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: We are the Lamps of the Lampstand [2019]

This week the Torah reading (in Israel) is from the portion called Behaalotecha (“When You Set Up”). It is from Numbers 8:1-12:16, and the reading portion from the prophets is from Zechariah 2:14-4:7, and we read in our congregation from the New Covenant from Hebrews 4:14-16, and Revelation 1:9-20.

As you can see, much of the long reading this next Shabbat is dealing with the lampstand that was built for the Tabernacle, and later also placed in the Temple in Jerusalem. Later yet, after the destruction of the Temple by the Roman General Titus, who later became Caesar, the Titus Arch was built in Rome. The menorah (lampstand) is prominent in this arch, which Titus built to commemorate his victory over Jerusalem.

parashat-behaalotecha

Titus Arch in Rome commemorating the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. and the menorah that is brought to Rome and marched through the streets of Rome, as a sign of the fall of Jerusalem and Judea.

Here is what the text of Numbers says about the service of the menorah (the lampstand of the Temple):

“And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: ‘Speak to Aaron, and say to him, “When you arrange the lamps, the seven lamps shall give light in front of the lampstand.”’ And Aaron did so; he arranged the lamps to face toward the front of the lampstand, as the Lord commanded Moses. Now this workmanship of the lampstand was hammered gold; from its shaft to its flowers it was hammered work. According to the pattern which the Lord had shown Moses, so he made the lampstand.’” – Numbers 8:1–5 [NKJV]

Here are some of the interesting points in this reading. Our portion of the week starts with this text, but it ends with the complaints of Miriam and Aaron, the brother and sister of Moses. The complaint was that Moses was the only leader and they were feeling that it is not right for Moses to be the only one that God is speaking with directly.

Aaron and Miriam felt that they too have a relationship with God and that they too ought to be included in the so called “supreme leadership of Israel”, and hear from God directly. We know the end of this important story and that is that Miriam became infected with leprosy. She repented and Moses asked God to heal his sister and Aaron.

But, let me get back to the menorah. It is not an accident that in the book of Revelation the Angel of the Lord is revealing to John that the seven churches of Asia Minor were like a seven-candle menorah, that is, like the menorah in the Temple.

The menorah was made from pure gold. It was made from one piece of gold that was hammered into a specific design, with a stem in the middle, and three branches of different diameter and length on each side (please see Exodus 37).

The wording of the text in Exodus 37 and in Numbers 8 is interesting: “When you arrange the lamps, the seven lamps shall give light in front of the lampstand.” In other words, the lampstand will be giving light in a way that it can be seen in front of the lampstand. This is not a lampstand that is for decoration in the Tabernacle and in the Temple, it is a lampstand that is designed to actively give light.

I think that the Angel of the Lord in Revelation is using the seven-candle lampstand of the Lord’s Temple in Jerusalem as a parable. These seven churches of Revelation were not exempt from some very serious problems. Each was a little different from the other.

However, with their problems and their serious issues, they were still a part of the lampstand that was designed to give light up front. They were still the body of people for whom the Messiah died and resurrected from the dead. They were still giving light even though they had problems.

The fact is, that even to the church of the Laodiceans, that was one of the more seriously problematic, the Lord says: “I will vomit you out of My mouth.” In fact, in Revelation 3:19-21, the Lord invites the church in Laodicea:

“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” – Revelation 3:19-21

Yes, like individuals, communities (churches) can also have problems, even serious ones, but even with the problems they are a part of the Lord’s lampstand. Who else can be the light of the world? This command to be the light of the world was given in the Old Covenant by the Lord to Israel.

“Indeed He says, ‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob, And to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.’” – Isaiah 49:6 (see also Isaiah 42:1-6) [NKJV]

The big question is this: do we see ourselves as a part of something much bigger than ourselves? Something that is not perfect (not every candle is the same size as the other)? And maybe there are some serious problems that each has, but we have something in common.

We are made of the Lord’s pure gold, yes, hammered, suffering, and sometimes even naked with our shame. But the Lord God of Israel is still standing at our door, knocking, knocking, knocking, and waiting for us to open the door of our heart, so that He can come inside and dine with us. The reward of fellowship with the Lord is so great in this text: “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.”

Do you want to join the Lord on His throne and have fellowship with the Son and with the Father? You have to work hard and open the door of your heart not only to be saved, but to be a part of a golden menorah that is transparent and gives light to the world, promotes unity, seeks the truth, and joins with Israel to be the light of the world…

Please seek the Lord on these readings from the Torah: Numbers 8, Exodus 37, Isaiah 42:1-6, 49:6, and Revelation chapter 1-3.

Joseph Shulam: Let Us Learn From Moses’ Leadership [2017]

The majority of this Torah portion deals with leadership, transfer of authority, and sharing authority. The portion starts with the role of the menorah the seven-light candelabra made of pure gold. This is important for the understanding of the first three chapters of the book of Revelation. I have already written about this in the past.

From the menorah, the texts take Moses to the consecrating of the Levites for the service to God in the Tabernacle. There is an elaborate ceremony that is both a job description and a setting a part of the tribe of Levi for the service of the Almighty God.  Today, leadership in both Messianic circles and in churches is doing their best to be casual and non-formal in their service and relationship to the Lord and also to the congregation. In Israel, during the days when God dwelled in the middle of the camp and His presence was visible by day and by night, it would be a sin to be casual with God’s things and service in His presence.

From there the Torah takes us to the beginning of the wandering of the children of Israel in the wilderness, led by the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. As soon as the children of Israel hit the road – they start complaining about the mannah and the leadership, and Moses also complains to the Lord and says:

“So Moses said to the Lord, ‘Why have You afflicted Your servant? And why have I not found favor in Your sight, that You have laid the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I beget them, that You should say to me, “Carry them in your bosom, as a guardian carries a nursing child,” to the land which You swore to their fathers? Where am I to get meat to give to all these people? For they weep all over me, saying, “Give us meat, that we may eat.” I am not able to bear all these people alone, because the burden is too heavy for me. If You treat me like this, please kill me here and now—if I have found favor in Your sight—and do not let me see my wretchedness!’” – Numbers 11:11–15 [NKJV]

Moses was so tired of leading the people that he could not continue. His situation was so serious that he said to the Lord: “If You treat me like this, please kill me here and now—if I have found favor in Your sight—and do not let me see my wretchedness!”

Imagine that Moses the great leader is asking God to kill him and take him out of his wretchedness. Leadership that is sincere and caring can be a true burden that at times is hard to sustain.  Note that this happened after Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, left the camp, and now Moses had no one to lean upon and get encouragement.

God tells Moses to gather the 70 elders of the people and to bring them to the Tabernacle, and share his anointing with the elders of the people. A great leader, no matter how strong and powerful a leader is, can’t lead alone for a sustained period of time. He must learn to share his anointing and gifting with other qualified personal. The 70 elders receive the commission and they now stand side by side with Moses to lead the people of Israel in the wilderness.

It seems that just as soon as the elders are appointed to share the anointing of Moses Miriam and Aaron, the sister and brother of Moses wake up and they too feel that they deserve leaders like Moses.

“Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married; for he had married an Ethiopian woman. So they said, ‘Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us also?’ And the Lord heard it. (Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth.)  Suddenly the Lord said to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, ‘Come out, you three, to the tabernacle of meeting!’ So the three came out. Then the Lord came down in the pillar of cloud and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam. And they both went forward. Then He said, ‘Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, make Myself known to him in a vision; I speak to him in a dream. Not so with My servant Moses; He is faithful in all My house. I speak with him face to face, Even plainly, and not in dark sayings; And he sees the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid To speak against My servant Moses?’ So the anger of the Lord was aroused against them, and He departed. And when the cloud departed from above the tabernacle, suddenly Miriam became leprous, as white as snow. Then Aaron turned toward Miriam, and there she was, a leper. So Aaron said to Moses, ‘Oh, my lord! Please do not lay this sin on us, in which we have done foolishly and in which we have sinned. Please do not let her be as one dead, whose flesh is half consumed when he comes out of his mother’s womb!’ So Moses cried out to the Lord, saying, ‘Please heal her, O God, I pray!’”  – Numbers 12:1–13 [NKJV]

Note that the first thing that Miriam and Aaron attack is Moses’ personal life. He married an Ethiopian woman. The second thing that they attack is the exclusivity of Moses as the leader of Israel. Miriam’s claim was very typical: “We are also leaders! Who made you a Sultan here? We have the same abilities. We too hear the word of the Lord! Why are you, our little brother, so full of yourself? We too are qualified to lead just like you.”

Well, the Lord left the Tabernacle and the cloud departed from them. Miriam became a leper. At that point also Aaron realized their sin and confessed that they have done a foolish thing and have sinned. Moses cries out to the Lord and asks for God to heal Miriam his sister.

Here too is a great lesson for leaders who are called by God to lead His people. Leadership in God’s kingdom is not a private, professional job. It is a calling from God, and leaders have to allow God to demonstrate His power and His approval of their leadership.

Even when there is dissatisfaction in the camp, and even if it comes from insiders and even family, the graciousness of God’s love and grace has to be the most visible quality of the leader. Let us all learn leadership from Moses, and also learn to share the anointing and inspiration with the other qualified men and women in our congregations and ministries.

Yeshua learns from this story about Moses and Miriam that if you speak evil and act presumptuously you become more impure than if you eat without washing your hands ,or even more impure than if you eat lobster, shrimps, or bacon. What comes out of your mouth is more defiling than what goes into your mouth. This is taken from this story of Moses, Miriam, and Aaron. Leprosy is one of the most defiling and impure things in the Bible.

Yehuda Bachana: Who is the True Keeper of Israel, God or the IDF? [2018]

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

Our Torah portion begins with discussing the menorah, which has become an important symbol of Judaism. In fact, it also serves as the symbol of the State of Israel. The olive branches to the right and to the left symbolize the desire for peace.

In addition, they are based on this passage from our haftara (the prophetic reading of the weekly Torah portion):

“He asked me, ‘What do you see?’ I answered, ‘I see a solid gold lampstand with a bowl at the top and seven lamps on it, with seven channels to the lamps. Also there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.’” – Zechariah 4:2,3 [NIV]

Further on, we find the well-known verse from Zechariah:

“…‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.” – Zechariah 4:6b [NIV]

The apostle Saul interprets this verse to stay that it is not by man’s power, but by the spirit of God:

“It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.” – Romans 9:16 [NIV]

The Importance of Israel’s National Symbol

Today we can attribute this interpretation also to the State of Israel – not by might nor by power, but by the spirit of God, the State of Israel lives!

The famous Arch of Titus depicts the Roman Legion bearing the spoils after the looting of the Temple. Above everything else you can easily spot the menorah. It’s considered to be an “Arch of Triumph.”

It’s interesting that the State of Israel chose the menorah as its national symbol. It is taken from the moment of the Roman victory, precisely the symbol associated with that low point, with exile and the destruction of the Temple.

Here we need to understand that the menorah from the Arch of Titus is only loot, a piece of the spoils, and an expression of a momentary sense of power that rests on the back of a few soldiers.

Scripture reminds us, “not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit.” Today we are here, being warmed by the light of that same menorah, which is our national symbol. As for the Romans, they’re gone with the wind.

Who is the True Keeper of Israel?

This raises the question, “Who is the true keeper of Israel?”

Every Saturday we as a messianic congregation in Jerusalem, pray for the protection and strengthening of the soldiers of the State of Israel. However, who is the true guardian of Israel, God or IDF soldiers?

It would be easy to say that God is the true guardian of Israel, case closed. In that case, we can go home and wait for God to come with a strong hand to guard and deliver us. Such an interpretation was accepted when the State of Israel was established.

In 1948, many opposed immigrating to Israel or helping to re-establish the state, because they believed that God was the true guardian of Israel and of the Jewish people. It was the Messiah’s job to re-establish the Land of Israel, not a task for us humans.

In their opinion, the fact that we took action, and did not wait for God or for the Messiah, actually prevents God from working – and therefore there will be no blessing. That was their way of thinking, and they were wrong.

God Expects Us to Act

I believe that God uses human beings to carry out His will. We are merely the instruments to be used by Him.

We tend to focus on the gifts from above such as prophecy, speaking in tongues, or teaching. Whereas, the rest of human abilities we see as a limitation, that we rely on our own power and do not rely on God. We are taught not to count on our abilities, but to rely on God alone.

It’s a nice idea, but the truth is that God created all of us with many gifts and talents, with the ability to think on our own, with a healthy and intelligent mind, with the ability to plan, calculate, and innovate.

God gave us all these gifts… including our two hands, for the purpose of using them. I believe that God’s expectation of us is that we make, think, create, act, and innovate – because that way we use the gifts that God gave us.

Just like a teacher who teaches, or a prophet who prophesies, or a worship leader who sings.

Who Defeated Goliath? God or David?

When God created man, He created it him in order to preserve and maintain all of creation. We see this in Genesis.

God created us with a particularly high level of adaptability, with survival ability, ingenuity, and personal ability, higher than any other creation. Again, with the goal of developing in us an attitude to use all the gifts God gave us for good.

This idea is true for every aspect of our lives, and the lives of those around us. This idea holds true for the true guardian of Israel.

Yes, God is the guardian of Israel, and His will is done, for better or for worse. However, throughout history, God used people to carry out his plan. God used David to win wars and conquer the land.

Who defeated Goliath? God or David?

The correct answer is that God beat Goliath by the hand of David:

“This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel.” – 1 Samuel 17:46 [NIV]

The Morality of the IDF

If we see the picture in this light, then in fact the Israel Defense Forces are the emissaries of God. They are the guardians of Israel, as an extension of the arm of God.

Occasionally, when Israel or the IDF is mentioned in the world news, it is usually not in a positive light. It is my duty to raise the truth about Israel and the IDF.

I believe in the IDF, we are an extraordinarily moral army. I have not encountered problems of looting, even if this happens occasionally in the press. In civilian life, there is theft from time to time, and that is why we have police.

I am thankful that, in my years of service in the IDF, I have never encountered any instance of looting. The same things goes for rape. As of today, I have never heard of any instance of a case or complaint about an act of rape in the IDF.

I raise these two points, because these are the first two things that an army throughout human history tends to do. The morality of the IDF does not end with these two points. We believe in the sanctity of life.

The Morality of the Individual Soldier

The extensive use made by terrorist organizations in Gaza, the West Bank, and Lebanon, of human shields – by locating their headquarters and their means of dispatch within a civilian population, inside schools and hospitals – is in itself indicative of their own belief in the high level of morality of the IDF.

Otherwise, there would be no use in using human shields.

Finally, at the end of the chain, stands the lone soldier. His or her level of morality, “humanity”, sensitivity to the suffering of others, commitment to prevent destruction and unnecessary damage – these are dictated by his or her personal education.

I believe that as a people we suffered greatly at the hands of others, and we are careful not to harm others. An additional aspect is the learning of the Torah. As a people, we are based on the Torah and its inherent morality.

I am proud of this symbol of the State of Israel as well as of the IDF soldiers. But it is still important to remember:

“…‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.” – Zechariah 4:6b [NIV]

God’s Word is a Light for the World

Over everything rules a sovereign God and indeed we are all but tools in His hands.

The whole idea of this article, is that God is sovereign.

Our first course of action should always be to align ourselves with Scripture, with the spirit of His word. This idea is similar to the instruction of Yeshua the Messiah, to seek first the Kingdom of God.

This is our purpose, and towards this we are marching:

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” – Matthew 6:33 [NIV]

Our parasha begins with the menorah:

“Speak to Aaron and say to him, ‘When you set up the lamps, see that all seven light up the area in front of the lampstand.’” – Numbers 8:2 [NIV]

The candles in the Temple menorah were directed inward, towards the middle candle. The light did not disperse in all directions but rather converged, and that is how it managed to illuminate the world.

We are a Light as Well

The same goes for us. If we focus on our inner being, we will succeed in being a lighthouse.

What does it mean to focus on your inner being? Focus on your faith, on integrity, trustworthiness, loyalty, love, caring for others, and joy.

Focus on these qualities and develop them, work on them, maintain and strengthen them, these are our business cards.

If we focus on the idea that candles must be turned inwards, it must also include criticism. If we want to give criticism, let’s start with ourselves.

But before we begin to sink into self-criticism we need to find balance, to find the watershed. God forbid that self-criticism becomes something that breaks and destroys us, instead of its original intention to improve and build.

The Need for Balance in Criticism

In our parasha there is reference to criticism, negative criticism in particular, which neither builds nor helps.

The people of Israel complained and criticized Moses, it was incessant. These internal struggles are worse than Pharaoh, the Red Sea, and Amalek.

In the face of external enemies we are united, we are strong, we have the strength and motivation. But in the face of internal enemies, we struggle and suffer from them until death.

I want to share one of Moses’ responses to the incessant criticism and crying of the people of Israel:

“I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me…” – Numbers 11:14,15a [NIV]

People, even leaders, are all human beings in the end. They cannot withstand constant criticism and whining, there’s a limit.

The Need for Encouragement

As believers, and as students of the Torah, we must examine ourselves and understand that constant whining is not a positive option, not in the community, not at work, and not at home.

In fact, the home is perhaps the worst place because we feel free to whine there. We live with the same people for many years in the same house, and here we must learn from the lesson of the Jewish people, and internalize the importance of a positive attitude.

At some point, we should emphasize the good aspects of ourselves. This comes in the place of pointing out what is wrong with someone else.

By showing others love, joy, patience, attentiveness, and understanding, we can illuminate the world, by the light of the Messiah that is within us.

People are so thirsty for listening, for compassion, for pleasant words, for appreciation, but at the same time, we all fall into the trap of judgment and criticism.

What Have We Done to Make Things Better?

Here we go back to the beginning, to the fact that our candles must shine inwardly, we start with ourselves, is there any criticism for us? Let’s start there; what have we done to improve or correct ourselves?

Rabbi Kook wrote:

“The pure righteous do not complain of the dark, but increase the light; they do not complain of evil, but increase justice; they do not complain of heresy, but increase faith; they do not complain of ignorance, but increase wisdom.” – Rabbi Kook

What does this mean? That it is not wise to go against stupidity, or against evil, or against the obnoxious, anyone can do that.

The great wisdom is to increase good and to correct. Not to go out against someone, but to add your own truth.

May we have a peaceful Shabbat, filled with the light of the Messiah, Shabbat shalom U’mevorach.

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