13 Iyar 5776 פרשת אֱמֹר, י”ג אייר, תשע”ו
The world is divided into two parts: those who belong to God and those who do not. The final decision to follow Him is up to us. He extends His Hand to us but He won’t force us. The Creator formed the people of Israel but how many of them failed and were not able to enter the Promised Land. We confuse theological terms with Biblical terms. We will never be judged because we have the wrong doctrines; we will be judged by the intention of our hearts. Putting on the Tefillin, praying three times a day or saying a certain prayer over and over does not make us right with God. There are major religions who will tell you that they are right and the others are wrong. Intentions are more important than procedures. Emor continues speaking of theme of separation in Parshat Kedoshim, making the separation of the Cohanim – priests, followed by the oil for the Mikdash – Sanctuary at the end the son of the Israelite woman and the Egyptian father and the law of eye for eye. How can we put all this together? The Cohanim held the highest of standards of the people and were basically the “links” between God and the people. They would teach the people from the Torah however the religious people kidnapped this idea where the rabbis would now be the ones to tell us what to believe and not to believe. In Deuteronomy 4 and 12 it clearly says you shall not add or take away anything away from His Word. The rabbis however say that the oral Torah is more authoritative than the written Torah. I do not agree with this. The Talmud holds many opinions and explanations where the rabbis try to clarify things that are not quite clear in the Torah. There is merit in this and we can be grateful to the rabbis. For example, the Torah does not explain how to make the tsitsit or put on Tefillin. To me, if it is not explained then God had His reasons. He said the things that I revealed to you are for you to know and the things I have not revealed to you are not for you to know. We have a quest to second-guess our Creator however we open the door to deviate from the Truth of Torah and lose our way.
Israel has tried to answer the question “who is a Jew?” The judges decided to side with the religious people and say that it is through the line of the mother. This decision sadly eliminated many who are true Jews. The other clause was that anyone who converted to another religion is no longer a Jew. The problem is that the State of Israel was created as a secular state. There was an admiral in the navy who was married to a non-Jew and he called himself an atheist. There was a battle about whether his son was a Jew. In the early 70s and 80s many Ethiopian Jews were air-lifted to Israel. The rabbis insisted that these Jews had to convert. They had already suffered under horrible conditions for being Jews and like the Karaite Jews they did not accept the authority of the Talmud over the Torah. Now they were being insulted and humiliated by the religious faction in Israel. The worst part was that the Ethiopian Jews were right. We need to constantly search for the Truth and not automatically believe what others tell us about the Scriptures. We also should not take things out of context or force someone’s own believes into what they really say. Our Messiah Yeshua told us something very important in Matthew 5:17 in the Messianic Writings. I place these writings at the same level as the Oral Torah and believe that there have been many additions and subtractions to these writings. They are the commentaries of righteous people who wanted to give us their own impression. For me the basic standard of biblical revelation is the Torah, from Genesis to Deuteronomy and any later writings need to be viewed in light of this, including the later writings in the Tanach. There are traditions that have been formulated for a certain time but later they might no longer be necessary and need to be revamped or revised to suit the times. The principles of Torah however stand the test of time. Matthew 5:17-20 is speaking as a rabbi and a prophet: “Do not think that I came to destroy the Torah or the Prophets; I did not come to destroy them but to bring clarity to them. I assure you that until heaven and earth pass away not one yud or stroke shall by no means disappear from the Torah until all is fulfilled. Whosoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven but whoever does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will be no means enter into the kingdom of heaven.” This is how clearly Yeshua faces the institutional religion. To my Gentile friends I say that Yeshua was not speaking here to the Gentiles but he was dealing specifically with Israel because our Creator gave to them the sacred calling of bringing the commandments, the Torah to the rest of the nations. What had they done? They had been holding the Torah for themselves; they had changed the Torah replacing it with the writings of the rabbis, the Talmud. This was a big problem of authority passing God’s authority to man.
Matthew 15:1-9 then the scribes and the Pharisees came to him from Jerusalem and asked: Why do your talmidim transgress the traditions of the elders (In other words, the Talmud) for they do not wash their hands when they eat bread? Where in the Torah does it say that they needed to wash their hands before they ate? I am not saying that this is not a good habit but the rule was made more important than the relationship with the Creator. This is opposite to what Yeshua was teaching. “He answered them, why do you always transgress the commandment of the Creator because of your traditions (doctrines)? Our Creator commanded saying, honor your father and your mother. He who curses father or mother let him be put to death but you say, whoever says to his father and mother whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God. For this reason he need not honor father or mother. You have made the commandment of our Creator of no effect by your traditions.” In a very subtle way even today we can see this in the religious communities where sons and daughters do not take care of their parents but follow some rabbi and give everything to the sect. They justify themselves using korban as an excuse. “Hypocrites, well did Yeshiyahu ha navi say, these people draw near to me with the mouths and honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me and in vain they worship me teaching doctrines and commandments of men. But their hearts are far from me…this is what I want to emphasize today. What does it mean to be obedient to God? Many people think that it is by following a religion but here we see it is the intention of our hearts, our willingness to do what is right.
Now in regards to who is a Jew it is written in Leviticus 24: 10-16: Now, the son of an Israelite woman and he was the son of an Egyptian man went out among the children of Israel, and they quarreled in the camp this son of the Israelite woman, and an Israelite man. And the son of the Israelite woman pronounced the [Divine] Name and cursed. So they brought him to Moses. His mother’s name was Shelomith the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan. They placed him in the guardhouse, [until his sentence would] be specified to them by the word of the Lord. Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Take the blasphemer outside the camp, and all who heard [his blasphemy] shall lean their hands on his head. And the entire community shall stone him. And to the children of Israel, you shall speak, saying: Any man who blasphemes his God shall bear his sin. And one who blasphemously pronounces the Name of the Lord, shall be put to death; the entire community shall stone him; convert and resident alike if he pronounces the [Divine] Name, he shall be put to death.
There is no difference between the native and the foreigner. Verse 22 says “the same mishpat shall apply for the stranger as the one for the native of your own country.” I use this only as a sample of what halachah does and what the scriptures say. We see the same situation with the 5 daughters of Zelophechad who are given the right to inherit the land of their father only if they marry a man of their own tribe or they lose their rights. The identity of being Israelite is given by the father according to Torah. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and his children, Moses’ children, Melech David, and so many more did not have a Jewish mother. No matter how you look at it, they would not be Jews. I don’t believe in conversion, I believe in transformation. God changes the heart and makes you part of His people by His calling. The Rabbi’s use the verses in Ezra where he is going to rebuilt the wall around Jerusalem. There were a group of Israelite men who were married to foreign women. The problem was not with the women but with the men who didn’t teach the women about their one God and that they needed to follow the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob or they wouldn’t marry them. They allowed Ezra to get rid of their wives and children as if it was no longer their problem. Where does the Torah allow this?
We just read in this portion that the son of the Israelite woman Shelomit of the tribe of Dan and who was married to the Egyptian father was not considered to be an Israelite. The rabbis are making a new law. Do they have the right? Ezra did something for the moment to stop the irresponsibility of the men of Israel, not the women. If these women had been taught their responsibility from the beginning they would have been good wives and would have followed the God of Israel! The men didn’t care since they were away from everyone, they could do what they wanted. We have no right to change the Torah when men fail.
Many of the halachah that has been given to us by the rabbis are supposedly to protect us from ourselves. Our Creator gave us free will and the capability to be responsible for our own decisions without blaming the neighbor for our wrong choices. This is what religion does. They all pass the buck. I wash my hands and someone else will pay for my sins…like Pontius Pilate. The Torah and Prophets are clear…we pay for our own sins. There is no offering that can pay for the sins of man. Religion has created the idea that someone else has paid for our sins. The Torah teaches us to accept the responsibility even though we constantly fail. Israel means struggling with our Creator. That is why people love religion. They will tell you exactly what you can and cannot do. In modern times we want to legislate morality. This is impossible. Our Creator allows us to go through the process of falling down, getting up and falling down again. We learn best through our mistakes. When we recognize what we have done wrong, we can go to Him and through teshuva we can make it right. The Torah gives us so many pictures of going from tamei to tahor, dirty to clean. In order to do that, we need to start the process. When the rabbis change the Scriptures they gave us the Torah of man. In Numbers 15, He let us know that there is only one Torah for the foreigner and for the native. We the Jewish people needed to be light to the Gentiles, to tell them that they don’t need to do what we need to do; we have placed ourselves at the top and the rest can do what they want. This is opposite to what our Creator told us. The sister religion to Judaism, Christianity accept this by saying that they are no longer under the curse of the law! How convenient. The new religion is grace and love while your religion is doing and obeying. They are more dedicated and pure. Each religion accuses the others of being better than the other.
The Creator doesn’t care about how dedicated we are but how our walk with Him is and with the rest of the community every day of our lives. He is always with us. That is what our Messiah Yeshua told us. He told us how pray…Our Father in Heaven puts God on top. Thank Him for everything He has provided for us. Recognize that we are sinners and forgive others so that He forgives us. We end giving Him all the glory and honor. Love God with all your heart, soul and might and love you neighbor as yourself. The Torah was not reduced with this but if you do this you will do the best for everyone. Will we continue to follow man or God, religious instructions or Torah? Our Creator and Yeshua both told us that He would bring us freedom and understanding. It is so exciting to know that at this time in history we do not need to be attached to human doctrines but to have a relationship with God by doing good for the poor, the widow and the orphan and the community.