Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah #52 Vayelekh (He went) D’varim (Deuteronomy) 31:1-30
Haftarah: Hoshea (Hosea) 14:2-10
B’rit Chadashah: Hebrews 13:5-8
Moshe is preparing to be called home at 120 years. Sadly, Adonai tells him that after he is gathered to his ancestors, the people will revert to prostituting themselves before foreign gods. After much sin, G-d will punish them severely, and the people will repent and return to G-d. Therefore, Moshe is commanded to write a song that encompasses the history of Israel then and now.
Next, Adonai commissions Y’hoshua to bring the people Israel into the land. Moshe transfers leadership to Y’hoshua (Deut.31:14) as directed by Adonai (Deut. 31:14). Moshe prophesied that someone would be coming who would be like unto himself, but greater than he in the future. He also alluded to the “passing of the baton” to Y’hoshua alluded to in Deut. 18:18 that reads “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their kinsmen, I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I order him. Whoever doesn’t listen to my words in his mouth, which he will speak in my name, will have to account for himself to me.” These verses have a dual meaning. Y’hoshua, Yahshua’s namesake, was a shadow, a forerunner of the Messiah (Yahshua) of whom Peter spoke in Acts 3:22. We are told that although we esteem Moshe, we must look forward to another greater than he. Deuteronomy 18:18-19 provide more support for the truth that salvation is progressive and that we are not given a “home free” card to heaven. There is an interesting similarity and misunderstanding in Christianity and Judaism regarding the importance of Sh’aul (Paul), and Moshe (Moses) that deserves an explanation.
There are many Christian clergy who promote Sha’ul (Paul) to a greater prominence than Yahshua. Many people, supposing Paul’s misunderstood words to have greater import and substance than G-d’s, teach what they believe to be a doctrine that contradicts what Yahshua taught. Indeed, the Bible speaks of this danger and reality in 2 Peter 3:16: “Indeed, he [Paul] speaks about these things [the L-rd’s patience and deliverance] in all his letters. They contain some things that are hard to understand, things which the uninstructed and unstable distort, to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.” On the other hand, traditional Judaism has yet to recognize Yahshua as Messiah, still holding to the belief that Moshe was the greatest prophet and lawgiver. True believers described by the even-fold witness in Revelation know this misunderstanding will soon come to an end. Jews and Gentiles who choose to follow G-d’s Torah (not mans’ traditions) will be joined into Israel in a vital covenantal relationship with YHVH Elohim. Those who are called out by the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) will learn that Paul supported G-d’s Torah in every way; he spoke against the traditions of men and the Oral Torah wherever it contradicts with G-d’s Torah. The Jews who still hold to Moshe as the greatest prophet of all time will learn that Yahshua is the One spoken of in Deuteronomy 18:15-16; 18-19.
We also learn that Moshe writes the Torah and gives it to the Levites and the elders of B’nai Israel. He further instructs them to read the Torah at a place YHVH chooses to the people every seven- year Shemittah during the Sukkot festival. This is the Hak’kayl ceremony performed so “B’nai Israel will learn to fear YHVH and be careful to fulfill all the Torah.” Those who believe that G-d’s Torah (instructions) were abrogated with Yahshua’s arrival should carefully consider G-d’s words. Every seven-year Shmittah, the leaders were to read the Torah and B’nai Israel were to carefully fulfill all the Torah. Take note to fulfill means to rightly carry out the commands of G-d in His Torah and not to do away with it as many Christian clergy teach from the Book of Corinthians. The aforementioned process is ongoing and was not abrogated with Yahshua’s arrival. On the contrary, it was reinforced by the Messiah himself!
This parashah informs us of the sad reality that we are weak and that we easily succumb to temptation of all types. We somehow have the idea that we are greater and smarter than our Creator and can design and develop our own roads to success without G-d. The other popular thought is that we cannot possible keep G-d’s Torah. However, the previous parashah reminds us that we are able to keep G-d’s Torah so there is no excuse (Deut. 30:11-14). So, why does it seem so difficult to follow G-d’s instructions?
To begin, Satan is the prince of the air, the ruler of this earth at the present time. He will do everything in his power to win your vote. Sound familiar? He will promise you the world or just the pieces of it that you find irresistible. For example, what would happen to our world economy if only the people whose cars wore out bought new ones, or people whose shoes wore out bought new ones? Or what would happen to the pharmaceutical industry if people started eating healthy? Our current government officials know. That’s why they continually support a lifestyle that is not healthy for us, physically or spiritually. That’s why secular humanism is the religion taught to our young. The public must be convinced that the American economy is improving and that a lifestyle of indulgence should be the goal of every American. What if people only bought houses with the number of rooms to meet their needs? If this happened, the economy would suffer global deflation and the world would collapse entirely. Companies would have to downsize and many people would lose their jobs. This should also sound familiar. People would lose their homes and those who had money would start drawing down their accounts to the detriment of the world banking system. This happened with the collapse of the Roman Empire. The world did come to a halt and it took 500 years for man to emerge out of the Dark Ages. So why aren’t we seeking forgiveness and asking G-d for strength and wisdom against temptation? Unfortunately, history has shown that the general public leans toward what seems to be the easy road at the time; ergo, the Capitalistic way of life will continue as long as G-d tarries. Many people will continue to spend money because the false sense of control; conquering and possessing things that comes with shopping is often the only “charge” out of life an unbeliever may experience. The truth of this statement is evidenced by the types of commercials on our televisions, the increasing rate at which technology is developing in response to consumer demand for the latest and greatest everything. Their desires are superficial, ever-changing with their moods, and at the mercy of whatever takes center stage in the media.
Some people live to work. They identify their worth by their job, their salary, their co-workers, etc. Many people who retire die shortly thereafter because they lose their sense of identity and purpose for living. By our human nature, which is not an excuse, we seek to fill our lives with pleasure and sensation, to experience the thrill of life. This may come in the form of a new house, a new car, exotic trips, shopping, or going to a religious service where entertainment masked as “worship” is the priority. Some of these activities take a lot of planning. Others are the result of pure impulse. I like to call this the “because I can” syndrome. We know the pleasure we derive from these things is transitory and really insignificant, but for a brief period, we ride high on our purchase or our experience on vacation, or wearing the new dress and matching shoes and bag. The real quest of our lives lies much deeper into a place we do not want to frequent or even acknowledge.
The real quest of individuals not grounded in G-d’s Torah and our purpose for being is avoidance of getting old and/or too feeble to do the things we think we love. We are fully aware of the transience of the aforementioned activities, but it only by immersing ourselves in earthly activities that we can sometimes avoid acknowledging the possibility that there is an afterlife, a G-d, and that we might be held accountable for our lives in the end.
G-d knew from our creation that we would seek such temporary satisfaction in life, sometimes to our ultimate destruction and separation from Him forever. This is why he spends so much time pleading with us to seek life and not a life that leads unto death. He assures us that we are able to keep His Torah and that he is offering us something better than a life dedicated to avoiding the unpleasant and engaging in that which has no significance. The focus of the book of Ecclesiastes is to tell us that everything is transient and nothing more than a “puff” of air. The only thing that really matters is found in the last two verses of the book: “Here is the final conclusion, now that you have heard everything: fear G-d, and keep His mitzvot; this is what being human is all about. F-r G-d will bring to judgment everything we do, including every secret, whether good or bad.” A life of meaning focused on glorifying Him can only be accomplished by following His commands, statutes and rulings. G-d repeats it several times in the Old Testament (Deut. 30:10; Deut. 28:1-15; Deut. 30:15-17).Yahshua states it several times in the “New” Testament. John Chapter 14 is replete with Yahshua’s statements about the connection between loving Him and keeping His commands. Through our observance (guarding the commands of G-d by our obedience) and carrying the testimony of Yahshua (developing a sense of awe and fear) He offers us life everlasting. Let’s examine how this works.
Observing the commands is not generally a thrilling experience initially. In fact, it may be down-right difficult in the beginning as we tear ourselves away from our previous lifestyle much as two opposing pieces of Velcro are slowly ripped apart. However, the thrill of keeping the commands comes as we learn to love G-d and not simply observe His commands out of fear. As we grow in our relationship with G-d, observing the commands becomes opportunity to share our light with the world; to glorify G-d as is the very purpose of our lives. As we descend in our self-absorption and ascend to G-d, the Velcro is ripped a little more as G-d tests us through our life experiences (2 Cor12:9). This is the refining process spoken of by Paul in which we are to count it joy when we endure trials for the glory of G-d (2 Cor. 12:9) as does James (1:2). Hebrews 12:6 reminds us that we can count on these trials as children of G-d. Those who are not chastised are not His children. These things are placed upon us to help us develop a spirit for G-d. The commands and G-d’s intervention in our lives is to teach us how to live as a soul.
Suppose you decide one day that you would like to live your days as a soul and not just a body. You decide you want to live forever and you realize the body is as transient as a butterfly that lives on average for 30 days. What would you do? Hopefully, you would look for opportunities to help your fellow man. You might visit the sick, take in someone’s trash can, donate money or time to a local charity. But how would you dress your soul? What kind of house would you buy and what kind of car would you drive? Would you plan annual vacations? How would you raise your children? How would you fill your empty hours? What would you eat? You would have no answer to these questions and neither would anyone else. Enter G-d’s Torah.
The Creator of the universe including every soul provided a universal instruction manual applicable to every human created in the image of G-d. This is just one example of his loving unmerited kindness (chesed). One image, one manual! G-d’s Torah provides that body of knowledge to teach us how to conduct our lives as souls. This should be no surprise. As physical bodies we need to learn to read, eat, and function in the physical and mental sense. It is certainly no less complicated to exist as a soul. This is the information G-d offers in the written Torah, clarified by Yahshua who was G-d incarnate. It stands to reason that since the soul returns to G-d, it should be as close to His way of thinking and acting as possible. Besides, souls live forever. A life without Torah is only suitable for those planning to die in the not-to-distant future. After all, if life isn’t too long, some may have enough money and good health long enough to occupy themselves with all the material things this world has to offer. But sooner or later the body deteriorates regardless of any type of aesthetic procedures available today. Gravity will win every time and we will return to dust one way or another! This is one reason for the urgency of repentance and learning to emulate Yahshua’s ways as soon as possible. We do not know when our souls will be required of us.
We live the life we choose for ourselves. We are not robots. We can either learn how to live forever and act accordingly through love of and obedience to G-d, or plan to party hardy until we die; just as in the days of Noach. To know how to live forever, we need to take the advice of our G-d and choose life. This is done by learning to live as a soul through the observance of G-d’s Torah and carrying the testimony of Yahshua as Yahshua Himself states seven times in Revelation. This message is not difficult to understand. Not only did G-d share it with the Israelites at Sinai and beyond, He sent Yahshua to clarify it for Jew and Gentile alike. As G-d promised, the message is truly, “not up in the heavens or over the oceans.” So why does Torah observance seem so difficult to impossible for most?
The natural life of the body is full of sensation and desires. Although it may not be significant in the overall scheme of things, it is stimulating while it lasts. The other life, that of the soul, is often much less glamorous. After all, the things we do for our G-d are not fully rewarded in this life. We may enjoy extra blessings that apply to our lives on this earthly plane, but we must wait for the ultimate reward that will be given in the world to come. Besides, we should not be seeking rewards for anything we do in His Name in the first place. But doing the mitzvot in secret goes against our egotistic grain. For now, we must allow G-d to “rip the Velcro apart”; separate the humanistic desires from what is commanded of our souls if we are to live forever. Such a life is based on working toward giving up our human sensations and desires. It requires us to live according to our minds (reason) and often suppress and ignore our feelings and emotions. This is the problem in many religious institutions today. They actually promote soulish behavior exhibited as trances, excessive dancing, and speaking in gibberish labeled as tongues, over reason and self-nullification. The contest may be between the important and everlasting versus the insignificant and transitory high of some experience in a religious building. It is also between sensation and stimulation and discipline and thought. Remember, we are told in Phil. 2:12 that we are to reason out (work) out our salvation with trembling and fear. Remember, forever is a long time and this is no laughing matter. It is more difficult for us to comprehend the import of this scripture than it was for the Israelites who stood at Mount Sinai, heard the thunder and saw the cloud. However, the solution to this dilemma is provided by the requirement that we face judgment. Enter Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
These mandated festivals of G-d remind us that our time on earth is not infinite. The Messianic Jew understands Rosh Hashanah to be a foreshadowing of the Rapture and Yom Kippur as the Day of Atonement. History has proven the pervious festivals to be foreshadows of significant Biblical events. It follows that the next one on the time table is the Rapture. Although we do not know the day or hour, Yahshua tells us we will know the season. The season is here during the 10 Days of Awe that started with Rosh Hashanah. We should celebrate the designated times of Adonai with love, awe, and fear. Each year that we are preserved to celebrate these times, we should enter them with a sense of urgency to reconcile ourselves to G-d through Yahshua’s sacrifice and begin or continue walking in the Light Of G-d’s Torah. When the time comes for Israel to wed her Groom (Yahshua), the wedding will take place and she will be taken to the Father’s house. There will no longer be an opportunity or need for rehearsals.
Haftarah: Hosea 14:2-10
The Shabbat between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is called Shabbat Shuva (Shabbat of Repentance). The name is a reference to the opening words of the week’s haftarah, “Shuva Israel”– Return O Israel. This haftarah is read in honor of the Ten Days of Repentance.
Hosea exhorts the Israelites to “Return, O Israel, to the L-rd your G-d,” encouraging them to sincerely repent and ask for G-d’s forgiveness. He urges the people to place their trust in G-d, not in Assyria, strong horses, or idols. At that point, G-d promises to remove His anger from Israel, “I will be like dew to Israel; they shall blossom like a rose.” The prophet goes on to foretell the return of the exiles and the cessation of idol-worship amongst the people.
B’rit Chadashah: Hebrews 13:5-8
“Keep your lives free from the love of money; and be satisfied with what you have; for G-d himself has said, ‘I will never fail you or abandon you.’ Therefore, we say with confidence, ‘Adonai is my helper; I will not be afraid–what can a human being do to me?’ Remember your leaders, those who spoke G-d’s message to you. Reflect on the results of their way of life, and imitate their trust-Yahshua the Messiah is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
Here is a perfect echo of our parashah, reiterating G-d’s words of encouragement and admonishment. This passage would not be possible without the Old Testament scripture as is the case with much of the “New” Testament. Although we do not know the author of Hebrews, we can verify its truths by comparing verses such as these to the Old Testament. Note that money in itself is not evil; it is the love of money that can get us into trouble as evidenced by our economy and our Capitalist way of life. We are to imitate the way of life lived by the G-dly leaders and their trust for YHVH/Yahshua has not changed from that time to the present. We do not know how we are going to die. We must prepare and pray for the grace and strength to witness for YHVH/Yahshua no matter our circumstances. Moshe reminds us that G-d is going with us throughout our wilderness journey. We are encouraged to “be strong, be bold, and don’t be afraid or frightened of them.” We will not know the results of our last words or actions, or those up to this point after becoming reconciled to G-d through Yahshua’s sacrifice until we stand before Him. We must not fear anything man might do to us on this earth. YHVH/Yahshua is with us as he promised and he is the only one who can destroy our souls (Matt. 10:28). May we spend much time in introspection and ask G-d to search our hearts for any unclean thing that we may seek forgiveness and begin anew in the coming year (Psalm 139:23).
Rabbi Tamah Davis