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: Why can’t priests with a physical defect serve at the Temple?[Emor 2024]

This week’s Torah Portion speaks about the holiday cycle of God’s appointed times, which is opened by the Shabbat:

“Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation.” (Leviticus 23:3)

Without a doubt, the Biblical life-style, including the Shabbat and Biblical feasts, preserve and instil our identity, life-style and Biblical morals in our children – from generation-to-generation.

Today I’d like to touch upon a different subject, which is our sacrifices to God, and the prohibition to offer anything with a blemish.

How can we explain that a priest with a physical defect cannot serve in the Temple? Or, that a sacrifice with a blemish isn’t wanted by God? Aren’t we all created by Him?

In order to answer this, we should address the following question:

What do we want to bring God?

The State of Israel is greatly blessed in many fields, including our agriculture which produces many types of quality fruit and vegetables, like our Jaffa oranges. Yet, when we shop locally, we see class B produce and definitely not the best… Why is that? We export our best for profit. Other countries don’t want our leftovers, and they’re willing to pay for good quality.

What do we give to a close friend? Something valuable or class B?

The prophets asked exactly the same question:

“When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the Lord of hosts.” (Malachi 1:8)

And so, the prophet asks, if we offer a sick, blind and injured animal to God: do we presume everything will just be okay? Here God asks us to offer such gifts to our leaders or king, and see how they’d react... Would they exalt us, or would a negative consequence follow?

I don’t think this is about rejecting one another, or about the quality of a gift or sacrifice, as 1 Samuel 16:7 says:

“For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

Which makes us wonder and ask: what’s in our heart?

It's easy to offer a blemished animal, that is sick or injured. So, why shouldn’t we?

Don’t offer something that you don’t need. We don’t sacrifice to dispose of things we don’t want. We don’t get rid of excess (like the sick or the wounded), and say:

“well, we have to sacrifice anyways, let’s keep the best of the flock at home, and offer the weak that we can’t really use anyways.”

Then what do we do with the sick and the weak?
Those we need to take care of and bind up.

A few chapters prior to our Haftarah, there’s a description of ‘Derech Eretz’, which is the moral code we should live by:

“You do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts. My sheep were scattered; they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them.” (Ezekiel 34:1-6)

You did not heal the sick, didn’t bind up the injured, the flock went astray and you didn’t go to look for them.

These verses really remind us of Yeshua’s parable of the lost sheep (Luke 15). Yeshua, also, came to heal the sick, to save them and bring the lost ones black.

Yeshua tells this parable to the Pharisees and Sadducees, to the sages and leaders, in answer to their complaint why Yeshua spends His precious time with sinners. Why is Yeshua willing to sit with the sinners, the sick and the wounded? And so, Yeshua’s parable is a way to tell us that we are responsible for each other. We should go and try to bring the lost sheep back home, because if we won’t try, it’s on us.

Yeshua puts a heavy weight on our shoulders, and on our congregations. Truly, the function of our congregations isn’t only to provide spiritual food to the people that come. If we see that someone stops attending, it’s our responsibility to see why, and try to bring them back. Even more than that, everyone should ask him or herself:

Could I have pushed this person away by my deeds (or lack of thereof)? Could I have insulted or hurt them in any way? Or did I try to help and bring people closer? Do I help and build a supportive, loving and empathic congregation?

We don’t live in a vacuum – our deeds affect others, which is why this responsibility is ours, too. If we helped, encouraged, showed Yeshua in a positive way, then good for us!

If we look around, and try to encourage and help others to heal, good job!

Everyone should add to the environment. Not a legalistic and tough atmosphere, but a warm, inviting and accepting one, in which we especially help and care for the wounded, the sick and those who struggle.

And to God? We only give Him our very best.

Yehuda Bachana: Repetitive life cycles for the sake of education & answering Yeshua’s call for our social – Emor [2023]

Read the transcript below, or watch a video of the teaching by Yehuda Bachana.
The central part of Parashat Emor is dedicated to the repetitive cycle of the Biblical Holidays (Leviticus 23). The list begins with Shabbat, the day of rest, and continues with the yearly feasts – Pesach (Passover), Shavuot (Pentecost), Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) and Sukkoth (Feast of Tabernacles).

The Jewish life cycle consists of several cycles. The first one is the week, with the Shabbat at its center. This week, the Shabbat appears first among the appointed festivals. The weekly cycle is followed by the monthly cycle, with the new moon celebration as a semi-holiday.

Knowing the beginning of the month is important, because the festivals are set according to that specific month, for example:

“The Lord’s Passover begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month.” (Leviticus 23:5).

Next comes the yearly cycle, based on annual festivals, appointed to us by God. In a year’s time, we complete reading the entire Torah. This cycle, however, never ends. As soon as we conclude Deuteronomy, we continue reading Genesis.

Next week’s Torah portion will continue to enrich the list of life cycles, as we will learn about the Shemittah cycle that repeats itself every seven years, as well as the Jubilee cycle, which returns every 50 years.

Our life cycle is not an endless circle driven by motion, until it loses its power and dies. Instead, it always evolves and improves. Every time we read the Word of God and the weekly Torah portion we learn something new and are renewed. Human beings make progress and break records every single day of every year, in all areas of life.

The focus of our seemingly repetitive life cycle, is the family-unit and children. Thanks to the repetition of the cycle we are able to pass on our culture, faith and lifestyle to our family, children and grandchildren. This is how we pass our values on to the future generations. In the same manner, our grandchildren will continue to keep, or at least remember, the Shabbat. They will continue to celebrate Pesach and remember the creation of the world and the Exodus from Egypt.

The children must be at the center of attention with all the weekly and yearly festivals. The Biblical holidays have the children at heart. Let’s take a closer look at Passover for an example of this focus. During the plagues that God inflicts on Egypt, He reveals the reason for His mighty hand and the severity of the plagues in Egypt to Moses and, eventually to us as Bible students. The reason being:

“That you may tell your children and grandchildren how I dealt harshly with the Egyptians and how I performed my signs among them, and that you may know that I am the Lord.” (Exodus 10:2)

Do we work hard during Passover by cleaning and scrubbing the entire house? All over Israel, the preparations for Passover are in the air. The purpose of all this work is to educate the children.

“And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?” (Exodus 12:26)

The Word of God even supplies us with the answer to the children’s questions:

“In days to come, when your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ say to him, ‘With a mighty hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” (Exodus 13:14)

Educating the children is not a bother, but rather our purpose! In the New Testament, the children are brought to Yeshua to be blessed. The disciples scold the parents, saying they should not waste Yeshua’s precious time. Yet, Yeshua replied:

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Luke 18:15)

Therefore, as believers we greatly invest in our children and youth, belonging to our movement. The Messianic movement has many options for the youth: from youth groups and activities to special classes, youth camps and conferences.

These are created to strengthen and educate the next generation. The common goal is to raise the kids to be strong believers and responsible adults. Mature and helpful believers with strong morals and high values.

Our goal is that our children will continue to walk the way that God showed our fathers and mothers. That they will add and improve our ways and what they learn from us. As believers in Yeshua the Messiah, the family has to be at the heart of our lives.

Our faith requires that we invest in our family life and sacrifice for the sake of our families and children. As believers, we see the lack of faith and distancing from the Word of God, as the main reasons for the disconnection of the family unit, and eventually to the destruction of our society.

Let’s picture what will happen when parents stop building succot (booths) with their children for the Feast of Tabernacles: eventually the Exodus from Egypt will be forgotten. Our Torah portion says:

“You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All who are native Israelites shall dwell in booths”. And, why are we to sit in the booths every year? “that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt.’” (Leviticus 23:42-43)

This is the reason for believers that the family-unit is so very fundamental and important. However, a family does not live isolated. We are part of a society and of a nation. The word of God requires that we build up and improve the society we live in. That we care for those around us, everyone included, but perhaps especially for those who are different, less fortunate and poor.

Let’s take a better look at interesting command that appeared last and also this week:

“When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field when you reap, nor shall you gather any gleaning from your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger.” (Leviticus 23:22)

God commands us not to reap the margins of our fields. Instead, we should leave them and their produce and fruit for the poor to glean and pick. On the one hand, God blesses us with an income, a family and a land flowing with milk and honey. He grants us the entire land as our property and inheritance. Yet He is also the One who commands us to allow the needy to enter our fields and pick our fruit.

We might think: ‘Wait a second… this field is my property! I paid for it myself! Who bought this field and invested in it? Who plowed, sowed and watered it with sweat and tears? I did! And now I should give up part of my harvest to others? To strangers? We might continue, reasoning: if they want bread, let them get a job.

How is this my problem? I am honest and work hard. I work hard to provide for my family. Why should I donate part of my earnings to others, to strangers, I do not even know? …If you’re looking for a saint, don’t call me… I’ll call you!

Here we reach the concept of grace and mercy. In spite of the fact that our time and property are valuable and they belong to us; we do not live in a bubble, however. We live in a society, and are part of a nation. We should donate some of our precious time to society. God’s Word tells us we need to help each other – and yes, that comes out of our own pocket!

Proverbs tells us twice that ‘charity will save from death’, because charity has an enormous impact on the society we live in. A supportive society is promised a long life. That is why charity and aiding the poor have such a powerful role in faith.

According to Yeshua, the disciple way and that of faith, is one of care and aid to others. Even to such an extent, that even at joyous family events, we are commanded to invite those who cannot cover the cost of their plate and those who will not invite us in return.

Inviting people with problems is not easy, whether they are financial or health-related. Yeshua says that if those same poor cannot cover the cost of their plate, our Heavenly Father will bless and reward us, instead. He says so in Luke chapter 14:

“When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Luke 14:12-14)

Yeshua’s teaching is similar to the famous saying:

“Tell me who your friends are, and I will tell you who you are.”

The idea behind both is that we search for, and want to be close to those who share our values. Likewise, we refrain from those who represent values we disagree with. Our circle-of-friends represents the values we identify with.

Here Yeshua teaches us that caring for others, for someone different or less fortunate is a very important value. We should also invite those who are unable to buy us an expensive gift.

Those who are rarely invited, and often do not even get a second glance. This is the only way to actively battle all kinds of social rejection and boycotts, in order to build a stronger and a more cohesive society, together. Yeshua’s way leads to real social justice.

Since we discuss social justice, let’s take a look at a somewhat strange and difficult story that appears at the end of our Torah portion:

“Now the son of an Israelite woman, whose father was an Egyptian, went out among the children of Israel; and this Israelite woman’s son and a man of Israel fought each other in the camp. And the Israelite woman’s son blasphemed the name of the Lord and cursed; and so they brought him to Moses. His mother’s name was Shelomith the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan. Then they put him in custody, that the mind of the Lord might be shown to them.”

The ending is tragic:

“And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Take outside the camp him who has cursed; then let all who heard him lay their hands on his head, and let all the congregation stone him.” (Exodus 24:10-14)

The following commonly known midrash )or: commentary( sheds light on this story. It explains how both sides appeal to the court due to a property dispute between the son of an Egyptian and the tribe of Dan. The claim of the Egyptian’s son is rejected. According to the text in Numbers, the inheritance rights go by the father; and so, the son of the Egyptian cannot inherit with the tribe of Dan. This verdict upsets the son of the Egyptian to such a degree, that he blasphemes.

Between the lines lies a message about the individual’s responsibility to society, but also of a society towards the individual. Now, whether this Midrash is right or wrong, the story hints at discrimination. The mention of the son’s origins is for a reason. Besides ‘the son of an Egyptian’, he is also ‘the son of an Israelite woman’. On the one hand, we learn about the severity of the man’s actions and about the heavy punishment he received. On the other hand, this story places a great responsibility upon the community and society.

The Egyptian’s son feels alienated and powerless as his rights and identity have been denied. What can he do? Nothing! He reacts the way he does from this helpless feeling.

Here we need to ask, whose fault the blasphemy was. If the community is guilty, then why is the son of the Egyptian put to death, while the rest of the community goes unpunished? The answer is simple: everyone is responsible for his or her actions. Rightful or not: if you break the law, you are at fault.

The morale of this commentary is simple. We must stay calm, patient and in control at all times. When someone drinks too much alcohol, he loses control. According to the law, it is forbidden to drive under the influence, because one could hurt or even kill trying to control a car. This law is logical and easy to understand.

In a similar manner, someone might get so extremely aggravated, to the point where one loses control of his or her words or even their actions. This person could cause damage to someone else’s possessions, or even hurt someone. In case we did not remain calm and hurt others, whether by driving under the influence, or by the loss of control leading us to cause damage... the Torah, however, does not accept the ‘temporary insanity’-excuse. If you have committed a crime, it is on you. That is why, at the end of this story, the son of an Egyptian is stoned to death.

In addition to the verdict, God reminds us all:

“You shall have the same law for the stranger and for one from your own country.’” (Leviticus 24:22)

Here God points a finger at society: look at the mirror, are you blameless? Did you follow this command and have a just ruling? Did you fulfill the ‘stranger like a native’-commandment? Yes, the accused will be stoned to death, but all the witnesses are requested to first put their hands on the accused and grasp the full measure of their part in this.

The Torah emphasizes the great importance of the society’s responsibility towards the individual.She commands us to be fair, understanding, helpful and more, Also when it comes from our pocket, from the margins of our field that God commanded us to leave for others.

Also to our parties and celebrations, we will invite those less fortunate, the hurt and the lonely. That is the right way to educate our children against the idea of social boycotts and exclusion. It is the way of our Heavenly Father and of our Messiah, Yeshua, to bring cause true social justice and real mutual responsibility.

Joseph Shulam: The feasts of the Lord- Emor [2023]

The summer is still not here, but spring is blossoming all over this land. In nature, in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, in the civil demonstrations against the government and for the government, for the reforms in the Israeli legal system, in the educational format, and in the system of the State of Israel.

In my opinion, the judicial reform that the Israeli governing coalition is proposing to enact, is a judicial reform that will give the governing party absolute control on the Supreme Court of the State of Israel. Again, in my opinion, this kind of move made by the governing party will end the democracy in Israel because the parliament will have the right to ignore and cancel any Supreme Court ruling and the government will be free to pass any laws; even laws that would trample the civil rights of particular parties that the present government does not like or appreciate.

Not everyone agrees with this. And we must pray for Israel and for the peace inside of Israel and also from the outside of Israel, by enemies like Iran, that keep repeating their desire to delete Israel off the world map.

Shabbat’s reading for May 6th 2023, from the Torah will be Parashat Emor, from Leviticus 21:1 – 24:23, and from the Prophets, the reading will be from Ezekiel 44:15-31. From the New Testament, we will read from 1 Peter 2:4-10.

This Shabbat we will have the guests from Brazil, our dear brothers Marcelo Guimaraes and his family who are coming to Israel to celebrate their grandson, Daniel, Bar-Mitzvah. They will attend our congregation on Shabbat and we hope that Daniel will also read his portion from the Torah and be blessed by all of us for his Bar-Mitzvah together will all of his family.

The Emor Torah portion from Leviticus 21:1 – 24:23, starts with rules for the priests from Aaron’s family and tribe not to be defiled, even from the dead of their own family. Even until today, if your family name is Cohen or any variation of this name, you can’t touch the dead person or enter into a cemetery for a funeral, even of a close family member.

This tradition is very old and in fact from the Torah itself. Jews who have a blood line from the priestly families could be called Cohen, or Spiro, Katz, Kahanah, and Cahoun, and many other names that are all names of priestly families from the tribe of Levi.

The next very impressive and important teaching from the Torah portion of Emor, is the realization that being a priest, one is not a free person: to marry any one he wants and wear anything he wants and do anything he wants.

A priest is a servant of God and he has many restrictions put on his life that don’t allow him to do or go anywhere freely. This aspect of the Torah could have implications to those of us who are serving God in the virtual Temple of the Lord in the synagogues and in the churches.

I know that in the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, priests have some similar restrictions and rules that are stiff and not easy like the Torah imposes on the LEVITICAL priesthood.

As evangelicals and Messianic Jews, we have adapted a very free and casual attitude toward our ministry and often times the Pastors and Church // Messianic Synagogue workers seem to take their responsibility very casually and informally.

The treatment of the ministry could be at times deemed like a private business. The attitude of the Pastor// Messianic Rabbi could be that his service in the church or synagogue is actually his, as he is the owner of the church or ministry. Sometimes the ministry is also called by the name of the pastor or the leader. The LEVITICAL priesthood was a much more structured and formal and required greater discipling and team work with the other priests and assistants.

The second major topic of our Torah reading is the “The feasts of the LORD, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are My feasts.” The issue of the feasts of the Lord is one of the most challenging for the Messianic Jews in Israel.

There is significant progress in the attitude of most of the Messianic Jewish fellowships in Israel. But in the world, the clouds of Roman Christianity are still hovering over the practices and attitudes of many Messianic fellowships.

Here are some points that I would like to bring up that ought to encourage Messianic Jewish and even Protestant Christians to take the FEASTS OF THE LORD more seriously.

1. The Biblical Feasts are not Jewish Feasts; they are the Feasts of the Lord.

2. These same feasts are the feasts that Yeshua and his disciples kept and celebrated and gave special meaning to their lives and clear identification with the Torah and with the prophets, and with the continued revelation for the early community that celebrated these feasts well into the second century after the Messiah and even into the fourth century.

3. The Passover is clearly commanded to be celebrated to the church in Corinth:

“Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore, let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” (1 Corinthians 5:7–8 NKJV)

It is important for both Jews and Gentile Disciples of Yeshua, to get free from the false teachings and traditions of Catholic Christianity and the pagan holidays that were adapted by the Churches, and return to the same faith and roots of Yeshua’s faith and teaching that all came and are based on the Torah, and nothing else!

There is that old Gospel song, that was sung in the American frontier and has long been forgotten and needs to be restored:

Give me that old-time religion
Give me that old-time religion
It's good enough for me
It was good for our mothers
It was good for our mothers
And it's good enough for me
It was good enough for Moses
Give me that old-time religion
It's good enough for me
It was good enough for Jesus
Makes me love everybody
And it's good enough for me
It was good enough for Paul and Silas
Give me that old-time religion
It's good enough for me
It will take us all to heaven
Give me that old-time religion
And it's good enough for me

Joseph Shulam: Brad TV Video Teaching – Emor [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 going through the whole five books of the Law of Moses, according to the weekly portions that are read in all the synagogues around the world on this same Sabbath.

Today we’re reading a section that is called Emor, which in English says, “And the Lord said to Moses.” Emor means said. And it’s commanding the priests of the sons of Aaron about their purity laws and about their responsibility to their fathers and mothers and children and sisters and unmarried sisters and married sisters.

But the main section of this portion of the Torah, has in it, the catalog of the times and the seasons and the holidays of the Lord. It appears in Leviticus chapter 23 from verse one. And I want to concentrate on this because I think it’s a hot topic in all of the Christian world today; when we talk about holidays and seasons and the commands of the Lord that are also in the New Testament and which are the holidays that the apostles and Yeshua himself, Jesus himself celebrated.

Christianity today is by the majority far far from the celebration of the commanded holidays in the New Testament. And we’re going to get to it, this teaching.

So, the feast of the Lord, most people say the Jewish feast. There is no such a thing as the Jewish feast. Everywhere where the holidays and the feast and the celebrations are mentioned in both the New Testament and the Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament, it talks about the feast of the Lord, not the Jewish feast, but the feast of the Lord commanded to the children of Israel when they received the law in Mount Sinai.

So, before I enter into the feast of the Lord, I want to go to the New Testament to a text that has been used, is being used and was very popular in the days of the fourth century, by the so-called church fathers.

And the text is from Galatians, Paul’s letter to the Galatians chapter four from verse eight. That’s the text that the church fathers and Crisostomo used more than anybody else. He was the Pope when the center of the church was in Constantinople and Istanbul. Istanbul is Constantinople named after Constantine the Roman emperor that supposedly converted to Christianity but he didn’t. It’s a myth that he converted to Christianity. But he used Christianity for his own political needs.

So, I am reading now from Galatians 4:8-11:

“But then indeed when you did not know God, you served those, which by nature are not gods. But now after you have known God or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn us again to the weak and bigly a elements to which you desire again to be in bondage? You observe days and months and seasons and years. I’m afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain.”

So, this is the mother text that is used, I should say misused,
by 99.9% of Christianity, in the history of the church from the fourth century till the 21st century; to deny the right of the Christians, of the believers of the disciples of Jesus to celebrate the seasons and the feast of the Lord.

Now, who is Paul talking to? The rule here, in understanding Paul’s letters, all of his letters, is to know Paul was a lawyer. He studied under the chief justice, the chief judge of the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem, his name was Gamaliel. And we know a lot about him. We have pages and pages and pages of history and discussions and rules, which he made.

And Paul was his disciple. He mentioned that several times in his letters. And what would he study under Gamaliel? Did he study macrame, maybe knitting, maybe cooking? No, he studied law because Gamaliel was a law teacher. Not a chef in the Bulgarian restaurant in Jerusalem in the 1st century. So, he studied law and he writes like a lawyer. Not like a pastor, not like a priest, but like a lawyer. And a lawyer is usually very consistent and exact in what he wants to say.

So anytime that Paul uses the word, you, he talks to the Gentiles and I can prove it to you. If you look at Ephesians 2:10-11 and in many places, you Gentiles. When he talks to the Jews and to the Jewish disciples he says us, we, ours. Not yours, ours.

So here he says, “But then indeed when you did not know God, you served those, which by nature are not gods.” Anybody that reads this text automatically should know that there’s not a day in the history of Israel, from the time that God called Abraham to come to the land of Canaan, in which Abraham and his seed did not know God. From the day that God called Abraham to leave his house, his family, his city, his country and to come to the land that he will show him, the land of Canaan, Abraham knew God. That’s why he left the big city of Ur with his father. And then in the big city of Haran. It’s like living New York and going to Podunk Kentucky. Yeah?

That’s how Abraham’s journey was. He left the big famous city, capital of the Assyrian empire, to come to a land that was torn to pieces with the Hivites and the Prevites and the Jebusites and the Philistines and the Girgosites, people from all over Asia and Europe gathered over here trying to get to Egypt. Was the Landbridge.

So, he’s talking to the Gentiles. And did the Gentiles have more holidays or did the Jews have more holidays or did the Bible have more holidays?

Well, I have here 14 pages from Wikipedia. Roman festivals dated to the time of the New Testament. 14 pages of holidays. I see, it is listed month-by-month. So here you have by date. Month-by-month by date. Let’s take February. We’re in February right now, let’s take February.

The 1st of February, a celebration of the mother and queen. Queen of heaven means Sospeter Juno. Juno Sospeter. 1st of February was her celebration. The 5th of February was Dies natalis, in the temple of Concordia on the Capitol hill. Yeah, on the 13th of February was the feast of Faunus. On the 13th of February to the 22nd of February, was Parentalia, the celebration of your ancestors that died and members of your family that died.

And the 15th of February, Lupercalia. Lupercalia. Lupos means wolf. And Rome was born from a she wolf that fed Ramos and Romulus the two babies and raised them, a she wolf. That’s on the 15th of February. On the 17th of February, was the oven festival, Fornacalia. Yeah? And celebrating the bakers, I guess, the people who use the ovens. And then you have Feralia, the public observation of Parentalia. On the 21st. On the 22nd is Caristia. The celebration of a meal provided by all the family and shared in the spirit of love and forgiveness, on the 23rd of February, in honor of Terminus. On the 24th of February, it’s the feast of Regifugium. And on the 27th of February, the feast of the horse-races just in front of the month of March.

And this goes month after month. I am talking about 14 pages full list of Roman holidays. Almost every day of the month. If I look at March, from the 1st of March, all the way to the 31st of March, every day was a holiday for something in Rome.

So, Paul is not talking about the seven biblical holidays. He is talking about holidays that are celebrated, that are by nature, celebrating those who are not gods. That’s not the biblical holidays.

Although the church fathers attributed that to the biblical holidays and prevented Christians from keeping the outright command in the New Testament for Christians to keep some of the holidays. Especially the Passover.

If you open your Bible in first Corinthians chapter five and read verse seven and eight, you’ll see that Paul commands the church in Corinth which was not 100% Jewish church, it was a majority of the people that were not Jews, they were Greeks, and came from pagan background. And he says, “clean up the leavened among you. And let us therefore celebrate the feast because Christ is our Passover.”

It doesn’t say don’t celebrate the feast. He says, you are unleavened bread. Talking to the Gentiles in Corinth, you are unleavened bread. Pure without leaven. Leaven is a symbol of sin. The leaven of the Pharisees Jesus talks, about it’s a symbol of sin. Yeah? And he says, you are unleavened bread, let us therefore celebrate the feast. Doesn’t say, don’t celebrate the feast. It says celebrate the feast. Why celebrate the feast? Because our Passover lamb, Christ is our Passover.

So, here we are now in the Torah, in the law of Moses, in the book of Leviticus. And we are in chapter 21. And we find out the laws of the priest. And in chapter 23, that’s how it starts. Verse one of chapter 23. “And the Lord spoke to Moses saying, speak to the children of Israel and say to them, the feasts of the Lord, which you shall proclaim to be holy, holy convocations, these are my feasts, says the Lord.”

Okay, the first one of all, I would say, is the mother of all the feasts for not only for Jews, for anybody. And we have that in Isaiah, specifically stated, is for the Gentile. The Sabbath is given to the Gentile. They deserve it just like anybody who works six days a week deserves one day of rest. And it says,

“Six days shall work be done. And the seventh day is a Sabbath day. A solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work on it. It is a Sabbath of the Lord in all your dwelling places.”

Let’s take this Sabbath a little bit into a deeper sphere. Deeper meaning. The world was created in seven days. The book of Genesis starts, the first verse of the book of Genesis in the Hebrew Bible has seven words. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Seven words in the Hebrew.

And then that pattern of seven is repeated. The world is created in seven days. And if you start following that pattern of seven in the whole Hebrew Bible, then you’ll find out that there is a geometrical pattern of seven that follows through in much of the dealings of the children of Israel throughout our history.

So, he says, this is the feast of the Lord. God says, this is my feast, in verse one and two of Leviticus 23. And verse three says you shall work six days. These six days are for you to work. Not for you to loaf, not for you to have fun, not for you to sit on the easy chair and watch others work and ask them to support you and to finance you and the government to give you the money.

No, six days you shall work. It’s a command. You shall work six days. And when you work six days, on the seventh day, Sabbath day, it’s a solemn rest. Solemn rest in the Hebrew language means full rest. Yeah, you have a right to rest. You’re not a slave. You’re a free person. And you have a right to rest, to spend time with your children, with your wife, with your neighbors, do whatever you want to, but you don’t have to work. It’s a privilege. It’s not a burden. Some Christians talk about the Sabbath is as if it’s a burden.

And that’s actually a new thing. Why? Because in the history of Christianity, Sunday became the Christian Sabbath day. Yeah? They moved it from the seventh day to the eighth day. It became the Christian Sabbath day. And in many of the countries in Europe, they had Sunday laws. Shops were closed and public transportation was closed, and only in the 20th century with the breakdown of the system, not only the religion and the faith, but breakdown of the whole western civilization and morality with it, they dispensed with any kind of Sunday laws in the west.

But the seventh day, you deserve rest. You don’t wanna rest? You wanna do something else? It’s up to you. Nobody’s gonna come with the police to arrest you. Not in Israel and not in Jewish history. But it’s a gift from God. It’s a gift from God.

This morning I was driving to the office from my home and I heard the Orthodox Jewish rabbi of the city of Odessa in the Ukraine, that was heavily bombed both by sea and by air, and he is a medic, besides being a rabbi, he’s a medic. I think he’s a doctor, actually, not a medic. He’s a doctor. And he said it very clearly, “It is a great privilege to work in the hospital and to heal people on the Sabbath day and to perform surgeries on the Sabbath day, because all the laws of the Torah are suspended in order to save lives medically.”

So, some Christians think that Jesus eliminated the Sabbath by healing on the Sabbath day. No, it is commanded. He had to heal because life is more precious than any of the commandments, except three. And they are incest, murder and the handing over of your friend, your brother, your partner, to the enemy. Those are the three commands that you die and you don’t pass them. All the other commandments you can break them in order to save lives.

So, the Sabbath day is one of the seasons of the Lord. Then after that, you have the 14th day of the first month, which is Nisan which is usually in March, April, in the Gregorian calendar. And it is the month of Passover. I already quoted to you from first Corinthians 5:7-8 and told you, Christ is our Passover. And Paul is telling that to the Gentile church in Corinth, let us therefore celebrate the feast. And now not only clean your house from leavened, clean your hearts from malice, Paul says. Not only your house, clean your hearts from malice, preparing for the Passover.

So yes, dear brothers and sisters, this very important chapter, has the catalog of all the feasts that God commanded his children. Not only Israel, his children. Because if you read Isaiah 58, you’ll see that he’s talking to the Gentiles, saying, celebrate the Sabbath. Take care of God’s business on the Sabbath day. Enjoy yourself, take care of your family. To the Gentiles also in Isaiah 58. Yes. And the same thing is true in other prophets as well.

So, folks read the Torah. Distinguish when you read the New Testament, especially in Paul’s letters between us and you and see what the word of God gives you to enrich your life. These seasons of the Lord, holidays of the Lord, are historical.

They’re also cosmic because they all have to do with the setup of the stars. For example, I read to you from the book of Leviticus that the Passover is on the 14th day of the month. And when you have a lunar month like Israel does, other countries and other cultures have lunar months, also in Asia they have lunar months, 28 day months. The 14th of the month is a full moon. It has something to do with the cosmos.

Not only with the agriculture, which is Passover at the beginning of the wheat harvest. The day after the Passover day, you start the wheat harvest. Even if it falls on the Sabbath day, you break the Sabbath day to start the wheat harvest. And even if the harvester says no today is Sabbath I don’t work on the Sabbath.

You tell him harvest, harvest, harvest. The rabbis, the priests tell him to harvest because the harvest is more important. The beginning of the harvest is more important because it has to do with the life. Sustaining of the life, bread. And he starts on the Sabbath day, the harvest. Yeah?

So, all these things are so important dear brothers and sisters. And I just want to urge you read it. Read the portion of the Torah that we are talking about. It’s from Leviticus 21:1, ends in Leviticus 24:23. And the portion from the prophets that is parallel from Ezekiel 44:15-31. And from the gospel, we read Matthew 13:1-30. Read these things. Enrich yourself by reading the Bible.

I’m going to just say something that may not be politically correct, but it’s okay. I’m not American and I don’t have to be politically correct. I’m Israeli Jew, disciple of my Lord, Jesus of Nazareth. And you can be disciple also of Jesus of Nazareth. Of Yeshua, in Hebrew.

What’s not politically correct, that I want to say is this; the law and the prophets and the gospels and the letters of the apostles, all of them are one unit. They are a unit that starts in Genesis and ends in Revelation. And if you ignore any part of it, you are missing something that will make your picture of our faith in God and in the Messiah, in Jesus, missing. It’s like having a puzzle with many pieces, and if you leave one piece out, the puzzle is incomplete.

That’s why you should be reading from Genesis, all the way to Revelation. And don’t trust anybody except the word of God and the holy spirit first, and after you trust the word of God and the holy spirit leading you, only then trust your pastors and the leaders of your church.

God bless you all. Keep reading. Shalom, from Jerusalem.

Joseph Shulam: My Tattooed Reminder [2021]

The Torah reading this Shabbat is from the portion “Emor”, from Leviticus 21:1 – 24:23. The reading from the prophets is from Ezekiel 44:15-31. From the New Testament, 1 Peter 2:4-10.

Like every week the readings from God’s word are all interesting and full of important things that we today need to understand and remember to put what we can to practice.

From the Torah I want to discuss with you Leviticus 21:5:

“They shall not make any bald place on their heads, nor shall they shave the edges of their beards nor make any cuttings in their flesh.” – Leviticus 21:5 [NKJV]

From last week’s reading Leviticus 19:28,

“You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor tattoo any marks on you: I am the Lord.” – Leviticus 19:28 [NKJV]

The text from Leviticus 21:5 is specifically speaking to the priests who serve the Lord in the Tabernacle. The text from Leviticus 19:28 is speaking for all the people of Israel: “You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor tattoo any marks on you: I am the Lord.”

These texts from God’s Word are so very relevant for today’s Western culture. Do you think that God has changed His mind from the time that He gave the Torah to the children of Israel? Do you think that now in the 21st Century God loves it when His children tattoo and even the pastors cover their bodies with tattoos?

The tattoos themselves are equated in these words from God’s word like cuttings in the flesh. The Word of God teaches that our bodies are the temple of the Lord. We believe that the Holy Spirit of God dwells inside of us, this is a teaching from the Old Testament and from the New Testament.

Tattoos are a hallmark of pagan culture. Humans are known to have had tattoos for the last 12,000 years. The practice of cutting and tattooing bodies was spread around the world before 5000 BCE, in cultures as diverse as East Asia and the Americas.

The God of Israel who gave us the Torah, the prophets, the writings, and the New Testament has forbidden His children, the children of Israel, to participate and disfigure their bodies with cuttings and tattoos. I have one tattoo of a Star of David that I did together with all the boys and girls in my neighborhood in Jerusalem when I was 13 years old.

The reason that all the kids in our neighborhood did the same tattoos of a Star of David was because most of the parents of our friends had numbers tattooed on their arms by the Nazis when they entered the labor and death camps in Poland, Germany, Austria, Holland, Ukraine, Latvia, and Lithuania.

We all did something stupid because we didn’t know the Torah and most of us didn’t know God. I would remove the small tattoo from my arm, but I am keeping it to remind me of how stupid I was as a young teen. The Torah teaches us to honor our bodies and keep our selves pure from any pagan signs and practices.

Okay, so, if you, like me, already have tattoos on your body, there is not much that you can do other than to regret putting tattoos on your body. You can teach others of the youth not to do it. You can teach that it is expressly against the will of our Creator and it is something ugly and unnecessary, nor does it add anything profitable to our lives.

OK, if you are a traditional Christian that knows only the New Testament and you don’t have respect for the Word of God from Genesis to Revelation – you still ought to consider that God said to Israel to not cut or tattoo your body. If it was something positive God wouldn’t have forbidden His children, the children of Israel, from doing cuts on their bodies or tattoos.

Now let me speak to families with young children and teenagers. It is wise to share and explain without anger or condemnation that as disciples of the Messiah we are chosen people. We have a special mission to be the light of the world. We are to be examples of a good and holy life and of good and holy behavior.

Please consider the following texts from the New Testament:

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” – Romans 12:2 [NKJV]

“And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight…” – Colossians 1:21,22 [NKJV]

“Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” – 1 Corinthians 6:19 [NKJV]

I realize that we have freedom in Christ, but freedom is not unlimited, and it has God given boundaries that we ought to honor and keep. All that God has given us, is for our good, and for our life of purity and faith. Ignoring God’s advice and commandments is a mistake that might turn out into sin!

Joseph Shulam: Peter, More Than a Fisherman [2020]

Shabbat Emor: from Leviticus 21:1 - 24:23 from the prophets, the Haftarah: Ezekiel 44:15 - 44:31. And from the New Testament: 1 Peter 2:1-17.

The most significant issue in these chapters of the Emor portion of the Torah is the rules for those Priests who serve God in the Tabernacle. There are rules that forbid a Cohen (priest) to even attend a funeral of family members who are not father, or mother or brother or sister.

The clothing of the priests is specified, the way they wear their hair is specified, what they eat is specified. It is very serious work to serve God in the holy precinct of God’s Temple.

These rules for the priests and their service is something that we don’t really understand because we serve our communities in a very secular world, with a very secular paradigm.

In fact the Protestants and especially the Pentecostal movement that bandies the “Holy Spirit” and being full of the Spirit of God, has not to consider the serious consequences of being a servant of God.

The principle that Yeshua gave in the Gospel of Luke is something that ought to put the fear of God into every one of us who wants to serve God. This is the rule that Yeshua gives us:

“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 [NKJV]

We all know that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, but we all ought to take this principle much more seriously. This principle includes financial issues and family, and time schedules, and our relationship to the national authorities and the taxes and every aspect of our lives.

I recommend for you to read the book of Leviticus and see what a serious thing it is to serve the Almighty God.

The second thing that we have in this Shabbat’s reading, the catalog of the feasts of the Lord, the biblical holidays that Yeshua and His apostles celebrated and encouraged others to celebrate, including the congregation in Corinth that was not strictly Jewish and had non-Jewish members like Erastus the Treasurer of the City of Corinth.

In Corinth there is a very big (more than 5 foot long and two foot wide) marble plaque with the name of this Erastus the City Treasurer. He had donated a building for the city of Corinth.

The first time that I visited Corinth in 1965, the plaque was recently discovered and was beautiful. Last year I was there in Corinth again and the plaque of Erastus was just lying outside exposed to the elements and the letters were almost unreadable.

Criminal negligence on the part of the authorities who are in charge of the priceless archaeological treasures.

The New Testament reading this next Shabbat is from 1 Peter 2:1-7. It is a very important reading that contains a very famous “Midrash” (a rabbinical homily) based on several passages in the O.T. that deal with stones.

This very old, famous and important Midrash is based on the following text:

“The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing; It is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it.” – Psalm 118:22–24 [NKJV]

In this Midrash that Peter is using is a chain of scriptures that have stones in them. In Ephesians 2:21,22, the conclusion of the same Midrash is used to describe the body of the Messiah as a building (of course made of stones).

The oldest source of this Midrash is from Qumran, from the Essene community that set out to live in the desert of Judea to prepare for the coming of the Messiah and the salvation of Israel. Peter brings here, from the same Midrash, also the words of Isaiah.

“Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, A tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; Whoever believes will not act hastily.” – Isaiah 28:16 [NKJV]

The apostle Paul uses the same Midrash in Romans 9:33. This is important because it shows that the apostles, were familiar with the Qumran community’s teachings, as was Josephus Flavius.

Peter also uses, like in the Qumran source, a third text which is from Isaiah 8:14,

“He will be as a sanctuary, But a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense To both the houses of Israel, As a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.” – Isaiah 8:14 [NKJV]

What we have here is a classical rabbinic method of making a chain of texts from the word of God that deal with the same topic and drawing from a prophetic conclusion in a context different from the original settings of each of the originating texts.

I personally love the method and love to see that Peter was not in any way an ignorant Galilean fisherman, but a scholar of the Torah and of the prophets and I would add, the inter-testament Jewish, Greek and Hebrew literature.

Another point that just fascinates me is that when Peter is quoting from Isaiah 8:14, he omits the last part of the verse that is speaking of Jerusalem. The reason is clear he is sending this letter: “To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.”

The message that Peter wants do convey is not to the Jerusalemites, but to people who live outside of Israel. Maybe Jewish brothers who have traveled outside of Israel because of persecution, maybe non-Jews who have been recently converted.

Of course this Midrash is messianic because the bases of the Midrash is from Psalm 118:21-27. This is clearly a messianic text that starts with the rejection of the cornerstone that holds the whole building together and ends with “Hossana and Hatzlichana”, “Please save us and Please give us success!”

This is what the people of Jerusalem were singing when Yeshua came to the city riding on a donkey and the crowd recognized him as the Messiah and son of David, the King!

Joseph Shulam: “Let Us Therefore Keep the Feast” [2019]

The Torah portion that will be read on Shabbat is Emor, Leviticus 21:1 – 24:21, and from the prophets, Ezekiel 44:15-31. From the New Testament our reading will be from Luke 5:9-6:49.

The Emor portion of the Torah has some very interesting concepts that I would like to mention, especially for my brothers and sisters in the world today, and of course it includes ourselves and our brothers in Israel.

The first part of the Torah reading gives us instructions for the priests of Israel that are serving in the Temple.

  1. Service in God’s House will take away your freedom of choice.
    1. You have to separate yourself (be holy – sanctified) from the rest of the people of God.
    2. You cannot come as you are into the holy sanctuary. You have to prepare for it and wear the right clothing. You cannot follow the fashion of your generation and get any kind of haircut that you wish or that others might have.
    3. When a good friend dies, you can’t go to the cemetery and participate in his burial, because you are a priest of God, and going to the cemetery might make you ceremonially unclean for that day. You have to always be ready to perform your duty in the Temple of the Lord.
    4. You can’t desecrate your body with tattoos or with cutting marks on your body. You have to keep your body pure as a servant of God.
    5. You can’t take just anyone whom you choose to be your wife. You have to take a wife who is a virgin and from your own people. (For today this means a fellow disciple of the Messiah.)
    6. How many men will be willing to become “preachers” today if there were these limitations on their freedom of choice? Today many want to have the honor of being servants of God, but not many would be willing to make the choice of being set apart, sanctified, as servants of God.
  2. The second big topic in this Shabbat’s reading is the feasts of the Lord. This is a real big issue in the Bible, but it is even a bigger issue in Christianity. The issue is big in the church, not because what is written in the New Testament, but because what has happened in Christian history (the Catholic churches) between the 4th and the 6th century A.D. (or the way that it is called universally, C.E. - Christian Era) During that time, and even starting a little earlier, the paganized Christian churches were alienating themselves from Israel and the Jewish Nation, and even from the Jewish disciples of Yeshua. They were alienating from Israel for clear political internal Roman issues. It is all well documented, and there is no question about it. (If you are interested to see some of the most striking documents of this systematic anti-Jewish and anti-Torah and anti-Old Testament campaign that the Catholic church set in motion, please read the following: John Chrysostom, Against the Jews. Homily 3

Yeshua and the apostles kept all the biblical feasts of the Lord, and this is clear from the New Testament itself. In fact, Paul commands the church in Corinth to keep the Passover with a clear command.

Read 1 Corinthians 5:7-8. You will find the command: “Let us therefore keep the feast.” The reason is also given “Christ is our Passover.” The how-to is also given:

“For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”

Yehuda Bachana: We Must Care for Others at Our Own Expense [2018]

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

In Parashat Emor, we read and learn about the laws of the priests and God's requirement for the priests to preserve holiness. After the portion discusses the priestly requirements, we move on to learn about the biblical cycle of the feasts of Israel. We begin with the Sabbath and continue onto the high holidays of Passover, Shavuot (Pentecost), Yom Kippur, and Sukkot.

The Jewish Understanding of Time

The Jewish perception of time is not viewed as a straight line on a graph that goes from point A in history and moves in a horizontal line to point B. The Jewish understanding of time is more like a circle or cycle of life, which revolves around the week and the Sabbath, over and over.

Our cycle focuses on the holidays and feasts of God that occur annually. Every year we return to the weekly Torah portions. This cycle of life is a spiral that never closes, rather it continues to progress and develop.

The main emphasis of thinking about time as cyclical in nature is the passing of information to children, the continuation of a culture, faith, and the way of living to the next generation, so that they may continue on the path leading to life and God.

In all of these feasts, which we observe every week or every year, our children are supposed to be at the center of the event. The goal is for them to carry on the path that our ancestors started, so that they can continue to grow and improve our walk of faith.

They will learn from us, add on to it, and improve it, and future generations will continue to build on this ideology.

When faith in Yeshua the Messiah and God's Word are at the center of the family, we personally can grow and develop as well as our society. On the other hand, disbelief and distance from God's Word can break the family unit and destroy our society.

Our Obligation to Care for Others

God's Word requires that we build and improve our community. We are obligated to care for those around us, especially the poor and those that are different from us. God's Word requires from us to build a just and supportive society.

Let us examine the following interesting commandment, which appears in our weekly Torah portion:

“When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the Lord your God.” - Leviticus 23:22 [NIV]

Right away we might think to ourselves: If the poor want bread, let them go to work, let them pray - what does it have to do with me? I am a decent person who works hard to make a living. Why should I give off the sweat of my brow to others, to people I don't even know?

Although our time is precious and it belongs to us, we do not live in a bubble. Rather, we live in society amongst other people, and we need to contribute some of our precious time to improving our community.

The Torah says that people must help one another - even at our own expense.


What is True Religion?

God commands us not to reap all the way to the edges of the field, but rather to leave grain and fruit for the poor to come and pick. He unequally divided money and assets amongst us, and likewise commands us to let the needy come into our fields and pick our fruit.

Let's read this important teaching of Yeshua the Messiah:

“…When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” - Luke 14:12-14 [NIV]

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]

What is the true religion that God desires for us? I believe it is to take care of the poor and needy.

The Price of Loss of Self-Control

In the story of the stoning of the blasphemer, who is to blame? The blasphemer or the community?

Towards the end of our parasha we encounter a peculiar story that is difficult to understand. However, I see it as very important and relevant for us today:

“Now the son of an Israelite mother and an Egyptian father went out among the Israelites, and a fight broke out in the camp between him and an Israelite. The son of the Israelite woman blasphemed the Name with a curse; so they brought him to Moses. (His mother’s name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri the Danite.) They put him in custody until the will of the Lord should be made clear to them.” - Leviticus 24:10-12 [NIV]

The unfortunate ending:

“Then the Lord said to Moses: ‘Take the blasphemer outside the camp. All those who heard him are to lay their hands on his head, and the entire assembly is to stone him.’” - Leviticus 24:13,14 [NIV]

There are many commentaries on this matter, and I find it to be of importance as this story raises many questions. The Torah bothered to tell us of this account, but we do not understand the context of the story, the lesson, nor the reasons that led to this difficult incident.

One commentator noted the use of the phrase “went out” - from where did he go out? Perhaps he went out of his mind.

It seems to me that this man went out of his framework and lost any sense of his conduct. A person who is in the midst of a bitter quarrel often loses his temper and any control he has over himself.

Today, temporary insanity is a claim that can be made in court, and sometimes it is even deemed as an acceptable excuse by the judge.

Have You Lost Control in Anger?

The Torah commands that a blasphemer be stoned to death. Loss of temper or temporary insanity are unacceptable.

This is because the Torah requires man to restrain his urges, he must take care that he does not reach a state of loss of all reason, and therefore receiving the punishment of death.

The lesson from such a commentary is simple, we must maintain patience and coolheadedness in every situation.

When a person drinks alcohol excessively, he loses control of himself. Further, by law he is forbidden to drive because he does not know what he is doing and can cause great damage and even death when he tries to operate a vehicle, this law is both logical and understandable.

We, as intelligent people, know when a person reaches a particularly high anger threshold. He loses control over both his words and his actions. In addition, he is capable of causing damage to a person or property.

The lesson here is that we have the responsibility and obligation not to reach that point of anger where we lose control.

If we are not careful to watch ourselves, and if we end up hurting others, our punishment is well-deserved. For instance, if you drove under the influence of alcohol and hit a pedestrian - you should be punished.

Have you lost control in anger, physically hurt your neighbor, and took the Lord's name in vain? Then you also deserve punishment.

Responsibility Goes Beyond the Individual, to the Community

In my opinion, there's another message in this story, about the degree of responsibility the individual has towards himself and those around him, and the degree of responsibility of society towards the individual.

There is room to examine the circumstances that led a person to commit a grave act. It is worthwhile for us to observe and see the factors and constraints that occured before the incident, and not only to see the person who sinned.

The text in our portion did not explain all the details of this particular act. We were not told when this happened and for what reason the son of the Israelite and Egyptian came out of his tent and walked around the camp. What's more, we do not know what the quarrel was about.

In contrast, the Torah bothers to note that the blasphemer was the son of an Egyptian man. This detail is apparently marginal; why was the family attribution of the blasphemer mentioned?

There are those who will point out the attribution of the blasphemer, who is an Egyptian son, who perhaps was contemptuous of the Torah and of God; therefore, he blasphemed in public.

However, I disagree with this statement. When a person from a particular group of people commits a grave act, according to our example, blaspheming the name of God, the reaction is to shun him, to say that the Torah and the people of Israel renounce the son of an Egyptian who cursed God. He's not one of us, he's the son of an Egyptian.

In addition, they will add that the sin began with a mother who married an Egyptian, and the result was a disaster.

An Irresponsible Interpretation

In such a response there is a fair amount of irresponsibility and I do not think that's the message. This was probably a case of discrimination. There are many ways in which for individuals to discriminate: ethnicity, race (as in the case before us), gender, political or religious outlook.

This account shows a hint of discrimination. The mentioning of the origin of the blasphemer comes to convey to us the severity of the act, and at the same time this matter places a great deal of responsibility on the environment and society.

The son of an Egyptian man felt alienation and total helplessness. He denied his identity, he felt that he had no place and no inheritance, no rights, and so therefore he reacted as he did.

From this story, we can learn a few things. First, we must be careful and take note to accept others with fair treatment and sensitivity. I learned from this week’s parasha that I have tremendous power in my hands; I can break, ruin, and lose my neighbor.

If I have the power to break and destroy, do I also possess the power to build and strengthen? The answer must be yes, but which is easier?

Of course it takes less effort to destroy than to build up. Destroying does not take a lot of thought, but building, and doing so correctly, takes a little wisdom and a lot of exertion.

This incident teaches us an important lesson. Often there will be a minority which will be hurt by the law or by racism from the majority. However, the minority must find ways to change the law and regulate justice.

This is also the reason for the Torah's repeated emphasis on the need for proper and even special treatment for the stranger, because our natural tendency is to behave the opposite.

Precisely because of this predilection, the Torah repeatedly emphasizes that we must overcome the evil impulse (yetzer hara) and behave properly towards the stranger and those that are different from us, since they fall under the category of the defenseless.

They belong to the status of the weak in society, the different, the stranger, and they are usually mentioned in the Torah alongside widows and orphans.

In Conclusion

If we fail to accept the weak or the poor, we will find ourselves as a people, movement, and as a community, discriminating against people and pushing them out. Those people, out of their unhappiness and helplessness, are liable to leave the ways of the Torah in anger.

In conclusion, I would like to emphasize the degree of responsibility on the individual towards himself, to control his emotions and his impulses.

In addition, I would like to accentuate the degree of responsibility of society towards the individual, and towards the poor and needy.

We ought to strive towards being fair, understanding, helpful, and even though it is at our expense, we should leave the edges of our field, as God commanded, for others to take from.

Click here to download a pdf version of this teaching.