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.

Joseph Shulam: We Need the Fear of the Lord Today [2022]

The Torah reading this Shabbat is called in Hebrew “Tetzaveh”, which in English would be translated “Command”. We read from Exodus 27:20 – 30:10, and from the prophets (Haftarah) from Ezekiel 43:10-27. From the New Testament we read Titus 1:5-2:15.

Every one of these readings has some very important and fascinating ideas and principles that we ought to glean from and apply to our own lives and relationship with the Almighty God and Father. I am fascinated with the first verse of our Torah reading this Shabbat!

“And you shall command the children of Israel that they bring you pure oil of pressed olives for the light, to cause the lamp to burn continually.” – Exodus 27:20 [NKJV]

Here is my fascination:

When I go to the supermarket near my home and go into the aisle that has the olive oil, I need to concentrate and choose from at least 20 different brands of olive oil. And beside the olive oils there are other types of oils – canola, sunflower seed, grapeseed, and you name it. They have it all in our little suburban supermarket.

The olive oil is probably the most expensive oil that there is in Israel. Here comes my 21st Century Israeli attitude. (Not only Israelis do this, also other nationalities act the same.) What difference does it make if I buy olive oil, cold-pressed virgin oil, for burning in my menorah (candelabra)?

Why should I pay at least double to buy olive oil for burning and not buy sunflower oil that is about a quarter of the price? We are not in the Tabernacle in the wilderness, nor are we in Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem.

Sunflower seed oil is just as good for both eating and for burning in a candle. So, why do we have to follow exactly what God commanded us?

The rationale that I have heard, both from more modern Jews and from Christians, is that we are living in the 21st Century, driving cars and not riding donkeys. We are using ink pens and not carving messages on rocks, or drawing on papyrus. We are sending men to the moon these days.

The most shocking argument that I have heard from some good intellectual pastors who have graduated from some of the best universities in the USA is this: “God can understand us, and He knows the the world that we are living in, and therefore these old commands are not so important and relevant to our modern lifestyle and to the globalization of everything around us!”

They say: “Things change and our religion has to change with the cultural changes of our day.” I have no doubt that many of you who are reading this will concur and support this modern attitude and agree.

You would say something like this: “We don’t need to spend more money on olive oil for burning in the menorah when we can use sunflower oil and give the difference to the poor…”

The above way of thinking is very modern and very popular both among Jews and among Christians. The reason that we think in these very utilitarian patterns is because we have lost some of the fear of the Lord and we look at our faith as a casual cultural accommodation for our families and for the community, and because going to church is good for our children…

Our western civilization and modern, even post-Hollywood, culture has distanced us from from what is truly holy and divine. Yes, we see ourselves as believers, even as disciples of Yeshua, and we would like to think that we are faithful disciples of Yeshua, although sinners, but His grace is sufficient for us!

Can you imagine the work that went into these priestly uniforms, and how heavy these uniforms must have been? Can you imagine the attitude of the sons of Aaron wearing these uniforms in the Sinai Desert heat, that could go up to 45 degrees Centigrade, and 114 Fahrenheit?

Can you in your imagination imagine those young priests, the sons of Aaron, saying to themselves, “Why go so far to bring fire for the altar from the other side of the holy precinct? We have a much closer source of fire. Fire is fire is fire… We are late and Aaron our father is waiting for us, let us just get this fire that is much closer to the altar…”

Boom! They did, and fire from Heaven devoured Nadav and Avihu.

I say to myself first, to my family second, and to our congregation in Jerusalem third, that we are good people, and we are “faithful” disciples of Yeshua. And we sincerely want to be fruitful servants of the King of Kings, Yeshua our Savior!

However, we have to sharpen the fear of the Lord in our lives, not fear in the pathological meaning of the word, but I would translate the word “fear” with the following: honor, respect, appreciation, desire to please, and deep love for someone who is giving us life and breath, the promise of eternity and acquittal in judgment, and fellowship with the saints forever and ever in a place where there is no death and no illness.

If we believe truly that there is life after death and judgment of all flesh and the resurrection from the dead, and that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that all can be saved from Hell and enjoy Heaven… We must be wise enough to know that when God commands us to do something so simple like get olive oil for the lampstand in the Tabernacle in the wilderness, and for the Temple in Jerusalem – just get the right oil, and keep enjoying life!

There are dozens of verses in the Torah that state like this one:

“Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, made all that the Lord had commanded Moses.” – Exodus 38:22 [NKJV]

The words that I would like to emphasize in this verse are: “Made all that the Lord had commanded Moses!”

It is true that our forefathers didn’t always do all that the Lord commanded Moses! What we do see that it is not impossible to be obedient and do the will of the Lord.

Saints throughout all the generations have did it, and built the platform for us to stand on and at least have enough respect for the Lord and for His Word, and for Yeshua our Savior to confess and repent when we don’t do what God commanded us. Yeshua said: My yoke is easy and my burden is light!

In conclusion of this teaching here are some verses that speak about the fear of the Lord from the Bible:

“Thus Israel saw the great work which the Lord had done in Egypt; so the people feared theLord, and believed the Lord and His servant Moses.” – Exodus 4:31

“…that you may fear the Lord your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, you and your son and your grandson, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged.” – Deuteronomy 6:2

“…that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.” – Joshua 4:24

“Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord!” – Joshua 24:14

“You who fear the Lord, praise Him! All you descendants of Jacob, glorify Him, And fear Him, all you offspring of Israel!” – Psalm 22:23

“The beginning of wisdom is fear of the Lord, And knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” – Proverbs 9:10

“Men and brethren, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to you the word of this salvation has been sent.” – Acts 13:26

“There is no fear of God before their eyes.” – Romans 3:18

“Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” – 2 Corinthians 7:1

“…submitting to one another in the fear of God.” – Ephesians 5:21

“Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eye service, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God.” – Colossians 3:22

I bless myself, my family, our congregation in Jerusalem, our fellowships in Brazil, Finland, Bulgaria, and our brothers and sisters in Asia, Europe, and North America to work on restoring and rebuilding our fear of the Lord, to the degree that we will also take His commands and His instructions and His teaching with the level of respect and seriousness that will be a product of our sincere and true fear of the Lord.

I confess that this lesson is first and foremost for myself and not in condemnation of any one person or group of denomination or non-denominational denomination. We all need to be reminded and admonished to take the word of God seriously and understand that the words and the instruction of our Lord Yeshua are expected and prescribed so that we can and must keep them and obey.

Yes, this does not in any way change the fact that we are all saved by grace. But grace is not a license for disobedience and disrespect for the word and instruction of the Master of this Universe!

Here is a very short list of some things that as a body of the Messiah in Israel we need to work on and put the fear of the Lord in us all!

  1. How we deal and resolve issues between brothers:

    “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.” – Matthew 18:17

  2. How to give charity and contribute money to the Lord’s community:

    “But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing…” – Matthew 6:3

These are just two short examples of things that the Lord commanded us to do, and we ought to do them just right because of our fear of the Lord!

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

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

Shalom. My name is Joseph Shulam and together with Brad TV, we’re going this year through the whole reading of the Torah as it is read in the synagogues every Shabbat. This next Shabbat, Saturday, we’re going to be reading from a portion of that is called Tetzaveh, which means, “and you shall command.”

And it starts in chapter 27 of the book of Exodus verse 20, and it ends in chapter 30, verse 10. Three chapters, about three chapters of reading from the Torah that will be read in every synagogue. The portion from the prophet that is being read in this portion that is called Tetzaveh, or “you shall command” in English, is from the prophet Ezekiel chapter 43 verse 10-27. And from the New Testament, we’re going to read from the letter of Titus. Paul to Titus, from verse 5 to verse 2 of chapter 15. Chapter one, verse five to chapter two, verse 15 of the letter of Titus.

God’s Command to Moses

Okay. What does God want Moses to command the children of Israel? This is what he says: “You shall command the children of Israel that they bring you pure oil, pressed oil, for the light to cause the lamp to burn continually.” So we have in the last portions of the Torah that we’ve been studying on Shabbat, have been the building of the tabernacle. The collection of the money and the goods and the silver and the gold and the wood and the skins and the purple cloth and everything for the tabernacle.

Now, we are dealing with the lamp. The tabernacle had no windows, so they had to have a lamp that will be lit as it says, perpetually, continually, burn continually in verse 20 of chapter 27. But of course, what do they need? They need oil. They need olive oil. Pure olive oil that is pressed in order to fire that lamp 24 hours a day. Pure olive oil pressed. In other words, we are talking about the kind of olive oil that if you go into the supermarket in America today, you have to buy it. A bottle would cost you around $25. 700 grams. Two quarts would be around $25.

Israelites Had to Find Olive Oil

Today, it’s expensive. But when you are in the wilderness of Sinai, dear brothers and sisters, and you are not staying in one place, it wouldn’t be easy to find that kind of oil in the wilderness of Sinai. I’ve been in the wilderness, to and fro, many times, at least 17, 18 times. And they’ve been throughout the wilderness of Sinai. Not many olive trees. A lot of palm trees. Date palms, yes. But olive trees, not so much. Which means what? Which means that they had to find oil for the tabernacle from traders, from travelers, fellow travelers that were going from Asia to Africa, from Africa to Asia to Europe.

It was the only land line by which you could cross through these three continents. But in spite of that, they had to have enough oil to burn in the candelabra, in the tent of meeting in the tabernacle that Moses and Aaron and the children of Israel and the Levites built in the wilderness. Now the candelabra, is also commanded in great details of what it should be like.

The Seven-Branched Candelabra

And it’s made out of pure gold, hammered gold, and it had seven candles and an eighth candle that was actually the deacon, the servant of the other eight. You had to have another candle to light the other seven candles. Why seven candles? Seven days. Why seven days? Because God created the heavens and the earth in seven days. In fact, what a curiosity is that if you look at the Hebrew text of the first verse of the Bible, the first verse of Genesis 1:1, it has seven words. Everything is in order in the word of God. Everything is directed and a concert is played according to the will of God and there are a lot of very, very subliminal things that people don’t pay attention to when you read the translation.

But the first verse of Genesis in Hebrew is with seven words. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. I didn’t count the words in English, but in Hebrew I have. There’s seven. And the candelabra has seven branches. Why? Because seven is the number of creation of the physical world. 770 is the number of the physical world. The heavenly perfection is 10. But also, there are seven heavens mentioned in the Bible. So, they’re told to have oil that will be lighting the candelabra perpetually.

And it says, “Burn continually.” And where was it going to be placed? Outside the veil. The door, the veil between the holy and the Holy of Holies. In the Holy of Holies, it was in the holy place, outside the veil of the Holy of Holies. And it was the job of Aaron, the high priest and his sons from every morning and every evening to check the candles to make sure that they are staying lit, perpetually. And the phrase that appears in chapter 28, verse one is this: “Now take Aaron, your brother and his sons with him from among the children of Israel, that he may minister to me as a priest. Aaron and Aaron’s sons.

Aaron Wears Special Clothes

And you shall make holy garments for Aaron, your brother for the glory and for the beauty. So you shall speak to all the gifted artisans whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, that they may make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him that he might minister to me as a priest.” Now here comes another very important lesson that we all need to learn.

Serving God Is Not a Casual Thing

Serving God is not a casual thing in the Bible. Not in the Torah, in the Law of Moses, not in the prophets and nor is it in the New Testament. Serving God is a very holy, very special, very privileged position. I’m repeating this truth, biblical truth. Learning it here from our Torah portion that serving God is not a casual thing. What does it mean it is not a casual thing? You can’t do what you want. We have here mentioned the sons of Aaron. And his oldest sons were Nadab and Abihu. In the book of Leviticus we find out that these boys died. Fire from heaven came and devoured them.

Why? Apparently for cause, if you read the text carefully in Leviticus, you find out that immediately after they die, God issues an order to Moses and says, “The priest should not drink wine.” Priest should not drink wine. Why? Apparently Nadab and Abihu, who were the sons of Aaron, trained in the priesthood, born into the priesthood, didn’t pay attention and brought strange fire, fire that is not taken from the right location, taken from another location, to light the alter for the sacrifice. You say fire is fire, what’s the difference from this location, from that location? What’s the problem with it? Fire is fire, right? Burns. You can light the candles, you can light the alter, you can light whatever you want with that fire, the same fire.

Things Must Be Done the Way God Commands

No. When God says you do it this way, you’re obligated to do it the way God told you to do it. And that’s a simple truth in any structure that has a boss. And even if the boss says, “You do it this way,” you do it this way. If you don’t do it this way, he’ll fire you. And when we’re dealing with the holiness of God, we’re dealing with the mighty creator of the heavens and the Earth. And he has appointed Aaron and his sons to serve him in the tabernacle. And this service is something that was dictated from A to Z. When they were anointed, when Aaron and his sons were anointed, how were they anointed? They were anointed twice, once with oil, once with blood. The blood of a sacrifice. They were anointed, their right ear lobe was anointed, their right thumb was anointed, and their right toe was anointed. Why was it this anointing done this way?

Because they had to hear from God, and they had to do God’s will with their hands, and they had to walk in God’s path with their feet. And that’s why the anointing was not only on their head like it’s done today in some Christian circles, it was done on the ear, on the thumb, and on the toe on their foot, on the right side. To demonstrate to them and to the public that observed this anointing, that these people are consecrated to do the will of God as God has prescribed it.

Must Do as Prescribed by God

Not according to what they feel. Not according to what they want. But according to the prescription that God prescribed them. And therefore, even their clothing was dictated by God. And God tells Aaron, go find artisans, artists that will make, not only artists, gifted artists, that will make with the spirit of wisdom, the garments to consecrate Aaron and his sons for the priesthood, for the job.

Pastoring Has Become a Profession

What’s the situation today, folks? Today a person decides he wants to be a pastor. Or a teacher. He goes to a seminary. He goes to university. He studies Bible. He graduates after four years and now he’s a pastor. Cause pastoring has become like a profession. Like a psychologist, like a lawyer, like a chemist, like a mathematician. It’s a profession. In the old days, it wasn’t that way. When I became a believer in Israel in 1962, and I went to the states, then there was a big difference between the white folks and the Afro-American black brothers and sisters. And I, as a Jew, didn’t feel so comfortable in the Protestant, white Evangelical church. It was a bit dry for me.

So I would walk, or hitch a ride with a friend, to the black church. And in the black church, they didn’t talk about going to college to become a pastor. Not even to go to a seminary. They talked about having been called by God to minister. Called by God. Not professionally that you went to college, you studied Bible, you studied religion, you studied the church doctrine, the church history and you became a pastor. No. You had to have a call from God to become a servant of God. In this case, the sons of Aaron were chosen by God because Aaron was chosen by God.

But even the sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, when they brought strange fire, fire from heaven came and devoured them because they were supposed to be sanctified. Consecrated is the word that is used here. Their clothing and their income and their housing and everything had to be done according to God’s instructions and God’s will.

It’s not that way today, much to my regret. But everything had to be, I’m reading verse four of chapter 28 of the book of Exodus. “And these are the garments which they shall make: a breastplate, an ephod, a robe, a skillful woven tunic, a turban and a sash. So they shall make holy garments for Aaron, your brother and his sons, that he may minister to me as priests.” If you visit Jerusalem, especially the old city, you will see different priests. You see Catholic priests, Greek Orthodox priests, Armenian priests.

You’ll see Jewish rabbis, you’ll see Muslim clerics. And by their clothes, you should know them. You will immediately see the difference between a Muslim cleric and an Armenian priest. And immediately see the difference between an Armenian priest and a Greek Orthodox priest. They wear different clothes, different hats. And it’s clear who is serving whom.

Protestant Preacher Fashion

Not today in the West, in the Protestant evangelical world. Yes, there is a preacher’s fashion. I remember the first time that I went to, was invited to some of the big Pentecostal churches in America to teach and sit with the pastors and their staff. Often times to dinner and lunch and sometimes for breakfast. And I was very, very surprised. And the conversation that these pastor’s had. Oftentimes they talked about their clothing, where they shopped, what brand ties they were wearing, mostly Italian. And each one said, “Well, I bought, I went up to Chicago, I went to the store and I got these Pancaldi ties. They were like half price. I only paid $90 for a tie.”

Conversation like that. It was important but the truth was that everybody wore the same, more or less the same clothing. And I want to concentrate on this issue a little bit because it’s an important issue for us to take into account. The pastor of one of the biggest churches in the United States, Evangelical Pentecostal charismatic church, visited our congregation in Jerusalem and he enjoyed my teaching and he taught our congregation and our congregation enjoyed his teaching. And he said, “I want you to come to my city. And when you come, I want you to preach in my church.”

He said, “I don’t allow everybody, anybody to preach in my church. You have to be special to be able to teach in my church. But you are special and I want you to come and teach in my town and my church. But when you come, you’re not dressed right. I have to dress you. I have to take you shopping and buy you clothing so that you dress right to be able to preach in my church.”

All right. Some months later, I went to the States and I went to his city and I was received royally and treated royally. And then before Sunday, we went downtown to one of the famous shops, men’s shop, where he shopped regularly and some of the other big time pastors in that city shopped there. And the suits were, most of them were $3,000 and up. And I tried one suit, didn’t fit me right, didn’t feel right. It was tight in my shoulders. Tried another suit.

Joe Shops for a Suit

And after about two hours of trying different suits and not liking any one of them or not fitting well in any one of them, I said, “I’m going to buy something and just get it over with.” So I found a suit, Italian suit, which was one of the cheapest that I saw, was $1,500. And the pastor was happy that I found one that fits me and didn’t have to have much alterations. And so he got me the suit and three shirts and a pair of shoes and socks and ties and the whole thing. Dressed me from head to toe.

And we go to the cashier, and next to the cashier stood the owner of the shop. And I immediately noticed that he’s Arab. Egyptian. And so I said something in Arabic to him, and he started talking to me in Arabic and he told me in Arabic, “Do you know who comes to my shop and buys everything and pays cash? Never check or credit card. Always cash.” I said, “Who?” He said, “Only pimps and pastors.” Was not a great compliment, folks. But what the pastor that bought me that suit didn’t know is that my suits were made from some of the best cloth in the world that I purchased in London.

And I had an old Palestinian Arab tailor who was educated and taught tailoring when he was an orphan in a German orphanage in Jerusalem and he learned how to sew classical European, German style. And every suit that he made for me fit me perfectly. And I could move my arms and up and down on the shoulders and not be tight and have freedom to move around. He didn’t know that these suits that I paid less than $200 for the tailoring, and less than $200 for the cloth. Because I bought it from Iraqi Jews on Region Street in London, where most of the cloth for my suits was made. My tailor died 20 years ago and I still enjoy wearing his suits.

Yes. The clothing doesn’t make a man, but the man makes the clothing. And what we learned from this portion of the Torah about the priests, is that every detail of their job and every detail of their clothing and every detail of their life was under the control of God and the Holy Spirit. And that aspect is an important aspect, folks. It’s not going to college and learning Bible that makes you a pastor. First, you have to be called by God.

Pastors Need to Be Called

And then you go and train in college or in cemetery, not cemetery, seminary, sorry. Yes. First you got to be called by God. And if you’re not called by God, you could be a very good teacher and you could be very famous. But a pastor anointed by God, you’re not going to be, unless he called you. And when he called you, you will have to behave according to his instructions. Not according to the fashion of the day. Not to what Christian television dictates to you.

You’re not going to dance to the music of the fashionable Christian Church. You’re going to do the service of God. Sanctified by God, anointed by the Holy Spirit, and yes, you will probably have to pay a price for it. Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu paid the price for it. They brought strange fire. Not a big deal, fire is fire. But because it was strange fire, whatever it is, fire came from heaven and burned them and then Aaron was forbidden to mourn for his two sons.

Wow. That’s difficult. Very difficult. Aaron was forbidden to fray his hair. To put ashes on his head. To tear his clothing. He had to stay composed and not cry and not mourn for his own sons. It’s a big deal. That’s a big deal, folks. The next thing that we have here. Yes, I said that every detail of the garments of the priest had to be done. Even the kind of cloth they were to wear. They shall take gold, blue, purple scarlet thread, fine linen. “They shall make a foot of gold, blue, purple, scarlet thread, fine woven linen, artistically worked.”

So again, this issue of the clothing in the modern world is less important. But it was very important in the Torah that it spends many verses dealing with this issue. The stones that were on the breast plates. The order of the 12 stones of the 12 tribes. And you say, “Well, we’re Christian, we don’t deal with this.” You’re Christian, you have to deal with it.

Because in the new Jerusalem that is at the end of the book of Revelation, the new Jerusalem will have 12 gates. And each gate will have a name of a tribe. And each gate will be made from the same stones that the breast plate of Aaron had representing each tribe. It wasn’t do as you wish, folks. This idea that we are free moral agents, that we can do whatever we want and the pastor decides everything.

New Testament Instructions

No. We have instructions, even in the New Testament, who can be an elder. What are the qualifications for an elder? That’s why the reading on this Shabbat is going to read from Titus chapter one. From verse five on. Dealing with the qualifications of elders. Not everybody can be an elder. There are qualifications given, both in the letter to Timothy and in the letter of Titus, who can be an elder.

It’s not the pastor that anoints the elder and appoints this guy an elder because he’s his friend or because he likes him or because he’s talented or because he’s rich or because he’s a good businessman. No. Those are not the qualifications of elders. The qualifications of elders as Titus gives it to us, is first of all, he has to want the office. Second of all, he has to be a husband of one wife.

New Testament Gives Requirements of an Elder

That opens the question, can it be a divorced person that has now one wife and he had a previous wife to it? Maybe, maybe not. It’s something that needs to be discussed. Then he has to have faithful children. If it has no children, he can’t be an elder. And if his children are not faithful, believers. That’s the Greek, says faithful children. If they’re not faithful, if they left the Lord, if they went off and did whatever, he cannot be a pastor, he cannot be a bishop, he cannot be an elder.

The word bishop and elder are interchangeable. Bishop means shepherd and elder means elder in the legal sense of the word. He can’t be a teenager, but he can be an elder who can arbitrate in the community and judge between brothers that have troubles. So Titus gives us qualifications. He has to be hospitable. He has to be not guilty of filthy lucre, which means he cannot be a tax evader. That’s exactly what the term filthy lucre means in the context of first century land of Israel terminology. Tax evader.

Yes. There’s qualifications. And the elders and the priests in the Bible have actual detailed information, detailed qualifications, all the way to the kind of clothing they’re going to wear. And then beside the clothing, all the instruments of the high priest. The breastplate of gold with the 12 stones of the tribes. All these things are hidden in our reading of this week. Yes. I urge you, dear brothers, read the text. This week’s portion starts in chapter 27, verse 20 of the book of Exodus ends in chapter 30, verse 10 in the book of Exodus. And then the reading in Ezekiel compliments it from chapter 43, verse 10 to verse 27 of Ezekiel. And then in Titus chapter one from verse five to chapter two, verse 15. The qualifications of elders.

Yes. God wants us to be orderly. He wants us to be presentable. He wants us to be dressed in such a way that everybody will recognize these are the servants of the Lord. And today, we don’t have that kind of uniform, we don’t have that kind of clothing, but we have to be dressed honorably. Not only we, but our wives and our children as well. Because we are representatives of God and God’s leaders. And all of our portion this week deals with the priests.

We Are All Priests

What they will do, how they will be dressed, how they’re going to be anointed, how they’re going to serve in the tabernacle, all of this. In a way, in the New Testament, all of us are priests. We’re not all elders or shepherds, but we’re all priests. Priesthood of all believers. And that’s why we need to take care to be obedient to God and his commands. And yes, we are saved by grace. Yes, we’re saved by faith. Our deeds don’t save us, but the grace of God saves us. But by the grace of God, we ought to have the strength, the wisdom and the anointing of the Holy Spirit to be able to be obedient and do His will. May God bless all of you. And Shabbat Shalom.

Joseph Shulam: A Purim Torah Portion [2021]

This weekend in Jerusalem is the Feast of Esther – Purim! The Torah reading for this Shabbat is from the portion “Tetzaveh” (You shall command) Exodus 27:30-30:10. The reading from the Prophets is from Ezekiel 43:10-27. From the New Testament we will read Hebrews 13:10-17.

I would like to share a little about the Feast of Purim. The book of Esther as regards the canon of the Bible was hanging by a thread and is one of the last books that entered into the Jewish canon and therefore also into the Christian canon.

Why did the book of Esther have such a hard time being included into the Jewish canon? Why is there evidence in the Qumran community at the Dead Sea, evidence of every book in the Hebrew Bible but no evidence at all (not even a small fragment) from the book of Esther?

There is also no mention of the Feast of Purim or of Esther or of Mordechai in the New Testament. The reasons are numerous:

  1. God is not mentioned at all in the whole book of Esther.
  2. The level of morality and ethics in the book of Esther is below standard and contrary to the basic rules of the Torah.
  3. Mordechai the Jew teaches his niece Hadassah to hide her identity and gives her a pagan name “Esther” (“Ishtar”). He sends her to be the concubine of the King of Persia and to live in the king’s palace harem. The food in the pagan king’s harem would for sure not have been kosher.

There are other minor reasons why the book of Esther almost didn’t enter into the canon of the Hebrew Bible.

However, I am very happy that the book of Esther is in the canon of the Bible both in the Hebrew Bible and also in the Christian Bibles. Here are the reasons for my appreciation and joy to have the book of Esther and the Feast of Purim deeply engrained into my faith.

My birthday, some years, is right on the Feast of Purim and most years it is during the week of Purim. So, why do I like the book of Esther and why I am happy to study and dig deep into it, to understand every nuance in this short book?

  1. For most of my 60 years in the faith, I have experienced God in the same way, as being both hidden and tangible through His actions down here among us humans. Yes, I have seen the hidden hand of the Lord moving mountains, but I have not had the privilege of speaking to the Creator every Monday and Thursday. In fact in spite of my fear of not being politically correct, I would clearly say that most of those whom I have heard claiming to have revelations and visions with God speaking to them and telling them where to drive to, to find parking, have proven to my satisfaction, that they are not true prophets or servants of the Lord God of Israel.
  2. Yes, God is not mentioned at all in the book of Esther, but when you read the book you see the hand of God moving in history, not only in the life of Mordechai the Jew and Queen Esther, but also in every one of the characters mentioned in the book, both the Jews and the Persians. In the book of Esther, God is the unmoved mover of all things. Like a master Chess player God moves the queen and the king and the king’s guards, and of course Haman the descendent of Agag, the Amalekite king, whom King Saul spared and Samuel the prophet came and gave Agag his last and very close haircut. Haman was a descendent of Agag and that is why he is called the Agagite!
  3. I love the way the different characters, every one of these characters, are moved and used by the “unknown” God to function and do what is necessary to change history and to save the Jewish population of the Persian Empire!

If you read the book of Esther like reading a short novel, and pay attention to all of the small details, I am sure that you will both enjoy the reading and also receive insight into, as well as a better understanding, of how God works, even in our own days.

The Torah portion that is read on this Shabbat contains a description of all of the clothing and of the instruments of the priests and of the building of the Tabernacle. Where you can read in great detail, the descriptions of every piece of clothing, and of every tool and instrument to be used in that temporary tent-type tabernacle.

We ought to ask what is the purpose of all of this elaboration and of all of the fancy detailed gold and silver and purple, royal blue, animal furs and acacia wood that is so much is invested in this temporary tabernacle, everything being dictated and prescribed by the Lord Himself.

Today we have neither a tabernacle nor a temple. We don’t have a golden breastplate or even a high priest or any priests that are serving in a holy place. When you read the subsequent stories in the Torah you find out that even the sons of the high priest Aaron, the brother of Moses, sinned and brought strange fire to the altar and died on the spot. We read that right after the very detailed instructions of what to build and how to equip the tabernacle were carried out, and the presence of the Lord was on it by day and by night, there was still sin in the camp, even augmented sin, and even in the hands of Aaron the brother of Moses who sinned gravely and betrayed the Lord and his brother, Moses.

What I learn from this Torah reading is the following:

  1. The Lord pays attention to details and when He wants something done, He gives clear instructions and expects His servants to obey them and to do exactly what He has commanded.
  2. Having a wonderful, beautiful, and sanctified place of worship even directly commanded by the Creator Himself does not guarantee that what is happening there is either pleasing to God or that serious sins are being prevented from happening right inside and under the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. Worshiping God in the right way as He prescribed in such great detail, is not a guarantee that your worship is acceptable to the Lord. You have several stories in the Bible of the high priest, and of the children of the high priest, having sinned and being punished unmercifully for their sins, including Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, the high priest.
  3. Worship is a privilege and a blessing but only if it is done from the heart and with sincere and pure motives. The grandiose and fancy and professional worship that looks like a Broadway show might not necessarily be an expression of sincere worship that expresses the true hearts of the worshippers. I realize that I am painting with a very wide brush in broad moves. I am not accusing any one individual specifically, but I am pointing out a biblical paradigm that we can learn from the Torah, and learn to take a humbler stance before the Lord and His presence and the people of God. We must remember that God looks into our hearts and into our inner parts and judges all flesh from what they have in their hearts.

Joseph Shulam: God is Our Eternal Light [2020]

The reading this week is Tetzaveh, from Exodus 27:20 – 30:10. From the prophets the reading is very interesting. The Shabbat before Purim always the reading from the prophets is the same. The reading is from Deuteronomy 25:17-19 and 1 Samuel 15:1-34. The New Testament reading is from Hebrews 13:10-17.

The reason for this special Shabbat is that it is just before the feast of Purim, the Feast of Esther. The enemy of the Jewish people in the Persian (Iran) empire was the prime minister of Persia, Haman the Aggagite.

An Aggagite is a descendent Aggag, the King of Amalek, who King Saul didn’t kill (in disobedience to the Lord’s command). Samuel the prophet came to Saul, and because of his disobedience, King Saul lost his kingship. Now we are in the days of King Ahasuerus (also spelled Xerxes), King of Persia.

The main text for this reading from the prophets is actually the three verses from the book of Deuteronomy 25:17-19:

“Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you were coming out of Egypt, how he met you on the way and attacked your rear ranks, all the stragglers at your rear, when you were tired and weary; and he did not fear God. Therefore it shall be, when the Lord your God has given you rest from your enemies all around, in the land which the Lord your God is giving you to possess as an inheritance, that you will blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. You shall not forget.” – Deuteronomy 25:17-19 [NKJV]

The deep enmity against Amalek comes from their methods of warfare, their cruelty, and their origin:

“Now Timna was the concubine of Eliphaz, Esau’s son, and she bore Amalek to Eliphaz. These were the sons of Adah, Esau’s wife.” – Genesis 36:12 [NKJV]

The Torah portion has so many interesting things for us to learn, but I have chosen to deal with the first verses of the parasha:

“And you shall command the children of Israel that they bring you pure oil of pressed olives for the light, to cause the lamp to burn continually. In the tabernacle of meeting, outside the veil which is before the Testimony, Aaron and his sons shall tend it from evening until morning before the Lord. It shall be a statute forever to their generations on behalf of the children of Israel.” – Exodus 27:20,21

The question that needs to be asked is why the Lord commanded Moses to command the children of Israel regarding the lighting of the lamp in the Tabernacle that was built in the wilderness. There are only two places in the whole Bible that there is such an emphatic command that Moses himself has to go to the priests and command them in regards to what kind of olive oil they need to use for the lighting of the candelabra with the seven candles.

God wanted Moses himself to go and command the priests about the lighting of the candelabra and the type of oil that they must use. Now the custom was to use cheaper olive oil for light in the candles.

Now God sends Moses to tell these priests that they must use, “extra virgin cold pressed, first pressing olive oil.” This is the most precious and expensive olive oil and for lighting. It is not really necessary to use this fine oil.

For this very reason God sends Moses himself to command the priests. For such a simple command it would have been natural for Moses to send one of his helpers to pass this command on to the priests. However, what God wanted here was for the chief himself, Moses, to go and make this command and demand from the priests.

This is consistent with all that the Lord demanded from His children. There is the command that a sick or damaged bull, goat, sheep or anything else cannot be offered to God as a sacrifice. The worshipper must offer his very best to the Lord.

No second-best would work. God deserves the very best that we have. Even a simple thing like the oil for the candelabra has to be the best. Even though the quality of the light would not differ much. What is more interesting is that the Lord didn’t worry much about saving money when it came to the olive oil that He wanted to be used for lighting the oil lamps in the Tabernacle.

What is the lesson that we can learn from this reading? It is a very simple lesson. We need to worry about exactly the opposite of what most ministries, churches, and synagogues worry about. Remember Paul’s sermon in Athens, Mars Hill:

“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.” – Acts 17:24,25 [NKJV]

A reading of this text could be used to come to the wrong conclusion, that our service to the Lord and worship is non-consequential because, “the Lord does not dwell in temples made with hands.” The right conclusion ought to be that God does care for us not to be stingy. He created the world and gives life to all living creatures. He deserves our best, and the light in the Tabernacle (and the Temple in Jerusalem) deserves to have the best and the purest olive oil.

The rabbis take the midrash on the text of Exodus 27:20-24 and expand the meaning, taking it to other regions. For the rabbis, the light in the Tabernacle and in the Temple was not only a physical light. The rabbis bring some other texts in order to understand the seriousness of this command, and the reason why God commands Moses himself to go to the priests and make this demand from them.

The connection is made with Isaiah 60:19,20:

“The sun shall no longer be your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you; But the Lord will be to you an everlasting light, and your God your glory. Your sun shall no longer go down, nor shall your moon withdraw itself; For the Lord will be your everlasting light, and the days of your mourning shall be ended.” – Isaiah 60:19,20 [NKJV]

The connection made by the rabbis is that the day will come in history in which God Himself, the true revelation of light, will be our everlasting light. God is the everlasting light, according to Isaiah. And therefore, since the candelabra in the Temple and in the Tent of Meeting is an inheritance for all the faithful in history, therefore it represents not only light for the service in the Tabernacle, but it is a representation of the divine light Himself.

Chapter 60 of Isaiah starts with the same theme:

“Arise, shine; For your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you.” – Isaiah 60:1 [NKJV]

The rabbis in the midrash ask this question from God:

“You are the light of the world, so why do You ask us to light a candlelight with oil?” “From your light we will see light.” Rabbi Maier said: The Lord said that the lights that the sons of Aaron light in the Tabernacle are more precious to Me from the lights that I have hung in the heavens.” For the Lord has said “For the Lord will be your everlasting light.”

Let us look at the following texts that give us a new perspective both from the Old Testament and the New Testament on the need to light the eternal lights in the Tabernacle of Meeting in the wilderness and in the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem:

“I, the Lord, have called You in righteousness, and will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, as a light to the Gentiles.” – Isaiah 42:6 [NKJV]

“Indeed He says, ‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.’” – Isaiah 49:6 [NKJV]

“The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.” – Isaiah 60:3 [NKJV]

“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.” – Matthew 5:14 [NKJV]

“Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness but have the light of life.” – John 8:12 [NKJV]

“As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” – John 9:5 [NKJV]

Now when you read these texts and then go back and read the text of Exodus 27:20-24, you begin to understand how God sees the lighting of the menorah that is inside the Tabernacle.

The main text gives us a very particular expansion of the concept that God Himself is the eternal light that right now is hidden from us humans. But the concept that the day will come when He replaces the sun, moon, and stars is a hidden truth that will become a reality.

Here is the summary and explanation of why God commanded Moses to use the purest and most precious oil for the lighting of the menorah in the Temple:

“In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” – John 1:4,5 [NKJV]

The Torah and the prophets and the New Testament are all connected, because these texts are a product of the same Holy Spirit. And the topics and secrets of the scriptures are there for us to connect and understand, to make the deep connections from Genesis all the way to the end of Revelation.

It is all connected, and it is all pointing toward the same point – the redemption of humanity and the whole Earth. Yeshua is the eternal light, equal to the Father, who is also the eternal light, and we, His disciples, are commanded to be the light, and Israel as a nation is commanded to be the light for all the nations.

Yeshua is that light of Israel that has brought the divine eternal light and spread it to all the nations. If you have received the eternal light of God, live in the light and share that light with all.

Joseph Shulam: The Uniqueness of the Priestly Calling and Its Relationship With the Messiah [2019]

This week’s Torah portion is Parashat Tetzaveh (in Hebrew, “you command”). The reading starts in Exodus 27:20 and ends in Exodus 30:10. There are a few unique and interesting things about this reading of the Torah.

  1. Moses is not mentioned in this portion of the Torah. This is unusual, because the very opening statement implies Moses: “you command”. Who is the “you” in this context? It is Moses. Some of the rabbinical commentators say that God was angry with Moses for a short season, because Moses disagreed with him after the sin of the golden calf, and did not allow God to destroy the whole nation. So, his name is not mentioned. Of course, this is only speculation and not a very convincing one! In the whole parasha, when God speaks to Moses, He just uses, “and you.” Very impersonal use of the word “you.”
  2. Moses is commanding the artisans in the camp (those who built the tabernacle) to make the official clothing for Aaron, his brother, and his sons who are officiating as priests for Israel.
  3. These articles of clothing and artifacts for the service of the Lord are so detailed in every aspect, from the cloth that is to be used for every part to the golden breastplate, and the stones that are to represent each tribe (Exodus 28).
  4. The ordination of Aaron and his sons for the priesthood is also an interesting process that most “believers” ignore in the ordination of leaders and elders (Exodus 29:20). There is the same ceremony with oil in Leviticus 14:17-28. Why is the ordination of those who are going to serve God and the people connected to the ear, the hand, and the foot of the servants of God and people?
    • The ear has to be anointed, because if the servant of God does not hear God and receive His direction to pass on to the people – if he does not have an ear that hears and obeys God – he cannot really serve God or faithfully serve the people.
    • The anointing of the right thumb – without anointed hands that are doing the will of God with dedication, purity, and honesty, under the Lord’s authority, every service is going to be impure and unacceptable to the Lord.
    • The right foot of the priest has to be also anointed so that he can walk in God’s will and lead the people that follow with the leading and direction of the Lord, and not with his own agenda and his own ambition.
  5. The connection between the high priest of Israel and those who were in the cities of refuge, because they had killed someone unintentionally. This part is fascinating for those of us who believe that Yeshua of Nazareth, our Messiah, atones for our sins with his death. Those in Judaism who opposed Yeshua and His Jewish disciples in the past and today use an argument that a human being cannot atone for others by his death. Here we see a Torah example that the death of the high priest atones for those who killed a person and releases them from the city of refuge, protected from anyone who would like to harm them or take vengeance. This paradigm of the death of the high priest of Israel that atones and releases those who killed a person by not paying attention and being distracted, by negligence, by not taking precaution to prevent such accidents from taking place, and many other mistakes (manslaughter). These people are forgiven and atoned for by the death of the high priest of Israel. This applies to all the six cities of refuge. If a high priest, who is a sinner like all men, can atone and release killers, how much the more the death of Yeshua, who was sinless and offered Himself for all, can atone and release us from damnation in the Judgment Day.

Yehuda Bachana: Why Should We Dress Nice for God? [2018]


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

This week’s Torah portion begins with God’s commandments regarding the priestly garments:

“Make sacred garments for your brother Aaron to give him dignity and honor.” – Exodus 28:2 [NIV]

This reading. Tetzaveh, focuses on weaving and embroidery, breastplates and the ephods, robes, breeches, tunics, filigree settings, shoulder pieces, as well as buckles and stones. It discusses a variety of colors and fabrics such as blue, purple, scarlet yarn, and fine linen. If someone came in off the street while this Torah portion was being read in a congregation, he might think that he had mistakenly walked in on a sewing class.

“Clothes Make the Man”

Netivyah Bible Instruction Ministry | Parashat Tetzaveh
What’s behind God’s detailed commandments regarding the priestly garments?

These passages are filled with very detailed descriptions of the vessels and colors of the Tabernacle, including the priestly garments. All of which create for us a tremendous symphony of majesty and splendor, as is fitting for the House of God.

I suppose that the idea behind the design was so that the people would not be indifferent, but rather that their spirits would be lifted, and they would feel a sense of inspiration when they came into the House of God.

This portion leads to the following question: What’s the point of an entire Torah portion that talks about clothes? There is a well-known saying that goes, “Clothes make the man.”

There’s an interesting story about an employee who works in a telemarketing company. For many years he would come to work dressed in very simple clothes. The huge advantage about working in phone sales was that customers do not care how the seller looks nor what he or she is wearing.

One day, however, the employee started to notice that the most successful salespeople were those who came to work every day wearing business clothes – a suit and tie. He decided to try out this business style for himself and he came to work wearing a pristine suit and tie.

Suddenly he found himself talking on the phone with greater self-confidence, sitting more upright in the chair, and communicating with the customers in a much more professional way. The clothes might not have been seen, but their presence was evident.

I suppose that this is the reason why the Torah emphasizes the garments of the priests, to make sure that the priests would be willing to serve the public and serve God in the most honorable way.

In Judaism, we are familiar with the idea of Shabbat clothes. What’s behind this idea? Does God really care about the clothes we wear? In a certain way, I believe He does.

I gleaned from this parasha, that whenever a person comes to the congregation, to be a part of the group, to stand and pray before God, he or she must be clean and dressed in respectable, fine clothing. The saying, “Clothes make the man,” proves to be true.

Is Beauty in the Eye of the Beholder?

God’s instructed accuracy and symmetry for the Tabernacle, the priests, the sacred vessels, and everything else that belongs to Him, create something luxurious and beautiful. Despite this, the word “beauty”, or anything similar, hardly appears.

Why does biblical thinking ignore the human enjoyment found in beauty?

Beauty is a subjective concept, it is by no means objective. There are no scientific laws or rules of logic that we can use to determine the criteria of what is beautiful.

A common understanding of what is beautiful is bound to a society in a certain place and time. A fact proven to us in that, throughout history, the concept of beauty has changed drastically. Even today there are different concepts of beauty amongst various nations and people groups.

Again, this is because beauty is illogical and you cannot prove that something is beautiful or not. Yet there is nothing that attracts us more than beauty. It’s on this that all of our consumer economy is based. Almost everything we buy must first be attractive. Only after the product passes the beauty test do we think about the effectiveness of it.

We live in a time that is especially known for consumer culture, and as such we use beauty to promote sales. Designers strive to design consumer goods from shoes and clothes, to furniture and cars, in order to stimulate an aesthetic experience for the consumer.

The Struggle Against Externalism

One of today’s modern problems is that we have become like vessels in which only the outside is seen and valued – the external beauty and design of an object or person.

The Bible describes the problem with beauty. For example, in the story of Adam and Eve, the Tree of Knowledge is described as being beautiful, “…The fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye…” (Genesis 3:6) This was a major factor in the attraction to the fruit and in the subsequent rebellion against God.

The beauty of the “daughters of humans” is also considered to be a stumbling block, as is seen in the prelude to the flood: “…The sons of God saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful…” (Genesis 6:2)

The “Virtuous Woman” (Proverbs 31) comes against man’s externalism, “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting,” in comparing it with man’s internal beauty, “…But a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”

So here is the time to stop and ask, is external beauty important? Or does only internal beauty matter? The answer is, of course, yes to both. Beauty – the cover of the book – is important. However, the contents are just as important as well. The right thing to do is to put the important things in a respectable external frame.

How to Dress for Holiness

Aesthetics are desirable and even important when they are in the service of the holy. This is evident with the Temple, the priestly garments, the Tabernacle, and the sacred vessels, as we learned today from this week’s parasha.

The plain sense of the Bible teaches us that the priestly garments are for “dignity and honor”, for two main reasons:

The first reason is to foster a sense of respect and honor in the assembly. Worship requires a separation between the holy and the profane, and for this the priests are dressed and adorned in a unique way. In fact, in every religion one can identify the prayer leader, the rabbi, the priest – because they are typically dressed differently from others. At first glance of the prayer leader, you can see that clothes make the man.

Clothes create a distance, they are indicative of reverence. A person who is well-dressed is seen as one who is elevated higher than the rest of the people, much more than if he were not to be dressed in luxurious clothes.

The second reason is for the priest himself, the prayer leader, to treat his status with respect, to take his role and status seriously and honorably. When we dress out of respect for the Sabbath and the community, we are honoring the status and the dwelling place of God.

Yet on the other hand, Yeshua despises our efforts to look good, and asks us why we care about clothing. Yeshua takes us to a field of flowers:

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.” – Matthew 6:28,29 [NIV]

But nevertheless we are told to dress nicely and modestly:

“I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety…” – 1 Timothy 2:9a [NIV]

In the Bible, sometimes clothes are connected with a spiritual state, or a state of sin, for example, Zechariah 3 presents a vision of Joshua the priest standing before the throne of judgment:

“Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord… Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes [meaning he was filthy from sin] as he stood before the angel. The angel said to those who were standing before him, ‘Take off his filthy clothes.’ Then he said to Joshua, ‘See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put fine garments on you.’” – Zechariah 3:1a,3,4 [NIV]

Clothes can also indicate salvation:

“I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness…” – Isaiah 61:10a [NIV]

Yeshua teaches us the Parable of the Great Banquet in Matthew 22. The parable is about the Kingdom of Heaven, in which God the King prepares a wedding feast for His Son, Yeshua.

Many were invited to this wedding feast, but few showed up. The King sent out His servants to bring in any person they could find to come and participate in the wedding. In the end, many guests attended the wedding, but one passage is particularly jarring to the ears:

“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless. Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’” – Matthew 22:11-13 [NIV]

In this parable, the wrong clothes represent sin, as in the previous example from Zechariah 3. This man had not given his life to Yeshua and did not receive the forgiveness of sins through Yeshua the Messiah. Therefore, that person was not suitable for the wedding feast in the Kingdom of Heaven.

In conclusion

I am convinced that we need to be dressed in dignity and honor when we come into the House of God or congregation. This will show respect to the people around us as well as psychologically cause us to take more seriously the status of the House of God.

Another famous saying goes, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” This can cause us to miss the point. People will always judge the book by its cover, therefore we have the obligation to put content that is sacred behind a beautiful and dignified cover.

Click here to download a pdf version of this teaching.