Reflections from Parashah Pinchas
Rabbi Mark Rantz
Beit Hallel Messianic Congregation
Published and Taught - July 3, 2021
(23rd day of Tamuz, 5781)
Today’s Parashah (Numbers 25:10-30:1) begins describing Aaron’s grandson Pinchas, as Adonai both acknowledged and rewarded him for his acts of zeal in killing the Simeonite Prince, Zimri and a pagan Midianite Princess named Zimri (who was the daughter of Tzur) whom he brought into his tent to commit immoral acts.
Of this, Numbers 25:6-9 states,
“Just then, in the sight of Moshe and the whole community of Isra’el, as they were weeping at the entrance of the tent of meeting, a man from Isra’el came by, bringing to his family woman from Midyan. When Pinchas, the son of El’azar, the son of Aharon the cohen, saw it, he got up from the middle of the crowd, took a spear in his hand, and pursued the man from Isra’el right into the inner part of the tent, where he thrust his spear through both of them - the man from Isra’el and the woman through her stomach. Thus was the plague among the people stopped; nevertheless, 24,000 died in the plague.”
As a result of Pinchas’ zeal and righteousness that day, Adonai grants him a Covenant of Peace and elevates him to priestly duties as a cohen.
In our day and age, rarely, if ever do we see such boldness and zeal for Torah, but it took this incredible in both halting the wrath of God in a plague and to remind the whole house of Isra’el that there is no substitute for set-apart, holy living.
Concerning this, Rabbi Yehoshua Berman with Aish reminds,
“The Parashah opens with the reward of kehunah (the priesthood) given to Pinchas fir his valiant act of defending the honor of God by eliminating Zimri, and thus bringing a halt to the plague that was decimating the Jewish People as a result of their sinning with the woman of Midyan … The Kohanim are the ones who carry out the service in the Beit Ha’Mikdash [Most Holy Place], and it is the exalted status of kehunah with which Pinchas was rewarded.”
Wherein, the cohanim (as with Pinchas) were called to lead God’s People in priestly service, God’s intention for Isra’el to the same in their calling to bring the Light of God’s love to the whole world. (Exodus 19:1-6) Where the cohanim went before the people at Adonai’s Holy Temple, so we who have been called by Yeshua equally have a responsibility to take the Light of the Lord to all who are perishing!
For us as a believer in Yeshua, we too equally have a high calling before God where 1 Kefa (Peter) 2:9-10 states,
“You are a holy people, 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.”
Where Pinchas brought wholeness and by his act, “proclaimed” healing to the whole House of Isra’el, so we are called to proclaim the excellencies of Yeshua our Risen Messiah who called us out of spiritual darkness and into the marvelous light of Adonai our King! Let’s go and proclaim God’s love to a broken world!
Rabbi Mark Rantz
Parashiot Balak בָּלָק פָּרָשָׁה (Numbers 22:2-25:9) is both the 40th Parashah of the Sefer Torah and the second word within this week’s reading. Balak stands as a permanent example of anti-Semitism and is known exclusively for his great act of evil in hiring Balaam (Bil’am), a false-prophet and diviner (practitioner of the occult) for the purpose of cursing God’s people, Isra’el. Under the direction and urging of the wicked Balak, Bil’am on three occasions attempted to pronounce demonic curses against God’s chosen and did so from three selected vantage points in hopes of bringing an end to God’s people. However, in Bil’am’s attempt to curse Isra’el, blessings were only spoken forth, as seen in Numbers 24:5 and the Ma Tovu declaring,
“How lovely are your tents O Jacob, Your dwelling
places O Yisra’el.”
In retrospect, instead of pronouncing curses against God’s people, Bil’am is compelled by God’s Spirit concerning the end of days and the coming of Yeshua the Messiah!
At the end of our Parashah, we are also provided a record on how the people of Adonai fell prey to the charms of the daughters of Moab (Mo’av) and are enticed in the worship of the false-god Pe’or. In conclusion, a leader of Isra’el takes a Midianite princess into his tent and as a result, Pinchas kills them both for the purpose of cleanings the camp from impurity and sin. By so doing his act of zeal stopped a plague that was raging amongst the people!
Throughout the context of this entire Parashah, our nemesis, Balak stands at the forefront as a reminder that in every generation there have always been “Pharoah’s” who actively seek our destruction, yet at every stage of history, it is the Lord who will always guard and protect us from all harm!
From Numbers 22:3, we are reminded that,
“Mo’av was overcome with dread because there were so many of them. So Mo’av as overcome with dread because of the people of Isra’el.”
From this, we see that it has always been unrealistic fear and jealousy which has fueled much of the expression of anti-Semitism in every generation and throughout the world, thus revealing that such indifference will always transition from hateful rhetoric to acts of genocide if gone unchecked! Such a report can be quite frightening, but when we consider the faithfulness of God, we can all rest, wherein by God’s Spirit, we are empowered to walk in boldness instead of fear!
Despite these concerns, we are given hope where God will always defend His beloved as seen in His promise to Avraham,
“I will bless those who bless you and I will curse those who curse you, and from you all the nations of the earth will be blessed.” (Genesis 12:3)
Dear friends, be encouraged that no matter what trouble may come or the hate that is spoken over us by our enemies - we are always safe in the hands of the Lord, and He will never leave or forsake us.
Walk in His shalom today!
~ Rabbi Mark Rantz
Reflections from Parashah Balak
Taught and Published on June 26, 2021
(The 16th day the Month of Tamuz, 5781)
Reflections from Parashah Chukat
June 19, 2021
9th of Tamuz, 5781
Within the last two Parashiot, our Torah readings equally records the tragedy that a lack of trust which can develop in those who choose to not to look to Adonai in every circumstance. First, in Numbers 13:32 - ten of the twelve spies spread fear and a negative report and lead the people to doubt God’s goodness. Then, in Numbers 16:1-3, doubt turns into rebellion - culminating into judgment for those who opposed Adonai and His appointed leaders. However, as we reach Parashah Chukah (Numbers 19:1-22:1) God reminds for us again, the Hope of Redemption for not just Isra’el, but ultimately to all the peoples of the world who call upon the Lord’s Name!
Parashah Chukah (meaning regulations or decrees) is the 39th reading within the Torah and the 6th Parashah within the Book of Numbers. Within Chukah, Adonai provides us instruction on the following:
Yet most notably of our Parashah is the description provided in Numbers 19:1-10 in the provision of the Red Heifer. In this, the Red Heifer is seen as unique from all other where it must be without spot, blemish or defect and likewise, must not be a beast of burden or have had been fitted with a yoke (vs. 2).
Of the sacrifice of the Red Heifer, Messianic Scholar, Dr. Rabbi David Friedman in the Complete Jewish Study Bible, concerning vs. 3 notes,
“El’azar the cohen is to take some of the blood with his finger and sprinkle this blood toward the front of the tent of meeting seven times,” is the (Shachat) or, Ritual Slaughter, thus referring “to the method by which an animal was killed in order to be used as an offering.”
Most notably, for us as believers, the sacrifice of Red Heifer points directly to, and foreshadows Yeshua’s sacrifice for us and for our redemption …
From this what we find is that the sacrifice of the Red Heifer is not an archaic or primitive practice, but instead an image of salvation for all who place their hope in Yeshua our Messiah.
Beloved lets fully place our trust in Him today!
~ Rabbi Mark Rantz
REFLECTIONS FROM PARASHAH KORACH
June 12, 2021
Second of Tamuz, Fifty-Seven Eighty One
In Ecclesiastes 1:9, King Solomon reminds that no matter how much we try to change circumstances in our own strength - we will always fail by stating, “What has been is what will be, what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.”
As we read of the Rebellion of Korach in the Torah, we also discover that this same demonic form of discontent and contempt for biblical leadership still exists today. In his devotional commentary on the Torah, “Judaism’s Life-Changing Ideas,” the late Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks in his chapter, “The First Populist,” notes that “The Korach rebellion was a populist movement, and Korach himself an archetypal populist leader. Listen carefully to what he said about Moses and Aaron: ‘You have gone too far! The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?” (Num. 16:3)
As noted by Rabbi Sacks, first insists that Moses and Aaron (God’s appointed leaders) are corrupt, and that Moses is guilty of nepotism in making his own brother the Cohen HaGadol and as a result kept the leadership within his immediate family instead of “sharing” it with “others.” Secondly, (and even more deceptive) Sacks reminds that Korach deceives the people by presenting himself as the champion of the people, that all the people are “holy” and there is nothing special at all with Moses or Aaron. Then as a crescendo of obstinance, Rabbi Sacks reminds that next “… [Korach] and his fellow rebels mount an impressive campaign of fake news - anticipating events of our own time.”
As noted by Rabbi Sacks, such campaigns are always the fruit of false teachers, heretics and even dictators and propagators of the radical-Left. They first attack the good, malign the character of those whom God has appointed, insight chaos and discord and thereafter come in with the “solution” to fix to artificial problem they have created! Such deception is always seen within cult leaders, political dissidents and both socialist and fascist dictators - who in the end, only seek to uproot the authority and will of the living God!
In last week’s Parashah (Sh’lach Lecha) we also saw this same form of rebellion with the ten spies and their embrace of the negative report, and here, such sin has come to full maturity and rebellion against the will of Adonai, where we are reminded that we cannot be in right relationship with God is we stand opposed to the leadership He ordains! Of this, it does not mean that true biblical leadership is unaccountable to authority, but it does mean that no leadership is self-appointed or taken by force.
In this, the example we must all follow is that of both Moses and Messiah Yeshua our Lord. Of Moses, Numbers 12:3 reminds, “Now this man Moshe was very humble, more so than anyone on earth, and that of Yeshua who being in the form of God - “… humbled himself still more by becoming obedient even to death - death on a stake as a criminal.” (Phil. 2:6-7)
Where populism is a politics of anger, rebellion is the counterfeit of God’s purposes and the spirit of humility which God requires of those He calls. Whether it be Moses or Yeshua, here we see the heart of God manifest where true leadership is ALWAYS servant leadership!
~ Rabbi Mark Rantz
In the first chapter of this week’s Torah Portion (Parashah Sh’lach), Moses sends out spies to reconnoiter the Land of Canaan, commanding that they take notice of the people residing there and to confirm …
Are they strong?
Are they weak?
Are they small in number or many?
Are they good or bad and what is the condition of their cities?
Off their cities, are they open with free access or are they well-fortified!
In conclusion, of the land itself, is it fertile or unproductive for use?
For Moses, the commissioning of the spies was not an act of fear, anxiety, or uncertainty - but instead a confirmation that the People of Isra’el would return to their land and would prosper in the fulfillment of God’s promises.
This is confirmed in Exodus 3:17 (ESV) where Adonai proclaims, “... I PROMISE that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.”
Moses knew the PROMISES of God and did not waiver, but of the spies, many did not walk in that same level of trust, but instead allowed their hearts and fears to overwhelm them declaring,
“The land we passed through in order to it out is a land that devours its inhabitants. All the people we saw there are giant! We saw the N’filim, the descendants of “Anak, who was from the N’filim; to ourselves we looked like grasshoppers by comparison, we looked that way to them too.” (Numbers 13:32b-33)
Counter to this negative report, Joshua and Caleb responded in light of God’s Promises declaring,
“The land we passed through in order to spy it out is an outstandingly good land! If Adonai is pleased with us, then he will bring us into this land and give it to us - a land flowing with milk and honey.” (Numbers 14:7b-8, CJB) …
There it is again! Do you see it? … The promises which God had imparted to Moses is here, echoed in the lives (and words) of Joshua and Caleb, who themselves received that same impartation from Moses by the power of the Holy Spirit. In this moment, it is as if Joshua and Caleb are saying, “We are not going to die, but God in fulfillment of His promise has brought us here, that we might lay hold of and receive this great land, … This Promised Land - This land, flowing with Milk and Honey!”
For us today as believers in Yeshua, we too can learn much from this legacy set by Joshua and Caleb. Although the Adversary will always come in with words of doubt and fear, for the purpose of drowning out the Promises of God from our lives. Even for us, a choice must be made as to whether we are going to believe God’s True Report of faith, life, and blessing. - or will we embrace the lie that we dare not move forward in faith and action, because there might be giants in the land who will overtake us. If we believe the devil’s report, we will be crippled with fear and in the end, we will accomplish nothing for the sake of God’s Kingdom.
But dear friends if we not only choose to believe the Promises of God over our lives, but also walk them out, then we will experience blessing, peace, and a security that only God can provide. In the end beloved, let me ask again, … Whose report are you going to believe?
~ Rabbi Mark Rantz
From Parashah Beha'alotecha
May 29, 2021 (18th of Sivan, 5781)
“Tell Aharon, when you set up the lamps, the seven lamps are to cast their light forward the front of the menorah.”
~ B’Midbar (Numbers) 8:1-2, CJB
The beginning of Parashah Beha’alotecha begins with this powerful instruction and coupled with it are personal commandments for the cohanim in their service to Adonai. First, Aharon and his sons are told how to setup and position the lampstands in the Most Holy Place (vs. 1-4), and secondly, the Lord instructs through Moses to take the Levites (Cohanim) from among the whole House of Isra’el and be set apart ceremonially for service in and about the Mishkan/Tabernacle. (v. 5-7) In this, the Priests of Adonai were tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that the lights of the lampstands in the Mishkan were to remain lit and to illuminate into the direction of the Menorah at all times. It is here in Parashah Beha’alotecha that we find that only the cohanim could perform priestly duties in the Most Holy Place, while under the direction and leadership of the prophet Moses (12:7) and in turn they were privileged with reaping the benefits of their ministerial service before Adonai. Not just in our Parashah today, but also through the entire Sefer B’Midbar (Book of Numbers) two-points emerge whereas Priests, the cohanim alone were allowed and called of God to serve in the Temple of Adonai, and in retrospect, all non-Levite’s were forbidden to conduct such service - and if a person who was not a Priest enacted such service, they would be judged by God, and could even be put to death!
In Yeshua, this is a strong reminder for us (as both Messianic Jews and likeminded Messianic-Gentile believers) where although each of us are called to serve the Lord, each has a unique calling within the Kingdom of God. In speaking of Parashah Naso (last week), Rabbi Jonathan Sacks draws this same conclusion in stating that,
“The answer [to our questioning] takes us into one of the most revolutionary of all Jewish beliefs. If we are each in the image of God, then every one of us has infinite value. We are each unique.”
Although the cohanim had specific responsibilities which they alone could perform before God and the people, so within our New Covenant context, we as member of the Body of Messiah each have been graced by God with gifts and anointings uniquely intended for us as individuals in the fulfillment of things of God for our generation! Whether it be in the context of our calling to 5-fold ministry (Ephesians 4:11-13) or the Holy Spirit’s gifts as detailed in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 - it must nevertheless be acknowledged that we are called as both a community and individuals, wherein Timothy notes, “In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some are for special purposes and some for common use. Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.” (1 Timothy 2:21-22, NIV)
For some however, they may point to the ministry of cohanim and falsely conclude that God chose them over and above the rest of the House of Isra’el, but this is not true! From 1 Timothy, we see that in Messiah no one is just “common” or “second rate” for God purposes, but instead through Yeshua precious sacrifice - we are all made holy, [and are] useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.” Counter to the purposes of God, during the time of the Communist Revolution, Karl Marx referenced the masses as “useful idiots,” but this has never God sentiment toward anyone at any time. Instead, Yeshua has a plan and purpose for all people and in every generation - yet we must exercise our own free will in obeying His commands and choose to delight in doing His will! We have all be set-apart for the purposes of God in this decisive hour before the Lord’s Return!
~ Rabbi Mark Rantz
From Parashah Naso
May 22, 2021 (11th of Sivan, 5781)
The Nazir and the One-New-Humanity
In Parashah Naso (Num. 4:21-7:89), we see the calling of the Nazi stating, “… When either a man or a woman makes a special kind of vow, the vow of the Nazir, consecrating himself to Adonai, he is to abstain from wine and other intoxicating liquor, he is not to drink vinegar from either sources, he is not to drink grape juice, and he is not to eat grapes or raisins. As long as he remains a Nazir, he is to eat nothing derived from the grapevine, not even the grape-skins or the seeds.” (6:2-4)
Early in my ministry, a non-Jewish congregant asked me how he could fulfill the Nazarite vow and perform it today? Although sincere in his questioning, this inquiry lacked a proper understanding of both biblical context or a understanding for both Messianic Jews and like-minded Gentile believers, our unique callings, and gifts in the Ruach. In answer, I told him that the Nazarite vow was an oath taken by Jews alone in direct connection to Temple worship and in connection to ancient-Torah observance. The Nazir (as referenced above) was forbidden to touch a dead body, cut their hair after taking the vow or drink alcohol or anything from the fruit of the vine. Although significant only to Temple worship and the sin offering at the Tabernacle, there is nevertheless no longer a pathway for Nazarite vows in the strictest sense since of the word since the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E.
Of the many lessons these passages teach us, Acts 21:22 brings matters into full focus by stating,
“…in regard to the Gentiles who have come to trust in Yeshua, we all joined in writing them a letter with our decision that they should abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, from blood, from what is strangled and from fortification.”
Noteworthy here is the rabbinical reference that, “… we all joined in writing a letter with our decision” thus revealing a ruling of a rabbinical ruling of a rabbinical court where in coming to trust in Yeshua, the non-Jew (for salvific purposes) did not need to keep the Torah, and from it be in right relationship with God! In the end, the Torah was given to Israel as a covenantal obligation and covenantal sign and in turn, God’s chosen people are tasked of God to be a light to all nations of the world, just as all of us are called to be Lights for Yeshua!
This is best seen in Isa. 42:6 stating, “I, Adonai, called you righteously. I took hold of you by the hand. I shaped you and made you a covenant for the people, to be a light to the Goyim.”
It is here that we see the full scope of both God’s revelation and calling, where both Jews and Gentiles have been brought together as one as a “single new humanity” for the purpose of making between us all shalom, in order to reconcile us to Adonai as a single Body of Messiah! (Eph. 2:15-16) In the end, just as we are reminded that we all have from God, different gifts and anointings for God’s kingdom (Rom. 12, 1 Cor. 12), so we as both Jews and Gentiles in Messiah Yeshua alike have unique callings, tasks, and responsibilities, given to us by the Ruach HaKodesh for sake of God’s Kingdom!
~ Rabbi Mark Rantz
“Tell Aharon, when you set up the lamps, the seven lamps are to cast their light forward the front of the menorah.” ~ B’Midbar (Numbers) 8:1-2, CJB
The beginning of Parashah Beha’alotecha begins with this powerful instruction and coupled with it, personal commandments for the cohanim in their service to Adonai! First, Aharon and his sons are told how to setup and position the lampstands in the Most Holy Place (vs. 1-4), and secondly the Lord instructs through Moses to take the Levites (Cohanim) from among the whole House of Isra’el and be set apart ceremonially for service in and about the Mishkan. As such, the Priests of Adonai were tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that the lights of the lampstands in the Mishkan remain lit at all times and to illuminate into the direction of the Menorah at all times. It is in Beha’alotecha that we find that only the cohanim could perform priestly duties in the Most Holy Place, while under the direction and leadership of the prophet Moses (12:7) and in turn they were able to reap the benefits of their ministerial service before Adonai. Not just in our Parashah today, but also through the Sefer B’Midbar (Book of Numbers) two-points emerge whereas Priests, the Cohanim alone were allowed and called of God to serve in the Temple of Adonai, and in retrospect, a non-Levite was forbidden to conduct such service - and a person who was not a Priest was to enact such service, then they would be judged by God, and they could even be put to death!
In Yeshua, this is a strong reminder for us (as both Messianic Jews and likeminded Messianic-Gentile believers) that although each of us are called to serve the Lord, each nevertheless a unique calling within the Kingdom of God. As noted in my drash last week concerning Parashah Naso, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks draws this same conclusion in defining the meaning of “Naso,” in stating that “The answer takes us into one of the most revolutionary of all Jewish beliefs. If we are each in the image of God, then every one of us has infinite value. We are each unique.”
Although the cohanim had specific responsibilities which they alone could perform before God and the people, so within our New Covenant context, we as member of the Body of Messiah each have been graced by God with gifts and anointings uniquely intended for us in the fulfillment of things of God in our generation! Whether it be in the context of our calling to 5-fold ministry (Ephesians 4:11-13) or the Holy Spirit’s gifts as detailed in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 - it must nevertheless also be acknowledged that we are called as both a community and individuals, wherein Timothy notes, “In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some are for special purposes and some for common use. Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.” (1 Timothy 2:21-22, NIV) For some, they may point to the ministry of cohanim and falsely conclude that God chose them over and above the rest of the House of Isra’el, but from 1 Timothy we see that in Messiah, no one is “common” or second rate for God purposes, but instead through Yeshua precious sacrifice we are all made holy,[and are] useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.” We have all be set-apart for the purposes of God!
~ Rabbi Mark Rantz
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!
“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
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