We invite and encourage you to join the reading schedule that has so inspired the Jewish community since before the birth of “The Church.” At the same time, we challenge you to read the portions on your own, mining God’s rich, spiritual garden, gleaning the precious nuggets that lay in store for you. A Messianic commentary for each portion has been provided to assist you in your journey to become a more mature child of HaShem. May His Spirit richly bless you as you “Study to show thyself approved!” 2 Timothy 2:15
49 Ki Tetze (Part A) - When you go out - Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19
For some, this notion of practical application of Scripture is unsettling. Perhaps it stems from the overwhelming traditional application and misuse of Scripture prevalent in much of Rabbinic Judaism today (in essence, tradition is given more weight than Scripture). Because of such notions, I will briefly address this issue again before going into our teaching this week. Borrowing notes from last week’s portion, I shall summarize halakhah and the concept of “oral tradition”: “Chapter 17 of Deuteronomy talks about the details surrounding official and legal matters. Of particular interest is the subject dealt with in verses 8-13. To be sure, the sages of old understood this to be talking about the matter of halakhah and the authority of what is known in rabbinical circles as Oral Torah. From a cursory reading, it appears to be a valid teaching about establishing a governing body of legal authority based on the spoken opinion of the judge of the day. This is where the halakhah gains its strength and application. This term is roughly translated the way in which to walk. The rabbis see in this passage an opportunity to establish the tradition of the Oral Torah. As they see it, this passage instructs its readers “In accordance with the Torah they teach you, you are to carry out the judgment they render, not turning aside to the right or the left from the verdict they declare to you (v.11).” Taking the verse in its most natural and literal sense, it does seem to validate the right for the rabbis to impose their judgments on all succeeding generations. And to strengthen the suggested interpretation, a first century Rabbi by the name of Yeshua had this to say to his crowd, “The Torah-teachers and the P’rushim,” he said, “sit in the seat of Moshe. So whatever they tell you, take care to do it. But don’t do what they do, because they talk but don’t act!” What Yeshua is addressing here is the issue of hypocrisy when it comes to correctly interpreting the Torah, yet failing to implement it into our lives. But our LORD does not condone the Oral Tradition as binding.” Back to our Torah portion. Marriage and Divorce Of great concern to the community living during this time period (as well as for any time period for that matter) was the area of sexual relations. To be sure, a great deal of time is spent addressing possible situations that might arise during the course of everyday dealings with each other. Moreover, in all of the five books that Moshe authored, only here in D’varim chapter 24 is marriage and divorce specifically addressed head on, and then only in a scant four verses. The matter became a major source of disagreement by the time Yeshua entered the communal scene. During his time period, two major schools of thought existed and vied for the majority opinion. The conservative School of Rabbi Shammai (Beit Shammai) and the liberal School of Rabbi Hillel (Beit Hillel) both supplied their interpretation of Moshe’s words here in our Torah portion. The Talmud gives us our most complete look into the minds of the early Judaisms of Yeshua’s day, thus the Talmud states concerning this passage in D’varim: “The School of Shammai say a man may not divorce his wife unless he has found unchastity in her, as it is said, ‘…because he has found in her indecency in a matter.’ But the School of Hillel say he may divorce her even if she burns his food, as it is said, ‘…because he has found in her indecency in a matter.’” Rabbi El’azar, a member of Beit Hillel has been noted in the Gemara as saying, “When a man divorces his first wife, even the altar sheds tears” (Gittin 90b), his source for such logic stemming from D’varim 24:13-14. Modern translator and commentator David H. Stern has noted in his Jewish New Testament Commentary that there is a Jewish tradition that
49 Ki Tetze (Part B) - When you go out - Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19
QUESTION: “What is the Messianic Jewish position about remaining single. I've always heard that the rabbinical teaching is that a person is not truly a man until he has procreated. I am single and it looks like I may be remaining so. Does this mean that I'm less a man? Does God want everyone to marry? What about a homosexual person who foregoes all sexual activity in order to be faithful to the Lord? I'd be interested in your thoughts on these issues.” ANSWER: “I want you to read 1 Corinthians Chapter 7. In it you’ll find some very good instructions given to the married and unmarried alike. It is true that the rabbis had, and still have, a high view of marriage. The Talmud stresses this view. The unmarried person lives without joy, without blessing, and without good’ (Jeb. 62b); An unmarried man is not a man in the full sense; as it is said, Male and female created He them, and blessed them and called their name man (Gen. 5:2) (Ibid. 63a). A wife meant a home; hence the saying, A mans home is his wife (Joma I.I), and R. Jose said, Never have I called my wife by that word, but always my home (Shab. 118b). But don’t let all this scare you. Remember this is commentary on the Torah, not the authoritative Torah itself! These are men’s opinions. High remarks are made in the Torah, to the single individual who fully devotes himself to HaShem in his singleness! Pray about your potential mating. It is a very important decision to make! To be sure, the Torah designed it to be a lasting one. Now as far as the issue concerning homosexuality goes, the Torah is explicitly clear: this lifestyle is not pleasing to HaShem, and is thereby forbidden. In the TaNaKH the instances are told of pagan temple prostitution, by those women (and sometimes men) who had separated themselves unto the temple cult. This sanctification is where we get the Hebrew word kadosh from, meaning, set apart for a specific work. This separation was certainly not prescribed by the Torah of Moshe, and was not condoned by the Holy One! If you mean a homosexual turning from that lifestyle, and forgoing all further sexual activity in order to pursue faithfulness to HaShem, then let his t’shuvah (repentance) be true renounce his sin of homosexuality and turn to HaShem with a renewed heart! True biblical separation always agrees with the Will of HaShem, and accomplishes the purposes of HaShem. Because homosexuality is outside the pale of a biblically correct lifestyle, it is not sanctified or blessed, but rather condemned by the Torah. This Torah Teacher does not recommend such a lifestyle for anyone, but forgiveness through the shed blood of Messiah Yeshua has been made abundant for all, regardless of your past sins!” Thus we see that our passages here in the Torah portion are not in contradiction to Yeshua’s rulings on the matter. Moreover, Moshe’s rulings do not undermine HaShem’s original intentions for the married couple. Rather, quoting Dr. Stern again, “Yeshua in adducing Scripture harks back to the beginning, in Gan-Eden [Garden of Eden] to support his view that a marriage must not be dissolved for anything less than the most direct insult to its one-flesh integrity, adultery. He goes on to point out, as I [Stern] have above, that “Judaism has always considered marriage both normal and desirable… [Quoting the Talmud] “The unmarried person lives without joy, without blessing and without good….An unmarried man is not fully a man” (Yevamot 62b-63a).
49 Ki Tetze (Part C) - When you go out - Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19
Conclusions: In its most normative sense of application, the Torah addresses the individual on a complete level (overview), yet leaves room for each individual and unique situation. Surely each unique situation needed addressing. That is why HaShem set into place certain mechanisms which would help deal with the fluidity of ever-changing community life among the followers of HaShem. Halakhah is meant to fit the times in which it is being applied. It is rightly called “the humanization of Scripture”. This gives it the feel of stability, based on the Scriptures from which it is derived, yet at the same time, room is allowed for individual and unique application on every level. Thus, our Torah portion forms the basis for our modern halakhic rulings today, as Yeshua proved to his first century listeners. I have heard some today attack halakhah on the basis that tradition has no merit in the lives of a believer in Yeshua. I have also heard the very Scriptures attacked on the basis of antiquity and out of date rulings. Yet there can exist harmony in the seemingly simplistic commands of the Torah of Moshe, when combined with the halakhic decisions that are derived from the Torah. To be sure, don’t we all as believers cite the very same Torah as evidence for our rulings? And yet, there exists great diversity among our ranks. Should this diversity give rise to disagreements and disunity? In my opinion, I think it should not. Rather than separate we believers from one another, the Scriptures and the halakhic decisions we derive from them, should be uniting us, especially in the eyesight of the disbelieving world in which we are surely being examined for our faith. Difficult issues to come to halakhic rulings on, such as marriage and divorce, should not discourage us from setting the example among all men, even as the Torah commands us to do. Far from becoming another statistic, as many believers have become (God help us!), we should be leading the way in our examples of what a loving couple, joined by God, should look like. Justice should not only exist as some noteworthy concept that can be pointed out in the lives of those who follow HaShem. Like HaShem, our justice should be an extension of who we are as believers in Messiah Yeshua. It should be a part of our make-up, internal and not merely outward in its appropriation and application. As is stated in Parashat Shof’tim “justice should be pursued!”
50 Ki Tavo (Part A) - When you come - Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8
Ki Tavo means, “When you come”. The opening p’sukim (verses) speak to Isra'el about taking of the first fruit of the ground and offering it to the LORD upon entering into the Land of Promise. To offer the first of the produce of the ground was to affirm and signify that the person was dedicating everything he has to the service of HaShem. What is more, this offering was a declaration of HaShem’s faithfulness that as he swore to our ancestors he has indeed performed: “We have come to the Land of Promise!” (see verse 4) The offering, like any other offering, was facilitated through the priest. This has always been HaShem’s pattern of worship, and it remains down to this day. All who carefully name the name of the LORD must approach him in the sacrificial intercession of his Only and Unique Son Yeshua. To approach him otherwise is to risk rejection and ultimately spiritual death. Thus, the pattern remains. Chapter 26 The crux of the parashah is found in chapter 26 verses 16-19 where we see that truly God and Isra'el are an inseparable covenant pair. Moshe informs his listeners that it is HaShem’s desire to have his covenant people intimately identify with him by becoming his “’Am S’gulah” (Treasured People), and by carefully upholding (establishing) his commandments. To be sure, Moshe describes in no uncertain terms, the condition in which the mitzvot are to be carried out: with all your heart and with all your soul (verse 17). So what is the problem with these instructions? Absolutely nothing! The man Moshe continues by stating that they, ‘Am Yisra’el (the People of Isra'el), have distinguished HaShem to be their only God, and to walk in his ways, while HaShem for his part has distinguished ‘Am Yisra’el to be his Treasured People, and to make them supreme over all the other nations on the earth. Don’t confuse this unique position. This special election is a display of God’s divine Will, and not a matter of “playing favorites”. In other words, Isra'el is singled out for a purpose: to showcase the holiness of HaShem to all the peoples of the earth, and to bring glory to the One and Only Creator of all mankind. We who live with the tension of believing in Yeshua’s faithful sacrifice while becoming submissive to the Torah of HaShem must understand that we have joined ourselves to this divine calling as well. I say “tension” because for the last 2000 years or so there has existed a great confusion over whether or not a believer should even attempt to become Torah submissive. The idea is really rather ludicrous when common sense is exercised. Of course a genuine child of God should be Torah submissive. It is rather cruel to imagine a God who would put a whole nation of people through the unnecessary judgment of wandering for 40 years in a barren wilderness for failing to perform his commandments, only to send his Son into the world to set all men free from these very same commandments! We need to understand the Torah from God’s eternal perspective. This Torah portion vividly details the curses associated with failure to obey the commandment of HaShem. However, in order to grasp the concepts contained within these next few chapters, the reader MUST understand true Torah obedience first! I cannot stress this issue too much here! If we are to live our lives in a manner that is pleasing to our Heavenly Abba, then we must understand and come to grips with the mitzvot and our heart’s attitude toward them.
50 Ki Tavo (Part B) - When you come - Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8
Tochacha Chapter 28 contains what is known in Judaism as the ‘Tochacha’. We have encountered this before in Leviticus 26:14-46. Allow me to recall my notes from there for you: According to one online Hebrew-English dictionary, the origin word ‘tocheycha’ conveys a “reprimand.” Browns, Driver, Briggs defines this word as “rebuke, correction, reproof, punishment, chastisement.” By its context, since the source is the Holy One Himself, it conveys the purpose of “divine retribution.” Interesting by comparison, the Hebrew of this current perek (chapter) is written in the plural, addressing collective Isra'el. Its counterpart in D’varim 28, however, is written in the singular. The Gaon of Vilna explains that the difference conveyed by the listing in D’varim is that the Holy One, Blessed Be He, is addressing collective Isra'el, that is, each and every Jew that was present then and each and every Jew that will be born in the future. Indeed a quote from the JPS version of Parashat Nitzavim (D’varim 29:13, 14 [14, 15 in English Bibles]) gives the Gaon this impression: 29:13 But it is not with you alone that I am making this covenant and this dread oath. (V’lo itchem l’vadechem anochi koret et-hab’rit hazot ve'et-ha'alah hazot.) 29:14 I am making it both with those who are standing here with us today before God our Lord, and with those who are not [yet] here with us today. (Ki et-asher yesh’no poh imanu omed hayom lifney Adonai Eloheynu ve'et asher eynenu poh imanu hayom.) Rashi explains that the phrase "v’lo itchem l’vadchem" includes even "dorot ho’asidim l’hiyot" - generations that are destined to yet come into existence. Indeed, the Gemara (the commentary on the Mishnah) explains that the principal of communal responsibility - kol Yisroel areivim zeh bozeh - is rooted in Parashat Nitzavim. Thus, the collective nature of the Tochacha in particular, and K’nesset Yisra’el (Assembly of Isra'el) in general, includes any future member of B’nei Yisra’el (Sons of Isra'el) as well. Accordingly, the Gemara derives the concept of arvus (say “ar-voos”), “joint responsibility [of one Jew for another's performance of mitzvot]”, from the tochacha, which emphasizes the collective unit of B’nei Yisra’el. In this sense, Rav Yeruchum Perlow explains the view of the Bahag who counts the Tochacha and its blessings and curses among the 613 mitzvot. He suggests that the Bahag was not referring to the ceremony and ritual of the Tochacha, but rather to the mitzvah of arvus, which is rooted in the Tochacha itself. In the Hebraic mind, to accept the yoke of heaven (also spoken of as the yoke of the Kingdom) means to place one’s trust in HaShem. Additionally, to accept the yoke of the Torah means to be submissive to God’s Written Word. We know from spiritual hindsight that trust in HaShem and submissiveness to his Torah should result in trust in his Son Yeshua. Such trust is meant to be a safeguard against idolatry. Sadly, far too few believers actually avail themselves of the full measure of protection that the Ruach HaKodesh offers. If the historic Church would have kept the Written Word guarded (Heb: shamar) we might not have the penchant lust for Sun worship that is rife in Christianity. Conversely, if the historic Synagogue had not aligned herself against the newly formed Church, we might not have the lack of faith in Yeshua (Jesus) that we find in Rabbinic Judaism today. So what should a proper balance of trust and obedience look like?
50 Ki Tavo (Part C) - When you come - Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8
“Trust and Obey for There’s No Other Way…” (Recalling the old, familiar Baptist tune…) Part One: Trust… Paul and James on Justification Some see a contradiction between Paul and James on the teaching of justification. Paul emphatically taught that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law while James argued that a man is justified by faith and works (James 2:14-26). Luther is such an individual who saw the two prophets' teachings to be in opposition. Insisting that Paul's view was correct, Luther belittled James's epistle, calling it an 'epistle of straw.' Such an approach to the two authors is not necessary. When the literary context of each other is examined it can be demonstrated that there is no contradiction. The key to understanding these two seemingly contradictory authors is to understand how each uses the terms justified, faith, and works. These words must be defined by their respective contexts. Paul emphasized that we are saved by faith in Yeshua, and not by our natural or achieved ethnic status. James emphasized that the kind of faith that results in salvation will necessarily produce works that show evidence of that faith. Paul was concerned about people adding anything to faith that they believe is meritorious for their salvation. James was concerned about people professing to have faith that is not really faith at all, but rather a lifeless mental-assent to Messiah. It seems that James was attacking the 1st century Jewish distortion of the Torah’s teaching on justification, wherein faith is some dead orthodoxy with no corresponding behavioral changes. Even Paul found it necessary to fight against this distortion of his teaching on justification (Romans 3:8; 6:1, 15). James pointed out that if a person has genuine salvific faith, works will follow after him showing evidence of that faith. Part Two: … and Obey Let us now examine what Ya’akov has to say about faith and works. Sanctification and holiness are near equivalents theologically. Both words in their various forms are translated from the same Hebrew root meaning to "cut" or "separate," and the Greek word hagiasmos aJgiasmovß, meaning "consecration." The core concept of holiness, then, is separation and consecration to God (Leviticus 11:44). In our culture sanctification has come to mean the pursuit of moral perfection. Although the latter is included in the Biblical concept of sanctification, it is a corollary to the idea of separation. Sanctification results in morality, but sanctification is not tantamount to morality. God is said to be holy because He is separate from creation and is morally pure in contradistinction to sin. A reading from James chapter 2 verses 14-26 appears as an overemphasis of actions as opposed to faith. In reality, a common understanding of these verses might give the reader the impression that works are more important than faith itself. Yet, Ya’akov’s audience, unlike Sha’ul’s, seemingly did not have a problem with an enforced conversion policy. Instead they had a problem with a dead faith that led them nowhere! So Ya’akov masterfully constructed a correct biblical theology that showed that genuine biblical trust ALWAYS leads an individual into genuine biblical actions! This is in complete harmony with what Sha’ul was teaching! Faith must not be substituted for good works, and good works should not be substituted for faith! Moreover, good works do not replace faith, nor does faith cancel out the performance of good works. To be straightforward: “Faith and good works go hand in hand! One without the other is incomplete and lacking of true biblical righteousness!” We therefore come to understand that for Paul, there was no bifurcation between “faith” and “faithfulness.” They are two sides of the same coin. One may therefore speak of either with t