In our desire to provide you with the teaching of Messiah Yeshua in a Jewish context, we provide in-depth teachings of the weekly Torah portions throughout the year. Below are various perspectives from various teachers and staff members from Netivyah Bible Instruction ministry.

Yehuda Bachana: God paves the way to redemption through the sacrifices [2023]

Read the transcript below, or watch a video of the teaching by Yehuda Bachana.
This week we continue to learn about the rules of sacrifices. At first glance, it seems that only the ‘kohanim’ (priests) are being addressed. Some of you might ask why this Torah portion is relevant to us today as believers.

This Torah portion is still very much relevant to us. In addition to our belief that Yeshua is divine, that He is the Messiah and the Son of the living God, we also see Him as the hight priest. Hebrews chapter 8 explains this so well:

“We do have such a High Priest, Who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and Who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by a mere human being. Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this One also to have something to offer. If He were on earth, He would not be a priest, for there are already priests who offer the gifts prescribed by the law. They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” (Hebrews 8: 1-5)

This text starts with a declaration: we have a high priest, who sits at the right hand of God. He serves in the Heavenly Holy of Holies. This high priest is our way to reach the gates of heaven and to receive God’s forgiveness, mercy, comfort and hope.

The writer of Hebrews continues by saying that the service of the earthly priests is the shadow of the one in heaven, and that the Tabernacle is the shadow of the heavenly sanctuary. This was the reason that Moses had to study and copy the heavenly Sanctuary and its artifacts, to

‘Make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.’ (Exodus 25:40)

This shows that the earthly sanctuary was temporary from the very beginning. Furthermore, Exodus 29 explains that the service of the burnt offering was meant to bring people closer to God, as we read a few weeks ago in the Torah portion ‘Tetzaveh’:

“For the generations to come this burnt offering is to be made regularly at the entrance to the tent of meeting, before the Lord. There I will meet you and speak to you; there also I will meet with the Israelites, and the place will be consecrated by my glory.”

Then, as as a direct result of the nation of Israel drawing closer to God, He promised:

“Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God.” (Exodus 29:42-45)

And so, the purpose of all this work and of the services was to bring people closer to God. It was meant to pave the way for Yeshua the Messiah to come and to offer grace and hope to the entire world, to all of humanity.

It is the priestly service and the sacrifices that teach the meaning of sin and sacrifice, as well as how to worship God. The growing understanding of His laws, His Word and His commandments all lead us to the next step and to the real thing: to Yeshua the Messiah, Who takes the sins of the world upon Himself.

The idea that Israel was still waiting for the next stage, for the King and Messiah who will come to redeem us all, is deeply rooted in Judaism: even when the Temple was standing, and the priests were serving in it.

For generations, and according to the measure of justice and according to the Torah, the world deserves to be destroyed along with all its inhabitants, as it happened during the flood, in the days of Noah or with Sodom and Gomorrah. The entire world needs God’s redemption and forgiveness. We need the Hight Priest, the sacrifice and Messiah.

Yeshua is the only one, Who is described as perfect and righteous, without the smallest transgression; nevertheless, He suffered a horrible death that we do not even wish upon our worst enemies. Yet, Paul writes that because of it, He has redeemed us from the “curse of the Torah.”
Now, what does the ‘curse of the Torah’ mean?

In the Torah portion ‘Ki-Tavo’ (Deuteronomy 26-29), Moses tells us, that whoever does not keep the Torah is ‘damn and cursed’:

“Cursed is anyone who does not uphold the words of this law by carrying them out.” Then all the people shall say, “Amen!” (…) You will be cursed in the city and cursed in the country. (…) The fruit of your womb will be cursed, and the crops of your land, and the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks. You will be cursed when you come in and cursed when you go out. The Lord will send on you curses, confusion and rebuke in everything you put your hand to, until you are destroyed and come to sudden ruin because of the evil you have done in forsaking him.” (Deuteronomy 27:26, 28:15-20)

According to this text, our families, whatever we produce and we are all damned and under that curse. Paul is taking this very seriously when he asks us, as well as himself, how we can free our families and ourselves from this situation. His answer is that the solution lies with Messiah, Who bought us with His blood, Who took the curse upon Himself and nailed it to the cross.

Here we see a different view on redemption that is much closer to the original Biblical definition. In the Bible, the common action of the one called a redeemer is usually a pay-off. One person pays the debt of another, and redeems by doing so. The redeemer does not break into a prison, to free the one who owes the debt by force, but rather pays the debt until the last penny.

In our case, our debt is to God Himself, and according to our sages “there is no man in the world who can repay his debt to God”. A sinner deserves death, and as sinners, we all deserve it. The idea of salvation and redemption through the blood of Yeshua is not difficult to understand, because we are used to think in the terms of sacrifice and redemption. For many generations we have used this terminology and practiced it, by means of the tabernacle and the two temple periods.

This entire idea comes down to one person, who is ‘completely righteous from the foundation of the world’. We know that Messiah will rule over the entire world. Yet, how could He rule over all people, from Japan to Argentina, from Jerusalem?

The only possible answer to this question that will satisfy someone who grew up on the Torah and the prophets, is that it will be in a spiritual way. The Messiah will conquer the entire world with His spirit. The Messiah’s conquest will not be the conquest of territories, but – the conquest of people’s hearts.

Our Torah Portion, ‘Tzav’, continues to deal with sacrifices, and the questions rise again: how is this relevant to my life today? How is this relevant to us as believers?

The answer is that sacrifice is relevant in our lives, because we all make sacrifices every day and all the time. We start with the idea of rejecting momentary satisfactions, with sacrificing the moment, with sacrificing the now, in order to get something better in the future.

We work, get a salary and save money for retirement in order to live comfortably in the future, in a time that is not ‘now’. A sacrifice, any sacrifice, has the power to improve the future; and, the greater the sacrifice or investment in education or in career, the more profitable it will be in the future.

As parents and as spouses, we sacrifice a lot for those we love. When we love, we are willing to sacrifice much for it.

And, what about those who love God?

We sacrifice much for God: our time, focus and finances. These are not the sacrifices of living beings; nonetheless, these sacrifices are real as they come from a loving heart.

And God? John 3:16 summarizes the entire New Testament:

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Out of His great love for the world, He gave His only son, to give us hope and redemption. Yeshua redeemed me from the punishment that I deserved for all the ‘to do’-commandments that I did not do, and for all the prohibiting commandments that I broke by doing them anyways.

Which sacrifices are required from us today?
The answer differs from one person to another. Often it is the most important and precious thing we have.

God asked Abraham for his only son, whom he loved.
And what did God sacrifice? His only Son, for the sake of the world, for the sake of humanity.

And what is our sacrifice?

Many soldiers sacrifice their life for their people, for their country. Mothers often sacrifice their career, their self-satisfaction for the sake of the family. My mother was like this, and so is my wife, and I am sure that there are many mothers, who sacrifice for their families. Fathers also sacrifice for their families, because we do everything for our families, for our children, so they will not lack anything.
If we stop sacrificing, everything falls apart. When partners stop sacrificing for each other, marriages get destroyed.

When a society loses the concept of sacrifice, it has no future and its days are counted. He, who is not willing to sacrifice the present, has no future.

Now all of this is good and nice, but we are still obligated to offer God a blood sacrifice:

“In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Hebrews 9:22)

The entire New Testament is based on the solid foundation that Yeshua is the ‘Lamb of God’ who was sacrificed for us. He is our Passover sacrifice and our sacrifice for the Day of Atonement, because what are those feasts without their sacrifices? What is it that gives us atonement: the Day of Atonement or the atoning sacrifice?

In the Temple, the sacrifices were offered again and again, day after day, year after year. These sacrifices reminded us of our sins and the necessity of repentance. Yet, after a while we lost our innocence and purpose. Most of our prophets speak harshly against the institution of sacrifices. It does not mean, that those prophets – Isaiah, Jeremiah and others - wanted to cancel the sacrificial offerings.

However, they do speak harshly against the idea that sacrifices and the Temple service can atone for any evil doing, without the real repentance and the change of heart. We cannot bribe God nor buy His forgiveness just by merely offering the ‘expensive or generous enough’.

For example, from the book of Jeremiah we understand that when the moral and religious corruption is too deep, a restart is necessary. Jeremiah says that it is time to ‘Uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow’ (Jeremiah 1:10)

The goal is to start anew, to go back to the original foundation of our faith and morality. Then, instead of destruction, instead of uprooting and braking, will be the time “To build and to plant.”

Our partaking in the Messiah’s sacrifice requires the Word of God to be written on our hearts. The very meaning of the ‘New Covenant’ is that God will enter our hearts. Our responsibility towards the Word of God will not be ‘for show only’, not for the outer appearance, but it will be engraved deeply in our hearts and in our everyday life. This is the requirement of being partakers of Messiah’s sacrifice.

Who is Yeshua for us?
He is our Lord and Master!
He is our sacrifice, according to the words of the Prophet Isaiah:

“We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6)

Joseph Shulam: The Chain of Command [2023]

We are reading the second portion of the book of Leviticus and the name of this portion in Hebrew is TZAV - Leviticus 6:8 - 8:36. From the prophets the reading is Jeremiah 7:21 – 8:3, and 9:23-24. From the New Testament we will be reading from Romans 12:1-8.

Leviticus chapter 7:21 starts with the following words: The word TZAV means “Command!” The normal communication of God with Moses was, “speak” – “call”, like the first Torah portion of Leviticus that in Hebrew it is called “Vayikra” = “And He Called…”.

The word for command in the Hebrew Bible is not a rare word, it appears in the Hebrew Bible 202 times. It is a very direct and emphatic, and leaves no doubt of what God expects from people whom he commands to take action in obedience to His command.

Now God commands Moses, and through Moses’ command, Aaron his brother. Aaron is to command his sons and they are to pass on the instruction to the people who will come to worship in the Tabernacle. They also instruct the people what they need to do to bring their offerings and present them to the Lord.

This simple information seems almost too simple for someone to make a teaching from this chain of command that starts and ends with God and it is passed all the way to us in the 21st Century, thousands of years later for our instruction and guidance.

The Mishnah that is a collection of Rabbinical teachings and instruction that starts with a tractate called “Avot” – “The Fathers!” With the following words:

“Moses received the Torah at Sinai and transmitted it to Joshua, Joshua to the elders, and the elders to the prophets, and the prophets to the Men of the Great Assembly. They said three things: Be patient in [the administration of] justice, raise many disciples and make a fence round the Torah.”

People ask how was the Bible written and transmitted to us? Well, this text from the Torah Portion of “TZAV” from Leviticus 6:8 – 8:36, gives us a window into the process of transmission of God’s word. Moses received the Torah from God on top of Mount Sinai, and passed it on to Joshua, and Joshua to the elders, and it was transmitted from one generation to the next.

The Bible as we know it today, is a collection of divinely transmitted texts, written by faithful witnesses who wrote what they experienced and what other witnesses experienced. The collection of texts was accepted as divine revelation from the Almighty Creator of the world, and handed to the Jewish nation.

This charge, that God gave to the Jewish people as a nation, is generally speaking, totally ignored by the vast majority of Christians. The impression that Christians hand down is that the Bible is their heritage and that it is a Christian book. However, the transmission of the Bible, both what is called “Old Testament” and what is called “New Testament,” was by far written by Jews, in a Jewish context and settings mostly in the land of Israel.

If it was not written in the land of Israel, like the book of Daniel, and the book of Esther, and Ezekiel, the writers were looking with passion at the land of Israel, as God given, and the home land of the Jewish nation, both in the present and definitely for the future.

Here is an interesting text that gives us a small window on the process of transmission of God’s Word; the LORD said to me,

“Take a large scroll, and write on it with a man’s pen concerning Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz. And I will take for Myself faithful witnesses to record, Uriah the priest and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiahu.”” (Isaiah 8:1–2 NKJV)

Today, we are living in a very skeptical world; a world that doubts everything and especially doubts the veracity of the Word of God. But the interesting thing that is happening in the land of Israel is that several times per year, there is another archaeological find that substantiates the faithfulness of the transmission of God’s revelation of His will and commandments for mankind: is trust worthy and faithful all the way from the days of Moses to our own day. Can you imagine that recently, archaeologists officially announced the discovery of a 3,100-year-old inscription from the site of Khirbet al-Ra‘i that may be evidence of Gideon the Judge?

Khirbet al-Ra‘i is the biblical city of Ziklag, that was the headquarters of David and his collection of vagabonds and criminals that followed him during the days of his escaping from King Saul’s chase to kill him. Ziklag and the story of David is from 1 Samuel 30.

Ziklag was not known until the Israeli archaeologist, Joseph Gurfinkel ,excavated and found it in Khirbet al-Ra’I, just east from Kiryat Gath, and West of Tel-Lachish. It is a small hill settlement about 2.5 miles west of Tel Lachish, the important Canaanite city-state and, later, a city in the triable territory of Judah. Ziklag was an important strategic center that was destroyed by Sennacherib (701 B.C.E.).

In this important city, that the King of Lachish gave to David and his men to live and escape from King Saul, who was looking for David to kill him, a small pot-shred was found with ancient Hebrew text that had the name of Gideon (the judge from Ephrat). This is an amazing find that substantiates the faithfulness of the transmission of the Biblical narrative.

We must remember that the Word of God was transmitted for thousands of years before the printing press, and before computers. Faithful men sat to copy, by hand, every word and every jot and tittle: all by hand. It took and takes a scribe a year to just write the five Books of Moses by hand, on goat skins with a handmade feather pen, and special ink, made by hand, around a year’s time. Every time that the scribe has to write the holy name of God, the four letters, the scribe has to go to the mikva (immersion pool) and purify himself and then return to his place and write the four letters of God’s holy name!

It is most important for us to understand and trust the chain of transmission of God’s revelation from the ancient days that could be 3000 years old. In the last years Biblical Archaeology, it has been discovered in Jerusalem alone seals, with the names of Isaiah the prophet, and names of officials from the days of Jeremiah the prophet, that are mentioned only one time in the whole Bible. The writing of God’s Word is faithful and done by faithful man (Scribes) and the narrative of the biblical stories is proven over and over again as a true and trustworthy narrative that can and ought to be trusted.

The whole issue must be trusted and examined and studied is this chain of transmission from one witness to the other, from one scribe to the next; the text is protected by divine providence. We know this for sure because we have the whole book of Isaiah from the 2nd century B.C.E. – from Qumran.

When you compare the Qumran Isaiah text, the faithfulness of the scribes that copied the 66-chapter long Isaiah text, that is now for our 21st century disciples, it is a confirmation of the faithful transmission of God’s word from the 2nd Century B.C.E., all the way to our own days. The word of God is trust worthy and proven a thousand times over, to be true and faithful, by every possible parameter; science, archaeology, prophecy, and above all by the history and fulfillment of God’s promises throughout the history of Israel.

The very transmission of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation at least from around 200 B.C., until now, is a miracle not repeated in the annals of human history. Yes, we have older documents that speak of creation, and the flood, but there is no living, breathing, tribe or nation or documented existing descendants who claim that they are the people of whom their ancient documents were recorded. This chain of transmission from father to son, from a tribe, to a nation, from a nation to the whole world, is a unique and special in world history.

The most wonderful of all is that today in the 21st Century, with all the technology and the landing of man on the moon, and cellular phones in the hands of toddlers who don’t know yet how to read and write, - the message and the echo of that message given by the God who created the heavens and the Earth, is still reverberating both in the hearts of the Jewish people; but not only of the Jewish people, but also of a vast majority of the millions of Christians around the whole Earth.

Thinking about this historical chain of transmission from God to man, from man to man, from man nation, from nation to the whole world is a living chain that reminds me of Aretha Franklin’s song: (Chain, chain, chain) God can and has used fools [[in the sight of the world. Noah was a fool, Abraham was a fool, Moses was a fool, Jesus was a fool to die for such a foolish people as you and me.]] Chain of fools! For (five) [[3500]] long years, I thought you were my man, But I found out I'm [[We are]] just a link in your chain. Oh, you got me where you want me!

[[In the eyes of this world]] I ain't nothin' but your fool. [[ When I was bad and disobedient]] You treated me mean! Oh, you treated me cruel [[exile to Babylon and Inquisition and holocaust]] …Chain, chain, chain, Chain of fools! Every chain has got a weak link! I [[WE]] might be weak, yeah! [[You said:]] But I'll give you strength, oh, hey, you told me to leave you alone… My father said, "Come on home" - My doctor said, "Take it easy” … Oh, but your lovin' is much too strong!”

You see dear brothers and sisters the Lord chose to use us, the earthen vessels that He created in his own image and in the image of the ONE who was with the Creator even before the Creation of the world.

We might seem to be weak and divided and not able to fit the challenges that stand before us, but we, the disciples of the Messiah, the children of God, sanctified by the blood of the lamb, (We are just a week before Passover) and with our weakness and sometimes feeling like fools; we are still the only vehicle and a part of that chain that started from Abraham.

We, the disciples of Yeshua the Messiah, are still the only tool that the Creator has devised to transmute and preserve and restore the original question that man, all men and women, are being asked by God, Ayecka! = Where are you? This is the question that the Voice (the Word) of God that was walking in the Garden after Adam and Eve sinned, asked Adam and Eve.

This is one of the essential questions that all of humanity must ask itself; “Where are you?” Where are you in relationship to the Creator and in relationship to the Creation and in relationship to your people and tribe and nation, and this blue ball called EARTH?

I would like to end this prayer list with a quotation from the Mishnah (Rabbinical collection of sayings from Rabbis who lived around 80 B.C.E. to 210 C.E.). The tractate is called Avot = Fathers, and the quotation is from Avot, chapter 3:1.

“Akabyah ben Mahalale”l said: Mark well three things and you will not come under the power of sin: Know from where you come, and where you are going, and before whom you are destined to give an account and reckoning. From where do you come? From a putrid drop (of semen). Where are you going? To a place of dust, of worm and of maggot. Before whom you are destined to give an account and reckoning? Before the King of the Kings, the Holy One, blessed be he.”

These words are repeated in every Jewish burial in the cemetery. In such an occasion, when you are going to bury your dead friends or family members, you hear these words and they enter into your intestines and you can’t help it to ask yourself these questions.

Your life goes by you like a very fast forward movie and you ask yourself as a disciple of Yeshua (The Messiah) “What am I doing here in this life?” “Where am I going?” “What do I belong to?” “Who do I belong to?” “What is going to happen to me after I die?”

I don’t want to be like the guy from the song “16 Tons and what do I get…”. I want to be a part of that chain. A part of the race and transfer and pass on the baton in the race to the next generation, and be a witness of God’s faithfulness to keep His promises.

I would like to sing! “Standing on the promises of Christ my King, Thro’ eternal ages let His praises ring; Glory in the highest, I will shout and sing, Standing on the promises of God. Standing, standing, standing on the promises of God my Savior; Standing, standing, I’m standing on the promises of God.”

I hope and pray that you too are standing on the promises of God, and being a part of that human chain that receives and passes on the good news that God loves us, human beings.

Since we are just before the Passover Feast, let me share with you a verse that gives us the purpose of all the hard work and preparation for the Passover! Please notice that the whole feast is for your children and the hard work of cleaning and preparing and the ceremony is all for your children; for the next generation, for the CHAIN to keep going, for the transmission of God’s love and revelation!

“For the LORD will pass through to strike the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and not allow the destroyer to come into your houses to strike you. And you shall observe this thing as an ordinance for you and your sons forever. It will come to pass when you come to the land which the LORD will give you, just as He promised, that you shall keep this service. And it shall be, when your children say to you, “What do you mean by this service?’ that you shall say, “It is the Passover sacrifice of the LORD, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt when He struck the Egyptians and delivered our households.’” So the people bowed their heads and worshiped.” (Exodus 12:23–27 NKJV)

Joseph Shulam: The Inherent Need to Sacrifice [2022]

The Torah reading this Shabbat is Parashat Tzav – Leviticus 6:1 - 8:36. The name of this portion of the Torah in English would be “Command”. This Torah portion continue the topic of the sacrificial services of the priests.

The Haftarah, that is, the portion of the reading from the prophets, is Jeremiah 7:21 - 8:3, 9:23,24. The text that we read from the New Testament is from the book of Hebrews 8:1-6.

Many rabbis and pastors find it hard to connect with these ancient texts that deal with ceremonies and practices of animal sacrifices. Because, in reality, the Jewish people and the nation of Israel has not practiced animal sacrifices (at least not officially) since the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in the year 70 of the common era.

Even if some group will decide to restore the sacrificial cult in some kind of temple or tent of meeting it would be near impossible because priests have to be from the family of Aaron and the tribe of Levi. And today there is no documentation of who is either from the tribe of Levi or from the family of Aaron.

However, if we dig a little deeper into the text of Leviticus we can find some some very important principles and instructions that will enrich our lives and our faith even if we don’t have physical sacrifices of animals on a Kosher altar, by Kosher priests and Levites.

The first thing that this Torah portion is addressing is the clothing of the priests. For me this is an important topic. Those who are going to be serving God had a special code of dress.

The material of their clothings was specified – linen. They had a hat, and they had to change clothing when they moved from one type of service to another type of service.

I think that these instructions of God to the children of Israel after they got out of Egypt and received the Torah in Mount Sinai are important. Because what you wear for each occasion is a reflection and a delineation of the different space and service.

Today with the electronic tools that each one of us carries we have lost the borders of time and space, and we have made everything flat and equalized. By elimination of the importance of space and time, everything is the same and there is no holy space, nor holy time, nor holy occasion where you have to be dressed accordingly.

Especially when we are going to a place where we expect to show our devotion, and worship the Creator of the Universe and our Lord and Savior Yeshua, and fellowship with fellow saints and disciples of Yeshua. Should we not give that time and that space an honor that is deserved to our Lord, to God’s Word, to the Holy Spirit that should be present in the midst of our worship?

To be a priest and a servant of God you had to know the seriousness of your position. You had to delineate the time and place, and honor it with being dressed in the same way that you would prepare if you were going to have a meeting with the prime minister of your country, or with a famous Hollywood actor or director.

I see the communities of the Orthodox Hasidic Jews in Jerusalem. Each Hasidic court has their own style of clothing: hats, socks, shoes, and special Shabbat and holiday clothing.

Even the kind of rope/belt that they use around their long coat (kapote) has to be the same like their rabbi wears. They know by the clothing that their neighbors where to which Hasidic group they belong.

I don’t think that we ought to go fully and copy or follow or teach that as Jewish disciples of Yeshua we ought to have that kind of strict dress code. But I do think that when we go to worship we ought to give the proper respect and honorable attitude expressed in our dress and in our conduct.

After all, we are all a kingdom of priests and a holy community. I personally would be happy even if the young people would come to the fellowship dressed honorably and modestly.

By modestly, I don’t mean that the ladies ought to be dressed like the orthodox women in Mea Shearim in Jerusalem, but just modestly giving honor to the Lord and to each other.

The second big issue in our Torah portion, that also connects with the reading from Jeremiah 7:21 - 8:36, is the issue of the sacrifices themselves. We must put the sacrifices and their practice into perspective.

All religions, ancient and modern, pagan or true worship of the Lord, have some kind of sacrificing practice. Sacrificing to the object of your worship is a universal practice.

However, in the Word of God, sacrificing to God is not the main and most important from of worship and demonstration of worship and appreciation and gratitude to our God.

The reading from the prophets this Shabbat is from Jeremiah 7:21-24:

“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘Add your burnt offerings to your sacrifices and eat meat. For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices. But this is what I commanded them, saying, “Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people. And walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well with you.” Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but followed the counsels and the dictates of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward.’” – Jeremiah 7:21-24

The idea that sacrifices are not the main interest of God from His children is a wide idea that is found in the prophets, and in the writings, and even in the New Testament. In chapter 1 of the prophet Isaiah, in Hosea chapter 6, and even in the book of First Samuel 15, when Samuel states that hearing (obedience) is more important than sacrifices.

But, let us not belittle sacrifices, because the way that we express our love for anything is by how much we are willing to give and sacrifice for the people and the things that we love!

Here are the words of the apostle Paul and his description of what love is:

“And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.” – 1 Corinthians 13:3 [NKJV]

Our need to give and sacrifice and bless others and bless God is a built-in need, an instinct! However, if it is not done with love, in place of it becoming a blessing to others and to us, it becomes an abomination.

The Lord bless us with the desire to sacrifice our time and talent and money for the Kingdom of God, with love and gratitude that we have such an opportunity to express our love for the Lord and for each other, and the people and objects of our faith.

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

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

Shalom, my name is Joseph Shulam, and together with Brad TV, we are doing these portions of the week. In Hebrew a portion is “parashat”, and this “parashat” of the week from Genesis 1:1, we are going to finish, the Lord willing, by the end of the Jewish year. Next September, the whole law of Moses, chapter by chapter, portion by portion.

And today we are reading the second portion from the book of Leviticus, which in Hebrew is called “Tzav,” which means command. God tells Moses, command the children of Aaron and his sons. This is the law of the burnt offering. We’re starting a series of commands. There are several different types of offerings, several different types of sacrifices. Some are on the altar, some are not on the altar, but the most important one and the most prevalent one and the most popular one was the burnt offering.

And there are different kinds of burnt offerings as well. The one that we are starting with here in 6:2 of the book of Leviticus is the perpetual burnt offering, that was kindled on the altar, on the griddle, on the heat of the altar every night. And fire went burning all night long on the altar. And this was a kind of burnt offering that was not for the individual. It was for the whole nation, for the whole camp of Israel that was in the wilderness at that time. And then in Jerusalem, it was for the whole nation of Israel.

A special offering, a national offering. So the priests are commanded to do that every night, but what’s interesting to me is their clothing. As you notice, I’m here in Israel, in Jerusalem, and I’m wearing a jacket and a shirt and a tie, and Israel is a very informal country. And the United States is also an informal country, and Brazil is also an informal country. England is not, it’s formal. France is formal. Italy is formal. But when the priests do this work and prepare the burnt offering, they put on linen clothes, very simple, white linen clothes. That’s all the clothes that the priest puts on, with a kind of pants and a tunic of linen. And he prepares the ashes and the wood and all the things that he has to deal with when he cleans the altar, he takes off these linen clothes and he puts on other clothes to remove the ashes outside the camp.

And the fire of the altar never stops. This is something that is quite interesting to me. We are going to see the attitude of the prophets toward the Temple and toward the Tabernacle. And we are going to try to understand more in depth of what is God’s will, and why did God commands all of these intricate commands? 13 chapters dealing in the book of Leviticus with the work of the Levites and the priests on the altars and the sacrificial orders of the worship of God in the Tabernacle and then later on in the Temple, but I’m returning to the clothes. He finished one job. He prepared the altar. He changed clothes, he put on other clothes. That’s actually what verse four chapter six is. He took off his clothes and he put on other clothes.

And he took out the ashes from the altar, cleaned up the altar, and then lit a new fire on the altar, a fire on the altar that should not ever be totally extinguished. In the morning he brings the wood and he arranges the pile of the wood and he offers the fat of the sacrifice. And then in verse seven of chapter six, we have another kind of offering, the “mincha,” which is the freewill offering, the freewill offering, or the noon offering on the altar. And together with that offering, he puts some meal, and spices on it, the “levona,” frankincense.

And there is a good smell coming out of the altar, in verse eight of chapter six, and whatever is left over, Aaron and his sons, they have the crackers, the matzo, the holy bread. That was in the courtyard of the Temple. And it should not be leavened, it should be unleavened bread. It’s a holy of holies. This bread is considered holy. And every male of the household of Aaron, of the priests, could eat from that bread.

All the intricate issues of the sacrifices, and the sacrifice of Aaron and his sons that they offered to the Lord on the day that they were anointed as priests, all these details are here. I’m usually not a person of details. And so I’m going to continue not being a person of details. If you wanna read it, read it for yourself. But the big picture is very important to me. The big picture is very important to me.

The Tabernacle, a tent, temporary dwelling, made with the gold and the silver and the skins and the cloth and the wood, that people contributed. Once it was finished and sanctified and anointed, the sacrifice and all of the tools of the altar, all the tools of the Tabernacle, it became out of bounds. Even for Moses. Only the priest could get into it and serve the altar of most of these sacrifices, at least until the book of Deuteronomy.

The book of Deuteronomy, everything changes. Any Levite is also a priest, but not in the book of Leviticus, only the sons of Aaron are the priests, and they have different sets of clothing for every task. They have the formal clothing with the breast plate of gold, with the 12 precious stones representing the tribes. And there are 12 tribes, 12 stones, and in the book of Revelation, Jerusalem descends from heaven, and covers the city of Jerusalem, if you read Ezekiel’s description of the Temple of Ezekiel, it’s huge. It covers all of the modern, old city and part of the new city of Jerusalem today. It’s a huge temple and all of the mechanism of the priests and their jobs and the different ceremonies and the anointings and the tools that they had.

Everything is described here in the book of Leviticus. And the male priests could eat from the sacrifices, not from all the sacrifices, but from some of the sacrifices. And they could eat the meat that is offered there. And most of the people, there were sacrifices, like Thanksgiving, sacrifice of Thanksgiving, and sacrifices of certain holidays. They could share. The person who brought the sacrifice could share parts of it with the priest and parts of it he and his family could eat, just like in the story of the first chapters of the book of 1 Samuel. Hannah and her husband and his other wife come every year, year after year on the holiday and offered sacrifices, and they eat from the sacrifices that they bring. People didn’t have refrigerators. So we have to understand this, that the whole Temple thing, and the whole Tabernacle thing was the only way that they could eat meat.

Because until the book of Deuteronomy, the people, if they wanted to eat meat, they had to take the animal to the Tabernacle, the Levites and the priest would slaughter it, clean it, prepare it, offer it, keep a part of it, burn a part of it, the skin, and some of the fat and things like that would be burned. And then it would be divided, part of it for the priests, and part of it, the people who brought the sacrifice would celebrate and eat from it. This is something that most Christians don’t realize that, that it was the only way they could eat meat.

A family, let’s say a family of eight souls, father, mother, grandmother, and grandfather, and four children. If they brought a lamb, they couldn’t finish it all in one day, even if they gave the part of the Levites, they had to eat it and enjoy it and give the rest to the Levites and some to the poor, because there was no refrigeration, no way to keep meat that was slaughtered. As long as the meat was on the hoof, the animal was alive. The animal, you know, stayed safe. But as soon as you slaughtered the animal, the meat would start rotting without refrigeration.

It wouldn’t take too long for it to start becoming bad, inedible. So they had to, whatever they slaughtered, they had to finish, they had to eat, and they had to share it with the Levites, and participate with it. Only the burnt offering, which was a sin offering, “hatat” in Hebrew. They gave it all. They didn’t partake of it at all. They gave it to the Levites and to the priest to do whatever part, they took some parts, and the detail in our reading is very big, what to do with the kidneys, what to do with the fat, what to do with the liver, what to do with other parts of the animal. All this is described here in this portion of the Levites. And the male priests would eat from the sacrifices in the holy precinct, in the Tabernacle itself, or in the courtyard of the Tabernacle, but they couldn’t take it out to go home with it, yeah.

Now then there is the issue of the show bread that was baked on the Sabbath day by the priests and put on the special table inside the Tabernacle and every Sabbath but it would be changed. And only then the priest could eat it, again in the holy precinct, which we have that very fascinating story that is mentioned also in the New Testament, of King David coming, he had 400 vagabonds that followed him and fought on his side and protected him. They were hungry. So they come to Nob, the city of Nob was on top of Mount Scopus, overlooking Jerusalem. And the Tabernacle was there in the days of David, outside of Jerusalem in Nob.

And that was after it was returned from the capture of the Philistines. Then it went to what today is called the Arab village of Abu Ghosh, Kiryat Ye’arim, the biblical name of it. And then David brings it up, the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant is restored in Jerusalem. And so they, in Nob, David comes there and talks to Abiathar the priest and tells him, my people are hungry. And it was a Sabbath day, fresh bread, that was put on the Lord’s table. And David essentially takes that bread, that was holy bread designed for the Lord, and feeds his people there.

Yeshua, when Jesus is walking through the valley to find the Galilee on the way to Capernaum with His disciples, and they’re hungry, and this is in the springtime, and the wheat is growing and the green wheat is delicious. They can just squeeze the grains out of the stalk of wheat, and eat it. And the Pharisees come and say, your disciples are breaking the laws of the Sabbath, they are picking grain on the Sabbath.

Yeshua says, remember David? Remember David? And most Christians don’t know what he’s talking about. He’s talking about exactly that thing that happens in the book of Samuel. Where the disciples of David, David is running away from King Saul and for Samuel. And he comes to Nob, and the priest allows him to take the bread that was still hot, baked on the Sabbath day, that was designed for the Lord. So Yeshua is answering the Pharisees, he says, if you’re hungry, then even the holy bread of the Lord is for you to satisfy your hunger. And David, the only thing that he did that was questionable, that he wasn’t condemned by God.

God never condemned David for taking the Showbread on the Sabbath day for his disciples and for lying to the priest that Saul sent him to take the sword of Goliath with him. And he took the sword of Goliath on that same day. So all these laws of the sacrifices are here in the book of Leviticus. Chapter seven is the baking of the show bread. And sacrifice after sacrifice is repeated. Now, I mentioned in last week’s portion, Jeremiah 7, and this is interesting, considering all these laws of sacrifices and the big emphasis that is put there, I am going to go to Jeremiah 7, and read to you from chapter seven, from verse 21.

I’m going to go to King James over here, and read it from the New King James.

“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘Add your burnt offerings to your sacrifices and eat meat. For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices. But this is what I commanded them, saying, “Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people. And walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well with you.” Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but followed the counsels and the dictates of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward.’” – Jeremiah 7:21-24 [NKJV]

Interesting text. I mean, here we were in Leviticus and we were in Leviticus reading about all these chapters after chapters after chapters of the great details in which the children of Israel, were commanded by God, in the book of Leviticus, of the sacrifices, the importance of the sacrifices and all the ceremonies and how to do it, and where to do it and what to do with the kidneys and with the liver and with the skin and with the entrails and with the meat.

And then about the bread, that is the Showbread. And then we read in Jeremiah 7, that God says, I didn’t command them about sacrifices and burnt offerings. How could that be? I mean, we’re reading the text, he commanded them. He commanded Moses to command Aaron and his sons. But here is the point. Paul makes the same point. Paul makes the same point in Acts 17. He’s in Athens. He was accused of creating trouble in the marketplace. He was teaching the Greeks in Athens, the stoics that were out there in the “stoa,” in the porch, that was restored in Athens until today. And he says, God is not dwelling in temples made with human hands. And he doesn’t need anything from you.

This is the same concept from Jeremiah and from Isaiah 1, and from Isaiah 6, it is a concept that the prophets in the eighth century BC were very strong on because it’s easy to worship. It’s easy to give money to the church. It’s easy to go to the Temple and offer sacrifices. You pay for the lamb, for the sheep, $250, $300, and you bring it there and you, oh, right now, I cleaned all my sins. I repented, I cleaned all my sins. I offered my sacrifice, I paid my debt to God, hallelujah, praise God.

But the prophets are against this. The prophets have this concept that we read from Jeremiah 7:21-24. What I really wanted from you is not the burnt offering. I don’t need the grilled meat. What I really want is for you to have a relationship with me, to obey me, to hear me, to listen to me, that’s more important to me than your money, than your sacrifices, than your offerings. That relationship that I have with you is much more important to me.

God says in Jeremiah 7, obey Me, hear Me, let’s have a conversation. The same message is given in Isaiah 1, from verse 11 to the end of the chapter. And in Isaiah 6, where God says through the prophets, I desire mercy more than I desire sacrifice. And yet, in the book of Leviticus, we have these detailed chapters after chapters, most Christians don’t read them, and I suggest you read them ‘cause there’s a lot of interesting things there, not so relevant for our daily life today because I live in Jerusalem, but there is no temple in Jerusalem.

There hasn’t been the Temple in Jerusalem since the year 70. And yeah, so the things seem to us as not relevant, but the principles that we hear are very relevant to us too, because two things. One is that we need to feel that we are doing something for God. We need to feel that we’re doing something with God, in partnership with God. And if we don’t do that, our faith becomes very shaky, very doubtful because what you invest your time, your money, your talent, your gifts in, that’s where your heart is going to be.

We have this teaching, where your wallet is, that’s where your heart is. And that principle is here in the book of Leviticus in the first chapter, main thing. There is another very important principle here in this portion of the Torah, in the book of Leviticus. And that is that the priest is called “kohen mashiyach.” Verse 15 of Leviticus, is called “kohen mashiyach” which means priest messiah, the anointed priest.

Messiah means anointed. And the anointed messiah is that priest who’s been anointed. How did they anoint him? We find out how, here in the book of Leviticus, the anointing is like this. Very different than what Christians anoint, Christians anoint, they take oil, olive oil, and they make a cross shape, something on the forehead of the believer. That’s not how the anointing is in the book of Leviticus, not of the priests and not of the Levites. The anointing is like this. You anointed the ear, the right ear of the priest. There is anointing with the blood of the sacrifice, and there is anointing with oil. The right ear of the priest, you anoint the right thumb of the priest, and you anoint the right toe of the priest.

Why? ‘Cause a priest, a servant of God, has to hear the Lord, has to do with his hand, the work of the Lord, and he has to walk with the Lord. That’s why he’s anointed in his ear, in his right thumb, and in his right toe of his foot. And so the “kohen mashiyach,” chapter six, verse 15, we read about the “kohen mashiyach,” the priest who is also a messiah, anointed, and anointed to do the work of the Lord. There is another interesting concept in this portion of the Torah.

And that is what’s called a guilt offering. It’s in chapter seven, verse one. In English, in the New King James. It reads like this:

“Likewise this is the law of the trespass offering – the trespass offering is most holy offering that there is: In the place where they kill the burnt offering they shall kill the trespass offering. And its blood shall be sprinkled all around on the altar.” – Leviticus 7:1 [NKJV]

This is a very interesting offering, the trespass offering. We would call it, the English translate trespass, but it actually means the sin offering.

And that is an offering that is brought by the sinner. It’s not on the holiday, it’s not on the Sabbath. It’s not the daily normal offering. It is an offering which is offered by the sinner. Whenever somebody repents, he brings the trespass offering. And there’s a whole ceremony going around there with the fat and with the kidneys and with the other parts of the animal. And like I said, this offering is differential. It depends on your status in the community, whether you are rich or poor. And it is something that if you are rich, if you brought a poor man’s offering, it will be an abomination.

It will be an offense to God. If you are rich, you ought to bring a bull to cover your sins. Expensive, big, yeah. If you are not so rich, you could bring a medium class, a goat or a sheep. And if you are less, then you bring two birds, two turtle doves like Joseph and Mary brought, which means that they were not poor of the poorest, but they were also not rich, not even upper middle class. ‘Cause they brought to the Temple in Luke 2, two turtle doves, which is the offering of the not so rich, kinda lower middle class.

Now that’s interesting, because for the same sin, you’re allowed to bring what you can to atone for the sin. So if you’re rich and you commit sin number X, you bring a bull. If you are less rich, commit the same sin, you don’t have to bring a bull. You bring a sheep or a goat. If you are less rich, you know, lower middle class, you bring two birds for the same sin. And the atonement is the same atonement, same powerful forgiveness, same powerful deleting of your sin from the books of the Lord. God takes account who you are.

I said it last week, we have the same story in the New Testament. A Pharisee brings a thousand denari to the Temple as a gift. The widow brings two pennies and Yeshua asks, Jesus asks, who gave more? The widow gave more, even though she didn’t give more than two pennies, but that’s all she had. And God accepted and honored her more than the Pharisee that gave out of his plenty. It’s a principle that Christians need to learn. Yes, Christians need to learn and Jews need to learn too.

All of us need to learn this principle. God judges us on the curve, on the bell curve, relative to who we are. Like I said, there are several kinds of sacrifices, I think total of seven different kinds of sacrifices. And they’re all listed here in the book of Leviticus in our portion, which ends in chapter eight. We have several of these kinds of sacrifices. I’m not going to belabor each one and what to do with the meat and with the fat and with the kidneys and with the liver and with the entrails and with the skin and all of these things. We don’t have a temple.

The Jewish people don’t have a temple, not in Jerusalem, not in Brooklyn, or not anywhere else in the world. Our temple now is our place of prayer. And may God help us pray for each other and pray for our own selves and our families that we will learn to sacrifice, to give our lives to the Lord, in prayer, in supplications, in intercession, in charity to the poor and in donations to the Lord’s body to do the work of the Lord. Yes, all these things are principles that we can learn from the book of Leviticus.

Of the holiness, of the pureness, of the completeness, of the perfection of our gifts. God won’t have any animal that is damaged, that has a broken leg, or blind in one eye. No, you have to have a perfect gift to God. That’s true also today, dear brothers and sisters. The gifts we give, whether it’s time, money, talent, to the Lord, charity to the poor, also have to be perfect with a pure heart. If not, it becomes an abomination. May God help us to offer the best that we have for God, for Yeshua, for Jesus, for His kingdom, and for His people. In His name, I pray that we will do our best, always our best, for the Lord who loved us so much that He sent His only begotten son so that we don’t perish, but that we have everlasting life. In Yeshua’s name, God bless all of you. Shalom from Jerusalem.

Joseph Shulam: Seek the Fulfillment of Prophecy [2021]

This Shabbat is the second week that we are reading from Leviticus 6:1-8:36. Parashat Tzav. Haftarah: Malachi 3:4 - 3:24, From the New Testament the reading is Hebrews 7:23 - 8:6.

One of the most complex issues to understand in the whole bible is the issue of the sacrifices and the sacrificial system. What makes it so difficult is the mixed signals that the Word of God gives us on this subject. We have clear commands and great details to sacrifice animals and how to do every aspect of approaching the altar of sacrifice. On the other hand we have instruction that God doesn’t need or even want our sacrifices.

Here are just a few examples of both the command to sacrifice and also the degrading of the sacrifices and the proclamation that God doesn’t really need the sacrifices:

“Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Command Aaron and his sons, saying, “This is the law of the burnt offering: The burnt offering shall be on the hearth upon the altar all night until morning, and the fire of the altar shall be kept burning on it.”’” – Leviticus 6:8,9 [NKJV]

“‘“For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.” ‘Therefore, I said to the children of Israel, “No one among you shall eat blood, nor shall any stranger who dwells among you eat blood.”’” – Leviticus 17:11,12 [NKJV]

Here is the other side of the issue:

“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘Add your burnt offerings to your sacrifices and eat meat. For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices. But this is what I commanded them, saying, “Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people. And walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well with you.” Yet they did not obey or incline their ear but followed the counsels and the dictates of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward.’” – Jeremiah 7:21–24 [NKJV]

In the prophets there is no rejection of the sacrificial practices of Israel according to the Torah.The rejection and condemnation of the Prophets of the temple cult in Jerusalem, was continued by the community of (Essenes) from Qumran. The desire of the Lord creator of the Universe according to Isaiah and Jeremiah was not to cancel the sacrifices in the temple, it was to put the worship in the Temple in Jerusalem and the sacrificial into a perspective that is built on relationship of the worshiper with the almighty God of Israel.

The prophet Daniel more than 400 years earlier than the fall of the Temple in Jerusalem in the year 70 C.E., prophesied the fall of the Temple and the end of the sacrificial system in Jerusalem, and the death of the Messiah.

“And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; And the people of the prince who is to come Shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, and till the end of the war desolations are determined. Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; But in the middle of the week, He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, even until the consummation, which is determined, is poured out on the desolate.” – Daniel 9:26,27 [NKJV]

The interpretation of this chapter of Jewish history is not simple. The nation of Israel is just now in the process of regrouping and returning home to the land of Israel and to the city of Jerusalem. Israel as a nation, and the return of the exiles back home, and the resurrection of the dry bones as described in Ezekiel 37, all these processes are in the middle of the road, but the direction is clear.

All of the promises of God are in the process of fulfillment of the words of the prophets. Even with predictions visibly becoming a reality it is important for all of us, the disciples of Yeshua, to come and join in the work and vision of the restoration of Israel, physically and spiritually.

The desire to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem is deeply engrained in the very soul of the Jewish nation. We sing in our national Hymn “Hatikvah” that as long as there is a Jewish soul living in us, as long as we dream and hope and work to see the restoration of Jerusalem and the land of Israel restored, our hope will not dry up, but we will serve and build and bring the Aliyah of Jews who have been forced to convert to Catholicism back home to the land of Israel and to the city of Jerusalem. We will see the North American Jews packing up their suitcases and their bank accounts and returning home to the land of Israel.

We will see the restoration of Israel and the freedom from the shackles of East European Orthodox Jewish manmade traditions and attitudes. We will see the restoration of a practicing Jewish faith with Yeshua of Nazareth being crowned and anointed as the King of Israel. Every word that the prophets of Israel recorded in the Word of God will become a reality just as the prophets in the Bible envisioned it! The desert will rejoice, and the dry grounds will become rivers of fresh water and flowers will cover the dry land with colored blankets of many-colored carpets.

The Messiah will come down from heaven and every eye will see and every ear will hear the shofar blast announcing the return of the son of David to Jerusalem. The glorious system of priests and Levites in Jerusalem with the magnificent energy that is described in our Torah reading in Leviticus will be restored and functioning perfectly without the sins and the corruption that existed during the Second Temple Period.

If the Temple will be rebuilt, I don’t know. Personally, I don’t need a temple and I don’t need to kill animals just in order to burn them on the altar. I also don’t think that in the 21st Century the Lord will require such sacrifices, because He Himself is our atonement and the ultimate living sacrifice for all of humanity.

However, I do believe the words of Isaiah the prophet and all the words of all the prophets that promised the restoration of Israel and the restoration of the Land and the blossoming of the desert. Let us receive these promises of God through the words of His prophets and seek ways to participate and to work and join in the physical and spiritual work of the rebuilding and restoring of the land and of the people of Israel.

We are called by Isaiah and by the other prophets to be His witnesses from Zion to the rest of the world. Let us pray and seek every way to be a part of the fulfillment of these promises of God and not be on the sidelines.

Yeshua is packing His suitcases and preparing for His return to Zion and we ought to be preparing and be ready to receive Him and to follow Him in the parade dressed in white and to gather around His throne ready to sing the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb.

“‘Shall I bring to the time of birth, and not cause delivery?” says the Lord. ‘Shall I who cause delivery shut up the womb?’ says your God. ‘Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all you who love her; Rejoice for joy with her, all you who mourn for her; That you may feed and be satisfied with the consolation of her bosom, that you may drink deeply and be delighted with the abundance of her glory.’ For thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream. Then you shall feed; On her sides shall you be carried and be dandled on her knees. As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; and you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.’” – Isaiah 66:9-13 [NKJV]

Joseph Shulam: Sacrifice Now! [2020]

The reading for this week is called in Hebrew “Tzav” – “command.” The reading is from Leviticus 6:1 - 8:36. The haftarah is Jeremiah 7:21 - 8:3; 9:22 - 9:23. From the New Covenant the reading is from Hebrews 8:1-6.

The book of Leviticus continues the saga of sacrificing to the Lord a variety of sacrifices for a variety of reasons. Our reading starts a kind of catalogs of the different kinds of sacrifices.

The first sacrifice is the “Olah” the burnt offering. The Olah is one of the most important sacrifices, and very popular to both the priests and the people.

The Covenant that God gave to Israel including the sacrificial system, is the only secret ingredient that has kept the nation of Israel from extinction. If we look at history and ask why great civilizations have passed, we will find that every great civilization died because of the same ingredients.

The civilizations became top-heavy, that is that the elite, nobility, rich, and powerful became too many. A small elite class holds most of the power and wealth. A second reason that civilizations died is that their problems became too complex. The last generations forgot their history and the story of their origins, causing a disconnect between the present and the past.

In short, they became postmodern with the present being the most important topic of interest. They gave up their memory of and celebration of the past and because of this they couldn’t map their path to their future. We could take for an example Egypt, or Assyria, or Rome, but Let us take the Mayans.

The Mayans ruled for a period of 3,500 years between 2600 BCE and 900 CE, they had an extraordinary civilization. Their kingdom ruled in the area of present-day Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Belize. Their population is estimated to have been approximately 15 million.

They were great potters, farmers, architects, artists and weavers. The Mayans had a very important calendar system. Their calendar system was cylindrical and studied charts of the stars tracking their movements. They could forecast the weather. They had a unique form of writing and advanced mathematics. Their water infrastructure was a network of reservoirs, canals, and dams. Suddenly, for unknown reasons that are not easily explained, their system collapsed.

In the middle of the eighth century most of the Mayan nation disappeared. What caused it? It could have been a long period of drought, a plague, wars, or epidemics that devastated their people and their industry, producing food shortages.

Or maybe a combination of several of these factors, or maybe other factors. An empire that ruled for 3,500 years simply failed and disappeared. Similar to the fall of the Roman Empire, and the Babylonian Empire, and other empires, even in our present times.

Now the whole world is going through an epidemic, a plague, the coronavirus that is taking a great toll, even in our own time. The coronavirus is an intellectual challenge that is breaking the health system, as well as the economy, industry as a whole, and the entire social structure.

What happened in the past can happen to any civilization. The stresses to our civilization could cause the same thing to happen.

The first thing that happens is a breakdown of reason and logic, and gridlock in the various systems. Instead of dealing with what is plainly visible to all, the real, immediate problems, people continue on as usual and simply pass their problems on to the next generation.

Another sign is that the society falls into irrationality and can no longer deal with the facts, and there is a loss of appreciation for the importance of truth. The people can no longer cope with the facts; they take refuge in fake religious consolations.

The Mayans were masters at offering sacrifices. They even offered human sacrifices. Archeologists found clear evidence of human sacrifice on a vast scale. They were unable to deal with their problems rationally and they centered their attention on placating their gods by offerings sacrifices.

The Torah is very important for the preservation of the Jews and Judaism. It puts faith and religious behavior in a fascinating perspective. We had two centuries of terrible crises under Roman rule between Pompey’s conquest of the land of Israel in 63 BCE and the fall of the Bar Kochba rebellion in 135 CE. Much bigger and stronger nations disappeared under Roman occupation. They were hopelessly divided and the different factions hated each.

Based on the words of the prophets even before the Great Rebellion against Rome and the destruction of the Second Temple, Jews were expecting a major disaster. Because of the prophecies they didn’t fall apart. Nor were they obsessively focused on the temple and the sacrificial system in Jerusalem.

They focused on finding substitutes for sacrifice. The Jews transformed the sacrificial system into one that included the giving of charity, and of performing acts of kindness.

One was gamlai Chasidim, acts of kindness. The Torah especially, provided answers and balance to the system. Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai comforted Rabbi Joshua, who wondered how Israel would atone for its sins without sacrifices, with the words,

“My son we have another atonement as effective as this: acts of kindness, as it is written (Hosea 6:6 [NKJV]), ‘For I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’”

Torah study also took over much of the burden and became as important as sacrifices.

The Rabbis take the interpretation of Malachi 1:11 ([NKJV]),

“In every place incense shall be offered to My name, And a pure offering,”

as a reference for scholars to study the laws of sacrifice as a replacement for the Temple sacrificial cult.

“One who recites the order of sacrifices is as if he had brought them”.

Hosea said,

“Take words with you, And return to the Lord. Say to Him, ‘Take away all iniquity; Receive us graciously, For we will offer the sacrifices of our lips.”” – Hosea 14:2,3 [NKJV]

Hosea is implying that words could take the place of sacrifice. The Psalm says,

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart.” – Psalms 51:17 [NKJV]

The balance that the Torah and the prophets give us is of such great importance and this power of the word of God has given us the strength to survive past the great ancient empires of history.

The Rabbis also said following the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem:

“…If a person repents it is accounted to him as if he had gone up to Jerusalem and built the Temple and the altar and offered on it all the sacrifices ordained in the Torah…” – Vayikra Rabbah 7:2

I am sharing this with you because I believe that our civilization is being challenged by some of the same issues that we faced before in our history, and we need to refocus our lives and return to the values and promises of God in order to survive. I pray sincerely for all Christian leaders to take stock and repent and return to the basic biblical values and stop looking at the church as their private cow to be milked.

These are challenging times for all of us and time for the church to be a light and to provide the charity that is sorely needed to help communities with efforts to serve and help those who are not working and not receiving an income and the sick and hospitals, and those who are in need of food…

It is a time of opportunity to rise up to the occasion and to show the spirit and light of Messiah so that the world will know that we are disciples of Yeshua. Sacrifice now!

Yehuda Bachana: Prayer is Our Sacrifice [2018]

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

This Shabbat we read and study Parashat Tzav. This is a Torah portion intended for priests:

“Give Aaron and his sons this command: ‘These are the regulations for the burnt offering…’” - Leviticus 6:9 [NIV]

Our parasha continues on the matter of sacrifices. Today, I would like to explain the concept of Judaism that replaces the sacrifice with prayer. After that, I would like to discuss prayer and the importance of it in Judaism as well as in our lives as believers.

Prayer as a Sacrifice

What sacrifice are we to offer to God now that the Temple has been destroyed?

What sacrifice are we to offer to God, now that the Temple has been destroyed?The destruction of the Second Temple took place in 70 CE, some 40 years after Yeshua ascended to heaven, where He currently sits on the right hand of power. After the Temple was destroyed, all sacrifices were canceled.

The Sages determined that, without any real choice, prayer should be a substitute for the sacrifices based on the following verse from Hosea:

“Take words with you and return to the Lord. Say to him: ‘Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously, that we may offer the fruit of our lips.’” - Hosea 14:2 [NIV]

Judaism after the destruction of the Temple interpreted this verse as follows: “Instead of sacrificing bulls, which we cannot do since there is no Temple, we will offer prayers and thanksgiving from our lips to God, which are more precious to Him than any sacrifice or altar.”

Therefore, in Judaism, the laws of prayer are determined according to the laws of sacrifices. This means that the time and the name of each prayer are in accordance with a corresponding sacrifice.

So that the morning, afternoon, and evening prayers, which a religious Jew prays each day, serve as an alternative to the constant offering of sacrifices that occurred in the Tabernacle and in the Temple.

In addition, the “Mussaf” prayer that the Jewish worshiper adds on Shabbat and holidays is a replacement for the “Mussaf” sacrifice added on Shabbat.

Indeed, there are many types of prayers:

  • Hallel (praise) - usually taken from the Siddur or a congregational hymnal
  • Thanksgiving
  • Requests
  • Forgiveness
  • Group prayer and personal prayer

How Should We Pray?

Yeshua gave us certain instructions concerning prayer in Matthew 6:5-8. We should not be like the hypocrites who love to be seen praying; those who “show off” in prayer. For they have already received their reward - meaning that the reward for prayer is an answer, the strengthening one's relationship with God, the gratitude towards God.

When we pray a personal prayer, we need to be in a place where we will not be disturbed, that is, to close the door, to disconnect from the world, and to be in a private place. Today that also means turning off cell phones and any other electronics.

One of the main purposes of prayer is to remind us of all the goodness we have received from God. God knows all our needs, and He does not need our list of requests. He created us, and He knows better than us what we need.

So, prayer is for us, to remind us of our dependence upon God, our need for His blessings, and to always remind ourselves of all the good that God blessed us with until now.

It is important that each of our prayers have the element of gratitude towards God. The importance of this is that it will help us to see the cup as being half full in our lives, it will get us used to seeing and identifying the blessing, and it will help direct us on the positive path of life.

How Should We Not Pray?

Does our faith in God, as being the source of all that's good, and the fact that we are dependent upon Him, require of us to forgo practical steps towards providing for our everyday needs? Is there something wrong with a believer working towards helping himself with his own strength?

For example, should you pay for insurance for your house, your car, your business, and even your life? Is this permitted?

Jewish understanding, which I believe to be correct and biblical, is that we must do the maximum to preserve our property, so that it's actually required for us to insure all we own. No one should neglect his security and his livelihood.

The expectation that prayers will bring our livelihood or the supernatural protection of our property is forbidden and is against Judaism. A person must work to provide for himself and his family, and to take care to safeguard his property.

In Judaism, we also treat sickness in the same way. Indeed, we pray for health and healing, and indeed God heals the sick, but in no way should the patient refrain from professional medical treatment, believing that God will heal him.

It is worth noting that according to traditional Judaism, one must not pray for a visible miracle nor for change that occurs naturally. The Mishnah provides the following example:

“…If his wife was pregnant and he said, ‘May it be your will that my wife give birth to a boy,’ this prayer is in vain. If he was coming on the way and heard the sound of screaming in the city, and he said, ‘May it be your will that these are not the children of my house,’ this is a prayer in vain.” - Mishnah Berakhot 9:3b

If a person comes near his house and hears screaming, according to Judaism, he should not pray that this would not be his house, for the people in the neighborhood already know what the source of the screaming is, the source of the problem, and a prayer to change the course of nature, to change the essence or to change something that already happened, is unacceptable and contrary to the way God leads the world.

A Breakdown of the Lord’s Prayer

Prayer is a fundamental component of faith, and it serves as a means of communication between man and God, it's important to remember that prayer is not a means through which to acquire benefits from God.

Yeshua taught us to pray like this:

“In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” - Matthew 6:9-13 [NKJV]

In this prayer, Yeshua teaches us the basis for any good and proper prayer, the prayer begins with the greatest precept in Judaism: Kiddush Hashem (the sanctification of the name of God).

In Judaism, the highest value is life, and above life is the sanctification of the name of God. We are familiar with the concept of dying for Kiddush Hashem.

There is praise to God, there is the element of us being actually small, and that God will do on Earth as it is in Heaven, meaning His will and not our will.

Finally, we must remember that we are instruments in God's hands and not the other way around, that God forbid we may not err to think that God is an instrument in our hands, intended to give us gifts, but no. We are tools in the hands of God and our prayer is not our will, but Your will!

“Our daily bread,” could be a reference to a number of topics: it can be the Torah, as in, “help us to keep Your commandments”, it could serve as a request for our daily needs, or it could serve as a regular habit.

For example: it's his daily bread to volunteer once a week at that place. In other words, it means give us the strength to serve You habitually and faithfully.

Yeshua continues with one of the most basic principles in the Torah, the principle of measure for measure. Forgive us our sins to the same degree that we forgive those who owe us. The principle of measure for measure is elemental not only in what we call the “Old Testament” (“an eye for an eye”), but throughout all of God's word:

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” - Matthew 7:1,2 [NIV]

Yeshua teaches us that whatever we do not want to be done to us, we should not do to others, and whatever we do want done for us, this we must do for others, for the merciful will receive mercy, those who give will also receive.

We conclude the Lord's Prayer with the request for protection from all temptation and all evil, for He is the ruler, the King of Kings.

In Conclusion

In addition to our requests, in our prayers we must also thank God for our lives, for the food we eat, for His protection over us. We must also think of others in prayer, meaning we should pray for the healing of others, for their salvation, and for the protection of our nation.

Our job is to carry in prayer the members of our home and our community, and to place them before the throne, in the prayer that we will be used for His glory.


Click here to download a pdf version of this teaching.