Torah Portion: Chol Ha Mo’ed Sukkot Exodus 33:12-34:26
Today is the Shabbat that falls in the intermediate days of Sukkot. In this section of scripture two things tie it to the holiday of Sukkot. In Exodus 34:22 the holiday is mentioned in the list of appointed times. In Chapter 33 G-d appears to Moses. In I Kings during the dedication of Solomon’s temple, the presence of G-d appears in the temple. As a result the priests could not minister or even go into the temple.
Torah Portion: Ha’azinu (give an ear) Deut. 32:1-52
HafTorah: II Samuel 22:1-51
The Torah section, Ha’azinu, is from the same root as the word for ear. The Torah portion covers the song of Moses in Deut. 32 and the HafTorah in II Samuel 22 is called the song of David. I want to begin by looking at the verses in II Samuel. The scripture starts in Chapter 22:1. I want us to look first at this verse and see what we can learn of David. We read where David, reflecting back on his life, declares that G-d has delivered him from all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. Why does he single out Saul? He does not lump him with his enemies even though Saul tried to kill him. David knew Saul was G-d’s anointed. He says in I Samuel 24:10 that he will not stretch out his hand to G-d’s anointed. He had to rely completely on G-d for deliverance from Saul. This is a principle that is still important for the present day. How many churches are born out of a contentious fight between two leaders. G-d is able to deal with problems in leadership without us raising our hand and voice against the person He has put in that role.
Torah Portion: Nitzavim/Vayelech (Standing/And He Will Go) Deut. 29:9-31:30
HafTorah: Isaiah 61:10-63:9
Tonight I want us to look first and mainly at Isaiah, especially in light of this passage coming before Rosh Hashanah. As we look at this I would like for you to get this picture in your mind. In Luke 4:16-21 Yeshua, following His baptism and wilderness experience, comes home to Nazareth where, as was His custom, he attends the local synagogue on Sabbath. Realize that at this time in history Nazareth was a small farming village within 3 miles of the main Jewish town of Tizpora. He stood up to read, first reading the Torah section and then being handed the book of Isaiah, starts with what we read here in our HafTorah portion. Could it have been this same Sabbath as today? Possibly. Since Nitzavim is always read on the Sabbath before Rosh Hashanah. So, here Yeshua tells the people in the synagogue, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Saying that He is the Servant of the L-rd of whom Isaiah has spoken. He has been anointed with the Spirit of G-d which was also spoken of in Isaiah 11:2.He was and is the Anointed One. What was He to do? He was to “Bring good news to the afflicted and poor.” This good news was the announcement of redemption. When John asked in Matthew 11:2 if Yeshua was the one, He answered with this verse.
Torah Portion: Ki Tavo (When You Come In) Deut. 26:1-29:8
HafTorah: Isaiah 60:1-22
Tonight I want us to look at the Torah section and the HafTorah as the beginning and the end of the same story. I think these two sections give us a unique opportunity to see history unfold for us from beginning to end. And I want you to see Israel’s centrality in this story. It begins and ends with Israel.
So in the Torah portion called, “When You Come”, we see Moses laying out the renewal of the covenant between G-d and Israel. He states the benefits of that covenant or the blessings. In these blessings every area of life is covered. What is required of Israel to enjoy these blessings? Read Deut. 28:45, 28:62, 28:46-47 and you will see it is obedience and gladness or joy. Reverence, also a requirement, is found in Deut. 28:58. So G-d required these three things from the people in response to the covenant between them and G-d. In fact, I think for us the requirements are the same. The New Covenant, which allows us as non-Jews to be grafted in to Israel, also requires us as part of G-d’s people, the same obligations. Read in Romans 16:26 (obedience) Luke 2:10, Romans 15:13 and Acts 20:24 (joy) Hebrews 12:28 (reverence). This is our part in this covenant transaction between G-d and us. What happens if we don’t hold up our end? Is the covenant nullified? No. Even though much of the church believes scripture states, because of Israel’s sin, G-d has rejected the Jewish people. No, G-d does not walk away. But we do suffer the consequences of our actions when we sin. Here in this Torah portion we read those consequences. They are severe. They take up many more verses than the verses describing the blessings. Why was G-d so clear here about what would result from Israel’s disobedience? They were to be a light to the nations. In fact, the place where they finally ratified this covenant was specifically chosen for that reason – Schem. This was literally the cross roads of the major trade routes of the ancient world.
Torah Portion: Ki Tetze (When You Go Out) Deut. 21:10-25:19
HafTorah: Isaiah 54:1-10
Tonight we begin first looking at the Torah section of Ki Tetze – in English this is “When You Go Out.” I asked you to think about some principles that run through this section of scripture and I want to get to that in a minute. First, I would like to look at Deut. 23:3-5. Here we see that the Torah cautions us against letting an Amonite or a Moabite come into the assembly of the L-rd. The phrase “come into the assembly of the L-rd” could mean conversion. They were inhospitable to you and they hired Ba’alm to curse you. This is a strange pairing of reasons. What connection could there have possibly been. One is not being hospitable while the other is attempted genocide. So what do you think the connection is here?
Torah Portion: Shoftim (Judges) Deut. 16:18-21:9
HafTorah: Isaiah 51:12-52:12
This Torah section occurs in the first Sabbath of the month of Elul each year. What do we know about the month of Elul? It is the month leading up to the High Holy Days of Rosh HaShana, Yom Kippur and Succoth. It is devoted to repentance and getting our lives spiritually in order.
Here we read about earthly judges and officers who were to administer justice. They were to administer justice using G-dly principles. Could they be swayed by anything like a person’s position in life, wealth or whom they knew? No, they had to administer Torah with no outside influence.
Torah Portion: Re’eh (Behold, See) Deut. 11:26-16:17
HafTorah: Isaiah 54:11-55:5
I would like to start by looking at the Torah section first. I would like to look at it in what it says about worship. In Hebrew the word for worship and work has the same root. What could they have in common? Worship is not something that we sit back and let someone do for us. We must be active participants. It requires effort from us and it must be acceptable.
Weekly Torah Section: Ekev (Because, As a result of) Deut. 7:12-11:25
HafTorah Isaiah 49:14-51:3
Tonight the Torah section is called “Ekev” which means, because, as a result of or following. What is the connection with Jacob’s name? He was born grasping his brother’s foot.
I want to look first at Isaiah and then get to the question that I sent to you. Let’s look at Isaiah 49:13 first. Here G-d proclaims that He has comforted His people and will have mercy on His afflicted. However, in the next verse we see Zion’s response. She was still feeling rejected and forgotten. Her people remain scattered across the world. Jerusalem lies in ruins and the presence of G-d has been withdrawn. She responds like an abandoned wife. I guess as I read this this week I thought of my own life and how many times I felt alone and left by G-d. But in the midst of it all G-d reassured me and here He reassures Zion that she is not forgotten. Can a mother forget her child? (verse 15) Maybe this is possible but I will never forget you. What a wonderful promise. G-d does not abandon us but He will always be with us.
Weekly Torah Section: Va’etchanan (I pleaded) Deut. 3:23-7:11, HafTorah Isaiah 40:1-26
Tonight I would like to spend most of our time on the Torah section in Deuteronomy. But to start I want to jump ahead to Deut. 5:22 and talk about this verse first. In our English translation the end of the verse is, “with a loud voice; and He added no more.” First, this is making a statement about the voice of G-d. The phrase and “He added not more” can also be translated from the Hebrew as “never ending.” If we look at it like this it really seems to flow better and help us to understand better what Moses is saying about the voice of G-d. What does he mean when he says G-d’s voice is never ending? Think of it specifically in light of what this section says. His voice did not weaken as ours does. His voice is as relevant today as when He first uttered these words. G-d saw that His people might be caught up in different cultures or societies. The cultural norms would change. He saw people that would question if His words were still relevant. He was making a point here that the voice that goes on to speak the 10 commandments was not only relevant and powerful when it was spoken but it did not end. It still rings out. It still speaks to each of us and it spoke to them especially as they were about to enter the land. A land with different people who would seek to tempt the people of G-d with different ideas, values and idols.
Weekly Torah Section: Devarim Deut. 1:1-3:22, HafTorah Isaiah 1:1-27
This is the last Sabbath before Tish B’Av. It is known as the Sabbath of vision. This comes from the first verse of Isaiah, “the vision of Isaiah, son of Amos.” Isaiah began his ministry in 740, the year King Ussiah died. He prophesied during the reign of four different kings of Israel.
What is Tisha B’Av? It is the day when both the first and second temples were destroyed, first in the year 586 by Nebuchadnezzar and second in the year 70 by Titus. On this day the book of Lamentations is read. This book begins with the same word that we find in Isaiah 1:21. This is one of the reasons that Isaiah is the reading before Tisha B’Av.