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 narrow path is worthwhile (both individually & socially) – Re'eh [2023]

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

In Parashat Re’eh we continue Moses’ speech, before we entre into the Promised Land. The first verses re-emphasize our choice between good and evil. Afterwards, Moses continues with a long list of commandments that deal with a wide range of topics:

idol worship, paganism, false prophets, eating clean foods, and abstaining from eating unclean animals.
This includes the explicit prohibition to eat pork, as it is mentioned specifically in this week’s portion:

“And the pig, because it parts the hoof but does not chew the cud, is unclean for you. Their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch.” (Deuteronomy 14:8).

In addition to the list of unclean animals, we read this interesting commandment:

“You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk” (Deuteronomy 14:21).

We remember this commandment from Exodus:

“Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.” (Exodus 23 verse 19)

In the Jewish world, this commandment is one of the most famous ones.
This is the source from which the Jewish culture, and the Jewish kitchen, does not mix meat and milk in the same dish or meal.

Personally, I do not view this commandment as a prohibition to mix milk and meat together. The reason is that the wording of this commandment does not clearly prohibit this dietary combination.

And at the same time, there are Biblical examples of meals, where milk and meat were served together. For example, Abraham prepared a meal for the angels who visit him, which includ ed both milk and meat:

“Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them. And he stood by them under the tree while they ate” (Genesis 18:8)

Yes, this verse is from before the giving of the Torah; and yet, the angels who were served this meal, did not say a word. Additionally, this verse was preserved in the Scriptures for future generations.

If indeed there was something improper, it would have been appropriate to mention, or even leave to this verse out, that controversial dietary detail. But instead, this verse was preserved as something eternally positive and true, as it points out the greatness of hospitality.

Another text that describes milk and meat being served and eaten together, can be found in the story of Absalom’ rebellion. David and his men are hungry and, on the run. they were served meat with cheese:

“Honey and curds and sheep and cheese from the herd, for David and the people with him to eat.’” (2 Samuel 17:29)

“You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.”

I view this commandment as a prohibition against cruelty to animals. This phrase prevents cruelty and certain forms of slaughter and cooking, where the baby animal is cooked in the milk of its mother - The mother’s milk, who was supposed to sustain the baby-animal’s life and provide its nutrition. He is not meant to be cooked in it.
Others interpret this phrase as a way to prevent certain forms of idol worship.

That being said, the prohibition to mix meat and dairy products is a rabbinical ruling, and not a Scriptural command from God; nonetheless, this dietary rule did become a cornerstone of the Jewish culture and part of the defining characteristics of Judaism.

Each people and culture have the right to self-determination, and to establish its own unique traditions that serve and preserve that identity.
The avoidance of mixing dairy and meat together is an ancient custom that is accepted by every stream of Judaism. Jews from every ethnicity and origin accept this custom, although some wait for 6 hours in between meals, others for 4 hours, and some (like the Dutch Jews) only wait one hour to eat dairy after a meat dish.
Nonetheless, they all separate and wait between the consumption of milk and meat.

We should respect the traditions of our fathers, even if it is just for the sense of belonging and to preserve the identity that this tradition serves. It is just one more way to preserve our identity and the identity of our families, from generation to generation. The more ways and the more tools we have, the greater the chance for us to manage to preserve and pass on our identity.

Our Torah portion continues and speaks of more commandments, like the centralization of worship, the cancelation of debts, tithes and the three major festivals.
The commandments for the holidays include the commandment to rejoice during Shavuot (Pentecost) and Sukkot:

“Then you shall keep the Feast of Weeks to the Lord your God (…) And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite who is within your towns, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow who are among you (…) You shall keep the Feast of Booths seven days (…) You shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow who are within your towns. (…) so that you will be altogether joyful.” (Deuteronomy 16: 10-15)

Parashat Re’eh puts an emphasis on mutual care, and especially for those who are less fortunate. We can only fulfil the major festivals with the required element of joy. That joy reaches further, beyond our own joy, and requires us to spread our own joy and grant true care, especially to the needy of the society we live in.

We cannot truly celebrate nor fulfil these Biblical holidays without opening our hands, and hearts, to the strangers and weak that surround us.

Let's return to the beginning for a moment.
Moses presents us with two options. The first one leads to blessing and a blessed life; whereas the second one leads to curse. Even though we are able to choose either path, God requires us to follow the right path.

Now, the good path may not seem very attractive nor easy, but it is worthwhile in the end. The following Midrash (or: rabbinical story) portrays this idea:

“This may be likened to a man sitting at the crossroads, with two paths stretching before him: One, whose beginning is clear and whose end is thorny; and one whose beginning is thorny and whose end is clear.
He informs the passersby and says to them: “This path whose beginning you see to be clear —For two or three steps you will walk on clear ground, but, in the end, on thorny. And this path whose beginning you see to be thorny — For two or three steps you will walk in thorns, but in the end, you will walk on clear ground.
Thus did Moshe speak to Israel: You see the wicked prospering —for two or three days they will prosper in this world, but in the end, they will be cast away. You see righteous men suffering in this world — For two or three days they suffer, and in the end they will rejoice. As it is stated: "Better is the end of a thing than the beginning” (Midrash Devarim - Sifrei Re'eh 53)

This rabbinical parable deals with several related topics. The first one being: walking in God's way. Perhaps it seems difficult at first, but that is the wise path that is good for us to pick. The second topic concerns

“The righteous and he suffers, a wicked and he enjoys” (Brachot 7:74).

In my opinion, this parable is based on two known parables from the New Testament. The first one is:

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Mathew 7:13-14)

The second parable is about Lazarus and the rich man:

“And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’” (Luke 16:26)

The first parable is that of the narrow bridge, or of the narrow gate, in contrast with the wide gate. It points to the fact that - from a human perspective, looking at the future - people tend to picture faith-life as difficult and full of limitations. They see it as fixed and lacking freedom.
Yet, when you begin to walk the way of faith, you discover that that way is easy, good and fulfilling. That road is full of confidence and hope, and leads to a secure future.
But what about the boundaries?

As parents, we set boundaries that are important and good for the mental, emotional and physical development of our children. What makes us think that we do not need boundaries ourselves, as adults?

We all need boundaries and the Bible presents us with the right boundaries, along with the promise of success and blessing.

The road that seems wide and smooth, seems easy at first. However, it quickly leads to thorns, pain, despair, depression and a lack of success. This is because, those who take this road, do not keep the morals nor the boundaries of the Word of God, which serve to the benefit of our families and of society.

The road based on the Scriptures, may seem narrow, difficult and full of thorns at first. Yet, after crossing the hurdle, we discover a rich world with deep and stable foundations. A world that provides us with security and hope for the future. We actually discover that it is easy to walk when your conscience is clear.

The Rabbinical parable ends with:

“You see the wicked prospering (…) You see righteous men suffering in this world”.

This is where Yeshua’s parable of poor Lazarus comes in. In Luke chapter 16, Yeshua tells a parable about a rich man who enjoys this life and a poor man who suffers in this world. The poor man named Lazarus, sits by the entrance to the rich man’s house. He eats the scraps from the table of the rich man - meaning that Lazarus receives charity from the rich man.

The moral of the story is that no one is entirely bad, as the bad people also do good deeds. For that reason, the rich man is rewarded in this world, where he receives the payment for his good deeds. Even though his good deeds are few, they still should be rewarded.

On the other hand, there is Lazarus. He is not described as righteous or good; and yet, in Hebrew, Yeshua calls him Elazar - meaning: ‘God helped’, which points to God’s presence and help to Lazarus.

As mentioned before, there is no one who is entirely bad; likewise, no one is entirely good, either. Therefore, Lazarus pays for his sins in this world. Years pass and both men pass on: the rich man to eternal disgrace and poor Lazarus to eternal rest at the side of our father Abraham. The parable ends, as the rich man wants to warn his 5 brothers, so they won’t end up in the same horrible place. The answer he gets is:

“They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.” (Luke 16:29)

The decisive answer here is that they have the Word of God. The Word of God leads us to Messiah and to faith. Truly, people already had been expecting the Messiah long before Yeshua. They asked Yeshua: “Are you the Messiah? Are you the promised One?” The Scriptures point us to Messiah Who will redeems us.
As believers, our answer is:

“Yes, Yeshua is the Messiah! He is the promise!”
For a good and blessed life, we must walk in the way of faith that Yeshua the Messiah lights for us. That way is the Word of God, given to us from Genesis until the end of Revelation at the end of the New Testament.

We pointed out that the rich man in Yeshua’s parable gives charity to the poor Lazarus. This issue becomes a focus point in our Torah portion, as it is written:

“If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be.” (Deuteronomy 15:7-8)

Further on, it is written that the poor, the disadvantaged, the strangers and the needy will always be amongst us. This is why we must open our heart and hands, showing mercy and love to those in need. Here as well, success and blessing are promised to those that open their hands and their heart.

We mentioned earlier that we cannot even celebrate our holidays properly without opening our hands and granting joy to those in need around us. In fact, the Torah declares war on our selfishness and greed. As The Torah intervenes in our personal life and our finances, with the sake of society at heart.

Firstly, because mutual responsibility enables even the unfortunate to live with dignity – regardless if they fell through fault of their own, or not.
Secondly, this is in order to build a healthier society, that functions on mutual responsibility and care.

Parashat Re’eh mentions the second tithe, of three tithes. We begin by tithing 10% and bring that to the House of God. With these products, or this money, we feed our family. So even though, this tithe remains within the family, we are commanded to set it aside. We do not set it aside for ourselves, but for our family. In fact, this tithe is the first step to teach us to give:

“You shall tithe all the yield of your seed that comes from the field year by year. And before the Lord your God, in the place that he will choose, to make his name dwell there (…) And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe (…) then you shall turn it into money (…) and spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household.” (Deuteronomy 14:22-26)

We spend the money of the second tithe on our family and create joy together, by eating and drinking together at our family feast, including beef, lamb and wine. This is the first step in which the Torah educates people to open their hearts.

The next step is:

“At the end of every three years you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in the same year and lay it up within your towns. And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled”

and here our promise is added:

“That the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do.” (Deuteronomy 14:28-29)

The second step of the tithe we give to others, to those in need. In this way, the Torah builds a society that is not self-centered and where the love for money and property is not a top priority.

Yeshua addresses this idea often, and continues the same line of thought, saying that our heart is where our treasure is. If our treasure is money and possessions, our thoughts, too, will be on financial issues. Yeshua asks us to store up treasures for eternal life, through good deeds, charity, serving and surrendering to God. Then our heart will long for our Heavenly Father and His word:

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Mathew 6:21)

Yeshua continues and declares that we cannot devote ourselves to two opposing directions at the same time. There will always be a moment where we will prefer one over the other:

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Mathew 6:24)

Obviously, Yeshua is not against owning property or money. However, He does continue the line of Parashat Eikev, and asks us to open our hearts and to rise above our own egoism.

This can be achieved one step at a time. Firstly, we spend our tithe on our own family, and create a joyful atmosphere and a family feast together. In the third year, we give this tithe to the needy, and from there we continue to the seventh year. In this way, step by step, the Word of God accustoms the hearts of our people. As a result, we have grown accustomed to live out social responsibility.

At a first glance we can only see a narrow opening and narrow boundaries that limit our possessions. Yet, from the moment we begin to walk the narrow way, we discover social responsibility, tranquility, security, a tool to battle our self-centeredness, and then we even notice that this path does not really hurt our income.

Joseph Shulam: The Covenant Of Our God[2023]

This Torah portion is one of the most fascinating for me personally. The reading from the Torah is from Deuteronomy 11:26 – 16:17, and from the Haftarah (the reading from the Prophets) is from Isaiah 54:11 – 55:5, and from the New Testament from John 6:35-51.

Always the question is what the connection is between these texts. There is no formula that we know about these choices. We know from the New Testament that Yeshua’s ministry started officially probably on his birthday week, and He was honored to read the Haftarah from Isaiah chapter 61. From tradition we know that the reading of Isaiah 61 is connected to the Torah reading from Deuteronomy 29:9 -31:30. We also know that today this reading normally comes around the month of September on the Gregorian calendar.

The month of September is the month of the High Holidays in Judaism. It is true that it might be that in the first century in the Galilee they could have had a different system of reading the Torah and the prophets; a system that was a three yearly reading cycle.

My point is that this tradition of reading the Torah in the Synagogue every Shabbat was a very ancient tradition. It is also mentioned in the New Testament in the book of Acts chapter 15:19-21, and the Apostles and the leaders of the community in Jerusalem recommended strongly for the Gentiles who have joined the community to go to synagogue on Shabbat and hear the Torah read.

This was simply because people didn’t have Bibles in their possession. This was the only way that our Gentile brothers could hear and study the Word of God.

This Shabbat of August 11, 2023, the text from Deuteronomy has some pearls of great price that we ought to collect into our minds and souls and take very seriously. First of all, I like the first words of the reading Moses starts with; the word “Re’eh” — commanding the children of Israel, “SEE”! I like this because I was blind with my left eye for 70 years. Last year I was crazy and accepted the offer of an eye doctor from the Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem to operate and try to restore my eye sight. I was crazy enough to try this crazy adventure. The doctor said to me, “why not – you have nothing to lose! You are blind now and the worst that could happen is that you will remain blind. The best that would happen is that you will see something.”

This command of Moses, to the Children of Israel in the wilderness, is significant; “SEE” – in order to see anything the procedure is not so simple. Our eye is a camera, but the eye is not the main tool for seeing something. The brain has to process the picture that your eye sees and pass the picture to the front lobe of your brain for interpretation of the picture and then to other parts of the brain that directs us to make decisions what to do with the information that our eyes have seen!

Here is the first thing that Moses and God wanted for the children of Israel to SEE, or in the King James language “Behold!”

““Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you today; and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside from the way which I command you today, to go after other gods which you have not known.” (Deuteronomy 11:26–28 NKJV).

What did God want the children to see toward the end of their 40 years of wondering in the Sinai Wilderness for 40 years? God wanted them to see that the Torah that they received 38 years earlier at the foot of Mount Sinai, is not just apple pie and vanilla ice-cream, but like every contract and agreement the Torah that God gave Israel has blessings and curses.

In fact, every law and every situation that has the potential to gain and win also has the potential to lose and be punished.

Our relationship with God is like any contract that all of us have ever signed. If you have ever rented an apartment you had to write a contract or sign a contract. You must have seen that there are paragraphs that are a big blessing, and immediately after the wonderful paragraphs that give you the right to live in the said apartment and enjoy the wonderful features of the apartment or the house. You could use the garden and the Weber Grill to barbecue and entertainment for your friends and family. You have a two-car garage to part your cars.

You have a lake view and can, in the late afternoon, take your wife and children for a walk… After the good things and opportunities that you received in the contract, come the limitations and obligations and guarantees to take care of the property and pay the rent.

Let us take a short review of the blessings that Moses lists and asks the children of Israel to open their eyes and see these blessings:

1. You, as a nation, will have the privilege to clean up your land from idolatry and build an altar to the Lord on top of Mount Abel.
2. You will have a clear vision and knowledge of what is a curse and what is a blessing for you and for all the nation of Israel.
3. Knowing with a clear mind what it is you ought to do to “remodel your new home and make it clear from any dirt and impurity” is a blessing. It is always a very good thing to clear and clean the junk and dangerous things left in the apartment that the previous dwellers left behind.

The second thing that God commands the children of Israel is to build a good, a pure and holy place, an altar that is dedicated to God. A place to worship God, the Creator of the Universe, that is pure and well organized and suitable for worship and showing gratitude to the Lord.

This altar still exists, although it is not in as good a shape as it was 20 years ago, because Palestinians worked hard to destroy it, but they didn’t succeed to do the destruction totally.

Here is a picture of the altar that you read about in our Torah portion, commanded by Moses, and you can read in the book of Joshua that the tribes of Israel built it. If you read the command to build this altar, you will see immediately that this altar is first of all very very big and unusual and it is Israelite (There are not stairs that lead to the top of the altar but an incline…).

In the picture on the left side, you see from the top of Mount Abel down to the valley, where the city of Shechem is. Across the valley you see also Mount Gerizim where the other half of the nation was perched on top of Mount Gerizim. They read the blessing that God promised to the children of Israel. The Levites were down in the middle of the Valley and all the people of Israel said “Amen” and agreed to this covenant to possess the Land that God gave Israel to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and their decedents.

The next big thing in our reading of the Torah this next Shabbat, is teaching us is that we, the chosen people of God, must be different from the local idolatrous culture and evil practices of the local pagan populations. This is from Deuteronomy 18:9 – 14, teaching the children of Israel and also us, in the 21st Century, that we are not to follow the bad culture of the people who don’t know God and worship idols.

We, the Jews and the non-Jews, who have died with Yeshua in Baptism and have received a new life and have been filled with the Holy Spirit, must have a different matrix and life style from the pagans around us. We are to be witnesses of goodness and righteousness and justice and be the head and not the tail of society. (Please read the text).

In 1968, in Nashville, the conclave on the campus of Vanderbilt University, I heard the editor of Play Boy magazine say this: “The Church is supposed to be the head lights and leader of our culture and society. But instead, the church is the back lights of this vehicle called culture in our times!” Although this man had an abominable place of work, what he said is true. We the disciples of Yeshua our Rabbi, Savior and Redeemer, the Son of God and the One seating on the right Hand of the almighty Father of all Creation, must be different and proud of the difference. We need to influence the world around us and not be dragged behind the evil and dirty culture that creates victims of the culture and not victors of heaven.

We, the disciples of Yeshua, Jews and non-Jews, are born to live a life that leads and changes the evil and corrupt culture and practices that lead our youth and the world into a deep abyss and abandonment of the good life into chaos.

Dear brothers, you might say, that Joseph Shulam is dreaming of the impossible! But, dear brothers, “God’s Israel” has been fighting this fight against idolatry and injustice and for equality and righteousness, for over 2000 years. Yes, you are right, there are no little criminals and Jewish people who are even leaders of the worst abominations possible.

Yes, we have Jews like Harvey Weinstein, and Jeffry Epstein, Jewish Mafiosos like Meyer Lansky, Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, and several more. And Jews have not been a pure and clean Linen cloth the way God expected them to be, and God made sure that we pay for our disobedience and departure from His instructions. We should have been much better because we have had the Torah, the Law of God, for the longest period of history.

But, now both Jews and Christians ought to take our mission and task and gather under the guidance of our Messiah and the Holy Spirit of God and change and refocus the right power of God’s truth.

We really must stop following the idolatrous culture of our society and remember what God commanded and the task that God has given us from the very beginning: when He chose Abraham and His seed to be a blessing in the whole world. Let us reassess ourselves, and our own families, of how we can start with small steps to be the light and be the salt of this world.

Please remember that Netivyah depends on the love and charity of disciples of the Messiah who believe in God’s Word and believe that Yeshua will return and gather His sheep and pass them through the judgement, each according to his deeds and according to the charity that he shared for the needy and hungry and the servants of the Kingdom!

Please feel free to react to my Jerusalem Prayer List and ask questions if you need to comment. Use the Netivyah web page to comment or ask questions.

Just a word about Isaiah 54:11 – 55:5 reading from the Prophets. These are wonderful and comforting words of God, through the prophet Isaiah, after the demands and condemnation of Israel’s sinfulness and departure of God’s word:

“For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has mercy on you. “O you afflicted one, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, Behold, I will lay your stones with colorful gems, and lay your foundations with sapphires. I will make your pinnacles of rubies, your gates of crystal, and all your walls of precious stones. All your children shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the peace of your children. In righteousness you shall be established; You shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear; And from terror, for it shall not come near you. Indeed, they shall surely assemble, but not because of Me. Whoever assembles against you shall fall for your sake.”

Is there another nation or church or tribe in the world that has such promises from the Creator of the World Himself? No! There is not any group of people in the world who have such harsh judgement as Israel, in history, and at the same time such wonderful and magnificent promises of goodness and greatness of God’s grace like Israel. This is why the gentiles who have given their lives to God through Yeshua our Messiah and King of the Jews, have entered in the covenants of Israel through Yeshua’s death burial and resurrection and have become inheritors of the covenants and promises of God to Israel.

Joseph Shulam: Choose Life [2022]

The Torah reading for this Shabbat is from the portion called Re’eh (“look here”) — Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17. From the prophets the reading is from Isaiah 54:11-55:5, and from the New Testament the reading is from 1 John 4:1-6.

What we have in this Torah portion from the very beginning is one of the most important paradigms of the book of Deuteronomy. In the book of Deuteronomy, more than in other books of the Bible, there is the giving of choice to the people of Israel.

Our Torah Portion starts with there following words:

“Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse:” — Deuteronomy 11:26

This unique privilege that God gives us, His children, to make choices and choose, is best described in the following verse in the book of Deuteronomy:

“I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you, life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore, choose life, that both you and your descendants may live…” — Deuteronomy 30:19

The event that is described in our Torah portion is one that I would have loved to participate in. I can imagine standing on Mount Abel or Mount Gerizim, and the priests are in the valley between the two mountains, and there is silence. And suddenly the tribes that are on Mount Gerizim proclaim the blessings, and the tribes that are on Mount Abel proclaim the curses. And all the people, including women and children, affirm God’s word with a loud voice.

These mountains are high, and they have a distance between them. There were no microphones or amplifiers to use in order for all the people and the Levites and priests in the valley below to hear. There must have been a great number of people there on these two mountains to scream together the blessings and affirm them, and the cruses and affirm them.

What an event the Book of Deuteronomy is describing here. In the book of Joshua, we have the following description how it actually happened:

“Now Joshua built an altar to the Lord God of Israel in Mount Ebal, as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded the children of Israel, as it is written in the Book of the Law of Moses: ‘an altar of whole stones over which no man has wielded an iron tool.’ And they offered on it burnt offerings to the Lord and sacrificed peace offerings. And there, in the presence of the children of Israel, he wrote on the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he had written. Then all Israel, with their elders and officers and judges, stood on either side of the ark before the priests, the Levites, who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord, the stranger as well as he who was born among them. Half of them were in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal, as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded before, that they should bless the people of Israel. And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessings and the cursings, according to all that is written in the Book of the Law. There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded which Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel, with the women, the little ones, and the strangers who were living among them.” — Joshua 8:30-35

The amazing thing is that today on top of Mount Abal the remains of the altar that Joshua built there are still visible. They were much more visible until a few years ago, but the Arab terrorists attempted to destroy and remove that altar. They were not able to do it because the Israeli military has a base not far from that altar.

The altar atop Mount Abal today.

This text from the book of Deuteronomy and from Joshua, the archaeological finds, and the great big altar that can still be seen through its ruins are tangible and monumental witnesses of God’s faithfulness and the historicity of the biblical narrative. This is nothing less than a miracle and a living witness that for me personally only builds my faith and helps me make the choice and choose life!

Joseph Shulam: Brad TV Video Teaching – Re'eh [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 continuing to do the weekly portion of reading from the Law of Moses, and from the prophets, and from the New Testament, and this week, the reading in all the synagogues in the world will be from Deuteronomy chapter 11, verse 26 to chapter 16, verse 17, and the portion from the prophets is Isaiah 54, verse 11 to 55, verse 5, and from the New Testament, it’s Acts chapter 13, verses 13 to verse 52.

I really personally think that this is one of the most important portions of the Word of God from Genesis to Revelation, because it does something that the rest of the scriptures rarely do. Yeshua did it in the sermon on the mountain, building on what is written here in Deuteronomy.

But let me get right into the text from Deuteronomy chapter 11, verse 26. The text starts with the Hebrew word, re’eh, and that’s the Hebrew name of the Torah portion, Re’eh, which means look, behold. The King James has it, “Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse.” Let me stop here in verse 26 of Deuteronomy 11, the first verse of our Torah reading. Very important for us to analyze this very short and very important word.

God says to the children of Israel, and through the children of Israel to all of His children in the world, look, today, now, every day, not only one day, not only today, every day. That’s the meaning of the text. “I’m giving you a choice. You could either be blessed or you could be cursed.” I get goosebumps just thinking about it.

I wake up in the morning, I am 76 years old, my head hurts, my bones hurt, my back hurts, my leg hurts. They say in Yiddish, in the German Jewish language, they say that if you’re past 70 years old, and you wake up in the morning and nothing hurts you, and you don’t have a pain, it’s a sign of only one thing: you’re dead. Well, I’m not dead. I wake up every morning with pain here, pain there, my back, my leg, my head, problems to solve every day. And every day, I need to remember that this day that I wake up, I’m getting out of bed, taking a shower, brushing my teeth, getting dressed, this day could be a blessing, or it could be a curse for me.

Now, one thing that Christians don’t realize, that we have more than one chapter in the Bible that has lists of curses, lists! Cursed is the man who raises his hand against his father or his mother. Cursed is the man who cheats on the boundary of the fields that he owns in his favor. Cursed is the son that curses his father or his mother. Cursed is the man who sleeps with his mother-in-law. Lists of curses! There are chapters that are lists of curses.

The most famous chapter is from Numbers chapter 24, and Leviticus chapter 26 starts with 11 verses of blessings, 33 verses of curses. If we go against God, if we’re stubborn, and we reject, and we embarrass, and we defile, and we worship idols, knowing that we’re doing wrong, we do it, you know, with intent, then terrible things will happen to us. And they did happen. They did happen to the Jewish nation. More than one chapter of our history is marred because of our sin with terrible things that happened to us.

But in this case, in this portion of the week, God says, “Wake up, behold, look, look, you have, this day, an option to be blessed or to be cursed.” Verse 27 of the same portion: “The blessing will come to you if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you today,” the command that you have for today, not for tomorrow or for yesterday. Whatever you have to do today according to God’s will, that’s what you’re responsible for, and if you do it, oh, wow, you will be blessed. Today, you will be blessed.

But the next verse: “If you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God but turn aside from the way which I command you today. to go after other gods which you have not known, you will be cursed.” Yeshua, Jesus, took this paradigm and broke it into a very concentrated picture. He said there are two roads. There is one road that is narrow, uphill, difficult to walk up, that leads to life. It’s a road of obedience, of faith, of love, of hope. It’s a road of doing God’s will, following Jesus.

The other road is easy, downhill. Not only is it downhill, there is grease on it to make you slide faster down the hill to hell, to deprivation, to misery. Yes, you do the will of God, oh, there’s so many verses in the psalms, in the prophets, in the Law of Moses, if you do right with what God gave you, if you use the talents that God gave you, and use them wisely, you’ll be blessed, you’ll get more. You’ll be getting God’s blessing to increase you down here on earth, and bless your family and your children. They will be like plants planted by the river with plenty of water and sun to grow and to flourish.

But if not, according to Jeremiah 17, if you go against God and you trust in other men and not in God, then you will be like a tree planted in the desert where there’s no water, and your leaves will wither, and you will have no fruit, and you will be cursed. This choice is the ultimate doctrine of prosperity, not what you hear on Christian television. The ultimate doctrine of prosperity is not how much money you give to the pastor, or to the church, or to the ministry. The ultimate doctrine of prosperity is how much are you going to walk with God and with Jesus, hand in hand, in the narrow, and difficult, and challenging road that leads to eternal life? That’s the question.

And this is how this portion starts. Like I said, there are several chapters in the Bible that have lists and lists of curses, and we need to realize this: If we, as disciples of Jesus Christ, as priests in His kingdom, have a right to bless, to really bless people: every week we bless our congregation, the children of our congregation, with the Aaronic Blessing: “The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make His face to shine up upon you.” Every week we bless. But if we have the power to bless, given to us by God, we also have the power to curse, given to us by God. We shouldn’t curse, we shouldn’t use that power, but the people that do us evil, we don’t even have to curse them. They bring the curse on themself, the unrighteous, the ungodly, they bring the curses to themself.

In this same chapter, in this portion called Behold, Re’eh, we also have this monumental event. The children of Israel cross the Jordan river, they conquer the hill country of Ephraim, and the hill country of Judea, and God tells Joshua to set the Levites in Shechem, the old town of Shechem, where Jacob and his sons had the affair with Dinah, his daughter that was raped by Hamor, the son of the king of Shechem. That town is in the valley. On one side is Mount Gerizim, it’s mount of the blessing, on the other side is Mount Ebal, the sound of the curses. Why is it so? It’s so, geographically, dear brothers. It didn’t just happen that God chose this place, because when the clouds come from the west, from the Mediterranean Sea, and they climb the mountain, they drop all the rain on the first range, and then the mountain on the other side, looking toward the Jordan River, doesn’t get the rain, so it’s desolate.

God said to Moses, “Put the people, half of the tribes, on the Mount Gerizim, which is the mount of blessing, and the other half on Mount Ebal. And on Mount Ebal, build an altar, a huge altar.” Joshua builds the altar. Very specific architectural design was given to Joshua in order to build that altar. That altar still stands. 15 years ago, it stood more than it does now, because the Palestinians have worked hard to dismantle it, but they were stopped in time before they dismantled the whole thing. But that same altar, in the same place from the days of Joshua, with archeological evidence, you can Google it, Joshua’s altar on Mount Ebal. You’ll see pictures, maybe even videos.

So, God tells Moses there will be one mountain that will be the curses, and one mountain that will be the blessings. Mount Gerizim, on the west side of Shechem, will be the mountain of blessing. Mount Ebal, on the east side of the mountain, will be the mountain of curses. The Levites will be in the middle, and they will proclaim blessings, and the people will say, “Amen.” They will offer sacrifices on mount of blessing, Mount Gerizim, and also on Mount of Ebal, on the east side of Shechem, and it will be a big event.

It will be a big event, mount of blessing and mount of curses, and everybody will hear the blessings and say “Amen, we receive them.” Amen is an acrostic of the words: God is a faithful king. That’s the meaning of amen. Yah, God is a faithful king. Whatever He says and He promises, He keeps. Both the blessings and the curses, He keeps.

And so, this event, monumental event, takes place in Samaria, above Shechem, the Levites in the middle, children of Israel divided between six tribes here, and six tribes there, and they accept this covenant of blessings and the covenant of curses. What does it mean, they accept it? They understand that if they do what’s right, and they do what’s prescribed by God as good, like honor your father and your mother so that your days may be lengthened, like keep the Sabbath day, rest on it, enjoy time with your family and with God, with meditating about high things and not low things, you’ll be blessed. It’s good for you. I know, you know, the Jewish people still keep the Sabbath. In fact, the majority, even the secular Israeli Jews, don’t work on the Sabbath. Almost everything is closed. They’re at home with their family. They may go take a walk, they may take a drive in the spring to see the beautiful flowers in the northern Negev Desert, but they don’t go to their job.

Or if you go against God in disobedience, with design, not by mistake, on purpose, not by accident, disobeying God, you will incur the wrath of God. That’s what this portion of the Torah is centrally teaching us. Let me read to you from chapter 12. There are all kinds of commandments, not to eat blood, and not to kill, and to do what’s right, but let me read you from chapter 12 of our portion, verse 25: “You shall not eat,” it’s talking about blood, “You shall not eat it that it may go well with you and your children after you, when you do what is right in the sight of the Lord.”

You should not eat blood. Do Christians have to keep this command? Not because it’s written in the Book of Deuteronomy, but because this command is written in the New Testament, that the apostles, in Acts 15, gathered together, Paul was there, Barnabas was there, Jacob was there, James in English, and Peter was there, and the elders of the church in Jerusalem were there, discussing, “What should we do with our Gentile brothers?”

The majority of the church was Jewish, but more and more Gentiles around the Mediterranean Sea were accepting the Lord, and accepting the gospel, and giving their life to God, so there was a discussion, “Shall we circumcise them, convert them to Judaism, or not?” The decision was not to convert them to Judaism. Why? Because we have wonderful promises in the prophets, in Isaiah chapter 66 and Amos chapter 9, and we have it in Zechariah, and we have it in Jeremiah, that the Gentiles come in as Gentiles, they don’t have to become Jews. God is the God of all flesh. So, yes, the apostles decide to command our Gentile brothers to keep four commandments that are a part of the commandments that were already commanded on all humanity in Genesis chapter 9, in the first verses of Genesis chapter 9.

The rabbis started with three commands, expanded them to seven commands by interpreting the three commands, breaking it up in smaller pieces so that it’d be clearer what they have to keep. The apostles started with three commands, expanded it to four commands. Why? Because the word blood can mean two things, okay? So, they broke it up to blood as bloodshed, and to eating meat that is strangled, that is not properly slaughtered and bled from its blood of the animal, because eating blood was forbidden.

So, in the Book of Acts, they were commanding the Gentiles to abstain from idolatry or anything that smells, or looks, or is suspected of idolatry. That’s really what it means. The second thing that they were commanded is they abstain from everything that is sexually immoral. Pornography comes from the same word in Greek, which means prostitution, sexual immorality.

In short, abstain from meat strangled, in other words, the throat of the animal is not cut, and his blood doesn’t come out, his heart keeps pumping his blood. If they cut the right vein in the throat, then the blood will come out of the body and the body will be halal for the Arabs, or kosher for the Jews, and also for the Gentiles.
And the fourth one is “abstain from blood” which is bloodshed, killing people, you know, murdering people. Abstain from taking other people’s life. But that command is broken up by the rabbis into smaller portions. Among them is destroying a person’s character by falsely accusing him, by gossiping behind his back, by killing him with your mouth, killing his business, killing his reputation. So that last command is, blood means killing in every way possible; physically, spiritually, emotionally, financially, or any other way.

That’s all based on this portion of the Torah, portion that is called Behold, Re’eh. Ah, there’s so much more that we could talk about it, but our time is up, and God bless you all with this.

I just want to say something about the portion from Isaiah. I’m going to go to Isaiah chapter 54 and just give you an interesting outlook. Isaiah the prophet is addressing Israel in a time of great difficulty. Babylon is at the gates. Israel is losing the battle. They’re going to go to exile. They are in exile already. So, the prophet, in the name of God says,

“‘Sing, O barren one; you who have not borne children. Break into singing, cry out, you who have not labored with a child, for more are the children of the desolate of Israel than the children of married women,’ says the Lord. ‘Enlarge your tents, let them stretch out. Spread the curtains of the tents of your dwelling. Do not spare, lengthen the cords, make space…’”

Because the gentiles are going to come in, that’s the context, folks, and you, brothers in Asia, in Korea, in Singapore, in Japan, in China, are a fulfillment of this prophecy that God gave to Israel.

“Don’t get despaired,” God says to Israel. You may feel desolate right now, small and weak, but there’s going to be a great army of humanity that is going to join you, and the implication is join you through the Son of God, through the Messiah, through the one that is from the seed of David and the seed of Abraham, Yeshua, our Lord. God bless you all.

Joseph Shulam: From Ashes to Riches [2021]

This Shabbat all synagogues around the world read from Deuteronomy 11:26 - 16:17. The name of this Torah portion is Re’eh (“see” or “behold”).

I think that the very first word of this Shabbat’s reading is of great significance for me. Just a week ago I had my second major eye surgery on my left eye. I was blind in my left eye for 70 years. A childhood accident blinded me when I was 5 years old. I had a second surgery on my left (blind) eye. This time the surgery replaced my cornea and now my left eye has everything new, except the ball of the eye and the retina.

Now this Shabbat’s reading starts with the words:

“Behold [see], I set before you today a blessing and a curse…” – Deuteronomy 11:26

The reading from the prophets is from Isaiah 54:11 - 55:5. Here too the element of healing is very strong, and it has national, geographical, and personal healing and allusions to the new Jerusalem.

The prophet Isaiah is addressing Jerusalem and through Jerusalem, all of Israel. The address is with the following words:

“O you afflicted one, Tossed with tempest, and not comforted, Behold, I will lay your stones with colorful gems, And lay your foundations with sapphires.” – Isaiah 54:11 [NKJV]

This is such a wonderful passage of scriptures for Jerusalem and for Israel as a nation, but also for all those who are suffering from affliction, illness, and suffering from abuse, or even from a weak faith and unstable lives. The possibility of the Lord being involved for our restoration, and even much more, just restoration of our past afflicted condition, from ashes to riches, from afflicted and tempest, tossed, to be decked with precious stones, gems, sapphires.

I don’t think that the prophet Isaiah was talking only of the physical aspects of precious stones and sapphires. I believe that Isaiah was talking about something much bigger and more precious than the physical jewels.
Notice the next verses of Isaiah 54:13-17:

“‘All your children shall be taught by the Lord, And great shall be the peace of your children. In righteousness you shall be established; You shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear; And from terror, for it shall not come near you. Indeed they shall surely assemble, but not because of Me. Whoever assembles against you shall fall for your sake. Behold, I have created the blacksmith Who blows the coals in the fire, Who brings forth an instrument for his work; And I have created the spoiler to destroy. No weapon formed against you shall prosper, And every tongue which rises against you in judgment You shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, And their righteousness is from Me,’ Says the Lord.” – Isaiah 54:13-17 [NKJV]

The promises of God through Isaiah’s words of prophecy is that our children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the Shalom of our children. I am a student of history and I know more or less the history of Israel from the 8th Century B.C.E. until our own day. There has never been a chapter of our history in which these words of Isaiah the prophet were a reality.

If this is really the case, it means that we must still wait and look for the fulfillment of God’s promises in our history, fulfilled in every detail with us, the afflicted nation of Israel, that continues to be afflicted, hated, persecuted, attacked, threatened by enemies that are over 100 times more numerous breathing hate and destruction against Jerusalem and Israel.

Zechariah the prophet describes the situation with the following words:

“And the Lord said to Satan, ‘The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?’” – Zechariah 3:2 [NKJV]

Yes, dear brothers, Jerusalem, the capital of the State of Israel is in fact still a brand plucked from the fire. From the fires of the crematoriums of the Nazi concentration camps.

Israel and Jerusalem are still a brand plucked from the fire, although we have a wonderful Israeli army with wonderful soldiers of native born Israelis raised in Israel, as well as immigrants from Africa, and Jewish gauchos from Argentina, and Jewish cowboys from New York, and California, and Texas. We have an army that has Jews, Druze, Muslims, Christians, black, and white, and Chinese Jews, Russian immigrants whose children are winning gold medals at the Olympic stadium in Tokyo.

Yes, and the only power that is secure and whose promises are sure and standing on the Rock, are the promises given by the Almighty God of Israel through the prophets.

We, the disciples of Yeshua the Messiah in this land have only one anchor to depend on. We as followers of Yeshua, our Savior and the Savior of the world, have only one wall of defense to depend on. The only dependable promises that are dependable and secure are those that God gave to our prophets.

We are living as a nation and as a state and following the very map drawn by the words of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, and the rest of the prophets that God blessed this nation with. So, yes, dear brothers and sisters, our afflicted nation, is afflicted from outside by a vast array of enemies, and afflicted from within our own ranks with some leaders who have no faith in God and no trust for the word of God spoken by our prophets, but all together we are the recipients of these words of God that Isaiah has written and spoken so long ago.

Some of you are going to see the fulfillment of all that was spoken by Isaiah. You will see Jerusalem flourish and grow and bedecked with the youth, who will be guided and taught by the Lord Himself. Some of you, young generation leaders, will have the privilege of not only waiting for the Lord’s return to Jerusalem, but to see Yeshua coming down with an entourage of millions of angels to land on top of the Mount of Olives.

The continuation of the reading of the Torah portion Re’eh has another major important teaching for us! The blessings and the curses.

The setting for this great show was in Samaria between two mountains – on the east side, Mount Abel, and on the west side of the valley, Mount Gerizim. The tribes of Israel were divided between these two mountains. The Levites and Priest were in the valley between these two mountains.

There was a proclamation of the blessings and the curses from the people of Israel on each side, from each of the two mountains. For me these chapters and words of the Torah and the prophets have such a great meaning for us today:

  1. We, the Jewish Disciples of Yeshua in this land have been given only one side of God’s nature and character, love, grace, and joy, and everything is good and Amen! However, in this Torah portion we find out that the grace of God is alive and well and functioning in full capacity for those who are walking and living in the will of the Almighty and do His will by hearing and obeying His blessed commands.
  2. We don’t get enough of the second side that came from the east side from Mount Ebal, the side of the curses that were proclaimed, and to them also the nation agreed and said Amen! We must not forget that our relationship with the almighty God of Israel, the Father of our Lord Yeshua and the Father of all mankind has two sides to it, a side of great blessings and a side of great curses and damage to those who are rebellious and unfaithful.

It is of great importance to see the correlation between the text of Deuteronomy and Isaiah.

“You shall not at all do as we are doing here today—every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes— for as yet you have not come to the rest and the inheritance which the Lord your God is giving you.” – Deuteronomy 12:8,9 [NKJV]

“Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live; And I will make an everlasting covenant with you— The sure mercies of David. Indeed I have given him as a witness to the people, A leader and commander for the people. Surely you shall call a nation you do not know, And nations who do not know you shall run to you, Because of the Lord your God, And the Holy One of Israel; For He has glorified you. Seek the Lord while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near.” – Isaiah 55:3-6 [NKJV]

The Torah portion Re’eh starts with “look, behold, see”, and this text from the prophets is calling on us all to “hear”, to “incline your ears,” give life to your souls and secure the mercies of David.

This last statement that I bring to you from Isaiah the prophet is of great importance, because King David was actually one of the biggest sinners in the whole Bible. King David broke most of the Ten Commandments, and God loved him and forgave him with great mercies.

The word that Isaiah adds in this statement is small but of great importance to us: “The sure mercies of David!” Yes, dear brothers and sisters, do we have a real trust and security that our sins are forgiven by the sure mercies of the Lord, for us, for each of us?

I sure hope that each one of you will read the Torah portion from Deuteronomy 11:26 - 16:17, and the Haftarah from Isaiah 54:11 - 55:5, and from John’s gospel 7:37-52. Just a word from John chapter 7:

“Nicodemus (he who came to Jesus by night, being one of them) said to them…” – John 7:50 [NKJV]

This is the same Nicodemus that John mentioned in chapter 3, a member of the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem, one of the richest men in Jerusalem. A man of integrity and care for the citizens of the city of Jerusalem. A disciple of Yeshua that did great things for the citizens of Jerusalem.

David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister changed his name from David Green to David Ben-Gurion. Ben-Gurion was Nicodemus’s full name. Ben-Gurion identified with Nicodemus and was also a kind of disciple of Yeshua.

He admired Yeshua and learned Greek to be able to read the New Testament in Greek. He did read it every day and he did believe in Yeshua as the Messiah. His Greek New Testament is in Kibbutz Sde Boker in the Negev, right on his desk.

Joseph Shulam: The Cost of Ignoring God’s Instructions [2020]

The Torah reading this Shabbat is called “Re’eh” – Deuteronomy 11:26 – 16:17. This reading is one of my favorite texts in the Torah. I love choices and the first verse of the Torah reading gives us, and all humanity, the most important choice in a person’s life:

“Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you today; and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside from the way which I command you today, to go after other gods which you have not known.” – Deuteronomy 11:26–28 [NKJV]

Now who in his right mind would chose the curse over the blessings? Well, the fact is that most people on God’s good earth have chosen the curse and not the blessing. The principle that is set down here by the creator of the universe is not so complicated.

When you buy any mechanical or electronic device you get a handbook or today you get an electronic file with instructions on what to do and how to use your new “toy.” If you are intelligent and smart you will first read the instructions and learn from the book how, what, and when.

If you are like many people you will try to wing it and to figure it out the hard and solitary way. To ignore the instructions for an electronic device is not smart, but the damage would probably be just breaking the new gadget and possible financial loss.

To ignore the instructions that God gave us in His instruction book, the Bible, could cost you much more and even an eternity where God is not near you. The Lord is good and gracious and long-suffering, full of grace and truth.

He made the world and all that is in it and He wants His children, the human race, to fulfill the very purpose of our existence. The blessing is if we obey the commandments of our Lord God.

Now as disciples of Yeshua the Messiah, can we find any contradiction between what the Torah says and what Yeshua taught His disciples? I will not make this a long and drawn out prayer list – but I will give you one example from the very end of Yeshua’s ministry here on Earth.

What did Yeshua command His disciples before He ascended to Heaven and returned to the Father to sit at His right hand? Yeshua’s last words to His disciples are:

“‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen.” – Matthew 28:18-20 [NKJV]

I find it very strange that Yeshua in His last instructions to His apostles commands them to make disciples of all the nations and this is all that the majority of Christians in the world note, only taking into consideration the beginning of Yeshua’s statement:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…”

The second half of Yeshua’s statement is completely ignored by ninety-eight percent of those who call themselves “Christians” – followers of the Christ (Messiah).

I have been a disciple of Yeshua the Messiah since 1962, and there has not been one weekend that I have missed having fellowship with brothers and sisters who follow Yeshua and are members of churches and are active disciples of Yeshua, and many were or are missionaries.

The Great Commission. This is what this text of Matthew 28:18-20 is called. I would not be exaggerating if I were to say that since 1962 I have heard at least 1000 sermons by some of the famous television “evangelists” promoting this text from Matthew 28.

Every one of these preachers, pastors, and evangelists stopped the quotation of Matthew 28:18-20 at the end of verse 19. Verse 20 was completely ignored. It is ignored because the average Christian leader does not know what to do with this text.

The responses that I have heard from preachers of name to this question are too many to list here, but let me share at least a few of the answers that church leaders gave me:

Did Jesus give us commandments that we must obey today? Why do we need to keep the commandments Jesus delivered to us in the Gospels?

Another explanation is that these words of Jesus before the resurrection are a part of God’s revelation to Moses and the children of Israel and the revelation of the Lord through the prophets of the Old Testament. If Jesus is teaching or contradicting the revelation of the Lord to Moses and the Prophets, He is contradicting His own commitment and teachings in the Gospels.

The apostle Paul himself kept all the Torah and commandments by his own confession:

“…though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.” – Philippians 3:4-7 [NKJV]

(See also Acts 25:8, 28:17, Romans 3:29-31.)

Another answer: “We are saved by Grace and not by works!” Commandments that we need to keep have never had the power to save us, but not keeping them has the power to damn us for not being faithful and hearing and obeying the will of our father in Heaven.

Our faithfulness to God is measured by our doing the will of our father in Heaven, hearing His voice, and doing His will is the basis of God’s grace. Here is what Jeremiah the prophet said to Israel nearly 2,750 years ago:

“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘Add your burnt offerings to your sacrifices and eat meat. For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices. But this is what I commanded them, saying, “Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people. And walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well with you.”’” – Jeremiah 7:21–23 [NKJV]

Read the letter of James (Jacob) and 1 John, the words of Jesus in the sermon on the mount in Matthew 5 - 7 and see that this is the teaching not only of Moses, but also of the New Testament.

Faith is essential, and grace is the help that God has given us to be able to do His will and obey Him. He is not the God of lawlessness or of anarchy or chaos.

He is not the God of “each man does what is right in his own eyes.” Just follow this phrase in the Bible and you will discover how angry God gets when this happens and His reaction to the generation where each man does what is right in his own eyes.

Dear brothers, please read this week’s portion there are so many important principles that you will gain from seeing how God has dealt with the children of Israel. Remember that God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. God is the constant and we humans, are the variables.

Joseph Shulam: It is Never Too Late to Make a Wise Choice [2019]

This week’s Torah reading is from Deuteronomy 11:26 – 16:17, from the prophets Isaiah 66:1-24, and from the New Testament John 7:37-52. As you have been following the “Jerusalem Prayer List”, you may have noticed that most of the time, when I read the Torah portion, I write about one thing that just catches my eye. Sometimes it is something that interests me, and sometimes it is about something that bothers me and disturbs me, or something I don’t understand, and sometimes I write about something that is unusual.

The reason that I do this is because these readings are all rich with information that is very important, and if I would try to write about everything that is in these portions of the Torah and the Prophets, and the New Testament, I would have to write a book every week, and next year I would have to repeat the same book. This way, I pick one thing and expose it to keep your interest in the Torah, and show how important it is for everyone, Jews and non-Jews in the kingdom of God, to dig deep into the greatest revelation from the Creator of the universe for us humans.

“Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you today; and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside from the way which I command you today, to go after other gods which you have not known. Now it shall be, when the Lord your God has brought you into the land which you go to possess, that you shall put the blessing on Mount Gerizim and the curse on Mount Ebal.” - Deuteronomy 11:26–29 [NKJV]

The above text from Deuteronomy 11:26-29 is one of the most important and simple propositions that God has ever given to humans. This text starts with the word “Behold”, or simply “See.” Don’t be blind. Open your eyes! Be awake! You have two options in life.

This is really so simple and it is like a test in school or a test in life. Either you do your homework and prepare for the test, or you are going to fail the test and not graduate from the school of life.

The first choice that God put in front of us is “blessing”. It is the good choice, a choice that will bring you joy, health, success, prosperity, and eternal life. You don’t have to be a quantum physicist to understand that to choose the blessings is the right and the wise choice.

If you want to invest your life into something you, like most people, would choose to invest your life in something that will give you happiness and success, and the ability to have a life of honor and prosperity, both in the material and visible world and in the non-material world. The world of honor, respect, contribution to your world and society, and above all investment in your life, is a way that, when your life ends physically, your family and children will enjoy your good name and have the assurance that after they die, if they have learned from your good choices, they will join you in the good place, and not in the bad place where there is darkness, shame, and fire.

If you think that this is only an Old Testament concept and it is only for Jews, you need to open your eyes. Here is what Yeshua (Jesus) was teaching:

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” - Matthew 7:13,14 [NKJV]

Yeshua is teaching the very same thing here in what is called, “The Sermon on the Mount”. He only uses a different paradigm. Yeshua is giving His disciples the choice between the way that leads to life, and the broad way that leads to destruction.

Walking in the way of blessings and joy and prosperity, both physical and spiritual, is narrow. It is hard, and it demands faith, obedience, and hard work, and there are only a few people who are going to make that choice, to take that road that demands constant climbing.

I am preaching to myself here, dear brothers and sisters. I don’t like to climb mountains, and I don’t like the narrow road, and I don’t like to restrain myself when I am shopping. I like it easy and simple and beautiful and rich, I like sweet and good food, and nice clothing, and, and, and!

But, dear brothers and sisters, I have to think wisely and calculate my finances, and make a schedule to accomplish the work that the Lord has put before me. I am not a free man! I am bound by laws, and rules and regulations, every moment of my days, and there are days and months that I would rather be somewhere else and do something else, and eating different foods.

But, I also want to escape the curses and the plagues, and the punishment for breaking the laws of the land and, even more important, to be a God-fearing man. In the words of Janice Joplin,

“Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose, nothin’, don't mean nothin’ hon’…”

Yes, our modern culture, the culture of Sodom and Gomorrah, is that freedom, equality, and prosperity, and the highest human values, and everything else like honor, and cleanliness, and rules and regulations, are all garbage. Yes, freedom is the highest value if it is tuned to God’s music, and it is the freedom to do what is good for us and for our fellow man.

Freedom is the highest value if it is freedom to choose what is holy and righteous and beneficial for us, and for those around us. Because, if we choose freedom that is based on short-sightedness and disbelief in God and in life after death, and life after the resurrection from death, then in one moment, in the ocean of time, we will find ourselves miserable, suffering, without honor and respect from our fellow man, and even from our families.

Yes, God is giving us the simplest and the best and the most favorable proposition in life in this portion of the Torah and in two weeks again:

“I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live…” - Deuteronomy 30:19 [NKJV]

Let us all reexamine our choices, and when and if necessary, make new choices that will lead us to life and blessings.

It is never too late to make a wise choice. It is always the right time to change our choices, when we see that they lead to destruction and unhappiness. God is good to us, and He is not a despot or a tyrant – He gives us the freedom to make a choice, and the wisdom to make the right choice. To choose life and blessings involves faith, obedience, and love, and produces hope.

Yehuda Bachana: The Bible is Not About Me, It’s About Others [2018]

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

Shabbat Shalom. This Shabbat We read Parashat Re'eh. The opening of this week's parasha indicates a choice. The people are give the choice to think for themselves.

This possibility is given to the people - they can think and choose. This option is given to the city, to the community, to the family, and down to the individual. Anyone can think, anyone can choose.

The Importance of Doubt

Everything you do for people and families who need help is 100% as if you did it personally for Yeshua.

In every religion, too many issues have become absolute axioms, they must not be discussed, they must not be questioned, they must not be examined.

We must not ask questions - we must accept them as truth! And if not - we are in great trouble - we'll be gossiped about, condemned, and judged as heretics.

What is the importance of free will?

The great importance is that it invites hesitation, uncertainty, even doubt. If someone has no doubt at all, and everything is clear and known to him, such a person is usually not a good person.

Because such an approach invites absolutism and fatal zeal. Such an approach engenders human extremism, arrogance, lack of consideration, and insensitivity to others.

Our parasha offers us the opportunity to question the truth. Everything is subject to choice, there is no predetermined nature.

There is no faith that comes without the agony of doubts, tests, thorough study, and then more tests and more studies.

If we go through this torment, we will gain pure faith, modest faith, and great concern for others. Because we understand that regardless of the opinions, faith, or choice of the person at our side, the person was nevertheless created in God's image and likeness.

The Bible is Not About Me, It’s About Others

And indeed we find in our parasha an emphasis on caring for others, widows, orphans, converts, and simply: poor people.

Look at the holidays, which appear towards the end of the parasha. It is impossible even to celebrate the holidays properly, as a commandment, without caring for the poor, without opening the hand and the heart to foreigners, to the weak, and to the poor among us.

If we notice, the main emphasis of the Bible is not me, myself, and I. The Bible is not about me. I am not at the center of the Scriptures.

Yeshua teaches me that God is at the center of Scripture, and as a second point, my neighbor is at the center of Scripture. The entire Old and New Testaments - according to Yeshua - come down to our relationship towards God and our relationship towards others.

And to our surprise, generally our faith is not in the center of Scripture, but rather our actions, our fruit. Not what we believe in the heart, but what we do with our own two hands.

We have become accustomed to emphasizing our tenets, brushing up our doctrine, and sharpening our Bible lessons.

The true emphasis of Scripture is on doing. The execution of Scripture, the physical manifestation of faith.

Yeshua Prefers Action Over Faith

One of the passages in the New Testament that has always attracted me, and has always been hugely significant, is the “Judgment of the Nations”. In Matthew 25, Yeshua sets the righteous on the right and the non-righteous, the wicked, on the left.

What does the king say? Jesus says to the righteous, “You gave me water, because I was thirsty, you fed me because I was hungry, you helped me because I was miserable.”

What is the answer of the righteous?

“Yeshua, our Lord, our king, when? When were you hungry, or thirsty, or in need? When? I helped a lot of people, but I remember them all, I made contact with each and every one, I gave personal attention to everyone. Sir, I do not remember you! Apologies, but you are confused. Maybe someone else helped you?”

The King, Yeshua, will answer and say, “Everything you did for those people and those families who needed help is 100% as if you did it personally for me. Come into your inheritance, come into the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Jesus does not mention faith here at all, but rather what people did or did not do. They helped or did not help. Period.

The Torah is About Charity

In this week's parasha, more than 50 commandments are mentioned. But the commandments that deal with charity are especially prominent.

“If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them.” - Deuteronomy 15:7 [NIV]

The commandment “…be openhanded…” appears twice (Deuteronomy 15:8,11). The parasha continues with addition commandments which care for the poor.

Today we learn about: tithing for the poor (in every third year, the entire year's tithe goes towards the poor and those in need), the cancellation of debts, giving loans even when the seventh year approaches, and the giving of payment or some type of tithe to a slave who ends a period of slavery.

Even the commandment of “Be joyful at your festival…”, in the three festivals, includes “…the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows…”

You Can’t Take Anything With You

In the context of charity I want to start with a story:

A few years ago a successful businessman, who was known as a rich but gracious man, died.

He occasionally donated to worthy causes and charities.

When that rich man was about to die, he entrusted his children with two closed envelopes and ordered them to open the first immediately after his death, and the second after the end of the “shiva”, the Jewish time of mourning.

When the day arrived… and he passed away. The boys opened the first envelope with the father's request: “I want to be buried with my socks on.”

The boys wanted to fulfill their father's last request, but the Chevra Kadisha (the Jewish burial service) insisted that according to Jewish law no man was to be buried with socks.

All their pleas, cries, and threats - and even the large bribes - did not help. And the father was buried without socks.

They all looked forward to the end of the shiva to discover the secret of the second envelope.

All the family and friends gathered and the eldest son took the envelope with trembling hands and opened it. Inside it was written:

“I know you buried me without socks. I just wanted to show you that no matter how much money and property you have in the world. When you leave it, you will not be able to take even one measly pair of socks with you…”

We Can Choose Blessing

Yeshua taught us not to gather our treasure here, in this world, which can lose its value, can be stolen, rot, or simply disappear.

Instead, Yeshua encourages us to store up our treasure in Heaven, where our savings are guarded, where there is especially large interest - even tenfold.

This week's parasha teaches us that the choice is ours, we can choose the blessing, we can choose to fulfill the Word of God, to carry out the commandments and execute the faith. And God's word promises us a blessing, which is translated as peace, tranquility, security, fruitfulness, success, health, and joy in the family.

There is one verse that jumps out at me personally from the parasha. I have read it already, but I want to read it again:

“If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need.” - Deuteronomy 15:7,8 [NIV]

The commandment here is clear, we must help the poor, the people and families in distress.

How Netivyah Helps the Poor

I encourage you to find a charitable organization that you trust and is close to your place of residence, to participate there and lend a hand.

Also, if you are interested in helping out in Jerusalem, we help 130 families on a weekly basis. On average each family has 5 people, so we help about 650 adults and children.

Every week a representative of each family contacts us, and they receive a selection of selected fruits and vegetables, a selection of frozen products such as fish, chicken and meat, and a selection of products such as oil, rice, or even cornflakes.

In Netivyah, we have been carrying out this sacred work since 2000, 18 years of charity.

We work hand in hand with the staff of Jerusalem's welfare offices.

Our weekly Torah portion emphasizes the giving to the poor, the concern for the weak in society, the caring for those who are different from us.

A Tale of Two Seas - Which One Are You?

I will end with a short story:

There are two lakes in the Land of Israel: in one, its waters are sweet and fish live there. Trees spread their branches over it and send their thirsty roots into its healthy waters. Children play along its shores, as children played in biblical times.

The Jordan River brings to this sea sparkling water that comes down from the hills. The people built their houses near its banks and the birds built their nests here, and all the animals are happy that they have settled in this place.

But the Jordan River continues to flow south, and flows into another sea. Here there is no trace of fish, no leaves, no birds singing. Heavy air hangs on the water. Man, beast, and bird do not drink from the waters of this lake.

What is the cause of this enormous difference between the two lakes, which are not that far apart?

The Jordan is not to blame, it pours its water into both lakes. The environment is not to blame, nor is the land.

The Sea of ​​Galilee receives its water from the Jordan River, but the Sea of ​​Galilee does not store the water for itself. For every drop that flows into it, it issues a drop from it.

The second lake stores the water coming into it with the greed of a miser. It will not give up its water. Every drop that comes to it is held onto.

The Sea of ​​Galilee gives, and therefore it is a living sea. The second sea does not give, and we call it the “Dead Sea”.

There are two kinds of lakes in Israel, and two types of people are in the world.

Let us have a Shabbat of peace, a Shabbat filled with life, with living water.

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