Weekly Torah Commentary – May 5, 2017 Acharei Mot/Kedoshim

Torah reading:  Leviticus 16-20

Haftorah reading: Amos 9:7-15

“On that day I will raise up the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down, and repair its damages; I will raise up its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old; that they may possess the remnant of Edom, and all the Gentiles who are called by My name,” says the Lord who does this thing.  vs. 11-12

Long before the time of Amos, the northern kingdom of Israel had rebelled and rejected the house of David. Here God promises to restore David’s royal line in preparation for the Messiah to come whose titles include ‘Son of David’.  Previous to these verses the prophet has been warning of judgment upon Israel but suddenly there is this abrupt change from the stinging rebuke.  It is now declared that the reason for the divine judgment was not revenge, but the only way to usher in the restored order on which the heart of God was set.

God’s intent in rebuke and judgment is ALWAYS restoration.  He disciplines those whom He loves that we might walk more uprightly before Him.

The Tabernacle of David calls our attention to worship for that was it’s purpose: to be a place of worship and exuberant praise to the Holy One of Israel.  To be sure David had no easy life. He faced many trials but what was his strength? He had a passionate love for God which was expressed in exhilarating worship.  From his heart came such words as:  ‘I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.’

David knew the LORD to be not just the God of our good times but the God of all our times.  Therefore He is also the God of our worst times.  He is our God when all is going well and He is our God when troubles surround us.  He is our God when we have plenty to eat and He is our God when we are hungry.  In every and any circumstance, He is our God and worthy of our worship.

Worship is more than songs and the utterance of certain prayers.  Those may be experiences of worship but in truth our entire life is to be an expression of worship to our God.  Learning to honor Him and maintain an attitude of thanksgiving towards the LORD throughout our daily life, whatever our situation, is a process that never stops.  We will continue to learn it to our last breath.

You may be thinking ‘I don’t have trouble thanking God and praising Him for all the blessings He has given me but what about the hard times? What about when tragedy strikes or I’m going through a very difficult season of life?’

My answer is a question: What’s the difference between a potato, an egg and a coffee bean?  (I can hear you saying, ‘What?!? Did I read that right?!?)  Yes, you did.  Stay with me.

A potato is hard when you put it in hot water.  After boiling it for some time, it becomes soft, mushy and weak.

An egg is protected by its shell until you put it in hot water.  After boiling it for some time, the egg becomes hard.

A coffee bean starts out hard, but when you put it in hot water it doesn’t get harder and it doesn’t get mushy, instead, it changes the water into something better – fragrant, aromatic coffee!

So – praising God and thanking Him for His kindness and goodness, even in hard times, is a matter of choice.

Will I choose to be like a potato whose spirituality weakens when I face something difficult?

Will I choose to be like an egg and harden my heart with bitterness and resentment in difficult times?

Or will I choose to be like the coffee bean? To immerse myself in the love of God when times are hard and change myself into something new and better despite the ‘hot water’ I’m going through?

These comparisons are not original with me.  I read a story on Facebook where a father used these very examples to help his daughter get through a very difficult time in her life.  They were too good not to pass on to you.

My fellow coffee-lovers out there, next time you sip your brew ask yourself, ‘Am I letting God change me into a better person not in spite of but because of what I’m going through?’  Even if you aren’t a coffee drinker, it’s still a great question!

In Tune with Torah this week = whatever it takes to develop a lifestyle of worship is well worth the investment.  For our God is worthy of all our worship and praise – all the time and in all our ways.

Shabbat Shalom

 

 

Weekly Torah Commentary – Bo February 3, 2017

Torah Reading:  Exodus 10:1-13:16

Haftorah Reading: Jeremiah 46:13-28

Jeremiah 46:27 But fear not thou, O Jacob my servant, neither be dismayed, O Israel: for, lo, I will save thee from afar, and thy seed from the land of their captivity; and Jacob shall return, and shall be quiet and at ease, and none shall make him afraid. Fear not thou, O Jacob my servant, saith Jehovah, for I am with thee: for I will make a full end of all the nations whither I have driven thee; but I will not make a full end of thee, but I will correct thee in measure, and will in no wise leave thee unpunished.

This verses states emphatically that nothing whatever will be able to thwart the eternal purpose of God in providing redemption for all mankind through the posterity of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Despite the fact that the Chosen people had become a degenerate, a corrupt vine instead of the noble vine that God had planted, they will not be able to countermand or destroy God’s intention. They indeed failed, but God did not fail.

We need to understand the difference between an oath and a promise, which are two of the ways, among others, by which God speaks to us.  He has given many promises such as ‘If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and forgive their sin and heal their land.’  2 Chronicles 7:14  The most important word in this passage is ‘If’. We readily understand that the promise comes with a condition: IF we will humble ourselves, pray, seek His face and turn from our wicked ways, then God will heal our land in response to His peoples’ prayers, repentance and humility.  That is a promise of God.

An oath, on the other hand, is when God speaks without condition; when He utters a pronouncement which will never be changed and which you can be absolutely sure will happen.  For example, immediately after Abraham was prevented from offering his son, Isaac, on Mt. Moriah and substituted a ram instead, the LORD spoke to Abraham in an oath:  ‘By myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gates of their enemies and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed because you have obeyed My voice.  Genesis 22:16-18  When God says ‘By Myself I have sworn…’ that is an oath which carries with it the utter impossibility of it not coming to pass.  There may not be a time frame given but if God said it in oath language, it WILL happen.  In this case, the blessings to Abraham did not follow an ‘If you will..’ clause. Rather, Abraham had already obeyed God in faith and God’s response was to pronounce a massive blessing that would span generations.

So it is with the passage above in this week’s Haftorah.  The LORD pronounces an unchangeable decree that though He discipline Israel for their transgressions, He will not leave them nor forsake them.  He has promised the same to each of us.  He will discipline us when we need it for a loving Father always does, but He will never leave us nor forsake us.

This entire chapter of Jeremiah gives an extensive view of what it will be like for mankind when one world power, such as Egypt, is overcome by another world power.  Human life in all such situations is considered a very cheap and expendable factor; and the sorrows of the human race appear are almost beyond the powers of our imagination to fully comprehend.

Though uncomfortable to some, it is important to remind ourselves that there will be a Day of Judgment; that each of us will have to stand before the Almighty and render an account of what we have done with the life He so freely bestowed on us.

time

In Tune with Torah this week = How often we do bring to mind that our life is a gift? That each day is a new gift from God? That He expects us to make good use of the time He has allotted to us, not to serve ourselves but to do good to others?  Tomorrow is not guaranteed to anyone – Today, while it is still today, serve the Lord in joy and in holiness.

Shabbat Shalom

Weekly Torah Commentary – Matot-Masei July 17, 2015

Bamidbar/Numbers 33-36
The Danger of Suspicion

In this week’s Torah reading we learn that two of the tribes, Reuben and Gad, see that the land east of the Jordan is ideally suited as pasture for their large herds and flocks of livestock. Accompanied by half the tribe of Manasseh, they approach Moses and ask to have permission to settle there rather than cross the Jordan. Moses is initially furious at their request. Doing so will demoralize the rest of the people, he protests: “Shall your fellow countrymen go to war while you sit here?” Had they learned nothing from the sin of the spies who, by discouraging the people through their behavior, condemned an entire generation to forty years of wandering in the desert?

The Reubenites and Gadites get the point. They reply that they have no intention to separate themselves from the struggles of their brethren and are fully prepared to accompany them into the promised land and fight alongside them. “We will not return to our homes until every Israelite has received his inheritance.” Moses requires them to declare a public pledge to this effect and grants their request on condition that they fulfill their word. “When the land is conquered before God you may then return, free of any obligation before God and Israel and this land will be yours as your permanent property before God.”

The italicized phrase is the basis for an ethical axiom in Judaism. It is not enough to do what is right in the eyes of God. We are admonished to conduct ourselves in such a way as to be above suspicion. Our behavior and ethics should be above reproach.

All well and good but we know that at times the innocent are accused unjustly. Why?

Because the tendency to judge another is all too common in mankind.

We criticize in others what we do not like about ourselves. Let’s suppose you’re shy and someone in your workplace or class is outgoing and the proverbial ‘life of the party’. Because you would be embarrassed to be the center of attention, you don’t like it when someone else is and you get offended. So you ‘judge’ them as ‘show-off’s’. Perhaps what you really dislike is that they have the freedom to be themselves and for one reason or another, you feel that you don’t. Or somewhere along the line, you’ve decided that there’s something “wrong” with being shy.

We criticize in others what we are unwilling to deal with in ourselves. It’s easier to dislike it “out there” than take the steps to change ourselves. Haven’t you been around someone complaining about another person’s behavior and you think to yourself, “That’s funny, they do the same thing they are finding fault with in their friend!”

We criticize out of envy or jealousy. Do you find yourself resenting other people’s success, rather than being inspired by it? Are you prone to ‘brag’ about being poor, for example, because you resent those who are financially secure?

Most of our judgments towards others are attempts to avoid uncomfortable feelings. Maturity increases as we understand that each person we encounter has something to teach us if we’ll be humble enough to learn.

The sad part about it all is that most of our judgments are false because we presume to know the motive or thought pattern of the person we are judging. The Torah forbids us to do so. We hardly know our own inner workings, let alone have the right to pronounce judgment on others. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? Jeremiah 17:9 By contrast, Proverbs 16:9 enjoins us: Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud. Judgment of others is, after all, an act of pride, of ego.

In Tune with Torah this week = The Word of God teaches us to ‘love one another as yourself’. The ‘Golden Rule’ says ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ The spiritually mature chooses humility and compassion towards others, fleeing from a judgmental spirit and thereby, reflecting the image and likeness of the Almighty in whose image we have been created.

Shabbat Shalom