The Weekly eDrash

A messianic teaching email with commentary on the weekly Torah Portions.
Depression, sorrow, and despondency spiritually blinds us, causing us to forget the awesome power of God.
THIS WEEK’S TORAH PORTION:

  • Beha’alotcha (בהעלותך | When you set up)
  • Torah: Numbers 8:1-12:15
  • Haftarah: Zechariah 2:14-4:7
  • Gospel: Luke 17:11-18:14

Why keep the biblical Sabbath?

Why don’t Christians in the church today keep the biblical Sabbath? Was the observance of the seventh-day Sabbath done away with? Even if you already know the answers, you’ll want to read this book.. Preview and order at our Store today »

New Book — From Sabbath to Sabbath

The Shortened Arm

Moses was depressed. Depression is the enemy of faith. Depression and self-pity create a spiritual blindness. When Moses allowed himself to be overcome by the pressures and stresses of his responsibilities, he slipped into despondency and temporarily went spiritually blind. He seems to have momentarily forgotten who God is and what God had done in the past.

The LORD told Moses that He would provide Israel with a month’s supply of meat. Moses protested against the plan, pointing out to God that it would be impossible to procure sufficient meat to feed 600,000 men for a month. Moses rhetorically asked, “Should flocks and herds be slaughtered for them, [would it be] sufficient for them? Or should all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, [would it be] sufficient for them?” (Numbers 11:22).

Moses’ reply seems shocking. Had Moses forgotten that God was already miraculously feeding the people on a daily basis? If God chose to feed them meat instead of manna every morning, what difference did that make? Moses’ despondency had blinded him to God’s power. His depression had flattened his faith.

God responded with a rhetorical question of His own. He asked Moses, “Is the LORD’S power limited?” (Numbers 11:23). A literal translation of the Hebrew is more poetic. He asked Moses, “Has the hand of the LORD become shorter?” In other words, “Are you suggesting that the God who wrought the ten plagues, split the sea, fed you with manna and brought water from the rock has lost His power?”

The next time you find yourself doubting God, ask yourself, “Has the hand of the LORD become shorter?” The next time you find yourself despondent and depressed, remind yourself of the great things God has done in the past.

Then I said, “It is my grief, that the right hand of the Most High has changed.” I shall remember the deeds of the LORD; surely I will remember Your wonders of old. I will meditate on all Your work and muse on Your deeds. (Psalm 77:10-12)

The Weekly eDrash

A messianic teaching email with commentary on the weekly Torah Portions.
Confession is the essential part of repentance; and the more one confesses, the more praiseworthy he is.
THIS WEEK’S TORAH PORTION:

  • Nasso (נשא | Take up)
  • Torah: Numbers 4:21-7:89
  • Haftarah: Judges 13:2-5
  • Gospel: John 11:1-54

Why keep the biblical Sabbath?

Why don’t Christians in the church today keep the biblical Sabbath? Was the observance of the seventh-day Sabbath done away with? Even if you already know the answers, you’ll want to read this book.. Preview and order at our Store today »

New Book — From Sabbath to Sabbath

Confession and Repentance

The Torah commands us to confess our sins and repent from them. Sin is transgression of the Torah’s commandments. When we sin, we are not to remain in the sin, nor are we to passively accept the fact that we are sinners. The LORD commands us to strive against sin. We must humble ourselves to confess the sin and then turn away from it.

Even the smallest sin should be confessed. Confession should be made privately, but audibly, directly to God. King David says, “I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD; and You forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah’” (Psalm 32:5). John the beloved disciple says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

The Chofetz Chaim explains the obligation of confession and repentance as follows:

A sinner should turn back from his sin, and should confess his misdeed before God as Scripture says, “When a man or woman commits any of the sins of mankind, acting unfaithfully against the LORD, and that person is guilty, then he shall confess his sins which he has committed” (Numbers 5:6-7). This means an avowal in words before the blessed God. He is to say from the depths of his heart, “I beseech You HaShem: I have sinned, done wrong, and acted criminally before You. This-and-this I did (and he is to describe the sin in detail); and here I have regretted my deed and become ashamed of it. Never will I go back and do this thing again.” The main element is remorse in the heart, in truth, over the past; and one must take it upon himself not to do such a thing ever again. Confession is the essential part of repentance; and the more one confesses, the more praiseworthy he is. (Chofetz Chaim)

The Torah links confession and repentance together: “He shall confess his sins which he has committed and repent.” Confession is the first step toward repentance. When John the Immerser called Israel to immerse as a sign of repentance, they came to be “baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins” (Mark 1:5). Yeshua’s gospel message of the kingdom came with an imperative to repent. Most of Yeshua’s teachings illustrate repentance. The first step of obedience to Yeshua requires a confession and renunciation of sin. The life of discipleship requires daily confession and repentance.

Confession should be made audibly in prayer to God, but it need not be made in front of others or to another person. It does not require an intermediary. In Judaism, penitents need not confess their sins to priests or rabbis. Nevertheless, when possible, one should seek out a trusted brother or sister in whom one can confide, as James the brother of the Master says, “Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed” (James 5:16). Confessing transgression to a trusted friend and expressing deep remorse over the sin to another person introduces a level of accountability.

Disciples of Yeshua can confidently carry out the commandment, confessing sins before God. We know that, thanks to the efficacious sacrifice of our righteous Messiah, our prayers of confession and repentance will always be received: “He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions” (Colossians 2:13

The Weekly eDrash

A messianic teaching email with commentary on the weekly Torah Portions.
The most effective measure that the modern state of Israel could take to improve the security situation is to turn back to the Torah and place hope in the Messiah.
THIS WEEK’S TORAH PORTION:

  • Bechukotai (בחקותי | In my statutes)
  • Torah: Leviticus 26:3-27:34
  • Haftarah: Jeremiah 16:19-17:14
  • Gospel: Luke 14:1-15:32

New Book — Just Released!

Why don’t Christians in the church today keep the biblical Sabbath? Was the observance of the seventh-day Sabbath done away with? Even if you already know the answers, you’ll want to read this book.. Preview and order at our Store today »

New Book — From Sabbath to Sabbath

Shalom in the Land

When the nation of Israel as a whole is walking in covenant faithfulness, she will experience shalom (שלום) in the land. The Hebrew word shalom is more than just a greeting. It means “peace” and “wholeness.” In this context it refers to security from enemies. Moreover, the Torah promises protection from harmful beasts in the land.

I shall also grant peace in the land, so that you may lie down with no one making you tremble. I shall also eliminate harmful beasts from the land, and no sword will pass through your land. (Leviticus 26:6)

Anyone who follows the news from the Middle East knows that the modern State of Israel does not currently enjoy a complete peace. Since the formation of the Jewish state, almost 70 years ago, the tiny nation of Israel has been sorely vexed by enemies both outside and inside her borders. The shalom of Israel is under constant threat from the hostile neighbor nations and from terrorists.

Leviticus says that when the nation of Israel as a whole is walking in covenant faithfulness, she will vanquish her enemies. The Torah says that, “Five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand, and your enemies will fall before you by the sword” (Leviticus 26:8). Five Jews will pursue a hundred of Israel’s enemies, and a hundred Jews will chase down ten thousand enemies. Notice that the ratio is not consistent between the five Jews and the hundred Jews. Five chasing one hundred yields a ratio of 1:20. One hundred chasing ten thousand yields a ratio of 1:100. Why the discrepancy?

Rashi explains, “You cannot compare a few who do the Torah to many who do the Torah.” In other words, the power of righteous people banding together increases exponentially. Five Torah keepers are great. They possess the spiritual potential by which each one of them can single-handedly defeat twenty of Israel’s enemies. One hundred Torah keepers have even greater spiritual potential. Each one of them possesses the potential to single-handedly defeat one hundred of Israel’s enemies.

This teaches that each individual who joins himself to the ranks of the faithful increases their efficacy by more than one. I am not sure if they will literally work on the field of battle until Messiah is at the head of the army, but remember the story of Jonathan and his armor bearer who single-handedly defeated a battalion of Philistines.

The point is that each person is critical to the whole. Likewise, the body of believers is more than just the sum of its parts. Each person who commits to a life of discipleship exponentially strengthens the entire body.

According to Leviticus, the most effective measure Israel could take to improve her security situation is to turn to the commandments of the Torah. When Messiah comes, He will fully turn Israel’s hearts back to Torah, and He will establish complete shalom in the land.

Pray for peace in the Land! Pray for the welfare of the State of Israel.

The Weekly eDrash

A messianic teaching email with commentary on the weekly Torah Portions.
There are many ways of helping the poor, but what is the best way, and to whom should you give first?
THIS WEEK’S TORAH PORTION:

  • Behar (בהר | On the mountain)
  • Torah: Leviticus 25:1-26:2
  • Haftarah: Jeremiah 32:6-27
  • Gospel: Luke 13:1-33/John 10:22-42

Counting to Shavuot Specials
As we are counting down to Shavuot, we are offering selected resources at great discounts. Check it out here »
Store Specials

Sustaining the Poor among Us

God makes us responsible for helping others who are in need. Where do we begin? The world is full of need. A person could exhaust all his resources giving to those in need.

The Torah says that if a countryman of ours becomes poor, we are to sustain him and assist him (Leviticus 25:35). The Hebrew word translated as “countryman” could literally be translated as “brother.” This teaches that our first responsibility is to our own family. When a family member is having difficulty putting food on the table, his immediate family must offer some assistance. The next level of responsibility is in regard to our brothers and sisters in Messiah. In the Master, we are all family. The needs of a brother or sister in our local congregation should take precedence over the needs of a stranger. In addition, our greater extended family includes all Israel. Even Jewish people who do not confess Yeshua as Messiah and Christians who do not acknowledge Torah should be regarded as family members for whom we all share responsibility. Finally, the Master extends the definition of brother to include every human being.

We are all brothers and sisters in the family of Adam. The order of priority for giving charity can be understood as follows:

  • 1. Immediate family
  • 2. Extended family
  • 3. Congregational family
  • 4. All Jews and Christians
  • 5. All human beings

There are many ways of helping the poor. The best means is not to give a gift of money but to help a person become self-sufficient. The old adage about teaching a man to fish instead of giving him a fish holds true. Simply throwing money at a situation might do more harm than good.

For example, suppose a man in your congregation is struggling to provide for his family. The congregation comes around him and gives him a gift of money to pay his rent and buy groceries. Relieved by the influx of cash, the man does not seek a means to improve his situation. A month later, he needs money for rent and groceries again. His brothers and sisters come to his rescue, and the situation perpetuates itself.

A better solution would be for some men in the community to sit down with the struggling person, help him sort through his finances and come up with an achievable solution: perhaps a better job, or a less expensive place to live, or maybe cutting out some unnecessary expenses. Our goal should be the success of all our brothers and sisters.

Still, a person should set aside a portion of his income every month for financial assistance. In Jewish communities, ten percent is considered a minimum amount to designate for charity. Giving generously to the poor was one of the main thrusts of the Master’s teaching. Over and over He encourages us to give to those in need. A life of discipleship requires a commitment to philanthropy. Even a poor person who is struggling financially should give. Let the rich man give from his riches and the poor man give from his poverty. God will bless both in return.

The Weekly eDrash

A messianic teaching email with commentary on the weekly Torah Portions.
The Torah tells us to count the forty-nine days until the festival of Shavu’ot, the anniversary of the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai and the anniversary of the giving of the Spirit in Jerusalem.
THIS WEEK’S TORAH PORTION:

  • Emor (אמור | Say)
  • Torah: Leviticus 21:1-24:23
  • Haftarah: Ezekiel 44:15-31
  • Gospel: Luke 11:1-12:59

Count-Off to Pentecost

The Torah commanded the Israelites to bring the “sheaf of the first fruits” of the grain harvest to the Temple on the day after the Sabbath of Unleavened Bread. The first grain to ripen in the land of Israel is the barley crop. The harvest ritual of offering the first fruits of the barley harvest in the Temple is called the Day of the Omer. An omer (עמר) is a biblical unit of measure that indicates about one sheaf’s worth of grain.

Coming immediately after the first day of the week of Unleavened Bread, the Day of the Omer is the anniversary of the Master’s resurrection. According to the gospel of John, the Master suffered on the day of Passover. He remained in the tomb on the first day of Unleavened Bread and rose after the Sabbath: the day of the Omer.

Year after year, the day of the first fruits of the barley reminds us of the resurrection of Messiah, the “first fruits of those who are asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20).

The day of the first fruits of the barley offering is day one of a forty-nine day count-off to the festival of Pentecost. Pentecost is the fiftieth day. The name Pentecost is derived from the Greek word for “fifty.”

The Torah commands us to count each of the intervening days. The forty-nine-day count-off is called the “counting of the omer.” During the forty-nine days of the omer count, the wheat crop in Israel ripened. By the end of the omer count, the crop was ready for harvest, and the first fruits of the wheat crop were offered as a bread offering in the Temple at Pentecost.

The days of the counting of the omer are an important part of the cycle of sanctification for believers. In Judaism, the forty-nine days of the counting of the omer are traditionally regarded as a time of spiritually shining up the soul in anticipation of Pentecost. In Messianic Judaism, the forty-nine days are extra special because they include the anniversary of the forty days that the risen Messiah was among His disciples; they include the anniversary of His ascension, and they culminate with the anniversary of the day the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the believers. As we count our way through the forty-nine days, we are advancing along the cycle of sanctification.

Fifty days later comes the festival of Pentecost. It is called Pentecost because that is the Greek word for “fifty.” Its Hebrew name is the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot, שבועות) because there are seven weeks of days between the beginning of Unleavened Bread and the festival of Pentecost.

According to Judaism, the day of Pentecost is the anniversary of the day God spoke the Ten Commandments from Mount Sinai. According to the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles on the day of Pentecost, fifty days after the Master’s resurrection.

We are all on a journey with our Creator. Our journeys are full of purpose and design. And, like all travelers, we make constant choices to move ahead, stand still, drift, or fall backwards. The seed of redemption planted in us at Passover has forty-nine days to grow and mature until the harvest of Pentecost. These days of counting provide a natural and timely opportunity to consider our path and make goals about our destinations.

The Weekly eDrash

A messianic teaching email with commentary on the weekly Torah Portions.
The Day of Atonement is a day for coming face to face with God. In a spiritual sense, we are to regard ourselves on that day as if we are standing in the holy of holies, face to face with the Almighty.
THIS WEEK’S TORAH PORTION:

  • Acharei Mot (אחרי מות | After the death)
  • Torah: Leviticus 16:1-18:30
  • Haftarah: Ezekiel 22:1-19
  • Gospel: John 7:1-52
Join us on our Israel Study Tour
Scroll down to learn more about our upcoming Israel Study Tour.

Face to Face

On the day of Yom Kippur, the high priest came face to face with God. That is why he first brought incense into the Holy of Holies. The purpose of the incense was to create a cloud of smoke so he would not see the ark of the covenant and die. In this world, even our closest encounters with God are veiled and obscured. Paul says that “now we see in a mirror dimly” (1 Corinthians 13:12). He was referring to a brass mirror. Though it provided a reflection, it was not a sharp, clear reflection like modern mirrors provide. If the brass was not freshly polished, the reflection in the mirror became more dim.

Remembering that we do not see God clearly should help keep us humble. It should make us reluctant to criticize other people’s theologies and their experiences with God. They may have perceived an aspect of the Almighty that we have not, or we may have found revelation that has been withheld from them. Neither of us is to be blamed for not seeing the whole picture. In this world, the whole picture is not available. Yeshua told the theologians of His day, “You have neither heard His voice at any time nor seen His form” (John 5:37). That is why a true appreciation for the greatness of God excludes religious arrogance. The Apostle Paul exclaimed, “Now I know [only] in part, but then I will know fully” (1 Corinthians 13:12). Nobody on this side of the veil has apprehended absolute truth.

“No one has seen God at any time” (John 1:18), the Apostle John said. Nevertheless, John goes on to say that the only begotten Son of God has revealed Him. Yeshua says, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

By clinging to Yeshua of Nazareth, we are spiritually carried with Him into the Holy of Holies. In Him we have a hope of sharing in the resurrection from the dead that He experienced. Paul reminds us that after the resurrection from the dead, we will see “face to face.” In that day, we will step into the Holy of Holies of the true sanctuary, and there will be no cloud of smoke obscuring our view. We will see face to face.

“We have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Yeshua, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh” (Hebrews 10:19-20). This powerful truth, however, leaves us in the hazardous position of trivializing the awesome holiness and terror of almighty God. We must not allow this spiritual privilege of direct access to the Father to diminish our reverence for Him.

He shall put the incense on the fire before the LORD, that the cloud of incense may cover the mercy seat that is on the ark of the testimony, otherwise he will die. (Leviticus 16:13)


Land of the Bible, Study Tour

Unlike an ordinary tourist trip to Israel, this unique study tour focuses on placing the biblical text onto the land, emphasizing biblical geography, history, and archaeology.

The intensive full-immersion into the world of the Bible dramatically brings the Scriptures to life on the stage of the Bible, with on-site lectures, stories, in-depth teaching, maps and study materials. No other trip to Israel offers an experience with such depth of scholarship in the land of Israel. Registration is now open.

Click here for full details »

First Fruits of Zion

The Weekly eDrash

A messianic teaching email with commentary on the weekly Torah Portions.
Christian denominations divide over the question of how to conduct a baptism, but the New Testament hardly describes the procedure.
THIS WEEK’S TORAH PORTION:

  • Metzora (מצורע | Leper)
  • Torah: Leviticus 14:1-15:33
  • Haftarah: 2 Kings 7:3-20
  • Gospel: Luke 9:51-10:42

A special portion for Shabbat HaGadol is read this Shabbat!

  • Shabbat HaGadol (שבת הגדול | The Great Sabbath)
  • Haftarah: Malachi 3:4-24
Finding the Seder in the Bible


Baptizo

The New Testament tells several stories about people being baptized, but the stories do not spell out the details of how the baptism was accomplished. The apostolic writers thought that the method and procedure of baptism was so well known that they felt no compulsion to record any of the details of the ritual. Because the apostles were all Jews, they considered baptism to be a basic part of daily life which required no description.

Baptism was originally a Levitical purification rite. Most purification ceremonies, such as the purification after leprosy, require immersion into a mikvah. The Greek New Testament expresses immersion into the mikvah with the term baptizo (βαπτίζω), the word from which we derive the English term baptism. Leviticus 15 prescribes baptism as the mode of purification for a variety of ritual contaminations.

Baptism means different things to different forms of Christianity. Disagreements about the mode and meaning of baptism can be blamed, in part, on the New Testament’s scanty descriptions of the ritual. The apostles say very little about the mode, never explaining exactly how a person is to be baptized. They say a bit more about the symbolism, but they leave most of that as if it is already taken for granted.

A person needs to be ritually pure before he or she can enter the Sanctuary or eat of the sacrifices. At a minimum, purification from ritual uncleanness required a full-body immersion into mayim chayim (מים חיים): Living water, that is water collected from a natural source like a spring, a river, or rainwater, but not drawn from a cistern or well. A pool of living water is called a mikvah.

A person undergoing immersion descends into the mikvah (or river, or lake, or ocean, or whatever the case may be). The person immerses himself or herself by wading into chest-deep water and bending the knees to completely submerge himself or herself. The dunking is repeated two more times for a total of three consecutive dunks. A person who immersed himself in this manner washed away his ritual uncleanness.

All worshipers going up to the Temple underwent immersion before entering the holy place. Archaeology has unearthed the remains of many apostolic-era immersion facilities near the entrance to the Temple. These are the same immersion baths that Yeshua and His disciples used as they went up to the Temple when in Jerusalem. Archaeologists have found remains of apostolic-era immersion baths all over the land of Israel, and they consider the presence of a mikvah in an excavation as key evidence of a Jewish population.

All of this indicates that baptism was not a Christian invention or even an apostolic innovation. From the days of Moses, Jews regularly practiced ritual immersion. Anyone who became ritually unclean needed to undergo a baptism before he or she could enter the Temple or eat from the sacrifices. The priests immersed every day. After a woman completed her monthly cycle, she needed to immerse herself before she could rejoin her husband. Some pious Pharisees went beyond the letter of the law and attempted to maintain a constant state of ritual purity which necessitated regular, daily immersion.

The immersion ritual symbolizes death and resurrection. When a proselyte converts to Judaism to become legally Jewish, he passes through an immersion in the mikvah. His legal identity as a Gentile dies in the water of the mikvah, and the proselyte emerges from the mikvah reborn as a Jew. Likewise, John the Immerser employed immersion as the physical token of repentance. The penitent entering the water of the Jordan died to sin and emerged from the water reborn to a life of repentance and righteousness. Paul attached similar symbolism to the immersion in Messiah:

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Messiah Yeshua have been baptized into His death? … Our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. (Romans 6:3-7)

The Weekly eDrash

A messianic teaching email with commentary on the weekly Torah Portions.
The laws of the Torah ensured that the amazing miracle of a child entering the world would not be treated as something mundane.

THIS WEEK’S TORAH PORTION:

  • Tazria (תזריע | She will conceive)
  • Torah: Leviticus 12:1-13:59
  • Haftarah: 2 Kings 4:42-5:19
  • Gospel: Mark 9:14-50

* Special readings for Shabbat HaChodesh are applicable this Shabbat.

  • Shabbat HaChodesh (החדש | The Month)
  • * Maftir: Exodus 12:1-20
  • * Haftarah: Ezekiel 45:16-46:18
Finding the Seder in the Bible


The Miracle of Life

The name of the twenty-seventh reading from the Torah is Tazria (תזריע), which means “she conceived.” The name is derived from the words of Leviticus 12:2, where the LORD says to Moses, “When a woman [conceives] and bears a male child.” Leviticus 12 discusses the laws of purification after childbirth.

Speak to the sons of Israel, saying: “When a woman gives birth …” (Leviticus 12:2)

The birth of a child is a holy and wonderful thing. Every time a baby is born, the birthing brings to light a small incarnation. Every baby is an immortal soul housed in garments of flesh. A baby comes into the world in the image of God. Life springs forth from life.

In some cases, the miracle is more obvious than in others. A Christian acquaintance of my wife was having a baby when complications occurred. The baby was in the wrong position in the birth canal, and the doctors grew concerned. They listened carefully to the heart monitor as the birth progressed, but sadly, the fluttering heartbeat tapered off and stopped. An hour later, the baby girl was stillborn. The doctor set the lifeless body aside, and mother and father were crushed. In the midst of her tears, the mother saw the baby’s leg move. She pointed it out to the staff, but the doctors explained that these were simply reflexive muscle movements. A few moments later, the baby gasped, coughed, and gasped again. Suddenly the hospital staff went into an emergency frenzy as they began resuscitation of the little girl. The child is fine today.

Not every story has a happy ending like that. There are few things more sober and heartrending than a pregnancy that ends prematurely or a baby born into this world only to pass on to the next world. We can’t explain why things like that happen, but it is possible that some souls are so pure and burn so hot that they quickly return to the flame that first gave them life.

The laws of the Torah ensured that, in the days of the Tabernacle, the amazing miracle of birth would not be treated as something mundane. God cordoned off childbirth with holy laws that gave the new mother a special status. The sacrifices after childbirth remind us that the act of giving birth is itself a miraculous encounter with the Divine. It is not to be regarded as just ordinary life. Instead, the Torah grants the event sanctity and significance by requiring sacrifices. The new baby is a gift from God, and the mother naturally wants to reciprocate with a gift. She brings a burnt offering and a sin offering as her gifts to God, who blessed her with a child.


Vine of David Passover Resources