In our desire to provide you with the teaching of Messiah Yeshua in a Jewish context, we provide in-depth teachings of the weekly Torah portions throughout the year. Below are various perspectives from various teachers and staff members from Netivyah Bible Instruction ministry.

Joseph Shulam: 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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