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: Understanding Paul’s Life and Mission [2019]

The weekly portion of the Torah is Haazinu, Deuteronomy chapter 32. This portion of the Torah is the most important scripture for understanding all of the apostle Paul’s theology. I have to ask myself what was it that changed the attorney general of the Supreme Court in Jerusalem to give up his career, his family, and his good name and dedicate his life to bring the Gentiles to know God and God’s commandments through Yeshua of Nazareth! This is a very important question that demands an answer!

Yes, Saul/Paul had a vision on the way to Damascus. In the vision, Yeshua appears to Paul and speaks to him a few words. I believe that the vision was a catalyst that awakened in this great Torah scholar, student of Gamaliel, the Chief Justice of the Sanhedrin, AG of the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem, to give up all he was and all he had for a vision of a crucified Galilean Jew. What’s more is that Paul was on his way to Damascus on official business to arrest the followers of that same crucified Galilean Jew Yeshua. I believe that several things happened to Paul in consequence to the vision of Yeshua.

Paul realized that the Roman cross was not the end of Yeshua! Yeshua is alive and Yeshua is still active and in control. Paul understood that Yeshua knows him personally, by name. Therefore, Yeshua also knows his mission to Damascus.

He goes to the home of a Jew named Judah, who lived in the cardo of Damascus. Yeshua appears to Ananias and sends him to the house of this Judah to pray for Paul to receive his sight. Paul was blinded by the bright light in the vision.

He finds out from Ananias something shocking: Yeshua’s mission is not only about Israel. Yeshua’s mission is about the whole world, about all the nations, all the “Goyim” (Gentiles)! Here is what Ananias communicates to Paul from the words of Yeshua: You are a chosen vessel of Yeshua to bear His name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.

When Paul hears that God, through Yeshua, has a plan for the salvation of the nations and Israel, I am sure that his brain was running at high speed. He must have remembered God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He must have recalled the prophets like Amos 9:7-13, Isaiah 60-62, 66, Zechariah 14… Above all these, Paul must have remembered the reading of Haazinu, Deuteronomy 32…

The main influence on Paul’s ideas, theology, and mission come from this chapter in Deuteronomy, verses 15-22:

“But Jeshurun [Israel] grew fat and kicked; You grew fat, you grew thick, You are obese! Then he forsook God who made him, And scornfully esteemed the Rock of his salvation. They provoked Him to jealousy with foreign gods; With abominations they provoked Him to anger. They sacrificed to demons, not to God, To gods they did not know, To new gods, new arrivals That your fathers did not fear. Of the Rock who begot you, you are unmindful, And have forgotten the God who fathered you. And when the Lord saw it, He spurned them, Because of the provocation of His sons and His daughters. And He said: ‘I will hide My face from them, I will see what their end will be, for they are a perverse generation, Children in whom is no faith. They have provoked Me to jealousy by what is not God; They have moved Me to anger by their foolish idols. But I will provoke them to jealousy by those who are not a nation; I will move them to anger by a foolish nation. For a fire is kindled in My anger and shall burn to the lowest hell; It shall consume the earth with her increase, And set on fire the foundations of the mountains.’” – Deuteronomy 32:15–22 [NKJV]

Now look at what Paul is programming for the non-Jewish disciples of Yeshua, Romans 10:19–11:16:

“But I say, did Israel not know? First Moses says: ‘I will provoke you to jealousy by those who are not a nation, I will move you to anger by a foolish nation.’ But Isaiah is very bold and says: ‘I was found by those who did not seek Me; I was made manifest to those who did not ask for Me.’ But to Israel he says: ‘All day long I have stretched out My hands To a disobedient and contrary people.’ I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel, saying, ‘Lord, they have killed Your prophets and torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life’? But what does the divine response say to him? ‘I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.’ Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work. What then? Israel has not obtained what it seeks; but the elect have obtained it, and the rest were blinded. Just as it is written: ‘God has given them a spirit of stupor, Eyes that they should not see And ears that they should not hear, To this very day.’ And David says: ‘Let their table become a snare and a trap, A stumbling block and recompense to them. Let their eyes be darkened, so that they do not see, And bow down their back always.’ I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles. Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness! For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them. For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches.” – Romans 10:19–11:16 [NKJV]

Please note the word “jealousy” in this text, and you will understand so much better what Paul’s ministry was all about, and how much it was influenced by Deuteronomy chapter 32! When you see where Paul is getting his ideas, i.e. from the Torah, you can much better understand Paul’s life and mission.

Yehuda Bachana: Moses’ Distressing Prophecy Amidst a Season of Change [2018]

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

This Shabbat we read Parashat Haazinu, which includes the Song of Moses. It’s a rather difficult passage to read because it is full of criticism and prophecies of wrath. Why was it written and what can we glean from it?

The Prophecy that Gave a Final Warning to the Israelites

Netivyah | Haazinu | Jonah Preaching to the Ninevites (1866) by Gustave Doré

In the portion, we read about the moments before Moses’ life ends, when the reins of leadership pass from him onto Joshua. It is no coincidence that the last chapters of the Torah discuss the numerous warnings that Moses gave to the people of Israel. He knew that his time was limited and that they were approaching the entrance to the Land of Israel.

In the Promised Land, the natural order of the universe would finally resume and things would go back to normal. This means that there would no longer be manna falling from heaven, a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night to guide them, and Moses to keep an eye on everyone. Therefore, the last chapters, including the Song of Moses, serve as a final will and testament.

God Revealed Israel’s Grievous Future to Moses’

After many warnings from Moses about all the evil that could fall upon the people of Israel, the Lord revealed to him on his last day that the Israelites would eventually leave the path of righteousness and would suffer as a result. They would suffer so much that they would even be in danger of extinction.

In the prophetic Song of Moses there is a direct threat to the continued existence of the people of Israel:

“I said I would scatter them and erase their name from human memory…” – Deuteronomy 32:26 [NIV]

In this verse, God threatened to erase the memory of the people of Israel from the face of the earth. In my opinion, this verse and others like it should be a warning light to Israel today, and even more so to us as the body of Messiah.

If God was willing to destroy the people of Israel, and He did not destroy them by virtue of His promises, where do we stand today? Are we any better? Are our countries, nations, and communities any better than this? Like in the case of Sodom and Gomorrah, are we similar to the 50 righteous people that by virtue of our existence God would choose not to destroy our nation?

Why Do We Still Need to Repent?

This Shabbat, we are just a few days following Yom Kippur, the holiday that is considered to be the most feared day in all existence, the day of God’s judgment. We all know that Yeshua is the pure and perfect atonement for us, our Messiah is the true sacrifice of Yom Kippur. However, His sacrifice comes not to replace the act of repentance, but as a result of it. We repent, admit that we made a mistake, express a sincere intent to change our ways, and then we offer our sacrifice. The sacrifice shows the seriousness of our words, it pays the price on our behalf. In our case, the sacrifice we have is the purest and holiest, Yeshua.

In Ecclesiastes, Solomon said that there is a time for everything: there is a time to be silent, and a time to speak, there is a time to cry, and a time to laugh, and there is even a time to kill, and a time to save lives. The same goes for us as believers, we endure different seasons. There is a time to rest, full of confidence in the salvation of our Messiah, and a time to reflect on the course of our lives, to rethink and examine our faith.

Yom Kippur is the Opportune Time for Self-Reflection

The Ten Days of Repentance and Yom Kippur are the most appropriate days for self-reflection and soul-searching.These days are meant to make us pause the crazy race of life and do a personal reckoning, in which one examines himself in order to consider his very existence and his standing before God.

Man tends to see himself as the center of the world, and these days are supposed to cause him to think about himself and his true dimensions. Such as his dependence on power and the fact that he has no control over numerous things in life, this includes blessings and curses, natural disasters, sickness, and death.

We sometimes think that we are invincible to God’s wrath, but if we do not repent, we too will suffer from the anger of the Almighty.

If God was willing to punish the people of Israel with 2000 years of exile, plagues, and enemy occupation, what prevents Him from punishing us now? Could it be the very fact that we are believers? Is this belief prevalent in our daily lives? What will we take with us after Yom Kippur and after reading this week’s parasha?

Jonah’s Catastrophic Revelation from God

On the second day of Yom Kippur it is customary to read the Book of Jonah. I want to combine Moses’ prophecy of calamity in the Song of Moses with Jonah’s revelation.

We read together the story of Jonah every year; a wonderful book from which we can learn a great deal. You can learn about prophecy, mercy, forgiveness, and morality, to the important lesson that all of creation is the masterpiece of God.

God gave Jonah a mission to go to Nineveh in order to tell them a prophecy of calamity. Why did Jonah evade this mission? He already knew the attribute of God’s mercy, which is:

“…a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.” – Jonah 4:2b [NIV]

Jonah had a professional fear; he knew that his prophecy of calamity would not come true. You could say that he already expected that God would spare the city of Nineveh, and he would be seen as a false prophet.

The Value of Life is Critical

It is customary to think that the repentance of Nineveh is the central lesson in the Book of Jonah. In my opinion, one of the main points in this book is that there are higher values ​​than personal dignity and the fulfillment of prophecy. These values are saving lives and mercy from the hands of God.

The book concludes with the following idea: If Jonah was concerned about the plant which he did not grow, how much more would God be concerned about His creation? This is the final point of this book.

The second lesson I take is that we cannot sit and look at our surroundings from afar, just like Jonah sat under the safety and shade of the plant. We are a part of this people, and everyone is part of a community and a nation. We must not separate ourselves as believers from the people and the environment in which we live.

We are Called to Advocate for the Sake of Others

Our work as believers is to plead with God in order to spare our nation from the severity of the decree, because in the end, when our people are punished, we suffer as a whole. Our lesson from Jonah is that God’s desire to forgive is bigger than His desire to punish, and our job is to intercede on behalf of other people, to tip the scales in favor of forgiveness rather than punishment.

I believe that this is also the lesson that we can take away from the Song of Moses, which ends with the promise of atonement for the Promised Land and the people of Israel.

I pray that God would bless this new year, that it would be a blessing for all of you and all of Israel, that the people of Israel would open their eyes to the true Yom Kippur sacrifice, Yeshua the Messiah.