Audio teaching on Behar / Bechukotai (Leviticus 25:1-27:34)

Join with me as we study the last two parashot of the book of Leviticus, parashot Behar / Bechukotai (Leviticus 25:1-27:34). I was invited to speak at a Messianic congregation this past weekend and presented a message of love, redemption, unity and the restoration of the Kingdom I see woven into the text of these two parashot. I pull not only from the text of our Torah portions, but from the Apostolic Scriptures, the Mishnah and Midrash to weave a pattern of restoration that can only come when we take our responsibilities seriously. Join with me as we learn parashot Behar and Bechukotai together.

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Dying In My Tent

“Resh Lakish said: Whence do we learn that words of Torah are firmly held by one who kills himself for it? Because it says, This is the Torah, when a man shall die in the tent.”
(Babylonian Talmud, Berachot 63b)

While studying this week’s Torah Portion (Chukat/Chukas), I came to the this passage:

זֹאת הַתּוֹרָה אָדָם כִּי־יָמוּת בְּאֹהֶל

This is the law when someone dies in a tent (Numbers 19:14a)

It reminded me of the lessons I had learned from Artscroll’s A Daily Dose of Torah (ADDT) regarding this passage. Although this passage is literally about the law regarding the transfer of corpse impurity to anyone under the roof the same roof as a corpse, it is understood midrashically from the Hebrew to be a lesson about one who would “kill himself for the sake of Torah.” As the passage in Berachot 63b says, “the words of Torah are firmly held by one who kills himself for it.” Or as ADDT phrases it, “Torah remains only with one who kills himself for it.” And, as a reminder for the literal-minded, they clarify that it is not that one is to endanger one’s life for the sake of Torah. It is rather that we must restrict our personal pleasures, and sacrifice of our time in order to make the time for study so that the lessons of Torah will be impressed upon us with a lasting impression.

From the moment I learned this a few years back, this has spoken to me. However, this week it speaks even louder. Due to some undisclosed circumstances, over the last year or more, my guiding philosophy has been:

“For in much wisdom is much vexation,and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.” (Ecclesiastes 1:18)

I have kept up with my studies just enough to give my family some direction, but nothing more. I have not “died in my tent.” I’ve only been in survival mode. However, during Shavuot of this year Hashem spoke to my heart and said that I must get back on course and “die in my tent” for His sake. I must put aside all of the coping mechanisms (distractions) with which I have been filling my life. I must “die to myself” in order to truly live, and become who He has intended for me to become.

“When I die and face the heavenly court,” the Hassidic Rabbi Zusha famously said, “if they ask me why I was not more like Abraham, I will say that I didn’t have Abraham’s intellectual abilities. If they say, ‘Why weren’t you more like Moses?’ then I will explain that I did not have Moses’ talent for leadership. For every such question I will have an answer, but if they say, ‘Zusha, why were you not Zusha?’ for that I will have no answer.”

Since Shavuot, I have been studying with renewed fervor. I have been a lot more consistent in my studying, and more engaged with the Holy Text. I’ve also been gleaning from other sources, and studying them more carefully as well. Although I still have a nagging trepidation, I am looking forward with anticipation to what Hashem is going to do in my life as I surrender to Him.

Will I ever become who I was intended to become? Will you? Maybe it is time for both of us to “die in our tents” together.

Israel Rolls the Stone Away

As many of you know, one of my favorite daily studies (outside of Torah Club) is A Daily Dose of Torah from Artscroll. In the Torah Thought for the Day section this past Tuesday there was an interesting concept. It relates the story of when Jacob (although weary from his travels and lack of rest) met Rachel at the well, he was easily able to roll the stone off of the well single-handedly (where it was implied that it took many men to do this). This is interpreted midrashically as a portent of a future event in which the “great stone, symbolic of our sins, which prevents the exile from coming to an end, until Yaakov himself will come and remove it, like one removing a cork from a bottle.

I can easily see this representation in the rolling away of the stone of Yeshua’s burial site. When the stone was rolled away, Yeshua’s resurrection & his work of redemption & triumph over sin and death are realized, as Paul speaks about in 1 Corinthians 15:50-58:

I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
(1 Corinthians 15:50-58 ESV)

Parashah Resource

FFOZ’s new online resource—TorahPortions.org—is now live. It is going to be a really great resource for weekly Bible study.

At a glance, you can see the weekly reading from the Torah, the Prophets and the Gospels, as well as:

  • A topical outline for the current readings
  • A summary of the weekly Torah reading
  • Messianic commentary with insights on the weekly reading
  • A preview of next week’s reading
  • Any specific weekly reading throughout the year
  • Downloadables & resources with more to come

Be sure to check it out and pass it along to anyone who you think would appreciate it. We really want to get the word out on this valuable online tool.

Letter vs. Spirit

While I was searching through some of my emails and such that I had sent to a few men that I am challenging in Torah, I came across a some notes that I had written back in January that corresponds really well to my thoughts on this week’s Parasha (Emor) from last year. It’s a little rough around the edges, but I think it gets the point across.

Right-click (pc) or Control-click (mac!) to download: