Category Archives: Shema

Sins of the Fathers

Sins of the Fathers

In the Torah portion Chukat (Num 19:1-22:1) we find the Israelites for the second time approaching the river Jordan and entry into the promised land. But again as over 40 years ago they cry out, “If only we had died when our brethren died before the Lord! Why have you brought up the assembly of the Lord into this wilderness, that we and our animals should die here? And why have you made us come up out of Egypt, to bring us to this evil place? It is not a place of grain or figs or vines or pomegranates; nor is there any water to drink.”(Nu 21:3-5) How many times has Moses heard this grumbling lament from God’s chosen?

The first time is recorded as being sometime in the second month after their miraculous deliverance from Egypt; after the manna starts falling and quail has been provided. They’re thirsty and cry out, “Why is it you have brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” (Ex 16:2)

You might ask, “How could this new generation have possibly forgotten all the lessons learned for disobedience, rebellion, idol worship and lack of faith that has been experienced these past forty years?” The answer would seem to me to be one of sowing and reaping. It was Yahweh’s judgment in Numbers 14:29 that: “The carcasses of you who have complained against Me shall fall in this wilderness, all of you who were numbered, according to your entire number, from twenty years old and above.” Couple this with Yahweh’s pronouncement in Exodus 34:7 after the golden calf incident: , “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.” (italics added) –the sins of the fathers would come home to roost—there would be a reaping.

At the time of this last iteration of water lack complaint, the entire assembly which had engaged in the pilgrimage of faithless wanderings was gone. Every one who had been twenty years of age or older was gone. Only Caleb and Joshua remained. Even Miriam and Aaron were gone. Moses’ denial of entry into the promised land was sealed. As an aside I questioned how Eleazar was still on the scene (Nu 26:1). Was he not clothed in priestly tunic along with his father, Aaron, and his brothers Nedab and Abihu? (Ex 29:9) Yes, he was, but he must have been less than 20 at the time of the Sinai census.

Back to my theme. We can so easily see the failings of the fathers from the perspective of Moses’ recording of the historical events which occurred as many as 3500 years ago. We can take admonition as to the need to avoid idol worship, disbelief and rebellion, but there is one other truth we must also come away with: the urgency as fathers and mothers to warn, admonish, cajole, entreat, implore, oh, yes, and pray for our children that they not walk in our sin—in the sins of their fathers.

In Yahweh’s pronouncement in Exodus 34:7, the operative word is visiting. This changes the charge from sin being a certainty to one that says our children and our children’s children will be visited. They will be tempted to sin as we have sinned—including their generational history of sin..

I submit that one of two things happened in the forty years of desert wanderings by the Israelites. Either the fathers were so self-absorbed and fatalistically oriented that they did not practice the instruction of the Shema and teach their children. Or, the children did not heed the teaching and admonition and failed as the opportunity (temptation) to repeat the sins of their parents were presented to them (visited upon them). The Shema is the ancient prayer/command from Deuteronomy 6:6-9 prayed today in Judaism and by Messianic believers alike. It says we are to teach our children.

An additional observation can also be made of the responsibility of our teen agers. Eleazar, the High Priest, at the time of the crossing over of the Jordan, was by then a man at least in his 50’s. He, along with all his contemporaries who were in their teens at Sinai and who also observed the response to the spies’ report, could have been a powerful influence on this second and third generation preparing to enter the promised land. They were now the leaders. Their voices should have forcefully warned the community of the danger of challenging Yahweh and Moses’ leadership. The record seems silent—the visiting was again successful. Today’s teens must not be oblivious to what is happening outside their world. They must observe and prepare for that day when their voice should be sounded to avoid the mistakes of our spiritual history—our sin.

Yahweh has made every provision for us to take heed and take a positive action. Has not the blood of Yeshua given us a perfect shield against the forces of the visit? Yes, but as with every generation, the human spirit must be alert and active, the will exercised to withstand successfully the attack of the visit—the sins of the fathers. The blood of Yeshua will stop the “visitors” from becoming “residents.”

When Clothes Don’t Make the Man

It’s a trite saying that clothes do make the man, and trite sayings often have a ring of truth. Clothes can at least help make the man and that may be true of the phylacteries worn by some observant followers of Judaism. There may be a deeper truth for those who observe the commands of God yet look to His revelations expressed through His manifested self as Yeshua.

The Shema (Hebrew for listen or hear–Deu 6:4-9) says we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our strength. Many who practice Orthodox Judaism today wear phylacteries (Tefillin in Hebrew), at least during prayers. These are small leather boxes containing a portion of the Torah. They are worn in a strict interpretation of the Shema which says in verse 8: You shall bind them (the Words of Torah) as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. As I understand it, this injunction has been defined by the Talmud (recorded Rabinnic oral opinions of Torah) as the literal wearing of the phylacteries.

Yeshua (Jesus) in His earthly ministry often spoke of the “heart” of the Torah message. He saw beyond the legalistic observance of a particular passage to its practical application. For example, He said, paraphrased, “Torah says you shall not murder, but rather being angry with your brother without cause renders you liable for judgment—even calling your brother a fool.” Mat 5:21-22

I think it’s fair to say then that there is more to the directions of the Shema than to literally bind the word on your hand and between your eyes. In Yeshua’s theme of revealing the depth of an instruction, perhaps we could better say, “Everything I turn my hand to and every thought that goes through my mind will be guided by and be a demonstration of my love for God.”

Referring back to the first verse of Torah–the use of my hand is symbolic of my strength. The use of my mind is symbolic of my soul. Wearing the phylactery between the eyes implies the mind, but the Shema goes further and adjures loving God with the soul which is defined as being the mind, will and emotions. If we bring our emotions into the “love” formula of loving God we start coming very close to Yeshua’s speaking of the root of murder as anger and name calling. You can’t call your brother a fool while loving God. The apostle John further underlines this truth:

If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. 1 John 4:20-21

The boxes strapped to your hand and forehead can serve as reminders, but the practice of the Shema, Yeshua-style, would be evidenced, daily, 24/7 in our (my) every thought, action, deed and especially spoken word. How many things do we do (wear) that would give the impression from outward appearance that may not be a true representation of the love of God? We have to be careful we’re not relying on our “clothes” to make the man!