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.

Note: This is a double Torah portion. To learn more about double Torah portions, read here.

Yehuda Bachana: Messiah Didn’t Come for the Healthy - Metzora[2024]

WOW! These were definitely a few of the most strenuous weeks for the State of Israel, at least for my generation. As a child, I remember how Israel was threatened and in fear of a chemical attack by Iraq, during the Gulf War. Every home in Israel had a completely sealed room, including gas masks. I remember how we’d decorated the card board box of our personal gas mask, and we would take it with us wherever we’d go.

During that war, Iraq fired 39 rockets at Israel. Those rockets mostly caused damage in the regions of Dan and Tel Aviv. Back then, the ‘Patriot’ defensive missile system helped only partly.

In the night between last Shabbat and Sunday morning, Iran fired over 300 (!) rockets – including about 170 UAV’s, some 30 cruise missiles and 120 ballistic missiles, all in just a few hours!

Israel and her allies succeeded to stop closely to 99% of this historic missile attack. Without a doubt, this was a success on a global scale, and I’m not sure if we fully understand the greatness of this miracle/army-success. The issue here, isn’t about the success of having stopped just one or two missiles or UAVs (which are hard to lock on to by our defense systems, due to their very low radar cross section). But rather, for the first time in military history, Israel stopped more than 300 threats at once.

Is that a miracle or an military success?

As believers, we can sum up our answer by saying that God is the true Keeper of Israel; then, call it the end of the discussion, go home and wait for God to save, protect and redeem us with His mighty hand.

Such an approach was common at the re-birth of the State of Israel in 1948 when many opposed immigration to Israel, as well as the assistance to rebuilding the State of Israel. The idea was, that God is the true Defender of Israel and the Jewish People, and that Messiah had to re-build the Land of Israel (and not us, people). They argued that us taking action – instead of waiting on God – actually prevents God from taking action, and would not be for a blessing. It just wasn’t according to God’s will.

That’s their way of thinking, and in my opinion they were wrong.

I believe God uses people to be His hands and feet to fulfill His will. We are instruments in His hands, and we can be instruments for His blessing and honor, and tools for the Kingdom of Heaven (of course, we also have the choice to break and tear down, instead).

Of course, God is the Keeper of Israel and His will be done, for the good or even for the bad. But, throughout history, God used people to carry out His plans. He used David to bring victory and win wars, while conquering the Land of Israel. Who had victory of Goliath – was it God or David?

“This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down (…)” (I Samuel 17:46)

In this way, the soldiers of the IDF are God’s representatives, the keepers of Israel, and an extension of God’s arm.

As believers, sometimes we tend to forget the importance of deeds, and tend to prioritize faith – and truly, faith is the first and foremost step. And yes! May God’s will be done. However, the story doesn’t end here, as it actually only begins there. The grand question is who is willing to be used by God to bring His plan to action?

Both last week, as well as this week’s Torah portion, deal with leprosy.

Let’s zoom back into last week’s question how that topic is relevant to us as believers and to our faith today (what can we learn from this Torah Portion?)

We can always read the Torah and translate it within the spirit and context of the text. That way, we keep the general direction that the Torah directs and guides us in – from generation-to-generation. As the central task of the Torah is to guide and light our path.

The Torah is light.

Our sages describe our life-journey as a man who walks at night, and who’s afraid of the journey: of the thorns, of stumbling and falling, as well as of wild animals or robbers.

The Torah is likened to a light that succeeds to break through the dark night. At first, the light scares off the wild animals, but it also lights up the way and prevents us from injuries and falling.

When we reach a cross-roads, and don’t know the right direction, the Torah shows us which way to go:

“For the commandment is a lamp and the law a light” (Proverbs 6:23)

Commandments are like private candles, and the Torah like a bright light.

Whoever keeps and lives according to the commandments of the Torah, is like a man holding a candle that lights up his surroundings. The neighbors who want to come closer to that light, will do so. That’s the importance of our faith life and the spreading of light. Yeshua is the light – our light – and through our faith in Yeshua, we can know which road to take. We aren’t lost, we just have to remember to let Yeshua lead us and to shine His light in all parts of our life.

When we talk about this week’s topic of lepers, we have to translate it into a topic that is relevant for us today. And so, we could translate this idea and say that, even today, we are surrounded by many ‘lepers’. Not ‘lepers’ in a medical or physical way, but in a social way. And yes, sometimes, those ‘lepers’ don’t look the best, or they don’t take care of themselves, their clothes might smell and they also act oddly.

We’d just prefer they wouldn’t be near us. And especially not near our children. If we could, we’d separate them and send them off to some distanced place.

At times, people look at us – Disciples of Yeshua the Messiah – as lepers, and they’d prefer to send us away, to quarantine us and keep us as far away as possible.

As we read these two Torah portions, the priest and the leper are at the center. The leper stands on one side: feeling embarrassed, and perhaps even humiliated, as the uncleanliness is physically visible. The priest stands across from him.

Why then, does the leper stand across a priest, and not across a medical specialist?

The main reason is because leprosy is commonly accepted as a punishment, rather than a sickness. Leprosy is an outer sign of inner uncleanliness.

In addition, we should examine the task - or even more precisely - the character of the priest. Jewish tradition defines priests as: ‘loving peace, pursuing peace, loving the public’ (Pirkei Avot chapter 1, Mishna 12)

Meaning, the one who blesses people and the nation ‘with love’, the one serving people, is also able to judge others and examine their afflictions. That task isn’t meant for negative people who notice each and every shortcoming.

Exactly here, the task of Yeshua stands out.
Yeshua came to serve humanity and individual people with love, compassion and patience. The sick, rejected, hurt and miserable came regularly to Yeshua, because Yeshua heals the human soul, and because He loves.

By the way, this is the background for the parable of the Lost Sheep. Yeshua was asked, why He (Yeshua) hangs out with sinners? Why doesn’t He invest more time in Bible study, to study and teach those who want to learn more, to spend more quality time with the bright students, with leaders, with those who are hungry for the Word of God.

Why waste time and energy on lost souls, on those who are condemned by society, on sinners who aren’t worthy of our consideration. Yeshua reminds us that:

“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” (Mathew 9:12)

Yehuda Bachana: Outer and Inner Healing - Tazria [2024]

Parashat Tazria describes several strange skin diseases, like leprosy, that do not exist anymore. And so, immediately the question arises how this Torah portion is still relevant for us and our faith, today. What can we learn from it?

As believers, we read about leprosy, its background and its place in tradition, because leprosy is mentioned numerous times in the New Testament as Yeshua heals lepers. Why is that meaningful?

Some believers see the healing of the lepers as a ‘nes galuy’ (meaning: an obvious miracle), pointing to Yeshua as Redeemer. Some of John’s disciples approach Yeshua and ask Him directly:

“Are you the One who is to come, or shall we look for another?’” (Luke 7:20)

Meaning, John’s disciples ask Yeshua directly: “Are you the Messiah? Will you bring Salvation and hope? Or, should we wait for someone else?

“Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them.” (Luke 7:22)

Yeshua answers by asking them: What do you see? Wonders and miracles, sick and lepers get healed, meaning that the good news of the New Testament is being fulfilled right here and now! Yeshua is the Messiah!

Throughout the New Testament, Yeshua heals many lepers, like in this example from Mark:

“And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, ‘If you will, you can make me clean.’ Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, ‘I will; be clean.’ And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.” (Mark 1:40-42)

What’s so special about healing a leper? And, why does the New Testament repeat its examples?

Interestingly enough, leprosy did not have a cure, and therefore we can say that getting healed from leprosy is a miracle. However, in my opinion, beyond the miracle itself, Yeshua is able to heal our inner being.

Here it’s important to understand how people view leprosy.
From the Jewish traditional perspective, leprosy is seen as an external and physical expression of inner rot. And so, a leprosy equals gossip and slander.

According to Judaism, leprosy isn’t a medical condition, but a ‘punishment from Above’. Numbers chapter 12 shows how Miriam - Moses’ sister - gossips behind Moses’ back and immediately gets punished with leprosy.

According to Jewish philosophy, leprosy is a punishment for negative speech called ‘lashon hara’, and refers to publicly hurting or embarrassing someone, or gossiping behind their back, even in case the information ‘is correct’.

It's easy to gossip about others and get a good feeling from it, as it tends to make us feel better or more successful. It’s fun to hear bad or exciting stories about others. And so, leprosy pops out as a direct result of inner rot. And so, the words we utter reflect the state of our inner being.

In light of this approach, we can understand Yeshua’s words better:

“it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person” (Mathew 15:11)

This saying doesn’t talk about food, but Yeshua demands more of us. We shouldn’t only avoid speaking evil, but also deal with the true problem, which is our inner rot. Well, Who can heal our inner being? Here we point to Yeshua, because Yeshua heals our inner self.

Leprosy is a way of speaking, and it’s an external symptom that we can hide. We can cover up with clothes or keep silent. However, Yeshua requires His disciples to safe-guard their inner cleanliness.

If there’s such a thing called ‘lashon hara’, then the opposite - ’lashon haTov’ (or: good, positive speech - exists too. Instead of looking for how others fail, we could point out success, we could encourage and praise. We have the power to empower and to strengthen others, and that’s exactly what Yeshua requires of us. Avoiding negative talk isn’t enough. We should strive to see and point out the good, and to speak upbuilding words of encouragement.

Yeshua came to cleanse us from within. The reason the New Testament mentions healing leprosy time and again, proves that, even beyond the physical miracle itself, is the possibility for us to receive inner healing.

In one example in the New Testament, a paralyzed man is brought to Yeshua. The people intend for Yeshua to heal him, but instead Yeshua declares :

“Son, your sins are forgiven.” (Mark 2:5)

Those who were standing by, were upset. In their hearts they thought: ‘Who can forgive sins? Only God is allowed to do so.’ And so, the people saw this as a blasphemous declaration. Yeshua knew what the people thought, and asked them: “What’s easier to say? ‘Son, your sins have been forgiven’, or: ‘Your sickness has been healed? Your paralysis is cured. Get up and walk.’

The clear answer is that words are easy. It’s easy to say ‘your sins have been forgiven’, since our soul is visibly hidden within us, and we cannot see how unclean or pure our soul really is. It’s is harder to tell a paralyzed person to ‘get up.’ That would be an obvious miracle that is visible to the eye.

Yeshua declares that the true meaning and essence of the gospel for the world is, that He - Yeshua - is able to restore and cleanse our human soul and forgive our sins.

In order for us not to have a doubt that Yeshua has the authority to forgive sins, but that He can also heal the paralyzed man, Yeshua turns to that same man and adds:

“’I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.’ And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, ‘We never saw anything like this!’” (Mark 2:11-12)

In this way, Yeshua proves that He has the authority and the power to forgive sins.

Yeshua’s goal wasn’t to perform miracles, nor to prove His identity as a Redeemer. But rather, to be a loving sacrifice for all of humanity, and to be the source of salvation and redemption. Blessed are the believers.

And so, whoever looks for or expects a miracle, would be disappointed.

Miracles are wonderful, and however great they may be, our human ability to understand them remains limited. If a tremendous miracle, like the return of the Jews to their homeland from the four corners of the world, and the rebirth of the State of Israel, including the renewal of Hebrew (the language of the Bible), becomes a common understanding that doesn’t influence most of humanity much; then likewise, a big miracle, like the healing of a leper, won’t affect our faith much, either.

People will always try to find a reason or explanation, or call such healing from leprosy just another ‘medical miracle’.

As a matter of fact, most of Yeshua’s miracles didn’t truly influence the people of His time. Let’s take John 12 verse 37, for example:

“Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him”.

We see Israel as the fulfilment of many prophesies; and as a result, we can see the Word of God is true. Israel and the Jewish People are the supporting pillars from generation-to-generation that point towards the truth. God is truth and His Word is truth!

The Land of Israel is important, because it gives perspective. We are able to connect an existing geographical place and its surrounding to Bible stories, and when we connect those, we can understand the Bible stories in depth and in context. We read about the Jordan river and know it’s the place where John baptized Yeshua; yet, the moment we visit this river in real-life, touch the water and see the surrounding desert, we can suddenly picture this simple, small, modest river. The simplicity of the place even adds to its greatness, in a way.

People who look for a legendary place, will get disappointed; just like the leper Naaman got disappointed in 2 Kings chapter 5. The Haftarah we read this shabbat mentions Naaman, Elisha, as well as Elisha’s instructions:

 “And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.”  But Naaman was angry and went away (…) Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage.” (verse 10-12)

Naaman expected something ‘fancy’, like an impressive ceremony. While, people who look for the truth, understand that the Bible is true and that the Jordan river is simple and real, but not ‘fancy’.

A visit to Israel with the Bible in hand, is a real eye-opener, as you physically walk the streets and places we read about in the Word of God. Such a visit adds an extra dimension, as the places come to life, in their true size as well as their surroundings. In real-life, the size is different, as well as the level of their splendor. Then and there, you realize it’s real, and this is where it happened!

We can truly walk through the remains of King David’s castle, or crouch through Hezekiah’s tunnel. I can truly sit at the Siloam pool where Yeshua healed the man who was blind from birth. Such experiences change your faith life.

In Israel, the Bible comes to life, which helps us understand the history and the sequence of events that are mentioned in the Bible, and even put the ongoing turmoil in the world somewhat in perspective.

Yehuda Bachana:Physical Cleanliness and Inner Purity – Tazria-Metzora [2023]

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

At first glance, this Torah portion talks about different skin deceases. Most of these visible health problems do not exist anymore today. We also read about purification ceremonies, such as the one after birth, or the one after being healed from leprosy or other bodily discharges.

The most common idea is that this double Torah Portion mostly deal with hygiene, the protection of the public health, and the distancing from the impurity and from the sick. This Torah portion joins in with the prior one, and commands us to keep distance from impurity. Let’s delve into the question of what it means to be impure.

Usually, being impure does not bear any moral implications. A person can be good and honest, and similarly be defiled. Defiled means dirty or impure. This person’s impurity is caused, because he touched something that defiled him. The impure person is not a bad person, but rather someone who has to be purified, to be cleansed.

In the Bible we find a long list of defiled things. Death is the greatest of them. In the previous Torah Portion, we saw a list of impure animals, and the Bible warns us not to touch their carcasses.

The Bible repeatedly warns us that if we have become impure, we should act carefully. By not touching anything around us, we won’t pass the impurity on to other people or objects. We are asked to bathe well and wash our clothes, as soon as possible:

“Whoever touches their carcasses will be unclean till evening. Anyone who picks up their carcasses must wash their clothes, and they will be unclean till evening. These animals are unclean for you.” (Leviticus 11:27-28)

This portion commands to separate those sick with contagious skin deceases from the rest of the population, in order to stop - or at least to minimize - the possible spread of the plague.

Some people point out to the different deadly plagues that spread in Europe and hurt many nations in a fatal way; while, the Jews, however, were struck relatively less. Some commentators conclude that this difference was a result of the commanded personal hygiene measurements, which include: washing clothes, keeping distance from dead people and animals, immersion, and washing hands on a regular basis: all protective measurements that safe-guarded the public health, even in the darkest times in human history.

Yet, which part of this Torah Portion still affect us today?
This question is relevant for most of our portion, with the exception of the commandment to circumcise, because Jews and Messianic Jews still circumcise until today. And, even here we have to ask, do we circumcise, because it appears in this Torah Portion, or because of God’s covenant with Abraham?

The common view is that circumcision became an obligation only from the moment it was commanded to Israel in the Torah (and not before). This means that circumcision was not mandatory as a symbol of the Abrahamic covenant; however, we are obligated to observe circumcision from the moment it was commanded in the Torah:

“On the eighth day the boy is to be circumcised.” (Leviticus 12:3)

The idea of ‘Gid Hanashe’ contradicts this view point, yet, we are still very careful about it. ‘Gid Hanashe’ is the sciatic nerve, near the animal’s thighbone. We are forbidden to eat this part, and it is always removed from kosher meat. This prohibition comes from Jacob’s struggle with the Angel of God at the Jabok-crossing. Jacob prevailed in the struggle, but remained limping after the Angel crippled his tendon:

“Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob’s hip was touched near the tendon.” (Genesis 32:32)

In this case, the Torah has no commandment about the Gid Hanashe; nevertheless, we keep it.

So, what is the answer then? Why do we circumcise? Is it because of the Abrahamic covenant, or because of the clear commandment from our Torah portion?

I assume, it is the combination of tradition, the covenant of God with Abraham plus the Torah commandment that makes circumcision so essential to the Jewish culture. Circumcision is kept by the absolute majority of our nation, even by the most secular. It is the combination of these reasons that make this commandment so relevant, even until today.

The commandment to circumcise is only a small part of our Torah Portion. What about the rest of it?
How are the purification from leprosy or explanations about ancient skin deceases, that even the oldest and most experienced modern doctor has not seen in his life relevant for our everyday life and to our faith as messianic believers?

According to the spirit of this portion, we have a responsibility to keep others from being infected. If someone is sick with a contagious decease, we must take every precaution, not to infect others. This includes taking proper medication and following hygiene requirements for himself and his environment.

In addition, this Torah portion is especially interesting for us, as Messianic believers, because the New Testament speaks about lepers and Yeshua healed lepers on several occasions. What does this mean?

The New Testament sees the healing of lepers as a true miracle, pointing directly at Yeshua as Savior. The disciples of John the Baptist came to ask Yeshua:

“John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’” (Luke 7:20)

The disciples of John ask Yeshua outright: “Are you the Messiah?”

Are you the One who will bring us hope and redemption, or shall we wait for someone else?

“So he replied to the messengers,

“Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.” (Luke 7:22)

Yeshua answered them with a question: what do you see?
Miracles and wonders, people are healed and lepers are cleansed. The New Testament gives a clear answer – yes! There is hope and Yeshua is the Messiah, promised to Israel and the world.

Let’s look at another example from the Gospel of Mark where Yeshua heals lepers:

“A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus was indignant. He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.” (Mark 1:40-42)

What is so special in healing the leper, and why does it happen several times in the New Testament?

The uniqueness comes from the fact that there was no healing nor medicine for leprosy in those days, making this a miracle. However, I think that Yeshua’s ability to heal a person’s soul and inner being is even more important here than the miracle of physical healing. Especially, because leprosy was believed to be an external expression of internal corruption. According to traditional Jewish interpretation, the lepers are equal to slanderers.

The word ‘tsara’at’ (leprosy) can be seen as a play on words between ‘metzora’ (leper) and ‘motzi shem ra’ (one who slanders), stating that leprosy equals gossiping. Leprosy was not seen as a medical issue, but rather as a punishment from Above.

For example, Moses’ sister Miriam, spoke negatively about Moses in Numbers 12. As she gossips, she immediately is punished with leprosy. From the Jewish viewpoint, leprosy is the result of negative behavior, especially gossip or slander, where we hurt, slander or publicly humiliate others behind their back.

It is easy to enjoy slander, as it makes us look better and more successful. We enjoy listening to hurtful and negative stories about others. Again, they cause us to feel better about ourselves. However, leprosy is viewed as the result of inner corruption. The idea is that what comes out of a person’s mouth reveals his personality. Last week we read the verse where Yeshua says:

“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)

The explanation of this saying has nothing to do with food. Yeshua explains that what really defiles us comes from within, from the heart.

“But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.” (Mathew 15:18-19)

If we watch what we put into our mouth, and if we keep kosher, then how much more do we have to watch what comes out of it… slander and gossip that hurt others!

Yeshua is actually asking more from us. We must not only abstain from gossiping, but deal with the real problem - the inner corruption. And, who can fix a person’s internal issues? Here we point at Yeshua, saying that He can heal a man’s inner self.

Leprosy or even a speaking style is often an outward expression that can be hidden from others. We can cover up with clothes or keep quiet. Yet, Yeshua asks His disciples to keep internal purity.

If there is a negative quality as slander, there is also the opposite – praise and a good word. Instead of looking for failures in others, let’s chose to look for where they succeed. Let’s encourage and praise them. We have the power to strengthen those around us.

That’s exactly what Yeshua asks us to do. It is not enough to abstain from damaging others with our words. We are called to build others up, to praise and encourage them.

Yeshua came to purify people from the inside. The reason that the New Testament often speaks about cleansing lepers, is to prove that the person’s inner being was healed, rather than telling us of the great miracle. In a different event, a paralyzed man was brought to Yeshua, and Yeshua declares:

“Son, your sins are forgiven” (Mark 2:5)

People around them where horrified. They thought (quietly, in their hearts): who can forgive sins, only God has the power to forgive sins. People thought that such a saying was a blasphemous.

Yeshua knew what people are thinking and turned to them, saying: “What is easier to say? ‘Son your sins are forgiven.’ Or to say: ‘Be healed from your decease, be healed from being paralyzed, get up and walk!” The obvious answer is that talking is easy. It is easy to say that someone’s sins are forgiven. A person’s soul is an inner matter, we cannot know or check if it is pure or defiled.

It is much harder to say to the paralyzed man “Get up and walk”, because this will be a real miracle that can be witnessed by all. Yeshua says that our soul is the really important matter, and its cleansing and forgiveness of sins. And this most essential part is what Yeshua gives to the world.

Yeshua address our doubt to whether He has the right to forgive sins, as He continues to heal this paralyzed man:

“So he said to the man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!” (Mark 2:11-12)

By doing this, Yeshua proves that He has the authority to forgive sins.

I think, this story highlights the foundations of faith. Sin is present in all people: in some more and in some less. Sometimes sin breaks through in all kinds of symptoms.

In the Biblical days, it resulted in different skin deceases. Nowadays, it can result in anger, sadness, despair or depression. There are many different symptoms that point at inner corruption, or an inner problem.

In the past, a leper would live outside the camp, far from others. There, outside, he would start the process of soul-healing and purification. Eventually, at the end of this process, if there would be healing from the decease, the leper had to shave and immerse in water, in order to start a new life.

This is a good illustration of being ‘born again’.
Being ‘born again’ means that a person is aware of the sin within. He asks for forgiveness of sins and purification of the heart, turns to Yeshua as his personal Savior, and proclaims with full intention that he will dedicate his life to God.

Similar to a healed leper, this person and disciple of Yeshua, goes under water and comes out as a new man. This symbolizes the death of the old man and of his sin, the rebirth and a new beginning.

As individuals, as a nation and as the State of Israel, God gives us a second chance and another opportunity to start over. God purifies us again and again, and gives us an additional chance. All of it for the reason, stated many times in the Torah: That we will be His people and He will be our God.

This new beginning must honor God, honor people and honor our surroundings. When we speak praise and encouragement, as Yeshua commands us, it leads to inner healing.

Joseph Shulam: Sin and Forgivness[2023 – Parashat Tazria-Metzora]

Your prayers for Israel will be highly appreciated. Israel, for the first time since the establishment of the State in 1948, is in an existential danger of internal “autoimmune” self-destructive, divisive, political upheaval, that in some circles it is threatening a civil war. I don’t think that a civil war will happen in Israel but the very idea that some politicians are even daring to mention such an abominable thing is already of grave concern for all those who love Israel as a nation living in God’s promised Land.

This week the reading from the Torah will have two Torah portions joined together, Tazriah and Metzora. The reading will start from Leviticus 12:1 – 15:33. From the Prophets, the reading will be from 2 Kings 7:3-20, and from the New Testament the reading will be from Luke 17:1-19.

In the Torah reading the details of leprosy are defined completely, and it is said that the Biblical illness called leprosy is not existent today in most of the world.

I would like to actually share with you from the portion of the New Testament that our congregations read this Shabbat, Luke chapter 17:1-19.

The first issue that Yeshua raises in the beginning of Luke chapter 17 is the sin of causing others to sin.

I have found out that many dear brothers and sisters that cause others to sin are not even conscious that they did such and don’t know about this rule. Only on very rare occasions some do understand their sin and the seriousness of causing others to sin; usually younger brothers and sisters in the faith. Yeshua, in Luke 17, makes a very serious and bold statement; if you do become a stumbling to the community or to one of your brothers or sisters, it would be better for you to put a mill stone made from Granite. In other words, to cause someone to sin or encouraging someone to sin or leading a brother or sister to sin, is an extremely serious sin. Serious enough for you to hang a millstone of granite on your neck and drown. How do we cause others to sin?

1.By example, we might cause others to sin. We do things, that for us as adults might be misunderstood become a stumbling block to our own family or even worse, to strangers. We ourselves and those dear brothers or strangers that see us and take example of our action saying, “If the Rabbi or the Pastor can do this I can also do it.”

2.We might teach people that it is o.k. to do something that is forbidden in the word of God and say that now because we are living in a modern world it is O.K., to do what the Word of God expressly forbids. This is a very common sin of many pastors that teach their flock to ignore the commandments of God, even the commandments of Yeshua and the Apostles, and twist the teachings of the Apostles by on the one hand, allowing what is forbidden and on the other hand forbidding what is allowed. The celebration of the Passover is a good example. Jews and non-Jews were commanded to celebrate the Passover in 1 Corinthians 5:6-8, but the Christian churches since the end of the 4th Century have forbidden the celebration of the Passover and all the other feasts holidays that Yeshua and the apostles kept.

Here is the text from 1 Corinthians 5:7-8, “Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore, let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” The Christian Church beginning with the middle of the 4th Century actually discouraged and instructed the Christians that celebration of Biblical Feasts is forbidden.

The second issue that our text from Luke 17 brings is the duty that we have to forgive those who sin against us.

“Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, “I repent,’ you shall forgive him.”” (Luke 17:3–4 NKJV)

I realize that this is a very hard commandment to keep when you are angry with someone who has sinned against you. But I also realize how important this commandment of our Lord is for our own mental health and spirituality. If we don’t forgive those who have sinned against us, we endanger the possibility that God is going to forgive us. We pray this Lord’s Prayer every Shabbat in our congregation and it says as clear as a bell “Forgive us AS we forgive our debtors…”.

Joseph’s brothers sinned against their brother just about every horrible sin possible between humans and especially between brothers. There is no wonder that they were so afraid when Joseph revealed himself to them saying: “I am Joseph your brother!” In the very end of the book of Genesis, the story of hate between brothers received this totally unexpected twist – The brothers feel their guilt and are willing to pay the price for their horrible sins against their brother Joseph, and Joseph says these words:

“Then his brothers also went and fell down before his face, and they said, “Behold, we are your slaves.” Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.” (Genesis 50:18–21 NKJV)

The next thing that our text from Luke 17:5-6 is teaching us is the power that our faith has!

“And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” So the Lord said, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, “Come at once and sit down to eat’?” (Luke 17:5–7 NKJV)

This text is a bit different for us to understand because we mix two or even three texts that use the mustard seed and we imagine that if we have little faith, like the mustard seed is little, we can move mountains and move trees and command them to jump into the sea.

This wrong teaching taught people (even famous pastors and professors of Bible) what is not true: that the mustard seed is the smallest seed in the garden. The fact that there is a text that the mustard seed is the smallest seed is also not true in Luke 17: 5-7.

The mustard seed has a much more prominent quality; it is hot, spicy, savory. It is a strong seed with strong taste. This is the kind of faith that Yeshua was promoting. Not the faith that seats in the congregation singing and clapping hands and thinks that God will do things in our favor and, get by with it. This is the kind of faith the Yeshua had and His disciples were to commanded to have.

The third thing that our New Testament portion of reading on this Shabbat, is the insufficiency of works. The fact that doing works and keeping commandments is not sufficient is not a New Testament teaching. It is the whole Bible teaching and especially the flag-ship doctrine of all the classical prophets, and of course in the New Testament..

The most famous and powerful statement that teaches us that just doing worship and keeping commandments is not sufficient or even pleasing to God, if it is not accompanied with true faith and relationship and intention and our hearts. Being pure and focused on our relationship with God is much more than our rituals and celebrations is from Isaiah:

““To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?” Says the LORD. “I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle. I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs or goats. “When you come to appear before Me, who has required this from your hand, to trample My courts? Bring no more futile sacrifices; incense is an abomination to Me. The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies— I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting. Your New Moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates; They are a trouble to Me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood. “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, learn to do good; Seek justice, rebuke the oppressor; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow. “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” (Isaiah 1:11–20 NKJV)

There are so many other places and texts in the prophets that teach the same and we have the Apostle Paul’s speech in the High Court of Athens, Greece, that says the same thing. With this I will end this teaching from this Shabbat’s reading in our synagogue, The Roeh Israel Synagogue of Jewish Disciples of Yeshua, and their brothers and friends from around the world.

“Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing Him, I proclaim to you: God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, “For we are also His offspring.’ Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. 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 17:22–31 NKJV)

In conclusion this is what really matters the most:

“He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, nor sworn deceitfully. “He shall receive blessing from the LORD, And righteousness from the God of his salvation.” Psalms 24:4-5

“Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith…” 1 Timothy 1:5

“Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” 2 Timothy 2:22.

Joseph Shulam: Why We Share the Good News [2022 – Parashat Metzora]

The Torah reading this Shabbat is from the portion Metzora (“leper”), Leviticus 14:1 - 15:33. The Haftarah (portion from the prophets) is from 2 Kings 7:3-20, and from the New Testament, Romans 6:8-23.

The issue of leprosy in the Torah is very important, and we can see this from the number of chapters that are dealing with this issue. In fact it is also important in the New Testament, and we see stories dealing with leprosy there as well.

Here are the stories from the Gospels that deal with leprosy and lepers:

“And behold, a leper came and worshiped Him, saying, ‘Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.’” – Matthew 8:2

“The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.” – Matthew 11:5

“Now a leper came to Him, imploring Him, kneeling down to Him and saying to Him, ‘If You are willing, You can make me clean.’” – Mark 1:40

“Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off.” – Luke 17:12

I would like to concentrate this Shabbat on the Haftarah. The reading portion from the prophets that will be read in all the synagogues around the world.

The unique thing about this story from 2 Kings 7:3-20 has several very interesting things relevant to us today, especially as disciples of Yeshua. This story is related to the word “gospel” in English, the word “evangelion” in Greek, and the word “bessorah” in Hebrew.

The time is when the king of Israel was Jehoram son of Ahab, and the Assyrians besieged the city of Shomron (Samaria). Siege was one of the most cruel instruments of war in the ancient world. Because the royal cities were walled, and usually up on a hill, there were two major challenges in time of war: water and food. After a few weeks the cities were starving and thirsty.

We must remember that there was no refrigeration, and fresh food and water were usually outside the walls of the city, because the city was up on the hill, and the spring of water was usually in the valley. This is why Hezekiah did the digging of the tunnel from the Siloam to the inside the walls of the city, and created the pool of Siloam.

So, the king of Assyria besieged the city of Samaria for months, and the people inside the city were starving. The hunger was so bad that two women decided to eat their babies (see 2 Kings 6). After eating the baby of the first woman, and no longer being hungry, the second woman refused to give her baby to be eaten.

The scene is very hard, because the king meets these two women and they complain to him about the unfair situation that the second woman refused to give her baby to be eaten, after the first was actually eaten. Of course the king can’t help these two women!

From there the biblical text takes us inside the gates of the city of Samaria. There the elders of the city meet to discuss the situation and have a kind of parliament for breakfast, but not much food.

Well, that morning Elisha the prophet woke up early and received a word from the Lord:

“Then Elisha said, ‘Hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord: “Tomorrow about this time a seah of fine flour shall be sold for a shekel, and two seahs of barley for a shekel, at the gate of Samaria.”’ So an officer on whose hand the king leaned answered the man of God and said, ‘Look, if the Lord would make windows in heaven, could this thing be?’ And he said, ‘In fact, you shall see it with your eyes, but you shall not eat of it.’” – 2 Kings 7:1,2 [NKJV]

What Elisha said is actually impossible, because even if the Siege of Samaria would stop today, it would take months to work the land and allow the crops to grow so that they would have food again. The officer at the gate of Samaria doubted the words of Elisha the prophet, and made fun of the old prophet Elisha.

Elisha was a prophet of God that you would not want to mess with. He was a very kind man, but also a very demanding and harsh man at times, and with people who doubted the word of the Lord. So, Elisha curses this officer (“you will see it with your eyes, but you shall not eat of it!”).

In 2 Kings 7:4, the scene changes and takes us to the leper colony outside the gates of the city. There are four lepers sitting in their misery and discussing their situation: “If we stay here we will die from starvation! But if we go into the city the situation inside is not better than from what we have here outside the gate.”

These four lepers are in a predicament that has no way out. What will they do?

They decided to do the only thing that has the potential to provide some food for them and give them a chance to survive. They decided to go to the camp of the Assyrian army that was encamped not far from the city of Samaria.

If the Assyrians kill them, well, they will be out of their misery of leprosy, hunger, and social rejection. If the Assyrian army has mercy on them and gives them food, they will survive for a few more days.

Well, these four lepers start walking and dragging their feet on the gravel of the road. They arrive in the camp of the Assyrians – the place is abandoned.

The Assyrian soldiers are not there, their food is hot on their tables, and their tents are intact. The wealth that the Assyrian army plundered on the way to Samaria was all there in their luggage.

The first thing that these four lepers do is eat, and eat, and eat some more. The second thing they do is take as much of the wealth of the Assyrians as possible, filling their pockets and clothing.

They take so much that there have no room for more. They start digging in the ground and hiding more of the wealth of the Assyrian plunder.

At this point, already late at night, these four lepers have eaten their fill. And they have taken much gold and wealth from the Assyrian camp, and some they have hidden under the ground.

Suddenly, these four lepers say the following:

“Then they said to one another, ‘We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news, and we remain silent. If we wait until morning light, some punishment will come upon us. Now therefore, come, let us go and tell the king’s household.’” – 2 Kings 7:9 [NKJV]

The phrase that interests me is “this day is a day of good news”. The Hebrew word that is used here is “besora”, translated in the Greek Bible as “evangelion”. And in English in the New Testament, it is translated as “gospel”.

The word “gospel” is not even an English word. It is a word made up from the Germanic languages which means “God’s story”.

The question is, why does the same word in the Old Testament appear as “good news” (“evangelion” from the Septuagint translation from the 2nd Century B.C.), and then in the New Testament as a different, made-up word: “gospel”?

So, the same word in Hebrew, “besora”, is in the Greek Bible “evangelion” in both the Old and New Testaments, but in English and other languages a new word is invented: “gospel”.

The results of this tactical translation is that in the Old Testament you have “good news” and no “gospel”. In the New Testament you have no “good news” but you have “Gospel.”

This, of course, creates a disconnect between the Old and the New Testaments. And it is done on purpose by the translators of the Holy Bible.

Back to the four lepers. After they are filled with food and wealth, they realize that they must share this good news with the king and the people of Samaria.

They realize that it is not easy for lepers to enter the city and communicate with the authorities, especially with the king and the rulers. However, these four lepers realize that if they don’t share this important and good news with the starving people inside the city, something terrible will happen to them.

So, they realize the importance of this good news. And their imperative is to do everything possible to wake up the king and share this good news.

The final scene of this story is that the king is awakened and he sends four horsemen to investigate if the report of these four lepers is correct. The king’s men find out that the story of the four lepers is true.

In the morning the news reaches the gates of the city, and the gates of the city open up! The crowd rushes out of the gate to get the food from the abandoned camp of the Assyrian army.

On their way out of the city to get food from the Assyrian camp, they trample the general that made fun of Elisha’s proclamation, and Elisha’s prophecy is fulfilled. The general could see the words of Elisha fulfilled. And a bushel of wheat was indeed one shekel!

The moral of this story is that everyone that has tasted of the “besora”, “the good news”, “the gospel”, “the evangelion”, the wealth of God’s grace, must share it with the people who are starving for the good news of salvation. To have that desire to share the good news, the gospel, with the people who are starving spiritually, because they are besieged in the culture and value system of the world.

If you got the good news and don’t share, it soon it will become like cheese that you have been keeping in your refrigerator. It will rot and spoil and make your refrigerator smell bad.

If you have discovered from this story of the besieged city of Samaria and the four lepers that saved it, you must realize that God can use you too and give you opportunity to bring good news to your friends and family that are still behind the closed gates of the city and suffering from hunger for God’s wealth and generous provision of food for our souls, and salvation from our condemnation in God’s judgment.

Share! Share! Share! Don’t miss the opportunities to share the good news!

Joseph Shulam: Brad TV Video Teaching – Metzora [2022 – Parashat Metzora]

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 doing the Torah portions of the year, week by week following the reading of the same portion, that all of the synagogues around the world read. This week, the portion we are doing with is called Metzora, which means “leprous,” with an illness of leprosy, and it’s dealing now with what happens when a person thinks that he, or other people, decree, that he’s pure.

He has to go to the priest and he has to go through a series of procedures to make sure that he is over his leprosy. Now, remember that we talked last week about Naaman, the chief of staff of the Assyrian army that fought against Israel who captured a young girl and brought her as a slave to help his wife with her housework or chores at home. And he got leprosy. And this young girl told his wife that there is a man in Israel, Elijah, the prophet that could help him.

So he comes to Israel with a letter, from the king of Assyria to the king of Israel. And Elijah tells him to be immersed seven times in the Jordan River. And, he thinks that’s ridiculous. And his servants, his own servants convince him as they get close to the Jordan River. Well, what do you have to lose, man? Do it, see what happens? He does it, he gets purified and he returns to Elijah the prophet to tell him thank you.

The story is very interesting, but now the next portion is actually called Metzora, leprous, leprous, and it starts with the following word from Chapter 14 verse one of the book of Leviticus.:

“Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘This shall be the law of the leper for the day of his cleansing: He shall be brought to the priest.”

Now we remember from Luke Chapter 17 that Yeshua is going to Jerusalem through Samaria up and down the mountains, the hard way to go, but the more much beautiful way to go, with a lot of water, fresh water in the spring time, flowers, wild flowers beautiful mountains are painted with red and purple and lavender and yellow with wildflowers.

So Yeshua chooses to go, probably in spring time, definitely not winter or summer to Jerusalem through Samaria. There He meets 10 lepers and He heals them, and He sends them to the priest to be purified. And our portion today that starts in chapter 14 verse 1 and ends in chapter 15 verse 33 is actually dealing with the purification process. And in the purification process, there are stages.

The first stage is that the lepers stay in some kind of encampment that is outside the camp. We see that in verse 3 and the priest shall go out of the camp and the priest shall examine him, the leprous person. And indeed if the leprosy is healed in the leper, then the priests shall command to take him, the one who is to be cleansed, and two living clean birds, cedar woods, scarlet and hyssop. Hyssop, by the way is oregano, what we call oregano, but it’s wild oregano. it grows in the hills of Judea and Galilee and Samaria.

Then the priest shall command one of the birds to be killed in an earthen vessel under running water. Procedures, sacrifice of two birds. We talked about this last week that Joseph and Mary when they came to dedicate baby Jesus in the temple in Chapter 2 of the gospel of Luke they brought a sacrifice of two turtle doves or two pigeons. And that’s a sacrifice that the middle class, lower middle class brings, not poor, but not rich either.

So they bring that kind of sacrifice to the temple in Jerusalem, in the dedication of baby Jesus. Here, the two birds are brought and the texts deals in detail of what to do with the birds. To pluck their feathers and to do this, to cut them in half and with the cedar wood and the the different scarlet and hyssop, that they need in order to do the procedure. And then, what happens?

After the sacrifice of the pigeons, and then the sacrifices of the sheep, and all this, the priest sprinkles, the person who is healed from leprosy and they take the clothes off and they wash the clothes and they shave all of the hair from his body, from all of his body, the hair, and he gets purified outside the camp for seven days. And then following the seven days, after this, his head and his beard and, all the hair from his body is shaved.

On the eight day, they sacrifice two sheep without blemish, and offer a handful of milled wheat or wheat flour, semolina, whatever it is, however it is translated to English. And then the purified guy goes through the process of purification. And a sin offering is offered up for him, and then the following interesting things happen. Chapter 14 of Leviticus from verse 15. The priest shall take some of the blood of the trespass offering of the sheep. And the priest shall put it on the tip of the right ear of him who is being cleaned and on his right thumb and on the toe of his right foot.

The blood of the sacrifice is put on his ear, on his thumb, and on his right foot. And the priest will take some of the oil. We’re talking about olive oil, and pour it into the palm of his left hand, here. And then the priest shall dip his right finger in the oil from his left hand and sprinkle some of the oil with the finger seven times before the Lord.

Now remember that when Elijah told Naaman, in Chapter 5 that he needs to, of Second Kings Chapter 5 of Second Kings, he needs to go to the Jordan River and be baptized seven times. Here, we have again seven times of dipping. The priest dips from the hand of the guy with the leprosy, in the oil, and sprinkles seven times before the Lord, and sprinkles the rest of the oil in his hand.

The priest shall put some of it on the tip of his right ear, and right thumb, and on the right toe his foot. Now, first they anointed his right ear, his right thumb, and his right toe with the blood of the sacrifice. Now they’re anointing the same parts of the body. The ear, the thumb and the toe, with the oil. The leftover oil, they put on the head of the guy. And this is a very interesting procedure folks. And the big question is why are they doing this kind of anointing? The same kind of anointing by the way happens in Chapter 8 of Leviticus in the dedication of the sons of Aaron as priests.

So in any kind of oil anointing, or blood anointing in the Torah, this is what happens. They don’t just take a little bit of oil and make a cross shape on the forehead of the person like evangelicals do, generally speaking, around the world. No, they anoint parts of the body, the ear, the thumb and the toe on the right hand. Why?

What’s the big deal about anointing with the blood and with the oil? Here is the big deal. When you dedicate to the Lord. The purpose of that dedication is for you to hear from the Lord, to do the work of the Lord, and to walk in the path of the Lord. And in order to do this, in the purity, and with the sincerity, and with the clear purpose of your dedication, you are anointed by the priest with blood on the ear, on the thumb and on the toe. And that is the value of the sacrifice. And second, the Holy Spirit is symbolized with the oil, pure oil, olive oil and you are anointed again in the right ear, the right thumb and the right toe. again, so that you are not only going to be doing the sacrificial life and function for the Lord, symbolized by the blood of the lamb that is sacrificed for your purity but you are going to also need the spirit of God symbolized by the oil on your ear, on your thumb, and on your foot.

So that you hear from the Lord, do the work of the Lord with your hands and walk in the ways of the Lord with your feet. This teaching here, of the way that the priests were anointed in Chapter 8. And the way that a person who was with leprosy is finally cured and dedicated and purified to do the work of the Lord is of great importance. Remember that Yeshua after He healed the 10 lepers in Luke Chapter 17, what did He do? He told them, go to the priest, to confirm your purification, to confirm the miracle, to confirm the process of being purified, because it’s not enough to be healed.

You have to have proof of your healing and the proof of your healing will come from the priest going through this ceremony. And rededicating you, to hear from God, to do the work of God and to walk in the path of God. I think that this is a very, very important lesson for all of us, because, you know, I’ve been a believer now for more than 60 years, in fact, 62 years, and I’ve started congregations in other countries and in Israel and I have dedicated young people and raised them into the ministry. In fact, right now in Netivyah, in Jerusalem, several of the workers here are born and raised in this ministry. And I’m very proud of them.

They’re better than I am in so many different areas and dear brothers and sister, the truth is that we are in the next generation of leadership. And when they were anointed into the ministry we used exactly this text to anoint them. We didn’t have a sacrifice of blood. We didn’t kill a sheep. We didn’t have an altar, but we had oil and we anointed them with oil on the right ear, on the right thumb and on the right toe. So that they will be hearing from the Lord, doing the work of the Lord, and walking the path of the Lord.

And that makes a big impact, both on the crowd on the congregation itself and on the person who is being anointed. The next thing that we have in this portion is, again a milestone of importance, and a milestone of faith that we need to understand from the Lord. I’m going to read now from Chapter 14 of Leviticus from verse 21. No, I’m gonna start from verse 20, Okay?

“And the priest shall offer the burnt offering and the grain offering on the altar. So the priest shall make atonement for him, and he shall be clean.” –Leviticus 14:20

The guy who was leprous now in the final act there is a special offering for the man and the atonement of his sins and now he’s clean. Sin and illness are connected in the Bible in several ways. The most famous one is from the letter of James. And we, he said, you will, you, the elders, will pray for the person and he will heal and his sins will be forgiven. And so this is the normal procedure.

However, if the person is poor in verse 21 and cannot afford a lamb for his atonement then he shall take one male lamb as a trespass offering, and a wave offering to make atonement for him one tenth of ephah of fine flour mixed with oil as a grain offering, and a log of oil, instead of having two lambs, one lamb and two turtle doves or two young pigeons, such as is able to afford, one shall be a sin offering, and the other a burnt offering.

All these are very interesting. We find out that the Lord looks at us on the bell curve. If we’re too poor to do something that He prescribes He says, okay, I’ll give you a 50% discount. I think that this is amazing folks that Torah reflects the will of God and says, if you cannot afford it, I’ll give you a discount, 50%. And the priest shall offer the burnt offering and the grain offering on the altar. So the priest shall make atonement for him, and he shall be clean. Instead of two sheep, one sheep, and a turtle dove, a bird, a small bird, a pigeon, one is as a sin offering, and the other one is a burnt offering to the Lord.

This relativity of how God looks at us is in the New Testament as well, dear brothers, and sisters. We’ve got the story of the Pharisee who gave a thousand dinar and a widow who gave two pennies. And I’ve mentioned that before already because it’s such an important principle. It’s not how much you give; it’s how much you love the Lord. And you give the most that you can. That widow gave two pennies, but it was all she had.

Well, the rich man gave from his surplus, a thousand dinar. And that’s how the Lord looks at us. When we do our best, it’s the most. This is the very important principle that I want you brothers and sisters to take into heart. When you do your best, it’s the most; it has nothing to do with the monetary value of what you give. It has to do with how much of your heart is in it. And if your heart is not in it, you haven’t got a lot of mileage with the Lord. Your relationship with God has to do with how much of yourself in give. Because God looks at your heart and into your kidneys. The two elements that express emotion and thinking and rational, rationale. That’s what God looks at, my dear brothers and sisters.

And in this text here, I’m repeating the main thing that I want you to remember that if you are dedicating yourself to the service of the Lord, to preach, to be an evangelist, to be a pastor to be an elder, to be a deacon, to be anything in the service of God, remember what the anointing is, for your ear, to hear the Lord, for your hand, to do the work of the Lord, and for your feet, to walk in the path of the Lord. And may God bless all of you dear brothers and sisters. Keep reading the Torah and the prophets and the New Testament. God bless and be with all of you. Amen.

Joseph Shulam: Small People Make a Big Difference [2022 – Parashat Tazria]

The Torah reading this Shabbat is from the Torah portion that is called “Tazria”, from Leviticus 12:1 - 15:33, and from the prophets the Haftarah portion is from 2 Kings 4:42 - 5:18, 7:3-20. From the New Testament we read Matthew 8:1-4.

The Torah portion of Tazria starts with some important information that connects me to the Gospel of Luke:

“Now when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, ‘Every male who opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord’), and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, ‘A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.’” – Luke 2:22-24

Luke knows the Torah and is telling us here that Joseph and Mary did everything according to the law of Moses. Mary waited for the days of her purification to be fulfilled before she takes (probably with Joseph) the baby to the Temple for circumcision and purification. Luke wants us to know that Mary and Joseph kept the Torah and observed every command of the Torah.

“Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel, saying: “If a woman has conceived, and borne a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days; as in the days of her customary impurity she shall be unclean. And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. She shall then continue in the blood of her purification thirty-three days. She shall not touch any hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary until the days of her purification are fulfilled.”’” – Leviticus 12:1-4

Why do you think that Luke is the only one of the four gospels that is giving us such details about the birth and the circumcision of baby Yeshua? I think that Luke, specifically because he is a medical doctor and also a non-Jewish disciple of Yeshua and Paul, wanted us to know that Yeshua was a legitimate boy born to Jews, who observe the commandments of the Torah to the letter.

You see, the fact that Joseph and Mary took the baby to the Temple in Jerusalem, and did all the purification rights and the circumcision of Baby Yeshua, is an indication that there was no doubts or legal consideration of the birth of Yeshua. From the text in Luke we also connect with the Torah reading that reveals to us that Joseph and Mary were not financially rich, but at best they were on the lower scale of the middle class in Israel.

They brought as their sacrifice in Jerusalem two turtledoves. This was the prescription for people who could not bring a bull or a cow or a goat or a sheep, but like blue-collar workers living in a very small place in the lower Galilee, they could bring the two turtledoves.

The reading from the prophets, from 2 Kings 4:42 - 5:18 is a part of Elisha the prophet’s narratives. The connection between the Torah and the prophets’ readings this Shabbat is also the issue of leprosy.

The story that interests me most from this reading is the story of Naaman, the minister of war of the kingdom of Assyria. The text starts with these words:

“Now Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great and honorable man in the eyes of his master, because by him the Lord had given victory to Syria. He was also a mighty man of valor, but a leper.” – 2 Kings 5:1

This verse is the text that sets the stage of the whole story. The introduction of the hero of this story, Naaman, is that he was a great and honorable man, in the eyes of his master.

There is only one small problem – this great general of Assyria has leprosy. He is very sick with a terrible incurable illness, a very infectious illness – leprosy.

The second important person of this story is actually a young slave girl that Naaman captured in his wars with Israel. Here is the text:

“And the Syrians had gone out on raids, and had brought back captive a young girl from the land of Israel. She waited on Naaman’s wife.” – 2 Kings 5:2

We have a great and honorable man, a general of the army of Assyria that has no solution to his problem, the terrible problem of leprosy. The young Israelite slave girl, a person without a name, has a solution for her mistress’ husband – the great man, Naaman.

This nameless Israelite slave girl can’t even talk to her master, Naaman. The best she can do is talk with the wife of Naaman, her mistress, her boss. This is what the text says:

“Then she said to her mistress, ‘If only my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! For he would heal him of his leprosy.’ And Naaman went in and told his master, saying, ‘Thus and thus said the girl who is from the land of Israel.’” – 2 Kings 5:3,4

The slave girl tells Naaman’s wife that in Israel, in Samaria, there is a prophet, a man of God, that can heal Naaman. There is a tension between the great Naaman and the small, young, nameless Israelite slave girl, who was captured in Israel during one of Naaman’s raids on Israel.

A great man doesn’t just pack his bag and travel to another country at his will. Naaman needs a referral letter from his king to the king of Israel, to introduce him and help him find that prophet of Israel, Elisha.

The king of Assyria writes a letter to the king of Israel and asks him to help Naaman find the prophet Elisha, and send a recommendation to Elisha to heal Naaman. Elisha is not impressed by the king of Assyria’s letter, and not impressed by Naaman (a pagan general who has waged war against Israel and taken captives).

Naaman also brought rich gifts for the man of God who would heal him from leprosy. Elisha the prophet is not impressed by Naaman, nor by the king of Assyria, nor by the king of Israel.

As the chariots of Naaman come to Elisha’s estate, and the dust settles, and Naaman’s servants knock on Elisha’s door, Elisha doesn’t even get up to the door.

“And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, ‘Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean.’ But Naaman became furious, and went away and said, ‘Indeed, I said to myself, “He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place, and heal the leprosy.” Are not the Abanah and the Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?’ So, he turned and went away in a rage.” – 2 Kings 5:10-12

Elisha the prophet tells Naaman and his servants what he needs to do in order for the Lord to heal him from his leprosy. “Go wash in the Jordan seven times!”

The solution that Elisha the prophet gives Naaman is so simple, cheap, and plain, that it offends Naaman. He was thinking that there would be some grand production and ceremony, but Elisha sends him to the Jordan River. That is like a ditch in relationship to the great rivers of Assyria – the Abanah and the Pharpar.

Naaman is so offended that he gets in his chariot and drives east toward the crossing of the Jordan River, just south of the Lake Kinneret. Now again we move from the great man Naaman to his servants, his slaves, the ones who drive the chariots of Naaman.

They suggest to Naaman: “What do you care master? Here we are at the Jordan River. Go on and enter the waters of the Jordan and immerse yourself seven times.”

Naaman was already by the Jordan, and his servants are again instructing, suggesting, to this great man to hear the man of God, Elisha. And what does he have to lose?

Naaman obeys the command of Elisha the prophet, and immerses himself in the Jordan River seven times. And when he comes out the seventh time with skin as clean as a baby’s behind, he is so thankful for the healing that he experiences by listening to the direction of his slaves, the young poor Israelite girl slave that is serving his wife, and now the servants that are driving his chariot.

The whole story is how the small people, the slaves, who have God and hear God’s commands, have such a great advantage over the great people of the world.

The story is that the great and powerful leaders, kings and generals of war, are helpless if they don’t hear the advice of the Jewish, Israelite, slave girl that has only one asset, the word of God as it is delivered by the prophet of Israel, Elisha.

This story is a story of how the small people with the word of God, have a greater power than the mighty and strong and powerful people of the world. A captive young Hebrew slave girl is more powerful because of her knowledge of what the man of God can do, what God can do, which is greater than what the kings of the Earth and the powerful men of this world can do.

We must take this lesson to heart and put it together with the words of Jacob the brother of Yeshua (James) in his letter:

“Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called? If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.” – James 2:5-9

Joseph Shulam: Brad TV Video Teaching – Tazria [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, every week we do the Torah portion that is being read in all the synagogues of the world. This next Shabbat, the Torah portion will be in Hebrew called Tazria and the English translation is “She conceived,” and it comes from Leviticus chapter 12, verse one, and it ends in chapter 15, verse 33 of the book of Leviticus.

The portion of the prophets that is being read in every synagogue next Shabbat is from 2 King’s chapter four, verse 42 to chapter five verse 18 and continues in chapter seven, verse three to 20 of 2 Kings. From the New Testament, we are reading from Matthew chapter eight, verse one to four.

This is a difficult portion of the Torah because it deals with several issues that are not so seemingly relevant to the Christian world. And I’ve been a believer for more than nearly 60 years, and I never heard a sermon in any church from this portion of the Torah. Why? Because the two major topics that are delt with in this portion of the Torah are a woman who gives birth and the process of her purification, and then the purity laws concerning leprosy, which is one of the main causes of impurity in the law of Moses and in the community of Israel during biblical time, during the Old Testament time, and during the New Testament time as well, it’s also in the New Testament, but mostly people don’t know and don’t discern it because they don’t study so much the law of Moses.

So I’m going to read from chapter 12, verse one through four, so that you get into the topic:

“Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel, saying: “If a woman has conceived, and borne a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days; as in the days of her customary impurity she shall be unclean. And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. She shall then continue in the blood of her purification thirty-three days. She shall not touch any hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary until the days of her purification are fulfilled.”’”

That’s Leviticus chapter 12, verse one to verse four. Now you would say, how is this teaching relevant for Christians today? For Jews, obviously it’s relevant because we are still watching the purity laws of the Torah. And in fact, we have some commandments in the New Testament that rely on our faithful watching of the purity laws of the Torah. So here you have it, a woman conceives and has a male child. On the eighth day, he gets circumcised and she stays impure for 33 days. And then she goes to the temple and gets purified, goes into the mikvah, which is baptism, immersion in water. She washes and then she’s purified and can continue her normal life and her normal relationship with her husband.

Now, this text is of great importance in the New Testament, but like I said, because most Christians don’t study the Torah enough and don’t dig deep enough, they miss it. I’m going to read now a passage from the New Testament. From Luke chapter two, and I’m gonna start from verse 21 to 24 of Luke chapter two:

“And when eighth days were completed for the circumcision of the Child, his name was called Yeshua, [or in English Jesus, which is in Greek, not in English] the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.”

Before He was conceived in the womb, the angel, I’m just elaborating this, in Matthew chapter one, the angel comes to Mary and says, “His name will be Yeshua, because He will Yeshua his nation. Will be savior because He will save his nation.” So when the baby was born in Bethlehem, they gave Him the name that the angel announced, and Luke knows this story and he repeats it. And he says clearly that when, the eighth days after his birth were completed, He was circumcised. I want you to realize this, dear brothers and sisters.

Yeshua was circumcised on the eighth day as God commanded Abraham long before the Law of Moses was given on Mount Sinai. God commanded Abraham in Genesis chapter 17, to circumcise all the males in his camp. And he circumcised himself, and he circumcised his children, Isaac and the other children he had. So Yeshua was circumcised, on the day that the Gospel of Luke chapter two, verse 21-22 tells us of, clearly.

Next verse.

“Now, in the days of purification, according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord, as it is written in the law of the Lord, ‘every male who opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord.’”

In other words, when the days of the purification of his mother were completed, that’s 33 days, they came to Jerusalem from Bethlehem, not from Nazareth. They were still in Bethlehem. They came to Jerusalem, which is about six miles, not terribly long, and she was purified.

Mary was purified, and the baby was dedicated according to the law of the Lord. That’s what it says. And it’s quoting from our text. “Every male who opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord.” In order to be holy, they had some procedure that takes place, and that is a sacrifice has to be offered according to the law, and Mary and Joseph offer a sacrifice.

What is the sacrifice that they bring in verse 24? They bring two doves, turtle doves, or two young pigeons. Now that’s very interesting. It tells us something about their financial situation, about their social status, because a rich person would bring a bull. A middle class, upper middle class, would bring a sheep or a goat. The lower middle class would bring two turtle doves or two pigeons.

Joseph and Mary brought two pigeons, which means that they were not rich and they were not dirt poor, because the dirt poor people would bring just a handful of meal, anointed with a little bit of olive oil, and that would satisfy the Lord in the process of their purification. Yep. So that’s what Mary and Joseph did. And it’s clearly in the text of Luke, it was all done according to the law of the Lord. But what does that tell us?

First of all, it tells us that Joseph and Mary and baby Yeshua, baby Jesus lived an obedient life, if I put it in modern terms, a very Orthodox Jewish lifestyle. That’s what it tells us. They did everything according to the Word and to the Law, to the Torah of the Lord. Something that, you know, we must remember. We must remember that there was no Christianity, that the only thing that existed for the Jewish people in the land of Israel and around the globe, wherever they were, in Asia Minor, in Greece, in Rome, in North Africa, in Egypt, in Iraq, Babylon of that period, they all observed the Torah and argued about it, which is our national sport and discussed it and tried to discern and to glean out of the ancient text how to apply it in their own day.

We should be doing the same thing. We should be doing the same thing, but I am fascinated by the fact that Luke saw fit to tell us that Joseph and Mary went to the temple after the days of her purification were complete, that means after 33 days after the birth, and they brought two turtle doves or two pigeons. It tells us that they were not wealthy and they were not very, very poor. They were lower middle class, blue collar workers. He was a mason. It doesn’t say whether he was a mason of stone or a mason of wood, you know, a carpenter or a stonemason, just a mason.

And she was a housewife. Mary was a housewife. She didn’t live so far from her mother and father who lived in Sepphoris, the capital city, the capital Jewish city of the Galilee, that was about four miles away, three and a half miles away from Nazareth. Nazareth was kind of a suburb of Sepphoris. So here is a direct connection of our Torah reading this week with the text of Luke chapter two in the New Testament.

Very relevant, and it would be difficult to understand Luke chapter two, the story of the birth and the circumcision and the purification of Mary, as it is mentioned in Luke chapter two, without knowing the source, which is chapter 12 of the book of Leviticus. And that is amazing. It’s amazing because Luke is considered to be the only non-Jew among the writers of the New Testament, if it is the same Luke that was discipled by the Apostle Paul and one of the seven Gentiles that Paul brings to Jerusalem in Acts 21, then he’s Luke the doctor, yeah, and he’s a Gentile, and he accompanied Paul from Asia Minor to the land of Israel, together with the other six Gentiles that are mentioned in Book of Acts and mentioned in Titus and also I think also in Philemon.

And so Luke the Gentile is giving us the details of the birth and the purification of Yeshua and of his mother Mary, what Matthew doesn’t give and Mark doesn’t give, and John doesn’t give. Why don’t they give them? Well they presume, they’re Jews, they presume that everybody would know, that every other Jew would know. Luke, who is a Gentile, actually gives you the details from the Torah and quotes from the passage in the Torah, Leviticus chapter 12, because he has in mind, the non-Jews are going to be reading his gospel.

Okay. There is after the dealing with the birth and the purification and the ceremonies that go along with it, the next topic in our reading deals with the diagnosis of one of the worst diseases in the ancient world, leprosy. Leprosy is almost eradicated from the world. I grew up in a neighborhood that was very close to the Jerusalem leper colony. And in the end, there was only one leper. There were more nurses and doctors in the hospital for the lepers in Jerusalem then patients because they got cured.

Antibiotics and modern medicine found a solution for that kind of leprosy, Hansen’s Disease in medical terms, and the Torah deals with it. We have several chapters in our Torah portion that deal with the diagnosis of leprosy. If the wound is white, or if it’s not white or it’s red, if it grows any hair, and if the hair is white, and if the hair is not white, dark, how to diagnose the leprosy and what to do and how to cure and how to not to cure, how to diagnose the leprosy.

Now, we have a very interesting story in the New Testament, in Luke chapter 17, verses 11 to 18, that relates very much to our portion of the Torah. Here is a story from Luke 17:11.

“Now it happened as He went to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.”

That is a fascinating text that, you know, people who don’t know the land of Israel and don’t know the, the geography of Israel, can’t appreciate it. I can appreciate it because I’ve traveled that road by a car many many many times and a little bit also by foot, sections of it at least.

Now, why would anybody walk through some area from the Galilee, from Nazareth, to Jerusalem? It’s a much more difficult road than going through the Jordan Valley. The Jordan Valley, you leave Nazareth, you cross the Jezreel Valley, you’re going to the Bet Shan Valley. You get to the Jordan River, it’s almost flat all the way to Jericho. No big mountains, no big valleys, along the river. And then you’ll get to Jericho, you turn right. You climb up the hill to Jerusalem. Most of the people from the Galilee traveled that road, through the Jordan valley.

Why not through the Samaria area? Several reasons. One of the reasons is you go up the mountain, down the mountain, up the mountain, down the mountain. It’s much more difficult. But when do you want to travel and walk through Samaria to Jerusalem? Only one, one season of the year, and that is springtime. Why? Because Samaria and the hills of Samaria and the mountains of Samaria and the valleys of Samaria? Ah, beautiful.

We’re right now here in February or the middle of February, and yes, it’s beautiful. One year, we had in our congregation, a woman who is a world famous plant biologist. World famous, and one winter, we decided to go not to Samaria, but to the Judean desert and survey the flowers after a very rainy year. We counted, in one square meter, in other words, in ten square feet, we counted 103 different species of wild flowers that blossomed in the desert after a very rainy year.

And right now, some of the hills of Samaria are covered with beautiful red flowers, what Yeshua called the lilies of the fields. Yeah. And they are from the poppy family, the poppy seed family. And they’re covered with red. Beautiful, beautiful season. And Yeshua wanted to travel through some area to Jerusalem, I’m almost sure during springtime. Summer is too hot. Okay. So He is going through some area and 10 lepers meet him. The lepers meet Him going through a certain village.

We don’t know the name of the village, and the 10 Lepers see Yeshua and come to Him and by name, they say, “Yeshua, Master, have mercy on us.” How would these 10 lepers know his name? And how would they know that he’s the master? And how would they know to ask Him for divine mercy on their illness, on their leprosy? I’ll tell you how. We, and most Christians, when they think about Yeshua, they think about poor, persecuted, rejected Messiah. But no, when you read the text of the New Testament and the Gospel especially, you find out that Yeshua was well known.

He was well known in Samaria, He was well known in Jericho. A blind man that knows that Yeshua is coming is begging Him to be healed. Why? Because they knew Him. Without television, without radio, without smartphone, the name of Yeshua was well known throughout the land of Israel, and especially in the Galilee, because in Luke chapter two, we find out that He preached, no Luke chapter four, that He preached in all the synagogues in the Galilee. That means that He was welcomed by the crowds in the synagogues.

And when the people heard Him preach, they praised the Lord. He was a great rabbi, a great teacher of the Torah on Shabbat in the synagogues. So Yeshua heals them from leprosy, but it doesn’t pronounce them healed. Why not? Because he’s observing the Torah. He’s not a priest. He’s not a priest. He’s from the tribe of Judah, not from the tribe of Levi. And He says, “Go, show yourself to the priests.” According to what our Torah portion is teaching. He’s the Lord, the Son of God, the Messiah, but is not taking away the authority of the Torah given to the Levites and to the priest from the Tribe of Levi, from the household of Aaron.

He is respecting the Torah and the institution of priesthood in Israel. And He sends them to be checked, examined, and announced as healed by the priest. All this is in our Torah portion folks, how the priest will discern and the different stages of discernment, whether the person is healed or not healed from leprosy. It’s all, the details are there in our Torah portion, Leviticus, from chapter 12 to chapter 15. So He sends them to the priests to be checked, examined, and declared cleansed from leprosy.

Now they are all in a hurry to get diagnosed as clear, as clean. And one of them, not an Israelite, not a Jew, a Samaritan rushes back to Yeshua, finds Him along the road and says, “Thank you, Lord, thank you for healing me.” And Yeshua says only one thing. “Where are the other nine? Where are the other nine?” I’ll tell you where they are, they’re typical Sabras, Israelites born in the land. And they were so excited about being healed and going to the priest to quickly get, you know, announced clean, tested, and announced clean that they forgot to say thank you.

I’m sure they were grateful in their heart, but they didn’t express it. So this is another lesson that we all need to learn. It’s important to express, express our cleanliness. The next thing that I want to share with you about the leprosy is from the prophets, from the prophets, and that is, we have the story of from 2 Kings chapter four, verse 42 to five verse 18. The story of a man that is called a big important man, the chief of staff of the Assyrian army.

His name was Naaman, and he had made war with Israel. And we have records of that war in plastic, in plaster I should say. And you could see the Laish tablets, the Laish walls from the temple in Babylon that commemorate the battle of Laish and the general who was in charge of the Assyrian army that conquered Judea and plundered the temple was Naaman, was Naaman, and this Naaman got leprosy.

Don’t know where he got it, but he got leprosy and leprosy is incurable. And when he was fighting in Judea, he took a young girl as a slave to help his wife at home. Slave, a young Hebrew Israelite girl as a slave in his house. And this slave girl Israelite, Judean slave girl tells the wife of Naaman, “Listen, I know a way, I know somebody in Israel that can heal your husband,” because she can’t talk to the boss, to Naaman. He’s too important, too big a person. She could talk to his wife ‘cause she serves his wife.

So when Naaman comes home, his wife tells him, “Listen, our slave girl, the Judean said in Israel, there is somebody who can heal you.” So he goes to his king and says, “Listen, I can’t just get up and get myself, you know, get in my car and go to Judea. You know, I need your help.” So the king says, “Okay, I’ll write you a letter of recommendation to the King of Judea, and he will take care of you.” So the letter of recommendation is brought to the King of Judea. The King of Judea tears his hair out, so to speak, he’s scared. He says to himself, “I’m not God, I can’t heal this man.” And I’m not sure that our prophet Elisha can do it either. It’s an incurable disease. Only God can heal him.” But because he got a letter from the King of Assyria, that was his actually, it’s like our prime minister and the President of the United States.

If the President of the United States says to our president jump, he jumps. The same thing was then with Assyria. It was a great empire, and the small little country of Judea. So Naaman loads seven carts with gifts. And he goes down to Judea. He gets to the king. The king tells him where to go to meet Elisha the prophet. He gets to the house of Elisha and knocks on the door, so to speak. And the servant of Elisha, Gehazi, comes to the door and says, my master says, go to the Jordan River and immerse yourself seven times. And God will heal you.

Naaman gets offended. First of all, he gets offended because Elisha didn’t even come to meet him at the door, he sent his servant. Secondly, he said, “What is the Jordan River? It’s a ditch compared to the Euphrates and the Tigris in Assyria, some of the greatest rivers of the world, the cradle of civilization. And you’re sending me to this little peewee creek, tiny little ditch compared to the great rivers? I know in Korea, I’ve been many times in Seoul, Korea and to the Han River.

Oh, it’s a hundred times bigger than the Jordan River. Maybe it’s more than a hundred times bigger than the Jordan River, the Jordan River is very small, at some of its best places, only 10 meters wide. It’s nothing. So dear brothers, Naaman gets offended. He doesn’t want to go, but his servants, the servant, the slave girl in his house and his servants convince him to listen to the man of God, to Elisha, and to get immersed in the Jordan seven times.

And he gets healed and he returns to give gifts to Elisha the prophet. The story continues, but we’ll have to talk about in the future more. God bless all of you. Please read the Torah. Even if you don’t think you understand it, read it, pray about it, ask for God to help you understand it. The Holy Spirit works, he’s alive and well and continues to lead us unto all truths. God bless you all, and Shalom from Jerusalem.

Joseph Shulam: The Difference Between Good News and the Gospel [2021]

The Torah reading this next Shabbat is double, Tazria and Metzora. The reading starts from Leviticus 12:1 – 15:33, from the prophets we read 2 Kings 7:3-20, and from the New Testament from John 6:8-13, 8:1-17. The reading from the prophets this Shabbat is one of my favorite texts in the second book of Kings. The reason that it is my favorite text is because it deals like our Torah reading with people who are sick with leprosy.

Leprosy is one of the most feared illnesses in the Bible. Leprosy was highly infectious and was incurable. People who were sick with leprosy were outcasts and feared and sent out of town to a leper colony outside the cities.

I grew up in Jerusalem not far from the leper colony of Jerusalem. It was a large compound surrounded with high stone walls. The gate to the compound was like a normal small metal door to any apartment in Jerusalem.

Inside there was a farm with goats and sheep, and vegetable gardens, four freshwater wells that draw the water from the ground. There were only a few doctors who also lived on the same closed compound and a few nurses.

No one could go in or come out of that leprosy hospital whose name was the Hansen Hospital. Hansen’s disease is the modern name for leprosy.

Our reading from 2 Kings chapter 7 is dealing with four men who were sick with leprosy. They were, like all the lepers, sick outside the walls of the city of Samaria.

The city of Samaria was under military siege for six months. The Assyrian army was parked around the city of Jerusalem. No one could go out or come into that city.

Of course, a siege is one of the most cruel and difficult military tactics to overcome. Because a city under siege has no incoming food, no incoming trade, no incoming or outgoing people. Starvation, hunger, and desperation take over.

This is so clear from chapter 6 of 2 Kings. The case is described with two women that decided to eat their babies in order to survive. There couldn’t have been a worse situation in the city of Samaria.

The city of Samaria was in deep trouble and hunger was taking over. One morning the elders of Samaria were seating at the gates of the city having a cup of a hot drink with Elisha.

Elisha is well known not to be a politician. He pipes up and states the impossible:

“…Hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord: ‘Tomorrow about this time a seah [a measure of wheat] of fine flour shall be sold for a shekel, and two seahs of barley for a shekel, at the gate of Samaria.’” – 2 Kings 7:1b [NKJV]

The elders and a general that was there guarding the gate hears Elisha speak and says, “Old man Elisha is crazy! Even if the windows of Heaven are opened, Elisha’s dream can’t happen! Even if the siege ends tomorrow morning it takes months to plow the fields and sow the seed and wait for the crop to grow and only after that, the food will be ready.”

Elisha hears this officer and says to him: “In fact, you shall see it with your eyes, but you shall not eat of it.”

Well, four leprous men early in the morning discuss their situation and they know that inside the city they have no hope because the hunger was just as bad or even worst. So, the only hope that these four men with leprosy had was to go and see if they could get some mercy and charity from the Assyrian enemy camp. So, here you have it – four men with leprosy start dragging their feet walking like sick lepers toward the Assyrian camp.

As they get close to the camp of the enemy, they hear no sound, no one is there, the tents are empty, food is on the tables and the cooking pots in the kitchen of the officers are hot and full of food. Those four leprous men eat as much as they can. After they finish eating they start filling their pockets with the loot that the Assyrians had gathered on their march to Samaria.

They take and they take and in chapter 7:9, this is what one of the leprous men said to the others:

“We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news, and we remain silent. If we wait until morning light, some punishment will come upon us. Now therefore, come, let us go and tell the king’s household.” – 2 Kings 7:9b [NKJV]

“The day of good news” in English is the day of “besorah” in Hebrew. In the Greek it is the day of the “evangelias” – the very same word that is translated in the New Testament with the word Gospel, not with the word good news.

There are near 20 times in the so-called “Old Testament” (Hebrew bible), in the Christian translations, that the same word, “evangelia” in Greek and “besorah” in Hebrew, is always translated as “good news.” The same word is translated in the New Testament as “gospel”. The question is why the difference in the translation of the same word between the Old Testament and the New Testament?

The answer to this question for me is simple. The Christian translators invented a word, “gospel”, that is not even English, in order to make a distinction between the Hebrew bible and the New Testament.

The end of the story in 2 Kings 7 is that the four men sick with leprosy wake up the king and the next morning the gates of Samaria opened and the people of Samaria rush out of the city, trampling the officer that made fun of Elisha, who dies, and the people of Samaria can buy a bushel of wheat for one shekel. Just as Elisha the prophet had spoken 24 hours earlier.

God’s word was fulfilled!

There is so much more that we can learn from this text and from the Torah and the New Testament text in this week’s reading. I encourage you to read it all every week and allow the word of God to be a special vitamin for your soul and spirit.

There is no replacement for reading the word of God. It is the most important thing that you can do for yourselves and for your souls.

Joseph Shulam: Yeshua is No Longer on the Cross [2020]

The first part of Leviticus 12, gives the instruction to women who have given birth.

In Luke 2:21-24 [NKJV], we read:

“And when eight days were completed for the circumcision of the Child, His name was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb. Now when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, ‘Every male who opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord’), and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord…” – Luke 2:21-24 [NKJV]

When the text says in verse 24, “according to what is said in the law of the Lord,” it is referring to this Shabbat’s reading from Leviticus 12. This short text in the Gospel of Luke ought to be an eye-opener for most Christians.

What is Luke trying to tell us (The Gentile disciple of Yeshua the Messiah, fruit of the work of the Apostle Paul and a fellow traveler with Paul to Jerusalem)? First Luke is making sure that we know that Yeshua our Lord is a Jew. A proper Jew circumcised on the eighth day.

Second, Yeshua and his family were not rich, they offered two turtle doves as a sacrifice to the Lord. The third thing that Luke is making sure that we know is that Yeshua went through all the proper ceremonies of purification together with Mary his mother, in the temple in Jerusalem.

Why is this important for every Christian? The reason is that the historical churches, the Catholics in Rome and the Orthodox in Constantinople, and the protestants from Germany, France, England, Holland, and now from the USA, have allowed their history to take them far from Jerusalem, and far from the King of the Jews, Yeshua the son of God the son of David and the son of Abraham.

By staying far from the roots they have allowed much wild grass to grow around them and hide the Son that gives life. When you don’t have a natural Son you have to produce one that is made of wood, gold, silver, or plastic and keep him nailed to the cross.

If this plastic Jesus is not nailed to the cross there is nothing to hold him in place. The real Jesus i.e. Yeshua the Son of David, the Messiah and the Son of God Himself, is already from a long, long, time ago not on the cross.

Yeshua is on the right hand of God running the affairs of His Kingdom and waiting for you and for me to accept Him not only as the crucified One, but as our King of Kings.

The reading this week is very rich and I recommend each one of you to read all of it, from the book of Leviticus and the 2 Kings and from both Mark and Romans. Seek the connections between all these texts and you will find enrichment for your soul.

Joseph Shulam: A Reminder of Our Need for Purity [2019 – Parashat Metzora]

The reading this Shabbat is from Leviticus chapter 14:1-15:37. It is a short parashah with essentially one topic, the laws of purity. Now, the issue of purity is not so popular in the Christian religions. It is hard for us to understand.

We have showers and bathtubs at home, and we wash very often. We also don’t have the concept of spiritual cleanliness or purity. Let me try to explain these concepts in our 21st Century perspective.

I will use one verse that is also ignored by most of the evangelical churches:

“Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but vas an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into Heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.” - 1 Peter 3:21-22

Let us look at this verse more carefully: Baptism is something that all Christians know at least something about. Catholics churches and high Protestant churches baptize their babies with sprinkling a little water on the head of the baby.

The Greek Orthodox and Russian Orthodox, Coptic, and Ethiopian Churches also baptize babies, but by immersion, totally dipping the baby in water. These churches baptize the babies because they believe that without baptism, these babies will go to hell if they die.

The rationale for this practice is based on the above verses from the first letter of Peter. These churches took the verse literally “Baptism that corresponds to this, now saves you…”

The problem with this traditional church interpretation is that the first phrase, “which corresponds to this”, is totally ignored. “Corresponds to” what?

The context of these verses is Noah’s flood. Noah and his family were saved by the flood because the water lifted his boat, ship, above the water, and this is how Noah and his family were saved.

There is no magic in the physics of water lifting and floating a boat. However, when a baby or an adult is baptized, the water makes the baby wet, but it has no magic to ensure that this baby will be saved in the Judgment Day and go to Heaven. The text in Peter’s letter also makes it clear that baptism is not a bath or a shower that cleans the body and thus saves by cleanliness.

Baptism is “not as a removal of dirt from the body”, it is “as an appeal to God for a good conscience”. The formative word here is “AS”. In other words, it is an image, a picture, an example, that uses the resurrection of Yeshua our Messiah as an example of salvation by making us followers of the Messiah.

As the Messiah went to Heaven after His resurrection, so we, who simulate His death and resurrection and assentation to Heaven when we are baptized, so we appeal to God as followers of the Messiah Yeshua and participators in His death, burial, and resurrection, when we are baptized, because we are subjected to Him, that is, to the Messiah.

Let me simplify this a little. Paul, in Romans chapter 6, makes it clear:

“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” - Romans 6:3-4

Of course, baptism, like all of God’s commandments, only works when the person who is being baptized is doing it with faith and by faith. (See Mark 16:16, “Whoever believes and’ is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”)

What can be clearer than the words of the Apostle Paul here? If you don’t believe and are dunked in water – you will be condemned. In other words, without faith, believing, the water will not save you.

The vestige of the purity laws of the Torah (The Law of Moses) is now summed in the one act of faith that we all must take – and that is the participation symbolically in the death, burial, and resurrection of the Messiah, and the privilege of following Him into the presence of God in Heaven.

Let me bring to you a few more verses from the New Testament that deal with purification:

“Then Paul took the men, and the next day he purified himself along with them and went into the temple, giving notice when the days of purification would be fulfilled and the offering presented for each one of them.” - Acts 21:26

“While I was doing this, they found me purified in the temple, without any crowd or tumult. But some Jews from Asia…” - Acts 24:18

“For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” - 2 Corinthians 11:2,3

“The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” - 1 Timothy 1:5

“So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” - 2 Timothy 2:22

“Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.” - Hebrews 9:22,23

“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, clove one another earnestly from a pure heart…” - 1 Peter 1:22

“And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” - 1 John 3:3

Let us all refocus our lives with these reminders of our need for purity in both the heart and our lives.

Please meditate on the following story and put yourselves into this scene in front of Yeshua, and ask yourselves what I need to learn from this text:

“On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.’ When he saw them he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, ‘Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ And he said to him, ‘Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.’” - Luke 17:11-19

Joseph Shulam: Always Consider Who the Sinner Is [2019 – Parashat Tazria]

The Torah Reading this next Shabbat is Tazria (She will have seed) – Leviticus 12:1 – 13:59. From the prophets, the reading is from 2 Kings 4:42-5:19, and the reading from the New Testament is from Mark 15:1-16.

The reading starts with the following:

“Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel, saying: “If a woman has conceived, and borne a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days; as in the days of her customary impurity she shall be unclean. And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. She shall then continue in the blood of her purification thirty-three days. She shall not touch any hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary until the days of her purification are fulfilled.”’” (Leviticus 12:1-4)

The two commandments in the text of Leviticus 12 are to circumcise a male child on the eighth day, and the mother will be unclean for 33 days and after these 33 days she shall be purified in the temple.

Luke in his Gospel refers to this text:

“And when eight days were completed for the circumcision of the Child, His name was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb. Now when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, ‘Every male who opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord), and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, ‘A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.’” (Luke 2:21–24 NKJV)

Luke makes it totally clear that baby Yeshua was circumcised on the eight day as the Torah demands and the name Yeshua was given to him after the circumcision. This same custom is still the way things are done in every Jewish Community in the world. The name of the boy is given during the circumcision ceremony, and not before.

The second thing that Luke tells us is that Miriam, Yeshua’s mother, went to the temple in Jerusalem, “when the days of her purification according to the Law of Moses were completed, they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord), and to offer sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord.”

All was done as it is written in the Law of the Lord. This means that Miriam waited 33 days in her impurity before the baby Yeshua could be taken to the temple to be presented before the Lord.

What does all this mean? Yes, first of all it means that Yeshua is a Jewish baby that His family is raising Him strictly as it is commanded in the Law of the Lord, i.e. in the Torah. It is clear from this text in Luke that Miriam and Joseph are raising this baby according to the Torah.

It is also clear that Joseph and Miriam were not the poorest of the poor, but they were also not a rich family. They brought to the Temple, “A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

In Leviticus, we learn that people who could not bring a bull or a sheep as a sacrifice would bring two turtledoves or two pigeons. If they would have been even poorer, they could have brought a handful of grain anointed with oil.

From this we must learn a very important lesson. God does not look at us in absolute terms. God looks and sees us relative to who we are, how rich we are, how gifted and blessed we are. The principle that Yeshua spells so clearly is the way God looks at us as His children.

“And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready nor act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.” (Luke 12:47-48)

The whole sacrificial system of the Torah is relative to who the sinner is, and whether he is rich or poor, and what the sin committed is in relationship to the place and time in which that sin is committed.

This principle of the Torah and of Yeshua is of great importance for every community of believers in God and disciples of Yeshua in the world. Because what I have seen in the years of my walking with Yeshua and observing churches and congregations around the whole world is that many of the leaders don’t know this very important Torah principle and judge every brother and sisters with the same cookie cutter.

This cookie-cutter approach to every problem and situation in the congregation has created much injustice, pain, and destruction in the body of the Messiah. Leaders, put yourselves in the place of the brother or sister who has sinned and then take the principle of relative sin and relative atonement and relative price for this sin.

This is what the character of God demands, and this is what the grace of God dictates. We must all remember that the love of God is much greater and more powerful than His wrath and anger against His children.

Always consider who the sinner is, what should be expected of him, what he can do as his repentance and confession, and how much potential this person has to corrected and be restored. For almost every law and rule in the Torah there is at least one exception that the Bible gives us.

We must remember that the Lord is not a legalist. He judges each of us as individuals and tailor makes us a suite of love and grace, and at times when there is no other option, serves us with some hardship and punishment as in some of the most difficult stories in the Bible in which God seems cruel and harsh: like the flood in the days of Noah or the death of the sons of Aaron, Nadav and Abihu, who brought the strange fire to the altar and were devoured by fire from heaven.

Joseph Shulam: The Importance of the Seed [2014 – Parashat Tazria]

This week in all the synagogues the world over read Leviticus 12:1-13:59, in Hebrew this reading is called Tazria – that means to sow a seed.

Sowing a seed is a major theme in the New Covenant. The term seed or sower appears 22 times in the New Covenant. Out of the 22 times that the term is used in the New Covenant 15 times are in the Gospels and seven times in the epistles.

Sowing seed and harvest are important themes in the Bible in general, and in the teaching of Yeshua in particular. What is special about sowing seed?

First, the final product is much more valuable than the seed itself. No one sows seed in order to get the same benefit as the seed that is sown. Everyone that is sowing a seed expects to harvest much more than the seed that he put into the ground.

The Apostle Paul makes this very clear when he is talking about the resurrection from the dead:

“And what you sow, you do not sow that body that shall be, but mere grain—perhaps wheat or some other grain. But God gives it a body as He pleases, and to each seed its own body.” (1Cor. 15:37-38)

Second, the sower of seed has expectation to have a big harvest and profit from his work and from the seed that is put into the ground.

Third, the majority of the places that the word “seed” is used in the Bible is not talking about plants or trees or vegetables or herbs. The word “seed” in the Bible is mostly used to speak about people. Even in this text that is read in the synagogues this week the topic is people and not plants.

These are the opening verses in Leviticus 12:2-4,

“Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a woman conceive seed, and bear a man-child, then she shall be unclean seven days; as in the days of the impurity of her sickness shall she be unclean. And in the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. And she shall continue in the blood of her purifying three and thirty days; she shall touch no hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying be fulfilled.”

Now this text is very important for those of us who study the Gospels because it elucidates the events that follow the birth of Yeshua. In the Christian world, the birth of Yeshua is a very important event, and there are nativity scenes in paintings and olive wood carvings, and statues of marble and bronze and even from silver and other materials.

In every nativity scene there is always a donkey and a cow, and few ask themselves why is it that in European art that depicts the birth of Yeshua there is always a donkey and a cow.

The reason for this is actually anti-semitic – it is based on a verse from Isaiah chapter 1:3-4,

“The ox knows its owner and the donkey its master’s crib; But Israel does not know, My people do not consider. Alas, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a brood of evildoers, children who are corrupters! They have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked to anger The Holy One of Israel, they have turned away backward.”

This is the reason why the Christmas scenes have the ox or cow and the donkey. The people forget that Yeshua was circumcised on the eight day, according to the Torah, and Mary and Yeshua were taken to the Temple when the period of their purification was over, according to the Torah of Moses.

Look at the following text from the Gospel of Luke chapter 2:21-23,

“And when eight days were completed for the circumcision of the Child, His name was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb. Now when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, ‘Every male who opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord’).”

People seem to forget these verses and the fact that Yeshua is a Jew and that you can’t love Yeshua and hate the seed of Abraham, from whom the Messiah came and to whom the Messiah was promised and whom the Messiah will ultimately save.

As it is written:

“For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: ‘The Deliverer will come out of Zion; And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; for this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.’” (Romans 11:25-27)

What we need to remember is that Yeshua is the one seed that actually stands for all the Seed of Abraham, the people of Israel, the Jewish Nation. He is our representative who fulfilled the task that was given to the nation to be a light for all the nations and all the families of the Earth to receive the blessing of Abraham.

However, Christians need to remember that receiving the blessing that was promised by God to Abraham is conditional of being a blessing to the Seed of Abraham – the nation of Israel. If you don’t believe me, go read Genesis 12:1-5 again and from there go to Genesis 13:15-16, and if you still don’t get it keep reading the Word of God.

The seed that was planted in the ground has and will bring the harvest of God’s choice from among all the nations, and they will say:

“Now it shall come to pass in the latter days That the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the Mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, To the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 2:2-3)

Yehuda Bachana: Are We the Lepers of Israel? [2018]

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

In this week’s Torah portion, we learn about skin diseases that can cause impurity. These particular diseases required a separation between the unclean individuals  and those that were healthy.

“When anyone has a swelling or a rash or a shiny spot on their skin that may be a defiling skin disease, they must be brought to Aaron the priest or to one of his sons who is a priest. The priest is to examine the sore on the skin, and if the hair in the sore has turned white and the sore appears to be more than skin deep, it is a defiling skin disease. When the priest examines that person, he shall pronounce them ceremonially unclean.” - Leviticus 13:2,3 [NIV]

What Does Leprosy Mean for Us Today?

How are diseases that have long since been cured by modern medicine relevant to us today?

A person who was declared by the priest as having a defiling skin disease had to move out of the camp, and everything that that person touched was considered to be unclean. One of the skin diseases that we learn about in this week's parasha is leprosy, which has been vanquished by modern medicine.

Though discussing it may seem irrelevant today, we are faced with the challenge of finding a new meaning amongst the seemingly unrelated diseases that appear in our reading.

Leprosy is a skin disease which is mentioned in the Bible as being a serious and contagious infection with no cure. In Jewish thinking and understanding, the cause of the disease is a punishment for one's negative behavior, especially for slander - when we hurt people and embarrass them in public, through gossip, or by speaking badly about them behind their back.

It's very easy to start talking poorly about others or to partake in listening to hurtful gossip. It's hard not to believe slander when we hear it, no matter how many times we discovered it to be false, without any shred of truth.

Slander is a Disease

Negativity has power; we tend to remember the downfalls or faults of others before we think of their positive attributes. When we say or hear negative stories about other people, we feel a degree of satisfaction. It's a sensation of feeling full after devouring another person.

From innocent, happy children who see the good, beautiful, and the fun in everything, we've become wary adults who are experts in finding the unacceptable, the different, and the bad in others and in the world. The ironic part is that we like things that way, we even enjoy it.

It seems as if today that the category of sinful speech is one that no one is ashamed of anymore. I think that most of us are guilty of sinning in this category nor do I think that anyone would have a problem confessing to this.

On the other hand, however, if I were to ask if anyone sinned in the categories of impure thoughts, theft, and fraud - no one would confess. This is because these these things are thought of as being more shameful.

With improper speech and slander, we all know these are a sin, but no one is really ashamed of it. The leprosy that comes from negative speech is the physical sign of a negative mental state, and that is exactly Yeshua's intent when He speaks the following:

“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]

At His disciples request, Yeshua explains this saying:

“But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.” - Matthew 15:18,19 [NIV]

Going Out of the Camp

The big question is, how do we get out of this situation? The leper, the one who spoke evil and hurt others, goes out in isolation outside the camp, away from the group.

Outside there's no one to talk about, and there begins the mental process of purification, which leads to the purging of the disease. Then, the leper is immersed in water, shaved of all body hair, and only after that can start life over again. This is a reference to being born again.

In our understanding, one who is born again is an individual who declares that he believes in God and considers Yeshua to be his personal Savior, and from that moment on he dedicates his life to God. That person is immersed in water and comes out as a new person, this signifies the death of the old man and his sin, and his resurrection as a new beginning.

A Leper Nation

Even as a nation, God gives us a second chance and a new beginning. God cleanses us over and over, and He gives us countless possibilities to do so for one main reason that repeats itself dozens of times in the Torah - that we would be His people, and He would be our God. As a result, we are commanded to keep and to do God's commandments.

“Therefore say: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will gather you from the nations and bring you back from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you back the land of Israel again.’ They will return to it and remove all its vile images and detestable idols. I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God.” - Ezekiel 11:17-20 [NIV]

There were times in which Jews were considered by the nations of the world to be lepers. We were rejected and pushed out of the camp. God promised that this would change, the world would see the people of Israel as a blessing, and they will want to be near us.

In fact, we see this trend growing stronger today. The reason for this is Yeshua, who was crucified as King of the Jews. Believers from all over the world want to take part in His kingdom, they want to share in this blessing, and so they draw near to the King of the Jews and His people.

Leprosy Means Rejection

When I look for a relevant meaning for this parasha, I understand it as being about rejection, be it rightfully or wrongfully. Even today, we see those different from us as being ones who we would want to keep our distance from, we want to push them out of the camp, just as the leper is cast out. Be it because of the color of their skin, their race or nationality, religion or faith.

We are often times most afraid of a person who shares our religion, faith, race, or nationality, but holds a theology that is different from ours. It’s as if we feel compelled to keep our distance.

We see the person with the different theology as being dangerous, someone who could infect us with the “modern leprosy” of thinking outside of our theological box.

Can Lepers Bring Blessing?

Could it be that the word of salvation, of redemption, of success could come from the mouth of a leper? This happened in the haftara of this week's Torah portion.

Can it still happen today? Will we be able to receive the message, the truth? Most importantly, as far as I and the work of Netivyah are concerned: Will the people of Israel be willing to hear the gospel of salvation from the mouth of a Messianic Jew?

Our haftara reading this week is 2 Kings 7:3-20. In the chapter preceding the haftara, we are told of the great famine in Samaria, which was caused by the Aramean siege.

The Aramean army encircled the city of Samaria and completely cut it off it from all supplies in order to conquer the city. The famine in Samaria was terrible, people were starting to eat their children, they were in complete despair.

The king wanted to kill the prophet Elisha. Elisha turned to the king and promised salvation, but it was difficult for the leadership to sustain hope during such a desperate and difficult time.

Our haftarah begins with chapter 7 verse 3, there we focus on four lepers, who were in anguish even more so than the inhabitants of the city. They had almost died of starvation, so they decided to take a final risk of going to the camp of Aram to ask for mercy.

Even if they were to get killed, it wouldn't matter, they said they're already dying of starvation, but maybe the soldiers of Aram will throw some crumbs their way.

I think the four lepers made a lot of noise as they approached, because they did not want the guards to see them sneaking in like spies, or like an observation or assassination team. They wanted to draw the attention of the Aramean soldiers and ask for a few crumbs of bread out of pity.

When the lepers arrive at the camp, they found it abandoned, and scripture tells us that God made the sound of the lepers' approach as the sound of a mighty army, so that the Arameans thought that the Egyptian army had come to fight them.

The result was that the army of Aram fled, and left everything behind - food, silver, gold - all their property.

Our lepers begin to plunder the camp, but they start to feel guilty. One of them rose up the nationalist sentiment, despite the fact that they were kicked out of the city during the siege.

The Lepers’ Test

That same night, they immediately went back to report to the king, but the king feared it was a trap:

“The king got up in the night and said to his officers, ‘I will tell you what the Arameans have done to us. They know we are starving; so they have left the camp to hide in the countryside, thinking, “They will surely come out, and then we will take them alive and get into the city.”’” - 2 Kings 7:12 [NIV]

After the king confirmed that this was not a trap, the people went out of the city and were saved, just as Elisha prophesied.

In Conclusion

You could look at us, the Messianic Jews, as those who are infected with leprosy. The rest of the inhabitants of the city don't want to come into contact with our theology.

In regards to the internal Jewish dialogue, they have kicked us out of the camp. But it's us who have the opportunity to bring the report of Yeshua, who is sitting and waiting right around the corner.

I suppose that the people of Israel want to check and see if this is some sort of Christian trap, designed to get them to convert their religion.

However, we are tested as well. What report do we bring? A report of Judaism or of Christianity? Will the people, after coming to faith, remain faithful to the Torah and to the traditions of their ancestors and Jewish identity?

The gospel we preach should lead to the fact that we can truly and honestly say “yes” to all of these questions.

Click here to download a pdf version of this teaching.