Parsha Shoftim: Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9, Isaiah 51:12-52:12, John 1:19-27

To our 9:00 am Shabbat Ark of Prayer and the Mishpacha within,

This week’s parsha is Shoftim: Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9, Isaiah 51:12-52:12, John 1:19-27. Shoftim  is Hebrew for “Judges”.

Judges are part of the landscape of a system of boundaries and rules.

Submitting to authority is a concept that seems largely lost in our culture, but is consistent with biblical teaching.  When we submit to these boundaries we bring honor to G-d. (Rom 13:2)

I believe Western civilization has moved from what was once called the Judeo-Christian ethic to a consumer-driven, choice-fixated culture without norms, ideals or shared values beyond the sovereign self, the freedom to be whatever one chooses, and to do whatever does not immediately harm others.

At the heart of contemporary culture is the atomized individual, detached from any commitments to the past, the future, tradition, a set of relationships, a substantive identity, and a sense of binding loyalties. That individual, the bearer of rights but not responsibilities, is free to enter any lifestyle but at home in none, and is the person whom Psalm 1 describes as “like chaff blown by the wind.” Society cannot survive such atomization

As a result, we also see huge turnover rates for spiritual leaders trying to lead their congregations because congregants, people like you and me, are unwilling to be led.

Part of G-d’s program for healthy living is to submit to the boundaries that G-d, his spiritual delegates such as our Rabbi, our government and our friends have set (Rom 13:1-5, 1 Peter 2:13-14).

In any relationship, in the absence of sin, what is left is preference. In order to maintain any community it is important to support the preferences of a humble leader, in our case, our Rabbi.

“Humble” as used in the Bible, does not mean diffident, meek, self-abasing, timid, bashful, demure or lacking in self-confidence. Moses was none of these. It means honoring others and regarding them not only as important but no less important than oneself. It does not mean holding oneself low; it means holding other people high.

G-d cares for all regardless of rank, and so must we. Greatness is humility.

Only by creating strong marriages can we argue the case for marriage. Only by sustaining strong communities can we speak with authority about community. Only by intense dedication to Torah study can we talk compellingly about education and the spiritual significance of the life of the mind. Only by being different can we offer an alternative to the prevailing cultural paradigms. Only by being true to what we are uniquely called on to be, can we give humanity what only we can give. To be a Messianic Jew is to live particular expressions of universal truths.

This is part of why TAJ is so important to me. We have many such people and couples that can claim strong marriages, are dedicated to Torah, and offer an alternative to the wider culture.

TAJ is a refuge of shared values, commitments and strength. And, like the refuge cities in this week’s parsha, it allows me to escape the pressing demands of life, where I can find support and insight as I rebuild my life through my recovery. At least in my life, I can not live a G-d filled life alone.

Our neighbors need to hear a Messianic Jewish voice, … voices from TAJ, speaking persuasively of the covenant of marriage, the sanctity of the family, the moral challenge of parenthood. They need to hear the TAJ view of community, and collective responsibility.

The parsha in Isaiah, says that G-d is in control of our lives, yet we do not fear Him as we should. Instead, we fear people – people who don’t really have any truly important authority over us. I sometimes succumb to my fear of disapproval of others. I seem to sometimes forget that I have said I have given all of my life to G-d and that I should strive to please G-d, who can bless me or punish me.  I need to fear G-d more and people less.

How about you?

We are called to share what we have learned from G-d with others and to be G-d’s light in the world. Let’s be bold together.

May you be blessed this week with the opportunity to share your experience, strength and hope with someone that can use your light and love.

I hope if you that are able, you will join the 9:00 am Shabbat Teva Tefillah. We pray for the Temple, for Israel and our government.

Blessings to you and yours. May this week be G-d filled and peaceful within the storm.

Your brother in Yeshua in the TEVA TEFILLAH,


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