Generally, I like John Piper’s writing. However, back in 2004, he wrote an article entitled, “Israel, Palestine and the Middle East.” Unfortunately, the article is a perfect example of the heretical “Replacement Theology.” Well, I found an excellent response to this, by Rabbi Baruch. Read the rest of this entry »
Thought for the Week:
The words “searched carefully” are the exact halfway mark of the words of the Torah. This is to teach us that the entire Torah revolves around constant inquiry. One must never stop studying and seeking ever deeper and broader understanding of the Torah. (Degel Machaneh Ephraim) 
But Moses searched carefully for the goat of the sin offering, and behold, it had been burned up! (Leviticus 10:16) Read the rest of this entry »
Yitro – יתרו : “Jethro”
Torah : Exodus 18:1-20:23 (26)
Haftarah : Isaiah 6:1-7:6; 9:5-6
Gospel : Matthew 6:1-8:1
Thought for the Week
At Mount Sinai, God officially proposes to Israel, offering to make them His people if only they will obey Him and keep His covenant. It is like a proposal of marriage. In rabbinic literature, Exodus 19 is often spoken of as the betrothal. God is compared to the suitor and bridegroom. Israel is the bride. The Torah is their ketubah. Moses, in his role as liaison between God and the people, is sometimes described as the “friend of the bridegroom.” Read the rest of this entry »
Tazria-Metzorah / תזריע – מצורע : “Conceive”/”Leper”
Torah : Leviticus 12:1–15:33
Haftarah : 2 Kings 7:3-20
Gospel : Luke 10–13
Thought for the Week:
Hyssop grows in tufts of stems no larger than a foot and a half. The Bible contrasts the hyssop against the cedar when it says, “[Solomon] spoke of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon even to the hyssop that grows on the wall” (1 Kings 4:33). That puts the hyssop on the opposite end of the spectrum from the cedar. Rashi explains that the hyssop plant was used in the purification from leprosy because it is a lowly, humble plant and therefore reminds the penitent gossip that he should have a lowly, humble spirit. A person should try to be a hyssop and not a cedar.
Then the priest shall give orders to take two live clean birds and cedar wood and a scarlet string and hyssop for the one who is to be cleansed. (Leviticus 14:4)
Why did the cleansing of the leper require cedar wood?
The sages believed that biblical leprosy resulted from evil speech. Rashi suggested that the purification ceremony employed cedar wood because the cedar, as a tall and lofty tree, represents the haughty spirit. The metaphor of a cedar as a haughty person comes from the words of the prophet Isaiah.
The LORD of hosts will have a day of reckoning against everyone who is proud and lofty and against everyone who is lifted up, that he may be abased. And it will be against all the cedars of Lebanon that are lofty and lifted up. (Isaiah 2:12-13)
A haughty spirit finds it difficult to tolerate other people’s character flaws. The haughty person fails to recognize his own shortcomings. Instead, he focuses on the shortcomings of others. Most often, when we speak ill of others, it is because we are defending our own pride. People elevate themselves by stepping on other people. By putting someone else down, we think we are lifting ourselves up. The Proverbs contrast two kinds of people: a person who guards his words and a person with a haughty spirit:
He who guards his mouth and his tongue, guards his soul from troubles. “Proud,” “Haughty,” “Scoffer,” are his names, who acts with insolent pride. (Proverbs 21:23-24)
The Psalms also equate haughtiness with evil speech. Psalm 101 warns that God punishes the slanderer and does not endure haughtiness:
Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, him I will destroy; no one who has a haughty look and an arrogant heart will I endure. (Psalm 101:5)
The big, tall, haughty cedar is the most likely tree in the forest to be cut down. As the saying goes, the bigger they are, the harder they fall. “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling” (Proverbs 16:18). The Bible says that God’s “eyes are on the haughty to bring them low” (1 Samuel 22:28).
In our attempts to elevate ourselves by stepping on others, we inevitably lower ourselves. This is part of what Yeshua meant when He taught that if a man lifts himself up he will be humbled, but if he humbles himself he will be lifted up.
Imagine yourself at a Sabbath table with friends from your community when your friends raise the topic of a person known to be an adversary of yours. Your friends begin to criticize your adversary’s faults. How do you respond? It feels good to have your friends on your side, and the temptation is to join them in pointing out your adversary’s flaws. It makes you look better. Or does it? The higher path is to come to the defense of the person and quiet the criticisms. When you show that kind of integrity and humility, it not only makes you look better; it makes you better.
Thought for the Week:
Had the Egyptians sacrificed a lamb according to the instructions and applied its blood to the doorposts of their houses, they too would have been spared.
Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, “On the tenth of this month they are each one to take a lamb for themselves, according to their fathers’ households, a lamb for each household.” (Exodus 12:3)
The instructions were simple and straightforward. On the tenth day of the month, every family was to select an unblemished lamb or goat. On the fourteenth day of the month, they were to slaughter it and smear its blood on the doorposts of their houses. The blood would be a sign. God promised to pass over the houses marked with blood. The Hebrew word for “pass over” is pasach (פסח). We translate the word pesach into English as Passover.
The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over (pasach, פסח) you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. (Exodus 12:13)
The pesach lamb was a sacrifice, but it was not a sacrifice for sin. In discussing the Passover lamb, the Torah does not mention anything about sin, confession or atonement. Not every kind of animal sacrifice was meant for taking away sin. The blood of the Passover lamb was meant as a sign for God.
Did God really need a sign? Didn’t He know which houses belonged to the Hebrews? Why did He need them to mark their houses with blood?
This can be compared to a father who told his son, “We are about to cross a busy street. Look both ways to see if any traffic is coming and tell me when it is safe to cross.” Surely the father did not need his son to tell him when it was safe to cross. He could see for himself. Why didn’t he simply tell his son when it was safe? He desired to teach his son the necessary precautions because he knew that one day it might save his life.
In a similar way, God wanted to familiarize His people with the concepts of sacrifice and blood atonement, because one day their lives would depend on it. If it was just a matter of making a mark on the house, it would not have been necessary to use an unblemished lamb (one that is fit for sacrifice) or even to use blood at all. The ritual of the lamb’s blood at Passover provided Israel with a marvelous object lesson to prepare all of us for understanding the atoning work of Yeshua.
Every year, as we work through the stories of the slaying of the Passover Lamb, the exodus from Egypt, the crossing of the Red Sea and the rest of the narratives, we see the story of our salvation unfold in the language of Torah. The story of the Passover lamb is foundational for understanding the gospel. Just as the Passover lamb needed to be unblemished and flawless, we need a sinless substitute to take our place in judgment. Just as the blood markings protected everyone in the house, we need to take shelter under the spilled blood of Messiah. Just as the firstborn of those who did not prepare a Passover lamb were struck down, so too those outside of Messiah are without hope.
Shemot – שמות : “Names”
Torah : Exodus 1:1-6:1
Haftarah : Isaiah 27:6-28:13; 29:22-23
Gospel : Mark 1,2
Thought for the Week:
“He supposed that his brethren understood that God was granting them deliverance through him, but they did not understand” (Acts 7:25). What was Moses planning to do? Kill every Egyptian in Egypt and hide them all in the sand? God had a better plan.
But he said, “Who made you a prince or a judge over us? Are you intending to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid and said, “Surely the matter has become known.” (Exodus 2:14)
When Moses was forty years old, he went out from Pharaoh’s court to visit his brethren, the sons of Israel. He was appalled to see the mistreatment they endured. He realized that God had placed him in a position of power in order to help his people. Moved with compassion for his countrymen, Moses went to the defense of one man who was being beaten by an Egyptian. Moses struck the Egyptian, killed him and buried him in the sand.
He returned to the Hebrews the next day. He had a deep sense of purpose. Somehow he must help his people. He was on a mission from God. When Moses came across two Hebrew men fighting, he attempted to mediate between them. Instead they turned their resentment toward him. Clement, the disciple of Peter, says that they resented him out of a sense of envy:
Envy compelled Moses to flee from the face of Pharaoh king of Egypt, when he heard these words from his fellow countryman, “Who made you a judge or a ruler over us? Will you kill me, as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?” (1 Clement 4:10)
Yeshua taught that a prophet is without honor in his own home ( Matthew 13:57). Just as the Israelites initially rejected the authority of Moses, so too the Jewish leadership in the days of the apostles rejected the authority of Yeshua. Just as Moses disappeared, only to reappear a generation later and bring about the redemption from Egypt, so too Yeshua has been concealed and will be revealed in the last generation to bring about the final redemption.
When Moses realized that his attempts to help his people were not welcomed, nor could he trust them to conceal his secret about the Egyptian he had killed, he fled from Egypt. His noble delusions of being the redeemer of Israel all came crashing down.
This is one of my father’s favorite stories. He always points out how Moses’ life can be divided into three forty-year segments. At the age of forty, Moses thought he was the redeemer of Israel. He had a dream of saving his people. His dream was frustrated, and in exasperation, he gave up. He fled into the wilderness, where he became a shepherd, herding sheep for a pagan. He married a Midianite woman. His dream of redeeming Israel died in the wilderness. Only after the dream was dead and Moses was no longer trying to achieve it at all did God call him. Only then–long after the all the pride and bravado were gone–was Moses ready to be a tool in the hand of God. He spent the last forty years of his life fulfilling the dream that had been birthed in him forty years before.
This can be compared to a carpenter who hired a young apprentice. The apprentice was eager to get busy with building houses, too eager to take the time to learn the carpentry trade. “Very well,” said the carpenter, “if you are so certain of yourself, go ahead and build.” Halfway through the construction project, the lopsided frame he was erecting collapsed. The young apprentice turned in his tools and shamefacedly said, “I have to quit. I’m not a carpenter. I can’t build anything.” “Excellent,” the carpenter replied. “Now you are ready to learn how to build.”
My father liked to tell the story of Moses’ failure in Egypt whenever we faced some great discouragement or setback.