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: The Call to Comfort Israel [2020]

This Shabbat the reading will be from Deuteronomy 3:23 – 7:11. From the prophets the reading is from Isaiah chapter 40. It is considered as a special Shabbat that is called “Shabbat Nachamu” – The Shabbat of comforting. The reading of Isaiah 40 starts with the words:

“‘Comfort, yes, comfort My people!’ Says your God.” – Isaiah 40:1 [NKJV]

The Lord is inviting the nations of the world to comfort Israel. The Torah portion starts with Moses pleading before the Lord to allow him to cross the Jordan River into the Promised Land. The Lord answers Moses and his pleading, begging, asking, crying, to enter the land with these words:

“‘But the Lord was angry with me on your account, and would not listen to me. So, the Lord said to me: “Enough of that! Speak no more to Me of this matter.”’” – Deuteronomy 3:26 [NKJV]

The Lord that in Exodus revealed Himself to Moses as:

“‘The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth.’” – Exodus 34:6,7 [NKJV]

Now is telling His servant Moses, be quiet, I do not want to hear you speak on this topic again. What do we learn from this exchange between Moses and the Lord? God has limits to his patience and when He has made up His mind even Moses to whom God spoke face to face and mouth to mouth, the answer is – no you are not going to cross the Jordan River and pleading will not help you.

I personally feel for Moses. There were not that many occasions when Moses begged God for something, and in this last request, the only place that Moses wanted a personal favor from the Almighty, the answer was “No!”

I have a personal lesson to learn from this parasha. I am a person who hates to ask for something but when I do ask something from God or from men, I hate to get a negative answer. It does not go well with me to get a “No” answer.

From this reading of the Torah I am comforted that even Moses himself didn’t get what he wanted that much and had to live with God’s refusal to allow him to cross the Jordan River into the promised land of Canaan. At the end of Moses life, it turns out that Moses is a very tragic figure.

He does not enter the land of promise, and at the end of the Book of Deuteronomy God drops an atomic bomb on Moses This is what God tells Moses before he climbs up Mount Nebo (Har Pisgah):

“And the Lord said to Moses: ‘Behold, you will rest with your fathers; and this people will rise and play the harlot with the gods of the foreigners of the land, where they go to be among them, and they will forsake Me and break My covenant which I have made with them.’” – Deuteronomy 31:16 [NKJV]

What terrible news God shares with Moses, just before he goes to die. In simple words, God is saying to Moses, this nation that you have raised up in the 40 years of wilderness will play the harlot and worship the idols of the neighboring nations and I will hide my face from them.

This is what Moses must take with him to the next life. “My life was a waste. I failed to influence this nation with the Torah that I have brought down from Mt. Sinai, and all my life is a waste.”

I do not really know if this is how Moses felt, but if I had been in Moses’ position this is how I would have felt. All the pyrotechnics of the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai did not help to change the hearts of these people. But the end will be good if you keep reading.

The portion of Isaiah chapter 40 for the Haftarah (The reading from the Prophets) is also extremely powerful. God’s promises to Israel are so great in that chapter, and verse 3 is used to describe John the Baptizer:

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; Make straight in the desert A highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted And every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight And the rough places smooth; The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, And all flesh shall see it together; For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’” – Isaiah 40:3–5 [NKJV]

I love the presentation of these verses in Handel’s Messiah. Often when I hear the singing of these verses in Handel’s Messiah tears come to my eyes from the power of these words.

Especially for my generation, the generation after the Nazi Holocaust that lives in Israel and enjoys the land of Israel and the blessings of the state of Israel. It is especially for me as a disciple of Yeshua, this call that the Lord is calling the nations to comfort Israel.

What can be more significant after the Nazi Holocaust than to see the nations comfort the Jewish people? There are so many Christians who have made this verse their motto and are doing what they can and above and beyond of what they can to be a blessings to Israel and some also a blessing to the local Jewish disciples of Yeshua in this land that God gave to Abraham and to his seed forever.

Joseph Shulam: Comfort Ye My People [2019]

The Torah reading this next Shabbat (August 17th, 2019) is Parashat Va’etchanan, Deuteronomy 3:23 – 7:11, and from the Prophets Isaiah 40:1-26. From the New Testament the reading is from Mark 12:28-34.

This Shabbat is very special because of the reading of Isaiah 40:1-26. The name of this special Shabbat is “Nachamu”. In Hebrew Nachamu is translated as “comfort ye!” As Isaiah the prophet says:

“‘Comfort, yes, comfort My people!’ Says your God. ‘Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her, That her warfare is ended, That her iniquity is pardoned; For she has received from the Lord’s hand Double for all her sins.’” – Isaiah 40:1,2 [NKJV]

I shall never forget when Marcia, and many other disciples of Yeshua in the land of Israel, performed Handel’s Messiah in the big national concert hall of Jerusalem. David Loden was the organizer and the conductor of the Handel’s Messiah concert in Jerusalem.

Hearing Handel’s Messiah for the first time, and hearing the singers, most of whom are disciples of Yeshua, singing “nachamu, nachamu, ami”, the tears just welled up in my eyes. Even my left eye that is blind teared up, and water started to flow down my face. Isaiah’s prediction and command to the nations to comfort Israel, and to a comfort Jerusalem, and to say to Jerusalem, “her warfare has ended and her iniquity is pardoned…”, was a major milestone in my appreciation of classical music in general, and Handel specifically.

The main thing that I want to share from the text in Deuteronomy 3:23 – 7:11, is that God did not show any favoritism to Moses. The great Moses, the deliverer of Israel from Egyptian slavery, the giver of the Torah, begged God to allow him this small favor, and just let him cross the Jordan river and step into the land of Canaan, that was promised to Abraham and to his seed forever.

God answered Moses very simply, “NO.” Moses will not enter into the promised land. Moses can beg and ask, and demand a favor from God. The God who said about Moses that He spoke to him face to face, mouth to mouth, didn’t bend to allow Moses this favor of entering the land of promise.

So, let us not be surprised sometimes when God tells us “NO.” Let us understand that although we are servants of God and we have given Him our lives, and He has saved our souls from perdition and brought us from Egyptian darkness to the light of His Torah, yet, He can for His own reasons say NO to us, and refuse our question and our request.

This is an important lesson to learn from an early age. God is not working at our service for our requests and whims.

The second thing that we ought to learn from this reading is that Moses, being 120 years old, has not lost his memory. But Moses forgot a little about the 10 commandments, and added some comments that don’t exist in Exodus 20. It is OK. 80 years passed, and a person can’t remember every word, even if it was spoken by God directly.

Moses just made some new commentary about the Shabbat. If you ask me why did the Holy Spirit allow this to happen, my answer would be the same as when people criticize the Gospels when there are synoptic problems. If there are some not-so-honest orthodox rabbis who use the different accounts in the Gospel and teach that you can’t trust the New Testament, you can always point to Moses and the 10 commandments, and to the problems between the books Samuel and Kings, and 1st and 2nd Chronicles.

This parasha is very rich and there is much important information. I urge you to read it and study it in person.

The other big thing on this Shabbat is the reading from Isaiah chapter 40. The Nachamu is a request or a command for the Gentiles to comfort Israel. I don’t believe that this is a request or a command to the pagans, but to those Gentiles, like the Christians, who honor the Bible as God’s Word, and believe in the word of God from Genesis to Revelation, and claim to believe in the God of Israel and in Yeshua the Messiah.

This makes sense to me that these Gentiles, who have received the grace of God and the forgiveness of sins from Yeshua the King of the Jews, ought to now comfort the people of God, the brothers and cousins of Yeshua, and encourage the Jewish people to do good and live and develop and farm and build the land of Israel. The land that God gave to Abraham and his decedents forever (see Genesis 13:15 and manly other texts in the Torah and in the Prophets).

Joseph Shulam: When God Says “NO!” [2018]

This coming Shabbat all the Jewish synagogues in the world, including the Synagogues of the Jewish disciples of Yeshua around the world, will read Parashot Va’etchanan, Deuteronomy 3:23 – 7:11. It is a long Torah portion, nearly four chapters. The reading starts with Moses begging God to allow him to cross the Jordan River and just see the land that God promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as an eternal possession.

To a man like Moses, who has spoken to God face to face, who had the inside track to communicate with the Almighty Creator of the Universe, this request at the end of his life to just go across the Jordan River and see the good land of Canaan does not seem like an exaggerated request. The all-merciful and gracious God could have just allowed Moses this small favor.

If I was God, I would for sure tell Moses, “OK buddy, go ahead and cross the Jordan River and see the land and then return to Mount Nebo and climb to Pisgah and I will meet you up there to take your soul to Paradise.” But, No! God says to Moses in very strong language:

“But the Lord was angry with me on your account and would not listen to me. So the Lord said to me: ‘Enough of that! Speak no more to Me of this matter. Go up to the top of Pisgah, and lift your eyes toward the west, the north, the south, and the east; behold it with your eyes, for you shall not cross over this Jordan.’” – Deuteronomy 3:26–27 [NKJV]

If I analyze this text, and the harsh way that God answered Moses, I see that God actually gave Moses a quarter of what Moses asked to receive. Moses asked:

“I pray, let me cross over and see the good land beyond the Jordan, those pleasant mountains, and Lebanon.’” – Deuteronomy 3:25 [NKJV]

God said to Moses, “OK you will get to see the land from the top of Pisgah [this Hebrew word means the top of the mountain, the peak] but your foot will not stand on that land.” Actually, later Moses did cross the Jordan River at least one time. Moses came with Elijah to have a parley with Yeshua on top of a high mountain in the land of Canaan, the land of Israel. But this does not count regarding our reading in Deuteronomy.

What I would like to discuss shortly is the following question: what happens when God answers our prayers with “NO!” Here are some principles that we ought to accept:

  1. “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism.” (Acts 10:34 NIV)
  2. King David said: “Now what more can David say to You? For You, Lord God, know Your servant.” (2 Samuel 7:20 NKJV)
  3. “Be of good courage and let us be strong for our people and for the cities of our God. And may the Lord do what is good in His sight.” (1 Chronicles 19:13 NKJV) God knows what is good for us much more than we know what is good for us. At times when God answers our prayers, like He did Moses, with a great big “NO!” we must remember this principle. If you believe that God really loves you, the wise thing to do is understand that the “NO!” that we received is out of God’s love for us. In the life of my family, I wish that I had accepted the “NO!” that God had given me. But, I pushed a head and nagged God so much that in the end He allowed me to do what I regret doing for the rest of my life. Had I the wisdom to say to the Lord, “OK Lord I accept your refusal to allow me to do…” Today I would be far ahead of where I am now! This point is the point where our true confidence and trust in the Lord’s love and mercy must be demonstrated. It is easy to be faithful and happy and satisfied and very spiritual when God says to us: “Yes, my son, here is what you desire, I am giving it to you on a silver platter.” Not so easy when God say to us: “No, my son, this time I know what is best for you and I will not allow you to have what you want!”
  4. In our life when we look back we can understand the wisdom and the love of God for us even when He said to us, “NO!” Even when He did not answer our prayers in the way that we really wanted and believed that we deserve for God to say “YES!” to us. The best demonstration of this point is in the story of Joseph. Can you imagine how depressed Joseph must have been when he was put in the well in the valley of Dothan and sold as a slave to the Amalekites and Midianites, and to Egypt? If he would have known the end of the story at that moment, Joseph would have been happy and glad that his brothers rejected him, and that they wanted to sell him as a slave. He would have gladly jumped into the well, he would have been happy to be sold to an Egyptian master, and he would have been happy to go to jail…
  5. Let us build up our confidence in the Lord even when we get the “NO!” answer from Him: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28 NKJV)

From my own personal experience with the Lord, I am a witness that this biblical truth is true in reality, and that I have paid a very high price when I was stubborn and did not accept the “NO!” that God gave me. I forged ahead to do what my stubbornness dictated in place of graciously accepting and submitting to the Lord’s “NO!”

Moses submitted to the Lord’s “NO!” and climbed up to the top of the mountain of Nebo, and the Lord must have arranged for Moses an exceptionally clear day to see the land of Canaan! Not too long ago I was with a group of students on top of Mount Nebo, at the Pisgah (the peak), and the Lord did not smile on us. That afternoon was cloudy and hazy, and we could not see very far into the land of Canaan, and we could not see Jerusalem from the other side of the Jordan! I am sure that for Moses the air was crisp and clear, and Moses could see the promised land all the way to Jerusalem, and maybe all the way to Lebanon.

Yehuda Bachana: The Secret to the Success of the Jewish People” [2018]

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

This Shabbat we learn about Parashat Va’etchanan. Parashat Va’etchanan is a Torah portion that is very rich in content. It talks about a wide range of topics centered on the Ten Commandments and the Shema Yisrael prayer. This is a very central and profound parasha.

Also, this week is Shabbat Nachamu, the Shabbat after Tisha B’Av. In it, we read the haftara, the weekly reading from the prophets, from Isaiah chapter 40. In this reading, the prophet informs us, as a people, that we have paid double for our sins and it is now time for comfort:

“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” – Isaiah 40:1,2 [NIV]

The Plea of Moses

parashat-vaetchanan
Despite Moses’ please, he received a “No” from God. Sometimes we need to learn to receive the same.

I would like to begin with the first word of the parasha in Hebrew – “va’etchanan,” which means “I pleaded”:

“At that time I pleaded with the Lord: ‘Sovereign Lord, you have begun to show to your servant your greatness and your strong hand. For what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do the deeds and mighty works you do? Let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan—that fine hill country and Lebanon.’” – Deuteronomy 3:23-25 [NIV]

Who was pleading? It was Moses, the great, honorable, and beloved prophet, the same man who spoke to God face to face. That very same prophet succeeded in saving the people of Israel from destruction on numerous occasions when the people sinned, and God sought to destroy them. During these events, Moses would speak with God and change the severity of the decree.

What was happening here at the beginning of the reading? Moses was pleading, he wanted to see the Land of Israel, however, God’s answer was a firm “no.”

The Difficulty of Accepting the Answer “No”

It’s hard for us to accept the answer “no,” especially today. We live in a generation in which we think we deserve everything. No matter what, if we make an effort and work hard enough, we can receive all of our heart’s desires.

This is a tremendous lesson for me. All of us, myself included, should be prepared to accept the answer “no” from God. For instance, no to healing, to success, to our various requests and pleas.It is not pleasant, but in our prayer, there must be a willingness to accept the refusal of God.

We can and should continue to plead for the members of our community, our family, our health, but in the end, our prayer should be, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” We will continue to serve God in sickness and in health. We are vessels in the hands of God. We are faithful servants, instruments of blessing, vessels of honor in the hands of God.

If God wants us to continue to serve Him in sickness, so be it; we will serve Him to the best of our ability.

The Dangers of Forgetting God

Moses’ many pleas were not enough, he begged to enter, touch, and taste the Land of Promise, but God answered negatively. The same person who gave his life to the people of Israel, whose prayers for the common good had been accepted time after time, was now rejected. Despite this, Moses accepted this answer humbly.

We have much to learn from this week’s parasha.

Moses continued his speech, speaking of wealth, success, fruit, peace, and strength. Here is where the danger lies. Moses said that the people were to enter into the Land of Promise, a land that is good, but he warned against the danger of forgetting God, the source of abundance.

When I talked about it at home, with my wife, Lydia, she raised the possibility that as believers, on a global scale, we have forgotten our source of abundance, we take God’s blessings for granted. What’s more is that we take life for granted, we have lost our first love and our zeal for God as well as our uniqueness as believers.

Perhaps it’s time to wake up and remember that everything comes from above. Furthermore, God wants more of our lives, more of our gratitude and appreciation, of our actions, more of our caring for each other. God wants more of our love.

The Jews’ Secret to Success

Moses continued and touched on another interesting and profound point. Our wisdom, and our wisdom as Jews.

More and more people are asking in the world, “What is the secret of the Jews? Why and how do they succeed?”

We try to analyze all the reasons for our knowledge, such as our education, languages, mathematics, money management, music, and a thousand different studies that try to put our finger on our best-kept secret as Jews.

Our Torah portion cracks open this secret and reveals it to everyone:

“See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the Lord my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’” – Deuteronomy 4:5,6 [NIV]

The secret of wisdom is the Word of God, the Bible.

God is the Source of Our Prosperity

As a people and as human beings, if we keep and obey the laws, the decrees, and the commandments of God, we will succeed, we will be blessed, and all that we do will succeed:

“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.” – Psalms 1:1-3 [NIV]

The source of the success, inspiration, and wisdom is the knowledge of God and His Word.

When I was in the army for three years, I had many ups and downs, I was in the paratroopers, and the training and activity were very intensive.

During times when I read the Bible and prayed regularly, I felt the blessing and protection of God on me in a tangible way, “Whatever he does shall prosper.” I would be sitting down, idling, and by chance see that there was some small task that needed to be done. I would get up and do it, and right then the commander would pass by and praise me. I helped out for a moment, and I was caught at the very best moment. All I did, all the exercises, activities, and operations, were a success.

It also worked the other way around. There were times when nothing worked out. I would work hard, and for a moment sit down to rest – and at that precise moment the commander would pass by and ask me why I was sitting, why I was idle. Whatever I did, there was no blessing, and no good came out of it.

Then after a while, I would think – wait, I stopped reading and praying regularly, here lies the problem. I went back to reading, I returned to God, and as you can guess – back to the blessing.

The Lord Chooses the Weak and Powerless

In the army, it is very common that a Messianic Jew is an outstanding soldier, what is his secret? The unequivocal answer is: God, faith, and God’s Word. It’s not me, it’s God living inside of me.

The New Testament teaches us that God actually chooses the weak and the fools. Why? That it will be clear that it is not from our own ability or strength. Indeed, God stands out in the small and weak people, surrounded by 100 million enemies that could not be subdued by a large and powerful army 50 times the size of its own. It is clear beyond any shadow of a doubt – there is a God and He protects us.

“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: ‘Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.’” – 1 Corinthians 1:27-31 [NIV]

God did not choose this people, because they were the most powerful, or the most intelligent, or the most successful.

God chose this people because He swore to our forefathers that He would do so. Our God is a faithful God and He does this out of love.This week’s parasha ends with precisely this idea.

Don’t Abandon the Spring of Living Waters

“The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.” – Deuteronomy 7:7-9 [NIV]

We are the least and the weakest of all peoples. This wisdom is not our own, but it is God who lives within us.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…” – Proverbs 9:10a [NIV]

Moses asked the people of Israel not to abandon the spring of living waters, not to leave God’s instruction (the Torah), which leads to life.

The heart of this instruction is the Ten Commandments, and in our parasha Moses repeats them. The first time the Ten Commandments were spoken was in Parashat Yitro, in the Book of Exodus, and once more they are repeated in this week’s portion, in the beginning of Deuteronomy.

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.” – Deuteronomy 5:6,7 [NIV]

Our constitution opens with a declaration of human liberty, who is God? He defeated slavery and enslavement and gave us liberty.

Yeshua is Our Redeemer

I think that this is the heart of faith in Yeshua the Messiah. Yeshua bought us by His blood, He took the curse of sin upon Himself.

A redeemer is someone who pays the debt of someone else, and thereby extricates him from the situation he is in. The redeemer does not forcibly break the prisoner out of prison in order to release him. He pays the debt of the redeemed until the last cent.

In our case it is our debt to God Himself.

“For the wages of sin is death,” I will call sin by another name: the lack of observance of God’s commandments, when we do not put God at the center of our lives, and when we as a people take advantage of the weak amongst us. For example, we mistreat the foreign workers and the elderly, and when we live in an immoral way, when we do not insist on loving our neighbor as ourselves. All of us are in “overdraft” – we are all guilty.

What Yeshua did and continues to do on my behalf, is redeem me from the punishment I deserve, from a commandment that I did not obey, and from my noncompliance.

Who is Yeshua? He defeated slavery and enslavement and gave us liberty.

Yeshua takes us out from slavery to a new beginning. We are born again and given a second chance to do and to keep the will of God. Yeshua gives us the opportunity to be better, more caring, and loving people.

The Word of God Must be Passed Down to Our Children

I would like to end this parasha with perhaps the most well-known sentence in the Hebrew Bible, “Shema Yisrael.” Shema Yisrael became the main tenet of the Jewish people throughout the generations. It appears in our parasha, starting with Deuteronomy 6:4.

One of the central instructions of the Shema is the direction to teach and pass down the Word of God to the children, to have them memorize God’s Word, and to teach them to place the commandments within their hearts.

Again and again Moses’ words convince us, our sons, and our son’s sons, to learn to memorize, and to keep in mind the laws and commandments of God. The Shema ends with a slightly strange phrase:

“Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” – Deuteronomy 6:8,9 [NIV]

Dedicating Your Entire Being and Household to Serving God

In Judaism there is the outward mark of the tefillin. This is a very strange external sign, there is nothing more noticeable than a black leather box on the forehead.

This box is a statement, it is the same statement that is seen in many houses in the world, in which a verse from the end of the Book of Joshua is framed:

“But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” – Joshua 24:15b [NIV]

I love to seeing this verse, it encourages the members of the house and reminds them that in this house, we serve God.

By that same token, this box on the forehead must declare, “We are holy and consecrated to God.” In Judaism we wear tefillin on a daily basis, and this reminds us that our thoughts throughout the day must be focused on God. Our focus must be positive, for God is in power, “His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

The same goes for the works of our hands, as seen with the tefillin. Today, we will do good deeds, these hands will be used for blessing, they will serve God. Also, the doorframes of our houses and gates, our houses are consecrated to God. In this house there will be the fear of God, God’s Word will be studied and discussed. When we enter into a room, or a house, and we see the mezuzah, we are reminded that this house, this room, these hands, and this head are dedicated to God.

Our thoughts, actions, and dwellings are marked with the word “Shema,” the tefillin and the mezuzah. We will serve God faithfully.

Let us have a Shabbat of peace, blessing, and comfort, especially on this Shabbat, Shabbat Nachamu. Let us, our people, families, and our communities, receive consolation and true comfort from God.

Click here to download a pdf version of this teaching.