sifra dekitbeyhon dibney orha

ha-séifer ha-kitbey b’ney ha-dérekh

(THE BOOK OF THE WRITINGS OF FOLLOWERS OF THE WAY)

Scroll One

1:1 1You have heard those who say that God is like one who lifts up a rod to chastise us, and strikes us in anger when we go astray; and those who say that God will cast out those who err, and will banish them from His presence.

           2But I tell you this, these people have not read the words of the Prophets, where it is written:

              3“Like a shepherd He feeds His flock;

           In His arm He gathers up the young lambs;

           In His bosom he carries them;

           Tenderly He leads those who have young.”

           4For a shepherd gathers up the weakest and least able of his flock, and keeps them close to his breast. And a shepherd guides the most vulnerable of his flock with loving care and shelters them.

           5So then, if a mere man will show tenderness to the weakest and most vulnerable, how much more so will our heavenly Father gather up His sons and daughters in tenderness and protect us, and guide us with care!

1:2.    1YHVH says, ‘You are already Mine, and I loved you from the first. You don’t need to bribe Me, or suffer for Me, or endure hardship for Me, in order to deserve My love, for I already love you. 2The gods of the Greeks and Romans cannot love their followers without the shedding of blood; those lifeless gods ask for blood and for life to be given. 3But I am YHVH, I am a living God, and I am able to love all My children without one drop of blood being spilled, nor any price paid, nor have anyone suffer on My children’s behalf.

           4The children of false gods grovel before them, but you are My sons and daughters, and you shall have honour and dignity, and hold your heads level with your fellow human beings. False gods have slaves, but I am YHVH, and I have no slaves, nor do I ask for any; all my sons and daughters are free.

           False gods are tyrants and demand obedience without question, but I am YHVH, and I am a just and compassionate God, full of forgiveness and abounding in mercy that endures. I know that My children are not perfect, and I understand them, the fruit of My creation.

           False gods call down wrath upon those who do not follow them, for they are but the produce of angry human minds; they are weak. But I am YHVH, and My power is incorrupt, and My might eternal. The strength of My arm rests over those whom I love to protect them. I cannot be bowed or turned, for I love even those who oppose me; My love extends even to those who hear nothing that I say.

           Human beings are offended when others speak against me; they seem to bear the affront on My behalf. But I am YHVH, and I have endured generation upon generation, and I am still here, unweakened, undeterred, unbowed.

           What is an insult from a human mouth? What is a slight to Me in the eternity of time? If someone stamps their foot on the ground and insults the earth, does not the earth still endure? If a human being hurls abuse at the universe, does it not continue, oblivious to the slight? Then do you not think that I will endure for longer? The servants of false gods bear affronts on their behalf; they will go out of fashion and fall away, but I am YHVH, and I will go on forever. False gods are false, but I am YHVH.’ A word of YHVH.

1:3. This is what YHVH says,

‘Go to My children, Israel, and say,

“Cry no more My people,

Weep no longer, My children,

For the many who were put to death are with me now as lights in the firmament,

They are beside Me as the stars in the heavens,

They live, they are not gone,

They walk in light, they are not dead.

Move beyond your grief, for I have comforted you,

Let your pain be no more, for I have healed you.

Rejoice, for they are clothed in white,

They are bathed in the fullness of My glory.

I have given them honour and dignity,” says YHVH,

“I have crowned them with the Way of Chaff,

And lifted them above even the seraphim, for My Name’s sake.

They stand in praise by my throne,

And sing throughout all eternity in joy,

‘Holier than the holiest holiness is YHVH of the heavenly battalions;

Heaven and earth are full of Your glory.’

Be comforted and know that I remember them forever,

So that you are freed once more to remember Me.”

An oracle of YHVH.

1:4.    This is what YHVH says:

Go to my sons and daughters and say to them,

“Do you know how so very special you are to me?

How precious in My sight?

You are my own, beautiful children,

The offspring of My own heart.

How can I not love you?

How can I not care for the infant I have borne?

Who knew when I created you,

When I first filled you with My breath,

that I would end up being so proud of you,

that My joy would be filled to overflowing?

What mortal could have told me,

Or what human could report,

That I would gain so much out of holding you,

someone as small and precious as you

Close to my heart,

And near to My breast?

There are no human words to express how much I love you,

Nor any songster’s lyrics to express My devotion.

I could never be away from you even for a moment,

Nor stray from your side for the length of a sigh,

because My heart would ache too much to be apart from you;

My Presence would be diminished.

My beautiful child,

how I love to look into your precious eyes,

to gaze into your soul,

and see the goodness and purity that I created there,

the treasure I placed there before you were even born.

My child, whatever you have done, I have forgiven you;

wherever you have been, it matters not;

I forgave you long ago.

I have absolved you of blame.

It matters only that you are close to my heart;

My precious child, that you are with Me.

You have only to breathe, and I love you;

You have only to open your eyes, and I am proud of you.

I accept you absolutely, and without condition.

My love for you is total, and without any terms.

I love you simply because you are My child;

that is the only truth I need to give My love to you.

You need never be afraid of the world,

Nor fear the deeds of mortals,

because I will always be here to catch you if you should fall.

If you are sad or hurt, I will comfort you;

and if you stray and become lost,

then I will search high and low until I find you,

And I will bring you back to safety.

You need never be afraid,

Because I will come to you, and pick you up.

I will raise you up high, and carry you proudly.

Because you are my special child, and I love you always, and forever.” An oracle of YHVH to His children on earth.

1:5. To the oppressed, this is what YHVH says: Do not be afraid, for I am with you. I am your God – let nothing terrify you. I will give you strength and help you; I will protect you and save you.

1:6. To those who face great trials, this is what YHVH says: Do not be afraid, for I will rescue you. I have called you by your name – you are Mine.

1:7. To those who fear what is to come, this is what YHVH says: ‘I am your God, and I will walk with you. I will share your every step until your hair is grey, and the last breath leaves your lips. I made you, and I will be by your side forever.’ These are words of YHVH.

1:8. To the friendless, this is what YHVH says: I am your eternal friend, whose love is constant, who will never fail you or abandon you. I will always be on your side, to support you and console you. I will delight in your interests, and will be pleased in your happiness. When you are hurt, I will be there to listen. When you are in distress, I will do all in my power to help you find a way out. Be just and merciful always, and in all trials I will call you innocent.’ A word of YHVH.

1:9. This is what YHVH says, ‘When you strive for riches, and wealth, and gold for the sake of the welfare of your loved ones, and these things fail to appear in spite of the trials you have endured, I will give you wealth beyond price which you can take with you when you return to me in the world to come. When you strive for friends, and love, and warmth, and all these things elude you, I will be your greatest friend, and I will love you and cherish you and value you more perfectly than any human being ever could.’ A word of YHVH.

1:10.     These are the words which YHVH spoke:

“Write these words, and record them.”

And I said to my Sovereign the Most High, “Whom shall I address them to?”

And YHVH said, “Those to whom I speak,

They will know from My words that I am speaking to them.

They will know in their hearts that My message is intended for them.”

So I said, “I am ready, heavenly Father,

Tell me what I am to write.”

And this is what YHVH said:

(this oracle will be restored to the text when humanity is ready for it)

Scroll Two

2:1. How many new sects and preachers and false prophets have you heard? There are so many that it is futile to try and count them. Yet most of them seem to say the same thing. Each one of them with a stern voice goads their followers into obedience, threatening them with God’s wrath and punishment.

           Then how shall our words be different? How shall our teachings be set apart and be called holy?

           Our heavenly Father knows how to call His children; God knows how His followers are to be recognised, as the prophet Z’kharyah told us,

           ‘And again the word of YHVH came to Z’kharyah: “This is what YHVH of the battalions of Heaven says: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another; do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the foreigner or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.’

           Do not think evil of one another. Rather, think and hope the best of your neighbour. A true child of their Father in heaven is one who acts justly and with mercy; one who does not oppress others, but rather raises them up and encourages them.

           God is our King, our Sovereign Majesty, and these are the ways of His kingdom. These are the hallmarks of God’s citizens, and by these signs God’s true followers are to be recognised.

2:2. We are not to pray in any name but YHVH, nor honour any other name, nor follow after any other name, nor invoke any other name, nor glorify any other name, nor hold any other name holy, because YHVH Himself has said to us,

           “I am YHVH your God,

           This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.

           YHVH your God alone shall you follow, and Him alone shall you revere.

           You shall have no other gods before Me.

           Do not invoke the names of other gods; let them not be heard on your lips.

           I am YHVH, that is My name; I will not give my glory to another.”

2:3. You have heard it said that there is a model of the Mishkan in heaven – that the earthly Mishkan follows the design of the one in heaven. But let me tell you this: the Mishkan was in truth itself a model of the universe – of heaven and earth. The Holy One designed the Mishkan to teach us what Heaven is like. The design of the Mishkan is not some idle or random whim. If we understand its structure, we will understand how God acts in heaven and on earth, and the nature of how God forgives.

           The fire of the altar represents for us the fire of God’s glory. Just as an offering is wholly consumed by the fire of the altar, so our bodies would be wholly consumed by God’s radiant glory if it were to enter this world. By repentance however, our souls are carried into God’s purifying presence, and we are cleansed by God’s fiery glory and made whole.

           We immerse ourselves in a miqveh to prepare ourselves to encounter what is divine. By passing through a miqveh, we leave this earth and all human things, and proceed through the upper waters, passing through the firmament and into the heavenly abodes.

           The design of the camp of Israel in the wilderness, during the time of her youth, was a model to teach us about heaven and about God. In the outer camp were the ordinary Israelites. Moving towards the centre, in increasing degrees of holiness, were the Levites, then the priests, and then we would have come to the Mishkan. At the centre was the Holy of Holies, where only the High Priest may enter, and within, the Ark of the Covenant.

           This is how it is in heaven. In the heavenly camp are first the battalions, the souls of all humanity before and after they dwell on earth; as we move in light towards the centre, we encounter the angels, who give God praise; then we encounter the seraphim; and then we encounter the highest heaven, wherein stands the throne of the Most High. This place is only-God, and only the four angels of the Presence are able to enter.

           Therefore, when our forebears prepared themselves to go to the Temple, God intended them to be mindful of all these things. When they immersed, they passed through the veil between heaven and earth; when they walked through Jerusalem, and the dwellings of their fellow Israelites, they were passing the heavenly battalions of human souls; when they passed the court of the Levites, they passed the domain of the angels; when the sons of Aaron entered the court of the priests, they entered the domain of the seraphim; and on the Day of the Atonements, when the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies, it was like the four angels of the Presence – which includes the guardian of the nation of Israel – who alone can enter the highest heaven; and as the ark stands in the midst of the Holy of Holies, so the great brilliance of God’s glory stands like a great throne in the highest heaven.

           What we were given on earth through Torah, was meant to teach us something of heaven. That is why we had these things.

2:4. To what shall I compare the merciful?

           It is like the king whose kingdom is renowned throughout the whole earth, to whom nations bring tribute, and whose citizens dwell in safety and without anxiety.

           To what shall I compare the unmerciful?

           It is like the landowner whose inner chamber is dread, and the soil of his land is like burning coals upon which visitors fear to tread.

           To what shall I compare the forgiving?

           It is like a labourer who goes out into the field, and finds his harvest more bountiful than anything he had even sown.

           To what shall I compare the unforgiving?

           It is like a house that no carpenter will repair, and in the fullness of days, that house will crumble and fall, and desolate will become the earth on which it stood.

           To what shall I compare the honest?

It is like the widow who dwells securely in her own house, who does not fear for her next meal, and who lives in contentment, for she owes no debt.

           To what shall I compare the dishonest?

           It is like the porter who carries his burden on his back from dawn to dusk, knowing that tomorrow he will have to bear his load once more.

           To what shall I compare the humble?

It is like the wise scribe whose pen never wearies, and whose teaching brings fame and honour to his house.

           To what shall I compare the haughty?

           It is like the tower built in sand that collapses in the merest breeze.

           To what shall I compare the selfless?

           It is like the blameless priest who enters the Presence of God day after day, and enjoys God’s favour.

           To what shall I compare the selfish?

           It is like the rich man who pours silver and gold into his coffers day and night, yet when he comes to do his accounts, finds his coffers dark and empty.

           To what shall I compare the generous?

           It is like the land that never wants for rain, whose harvests are full, whose vats flow ceaselessly with new wine, and whose olive-presses are rich with virgin oil.

           To what shall I compare the greedy?

           It is like a land that knows only war, whose fields are ravaged day and night, whose people know only pestilence and grief.

           To what shall I compare the just?

           It is like the woman whose every prayer is answered, whose every case in law is vindicated, and whose children shall never be orphaned.

           To what shall I compare the unjust?

           It is like a man who sows seed in the desert or in parched ground, knowing that nothing will ever come of his labour.

           Do all those good things that your Father in heaven requires of you, and I tell you this, you shall see the kingdom of God fulfilled in your own lifetime. Every promise given to generations past will be fulfilled, and every hope held by our ancestors will come to pass.

2:5. A poem written in the style of a vision

           One night I had a dream, and I dreamed that the archangel Refa’el – the messenger who brings us God’s message of healing – came to me. So I asked this angel, “What is the true meaning of the Holy Name?”

           At that moment, the angel looked up and breathed deeply, as if in ecstasy simply to think of the great majesty of God.

           Then the angel spread his wings of light, opened out his arms, and said:

           “YHVH means, ‘the One whom a child-like soul need never fear’;

           And, ‘the One who shall return to first innocence even the most wretched of souls.’

           It means, ‘the One who shall comfort you, and remain at your side when all have forsaken you’;

           And, ‘the One who will salve your wounds with tenderness when the world has bruised and beaten you’;

           It means, ‘the One who will watch over you, and wipe your brow, each and every moment while you are ill’;

           And, ‘the One whose sacred and merciful heart shall glow with joy each moment you are well’.

           It means, ‘the One who will give you strength to endure everything you were meant to endure’;

           And, ‘the One who will bear you and lift you up in the days when your trials and hardships become too great for your human frailty’;

           It means, ‘the One who will give you understanding and clarity, when all is confusion and uncertainty’;

           And, ‘the One who will save and protect you, when your soul wanders from the path.’

           It means, ‘the One who was present when you first breathed the breath of life’;

           And, ‘the One who will be there at your last breath, before you return to your heavenly home’.”

2:6.    Those who create peace will be blest by God, because they are truly children of their Father in Heaven;

           Those who clothe and feed the poor who have nothing, will be blessed by God, because they follow the true heart of His commandments;

           Those who practise their religion with humility and compassion will be blest by God, because they reflect the light of their Father in heaven;

           Those who walk with God even in their darkest hour will be blest by God, because they reflect the hope they have in God their Father and Saviour;

           Those who forgive others who have sinned against them will be blest by God, because they have stored up for themselves true treasure in heaven;

           Those who are unselfish in their giving will be blest by God, because they will come to see the fullness of God’s kingdom;

           Those who act justly and deal fairly will be blest by God, because they have laid the foundations for His kingdom;

           Those who speak honestly and with love will be blest by God, because wealth and prosperity will follow in their wake;

           And those who strive earnestly to pour out good things from their heart will be blest by God, because they will have an abundance of plenty at their heavenly Father’s throne.

2:7. What is heaven like?

How shall I portray it to you?

It is a like a house in a dark corner of the city,

A dwelling that even the poor pass by.

And in it is a window,

A hole of little account.

And a man looks through it,

To see what he shall see.

And he, seeking nothing but a dusty hovel,

The dankness of a small dwelling

Will see instead a great valley,

And a city full of light;

And around it a great garden,

A stunning paradise,

A place where none are afraid,

Where Wisdom dwells throughout.

Here the angels sing,

And the children of God give praise.

The man in disbelief turns away,

Back to the dim light of the day,

The incessant rain,

And the day’s misty pallor.

2:8     Many people have asked in earnest, “Why are there so many religions? Would it not better to have just one?”

           If there were just one religion, unbelievers could quite justly say, “If there is only one religion, and only this religion says that God exists, then God is a creation of human beings.”

           God allows many religions to flourish, so that although they differ on many matters, they may all bear witness to the existence of God by agreeing if only on this one thing: that human beings are a creation of God.

2:9   There will come a time when the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of YHVH, as the waters cover the sea. This is when the veil between heaven and earth will be torn down, and there will be heaven on earth.

        We will know that time is near, because our sons and daughters will prophesy, our old men will dream dreams, and our young men will see visions.

        The prophet Daniel foresaw this day when he said, ‘One like a human being came with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into His presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language gave him honour and respect. His dominion will be an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.’

        And this was the interpretation of the vision that he gave: The human being represents the holy ones of the Most High – purified, heavenly humanity – who will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever – yes, for ever and ever. The sovereignty, power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be handed over to the holy ones, the people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.’

        Thereafter, when heaven reigns on earth, the wolf shall live with the lamb, and the leopard lie down with the kid - the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze - their young shall lie down together, and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of a cobra, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den. They will not hurt or destroy anywhere on my holy mountain, for the Earth will be full of the knowledge of YHVH, just as the waters cover the sea.”

        In those days, the sun will no longer be our light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on us, for YHVH will be our everlasting light, and the glory of our God will shine. The sun will never set again, and the moon will wane no more; YHVH will be our everlasting light, and our days of sorrow will be no more.

 

2:10   There are some who think that we are here to learn all we can, to better prepare us for the next life. But they do not know that when we leave this life and return to God, the knowledge and wisdom we had before we came here will once more be returned to us. Rather, while we are here, we are to seek YHVH, go after that knowledge which will help us fulfil our mission in this life, and not fret over what we do not know, for that will be given to us at the proper time.

        There are others who think the purpose of this life is to prepare for the next. But the purpose of this life, is this life. We are here to fulfil God’s kingdom, so that Gods will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. The day will come when God’s glory will cover the earth, and His kingdom be fulfilled.

        We were told to replenish the earth and make it abundantly fruitful. We are like the labourers of a great King, who has sent his labourers into the world to sow his fields, dress his vines, tend his orchards, pasture his sheep, drive his cattle, and water his earth. And if we do our job well, we reap a bountiful harvest.

        We are therefore the labourers, for we are sent here to feed and clothe the poor, give shelter to the homeless, free the oppressed, speak justice for those who cannot speak for themselves, care for the abandoned and outcast, support the widow and the fatherless, not to oppress the resident foreigner among us, and find those who have lost their way.

 

2:11 If the sons and daughters of Israel teach the knowledge of our ancestors to our children, and our children’s children, then there will come a time when the Assembly of Israel will speak as one, with the wisdom of age, as if with the knowledge of one single being who is 3,500 years old.

        But if the sons and daughters of Israel also follow the ways of YHVH, and walk with holiness in God’s ways, then she will also become a Dwelling Tent for the Presence of God. As a tent of cloth was a Dwelling for God’s Presence within Israel, so Israel will become a Dwelling Tent for God’s Presence among the nations.

2:12 There are some who say, ‘I need to know what is to come.’ Like those who visit astrologers and mediums, they search through prophecy in an attempt to learn all the things that will happen in the future in order to understand them. As a result, when understanding does not come, they grow frustrated and anxious.

        This is because they do not approach prophecy in the spirit in which it was given. If you follow God’s ways, and set your heart on a righteous path, then you do not need to know the events of the future. All you need to console yourself is to know that your reward is great in heaven.

        The only people who need to know what will happen in the future, are those who have set themselves on the wrong path, and have turned themselves away from God’s ways. They need to know what will happen, because they need to know the consequences of their unrighteousness in order to repent of it.

2:13 In heaven, there is no romantic love,

only love.

In heaven, there is no marriage,

or being given in marriage;

There is no husband or wife.

In heaven there is no parent or child,

no partner or companion.

There are only heavenly beings who have great love for one another,

just as our heavenly Father has one great love for them all.

2:14 It seems to me that the early Jewish followers of Yeshua` were very much of the mind that our heavenly lives should be reflected in how we live our lives on earth. For example, in The Teaching of the Emissaries, it says, ‘For if you are going to hold in common immortal things in the world to come, how much more so should you hold in common the things of this world!’. The followers of the Emissaries believed that in heaven, there was no such thing as personal wealth or belongings; therefore, in this life, they were bidden to share what they had as a reflection of life in heaven.

        In this life, there are many conventions that we take for granted. What we never stop to think about is the purpose of those conventions. What we have on earth is just that – for our life on earth. They exist to guide us, protect us, and enable us to have a strong foundation and framework to work within, given the nature of earthly life and earthly human nature. We just never stop to consider whether they exist in heaven as well.

          In heaven, there is no male or female, and the nature of our human bonds of connection to one another does not exist either. We are no longer husband and wife, parent and child, friend or caregiver. In heaven, we are more than that. In heaven, we are no longer defined by our human relationships, but by the love that we have for one another. In heaven, we are heavenly beings who have no gender – just as God and the angels have no gender. In heaven, there is no male or female.

          In heaven, you will once again see and live forever with those whom you loved on earth. You will love each other with a love greater than you had for those people on earth, and it will be a love that is perfect, without guilt or fear, full of trust and acceptance. There will be no judgment in that love, nor any lack of understanding of each others’ needs, nor any fear or hurt or sorrow – no ups and downs, no suspicion, no mistrust; only love. In heaven, you will have perfect knowlede of those you love – of their past, their deeds, what they have said and done – and you will still love them, because eveything in the past is gone, except for the love you have for one another.

          In this life, so much is bound to our social identities – whether we are male or female, our sexuality, our social position, who we are related to, our wealth or lack of it, our ethnic origin, and so on. Some earthly relationships, and the attitudes that stem from them, are healthy. If those social conventions and attitudes bring us peace, love and compassion for others, then they are good. But if those social conventions, walls and beliefs bring us hate, and encourage us to oppress others, deny them justice and the right to pursue happiness, then we have to question our attitudes to those social conventions, because such negative attitudes are not from God.

          It is important for us to meditate on what you once were when you existed in spirit, and will be again one day in heaven, and how that should inform your behaviour towards others in this life here and now. If in heaven you are neither male nor female, if the social nature of the bonds you have in this life are not carried over into heaven – if you are purely heavenly beings who have a great love for one another – then how should that inform and modify your behaviour towards one another here on earth?

 

2:15 There is not one man for whom

        God has not set a purpose,

nor one woman for whom He

        has not allotted a place

        in His design.

For each son is born as the child

        of his Father in heaven,

And each daughter as the

        offspring of the

        Divine Presence.

2:16 Yahveh is sovereign over both life and death,

but life and death are not equal.

There is life before birth,

there is life on earth,

and there is life after death.

Birth and death are only doorways –

transition points between worlds.

Life is eternal,

death is only fleeting.

Death is not the opposite of life;

death is only a doorway.

If one's faith is focussed permanently on that doorway,

the wholeness of one's soul will be diminished, 

and the quality of one's life in this world

will drain through that doorway;

it will only be a shadow of what it can be.

Yahveh is the living God of eternal life.

Life is forever,

eternal,

for all time.

You are an eternal being created by God;

you live forever.

Your soul merely transforms through different states.

Before birth,

you knew Yahveh perfectly;

and after death,

you will again know Yahveh perfectly.

Standing apart from Yahveh in this world

will diminish you,

and keep you from your full potential.

Know Yahveh therefore,

and truly live.

 

Scroll Three

3:1.    In those days there was a wise scribe, and many would come to him because of his learning. Now at that time there arose a great famine, and the whole of the Land suffered. Children went hungry, and it was hard upon the old and the widowed.

           So the heads of three families came to the scribe for advice, one a Sadducean priest, the second a Pharisaic rabbi, and the third an Ebionite elder. And they all said to the scribe, “Tell us, what must we do to overcome this famine, for it weighs heavily upon all of us.”

           So the scribe looked at each one carefully in turn. Then he stood up and said, “Do this as I instruct you. Do not deviate from it, nor add or subtract a word from what I say. Follow my words, and I promise you, your families will be fed, and fed for as long as the famine lasts.”

           So the scribe gave them a route to follow – a long and winding road, which crossed back over itself many times. Although its beginning was not far from its end, nevertheless the route to be taken was intricate and tiresome.

           So setting out first among the three, the priest followed this route. He did not deviate from it – he followed the scribe’s instructions to the smallest yodh, neither adding nor subtracting a single word. He walked from the beginning to the very end. There he saw a dry well, and thought to himself, “There is nothing here; the scribe has deceived me, and my family will go hungry.”

           Then the rabbi set out, and thought to himself, “There must be a hidden meaning to be interpreted from the scribe’s words.” So while walking along the road, he concluded that the winding and crossing of the path must spell out a word that would lead him to food. And indeed, part of the route made the letter shin, so he thought to himself, “This stands for Shaddai, so it must mean that, if I go to the first synagogue I find along the road, then I will find food there.”

           And sure enough, he came to a synagogue. However, upon entering he found nothing, for it had been abandoned for some years.

           The rabbi said to himself, “My interpretation was correct; it was authoritative and could not be faulted. But a thief must have come before me and stolen all the food.”

           Then it was the turn of the Ebionite elder to set off, and he followed the scribe’s instructions carefully.

           Along the way, he heard a woman crying. So taking pity on her, he asked if there was anything he could do to help. She told him that for many months her father had been in dispute with her husband. So the Ebionite went to her father with her husband and mediated between them. And after some hours, they came to an amicable agreement.

           So pleased was the woman, that she gave him a small portion of bread for his trouble, and also some rope – the only gift she had to give, for her husband was a rope-maker.

           The elder rejoined the route. Going further along the way, crossing back on the route as the scribe had instructed, he came upon an old man who was sitting outside of his house, beating his breast in anguish, and crying out to heaven. So the elder went up to the old man and enquired of him his plight.

           And the old man replied, “The time for sowing is fast approaching, and I have a plough, but no yoke to attach it to my oxen, since it is broken. I am an old man, and without sons it will be hard to do it all on my own. My family rely on me, but we are finished.”

           So the Ebionite said to him, “Take heart, you are not finished. Look, I have some rope. I can tie it to the plough and then attach it round the neck of the oxen, and they can pull it for you. I will stay with you a day and help you to begin.” So the elder worked the whole day, and helped to plough much of the field ready for sowing.

           Out of gratitude, the old man offered him a small meal, and in reward gave him a pick, for his son-in-law was a toolmaker.

           Near the end of his journey, the Ebionite elder saw a man sitting by a well looking quite despondent. So he went up to him and said, “My lord, why is your face fallen? And why is your heart so burdened?”

           And the man said, “The source of my well is a spring, but for many months now, my well has been dry. My animals are dying, my fields are parched, and my family have little enough water to drink. So I went to the scribe in the village, and he told me that he would send me three men who might be able to help. I have waited here on and off for three days, but so far I have seen only a priest. He had indeed been sent by the scribe, but he had no solution.

           So the elder said, “A Pharisee set out before me – a rabbi; has he yet arrived?”

           And the man said, “No, I have seen nothing of him.”

           So the elder said, “Look, I have a pick. Lower me into the well, and I will see if there is anything I can do.”

           So the man lowered the Ebionite into the well. Once at the bottom, he was able to see a tiny trickle from some rocks, but it was so small, it would dry up before it could settle. So with his pick he removed all the rocks, and water began to flow once more from the spring.

           The man pulled him up out of the well. Within hours the well was noticeably fuller. The man was so overjoyed that he said, “I am a rich man, and I own much land, but I need people to help me manage it all. If you will come and work for me as my steward, I will feed you and your family, and you can stay for as long as the famine lasts.”

           With that news, the Ebionite returned home to his family, and that day they rejoiced.

           So you see, there are some who do only what they are told, and they profit none by it. They have little to begin with, and they end up with nothing. There are others who see more than what is truly there; they follow their own inventions, and their imaginings lead them astray, and because they are blind they do not see that they themselves are at fault. Yet there are others who have eyes to see and ears to hear, and they understand why they were told to do what they were given to do, and I tell you, their reward is great.

3:2.    There was a very rich man who had great wealth. And at the festival of Unleavened Bread, the rich man would take the best lamb – a male one year old without blemish – and invite all his neighbours to feast on it, according to the law of Moses, for he made sure that there was more than enough, so that he could invite his neighbours to his house to see his wealth.

           And there was a poor man, a beggar, who would simply wander around the Temple courts until he found a soul who was willing to allow him to join them, and give him a small portion of their Passover lamb.

           And at the Festival of First-Fruits, the rich man would love to have everyone see the display of all his offerings, how he would bring the first and best of his wheat harvest, the first-born of his sheep, his cattle and his goats, as well as the money he had gained from the first of his flax, his figs, his grapes, and his olives.

           The beggar had nothing that he had sown, nor grown, nor harvested, but he had kept the first little prutah coin given to him after the first day of the year in the month of Nisan, and this he put into one of the donation trumpets in the Temple.

           And at the time of the Festival, the rich man would build a large booth, and decorate it with the most luxuriant of branches, the most beautiful of all fronds, the finest of scented boughs, and the most succulent of fruits. It was taller and broader than anyone else’s. And he would make sure that the offerings he made at this time were the best of all his harvests.

           But the beggar would raise just four sticks and cover them with but a few branches to dwell under.

           And when they died they both came into the Presence of God, and God said to the rich man, “What have you done to keep my Covenant, to follow my decrees, and to observe my statutes?”

           And the rich man said, “Three times a year I appeared before you. I have built your booths, exactly as you commanded; I have sacrificed the best unblemished lambs for the Passover sacrifice, as you instructed; I have offered the first of all my crops and livestock at First-Fruits; I have done everything that you asked of me.”

           And then God turned to the beggar and said, “And you, did you keep my Covenant, and follow my decrees, and observe my statutes?”

           And the beggar said, “Heavenly Father, I am not worthy of your blessing; I was poor in life; I did not have enough to build booths; I was never able to afford a lamb for the Passover sacrifice; I never owned anything to give at First-Fruits. I never had anything but the devotion of my heart.”

           So God said to them, “You who were rich displayed your piety before others so that they would praise you, yet your heart was cold and empty. Your intentions were towards vanity, and your direction towards your own self-importance.

           But you who were poor have kept my Covenant; you have excelled in every commandment, and fulfilled every statute, because the aspiration of your heart was towards reverence, and righteousness was the intent of your soul.

           Therefore you, O man of little means, I knew you because in humility you have walked with me. Yours was the kingdom, and you never knew it.

           But you, O man of wealth, since you had no love except for your own vanity, I tell you this: I never knew you, because in all the days of your life, you never once walked with me, and never once did you set foot in my kingdom while you dwelt on earth.”

3:3. How shall I describe the Kingdom of God? There were two exceedingly rich men. One of them would go out into the streets and seek out the poor. And he would wash and bind up their sores and wounds, giving them to eat and offering them fresh clothing. And at festival times he would make an invitation to the widowed and the fatherless – all those who were without – and asked them to join him at his table. And at harvest times, he would seek out the poor – even those who were not of his own people – and encourage them to take from the gleanings of his fields. And he would give of his wealth to help the sick and the dying.

           And there was another man who was also very rich. He feasted on his best food and wine, inviting all his family and friends. And he ensured that he paid his tithes, prayed at the appointed times and said all the prescribed blessings. He would wash and immerse to ensure ritual cleanliness, and he would attend Temple services, and rise to read the Torah in synagogues.

           Now, which one of these men truly did the will of his Heavenly Father, and lived the Kingdom of God?

3:4.    What is the kingdom of God like? It is like when a certain man bought a portion of land. He placed the deeds to the land in a jar and sealed it, and hid it in a hole in the wall of his house. But this man forgot to tell anyone that he had bought the land, or that the deeds to the land were and sealed in a jar and hidden in the wall.

           Shortly afterwards, that man died, and his son inherited all his possessions. Now that son was poor, and everyday he would walk past the land his father had bought, yet he did not know the land belonged to him.

           And he would sit in the house where the jar was hidden, and he would bewail his lot, saying, “Heavenly Father, I have little enough to feed my family, deliver me and my family!”

           And in time, the son also died, and the house and all that was in it passed to his son. And that son was also poor, and would also cry out to God, “O God! Why do You keep me and my family in poverty? Why do You not help me? I beg You, deliver me and my family!”

           Now his neighbour had an ox, and one day a fly got into the ear of the ox, and in its torment it smashed into this man’s house and broke the wall, knocking over a lamp, and burning everything in the house.

           And the man said, “Oh God, why have You punished me like this? What have I done, that You should unload such misfortune upon my head?”

           In his anger and sorrow, he rummaged among the ruins of his house, and found a sealed clay jar. Upon opening it, he found the deeds to a plot of land.

           And the land he inherited was fruitful and rich, and YHVH blessed his family with great abundance.

           In the days when we have peace, we don’t realise what wealth we have, but when our foundations are shaken, and misfortune comes our way, we rarely see what God is trying to tell us.

3:5.    In those days there came a man, Judah of Galilee, and he claimed many followers, and many gathered to him. And he claimed that he was the Messiah, saying, “I am a descendent of David, King of Israel; I will throw off the yoke that oppresses us; I will defeat our enemies; and when the kingdom of our father David is restored, I will gather in the exiles to the Land.”

           When he said this, people would say, “See, how the people follow him! Surely he is the Messiah!”

           And there came a man, who said to the people, “You rich, do not abuse the poor; you priests, take no more than the tithes you are entitled to; you children, honour your parents; you people, do not forget the widows and orphans among us; do not forget to have just weights in matters of buying and selling; and remember to leave the gleanings of the fields for the poor.”

           But the people said to him, “Why do you say these things? By what authority do you speak? Show us a sign!”

           So he went further and said, “Serve Adonai your God alone, and do not go after or worship what is false; sanctify God’s Holy Name; and do not add to the laws of Adonai your God.”

           Still they said to him, “Who are you? Why should we listen to what you say? Are you the messiah?”

           And this man said, “I am no messiah, I am no son of David.”

           So the people said, “Then be silent; you have nothing to say that we should listen to.”

           And so they followed this Judah of Galilee, and the Romans slaughtered all his followers, even to the last man.

3:6.    There was a rich landowner, and constantly at his side was a certain money-manager. Now this money-manager was cunning. He knew that each day his master was finding new ways to make money, for this was the reason he had sought him out. He had gained his trust with plots and ruses, so that this landowner would employ him.

           Now it so happened, that his master discovered that the money-manager was taking some of the profits he was not entitled to, and that his only interest was in increasing what fell into his own purse. So the landowner decided that he would turn the money-manager’s greed against him.

           So the landowner caused the money-manager to hear of deals that were either without profit, or false. At each turn, the very greed of the money-manager alone encouraged him to enter these false deals, until he was heavily in debt.

           After many months, the money-manager owed nearly twenty kikkar of gold, more than he could ever pay off in his own lifetime. So he went up to the Temple, and cried out to God in his heart, and said, “Father, I am a sinful man, it is my own heinous greed which has caused me to become burdened by debt. Forgive my sin, and I will become your obedient servant, doing everything that you command me to do.”

           From the Temple, he went to each of his creditors, and said, “My lord, I have sinned against you, for I have deceived you in business. Even if the length of my days were a hundred years, I could never earn enough to repay you. Nevertheless, let me make restitution in whatever way you see fit.”

           So the creditors set him tasks. Now God had changed the hearts of those creditors, so that they would set him tasks that would cleanse him of his wrongdoing. He was set to work among the peasants who worked for each creditor, and in so doing, he gained high esteem among those peasants.

           He worked his service for seven years, and in that time all trace of greed was driven from his soul, and his spirit was purified in the fire of humble service. He learned that in his greed, his associates had been the children of wealth, but in turning to God, and by following his ways, he found that his true friends were now the people of the land, the children of the Kingdom of God.

3:7.    There was a man who went out into the desert to find God, in order to find answers. He fasted seven days and seven nights there. At the end of the seven days, he felt that he had not found God, nor come upon any answers. So he vowed to fulfil certain tasks if God would speak to him. He completed all these tasks, and still he received no answer. So he finally decided to study the complicated writings of mystics, in the hope that he would find his answers there. Once more, having finished reading the mystical works, he found he still had no answers.

           So the man went home, and sat on the ground in his house. He raised his hands to God and cried out, “Adonai, why will you not answer me?”

           And a voice came back, “Because you never actually asked me any questions. I’ve been here all the time; you only had to ask”.

3:8.    There was a certain woman who lived near a small stream in the Judean desert. Every day she would attach two large, clay water jars onto a yoke, and then lay the yoke across her shoulders. She would go down to the stream, fill the water jars, and return to her house.

           One day, one water jar said to the other, ‘Look at me! Our Mistress puts me on the right side of her yoke, and when we return, she only uses water from me. She never takes water from you.’

           This made the other water jar despondent. ‘Why does our Mistress never use water from me?’

           So the first water jar said, ‘Look at you! You’re worn out, broken, and you have a huge crack running down your middle, right to the bottom! Our Mistress never uses any water from you, because by the time she gets back, there isn’t any water left! She only brings you as a counterweight to me.’

           The next day, the woman began throwing goat dung into the cracked water jar. This made the second water jar feel even worse. ‘Our Mistress hates me! I’m broken and worn out, she carries me on her left side, and now I’m good for nothing but goat dung! I must be the most unfortunate water jar in the land!’

           After a week of this, the woman noticed the cracked water jar was very sad, so she said to it, ‘Water jar, why are you so sad?’

           And the water jar answered, ‘Because I am broken and useless, I serve no purpose, I’m good for nothing except goat dung, and you always carry me on your left side – I’m not worthy to be carried on your right side.

           So the woman said, ‘My dear, precious water jar, you are one of my most treasured possessions!’

           The cracked water jar did not understand, so the woman turned the jar around. The woman said, ‘Look, all around us is desert, from this house to the stream. But all along the path, where water has spilled from you, you have watered a long road full of beautiful plants and flowers, and the dung has fed them.’

           Then the jar said, ‘But why do you always set me at your left hand?’

           So the woman answered, ‘Because from my house, as the path twists and turns, it is the right side which is now the most beautiful.’

           Sometimes we are so caught up in our own troubles, that we cannot see the great purpose that God has in mind for us.

3:9.    There were two moneylenders, a Roman moneylender, and a Jewish moneylender. Now, the Roman moneylender was the most notorious throughout all the Mediterranean. One day, one of his debtors came to him and said, ‘The debt that I owe you can never be paid off in my lifetime; I beg of you, please have pity on me.’

           So the Roman moneylender said to him, ‘I will forgive your debt, even though you are unworthy and don't deserve it, but only if the debt is paid in blood, and the price exacted in someone’s death.’

           The debtor was incredulous, but the Roman moneylender said further, ‘Yes, and I am sending my henchman to make sure that you wash yourself in that person’s blood. That’s the only way I am able to forgive your debt – my rules; I am after all the son of an Empire built on blood and death.’

           Now that same day, a debtor came to see the Jewish moneylender. In great distress he said, ‘The debt that I owe you can never be paid off in my lifetime. Please, I beg of you, help me – I don’t know what to do.’

           Seeing the depth of his anguish, and the gravity of his need, the Jewish moneylender had great pity on him, so he took the bill of debt, and tore it up.

           Surprised, the debtor said, ‘But what about my debt?’

           The moneylender replied, ‘I will remember your debt no more. Now go; your debts are forgiven.’

           There is no God like YHVH.

3:10.     God summoned the Archangel of Healing, and the Angel of Death. God said to them, “I want the two of you to take a journey throughout the generations, and I want you to find men and women worthy to be teachers in my kingdom.”

           So the two angels came to earth. The Angel of Death said to the Archangel of Healing, “How shall we know who is truly worthy?”

           And the archangel answered, “This is what we shall do. We shall appear to certain men and women in a vision. We shall open to them a scroll of the Torah, and each of us shall point out certain commandments to them, each one according to our natures. Those that choose your selections we shall turn away, but those who choose my selections we shall give to God.”

           The Angel of Death thought this was an excellent idea. So the Angel of Death appeared to a certain man in a vision, and laid out a scroll of the Torah before him. The angel pointed out passages such as, “Each of you must put to death those of your men who have joined in worshipping the Baal of Peor”, and, “Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day must be put to death”, and, “If a man lies with a man as he lies with a woman, both of them must be put to death,” and, “If anyone curses his father or mother, he must be put to death”.

           The man staunchly defended these passages, and insisted that these commandments be obeyed. In this way, the Angel of Death knew that this man was not fit to be a teacher in God’s kingdom.

           Then the Archangel of Healing went to a woman in a vision, and pointed out certain passages from the scroll of the Torah to her, such as, “Love your neighbour as yourself”, and, “Open your hand wide to the poor,” and, “Love mercy, do justice, and walk humbly with God,” and, “The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt.”

           And the woman said, “Truly, these words reflect the glory of YHVH our God, who is merciful and compassionate, abounding in love and faithfulness!”

           And by her answer, the Archangel of Healing knew that she would be a worthy teacher in God’s kingdom.

           And so it was with all the men and women the angels visited throughout the generations. The ones who answered rightly to the Archangel of Healing, would become the pious ones, the holy ones and sages; and those who answered to the Angel of Death in support of his choices, these became the preachers of hatred, vengeance and small-mindedness.

3:11.     ‘There was a young boy in a village who was very disobedient and rebellious towards his parents, and did not honour his mother or his father. His father would tell him to do one thing, and he would do another; his mother would instruct him to go one way, and he would head off in a different direction.

           So one day, his father called this son and said, “My son, I need you to go on an errand for me to the neighbouring town over the hills. Now the path is a winding way, so I will give you instructions and you must follow them carefully, veering neither to the right, nor to the left. You must go there and return to me straight afterwards.”

           But the son on leaving the village went off on his own way, and in time, he found himself hopelessly lost. So he sat down on a rock along the way, and when he heard wolves and leopards nearby, he began to cry out of fear.

           Presently he felt a hand on his shoulder; he turned round and saw his father’s kindly face of concern looking down on him.

           So the son said, “Father, I have been foolish. I have strayed and become lost, and thereby put myself in danger.”

           But the father said, “My son, you were never really lost to me, because I always knew where you were. I knew you would disobey me, so I followed you, because I love you and don’t want to lose you. You may have strayed from the path I had set for you, but I accompanied you close by, and I was always there with you.”

3:12.     How shall I describe the kingdom of God on earth? And to what shall I compare it?

           It is like when a king commissioned two merchants to tend his gardens. And he showed them two plots of land, both of equal size and scope, but both barren.

           And the king said to the merchants, “Behold, I give to you these plots of land. I want you to plant the land and tend it, so that it lives and flourishes.”

           But the merchants said to the king, “My lord, we are businessmen and do not know how to do this. We have never tilled soil, nor ever sowed seed; we have neither planted a tree in one place for it to thrive and put forth fruit, nor a bush in another for it to spread out its branches.”

           So the king said to them, “Do not be anxious or afraid. I give you these scrolls upon which I have written instructions on what to plant in the garden, and how to tend everything that grows within it. Do this, and observe my instructions faithfully, and you will both succeed and prosper.”

           So the first took charge of his portion of land. And following the words of the king’s instructions to the very letter, he took care to observe every yodh and tittle of the king’s words. He set about the garden just as he tended his businesses. He determined that one plant should grow in one place, and another plant in another. He tilled the soil and sowed seed wherever he chose. In the fullness of time the plants grew, but the garden was like a threadbare rug, and did not flourish.

           But the second man took up the king’s instructions, writing them on his heart so that they became part of his very being. He lived them and learned even from doing and observing the king’s instructions. In the fullness of time the plants grew – he knew not how. Yet the plants put out shoots, leaves, branches, flowers and fruit according to their kinds, and the vision of the garden was like that of a paradise of lush green, flowing with milk and honey.

           Then the day came for the king to come and inspect the gardens. And he came to the garden of the first man. He saw that it was ugly and sparse. So he said to him, “What happened here? Did you not observe what I gave you?”

           And the first man replied, “My lord, I did everything you told me. I followed carefully every word, omitting to observe not one single letter. But nothing happened.”

           So the king said to him, “You followed precisely what I told you, but you learned nothing by it. You read each word by the letter, without understanding their spirit. Therefore the garden is in the same sorry state now as it was when I gave it to you.” With that he dismissed the merchant from his service.

           Then the king went to the garden of the second man. And he saw how the garden was full and abundant with life, how fruitful and bountiful it was.

           And the king was greatly pleased. So he said to the second man, “Well done, good and faithful steward. You have produced trees of good fruit, and herbs of rich flavour. You took to heart My instructions, and learnt from them. Because of this, I give you also the first plot of land, so that it too might flourish –  that you might sit peacefully under your own fig and vine, and drink from your own well.”

Scroll Four

4:1. O YHVH, cause me to understand your Teaching,

   and instruct me in your precepts,

For the multitude shall hear of your deeds,

   and the nations shall honour your Glory.

Remember me and forget me not,

   and bring me not through unbearable trials.

Put away the transgressions of my past,

   and may my sins not be remembered against me.

O YHVH, cleanse me from all evil,

   and let it not return to me;

Dry up its roots within me,

   and do not allow its leaves to flourish from my flesh.

YHVH, You are Glory; therefore I know my plea shall be fulfilled.

For to whom else shall I cry, and he grant this to me?

What can the power of mortal men do for me?

For my trust comes alone from Your Presence,

I cry to you and you answer me; you heal my broken heart.

You held me up when my soul was stricken -

You are my Lord and Saviour, O YHVH!

My doubt recedes as the dust,

My disbelief disappears as smoke.

My feet shall not totter, nor my hands waiver,

For YHVH is my Redeemer, who saves me.

4:2. To keep Torah is as a great oblation,

  and the one who observes the commandments

  is as one who sacrifices a peace offering.

In doing works of charity,

  it is as one who offers fine flour,

And when someone gives alms,

  it is as one who presents a sacrifice of praise.

To refrain from evil is as a pleasing odour to YHVH,

  and to avoid injustice is as a sacrifice of atonement.

To do justice is as an offering of sweet savour,

  which rises before the Most High,

And a generous spirit

  is as an abundance of freewill offerings".

4:3. Form a community to make known the salvation of YHVH,

and do not hesitate to make known

God's might and God's majesty to all the lowly.

For it is to make known the glory of YHVH

that Wisdom has been given,

and it is for recounting God's many wondrous deeds

that Wisdom has been revealed to humanity;

to make known to the lowly God's saving power,

to explain God's great compassion to the ill-educated,

to the poor who sit far from Wisdom's gates,

the crippled who walk far from Wisdom's portals."

4:4. Prayer for the fulfilment of prophecy

O YHVH, you know the times and the seasons,

    The days to come when your designs shall be fulfilled.

We pray that your will may be fulfilled soon,

    And at a time near our own.

May the tribes of Ephraim be reconciled with those of Judah,

    And may they be joined as one stick in your hand.

May the exiles be gathered together from the nations where they have gone,

    And be brought back to their own land.

Forge from them a new nation on the mountains of Israel,

    One people under your Holy Name;

And set one prince over them,

    The son of your servant David.

One shepherd,

    One king.

And place your sanctuary among us forever,

    Your dwelling place in our midst, with us.

We pray that the Nations shall on that day go up to your holy mountain

    To your house, as the God of Abraham and Ya`aqov.

That from thenceforth, you shall teach them your ways

    And instruct them how to walk your paths.

We pray that your Torah shall from that time go forth from Zion,

    And your saving message spread out from Jerusalem.

We pray that there shall be the universal pursuit of peace,

    And the increase of righteousness among all peoples.

That your just ways shall be upheld

    With zeal for your Name these things shall be accomplished.

We pray that all lands shall know peace,

    That their swords shall be hammered into ploughshares

And that none instruct their people or their kin in the ways of war

    Any more.

But may these things be fulfilled in your time,

    And according to your design;

May they come to pass in your day,

    And at the season which you have appointed for them.

4:5. In the depths where I struggle, YHVH will reach for me;

In the darkness where I cry, YHVH will hear my voice

YHVH will not ignore a sheep lost in the wilderness

Or a lamb caught in the mire.

When blows rain down on me, YHVH is my defender

When I am oppressed, YHVH is my shield.

When the fires of despair threaten me, YHVH shall pluck me out;

When I am burned by the flames of my failings, YHVH shall heal my wounds.

I am lost, but YHVH shall find me;

I flounder, but my hope is in YHVH.

4:6. It is YHVH alone who is your Saviour and your Redeemer;

it is YHVH’s hand that will shelter you from the storm;

it is YHVH’s arm that will protect you from danger;

it is YHVH’s fire that will cleanse you and purify you;

YHVH’s Divine Presence that will fill you with holiness and lift you up.

Your spirit will never be poor,

because YHVH is your inheritance and your wealth;

your soul will never hunger,

because the power of YHVH will fill your heart and mind with good things;

YHVH’s spirit will be an eternal river of sweet and living water,

so that your soul will never thirst.

Glorify the holy name of YHVH,

because God is mighty;

revere YHVH in awe,

because of God’s powerful might.

Proclaim YHVH to the heavens,

for there is none to compare to our God:

YHVH of the heavenly battalions.”

4:7. A Litany for Yom Tru`ah, at midday after the reading of the Seifer ha-Torat Mosheh

Blessed be YHVH!

Blessed be YHVH, the living God, Elohim chayyim!

Blessed be YHVH, the Holy God, Elohim q’doshim!

Blessed be YHVH, the Eternal God, Eil `olam!

Blessed be YHVH, the Faithful God, Eil ha-ne’eman!

Blessed be YHVH, God Most High, Eil Elyon!

Blessed be YHVH, God of the holy mountains, Eil Shadday!

Blessed be YHVH of the Heavenly Battalions, YHVH Tseva’ot!

Blessed be YHVH, God of Abraham!

Blessed be YHVH, Mighty One of Jacob!

Blessed be YHVH, King of Kings!

Blessed be YHVH, Lord of Lords!

Blessed be YHVH, the great God!

Blessed be YHVH, the Holy One of Israel!

Blessed be YHVH, Protector and Shield of Israel!

Blessed be YHVH, the Ancient of Days!

Blessed be YHVH, Giver of Torah!

Blessed be YHVH, God of Compassion!

Blessed be YHVH, the Just and the Merciful!

4:8. ‘A Meditation’

YHVH, my eternal rock,

my wise counsellor in times of strife,

YHVH, my true Guide along stony paths,

my rest and my calm,

YHVH, my peace and wellbeing,

My Father, my eternal Friend.

I know you are with me,

that are by my side,

I know you will protect me,

that you will never abandon me,

I know you will save me from harm,

that your justice will triumph.

4:9. Heavenly Father,

teach me to be a messenger of Your Kingdom on earth,

how to live a life in witness to Your holiness.

Give me the courage and strength to be a benefit and a blessing to those whom I meet,

And to walk a path which brings good repute to Your great Name.

When I stumble and fall on the way,

And fall short of the mission You have entrusted to me,

Forgive me in Your merciful love,

And set me on Your path of light anew,

That I might dwell in the power of Your saving Presence,

And bless and praise Your Name each day that I shall live.

4:10. Your mercies abound, O YHVH,
more abundant than the most bountiful harvest.

Let our hearts sow your fields with righteousness,

and your people reap the blessings you have promised.

In your House of Prayer, we praise you, O YHVH;

the House which is filled with prayer like incense.

As at a wedding, Israel rises to greet her Groom,

embroidered in gold, she ascends to meet her God.

And in white, like a heart that is cleansed,

like a sheep newly shorn and washed.

As the congregation of Jacob rises to thank our God,

their prayer is like honey,

like nectar in an autumn breeze.

For YHVH is our King, our Sovereign Majesty,

whose rule is just, whose word is fair;

Whose reputation towers like the mighty cedar,

whose kingdom blossoms like the vine.

God's precepts are better to my mouth than spiced wine,

God's teaching more filling than a feast.

How greater than gold is the value of YHVH's Name!

How much firmer God's covenant than tempered iron!

Therefore, all the days of my life I will have wealth of spirit,

And a heart which none shall break.

4:11. Beloved YHVH,

Watch over us here

And guide us.

Stay our hands

When we are tempted to do evil,

And strengthen our feet

When they falter on the paths of righteousness.

Keep our eyes fixed on the light of Your Presence

When they are tired and weary of life;

And carry up our hearts

When they can endure no more.

Fill us with your love

When our hopes slide and fade;

And when our spirit is crumbling,

And threatens to fail into darkness,

Reach down your saving hand

And pluck us into your light.

4:12. Heavenly Father, we bless You and praise You for all the good things that You have ever done for us, for the mighty wonders You have shown to our souls. We pray that Your great fame and reputation will be magnified in Your deeds to come; hear our sincere and heartfelt prayers, that we may further
cause Your great renown to spread across the face of the earth – that we may tell of Your loving-kindness and mercy forever.

These are our prayers, Holy YHVH, and we ask these things in Your Great Name, which is far holier and far more powerful than any other name we have ever experienced. We have confidence in You, O YHVH, for You are far holier than the holiest holiness, and Your Compassion and Mercy are beyond compare.
We raise our arms and lift our prayers as a humble offering in Your Holy Presence. Hear us, O YHVH, in Your great love.

Scroll Five

5:1. It is to the humble that God shall make known His ways, and to the meek that his paths shall be made manifest.

5:2. When a religious person curses this world as a place of sin, vanity and evil, they curse the work of God’s hands.

5:3. Just as no amount of darkness can extinguish light, nor any amount of cold extinguish a flame, so also no amount of evil can ever extinguish good.

5:4. Reward is not given for the length of one’s prayer, but for the heart within it.

5:5. Great need has the mind of prayer when the soul is disquiet.

5:6. The one who rises from their prayer to help someone in need, is more blessed of God than someone who stays behind to perform the ritual of their religion.

5:7. Beware of those who think they can justify any argument by turning their opinions into pithy maxims; they are tailors of words, not necessarily sages.

5:8. If someone has to say that calamities will befall those who do not take heed of what they say, then they are neither wise, nor their argument strong.

5:9. A wise person should not boast of their learning; for wisdom is vindicated by her fruit.

5:10. A wise teacher should not belittle his students, for without them he is no teacher.

5:11. A worker deserves his wages.

5:12. If you are dishonest towards your children, do not be surprised if your children have thereby learned to deceive others.

5:13. Evil cannot endure, nor falsehood last forever.

5:14. God is not a man, that he should follow fashions, nor a human being, that he should be swayed by trends.

5:15. Much talk does not make a person right.

5:16. An honest person need never worry about the traps and snares that lie ahead, for he can hold his head high, and laugh at the days to come.

5:17. No amount of sacrifices will purify an unrepentant heart.

5:18. Immersion will not cleanse an unrepentant soul.

5:19. Truly golden is the heart which desires for others, that which it desires for itself.

5:20. Faith that is firm is also patient.

5:21.     True children of YHVH do not enjoy the suffering of their enemies.

5:22. No amount of miracles and healings will prove an inherent  falsehood, for any charlatan can perform feats to astonish the gullible. Divine truth is self evident; the word of YHVH is the only proof that YHVH needs supply to His true messengers.

5:23. There will come a time when no one will need to convince others to know YHVH, because all will know YHVH because of what He does.

5:24. YHVH awakens the hearts of the nations to take up their mission to work for the fulfilment of His kingdom.

5:25   He who defends the sins of his ancestors shares in their guilt, but he who rejects the sins of his ancestors frees himself from them, and his soul is cleansed.

5:26   A compassionate person listens with acceptance and understanding, and without judgment. A compassionate person finds joy in the presence even of a stranger, comforts a soul in distress, is giving and unselfish. That person is the child of their Father in heaven.

5:27   If come the day when human beings become so proud that they threaten Creation, remind them that God created the ant and the horsefly before them.

5:28   He is strong who can rule over the passions within him.

5:29   Just as Moses, our great Teacher, was not afraid to accept guidance from his father-in-law Jethro, a priest of Midian, so also no son or daughter of Israel should consider it a shame to accept wisdom or insight from one among the nations.

5:30   The wealth of a rich man is weighed by how wide he opens his hand and how much he gives to the poor.

5:31 If a man spends his days being angry with everyone, and spends his nights nurturing hatred for everyone, then in truth that person has no life at all.

5:32 Which is better – to give one person a hundred talents of gold, or a hundred people one talent of gold each?

5:33 If a person is told that he is a sinful person, then he will sin anyway, because he will think, ‘What is another sin to me?’ But if he is told that our Heavenly Father created him to do great things, then his efforts will know no bounds.

 

5:34 God did not make us perfect, in order that we might realise that we need each other.

5:35 This is how people shall know that you are followers of YHVH: by the fullness of the compassion that you show to others.

5:36 If you seek the enrichment of the country in which you live as strangers, then your neighbours who are not of your own people will bless you.

5:37   However much we may turn our faces from God, and try to separate ourselves from Him, there is nothing we can possibly do that can separate God from us.

 

5:38 Human beings teach knowledge, but only YHVH can bestow wisdom.

 

Scroll Six:

The Story of Shim`on of Jerusalem

 

6:1.       1After the death of Ya`aqov ha-Tsaddiq, his brother Shim`on was chosen by common assent to lead the congregation, as he was the last, close relative of Yeshua` who had heard the words of the prophet, and was still living.

              2After the martyrdom of Ya`aqov, and before the Roman destruction of Jerusalem, it is said that those of the emissaries and followers of Yeshua` of Nazareth who were still living, came together from all over the known world, to join with those who were related to the prophet (for the majority of them were also still alive). 3They did so to take counsel together as to who was worthy to succeed the Pious One.

              4They all with one accord pronounced Shim`on, the son of Qlofas, to be worthy of the seat of ‘Nasi of the congregation of the Way’. He was a cousin, as they say, of the prophet Yeshua`. 5For it is recorded that Qlofas was a brother of Yosef, the father of Yeshua`.

              6However, there was one who opposed the election, a man called Thebutis. He attempted to cause discontent among the congregation, unhappy that he was not chosen to lead. 7He taught allegiance to the Oral Law, and thereby set himself at variance with the teaching of Yeshua` and Ya`aqov.

 

6:2.       1Just before the short-lived freedom of Jerusalem from the Romans, Shim`on received warnings by means of visions, that Jerusalem was soon to fall.

              2The members of the community in Jerusalem were thereby warned by means of an oracle given to Shim`on. 3For fear of the Romans, the oracle was delivered to the community in riddles, so that only those versed in the words of the Hebrew prophets would be able to discern its true meaning.

              4On the strength of this oracle, Shim`on urged all Followers in Jerusalem and the surrounding villages to leave the city before the war began. 5Being guided by God’s word, the greater part headed for Perea, and settled in a town called Pella.

              6Thebutis however, who had stood against Shim`on’s election, remained behind with those who chose to stay in Jerusalem.  7They remained in that fated city to minister to the assembly of Israel. 8When the prophesied day came and the city fell, they suffered alongside the stubborn and the stiff-necked, and died beside them.

              9Blessed be the memory of the holy ones who remained in the Holy City to minister to the lost sheep of Israel; may they be remembered for good, into all eternity.

              10When Jerusalem was destroyed, it also destroyed the last vestiges of authority that Jerusalem may have had with regard to Paul’s teaching among Gentiles. 11Thus when Jerusalem was destroyed, Paul’s Gentile churches were free to follow their own course.

              12After the destruction of Jerusalem, the various communities of the Way came together in Pella, and across all the Trans-Jordan, Nabatea and Coele-Syria, 13and called themselves ‘the Poor Ones’, that is, Ebionites.

              14Meanwhile, among the Judean refugees who fled to the Galilee, there were to be found followers who had gone across to the teachings of Peter and Paul. 15These called themselves ‘Nazarenes’, and were a sad annoyance to the exiled Jewish communities of the Galilee.

              16Nazarenes were distinguished from Ebionites, in that they held to Paul’s beliefs and teachings. 17Nazarenes considered Ebionites to dwell in poverty of faith, as well as in poverty of possessions.

              18It was a common practice among the Nazarenes to intercept Ebionite documents, letters and books, and interpolate what was written with their own words and ideas. 19There arose therefore two Hebrew messages with regard to Yeshua`; the message of the Ebionites, who gave their faithful loyalty to Shimon in Pella, 20and the message of the Nazarenes, whose allegiance was to the inheritors of Peter and Paul’s teaching in Rome – to Linus, Anacletus and Clement.

6:3.       1When Shim`on led the community to Pella, he sent out the Emissaries to the four corners of the earth, so that the Way would not be lost. 2Andreas bar Yonah and Yo`anan bar Zavdi were sent to Greece, Ya`qov bar `Alfai to Egypt, Matthiyah bar `Alfai and Filip to Phrygia, 3and Netane’el bar Tolmai and Yudah named T’oma departed for the lands of the distant east.

              4Now Yudah named Thaddai and Shim`on named the Qanayyan had already gone to their rest; for both had left for Phoenicia before the war broke out, 5but their souls were sent to God in the city of Berytus, three years after the death of Ya`aqov our Nasi.

6:4.       1Twenty years after the fall of Jerusalem, the rabbis of Yavneh formulated a benediction to be said by the precentor during the service in the synagogue. 2It came to be known in Hebrew as ‘ha-birkat ha-minim’, that is in Aramaic, ‘the benediction of the heretics’. The content of its wording was self-evidence that it was not a blessing but a curse.

              3It was directed against anyone who was not a Pharisee. The intent was that anyone who was not a Pharisee would not be able to pronounce a curse against themselves, 4and thereby non-Pharisees in the congregation would be rooted out.

              5The rabbis of Yavneh also decreed that Pharisees should not marry non-Pharisees; if they did, it was considered an illegitimate marriage, and their children would be considered mamzerim (that is in Aramaic, ‘offspring of forbidden unions’). 6Even lawful marriages between Followers of the Way were declared to be illicit unions. 7Furthermore, Pharisees were not to derive any benefit from non-Pharisees – neither in terms of trade, assistance or healing.

              8A certain Follower, in Greek named Sason (that is in Aramaic, ‘Joy’), said to a rabbi named Abahu, “You will draw water with me in the world to come, for it is written, ‘With joy you shall draw water from the well of salvation’.” 9At this, Abahu answered him, “If it were written, ‘for joy’, then it would be as you say; but it is written ‘with joy’; we shall therefore make a water-skin of your hide, and draw water with that!”

              10The party of the Pharisees thereby cut themselves off from the rest of the House of Israel, and sent all non-Pharisees into a double exile – a second exile, one of faith, in addition to the one imposed by Rome. 11Forgotten was the affection they once had for our Ya`aqov, whom they defended before the corrupt High Priest Hananiah. 12They cast their brothers and sisters into the wilderness, for the birkat ha-mimin was what broke the stick of Judah asunder. 13They sent the Congregation of the Way into the wilderness of history, while they themselves remained to form the majority.

              14Our response, however, to cursing is blessing – to bless those who curse us. May all our fellow-Jews be blessed, and may their names be enrolled in the Book of Life; may they prosper, and may their names and the names of their descendants not be blotted out; 15may their wise men and women be found a place among the righteous, and may their holy ones be uplifted over the wicked, and be saved by the glory and power of YHVH. 16May they find peace, may they be protected from our common enemies, and may they not become lost or extinguished.

 

6:5.       1Scorned by their Jewish brothers and sisters, Followers of the Way also faced vilification from Paul’s Gentile Believers for refusing to abandon the sacred Message of the Way, taught by the Prophet Yeshua`, and by Ya`aqov the Pious One. 2The gospels scorned Capernaum and the refuge of the Galilee for having refused to accept the words of Paul before the war.

              3The living relatives of Yeshua`, of Ya`aqov and of Shim`on, came under particular persecution, for they were the living witnesses of Yeshua`’s words and Ya`aqov’s teaching. 4While they still lived, the living relatives of Yeshua` and Shim`on remained obstinate witnesses against them. It galled them that they could refute anything they said.

              5During the time of the persecutions of Vespasian, Domitian and Traian, Believers in Paul’s teaching regularly accused Yeshua`’s surviving relatives of being Christians, simply so that they would be arrested, tortured and put to death. 6And in Rome, Jewish Followers of the Way were taken to die as martyrs alongside Gentile Christians; the Roman State made no distinction between the Followers of Yeshua` the man, and Believers in the god Christ.

              7In exile from the Holy Land, the relatives of Yeshua`, Ya`aqov and Shim`on faced accusations from Gentile Believers that were descendants of David, in order that they would be arrested for being rivals against Rome, and thereby crucified and silenced.

              8The heirs of Yeshua`, Ya`aqov and Shim`on continued, and refused to convert in the face of onslaughts against them.

              9In exile, the congregation of the Way continued as a pure and uncorrupt virgin; 10while if there were any at all who attempted to pervert the sound teachings of the prophet Yeshua` and of the Pious One, they were unable to stand before the light of the saving Message of the Holy One of Israel.

 

6:6.       1During the reign of the Roman Emperor Domitian, there were two grandsons of Judah bar Qlofas (the youngest brother of Shim`on and Ya`aqov ha-Tsaddiq). 2These grandsons were Yaqov bar Yudah and Zoker bar Yudah, who were betrayed to the Romans by certain Gnostic Christians. 3They were accused of being Christians, and of having messianic aspirations against Rome. They were put in shackles and taken before the Emperor of Rome to be questioned.

              4Domitian put the question to them, and said, “Are you of David’s race?”

              They replied, “If you ask if we are of the same race as David, our answer is yes.”

              5Then the Emperor asked them, “What properties do you own? And what wealth do you possess?”

              To which they both replied, “We have neither silver nor gold, but of land we have thirty-nine acres, from which we raise our taxes and support ourselves and our families by our own labour.”

              6At these words, the Emperor’s brow furrowed, not believing that supposed descendants of royal blood would lower themselves to work the land and plough the soil. So he came forward and commanded them to put out their palms. 7When he saw the callouses formed by incessant labour on their hands, as well as the hardness of their bodies, he was inclined to believe them.

              8So the Emperor further asked them, “What is this kingdom of which your elders speak? When is it to appear? When will it come?”

              9At this the men replied, “God’s Kingdom is not an earthly or temporal one. It is heavenly, and will appear at the end of the world, when our God will come in glory to judge the living and the dead. God will give judgment according to each one his works.”

              10Upon hearing these words, the Emperor made no reply, but despised the men for the simplicity of their answer. He turned his back on them, and commanded them to be dismissed from his presence. 11Understanding accusations of messianic pretensions to have been a mere deception, by decree he ordered the persecution of the congregation of the Way to be brought to an end.

 

6:7.       1The persecution of the congregation of the Way resumed again under the Roman Emperor Traian. 2When Shim`on bar Qlofas was past his hundredth year, he was accused of being a Christian by some Gnostic Christians, and was arrested by the Romans to be tortured.

              3In the twelfth year of the reign of the Emperor Traian, Shim`on was questioned under orders from the proconsul Herodes Atticus. Time and again he was ordered to admit being a Christian, and a descendant of David. 4Since he was neither a Christian nor of the line of David, he could not admit to what was a lie; he could not confess to things about himself that were not true.

              5After being tortured for many days he suffered martyrdom, and all, including even the proconsul, marvelled that at such an advanced stage of years, he could endure so much. And orders were given that he should be taken out and crucified.

 

6:8. 1A prayer in memory of Shim`on bar Qlofas; let it stand for him as his memorial:

 

2“Whoever dwells in the shelter of Yahveh –

         whoever abides in the shade of the Almighty,

Can say to Him, ‘You are my Defender –

         my Protector, my God in whom I trust!’

 

3It is He who will keep you from all hidden snares –

         from those who seek to destroy you.

He will cover you with His wings –

         you will be safe in His care.

 

4You will not fear the terror of the night,

         nor the arrow that flies by day.

Nor the plagues that strike in the darkness,

         nor the evils that slay at noon.

 

5Yahveh has given,

Yahveh has taken away;

Blessed be the Name of Yahveh!”

6May the name of Shim`on bar Qlofas be remembered for good.

 

              7After Shim`on bar Qlofas died, there were no longer any left alive who had personally heard the words taught by the prophet Yeshua`. 8Therefore in his stead, a man named Yustus, a recent convert to the Way, was elected to serve as head of the exiled congregation in Pella. He was a just and humble man, a man of peace.

              9Thereafter, the appointment as Nasi of the congregation became an annual one. 10After Yustus came Zakkai, then Toviyah, Benyamin, Yo`anan, Matthiyah, Filip, Seneca, Yustus the Second, Levi, Efrayim, Yosef and finally, Yudah.

6:9.       1In the sixteenth year of the reign of the Roman Emperor Hadrian, another great war engulfed the Holy Land, now renamed Palestine after the Philistine enemies of Israel, as an affront against the name of Judea.

              2Hadrian promulgated so many intolerable edicts against the Jewish religion, that the land rose up against them. 3There arose at that time yet another messianic claimant, a man called Simon, who called himself bar Kokhba [son of the star].

              4Unprepared, the Emperor sent for one of his generals, one called Julius Severus, from the Roman province of Britannia. 5Although they suffered just as much as their Jewish brothers and sisters who did not follow the Way, Followers did not give their backing to Simon bar Kokhba, who was a tyrant of a man.

              6Our elders reminded us of the teachings which Yeshua` gave against the Zealots of his day – how they are dead to the Law of God, and seek only to bring about the Kingdom with violence. 7So they refused to support Simon. In defiance of bar Kokhba, they nicknamed him ‘bar Koziba’ [the son of falsehood].

              8He gave orders that if we refused to turn from the Way and support him, Followers of the Way were to be tortured. However, because of their refusal, many Followers were tortured to death. 9As leader of the congregation of the Way, Yudah was likewise taken by Simon bar Kokhba’s men and executed, supposedly for treason.

              10With Yudah’s death, the line of princes of the congregation came to an end. Faced with hatred from all sides – from their fellow Jews, from Romans, and from Gentile Christians, 11Followers of the Way dispersed from Pella, and went out across all the lands of the East, across Syria and Mesopotamia.

              12May their memory be recalled and held blessed. May their devotion to the saving Message of YHVH be held up in honourable memory of their name. 13May it be remembered that they did not take up arms against those who persecuted them, nor did they return the cruel hatred and persecution they faced with like hatred, 14but rather kept faith with the Holy One of Israel, and with the teachings that were entrusted to them for safekeeping.

 

Scroll Seven:

The Sermons of Shmuel ben Naftali

 

7:1. Israelite theology possesses a form of mysticism in relation to the ‘Message’ of Yahveh – ‘ha-Davar Yahveh’. Ha-Davar represents the entire body of teaching, principles and goodness that is identified with Yahveh.

              There isn’t one single English word that can translate this meaning of davar. It’s a combination of ‘message’, ‘revered teaching’, all-encompassing philosophy’, ‘just precepts’, and ‘wise advice’. Henceforth, I shall use the word ‘Message’ to represent everything that the Yahwist idea of davar stands for.

              When the Message of Yahveh comes to the prophets, it is not merely a set of words that is given to them, but an entire body of understanding of what Yahveh is, as well as the values and principles God stands for. As a result, when a prophet is questioned or tested, they can draw on the wellspring of this message and speak further.

              The Message is everything that Yahveh is – God’s holiness, power, purpose, justice, moral law, wisdom and love – the sum total of everything that comes from Yahveh and has an active effect on this world; that is ha-davar, the Message.

              The Message is so powerful, that it can almost be experienced physically; on Mt Sinai, God’s glory passes before Moses, and Moses witnesses God’s goodness, love, graciousness, compassion, justice and mercy. This was the essence of Yahveh which was revealed in the glory to Moses – this was Ha-Davar, the Message.

              When the prophets experience the Message for the first time, they are terrified by it, because the full force of its power becomes apparent. They are awed by its purifying holiness, and they come to realise that no human word they can produce with their mouths, can even come close to the Divine Message that they have experienced. They realise that they can only sublimate their own words to this Message; the only response possible when God bestows the Message on your soul, is to follow it with humility and the spirit of service.

              When you accept the Message as your spiritual foundation, turning against it is like turning against the air that you breathe, the food that you eat, and the water that you drink. To reject the Message is to reject life itself and be cut off from it.

              Ha-davar is a philosophy – one that is so powerful that it almost achieves a life of its own, a power to change and move the hearts and minds of all human beings. However, you cannot separate the Message from Yahveh; to do justice to the Hebrew vision of ha-davar, you cannot turn it into a disparate entity. THE MESSAGE IS YAHVEH, AND YAHVEH IS THE MESSAGE.

              Consider this: a woman might teach a human philosophy of life and being. She not only teaches it, she lives it as well. In fact, she lives her message so completely and perfectly, that she becomes her message. Now, look at Yahveh’s Message. God doesn’t need to become God’s Message; God is the Message already. So if you teach Yahveh, you are teaching the Message, and if you teach the Message, you are teaching Yahveh.

              The Message of Yahveh is so strong and powerful that it is able to effect and change the world; through the prophet Isaiah, Yahveh says, ‘Just as the rain . . . comes down from the sky, and does not return before having watered the earth, . . . so it is with my Message (davar); . . . it will not return to Me unfulfilled, . . . nor fail to achieve what it was sent out to do.’ It has the power to rescue us in times of distress; the power to provide and sustain; and the power to heal, cleanse and restore our souls.

              A lot of people confuse the Message of Yahveh with the message of the bible. They read the words written on a page, but they fail to see the Message. The Message (or ethos) of Yahveh is the sum total of God’s values, principles, precepts, ethics, morals, as well as the fundamental essence of the nature of Yahveh. These things are unchangeable. In contrast, the biblical text is the earthly letter by letter, word by word literature that is written on worldly parchment, separate and distinct from the overall and underlying Message, which is far greater.

              Fundamentalists are unable to make the intellectual distinction between the two. Those whose religion is about belief rather than practice, rely heavily on the literal letters on the page, and ignore the context and underlying meaning of the words. For fundamentalists, the word of God is merely the letters on the parchment; for a true Yahwist, the Word (more properly, the Message) of Yahveh is the entire sum of what Yahveh is and teaches.

              So in Yahwist thought, the Message is not a separate person or being; it is not something distinct from Yahveh; the Message is Yahveh. Yahveh imparts a portion of that Message to those who show humility to the Message. Our humility and service of that Message enable us to do things out of all proportion to our own, innate abilities. If a quiet, unassertive person accepts the Message, and does not change it, he or she is able to achieve far more than his or her own retiring personality will allow. And if an outgoing personality resists the temptation to inject the Message with ideas that are alien to it, such a person will avoid the dangers of the sins of pride and ego.

              In this way, the Message is passed from generation to generation, and God’s Presence is thus able to dwell with each generation. The Message guides us in wisdom and understanding – Yahveh guides us in wisdom and understanding through this powerful philosophy that God IS, as a positive and active force in our world.

              A true follower of the Way of Yahveh is called to carry forward this Message into the world, planting its seed and allowing it to grow; and allowing it to fundamentally change the world like yeast. Become bearers of this Message, therefore; internalise it so that it travels with you wherever you may go; draw from it like a spring of water, and bring forth its treasures as you would from a depository.

              Become apostles of the Message, without changing it or amending it, and you will see a miracle before your very eyes, as it changes the world around you, not failing to achieve what it was sent out to do.

 

7:2.       God’s love comes without price, without pre-condition. It simply is. If there is one absolute, one sure thing that you can rely on, one certainty that will never change from the beginning ‘til the end of time, is that God loves you – completely, totally, to the point where you can lose yourself in it, hide securely in it, and shelter safely in it.

              God’s love will never hurt you. You can open up and let yourself go in God’s love, release yourself – be yourself, and you can be sure that God will always lift you up, and raise your spirit to a peaceful, eternal place of powerful contentment, where there is no pain, no sorrow, no sadness, no mourning, no grief.

              God’s love is pure, boundless salvation, because by it, when we trust in God’s love, we are saved from uncertainty, fear and anxiety. We are saved from the pit of despair, and insecurity of spirit. We can venture into the darkest night, and the deepest unknown, because truly, even there, is God’s love.

              God’s love is cleansing, purifying, renewing. When we turn to God, and show genuine remorse for any wrongs we have done, God’s love is so powerful, so boundless, so infinitely enduring, that the power of God’s love alone is enough to cleanse us, and from that moment on, our sins are forgotten; it is as if they had never been committed. We are refined purer than any goldsmith could refine gold, and washed cleaner than any fullers earth could cleanse. For God’s love is pure, and keeps no permanent record of wrongs past.

              Our own ability to love, to care and show kindness, to be just, to be merciful, to forgive – these are all because of the spark of God’s glory which God placed within each of us before we were sent here. Therefore, by spreading the mantle of God's kingdom of mercy, kindness, justice and love over the face of the earth, we work towards spreading the glory of God, and one day indeed, God’s glory will cover the earth, just as the waters cover the sea.

              And when draws near the time when we shall depart from this life, death itself shall hold no fear, because it is our gateway to reunion with the One Love from whom we first came, the Light of eternal Wisdom which first gave us our being.

              God’s love is - without condition.

 

7:3. There will always be the criticism of us, that we project back onto Yeshua` the values of the Gentile West – for example reason, humaneness and tolerance. This mostly comes from a lack of understanding of what our faith teaches. As Followers of the Way we realise that Yeshua` had a limited mission – to call people back to God’s ways so that as many as possible would be spared from the tribulation about to visit the land of Israel.

              You see, Talmidaism is much more than Yeshua`, James and his early community in Jerusalem; Talmidaism is the sum of the best of Yahwist Israelite values, divested of its failures and flaws, and that presents a God who is against superstition, who encourages us to be fair and just towards our neighbours, and instils within us a discernment for wisdom, justice and understanding. Much of this is to bring out from within us what God has already placed there – a reasoning, humane and understanding heart.

              Anyone who thinks Torah has nothing to do with social justice, doesn’t understand Torah! For what is reason but wisdom by another name; what is humaneness but social justice; and what is tolerance but mercy, compassion and love. Surely these things are the heart of Yahveh’s Message!

              In Hebrew, there is a term, brit `olam. It literally means, ‘eternal covenant’. Every time this phrase is used, it refers to the Covenant with Israel – except for once. That one occasion occurs in Isaiah 24:5. There, the prophet describes how the earth will be ravaged and laid waste. This will not be for breaking the laws of Torah, but because “. . . the earth is defiled by her inhabitants, because they have transgressed (humane) laws, they have violated (moral) principles, and broken the universal covenant (brit `olam).” This covenant is referring to a covenant that covers the whole of humanity.

              Now, there are some who say that this covenant is the one with Noah or even with Adam. However, this cannot be the case, because there are some things criticised by the Hebrew prophets that would not be covered by either of these two covenants. For example, Amos criticises the people of Moab for burning the bones of the King of Edom, and for this God would mete out His divine justice against them. But this act is not covered under either the Adamic or Noachide laws or covenants.

              The Universal Covenant is in fact the natural moral law that exists between Yahveh and the whole of humanity. It is not written on any scroll or parchment, nor are its terms recorded in any book. The only place it is written is on the human heart – the human conscience. The Universal Covenant is what gives all human beings the sense of moral outrage when any human being does something wrong. Even though the act is not outlawed by any mitsvah or proclamation, we inherently know that a word or deed is wrong. For the ancient Israelites, the unwritten laws of hospitality, which appear nowhere in Torah, were part of the Universal Covenant too.

              Take also the question of, ‘What law or covenant were the people of the earth judged under before the Great Flood?’ Gen 7:11-13 reads like an indictment in a court of law. However, without the universal covenant – without that set of unwritten laws – no righteous judgment could be made by a just God against humanity. In God’s court of law, humanity could otherwise say, ‘But you gave us no law or code to live by, so how could we be accused of breaking any laws?’

              In the Israelite religion, the natural religion of the human soul is Tsedeq – that is, righteousness, justice or uprightness. The laws that govern natural human religion have been written on the human heart – the human conscience, not on any parchment or scrolls; these are the laws that Noah followed, the laws by which God judged him blameless - after all, he didn’t have a bible or Torah to refer to (and neither did Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, or anyone until the Revelation at Horeb.

              Even though other nations do not have Torah, they do have God’s heavenly law of Tsedeq – the Way of Righteousness spoken of in the Book of Proverbs, which from the day we gained sentience, was written on the human heart, giving us the knowledge to tell the difference between good and evil.

              Knowing as we do that no additions to God’s covenant can override what is previously given, it is important to be stated here that even Torah cannot override Tsedeq – Torah cannot override what God has written on the human heart. Righteousness and Wisdom – both of which are from God – are the two pillars by which we apply and interpret Torah; just as priests entered the Temple of Solomon between two pillars, so also humankind should practice religion, approaching God between the twin pillars of Righteousness and Wisdom. If we apply religious law without wisdom or righteousness, we set our faces against God, and set ourselves up for judgment.

              The terms of the Universal Covenant are simple: the positive instructions are, ‘Act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.’ The punishment for violating this is also simple: as God tells us through the prophet Ovadyah, ‘As you have done, so will God do to you.’

              This is the covenant that the people of Nineveh broke, and necessitated Jonah being sent to call them to repent. This is the covenant under which the Philistines were condemned by Amos, because of the cruelty they had shown to other nations (i.e. not just Israel); this is the covenant under which all the prophets condemn other nations for their unjust actions, regardless of which people their cruelty is directed against.

              The Universal Covenant applies to all humanity, even the Jewish people. It proceeds from Tsedeq, the law of heaven, and the natural religion of the human heart. It preceded the Torah given at Sinai, and the covenant cut there. Since a covenant cannot be revoked or cancelled, this covenant of natural moral law applies even to the Jewish people. As I previously mentioned, the implication of this is that no Torah law should be applied in such a way that it causes a deep sense of moral outrage in the human soul. The Universal Covenant was meant to be the ultimate moderating influence against all other covenants and laws. In other words, God never expected any human being to apply their religion in such a way that it violated their God-given conscience.

              Sometimes fundamentalists and extremists will do something wrong that provokes our natural sense of moral outrage – the covenant that Yahveh has written on the human heart. These fundamentalists will say to us, ‘We have done nothing wrong – show me where it says I cannot do this!’ And there will be occasions where their actions are not explicitly forbidden by Torah, and they have not broken the Sinai Covenant. But they have broken God’s natural principles of Tsedeq, as well as the Universal Covenant, and God will demand an accounting for what they have done; as they have done, so God will do to them.

              The first humane and natural laws of the Universal Covenant have not been written down and codified by sages, nor have they been subject to the rulings of rabbis – no religious teacher can ever rule against Tsedeq. Any human being can appeal directly to God for justice under it, Jew and Gentile, and any man or woman who has been wronged, can raise their voice to God and call for justice against their adversaries, saying, ‘May Yahveh judge between you and me!’

              Religious fundamentalists will hate the Universal Covenant, because it is the only religious writ that they cannot corrupt and deliberately misrepresent for their own ends. When a religious person does something that fires the human sense of outrage, and they answer you and say, ‘Point out to me where it is written in scripture that what I have done is wrong,’ you can say to them, ‘Read my heart – the eternal words that God has written there – and they say that what you have done is wrong!’

              Tsedeq and the Universal Covenant are not in opposition to Torah – they are rather the very foundation of Torah!

 

7:4.       Although every man is a son of God, and every woman a daughter of God, very few of us live our lives in a way that demonstrates this astonishing truth. And in spite of the vital mission which every man and woman alive was sent to Earth to fulfil, few of us have any interest in carrying out that commission.

              Therefore, I tell you this: as one who follows the Way of YHVH, learn to live a life which manifests your sonship and daughtership of our One Heavenly Father, and pursue that path in earnest to the end. In your dealings with others, open your hearts and your minds, and let God’s loving-kindness shine through. Reflect His mercy and His forgiveness in your actions; speak His consolation and His comfort in your words. And let His power and His majesty so overwhelm your soul, that you walk with dignity and humility in this world, so that those around you may see your Heavenly Father’s light, and raise their hands to Him and praise Him.

              Become living vessels through which God can show His love for us. In so doing, we make ourselves into doorways through which the glory of God can pierce, and eventually – one day – burst through into this world.

              Therefore do not seek revenge, nor reply to baseless slights against your character. Do not entertain hatred in your heart against your neighbour, nor let envy fester in your thoughts. Do not fret over evil, nor seek to get even when you are wronged.

              Set YHVH at the centre of your life. The goals and values of His Kingdom must drive your every thought and action, directing your sight to see the world with new eyes. Even knowing that the fulfilment of His Kingdom will not happen in your lifetime, still do and observe His will accordingly, being aware that you will be witness to His glory when you stand by His throne in the world to come. For just as a man plants the sapling of a cedar, knowing that he will never see the great majesty of that tree in his lifetime, so also we sow the seed of the Kingdom now, assured in the knowledge that our works will not have been in vain; our descendents will see the glory of God spread out all across the Earth, like a mantle over the sea.

 

7:5.       Consider the lesson of the unripe pomegranate. If we eat it before the fruit is ripe, it will bode ill for us. The fruit will be bitter, we will have stomach pains, and we will be turned away from this fruit in the future. But if we wait for the due season when it is ripe, then its flesh is sweet, it nourishes our body, it strengthens our health, and we look forward to more of what its tree can provide. So it is with what God has promised. We are often too eager to taste of the future, and we want to hasten God in His plans. The expectation makes us anxious, and too much anxiety will drain us and make us ill. But God fulfils His plans in His own time, and on the day that He has appointed. Just as the fruit is not yet ripe because its season has not yet come, so also the time is not yet ripe, nor has the season yet arrived.

              Yet God has not forgotten that we need nourishment daily. So He gives us what we need when we need it. Each day God feeds us with bread fitting for our souls. Therefore do not be anxious about the future, because believe me I tell you, nothing can possibly defeat the designs and intentions of God.

 

7:6.       Learn this lesson from the vexatious persons of this world. Each day we will encounter men and women who will test our spirit, and tax our soul. Each time we encounter them we say, ‘Heavenly Father, why do you send me such people who wear me down, and burden me?’ Then God says to us, ‘Do you understand how these persons cause anguish to your heart? In this way, you will discern that such ways are not from Me. The cruelty that others show to My children pierces My heart and wounds Me too. Become therefore wise from what you have experienced, because it will drive you all the more to teach others what you have learned.’ To be constantly arrogant, disapproving, overbearing, irksome and critical are not actions that will lead to peace of the heart, or the light of our Heavenly Father.

              And then we will say, ‘But it doesn’t let up! I rarely encounter people who treat me with any respect!’ Then God says to us, ‘Look at the opposite of what those people have done to you. If someone has been arrogant towards you, show humility and understanding in your dealings with others; if someone has been disapproving towards you, show encouragement to those who are struggling in life. If wicked people have been overbearing and irksome, then you will have learned to show to others acceptance, and not judge or condemn. Be courteous and pleasant, and uphold the dignity of all those you meet. And if someone has nothing but criticism for all your efforts in life, be therefore positive and constructive in how you help others to grow. Bring up the good things I have placed in your heart from the beginning, and behold, others who have that kindness of spirit will come to you.’

 

7:7.       You know how it is written: “If you pass through your neighbour’s vineyard, then you may eat any grapes as you wish until you are sated, but you may not put any into your basket. If you pass through your neighbour’s field of grain, then you may pick kernels with your hand, but you may not put a sickle to your neighbour’s standing grain.”  This was given to us to show the charity and kindness of our God, to give to hungry travellers on their way to and from their homes. YHVH is our true landlord, and all land belongs to God. YHVH provides for the hungry traveller, those who do not have enough money to buy provisions sufficient for their whole journey.

 As a passer-by, you have the obligation to take what you can for your journey, but if you are poor, and don’t have enough food for the whole journey, then YHVH will provide for you if you run out. Only if we are hungry are we to glean. As a passer-by, we trust in YHVH to provide for us. If we run out of food on our journey, we should not fret or worry, because God, as the Provider of the poor, has made adequate provision for us. Therefore, do not worry or become anxious about providing for your needs. Become passers-by, and trust in YHVH to provide for you.

 

7:8. The rich grow rich, the poor get poorer, the wicked are rewarded, and the righteous come upon misfortune. The oppressed ask, ‘Where is God’s justice?’ Chasing justice is like chasing the wind, which no one ever catches. We wake up in the morning, and we are beaten down by the time night falls. We see the lives of good people cut short, and the lives of selfish and boastful people are without end. When we see these things, we ask ourselves, What is the point of trying to be good? Where is the justice?

              But the unjust die as well as the just, the wicked suffer the same fate as fools. The rich lose their wealth when they die, and the proud are humbled in their graves. But the good and the just can take the wealth of their deeds with them, and their suffering is exchanged for joy. Follow the laws of kindness and holiness, and a treasure far greater than gold awaits you before your heavenly Father’s throne.

 

7:9        Our duty, O Israel, is to do what God told us to do – to become a people that God wanted us to become, and to trust God to do the rest.

              We want peace, we want the nations to respect us. Good! Follow the teachings of YHVH, and not the teachings of men.

              As a child trust its parents, that in their hands, all will be well, so also we should trust our Heavenly Father to do what is right and fair and good.

              If we follow the teachings of YHVH, then the nations will respect us, they will seek to follow our example, they will seek us out and come with us to Zion to seek God’s fair judgment.

              But if we follow the opinions of men, and strive to bring about what we want, then we will become a people hated and persecuted everywhere we go. We will become a nation reviled, pushed from country to country, and people will seek us out to kill us.

              But if we repent, and say, ‘Forgive us, for we have followed our own way, and sought after our own desires. Let us instead seek out what God desires’, then our fortunes will change forever, and we will be honoured and respected. We will find peace, and those who were once our enemies will become our firmest allies.

              Trust in YHVH alone. Seek His will alone, do His will alone, and trust in Him to do the rest.

 

7:10.     YHVH is Sovereign Ruler of everything, of heaven and earth. YHVH is supreme over both the good and the bad.

              There is nothing in this universe that can defeat His plans in any way. God knows whatever is coming, and God puts in place contingencies to help us deal with these things.

              Our Heavenly Father knows that our lives will consist of many good things – times of happiness and great joy – as well as of times of sadness, times when our sadness is unbearable and our pain seems unending. This mix of good times and bad times is the nature of the world in which He has placed us in, the world in which we were sent to live in.

              There are some who call out to God and say, ‘I will follow you if you ensure that bad things never happen to me or to those I love.’ But these people will never have their call answered.

              None of us deserves the tragedies and misfortunes that befall us. Sometimes they are so traumatic that they are all we can focus on.

              God’s kingdom here on earth is furthered, not by focussing on the tragedies of life, but on how we deal with them – on how we strive to remain decent people and retain our dignity in spite of what happens to us; and on how we selflessly help those around us less capable than ourselves. God’s Kingdom is not about the woe of misfortune, but rather about how we handle that misfortune.

              YHVH knows that good and bad are both integral parts of the nature of this world. Unfortunately, the world in which we live now is just not set up to handle it.

              This world trains us to expect that if we work hard, we will all be rich and earn lots of money; and if it doesn’t turn out like that, well, you just weren’t trying hard enough. We are brought up to believe that if we are careful with our money, we will never fall into debt, that we will always be able to pay our taxes and dues, and that if we always do the right thing, our lives will go smoothly and we will all be happy.

              But even those who work hard lose their jobs; even those who are careful with their money are visited by unexpected expenses that they can’t cope with; and sad things happen even to good people.

              The expectations of this world are not realistic; that is why we get so upset and become so miserable when even minor things go wrong – we seek to place blame on someone or something for those wrongs; we always look for the ‘why’ when something bad happens. But often there isn’t a why; things just happen.

              It is unrealistic to pray that bad things will never happen to us – because they inevitably will. However, what is realistic, is to pray that YHVH will give us the strength to deal with whatever comes our way, that people will be around us to help us cope, or that He will lead us into circumstances where we can make contact with people who can help us out of our difficulties.

              God’s laws take the good and the bad into account. They envision a society where the weak will be supported, the rich are obligated to help the poor, and where the under-privileged and disadvantaged are entitled to be helped by others. God set up a system whereby the least able in our society would not be left behind.

              And if tragedy and misfortune should befall any of us, His laws were designed to create human beings who would realise their own vulnerability, frailty and impermanence; that we would thereby be moved to recognise these things in others, and so have compassion and help others. God’s laws take misfortune into account, and that is how YHVH is Sovereign even over the bad.

              The Way of YHVH accepts that YHVH is supreme over every aspect of the events of our lives; not that misfortune is a judgment or a punishment, but rather that everything that happens is ultimately to be overcome by His mercy and kindness. It accepts that we have to become a people that will grow and learn how to cope with the good and the bad together.

              “YHVH has given, and YHVH has taken away; blessed be the Name of YHVH!”

             

7:11.     When we praise God, we are the ones who benefit. Praising God strengthens the spark of holiness which God places within us. By ascribing every good, positive, wondrous and glorious attribute to God in praise, thereafter when we think of YHVH, that brilliantly positive, awesome image of God gives us hope, lifts us up, and fills us with God’s infinite love.

              When we praise God, we allow God to strengthen us, to see the good in ourselves, to enable us to find peace, even to touch a peace of heaven and shed our human burdens even if but for a moment. Praising God helps us to overcome life’s troubles, and get through the storm.

              Praise God when bad things happen, because in so doing you will be able to tap into God’s strength, and you will be filled with courage.

             

7:12.     If you set out to fully comprehend suffering, temptation, sin and evil itself, you will take yourself to a very dark place, a domain we as sons and daughters of YHVH were not meant to go. It is enough to have our trust set and locked firmly in the light of YHVH’s Presence; it is sufficient to acknowledge YHVH as our great shield and defender, and not to fret over evil. Seek to know enough to enable you to cope with misfortune and discomfort, but no more. I have come to realise that there are things that we were not meant to know or understand, because there are some things that are too terrible to understand.

              ‘Don’t be afraid!’ The Miqra constantly tells us this. Do not be afraid of what you don’t know. If you are one of those people who thinks that they are constantly surrounded by sin, evil and death, you are going to end up in mentally ill! If you think that the imperfections of this world, this life, are going to overtake you, then they will. If you constantly think that ‘Evil is out to get you’, then you will end up a paranoid wreck. Some religions will want you this way so that they can control you more easily, but that’s not how God wants you. Step back; do not let these matters eat away at your soul.

              Your heavenly Father wants you strong. He wants you courageous, He wants you to realise how wonderful you are, that you can succeed, that you have a worthy life, and a purpose given to you at birth. If you look only to your imperfections and weaknesses, then you will stumble at every turn; if however you look to every good that He presents you, then you will succeed.

 

7:13.     When the living, breathing, active Presence of YHVH seizes a person’s soul, that person is transformed from the inside outwards. And they are moved to live the way of a fulfilled life and walk in God’s ways. A man or woman who has been consumed and purified by the fire of God’s living Presence shows that by the way they live their life; their heart and soul bears good, sweet fruit.

              Such a soul has no place for boundaries or barriers. To that person, all men and women are to be loved with equal vigour, and not just those with whom that person agrees or shares common beliefs. A person upon whom YHVH our God has breathed His living breath, sees the beauty in every soul that our Heavenly Father has created, and is awed by each one. How can such a person not love completely and absolutely? How can such a person not hold every human soul precious?

              Surrender everything that prevents you from allowing the Presence of God to take hold of you; raise your hands to your Father in Heaven, and allow His active Presence to live within you.

              When you truly experience the Presence of God, you will begin to live the Kingdom of God.

 

7:14.     The Rabbis will tell you that one purpose of the Oral Law is to build a fence around the Torah – to forbid certain things so that it becomes impossible to break the commandments of Torah. For example, it is forbidden to buy and sell on the Sabbath, so to make that commandment impossible to break, the rabbis invented the commandment that one must not even carry money on the Sabbath – if you don’t have any money with you, you cannot spend it or collect it in payment for something.

The prophet Yeshua` said a number of things which at first glance seem unreasonable. For example, he said,

‘The commandment was given to our ancestors, “You shall not commit murder”; and whoever commits murder will be liable to judgement. But let me just say, that everyone who’s angry with their neighbour shall be liable to judgement – whoever says to their neighbour, “Worthless moron!” shall be answerable to the Great Sanhedrin, and whoever says, “Fool!” shall be cast into the outer darkness!’

When approaching a complex matter, many thinkers ask themselves, “Where do you draw the line?” With so many difficult issues and thorny subjects, there is almost a gradation between what is acceptable and what is not. Between the two is a grey area within which it is difficult to give any kind of judgment.

In his teaching, Yeshua` was not making our thoughts sinful, but was rather advocating self control over our thoughts. In this saying of Yeshua`, his solution was to build a mental fence before you even got to the grey area, so that moral uncertainty doesn’t even become an issue.

Take a look at the example of the Oral Law. Forbidding people from carrying money stops them breaking the biblical commandment, but some people will still wish they could buy and trade, wishing that Sabbaths and New Moons would hurry up and be over so that they could carry out their normal business again. Yeshua` saw that a change of heart would be needed, not a change in legislation. God’s teaching needed to be implanted in people’s minds – written on their hearts – so that in time it will become second nature.

Today in our society there is a stark lack of respect for the individual. You have people who see nothing morally wrong with watching someone being humiliated, and being made fun of. In time this leads to a lack of respect for the dignity of the individual, when people become willing to humiliate others themselves; that in turn leads to an attitude where they do not consider it wrong to humiliate someone; some will take it further, to the point of physical humiliation, even bodily harm; a few will go further, to the point of having no regard for life, to where they are willing even to take a life.

I hear people every day decrying the fact that robberies and murders happen, but in he next breath they mention how much fun they get out of humiliating people, or playing practical jokes on people that lead to real distress. Attitudes need to change in society.

Part of Yeshua`’s solution on changing society’s attitudes was this fence of the mind – the rule of ‘don’t even go there!’ Taking the example I mentioned, you build a mental fence at the point before you get to ‘I enjoy seeing people being made fun of’. You build a fence before you get to the stage of, ‘I am so angry I could imagine hurting someone’; you build a mental fence before you get to the state of mind where you could call someone ‘raqa’ (worthless moron).

The fence of the mind results in a state of being where there is no grey area, because our thoughts – and consequently our actions – don’t even go there in the first place.

 

7:15.     Religion has debased itself to the extent that what is corrupt, obnoxious and unjust about religion has been transferred onto the character of God, so that the failings and injustices of human beings with regard to religion, have now become the failings and injustices of God.

Fiery-mouthed preachers, religious fundamentalists, religious extremists – all have offended God by misrepresenting His reputation. They have made ordinary people think that what they say is from God. But they have said false things about God.

They have said angry, hateful and evil things, things that would never enter the mind of God. They have portrayed God as a raging, vengeful tyrant who is more like a deranged despot than an enlightened, wise, compassionate and loving God. They have tarnished the holiness of God, and darkened God’s good Name.

To falsely represent God like this is to defame the holiness of God; the firebrands and fundamentalists who have nothing to say but death and condemnation, who speak hatred and violence with their words – these people incense God deeply; they call out to God and claim to follow Him, but they do nothing that He says. Sins against human beings can be forgiven, but sins against the holiness of God can never be forgiven.

If we put forward a faith that is angry, oppressive, intolerant, belligerent, hateful and judgmental, then we are not representing God; we are only representing our own human inadequacies, sins and failings. But if we do something extraordinary and go beyond ourselves – show ourselves to be boundless in our compassion, merciful in our understanding, reaching out to those who are on the edge of human society, caring for those who cannot care for themselves, and providing for those who have little or no means, then we truly do represent the wondrous and awesome Being who is YHVH, the holy and living God.

 

7:16.     Take counsel from the words of King David to seek YHVH. Seek the living God who is YHVH, and understand the Scriptures in the light of what you experience of YHVH, not the other way round. Many people filter God through the sieve of the Miqra. True followers of YHVH stake their foundation firmly in the compassionate mercy of a loving and powerful God of glory and majesty, a living God who can be experienced and felt. They then read the Miqra from that experience; to do it any other way is to proclaim that YHVH is not a living God.

 

7:17. Those to whom God has given a Jewish heart and soul, who love the Jewish people, who revere the God of Israel in awe, and who yearn to align their future with the Jewish people, who embrace Torah with every fibre of their being – these should not be cruelly separated from the House of Israel.

              It should not matter if the stone-hearted, in opposing God’s call to souls created by God’s own hand, declare that someone is not Jewish; the olive tree remains an olive tree, even if ten rabbis declare it to be a vine; the cedar remains a cedar, even if a hundred rabbis declare it to be a fig tree; and a soul that God has called, and upon whose heart God has written His name – a soul that God has declared a son or daughter of Israel, remains a child of YHVH, even though a thousand rabbis declare that man or woman to be a Gentile.

              We must encourage Godfearers, and do everything to facilitate Godfearers to feel Israelite. And if this cannot be accomplished by an adult in their lifetime, then their children should be brought up with an Israelite identity.

 

7:18. The stone-hearted – those who follow their own teachings and not God’s – they will be the death of Israel. If they could take God to court and make YHVH bend to their will, they would do it! When YHVH calls to the lost tribes to return to the Land, the stone-hearted will prevent their return unless they convert to their teachings; when God chooses His Anointed, the stone-hearted will oppose him, unless he abandons God’s will and follow their will. And when God chooses the manner and circumstances under which the Temple shall be rebuilt, the stone-hearted will oppose the Temple, unless it is rebuilt to their plan, and not God’s.

 

7:19.     In the ancient world, it was a common principle that you were free to worship any god you wished. You could even devote yourself to several gods, or many. Allegiance to a particular god was unheard of. Except, of course, if you were a follower of YHVH.

In the Roman world, one principle of the Pax Romana was that you could follow your own culture, your own customs, and your own gods, but you also had to pay homage to the ‘divine’ emperors of Rome. To the polytheistic citizens of the Empire, this was not a problem. Because of this prevailing attitude, the Romans just could not comprehend why it should pose such enormous difficulty for us as sons and daughters of Israel.

Today, we live in societies that do not follow the Israelite faith; that in itself is not the problem. The problem arises when we are expected to pay homage to the symbols of our host countries’ faiths.

In ancient times, when religious allegiance was fluid, it was unique and unusual for a God to come along and say, ‘You are my treasured possession’, and ‘Serve Me alone’. So we need to understand why this should be.

Our relationship with God is like that of a husband and wife. As a husband in ancient times took a wife ‘for his possession’, so also God took Israel ‘for His possession’. The faithfulness of Israel was not like faithfulness or allegiance to a religion; it was like the faithfulness and allegiance of a wife to her husband (and, likewise, of a husband to his wife).

This faithfulness not only covers worship, but principles and values too. When Aaron created the golden calf for the Israelites to worship, he wasn’t deviating from monotheism. This idol was after all supposed to be YHVH, the God of Israel. The Israelites had not asked, ‘Make a god for us’, they asked, ‘Make God for us’ – that is, so that we can see Him and follow Him – so that He can go before us.

In the manner of their punishment – grinding up the golden calf, mixing the powder with water and making the Israelites drink it – Moses was treating them as adulterers. They had not gone after other gods, but they had gone against God’s principles. They had gone against the Yahwist principle that God had no physical form, and was certainly not to be worshipped as an idol.

The ancient Israelites were not only forbidden to worship other gods, but they were also forbidden to follow the customs of other gods. To do so was adultery against YHVH. But how should we react in such a situation?

Let me ask you this. If you have a spouse or a partner, and someone who is unaware of your ‘attached’ status comes up to you and proposes having a relationship with you, how do you react? Do you become rude and aggressive, abusive and violent? Or do you politely but firmly explain that you are already in a relationship; that you are more than happy with your partner, and intend to remain completely faithful to her or him?

I hope it would be the latter. So it should be when someone invites you to participate in Gentile festivals. If you were to become confrontational and aggressive, you would be doing YHVH our God an extreme disservice, dishonouring His good reputation. However, if you wish your acquaintance well, thanking him or her for their invitation, but calmly explain that you are an Israelite or a Godfearer, and that your faith requires you to observe only Israelites festivals, then you will be augmenting the good reputation of our God among the nations.

You have to make a distinction between exclusivity of allegiance, and exclusivity of God’s salvation and love. God allows all religions. While pagan gods were the gods of one particular people or another, YHVH was and is the God of Israel and of all nations. YHVH’s guidance, love and blessing are available to all humanity, regardless of their faith, or absence of one. All that YHVH requires of humanity is a just and righteous way of behaviour towards one another. This is why the Israelite religion does not believe in exclusivity of salvation or divine blessing.

It does, however, believe in exclusivity of allegiance. There is nothing wrong with other people’s husbands or wives; we just do not sleep around with them. In the same way, there is nothing wrong with other people belonging to other religious traditions; we just do not get involved with those traditions. It’s not a judgment or a condemnation on those religious traditions.

And for those of you who were brought up in other faiths, choosing YHVH is like choosing your spouse. Becoming an Israelite is like entering a marriage, an exclusive marriage, where there is no room for outside dalliances.

If you are thinking of becoming an Israelite, and of following the Way of YHVH, you have to understand this attitude of an exclusive marriage. Just as most people look forward to being with their spouse for the rest of their lives, and must therefore think very carefully about who they are choosing, and the reasons for that choice, so also we must think very carefully about YHVH, who we are choosing, and why.

Faithfulness to YHVH, is like the faithfulness of marriage. A relationship with YHVH has the dignity, respect and worth of such an exclusive relationship.

 

7:20. There are many facets to the question of how exactly we are to ’love our enemy’. It is a very special person who can deliberately go out and actively show care and consideration for complete strangers – intentionally meeting unknown people and without even knowing anything about them, to treat them as special, unique and full of worth. Unless we have a specific vocation from God to do this, this is not what most of us are being asked to do.

In the wording of the Great Commandment, the writer could have used the word racham - to have compassionate, unconditional love for someone, but he didn’t. He used a much broader verb, ahav, and that is simply behaving in a way towards others which is not negative. By the use of the words ‘as yourself’ in the commandment, it implies that we also take a moment to consider our actions on others, as if our actions were being done to us. We need to ask ourselves, ‘how would I feel if I were on the receiving end of what I am doing to others?’

I strongly believe God causes our paths to cross with strangers. For the people God wants us to meet, we can respect them, treat them fairly, and do them no harm. And of course, there are different ways of showing such love. When we encounter someone for a few short moments, someone we will never see again, it’s expected that we will be courteous, respectful, not frown or pull a face that implies we are annoyed at someone interrupting us. ‘Loving’ such a person in that instance, does not mean getting involved in a full-blown emotional relationship with them! It’s the very basic things – treating someone in the same way as we would wish others to treat us – no more, no less.

With someone who is not one of ‘us’, it may be more difficult, depending on the degree of difference from what is ‘us’, but in such a situation, it means ‘not hating them in our heart’ – not wishing them harm, not rejoicing over their misfortune, not putting obstacles in their way, not begrudging helping them, and so on.

Now, there is nothing wrong with disagreeing with someone. There is nothing wrong with holding very clear-cut views and beliefs. One does not even have to meet someone half-way to their opinions or even share their ways in order to love that person. You simply have to be at peace with yourself, and not be threatened by the fact that someone does not agree with you. The fact that someone believes something very different to you, does not automatically negate everything you believe.

When Yeshua` said, ‘Love those who hate you,’ he wasn’t just talking about those who despise us, he was also referring to those who are not one of us – those outside our group. There are those who are not us, yet do not hate us, and are not our enemies. We are commanded to love them too.

We have a strong tendency to come at this with the associations the English language has given to the word ‘love’. Bottom line is that the English word ‘love’ is actually very limited, implying ‘liking someone an awful lot’, and in Hebrew, it isn’t limited to that. It isn’t restricted to the emotional level, but covers how you deal with other people as well. In English, when we hear the word ‘love’, we automatically think of things we should do to the object of our love, but in the Hebrew mindset, you are also meant to consider the things you shouldn’t do. When you love somoene, there are just some things you simply don’t do, and what you wouldn’t do to a friend whom you love, likewise, don’t do those things to an enemy, an adversary, or just someone who is different.

 

7:21. When Isaiah says, ‘But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear,’ those who have only heard Paul’s teaching, with his emphasis on us being separated from God, and his teaching that only death can reconcile that separation, it makes us think, either God doesn’t want to be reconciled unless there’s blood and death, or He can’t be reconciled unless there is blood sacrifice. So when we read something like this passage, we automatically think that by sinning, God is separating Himself from us; and that God is hiding His face from us.

But look at it again. It’s not God separating from us, it’s us separating from God. God hasn’t hidden His face; our sins have caused us not to see God’s face. If you read further, you see that what this all implies is that we have become stubborn and unrepentant. For that reason, God will not hear us – that is, until we actually do repent. There are therefore three things we should always remember in our journey to repentance and atonement:

1. There is nothing you can possibly do that can separate you from God.

We can turn our face from God, we can disobey God, we can even separate our minds and our ways from anything to do with God, but there is nothing, NOTHING we can possibly do to separate God from us. Even in our darkest, most disobedient hour, YHVH is still closer to us than our own breathing. You cannot run away from God.

2. There is nothing you can possibly do that can harm God’s relationship with you

Many people think that it would go without saying that God is unharmable, yet we still persist in ways of thinking which imply precisely that. There are a few religious people who give the impression that, by sinning, by rebelling against God, we are hurting God’s relationship with us. They’ll say, ‘If you do bad things, God won’t love you anymore,’ or ‘God will abandon you.’

When we do wrong, we can harm the way we relate to God, we can damage our view of God, but we cannot stop God from loving us, or wishing the best for us, or caring about us. We cannot break God’s connection with us.

3. God is not someone who stands permanently ready to beat us and crush us when we make mistakes.

There are a lot of unenlightened religious teachers who still have this image of God – ‘If you’re bad, God’s gonna get you’, as if God were some kind of divine boogieman. The reality of this kind of thinking is, that it creates a negative image of God, and thereby desecrates the holiness of God’s reputation.

Yes, YHVH is a God of righteous discipline; YHVH is a God of justice, and just retribution. But there is a difference between a parent who teaches and guides their child with love, and one who stands in anger with a whip or a stick ready to beat their child at the slightest mistake. The second kind of parent is a seriously disturbed – even psychotic – individual, yet there are some people who would paint God as such an individual.

 

7:22. You have often heard about the power of prayer – how it can change the lives of others, help us to achieve our dreams, and make great things happen. But few speak of the power of prayer on oneself. On the spiritual level, prayer maintains the link between our earthly minds and God, and between our earthly selves and what our heavenly selves once were. Keeping this connection open helps to remind us what kind of beings God intended us to be.

              On an earthly, scientific level, what prayer and meditation do is reinforce the positive pathways of the human brain, so that when we need to think or act quickly, our decision-making process automatically jumps to the pathways which have already been laid down and pre-programmed by prayer. It ensures that a man or woman who is otherwise good, decent and honourable, does not do something hateful or violent in the heat of the moment.

              However, if prayer and meditation are neglected, there is a danger of negative pathways being laid down in the brain. When we undergo tribulations and trials, without regular meditation and prayer the subconscious mind becomes slave to resentment, anger – even the emotion of violence.

              As time goes on, these pathways become reinforced, and in the heat of the moment, the brain will make a decision on how to speak or act according to these negative pathways that have been laid down.

              In the worst scenario, an otherwise good and righteous person, who has never hurt or said a bad word to anyone, might find themselves acting completely out of character. They could end up insulting, verbally abusing or even physically hurting someone.

              This mere thought should terrify us into taking remedial action. Prayer and meditation have the power to send us into positive mood, improve mental health, and make us better people overall. The change will be dramatic, noticeable especially to those who know us well.

              Our Great Creator has designed us to be this way. There are things which are natural to the human mind and body, and prayer is one of them. There is not one single culture on earth that does not know what prayer is – even the remotest tribes of the earth.

 

7:23.     The fifth proclamation starts with, ‘Honour your father and your mother’. Modern culture gives us two aspects of this commandment, but it doesn’t allow us an understanding of what the commandment goes on to promise: ‘so that you may endure a long time in the land Yahveh your God is giving to you.’

              When we think of this proclamation of God, we think of respecting our parents, and of obeying them. These are two vital and important components of how to fulfil this commandment. However, there is a third aspect to honouring our parents that is now absent in modern western culture – that of acting in such a way that you do not bring dishonour to your parents’ reputation, but rather that you behave with dignity, grace, justice and compassion in this world; in this way, your parents will have no reason to regret calling you their son or daughter. When a child acts with righteousness in the world, the reputation of their parents will increase.

              If the reputation of your parents is upheld, collectively the honour and dignity of your people will spread far and wide. If you are widely respected and held in high esteem by other nations, then naturally you will endure long in the land Yahveh your God is giving to you – in peace, without fear of attack or exile.

If this is how we are to behave towards our earthly parents, how much more so are we to behave like this towards our heavenly Parent. We honour our heavenly Parent by acting, thinking and speaking in a way that brings renown to our heavenly Father. We honour God, who is our father and our mother, by living honourably in this world that He created, daily increasing the renown of God.            Because we are talking about Israel in the second part of the fifth commandment, if Israel is held in high esteem, then it naturally follows that Yahveh, the God of Israel, will be held in high esteem – the reputation of God will be increased, and the kingdom of God will spread. The benefit to Israel therefore, is that she will be respected by her neighbours, and not live with the constant fear or threat of war.

 

7:24. A religion can be a like a medicine, a placebo, or a cancer.  A tiny amount of either the medicine or cancer can have a huge effect. On the other hand, religious placebos are those religions which have no effect on their adherents; they are the same horrible people after their conversion as they were before they converted. A religion that creates war and conflict everywhere it goes is like a cancer. But a religion that acts like a medicine heals a society, makes people the best they can be, and creates a happier, balanced world. I like to think that the Way of Yahveh is like a medicine - only a little is needed to begin the healing of the whole. If we are willing to surrender ourselves to Yahveh, and let ourselves be holy instruments of Yahveh’s will, then Yahveh will be able to work through His holy servants to heal nations and even other religions, and further God’s kingdom on earth.

              Yahveh loves all God’s children dearly and abundantly, no matter what religion we belong to. We just have to turn away from whatever theological gods we have created, and open ourselves up to who God really is. For if our perception of Yahveh - our beliefs about who and what Yahveh is - is wrong, then it will not be Yahveh we will be addressing our heartfelt questions to, but rather a mere figment of human imagination and invention. We might just as well be questioning a worthless idol for all the good that will do! If we get no answers from the deity we worship and pray to, then we need to question the nature of the deity we have been taught. The more you surrender to Yahveh, the more God teaches you.

 

7:25.     According to the beliefs of many pagan peoples in the ancient world, skin diseases, sexually transmitted diseases, and death were all caused by demons; other instances of ritual unfitness (‘or ‘unwholeness’) were not normally attributed to demons. However, in the world of Yahwist monotheism, there are no such things as demons. To someone who sees demons and devils around every corner, this is an astonishing revelation.

In Yahwist belief, there are no such things as devils who were created by an evil being, to purposefully wreak havoc and misery on human beings. Yahwism rejects any belief in supernatural demons, whose purpose is to deliberately do evil, or knowingly cause us harm.

In the opening verses of Numbers chapter 5, three types of people were to be removed from the camp of the Israelites in the Sinai to a place outside. They were removed, because they were threat to the holiness of God’s reputation, not because of their illness itself. These people might think, ‘I have been made ill by a demon, therefore God is not a holy God’. There was a concern that they might therefore cause the Presence of Yahveh to withdraw from the camp, and in so doing, leave the Israelites vulnerable. The reason for the removal was not any danger to human persons, but rather “so that they do not defile the camp of those in whose midst I dwell.”

Having left Egypt – where belief in demons was commonplace – many Israelites may also have carried over a belief in demons and devils into their personal faith. It seems that even a belief in demons was enough to get them removed – remember, it wasn’t ritual unfitness itself that was the problem (otherwise all ritually unfit persons would have been removed). The objectionable part of their condition was the possibility that they – and those around them – might think their afflictions were somehow connected to demons; in true Yahwism, that simply was not acceptable. The clear and present danger to the holy way of thinking was too great, and could only be combatted by physical removal of the afflicted individuals (of course, they would still be cared for outside the camp).

There is a certain range of thought that poses a danger to the fullness of God’s holiness dwelling among us. For the Pharisees and Sadducees, ritual purity were things that you avoided; physical things contaminated you. For those who seek a true understanding of our living God, there is a realisation that certain ways of thinking push God’s holiness away from us – that certain ways of thinking contaminate you.

Believing that demons and the devil are behind every bad thing that happens to us, causes God’s holiness to withdraw from our lives – just look at what superstitious and judgmental type of people who believe this stuff have become! For example, believing that perfectly natural catastrophes are a punishment from God upon an entire nation, also causes God’s holiness to withdraw – because that’s not how Yahveh works in this world. And believing that a particular sickness is a punishment against a certain group of people, also causes the goodness and compassion of God’s holiness to withdraw from our lives.

The evidence that God’s holiness has withdrawn from people who think like this, is plain for all to see: they become cold, judgmental people who are quick to condemn; they see life as a battle to be fought; they are fearful people who see dark forces behind every corner; and just like the ancient pagan peoples who saw demons behind every minor upset in life, each day becomes a struggle against the fear of the unknown – they become terrified of the future, and wonder, ‘Where is God in all this?’

In total contrast, knowing that the very Presence of Yahveh is to be found in the human help given to those who are sick, actually invites the holiness of God’s glory to open up to us; knowing that if we are striving to live our lives close to God’s compassion, then we realise that natural catastrophes are not a punishment – this change in our perspective invites God’s holiness in; and seeing God’s active Presence in the compassion of those who care for the sick and the dying, rather than in the disease itself – this calls forward God’s holiness into our hearts.

The plain, visible evidence of God’s Presence in the lives of those who think this way is this: that those in suffering, trial and pain are greatly moved by the compassion of God’s real servants, and are thereby inspired to draw near to God; those who are despised and rejected by society are warmed by the radiant love of Yahveh for the shunned and the outcast in the actions of God’s servants, and are filled with renewed faith and awe for God. And the sick and dying who before have known only condemnation, suddenly see forgiveness and kindness in the actions of God’s true servants, and reach out to the living God of mercy.

None of us can dictate to God whom God should and shouldn’t be compassionate towards, for thus says Yahveh: “I will show mercy to whomsoever I choose to show mercy, and I will have compassion upon whomsoever I choose to have compassion”. The lesson drawn from these few short verses therefore, is this: think and speak in such a way that Yahveh’s holiness draws near to you; and do not think or speak in ways that will drive God’s Presence far from you, because evidence of both will be obvious to those in sore need of God; such people will know whether God is near to you, or far from you, because of what you say and do.

 

7.26.     It’s interesting how it happens that the eldest does not always count as the first. Eisav (Esau) was the firstborn, but it was Ya`aqov (Jacob) who inherited God’s promise. Among the sons of Levi, Gershon was the firstborn, but it was the descendants of the second-born, Kohath, who got the privilege of carrying the most important objects in the Mishkan (such as the Ark).

But let me talk to you about jigsaw puzzles first! When I was a small boy, my grandma gave me a lot of jigsaw puzzles. I always wondered why – I never asked for them. They weren’t particularly great jigsaws, not that complicated, and the pictures weren’t that fantastic. To look at these 50-year old pieces of scrappy wood now, with their pictures fading and falling off, they really aren’t worth that much, but these days, as I struggle to regain my mental health, I realise what an invaluable gift these jigsaws were. If I tried to give them to someone else, they would never understand their true value – not only the lessons I learned, but the special relationship I had with my grandma, and the love she showed me as a small child.

You see, most people these days want things fast. They want a quick answer, they want the job done quickly, time is money, and so on. If the mayor is up for re-election, then he/she wants all crimes solved yesterday; it doesn’t matter if you throw the wrong person into jail, just as long as you get someone for the crime. People today want answers, and as long as they get them quickly, pronto, it doesn’t matter if those answers are the wrong ones.

One thing jigsaw puzzles taught me was patience. You don’t get the big picture straight away. It also taught me that, when you are trying to solve a problem or a mystery, then firstly, you don’t force pieces of the puzzle to fit when they self-evidently don't fit; and secondly, you don’t discard any of the pieces when they don’t fit – you never know if they are actually integral parts of the greater whole.

There are some people who think that simply being members of a particular religion makes them instant experts on the Bible, and privy to the mind of God. They think that mere belief is enough to tell them all there is to know about God. But when they deliver their ranting sermons in public places, what becomes obvious is that they have forced pieces of the puzzle together, bits that just don’t belong together. Anything – any evidence – that cannot be forced together is just thrown away and ignored. They end up with a faith that is based purely on the simplest of personal belief, on gut-faith, stuck together with superglue and fuelled by the drug-trip of their fundamentalist endorphins, and not based on anything that will stand up to the test of reason.

When you come upon a puzzle that is seemingly insoluble, then you might encounter pieces that at first, don’t seem to fit. But you never throw anything away. You put them to one side. You might then concentrate on parts of the puzzle that do fit together more easily – on faces or objects that are recognisable. Then you come across a piece that doesn’t fit with what you are currently working on, but nevertheless you recall that you did have a piece a while back that it would have fit with. As time goes on, each of these disparate sets of pieces get bigger and bigger, until you realise that yes, the disparate sets of pieces do all fit together – maybe not in the way that you first thought, but they do actually fit together eventually.

Someone who thinks this way will not find quick answers, but the answers they come up with will be the right answers. The picture they put together will be a beautiful picture – an inspiring picture. So there are 2 types of people in this world: people who want answers and solutions fast, and then there’s people who want the right answers.

Now, let’s return to the sons of Levi and their duties carrying the Mishkan. It wasn’t the descendants of the eldest that got the most important job, but those of the middle son. In a conventional society, someone who gets the lesser job will feel hard done by. In societies with hierarchies, someone with the lowliest job might feel they have gotten the short end of the stick – all they have is that rotten cleaning job, or that worthless rubbish collection job, or that dead-end night-porter’s job. And with everyone looking down on them, what else can they think?

Without a social hierarchy, you begin to see that everyone’s job matters. No job is actually more or less important than anyone else’s. Like a jigsaw puzzle, everything fits together, and there are no discardable parts. The Yahwist piqqud (principle) of mutual responsibility then comes into play. Those with high-profile jobs should have respect for those with lowly jobs, and vice versa – because without each other, neither would have a job. Not everyone can be big-shot financiers, company CEOs, area managers for multi-national retail firms, or brain surgeons. And think what our cities would look like if we had no cleaners, garbage collectors, street-sweepers, and so on. What we all do matters – just like the Kohathites, Gershonites, and Merarites, regardless of what parts of the Mishkan they ended up carrying.

              In many developed nations, there is an underclass developing. In societies where all that matters is making money and accumulating wealth, people with limited qualifications or ability increasingly have little to do, and limited prospects for improving their lives. Doggedly refusing to understand or value the place that everyone plays in human society has created this underclass. In our developed nations, this underclass has reached a point where they have no reason to have any stake in the society in which they live. They have no connection with their society, and no stake or interest in the well-being of their neighbours.

The solution is not by conning everyone into thinking they can become rich. Not everyone is capable of financial or commercial ruthlessness. And by devaluing the work of the lowliest, one should not be surprised when no local person wants such jobs, and then they get filled with immigrants instead (and the immigrants get the blame)! The solution begins by stopping treating others as your enemies, and realising that they are your brothers and sisters. They may be on a lower social scale, but in a Yahwist society, the tevunah (ideal) we are working towards, is one where one’s social level doesn’t matter, because everyone is due equal respect as human beings, as sons and daughters of Yahveh. What matters is that you help your brother, you take care of your sister. After all, you don’t look down on your own family if they do a lowly job, so don’t look down on your neighbours when they do lowly jobs.

It isn’t the complete answer, but it’s a beginning. It will set any underclass back on the road to believing in the society they are a part of. This mindset will give them back their self-worth, and provide them with a reason for giving to their society, instead of just taking from it or destroying it.

              Similarly, in the functioning of the Assembly of Israel, every sect and religious community matters. Regardless of which sect or denomination you belong to, within the body of Israel, we all matter. We may argue with one another, we may criticise and disagree, but in the end, we are all brothers and sisters, and we all matter to one another. So when you see something wrong within any given community, remember that you are not criticising them to bring about their destruction, because in fact you would be seeking the destruction of your own siblings, your own family.

If you suppress the energy and potential of any particular sector of your society, then all you are doing is building up problems for another day. Human society is not an open-ended tube that you can squeeze out whatever you don’t want; rather it’s a closed tube – if you squeeze one part of it, whatever was in there will simply be forced to another part of the tube. Eventually the pressure in the crowded part of the tube will be so great, that it will ignite and explode.

However, when a nation comes together to act with common purpose, they can act almost as one person, with one body. And when there is a powerful, ancient philosophy of divine wisdom behind that people, then there is no stopping what that body can achieve.

              Israel is the emissary of Yahveh to the nations. Our God has no body, or any voice that most people can hear, but the Emissary of Yahveh does have a voice and body. The Assembly of Israel has a voice – its priests, elders, sages and scribes; it has clothing – the daily deeds of ordinary Israelites and Godfearers; its body has bones – the customs, laws and principles our society is built on; and it has its lifeblood – the justice, love and compassion we need to show towards one another.

You’ll notice there that I have left out the head, the mind. That is still of Yahveh; Yahveh is the head of Israel’s body.

The Merarites packed up and carried the bones of the Mishkan (the pegs, poles, posts, planks and sockets); the Gershonites carried the flesh and clothing of the Mishkan – the coverings, hangings, cords and cloths; but the Kohathites carried the heart and mind – the menorah, the table of showbread, and most importantly the Ark.

          In order for a society to function, respect has to be given to all its constituent parts. You take away what matters to even the smallest part of that society, and you will destroy it – first the feet, then the legs, the hands, and arms; and when the body dies, so does the head.

          The leaders of many countries pander only to the heads of their society, and ignore the needs of the rest of the body. They starve the rest of the body, and then they scratch their heads in stunned bewilderment when their society falls into violence, crime, and social unrest.

          Once upon a time, Ephraim was a powerful kingdom – bigger and more powerful than Judah. But they forgot Yahveh who gave them that status; they abandoned the values that God built their country on, and now they are no more. When God calls Ephraim back one day, and Ephraim returns to God, we will never again regain that greatness, but Ephraim will find his place, by his sister Judah's side. On his own, Ephraim is nothing; on her own, Judah struggles. But Ephraim is the arrow in Judah’s bow, and as one stick in God’s hand, we will be strong enough to fulfil God’s will.

          Every piece of the puzzle fits together; no piece is worth less than another. No job is less than any other. No person is less than any other – no individual person’s worth before God is greater or less than any other; no man or woman has more privilege before God than another; like Manoah and his wife, even the lowliest will have the boon of ‘seeing the face of God' (coming into God’s Presence, the presence of their King).

          Yahveh is the head of the body; Yahveh directs us and guides us; Yahveh gives us our ideals, principles, laws and our very lifeblood. When others see the Followers of Yahveh, if we act in a way that feeds and gives respect to each of its parts, then others will see the true heart that guides us in all our ways, and gives us life.

 

Scroll Eight:

Closing words

 

8.1.       1Mark well, for this is to be the final passage of The Exhortations for all time, until the glory of God shines, and there is no more night:

             2I have taken you all on a journey of new understanding. Much of what I have told you has not been said by any sage or teacher since the days of the prophets. 3Behold, I have told you of the Prophet Yochanan, who warned of the Great and Terrible Day of YHVH. I have told you how he called to the great and the powerful for repentance, so that the Day could be averted. 4I told you of the Prophet Yeshua`, who taught his followers the true Way of YHVH, so that God’s people would know how to endure the Day to come; that by following the way of life they would be sheltered from the terrible Day. 5He went to the ordinary people of the Land – he taught them to follow the paths of justice, peace, mercy and forgiveness, and so add to the number of those who would sit on the clouds of heaven in God’s presence.

              6Then I told you of our Ya`aqov, called the Righteous One, whose prayers delayed the coming of the Terrible Day. 7Then I told you of how the assembly of Followers were warned by means of a vision, that the Day was almost upon them, and that they were to leave Jerusalem, that fated city. I told you of how that Great and Terrible Day arrived – how it came in fire and sword, anguish and terror. 8I told you of how the Sun was blotted out from the sky, and how the cries of the righteous went up to God.

              9Then I told you how, when all was in ruin, the just lamented over the broken foundations of the place where God had set His Name – the place that had been desecrated by violence and human blood.

              10Then I told you of how the faithful praised God for His mighty deeds, and lost no hope, but strengthened their faith in the power of the Holiest Power in the Highest Heaven.

              11These tragedies and calamities were prophesied, and now they are past. If you build your faith on woes, on the blood and destruction of the past, then that is the dark and terrible place your heart and soul will remain. 12But if you live in what God has promised, and build your foundations in our heavenly Father’s light, then your soul will grow to its fullest height, and His kingdom will increase.

              13And so I tell you this: do not let the sufferings of the righteous have been in vain. 14Go, therefore, and teach the peaceful ways of God’s Kingdom to all nations; preach the good news of the Kingdom to all peoples, languages and tribes. 15And this is the good news you shall teach: Justice, understanding and reconciliation to people of all faiths and of none; to exalt wisdom and knowledge; to learn to be responsible towards one another; not to forget or oppress those without; to be ever watchful for wrongdoing and backsliding from what has been gained; to warn against those who desecrate God’s Name by doing violence and murder in God’s Name; and above all, to love one another. Go tell them, that whatever righteous way they follow, they are all children of One God, in whose image they were created.

              16Go, teach all peoples the ways of mercy and compassion, of understanding and constancy in their daily lives. 17Teach them to live the Way of Life – not to oppress the poor, not to be ruled by vengeance, not to be governed by hatred or disrespect, nor allow partiality to destroy judgment.

              18Go, teach them that they are all brothers and sisters, and that whatever quarrels they might have, their importance pales before the mission of the final coming of God’s Kingdom on earth, 19when perfected humanity shall be raised on the clouds of heaven, and sit beside the throne of God in heaven.

              20Blessed be the Holy Name of YHVH!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© Shmu’eil ben Naftali

‘Sefer ha-kitbey’

(International Talmidi Version,

First published Aug 2005)

 

 

   
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