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: 'Pursue justice!’ – defining justice based on the Scriptures – Shoftim [2023]

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

SThe first part of this Torah portion speaks about the governmental order and about judges and the police. and It discusses how to crown the supreme leader, the king. The king had to adhere to certain requirements and could not accumulate too much property, money or wives. Likewise, he had to be accompanied at all times by the Torah scroll that he personally wrote.

Later on, the priestly rights and cities of refuge are addressed. This Torah portion then begins discussing the war regulations, that will be continued in the next Torah portion, ‘Ki Teitzei le Milhama’ (meaning: ‘when you go out to war’).

Parashat Shoftim concludes with an interesting law of the heifer whose neck is broken (‘Egla Arufa’).
The Talmud’s ‘tractate Sotah’, explains this very impressive ceremony that is performed by the sages, judges and elders, meaning: the leaders and men of influence from the town, closest to the site of the unsolved murder.
The ‘Egla Arufa’-commandment is somewhat obscure and needs to be explained. Yet, once the meaning becomes clear, the commandment is actually very interesting.

Through this ceremony, the people of the town clear themselves from their guilt due to an unsolved murder. This was in case a body was discovered, but it was unknown who had committed the killing, or the murder, and there were no signs or evidence at the crime scene.

The judges and police that are mentioned at the beginning of this Torah portion, have no lead. What should they do in such a case?

They behead a heifer, a cow. I find this commandment very special, because it displays the understanding that a human life is very precious - since the very beginning of the Scriptures.

According to this commandment, in case of an unsolved murder, we should bring in our best judges and sages, to take a look at the case and analyze it. Much like an official committee of inquiry headed by a senior judge.

In case the investigation comes to a dead end - without evidence nor an idea of how to proceed in order to find the perpetrator - the committee of inquiry then heads out to the nearest city to the crime scene. Then the ceremony begins in the presence of all the town elders:

“And all the elders of that city nearest to the slain man shall wash their hands over the heifer whose neck was broken in the valley, and they shall testify, ‘Our hands did not shed this blood, nor did our eyes see it shed.” (Deuteronomy 21:6-7)

Does this statement address the sages’ suspicion whether the elders of that village or town actually shed the victim’s blood?

Clearly not.

Then why do they state that their hands did not hurt the victim? That their hands did not shed the blood and that their eyes did not see anything? In other words, these wise men testify not having to do anything with the murder.

However, the message of the leaders and elders of the town is different. They say that, regardless if the victim is from their own town or just a stranger passing by; nevertheless, they did not neglect the victim's safety. The leaders did not deny the victim any food, nor a place to rest. Likewise, the safety of the area was not disregarded.
The elders, which are the local leaders, publicly swear that they did not even allow this terrible crime to happen indirectly. They swear they did not abandon the victim to become a defenseless prey for criminals.

These leaders swear that their justice system does not go easy on those that are violent, nor on murderers or rapists.
Those same respected elders are obligated to check their legal and policing system, to make sure that they have indeed done everything they could to prevent a crime against an innocent citizen.

Only then they wash their hands and declare:

“Our hands did not shed this blood, nor did our eyes see it shed.”

Also today, every mayor and the president of every company and factory, should ensure that the safety regulations are in place, so that none of the workers could get hurt on their area, whether that harm would be physical, mental or by means of harassment.

Surely, our legal system should incorporate this concept, too. Even if a judge himself does not shed blood, nor does he sexually harass or break into someone’s home; nevertheless, if the legal system releases criminals quickly, or without an adequate punishment, the system cannot say:

“Our hands did not shed this blood”.

Similarly, in case the policemen who patrol the city gates, perform their duties with negligence; or, in case the police force does not enforce the law, nor ensures the public order: due to their lack of determination - as elected officials - their hands are guilty of this bloodshed.

This brings us back to the beginning of Parashat Shoftim (meaning: judges). We are commanded to appoint judges and police officers, in order to provide public order and safety for the people. This brings us back to the resonating words of Moses, at the beginning of this Torah portion:

“Justice, and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” (Deuteronomy 16:20)

Moses simultaneously asks and proclaims:
‘Do you want to live in the Promised Land?’ Understandably, God demands justice and a righteous legal system.

Such justice might seem obvious; and yet, in many parts of the world, one can ‘buy’ a court verdict or bribe the police. In fact, in many countries of the world, police officers use these methods to increase their income, where it is possible to pay a policeman a ‘reduced’ fine in cash.

At the end of the line, the law enforcement, including the police and the justice system, consists of elected representatives of the public and should therefore safeguard the peace and the people.

Actually, the Word of God demands such an order. It requires us to appoint an organized and orderly justice system; simultaneously, the law enforcement is meant to safeguard the laws and justice that the judges prescribe.
We are commanded to pursue justice, but who decides the definition of justice?

In my opinion, the answer is based on two foundations. The first one is based on Yeshua’s teaching, and is based on ‘measure for measure’. It means that, on the one hand, every judge should be fair and imagine the one standing trial, as if it were himself or his own son or daughter.
Meaning: if he himself were guilty, what punishment would he give himself?

As Yeshua says:

“For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.” (Mathew 7:2)

Whereas, on the other hand, he should judge, as if he himself were the victim. Meaning: if one of my family members or I myself, were hurt how would I react? What would my verdict be, if my son or my daughter were the victim of this crime?

The delicate balance between these two opposites must be found.

The second foundation for the justice system is the Word of God, the Torah. The Torah itself is based on the need for judges and a police force. This real need to appoint judges arose immediately after the Exodus from Egypt, when the burden of justice became too heavy for Moses.

In the governmental system that the Bible pictures, a judge could also be a leader, one who governs the lifestyle of people. He could be both the judge and the legislator. The Book of Judges gives a few examples using the phrase for the leaders: “and he judged Israel so and so years”.
Another example can be found in our Torah portion:

“And you shall come to the Levitical priests and to the judge who is in office in those days, and you shall consult them, and they shall declare to you the decision. Then you shall do according to what they declare to you from that place that the Lord will choose. And you shall be careful to do according to all that they direct you. According to the instructions that they give you, and according to the decision which they pronounce to you, you shall do. You shall not turn aside from the verdict that they declare to you, either to the right hand or to the left. The man who acts presumptuously by not obeying the priest who stands to minister there before the Lord your God, or the judge, that man shall die. So you shall purge the evil from Israel.” (Deuteronomy 17:9-12)

So, in addition to the rule of the judges, such as Gideon or Jephthah from Gilead, we find that priests can rule, such as Eli the Priest or Samuel the Prophet.

This Torah portion raises the possibility to crown a king. An exalted and magnificent king, like those of the other nations. Much like a king on a white horse, who wears a golden crown and a red velvet robe…

And yet, such King of Israel would have to keep certain rules:

To appoint a king whom the Lord your God chooses;
do not place a foreigner over you, one who is not an Israelite, who is not your brother;
he must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt to get more horses;
he must not take many wives for himself;
he must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold;
he is to write a copy of the Law for himself on a scroll (…) it is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life;
not to consider himself better than his fellow Israelites
(this is all from Deuteronomy 17:15-20)

The king must be chosen by God. In the Bible that was only the case with Saul, David, Jehu and Joash. All our other kings inherited the throne from their parents.

I presume that would be a natural choice, as the Israelites approached Gideon during the time of the judges, urging him to establish a permanent rule, with Gideon and his sons as the leaders:

“The Israelites said to Gideon, ‘Rule over us—you, your son and your grandson—because you have saved us from the hand of Midian’.” (Judges 8:22)

Actually, Abimelech, a son of Gideon, tried to establish a monarchy back in the days of the judges. For that purpose, Abimelech killed and murdered no less than seventy of his brothers. He did that In order to get rid of the competition for the crown, Abimelech managed to kill all but one, in one day. All except for little Jotham, who managed to hide.
This was the same Jotham who later made his speech at the top of Mount Gerizim. The words of Jotham are also known as the Jotham’s Parable, or the Parable of the Thornbush (Judges chapter 9).

Our Torah portion deals with the government and the public. In addition to being private individuals, people are also part of a collective, of a public. As such, the collective should be accountable to the government - be it a priest, a judge, a prophet, a king or a president. The public should obey the laws of the land, as Parashat Shoftim prescribes:

“Act according to whatever they teach you and the decisions they give you. Do not turn aside from what they tell you, to the right or to the left. Anyone who shows contempt for the judge or for the priest who stands ministering there to the Lord your God is to be put to death.” (Deuteronomy 17:11-12)

As believers in Israel, we are part of the Jewish collective. In addition to the fact that we have a lot to contribute to the public, and we really are an active part of the public, that contributes and volunteers. But Regardless of our contribution, we are a branch of Judaism.

We are here to stay and to cause a positive influence from within. After all, the New Testament shares great wisdom to better understand the rest of the Scriptures. As a matter of fact, the New Testament teaches a lot about customs, religious laws, prophecies and interpretations from the Jewish world.

As disciples of Yeshua and of the New Testament, we have something to contribute from a spiritual and theological point of view, as well!

This brings us back to the beginning of our Torah portion and to the simple requirement to:

“Judge the people fairly” (Deuteronomy 16:18)

The role of the judge is to investigate and to determine the truth, and not to be biased by accepting the narrative of one of the parties involved. The same conduct is required of all of us in matters of faith and understanding of the Scriptures.

Let’s take Isaiah 53, for example. As a matter of fact, that passage really begins in chapter 52 verse 13, and continues until the end of chapter 53. This prophecy of Isaiah is often quoted in the New Testament, and is one of the central Messianic prophecies that point towards the Messiah.

the ancient Jewish interpretation, from before Rashi, viewed Isaiah 53 as a Messianic prophecy. Only from the time of Rashi on, Judaism began to interpret this text as a prophecy concerning Israel, with the goal to distance the people from the New Testament and from Yeshua.

Here we need to declare who is right.

For that purpose, we have to do some research. We start by reading the passage from Isaiah 53, and looking for commentaries that precede Rashi and even precede the New Testament. Then we search whether our sages interpreted this text of Isaiah as a hint to, and a prophecy relating to the Messiah.

If the answer is ‘yes’, we move on to the next step. Who is this messiah? The New Testament attributes Isaiah 53 to Yeshua the Messiah.

Let’s take a look at another example, from Zechariah 9:9 chapter 9:

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (verse 9)

Who is this King, righteous and having salvation, riding the foal of a donkey? That is the King Messiah!

This is what the New Testament says:

“The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the king of Israel!” Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as it is written: “Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.” (John 12:12-15)

I belive Yeshua is the messiah, Yeshua is my Lord and Savior.

Joseph Shulam: Does Yeshua Mean what He Says?[2023]

This week, the Jewish Synagogues around the world will be reading a portion that in Hebrew is called Shoftim, and translates as Judges. The reading is from Deuteronomy 16:18 – 21:9. The Haftarah, the reading from the Prophets comes from Isaiah 51:12 – 52:12, and from the New Testament we will be reading from the Gospel of John 14:9 – 20.

I have heard pastors say, “Why do we have to study and spend time reading and learning from the OLD TESTAMENT?”. “We have the New Testament and we live by the New Testament, not by the Old Testament.” Well, dear brothers here is my question for all those who hold such a position; the traditional Christian position on the Old Testament.

Here comes the answer from our Torah portion in Deuteronomy. Let me share with you a major principle taken by Yeshua right from this text that Jews and some non-Jews read this Sabbath, August 19th, 2023.

Here is the text:

“If a matter arises which is too hard for you to judge, between degrees of guilt for bloodshed, between one judgment or another, or between one punishment or another, matters of controversy within your gates, then you shall arise and go up to the place which the LORD your God chooses. And you shall come to the priests, the Levites, and to the judge there in those days, and inquire of them; they shall pronounce upon you the sentence of judgment. You shall do according to the sentence which they pronounce upon you in that place which the LORD chooses. And you shall be careful to do according to all that they order you. According to the sentence of the law in which they instruct you, according to the judgment which they tell you, you shall do; you shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left from the sentence which they pronounce upon you. Now the man who acts presumptuously and will not heed the priest who stands to minister there before the LORD your God, or the judge, that man shall die. So you shall put away the evil from Israel.” (Deuteronomy 17:8–12 NKJV).

I have marked the relevant texts that I would like to open up for you so that you understand better what Yeshua is teaching his disciples. And not only those who followed him in the first century but us also, because we too are and ought to be disciples of Yeshua our Messiah and Lord and also TEACHER (Rabbi).

Here are the words of Yeshua that are relevant to these texts from Deuteronomy 16. Yeshua’s words are taken right out of this text that we are going to read in public in our congregation this next Shabbat: This is what Yeshua was teaching his disciples and the crowed that surrounded him on this occasion.

“Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore, whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.” (Matthew 23:1–4 NKJV)

Let us analyze this text very carefully. Yeshua is talking to multitudes and to His disciples. Who are these multitudes? They are the crowds that gathered around him to hear what He has to say and what He is teaching. What is the significance of this situation? The word multitude does not mean just a few people, and 12 disciples (apostles).

There were many people that came to hear Yeshua. This is not the Galilee. Yeshua is already in Jerusalem. Remember that there was no television or magazines and social media to advertise and make posters in the streets of Jerusalem announcing the time and the place and the speaker and the teacher that is going to teach.

This means that even in Jerusalem, the reputation of Yeshua was well known to the degree that multitudes came to hear him. The time was before Passover, that is spring time, that is already at least warm outdoors in the day time.

The place was normally full of people that were preparing to enter the Temple Court Yard was called “The Market place!” It was a large paved area on the south side of the Temple Mount. There were stairs leading from that open market place, into the temple with several gates that let the crowds from below, from the Market place, to the temple. Yeshua and His disciples are there with everyone, Sadducees and Hellenistic Jews and Pharisees.

When they see Yeshua they recognize him and gather around to him to hear what He says. We must understand that the multitudes would not stop to hear someone teach if they were not very interested and willing to stand or seat on the stone stairs that led them into the Temple.

Now let me take you into the words of Yeshua to the mixed crowd: “The Scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat.”
These words of Yeshua are truly a super significant, politically and from the public option view point and from the spiritual position. What Yeshua is doing is giving the authority to judge and to interpret the Biblical text. He gives the Pharisees the exclusive authority by saying that they are seating on the seat of Moses.

Yeshua says that now the Pharisees have the same authority to interpret the Word of God as Moses did when He was alive. Yeshua also gives the Pharisees the authority to be the judges of what is the true meaning of the Torah.

Again, the geography is important. Yeshua is teaching just right close to the entrance to the Temple. The Temple is the latifundia (the property, territory, the turf) of the Sadducees, not of the Pharisees. To give the authority to the Pharisees is a political suicide and spiritual siding with the other side, the smaller side. The Pharisees were a minority. Joshua says that these Pharisees are the exclusive judges of what the Torah (The Law of Moses) is saying and teaching.

This is no small matter! Here Yeshua is actually quoting from our Torah Portion, from Deuteronomy 17:8 – 12. Yeshua actually does something very difficult with this text. In the Torah, Moses says that if you have a legal matter or a question of interpretation of the Law, you should go to Temple and ask the Priest and the Levite and the judges that are in those days.

And, “they shall pronounce upon you the sentence of judgment. You shall do according to the sentence which they pronounce upon you in that place which the LORD chooses. And you shall be careful to do according to all that they order you. According to the sentence of the law in which they instruct you, according to the judgment which they tell you, you shall do; you shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left from the sentence which they pronounce upon you.”

In the Torah, there are no Pharisees, and there are no Sadducees. Yeshua transposes the Priest and the Levites and replaces them exclusively with the Pharisees. In other words, Yeshua recognizes the sect of the Pharisees, that in Jerusalem numbered only 6000 people, and gives them the right to interpret and apply the Torah for those people who have doubts or questions or if something is not clear of what and how they ought to keep the Torah. Actually, Yeshua is taking the words of Moses, “you shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left from the sentence which they pronounce upon you.”

Yeshua also modifies and mitigates the statement by saying that the Pharisees have the authority to interpret the Torah, but they themselves don’t do it. The accusation of Yeshua to the Pharisees, is of hypocrisy. Yeshua is actually taking this accusation from Yanai, the King of Israel, about 60 years before Yeshua:

“AND THE PLAGUE OF PHARISEES etc. Our Rabbis have taught: There are seven types of Pharisees: the shikmi Pharisee, the nikpi Pharisee, the kizai Pharisee, the ‘pestle’ Pharisee, the Pharisee [who constantly exclaims] ‘What is my duty that I may perform it?’, the Pharisee from love [of God] and the Pharisee from fear.

The shikmi Pharisee — he is one who performs the action of Shechem. The nikpi Pharisee — he is one who knocks his feet together. The kizai Pharisee — R. Nahman b. Isaac said: He is one who makes his blood to flow against walls.”

In order not to go into this statement of King Yanai, that is quoted in the Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sota, page 22b, I direct you to Matthew 23 from Verse 15. Count how many times Yeshua proclaims “Woe to you Scribes and Pharisees…;” you will find 7 times. These are written in the Talmud, quoting the words of King Yanai, who calls the above text “The Plagues of the Pharisees!” These are the things that show the hypocrisy of the some of the Pharisees in the days of the first century.

What is the conclusion of this reading from Matthew 23? Yeshua is bringing the teaching that the Jews in His day and His disciples ought to learn from the Pharisees when they interpret the Torah of Moses. Second, Yeshua is teaching that the Pharisees are in authority of judgment and interpretation of what is right and what is wrong to do according to the Torah. Third Yeshua, like King Yanai, sees the hypocrisy of some of the Pharisees.

Fourth, we ought not judge the Pharisees of the time of Yeshua, but judge ourselves and our church leaders. Are we and our leaders not doing some of the same things? Carrying our faith on our sleeves so that people see “our faithfulness?” In reality, we are practicing very little of what God has commanded us from the mouth of Yeshua Himself and from the writings of the Apostles.

I am being kind to us, as disciples of Yeshua in the 21st Century. There are very few, if any commandments that Yeshua has commanded His disciples in the first century and to us also, if we consider ourselves Disciples of Yeshua.

I have to share an event that took place in the late 1960’s in Tel-Aviv. A young Jewish American Rabbi who immigrated to Israel from New York, gathered all the leadership of the evangelical Christian Churches in Israel and also a few Jewish Disciples of Yeshua. There were around 50 leaders gathered in downtown Tel-Aviv in a building that was owned by the Baptists. He asked each one to introduce himself. Forty-nine of these leaders introduced themselves. Each one said who and what he is. Forty-nine men and women identified themselves as Baptists, Methodist, Pentecostals, Seventh Day Adventists, Brothers Church, Catholic, Assemblies of God. One man, who was a road engineer, who was building the first four lane road from Haifa to Ashdod, is the only one who said: “I am just a disciple of Jesus!” The young New York Rabbi said, “I am so happy that at least one of you is a disciple of Jesus!”

We must take the words and the teachings of Yeshua much more serious than we take Santa-Clause, or Saint Christofer… or even our own teachers and pastors and so-called Messianic Rabbis. There are so many important commandments that Yeshua and the Apostles commanded us that are totally ignored and not practiced.

I will end this part of the prayer list with the following questions: When Yeshua spoke to His disciples, as we read that he did in the Gospels, did Yeshua mean what He said? Did Yeshua intend His disciples to do what he instructed them to do? Did Yeshua just speak to the men and women who followed him in his life time or did He intend for people who are called by His name to practice what they learn and what they teach?

Are we any better than the Pharisees and the people who followed Yeshua through the streets of Jerusalem, and through the Jordan Valley and the hills of Galilee? If Yeshua returns, will He remember His own teaching and follow it?

““But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand:”. (Matthew 7:26 NKJV)

“But He answered and said to them, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.””
(Luke 8:21 NKJV)

I am judging myself for my own areas of disobedience! Let none judge his brother or sister, but just look into ourselves and draw conclusions of what we ought to do about our own laxness.

Joseph Shulam: Yeshua's Interpretation of Torah [2022]

This Shabbat is one of the very important Torah portions for a better understanding of one of the interesting stories in the New Testament. The readings this Shabbat are from a portion that is called “Shoftim” (“judges”). It is from Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9. From the prophets we will be reading from Isaiah 51:12-52:12, and from the New Testament the reading will be from the Gospel of John 1:19-27.

If I would be choosing what to read from the New Testament this Shabbat it would be from the Gospel of John 8:1-11. The reason that the reading from John 8:1-11 is much more relevant is that the whole story of the woman accused of adultery is connected directly with our Torah portion this Shabbat.

Here is the text from Deuteronomy 17:2-7:

“If there is found among you, within any of your gates which the Lord your God gives you, a man or a woman who has been wicked in the sight of the Lord your God, in transgressing His covenant, who has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, either the sun or moon or any of the host of heaven, which I have not commanded, and it is told you, and you hear of it, then you shall inquire diligently. And if it is indeed true and certain that such an abomination has been committed in Israel, then you shall bring out to your gates that man or woman who has committed that wicked thing and shall stone to death that man or woman with stones. Whoever is deserving of death shall be put to death on the testimony of two or three witnesses; he shall not be put to death on the testimony of one witness. The hands of the witnesses shall be the first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hands of all the people. So, you shall put away the evil from among you.” — Deuteronomy 17:2-7

The question always comes up: “What did Yeshua write on the ground that changed the minds of the accusers of this woman?” I don’t know for sure, but looking at the Torah text the only question that would be relevant and would stop the deception and trickery of those people who came to trap Yeshua, would be in my opinion: “Who are the witnesses?”

This would automatically get two points of the Torah-prescribed proceedings into the action:

  1. Who are the witnesses?
  2. They would have to be the first to start stoning this woman.

Probably this woman was someone with a “reputation around town”. Probably they pressured her to cooperate with their scheme in order to entrap Yeshua and prove Him not worthy to be considered a rabbi with Torah authority.

But Yeshua proved well-versed in the Torah and in the commandment of the Torah in our reading of this Shabbat,

“You shall follow what is altogether just, that you may live and inherit the land which the Lord your God is giving you.” — Deuteronomy 16:20

The Hebrew text is much more interesting than the English. The English text says: “follow what is altogether just.” The Hebrew texts repeats the word “just” (justice) twice, “justice justice you will chase, pursue!” Any time that in the Hebrew text of the Bible you have the same word repeated it indicates for perpetuity. Always, forever!

So, what do we learn from this text in Deuteronomy, and what do we learn from Yeshua?

We learn that the enmity and conflict between Yeshua and some of the scribes and Pharisees was really a Halachic dispute (a legal conflict of how to interpret the Torah and put into practice). The disagreement was regarding the way to practice the Torah and the interpretation of the Torah in the difficult situation of living under Roman occupation, and the hate and enmity that existed between the different factions of the Jewish society in the land of Israel.

It is interesting that we have even in Talmudic literature several stories when Yeshua is asked how to interpret complicated legal issues from the Torah. Here is one of the most important ones:

“Our rabbis taught on Tannaite authority: When R. Eliezer was arrested on charges of Minut [being a Christian], they brought him up to the judge’s tribunal to be judged. The hegemon said to him, ‘Should a sage such as yourself get involved in such nonsense as this?’ He said to him, ‘I acknowledge the Judge.’ The hegemon supposed that he was referring to him, but he referred only to his father who is in Heaven. He said to him, ‘Since I have been accepted by you as an honorable judge, demos! You are acquitted.’ When he got to his household, his disciples came to him to console him, but he did not accept consolation. Said to him R. Aqiba, ‘My Lord, will you let me say something to you from among the things that you have taught me?’ He said to him, ‘Speak.’ He said to him, ‘Perhaps some matter pertaining to Minut [heresy meaning Christianity] has come into your domain and given you some sort of satisfaction, and on that account, you were arrested?’ He said to him, ‘Aqiba, you remind me! Once I was going in the upper market of Sepphoris, and I found a certain person, named Jacob of Kefar Sakhnayya, who said to me, “It is written in your Torah, ‘You shall not bring the hire of a harlot… into the house of the Lord your God’ [Deu. 23:19]. What is the law as to building with such funds a privy for the high priest?” Now I did not say a thing to him. “So,” he said to me, “This is what I have been taught [by Jesus of Nazareth], ‘For the hire of a harlot has she gathered them, and to the hire of a harlot they shall return [Pro. 5:8]. They have come from a filthy place and to a filthy place they may return.’ Let them build a bathroom for the High Priest with this money!’ And that statement gave me a good bit of pleasure, and on that account I was arrested on the charge of being a Christian, so I violated what is written in the Torah: “Remove your way far from her” — this refers to Minut; “and do not come near to the door of her house” [Pro. 5:8] — this refers to the government’ [T. Hul. 2:24].”

As we can see there are other texts in rabbinical literature that show a very famous and powerful rabbi from the early part of the Second Century AD who hears of Yeshua’s interpretation and solution of a Torah conflict and is impressed from Yeshua’s Torah knowledge and understanding to resolve the Torah conflict.

The conflict in this case is a contradiction within the Torah commandments. On the one hand, it is stated that everyone (without an exception) has to bring his tithes and dedicated them to the Lord, and on the other hand, in Deuteronomy 23:19, the text says that the price of a dog and the hire of a prostitute are not legal to bring as a tithe to the house of the Lord. Yeshua solved this Halachic conundrum by accepting the tithes of a prostitute and the price of a dog that was sold, and to use the money to build an outhouse for the high priest.

The second important lesson that we learn from this text in John 8, is that again after Yeshua challenges the scribes and the Pharisees that came to text Him to trick Him, these people just turned around and walked away from Yeshua. They also left Yeshua and the woman alone, and didn’t continue their enmity toward Yeshua. This is an important principle that we all must learn from Yeshua and from our Jewish brothers who are against us, because we believe and teach Yeshua the Ultimate Jew of all ages!

In the First Century in the land of Israel, and today in the land of Israel, we have some of the same Jewish elements that are against us for following Yeshua and teaching His ways and His Messiahship in Israel and around the world. If we could be wise and smart as Yeshua wanted His disciples to be in the First Century. and knowledgeable in our own familiarity of our heritage and scriptures as Jews, and as Paul and the other apostles and followers of Yeshua, we might be able to also have better success and more effectiveness.

The reading from the prophets this Shabbat is also very important to me and my family because it has in it the following words of Isaiah the prophet that in times of persecution have given us strength and courage. Today, most of the disciples of Yeshua in this land and around the world don’t have the experience of being persecuted physically and harassed in the streets of Jerusalem, and at home, and being physically beaten, and having bombs blowing up at the door, and damage to property, and having your children being persecuted and harassed in their school.

I know that there are only a few who remember those days of the 1960’s and 1970’s in this land. I can mention the family of Victor Smadja, and Shira Sorkoram, and the Shulam family, who experienced physical persecution and attempted murder and violent beatings, and damage to property. So here are the words of Isaiah that gave us strength and continue to give us strength.

“I, even I, am He who comforts you. Who are you that you should be afraid Of a man who will die, And of the son of a man who will be made like grass? And you forget the Lord your Maker, Who stretched out the heavens And laid the foundations of the earth; You have feared continually every day Because of the fury of the oppressor, When he has prepared to destroy. And where is the fury of the oppressor?” — Isaiah 51:12,13

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

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

Shalom, my name is Joseph Shulam and in partnership with Brad TV in Korea, we are doing the weekly portions of the Torah that are being read in every synagogue.

And today, just before Shabbat, we are going to do Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9. The portion is called judges, not the Book of Judges, the Torah portion judges from Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9.

Now, let me give you a little bit of historical background. The Book of Judges, the date that is the last possible date for this book, is from the seventh century BC during the reign of King Josiah. Josiah reigned from 640 BC to 609 BC. And during his time there was the biggest religious reformation in Israel. Ancient institutions were changed. Ancient offices around the temple and in the worship of the Israelites, were changed.

There was a centralization of the worship in Jerusalem. What do I mean by centralization? Before Josiah, every village had a priest and every priest had an altar, and with every altar, there was a possibility of offering. People didn’t have to travel a long way to Jerusalem from the Galilee, from the Negev or from Beer Sheva in order to worship God and in order to offer sacrifices to God.

We have the story of the judges like Gideon from Ephra in Samaria, that had an altar there and offered sacrifices there. We had Elijah and not too long before Josiah, the days of Ahab that made an altar on Mount Carmel and offered an offering to the Lord there.

We have many, many examples of Abraham and, our fathers Isaac and Jacob, that made altars all over the land and offered all over the land. And we have archaeological evidence of such altars in Arad and in Megiddo and in Hazor and in other places where Israelites, before the time of Josiah, before the seventh century BC, had high places, altars and temples all over the land.

Josiah centralized the worship in Jerusalem for political and, I think, spiritual reasons, because almost in all the other places that archaeologists dug, they found also side-by-side, with altars to the Lord God of Israel, the almighty God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Also, syncretism idols, household idols were found in Israelite houses, even in Jerusalem and close to Jerusalem.

So, Josiah’s centralization is based on the Book of Deuteronomy. But this week’s portion that is called judges, Shoftim is very, very special. What is special about it? We have ancient codices of law. Like the law of Hammurabi that is hundreds of years proceeding Josiah, and even Abraham. We have the Umnamu code of law also found in Babylon that is even earlier than the code of Hammurabi. But we don’t have, in any of the codes of law or documents of the ancient world, what we read here in this portion of the law of Moses.

Let me read to you the first verses of our Torah portion, Deuteronomy, chapter 16. I’m starting in verse 18 “You shall appoint judges and officers in all your gates, which means all your cities, which the Lord your God gives you according to your tribes. And they shall judge the people with just judgment, righteous judgment. You shall not pervert justice. You shall not show partiality nor take a bribe; for bribes blind the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous. You shall follow what is altogether just that you may live and inherit the land which the Lord your God, is giving you.” Let me stop here in verse 20. Four verses of great importance.

What’s the importance of these verses? That the Book of Deuteronomy, which we believe was given by God, from the Holy Spirit to the children of Israel. Maybe much earlier than Josiah. Maybe much earlier than the seventh century BC. Maybe even written by Moses, but not published until the days of Josiah.

Today in Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, the only democracy among all the Arab countries around us. Such a democracy that in the last three years, we had four elections and before the three years are over, we’ll have five elections. I think you could say, that’s a democracy going to succeed. You could say, that’s a democracy that is vibrant. You could say that this is crazy, but it is a democracy.

But I can’t say that what God commands here in the Book of Deuteronomy, chapter 16 is alive and well and being practiced in my country, in the country of Israel. We’ve had the Minister of Finance in jail. We’ve had the President in jail. We’ve had the Minister of Religion in jail. We had the Minister of Interior Affairs in jail. Right now, we even have a Prime Minister that is accused of taking bribes and is in court. And I hope that he didn’t take bribes and I hope he doesn’t get convicted. But the very strong proclamation of the law of God in the Book of Deuteronomy that says, “don’t give bribes, don’t take bribes, because bribes blind the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous.”

“Inherit the land” is dependent on the purity of our hands, of the righteousness of our heart, of our desire to do right and truth and justice. This is what the Word of God commands us, as the children of God, to make our countries blessed by the almighty God. Justice and righteousness in the land.

Verse one of chapter 17 is another one of these monumental commands that the law of God gives us:

“You shall not sacrifice to the Lord your God, a bull or a sheep, which has any blemish or defect for that is an abomination to the Lord your God.”

Think about this. When you give something to the Lord, whether it’s your tithes on Sunday morning in an envelope or without an envelope or in a basket or in a plate that is passed from one another in the, through the pews. However you give, what you give, even if it’s money, it has to be clean money. It has to be money you earned with the sweat of your brow. It has to be pure, because God will not accept any gifts, any tithes, any charity that is blemished.

When there were sacrifices in the temple, the priest checked every sheep, every goat, every calf, every cow, every bird to find out if it was healthy or not. If it had a blemish or not. If it was a blind goat, it was rejected. If it was a goat that had a blemish in his leg, it was rejected. It had to be a perfect animal. Our lives and our contributions to the Lord, based on these commands in the law of Moses, also have to be pure, also have to be sincere. Because if our giving is not sincere, it’s blemished. It’s blemished. And the Torah is so clear about these things. There’s so much written in the Torah about this concept.

Dear brothers and sisters, this is the Word of God. I didn’t write it and Martin Luther didn’t write it and John Calvin didn’t write it, and John Wesley didn’t write it, and the Pope in Rome didn’t write it. This is the Word of God delivered to Moses in Mount Sinai. And I said that the finished work of the Book of Deuteronomy, the latest possible date, is seventh century BC. And these commands are so simple.

In my opinion, they’re simple. They’re hard to practice, but they’re simple. And nobody in his right mind will oppose them. Nobody will say, okay, let’s give God a blemished sacrifice. Ah, this goat is sick. Why don’t we just give it to God and get double benefit? No, you’re not going to get double benefit because God knows everything; what’s in your heart. Before you open your mouth and say your words, God has already read them in your heart, in my heart, in our heart.

Another thing that appears in our reading is how do you deal with problems that arise in judgment before the judges, before the officers of the court that are not so simple to resolve. Here chapter 17 of Deuteronomy, verse eight,

“If a matter arises, which is too hard for you to judge between degrees of guilt for bloodshed, between one judgment or another, or between punishment or another, matters of controversy within your gates, then you shall arise and go up to the place of the Lord your God chooses and you shall come to the priest and the Levites and to the judge who is there in your days and inquire of them. They shall pronounce upon you the sentence of judgment. You shall do according to the sentence, which is pronounced upon you in the place of the Lord chooses and you shall be careful to do according to all that they order you.”

Okay. You’re a judge. You’re an officer of the court. A case comes before you, very complicated, and you can’t make up your mind to the right or to the left. You have another higher station to take your judgment to. And that is in the house of the Lord Himself with the priests and with the Levites and the judges that are there in your day. And you bring your case before them and you, together with them, will deliberate and weigh and decide. And whatever conclusion you come to, the judgment that you jointly, in the house of the Lord come to, you will observe and you have to keep it. Arbitration from the divine seat of worship of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, is in the one place; in Jerusalem.

By the way, the phrases here in verse 10 of chapter 17 are very important. Why? Because Yeshua uses the same phrase “according to all they order you.” The last phrase of verse 10 in Deuteronomy, chapter 17, Yeshua uses it in Matthew chapter 23, the first verses when he talks about the Pharisees and says the Pharisees sit in the seat of Moses, “whatever they order you, you listen to it.” You observe it.

That is in a case like we have here in the text of Deuteronomy. If you don’t know what to do, you read the law and you don’t know how to slaughter a sheep carefully so that he bleeds. If you go to the Pharisees, when we had Pharisees, God says through Yeshua to His disciples and to people who are around Him at that time, if you go to them, they sit on the seat of Moses. They have the authority to interpret the law, not the prophets and not the writings and not the Song of Songs. The law of God means Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.

They sit on the seat of Moses. They have the right to, but if you don’t have an answer and you want to know something, you go to them. And if you ask them to arbitrate for you, whatever they decide, you are obligated to observe.

That’s taken right here from verse 10 of our chapter, chapter 17 of the Book of Deuteronomy. Whatever they sentence you to, whatever decision or interpretation of the law, they are sitting in the seat of Moses, according to Yeshua and you are asking them to interpret the law for you, and when they do, you automatically agree to observe it.

So, all in this portion of the Torah, there are some other things that I want to share with you quickly from Deuteronomy. I will go to chapter 19 of the Book of Deuteronomy, it’s still within our Torah reading of this week. Chapter 19, of Deuteronomy, verse one:

“When the Lord, your God has cut off the nations whose land the Lord your God has given you and you dispossess them and dwell in their cities and in their houses, you shall separate three cities for yourself in the midst of your land which the Lord your God is giving you to possess. You shall prepare roads for yourselves, divide into three parts.”

The territory that it is talking about are the cities of refuge.

God had the foresight, had the foreknowledge, of what is going to happen in the court cases in your land. The courts cannot always discern between right and wrong, who did what and why they did and how they did; to seemingly break the law. But for those people who didn’t do something on purpose, didn’t pre-ordained them, planned them, executed them, but did mistakes; and the courts can’t decide between a mistake that was done in good faith, in good intention and accidental from somebody who planned a heist on purpose and killed people during a bank robbery.

Yes, then there is a city of refuge. Three cities of refuge on this side of the Jordan River, three cities of refuge on the other side of the Jordan River. The person, who by mistake killed somebody, by mistake ran over somebody, and is not intentionally guilty, God provided a city of refuge and the people that were in the city of refuge stayed there, ate there, worked there, lived there.

And when the high priest dies the city of refuge empties and everybody is no longer guilty and nobody has a right to touch them. That’s wonderful, wonderful system of supreme justice, reading the people’s intention of their hearts. And God’s grace provides for them, that when the high priest dies, they are free of guilt and free in society. Nobody can touch them.

This is a very important example because it is an example of how a death of a high priest atones for people’s mistakes. That’s a pattern that is fulfilled ultimately for all mankind in Yeshua, who in His house, we find the city of refuge.

And we should appreciate our fellowships, our churches, our communities, as cities of refuge for the innocent who made mistakes and accept them with open arms because our high priest died for all of us, until the end of time, when He returns to Zion in glory.

Hallelujah, God bless you all.

Joseph Shulam: Do Not Do According to Their Works [2021]

The Torah reading for this Shabbat is called Shoftim, (“judges”). The reading is from Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9. From the prophets the reading is from Isaiah 51:12 - 52:12. From the New Testament we are reading from the Gospel of John 14:9-20.

I must share with you that although I have been reading and studying the Bible since the age of 16, that is 59 years, and now I am 75 years old, and yet, every time that I open the Bible and read texts that I have read at least hundreds of times before, and still there is always something new that pops up and fires my soul with excitement. The trick is simple, don’t just read, think, doubt, examine, and ask for the Holy Spirit to help you understand, and lead you to all truth.

In our reading this Shabbat there are some of the bases for so much of what is going on in Judaism today and so much that ought to be going on in Christianity, but it does not. In the Hebrew Bible what is called “The Old Testament” there are no synagogues, no rabbis, no Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, or yeshivas. These are institutions that are born into existence only in the inter-testamental period, and therefore are mentioned in the New Testament. But, these institutions, that are made kosher in the apostolic writings, are all based on a text from our reading of the Torah this Shabbat.

This is the text:

“If a matter arises which is too hard for you to judge, between degrees of guilt for bloodshed, between one judgment or another, or between one punishment or another, matters of controversy within your gates, then you shall arise and go up to the place which the Lord your God chooses. And you shall come to the priests, the Levites, and to the judge there in those days, and inquire of them; they shall pronounce upon you the sentence of judgment. You shall do according to the sentence which they pronounce upon you in that place which the Lord chooses. And you shall be careful to do according to all that they order you. According to the sentence of the law in which they instruct you, according to the judgment which they tell you, you shall do; you shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left from the sentence which they pronounce upon you. Now the man who acts presumptuously and will not heed the priest who stands to minister there before the Lord your God, or the judge, that man shall die. So, you shall put away the evil from Israel. And all the people shall hear and fear, and no longer act presumptuously.” – Deuteronomy 17:8-13 [NKJV]

In the simple understanding of this text in its historical context, God is providing stations where a person who has a particular problem that is not directly addressed in the text of the Torah, that person can go to the authorities of his own day, the judge, the priest, the Levite, or the policeman (officer) and get a clarification of his question. The man needs advice, and these are the stations where he can go to and get advice and clarification to his question.

However, the price of this Torah command is that if you do go to the authorities in your time and in your place and ask the advice or a ruling of the Torah, you are obligated to receive and take the advice seriously and do according to their instruction.

I can understand well the Lord’s command that if you go and get an answer to your question you have an obligation to do according to their instruction. You just don’t go and waste the time of these officials and then turn and do as you wish. Take seriously what these learned officials have advised you and use their advice to resolve your problem.

On the basis of this instruction of God here in Deuteronomy, the synagogue was established, and the court system, the Sanhedrin, was established, and the whole rabbinical system was developed in the inter-testamental period, when Israel was in exile in Babylon. When they returned from Babylon with Ezra and Nehemiah, the Temple in Jerusalem was in total disarray and disrepair, these good rules from our chapter are taken seriously.

The Pharisees were established as a puritan group. They wanted to return to the Land of Israel and restore the Jewish lifestyle and the Temple and returned to use it for a high place of worship.
However, much time has passed from the days of Moses and their simple lifestyle in the wilderness. Now they have lived in their own land and in cities with walls, and they have farms, and industry. New questions come up that need guidance to live and to stay faithful to the Torah of the Lord.

So, these instructions of Moses in our chapter are apropos in place and needed. However, when the Israelites returned from the Babylonian exile they came back to the land and to Jerusalem that was in ruins, the Temple was not in good repair, the economy was in very bad shape.

This text gave them an opportunity that apparently allowed them the basis to establish new institutions that didn’t exist in Israel or Judaism before. They established houses of learning (Beit Midrash) because they heard the reading of the Torah for the first time when Ezra and Nehemiah and the Levites read it in public (See Nehemiah chapters 7,8) just before the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem. The Pharisees were the people who took the Torah seriously and used it for the reestablishment of the word of God as the authority for the lives of the Jewish people.

However, the world had changed some and the people who returned from Babylon to Jerusalem and to Judea had needs that the Torah and the Word of God had no clear answers for. The Torah institutions, like the Temple and the priests and Levites were not now the same as they had been during the first Temple period.

So, what the Pharisees did was like what Martin Luther did, they made the Torah approachable and accessible to the public and not only to the priests and the Levites. Now, the Torah is open to anyone to study and learn and draw his own conclusions.

Decisions regarding the Torah are now made through discussion and deliberation among rabbis and not by waiting for divine revelation for every little issue. All this is based on the one text from our Torah reading this Shabbat.

Yeshua functioned as a Pharisee rabbi who preached in all the synagogues in the Galilee, and people loved what they heard from Yeshua:

“Then Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and news of Him went out through all the surrounding regions. And He taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.” – Luke 4:14,15 [NKJV]

It is clear from these texts that Yeshua was a rabbi and was invited to teach in the synagogues as the text says, “…taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.”

Yeshua uses our text from Deuteronomy 17:8-13 to give the following instructions to His disciples and to the others that were around at that moment:

“Then (Yeshua) Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do.’” – Matthew 23:1-3

This phrase in verse 3, is an exact quotation from the Hebrew of Deuteronomy 17:10,

“You shall do according to the sentence which they pronounce upon you in that place which the Lord chooses. And you shall be careful to do according to all that they order you.” – Deuteronomy 17:10 [NKJV]

Yeshua was not the first to call the Pharisees “hypocrites.” And for sure He was not the last Jew to call the Pharisees “hypocrites”.

I could make a list of the kings and rabbis who were Pharisees and called their own party by the same epitaph. I have called some of my Christian brothers and sisters more than once “hypocrites”.

You could ask me why I call some of my Christian brothers and sisters whom I love very much “hypocrites”? The reason is very simple, because I love my Christian brothers and sisters so much that I have high expectations for them, and I see them falling into the standard religious hypocrisies and being dragged by the trends and fashions of the Evangelical culture into living a fake spiritual life and pretending on Sundays that Monday will be different from every other Monday on their job.

Yeshua was a Pharisee and Paul states clearly that He is a Pharisee. The big question that this text of Yeshua’s teaching in Matthew 23 is – what are we, in the 21st Century, supposed to do with the teaching of Yeshua in Matthew 23?

Are we to ignore it like most of the Christian world, Evangelicals, Pentecostals, Churches of Christ, Baptists, Methodists? I would say almost all my Christian brothers might read the words of Yeshua marked in red and come out condemning the Pharisees (the Jews) for being hypocrites, when they do the same thing that Yeshua condemned in His own group, the Pharisees!

I love you, my dear Christian brothers and sisters, no less than I love my Jewish brothers and sisters, and because I love you, I am neither ashamed nor fearful of writing these words of truth. Shall we ignore the teachings of Yeshua and just worship a Jew hanging on a cross and never take Yeshua off that cross and have Him crowned as King of the Jews and King of our lives?

Shall we ignore the red-letter edition of the Bible and say that these were just words spoken by the Son of God in the streets of Jerusalem, and on the hills of the Galilee and the shores of the Sea of Galilee, and just write them off?

We could just say this is “old stuff”, we live in a modern world now, with an iPhone made in China, a laptop computer made in China or Taiwan, and wear a face mask also made in China, to protect us from a coronavirus plague also made in the same place. We don’t need a Jew that lived 2000 year ago in a faraway land which we don't know whether to call, Israel or Palestine!

I realize that I am writing “hard stuff”, but this “hard stuff” is written from a deep love and commitment to that Jew who hung on the Roman cross for six hours, was buried on the hills of Jerusalem, in a land soaked with blood, and got out of the rock-hewn grave after around 72 hours, to walk again through the land of Israel and fix an Ashkenazi fish breakfast for his fisherman disciples on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.

You see I am writing to you because I love you and because I believe in your personal integrity with the Lord, and because I don’t blame you for anything, but I do blame the leadership of most of the churches in the West for not teaching the full counsel of the Word of God from Genesis to Revelation.

I do blame the leadership that is more interested in creating big churches with no little personal gain and do what the Sadducees did in the time of Yeshua (Jesus). By far there is a high percentage of exceptions to my generalizations, and I know many leaders, pastors, and elders, who are a clear and shining exception to the general rule and are not hypocritical at all and are living a life of pure dedication to the Lord and His church and love Israel and love and support Netivyah.

I bless all of the leaders and pastors and elders not to be offended by my words, but to be self-examining and take the time and the effort to be like King David, make mistakes, and allow the Lord to help you fix them and restore the purity of your ministry and intent.

It is never too late for any of us, and all of us without exception need to read that chapter 23 of the Gospel of Matthew every few months or at least one time every year and ask ourselves where we stand in relation to preaching to others and not doing what we say.

God bless you all my brothers and sisters! I love you all and if I have offended any of you with this – please do yourself and me a favor, pray for me, and for Jerusalem and for Israel and for your own country and ask the Lord for the zeal and strength to straighten up and fly right. With this worldwide plague I pray every day, Lord come quickly!

Joseph Shulam: Innocent Blood Must be Avenged [2019]

The Parashat Shoftim (“shoftim” means “judges” in Hebrew) reading is from Deuteronomy 16:18 - 21:9. The weekly reading from the prophets is Isaiah 51:12 - 52:12, and from the New Testament we read John 1:19-27.

One of the intriguing texts in this Shabbat’s reading is the issue of the blood avenger. The issue of the blood avenger starts with the second story of the book of Genesis. When God speaks to Cain:

“And He said, ‘What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground. 11 So now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.’” - Genesis 4:10 [NKJV]

Innocent blood that is shed on the ground will forever have to be avenged. Sooner or later, God does see that the innocent blood will be avenged. This is a true principle.

At times it takes hundreds, and even thousands, of years for innocent blood to be avenged, but the best judge of such crimes is history itself (His Story). And history has proven that those who kill eventually pay for their crimes in one way or another.

Now in our Torah portion Shoftim, the difference between a premeditated murderer and those who have killed a person by mistake is being administrated, and the rules of engagement are being set for righteousness sake. The Torah does not judge with blindfolded eyes, but with the eyes of God’s wisdom and mercy.

On the other hand, the Torah states that a person who premeditates a murder should be dealt with in the following manner:

“You must show him no pity. Thus, you will purge Israel of the blood of the innocent, and it will go well with you.” - Deut. 19:13 [NJPS]

The Word of God instructs us not to have mercy on a murderer, but rather to purge “the blood of the innocent”. This is a major problem in today’s Western civilization. The law ignores the pain and the suffering of the victims and their family, and worries and stands with the rights of the criminals.

What the millennials say today is, “How does killing the murderer purge innocent blood?” The modern judgement seems to ask, “Who is the ‘innocent’ person?” The victim is already dead, and the only one now left is this poor murderer who will now suffer in jail 10 or 20 years, and be released. Let us help this poor murderer and not avenge the innocent blood that he shed on the ground.

The Word of God says, “You must show him no pity. Thus, you will purge Israel of the shedding of innocent blood, and it will go well with you.” This is what God commands Israel.

Suddenly, dear brothers and sisters, we, the human race, are those who know what is wise and what is righteous and just and right for humanity, better than Lord, who created the world and made us out of the dust of the Earth and the breath from His mouth.

The Lord, who created this world, and chose Israel, and gave us the Torah, is the one who is speaking to Moses, and through Moses to us Israel, and to the whole world. In other words, clean out bloodshed.

The blood of the innocent is an important topic through the whole Bible. Those who shed innocent blood must be purged, and if we don’t or can’t do the purging today, we must know that God Himself will judge and excise justice for the blood that was shed, so that it will go well with us.

I realize that this text from God’s Word seems not so politically correct for the eyes and ears of the modern world. Some people might say that the language of the word of God here is to be understood figuratively. As long as the murderer is not brought to justice, it is as if the blood of the murdered is exposed on the ground.

In other words, the ground does not accept it, and this blood is not covered. The blood that is not covered and not avenged continues to be a curse to the murderer and to the collective community, and the curse stays on the ground until it will be avenged.

See the following text from the words of Yeshua, that demonstrates this principle:

“Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.” - Matthew 23:34-36 [NKJV]

This text is interesting from a few different viewpoints. One of the more interesting points is that the Matthew text today speaks of the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah. Zechariah, son of Berechiah, is the famous Zechariah who wrote the book of Zechariah, one of the last prophets of the Old Testament.

But this Zechariah is not the Zechariah that was murdered between the Temple and the altar. The Zechariah that was killed between the Temple and altar is actually Zechariah the son of Jehoiada. This is the story to which Yeshua is referring in Matthew 23:34,35:

“Then the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, who stood above the people, and said to them, ‘Thus says God: “Why do you transgress the commandments of the Lord, so that you cannot prosper? Because you have forsaken the Lord, He also has forsaken you.”’ So they conspired against him, and at the command of the king they stoned him with stones in the court of the house of the Lord.” - 2 Chronicles 24:20,21

So, how did Matthew write the wrong Zechariah? Did Yeshua make the mistake, and mix up the right Zechariah? No, Yeshua just said “Zechariah.” One of the early translators, a Greek brother who did not know the Bible very well, and knew the book of Zechariah the son of Berechiah, was thinking that he will help the reader and tell him which Zechariah Yeshua is speaking about.

So, the translator edited innocently and added the name of the famous Zechariah who wrote the book. Yeshua was actually referring to this other Zechariah that is only mentioned very few times in the book of 2 Chronicles chapter 24:20-21.

This is actually the Zechariah that was killed by the people inside the Temple, between the Temple building and the altar in the courtyard. Note the next verse:

“Thus Joash the king did not remember the kindness which Jehoiada his father had done to him, but killed his son; and as he died, he said, ‘The Lord look on it, and repay!’” - 2 Chronicles 24:22 [NKJV]

Note that upon his death in the temple, he said, “The Lord look on it, and repay.”

According to Jewish history, God did repay the innocent blood of Zechariah son of Jehoiada:

“R. Hiya b. Abin said in the name of R. Joshua b. Korhah: An old man from the inhabitants of Jerusalem told me that in this valley Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard killed two hundred and eleven myriads, and in Jerusalem he killed ninety-four myriads on one stone, until their blood went and joined that of Zechariah [Rashi: son of Jehoiada the priest, who was murdered in the Temple court by officers of Judah at the command of Joash, when the people were bowing down to Joash and worshipping him as a god], to fulfil the words, Blood touched blood (Hos. 4:2). He noticed the blood of Zechariah bubbling up warm and asked what it was. They said: It is the blood of the sacrifices which has been poured there. He had some blood brought, but it was different from the other. He then said to them: If you tell me [the truth], well and good, but if not, I will tear your flesh with combs of iron. They said: What can we say to you? There was a prophet among us who used to reprove us for our irreligion, and we rose up against him and killed him, and for many years his blood has not rested. He said to them: I will appease him. He brought the great Sanhedrin and the small Sanhedrin and killed them over him, but the blood did not cease. He then slaughtered young men and women, but the blood did not cease. He brought school-children and slaughtered them over it, but the blood did not cease. So he said; Zechariah, Zechariah. I have slain the best of them; do you want me to destroy them all? When he said this to him, it stopped. Straightway Nebuzaradan felt remorse. He said to himself: If such is the penalty for slaying one soul, what will happen to me who have slain such multitudes? So he fled away, and sent a deed to his house disposing of his effects and became a convert.” - Gittin 57b

This chapter in Jewish history clearly shows that the words of Zechariah son of Jehoiada, upon his death, were fulfilled by the Assyrian general Nebuzaradan, when he killed so many of the young priests. One thing we should know: God’s word is living, and God keeps His promises. If we don’t do justice, God will do the justice! He always does!

The world must know, and the church must know, that the innocent blood that has been and is shed in the world will be purged and atoned for by God.

Today’s political correctness is not the Law (Torah) of the Lord. The Torah of the Lord and His promises are always fulfilled, and will continue to be fulfilled, and we all must know that no one will escape the just judgment of God, either in this world or for eternity after the day of judgment.

Yehuda Bachana: Judge Every Person Favorably [2018]

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

Shabbat Shalom. Parashat Shoftim is a more “practical” parasha, whose name, “Shoftim” (“judges”), testifies to its content. The parasha deals mainly with the government, where the people in the parasha are not “private individuals” but part of a collective called the Jewish people. And as such, the people are subject to the government, and must listen to the legislators.

We Are All Lawyers

We must not lean on our own interpretation of the law, but rather strive to follow its spirit and intent.

At the beginning of our parasha there is a famous and well-known verse:

“Do not pervert justice or show partiality. Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the innocent.” - Deuteronomy 16:19 [NIV]

A lawyer's job is misleading, he or she must justify a desired outcome, and then persuade the judge - irregardless of the truth. And if that lawyer were hired by the other side, he or she would reach and embrace the opposite conclusion.

Judges are warned not to accept bribes. Even if they try very hard to see things as they are, the money will blind them. Even a judgment that is reasoned, explained, and logical can be madness.

We all are lawyers in matters of faith, we all read the Torah from our own prejudice and previous ideas that have been planted in us. We can consistently ignore what is inconvenient to us in the text, and interpret what is convenient for us in such a way that it seems to us as logical and serious.

As lawyers, we lie to ourselves, using all the excuses in the world.

The True Intent, Not Our Own Interpretation

We must try and find the courage to change and manage our lives according to the spirit and intent of the Scriptures, and not according to the most convenient way that we sometimes interpret the text to be.

We are also all judges, we all look at the people around us and judge them. Whether it's their politeness, their clothes, their children, and their belongings.

We all are judges, and usually we come to a verdict based on superficial appearances, without evidence, without investigation, without information on the reasoning behind each and every person.

Appearances Can be Deceiving

There's a story about a father with two children riding a bus. The children were behaving wildly, they were very restless, bothering the other passengers.

The father, on his part, looked out of the window and seemed detached from reality, detached from the mess his children were making.

How did the other passengers judge him and the children?

“He is not a good father, he is detached from his children, the children are not educated, there is no discipline! Overall the situation is bad.”

You know how it is… Israelis like to push their nose into things that are not their business. So the passengers mentioned to the father that his children were not under control and that he should do something about it.

The father immediately responded, “Sorry for being so detached, we're just in shock, we are returning home from the hospital where their mother just died. I'll take care of the children.”

We Don’t Know the Whole Story

Yes, this example is extreme, but I want to emphasize that one piece of information can make a night and day - or heaven and earth - difference. A moment ago, the emotions that flooded all passengers on the bus were, anger, annoyance, irritation, and contempt for the father, before they knew the whole story.

After they knew, after receiving the facts, the emotions changed to, pity, caring, understanding, and empathy. One piece of information can make all the difference in how we see the people around us.

And we tend to judge people and families without knowing what goes on behind the scenes. Sometimes we get hurt from each other, in the community, at work, and even at home, but we do not know the whole story, we do not know all the facts, so the conclusion that we reach will probably be incorrect.

Judge Every Person Favorably

Pirkei Avot, or Ethics of the Fathers, is a tractate of the Mishan that deals with morality, virtues, and righteousness. It teaches us many important rules, two of which are:

“Do not judge your fellow until you come to his place.” - Pirkei Avot 2:4

“…judge every person as meritorious.” - Pirkei Avot 1:6

It is easy for us to judge people, especially as we sit on a deck chai, look out at everyone else, ignoring whatever led to conflict. For example:

You see a neighbor, or a member of the community, and he does not say hello, he ignores you. How rude!

Maybe he’s is egotistical and has no manners, so why am I even interested in his company? Or maybe he’s mad at me, or I did something to him, I made him uneasy. What could it be?

We forget to think about the third option, which is: last night one of the kids got up and wasn't feeling well, he had to calm him and care for him. Five minutes before they left the house the boy wet his pants. He needed a full change of clothes. In the car the children were behaving wild, and because of the long night the parents got tired and argued in the morning.

Now we see them at congregation, the same family… I hope we do not expect them to be jumping for joy.

Let the Person Without Problems Cast the First Stone

The same can happen in marriage. The couple meet up for a date, the wife wants to talk, to share, to be close to her husband. The husband feels distant and not very attentive, even on the ride home the husband feels like he's somewhere else.

The wife thinks - does my husband still love me? Does he want me? Do I still interest him? How can I fix the situation, why doesn't he share with me how he's feeling? In short - a first-rate disaster!

The husband thinks - the computer at work crashed - how do I save the data on the old computer and move it to a new one? And how much does a new computer cost?

If only we were to adhere to these two rules, “Do not judge your fellow until you come to his place,” and “…judge every person as meritorious.”

I think our community life, and our social lives, will be much better and closer.

We judge each other without knowing each other adequately. We do not even have a quarter of the evidence we need to formulate an opinion and do justice.

We tend to judge people about their problems and what they do not do right, but Yeshua warns us and says, “What about your own problems? Are you taking care of them?”

Let the person without problems cast the first stone.

Shabbat Shalom.

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