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: A Conversation Between Man and God [2022]

I have been teaching from and writing every week on the Torah portion that is read in the synagogues around the world. The reading of the Torah and the prophets every week is a very very old tradition.

In the New Testament we see this tradition practiced both in the land of Israel and in the diaspora (The Jewish communities spread throughout the Mediterranean basin and beyond). Here are a few examples of the importance of this tradition:

“Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless?” – Matthew 12:5

“So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read.” – Luke 4:16

“For those who dwell in Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they did not know Him, nor even the voices of the Prophets which are read every Sabbath, have fulfilled them in condemning Him.” – Acts 13:27

“For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.” – Acts 15:21

In our congregation like in most congregations of Jewish Disciples of Yeshua around the world, the Torah is read on the Sabbath and after the Torah we read from the prophets (It is called in Aramaic “The Haftarah”) and after the prophets we also read from the New Testament. All the passages that we read usually have a common thread that connects the Torah, the prophets, and the New Testament.

On this Shabbat of February 19th 2022, around the world, in all synagogues, the reading will come from Exodus, Exodus 30:11-34:35, the name of this portion of the Torah is called Ki Tisa:

“When you take the census of the children of Israel for their number, then every man shall give a ransom for himself to the Lord, when you number them, that there may be no plague among them when you number them.” – Exodus 30:12

Because this Shabbat is a special Shabbat there is an additional reading from Numbers 19:1-22, and it is called Parah (“cow”). The Haftarah (the reading from the prophets) will come from 1 Kings 18:1-39, and Ezekiel 36:16-38. From the New Testament we will be reading from 2 Corinthians 3:1-18.

You might say to yourselves, these Jewish disciples of the Messiah in Jerusalem surely read in public so much text every Sabbath. You are right, we do read much texts from the Word of God every Sabbath, Just like the apostles did and our forefathers did around the whole wide world.

Here are some more examples of the apostle Paul who traveled around the Mediterranean Sea spreading the good news of the Messiah:

“And after the reading of the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent to them, saying, ‘Men and brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.’” – Acts 13:15

“For we are not writing any other things to you than what you read or understand. Now I trust you will understand, even to the end.” – 2 Corinthians 1:13

“But even to this day, when Moses is read…” – 2 Corinthians 3:15

Now I must get into this Sabbath’s reading of the Torah in our community in Jerusalem.

There are two of the most dramatic events during the wilderness wandering of the children of Israel in the Sinai Desert for those 40 years of testing and training, the boot camp, of the children of Israel before they enter the promised land of Canaan and settle it as an eternal inheritance.

The reading starts with the command of the Lord to Moses to number the children of Israel, all of them, and also to build a tabernacle, a Tent of Meeting between the priests and the children of Israel with the Lord God. A unique temple designed for the children of Israel.

Immediately after these commands, and while Moses was 40 days and nights on the top of Mount Sinai receiving the Torah from the Almighty God. The children of Israel are impatient and they urge Aaron, the older brother of Moses to provide for them a god that will lead them.

This is the first of the most dramatic events in the Bible that appears in our reading on this Shabbat. The question comes up to the structure of our reading. Why did God command Moses to take a census, to count the children of Israel, and why did God command the building of the Tabernacle as a place of His dwelling in the middle of the camp of Israel?

Here is what I think – the Torah here is showing two things by bringing the command to count the people of Israel and the command to build the Tent of Meeting (The Tabernacle) before the events of the building of the golden calf by Aaron, and by the request of the children of Israel.

  1. God counts every person and knows the deeds of their hearts, hands, and the path of our legs step by step. When there is a collective sin like the building of the golden calf (a statue of one of Egypt’s main goddesses, Hathor), each individual is important and is counted and is going to be either blessed or punished for the sin that each committed.
  2. The Torah doesn’t always follow in the chronological order of the events. The Torah is set as a stage for the education and correction and administration of the children of God in all generations of God’s children. The word Torah doesn’t mean law in the Hebrew language like in the translations to Greek, and all the other languages, of the Christian Bible. The word Torah means “instruction, teaching, training”. This is the reason why the inspired word of God tells us about the census, the counting of the children of Israel by individuals and not by tribes or clubs of people.
  3. Chapter 30 starts with a message of hope, not of condemnation, but with the anticipation of the sin of the golden calf, and the punishment and at the same time with the promise of God that He will dwell in the middle of the camp of Israel even after the sin of the golden calf.

I would describe what is happening here in chapter 30-31 as God gesturing to the children of Israel by putting His two fingers in front of His eyes, and turning them toward the children of Israel saying, “be careful I am watching you!”

The second dramatic event in our reading of this week’s Torah portion is the conversation and the response between the Lord and Moses. The sin of building the golden calf by Aaron and the children of Israel was such a big sin that angered the Lord God of Israel so much that He says to Moses:

“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Depart and go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, “To your descendants I will give it.” And I will send My Angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanite and the Amorite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite. Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; for I will not go up in your midst, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.’” – Exodus 33:1-3 [NKJV]

In simple English – God says to Moses, “Look, these are your people. They don’t want to be My people. You take care of them and bring them to the land of promise. I am tired of these people. I have other things that I would like to do now, they don’t really appreciate me and they wanted an Egyptian goddess to lead them into the land that I have promised Abraham and his seed as an everlasting inheritance. OK. I will keep My promise to this stiff-necked people, but I will send my messenger (angel) to lead them. I have better things to do!”

Moses responds to the Almighty God with these words:

“Then Moses said to the Lord, ‘See, You say to me, “Bring up this people.” But You have not let me know whom You will send with me. Yet You have said, “I know you by name, and you have also found grace in My sight.” Now therefore, I pray, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight. And consider that this nation is Your people.’” – Exodus 33:12,13 [NKJV]

The bottom line of what Moses says to God in this argument is: “And Consider that this nation is Your people.” In other words, Moses says to God, “No Sir! These are not my people, they are Your people and You better take care of them Yourself.”

This is the beginning first act of this great drama in the 40 years of wandering in the Sinai Desert, the entrance to the land of Canaan and the settlement of the children of Israel according to the word of God.

Moses and God compromise and Moses received one of these unusual answers by God as an accommodation specially for Him. God says to Moses I will reveal to you My true character and nature. I will give you a personal and special show of My nature.

Here is one of the most fascinating conversations between a man and God! Moses argues with God and says:

Moses:

“Now therefore, I pray, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight. And consider that this nation is Your people.”

God:

“And He said, ‘My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’”

Moses:

“If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here. For how then will it be known that Your people and I have found grace in Your sight, except You go with us? So we shall be separate, Your people and I, from all the people who are upon the face of the earth.”

So the Lord said to Moses, “I will also do this thing that you have spoken; for you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name.”

And he said, “Please, show me Your glory.”

Then He said, “I make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.”

But He said, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.”

And the Lord said, “Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock. So it shall be, while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by. Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen.”

And the Lord said to Moses, “Cut two tablets of stone like the first ones, and I will write on these tablets the words that were on the first tablets which you broke. So be ready in the morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself to Me there on the top of the mountain. And no man shall come up with you, and let no man be seen throughout all the mountain; let neither flocks nor herds feed before that mountain.”

So he cut two tablets of stone like the first ones. Then Moses rose early in the morning and went up Mount Sinai, as the Lord had commanded him; and he took in his hand the two tablets of stone.

Now the Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth…”

(Taken from Exodus 33:13–34:6 [NKJV].)

I think that these words and revelation of the Lord to Moses are some of the most important and most revealing words that give us a window into the very nature of God Almighty. Notice, dear brothers and sisters, that there is no malice nor meanness in God’s nature.

Like a good father, sometimes He has, for the sake of the future of His children, to give punishment for educational reasons, to the children whom He loves. Please dear brothers and sisters, use this revelation that God gives especially to Moses in order to encourage Moses after the sin of the golden calf.

For me personally these texts from the Torah are a sure anchor for my faith in God. Yes, these words are the most important lesson for my life. There are three things that we must learn from these texts from the Torah:

First, we sin because of our impatience and insecurity. We want to substantiate our divine nature and be small gods ourselves. We want to set the course of our life, and our satisfaction in life, and our creative abilities, all alone without the help or the advice or without instruction from our Creator. We forget that we are created by the Almighty Creator and we have limited independence in this life.

Most of the things in our lives are given to us by the Creator: Who our father and mother is going to be. If we will have the “Y” chromosome or the “X” chromosome (if we will be born as men or women). How tall we will be and what color hair we will have and what color skin we will have and in what country we will come to the light of day. All of these things are given to us and no one asks us what we want.

Second, that we must learn is that God, the Creator, gave us a book of instruction for life. Not for living only, but for living according to the manufacturer’s instructions so that we can have the best lives and the most satisfactory life in this world, and in the world to come.

Third, that is important for us to learn from these texts in the Torah is that God loves us so much, even when we sin such grave and serious sins like the making of the golden calf that was a rejection and a vote of no confidence against the Lord God who created us and loves us so much that He gave His only begotten Son Yeshua as a sacrifice for our sins and as the provision of salvation in this life and eternally.

Let us remember these lessons and give and renew our relationship with the Creator of the world, yes, even of our whole galaxy, the sun and the moon and all the stars in our galaxy even this beautiful blue ball called Earth.

There is much more to be learned from every page and word of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. Read, eat, drink, and dream, the Bible!

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

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

Shalom, my name is Joseph Shulam, and we’re continuing together with Brad TV, the study of the Torah portion that is read in every synagogue on Shabbat. We have arrived to the Torah portion that is called Ki Tisa in Hebrew. And it is a Torah portion that if I translate Ki Tisa from 30:12 of the book of Exodus, it would say, take for me a donation offering.

And we have three kinds of contributions, donations in the Torah, financial donations in the Torah. One is the tithe for the Levites and the priests. Everybody has to give 10% to support the Levites and the priests in Israel. Why? Because the priests did not inherit land. Every tribe received a territory of land that was theirs and was passed as an inheritance to their children, to their children’s children for all generations. And the Levites did not, God was their portion.

God Counts the People

That’s the terminology used in the choosing of the Levites and the division of the territories of the tribes in the book of Joshua. But they left Egypt. They received the law in Mount Sinai, and nobody knew how many people were a part of the camp of Israel. There was no census. So God wanted to have a census, but he didn’t want to count heads. The reason he didn’t want to count heads is because he wanted equality between all the children of Israel. That everybody would be worth the exact same in the sight of the census. Young and old, male or female, bound or free, would have the same value in the eyes of God, but also in the eyes of each other.

So, he ordered that everybody in the camp of Israel should give a certain amount of money, not a big amount, in order to have the census. That was done by collecting half a shekel from each soul. Baby or old or male or female, half a shekel. If you’re rich, you couldn’t give more than half a shekel. And if you’re poor, you couldn’t give less than half a shekel. Now, what did they do with these half a shekels of silver? They melted them down and they made the anchors that held the tabernacle pillars in place. Silver is heavy and they melted those half shekels and made the stands in which they inserted the wooden poles that held the tent of the tabernacle in place.
Half Shekel Census

Now this has got great psychological and spiritual implications. And as disciples of Yeshua, disciples of Jesus, we need to learn the principle in this. When you gave your half a shekel and your neighbor who may be richer than you gave the half a shekel, first of all, it creates equality in the community. One person is not worth more than another person. The guy with a PhD is not worth more than a guy that has an elementary school education only. The rich and the poor are equal, each one is worth half a shekel. That has a great psychological and social implication in the community.

Second of all, when you go to worship God in the tabernacle, you feel ownership in the tabernacle because of your half shekel, your identity, your person, is embedded in the silver anchors that held the tabernacle together. You didn’t feel like you’re going to a strange place. You didn’t feel like you’re going to a church building that you have no ownership over it. My half shekel is holding the tabernacle together, together with your half shekel, and together with his or hers, or this old lady’s half shekel. We all have a part in the house of God, an equal part for each one. That is the value of the census.

Not only to know the numbers of the people in each tribe and altogether, but also to have a sense of equality and oneness and ownership in the house of God. I think the principle is very important. It’s very important for churches today, as much as it is for Jewish synagogues. So, we hear about David’s great sin at the end of his life in 2 Samuel 24, where David is tempted. It’s a very interesting story that appears again in 1 Chronicles, the end of 1 Chronicles. David is tempted by God in one of the texts, and by Satan in a parallel text in Chronicles, to count the people. Joab, his chief of staff, his general, and others of his advisors tell him, “Don’t do it.” Don’t do it.

King David Has Unkosher Census

He insists on doing it. And a plague hits Israel in which David is very repentant and apologetic and willing to pay the price. Instead of the people of Israel paying the price, he’s willing to pay the price with his own life, with his own being, because he counted the people, didn’t collect the half a shekel from the people according to the Torah. So this is how this portion starts. And the name of it is, “Take for me a Donation Offering.” But let me read to you again what it says in the text. I’m reading from Exodus 30:12. When you take a census of the children of Israel for their number, then every man shall give ransom for himself to the Lord when you number them, that there may be no plague among them when you number them.

David Doesn’t Collect Half Shekel

That is what everyone among those who are numbered shall give, half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary, the half shekel shall be an offering to the Lord. Verse 14, everyone included among those who are numbered from 20 years old and above shall give an offering to the Lord. The rich shall not give more and the poor shall not give less than a half a shekel when you give an offering to the Lord to make atonement for yourselves. Okay? Here you’ve got it, folks. This half a shekel is for a census to count how many people from 20 years old and up are in Israel. It has many functions, social and military as well, because from 20 years old and on the men had to go to war, they had to be soldiers. And also, each one of the community of Israel had a part in the general sin of the nation of the people.

See, we are a part of a collective, whether you want to or not, whether you like it or not, you’re a part of a whole. And when you sin privately, you need to atone privately for yourself. But when you’re a part of the whole and the whole, let’s say the government, the leadership as a nation sins, you have a part in it. You may not like it. I had nothing to do with that. No you did, because you’re a part of the community, you’re a part of the nation.

You’re a part of the body of Christ, if you wish, in our terminology of today. And therefore, when you give this gift for the tabernacle, the half a shekel, and each one gives the same amount, the text says in verse 15, that this offering to the Lord to make atonement for yourselves… Not yourself. Yourselves, the community. The total is atonement money that the children visitors should appoint for the service of the tabernacle of meeting, the tent of meeting.

It may be a memorial for the children of Israel before the Lord to make atonement for yourselves for the whole, for the community. Now, this is another very interesting thing that we all have to take into account. We are today divided into denominations. There’s Presbyterians, and Baptists, and Pentecostals, and Methodists. There are thousands of different Christian denominations.

There was only one Baptist church before 1856. But after the Civil War in America, they split into two Baptist churches. The First Baptist Church and the Baptist Church. And then today, there are more than 40 different Baptist denominations that split off of the one that was there in the middle of the 19th century. The Israelites had tribes and the tribes had, each one had their own character, their own territory, their own ancestry, their own collective history, and personal history, tribal history.

And God took them out of Egypt as slaves. Slaves, each one is on his own. He has no collective identity because he doesn’t have personal freedom. And therefore, the collective identity of all of Israel is formed by the building of this tabernacle. People had to give gold and silver voluntarily as they purposed in their heart. Now it’s interesting that when we read the New Testament, there is no tithing commanded on the church in the New Testament, but there is donation, contribution commanded. And the clearest text of that is in 1 Corinthians 16, the first verses.

When you get together on the first day of the week, let each one put aside money and put it into the treasury, in the box. “So that when I come,” Paul says, “I don’t have to chase after every one of you.” And what kind of contribution? As you have purposed in your heart. The exact same words used in chapter 25 of Exodus when they’re collecting all the things for the tabernacle, and in this context as well. It has to come as you’ve purposed in the heart. If you give without your heart, just give money without your heart for another purpose, for another reason to show off, to show that you’re powerful, that you’re rich, to show that you’re magnanimous and generous.

If you give that is not from your heart for the Lord, your contribution is not gonna be a blessing. It’s going to be damaging your relationship with the Lord, and eventually also with the community, because people are not stupid, they’re going to discern why you gave. And the amount is not important, the purpose is important. In this purpose, it’s in order to make a census, know what’s the power of the people of Israel. How many soldiers, how many women, how many children. Each one is worth exactly the same amount, half a shekel.

Silver Shekels Become Base for the Tabernacle

And it also becomes, as we read in our text from verse 17, and the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “You shall also make a laver of bronze, with its base also of bronze, for the washing. And that’s not with a half a silver shekel. But also, in the continuation, we read that this silver that was collected will be the bases for the tabernacle. And that census reflects on what we call the book of Numbers. Why is it called the book of Numbers? Because the first four chapters of the book of Numbers is giving the report of this census that we read about commanded by God to Moses in the wilderness.

The book of Numbers is called Numbers because of the report of each tribe, how many people they had, how many the Levites had, how they redeemed the Levites with the money of the census. And all of these things are connected with the book of Numbers. What we read here in the book of Exodus is connected to the book of Numbers. Now, another thing that we read in our portion of the text is the making of the incense. In the tabernacle, in the wilderness, like in all the pagan temples in the world, they had to have incense. Why did they have to have incense? If you go to a Greek Orthodox church, you see the priest with the incense thing, blowing smoke, good smelling smoke on the people.

And I don’t know about Catholic churches though, but I know Protestants don’t do it. But incense was a part of the thing, why? Because these tabernacles, they had alters. They had an altar inside, an incense altar, and they had an alter outside that burned flesh. Animals, sheep, goats, cows, bulls, birds. And of course, you know what a grill smells like, right? And it was in the middle of the camp. And there were lots of altars. And the fire on the alter burned most of the hours of the day.

Incense Covers Smell of Burnt Flesh

And so the tabernacle would not smell so good. So the incense was an important part of the worship. Sweet-smelling incense was an important part of the worship. Now, we don’t have that in the New Testament. Why don’t we have it in the New Testament? Because Yeshua, Jesus and his apostles, they went to the temple to worship when they came to Jerusalem. They were not Levites. They went to the temple and the temple staff took care of it. In the synagogues, they didn’t have burnt offerings, alters that offered sacrifices. They had contributions for the poor, for the community, for the sick, for the rabbi. And they didn’t need incense, and that’s why synagogues don’t have incense.

But the temple in Jerusalem and the tabernacle in the wilderness had incense. And there is a lot of text dedicated to how to make the incense, with what materials, with what herbs, with what frankincense and myrrh, and the other things that were used to mix together for this instance. Now, if I interpret the incense for us today, as Jewish disciples of Yeshua in the land of Israel, and for my brothers in Korea and in Asia, and in other parts of the world that will watch Brad TV either on TV or through YouTube or other means. How do I interpret this portion of Ki Tisa for us today?

Our Good Works Are Incense

Well, I’ll tell you. Our good works. Our blessing others. Our taking care of orphans and widows. Our taking care of the poor that need food. That is the sweet-smelling odor from the earth up to the nostrils of our father in heaven. That exactly is where our incense is. Our incense is our good works that bring glory to God, and serve and comfort and bless our fellow men. May God bless all of us and may God give us opportunity to do good. We don’t have census, governments do that now. We don’t have a tabernacle. We don’t have a temple in Jerusalem.

But we do have a heavenly temple in which Yeshua sits at the right hand of God, and intercedes for us before God the Father and before the angels that are sent as messengers to comfort, to encourage, and to bless the people of God. Yes, we don’t have a temple or tabernacle, and we don’t have incense, and we don’t have half a shekel to count how many we are, but we have to be a partner in God’s body. Not only an observer sitting on the pew, and watching others worship and watching others give, and watching others do. We have to be active, and our incense is the good works that we bless each other with. Not bless God, bless each other. That’s where our incense is, that brings a good smell before the nostrils of our Lord in heaven. God bless all of you. Shalom.

Joseph Shulam: A Hidden Truth About God’s Character [2021]

The Torah Portion this week is Ki Tisa – Exodus 30:10 – 34:35. This is also one of the four special Sabbaths and it is called “Shabbat Para” – Shabbat of the Cow, the Red Heifer. The additional portion of the Torah is read from Numbers 19:1-22. It is the story of the Red Heifer (a red cow) that has a special function in all the issues of ritual purity and the purification from leprosy.

From the prophets the reading is from 1 Kings 18:1-39, Elijah’s ordeal on top of Mount Carmel and also an additional reading from Ezekiel 36:16-38. From the New Testament the reading is from 2 Corinthians 3:1-18. Every one of the readings on this Shabbat is very important and very interesting.

I want to discuss this very special revelation that the Lord Himself reveals to Moses, while Moses is standing on the rock. I believe that this text from Exodus 34:5-7 is a key to understanding God Himself, His character and nature. For me personally understanding the Lord and how He works with humans and especially with Israel is most interesting and the most revealing. Here is the text :

“And he said, ‘Please, show me Your glory.’ Then He said, ‘I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.’ But He said, ‘You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.’ And the Lord said, ‘Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock. So it shall be, while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by. Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen.’ And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Cut two tablets of stone like the first ones, and I will write on these tablets the words that were on the first tablets which you broke. So be ready in the morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself to Me there on the top of the mountain. And no man shall come up with you, and let no man be seen throughout all the mountain; let neither flocks nor herds feed before that mountain.’ So he cut two tablets of stone like the first ones. Then Moses rose early in the morning and went up Mount Sinai, as the Lord had commanded him; and he took in his hand the two tablets of stone. Now the Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.’” – Exodus 33:18 – 34:7 [NKJV]

This text is very important, but for those of us who believe that Yeshua is the Word of God and that the Word of God is God, from the Gospel of John chapter 1, this text is a key for understanding what is going on in John chapter 1:1-17.

Let us note from the text in Exodus 33:18, Moses asks to see God, the Lord tells Moses that no man can see His face and live, but He will make His goodness pass before Moses and the Lord’s name will be revealed to Moses. Moses will stand on the rock and God will reveal to Moses His mercy.

First Moses is to cut two new tablets of stone (the second set) and come up the mountain and stand on the Rock and, “I will put you in the cleft of the rock and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by.” Moses goes up onto the rock and the Lord passes by and Moses sees the back of God and hears this very important proclamation: “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth,”

Now there are a few notes that I want to point out from this text:

First, in God’s self-proclamation there is no judgment or condemnation.

Second, He is merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth…

And third – here comes the problem. In the Hebrew text it says the following: “rahum v’hanun erech apayim v’rav hesed v’emet”, meaning, “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and full of grace and truth.”

In the Christian translations in place of “grace and truth”, it says, “abounding in goodness and truth.” This is the pattern in most Christian translations. The phrase “grace and truth” in the Old Testament appears zero times.

This phrase appears only twice, and both times are in the Gospel of John chapter 1, verses 14 and 17. In most Christian translations of the Old Testament, the phrase “grace and truth” does not appear at all, not even in this source, in Exodus 34:5,6.

The Hebrew text of the Tanach has the following places where the phrase, “Grace and Truth” appears clearly:

Genesis 24:27, 49; 47:29; Exodus 34:6; Joshua 2:14; 2 Samuel 2:6; 15:20; 1 Kings 3:6; Isaiah 16:5; Hosea 4:1; Micah 7:20; Zechariah 7:9; Psalms 25:10; 26:3; 40:11,12; 57:4, 11; 61:8; 69:14; 85:11; 86:15; 89:15; 108:5; 115:1; 117:2; 138:2; and Proverbs 3:3; 14:22; 16:6; 20:28.

Let me just give you a few tangible examples from the above list:

“And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth…’” – Exodus 34:6 [NKJV]

“And now may the Lord show kindness and truth to you. I also will repay you this kindness, because you have done this thing.” – 2 Samuel 2:6 [NKJV]

“Mercy and truth have met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed.” – Psalm 85:10 [NKJV]

“In mercy and truth Atonement is provided for iniquity; And by the fear of the Lord one departs from evil.” – Proverbs 16:6 [NKJV]

You can see that in the New King James Version in Proverbs the translators come close to translate “grace and truth”, but they still use a different word for grace. A synonym – “mercy”.

Why do the Christian translators work so hard to mask the phrase “grace and truth”? The reason is simple. A misunderstanding of John 1:14,17.

If “grace and truth” came from Jesus Christ, how could “grace and truth” exist in the Torah and in the Old Testament? So, the easiest thing to do is mask/hide/camouflage the original Hebrew phrase with synonyms and the untrained eye. And those who don’t know Hebrew and don’t read the Old Testament will never know that grace and truth are from deep within God’s nature and character.

There are other words that are hidden from the Hebrew text and by tendentious translation. The chief of these words is the word “gospel” that in Hebrew is “besorah” (“evangelium” in Greek).

In English the same word is translated in the Old Testament as “good news”, and in the New Testament the same word is translated with a non-English word – “gospel”. The word “gospel” is specially adopted from the Celtic and Germanic languages: “Gotspil”, meaning “God’s story”.

The result is that you don’t find the word “good news” in the New Testament, and you don’t find the word “gospel” in the Old Testament.

John chapter 1 is actually a classic midrash (rabbinical-style teaching or interpretation of biblical text) of Exodus 33:18 – 34:7. It is easy to see the two major common elements in the text: who has seen God, and grace and truth.

One more comment on the Red Heifer (from Numbers 19) – it was sacrificed outside the camp. The text from the book of Hebrews chapter 13, is a reference to Yeshua being like the Red Heifer sacrificed outside the camp (the city), like the Red Heifer, and now there is no longer a place for our purification inside the camp, so we, like Yeshua, have to go outside the camp to find our purification from sin.

“We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come.” – Hebrews 13:10-14 [NKJV]

This idea is that we must follow Yeshua our Lord and if necessary be willing as His disciples to go outside the camp in order to stay with Yeshua and in solidarity, in order to fulfill the need to be purified.

Joseph Shulam: Should We Not Take the Word of God as Seriously as Moses and the Children of Israel Did? [2020]

The Torah reading for this Shabbat is from Exodus. The name of the portion is Ki Tisa, Exodus 30: 11 – 34:35. This Shabbat is one of the four special sabbaths. It is called “Shabbat Parah”, the sabbath of the Red Heifer. For this reason, there is an extra reading from Numbers 19:1-22.

From the prophets the reading is 1st Kings 18:20-39. The reading from the New Testament is from 2 Corinthians 3:1-18.

Reading from the Torah, and from the prophets, and from the New Testament every week takes less than half an hour. Those who do read the weekly Torah portion, and the prophets, and the New Testament are enriched tremendously after a short season of doing this simple thing.

Suddenly they realize that they are understanding more of the Word of God. They are inspired to seek a closer union with the Almighty.

There are many ways that The Lord communicates with His children, but there is only one way that is available to all mankind, at any time, all the time, and in just about every human language – reading, hearing, spending time with His Word.

There is no shortcut to this communication with the Almighty God. There is no replacement for reading the Word of God.

Yes, prayer is important, but essentially it is a one-sided conversation, and at times the answer to our prayers come hours, days, weeks, months, or even years later. Reading the Word of God is an instant gratification, spiritually and intellectually, and, if you wish, an answer to our quest to have fellowship with the Creator through His Spirit that is embedded in every sentence and chapter of God’s Word.

Parashat Ki Tisa starts with the Lord commanding Moses to take a census of the children of Israel. The phrase “Ki Tisa” in Hebrew means “when you take” or “when you carry”. There are several words in Hebrew that can be translated to “take”, and the context is very important.

Here the Spirit chose the word “tisa”, with means to carry a load, or to undertake a necessary burden. The book of Numbers starts in the first chapters with the actual results of this very census that Moses took of the children of Israel.

“…When you take the census of the children of Israel for their number, then every man shall give a ransom for himself to the Lord, when you number them, that there may be no plague among them when you number them.” – Exodus 30:11b,12 [NKJV]

The question is often raised; what is wrong with taking a census? Why is the Lord displeased when a person numbers the people of the city or of the country? We have the very interesting and sad story of King David’s mistake at the end of his life to number the people of Israel and take a census, that brought calamity and death to many people in Israel (2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 27).

The parasha starts with the command of the Lord to take a census of the people of Israel and all those who joined Israel to come out of Egypt and be delivered from slavery and enter the promised land of Canaan. Immediately after this part of the reading comes the sad events of the building of the Golden Calf by Aaron, the brother of Moses. Immediately after the Golden Calf tragedy comes Moses’ argument with God about God’s leading the children of Israel in the journey to Canaan, and the great revelation of the Lord to Moses.

These chapters, dear brothers and sisters, shape the rest of the whole history of salvation, all the way deep into the New Testament. Apostolic writings like chapter 10 of 1 Corinthians, Hebrews chapter 9-10, 13, and Romans chapter 9-11, are just a few of the parts of the New Testament that are directly impacted by this portion of the Torah that is being read in every synagogue this Shabbat.

Here are some hints that will help you follow this line of thought:

  1. In this census no one was exempt, young and old had to give the half-shekel of silver to be counted in the census. This means that every soul that was in the camp of Israel during the giving of the Torah in Mount Sinai had an investment in the Tabernacle of the Lord.
  2. Every soul in the camp of Israel was equal, because everyone gave the very same half-shekel. The rich didn’t give more, and the poor didn’t give less. That equality plays a major role in the mind of the people and in their outlook on the events that will follow.
  3. The census established the number of the children of Israel and their equality before God, but also the equality in the responsibility for what events will follow. No matter what each gave to Aaron to build the Golden Calf, the responsibility is equal because they all gave the same half-shekel. And only the half-shekels were counted, not each individual in his place and status in the community. Therefore, the responsibility of each was equally shared. This is why the Lord, or Moses, didn’t kill Aaron, who actually made the Golden Calf and called the people to worship it.

This equality in rights and responsibilities is not absolute, it is relative. Just like our worship, our giving, and our abilities are relative. The Lord understands that relativity and sponsors it in the sacrificial system and in the atonement system.

As an example, see this text:

“And it shall be, when he is guilty in any of these matters, that he shall confess that he has sinned in that thing; and he shall bring his trespass offering to the Lord for his sin which he has committed, a female from the flock, a lamb or a kid of the goats as a sin offering. So the priest shall make atonement for him concerning his sin. If he is not able to bring a lamb, then he shall bring to the Lord, for his trespass which he has committed, two turtledoves or two young pigeons: one as a sin offering and the other as a burnt offering.” – Leviticus 5:5-7 [NKJV]

This is just one example of the Lord’s relationship to humanity. He grades us on the abilities and position that He has given us. Yeshua summarized this principle with these words:

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

After the issue of the census that the Lord commanded Moses, the parasha enters the preparation of the anointing oil. It is not so simple to prepare this oil with which the furniture of the Tabernacle would be anointed.

The Lord gives Moses and Aaron a very specific recipe of all the ingredients and measures of each ingredient that is necessary in the preparation of the anointing oil. This very specific recipe for the anointing oil intrigues me.

The children of Israel are in the Sinai desert. The Sinai desert is a real desert. Where are the Israelites going to get this list of spices to make this oil? Here is a shortlist of what they needed, and the amount of each: 500 shekels of liquid myrrh, half as much sweet-smelling cinnamon, 250 shekels of sweet-smelling cane, 500 shekels of cassia, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, and a hin of olive oil.

What do I learn from this detailed list and instruction in the preparation of this anointing oil? I learn that the Lord knows exactly what He wants in His place of worship and in the worship.

This is something that needs to be considered when we ourselves worship the Lord. I am sure that it was not easy to gather such ingredients, like cinnamon, olive oil (there are not many olive trees growing in the Sinai desert), and liquid myrrh.

When I read this in the Torah, I wonder of where in the Word of God, and in what period, did the Lord, who took the children of Israel out of Egyptian slavery, open up the worship in His Tabernacle for people to do what they please, as they please, and when they please. Don’t think that the New Testament does not have specific instructions of how to worship the Lord and with what to worship Him.

Look at the following text:

“How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God. Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged.” – 1 Corinthians 14:26-31 [NKJV]

I have traveled the world over more than once, and have visited and spoken in many churches and congregations. The truth is that I have not seen one that is practicing the apostolic instructions given here in 1 Corinthians 14.

If the Lord is the same Lord that gave Moses and the children of Israel such specific instruction in the desert of what to do and how to do it, should we not take the apostolic instruction in the Word of God just as seriously as the children of Israel did?

I am not condemning anyone of my brothers and sisters for what they are doing. However, I am asking the question, and the question is simple. Is it necessary for us to take the Word of God just as seriously as Moses and the Israelites?

Right after these instructions, that were given in such great detail, and the right people were appointed to do the work of building the Tabernacle, and were filled with the Spirit of God, Moses goes up to the top of the mountain. As a typical Israeli, he stays there 40 days and nights.

The Israelites too are typical, and don’t have much patience. They go to Aaron and ask him:

“Come, make us gods that shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” – Exodus 32:1b [NKJV]

Notice, dear brothers and sisters, please pay attention to the exact words that the leaders of the tribes of Israel ask Aaron the brother of Moses, the high priest, to do! “Make us gods that shall go before us.”

The demand of the leadership of Israel from Aaron is not that he will make them “a god”, but in the plural, “gods”, that will lead them through the wilderness. When people depart from the Word of God, and start having motives and desires that are contrary to God’s Word and clear instructions, there are no more limits. Idolatry does not just creep in. Idolatry comes in like a herd of wild buffalo rushing through the plains of the Midwest, and everything that is in their way gets crushed under their feet.

The commitment to the restoration of the New Testament church is not a commitment to ask for gods that will empower us to do what we want, how we want it done, and when we want it done. The commitment to the restoration of the church is a commitment to do what the early church in the First Century did, and replicate their faith and dedication in order to replicate their success and growth.

It was not easy, and it was very costly to stand with the God of Israel and with Yeshua the Messiah, the King of the Jews! The restoration of the First Century church is also the restoration of the same power and the same gifts and the same message.

In the words of the apostle Paul:

“And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” – 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 [NKJV]

As men of God, all of us who serve God and Yeshua, and teach the Word of God, need to constantly remind ourselves with these words of Paul – what our calling is and what our task in life ought to be. I am sure that if we do this it will keep us humble!

Joseph Shulam: God’s Statement of Our Equality [2019]

This week’s reading of the Torah is from Exodus 31:11 – 34:35. The reading has many important issues that are relevant to what we need today. One thing that is really interesting to me is the need of absolute equality.

“The Lord said to Moses, ‘When you take the census of the people of Israel, then each shall give a ransom for his life to the Lord when you number them, that there be no plague among them when you number them. Each one who is numbered in the census shall give this: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel is twenty gerahs) half a shekel as an offering to the Lord. Everyone who is numbered in the census, from twenty years old and upward, shall give the Lord’s offering. The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less, than the half shekel, when you give the Lord’s offering to make atonement for your lives.’” – Exodus 30:11-15 [ESV]

Note from this text that everyone in Israel is to pay only half a shekel. The rich pay half a shekel and the poor pay half a shekel. This money, the half a shekel, is called “ransom,” and “atonement for your lives.”

Everyone in Israel from every tribe is to pay the same half a shekel. I learn from this that, in the ultimate divine viewpoint of all of us, we are equal and our “ransom” and “atonement” is the same. Not that the half a shekel is the atoning power, but the half a shekel is actually a symbol of the one who takes the place for each person in Israel.

This is how the census is supposed to be carried. When King David was tempted and commanded to carry a census of Israel toward the last of his days, David didn’t pay attention to the Torah laws, and commanded Joab his general to go and count the people of Israel. A horrible plague came upon Israel, and 70,000 people died because of the census that David carried without the use of the half a shekel – just plain counting of the people of Israel.

One of the main lessons that I have learned from this text in Exodus 30 is that for God we are all equal – we are all half a shekel’s worth. The price of our “ransom” and our “atonement” is all the same for each one of us, the rich and the poor, the educated and the non-educated. The price of everyone is the same.

This is also true with what God did with Yeshua His son. The same blood, the same suffering, the same death, and the same resurrection, and when He returns, the Messiah will be equally the Messiah and the savior of all, Jews and non-Jews alike. All will enjoy their eternal life for the same price: the life, death, and resurrection of the Messiah – Yeshua.

The second thing that I would like to mention from this Torah reading is from Exodus 31:12-17,

“And the Lord said to Moses, ‘You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, “Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you. You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you. Everyone who profanes it shall be put to death. Whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death. Therefore, the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever. It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.”’” – Exodus 31:12-17 [ESV]

In this reading of the commandments connected to the seventh day, the Sabbath is placed in a very special place. The Sabbath, in this case, becomes a sign between the Lord and the people of Israel. This is no longer a commandment that is given for the human body to rest from labor from working for a living, but to rest, and as Isaiah the prophet said:

“If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” – Isaiah 58:13,14 [ESV]

Now, in our text the Sabbath takes the role of a wedding ring. It is a sign that God and Israel have a relationship.

The Sabbath is first a covenantal sign between Israel and the Lord, and second comes the “solemn rest” and “holy to the Lord.” Only in the third place comes the issue of working on the Sabbath, and the fourth important thing here is the confirmation and declaration that the Lord created the world in six days, and rested on the seventh.

These four aspects of the Sabbath are a package deal, but today the emphasis in Israel is the covenantal sign and confirmation of the relationship between the Lord and Israel, and the rest on the Sabbath day is only the inheritance of the ultra-orthodox Jews.

The Jewish genius finds ways to adjust and circumvent the strict Torah ways, and liberalize and enable people to live as much as possible in the modern world. Everyone uses electricity – although the ultra-orthodox Jews don’t turn on the light or use phones and computers – most of the Jews in the world understand that the Sabbath is a type, a symbol, a sign, a confirmation of the relationship between God the Creator and the nation He has chosen to preserve and bring salvation to the whole world.

The salvation for the world is through a faithful son of Israel who is also the faithful Son of God, Yeshua. When Yeshua declares that “the Son of Man” is the Lord of the Sabbath, He declares that He is the master of the Sabbath – the One who ratifies the covenantal aspect of the Sabbath, the One who gives the rest to those who are in covenantal relationship with Him, through their participation in His death, burial and resurrection.

The three bases of the Sabbath were all included in this text from this Torah reading:

  1. The Sabbath is a symbol of a covenantal relationship between the Creator and the nation of Israel.
  2. It is a day of non-work – rest. According to Isaiah, it is a day of concentration on God’s desire, and not like the six days of work, of concentration on our private desires and personal interests.
  3. A monument and remembrance to the Creation of the world and for the Creator of the world.

These make the very basis of the Sabbath day. The question that today we need to ask is the following: Do Christians today need these three elements that the Sabbath provides?

  1. Do Christians today need to know, and to have a symbol of the fact, that they are related and connected, and assured that they have a covenantal relationship with the Lord and Creator of the World?
  2. Do Christians need rest from the burdens of work and the provision for the sustenance of life – physical work? Men are not beasts of burden, and God provided the seventh day of creation for rest. God Himself was an example. God rested on the seventh day after the six days of creation. For this reason, He sanctified the seventh day and made it holy. This was a long long time before Abraham and before there were Hebrews, or Jews, or Israel.
  3. God wanted the Sabbath day, the seventh day, to be a monument for humanity, to remember that this earth that we live in is the planned and engineered work of the Master Creator of all life. Not an accident of an atomic explosion in the vast space. This world was created by God and by an intelligence, not by accident.

Joseph Shulam: God’s Mercy Shown at the Darkest of Times [2018]

The reading this Shabbat is from Exodus 31:11-34:35 – Parashat Ki Tisa. This is one of the saddest, and at the same time happiest, texts of the Torah.

It is saddest, because at one of the most dramatic and great moments of the history of Israel in relationship to God, the highest spiritual authority of Israel, Aaron the brother of Moses, and the rest of the Priesthood of Israel, created the Golden Calf. This terrible deed did not happen in some remote dark basement. The Golden Calf was created at the foot of Mount Sinai, by the very brother of Moses, and the High Priest of the Lord, in concert with his family and the tribe of Levi, standing with the elders of the nation beside him and cooperating.

The Golden Calf was not some strange idol that was invented by Aaron. The Golden Calf was a representation of Hathor – an ancient Egyptian goddess who personified the principles of joy, feminine love, and motherhood.

Hathor was the chief goddess of Egypt for many centuries. She had a female body and a head of a beautiful women with ears of a calf. The Golden Calf was her representation. So, in a way, Aaron was taking the people of Israel back to Egypt spiritually.

It was back to their well-known spiritual turf and comfort zone. Moses was up there at the top of Mt. Sinai talking to God and receiving the Torah, not eating and not drinking, and they were down eating and drinking carousing and worshiping an idol.

This whole event takes place just a very short time after crossing the Red Sea on dry ground, after leaving Egypt with the wealth of the Egyptians, after experiencing the power of God in the Ten Plagues’ effect on the land and the people of Egypt.

The mercy of God is shown in this text of Exodus as much as any other text or event in the Bible. For those Christians who think that the God of Israel and the Torah has only judgment, and not mercy and grace like in the New Testament – I beg them to read the Torah again.

In this parasha, God decides to abandon Israel and allow Moses to carry on with these people on his own. Moses convinced God to stay and keep leading and caring and blessing the people of Israel with His presence. Even more than that, Moses wants to see God’s glory, and God, at least partially, reveals to Moses the very essence of His character:

“Now the Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there and proclaimed the name of the Lord. And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin…’” – Exodus 34:5-7a [NKJV]

Don’t let any Christian demagogue ever tell you that the Old Testament or the Torah is a book of judgment, and the New Testament is a book of love and grace. There is no greater demonstration of God’s love than Yeshua the Messiah. Yeshua is the purpose of the Torah (the end, the goal) and His sacrifice on the cross is based on the promises of God to the people of Israel in the Torah and in the prophets.

Joseph Shulam: The Golden Calf and the Mindset of Churches Today [2017]

The Torah Portion (Parashah) this week is Ki Tisa from Exodus 30:11 – 34:35, it tells the story of the rebellion of the children of Israel at the very foot of Mount Sinai.

Moses was up on the top of Mount Sinai talking to God and receiving the Torah. The children of Israel were down at the foot of the mountain – prepared to receive the Torah – cleansed and impatient. And they ask Aaron to give them a god that will walk before them and lead them to the promised land and out of the desert.

Aaron buckles under the public opinion of the majority and makes some impossible demands. He asks the men to ask the women to take off their jewelry from their ears and neck and give their jewelry to make the Golden Calf.

The Golden Calf is the mascot of the Egyptian goddess “Hathor”. Hathor was the most famous goddesses of Ancient Egypt. She was called “the Great One of Many Names” because she was the goddess of life and death, and prosperity. She was depicted as a female figure with a head of a cow, and sometimes only the ears of a cow. Her symbol in the temples was a golden cow, a calf.

How did Aaron the brother of Moses (not yet the high priest) respond to the demand of the people and why? Aaron also did not know what happened to Moses his younger brother, and why Moses did not come down the mountain for so long. He did not know if Moses had enough food, or water, up there in the barren desert heat.

I am sure that Aaron was insecure and the people were demanding, and he at that moment probably figured that if Moses is gone he, himself, will take the leadership of this mob of impatient ex-slaves. He must provide for them a god that will lead them through the wilderness.

Aaron, like any good politician, knows that rule number one for a political leader is to please the people and give them what they want. After that, the politician can do with the people whatever he wants.

So, Aaron falls on what the people are familiar with. They are familiar with the gods of Egypt that they have been worshipping for a couple of hundred years in Egypt.

“Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord!” – Joshua 24:14 [NKJV]

From these words of Joshua, in the very last part of his life and leadership of Israel during the conquest of the Land of Canaan, we still hear that the Israelites, even after entering the Land of Promise, continued to worship the gods of the Egyptians that they were familiar with before the Exodus. Bad habits die hard!

It is interesting that this Shabbat is called “Shabbat Parah” – “Shabbat of the Cow.” The reason for this is because the extra reading of this Shabbat is from Numbers 19:1-22. This is the story of what is commonly called “The Red Heifer.”

The Red Heifer is one of these very mysterious ceremonies in the Torah. There must be a cow (heifer) that is red in color – all red. This cow is taken outside the camp to a special place prepared for it. The cow is offered as a sacrifice fully burned.

The ashes of this red cow are used for purification of things like leprosy, impurity from touching the dead, and for the ordeal of a husband that suspects his wife of infidelity. All the ceremonies are very different (weird) but very necessary for a community like Israel in the days of the Tabernacle, and after that, during the time of the Temple in Jerusalem.

It is very interesting that the writer of the book of Hebrews likens the Red Heifer to Yeshua and Yeshua to the Red Heifer. See:

“We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned outside the camp. Therefore, Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come. Therefore, by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” – Hebrews 13:10-16 [NKJV]

This text is talking about the Red Heifer, because this is the only sacrifice that is offered outside the camp and not in the Tabernacle or the Temple in Jerusalem. (Dr. Wendel Jones, who is the real character behind the “Indiana Jones” stories and was a Baptist Missionary in Jerusalem in the early 1970’s, actually found the place of the Red Heifer near Qumran on the shore of the Dead Sea. He was an amateur archaeologist, and the real archaeologists really did not like him because he was a bit wild like in the stories of Indiana Jones.)

As you can see, the writer of the book of Hebrews, who probably was an ex-member of the Qumran community, connects the Red Heifer and Yeshua, and invites the disciples of Yeshua to be willing to come outside the camp, because only outside the camp there is purification and salvation.

I suppose that this message is very important for the church today and the synagogue in the same way. The establishment, and especially the religious establishments today, are all trying their best to be politically correct, and please the people to build bigger and richer churches, and line their pockets with the ashes of the gold of the Golden Calf.

The Hebrews writer is inviting you and me:

“Therefore, let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come.”

I suppose that we all ought to pray for our churches and synagogues to be willing to step out of the politically-correct world that waters down every biblical truth to please the crowds.

Yehuda Bachana: We are Called to Plead With God [2018]


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

This week’s Torah portion, like the previous ones, deals with the construction of the Tabernacle as well as the appointment of Bezalel, the chief craftsman, who crafted the holy vessels. We begin this parasha with instructions for the census of the population, which was actually a call for order on a national scale.

This portion talks about the oil of anointing. God dictated to us the formula for this special oil – which is essentially olive oil mixed with perfumes. With the help of this oil, they anoint the holy vessels, the altar, and Aaron and the priests. Like the oil we were also given the formula for the incense used in the Holy of Holies. Despite all of the intricate instructions we receive in this portion, the most central story, and the most difficult and painful one, is the Israelites’ creation of the Golden Calf.

The Sin of the Golden Calf – What Really Happened?

parashat-ki-tisa
The sin of the Golden Calf created an opportunity for Moses to intercede on behalf of Israel.

I think that the Golden Calf has become an international symbol of sin and rebellion towards God, almost at the same level as the partaking in the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden.

What actually occurred during the time of this unfortunate event? Moses went up to Mount Sinai for 40 days; think about it for a moment, that’s a whole month and a half. There was no voice nor response from him during this period. The people of Israel were asking – what’s going on, what happened to Moses?

It’s easy for us to judge the Israelites – what were they thinking? I do not justify the sin here, but 40 days went by, the leader went to meet God and, as it is written: “Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain.” Moses was gone, he hasn’t returned, what do we do now? Do we move on? Do we wait longer? How much longer should we wait? One more week? Another month? A whole year? These questions must’ve consumed the minds of the Israelites.

The children of Israel sinned by building the Golden Calf. This act interrupts the encounter between Moses and God, so God sent Moses down from the mountain. As I said, I am not trying to justify the sin of the people, but I’d like to ask you to understand that this is not as simple as it sounds. In the wake of this sin, God sought to destroy the people – to destroy Israel and to start anew through Moses.

We are Called to Plead With God

In Genesis, Abraham stood before God and made a rational plea before the Almighty:

“Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked?” – Genesis 18:23 [NIV]

Abraham succeeded in having a dialogue with God, which ended with a search for ten righteous people in Sodom, which were not found.

Moses stood before God, similar to Abraham, and pleaded with Him, bringing up arguments that were seemingly reasonable. Moses claimed that God had brought Israel out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with honor, in order so that the whole world would see that there is only one God – the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But if God were to destroy Israel in the desert, what would the nations think? That He took the Israelites out of slavery only to destroy them in the desert? Moses continued to plead with God to forgive the people, if not for the sake of the people, then for the sake of our fathers, the promises given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Moses succeeded:

“Then the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.” – Exodus 32:14 [NIV]

Yeshua Tells Us to Never Give Up

This is an amazing passage from the Torah, which calls us humans to dialogue with God. The Torah teaches us that we have the power to change the world and that we possess the means in which to talk with God. Even more so, from now on we have the responsibility to talk with God. Our job is to lift up those around us, our community, friends, and of course, our children. We have the privilege to speak with God and the power to effect change.

There are other examples in Scripture about fasting, prayer, and pleading that led to reconciliation with God.

For instance, we read about the people of Nineveh proclaiming a fast for every man and beast, as a way of showing complete repentance. In the end, the city of Nineveh was saved and not destroyed, according to God’s original plan (Jonah 3:5).

This can also be seen with the instruction of Yeshua. In the parable of the widow and the judge (Luke 18), Yeshua teaches us, that due to the widow’s incessant pleas, the judge gave her justice, even though the judge himself was not interested in doing so. Actually, he didn’t even want to help her and administer justice; he was just sick of the old widow’s constant nagging. Using this parable, Yeshua teaches us that we must persist in prayer, and in the end, we will receive our answer. To persist in prayer means to continue praying, pleading, and not letting go until the long-awaited reply is evident.

The parable begins with the following:

“Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” – Luke 18:1 [NIV]

When we gather together and pray in one heart for a good cause, be it 30 people or three people, in the name of Yeshua the Messiah, we obtain the capability to bring about change.

The Call to Watch on the Walls of Jerusalem

We have the power to influence our environment, family, the way our friends see Israel and even more importantly, the way they view our faith. Especially in the age of social media, our impact, message, and thoughts are able to reach hundreds of people.

God uses people to carry out His will, we are tools in the hands of God. We can be used for honor and serve to build the kingdom of heaven, or we can serve as tools of destruction and be like a curse. This idea is true for every aspect of our lives and the lives of those around us.

God is sovereign and His will shall be done, for better or for worse. However, throughout history, including biblical history, God used people to carry out His divine plan.

With this thought, I want to turn to Isaiah chapter 62. The entire chapter is of much importance:

“For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet, till her vindication shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch.” – Isaiah 62:1 [NIV]

Simply put, this means that I will not stop praying for Jerusalem’s sake, I will not stop talking about it. I will not stop sharing on Facebook, regardless of it being politically correct or not, even when it is not necessarily pleasant for me. I will raise up Jerusalem and will not rest until it’s light and it’s salvation is seen by all. That’s my job as a believer and my God-given responsibility.

“I have posted watchmen on your walls, Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night. You who call on the Lord, give yourselves no rest, and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth.” – Isaiah 62: 6,7 [NIV]

jerusalem

Verses 6 and 7 discuss those who are faithful to God and pray to Him, those who are watching on the walls of Jerusalem. These individuals must not remain silent, neither day nor night – do not be silent, pray always. You are the watchmen, if not you, then who will do so? You have the power and responsibility to do two crucial tasks: first, you have the ability to pray to God and to not give Him rest, to always remind Him of His promises and the prophecies about the restoration of Jerusalem. Second, you have the means to break the cycle of lies that are being spread about Israel and to spread the righteousness of our path in the world as well as the vindication of our faith, and we must do so, actively.

Verse 7 actually asks us not to let God rest — to nag in a way and to always be in prayer until He answers. This verse reminds us of the parable of Yeshua about the need to persevere in prayer, to endure in being watchmen.

In conclusion

God cares about our opinion; our prayers are important. Yeshua taught us that when we meet as a group, even when just two or three are gathered in His name, He will be among us (Matthew 18:20).

God says He placed watchmen on the walls of Jerusalem, who exactly are these watchmen? They are you and I. We are on duty and we must be on guard on several fronts: first, to intercede in prayer and remind God of his promises.

Second, to guard against the attacks of the world on Israel and Jerusalem and to spread the truth in a sea of lies. We must be a ray of light, similar to a lighthouse, that strives to spread the love of Yeshua the Messiah.

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