Shabbat Shalom!

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This week’s Parasha is Mishpatim (Exodus 21:1-24:18).  Here is a brief commentary from Baruch on the reading.

There are things which are a personal danger to you. I am speaking about things that lead people away from the intimacy and power of G-d. These things one must remove from his life so that they do not influence him. This is what HaShem wanted to teach the people of Israel. For G-d promised to drive the inhabitants of the Land from before the Children of Israel so that they should not be a מוקש.

They shall not dwell in your land, lest they will cause you to sin against Me, that you will worship their gods, for it will be a trap for you.” Exodus 23:33

The most common way that English translations render this word is “snare” or “trap”. In Modern Hebrew, this word can mean a land mine. The idea here is that one cannot see the land mine and the danger that it poses, but once a person comes into contact with it, then it is too late.

The danger in this passage is those individuals who were not believers in the G-d of Israel. HaShem emphatically said that it was forbidden to make a covenant with them and they could not dwell in the Land of Israel. What is the principle for us today? Our associations with non-believers should be for the purpose of leading them to a redemptive relationship with Messiah Yeshua. Obviously there are numbers of people that we need to deal with each day at work, school, etc.; however those that we choose to spend time with should be fellow believers or those with who we are purposely building a relationship for the specific desire to share our faith.

Recently I spoke with a Jewish man who wanted to share his faith in Yeshua with some relatives, but he was concerned that this may end his relationship with them. It was hard for him to tell them about his salvation experience, because of the fear that those individuals that he had come to love and enjoy would not want him around them anymore. This is of course a difficult situation. What is the solution? Love–this man needed to remember that although he values these relationships, the risk of losing them is far outweighed by the reality that failure for them to receive the Gospel is certain eternal separation with them and them from G-d.

Usually it is easier for us to make the right decisions when we think of them from an eternal perspective.

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Rewriting History

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A building from the Warsaw, Poland Ghetto.

“Racial bigotry was a way of life in Brzeziny, Poland, for a long time before Hitler overtook our nation.  I suppose one might say that the ground was fertile for the weeds of Nazism.”  (quote from Morris Rosenblat, Holocaust survivor from Poland).

Perhaps you have been watching the news and have heard about the recent news coming out of Poland.  Polish President, Andrzej Duda, just announced that he will sign a highly controversial bill Tuesday that would ban most Holocaust accusations against Poles as well as descriptions of Nazi death camps as Polish.

This is just to try to distance the Polish people from any responsibility.  I believe other countries will do the same thing and, in the end, blame everything on the nazis and rid all of the other people who were complicit, complacent or apathetic, of their guilt.

Right now I am reading the book “1984” by George Orwell.  In this fictional book, it talks about the government, “Big Brother”, takes history and scrubs it of anything it no longer wants the people to know, or to make them look like they made only correct decisions.

As we see the “scrubbing” and rewriting of history today, don’t be deceived.  Know history and the truth.

Recap of Live Stream

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Last night on our “Midnight from Jerusalem” live stream, Baruch taught on Ecclesiastes chapter 5.  This was a great study, with a lot of practical wisdom for living a godly life.

We began by learning about not being hasty with our mouth/words.  This is so important.  We need to be mindful of what we do and what we say.  We should not be quick with our words before G-d.  It also states that the more one speaks, the more foolishness he utters.

We need to be very careful when we bring G-d into the conversation, that we don’t attribute to Him things which He did not say.  Many times, people say “G-d told me”, “G-d put this on my heart”, or “I feel that the L-rd is leading me.”  Some people say these things to justify what they want to accomplish.  Many times, I have heard people say that G-d told them something and it is actually something which is not Biblical.

I encourage you to check out the entire Ecclesiastes series in our archive at LoveIsrael.org or YouTube or BibleStudyCompany.com.

Shabbat Shalom

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This week’s Parasha is Yitro.  The Scripture reading is:  Exodus 18:1-20:23

Here is a brief commentary by Baruch:

If you were to describe your relationship with G-d, what could you really say? Are you experiencing Him or is it one-sided, with you just doing the things you have been taught—praying, attending worship services, and giving; without truly experiencing any response from Him? People frequently remark to me that G-d seems so distant from them. Why is this? I believe one of the reasons for this is a lack of spiritual preparation for worship.

Moses was finally motivated to return to Egypt and be used by G-d to lead Israel out of Egypt and into the Promised Land, because HaShem stated that he and the Children of Israel would worship G-d on the mountain. Worship, when done properly, is a tremendous experience. In this week’s Torah portion, HaShem warns the people about approaching Mount Sinai. If they were to cross the boundaries (See Exodus 19:12) then they would die. In this article, the focus will be on the Kohanim (Priests). Moses relates to them,

And even the Kohanim who approach G-d shall be sanctified; lest HaShem will burst forth against them.” Exodus 19:22

The key word here is “to be sanctified” (one word in Hebrew). This word expresses not only a preparation, but a certain type of preparation, namely becoming holy. Perhaps a better word to help one understand the intent of the text is “process“. Earlier in this chapter, HaShem instructs the people to prepare themselves. They washed their clothes and were told not to go near a woman. Washing one’s garments is understood by some to imply not only the physical act of washing one’s clothes, but an idiom for repentance, as one’s garments often times relate to one’s deeds. The admonition not to go near to a woman was connected to self denial. In other words, an important part of worship is denying oneself the things of this world, in order that one can be more focused on the spiritual.

I believe the physical union between a husband and wife can indeed be a spiritual experience, so why prohibit it? It is similar to what Paul instructed in 1 Corinthians chapter 7. There he states that this temporary setting aside of that aspect of marriage is for prayer and fasting. The idea which is being taught is that one needs to at times push out everything from his life in order to concentrate and be prepared for worship. Another important part of this passage is that there are boundaries which one ought not to cross. Too often today the focus is on freedom and liberty, rather than realizing that HaShem has set up boundaries which, when we cross them, they bring death and disaster. Make sure that such boundaries are ones that G-d has set up and not man.

The priests in this passage were examples to the people.  Although they were the leaders, they too had to submit to the same restrictions set by G-d.  People today do not like having restrictions placed upon them.  But, denying oneself is an important part of spiritual preparation and maturity.

Life in Israel

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On the bus today.

Today I took the bus to the other side of town.  While I was riding, it struck me that we live in the Middle East and guess who was on the bus:  a female bus driver, people who were Ethiopian, French, Russian, native Israeli, and American (me).  People speaking different languages, dressed in different ways.

It was a sign to me that prophecy is being fulfilled today!  In Israel!  G-d is drawing the Jewish people from all over the world back to the Land of their inheritance.  It is very exciting living here and we are very thankful to be living here.

Right now there is division among Israelis as the leadership decides the fate of Eritrean refugees here.  The major problem is that Israel wants to send them out of the country, but to countries which will not treat them humanely.  Please pray for Israel to treat these people, who have been through so much, in a kind and respectful way and not send them to places where they will be abused or worse.  This is a very time-sensitive prayer request, as this is what the Knesset is dealing with now.

Tu B’Shevat

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Today is Tu B’Shevat.  This is the New Year for trees.  This day marks the season in which the earliest-blooming trees in the Land of Israel emerge from their winter sleep and begin a new fruit-bearing cycle.  That may seem yearly to you, but today it was sunny and about 65 degrees.

Leading up to this day, all the grocery stores have fruit baskets and dried fruit displays for sale.  It is very common for people to eat from the fruits of the land of Israel, such as grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates.

Here is an abridged quote from an article in a Jewish periodical I read recently:  Tu B’Shevat’s appeal resides not just in its foods and rituals, but also in its sensibility. The day lends itself to good thoughts and goods deeds that bear on fruitful contemporary issues, from stewardship resources and sustainability, to our relationship with the Land of Israel.  In the right hands and with the right attitude, they can be effectively combined into a wholesome, uplifting and decidedly modern observance.

While that takes the scope of the holiday beyond the Biblical intent, I do believe it could help those outside of Israel to take a moment to remember the Land of Israel and how it is an everlasting inheritance for the Jewish people.  It also reminds us of fruit and what kind of fruit are we bearing in our walk with the L-rd.

Chag Sameach!