Parsha post: Acharei

This week’s parsha is from Leviticus 16:1-18:30 and Amos 9:7-15.

The Leviticus section picks up after the deaths of Aaron’s two sons because they were not treating the tabernacle or God with proper respect. Now, Aaron is given instructions regarding the sacrifices for the Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur. Explicit instructions are given for how, who, when, and where these sacrifices shall be carried out. People are forbidden from trying to secure their own atonement from foreign gods by sacrificing outside of there camp and people are again forbidden from eating meat with the blood still in it. There is an additional listing of ways that people could behave in a way that would cause them to become contaminated as well.

Holiness is a serious thing. We see that again and again in Leviticus. Our God is holy and we need a covering or atonement in order to be in relationship with him, in order for him to dwell in our midst. The sacrifices offered by Aaron are a temporary covering over of sin, they do not remove it. The atonement offered by Aaron as the high priest is a picture of a permanent sufficient for all act of redemption. When Yeshua ( Jesus) shed his blood on the cross it was the sacrifice of the ultimate perfect spotless lamb. That one sacrifice is sufficient for all who would believe.

Shabbat Shalom Camp Gilgal,

RedSox

Parsha Post: Metzora

This week’s parsha continues taking us through Leviticus and this week brings us to Leviticus 14-15:33. The Leviticus portion is another sure miss for a Bar Mitvah as it discusses purity for leprosy, home infestation, and discharges of many kinds. The Haftarah portion is one of my favorite stories and it comes from 2 Kings 7:3-20. This is an amazing story of how a bunch of desperate, hungry Israelite lepers decide to venture forward into the camp of the Aramean army, knowing that death is certain regardless of their actions. God uses these men as a way of bringing help and even deliverance to the whole Israelite camp. The Israelite camp that they have been exiled from because of their unclean state. God had caused the Aramean army to hear the sound of charging horses and chariots and so the enemy had fled–but the Israelites would never have known if it weren’t for these lepers finding good news and sharing their good fortune. They didn’t know what their reception would be when they visited the King, but they knew that they had to share the salvation they had found. They knew that they could not keep it to themselves. 2 Kings 7:9 “Then they said to each other, “What we’re doing is not right. This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves. If we wait until daylight, punishment will overtake us. Let’s go at once and report this to the royal palace.””

This sentiment of the lepers reminds me of Peter and John in Acts 4:19-20 when they are brought before the religious court for causing trouble and healing a man lame from birth. Like the lepers, Peter and John knew they could not be silent, regardless of the consequences. “But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges!As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” What Peter and John had heard and seen was an even greater salvation than the temporary provision of food that the lepers encountered. What Peter and John had experienced was Yeshua (Jesus) coming to make the deaf hear, the blind see, the lame walk, lepers clean, and even the dead raised to life.

We too have stories to tell. We shouldn’t be able to stop talking about what we have seen and heard and experienced Yeshua do in our own lives. Let’s share it with our siblings, parents, extended relatives, and neighbors.

Shabbat Shalom Camp Gilgal,
RedSox

Parsha Post: Tazria

Tazria is this week’s parsha and it comes from Leviticus 12:1-13:59 and 2 Kings 4:42-5:19. This week’s parsha must be on the list of least popular bar mitzvah dates. Both the Torah and the Haftarah portions deal with skin diseases. Awesome, because blemishes are every pre-teen’s favorite topic of conversation!

Without going into too much detail for the more squeamish among us, the Leviticus portion is really amazing because the purity laws differentiate between the types of skin marks that are merely superficial imperfections and those that signal deeper contagion. God gives instructions for the priests to set up tests to distinguish between marks that were disease and marks that are disease. Moreover, it gives instructions for the people and for the priests to be able to regain ritual purity after a bout with one of these ailments. Exterior hygiene is important, but it is the inner condition of a person’s heart that will render them permanently clean or unclean.

This week’s Haftarah is from the prophetic career of Elisha in 2 Kings. Naaman is a military commander who becomes afflicted with leprosy. No one he knows can give him a cure or a referral for someone who might know more. At the suggestion of his wife’s unnamed Israelite servant girl, he travels to inquire after the prophet Elisha. Elisha doesn’t give this very important man very much attention, he just sends him to bathe in the Jordan River. The Jordan wasn’t a very dignified river and was sort of muddy and small. Naaman, even in his humiliated, leprous state, thought he was too good for Elisha’s cure. Naaman’s pride in the face of Elisha’s prescription almost gets in the way of him being healed. Thankfully, he is confronted by some of by his servants and companions who challenge him to follow Elisha’s instructions. They know that if Elisha had asked Naaman to do something complicated he would do it, but that because it is simple Naaman immediately has dismissed it.

How often are we guilty of the same thing? We are confronted with a problem and instead of turning to God and trusting him to meet our needs or provide for us we fret and worry. How often do we know that Yeshua has paid the penalty for our sins with his death on the cross, but still we act like we have the power or ability to win God’s favor for ourselves. This week, let us seek God’s help not just to be people who act right and look right, but to be people who pursue God and who ask him to lead us in his ways.

Shabbat Shalom Camp Gilgal,
RedSox

Bereshit, Noach, Lech Lecha

These are the first three parashot in the cycle. These are the first three sets of scripture readings that our people read, study and seek to understand. These cover Genesis 1-17 – from the creation of the world up through the institution of the covenant of circumcision with Abraham. There’s a lot of ground that covered during these chapters (including all of the ground by water in the flood!). When we read these chapters, and understand these stories, what’s the purpose in our reading? That might seem like a strange or obvious question, but why do we read the scriptures?

Many different people will have different kinds of answers to this, but I know that for us, believers in the Messiah, the primary reason we read the scriptures is to develop a deeper faith in God.

How does reading the same stories, the same passages, year after year develop a deeper faith in God? One answer: We change from year to year, and the text doesn’t. So when we approach the scriptures, we have new eyes, ears, experiences and God speaks to us through them, and it’s different than it was last time. Through this our faith develops.

Shabbat Shalom, Camp Gilgal Family!

Twister

Parsha Post: Matot

This week’s parsha is taken from Numbers 30:2-32:42 and is called Matot, giving. It takes place while the Jewish people are still wandering in the wilderness, but are getting closer to the end of those 40 years. They’ve defeated Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, king if Bashan, on the east side of the Jordan River. The tribe of Reuben, Gad and half-tribe of Manasseh make a request of Moses, which grieves Moses. They ask for that land. Moses thought their motive was sinful, wanting to separate themselves from the rest of God’s people, and so Moses asks them. When things come around, those three tribes make an agreement that they will still go and fight alongside their brothers when they cross the Jordan River. Moses seems at peace.

Fast forward to the opening of Joshua. The book opens by marking the death of Moses, and Joshua being the new leader of the people. God reminds Joshua how he has raised him up for this time and job – to lead the people into the Promised Land. God reminds him to keep the commands, keep God’s words close to him. God says to Joshua, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” This is our Camp Gilgal theme verse. This promise given to Joshua, extends to us.

Chapter 1 of Joshua closes with Joshua addressing these three tribes, asking them to make good on the promise they made with Moses. They affirm their commitment to fight alongside their brothers. It’s one of the first steps that God has Joshua do as the leader of the people. This commitment was important.

The Haftarah portion is taken from Jeremiah 1:1-2:3. It’s the call of the prophet. Jeremiah’s first response to God’s call was to identify his age as a barrier to being able to serve God. Our excuses to God always sound ridiculous when anyone else gets to hear them. Of course God knows our age, our flaws, our physical inabilities, our short-comings. And yet he still calls us, and asks us to be involved in the work that he is doing.

Each of these three passages show us how God is closely involved in our lives. What we do matters. It mattered that the three tribes fought alongside their brothers. It matters whether we stay close to God, or not. (Joshua’s reminder to not let the book of the Law depart from him). God knows us and loves us. Even though Jeremiah thought he was ill-equipped to be a prophet, God knew he was able.

Twelve men went to spy on Canaan…

The parsha this week is Shelach or “and they were sent”. Moses sends twelve spies from the Israelite camp, a representative from each of the tribes (except for Levi) to check out the land of promise including its inhabitants, produce, and the set up of the land. Like Texas (the land of my birth) EVERYTHING was bigger in the promised land. The grapes were so big that they had to be carried on poles between eight men and the people in the land were so big that it made the majority of the spies feel like grasshoppers. If you remember the song, you know that there were 10 bad spies and 2 good spies. Bad spies:they brought back a bad report choosing to focus on the obstacle of the people already in the land.Good spies:they brought a good report focusing on God who was able to go with them and give them victory.

This scene changes the way the rest of the Torah plays out. At this point, it has only been a matter of weeks since the Israelites left slavery in Egypt and God is sending them into the land that he has promised them. The ten spies encourage the community to raise up another leader who will take them back to Egypt. As a result, these bad spies are killed and no one from the generation of adults alive at this time (except for Joshua and Caleb, the good spies) will be allowed to enter the promised land. It will now be 40 years before they are given what God has promised them and it is their children who will get to experience it. These people have to learn to stop longing for the slavery they know and start longing for (and believing) the rest that God has promised them. The ten bad spies were disobedient and didn’t believe or trust God. They led the majority of the camp in their wickedness. We need to be people who believe God even when it is hard and even when it is the minority opinion. God promised goodness in the land of Canaan and God promises an eternal rest in Y’shua. Hebrews 3 & 4 connect these events. Hebrews 3:12 says it this way, “see to it brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.” The bad spies had hearts that were turned away from God and so they didn’t believe him. We don’t want to be like them. Instead, we want to be like Joshua and Caleb who saw God’s power as being sufficient and acted on their faith.

Shabbat Shalom Camp Gilgal,
RedSox