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: “If” is a Powerful Word [2018]

This week the reading in the Synagogue is Bechukotai – (In My Statutes) from Leviticus 26:3-27:34. The first word in this important Torah portion is “if”. This word is small and humble. However, it is one of the most important words in any language. It is a word that demands a decision. It is a word that gives choices. It is a word that forces us to stop being complacent and take charge of our life.

Yes, it is a word that makes some people very uncomfortable, because they prefer not to take their lives in their own hand and make important decisions that might require action and confrontation and challenging work. Some people prefer to keep the status quo and not rock the boat and stay consistent in their present condition because making decisions might change things and they like things as they are now in their comfort zone even if their comfort zone is not so comfortable.

In this parasha it is the Lord who gives to all of Israel, then and now, to every disciple and believer in God, the choice. This choice is the only significant and real choice that any human being has in a lifetime.

“If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments, and perform them…” – Leviticus 26:3 [NKJV]

The other “if” in this chapter is in verse 14ff:

“But if you do not obey Me, and do not observe all these commandments, and if you despise My statutes, or if your soul abhors My judgments, so that you do not perform all My commandments, but break My covenant…” – Leviticus 26:14–15 [NKJV]

Now I know that some critics will come now and say: “We are not saved by works of the Law . . .” Yes, that is true, but we are also not saved by disobedience and rebellion against God’s commands. It would be enough for me to quote Yeshua Himself from His very last words before ascending to Heaven:

“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:18–20 [NKJV]

Maybe I should bring a quotation from the apostle Paul just in case some doubt the words of Yeshua:

“Or is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of course He is the Gentiles also, because there is only one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Do we annul the Torah through faith? For sure not! On the contrary, we keep the Torah.” – Romans 3:29–31 [JBS]

When you examine the blessings that come from obedience to God you immediately see that it is the wise decision to make in life. Here are some of the blessings that God promises to brings to a person’s life when he lives an obedient life: fertility to the land, peace, strength to deal with your enemies, good family life, God Himself will dwell among us and walk with us, God will keep HIS promises to us, and He will break the our bondage and make us walk upright.

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When we make the bad choice, the choice to disobey and rebel against God and against His commandments terrible things will happen to us, things that no one wants in his life or in the life of his family. If you are interested to find out more what terrible things will happen to those who rebel against God – go read them for yourself.

However, notice the statistics: There are 11 verses of blessings for those who walk in obedience to God and do His will. There are 33 verses of courses for those who walk in rebellion and disobedience. You make your own choice and I believe that almost all who are reading this prayer list have already made their choice, the right choice: To hear the Lord believe in Him and do our best to be obedient to His commandments.

Yehuda Bachana: Our Job is to Bear Fruit in the Community [2018]

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

This week we conclude the book of Leviticus. We began it with an explanation of the different types of sacrifices. After that, God taught us about the sacrificial service in the Tabernacle, which later will become the sacrificial service used in the Temple.

We continue on to the dedication of the Tabernacle, which was followed by the national trauma of the death of Aaron’s two sons, the chief priests of Israel. From there, the book continues to instruct the people of Israel on the laws of purity and impurity, the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), and the requirements for holiness for the people (and for us).

Several times in the book we encounter the commandment:

“Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.’” – Leviticus 19:2

After this requirement, we have a long list of commandments that lead to holiness, such as honoring parents, observing the Sabbath, and loving your neighbor as yourself.

The Choice Between Blessings and Curses

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God’s word gives us the opportunity to choose between life and death.

This week we reach the final Torah portion of Leviticus, and in closing, we the people, are given the opportunity to make a choice. We can choose to obey the commandments – which will bring about an abundance of blessing. Or we can choose not to obey the commandments that God gave, which will bring a curse upon us.

“If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands…” – Leviticus 26:3

If we keep His commandments, we will receive an abundance of blessings, mainly financial success, which will lead to a better life in the country and a military advantage. In turn, this will bring us security, peace, and tranquility.

Of course, if we do so, we will merit God’s presence among us. He will be our God and we will be His people.

“But if you will not listen to me and carry out all these commands…” – Leviticus 26:4

Then we will receive the exact opposite, we will get the sword, the famine, the pestilence, and if we still don’t get the hint and continue to disobey:

“If in spite of these things you do not accept my correction but continue to be hostile toward me, I myself will be hostile toward you…” – Leviticus 26:23, 24

We will descend into war, which will surely end with destruction and exile.

A National History of Blessings and Curses

We read these verses from the point of view of the people of Israel before entering the Promised Land. Here God warns them to keep His commandments, not to regress morally, or else the earth will vomit them out.

Today we can literally mark all the dates on a historical calendar in which these curses took place.

The interesting part is that there are 10 verses that talk about the blessings compared to 25 verses that deal with curses.

However, chapter 26 concludes with God’s promise that He will not forsake us, He will remember the promises He made to our forefathers, and even if we go out to exile, He will one day deliver us, just as He did when He brought us out of Egypt.

The Land of Israel will be waiting for us. Enemies can conquer the land, enemies can exile us, but the Land of Israel will be waiting for us, and the land will flourish only when the Jewish people return and settle in it.

When we were in exile, the land stood desolate and would no longer blossom. It did not grow a tree or bear fruit throughout the period in which we were in various exiles.

Today, thanks to God, after the return of the Jewish people to their land, it has once again started to grow at a tremendous pace. The prophets prophesied that the day will come when Israeli children will play undisturbed in the streets of Jerusalem and old people will walk in the streets.

While in exile, upon reading these prophecies, it was difficult for people to see how they would be fulfilled. They could not imagine that one day the fields of Israel would come to life and produce crops.

Today we do not need to imagine, we just need to look out the window. We have many blessings that are promised to us in the Bible. Some of those blessings are mentioned in this week’s parasha.

God’s Promise to Us

The first verse begins with “if” as a condition, meaning that, as a nation, we have the choice to follow the Lord and receive the following blessings: rain in season and in the right quantity, crops and harvest, that we will eat bread in abundance, and that we will dwell peacefully in the Land of Promise.

God promises us good things, if we obey His statutes and follow His path.

This weekly parasha addresses the blessings on a national scale, as the people of Israel. In the haftara, the weekly reading from the prophets, the blessing is more personal:

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” – Jeremiah 17:7-10 [NIV]

Our haftara (weekly reading from the Prophets) is very similar to Psalms 1:

“That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.” – Psalms 1:3 [NIV]

Almost identical to the words in Jeremiah 17:8.

Our Job is to Bear Fruit in the Community

Our job here on earth is to bear fruit. God gave us many talents and has blessed us all. The New Testament gives us several lists of gifts, talents, and abilities. Every person has a role and a unique gift.

Therefore, every member of the community should have a role, whether it is an official role, or an informal one, such as encouragement, listening, caring for others, prayer, or visiting the sick and the elderly. We are all organs in the body of Messiah, and we must all contribute to the community.

The most important thing is, that everything we do, we must do with gladness. If we do something, it must appear like we enjoy doing it, that it comes from the heart.

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Can the congregation function at full potential when most of the audience is inactive, both physically and socially? Do we imagine a congregation where we sit, sing a little, pray a bit, listen to a sermon, go home, and that’s it?

Have we truly done our duty? Is God pleased with me because I went to His house? The great question that Yeshua asks is, where is the fruit?

How Will We Account for Our Lives?

I would now like to share with you the story of a man and his rich relative:

A man begged his rich uncle for a job, but no position was fitting for him. The uncle tried putting his nephew in a few different offices, but the work was done very poorly, which was bad for business.

The uncle did not want to fire his relative, but he also could not leave him in charge of an office that would eventually not function.

Finally, he said, “Okay, you’ve got a job at the factory, all you have to do is to refrain from bothering the employees, don’t touch anything, wait for the first of the month, and then go get your paycheck – that’s it.”

From then on, the man was happy, all he needed to do was hang around the factory and do nothing, and wait for the first of the month.

One day an inspector came to check the factory. He asked each employee about their job and received a detailed explanation of why each worker is important and contributes to the factory. Of course, every worker tried to show how essential their work is to the factory.

Then came the turn of the nephew. The supervisor asked: “What do you do at the factory? How do you contribute towards its success?”

The man paused for a minute, then replied: “All I have to do is go around the factory and do nothing, not touch anything, not disturb anyone, wait for the first of the month, and then get my salary.”

One day we will stand and give account to Yeshua. What will we say? That all we did was hang around without care?

It’s not a big deal to come to congregation, sit down and think, “I’ve done God’s will, I showed up, I sat down, I didn’t disturb anyone, and I left.” A day will come and I will receive my “paycheck” from the King of Kings.

We are all God’s workers, and we must actively build up the body of Messiah and the Kingdom of Heaven. Each of us has special skills and gifts, and we must utilize them and contribute them to the congregation in order to build the community.

“…A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ “‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’” – Luke 13:6a-9 [NIV]

In Conclusion

God cares for us, waters us, and invests in us. What’s left for us to do is to cling to Him, to His word, to His path, and God will plant us by streams of living water, as He promised: living water that does not run out or run dry.

The goal is for us to produce fruit, to help each other, support one another, implement steps that build the Kingdom of Heaven, and respect God.

This choice is also a national one, for all of Israel, to live according to God’s word. But it is also a personal choice, to personally draw near to God’s word, to personally invest and lift up the family and the community.

Both personally and nationally, we must choose to be holy, every day. It is not an easy choice, but it is choosing life!

This is the end of our portion as well as the conclusion of the book of Leviticus. Let us say the traditional blessing after finishing a book in the Torah:

“Chazak chazak v’nitchazek” (“Be strong, be strong, and let us be strengthened”)

Click here to download a pdf version of this teaching.