Weekly Torah Commentary- April 20, 2018 Acharei Mot-Kedoshim

Torah reading:  Leviticus 16-20

Haftorah reading: Amos 9:7-15

God has given us an explicit command regarding how He expects us to live.  It is a commandment found in this week’s Torah portion. Leviticus 11:44 and Leviticus 20:26 say: “You must be holy because I am holy.”

holiness2

You must be holy because God is holy…But what does it mean to be holy? What is holiness?

Let’s make it simple, shall we? Holiness is the fruit of a life wholly devoted to God and His purposes.

For some people, “holiness” is viewed as too difficult to achieve.

Depending on our upbringing and religious background, we can have legalistic notions of holiness or we can have moralistic notions of holiness. We can behave as if holiness is either outdated or something that only needs to effect a small part of our lives. Yet, God has commanded us “You must be holy because I am holy.”

When you think about being holy what comes into your mind? Thoughts of outmoded ways of dressing or the shunning of fashion and makeup? Or do you rather think in terms of morality, purity, integrity and commitment to a personal relationship with God?

What does really God expect of us?

The biblical idea of holiness, while it includes private morality, also means much, much more.  Holiness is about living the life God has planned and purposed for us. It is about living according to God’s standards and precepts, not by the world’s standards, not by our own standards, living by God’s standards. Holiness is not just for the advanced spiritually-elite.  The call to holiness is to everyone, regardless of status.

We are daily inundated with attitudes, principles and values that are diametrically opposed to the principles and values of the sacred Scriptures.  In order to successfully steer the direction and decisions of our life according to godly principles, we must know the Word of God and choose continually to live in accord with its teaching, which is the path to holiness.

Psalm 119 offers us tremendous wisdom in this regard.

You are only truly happy when you walk in total integrity, walking in the light of God’s Word. What joy overwhelms everyone who keeps the ways of God, those who seek Him as their heart’s passion.  (vs. 1-2)

God has prescribed the right way to live; obying His commandments with all our hearts. (vs. 4)

How can a young man stay pure? Only by living in the word of God and walking in its truth.  (vs. 9)

Give me revelation about the meaning of Your ways so I can enjoy the reward of following them fully. Give me an understanding heart so that I can passionately know and obey Your truth.  (vs. 33-34)

Truth’s shining light guides me in my choices and decisions; the revelation of Your Word makes my pathway clear. To live my life by Your righteous commands has been my holy and lifelong commitment.  (vs. 105-106)  All quotations from the Passion Translation.

Holiness is neither a scary calling, nor is it impossible.  Holiness is not an event but a journey which encompasses our entire life. It is a way of life marked by progress, not perfection.  It is a calling that picks us up after we’ve failed and draws us forward after we’ve been stagnant.

Holiness is simply this: living each day with the intent of pleasing our heavenly Father in our thoughts, words and deeds.

Andrew Murray of South Africa said it this way over a century ago: the greatest test of whether the holiness we profess to seek or to attain is truth and life will be whether it produces an increasing humility in us. In man, humility is the one thing needed to allow God’s holiness to dwell in him and shine through him. The chief mark of counterfeit holiness is lack of humility. The holiest will be the humblest.

Elizabeth Elliott: God is God. Because he is God, He is worthy of my trust and obedience. I will find rest nowhere but in His holy will that is unspeakably beyond my largest notions of what He is up to.

In Tune with Torah this week:  do you want to grow in holiness?  Well, then, consider this.
Let your thoughts, words and deeds by persistently God-like, determinedly holy, immovably honest, and passionately kind.

Shabbat Shalom
********************
For a few weeks at present, the Torah readings overseas are a week behind the Torah readings in Israel.  This post is following the Israeli schedule of Torah readings.

Weekly Torah Commentary — Passover & the Omer April 10, 2015

As we are coming to the end of this year’s Passover celebration, the regular reading of the Torah portions is not resumed until next week.  So, let’s look at a relevant topic in which the Jewish people are involved at present.

From the second day of Passover, we are commanded to “count the omer.” 

You shall count for yourselves — from the day after the Shabbat, from the day when you bring the Omer of the waving — seven Shabbats, they shall be complete. Until the day after the seventh sabbath you shall count, fifty days… -Leviticus 23:15-16

You shall count for yourselves seven weeks, from when the sickle is first put to the standing crop shall you begin counting seven weeks. Then you will observe the Festival of Shavu’ot for the LORD, your God. -Deuteronomy 16:9-10

So what is this all about?

We are counting the days between the first day of Passover – when the Exodus from Egypt took place – to the festival of Shavuot or Pentecost, when the Torah was given on Mt. Sinai. The practice is designed to remind us that the deliverance from Egypt had as its great purpose to lead the former slaves to a life-changing encounter with God Himself on Mt. Sinai, where they were gifted with His instructions for achieving a life of holiness. Counting the omer is a means to keep forefront in our mind the truth that the redemption from Egypt was not only about ‘going out’. More importantly, it was about ‘coming in’ to an intimate relationship with God Himself.

As there is no Temple today where an omer of grain can be waved before the God of Israel, as we count each day and recite a blessing that accompanies the counting, our anticipation increases, much as a bride counts the days until her wedding. A love for and desire to receive the Word of the Living God is stirred within us as we anticipate Shavuot.

It is a period of inner reflection. How much do I love the Word of God? How often do I read it? Meditate on it? If I review my activities over the past month, the past three months, the past six months, did I spend more time reading other books, newspapers and magazines than I devoted to thoughtful reading of the Scriptures?

Psalm 119 is full of exhortations towards reading and meditating on God’s Word. For example, “Deal bountifully with Your servant that I may live and keep Your Word. Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from your Torah. I am a stranger in the earth; do not hide Your commandments from me.”

And, “Oh, how I love Your Torah! It is my meditation all day long. Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies.”

And again, “Your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light to my path.”

And one of my favorites: “Those who love Your Word have great peace, and nothing causes them to stumble.”

Indeed, taking Psalm 119 as a guide for prayer and meditation would keep one going for several weeks, even months.

What countless ills in our modern society stem from a marginalizing of God’s Word in our society? How many personal and family issues could be resolved in a godly way by each individual applying the teachings of Scripture in humility and faithfulness?

Counting the Omer is a season of weeks in which we are called to remember that though heaven and earth pass away, the revelation of the Living God, His inestimable Words of truth and light, will never, ever pass away.

In Tune with Torah this week = take a fresh look at the Scriptures, approaching them as if you were receiving this gift for the very first time. Ask God to open your mind to His revelation, to grant you understanding and the accompanying grace to put into practice all that you learn from these sacred pages.

Shabbat Shalom