Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah#47 Re’eh (See)D’varim (Deuteronomy) 11:26-16:17
Haftarah: Yesha’yahu (Isaiah) 54:11-55:5
B’rit Chadashah: 1 Corinthians 5:9-13
In Parashah Re’eh, Moshe’s time as the leader of the Israelites nears an end and we are told how the next generation of leadership is to be established according to G-d’s instructions. These laws include the process of offering sacrifices and cleansing the land of all idols (Chapter 12), the designated times of G-d (Chapter 16), tithing (14:22-29), general behavior and dietary laws (Chap 14), and the laws of shmittah (Chapter 15). These laws apply to the entire community. In the time it was written, it applied to the nation Israel and fellow travelers. However, it applies to ALL who profess to love G-d and follow Yahshua. The misinterpretation that everything in the Old Testament applies only to the Jews is detrimental to a true understanding of G-d’s laws and Yahshua’s complimentary expounded teaching of G-d’s Torah. However, if an individual maintains this belief, he/she would not be incorrect if they understand what defines a “true Jew” (Rom. 2-3).
Before the mandates for kings, judges, and other public servants are described, Moshe lays out the parameters for a very peculiar sort of religious leader: the prophet, and not just any prophet, but a man or woman who produces “signs and wonders.” This person is given the power to manipulate the laws of nature, of suspending the physical rules of the universe, and foretelling the future with stunning accuracy. So. What could be better than to have a “real” prophet as a spiritual leader?
Unfortunately, man has a tendency to search for people who can inspire and lead us; are charismatic, rather than a person who follows G-d’s Torah. As far back as the time of Adam and Eve, mankind has been seduced by charismatic characters who may “look” like a leader (whatever that means) or speak eloquently, serving those who have itching ears. Some of these charlatans have learned to speak so far above the heads of the common individual, that the person is thought to be extremely intelligent. This happens in secular society and in religious institutions.
Spiritual leaders are harder to evaluate than those in secular society because of the veneer of historical and present perceptions of religious leaders placed on them by society. Some religious leaders simply claim to be called to the ministry with no tangible way to validate their credentials. Many people fall for this ‘religious calling” as being all that is needed for someone to assume the role of preacher or Torah teacher. This can be detrimental to one’s spiritual walk and this is addressed in G-d’s Torah. By definition, the spiritual leader has knowledge, skills, and a particular type of power that his or her followers lack. The gap that divides the leader and the general public often makes the leader appear inscrutable, beyond our limited ability to judge or evaluate.
Remarkably, the Torah warns us to reserve judgment. Even miraculous abilities are not necessarily a sign of authenticity; knowledge of the future is not an indication that this person should be followed blindly. Unlike so much of modern communication, the medium is not necessarily the message; the question should always be one of substance over form. What is this person advising, commanding or instructing us to do? Are the other events the results of strange, unexplained talents and charisma?
If, for example, the prophet – after performing wondrous acts – advocates worship of an alien deity, we are commanded to reject their leadership. Despite his or her unique, unexplained abilities, this “prophet” is regarded as the most dangerous of all leaders. If the message is corrupt, self-serving, exploitative, this person is to be avoided according to G-d’s instructions. Today we see preachers and teachers who say they are doing things in the name of G-d, but their very actions are contrary to how Yahshua taught and cared for people. Dog and pony shows attract people through sensationalism which is completely contrary to the way Yahshua lived and taught. Other televangelists promise special blessings and financial increase many times above what he/she asks them to send. Unfortunately, many people have been ripped off by these charlatans who are not true spiritual leaders.
We do not seem to learn from history or be able to discern a true spiritual leader from a fake. Despite our sophistication and worldliness, despite the bitter experiences we have accrued, we lack the discernment that should prevent us from falling prey to snake oil salesmen and false prophets. We still want shortcuts to spirituality and would rather stand in line to receive the blessings and bogus insights of false spiritual individuals than take the time and make the effort to seek out truth. This is the crux of the problem. We cannot discern the real from the fake without Torah knowledge. Charismatic individuals will always be able to satisfy their base desires for adulation and obedience at the expense of those who choose form over substance in their quest for a quick spiritual fix because of human laziness and/or itching ears.
G-d’s warning is clear, and it is as relevant today as ever: It all comes down to substance. When a charismatic leader arises, if he (or she) does not unequivocally advocate adherence to the Torah, he must be regarded as a false prophet. It is also important for us not to judge the spiritual leader or anyone else should we hear gossip about their past. Torah teachers are humans who are necessarily sinners who have hopefully come into a relationship with YHVH/Yahshua that will lead to their eventual salvation. Their lives before this reconciliation does not negate their ability or privilege to teach G-d’s Torah. In fact, such past experiences may enhance their teaching; in some cases, they have “been there done that.” G-d is their Judge and we have no right to try and assume that role.
Apparently, the essential role of the prophet was to serve as the leader against idolatry, the spiritual counter to idolatry. Even true prophets, who stood strong against false and counterfeit spirituality, stood the risk of assimilating into the world of the occult, of becoming part of the problem rather than the solution in favor of increasing membership and money. When the desire to worship idols was banished, prophecy, too, became a thing of the past; it was no longer needed, no longer possible. As it states in Corinthians: when that which is perfect is come, prophecy, speaking in known tongues, and other G-d’-given talents ceased. This is because the entire Torah was available. We had and have access to the Old Testament and the B’rit Chadashah (the renewed refreshed covenants of G-d. They are both essential to gain a fuller understanding of the letter and spirit of G-d’s commands reviewed in this parashah. The Old Testament deals with the letter of the law and conscious compassion. The B’rit Chadashah is Yahshua’s commentary and teaching of the Old Testament providing a deeper perspective of His commands and laws. The Old and “New” Testaments together emphasize the inextricable relationship between law and grace; the paradigm given to us as the way to relate to G-d and man.
Today, many people have the same overpowering urge to worship other gods. Some claim to have a special individual connection to G-d that can only be accessed through monetary donations or unquestioning obedience to the individual or cult. It is imperative for us to take time on a regular basis to question our own judgment; to compare what our spiritual leaders say with G-d’s Torah, not the traditions of men or the various versions of the Bible re-written and re-interpreted to make it more palatable to those who have been taken in by secular humanism or easy, non-accountability Christianity. We must not to be impressed by “signs and wonders,” by those with the gifts of charisma or clairvoyance. We must learn to discern the spirits as we are warned in the Torah.
The genuine article, a real spiritual leader, brings us closer to G-d through their knowledge and wisdom from above to divide the Word in truth. The teachings of G-d’s Torah should leave us with a feeling of conviction; pricking our consciousness to change those characteristics in us that are not consistent with Yahshua’s instructions. That is ultimately the litmus test; anything else is fraudulent. If a prophet(teacher) is “for profit,” he or she is no prophet. If a spiritual leader is exploitative – financially, emotionally or sexually – he or she is not the leader we are looking for. If, on the other hand, he or she educates, inspires, and brings us closer to G-d, we have found someone to learn from and be inspired by. We have found a true leader.
Haftarah: Yesha’yahu (Isaiah) 54:11-55:5
This week’s haftorah is the third of a series of seven “haftarot of Consolation.” These seven haftarot commence on the Shabbat following Tisha b’Av and continue until Rosh Hashanah.
G d addresses the inconsolable and storm- tossed Jerusalem. He tells her that although He turned His face from her for a time, she will be redeemed through His grace. She is assured G-d will never be angry or rebuke her again (54:6-10). Jerusalem will be laid with precious stones. Her children will be “disciples of the L-rd,” and will enjoy abundant peace. Any weapon engineered against her will fail.
Then G-d through Isaiah invites the thirsty to acquire “water,” namely those who are thirsty for spirituality should study the quenching words of Torah. He promises the nation an everlasting covenant similar to that made with King David. This is also an allusion to the Messiah, David’s descendant (Yahshua), who will be revered by all of the nations of the world.
B’rit Chadashah: 1 Corinthians 5:9-13
Sha’ul tells the Messianic community at Corinth that when he told them not to associate with those who practice sexual immorality; greed, thievery, idol worship, and the like, he was not referring to people outside the city or “leave the world altogether.” He takes the point closer to home referring to those in our own families or communities, as mentioned in the parashah. He tells us that we should not even eat with these individuals. We are to use discernment and courage when we come into contact with those who profess to be our brothers in faith, or family; friends. We are to be strong enough to explain why we cannot associate with them; for this may be likened to wallowing with the pigs; guilty by association. Of course, if such an individual wants to meet with us to learn about our faith and ask questions about our G-d, we can certainly meet with them. G-d will judge those outside of His Torah. We are responsible for rebuking those within our community/family/circle of friends according to G-d’s Torah. This is also addressed in different contexts in 2 and 3 John. We are not to turn a blind eye to injustice or antinomian behavior within our families and communities. If we are not bold enough to confront such people head-on, we should support those who are; lobbyists, organizations that strive to correct such problems; pray for strength and courage to become active ourselves. We should not and cannot always depend on others to correct anti-Torah behaviors/practices. We have a personal responsibility to defend our G-d and His Torah just as Yahshua did throughout his life on earth.
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart