The Torah begins with a powerful revelation and deep implications about our existence: God created the universe. This means that there is purpose and meaning to life and creation. The rabbis pondered if there were any deeper implications to this revelation.
The person who engages the Torah for its own sake brings praise not to himself but for God. He brings healing to those around him by showing them that God’s ways are better and more life-giving than anything this world could offer.
When we piece all this together, we can truly agree with the Psalmist: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1). Should we not seek to preserve and care for such a precious revelation?
Even though numbers may not be everyone’s strong suit, some simple addition can uncover some deep spiritual concepts. It may be the glory of HaShem to conceal these matters, but it is our glory to search for them. I decided to try my brain at gematria. Something cool popped up.
The “house of Israel” refers to the regular Israelite, the “house of Aaron” refers to the priests, the “house of Levi” refers to the Levites, and those “who fear the LORD” refers to those from the nations who have joined themselves to the God of Israel, the God-fearers, the strangers who dwell among you (gerim).
The phrase “Let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth” can be better translated as “Let them increase like fish in the land.” If this is correct, this seems like a strange blessing. Yes, fish multiply and grow abundant but so do many other species. And why say “in the land” when fish live in the water?
These seemingly insignificant details about Abraham marrying Keturah point to God’s larger picture of redemption. The purpose of calling Abraham and bringing the Jewish people through his lineage was not just for the salvation of Israel but also for all people from every nation.
According to apostolic tradition we should view Noah as a tzaddik who was able to stand strong for God despite the wicked ways of the world around him. Noah was not just righteous in his generation but righteous in spite of his generation.
Tikkun olam is the idea that we are preparing the world for the Messianic Era. Although it is the Almighty who will finally complete the healing process, we can prepare the world for the Messianic Age by doing our best with God’s help to begin the work of restoration now.
To remove the blemish of hatred from the Holy Nation, HaShem chose to remove the children of Israel from their “nest.” Messiah, like the mother bird, needed first to be sent away before his children were carried off into exile.
This coming Shabbat is Shabbat Shekalim. On this Sabbath a special maftir reading of Exodus 30:11-16 occurs to remind us that in the days of the Temple, the annual half-shekel Temple tax was collected during the month of Adar. It is around this time that the story of the shekel in the fish’s mouth from Matthew 17:24-17 took place
A new TV sitcom prepares to lampoon the Bible with the "hilarious" premise of a man who takes Bible literally and tries to obey it. The executive producer of the new series, says that he wants to inspire thoughtful conversation about religion and faith. We’ll be writing a review and commentary on every episode of “Living Biblically.”
HaShem has also given the nations of the world an inheritance. According to the sages, “when he divided mankind” refers to the dispersion of mankind after the tower of Babel. It was then that God divided the world into the seventy nations. Then what is their inheritance?
Deuteronomy 29 tells us that when Israel turns away from HaShem and his Torah, God will bring judgment upon the Jewish people and their land. Then the nations of the world will remind the people of Israel of their sins and the reason this punishment has come upon them.
The method of purity was brought forth not from within Israel but from the outside, from the unclean, so to speak. In this way, although the mitzvah of the red heifer traditionally does not apply to Gentiles, HaShem allowed them to participate with Israel in this most important mitzvah.
At a recent pastor’s conference involving thousands of church leaders, I listened to one of the most well-known and influential pastors in the world introduce a concept that pitted the morality of the Old Testament against the morality of the New Testament. His objective was to get church leaders to move away from Old Testament morality.
Imagine if the President declared, "I have fulfilled every aspect of the Constitution of the United States perfectly. Now that it is fulfilled, its authority over this nation has been put to an end in me. Today I tell you, the United States has only one law: that you love one another."
Romans 14 is sometimes pushed as proof that disciples of Jesus need not worry about kosher laws or keep the Sabbath on the seventh day. Did Paul grant people license to eat truly anything? Can any day be kept as the Sabbath? In what sense is nothing unclean in itself?
As believers in Messiah Yeshua I like to think that we are dwelling in the tents of Shem. We have chosen not to be slaves of Israel but to become partners with them in working toward the kingdom of heaven. Indeed we can also say “Blessed is the God of Shem!”
Yeshua taught that the weighty matters of the Torah are justice, kindness, and faith. But what about Shabbat, which was given at Mount Sinai amidst fire, smoke, and the booming voice of God? Resting on the seventh day is more than recuperating from work. It’s an expression of faith in the God who created everything.
The Shabbat that precedes the first of the month of Adar (or, in the case of a leap year, Adar II) is known as Shabbat Sh'kalim. This is the first of four Shabbats with special Torah readings all happening before Passover. The reading for Shabbat Sh'kalim is found in Exodus 30:11-16, which tells the commandment of the half shekel historically collected before Purim.
In Parashat Mishpatim Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the seventy elders ascended Sinai and saw an apocalyptic vision of God. How does one see the God of Israel and survive? The Torah states that Moses and the rest of the great men not only survived, but the very next verse says that they “ate and drank.”
One of the most curious changes that will take place in the Messianic Era is the emergence of a New Torah. The rabbis teach that in the Messianic Era a New Torah will come from God and that our current Torah will be nothing compared to the New Torah of Messiah.