Sign In Forgot Password

                            vayigash

Rabbi Steven Bernstein

Vayigash

Genesis 47

 

1Joseph came and told Pharaoh, and he said, "My father and my brothers and their flocks and their cattle and all that is theirs, have come from the land of Canaan, and behold, they are in the land of Goshen."

 

אוַיָּבֹ֣א יוֹסֵף֘ וַיַּגֵּ֣ד לְפַרְעֹה֒ וַיֹּ֗אמֶר אָבִ֨י וְאַחַ֜י וְצֹאנָ֤ם וּבְקָרָם֙ וְכָל־אֲשֶׁ֣ר לָהֶ֔ם בָּ֖אוּ מֵאֶ֣רֶץ כְּנָ֑עַן וְהִנָּ֖ם בְּאֶ֥רֶץ גּֽשֶׁן:

2And from among his brothers he took five men, and he presented them before Pharaoh.

 

בוּמִקְצֵ֣ה אֶחָ֔יו לָקַ֖ח חֲמִשָּׁ֣ה אֲנָשִׁ֑ים וַיַּצִּגֵ֖ם לִפְנֵ֥י פַרְעֹֽה:

3And Pharaoh said to his brothers, "What is your occupation?" And they said to Pharaoh, "Your servants are shepherds, both we and our forefathers."

 

גוַיֹּ֧אמֶר פַּרְעֹ֛ה אֶל־אֶחָ֖יו מַה־מַּֽעֲשֵׂיכֶ֑ם וַיֹּֽאמְר֣וּ אֶל־פַּרְעֹ֗ה רֹעֵ֥ה צֹאן֙ עֲבָדֶ֔יךָ גַּם־אֲנַ֖חְנוּ גַּם־אֲבוֹתֵֽינוּ:

4And they said to Pharaoh, "We have come to sojourn in the land, for your servants' flocks have no pasture, for the famine is severe in the land of Canaan. Now, please let your servants dwell in the land of Goshen."

 

דוַיֹּֽאמְר֣וּ אֶל־פַּרְעֹ֗ה לָג֣וּר בָּאָ֘רֶץ֘ בָּ֒אנוּ֒ כִּי־אֵ֣ין מִרְעֶ֗ה לַצֹּאן֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר לַֽעֲבָדֶ֔יךָ כִּֽי־כָבֵ֥ד הָֽרָעָ֖ב בְּאֶ֣רֶץ כְּנָ֑עַן וְעַתָּ֛ה יֵֽשְׁבוּ־נָ֥א עֲבָדֶ֖יךָ בְּאֶ֥רֶץ גּֽשֶׁ

This week’s Torah portion contains the story of the children of Israel going down into Egypt. After Joseph has revealed himself, the brothers return to Canaan collect their father, and all their belongings and return to Egypt, in order to survive the famine.

To tell their story, and to make their request before Pharaoh, Joseph selects 5 of his brothers to appear. The text is not tell us here, which brothers are brought before Pharaoh.

Rashi explains: the brothers that are selected are the weaker ones. Joseph was concerned that should he present his stronger brothers to Pharaoh, that Pharaoh would require that these brothers serve in the military. So, which of the brothers were the weakest? This question is answered in Deuteronomy 33.

Reuven, Shimon, Levi, Issachar, and Binyamin are the weaker brothers. When Moses blesses the children of Israel in Deuteronomy 33, these are the sons whose names are not spoken twice during the blessing. For instance, in blessing Judah, Moses says, “And this is for Judah…Hear, O Lord, the voice of Judah” (Deut. 33:7). “ The names are doubled for the stronger sons of Israel. Shabbat shalom.

                                 mikeitz

Rabbi Steven Bernstein

Genesis 41

 


41So Pharaoh said to Joseph, "Look, I have appointed you over the entire land of Egypt."

 

מאוַיֹּ֥אמֶר פַּרְעֹ֖ה אֶל־יוֹסֵ֑ף רְאֵה֙ נָתַ֣תִּי אֹֽתְךָ֔ עַ֖ל כָּל־אֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרָֽיִם:

42And Pharaoh removed his ring from his hand and placed it on Joseph's hand, and he attired him [with] raiment of fine linen, and he placed the golden chain around his neck.

 

מבוַיָּ֨סַר פַּרְעֹ֤ה אֶת־טַבַּעְתּוֹ֙ מֵעַ֣ל יָד֔וֹ וַיִּתֵּ֥ן אֹתָ֖הּ עַל־יַ֣ד יוֹסֵ֑ף וַיַּלְבֵּ֤שׁ אֹתוֹ֙ בִּגְדֵי־שֵׁ֔שׁ וַיָּ֛שֶׂם רְבִ֥ד הַזָּהָ֖ב עַל־צַוָּארֽוֹ:

43And he had him ride in his chariot of second rank, and they called out before him, "[This is] the king's patron," appointing him over the entire land of Egypt.

 

מגוַיַּרְכֵּ֣ב אֹת֗וֹ בְּמִרְכֶּ֤בֶת הַמִּשְׁנֶה֙ אֲשֶׁר־ל֔וֹ וַיִּקְרְא֥וּ לְפָנָ֖יו אַבְרֵ֑ךְ וְנָת֣וֹן אֹת֔וֹ עַ֖ל כָּל־אֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרָֽיִם:

44And Pharaoh said to Joseph, "I am Pharaoh, and besides you, no one may lift his hand or his foot in the entire land of Egypt."

 

מדוַיֹּ֧אמֶר פַּרְעֹ֛ה אֶל־יוֹסֵ֖ף אֲנִ֣י פַרְעֹ֑ה וּבִלְעָדֶ֗יךָ לֹֽא־יָרִ֨ים אִ֧ישׁ אֶת־יָד֛וֹ וְאֶת־רַגְל֖וֹ בְּכָל־אֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרָֽיִם:

45And Pharaoh named Joseph Zaphenath Pa'neach, and he gave him Asenath the daughter of Poti phera, the governor of On, for a wife, and Joseph went forth over the land of Egypt.

 

מהוַיִּקְרָ֨א פַרְעֹ֥ה שֵֽׁם־יוֹסֵף֘ צָֽפְנַ֣ת פַּעְנֵ֒חַ֒ וַיִּתֶּן־ל֣וֹ אֶת־אָֽסְנַ֗ת בַּת־פּ֥וֹטִי פֶ֛רַע כֹּהֵ֥ן אֹ֖ן לְאִשָּׁ֑ה וַיֵּצֵ֥א יוֹסֵ֖ף עַל־אֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרָֽיִם:

 

In this week’s Torah portion, we see the transformation of Joseph. In the beginning of the portion, we see Joseph is imprisoned with zero prospects. Then, we see Joseph, with his societal position completely reversed. He is a point second-in-command of the entire nation of Egypt. Only Pharaoh himself surpasses Joseph in the importance in the land of Egypt. As

This change for Joseph comes about the web Joseph is remembered by Pharaoh’s staff, Joseph had interpreted dreams successfully before and was called before Pharaoh when none of Pharaoh’s people would interpret Pharaoh’s dreams to him. The Torah does not say that they could not interpret the dreams, rather, the Torah says that they would not interpret the dreams and tell Pharaoh about. Pharaoh’s staff was afraid of him and were afraid of the consequences of giving Pharaoh bad news.

In essence, Joseph had little to lose by simply being honest with Pharaoh. Being a prisoner, he had no stature were position, and so could not be demoted any further. So Joseph was able to employees skill as an interpreter of dreams, until Pharaoh, the truth without his judgment being clouded with fear. So, with Hashem’s help and guidance, Joseph is elevated to the second-highest position in all Egypt and is in place to be able to easily help his brothers during the famine. Shabbat shalom.

                            vayeshev

Rabbi Steven Bernstein

Genesis 38

 


7Now Er, Judah's firstborn, was evil in the eyes of the Lord, and the Lord put him to death.

 

זוַיְהִ֗י עֵ֚ר בְּכ֣וֹר יְהוּדָ֔ה רַ֖ע בְּעֵינֵ֣י יְהֹוָ֑ה וַיְמִתֵ֖הוּ יְהֹוָֽה:

8So Judah said to Onan, "Come to your brother's wife and perform the rite of the levirate, and raise up progeny for your brother."

 

חוַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהוּדָה֙ לְאוֹנָ֔ן בֹּ֛א אֶל־אֵ֥שֶׁת אָחִ֖יךָ וְיַבֵּ֣ם אֹתָ֑הּ וְהָקֵ֥ם זֶ֖רַע לְאָחִֽיךָ:

9Now Onan knew that the progeny would not be his, and it came about, when he came to his brother's wife, he wasted [his semen] on the ground, in order not to give seed to his brother.

 

טוַיֵּ֣דַע אוֹנָ֔ן כִּ֛י לֹּ֥א ל֖וֹ יִֽהְיֶ֣ה הַזָּ֑רַע וְהָיָ֞ה אִם־בָּ֨א אֶל־אֵ֤שֶׁת אָחִיו֙ וְשִׁחֵ֣ת אַ֔רְצָה לְבִלְתִּ֥י נְתָן־זֶ֖רַע לְאָחִֽיו:

10Now what he did was evil in the eyes of the Lord, and He put him to death also.

 

יוַיֵּ֛רַע בְּעֵינֵ֥י יְהֹוָ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר עָשָׂ֑ה וַיָּ֖מֶת גַּם־אֹתֽוֹ:

 

This week’s Torah portion contains the somewhat odd commandment of the Yibum, the levirate marriage. Part of the difficulty in understanding this commandment is in the translation. The term Yibum does not mean marriage at all. Neither does the word for marriage appear anywhere in the Hebrew. So, what is Yibum, and why is it a commandment?

Intrinsic in Hashem’s instruction of the Yibum is the concept of the rights of a wife. Torah often instructs us to be kind and show mercy to widows and orphans. Why? The answer is the widows very easily, became disenfranchised after the death of their spouse. Not only that, but the property in land associated with the deceased could disappear from the family as all. To avoid these things, Hashem commanded us with the Yibum.

If the husband of a childless couple passes away, the husband’s brother must give the deceased’s spouse, a child as a continuation of the family line. The child will be considered by the community as being the child of the deceased, rather than the child of the deceased’s brother. In this way, the continuity of inheritance is assured.

In this week’s portion, Onan chooses not to fulfill the commandment of the Yibum. The violation of this mitzvah is considered so egregious that Hashem puts Onan to death. Torah does not explain why Onan makes this choice. Suffice it to say that the reason is unimportant. What is important is that the commandment of Yibum was violated.

The commandment of Yibum is considered so important, and worthy of study and understanding, that one of the largest tractate of Talmud is completely dedicated to the practice, Yevamot. The practice and importance of the continuation of the line of inheritance is an ongoing theme in Torah, and while we do not engage in the practice of Yibum today, it is incumbent upon us to assure that the rights of the spouse of the deceased are not broken. Shabbat shalom

                           VAYISHLACH

Rabbi Steven Bernstein

Vayishlach

Genesis 35

 


17It came to pass when she had such difficulty giving birth, that the midwife said to her, "Do not be afraid, for this one, too, is a son for you."

 

יזוַיְהִ֥י בְהַקְשֹׁתָ֖הּ בְּלִדְתָּ֑הּ וַתֹּ֨אמֶר לָ֤הּ הַֽמְיַלֶּ֨דֶת֙ אַל־תִּ֣ירְאִ֔י כִּֽי־גַם־זֶ֥ה לָ֖ךְ בֵּֽן:

18And it came to pass, when her soul departed for she died that she named him Ben oni, but his father called him Benjamin.

 

יחוַיְהִ֞י בְּצֵ֤את נַפְשָׁהּ֙ כִּ֣י מֵ֔תָה וַתִּקְרָ֥א שְׁמ֖וֹ בֶּן־אוֹנִ֑י וְאָבִ֖יו קָֽרָא־ל֥וֹ בִנְיָמִֽין:

19So Rachel died, and she was buried on the road to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem.

 

יטוַתָּ֖מָת רָחֵ֑ל וַתִּקָּבֵר֙ בְּדֶ֣רֶךְ אֶפְרָ֔תָה הִ֖וא בֵּ֥ית לָֽחֶם:

20And Jacob erected a monument on her grave; that is the tombstone of Rachel until this day.

 

כוַיַּצֵּ֧ב יַֽעֲקֹ֛ב מַצֵּבָ֖ה עַל־קְבֻֽרָתָ֑הּ הִ֛וא מַצֶּ֥בֶת קְבֻֽרַת־רָחֵ֖ל עַד־הַיּֽוֹם:

 

This week’s Torah portion contains the sad event of the passing of Rachel. Rachel dies after giving birth to her 2nd son. Verse 17, contains a curious Hebrew structure, “for this one, also, is a son for you.” Also? What does this mean?

The sages explain in midrash Rabbah, then it must mean that the sun also had a twin. Since the twin is not mentioned as one of the children of Israel, it must be a twin sister. The labor was difficult and ultimately ended with Rachel passing.

Because of the pain and difficulty of Rachel’s labor, Rachel wanted to name the sun Ben-Oni, that is, the son of my pain. But Jacob overrules her and names the child Ben-Yamin, or Benjamin.

There are several meanings to the name Benjamin, as the directions South is connected with the ocean, Yamin can mean South or southward. So Benjamin can mean son of the South. Yamin can also mean right or right hand. Benjamin can then mean son of the right hand.Yamin is also a defective spelling of the term Yamim, which means days. Benjamin then means son of days, referring to Jacob and Rachel’s old age.

Rachel passes away on the road from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. She does not make it to Machpelah, and so is buried beside the road. Jacob erects a tool for her, which can be seen even until today. Shabbat shalom.

                                toldot

Rabbi Steven Bernstein

Genesis 25

 


29Now Jacob cooked a pottage, and Esau came from the field, and he was faint.

 

כטוַיָּ֥זֶד יַֽעֲקֹ֖ב נָזִ֑יד וַיָּבֹ֥א עֵשָׂ֛ו מִן־הַשָּׂדֶ֖ה וְה֥וּא עָיֵֽף:

30And Esau said to Jacob, "Pour into [me] some of this red, red [pottage], for I am faint"; he was therefore named Edom.

 

לוַיֹּ֨אמֶר עֵשָׂ֜ו אֶל־יַֽעֲקֹ֗ב הַלְעִיטֵ֤נִי נָא֙ מִן־הָֽאָדֹ֤ם הָֽאָדֹם֙ הַזֶּ֔ה כִּ֥י עָיֵ֖ף אָנֹ֑כִי עַל־כֵּ֥ן קָֽרָא־שְׁמ֖וֹ אֱדֽוֹם:

31And Jacob said, "Sell me as of this day your birthright."

 

לאוַיֹּ֖אמֶר יַֽעֲקֹ֑ב מִכְרָ֥ה כַיּ֛וֹם אֶת־בְּכֹרָֽתְךָ֖ לִֽי:

32Esau replied, "Behold, I am going to die; so why do I need this birthright?"

 

לבוַיֹּ֣אמֶר עֵשָׂ֔ו הִנֵּ֛ה אָֽנֹכִ֥י הוֹלֵ֖ךְ לָמ֑וּת וְלָֽמָּה־זֶּ֥ה לִ֖י בְּכֹרָֽה:

33And Jacob said, "Swear to me as of this day"; so he swore to him, and he sold his birthright to Jacob.

 

לגוַיֹּ֣אמֶר יַֽעֲקֹ֗ב הִשָּׁ֤בְעָה לִּי֙ כַּיּ֔וֹם וַיִּשָּׁבַ֖ע ל֑וֹ וַיִּמְכֹּ֥ר אֶת־בְּכֹֽרָת֖וֹ לְיַֽעֲקֹֽב:

 

As with much of the book of Genesis, this week’s parsha contains a pivotal moment in history. Esau returns from a day of tracking and hunting and encounters Jacob, cooking a lentil stew, red lentils, to be specific.

Esau tells Jacob to “pour into me” the red stuff, the red stuff because Esau was tired and hungry. This idea of “pour into me” is explored in B. Shabbat 155b. Force-feeding animals on Shabbat is prohibited. However, “pouring into them” all they care to eat is allowed. Jacob responds with a condition, that Esau sell him his birthright. It is important to note that the condition here is that Esau will sell Jacob, his birthright, the condition is not the sale itself. In other words, is not implied that the price of the birthright is a bowl of red lentils. Scratch that, merely that that if Esau agrees to sell Jacob, his birthright, Jacob will feed him. The actual price of the birthright is not mentioned in the text. Midrash Rabbah explains that it is a fair price, more than the value of a bowl of lentils.

Esau’s response to the idea of selling his birthright is that he simply does not care. The birthright is not important to him. He is a Hunter, who roams over an area tracking game. It is Jacob. Who is the farmer, he is he who values a field to grow food. For Esau, ownership of a field is simply an encumbrance. Consequently, Esau does not value the land, nor Hashem’s promise of the land. This despising of the birthright is a major differentiation between Jacob and Esau, Israel and Edom, even today. Shabbat shalom.

                               vayeireh

Rabbi Steven Bernstein

Ezekiel 16

 


49Behold this was the iniquity of Sodom your sister: pride, abundance of bread, and careless ease were hers and her daughters', and she did not strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.

 

מטהִנֵּה־זֶ֣ה הָיָ֔ה עֲו‍ֹ֖ן סְדֹ֣ם אֲחוֹתֵ֑ךְ גָּא֨וֹן שִׂבְעַת־לֶ֜חֶם וְשַׁלְוַ֣ת הַשְׁקֵ֗ט הָ֚יָה לָהּ֙ וְלִבְנוֹתֶ֔יהָ וְיַד־עָנִ֥י וְאֶבְי֖וֹן לֹ֥א הֶֽחֱזִֽיקָה:

 

This week’s Torah portion has several important narratives within it. Among these narratives is the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. According to Torah, the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was so great that there was a crying out to Hashem. So, what was this great sin?

The answer to this question is not actually given in the Torah portion itself. All the Torah tells us is that the sin was great. To discover what this great sin was, we must actually turn to Ezekiel 16. There, we see what this great sin actually was.

There are many teachings regarding suppositions about the great sin of Sodom and Gomorrah. Most all of these teachings involve abhorrent sexuality of one sort or another. However, we see in Ezekiel 16 that according to Hashem. The great sin that produced the crying out to Hashem did not involve sexuality at all, rather, it involved pride and the lack of extending a helping hand to the poor.

This is the great sin of Sodom and Gomorrah, not extending a helping hand to the poor. Modern teachings do not point us toward the real sin of Sodom and Gomorrah, but Torah actually does. Lot makes a point of extending his hand in charity and hospitality to strangers. He actually does this possibly endangering his own life. He extends the hand of charity and hospitality to strangers. This action is righteousness in an unrighteous city. The consequences are that he and his family are rescued and saved. Not all of Lot’s actions may be described as righteous. Certainly, the offering up of his daughters to the crowd is questionable at best. But the differentiating action between lot and the unrighteous city is that lot did not hesitate to extend his hand toward the stranger and the needy. Shabbat shalom.

                           lech lecha

Rabbi Bernstein

Genesis 17

 


9And God said to Abraham, "And you shall keep My covenant, you and your seed after you throughout their generations.

 

טוַיֹּ֤אמֶר אֱלֹהִים֙ אֶל־אַבְרָהָ֔ם וְאַתָּ֖ה אֶת־בְּרִיתִ֣י תִשְׁמֹ֑ר אַתָּ֛ה וְזַרְעֲךָ֥ אַֽחֲרֶ֖יךָ לְדֹֽרֹתָֽם:

10This is My covenant, which you shall observe between Me and between you and between your seed after you, that every male among you be circumcised.

 

יזֹ֣את בְּרִיתִ֞י אֲשֶׁ֣ר תִּשְׁמְר֗וּ בֵּינִי֙ וּבֵ֣ינֵיכֶ֔ם וּבֵ֥ין זַרְעֲךָ֖ אַֽחֲרֶ֑יךָ הִמּ֥וֹל לָכֶ֖ם כָּל־זָכָֽר:

11And you shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be as the sign of a covenant between Me and between you.

 

יאוּנְמַלְתֶּ֕ם אֵ֖ת בְּשַׂ֣ר עָרְלַתְכֶ֑ם וְהָיָה֙ לְא֣וֹת בְּרִ֔ית בֵּינִ֖י וּבֵֽינֵיכֶֽם:

 

This week’s portion is a very famous in which Hashem tells Avram to leave Haran and head southward to an unknown destination. It is there that Hashem changes his name and establishes his covenant with Avraham. The sign of this covenant is very interesting. Avraham is to circumcise himself and his offspring.

The term used in Hebrew is mol or the feminine milah. These words actually mean either against or word. Nowhere in the text. Do we see Hashem actually giving Avraham the commandment to circumcise. This commandment is given to Avraham, specifically to circumcise himself and his offspring, but it is not listed that way in the Torah itself.

So, how did Avraham that what Hashem meant by his command to “MOL” was to circumcise? What we see here is an example of oral law within the text of the Torah. It is not actually written for Avraham to circumcise, but Avraham understood that he should circumcise. How? Avraham was given oral law, that is Hashem told of what was meant, that is, to circumcise. But, the instruction is not written down in the Torah. This is but one of many examples of oral law being within the confines of the written Torah. Shabbat shalom.

 

                                devarim

Rabbi Bernstein

Deuteronomy 1

35'If any of these men of this evil generation sees the good land, which I swore to give your forefathers,

 

להאִם־יִרְאֶ֥ה אִישׁ֙ בָּֽאֲנָשִׁ֣ים הָאֵ֔לֶּה הַדּ֥וֹר הָרָ֖ע הַזֶּ֑ה אֵ֚ת הָאָ֣רֶץ הַטּוֹבָ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר נִשְׁבַּ֔עְתִּי לָתֵ֖ת לַֽאֲבֹֽתֵיכֶֽם:

36except Caleb the son of Jephunneh he will see it, and I will give him the land he trod upon, and to his children, because he has completely followed the Lord."

 

לוזֽוּלָתִ֞י כָּלֵ֤ב בֶּן־יְפֻנֶּה֙ ה֣וּא יִרְאֶ֔נָּה וְלֽוֹ־אֶתֵּ֧ן אֶת־הָאָ֛רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֥ר דָּֽרַךְ־בָּ֖הּ וּלְבָנָ֑יו יַ֕עַן אֲשֶׁ֥ר מִלֵּ֖א אַֽחֲרֵ֥י יְהֹוָֽה:

37The Lord was also angry with me because of you, saying, "Neither will you go there.”

 

לזגַּם־בִּי֙ הִתְאַנַּ֣ף יְהֹוָ֔ה בִּגְלַלְכֶ֖ם לֵאמֹ֑ר גַּם־אַתָּ֖ה לֹֽא־תָבֹ֥א שָֽׁם:

 

 

Psalm 106

 


32They provoked [God] by the waters of Meribah, and Moses suffered because of them.

 

לבוַיַּקְצִיפוּ עַל־מֵ֣י מְרִיבָ֑ה וַיֵּ֥רַע לְ֜מֹשֶׁ֗ה בַּֽעֲבוּרָֽם:

33For they rebelled against His spirit, and He uttered with His lips.

 

לגכִּֽי־הִמְר֥וּ אֶת־רוּח֑וֹ וַ֜יְבַטֵּ֗א בִּשְׂפָתָֽיו:

 

Why was Moses not allowed to enter the land of the promise? It is often taught that Moses was denied the ability to come into the land of the promise, because he struck the rock in order that water gush forth. Hashem told Moshe to strike the rock the first time. The 2nd time, Moshe was told to speak to the rock. He struck it. Instead. Was this transgression enough to keep Moshe Rabeinu from being able to enter the land? No, it was not the striking of the rock. It was another very important reason that we see in this week’s Torah portion, and in Psalm 106.

Deuteronomy 1:36 tells us that Hashem was angry with Moses because of the children of Israel. It does not say that Hashem was angry with Moses, because he struck a rock. Hashem was angry with Moses because of the children of Israel. Psalm 106 explains that Moses suffered because of the children of Israel. Moses’ suffering is that he is not allowed into the land of the promise. Moses had a failure in leadership, and leaders are held to a higher standard.

Part of Moses’ job as leader was to cajole and entice the children of Israel into sanctifying Hashem. He failed to do this. We know he failed because the children of Israel never stopped griping and complaining. Hashem led us out of Egypt with a strong hand and an outstretched arm, and we complained. We were hungry, he gave us mon, and we complained. We were thirsty, he gave us water and we complained. We were tired of mon, so he gave us quail, and we complained. The complaining never stopped. We did not sanctify Hashem. Because of Moses’ position as leader, in addition to the fault line with the children of Israel, the fault also lies with Moses. Therefore, he is not allowed into the land. So Moses Rabeinu died, being able to see the land, but not enter it. His merits allows the children of Israel, flawed as we may be, to enter the land. Shabbat shalom.

 

mattot - massei

Rabbi Bernstein

Numbers 35

 


2Command the children of Israel that they shall give to the Levites from their hereditary possession cities in which to dwell, and you shall give the Levites open spaces around the cities.

 

בצַו֘ אֶת־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵל֒ וְנָֽתְנ֣וּ לַֽלְוִיִּ֗ם מִנַּֽחֲלַ֛ת אֲחֻזָּתָ֖ם עָרִ֣ים לָשָׁ֑בֶת וּמִגְרָ֗שׁ לֶֽעָרִים֙ סְבִיבֹ֣תֵיהֶ֔ם תִּתְּנ֖וּ לַֽלְוִיִּֽם:

3These cities shall be theirs for dwelling, and their open spaces shall be for their cattle, their property, and for all their needs.

 

גוְהָי֧וּ הֶֽעָרִ֛ים לָהֶ֖ם לָשָׁ֑בֶת וּמִגְרְשֵׁיהֶ֗ם יִֽהְי֤וּ לִבְהֶמְתָּם֙ וְלִרְכֻשָׁ֔ם וּלְכֹ֖ל חַיָּתָֽם:

4The areas of open space for the cities which you shall give to the Levites shall extend from the wall of the city outward, one thousand cubits all around.

 

דוּמִגְרְשֵׁי֙ הֶֽעָרִ֔ים אֲשֶׁ֥ר תִּתְּנ֖וּ לַֽלְוִיִּ֑ם מִקִּ֤יר הָעִיר֙ וָח֔וּצָה אֶ֥לֶף אַמָּ֖ה סָבִֽיב:

5You shall measure from outside the city, two thousand cubits on the eastern side, two thousand cubits on the southern side, two thousand cubits on the western side, and two thousand cubits on the northern side, with the city in the middle; this shall be your cities' open spaces.

 

הוּמַדֹּתֶ֞ם מִח֣וּץ לָעִ֗יר אֶת־פְּאַת־קֵ֣דְמָה אַלְפַּ֪יִם בָּֽאַ֠מָּ֩ה וְאֶת־פְּאַת־נֶ֩גֶב֩ אַלְפַּ֨יִם בָּֽאַמָּ֜ה וְאֶת־פְּאַת־יָ֣ם | אַלְפַּ֣יִם בָּֽאַמָּ֗ה וְאֵ֨ת פְּאַ֥ת צָפ֛וֹן אַלְפַּ֥יִם בָּֽאַמָּ֖ה וְהָעִ֣יר בַּתָּ֑וֶךְ זֶ֚ה יִֽהְיֶ֣ה לָהֶ֔ם מִגְרְשֵׁ֖י הֶֽעָרִֽים:

 

This week’s double portion concludes the book of Numbers. In it contains a bit of confusing information regarding the dwellings of the Levites. The Talmud explains it further in Sotah 27b.

The cities in which the children of Israel would live in each of their tribal areas were to have a band of land around them, that could not be developed. From the wall of each city. There must be an undeveloped area stretching out 1000 cubits, or roughly 2 miles in every direction. These are designated “open spaces” and could not be used for building or for farming.

The Torah, then talks about a band stretching out 2000 cubits, or 4 miles, from the city walls. The Levites should live, farm, and pasture in these areas. 1000? 2000? What is going on?

Talmud teaches that the first 2 miles from the city walls is to be unformed and undeveloped. The second 2 miles is the area in which the Levites are to live far and pasture their flocks. So, the idea of a “green space” is not a development of modern urban planning at all. It is in Torah. So from the walls of the city for 2 miles in circumference around the city is an urban green space. Then, outside of the green space is where the Levites lived. Behold, suburbia is in Torah. In essence, Hashem instructed us in modern urban planning. We are to have a downtown district in our cities, we are to have undeveloped parks and open areas, followed by suburban dwelling. In this way, the Levites who had no inherited land of their own, we have places to live, farm, and pasture their flocks. Shabbat shalom.

                  parshat b'ha' alotecha

Rabbi Bernstein

Numbers 9

9The Lord spoke to Moses saying:

 

טוַיְדַבֵּ֥ר יְהֹוָ֖ה אֶל־משֶׁ֥ה לֵּאמֹֽר:

10Speak to the children of Israel saying, Any person who becomes unclean from [contact with] the dead, or is on a distant journey, whether among you or in future generations, he shall make a Passover sacrifice for the Lord.

 

ידַּבֵּ֛ר אֶל־בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל לֵאמֹ֑ר אִ֣ישׁ אִ֣ישׁ כִּי־יִֽהְיֶ֥ה טָמֵ֣א | לָנֶ֡פֶשׁ אוֹ֩ בְדֶ֨רֶךְ רְחֹקָ֜ה֗ לָכֶ֗ם א֚וֹ לְדֹרֹ֣תֵיכֶ֔ם וְעָ֥שָׂה פֶ֖סַח לַֽיהֹוָֽה:

11In the second month, on the fourteenth day, in the afternoon, they shall make it; they shall eat it with unleavened cakes and bitter herbs.

 

יאבַּחֹ֨דֶשׁ הַשֵּׁנִ֜י בְּאַרְבָּעָ֨ה עָשָׂ֥ר י֛וֹם בֵּ֥ין הָֽעַרְבַּ֖יִם יַֽעֲשׂ֣וּ אֹת֑וֹ עַל־מַצּ֥וֹת וּמְרֹרִ֖ים יֹֽאכְלֻֽהוּ:

12They shall not leave over anything from it until the next morning, and they shall not break any of its bones. They shall make it in accordance with all the statutes connected with the Passover sacrifice.

 

יבלֹֽא־יַשְׁאִ֤ירוּ מִמֶּ֨נּוּ֙ עַד־בֹּ֔קֶר וְעֶ֖צֶם לֹ֣א יִשְׁבְּרוּ־ב֑וֹ כְּכָל־חֻקַּ֥ת הַפֶּ֖סַח יַֽעֲשׂ֥וּ אֹתֽוֹ:

13But the man who was ritually clean and was not on a journey, yet refrained from making the Passover sacrifice, his soul shall be cut off from his people, for he did not bring the offering of the Lord in its appointed time; that person shall bear his sin.

 

יגוְהָאִישׁ֩ אֲשֶׁר־ה֨וּא טָה֜וֹר וּבְדֶ֣רֶךְ לֹֽא־הָיָ֗ה וְחָדַל֙ לַֽעֲשׂ֣וֹת הַפֶּ֔סַח וְנִכְרְתָ֛ה הַנֶּ֥פֶשׁ הַהִ֖וא מֵֽעַמֶּ֑יהָ כִּ֣י | קָרְבַּ֣ן יְהֹוָ֗ה לֹ֤א הִקְרִיב֙ בְּמֹ֣עֲד֔וֹ חֶטְא֥וֹ יִשָּׂ֖א הָאִ֥ישׁ הַהֽוּא:

This week’s Torah portion contains the mitzvah of Pesach sheni, 2nd Pesach. The mitzvah is simple to understand, if Pesach, the 14th of Nisan, and one is ritually contaminated from having touched a dead body, one cannot partake in the eating of the Karbon Pesach. So, Hashem makes provision for those who were contaminated, and those who are too far away. By allowing the Karbon Pesach to be made. One month later, on the 14th of Iyar.

The mitzvah seems easy enough, and it is frequently taught that the purpose of the Smith is to show that Hashem gives us second chances. This interpretation, however, raises some very serious questions. If the purpose of this mitzvah is to teach us that Hashem gives a second chances, why do we have 2nd Pesach, but no 2nd shuvu or 2nd Sukkot? Why is it that the Chagiga, the Festival offering, is commanded for first Pesach, but not 2nd Pesach? The effectiveness did we have a 2nd chance for Pesach, but not for the Chagiga on Pesach, we do not have a 2nd chance for Succot, and we do not have a 2nd chance for Shavuot. So is this mitzvah really about 2nd chances at all?

In fact, Pesach sheni is more about the importance of Israel being reminded about the original Exodus from Egypt than it is about second chances. The reality is that we may celebrate Shavuot, and we may celebrate Sukkot only because of the Pesach. Israel must be reminded of the story of the Exodus from Egypt. We are reminded to relate the story in Torah. Because of the commandment “when your children ask,” we relate the story. With the offering of the Bikurim, we relate the story. When we make kiddush on Shabbat we say, “in remembrance of the Exodus from Egypt.” We thank Hashem for the Torah given at Sinai; we thank Hashem for the joyous celebration of Sukkot. But, we are not commanded to relate the stories of these festivals. But we are commanded to do so for Pesach. It is that important to keep in the forefront of our minds. Therefore, Hashem gives a specific view the ability to bring the Karbon Pesach. If they were contaminated or too far away on the 14th of Nisan. Shabbat shalom.

                           parshat balak

Rabbi Bernstein

Balak

Numbers 25

 

1Israel settled in Shittim, and the people began to commit harlotry with the daughters of the Moabites.

 

אוַיֵּ֥שֶׁב יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל בַּשִּׁטִּ֑ים וַיָּ֣חֶל הָעָ֔ם לִזְנ֖וֹת אֶל־בְּנ֥וֹת מוֹאָֽב:

2They invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and prostrated themselves to their gods.

 

בוַתִּקְרֶ֣אןָ לָעָ֔ם לְזִבְחֵ֖י אֱלֹֽהֵיהֶ֑ן וַיֹּ֣אכַל הָעָ֔ם וַיִּשְׁתַּֽחֲו֖וּ לֵאלֹֽהֵיהֶֽן:

3Israel became attached to Baal Peor, and the anger of the Lord flared against Israel.

 

גוַיִּצָּ֥מֶד יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל לְבַ֣עַל פְּע֑וֹר וַיִּֽחַר־אַ֥ף יְהֹוָ֖ה בְּיִשְׂרָאֵֽל:

 

In this week’s Torah portion, and with the story of Pinchas and Zimri. Israel had begun to engage in rampant sexual immorality that led to worshiping false gods. The Hebrew term, commonly translated to worship, actually means to bow down, or prostrate. The Moabite women were convincing Israel to worship, to bow down to, their false gods. Hashem’s anger was aroused and a plague came upon Israel.

Zimri brazenly took a Midianite woman into his tent right in front of Moses and the entire congregation. Pinchas, a Kohayn, was enraged. So, he took a spear, and went in after Zimri and the Midianite woman. He skewered them both through the stomach and then the plague ended.

Implicit if the story is the idea that just has Zimri had brazenly acted in front of Moses and the entire congregation of Israel, Pinchas also acted brazenly in front of Moses and the entire congregation of Israel. In other words, Zimri sent a message to Israel, and Pinchas sent the counter message. Zimri’s message was clear, it is perfectly fine to engage with foreign women and become influenced by them to worship idols. Zimri highlighted a practice that Israel was already engaged in an sought to legitimize it. Pinchas sent the opposite message. This practice of engaging for women and being influenced to worship idols was wrong and needed to end. So, Pinchas openly killed Zimri and the plague ended. Message received.

It is important to understand that Pinchas acted after Hashem had brought the plague to the entire congregation of Israel. This was not a matter of Pinchas individually hearing from you. This was a matter of Israel hearing from Hashem and not paying attention. Pinchas acted after Hashem had made it perfectly clear to Israel with the problems. Zimri sought to legitimize the problem so Pinchas acted. Hashem indicates that Pinchas’ action was right and just, therefore, the plague ended. To this day we describe someone who is acting hypocritically as behaving like Zimri wishing to be rewarded like Pinchas. Shabbat shalom.

                        parshat korach

Rabbi Bernstein

Numbers 18

 


15Every first issue of the womb of any creature, which they present to the Lord, whether of man or beast, shall be yours. However, you shall redeem the firstborn of man, and the firstborn of unclean animals you shall redeem.

 

טוכָּל־פֶּ֣טֶר רֶ֠חֶם לְכָל־בָּשָׂ֞ר אֲשֶׁר־יַקְרִ֧יבוּ לַֽיהֹוָ֛ה בָּֽאָדָ֥ם וּבַבְּהֵמָ֖ה יִֽהְיֶה־לָּ֑ךְ אַ֣ךְ | פָּדֹ֣ה תִפְדֶּ֗ה אֵ֚ת בְּכ֣וֹר הָֽאָדָ֔ם וְאֵ֛ת בְּכֽוֹר־הַבְּהֵמָ֥ה הַטְּמֵאָ֖ה תִּפְדֶּֽה:

16Its redemption [shall be performed] from the age of a month, according to the valuation, five shekels of silver, according to the holy shekel, which is twenty gerahs.

 

טזוּפְדוּיָו֙ מִבֶּן־חֹ֣דֶשׁ תִּפְדֶּ֔ה בְּעֶ֨רְכְּךָ֔ כֶּ֛סֶף חֲמֵ֥שֶׁת שְׁקָלִ֖ים בְּשֶׁ֣קֶל הַקֹּ֑דֶשׁ עֶשְׂרִ֥ים גֵּרָ֖ה הֽוּא:

17However, a firstborn ox or a firstborn sheep or a firstborn goat shall not be redeemed, for they are holy; their blood shall be sprinkled on the altar, and their fats shall be burned as a fire-offering, as a pleasing fragrance to the Lord.

 

יזאַ֣ךְ בְּכֽוֹר־שׁ֡וֹר אֽוֹ־בְכ֨וֹר כֶּ֜שֶׂב אֽוֹ־בְכ֥וֹר עֵ֛ז לֹ֥א תִפְדֶּ֖ה קֹ֣דֶשׁ הֵ֑ם אֶת־דָּמָ֞ם תִּזְרֹ֤ק עַל־הַמִּזְבֵּ֨חַ֙ וְאֶת־חֶלְבָּ֣ם תַּקְטִ֔יר אִשֶּׁ֛ה לְרֵ֥יחַ נִיחֹ֖חַ לַֽיהֹוָֽה:

18Their flesh shall be yours; like the breast of the waving and the right thigh, it shall be yours.

 

יחוּבְשָׂרָ֖ם יִֽהְיֶה־לָּ֑ךְ כַּֽחֲזֵ֧ה הַתְּנוּפָ֛ה וּכְשׁ֥וֹק הַיָּמִ֖ין לְךָ֥ יִֽהְיֶֽה:

 

This week’s Torah portion contains the story of the rebellion of Korach, about which much has been written. After the resolution of the rebellion, Hashem gives the Kahuna, the priesthood, its charge. The Kahuna is given all of Hashem’s Teruma to eat. Included in this is the Bikurim, the firstfruits. This is not only the firstfruits of grain and fruit trees, it is also the firstborn of animals. These verses are somewhat confusing.

In Numbers 18:15, at first glance, seems to be in regard to absolutely any living creature. Closer inspection to the verse, however, reveals a precise limitation on the commandment. אֲשֶׁר־יַקְרִ֧יבוּ להֹ' translated “which they present to Hashem,” explains that the only firstborn animals we are speaking of our firstborn of those animals which can be brought to the Temple for sacrifice. So not all animals are subject to the rules of the firstborn only, sacrificial animals.

The mitzvah, then specifies that the firstborn of man shall be redeemed, in other words, the firstborn males of each family are redeemed, financially, from the Kahuna. The cost of the redemption is 5 shekels. So far so good. Then the verse continues by stating that the firstborn of unclean animals you shall redeem. Are not sacrificial animals considered clean by definition? How could there be unclean sacrificial animals? The Sifrei gives some insight. Sacrificial animals that are blemished are not suitable for sacrifice. These are considered unclean. For the purposes of sacrifice. Torah is explaining that since these sacrificial animals that are blemished cannot be used in the Temple, they must be redeemed for 5 shekels, just like firstborn sons are redeemed for 5 shekels.

Unblemished sacrificial animals that are firstborn are not to be redeemed, they are to be used for the sacrifices. Since they are unblemished, they can be used, and so are used, and therefore do not need to be redeemed. The normal pieces of these sacrificial animals are given to the kahuna to eat, such as the breast, which is waived, and the right thigh.

There is an interesting remez, allegory, which can be drawn from these verses. The unblemished first book, which is worthy of the sacrifice. The sacrifices of these animals are commanded by Torah. It is the blemished that are in need of redemption and may not be used for the sacrifice. We see that Messiah Yeshua, the unblemished Tzadik, is used for the sacrifice. The rest of us, the blemished, must be redeemed. Indeed, we are redeemed through His sacrifice and our faith. Shabbat shalom.

                        parshat shelach

Rabbi Bernstein

Numbers 15

 


37The Lord spoke to Moses, saying:

 

לזוַיֹּ֥אמֶר יְהֹוָ֖ה אֶל־משֶׁ֥ה לֵּאמֹֽר:

38Speak to the children of Israel and you shall say to them that they shall make for themselves fringes on the corners of their garments, throughout their generations, and they shall affix a thread of sky blue on the fringe of each corner.

 

לחדַּבֵּ֞ר אֶל־בְּנֵ֤י יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ וְאָֽמַרְתָּ֣ אֲלֵהֶ֔ם וְעָשׂ֨וּ לָהֶ֥ם צִיצִ֛ת עַל־כַּנְפֵ֥י בִגְדֵיהֶ֖ם לְדֹֽרֹתָ֑ם וְנָֽתְנ֛וּ עַל־צִיצִ֥ת הַכָּנָ֖ף פְּתִ֥יל תְּכֵֽלֶת:

 

Ezekiel 1

8And human hands were beneath their wings on their four sides, and their faces and their wings were [the same] to all four of them.

 

חוִידֵ֣י (כתיב וִידֵ֣ו) אָדָ֗ם מִתַּ֙חַת֙ כַּנְפֵיהֶ֔ם עַ֖ל אַרְבַּ֣עַת רִבְעֵיהֶ֑ם וּפְנֵיהֶ֥ם וְכַנְפֵיהֶ֖ם לְאַרְבַּעְתָּֽם:

This week’s Torah portion contains the commandment for Tzitzit. The children of Israel observe this commandment in a very specific way. A 4 cornered garment is worn and the Tzitzit are tied into each corner. Some minhag includes the thread of techelet blue, and some minhag uses only undyed wool. The Halacha, however, maintains that the Tzitzit are only worn in a 4 cornered garment that goes over the shoulders.

One reason the sages instructed us to wear the Tzitzit in this fashion is because of the quotation we see here in Ezekiel 1. The understanding surrounds the word כנפ kanaf, which can really mean to different things. It can mean corner, as in Numbers 15:38, it can also mean wing, as in Ezekiel 1:8. Although the meaning of the word can largely be determined by context, it is important to perform a mitzvah of this magnitude as precisely as possible. Consequently, when we see that the hands are under the kanaf, the wing, we may also understand that the hands must be under the corner, kanaf. Therefore, Tzitzit must be more in a garment that has 4 corners, kanaf, that must be worn over the arms or hands. For our purposes, this must mean over the shoulders.

Some groups attempt to tie Tzitzit on their belt loop or clipped them to their pants. My bride, Roni, calls them lunatic fringe. This is obviously an ignorant misunderstanding of the commandment. The groups that adopt this casual usage of Hashem’s name are trying to disassociate themselves from Israel, and Israel’s understanding of the commandments. They are following after their own eyes and own heart, prostituting themselves. They completely misses the point of the mitzvah, which is to remind ourselves to follow all of Hashem’s commandments, together as a nation. Shabbat shalom.

                            parshat naso

Rabbi Bernstein

Numbers 6

 

1The Lord spoke to Moses saying:

 

אוַיְדַבֵּ֥ר יְהוָֹ֖ה אֶל־משֶׁ֥ה לֵּאמֹֽר:

2Speak to the children of Israel, and you shall say to them: A man or woman who sets himself apart by making a nazirite vow to abstain for the sake of the Lord.

 

בדַּבֵּר֙ אֶל־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וְאָֽמַרְתָּ֖ אֲלֵהֶ֑ם אִ֣ישׁ אֽוֹ־אִשָּׁ֗ה כִּ֤י יַפְלִא֙ לִנְדֹּר֙ נֶ֣דֶר נָזִ֔יר לְהַזִּ֖יר לַֽיהוָֹֽה:

 

This week’s Torah portion contains yet another very important mitzvah. The vow of the Nazir. The placement of this commandment within the Torah is interesting. The vow of the Nazir comes immediately after the mitzvah of the Sotah, the wife accused of straying from her husband. The valve the Nazir comes immediately before the Birkat Kohanim, the Aaronic benediction.

The commandment of the Sotah is a commandment that Hashem gives us that is never intended to be done. Whether the wife is guilty or innocent, after she is brought to the Kohayn and the Sotah is performed, the marriage is over. If she is guilty and yet goes through with the ceremony, she will die. If she is innocent, and her husband forces her to go through the ceremony, she will never trust him again. Either way, the marriage is over, so why bother with the ritual at all?

The threefold blessing, immediately following the commandment for the vow of the Nazir, is intended to be done every single day. Hashem explains that when the Kohayns recite the threefold blessing, He will bless Israel. The threefold blessing was part of every single sacrificial ceremony in the Mishkan, and the Temple every single day.

The vow of the Nazir is clearly intended to be done. It is also, clearly, not intended to be done casually or commonly. It is to be done, but not often. What, then, is the purpose of taking the vow of the Nazir?

In Numbers 6:2, we see that one of the purposes of the Nazirite vow is to set apart the man or the woman who makes the vow. Normally, the term used for setting apart is קדוש. However, in this verse, another word is used,פלא . It is a stative verb, that is, a firm indicating a condition rather than an action. The word itself means a wonder. The concept, rather than being set apart, is more to become wondrous, and other words, a visible testimony to Hashem. According to the commandment, one becomes a Nazir, wondrous, for only a specified period of time. Scripturally, instances of being wondrous for one’s entire life are rare. We see, by placement in the Torah, that the vow of the Nazir is intended to be taken by people more often than that.

Today we have no Temple. May it be rebuilt. Soon, and in our days. Until then we may not take the vow of the Nazir. As David Paul and other followers of Yeshua in the book of Acts. But there is an aspect of the vow of the Nazir that we should pay attention to, becoming wondrous. It is within our power to become wondrous, to be a living testimony to the wonder and oracles of Hashem. We may call it different things. We may say, “let the light of Messiah shine through you,” or, “let everyone see Messiah in you.” The concept is the same, we are being visibly wondrous, living testimonies to Hashem and Messiah Yeshua. Shabbat shalom.

 

 

                      parshat bamidbar

Rabbi Bernstein

Numbers 3

 


43The firstborn males aged one month and upward, according to the number of names, was twenty two thousand, two hundred and seventy three.

 

מגוַיְהִי֩ כָל־בְּכ֨וֹר זָכָ֜ר בְּמִסְפַּ֥ר שֵׁמֹ֛ת מִבֶּן־חֹ֥דֶשׁ וָמַ֖עְלָה לִפְקֻֽדֵיהֶ֑ם שְׁנַ֤יִם וְעֶשְׂרִים֙ אֶ֔לֶף שְׁלשָׁ֥ה וְשִׁבְעִ֖ים וּמָאתָֽיִם:

44The Lord spoke to Moses, saying:

 

מדוַיְדַבֵּ֥ר יְהוָֹ֖ה אֶל־משֶׁ֥ה לֵּאמֹֽר:

45Take the Levites instead of all the firstborns among the children of Israel and the Levites' animals instead of their animals, and the Levites shall be Mine I am the Lord.

 

מהקַ֣ח אֶת־הַֽלְוִיִּ֗ם תַּ֤חַת כָּל־בְּכוֹר֙ בִּבְנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וְאֶת־בֶּֽהֱמַ֥ת הַֽלְוִיִּ֖ם תַּ֣חַת בְּהֶמְתָּ֑ם וְהָֽיוּ־לִ֥י הַֽלְוִיִּ֖ם אֲנִ֥י יְהוָֹֽה:

46As for the two hundred and seventy three of the children of Israel who required redemption, who are in excess of the Levites,

 

מווְאֵת֙ פְּדוּיֵ֣י הַשְּׁלשָׁ֔ה וְהַשִּׁבְעִ֖ים וְהַמָּאתָ֑יִם הָעֹֽדְפִים֙ עַל־הַֽלְוִיִּ֔ם מִבְּכ֖וֹר בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל:

47you shall take five shekels per head, according to the holy shekel, by which the shekel is twenty gerahs.

 

מזוְלָֽקַחְתָּ֗ חֲמֵ֧שֶׁת חֲמֵ֛שֶׁת שְׁקָלִ֖ים לַגֻּלְגֹּ֑לֶת בְּשֶׁ֤קֶל הַקֹּ֨דֶשׁ֙ תִּקָּ֔ח עֶשְׂרִ֥ים גֵּרָ֖ה הַשָּֽׁקֶל:

48You shall give the money to Aaron and his sons, in redemption for the firstborns who are in excess of them.

 

מחוְנָֽתַתָּ֣ה הַכֶּ֔סֶף לְאַֽהֲרֹ֖ן וּלְבָנָ֑יו פְּדוּיֵ֕י הָעֹֽדְפִ֖ים בָּהֶֽם:

49So Moses took the redemption money for those in excess of those redeemed by the Levites.

 

מטוַיִּקַּ֣ח משֶׁ֔ה אֵ֖ת כֶּ֣סֶף הַפִּדְי֑וֹם מֵאֵת֙ הָעֹ֣דְפִ֔ים עַ֖ל פְּדוּיֵ֥י הַֽלְוִיִּֽם:

50He took the money from the firstborn of the children of Israel; one thousand, three hundred and sixty five of the holy shekels.

 

נמֵאֵ֗ת בְּכ֛וֹר בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל לָקַ֣ח אֶת־הַכָּ֑סֶף חֲמִשָּׁ֨ה וְשִׁשִּׁ֜ים וּשְׁל֥שׁ מֵא֛וֹת וָאֶ֖לֶף בְּשֶׁ֥קֶל הַקֹּֽדֶשׁ:

51Then Moses gave the money of those redeemed to Aaron and his sons, in accordance with the word of the Lord, as the Lord had commanded Moses.

 

נאוַיִּתֵּ֨ן משֶׁ֜ה אֶת־כֶּ֧סֶף הַפְּדיִּ֛ם לְאַֽהֲ֥רֹן וּלְבָנָי֖ו עַל־פִּ֣י יְהוָֹ֑ה כַּֽאֲשֶׁ֛ר צִוָּ֥ה יְהוָֹ֖ה אֶת־משֶֽׁה:

 

This week’s Torah portion begins the book of Numbers. The numbers of men eligible for active material service are counted, and the organization of the children of Israel in their encampment is laid out. Another important event is discussed, the children of Levi are separated as being special for Hashem in place of the firstborn.

Hashem notes that there are not the same number of firstborn as there are Levites. There are 273 more firstborn than there are Levites. So, all the firstborn may be replaced by the Levites, one for one, except there are 273 firstborn that retain dedicated to Hashem, because there is no Levite to replace them. These firstborn, then, are still dedicated to Hashem. Something must be done.

After the replacement, if the replacement is complete, Hashem will be losing 273 firstborn that are dedicated to him, there are no Levites to replace them. So a redemption must take place, and exchange of value compensate Hashem for the loss of the 273 firstborn. The cost of the redemption is 5 shekels per person, which is the price. Joseph’s brothers received when they sold into slavery.

This is a redemption. An exchange of value that must occur to ensure that an equitable transaction has been completed. Hashem is given shekels for every one of the first born that is not replaced by a Levite. The compensation is given to Hashem through the instrument of the Kohayn. To this day, all the firstborn sons of Israel are redeemed through the payment of 5 shekels to a Kohayn. This ceremony is called Pidyon HaBen

This lesson in Torah outlines the difference in meaning between redemption and salvation. For a redemption, there must be an exchange of value. A salvation requires no such exchange, scratch that. A salvation, a rescue, is freely given by the mercy and grace of the rescuer. There is no exchange of value to compensate the party who is diminished by the release of the one being saved. A redemption requires that the one being diminished is compensated by an exchange of value.

Yeshua is both Savior and Redeemer. However, these terms are not synonymous. They mean very different things. As our Savior, Hashem grants our celebration through Yeshua by grace alone, by his ineffable mercy. As our Redeemer, Yeshua gives his life as the greatest Tzadik, in exchange for the merit of Israel to be sufficient. These are two very different roles. Shabbat shalom.

 

            PARSHAT BEHAR-BECHUKOTAI

Rabbi Bernstein

Leviticus 25

1And the Lord spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying,

 

אוַיְדַבֵּ֤ר יְהֹוָה֙ אֶל־משֶׁ֔ה בְּהַ֥ר סִינַ֖י לֵאמֹֽר:

2Speak to the children of Israel and you shall say to them: When you come to the land that I am giving you, the land shall rest a Sabbath to the Lord.

 

בדַּבֵּ֞ר אֶל־בְּנֵ֤י יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ וְאָֽמַרְתָּ֣ אֲלֵהֶ֔ם כִּ֤י תָבֹ֨אוּ֙ אֶל־הָאָ֔רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֥ר אֲנִ֖י נֹתֵ֣ן לָכֶ֑ם וְשָֽׁבְתָ֣ה הָאָ֔רֶץ שַׁבָּ֖ת לַֽיהֹוָֽה:

3You may sow your field for six years, and for six years you may prune your vineyard, and gather in its produce,

 

גשֵׁ֤שׁ שָׁנִים֙ תִּזְרַ֣ע שָׂדֶ֔ךָ וְשֵׁ֥שׁ שָׁנִ֖ים תִּזְמֹ֣ר כַּרְמֶ֑ךָ וְאָֽסַפְתָּ֖ אֶת־תְּבֽוּאָתָֽהּ:

4But in the seventh year, the land shall have a complete rest a Sabbath to the Lord; you shall not sow your field, nor shall you prune your vineyard.

 

דוּבַשָּׁנָ֣ה הַשְּׁבִיעִ֗ת שַׁבַּ֤ת שַׁבָּתוֹן֙ יִֽהְיֶ֣ה לָאָ֔רֶץ שַׁבָּ֖ת לַֽיהֹוָ֑ה שָֽׂדְךָ֙ לֹ֣א תִזְרָ֔ע וְכַרְמְךָ֖ לֹ֥א תִזְמֹֽר:

5You shall not reap the aftergrowth of your harvest, and you shall not pick the grapes you had set aside [for yourself], [for] it shall be a year of rest for the land.

 

האֵ֣ת סְפִ֤יחַ קְצִֽירְךָ֙ לֹ֣א תִקְצ֔וֹר וְאֶת־עִנְּבֵ֥י נְזִירֶ֖ךָ לֹ֣א תִבְצֹ֑ר שְׁנַ֥ת שַׁבָּת֖וֹן יִֽהְיֶ֥ה לָאָֽרֶץ:

6And [the produce of] the Sabbath of the land shall be yours to eat for you, for your male and female slaves, and for your hired worker and resident who live with you,

 

ווְהָֽיְתָ֠ה שַׁבַּ֨ת הָאָ֤רֶץ לָכֶם֙ לְאָכְלָ֔ה לְךָ֖ וּלְעַבְדְּךָ֣ וְלַֽאֲמָתֶ֑ךָ וְלִשְׂכִֽירְךָ֙ וּלְתוֹשָׁ֣בְךָ֔ הַגָּרִ֖ים עִמָּֽךְ:

 

This week’s Torah portion gives us the mitzvot of the Shmitta and the Yovel, the 7 year and the 50 year cycles. These are instructions given to Israel to be followed when we come into the land of the promise. The Shmitta, the release, is every 7 years. The land is then to be given its rest.

In last week’s Torah portion, Hashem commands us to recognize the sanctity of time. The cycle of the Moadim, Hashem’s designated times, provides us a framework within which we may both understand Yeshua, and work toward his purposes. This week’s portion extends this concept to yearly cycles, as well as cycles during the year. But there is much more important connection.

When Nebuchadnezzar sacked Jerusalem and destroyed Solomon’s Temple, the Jewish people were sent into exile. For the first time, we were unable to carry out Hashem’s instructions and the sacrificial system came to a halt. The Anshei Knesset HaGdola, the Men of the Great Assembly came to the conclusion that one of the great reasons Hashem allowed the Temple to be destroyed, was that Israel was not following the Shmitta. This indicates that the Shmitta is one of the greatest commandments of Israel in the entire Torah.

The Shmitta is not only a continuation of Hashem’s teaching of the sanctity of time, the Shmitta connects the sanctity with the sanctity of space as well. The Shmitta is not only the 7 year cycle, it is a 7 year cycle within a very specific place, the land of the promise. Through the Shmitta, we see that both time and space are holy and there are times that are kadosh, like Shabbat, and there are places that are kadosh, such as Israel, Jerusalem, the Temple mount.

Hashem’s sanctification of time and space in parsha Emor and parsha Behar leads us to reevaluate our ideas concerning the importance of the realms within time and space and beyond time and space. There is an instinctive tendency to think of the heavens, beyond time and space, the bulk of our existence, to be the most important aspect of the universe. However, if both time and space are sanctified by Hashem, how could time and space be the least important aspect of creation? The argument can be made, the time and space is the most important aspects of creation. It is only within time and space that we have free will and choice. It is only within time and space that we can choose to follow Hashem’s Torah. This is why the sanctification of time and space is so important. In fact, we have the ability, only within time and space, to work towards achieving Hashem’s plan, the rectification of the world. So, as Peter wrote in his 2nd letter, we should lead holy and Godly lives, hastening the day of Hashem. Shabbat shalom.

            Parsha acreimot-kedoshim

Rabbi Bernstein

Leviticus 16

16And he shall effect atonement upon the Holy from the defilements of the children of Israel and from their rebellions and all their unintentional sins. He shall do likewise to the Tent of Meeting, which dwells with them amidst their defilements.

 

טזוְכִפֶּ֣ר עַל־הַקֹּ֗דֶשׁ מִטֻּמְאֹת֙ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וּמִפִּשְׁעֵיהֶ֖ם לְכָל־חַטֹּאתָ֑ם וְכֵ֤ן יַֽעֲשֶׂה֙ לְאֹ֣הֶל מוֹעֵ֔ד הַשֹּׁכֵ֣ן אִתָּ֔ם בְּת֖וֹךְ טֻמְאֹתָֽם:

 

 

This week’s double Torah portion begins with proportion that is read in the Shacharit service of Yom Kippur. It is story of the Yom Kippur service in the temple, and it is the basis for the entire Mishnah Yoma, as well as the Talmud, tractate Yoma. The portion outlines the method that Israel and the Kohayn Gadol must use for atonement on Yom Kippur.

The term atonement is often misunderstood, and therefore often misused. Atonement is not forgiveness, it is not redemption, it is not salvation. Atonement may lead to all of these, but atonement itself is none of these.

Here then is the question; if Israel, or someone, brings an offering, as an atonement for sin, is Hashem required to forgive them of the sin? Is Hashem required? This seems to be ridiculous question. Hashem is not required to do anything, much less forgive anyone. Who then, does Hashem forgive? The answer is simple, Hashem forgives anyone he wishes to forgive. Hashem may forgive someone that brings an offering, Hashem may forgive someone who does not bring an offering. Forgiveness and mercy are qualities of the Holy One, Blessed Be He. How Hashem applies his mercy and grace is completely up to Hashem and his Will alone.

What then is a sacrifice of atonement? What purpose does serve? And what does it do? If Hashem is not acquired to forgive someone sin. If they bring anatomic sacrifice, then what is the purpose of the sacrifice? The answer is central to the understanding of the nature of atonement. The sacrifice of atonement is an act of obedience and contrition. The sacrifice acknowledges Hashem’s sovereignty, control, and mastery of the entire universe. This is the definition of atonement; atonement is an act acknowledging Hashem as our sovereign G-d. When atonement has been made, we have brought a sacrifice in OB’s and contrition, that we accept Hashem’s on the pit power over us and the entire universe.

Israel takes a day to obey and commemorate the sacrifices contrition acknowledging Hashem’s majestic sovereignty over us. We sing Avinu Malkeinu, our father, our King, and we remember and commemorate the sacrifices from this week’s Torah portion, as an act of obedience and a demonstration of our understanding that Hashem rules over all the earth. Shabbat shalom.

               PARSHA TAZRIA - METZORA

Leviticus 12

1And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying:

 

אוַיְדַבֵּ֥ר יְהֹוָ֖ה אֶל־משֶׁ֥ה לֵּאמֹֽר:

2Speak to the children of Israel, saying: If a woman conceives and gives birth to a male, she shall be unclean for seven days; as [in] the days of her menstrual flow, she shall be unclean.

 

בדַּבֵּ֞ר אֶל־בְּנֵ֤י יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר אִשָּׁה֙ כִּ֣י תַזְרִ֔יעַ וְיָֽלְדָ֖ה זָכָ֑ר וְטָֽמְאָה֙ שִׁבְעַ֣ת יָמִ֔ים כִּימֵ֛י נִדַּ֥ת דְּו‍ֹתָ֖הּ תִּטְמָֽא:

3And on the eighth day, the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.

 

גוּבַיּ֖וֹם הַשְּׁמִינִ֑י יִמּ֖וֹל בְּשַׂ֥ר עָרְלָתֽוֹ:

4And for thirty three days, she shall remain in the blood of purity; she shall not touch anything holy, nor may she enter the Sanctuary, until the days of her purification have been completed.

 

 

 

דוּשְׁלשִׁ֥ים יוֹם֙ וּשְׁל֣שֶׁת יָמִ֔ים תֵּשֵׁ֖ב בִּדְמֵ֣י טָֽהֳרָ֑ה בְּכָל־קֹ֣דֶשׁ לֹֽא־תִגָּ֗ע וְאֶל־הַמִּקְדָּשׁ֙ לֹ֣א תָבֹ֔א עַד־מְלֹ֖את יְמֵ֥י

Exodus 23

14Three times you shall slaughter sacrifices to Me during the year.

 

ידשָׁל֣שׁ רְגָלִ֔ים תָּחֹ֥ג לִ֖י בַּשָּׁנָֽה:

15You shall observe the festival of unleavened bread; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread as I have commanded you, at the appointed time of the month of springtime, for then you left Egypt, and they shall not appear before Me empty handed.

 

טואֶת־חַ֣ג הַמַּצּוֹת֘ תִּשְׁמֹר֒ שִׁבְעַ֣ת יָמִים֩ תֹּאכַ֨ל מַצּ֜וֹת כַּֽאֲשֶׁ֣ר צִוִּיתִ֗ךָ לְמוֹעֵד֙ חֹ֣דֶשׁ הָֽאָבִ֔יב כִּי־ב֖וֹ יָצָ֣אתָ מִמִּצְרָ֑יִם וְלֹא־יֵֽרָא֥וּ פָנַ֖י רֵיקָֽם:

16And the festival of the harvest, the first fruits of your labors, which you will sow in the field, and the festival of the ingathering at the departure of the year, when you gather in [the products of] your labors from the field.

 

טזוְחַ֤ג הַקָּצִיר֙ בִּכּוּרֵ֣י מַֽעֲשֶׂ֔יךָ אֲשֶׁ֥ר תִּזְרַ֖ע בַּשָּׂדֶ֑ה וְחַ֤ג הָֽאָסִף֙ בְּצֵ֣את הַשָּׁנָ֔ה בְּאָסְפְּךָ֥ אֶת־מַֽעֲשֶׂ֖יךָ מִן־הַשָּׂדֶֽה:

17Three times during the year, all your males shall appear before the Master, the Lord.

 

יזשָׁל֥שׁ פְּעָמִ֖ים בַּשָּׁנָ֑ה יֵֽרָאֶה֙ כָּל־זְכ֣וּרְךָ֔ אֶל־פְּנֵ֖י הָֽאָדֹ֥ן | יְהֹוָֽה:

 

This week’s double portion begins with an explanation of a period of time of contamination for a woman gives birth to a child .during this period of time of the blood of purity,  33 days for the birth of a boy, 66 days for the birth of a girl, a woman may not touch anything holy or enter the temple (tabernacle.) This instruction given by Hashem to the children of Israel at first glance may create a machloket a scriptural dilemma.

In Exodus 23, we see the instruction given to the children of Israel that they are to bring sacrifices before the Lord. 3 times a year. This instruction is given to Israel. B’nai Israel may be translated either as the children of Israel, or the sons of Israel. So, who is commanded to come before Hashem. 3 times a year? Is it all the children of Israel, or is it only the sons of Israel?

In this week’s portion, Tazriah, we see that when a woman gives birth. She is forbidden to come to the sanctuary for a minimum of 33 days. What happens when one of the 3 festivals, falls during this period of time of the blood of purification for a woman? She is both commanded to do something and commanded not to do the same thing.

Exodus 23:17 clarifies the commandment. Then they Israel, in this case, refers to the sons of Israel only, not the daughters. Women are not required to go to the temple. 3 times a year and make a sacrifice. Only the men are required to make the sacrifice. This solves the machloket. Since women are not required to make the sacrifice. 3 times a year, if a woman is not allowed to enter the temple during her time of the blood of purity, she is not sinning.

The sages use this idea as an instructive point of Torah. Whenever Hashem issues a positive, time-related mitzvah to B’nai Israel, the commandment is meant for males only. Because there are times when women may not fulfill a positive, time-related mitzvah, for instance, when a woman is in the blood of purification. Therefore, positive, time-related mitzvah are obligations of men, but not obligations of women.

This does not mean that women are not allowed to perform these mitzvot. It means that women are not obligated to perform these mitzvot, rather, they are obligations of only men. There are synagogue prayer, which are obligatory. They are obligations of men, not of women. Why? Because synagogue services are positive, time-related mitzvah. They are to be performed (positive.) And, they are to be done at specific times. Therefore, women are not obligated. Though there are not obligated, women are not only allowed to pray synagogue services they are encouraged to do so. It’s just that they are under no obligation to do so. Shabbat shalom.

                           PARSHA  TZAV

Rabbi Bernstein

 

11And this is the law of the peace offering, which he shall bring to the Lord.

 

יאוְזֹ֥את תּוֹרַ֖ת זֶ֣בַח הַשְּׁלָמִ֑ים אֲשֶׁ֥ר יַקְרִ֖יב לַֽיהֹוָֽה:

12If he is bringing it as a thanksgiving offering, he shall offer, along with the thanksgiving offering unleavened loaves mixed with oil, unleavened wafers anointed with oil, and scalded flour mixed with oil.

 

יבאִ֣ם עַל־תּוֹדָה֘ יַקְרִיבֶ֒נּוּ֒ וְהִקְרִ֣יב | עַל־זֶ֣בַח הַתּוֹדָ֗ה חַלּ֤וֹת מַצּוֹת֙ בְּלוּלֹ֣ת בַּשֶּׁ֔מֶן וּרְקִיקֵ֥י מַצּ֖וֹת מְשֻׁחִ֣ים בַּשָּׁ֑מֶן וְסֹ֣לֶת מֻרְבֶּ֔כֶת חַלֹּ֖ת בְּלוּלֹ֥ת בַּשָּֽׁמֶן:

13Along with loaves of leavened bread, he shall bring his offering along with his thanksgiving peace offering.

 

יגעַל־חַלֹּת֙ לֶ֣חֶם חָמֵ֔ץ יַקְרִ֖יב קָרְבָּנ֑וֹ עַל־זֶ֖בַח תּוֹדַ֥ת שְׁלָמָֽיו:

14And he shall bring from it one out of each offering, as a separation for the Lord; the kohen who dashes the blood of the peace offering it shall be his.

 

ידוְהִקְרִ֨יב מִמֶּ֤נּוּ אֶחָד֙ מִכָּל־קָרְבָּ֔ן תְּרוּמָ֖ה לַֽיהֹוָ֑ה לַכֹּהֵ֗ן הַזֹּרֵ֛ק אֶת־דַּ֥ם הַשְּׁלָמִ֖ים ל֥וֹ יִֽהְיֶֽה:

15And the flesh of his thanksgiving peace offering shall be eaten on the day it is offered up; he shall not leave any of it over until morning.

 

טווּבְשַׂ֗ר זֶ֚בַח תּוֹדַ֣ת שְׁלָמָ֔יו בְּי֥וֹם קָרְבָּנ֖וֹ יֵֽאָכֵ֑ל לֹֽא־יַנִּ֥יחַ מִמֶּ֖נּוּ עַד־בֹּֽקֶר:

16But if his sacrifice is a vow or a voluntary donation, on the day he offers up his sacrifice it may be eaten, and on the next day, whatever is left over from it, may be eaten.

 

טזוְאִם־נֶ֣דֶר | א֣וֹ נְדָבָ֗ה זֶ֚בַח קָרְבָּנ֔וֹ בְּי֛וֹם הַקְרִיב֥וֹ אֶת־זִבְח֖וֹ יֵֽאָכֵ֑ל וּמִמָּ֣חֳרָ֔ת וְהַנּוֹתָ֥ר מִמֶּ֖נּוּ יֵֽאָכֵֽל:

17However, whatever is left over from the flesh of the sacrifice on the third day, shall be burnt in fire.

 

יזוְהַנּוֹתָ֖ר מִבְּשַׂ֣ר הַזָּ֑בַח בַּיּוֹם֙ הַשְּׁלִישִׁ֔י בָּאֵ֖שׁ יִשָּׂרֵֽף:

This week’s Torah portion continues with the Torat Cohanim, the instruction to the priests. The proper method for offering the Olah and the Mincha argument. The Olah is frequently translated as burnt offering, but this is a misnomer. Olah actually means going up. The Mincha, or meal offering, is also described. In these 2 offerings, Hashem has his portion, the fat of the kidneys or the handful of meal, which is burnt on the fire of the altar. The Kohayns are also given their portion to eat. For the Mincha, the Kohayns portion is all the meal offering, except they handle that is burnt. For the Olah, the Kohayns eat the meat.

The Shlamim, the peace offerings, for drawing near to Hashem, are divided into 2 categories, the Todah or thanksgiving offering, and the Nadavah or Vow/voluntary offering. Both of these are Shlamim and are offered on the south side of the altar. For the piece of, Hashem is given his part, the smoke from the fat of the kidneys; the Kohayn is given his part to eat, and the bringer of the offering is given his part to eat. This offering is called the police, or completion offering, because all 3 parties have their portion. The Shlamim are a method of drawing near to God. It is not required; it is strictly voluntary. If one wishes one may bring a Todah. If one wishes one may bring a Nadavah. But, they are strictly voluntary. There is no commandment to bring a peace offering, there is only a commandment in how to bring a peace offering. If one desires. The peace offering is how we draw near to Hashem in unity. Shabbat shalom.

                          PARSHA SHEMINI

Rabbi Bernstein

Leviticus 9

1And it was on the eighth day, that Moses summoned Aaron and his sons and the elders of Israel.

 

אוַֽיְהִי֙ בַּיּ֣וֹם הַשְּׁמִינִ֔י קָרָ֣א משֶׁ֔ה לְאַֽהֲרֹ֖ן וּלְבָנָ֑יו וּלְזִקְנֵ֖י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל:

2And he said to Aaron, "Take for yourself a bull calf as a sin offering, and a ram as a burnt offering, [both] unblemished, and bring [them] near before the Lord.

 

בוַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֶל־אַֽהֲרֹ֗ן קַח־לְ֠ךָ֠ עֵ֣גֶל בֶּן־בָּקָ֧ר לְחַטָּ֛את וְאַ֥יִל לְעֹלָ֖ה תְּמִימִ֑ם וְהַקְרֵ֖ב לִפְנֵ֥י יְהֹוָֽה:

3And to the children of Israel, you shall speak, saying, 'Take a he goat as a sin offering; and a calf and a lamb, [both] in their first year and [both] unblemished, as a burnt offering,

 

גוְאֶל־בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל תְּדַבֵּ֣ר לֵאמֹ֑ר קְח֤וּ שְׂעִֽיר־עִזִּים֙ לְחַטָּ֔את וְעֵ֨גֶל וָכֶ֧בֶשׂ בְּנֵֽי־שָׁנָ֛ה תְּמִימִ֖ם לְעֹלָֽה:

4and an ox and a ram as peace offerings, to slaughter before the Lord, and a meal offering mixed with oil, for today the Lord is appearing to you.' "

 

דוְשׁ֨וֹר וָאַ֜יִל לִשְׁלָמִ֗ים לִזְבֹּ֨חַ֙ לִפְנֵ֣י יְהֹוָ֔ה וּמִנְחָ֖ה בְּלוּלָ֣ה בַשָּׁ֑מֶן כִּ֣י הַיּ֔וֹם יְהֹוָ֖ה נִרְאָ֥ה אֲלֵיכֶֽם:

5And they took what Moses had commanded, to the front of the Tent of Meeting, and the entire community approached and stood before the Lord.

 

הוַיִּקְח֗וּ אֵ֚ת אֲשֶׁ֣ר צִוָּ֣ה משֶׁ֔ה אֶל־פְּנֵ֖י אֹ֣הֶל מוֹעֵ֑ד וַיִּקְרְבוּ֙ כָּל־הָ֣עֵדָ֔ה וַיַּֽעַמְד֖וּ לִפְנֵ֥י יְהֹוָֽה:

This week’s Torah portion briefly continues the Torah’s historical narrative, in regard to the Kohanim. Leviticus 9 repeats the ritual of the Miluim, the installment of the priesthood. This ceremony, which is also given in Exodus 29, inaugurates the sacrificial system of the Mishkan. It is on this 8th day of the ceremony that the first Tamid offering, the daily sacrifice, is brought before Hashem. The sacrifice would be brought continuously from this day until the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. The installment of the Kohanim, and the inauguration of the sacrificial system would define Israel’s relationship with Hashem forever.

The Torah does not often repeat itself. We see many repetitions in Deuteronomy, however, Deuteronomy is Moses’s great message and is told to us, from his perspective. This repetition of the Miluim, is quite different. This is Hashem repeating the ceremony to us. This repetition is something to which we need to pay attention, Hashem does not give us the words of Torah casually.

The Miluim establishes the Kohanim, as one of the 3 “seats” of leadership within the house of Israel, the seat of Moses (the prophet,) the seat of David (the King,) and the seat of Aaron (the Kohayn.) The structure of leadership, with its checks and balances, would both serve and define Israel throughout history. The role of the Kahuna, the priesthood as the designated representatives of the people before Hashem, is initiated with the ceremony of the Miluim. As with the other seats of leadership, historically the priesthood is riddled with human frailty and misjudgment. Nevertheless, the Kahuna is one of the most important aspects of Israel’s relationship with Hashem. We look forward to the rebuilding of the Temple and the renewing of the duties of the Kahuna, and its relationship with Messiah Yeshua. And it be soon, and in our days. Shabbat shalom.

                Parsha  shabbat  parah

Rabbi Steven Bernstein

Exodus 19

1The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying:

 

אוַיְדַבֵּ֣ר יְהֹוָ֔ה אֶל־משֶׁ֥ה וְאֶל־אַֽהֲרֹ֖ן לֵאמֹֽר:

2This is the statute of the Torah which the Lord commanded, saying, Speak to the children of Israel and have them take for you a perfectly red unblemished cow, upon which no yoke was laid.

 

בזֹ֚את חֻקַּ֣ת הַתּוֹרָ֔ה אֲשֶׁר־צִוָּ֥ה יְהֹוָ֖ה לֵאמֹ֑ר דַּבֵּ֣ר | אֶל־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל וְיִקְח֣וּ אֵלֶ֩יךָ֩ פָרָ֨ה אֲדֻמָּ֜ה תְּמִימָ֗ה אֲשֶׁ֤ר אֵֽין־בָּהּ֙ מ֔וּם אֲשֶׁ֛ר לֹֽא־עָלָ֥ה עָלֶ֖יהָ עֹֽל:

 

This week is another special Shabbat as we approach Pesach. It is Shabbat Parah, the Sabbath of the red heifer. For ages, rabbis have debated the question, why a red heifer? Of all of the chukim, commandments that Hashem does not explain, this particular Chok is the most enigmatic. Hashem tells us we are to use a red heifer for this ritual, and does not explain why, we are simply to use a red heifer.

The ceremony of the Parah is the single highest ceremony depicted in Torah that allows us to make things, and people, Tahara. Even the most unclean things, if they can be made clean at all, can be made clean. Using the ashes of the red heifer. The ashes created in the ceremony are mixed with water and then sprinkled on the unclean, or contaminated, to make it clean, or decontaminated. The waters of the ashes of the red heifer may be diluted indefinitely.

The waters of the ashes of the red heifer are used to make things that are unclean, clean. Even if a person has come into contact with the dead body, through the use of the ashes of the red heifer, he may be decontaminated. The area for the resting of the Mishkan, or the building of the Temple, must be decontaminated through the use of the waters of the ashes of the red heifer. Waters of the ashes of the red heifer must be created prior to the rebuilding of the Temple today.

It is interesting to note that the people involved in the creation of the waters of the ashes of the red heifer, all become contaminated during the process of the creation of the waters. Those that create that which establishes ritual cleanness, all become ritually unclean during the ritual. The ritual utilizes cedarwood, his, and a thread died tola’at (Scarlet.)

One of the things illustrated by the ceremony of the Parah is the idea that contamination and sin are 2 completely separate issues. The people involving the creation of the waters of the ashes of the red heifer, have not sent. They do, however, become contaminated. Becoming contaminated, though not desirable, is simply an occurrence during the living of life. One goes through the necessary steps to become decontaminated because being contaminated is not a state in which one wants to exist longer than necessary. But, there is nothing sinful about becoming contaminated. When this occurs, one simply goes through the necessary steps for decontamination, and one gets on with life. Shabbat shalom.

                        Parsha Tetzaveh

Rabbi Steven Bernstein

Exodus 30

 


21You shall [then] take [some] of the blood that is upon the altar and [some] of the anointing oil, and sprinkle it upon Aaron and upon his garments, upon his sons and upon the garments of his sons with him; thus he will become holy along with his garments, and his sons and their garments with him.

 

כאוְלָֽקַחְתָּ֞ מִן־הַדָּ֨ם אֲשֶׁ֥ר עַל־הַמִּזְבֵּ֘חַ֘ וּמִשֶּׁ֣מֶן הַמִּשְׁחָה֒ וְהִזֵּיתָ֤ עַל־אַֽהֲרֹן֙ וְעַל־בְּגָדָ֔יו וְעַל־בָּנָ֛יו וְעַל־בִּגְדֵ֥י בָנָ֖יו אִתּ֑וֹ וְקָדַ֥שׁ הוּא֙ וּבְגָדָ֔יו וּבָנָ֛יו וּבִגְדֵ֥י בָנָ֖יו אִתּֽוֹ:

22And you shall take out of the ram the fat and the fat tail and the fat that covers the innards, the diaphragm of the liver, the two kidneys along with the fat that is upon them, and the right thigh, for it is a ram of perfection.

 

כבוְלָֽקַחְתָּ֣ מִן־הָ֠אַ֠יִל הַחֵ֨לֶב וְהָֽאַלְיָ֜ה וְאֶת־הַחֵ֣לֶב | הַמְכַסֶּ֣ה אֶת־הַקֶּ֗רֶב וְאֵ֨ת יֹתֶ֤רֶת הַכָּבֵד֙ וְאֵ֣ת | שְׁתֵּ֣י הַכְּלָיֹ֗ת וְאֶת־הַחֵ֨לֶב֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר עֲלֵיהֶ֔ן וְאֵ֖ת שׁ֣וֹק הַיָּמִ֑ין כִּ֛י אֵ֥יל מִלֻּאִ֖ים

 

This week’s Torah portion contains the Miluim, the installment of the priesthood. It is one of the most important events in the narrative of Sinai, yet it is often overlooked.

For 7 days, Aaron and his sons bring sacrifices before Hashem. Blood is smeared on errands right ear, right thumb, and the right big toe. The blood of the offering is then splashed on the sons of Aaron. Prior to this, the sons of Aaron are based in water, and then they have oil poured on their heads, they are anointed.

The 3 liquids of Torah are used in the seven-day ritual to install Aaron and his sons as the priests of Israel. Each liquid has a special significance. Water is used to make things and people ritually clean, Tahor. Oil, pure olive oil, is used to sanctify things and people before Hashem. Blood is Hashem’s sign of covenant.

All 3 liquids are used in the ritual. This is done so the children of Israel will know and understand that Aaron and his sons are kadosh, they are set apart, they are different. They have a rule different than all other people on earth, they have rolled different than all the rest of the children of Israel. This ritual establishes Aaron and his sons as being sanctified as one of the legs of leadership for the children of Israel forever more.

The Miluim, the investiture of the priests, is important to understand as a lesson for all time. The kahuna, the priesthood, is sanctified, it is set apart, it is holy. This does not in any way mean that priests are better than other people. This does not mean that priests are better than other children of Israel. But it means is that the priests have a special role, and that they are set apart by Hashem. The ritual of the Miluim assures that all Israel sees and understands this fact.

The lesson here is simple. Certain people, both individuals and groups, are set apart by Hashem for certain purposes. This should not arouse jealousy. This should not arouse misunderstanding. This should not arouse covetousness. They are simply set apart, that’s all. The priesthood is set apart just as Israel is set apart. Israel is a kingdom of priests because Israel is set apart as the priests are set apart in the Miluim. Shabbat shalom

                           Parsha Yitro

Rabbi Steven Bernstein

Exodus 20

1God spoke all these words, to respond:

 

אוַיְדַבֵּ֣ר אֱלֹהִ֔ים אֵ֛ת כָּל־הַדְּבָרִ֥ים הָאֵ֖לֶּה לֵאמֹֽר:

2"I am the Lord, your God, Who took you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

 

באָֽנֹכִ֨י יְהֹוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ אֲשֶׁ֣ר הֽוֹצֵאתִ֩יךָ֩ מֵאֶ֨רֶץ מִצְרַ֜יִם מִבֵּ֣ית עֲבָדִ֗ים:


This week’s Torah portion contains the Dibraya, known in English as the 10 Commandments. Dibraya, literally means word of Hashem. In Judaism, the Dibraya are not commonly  called the 10 commandments because there are actually 613 commandments. So, what makes the Dibraya different from all of the other commandments? Why are these 10 written on the Sapphire tablets and not other commandments?

When the Pharisees asked Yeshua what the most important commandment was, he responded, “you shall love Hashem your God with all your heart, with all your Nefesh and with all your strength.” Then Yeshua said, “and almost as important, love your neighbor as yourself.” Neither of these commitments are in the Dibraya. Yet these are the most important of all the commandments.

Yeshua points to 2 commandments. Specifically, but they are very broad commandments. “You shall love Hashem your God,” does not explain was how to love Hashem our God. Yeshua simply states that this is the most important of the commandments. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” does not explain how we should love our neighbor as ourselves. Yeshua simply states that this commandment is almost as important as the prior commandment. Upon further inspection, we see that these 2 commandments are, in reality, categories of commandments, rather than specific commandments in and of themselves.

In understanding that the 2 great commandments are actually categories of other commandments gives us direction in understanding the Dibraya. Of the 10 words of the Dibraya, the first 5 are also categories, categories of how to love Hashem your God. The second 5 words are categories of how to love your neighbor as yourself. So, the 2 great commandments are major headings for the Dibraya itself. 5 commandments are how to love God and 5 commandments are how to love your neighbor. What about the rest of the commandments? The 613 commandments, each individually, falls into one of the categories of the Dibraya. Each of the Dibraya falls into a category of the 2 great commandments noted by Yeshua.

For instance, the commandment of “for 7 days, you shall eat matzah,” falls under the category of the Dibraya of Shabbat. The commandment regarding sanctuary cities falls into the category of “thou shalt not murder.” The commandment of “thou shalt not hold a worker’s wages overnight,” falls into the category “thou shalt not steal.” Every one of the 613 commandments can be categorized in this manner.

So the 2 commandments are the Dibraya are the 613 commandments. The Dibraya is important because it categorizes each one of the 613 commandments so they may be more generally understood. We have the 2 great commandments, and we need the Dibraya to understand the 2 commandments. We had the Dibraya, and we need the 613 commandments to understand the Dibraya. We have the 613 commandments, and we need the oral tradition of Israel to understand the 613 commandments. Shabbat shalom.


 

                           Parsha Bo

Rabbi Bernstein

Exodus 10


12But the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he did not hearken to them, as the Lord spoke to Moses.

 

יבוַיְחַזֵּ֤ק יְהֹוָה֙ אֶת־לֵ֣ב פַּרְעֹ֔ה וְלֹ֥א שָׁמַ֖ע אֲלֵהֶ֑ם כַּֽאֲשֶׁ֛ר דִּבֶּ֥ר יְהֹוָ֖ה אֶל־משֶֽׁה:

In this week’s parsha, Hashem hardens Pharaoh’s heart. This is a very important event. Pharaoh is ready to let the children of Israel go to worship Hashem. Yet, Hashem hardens Pharaoh’s heart. Why?

The answer points to the true lesson behind the 10 plagues of Egypt. Who the plagues really for? If the true purpose of the plagues was to prove something to Pharaoh, and to the Egyptians, why then would Hashem hardens Pharaoh’s heart when he was ready to let the children of Israel go? Obviously, the lessons of the plagues are not just for Pharaoh, the licensor for the children of Israel.

Consequently, the firstborn of Egypt pay the price for the children of Israel, learning their lesson. It is for this reason that the day before Pesach, the firstborn of Israel, fast. We fast to honor the Egyptians, and their sacrifice and order that the children of Israel should learn who Hashem is. In many ways the suffering of the Egyptians in order that Israel should know Hashem is a strange foreshadowing of later events.

Romans 11

25 For, brothers, I want you to understand this truth which God formerly concealed but has now revealed, so that you won’t imagine you know more than you actually do. It is that stoniness, to a degree, has come upon Isra’el, until the Gentile world enters in its fullness; 26 and that it is in this way that all Isra’el will be saved. As the Tanakh says,

“Out of Tziyon will come the Redeemer;
he will turn away ungodliness from Ya‘akov
27 and this will be my covenant with them, . . .
when I take away their sins.”

In Romans 11, Paul explains that Hashem has hardened Israel’s heart with regard to Messiah. Hashem hardened Israel’s heart, just as he hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Paul explains that Israel’s heart will remain hardened until the fullness of the Gentiles comes in. Think of how Israel has suffered over the centuries because Hashem has hardened our hearts. Think of the sacrifice made by Israel on behalf of of the Gentiles. Yeshua will return, may his return be soon, and in our days. Who knows? Perhaps the Gentile believers will fast commemorating the sacrifice of Israel on their behalf. Shabbat shalom.


 

yeshua and THE Commandments

Rabbi Steven Bernstein

August 2017

In the annual reading cycle of Torah, we are now deep into the book of Devarim, the book of Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy is an extremely important book in Scripture. It is Moses says recap of the experiences of the children of Israel on their way to the land of the promise. In Devarim Moses speaks repeatedly about the commandments of Hashem.

4:40

You shall keep therefore, his statutes, and his commandments, which I command you this day that it may go well with you and with your children after, and that you may prolong your days upon the land, which the Lord your G-d gives you forever.

5:26

O that there were such a heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them and their children forever!

12:28

Observe and hear all these words which I command you, that it may go well with you, and with your children after you forever, when you do that which is good and right in the sight of the L-rd your G-d.

Moses is very clearly explaining to us that the commandments of Hashem are forever. Moses is not saying that some of the commandments are for, Moses is not saying most of the commandments are for, Moses saying all of Hashem’s commandments are forever. Devarim is very clear that the 613 commandments of Hashem are forever, throughout our generations, the everlasting covenant of Hashem.

When Yeshua gave us the commandments at Sinai, he gave them to us forever. All of them. As Americans living in the 21st century we may not understand all 613 of G-d’s commandments. We may not be able to identify with all 613 of G-d’s commandments. We may consider some of G-d’s commandments to be politically incorrect, even barbaric. But, our understanding and categorizing of the 613 commandments is not relevant to G-d’s purpose. The 613 commandments are forever. Yeshua said if you love me follow my commandments. The disciples understood this to mean follow the 613 commandments of Hashem. Yeshua did not say follow the commandments that you understand them like. Yeshua did not say disregard some of the commandments because you don’t get. In Matthew chapter 5 Yeshua was even more clear about this when he said that if you don’t follow the commandments, you will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. You don’t teach these commandments be called least in the kingdom of heaven. In Romans chapter 7, Paul explains that the purpose of the Torah is to define sin. We are not to sin, therefore, we are to follow the commandments of Torah. In first John chapter 3, John writes, sin is the violation of Torah. Again, Torah is defining sin; the commandments of G-d define sin. We are not to sin. Therefore, we are to follow the commandments of Hashem.

The idea that we can simply throw out some of the commandments because we don’t like them, indicates that we do not take Scripture seriously. Moses consult Hashem. When two are caught gathering firewood on Shabbat. Hashem tells him that they are to be put to death. This seems like an extremely harsh penalty for “just violating Shabbat.” In our society today, not following Shabbat is commonplace, it is the cultural norm. That’s the reason we think that this penalty is harsh. Clearly Hashem thinks differently. As 21st century Americans we pay almost no attention to Hashem’s ideas of ritual purity and impurity, of ritual contamination and decontamination. What Yeshua tells us is that we should pay attention to these things, not that we should try to find a way that is not scriptural to be able to ease our consciences when we ignore them. Yeshua is Hashem is Yeshua. His commandments are forever.

Scripture also indicates to us that Yeshua did not invent a radically different method of understanding G-d’s commandments. The Sanhedrin had had agents following Yeshua around throughout his entire ministry. Mark 14:55 tells us, “now the ruling Kohayns, and all the Sanhedrin were trying to get evidence against Yeshua, so that they could put him to death, but they weren’t finding any.” At his mock trial, though they try, they could find absolutely no reason, theologically, to kill Yeshua. In the end, the only evidence they could come up with against Yeshua was his declaration of being the Messiah. They could find no theological reasons that conflicted with the ideas of the Sanhedrin. If Yeshua’s ideas of following Shabbat were radically different than those of the Sanhedrin, they would have convicted him. If Yeshua’s ideas of ritual washing varied with the Sanhedrin’s ideas, they would have convicted him. If Yeshua’s ideas of healing on Shabbat varied with that of the Sanhedrin, they would have convicted him. They did not. When Yeshua tells us if we love him, we should follow his commandments, we should listen.

The concept that Yeshua altered and changed the commandments of Hashem is the foundation of replacement theology. This concept is the basis of Christian anti-Semitism and has been for the last 2000 years. As Messianics, we must stand up and cry out from the wilderness that the commandments of Hashem are alive and well, and that Yeshua the Messiah instructed us to follow them. He did not tell us to take a new interpretation. He did not tell us to leave out the commandments that we don’t like. He did not tell us to reject commandments that are politically incorrect. Yeshua the Messiah instructed us in Matthew 28, “go therefore and make students of all nations, immersing them in the name of the father, the son, and the Ruach HaKodesh, teaching them to observe all I have commanded. Yeshua is Hashem is Yeshua.

THE THREE WEEKS

R. Steven Bernstein

Zechariah 8: 18 This word of ADONAI-Tzva'ot came to me: 19 "ADONAI-Tzva'ot says, 'The fast days of the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months are to become times of joy, gladness and cheer for the house of Y'hudah. Therefore, love truth and peace.'

The 17th day of Tammuz is the fast of the fourth month. This fast commemorates the day that Nebuchadnezzar broke through the city walls of Jerusalem and began the pillaging, sacking, raping, and murdering, of the Jewish people that culminated in the destruction of the Temple on the ninth day of Av, the fast of the fifth month. The 21 days between the 17th of Tammuz and the ninth of Av, are known as the Three Weeks. This is a time of partial mourning that is a preparation for the full fast of the ninth of Av.

The time between these two biblical fast days, is significant. We don’t have weddings. We don’t get our hair cut. We avoid dangerous situations. We don’t listen to music (except on Shabbat.) It is a time for us to remember the many tragic times in Jewish history.

The Jewish calendar is divided into two parts, one joyous, and one introspective. From Sukkot until Shavuot, it is our time to express our joy in Hashem. After Shavuot, and until Yom Kippur, it is our time of introspection. The 17th of Tammuz and the subsequent Three Weeks are the beginning of the segment of the calendar, where we look within ourselves as individuals and ourselves as a people.

This time of introspection is very important to us as a nation and as individuals. It is a time to begin to ask ourselves what can I to be better in the eyes of Hashem. And, what are the historical consequences of not doing this? The fast of the fourth month and the fast of the fifth month lead off this segment of the Jewish calendar with grade horrible reminders of the consequences of not paying attention to Hashem. We study Eicha, Lamentations, the book written by Jeremiah as a passionate lament having witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem and the house of G-d. From Sinai until the ninth of Av, we had always had the Shechinah of God dwelling among us, either in the tabernacle of the Temple. And then suddenly it was gone.

It was a time of horrific tragedy. Deaths, destruction, starvation, murder, rape, were suddenly and disastrously inflicted on our nation. Lamentations reminds us that compassionate mothers boiled their children for food. Nazirites were no longer recognizable because of starvation and affliction. The sages explain that the reasons Hashem allowed this desolation were idol worship and ignoring the Shmitta.

The difficulty with this explanation is that we had been engaging in idol worship, ever since the golden calf at Sinai. There were many periods of time between Sinai and the first exile that we ignored the Shmitta. The great question is why was the desolation allowed then, at that specific time?

It is a question that only a student of history could comprehend. The reality is that from the time of the golden calf the day of the destruction was coming. It is an indicator of G-d’s grace and mercy that the desolation was kept from happening long before. And indeed, even throughout these tragic events, Hashem’s grace and mercy abounded. A mere 70 years passed before Ezra was allowed to return to the land and begin the reconstruction of the House of God.

And so, in the understanding that Hashem’s grace and mercy are abundant, we nonetheless commemorate these times of tragedy and the suffering of our people. It would be completely discompassionate not to identify and empathize with our people at this time. During Pesach, we are reminded that if Hashem had not brought us out of the land of Egypt with a strong hand, and an outstretched arm, then even we, our children, and our children’s children would still be slaves in Egypt. So too we must remind ourselves that it is us that suffered during the great desolation of the destruction of the first Temple, us, not them. It is the great reminder of the Three Weeks, that allows our compassion and empathy to flow for the nation of Israel, and recognize the grace and mercy of Hashem.Zechariah 8: 18 This word of ADONAI-Tzva'ot came to me: 19 "ADONAI-Tzva'ot says, 'The fast days of the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months are to become times of joy, gladness and cheer for the house of Y'hudah. Therefore, love truth and peace.'

The 17th day of Tammuz is the fast of the fourth month. This fast commemorates the day that Nebuchadnezzar broke through the city walls of Jerusalem and began the pillaging, sacking, raping, and murdering, of the Jewish people that culminated in the destruction of the Temple on the ninth day of Av, the fast of the fifth month. The 21 days between the 17th of Tammuz and the ninth of Av, are known as the Three Weeks. This is a time of partial mourning that is a preparation for the full fast of the ninth of Av.

The time between these two biblical fast days, is significant. We don’t have weddings. We don’t get our hair cut. We avoid dangerous situations. We don’t listen to music (except on Shabbat.) It is a time for us to remember the many tragic times in Jewish history.

The Jewish calendar is divided into two parts, one joyous, and one introspective. From Sukkot until Shavuot, it is our time to express our joy in Hashem. After Shavuot, and until Yom Kippur, it is our time of introspection. The 17th of Tammuz and the subsequent Three Weeks are the beginning of the segment of the calendar, where we look within ourselves as individuals and ourselves as a people.

This time of introspection is very important to us as a nation and as individuals. It is a time to begin to ask ourselves what can I to be better in the eyes of Hashem. And, what are the historical consequences of not doing this? The fast of the fourth month and the fast of the fifth month lead off this segment of the Jewish calendar with grade horrible reminders of the consequences of not paying attention to Hashem. We study Eicha, Lamentations, the book written by Jeremiah as a passionate lament having witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem and the house of G-d. From Sinai until the ninth of Av, we had always had the Shechinah of God dwelling among us, either in the tabernacle of the Temple. And then suddenly it was gone.

It was a time of horrific tragedy. Deaths, destruction, starvation, murder, rape, were suddenly and disastrously inflicted on our nation. Lamentations reminds us that compassionate mothers boiled their children for food. Nazirites were no longer recognizable because of starvation and affliction. The sages explain that the reasons Hashem allowed this desolation were idol worship and ignoring the Shmitta.

The difficulty with this explanation is that we had been engaging in idol worship, ever since the golden calf at Sinai. There were many periods of time between Sinai and the first exile that we ignored the Shmitta. The great question is why was the desolation allowed then, at that specific time?

It is a question that only a student of history could comprehend. The reality is that from the time of the golden calf the day of the destruction was coming. It is an indicator of G-d’s grace and mercy that the desolation was kept from happening long before. And indeed, even throughout these tragic events, Hashem’s grace and mercy abounded. A mere 70 years passed before Ezra was allowed to return to the land and begin the reconstruction of the House of God.

And so, in the understanding that Hashem’s grace and mercy are abundant, we nonetheless commemorate these times of tragedy and the suffering of our people. It would be completely discompassionate not to identify and empathize with our people at this time. During Pesach, we are reminded that if Hashem had not brought us out of the land of Egypt with a strong hand, and an outstretched arm, then even we, our children, and our children’s children would still be slaves in Egypt. So too we must remind ourselves that it is us that suffered during the great desolation of the destruction of the first Temple, us, not them. It is the great reminder of the Three Weeks, that allows our compassion and empathy to flow for the nation of Israel, and recognize the grace and mercy of Hashem.

Bringing Yeshua to the World Wide Jewish Community

R. Steven Bernstein

 

This has been a very interesting year so far. As an instructor in Yeshivat Shuvu, I was asked to come and be part of the Zehut (identity) conference on Messianic Judaism over Shavuot in Bogota, Colombia. This conference had over 700 attendees from nations all over Latin America, many of them are congregational leaders. The topic for the conference was the search for identity among Messianic Jews and Gentiles within the context of Messianic Judaism.

During the closing evening of the conference, something unprecedented occurred. Three speakers came and spoke at a Messianic Jewish conference, the Israeli ambassador to Colombia, the president of the Jewish Federations of Colombia, and the Chief Rabbi of Colombia. Never has such representation of support ever come from mainstream Judaism for a Messianic Jewish conference before.

The keynote speakers for the conference were Rabbi Itzhak Shapira and I. There is a respect and a thirst to learn of Yeshua and Judaism in Latin America that I have not seen anywhere in the U.S. It was truly refreshing.

The Israeli ambassador spoke and expressed his gratefulness at the support of the group for Israel. He was desirous that support continue in light of opposition to Israel in South America specifically. The president of the Federations spoke and was very pleased at the interest in Judaism and the support of the Jewish communities in Colombia and throughout South America. Then, Chief Rabbi Alfredo Goldschmidt spoke.

Rav Goldschmidt gave a brief, interesting drash comparing the books of Ruth and Jonah. The astounding thing is that he came at all. He is among to most respected of all the Chief Rabbis in the world today. No Chief Rabbi of any country has ever spoken at a Messianic Jewish conference. Rav Goldschmidt told the organizers of the conference that he had been looking at the teachings of Rav Shapira and I online, and that although he did not believe in Yeshua as Mashiach, he could find no fault in our teachings. He wanted to meet us. Before he spoke, he made a point to cross the conference center and shake Rav Shapira’s hand, and mine, publicly. Again, this is unprecedented.

After Rav Goldschmidt finished speaking, there was a brief Q&A period. One person asked him why he did not believe in Yeshua as the Mashiach? His answer is very important to understand. He said that there was 2000 years of Christian persecution of Jews in the world. 2000 years of incompatible theologies between Christianity and Judaism, that these factors could not be overcome.

One thing that Rav Shapira and I do is present Mashiach Yeshua within the Jewish milieu. We do not try to defend Christian theology, much of which is, as Rav Golsdschmidt said, incompatible with Judaism. Yeshua haMashiach fits into Judaism. Christianity does not. As long as we cling to theologies of Christianity, we will not be affective witnesses to the Jewish community at large. When we step away from Christianity, and embrace the Jewish Mashiach within Judaism, the world wide Jewish community can be affected, and we are closer to the return of Yeshua.

This is a very difficult thing to do for many people, to distance themselves from Christianity. Yet, to be affective as a movement, we, as Messianic Jews and Gentiles, must do this. We must understand the import of what Rav Goldschmidt said. Jews will not accept Christianity. Put in the proper Jewish context, they can accept the Messianic community and Yeshua.

Zikhut – Merit

May 11, 2017

R. Steve Bernstein

Salvation is by faith, not works. How often have we seen this and said this? And, it is so very true. However, most people leave it there, and that is only part of the story. The concept of zikhut, merit, is seldom explored. One reason why is that as soon as one begins to speak of merit, it is assumed that we are speaking of salvation by merit. This is a horribly inaccurate assumption.

Zikhut, merit, is a concept often spoken of in both the Tanakh and Brit Chadasha. Yeshua speaks of zikhut in the sermon on the Mount.

Matthew 5:19 (CJB) So whoever disobeys the least of these mitzvot and teaches others to do so will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But whoever obeys them and so teaches will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.

It is important to note here, that what Yeshua is saying, has nothing to do with salvation. As the verse states, the doing of the mitzvot is not a requirement for getting into the kingdom of heaven. Yeshua is not talking about salvation, but about zikhut.

Who is great and who is least in the kingdom of heaven? That is a matter of zikhut. How does one gain zikhut? How does one earn the epithet, “well done, good and faithful servant.” Yeshua is quite clear on this, mitzvot. Mitzvot are the measure of zikhut. Mitzvot are how we live godly and holy lives.

2 Peter 3: 11 Since everything is going to be destroyed like this, what kind of people should you be? You should lead holy and godly lives, 12 as you wait for the Day of God and work to hasten its coming.

As we live lives kadosh, holy for God, separate for God, we hasten the return of the Messiah. It is through zikhut, it is through doing mitzvot that we hasten the return of the Messiah. Through doing mitzvot. We do not gain salvation, we gain zikhut, which hastens the return of the Messiah.

It is interesting that in looking at the life of Cornelius, we see a G-d-fearer, who is not Jewish, actively engaged in gaining zikhut. He is honored by Israel for following the Torah of the Jewish people, even though he is not Jewish. These things are pointed out in the Brit Chadasha as being important, why, because Gentile believers can gain zikhut as well as Jews. So, here is an example of a righteous Gentile, a Gentile believer, who follows the Torah of the Jewish people, and thereby hastens the return of the Messiah.

Cornelius’ following the Torah of the Jewish people as a righteous Gentile, is a map and a gateway for Gentile believers today. The Jewish people are light unto the nations. This is only relevant if the nations begin to recognize the light. The Gentile G-d-fearer has a huge role in the return of the Messiah. Zikhut. Only zikhut will hasten the return of the Messiah. Zikhut is gained every time anyone follows the mitzvot of Hashem. Anyone. Jew, Greek, male, female, if you pursue the mitzvot, you gain zikhut. As Shavuot approaches, and we celebrate our receiving of Torah, let us remember that this is not an academic exercise. As we pursue the actual doing of the mitzvot. We hasten the return of the Messiah.

 

Lag b’Omer

4/14/2017

R. Steven Bernstein

 

As we count the Omer between Pesach and Shavuot, one day, in particular, has a very special significance. Lag b’Omer, the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer, (Lamed being 30 and gimel being 3, hence lag is 33,) is a day of extraordinary events in Jewish history. It is the 18th day of the month of Iyar.

On Lag b’Omer, Hashem sent us mon (manna) in the wilderness. The children of Israel cried out yet again for Hashem to save us, and he did. Today Lag b’Omer marks a special day for the celebration of a very important sage in the 2nd century ce, Rabbi Shimon bar Yokhai. Rabbi Shimon is frequently referred to by his acronym Rashbi.

Rabbi Shimon was one of the leading students of Rabbi Akiva. While he was studying with Rabbi Akiva, Rabbi Shimon recognized the coming catastrophe of the Bar Kochba revolt. As instructed in the New Testament Rabbi Shimon fled for the hills with his son Elazar and found a cave to live in in a place called Meron, near Tzfat in the Galilee. (For this and other reasons, Rabbi Shimon is believed by many to have been a believer in Yeshua the Messiah.) Rabbi Shimon lived there for 13 years. Hashem provided them a carob tree and a spring of fresh water for sustenance.

During this time the bar Kochba revolt ensued, and for a time it went well. Archaeologists have found coins indicating that during the revolt the Karbon Pesach was renewed in the Temple. Rabbi Akiva even indicated that he thought that bar Kochba may have been the Messiah. Then catastrophe struck, a plague gripped the students of Rabbi Akiva. 25,000 of his students died in the plague and the plague ended on Lag b’Omer, only five of his students survived. One of them was Rabbi Shimon bar Yokhai.

The Roman Emperor Hadrian brought his legions into the land of Israel and squashed the bar Kochba revolt. Millions of Jews were slaughtered, and at bar Kochba’s stronghold of Betar, every single one of the men was killed on Tisha b’Av. The Jewish people were devastated; the tendency came to forget about our G-d and our history. There was a very real danger of Torah going out from the world.

It was at this time that Rav Shimon bar Yokhai emerged from the cave at Meron on Lag b’Omer. He saw the destruction and the despair of the Jewish people. Strengthened by Hashem, he fought, valiantly, to keep the light of Torah from leaving the world. It is clear, that without the strength, vision, and relentless effort, of Rabbi Shimon bar Yokhai, we might not have Torah today.

The Feast Of First Fruits

R. Steven Bernstein

03/06/17

CJB

R. Steven Bernstein

03/06/17

CJB

Lev 23: 9 The LORD said to Moses, 10 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you and you reap its harvest, bring to the priest a sheaf of the first grain you harvest. 11 He is to wave the sheaf before the LORD so it will be accepted on your behalf; the priest is to wave it on the day after the Sabbath.

Lev 23: 15 “ ‘From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks. 16 Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then present an offering of new grain to the LORD. 17 From wherever you live, bring two loaves made of two-tenths of an ephah of the finest flour, baked with yeast, as a wave offering of firstfruits to the LORD.

The Complete Jewish Bible here offers us an excellent translation. Let us compare and contrast Leviticus 23:10 with Leviticus 23:17. Leviticus 23 is frequently translated as firstfruits, as opposed to the translation we see here sheaf of the first grain. In Leviticus 23:17 we see the wave offering of firstfruits. There is quite a bit of confusion about the idea of firstfruits in both of these verses. In verse 17, the Hebrew is quite clear. The term used that is translated firstfruits is Bikurim. In fact, the term Bikurim is used to indicate the firstfruits offering throughout Scripture. The term used in Leviticus 23:9, is quite different. Instead of Bikurim, firstfruits, the terminology used in Hebrew is, Omer Reishit, which literally means first sheaf. So we see that the Complete Jewish Bible translation of this verse as, “sheaf of the first grain,” is a far better translation and understanding than firstfruits. This frequent but poor translation has led to much misunderstanding of the verse. As you can see, Leviticus 23:10 is referring to the first day of the Omer. Leviticus 23:17 is referring to the Moed of Shavuot. This is why Shavuot is sometimes referred to as the Festival of firstfruits. The beginning of the offering of the firstfruits is Shavuot. The Mishnah explains in tractate Bikurim that the Bikurim (firstfruits) were offered beginning in Shavuot, all the way until Hanukkah. No Bikurim were offered before Shavuot. In this way, Shavuot is the Festival of firstfruits.

In Yeshua’s time, the day that the first sheaf wave offering, that is the first day of the Omer, was the 16th of Nissan. The Pharisees controlled the Sanhedrin, the Nasi of the Sanhedrin was Gamliel, so Pharisaic interpretations were used in Temple ceremony, such as the counting of the Omer, and the Nisuch haMayim, the water drawing ceremony. It was not until after the counting of the Omer was finished on Shavuot that the Bikurim were brought to the Temple. It is easy to see that in no way can firstfruits be associated with Pesach.

Fri, January 28 2022 26 Shevat 5782