Saturday, May 25, 2013

B'ha'alotkha - When You Set Up

B'Midbar (Numbers) 8:1-12:16

This week's Torah portion is a big one. There is so much information that I could easily fill several pages of teachings. I'll try to keep it briefer than that, however. I'm going to discuss a few points from the portion and then try to show how some of them relate together in ways that you may not have seen before. 

Right after discussing the proper setup of the menorah, the Torah portion talks about the L'vi'im, the Levites. We are told how they are to be purified and presented to YHVH as a wave offering. The people must also make atonement for the L'vi'im before they can begin to serve in the tabernacle. But you can read about that yourselves in the Torah. I'm going to move on to something else that is said about them. The L'vi'im were not supposed to be priests or work in the tabernacle any more than any other tribe. The original plan was for the firstborn of all tribes to take on that duty. It was their  birthright. However, as we all know, they gave up that birthright at Mt. Sinai when they convinced Aharon to make the golden calf. All the tribes, except one, participated in that event. Only one tribe, Levi, stood up on the side of YHVH against their own brethren. For that, they were given the honor of serving Him in the tabernacle. The other tribes all questioned YHVH. After Moshe was called to the top of the mountain and stayed for so long, they began to doubt that YHVH had protected him and would send him back to them. In this case, YHVH's plan - the firstborn being a priesthood - was subverted by man. And yet, YHVH continued his plan with someone else in their place. It is important to remember that, no matter what, YHVH's will is going to be done.

Next, we are reminded of the rules for observing Pesach (Passover). The people observed the festival as required, but there were some who were not able to participate as they were unclean from being around a dead body. These people also questioned YHVH, but with a different spirit than those who questioned at Mt. Sinai. This time, they wanted to know how they could follow YHVH's commandments completely without breaking another commandment. They were told to observe Pesach, but also told they could not participate if they were unclean. It's interesting to see that in this case, YHVH's plan (Pesach observance) was subverted by YHVH (rules for the unclean). YHVH honored their questioning by allowing a second Pesach one month later. His will was achieved by making provision for all of His commandments to be observed.

As you can see, there are different ways to question YHVH. It is okay to question Him, if it is done in the right way and for the right reason. It is acceptable to ask how you can serve Him better or more fully, as the unclean did about Pesach. It is not acceptable to question His ability or His plan. And remember, arrogance before YHVH is NEVER acceptable. Do not ever try to do His job for Him as the people did when they built the golden calf.

If I were to ask how many of YHVH's festivals could be found in this Torah portion, most people would answer "one". It's very clear with what we just read about Pesach. I would suggest that there are actually two. I'll explain in a moment.

YHVH commanded the people to make two silver trumpets. They would be used to call the people together or to war. If one trumpet was blown, only the leaders were to gather. If both, then all the people are being called. Why two trumpets? Doesn't Torah require two witnesses? It is acceptable for one witness to bring something to the leadership, just as one trumpet will call the leaders together. However, it takes two witnesses before it can be brought to the people for action. Therefore, it takes two trumpets to call all the people together for action. See how everything YHVH does leads us to seeing and remembering other things He has done? If you remember the two witness rule, you can remember when to use one or two trumpets.

Now, what about that second festival? How about Yom Teruah, the feast of trumpets? I know, you're thinking "That's too easy. Just mentioning trumpets doesn't automatically make it about Yom Teruah." I agree there needs to be more. I'm not just talking about any Yom Teruah. I'm talking about the Yom Teruah when the final trumpet is sounded. It says that there will be A trumpet sounded, not two, when Yeshua returns. "But calling the people together requires two trumpets", you say. Remember though who is called with one trumpet. Those who lead. When He returns, is He going to gather all people to Him, or just certain ones? Were we not called to lead people to Him? So who is the trumpet calling?

The Torah portion then moves on to discuss when and how the people moved through the desert on their journey. It is important to note that they were not to go anywhere unless YHVH was leading them. Wouldn't our lives be better today if we followed that same rule? How many times do we take action because it seems right to us, but we didn't check to see if YHVH was leading it? If you are like me, that usually leads to disaster. At best, it leads to less than optimal results. We need to make sure we're keeping our eyes on Him and going where He wants, WHEN he wants.

The people didn't just wander through the desert as a giant mob. They were commanded to move in a particular marching order. They marched the same way that they camped, by tribe, in order. The tribes that camped in front of the tabernacle (to the east) set out first. These moved under the banner of the tribe of Y'hudah. Next came two clans of L'vi'im, Gershon and M'rari. Gershon brought the walls and coverings, etc. of the tabernacle, while M'rari carried the framework. They had to arrive at the next camp early enough to get the tabernacle rebuilt before the furniture and implements arrived. Then came the tribes on the south side of the tabernacle under the banner of Re'uven. They were followed by the L'vi'im of K'hat. These carried the furniture from the tabernacle, including the menorah, the altar of incense, and other implements. Then came the tribes who camped behind the tabernacle to the west under the banner of Ephrayim, and finally the tribes from the north under the banner of Dan.

There are a couple of things we can learn from this arrangement. The largest group of tribes camped in front of the tabernacle and led the march while the smallest group camped behind the tabernacle. Why is that? Because where He is leading you is more important than what is behind you. Your greatest effort must always be focused on what is ahead. But, you must still guard against the things you have left behind you. Just like the Israelite's had to guard against attack from the rear, you must not let yourself be destroyed by things you thought you left behind.

Speaking of things we thought we left behind; remember the mixed multitude that came out of Egypt? We've been taught that they all became a nation at Mt. Sinai. Those who were not natural-born Israelites were grafted in and became part of the nation, like Caleb who became a leader of the tribe of Y'hudah. However, we see in this portion that there were still some who had not joined the nation. They are still referred to as a mixed crowd in B'Midbar 11:4. It is this group that began the grumbling that got the Israelites demanding meat. The Israelites allowed the outsiders to corrupt their thinking and brought destruction into their camp.

When the people began to complain (again), Moshe questioned YHVH. Remember what I said about questions being okay if done correctly? Well, we know that Moshe was the humblest of men, so it was with that spirit that he brought his concerns to YHVH. This spirit is also seen in the B'rit Chadasha (New Testament) when Yeshua was in the garden. As He is quoted in Matthew 26:39 "If possible, let this cup pass from me." Even our Messiah had reason to question what was happening at times. But, as we see from his next statement, "Yet - not what I want, but what you want!", we can see that he still kept his proper reverence for YHVH. Just as Moshe did. He was human and had doubts of his own abilities, but he didn't doubt YHVH. YHVH answered Moshe's concerns by pouring out His Spirit on 70 elders to assist Moshe. When they received the Spirit, they began to prophecy. It also says that two of the men stayed in the camp and prophesied there for the people to hear. Does this event sound similar to something that happened in the book of Acts? Say, around the time of Shavuot (Pentecost)?

The Hebrew word for spirit is ru'ach. This is what YHVH poured out on the elders. The word also means wind. Which is what YHVH used to bring the quail from across the sea. It says YHVH sent a ru'ach to get them. He caused the quail to fall all around the camp, but outside the camp. The word translated as fall here also means abandoned or forsaken. So YHVH abandoned the quail outside the camp. Just as he abandoned those who chose to remain outside the camp and not join the nation of Israel. The people had to choose to leave the camp, where YHVH provided manna, to go get the quail. They turned away from His blessing and received what became a curse. YHVH sent a plague among them while they ate the quail. So, will we choose to be inside or outside His camp? Will we accept his blessing - the manna, or his curse - the quail?

It's interesting to note that YHVH sent quail at the beginning of their journey and it was accepted as a blessing. It was when they demanded it with a wrong heart that it became a curse. When the people were just starting their journey, any gift from YHVH was amazing. The people were humble slaves who feared YHVH. After following Him for two years in the desert, they became arrogant. They no longer accepted his blessing of manna as a gift and began to make demands of Him.

When we start our walk with YHVH, especially as we return to his Torah, everything we see Him do is amazing. As we get more used to Him, the newness wears off. We begin to get arrogant. Remember what it was like being new to studying his Word and his ways?
  • Look at all these things He's showing us in Torah.
  • Look at that beautiful Torah scroll.
  • Dancing before the Lord is so incredible.
  • Praise YHVH!
As we get older, things begin to change.
  • I've studied Torah for years, I know what it says.
  • Look! We have a beautiful Torah scroll.
  • That's not the right way to dance, we do it THIS way!
  • I don't sing in front of people, I praise Him my own way.
Am I saying that praising YHVH by ourselves is wrong? Absolutely not. Am I saying praising Him our own way because we are too good to do it in front of other people is wrong? You bet your boots! Remember, it's all about the spirit and attitude that is at the root of our worship, our praise, and our study. Keep it about Him and keep a humble heart. Then we will always see His blessings and not force Him to make them a curse for us.

Thursday, May 2, 2013


Welcome to the new Torah Walk! This will be my new location for any and all of my original teachings on Torah and living a Torah-observant life. I hope you'll join me on this Torah Walk!