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Rumination #24: If He called, would you know His voice?

The account of Samuel in chapter three of 1Samuel makes a nice children's story. Of course, Samuel lived in quiet times. Quiet times with regard to HaShem speaking that is. He lived in the days of the Judges, when each man did what was right in his own eyes. It was in those dark days that Samuel first heard HaShem speak. At first he did not know HaShem's Voice. After the third trip to Eli, the elderly priest helped Samuel understand that it was HaShem Himself speaking to the young boy.

It brings up an interesting question for those of us who live in dark times. How would we know HaShem's Voice if He were to break the silence and speak to us? The Scriptures tell us that in such times as this, deception is always lurking in the shadows, ready to deceive even the elect. How can we know? How can we be sure?

It is actually easy. If you have embraced the Torah of HaShem as a mark of your discipleship to Messiah then you are in a far safer place than some of our brothers and sisters. You see, you can tell HaShem's Voice by what He will not say. He will never turn you away from His loving instructions in Scripture. If you want to recognize His Voice, always remember this:

Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it. If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, "Let us go after other gods" - which you have not known - "and let us serve them," you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for HaShem your G-d is testing you to know whether you love HaShem your G-d with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after HaShem your G-d and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him.
Deuteronomy 12:32-13:4

When He calls, will you know His Voice?

The Significance of the Garden

This week we roll the scroll to Vayikra, the Book of Leviticus. To misunderstand this book is to misunderstand the balance of Scripture. It is that important. To understand its significance, one must go back to the Garden. You see, in Genesis 3, we are given an account about an event that fundamentally altered the fabric of the Universe. Prior to our sin in the Garden, we regularly walked and talked with G-d. If that does not astound you, then you have not fully learned the truth of Vayikra, the book simply titled, "And He Called."

Imagine, a place, a time, where the Infinite One, was contained within the finite creation. Our sin in the Garden ended that at least for a time.

In the last chapter of Exodus, something remarkable occurred. A pattern was faithfully followed, and a unique structure was erected in the wilderness. This finite place, these three dimensions, this Mish'kan, was where time and space transected. The Infinite One filled it, but Moses could not enter it. Vayikra contains the details of the answer to that problem - a Divine answer to our problem. Along with the answer, came the profound misunderstanding of what it all meant. Ironically, some of those who claim to know what the death and resurrection of Messiah means are those most confused by the korbanot and Vayikra. Their two dimensional approach to the korbanot has littered theology since the dawn of the Second Century. Their crude and cartoonish representation of the korbanot (which they call "sacrifices") shows how little they appreciate the significance of the Garden. They explain the "sacrifices" in one of these ways:

All of these show a profound ignorance of the korbanot. They show a dependence upon theology and philosophy instead of the Scriptures themselves. How sad that this same ignorance taints their understanding of their replacement book. For them, Vayikra has been replaced by the Epistle to the Hebrews. Their misunderstanding of the korbanot has led to their misunderstanding of Hebrews.

So, are you ready to learn Vayikra? As you read, remember these two things:

Beloved, my use of the present tense tells you something - the korbanot were not replaced, nor will they be. As you read Vayikra, put yourself into the picture.

We are being called... back to the Garden.

Parashat Vayikra - 'And He called' (Leviticus 1:1-5:26)

The title for this week's Scripture portion is found in the first word of the first verse:

Vayikra el-Moshe vayedaber HaShem elav meohel moed lemor:
daber el-b'nei Yisrael v'amarta alehem adam ki-yakriv mikem karban laHaShem min-habehema min-habakar umin-hatson takrivu et-karbanchem:

Now HaShem called to Moses, and spoke to him from the tabernacle of meeting, saying, "Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: 'When any one of you brings an offering to HaShem, you shall bring your offering of the livestock - of the herd and of the flock.'"


The title from this week's portion is also the title for this Book, the "Book of Leviticus." Right at the outset, we can see the difference between the English title, Leviticus and the Hebrew title Vayikra - and the difference is not merely a difference of language. The English title, "Leviticus" comes to us from the Greek Septuagint, into the Latin and finally transliterated into English. It means, "pertaining to Levites." On the other hand, the Hebrew name, "Vayikra" simply means, "And He called." The "He" of course is referring to HaShem. The "He" is referring to the one true G-d, the King of the Universe. The Book begins with "And He called..." It seems that if more people understood the significance of that title, they would devote more time to this Book. Here it is in plain language:

And that beloved, is one of the reasons why this book is often misunderstood. It is not a book of so-called "Levitical law" - it is a book about an invitation to a relationship with the King of all Creation. To better understand the reason for G-d to call Moses and give the instructions regarding an offering [korban], we need to step back to the past few weeks' worth of parashot from the last chapters of Exodus. If you remember, Exodus closed with the construction of the Mish'kan [Tabernacle] and the anointing of the Aaronic priesthood. If we go way back to Exodus 25 we read the reason for the Mish'kan:

And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.
Exodus 25:8

Moses was instructed to make a Sanctuary [Mik'dash], or the Tabernacle [Mish'kan]. He was given a pattern directly from G-d while he was on the Mountain. The purpose for this Sanctuary, the Mish'kan, was not so that G-d would have a house, or the people a "worship center" - it was for the express purpose that G-d declares, "that I may dwell among them." Remember this important point in all of your Bible study: the Tabernacle and later the Temple was one for one simple purpose: That G-d could dwell among His people. That is what it is all about. The remaining chapters of Exodus are in large part instructions for the Mish'kan [Tabernacle] and the priesthood. At the very end of Exodus we find several things that are very curious. First, we learn that Moses was completely obedient regarding the instructions of the Mish'kan construction. From last week's parasha (known as Pikudei):

Thus Moses did; according to all that HaShem had commanded him, so he did. And it came to pass in the first month of the second year, on the first day of the month, that the tabernacle was raised up.
Exodus 40:16-17

Next, we learn that the Mish'kan "worked" - HaShem did in fact come down and fill the place.

Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of HaShem filled the tabernacle.
Exodus 40:34

G-d was dwelling among His people!

But lastly, we learn that was still not good enough:

And Moses was not able to enter the Tabernacle of meeting, because the cloud rested above it, and the glory of HaShem filled the Tabernacle.
Exodus 40:35

Alas, although G-d was dwelling among His people, His people could not come near to Him. Even Moses was unable to approach G-d because of His overwhelming Presence. And that is where Exodus ends, and the Book of Leviticus begins with, "Vayikra..." [And He called]. This Book is about how the people were to rightly respond to the invitation of the Almighty to draw near to Him.

This week's parasha is about the fact that G-d has called His people to draw near. Within its verses are the instructions for bringing an offering [korban]. The root for the word korban [offering] is the verb karav which means "to draw near." The offerings described are not at all what most people think when they think of "sacrifices." Mistakenly, most people think that the "sacrifices" of the Torah have to do with removing sin - they do not. That kind of thinking cannot only obscure the truth of the Mish'kan and later the Temple - it can pervert the very thing that most people relate to them, namely the atoning work of Yeshua the Messiah. Beloved, there is indeed a correlation between korban and Yeshua's work - but it is not as simple as you might think.

In this week's Scripture portion we will read of five major types of korban (plural = korbanot]. Only two of the korbanot [offerings] have anything to do with an individual's sin. On the other hand, all the korbanot are a way to draw near to G-d. Here are the five major korbanot introduced in this week's portion:

Only the final two listed are "sin related." None of them take away sin - nor does Scripture say that they do. All of them are korban however - they are about drawing near to HaShem. All of them atone for the individual who offers them.

Are you confused yet?

First, not all korbanot are mandatory. In fact, they are usually voluntary. Even the korban chatat and the korban asham [sin and guilt offerings] are voluntary in a way - because if you did not go to the Mish'kan or the Temple, you were not obligated to offer these korbanot. Remember this: Most korbanot are voluntary for the individual.

Most people think that atonement, forgiveness of sins, cleansing from sin, and removing sin are all the same thing. They are not. Each of the five korbanot listed provide kafar [covering, usually translated "atonement"]. What do they cover? Remember, even Moses could not enter the Mish'kan when it was first erected. The reason? G-d is a holy G-d. He is unlike man - and man cannot be in His presence without being utterly consumed. Korbanot provide a way that a man can approach the Divine Presence and not be consumed: the korban covers the man in a real and temporal sense. How bad would it be if the worshipper approached G-d to worship Him, and died in the process? Korbanot cover them.

So let's say a worshipper is wanting come near to HaShem, and he decides to offer a korban olah [elevation offering]. This is often translated as "burnt offering" - but the word "burnt" is not found in the Hebrew. Olah means "elevated" or "lifted up." This korban was completely consumed on the altar. Korban olah is about bringing the worshipper near to HaShem, and then "lifting" them up into His presence. It is the ultimate worship experience. Korban olah is completely voluntary. The worshipper has to follow the correct protocol to approach G-d or his very life is in danger. However, if he follows the prescribed protocol, the experience he has is unmatched in this life.

Part of that protocol is to make sure that he is tahor. This is usually translated as "clean" or "ritually clean" but that does not adequately describe tahor. Just remember this: tahor is about compatibility with something (Someone) holy. Leviticus will detail for us many issues regarding tahor and its opposite tamei (usually translated as "unclean"). As you read this Book however - understand that tamei does not necessarily mean sinful, and tahor does not necessarily mean sin-free. They are not directly sin related. We will see that as we move through Leviticus in the coming weeks.

For the approaching worshipper to be tahor, he must ensure a number of things regarding physical contact immediately before his visit to the Mish'kan. With most of those contacts he can become tahor simply by immersing before entering the Mish'kan proper. Once he has entered a state of tahor he is ready to offer his korban olah [elevation offering].

But wait.

While the korban olah can provide an atonement (a covering) so that the worshipper can approach the very presence of G-d, it cannot deal with the fact that the worshipper sinned earlier in the day. So a korban chatat [sin offering] must first be offered to atone for [cover] the sin(s) of the day. Only after offering the korban chatat [sin offering] which is partially eaten by the ministering priest, can the worshipper approach and offer his korban olah in a worship experience. Understand this, (as the Book of Hebrews indicates): the korban chatat is not about taking sin away - it is merely about cleansing sin so the worshipper is not struck dead while he is in the Mish'kan or Temple presenting his korban olah as an act of worship. It is temporary, and it works.

Notice that none of what the worshipper is expressing has anything to do with eternal salvation, or "going to heaven." It is about worshipping G-d in the here and now. That is not to say that these acts do not have eternal significance in relating to Messiah - it is merely that in their actual practice they are about a temporal worship experience.

As you can see, some preconceived ideas regarding the Mish'kan and later the Temple can quite easily be off the mark. In some people's theology, many things regarding korban and what some call the "sacrificial system" or the "Temple cult" is completely off base. A good understanding of the Book of Leviticus is mandatory if one ever wants to understand anything about the Book of Hebrews. This Book which we are beginning this week is about drawing near. If you will study it with that in mind, then maybe you can distance yourself from the faulty theologies which despise and denigrate these holy things of G-d - theologies that are disgusted with the "Temple cult" as they call it - and are only too glad that the Romans destroyed the Second Temple in 70 CE. But you, beloved, remember how this Book begins:


The King of the Universe is calling you.

What is your answer to Him?

Vayikra - 'And He called' (Isaiah 43:21-44:23)

HaShem is holy, and yet He has invited us into a relationship with Him. The book of Vayikra, and this week's portion are all about relationship. "Vayikra" means, "And He called..." Yes beloved, HaShem has called us... Where are you?

This week's Torah portion is found in Leviticus 1:1-5:26. It is one of the most important passages in Scripture. Sadly, many of Messiah's followers have relegated these chapters to the obscure, and declared them simply "fulfilled." In that, they are sadly blinded. Vayikra is about relationship. It is about relationship with the Almighty. To gloss over this week's Torah portion is to miss an important lesson on relationship. Those who think that they understand the atoning work of Messiah, and yet do not study to understand the five major korbanot [offerings], are building cathedrals on shifting sand. Beloved, you need a firm foundation. If you do not "believe Moses" you will not believe Messiah (John 5:47).

It is the korbanot [offerings] of these opening chapters of Leviticus that takes us to this week's haftarah found in Isaiah. Our portion opens with HaShem's complaint that Israel has wearied of serving HaShem. Specifically, serving Him with the korbanot. He wants korbanot. He wants relationship.

This people I have formed for Myself; they shall declare My praise. But you have not called upon Me, O Jacob; and you have been weary of Me, O Israel. You have not brought Me the sheep for your burnt offerings, nor have you honored Me with your sacrifices. I have not caused you to serve with grain offerings, nor wearied you with incense. You have bought Me no sweet cane with money, nor have you satisfied Me with the fat of your sacrifices; but you have burdened Me with your sins, you have wearied Me with your iniquities.
Isaiah 43:21-24

Modern commentators have led people into a distain for the korbanot. A misunderstanding of the book of Hebrews makes it often quoted, but rarely a studied book in regard to "sacrifices." A profound confusion over the reason for korbanot, and the misguided belief that they were ever for "taking away of sin" has given some modern believers little incentive for studying the korbanot. Beloved, this is a sin. As a follower of Messiah it is our duty to study and learn of the korbanot - not because Yeshua replaced them - but because they were, and will be again, all about Messiah. They are about our relationship with Him. If you begin to study, you will quickly learn that of the five major korbanot, only two are about sin. Even the sin korban [korban chatat] only covered the worshipper temporarily while they were worshipping in the Mish'kan [Tabernacle] or the Temple - simply so they would not die as they worshipped the Holy G-d.

Korban [offering] is all about worship. It is all about relating to HaShem. It is all about Messiah. One day, may it come speedily, korbanot will be offered once again by true worshippers of HaShem, from the Temple Mount, in the Holy Temple of the G-d of Jacob. Korban is about meeting HaShem in the midst of His Sanctuary. There is no earthly experience that compares. None. If you want to know what this future Temple will look like, and how it will operate, read Ezekiel chapters 40-48. The Messianic Age, the World to Come, will have the Holy Temple as the center of the Universe. There we will worship and serve HaShem. There we will serve King Messiah Yeshua.

Why will we worship HaShem with korbanot in King Messiah's city Jerusalem? Our haftarah closes with the reason why:

Remember these, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are My servant; I have formed you, you are My servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me! I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions, and like a cloud, your sins. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you. Sing, O heavens, for HaShem has done it! Shout, you lower parts of the earth; break forth into singing, you mountains, O forest, and every tree in it! For HaShem has redeemed Jacob, and glorified Himself in Israel.
Isaiah 44:21-23

It is about praise. Korbanot are worship. In the meantime, our prayers at the set times of the ancient korbanot are a way to remember Who it is we serve. Prayer memorializes the korbanot, and serves as our worship.

The first followers of Messiah made the Temple their place of worship. Somehow our modern theologians remain blind to this.

And they worshiped Him [Yeshua], and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the Temple praising and blessing G-d.
Luke 24:52-53

They were there, three times a day. They were devoted to the korbanot and to the liturgical prayers in the Temple. They understood. Do we?

Prayer Focus for Vayikra -  'Kaddish' - [Sanctification]

The Kaddish prayer is found repeatedly in the Siddur, in varying lengths. This ancient prayer's purpose is to separate various parts of a prayer service. It is pure praise of the Almighty. So holy is this prayer that it is one of the prayers that cannot be prayed without the presence of a Minyan [at least ten faithful men]. It is a corporate worship experience. It reminds us of the days when we served our G-d in the Place where He placed His Name: the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

There is an account from the Second Century that helps explain the uniqueness of this prayer and its connection to the Holy Temple and the Temple Service, the korbanot. The Kaddish contains the Aramaic phrase, "Y'hey sh'meh raba m'varach!" ["May His great Name be blessed!"]. It is a very special thing to pray in a Minyan and to pray this prayer.

R. Yose says, "I was once traveling on the road, and I entered into one of the ruins of Jerusalem in order to pray. Elijah of blessed memory appeared and waited for me at the door till I finished my prayer. After I finished my prayer, he said to me: 'Peace be with you, my master!' and I replied: 'Peace be with you, my master and teacher!' And he said to me: 'My son, why did you go into this ruin?' I replied: 'To pray...'

He further said to me: 'My son, what sound did you hear in this ruin?' I replied: I heard a divine voice, cooing like a dove, and saying: "Woe to the children, on account of whose sins I destroyed My house and burnt My Temple and exiled them among the nations of the world!"

And he said to me: ... "Not in this moment alone does it so exclaim, but three times each day does it exclaim this! And more than that, whenever the Israelites go into the synagogues and schoolhouses and respond: 'Y'hey sh'meh raba m'varach!' ['May His great Name be blessed!'] the Holy One, blessed be He, bows His head and says: 'Happy is the King Who is thus praised in this house! Woe to the father who had to banish his children, and woe to the children who had to be banished from the table of their father!'"     
b.Berachot 3a Soncino Edition

The Kaddish

May His great Name grow exalted and sanctified in the world that He created as He willed.
May He give reign to His Kingship in your lifetimes and in your days, and in the lifetimes of the entire Family of Israel, swiftly and soon.
Now respond Amen.
May His great Name be blessed forever and ever.
Blessed, praised, glorified, extolled, mighty, upraised, and lauded be the Name of the Holy One, blessed is He beyond any blessing and song, praise and consolation that are uttered in the world.
Now respond Amen.
He Who makes peace in His heights, may He make peace upon us, and upon all Israel.
Now respond Amen.
-- ArtScroll Translation

Come L-rd Yeshua, come. Your bride awaits You.

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