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:Understanding the spirit of the commandments, to do God’s will with understanding & joy – Ki Teitzei [2023]

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

This Torah portion provides a very rich content, that incorporates a wide variety of commandments, from completely different areas of life. From the laws of war, the law of sending away the mother bird, and the law of the guard rail on the roof.

Then, Moses continues with marital relationships and kidnapping people. After which the well-known commandment follows:

“You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain.” (Deuteronomy 25:4)

This commandment is very beautiful and important, and says we should not prevent an animal from eating and enjoying the fruits of its labor. Meaning: the ox working the field, deserves to eat from that field. It is clear that this verse mentions the ox merely as an example. And even if this verse would concern the wellbeing of animals; how much more, should we care for people.

We are forbidden from preventing a person to enjoy the fruits of his work.

Finally, this Torah portion ends with the command to erase the memory of Amalek:

“Remember what Amalek did to you (and then…) you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven; you shall not forget.” (Deuteronomy 25: 17-19)

Our Torah portion begins with the words:

“When you go out to war”

and continues with the deep connection between war, (which is violent), to lust (which destroys family relationships). It begins with a story about a brave Israeli soldier. Our soldier returns home from the war with plunder and loot, part of this loot it is in the shape of a beautiful woman.

Our sages already said that:

“No good ending can come from this story”.

The Commentators connect these two passages together, as a story that is made up of three parts.
The first part tells us that the soldier brought home a beautiful, new wife.
The second part says:

“If a man has two wives, the one loved and the other unloved” (Deuteronomy 21:15)

And so, that man maybe loved his new wife more; yet, both women have children. the firstborn was the son of the wife he loved less, the first one; nevertheless, the Torah commands us to observe the inheritance laws, and to respect the firstborn.

The third part of our story is about a child who was born into this family mess. He becomes:

“A stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother” (Deuteronomy 21:18)

Meaning, every decision and every deed causes a certain reaction. Our sages already interpreted this passage and decided:

“Commandment leads to commandment; transgression leads to transgression.” (Mishna, Pirkei Avot 4)

Let’s return to the second part of our trilogy that deals with property division and inheritance laws. We discover that the Torah has a sense of justice, and therefore intervenes in our personal affairs, by preventing injustice and choices based on personal preference. One has the responsibility to be fair, by giving the eldest son what he deserves; regardless, whether he is the son of the favorite wife, or not…

In the New Testament, Yeshua tells a parable of a stubborn and rebellious son who was being influenced negatively. He wasted his entire inheritance. This parable can be found in Luke 15. In this parable, Yeshua talks about two sons.

The youngest, Like in the interpretation of the stubborn and rebellious son of our Torah portion, and he asked his father to divide the inheritance, because he wanted his share.

The youngest son took his share and went to a distant country, where he wasted all his money on gluttony and drinking. Yeshua uses a definition from this Torah portion:

“This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.” (Deuteronomy 21:20)

But, in contrast to the bitter end in this week’s portion, Yeshua’s parable says: “There is hope!” Just like the shoemaker in the famous story, who says:

“As long as the candle is burning there is still time to work and repair.”

The stubborn and rebellious son returns home; even though, he is ashamed and penniless. Nonetheless, his father welcomes him with open arms and throws a great and splendid party in his honor. This symbolizes the great joy when a sinner repents.

The background of this parable is based on the complaints against Yeshua, who often spent time sitting and talking with sinners. People complained to Yeshua, asking why He would waste His precious time on sinners. Wouldn’t it be better to teach the wise students, who actually wanted to study His pearls of wisdom?

Although, there is some truth to this thought; however, part of our social responsibility means reaching out to everyone, including the stubborn and rebellious son. There is even hope for those children. They, too, have a Father, who welcomes them with open arms and great love.

The same chapter in the New Testament contains two additional parables, that also describe the great joy in heaven, for every sinner who repents.

As a matter of fact, the father in our parable represents God, who does not ‘close the book’ on the youngest son. That son repents later on, and Yeshua’s teaches us in a variety of parables (including this one), that a person is always welcome to return back home to God.

Unlike the father, the eldest son finds it difficult to accept his rebellious younger brother. The firstborn son could symbolize many things, like Israel and the Jews (for example), whom the Bible in many verses refers to as

‘firstborn son of God’

The eldest son could also symbolize the righteous, who faithfully walk in God’s ways.
However, in the end, all of us (some more and some less), are bothered by the fact that repentance always leads to forgiveness.

Our sense of justice tells us that that is not fair. How could it be, that the brother who was foolish, and who wasted all of his possessions on an immoral life, returns later on completely penniless; and yet, he will still receive the same treatment as his brother, who continued to work diligently at the family farm.

The eldest son obeyed his father’s commandments - his rules - and lived modestly. Most unlike the younger brother who lived a wasteful life in the big city.
That does not add up, according to our sense of justice.

One of the main points in the parable of Yeshua, is that justice without mercy, is not a proper measurement for our human weaknesses. Every person, with their own personal circumstances, needs grace beyond the letter of the law. We all walk blindly in the dark: nobody knows exactly where we are headed in this very moment, and so we all stray from the right path. We can only be saved by the grace of God, though the blood of Yeshua, who knows our weaknesses and our lack in wisdom.

Yeshua concludes this parable in an interesting, and also a righteous way:

“My son, the father said, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.” (Luke 15:31)

Yeshua promises the inheritance to those that are faithful, and who keep His commandments. However, alongside this promise, we should rejoice when our brothers repent and return home.

As believers in Yeshua, we know that we’re all in the same boat, together with the sinners; truly, without the blood of Yeshua, who leads us to the safe shore, we would all drown together.

After the discussion about the stubborn, rebellious son, our Torah portion continues with the commandment not to ignore the lost property of our neighbors. Then follows the commandment to send away the mother bird. There is a long and undecided debate about the purpose of this commandment, and the logic behind it.

Some say, that we should not look for the purpose of the commandments, but we should just accept them as a supreme order from God. He is all-knowing and He is the Lord of all; whereas, we do not know, and we don’t have to know everything, as we do not see the full picture. And as a matter of fact, observing the commandments, shows the depth of our faith and our obedience to God; especially, when the reason for the commandment is unclear.

On the other hand, there are those who try to understand the purpose of the commandments, in order to truly understand them and to observe them with joy. Understanding the purpose also enables us to possibly renew commandments, at a moment in history when the original setting is no longer relevant.

Let’s take the commandment of tithing, for example. This commandment was intended to support the priests and Levites, who did not receive an inheritance of the Land, and therefore could not earn a living. That is the reason, why the People of Israel were commanded to tithe. Today, we do not have a Temple, nor functioning Priests or Levites. And so, we, as believers have renewed the meaning of this commandment; which is why, nowadays, we bring our tithes to the House of God, to our house of worship.

As a believer, I see great importance in searching for the ‘spirit’ of the commandments. This understanding will help us to better fulfill the will of God. In my opinion, Yeshua teaches the importance of understanding the spirit of the commandments, so we can fulfil God's Word with joy.

I think that this is the same spirit that motivates our rabbis. This week’s Torah portion requires us to return lost property to its rightful owner. Let’s take a look at the following example:

“You shall not see your brother's ox or his sheep going astray and ignore them. You shall take them back to your brother. And if he does not live near you and you do not know who he is, you shall bring it home to your house, and it shall stay with you until your brother seeks it. Then you shall restore it to him. And you shall do the same with his donkey or with his garment, or with any lost thing of your brother's, which he loses and you find; you may not ignore it.” (Deuteronomy 22:1-3)

We can stick to the literal meaning of the commandment, meaning: in case we find something, we are to keep it until the true owner comes to claim it. However, in the spirit of this commandment, which our rabbis understood, we are required to do much more, and actively search for the true owner, in order to return their lost possession.

According to Judaism, we have to do even more than that. Let’s take a look at the following Halachic statement:

“Whoever sees running water that could destroy his friend's house or destroy his field, must build a fence in front of them, since it is said ‘every loss of your brother’ including the loss of his land.”

As believers and God-fearing people, we can see the great depth, even in such a simple commandment concerning the return of lost possessions. The spirit of this commandment, does not only relate to the return of what was lost, as, according to the commonly accepted interpretation, we need to stop a loss before it even happens.

The examples are like when we see a flooding, or when a river rises beyond its banks, we should help, if we can; otherwise, there will be a loss:
the field will get destroyed by the flood, along with the harvest and the future income.
Or the house - and whatever is inside - would get damaged and lost.

Today this goes for anything that belongs to those around us: like a cellphone that someone forgot on the roof of their car, before they drive off, and we can prevent before it gets lost.

The spirit of this commandment requires us to prevent such a loss, preferably even, before it would happen, and not to wait till after it happens, but to prevent if possible.

Another example that shows the importance of searching the spirit of the commandment, is the law of sending away the mother bird:

“If you come across a bird’s nest beside the road, either in a tree or on the ground, and the mother is sitting on the young or on the eggs, do not take the mother with the young.” (Deuteronomy 22:6)

This commandment could be understood in such a way, that every time we come across a bird nest, we should let the mother bird go, and take her eggs.

So then, there are those, who actively search for bird nests, in order to fulfill this commandment. They actually look for nests, so they can send away the mother bird and take her eggs (after which they destroy the eggs). Some, even make nests, in order to perform this commandment.

Nonetheless, the purpose of this commandment is animal welfare. And so, if we want to eat eggs, we are not allowed to take them while the mother bird is there.

There are several reasons behind this thought. Firstly, not to endanger the species. Surely, we should prevent harming the balance of nature.

Secondly, so we won’t become ruthless. If we are merciful towards animals; how much more, should we be merciful to people.

My understanding of this commandment is, that the Torah requires us to be sensitive and considerate of our surroundings. The commandment of sending away the mother bird, will be rewarded with a long life:

“You may take the young, but be sure to let the mother go, so that it may go well with you and you may have a long life.” (Deuteronomy 22:7)

According to a Talmudic story, the law of sending away a mother bird, is the reason, why Elisha ben Abuya became a heretic. The story tells about Elisha who saw a father, who told his son to climb a tree, in order to fulfill the commandment of sending away a mother bird. The child obeyed his father, and climbed a high tree. Then he lost his balance, fell down and died.

The Torah clearly states that, the commandment of

‘sending away a mother bird’, and ‘honor your father and mother’

, are both rewarded with a long life.
In reaction to the tragic event, Elisha became a heretic. He asked:

“How could it be, that a child who honored his father, and performed the ‘sending away a mother bird’, was not rewarded with a long life?”

However, the Torah also requires us to be careful and mindful of our surroundings, and the danger that might be around us. It is interesting to notice, that the following commandment in this Torah portion, concerns making a guard rail for the roof:

“When you build a new house, you shall make a parapet for your roof, that you may not bring the guilt of blood upon your house, if anyone should fall from it.” (Deuteronomy 22:8)

Meaning, that being careful is important, and dangers must not be disregarded. We should build a guard rail to protect from a dangerous fall.

Here as well, it is important to understand that the guard rail is just an example. The Torah requires us to limit risks and to avoid injuries.

The following verse is yet another example:
“Therefore, watch yourselves very carefully.” (Deuteronomy 4:15)

In its original meaning, this verse speaks against idolatry, or, against making an image or statue of God. Over time, we gave this commandment an additional meaning, that warns us to be careful.
Like: Do not climb - it is dangerous!
or put a helmet on, as the bible says:

“watch yourselves very carefully.”

We should continue to search for the meaning of the commandments, so we can fulfill the Word of God with joy, understanding and faith.

That is why we continue to study the Word of God.

Joseph Shulam: What is Most Important to God [2023]

The reading from the Torah, the Prophets (The Haftarah) and the New Testament, this Shabbat, are from Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19, and from the prophets, Isaiah 54:1-10, and from the Gospel, Matthew 24:29-42. The name of this Torah portion is “Ki Teze.”

The first verse of our reading starts:

“When you go out to war against your enemies, and the LORD your God delivers them into your hand, and you take them captive…”.

This unique list of commands that the Torah prescribes for the Israeli soldiers and military leaders is a revelation for all of us. This is, for me, a clear glimpse of what is most important for God! We have an enemy that wants to delete us from the face of God’s earth and we have a war with the cruel and powerful enemy that has only one goal: to destroy Israel, and kill Israelites.

We fight and we have victory and the first instruction and command that God gives us is: you have rights. But you must control your passion and your appetites, and your desires, and put them under control with restraint and take into account the needs of your captives. Don’t be an animal that thinks that because the Lord has given you victory over your enemy you can do with the captives of your enemy as you wish.

Our history as Israel in our Land, in the Land that God gave to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as an eternal inheritance, has seen some horrors and atrocities that would make you so sick that you wouldn’t be able to eat for a few days without vomiting. Just think of the reports of what the Russian Army and the Wagner Group has been doing in Ukraine right in the last year. Indiscriminate public rape of women, with no restraint or respect for young girls, and boys. Grandmothers being gang raped by multiple soldiers and then mutilated in the eyes of their family members.

For Jews today, it should be known that in the Bible, that the Jewishness of Jews was decided by who the father is. But today, the Jewishness of a person is decided by who the mother is. This happened in the first half of the 2nd century A.D. It happened because at the fall of Jerusalem and Judea, the Roman legions mass raped the Jewish women. There were thousands of babies born to raped Jewish girls and women. If the men continued to decide who is a Jew, than all these babies born to Jewish mothers would have not been recognized as Jews, and the tragedy would have multiplied the horror and tragedy.

The Torah puts a limit to the right of the victorious side in war as to what can or cannot be done with the captives of those who lost the war. The Torah teaches the following in our portion of the Torah:

1) You see a woman from the enemy that you desire. You can’t just take her for the satisfaction of your passion.

2) Before you can have relationship with her, you must get married to her legally and bring her to your house. 3) You have to leave her alone and not have sex with this woman for one month. This would allow her to morn for her situation and get used to you and your home before you are allowed to have sexual relationship with her.

I just want you to read this Torah portion and get the difference in this God given law, and the practice of war; not only in the ancient world, but even in the 20th and 21st, centuries A.D. Just think of the Armenian Holocaust in the beginning of the 20th Century.

Think of the fact that many countries, and may be even your country, has not yet condemned Turkey for the rape and murder of both men and boys and girls and mothers, and even grandmothers, of over 1million people in Armenia. There are many countries that have not condemned Turkey or demanded reparations for the families of the Armenian victims.

The Turks are not the only ones. The American soldiers in Viet Nam, and Russian soldiers in Ukrainian conflict, are going completely free. The barbarian, and worse than animal behavior, of so-called Christians in war situations in our own time is still going completely free from any punitive and criminal condemnation of their barbarian actions. We have The Word of God that is at least 3000 years old, that already teaches us that we can’t act like animals just because we win a war against a bad and cruel enemy that wants to delete us from the face of the world.

Dear brothers and sisters, the Torah is miles above any of the ancient codes of law like the Code of Hammurabi, the Twelve Tables, and the Tang Code. These are some of the most famous ancient legal codes. There is no comparison between these famous laws and the God given Torah and the consideration for our human behavior even toward the enemy. Please read the rest of Deuteronomy chapter 21.

Another very important command, from Deuteronomy chapter 22, takes the responsibility to take care for the animals of your neighbor and even the beasts of burden of your enemy. You can’t do what you want with your animals and even with the animals of your neighbor or a stranger.

Here is the gist of these laws:

“You shall not see your brother’s ox or his sheep going astray, and hide yourself from them; you shall certainly bring them back to your brother. And if your brother is not near you, or if you do not know him, then you shall bring it to your own house, and it shall remain with you until your brother seeks it; then you shall restore it to him. You shall do the same with his donkey, and so shall you do with his garment; with any lost thing of your brother’s, which he has lost and you have found, you shall do likewise; you must not hide yourself. “You shall not see your brother’s donkey or his ox fall down along the road, and hide yourself from them; you shall surely help him lift them up again.” (Deuteronomy 22:1–4 NKJV)

I remind you dear brothers and sisters that these words of God, these laws of God, are so unique, even today, and they apply not only to the animals and lost pets of people whom you don’t know. According to God’s Word if you find a lost pet wondering in your street you can’t ignore it but you have to look for the owner and return the pet to the owner and if you can’t find the owner you ought to take care of this pet and seek your “brother” and make an effort to return the animal to his rightful owner.

The Bible is thousands of years old and even today the laws and the instruction of the Torah are miles above in many of the countries in our world. There are other important teachings in our Torah portion every week and also this week, but I can’t make this prayer list too long. I just have to point out some of these important and wonderful and essential instructions from God. Keep reading the Word of God. The best is read from the Torah and from the Prophets and what we, the disciples of Yeshua, have added to the traditional reading from the New Testament. In just a few months of practicing the reading of God’s Word you will be surprised what is going to happen to you both spiritually and physically. Suddenly you will be gaining confidence in your faith and relationship to the Almighty.

Another very important word that takes a central stage in Yeshua’s teaching, is from our Torah portion.

“When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some uncleanness in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, when she has departed from his house, and goes and becomes another man’s wife, if the latter husband detests her and writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her as his wife, then her former husband who divorced her must not take her back to be his wife after she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the LORD, and you shall not bring sin on the land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance.”
(Deuteronomy 24:1–4 NKJV)

The misunderstanding of this text by many Christian pastors and teachers has caused great damage to many marriages in their Protestant / Evangelical / and Messianic Congregations. All of Yeshua’s teaching and Paul the Apostle, is contingent on understanding this text and the important place that this text had in the debates and Rabbinical arguments on divorce. Let me bring here a Jewish Rabbinical understanding of this text:

This is a commentary written by one of my favorite Jewish Rabbinical commentators of the Bible. “Because a man will take a wife, even though according to God, the intention of this text come to teach only that he should not bring back his ex-wife after she has married another man, and now wants to come back to her first husband who divorced her earlier. If a man divorces his wife and sends her away, he needs to know all the laws that apply to divorce. The cause of the spirit of jealousy that comes and suspicion that comes over the man that his wife fornicates under her husband and might marry a second husband she ought to know that her first husband cannot take her back.

The point of this text in Deuteronomy is that if a man finds in his wife something ‘unseemly’, some sexual wrongdoing, and divorces her, he can’t later, after she fornicated, remarry her. The reason given by first century Rabbis is that once the trust is broken between a husband and his wife, this union is finished and he can’t and ought not marry the same woman again. There no forbidding of marriage to another woman, or for the other side to another man, but the teaching of Yeshua (Jesus) in Matthew 19 is like the Rabbis of his day, that the woman can’t return to her first husband even if he might desire her to return to him.”


We ought to remember that Yeshua is teaching the same thing; the divorce includes the fulfillment the Bill of Divorcement. A contract is made with the woman that guarantees that if she is divorced by her husband for any reason, there will be a financial and property settlement by the husband as agreed contractually before the marriage. This document is a part of the process of marriage and it is absolutely commanded by the Torah and Yeshua’s teaching on divorce is absolutely supporting the Torah Teaching and requirement.

“Furthermore, it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’” (Matthew 5:31 NKJV)

“They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce and put her away?” He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.” (Matthew 19:7–8 NKJV)

All the teaching of Yeshua on divorce is based on this text from our Torah reading this Shabbat, from Deuteronomy 24. It is so important to know this and always look at where Yeshua and the Apostles got their information. Just to reveal to you a secret: Yeshua and the Apostles didn’t get their information and inspiration from the Christian Fathers of the Catholic Church. They all got their sources and information from the Hebrew Bible, and the Holy Spirit.

Read the Word of God, dear brothers, and the best way is to start is in Genesis 1 and read a chapter every day; just one chapter. Don’t jump around from one book to the other. Just read chapter after chapter and you will be surprised what this does for your life and faith. God chose to provide His revelation to man, in a text, written text, so that we can apply the rules of reading any text. There is order. A beginning and an end, and what is in between the beginning and the end makes sense only when it is approached in the order that the writer intended.

Joseph Shulam: When You Go Out to War [2022]

The Torah portion this Shabbat is called Ki Teitzei (“when you go out to war”), Deuteronomy 2:10-25:19. The reading from the prophets (The Haftarah) comes from Isaiah 54:1-10, and from the New Testament we will be reading from 1 Corinthians 5:1-5.

The first thing that hit me when I read this portion of the Torah is the opening phrase:

“When you go out to war against other nations, and the Lord your God gives them up into your hands and you take them as prisoners…” — Deuteronomy 21:10

Immediately I remembered that there is a similar phrase in the previous chapter:

“When you go out to war against other nations, and come face to face with horses and war-carriages and armies greater in number than yourselves, have no fear of them: for the Lord your God is with you, who took you up out of the land of Egypt.” — Deuteronomy 20:1

In both cases the question is not if you go out to war against your enemies, but “When you go out to war…” At first, I was hit hard by these two consecutive phrases that have such a similarity. After a few minutes I calmed down and remembered our history as a people, that, as the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as the chosen people of God, as God’s eternal inheritance, have from day one, from the day that Abraham and Sarah and their followers, stepped in this land of Canaan, they suffered problems with their neighbors.

All the seven Canaanite nations that inhabited this land from before 1800 BC were foreigners, and the people who ruled this land during that period were also not locals. They were the Egyptians, who conquered this land.

Why did God choose this land is another question, but the reason that the Egyptians wanted this land was not because of the inhabitants of this land, but because of the two most important highways, roads, that passed through this narrow strip of land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Arabian wilderness.

The list of the nations that inhabited this land when Abraham came down from the great city of Haran in Northern Assyria is listed in the Bible:

“When the Lord your God takes you into the land where you are going, which is to be your heritage, and has sent out the nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and stronger than you…” — Deuteronomy 7:1 [NKJV]

These are the seven nations that inhabited the land of Canaan when Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and his 12 sons lived here. These are colonizers from some very big and powerful nations from the eastern Mediterranean and from Asia, and from Middle Europe above the Danube River.

The place was a mess throughout history, and in fact it has remained a mess ever since, even until this day. So, the question that the Holy Spirit answers is not, “if you go to war”. The question that the Holy Spirit answers is, “when you go to war!” Sorry to confess to you, my dear brothers, the same question and the same answer is still the only one that is relevant for this our small and narrow corner of the Lord’s big and wonderful Earth.

Now the Torah, God’s word of instruction for life, tells us that in war we are not free to do whatever we want to do, or feel like doing. There are rules of how to behave in war, God given rules!

You can’t take a beautiful woman from your enemies and just rape her and make a sex slave out of her. You have to take her to your house, and give her time to grieve for her family, and give her time to recover from her grief and get used to her new place and new life. And after a month that she lives in your home, then you can take her as your wife, and you can be her husband.

This is something very special that the Torah commands us. We have several more ancient codes of law from the Middle East: the code of Hammurabi, and the Ur-Nammu code of law that is from the third millennium BC. They are supposed civilized codes of law, belonging to big and powerful nations north of the land of Israel.

There is nothing even close to what God commands the children of Israel in the Torah. In all the ancient codes of law there is a vast difference of what you are allowed to do with your enemy, and with your slaves…

The second thing that impressed me in this week’s Torah portion is that if you don’t delight in this wife that you have taken from among your enemies, you can’t sell her or abuse her or give her to someone else against her will. All you can do is give her freedom. Release her to go and live where she wants to, without any conditions or restrictions from your part.

The third thing that I learn from this Torah portion of Ki Teitzei is from Deuteronomy 22:1-4:

“If you see your brother’s ox or his sheep wandering, do not go by without helping, but take them back to your brother. If their owner is not near, or if you are not certain who he is, then take the beast to your house and keep it till its owner comes in search of it, and then you are to give it back to him. Do the same with his ass or his robe or anything which has gone from your brother’s keeping and which you have come across: do not keep it to yourself. If you see your brother’s ox or his ass falling down on the road, do not go by without giving him help in lifting it up again.” — Deuteronomy 22:1-4

Wow, dear brothers, and sisters, this is such an important, right, and just rule that God in His Holy Spirit commands His chosen children. By “chosen children” I don’t mean only Israel and the Jews, but every gentile from any nation or continent that has been grafted into the natural olive tree, and has received the Messiah, and has been redeemed by His blood, and has been added to the commonwealth of Israel (see Ephesians 2:10-13). We all ought to learn from this rule, accept it, and do our best to live by it.

A law on the books of the State of Israel, based on this text, is called “The Good Samaritan Law”! If I summarize this section of the Torah portion in simple words, it would be something like this:

You can’t treat your enemy with cruelty, to satisfy your perverse appetites.

You must remember that your enemy is also a child of God and treat him like a child of God, just as valuable as you are!

Treat the captives of your enemy in war as you would like to be treated, and as you would like your family and brothers to be treated.

If you find something that is not yours, be it an inanimate object, a ring, a watch, a jacket, or a living pet, or a bicycle, or a car, or a donkey, ox, dog, or cow… you must do everything possible to find the owner of the lost “thing” or “animal” and return the lost to its proper owner.

If it is a living animal or beast of burden, and you don’t know and can’t find the right owner, you are to take it to your house and care for it until the own comes to ask for it. There is no such rule in the Torah like in the West: “finders keepers!”

Dear brothers and sisters, I could go on and on with these great rules and commands that God gave us thousands of years ago in the hands of Moses, so that we can live by them. However, this teaching would become too long.

Just to remind you of the story of the Good Samaritan in the Gospel:

“If you see your brother’s ox or his ass falling down on the road, do not go by without giving him help in lifting it up again.”

In Judaism we say:

“How much the more if you see a fellow human being falling down on the road, or the sidewalk or your yard, or your neighborhood.”

Stop and lift him up, and maybe call an ambulance or the police, or just take him to your home and give him at least a glass of cold water! Don’t ignore your brother’s needs, he is also a son of the same God, and a member of the same human family of God’s children!

Joseph Shulam: Brad TV Video Teaching – Ki Teitzei [2022]

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

Shalom from Jerusalem. My name is Joseph Shulam and together with Brad TV we are doing the portions of the Torah that are being read in the synagogues from the beginning of Genesis to the end of the book of Deuteronomy. These portions are read in every synagogue around the world and we are going through them one by one, and, I would say, cherry picking the most important and the most fascinating biblical facts from the law of Moses that would inspire and guide and educate and give a picture of God’s goodness and wisdom for all our brothers and sisters in Israel, in Korea, and around the world.

This week, we are in a portion that’s called Ki Teitzei. The English translation of Ki Teitzei is “When you go out to war.” When you go out to war. Instructions of the book of Deuteronomy is giving to the children of Israel of how to behave in war toward your enemies. It’s interesting.

Why is it interesting? Because going to war in the ancient world, and not in the so ancient world, even in our 20th century, all restraints, all limitations are ignored in the time of war. And this has been true in the world for ages and ages.

But let me start reading from 21:10 of the book of Deuteronomy and let us analyze this because I am only 76-years-old, and I remember, definitely the wars of Israel that I’ve been in, all of them here in Israel and the land.

But I also remember wars like in Cambodia, in Vietnam, in Afghanistan, in World War II in the Pacific theater with Japan and in Germany, in Europe, and Rommel and Montgomery in North Africa. Some of them I don’t remember personally, like Rommel and Montgomery, I wasn’t born yet, but I remember from reading, from studying. I might have used before the example of General Patton that fought against the German armies in North Africa. And when he was in Tunisia, one day he asked his driver to take him to ancient Cartago. And the driver took him.

It was safe enough for him, the Germans were far enough. And they drove to ancient Cartago and he parked the Jeep on top of the hill. And Patton, General Patton, wasn’t known to be a vegetarian, he was a pretty rough character but a great general, stood on the hill with his driver and started to describe the battle of Cartago with the Romans.

And the general was pointing. “You see that hill there; the Carthaginians were there and the Romans were on this hill here. And they came down and their legions met here and they did that and...”

Describing the whole battle of Rome in Cartago. His driver was not as educated as Patton was. And he said, “How do you know this? General, how do you know all these things that you’re describing to me; where the enemies were and where the armies were and how they attacked and what they did? How do you know that?”

He said, “I was here.” The driver was shocked. “You were here? How were you here?” He said, “I read the book.”

I read the Book. We have the Book translated in thousands of languages of human beings. We could read the Book. I’ve been reading the Book since I was 14-years-old. With interest. Yes, I’ve been reading the Book since I was 14-years-old. But you know what? Last Saturday there was a 12-year-old boy that read the portion of the prophets from the book of Joshua chapter two. And I read the book of Joshua, I know hundreds of times, for sure. Maybe much more than hundreds of times.

And I’m listening to that boy reading in Hebrew and boom, I hear a phrase that I never heard before. “The hope of the Crimson Cord.” Twice in the book of Joshua chapter two. Ah, I never heard that before, although I read it so many times but when I just heard it audio without looking at the text, it hit me. There’s something very special. I researched it. And I did a “mind candy” teaching that you can see at the Netivyah Facebook page about the hope of the Crimson Cord. Something that I never paid attention before.

And now, when I read the portion of the week that is going to be read in every synagogue in the world next Shabbat, and I read, “When you go out to war against your enemies and the Lord, your God, delivers them into your hands and you take them captive, you shall see among the captives a beautiful woman and desire her and would take her for your wife.

Then you shall bring her home to your house and you shall shave her head and trim her nails. She shall put off the clothes of her captivity, remain in your house, and mourn her father and her mother a full month. After that, you may go into her and be her husband and she shall be your wife.” Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow.

This is the date, the latest date that this is possible to be is from the seventh century 640 BC. That’s the latest date. But I want you to understand this text and I want you to learn the moral and the spiritual lessons that this text is teaching us. Okay, you go to war, you capture your enemy, you see a beautiful girl, woman.

And, in the ancient world, you are allowed to take slaves. Everybody took slaves from among their enemies, not only in the ancient world, but in our own time. Just a few years ago when there was ISIS fighting in Syria, and in Iraq, and in Southern Turkey, we all saw the horrors of war. We also the Yazidi women being taken by the ISIS Muslims. Raped by mass, even 12-, 13-, 14-year-old girls, and then sold as brides for the fighters of ISIS. And then after they used them for months, they sold them as prostitutes in the marketplaces of the near east. We saw it in our own days, not too long ago.

But the Torah in the seventh century BC says, “No, you have no right. If you want this beautiful woman that you see as your wife, you cannot abuse her. You have to be patient. Let her mourn for her father, and for her mother, and for her house from which she was taken as captive for a month. Don’t touch her. Restrain your desires. Control your passion. Don’t touch her.

Let her mourn for a month for her family. And then you can still not abuse her and rape her. You want to marry her? Marry her legally. Make her your wife, legally.” This is God’s law. God’s law that demands us to control our passions, our desires, to put them under the restraint of God’s word. Yes.

There is no such a law in the human history as the law that God gave us in the five books attributed to Moses. Notice I’m continuing the reading because that’s not the end of it. You make her your wife. Verse 14 of chapter 21.

“And it shall be, if you have no delight in her then you shall set her free but you certainly shall not sell her for money. You shall not treat her brutally because you have humbled her.”

Oh, where are you, my Muslim brothers and friends? Where is the level of moral righteousness that you find the Torah, in any other code of law of the ancient world? Even in the Christian medieval world? Where are you going to find this? This is the word of God, folks. This is righteous, this is right.

Even in the ancient world, the seventh century BC or maybe even earlier in the 12th century BC, in the days of Moses. No, you have no right to abuse her. You don’t like her, she doesn’t like you, you don’t get along, you set her free. You cannot sell her for money. Like the Muslims did in ISIS in Syria and in Iraq in our own days, just a few years ago. No, you cannot sell her for money. You set her free and you do not treat her brutally. You give her honor and respect, as you should. Aye yai yai.

My dear brothers and sisters, our world is not improved. Christianity also has some very, very ugly chapters of history in medieval Europe and even in 20th century Europe. Where Christians from Germany were fighting Christians from France. And Christians from Germany were fighting Christians from Russia, and Ukraine, and Latvia, and Lithuania, and Romania, and Bulgaria, and France, and Belgium, and Holland, and Denmark.

All Christian! Slaughtering one another for what? Why? And then going on Sunday to church to pray to that Jew hanging on the cross. No, folks, the Torah is essential for us to study, to examine, to learn from; because it is recommended in the New Testament for the Gentiles, not only for the Jews, to hear the word of God read in the synagogue in 15:20-21. Yep.

Yes, my dear brothers and sisters, the Torah has some wonderful secrets. Some wonderful teachings. Yes. We have the fortune of having God’s revelation given to us, given to us for free by the Holy Spirit. One more interesting piece that we have here in this portion of the week called “When you go out to war.” I’m going to read a few verses from chapter 22 of the book of Deuteronomy.

“You shall not see your brother’s ox or sheep going astray and hide yourself from them. You shall certainly bring them back to your brother. And if your brother is not near you or if you do not know him, then you shall bring it to your house, to your own house, and it shall remain in your house until your brother comes to look for it, seeks it. Then you should restore it to him. You shall do the same with his donkey and so shall you do with his garment, which is any lost thing of your brother, which has lost and you have found. You shall do likewise. You must not hide yourself and the lost thing of your brother.”

This is the basis of the whole Good Samaritan story, folks. This, the basis, is from the Torah of Moses.

That Samaritan acted according to the law of Moses. The priest and the Levite that passed by and saw that bleeding Jew on the side of the road between Jerusalem and Jericho and said, “Oh, we are spiritual brothers. We have to go to the house of the Lord to worship. And that’s why we are ignoring you, poor brother, that’s been beaten by bandits and bleeding. We are too spiritual, too religious. We have a debt to the church, a debt to the temple, a debt to the synagogue. And we don’t have time for you, my dear brother.”

No, you have no right to do that. You are commanded by the law of God in the book of Deuteronomy chapter 22, that if you find an ox or a donkey or a horse or a camel or a sheep or a goat or a turtle that belongs to your brother you are to feed it, to take care of it, to look for your brother, and if you can’t find him to keep that animal in your house and feed it until your brother comes to look for it and then you just give it to him. That’s your obligation according to the law of God.

Just think of all the applications that you can make in your church. Just think of all the applications you can make with your children’s friends and their families. Just think of all the applications you can make if you find a wallet on the sidewalk in the streets of your city and it has got a lot of money in it. You have no right to keep it. You have a right to take it and to look for the owner.

And if you have his identity card or his phone number or his address in that wallet, you’re obligated to return it to him. You have no right to keep it. There is no such a thing in the law of Moses “finders’ keepers.” No. It’s not yours. You found it. God is testing you when you find something like that to see if you are going to be righteous and right or you’re going to be greedy and selfish.

No, there’s no room for selfishness and greediness. You find your neighbor’s donkey straying, even eating from your field, from your garden, you have no right to ignore him. You have to take him, feed him, give him water, wait for your neighbor to come and pick him up, and then give it to him. No charge at all. It’s your brotherly responsibility.

I think that this is an absolute important teaching for all people, for Jews, for Muslims, for Christians, for all of us, because we are in the 20th century. We have smartphones, computers, ways of communication. We can look for Google. And in Google, you can find just about anything you look for. But we are not educated. Not Jews, not Christians, not Muslims.

We are not educated according to the law of God. We have taken the fresh fish swimming and jumping in the ocean and we have canned it into a Star-Kist can. We have made a religion out of faith. We have made an institution out of freedom of faith and relationship with the almighty living God. And we have divided the body of Christ by our institutions.

But if we go back to the word of God, if we go back from Genesis to Revelation, not only from Matthew to Revelation, but from Genesis to Revelation, and we examine the word of God and we learn to study it, and glean from it, the riches of the glory, and the love, and the hope, and the faith that God wants us to have in him and through him in ourselves as righteous children of God, then we will find more than happiness and more than satisfaction from our relationship with Jesus, with Yeshua our Lord, and with the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

May God have mercy on us. Please read the Torah portions. This Torah portion that I’m ending right now is called, “When you go out to war” starts in chapter 21 of Deuteronomy verse 10, end in 25:19. The prophet portion is from Isaiah 54:1-10. And the commentary from Ephesians 5:1-33. Read those texts. You will be enriched and inspired and your faith will grow.

In Yeshua’s name, Amen.

Joseph Shulam: The Morality of Torah [2021]

The Torah reading is from Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19. The name of this portion of the Torah is called “Ki Teitzei” (“when you go out”). The portion for reading from the prophets is from Isaiah 54:1-10, and from the New Testament from Matthew 5:27-30.

All of these readings like every word from the Bible is rich and important. The most important thing is to read the word of God and to read it in order and regularly. There is no antidote against hate and anti-Semitism, racism, horrible abuse in families and every other depravity that humans can invent.

I am not talking about religion or “churchianity”. I am talking about the simple reading of God’s word. One of the most anti-Semitic countries in Europe was, and still is, Poland. Yes, during World War II, the largest number of men and women who are commemorated in the Yad VaShem Museum of the Holocaust in Jerusalem who are called “Righteous Among the Gentiles” are from Poland. Most of them are Catholic clergy.

What distinguishes this group of righteous people is that they were daily Bible readers. The word of God is a spiritual medical vitamin against the bestiality of humans against other humans.

Read the word of God. Follow the Jewish calendar of reading the Bible. It is something good for you and healthy for your life in general, and especially for your spiritual life.

One of the most shocking texts for our 20th Century modern mindset is this text from the word of God:

“When you go out to war against your enemies, and the Lord your God delivers them into your hand, and you take them captive, and you see among the captives a beautiful woman, and desire her and would take her for your wife, then you shall bring her home to your house, and she shall shave her head and trim her nails. She shall put off the clothes of her captivity, remain in your house, and mourn her father and her mother a full month; after that you may go in to her and be her husband, and she shall be your wife.” – Deuteronomy 21:10-13 [NKJV]

At first sight, this text gives me the heebie jeebies. I am by nature a peace lover. I don’t like to fight, I don’t like war, I don’t hate people from other races or colors.

And when the Torah, the Word of God, writes such a text that allowed people going to war to see a beautiful woman, and take her… It makes my stomach turn and tumble…

This is especially true now days, after the USA has pulled out of Afghanistan in such a sudden way. The Taliban have taken the country so quickly, with the intent of establishing an Islamic Caliphate under the Islamic Sharia law (medieval Islamic, dark-ages legal system) as the law of the land.

The Taliban has a record, like that of Isis in Syria and Iraq, of beheadings, mass murders, rape, and abuse, and of selling the captive women to other Islamic groups – especially the Yazidi women, even very young girls – into sex slavery for a handful of dollars. Then I read a text in God’s word that seems to allow taking a captive beautiful woman to your home, no questions asked. No concern like, “Young beautiful girl, are you married? Are you engaged, do you have a family?”

It seems barbaric and horrible to our 21st Century mentality. However, let us look closely at what the word of God is teaching us here in this portion of the Torah.

First, don’t act like a beast! You would like this beautiful woman to be your wife, your legal and proper wife, according to the Law?

This limits your options. You can’t just take her as a sex slave, or sell her into prostitution, or abuse her. You have to take her as your legal wife, and therefore all the laws of the word of God apply in this relationship.

Then you have to take her to your home. There in your home she will be respected and allowed to mourn for her family for one month. You can’t touch her or dishonor her during these 30 days.

Second, the 30 days of mourning of this woman in your home, with your family there and your grandmother there, will definitely cool down your desires. You have shaved her hair and cut her nails and have taken some of her beauty off, that definitely will make you think twice about abusing this captive woman in your house.

Third, the Torah says: “…after that you may go in to her and be her husband, and she shall be your wife.” You now have lived with this captive woman 30 days in your house and you have not touched her physically. “After that”, if you still want this woman, the only way that you can have her is make her your legal and lawful wife.

In the Jewish world, that means that you give her all the rights and privileges committed to in writing; a document of divorcement, a Ketubah, a contract of obligation including a price that you would have to pay her if you divorce her.

What the Islamic barbarians of Isis and the Taliban are doing is a totally different behavior, animal behavior. Rape, slavery, and abuse, both physical and mental, and spiritual abuse, and torture.

Thinking of a document that is thousands of years old, the Torah, God’s word, making such adjustments in the behavior and moral restraint of an Israelite man is nothing but admirable considering the time and the culture of the times and of the place.

The next big law that the Torah regulates in our portion of the Torah is the law of inheritance. If a person is married to two wives – like Jacob and Elkanah, the husband of Hannah, from the first chapters of the book of First Samuel – he can’t be partial and ignore the laws of inheritance.

He must leave 50 percent of his property to his first born son, even if he doesn’t like that son, and likes the son of his other wife more. This was written thousands of years ago and it regulates the desire and choice of a person by forcing the person to do what is right, just, and orderly.

These rules tell us something very important and basic about us, human beings. It tells us, you can’t do what you want to and break the rules and the laws of a just and proper society.

No matter who you are, a king, or a clown, you have some obligations toward your fellow man and your family. And you must honor the members of your family as well as your neighbor next door, and treat them right.

You know that today, in the name of freedom of choice, a father doesn’t have to give his inheritance to his family. There are cases in the West of very rich men who left their wealth to their mistresses and lovers, and not to their legal wives.

This is the importance of the Torah, it is God’s revelation, allowing for a sane and righteous society. Yes, the New Testament also tells us that the Torah is righteous, spiritual, and just.

Many Christians, who don’t read the word of God for themselves, are under the impression, from the Christian Church Fathers of the Third and Fourth Centuries, that the Torah is over and unjust. And there is no love or grace in the Torah, just harsh judgment.

But, dear brothers and sisters, here are the words of the apostle Paul on this issue:

“Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good. Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin.” – Romans 7:12-14 [NKJV]

The problem of sin is not because of the Torah, Paul states it clear and sound: “I am carnal and sold under sin!” The problem is not with God’s word, or the Torah, it is with we humans who are “sold under sin”, enslaved to sin, by choices that we make, by our out-of-control appetites.

Sin comes into our lives by our choices, not because of the Torah. The Torah is a mirror that reflects the sins it sees in us to make us aware and repent. We are approaching the High Holidays – Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), and 10 days later Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), and four days later the feast of Sukkoth (the Feast of Tabernacles). These holidays are the same ones that Yeshua and all of his apostles celebrated, honored, and rejoiced in, together with all of Israel.

Please read the whole Torah portion, and the prophets and the New Testament text that is listed above, each week. This week especially is important, the reading of Isaiah 54:1-10.

Just to whet your appetite here are two of the verses from Isaiah 54:1-3:

“‘Sing, O barren, You who have not borne! Break forth into singing, and cry aloud, You who have not labored with child! For more are the children of the desolate Than the children of the married woman,’ says the Lord. ‘Enlarge the place of your tent, And let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings; Do not spare; Lengthen your cords, And strengthen your stakes. For you shall expand to the right and to the left, And your descendants will inherit the nations, And make the desolate cities inhabited.’” – Isaiah 54:1–3 [NKJV]

What a wonderful promise from God to Jerusalem and to the people of Israel! For centuries, the Jewish people read this text and they were in the deep dark diaspora living as second- and third-class citizens in Europe and Yemen, and even deep in Asia. There was no ray of hope to be seen on the horizon.

They opened the word of God and read these words of Isaiah. A ray of hope and faith and joy enveloped them as they listened, and their souls gained the strength to continue living under the yoke of hate and rejection, and they were able to survive as new strength overcame their fatigue, allowing them to survive under hostile conditions.

They didn’t have a country, they didn’t have a government, they didn’t have a flag, or their own currency, or a national anthem. They had the prophet Isaiah promising them a rebirth and a birth of Jewish children, and a rebuilding of their national home, the land of Israel.

And beyond this, Isaiah promises that the nations will deliver the descendants of Israel, and they will become the inheritance of Israel. The nations will come to worship in Jerusalem according to the 14th chapter of Zechariah and the 66th chapter of Isaiah, and much more.

For us today, the disciples of Yeshua the Messiah, living in Israel, there is a great reason to rejoice and to be strong. The catalyst, and the motivator, and the Way, the Truth, and the Life that will make these promises a reality is only one Jew – Yeshua the Messiah – and the son of God, king of the Jews!

Joseph Shulam: The Importance of Historical Context [2020]

The reading of Deuteronomy chapter 21 to 25, has some commands that sound strange to our modern Western ears. Take for example the first strange command:

“When you go out to war against your enemies, and the Lord your God delivers them into your hand, and you take them captive, and you see among the captives a beautiful woman, and desire her and would take her for your wife, then you shall bring her home to your house, and she shall shave her head and trim her nails. She shall put off the clothes of her captivity, remain in your house, and mourn her father and her mother a full month; after that you may go in to her and be her husband, and she shall be your wife.” – Deuteronomy 21:10–13 [NKJV]

If we look at this text from the viewpoint of our modern post-French Revolution and post-American “Bill of Rights,” this command sounds strange and cruel and unjust.

Although the reality of the 20th and 21st centuries teaches us that this reality is even much worse than God’s command in the Torah. Rule number one for the interpretation of the ancient text is that you must interpret and understand the ancient text within the historical context in which it was written.

You cannot judge a text that was written over 3000 years ago with the cultural standards of the 21st century in the West, or of the 20th century.

Let us start with the atrocities of the Armenian massacre by the Turkish people. One and a half million people were massacred over a few weeks. Tens of thousands of women, wives, and daughters were raped in front of their fathers, and brothers and their children were cut in pieces in front of their mothers and fathers before they too were massacred.

We can continue on into World Wars I and II, and the terrible things that the Japanese did in Korea and Manchuria. The comfort houses that they organized for their soldiers with young girls that had not even passed puberty.

Now when you read the Torah and you see this command that God is commanding Israel – you might be filled with self-righteous indignation, but consider this: You are not to ravage her on the battlefield. You have to take her as your wife, not just jump her and rape her and then kill her or take her as a sex slave as ISIS did in Syria and Iraq, or like the Palestinian Arabs did in the massacres in Hebron on the 24th of August, 1929.

The Torah limits your rights over a beautiful woman captive and actually makes you control your animal instincts and put them under control for a month.

You can’t just take the captive beautiful woman and act like an animal. Stop! Cool down and control your appetites and passions, and respect the rights of the captive to self-dignity.

After a month you have to make her your wife before you can have sex with her. There is no ancient law either before the Torah or contemporary with the Torah, or even after the Torah, that takes such a high road toward the victims who are captives of war.

Yes, in the 12th century BCE world, throughout the entire Fertile Crescent (from Mesopotamia to Egypt), you will not find anything even close to the sensitive and considerate and morally upright legal document which is the word of God (the Torah).

Consider also the following: If this beautiful woman, after being a month in your home, refuses to become your wife, and does not like you, you don’t touch her, you release her and give her the freedom to go and to do whatever she likes.

She is a free woman and cannot be forced to be either your slave or your concubine. There is no such thing as a law this gracious in any country of the ancient world, and not even in most of the world today.

The God who created the world gave us a just and righteous law from A to Z… even if you consider the issue of slavery and the rules and limitations that the Torah places on a slave owner, the Torah of God was head and shoulders above any of the rules of Egypt, Babylon, Greece, or Rome, not to mention the Viking kingdoms of Scandinavia and Northern Europe.

I am writing you this because many Christians have inherited a negative attitude toward the Law of Moses given by the Lord who created the heavens and the Earth.

Please consider the following law:

“You shall not see your brother’s ox or his sheep going astray, and hide yourself from them; you shall certainly bring them back to your brother. And if your brother is not near you, or if you do not know him, then you shall bring it to your own house, and it shall remain with you until your brother seeks it; then you shall restore it to him. You shall do the same with his donkey, and so shall you do with his garment; with any lost thing of your brother’s, which he has lost and you have found, you shall do likewise; you must not hide yourself.” – Deuteronomy 22:1–3 [NKJV]

Does your country have a law like this today? Does United States law command you legally to take care of your neighbors’ cat or dog if they run astray and you see them wandering on the highway a mile or two from your neighbor’s house?

I lived in the United States from 1962-1964 and from 1967-1969. I lived in South Georgia, in the country, and I have lived in Miami, Florida and Rochester, Michigan, and in Nashville, Tennessee.

From my experience, most of the Christians that I knew in Rochester, Michigan, and in Miami, and Nashville, would not even get close to or touch their neighbor’s cat or dog, and much less so if their neighbor had a donkey or a sheep or a goat.

The only place where I lived that I could imagine that this command might be observed would have been in Dasher, Georgia. In Dasher the community was homogeneous.

The majority of the families were descendents of German Christians who came to America and settled on the edge of the swamps near the Florida border. They were a community very much in the sense of the word community. They were also so intermarried that they were almost all one family.

There in Dasher these laws would have been observed in the 1960’s. As for today I have my doubts! I would be happy to be corrected by the Coplands and Hams and Wisenbakers…

In chapter 22 the commands of the Lord continue to amaze me. Consider the command to protect and preserve the bird species:

“If a bird’s nest happens to be before you along the way, in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs, with the mother sitting on the young or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young; you shall surely let the mother go, and take the young for yourself, that it may be well with you and that you may prolong your days.” – Deuteronomy 22:6,7 [NKJV]

These laws were given by God to Israel long before there was any sensitivity to nature or ecology. Here is a quotation from the publication of an intergovernmental organization (the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services):

According to the 2019 Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services by IPBES, the biomass of wild mammals has fallen by 82 percent, natural ecosystems have lost about half their area and a million species are at risk of extinction—all largely as a result of human actions.

25% of plant and animal species are threatened with extinction. In June 2019, one million species of plants and animals were at risk of extinction.

At least 571 species have been lost since 1750, but it is likely that there are many more. The main cause of the extinctions is the destruction of natural habitats by human activities, such as cutting down forests and converting land into fields for farming.

Take into consideration that the Torah is at least 3,250 years old(!), it was written in a world that had no sensitivity to nature or the preservation of species or to biodiversity.

Get some appreciation for the consideration of the word of God for things that are outside your church experience and appreciate the God who created the heavens and the Earth and loved you and me so much that He sent His Son, Yeshua, to die for me and for you…

Joseph Shulam: The Torah Deals With Real Daily Life [2018]

The weekly reading in the synagogues around the world is from Deuteronomy 21:10 – 25:19. It is a long reading, and full of very important instructions from the Lord God of Israel for the community. Most of God’s word, from Genesis to the end of the book of Revelation, does not deal with religion at all, but rather deals with real life and the challenges that all human beings face in life, and sometimes daily life.

Let me give you a short outline of the issues from this week’s reading, Ki Teitzei (if (or as) you go out):

Deuteronomy 21:10-14:

What to do with a female captured during war. This is especially relevant today after we have seen and heard what ISIS has done in Iraq and Syria. This is especially important because we have seen ISIS, all in the name of Allah, take young girls as sex slaves and sell them for $100 to others. This portion of the Torah, dealing with some of these issues over 3000 years ago, gave the people of Israel different instructions.

Deuteronomy 21:15,16:

The firstborn male in the family inherits 50% of his father’s wealth. Today this might not seem fair, but when you consider the socioeconomics of that old world, you will see what great wisdom and fairness God’s word has.

Deuteronomy 21:18-21:

What to do with a rebellious and renegade child!

Deuteronomy 21:22,23:

This is the issue that the Apostle Paul is dealing with and explaining in Galatians 3:13 and Acts 5:30. Both refer to this text. In some old Jewish traditions, this text was associated with the Roman practice of crucifixion, and this is why Paul and Acts bring this forward.

Deuteronomy 22:1-4:

This deals with the responsibility to restore what you find to the rightful owner. You are supposed to do all that is within your possibility to find to whom the find belongs, and to restore it to the owner. In the same text you have the good Samaritan law.

“You shall not see your brother’s donkey, or his ox fall down along the road, and hide yourself from them; you shall surely help him lift them up again.” - Deuteronomy 22:4 [NKJV]

The argument of the Gospel is, “how much the more if you see your fellow human being fallen or hurt or damaged on the side of the road.”

Deuteronomy 22:5:

There has to be a clear difference between the sexes. Male must not wear or pretend to be a female. The difference must be held and seen in public. I realize that today this is not “politically correct.” The question that I have is whom are we, the disciples of Yeshua, going to follow? Are the disciples of Yeshua going to join the world, or are they going to follow our Lord, Master, Rabbi, and Savior?

Deuteronomy 22:6,7:

Being humane to animals, and especially to the little birds, that do no harm but only bless nature and humanity.

Deuteronomy 22:8:

Take responsibility for your action and do it before an accident happens. Building a fence around the roof of your house is only one example of this great principle.

Deuteronomy 22:9-12:

This Scripture has great importance today. The principle is that there are things that don’t mix, and we ought not to mix them. Yes, at first sight some of these things don’t make sense, but after you think about it, you see the great wisdom of God. You start mixing together things that by nature don’t mix, even if they are benign.

Deuteronomy 22:13 - 23:9:

These are the regulations from God against incest (sex with members of your family, your children or your mother-in-law). We see in 1 Corinthians 5 that in the church there was a person who was not too smart and was having a relationship with his mother-in-law.

Deuteronomy 23:10-15:

How to keep the camp (family, church, community) pure and spiritually clean. This issue is of great importance even today. How much sin and impurity does a community suffer before it becomes a plague?

The rest of this portion deals with a non-Israelite slave who runs away from his Israelite master. He must not be caught and returned to his master. He must be allowed to stay free.

The concept is that no one runs away from the good. If he ran away, it must be that his master did not treat him right.

There are other issues in this portion of the Torah, like forbidding prostitution, a worker has the right to partake of his work, and an ox must not be muzzled while treading the grain. Issues regarding marriage and divorce, social behavior and financial responsibility, and dealing with damage that is not physical but emotional, and public embarrassment.

My point is simple. Most of the Torah does not deal with super-spiritual and religious issues. The Torah deals with life. With building a healthy and godly society, that has righteous and just and equitable life for all of its members, and even for the stranger that is passing by.

The religions have taken this fountain of fresh and good water and sealed it under the heavy burden of religion and dogmatism that has snuffed the life out of both Judaism and Christianity. I know, from Isaiah 1 and Jeremiah 7 and Hosea 6, that it makes God ill when His people become so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good.

We must all remember the words of the prophets, and the words of the Apostle Paul to the people of Athens:

“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.’” - Acts 17:24-28

Joseph Shulam: Children Must be Treated With Equality [2017]

The Torah Portion (parasha) of this Shabbat is Ki Teitzei – Deuteronomy 21:10 – 25:19. One of the first instructions given in this portion of the Torah is the attitude of a father, who has two wives, toward his children.

The case is not simple. This man has two wives, he loves the one and dislikes (or loves less) the other. His firstborn was born to the wife that he loved less, and obviously his firstborn son falls under his mother’s status.

What will this father do in relationship to the inheritance? Does the father have the right to give his inheritance to the son of his beloved wife? Can he deny his firstborn son the inheritance because he is the son of the wife that he loves less?

Here is what the Torah says:

“If a man has two wives, the one loved and the other unloved, and both the loved and the unloved have borne him children, and if the firstborn son belongs to the unloved, then on the day when he assigns his possessions as an inheritance to his sons, he may not treat the son of the loved as the firstborn in preference to the son of the unloved, who is the firstborn, but he shall acknowledge the firstborn, the son of the unloved, by giving him a double portion of all that he has, for he is the first fruits of his strength. The right of the firstborn is his.” - Deuteronomy 21:15-17 [ESV]

I find this Torah instruction extremely righteous. The right of the firstborn son cannot be a willful act, but it is an inherent right that is immutable, and if the man loves the mother of his firstborn son less than he loves his second wife, it still does not give him the right to give his inheritance to the son of the wife he loves more.

Of course, today in the Christian world, two wives are not permitted, and in the Jewish world only on very extreme and difficult conditions will the rabbis permit a person to marry a second wife. One of the few cases for such a permit would be if there are small children at home, and his wife is mentally ill for a prolonged period, and hospitalized and totally dysfunctional.

In a case like this, the rabbinical court could give this man a permission to marry a second wife, because he would not get a permission to divorce his first wife that is ill. In biblical times, two wives were common, and sometimes more than two wives where not a rare sight.

All our patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and many of our biblical heroes, like King David, had more than one wife. Not now, men have become wiser. They learned from experience that one wife is enough. So, although we don’t have two wives, we do have children, and sometimes our children are more obedient and respected, and other children are wilder and less obedient.

It would not be rare for a father to leave his inheritance to the child that is more obedient, even if he or she are not the firstborn. The Torah comes to instruct us that we must not treat our children by our own measure of judgement of like and dislike, but according to the law of God, and honor the firstborn child above our own personal likes.

We must do everything possible to treat our children with equality and not show preference to one over the others. It is true that naturally one might be more amicable toward one or the other child, but from this Torah principle we learn that preferring one of our children on the others will bring a disaster.

Throughout the biblical story we see families where the father or the mother preferred one child over the other, and we in Israel are still eating the humble pie as a result, even up to today. Just think of Rebecca and Isaac.

Rebecca preferred Jacob over Esau, and now thousands of years later the children of Esau are still hating the children of Jacob. Think of Jacob making the same “mistake” and preferring Joseph over his 11 brothers – how deep a hate was created between the brothers. Yes, we also learn that God can use our “mistakes” and make good out of our weaknesses, but even then there is a price that is paid for our weakness in observing God’s instructions.

Yehuda Bachana: The Purpose of the Commandments [2018]

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

Shabbat Shalom. This parasha begins with a beautiful captive who becomes the wife of the captor, and ends with the command to erase Amalek. In the middle of the parasha, there is mention of the relationship between a man and his two wives, their sons, and the division of their communal property.

This parasha speaks of “hashavat aveidah” (“returning lost objects”), “tza'ar ba'alei chayim” (“the ban on causing animals unnecessary suffering”), “s'char va'onesh” (“reward and punishment”), and many other commandments, some of which are simple and understandable, and some of which are irrelevant and impractical today.

The Purpose of the Commandments

It is relatively easy for a person to love those who are close to him, it is harder to show love to others and strangers, but the person who succeeds in specializing in love, fulfills the purpose of the Torah.

There is a long and undecided debate over the reason and the purpose for the commandments.

There are those who say that one should not seek the purpose of the commandment, but rather accept it as a commandment, from the mouth of God, for God is all knowing and master of everything, and we humans do not know nor need to know everything.

We do not see the full picture. Perhaps one day it will all become clear and understood for us.

The mere fulfillment of the commandment is what indicates the depth of our faith and obedience to God, especially when the reason for the commandment is not understood by us.

On the other hand are those who seek to know the purpose of the commandments, for a number of reasons: to understand them, to fulfill them with joy, and to renew them (when the original validity of the commandment has expired).

This is a long discussion in which both sides have good points.

Finding the Spirit and the Intent of the Commandment

In my opinion, it is important to study the “spirit” of the commandment, so that we can properly implement the will of God. For example, in our weekly parasha we are reminded of the commandment of the nest:

“If you come across a bird’s nest beside the road, either in a tree or on the ground, and the mother is sitting on the young or on the eggs, do not take the mother with the young. You may take the young, but be sure to let the mother go, so that it may go well with you and you may have a long life.” - Deuteronomy 22:6,7 [NIV]

You can read the commandment, so that whenever you encounter a nest of birds, you must let the mother go and take the eggs.

And there are those looking for nests in order to fulfill this commandment, seeking to send away the mother, and take the eggs, even though these eggs are not edible.

But the reason for the commandment is to prevent cruelty towards animals. If we want the eggs to eat, we must not take them when the mother is there, for several reasons. First, in order not to endanger the species itself.

And the second is more important: that we do not have a cruel heart. That we would feel sorry for animals - let alone human beings.

Invalid and Outdated Commandments

In this week's parasha, there are several commandments that can even sound embarrassing today.

How can the Torah force the rapist to marry the person who was raped? Without asking the woman's opinion or taking into account her feelings?

It is clear that this commandment is no longer relevant today, not only is it irrelevant, but it is also considered a particularly cruel commandment (Deuteronomy 22:28).

Or another commandment in our parasha demands the execution of all the adulterers. If we were to fulfill this commandment, half of society today would find itself under a heap of stones (Deuteronomy 22:22).

From this we find that the Torah is not a fixed set of laws that cannot be changed. Reality is stronger than any commandment, there are commandments that are no longer valid and are actually nullified, unless they are revived by an intention that was concealed until now.

Take, for example, the commandment of the tithe (Numbers 18). The source of the commandment is intended for priest and Levites, who do not have an inheritance and in fact have no ability to make a living, and therefore the people of Israel are commanded to tithe.

Today we do not have the Temple or priests and Levites, and we have brought a new meaning to the commandment - today we bring a tithe to the house of God, be it the church, the synagogue, or the congregation.

Our Duty as Believers in Regards to the Commandments

The constant duty of the believer who wishes to fulfill the will of God is to examine the commandments in depth, and to examine the spirit of the commandments - what is correct for the period, and what is wrong for the period.

There are commandments that are directed towards the enlightened and moral side of man, and there are commandments that serve as a compromise with the darker sides of man, and our parasha moves between these two extremes.

On the one hand, for example, we have the obligation to converts, foreigners, widows, and orphans, to leave part of our crops and possessions to the unfortunate. There is a relationship of righteousness here.

On the other hand, we have commandments that concern family problems and problems of power and greed.

The Importance of the Convert and the Foreigner

One point that we should take into consideration is the multitude of mentions of the convert and the foreigner.

In the commandments of the Torah, we the people of Israel are forever those who came out of Egypt, and we must never forget what they did to us as slaves, as immigrants, and as the weak helpless.

It is clear that a person who helps the weak, the poor, and the lonely, who loves the convert, is at the top of the ladder of the commandments, whereas the bottom of the ladder of the commandments is in the mud, the greed, and the forcefulness of man.

And the ladder aspires to righteousness, to the very best, and it is clear that the person who loves the convert first and foremost loves those closest to him.

The love of the convert and the foreigner is one of the keys to preventing war and loving peace.

How to Find the Right Balance

A fairly common question is the question of how one knows the right way, how one finds the right balance between the ends of the same ladder.

“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence…” - 1 John 3:18,19 [NIV]

The sincere answer of the believer is love.

It is relatively easy for a person to love those who are close to him, it is harder to show love to others and strangers, but the person who succeeds in specializing in love, as if he is a master, is at the top of the ladder of the commandments. Indeed, in doing so he fulfills the purpose of the Torah.

The source of love is in God:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” - John 3:16 [NIV]

Paul the Apostle says rightly that when we act on love - that is, caring, forgiveness, patience, a desire to see good, a desire to help and support others - we fulfill the Torah. This is indeed the hear of the Torah.

“…for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.” - Romans 13:8b [NIV]

According to Yeshua, in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25), we are to help anyone we can who needs help.

Shabbat Shalom.

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