Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Mystery of the Parah



וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָה, אֶל-מֹשֶׁה וְאֶל-אַהֲרֹן לֵאמֹר.
ב זֹאת חֻקַּת הַתּוֹרָה, אֲשֶׁר-צִוָּה יְהוָה לֵאמֹר: דַּבֵּר אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְיִקְחוּ אֵלֶיךָ פָרָה אֲדֻמָּה תְּמִימָה אֲשֶׁר אֵין-בָּהּ מוּם, אֲשֶׁר לֹא-עָלָה עָלֶיהָ, עֹל.
Numbers 19:1-22
Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)
19 Adonai said to Moshe and Aharon, 2 This is the regulation from the Torah which Adonai has commanded. Tell the people of Isra’el to bring you a young red female cow without fault or defect and which has never borne a yoke. 3 You are to give it to El‘azar the cohen; it is to be brought outside the camp and slaughtered in front of him. 4 El‘azar the cohen is to take some of its blood with his finger and sprinkle this blood toward the front of the tent of meeting seven times. 5 The heifer is to be burned to ashes before his eyes — its skin, meat, blood and dung is to be burned to ashes. 6 The cohen is to take cedar-wood, hyssop and scarlet yarn and throw them onto the heifer as it is burning up. 7 Then the cohen is to wash his clothes and himself in water, after which he may re-enter the camp; but the cohen will remain unclean until evening. 8 The person who burned up the heifer is to wash his clothes and himself in water, but he will remain unclean until evening. 9 A man who is clean is to collect the ashes of the heifer and store them outside the camp in a clean place. They are to be kept for the community of the people of Isra’el to prepare water for purification from sin. 10 The one who collected the ashes of the heifer is to wash his clothes and be unclean until evening. For the people of Isra’el and for the foreigner staying with them this will be a permanent regulation.
11 “Anyone who touches a corpse, no matter whose dead body it is, will be unclean for seven days. 12 He must purify himself with [these ashes] on the third and seventh days; then he will be clean. But if he does not purify himself the third and seventh days, he will not be clean. 13 Anyone who touches a corpse, no matter whose dead body it is, and does not purify himself has defiled the tabernacle of Adonai. That person will be cut off from Isra’el, because the water for purification was not sprinkled on him. He will be unclean; his uncleanness is still on him.
14 “This is the law: when a person dies in a tent, everyone who enters the tent and everything in the tent will be unclean for seven days. 15 Every open container without a cover closely attached is unclean. 16 Also whoever is in an open field and touches a corpse, whether of someone killed by a weapon or of someone who died naturally, or the bone of a person, or a grave, will be unclean for seven days.
17 “For the unclean person they are to take some of the ashes of the animal burned up as a purification from sin and add them to fresh water in a container. (LY: ii) 18 A clean person is to take a bunch of hyssop leaves, dip it in the water and sprinkle it on the tent, on all the containers, on the people who were there, and on the person who touched the bone or the person killed or the one who died naturally or the grave. 19 The clean person will sprinkle the unclean person on the third and seventh days. On the seventh day he will purify him; then he will wash his clothes and himself in water; and he will be clean at evening. 20 The person who remains unclean and does not purify himself will be cut off from the community because he has defiled the sanctuary of Adonai. The water for purification has not been sprinkled on him; he is unclean. 21 This is to be a permanent regulation for them. The person who sprinkles the water for purification is to wash his clothes. Whoever touches the water for purification will be unclean until evening. 22 Anything the unclean person touches will be unclean, and anyone who touches him will be unclean until evening.”

We now have here one of the most difficult passages in the Torah to explain – 

Parasha Parah.  (The portion of the Red Heifer)

·        What is the meaning of the Red Heifer? Our sages and rabbis have struggled with this passage for ages…

According to Chazal: “The law of the Red Cow is described by the Sages as the quintessential "Chuchat HaTorah", (i.e. a "decree of the Torah"), meaning that it is beyond human understanding.” 

The midrash states: “These are laws or decrees of God and man has no right to question them.” (Chumash Stone Edition, 2005)

A story from the Midrash says:

A non-Jew said to R’ Yochanan ben Zakkai, “Your Divine service resembles sorcery.  You take a cow, burn it, grind it and tather the ash.  When one of you becomes ritually impure you sprinkle two or three drops on him, and declare him cleansed!”  R’ Yochanan explained to him that it was not sorcery, but a spiritual remedy against impurity.  His students, unsatisfied by this, asked, “Him you put off with a vague reply, but what say you to us?” Yet, he offered them no answer, explaining that the mitzvah has no reason, and concluding, “Hashem said, ‘I have laid down a decree.  Do not transgress it.’  According to R’ Yochanan ben Zakkai, both the impurity of the dead and the purity of the Red Cow are part of the "chok.” (i.e. "decree"). (Nachshoni, 1988)

·        Our Sages and rabbis debate and find no logical explanation for this "chok". However, there is nothing in the Torah that is meaningless, everything has a meaning, and while some of our people still have the blinders on and cannot see what the purpose is to this mitzvah; those of us who’ve had the veil removed and have received Ruach Hakodesh, this mystery has been revealed.  The Torah itself says "do not say these mitzvoth are too far for us or too high for us, but they are near us and in our hearts".

The mystery of the Parah can be revealed to us if we open our hearts to the wisdom and the Spirit, and the mind of Messiah.


I.                   “Outside the Camp”

When solving any mystery, we must first look for clues.  The Torah as well as all Scriptures always gives us the clue.  The first clue here in understanding the mystery of the Parah, is the fact that the Red Heifer is burned “outside the camp”.

The Rambam and other sages agree that the Red Heifer is a sin offering (chatas), atoning for ritual impurity; therefore, it is identical to that of the Yom Kippur scapegoat offering which was also taken outside the camp.

Furthermore, the Yom Kippur scapegoat’s blood was sprinkled just as this Heifer’s blood was also sprinkled…

Some sages see the "Chok" (i.e. decree) of the Red Heifer as a reaction to the sin of the Golden Calf.  Just as the Heifer is ground up so too was the Golden Calf "ground up"…

Exodus 32: 19 But the moment Moshe got near the camp, when he saw the calf and the dancing, his own anger blazed up. He threw down the tablets he had been holding and shattered them at the base of the mountain. 20 Seizing the calf they had made, he melted it in the fire and ground it to powder, which he scattered on the water. Then he made the people of Isra’el drink it.

·        Now, the Torah states that when a person is put to death it is always done “outside the city gates”…

Devarim 17: 5 then you are to bring the man or woman who has done this wicked thing to your city gates, and stone that man or woman to death.

"The place of stoning was as the height of two men. One of the witnesses pushed him down by his hips. If he turned over face downward, he turned him on his back. If he died from the blow and the fall, that was enough. But if not, the second witness took a stone and dropped it on his chest. If he died from this, that was enough. But if not, his stoning had to be carried out by all Israel, as it is said, 'The hand of the witnesses shall be first upon him to put him to death and afterward the hand of all the people' ( Deuteronomy  17:7) ." (Sanhedrin 6:4)

·        Here then is the first clue to understanding the mystery of the Parah…

John 19: 17 Carrying the stake himself he went out to the place called Skull (in Aramaic, Gulgolta). 18 There they nailed him to the stake along with two others, one on either side, with Yeshua in the middle. 19 Pilate also had a notice written and posted on the stake; it read,
YESHUA FROM NATZERET
THE KING OF THE JEWS
20 Many of the Judeans read this notice, because the place where Yeshua was put on the stake was close to the city; and it had been written in Hebrew, in Latin and in Greek.

·        This first clue that the Red Heifer was burned “outside the camp” points us to Yeshua the Messiah, as He too was sacrificed outside the camp…

     Yeshua is the Sin-Offering!

Hebrews 13: 10 We have an altar from which those who serve in the Tent are not permitted to eat. 11 For the cohen hagadol brings the blood of animals into the Holiest Place as a sin offering, but their bodies are burned outside the camp.[c] 12 So too Yeshua suffered death outside the gate, in order to make the people holy through his own blood. 13 Therefore, let us go out to him who is outside the camp and share his disgrace. 14 For we have no permanent city here; on the contrary, we seek the one to come. 15 Through him, therefore, let us offer God a sacrifice of praise continually.[d] For this is the natural product of lips that acknowledge his name.

Dr. David Stern says, “Being outside the camp in disgrace implies not only impurity but separation from the Jewish people. Yeshua is indeed separated; however, his separation is in fact not from the Jewish people, due to impurity, but unto God, due to his holiness; so that his separation from the Jewish people is wrongful, illusory and not disgraceful. Moreover, he can make the Jewish people holy through his own blood, ending their very real and justified separation from God due to sin (as he also can end the justified and real separation of Gentiles from God due to sin). Messianic Jews, who go out to him who is outside the camp to share his disgrace, remain, like him, part of the Jewish people, even though, like him, we may not be so regarded. Like Yeshua, we experience the pain of exclusion; but we must stand with him and not seek respect or inclusion on any terms except God's. (4) Red heifer: The reference to Yeshua's making the people holy through his own blood recalls 9:11- 14, which mentions the red heifer. The body of the red heifer too was burned outside the camp; by suggestion, then, Yeshua is also our "red heifer." See 9:13.” (Stern, 1992)



II.                 Sprinkling “Blood & Water”

Now I fully realize that what I am teaching is very controversial in Rabbinic Judaism, but the clues of Scripture all point us to the same conclusion. Rabbinic Judaism says that God would never accept a Human sacrifice.  And while it is true that the Torah forbids us from taking our own children to be sacrificed, there are many paradoxes within Scripture…

Just as the rabbis say they cannot rationally, and intellectually understand the chukat of the Red Heifer, so to can it be hard to understand how the Father could send His Son to be an atoning sacrifice…because it seems to contradict Torah

But consider this…

R’ Yehoshua of Sachnin, quoting R’ Levi, describes the difficulty of understanding this law, and lists a number of other mitzvos we are tempted to question…

The prohibition against marrying one’s late brother’s wife

Shatnez, combining linen & wool in one garment

The Yom Kippur scapegoat.

If one’s brother dies after being children, his wife is forbidden, Yet if he dies childless it is a mitzvah to marry her.

The Torah forbids shatnez yet to wear tzit-tzit of wool on a garment of linen, or vice versa is permitted.

One who touches the scapegoat becomes impure and must wash his clothing. Yet casting the animal over a cliff atones for the Jewish people. Those who deal with the Red Cow become ritually impure whereas the Cow itself purifies others.  These contradictions cannot be answered.”  (Nachshoni, 1988)

Furthermore the Midrash says:

One paradox of the Read Cow is that it’s ashes purify people who had become contaminated; yet those who engage in its preparation become contaminated.  On this theme the Midrash cites the verse, “Who can draw a pure thing out of an impure one?  Is it not the One God? (Job 14:4).” (Chumash Stone Edition, 2005)

·        Therefore we see another clue, that even the Midrash cites this verse in Job that it is only God who can make something pure out of something unclean…

The Messiah must be Divine then, and it must only be God who can take something forbidden and make it Pure and atone for all of our sins…

In a similar vein, the Midrash notes a number of such paradoxical cases of righteous people who descended from wicked parents: Abraham from Terach, Hezekiah from Ahaz, and Josiah from Ammon.  The Talmud add the paradox that it is forbidden to drink blood but an infant nurses from its mother, whose blood is transformed into milk to become the source of life. (Niddah 9a)…

·        And ladies and gentlemen just as this is true with the blood of a mother which becomes the source of life for her child so too is the Blood of Messiah the source of our Eternal Life!!!

John 19: 28 After this, knowing that all things had accomplished their purpose, Yeshua, in order to fulfill the words of the Tanakh, said, “I’m thirsty.” 29 A jar full of cheap sour wine was there; so they soaked a sponge in the wine, coated it with oregano leaves and held it up to his mouth. 30 After Yeshua had taken the wine, he said, “It is accomplished!” And, letting his head droop, he delivered up his spirit.

31 It was Preparation Day, and the Judeans did not want the bodies to remain on the stake on Shabbat, since it was an especially important Shabbat. So they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies removed. 32 The soldiers came and broke the legs of the first man who had been put on a stake beside Yeshua, then the legs of the other one; 33 but when they got to Yeshua and saw that he was already dead, they didn’t break his legs. 34 However, one of the soldiers stabbed his side with a spear, and at once blood and water flowed out.

·        And here we have the second clue to the mystery of the Parah Just as with the Heifer, both the blood was sprinkled on the people to make them clean, so too was its ashes mixed with water and the water was sprinkled. The sprinkling of the Blood and the Water is the clue to the mystery. 

Yeshua the Messiah is the meaning of the Red Heifer…

Hebrews 9: 13 For if sprinkling ceremonially unclean persons with the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer restores their outward purity; 14 then how much more the blood of the Messiah, who, through the eternal Spirit, offered himself to God as a sacrifice without blemish, will purify our conscience from works that lead to death, so that we can serve the living God!

Yes it is a paradox, and yes it is beyond logic and human understanding… but when you open your heart and mind to the Ruach Hakodesh, He will illuminate your heart with the Truth.

·        You need the Messiah’s Blood; you need His cleansing Water sprinkled on you.

This is Shabbat Parah, it is the time to prepare for the month of Nissan to prepare for the Passover season, and this is the time to get clean before Hashem!

Hebrews 9: 18 This is why the first covenant too was inaugurated with blood. 19 After Moshe had proclaimed every command of the Torah to all the people, he took the blood of the calves with some water and used scarlet wool and hyssop to sprinkle both the scroll itself and all the people; 20 and he said, “This is the blood of the covenant which God has ordained for you.” 21 Likewise, he sprinkled with the blood both the Tent and all the things used in its ceremonies. 22 In fact, according to the Torah, almost everything is purified with blood; indeed, without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

23 Now this is how the copies of the heavenly things had to be purified, but the heavenly things themselves require better sacrifices than these. 24 For the Messiah has entered a Holiest Place which is not man-made and merely a copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, in order to appear now on our behalf in the very presence of God.

25 Further, he did not enter heaven to offer himself over and over again, like the cohen hagadol who enters the Holiest Place year after year with blood that is not his own; 26 for then he would have had to suffer death many times — from the founding of the universe on. But as it is, he has appeared once at the end of the ages in order to do away with sin through the sacrifice of himself. 27 Just as human beings have to die once, but after this comes judgment, 28 so also the Messiah, having been offered once to bear the sins of many,[c] will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to deliver those who are eagerly waiting for him.

  Are you waiting for Him?
Are you ready to receive His forgiveness for your sins?
 Are you ready to have His Blood and Water sprinkled on you?

Amen

Bibliography

Chumash Stone Edition. (2005). Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, Inc.
Nachshoni, Y. (1988). Studies in the Weekly Parashah. Brooklyn, New York: Mesorah Publications, Ltd.
Stern, D. D. (1992). Jewish New Testament Commentary. Clarksville, MD: Jewish New Testament Publications Inc.



Wednesday, February 1, 2017

FINAL CHAPTER: Romans 16 אגרת פולוס השליח אל-הרומיים


1. Who was Phoebe, what do we know about her, and what do we know about the community at Cenchrea?

2. Who is Prisca (Priscilla) & Aquila, what do we know about them?

3. Describe how Paul uses the term Ekklesia from the Greek in vs. 5…

4. Who is Epaenetus, & Miriam what do we know about them?

5. How does Paul describe Andronicus and Junias, who are they?

6. Who are all the individuals mentioned in vs. 8-15, and what do we know about them all?

7. Describe the Biblical and cultural practice of the “Holy Kiss”, what does this mean?

8. What is the warning that Paul gives the congregation in Rome in this final chapter?  Describe what it is warning them (and us) about…

9. Who are those mentioned in vs. 21, what do we know of them?

10. Who was the scribe of this letter “Romans” and what do we know of him?

11. Who was Gaius, Erastus and Quartus?

12. In the doxology describe what is the “mystery” that Paul mentions and how is it revealed?

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Romans 15 אגרת פולוס השליח אל-הרומיים



1. What does Paul mean when he says, “be like-minded” does that mean we have to agree on everything? If not, what does this really mean?

2. Describe “HOW” Messiah included the non-Jew into this covenant, what does Paul say to describe it here in Romans, and what other writings does he speak of the inclusion of non-Jews and “HOW” Messiah brought them in with Jewish believers?

3. Describe and explain the “priestly role” and authority, that Paul writes about himself; how does he see himself in this role and what does his priestly offerings consist of?

4. Describe the methods Paul uses to “bring about the obedience of the Gentiles” what are the characteristics of his ministry and what is his primary goal?

5. Why does Paul say he’s trying to get to Jerusalem, what is his purpose and how does this set a precedent for all “Congregations” in the Diaspora even to this present day?  Has the modern Church over its long history, followed Paul’s example in your assessment?

6. What exactly is the “collection” for and who is the collection that Paul is bringing to Jerusalem and why?


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Romans 14 אגרת פולוס השליח אל-הרומיים

Romans 14 Tree of Life Version (TLV)
Unity in Community

1. What exactly is meant by “one who is weak in faith”, and how does this differ from those with “strong faith”?

2. What does vegetarianism and carnivores have to do with the issue of those whose faith is weak?  What is the rule that Paul introduces to Messianic believers regarding this issue?

3. Paul transitions into the illustration of “days” and distinguishing those who esteem certain days from others who judge every day alike.  What is he talking about here?  Is it strictly about “Sabbath” or could he be referencing other practices, what is said about this elsewhere in the Brit Chadasha?

4. What by “living” and “dying” for the Lord?  And what is meant by saying “none of us lives for himself”, and none of us dies for himself”?  Explain the meaning and give Scriptural and extra-biblical support for your answer…

5. Paul here tells us in vs. 10-12 not to judge our brother, yet in 1 Corinthians 6:3, he seems to tell us that we should judge because we will one day judge angels!  How do you justify this contradiction?  Explain…

6. Paul says that nothing is “unholy” in vs. 14.  Does that mean that the laws of kashrut are now nullified?  Explain how it is possible for God to sanctify something that is “unclean”?

7. Paul presents a difficult word in vs. 22, what does he mean by keeping your faith to yourself before God?  Does this mean we are not to share our faith?  Explain…

8. How is doubting self-condemning regarding eating and faith? Explain…


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Romans 13 אגרת פולוס השליח אל-הרומיים


1. How is submission to authority both a Jewish core value in the 1st century, and how is this supported by the Tanakh (Old Testament)?  Give citations…

2. How does Paul describe those who resist authority and describe Shulam’s comments on “temporary submission”?

3. What does it mean to “carry or bear the sword”, give other examples from the Brit Chadasha (New Covenant)?...

4. What does Paul mean by “conscience” here in vs. 5, how is this a reason for submitting to authority, and where else does the Brit Chadasha bring up this topic of conscience?

5. Explain how the custom of collecting taxes were performed in Biblical times, what does the Brit Chadasha say about it, and feel free to cite other extra-biblical sources as well…

6. How does a person completely fulfill the Torah, what did the Messiah say about this and how is the Golden Rule also taught within Rabbinic Judaism?

7. What is the “armor of light” where else is this described in Scripture?


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Romans 12 אגרת פולוס השליח אל-הרומיים

1.  What is the definition of λογικός logikós, and how does Paul use this word inverse one?

2. How does one begin to "renew ones mind", according to Paul?

3.  What character trait does Paul now instruct his readers to develop using his apostolic authority, and what extra-biblical texts can we use to support this same character trait?

4.  Describe Paul's analogy of the "body", and what scripture specifically from the old testament can be used as proof text to support his midrashic interpretation?

5. What is the difference between teaching and exhortation?

6.  What does Paul mean when he says love without hypocrisy?

7. What mitzvah of the Torah does Paul refer to in verse 10, by saying outdo one another in giving honor?

8. Explain all the characteristics listed in versus 12 and 13 and how they are all related to each other.

9. Explain verse 15 how rejoicing and weeping are appropriate at certain times, and how is this a Jewish trait?

10. Paul teaches his readers to "be at peace with all men", how is this a Jewish quarter value?

11. Heaping coals of fire upon your enemies head, where have we heard this before in scripture?


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

From the Soles of His Shoes: Obama's Hostility Toward Israel

From the Soles of His Shoes: Obama's Hostility Toward Israel: Hanukkah reminds us that even Obama's final and most severe attempt to harm Israel will ultimately fail

http://www.israeltoday.co.il/NewsItem/tabid/178/nid/30812/Default.aspx






As 2016 comes to a close, and as we observe the Festival of Hanukkah, and prepare for a political transition here in the U.S., we have received this unfortunate news of yet another U.N. sanction against the State of Israel.  Now some of you maybe asking these questions...

Why is this happening at this time?

How did this vote of the U.N. hurt Israel?

What did the U.S. do or "fail to do" to stand with Israel?

Let me help unpack this for you a little bit by summarizing in simple form.  This proposed resolution in the U.N. was introduced by Egypt’s President al-Sissi, on behalf of the Palestinians.  It accuses Israel of  “illegal” settlement activities in Judea, Samaria and East Jerusalem.

Keep in mind, this area is Israel's "Sovereign Land" afforded to Israel by this same body "U.N." This ridiculous proposed resolution would be the same as condemning the United States for building housing in Washington D.C.  According to our contacts in Israel (as we do not rely on CNN or Fox, for the truth of what is really going on there): "According to international law, Israel has every right to settle all the land west of the Jordan River. This was approved by the League of Nations, then passed on in the Palestinian Mandate that Great Britain was supposed to implement – but didn’t – and then accepted in total into the newly formed UN Charter after WW II. Yet Israel today is seen as breaking international law, when in fact, it is the UN and all nations that view this land as “occupied” who are doing that and they are also blaspheming God"  (IFI, Jerusalem).

The problem that occurred is that the Obama administration apparently decided to abstain from voting – which is the same as voting “yes”.   They did not "veto" this proposed measure.  Our Government which traditionally stands with our only ally in the Middle East, this time decided to just "say nothing", and allow Israel to get thrown under the bus.

This UNSC resolution is legally binding and has placed Israel into a very tough spot internationally.

Friends, as this article so accurately points out, I do not think it is any accident that these political activities are happening right at the beginning of the season of Hanukkah.

Throughout the Bible, from the Exodus, all the way through the prophecies of Revelation, the same theme is found over and over again, and most exemplified as well in the story of Israel's Deliverance of Hanukkah in 165 BCE; and that is: "Adonai, delivers the strong into the hands of the weak, He delivers the numerous into the hands of the few, the impure into the hands of the pure, the ungodly into the hands of the Godly.

The God of Israel has made a Name for Himself in this world.  Make no mistake, He will defend His Name, His Honor, His People and His Land.

The Promise he made our father Abraham in Genesis 12 remains solid and sure.  "I will Bless those who Bless you, and I will Curse those who Curse you".

As Messianic Believers, we must always stand with Israel, no matter what any government does in the lands we find ourselves in.  We must be informed and wise as serpents and innocent as doves.  We cannot afford to put our heads in the sand and ignore politics.  Being a Believer who stands with Israel, does not give us the luxury of remaining "apolitical".  Daniel had to resist bowing to an idol, and so too, there are times like these when the boundaries of allegiances and alliances are challenged for us, because there is no such thing as a complete "separation of church and state".  That my friends is a fallacy.  We are "in" the world, while we are not "of" it.  And by this fact, we must deal and operate and maneuver ever so slyly with all wisdom and discernment living in lands that are NOT our own, serving gods that are NOT our God, and NOT being afraid the speak the truth.

Perhaps the U.S. will one day choose to "speak" instead of remaining silent when the Anti-Semitic nations of the world want to raise their voices against Israel again; but we as individuals must never "remain silent".  As Edmund Burke famously said, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Happy Hanukkah,

Rabbi Eric