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 God of Relationships [2021]

This Shabbat we will be reading the Torah portion called “Beha’alotecha” from Numbers 8:1-12:16. The Hebrew meaning of this Shabbat’s portion is “when you set up the lamp stand”. From the prophets the reading will be from Zechariah 2:14-4:7, and from the New Testament we will be reading from 1 Corinthians 10:6-13, and Revelation 11:1-19.

You might ask how are these reading decided and who makes these decisions of what will be read each Sabbath? The answer has two parts!

The reading of the Torah is as ancient as Ezra and Nehemiah. The first recorded public reading of the Torah is in Nehemiah chapter 8.

In the New Testament the practice of the reading from the Torah and the prophets was already well established. We find Yeshua invited to read from the prophet Isaiah chapter 61 in the synagogue in Nazareth.

We find Paul being invited to read in Asia Minor and in Greece in the synagogues that he attended. And in Berea (north of the city of Thessaloniki) Paul stayed for three months, and was reading and preaching about Yeshua from the Torah portions that they were reading.

In the New Testament period the reading of the Torah was in a three-year cycle. In our day the reading of the whole Torah is in a one-year cycle. This means that our readings are longer than they were in the First Century of our common era.

The Haftarah (the reading of the prophets) that is read after the Torah in all the synagogues is decided by tradition according to the subject matter of the Torah. It is normally complimentary to the Torah, dealing with at least some of the main topics that the Torah is mentioning.

Our reading of the New Testament is decided by different leaders, and it can vary from congregation to congregation because our tradition is relatively new. But there is slowly a formation of a tradition also based on the subject matter that relates to the reading of the Torah and the prophets.

It is my personal opinion that it is wise and good and spiritually healthy for all disciples of Yeshua to read the same scripture portions in both so-called “messianic synagogues” and in all the born-again churches.

Here are the reasons for my recommendations:

First, the level of proficiency of the community increases by the public reading of God’s Word every week and every year again from the beginning. Even the slow learners pick up something from hearing the Word of God being read in public.

Second, the readings from the Torah and from the prophets, and then from the New Testament, tie these three important sections of the Word of God together. It is easy to see how the Holy Spirit of God is involved in all three sections of the scriptures.

This is extremely important, because the Christian churches have worked hard to diminish the importance of the Torah and the prophets. They have done their very best to separate the so-called “Old Testament” from the New Testament. Forgetting the commandment of the apostles and elders of the church in Jerusalem to the Gentile brothers to go on every Sabbath to the synagogue to hear the Word of God publicly read.

You can see this so clearly both in the practice of the apostles themselves, and also in Acts 15:19-21, as a strong recommendation for the Gentile disciples of Yeshua to go to the synagogue on the Sabbath day to hear the Word of God being publicly read.

We must remember that having a scroll of the Torah in the ancient world of the early centuries of our common era was a very special thing. Most Jewish communities in the Roman Empire had the five books of Moses in a scroll, but very few had the full scroll of the prophets.

We hear from historical sources that some had one scroll and others had a few scrolls, but only toward the end of the Second Century in the common era (around 280 CE) do we hear of Jewish communities that had all the cannon from Genesis to the end of 2 Chronicles (according to the Hebrew tradition of the order of the biblical books). The final decisions were made in Yavneh between 70-280 CE.

Third, the non-Jewish communities ought, in my opinion, reintroduce this biblical practice that was commanded by the apostles because of the importance of the proficiency of their communities.

The level of ignorance of the scriptures in the churches in the world is very high because, for years and years, in the Protestant churches, the only scriptures that they hear is the proof texts that their pastors use to make their own point in their sermons. The sermons are not geared for teaching the Word of God to the masses, like M. Luther was hopping would happen after the people had the Bible in their own vernacular languages. It didn’t happen and it is not happening now.

An important and additional reason for the churches to read from the Torah, from the prophets, and from the New covenant is the identification and joint union with Israel as a country and a community worldwide. Some later Catholic church fathers, together with Protestants, after the Protestant Reformation in Europe, worked hard to totally separate and condemn any respectful relationship with the Jews and their communities.

So to restore the relationship with the Jewish communities, in my opinion, is absolutely important and needed for the restoration of the church back to the Word of God — from Genesis to Revelation — and the building of a healthy and blessed relationship of the church and Israel.

The first verses of our Torah reading from Numbers 8:1 (especially verses 4 and 5) are very important for understanding the first three chapters of the book of Revelation. John, the beloved apostle of Yeshua, from the cave on top of the Island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea, off the coast of modern Turkey, was looking into the conditions of the churches of Asia Minor, and probably was deeply disturbed by their condition and by their horrible and heretical practices.

So, he arranges the churches in the image of the menorah of the Tabernacle that Aaron and Moses built in the wilderness of Sinai. The seven churches are imagined by John as the seven lamp stands commanded by God for Israel.

The candelabra (the menorah) had seven lamp stands. It was made from one piece of gold, hammered into the shape of the menorah. All the candles were connected to the central shaft, and their were not all made the same height and length. The menorah was not molded, but it was hammered into the intricate shape.

The image of the menorah conveyed both unity and diversity. I believe that that image was a part of John’s message to the churches of Asia Minor in the end of the First Century of our common era.

The churches that were established mainly by Paul the apostle of Yeshua had developed some serious spiritual sickness and horrible heresies. The menorah picture was a symbol of unity and diversity and the importance of the suffering, the standing, and the dealing with their common and individual problems, and spiritual and moral deviations from God’s plan of salvation.

In the Torah reading this Shabbat we also have one of the very important principles of God and of His relationship to people, and especially to Israel, and rearranging the Torah to fit the people, as opposed to bending the people to fit into the Torah.

This principle is revealed in the book of Numbers at least twice. The first time is in our Torah portion God, adjusting the Passover for the people with “special needs” because they were absent or not fit to celebrate the Passover on the 14th day of Nissan.

God was not and never has been a stiff and cantankerous old man in the sky. He understood the problem in the Torah and adjusted and gave new and special examples of leadership.

“Now there were certain men who were defiled by a human corpse, so that they could not keep the Passover on that day; and they came before Moses and Aaron that day. And those men said to him, ‘We became defiled by a human corpse. Why are we kept from presenting the offering of the Lord at its appointed time among the children of Israel?’ And Moses said to them, ‘Stand still, that I may hear what the Lord will command concerning you.’ Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel, saying: “If anyone of you or your posterity is unclean because of a corpse, or is far away on a journey, he may still keep the Lord’s Passover. On the fourteenth day of the second month, at twilight, they may keep it. They shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. They shall leave none of it until morning, nor break one of its bones. According to all the ordinances of the Passover they shall keep it.”’” — Numbers 9:6-12 [NKJV]

How I wish that the spiritual leadership of both the Jewish communities and the Christian churches had that kind of leadership that understood that people are are more important than religious traditions and theological stiff-necked legalism. God said to Moses and to these people who couldn’t keep the Passover in time, “Fine men, you can have a second chance to keep the Passover a month later and it will not be counted for you as a sin or strange practice, because the Passover and the Shabbat and the other holidays don’t belong to the Jews or to the Christians — they are ‘My times and seasons.’”

I love God’s faithfulness and His understanding of our human condition and His flexible attitude toward the times and seasons, and also God’s attitude toward our weaknesses. God’s laws and demands through the whole bible are not theocentric (God in the center of our spiritual experiences), they are anthropocentric (the human being is at the center of our relationship and our spiritual experiences).

The way to reach and have a relationship with God is by our relationship to our earthly families and our relationship to our fellow humans. There are so many examples of this principle that space doesn’t allow me to give you more than one of the examples from the New Testament:

“Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” — Matthew 5:23,24 [NKJV]

Every week the reading of the Torah and the prophets, and the complimentary reading from the New Testament, both remind me and enrich my soul — refreshing my faith like rivers in the desert. I hope that you, my dear brothers and sisters will read your bibles and be watered with the fresh, good, and cool water that is so much needed for today’s spiritual condition of our communities.

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

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

Shalom. My name is Joseph Shulam, and in partnership with Brad TV, we are following the weekly portion that is read in every synagogue around the world this week.

This Sabbath, we are going to start talking about a portion that’s called Beha’alotecha, which means “when you set up the Menorah”, the candelabra in the temple. We have instructions of how to build the candelabra, that is the shape of it. Our reading starts from chapter eight, verse one, and ends in chapter 12, verse 16 of the book of Numbers. From the Prophets, we are reading from Zechariah chapter two, verse 10 to chapter four, verse seven; and from the New Testament, we read from Luke chapter 10, from verse one to 24.

Now, the candelabra has seven lamp stands, a central lamp stand, and each side three lamp stands, which makes it a total of seven. Now, in the New Testament that candelabra plays an important role. The book of Revelation, from chapter one, is written to the seven churches in Asia Minor. Each church is one of those seven candles, and together, they make the candelabra. That’s why it is important for us today to understand what that candelabra was like, that Menorah, in Hebrew.

First of all, the first thing that we read here in the book of Numbers is that the candelabra was made from one piece of gold that was hammered into shape.

Also, it is very interesting for us who know the book of Revelation, and received the book of Revelation as God’s revelation for the church, and for the world, to understand the teaching about the end of the world, and what will precede the end of the world. And the reason that this is important for us to understand is this; the seven churches of Asia Minor, each one of them had its own problems, its own sin, its own challenges, its own need for repentance, and regrouping of the people, and the work of the holy spirit in holiness, and each one had its own sin.

Each one of those seven churches of Asia Minor had their own sin. And here you have the secret of why John, in Revelation, calls those seven churches candles, seven candles, a candelabra of seven candles, because in the Torah, we learned that this candelabra was made from one piece of gold, hammered. If I translate the hammered with another word; put through the mill, put through difficulties, going through persecution, having internal problems, hammered. That’s the imagery that John is trying to get to when he is talking about these seven churches of Asia Minor.

Now here, the tabernacle is about to open, and to become functional, and we have the first thing that is mentioned, in our portion, verse, chapter eight of the book of Numbers, is that Moses spoke to Aaron, and said to Aaron, “When you arrange the lamps, the seven lamps shall give light in front of the lampstand.” That candelabra was supposed to be on 24/7 all the time. It gave light inside the tent of meeting, inside the tabernacle, that had no windows. Remember that the tabernacle had no windows.

So, the candelabra gave the light inside the tabernacle, inside the holy space of the tabernacle. And in verse four of chapter eight of Numbers, we read through five. “Now, this is the workmanship of the lampstand it 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.”

What did we learn from this? We learned that when Moses was up on the mountain with God, and God showed Moses the blueprint, at least the blueprint, maybe a maquette, maybe a model of the tabernacle, a heavenly model of the tabernacle, there was also a model of the candelabra. Now Moses and the children of Israel reproduced that heavenly candelabra on Earth from gold, a copy of what he saw in the heavenly tabernacle.

Now that the candelabra is in place, comes the role of the dedication of the Levites. The first thing in the dedication that they had to do in verse six of chapter eight of Numbers, was to be cleansed, purified, ceremonially, of course. I mean, they took baths, I’m sure, before that occasion, but they had to be cleansed ceremonially, to be immersed. Their clothing had to be purified and washed. They had to offer sacrifices for their atonement, and for their dedication to the service of the Lord.

In verse nine of chapter eight, we find this word that is translated in English. “You shall bring the Levites before the tabernacle of meeting,” but the word for bring the Levites, or bring them close is the same word as sacrifice. The priest, the cohanim were the children of Aaron.

The Levites were the rest of the people of the tribe of Levi, and they had to be purified before they entered the service of the Lord in the tabernacle. They had to wash their clothes, immerse themself in water. Moses and Aaron, earlier we read in the book of Numbers, they had to anoint them after they were purified. The anointing was of the right-hand thumb of the right ear and the right feet. That’s how the anointing of the Levites was; it was both with blood of the sacrifice, and with oil. Why?

A servant of God has to hear from God, has to do God’s work with his hands, and he has to walk on the path of God. That’s why the dedication was this way, and the Levites got dedicated, and now they had to lay hands on the heads of their sacrifices, on the head of the bull, on the head of the goats and the sheep. Before they slaughtered them, they laid hands on them, and they had the wave offering of the bodies of, and I’m sure not the bull, but maybe the bull too, I don’t know, the calves, and the other animals that were offered on that day. They had to be lifted up. That’s what the wave offering means, lifted up before the Lord, and then offered on the altar.

And then we see in our portion, a very interesting thing that people don’t think much about. It says every first born in Israel to an Israelite mother had to be given to the Lord, dedicated to the Lord. Every first born of the Levites, in verse 16, had to be redeemed. Why? The text tells us. I’m going to read chapter eight verse 16 and 17 of the book of Numbers. It’s a very, very important thing. “For they,” I’m going to read from verse 15 so they get the context. “After the Levites shall go into service the tabernacle of meeting, so you shall cleanse them, and offer them like a wave offering, for they are wholly given to me from among the children of Israel. I have taken them for myself instead of all who opened the womb, the first born of all the children of Israel, for all the first born among the children of Israel are mine, both man and beast. On the day that I struck all the first born of the land of Egypt, I sanctified them to myself.”

In other words, the death of the first born in the 10th plague before the Exodus of Egypt, those first born of the Egyptians have caused God, because he saved the first born of the Israelites, to have the first born of the Israel belonging to God. In other words, they redeemed the death of the firstborn of Egypt.

It says that very clearly in verse 18. “I have taken the Levites instead of all the firstborn of the children of Israel, and have given the Levites a gift to Aaron and his sons from among children of Israel to do the work of the children of Israel in the tabernacle of meeting, and to make atonement for the children of Israel, that there be no plague among the children of Israel when the children of Israel come near the sanctuary.”

In other words, they had to be redeemed, the first born of the Egyptians that died, and they were, the first born of the Levites redeemed the first born of the children of Israel.

How did they redeem them? So, they had to serve God as Levites in the tabernacle. It’s an interesting thing, this whole thing of redemption. We talk about getting saved. Getting saved in the normative evangelical Christian thinking has to do with the judgment day. You live, and you then die, and because you got saved, you will spend eternity in heaven with the saints, with God, with Jesus with the apostles, with the angels.

But the redemption here is not in order to go to heaven. It’s in order to serve God down here on Earth. These Levites that were redeemed by the firstborn were supposed to serve God. They were not waiting for heaven. They were dedicated to serve down here on Earth during their lifetime.

What happens to them after that would be like everybody else that is saved and redeemed by the blood of the lamb, by the lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world, Yeshua, our Messiah. But what is interesting here is the bookkeeping that God keeps. I killed those children of the Egyptians in the 10th plague, to deliver the children of Israel from slavery.

But you guys are not getting it free. You are going to have to dedicate your first born, the Levites, to serve in the tabernacle as redeeming those children of Israel, and those first born of the Egyptians that died in the 10th plague.

Very interesting. I find it extremely interesting. First of all, I find that we, the disciples of Yeshua, in the world, now have a calling, a partnership. We have an obligation to serve God if we’re Levites. For example, my family’s from the tribe of Levi, both sides of the family, my father’s side and my mother’s side. And if we had a temple in Jerusalem, I would be called to serve as a Levite. We don’t have a temple. We haven’t had a temple since 70 AD when the Romans tore down Jerusalem, and tore down the temple, and burned it to ashes.

But the concept that I, and you, my Christian brothers, and sisters, and Jewish disciples of Yeshua, must understand, is that our redemption, yes, it is by grace, but it carries with it obligations. Those Levites, because they were Levites that were killed by the 10th plague, by God’s plague, now have to serve in the tabernacle. They’re not free to do whatever they want to. They have to serve in the tabernacle, the service of God as a redemptive service for the Egyptian firstborn that died, and for the first born of Israel that are not Levites.

So, this is a very interesting concept. But of course, they had to be immersed in water. They had to be purified by washing their clothes, by wearing special clothes, by having special duties. And it’s interesting that the language that is used here is military language. Verse 23 of chapter eight of Numbers, “The Lord spoke to Moses saying, ‘This is what pertains to the Levites, from 25 years old and above, one may enter to perform the service in the work of the tabernacle of meeting.’”

Now, a 25-year-old man, probably already married, has children, maybe had already made his fortune, maybe he’s built his house, joins the army. He’s out to perform the service of the work of the tabernacle of meeting, and at the age of 50, he retires. “They must cease performing this work, and shall work no more. They may minister with their brethren in the tabernacle of meeting to attend needs, but they themselves shall do no work that the Levites do, regarding their duties.”

In other words, between the age of 25 and age of 50, they’re like in the army. Those first born of the Levites, they’re like in the army, and they are serving the tabernacle. At the age of 50, they can stop their service at the tabernacle, and they can tend to their own business, or they can also help in the tabernacle, but not, it’s not as if they were in their duty.

Now, all this happens, all what we read is at the foot of Mount Sinai before, after they finished building the tabernacle, and before they start marching, 38 years before they entered the land. All this has been prepared in two years. They left Egypt. They received the law in Mount Sinai. They built the golden calf in Mount Sinai. As a result of that, they built the tabernacle, all donations, all contributions. Women took their earrings off, their bracelets, their gold, their wealth.

They gave it to the building of the Lord, silver, and gold, and precious stones that don’t exist in Sinai, they got from the Egyptians. We know the Egyptians had a lot of jewelry, a lot of precious stones. You see it in the Egyptian museum in Cairo, all the jewelry. The mummies were dressed with gold, and gold masks, and so they had stuff. They gave it all to the building of the tabernacle, and now they’re packed.

They have their jobs. Each one knows what he is supposed to do, and they start marching into the wilderness.

But in chapter nine of our portion, Passover comes. I’m reading from chapter nine, verse three. Now listen, “On the 14th day of this month, the month of Nisan, the first month of the year.” And the biblical Old Testament says, “At twilight, you shall keep it in its appointed time, according to its rights and ceremonies, you shall keep it.” So, Moses told the children of Israel they should keep the Passover, and keep the Passover on the 14th day of the first month, the month Nisan. That’s the first month in the biblical calendar. At twilight in the wilderness of Sinai, according to all that the Lord commanded Moses.

So, the children of Israel did whatever they were commanded. You know, this is the first time that the Passover is kept outside of Egypt as a feast, yeah? And you would be surprised that the children of Israel, that had the Torah that their grandfathers left Egypt, didn’t keep those feasts as much as they should have.

We find out later in the Prophets that they didn’t keep the feast of Passover until quite late, the time of Josiah. And we find out that they didn’t keep the feast of of Sukkot, Tabernacles, until quite late; until the days of Ezra and Nehemiah in the book of Nehemiah, chapter eight and nine, they had these feasts, they didn’t keep them.

And we are living in a time when our brothers and sisters around the world are beginning to wake up, and understand the significance of these feasts. The way Paul puts it, all these feasts, the Sabbath, and the dietary laws, and the new moons, are a shadow of the things to come in Christ, in the Messiah. So, we’ll talk about this some other time.

Our time is short now for talking about what’s happening in the New Testament with the book of Paul’s letters, and especially in the book of Colossians chapter two, verse 16, but you should read it, and find out if it is important or not important according to the apostle Paul, for us as disciples of Yeshua, Jews and non-Jews, to look at the shadow of the things that are to come?

It is prophetic; and that includes the Sabbath, the new moon, the feasts, and the appointed days of the Lord. All of this is prophetic about the coming of the Messiah himself.

May God bless you all. Keep reading, and keep studying, and don’t be shy. If you have questions, I will do my best to answer them if I get them.

God bless all of you, and Shabbat Shalom.

Joseph Shulam: Unity is Needed for Survival [2021]

The Torah reading for this Shabbat is from the book of Numbers 8:1 – 12:16. The name of this portion is a bit difficult for English speakers to pronounce, Beha’alotecha, “when you arrange the lamps”. From the prophets we will be reading from Zechariah 2:14 – 4:7, and from the New Testament we will be reading 1 Corinthians 10:6-13.

The lampstand in the Temple is today also the symbol of the State of Israel. However, for us as disciples of Yeshua who believe the Word of God from Genesis to Revelation, it is the lampstand that was first made in the wilderness of Sinai, and placed in the Tent of Meeting, the Tabernacle.

In our reading this week we find a full description of the menorah (the candelabra). The book of Revelation starts with a description of the seven churches of Asia Minor as the seven branches of the menorah. The question is why are each of these seven churches of Asia Minor, problematic churches, each with some very-serious problem, described as a menorah of seven branches?

The secret to understanding this picture of John’s revelation is found in our reading from Numbers:

“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 8:4 [NKJV]

You have a piece of gold that is hammered into the shape of seven candles. There is a center shaft with three branches on each side of the shaft. These branches are of different sizes, but they are all connected at the central shaft. The middle shaft that holds the branches has the central candle.

The significance of this menorah (candelabra) in the book of Revelation is the following: each one of the seven churches in Asia Minor is different, and the problems are serious. Yes, they are all seven a part of the same menorah, they are all made from the same gold, and they are hammered into shape. The criticism of the revelation of John directed toward these churches is very serious, but they are nonetheless all still a part of the body of the Messiah. Here are some of the problems of these seven churches in Asia Minor:

  • “You have left your first love…”
  • “I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.”
  • “You have those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality.”
  • “Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.”
  • “You allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.”
  • “You are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.”

There are some very serious sins and big problems and yet they are still a part of the same menorah, they are still candles that have light and give light in the dark pagan atmosphere of the Eastern portion of the Roman Empire. They are not cut off from the body of Christ, yes some are threatened that if they don’t change, their light will be put out, but in this condition they are still a part of the menorah they are still a part of the body of Christ.

This is a very important message from the menorah of seven candles that is used here by the book of Revelation which speaks of these congregations as being a part of the same gold and the same united menorah of seven light-giving candles. There are so many divisions and even enmity between different denominations on much lesser problems than the seven churches of Asia Minor.

The unity of the body of Christ is not compromised in these seven churches they are still a part of the same menorah, and they are still a part of the body of the Christ, made of the same gold and connected to the central shaft that holds all the seven candles together.

The menorah of the Tabernacle built from the gold that the men and women of Israel contributed for the building of this Tabernacle and later the same menorah was in the Temple in Jerusalem that Solomon built in Jerusalem. It is a symbol of unity and a symbol of the light-giving collective of seven churches that were full of problems that are very serious and that threaten to put out their light, but are yet not expelled or cut off from the menorah, still a part of the same unity of seven churches.

Let us learn, dear brothers and sisters, to deal with issues and to even discuss and argue and disagree on some things that are not central to our faith, and not sufficient to declare someone of some group as not being our brother or sister in the Lord. The menorah is until this very day, the symbol of the State of Israel, and signifies the unity of the Jewish nation. We have all kinds of Jews in Israel and throughout the world.

We have Sephardic Jews, and Ashkenazi Jews, and Ethiopian Jews, and Asian Jews, and South American Jews, and Jews from the Arab countries that reflect a significant amount of Arab culture and lifestyle… this is why the menorah is still the symbol of theState of Israel and of the unity and unification of the Jews from the world who have returned to the land that God gave to Abraham and to His seed forever.

(See Genesis 13:15 and another 20 examples of the same promise in the five books of Moses.)

I think that some of the sins of these seven churches of Asia Minor at the end of the first century A.D. (C.E.), are still very much in existence in the church today. When I say in the church, I don’t mean one denomination or another, but the whole spectrum of the Christian churches. I am not going to list those sins again, but I believe that intelligent brothers and sisters can extrapolate from the list above taken from Revelation chapters 2 and 3 which is sufficient for them to connect the dots.

The only one that I will help you with is the sin of the church of Ephesus who has left her first love. I propose to you that the first love of the Church was the love of Israel and was exhibited in their loving relationship with the Jewish community. My opinion is based on God’s first love – Israel is God’s first fruit, as He has stated in Jeremiah chapter 2.

The readings from Zechariah chapter 2 and from 1 Corinthians chapter 10 also have to do with the Lord’s relationship and expectations for Israel and for the Jewish nation:

“For thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘He sent Me after glory, to the nations which plunder you; for he who touches you touches the apple of His eye. For surely, I will shake My hand against them, and they shall become spoil for their servants. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent Me.’” – Zechariah 2:8-10 [NKJV]

The connection with 1 Corinthians 10 is also there:

“Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.” – 1 Corinthians 10:1-5 [NKJV]

As you can see the one point that Paul was making in these texts is that “all” were there in the wilderness and all passed through the sea… That part of Paul’s teaching is again put in the context of the wilderness of Sinai that period in which Israel was going through the 40 years of the wilderness experience and was being formed into a nation.

Unity of the body of Christ is, in my opinion, not decided on issues of the theological interpretation of some minor issue, like what words the preacher said when you were baptized, or if you take communion with matzah bread or regular bread… Unity is an issue central to the survival not of one denomination or another, but to the survival of Christianity as a biblical faith and obedient expression of the body of Christ in the world. The divisions, and the enmity that is created by these divisions, is supposedly a systemic weakening of the whole mission and effectiveness of the place of the Good News in our world mission.

Joseph Shulam: The Significance of the Candelabra [2020]

The Torah reading this Shabbat is from Numbers 8:1-12:16. It is a long reading, the name is Behaalotecha. It starts with the setting up of the candelabra inside the tent of meeting, and later in the Temple in Jerusalem. From the prophets the reading is from Zechariah 2:10 – 4:7, and from the New Testament it is from 1 Corinthians 10:6-13.

I will concentrate on the candelabra of seven candles made of pure gold. The making of this candelabra is also very interesting to me. It was made from one piece of gold. It was hammered into shape. It has a central shaft and three semi-circular branches that branch out on both sides of the central shaft.

In other words, it was made in the shape of a tree with three branches on each side. The candles were lit all day long and all the night long. The fuel of this candelabra was olive oil. What is interesting about this candelabra is that in the apostle John’s book of Revelation the model after which the churches in Asia Minor are presented is just such a candelabra of seven candles.

When you read the report that the angel gives John and the reprimands that he issues against each church you would think that these churches are really bad, and they were, but the point of describing them as a candelabra of seven candles is that they are still connected and made from one piece of gold.

I think that this is the point of the picture of Revelation chapters 1-3. No matter how serious the problems are, and there were some very serious spiritual issues and moral issues, in most of these seven churches, yet, they are still a part of the light giving and life-giving organism of the Lord’s body.

There is a threat that the Lord will put their light out and they will be in darkness, but in each case of the seven churches there is still hope that they can make corrections and do right.

Israel is commanded twice, in Isaiah 42:6, and 49:6, to be the light of the world. The disciples of Yeshua were declared to be the light and the salt of the world. We need to remember that when Yeshua spoke these words He was speaking to Jews. However, the non-Jews in the body of the Messiah have the same commission as the Jews because they were grafted in through the blood of Yeshua to the commonwealth of Israel.

The English are still so proud of the British Commonwealth. The princes of the British royals visit their commonwealth countries and are received with honor and dignity and celebration.

I think that the commonwealth of Israel that the apostle Paul is speaking of in Ephesians 2:10-13, a commonwealth created by God from the time of Abraham, is something much more worth celebrating and honoring and rejoicing over than the British Commonwealth.

It is an issue of identity and identity with the chosen people of God is much more important. Please read the text of Numbers and of Zechariah and from 1 Corinthians. Reading the word of God is enriching and equipping, providing you with what can’t be received anywhere else, not even in churches.

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.


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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