B’resheet 2015

Torah Portion: Genesis 1:1-6:8
Haftarah Portion: Isaiah 42:1-43:10
New Testament Portion: John 1:1-14, Colossians 1:1-22, Hebrews 1:2, 8-10

Rav Chanoch Waxman, in his commentary “And God Saw That It Was Good,” notes that concerning the creation of man, in stark contrast to the creation of the animals [1:25], there is no explicit statement that God saw that it was good. Was not man the crescendo of the creation narrative?

In the Beginning GodAnd God said, Let Us make mankind in Our image and likeness and they will have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the cattle and over all the earth and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. So God created Mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. And God blessed them… (Gen 1:26-28)

We are left with the apparent conclusion that while all else in God’s creation is [indeed very] good, man comes up short. A short detour to the end of the parsha tells the rest of the story.

“The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. ” (Gen. 6:5-6)

Sin—The BIG Problem

Adam and Eve choose not to follower God’s instructions. Disobedience was the “fruit” that they produced. Before long, their firstborn produced more of this fruit by murdering his brother.

In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions.  And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard.  So Cain was very angry, and his face fell.  The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen?  If you do well, will you not be accepted?  And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”  Cain spoke to Abel his brother.  And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him.  Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?”  He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?”  And the LORD said, “What have you done?  The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. (Gen. 4:3-10)

We are not privy to snapshots of the years in which the boys grew up and were taught by their parents. But, there is no doubt that they understood that disobeying God is sin; otherwise, Cain would surely have responded to God’s question, “What is sin?” John the Apostle succinctly defines sin for us.

“Everyone who sins breaks God’s law, because sin is the same as breaking God’s law.” (1 John 3:4 CEV)

The ESV calls sin ‘lawlessness.’

“Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. “ (1John3:4 ESV)

The King James Version states it another way.

“Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” (1John3:4 KJV)

No doubt a repentant Adam and Eve had many times described for their children the lush garden with its prolific produce from which they had been exiled for their sin. No doubt they expressed deep sorrow and regret at their failure and emphasized the importance of obedience to their sons. Or, maybe, God taught the boys Himself. Cain does not seem surprised at the sound of God’s voice.

In any event, the boys had received instruction in righteousness—which is exactly the definition of Torah. Righteousness is simply what is right, correct, just, and true in God’s eyes. To be righteous is to be blameless, a theme that flows throughout the entire Bible. To be righteous does not necessarily mean to be sinless, for only our Savior could live in such an exemplary way. However, righteousness means that a person deals with sin in a manner prescribed by God.

On the other hand, to live without God’s instruction is to be lawless. In His Sermon on the Mount, Yeshua warned His followers of the consequences of lawlessness.

” Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.  For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few…Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’  And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (see Mat. 7:12-23)

God’s instruction for the “life and life more abundantly” (John 10:10) that Yeshua came to reveal is found in His Father’s Torah.  The Torah is what Yeshua called the narrow way.” The Torah reveals how to love God by walking in a manner that is pleasing to Him and how to love our neighbor by treating him as we would like to be treated. Contrary to popular theology, the Torah is full of grace and mercy. As an act of grace, God sacrificed an animal to cover Adam’s and Eve’s nakedness and, by doing so provided an object lesson that a covering for sin [atonement] requires the shedding of blood.

Instruction in Righteousness vs. Traditions of Men

The first five books [Genesis through Deuteronomy] are properly called the Torah and, yes, the entirety of Scripture is instruction for righteousness.  However, the Books of Moses are the foundation of God’s design for mankind to overcome his sin nature in order to experience wholeness, wellness, health, financial stability, and peace in our homes as well as in our workplaces and cities. The balance of Scripture is either history that details Israel’s obedience or disobedience, or is prophecy of Israel’s future, or, as in the case of much of the New Testament, it is expounding of the Torah for new believers. Having now pursued a Torah observant lifestyle for twelve years, I have come to understand it as being the highest form of freedom available to mankind.

If we lack thorough knowledge of the Torah we cannot rightly understand the writings of the prophets or the disciples. The two primary reasons that many teachers and pastors incorrectly point Christians away from a Torah observant lifestyle is because, #1) they mistake the controversy that Yeshua (and Paul) had with the religious leaders; and #2) they fail to understand that believers have been grafted into biblical Israel–and not The Church of the Gentiles. [Eph. 2:12]

The accusations of the religious leaders concerned the burdensome doctrines and traditions that men had added to the instructions given to Moses by God on Mount Sinai. For more about that, please read the short article Examining the Leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Most of mainstream Christianity misses the point that believers are in covenant with the God of Israel. He identifies Himself by that term over 200 times! The New Covenant, according to Jeremiah 31 and Hebrews 8 is actually the renewal of the Covenant that was given on Sinai, with the promise that instead of commandments on stone tablets, the Torah would be written on our hearts!

The God of Israel promised His Bride to Be that if she would keep His commandments, statutes, and laws, she would be His am segulah [literally: the kings’ jewels].

Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession [am segulah] among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.” [Ex. 19:5-6]

Peter, writing to new believers living outside of Judea [1 Peter 1:1] urges them to see themselves as part of the kingdom of priests and holy nation by paraphrasing the above verse from Exodus:

But you 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 2:9]

Further, Peter charges the convert with the responsibility to “be holy” by reminding them of this passage from Leviticus:

“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance [before you believed and were grafted in], but, as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” [1 Peter 1:14-16]

For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. [Lev. 11:44, see also 45]

The Torah is Instruction in Holiness

What, exactly, does it mean to be holy? We read that the Sabbath is “holy,” the Temple is “holy,” and its emblements and vessels are “holy.” Moses stood on “holy ground” and there were “holy” garments for Aaron to wear, for a few examples of the 600+ times this term is used. Further, we read that Israel is a “holy nation.” The Hebrew word kadosh means to be set apart, or consecrated, for a certain purpose. For example, the offerings that were designated as “holy” were set apart only for the priests to consume. The garments of the High Priest could be worn by none other; therefore they were set apart for him alone. As to how it applies to the kingdom of God, Paul says it best:

But God’s firm foundation [Torah] stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. [2 Tim. 2:19-21]

In other words, a beautiful crystal pitcher and a plastic mop bucket both contain water. One is “holy,” meaning a treasure which is set apart for special occasions, while the other is for common use. One is highly valued; the other is not.

The Torah Explains Holy Time

And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. [Gen. 2:2-3]

Barry Miller, author of Know the TIME, Change Your World points out that the very first full day on earth for mankind was the Sabbath. Imagining that Adam was created at mid-day on the sixth day, after which he viewed and named all of the animals, noting male and female while he had no such counterpart, he surely felt a loss he could not understand. Then, viola! he wakes from surgery to find his side aching and Eve standing over him in all her beauty. Miller theorizes that Adam must have been overwhelmed. He must have wondered what he was supposed to do. Have you ever felt overwhelmed and wondered what you were supposed to do?

This is why the Sabbath was made for man [Mark 2:27]. Long before there were ever any Jews and almost before Adam had accomplished anything, he was given 24 hours to rest and contemplate, to talk to God, to ask of God, and to listen to God. In the stillness of the day, Adam was able to meet with God on His “set apart” day to receive insight and wisdom and direction. This is the purpose of the weekly Sabbath, though most either ignore it altogether or turn it into a busy time filled with religious activities. And, yes, we are commanded to have a “holy convocation” [Lev. 23:2-3]; but how does Abba describe it?

“If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the LORD honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” [Isaiah 58:13-14]

Friend, did you catch that promise!  I ask you, who wouldn’t want that?!! Lest you rush to proclaim that this promise is for the descendants of Jacob ONLY, please hear what else the LORD told Isaiah:

Blessed is the man who does this, and the son of man who holds it fast, who keeps the Sabbath, not profaning it, and keeps his hand from doing any evil.” Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD say, “The LORD will surely separate me from his people”… For thus says the LORD…to those who keep my covenant, I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off. “And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant— these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” The Lord GOD, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares, “I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered.” [Isaiah 56:2-8]

Clearly, the weekly Sabbath is for everyone! The sun, moon, and stars were created to establish the other holy days, the Feasts of the LORD, which will be introduced in the books of Exodus and Leviticus.

Torah Defines Sin

The Torah makes clear what is pleasing to God and what is not. Paul writes,

“through the law [Torah] comes knowledge of sin.” (Romans 3:20) “What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” (Romans 7:7)

Jesus/Yeshua said, “Go and sin no more.”  [John 8:11] How can we do that if we don’t know what sin is?

Torah is NOT for Salvation

Entrance into the Kingdom of God was from the beginning by grace through faith. It was true for Abel, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as well as for the children of Israel who believed God and it was accounted to them as righteousness. Their deeds of righteousness, such as painting the blood of the lamb on their doorposts and walking out of Egypt, proved their faith, and they were rewarded by walking across the Red Sea on dry ground and seeing their enemies’ dead bodies floating behind them.

The blood of bulls and goats never, ever provided salvation. The offerings were designed to draw the individual or the nation of Israel closer to God. Some were object lessons to demonstrate that as a living sacrifice, we must put to put to death our fleshly desires and draw near to God. The Hebrew word most often translated as “sacrifice” or “offering” is corban, literally means to draw near. Some corbanot [plural] depict Jesus/Yeshua’s blood sacrifice; others depict His roles in our redemption; still other are peace offerings which, in effect, are family or community celebrations of thanksgiving for mercy granted by way of protection, provision, healing, deliverance, etc.

Torah is Mercy and Grace

The purpose of Torah is fourfold:

1) To introduce God to His creation and to lay out His expectations

2) To define righteousness and unrighteousness;

3) To demonstrate the state of mankind when they disobey (lawlessness);

4) To bless for obedience and to curse for disobedience.

Even the latter is grace because curses are for the purpose of bringing the disobedient back into the fold via repentance and restitution which brings forth forgiveness and restoration.

Torah is the Kingdom Constitution

We have entered the Kingdom by grace through faith in the blood of the Lamb.  But that is only the beginning. We have to learn to walk with Him.

Like any earthly Father, Abba has the right to tell His children how to live in His House [Kingdom].  Aliens and strangers are charged with the responsibility of learning the law of the land when they emigrate. When someone from China, or Peru, or, India, or Australia becomes a citizen of the United States of America, they are obligated to follow the laws of the USA; and if they do not, they will surely be jailed and deported.

As citizens of the Kingdom of God, we are no longer “separated from Messiah, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Messiah Yeshua you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” (Eph 2:12-13) Instead, we are grafted in to biblical Israel [not to be confused with Judaism] and , therefore, obligated by love and gratitude to learn and to keep the rules of the Kingdom. To do so is, in the eyes of the Creator, to bear good fruit.

Torah Reveals the Creator

The Apostle John wanted his readers to understand without a doubt that Jesus/Yeshua is the Creator. His opening statement speaks to the Genesis account.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him nothing was made that was made. [John 1:1-3]

Paul confirms that the Son is the Creator.

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. [Col. 1:11-18]

The writer of the Book of Hebrews is the third New Testament witness that Jesus/Yeshua is the Creator:

But in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. (Heb. 1:2)

For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”? Or again, “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son”? And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.” Of the angels he says, “He makes his angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire.” But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.” And, “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.” And to which of the angels has he ever said, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”? [Hebrew 1:5-13]

This is a crucial understanding largely missed by mainstream Christianity which teaches that Jesus’/Yeshua’s ministry began only after He was born of a virgin. The fact is that His ministry to humanity began long before His advent, for the Lamb was slain from the foundation of the world [Rev. 13:8]. The Son was and is actively engaged with all of His creatures. Everything that He created is for the purpose of providing for and teaching humanity.

Torah is Light!

On the first day of creation, light was separated from darkness. The Creator said, “Light be!” and the light came forth.

But, what was this light? Remember, the sun, moon, and stars were not created until the fourth day. The answer comes from the Book of Revelation.

And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. [Rev. 21:23]

And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. [Rev. 22:5]

In a Hebraic mindset, everything is circular. We are headed back to the garden and everything that has been lost since the garden will be restored for eternity. We will go deeper into this concept in other lessons. But, for today, consider that the light that will shine at the end of days is the same light that shone in the beginning. But, how does the LORD give light?

It is the Torah! It is the Word that was God and was with God from the beginning! Christians proclaim Jesus/Yeshua as the Living Word; but fail to understand what it means to be the Light of the World. God cannot be separated from His Word any more than the Father can be separated from the Son or the Spirit can be separated from Father or Son. In the Tanach [Old Testament/Hebrew Scriptures] the Torah, light, truth, and the word are synonymous

Ps. 36:9 For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.

Ps. 43:3 Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!

Ps. 119:105   Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Ps.119:130 The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.

Prov. 6:23 For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life,

Isaiah 2:5 O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the LORD.

John 1:4-5 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

The Torah Charges Israel to be the Light of the World

Somewhere along the way, Israel forgot that her primary assignment was to be a light to the nations, to draw all men into the Kingdom of God.

Keep them and do them [My Commandments], for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law [Torah] that I set before you today? [Deut. 4:6-8]

But, wait. You may say that Jesus/Yeshua was the light of the world and to this we say, indeed! He came to walk out the Torah as a perfect example, in beautiful simplicity, minus the traditions of men that make the word of God of no effect.

You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your traditionthus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.” [Mark 7:8,9,13]

The Torah Reveals God as the Restorer

It has been suggested that within the depths of mankind is the same void, darkness, and formlessness over which the Spirit of God brooded on Day One of Creation.  Most certainly, those of us who know Messiah and have spent some years learning of Him can testify of the remodeling He has done.  Abba Yahweh wants to separate us from the darkness in our upbringing, culture, and traditions, that we may be conformed to the image of His Son, fully set apart, holy unto the LORD.

Commentators have been puzzled for millennia over the fact that the creation narrative begins with a less than perfect scenario. But, perhaps, as Rav Waxman suggests, our blessed Bridegroom is more interested in introducing Himself as Restorer and Conqueror of Chaos than the All-Powerful, All Knowing, Eternal and Most High God who created everything from nothing.  Maybe, continues Waxman, He wanted us to know that He broods over every soul in darkness.  He cares about every heart that is wounded. He desires to transform each one of us into the being that He had in mind when we were formed in our mother’s womb.

Until next week, Shabbat Shalom!

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