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

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

Joseph Shulam: I Want God in My Camp [2022 – Parashat Pekudei]

This Shabbat we are reading the last Torah portion from the book of Exodus. Next Shabbat, the Lord willing we will be starting the book of Leviticus.

The coronavirus has changed my biological clock. It seems like everything is moving much faster than before the coronavirus plague struck our planet. The last portion of the Torah is called Pekudei, in English it means “the inventory”.

We start reading from Exodus 38:21 to the end of Exodus. In the last two weeks we had a kind of bookkeeper’s account of the inventory of the Tabernacle built in the wilderness of Sinai, by Bezalel the son of Uri and his team of craftsmen and artists.

From the prophets we read 1 Kings 7:51 – 8:21, that is a kind of parallel to the building of the Tabernacle because it gives us the account of Solomon building the Temple in Jerusalem. From the New Testament we are reading 2 Corinthians 3:7-18.

The book of Exodus starts with Jacob and his sons going down to Egypt by Joseph’s invitation and the book ends with the children of Israel leaving slavery behind and leaving Egypt behind, going through a 40-year long boot camp in the Sinai wilderness, Aaron sinning and building the Golden Calf, eating manna, fresh every day except the Sabbath, drinking water from the rock twice, and building the Tabernacle.

The 40 years in the wilderness with Moses was school for the children of Israel, but not only for them, for us also. The most important lesson in the Bible, and the basis of our understanding of God’s relationship with Israel and through Israel with all of humanity can be found and learned from those 40 years in the wilderness of Sinai with Moses and Aaron leading Israel, the stiff-necked nation, whom God chose as His prized possession.

Yes, dear brothers, if you have a typical Christian education you could end your understanding of God and Israel and their relationship during these 40 years in the wilderness as a terrible ordeal for both. If you approach the reading of the book of Exodus with a more objective and keen observation of the relationship between God and His chosen nation, you will come out of this reading and study of the book of Exodus with a totally different view of God Almighty – the creator and father of all mankind re-educating and preparing His chosen nation for a life and struggle between the profane worldliness and the divine holiness.

The most beautiful pictures of God as our father and God as our teacher and God as our military general and chief of staff, and God as our doctor and comforter, are all found in the book of Exodus. Who else would tolerate and love a nation like Israel and invest so much grace and forgiveness and care for His children Israel, except the father?!

Well, our reading of the Torah Portion Pekudei has the summary of the inventory of the Tabernacle, and Aaron’s wardrobe, and the details of the service in the Tabernacle. However, the very end of the book of Exodus has a dramatic description of the presence of the Lord and the guiding of the children of Israel from the wilderness, by the spirit of the Lord, by day as a pillar of cloud hovering above the Tabernacle and by night a pillar of fire. The Lord was manifest by day and by night in the middle of the camp of Israel visibly and He was their guide and the compass of this 40-year journey/boot-camp in the wilderness of Sinai.

Oh how I wish and pray that today that we would have God’s presence visible and tangible in the middle of our camp. How I wish that our leaders would hear from the Lord of where to go and what to do even to the smallest details.

How I wish that we would not have to have four national general elections to vote for prime ministers and parliament members from political parties that are themselves lost in the moving sand dunes of the political deserts. After 2000 years of diaspora, being spread out to every corner of the world and God’s face being hidden from us, it would be so nice to have a physical manifestation of God, the creator of Heaven and Earth for all the nations, dwelling in our midst!

But we don’t, as a collective humanity, nor as the nation of Israel. However, as disciples of Yeshua, born again into the newness of life, I believe that if we want to we can have something that is not the same as the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night in the middle of the camp, but something that does and ought to do the same job for us as individuals.

Here is what I am referring to:

“However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.” – John 16:13 [NKJV]

I am so anxious to be able to have a clear and tangible presence and guidance from that Spirit of truth, from the Holy Spirit of God. I want to allow The Spirit to guide me, and tell me the things to come. I want to appropriate this great gift from God as my personal pillar of fire by night and as my flame and guide by day as the cloud of God’s presence over me.

The presence of God in the middle of the camp of Israel was such a great gift, and such a guide and witness for all of Israel. You would think that with the visible and physical presence of God in the camp there would be no sin in that camp.

But, sin was there and some of the sin of Israel in the wilderness even after the building of the Tabernacle was so serious that God had to send plagues and snakes to wake up Israel and the leadership of the nation to plead and pray and seek God’s grace to stop the plagues.

I wish for myself privately and for all of Israel collectively to seek God’s presence and even as individuals, to allow the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night to guide us and show us the way we should walk with the Lord of all, daily, hourly, and momentarily, where to go and what to do and what to say and what to write.

Yes, I don’t want to be a robot without free will, but I do want to have that extra guide of God’s presence to guide me unto all truth and give me practical wisdom.

Yes, I need it and I want it and I am willing to pray for that presence of God visibly in my life. I hope that you too also seek and want and desire that tangible and real and true presence and guide in your life.

The reading of the Haftarah, from 1 Kings 7:51 – 8:21, has one verse that I would like to share with you:

“Nothing was in the ark except the two tablets of stone which Moses put there at Horeb, when the Lord made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt.” – 1 Kings 8:9

This verse just sticks out for me as being so important. Solomon builds this fine stone structure on top of the mountain of Moriah. The building is so beautiful and ornate and with gold and with artwork. The children of Israel carried this wooden box, not very big, with the two cherubim hovering over that wooden box.

The box had to be carried so carefully. The box was not so big actually it was much smaller than I would have imagined it. However, the most shocking thing for me is the text in 1 Kings 8:9 – the box had nothing in it except the two tablets of stone that Moses brought down from the mountain.

All that was written on those two tablets were the ten words of God, the Ten Commandments. This was all that was in that wooden and gold covered box, two tables of stone with ten short and very clear commandments.

These Ten Commandments don’t require of us to become super-saints or some kind of walking-in-the-clouds spiritual giants. The Ten Commandments are short and easy to keep if we want to keep them.

The unique thing about all the Ten Commandments is that they are all deposited in our human hands. We have to choose to keep them and that doesn’t just happen automatically. Each one of the commandments is actually kept or broken by our own personal and individual choices.

These Ten Commandments regulate our relationship with the almighty God and father of us all, and also regulate our relationship with our fathers and mothers, and our relationship with our jobs and work schedule, and also protect our society and community, regulating social order, justice, ownership of property, and individual human relationships as citizens, neighbors, and friends!

I am sad to know that the great nation of the United States of America that was built and created on the basis of biblical principles and faith, has taken down the Ten Commandments off federal buildings, and out of the courthouses and away from schools. Because if these commandments, even hand-carved on wooden tablets, are placed in the classroom or courthouse, the individual would notice them and remember: I must not covet my neighbor’s car, or wife, or donkey.

If a schoolchild sees the clay representation of these commandments hanging on the wall of his classroom in school, he will remember that he ought to honor his father and his mother. Yes, the wooden box with the two golden cherubim on top of it did not have many things in it, only two stone tablets with ten statements/commandments, that if they are kept and observed our society and our countries and our world would be so much better and so much more blessed and happy.

Let us do our best to keep these Ten Commandments that will regulate our relationship to the God who created us, and to our friends and neighbors. We would all be happier and better fathers, mothers, children, and people if we restore the importance and the reminder that God gave us Ten Commandments, and Yeshua ratified them and gave us the ability to keep them by sending us the Holy Spirit to guide us unto all truth.

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

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

Shalom. My name is Joseph Shulam. And together with Brad TV, we are doing the portions of the reading of the Torah that is read in every synagogue around the world. And today we’re coming to the very last portion from the book of Exodus. We’re finishing the book of Exodus. The name of the portion in Hebrew is Pekudei. Which the English translation of the word is “Inventory.”

You may wonder why so many Jews are bookkeepers. We’re bookkeepers from olden days, from ancient times. And here is the proof of it. We have here several chapters, two and a half chapters of the Torah. At the end of the book of Exodus it gives us the inventory of all the work and all the instruments and all the furniture and all the clothing of the High Priest and the priests in general, as they finished the work of the building of the tabernacle in the desert. It’s kind of a forerunner, an introduction to the book of the Torah that is called Leviticus.

The instructions for the priesthood, and for the Levites. That’s why it’s called Leviticus (from Levites). Wow. I’m not going to go furniture by furniture, piece of clothing by piece of clothing, piece of golden breastplate by piece of golden breastplate, and all the details of this bookkeeping portion of the Torah. But I’m going to deal with the bigger principles. They worked hard. We have gone through at least five chapters dealing with the building of the tabernacle, with the collection of the contributions of the women who took out their bracelets and their earrings and their jewelry and gave it for the building of the tabernacle.

People gave their silver, the half shekel to build the stands that were going to hold the pillars of the tent of the tabernacle. People gave skins and precious stones and you name it. And a lot of work. But Sala and his team, Sala, the son of Uzziel and his team, did a lot of work to build that tabernacle, a portable sanctuary, a portable temple that they could carry with them from the stations to stations that they went through during 40 years or 38 years after the building of the tabernacle. It took them two years to get that tabernacle together. A long time at the foot of Mount Sinai before they got up and moved on toward the land of Naan, the land that God had promised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as an everlasting possession.

But why do you think that the Holy Spirit saw fit to use up two and a half chapters of the Torah as an inventory, telling us every piece of furniture, every piece of cloth, every piece of instruments that were used in the sacrificial cult of Israel in the tabernacle? Why is it necessary? I am not a person who does a lot of accounting. My wife does all the accounting at home. I’m a person looking at the big picture. And looking at the big picture, I ask myself, why did the Holy Spirit and God see fit to include this in the Bible, which is not a very big book?

From Genesis to Revelation it is shorter than Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace.” And there are many novels that are longer than the whole Bible. Yep. So why did God choose to give us this text, telling us about the workers that worked to design and build and execute the tabernacle? Telling us about the gold that was used in the work of the Holy Place and the gold of the offering and the 29 talents, 730 shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, and the silver?

And if I scroll down, you see not only mention of the silver and gold and all these things, but also offerings of bronze which were 70 talents, 2,400 shekels of bronze to make the sockets for the tabernacle, the tent of meeting. If I go down, I see, that they set onyx stones enclosed in setting of gold, that were engraved. And the signets are engraved with the names of the sons of Israel, with the names of the tribes. All these details, and like I said, I’m not a person of these kind of details. But the big picture is very important. It tells me that God, first of all, appreciates when his children do things in an orderly way and keep a record of who gave what. Who contributed what. And what is the total amount and the account.

This is important for us in the New Testament, folks. We have all of Paul’s letters. Each one of his letters was a letter to solve problems in the churches that he had started and some that he hadn’t . And each one of his letters has a fundraising element in it. I know that Christians don’t pay attention to this. But it’s a very important element in Paul’s letters. One of the purposes for Paul when writing his letters, every one of his letters has a fundraising element.

And we see this idea of fundraising or equipment raising or jewelry raising or precious stones raising and cloth, blue and purple and scarlet thread, woven linen, all these things that people contributed, I see that God cares about it. And he wants the accounting of what people gave and what happened to what they gave. What was it used for? Oh, this is so important. So important. Because essentially, churches and pastors raise money.

Raising money is a big portion of what an evangelical service consists of. Not in a synagogue. Not in a Jewish synagogue, in an Orthodox Jewish synagogue. Maybe Reform, yes, I don’t know, I’ve never been to a Reform synagogue. One time I was in a Reform synagogue, and I didn’t like it, to say the least. But in an Orthodox synagogue on the Sabbath day or other days, money is not a part of the discussion. It is a self-understood thing that you are a part of a community, and as a part of the community you have to participate in the challenges and in the problems and in the joys and in the happy moments and in the sad moments of the community.

Including taking part, becoming a partner, in the work of the Lord by partnering with the needs of the community. And so this inventory about the breastplates and the purple and the scarlet and the linen and all these things tells me that, first of all, God wants, and God keeps a record. And he wants that record to be known of what the children of Israel did with the contributions that they contributed to build the tabernacle, the tent of meeting in the wilderness. That same Ark of the Covenant that was made in the wilderness and placed in the Holy of Holies of that tent that had two rooms and a courtyard, is the Ark of the Covenant that King David brought from the house of Abinadab. About 16, 17 miles away from Jerusalem to Jerusalem after it sat there at the house of Abinadab for 20 years.

He brings it to Jerusalem and builds a tent in Jerusalem. The fallen tabernacle of David that Amos talks about in chapter nine, verses 11-13 of the prophet Amos. And then Jacob, James in English, quotes that verse in order to convince the apostles and the elders of the church in Jerusalem that they don’t need to force the Gentiles to be circumcised and convert to Judaism because the time is coming when God himself will rebuild the fallen tabernacle of David, that will be open to all nations like the Temple of Solomon was. And the temple of Herod was.

Yeah. This idea is very, very important. And what is important about it is that God wants, wants to tell us. I care about the details of what you do, of what you give, of how you participate, of how you partner with my community that was sanctified by the blood of the Messiah, with my nation that was bought and purchased out of slavery from Egypt and given the land of Naan as it was promised to Abraham to Isaac and to Jacob. Yes, God cares. God cared. Let me go up a little bit. Let me read some more of this.

I’m going to read now from chapter 39, verses 14-16:

“There were twelve stones according to the names of the sons of Israel: according to their names, engraved like a signet, each one with its own name according to the twelve tribes. And they made chains for the breastplate at the ends, like braided cords of pure gold. They also made two settings of gold and two gold rings, and put the two rings on the two ends of the breastplate.”

And I could go on, these details bore me. But they remind me of something else. They remind me of the very end of the book of Revelation in the New Testament. The last, the last chapter of the book of Revelation in the New Testament. And what do we find out? That there’s going to be a city four square. In other words, the city will be square with a wall around it and the tabernacle. Not made from cloth or from skin, but they will be made from, I don’t know what. Precious material.

And there will be there in that city, twelve gates. And on those twelve gates, in the book of Revelation, first of all, what are these gates going to be made from? Each gate is going to be made from the same precious stones, twelve different precious stones, that were set on the breastplate of Aaron. Why? Why? Why do you think that God reveals to us all these details here, and then at the very end of the book of Revelation, at the very end of the book of Revelation, dear brothers and sisters, the last big, good news is that there will be a new Heavens and a new Earth, which Isaiah the prophet prophesied in the eighth century BC. And there will be a city, Jerusalem. The New Jerusalem.

And there will be twelve gates in it. And each gate will be made from one of these precious stones that was on the breastplate of Aaron. And on each gate, there will be the name of a tribe, like on the breastplate, and the name of the apostle that is in charge of that tribe. That’s why they had to have twelve apostles, based on a verse in the book of Psalms. The tribes will sit and judge the world. That’s why when Judas betrayed the Lord and when the Lord ascended to Heaven from Mount Zion in Jerusalem, and before the Holy Spirit came at the feast of Shavuot of Pentecost, 50 days after the Exodus from Egypt, after Passover it was Pentecost. Pentecost means 50.

And the apostles gathered together in Jerusalem, there were 11 of them. Judas had already killed himself. But they had to cast lots to choose the 12th apostle by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. And they cast lots and they choose the 12th apostle. Joseph. Yeah. Matthias Joseph. Yeah. And after that, that’s the end of chapter one of Acts. Chapter two of acts, the Holy Spirit comes at Shavuot, fills the house on Mount Zion, fills the people around them.

They have tongues of fire over their heads, just like when God gave them the Torah in chapter 20 of Exodus, verse 18. And the events that start rolling and the community that we call the church, the church, the word church actually means community. The community of the saints is established in Jerusalem and 3,000 Jews from 18 different languages, countries and cultures gathered in Jerusalem because the feast of Pentecost is one of the pilgrimage feasts. Three pilgrimage feasts: Passover, Pentecost and Sukkot or Tabernacles. Yeah.

And so thousands of people, we read in Josephus and also in the rabbinical writings, that during these three feasts, Jerusalem tripled its population. Normal population year round was around 100,000, 120,000 people in Jerusalem, which is a big city. It was the same size as Rome. Population wise, I’m talking about. But on the feast, there were 300,000 people. And it says that there was no house that didn’t have guests. They rented space to people so that they could have a place to stay, when they went to the temple to worship and to bring their sacrifices.

Yes. It was a big deal. But in the book of Revelation, that four square city, the New Jerusalem, the one that Abraham was looking for and that gave a push to Abraham to remain faithful in order to be able to be a part of that eternal city of Jerusalem, the New Jerusalem. But the 12 tribes play a big role there. And the 12 apostles play a big role there. The Lord, will reign on the whole Earth from that Jerusalem, surrounded with the 12 gates and surrounded with the 12 apostles, and all of this is based on the building of the tabernacle in the wilderness.

And before the book of Exodus ends, and we move on to the book of Leviticus that deals with the work of the Levites and the priests in the tabernacle, God says, Give me an inventory. Give me an accounting. What did you do with what these people of Israel, ex-slaves, contributed? I want to know what you did with it. Not that He didn’t know. But He wanted everybody to know. And you dear people and your churches, must keep the finances and the spending and resources of your church open. Open.

So that everybody will know what the church does with the money that you contribute. I think that this is a necessary thing to stop some of the abuses and excesses of churches. I have been around the world several times. In fact, every year, usually two times a year, around the world, and have visited churches all over, from South America, to North America, to Europe, to Scandinavia, to Asia, to all over. And I think it’s necessary. And it’s good for the body of the Messiah to give an accounting, for the churches to give an accounting, of what they do with your contributions.

And I learned that from this last portion called “Inventory,” that seals the book of Exodus. When we finish reading Your book in the synagogue, we say, be strong, strong and stronger from the word of God’s inspiration and guidance for you and your lives. God bless you all. Keep reading the Bible.

Joseph Shulam: Those Who Gave When They Couldn’t [2022 – Parashat Vayakhel]

This next Shabbat the reading will be the Torah Portion Vayakhel, Exodus 35:1 – 40:38. The Haftarah (from the prophets) is 1 Kings 7:40 – 8:21. From the New Testament we will be reading John 14:12-31.

In the early 1960’s in the United States most of the pastors carried in their suit pockets a leather bound copy of the New Testament. During the two years that I was in high school in South Georgia, the preaching in the local church in Dasher was 99.9% only from the New Testament.

This was true when I traveled though the Old South, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. So, now I am writing these Jerusalem Prayer Lists with several goals, one of which is to encourage the reading and appreciation of the Torah (the law of Moses) and the prophets, and to explain their relationship to the New Testament.

So this Shabbat we are reading Vayakhel (“Moses gathered all of the congregation”). In the Septuagint (the earliest Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible) the word used here for “congregation” is “synagogue”. The word “synagogue” means “congregation.”

Moses gathered the congregation to give them instructions that he received from the Lord. The first commandment that Moses received from the Lord is:

“Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh day shall be a holy day for you, a Sabbath of rest to the Lord. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. You shall kindle no fire throughout your dwellings on the Sabbath day.” – Exodus 35:2,3 [NKJV]

I wonder why the command to rest on the Sabbath (seventh day) is so important that it is commanded so many times in the Law of Moses and also in the New Testament? In the Hebrew Bible (The Old Testament) the Sabbath is mentioned 191 times.

The command to keep the Sabbath Day is given in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) 34 times, starting from Genesis and ending in Malachi. In the New Testament, the Sabbath is mentioned 12 times.

It is interesting that when you read the New Testament you find Yeshua on the Sabbath days in the synagogues or in the Temple. One time I asked, “why did Yeshua go on the Sabbath days to the synagogue?”

The only biblical answer to this question is simple: Yeshua went to the synagogues on the Sabbath day for two reasons, to pray and to read the Torah. But the brother that answered the question said that Yeshua went to the synagogue to convert the Jews.

In the examples that we have in the Gospels, Yeshua went to the synagogues for two reasons, to read the Torah, and to teach. Here is an interesting text that is oftentimes ignored by Christian scholars and preachers:

“Then Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and news of Him went out through all the surrounding region. And He taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all. So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read.” – Luke 4:14-16 [NKJV]

Note this text from Luke: The context of this text is set right after the 40 days of fasting and the temptation in the Judean desert, Yeshua returns to the Galilee. He returns back to His own country and the Holy Spirit tells us that, “the news of him went out throughout all of the surrounding region!”

What does this tell us about Yeshua? It tells us that Yeshua was already well known and respected in the Galilee as a teacher of what we call today “the Old Testament.”

When Yeshua returned to the Galilee after the temptations by Satan, the news spread all over the Galilee and Yeshua was invited to teach in all the Jewish synagogues in the Galilee, and when the people in the synagogues heard Yeshua teach from the Torah on the Sabbath day, all the people glorified Yeshua for His teaching from the Torah.

The apostle Paul went to the synagogues in the Hellenistic communities every Sabbath as it was his custom:

“Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, ‘This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ.’ And some of them were persuaded; and a great multitude of the devout Greeks, and not a few of the leading women, joined Paul and Silas.” – Acts 17:1-4 [NKJV]

I am bringing the above teaching because it is important in my opinion to know that in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (from the second century B.C.E.) the word for the crowd (the community) is “synagogue”. It is also important for me that our brothers and sisters around the world realize that Yeshua and Paul and the other disciples of Yeshua continued to attend and participate and read from the Torah and from the prophets on the Sabbath day like all the other Jews in their world.

The second command that God instructs Moses to share with the community (synagogue) of the Israelites in the wilderness is:

“And Moses spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying, ‘This is the thing which the Lord commanded, saying: “Take from among you an offering to the Lord. Whoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it as an offering to the Lord: gold, silver, and bronze; blue, purple, and scarlet thread, fine linen, and goats’ hair; ram skins dyed red, badger skins, and acacia wood; oil for the light, and spices for the anointing oil and for the sweet incense…”’” – Exodus 35:4-8 [NKJV]

We should all know that there is no religion in the world that does not depend and ask for contributions and giving money, gold, and precious materials, and precious stones to the gods in the pagan world and also in the Tabernacle in the wilderness and in the Temple in Jerusalem, and also today in every single church there are requests and teaching and demands for the people to give money to the church.

The interesting thing in the command of God to Moses is that it was not something that Moses wanted or asked or invented, God commands Moses to teach the people of Israel to give from a long list of materials and silver and gold and cloths, and every type of material and precious stones that were in the hands of the people of Israel.

One more verse from this Torah portion has brought me to a super-spiritual excitement, because in Netivyah in our congregation of Ro’eh Israel we saw and experienced the same phenomenon of women selling their jewelry go give it to the Lord for the purchase of our building on Narkis Street in downtown Jerusalem.

Here is for me one of the most amazing texts in the Torah:

“They came, both men and women, as many as had a willing heart, and brought earrings and nose rings, rings and necklaces, all jewelry of gold, that is, every man who made an offering of gold to the Lord.” – Exodus 35:22 [NKJV]

I have seen great generosity by so many brothers and sisters from around the world for the purchase of the building on Narkis Street and more recently for the remodeling and rebuilding of the building that remind me of this text in the Torah. I have seen women sell their gold jewelry and give the money for the purchase of the building.

I have seen an old family from Vaasa, Finland, sell one of their homes and give all the money for us in Jerusalem to have our own building. This, my dear brothers, is the real true and faithful giving and contributing to the Lord and His Kingdom, give from your heart, with humility and without seeking rewards or recognition or extra honor or notoriety for their “generosity”.

Yeshua condemns the Pharisees who give with fanfare and trumpets, that announce that they gave and how much they gave and even get a plaque to hang on their wall that they gave and how much they gave and in who’s honor they gave… People that give in this negative way will get their reward in this life and their debts will be charged with full latitude on the day of judgment.

What an important text this is that tells us that the men and the women, especially the women, took their earrings, and nose rings, and rings, and necklaces, and gold jewelry, and just plain gold bullion and gave it for the building of the house of the Lord!

I feel privileged to read this in the Torah, and even more privileged to have seen this personally in Jerusalem, and Finland, Japan, China, Brazil, Bulgaria, and the United States. Having read the Torah and seen the very practice and the motivation of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of men and women to take the earrings from their ears and put them in the basket for the Lord’s word and kingdom!

I hope you have the privilege to give sacrificially and sincerely, and to see others put to practice such a true willingness of their hearts and making that willingness of the heart a tangible contribution to the Lord and His kingdom. I will conclude this teaching from the Torah with the following statement, “giving is more blessed than receiving” and may the Lord bless me and give me the ability to give and be blessed by God. Pray that the Lord will bless you so that you can give back to the Lord with joy and with pleasure in the Spirit of humility and simplicity.

The last thing that I want to say on this topic is that same phenomenon like the poor widow who gave the two pennies and the rich Pharisee who gave 1000 dinars, and the Lord asked “who gave more?” The answer was and still is that the widow who gave from her poverty the two pennies, gave more, because she gave all that she could give. I have seen in our own congregation both of these phenomena, but the sad thing is that some of the rich gave little and they gave it in public and they wanted the honor and recognition in public.

So sad that some people never learn because they don’t take the Lord’s teaching seriously. They believe in Yeshua, but they don’t frankly believe Yeshua, or take His commands seriously. I am sad and sorry that there are some who could but didn’t and happy and full of joy for those who couldn’t but did!

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

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

Shalom, my name is Joseph Shulam, and I am, together with Brad TV, doing the Torah portions every week, and this week’s Shabbat, we’ll be reading from Exodus Chapter 35, verse 1, and we’ll finish the reading in Exodus 38, verse 20. And again, we are in a situation in which this is the third week that we’re talking about contributions, the tithe to the Levites, and a half-shekel for the census, and now we are in a totally different type of contribution, which is, I would say, if I translate to English, it will be a freewill offering.

And Moses gathers the whole camp of Israel, it says, the whole congregation of the children of Israel, together. Remember there were no microphones, and no speakers, and no amplification of the sound, and if you count that they had 600,000 men, and then you add their wives and you add their children, you’re talking about a very large crowd, and how Moses spoke and they all heard, it takes a miracle.

Moses Speaks to the People

And I believe that there was a miracle, a miracle of God’s amplification and communication straight to the hearts of these people. So he gathers the children of Israel, and the first thing he tells them is a command, “You shall work six days of the week.”

God Establishes the Seventh Day Rest

This I want to stress. The Sabbath day, the seventh day, is an act of creation. God did it when He created the world, long before there were Israelites, before there were Jews, before there were nations, before there were Gentiles, when there was nobody yet, except Adam and Eve, God established the seventh day as a day of rest, and commanded the children of Israel to rest on the seventh day, but that rest is only worthwhile if you really work six days.

You Have to Work

If you don’t work, if you rest six days, the seventh day rest means nothing. Only if you work, and you work hard. We’re talking about people that worked in the building of the tabernacle in the wilderness. Artisans, and we’re gonna see it in this portion of the week, artisans of all kinds, everybody that had a talent, could use his talent for the Lord, for the tabernacle, the tent of meeting that was a reflection of what Moses saw up in the mountain, when he was 40 days and 40 nights in the presence of the Lord on Mount Sinai.

He saw there a pattern of the tabernacle, and then he had to reproduce that tabernacle down here on earth, and we’re going to see in our text over here that everyone that had any talent could use his talent in the building of the tabernacle. That’s a very important principle. But first, let’s talk about the Sabbath day. It says you shall work six days. No, it doesn’t say you may work, it doesn’t say if you want to work, it says you shall work.

Sabbath Is for Those Who Work

Your work shall be done in six days, and the seventh day shall be a holy day for you, a Sabbath of rest to the Lord. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. It was a serious thing to be in the camp of Israel and to do something on purpose that was against God’s command. Several years ago, in 2010, I was invited by the government of China, of the province of Hubei, to the city of Wuhan. The vice-president of that state of Hubei invited me to come to China, and paid the hotel and paid the ticket, and put me to work.

Bible Was First Communist Book

And we discussed the Bible. She had read the Bible and knew a lot about the Bible, even though she claimed to be an atheist, of course she was a Communist, but she knew the Bible, and when I asked her why she was so interested in the Bible, and she wants me to come to China and teach the Bible in their government-supported seminaries in Nanjing, in other cities in China, and in Hubei province, she said, “Because it was the first communist book.”

I said, “Ah, I’m a Jew, and I know about Karl Marx, my mother was a Communist. How do you say that it was the first communist book? She said, “Well, it’s the first time that it says if you don’t work you don’t eat.” And I laughed, and she laughed, and then she continued to explain to me, the vice-president, Mrs. Yu, of the Hubei province in the government of China, she said, “Look, it’s the first place, as far as I know, in human record, that workers were given a day of rest, and social rights, and privileges, of how much you had a right to expect from them as the boss. You couldn’t do what you want to with these people. They had rights. These rights were given to them in the Bible.”

Bible Gives Rights to People

And we are here in this portion of the week called Vayakhel. “And he gathered them together.” That’s the first words of this text. Moses gathered the children of Israel together, and the first thing he tells them in this public gathering, is, “You shall work six days. It’s expected of you by God to work six days, and on the seventh day, you shall rest.”

And when we read other texts about the Sabbath, “you, and your manservant and your woman servant, or slave, and your animals,” the farm animals, they get a day of rest. Everybody gets a day of rest by God’s decree. The creator of the world decreed that everybody has a right to a day of rest. And if you, on purpose, by design, break that day of rest in public, after being warned, you should be put to death. We have one example in the whole Torah of somebody who defiled the Sabbath day and was put to death; only one.

And in the time of Jesus, in the time of Yeshua the Messiah, in the land of Israel, if the High Court of Israel put to death one person a year, one criminal a year, not for the Sabbath, for anything, it was called deadly, a murderous court. In other words, people observed these laws. In the time of Yeshua, people observed the law. And one time when I was teaching in a seminary in Korea, one of the professors that was a graduate of one of the top schools, universities, in America, said that Jesus sinned. And I asked him, “How did he sin?” He said, “He sinned by breaking the Sabbath.”

We Are Commanded to Save a Life on the Sabbath

I said, “I’m sorry, you’re wrong. It’s not breaking the Sabbath to heal on the Sabbath. It’s a command to heal on the Sabbath. At the hospitals in Israel, even the Orthodox Jewish hospitals that have Orthodox Jewish doctors, they all work on the Sabbath, because it is a… You cannot…” We have the story of the good Samaritan, that you, a person who’s wounded, who is sick, who is in need of medical help, you’re allowed to work, not allowed, you must work to help him, and to heal him, and to help him to survive if he’s in danger of dying, but that’s not breaking the Sabbath.

But if you are a mechanic, and you are working on your car on the Sabbath, or other people’s car on the Sabbath, you’re breaking the Sabbath. If you’re a carpenter, and you’re building a table on the Sabbath, you’re breaking the Sabbath. But other than that, it’s your day, it’s your day to enjoy it. In Isaiah, we find out that the Sabbath is called a delight, a time for you to spend with your wife, with your children, with your family, in play, and in enjoying good food, and in resting, and refreshing your mind. So this command is not harsh, it’s a positive command. You work hard six days, but you deserve, you’re privileged, to rest on the seventh day.

Ancient Codes Predate Torah

We have the code of Hammurabi that is 1800 years ago, goes to 1,000 years before Abraham. We have the Ur-Nammu Code of Law that is even older than the Code of Hammurabi. Yes, there were slaves, there were workers, and they had to work, but they didn’t get the single day that they could do whatever they want to, that they were free from their job and from their enslavement.

Torah Better Than Ancient Codes

No, these ancient Codes of Hammurabi that are much older than the Torah didn’t have that privilege for the worker the Torah had, and that’s why Mrs. Yu, the Vice-President of Hubei at that time, appreciated the Torah, and she said the Magna Carta that gave workers in England, people in England, rights, wouldn’t have been written without the Bible. King John would not have written the Magna Carta if he didn’t believe the Bible.

So here you are, the Sabbath day. The next thing we hear is that you are to bring an offering to the Lord. “Whoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it as an offering to the Lord: gold, silver, bronze, blue, purple, scarlet thread, linen, goat’s hair, skins, badger skins, acacia wood, oil for the lighting of the candelabra.” All these things you can contribute as you have purposed in your heart. Now, in the New Testament, we don’t have tithing for the temple, or for the tabernacle, or for the pastor, or for the church. We don’t have tithing at all.

Pharisees Overdid Their Tithing

Tithing is mentioned, that the Pharisees were so stickly about it that they were tithing the herbs from their garden, the mint, and the cumin, and the other herbs. Yeshua was not condemning them, or saying that they tithed bad, but the love of the brethren, the love of their fellow men, they lacked. They cleaned the cup on the outside. No. On the outside, yes, but on the inside, no. Yes, Yeshua was condemning their hypocrisy, their inconsistency.

New Testament Says to Give as Your Heart Leads You

But we do have contributions. Paul writes to the Corinthians in his first letter, Chapter 16, he said, when you gather together on the first day of the week, let each one put money in the treasury, in the box, as he has purposed in his heart. It’s a quotation, a direct quotation, from this text here in the Book of Exodus, Chapter 35, verse 5, a direct quotation from the Torah, commanding the brothers and sisters to put money aside on the first day of the week. When is the first day of the week for the Jews in the time of the apostles?

It’s Saturday night. The end of the Sabbath starts Sunday. And you can see that in Mark 16, if you wish, that Yeshua was crucified, He was in the grave, and the women went at the end of the Sabbath, exactly the same phrase, and the end of the Sabbath, because the stores opened in Jerusalem and they went to buy the herbs to put in the grave, in the Greek, immediately after the Sabbath, translated the first day of the week in the English, which gives the people the impression that it was Sunday morning, but it was not, it was Saturday night. And you see this phrase used in Acts Chapter 20, I think, verse 7, and also in Mark Chapter 16, verse 9, I think.

As You Purpose in Your Heart

So as you purpose in the heart. Now, if you give and you didn’t purpose it in the heart, you gave for another reason, to show how good you are, how generous you are, to show that you are giving to the church, to the Lord, then that’s a bad purpose. The only legitimate purpose to give money to the Lord, and for the Lord and His purpose, is only one. You wanna do it from your heart for the use of the saints, for the use of the community, for paying the preacher, the pastor’s salary, for whatever it is that the elders of that community will decide, but it has to come from your heart.

You Give to Bless the Lord and His Children

You have to do it because you want to bless the Lord and to bless His children, His community. So this is an interesting thing in this portion of the Torah. And then we see that you could give anything of value, cloth, purple, scarlet, linen, goat’s hair. You could give copper, you could give gold, you could give oil for the candelabra, lighting the candles in the house of the Lord. You could give precious stones.

You Can Work for the Lord on the Sabbath

You could give the work of your hands. Verse 10 of Chapter 35 of the Book of Exodus, “All who are gifted artisans among you shall come and make all that the Lord has commanded, the tabernacle, its tent, its covering, its clasps, its borders, its bars, its pillars, its sockets, its ark.” You know how to saw? Come and saw for the Lord. You know how to be a carpenter? Come and be a carpenter for the Lord. You know how to be an electrician? They didn’t have electricity then, but do it for the Lord. Even if it’s your job six days of the week, you can do something for the Lord when you’re not working for your bread and butter.

And any of the talents are welcome in the house of the Lord. Any of the gifts that you have, gifts of the spirit or gifts of the flesh, are welcome for the house of the Lord, because all that you do, according to Romans 12, all that you do with excellence for the Lord is accepted as proper gifts for the house of God and the people of God. The lampstand was made from gold. People had to give that gold. Women had to take out their earrings, like they did to build the golden calf at the foot of Mount Sinai, with Aaron, they took their jewelry, they gave it for the golden calf, people gave, again, gold for the building of the tabernacle.

Important That People Feel a Part in the Ownership of the Building

They could take their jewelry off and give it to the Lord. And this principle is very important. It’s very important that people feel an ownership for the property, for the building, for the instruments in the Lord’s house. That feeling of ownership, it’s also a feeling of being united with the people who sit on the church pew next to you. They’re not strangers, because you and they gave equally, from your heart, whatever the amount is doesn’t make a difference if it’s from your heart, for the Lord, and His house, and His people.

Giving Makes You Feel a Part of the Congregation

And that makes you a body, that makes you a family of God’s children, and if you are a family with God’s children, dear brothers and sisters, the presence of the Lord will be with you. The presence of the Lord will be with you, and you’ll feel connected, you’ll feel involved, you’ll feel this is yours, you’re not a stranger in a strange building with a strange preacher or pastor up front and that you are there, only as an observer. No, you are a participant, it’s yours. You have contributed from your handiwork, from your blood work, for the Lord and His house, and for the community of the saints.

Both men are willing, and women, that give from the willingness of their hearts. And verse 22 says this: “They came both men and women, as many as had willing hearts, and brought earrings, and nose rings, and rings and necklaces, all jewelry of gold, that is, every man who made an offering of gold for the Lord.” That’s a wonderful thing. It’s a wonderful portion of the Torah, in my opinion, from which we can learn so much about giving, and so much about feeling connected in the ownership of God’s house. And it’s lacking, it’s lacking, dear brothers and sisters, in all of Christianity, and especially among our brothers and sisters in the Protestant evangelical churches.

Give of Yourselves

It’s not clear that the people who sit in the pews really feel ownership and partnership in the house of the Lord, for the sake of His kingdom. May God bless all of you. May God give the riches of His Spirit and the gifting of the Spirit to you, to your families, and to your brothers and sisters around you, but above all, take part, feel ownership, give of yourself, of your time, of your talent, of your gold, and of your silver, and of your purple, and of your gifts. Handy talents, like artwork, and sewing, and carpentry, and any kind of talent that God gave you, use it for the Lord, because that is where you amass for yourself treasures that thieves cannot steal, and rust, and moths cannot eat. May God bless you. In Yeshua’s name. Amen.

Joseph Shulam: Faith Requires Reason [2021]

The reading this Shabbat is a double portion, “Vayakhel Pekudei”, Exodus 35:1 – 40:38. From the prophets the reading is special because it is the new moon of the month of Nissan, Haftarah Ezekiel 45:16 – 46:18, Shabbat HaChodesh and the Regular Haftarah (reading from the prophets) for Vayakhel Pekudei: I Kings 7:51 – 8:21. From the New Testament we read 2 Corinthians 3:1-14.

The reading of Exodus 35 starts with verse one. Moses gathers all the people of Israel! We are talking a very large crowd, and the question that ought to be asked is, what does the word mean?

“Then Moses gathered all the congregation of the children of Israel together, and said to them, ‘These are the words which the Lord has commanded you to do.’” – Exodus 35:1 [NKJV]

There is a logical question that is required for an understanding of this text. This event might have happened about two years after Israel had left Egypt. When they left Egypt there were 600,000 men between the ages of 20 and 50:

“Then the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides children.” – Exodus 35:1-37 [NKJV]

So, without a PA system available, and presuming that most of the men only would be gathered to hear Moses speak, that size crowd would have had difficulty hearing and understanding the voice of Moses, especially if he had not been healed from his stuttering.

So, what does it mean, “Then Moses gathered all the congregation of the children of Israel together”? The probability is that representatives of the tribes and the families were gathered – representing every group and division of the people of Israel.

This is why it says that those who were gathered were, “all the congregation.” This leaves an opening to a logical question regarding the situation and gathering that represented all of Israel. Why is this important? Because we have the text in Romans 11:26, where Paul states, “And so all of Israel will be saved…”

“Now therefore, send and gather all Israel to me on Mount Carmel, the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal, and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.” – 1 Kings 18:19 [NKJV]

We find out later in the story that there were hundreds, and even thousands of men of Israel, prophets and disciples of the prophets, that were hiding in caves from the wrath of Queen Jezebel and that were not up there on the top of Mount Carmel with Elijah. So, the word “all” often means that not all were represented there by their proper representation.

This might be a small detail and might seem unimportant, but logic and reason are always important and when we read the word of God we are required to think and to think with reason. If we don’t we can’t build our faith to the degree that is required, to be able to truly follow the Messiah. Faith has to use reason and rational thinking in order to be standing up for the word of God.

It is interesting that the first thing that Moses commands the people of Israel, is to keep the Sabbath day. The camp of Israel was like a beehive with people collecting silver and gold, wood, cloth of crimson and royal blue, leatherworkers and stone masons. People were working hard under the guidance of Bezalel the Son of Uri and his staff in the building of the Tabernacle.

Now Moses is repeating one of the Ten Commandments, the keeping of and resting on the Sabbath day. This is very interesting to me! I could think of dozens of issues that would be more relevant and important to these people who are finally free from slavery. I would think that people who were slaves would naturally seek every opportunity to rest and be more than happy to rest at every opportunity.

God’s wisdom expressed through Moses is to give Israel this very clear command to keep the Sabbath day both for the masters and the servants for the rich and for the poor of Israel.

The next thing that Moses commands the people is to give, to contribute:

“Take from among you an offering to the Lord. Whoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it as an offering to the Lord: gold, silver, and bronze; blue, purple, and scarlet thread, fine linen, and goats’ hair; ram skins dyed red, badger skins, and acacia wood; oil for the light, and spices for the anointing oil and for the sweet incense; onyx stones, and stones to be set in the ephod and in the breastplate.” – Exodus 35:5-9 [NKJV]

The speech that Moses is giving is a divine order and if it is in the order of importance – than Moses is hitting a hot iron for us today. There is no love without sacrifice and there is no sacrifice without giving from your heart.

The Lord is presenting some of the most important things that the people of Israel need to know and do, as they set forth on 38 years of wilderness wandering, before they enter into the promised land of Canaan.

This amazes me to think that it is the Sabbath and the contributions and sacrifice of the people of Israel that bonds these ex-slaves together and forges through suffering and sacrificing, twelve estranged tribes, into a nation.

I am thinking of the tribes of Israel and of the competitive spirit that existed between them from the beginning of their childhood in the house of Jacob their father. I am thinking of the blessings and non-blessings that Jacob delivered to the fathers of these twelve tribes on his death bed.

Now they were all standing before the fearful Mount Sinai, they have all heard the voice of God speaking from the mountain, they all are eating the mana from heaven every day. Now, it seems like they have graduated from the Mount Sinai college and they have to step out into the harsh and difficult desert of life’s survival.

God gives Moses the most important things that these people of Israel need to know and do during their future wanderings through the barren desert. So, first they need to know when to rest and how to rest. This is as important as knowing how to work, and what work to do.

If people don’t know how to rest (the best way is in accordance with the manufacturer’s prescription, our creator Himself and His instructions), also without His instructions, they will also not be able to work the way that they ought to work.

If the people don’t know how to give and contribute and sacrifice for the Lord’s people they will not know how to contribute to their own community or even to their families. The next chapters, all the way to the end of the book of Exodus, give us every instrument every furniture, every tool and procedure that is to be carried in the tabernacle of the Lord.

Every single tool and part of the tent called the “Tent of Meeting,” the Tabernacle (which is another word for tent) is given with detailed instructions down to the last detail. What can I personally learn from these tedious and super detailed instructions?

Well, I learn that the great creator of the universe, the one who so loves the world that He sent His only begotten Son to be a sacrifice and salvation for all of humanity. This God, is a God who cares and leads and guides His children even down to the smallest detailed instruction of His will for us, as His children.

I would like to share a few words also about the reading from the prophets and also from the New Testament.

From the prophets the reading that is connected with the Torah portion is from 1 Kings 7-8, the building and dedication of the Temple by King Solomon.

The temple was a building not from cloth and leather, but from stone. It was a magnificent building. Solomon brought 50,000 foreign workers from Tyre in the Lebanon. He imported cedar wood from Lebanon, gold from Tarshish, and purple from Lebanon. After the building was finished Solomon made one of those dramatic statements that ought to be posted on every synagogue and church building. These are the words of Solomon in his dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem:

“‘And now I pray, O God of Israel, let Your word come true, which You have spoken to Your servant David my father. “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built! Yet regard the prayer of Your servant and his supplication, O Lord my God, and listen to the cry and the prayer which Your servant is praying before You today: that Your eyes may be open toward this temple night and day, toward the place of which You said, ‘My name shall be there,’ that You may hear the prayer which Your servant makes toward this place. And may You hear the supplication of Your servant and of Your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. Hear in heaven Your dwelling place; and when You hear, forgive.’” – 1 Kings 8:26-30 [NKJV]

This dedication speech of Solomon is one that has influenced me the most, together with Paul’s speech on Mars Hill, in Athens. Paul states the same thing that Solomon is saying here in 1 Kings. Paul says:

“God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things.” – Acts 17:24,25 [NKJV]

This is a lesson that all of us, Jews and Messianic Jews, and Christians of all denominations, must know this truth that both Solomon and Paul and the prophets of Israel (see Isaiah chapter 1) knew. The Tabernacle built in the wildness with all of its intricacies and detailed instructions was built for the people of Israel. The Lord was above it as a pillar of fire by night and cloud by day, not inside of it.

It is idolatrous to think that church buildings or synagogues are the house of God, no they are houses for us, for us humans to have a place that is sanctified by God for His children to gather and to serve and to proclaim His goodness and mercy for all!

The individual, the community, is where God dwells. In the hearts of the people and within the anointing of the Holy Spirit is the place that God dwells as the Torah said,

“And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.” – Exodus 25:6 [NKJV]

I urge you to read the Torah portions and the prophets, and from the New Testament every week. The choice of texts is based on the relationship between these texts, and the relationship of the texts with each other, Torah, Prophets and the New Testament, makes the picture complete.

Joseph Shulam: The Power of a Freewill Offering [2020]

The reading of the Torah this Shabbat is a double portion, called Vayakhel-Pekudei (Exodus 35:1 – 40:38). This Shabbat we finish reading the book of Exodus. In addition, it is the end of the month of Adar and the beginning of the month of Nisan.

The second reading for the new month is from Exodus 12:1-20. From the prophets the reading is from 1 Kings 7:13-28,40 – 8:21. From the New Testament we read 2 Corinthians 9:6-11, 3:7-19. As you can see this next Shabbat the reading is a double portion, and that is why we have a double portion from the prophets and from the New Testament.

Earlier the Torah dealt with the 10% that all Israelites had to contribute to the Levites and the Kohanim (priests). Then the gifts for the building of the Tabernacle. Now Moses turns to an extra contribution, a freewill offering.

This is not a tithe that was obligatory for all of Israel. This occasion is very different. This is what God commands Moses and Israel:

“Then Moses gathered all the congregation of the children of Israel together, and said to them, ‘These are the words which the Lord has commanded you to do: Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh day shall be a holy day for you, a Sabbath of rest to the Lord. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. You shall kindle no fire throughout your dwellings on the Sabbath day.’ And Moses spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying, ‘This is the thing which the Lord commanded, saying: “Take from among you an offering to the Lord. Whoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it as an offering to the Lord: gold, silver, and bronze; blue, purple, and scarlet thread, fine linen, and goats’ hair; ram skins dyed red, badger skins, and acacia wood…”’” – Exodus 35:1-7 [NKJV]

What can we learn from this text of Exodus 35? There is an obligation that is equal for every member of the Israelite nation. The obligation is like modern income tax in most nations.

Everyone has to give an equal portion of his income, 10%. It is a proportional sum of money that everyone has to give. The amount that everyone would give is a relative amount to a person’s income.

Now God does not define the amount in percent of a person’s income. Now it is a request for the people of Israel to give a freewill offering, as they have purposed in their hearts. The first thing that God commands that is based on the desire of a person’s heart.

The question that comes up here is, what is more valuable for the construction of the Tabernacle in the wilderness? The 10% that was commanded for all of Israel to give to the priests and the Levites, the contributions that were commanded to be given for the construction of the Tabernacle, or this freewill offering that comes from the heart’s desire of each person, without a set amount or percentage?

I suggest to you for the Lord what was most significant was the offering that was free, where no amount or percentage was assigned.

The first command to give the 10th percentage was uniform and relative to each person. A set 10% from the crops and income of each person. In the second case, the contribution for the building was specified in different kinds of materials. The half-shekel was for the counting of the number of Israel’s population. Also stressing the equality between each soul in Israel.

Now we have a contribution that is individual, and from the desire of our hearts. The text says, “Whoever is of a willing heart.” The materials are also suggested but not limited.

In the New Testament, this kind of giving is the only kind commanded. The 10% in the New Testament, like in the Old Testament, was only mentioned for the Temple in Jerusalem. The giving in the New Testament is only associated with giving for the “poor saints in Jerusalem”.

There is no mention of giving to the church 10%. The apostle Paul says the following things about giving and receiving contributions from brothers in the diaspora:

“Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem.” – 1 Corinthians 16:1-3 [NIV]

“For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the Lord’s people in Jerusalem. They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings.” – Romans 15:26,27 [NIV]

“There is no need for me to write to you about this service to the Lord’s people. For I know your eagerness to help, and I have been boasting about it to the Macedonians, telling them that since last year you in Achaia were ready to give; and your enthusiasm has stirred most of them to action. But I am sending the brothers in order that our boasting about you in this matter should not prove hollow, but that you may be ready, as I said you would be. For if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we—not to say anything about you—would be ashamed of having been so confident. So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to visit you in advance and finish the arrangements for the generous gift you had promised. Then it will be ready as a generous gift, not as one grudgingly given. Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: ’They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.’ Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.” – 2 Corinthians 9:1-12 [NIV]

This text in 2 Corinthians 9 reveals Paul’s method of raising funds for the saints in Jerusalem. Paul used true psychology as his method. To the Romans he wrote “Achaia” was pleased to make a contribution for the poor saints of Jerusalem. Paul is motivating the people of Corinth to give by provoking the brothers and giving them an opportunity to sow seeds in the blessing of the poor brothers in Jerusalem.

Notice that there is no 10% mentioned. There is no amount mentioned. There is only the need mentioned and the blessing of blessing the brothers in Jerusalem.

The question is, how do we receive and interpret what was commanded to the brothers by the apostle Paul? And what example do we have in the scriptures, both in the Old and New Testament?

We have obligations by the Torah to sustain the priests and the Levites in their service to God and for the people. In the New Testament we see only the pattern of the freewill giving, without a specification of amount. The only thing specified is that the giving ought to be purposed and pre-organized for the giving.

The children of Israel responded in this case above and beyond the needs, and they had to be asked to stop. They gave all that is needed, and when it was enough they were asked to stop.

It is so much more noble to give for a good cause from your free will and your heart’s desire.[ quote] This kind of giving is what pleases the Lord most.

Joseph Shulam: Following the Cloud by Day and the Pillar of Fire by Night [2019]

The highest value of Western civilization in these years of the 21st century is freedom! Freedom of everything that puts a demand on you! This is one reason that today couples move to live together long before marriage. They want to have a life of marriage without making the commitment of marriage.

This “Now Generation” wants to live free from obligation, free from commitments, and to enjoy the privilege of marriage and not have the obligation and limitations of marriage! Many want to enjoy the privilege of being disciples of Yeshua and sometimes go to church, but they are perpetual visitors in the church and not willing to make commitments and follow.

The end of the Book of Exodus is God’s instruction to Israel to follow His guides through the wilderness. Do you need a guide to guide you through the desert of modern life realities?

I can honestly say that I need a guide daily, and I want a guide through life. I want to have a map of where and when I need to be each day, and what I need to do each day. I feel much less secure when I have to make big choices without guidance from God.

You might ask today, Joseph, where do you get the guidance by day and by night? Do you see a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night? No, dear brothers, I wish I did have a physical cloud by day and the fire by night. I don’t have these physical reminders today, but maybe I have something better.

I have the book of instruction and a map of where the pitfalls and the dangers are, and where God wants me to be every day. And if there is a change in the curriculum, there is the Holy Spirit that is there for me and for you.

You have to ask for guidance and you will get it and receive it from the Word of God and from the Spirit of the Lord that is in you! You need to read and study and pray for this revelation and guidance – it is there waiting for you, but you have to take it and work it out for yourself.

Let me review the last three parashot (weekly portions) of the Torah: Terumah, Tetzaveh, Vayakhel. These are sections of the Torah that deal with the collection of things (gold, silver, wood, and leather) for the building of the Tabernacle in the desert. Much of it is about inventory and technical issues – the collection of the half shekel and the census, the counting of the people of Israel in the wilderness, etc.

The Book of Exodus ends with the instruction of how to travel in the wilderness, and to follow the Lord as a guide through the harsh land of Sinai that will lead them to the Promised Land, the land of Canaan that God had promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and their seed forever.

When I was a young believer in the USA, away from my family, long before there were messianic Jewish congregations in the world, one of the worship songs they sang often in the churches was, “Where He Leads Me I Will Follow”:

I can hear my Savior calling,
“Take thy cross and follow, follow me.”

Where he leads me I will follow,
I’ll go with him, with him all the way.

I’ll go with him thro’ the garden,
I’ll go with him, with him all the way.

Where he leads me I will follow,
I’ll go with him thro’ the judgment,

Where he leads me I will follow,
He will give me grace and glory,

Where he leads me I will follow,
Where he leads me I will follow.

This spirit of a disciple that will follow his teacher all the way is just about lost in the teaching of the evangelical Protestant churches. Today the message is ofen very different. The idea that I have to give my freedom, my personal desires and habits, in order to follow the Lord is rare and missing.

Just put yourself in the place of these stiff-necked Israelites that were just liberated from slavery a few months earlier. During slavery, they had to do what their Egyptian masters demanded from them. Now they are free, and yet the Lord commands them, “you need to follow where I will lead you, by day and by night. Don’t wander off and go where you want, stay with Me children of Israel, stay with Me if you know what is wise and good for you, your safety, and your wellbeing.”

The result of their following the Lord is the following:

  1. The Lord fought their wars and gave them victory over enemies that were much better trained, bigger, and stronger.
  2. The Lord provided them with daily food from heaven, manna by day and quail for dinner.
  3. Their shoes did not wear out and their garments did not get worn down.
  4. They have divine judgment, arbitration, and intervention for their good – all the way to the changing of the Torah for the sake of individuals and families. In other words, the Lord heard their desires and requests and answered their capricious demands.

What more could anyone want from a leader?

What do we have today to guide us and give us the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night?

What a great privilege would it be for me, and I hope for you, for the presence of the Lord to be always with me, by day and night. For me it would be wonderful to know that God is so very close to me that He sees and hears and guides me day after day.

I would love to know that I have the Lord so near that His presence is visible and guiding me every day. I would know where the Creator of the universe wants me to be, where he wants me to go, and when I should stop and rest in one place.

This is what the Lord says to Jeremiah:

“Moreover the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Go and cry in the hearing of Jerusalem, saying, “Thus says the Lord: ‘I remember you, The kindness of your youth, The love of your betrothal, When you went after Me in the wilderness, In a land not sown.’ Israel was holiness to the Lord, The firstfruits of His increase. All that devour him will offend; Disaster will come upon them,” says the Lord.’” – Jeremiah 2:1–4 [NKJV]

And:

“‘At the same time,’ says the Lord, ‘I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be My people.’ Thus says the Lord: ‘The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness— Israel, when I went to give him rest.’” – Jeremiah 31:1,2 [NKJV]

Being close to the Lord and the Lord close to us, guiding us, instructing us, protecting us, being dependent on Him is what I want for myself and for my family. I know that God can take care of me and my family much better than I can take care of myself.

What do you think? What would you like for yourself and your family to have God guiding you daily? Why don’t you make your choice today!

Joseph Shulam: God is a God of Details [2019]

The Torah reading this Shabbat is the portion Vayakhel (He Assembled) from Exodus 35:1-38:20. The portion of the Prophets that will be read this Shabbat is from 1 Kings 7:40-50, and we will be reading from the New Testament from Hebrews 9:1-14.

This parasha (portion) starts with a kind of shopping list that Moses gives the people of Israel in a kind of general assembly. He assembled the people, and is giving them a list of things that they ought to do: keeping the Shabbat, giving the donations (contributions) for the work of the  Lord in the Tabernacle.

A list that is almost the same was given to the officials, to Aaron and his sons the priests. Now Moses repeats the list, with minor changes, to all of Israel, the whole community. The Torah in general, and the whole Bible, is very concise and doesn’t waste words.

What can we learn from this reading?

  1. We can learn that, as leaders, we must be patient with our disciples and not assume that they understood or received the instruction. Therefore, the teacher must repeat his instruction with patience, and even repeat more than one time.
  2. We learn that the God of Israel is a God of details. If you pay attention to the text you will see that these commands (and not recommendations) are detailed. When it comes to the Lord’s demands (commands) – He is specific and detailed. The attitude of so many Christians is that God is liberal. He is a little deaf and a little blind and a little retarded. God does not care about the way that we do things as long as we have faith. Well, from this reading I learn that God does care how we do things. I see that when God gives instructions, He cares not only that we keep these instructions (commands), but how and why we keep them.
  3. The miracle is that in chapter 35, we are told that what the people brought, the gold and the silver, and the fur and expensive cloth, was enough, and Moses had to tell them to stop giving. I have not seen in any synagogue or church the leadership say, “It is enough, we don’t need more contributions.” We learn from this the following principles:
    • If the people really believe in God and understand the importance of their contribution – the people will give, and they will give with a sincere heart, and give enough.
    • If the cause is clear and the people understand the benefit that they will have, privately or communally, the people will give.
    • These are people that have just gone through the terrible ordeal of the building of the Golden Calf, and the plague and the death of thousands. They had given for the Golden Calf the jewelry right off their wives’ and daughters’ ears. Now they understand they were wrong in wanting an idol that will lead them. They understand that to correct the wrong that they did, they have to show at least the same dedication and magnanimity as they did in the building of the Golden Calf.
  4. What can we in the 21st century learn from this reading and from this list of inventory that Moses is presenting here? I learn from this that it is always easier to raise funds for physical things, like buildings or some remodeling, or something that will be visible and will give a sense of ownership to the members of a congregation. It is harder to raise money for service to the people, the poor, and the needy. One of the reasons for this is that a physical project has a beginning and an end, but the “poor will always be with us” – the need will not end.

Joseph Shulam: The Box is Less Important Than What is Inside of It [2018]

The Torah reading this Shabbat is a double Torah portion from Exodus 35:1-40:38. Here Moses summarizes all the work and the tools of the Tabernacle that was built under Mount Sinai. It’s a kind of a builder’s catalogue of the parts and tools that will be used for the next few hundred years in the place of worship for the children of Israel.

With these readings the book of Exodus ends. Next Shabbat is the beginning of the reading of Leviticus. Leviticus is my Bar-Mitzvah reading. I am looking forward to it.

The haftarah (the reading from the prophets) this Shabbat is from 1 Kings 7:13-8:21 – King Solomon building and dedicating the Temple in Jerusalem. The Tabernacle is no longer going to be a portable temple in a tent, now Jerusalem becomes the center of Israelite Worship. There is a permanent building from stone, and not a tabernacle.

It was David’s vision and desire to build a permanent building made of the best materials that were available in his day: stone and cedar wood from Lebanon. He asked God to allow him to build Him a house, a temple in Jerusalem. God did not allow King David to build such a place in Jerusalem.

Recently I had the privilege of visiting the city of David and to go to places that are still not open for the public. One of these places was way down underground, in the Palace of King David.

Under David’s palace there is a space that has been excavated that is still a question and a puzzle for the scholars and those who are digging in the city of David. There have been some stunning discoveries in the last few years, and even in the last few months.

Just a few weeks ago a small clay seal was found with the name of Yeshayahu HaNavi – Isaiah the prophet. A few months back, another such seal was found with the name of Hezekiah son of Ahaz, king of Judea.

Now there are at least half a dozen of such seals found, with names of people whom we know from the Word of God. But, this discovery of the house of David has under it a small temple. In this private, personal temple of King David, there is an altar that still has signs of fire and some burned animal remains. However, the most striking thing was a kind of “holy of holies” with a standing “stele” (stone) that represented God.

There is no image on it, but it stood erect in the place where in pagan temples there would be a statue of their gods. Such standing stelae were found in more than one Israelite temple. The most complete is in Tel-Arad’s Israelite fortress, where not far from the altar there was a small Holy of Holies, and there were found two small altars and more than one stele (standing stones).

This raises some interesting questions about the use of church buildings and synagogues, and their importance for the Almighty God of Israel. I know that we have a new building in Jerusalem and we appreciate it very much, but we are aware of how it ought to be used and for what it ought to be used, and it is used every day.

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, did not have tabernacles or temples. They had a personal God that walked with them wherever they pitched their tents. The God of the Patriarchs was with them everywhere they went, and identified Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

The Temple in Jerusalem, with all its beauty and glory, did not bring too much glory to God, or purity of worship and dedication, in the long run. It was condemned by Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Amos, and a few more of the prophets.

The Apostle Paul says to the Athenians, and those of you who have visited Athens know the beautiful buildings up on the Acropolis. The Parthenon was the temple of the goddess Athena, and it is one of the architectural wonders of the world. It would be much more wonderful if the British would return the Elgin marbles that they have stolen back to Athens.

Paul says:

“God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” – Acts 17:24–31 [NKJV]

Israel prostituted after the idols of their pagan neighbors in the very temple that Solomon built. The priesthood was corrupt in the time of Yeshua, but the Temple was beautiful and one of the finest buildings in the Greco-Roman world. Let us remember that the box is much less important than what is inside of it.

Yehuda Bachana: No Generosity Means No Community [2018]

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

Our weekly reading is called Parashat Vayakhel-Pekudei; it is a double Torah portion. According to the Hebrew calendar, an additional month is added every leap year, the month of “Adar II”.

This month is added so that Passover will always fall during the month of spring, Rosh Hashanah will always occur during the right time of the year, and the the first rain will be around the time of Sukkot. This additional month is added in order to preserve the order of the feasts and holidays throughout the year.

So if an additional month is added, from where will we bring the additional parashot to read during the additional Sabbath days of this month? For this purpose, we have combined parashot like Vayakhel-Pekudei, Behar-Bechukotai, and Tazria-Metzora. Usually we read each one as a single parasha, however, in a leap year, when there are four extra Sabbaths, we read them separately.

A Quick Review of Exodus

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God’s presence with Israel in the desert – the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire – is a beautiful illustration of balance in life.

This parasha is the final portion of the book of Exodus, because of this I will summarize the book and the long path that Israel took. In the beginning of Exodus, an extended family went down to Egypt due to the harsh conditions of drought and famine. Eventually, this family grows and becomes a great nation. To remind you, the people of Israel were in Egypt for 400 years. In the beginning of the book we met Moses, we fled with him to Midian, and we witnessed God’s appearance in the burning bush.

Later on, we saw the mighty hand of God, how He brought Israel out of Egypt mightily with the ten severe plagues – ending with the parting of the Red Sea and the passing of an entire nation through it.

The Book of Exodus can not be summed up without the mention of the revelation at Mount Sinai and the giving of the tablets of the covenant. After the giving of the Torah, the collection of contributions for building the Tabernacle began. We also have the unfortunate incident of the Golden Calf. After the Golden Calf, we reach the end of Exodus, which is our parasha. After summarizing this series of events, we can see a collection of great, wonderful, and amazing stories. After such stories, it’s a bit difficult to read this week’s relatively mundane Torah portion.

Once again, we’re discussing the materials for the Tabernacle, the labor, and the contributions. At the end of all the tedious detailed work, God came and dwelt in His glory amongst the people of Israel in the Tabernacle that the people had built, sculpted, sewed, and contributed towards.

The long, hard, and meticulous path that they took entitled us to the Divine Presence among us.

The Power of Generosity

The Book of Exodus ends in a powerful way:

“Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.” – Exodus 40:34,35 [NIV]

What was the Tabernacle in which God dwelt made from? As we read a few weeks ago in Parashat Terumah:

“Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering. You are to receive the offering for me from everyone whose heart prompts them to give.” – Exodus 25:2 [NIV]

This generosity is also mentioned in this parasha (Exodus 35:5).

The most precious thing that was given for the construction of the Tabernacle was not gold nor expensive stones, the most valuable aspect of it was the heart of man. Generosity was the most essential part and it is what truly built the Tabernacle of God.

Did the people of Israel actually build the Tabernacle out of their own generosity? Yes, in fact, this parasha teaches us that the people of Israel gave so much towards the project that Moses had to forcefully stop the giving:

“…and [the skilled workers] said to Moses, ‘The people are bringing more than enough for doing the work the Lord commanded to be done.’ Then Moses gave an order and they sent this word throughout the camp: ‘No man or woman is to make anything else as an offering for the sanctuary.’ And so the people were restrained from bringing more…” – Exodus 36:5,6 [NIV] (amended)

Giving to the community is one of the cornerstones of human society, it is an act of taking responsibility and leading towards change. Our contribution connects us to each other and to God.

The Consequences of False Appearances

I would like to turn to the incident of the donation of Ananias’ estate in the New Testament:

“Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet. Then Peter said, ‘Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.’ When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him. About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter asked her, ‘Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?’ ‘Yes,’ she said, ‘that is the price.’ Peter said to her, ‘How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.’ At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband.” – Acts 5:1-10 [NIV]

This is a very challenging story to comprehend. Even before it started, it was not made clear whether or not contribution was mandatory. Did the early believers have to sell their property and share everything? What sin had been committed in this instance?

It’s my understanding that contribution was not mandatory, it was optional. As a result, there are two main explanations for Ananias’ sin.

It could have been a sin of disbelief and doubt, that he did not trust God to provide for him and his family. In other words, he gave up his property, but he was afraid he would be in financial need, so he kept a portion for himself just in case.

Perhaps it could be that he took for himself credit, prestige, and honor that were not his. Meaning that Ananias decided to donate his property, just as the people of Israel gave out of their own free will for the building of the Tabernacle. Ananias could have given any amount he wanted, as we can see from Peter’s own words:

“Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal?” – Acts 5:4a [NIV]

That is to say, Ananias could have given much or little, according to the calling of his heart and his own desire to contribute.

The problem started when he kept some of the money for himself and lied about it as a result. It was as if he sold all of his estate and gave everything, all he had, to the Messianic community. The real problem here is one of false appearances. He took the credit for himself, more honor than he deserved, he tried to appear in everyone’s eyes as a great saint who sold all his property for the common good. When in fact, he secretly kept some for himself.

This incident should raise a red flag for us and cause us to think about our own actions at work, at home, or within our community. We must be careful not to take for ourselves more credit than we actually deserve. For instance, our manager at work praises us for some accomplishment that we only played a small part in – we must be careful not to take honor that we do not deserve or that we only partially deserve. Especially if we spend most of the day browsing the web and using office equipment for our personal needs.

As another example, let’s say I decided to stay at home to take care of my small children and I put them in front of the TV in their room, while I go off and watch TV in another room. A few minutes before my wife gets home, I take them outside and play with them, as if I invested hours with my children. Now that my wife gets home, it’s her turn to take care of the kids, because I was a good father and played with them earlier and now I’m tired; this is an instance of false appearances as well as a lying.

We are also guilty of presenting false appearances within the community, and when this happens, it causes harm in a number of ways. On one hand, it’s the honor that we deceitfully take from our brothers and sisters in the community. Even if the honor is deserved, receiving it from man comes at the expense of receiving it from God, at the price of a blessing from God in our lives.

If we put up false appearances or try to appear more righteous than we really are, we are setting a high standard. However, when the truth comes out, and it always does, the fake high standard is broken, and this may harm many others in the process.

Trust Begins With the Smallest Things

We must be able to trust one another, and when it turns out we were lied to, it immediately leads to brokenness, pain, insecurity, and even despair.

Remember, trust is necessary not just with important matters, in fact it must begin with the smallest things first. If we cannot be trusted in the small things, at work, in the home, or with family, we cannot be trusted by God.

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For example, someone pretends that he can heal others and people follow that person. But when it turns out that it’s just an illusion, innocent people get hurt and something inside of them gets broken.

Another example can be seen with people who claim that they’re prophets who hear from God. Innocent people follow them, and they don’t understand why they’re not getting a revelation from God. These desperate individuals might try fasting and praying for hours, trying with all their might to hear directly from the Almighty.

However, to their dismay, it turns out in the end that these people who claimed to be prophets never truly were.

In this instance, I believe that Peter is giving a warning to believers: if Ananias and Sapphira put up false appearances, they are actually lying to the Holy Spirit, to the Lord, and to the community. They cannot be trusted and should not be part of the community. We see in this story an extreme case of God ousting the impostors from the community by using death as the punishment.

Should Your Foot be on the Gas Pedal or on the Brakes?

My favorite part of this parasha and favorite part of the Torah is the verse that closes and seals the Book of Exodus:

“So the cloud of the Lord was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the Israelites during all their travels.” – Exodus 40:38 [NIV]

I really love this verse because it taught me about the importance of balance in life.

Everything in life is based on pressing the gas pedal and pressing on the brakes.

When we burn with enthusiasm, we let out a lot of energy and our engine may catch fire – we should calm down. But when we’re sleepy and running at half capacity, we should drink a strong cup of coffee and wake up. When we’re stretched to the limit, we needed to loosen up a bit, but if we’re too loose, it’s hard for us to snap back into action and do what is required of us. When we’re too happy and in the clouds, our warning lights don’t work, so we should land back on Earth. However, if we sink into depression, we need to rise up a bit, we need to strive to transcend.

The Israelites were accompanied by a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire, fire gives light and heat in the cold, dark night of the desert. The pillar of cloud however, gives shade, hiding the bright desert sun. Life is a series of contradictions; the point is to develop a heightened sense in order to know when to press on the brakes and when to press on the gas pedal.

I also relate this to our spiritual lives – we cannot be so connected with the spiritual side, so as to neglect the physical side. It’s not healthy to neglect your life. On the other hand, we cannot neglect the spiritual side in caring for this world.

In Conclusion

The grandiose ending of the Book of Exodus tells of God descending to dwell in a house that the people of Israel built for Him. God Almighty, Creator of everything, coming to dwell with humans.

This ending teaches me, that after the hard and meticulous work, when we work from our hearts, God comes and dwells amongst us. Even in the congregation, we must attend to the smallest details, beginning with the chairs, the kitchen utensils, general cleaning, greeting one another, and not to mention mutual respect and good manners. If we attend to the small and the big things – God will dwell among us.

Be strengthened and encouraged, next week we will begin the Book of Leviticus.

Click here to download a pdf version of this teaching.