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Ruminations

Rumination #40: Why is repair better than never building? Why is repentance so necessary?

There are some questions that we will never be able answer. Some are so far beyond our comprehension, we only suspect there is question there, waiting to be asked… and yet we cannot articulate it. Repentance is one of those subjects that appears straightforward, and yet it raises questions that beget questions unspoken and incomprehensible - the answer being even further beyond our grasp.

Both traditional Christianity and Chassidic Judaism have attempted to ask, and even suppose some answers to the questions of sin and repentance. Christianity has posited opposing theories of Predestination and Free Will. Chassidic Judaism has given us the concept of Tikkun Olam [repair the world], and provided not only the questions regarding the origin and purpose of sin, but some supposed answers as well. But all of these are only man's feeble attempts to explain away nagging questions about our questions - that there is something inexplicably beyond our questions. No doubt the answers are even more remote.

However, we only really know what we have been told.

Try as we might to plumb the depths of philosophy, in the end, what we are really left with is what Scripture clearly tells us. And it tells us quite plainly that sin is rebellion against the commandments of HaShem. It tells us that He hates sin. It tells us that the correct response to Him is always simple obedience.

Call it "tikkun olam" or "teshuvah." Call it "repentance" or "surrender" - in the end, it is the only action that we are truly free to take in response to our undeniable rebellion against the instructions of the Almighty. When we begin to ask such things as, "What instructions? What commandments?" of course, we are denying the necessity of repentance. When we begin to make excuses such as, "G-d does not really expect me to do/say/not do [fill in the blank], does He?" we are only delaying the absolutely necessity of simple obedience. When we argue that something does or does not apply to us because we are "Jewish" or because we are "Gentile" we are still denying the single acceptable response to the Almighty:

Repent!

It was the message in Genesis 3. It was the message in Genesis 6. It was the message at Sinai. It was the message of the Prophets. It was the message of the Apostles. It is the message of Messiah. It is the Good News message. It is simply:

Repent!

HaShem has spoken. He has defined His holy standard, and it is the Torah. Disobedience is sin. Man's only response to that should be:

Repent!

Anything else remains pure and simple rebellion. Let others argue about whether some commandments "apply to this dispensation;" or whether "we are under the jurisdiction of the 'New Covenant';" or whether a commandment "applies to Gentiles" or not; or that "G-d cannot require repentance for salvation or that denies grace." In the end, all of those machinations and lies are the same tactic Enemy has used since the Garden, designed to get us to question the things we really do know. If HaShem commands us, as His children, He expects us to obey Him. And to disobey Him is sin. Period.

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not keep on sinning. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Messiah Yeshua ha-Tzadik [the Righteous]. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, "I know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of G-d is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him.
1John 1:8-2:5

And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. Whoever keeps on committing sin also commits Torah-lessness, and sin is Torah-lessness. And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. Whoever abides in Him does not keep on sinning. Whoever keeps on sinning has neither seen Him nor known Him. Little children, let no one deceive you. He who keeps on practicing righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous.
1John 3:3-7

You see, the questions that are unspoken may be deep. But the issue really is simple: When we disobey the words of the Living G-d, that is called "sin." When we obey, that is called "righteousness." When we recognize our disobedience, and obey, that is called "repentance."

What are we waiting for...?

Remember the Torah of Moses, My servant, which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of HaShem. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.
Malachi 4:4-6

Parashat Matot  - 'Tribes' (Numbers 30:2-32:42)

The title for Parashat Matot comes from the second verse of the Scripture portion:

Vaydabber Mosheh el-rashei hamatot, livnei Yisra'el lemor: zeh haddavar, asher tzivvah HaShem. Ish ki-yiddor neder LaShem,
o-hishava sh'vu'ah lesor issar al-nafsho -lo yachel, d'varo: k'chol-haiyotze mippiv, ya'aseh.

Then Moses spoke to the heads of the tribes concerning the children of Israel, saying, "This is the thing which HaShem has commanded: If a man makes a vow to HaShem, or swears an oath to bind himself by some agreement, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth."

Numbers 30:2-3

Who are these "tribes"? Through this and the next half-portion we will be reminded repeatedly by their names. These are the descendants of the sons of Jacob. These are the remnant of those that came out of Egypt over three decades earlier. These are the ones whose parents sinned with the Golden Calf. This past week we remembered the Golden Calf incident which occurred on 17 Tammuz. On our own calendar we are in the period "between the troubles" - the three weeks from 17 Tammuz to Tisha B'Av. During this time, we remember the darkest days in Israel's history. Which leads us to the title of the other half-parasha that is sometimes read this week, Parashat Massei.

Mattot means "tribes." It is a word for "branches" - and quite fittingly applies to the tribes of Israel. Massei means "journeys." This portion has the recounting of the journeys in the wilderness.

These half-portions are read during the three weeks between Tammuz 17 and the 9th of Av. Those are the dates that mark the infamous days of our ancestors' sin of the Golden Calf and of the ten spies. These are days of mourning and repentance. These are days that can be misunderstood by the casual bystander. Throughout history, whenever HaShem's people have felt the sting of rebuke, our enemies have thought that our G-d had departed from our midst. The error has been repeated throughout the ages, but sadly still is present. The fact that a significant portion of Christianity still thinks that G-d has departed from the midst of Israel (some qualify by saying "unbelieving" Israel). This is a grave error. It is not only a theological error; if left unchecked it brings spiritual arrogance, and even curses. This line of thinking has real consequence. This line of thinking is mentioned in this week's parasha. Oddly, Aaron's death is mentioned in two places in Numbers. It is mentioned in this week's portion and also in the portion from a few weeks ago. From this week:

Aaron was one hundred and twenty-three years old when he died on Mount Hor. Now the king of Arad, the Canaanite, who dwelt in the South in the land of Canaan, heard of the coming of the children of Israel.
Numbers 33:39-40

This mention is in the midst of the recounting of the stops in the journey of Israel through the wilderness. What is the point? Let's look back at the previous mention of Aaron's death.

Now when all the congregation saw that Aaron was dead, all the house of Israel mourned for Aaron thirty days. The king of Arad, the Canaanite, who dwelt in the South, heard that Israel was coming on the road to Atharim. Then he fought against Israel and took some of them prisoners. So Israel made a vow to HaShem, and said, "If You will indeed deliver this people into my hand, then I will utterly destroy their cities." And HaShem listened to the voice of Israel and delivered up the Canaanites, and they utterly destroyed them and their cities. So the name of that place was called Hormah.
Numbers 20:29-21:3

Remember the setting here at the end of Numbers. Israel had sinned. First with the Golden Calf (the 17th day of the month of Tammuz). Then the ten spies had led Israel in rebellion against HaShem's command to take the Land (the 9th day of the month of Av). This week's Torah portions recount the wandering in the wilderness. This was how G-d had dealt with our sin against Him. Now, the journey is almost complete. Aaron dies. Our enemies think that since G-d has been dealing with our sin, that He has departed from our midst. You see, tradition holds that it was after Aaron died that the clouds of glory disappeared from the Mish'kan [Tabernacle].

The Canaanite king of Arad must have thought, "The glory has departed. These Israelites no longer have their G-d among them. He has been punishing them - so He is no longer there to protect them." Of course, he was quite wrong.

Haftarot Matot (Jeremiah 1:1-2:3)

This week's haftarot are from Jeremiah. Jeremiah was a prophet sent to declare the faithfulness of HaShem - but also to remind Israel that G-d is serious about sin. Sadly, many self-professing followers of Messiah think that 1,900 years of wandering means that HaShem has departed from the midst of Israel. They are thinking like the king of Arad. They are quite wrong. We do not need to correct their error. We only need to continue in our repentance. One day, by HaShem's grace, perhaps their eyes will be opened and they will bless Abraham's descendants once again. The bad news, where Jeremiah is told of the coming disaster for sinful Israel, is often highlighted by some. They fail to keep reading.

The glory has not departed. HaShem is in the midst of His people.

Chai HaShem! [HaShem Lives!]
Am Israel Chai! [The People of Israel Live!]

Prayer for "the Tribes" - the Prayer for the State of Israel

From the Siddur, we can read and pray this prayer during these dark days, these days "between the troubles." This time of present calamity that Israel finds herself compels us to appeal to the Almighty on her behalf, on our behalf:

Our Father in Heaven, Rock and Redeemer of Israel, bless the State of Israel, the first manifestation of the approach of our redemption. Shield it with Your lovingkindness, envelop it in Your peace, and bestow Your light and truth upon its leaders, ministers, and advisors, and grace them with Your good counsel. Strengthen the hands of those who defend our Holy Land, grant them deliverance, and adorn them in a mantle of victory.

Ordain peace in the Land and grant its inhabitants eternal happiness. Lead them, swiftly and upright, to Your city Zion and to Jerusalem, the abode of Your Name, as is written in the Torah of Your servant Moses: "Even if your outcasts are at the ends of the world, from there HaShem your G-d will gather you, from there He will fetch you. And HaShem your G-d will bring you to the Land that your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it; and He will make you more prosperous and more numerous than your fathers."

Draw our hearts together to revere and venerate Your Name and to observe all the precepts of Your Torah, and send us quickly the Messiah son of David, agent of Your vindication, to redeem those who await Your deliverance. Manifest yourself in the splendor of Your boldness before the eyes of all inhabitants of Your world, and may everyone endowed with a soul affirm that HaShem, G-d of Israel, is King and his dominion is absolute.

Amen forevermore.

May our Messiah come quickly, soon, and in our days. The Spirit and the Bride say, "Come!" Even so, come quickly L-rd Yeshua.

Parashat Massei - 'Journeys' (Numbers 33:1-36:13)

The title for the half-parasha, Parashat Masei comes from the first verse of the Scripture portion:

Eleh mas'ei v'nei-Yisra'el, asher yatz'u me'eretz Mitzrayim -l'tziv'otam: b'yad-Mosheh, vAaharon.

These are the journeys of the children of Israel, who went out of the land of Egypt by their armies under the hand of Moses and Aaron.
 Numbers 33:1

Along with the commands and instructions in Parashat Mattot and the mini-history of Parashat Massei, we are presented with seven chapters that give us an anticipation of transition. B'nei Y'sra'el, the household of Israel, is now a People. They are approaching the end of their wanderings in the wilderness. Behind them lays bondage and the consequences of their parents' sin with the Golden Calf, ahead of them lays the Promises of the Land. Will they prove faithful? Will they succeed where their parents failed? Will they grasp the Promise and follow the Almighty with their whole hearts?

As you read these portions this week, reflect on the fact that there was no second choice for the Almighty. After the sin of the Golden Calf He renewed His covenant with the Children of Israel, the descendants of Jacob. This is the record of the Almighty's faithfulness to Israel, because of His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

These "Journeys" are of course the literal forty-two journeys between encampments. For thirty-eight years the Sons of Israel journeyed without arriving at their ultimate destination.

These "Journeys" are also symbolic of the journey from spiritual bondage to the ultimate redemption. So, why is it not "journey" that we read of? Beloved, life is not merely a beginning and an end - it is, after all how you live it. It is not just about arriving at the destination - it is in living in the here and now.

The Hebraic approach to life is quite pragmatic, which fits well with the concept of "journeys."  Faithfulness is seen in the day-by-day. It is seen in the little things. It is seen in life's small "journeys." When you are a hunted and persecuted people, you soon learn to make every day count for something valuable. You see each moment as precious and for a purpose. We know how to bless the Almighty in every small and seemingly insignificant thing.

We awaken in the morning and bless the Almighty with a prayer of thanks for giving us life. Great is His faithfulness.

We wash our hands and bless the Almighty because He has given us good commandments and His Word so that we should distinguish between the clean and the unclean.

We bless Him as we prepare to eat. We bless Him when we have finished eating. We bless Him with the praises of His servant David. We bless Him with the Eighteen-fold blessing. We sing His praises as we see a rainbow, we bless His sovereignty at the sight of a ruined synagogue. We bless Him when we pledge ourselves under the Chupah, we bless Him as we witness a birth. We bless Him at a Brit Milah, we bless Him in remembrance of the death of a loved one.

How many times a day do we bless His holy Name? How many times do we worship the Almighty in our deeds of obedience? How many mitzvot? It is never enough.

These are our journeys. They are our ancestors' journeys. These forty-two journeys map out the faithfulness of G-d. They also map out the faithfulness of our ancestors. To be sure they, like us, were not entirely faithful during these times. After all, we are now in the yearly remembrance of the Sin of the Golden Calf and the Sin of the Spies. We too have added to those sins. Each day, we add more. Our worship is not yet perfected. We are in need of the "destination" - the Final Redemption - where we will finally and completely be changed - for we will see Him as He is.

Yes, these are the journeys - like our daily journeys. But as we approach the Promised Land, we can see the Destination. We can see the Final Redemption.

Live each moment as worship. When even the mere act of eating becomes true worship as it should - then you have learned to "journey."

With the end of this week, we arrive at the end of the book of Numbers. With that we say with all Israel,

Chazak, Chazak, Venitchazeik!
[Be Strong, Be Strong, and may we be Strengthened!]

Haftarot Matot-Masei (Jeremiah 1:1-2:28; 4:1-2)

This week's haftarot are from Jeremiah. Jeremiah was a prophet sent to declare the faithfulness of HaShem - but also to remind Israel that G-d is serious about sin. Sadly, many self-professing followers of Messiah think that 1,900 years of wandering means that HaShem has departed from the midst of Israel. They are thinking like the king of Arad. They are quite wrong. We do not need to correct their error. We only need to continue in our repentance. One day, by HaShem's grace, perhaps their eyes will be opened and they will bless Abraham's descendants once again. The bad news, where Jeremiah is told of the coming disaster for sinful Israel, is often highlighted by some. They fail to keep reading. Our reading from the Prophets ends with these verses:

"[When] you will return, O Israel," says HaShem, "Return to Me; and [when] you will put away your abominations out of My sight, then you shall not be moved. And you shall swear, 'HaShem lives,' in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness; the nations shall bless themselves in Him, and in Him they shall glory."
Jeremiah 4:1-2

The glory has not departed. HaShem is in the midst of His people.

Chai HaShem! [HaShem Lives!]
Am Israel Chai! [The People of Israel Live!]

Prayer for Masei [Journeys] – the Mourners Kaddish

The Mourner's Kaddish is a prayer of the people. It is in Aramaic rather than Hebrew. It is a prayer of incredible beauty and faith. It shows that in the midst of sorrow, what comes from our lips is praise for the Blessed One, Who is blessed. It opens with the prophetic words of Ezekiel 38:3. It is important to remember, that the Mourner's Kaddish does not mention death, but simply praises the One Who creates life. The Kaddish and the smaller Half-Kaddish are central parts of the synagogue service. The Half-Kaddish closely resembles Messiah's prayer from Matthew 6. The Kaddish is a prayer that the first disciples of Messiah prayed often, as it is integral to the synagogue prayer service.

Yit'gadal v'yit'kadash sh'mei raba
May His great Name grow exalted and sanctified

b'al'ma di v'ra khir'utei
in the world that He created as He willed.

v'yam'likh mal'khutei b'chayeikhon uv'yomeikhon
May He give reign to His Kingship in your lifetimes and in your days,

uv'chayei d'khol beit yis'ra'eil
and in the lifetimes of the entire Family of Israel,

ba'agala uviz'man kariv v'im'ru:
swiftly and soon. Now say:

Amein. Y'hei sh'mei raba m'varakh l'alam ul'al'mei al'maya
(Amein. May His great Name be blessed forever and ever.)

Yit'barakh v'yish'tabach v'yit'pa'ar v'yit'romam v'yit'nasei
Blessed, praised, glorified, exalted, extolled,

v'yit'hadar v'yit'aleh v'yit'halal sh'mei d'kud'sha
mighty, upraised, and lauded be the Name of the Holy One

B'rikh Hu.
Blessed is He.

l'eila min kol bir'khata v'shirara
beyond any blessing and song,

toosh'b'chatah v'nechematah, da'ameeran b'al'mah, v'eemru:
praise and consolation that are uttered in the world. Now say: Amein

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Standing in Prayer with all Israel,

Rick Spurlock
Bereans Online
www.bereansonline.org

B"H