IT ONCE HAPPENED THAT TWO WERE EVEN AS THEY RAN TO MOUNT THE RAMP. Our Rabbis taught: It once happened that two priests were equal as they ran to mount the ramp and when one of them came first within four cubits of the altar, the other took a knife and thrust it into his heart. R. Zadok stood on the steps of the Hall and said: Our brethren of the house of Israel, hear ye! Behold it says: If one be found slain in the land… then thy elders and judges shall come forth . . . On whose behalf shall we offer the heifer whose neck is to be broken, on behalf of the  city or on behalf of the Temple Courts? All the people burst out weeping. The father of the young man came and found him still in convulsions. He said: ‘May he be an atonement for you. My son is still in convulsions and the knife has not become unclean.’ [His remark] comes to teach you that the cleanness of their vessels was of greater concern to them even than the shedding of blood. Thus is it also said: Moreover Manasseh shed innocent blood very much, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to the other. (b.Yoma 23b)

Could the name of the victim have been Zechariah? Almost certainly not, but it does make you wonder…

Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ so that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be required of this generation. (Luke 11:49–51)


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Shelach, Part 3 – He “loved him”

I’m sorry – but I can’t get this parasha out of my head…

And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him… (Mark 10:17-21)

When we read this account of the rich young man who approaches Yeshua, we tend to completely gloss over this one little statement. After responding to Yeshua that he had been diligent in keeping the mitzvot throughout his life, it says that Yeshua “loved him.” He “loved him” because he knew that this young man was sincere in his service to Hashem. He “loved him” in that he was faithful in walking in obedience to the God of Israel. But he also “loved him” enough to speak to him with the gut-level truth when he told him the one thing he still lacked: to be radically sold out to the Messiah. Yeshua “loved him” just as he “loves us.” He expects a radical commitment to himself. Are we really following our Moshiach, or are we walking away with our heads to the ground?

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The Smell of Sin

“The Messiah, as it is written, ‘And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge of the fear of the Lord, and shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord’ (Is. 11:2–3).”
And R. Alexandri said, “The use of the words ‘for quick understanding’ indicates that he loaded him down with good deeds and suffering as a mill [which uses the same letters] is loaded down.”
[Explaining the same word, now with reference to the formation of the letters of the word to mean “smell,”] said Raba, “[The Messiah] smells and judges, for it is written, ‘And he shall judge not after the sight of his eyes nor reprove after the hearing of his ears, yet with righteousness shall he judge the poor’ (Ex. 11:3–4).”
Bar Koziba ruled for two and a half years. He said to rabbis, “I am the Messiah.”
They said to him, “In the case of the Messiah it is written that he smells a man and judges. Let us see whether you can smell a man and judge.”
When they saw that he could not smell a man and judge, they killed him. (b.Sanhedrin 93b)

Could this play into the story of the adulteress woman in John 8:2-11?

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Mashiach and the Hearts of Men

Said Zeiri said R. Hanina, “The son of David will come only when arrogant people will no longer be [found] in Israel, as it is said, ‘For then I will take away out of the midst of you those who rejoice in your pride’ (Zeph. 3:11), followed by: ‘I will also leave in the midst of you an afflicted and poor people, and they shall take refuge in the name of the Lord’ (Zeph. 3:12).” (Sanhedrin 98a)

This was the mission of Yochanan the Immerser. The angel spoke thusly in relation to Yochanan:

“…for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” (Luke 1:15-17 ESV)

But the people were not ready to receive him, his message, or our Righteous Moshiach.

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Shelach, Part 2

Last week’s Apostolic portion was Mark 10:1-45. In it we find the story of the “rich young man.”

And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. (Mark 10:17-22 ESV)

Matthew records the young man’s response as:

“All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” (Matthew 19:20)

This brings to mind a passage in b.Sota 22b, which lists the seven types of Pharisees. Type #6 is, “The  [p. 113] Pharisee [who constantly exclaims] ‘What is my duty that I may perform it?’” The question is then asked, “Isn’t this a virtue?” The response is, “Nay, what he says is, ‘What further duty is for me that I may perform it?’,” which implies that there is nothing left for him to do.

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b.Berachot 3a

b.Berachot 3a makes the connection between Hashem’s “roaring like a lion” during the three watches of the night, to the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash. It is said that He cries out at each of the watches of the night, “Woe to the children because of whose sins I destroyed My Temple, and burned My Sanctuary, and exiled them among the nations of the world.”

From this it is derived that there are three “favorable” times of the night at which one is to pray, particularly for teshuvah and for the rebuilding of the Beit Hamikdash: The first watch (soon after dark), the second watch (the middle of the night), and the third watch (just before dawn). I believe this is where the Breslovers get the concept of waking up to pray at midnight, and it may be connected to the Jewish legend that David HaMelech arose at midnight to pray (being awakened by the sound of his harp being played by the רוח).

Toras Chaim (to Sanhedrin 96b) states that the expressions, “destroyed My Temple” and “burned My Sanctuary” are representative of two events: Hashem’s departure from His Temple, and the physical destruction of the Temple, respectively.

There is also a thought that not only was the physical Temple destroyed, but that the heavenly Temple ceased services while the earthly Temple remains in ruins (Taanit 5a).

I’m definitely interested in hearing from someone if they have any insights on these.

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This week’s parasha was parashat Shelach (“send” – Numbers 13:1-15:41). I found something interesting in reading it this year that gave me pause.

In this week’s parasha we read of the fate of the Sabbath-breaker in 15:33-36. Here are some observations:

  • This story follows on the heals of the laws regarding intentional verses unintentional sins
  • Therefore, it is clear that this person is sinning intentionally
  • He is traditionally thought to be rebellious and thus his dire consequences
  • Judaism, however, teaches that this was the righteous Tzelophchad (father of the daughers with the issue of the property rights in Numbers 27)
  • Why Tzelophchad? Because he “died in the wilderness… because of his own sin”
  • Tzelophchad is said to have intentionally gathered the wood so that he could be stoned, to remind the younger generation of the seriousness of disobeying the Law of God

Tzelophchad’s self-sacrifice reminds me of Yeshua (Jesus):

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

It also reminds me of Paul:

“For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers,[a] my kinsmen according to the flesh.” (Romans 9:3)

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