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.

Yehuda Bachana: Tisha BeAv - God demands social justice & care – Devarim [2023]

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

This week we begin a new book, Deuteronomy, which will also be the last book of this series. Deuteronomy is special, because it is based entirely on the speech given by Moses in Trans-jordan. This book is actually composed of speeches and prophesies. They all share the same clear, foundational message: do not abandon God’s commandments and Torah, because they are your source of life.

Moses tries his best to prepare the People of Israel for the entrance to the Land of Israel, thinking beyond his leadership time.

By means of the speeches, we return to past events, viewing them from different perspectives. This includes the Ten Commandments, the legal revolution and the appointment of the Hebrew judges from Parashat Yitro, the sin of the spies and more. For this reason, Deuteronomy is sometimes referred to as: ‘Mishne Torah’, the repetition of the Torah.

It is nice when we get to discuss the name of the Torah portion, the first word of that Torah portion. In this case, Devarim refers both to this Torah portion, as well as to the Hebrew name for book of Deuteronomy. ‘Devarim’ means ‘words’ and comes from the first sentence:

“These are the words, Moses spoke to all Israel.”

Until now, we were used to read statements like:

“And the Lord spoke to Moses”

, but this time Moses is the one speaking.

Some might find the name Devarim (meaning: ‘words’) a bit amusing, as it connects to speech and words. Many commentators point out the great contrast between Moses at the burning bush - at the beginning of his calling - and Moses at the end of his journey.

At the beginning, Moses tried to escape his calling and responsibility:

“But Moses said to the Lord, ‘Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue’.” (Exodus 4:10)

God does not accept Moses’ excuses and says: ‘You are fit for the task.’ However, God also comes towards us, as people. He tells Moses: “You have been chosen and together we will take the People of Israel out of Egypt. We will birth this People, as they pass through the Red Sea. But you know what? If speaking makes you feel uncomfortable: your brother Aaron will help you and he will speak instead of you.”

In the New Testament, God promises us that He will not give more then we can handle:

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Usually, the outcome of a test, or in other words: of training, is positive. After training and passing ability tests, a trainee becomes stronger and more confident. In this verse from Corinthians, God promises to safe-guard our stress level. He will only test us to a certain level in order to give us the outcome; yet, He will not test us beyond our abilities.

Therefore, at the beginning, God provides Aaron to be Moses’ spokesman or interpreter. And now in this week’s Torah portion, Moses who used to stutter, now translates the Torah, the Word of God, to plain language:

“Beyond the Jordan, in the land of Moab, Moses undertook to explain this law” (Deuteronomy 1:5).

Moses conveys the exalted Word of God, written by God’s finger. He interprets it for the human ear and clarifies the will of God. The stutterer, chosen by God, become the best interpreter.

Deuteronomy continues the story of the Exodus, after the People of Israel wandered the desert for 40 years. We hear Moses’ speeches after the hardships of that desert-journey, just before the entrance to the Land of Israel. Moses, the same stutterer who cried out to God about being unfit for the job, addresses the entire People of Israel!

It’s this speech that turns into a book; but, not just any book. It is the book we dig into and try to analyze its every word and letter. We also try to read between the lines. It is fascinating how many ‘words’ Moses, who was ‘slow of speech and of tongue’, could say with the help of God Who gives him strength. Philippians 4:13 is such a suitable verse here:

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

Yeshua offers strength to cope with anything: in times of lack or abundance, or in hardships, physical or emotional. We can endure any situation, thanks to Yeshua the Messiah who gives us the strength.

Faith gives us tremendous power. Let’s take a look at our people. Despite a long and dark exile, we kept the faith, hoping one day, maybe even next year, as we said throughout the generations, hoping and praying, we would have the privilege to visit the rebuilt Jerusalem.

And here we are, the third generation living in Jerusalem, as a fulfillment of ancient prophesies. This topic is still relevant today and we will continue later on, because this Tora potion always falls closely to the 9th of Av.

Again, it is important for me to emphasize that our faith in Messiah gives us hope. Our life here is not in vain, and everything we do has eternal significance. Yeshua gives us tremendous strength!

Parashat Devarim includes descriptions of past events. Which, traditionally, are read as a reproach to warn the People of Israel, as well as ourselves, not to repeat the same mistakes. Moses presents geopolitical descriptions of conquests of the Land of Israel.

On the one hand, we hear about nations that we never heard of; while also reading about well-known nations, kings and kingdoms such as the city of Heshbon (the capital of Sichon). Sichon was the king of the Amorites, a section of Moab, in the territory of today’s Jordan.
Along with those well-known regions and kings, Moses also speaks about unknown people, such as: Rephaim, Emim and Zamzummim. Why are they mentioned?

Moses mentions them in order to remind us, that every one of these nations received a portion of the Land of Israel as their inheritance; nevertheless, even though they were strong and scary giants, they vanished and became extinct.

It is said that Og, King of Bashan, was the last descendant of Repha’im. Og was a giant and is described in Deuteronomy 3:11. Rashi interprets the name ‘Repha’im’ (literally: ghosts) by saying that the arms of anyone who would see them, would turn limp from fear. And still, their inheritance was taken from them.

Moses said that the Ammonites inherited the land from Zamzummim, and now the People of Israel inherit the land from them. We remember God’s promise to Abraham at night, and how his descendants would be as many as the stars in heaven. However, the fulfillment of this promise was postponed for 400 years,

“For the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” (Genesis 15:16)

Meaning that there is a certain quota of sins for the inhabitants of the land. When that limit is crossed, the inhabitants of the land lose their right to exist, and God redistributes the land. Moses tells us that is what happened to the Zamzummim, Ammonites, Amorites, and even to the giant Repha’im.

Moses clarifies the connection between a people’s morality and the time they live on a certain piece of land, and especially the Land of Israel. We should read these verses as being addressed to us, too.

Moses reminds us that we are not the first landlords here. Regardless of our strength and the strength and development of our army and economy: the moment we fill the sin-quota, God will redistribute the right for this land. This means that our life in the Land of Israel is conditioned!
This condition is not measured by our physical strength, nor by our economic strength nor by our wisdom. We are measured by our moral standards, and the measure for our moral life is the Bible.

Moses rebukes the people. Similarly, the Torah and the New Testament command us to rebuke those falling into sin and those wandering from the straight path. We must do so, especially for the greater good, because we belong together as one nation. When our nation gets punished, we all pay the price. Those less guilty will pay along with those who are more guilty. That is how it works in public, and we are one people.

Criticism is important and necessary, but there are rules and boundaries we must adhere to. It is important to remember, that the purpose of criticism is to restore a person back to the straight path. Criticism is not punishment, and we don’t rebuke others in order to punish them but to help them to improve.

Here are a few basic questions to ask ourselves:

*Does my criticism result from my anger or pain, or from my true desire to improve?
*Is this the right time to speak? Or would it be better to wait for a better moment?
*Tone of voice: does the way I speak reflect my intentions (to help improve, of course)?
*Do I really understand the person I am trying to correct?

Yeshua teaches:

“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (Mathew 7:3)

Yeshua asks us to see a person from his or her prospective, and not from our own. It is easy to judge others. Yeshua asks us to walk a mile in their shoes before we criticize them. And it is always good to remember that no one appointed us to be the guardians of God’s law, nor for us to be His executors.

We are one people, and our time in the Land of Israel is conditional. This Torah portion comes closely to the 9th of Av. The collective Jewish-Israeli mindset views this fast as the second important fast, after the Day of Atonement. It is a National Day of Mourning.

“Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” (Mathew 24:1-3)

On the 9th of Av in the year 70 AD, in accordance to Yeshua’s words, not one stone was left upon another. It is said that the Second Temple was destroyed due to baseless hatred.

Today we suffer from baseless hatred as well, and you know what? Some are less guilty and others more, but the entire nation is responsible for it. We attack and hate each other based on their religious or secular point of view, or whether one identifies with the right or left side of the political camp.

When I say ‘we’, I mean everyone: religious and secular. As religious people, we focus on the ceremony, on the way we utter our prayers, on our customs and principles of faith; however, we quickly forget about the person next to us.

As secular people, we tend to forget that we were preserved as a people and returned back home by a miracle. And that it was God’s doing. As seculars, we often assimilate, dismissing the identity which our ancestors preserved with their blood, sweat and tears during 2000 years of exile.

The Haftarah of Devarim is from Isaiah chapter 1, and is meant for both the secular and the religious, for those on the right and left side of politics. It really is meant for everyone. Isaiah asks a rhetorical and mocking question:

“You come to the House of God? Why? Who asked you to come? Do not come. God does not want to see you here.” Isaiah continues: “Everything you do, your Shabbats, your holidays, your fasting – it is all an abomination.”

Isaiah’s prophecies in a very harsh way, and God tells us through Isaiah – that we will pray, but He will not hear our prayers. We will offer Him a sacrifice, but He will not accept our sacrifices.
Why so? Because we hurt one another and take advantage of the weak in our society!
Isaiah continues by saying:

If you want God to hear you, to bless you – then this is the formula:
“Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause.” (Isaiah 1:16-17)

As a society, we are guilty of taking advantage of the weak, the poor, and of strangers. We take advantage of each other.

Isaiah demands justice, and I think the majority of the people today do not believe in our justice system. We see the system as ineffective and slow, with week and inefficient punishment for perpetrators. There is no real justice.

Similar to Isaiah, Zechariah also demands justice and care for the weak in society:

“Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.” (Zechariah 7:9-10)

Zechariah adds to the discussion concerning the fast of the 9th of Av. At the beginning of chapter 7, the priests and Levites are asked whether there still is a need to fast and remember the days of destruction. This question is asked, because the Second Temple was still under construction in the days of Zechariah.

These were the days of the return to Zion, when the People of Israel were coming back from the Babylonian exile. So, they ask Zechariah:
“Jerusalem is being restored. Is the fast still necessary?”

God’s answer in chapter 7 is very harsh. Similar to Isaiah, Zechariah mocks those asking and asks them in return:

“Where were you when the prophets warned you? How did you allow the morals to deteriorate so much? Why did you add fuel to the fire of hatred and division? You put your trust in the army and economy in vain. Yet, suddenly you seem caught by surprise by the destruction and the exile…”

The question we need to ask ourselves is whether anything has changed. Are we better now? Zechariah is a prophet of comfort. He tries to encourage and strengthen the people. To overcome the exile and to restore the City of Jerusalem.

We are in the similar situation now. The long and painful exile is behind us. We returned to Israel and rebuilt the Land of Israel as a modern, and strong state. Only three generations ago there was nothing here. As promised by our prophets and thanks to God, we managed to rebuilt this country.

The question remains if we learnt our lesson. Will we listen to the prophets and the Word of God, now?
The Bible is our source of life and it is our measure of morality. We should never abandon the Scriptures!

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Joseph Shulam: No Partiality – Devarim [2023]

Last week we finished reading the book of Numbers, and this Shabbat we will start the reading with the book of Deuteronomy, the last book of the Pentateuch (The five books of the Torah).

This is a sure omen that our Jewish year is coming to an end, and the 1st day of the month of Tishreen, the seventh month of the Jewish calendar, imported to Israel with the return of the exiles after seventy years in Babylon.

We are in the middle of the summer, and it is a very hot summer in Jerusalem and in the land of Israel. It is a hot summer in so many ways! The country of Israel is railing in pain for the political situation and the deep division that is on the edge of a civil war because the government, our government, is made of a coalition of a Crow Frog and a Snake, all trying race for more power and control.

The executive branch of the government wants to control and rule over the judicial and the legislative branch doesn’t know where they left their dentures; in the kitchen, or the bathroom!

Israel needs a true miracle from God. Israel needs your prayers. Israel needs your support. Israels’ needs in every area of existence, are so serious and so big that only a miracle will keep us from a civil war. If I would look at history for a past period that had a similar situation it would be the year 66 A.D. when the hate and division was so big that it brought the war between the Pharisees and the Sadducees and the Zealots.

The hate between different factions of Jews, politicians, and priests, and false prophets was burning hotter than the deepest pits of hell. We are not there right now, but if this situation continues, we might get there before too long.

We are going to read this Shabbat of July 22, 2023 the portion that in Hebrew is named Devarim, from Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22. It is also one of the special Sabbaths called Chazon, (Vision) that is from the first chapter of the Prophet Isaiah 1:1-27.

This is one of these chapters that is so important to study, and is so essential, especially in our day and time. It is for me, a true revelation every time that I read these words of God spoken and written by the prophet Isaiah, through the streets of Jerusalem. From the New Testament our reading will be from Matthew 24:1-22.

The portion of Devarim, Deuteronomy, chapter 1 to 3, is the beginning of a long speech that Moses gives to the people of Israel when they are encamped on the shore of the Jordan River, just before they cross the river to the Land of Canaan, the land of Promise!

Moses will stay on the east side of the river and climb the mountain, never to come down again in the flesh. I say in the “flesh” because Moses actually did enter the land when he and Elijah had the meeting on top of the mountain with Yeshua in what is called in Christian theology, the “Transfiguration!”

The book of Deuteronomy is every special because it has a totally different theology and a totally different style and world view from the other four books of the Torah. It is so different in modern Biblical scholarship. It has a distinctive style and vocabulary and stands alone.

The influence of the Deuteronomist (The writer of Deuteronomy), can be traced through the historical books like Samuel I and II, and Kings I and II, and even through editorial comments and even in the books of the classical prophets.

I would like to start with the geographical note that start in Deuteronomy 1:1. When the Bible give us such exact geographical notes, telling us, so to speak, the exact address, like a GPS or a military coordinate, to pin-point the location, the only need for such information is actually to present the reality and the proof that the subsequent story is deeply rooted in a true and real event physically.

The place is real and discoverable and physical and from there you understand that the event in that place is also real and physical and true.

There is no doubt that the writer of the book of Deuteronomy knew his geography of the land of Israel, with the right names of the area and the description of the length of the journey from Horeb and from Mount Seir and Kadesh Barnea. The idea behind such a text is that if you have doubt that this is a real event you can pick up your feet and go there and see that the place is real, and the coordinates are true and real to guide you to the location.

After the geographical notes that start the book of Deuteronomy, Moses introduces his presentation with a hint that God had to actually convince them to pack up and start their journey from Mount Horeb (Sinai) to the land of the Amorites (Canaan). The language that Moses uses here is a kind of command.

If I could picture Moses and translate this scene to a modern US Marine Sargent, it would sound harsh. Moses essentially tells the leaders of the people of Israel, “Get up, pack up, and start marching to the land of Canaan. There is work waiting for you; you have all the land that God promised your fathers, all the way to the river Euphrates (Babylon)!”

There are a few different boarders of the promised land in the Torah and this one is the broader and biggest boarders. It actually includes the whole Middle East from Egypt in the Southwest, i.e., from Africa, through the land between the Jordan river in the east and the Mediterranean Sea in the West, to the north east all the way to the River Euphrates in Asia. The actual boarders of the Israelite settlement, most of our history, were from Dan to Beer Sheva.

Chapter 1:9 -13 is very interesting, especially interesting in light of the reading next Shabbat on July 29th, that starts with the following words:

“Then I pleaded with the LORD at that time, saying: 24 “O Lord GOD, You have begun to show your servant Your greatness and Your mighty hand, for what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do anything like Your works and Your mighty deeds? 25 I pray, let me cross over and see the good land beyond the Jordan, those pleasant mountains, and Lebanon.’ 26 “But the LORD was angry with me on your account, and would not listen to me. So, the LORD said to me: ‘Enough of that! Speak no more to Me of this matter. 27 Go up to the top of Pisgah, and lift your eyes toward the west, the north, the south, and the east; behold it with your eyes, for you shall not cross over this Jordan. 28 But command Joshua and encourage him and strengthen him; for he shall go over before this people, and he shall cause them to inherit the land which you will see.’”
(Deuteronomy 3:23)

There is a real and true conflict in the presentation that Moses gives to the people of Israel; to encourage them to move on and pack their bags and get moving from Mount Horeb (Sinai) and take their journey to conquer the land of Canaan, the land given to them as an inheritance of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Moses is like a football coach encouraging his team to go up and fight to win. Then a few lines down Moses is pleading with the Lord, begging God to let him cross the Jordan River together with the people.

Here is a very interesting and pitiful text of Moses. The big-time leader and hero of the Exodus is suddenly begging God and God tells him a big fat “NO Way boy!” You are not going to enter the land of promise this time. You will go up the mountain and die there….

There are a few very important lessons to be learned from this portion of the Torah. Lessons that are most important for spiritual leaders, pastors, teachers, elders, evangelist, and everyone who feels close to the Lord and is a successful servant of God. It is a lesson that is hard to understand from our human status as “men of God!”

Lesson 1. God shows no partiality toward spiritual leaders, apostles, prophets, pastors, or deacons. On the contrary God judges those who are close to him and serve him doubly, more than the regular normal people who are working in their own field.

It is interesting that to see how Moses is a totally normal man! When God refuses to allow him to enter the land, after he pleads with God, and God says to Moses a big loud and clear “No sir! You are not crossing the Jordan River!” What does Moses do?

“But the LORD was angry with me on your account and would not listen to me. So, the LORD said to me: ‘Enough of that! Speak no more to Me of this matter. Go up to the top of Pisgah,” (Deuteronomy 3:26-27)

Here are some very important lessons to be learned here, my dear brothers:

Leaders don’t get a discount in God’s judgment and treatment of their needs. God is no respecter of persons, and normally leaders, pastors, preachers, deacons, elders and their families, receive harsher and more strict treatment with God. This is on the paradigm of “whom God loves; He also punishes harshly!” Leaders among God’s people are judged more because much is expected from them.

“But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.” (Luke 12:48)

What is amazing to me from this Torah portion is how normal Moses is, and how God treats Moses. We must remember that Moses is the only one to whom God spoke face to face and mouth to mouth; from all the prophets and men of God in the Bible.

“So the LORD spoke to Moses, face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. And he would return to the camp, but his servant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, did not depart from the tabernacle.” (Exodus 33:11)

In Israel, the most important vitamin is vitamin P – for Protection! You can get so much more done and receive benefits if you know the right person in the government or in some important office. THIS DOESN’T WORK WITH GOD! EVEN FOR MOSES GOD DIDN’T BEND THE RULES!

This is such an important lesson for us to learn, and for preachers to learn in the way they treat their people. If a person is rich you don’t need to dance around him and treat him special and his wife even more special.

There is no room for partiality in God’s Kingdom. We have the letter of James that makes this rule very clear. It’s important for you to read James chapters 1 and 2. This is especially important for the preachers and pastors in the churches, and in the Synagogues too.

Just a few words for the reading of Isaiah chapter 1; I pray that you read this chapter and see the importance of the general context. This chapter essentially says that all the things that are so emphasized in synagogues and churches, the worship, and the giving, and the décor of the building and the ceremonies, are not worth a hill of beans if the intention and the heart and the faith and the charity to your fellow man is not there.

Yeshua and Paul and all the prophets teach the same. We must all remember that God needs nothing from us. What He needs and wants from us is very simple and not expensive at all. It is our hearts, our life of faith and obedience to Him and to His commandments.

Just think of this my dear brothers; what command of Yeshua, our Lord and Savior, is the church keeping in the way that our Lord commanded us to keep? The great commission to go to the whole world and preach the good news is waved around like a flag, but how much stock and effort and money are the churches given from their budgets to do mission work these days? How much money is given to orphanages or for the widows of the community?

Moses is a normal human being. He blames the people for the fact that God doesn’t hear his prayers and doesn’t allow him to cross the Jordan river! Yes, Moses is a lot like me, and you and I am so glad to learn this fact! I would feel much worst if Moses, the man who spent 40 days and nights in God’s company, person to person, mouth to mouth and yet, when it came to explain why the Almighty doesn’t let him cross the Jordan River into the Promised Land, Moses says to the people, “But the LORD was angry with me on your account and would not listen to me. So, the LORD said to me: ‘Enough of that! Speak no more to Me of this matter!”

O’ how I like this conversation between God and Moses. O’ how many times God told me, “No, you will not get this from me! Shut your mouth! Enough!”

I feel much better now knowing and remembering that God also told Moses, the great Moses, “No!” My problem is that I don’t have anyone to blame except myself! I could have blamed Marcia my wife, but no one will believe me, and God would be even more angry with me and may increase the punishment! So, When I make a mistake, it is best to swallow hard and say “thank you God for your mercy endures forever!”

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

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

Shalom. My name is Joseph Shulam. And in partnership with Brad TV in Korea we are doing the weekly portions that are read in every synagogue in the world on the Sabbath days. This next Sabbath we will be doing the Book of Deuteronomy beginning portion of the Torah portion of the Book of Deuteronomy, starting in chapter one verse one and continuing on to chapter three verse 22.

And the portion from the prophets is the first chapter of Isaiah, the whole first chapter of Isaiah, which is a very, very important chapter, programmatic chapter that influences strongly influences both Judaism and I think for those Christians who study the Torah, influences also those Christians.

And from the New Testament we’ll be reading from Matthew chapter 23 from verse 37 to chapter 24 verse 28. So all these texts that are read in our congregation this next Shabbat are very, very important. Very crucial.

Let’s start with the word Deuteronomy. It comes from the Greek, the second law or the second giving of the law. And that is a good description of what we have in the Book of Deuteronomy. In the Hebrew it’s called words because the book starts, these are the words which Moses spoke to the children of Israel, on this side of the Jordan, in the wilderness of the Plains of Suph, between Paran, Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth, and Dizahab.

Oh wow. We are giving here a very, very detailed location. Children of Israel have been wandering for 40 years in the wilderness. Moses begged God, and he will see it in the next week. Begs God, let me cross the Jordan river. God, please. I’m your servant. I deserve it.

God says, no, you’re not crossing the Jordan River. But before the children of Israel crossed the Jordan River, he gathers them in the Plains of Moab and he gives them this long speech, 34 chapters of a speech.

That is what the Book of Deuteronomy is. It is a farewell message of Moses to the children of Israel that has history. It has complaints. It has blessings. It has curses.

It’s a covenantal document. In other words, it’s a new covenant that God gives through Moses with the children of Israel. Almost everything is changed from what is written in the Book of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. And Moses gave it on the Plains of Moab on the east side of the Jordan River across from Jericho.

But, the period of the Judges, they know nothing about the book of Deuteronomy. The period of the Kings until Josiah, which is at the 7th century BC, they know nothing of the laws, the customs, the commands of the Book of Deuteronomy. They don’t have the Book of Deuteronomy.

We find out in the Book of 2 Kings chapter 22 verse 13 that when Josiah couldn’t sleep, the priest comes and they have found the book in the Temple. Let me go there. Verse 13 of chapter 22 of the Book of Kings:

“Go inquire of the Lord for me, for the people and of all Judea concerning the words of this book that has been found, for great is the wrath of the Lord that is aroused against us because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book to do according to all that is written concerning us. So Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam Achbor, Shaphan, Asaiah went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum, the son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keepers of the wardrobe. She dwelled in Jerusalem the second quarter. And they spoke with her and she said to them, ‘Thus said the Lord of God of Israel, “Tell the man who sent you to me. ‘Thus says the Lord, “Behold, I will bring calamity on this place and over its inhabitants and all the words the book which the king of Judea has read, because they have forsaken Me, burned incense to other gods. They might provoke Me to anger with all the words of their hands, with all the works of their hands. Therefore, My wrath shall be aroused against them and against this place and shall not be quenched.”’”’”

Okay. Before Josiah, it seems like nobody except Huldah the prophetess and the priest know about a book that was found and brought to the king. And the wrath is justified.

Why? Because everything in that book, in the second giving of the Torah and the is very, very different than what we read in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. That’s a fact. Even the 10 Commandments are slightly different. What happened?

Moses got 40 years older and forgot what God spoke from Mount Sinai after he spent 40 days and 40 nights up there with God himself on the top of Mount Sinai. Ah, unlikely, but the book is there and we have it. And truly it’s very different.

First of all, as I said earlier, it is a farewell speech. Moses is not going to cross the Jordan after he talks to them, probably for at least three hours, not in an air conditioned auditorium on the shores of the Jordan River on the east side.

He then goes up the mountain not far, Mount Nebo, and there he dies and God buries him. Nobody knows his burial place, which is a good thing because human nature is that if somebody important dies they want to go build a shrine on his tomb and go there and pilgrimage and worship there and cry there, and whatever, that we have such tombs in Israel of great rabbis and of Joseph supposedly. And so that’s what people do. They, it edged on the worship of the dead and it’s in many cultures like that.

The Book of Deuteronomy is probably the book that influenced of the Torah, that influenced the Apostle Paul more than any other book in the Torah, more than Genesis, more than Exodus, more than Leviticus, more than Numbers, because its theology, especially theology toward the Gentiles, is based on chapter 32 of the Book of Deuteronomy. We’ll get to it in the future.

Now, Moses didn’t get what he wants, which is that within itself is something that a lesson that we all need to learn from, that great men of God, whether it’s Moses, whether it’s Aaron, whether it’s King David, whether are probably some of the apostles didn’t get what they wanted. We live in a kind of a Protestant postmodern church today and the prosperity doctrine, which is not found in the Scriptures, misconstrued and misapplied for the pastors and the leaders.

Prosperity is not a part of the biblical concept. Yes. Doing right, keeping the commandments of God, following God faithfully does bring a blessing on your life. Not following God faithfully and keeping his commandments brings damage to your life. God is a God of justice and he’s a just judge of all. And He wants His children to be faithful and obedient.

And this concept is in the New Testament, from the Sermon on the Mountain, all the way to the first letter of the apostle John. Keeping commandments is a part of our DNA as children of God. Not only talking, not only praying, and not only giving money to the church. Those things are not the paradigms on which our relationship with God is based. Yes.

So Moses is there on the shores of the Jordan River and he is reviewing a little bit of history and he is bringing commands and changing the laws. And in the first chapters of the Book of Deuteronomy he is reviewing their trip and their challenges as they are about to enter the land that is inhabited with Canaanites, Perizzites Hivites, Jebusites, Philistines.

Seven different nations are inhabiting this small piece of land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. From Be’er Sheva to then. Big mess. I often say that if God was a loving father, which He is, I confess that He is, but He should have taken us to Switzerland and given us the land of Switzerland and not this edge, southern western edge of the Fertile Crescent that starts in the Persian Gulf along the River Euphrates and Tigris and the other rivers of Syria and Lebanon and comes down between the Jordan River, the Sea of Galilee, and the Mediterranean Sea.

This place was an Egyptian province at that time. And it was a mess. And it still is in fact, a mess. We still have problems with the people that did not receive this land from God like Israel did, like the Jewish people did, but they claim to have ownership on this land which they never had because this land has never been independent political sociological states other than the time of the Israelites.

And now the return of the Israelites back home after 2000 years of exile. So Moses reviews these things and talks about the place of the Amorites and the Canaanites and the fact that, you know, God has given the land. And he also has some complaints against the people and against God.

Chapter one, verse nine. This is what Moses says:

“And I spoke to you at that time saying, I alone am not able to bury you. The Lord your God has multiplied you. And here we are today as the stars of heaven in multitudes. May the Lord God of your fathers make you a thousand times more numerous than you are and bless you as He has promised you.”

When they left Egypt, they were already a big bunch of people. In the wilderness they multiplied. They multiplied and increased. And we find out of 600,000 soldiers between the age of 20 and 50, which means that they had wives and children and families. And we’re talking about at least a million and a half to two millions and a half of people wandering the desert, a long, long line of encampment in the Sinai Desert.

And the challenge that Moses gives to the children of Israel is there, folks. You’ve got choices to make, which is the essence of all of God’s relationship with His people. Always you’ve got choices to make. And if you make the wrong choice, you will pay for it.

So therefore, make sure you make the right choice. Choose to follow God. Choose to do right. Choose to obey His commandments. Choose to honor the institutions like the Tabernacle and like the priesthood and like your leadership.

Choose because prophetically in the Book of Deuteronomy, He is already giving them the idea that they are going to have a king. He gives them the rules of the king, the covenant that the king was going to make with the people and the people with the king.

That is a far-reaching, far-reaching prophetic promise. Yeah, because we know from the Book of Judges, the story of Gideon and his family, and then with the story of Samuel and King Saul, what kind of birth pangs, birth pains the children of Israel had to have a king, and how difficult it was for Samuel to give a king to the children of Israel.

But the Book of Deuteronomy has already foreseen and prepared and given the laws of kingship in relationship to the king himself and his court and in relationship to the people. So the Book of Deuteronomy is a very, very important book.

It’s very prophetic and we are going to touch the prophetic, is the only book that has these clear curses for disobedience and blessings for obedience. Even the 10 Commandments I said earlier are a little bit different, but the biggest differences in the Book of Deuteronomy is with the priesthood.

In the Book of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, only the children of Aaron could be priests. The Levites had jobs, had functions around the Tabernacles, but they were Levites. They were not kohanim. They were not priests.

In the Book of Deuteronomy, every Levite becomes a priest for a season. They have turns that each Levite priest family takes a turn. And we see that in the New Testament with Zechariah the father of John the Baptist. He takes a turn and he comes to Jerusalem and he serves in the temple for his turn. And then when he finishes his turn, he goes back home and he is a regular Levite.

Another big thing is the cities of the Levites, the cities that the criminals could escape to, six cities, three on the east side of the Jordan River, three on the west side of the Jordan River, that if somebody by mistake killed somebody, damaged somebody, and there would be a blood feud between the victim’s family and the assailant’s family.

They could run into the cities of refuge and live there and work there and survive there until the high priest dies. And when the high priest dies, they go free. They’re redeemed of their sin, of their mistake, which is the first time that we see that there is such a thing as atoning death of one person for a lot of people that are in the cities of refuge. A lot of centers that are in the city of the refuge.

In the next portion that starts in Deuteronomy chapter, the end of chapter four, chapter five, that portion Moses begs, it’s called Va’etchanan. I’m begging, God, let me in. And God says, no.

We have a lot to learn from this, dear brothers and sisters. It’s an important portion. Please read it. Read the first chapter of Isaiah, read from the New Testament, Matthew 23 verse 37 to 24, verse 28. These are important chapters and see how the law, the prophets, and the New Testament actually come together and address the same issues and the challenges that we all face even in the 21st century now.

And may God bless us all and give us the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit when we read His words. Pray that the Holy Spirit will quicken the word for you and that you will be able to receive it in your heart, in your mind, and in your life to guide you and instruct you how to live now as disciples of the Messiah, of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, the divine Son of God.

God bless you all. We’ll continue next week. Shalom.

Joseph Shulam: The Emphasis is On Relationship [2021]

This Shabbat is called Shabbat Chazon (“Vision”). There are two reasons for this special name for this special Shabbat. The first reason is that the reading from the prophets is from Isaiah chapter 1:1-27. The first words of this chapter are,

“The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.” – Isaiah 1:1

The second reason is that this Shabbat is the day before the 9th day of the month of Av. This day is one of the most unusual days in the Hebrew calendar, and my guess is that it is the most unusual day in any calendar of any nation in the history of mankind.

From the Torah we are starting the reading of the last book of the Pentateuch (The five books of Moses) the book of Deuteronomy (in Latin “The Second Law”). Why is the book of Deuteronomy named “Second Law”?

The reason is that Moses repeats a major part of laws from the books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. In Deuteronomy almost every law written in the earlier books is very different. Before Moses goes up the mountain to see from afar the land promised by the Lord to Israel as an eternal inheritance, Moses repeats many of the laws given earlier with changes.

Even the Ten Commandments that were spoken by the Lord Himself from the top of Mount Sinai are a little different in Deuteronomy. The explanation for this phenomenon is already given in the Bible itself.

“Then Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the scribe, ‘I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the Lord.’ And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it. So Shaphan the scribe went to the king, bringing the king word, saying, ‘Your servants have gathered the money that was found in the house, and have delivered it into the hand of those who do the work, who oversee the house of the Lord.’ Then Shaphan the scribe showed the king, saying, ‘Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.’ And Shaphan read it before the king.” – 2 Kings 22:8-10 [NKJV]

According to 2 Kings 22:8-10, King Josiah makes a major religious reform in Israel that adjusts all the religious practices even the size of the altars in the land and even the practice of who can serve in the Temple. Just about every religious practice is changed according to the book of Deuteronomy.

The major change was the centralization of the worship in Jerusalem only and the destruction and defiling of every other place in the land that was used for worship of the God of Israel.

The reading from the prophets is also one of the strongest chapters in the prophets, Isaiah chapter 1. From the New Testament it is Acts 9:1-21.

I am tempted to concentrate on the reading from the prophets, Isaiah chapter 1, but I have to say a few words from Deuteronomy chapter 1-3. Moses himself explains what is about to happen now:

“On this side of the Jordan in the land of Moab, Moses began to explain this law, saying, ‘The Lord our God spoke to us in Horeb, saying: “You have dwelt long enough at this mountain. Turn and take your journey, and go to the mountains of the Amorites, to all the neighboring places in the plain, in the mountains and in the lowland, in the South and on the seacoast, to the land of the Canaanites and to Lebanon, as far as the great river, the River Euphrates.”’” – Deuteronomy 1:5-7 [NKJV]

According to the text, Moses knows that he is not going to cross the Jordan river with the camp of Israel and that the conditions and situation in the land of Israel will be totally new and different from all that the children of Israel have experienced before this mega move. So, he is giving them a reinterpretation of the law that God gave them at Mt. Sinai.

According to Moses ,this giving of the law is for the equipping of the nation of Israel to live as a normal nation in permanent dwellings on their own God-given territory like every other normal nation.

For this the laws given to Israel in the desert of Sinai need slight tweaking and adjustments to make their religious orders and practices fit their new circumstances. One of the first things that Moses realizes is that he couldn’t lead these people alone and therefore as they enter the land there needs to be in place administration,

“‘Choose wise, understanding, and knowledgeable men from among your tribes, and I will make them heads over you.’ And you answered me and said, ‘The thing which you have told us to do is good.’ So I took the heads of your tribes, wise and knowledgeable men, and made them heads over you, leaders of thousands, leaders of hundreds, leaders of fifties, leaders of tens, and officers for your tribes.’” – Deuteronomy 1:13-15 [NKJV]

Now I would like to go to the Haftarah, the reading from Isaiah chapter 1. There are few chapters that are as important to me as Isaiah chapter 1. The reason for the excitement is that God here gives us a taste of His real attitude toward our religious practices, worship, sacrifices, holidays, prayer, and in fact all of what religious institutions, synagogues, churches, and all other so called “places of worship” the whole world over.

The easiest thing to do for God and for our faith is to build buildings, temples, places of worship, “holy places.” The second easiest thing to do is to appoint a “holy man,” “rabbi,” “pastor,” “juju man” spiritual leaders of every possible kind, and to place these men in the place of Moses, and King David, or at least to endow them with the authority of the apostles…

The third thing that is also easy to do is to create semi-professional worship leaders that know how to make a show with wonderfully talented musicians, dancers, decoration, wonderful sound systems. All these things are wonderful and well-orchestrated and invested with both good actors and singers and stage furniture.

As I said above, these are the things that churches like to invest in and like to believe that these are the things that please God. But Isaiah chapter 1, and Acts chapter 17, and Jeremiah 7:21-23, Hosea 6:6, and many other places in the Bible tell us differently. Or to put it in the words of Paul, from Acts 17:24-29:

“God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, “For we are also His offspring.’ Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising.” – Acts 17:24-29 [NKJV]

In summary we all need to refresh and refocus and put the emphasis on our life and relationship with God as a much more personal and intimate thing. This is what God wants from us, this is what the end of chapter 1 of Isaiah recommends to us.

On purpose I don’t want to keep quoting. I want you to go and read Isaiah chapter 1 from the beginning to the end of this chapter and spend five minutes in meditation and seek to locate where your treasured relationship with the Creator is. If you come to the conclusion that you don’t have any, that you have been very religious but without real personal faith in and a relationship with God, please start reading the Bible from Genesis, verse after verse, after 15 minutes stop and pray: “God please help me to know you better!”

Remember that God has many thousands of angels with angelic voices singing His praises and prostrating themselves by day and night before Him in worship. Yes, we must worship God! Yes, we must sing His praises! Yes, we must sacrifice our lives, our money, our time, and our talents and gifts for His glory and for our identity as God’s children!

But it all must be done from faith and based on a relationship. Remember that God is not a prostitute that can be purchased with money or beautiful buildings or gifts of gold or silver…

Please forgive me for my crudeness but essentially this is what Paul, Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Hosea are saying! I am just interpreting it in a language that the common man can understand.

The thing that we all need to do if we feel that our prayers don’t rise above our ceiling is to ask ourselves what we can do to change and improve our relationship with the Almighty God of Israel and with Yeshua our Messiah. I am sure that through prayer and reading the word of God you will find the answer!

Joseph Shulam: How Would You Feel if the Lord Said “No” to You? [2020]

Last Shabbat we finished the reading of the book of Numbers and we are now starting the book of Deuteronomy. The Greek word “deutero” means second and the word “nomos” means law. In short, in all languages other than Hebrew, this is the meaning of the word “Deuteronomy” = the second giving of the Torah (law).

This coming Shabbat we read from Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22, and from the Prophets we read Isaiah 1:1-27 and from the New Testament we read 1 Timothy 3:1-7. All these readings are hard to digest emotionally and spiritually and intellectually.

Let us take Moses, beside Yeshua the greatest prophet and leader of the people of God. He had invested 80 years of his life to bring the children of Israel out of bondage and slavery. He has been a prince of Egypt for 40 years living in one of the most luxurious palaces in human history. The word luxurious came from the city of Luxor – where Moses was raised in the palace of the Pharaoh.

If you haven’t visited Egypt I suggest that in a few years when the coronavirus settles and the economies of the world also settle down, that Netivyah plan a special grand prayer and study tour with academic authorities from Israel, Greece, Turkey, Jordan, and Egypt.

If Syria and Lebanon will be opened by that time we ought to include these countries as well. It will be a grand tour, of 21 days to first pray for these countries and the salvation of their people. Second it will be a tour to celebrate the histories of these countries and see the hand of God moving in their histories.

Third it will be for the inspiration and education and celebration of God’s work in human history that started in this part of the world and will end in this part of the world. I would say that an addition to all of the above will be the encouragement and motivation for each participant to make disciples for the King and for His eternal kingdom, Yeshua the king of the Jews and all the Gentiles.

Now, Moses was raised in Luxor for 40 years. He then spent 40 years doing what the Egyptians considered the most abominable job possible, shepherding of sheep. The last 40 years of his life he led a rabble of hundreds of thousands, yes around 2,000,000 ex-slaves, through one of the harshest deserts in the world, the Sinai Desert. Now Moses is about to go up Mount Nebo, and die a physical death.

The book of Deuteronomy is Moses last and longest speech to the people of Israel and to the world. The book of Deuteronomy is sad from the beginning and sad in the end. It is sad but very important. The sadness is not ours, it is Moses’ – He begs the Lord in next week’s reading that starts with the word “Va'etchanan”:

“Then I pleaded with the Lord at that time, saying: ‘O Lord God, You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness and Your mighty hand, for what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do anything like Your works and Your mighty deeds? I pray, let me cross over and see the good land beyond the Jordan, those pleasant mountains, and Lebanon.’ But the Lord was angry with me on your account, and would not listen to me. So the Lord said to me: ‘Enough of that! Speak no more to Me of this matter.’” – Deuteronomy 3:23-26 [NKJV]

Please consider that this Moses is the same Moses to whom the Lord himself revealed His character:

“Now the Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth.’” – Exodus 34:5-6 [NKJV]

I am sad for Moses not entering into the land that he waited 40 years to enter, but I am more sad for the answer he received from the Lord God of Israel who is “merciful and gracious and longsuffering…”

How would I feel if the Lord would deny me something that I have worked for and labored for so long? How would you feel? My sadness is mitigated by the fact that I know that I am only a servant of flesh and blood and that God is the master and father and creator of the universe, and I trust that He knows what is right and wrong and what is best for me!

This is the only mitigating factor in this situation, and it was good enough for Moses and it ought to be good enough for us when God tells us “No!” The end of Moses’ speech (that would take at least three hours to deliver on the plains of Moab in the spring of the year, without air conditioning and probably sitting on the ground and not on chairs or benches.

The end is also very sad, even sadder than the beginning of the book of Deuteronomy. Here is what God said to Moses and to Joshua before Moses goes up the mountain to die:

“And the Lord said to Moses: ‘Behold, you will rest with your fathers; and this people will rise and play the harlot with the gods of the foreigners of the land, where they go to be among them, and they will forsake Me and break My covenant which I have made with them. Then My anger shall be aroused against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide My face from them, and they shall be devoured. And many evils and troubles shall befall them, so that they will say in that day, “Have not these evils come upon us because our God is not among us?” And I will surely hide My face in that day because of all the evil which they have done, in that they have turned to other gods.’” – Deuteronomy 31:16-18 [NKJV]

How much sadder can it be than this, when a man’s career looks like a total failure after years of suffering and investment? God tells Moses that the nation that He invested his life for will actually do these terrible things and God will have to “hide His face” from them.

This means that God will ignore them and their needs and their communication will not go up even above the ceiling of their homes. Just to end this with a positive note. Read Ezekiel 39:22-27 and you will understand that in the end all will be good and all Israel will be saved (See Romans 11:25-27) and that God will restore Israel and reveal His face to them!

Joseph Shulam: A Second Giving of the Torah [2016]

Last week we finished reading the book of Numbers, and this Shabbat we are starting the reading of the book of Deuteronomy. The name Deuteronomy is made up of two Greek words: deuteron, meaning second (the following), and nomos, meaning the law. In other words, this book in Greek is called “The Second Giving of the Law.”

In the end of the book of Numbers, the children of Israel are encamped on the plain across from Jericho, getting ready to cross the river into the land of promise. Moses is getting ready to obey God, and he climbs up Mount Nebo to see the land, and he never comes down from this mountain. Moses dies at the end of the book of Deuteronomy, and no one knows his grave site.

The first chapters of the book of Deuteronomy present to us the content of the book. Moses is now ready to die, and he is addressing the nation of Israel one last time:

“These are the words that Moses spoke to all Israel beyond the Jordan in the wilderness, in the Arabah opposite Suph, between Paran and Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth, and Dizahab. It is eleven days’ journey from Horeb by the way of Mount Seir to Kadesh-barnea. In the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses spoke to the people of Israel according to all that the Lord had given him in commandment to them…” - Deuteronomy 1:1-3 [ESV]

The Hebrew name of the book is like the other books of the Torah. It is not a name, it is just the first word with which the book starts, Devarim (“the words”).

Now why is this book of Devarim called in Greek Deuteronomy? Because the content of this book is actually a second giving of the Torah (the law of Moses). What does this mean, “the second giving of the Torah?”

If we look at the content of the book, we find out that actually every commandment given by God in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, is changed. Not one commandment is the same, not even the 10 commandments are exactly the same as in Exodus chapter 20.

Moses introduces several changes when he recounts the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, and this is especially visible in the commandment to keep the Shabbat. The Jewish people noticed this a long time ago, and that is why in the prayers for the Shabbat they synchronize the two and say, “To Keep and to remember in one command.” Because one says “keep” the Sabbath Day and the other says “remember” the Sabbath Day.

So, what does it mean that the commandments have changed and are different between the book of Deuteronomy and the other three books of the Torah? Well, here is a short list of what it meant in Moses’ giving of the Torah a second time, with many amendments and updates, changes, and even editions.

One example for an addition is the issue of the circumcision of the heart. It does not exist in the other books of the Torah, but it does exist twice in the book of Deuteronomy.

There are only three times that circumcision of the heart appears in the Old Testament, and in the Torah it only appears in the book of Deuteronomy.

“Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn.” - Deuteronomy 10:16 [ESV]

“And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.” - Deuteronomy 30:6 [ESV]

“Circumcise yourselves to the Lord; remove the foreskin of your hearts, O men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem; lest my wrath go forth like fire, and burn with none to quench it, because of the evil of your deeds.” - Jeremiah 4:4 [ESV]

Here are some of the important reasons for Moses making these changes:

  1. There is a major change of circumstance about to happen to the children of Israel. They are about to change from a group of nomads, wanderers in the wilderness of Sinai, to city dwellers.
  2. They had the Tabernacle of God with them right in the center of the camp. God actually dwelled (the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night) with them for 38 years. They had daily guidance from God and their leaders, Moses and Aaron, spoke to God regularly and had divine solutions for all their problems (water, food, meat, equality of women, etc.). Now they will be spread on a much larger territory, and the Tabernacle of God will be stationary. They will have to go to the Tabernacle only three times per year.
  3. They will be land owners for the first time ever. With the ownership of land there comes a major lifestyle change, farming the land, livestock that is stationed on private property, and common grazing grounds. There are defense issues with neighboring nations.
  4. The type of government will change, from Moses and Aaron and tribal leadership, to national leadership, and later on even a king like the other nations around them have.

These sociological and political changes must be addressed by the laws, and therefore the commandments of God must change and adapt to the circumstances.

We must remember that the Torah is deposited in our hands, but it is God’s Torah and it is His instruction for us to live by. So, He can change things any time He wants to change things. In fact, God has changed many of the laws many times.

If you look at Jeremiah chapter 31 (and I know that most Christians know that the term “New Testament” or “New Covenant” is taken from Jeremiah chapter 31:31):

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah…” - Jeremiah 31:31 [ESV]

Many people don’t know that just in the preceding verses God actually changes one of the important laws of the Torah, and the same is recorded in Ezekiel chapter 18 and elaborated upon by the prophet:

“And it shall come to pass that as I have watched over them to pluck up and break down, to overthrow, destroy, and bring harm, so I will watch over them to build and to plant, declares the Lord. In those days they shall no longer say: ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge.’ But everyone shall die for his own iniquity. Each man who eats sour grapes, his teeth shall be set on edge.” - Jeremiah 31:28-30 [ESV]

It is not accidental that the prophet Jeremiah precedes the announcement of the giving of a “New Covenant” with this prediction of a change of the law of relationship between our sin and our offspring. So, the book of Deuteronomy is actually the second giving of the Torah to the children of Israel. It has the laws for the kings, that did not exist in the other books of the Torah because a king was not relevant during the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness; God Himself was their King!

Yehuda Bachana: Decency and Kind Behavior Should Precede Torah [2018]

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

This Shabbat we start the book of Deuteronomy. In addition, this week also ends with Tisha B'Av. I’d like to discuss the weekly Torah portion, but I’d also like to talk about the destruction of the Temple and the sadness, remembrance, and repentance associated with this tragic event.

The Two Meanings of the Word “Devarim”

Moses started out as a man who was slow of speech and ended his time of leadership with an influential speech to the people of Israel

Deuteronomy differs from other books of the Torah in that it is made up almost entirely of a speech that Moses delivered to the children of Israel on the plains of Moab, before they entered into the Land of Israel. Moses was preparing the people for entering into the Land of Israel, and in doing so, he was preparing them for a time without him as their leader.

The first word of the Torah portion is “devarim,” in Hebrew. “Devarim” is the name of the book of Deuteronomy, but in addition to this it also means “words.”

It is interesting to compare the end of Moses' professional career to its beginning. This week's parasha is named after the entire book, “devarim.”

“These are the words Moses spoke…” - Deuteronomy 1:1a [NIV]

Moses’ Lifetime and Important Speech

If we take a moment and go back to the beginning of Moses' career, to the beginning of Exodus, it might bring a smile to our faces:

“Moses said to the Lord, ‘Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent… I am slow of speech and tongue.’” - Exodus 4:10 [NIV]

God told him that He understood his concern, but that He still thought that Moses was
the right man for the job.

“I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” - Philippians 4:13 [NIV]

After the end of the long, monotonous journey towards the entrance into Israel, Moses, that same guy who stuttered and told God he wasn't fit for the job, gave a speech before the entire nation of Israel.

Moses' speech throughout Deuteronomy included all the events of the past, from the beginning until that moment. These events that were mentioned were mainly warnings that were given to the people as well as to us, to prevent us from making the same mistakes.

The Quota of Sins for the Inhabitants of the Land of Israel

During the speech, Moses gave many geopolitical descriptions of conquests and reminded the people of Sihon, Og, Moab, and Ammon. We are even reminded of previous occupiers of the region, for example:

“That too was considered a land of the Rephaites, who used to live there; but the Ammonites called them Zamzummites. They were a people strong and numerous, and as tall as the Anakites. The Lord destroyed them from before the Ammonites, who drove them out and settled in their place.” - Deuteronomy 2:20,21 [NIV]

Moses said that the Ammonites inherited the land of the Zamzummites, and Israel inherited the land of the Ammonites.

However, I want to remind you of the promise that God made to Abraham at midnight, the moment when all his offspring after him were said to be as numerous as all the stars of the heavens. Despite this, God delayed the application of the promise for 400 years:

“... for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.” - Genesis 15:16b [NIV]

In other words, the inhabitants of the land had a quota of sins, and as soon as they exceeded that quota, they lost the right to their existence, and God distributed the land anew. Moses tells us that this was how it was with the Zamzummites, the Ammonites, and the Amorites.

The Importance of Upholding a Certain Level of Morality

Let's make this clear, there is a direct connection between the moral behavior of a people and between its duration, particularly when it occupies the Land of Israel. The message of Moses and God in these verses was also directed at us.

Moses explained to us that we are not the first owners of the house, and that its history is well-known and painful. According to His will, it was taken from us and given to all kinds of conquerors - Persians, Babylonians, Chaldeans, Greeks, Romans, Turks, and the British. It all depends on the will of the Creator as well as the amount of sins and iniquities committed by the inhabitants of the land. Everything is conditional, and it all depends on us; we have been warned.

The essence of this parasha is an exhortation and a warning. Moses was warning the people, and the Bible warns us. We as a society must be above a certain level of morality, and if not, our days in the Land of Promise are numbered.

We must understand, as believers, that we are in the same boat with the nation of Israel, and everyone's future, including our own, is tied up with the future of the people of Israel. If one of us makes a hole in the bottom of the ship - we all will drown.

Tisha B’Av and the National Day of Mourning

As mentioned, this week ends with Tisha B'Av. In the Jewish-Israeli collective, this is the second most important fast after Yom Kippur. It is a sad day of national mourning.

Zechariah is still very relevant to our conversation today. Chapter 7 begins with a question about the fasting and mourning that have been kept for 70 years:

The Israelites sent a delegation from Bethel to the priests and prophets in Jerusalem. The delegation came to ask for God's instruction: Should we continue to observe these days of fasting even though the exile is behind us and the Temple is being built before our eyes?

In Zechariah chapter 7, God gives a very sharp answer.

It's as if God was mocking the ones questioning Him. He asked them, “Where were you when my prophets warned you? Where were you when there was terrible evil around you, and you sat in peace and thought you were safe, and then came destruction and exile, as if by surprise?”

The question we need to ask ourselves is, what exactly has something changed? Are we any better? Zechariah was a prophet of comfort, and he was trying to encourage the people to become stronger, to overcome the exile and rebuild Jerusalem, especially the Temple.

We are in the Same Situation as in the Days of the Prophets

We are in a similar situation today, the Diaspora is behind us, we have come to Israel, and we have rebuilt the Land of Israel. 70 years ago there was nothing here, and according to the fulfillment of prophecy, we succeeded in building a state.The question is whether we learned the lesson. If now we'll listen to the prophets and to God's word.

Think about it, that temple that Zechariah was encouraging others to build, is the same temple that Yeshua said would be destroyed:

“Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. ‘Do you see all these things?’ he asked. ‘Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; everyone will be thrown down.’” - Matthew 24:1,2 [NIV]

In 70 AD, also on Tisha B'Av, indeed no stone was left on another.

We are All Guilty of Senseless Hatred

Two thousand years ago we did not learn the lesson. The reason for the destruction of the Second Temple was due to senseless hatred. What is senseless hatred? Is there such a thing? You can not say that this is hate for no reason, because there is no such hatred. Every hatred lies with whoever created it. Sometimes the reason is inappropriate, or the reason is just an excuse, but hatred comes from a certain place.

Usually hatred comes from a difference in opinions, whether it's faith, religion, and lifestyle. Furthermore, hatred that is disguised as religion, faith, commandment, ideal, is both harmful and dangerous.

As a matter of fact, we are all to blame for this - some more than others. We are all guilty of senseless hatred on a religious basis. We attack each other with our Bibles, throwing punches at others with our ideology. We insist on our rich tradition, but we forget to love one another.

We (and when I say “we” I mean Jews, Christians, and ourselves as a community) observe ritual, a certain form of prayer, our habits, the principles of our faith, but forget the person at our side.

We Must Remember to Treat Each Other with Respect

Like Zechariah, the prophet Isaiah, says the same things in this week's haftarah, which will be read in every synagogue in the world:

God is saying to us in the haftarah: “Are you coming to the house of God? Why? Who asked this of you? Do not come, I do not want to see you.” That's what God is saying. All you do is an abomination: Shabbats, holidays, and fasting.

Isaiah was speaking strongly, and God was saying to us through him - we will pray, and He will not listen. We will offer Him a sacrifice, and He will not accept a thing from us. Why is this? This is due to the fact that we do not treat each other properly as human beings. Treating one another with respect goes way beyond religion.

The adage that says, “Derech Eretz Kedma L'Torah” (decency and kind behavior should precede Torah) is a true statement.

The Formula for a Life of Blessing

Isaiah was saying, “You want God to listen to you, you want to return to a life of blessing?” Here is the formula:

“Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong. Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” - Isaiah 1:16,17 [NIV]

What is really God's will? Zechariah answered this question similar to Isaiah in Chapter 7:

“This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’” - Zechariah 7:9,10 [NIV]

Administer true justice. Show mercy and compassion to one another. In other words, give of yourselves in order to help your brothers in trouble. Do not oppress the widow or the defenseless, like Hagar, for example. Do not even let the thought enter your mind to do evil against one another. In other words: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

There are very similar words in the epistle of James:

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” - James 1:27 [NIV]

Our Role as Believers in Yeshua

The lesson I am learning from Tisha B'Av this year is that I must not feel safe. I mustn’t feel secure in my home, in my community, or even in my faith when there is terrible evil around me.

I, as a Messianic Jew in Israel, am a part of this people. As such I ascend with them to heights and successes, but I also fall as one of them, in the collective punishment of the people of Israel.

Our role as believers in Yeshua is to strive towards a change. In Hebrew this change is called “Tikkun Olam” (repair of the world).

Our job is to support the weak and the poor because God hears their cries and their call for help. Woe to us if God hears their cry and we stand idly by confident in ourselves and in the righteousness of our ways. Although in actuality, we don't even lift a finger.

This week's parasha is an exhortation, a heavy portion that requires soul-searching. Next week we'll discuss the topic of comfort.

I wish you a Shabbat of peace and rest as well as a meaningful Tisha B'Av.

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