Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah #29 Acharei Mot (After the death) Vayikra (Leviticus) 16:1-18:30
Haftarah: Yechezk’el (Ezekiel) 22:1-19
B’rit Chadashah: Romans 3:19-28; 9:30-10:13; 1Corinthians 5:1-13;2 Corinthians 2:1-11; Galatians 3:10-14 Messianic Jews (Hebrews) 7:23-10:25
The parashah read with Acharei Mot in regular years is K’doshim. Please read this parashah also as you study this week’s teaching.
After the tragic death of Aaron’s two sons, YHVH appears to Moshe and tells him that Aaron is not to enter the Sanctuary. The reason given is because “I YHVH appear in a cloud on the Ark covering.”
Rashi explains that since YHVH is found there, Aaron should not enter. Why? Doesn’t it make sense that Aaron the mediator between Yisra’el and YHVH should go where YHVH usually appears? This is reminiscence of that old adage “familiarity breeds contempt.” Although contempt may not be the proper characterization it is clear that familiarity often does diminish the awesomeness we feel about things.
If Aaron should enter the Sanctuary any time he wished, it would begin to lose some of it grandeur. The spiritual experience that Aaron felt when entering the presence of YHVH would inevitably diminish. It should lead us to hold YHVH in awe, but to also have a personal relationship with him like we had or should have had with our earthly fathers. A personal love relationship balanced with respect and awe.
We see this effect in the familiarity of our spiritual and daily lives. That’s why Aaron could only enter the Holy of Holies once a year, on Yom Kippur, so that the full impact of what was happening would overpower him.
The Torah tells us we are to treat the way we live our lives with the same awe. “Every day the commandments should seem new to you” We have the power to make the commandments feel new. We have the power to create “newness” in what we learn and what we do. We must use our intellect and imagination to overcome the pitfalls of familiarity and bring excitement and freshness to everything we do.
YHVH also provides details of the Yom Kippur observance in this Parashah. The Cohen Gadol is to make sacrifices for himself, his family, and the people. Aaron is also to take two goats and bring them to the entrance of the Ohel Moed (Tent of Meeting). There he draws lots and on one is written, “For YHVH” and on the other is written “For Azazel” (scapegoat or goat of removal); the goat that is for YHVH is to be sacrificed as a Sin Offering. The other goat provides atonement for the people and is sent with a designated man into the desert to die. We see in this the symbol of Yahshua who died on the execution stake for our sins. Yahshua was represented by both goats.
After Aaron slaughters his Sin Offering he is to take hot coals from the Altar along with incense and go into the Holy of Holies. He is to place the incense on the hot coals so that a cloud of incense covers the Ark. He must be careful to do this so that he does not die. Can you see in this symbology, the seven-fold message in Revelation of the definition of a true believer: one who “carries the testimony of Yahshua” and “guards the commandments of HaShem?” We are reconciled through our trust in Yahshua as the Paschal sacrifice for our sins and then act on that faith by our obedience to YHVH’s Torah.
The offering of the ketoret was the most prestigious and sacred of the services in the Holy Temple. The ketoret was a special blend of eleven herbs and balms whose precise ingredients and manner of preparation were commanded by G d to Moses. Twice a day, ketoret was burned on the golden altar that stood in the Temple. On Yom Kippur, in addition to the regular ketoret offerings, the kohen gadol would enter the Holy of Holies with a pan of smoldering coals in his right hand, and a ladle filled with ketoret in his left; there, he would scoop the ketoret into his hands, place it over the coals, wait for the chamber to fill with the fragrant smoke of the burning incense, and swiftly back out of the room. The moment marked the climax of the Yom Kippur service in the Holy Temple.
Maimonides describes the function of the ketoret as the vanquishing of the unpleasant odors that might otherwise have pervaded the Holy Temple. “Since many animals were slaughtered in the sacred place each day, their flesh butchered and burned and their intestines cleaned, its smell would doubtless have been like the smell of a slaughterhouse. . . Therefore G d commanded that the ketoret be burned twice a day, each morning and afternoon, to lend a pleasing fragrance to [the Holy Temple] and to the garments of those who served in it” (Guide for the Perplexed 3:45).
But Maimonides’ words carry a significance that extends beyond their superficial sense. In the words of Rabbeinu Bechayei, “G d forbid that the great principle and mystery of the ketoret should be reduced to this mundane purpose.”
Chassidic teaching explains that the animal sacrifices offered in the Holy Temple represent the person’s offering of his own animal soul to G d–the subjugation of one’s natural instincts and desires to the divine will. This is the deeper significance of the foul odor emitted by the sacrifices, which the ketoret came to dispel: the animal soul of man—which is the basic drive, common to every living creature, for self-preservation and self-enhancement—possesses many positive traits which can be directed toward gainful and holy ends; but it is also the source of many negative and destructive traits. When a person brings his animal self to the Temple of G d and offers what is best and finest in it upon the altar, there is still the foul odor—the selfishness, the brutality and the materiality of the animal in man—that accompanies the process. Hence the burning of the ketoret, which possessed the unique capability to sublimate the evil odor of the animal soul within its heavenly fragrance. Compare this to Yahshua’s sacrifice to wipe out our past sins, provide a way for us to overcome our animal souls on a daily basis, and become reconciled to G-d. Orthodox Judaism misses this very important application and meaning of this practice.
The sublimation of evil is something that only the ketoret can achieve, but this is not the sum of its purpose and function. The word ketoret means “bonding”; the essence of the ketoret is the pristine yearning of the soul of man to cleave to G d—a yearning that emanates from the innermost sanctum of the soul, and is thus free of all constraints and restraints, of all that inhibits and limits us when we relate to something with the more external elements of our being.
Its purity and perfection are what give the ketoret the power to sweeten the foulest of odors; but dealing with evil is not what it is all about. On the contrary, its highest expression is in the utterly evil-free environment of the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur. Again, compare this perfect blend of herbs and spices commanded by G-d for this purpose to Yahshua; the perfect “blend” of G-d’s Law and Grace that will ultimately destroy evil at the end of the age.
Haftarah Connection: (Yechezk’el [Ezekiel] 22: 1-19)
This week’s Parashah deals with the Yom Kippur service and explains how it helps to purify the people. The rest of the parashah reveals what must be done to keep holiness within the nation. In the Haftarah, we read the Kingdom of Yehuda has sunk to a very low level of morality. The people are told that they will be thrown out of the Land, because they did exactly the opposite of what YHVH commanded. Can we expect anything less for this generation? However, we must remember G-d did not divorce Judah even though He punished them severely. He divorced the northern tribes of Israel who will repent and one day become the bride of Yahshua described in the book of Revelation. Anyone who hopes to be included from the “church” must be grafted in according to Ezekiel and that means following the same commands of G-d reinforced by Yahshua (see John chapter 14).
B’rit Chadashah: Galatians 3:10-14
Gal 3:10: For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all the things written in the book of the law, to perform them.” (NASB)
There is only one Greek word, “nomos” that translates “law.” It does not differentiate between Oral Torah and YHVH’s Written Torah. This leaves the discriminating reader at a distinct disadvantage. It means we must sort out the distinction between proper Torah Observance of YHVH’s Written Torah in contradiction to the legalistic perversion of Torah. Employing the proper Jewish foundation the translators and interpreters of our English translation could make this difference understood. Unfortunately, HaSatan’s influence upon the minds and will of translators and interpreters has so influenced them that no distinction is made, and ergo many are led astray. Since this distinction is not made anti-Semitism is promoted by our texts and we are not “rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15 KJV).”
With this distinction in mind, a careful reader understands that Sha’ul is arguing that both legalists and those who trust must agree that YHVH’s Torah requires obedience to all its commands. Sha’ul quotes here from Deuteronomy 27:26 which reads:
V 26. “’Cursed is he who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’”
It is understood that a person must bring a sacrifice. A prescribed sacrifice, preceded by repentance, such as David, who was a murderer and adulterer. With Yahshua’s having sacrificed Himself for our past sins and to provide a way to achieve salvation, we must only repent and consecrate our lives to His service. This too agrees with G-d’s Torah.
Gal 3:11 Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, ” the righteous man shall live by faith.”
In this sentence Sha’ul is saying no one is justified by legalistic perversion of Torah. We must make the distinction by rightly dividing the Word of Truth. This is evident because in the preceding verse we are commanded to follow Torah by repentance and sacrifice in accordance with G-d’s Written Torah. Not only does G-d’s Torah expect disobedience from humanity, but makes provisions for forgiveness by sin offerings in twenty chapters of His Torah. Sha’ul is not making a Midrash that the Torah cannot be obeyed, but that legalists disobey at least one commandment and that is the commandment of trust in G-d that precedes obedience. Legalists who pervert Torah fail in at least that command and they do not attain life, are not righteous, and come under a curse.
Gal 3:12 However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, “he who practices them shall live by them.”
This verse substantiates verse 1. Legalists add to and amplify His Torah into a legalistic perversion instead of letting G-d’s Torah speak for itself. By selecting one verse, they evaluate it above all others, nullifying G-d’s Will, replacing G-d’s intent, and supplanting His authority as in Oral Torah and Canon Law. Even independent churches do this in that they have doctrines that annul G-d’s clear intent as contained in His Torah.
Gal 3:13 Messiah redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us– for it is written, “cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree…”
In verse 13 Sha’ul quotes from Deuteronomy 21:22-23. The elements comprising the cursed are found in Deuteronomy 28: 15-68. I invite you to read this on your own. However, I will cover verse 15:”But it shall come about, if you will not obey the LORD your God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes with which I charge you today, that all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you.”
Yahshua was cursed on our behalf but our trust in His faithfulness delivers us from past sins (Rom. 3:25; 2 Pet. 1:9). By reading these curses we can get an appreciation of how graceful G-d is toward us who are growing believers. However, He does not exempt us from future sins as both Sha’ul and Peter attest.
Gal 3:14 in order that in Messiah Yahshua the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
In Gen. 12: 1-3 Abraham is promised that in him will all the families of the earth be blessed. In this blessing the first Advent of Yahshua Who takes away the sins of the world adds believing Gentiles into the House of G-d, Israel, partaking of the Covenant of Israel, whose constitution is the Torah and thereby becoming one with His family through trusting and being faithful.
Rabbi Tamah Davis