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: the Aaronic blessing as a family tradition [Nasso 2024]

Parashat Nasso describes the Aaronic blessing which was an ancient priestly blessing for the People of Israel, from the very beginning of their desert journey. This blessing also played a central role at the Temple service at the center of Jerusalem. During shabbat, there’s an ancient tradition for parents to lay their hands on their child’s head. Some bring their child’s face closely to their heart, while uttering these timeless words of the oldest known Biblical text that has been found:

“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26)

Immediately after, God explains how this blessing works:

“So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.” (verse 27)

It’s as if God tells us: use these words to bless, as a vessel for my blessing, and then:

“I will bless them”.

How does it work? Does this blessing work as a spiritual shield? Perhaps. What I do know is that, every shabbat, we gather around our beautiful Shabbat table for our special family feast, and then I lay my hands on our children’s heads, bringing them closely to my heart. Usually, they react by putting their little hands on mine. I close my eyes, and intentionally declare these few, specific words. Then follows a pure intergenerational moment of connection, that sheds light on what matters most.

As a small child, my dad would take me to our local synagogue on Shabbat. The Aaronic blessing was one of the most powerful and impressive memories of my childhood. Those of priestly descent would take off their shoes, cover themselves completely with their tallit (or: prayer shawl), and step forward in a manner of awe. There was a very special atmosphere, as they faced the Holy Ark and blessed us with the Aaronic blessing. I understand the excitement and ambiance during the collective Aaronic blessings at the Western Wall, that take place twice a year (during Sukkot and Pesach):

“Then the priests and the Levites arose and blessed the people, and their voice was heard, and their prayer came to his holy habitation in heaven.” (2 Chronicles 30:27)

The priestly blessing is the most ancient Biblical ceremony known to us today. In the ‘80s, during an archeological dig at the Valley of Hinnom in Jerusalem, two silver amulets from the First Temple period were found, with the Aaronic blessing engraved on them. The story is a little funny, because the dig included an archeology club of 12- and 13-year-olds. One boy kept bothering and tugging at the guide’s shirt… and so the guide sent the boy to amuse himself at one of the corners of the archeological site. There, the child hit some rocks with his hammer, after which he dug up a nearly complete pottery vessel. It took researchers some 3 years to unroll this thin silver scroll, and to decipher the very delicate inscription by means of new photographic and computer imaging techniques.

“The Lord bless you and keep you”

‘Bless you’ refers to riches and possessions. The idea being, that ‘without flour, there’s no Torah’. While ‘keep you’ refers to being kept from any bad or destructive influence, as well as from people or enemies who mean us harm. The idea is that, we can’t serve God full-heartedly on an empty and growling stomach. Instead, if we are nourished, we can focus on serving God and studying His Word intentionally. It’s about a practical step that enables us to focus spiritually. In contrast to asceticism that encourages severe self-discipline and avoidance of all forms of indulgence to reach spiritual ascension; this verse explains that a full stomach enables us to focus on God with our heart and mind.

“the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you”

Many scholars say this is a spiritual blessing

“to understand the words of the Torah and Prophets; He will train us to see His reign over the world throughout history, as well as our tasks in life through them. ”

Meaning, this a blessing or request for God to fill us with a spirit of wisdom, so we can better understand the Scriptures, the prophets, and the promised Messiah – Yeshua the Messiah! The Son of the living God!

If we live according to the spirit of the Word of God, our Heavenly Father will bless and protect us. This blessing doesn’t distance us from those around us; actually, others will see the bright light that our faith life shines, and will want to be part of it, too. At the end, that’s exactly what Yeshua the Messiah requires of us.

“The Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.”

That peace is the highest level of the Aaronic blessing. Yeshua the Messiah teaches us:

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Mathew 5:9)

An additional tradition that we use at the beginning of our Shabbat service, as well as at the end of our daily family dinners, is the Lord’s prayer:

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. {For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen}” (Mathew 6:9-13)

We lift up our family and congregational members in prayer, and bring them before His throne. We bring them to the feet of Yeshua the Messiah, and pray that our promised Messiah, will lift them up:

“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah.” (1 Colossians 5:23)

Yehuda Bachana: God-centered cooperation for balanced living – Nasso [2023]

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

Parashat Nasso is the longest Torah portion. Its length comes from the list of gifts and sacrifices offered by the tribal leaders, which is repeated twelve times.

In addition to the leader’s offerings, our Torah portion tells us about the Levite census. We learn about the different tasks and responsibilities given to Levites in the Tabernacle, including its assembly and transportation. The Torah also deals with the sanctity of the camp, commanding every leper or unclean person to stay outside the camp. Our portion continues with the test of the ‘bitter water’, given to women suspected of infidelity by their husbands. Furthermore, instructions concerning both the Nazirite vows and the Aaronic blessing are presented.

The Word of God speaks much about family, because it is the first unit created by God. The family unit is a vital foundation for every society and every nation. The world we live in is full of anger, pain, jealousy and victimhood. How can we deal with these difficulties?

Much like the Torah, the New Testament also addresses family and the complicated relationships it creates. The New Testament provides us with all kinds of solutions, and actually instructs a unique way of life, built on mutual respect, partnership and trust in God. Our trust in God is the foundation of our confidence as believers.

He is the source of everything, and we are required to thank Him in all circumstances. Our prayer for every situation in life is that ‘Your will be done’. When we utter this prayer with intention, we accept the will of God in our lives, rather than our own desires. We understand that we do not always know what is best for us, and that we often get lost at the crossroads of life: shall I change my job or career? Shall I buy the house here or there? We put these questions before the Lord, saying ‘may Your will be done’.

It is important to clarify, that I am not talking about some psychological exercise. Rather, we aim for true obedience to God, making Him the center of our lives and putting Him first. When a person removes himself from the center, he will start to feel less angry, hurt and vengeful and he is no longer a victim. Instead, the desire to help, build and compromise alongside the willingness to let go, arises. If the person across from you is willing to come your way, to build and compromise –success is certain!

James asks a rhetorical question:

“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” (James 4:1)

James also gives us an answer: all of it comes from selfishness: I want it, I want to be in the center and everything is about me. At the end, such attitude will damage us, because we cannot satisfy all our desires and inclinations without hurting others. Sometimes this viscous cycle can even backfire at us, being unable to stop, which could lead to the addiction to drugs, alcohol and gambling or victimhood. Eventually causing us to distance ourselves from those around us.

The Messianic attitude - that of a believer - is that God is in the center, and everything is about Him. This changes our question to: how can we collaborate with others in order to serve Him? How can we cooperate and fulfill our own calling? Such an approach is very different from a self-centered attitude, because you are also important, and we want to find a way to mutual respect.

In real life, the ideal is not always possible. As people, we tend to get jealous, angry and suspicious. Parashat Naso portrays a suspicious husband and the test of the bitter water. We see a family with damaged personal relationships, where trust is lost. It begins with the description of the wife’s transgression.

“If a man’s wife goes astray and is unfaithful to him…” (Numbers 5:12)

However, soon we discover that there is no certainty of her guilt. Possibly, the husband got severely jealous. He distrusts and imagines things. The sages of Israel mostly see this section of the Torah in light of restoring family peace, mutual trust, and with it, the restoration of the family relationships.

“‘The priest is to write these curses on a scroll and then wash them off into the bitter water.” (Numbers 5:23)

Our Sages see this verse as proof of the sanctity of the family. The preparation of the bitter water includes washing off the text, which - in addition to the ceremony rules - also included God’s holy name. Nevertheless, for the sake of family peace and the restoration of trust, the name of God written on the parchment dissolves or washes off in the water. Our Rabbis see this as proof of the importance and the sanctity of the family. Yeshua grants the same level of holiness concerning the family unit:

“But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female. ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate… Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.” (Mark 10:6-9,11-12)

Returning to the story of the unfaithful wife, the Mishnah states that husband also has to undergo the test of the bitter water in order to restore peace and trust in the family:

“In the same manner as waters are testing her, they are also testing him, who said: come, come.” (Mishnah, tractate Sotah: 5)

And if the accusations are baseless,

“She will be cleared of guilt and will be able to have children.” (Numbers 5:28)

The Midrash says that if the woman were barren before, now she would not be barren anymore. Also, if she would give birth in pain and suffering, from now on she would not suffer any more. This specific couple went through a marriage crisis, and the goal is not to continue to get hurt and fight about the lack of trust or the false accusations. This interpretation encourages us to move forward to a better place. It gives the couple a gesture of goodwill, saying: ‘Yes, you went through a humiliating, embarrassing and hurtful experience; but, if you choose so, you have an opportunity to live a happy and fruitful life, filled with God’s blessings!’

After the bitter water, Parashat Nasso continues with the Nazirite vows. As with every topic, the opinions are divided. Some praise the Nazirites, while others express concern towards this idea. After the days of the vow, the Nazirite is commanded to offer a sin sacrifice, as if he sinned. Some commentators say this is because the Nazirite abstained from receiving God’s blessing of His pleasures to the people. Preventing this blessing requires a sacrifice.

The discussion about the Nazirite leads us to the question whether Nazirite asceticism can be seen as an ideal way. Should we strife to take such vows upon ourselves? I personally believe in the middle way and a balanced attitude.

The Nazirite did not choose the middle way, but rather an extreme one. Therefore, if the Nazirite vow takes too long, it is bound to bring more damage than benefit. It is easy to lose our balance quite quickly; then, instead of rising above, we would crash quickly to the mud of lust and desires.

A Nazirite can give up his money and property and donate his belongings to charity, but what about his family? He ought to oppose violence, such as serving in a combat unit and holding a weapon, but who will defend the country? He can forgive those who hurt him, but without pressing criminal charges, no one will stop the perpetrator, who would continue to hurt the innocent.

A Nazirite can spend all his time in prayer and Bible study; but, who will produce goods and cause the economy to grow?

As we see, it is impossible to build a functioning society, when most of its members are Nazirites. However, we can refuse certain things, people or foods that are standing in the way of achieving our goal.

Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians:

“Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” (9:25)

Professional athletes take care of their body and abstains from foods and habits that are bad for their performance, because they want to be the best and win. Apostle Paul tells us, that if a sportsman protects his body and prepares his body and soul for a competition and victory, to win temporary honor or a medal; then, how much more must we watch our bodies and souls and stay away from sin, in order to win eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven?

Here Paul encourages us to refuse sin, bad habits and influences that will hurt our surroundings and us. If we know we are inclined to a certain addiction, we need to refrain from the environment or friends that will pull us to that direction. Paul urges us to stay away from temptation.

The topic of the Nazirite vow has many points of view, for example addressing it as a time-off. One could take some time of prayer and holy contemplation upon himself. The Nazirite laws are mentioned in this week’s portion:

“‘During the entire period of their Nazirite vow, no razor may be used on their head. They must be holy until the period of their dedication to the Lord is over; they must let their hair grow long.” (Numbers 6:5)

The ‘time of their vow’, ‘until the period (…) is over’, addresses a certain time limit. Paul connects this vow to married couples:

“Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” (1 Corinthians 7:5)

Paul says that it is fine to take a certain period of time, dedicated to God to fast, pray and reflect. However, he does emphasize that it should be done in agreement. Far be it from us to take on such a vow one-sidedly. Such a decision could actually harm the family. The vows cannot come at cost of our loved ones. Even when decided together, as a family, a time limit is necessary.

After the rules for the Nazirites comes the priestly blessing. As a child, I used to visit the local synagogue with my father on Shabbat. The priestly blessing was one my strongest memories and impressive experiences.

The Cohenim (priests) would take off their shoes, completely wrap themselves in their prayer shawl, and then walk forward in holiness and awe. The powerful feeling must have been very tangible. In front of the Ark of the Covenant, the priests would recite the Aaronic blessing aloud. I can truly understand and feel the excitement and the special atmosphere during the priestly blessing at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, which happens twice a year until today, namely during the Feast of Tabernacles, and the middle of Passover.

“The priests and the Levites stood to bless the people, and God heard them, for their prayer reached heaven, his holy dwelling place.” (2 Chronicles 30:27)

At the beginning of the Shabbat dinner we bless our children with the priestly blessing which is one of our oldest blessings. In the 1980’s, two silver amulets dating from the first Temple period were found during the excavations above the Hinnom Valley in Jerusalem. They dated from before the Babylonian exile and before the days of Jeremiah the prophet. The amulets were inscribed with the priestly blessing. This makes the Aaronic blessing the oldest Biblical text found until now.

“The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you”.

Many commentators see this as a spiritual blessing, meaning

“To be able to understand His words in the Torah and the Prophets, he will give us ability to learn from them about his lead in history and our task in life.”

If we live by the spirit of God, His blessing and His protection will be upon us. Yet, at the same time it will not estrange us from others. On the contrary, those around us will see His light shining through our lives, improving our surroundings, and wanting to be part of it. This is exactly what Yeshua asks us to do.

Meaning, this blessing or request is that God will fill us with His spirit of wisdom to understand the Word of God, the prophesies, the promised Messiah, and that we may live accordingly. As Messianic believers, we point to Messiah, promised to the people of Israel. He is the same Messiah our prophets pointed towards and prophesied about. This person, this Messiah is:

Yeshua the Messiah, the Son of the living God!

“When Yeshua spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

Joseph Shulam: Brad TV Video Teaching – Naso [2022]

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

Shalom, my name is Joseph Shulam, and in partnership with Brad TV. We are doing the Torah portions week after week as they are read in the synagogues around the world.

We’re covering the whole five books of Moses, from Genesis all the way to the end of Deuteronomy, which is what is read in the synagogues year after year.

Now we are talking about the portion that is called Naso. Naso in Hebrew means the census, the numbering, the arrangements that the children of Israel were required by God, to do in the wilderness as they march out of Mount Sinai all the way to the land of Canaan.

So, there is a lot of technical things in the Book of Numbers like in the Book of Leviticus and there are administrative things and for most Christians, they don’t find so much material in there to teach from these texts. However, these texts are very important.

The Holy Spirit saw fit to deliver them to us as a part of God’s word, that as Paul puts it in the letter to Timothy, it’s profitable for correction, for instructions, for equipping the men of God to do all good works. So, if the Holy Spirit saw fit to give us this material, we need to study it, to learn from it, to glean from its practical things that apply to our lives today in the 21st century. And that will enrich us in our walk and into our faith, and into our relationship with the almighty God.

So Parashat Naso, which means the census that God commanded the children of Israel, is continuing. We started earlier in the beginning of the Book of Numbers, and it continues now. And I’m going to read the first few verses and then go forward.

Chapter four of Numbers verse 21, it’s where our portion starts, and it ends in chapter seven verse 89 of the Book of Numbers. And as I said, it starts with the continuation of the order of the census of the families of the tribes of Israel. And now, specifically with the families of the tribe of Levi, of the tribe of Aaron, the priesthood. And it says to us this; thus says the Lord. Then the Lord spoke to Moses saying, “Also take a census of the sons of Gershon “by their father’s house, by their families. “From 30 years old and above, “even 50 years old, you shall number them “all who enter to perform the service “to the work in the tabernacle of meeting.” In other words, they are now dealing with specifically the families of Aaron and their job around the tabernacle. Each family is given a specific job; some are in charge, like in chapter 4:25, they’re in charge to carry the curtains of the tabernacle. Others are in charge to carry the screen of the door of the gate of the court that is hanging outside. Others are in charge of carrying the wooden poles that hold the tabernacle up. Others are in charge of carrying the Ark of the Covenant. Others are in charge...
It was an elaborate affair and all of it was holy and all of it had to be carried, when the children of Israel moved. When the pillar rose up in the day and they went forward, then they had to carry all the things of the tabernacle, the altars and tools and the tabernacle itself with them on the way until they encamped somewhere else.

This is called in Hebrew, Mishmeret. Chapter 4:28 calls it the service of the families. And the word service here is Mishmeret. It is what they have to guard, what they have to watch, what they have to protect, from the root of protection, Nishmor in Hebrew.

That’s a very interesting concept. We don’t have a tabernacle; the Jews haven’t had a tabernacle for many many thousands of years. Solomon built the temple. And the tabernacle, who knows what happened to it?. If it was stored or it was already old several hundred years when Solomon built the temple. But the service, the calling of each family with a specific task is very, very important to us. Why is it important? Because Paul, in the first letter to the Corinthians in chapter seven. Start reading from verse 17. “But as God has distributed to each one, as the Lord called each one, let him walk, and so I ordain in all the churches.” That’s how Paul starts this section. The word distributed, means he gave the task, the service to each one of the families of the Levites and the priests of what their job is going to be around the tabernacle, and specifically in our portion of what part of the tabernacle they have to carry when they are wondering through the wilderness.

And Paul says, “God distributed to each one a calling, a service, and each one has to walk in the service that God has given him.

It’s a very interesting concept. It’s a military concept. And the language that is used in the Hebrew Bible in the Book of Numbers is a military language. Each one has his rank, each one has his task, each one has his calling, and he’s supposed to walk in that calling that God has given him. And Paul says,” I am making this an ordinance, a law for all the churches.”

And in verse 18 and on, he’s giving us the detail of this law, which he made for all the churches. Was anyone called while circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised. Was anyone called while uncircumcised? Let him not be circumcised. That’s verse 18. In other words, each one of us has a calling in the kingdom like the Levites and the priest in the wilderness with the tabernacle. If the Gershonites got a job of carrying the curtains of the tent of the tabernacle, that’s what they had to carry. Others got a job to carry the wooden parts, they had to carry the wooden parts. Others got a job to carry the Ark of the Covenant, they had to carry the Ark of the Covenant; each one in his own calling.

What happens with human beings? Why did Gershonites carry the curtains? And the Midianites carry the woods? And the other ones carry the Ark of the Covenant. We want to carry the Ark of the Covenant. No.

Paul says from the Holy Spirit, “Each one is to be in his own calling.” And he brings it home to a body of the Messiah where there are Jews and Gentiles, there are Chinese, Koreans, Arabs, Israelites, Hottentot; whatever you want in the body of the Messiah. Let each one remain in the status, in the calling, which God called him. If you were called circumcised, a Jew, don’t uncircumcised yourself. If you were called uncircumcised, don’t circumcise yourself. Each one, stay in the status that you were called. When you were called by God, you became a believer, you became a born again disciple of Yeshua. Remain in that status. If you’re Korean or Japanese, don’t go have plastic surgery to make you look European, Caucasian. It sounds simple, but it’s actually very complicated.

It’s very complicated that we have one body in which we are equals. Men and women, Jews and gentiles are equals in the body of the Messiah. Sometimes they develop jealousy. Why would he carry the Ark of the Covenant and I have to carry the wooden planks and the posts of the tent? Why can’t I carry the Ark of the Covenant? No, because God gave each one his calling.

It’s hard for us to accept this, but it is a very important principle because God, first of all, knows what he’s doing. That’s our basic premise. God knows what He is doing. And when he gives a job to somebody, He knows what he’s capable of. He knows what his talents are, what his gifting is, and He expects him to do what God commanded him to do.

And Paul says, this is the law. This is something that is ordained. It’s legal language, ordained, in ordinance for all the churches. So, if you’re a Jew, don’t try to become a Gentile. The language that he uses is interesting. Don’t uncircumcise yourself. And it’s interesting that we have in rabbinic literature. This trend is mentioned. In the Babylonian Talmud, we hear about people who pull their foreskin, and tie it so that they look like they’re uncircumcised. Jews that were going to the gymnasium in the Greek world, in the Roman world. In the gymnasium, they exercise naked. They didn’t have Speedo bathing suits. They exercised naked in the gymnasium. And if you are Jewish, it’s visible that you’re Jewish. And Jews in the Hellenistic world didn’t want to always identify as Jews. So they pulled their foreskin and they tied them together. They tied them so it looks like it’s uncircumcised.

Paul says, don’t do that. But if you’re uncircumcised, if you’re a Gentile, don’t circumcise yourself. God knows his business and he knows what he called you. If you are a black brother, don’t try to bleach yourself. If you are a white brother, don’t try to make yourself black by over exposing yourself in the Sandton gallery. Each one is what God called him to be.

Why is this important? Because we look in verse 19 of first Corinthians. Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision’s nothing. What is really important is that each one keeps the commandments which God has given us. This is what matters. Paul says in verse 19 of first Corinthians seven. And he repeats that same idea in Galatians chapter six.

It doesn’t make difference who you are, who your father is, who your mother is, what your color is, how tall you are, whether you are blonde, blue-eyed or you have black hair and brown-eyed. No, that doesn’t matter. What matters is what God called you to be, what God made you to be. And so, if you’re Jewish, don’t become a Gentile. And if you’re a Gentile, don’t become a Jew.

Each one has his own commandments. And each one is responsible to keep the commandments which God gave him. If you’re a woman, there are commandments for women. If you’re a man, there’s commandments for men. If you’re a child, there’s commandments for a child; honor your father and your mother. If you’re a father and you have children, there’s commandments specifically for fathers. If you’re not married and you’re just a man, there’s commandments for men.

Each one has his own calling, his own task inside the camp of Israel, the camp of the holy presence of the Lord. And therefore, don’t try to become what God did not make you, physically or spiritually as well. Let each one stay in the status, in the calling which God called him.

However, there’s always a caveat. If you are a slave, which God doesn’t make slaves. Other people make slaves. If you are a slave and you have a chance from becoming free of that slavery, a freeman. That’s in verse 22. First of all, realize that in Christ, you are already free. You may be enslaved for financial reasons, for other reasons, but in Christ, everybody’s free. Why? Because you were bought at a price, verse 23. And the price that God paid for you is the life of his son, the blood of Yeshua. And therefore, socially speaking, you are in debt and you became enslaved to another man. In Christ, you are free. But if you have a chance to get free also in the community socially, then take that chance. Don’t choose to remain a slave because you are already free in Christ.

Now all this is based on this text that we read earlier from the book of Numbers; that each one remain in the status in which God called him. Let each one do his job and not look over the shoulder to somebody else’s job, and say, “Why don’t I do his job?” Because God knows his business. This is the principle that everybody needs to internalize very, very carefully. God doesn’t make mistake. I didn’t choose to be born in Bulgaria, and I didn’t choose at the age of one for my parents to bring me to Israel. And the children of Israel, that were in Egypt, a couple of hundred years as slaves, didn’t choose to be slaves. And God delivered them from slavery and gave them the law, the law of freedom, the perfect law of liberty is what James in his letters speaks about, to liberate us from our shackles of our past.

And therefore, he gave each one a job, a task. And our portion of the Torah details each family of the priests in Israel; what is their job in relationship to the tabernacle in the wilderness?

And you can read it and you can see how God divided the different jobs, the different tasks to each one of the families.

Now the important thing is, that each one gets satisfaction, learns to be satisfied with what God gave him.

But in our portion of the Torah, there is another very important principle. And that is a husband that suspects his wife of infidelity and he is envious of his wife, and he has lost the trust for his wife. And what is the cure for this? It’s here in our portion of the Torah. The cure is, the bitter waters. You go to the priest and you say, “I suspect my wife.” And they bring the wife and they have the ashes of the red heifer, and they mix the ashes of the red heifer with water. And the priest declares to the wife that she drinks this mixture of the ashes of the red heifer. If she is innocent, nothing happens. If she is guilty, that drink is going to reveal her guilt and confirm that her husband is lawfully, legally has a good reason to suspect his wife and to accuse her of infidelity, and then the consequences will be serious.

I am reading from Numbers chapter five from verse 16. “And the priest shall bring her near and set her before the Lord. And the priest shall take holy water in an earthen vessel, clay vessel and take some of the dust that is on the floor of the tabernacle and put it into the water. Then the priest shall stand the woman before the Lord, uncover the woman’s head and put an offering of remembering in her hands, which is grain offering of jealousy. And the priest shall have in his hand the bitter water and bring a curse on the bitter water. And the priest shall put her under oath and say to the woman, if no man has lain with you and if you have not gone astray to uncleanliness while under your husband’s authority, be free from this bitter water that brings a curse. But if you have gone astray while under your husband’s authority and you have defiled yourself, and some man other than your husband has lain with you,” then the priest shall put the woman under the oath of the curse.

And he gives her the drink, and if nothing happens, the woman is innocent, she’s clean. If she feels bad in her stomach, terrible pain, and the water of the curse in her belly, and her belly swells and tightens up, then the woman is guilty. And then she bears the consequences of her guilt. She will have to offer a sacrifice and repent and the husband can put her away, and all kinds of things happen.

But this sounds very primitive, but psychologically, it’s very smart because if the woman is not guilty, nothing’s going to happen to her. What happens is not from the water. What happens is from her guilt. Psychologically from her guilt. Her guilt makes her stomach hurt, her belly swell, and the curse applies.

So, the Torah has all kinds of interesting things. Each page of God’s word is full of good and important instructions. And I urge you all to read the portion, starting in chapter four verse 21, ending in chapter seven verse 89, and then the reading from the Prophet Zachariah chapter two from verse 10 to chapter four verse seven, and then we read Luke 10 the whole chapter. 10 of Luke from the New Testament. Read these things. Keep up with the word of God. It is really a living word that will enrich your life.

God bless you and fill you with the Holy Spirit in Yeshua’s name, amen.

Joseph Shulam: Every Life Will be Redeemed [2021]

The reading of the Torah is from Parashat Naso, Numbers 4:21 – 7:89. From the prophets (Haftarah), it is from Judges 13:2-25. The reading from the New Testament is from Acts 21:17-26.

The Torah portion from Numbers has some important teachings for us today:

  1. The numbering (taking the census) of the priests and the Levites in this Torah portion is a very interesting and a divine revelation to understand the Lord God of Israel better. After counting the numbers of each of the family of the priests and Levites we find out the reason for this census:

    “Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: ‘Now behold, I Myself have taken the Levites from among the children of Israel instead of every firstborn who opens the womb among the children of Israel. Therefore, the Levites shall be Mine, because all the firstborn are Mine. On the day that I struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, I sanctified to Myself all the firstborn in Israel, both man and beast. They shall be Mine: I am the Lord.’” – Numbers 3:11-13 [NKJV]

    • What we have here is extremely interesting and extremely ignored by most Christians. The Lord delivered Israel in the last and tenth plague from Egypt. The firstborn of Egypt died by the hand of the Lord. Now God commands Moses and Aaron to count the men of the tribe of Levi and sanctify them for service to the Lord. Each priest and Levi will redeem the firstborn of Egypt that died in the tenth plague. This was the purpose of this special counting of the men of the tribe of Levi and the sons of Aaron.
    • Because there was more Egyptian firstborn who died in the tenth plague, every firstborn in Israel had to be redeemed with the five shekels of silver in order to fulfill the number of the Egyptian firstborn who died.
    • What do we learn from this about the Lord and His sense of justice and righteousness? The tenth plague that killed all the firstborn of Egypt killed innocent people in order to deliver the children of Israel from slavery and because the hardness of the heart of Pharaoh. Now, God wants to redeem those firstborn of Egypt by sanctification of the Levites and priests from the tribe of Levi, the tribe of Moses and Aaron. The Lord does this by taking away the personal choice and freedom of the sons of Aaron and the tribe of Levi, and making them servants in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple in Jerusalem. This is also the reason why every firstborn male child in Israel has to be redeemed with five shekels of silver even to this very day.
    • God doesn’t suffer injustice and innocent death even when this death was necessary to free Israel from Egyptian slavery. Every injustice and every innocent wronged, will be redeemed by a life in exchange. The sons of the tribe of Levi are dedicated to the service of the Lord and by this the firstborn sons of Egypt who died in the tenth Plague, are redeemed.
  2. The “sotah” is a woman whose husband is suspicious that she committed adultery. How can this issue be resolved? Once a person is suspicious of something it is very difficult to either prove him wrong or prove him right. This is especially true in the family. There is no forensic evidence that will elevate the husband or the wife from their suspicion. The Lord devised a system that is the ordeal of bitter water or ordeal of jealousy as described and prescribed in the book of Numbers chapter 5. The ashes of the red heifer (Numbers chapter 19) are mixed with water and the woman drinks from this water and according to the woman’s reaction it becomes clear if she is guilty or not. It is a very interesting psychological test that works on the same principle as a polygraph. I find this narrative fascinating and although some would say that it is “magic” or “witchcraft” – I find God’s instruction in this case extremely modern and interesting. It is the use of psychology to conjure the inside feeling and hidden emotions of a person’s heart and bring them up to the surface.
  3. The Nazarite laws (Numbers 6:1-21) sets the laws of the Nazarite. The most famous Nazirite in the bible is Samson (Judges 13:2–24) one of the judges that has this very interesting story of an angel that announces to Samson’s mother that she will be pregnant and that her son will be a Nazarite, a person who will have a special life style. He will not drink wine or even grape juice or have a haircut. Manoah, Samson’s father, was not happy that the angel came to talk to his wife first. So, he demanded that the angel come to him in person and give him the news. So, the angel of the Lord complied and came to talk to Manoah in person and to confirm the message that he has given to Samson’s mother. In this story there are so many interesting parallels to the annunciation of the Angel of the Lord to Mary the mother of Yeshua. Samson was born and raised as a Nazarite and didn’t cut his hair until he fell for a Philistine barroom prostitute that deceived him and got him drunk and cut his hair, which was the source of his strength.

The Torah is full of background information important for understanding the rest of the Bible, and especially understanding of the New Testament.

The reading from the prophets this Shabbat is connected to Samson. The reading from the New Testament is from Acts chapter 21:17-26.

Paul and seven non-Jewish disciples arrive in Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Pentecost (Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks). Upon their arrival in Jerusalem a delegation of leaders of the community of the faithful from Jerusalem comes to greet them at the entrance to the city.

Among the chief people who came to greet Paul and the disciples was Jacob (James) the brother of Yeshua. Paul tells Jacob (James) of the great success that He had among the gentiles in Asia Minor and Greece.

Jacob (James) tells Paul the following:

“And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord. And they said to him, ‘You see, brother, how many myriads of Jews there are who have believed, and they are all zealous for the law…’” – Acts 21:20 [NKJV]

This is an amazing revelation for most Christians. Jacob and the delegation that came to greet Paul and the disciples tell Paul that there are tens of thousands of Jews who “believed” in Yeshua and continue to be zealous for the Torah.

This is a very important bit of information that has been ignored by the Christian churches since the early 4th Century after Christ. It can’t be deleted! It can’t be hushed and hidden, but it can be ignored malignantly by the leaders, pastors, elders, cardinals, and popes.

The implications of this text are very far-reaching for Christian history. This information that the Holy Scriptures reveals to us in this text proves that the historical post-Constantinian church and all her daughters (the Protestant churches) have by design and premeditation, twisted the Word of God.

If they would have affirmed this scripture, there couldn’t have been the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisition that burned many tens of thousands of Jews alive because the wanted to celebrate the Passover or eat kosher food. I could go on and on with this issue, but I will hold my peace and ask you to renew your mind and focus on the Word of God.

Joseph Shulam: The Importance of the Aaronic Blessing [2018]

The Torah reading of this Shabbat is going to be Naso. This Parasha ends with what is called the Aaronic blessing (Numbers 6:22-27):

“And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: ‘Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, “This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them: ‘The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.’”’ So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.” – Numbers 6:22-27

This is a kind of universal blessing that even Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches use to bless their parishioners. It is a little strange for me that these Christians that actually reject the Old Testament and the Torah of God use this Aaronic Blessing and the tithing for the priest of Israel and the Temple as the holy grail. These Christians adopt what they want from God’s word and reject the authority of what is called the Old Testament, but the blessings and the money they want to keep.

What does this blessing that is given to Aaron and his sons actually say?

  1. “The Lord bless you:” God is going to bless you. Therefore don’t seek a blessing from the idols of your day, or from the people of your city and country. Depend on God for your blessing in life. If God blesses you, you will be truly blessed. If men bless you, you will forever be indebted to them. If men bless you, they cannot really keep/protect/guard you. Only God can bless you and protect you, and guard you and your life.
  2. “The Lord make his face to shine upon you:” One of the worst predicaments in the word of God is when God hides His face from you. In other words, God does not want to hear you or have a relationship with you. You can read Ezekiel 39:22-27 and see the consequences of the sin of Israel when God hides His face from you. This blessing of Aaron states that God is going to shine His face on you – you will have personal and clear communication and access to a personal relationship with the Almighty God of Israel and God will smile (shine) His face toward you.
  3. God will be gracious to you. He will measure your life, successes and falls, with his grace and not with His measure of justice and judgment. This is a very important blessing because it declares the attitude of God toward His children and not toward His enemies.
  4. “The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.” This is the ending statement and summary of the Aaronic blessing: God will look with favor upon you. This is a request of God to pay attention to you and show favoritism toward you. This might sound strange to Western ears. The priest of Israel, Aaron’s children, asks God to show special favor to Israel and to His children. Literally, “to lift up the face toward” means to treat favorably, even to show favoritism!
  5. God will grant you well-being, shalom, wholeness, and bring you within His borders (space of calmness and security).

It is such a great privilege for the men of our congregation every Shabbat to bless the children and their mothers with this blessing. Fathers need to bless their children and their family with this blessing at least once every week. I often say that this blessing and blessing of your children and wife every week is such a great privilege and encouragement.

My father was a good father, but he never blessed me. On the other hand, he cursed me thousands of times. I became what God has made me by the grace of God and the blood of Yeshua. It would have been nice if my father would have blessed me!

But, God the Father of us all has blessed me and you and He and He alone is the source of real blessings. I thank my Father in Heaven, the Lord of glory, for His blessing, and I thank Him who is above all and in all for blessing me personally and all of humanity who seek His blessing and redemption daily.

Yehuda Bachana: God's Blessing is for This Life [2018]

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

This week's Torah portion is particularly long and dense and deals with a wide variety of subjects. It begins with the building of the camp and the organization of the tribes. Later on, it discusses how a husband should deal with his wife when he is suspicious of unfaithfulness.

It also touches on the bitter water test, the laws of the Nazirite, as well as the well-known Priestly Blessing.

The Priestly Blessing

Though it is the priest who speaks the blessing, the blessing ultimately comes from God.

The Priestly Blessing is a special blessing that is recited daily in every synagogue in Israel. It is typically recited during the return of the public emissary towards the end of the Amidah prayer during the morning prayer time.

Outside of Israel, however, it is customary to say the Priestly Blessing only during the holidays.

Archaeological excavations in the Valley of Hinnom in Jerusalem discovered two silver amulets on which the Priestly Blessing was engraved. These amulets are dated around the year 600 BC, which was the time of the First Temple.

Today more and more Messianic communities have begun to use this blessing, especially during international conferences, it seals the event and blesses the participants. In our congregation we also bless those gathered, most importantly the children.

As a child, when I went with my father to the neighborhood synagogue, the Priestly Blessing was one of the most impressive experiences.

The priests would take off their shoes, cover themselves completely with their prayer shawls, and step forward reverently, standing in front of the holy ark and loudly reciting the Priestly Blessing.

Due to the fact that many Messianic congregations greet their audiences with this blessing, I would like to analyze its structure and meaning.

It Comes From God, Not From Man

The scripture did not only state a blessing, but it also provided the precise phrasing, and the preceding verse emphasizes this to the priests:

“…This is how you are to bless the Israelites…” - Numbers 6:23b [NIV]

We have here an exact determination of the phrasing of the blessing. This emphasizes the divine source of the blessing, and illustrates the perception that the priests are only the conduit for it.

From the words of God at the end of the blessing one can understand that indeed, the priests are the ones who actually say the blessing, but God is the only one that can truly bless.

“So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.” - Numbers 6:27 [NIV]

The term “I” emphasizes the source of the blessings: “I” and not the one who is called on my behalf to minister, meaning that the blessing is from God.

A Unique Structure

At the outset we face a challenge that is not simple, the challenge of language.

Many commentaries on this blessing are based on the Hebrew; whether it be the syntactic structure of the blessing, the number of letters, the verbs, and the location of each word.

In Hebrew, this blessing is divided into three parts. Each of the blessings has two verbs in the future tense, and found between these two verbs we have the explicit name of God.

“The Lord bless you and keep you;” - Numbers 6:24 [NIV]

“the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you;” - Numbers 6:25 [NIV]

“the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” - Numbers 6:26 [NIV]

What attracts the eye is the intensifying structure. In the Hebrew text of the first blessing, we have three words. In the second, we have five words, and in the third, seven words.

Again, in the Hebrew text, there is an increase in the number of letters: 15 in the first blessing, 20 in the second, and 25 in the third.

A Physical Blessing

Many commentators point to this and ask, “Is this a coincidence, or is there an intensification also in the content of the blessing?”

A common understanding finds an intensification in the content as well:

The first blessing is a material and earthly blessing, the second blessing is a spiritual and intellectual blessing, and the third blessing is a blessing for the next life.

“The Lord bless you and keep you;” - Numbers 6:24 [NIV]

“Bless” is a reference to wealth and assets, and the idea that “without bread, there is no Torah.” “Keep,” refers to any negative influence or harm caused by people, enemies, or those who are against you.

The idea is that if a person does not have enough to live on, he cannot serve God wholeheartedly, because of an empty, rumbling, stomach.

However, if the house is full of all good things, and the physical and material side is sorted out, a person can devote himself wholeheartedly to the service of God and the studying of His Word.

This is not about a reward or prize, but rather it is a step towards what is good and spiritual.

The Blessing of Delayed Gratification

In almost every religion, it is acceptable for a someone to live a life of celibacy and poverty in order to achieve transcendence. This can be seen with monks, for example.

Sometimes this ideology has substance. Chapter 6 in our parasha speaks about the laws of the Nazirite.

The Apostle Paul also encourages us in the New Testament to take a certain amount of time for abstinence, prayer, and fasting.

At the same time, however, Paul also asks that abstinence be for only a short period of time, because very quickly we can lose balance, and instead of ascending above, we will smash lustfully into the mud below. The key point here is balance.

Ultimately, delaying gratification is meant to give us a better life. That, in the end, things will be better, not worse.

A Spiritual Blessing

“the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you;” - Numbers 6:25 [NIV]

This blessing is interpreted as being a way to give wisdom and knowledge to better understand the Word of God, to learn what one's place in the world is, and to learn the path to the next life.

It is actually a request that we continue to be vessels in the hands of God that He will use us for His glory.

The goal is for the leadership of God in the world to focus on us, and at the same time, not distance us from others, but on the contrary:

“that all those with feelings and thoughts around us will see in us the foundation and the answer to their existence.” - Rabbi Hirsch

This is a very interesting commentary from Rabbi Hirsch, and I dare say that this is Yeshua's idea towards us as his disciples. Our goal should be that people around us will see the light and the life that we produce, and they will want to be a part of the Kingdom of Heaven because of it.

This idea of being a light, be it a personal light towards our neighbors, or on a national level, as a people or a movement that is a light to the world, repeats itself over and over in the interpretation of Scripture.

The simple reason for this is that it is one of the many foundations of Scripture. This is one of the main requirements of Yeshua the Messiah. That from our lives, from our faith, we must produce light.

God’s Blessing is for This Life

“the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” - Numbers 6:26 [NIV]

Traditional interpretation sees this blessing as a benediction for the next life, that God will turn His face towards us and give us eternal peace.

Personally, I believe that the vast majority of scriptures focus on this world, blessing us now, our relationship with God and with others in this world.

Therefore, I see this blessing as being directed to this world, as a blessing of peace, for this is what we strive towards.

In fact, this is the name of our capital, Jerusalem - the City of Peace.

Golda Meir, one of the prime ministers of Israel, described this aspiration with a deep understanding:

“We can forgive the Arabs for the killing of our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children. We will have peace with the Arabs only when they love their children more than they hate us.” - Golda Meir

We wait and pray for this day in which love will triumph, for this moment when the concern for the future of their children will defeat their hatred towards us.

Though we must keep in mind that this hatred is a hatred that originates in religion. It is not a hatred between people, rather a hatred of progress, of understanding, and of openness.

This religious war can only be won by Yeshua with the truth and with love.

We understand that the Word of God is directed primarily towards the life in this world, that this life will be a blessing. This world is not just a dark corridor to life in the world to come; our goal is not to send our children to commit suicide and take others with them to the next life.

The goal is to live in the present times. God gave us the Torah to read and observe for our present lifetimes. This is the truth only found in Yeshua the Messiah.

Click here to download a pdf version of this teaching.