teaching of this Torah portion. When I was a young lad in Jerusalem, I did break some of these important commands, and when I could, years later, after becoming a disciple of the Messiah, I had to go back to my old Jerusalem neighborhood and repent and do restitution for some of these “pranks” and sins.

“When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. And you shall not glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather every grape of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger: I am the Lord your God.” – Leviticus 19:9,10

The following verses actually speak for themselves. We all know that these things are wrong. If we are guilty of some of these, it is never too late to repent:

“You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another. And you shall not swear by My name falsely, nor shall you profane the name of your God: I am the Lord.” – Leviticus 19:11,12

“You and I, shall not curse the deaf, nor put a stumbling block before the blind, but shall fear your God: I am the Lord.” – Leviticus 19:14

“You shall not go about as a talebearer among your people; nor shall you take a stand against the life of your neighbor: I am the Lord.” – Leviticus 19:16

(This one is a very prevalent sin that so many of us are guilty of, and it is a serious sin. According to Galatians 5 it is a word of the flesh, and it could keep you out of the Kingdom of God.)

“You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” – Leviticus 19:17,18

I would really like to go verse by verse and expound on each one of these very important verses. But I challenge you to read the whole portion of the Torah this week from Leviticus 19:1 - 20:27, and please take your time and meditate on each one of these words of the Lord, because the Holy Spirit tell us in this portion of the Torah how to be holy like the Lord is holy! The “how to” part is even more important than the theoretical part.

Notice one important part in this reading – there is no theology in it. There are no arguments about baptism, or the trinity, or the other stuff that Christians fight over and split the Body of Christ over! To be holy according to God’s instructions is to be what is called in Yiddish “a mench!”

I bless you all with the words of Paul to the church in Thessalonica:

“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:23

Joseph Shulam: Brad TV Video Teaching – Kedoshim [2022 – Parashat Kedoshim]

Read the transcript below, or watch a video of the teaching by Joseph Shulam.

Shalom, my name is Joseph Shulam, in partnership with Brad TV, we are continuing week after week following the Torah portion that is read in all the synagogues of the Jewish people and the Messianic Jews as well, around the world.

It’s a big privilege to be able to go through the Law of Moses week after week in unison and in partnership and in identification together with the people of Israel historically, all the time. From the time of the apostles and Jesus himself, Yeshua himself, the Torah was read in the synagogues every Sabbath. We are following the same order with the rest of the Jewish people.

And this week, we are in what I consider personally as one of the most important chapters in the whole Bible. It’s a chapter that starts with the words,

“…and the Lord spoke to Moses saying, ‘Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel and say to them, “You shall be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, I’m holy.”’”

It’s a very interesting command. A command that we are supposed to be holy because God, our God, our creator, our savior, our teacher, our instructor, our judge is holy, and we as His descendants, His children, His brothers and sisters have to be holy as well, have to be holy. You shall be holy because I, the Lord, your God, I’m holy. It’s a command that most Christians that I know don’t know how to chew, don’t know how to practice it. The reason they don’t know how to practice it because it remains in the evangelical and the Christian world abstract.

Be holy. What does it mean to be holy? How should I be holy? Well, here is the Jewish way of looking at it. We have the principle in verse 1. From verse 2 to the end of chapter 19, and I would say ad hoc to the rest of the Torah, we have the instruction of how to be holy. What does it mean to be holy? But before I enter into the details of this command that is repeated by the way, in the new Testament as well.

And in the new Testament we have several quotations from this chapter, instructing the brothers and sisters, Jews and Gentiles alike, of how we should behave. What are the principles of our lives on this earth as human beings, as children of God, to be able to be holy like our Father is holy? We’re talking about DNA. The spiritual DNA that we have in us as a result of a new birth, as a result of dying with the Messiah, with Christ, and baptism and raising into a new life, being born again. That DNA is the DNA of the almighty God Himself. The holiness, and he wants us to have that DNA and to live according to it.

So the question is how. And here is the principle. One of the major principles of interpretation of hermeneutics in the Bible and in the Jewish world is the principle is stated and after that, you have the details of how to live out that principle. And chapter 19 is a classical example of this principle. The principle is we should be holy.

Like, why should we be holy? Because the God who created us both physically and spiritually is holy and He wants us to be like Him, like every father wants his children to be like him. Hopefully every father that does right and lives right and walks right and knows God, wants his children to know God and to live right and to walk uprightly like he wants to live.

So here is the principle. The principle is be holy. Be holy because I’m holy. Step number one in being holy is you shall revere, you shall honor your mother and your father and keep my Sabbath, I am the Lord, your God. Seems simple, right? You wanna be holy?

Start honoring your mother and your father. I like this. Why do I like it? Because it says first, mother. Our Western civilization orientation is first, the father, no. God, the Holy Spirit in the Torah says, honor your mother and your father and keep the Sabbath.

I am the Lord, your God. Why should you do that? “Because I’m the Lord, your God.” What does it mean, keep the Sabbath. It means take time to be holy, take time to rest. You cannot be holy and you cannot really honor your father and your mother or your mother and your father according to this text, unless you take time. Take time to visit them, take time to honor them, take time to revere them, take time to spend time with your father and your mother. After you get married, yes. With your children, with your wife.

Don’t stop honoring your mother and your father just because now you have a family of your own, no. I know that in Asia, in Korea, Japan, China even, people have great honor for their ancestors, for their mothers and their fathers and their grandmothers and their grandfathers even after their death. Yes, much more than in the West.

But this is the law of God written thousands of years ago and given to us, to Jews and non-Jews alike, as a constitution by which we not only talk about it, but we worship God according to it. And we worship God by the way we react toward our family, toward our neighbors, toward our fellow men.

Because God is in heaven far from us physically, but our neighbors, our parents, our brothers, our sisters are close to us, and our faith is anthropocentric. In other words, men, our fellow man, is at the center of our religious experience, of our godly experience.

Let’s look at the bigger detail of this thing. Do not turn to idols nor make yourself a molding God. I am the Lord, your God. Notice after every big command, it repeats, I am the Lord, your God. It means I’m here, I’m watching you, I am watching you. I know what you’re doing, I know what your heart is thinking.

Don’t create for yourself idols. Idols are something that we as men, as human beings create, that push God aside. Even if we go to church and even if we worship, and even if we give, and even if we’re volunteer, and even participate, we could create idols in our own mind that push God aside, that’s an idol.

If it is a bad habit, if it is addiction, if it is hidden sins, those are idols that push God aside out of the picture. And if you offer a sacrifice or a peace offering to the Lord, you shall offer it from your own free will. Oh, this is powerful. That includes the giving to the church, the giving to missions, the giving to charity. Don’t do it for any other reason than your own free will, because you want to. Not because you have to, not because you were obligated to, not because the pastor says that you’re going to gain something out of it, no, from your free will.

Give freely, because you in your heart and in your soul want to give, you give. If it’s not for that, don’t give. Because it becomes an abomination, it reverses the blessing, if you give for the wrong reason, in order to gain something. Pastors who teach that are misleading you dear brothers and sisters.

Next thing, I’m now in verse 8. Therefore everyone who eats the sacrifice, shall bear his inequity, because he has profaned and hollowed that offering of the Lord. That person shall be cut off from is people. In other words, if you offer sacrifices, any sacrifice; could be a contribution on Sunday morning; could be money for charity; could be for anything, for the wrong reason. You are profaning the holy name of God and you shall be cut off from your people.

That’s the worst punishment that there is in the Bible, worse than death. To be cut off from among your people is worse than death. Yes, it’s the worst punishment that Torah has; its “kareth”, to be cut off from your people. Your connection with the community, your connection with the nation, your connection with God Himself will be severed. God will hide his face from you and your prayers will not even reach the ceiling.

Yes, serious. So when you give, when you do something right for God, do it with the right reason, with the right intention, with the right motives or don’t do it at all, because it becomes a reverse. Yes, it becomes a reverse.

Next thing, verse 9 of chapter 19. When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of the field nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. And you shall not glean your vineyard nor shall you gather the grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and the stranger. I am the Lord, your God. In other words, this is the way to give charity, the Biblical way.

When you harvest, don’t harvest everything, leave an edge for the poor, that they themself can come and harvest for themself. Don’t package it and give it to them as charity. Let them come to your field after your harvesting is finished and harvest for themself, where they don’t have to look you in the face, they don’t have to beholden to you as the boss, as the owner of the field, but they privately, honorably will go and harvest for themselves, and don’t have to contend with you as the magnanimous, charitable, liberal giver, face to face.

I think that this is a wonderful way to give, to give in secret, and that’s what Yeshua taught. He said, “Don’t let your right hand know what your left hand is doing.” Yeah, when you give, give secretly, and it works, and it’s a blessing, and that is in the agricultural society of those days, that worked.

We are not in the agricultural society, most of us are in urban society. But even there, we can find ways to give without having to have the poor person, the needy person be beholden to us but beholden to the almighty God for the charity that God provides through you and me, very important.

The next thing, don’t steal, don’t cheat your brother, don’t deal falsely, don’t lie one to another, that’s verse 11 of chapter 19. You wanna be holy? That’s the way to be holy. Stop lying to one another, stop stealing from one another, stop taking advantage of the weaknesses of one another. Stand as brothers, children of the same father with each other. That’s the way to be holy.

So practical, so amazingly simple, so amazingly easy to do if we really want to be holy. I know, you know, going to church in in my early days, to a Protestant evangelical church, when I was in high school, I heard people singing time to be holy, and all kinds of songs about holiness. But all of these songs led you to some kind of mystical experience, to be holy, I am holy. But this, the law Moses, gives us the practical, every day, every occasion outcome of how to be holy; a command that was repeated in the New Testament.

Don’t lie, don’t cheat, don’t take advantage of the weak, don’t take advantage of the gullible, don’t profane the name of the Lord, don’t rob your neighbor, don’t rob your worker by giving less wages than he deserves according to law. Pay him what he deserves for his work from dawn till evening.

And now my favorite; don’t curse the deaf, nor put the stumbling block before the blind. You shall fear the Lord, your God, I am the Lord. Even if you don’t fear the deaf, because he doesn’t even hear you, or the blind because he doesn’t see you, don’t put the stumbling block before him. Fear the Lord, your God. God sees you. God sees your sins. God hears your lies, and God is going to punish you.

Yes, the God who sent His son to the world, because He so loved the world that He doesn’t want anybody to be condemned to hell forever. That same God sees you, and He is a God who gives the just their reward and the evil, their punishment.

That’s also in the New Testament, book of Hebrews and other places. So don’t curse the deaf. You say, well, what does that hurt? The deaf, he doesn’t hear me. Yes, he doesn’t hear you, but God hears you. Don’t put a stumbling before the blind. Yes, he doesn’t see you, but God sees you.

Fear the Lord, your God, I am the Lord, verse 15. Don’t do injustice in the judgment. If you’re in a situation where you have to judge, you have to adjudicate, you have to weigh for the good or for the bad, for your workers, for the members of your family, for your grandparents, for members of the community, remember to do justice in your judgment. Don’t be partial against the poor, don’t be honorable to the rich because they’re rich.

Be seekers of righteousness in your judgment, in relationship to your neighbor, to your fellow man. Don’t take advantage of him because he is ignorant of the law. Don’t take advantage of his weakness and give advantage of somebody who’s rich and powerful that can reward you later. No, be just, be righteous, judge equitably. Don’t be a tail bearer, don’t gossip, don’t speak against your neighbors. You wanna be holy, these are the rules of how to be holy.

The rest of chapter 19 gives us the rules of how to be holy. And of course, the main rule that appears so many times in the New Testament, you shall not take vengeance or bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you should love your neighbor as yourself. Paul, in the end of the book of Romans, and the gospels and the other letters, repeats these commands; love your neighbor as yourself and love the Lord, these two commandments, the whole law and the prophets depend upon these two commandments. Love your neighbor as yourself.

So, the rules are, the Jewish way of interpreting this, you should love yourself enough to be able to love your neighbor. Because if you don’t love yourself, how can you love somebody else? Even your wife and your children. Love yourself enough to transfer that degree, that quality of love, agape love, for your neighbor. And then that will spread around like a good fire to the people around you, to your community, to the saints in your life.

Then all the sexual purity. You want to be holy? You have to control your carnality. Whoever lies carnally with a woman who is betrothed to a man in as a concubine, and who has not at all been redeemed nor given her freedom, for this shall be scourging, but she’ll not put to death because she was not free.

Yes, sexual immorality is a way to take you away. Separate you from God’s holiness. It is taking advantage, unfair advantage of your fellow men, and that will separate you from God’s holiness. And if you separate yourself from God’s holiness, there’s no way that you can enter into God’s presence, down here on Earth, in prayer, in worship or after your death.

Yes, that will separate you. And if you sin, offer a trespass offering, a sin offering. Go to the priest, ask him to atone for you by sacrificing a ram of trespass of sin offering before the Lord for his sin which has been committed, and the sin which has been committed shall be forgiven him. In other words, repentance costs. And we don’t teach that enough, that repentance costs.

Also, the next texts are fascinating for us today. When you come into the land and have planted all kinds of trees for food, fruit trees, you shall count their fruit as uncircumcised. Three years, it shall be as uncircumcised to you, it shall not be eaten. Let the tree, you know, mature a little bit.

Don’t harvest the tree until you give them a three years’ time to enjoy the fruit of its production, of the fruitfulness, fertility. On the fourth year, all its fruit shall be holy and be given to the Lord. Only in the fifth year that you plant a tree, all the fruit is yours except the tithe that you have to give to the Lord.

You shall not eat anything with blood. You shall not practice witchcraft and divination and soothsaying. You shall not shave around the sides of your head nor shall you disfigure the edges of your beard. In that culture, that was a part of being a man. Yes, there was no Gillette shaver or electric shaver, and so that’s why it says that, you know, because most people had beards.

When you look at the Egyptian pictures on the walls of the tombs, whether it’s in Saqqara, ancient Memphis or in Thebes, ancient Thebes, and you look at it, the men had beards. Why did they have beards? They had beards because there was no Gillette shavers or electric shavers. It was difficult to shave, it was difficult to have a sharp enough knife to shave right without hurting yourself, without damaging your face. And men had beards. You can wear a beard.

But don’t do tattoos, don’t disfigure your skin. It’s a sin to tattoo. When I see Christians and even pastors that after they became believers, they go and tattooed themselves, I see their ignorance the word of God. God didn’t change his mind, didn’t say the law that I gave Moses is obsolete, is finished, don’t worry about it, you can do whatever you want. Sexually, you can cheat your brother, you can gossip against him, you could take advantage of the poor, no.

The New Testament assumes that all the word of God, from Genesis to Revelation, is given by inspiration of God and it’s good for reproof and correction and instruction. That’s what Paul says to his disciple, Timothy. So, is he right or is he wrong? If he’s right, that means that the whole word of God is important to for us.

Verse 29, do not prostitute your daughter or cause her to be a harlot, less the land fall into harlotry and the land becomes full of wickedness. It happens in many cultures. It shouldn’t happen, especially not for Christians or for disciples of Jesus Christ.

May God bless all of us dear brothers and sisters. Keep reading the word of God. There’re so much more instructions.

The last thing that I want to say, because I have gray hair and I’m an old man, I’m 76 years old, is this, verse 32 of chapter 19. You want to be holy? You shall rise before the gray headed and honor the presence of an old man and fear your God, I am the Lord. I want to end here.

God bless all of you. Keep reading, keep studying, keep applying what is applicable to you in your life. May God bless all of you and all of us here in Jerusalem, amen.

Joseph Shulam: The Word of God is God's Word [2022 – Parashat Acharei Mot]

The reading of the the Torah this next Shabbat will be Acharei Mot (“after the death of Aaron’s sons”), Leviticus 16:1 - 18:30. From the prophets (the Haftarah) we will read from Amos 9:7-15, and from Hebrews we will read from Hebrews 9:11-28.

These readings from the Torah, the prophets and from the New Testament are all very important. The Torah reading starts with the mention of the death of Aaron’s two sons. Aaron is being limited by God in his approach and personal freedom to just enter into the holy Tabernacle.

God says to Moses:

“Tell Aaron your brother not to come at just any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat which is on the ark, lest he die; for I will appear in the cloud above the mercy seat.” – Leviticus 16:2

What is going on here? Aaron’s two older sons died a hurried death by the hand of the Lord for bringing strange fire to the altar.

From the context of the story it is understood by the rabbinical commentators that the reason why Nadab and Abihu died is that they had drank wine before their service in the holy Tabernacle of the Lord. They understood that these well-trained priests – sons of Aaron, the brother of Moses – were not careful and brought strange fire to the altar because of the wine that they drank.

Aaron, as their father but also as the chief priest of Israel, should have at least limited responsibility for not having impressed upon his sons (educated them better) to take the work of the Lord more seriously.

Now, the Lord has limited Aaron’s own freedom and access to the service of the Lord in the Tabernacle of Meeting. There is something in this that to us in our modern egalitarian world seems not fair.

Why should God put a limitation on Aaron and his service as the high priest of Israel? Well, what I learn from this is that fathers, and family in general, have some limited responsibility for what and how their children behave, and if they sin.

Yes, we do have in the Torah these phrases:

“…keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.” – Exodus 34:7 [NKJV]

“The Lord is longsuffering and abundant in mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He by no means clears the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation.’” – Numbers 14:18 [NKJV]

God does change His mind some hundreds of years later, and proclaims that the principle of visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation is stopping. Here is the first time that God says that this principle will no longer be practiced:

“In those days they shall say no more: ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, And the children’s teeth are set on edge.’ But every one shall die for his own iniquity; every man who eats the sour grapes, his teeth shall be set on edge.” – Jeremiah 31:29,30 [NKJV]

A much more elaborate text on this change is in Ezekiel chapter 18. The whole chapter deals with this major change in the Law of Moses.

There are two principles that I see here. The first is that Fathers ought to share some responsibility for the acts of their children.

Yes, that responsibility is not direct, especially when the children have grown up and have already left home and have developed their own lives and occupations. But, the principle stated by the book of Proverbs:

“Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.” – Proverbs 22:6 [NKJV]

This principle does, in my opinion, put some limited responsibility on the father and even the mother for the outcome of their children. Yes, it is not a punitive responsibility, but it is an a priori red light that says to parents if you want your children to become upright and good citizens, which is good for your children but also good for you as a family, than you better remember that what you invest and sow you also reap!

The second point that is that parenting is a great challenge, not only for the children’s future, but also for the parental responsibility.

The rest of this Torah portion in chapter 16 of Leviticus reveals to us the whole ceremony of the Day of Atonement, “Yom HaKippurim” in Hebrew. Even in our own days, where we don’t have a temple, and we don’t have a high priest, and we don’t sacrifice animals or send the “scapegoat” out into the Judaean desert to die, the Day of Atonement is still the most solemn day of the year in every Jewish community. Especially in Jerusalem.

The report is that over 70% of the Jewish population of Israel actually fasts 25 hours without food or drink and over 50% of Israel’s Jewish population actually visits the synagogues for a period of time. I remember my mother, who didn’t believe in God, and my father, who also didn’t believe in God, making some special preparations for the Day of Atonement. Yes, they didn’t fast from food and drink, but they didn’t make regular meals either.

In chapter 17 of Leviticus we see another law of God that is changed later on in the days of the late kings of Judea. The change is reflected in the book of Deuteronomy.

In Leviticus 17 we have the very clear and very serious command that any animal – a bull, a cow, a goat, or a sheep – that is slaughtered for food must be slaughtered by the local priest in a ceremonial, sanctified fashion. And a portion of the meat is given to the priest and for the altar.

After the finding of the book of Deuteronomy in the days of King Josiah, people can kill an animal for food, and not only the priests:

“However, you may slaughter and eat meat within all your gates, whatever your heart desires, according to the blessing of the Lord your God which He has given you; the unclean and the clean may eat of it, of the gazelle and the deer alike… When the Lord your God enlarges your border as He has promised you, and you say, ‘Let me eat meat,’ because you long to eat meat, you may eat as much meat as your heart desires.” – Deuteronomy 12:15,20 [NKJV]

We learn from this several very important lessons:

God gave the Torah to Moses in Mount Sinai in front of all of Israel. God can and does change the Torah and the instructions (commandments), like in the case of the children having to suffer because of sins of the fathers.

I believe that this is important for all Bible believers to know and realize, the Word of God is God’s Word. He never gave us the right to change it or add to it!

However He, the Almighty God of Israel, has preserved His right to change and modify His Torah according to the need and time. When I say according to the need, the classic case is with the daughters of Zelophehad:

“Then came the daughters of Zelophehad the son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, from the families of Manasseh the son of Joseph; and these were the names of his daughters: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. And they stood before Moses, before Eleazar the priest, and before the leaders and all the congregation, by the doorway of the tabernacle of meeting, saying: ‘Our father died in the wilderness; but he was not in the company of those who gathered together against the Lord, in company with Korah, but he died in his own sin; and he had no sons.’” – Numbers 27:1-3 [NKJV]

After hearing the complaint of these daughters of Zelophehad, Moses took up the case before the Lord and the Lord changed the Torah to make justice and establish equality in relationship to inheritance between man and woman. So, yes, God can and does change the Torah according to His standards of justice, righteousness, and just plain fairness.

Here is the text that shows that God heard through Moses the problem and changed the Torah and the custom:

“So Moses brought their case before the Lord. And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: ‘The daughters of Zelophehad speak what is right; you shall surely give them a possession of inheritance among their father’s brothers, and cause the inheritance of their father to pass to them.’” – Numbers 27:5-7 [NKJV]

I think that this is an extremely important point for all of us to understand and appreciate the true grace of the Lord and the greatness of His concern and consideration for us His children. The Torah is a living and breathing revelation of the Lord and it is no longer written on stone, but written on our hearts (see Jeremiah 31:31-37).

The heart of God is revealed in the Torah and ultimately in life, death, and resurrection of Yeshua! What a wonderful and living God we have who created this Earth for us, His human children, and placed us here as a preparation for eternity in His presence and in the presence of Yeshua our Savior and God’s own Son, and partner in the creation of this blue ball called Earth!

“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high…” – Hebrews 1:1-3 [NKJV]

The reading from Amos chapter 9:7-15 is also one of the most beautiful texts in the Hebrew Bible. It is a text that reveals God’s universality and His care and concern and control over the world, and not exclusively for Israel.

In fact Jacob (James), in Acts 15, uses this text from Amos to tell us that God has always been concern for all the nations and has never neglected His human children the whole world over. Read this short portion from the prophet Amos and meditate on it. If you have a good commentary of the Bible read it in relationship to this text:

“‘Are you not like the people of Ethiopia to Me, O children of Israel?’ says the Lord. ‘Did I not bring up Israel from the land of Egypt, The Philistines from Caphtor, And the Syrians from Kir? Behold, the eyes of the Lord God are on the sinful kingdom, And I will destroy it from the face of the earth; Yet I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob,’ Says the Lord. ‘For surely I will command, And will sift the house of Israel among all nations, As grain is sifted in a sieve; Yet not the smallest grain shall fall to the ground. All the sinners of My people shall die by the sword, Who say, “The calamity shall not overtake nor confront us.” On that day I will raise up The tabernacle of David, which has fallen down, And repair its damages; I will raise up its ruins, And rebuild it as in the days of old; That they may possess the remnant of Edom, And all the Gentiles who are called by My name,’ Says the Lord who does this thing. ‘Behold, the days are coming,’ says the Lord, ‘When the plowman shall overtake the reaper, And the treader of grapes him who sows seed; The mountains shall drip with sweet wine, And all the hills shall flow with it. I will bring back the captives of My people Israel; They shall build the waste cities and inhabit them; They shall plant vineyards and drink wine from them; They shall also make gardens and eat fruit from them. I will plant them in their land, And no longer shall they be pulled up From the land I have given them,’ Says the Lord your God.” – Amos 9:7-15

We all ought to say Amen!

After reading this important text that put Israel on the map of the world, and breaks the false security and feeling of exclusivity that often times because a spiritual trap to us as Jews and gives us a false pride for God who has chosen us to be His pride possession (“am segula” in Hebrew). These words of the prophet Amos put us back in perspective.

God is the God of all the Earth and He loves the whole world, and sent Yeshua for the whole world and all of humanity, under His umbrella of grace and love!

Joseph Shulam: Brad TV Video Teaching – Acharei Mot [2022 – Parashat Acharei Mot]

Read the transcript below, or watch a video of the teaching by Joseph Shulam.

Shalom, my name is Joseph Shulam. I’m the Director Emeritus of Netivyah Bible Instruction Ministry from Jerusalem, Israel. We are continuing the cooperation and the partnership with Brad TV in Korea in doing the whole Torah, the whole Law of Moses from Genesis to the end of Deuteronomy according to the reading that is read in all the synagogues in the world.

This next Shabbat, the whole world of the synagogues of the Jewish world will be reading a portion that’s called Acharei Mot, after the death of the two sons of Aaron, starting in Leviticus Chapter 16:1, ending in Leviticus 18:30.

The Torah portion is from the Law of Moses, but we also read from the prophets and we also read from the New Testament. So, from the prophets, we’ll be reading from Amos 9:7-15. And from the New Testament we are reading from Galatians 5:1 to the end of the chapter, to Verse 26.

One thing I want to say as an introduction to this portion and to Leviticus in general. We are living in a world that everything is very casual especially in the Western world, in United States and in Western Europe, everything is very casual.

It used to be that IBM required all of their workers to come to work with a white shirt, a tie and a dark jacket, at least, if not a dark suit. And they had to have their shoes polished. And they couldn’t come to work with a suit and sneakers, but that has changed. Everything became less formal, more casual.

There’s advantages and disadvantages. But when it comes to the service of the Lord for the Levites and the priests, they had a strict dress code, a strict dress code for every one of their functions. When the priest went up on the altar to offer the animals as sacrifices, he had to wear certain kinds of clothes, with a certain kind of cloth, from linen cloth.

Whereas when they officiated in public in the holidays, they had to wear all these fancy garments and the breast plate of gold with the 12 stones of the 12 tribes of Israel and the hat with the diadem with the name of the Lord, the four holy letters, and granite on the hat between their eyes. Everything was very formal.

Now after the two sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, died because they brought strange fire into the altar. The text starts this way; Chapter 16:1 of the Book of Leviticus. “Now the Lord spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they offered profane fire before the Lord and died.

The Lord said to Moses, ‘Tell Aaron, your brother not to come at just any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat which is on the Ark, lest he die, for I will appear in the cloud, above the mercy seat. And Aaron shall come into the Holy Place with the blood of a young bull as a sin offering and of a ram as a burnt offering.’” Okay?

The days of casual entrance into the Tabernacle of God are over. That’s what God is telling Moses to tell Aaron. So, first of all, he’s not telling Aaron, he’s telling Moses. Why is God telling Moses and not Aaron himself? Because there is hierarchy. We don’t like hierarchy.

We believe now as a part of Western culture in equality. The French Revolution brought a change in Western civilization. With the cry of the revolutionaries that overthrew the Kings of France “Louis, Louis, Louis.” The way the song says. Yes, they cried, “Liberty, equality and fraternity for all.” Well, liberty we got. Equality, we’re working on it. Fraternity, we’re far from it.

In fact, what has happened with the liberty and the equality is that they’ve driven fraternity way out. We’re now tribal. We’re now individuals. We’re now each man to himself. This is a breakdown of some of the very, very important building stones of democracy.

But here it is. God tells Moses to tell Aaron and his sons, “Don’t just come into My house casually. When you come, first bring a bull. Sacrifice a bull, so that you will be atoned before you come in, even if you don’t know what your sin was if you don’t know what your problem is. At least the bull, as a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering, will mitigate any possible problem between Me and you. Don’t come empty handed into My house.”

That’s what God is telling Moses to tell Aaron his brother and his sons who officiated as the priests in the House of the Lord, in the Tent of the Meeting, in the middle of the desert, in the Tabernacle. But not only that, they have to wash their bodies before they put on their linen garments; before they bring the sacrifices and the offerings of the ram, before they bring the bull as a sacrifice for their own sin. Even if they don’t know that they sinned they have to be sure that when they come into the House of the Lord, they don’t come empty-handed.

This is not only the case of Israelite worship. If you read Canaanite, Babylonian, Assyrian religious records, you find out that this was kind of the culture of worship. Even when they worshiped idols. In Babylon and Assyria, the Canaanites, the Philistines, even when they worshiped idols, they had to have a certain degree of respect in entering the House of the Lord.

It’s an important lesson, dear brothers and sisters. It’s an important lesson that all of us need to learn. The rest of the Chapter 16 deals with all the intricate procedures that the priest had to carry on before they could approach God, even to worship Him, to bless Him, to praise Him. You don’t come in there and do whatever you want. There is protocol. There is the veil. There is the burnt coals on the sensors that produce the good smelling smoke inside the Tent of Meeting. This was true, not only our design for the Tabernacle and the design for King Solomon’s temple. It was not a unique design for Israel. It was the design for the temples of the idols as well.

I participated in 1960s in a dig together with Professor Yigael Yadin in Megiddo. Before us, there were Garstang and Schliemann and other German and European archeologists that started at the turn of the 20th century, 1903, to dig in Megiddo. And they discovered a complex of three temples one next to the other, probably to three of the main idols that those Canaanites and inhabitants of the land at that time worshiped.

All of them had more or less the same design as our Tent of Meeting, in the wilderness and at Solomon’s temple. What is it consisted of? A courtyard for the people, the worshipers to gather around and then a second courtyard for the Levites and the priests to prepare for the sacrificial offerings that was done.

For the priests themselves that entered into the Holy Place, not into the Holy of Holies, but into where there was the candelabra, because it was dark. They had to have a light 24 hours a day and there was the altar of incense which is the altar of prayer, we could say today. And then the altar of sacrifice, that we don’t have today, but we have the image of of Yeshua on the cross that was the everlasting sacrifice that ended all the other worship in Jerusalem according to Daniel 9.

So this procedure that the Law of Moses gives us in Chapter 16 is tedious for Christians who don’t dig deep into the word of God, in the Law of Moses like the Jews do. It’s tedious, how to do this and the other thing, and this incense and the altar and the prayers and the sprinkling of the blood and all of these tedious things, they don’t speak to us. And you will probably not hear many sermons about this in your church.

But the main lesson that I want to pass on to you from Chapter 16 of the Book of Leviticus is that God cares about details. And the details are very important because we are not to be casual with the almighty God, creator of the universe.

And it is a special occasion and a special privilege to approach God in prayer. To talk to God. It’s not like talking to your buddy. We’re talking about the one who created the heavens and the earth, the sun and the moon and the stars and the trees and the grass and the flowers and the elephants and the whales in the ocean, we, me and you too. He created all and gives us life and breath and everything that we are and we have.

Yes, casual is very modern in a postmodern, in a modernistic world, but it’s not a part of the way we approach our God or even Yeshua Ha Mashiach, the son of God.

We need to have much more circumspect, a much more honorable, much more formal attitude toward our prayer life, toward our approach to God, toward our study and hearing from the word of God. Yes. Yes. I think that it’s an important lesson, dear brother and sisters. The causality that, especially in the West. I know in Korea, it’s much more formal. You will not see a pastor coming in with shorts and sandals on Sunday morning to preach from the pulpit.

I’ve been many, many times in Korea from the 1970s on. Until the corona viruses stopped kind of my trips to Korea. But no, in most of the churches in Korea the pastors on Sunday morning are very formal and the music is more formal. But in the West, I’m sad to say, it’s way too casual. And I don’t know how God feels about this but I know how He felt about the children of Israel in the wilderness and what kind detailed instruction He gave them about every detail that is connected with His relationship with them and the people and with the priesthood and with the Levites inside the House of God.

So that’s the first point that I want to make about this portion. And the portion starts with reminding us that the children of Aaron, the priests, the sons of the High Priest of Israel died because they brought strange fire. God was so angry with them that fire came from Him and devoured them. Boom! Burned them on the spot.

So yes, our worship, our offerings, our attitude toward God has to be taken much more seriously. Let me talk about the offering because this section talks about the sacrificial offerings and the blood and what part of the animals that the priest could get, and what they eat and what to do when they enter. All of these details are here in this portion of after the death of the sons of Aaron, that starts in Chapter 16:1 of the Book of Leviticus.

Here it is, dear brother and sisters, our offerings. We have instructions in the New Testament how to give offerings, how to give to charity. And I must say that we don’t really see many of our brothers and sisters in the Christian, Evangelical, Protestant world pay attention to the instructions that God gave us from his mouth, not of Aaron and Moses. From the mouth of Yeshua, Jesus Himself.

As we give charity, as we give to the church, as we give to the poor, as we give for the widows and the orphans if we give for mission work, as we give for the life of the community, we have instructions that when we give charity, it should be done with humility and not with blows of trumpets and announcements and not to visually exemplify how the money is taken. You don’t have to advertise and show to everybody else that you are contributing. It has to be done much more humbly, the way that the gospel tells us, “Let not the right hand know what the left hand is doing.”

Giving in secret is a big blessing for everybody. And you will not go to a Jewish synagogue on the Sabbath day and hear anybody talk about money. But I could tell you right now that the percentage of the money that Jewish community gives to their charities and to their synagogues is higher than most churches that talk about tithing and 10% and so forth, and the blessing and the reaping and the seed, all these things. The reason is because people feel that holiness, that privilege of giving to the Lord. And I think that this is what the reading the Book of Leviticus makes that quite clear, sincerely.

And one of the things that I want to say is that when the law was given in the camp of Israel there were a lot of non-Jews, not Israelites. They were the Hivites and the Kenites, the Canaanites and others that were tribes of non-Israelites, non-Jews, non-Hebrews that joined Moses and the people of Israel when they left Egypt. When they saw what the Jews did, they put the blood on the doorpost, they did the same. And they had the privilege of joining together with Israel out of slavery in Egypt. And they ended up settling with the children of Israel in the land Canaan.

We know Yael, the one that gave a good headache to that Hittite general, Sisera. Yeah, with a tent peg stuck, hammered into his head. Yeah, she was... The English translation... The wife of Heber. No, Heber is not a name of a person. Heber means from the band of the Kenites. The Kenites were one of the tribes that came out of Egypt together with their Israelites non-Jews, non-Israelites, Gentiles.

And the Torah opens up the worship of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the ability and the privilege of sacrificing to God creator of the universe, together with the Israel in the Tabernacle.

In Chapter 17:12, we read,

“Therefore I say to the children of Israel, ‘No one among you shall eat blood nor shall any stranger who dwells among you eat blood.’”

If you live together in the compound of Israel you’re not supposed to eat blood.

And we have the command in Acts 15, where the disciples and the apostles and the elders of church in Jerusalem discussed what to do with the Gentiles. Shall we circumcise them or not? They decide not to circumcise, not to convert them to Judaism but they commanded them, taken from Genesis 9 that they should not eat blood. That’s a command in the New Testament, in Acts chapter... By the apostles and the elders of the church in Jerusalem for all the Gentiles. Not to spill blood, not to eat blood or meats strangled. Yes. And it’s not a command that is only for the first century. It’s a command for all the Gentiles throughout the generations of the disciples of Yeshua from among the nations.

And yes, what can I say? I know that in Korea and Asia eating blood, drinking blood of animals is not uncommon. But I didn’t write the text of the Book of Leviticus and I didn’t write the text of Acts 15. You can’t blame me. I’m only a mirror reflecting what the scripture says for my brothers and sisters to walk closer to God, to Jesus to Yeshua and more according to the word of God which is in the Law of Moses and in the New Testament itself.

“So, the strangers that dwell among you,” I’m going to read it from Chapter 17 of Leviticus, Verse 13. “Whatever man of the children of Israel or the strangers who dwell among you, who hunts and catches any animal or bird that it may be eaten. He shall pour out its blood and cover it with dirt, the life of the flesh is in the blood, its blood sustained its life. Therefore, I say to the children, you shall not eat the blood of any flesh, for the life of the flesh is in the blood, whoever eats it shall be cut off from the people.” That means, rejected from the people. So that command is in the New Testament, by the apostles in Acts 15, is in Genesis 9 long before there were Israelites, long before Abraham was born. And it is also in the Law of Moses, as it is in the Book of Acts.

I am going to end my teaching from this portion called Acharei Mot after the death of the sons of Aaron. And the next portion is going to be very exciting, very important. And I urge you to stick with Brad TV and watch next week. The portion is called Kedoshim. Holy, holy people. It is very important for all of us. And please tune back into Brad TV and watch next week. Shalom from Jerusalem.

Joseph Shulam: How Can Israel be Holy? [2021]

The Torah portion this week is a double portion, Acharei Mot-Kedoshim, Leviticus 16:1 - 20:27 and from the prophets we are reading Ezekiel 22:1-19. From the New Testament we are reading Matthew 15:10-20.

The Torah reading from Leviticus is so full of interesting and important instructions that I will have to do a special Facebook teaching on the Acharei Mot portion. In this prayer list I would like to concentrate on the Kedoshim text. The reading of the Kedoshim portion starts in Lev. 19:1,2:

“And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them: “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.”’” – Leviticus 19:1,2 [NJIV]

I have a problem with this command. My problem is this, how could the Lord God of Israel who took the people of Israel out of Egyptian slavery and has been dealing with them for several months in the wilderness of Sinai, dealing with their complaints, dealing with their demands, dealing with their rebellion, with the Golden Calf, etc. now come to Moses and ask him, to command this group of rabble rousers and problematic people to become a holy nation?

Well, that was my first reading of the text and from there came my question. Now, that I have read the text more than one time here are some of my observations:

  1. The Lord didn’t make it a commandment for the nation of Israel to become Holy!
  2. The Lord said to Moses “speak” – He didn’t say “command.” This I realize is important. You can’t command people to become holy. Just like you can’t command people to love one another. You can speak, suggest, encourage, edify, but not command. Because to love and to be holy can only be a choice made freely and from the heart of an individual.
  3. The Lord also made a promise to the people of Israel: “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” In this promise there is no time mentioned. In this promise there is no room for doubt – it is emphatic “you shall be holy” and the reason that you shall be holy is because “for I the Lord your God am holy!” When I understood this, my heart calmed down. I hope that your heart is also calm knowing that our God is always faithful to His promises.
  4. The upshot of this text is that The Lord will make us a holy nation, a nation of priests to serve His world, the nations that he created, His people. The big question is how, will He, the almighty one of Israel, make us holy? Here is my understanding based on the following texts from the New Testament:

    “…that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word… that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” – Ephesians 5:26,27 [NJKV]

    “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:23 [NKJV]

  5. The Ephesians 5 passage is talking about the church, the community of the redeemed, the saints that have been sanctified by Yeshua and by their commitment to follow Him and to do God’s will. Yes, that group of disciples of the Messiah Yeshua that are going to be a glorious community (church) and clean and holy, and without blemish.

Now you might say that over 2000 years have passed since the good apostle Paul wrote these things led by the Holy Spirit of God and that this might never happen! Rationally you might be right, looking at it from our human point of view you might be right.

However, I have another historical event in which people who were grumbling and rebellious and fighting with each other, suddenly standing in the middle of the Sinai desert took three days to sanctify themselves, their bodies and their clothing and to prepare for the Lord to speak to them from the top of Mount Sinai. I remember that they all said, “Lord we will do and hear!”

My prayer for all my brothers and sisters and for those who are called by the name of the Messiah Yeshua (Christians) is that the events of the last 18 months around the whole world will be a wake-up call.

That the resurrection of a church that is in a coma, barely breathing, and being fed through a tube, but still desiring bread and circuses like ancient Rome, will happen, and that instantly the Lord will sanctity and glorify His bride before He returns to Zion in the clouds.

Waking up from a coma can happen instantly and recovery might take a short time, but it does happen and will happen. The Lord, will in the end have a church, a community that knows His voice and hears His voice and follows Him. A community of those who know their shepherd and know His voice!

My prayer is for all my brothers and sisters around the world to forget their denominational divisions, to forget the religious institutions that they were born into, to forget the dark chapters of Christian history, and turn directly and entirely to the Messiah Yeshua without any filters from Rome or from Scotland, England, Germany, Switzerland, or Czechoslovakia.

Turn your faces toward Jerusalem and say: “maranatha!” (“Lord come now!”) The Lord’s community (church) will be with an Israel that is sanctified and purified and made holy by the Lord Himself and by the sacrifice of Yeshua and by His blood! Holy, not only theoretically, but Holy practically, so that all might see us dressed in white and singing the Song of Moses and the Song of the Lamb.

This will happen and we need to be ready for it by starting now as individuals to let it happen in our own lives.

Joseph Shulam: We Are to be Holy Like He is Holy [2020]

The reading this week is a double portion. We read the Torah portion Acharei Mot, from Leviticus 16:1 – 18:30. The reading from the prophets has a double tradition. Some read from the prophets Amos 9:7-15, and others read from Ezekiel 22:1-16, and from the New Testament the reading is from the book of Hebrews 9:11-28.

The tradition on this date of reading a double portion adds the next and especially important portion of Kedoshim (the Saints) reading from Leviticus 19:1 – 20:27, and Ezekiel 20:2-20, and 1 Peter 1:13-16.

As you can see, dear brothers, when we have a double portion for reading – there is much reading. The original purpose for the Sabbath meeting in the Synagogues was the reading of the Word of God.

We see this reflected in the book of Acts:

“…but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.” – Acts: 15:20,21 [NKJV]

I do not have the words to express how important this is for all disciples of Yeshua. The disciples are recommended by the apostles, including Paul, to go to the synagogue and hear the Word of God read every Sabbath.

Of course, the reason is simple. People didn’t have a bible in their home, or on their smartphones and to hear the Word of God being read they had to go to the public place, where the Word of God was being read every Sabbath day.

This is the source of the tradition of reading from the Torah, and the Prophets, and we have added, from the New Testament. The most important source of information and of an understanding of God and Yeshua and of our faith is the Word of God, from Genesis to Revelation. Therefore we at Netivyah and in the Roeh Israel Congregation put much emphasis on the reading of the Word of God, from the Torah, the Prophets, and from the New Testament.

The degree of ignorance of God’s Word in most Christian circles is dangerous. The danger is simple, preachers and pastors and even Messianic rabbis, often use the Word of God to enhance and sell their programs and projects and they use the Scriptures to teach or motivate the people according to their views or needs.

So, if the people who fill the churches know the Word of God they can at least “not fall into a trap that is being spread for them.”

If you were given a medication that you did not know much about it, what would you do before you put the pill in your mouth? You would read the leaflet that is inside the medication box to find out what you are going to put into your mouth.

I would like to concentrate on one of the most important and most elusive commandments that is found both in the Torah of Moses and in the teaching of the apostles. It sounds simple to be holy like God is holy, but when you try to put this “simple” commandment into practice you face the difficulty, of how, when, and what it takes to be holy like God is Holy.

Here are some ideas and suggestions that ought to make this elusive commandment better understood and easier to put to practice.

First, this commandment ought to not be a surprise for us. The same commandment and commission is found in Exodus:

“And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” – Exodus 19:6 [NKJV]

Normally we humans try to form God in our own image with our own weaknesses and inclinations. In Leviticus 19, the Lord wants us to transform ourselves to be more like Him.

“Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.’” – Leviticus 19:2 [NKJV]

We are to be Holy like He is Holy.

The question is always “How can we do this?” “What do we have to do in order to be Holy?” Here is the genius of the Biblical texts. The Holy Spirit knew that we would have a hard time to understand the “how.”

Therefore, immediately after the command comes the instruction of how to do it, both what not to do and what to do is given to us right up front.

Please read the whole chapter 19 of Leviticus to get the full picture of what you ought to do and what you ought not do to be Holy like God is Holy.

“‘Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father and keep My Sabbaths: I am the Lord your God.’” – Leviticus 19:3 [NKJV]

If you want to be Holy you start at home. You revere, honor, respect, and serve, your father and your mother. Yes, all the way to their last day! The authority and obligation to father and mother does not run down when they get old and difficult.

Together with the respect to your father and mother – there is the respect to your own self. The keeping of the Sabbath is not a punishment from God it is a gift from God to give your life a rhythm of work and rest. Stress and relaxation.

The Sabbath is to bring some order into the human life and to know when to turn the switch of busy on and off. One of the reasons why people in the West suffer from marriage problems that often end in divorce is because they don’t know how important it is for the parents to dedicate at least one day, one evening, strictly for the family, the wife and the children.

No business doing, no work, no shopping, no cooking by the mother, prepare everything on Thursday and Friday so that you can give your husband and your children total attention.

Every family must have a time to give 100 percent attention to their wife and children. To have a significant dinner with the whole family and talk with the family about God’s Word and God’s place in the family life.

“‘Do not turn to idols, nor make for yourselves molded gods: I am the Lord your God.’” – Leviticus 19:4 [NKJV]

The Lord is a jealous God and He will not stay in your life if you worship idols. You might say to yourself “I don’t worship idols, I go to church every week.” You ought to know that anything that is more important to you than the Lord is your idol.

Remember that the Lord said to His apostles that if they love father and mother and family more than they love Him they are not worthy of Him.

“‘And if you offer a sacrifice of a peace offering to the Lord, you shall offer it of your own free will.’” – Leviticus 19:5 [NKJV]

This command is one of the most abused commands both in synagogues and churches today. When we do the right thing it has to be with only one motivation, “To do the will of God from our heart and without any ulterior motives, like to become prosperous, or gain favor with the church, or to be praised by men.”

Please read the rest of the chapter and notice that the command that is repeated several times in the New Testament comes from this portion of the Torah:

“‘You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.’” – Leviticus 19:18 [NKJV]

To be Holy is not out of our reach it is like all of God’s commandments doable and reachable. It just takes a few not so complicated things that we need to do and a few not so hard things to stop doing. Don’t despair, try to do each one of the commands one by one.

If it is too late to do some of these commandments because your father and your mother are no longer with you, there is always the opportunity to repent and ask forgiveness and teach your children the importance to honor you and respect you and serve you when you get old.

Joseph Shulam: The Issue of Atonement [2019]

The reading for this next Shabbat is from Leviticus chapter 16:1 – 18:30, and from the prophets from 1 Samuel 20:18-42. From the New Testament we read from Matthew 15:10-20.

The reading of Leviticus chapter 16 is the rules for the celebration of the day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. This day had the most unusual ceremony in the Torah. It has the story of the scapegoat.

The scapegoat is the only sacrifice that is not offered on the altar in the Temple of the Lord. It is released into the wilderness. The Day of Atonement is a day in which we are commanded to afflict our souls, and it is interpreted as fasting from food, drink, and any other pleasure of the flesh.

This atonement is not for our private sins as individuals. The atonement on the Day of Atonement is for the national, collective sins of Israel.

The scapegoat is loaded by the high priest of Israel with the sins of Israel, by the laying on of hands on the head of the goat, and confessing the sins of the nation. Then the scapegoat is released in the wilderness and there this scapegoat dies, and the sins of Israel are taken with this goat in the wilderness.

A part of this ceremony in the time of the Temple in Jerusalem was to cut a crimson ribbon into two parts. Half of the ribbon was tied on the gate of the Temple in Jerusalem. The second half of the crimson ribbon was tied on the horns of the goat.

When the goat died in the wilderness, the crimson ribbon that was tied to the gate of the Temple would turn white. As the text in Isaiah chapter 1:18 says:

“‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ Says the Lord, ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.’”

In the year 30 AD, there was a change in the proceedings of the Temple in Jerusalem. This is what the Talmud said concerning these events in Jerusalem. (The Talmud is a rabbinical collection of discussions concerning the Torah. These discussions are records of what was happening from the 3rd century BC until the 4th century AD.)

In two Talmudic tractates we have the discussion of what happened in the Temple in the year 30 AD – 40 years before the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Here is a quotation from Babylonian Talmud Tractate Rosh Hashana 31b:

“After the destruction of the Temple, Rabban Yohanan b. Zakkai made the rule ‘…during the forty-year period in which he “taught,” by that time, the crimson thread already had ceased changing color.’”

The second reference is from Babylonian Talmud Tractate Yoma 39a.

In other words, we have a witness in the rabbinical literature – a witness that is contemporary with the Apostolic era, that says that in the year 30, 40 years before the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, some of the main functions that have to do with the Day of Atonement have ceased to function, and the crimson ribbon (thread) stopped turning white as it was doing years before the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD.

Something happened in the year 30 AD that changed the fundamental way that the Temple functioned before 30 AD. The signal that noted when the atonement had actually happened by turning from crimson to white – stopped functioning.

This is significant, dear brothers and sisters. It is a witness that major changes have taken place in the relationship of Israel to the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, one generation – 40 years – before the Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. The people of Israel are still alive and they are still the chosen people of God, but the issue of atonement by animal sacrifices is mute!

Leviticus 16:1-18:30 is what every synagogue in the world will be reading this Shabbat. Why don’t you join with the Jewish nation and with us and read the same texts?

This will help you identify with Israel and learn more every year from the word of God, from the Torah, the prophets, and the New Covenant that was given by the Creator of the world to Israel, and all the people from the nations (Gentiles) that have joined with Israel through the sacrifice of the Messiah (see Ephesians 2:11-14).

Joseph Shulam: The Two Rules [2019 – Parashat Kedoshim]

This Shabbat the reading of the Torah is from Leviticus chapter 19:1-20:27, and the reading from the Prophets is: Ashkenazi – Amos 9:7-15, Sephardic – Ezekiel 20, Yemenites read Ezekiel 20:1-15. We read from the New Testament Mark 12:28-34.

This portion of the Torah reading for me is one of the most important from the whole Torah. The reason is very simple. Parashat Kedoshim is the only place in the whole Bible that actually tells us what in practical terms means for us to be holy . We are commanded to be holy in Leviticus 19:1-2. This command is repeated in the following places in God’s Word:

Leviticus 11:44,45; 20:7, 26; 21:8; Exodus 19:6; 2 Corinthians 7:1; 1 Peter 1:15,16; Numbers 15:40; 1 Thessalonians 4:7; Hebrews 12:10. The repetition of the command to be holy, like God is holy, is an indication of the importance of this command.

The only problem is that most of us are not being taught practically of what it means to be holy, and how in practice one can be holy and practice holiness. So, this command, to be holy like the Lord is holy, is for most Christians a very frustrating command.

We are commanded to be like God, holy! In most cases, we are not given practical ideas and commands that take this big command and break it down to practical things that we can do and practice to make this command something that we can do.

Here comes the simple Jewish understanding of the biblical texts: The principle is that you state a rule and then give the detailed practical principles in order to live up to the rule. In law practice this is a well-known principle: you state the rule and immediately give the breaking down of the rule into smaller practical steps that will help you fulfill and keep the rule.

This is exactly what we have here in chapter 19 of Leviticus. So, what do we have in chapter 19 of Leviticus? We have the principle: be holy because I the Lord am holy . God is saying, “Be like Me!” This is what God expects from His children. Yeshua commands His disciples to follow Him, “Take up your cross and follow me!”

Immediately after the statement of the principle (be holy!) comes a list of practical principles that can be easily or not so easily practiced not on the heavenly level, but on the down-to-earth level. Here is the practical outcome of how to be holy like God is holy:

“You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another. You shall not swear by my name falsely, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord.” - Leviticus 19:11,12

“You shall not oppress your neighbor or rob him. The wages of a hired worker shall not remain with you all night until the morning. You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.” - Leviticus 19:13,14

“You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor. You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not stand up against the life of your neighbor: I am the Lord.” - Leviticus 19:15,16

“You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” - Leviticus 19:17,18

“You shall keep my statutes. You shall not let your cattle breed with a different kind. You shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed, nor shall you wear a garment of cloth made of two kinds of material.” - Leviticus 19:19

In the New Testament we have a very similar tactical approach. The Apostle Paul states the principle from 2 Corinthians 6:14-15:

“Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.” - 2 Corinthians 6:14-15

This is the main principle. From here on we have the practical details of how not to be “unequally yoked with unbelievers.”

  1. Do not become partners with lawlessness people.
  2. There is no room to make partnership of light with darkness. Just like the Messiah has nothing in common with Satan.
  3. You cannot mix the temple of God with idols.

The proof of the rightness of these principles is in the verse:

“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” - 2 Corinthians 6:16b (taken from Ezekiel 36:28)

The most important statement and verse in the whole Torah is:

“You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” - Leviticus 19:18

Most often only half of the verse is quoted. The context of this verse if of great importance. If you want to be holy like God is holy “you shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”

Yeshua quoted this verse together with the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4,5) in Matthew 22:37-40:

“And he said to him [the young lawyer who asked him the question], ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.’” - Matthew 22:37-40

The Apostle Paul repeats the same two principles like Yeshua. Paul says in Romans 13:9,10,

“For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,’ and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.” - Romans 13:9,10

Yeshua and Paul followed one of the great rabbis and president of the Sanhedrin that preceded Yeshua’s Ministry, Hillel the Elder, who put these two verses from the Torah and said that these two verses are a summary of the whole Torah (Law) and the Prophets. Both Paul and Yeshua hold the ruling of this top Rabbi of the Pharisees as an important principle that is the summary of the Torah.

We all need to measure ourselves on this matrix between our attitude toward the Lord – “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (might),” “and love your neighbor as yourself.” This simplification of the Torah into two rules is not making the Torah easier, it is making the Torah much harder to keep.

These two rules are really the matrix of all that our Lord and our Messiah is expecting from us. However, to keep these two rules – we have to keep much of the details of both the light and heavy demands that the Lord makes of us, when we love Him and love our neighbors as ourselves. Let us strive hard to keep at least these two key commands of the Torah, our Lord and Messiah, and the apostles.

Joseph Shulam: Salvation From Outside the Camp [2014]

The reading of the Torah tomorrow is a double portion. All the synagogues in the world will be reading from the book of Leviticus 16:1 – 18:30 and Leviticus 19:1 – 20:30. These chapters are some of the most important chapters in the Torah (Law of Moses) for the understanding of Yeshua and the whole concept of atonement.

We need to understand the “scapegoat” of the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16) and the function that the “scapegoat” as the sacrifice that carries the sins of all of Israel. This article is too short to be able to enter into the detail of these issues. However, the writer of the book of Hebrews sees Yeshua as the Yom Kippur “scapegoat”:

“Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come. Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” - Hebrews 13:12-16

The Hebrew writer is actually calling upon the brothers in the first century to take example from two important sacrifices that were offered not on the altar in the Temple but outside the gates of the city, the Red Heifer, and the scapegoat.

The conclusion is that we too have to go outside the city, because only outside the camp (outside the consensus today) is where we can bear the reproach of the Messiah and bring salvation to the people inside. He also reminds the reader not to forget to do good and to share (I think he means physical means) which is the kind of sacrifices that please God.

I am now watching Israeli Television and a program about the Torah portion and that has in it from Leviticus chapter 19, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” and an Orthodox Jewish professor is speaking about Yeshua and His teaching on the two principles, “Love the Lord your God…” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

This Orthodox Jewish professor is saying that Yeshua actually showed what it really means to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” There are things happening in Israel and among the Jewish community. Every Jew does not see Yeshua as the enemy or as a false prophet or a false Messiah.

The image of Yeshua is going through a transition in the Jewish community, and His teaching is reevaluated in light of the time and history of the first century in the land of Israel. You need to pray for Israel and for the Jewish Community and salvation. You ought to know that the nation of Israel will never receive Christianity from Christians. Israel will receive Yeshua from inside, from within the very soul and spirit of Israel.

Joseph Shulam: Yeshua is the Scapegoat [2013]

This coming Sabbath all the synagogues in the world, and some churches, will be reading a double portion of the Torah. The reading is from Leviticus chapter 16:1 – 20:27. Some of the most significant statements that have changed humanity come from this text of Leviticus.

Among the more famous statements there is “You Should Love Your Neighbor as Yourself.” However, I would like to share with you another text that is from this portion. In chapter 16 we read about this very special sacrifice of the scapegoat. The normal sacrifices are offered on the altar, after they are killed and skinned and prepared for the offering.

The scapegoat is brought to the desert, a desolate place, and there it finds it’s death. The high priest lays hands on the head of the scapegoat and confesses the sins of Israel, and after that it is taken to the desert and released, taking the collective sins of the people, and atones for these sins.

The medieval commentator of the Bible, Abraham Eben Ezrah, gives us a very interesting clue to the secret meaning of the scapegoat and its significance. Eben Ezrah comments on Leviticus 16:6-10 and says:

“You will know the secret of the Azazel [the scapegoat] when you are 33 years old.”

This is a very curious statement by Abraham Eben Ezrah who, generally speaking, is a very rational commentator and tries to stick to the plain meaning of the text.

Nachmanides, or the way he is pronounced in Hebrew, Ramban, writes in his commentary on the same passage that Rabbi Abraham Eben Ezrah was trying to hide the secret and he, the Ramban (not Rambam – who is Maimonides) will reveal Eben Ezrah’s secret.

So, Ramban, or Nachmanides in English, tells us that the secret is in the one who lived 33 years, and that is Esau. However, when Jewish rabbis in the so-called Christian Europe during the Medieval Period wanted to talk about Jesus and the Church in Rome, they had to use code words.

The code for Jesus was Esau and the code for the Roman Church was Edom. Why did they choose the word Esau as a code for Jesus? The reason is simple: Esua in Hebrew has the same letters as Yeshua without the “Y” and since Jesus (Yeshua) is counted to be the father of the church then the church is Edom, the nation of Esau.

Rabbi Abraham Eben Ezrah does not want to write these thing in a clear way so he says that it is a secret, a mystery. Ramban comes after him and says,

“I will tell you what Rabbi Abraham Eben Ezrah really meant to say by mentioning ‘33 years old’ – it is Esau (Yeshua).”

A few verses further Ramban says:

“I better stop speaking about this so that I will not give weapons against us to our enemies.”

The concept that is presented by Ramban here, in the name of Rabbi Abraham Eben Ezrah, is based on an ancient homily (midrash) that says that the scapegoat was actually offered to Azazel (who is Samael – i.e. the devil) in order to appease him, so that he will not torment Israel. This idea is totally rejected by Rashi, another and later great Bible commentator.

Here are some interesting points that we need to look into when we study the whole ceremony and practice of Yom HaKippurim (The Day of Atonement):

We see a sacrifice that is not offered on the altar, and it takes away and atones for the sins of Israel. There is no blood shed on the altar, and yet there is atonement of sins accomplished by the scapegoat sent to the wilderness.

The Talmud deals with this issue when it tells the story of what happened in the year 30 A.D., in the Jerusalem Temple. It is recorded that from the year 30 A.D., until the year 70 A.D., when the Temple was destroyed by Rome, that the symbol of atonement was a red ribbon that was supposed to turn white when God accepted the atonement of the scapegoat.

From the year 30 A.D., the red ribbon never turned white, up until the Temple was destroyed. The same Talmudic passage gives three more indications that the service in the Temple stopped functioning normally for 40 years before the destruction. The reference in the Babylonian Talmud is Page 39 a and b.

It is clear from Rabbi Abraham Eben Ezrah’s comments that there was a different attitude among the Jewish Community in Spain between Yeshua and the Roman Church, which was the only form of Christianity that these people knew or could know. I think that the biggest challenge for the Christian denominations and Church establishments is to separate the human and pagan traditions that are a part of Christianity, and the anti-Jewish and sectarian dogmas that are anti-Biblical, from the person and the teaching of Yeshua.

Yeshua (Jesus) is the greatest scapegoat of all of human history. He is the ultimate and the extreme Jew of history. Yeshua is the scapegoat – we cast Him out into the wilderness of the Gentiles and He carried our sins, but He is coming back to us.

It would be good for you to read together with all of Israel the Torah portion every week, but specially this week’s portion from Leviticus chapter 16:1- 20:27. You will find very important texts in these chapters.

These texts are the basis of the moral keystones of our culture. Things like the concepts of atonement, holiness, purity, and loving of our fellow man are all found in these chapters. I believe that reading the Torah will change the negative attitude toward the whole word of God, and clean up what was planted so deeply by the tradition. Pray for Israel this week when the reading of this text about the scapegoat will be read in every synagogue around the world.

Yehuda Bachana: Being a Good Person is Only Half of the Job [2018]

Read the teaching below, or watch a video of the teaching by Yehuda Bachana.

This Shabbat we study the weekly Torah portion Parashat Acharei Mot-Kedoshim. In it we learn about Yom Kippur, the holiest and most important day in Judaism.

During this holiday, the entire nation, and in fact, most Jews scattered around the world, join together in fasting and prayer. This is a day of national repentance and forgiveness, in which every person searches out his own life and thinks of who he might have hurt. We ask for forgiveness, and in return, we forgive others who have wronged us.

On Yom Kippur, the priest would enter into the innermost room, the Holy of Holies. Throughout the rest of the year, entrance was forbidden, and only on this particular occasion would the priest enter as part of his service to of God.

A Very Rich Torah Portion

In this portion we also learn about the concept of holiness. The following famous saying appears in our parasha:

“…Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.” - Leviticus 19:2b [NIV]

As a result of this holy requirement, we have a rather immense collection of commandments that God requires of us.

A key verse upon which the entire Torah hinges also appears in our parasha:

“…love your neighbor as yourself…” - Leviticus 19:18b [NIV]

Both Yeshua and Paul quoted this verse as a summary of the entire Torah. By the way, this commandment is one of 50 commandments that are part of God's requirement for us to be holy.

In addition, this week, together with all of Israel, we celebrated Israel's 70th year of Independence. When I look at the State of Israel, I am moved by the enormity and intensity of the miracle that God has performed in our time, right before our eyes. God has gathered us from the four corners of the earth and re-established the State of Israel as a fulfillment of all the prophecies.

What are Laws and Decrees, and How Do We Live by Them?

What are the differences between laws and decrees?

As you can see, our parasha is extremely rich and can be studied again and again, each time providing new insights. However, the verses that caught my attention in particular from this week are the following:

“You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees. I am the Lord your God. Keep my decrees and laws, for the person who obeys them will live by them. I am the Lord.” - Leviticus 18:4,5 [NIV]

In the Bible there are other similar verses with the same meaning, for example:

“I gave them my decrees and made known to them my laws, by which the person who obeys them will live.” - Ezekiel 20:11 [NIV]

Today, I want to discuss two questions: What are the decrees and laws that we are to keep and obey? Second, what does it truly meant to live and abide by them?

Two Types of Commandments

Let us begin by discussing what exactly these laws and decrees are. The Jewish Sages interpret them quite interestingly. The terms, “decrees” and “laws” denote two types of commandments in the Bible.

The difference between them is that laws are notions that are described in the Torah. Meaning that their benefits are known and their usefulness is evident. They can be called common sense commandments, and they include civil law and moral precepts, such as the prohibition against murder, bearing false witness, and so forth.

“Decrees,” are the commandments whose rationale is unknown. They include the ritual commandments and the obligations between man and God. This includes commandments that have no point in civil law, such as observing the Sabbath.

These two terms, “decrees and laws,” appear together in the Bible about 20 times. It would be logical to say that these two sets of commandments complement one another, and together deal with the relationship between man and his fellow man, and between man and God.

The laws, which are like civil laws, are intended to introduce moral quality into life, so that we can live correct and proper lives in our society, between man and his fellow man. The laws are intended to grant a person holiness and closeness to God.

Can’t I Just be a Good Person?

One of the questions that always arises in every religious discussion is the following: If there's a person who does good, who seeks to help people, isn't that enough? The answer is simple - he only fulfills half of the work.

He keeps the laws, but what about the decrees that sanctify people and bring them closer to God? You cannot separate the two, the decrees and laws go together.

What grants a person sanctification? Our parasha sets forth the requirements for us humans to obey: It is forbidden to steal, to lie, we are required to save a person in danger, one must judge with justice, we are obligated to observe the Sabbath day, as well as 50 additional commandments. Most importantly, we must love our neighbor as ourselves.

How Then Should We Live? 

Now, I would like to move on to what it means to live by these decrees and commandments. I found that there are three ways to understand this concept.

Let's remember the verses:

“You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees. I am the Lord your God. Keep my decrees and laws, for the person who obeys them will live by them. I am the Lord.” - Leviticus 18:4,5 [NIV]

The prophet Ezekiel also refers to these verses in Ezekiel 20:11.

The first step in understanding this complex concept, is that a person's life will be according to the word of God. The decrees and the laws, commandments, restrictions, and the requirements of God should be at the top of his priorities.

His life should be based on scripture, and his life conducted around the decrees and laws. More or less, these are the boundaries created by God, and man must live within this framework.

The idea is that nothing can break through these boundaries, this is a legalistic approach.

The second way is to understand that life is the goal behind them. God presents us with the formula for a good, healthy, efficient, and correct life. If a person lives according to the way God presents, he will be considered a good person.


If there are commandments or situations that clash with morality, courtesy, life, or the value of life. Preserving life is above all the commandments, and it is possible and necessary to desecrate all of them in order to save lives.

From this, if there is a clash between “pikuach nefesh” (the preservation of human life) and the commandments, then the sanctity of life is more important, because God's emphasis is that commandments are given to man so that he can live.

The third way to look at this concept is in accordance with its context. God is speaking about the people who lived in the land before the nation of Israel, and they did not maintain a correct and proper lifestyle, on the contrary, they corrupted and defiled the land.

God warns the people, if you want to live in the land, the people, throughout its generations, have to follow these decrees and laws. It is about the continuity of the people and the family, to pass on to future generations, so that they can live on and on in the Land of Israel.

In Conclusion

Today, we are in the middle of the 70th anniversary of the State of Israel, but we must not forget who brought us back here, who blessed us, and thanks to Him this country was established. Further, if we want to live here for generations, we must return and keep the decrees and laws of God.

May we all have a peaceful Shabbat, and a happy birthday to the State of Israel.

Click here to download a pdf version of this teaching.