Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah# 30: K’doshim (Holy People) Vayikra (Leviticus) 19:1-20-27
Haftarah: Ezekiel 20:2-20
B’rit Chadashah: 1 Peter: 13-21
Although this parashah is read with parashah #29 during regular years, it is also read alone in its own right. We are reminded of our task; “You people are to be holy because I, Adonai your G-d am holy.” What an awesome responsibility. But to whom much is given, much is required. G-d in His mercy and unmerited kindness explains just how we are to accomplish a state of holiness as a people set apart for G-d’s service. The actual meaning of the Hebrew word kodesh is “separated” as in “refined.” When we refine something, we separate the substance we desire from extraneous substances that are mixed with it (See Matt. 13:36-43). So too, things that are kodesh are the ordinary events of life: remaining in the world but not of the world; separated from the undesirable elements (secular society and all the distractions of a secular lifestyle/Egypt), that would dilute or weaken a holy lifestyle. The doctrine of kodesh declares that we should not isolate ourselves from the world and everyday events; rather we need to refine them. Kodesh tells us: don’t eschew business and live on a mountaintop; separate all dishonesty and ambiguity from your dealings.
Interestingly, G-d separates one command in the group of commands that foster holiness as a way of life and not a temporary state of being from all the others that tend to be grouped together. Let’s examine this phenomenon. Verse 20:6-8 reads “The person who turns to spirit-mediums and sorcerers to go fornicating after them- I will set myself against him and cut him off from his people. Then, verse 7 repeats the first verse in the parashah adding the first three words with significant import; “Therefore, consecrate yourselves- you people must be holy, because I am Adonai you G-d. Observe my regulations, and obey them; I am Adonai, who sets you apart to be holy.” command; “Rather, you people are to be holy for me; because I, Adonai am holy; and I have set you apart from the other peoples, so that you can belong to me.” Note this time that He modifies the command by telling us that we have been set apart; apart from the other peoples, so that we can belong to Him. Looking at this concept of holy from the Kabalistic based Zohar, we find much information concerning how to live a holy life before G-d. There is a distinction between seeking the truth of G-d’s Torah without guile, and the arrogant approach to simply acquiring knowledge that is often observed in people who want knowledge for knowledge sake and self aggrandizement.
“It is the honor of Elohim to conceal a thing.” (Proverbs 25:2)
Those who seek to acquire Holy knowledge from G-d’s Torah for other than honorable reasons, typically do not keep G-d’s mitzvot or spend time and effort in the act of listening or reading; internalizing and acting on that which is read or heard. Therefore, G-d often withholds wisdom and/or knowledge from above.
The Ruach HaKodesh cannot dwell where the spirit is filled with the forces of ego and self-aggrandizement characterized by immodest behavior. These forces are called “chitzonim”, or “external forces”, because they are far from the inner core of holiness in a person and in the universe. The Zohar informs us that G-d limited or withdrew part of His essence to make room for his creation. The more His Light is withheld or withdrawn, the more space there is for evil and the Dark One (HaSatan) to accomplish havoc. By expressing the animal soul of humanity without the discipline and love of Torah, people open themselves up for secular humanistic concepts of self- gratification, self- aggrandizement, the perception that they are deities in and of themselves, and other dark forces. Wisdom and knowledge from above become distant and elusive because of their freewill choice to rebel against anything that may take effort; obedience, surrender of oneself. Proverbs 3:35 addresses these people; “Fools bring about shame.” These are the uneducated people who choose to remain ignorant of G-d’s Torah. Yet, these people will be some of the first to call on the name of the L-rd to save them and have mercy. The plea remains self-centered. How can people claim to be the descendants of Abraham, Jews, true believers, lovers of G-d if they never took the time to learn the “House rules?” G-d is the only true Judge in these and every other matter. He will meter out His mercy, justice, and truth as He will.
There is a qualifier of sorts to this concept of Torah ignorance. The Israelites agreed to do and hear the commands of G-d before they really knew what they were. A person who is uneducated in Torah but makes an effort to find out from the learned what is the proper conduct in any situation, is considered worthy. Indeed, an optimal learning experience is one where the individual humbly prays and seeks the truth of G-d’s Torah either while studying alone, or after receiving a teaching from a learned one and then exploring it for all its meaning. To simply sit and listen to a Torah teacher, then walk out the door without any further study will account the individual no benefit.
Then Adonai adds a command that would seem to fit in better with the one dealing with sorcerers and mediums in Lev. 20:6 as written above. However, instead of addressing what will happen if we turn to mediums and sorcerers, this command adds another dimension. Lev. 20:27 reads “A man or woman who is a spirit-medium or sorcerer must be put to death; they are to stone them to death; their blood be on them.” Why is this command separate from verse 20:6 when they are both related to spirit-mediums and sorcerers? There must be significance to this seemingly odd placement of these two commands, that begs exploring.
First, let us define spirit-medium and sorcerer. Medium—One possessed by (Lev. 20:22) or consulting (Deut. 18:11) a ghost or spirit of the dead, especially for information about the future. Acting as a medium was punishable by stoning. The famous woman on TV (T. Caputo) who professes to be a devout Catholic is such a person. She is very sincere in her interpretations. However, in G-d’s economy, sincerity does not automatically garner salvation; especially as G-d adamantly forbids such behavior. HaSatan’s distractive ability lies in the fact that Mrs. Caputo and those like her often make some astonishingly remarkable statements concerning people and events that she could not possibly know of through natural means. In every episode of “Long Island Medium”, she states that it is “spirit” who informs her of everything. This begs the most important question at the heart of the whole matter–from exactly what “spirit” does Theresa Caputo and other mediums get their information and enlightenment? This is definitely not the spirit of G-d. Our spirit determines the ultimate destination of our soul. Those who have the spirit of G-d will enjoy a soul that spends an eternity with G-d. Those who have the spirit of HaSatan will end up in Hell as determined by the Great White Throne Judgment. Interestingly, the position of the Catholic Church of which Ms. Caputo claims to be faithful states in the official Catechism the following position on this subject:
2115 “God can reveal the future to his prophets or to other saints. Still, a sound Christian attitude consists in putting oneself confidently into the hands of Providence for whatever concerns the future, and giving up all unhealthy curiosity about it. Improvidence, however, can constitute a lack of responsibility.” On this point we must clarify that there are no more prophecies, revelations, etc. according to 1 Cor. 13:8 that describes the time when the complete Torah (Old and “New” Testaments would be available. In other words, “when the perfect comes, the partial will pass.” This is but one point at which Messianic Judaism and Catholicism diverge.
2116 All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to “unveil” the future. Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone. – This statement does not conflict with G-d’s Torah. However, I would add that they contradict G-d’s command against such practices along with a loving fear, respect, and honor we owe to G-d.
Sorcerers or necromancers, who professed to call up the dead to answer questions, were said to have a “familiar spirit” (Deut. 18:11; 2 Kings 21:6; 2 Chr. 33:6; Lev. 19:31; 20:6; Isa. 8:19; 29:4). In Hebrew the word is ‘ob meaning a “leather bottle”; for sorcerers were regarded as vessels containing the inspiring demon. The Hebrew word was equivalent to the python of the Greeks, and was used to denote both the person and the spirit which possessed him/her (Lev. 20:27; 1 Sam. 28:8); compare to Acts 16:16).
The word “familiar” is from the Latin familiaris, meaning a “household servant,” and was intended to express the idea that sorcerers had spirits as their servants, ready to obey their commands. Going back to Ms. Caputo and others like her, she is in very real spiritual trouble unless she repents and turns to G-d’s ways and not those of the idolatrous nations from which the Paschal Lamb delivered us in the first place! A perfect example of what happens should we decide such practices are “ok” and follow our own minds is illustrated in 1 Samuel 28; the narrative of Saul and the spirit-medium. I encourage you to read this in detail to supplement this teaching and gain more insight into G-d’s consistency in all things. Now, back to our original inquiry.
When we look at the Hebrew translation of Lev. 20:27 we find an interesting word that is not included in the English. The Hebrew translation of this verse is:
Now man of if woman he is among them medium or spiritist to die they must die with the stone they must stone them bloods of them on them.” The “he is” is none other than YHVH/Yahshua. It is written Y-H-V-H. Comparing this to the first command against spiritism and sorcery in Chapter 20:6 we read directly from the Hebrew: “and the person who she turns to the mediums and to the spiritists to prostitute after them also I will set [alef-tav] (untranslated in Hebrew) faces of me against the person the that and I will cut him from among people of him.” This is interesting for a couple of reasons. First it says, “and the person who she turns” and secondly the “Alef-Tav” is inserted in this command, untranslated in the Hebrew, but defined as Yahshua in the Book of Revelation and Genesis 1:1. The presence of the Alef-Tav in Genesis 1:1 can only be seen in the Hebrew. These “details” help us to understand why the two scriptures concerning mediums and sorcerers are separated in the parashah. The Chumash does not address the first of these statements. The second occurrence is explained by the Sages to mean that the chapter ends with this sin because it symbolizes the difference between Israel and the nations. According to the Sages, “If Israel serves G-d properly, it will deserve to have prophets and have no need for these magical ways of foretelling the future.” Although this is a nice thought, we do not deserve to have anything, including prophets. G-d provided the prophets for his glory, to warn Israel in many cases, and to foretell future events as directed by G-d good and bad. However, the Sages were correct in saying that Israel does not need the idolatrous practices of the nations to lead and guide them; Israel being all true believers according to the Seven-fold Witness in Revelation. We are to look to G-d for all our needs and our guidance. He alone is the One we are to follow; not a “knock-off” brand (translation, amplification, etc.) of His Torah (instructions). Another supporting scripture regarding what will happen to those who distract others from Torah is described in the parable of the wheat and tares in Matthew 13:36-43. Thus, we see instructions that apply to the community and individuals regarding use of spiritists and sorcerers in the first scripture through YHVH (Lev. 20:6), and an extension of the command through Yahshua in Lev. 20:27. Communal and individual accountability to G-d’s commands is a common thread throughout the Bible. No one will be able to blame “the other guy” for transgression of this command as G-d clearly defines the punishment as death. In the first instance, G-d himself will cut off the person who turns to spirit-mediums as He did Saul in 1 Samuel: 28. In the second instance, G-d holds the community responsible for stoning an individual who practices as a spirit-medium or sorcerer. We see that G-d will have His day with those who choose and anti-Torah lifestyle, but that He also holds us accountable to do our part to maintain our separateness as a holy nation and as a holy person. For example, it is one thing to oppose unjust treatment of children. It is another thing to support organizations that take an active role in preventing child abuse or becoming an active part of such an organization. G-d does not condone complacency in any context. We must do our part as a community of believers and as individuals. This concept is reflected in the “New Testament” in Revelation 3:4-22. Some people believe Yahshua is talking to specific “churches. However, there were no “churches” at this time. Yahshua was addressing types of Messianic assemblies, more accurately, types of believers, and not isolated communities. I encourage you to read and meditate on the meaning of this narrative as it relates to our parashah and the concept of today’s teaching in particular. Talk is cheap; actions speak louder than words. Faith is action based on belief. We are not to condone antinomianism. Refinement by G-d takes a lifetime but we must start our journey from out of Egypt (representing a sinful lifestyle) sometime and begin the race toward the prize if we ever hope to win (Phil. 3:14; 1 Cor. 9:24).
Haftarah: Ezekiel 20:2-20
This week’s haftarah mentions G d’s repeated enjoinders to observe the commandments, keep the Shabbat and eschew idol worship; reflective of this week’s Torah portion, which discusses many commandments, including the obligation to sanctify the Shabbat and reject idolatry.
The prophet Ezekiel transmits G d’s message, reminding the Jews how He chose them as His nation, how He took them out of Egypt and promised to take them to the Holy Land. In Egypt, G-d dispatched a prophet who exhorted the Jews to abandon their idols, yet they did not do so. He then gave them laws and statutes, including that of the observance of Shabbat as a sign between Him and His people. “But the house of Israel rebelled against Me in the wilderness; they walked not in My statutes, and they despised My ordinances, which, if a man keeps, he will live through them, and My Sabbaths they desecrated exceedingly.”
The prophet goes on to mention G d’s punishment of the Jews in the desert, namely that they did not enter the Holy Land. He then admonishes the children not to follow their fathers’ ways, but to observe the laws and to sanctify the Shabbat.
B’rit Chadashah: 1 Peter: 13-21
We will concentrate on verses 13:16: “ Therefore, get your minds ready for work, keep yourselves under control, and fix your hopes fully on the gift you will receive when Yahshua the Messiah is revealed. As people who obey G-d, do not let yourselves be shaped by the evil desires you used to have when you were still ignorant. On the contrary, following the Holy One who called you, become holy yourselves in your entire way of life, since the Tanakh says, “You are to be holy, because I am holy.” This scripture reflects back on our parashah as written by Peter to several Messianic believers who were living as aliens in the Diaspora. Peter speaks of the coming reward for those who have believed but have yet to physically see the Messiah; trusting in his faithfulness even unto death and his glorious resurrection. Note that verse 9 that again validates the concept of progressive salvation: “And you are receiving what your trust is aiming at, namely, your deliverance.” The verbs used in this sentence are all action verbs in the progressive tense. Receiving is a process such as running a race as previously discussed. These individuals are on their way, their wilderness experience, their race to win the prize because as we see in verse 8: “ Without having seen him you love him (see John Chapter 14 for the definition and requirements of being one who loves G-d as stated by Yahshua himself). “ Without seeing him now, but trusting in him, you continue to be full of joy that is glorious beyond words.” Backing up a few more verses Peter describes the refinement process that is required for all those who profess to be true believers.” Verse 5-7 reads: “Meanwhile, through trusting, you are being protected by G-d’s power for a deliverance ready to be revealed at the Last Time. Rejoice in this, even though for a little while you may have to experience grief in various trials. Even gold is tested for genuineness by fire. The purpose of these trials is so that your trust’s genuineness, which is far more valuable than perishable gold, will be judged worthy of praise, glory, and honor at the revealing of Yahshua the Messiah.” Take note once again that this genuineness is spoken of in the future tense. We have not been found to be “saved” yet. Can we work our way to heaven? No. However, we are expected to follow G-d’s commands, laws, and statutes if we want to be counted among the people set apart from the nations; a holy people, because the G-d we claim as our L-rd is holy; so says G-d. There is no other way than to trust in His faithfulness and obey out of love for our L-rd and Messiah.
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart