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Rumination #46: How can Isaiah say that all Israel will be righteous? How can Paul say that all Israel will be saved?

These are some difficult words for those that say that there is only one way for eternal salvation. I am one of them. Yet, it is these words that ultimately confirm the faithfulness and righteousness of HaShem.

Also your people shall all be righteous; they shall inherit the land forever, the branch of My planting, the work of My hands, that I may be glorified.
Isaiah 60:21

For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob..."
Romans 11:25-26

Of course, "salvation" does not only refer to eternal salvation, but the context of Paul's words in Romans 11 surely indicates the irrevocable favor of the Almighty.

So, how does this work? The answer to this question reveals the contentment of the Hebraic way of understanding the Word of HaShem - we don't know, nor do we have to know to trust fully in G-d's promises. As Paul said, "this mystery" is not yet fully revealed. Even more firm than the foundations of the earth, we can rest on this promise. No other people can claim this. You cannot say, "All America will be saved;" "All China will be righteous;" "All Africa will be saved;" or "All India will be righteous."

But all Israel will be righteous. All Israel will be saved.

Beloved, no other people are like Israel. No other people enjoy the favor of HaShem as does the Whole House of Israel. Along with that favor comes responsibility, for judgment begins with the House of G-d. But as the songs of consolation from Isaiah remind us: He will surely redeem all Israel.

Parashat Ki Tzetzei - 'When you go'  (Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19)

This week's parasha is named for the text found in the first verse:

ki-tetze lamilchamah, al-oy'veicha; un'tano HaShem elokeicha, b'yadecha v'shavita shivyo

When thou goest forth to battle against thine enemies, and HaShem thy G-d delivereth them into thy hands, and thou carriest them away captive.
Deuteronomy 21:10

It is one thing to live life in the shelter of your home, or in the shelter of a believing community. Where the real test comes is in the "outside world." This week's reading from the Torah is about "When you go..." It is about living out.

It is passages like this week's that our detractors focus upon when we speak of the value of the Torah of HaShem. Torah is gritty in places. It is pragmatic at times. Laws always are. Put it in terms of human government, and you can see what I mean.

Here in the U.S. we have a Declaration of Independence and a Constitution that both voice lofty goals and high ideals. But when you get down to the local level, some of our laws reveal that we live in a fallen world. Torah is no different in that regard. When we hear our brothers and sisters who tell us to set aside the commandments of HaShem and simply "Love G-d, and our neighbor," we are hearing people voicing "constitutional" words. They sound good - they are good in the correct context. There is a problem, however. The same is evident in human government. Stating a set of principles provides the framework for all that follows, but somewhere the particular and specific is needed to explain what the ideal looks like. How exactly am I to show that I love G-d? How exactly am I to show that I love my neighbor? Is it up to the individual? It is not.

The Torah is summed up in, "Hear O Israel, HaShem our G-d, HaShem is One. You shall love HaShem your G-d with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength." (Deuteronomy 6:4-5) That summation is further expressed in how we act toward those around us. In turn, that expression is summed up in, "You shall not hate your brother in your heart.. you shall love your neighbor as yourself..." (Leviticus 19:17,18). These summations, these "constitutional" commands, are brought to the forefront as well by our Master, Yeshua.

Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Torah? Yeshua said to him, "You shall love HaShem your G-d with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Torah and the Prophets."
Matthew 22:36-40

Beloved, the commandments of G-d are the description of what love looks like. It is the particulars of what love looks like on which we focus much of our attention. Lest we lose focus however, we need to remind ourselves that the Torah is the revelation of a Person - HaShem Himself. In all of the mitzvot [commandments], a pattern begins to emerge. It was a pattern not lost upon the Psalmists. It was a pattern not lost on Ezra and the men of the Great Assembly. Again and again we hear the words as we recite the Psalms, or when we pray. Words like ahavah, chesed, rachamim, umanato [love, mercy/grace, compassion, faithful]. Beloved, Torah is the revelation of the Merciful One, the Compassionate One, the Shield of Avraham [Abraham]. It is the revelation of "He Who shows covenant faithfulness because of love." It is the revelation of one called "Faithful and True" (Revelation 19:11).

It is just a small part of this revelation that I want to direct your attention to this week. It is found in Deuteronomy 22:6-7:

If a bird's nest happens to be before you along the way, in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs, with the mother sitting on the young or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young; you shall surely let the mother go, and take the young for yourself, that it may be well with you and that you may prolong your days.
Deuteronomy 22:6-7

How hard is it to obey G-d? If we are His people, it is not difficult at all. It is our joy. This is what John spoke of in 1John 5:3:

For this is the love of G-d, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.
1John 5:3

None of His commandments are burdensome to those who love the One from Whose mouth they came. But beloved, of all the commandments, this commandment in Deuteronomy 22:6-7 is certainly the easiest of them all. This "least of commandments" reveals the same thing as the greatest commandment: the compassion of our G-d. This also is what love looks like.

From the greatest commandment, to the least - the message is the same. It is why our Master sat down and taught us Torah in Matthew chapters 5 through 7. It is why He said,

Do not think that I came to destroy the Torah or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the Torah till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5:17-19

Hmm, "one of the least of these commandments..." Even this tiny commandment in Deuteronomy 22:6-7, to show compassion to a mere mother bird? Yes, from the greatest to the least.

By the way, did you notice the result of obeying HaShem and acting compassionately toward the mother bird? "... that it may be well with you and that you may prolong your days... " That sounds a lot like the result of a greater commandment, to honor your father and mother - ".. that your days may be long..."

Remember that as we live our lives our focus upon the ideal is not meant to discourage us, but quite the opposite. In the way that the words of Eshet Chayil [Proverbs 31:10-31] are an encouragement even to a less than ideal wife, so we should recognize our failures and take steps to prevent them. We should also recognize the ideal and live like it. Repenting is more than merely turning from what displeases G-d. It is turning toward Him. It is not merely obeying the "negative" commandments - it is patterning your life after the ideal. Eshet Chayil is a positive role model for all women.

Beloved, when I consider the mercy and compassion evident at Golgotha in the work of Yeshua- and consider that as a part of the people of G-d He sings over me - I am compelled to respond, Ani L'dodi, V'dodi Li [I am my Beloved's, and my Beloved is mine].

Piha patchah v'chochma v'torat chesed al l'shonah
She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the Torah of kindness is on her tongue.

...Ishah yir'at HaShem hi tit'halal
A woman who fears HaShem, she shall be praised.

T'nu lah mip'ri yadeiha vihal'luha vash'arim ma'aseha
Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.
Proverbs 31:26,30b-31

Elul is the season of Repentance. King Messiah is in the field, He is calling His beloved. Let us return to Him. Shuv!

Haftarat Ki-Tetzei - 'When you go' (Isaiah 54:1-10)

This week's haftarah is the fifth in the series of seven haftarot of consolation that are read between Tisha B'Av and Rosh Hashana. The focus of this week's reading from the Prophets is consolation for the "barren woman" - only in this case, the barren one is Israel. And she is barren no longer. Israel was a "Sotah," a wayward wife - but she is no longer wayward. The Almighty not only pledges His eternal love, He forgives her sin, and returns her to Himself. These haftarot of consolation embody the essence of the covenant love that HaShem has for Israel. Pay close attention to them.

The Talmud has a whole tractate dedicated to the Sotah, the woman suspected of adultery. Numbers 5:11-31 (in parashat Nasso) tells about a seemingly odd ceremony, regarding a wife suspected of unfaithfulness, but where no witnesses were found. Remember, adultery that is proven by two or more witnesses is grounds for stoning. This is something different. The tractate of the Talmud deals with this, and is thus the tractate is named "Sotah" [one who goes astray]. In the gemara commentary of the Mishnah, the Talmud asks the question, "why was the tractate Sotah placed immediately after the tractate Nazir (regarding Nazarites)." Some might never even ask such a question because they have not been so exposed to this kind of Bible study. You see, the instructions regarding the Sotah are found in the chapter of Numbers before not after the instructions regarding the Nazir. This grabs the interest of the Sages. Then they answer their own question:

To tell you that whoever witnesses a suspected woman in her disgrace should withhold himself from wine. b.Sotah 2a

"Witnesses"? I thought the Sotah was a woman who was suspected of adultery, but it could not be proven. Remember, it takes two or three witnesses to establish any fact. The Talmud goes into a lengthy discussion regarding the difference between one or two witnesses in the case of the Sotah, resolving that the charge of adultery may not be brought against the Sotah except by two or more witnesses. One witness was enough for the process named in Numbers 5:11-31. In most cases, the "witness" is the husband who has found her to be unfaithful. Put that in the back of your mind as we dig further into the relationship between the Sotah and our haftarah of consolation from Isaiah 54:1-10

If you remember, back in Parashat Nasso, we studied the instructions regarding the Sotah. Remember that the priest makes the woman drink water that is mixed with dust from the Tabernacle/Temple floor, and a written passage of Scripture which contains HaShem's Name. If she is truly guilty of unfaithfulness, a curse comes on her. It is the curse of the Sotah, and it is a curse of becoming barren. This brings us to this week's haftarah of consolation. It is the consolation that the barren one, the Sotah, will no longer be barren. Although Israel was guilty of unfaithfulness, and was found to be a Sotah, the curse is now reversed, and she is complete forgiven.

Sing, O barren, You who have not borne! Break forth into singing, and cry aloud, you who have not labored with child! For more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married woman," says HaShem. "Enlarge the place of your tent, and let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings; do not spare; lengthen your cords, and strengthen your stakes.
Isaiah 54:1-2

Our haftarah begins with the declaration of the undoing of the curse of the Sotah. She was found to have been unfaithful. She could not be rightly convicted of adultery, but her Husband, the One witness, still knows of her unfaithfulness. The bitter waters of the Sotah, from the dust of the Temple floor, made her unfruitful... But now, this passage of consolation declares that all that is about to change!

Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed; neither be disgraced, for you will not be put to shame; for you will forget the shame of your youth, and will not remember the reproach of your widowhood anymore. For your Maker is your husband, HaShem of hosts is His Name; and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel; He is called the G-d of the whole earth.
Isaiah 54:4-5

The shame of the Sotah is removed. Because the Sotah is removed from her husband, her hair cut off, she is as a widow. But no longer is this true of Israel. The G-d of the whole earth, the Holy One of Israel is her husband, and her shame will no longer be remembered. She is a Sotah no more!

For HaShem has called you like a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, like a youthful wife when you were refused," Says your G-d. "For a mere moment I have forsaken you, but with great mercies I will gather you. With a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment; but with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you," Says HaShem, your Redeemer.
Isaiah 54:6-7

Many have looked at Israel over the past 1,940 years and declared that Israel is the Sotah, the unfaithful wife. They have declared her to be cursed by G-d, and unfruitful. They have added to her shamed and shorn head, unrelenting persecution. They have, in some cases, replaced Israel's place of favor with "the church" as the new "faithful bride" of G-d. Our haftarah says differently. Israel is about to enjoy the favor of HaShem her Husband... and her shame will be forever forgotten.

"For this is like the waters of Noah to Me; for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah would no longer cover the earth, So have I sworn that I would not be angry with you, nor rebuke you. For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace be removed," Says HaShem, who has mercy on you.
Isaiah 54:9-10

Like the waters of Noah, so the bitter waters of the Sotah are withdrawn. They were not only judgment, but also the stage whereby HaShem's greatest act of covenant love is revealed: When all Israel is redeemed. Beloved, that time draws near. Look on the Sotah, on Israel, and understand... the years of shame are declared to be ending.

A curious connection is found to the Sotah the Apostolic Scriptures. It is one that bears investigation because those untrained in the Torah rarely see the significance of it. It is found in John's account:

Now early in the morning He came again into the Temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them. Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, "Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?" This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him.

But Yeshua stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear. So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, "He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first." And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.

Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Yeshua was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Yeshua had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, "Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?" She said, "No one, L-rd." And Yeshua said to her, "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more."
John 8:2-11

Notice first, where this occurs. It is in the Temple. Notice next, that the accusers of the woman "caught in adultery" bring no witnesses. Beloved, that is because there are no witnesses. This woman is suspected of adultery - otherwise the bet din [court of judgment] could have met to render judgment, not an ad hoc tribunal like the group of "scribes and Pharisees." Yeshua wisely answers. Since there are no "accusers" - there can be no stoning. Notice how Yeshua writes in the dust of the Temple floor. Does that not sound like Numbers chapter 5? Yes, this woman is an accused Sotah. Beloved, she is undoubtedly a Sotah, but there is no husband present to bring the accusation against her. The required two witnesses are not there to convict her of adultery, so Yeshua tells her to sin no more and sends her on her way. The Torah of Yeshua is not different, or more forgiving, than the Torah of HaShem... it is the same.

Israel is like the woman of John 8:2-11. She has been found out. No witnesses can stand against her, since her true unfaithfulness is known only by her Husband. He brought her to the waters of bitterness. She drank. She was refused by her Husband. She was disgraced and barren... but her Husband has found a way to remove her disgrace and to take her back. She no longer will be known as the Sotah, but as "the Pure and Spotless Bride." She will no longer be barren, but fruitful.

There is one last thing that ties all of this together this week for me. It is the Talmud's quote of Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi:

To tell you that whoever witnesses a suspected woman in her disgrace should withhold himself from wine.
b.Sotah 2a

Interesting. It reminds me of Yeshua's last Seder meal with His disciples. After He drinks the wine of the third cup, He declares:

"But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom."
Matthew 26:29

It appears that our Master, the One Witness of Israel's unfaithfulness, is taking the vow of a Nazir. He is the One Witness, and no other can be found. As the One Witness, He thus vows to remove her shame. Like the woman brought to Him in the Temple, it is as if He declares to His unfaithful wife, "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more." And even more He declares:

For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace be removed," Says HaShem, who has mercy on you.
Isaiah 54:10

Rejoice! Our shame has been removed!

Prayer Focus for Ki-Tetzei - Sim Shalom - "Establish Peace"

Part of the Shemoneh Esrei, the Amidah (from the daily prayers), has a place for the Aaronic Blessing from Numbers 6:22-27. This is where HaShem tells Aaron and the priests how they are to place HaShem's Name upon the people. Instead of the Name of the Holy One, blessed is He, being scraped into the waters of bitterness for the Sotah to drink, the Name is placed upon Israel with the Aaronic Blessing. HaShem's Countenance shines upon Israel and brings shalom. This blessing Israel's response to the Covenant of Peace given by HaShem. Immediately following the Aaronic Blessing [Birkat HaKohenim], the Shemoneh Esrei has this prayer:

Establish peace, goodness, blessing, graciousness, kindness, and compassion upon us and upon all of Your people Israel. Bless us, our Father, all of as one, with the light of your countenance, for with the light of Your countenance, You gave us, HaShem our G-d, the Torah of life and a love of kindness, righteousness, blessing, compassion, life, and peace. And may it be good in Your eyes to bless Your people Israel, in every season and in every hour with Your peace. Blessed are You, HaShem, Who blesses His people Israel with peace.

-- ArtScroll Translation

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