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.

Yehuda Bachana: Creating structure in the Wilderness – Bamidbar [2023]

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

This week we begin a new book of the Torah. This book is filled with dramatic and painful events, pain and confrontations. We will learn about Korah and the sin of the spies. We will also learn about Balaam and Balak. Then we will learn about the brass serpent, and after which we will be blessed by the special Aaronic blessing.

The Torah Portion Bamidbar opens with the instructions for the census, where everyone is counted. It is easy to imagine the wilderness - a place with no clear borders, without rules. The census is the exact opposite and brings law, order and authority.

At the beginning of our Torah Portion, we read the list of names and numbers, organized by tribes. Every tribe has its special place in the camp and a specific marching order on their journey through the wilderness. All men are organized according to their tribe and family. They travel and stop under their own banner. And so, structure is made.

In a month and a half, we will read the Torah portion Balak. We get the impression that the system works. The children of Israel are well-organized and Balaam has a hard time finding a loophole in order to curse the people of Israel and cause division. Balaam moves from place to place, overlooking Israel from every angle from a vantage point; yet, all he sees is order. He sees Israel organized by tribes and families, every man under his own flag. Finally, Balaam blesses the people of Israel with the famous blessing:

"How good are your tents, O Jacob, and your tabernacles, O Israel" (24:5)

It is very possible that the wilderness actually helped to unite and strengthen the nation. The book of Numbers shows order, organization, and mutual responsibility in contrast with chaos, rebellion and confrontation.

We were supposed to be in the wilderness for a couple of years, but then came the sin of the spies. During the first two years, God rebuilt the people of Israel. He instilled hope in them and taught them partnership and collective responsibility.

After all, Israelites were a nation of slaves. They were insecure people who lacked self-respect and the nation was stained by foreign culture and idolatry. How can this be fixed? By being in the wilderness! In a sterile area, a place between cultures, without any outside influence. It was in that very setting that God gave us a common project in which everyone was asked to participate and help building. The Tabernacle was the greatest national project and it led our people to unity and partnership.

In our Torah Portion every individual is counted. God shows that everyone is important and everyone matters. One man plus another and one more… together we become a nation. The census was not only done for the purpose of order. It also served the human need to belong and it helped to build people’s self-esteem.

The children of Israel were not counted as slaves or prisoners. Rather, they were counted by their clans, as part of the tribe they belong to.

“Take a census of the whole Israelite community by their clans and families, listing every man by name, one by one.” (Numbers 1:2)

The census helped build up our identity, because our initial identity lies within our family: the place we belong to in every way, as a primary source of our self-worth. We commonly say and hear phrases like: “My dad does so and so”, or “My grandmother immigrated from…”. These are phrases and stories told with pride, family pride.

The census instruction has an important addition: "Listing every man by name, one by one" (1:2) Some explain this by saying everyone would say his own name, which was then written in a book, and then these names were counted. If the names were indeed counted in such a way, the question arises why it was done in such complicated and inefficient manner. The answer is obvious, as each person has his own name, by which he is called.

Everyone was in unity, acting according to the command, either stopping and setting up the camp, or getting up and starting to march ‘under his flag’, the flag of his tribe. Each flag consists of elements that represent that specific tribe. Our rich tradition describes these flags.

For example, Reuben’s flag was red with a picture of mandrake, and Simeon’s flag was green with a sword and a gate of Shechem. Tradition also describes the flag of Levi with the priestly breastplate on a red and black background.
More important than the color and symbols on the flags, was the sense of belonging that each flag gave to the people. The flags also granted self-esteem. Naturally, the tribes proudly waved their flags.

From my military service, I know the proud feeling of displaying our flag and emblems. We would also paint the army base with the unique colors of our unit. Today, as a reservist, I am proud to pass hats and t-shirts with the emblem of my unit to my kids and it fills me with pride to see them wear these. This is the pride of the unit.

I imagine that the same pride filled the hearts of the children of Israel in the wilderness, because the flag is very important. Today every country has laws about its flag and how it is supposed to be treated. Israel has the ‘Flag, emblem and national anthem law’, which defines how, when and where the flag must be waved. This law also states that it is a criminal offense to damage our national flag.

The importance of a flag as a national symbol, and its status, is expressed by Theodor Herzl, visionary the State of Israel, in his third letter to Baron Hirsch:

“And finally I had to tell you something about flags, and how I suppose to wave them, and if you were to ask me jokingly: What is the flag? It is nothing but a woven rag connected to a pole. No, sir, a flag is more than that. "By flags people are directed according to the will of their leader, including to the chosen country.”

People live and die for their flag. A well-known Hebrew saying, literally translated as ‘called to the flag’, means to contribute, to give of yourself - and yes - at your own expense, for the sake of the vision and for the sake of the State.

Today we live under the flag of Israel. What is the idea behind it? What is the story of the Israeli flag? David Wolffsohn, who designed the flag of Israel, said:

“At the behest of our leader Herzl, I came to Basel to make preparations for the Zionist Congress. Among many other problems that occupied me then was one which contained something of the essence of the Jewish problem.
What flag would hang in the Congress Hall? Then an idea struck me. We have a flag – and it is blue and white. The tallit with which we wrap ourselves when we pray; that is our symbol. Let us take this tallit from its bag and unroll it before the eyes of Israel and the eyes of all nations. So I ordered a blue and white flag with the Shield of David painted upon it. That is how the national flag (…) came into being.”

Simply stated, the flag of our country is our prayer shawl.
As followers in Yeshua, as Messianic believers, not only are we ‘called to the flag’, meaning, called to serve our vision. We are also called to be a flag, to be a lighthouse, to shine the light of Yeshua, the light of the Torah and bring people closer to faith. According to Yeshua’s words, in Matthew chapter five:

"You are the light of the world shall your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds…"

People are supposed to be inspired by us to improve their lives and come closer to God. Yeshua’s command here is very clear: people should see us: our faith, our joy, and our deeds, and through them come to know God.
This means we should be kind and patient. We should also demonstrate love, joy, peace and purity, The New Testament even command to:

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” (Philippians 4:4)

Now, how does a person achieve this joy?

Through belonging and mutual responsibility. We learnt these from our journey through the wilderness; however, the way to achieve true joy and peace is when our conscience is clean, without a spiritual debt to God or man. When our conscience is clean, we are at peace.

This is the reason for us as Messianic believers, to point to Yeshua. He has the power to clear our conscience. He is able to fill us with joy. And we are interested in sharing this knowledge and this joy. We want to help the entire humanity to find peace in Yeshua.

Is having faith in Yeshua like magic? I mean, if I accept Yeshua, will I automatically feel happy? In a sense, yes. Let's imagine a person lost in the dark. This person is not happy, but rather worried. As soon as this person finds the right path, his feelings improve immediately. He has not yet reached his destination, and still needs to walk and make an effort; yet, his spirit is filled with renewed strength. Faith, too, can renew our strength, enthusiasm and joy as Yeshua’s light shines on our path.

Of course, we still have to walk and strive to keep the words of Messiah. Yeshua is our rock. He is our confidence. As believers that confidence lies in the actual application of the Word of God. This is the purpose of the journey of Israel through the wilderness. To break away from the evil Egyptian culture and its idols. To flourish spiritually and physically and achieve success.

Faith is good, it is the foundation. Faith is perhaps the most important step in a person’s life, but the goal is to apply the word of God to our lives. It is not enough to be a member of a Messianic congregation, as it is not enough to be a regular participant in a synagogue.

Prayer in the synagogue or in the congregation ends quickly. The question is not how the person behaves inside his house of prayer, but how the person behaves outside. As Messianic believers our congregations are meant to equip our members with knowledge, to teach the Word of God and to equip people with life tools, which we can use in situations and problems that we all face. The local community is like the extended family where we help and support each other.

Yet, as in any extended family, we all need to participate. There is no such thing as taking without giving. That is unhealthy. Only through an active partnership and the feeling of ownership, we read about in the Book of Exodus, can we build a healthy and functional society.
If anyone thinks that it is enough to go to the house of prayer from time to time and that that alone will make God happy with him, he is probably wrong.

The question is: do you use your talents to take care of your family and friends? If not, what are you good for? How can you add to the success of your family and your congregation? And, viewing the Messianic community as ‘our’ family: how do you contribute to the development of our community?

This question reminds me of the story about a rich uncle who owns a factory, and his lazy cousin. The cousin begs his rich uncle to give him a job. Obviously, no position suits the cousin, as he is unwilling to do anything. Finally, the rich uncle tells his cousin: "Okay, you can stay at the factory, but please do not interfere with the work, as you slow everyone down. All you have to do is not to bother the other workers. Just wait for the first of the month. Go to the accounting office and get your salary. That's it."

One day an inspector came to check the order of things and the efficiency of the factory. He asks everyone about his or her job description, receiving a detailed account of why that worker is important and contributes much to the factory. Obviously, each worker tries to show how important his work is and how much he contributes to the factory.

Eventually came the turn of the lazy cousin, explaining: “All I have to do is to hang around the factory doing nothing: not touching anything nor disturbing anyone. I just wait for the first of the month to get my salary.”

What will we answer when The inspector comes to check how we function, looking into our responsibilities, inquiring how we contribute to our surroundings? We need to think about this question, and preferably provide an answer. I think this is the reason why Messianic believers are so active at so many charities, helping and serving the sick and poor, soldiers, students, new immigrants and in fact nearly every group of people.

As believers in Yeshua the Messiah we are God’s workers and we need to participate in His work. Starting with our families, and from there growing and reaching out to the extended family: our congregations, our communities, and then to our tribe and country.

We belong to a certain tribe and its flag. We are required to serve the entire tribe, the entire community. In my case, I belong to the Messianic Jewish tribe of Israel. I am parked under the Messianic flag. I am part of this movement. And at the top, of course, is our national Israeli flag and our duty to respect and serve this flag, to pay taxes and when necessary, also to be called to serve the flag in military uniform.

Joseph Shulam: Interpreting Scripture with Scripture [2023]

Last Shabbat we finished the book of Leviticus and this Shabbat we are starting the book of Numbers. The logical name of this book comes from the Greek translation of the Torah, the Septuagint (The LXX = 70). The reason that this book is called (in Greek and English and most languages) Numbers, is because the first four chapters of the book deal with the big census, the counting of the children of Israel in the wilderness; and so these chapters that start the book are just full of numbers. However, the Hebrew name of the book is Bamidbar meaning: “In the wilderness.”

The starting word in the Hebrew book is usually also the name of the book of the Torah, even when it is not logical; like the book of Exodus is called in Hebrew “Shemot” in Hebrew “The names.” Or Leviticus in Hebrew, “He called.”

Entering the book of Numbers is for me an excitement, because the book of numbers in the Torah has so many interesting things that are unique in the whole Bible. Moses, motivated by the orphaned daughters of Zelophad, seven daughters! He hears the complaint of these seven daughters that their father didn’t have sons, and therefore they can’t inherit their father’s property.

Moses brings the case before the supreme Judge of all flesh, and God tells Moses to change the Torah, to change the law, because it seems like the patriarchal law was not just and was discriminating against women…. There are many other magnificent laws and stories in the book of Numbers and we will have to deal with them as they appear in our weekly reading.

So here is what is being read in the synagogues around the world on this Shabbat! From the Torah, Bamidbar (Numbers in English) chapter 1:1 – 4:20, the Haftarah (reading from the prophets Hosea 1:10-2:20. From the New Testament the reading is from Romans 9:25-33.

Normally I comment and teach in this platform of the Jerusalem Prayer List from the Torah and sometimes from the Prophets. On very rare occasions I might bring something from the New Testament. However, on this Shabbat and in this week’s Jerusalem Prayer List ,I want to share with you from Romans 9:25-33.

The first question that I would like to deal with is why this text from Romans is chosen to accompany the reading of this portion of the Torah and for this reading from Hosea 1:10 – 2:20. What does Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapter 9:25 -33, have to do with this Torah portion? Actually, the choice of reading from Romans 9:25-33 for this Shabbat has nothing to do with the text of the Torah portion on this Shabbat, but it has much to do with the text from Hosea 1:10 – 20:20.

You see, dear brother and sister, Paul is actually making a direct reference to Hosea’s text and this reference is of ultimate importance, and often misunderstood by the traditional Christian commentators. It is misunderstood in my opinion on purpose because the traditional interpretation and understanding of Paul’s reference to Hosea is often ignored and the short-lived condemnation of Israel in Hosea is used to justify the anti-Jewish sentiments that are deeply imbedded in the virtual DNA of the churches of Rome and Constantinople.

One of the earliest anti-Jewish and anti Torah church fathers, that later was counted among the so called, "fathers of the faith” in the Roman and Orthodox Churches and also adopted as authoritative in some of the Protestant churches, made distinctions between Christianity and Judaism and between the Old Testament and the New Testament.

Justine lived in Rome in the Middle of the Second Century C.E., and is considered to be orthodox in his theology. However, this Justin, that was martyred in 165 C.E., is the same person who divided the common Scriptures, The Tanach (Old Testament) and the New Testament.

This falsehood was the dividing line between what is Christian and what is Jewish i.e., the Old Testament and The New. Justin Martyr is among the first so called “Church Fathers” who set the fundamental patterns of what is considered "Orthodox Christian” theology and what is considered in the majority of Christianity as anti-Judaism, or anti-Semitism.

This is what connects this Shabbat’s Haftarah reading (the reading from the prophets) with Romans 9:25-33. You see Paul is quoting from Hosea 1:10 in Romans 9:25,

“As He says also in Hosea: “I will call them My people, who were not My people, and her beloved, who was not beloved.”

“And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ there they shall be called sons of the living God.”” (Romans 9:25–26 NKJV)

Justin Martyr and the subsequent church, understood Paul’s text in Romans 9 totally out of the context and interpreted it in this way: "God said to Israel you are not my people!” God rejected Israel and now those who previously,
the pagans, Romans, Greeks, Gentiles of all sorts, are taking the place of those who were God’s people and now they “Are called sons of the living God.”

The people of God are rejected by God, who said to them, “You are not my people.” “Lo Ami.” Those who were not God’s people. The Gentile Christians are now God’s people.

This false teaching is so deeply engraved into the theology of the traditional churches, i.e., the Catholic and the Greek Orthodox, and all their Protestant daughters, that it is hard to uprooted it without a deep deep cleaning of the very DNA of the anti-Jewish and anti-Torah churches.

Here is what Hosea meant when he said in God’s name, “Lo Ami” – not my people in chapter 1:10!

First of all, the prophet Hosea clarified the whole picture prophetically in the text:

““Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And it shall come to pass, in the place where it was said to them, “You are not My people,’ There it shall be said to them, ‘You are sons of the living God.’ Then the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together, and appoint for themselves one head; and they shall come up out of the land, for great will be the day of Jezreel!” (Hosea 1:10–11 NKJV).

The whole context of these words of Hosea the prophet, is only Israel; not anyone else. True, God was angry with Israel and he did call Israel in the past “Lo Ami” – not my people. God didn’t forget or break His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Immediately the prophet Hosea reminds us of God’s promise, “Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered.” The context of Hosea is not that of rejection, but one of restoration. And even though God had said in the past, “Lo-Ami” = “not my people!” in the future they shall be called “sons of the living God!”

Hosea is not talking about someone else. He is talking about the restoration of Israel, not the importation of other nations. This becomes clear in chapter 2, and also Isaiah knows this pattern and the same prophetic message: Isaiah says:

““For a mere moment I have forsaken you, but with great mercies I will gather you. With a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment; but with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you,” Says the LORD, your Redeemer.” (Isaiah 54:7–8 NKJV)

Jeremiah and Ezekiel the prophets have the same message as Hosea, and Isaiah. Here is the text from Ezekiel that can’t be misunderstood: Ezekiel 39:21–29,

““I will set My glory among the nations; all the nations shall see My judgment which I have executed, and My hand which I have laid on them. So the house of Israel shall know that I am the LORD their God from that day forward. The Gentiles shall know that the house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity; because they were unfaithful to Me, therefore I hid My face from them. I gave them into the hand of their enemies, and they all fell by the sword. According to their uncleanness and according to their transgressions I have dealt with them, and hidden My face from them.”

“Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD: ‘Now I will bring back the captives of Jacob, and have mercy on the whole house of Israel; and I will be jealous for My holy name— after they have borne their shame, and all their unfaithfulness in which they were unfaithful to Me, when they dwelt safely in their own land and no one made them afraid. When I have brought them back from the peoples and gathered them out of their enemies’ lands, and I am hallowed in them in the sight of many nations, then they shall know that I am the LORD their God, who sent them into captivity among the nations, but also brought them back to their land, and left none of them captive any longer. And I will not hide My face from them anymore; for I shall have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel,’ says the Lord GOD.””

Let me take you back to Paul’s words in Romans chapter 9:25-27,

“As He says also in Hosea: “I will call them My people, who were not My people, and her beloved, who was not beloved.” “And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ There they shall be called sons of the living God.” Isaiah also cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, the remnant will be saved.”

Just go on to read the rest of Romans 9 -11, and you see that Paul’s prediction based on the prophets and God’s promises to Israel is that

“All Israel shall be SAVED!”

This is actually the connection between the reading of the Torah portion, the Haftarah (the prophets) and the New Testament reading. It is sad that the church fathers of the catholic and the orthodox churches were so anti-Semitic, and so anti – The Hebrew Bible, and so deeply poisoned by their hate of Israel and the Jewish people. Their hate was inherited from their pagan background; a hate you find in Haman, the Wazir of King Xarxseus of Persia.

The hate of Israel and the Jewish people led them to misinterpret the Word of God and twist it to the point that brought the horrible history of the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisition that lasted from 1472 – 1821, and burned tens of thousands of Jews and Jewish disciples of Yeshua, who wanted to preserve their Jewish identity and customs and life style.

I have no doubt at all that some of those historical leaders, bishops, popes, church fathers, knew the truth, but their diabolical hate of Jews blinded their hearts first and their minds second and finally blinded their eyes too.

The lesson that I want you, our friends and the friends of Yeshua our Lord, is that you must read the Bible every day, at least a little, and you must never take for granted what you hear in your churches and the theology of your denominations.

You need to pray every time you open the Bible for the Holy Spirit to enlighten you personally and carry you by the Holy Spirit unto all truth, as the word of God promises. Always remember the words of good advice that Jeremiah the prophet gives us:

“Thus says the LORD: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the LORD.
For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when good comes, but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land which is not inhabited. “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, and whose hope is the LORD. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:5–9 NKJV)

Joseph Shulam: A Honeymoon in the Wilderness [2022]

We are starting this Shabbat three new things:

  1. The reading of this Shabbat starts with with the first Torah portion of the book of Numbers.
  2. It is the 50th day of the counting of the Omer, the sheaves.
  3. Saturday evening starts the feast of Pentecost.

We in Jerusalem, in the Shepherd of Israel (Netivyah) synagogue, will be reading this Shabbat June 4, 2022 (Hebrew date is Sivan 5, 5782), feast of Pentecost (Shavuot), the Torah portion of Bamidbar — Numbers 1:1-4:20.

From the prophets we will read Hosea 2:1-23. From the New Testament the reading is from Romans 9:22-33; Luke 24:50,51; Acts 1:9-11.

First, I want again to explain why the names of the Bible books are different in Hebrew from all the other languages. The reason is simple.

In the Hebrew Torah books don’t have names. The first significant word in the division to books was the name that it was called.

The only one book of the Torah that matches the name in Hebrew with the other languages is Genesis. The name of the book of Genesis has the same meaning in English and Greek and all the languages as the Hebrew — “Bereshit” (“in the beginning”).

The book of Numbers is named with this name because the first four chapters actually deal with the results of the census that was commanded in the book of Exodus. Yes, the first four chapters actually give us the numbers of members of each tribe, and also later the number of men between the ages of 20 to 50.

There are some interesting numerical discrepancies in the numbers that can be easily justified, but I am so happy that there are such discrepancies in the Torah. And I am so glad that even in the Ten Commandments there are differences between the version from Exodus 20 and that of Deuteronomy chapter 5.

The reason that I am happy about these problems in the Holy Scriptures that are inspired by the Holy Spirit is that God has made it challenging. And He has forced us to think and to reason out these seemingly “serious problems.”

When the Orthodox Jews who are fighting and persecuting the Jewish disciples of Yeshua in Israel bring up the discrepancies in numbers between the Torah and the New Testament, like Gary Cooper in High Noon, I draw my gun and shoot them down. Because the problem in the Torah and also between 1 Samuel and 2 Chronicles are much more serious.

I believe that the Holy Spirit of God gave us the Bible inspired and true, but a part of the truth is the exposition of the sins of our forefathers — Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, King David and on and on and on to the apostles in the New Testament. As humans we are prone to create idols of anything and of all our heroes.

We have this already in the New Testament itself:

“And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? For when one says, ‘I am of Paul,’ and another, ‘I am of Apollos,’ are you not carnal?” — 1 Corinthians 3:1-4

Having the same problems in the Old Testament as in the New Testament actually is the work of the Holy Spirit to force us to think to calculate to reason out and rightly divide the Word of God.

I realize that this position is not orthodox among religious people to have critical thinking, but when I see the Biblical texts and some of the complications and different versions of the same stories I get filled with excitement that opens new doors to understand God and how He works to challenge us and reveal Himself to us. He challenges us to understand the divine truth that can really and truly set us free from the shackles of religiosity and into the freedom of the Holy Spirit.

Why was this numbering of all the children of Israel so necessary before they crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land of Canaan as an everlasting possession for the children of Israel? The census had three purposes in the Torah:

  1. The building of the Holy armies of the Lord of those men between the ages of 20 to 50.
  2. The redemption of the firstborn of Israel by the numbers of the Levites. This number was to redeem the firstborn men of Israel with the number of the men of the tribe of Levi.
  3. To divide the land of Canaan by the lots as it is said: by the mount of God. The size of the tribe demanded for equity sake the size of the territory that they would receive in the Promised Land of Canaan.

One of the more interesting phenomena in this portion of the Torah from Numbers 1:1-4:20 is the names of the leaders of the tribes as they are called “presidents”. In the wilderness the names of the leaders of Israel have two major predicates: the divine names and the shepherding names of their professions.

Here are some examples:

“These are the names of the men who shall stand with you...” — Numbers 1:5

[table id=3 /]

What this list of the leaders of the tribes reveals to us is first of all that God played a very significant part in the consciences of the generation that is entering the land of Canaan. After 40 years of wandering in the Sinai Desert the Lord is playing a major part in the culture of the children of Israel. This is why the people give names to their children with the theophoric names of God.

The second thing that we see is the importance of the family, the father, the brother, the nation. Normally when Christians think of the generation of the wilderness they have a negative attitude toward that generation. However, from the names of the leaders of the tribes we get a little different picture.

We find an interesting text in Jeremiah chapter 2 that reveals a different relationship between God and Israel during those 40 years long period in the Sinai Desert:

“Go and cry in the hearing of Jerusalem, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord: “I remember you, The kindness of your youth, The love of your betrothal, When you went after Me in the wilderness, In a land not sown. Israel was holiness to the Lord, The firstfruits of His increase. All that devour him will offend. Disaster will come upon them,” says the Lord.’” — Jeremiah 2:2,3

These words of Jeremiah are a surprise to most Christian theologians who have a very negative attitude toward the complaining Israelites in the Wilderness of Sinai. Here the Holy Spirit of God, from the mouth of Jeremiah the prophet, says that the period of these 40 years in the wilderness was the honeymoon between Israel and God.

It was a pleasant relationship. God remembered the kindness of Israel’s youth as a nation. Israel is the firstfruits of God’s increase. Anyone that would devour Israel or offend God’s nation will be met with disaster.

When I look at the history of Israel, and all those great empires and nations that defeated Israel, who sent God’s people to exile to Babylon, I see that actually they no longer exist as nations, only as archaeological sites. And even those have been destroyed during the last war against Isis in Syria and Iraq.

The real picture of these 40 years of wandering in the Sinai Desert was actually a school, or maybe more like a boot camp, for the children of the slaves that left Egypt. The generation that was born in the Wilderness of Sinai was a generation that never knew the harsh treatment of enslavement and suffering in Egypt.

God had to have a new generation that was born in freedom and never knew the whip or the wooden stick on their back, but ate every day fresh Manna and drank water from the Rock that followed them in the wilderness. This was the nation that was ready to enter the Promised Land of Canaan and conquer and take this land as an everlasting possession promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as Israel’s home!

I see a parallel between the generation of Israelites that left Egypt as slaves and their children that entered the Land of Canaan — Israel as free men ready to take what was given to them by God Himself.

Now, in the land of Israel the majority of the Israelites are born outside of Israel in the diaspora, but the next generation that was born or raised here in this land and served in the IDF with pride and privilege is going to take the helm and lead and guide this nation in the land of Israel in a totally different way.

The relationship with God will be clear and fresh. It will not be imported from the ghettos of Europe and the cities of Morocco and the narrow poor streets of Sanaa in Yemen. The majority of the politicians in this country today are still immigrants or children of immigrants from North Africa or Poland, France or England, Brazil or Argentina.

As disciples of Yeshua we also need to learn from that generation that wandered 40 years in the Sinai Desert, and first learn to be kind to each other understanding that we, the Jewish people, including the so-called “Messianic Jews”, are a work in progress. We have not graduated yet from the diaspora school of hard knocks.

The majority of the leaders of the Messianic congregations in Israel are still in some limbo of the diaspora, and the so-called “Messianic faith” is a canned version imported from the dungeons of the Inquisition in Spain, Portugal, Italy, France, and the tower of London and the death camps of Nazi Germany.

It is our responsibility to leave the faith borrowed from the Christian denominations and sects, and work on restoration of our faith and lifestyle from God’s Word first of all and from the local spiritual culture of Israel and the Torah, the prophets, and the writings of the apostles in what we call the New Testament.

It is a very big challenge that we face as disciples of Yeshua in this land that is being restored from wilderness to a garden of agriculture and hi-tech industry. The land of Israel is waiting for the restoration of pure and holy faith, with faithfulness to Yeshua and the apostles, and not to some antisemitic fathers of the fake churches of Europe.

There is no room in the spiritual restoration of Israel for Martin Luther, or John Calvin, Wesley, Meno, Campbell, or other well-meaning Christians that know not Moses or the living Yeshua seated at the right hand of the Almighty One of Israel.

“For thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: ‘In returning and rest you shall be saved; In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.’” — Isaiah 30:15

The continued verse is negative, but it is up to our generation to accept God’s invitation and turn it to positive!

Joseph Shulam: Brad TV Video Teaching – Bamidbar [2022]

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

Shalom, my name is Joseph Shulam, and together with Brad TV in partnership, we are doing all the weekly portions of the Torah as they are read in the synagogues around the world.

This week we’re starting a new book, the book of Numbers in English. Now I have to say something about the names of the books in Hebrew and the names of the books in English and Latin and Greek, and in all the other languages. The names of the books in Hebrew, are a result of the fact that there were no names of the books.

And so, they divided the books, the running text, into sections that would be practical for the sake of the scrolls that they were written on. Then, they used one of the significant words in the beginning of the book, the Pentateuch, the five books of Moses, who were at one time, one composition. They had to divide them for practical reasons because scrolls were made from leather from a goat or of a sheep and can become heavy. We’re talking about a scroll that is 100 feet long; it can become quite heavy. Normally our scrolls in our synagogue downstairs from this studio, weigh around 15 kilo, which times three makes it 45 pounds, which is not easy. Also, after the reading of every Sabbath, we lift them up; and whoever is the last reader, must pick them up and hold them there, and the people sing and praise and it’s heavy. But if it was all the five books of Moses together, it would be much heavier. So, it would be about 15 kilos, about 45 pounds.

But in the old days, they divided them into five books. So, when this one book starts, the other one ends and that’s how it goes; all the way to the book of Deuteronomy.

So now we are in the book of Numbers, chapter one, verse one. In Hebrew, the book is called Bamidbar, which means in the wilderness. Now the Lord spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tabernacle of meeting, on the first day of the second month in the second year, after they had come out of the land of Egypt.

That’s the beginning of the book of Numbers. Why is it called in the Septuagint, Numbers? Because the first four chapters, which is this week’s Shabbat’s reading, is dealing with the census. We already read about the census in the book of Exodus and we read about how they made the census counting. Each person gave half a shekel of silver and they counted the half shekels of silver, and then they knew how many people they were. And now we have the details of that census, the results of that census in the first four chapters of the book of Numbers. And the first verse in my opinion is very significant because we know that the children of Israel spent 40 years in the wilderness. And here we have a date of when they left Mount Sinai, after the receiving of the law. They built the tabernacle and they collected all the collection for the tabernacle and they sanctified the tabernacle. And the sons of Aaron became the priests and they ordained them as priests. All of these things that happened, we know the date.

It was on the first day of the second month, in the second year, after they had come out of the land of Egypt. All that we read from Exodus, from chapter 12 of the book of Exodus until now, happened during those two years. That includes, the golden calf when Moses was 40 days and 40 nights up on Mount Sinai. It includes the collection for the tabernacle. It includes the murmuring about the bitter waters in chapter 17 of the book of Exodus. It includes the murmuring about the bread, the manna, in chapter 16 of the book of Exodus. It includes the murmuring about the fact we have no meat in the book of Exodus. And then it includes all the laws of the priests and the sacrifices; seven different sacrificial purposes of the sacrifices of the animals in the book of Leviticus. And then the purification laws, from touching a dead body and from leprosy. And then on with the curses and the blessings that we have in the book of Leviticus, that repeat themself again in the land of Canaan in the book of Deuteronomy, after they entered the land without Moses. All these things are here and now we are finally two years and two months later, the final consensus of the census and the children of Israel are on the way to spend 38 more years in the wilderness of Sinai. Very significant.

But let me give you the references. The Torah portion that is being read in this next Shabbat, is from Numbers chapter one, verse one to chapter four, verse 20. The parallel in the prophets is from the prophet Hosea chapter one, verse 10 to chapter two, verse 22, very difficult chapters, very, very harsh chapters. And from the New Testament, we are reading from Romans chapter nine, verse 25 to verse 32. Okay. What can we learn from these tedious texts in the first chapters of the book of Number?

Tedious. Why are they tedious for me? Because they give us the census. How many tribes, how many people were in each tribe, who were the presidents of the tribe and all these names, difficult names, that appear here to us from chapter one. What was the census about? Verse two of chapter one, of the book of Numbers tells us, “Take a census of all the congregation “of the children of Israel by their families, “by their father’s houses, “according to the number of names, “every male individually from 20 years old and above, “all who are able to go to war in Israel, “you and Aaron shall number them by their armies. “And with you there shall be a man from every tribe, “each one, the head of his father’s house.” In other words, there was Moses and Aaron and they allocated to each tribe, men that would be in charge, responsible for the numbering of his tribe.

Now we’re living in the 21st century. The time of the Exodus from Egypt was 3000 plus years ago. What bothers modern women that read this text? It bothers them that only the men are counted. The women are not counted in this situation. The census was for military purposes, as it says, “You and Aaron shall number them by their armies. “And with you, there shall be a man from every tribe, “each one, the head of his household. “And these are men that are able to go to war. “They were the army of Israel “from 20 years old and above.” In other words, they didn’t count the little children, male or female, they didn’t count the women. They made a military census to see how many men from the age of 20 and up are able to go to war to become soldiers.

So dear sister, don’t get offended. Today in the Israel army, we have women who are generals. We have women who are fighters. We have women brigades. We have. Oh some of our terrorist neighbors are more afraid of our women than they’re afraid of our men. Because sometimes our women are much harsher than our men. They have to prove themselves that they’re capable of doing the military job today. But not in the time of Moses.

And what else can we learn from the names of the people that were the heads of their tribes? One thing that we can learn, is that their names have two marks of identity. One is the place and the relationship of the men of Israel with the Lord God of Israel. For example, when I look at the names, we have the head of the tribe of Reuben, who was the oldest son, Elizur ben Shedeur. Elizur the son of Shedeur. Elizur means God is my rock, that’s his name. God is my rock, Elizur. And he was the son, his father’s name was Shedeur, Shaddai is my light. The Almighty one, is my light. In the Christian Bible, if you don’t know Hebrew, it’s hard to discern, dear brothers and sisters, the importance of these texts. They tell us the names of the people that led the children of Israel. The heads of the tribes that led the children of Israel in the wilderness these 38 years. They describe their interests. People name their children according to their vision, according to their principles, according to their values, according to their professions; what’s important to them.

So here we have the presidents, the heads of the tribes of Reuben is Elizur and he is the son of Shedeur, God is my rock and his father is “the Almighty is my light.” Hallelujah. Judah, the president of the tribe of Judah, his name is Nahshon ben Amminadab. Nahshon means from the word snake, yeah? Mr. Sneaky,” the son of, my people are charitable.” Issachar, Netanel ben Zuar. Netanel means Nathaniel in English.

We have one of the disciples of Yeshua named Nathaniel. Nathaniel was a man in whom there’s no guile in the gospel of John. What does it mean? Netanel, Mattityahu, Yohanan, all have the same meaning. A gift from God. You missed that if you don’t know Hebrew folks.

It’s important to know what the people’s name are who left the land of Egypt. They were slaves in Egypt just two years and two months ago. And those names were not given to them when they left Egypt, those were the names that the leaders of the people of Israel had in Egypt. Then they were slaving in the mud baths of Egypt, in the stone quarries of Egypt, making bricks, farming for the hay to make the bricks. But their names preserved their identity; even during those generations of slavery in Egypt.

I get goosebumps, I get excited, when I read these things! These are the people that were slaves in Egypt. These are the people that put blood on their doorposts so that the angel of death will skip their houses and save their firstborn. These are the people who also murmured in the wilderness. But their names reflect their real character, their real identities.

Zebulun, Eliab ben Helon, God is my father. Helon could be understood one way or another, but let’s understand it, a soldier. My father, God is my father and I’m a son of a soldier, a fighter. Joseph, the tribe of Ephraim, Elishama, God hears me. The son of Ammihud. My people’s glory was the name of the father of the tribe of Ephraim, the tribe of Joseph. Manasseh his brother and another son of Joseph. Gamliel ben Pedahzur. Gamliel, we know Gamliel from the New Testament; that was Paul’s teacher. But from the tribe of Manasseh there was a Gamliel, the head of the tribe of Manasseh during the Exodus, same name, Gamliel. Gamaliel, is the way they say it in English, which means, God has shown me favor. Hallelujah. Tribe of Manasseh, the head of the tribe’s name is God has shown me favor. And the rock of my redemption, the rock of my salvation was his father. The father of Gamliel, the head of the tribe of Manasseh during the exodus, his name was, God has showed me favor, Gamliel, and his father was Pedahzur, the rock of my salvation. Benjamin, Abidan. My father is a judge. The tribe of Dan, Ahiezer, my brother’s helper. And the father of my brother’s helper was Ammishaddai. Earlier we saw the same name, yes? Ammishaddai, the Almighty is, my people’s Almighty one.

And so on and so on. All the names have what is called a theophoric meaning. They include in them part of the character, the nature or the name of God. What does it mean? It means that while these people were still slaves in Egypt, they never forgot who their God is, and what is His meaning, and what is His place in their lives. During the misery of slavery, they kept the memory. They kept the understanding of the nature of God and it is reflected in their name.

That’s important folks. It’s very important because we don’t have a film or a video of how it was in Egypt. But if you visit Egypt and you visit palaces of the Kings that are mentioned in the Bible and in history, the Pharaohs of that period, whether you counted as the 1400 years BC or 1200 years BC, doesn’t make a difference. We know who the Pharaohs were all through these years, we have their records. We have their pictures if you want; statues, carvings and stone, paintings. Yes, dear brothers and sisters. We know what it was like in Egypt. The glory of Egypt is still visible if you visit Egypt. And these were the people that were slaves there; these were their names, and their names are also their identities.

So, I’ve been a believer for over 60 years. I’ve preached the gospel from the first day that I came out of the water of baptism in the Mediterranean Sea on the 2nd of September, 1962. I never heard, and I’ve been every week, at least once in some community, in some church, in some fellowship, I never heard anybody ever preach from the first four chapters of the book of Numbers.

It’s important, dear brothers and sisters, that we know that every word that the Holy Spirit has delivered to us, inspired, is profitable for correction, for instruction, for equipping the man of God to do all good works. Not one word in the Bible is irrelevant. Every word is relevant. It forces us, especially those of us who teach the word of God, to learn it. Not in only in Korean and Japanese and Chinese and English and French and Russian, but in the original languages. Because God saw fit to deliver his word to us in Hebrew and in Greek. And those of us who teach, also have responsibility. Have responsibility to understand the word of God and to pass it on as good news to the world around us, yes?

When Yeshua says, “Go to all nations and preach the gospel,” It means, the word gospel means, good news. Gospel is an artificial word in English. Bogeum is an artificial word in Korean. The meaning of the word evangel, means good news and dear brothers and sisters, even here in these texts, that are considered boring by a lot of Christians, they’re not boring at all. They have revelation like any other chapters, like any other text in any other book in the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation.

There is one more note. We talked about the theophoric names, the names that include a description of God or the nature of God, and the leadership, the heads of the tribes of Israel during the exodus from Egypt. But later on, in chapter three and four, we find a change in the names. And we find names that have to do with shepherding, shepherding sheep. And names that have to do with professions, with jobs that people had in the 38 years of exodus in the wilderness of Sinai. And we find out that many of them were shepherds; by their names we find out that they were shepherds. Like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were shepherds and their wives’ names Sarah and Rebecca and Rachel and Leah and Miriam; they are names of sheep at different stages of their maturity. Yes, we can learn so much from the names.

God bless all of you. Keep digging, keep studying, don’t give up. Every word of God is a refreshing revelation.

May God bless all of you and shalom from Jerusalem.

Yehuda Bachana: The One Thing People are Willing to Die for [2018]

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

This Shabbat we read Parashat Bamidbar. The name of the weekly Torah portion is determined by the first word that appears in it, so too is the name of the five books of the Torah. The name is determined merely by the first word appearing in it, and not necessarily according to the content.

The Hebrew name, Bamidbar, means “in the desert”:

“The Lord spoke to Moses in the tent of meeting in the Desert of Sinai…” - Numbers 1:1 [NIV]

The English name for it is Numbers; mostly because this book is not so surprisingly full of numbers.

The Call to Bring Order Where There is No Order

The call to conduct a census in the desert is a call to bring order where this is no order.

This week's parasha begins with a commandment given to Moses:

“You and Aaron are to count according to their divisions all the men in Israel who are twenty years old or more and able to serve in the army.” - Numbers 1:3 [NIV]

There is a stark contrast between being in the desert and conducting a census. There are no rules in the desert and no laws, it is absolutely limitless.

The desert dwellers did not have much property. There were storms in the desert - it is where we broke the Tablets of the Covenant. The desert is full of anarchy - a situation without order.

A census is the opposite, its purpose is to bring order, a framework, and government.

When we read the weekly Torah portion, we feel as though we are reading the report of the Statistical Bureau of the Sinai Desert, that somehow it accidentally entered the Bible.

Moreover, the order is exemplary. Each person is recorded according to their ancestral home and tribe, where they camped, and under what banner they traveled.

God’s Order Works

In another month and a half we will read Parashat Balak. It appears that the order is working, that the Israelites are organized, and it is difficult for Balaam to find a breach in the people. He cannot find a place from where to curse the people of Israel, and he must move to and fro in order to find the right spot.

From the highest of vantage points he sees order, the people of Israel dwelling in tribes, each in their own camp under their flag. What was Balaam looking for? Balaam sought a place or a way to break the unity of the people and allow for discord and division.

Finally, Balaam blessed the people of Israel with the famous blessing:

“How beautiful are your tents, Jacob, your dwelling places, Israel!” - Numbers 24:5 [NIV]

We Cannot Live on Our Own in the Desert

It's a wonder in itself, the amount of arguments was probably few. The people must have been united in one way or another.

Some say that it was the desert that helped unite and strengthen the people.

In the desert, there are no street lights. Day is day and night is night. There is no air conditioning. There is nothing to distract us, no advertising.

Suddenly, we find that we cannot exist alone, we need each other in order to survive. We have to lend a hand to help those in need. From here grows loyalty and mutual responsibility, an ideal. It goes to show that even from the desert, a nation can grow.

Everyone is uniform, according to the commandment, either stopping to camp or rising to continue on the journey, “each of them under their standard,” (Numbers 2:2) according to the banner of the tribe.

Why is a Flag so Important?

What is a banner, and why is it so important? Each country has their own rules on how to treat a flag.

The importance of the flag as a symbol is expressed in Theodor Herzl's words in a letter to Baron Hirsch:

“What is a flag? A pole and a piece of cloth? No, Sir! A flag is greater than this. With a flag people are led to wherever you want, even to the chosen land. For a flag, people live and die. It is the one thing people are willing to die for.”

In this context, we reach the words of David Wolfson regarding the Israeli flag:

“At the order of our leader Herzl, I came to Basel to make all the preparations for the first congress. Among the many questions that occupied me then was one… With what flag will we decorate the congress hall? What are its colors? We do not have a flag. This idea was very painful for me. We must create the flag. But what colors should we choose? And then an idea became clear in my mind: Indeed we have a flag. White and blue. The prayer shawl in which we wrap ourselves in our prayers - this prayer shawl is our symbol. We will remove the tallit from its case and unfurl it before the eyes of Israel and the eyes of all the nations. I then ordered a blue and white flag with a Star of David drawn on it. And so our national flag came into being.”

The Flag We Serve Under in the Congregation

A flag symbolizes a vision and our belonging, as human beings, to a common idea. Therefore, every nation has a flag, every company has a logo.

As believers, our vision is to be a lighthouse. To shine Yeshua's light, the light of Torah, and to draws others closer to faith. According to Yeshua's words in Matthew 5:

“You are the light of the world… In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” - Matthew 5:14a,16 [NIV]

The vision of the local congregation is to build a supportive and constructive community that will enable believers to grow and strengthen together.

The call to serve the flag, the vision, is a call to join and do something for the members of the local community, to build the social and volunteering aspects of the congregation.

In Hebrew we have a phrase, “to be called to the flag.” This means to be called to contribute, to give from yourself at your own expense, for the vision, for the community, or for the country.

Even to fight for the ideal of the nation with the same flag.

The Call to War in Israel

In the IDF, when there is a call to the flag, what we call “Order 8,” the response rate is about 110%-115%. How exactly is this possible?

For regular military reserve duty, training or standard operations, there is about a 75%-80% response rate. Reserve military units make their plans according to an 80% response rate. This is the case, because people are under pressure at work, there's a new baby, people are out of the country, and many other reasons and excuses.

However, in the case of war, like with Lebanon in 2006 or the large-scale operations like those in Gaza in 2008 and 2014, there is a higher response rate. Even when it's dangerous, when there is a tangible risk of loss of life.

This is because we are being called upon to protect our homes and our families. These wars are not a privilege, they're a duty. In other words, our homes are under attack, and we must protect them.

The above 100% response rate is due to people who are out of the system, older people, or people otherwise removed from the system, hear about their friends getting called up, or read it about it in the news, and they simply show up at military bases, ready to serve.

The Call to be a Flag

We too are called to the flag, we are called upon to stand behind the vision and serve it. However, we are also called to be a flag, to be a symbol of faith, a sign of what is good, right, and true.

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” - Matthew 5:16 [NIV]

Yeshua's commandment is very clear. That people may see us, our faith, our joy, and our deeds, and through these they will come to know God.

We are required to be kind and patient. To show love, joy, peace, and serenity. Indeed, if we do not have joy and true love in our hearts, what then do we have to offer the world?

Not everyone finds the joy and glory found in nature. There are days when it seems like the whole world around us is in a state of deep depression, stuck in a terrible evil. We have to change this perception; that is actually our mission of life.

We have a duty to project happiness, to radiate love and peace with the world and with ourselves.

The world should see that we have something to offer, that we have an undying source of joy.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” - Philippians 4:4,5 [NIV]

This video features music by Keith Green. It’s is one of the best, you can't listen to it without being filled with joy:

In Conclusion

As believers, we must strive to lead lives that are full of light, light that will attract others. People ought to see us and get inspired to improve their lives, their families, and to draw near to the Creator of the world.

May we have the power to grow strong together as a family and a community, and to strengthen others, in the name of Yeshua the Messiah.

Click here to download a pdf version of this teaching.