Weekly Torah Commentary – Tzav March 23, 2018

Torah reading:  Leviticus 6:1 – 8:36

Haftorah reading: Jeremiah 7: 21-28, 9:22-23

“Fire shall be kept burning upon the altar continually; it shall not go out”  Leviticus 6:6

FireAltar

Many people find the study of Leviticus difficult as it deals with the sacrificial system, the Tabernacle and the priesthood.  What we need to understand is that every aspect of the physical Sanctuary has its counterpart in the sanctuary of God within us – our spirit.

The altar on which the continual fire was to be set was a visible physical one. As applied to us in the spiritual sense, this verse means that the fire of our love for God, though it cannot be measured outwardly, must nevertheless be outward.  Our love for God is to be of such a nature that it is evident to others in the way we live.

If a ‘fire for God’ burns continually in our spirit, what flows from that fire will be true righteousness, effective service.  A truly spiritual life is contagious.  It provokes others to reach out to a higher level of living for God.

Good works alone do not always testify to good character; but good character will always produce good works.  It is primarily the condition of our hearts that God is after.   Many good works can be done for ulterior or self-serving motives, or simply out of routine without thought of glorifying God.

Nothing great is ever accomplished in life without passion. Nothing great is ever sustained in life without passion. Passion is what energizes life. Passion makes the impossible possible. Passion gives you a reason to get up in the morning and say, “I’m going to honor God with my life today.” Without passion life becomes boring, monotonous and routine.

Passion is what mobilizes armies into action. Passion is what causes explorers to boldly go where no man’s gone before. Passion is what causes scientists to spend late night hours trying to find the cure to a dreaded disease. Passion is what takes a good athlete and turns him or her into a great athlete who breaks records.

Passion is an essential ingredient in a successful life – in the natural world and in the spiritual world. God created you with the emotions to have passion in your life and He wants you to live a passionate life.

Being passionate about God has nothing to do with either your personality or your age. Some of the most spiritual and inspiring people I’ve known – from fifteen to ninety-five – were as unique and different from each other as they could be, but in one characteristic they were all the same – they were passionate about God.  Their passion impacted me, inspired me, convicted me.  Have you met people like that?

Perhaps you may say, ‘I remember when I was passionate about God but I must admit I’m not quite that way now.’

Here are seven ‘passion killers’. Which one has robbed you of your passion?

1- Imbalance between your natural life and your spiritual life.  If all of your energies are spent on being busy, busy, busy with no time for God, you’ll lose your passion for God and passion for life.

2- unused talent – Talents are gifts from God. He did not give you special abilities just to sit on them and do nothing about it. Use it or you’re going to lose it.  This principle is easily seen in terms of the physical body. Unused muscles atrophy.

3-unconfessed sin – Few things rob your joy, your confidence and your passion, more quickly than guilt. You can’t feel guilt and passion at the same time because guilt by its very definition robs you of passion. Confess it, repent and ask forgiveness.

4-unresolved conflict – Conflict drains the passion right out of you. Do you ever start a day and it’s going to be a great day. You’re awake from the moment you get up.  You’re on the way out the door and you get in an argument with your husband, your wife or your teenager. All the zip goes out of your doo-dah. It’s like the air going out of a tire. Your passion disappears just as quickly. If you want the passion to be restored in your heart, in your life, you have to forgive. You have to let it go.

5- lack of community. Some lose their passion for God because they’re not spending time around other people who have a passion for God.  We need each other. We all stumble at times. So we all need people to help us up in our lives. The book of Ecclesiastes says it this way: “Two are better than one… because if one falls down his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!”  Eccles. 4:9-10  If you want to keep your passion for God alive, you need to hang around people who are passionate for God !  It’s just that simple!

6- an unclear purpose –  Forgetting the purpose for your life is a sure way to kill your passion for life and for God. If you don’t know the purpose for life, why bother? Why put forth the effort? Why get out of bed? Life without purpose is activity without direction; it’s motion without meaning. Life without purpose is trivial, petty, and pointless.

Passion is waking up in the morning and jumping out of bed because you know there’s something out there that you love to do, that you believe in, that God made you for and you’re good at; something that’s bigger than you are and you can hardly wait to get at it again. It’s something that you’d rather be doing more than anything else.

7- an undernourished spiritual life – you must intentionally nourish your spirit. If you don’t do it nobody else is going to do it for you. How do you do that?  Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Deut. 8:3

Do you know you can have a vibrant, energetic body but a shriveled up, puny spirit on the inside?  Reality check! Our human bodies have a time limit; our spirits don’t. Death is but the transference from the physical realm to the spiritual realm where true life awaits us.  Taking care of our physical body but neglecting our inner spirit is consummate foolishness. We must feed our spirits by reading and meditating on God’s Word, by prayer and personal quiet times alone with Him.

In Tune with Torah this week = How many of these ‘passion killers’ spoke to you? Will you do something about it?  To be a light to others, there’s got to be some fire in you!  This shabbat, make an honest assessment of yourself.  Are you passionate about God? Does the fire of His love affect the way you live?

Shabbat Shalom

 

 

 

Weekly Torah Commentary – Nitzavim September 30, 2016

Deuteronomy 29:9-30:20

“See I have placed before you life and good, and death and evil … I have placed life and death before you, blessing and curse; and you shall choose life so that you and your offspring will live.”

chooselife

God has given each of us a clear choice: the ability to choose life and good, or death and evil, and it is this choice that is the very foundation of our spiritual life.   Life and good vs. death and evil. Interesting parallels, don’t you think?

It would appear that the Torah is saying we have two pairs of choices, not just one. We have the right to choose good or evil; we also have the right to choose life or death.

To choose between good and evil is a straightforward commandment. While we face situations and temptations in life that would seek to seduce us away from faithfulness to God because the ‘evil’ seems to hold a greater promise of happiness than the ‘good, we know the right thing is to choose ‘good’. Whether we do or not is our responsibility.

But what about a choice between ‘life’ and ‘death’?  Apart from suicide, none of us chooses death over life.  In fact we have an innate drive for preservation of life.  So what are we to derive from this verse?

The ‘death’ referenced here is not simply a matter of ceasing to breathe.   And, the ‘life’ referenced here is not simply a matter of continuing to breathe!  The Torah is giving us spiritual principles.

Biblically speaking, the true meaning of life is that our time on this earth is a journey towards holiness.  Learning from His Word what He desires of us, developing our character, growing in spirituality is all part of what the Bible means by ‘choose life’. Being alive means directly facing the challenges that life presents and using them to become a better person.

Choosing ‘death’, on the other hand, is that attitude that avoids dealing with challenges, opts to escape difficulties and trials, and leaves spirituality off its radar. Death is the choice of comfort over effort, of a laze life over a life full of challenge and growth.

It is important to note that choosing death is not limited to failure to keep the commandments. Someone can appear to be doing all the right things externally and sitll be ‘dead’ inside. What is frightening is that such a person lives his life on ‘cruise control’ all the while believing he’s just fine. If he never really pushes himself to further develop his personal relationship with God, to make time for prayer, to work at improving his character, it could be said that he’s choosing a living death; the comfortable or lazy option.

Actually what we are discussing could be explained this way as well. Life is a constant struggle between two contradictory forces that pull us in opposite directions. The body wants its pleasurable comforts; the spirit of man hungers for a relationship with God, expressed by a desire to expand and grow. Thus, each person is constantly faced with these conflicting forces pulling him in opposite directions. In this week’s Torah Portion we are told that to succeed in life, must choose life.

This lesson is particularly appropriate as we approach Rosh Hashanah. On these Holy days we are urged to examine ourselves, to take a spiritual inventory of where we are as a person – what is important to us, what are our priorities?

The choice between living an essentially comfortable life (even if it is done in a ‘religious’ way) and striving to fulfill one’s potential in service to our God is an essential element of Rosh Hashanah.

In Tune with Torah this week = this weekend is the perfect time on God’s calendar to set aside some time to evaluate our spiritual life.  Are we consistent in seeking a closer relationship with the LORD, week by week, month by month? What do we struggle with and what steps will we take to overcome those struggles? In what ways is God calling us to deepen our relationship with Him?