Lisa’s D’rash: Thankful for Every Gift

One of the many things I love about my grandchildren is their thankful hearts. When we give them a gift, no matter what it is, they are genuinely thankful. You can easily tell that they appreciate the gifts they receive. This is the heart attitude we can have if we begin at the place where we realize we don’t deserve anything. Any gift is undeserved.

As I was reading this weeks Torah portion, I was intrigued by the verses that talk about not sacrificing an ox, goat, or lamb to the goat-demons. They were no longer to offer sacrifices to other gods, only to Adonai. Why was this so important? I think that we can find the answer to that question in our reading from Matthew 15. Yeshua said that what comes out of a man’s mouth is what makes him unclean. I would expand that beyond words to include our actions.

I think that sacrificing to other gods was prohibited because it made them unclean. How does this have anything to do with being thankful for every gift? In my mind, this is how that connects. It has to do with our heart attitude. Our willingness to be obedient and give up what Adonai tells us to give up, and what comes out of our mouths. It all comes back to what’s in our hearts. Everything is a gift from Him. Our very existence is a gift. Every single thing that happens, every person in our lives, all of it is part of His gift to us. Our response depends on our heart attitude.

Be thankful for everything. He is working everything together for your good.

Barbara’s Drash: Tazria-Metzora

Torah: Leviticus 12:1-15:33

Haftorah: 2 Kings 7:3-20

Brit Hadasha: Luke 2:22-35

I started preparing very early for the D’Rash this week. Over the next several days, I read the parasha several times and was praying for HaShem to lay something on my heart. I had a maze of thoughts in my head, but each time I would start to go one way he would bring me back to the word quarantine, and what is happening in our world today. This parasha has never felt so relevant than it does today. In years past I always had a great sense of distance from the confusing descriptions of biblical skin afflictions, the quarantine of afflicted Israelites, and the purification process. As we all struggle with the challenges of social distancing and the uncertainty of the future, I believe we can look at this parasha and see how it provides points of reflection to our recent situation.

There are three stages involved with tzar’at (leprosy); they are examination, quarantine, and purification. The Cohen (priest) is called upon to examine the severity of the tzar’at affliction. If the affliction is not severe, the person is permitted to return to the camp after a waiting period. However, if the affliction is pronounced impure, the sufferer is quarantined from the community. They remain in quarantine until the disease heals, so they are not a danger to others. Upon healing, the Cohen re-examines the afflicted individual and begins the two-step process. This process entails the priest, while still outside the camp, the priest slaughters one bird and lets a second bird fly free into the open country. The individual is then allowed back in the camp, but required to stay outside the home for an additional seven days. At the end of the seven days the person again purifies themselves and brings three animals to the Tabernacle as an offering. Once this is completed, they are declared pure and allowed back to enter their homes and community.

The Torah’s description of the priest’s examination of the afflicted person reveals an insight into the way many of us think about disease. In the Tree of Life Bible Leviticus 13:4 states “to isolate the infected person for seven days”. I know for myself, when I think of the word infected or currently COVID-19 positive, my first instinct would be to run as far away as I could from that individual, but what I must remember is that during all of this we are not to lose sight of the individuals. We need to stop thinking about our needs and what we want, but think about how this global pandemic is impacting individuals and families. Currently we do not have any COVID-19 positive cases in our family, yet we are separated from our daughter who is a health care worker and working with patients that do have the COVID-19 virus. As we struggle to adhere to the demands of social distancing, we cannot lose sight of the stakes. We are and need to continue to work together to save millions of lives and the families and friends attached to those lives. 

Once the individual is diagnosed as unclean Leviticus 13:46 states: “He shall be unclean as long as the disease is on him. Being unclean, he shall dwell alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.” The inflicted must live outside the camp to protect others from the infection and remain alone indefinitely until the disease heals. One can only imagine the loneliness they felt, and that those hospitalized or living in nursing facilities must be feeling today. We feel it daily, as we are distanced from our loved ones and our community of believers. We can take comfort in the description of Miriam’s quarantine when she was afflicted with tzara’at in Numbers 12:15-16 “So Miriam was restricted to outside the camp for seven days. The people did not move on until Miriam was brought back. Afterward, the people left Hazeroth and encamped in the Wilderness of Paran.” The people of Israel waited for Miriam before they moved on, she was not alone they walked beside her. In our current situation we can and must assure each other that we are not alone. Although scattered over the Valley we are all in this together, and we all are waiting for a time when we can emerge from our social distancing and once again fellowship together.

Finally, we have the purification phase and emergence back into the community. At the conclusion of the purification process, the Cohen applies the blood of the sacrifice to the ear, thumb, and toe of the purified (Lev. 14:17). The act of purification is meant to remind the now-cured person to listen to the word of HaShem and deliberate in their deeds, now that they have been given a second chance. We too can take this time as a time of reflection in our daily lives. We can think about our past commitments and how we spent our time before the “stay at home order”.  We can take steps to thrive during this time to grow closer to HaShem, increase in our prayer life, and look at how HaShem wants to use you and the skills and talents he has given you. So that when we emerge from this time we will be stronger, and prepared to continue to do his work. It is also a time we can appreciate the silence without the use of all the technology, thinking of where we need to go and who we need to see, and listen to hear His voice. I know for myself that due to being home during Pesach and the Feast of Unleavened Bread I was able to slow down, appreciate, and learn more about the festivals. If it had been “normal times” I wouldn’t have been able to have that time to bask in the delight of the Festivals.

I look forward to the time when we are once again preparing to meet for Shabbat. To see familiar faces, hear the squeals of children’s laughter, and to feel the hugs we will once again share.

Shabbat Shalom


Esther’s D’rash: Sh’mini

On the eighth day, Moshe called Aharon, his sons and the leaders of Isra’el, and said to Aharon,” Take a male calf for a sin offering…

…and a ram for a burnt offering…

…both without defect, and offer them before ADONAI.

Then tell the people of Isra’el, ‘Take a male goat for a sin offering…

…and a calf and a lamb, both a year old and without defect, for a burnt offering…

…and an ox and a ram for peace offerings, to sacrifice before ADONAI;

…also a grain offering mixed with olive oil…

 – because today ADONAI is going to appear before you.

There were a few things in this parshah that seemed specific to those who represent G-d in the sight of others.  One was the way these sacrifices were done, and the other was the catastrophe that followed Nadav and Avihu’s unauthorized fire.

You and I may not be priests like Aharon, but each of us has a way that we represent G-d in the sight of others.  Maybe we teach our children or grandchildren.  Or maybe we write Bible stories in a creative format.  Or maybe we have coworkers who watch us closely.  Or a friend who looks up to us.

When I read about the way that Aharon had to offer their own sin offering and burnt offering first – before helping the people prepare for G-d’s presence, it made me think of my own life.  It can be so easy to pour all of your attention into helping others find G-d, and you forget to seek Him yourself.  You have so much hope for the next generation of believers that you neglect to cultivate your own relationship with G-d.  But here, G-d clearly lays out an order of things that is SO important.

It’s kind of like that parable that Yeshua taught.  How can you do a good job at helping your brother get a speck or a splinter out of his eye when you have a log in your own? (Matthew 7:3-5 and Luke 6:41-42)

Next, I read about the way that Nadav and Avihu each took his censer, put fire in it, laid incense on it, and offered unauthorized fire before ADONAI – something He had not ordered them to do.  And I thought about the importance of the way we represent G-d.

Sometimes we are the only example of G-d that people will see.  How important is it that we portray Him accurately?  If we are the ones who claim to be close to Him, we should be the ones reflecting Him the most clearly!

Each of us can probably think of a godly person who influenced us – for good or for evil.  We can probably remember leaders who shared an inaccurate representation of who God is.  And we can probably remember leaders who were solid and dependable in their teaching of the Word.  Those memories stick with us.

Let’s think about Bible stories.  Did you hear Bible stories growing up?  I did.  And there were some elements so popular in stories that I came to think they were truth.  For example, see if you know what the Bible itself says about these questions:

·         How many wisemen does the Bible say came to visit Yeshua? (Matthew 2:1-12)

·         What did Mary ride on the way to Bethlehem? (Luke 2:1-6)

How did you do?  Were the answers as you expected from the Bible stories?  I’ve found many answers in the Bible that were not what I expected, based on teachers from my past.

     Stories make a lasting impression on people.  And WE make a lasting impression on people.  It is our responsibility to seek G-d in His Word and then to share what He showed us was important.

     So take a lesson from the priests and prepare your own heart to dwell with G-d first, and then take care to only do what G-d told you to do.  I leave you with this quote from part of Leviticus 10:3,

“This is what Adonai said:

‘Through those who are near me I will be consecrated,
and before all the people I will be glorified.’”


Sam’s D’rash: Tzav

Shabbat Shalom!  I’ll start by praising the Lord that even though we are physically distant we can still connect with each other for service and Torah Club.  We miss you all very much but are thankful to be able to worship with you virtually until we can all be together again.

This week in Tzav we have more instructions concerning the sacrifices – the burnt offerings, grain offerings, sin offerings, guilt offerings, and peace offerings.  As always, the Lord has an order to things, and the peace offering is always last in that order.  There is a wonderful statement in Torah Club: Shadows of Messiah this week, where it is explaining that the order of the sacrifices teaches us about approaching God, “Only after the impurity of sin has been cleansed and the self has been surrendered to God is the worshiper ready to enjoy peace and fellowship with the Almighty as symbolized by the peace offering.”  The peace offering is sometimes called the fellowship offering.  A portion of the offering is for the Lord, a portion is given to the priesthood, and the rest is for the giver and shared with others in fellowship.  Therefore, the peace offering gives the worshiper the opportunity to fellowship with the Lord, the priesthood, and his fellow man.

Psalm 34 describes peace as something we should pursue…

Psalm 34:12(11)-15(14)

12 (11) Come, children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of Adonai.
13 (12) Which of you takes pleasure in living?
Who wants a long life to see good things?
14 (13) [If you do,] keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from deceiving talk;
15 (14) turn from evil, and do good;
seek peace, go after it!

To pursue peace means we have to take action, we have to look for it, find it, cultivate it.  Obviously, peace is something that everyone wants, right now especially, with the world full of uncertainty.  This week during devotional time with the kids the devotion (Jesus Calling for Kids, April 2nd) noted that one our greatest needs is for His Peace.  It went on further to describe the Lord as the Gardener of our hearts and where He is planting seeds of peace but the world is also sowing seeds that become weeds of pride, worry, and selfishness.  If you have ever gardened, you know the best way to get rid of weeds is to not let them grow or they will take over your life!  It’s also easier to pull them up after rain or watering.  When the ground is soft and wet it takes very little effort to rid your garden of the pesky invaders.  It is the same for the garden of our hearts, taking in the living water of His Word is the surest way to more easily rid ourselves of the weeds of pride, worry, and selfishness and leave us only with the fruit of His Peace.  

Like the peace offering described in this week’s parsha, the opportunity to enjoy the fruit of His Peace does require us to sacrifice, but instead of an animal from our flock, it is a sacrifice of our time.  When we make this sacrifice and sit at His feet, fellowship with Him in His Word, peace is cultivated in our hearts.  Only then will we have the fruit of His Peace to share with those the Lord has given us the opportunity to fellowship.  If we pursue His Peace, we will have His Peace to share.  We know there are so many right now in desperate need of His Peace.  As His children, let’s pray that He will show us how we can be used at this time to spread His Peace to those who do not know Him.

I hope and pray that you all are well and stay well.  I pray that as we feel the weeds choking in on the peace that is available to us in Messiah, that He will remind us to drink from His Living Water and be refreshed by His Peace.  In Yeshua’s Name… Amen

I will end with the entirety of Psalm 34.  May it remind us all that He is taking care of us and will take care of us through it all…  Shabbat Shalom

Samantha Dotson

Psalm 34 Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)

34 2 (1) I will bless Adonai at all times;

his praise will always be in my mouth.

3 (2) When I boast, it will be about Adonai;

the humble will hear of it and be glad.

4 (3) Proclaim with me the greatness of Adonai;

let us exalt his name together.

5 (4) I sought Adonai, and he answered me;

he rescued me from everything I feared.

6 (5) They looked to him and grew radiant;

their faces will never blush for shame.

7 (6) This poor man cried; Adonai heard

and saved him from all his troubles.

8 (7) The angel of Adonai, who encamps

around those who fear him, delivers them.

9 (8) Taste, and see that Adonai is good.

How blessed are those who take refuge in him!

10 (9) Fear Adonai, you holy ones of his,

for those who fear him lack nothing.

11 (10) Young lions can be needy, they can go hungry,

but those who seek Adonai lack nothing good.

12 (11) Come, children, listen to me;

I will teach you the fear of Adonai.

13 (12) Which of you takes pleasure in living?

Who wants a long life to see good things?

14 (13) [If you do,] keep your tongue from evil

and your lips from deceiving talk;

15 (14) turn from evil, and do good;

seek peace, go after it!

16 (15) The eyes of Adonai watch over the righteous,

and his ears are open to their cry.

17 (16) But the face of Adonai opposes those who do evil,

to cut off all memory of them from the earth.

18 (17) [The righteous] cried out, and Adonai heard,

and he saved them from all their troubles.

19 (18) Adonai is near those with broken hearts;

he saves those whose spirit is crushed.

20 (19) The righteous person suffers many evils,

but Adonai rescues him out of them all.

21 (20) He protects all his bones;

not one of them gets broken.

22 (21) Evil will kill the wicked,

and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.

23 (22) But Adonai redeems his servants;

no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.