Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah#47 Re’eh (See) Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17
Haftarah: Yesha’yahu (Isaiah) 54:11-55:5
B’rit Chadashah: 1 Corinthians 5:9-13
In Parashat Re’eh, Moshe’s time as the leader of the Israelites nears an end and we are taken into the how the next generation of leadership is to be established according to G-d’s instructions. 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 tends to search for people who can inspire and lead us; who 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. 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. 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, unexplainable abilities, this “prophet” is regarded as the most dangerous of all leaders. If the message is corrupt, self-serving, exploitive, 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. For example, one televangelist makes it a practice to hit people on the head, “slaying them in the spirit” and supposedly heals them of infirmities that are not verifiable by the “audience.” There are men who stand behind the individual ready to lay them down on the floor until they recover. This is NOT the way of the G-d of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Yahshua never advocated dog and pony shows when He healed people. Another televangelist promises special blessings and financial increase many time above what he 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. We do not seem to be able to discern a true spiritual leader from a fake. Despite our sophistication and worldliness, despite the bitter experience 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.
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. One has not abrogated the other. The Old testament deals with the letter of the law and conscious/compassion. The B’rit Chadashah was Yahshua’s commentary and teaching of the Old testament from the perspective of the deeper meaning of the letter of the law; the spiritual aspect, placing grace and law as an inextricable relationship by which we are to deal with man and G-d.
Today, many people have the same overpowering urge to worship other gods and those who 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 a moment to question our own judgment, to compare what our spiritual leaders say to G-d’s written Torah, not the traditions of men or the various versions of Bible re-written and re-interpreted to make them 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 exploitive – 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.
We must take such issues as discerning the spirits very seriously as G-d informed the people through Moshe, just as we are warned today. We will receive the blessings if we listen to G-d’s commands which means to hear spiritually and physically, internalize, and obey. The curse will result if we do not obey them and turn from the way of G-d, following other gods that we had not known. This includes false prophets, necromancers, astrologers, mediums, and the like. Because of secular humanism taught in our schools, our children are learning that they are free from any obligation or rules set forth by any deity, including the G-d of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We are admonished to follow G-d’s instructions again in Deut. 11:32; 12:1. Deut. 12:13 is very specific in telling us that we are not to worship G-d any way we wish, or think is the right way. We are to follow G-d’s instructions as He commanded. This is true worship. Too often , people get soulish behavior and spiritual behavior confused.
Chapter 13 addresses the issue of following other gods, prophets, etc. G-d allows us to be tested in this way to show us where our hearts and loyalty are focused. We are commanded not to overlook any efforts to seduce us away from G-d by even those in our family. Back then, these people were to be stoned. Today, we are to separate ourselves from them, lest we be seduced into disobeying G-d and following whatever deity they follow. G-d will have his day with antinomians. All we can do is try to set the example for G-d and pray for them. We are also instructed not to become passive when we see injustice (Deut. 13:13-18).
The dietary laws which stand today are described in Chapter 14. We are not to injure ourselves as a sign of mourning or shave our heads as the pagans and other religions did at that time. The tithe is commanded again in verse 22. Arguments that we do not have to tithe because tithing is to man and not G-d are a cop-out. We are responsible to tithe to G-d; how the clergy handles the money is something they must address with G-d one day if they are not honest and use it for the maintenance of the facility. The tithe back in the days of Moshe provided for the Mishkan and the Levites because they were given the responsibility to maintain the Mishkan. They did not receive any land inheritance at the time (Deut. 14:27-29). Some of the tithes were to be eaten by the people who offered them in the presence of G-d; at the Mishkan.
The laws of Sh’mittah are described in Chapter 15 as a time to allow the land to rest, slaves to be set free, and debts to be forgiven. Many in Israel continue to farm the land during this time. G-d will hold them accountable just as He said.
The parashah ends with a description of the designated times of Adonai just as they are described in Leviticus 23. Yahshua observed these special times just as He did the dietary laws. Who are we to think they were abrogated with His crucifixion? Those who disregard the commands/instructions of G-d will be held accountable, just as He warns us throughout His Word, even to the last chapter in Revelation. Such arrogance reminds me of someone about to go over Niagara Falls blowing up an inflatable mattress! If we want the blessings of G-d, let’s quit spending our time and efforts trying to find ways around His commands in an attempt to satisfy our animal souls/human nature. Let’s just stay on the King’s Highway and G-d will be with us all the way as he promised (Deut. 31:6; Hebrews 13:5).
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 “afflicted and storm-tossed” Jerusalem “who has not been or foundation, walls and ground of 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