Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah #52 Vayelekh (He went) D’varim (Deuteronomy) 31:1-30
Haftarah: Hoshea (Hosea) 14:2-10
B’rit Chadashah: Hebrews 13:5-8
Moshe is now 120 years old and ready to be called home. He transfers leadership to Y’hoshua. Moshe prophesied of someone coming that would be like unto himself, but greater than he in the future. Y’hoshua, Yahshua’s namesake, was a shadow, a forerunner of the Messiah. We are told that although we esteem Moshe, we must look forward to another greater than he. Here is where we find an interesting dichotomy in Christianity and Judaism.
There are many Christian clergy who promote Sha’ul (Paul) to a greater prominence than Yahshua. Many supposing Paul’s misunderstood words to have greater import and substance than G-d’s, reinforced and explained by Yahshua to total contradictions of Scripture. On the other hand, traditional Judaism has yet to recognize Yahshua as Messiah, still holding to the belief that Moshe was the greatest prophet and lawgiver. True believers described by the seven-fold witness in Revelation know this misunderstanding and blindness of G-d’s Torah will soon come to an end. Jew and Gentile who are deemed true believers by G-d will be joined into Israel in a vital covenantal relationship with YHVH Elohim.
Moshe writes the Torah and gives it to the Levites and the elders of B’nai Israel. He further instructs them to read the Torah at a place YHVH chooses to the people every seventh year Shmittah during the Sukkot festival. This is the Hak’kayl ceremony performed so “B’nai Israel will learn to fear YHVH and be careful to fulfill all the Torah.” Those who believe G-d’s Torah (instructions) were abrogated with Yahshua’s arrival should carefully consider G-d’s words. Take note to fulfill means to rightly carry out the commands of G-d in His Torah. Not to do away with it as many Christian clergy teach from the Book of Corinthians. The aforementioned process is ongoing and was not abrogated with Yahshua’s arrival. On the contrary, it was reinforced by the Messiah himself!
This parashah also informs us of the sad reality that we are weak and that we easily succumb to temptation of all types. We somehow have the idea that we are greater and smarter than our Creator and can design and develop our own roads to success without G-d. However, the fact that we are not the towers of strength and intelligence we think we are should be sufficient to drive us to our knees in repentance and remorse before we even speak or act. Indeed, YHVH/Yahshua reminds us as he did the people back then “Be strong, be bold, don’t be afraid or frightened of them [our enemies], for Adonai your G-d is going with you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” (Deut. 31:6; 23). The previous parashah reminds us that we are able to keep G-d’s Torah so there is no excuse (Deut. 30:11-14). But it would seem there is a conflict. We seem to be destined to sin as evidenced by G-d’s Word, yet it does not have to be this way, again according to G-d’s Word. What is our problem? Let’s examine this question.
To begin, Satan is the prince of the air, the ruler of this earth at the present time. He will do everything in his power to win your vote. Sound familiar? He will promise you the world or just the pieces of it you find irresistible. For example, what would happen to our world economy if only the people whose cars wore out bought new ones, or people whose shoes wore out bought new ones, or if no one bought new clothes until they wore out? Our current government officials know. That’s why they are doing everything in their power to lull us into a sense of thinking things are getting better so we will spend what little money remains on our credit cards or in the bank. What if people only bought houses with the number of rooms to meet their needs? If this happened, the economy would suffer global deflation and the world would collapse entirely. Companies would have to downsize, and many people would lose their jobs. This should also sound familiar. People would lose their homes and those who had money would start drawing down their accounts to the detriment of the world banking system. This happened with the collapse of the Roman Empire. The world did come to a halt and it took 500 years for man to emerge out of the Dark Ages. So why aren’t we seeking forgiveness and asking G-d for strength and wisdom against temptation? The answer is that we know the capitalistic way of life will continue as long as G-d tarries. Many people will continue to spend money because if they don’t, they lose their motivation; the “thrill of the hunt”; excitement for life itself; no love of G-d. Their desires are superficial, ever-changing with their moods and whatever takes center stage in the media.
Some people live to work. They identify their worth by their job, their salary, their co-workers, etc. Many people who retire die shortly thereafter because they lose their sense of identity and purpose for living. By our nature, which is not an excuse, we seek to fill our lives with pleasure and sensation, to experience the thrill of life. This may come in the form of a new house, a new car, multiple exotic trips, or shopping. Some of these activities take a lot of planning; others are the result of pure impulse. I like to call this the “because I can” syndrome. We know the pleasure we derive from these things is transitory and really insignificant, but for a brief period, we ride high on our purchase or our experience on vacation or wearing the new dress, matching shoes, and bag. The real quest of our lives lies much deeper into a place we do not want to frequent or even acknowledge.
The underlying agenda is avoidance of getting old and/or too feeble to do the things we think we love. We are fully aware of the transience of the aforementioned activities, but only by immersing ourselves in earthly activities that we can sometimes avoid acknowledging the possibility that there is an afterlife, a G-d, and that we might be held accountable for our lives in the end.
G-d knew from our creation that we would seek such temporary satisfaction in life, sometimes to our ultimate destruction and separation from Him forever. This is why he spends so much time pleading with us to seek life and not a life that leads unto death. He assures us that we are able to keep His Torah and that he is offering us something better than a life dedicated to avoiding the unpleasant and engaging in that which has no significance. A life of meaning focused on glorifying Him can only be accomplished by following His commands, statutes and rulings. G-d repeats it several times in the Old Testament (Deut. 30:10; Deut. 28:1-15; Deut. 30:15-17). Yahshua states it several times in the “New” Testament. John Chapter 14 is replete with Yahshua’s statements about the connection between loving Him and keeping His commands. Through our observance (guarding the commands of G-d by our obedience) and carrying the testimony of Yahshua (developing a sense of awe and fear) He offers us life everlasting. Let’s examine how this works.
Observing the commands is not initially a thrilling experience. In fact, it may be down-right difficult in the beginning as we tear ourselves away from our previous lifestyle much as two opposing pieces of Velcro are slowly ripped apart. However, the thrill of keeping the commands will come later as we learn to love G-d and not simply observe them out of fear. Then, observing the commands becomes opportunity to share our light with the world; to glorify G-d as is the very purpose of our lives. As we descend in our self-absorption and ascend to G-d, the Velcro is ripped a little more as G-d tests us through our life experiences (2 Cor12:9). This is the refining process spoken of by Paul in which we are to count it joy when we endure trials for the glory of G-d (2 Cor. 12:9) as does James (1:2). Hebrews 12:6 reminds us that we can count on these trials as children of G-d. Those who are not chastised are not His children. These things are placed upon us to help us develop a spirit for G-d. The commands and G-d’s intervention in our lives is to teach us how to live as a soul.
Suppose you decide one day that you would like to live your days as a soul and not just a body. You decide you want to live forever and you realize the body is as transient as a butterfly’s life of about 20-30 days (no wonder they flap around like maniacs on a mission; they are)! What would you do? Hopefully, you would look for opportunities to help your fellow man. You might visit the sick, take in someone’s trash can, donate money or time to a local charity. But how would you dress your soul? What kind of house would you buy and what kind of car would you drive? Would you plan annual vacations? How would you raise your children? How would you fill your empty hours? What would you eat? You would have no answer to these questions, and neither would anyone else. Enter G-d’s Torah.
The Creator of the universe who created every soul provided a universal instruction manual applicable to every human as created in the image of G-d. This is just one example of his living kindness (chesed) One image, one manual! G-d’s Torah provides that body of knowledge to teach us how to conduct our lives as souls. This should be no surprise. Even as physical bodies we need to learn to read, eat, and function in the physical and mental sense. It is certainly no less complicated to exist as a soul. This is the information G-d offers in the written Torah, clarified by Yahshua who is G-d incarnate. It stands to reason that since the soul returns to G-d, it should be as close to His way of thinking and acting as possible. Besides, souls return to G-d at the time of death to be dealt with at a t alter time. Those who live outside of G-d’s Torah may enjoy a superficial satisfaction with life achieved with money and/or perceived power/influence. However, sooner or later the body deteriorates even if the face is full of Botox and the buttocks and abdomen has undergone liposuction. Gravity will take its toll and we will return to dust one way or another! This is one reason for the urgency of repentance and learning to emulate Yahshua’s ways as soon as possible. We do not know when our souls will be required of us.
No one has two lives. We live the life we choose for ourselves. We are not robots. We can either learn how to live forever and act accordingly through love of and obedience to G-d, or we can plan to be banished from His presence forever. To learn how to live forever, we need to take the advice of our G-d and choose life. This is done by learning to live as a soul through the observance of G-d’s Torah and carrying the testimony of Yahshua as Yahshua Himself states seven times in revelation. This message is neither obscure nor esoteric. Not only did G-d share it with the Israelites at Sinai and beyond, He sent Yahshua to clarify it for Jew and Gentile alike. As G-d promised, the message is truly, “not up in the heavens or over the oceans.” So why does Torah observance seem so difficult to impossible for most?
The natural life of the body is full of sensation and desires. Although it may not be significant in the overall scheme of things, it is stimulating while it lasts. The other life, that of the soul, is often much less glamorous. After all, the things we do for our G-d are not rewarded in this life. Sure, we may enjoy extra blessings that apply to our lives on this earthly plane, but we must wait for the rewards that will be given in the world to come. Furthermore, we should not be seeking rewards for anything we do in His Name in the first place. Doing mitzvot in secret goes against our egotistic grain., For now we must allow G-d to override our animal humanistic desires and replace our thoughts and actions with a Torah-driven mind; separate the humanistic desires from what is commanded of our souls if we are to live forever. Such a life is based on working toward giving up our human sensations and desires. It requires us to live according to our minds (reason) and often suppress and ignore our feelings and emotions. This is the problem in many religious institutions today. They actually promote soulish behavior exhibited as trances, excessive dancing, and speaking in gibberish labeled as tongues over reason and self-nullification. The contest may be between the important and everlasting versus the insignificant and transitory high of some experience in a religious building. However, it is also between sensation and stimulation and discipline and thought. Remember, we are told in Phil. 2:12 that we are to reason out (work) out our salvation with trembling and fear. Remember, forever is a long time and this is no laughing matter. It is more difficult for us to comprehend the import of this scripture than it was for the Israelites who stood at Mount Sinai, heard the thunder and saw the cloud. However, the solution to this dilemma is provided by the requirement that we face judgment. Enter Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
These G-d- mandated designated times remind us that our time on earth is not infinite. The Messianic Jew understands Rosh Hashanah to be a foreshadowing of the Rapture and Yom Kippur as the Day of Atonement. History has proven the previous festivals to be foreshadows of significant Biblical events. It follows that the next one on the time table is the Rapture. Although we do not know the day or hour, Yahshua tells us we will know the season. The season is here during the 10 Days of Awe that started with Rosh Hashanah. We should celebrate the designated times of Adonai with love, awe, and fear. Each year that we are preserved to celebrate these times, we should enter them with a sense of urgency to reconcile ourselves to G-d through Yahshua’s sacrifice and begin or continue walking in the Light Of G-d’s Torah. When the time comes for Israel to wed her Groom (Yahshua), the wedding will take place and she will be taken to the Father’s house. There will no longer be an opportunity or need for rehearsals.
Haftarah: Hosea 14:2-10
The Shabbat between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is called Shabbat Shuva (Shabbat of Repentance). The name is a reference to the opening words of the week’s haftarah, “Shuva Israel”- Return O Israel. This haftarah is read in honor of the Ten Days of Repentance.
Hosea exhorts the Israelites to “Return, O Israel, to the L-rd your G-d,” encouraging them to sincerely repent and ask for G-d’s forgiveness. He urges the people to place their trust in G-d, not in Assyria, strong horses, or idols. At that point, G-d promises to remove His anger from Israel, “I will be like dew to Israel; they shall blossom like a rose.” The prophet goes on to foretell the return of the exiles and the cessation of idol-worship among the people.
B’rit Chadashah: Hebrews 13:5-8
“Keep your lives free from the love of money; and be satisfied with what you have; for G-d himself has said, ‘I will never fail you or abandon you.’ Therefore, we say with confidence, ‘Adonai is my helper; I will not be afraid-what can a human being do to me?’ Remember your leaders, those who spoke G-d’s message to you. Reflect on the results of their way of life and imitate their trust-Yahshua the Messiah is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
Here is an echo of our parashah, reiterating G-d’s words of encouragement and admonishment. This passage would not be possible without the Old Testament scripture as is the case with much of the “New” Testament. Although we do not know the author of Hebrews, we can verify its truths by comparing verses such as these to the Old Testament. Note that money in itself is not evil; it is the love of money that can get us into trouble as evidenced by our economy and our Capitalist way of life. We are to imitate the way of life lived by the G-dly leaders and their trust for YHVH/Yahshua has not changed from that time to the present. We do not know how we are going to die. However, we must prepare and pray for the grace and strength to witness for YHVH/Yahshua no matter our circumstances. We will not know the results of our last words or actions, or those up to this point after becoming reconciled to G-d through Yahshua’s sacrifice until we stand before Him. We must not fear anything man might do to us on this earth. YHVH/Yahshua is with us as he promised, and He is the only one who can destroy our souls (Matt. 10:28). May we spend much time in introspection and ask G-d to search our hearts for any unclean thing that we may seek forgiveness and begin anew in the coming year (Psalm 139:23).
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart