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.

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

The Biblical text of the tribe and the nameThe meaning of the name
Reuben, Elizur the son of ShedeurGod is my rock, the Almighty my light
Simeon, Shelumiel the son of ZurishaddaiMy peace is God, my rock is the Almighty One
Judah, Nahshon the son of AmminadabPersistent, my people are gifted
Issachar, Nethanel the son of ZuarGift of God, minority (small)
Zebulun, Eliab the son of HelonMy God is a father, the son of strength, military
Ephraim, Elishama the son of AmmihudMy God hears me, my nation is united
Manasseh, Gamaliel the son of PedahzurGod is gracious to me, redeemed by the Rock
from Benjamin, Abidan the son of GideoniMy father is the judge, the executioner
Dan, Ahiezer the son of AmmishaddaiMy brother is my help, my nation is mighty
Asher, Pagiel the son of OcranMy entreaty of God, defeater, subduer
Gad, Eliasaph the son of DeuelGod has added to me, the Lord knows
Naphtali, Ahira the son of EinanMy brother is a friend, one who sees

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

parashat-bamidbar
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.