Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah #46: ‘Ekev (Because) D’varim (Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25
Haftarah: Yesha’yahu (Isaiah) 49:14-51-3
B’rit Chadashah: Ya’akov (James) 5:7-11
This parashah is filled with admonishment from YHVH to obey the mitzvoth (commands), rulings, regulations, and to fear Him. We cannot expect to be found good and faithful servants if we dance through life doing what feels good. He reminds the Israelites that He was disciplining them throughout their 40- year journey in the desert, just as He disciplines us on our wilderness journeys. Adonai reminds us that He disciplines, humbles, and tests us in order to know what is in our hearts (Deut. 8:2). We must remember that He already knows whether we will obey His commands, regulations, and rulings; we are the ones who must be shown what is in our hearts. G-d’s testing, discipline and humbling forces us to look in our own, spiritual mirrors until we acknowledge the reflection is our own. Do we believe we can either “take or leave” Shabbat? Can we change the day as the Catholic church did to Sunday? The command is that we are to celebrate Shabbat as a holy convocation; that is a public assembly (Lev. 23:7). We are to rest on the seventh day; not the first, the third, or any other day that may be “convenient.” Can we look in the mirror and honestly say we follow this command? We are to obey G-d’s commands, living as He directs; His way, and fear him (Deut. 8:6). Otherwise, we are promised a one-way trip to destination hell (Deut. 8:19-20; Revelation 21:8; 22:15). Chapter 10: 12 provides a summary of the life we are to live for G-d in 3 ½ lines: “So now, Yisra’el, all that Adonai your G-d asks from you is to fear Adonai your G-d, follow all his ways, love him[carry the testimony of Yahshua], and serve Adonai you G-d with all your heart and all your being [guard the commands of HaShem]; to obey, for your own good, the mitzvoth and regulations of Adonai which I am giving you today.” Another interesting point that ties the Old Testament with the New Testament, demonstrating the consistency of G-d and the “Echad” of YHVH and Yahshua is found in verse 16: “Therefore, circumcise the foreskin of your heart… ” This verse parallels Romans 2:28 where Yahshua defines a “real Jew” as one who is circumcised physically and spiritually. In other words, a Gentile becomes a “real Jew” when the physical and spiritual commands of G-d are kept. A biological Jew is counted as a “real Jew” using the same criteria according to Yahshua who is also G-d. Although there are advantages for the biological Jew (Rom. 3:1-3), Jews do not have a free pass to heaven.
Chapter 11:18 provides the detail concerning the mandate in the Sh’ma (Deut. 6:8) to physically wrap Tefillin around our hand (forearm) and forehead. This command was discussed in the parashah last week. No matter how we may try to rationalize and justify not obeying this command, it is a command.
We are to infuse our lives with Torah that implies 24-hour observance. This is not hard. It requires prayer, study, and practice. Our study needs to be in an organized manner and not all over the place. If we search “here and there and every website that has anything labeled “Jewish,”we will only become confused and overwhelmed with “white noise” and no solid knowledge. We should make time before we go to work, time at lunch, and again time in Torah study before going to bed. Daniel provides a perfect example of this practice (Dan. 6:11). Torah study can take many forms such as praying, mediating, reading from Torah, or performing a mitzvah.
Many Christian clergy teach there is no reason to fear G-d because He is all love. I submit this is taught because they do not understand the Hebrew translation or they want to add to the membership and church coffers. I agree that all Clergy hope to build up membership and secure the existence of their ministry. However, religious leaders should take care not to adulterate the Word of G-d and the objective in order to simply get more people to attend. True Torah teaching is a difficult message. After all, who wants to fear anyone if we define fear in the social context of having dread of someone who is going to harm us? This is another reason that an understanding of Hebrew is so important in interpreting scripture. The fear required in the command of HaShem fearing G-d) cannot be equated to our cursory understanding of the word in English. At its most basic level, it consists of a fear of the consequences of our actions. Fear of G-d teaches us that G-d is not a “vatran”. A vatran is someone who forgives people for their misdemeanors even when they have not corrected their behavior. This concept is taught in many Christian churches; that all one must do is profess the Name and all will be forgiven. Trust and faith in G-d does not work this way. G-d has placed a system in the universe whereby if someone commits a spiritually negative action, as a consequence, he or she will be spiritually damaged. This is a simple cause and effect relationship that is validated throughout the Torah.
The Sages expound on this idea, explaining exactly what we should and should not fear. Let’s look at a seeming contradiction in Scripture and discuss what is taught in the Gemara in Berachot (a specific volume of rabbinical commentary on the oral Torah). King Solomon writes in Proverbs; fortunate is the man who is constantly afraid.” In contrast, Isaiah writes: “those from Zion who are afraid are sinners.” The Gemara explains that the verse in Proverbs is referring to ‘divrei Torah’ understood to mean referring to spiritual matters. We only have control over our free will in spiritual pursuits. Therefore, the Gemara teaches us that it is correct to fear one’s own failure in the spiritual realm because we have control over it and have the ability to stumble. Have you been taught that we no longer stumble because G-d’s laws were “nailed to the cross”? Let’s look at what Paul (Sha’ul) has to say about this because Christians and others often misinterpret Paul to their own destruction. The Bible confirms this fact (2 Peter 3:16).“Rom. 7:14-25 reads “ For we know that the Torah is of the Spirit; but as for me, I am bound to the old nature, sold to sin as a slave. I don’t understand my own behavior- I don’t do what I want to do; instead I do the very thing I hate! Now if I am doing what I don’t want to do, I am agreeing that the Torah is good. But now it is no longer ‘the real me’ doing it, but the sin housed inside me. For I know that there is nothing good housed inside me- that is, inside my old nature. I can want what is good, but I can’t do it! For I don’t do the good I want; instead, the evil that I don’t want is what I do! But if I am doing what ‘the real me’ doesn’t want, it is no longer the ‘real me’ doing it but the sin housed inside me. So I find it to be the rule, a kind of perverse ‘Torah’, that although I want to do what is good, evil is right there with me! “For in my inner self I completely agree with G-d’s Torah; but in my various parts I see a different ‘Torah’ [rabbinical Torah; Oral Torah; NOT G-d’s Torah] one which is operating in my various parts. What a miserable creature I am! Who will rescue me from this body bound for death? Thanks be to G-d, he will!- through Yahshua the Messiah, our L-rd” This does not mean we now have license to do whatever we want and rest assured we will be forgiven . Yahshua released us from the death indictment for imputed sin and provided a way for us to become reconciled to G-d and subsequently saved in the future. This way requires repentance and subsequent obedience on our part. There is no cart blanche with G-d, no careless observance designed “our way.”
In all areas of our lives we know, or should learn that G-d is in total control. Since He is the Creator and Sustainer of all things in the universe, it is foolish and wrong for us to be afraid that ‘bad things’ will happen to us- when HaShem is in control nothing truly ‘bad’ can happen. Our circumstances may certainly seem adverse or harmful as they are happening, but we must come to develop our trust in G-d the faithfulness of Yahshua and take peace in knowing there is nothing to fear when we trust our lives and souls to His care. The only thing we need to fear is the spiritual damage we can bring upon ourselves. Remember, “trust” means to follow, to worship, to emulate.
Haftarah: Yesha’yahu (Isaiah) 49:14-51:3
This is the second of the seven “prophecies of comfort” read between the Fast of the Ninth of Av and Rosh Hashanah. The exiled Israelites are concerned that G-d has abandoned them. G-d once again reassures them that this is not the case, comparing His love and mercy for His people to that of a mother for her children, and even greater. Again, we need to remember that mothers nurture, teach, and correct their children because they love them. So it is with YHVH/Yahshua.
Isaiah then touchingly describes the ingathering of the exiles that will occur with Yahshua’s arrival (Messiah). Returning to the initial subject matter of the haftarah, Isaiah reminds the Israelites’ rebellious behavior that prompted the exile and suffering. He concludes with encouraging words, reminding us of what had happened to our ancestors, Abraham and Sarah. Just as they were blessed with a child when they had all but given up hope, so too, G-d will send Messiah to provide us a way to become reconciled to G-d, giving us hope for eternal redemption and salvation when our lives on this earth end. Our lives on earth are not the end of the story.
B’rit Chadashah: Ya’akov (James) 5:7-11
“be patient therefore, brethren unto the coming of the L-rd. behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receives the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; establish your hearts: for the coming of the L-rd draweth nigh. Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door. Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the L-rd, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. Behold, we count them happy, which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the L-rd; that the L-rd is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.”
In the above passage, James continues the thought of chapter 4:13-17. The reference to the early and latter rain is the acharit-hayamim (end of days). The verse refers to the climatic pattern of Israel where the bulk of the rain falls between October and March. The early rain (yoreh) comes in October, and the latter rain (malkosh) which is rare, comes in April. A spiritual application of this term is that the early rain (yoreh)came at Shavu’ot (Acts 2), and the latter rain (malkosh) is coming at the L-rd’s return. Verse 9 repeats the warning of 4:11-12. Verses 10-11 provide an example of suffering, mistreatment, yet being patient, which provides us an example of the prophets and the perseverance of Job. We encounter the phrase “and you have seen the end of the L-rd.” A correct interpretation of this verse is “and you know what the purpose of YHVH was.” The purpose was to justify the ways of YHVH to man. Although this is something that YHVH does not owe us, in His kindness and mercy there are times He chooses to reveal His rationale for His interventions in our lives. Job’s “trouble” started when YHVH chose to answer hasatan’s challenge by permitting him to touch Job’s possessions and person without killing him. Job persevered in the face of extreme loss, pain, and criticism; not knowing why this was happening. It must have been even more of a challenge for Job because he was considered a righteous man before G-d. Most of us would probably wonder why we should consider loving and following G-d if this was to be our fate. Job, like Moshe before he climbed the mountain to see the Land, could not understand the bigger picture as he was climbing. So it was with Job and is often with us when we experience the furnace of refinement. In the end, YHVH vindicated Himself and proved to Job and to us that only YHVH has the power and wisdom to deal with hasatan. We are forever and totally dependent upon YHVH Elohim for our lives, including our spiritual battles. We also learn from Job’s experience, that there is much more going on in the metaphysical realm as G-d works with us, refining us to be our best for His utmost glory. May we learn to keep this truth in our hearts and minds and allow the Spirit of G-d, the Ruach HaKodesh) to guide our spirits that our souls will find their place with YHVH/Yahshua. Remember, we are to discern the spirits, being ever watchful that we do not allow the spirit of HaSatan to infiltrate our hearts and minds.
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart