21 Elul 5776  פשרת כִּי-תָבוֹא, כ”א אלול תשע”ו

I have often been asked who we are. The answer to this entails the various functions of the Messiah.  All the religions that descend from the Torah contain ideas about who he is and what they are expecting the Messiah to be.  At the time of Yeshua, Israel, being under Roman rule did not have control over its own destiny. Even though the state of Israel today thinks that it is completely independent of foreign rule, the world will not allow them to call their capital city, Jerusalem. Instead most countries have their embassies in Tel Aviv. What other country is not given this right? Imagine if the USA wanted Canada to move its capital Ottawa to Quebec.  We are living in times where we are close to the coming of Messiah. 

This portion Ki Tavo contains the same blessings and curses that we saw in Leviticus. Here Moshe is begging the people to recommit themselves to the Torah which is the centrality of Israel. It is not only for the Jews; it is also for all humanity. Unfortunately all the religions agree that the Torah is not for the Gentiles.         Our Creator chose a man named Abram who he would call Abraham: the “father of many nations”. This is an important term. We see at the beginning of this parashah that when the people of Israel would enter the Promised Land, at the first harvest they would bring the Creator their tithes, their first fruits and they would make a declaration — my father was a wandering Aramean who went down to Egypt... Abram was not an Israelite in spite of what people might say about him.  He was a goy, a gentile and he is the father of humanity. Here is a principle for us….the Creator chose Abram; Abram did not choose the Creator. The Torah states that a small number of people went down to Egypt and lived there where they became a large and powerful nation. The Egyptians afflicted them and imposed hard labor upon them.  They cried out to God and He took them out of Egypt with an outstretched arm, with awesome miracles, signs and wonders bringing them to the land flowing with milk and honey (Deut.26:5-10). 

First of all I say to “the so called ‘Palestinians’”, you were not there at that time. You might call yourselves Canaanites but you never existed as a people. You are Arabs who came from Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and Egypt. The Israelites were there from the beginning. It was the Romans who changed the name of Israelites to Palestinians. This name was revived by the British when they partitioned the land in 1947. The Israelis were called Palestinians then and in fact their newspaper used to be the Palestinian Post, now the Jerusalem Post. The United Nations supports the lie that the Palestinian people exist and Israel stands alone against this idea.  What is in our favor is the One who stands with us!  At this time of the year Israel needs to recognize the part they have played in all of this. In Deut. 28 there are warning after warning about what would happen when they do not obey Him. They would be expelled from their land and they would be following after other gods in the foreign lands in which they would be sojourners. This has happened. We are back in the land and sadly we have not learned from our own history if not from the Torah. Disobedience has consequences.

How can a proselyte call his father an Aramean who came out of Egypt? 

In Judaism our rabbis created conversion procedures dependent upon their own particular various groups and sects.  They defined who is a Jew according to the mother but that differs from the Torah which states it is from the father. This creates a problem. That would mean that Isaac, Jacob and his sons were not Jews since their mothers were gentile. Then they invented a dogma that all the mothers of Israel were converted. Ruth, the great grandmother of King David was a Moabite. The Torah states that a Moabite could not enter the Temple up to the 10th generation. Does that mean that all King David’s descendants were not Jews? There are so many more examples. Who was the child of Judah whose daughter-in law, Tamar became pregnant by him? She was a Canaanite. Perez and Zerah were their sons. Joseph had two sons through his wife, the daughter of the high priest of Egypt Potifera. Does that mean that Ephraim and Manasseh were not Jews? This is the problem when we go against the Torah. The Christian religion has also changed the Scriptures as we have seen where they teach that someone else will pay for your sins. You don’t need to worry. The Torah teaches the opposite…each of us is responsible for our own transgressions.   These are all theological inventions.

In Deut. 26:11 it states that “you must then rejoice in all the good things that the LORD your God has bestowed upon you and your family—you, the Levite and the foreigner living with you.”  Who are included…the Levites and the stranger among you. In Number 15:13-15 is speaking about bringing the offerings to the LORD, and applies this to both the native born Israelites as well as the ger toshav, the stranger among us or proselytes.  They have the same rights and duties as the native born.  There was to be only one chukka or ordinance forever throughout all generations, for the Israelites and the proselytes.  Everyone is one and both need to follow all the Chukkim. This is in Torah.  Verse 16 says “Torah achat u’mishpat echad, תּוֹרָה אַחַת וּמִשְׁפָּט אֶחָד one Torah, one set of laws shall be for you and the foreigner among you.” 

Who is an Israelite?

I have met many of you who do not know if you have Jewish blood but you are more of an Israelite than many Jews that I know because of your love for the Torah and the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. That is the true Israel.

Do I need to be circumcised?

I was once asked by a non Jew if it is ok to be circumcised. I asked him why.  He said that he wanted to be a Jew.  After Yeshua was murdered, his talmidim met in Jerusalem and the leader of their synod at the time was Yaakov or James, the brother of Yeshua. Shimon Kefas (Simon Peter) and Rav Shaul (Paul) were there.  Their question was about this very subject. They discussed the multitudes of gentiles who were coming to believe that Yeshua was Messiah and they didn’t know what to do with them.  At that time there were two major Jewish schools of learning in Israel, Hillel and Shammai. Shammai was very ethnocentric, only Jews could follow this.  Hillel was Universalist where Torah was the gift for all humanity.  Shammai taught that there were three things they would need to do: 1) circumcision 2) mikveh 3) sit in the synagogue and learn what they would need to do.  Hillel was 1) go to the mikveh first where they would renounce other gods – cleansed from impurities of old life 2) go sit at the seat of Moshe, in the synagogue and learn the Torah 3) finally if they decided to be part of Israel they would be circumcised. The synod decided to follow the advice of Hillel.  This has nothing to do with being saved. The other religions have confused this issue. Brit Mila gives you the right to be part of Israel in your calling.  What happens if you decide not to undergo Brit Mila?  You are considered part of the nations but you can still live a righteous life according to the Torah.

Why would you want to become a Jew?

The only reason that circumcision is valid is not to make someone a Jew. It is because they want to be Shomer Torah. Otherwise forget about circumcision. Shomer Torah means that you follow and live Torah. It is not a set of rules and regulations. It is a living thing. Then you can make the proclamation that “my father was an Aramean, who went down to Egypt and finally went to the Promised Land”. You become a spiritual child of the new Abraham, the father of all the nations. This is so important to understand.  Only a relationship with Him leads us to the right place, not religion.

The High Holidays are coming. There are special days that we need to keep. A true Shomer Torah has the desire to live the Ten Commandments understanding that they are not the Ten Suggestions. The first three are primordial. The first one lets us know that He is a historical God…”I am the God who brought you out of the land of Egypt.”  He is not the creation, He is the Creator.  He gave us an identity. We are who we are because of Him not vice versa.  We depend on Him, He doesn’t depend on us.  Number 2, we are not to make anything to replace Him in anyway. He is totally against idolatry, anything that substitutes the true Creator. Today we are so sophisticated that we have found new gods…Apple, Google. They stand in line hours to get a new phone. Others idealize other human beings. Our gods are not statues but lie in our minds. Each of the religions has created their own gods from ideas and beliefs.  And number 3, you shall not speak my Name in vain. Many of us do not understand the true meaning of this. Our dear rabbis made a fence around this law to protect us that says we cannot even pronounce the name of God. This is not what He was alluding to. He said do not use my name in vain for things that are not important. Today we see so many movies where the name of God is used for swearing with no respect or reverence for the Almighty. Sacred objects to some and used as words of insults by others. If we mention the Creator, do it for the right reason. That is what it means. We have been placed under the oppression of our religious leaders and for most it means that we don’t have to think for ourselves; others will tell us what to believe.  The Creator wants to have a relationship directly with us. This is why He gave us free will. 

Let us be honest with ourselves as we approach these festivals. It is the time to examine ourselves and look within. Search me O God and know my heart; see if there is any wicked way within me. Lead me to your everlasting way. Psalm 139:23-24.