This next Shabbat the reading will be the Torah Portion Vayakhel, Exodus 35:1 – 40:38. The Haftarah (from the prophets) is 1 Kings 7:40 – 8:21. From the New Testament we will be reading John 14:12-31.
In the early 1960’s in the United States most of the pastors carried in their suit pockets a leather bound copy of the New Testament. During the two years that I was in high school in South Georgia, the preaching in the local church in Dasher was 99.9% only from the New Testament.
This was true when I traveled though the Old South, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. So, now I am writing these Jerusalem Prayer Lists with several goals, one of which is to encourage the reading and appreciation of the Torah (the law of Moses) and the prophets, and to explain their relationship to the New Testament.
So this Shabbat we are reading Vayakhel (“Moses gathered all of the congregation”). In the Septuagint (the earliest Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible) the word used here for “congregation” is “synagogue”. The word “synagogue” means “congregation.”
Moses gathered the congregation to give them instructions that he received from the Lord. The first commandment that Moses received from the Lord is:
“Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh day shall be a holy day for you, a Sabbath of rest to the Lord. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. You shall kindle no fire throughout your dwellings on the Sabbath day.” – Exodus 35:2,3 [NKJV]
I wonder why the command to rest on the Sabbath (seventh day) is so important that it is commanded so many times in the Law of Moses and also in the New Testament? In the Hebrew Bible (The Old Testament) the Sabbath is mentioned 191 times.
The command to keep the Sabbath Day is given in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) 34 times, starting from Genesis and ending in Malachi. In the New Testament, the Sabbath is mentioned 12 times.
It is interesting that when you read the New Testament you find Yeshua on the Sabbath days in the synagogues or in the Temple. One time I asked, “why did Yeshua go on the Sabbath days to the synagogue?”
The only biblical answer to this question is simple: Yeshua went to the synagogues on the Sabbath day for two reasons, to pray and to read the Torah. But the brother that answered the question said that Yeshua went to the synagogue to convert the Jews.
In the examples that we have in the Gospels, Yeshua went to the synagogues for two reasons, to read the Torah, and to teach. Here is an interesting text that is oftentimes ignored by Christian scholars and preachers:
“Then Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and news of Him went out through all the surrounding region. And He taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all. So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read.” – Luke 4:14-16 [NKJV]
Note this text from Luke: The context of this text is set right after the 40 days of fasting and the temptation in the Judean desert, Yeshua returns to the Galilee. He returns back to His own country and the Holy Spirit tells us that, “the news of him went out throughout all of the surrounding region!”
What does this tell us about Yeshua? It tells us that Yeshua was already well known and respected in the Galilee as a teacher of what we call today “the Old Testament.”
When Yeshua returned to the Galilee after the temptations by Satan, the news spread all over the Galilee and Yeshua was invited to teach in all the Jewish synagogues in the Galilee, and when the people in the synagogues heard Yeshua teach from the Torah on the Sabbath day, all the people glorified Yeshua for His teaching from the Torah.
The apostle Paul went to the synagogues in the Hellenistic communities every Sabbath as it was his custom:
“Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, ‘This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ.’ And some of them were persuaded; and a great multitude of the devout Greeks, and not a few of the leading women, joined Paul and Silas.” – Acts 17:1-4 [NKJV]
I am bringing the above teaching because it is important in my opinion to know that in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (from the second century B.C.E.) the word for the crowd (the community) is “synagogue”. It is also important for me that our brothers and sisters around the world realize that Yeshua and Paul and the other disciples of Yeshua continued to attend and participate and read from the Torah and from the prophets on the Sabbath day like all the other Jews in their world.
The second command that God instructs Moses to share with the community (synagogue) of the Israelites in the wilderness is:
“And Moses spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying, ‘This is the thing which the Lord commanded, saying: “Take from among you an offering to the Lord. Whoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it as an offering to the Lord: gold, silver, and bronze; blue, purple, and scarlet thread, fine linen, and goats’ hair; ram skins dyed red, badger skins, and acacia wood; oil for the light, and spices for the anointing oil and for the sweet incense…”’” – Exodus 35:4-8 [NKJV]
We should all know that there is no religion in the world that does not depend and ask for contributions and giving money, gold, and precious materials, and precious stones to the gods in the pagan world and also in the Tabernacle in the wilderness and in the Temple in Jerusalem, and also today in every single church there are requests and teaching and demands for the people to give money to the church.
The interesting thing in the command of God to Moses is that it was not something that Moses wanted or asked or invented, God commands Moses to teach the people of Israel to give from a long list of materials and silver and gold and cloths, and every type of material and precious stones that were in the hands of the people of Israel.
One more verse from this Torah portion has brought me to a super-spiritual excitement, because in Netivyah in our congregation of Ro’eh Israel we saw and experienced the same phenomenon of women selling their jewelry go give it to the Lord for the purchase of our building on Narkis Street in downtown Jerusalem.
Here is for me one of the most amazing texts in the Torah:
“They came, both men and women, as many as had a willing heart, and brought earrings and nose rings, rings and necklaces, all jewelry of gold, that is, every man who made an offering of gold to the Lord.” – Exodus 35:22 [NKJV]
I have seen great generosity by so many brothers and sisters from around the world for the purchase of the building on Narkis Street and more recently for the remodeling and rebuilding of the building that remind me of this text in the Torah. I have seen women sell their gold jewelry and give the money for the purchase of the building.
I have seen an old family from Vaasa, Finland, sell one of their homes and give all the money for us in Jerusalem to have our own building. This, my dear brothers, is the real true and faithful giving and contributing to the Lord and His Kingdom, give from your heart, with humility and without seeking rewards or recognition or extra honor or notoriety for their “generosity”.
Yeshua condemns the Pharisees who give with fanfare and trumpets, that announce that they gave and how much they gave and even get a plaque to hang on their wall that they gave and how much they gave and in who’s honor they gave… People that give in this negative way will get their reward in this life and their debts will be charged with full latitude on the day of judgment.
What an important text this is that tells us that the men and the women, especially the women, took their earrings, and nose rings, and rings, and necklaces, and gold jewelry, and just plain gold bullion and gave it for the building of the house of the Lord!
I feel privileged to read this in the Torah, and even more privileged to have seen this personally in Jerusalem, and Finland, Japan, China, Brazil, Bulgaria, and the United States. Having read the Torah and seen the very practice and the motivation of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of men and women to take the earrings from their ears and put them in the basket for the Lord’s word and kingdom!
I hope you have the privilege to give sacrificially and sincerely, and to see others put to practice such a true willingness of their hearts and making that willingness of the heart a tangible contribution to the Lord and His kingdom. I will conclude this teaching from the Torah with the following statement, “giving is more blessed than receiving” and may the Lord bless me and give me the ability to give and be blessed by God. Pray that the Lord will bless you so that you can give back to the Lord with joy and with pleasure in the Spirit of humility and simplicity.
The last thing that I want to say on this topic is that same phenomenon like the poor widow who gave the two pennies and the rich Pharisee who gave 1000 dinars, and the Lord asked “who gave more?” The answer was and still is that the widow who gave from her poverty the two pennies, gave more, because she gave all that she could give. I have seen in our own congregation both of these phenomena, but the sad thing is that some of the rich gave little and they gave it in public and they wanted the honor and recognition in public.
So sad that some people never learn because they don’t take the Lord’s teaching seriously. They believe in Yeshua, but they don’t frankly believe Yeshua, or take His commands seriously. I am sad and sorry that there are some who could but didn’t and happy and full of joy for those who couldn’t but did!
This article originally appeared on Netivyah and is reposted with permission.