Weekly Torah Commentary. – Ha’azinu September 23, 2017

Torah reading: Deuteronomy 32

Haftorah reading: II Samuel 22: 1-51

David’s song of thanksgiving in this week’s haftorah is almost identical to Psalm 18.  It celebrates the victory God has give him over his enemies.

David says of the LORD: He is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer as well as my shield and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, my refuge and my savior.

Wow! Is the LORD all of that to you today?  He is no respecter of persons, the Bible says.  That means that God doesn’t play favorites. What He was to David, He will be to you…if you let Him!

Notice that David’s relationship with the LORD is intensely personal. He says MY rock, not a rock. He calls the LORD MY tower, MY strength, MY shield and MY deliverer. To David the LORD God wasn’t just ‘a’ tower or ‘a’ hiding place or ‘a shield’ but MY shield and so on.

Without a strong, intensely personal relationship with the LORD, we are left only with religion – rituals, lists of do’s & don’ts, but empty of a living relationship.

Keep in mind that David did not spend years in a high class seminary or yeshiva. He was not highly educated at the feet of a great Rabbi. David was a shepherd, but oh, what a shepherd! As a mere teenager, he spent hours, days alone with the sheep and His God, developing a relationship with the Almighty which was founded not on great intellectual learning but on humble faith and prayer; in other words, David spent time meditating, focusing on the LORD and became His friend. That was David’s secret.

Great learning can fill your mind with much knowledge about God; time spent in His presence will fill you with Him!

In Tune with Torah this week: as we begin a new Hebrew year, 5778, let us determine to KNOW the LORD, not just about Him, but let us press in to know Him!

Shabbat Shalom

Weekly Torah Commentary – Ki Tavo September 23, 2016

Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8

The famous list of blessings and curses is found in this week’s Torah portion.  As we look at these, it’s important to remember that God’s covenant with Abraham was unconditional while the Mosaic covenant is conditional.  The recurring phrase ‘If you will…I will…’ appears no less than forty times in the Torah!

bless_curse

If you fully obey the LORD your God and carefully keep all His commands that I am giving you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the world.  You will experience ALL these blessings if you obey the LORD your God.  28:1-2

So what are all these blessings?  They are specifically listed in verses 3 – 12 of chapter 28 and I encourage you to read them for yourself, slowly and thoughtfully.  Verse 6 summarizes them blessings this way: Wherever you go and whatever you do, you will be blessed.

Wow! What a great promise? Aah…but remember the conditions!  If you obey the LORD your God and walk in His ways…..

The only way you and I can obey God is by knowing and understanding what it is that He requires of us.  We learn that by consistently studying His revealed Word.  Purposely establishing a set time in our daily routine to spend some time reading and pondering what the Bible has to say is not a luxury; it is mandatory to those who are serious about walking in the blessings of God.

‘But I’m so busy,’ you may protest.  I understand.  So am I.  However, let’s be honest.  We human beings are masters at finding time to do the things we really want to do.  If we ‘don’t have time’ for the Bible, what we are saying is that it’s not that important to me.  I guarantee if you take a hard look at how you spend your time from day to day, you will find a way to carve out 15-30 minutes for Bible reading and meditation.

How about limiting yourself to 30 minutes less on Facebook?  I recently read an article claiming that the average adult spends up to four hours on social media per day!!!

Or getting up 30 minutes earlier to begin each day with God’s Word?

Or turning off the TV 30 minutes earlier in the evening and taking that time for Bible reading?   Stay-at-home Moms with young children, how about pulling out your Bible when the little ones are napping?

There are so many ways that we can make it work – we just need the ‘want to’ !

Look at the list of blessings again:

*…your towns and your fields will be blessed…

*…your children and your crops…

*…the offspring of your animals

*…your food supply  (fruit baskets and bread boards)

*…rain will fall at the appropriate times to water your crops

*…the Lord Himself will conquer your enemies for you

and more…

By contrast, the curses for disobedience are lengthy – 47 verses!  It’s a worthwhile exercise to read through those verse as well, keeping in mind that it is not God’s desire to ‘curse’ anyone.  We curse ourselves when we refuse to obey His instructions.

Look at verse 15: But if you refuse to listen to the LORD your God and do not obey all the commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come and overwhelm you.

We need to understand that these ‘curses’ are societal, national.  What each one does, how each one lives does in fact have an effect on the whole of society. We are ‘our brother’s keeper’ to a degree and no man lives only to himself.  We cannot hide ourselves away in our homes, caring nothing for what is happening in our city or in our nation.

This week’s Torah portion calls us to strengthen our community consciousness.

In Tune with Torah this week = by all means, make the time to read chapter 28 of Deuteronomy – all of it.  What contribution are you making to the well being of your family, your immediate community, your city and your nation?  What changes are called for?

Shabbat Shalom

 

Weekly Torah Commentary — Tzav March 14, 2014

TZAV Leviticus/Vayikra 6 – 8

In this week’s Torah commentary we read God’s command to Moses that the fire on the Sacrificial Altar must never be extinguished or allowed to go out.

“The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out.” (Leviticus 6:6)

We learn in Torah that God dwells in the hearts of those who love Him and keep His commandments and that His visible dwelling in the Tabernacle in the wilderness was a sign to Israel of His desire to live through them; that the nation would be a living tabernacle of His presence in the world.

We also know that everything in Torah has a message for us today, even those areas where it may seem difficult to find the relevance; areas like the sacrifices. This week’s Torah portion, as did last week’s, gives us yet another insight into the connection between the Tabernacle of old and ourselves.
The verse quoted above, states that the fire kindled on the Sacrificial Altar was to burn continually and was never to go out. If God dwells in your heart and in mine – and He does – then it follows that the fire of love for Him must be continually alive and burning within us as well.

Because the Sacrificial Altar was in the outer courtyard of the Tabernacle, the nation could see the smoke ascending to the heavens at all times. It was not a hidden fire by any means! Neither is our fire meant to be hidden! The fire of the ardent love of God in our hearts must be seen in an outward and open manner. How? By our behavior, by our demeanor, by our words, by our actions and reactions; in other words, by our daily life activities and decisions. Others should be able to know that we love our God.

How do we keep the love aflame?

First and foremost, the fire of love for God will not burn brightly in the person who spends little time in His presence. It is not enough to simply participate in ‘formal prayer’ or ‘book prayer’. Certainly ritual has its place, but it is not enough. The Torah says clearly that God wants us to know Him and to walk in His ways.

I ask you – how well would you ‘know’ your spouse if all you ever did was exchange formulated words each day, taken from a book someone else put together for your use?

It is difficult, if not impossible, to develop a burning love for God without spending regular time in ‘personal prayer’ – by that I mean, speaking to God in your own words, meditating on passages from the Torah, the Psalms, the Prophets, and listening for what He described to Elijah as ‘the still, small voice within.’

Some would say that God does not speak to us today. I vehemently disagree. He is speaking to us all the time. The question is: are we listening? Perhaps the bigger question is: have we learned HOW to recognize His voice in the midst of daily life?

Just as Shabbat goes out this week, the festival of Purim begins, commemorating the time when Queen Esther saved the Jewish people from destruction through prayer, fasting and approaching the King personally to present her request. She is a model of exactly what we have been discussing. Nowhere in the book of Esther do we read that she resorted to formula prayers. She prayer in her own words, crying out to God for the deliverance of her people from the decree of death. In turn, God showed her exactly what she was to do to participate in the deliverance He would grant in answer to her prayers.

Let us like Esther, learn to take every petition, every concern, every desire to Him in prayer.

In Tune with Torah this week = renewing our commitment – or making a new one – to spend at least ten minutes each day, hopefully more, conversing with God in our own words; talking with Him as with a best friend, for in fact, there is not better Friend than Him. And taking time to sit quietly, learning to listen to His still, small voice within us.

Shabbat Shalom and Purim Sameach