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.
Note: This is a double Torah portion. To learn more about double Torah portions, read here.
Joseph Shulam: The Lord is Our Provider 
This next Shabbat, May 8th, 2021, will be the reading of a double portion of the Torah. The reading is from two portions: Behar (Leviticus 25:1 – 26:2), and Bechukotai (Leviticus 26:3 – 27:34).
From the prophets (Haftarah) we will be reading a very very important prophetic portion that is extremely relevant to our own day and extremely important for Christians to read, study, and pray about in intercession for Israel, and for the Jewish disciples of Yeshua in Israel. The reading is from Jeremiah 16:19 – 17:14.
From the New Testament we will be reading from Matthew 21:33-46, and from Luke 24:44-53.
It is very modern and even postmodern these days to speak about conservation of nature and the agricultural lands around the whole world. According to no small minority, our world is wasting away and our most important natural resources are being lost from day to day and week to week.
The rainforest is diminishing and the soil in agricultural lands is impoverished. Farmers are forced to put much more fertilizer on their land, which increases the cost of farming. Our Torah portion starts with exactly these postmodern concerns and provides a solution with a divine anointing.
Here is a little of the opening statement of our Torah portion for this next Shabbat:
“And the Lord spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: “When you come into the land which I give you, then the land shall keep a sabbath to the Lord. Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather its fruit; but in the seventh year there shall be a sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a sabbath to the Lord. You shall neither sow your field nor prune your vineyard. What grows of its own accord of your harvest you shall not reap, nor gather the grapes of your untended vine, for it is a year of rest for the land. And the sabbath produce of the land shall be food for you: for you, your male and female servants, your hired man, and the stranger who dwells with you, for your livestock and the beasts that are in your land—all its produce shall be for food. And you shall count seven sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years; and the time of the seven sabbaths of years shall be to you forty-nine years.”’” – Leviticus 25:1-8 [NKJV]
Let us notice what God is commanding Moses and the children of Israel about the preservation of the Land and its agricultural vitality:
- You have a Sabbath – a seventh day of rest. It is right for the land also to have a Sabbath – every seven years let the land rest. The land that feeds you, you allow it to replenish its vitality and to rest from being worked and harvested. The land can be depleted of its vitality if you don’t let it rest one year from the plowing and the harvesting of the crops.
- You can work hard for six years and get as much as possible from the land that God gave you, but the seventh year there shall be a solemn rest for the land. This rest for the land is radical because even when you don’t plant and sow the land, on its own it will grow and produce, but you men of Israel, you shall not go and pick the grapes from the vineyards nor harvest the fields. Just leave the land alone on every seventh year – just let the land rest.
- You men of Israel don’t worry about your food in the seventh year. The Sabbatical year will have food for you and your servants and your livestock. In the continuation of the text we find out that in the sixth year there will be such a rich crop in your fields and in your vineyards that the land will provide enough for you to rest and for the land to rest in the Sabbatical year and the following year, giving you time to plow and sow seeds and to prune the orchards and vineyards and to be able to sustain yourselves while you wait for the produce from the work that you do in the eighth year, free from worry.
The principles that The Lord is trying to teach the children of Israel with this Sabbatical year, both for the people and for the land, are very important, and may be even more important for the industrial and business world of our postmodern culture.
The Lord is our provider. One of the most dramatic and surprising cases in the whole Bible of the Lord providing is from Genesis 22:8. Abraham is leading Isaac his son toward the mountain. Isaac is carrying the wood on which he is to be sacrificed, just like Yeshua is carrying the cross on which he will be crucified.
Isaac notices that there is wood and there is fire, but there is no lamb for the sacrifice. He is a smart, being a 20-year-old young man. He asks his father: “where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham answers his son Isaac: “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” Notice the language of the text after this question and answer between Abraham and Isaac his son!
“Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son. And Abraham called the name of the place, The-Lord-Will-Provide; as it is said to this day, ‘In the Mount of the Lord it shall be provided.’” – Genesis 22:13,14 [NKJV]
I like this text because Abraham is prophetic here. He is predicting that the Lord will continue to provide in Jerusalem, in the “mount of the Lord” which is Mount Moriah, on which the Temple of the Lord will be built by Solomon.
I looked for more examples of the Lord’s provision for His people and there are just too many examples in the Bible. So, I decided to go to the macro! The best example in human history of the Lord’s provision is actually the whole history of Israel.
You can start in Genesis and see how God prepared in such a dramatic way, provision for the children of Israel and for the Egyptian empire. The story of Joseph that starts with problems in the family, hate and envy between brothers, ends with Joseph, the hated and rejected brother, providing food for all of Egypt and also for his own family.
In summary, the Lord cares about us, His human race created in His own form and image. He is a loving God, but His love for us is much like any good and caring and loving father here on Earth. Any father who loves his children will train them and equip them to face life prepared to cope with life’s difficulties and challenges.
However, if the children falter and have challenges that they can’t face alone, the father and mother will do all they can to stand with, and help and to provide for their children. We must all learn to trust God.
The history of Israel is proof positive that with all of God’s anger and with all the suffering of Israel in the last 2000 years in the diaspora, Israel has not only survived, but provided blessings for all of humanity. Proof positive that the Lord is faithful and He will take care of his children like the good shepherd in Psalms 23:
“The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.” – Psalms 23:1-6
History has proven that the Lord blesses and provides and takes care of His children! Who are His children? All those who know the Lord and have a living relationship with Him!
This is a simple answer that might not satisfy all the dogmatists in the world. History of the world has proven that this is a true statement.
The question that I have not answered here is who are those who have a relationship with the Almighty God of Israel who created the world? And how do you make a relationship with Him? This we will have to explore another time. Just a hint for the future: “Religion can’t do it! And never could!”
God loves us humans enough to care for the land that we live on and to preserve it. This was his plan even before Adam and Eve sinned:
“Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to farm the land and to take care of it.” – Genesis 2:15
Let us all learn to love and respect the Earth that we live on! It is God’s command!
Joseph Shulam: The Rewards of Keeping God’s Commandments 
This Shabbat the reading is a double portion. We are reading the last two portions of the book of Leviticus, Behar and Bechukotai, Leviticus 25:1 – 27:34. From the Prophets the reading is Jeremiah 16:19 – 17:14. From the New Testament we read 2 Corinthians 6:14-18. All these readings are interesting and full of important revelations.
The Torah portion of Leviticus chapters 25-27 is one of great importance. In these chapters there are the blessings and the curses. The blessings are a reward for faith and faithfulness toward God and to His demands, or maybe I should say opportunities to do good.
I have changed my outlook regarding the commandments of the Lord through re-reading the letters of the Apostle Paul. Texts like Ephesians 2:10 have been ignored by so many “great Christian leaders” because of the inbreeding of anti-Torah and anti-Old Testament teachings into the Christian churches.
I say the Christian churches and am not singling out this or the other denomination. Even churches that have been committed to the restoration of the New Testament Church have never even taken one serious step in the direction of first study and second implementation of a restoration.
Now those churches that were born in the early 19th Century for the purpose of restoring the church of the first century have already given up this important paradigm that gave these denominations their reason for existing.
Here are some interesting points that make these chapters so interesting:
Every seven years – the Shmita (Sabbatical year). This is the year that Israeli farmers stop farming their lands. I mean totally stop, stop ploughing, stop sowing the seeds, and harvesting, just leave the fields untended for a whole season of 12 months.
This means that they would have nearly two years of no farm produce. There were no refrigerators and cold storage, or a way of preserving the farm goods. The Lord knew what He was doing.
In the year before the Sabbatical year, the fields gave more than double their normal yield so that they had enough to live on for two years, the Sabbatical year and the year after they plowed and seeded their fields.
This is the greatest demonstration of the teaching that the Lord does not test us or challenge us beyond the strength that He has provided us with. The sabbatical year teaching from this portion of the Torah is connected with the Jubilee year that is seven Sabbatical years that come to a total of 49 years with the 50th year being the Jubilee year.
The second important thing in this reading are the blessings that will come to those who hear and obey the commandments of the Lord. There are 11 verses of blessings for obedience to God and to His Law. The curses for a rebellious and disobedient nation are 33 verses. Three times more than the blessings for obedience. Now the differences between the blessings and the curses are in two categories.
The blessings are 100 percent good and positive, and are the kind that stay with you for a prolonged time.
“So you shall observe My statutes and keep My judgments, and perform them; and you will dwell in the land in safety. Then the land will yield its fruit, and you will eat your fill, and dwell there in safety.” – Leviticus 25:18,19 [NKJV]
Here is the secret of making peace with our neighbors. Not religion but faith and observation and obedience to the Lord’s judgments and commandments. If you think that this is not true, I challenge you to read the letter of James and 1 John.
There are additional blessings with wonderful consequences and rewards for obedience and hearing the Lord. Note the following verses of the blessings:
“If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments, and perform them, then I will give you rain in its season, the land shall yield its produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. Your threshing shall last till the time of vintage, and the vintage shall last till the time of sowing; you shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely.” – Leviticus 26:3-5 [NKJV]
The curses are mostly the other side of the blessings:
“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, I also will do this to you: I will even appoint terror over you, wasting disease and fever which shall consume the eyes and cause sorrow of heart. And you shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it. I will set My face against you, and you shall be defeated by your enemies. Those who hate you shall reign over you, and you shall flee when no one pursues you.” – Leviticus 26:14-17 [NKJV]
I encourage you to read chapters 25 through 27 of Leviticus. You will find some very interesting and inspiring words given to Israel and all those like you who have entered into a covenant relationship with Israel. Now you might say to yourselves, “What is this that Joe is talking about?” We are Gentiles and have nothing to do with the so called “Old Covenant.”
All you have to do is read the letter of Paul to the Ephesians 2:11-18, and see that through and in Christ you have inherited the covenants of God (in the plural) and that you who were strangers to the commonwealth of Israel have now through the blood of the Messiah (Christ) received all the good things that as pagans you did not have. Now you have it all!
You will find in the rest of the reading of these chapters in Leviticus some horrible curses that God puts on Israel. We had two wonderful orthodox Jews in our congregation from 1972 until last year when David, the younger brother, died at 100 years old.
You will be encouraged and inspired, and then you will be full of fear and encouraged not to test the Lord your God. Then you will see history unveiled and all of God’s promises fulfilled. David and Joseph Vactor, the two orthodox Jewish brothers who were among the first members of our ministry in the early 1970s – went through the Nazi death camps of Eastern Europe.
Joseph said every year in the reading of this text of Leviticus that he has seen every one of these promises of the Lord fulfilled with his own eyes and in his own flesh. God’s promises are not man’s promises. God keeps every one of His promises and He does it to the smallest detail.
According to the chapter of curses in the Law of Moses, there is always a great and wonderful end when the grace of God and His love for us all wins in the end. Israel is saved and safe, and the world, the Gentiles, has come to worship the Lord God of Israel, and abandon idolatry and come to know and worship the Lord God who took us all out of Egypt and brought us into our inheritance forever and ever!
Just a short paragraph on the reading from Jeremiah 16 and from 2 Corinthians.
The reading from Jeremiah 16:19 is so strong and clear, and we are today seeing this happening all around the world. The disciples of Yeshua are arising from the islands of the Pacific Ocean to the frozen plains of Lapland near the North Pole. Immigrants from more than 103 different countries are still flowing to Israel.
You can walk in the streets of Jerusalem or any other town or village in Israel and see Jews of every color, and race walking the streets. The young ones often are in the uniform of the army units in which they serve. The older ones are wearing the symbols of the Jewish faith and nation. Yes, God is faithful and keeping His promises that He gave to Moses in the wilderness and repeated to the prophets of Israel. Please note the following text:
“O Lord, my strength and my fortress, My refuge in the day of affliction, The Gentiles shall come to You From the ends of the earth and say, ‘Surely our fathers have inherited lies, Worthlessness and unprofitable things.’ Will a man make gods for himself, Which are not gods? ‘Therefore behold, I will this once cause them to know, I will cause them to know My hand and My might; And they shall know that My name is the Lord.’” – Jeremiah 16:19-21 [NKJV]
Note dear brothers: Jeremiah is predicting that the Gentiles, the nations, will wake up and see the futility of the worship of idols and worthless statues and unprofitable idols and turn to the Lord. This process started in the book of Acts with Cornelius the Roman centurion and his family, but more than 2000 years later the process continues.
The Roman church and her daughter denominations have tried to do everything to divert and stop this movement of God and the Holy Spirit. Christians around the world are discovering the lies that the Christian denominations have spread, fake news and fake good news.
People from around the world, Christians, are reading the word of God on their own and discovering false teachings, and false holidays, false teachings that divide and estrange a brother from brother and a sister from sister over nonsensical issues that have no root or mention in the holy scriptures, that they hold to and some are maintaining. Don’t worry, if you read the rest of the reading from Jeremiah you will see that the Lord does not spare Israel either.
The text from 2 Corinthians is also a challenge for me, and I suppose for many brothers and sisters:
“Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will dwell in them And walk among them .I will be their God, And they shall be My people.’ Therefore ‘Come out from among them And be separate,’ says the Lord. ‘Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you.’ ‘I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters,’ Says the Lord Almighty.” – 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 [NKJV]
This text from 2 Corinthians 6 is not an easy text to accept and agree with. The situation of the Christian churches today is actually working against this text. If you would like to live out the instructions of the Holy Spirit and the wisdom that the Lord gives us in this text you would be considered in most churches as a radical, loveless, and ungracious, person. You will be ostracized and rejected.
However, it must be stated here that keeping this command of God’s word does not indicate that you don’t have love for those idolatrous and immoral people, some of which could be your own relatives. It just means that you don’t enter in a contractual relationship with people who are living in darkness and worshiping idols. You show them love and grace and encourage them to see the light of the Messiah and the wisdom of His words and be a good example and watch out for the traps and pitfalls that they will put in front of you to test you!
Yehuda Bachana: We Have the Power to Change Torah [2018 – Parashat Behar]
Read the teaching below, or watch a video of the teaching by Yehuda Bachana.
This week, we study Parashat Behar. It talks about of the sabbatical year, the year of Jubilee, and the redemption of land – the return of all real estate to their original owners. Further, it discusses the notion of helping others and lending money.
According to our portion, a loan is supposed to be free of interest, in order to help your neighbor get back on his feet. Likewise, it mentions that if someone is in a difficult situation, he can sell himself as a slave.
Therefore, our parasha also teaches us about the release of slaves during certain periods, including the right of redemption and paid redemption.
Why the Sabbatical Year?
One of the most famous quotes in the Jewish and Israeli world is the question that Rashi asks in regards to the first paragraph of this week’s Torah portion:
“What [particularly] has Shmita [the sabbatical year] to do with Mount Sinai?”
This phrase is used today as an expression of puzzlement over the connection between two matters that are seemingly unrelated to each other.
Rashi originally said that indeed all the commandments of the Torah were given at Mount Sinai. Therefore, why, in the case of the Shmita (sabbatical year) commandment, was the place where it was given mentioned? Of course, there have been many commentaries on this verse.
Past Rabbinical Amendments to the Torah
Today I want to touch on the ancient debate about the correction of the Prozbul (loans), the selling of the land, and the commandment of Shmita.
The difficult question that arises regarding the Shmita commandment has accompanied us since the renewal of agriculture in modern Israel from 1889, which was the first sabbatical year in the new era.
Until then, the commandment was not relevant because it is connected to the Land of Israel alone. However, the question and discussion still remains relevant, because similar questions have been asked on various subjects over the years, both in the Christian and Jewish world.
For example, the correction of the Prozbul was an amendment made by Hillel the Elder. Hillel lived around 100 BC, and he made a correction against the cancellation of debts near the sabbatical year simply because the rich were not lending money. They did so because they feared that the money would not be returned.
Hillel claimed that it was necessary to loan money to those who have none, for they actually need it. Thus it would be better for there not to be the cancellation of debts, in order so that the rich will continue to loan money to the needy.
The same is true of the question of the sabbatical year for Israeli agriculture. At first, it could not meet the Torah’s requirement that agricultural activity be halted for a year. Then, the Heter Mechirah (sale permit) was approved, in which the land of Israel was sold to a foreigner, so that it became possible to continue to work the land which would technically no longer belong to you.
The argument in favor of this idea was that the most important thing was that the momentum of settlement and agriculture in Israel should not be stopped.
The Debate Over the Torah’s Flexibility
Rabbi Kook, who was the rabbi of the renewed Jewish settlement in Israel, believed that his duty was to find a way that would enable agriculture, economy, and agricultural exports to continue. He believed that the community should not go bankrupt.
Further, he saw Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel as the beginning of redemption. He believed that his duty, as a religious leader, was to stand alongside the renewal of the Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel.
Those who opposed the idea of selling land placed the center of the debate on the need for devotion to the observance of the Torah. For them, the ability and willingness of the public to stand financially during the sabbatical year was not under consideration.
There is the obligation, the commandment, as well as the promise from God to bless those who will keep the Shmita year. The opponents claimed that we must observe the sabbatical year and prove the eternity of the Torah, the eternity of the Word of God.
Personally, I very much agree with Rabbi Kook’s ruling at the time. Such a decision, which changes the Torah’s commandments and influences an entire economy of settlers, requires great faith and emotional strength.
I appreciate the religious leader who understands that the Torah was given to human beings in order to help them build a healthy and correct society.
The Purpose of the Torah
The purpose of the Torah is to bring closeness between a man, his society, and God. The leader must be attentive to the society in which he lives, bend the laws, and even cancel the Torah’s commandments when they may harm the public.
As believers sometimes it is hard for us to be flexible on God’s Word, to find the middle way. Many times we think that God’s Word is above our economy, comforts, and above our society’s needs.
The truth is that there isn’t a black-and-white answer. Rather, every public leader must examine his society’s current situation and alter it according to their needs.
Therefore, Rabbi Kook’s decision to sell the land and bypass the Shmita commandment was the right decision for that time. The obligation should be to support the poor, even if a million other problems might be a higher priority.
Why Torah Amendments are Important for Us
Today, however, the economic ability of the Israeli economy to fulfill the commandment of the sabbatical year must be re-examined. We will have to find creative solutions to strengthen the economy and specifically the agricultural sector. Even more, we ought to find a solution in which farmers can live in dignity even while keeping the Shmita.
In this day and age, we can import all our crops from other countries during the sabbatical year, but the real question is: What will happen to farmers? They’ll go bankrupt, and then what? What is the future of Israeli agriculture?
This kind of thinking is important for us as believers. One of our greatest challenges is to develop the Messianic body so that it will emerge from the cultural, religious, and social background of Israel. In fact, we must strive to adapt Messianic Judaism so that it can deal with these kinds of complicated questions and problems of the public.
Yeshua Gives Us Authority, and Responsibility
Yeshua, the New Testament, and the Torah itself give us authority and responsibility. Thus their relevance lasts throughout life and through all generations.
The Torah is eternal, it continues to be relevant for thousands of years. It has both a fixed and flexible nature. God has added the human mechanism to the Torah, so that it can be adapted and continue to be relevant and guide life.
The Torah is not in heaven, it is here on earth, given to human beings, and God Himself entrusted authority to human beings by means of the government.
Yeshua went so far as to teach us the meaning of this authority and said Peter:
“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” – Matthew 16:19 [NIV]
In other verses :
“Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” – Matthew 18:18 [NIV]
I think that this authority was given to every head of a community, each one has great authority. Yet such power comes with a price; the punishment for a teacher is in proportion to his responsibility. This can be seen in a teaching from James:
“Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” – James 3:1 [NIV]
These verses give us responsibility and authority. The main emphasis in this verse is balance. On the one hand, it is our duty to understand the spirit of God’s Word, to teach it, internalize it, and to live by it.
On the other hand, it points out that we should not get caught up in religious legalism. In which religion, beliefs, and Torah are becoming more important than the people around us.
The Human Element in the Torah
Why did God put the human element into the Torah? A Torah that is complete and finished, that does not require the study and reasoning of human beings, would leave us out of the picture.
The human element, the changing variable, is the component that God chose in order to maintain the relevance of the Torah and the commandments for generations to come.
The challenges we face today are very large. Each generation has its own difficulties, advantages, and disadvantages.
However, in our generation, the entire institution of the family is at risk. People are becoming more and more individualistic, each one living in his or her own bubble.
The Importance of the Next Generation
The biggest challenges and something that I find to be of utmost importance, is teaching the children and youth, the development of the next generation. For the next generation is our future, it is the direct continuation of our lives and our work.
In recent times, there has been an awakening in the world regarding the education of youth and children. It needs to be one of the burning issues today, because there can be no continuity of values, culture, or faith without the education of the youth.
I believe that the education of the next generation is a top priority in the Bible. In fact, most of the holidays are meant to teach the children about God, Yeshua the Messiah, redemption, the Torah, and about doing the work of God.
I pray that God will give us the power and the wisdom to find the right balance in the commandments of the Torah between man and God, and between man and his fellow man.
Joseph Shulam: “If” is a Powerful Word [2018 – Parashat Bechukotai]
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.
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 – Parashat Bechukotai]
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
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.
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]
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”)