Just like most Jewish synagogues everywhere we read through the Torah each year. The Torah portions are listed here and you will also see a drash(short teaching) from each. As the years and months go on the drash will be more and more complete, we pray it will be a blessing to your life yielding fruit just like Etz Chaim (“Tree of life”). “It is a tree of life to those who take hold of it and happy are those who support it. Its ways are ways of pleasantness, and all its paths are peace”.
Weekly Parsha by David Friedman, former academic dean of King of Kings College in Jerusalem, holds a Ph.D. in Judaic studies and an M.A. in Arabic.
Author of They Loved the Torah
A well-informed discussion which will help New Covenant believers think about the place of Torah in their lives."
David Stern--author and translator of the Jewish New Testament and Commentary, theComplete Jewish Bible, and other Messianic Jewish books
Today we have another "double portion” (two parashot portions rolled into one), entitled "Acharey-Kedoshim”, being Leviticus 16.1-20.27. This is a very important parasha in many ways. Let me address why it carries great importance. In this portion, we are given many legal instructions that have to do with how God saw fit to build Israel’s society. In this parasha, we find the "Father Instruction”, termed in Hebrew the "av” (which means "father”). An "av” in biblical studies, in Jewish thought, is an overall summary idea or principle that guides all others. Leviticus 19.18, found in today’s parasha, is such an "av”.
Yeshua our holy Messiah affirmed this very "av” in teaching: "... all the legal instructions, and the message of the prophets, hang upon these two verses.” (Matthew 22.20, my translation). The two verses being referred to are Deut. 6.4 (that God is One God) and Lev. 19.18: "...so you will love your friend as yourself” (my translation). It is of significance that this very verse appears in the heart of this parasha. Why? This parasha addresses the legal practices of society. So in order to "love one’s neighbor”, one had to learn, respect, guard over, and do the things that God asked in the preceding and following verses.
Do you want to love your neighbor? Then, show respect for your parents (19.30); leave food in your fields for the disenfranchised (19.10); don’t steal from, and don’t lie to your neighbor (19.11); pay your worker every day (19.13); treat the handicapped with respect (19.14). This is what love looks like through God’s eyes.
Do you really want to love the other? Then don’t dare to spread gossip about them (19.16); don’t ever threaten your neighbor’s life (19.16); be honest and speak only what is true to, and about, the other one (19.17).
These are not complicated pieces of Divine legislation. But they ARE how love expresses itself in society’s relationships. Our Messiah taught us that all of the commandments given on Mt. Sinai to Moses that concerned themselves with legislating behavior, were really all about caring for the welfare of others. This is what holds a society together, as an expression of worship of the One True God (that is, along with fulfilling Deut. 6.4).
Again, the verse following 19.18, our "av”, emphasizes that this was the case. "Carefully guard over my pieces of legislation” (19.19, my translation). The word used for "carefully guard over” is tishmeru, written in the plural form. It is a military word. Those of you who have been in the military know that proper guarding is a high priority. Alertness and responsibility are needed when it comes to "watching over” a military position. Being awake, understanding the proper procedures, the tactics of the enemy, what to be watching for and how to deal with it, are all involved in being an effective watchman. Any mistake, and people begin to die.
So it was in ancient Israel. The entire nation was called to be guards; guards over their families and clans, to learn, teach, encourage and insure that everything that was written in the Bible would be practiced by the nation. The end was that God’s love would be experienced and seen by every single person, as well as by the nations around Israel (cf. Deut. 4.5-8).
This is why 19.19 is repeated, in other words, in 19.37: So you (plural form) will watch over (that military term again) my legislation and my judgments; carry them out. I am Adonai!” (19.37, my translation).
Those of you who have studied with me recognize that when a biblical commandment is given twice within a short space, that the Hebrew is emphasizing the importance of the commandment. That is why we have 19.37; it repeats the emphasis of 19.19.
It was common in first century Israel for a rabbi to be questioned by both his students, and by any other listener, as to what was the most important instruction found in the Bible. The question that Yeshua was asked was "par for the course” in those days. It was a very accepted and respected way in Israel to engage in Bible study and in dialog on how to interpret the scriptures. That is what we have here:
"One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” (Mt. 22. 35-36, NIV).
Our holy Messiah’s response to this question shows us that our parasha for today is valuable to us. Its instructions teach us valuable lessons. It behooves us to go to Leviticus 19 and study all about it. Happy studying!