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.
Yehuda Bachana: Faith & Society: Striking a Balance [2023 – Parashat Behar-Bechukotai ]
Read the transcript below, or watch a video of the teaching by Yehuda Bachana.
With this double Torah portion we conclude the book of Leviticus. Leviticus starts with the description of different offerings and sacrifices. Then it continues with the order of the priestly service in the sanctuary. Later, in the land of Israel during the rule of the kings, this sacrificial system shifted to the Temple. From the destruction of the Second Temple until today, we follow the order of the sacrifices as an integral part of our prayers.
The Jewish morning prayer, Shacharit, is divided into four sections. The first section is a remembrance of the daily offerings and the order of the Temple services. The idea is to remind us of the great contrast between temptations and sin vs. the holiness and purity we experience when we stand before God.
The second section includes psalms, which serve the purpose of lifting up our soul, to help prepare us to stand before God. This is the same purpose of the worship songs, with which we usually start our worship services, as believers.
The next section is called ‘Shema’ (Hear of Israel), in which the worshiper takes on the yoke of the Kingdom of God. Saying: I am here, willing to listen and to serve.
The last section is called the ‘Shmona Esre’ prayer, or ‘amida’, where the worshipper stands before God, praising, requesting and thanking God for everything.
In a way quite similar to the Jewish morning prayer, we also start our service with songs of praise and worship, in order to exalt our spirt and prepare us for our encounter with God. We partake of the Lord’s Supper* in remembrance and participation of the Yeshua’s sacrifice for us and we stand before God and learn from His Word, as we internalize His Word with love into our hearts.
Throughout the book of Leviticus, we learn the instructions concerning forbidden foods and the instructions concerning uncleanliness, purity and holiness. We also learn how to celebrate the appointed festivals, which are Israel’s national holidays. Furthermore, we encounter the greatest commandment of all:
“Love your neighbor as yourself.”
For today’s Torah portion we will mostly talk about ‘Shemittah’ (the sabbatical year) and ‘Shnat Yovel’ (the year of Jubilee). We will also discuss the redemption of the land and the return of the land to its original owner. We will also discuss the idea of helping others by lending money interest-free. The goal is to help our neighbor to get back on their feet. If his situation, however, is especially hard, he can sell himself into slavery. However, this week we read how to redeem a slave through redemption by a relative or with money.
This week’s portion and, with it, the book of Leviticus, ends with blessings and curses. The list of curses shows the importance of being on the side that receives blessings. Sadly however, we can also recognize the curses we endured as a nation through our painful history.
Behar-Bechukotai begins in a special way:
“The Lord said to Moses at Mount Sinai”, after which a commandment follows: “For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards… But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord.” (Leviticus 25:1-4)
This verse has turned into a famous Hebrew saying:
“What is the issue of the sabbatical year at Mount Sinai?”
This saying expresses a surprise concerning the connection between two distanced and (seemingly) unrelated issues. The original question belongs to the famous rabbi Rashi, who wondered about this verse. Rashi rightfully asks: if all the commandments were given on Mount Sinai; then, why is Mount Sinai explicitly mentioned for the Shemittah-commandment?
Obviously, there are many explanations concerning this verse. Some say that this commandment includes specific and very detailed instructions. Simultaneously important is the fact that the commandment was given to Moses on Mount Sinai. These scholars conclude that the entire Torah was given to us with specific instructions, part of which is the Oral Law. They then conclude that the entire Torah (both written and oral) was given at Mount Sinai.
As Messianic believers we do and cannot accept the Oral Torah as the Word of God given at Mount Sinai. In addition to the Torah (the first five books of the Bible), we view the ‘Nevi’im’ (Prophets), the ‘Ktuvim’ (Writings) and the New Testament as divinely inspired, sanctified and as the supreme authority for our lives.
The Oral Law was written down after the destruction of the Temple, when the danger to lose our traditions forever was real and present. Our traditions were passed down from generation to generation. Likewise, as Messianic believers we see the Oral law as traditional, but not as binding instructions from God.
As Messianic Jews, some of us are more observant, while others are less; and yet, some of us, are completely secular. This is regardless of our strong faith in God and His Word. One can have a truly living faith without being religious or observant.
Some believers, including myself, view ourselves as ‘observant’. This means we place ourselves between ‘secular’ and ‘religious’, keeping the main Jewish traditions and customs for various reasons: as part of our identity and sense of belonging, as an important and integral part of the family values, or in recognition of the importance of traditions for Israel’s existence in the past, present and future.
Meaning that some of us see the great importance in the rich and ancient traditions and customs of our nation, even if we do not accept the Oral Torah as the Word of God. We celebrate Passover in accordance with our customs, including the traditional Passover Seder and the reading of the Haggadah.
During Sukkoth our traditions include the four species, that we hold in the traditional way while reciting customary blessings. Even the Shabbat candles are lit according to tradition. All of these customs connect us, as we are a part of the Jewish people, belonging to the nation of Israel. We want our children and grandchildren to be part of the future of this nation, too.
We accept the fact that God gives people a certain amount of power to make certain laws. We accept that, because both Yeshua and the New Testament give people responsibility and authority. The Torah, too, gives our leaders a certain amount of responsibility. In this way, the Torah and the New Testament kept and continue to keep their relevance, from generation to generation.
Throughout our history, we lived some years independently in our own land; while others we lived in exile. The family-structure, leadership and worship systems underwent drastic changes. Nevertheless, the Torah - the written Word of God - continues to guide us throughout all of it. How is that possible?
The answer is that the Torah contains both constant and variable aspects. Our earthly life is dynamic, whereas God gives authority to those that are in charge. Yeshua shows how great and significant the authority given to people is:
“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.” (Mathew 16:19)
This verse concerns people of flesh and blood. The same idea appears again in another verse:
“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.” (Mathew 18:18)
Meaning that, according to the spirit of the age and place, people even have the authority to cancel, bend or change the commandments. That being said, every generation should examine the time they live in, and discern what the public can do, or what is too much for the majority of the people. Focusing on the original intention of the commandment written in the Torah.
The written commandment is the ideal, but sometimes we are unable to follow the ideal. This Torah portion explains this issue best by means of the debate concerning the sabbatical year, at the beginning of the Jewish establishment in the land of Israel in the modern era, and the correction by means of the Hillel’s ‘Prosbul’ of Hillel in the first century BC.
These changes were necessary, because the original sabbatical year also canceled debts and loans. The sabbatical year was a restart that returned the system to its balance. Hillel changed the Shemittah, specifically concerning the omission of debts.
The issue was that the rich did not give loans to the poor, fearing that the loan would be lost due to the sabbatical year. Hillel ruled that it would be best to cancel the debt-relief, so the rich would continue to lend money to the needy.
Even today, many businesses continue to use a Prosbul-declaration, stating that the sabbatical year does not omit the debts to their business. If you purchased in payments, or by means of an open account at their business, the sabbatical year will not release you from paying in full.
Concerning the sabbatical year itself, this commandment is connected to the land of Israel. Therefore, it was not relevant until the return of the Jews to the land of Israel in the modern era.
At the beginning of the Jewish return to re-settle the land of Israel, the Jewish farms could not survive financially if they would follow the commandment to stop working the fields for an entire year. As a solution, Rabbi Kook decided to sell the Jewish-owned lands temporarily, allowing the farmers to continue plowing the fields.
Those with a more radical viewpoint opposed the solution to sell the land temporarily. Their opinion was supported by the idea that following God’s commandments requires self-sacrifice. In their eyes, the financial ability to cope with the sabbatical year was not a reasonable consideration.
Unlike the extreme point of view, Rabbi Kook decided to support the Jewish farmers, who were already facing plenty of challenges and difficulties.
Rabbi Kook saw the restoration of the Jewish presence in the Land of Israel as the first signs of our national redemption. He argued that the momentum of the Jewish establishment and the development of Jewish agriculture must not be stopped. Personally, I fully agree with the ruling of Rabbi Kook, who stood by the Jewish pioneers and did not let the settlement collapse.
The goal of the Torah is to bring people closer to one another and to the society they live in. Public leaders must be attentive to the society they live in. Discerning the inevitable need to bend the laws or even temporarily annul the commandments of the Torah, in case those might harm the public.
That being said, today we ought to rethink the economic abilities of the Israeli market, in connection with the preservation of the sabbatical year. We need to find creative solutions to strengthen our economy, and specifically the agricultural sector, even during the sabbatical year.
It is not a problem to import agricultural products from abroad during the sabbatical year. However, the real question is: what will happen with the farmers? Will they go bankrupt? What should we do about it? What will the future of Israeli agriculture look like?
As a society, we are obligated to stand side-by-side. Together we can keep the sabbatical year.
If we show solidarity and buy local products at a price that allows Israeli farmers to keep the sabbatical year, then we will be able to return to keeping this commandment and receive the promised blessings of God. In addition to the success and prosperity promised in this commandment, the inherent mutual responsibility will also fortify the foundations for a stronger and supportive society.
Back to the idea of authority given to leaders: before we celebrate the authority given to us by God, we need to remember that a leader’s responsibility comes along with a heavy burden. Eventually, everyone will stand before God and will answer for their every word and decision. The bigger a leader’s influence, the greater his responsibility to God. The judgement and punishment that each leader will receive is proportional to his or her influence. According to James, Yeshua’s brother:
“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)
James warns against our desire for power, because teachers and leaders will be judged more strictly.
The decision and the dilemma here are extremely difficult. On the one hand the commandments of the Torah should be followed according to set and detailed instructions, and at the designated times and places. As the following verse demands:
“Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you.” (Deuteronomy 4:2)
Yet, on the other hand, people truly face hardships. Like the sabbatical year at the beginning of the return to our Jewish homeland, for example. Or, in case of the idea of omitting all debts every seven years: then how can one take a mortgage for twenty or thirty years? It is simply impossible.
Here we need to make difficult decisions, to find the right balance between the obligation to fulfill the laws and commandments with precision, adhering to the smallest details; and, the consideration for the public ability to fulfill the commandment. To find the balance between the necessity to internalize the Word of God and live by it; and, legalism, where religion and faith become more important than the people around us.
How can a person know that he or she is walking on the right path? How can a person find the right balance between the commandments, faith, and social life? The first letter of John answer this question:
“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence” (3:18-19)
The resounding answer of the New Testament is: love. If we act from love, our conscience is clean, knowing that we chose the right path.
That’s it. We have concluded the book of Leviticus, and the only thing left to say is the traditional blessing upon the conclusion of a Torah book: ‘Chazak chazak v'nitchazek!’ or: “Be strong and courageous!”
Joseph Shulam: Keeping the Commands of God [2023 – Parashat Behar - Bechukotai]
On Wednesday, May 10, in 70 A.D.,the Roman Legion X(Ten), Fratensis, entered Jerusalem singing their hymn. It was the Roman legion that destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple in Jerusalem.
The week’s Torah reading and the reading from the Prophets and the New Testament is fitting the events in Jerusalem today.
We will be reading a double Torah Portion, Behar and Bechukotai, from Leviticus 25:1 – 27:34. The Haftarah reading from the Prophets, is from Jeremiah 32:6 – 27, and from Luke 4:16-30.
The last chapters of the book of Leviticus are very different from the rest of the book. They are some very serious and important prophetical texts. There is very little actual laws and commandments in these chapters, but they are full of prophecies that have impacted Israel’s future. The history of the Jewish nation even until today, is impacted and reflected in the words of this Torah Portion that will be read in the synagogues on this Shabbat.
I would like to touch some of the main prophetic passages in these two last Torah portions of the book of Leviticus.
Leviticus chapter 26 starts with a list of commandments and with each commandments comes a proclamation of the blessings of keeping the commandment. Let me give you some examples:
“You shall keep My Sabbaths and reverence My sanctuary: I am the LORD. “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.” (Leviticus 26:2–4)
What is very important and interesting is that there are 11 verses of blessings for keeping God’s commandments.
Right after the blessings come 33 verses of curses of what is going to happen to you if you don’t keep God’s commandments.
Here is an example:
“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. “And after all this, if you do not obey Me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins. I will break the pride of your power; I will make your heavens like iron and your earth like bronze. And your strength shall be spent in vain; for your land shall not yield its produce, nor shall the trees of the land yield their fruit.” (Leviticus 26:14–20 NKJV)
We had several brothers who were survivors of the Nazi Holocaust who witnessed that all the curses that are listed here in Leviticus chapter 26 and 27, were a reality during World War II. The Jewish people in Europe during World War II, like all that has happened in the world since the dawn of history, is always under the observation and direction and permission of the almighty God who created this world.
I realize that there would be many people who would laugh and mock me and anyone who believes that God created the world and controls the powers of nature, and the destiny of this blue ball called Earth.
If you believe the Bible to be divine revelation inspired and written by men who witnessed and heard that which they wrote under the guidance of the Spirit of God, then you ought to fear the Lord and understand that the best for you and me and all of humanity, is to believe God and obey His commandments.
Yes, it is true that just keeping God’s commandments does not guarantee your salvation. But disobedience and ignoring God’s commands is like buying a new washing machine and not reading the instruction book. In fact, when you buy any machine or electronic instrument, you naturally would read the instructions and do your best to follow the instructions to make sure that you are going to make the optimum use of your new instrument.
What is interesting is that our brothers and sisters in the Christian Churches in many cases, ignore not only the commandments of God’s Word in what they call “The Old Testament, they ignore the commandments of our Lord and His apostles; as if the words and teachings of Yeshua and His Apostles have no meaning and no authority.
Let me give you some examples:
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you … By this all men will know that you are my disciples.” (John 13:34-35)
The command to love is taken from the book of Leviticus 19:9-18,
“Do not hate your brother in your heart … Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge … but love your neighbor as yourself.”
“Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Appears in the New Testament several times, Matthew 5:43; 19:19; 22:39; Mark 12:31, 33; Luke 10:27; Romans 13:9–10; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8.
Yeshua (Jesus) said that he is giving his disciples a new commandment. The question is what is the difference between the “new commandment” to love, that Yeshua (Jesus) is giving us, then from Leviticus 19, to love our neighbor as ourselves, that are listed above from Matthew, Mark and Luke, and from the Apostle Paul and James?
The difference is very important, and it does not cancel out the command of Leviticus to love our neighbors as ourselves. The “new” in Yeshua’s command is not only loving your neighbor as yourself, but it brings the command to love to a whole different level. It is easier to love your neighbor as yourself, because your neighbor is not a fellow that is intimately connected to you.
Your neighbor is living near you but not necessarily personally connected to you. “Love one another as I have loved you!” Is a totally different situation because we know how Yeshua (Jesus) love his disciples.
Here is a short list of How Yeshua loved His disciples and those who followed Him:
1.He fed them! He fed thousands of people in more than one occasion.
2.He healed their sick, opened the eyes of the blind, made the crippled man walk, went out of his way to bless and serve those who were interested in His message. Yeshua’s command of love is much more obligatory and personal. It is loving those whom you know and those who know you, and who you have a deep connection as followers of the Messiah.
3.Yeshua sacrificed Himself first and foremost for His followers, His disciples. He commissioned them to do several things that are a direct expression of that Love. He enters into our personal space of acquaintance, and asks us to also extend His love to the rest of the world. The so called “Great Commission” is generally ignored by most of those Christians who claim to go out to the world and preach the Good News to the lost and pagan world. First of all, half of the commandment of Yeshua to go and teach the lost world is ignored almost totally. The command has two parts.
“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “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.” Amen.” (Matthew 28:18–20 NKJV)
4.Christian missionaries only keep half of this Great Commission and even that is partial and limited.
I first must confess that I was discipled by American Missionaries in Jerusalem, Israel. The two families that discipled me were about as different from one another as possible. Both of them invested time and much patience in order to disciple me and teach me what it means to be a minister of the Good News of Yeshua.
However, they too represented one denomination that claims to be undenominational. In fact, it is one of the most denominational undenominational denominations! However, as good as these two families were and as different as they were from each other, they too only taught what they knew, but ignored the second part of this Great Commission.
Everything that comes after the command, “Baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit!” Full Stop and post Mortum! The command of Yeshua (Jesus) “Teaching them to observe all the things that I have commanded you…” is and was not relevant for Christians today. The Christians themselves, speaking in generality, don’t keep most of the commands that the Lord commanded and not the commands of the Apostles.
What is the “beef” between this or that Protestant evangelical denominations? It is not so much what they do practically but about their systematic theology manufactured for separating and dividing the Body of the Messiah. The invention of systematic theology is designed from the beginning for what the military call, “Command and Control.”
5. Here are some commands that Yeshua commanded and some that the Apostles commanded, that are generally speaking, ignored totally by the vast majority of our Christian brothers.
From the Sermon on the Mountain:
“But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.” (Matthew 6:3–4 NKJV)
““And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” (Matthew 6:5–6)
C. Specifically for the Messianic Jews in the West. Yeshua commanded his disciples:
"Be not ye called Rabbi" (Matt. 23:8)
"If thy brother…trespass against thee go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone" (Matt. 18:15-17, Luke 17:3-4)
"If thy brother trespass against thee seven times a day… thou shalt forgive him" (Luke 17:3-4; Matt. 18:21-22)
F. Our own forgiveness depends, according the Yeshua, on our forgiving our brothers who have sinned against us. This we can see in what is called, “The Lord’s Prayer!” (Matthew 6:9-11.)
G. The Apostle Paul commanded the church in Corinth and not only in Corinth, to keep the Passover:
“Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore, purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore, let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” (1 Corinthians 5:6–8 NKJV)
As you see there is a direct command to keep the Passover Feast and clean the leaven both from our homes and from our hearts. The reason is clear for the Jewish and non-Jewish Disciples of the Messiah: “Because Christ is our Passover sacrificed for us!”
H. The Acts 15 decision of the Apostles and Elders of the Church in Jerusalem of what is the minimum for the Gentile brothers must do to stay in fellowship with the Saints (the disciples of Yeshua.) There are four commands that are considered the minimum and at least three out of the four are totally ignored by many Christians in the world.
a. Abstain from sexual immorality. (This most Christians keep)
b. Abstain from meat strangled, i.e. The meat that Christians eat must be slaughtered in a way that the blood is pumped by the heart before the animal dies. This means Kosher (Jewish slaughtering) or Hallal (Muslim slaughtering of the animals). There is more to it but this is not the forum for broadening this discussion.
c. Abstain from blood
d. There is also a strong recommendation for the Gentile Christians to go to Synagogue on Shabbat to hear the Word of God read.
This is just a sample of the many more commands that the Apostles and Yeshua Himself commanded His disciples. Yes, it is true that keeping the commandments of God don’t really save you. The blood shed by Yeshua, faith and God’s grace saves people. But faith without deeds is empty and vain and keeping God’s commandments is only valued if it is accompanied with deeds and the keeping of God’s commandments.
The Torah portions that are read this Shabbat are very powerful and there is so much more in this Shabbat’s Torah reading that I strongly recommend that you read Leviticus 25:1 – 27:34.
God bless us all and enlighten us to desire to do the will of the Lord and keep His commandments; not for salvation but for righteousness sake.
"Yeshua said: If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15)
God bless you all our dear brothers and sisters!
Joseph Shulam: God's Stern Warnings to a Nation in Disobedience [2022 – Parashat Bechukotai]
We are living in a lawless culture that is based on false premise that “my right to be happy”, or “my right to be free”, is the supreme responsibility of the government to provide for me! Rome succeeded in mesmerizing their citizens with circuses and bread.
Our Torah portion – Bechukotai (Leviticus 26:3-27:3) – provides us with divine medicine for the social illness of our times. From the prophets (the Haftarah) we read Jeremiah 32:6-27, 16:19-17:14. From the New Testament we will be reading from 2 Corinthians 6:14-18.
The reading from the New Testament is most relevant and it ties down the Torah portion Bechukotai (“in my laws”) with the reading from the prophet Jeremiah 32:6-27, and Jeremiah 16:19-17:14.
The portion Bechukotai starts with a conditional statement:
“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]
The first words of the Torah portion come in after, earlier in chapter 25 of Leviticus, we received the wonderful things that will happen to us – then and now – if we do God’s will and if we walk in His path, and if we consider the blessings that the Lord promises those who do the will of God, those who build their house on the rock and not on the sand, those who not only hear the word of God, but do it.
Then, our Torah portion, and the portion from Jeremiah 32 and 16, are a prophetic historical perspective, giving us the caption of how, in the future, the lawless society will be fixed, and God’s righteousness will be seen and experienced by Israel, in the eyes of the nations of the world.
One of the founding members of Netivyah, an Orthodox Jew, survivor of the Nazi death camps during World War II, Joseph Vactor, used to say every year when we read the Torah portion “Bechukotai” that, during World War II, everyone experienced all the horrible things that God warned Israel and all of us about. That if we do not obey and keep His commandments (if we would be lawless and break His covenant), these horrible things will happen to us.
For Joseph and David, the two brothers who survived the Nazi death camps during World War II, the readings from God’s Word in Leviticus 26 were real experiences that they lived through. God’s Word is not vain words.
God’s promises have been the daily bread of the Jews in Europe and North Africa, and every one of the horrors listed in our Torah portion was experienced and seen and felt by the Jews in the German Nazi death camps. There are 33 verses of horrors, the expression of God’s displeasure from the unfaithfulness and lawlessness of the nation of Israel in more than one occasion in Jewish history.
Here are some of those promises of God for those who, in premeditation, willfully break His laws and ignore the warnings. Israel and the Jewish people are the living proof that there is a God that is directing pruning, and sometimes even brings plagues to educate and direct His children into the paths of righteousness.
Here are some of the horrible things that our Torah readings promise would happen to us, as a collective nation:
“Then, if you walk contrary to Me, and are not willing to obey Me, I will bring on you seven times more plagues, according to your sins. I will also send wild beasts among you, which shall rob you of your children, destroy your livestock, and make you few in number; and your highways shall be desolate. And if by these things you are not reformed by Me, but walk contrary to Me, then I also will walk contrary to you, and I will punish you yet seven times for your sins. And I will bring a sword against you that will execute the vengeance of the covenant; when you are gathered together within your cities I will send pestilence among you; and you shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy… I will scatter you among the nations and draw out a sword after you; your land shall be desolate and your cities waste.” — Leviticus 26:21-25,33 [NKJV]
With all these difficult texts that, much to my regret, have happened more than one time to our nation, the Lord’s supreme grace pops up and brightens our future and our past with such Son-shine of God’s goodness and faithfulness, that even the sun and the moon pale.
In the same chapter, after the warnings and the encouragement of a Jewish Polish mother, who attempts by fear to educate and prevent her children from falling into trouble, the Lord brings the other side to encourage and motivate us to stop our rebellious hearts and help us return to the paths of righteousness, and to a proper father-and-children paradigm. To make us return to call the Almighty Creator of the World, and cry, “Abba Father!”
Here it comes – God’s faithfulness and divine love and grace pouring out of His cornucopia, full of goodness and a desire to educate and return us to the paths of righteousness and demonstrate His love for His creation and for His chosen children’s mission to return all the pagans and idolaters among mankind back home to His loving arms.
“…then I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and My covenant with Isaac and My covenant with Abraham I will remember; I will remember the land… Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, nor shall I abhor them, to utterly destroy them and break My covenant with them; for I am the Lord their God. But for their sake I will remember the covenant of their ancestors, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God: I am the Lord.” — Leviticus 26:42,44,45 [NKJV]
I would like to encourage all of you who read this prayer list to take 10 minutes of your life and read the full chapter of Leviticus 26, and Jeremiah 32:6-27, 16:19-17:14. From the New Testament read from 2 Corinthians 6:14-18.
Meditate on the love of God our Father for His children for all of His creation, and His desire to educate and train and urge and bless His children, and keep them from falling into idolatry and self-destruction. Like every Father, sometimes the only thing left as a tool in His hands to restore his children to the paths of goodness and righteousness is to make His children wake up and see the horrible path of self-destruction that they have embarked on.
However, His love and care for His children are so great, and His faithfulness is so wise and just that He, the Creator, sent His Son to change our rebellious ways with His love and wonderful promises of a better world and a secure and brighter future!
You remember that God remembers His promises and His covenants with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob! God’s endgame, His plan for us human beings, was and is about staying one!
We will know that He is our God and Creator and more important we, the human race, will know that we are His children, His people! Hallelujah, Amen!
Joseph Shulam: Brad TV Video Teaching – Bechukotai [2022 – Parashat Bechukotai]
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 doing, every week, the portion that is read in the synagogues around the world, the portion of the Law of Moses, and today, we are in the last portion of the Book of Leviticus that starts in Chapter 26, verse 3, and ends in Chapter 27, verse 34, the last portion.
Next week, we will be entering into the Book of Numbers.
This portion is a programmatic portion. By programmatic, it means it has important, valuable information that is not only for the generation that lived in the wilderness after the Exodus from Egypt and walked in the desert with Moses for 40 years. This portion is a part of God’s program for all the generations of this world, from the day He created the world until there will be a new heaven and a new earth.
The name of the portion is Bechukotai, which means, in English, “if you walk in My statutes, in My laws.”
You know, today, one of the most popular doctrines that is being taught around the world in evangelical churches is the doctrine of prosperity. Essentially, the doctrine of prosperity says that if you give money to the church, to the pastor, to the ministry, then you will prosper; or if you pray for the peace of Jerusalem, you will prosper. That’s not a good translation of the Hebrew, but that’s what is being taught in many of the evangelical churches.
So, if we want to know what is God’s program of prosperity, in this portion, the last two chapters of the Book of Leviticus give us the positive and the negative aspects of our behavior.
Now, there are several reasons why people suffer in this world, and we have the paradigm in the Book of Psalms; why do the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer? There is such a thing, as well, and the reasons are several. One is that, we are children of God, and as children, God sometimes tests us, and examines us; to see where we stand, to see what is our motivation for worship, what is our motivation for doing the right thing because the deed itself is less important than the motives of why we do it. We see this in the teaching of Yeshua, in Matthew 23. He says the Pharisees do X, Y, Z, but they do it for the wrong reasons. We see in Isaiah, Chapter 1, we see it in Jeremiah, Chapter 7, we see it in Amos, Chapter 11. We see it in many, many places. Hosea 6:6. You know, God prefers, more than sacrifice, grace and charity, one to another, mercy, one to another.
And so, things are more complicated than they seem. But in our chapters, things seem to be a lot more plain, at least, plainly stated by God. “So, if you walk”, I am reading from Leviticus, Chapter 26, verse 3, “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, the trees of the field shall yield their fruits. The threshing of the wheat, of the grain, “shall last till the time of vintage, and the vintage shall last until the time of sowing; and you shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely.” What more do you want, folks? That’s prosperity.
God will bless the agriculture, He will bless the workers, He will bless the fields. There will be so much grain that it’ll last for a long time, until the grapes are ready to be picked and make wine out of them. So, there will be prosperity in the land if we walk in God’s statutes and keep His commandments.
Now, you say, “Well, we are saved by faith, we’re saved by grace.” Folks, if you read the teaching of Jesus, in the sermon on the mountain and throughout the gospels, and His parables, and then the teaching of the apostles, especially apostle Jacob, James, in English, and the First Letter of John, doing God’s will is more important than worship.
How do we know that? We know it from Matthew 25. Jesus said there will be people who come and say, “Lord, Lord, we have worshiped you, we have cast out demons in your name,” And Yeshua will say, “Depart from me, you workers of iniquity. I don’t want to see you here.” And they will say, “Why Lord? Why Lord?” He says, “Because I was hungry, and you didn’t feed Me. I was naked, and you didn’t clothe Me. They say, “When did we do that?” He will say, “As much as you did it to one another, or to the poor of your community, you’ve done it unto Me.”
So, this idea of true prosperity is connected with obedience to God’s commands, obedience to the teaching of the apostles, obedience to the teaching of Jesus, which, I’m sad to say, dear brothers and sisters, a lot of Christians worship Jesus, but they don’t obey him. They don’t obey him as far as how the contribution is given; they’re not obeying concerning not talking behind somebody’s back. But, if you have a problem with a brother, you go to him first, before you go to the pastor, before you go to your friends, before you go to the members of the church. Yes, a lot of things that we are commanded in the New Testament, we don’t do, much less talking about the Law of Moses and the instructions of the prophets.
And so here you have, if you do God’s will, you will have rain in season, the land will yield its fruit, they will give, verse 6, “I will give peace in the land, and you shall lay down, and none will make you afraid; I will rid the land of evil beasts, and the sword will not go through your land. You will chase your enemies, and they shall fall by the sword before you. Five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall put ten thousand to run away from you. Your enemies shall fall by the sword before you. I will look on you favorably and make you fruitful, multiply you and confirm My covenant with you.” Wonderful promises of God, of true prosperity, prosperity that comes from God, if we obey him, if we do his will.
And I am not talking to you, dear brothers in Korea, or around the world, to keep the Jewish commandments of the law, I am talking about to keep the commandments of the New Testament, if you wish. Even that is not kept, much less talking about the Jewish things, the Israelite things, the Old Testament, the Torah things, but the principle is there.
It’s there in the letter of James, it’s there in the letter of 1 John, it’s there in the parables and the teaching of Jesus. Who is the wise man who built his house upon the rock? The one who hears the Word of God and does the Word of God. The foolish man builds his house on the sand that doesn’t stand the storm, and falls apart. He’s the guy who hears the Word of God, hears the gospel, hears the teaching of the apostles and the disciples, and the teaching of Jesus, and doesn’t do it.
Obedience is a part of God’s grace, and it’s a part of the process of our redemption. And that’s here in this portion of the Torah, 11 verses of blessings. “You shall eat the old harvest,” verse 10, “and clear out the old before of the new. I will set My Tabernacle among you, and My soul shall not abhor you.”
I will dwell with you, that’s what it means. “And I will walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people.” Walk among you, folks. I long to hold the hands of Yeshua, the hands of Jesus, and walk with Him in the streets of Jerusalem. I would like to see it happen. “I am the Lord your God,” verse 13, “who brought you out of the land of Egypt that you shall not be their slaves anymore. I have broken the bands of your yoke, your chains, and make you walk upright.”
But that’s 11 verses of blessings, and now comes 33 verses of punishment and curses. Before I even get into them, I just want to say this. One of the things that Yeshua did for all of us, for Jews and non-Jews alike, is that He has removed the curses of the law from His disciples. That means that even if we sin, we’re still under grace. Even if we get castigated, punished, for our mistakes, for our sins, we’re still under grace, and not rejection. We’re still God’s children, still even, I would say, saved because of the coverage that we have by the grace of God and the sacrifice and the blood of the Messiah who redeems us.
But there is such a thing that if we disobey, I’m reading from verse 14, Chapter 26, of Leviticus, “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 them all, My commandments, but break My covenant, I will do this to you,” verse 16, horrible things.
I don’t even want to get into it to read it. You read it for yourself. Chapter 26, start from verse 3 and continue reading, and then when you get to verse 16, pray hard, pray hard, because the 11 verses that bless us if we walk with the Lord and do His will turn into 33 verses of horrible things that happen.
Our ministry started here, in 1971, in Jerusalem. We were six Jews. Three of them were Orthodox Jews, religious Orthodox Jews, and two of them were survivors of the worst death camps in Europe, in Germany and in Eastern Europe, during the Nazi occupation. Orthodox Jews; two of them were brothers that were raised in Budapest, Hungary. They were rich, they had businesses, they had families, at least, one of them had families and even a child. They lost their families, they lost their father, their mother, some of their brothers and their sisters, in the Holocaust, and they became believers in the death camp, in Bergen-Belsen death camp, because they found the New Testament in Hungarian.
That was the only book they had to read. They read it, and the Holy Spirit touched them, and they became believers.
And one of them was called David, the other one was called Joseph. Joseph, the older brother, said, whatever these curses are, horrible things, that women will eat their own children, the flesh of their own children. He saw it happening in the German death camps. He experienced it, and he said, “Whatever God promises, if He promises good, He keeps his good, if He promises bad, curses, He keeps His curses as well.” And that’s something that is not taught among Christians; but it is taught in the New Testament, it is taught in the Book of Revelation.
There will be a judgment day, and the judge in the judgment day will not be the Father, it will be Yeshua. He will sit on the throne of judgment to judge us. Dear brothers and sisters, He will judge us. And why He and not the Father? Because if the Father was judging us, we would say, “How could you judge us? You never walked in the flesh Yourself. You never walked in our shoes. You don’t know what it is to be sick. You don’t know what it is to be tired. You don’t know what it is to be despised, and rejected, and persecuted. You don’t know what it is to try to earn your bread by the sweat of your brow.”
But Yeshua will be our judge. We can’t tell Him that, because He does know what it is to be despised and rejected, to be hungry and thirsty, to be tempted by the devil, to be crucified by the hands of men. He knows all of it. He was here, He walked here, He lived here, and we have no excuse in front of Him on the judgment day.
And remember, the judgment scene in the gospel of Matthew where His so-called disciples come to Him and said, “Lord , dear Lord,” and He says, “Depart from Me, you workers of iniquity.” They said, “But why? We worshiped you? We cast out demons in Your name, we made miracles in Your name,” and He says, “Depart from me, I know you not, you workers of iniquity. I was hungry and you didn’t feed Me. I was naked and you didn’t clothe Me. You didn’t do your job right. Go away.”
Because obedience is a part of the formula. Obedience is not what saves us, grace and faith save us. But without obedience, there is no grace. Grace only comes to people who did their best to keep God’s commandments, and failed. That’s when grace kicks in, dear brothers and sisters. It’s not something that is a free ticket to pass, to get out of jail. No, that’s not what it is. Grace is for those who tried and failed; tried to do good, and sinned. That’s when grace kicks in, and is very effective, because it’s paid for by the sacrifice and the blood of Yeshua HaMashiach.
So, you have got 33 verses of horrible, horrible, horrible things. Let me read you a little bit more of it from verse 22 of Chapter 26. “Then, if you walk contrary to Me, and are not willing to obey Me, I will bring on you seven times more plagues, according to your sins.” I believe that the coronavirus is a plague from God to wake up the world and to wake up, specially, the Western world that is supposed to be Christian, supposed to be living its life by the Word of God, by the gospel, by the good news.
So, if you walk contrary to God purposely, by design, not by mistake, He will bring seven times plague, according to your sin. “I will also send wild beasts among you, and shall rob you of your children, destroy your livestock, make you few in number, and your highways shall be desolate.” The world is experiencing something similar to this now. “And if by these things you are not reformed by Me, but walk contrary to Me, then I will also walk contrary to you, and I will punish you seven times for your sins.”
That is the God that created the world, the God that revealed Himself to Abraham, the God that took us out of the land of Egypt, the God who is the Father of all mankind. This is the one who is talking to us here in the Book of Leviticus, in the last chapters of the Book of Leviticus. Verse 26 of Chapter 26, “And when I have cut off your supply of bread, ten women shall bake your bread in one oven, and they shall bring back your bread by weight, and you shall eat and not be satisfied.”
It’s happening in some places in the world now, and always has, but God promised. And then verse 29, “You shall eat the flesh of your sons, and you shall eat the flesh of your daughters. I will destroy your worship places, cut down the incense of the altars, cast down the carcasses of lifeless forms of your idols; lay your cities waste.”
You know, when I was a child, I lived in one of the best neighborhoods in Jerusalem, and it was one house here, and another house half a kilometer away, wild fields of thorns between us, between those houses. Yes, dear brother and sisters.
And verse 33, “I will scatter you among the nations.” Look, we are still regathering the Jews that were scattered here in the 1st century, and talking about aliyah, immigration; trying to get the Jews back home according to the promises of God in the prophets.
But the most encouraging thing in this whole depressing text, that as we perish among the nations from the pogroms in Ukraine, and in Russia, and in Poland, and Eastern Europe, and the inquisition in Spain, and Portugal, and South America. From all these horrible things that happened in the history of the Jewish people, God is still God, and He still loves us. And even though we were in diaspora, He is bringing us back, and we will confess our iniquity, in verse 40, and the iniquity of our fathers, and we will confess our unfaithfulness in which they and we have walked contrary to God, verse 40. But after all these sufferings, we arrive to verse 32 of Chapter 26.
Then, when we have suffered enough, when we have paid enough for our iniquities, so that we could understand who we are and where we belong, and where our home is, and who our Father is, “Then,” God says, “I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and My covenant with Isaac, and My covenant with Abraham, And I will remember the land, and the land shall be left empty by them, and will enjoy its sabbath while it lies desolate without them. They will accept their guilt.”
That means Israel will repent, the Jewish people will repent, “because they despised My judgment and because their souls abhorred My statutes.” But not only the Jewish people, because Christians are supposed to believe the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. They’re supposed to believe the Prince of Peace; they’re supposed to believe the good news of Yeshua that died for the sins of the whole world, including the sins of the pagans and the Israelites.
“Yet all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away.” “I will not reject Israel.” You’ve got that in Jeremiah 31, you’ve got that in Isaiah. “I will not reject them, nor shall I abhor them to utterly destroy them and break My covenant with them, for I am the Lord their God,” the God of Israel. “For their sake, I will remember the covenant that I made with their ancestors,” meaning “the covenant I made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, “brought them out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I may be their God. I am the Lord. These are My statutes and My judgments and the laws which the Lord made between Himself and the children of Israel on Mount Sinai by the hand of Moses.”
Chapter 27, which is the last chapter of the Book of Leviticus, deals with taking vows, and essentially it teaches how seriously taking a vow is. Taking a vow, if you keep it, it’s a blessing, but if you break it or forget it, it’s a terrible thing to do. Yeshua taught us to not take a vow unless it’s absolutely necessary. The apostle Paul took a vow outside of Corinth, in the port of Corinth in Cenchreae. His vow was, “I will go to Jerusalem with seven of my Gentile disciples, and with the money that I’ve collected from the churches of the Gentiles, for the Feast of Pentecost, and present these seven Gentiles as my first fruits in the kingdom of God, and bring the contribution from the Gentiles to Jerusalem.” And he did, and he paid for it. He was in jail two years in Caesarea, house arrest, and then he went to Rome, and he was martyred. Yes, vows are important.
The Book of Leviticus ends with the teaching that if we do take a vow, we must keep it. Therefore, Yeshua says, don’t take vows unless you absolutely have to.
And with this, the Book of Leviticus ends, and we’ll start next time, next week, with the Book of Numbers.
May God bless you. Keep reading. Keep reading and praying, and ask God to quicken the Word, His Word, in your soul, in your heart, and in your spirit. In the name of our Lord Yeshua, amen.
Joseph Shulam: Pearls From the Torah [2022 – Parashat Behar]
The Torah portion that is read in Israel this week is Behar (“in the mountain”, referring to Mount Sinai).
We will be reading from Leviticus 25:1-26:2. Almost to the end of the book of Leviticus. From the prophets we will be reading Jeremiah 32:6-27, 16:19-17:14. From the New Testament we will read the Gospel of Luke 4:16-30, and 2 Corinthians 6:1-18.
As you have already noticed, much of our service time is spent on reading from God’s Word. We read from the Torah, and from the prophets, and from the New Testament.
The reason is simple. The product is always more important than the salesman. The purpose of our public meetings and services on Shabbat and holidays is to have fellowship with each other around the Word of God.
According to the book of Acts, the disciples gathered together in the New Testament:
“Known to God from eternity are all His works. Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.” – Acts 5:18-21
Of course, in the New Testament we have Yeshua reading the prophets on the Sabbath day in the synagogue in Nazareth. Yeshua read from Isaiah chapter 61, that is the Haftarah reading for the Torah portion of Nitzavim (Deuteronomy 29:10-30:20).
This portion is of great importance because it has in it the need to circumcise our hearts. Usually, the person from the congregation that is invited to read the Haftarah (the portion from the prophets) is one that is especially honored.
Maybe it might have been Yeshua’s birthday during the season of the Feast of Sukkot, in the end of September or beginning of October according to the Gregorian calendar. It is important to note that the Torah portion is a given, and the readings from the prophets and from the New Testament are complimentary with the Torah reading.
Why is the reading of the Torah portion and from the prophets and the New Testament so important? It is important for the following reasons…
First, we need to be familiarized with the Word of God in the order that it has been delivered to us. Ignorance of the Word of God leaves an open door for pastors and preachers and priests to take advantage of the flock that the Lord has entrusted them.
Please read Ezekiel 34, the whole chapter. Please read the following news in the evangelical world and understand how important it is for each one of us to know the Word of God personally, and not trust anyone – not even the pastor or the preacher that seems so charming and knowledgeable.
Second, repeating the same reading year after year will implant in your memory a familiarity with the Word of God. Which is actually the communication of the Holy Spirit of God with you: brain, mind, body and spirit.
The very exposure to the Word of God in sequential order, over the years, is a much more powerful communication with the Holy Spirit of God than reading here a little, there a little – a bit here and a bit there, but you don’t receive the full picture in order.
Third, receiving a systematic view in order of the chain of time and revelation from God’s Word equips you and gives you discernment. The spiritual gift of discernment is sharpened, and you will not be so easily deceived by the leadership and cunning pastors that see their position as a job to build their private and their own empire.
Remember what the apostle Paul said to Timothy his disciple:
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” – 2 Timothy 3:16,17
Now a few points from the portion of Behar! The children of Israel are still under Mount Sinai, they have near 38 years to wonder in the Sinai desert.
Here suddenly God speaks to the children of Israel through Moses about the sabbatical year and the jubilee. The generation that Moses is addressing will actually never make it to the Land of Canaan. Their bodies will be scattered in the Sinai desert.
Only two of these people that are gathered under Mount Sinai will actually enter the Land Of Promise. The land that God gave to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as an everlasting possession.
So, the rabbis in the First Century A.D. ask with good reason, “What does Mount Sinai have to do with agricultural instruction to farmers about the sabbatical year and the seven sabbatical years that make the jubilee [50-years anniversary]?”
The answer to the Rabbis question is this:
First, the Torah is given as a whole unit, beyond the boundaries of time and place. The Holy Spirit revelation is above history and above time and space.
Second, the divine order of things has a wisdom that gives us the needed instruction for life early in time to equip us and set our mind in advance for what our future holds. Even though the children of Israel were not yet farmers and independent producers of their food, they had to know that God’s law is a revelation of His love and provision, and not just a natural process of sowing and harvesting.
There is the God element – that you work six years and allow the land to rest for a year, and God will provide for you the food and wisdom to use your resources in such a way that even when you don’t sow the seed and don’t harvest for a whole year, God will take care of you and provide for you all your needs.
Third, this was an important lesson to learn even 38 years before they crossed the Jordan River and have their own land and farm it.
Fourth, the farmer in Israel (even until today) will save food and products for the year that he will not farm, not sow, not harvest. A time of a year for the land to rest and for the farmer to rest and spend time working on his family and his spiritual status and relationship with family and with God.
The more powerful section of this Torah portion is chapter 26. It has the true formula for blessing and prosperity in this life, and in this world.
If we truly want to be prosperous in life, walking according to God’s requirements, commands, and instructions is the key and formula for successful living in this world (and success isn’t necessary financial or material).
The happiest and most complete person in my life and in the life of Netivyah and the Ro’eh Israel Congregation was actually a person who had nothing, and wanted nothing material. A survivor of the Nazi death camps. He had nothing but he was the most completely happy and satisfied person.
Here are some pearls from our Shabbat reading:
“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. I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none will make you afraid; I will rid the land of evil beasts, and the sword will not go through your land.” – Leviticus 26:5,6
This text is my definition of prosperity. Your provision for life is your prosperity and the peace that you need to be happy and secure.
“You will chase your enemies, and they shall fall by the sword before you. Five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight; your enemies shall fall by the sword before you. For I will look on you favorably and make you fruitful, multiply you and confirm My covenant with you…” – Leviticus 26:7-9
The state of Israel has suffered for the last 100 years in the land of Israel with the issue of security and terrorist Arab/Palestinian war. We have had no peace or calm for 100 years or more, since Jews started to return home to this land.
Maybe if we hear God and His word the formula that we see in this text of God’s Word may be something that we, as a nation ought to implement. And see the Lord’s hand provide our security and victory over our enemies.
“I will walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that you should not be their slaves; I have broken the bands of your yoke and made you walk upright.” – Leviticus 16:12,13
God promises that He will walk among us, He Himself will dwell with us. This means that we will have access to God.
The access will be here on our level in our presence. God will dwell with us in a real physical way… We are still waiting for this promise to be fulfilled in our own days.
We have 11 verses of prosperity and wonderful promises of God for us, for Israel, the obedient and faithful nation. Now, in the same chapter, come 33 verses of difficult and horrible promises of God to us, to Israel, to His people… This is to show us that it is much wiser and more beneficial to be obedient and to live according to God’s instructions in obedience and in faith.
The reading from Jeremiah 16:19-17:14, our Haftarah (portion from the prophets), is so very important. Here are some of these pearls of divine revelation from this reading for us today:
“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
Here is a prophecy that Jeremiah brings with an eschatological perspective that corresponds with Isaiah 66 and other prophetic proclamations that I am beginning to see being fulfilled before my eyes. I hope that you too can see these fantastic promises of God being fulfilled in our daily news.
The Gentiles shall come from the ends of the earth and confess that what their fathers have transferred as an inheritance are lies and unprofitable baggage that doesn’t hold water. Jeremiah exposes the idolatry that is lies and worthlessness from which there is nothing beneficial to the human race.
God will lead and direct and treat the nations in such a way that they will understand that their idolatry is worthless, and the Lord and His mighty hand and might are the only true power in this world that we call Earth.
There is so much revelation for our own times in this portion from the prophets that we are actually beginning to see being fulfilled before our eyes. We see more and more Christians – Gentiles – who are suddenly realizing that what they have learned in their father’s house, and in their churches, are lies and worthless for life. Argumentations and theological arguments that bring no life or joy to the innocent and naïve members of their churches.
Many Christians who were very religious in their churches realize that so much of what they have been fed in their churches is false, and no benefit is to be found in them. God promises that those Gentiles that will understand the futility of idolatry and seek to know the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, the creator of all in our world, will receive the privilege of knowing His name and enjoying being in His presence.
Joseph Shulam: Brad TV Video Teaching – Behar [2022 – Parashat Behar]
Read the transcript below, or watch a video of the teaching by Joseph Shulam.
Shalom, my name is Joseph Shulam and we are continuing with Brad TV to go through the five books of Moses according to the reading schedule of all the synagogues in the world on the Sabbath day.
And today we are in a very short portion. It’s called Behar in Hebrew which means in the mountain, referring to Mount Sinai. And it’s a short portion, but it has a lot of very important things that we need to learn.
So it starts with the following words.
“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 I will give you, the land shall keep its Sabbath to the Lord.’”
This phrase, “when you come into the land,” is a formula. It’s a formula that in the book of Leviticus appears several times. It appears in chapter seven, verse 38. I’m going to say it here in Hebrew. “And God commanded Moses in Mount Sinai.”
Again, like the same situation as this, “and commanded him, command the children of Israel to offer their sacrifices to the Lord in the Sinai Desert.” It appears again in chapter 25, where they’re now, and then in the next chapter, chapter 26, it appears, again. “These are the laws and the judgements on the instructions that God gave between him and the children of Israel in Mount Sinai.” And again, it appears, these are in chapter 27, verse 34. “These are the commandment that God commanded to Moses to children of Israel in Mount Sinai.”
This idea is that when God commands the location, Mount Sinai is connected with the promise of God of bringing the children of Israel back to the land that God gave to Abraham and to Isaac and to Jacob as an eternal possession. There is no promise repeated more in the whole Bible than the promise of God to give this land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan river, from Dan to Beersheba, to the children of Israel, as an everlasting eternal inheritance.
But repeating this in Mount Sinai so many times in the book of Leviticus, indicates the importance of the promise and the importance of the location of Mount Sinai. Why is Mount Sinai so important? Because that is where God met with Moses for 40 days and 40 nights on top of the mountain.
But this is also in chapter 20 of the book of Exodus, the place that God met with the children of Israel and everybody heard the voice of God speak the Ten Commandment from Mount Sinai and the law that Moses brought down from Mount Sinai.
So, the location is important for the authority of God’s commands. That’s when all of Israel heard His voice and every anybody understood His voice in the language that they were understanding. Just like in the book of acts. We spoke about this earlier when we talked about Exodus chapter 20. And now this very interesting, curious thing that happens.
We know that in the book of Exodus, or right in the book of Genesis chapter two, God commanded to sanctify the Sabbath day, the seventh day and in the book of Exodus more than one time, that command appears. But now in a very strange way, it appears again.
“Six years you shall sow your field and six years you shall prune your vineyards and gather its fruit. But in the seventh year, there shall be a Sabbath of Solemn rest for the land. A Sabbath of the Lord, you shall neither sow your field nor prune vineyards on that seventh year.”
Ah, that’s a strange thing for most Christians; it’s a very strange thing. We’re not only commanded for the human beings to rest; your servants, your maid servants, your children, your animal, farm animals. They all get to rest on the Sabbath day, the seventh day. The way God rested on the seventh day after the six days of creation in the book of Genesis.
But now the land, what are we talking about? We are talking about the dirt, the mud, the field. That’s what we are talking about. You would think, why does the land need any rest; and the trees don’t need any rest. No, according to God’s word, they need rest. And if you talk to farmers that know what they’re doing they will tell you, yes, you have to let the land rest.
Today, we use all kinds of synthetic fertilizers and chemicals and hormones to make the plants give more yield and give more fruit of the trees, but in nature, no. What you suck out of the land by over planting it, by over working it, will not return unless you let the land rest. And God said, “you will plant six years, and on the seventh year, you will let the land rest.” Yes, the land needs rest and modern agriculture and agriculture experts will tell you that the land needs rest. Especially without all the synthetic chemical fertilizers that people put into the land these days to make the crops bigger.
But how could you let the land rest? And there’s no refrigeration. There’s no way to keep the crops from rotting. And where are you going to get the food for that one year? That, actually is more than one year. Because, if the land rests a year, then it’ll take several months to plant it again, to plow it again, to turn it over again. And until it ripens again, it’ll be at least a year and a half, if not closer to two years; but you see, God took provision.
God made provision in this situation. And He says,
“…you will work the land six years and let it rest the seventh year. But in the sixth year, I will give you enough crops, enough food to carry you over the one year of the sabbatical year, and then for another year after the sabbatical year. And then, and only on the third year you will be able to really enjoy the plenty and the beautiful crops that the land will yield.”
It’s a miracle.
This miracle that God is going to give you on the sixth year, enough crops to feed you during the sabbatical year, in which you will not farm and to continue feeding you until you plant and replant and replough and re-prepare the land, till the crops next year grow. What is it that teach us? A very, very important principle that when God tells you to do something, and you, out of a sincere heart and through faith, do it, He will provide your needs. He’s not going to ask you to do something that will damage your health and the health of your family and your children. And make you starve; a year is a long time. No, God is going to provide enough.
So, you fill your storehouses. So, you fill (there’s no refrigerators) your underground preservation places for fruit; (for potatoes, well, there’s no potatoes – potatoes came from America) for onions and leaks and agricultural products under the ground in a cold storage. Yes, God will provide you all of these things because He’s not going to ask you to do something that will damage either your health or the health of your family, or for that matter if I say in the modern terms, your bank account.
He knows what his commands are about. He knows what He is doing. And this law is called in Hebrew, “shmita”. It means you let the land sit, not being used for a year. Not being plowed, not being planted, not being harvested a year. And then you will have enough food, God will provide for you enough food for another year until you plow and you sow and you reap the crops.
Yes, when we are about to do God’s work, and He asks you to sacrifice. He asks you to give up certain human pleasures because He is sending you to somewhere in the Gobi Desert or in the middle of the Sahara, away from your family. And to preach the gospel, to some tribe, God will provide. If you do His will, He will do your will. And if He tells you, let the land lay fallow for a year, He also says, “I will give you enough food on the sixth year to tide over till you have a chance to work the land and reap the crops and enjoy them.”
This principle of the Sabbatical year for the land is a very, very big principle, very important principle for us as disciples of Yeshua. What is it important about? It’s important about this, dear brother and sisters, that when we are doing God’s work, sincerely from pure motives, with our hearts desire to please God and to accomplish the work of His kingdom in this world, on this earth, then, my dear brothers and sisters, God will take care of you. Take care of you and your family; and your needs.
He’s not going to send you somewhere that you’re going to damage your health and the health of your family. He’s going to provide for you your needs so that you can continue for many more years to do His work and His will.
So that is the first part of our Torah portion from chapter 25 of Leviticus. I’m going to read you verse six,
“…and the Sabbath produce of the land shall be food for you; for you, your male, your female servants, your hired men, the strangers that dwell with you. For your livestock, for the beast that are in your land, and it’s produce, shall be for food.”
You know, you will have enough food, not only for yourself and your family, for your livestock, for your beasts, for your donkeys, for the oxen that plow the land, you will have enough food. The land will produce enough food to provide for your enterprise, for your farm, everything you need in order to live.
Through the seventh year, until the end of the shmita, the end of that seventh year. Seven times, in other words, seven shmita years, seven sabbatical years for the land. The 49th year will be seven times seven, but on the 50th year, it’ll be a year of Jubilee.
Notice the world was created in seven days. The first verse of the Bible in the Hebrew language is seven words. This unit seven is an indication of earthly, perfection, earthly things under the control of the creator Himself, including the land.
And so, when you have seven times seven sabbatical years, you have the year of Jubilee. And the year of Jubilee is a very, very important year. It starts when you proclaim the Jubilee with trumpets. On the seventh month, on the first day of the seventh month, which now is what we call Jewish new year, Rosh Hashanah. The biblical new year is in the month of Nisan, which means usually at the end of March beginning of April. But the seventh month is usually in September, October.
On that Jubilee, after seven times seven-year sabbatical years, you will have a Jubilee. What does it mean? It’ll be a year of liberty, not only for the land but for your slaves and for the debtors and for all the things that are not given to you by God as your private inheritance. Debts will be forgiven. If you sold the land that God gave you, the land in the land Canaan, your tribal land, your family inheritance, because you were in debt, it will return to you the sabbatical year.
In the year of Jubilee, the property will return to you. Your slaves will be free. Your Hebrew slaves will be free. And the original order of God’s division of the land will return its place. That’s how it should be. That’s how God designed it to be. But we have been in exile for 2000 years and we’re returning to the land. And our process of return is not finished. And also, our restoration of the biblical order of things has not been restored yet. Maybe it will be, and God willing, it should be soon.
“For it is that Jubilee, it shall be holy to you. You shall eat its produce from the field. In this Jubilee, each you shall return to his possession,” to his inheritance, to the land that God gave a him.
When they divided the land by lots. In the days of Joshua, after they entered the land of Canaan crossed, the Jordan came to the land, they did cast lots and the tribal inheritances were by lots from God, “by the amount of God,” it says. So, in that year of Jubilee every land will be restored to its original owners. Very powerful thing.
And here, I want to summarize the principle. The principles are here. Number one, when God tells you to do something He will provide you with the means to do it. He’s not going to tell you to do something that there’s no way that you can do it, alone. He will provide you with the means to do it. And if it has to be miraculously provisioned, He will do it.
He’s not going to ask you to do something that you can’t do, He’s not going to give you a command that you can’t keep. He might give you a command that you think you can’t keep; but if you are dedicated to His work and you do your best you to keep it, God will give you the means to do it and the word for doing it. This is the principle of the shmita of the sabbatical year.
One more thing that we have in this portion. It’s a very famous statement, rabbinical statement, but very famous. “What does Mount Sinai have to do with the sabbatical year and with the shmita?” These children of Israel arrived in Mount Sinai two months after they left Egypt. They encamped in Mount Sinai two years and they had another 37 years to wonder in the wilderness.
And He already is giving him the command about what and how to behave with the land of the Canaan that was given to Abraham and to them 37 years before that was applicable. The law of the Jubilee, the law of the sabbatical year was not applicable because they were wondering in the Sinai Desert, dear brothers and the rabbis rightly ask this question.
What does Mount Sinai have to do with the sabbatical year, with the shmita? Here is the answer. God is not leaving things to the last minute. He is giving us warnings, instructions, teachings, leadership that prepares us for what is to come. You can’t keep these commandments from today. This is something you need to prepare for. And almost every valuable command that God gave, whether through Moses or through the prophets or through Yeshua himself through Jesus himself and through the apostles, is something that He is giving us with warning and with commands and instructions to prepare.
The most important thing that we are all waiting for. The return of our Lords, the real New World Order. That the most important thing that He’s given us and He’s warned us thousands of years earlier. He’s told us what is going to happen, how it’s going to happen, and where, more or less, when it’s going to happen.
Yes, dear brothers and sisters, even the return of the Lord carries with it warnings; carries with it instructions of how to start preparing for it. Not arguing as pathological speculations, but getting our lives together. Being ready now, because the Lord is going to return like a thief in the night, like thundering on a sunny day in a time when we don’t expect Him. In a time when we are doing other things like sleeping in the bed or plowing or harvesting our field or working on our job or on a trip or on a vacation. We don’t know when He’s coming.
That’s why, like the sabbatical year, God has given us instructions of how to live now, so that when He comes, He doesn’t catch us not ready.
And He’s given us Yeshua, who has given us more than one parable, teaching us about how to be ready.
The parable of the 10 maidens; that five had extra oil because they were waiting for the bright groom to come. And he was late. Why was he late? Because he’s a Middle Eastern, he’s a Jew, or an Arab from the Middle East. And we are always late. It’s okay. They should have known that a bride groom is coming with a big party; and following him, dancing and drums, and he could be late. Normally it’s late. There’s no wedding that I’ve been, or that I’ve performed that has ever been on time. Always late.
Those girls should have known, they should’ve been prepared. Then there was the guy who said, “ah, you know, I have when I see action going on around the house of the king, I will have time to go home, take a shower and dress up.” No, he didn’t, and he went with his dirty clothes from his job in the garage, greasy to the wedding of the prince. And the owner said, “take him, throw him out, into outer darkness.” He wasn’t ready.
The shmita is a good example of how God told us to be ready. And He said, “when I ask you to do something I will give you the means to get it done.” Yes, dear folks read Parashat Behar, the portion of “in the mountain” from Leviticus 25:1 to Leviticus 26:2 a short portion, but full of very, very important instructions. And may God bless you, and keep you, and make his face to shine upon you, Amen.
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”)