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: Purim, costumes and the hidden Messiah – Shemini[2024]

This week we celebrated Purim and the atmosphere was joyous, even in the midst of the war. The fun of the Purim costumes is especially fun for kids, but many of us enjoy to pretend to be someone or something else - that could be completely opposite of our day-to-day life – just once a year.

At the beginning of the week, we had our successful, yearly Purim party at our congregation. The kids helped us read the Book of Esther from our handwritten scroll. We also enjoyed a musical based on the Book of Esther, performed by a Messianic choir, as well as musicians. We listened to two wonderful teachings, one from one of our teenage girls.

It’s so very encouraging to see our next generation grow up in faith, wisdom and the ability to express themselves based on the Word of God. Both teachings were awesome!

There is no greater joy than to see the next generation grow in front of your eyes, and watch the future generation taking initiative and responsibility, as well as teach at the congregation. We are so encouraged!

At the end we enjoyed Hamantaschen (traditional cookies, that are called ‘Haman’s ears’ in Hebrew...), and we held our yearly costume competition with chocolates for the winners… Most costumes were original and interesting, and both children and adults enjoyed presenting their costumes to their excited audience, being applauded in return.
Some wear their masks and costumes really well, and they make for good actors! It’s just fun to share life as a community and to see each other in a creative way, at times. It also makes the message of Purim come to life, even more.

Thinking of costumes, there really is one winner, and that is… Yeshua the Messiah.

Yeshua the Messiah is the corner stone upon which Netivyah is built, and we believe Yeshua is the promised Redeemer.

Why then, do others not see what we see?

In the past, the church dressed Yeshua up, put on face-paint and added blue contact lenses, making Him unrecognizable.

Today. good-hearted Christians, people who really care and want to do what’s right, just don’t recognize or know the Jewishness of Messiah Yeshua. It’s not their fault, they just don’t know.

They know Pesach, but it is decorated with an ‘Easter’ bunny.
The synagogue Yeshua used to attend regularly, got dressed up as a church, and the ‘psukei dezimra’, or opening prayers of the ancient Jewish prayer, were replaced with hymn songs.

There is no need to worry, as many of these good-hearted Christians, started to re-read the Bible and begin to see and understand.

And as they begin to understand, Israel too, begins to understand. Slowly but surely.

Now, here the well-meaning Christians should be aware, not to throw away their Christian culture and traditions as a whole, without a better alternative in place; because after all, those are the traditions that preserved a moral and honest life-style, as well as faith in the most important One of all: Yeshua the Messiah!

And, even if He got dressed up and covered up in a costume, He still remains our Savior and Redeemer.

And from a Jewish-Israeli perspective?

The local people see Yeshua, completely dressed up as someone unrecognizable, and as a complete stranger. That’s odd, because the expectation for a Messiah originates with the People of Israel. Without Israel and without the Jewish philosophy we would not even know about Messiah in the first place. Why is that?

The Bible does not mention the term ‘Messiah’ as we understand it to be. The original meaning of the term ‘Messiah’ does not mean ‘Savior’ or ‘Redeemer’, but rather means ‘anointed’. The idea of Messiah as a redeemer is rooted in the Jewish faith and commentary. The root of the word ‘Messiah’ is: מ.ש.ח – and means ‘to anoint with oil’. And so, several kings and priests are mentioned as ‘Mashiach’, pointing at them being anointed with oil. For example, Saul, David and the Persian King Koresh.

Now, without a doubt, the character of Messiah (as a Savior) is hinted and shines between the lines of countless prophecies, hints and meanings. Undoubtedly, Yeshua is a historical and real character, and no one doubts that Yeshua truly existed and was crucified at Golgotha at the evening of Pesach, not even those that oppose Him.

In Yeshua we see the promised Messiah! I say ‘promised’, because even if it isn’t black-on-white in the Bible, it is still certainly hinted and described, nonetheless.
And that’s why Judaism in general, and the Bible commentators, believe and expect Messiah.

Here we ask:

but here is Yeshua, why don’t they see Him?

But then again, what do they truly see? A European figure, who got turned into a statue and an idol? He is completely dressed up, and Israel doesn’t recognize Him.

That is the reason why the Body of Messiah in Israel – and especially Netivyah - is so very important. Our task is to take off the mask that was put on Yeshua the Messiah. To show that He isn’t made of stone, but that He in fact, wants to give us a heart of flesh and blood.

It will happen, and we know it will happen. Again, because the Word of God hints and shows it in so many ways.

Let’s take a look at the story of Joseph in Egypt. His brothers did not recognize Him and (like Yeshua), Joseph was dressed up, too. Joseph’s own brothers, who saw and spoke with him, did not recognize him.

By the way, did you know that Joseph and David are both prototypes of Messiah, according to Jewish tradition?

There will come a day, that Yeshua – much like Joseph – will invite His siblings to come to Him and declare: “It’s me Yeshua, your brother, your Messiah”

Yehuda Bachana: The Holiness of God – Shemini[2023]

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

This Torah Portion is very rich. Some of its content is obvious and easy to understand, while some is hidden and is only revealed when reading the commentaries and interpretations.

The obvious part includes the list of what is pure and what is unclean, with nearly half of the portion being an explanation about the clean types of animals, that one can eat, and the kosher laws. These laws have been preserved in the collective consciousness of the Jewish people for generations. At the same time pork, or more precisely, the avoidance of eating pork, became a central part of the Jewish identity.

The deeper and the hidden content of this week’s reading is the dedication of the Tabernacle followed by the sin and the death of the sons of Aaron; a terrible and almost unconceivable trauma. What happened there, and why?

Let’s start with the list of animals that are not meant for eating. It seems like in every generation we try to find a convincing explanation of why it is forbidden to eat them.

Sometimes we think that the kosher laws and food limitations preserved our nation in exile, separating us from others, as it did not allow our cultures to mix.
While sometimes we thought that the kosher laws are given for health reasons; that the Jewish dietary laws are the recipe for a good and healthy life.

It is also possible that God commanded us to keep kosher because of the both reasons. I usually like to understand the logic behind the commandment, in order to keep them with meaning, and when needed, to adopt them to the current time and age.

My understanding of this commandment is that it helps to preserve our identity. Meaning that those who keep kosher, naturally separate themselves from the rest of the food in the world. It is clear when we look at the kosher practices through the last 500 years of our history in the exile that the house where kosher was kept, managed to keep its Jewish identity in the exile, even in a hostile environment.

God called us, the people of Israel, to be “holy”, meaning to be separated from the rest of the world. And after a long list of animals that are not kosher, comes the divine call:

“Be holy because I am holy.” (Leviticus 11:44)

This commandment comes in connection with the consumption of kosher food.
The way I understand it is that God called us to be separated from other nations, and the most effective mechanism that has proved itself through history is through the customs of cooking and eating.

Here we come to the most common debate in the Jewish-Christian world; the debate about kosher laws in connection with Yeshua’s saying about what comes into your mouth.
Yeshua teaches us a very important principle:

“What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”(Mathew 15:11)

I might seem like Yeshua’s saying contradicts the kosher laws of the Torah, but it is not so at all. Yeshua speaks in the spirit of Isaiah the prophet, who said that God did not require sacrifices and burned offerings, but rather mercy between man and his neighbor, although the Torah clearly commands the offering of sacrifices.

In the same spirit, Yeshua says that what enters a person’s mouth defiles him for a short period of time, and the next day he is clean from the impure food. But the words that come out of our mouth have the power to defile us or hurt other people for a much longer period of time.

We are keeping the kosher laws, but the impurity from food, according to the Torah, is a low-grade transgression, that defiles for one day.

Yeshua teaches us that if we are careful about what comes into our mouth, how much more, we have to watch what comes out of our mouth, like slander, gossip or insults to others.

Our Torah Portion begins on the eighth day, and what happened before the eighth day? The acceptable interpretation is that it took 7 days for the Tabernacle to start functioning, when priests were appointed and preparations were made for the sanctification of the Tent of Meeting.

“On the eighth day Moses summoned Aaron and his sons and the elders of Israel.” (Leviticus 9:1)

This was the day when the Tent of Meeting was sanctified. On this day, the work of God in the Tabernacle began.

During the construction of the Tabernacle the children of Israel donated much and volunteered a lot, so the entire nation waited anxiously for the beginning of the fellowship with God; for the beginning of the Holy work of the Sanctuary.

And now it comes!

Through the book of Exodus, the children of Israel suffered ups and downs with many dramatic and emotional events, such as when the entire Egyptian army was about to catch up with them; a dreadful moment of paralyzing fear. And then the amazing miracle; passing through the red sea. Oh, the joy of the miraculous victory against all odds and all logic!

The Children of Israel have experienced a reality beyond our wildest imagination. And at the end of the book of Exodus, the Glory of God fills the entire Tabernacle, in the sight of all Israel. God accepted the work that Israel had done, and from that moment on, He dwells in our midst.

And now, after all the work is accomplished, with the priestly garments made, the shifts of the priests arranged, with the offering orders and the duties, are organized till the last detail. In the middle of the celebrations, Israel witnesses yet another traumatic and painful event.

The two sons of Aaron’s, two of their beloved leaders, the priests called to serve in the sanctuary, are killed in a divine act of punishment, when the fire of God consumes them.

What happened here?

“Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, contrary to his command. So fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord.” (Leviticus 10:1-2)

The reason for such a severe punishment for the sons of Aaron is stated in the Bible clearly:

“They offered unauthorized fire.”

However, it is not clear enough. For generations, the Torah commentators try to explain their sin, saying that they came drunk, or they came without washing their hands and feet, or that it was a rebellion, a spiritual ecstasy, or other reasons.

Each of these commentaries comes with an extensive explanation from the Scriptures and its own logic. For example, the claim that sons of Aaron came to the sanctuary drunk, is based on what comes that right after the punishment:

“God spoke to Aaron and command him to stay away from wine, while serving in the sanctuary. Then the Lord said to Aaron, “You and your sons are not to drink wine or other fermented drink whenever you go into the tent of meeting, or you will die.” (Leviticus 10:8-10

You see, that it is easy to conclude that the reason for their death was drunkenness. That sons of Aaron came to serve God while drunk, and right after they died, God gives Aaron a warning to stay away from alcohol when serving in the Tabernacle, or else you will die.

Other commentators emphasize the issue of holiness, but I would like to focus on the actual explanation of their sin in the Bible:
A strange fire or unauthorized fire.

The New Testament describes God as fire:

“For our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:29)

Fire, and especially “fire from God” happens at important moments in Israel’s history, starting with the covenant God made with Abraham, when the mysterious pillar of fire passed in between the sacrifice to seal the covenant between Abraham and God.

The divine fire appears again in the burning bush, and it is said clearly, that the place is “holy”. God commands Moses to stop and not to come closer. Moses takes off his shoes because the divine power sanctifies the area around it.

During Exodus, the level of holiness increases even more. We read that the Lord himself was leading Israel in a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire.

“By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.” (Exodus 13:21)

The Lord descended on Mt. Sinai in fire:

“Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently.” (Exodus 19:18)

And in our Torah Portion, the fire from heaven comes down again. Moses prepared the children of Israel for the meeting with God with the following introduction:

“For today the Lord will appear to you.” (Leviticus 9:4)

And after all the work was done to the last detail:

“Fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar. And when all the people saw it, they shouted for joy and fell facedown.” (Leviticus 9:24)

In all these examples, the source of fire is divine, and is not initiated by people. And this fire is not acting as a normal fire. It consumes the sacrifice, but not the burning bush, which was burning but remained untouched.

It comes down upon the altar soaked with water, as with Elijah on Mt. Carmel. Water does not bother the fire from God, on the contrary, it consumes water as well:

“Then he said to them, “Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood. Do it again, he said, and they did it again. Do it a third time, he ordered, and they did it the third time. The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench. At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.” Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.” (1 Kings 18:33-38)

So what is it, this fire of God?

The fire of God is the Holy Spirit, it is the Divine Presence – Shechinah, and it reveals itself in different levels of holiness. The Holy Spirit can reside in men, it fills us with prophesy and other gifts of the spirit. It is what connects people and God.

In the New Testament Yeshua promises us that the Holy Spirit will be in every disciple, in anyone who is serving the Messiah.

On the day of Pentecost (Shavuot), (which, according to our tradition, is also the day of Torah giving), in the same manner as the fire of God descended upon Mt. Sinai, in that same way the Spirit of God descended upon Yeshua’s disciples:

“Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” (Acts 2:2-4)

The New Testament describes the Holy Spirit as fire, the Holy Spirit rested upon each of the disciples, as tongues of fire.

Back to the sons of Aaron.
The fire came from God and willingly consumed the sacrifice on the alter, it was a heavenly fire, divine and holy, and it must not be desecrated. But the Sons of Aaron brought a new fire, additional fire, a man-made fire, fire that they started themselves, as it is written:

“Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense” (Leviticus 10:1)

It was another fire; it was the desecration of holiness. There is no forgiveness for the desecration of the Holy Spirit, and the punishment was swift. The fire came from God and consumed the sons of Aaron, and they fell dead before the sanctuary.

The New Testament teaches us that there is no forgiveness or mercy for desecration of God’s name or the Holy Spirit:

“Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” (Mathew 12:32)

Either by mistake or maliciously, the sons of Aaron tried to change the divine order given through Moses. The fire consumed them in the same way as later the fire would consume Korah and his followers.

What’s left to discuss is if their action was premeditated or was it a mistake? The commentators have split opinion about it. Some say it was premeditated, a stand against Moses and Aaron. Others think it was a mistake, a personality flaw or good intentions, but not worthy of their position.

I tend to think it was a mistake, that they didn’t have ill intentions. I find a hint to it in our Haftorah from 2nd Samuel chapter 6. When the Ark of God was moved to Jerusalem on the cart, at some point it looked like the cart is about to fall, instinctively, Uzziah stretched his hand to hold it, he touched the Ark and immediately fell dead.

I do not think that Uzziah had bad intentions. On the contrary, he worried about the Ark too much. He profaned its holiness. He touched the Ark of the covenant, and paid for it the ultimate price.

In the light of this Haftara, I think that the sons of Aaron sinned by mistake. They saw the joy and the celebrations. They saw people’s excitement from God’s answer, from His closeness.

But the closer God comes to people, He reduces his holiness. As from afar like on Mount Sinai, it appears as a mighty fire, but amongst a crowd, it would appear much smaller, as a candle flame over the head. That is because people cannot see God, cannot get closer to Him and remain alive. Like in the Lord’s answer to Moses’ request:

“But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” (Exodus 33:20)

So may be God’s revelation before Israel was not satisfactory in their eyes. Maybe they wanted to add something.

For the sake of the people, they added fire; man-made fire, unauthorized fire. And they paid the price for desecrating the sanctity of God.

This Torah portion teaches us that we need to be very careful not to desecrate the divine holiness.
It starts with respect in the house of God, whether it’s our congregation, or our church.

Respect and a humble spirit, as we pray, praise, and seek his face.

Joseph Shulam: Forbidden Behavior [2023]

Israel has been going through a political drama for the last 5 months, and the Torah Portion this week is adding more drama into our life. We don’t really need more drama when we live in Israel, but we don’t chose the Torah readings or the readings from the prophets that are read in all the synagogues around the world.

This Shabbat’s reading is called Shemini, it starts in Leviticus 9:1 – 11:47, and from the Prophets the reading is from 2 Samuel 6:1-7:17. From the New Testament we read on Shabbat, from Acts 10:9 – 35.

The opening words of this Torah portion are: “It came to pass on the eighth day that Moses called Aaron and his sons and the elders of Israel.” Shemini means the 8th day. The question always comes by every commentator what does it mean the 8th day? The week for Jews and Non-Jews around the world is seven days, not eight days. So, what is this 8th day? Rashi the most famous Jewish Medieval and very important commentator of the whole Old Testament, the Mishnah, the Talmud, and several more Rabbinical texts, give us a clear interpretation of what does it mean ‘The eight day…’. “THE EIGHTH DAY of the installation of the priests into their sacred office; this was the New Moon of Nisan on which the Tabernacle was finally erected.”

The question comes naturally, why is this information needed for readers that will be reading the Torah every year around the Passover Holiday, in the month of Nissan. The answer comes very soon after you start reading the Torah from chapter 9 of Leviticus. The whole of chapter 9 is actually dealing with great details of how to do the sacrifices. How to treat every animal and prepare the animals for their offering on the Altar in the Tabernacle that was built in the wilderness from the contributions of the whole camp of Israel.

Chapter 10 of Leviticus gives us the reason what this texts takes us to the 8th Day after the priests were initiated to serve in the newly built Tabernacle. Chapter 10 of Leviticus is one of the hardest chapters to understand and digest with our minds and with our basic concepts of our God, being a God who’s flag and essence is love. God revealed Himself to Moses and to us when Moses stood on the Rock and God passed by and Moses saw God’s back.

The words are recorded in Exodus 34:4-7, “Now the LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed,

“The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.”(Exodus 34:5–7 NKJV)

The opening of our Torah reading on this Shabbat from Leviticus 9:1 to chapter 10:1ff is an introduction to the events that descend on the reading in chapter 10, the death of Aaron’s two eldest sons, Nadab and Abihu, for bringing “strange fire” to the altar of the Lord. It is not simple for a believer in God who celebrates God’s character as merciful and gracious and long suffering and abounding in grace and truth. Living in Israel today you quickly realize that God, the gracious and loving God, long suffering and full of grace and truth , has another side.

I fear to say that that same God can have also a harsh side, or shall I call it a dark side. Our God is definitely not a push-over and not as quick to forgive and forget as we, His children, take for granted. This is one reason for all of us to take God’s promises very seriously. In the book of Leviticus He, our loving God, said:

“Then, if you walk contrary to Me, and are not willing to obey Me, I will bring on you seven times more plagues, according to your sins.” (Leviticus 26:21 NKJV).

Our Torah reading, that tells the story of the burning of Aaron’s two sons, Nadab and Abihu with fire from Heaven, can’t be understood without two elements that our reading provides. The first element is chapter 9 with all the details that the text gives on every sacrifice and a every tool connected to the sacrificial process.

The fact that these well trained, dedicated to serve God, and sons of the High Priest Aaron, should have known better. They should have been prepared for their work in the Tabernacle. The Rabbinical explanation for the mistake or negligence of Aaron’s sons is that they were actually intoxicated from drinking wine before their service in the altar of sacrifices. This idea comes from the text immediately after the calamity of the death of Nadab and Abihu!

“Then the LORD spoke to Aaron, saying:“Do not drink wine or intoxicating drink, you, nor your sons with you, when you go into the tabernacle of meeting, lest you die. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations, that you may distinguish between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean, and that you may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the LORD has spoken to them by the hand of Moses.””(Leviticus 10:8–11 NKJV)

We should notice that the people who are in leadership sin, sins of commission, and they do it because of carelessness or negligence, the worst part of those sins is when they are committed with premeditation or maliciously.

The Rabbinical commentator connects the next verses that forbid drinking wine or intoxicating drinks while or before the service of the priests in the Tabernacle.

One of the hermeneutical rules in Pharisaic rules of interpretation is the rule that takes into account the surrounding context as a part of the backdrop or foreground of the message.

For this reason, the explanation of why God was so harsh with Aaron’s sons, who were priests, well trained and accomplished in their service. So, the proximity of the command for those who serve God ought not drink wine before their service and be totally focused and dedicated only to their service.

The next thing in the Torah Portion of Shemini that ought to be mentioned in this prayer list are the rules and the lists of the clean animals that are permitted to be eaten and the rules of the unclean animals that are forbidden for consumption by those who fear God and observe His commandments.

This concept of clean and unclean animals, permitted and forbidden for consumption by the God fearing, is already in the story of Noah and the flood. God commanded Noah to bring seven pairs of the clean animals that are for human consumption and only two pairs of the animals that are not clean. This indicates that the so called ‘kosher laws’ are not connected with Israel or Jewish, but they have universal reasons and universal application.

In the acts chapter 15 text, the four commandments obligatory also on Gentile disciples of the Messiah, include two commandments that are connected with food and the source of these commandments are given by God to all of humanity right after Noah’s flood in Genesis chapter 9.

The three commandments of Genesis 9 grow and become 7 commandments that righteous Gentiles are obligated to keep if they want to have fellowship with the Apostolic communities in the land of Israel and all around where disciples of Yeshua exist and live.

The two culinary food related commandments that the Gentile Disciples of Yeshua are obligated to keep, are to eat “meat strangled,” and “Blood’…. In other words any meat that disciples of Yeshua, be it Jewish or Gentile disciples can eat, have to be killed in a kosher way or in the Arabic language, Hallal meat.

There is no text in the New Testament that allows Gentiles to eat anything that they like to eat. On the contrary the Acts 15 Apostolic injunctions for the non-Jewish disciples, brothers in Christ must observe, is the kosher slaughtering of the animals (not strangled – i.e. the animal can not be road kill or killed with a bullet in the head.) The animal must be killed by cutting the main vain from the heart to the brain and allow the heart to keep beating and pumping the blood out of the body.

However the most important text concerning food permitted comes from 1 Timothy 4:3-5. It takes reading the text very carefully and doing the reading like a good lawyer who pays attention to every word and the syntax of this very short and significant verse, in my opinion.

Here is a list of animals that are forbidden to be used as food for human consumption. The two requirements in the animals that are permitted to be used as food are that the animal has a cloven hoof and chows the cud.

I am including this list from Leviticus chapter 11 for your consideration and for you to try to understand what are the connections between the forbidden animals and the kosher (halal) animals that are allowed to be used as food.

“Now the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying to them, “Speak to the children of Israel, saying, ‘These are the animals which you may eat among all the animals that are on the earth: Among the animals, whatever divides the hoof, having cloven hooves and chewing the cud—that you may eat. Nevertheless these you shall not eat among those that chew the cud or those that have cloven hooves: the camel, because it chews the cud but does not have cloven hooves, is unclean to you; the rock hyrax, because it chews the cud but does not have cloven hooves, is unclean to you; the hare, because it chews the cud but does not have cloven hooves, is unclean to you; and the swine, though it divides the hoof, having cloven hooves, yet does not chew the cud, is unclean to you. Their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch. They are unclean to you. “These you may eat of all that are in the water: whatever in the water has fins and scales, whether in the seas or in the rivers—that you may eat. But all in the seas or in the rivers that do not have fins and scales, all that move in the water or any living thing which is in the water, they are an abomination to you. They shall be an abomination to you; you shall not eat their flesh, but you shall regard their carcasses as an abomination. Whatever in the water does not have fins or scales—that shall be an abomination to you.” (Leviticus 11:1–12 NKJV)

Please read the text of 1 Timothy 4:3-5 and work on understanding the text by paying attention to every element in Paul’s instructions concerning food that is permitted or forbidden. Make up your own mind what does Paul teach on this issue.

God bless you all dear brothers and please pray for Israel, the nation, the government, our neighbors from the North, South, East and West, and bless Jerusalem to be the city of Peace and the City of the Great King!

Joseph Shulam: Are We Outside the Camp? [2022]

The Torah and prophets reading this Shabbat is called Shemini: Leviticus 9:1 - 11:47. It is also one of the special Shabbats and there is extra reading of what is called Parashat Parah – Numbers 19:1-22.

From the prophets we read a complimentary text, Parah, which is found in Ezekiel 36:16-36. I recommend the reading from the New Testament from Hebrews chapter 13, the whole chapter.

The reason that I recommend this text from the letter to the Hebrews is because it is directly related to the reading from the Torah and from Ezekiel 36. Now I realize that most Christians and even the leaders are not familiar with this connection and relationship between the “Parah” and Hebrews 13. This is why I will start from the letter of Hebrews and return to the Torah portion and Ezekiel.

In Hebrews 13:10-16, we find this text:

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

Normally, in the Tabernacle in the wilderness, and in the Temple in Jerusalem, the priests and the Levites, those who serve in the Tabernacle, are those who have the exclusive right to eat the permitted pieces of meat that is sacrificed on the altar. So, what is the writer of the book of Hebrews is talking about?

All the animals that were offered in the Tabernacle and in the Temple in Jerusalem were offered inside the holy precinct of the Temple and the Tabernacle. There was only one sacrifice that was offered and totally burned, and none of the priests and Levites could eat from it.

It is the sacrifice of the Red Heifer, the “Parah Aduma.” Here is the text from Numbers chapter 19:1-6:

“Now the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, ‘This is the ordinance of the law which the Lord has commanded, saying: “Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring you a red heifer without blemish, in which there is no defect and on which a yoke has never come. You shall give it to Eleazar the priest, that he may take it outside the camp, and it shall be slaughtered before him; and Eleazar the priest shall take some of its blood with his finger, and sprinkle some of its blood seven times directly in front of the tabernacle of meeting. Then the heifer shall be burned in his sight: its hide, its flesh, its blood, and its offal shall be burned. And the priest shall take cedar wood and hyssop and scarlet and cast them into the midst of the fire burning the heifer.”’” – Numbers 19:1-6

The Red Heifer was the only sacrifice that was ordered by God for the children of Israel to be offered outside of the camp. Outside of the Tabernacle and outside the Temple in Jerusalem.

This sacrifice of the Red Heifer was a very important sacrifice. Yes, the priests and the Levites didn’t get to eat from this sacrifice, but without this sacrifice there could not exist a holy camp, or purification of people who were made ritually unclean, and therefore could not participate in the holy rights and worship in the Jerusalem Temple or the Tabernacle in the wilderness.

The ashes of this sacrifice of the Red Heifer were used in order to clear doubt in the case of a husband that suspected that his wife was unfaithful to him (Numbers chapter 5, about the woman suspected of infidelity). The sacrifice of the Red Heifer was unique in many ways, and it was the only way to be purified from leprosy, and other illnesses that are infectious.

I remind you, dear brothers and sisters, that this was the only sacrifice that was offered on an altar outside the camp. In fact, now we know where that sacrifice of the Red Heifer took place. It took place in the desert by the Dead Sea in a place called Qumran, where the Essene community setup camp far from Jerusalem.

Just recently a big find was discovered in one of the caves near Qumran. The thing that archaeologists found recently was a small piece from the book of Esther. This indicates that the people who lived in Qumran in the first century B.C.E. and C.E. (B.C. and A.D.) had the book of Esther and considered it a part of the canon of the Bible.

The book of Esther was among the last books that were accepted and considered inspired by the Holy Spirit, and holy. The person that actually made the discovery near Qumran of the place where the Red Heifer was burned was an ex-Baptist missionary by the name of Vindal Jones.

He was an amateur archaeologist who went about looking for the lost Ark of the Covenant and for Noah’s ark, and for other lost artifacts mentioned in the Bible. All the Indiana Jones characters were patterned by the persona of Vindal Jones.

Vindal was a big help to us in Netivyah, in the beginning and formation of our ministry. After being persecuted for many months by ultra-orthodox Jewish radicals, Brother Jones offered us the use of the Baptist House on Narkis Street for $100 per month. That included the cleaning, and the cookies and coffee and tea, and office space for me in the same room with Dr. Robert L. Lindsey, behind the Baptist church that was later burned by the same radicals.

Back to our text:

“Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come. Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” – Hebrews 13:12-16

This text is often neglected by most evangelical pastors, mainly because it doesn’t connect to the paradigm that motivates most Evangelical churches. And it is hard to understand.

The writer of the book of Hebrews is calling on the brothers and sisters to recognize that Yeshua’s death and resurrection happened “outside the camp”. Yeshua, for the writer of Hebrews, was the embodiment of the sacrifice of the Red Heifer outside the camp.

“Outside the camp “has several meanings in this text of Hebrews. It has today’s meaning of “outside the box”. It has also the meaning of “outside the consensus of the Jewish leadership of that time”. It has also the geographical meaning of “outside the camp,” meaning outside of Jerusalem and the Temple cultus.

The writer calls the disciples to realize that Jerusalem is about to fall (which it did, not long after the letter to the Hebrews was written). It has the declaration that the Jerusalem that the early disciples were seeking was the eternal Jerusalem, the same one that in chapter 11 of Hebrews Abraham was waiting for.

Then comes the “Therefore” in verse 15. We must offer the sacrifices of praise and the fruit of our lips with thanksgiving (based on Hosea chapter 14, that anticipated the same events.).

For the writer of Hebrews, Yeshua was the Red Heifer. Outside the camp is the only place that, after Yeshua’s death and after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, we, His disciples, can still find atonement from sin and purification of our souls.

The exhortation in verse 16 is of great importance for us today also. The writer reminds us two things that also today we need to keep in mind:

“But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” – Hebrews 13:16

To do good means to do good deeds and to share means to share both our physical and spiritual goods, and especially the good news that we have because of Yeshua’s willingness to go outside the camp for us and provide our atonement and purification and sanctification outside the camp, outside the consensus, outside our worry and care of what others might say about us and what they might do against us.

We are outside the camp of this world’s popularists, and inside the holy camp of those who have their sins atoned for, and their lives purified even in the middle of a horrible sinful world.

In this same Torah portion we also find the tragic death of Aaron’s two sons in Leviticus 10:1-3,

“Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. So fire went out from the Lord and devoured them, and they died before the Lord. And Moses said to Aaron, ‘This is what the Lord spoke, saying: “By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; And before all the people I must be glorified.”’ So Aaron held his peace.” – Leviticus 10:1-3

This event is one of two very tragic and very hard to understand events in the whole Bible. It is the death of Nadab and Abihu here and the death of Uza when David was bringing the Ark of the Covenant from Kiryat Yearim to Jerusalem.

I am going to stay close to our Torah Portion and just try to understand: what was the serious sin and crime of the sons of Aaron that they deserved to die in such a violent and public death?

We can never understand today how serious the public service of the Lord in the Tabernacle of the Lord in the wilderness was, and later in the Temple.

First, God was very eminent for the children of Israel that left Egyptian slavery, and received their freedom and stood under Mount Sinai, and received the Torah. All hearing the sound of the trumpet and the shaking of the mountain and the voice of God Himself speaking out the Ten Commandments from the mountain.

In our modern and post-modern world, we have lost the sense and the sensitivity for time and space. We carry in our pockets our whole “world”, including our bibles and our memories in our photos, and dictionaries, and libraries and literally most of the most important “things”, like banking and identifications.

Together with the great convenience of having smartphones and iPads, and laptop computers, we have lost the concept of holy space and holy time. To us, the death of Nadab and Abihu seems unnecessary, cruel, and way too harsh. The God who took the lives of these two men, the sons of Aaron, seems distant and difficult, and heartless.

Our idea today could be: “Hey man, fire is fire, what's the big deal if it's fire from here or from there?” But not so for people who saw by day the presence of the Lord above the Tabernacle in the cloud, and by night the pillar of fire.

It was important for the leaders and the priests to follow instruction to the letter of the command. These boys of Aaron, according to rabbinical commentaries, drank wine before they went to serve the Lord. They didn’t do this act of bringing strange fire to the altar by thinking seriously about their service before the Lord.

After the texts that deal with the consequences of the death of Aaron’s sons, this is what the word of God says:

“Then the Lord spoke to Aaron, saying: ‘Do not drink wine or intoxicating drink, you, nor your sons with you, when you go into the tabernacle of meeting, lest you die. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations, that you may distinguish between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean, and that you may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the Lord has spoken to them by the hand of Moses.’” – Leviticus 10:8-11

The bringing of the strange fire was not a standalone event, according to Jewish tradition. It was an event that was a result of drinking wine or intoxicating drink.

These boys of Aaron could have said to each other, “This same-old same-old practice every day is getting to me, why don’t we take a little walk with Johnny Walker before we go and repeat the same-old same-old things that we do every day.”

Well, after they strolled with Johnny Walker for a while, they went to do their duty in the house of God and took some liberties. The walk with Johnny made their judgment fuzzy enough to take fire from a different source. After all, “fire is fire is fire”.

We must all take our service and dedication and our worship much more serious than we do in our day and time. The way we dress, the way we sing, the way we take the Lord’s Supper has to carry with it the sense of God’s presence in our midst.

After all, we all know that wherever there are two or three of us worshiping and speaking and talking of the Lord, He is in our midst, with us!

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

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

Shalom, my name is Joseph Shulam, and together with Brad TV, we are going through all the weekly readings that are read in every synagogue around the world from the five books of Moses, and today, we are reading a portion that’s called “Shemini,” which, essentially, says “the eighth day,” and that’s how the text starts from Leviticus, Chapter 9, verse 1:

“It came to pass on the eighth day that Moses called Aaron and his sons, and the elders of Israel, and said to Aaron, ‘Take for yourself a young bull as a sin offering, and a ram as a burnt offering, without blemish, and offer them before the Lord.’”

And the whole of Chapter 9 is dealing with the different sacrifices that Moses commands Aaron and his sons to offer on the altar in the tabernacle in the wilderness. But the main event of this book starts in Chapter 10, and it starts with a very tragic, one of the most tragic events. There’s two very, very tragic events in our Bible of death related to the holy things of the Lord. The one in the days of David was Uzzah. When David decides to bring the Ark of the Covenant that had been 20 years sitting in Kiriath-Jearim, which is, today, a village less than four miles from where I live, an Arab village, on the top of the Arab village, there is a Catholic monastery, and that was the site of Kiriath-Jearim.

And recently, an Israeli archeologist by the name of Israel Finkelstein dug there, and found a sanctuary, a huge sanctuary, a huge temple, not an Israelite temple, a huge pagan temple, on the very top of that hill, and apparently, the Ark of the Covenant was placed there after the Philistines returned it, and it went to Beit Shemesh, and wreaked havoc in Beit Shemesh like it wreaked havoc in the Philistine cities on the seashore of the Mediterranean.

And it sat there all through the reign of King Saul until David decided to bring it to Jerusalem. He built a special tent for it in Jerusalem, and he decided to bring it to Jerusalem. On the way, bringing it to Jerusalem, a guy named Uzzah thought that the cart, dragged by oxen, which was rocking, going up a hill on a rocky road, and he thought that the Ark would fall.

And he supported the Ark, and died on the spot, which is one of the weird religious things that happened. The first one is the one that we’re talking about in the Book of Leviticus, in Chapter 10. So Chapter 9 gives us all these instructions of what they did, how they cut the fat from the bull and from the rams, and the kidneys, and the liver, and all the things that they did to prepare these animals for the sacrifices. I don’t like dealing with these things, I’m not very good with the butchering, but it’s necessary.

The Holy Spirit saw fit to give us these instructions, and maybe someday they’ll become relevant to us, more relevant than they are now. But I’m jumping to Chapter 10, verse 1. Chapter 10, verse 1. Moses commanded Aaron in Chapter 9 to bring his sons, who were already priests, they were anointed, dedicated, sanctified as priests, and he told Aaron, “Bring you and your sons, and come and do this sacrificial...”

If you ask me my opinion, it was kind of like a practice run of how to do all these animals before it becomes the daily chore, the daily tasks of the priests. This was in the process of dedicating the tabernacle and the priests. So in Chapter 10, verse 1, we read,

“And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer, and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them.”

That’s what the sons of Aaron did.

What God did in reaction is very drastic. It’s very drastic. Verse 2 of Chapter 10,

“So fire went out from the Lord and devoured them, and they died before the Lord.”

Two sons of Aaron, the oldest sons of Aaron, they were already priests, they were already sanctified, they were already purified, they were already prepared, but they brought strange fire. Whatever that means, maybe we’ll discuss it some other time. But the issue that I want to talk about is this, it’s enthusiasm. The word enthusiasm, in English, contains the word theos, and theos, it’s kind of a divine presence, a divine characteristic.

The ex-rabbi, Rabbi Sacks, who was the Chief Rabbi of Great Britain, of England, for many years, looked at this story and attributed the action of the sons of Aaron to enthusiasm. They were young priests, who had inherited their position as the sons of Aaron, anointed with oil, and their ear, right ear, their right thumb, and their right foot, the big toe of the right foot, was anointed with oil, and with blood, because a priest has to hear from the Lord, to do the work of the Lord, and walk in the path of the Lord.

That’s the biblical anointing of priesthoods, the ear, the thumb, and the hand, right hand, and the right toe, because that’s the work of the priest, to hear from the Lord, to do the will of the Lord, and to walk in the ways of the Lord. So they were already sanctified, they were already purified, they were washed, they were prepared, and they heard the instruction that Moses gave, and then what happens is, they go and they take their censers, which is an instrument like a little shovel in which they shovel the incense sometimes, and also the hot coals for the fire to put it on the altar of the Lord. And Rabbi Sacks attributed their action, their careless action, to being overzealous, overenthusiastic. The word enthusiasm is one of the words in the English language, it’s a Greek word, but the English language has more synonyms for this word than any other word that I know.

If I look at the dictionary, then I’ll tell you some of the synonyms that it has: urgent desire, fancy, whim, crusade, cult, furor, fever, a crush, passion, quickness, ambition, gusto, zest, frivolousness, passion, zeal, readiness, willingness, casualness, ach, a long list of synonyms that the word enthusiasm has. And here they were, that was their big day. They were supposed to, together with their father and with Moses, to go through several of the main sacrificial orders in the Torah, in the Law of Moses, and they were enthusiastic, they were in a hurry, they wanted to do it with passion, they wanted to do it to prove themself.

They didn’t think about the details, about the fine text, underneath their desire to prove themself, underneath their desire to do the right thing, so they were overzealous, overenthusiastic, and instead of going a little bit further, or a little bit deeper, or a little bit more seriously, in their enthusiasm, they got a strange fire, a fire from the wrong place. What happens?

Fire comes down from heaven. Verse 2 of Chapter 10:

“Fire went out from the Lord and devoured them, and they died before the Lord.”

There are several things that I want us to learn from this. First of all, when it comes to serving God, we need to have zeal, yes, we need to have passion, yes, but zeal and passion have to be controlled with discipline, with obedience to the details, with accuracy to the commands of the Lord, and if they’re not, instead of getting good out of our obedience, instead of getting good out of our enthusiasm, desire to serve, desire to participate, desire to be active, desire to be pleasing to God, to our Father, to the leadership, to the people, to the crowds, beside all these things, we’re dealing with God, and God is a consuming fire.

We cannot afford to be casual, relaxed, overrelaxed, overzealous, and not to be very exact, very obedient, following the instructions of what God desires from us. Now, I’m going to continue with this text a little bit in Chapter 10 of the Book of Leviticus, because it becomes even more serious than this. Moses, the brother of Aaron, sees his nephews devoured by divine fire from God, family, fire from God comes and burns these two boys. They weren’t boys, they were already men, well in their 20s, maybe more, and this is Moses’ reaction to his brother Aaron, verse 3 of Chapter 10: And Moses said to Aaron,

“This is what the Lord spoke, saying: ‘By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; And before all the people I must be glorified.’”

Here is Aaron’s reaction. I get chills when I read this text. I don’t know how many times in my life I’ve read it, but hundreds and hundreds of times, how many times I’ve taught this lesson, also hundreds of times. Every time I read the text, I get chills all over my body. Moses says to his brother Aaron, to his older brother, Aaron, that just saw his two boys burned, he said, “This is what the Lord spoke, saying: ‘By those who come near to Me,’” means those who are come to serve Me,

“‘I must be regarded as holy.’” I shouldn’t be regarded casually, as a friend, or a passer-by. No, I am holy, and those who serve Me must take My holiness very seriously, and before all the people, I must be glorified. And hearing the words, that just shock me, in Hebrew, two words, and Aaron “shut up,” said nothing, reacted nothing. His two sons were burned, Aaron is standing there, stoic, firm, no questioning of God. “God, why did you do that? They were my boys, they were your priests.”

No, Aaron shuts up. In the New King James, “So Aaron held his peace.” So Aaron had nothing to say moments after his sons die.

“Then Moses called Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Uzziel the uncle of Aaron, and said to them, ‘Come near, carry your brethren from before the sanctuary out of the camp.’ So they went near and carried them by their tunics out of the camp, as Moses had said.”

Aah, what a sad picture. What a serious thing this is. And Moses says to Aaron, and to Eleazar and Ithamar, his sons, he had four sons, two are gone, burned, the two that are left,

“‘Do not uncover your heads nor tear your clothes, lest you die, and wrath come upon all the people. But let your brethren, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning which the Lord has kindled. You shall not go out from the door of the tabernacle of meeting lest you die, for the anointing of the Lord is upon you.’ And they did according to the words of Moses.”

The next text is very interesting in this context.

“Then the Lord spoke to Aaron, saying, ‘Do not drink wine or intoxicating drink, you, nor your sons with you, when you go into the tabernacle of meeting, lest you die. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations, that you may distinguish between what is holy and what is unholy, between the unclean and the clean, that you may teach your children, the children of Israel, all the statues which the Lord has spoken to them by the hand of Moses.’”

The proximity of this command not to drink alcohol, intoxicating drinks, to this very sad event, according to rabbinical commentaries, is an indication that the reason why the enthusiasm of Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, brought them this calamity, this tragedy, was because before they went to serve the Lord, they drank, and their mind, their enthusiasm, was not guided with logic, with obedience, with thought, with forethought.

But in Hebrew we have the word , they were overly zealous, overly excited, overly enthusiastic, that their enthusiasm led them to carelessness, their enthusiasm led them to over-desire, to get the work of the Lord done. Yes, yes, we need to be zealous, we need to be enthusiastic when we do the work of Lord, but we need to be also careful, to think about it, to be obedient to it. And I just want to give you an example.

We have texts in the New Testament that tell us what the early church did when they gathered. We have Acts, Chapter 2, verse 42, that the disciples gathered daily from house to house, breaking bread and continuing in teaching and in prayer.

Okay, so we have that example. We have in the Corinthian letters telling what they came together, and I think it’s Chapter 13 or 14 of First Corinthians, they had where the one brought the word of wisdom, another brought, you know, a song, another one brought a spiritual song, which means a melody without words. A spiritual song is a melody without words, because even the song with the words is spiritual, but the Hebrew understanding is that a spiritual song is just the melody.

Ach, Hasidic Jews do that very well. Aah, they do that very well. When I was in the Orthodox Yeshiva, for hours, they’d be singing, and dancing, and carrying on, without saying a word, just, ♪ Abba, bye, bye, bye, bye, bye, bye, bye ♪ ♪ Ba bye, bye, bye, bye, bye ♪ Yeah, that kind of... So you could say, in tongues, if we put it in modern charismatic context.

Yes, this is the portion of Shemini, and this amazing event is not only here in this text in Leviticus, Chapter 10, it’s again mentioned in Leviticus, Chapter 16, verse 1, and in Numbers, Chapter 3, verse 4, and in Numbers, Chapter 26, verse 61, and, yes, several times, four times in the Law of Moses. This event is so dramatic, so sad, and so important that it’s mentioned four times in the Law of Moses.

What shall we learn today, as pastors, as teachers, as rabbis, what shall we learn from this event? Here is what we should learn. First thing, the obvious thing is that when we serve the Lord, we shouldn’t be drinking alcohol. We shouldn’t come to the congregation even after having half a beer. It’s not a sin to drink alcohol, except for the Baptists, but it’s a sin to drink alcohol in a time when you’re supposed to be serving the Lord, preaching the word of God, conducting funerals, conducting baptism, conducting weddings. Yes, when you are serving the community and the Lord at the same time, or the Lord alone, even, you should not be drinking alcohol.

That’s the upshot that the rabbis get out of this story. One of the morals of this story is this, because of the proximity of the text. The second thing is, yes, we should do the work of the Lord with zeal, with enthusiasm, but also in obedience. We are not hired by the Lord to have shortcuts. We are not hired by the Lord to invent new, supposedly more effective ways of serving the Lord. We need to be much more circumspect in the way we serve God.

And this is an important lesson for pastors, for elders, for deacons, for teachers. Yes, the Book of Leviticus has this pivotal story in Chapter 10 of the Book of Leviticus, and as I said, it’s mentioned four times in the five books of Moses, which means that it’s very, very important that we should have enthusiasm controlled by obedience, by respect, by knowing the difference between what is holy and what is unholy. We’re not supposed to be creative above and beyond the commands and the instructions that God gave us in His word, both the Old and New Testament. My dear brothers and sisters, God is holy, and He demands us to treat Him in His holiness, and not in our casualness. May God bless you all. Shalom from Jerusalem.

Joseph Shulam: It Is More Important to Be Biblically Correct Than Politically Correct [2021]

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day! One of my first memories in life is the memorial siren that sounded loud and clear. Surprised and scared, I ran to my mother and wanted to nurse. She took me on her lap and allowed me to nurse. I was probably two or three years old.

Now, I am 75 years old and every year on this day of remembrance I know that I am a second generation Holocaust survivor. All my childhood from every member of my family I heard the narrative that was a pivotal point of every crisis that was the Second World War, the exile that my mother and sister and grandmother had to experience in the labor camps of Bulgaria.

The stories of my mother and sister making sandwiches and carrying water and walking to the Sofia, Bulgaria train station to give the Greek Jews that were loaded on cattle cars some food and water. The trains that were taking the Greek Jews to the extermination camps in Germany and Poland passed through Sofia and stopped there for a few minutes for refueling.

When you grow up with these narratives there are two reactions that could accompany you for the rest of your life. The first is a negative and unhealthy fear of the enemy, in this case the German Nazis. The second reaction is 180 degrees in the opposite direction.

I felt from those childhood days that I wanted to dedicate my life to making people better. My mother, who was one of the founders of the Communist Party of Bulgaria believed that humanity can become better by the principles of equality and social and economic progress, and the rights of the workers. My father who was on the opposite side of the political spectrum from my mother, believed that humanity will never become better and that the only way to live is be always ready to defend yourself and to win against your enemies by any and all means.

My father was a good man, but also amoral. He believed that morality was a luxury that was only for those who were at the top of the food chain who discuss it in order to camouflage their abuse of the weak and poor. Growing up in this kind of dual polarized political and social environment made me always interested in changing and influencing humans.

In our germ-infected environment I was interested in vaccinating ourselves as humans, from doing the evil things that my family and millions of people, not only Jews, experienced in World War II. When I found Yeshua, not Christianity, the Yeshua of the New Testament, the Jewish Messiah, the one who is teaching the world that it can be a better place than Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, at the age of 16, while reading the Gospels and the book of Acts, I understood that the only true chance for a better brand of humanity is not to fight evil with more evil, but to fight evil with good.

Nevertheless, now at the age of 75, after 59 years of worldwide ministry, I understand that even the Gospel is not an instant solution. I now understand that even with Yeshua the son of God, as my Rabbi, Teacher, Savior, and Messiah, the solution is not instant.

I understand that in order to raise an army of men and women who are dedicated to following this messiah, Yeshua, and to practicing His teachings and His example for both Jew and Gentile, it will take a different type of mechanism.

The mechanism of Christianity which we have seen operating, during the last 1500 years, has not produced a loving and peaceful community, in any place in the world. To generalize in this case is legitimate because the general history and examples that I have seen do not fit or reflect the person or the teaching or the requirements of Yeshua and His disciples as presented in the scriptures.

For this reason I urge and encourage brothers and sisters in Israel and around the world to forget the divisions and enmity that is the daily bread and butter of the Christian denominations. I urge the disciples of Yeshua to learn and to study the New Testament and to try to understand who Yeshua and His disciples are today, and to return to making Yeshua not only our savior and not only the son of God and not an object of only platitudes of worship, but our life teacher, our coach, who will ultimately become our judge.

He will be a tough judge that will judge all flesh with a sword in His hand and God’s grace will not help those who have divided and politicized and used the kingdom of God to teach enmity and hate and racism in order to achieve personal gain! The days of God’s grace are now!

We must make use of God’s grace now to correct and fix our lives and to direct others to not only go to the nice air-conditioned church buildings, but to spread the Good News, and the message of salvation, and God’s love to our neighbors in the here and now, with those who are around us!

The Torah reading of this week is from Leviticus 9:1 – 11:47, the name of this portion is Shemini. From the prophets the reading is from 2 Samuel 6:1 – 7:17. From the New Testament we read Matthew 3:11-17. This week I would like to take the words of John the Baptizer that describe John’s view of who the Messiah is and what His mission will likely be during His life here on Earth.

“‘I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.’ Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him.” – Matthew 3:11–13 [NKJV]

The first phrase that needs clarification here is a hebraism, it is an Hebrew idiom: “Baptized by fire!” The basic meaning of this idiom is: The first encounter and dealing with the enemy. John the Baptist is saying here about the Messiah is that He will give us the initial first introduction to the Holy Spirit and the first introduction to the battle, the confrontation with the enemy.

The rest of John’s statement is also of great importance for our understanding:

“His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” – Matthew 3:12 [NKJV]

What does it mean “His winnowing fan is in his hand?” What is winnowing? Winnowing is the process of throwing the grain that was winnowed up in the air with a wooden fan with four wide prongs made from wood that is used to cast the winnowed grain up in the air against the wind to separate the grain from the chaff. The winnowing process is placing the harvested grain on the floor of the threshing floor, a flat big rock space on top of an exposed high hill or mountain.

When the farmer uses the winnowing fork (fan) he lifts the grain that was crushed on the threshing floor and throws it against the wind. The good grain falls to the ground because it is heavier and the chaff flies in the wind. The threshing and the winnowing is a difficult work, but the wheat is the part that suffers the most, it is a painful separation process between the chaff and the grain.

This is the description that John the Baptizer gives of the mission of the Messiah! Yeshua of course seconds John’s initiating introduction.

“So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just…” – Matthew 13:49 [NKJV]

John the Baptizer sees the Messiah, sees Yeshua, as also being the Lamb of God that came to take away the sins of the world. The image of the Lamb of God is taken from the Passover story:

“Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying: ‘On the tenth of this month every man shall take for himself a lamb, according to the house of his father, a lamb for a household. And if the household is too small for the lamb, let him and his neighbor next to his house take it according to the number of the persons; according to each man’s need you shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats. Now you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month. Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight.’” – Exodus 12:3-6 [NKJV]

You will notice that there is a grammatical and logical dissonance in this text. Each family had to have their own sheep or goat and slaughter it on the evening of the 14th day of Nissan on their doorstep. However in verse 6 the text seems to imply that the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill “it” at twilight.

Rashi, who lived in Germany in the 12th Century, who is considered as being one of the finest commentators of the Hebrew Bible, commented about this and noticed the grammatical problem and alluded to the fact that it is impossible for the whole community of Israel to kill one lamb and there must be more to this text then meets the eye.

He from there takes his readers to Isaiah 53:7:

“He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth.” – Isaiah 53:7 [NKJV]

Rashi noted that the motif of the Lamb that saves is also found in Isaiah 53 and he connects the two places not saying it directly, but by implication that this lamb that is collectively slaughtered on the eve of Passover is related to that Lamb that is a messianic Lamb from Isaiah 53:7.

I believe that this is the meaning of John the Baptizer’s statement upon seeing Yeshua coming down to the Jordan to be baptized by him:

“Behold the lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world.” – John 1:29 [NKJV]

The emphasis of John’s statement is one of division and separation between the “sheep and the goats,” between those whose righteousness is purchased by the Messiah’s suffering (Isaiah 53) and those who believe that they are righteous from their own deeds and charities.

Our challenge for these days is to return to basics, to be less attentive to our own gain and even to our own private salvation and more to the mission of all of Israel that was accomplished by Yeshua our Savior – to be a light to the world (see Isaiah 42:6 and God’s promises to our father Abraham). It is wonderful to remember and celebrate the grace of God that comes from Yeshua and His sacrifice for our salvation and forgiveness of sins.

We ought to celebrate and rejoice in Yeshua our Passover lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7,8) but we must not forget that He, the man Yeshua, will judge all flesh and will condemn some and save others.

“Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” – Acts 17:30,31 [NKJV]

I personally believe that the judgement of all flesh by Yeshua (The Jew who will judge the world in righteousness) is not far from us, and that this pandemic called “corona” is just a reminder that the whole world is in God’s hand. At His will He can save and at His will He can damn.

This is what I want you to remember on this Holocaust Memorial Day! Fearing God is as important as or even more important than many of the teachings and concepts that are very important in the Scriptures. “Fearing God” means to have the faith and trust and respect for God and be motivated to do right and to keep our relationship with Him between these two poles: loving, and fearing, God. (Respecting Him enough that your desire is to obey and please Him!)

The disciples of Christ (the Messiah) must not be passive or despondent with regard to what is happening around them. They must not be silent in the face of the challenges and evils in their community. They must not be oblivious to all of the suffering, injustice and abuse that is happening around them.

The disciples of the Messiah must be a light shining in the darkness of our world, on the immorality, and the abominable things that are happening all around us. Both the church and the synagogue have stopped up their mouths with water and are keeping silent in fear of the culture of political correctness, choosing to fear men rather than to fear God.

Political correctness has never been in tune with God’s Word or God’s will! It is always running on the the wide path that is downhill taking those who walk on that path down to destruction, to Hell! It is more important to please the Lord and be biblically correct than to be politically correct. I will end with the words of Jeremiah the prophet:

“Thus says the Lord: ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in man And makes flesh his strength, Whose heart departs from the Lord. For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, And shall not see when good comes, But shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, In a salt land which is not inhabited.’ ‘Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, And whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, Which spreads out its roots by the river, And will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of drought, Nor will cease from yielding fruit.’” – Jeremiah 17:5-8 [NKJV]

Just remember this, if there had been more Christians in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s, there would have been no Nazi Holocaust There would have been no invasion of Poland, no Nazi extermination camps, no millions of men, women and children, Jews, Gypsies, and other nationalities sent to gas chambers and burned in crematoriums.

It was Christians who carried out this horror called The Holocaust. It was not Muslims, Buddhists, or Jews who degraded and murdered people by the hundreds of thousands just because they were Jews or Gypsies. It was protestant christians, it was catholic christians who went to church and sang, “a mighty fortress is our God…”

On this day of remembrance I am happy to have the chance to remind myself and remind you too that our faith in Yeshua (in Christ) is not only for getting dressed up in our nice clothes, and going to a nice church building and singing praises. Our faith places moral, ethical and business constraints on our total life, family, work, society and our civic obligations.

If you don’t like what I wrote above, don’t be shy, write me and challenge me. I will answer you kindly.

Joseph Shulam: Better to be Too Serious Than Too Casual [2020]

On Shabbat Jews around the world will be reading the parasha (Torah portion) called Shemini from Leviticus 9:1-11:47. The Haftarah, reading from the prophets is 2 Samuel 6:1-7:17. The New Testament reading (for Messianic synagogues) is from the book of Acts 10:9-22.

The reading from the Torah describes one of the most interesting tragedies in the Bible. Moses has just completed seven days of training and instructions for the Priests (the cohanim). Now it is the time for these sanctified servants of God and the people to get to work and practice what they have learned.

In Leviticus 9, Moses provides specific instructions with regard to what sacrifices are to be brought to the Tabernacle for the sacrificial ceremony. The entire leadership of Israel has been gathered together to witness the inauguration of the altar of the Lord. Everyone is dressed for the event.

Aaron is wearing his special priestly garment. He has on the golden breastplate (the ephod) with the names of all of the 12 tribes, the twelve precious stones shimmering in the light of the desert sun. Nadab and Abihu, Aaron’s two eldest sons are next to their father ready to perform their duty as priests and to present the offering in front of all of Israel.

This is the first time that the Tabernacle is going to be fully functional. Everyone is under great pressure and the ceremony starts and the two young priests who have been trained and rehearsed for a whole week, are now expected to do their priestly duty and bring the fire to set on fire the burnt offering which is on the altar.

Here is the tragedy, Nadab and Abihu took a shortcut and brought fire from the wrong place, strange fire, not from the holy fire that was prepared for this occasion. This is how the text in Leviticus 10:1-3, describes what happened:

“Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. So fire went out from the Lord and devoured them, and they died before the Lord. And Moses said to Aaron, ‘This is what the Lord spoke, saying: “By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; And before all the people I must be glorified.”’ So Aaron held his peace.” – Leviticus 10:1-3 [NKJV]

Some criticize the harsh punishment that The Lord used against the sons of Aaron. A tragedy without doubt. A tragedy is not an act of no choice. A tragedy is always something that could and should have been avoided and prevented. If some very bad thing happens that is out of our human control, it is “force majeure”, an act of Heaven.

No human being can be punished for a volcano that erupted, or a tsunami that struck a coast line and destroyed a city. The event that brought the Lord to such anger that he took the lives of these two sons of Aaron was something that could have and should have been avoided. These men spent a week with Moses teaching and training and rehearsing their duties as priests serving the Lord Most High!  So what caused these young priests to make such a bad mistake?

The text of Leviticus 10 does not say explicitly why Nadab and Abihu did this stupid deed, but it does hint and give us a reasonable explanation of why these well trained young priests did this terrible thing that angered the Almighty God.

“Then the Lord spoke to Aaron, saying: ‘Do not drink wine or intoxicating drink, you, nor your sons with you, when you go into the tabernacle of meeting, lest you die. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations, that you may distinguish between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean.’” Leviticus 10:8-10 [NKJV]

Because this command of the Lord through Moses comes immediately after the tragic event of the death of the children of Aaron the connection is made and an explanation is given by the ancient Jewish rabbinical authorities that Nadab and Abihu were drunk during the ceremony of the inauguration of the Tabernacle. Therefore the Lord commands Moses and Aaron and his two surviving sons not to drink strong drink (alcohol) when they are preforming their duty and service to the Lord.

I imagine what went on in the minds of these two young priests, sons of Aaron: They probably said to themselves, “This event is so important and so holy that we can’t make mistakes. All of Israel’s leadership will be there watching us. Maybe it would be wise for us to drink a little and be more relaxed and not so tense and nervous when we serve the Lord and the people.” So, they took one glass of whiskey and soda, just to be a little more relaxed, not so tense.

This is a very important message for all those who serve the Lord and the people of God: It is not good to be so tense and full of fear when you serve the Lord. However, it is much more serious to take your service in God’s Kingdom lightly or take lightly the Lord and His serious attitude toward the instructions and commands that He gives us, His servants, in all that pertains to His instructions.

Just take as an example the instructions that the Apostle Paul gives us concerning the communion, and let these instructions put a little more of the fear of the Lord in every servant of God when it comes to our public service to the Lord and His people.

Share with your pastors, rabbis, and preachers!

Joseph Shulam: God is Not to be Treated Casually [2019]

The Torah portion this next Shabbat is called “Shemini” (the eighth day). The reading starts in Leviticus 9:1 and ends in Leviticus 11:47. The Haftarah (the reading from the prophets) comes from 2 Samuel 6:1-7:17. We read from the New Testament from Mark 14:1-72, and Acts 10:9-22, 34-35.

So, this Shabbat we will be reading no small amount of text. The Jewish principle in worship and in the Synagogue is that “the product is more important than the salesman.” Interpreting this to plain language: the Bible is the word of God, and that is our product. The rabbi (pastor) is the salesman.

This principle ought to be adopted also by evangelical churches. Typically speaking, in most churches that I have visited around the world the situation is reversed. The “leader” (rabbi, pastor), is the product, the producer, and I don’t know who the salesman is. Maybe the salesman is the person who speaks a few words before the contribution is taken.

However, for Jews and for us, the most important part of the service is the reading the word of God. I can say the same thing in different words: hearing from God is the most important thing – hearing from God is the reading of His Word! The rabbi only dishes it out with the mashed potatoes and the green beans as side dishes.

The Torah portion (Lev. 9:1) starts with the words:

“It came to pass on the eighth day that Moses called Aaron and his sons and the elders of Israel.”

When the Word of God gives us a “date,” “on the eighth day”, and all the places that there is an indication of a “date” – the Holy Spirit thought that it is important enough to give us this information. If we read the text and just ignore that date – we are missing something that the Holy Spirit considered important enough to include in the Word of God.

Let me give you an example from the Gospel of John. John 2:1-2,

“On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding.”

We see here that the wedding was held on the third day. What does this mean? What day is the third day in the Hebrew calendar? It is Tuesday.

The Hebrew calendar does not have names for the days. The English calendar has Sunday, Monday… these names are names of pagan gods. On the day of the sun, they worshiped the sun. On the day of the moon, they worshiped the moon.

In Hebrew, it is the first day, the second day, the third day of the week, and so on. So, why are the Jewish weddings always held on Tuesday? Because weddings need a double blessing. Tuesday is the only day in the story of creation when God says twice, “Behold it is good!”

Back to our reading from Leviticus 9, “on the eighth day” – what day is it? It is after the week of initiation of the priests and the beginning of the functioning of the Tabernacle in full force.

In other words, it is after the graduation of the priests, and they are now starting to function as full-fledged priests in the Tabernacle of the Lord. If they were under initiation for seven days, that is one week, the eighth day is Sunday. The first day of the week!

The second story of great importance in this portion is in Leviticus chapter 10, the two sons of Aaron the High Priest bring strange fire to the altar, and fire from Heaven devours them, and they are burned alive.

This event is a traumatic event for all of Israel, and the interesting part is that Moses forbids Aaron his brother from going through the customary practices of grief for a close relative who has died.

This is what God says to Moses in verse 3,

“And Moses said to Aaron, ‘This is what the Lord spoke, saying: “By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; And before all the people I must be glorified.”’ So Aaron held his peace.”

Here is the biggest lesson that I learn from this text, a lesson that is of vital importance for our time: God is not to be treated casually. He demands His sanctity and He must be “honored” - glorified in front of the people.

This event seems very harsh to our modern Hellenistic/humanistic values. But, when you think of God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, and all that is around our galaxy, and maybe more… you begin to understand the case of Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron.

Here is the score. These young priests, sons of Aaron the High Priest, just graduated from their training, and this is the first day of their full-fledged service before the Lord. They immediately started breaking the instructions of the Lord and doing what they themselves thought to be better.

It was not a mistake. It was these two young priests thinking that they know better what is possible. They probably had in mind something like, “Why should we go so far to bring the fire from the altar? There is a fire much closer, much easier, we will make things easier for ourselves.”

This was the serious sin that they have committed, it was dishonoring God publicly. The Lord of all could not allow this to happen at the very inauguration of the Tabernacle. If Aaron’s boys start by dishonoring the Lord in public what would the other young servants of the Lord do?

The Lord is a loving God, but He does demand those who are serving Him in a holy precinct, like the Tabernacle, or in church or synagogue before the people of God, to show minimal respect, dignity, and honor to the Creator of the world.

Let each one of who is leading and standing before God’s people take account of this story and remember that God is not a casual buddy of ours. Yes, we sing the song, “What a friend we have in Jesus . . .” He is our friend, but He is also the Son of God and our Lord and Savior, and the judge of all flesh for eternity. Pastors and rabbis, let us consider that we serve the very same God that Nadab and Abihu, and Aaron their father, served.

Joseph Shulam: God’s Grace Wins Over His Judgment [2017]

This Sabbath the reading of the Torah is called “Shemini”, that is the eighth day, because the beginning of the reading:

“It came to pass on the eighth day that Moses called Aaron and his sons and the elders of Israel.” – Leviticus 9:1 [NKJV]

However the most famous part of this week’s parasha is the first half of chapter 10. It is the story of Aaron’s two elder sons, Nadab and Abihu, who brought “strange fire” to the altar, and fire came down from Heaven and devoured them instantly.

The questions that everyone is dealing with are: What is the strange fire? Why did Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu bring the strange fire? Why did Moses not intercede for his nephews?

Some traditional Christian commentators use this story to show the harshness of God’s judgment in the so-called “Old Testament”. If however the readers would continue reading the rest of the chapter, maybe they would gain some insight or answers to the above questions.

There is a second story in chapter 10 of Leviticus. Yes, Nadab and Abihu sinned with the strange fire, but their other two brothers, Eleazar and Ithamar, who were also priests and sons of Aaron, sinned in a much more serious way, and yet nothing happened to them.

Aaron pleaded for himself and his sons, and Moses heard his brother’s plea and approved it. These two children of Aaron, Priests, Eleazar and Ithamar were given instruction by Moses and Aaron:

“Take the grain offering that remains of the offerings made by fire to the Lord, and eat it without leaven beside the altar; for it is most holy. You shall eat it in a holy place, because it is your due and your sons’ due, of the sacrifices made by fire to the Lord; for so I have been commanded. The breast of the wave offering and the thigh of the heave offering you shall eat in a clean place, you, your sons, and your daughters with you; for they are your due and your sons’ due, which are given from the sacrifices of peace offerings of the children of Israel. The thigh of the heave offering and the breast of the wave offering they shall bring with the offerings of fat made by fire, to offer as a wave offering before the Lord. And it shall be yours and your sons with you, by a statute forever, as the Lord has commanded.” – Leviticus 10:12-15 [NKJV]

The first command for these two sons of Aaron was: eat the grain offering beside the altar without leaven in a holy place. The second command: the breast of the wave offering shall be eaten in a clean place. The third command: The thigh of the heave offering and the breast of the wave offering with the fat made by fire were to be offered as a wave offering before the Lord.

These three commands were not kept by the two lasts sons of Aaron:

“Why have you not eaten the sin offering in a holy place, since it is most holy, and God has given it to you to bear the guilt of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the Lord? See! Its blood was not brought inside the holy place; indeed, you should have eaten it in a holy place, as I commanded.” – Leviticus 10:17,18 [NKJV]

These sins of Eleazar and Ithamar, the sons of Aaron, were much more serious than the strange fire that Nadab and Abihu brought to the altar. But they did not die, nor did they get punished.

Aaron and Moses interceded for these sons, and in the end Moses heard Aaron’s pleading, and it is said: Moses heard and was content. In other words, the Lord did not punish these two sons of Aaron and Aaron himself, because Moses understood, and Aaron’s explanation was satisfactory for Moses.

We have read two stories in the same chapter. In the first story, there is a very quick and harsh judgement, and both sons of Aaron die by divine fire from heaven. Even Aaron is not allowed to mourn for his two sons. God had no mercy for these two sons of Aaron.

In the second story, there are the two last sons of Aaron – Ithamar and Eleazar. They sin in three things, and God accepts Moses and Aaron’s understanding of the very difficult circumstances, and if the last two sons of Aaron and Aaron himself die – there would be no priests in Israel. The house of Aaron would be decimated.

For this reason, God’s relativity in judgment and provision of grace and lovingkindness wins over His judgment. Don’t say that the Torah has no mercy and grace, or no grace and truth. Read the entire chapter 10 of Leviticus.

Yehuda Bachana: What it Really Means to be Kosher [2018]

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

I hope that everyone had a meaningful Passover. We had a great holiday, in fact, it was very hard for me to get back to work. This Shabbat we read and study Parashat Shemini. Our parasha speaks of kosher laws, especially regarding animals that we are forbidden to eat. The swine, a notoriously unclean animal, is mentioned in our parasha.

In addition, the famous teaching that appears in different formulations in the Bible, “Be holy, because I am holy,” (Leviticus 11:44 [NIV]) also appears at the end of this portion.

Further, two major historical events occur: the dedication of the Tabernacle and the unexpected death of Aaron's sons.

“Be holy, because I am holy.”

The kosher laws have been derived and preserved in the collective consciousness of the Jewish people and have never been removed. In fact, the swine, or rather the avoidance of it, has become a central symbol of Judaism.

In each generation we try to find an explanation of why God commanded us to keep from unkosher foods.

Some have determined that the kosher laws and restrictions help maintain the distinction between the Jew and the rest of the world. While others decided that the kosher laws were given for health reasons, that the Jewish diet was a recipe for better health.

It's possible that God may have given the kosher laws for both reasons. As humans, we can find a thousand reasons why God forbade us to eat pork, but the truth is, they are irrelevant to the discussion - God commanded us, and so we obey.

After the long list of unkosher animals comes the commandment of God, “Be holy, because I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44 [NIV]). This commandment is stated in the context of eating kosher.

It is used to indicate the importance of observing God's commandments. Likewise, to make it clear to the people of Israel and to us, that we have the need to preserve purity, including what enters our mouths and what comes out of them.

What it Really Means to be Kosher

Eventually, we come to one of the old arguments about kosher laws in the Judeo-Christian and Messianic world, when Yeshua talks about what goes into someone's mouth:

“What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” - Matthew 15:11 [NIV]

This saying of Yeshua seemingly contradicts the kosher laws of the Torah, and there are people who interpret this passage as giving them permission to eat anything. It should be clear to us that this is not Yeshua's intent, he is speaking in the manner that the prophet Isaiah did.

For example, when Isaiah said that God does not want sacrifices or offerings, but rather that there be kindness amongst men, this notwithstanding that the Torah explicitly commands the offering of sacrifices.

In a similar manner, Yeshua said that what enters the mouth defiles a man for a limited time. In fact, the next day that person will be clean from the impurity of the food.

The words that come out of the mouth, however, have the power to defile or harm others for much longer than a day. When Miriam spoke against Moses, she immediately became leprous, which makes a person unclean for much longer than eating all unclean things together.

According to Yeshua's perception, there is no comparison between the severity of the act of slander and eating. Just as there is no comparison between the severity of the act of lying, theft, or murder, and yet we are commanded to avoid all of these.

The Punishment of Aaron’s Sons

Torah commentators offer various explanations for the sin of Nadab and Abihu.

This Shabbat we finally read about the dedication of the Tabernacle. In the second part of the Book of Exodus, we read a detailed review of the Tabernacle and its vessels.

Following that was the instruction regarding the sacrificial practices in the Tabernacle that were described to us at the beginning of the Book of Leviticus. Now, this parasha begins with the dedication of the Tabernacle.

In the middle of this important and happy event, the priestly family and the people of Israel were tragically traumatized: the two sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu the priests, were killed in the Tabernacle, right in the middle of the celebrations.

“Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, contrary to his command. So fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord.” - Leviticus 10:1,2 [NIV]

The reason for the severe punishment of the sons of Aaron is explicitly written in the Bible: the offering of “unauthorized fire.” Torah commentators have attempted to interpret this sin. They spectated that perhaps they came in drunk from wine or they came in without washing their hands and feet.

Why Did God Strike Nadab and Abihu?

There are those who say that they wanted to take authority from Moses and Aaron and start a rebellion, or perhaps it was even a spiritual ecstasy. There are many possibilities to discuss.

In my opinion, there are three possibilities that exceed the others in their logic:

The first is spiritual ecstasy, they became uncontrollably excited and broke God's instructions in public, this interpretation speaks of innocence, not evil, and not malice.

The second interpretation talks about rebellion, in effect an attempt by the sons of Aaron to take over the institution of the priesthood as well as the nation.

The third interpretation targets wine as the culprit. That is to say that when the sons of Aaron entered into the service of God, they were drunk from wine, which is unacceptable.

In the past I spoke about the first two topics, so today I want to talk about the possibility that they, the sons of Aaron, drank wine before they went to serve God.

It seems reasonable that their sin is connected to wine, because immediately after the punishment, God spoke to Aaron and told him to keep from wine, so that he would not die when he comes into the Tent of Meeting.

“Then the Lord said to Aaron, ‘You and your sons are not to drink wine or other fermented drink whenever you go into the tent of meeting, or you will die. This is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, so that you can distinguish between the holy and the common, between the unclean and the clean…’” - Leviticus 10:8-10a [NIV]

The severity of the calling to be a teacher

In this section we learn some points that are very important for us today: It is critical to respect the house of God. We cannot defile His holy place nor can we bring impurity when we go to worship before the Almighty.

As God told Aaron, He distinguishes between the holy and the unclean. Therefore, we are obligated to make the same distinction when we enter into our congregation - we must honor the place as the House of God.

The second point I gleaned from this part is that the leader of the community has a great deal of responsibility. Be it a priest, a chief rabbi, or a congregational leader.

When we display inappropriate behavior, we despise the name of God, whom we represent. This is the same idea that appears in James:

“Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” - James 3:1 [NIV]

What was James’ intent in this rather harsh verse?

First of all, James didn’t say that there should be no teachers, but rather he noted that with the role comes the power to build and to destroy. He emphasized that it is worthwhile to act cautiously.

The teacher bears double-responsibility, because he directs and influences not only himself, but rather he does the same for an entire group of people. In the instance that he, the teacher fails and/or makes a mistake, he misleads a whole group of people.

Yeshua also warned the teachers and the leaders about responsibility and criticism. He claimed that they not only close the gate to Heaven for themselves but also for others, and therefore their punishment is greater:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” - Matthew 23:13 [NIV]

This connects us to an interesting talmudic quote:

“Torah should be taught only to a proper student - one whose deeds are attractive - or to a person whose behavior is unknown. However, [a potential student] who follows bad ways should be influenced to correct his behavior and trained to follow a straight path. [After he repents, his deeds] are examined and he is allowed to enter the house of study to be instructed.” - Talmud Torah 4:1

“A potential student who follows bad ways,” speaks of a person who does not behave properly, and therefore should not be accepted into an institution for Torah studies.

Here's the catch: should not such a person receive an extra dose of Torah in order to teach him about virtues?

The answer is that a Torah student who does not behave properly causes blasphemy. How can this be?

Torah students represent religion for all to see. The general public appreciates the virtue of religion according to the moral value of its representatives: Torah students of good character encourage people to respect the Torah.

Torah students who are not good people, however, evoke a negative attitude not only towards themselves, but also towards the Torah which they supposedly represent, and this is the essence of blasphemy.

The leader carries even greater responsibility, just like in the case of Aaron's sons. I also want to point out, not necessarily in a bad or critical manner, that we must be aware that we also carry this responsibility.

We are the billboard for faith in God and in Yeshua the Messiah. We are literally a walking advertisement, and when you see us and our lives in a positive light, we give God good publicity.

In Conclusion

We spoke today about the kosher laws. Indeed, Yeshua emphasized that what is important is what comes out of the mouth. However, it does not have to be at the expense of what goes into the mouth.

The divine command is, “Be holy, because I am holy.” This requirement comes at the end of the list of foods that are, according to God, unfit for eating.

We also spoke about the tragic end of Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu. In addition, we talked about the importance of behaving properly and preserving the sanctity of the house of God.

Finally, we are called not just to be a good example, but also to be billboards for faith in Yeshua.