VAYIKRA: A KINGDOM OF PRIESTS
HE CALLED - “Adonai called to Moshe and spoke to him from the tent of meeting. He said, speak to the people of Isra’el; [and] say to them, ‘When any of you bring an offering to Adonai you may bring your animal offering either from the herd or from the flock. If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he must offer a male without defect. He is to bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting.so it can be accepted by Adonai”
~ Leviticus 1:1-3, CJB -
Leviticus (Vayikra) is the third book given to us by Adonai in the Sefer Torah. Although all the books of Torah read with a high level of organization and unity, the Book of Leviticus in many ways remains unique.
Of Vayikra, one area of singleness is its almost willful omission of the mention of the Wilderness Journey’s thus far, and in its place, the reading begins with Israel's positioning at the foot of Mt. Sinai. With the imagery of Isra’el standing before Adonai at Sinai, the reader is given the understanding of both prominence and humility where Adonai is above all and enthroned on high, beyond the peoples and nations, and the Children of Isra’el are below in a posture of submission, humility, listening and receiving. Although Isra’el is allowed to approach HaShem, there is still a distance where we might also hear the words,
“For my thoughts are not your thought, and your ways are not my ways … As high as the sky is above the earth are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)
To this point, the late Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks (z”l) elucidates on this passage concerning Israel’s destiny stating that Leviticus, “… takes place only at Mount Sinai and spans a short moment in time: [only] a single month. There is almost no story being told. But, set at the centre of the Chumash, it is the key to understanding Israel’s calling mission- to be ‘a kingdom of priests and a holy nation."
In Scripture, this is the first time in human history that any group of people has been called to and given a collective mission. Of this, according to Rabbi Sacks, this is. Mission Statement which Adonai is giving for his people and that of their destiny for both the purposes and Kingdom of God!
In our modern world, whether in congregational life or in business, every successful organization must have both a vision statement and missional statement if thy desire to be successful and inspire others with in their collective calling. In the same light, Israel and now all believers are given the Lord’s mission that we (in this broken and lost world) are chosen, appointed with purpose and anointing to be kingdom of priests by stating,
“… you [all believers in Yeshua] are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter/Kefa 2:9, ESV)
Thus, from the B’rit Chadashah (New Covenant Scriptures) the meaning of our mutual mission is made fully known where in Yeshua’s name we are first God’s possession and sent forth to PROCLAIM the excellency and majesty of Adonai to wayward world! Like those who are still perishing without hope, we too were once lost, but have now been “called out of darkness into his marvelous light!” and we are now sent forth to go in his name declare Yeshua, the Light of the World! (John/Yochanan 8:12)
So, as we begin Vayikra, may we all be reminded that we are the light of the world (Matthew/Mattityahu 5:14-16) because the true Light, Yeshua lives and reigns in us!
PREPARING OUR HEARTS FOR PESACH
“Get rid of the old hametz, so that you can be a new batch of dough, because in reality you are unleavened.”
~ First Corinthians 5:7a
In the last year, so much has happened for all of us both as a Congregation, but also for everyone - in every city and nation of the world. A year ago, we were all prepared to have our Corporate Seder as a community and only months before, COVID-19 struck and all of Florida with the nation went into lock down. As a result, at the last minute, we had to cancel our Seder altogether and for the first time ever we had to revert to an online, Facebook Live Passover celebration. For other Synagogue’s it was also done on platforms like Zoom and still others, streamed with YouTube and other Social-Media outlets.
Yet, even with the unexpected changes and inconveniences which kept us from gathering corporately, we were/are still commanded of Adonai to keep Pesach and observe this holy annual season of our deliverance. As a result, the Lord was with us all last year in a very special way, and I believe we grew stronger as Yeshua separated from our hearts the chaff from the wheat as He knit us together with even greater levels of Covenant Relationship and through Sacrificial-Love. When, in the flesh it would have been easier to just hold out and wait for “next year,” and celebrate Passover then, or abstain from fellowship altogether, we embrace a new (and somewhat uncomfortable online reality) and in the end, I am convinced it made us stronger! With this, we learned as a community the depth of our calling in Messiah support one another in times of hardship and to truly be the Body of Yeshua as we have been learning recently in 1 Thessalonians.
Yet, part of being the Body friends is found in both walking in the Lord’s commands personally and also exhorting one another to do the same. Where it might be easier to just blend in and be like the world, Yeshua declares over our hearts and lives that we must be salt and light, as He commission’s us in His love to reflect Him to one another, to our neighbor and to all the nations of the world. But in doing this, how should we reflect Him? … It is by being set-apart!
To this end, the B’rit Chadashah in 1 Corinthians 5 reminds us on how we are set apart, especially during this time of the year where Rav Sha’ul (Paul) compares sin to yeast or a batch of dough. In this, every baker knows that when bread is made, it first ferments and then spreads and grows, thus taking over the whole lump and reforming it! It is for this reason that the Torah tells us that during Pesach, leaven must be removed from our homes as an act of consecration and purity before Him. Where normally yeast is not a problem, during Passover it is in that as Rambam reminds that as a “negative” commandment we are to remove it from our homes, and as “positive” command, we must bring in the matzah (the pure bread).
It is for this reason that Rav Sha’ul’s words above carry such weight and importance, but not just we have yeast or leaven removed for just 7-days, but instead so that we would diligently seek to keep sin out of our lives every day for the whole of our lives.
In this, dear friends, as the weeks and days approach Pesach let’s all take the steps necessary to embrace a deep, more practical holiness - not out of rules, but instead - relationship so that we might be holy before the Lord and true reflection of His love, grace, and power to a lost and broken world.
Rabbi Mark Rantz
Beit Hallel Messianic Congregation
Erev Shabbat ~ March 12th, 2021 | 28th of Adar, 5781
“When the people saw that Moshe was taking a long time to come down from the mountain, they gathered around Aharon and said to him, ‘Get busy; and make us gods to go ahead of us; because this Moshe, the man that brought us up from the land of Egypt - we don’t know what has become of him.’ [So] Aharon said to them, ‘Have your wives, sons and daughters strip off their gold earrings; and bring them to me.’ The people stripped off their gold earrings and brought them to Aharon. He received what they gave him, melted it down, and made it into the shape of a calf. [And] they said. ‘Isra’el! Here is your god, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 32:1-4)
At the time of Pesach, there is a rabbinical saying that is quoted in most Passover Seders that “it was not that the Children of Israel needed to get out of Egypt, but that God needed to get Egypt out of them!” As human beings we are all prone to sin and rebellion. Even the Prophet Jeremiah reminds, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick, who can understand it.” (Jer. 17:9, ESV) From Chapter 32 of the Sefer of Exodus, we again are reminded of how far the human heart can spiral when we remove our eyes from Adonai.
At the beginning of the chapter, what do we see from the offset?
Sadly, heart of the people from the beginning was already far from God, and like a child who “wants what they want now” regardless of the consequences they in a moment of fear, rebellion and insecurity embrace the demonic over the divine! How could this be? How could this happen? What were they thinking? The Lord had just rescued them from the clutches of Pharoah and the forces of slavery of the Egyptians, but with hearts bent away from healing. In this, it could be easy for some to be critical of our forefathers in the Wilderness, saying, “what an evil thing, I would never do such a thing!” This is all too reminiscent of Kefa who promised he would never betray his Lord, and then does in Matthew 26:69-75.
In such unfair criticism, we forget that we too are sinners and daily in need of God’s grace and mercy. Although the act of idolatry in our Parashah was vile and repulsive - it is nevertheless a harsh reminder of the affects that occur when we remove our eyes from God and His instruction and “choose” to do our way instead of Adonai’s. We do this as well, when in a moment we choose a sin over faithfulness, when we forge a lifestyle devoid of prayerfulness and Kingdom service or place anything at all above the Lord. These things are idolatry as well!
For some, it is their careers, for others it is entertainment or selfish ambition and others it is even our families. We have seen this grow I believe over the last year with lockdowns and COVID, where in the media, commercials on television and through pop-culture we are urged to make family first above all things. For some this is a sacred cow, but God alone is the only one in our lives who should be first, not our spouses, children, or grandchildren! For some, “this excuse” has even kept some from returning to Congregational Life all over our nation - all the while forgetting that the only way to experience family life is in the context of the Messianic Community which for eternity will alone be our true and spiritual family! In this friends, let’s look at Ki Tisa afresh today, covenanting before Yeshua that we will no longer place anything or anyone above Him. Messiah and Messiah alone!
Rabbi Mark Rantz
Beit Hallel Messianic Congregation
Shabbat, March 6th, 2021 | 22nd of Adar, 5781
Please follow our Rabbi's blog as he shares from our weekly Torah Portion from a distinctively Messianic Jewish Perspective! Shalom!