The study guide for “What About Me? – Part 3” has been updated. The discussion at the end of lesson 22 has received a great deal of feedback. This was when Scott decided to use the coasters to describe the various people in the world and how they relate (or don’t relate) to the Almighty.

I have added a diagram of that discussion to the end of Lesson 28 in the study guide. Before reviewing the material in Lesson 29, which we will discuss this Tuesday, please review the end of Lesson 28 and bring your thoughts with you to class. This includes all of you distance learners who may chat online during class using the MixLR app.

Today is the first day of the Sabbath. May HaShem grant you a blessed shavuah tov.

Shalom,

Ben Yosef

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“Who is ha’ish so chochmah that he can binah this?
To whom has the mouth of HaShem spoken, that he may declare it?

Why is ha’eretz ruined and laid waste like a midbar, so that no one passes through?

And HaShem says: “Because they have forsaken my Torah that I set before them, and did not sh’mah my voice or had this halachah, but have stubbornly followed their own hearts and have gone after the Baals, as their fathers taught them.

Therefore thus says HaShem Tzeva’otElohim Yis’rael: Behold, I will feed this people with bitter food, and give them poisonous water to drink. I will scatter them among the goyim whom neither they nor their fathers have da’at, and I will sh’lichah the cherev after them, until I have consumed them.””

(Jeremiah 9:12–16 ESV, Hebrew and emphasis mine)

If you know any Hebrew at all, you will recognize that I haven’t conjugated or perhaps even spelled these words correctly. My point is to demonstrate how many words in this short, mournful passage, read on Tisha B’Av, are familiar to our community.

Here are a few thoughts to ponder during your fast today. Nothing spectacular or earth shattering, just thoughts…

  1. Forsaking G-d’s Torah is the specific reason given by the prophet for the destruction of the Temple and ultimately the exile from the Land.
  2. Sh’mah is something I need to focus on more each hour. Do I really listen and obey His commands? Or do I rationalize that they somehow don’t apply to me, at this time, or in this place? The mention of halachah means that their actions were a regular routine, perhaps something that becomes thought-less. Hmmm…
  3. The green words above, chochmah, binah, da’at, are the words which make up the acronym, CHaBaD, the chasidic sect started by the Lubavitcher Rebbe. I find it curious that all three appear here.

Traditionally we only practice the mitzvah of tefillin once each day, during the morning prayers. On Tisha B’Av, since the tefillin are called our glory, we skip the mitzvah until the afternoon prayers. I’m always taken aback by the seriousness of the prayers that precede the donning of tefillin.

Behold, in putting on tefillin I intend to fulfill the commandment of my Creator, Who has commanded us to put on tefillin, as is written in His Torah: “Bind them as a sign upon your arm and let them be tefillin between your eyes.” These four portions, Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 11:13-21, Exodus 13:1-10 and 11-16, contain His Oneness and Unity, may His Name be blessed, in the universe; so that we will remember the miracles and wonders that He did wth us when He took us from Egypt; and that He has the strength and dominion over those above and those below to do with them as He wishes.

He has commanded us to put tefillin upon the arm to recall the “outstretched arm” of the Exodus and that it be opposite the heart so that it will subjugate the desires and thoughts of our heart to His service, may His Name be blessed; and upon the head opposite the brain, so that the soul that is in the brain, together with my other senses and potentials, may all be subjugated to His service, may His Name be blessed.

May some of the spiritual influence of the commandment of tefillin be extended upon me so that I have a long life, a flow of holiness, and holy thoughts, without even an inkling of sin or iniquity; and that the Evil Inclination will not secure us nor incite against us, and that it permit us to serve HaShem as is our heart’s desire.

May it be Your will, HaShem, our G-d and the G-d of our forefathers, that the commandment of putting on tefillin be considered as worthy before the Holy One, blessed is He, as if I had fulfilled it in all its details, implications, and intentions, as well as the six hundred thirteen commandments that are dependent upon it. Amen, Selah.

(The Expanded ArtScroll Siddur, Wasserman Edition, Page 7)

My sins are no different than those of His people which caused the Temple to be destroyed, and they were spewed from the Land He had promised to the Patriarchs. My work of teshuvah can bring about the redemption, and Mashiach will come. His people will be gathered to Him, He will reign in Jerusalem, and the Torah will go forth from Zion.

Tzom kal,

Yosef b. Yosef

 

The traditional fast times are normally overlooked or scoffed at by the Christian community. I used to do the same thing. Then I noticed a few things from the Scripture…

First of all, the Master seems to imply that He expects His followers to fast periodically.

But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face,  that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. wAnd your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:17-18 ESV)

And Yeshua said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. (Matthew 9:15 ESV)

Second, the traditional days of fasting by the Jewish community was not simply habitual, but actually recognized by HaShem and used as a reference to the changes caused by the coming of Mashiach.

Say to all the people of the land and the priests, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth month and in the seventh, for these seventy years, was it for me that you fasted? (Zechariah 7:5 ESV)

Thus says the LORD of hosts: The fast of the fourth month and the fast of the fifth and the fast of the seventh and the fast of the tenth shall be to the house of Judah seasons of joy and gladness and cheerful feasts. Therefore love truth and peace. (Zechariah 8:19 ESV)

This is astonishing to me. That G-d would use the traditions of His people to teach them about the Messianic Age means that the traditions of men, while not to be put above the Scriptures, are important – and should be understood.

Three weeks ago, we commemorated the breaching of the walls of Jerusalem on Tzom Tammuz. Tonight we begin to fast and mourn for our sins, those sins which caused G-d to disperse His people, as foretold to Moshe Rabbeinu. The Temple was destroyed and our offerings could no longer be the animals, grain and wine He prescribed, but merely the fruit of our lips.

So, as my friend Jonathan has said, “May our fast be easy, but thorough; filled with deep reflections and insights” not only for ourselves, but our community, and all of G-d’s chosen people around the world and in The Promised Land. May the Holy One, blessed is He, send Mashiach now, soon in our days.

We will resume our “What About Me?” series next Tuesday night, with the first three chapters of 1 Corinthians.

Shalom and tzom kal,

Yosef ben Yosef

As we near the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War, you can experience history on the big screen with IN OUR HANDS: The Battle For Jerusalem. In select theaters Tuesday, May 23 only, you can get tickets NOW for this powerful retelling of how Israel’s history changed forever over the course of six days in June, 1967.

In order to take advantage of this one night showing, we will cancel class and meet at the theater. Right now it looks like that will be the Phillips Place theater…

Shalom!

Yosef ben Yosef

We have the latest study guide updated to include the second lesson in Galatians now. This will be the last lesson in this part of our study. Part 3 will pick up with Acts 17 and move from there…

Some folks never seem to wonder, “How did they know the Master was with them for 40 days after he was resurrected?” The answer is simplicity itself. The apostles were following the commandments, counting the days of the Omer from Passover to Pentecost.

Today is 20 days of the Omer.

May the Compassionate One return for us the service of the Temple to its place, speedily in our days. Amen. Selah!

Shalom,

Yosef ben Yosef

Our Lesson 21, on Acts 15 is crucial to our study. Given that some of the men are participating in a second-night Seder, we will cancel class tonight and have a full compliment of men to review this lesson next week.

I pray that you feel as though you were personally redeemed from Egypt this year, and that your gratefulness to HaShem for the miracles wrought on your behalf lead to a life of righteousness and commitment. May we all sense this obligation from now until the coming of Messiah – may it be soon and in our days!

Chag semeach Pesach!

Yosef ben Yosef

I recently read an article by the brilliant Ben Shapiro, in response to Vice President Pence’s habits with regard to women. Since I share the Vice President’s habits in this area, I thought more men should read Ben’s analysis. Read the entire article at The Daily Wire. Here’s a portion, with some highlights to get your attention.

This week, the Washington Post published a long form piece about Vice President Mike Pence, which included a little tidbit that said, “In 2002, Mike Pence told the Hill that he never eats alone with a woman other than his wife and that he won’t attend events featuring alcohol without her by his side, either.” The left — and some elements of the secular-minded right — lost its ever-loving mind.

Never mind that there’s no evidence whatsoever of employment discrimination by Pence against women. Never mind that Pence’s 30-plus year marriage is good evidence that his standards have worked for him and his wife in preserving their marriage. Pence is bad, and his standards are bad. What’s more, they’re theocratic insanity that wouldn’t be out of place in countries ruled by Shariah.

What absolute horse pucky.

Pence isn’t saying that every dinner with a woman potentially ends in the boudoir. He’s saying that human beings are fallible, that they become particularly fallible away from their spouses in the wee hours, and that they become even more fallible than that around alcohol.

But this is one of the great foolish myths propagated by the left and now humored by even some on the right: that risk assessment by individual human beings, examining their own hearts, amounts to discrimination; that those who want to guard themselves from situations in which they are more likely to sin are somehow propagating societal myths.

It isn’t true. Human beings sin. They sin because they are tempted. And they are tempted because they refuse to perform an honest assessment of their own hearts. Not all personal situations are created equal. A late-night dinner involving alcohol with a work colleague of the sex to which you could be attracted obviously carries more risk than working in the office with that same person in the middle of the day. Even leftists understand this, which is why there are significant restrictions on campus regarding male professors alone with female students and student-professor dating. As Damon Linker of The Week states: “What if morality requires social and cultural supports that limit individual freedom and that secular liberals are unwilling to forgo? … Perhaps Pence’s more morally traditional outlook has something in its favor — namely, realism.

I applaud the Vice President, and encourage all of you to evaluate the risk assessments in your lives.

The Passover is upon us! Be sure the leaven is out of the house – and the leaven of sin is out of your lives. May G-d send the Mashiach, soon and in our days!

Chag sameach Pesach!

ben Yosef

One of the most misunderstood portions of the Apostolic Writings is Acts 15. Next week, April 11, as the first day of Unleavened Bread comes to a close, and we count Day One of the Omer, we will step back and take a long look at this famous passage.

What was the problem? Paul and Barnabas are described as being in great dissension and debate with these men from Judea, before being appointed to go up to Jerusalem about “this question” What was the question??

If the question is the validity of, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved,” then we understand why Paul and Barnabas argued so vehemently (the Greek translated “dissension” is often translated as “insurrection!” against this doctrine.

As we discuss the halachah for non-Jews, the question before the Jerusalem Council has little to do with our study. However, some of the believing Pharisees (yes, Martha, there were a LOT of Pharisees who believed Yeshua was the Messiah) said these believing non-Jews had to be circumcised and ordered to keep the law of Moses. That question is very much a part of our study.

Stay tuned!

Next Monday evening is the Passover. I pray that, as the Sages taught, you will have a sense of being personally redeemed from Egypt, as you walk through the Seder haggadah.

Chag semeach Pesach!

Yosef ben Yosef

By way of reminder… there is NO class tonight
14 March 2017

Spend the time studying references to kahal and ecclēsia and their respective English translations in the Tanakh and Apostolic Scriptures. Please take the time to examine other versions, checking for differences.

Is, or was, there a deliberate translation bias to avoid providing continuity between the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures? Did the translators choose to create a new “entity” with a new name, instead of maintaining the assembly phrasing?

I’m anxious to hear your thoughts.

Shalom,

Yosef

We have finished the Gospels. I was surprised we didn’t find more halachic references that included or addressed non-Jews. Let’s see what the Acts of the Apostles has in store for us.

I am grateful to Joshua and Gregory for preparing and teaching lessons. I’m hoping more of the men will do so. It’s a great blessing for me to sit in the audience!

The graphics in Lesson Zero made the study guide unwieldy for many students, so the study guide is now in two parts. Links are available to both parts on the Resource page. Part 1 is The Gospels, and Part 2 is The Acts & The Epistles.

This Tuesday we will review Lesson 13, available in study guide Part 2.

The President “shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”

U.S. Constitution, Article II, Section 3, Clause 1

The newly elected President normally doesn’t give a State of the Union address. He would usually wait until the January or February following his taking office. U.S. President Donald Trump will give the 95th in-person State of the Union address to our country at some point, but I would not be surprised if he takes advantage of the opportunity sooner, than later.

Rather than believe that former President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee was stolen, we should reflect on the fact that the design of our government’s checks and balances worked. Now, Justice Gorsuch will be approved by Congress to fill a too-long vacant seat on our nation’s highest court. I hope President Trump’s advisors will encourage him to increase the size of the court, in order to bring balance to the poor decisions made over the past 50 years.

Time will tell, but the pendulum appears to be swinging back a bit. It’s time for all Torah bound citizens to be on their best behavior, as we set the tone – and example – for the nation.

Shalom,

Yosef ben Yosef

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