Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah #29-30: Acharei Mot (After the death); K’doshim (Holy people)
Vayikra (Leviticus) 16:1-18:30; 19:1-20:27)
Haftarah: Amos 9:7-15
B’rit Chadashah: Romans 3:19-28
The first paragraph of this parashah sets the tone for today’s teaching; we are created to do G-d’s will, not ours. He leaves no room for amplified versions, new international versions, or any other version of His Torah that adds to or subtracts from His laws, statutes, commands, and rulings in any way. “Adonai spoke with Moshe after the death of Aharon’s two sons, when they tried to sacrifice before Adonai and died; Adonai said to Moshe, ‘Tell your brother Aharon not to come at just any time into the Holy Place beyond the curtain, in front of the ark-cover which is on the ark, so that he will not die; because I appear in the cloud over the ark-cover.” (Lev.16:1-2) G-d meant what He said when He told Moshe that whoever looks upon his face will surely die (Ex. 33:20). Interestingly, the beginning statement of the tandem parashah K’doshim starts with the statement “You shall be holy, for I, the L-rd your G-d am holy.” This is followed by dozens of commands through which we sanctify ourselves and relate to the holiness of G-d. This section alone should speak to those who argue that Sha’ul (Paul) taught that G-d’s Torah is dead. Such a belief discounts G-d’s instructions as invalid in that “Jesus brought a new and improved set of rules; we no longer have to do anything to be saved except profess His Name, hallelujah, praise the L-rd!” This belief system is not taught in the Bible. In fact, obedience to G-d’s commands out of love is mandated in the Old and “New” Testaments.
The commands of G-d include the prohibition against idolatry sexual immorality, listening to or seeking sorcerers or necromancers, homosexuality, and desecrating the Shabbat, to name a few. His commands also include the mitzvah of charity, the principle of equality before the law, Shabbat observance, sexual morality, honesty in business, honor and awe of one’s parents, and the sacredness of life. One might ask “So how do I acquire these characteristics and behavior patterns?”
We start with the command of G-d at the beginning of this teaching. We do things G-d’s way, period. We do not approach him in violation of his instructions. G-d conveyed the aspects of his Torah that were not open to interpretation through the Jews who took great care to write as they were guided by G-d, the Ruach HaKodesh, and Yahshua, the Echad; the Complex Unity of the G-dhead. In Leviticus 18:1-5 G-d tells Moshe to tell the people “I am Adonai your G-d. You are not to engage in the activities found in the land of Egypt, where you used to live, and you are not to engage in the activities found in the land of Kena’an where I am brining you, nor are you to live by their laws. You are to obey my rulings and laws and live accordingly; I am Adonai your G-d. You are to observe my laws and rulings. If a person does them, he will have life through them, I am Adonai.” This poses an interesting question. If we are expected to become a holy people, why did G-d take us out of one sin-pit in Egypt, and lead us to another in Kena’an? Why would he not take us to a place similar to Eden? We might tend to argue with G-d that stupid is as stupid does and we cannot be expected to be holy in an unholy environment. However, this need not be the case. Enter the testing phase of our human existence.
G-d provided us with all the instruction necessary for living on this earth. First he put it in writing. Then He came as Yahshua to spell it out for us in terms that those who want to follow G-d could understand. Finally He gave us the Ruach HaKodesh as an internal compass of sorts, to guide us through each obstacle and prompt us when an opportunity to glorify G-d is placed before us. When a person begins to study Torah and internalizes G-d’s instructions, a tension begins to develop and increase as one becomes more aware of the stark differences between heaven and a holy existence and physical life on earth. We can understand this situation if we think about a student of music. At first there is little thought of harmony, pitch, technique. Initially there is only noise. However, with time and a great deal of practice, the student learns the concepts of harmony, pitch, movement, and aesthetics of each piece that sets it apart from every other pice. This accumulation of knowledge and technique separates the artist from the technically competent. This applies to every profession and skill. There is a world of difference between someone who can rattle off any chapter or verse in Torah through memorization but cannot correctly apply the concepts, and someone who may not have memorized the entire Torah but understands the concepts and can relate them to others. So it is with our growth in Torah. If we lived in a Garden of Eden environment, there would be nothing to contrast; nothing to adjust; no work involved in becoming holy. Everything around us would be holy and perfect. No stress, no obstacles, no need and no opportunities to learn and grow. Consequently, we could not ascend to G-d for there would be no opportunities for us to nullify our physical beings. Therefore, if we look at our physical lives from a spiritual perspective, we learn to realize that if we are placed in a negative environment, we have a lifetime of opportunity to grow and glorify G-d in the process. The more we nullify our selfish physical beings, the more clearly we recognize the sin and negativity of the earthly environment. This would explain why G-d placed the Israelites in the most degenerate places on earth, and to live, grow, and ascend to a holy existence after a short obstacle course on earth.
Another illustration is given us in the Torah as we learn of the lives of the prophets and others used by G-d. Every time there was a need for ascension to a higher spiritual level, these individuals were flung into the lowliest and most degenerate of environments so that they could learn from them the lowliness of evil and Esther, Ruth, Abraham, Joseph, Daniel, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, John, Peter, and Paul. G-d placed Jewish people is Egypt to see for themselves how unholy humans can be and how not to live and act. He then pulled them out and taught them His instructions before informing them that they would be sent to another den of sin in which surroundings and lifestyle they were to resist and reject. In this way, G-d would be glorified through their behavior and rejection of the social norm. G-d tells the people twice in this parashah that only by following His laws, and statutes that they will obtain life.
We are living in a spiritual Egypt today; even a S’dom and ‘Amora. There is a constant danger of assimilating into the lifestyle all around us that promotes self-gratification in stark contrast to G-d’s Torah teaching self-nullification. To become part of society assures us of one thing; “If you make the land unclean, it will vomit you out too, just as it is vomiting out the nation [Kena’an] that was there before you. For those who engage in any of these disgusting practices [Lev.17-18] whoever they may be, will be cut off from their people. So keep my charge not to follow any of these abominable customs that others before you have followed and thus defile yourselves by doing them. I am Adonai your G-d.” We are to be a separate people, distinguishable from the societies in which we live (Lev. 20:26). We need to seriously consider the implications of this command and adjust our lives accordingly. G-d then makes a statement that should prevent us from assuming an attitude of elitism as we strive to live G-d’s Torah in a “non- Torah” environment; “If a foreigner stays with you in your land, do not do him wrong. Rather, treat the foreigner staying with you like the native-born among you-you are to love him as yourself, for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt. I am Adonai your G-d.” Note that the foreigner described here leaves his/her land and freely chooses to join the society of Torah observant Israelites. There is a process of ascension to a higher plane of living. These people become the neighbors spoken of in the command for us to love our neighbor as ourselves.
Haftarah: Amos 9:7-15
This week’s haftarah foretells the exiles and punishments that G-d will exact upon the Israelites because they flagrantly violated the commands G-d so emphatically emphasized as the way to obtaining life and glorifying G-d. The Israelites chose to assimilate into the Kena’ani society. Amos is the prophet chosen to deliver this message. He reminds them of G-d’s kindness and love in bringing them out of Egypt and separating them as a chosen nation/people. This is sort of and “I told you so!” Nevertheless, because of their attitudes and behaviors, G-d will scatter the 10 Northern Kingdom of Israel; but will not divorce the tribes of Benjamin, Judah, and Levi. The Jews will be scattered among the nations, but eventually G-d will regather them to their land. G-d will then reinstall the House of David and their shall be peace and abundance in the land. G-d promises “And I will return the captivity of My people Israel, and they shall rebuild desolate cities and inhabit [them], and they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine, and they shall make gardens and eat their produce. And I will plant them in their land, and they shall no longer be uprooted from upon their land, that I have given them, said the L-rd your G-d.” May this take place in our lifetimes and soon.
B’rit Chadashah: Romans 3:19-28
This passage addresses the fact that legalistic observance of Torah commands avails us nothing. Let’s get our premise clear from the start. Paul is talking about rabbinical law, the Oral Torah. He clarifies it as he speaks of legalism without the spirit of obedience and love. He points out that the Torah shows us how sinful we are, lest anyone boast of his perceived righteousness in and of himself. Torah is a sort of “ground zero” that brings us all down to the level of sinners that we are and will remain unless we trust in Yahshua’s faithfulness continually and continue to follow His Torah ( Rom. 3:21-22). Verse 24 informs us that we are granted the status of “being considered righteous before Him, through the act redeeming us from our enslavement to sin that Yahshua accomplished. This means that He freed us from the death indictment we inherited through original sin. This does not mean that we are “saved”. Yahshua’s sacrifice spiritually takes us through the Sea of Reeds, and gives us a new beginning as we emerge into the desert that represents a clean slate. How can we say this with confidence? Let’s look at Rom. 3:25; “G-d put Yahshua forward as the covering for sin through his faithfulness in respect to his bloody sacrificial death. This vindicated G-d’s righteousness; because, in his forbearance, he had passed over [ with neither punishment or remission] the sins people had committed in the past; and it vindicates his righteousness in the present age by showing that he is righteous himself and is also the one who makes people righteous on the ground of Yahshua’s faithfulness. So what room is left for boasting? None at all! What kind of Torah excludes it? One that has to do with legal observance of rules? No, rather a Torah that has to do with trusting. Therefore, we hold the view that a person comes to be considered righteous by G-d on the ground of trusting which has nothing to do with legalistic observance of Torah commands.”
Again, we see that the Torah of G-d has not been abrogated. Sha’ul (Paul) is talking about Jews who held the position that legalistic observance of rabbinical law made one righteous in the sight of G-d. Remember that the majority of Jews were not convinced about Yahshua being the Messiah, let alone resurrected. The word trust is not some abstract cognitive concept as believed by most Christians. Rather, it is an action verb that means “to follow” or “commit to” something or someone. Therefore what we have in this passage is a lesson that G-d’s Torah is not dead. If we are to be considered righteous, we must actively commit ourselves (trust) in the faithfulness of Yahshua’s sacrifice and His faithfulness and ability to forgive us of our sins. If you have any doubt about the meaning of trust, G-d provides plenty of examples in Hebrews chapter 11. You will always see the word trust associated with obedient action. There is no way around this truth. If we want to have life, and have it abundantly, we must return to our parashah in Lev. 18:5: “You are to observe my laws and rulings; if a person does them, he will have life through them; I am Adonai.” That’s His final answer.
Rabbi Tamah Davis