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Teachings

Below are the teachings from our weekly Torah Studies.  If you would like to join us, please email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. so we can let you know where and when we meet.

Chukat (Ordinances) Numbers (B’Midbar) 19-22

Torah Portion Chukat (Ordinances) Numbers (B’Midbar) 19-22

Haftorah Reading: Judges 11:1-33

 

Today we read a Torah portion about the death of both of Moshe’s siblings, Aaron and Miriam. We also read of the remedy for being ritually unclean. You could become ritually unclean by being with or in the house of someone who had died. The only remedy for this level of uncleanness was to be sprinkled with water that contained the ashes of a red heifer.

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Korach Numbers (B’Midbar) 16-18

Torah Portion Korach Numbers (B’Midbar) 16-18

Haftorah Reading: I Samuel 11:14-12:22

This week we read the story of the rebellion against Moshe and Aaron. This rebellion was led by Korach but included 250 of the princes of Israel, Dothan and Aviram and men from the tribe of Reuben. I want us to look at the timing of the rebellion and what motivated each of these groups to try to depose Moshe and Aaron.

First let us look at the timing. This rebellion took place immediately following the bad report of the people sent to search out the Land and then the punishment when they did not go up to take possession of the Land. The people are told as punishment for their sins, they will not be allowed to enter the land. This disappointment sets the stage for the uprising against Moshe and Aaron. Korach saw that their positions were vulnerable and here was an opportunity to seize power.

This raises a point that has been present in human society for a long time.  To understand it we look at what happened in Germany.  The allies had punished Germany after WWI. People were destitute, unhappy and feeling they were powerless to change their situation.  Along came Hitler giving them hope of a new day. They were drawn to his power and speeches telling them who to blame for their situation. Most of the citizens fell in line, believed his lies and what proceeded from that was the downfall of a country and the holocaust. After a time of listening to propaganda Christian people were able to turn in their Jewish neighbors or anyone not supporting their leader. The whole point being for us, this is the backdrop for our story. Every society works somewhat the same. This has happened all through history. Korach understood that in order to overthrow Moshe he had to pick his time and gain the support he needed.

Now let us look at his tactics. First, he understood that he had to play on the discontent of the people. He had to tell them that he was on their side and he understood their discontent. So he went to certain people. He, being a Levite, knew he could not garner much support from his own group so he reached out to the Rubenites. Why them? They were unhappy because Reuben, the elder son of Ya’acov, had been left out or over looked for any leadership role among the people. Next, Jewish writings say the 250 princes were upset because they had seen their position diminished after the sin of the golden calf. The tribe of Levi had displace them in their place of responsibility. Finally, Datan and Aviram, two who had no stomach for all this G-d stuff, only wanted to return to Egypt, a land flowing with milk and honey.

Of course the revolt failed because G-d stepped in and settled the issue. My point in going over all this is to see what we might learn from the story. Are we ever in the place of rebellion? Do we become discontented with our life to the point we look for someone to blame? Are we susceptible to the siren song of someone who tells us they can make it all better?  Do we throw our lot in with someone who seems to have all the answer to our questions or all the power?

So what is the solution that will lead us to be the people G-d has planned for us to be? When we look at scripture we see one beginning place. In Genesis 1:26 we see the famous verse that tells we are all created in the image of G-d. That means everyone.  Everyone has value. Everyone has worth independent of their station in life, independent of their position in society. We are all created in the image of G-d and as such should give and expect respect and compassion for one another.  In our weekly readings of the Torah we see this played out. Moshe told Joshua he wished that all G-d’s people would prophecy. In the Messianic writings we see Yeshua relating to each person on the same level, the Samaritan woman or the rich young ruler, both were related to as people whom G-d loved. Each one was given the opportunity to come to faith.

Our focus should never be on man, who is the strongest, who has power. Our focus should be on G-d and what His word says. There may be arguments on interpretation of scripture but these arguments must never degenerate into conflict. There are many examples of this in the history of our faith. These arguments should rather lead to an increase in spiritual wisdom and understanding. For us, we should guard ourselves against following Korah. We can do that by being immersed in the study of G-d’s word. We must always look for truth not power, valuing all and loving all.

Shelach (Send) Numbers (B’Midbar) 13-15

Torah Portion Shelach (Send) Numbers (B’Midbar) 13-15

Haftorah Reading: Joshua 2:1-24

Tonight we will concentrate on verses covering the sin of the spies. First, just a word about several Hebrew words that may add some understanding to our story, in Numbers 13:2 we read in English that the mission of the 12 men was to spy out the Land. In Hebrew the word is “latur” which more closely means to “tour.” Moshe instructed them to bring back a report from their travels and in the process find out who lived there, how was the produce of the land and what were the people like.  Scripture tells us this assignment happened at the time of the first grape harvest, which would be late July until mid August. In Numbers 13:17 Moshe told them to “go up.” This word is always used when talking about entering the Land of Israel. It gives us some idea of G-d’s view and feeling toward the Land. Even today when Jews immigrate to Israel the word used to describe them is “Olim” or people who have gone up, no matter where in the world they came from.

Now we will get to the “tour” of the Land and the report brought back by the travelers. As we talk about this I want each of us to see if we, in our own lives, have any of the qualities expressed by these travelers.  First, in Numbers 13:27, the men started off with saying yes the Land truly flowed with milk and honey. They mentioned the fruit they brought back. However, they then immediately followed with the obstacles that lay before anyone going up to take the Land. They said the people were strong, even giants. The cities were fortified. Their verdict was conquest was impossible. There was no room for any other option, it was all black and white. They could have said, “It will be difficult but with G-d’s help we can do it.” Their thinking was either - or. Are we sometimes guilty of this thinking? Maybe G-d has given me a task but I begin to think, “Who am I? I can’t do this. I’m not smart enough.” Are we ever guilty of leaving G-d out of the picture? Do we ever look at a situation through our eyes and it is black and white, hopeless?

They and the people of Israel fell into a negative mind set. Disaster was coming no matter what. (Numbers 14:1-4) They felt their only option was to run back to Egypt and forget about G-d’s promises. Do we sometimes do the same?

Another negative action we see here is mind reading, assuming what other people are thinking. We jump to conclusions about someone based on our own feelings, not theirs. Look at Numbers 13:33. The men reported that they seemed as grasshoppers in their own eyes and also in the eyes of inhabitants of the Land. They really had no way of knowing what the people of the Land thought about them but they imposed their own self image onto the inhabitants of the Land. Do we sometimes assume what other people think about us based not on facts but based on how we see ourselves, forgetting how G-d sees us.

We also are often guilty of letting our feelings rule instead of facts. We don’t take the time to really look at the facts and let them influence our decisions. Numbers 13:28 is an example of this. They said the cities are fortified and very large.  In Deut. 1:28 we read where the men further relate that the walls of the city go up to the sky. They were caught up with their own emotions. The facts were quite different. In Joshua we hear from Rahab that these same people, who the men reported back as giants, were actually terrified of the coming Israelites.

Finally, in Numbers 14:1-3 we read about the results of all these emotional responses. Here we read of the people blaming Moshe, Aaron and even G-d for their perceived plight. They are victims, powerless in the face of events, events that are mainly in their vivid imaginations and fears.  It is easy for us to fall into these same patterns of thinking. Sometimes these patterns can become very destructive in our lives. What is the solution? How do we change? How do we break these cycles? For these people G-d offered a trigger to help them remember who they were and who He is. In Numbers 15:39 we read about the fringes on a garment. As G-d’s people we all sometimes need a trigger or reminder to stop us when our imaginations are running wild, or when we find ourselves jumping to conclusions without having the facts. It might be a verse or it might be a spiritual experience that we can go back to and remember who we are and who G-d is. We are children of the King of Glory. G-d is with us. We can think on this when our emotions take over. We can come back to truth and let faith banish fear.