Memorial Day: The Memory of the Righteous is a blessing

What comes to mind when you think of Memorial Day?

If your family is anything like ours, you’ve probably got outdoor plans and a grill to light up. Memorial Day weekend is a wonderful time to enjoy being with family as most people have extra time off of work, and there is certainly nothing wrong with extra family time!

But while you are preparing to barbecue your burgers and Hebrew National hotdogs, I hope you have taken some time to reflect and thank HaShem for the gift of freedom that we have in the United States.

Just a few weeks ago, Israel was attacked by Hamas rocket fire. Safety, security, and freedom are not without cost. We must be thankful for all of those who have defended the United States, U.S. allies including Israel, and U.S. interests around the world.

Just a few weeks ago, Israel was attacked by Hamas rocket fire. Safety, security, and freedom are not without cost. We must be thankful for all of those who have defended the United States and U.S. allies including Israel. So many soldiers and their families have sacrificed so much for our freedoms, and of those many have been faithful servants of the Eternal One.

Let their service be honored and never forgotten, and as Proverbs 10:7 says: “The memory of the righteous is a blessing.”

Tzedek, Tzadik, & Tzedakah: Matthew 6:3-4 through a Hebraic lens

Charitable Giving and Ma’asar Kesafim

To our ears, doing “charitable deeds” or participating in “charitable giving” is like a fancy way of saying doing “good works, or “donating money.” Every year, the IRS will let you deduct some of your good deeds from Caesar’s bill, right? Charitable giving is tracked, graphed, sought-after, solicited, pleaded for, telethoned for . . . and for good reason – there is a healthy motivation when all parties involved win. But how charitable is our charitable giving, if it is done for a reward?

You may know that charitable giving was built into the legal system of ancient Israel. Today, the expectation to practice ma’asar kesafim, or, the giving of 10% of one’s income to the poor is standard tithing and ethical practice in Judaism. Certainly, Torah teaches generosity:

“If there is a poor man among you — any of your brothers within any of your gates in your land that ADONAI your God is giving you — you are not to harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother.  Rather, you must surely open your hand to him and you must surely lend him enough for his need — whatever he is lacking. Watch yourself, so there is no unworthy thing in your heart saying, ‘The seventh year, the year of cancelling debts, is near,’ and your eye is evil against your poor brother and you give him nothing. Then he may call out to ADONAI against you, and it will be a sin upon you. You must surely give to him, and your heart is not to be grieved when you give to him — for because of this thing ADONAI your God will bless you in all your work and in every undertaking of your hand.

Deuteronomy 15:7-11, TLV, emphases added

The generosity required by the justice of the Almighty does not diminish the giver’s net worth. Paradoxically, the individual who is sincerely generous will prosper and see increase according to Scriptural promises.

Besides help for the needy, tithes and offerings are also intended to support the work of ministry and preparation for the moedim (appointed times/feast days), brought into the house of the LORD. Sadly, many prosperity Gospel organizations have distorted this teaching, pressuring adherents to tithe, not out of love in righteousness, but out of a sense of obligation: warning that if one fails to tithe or does not give enough in offerings, blessings will be withheld or calamity will result. The true Gospel message related to tithing is simple. We are to give back what already belongs to the Most High, both in tithes and offerings, with thankfulness and pure motives.

Tzedek, Tzadik, & Tzedakah: Justice, Righteous(ness) & Charity

It’z not to overwhelm you with highly foreign looking words starting with “tz,” but these are some important Hebrew terms to learn when studying the Scriptures from a Hebraic perspective. Hint: the initial “t” is almost silent and the tz makes the “ts” sound you hear in the word “it’s.”

A “charitable deed” in Hebrew is “tzedakah.” This word is very interesting because it is comprised of the Hebrew alephbet letter tzadi (tzadik) צ which is derived from the term for “righteous” or “righteousness.” A “tzadik” refers to a Righteous person; tzedakah, a righteous deed.

To be “charitable,” then, requires a solid dose of “righteousness,” or else the giving is, as Qoheleth would say, “in vain!” There is none righteous, no, not one (Rom.3:10) – only our Master and Teacher, Messiah Yeshua, the Righteous Branch, Christ our Righteousness. He is the only One worthy of the honorific: “Tzadik.” But precisely because Messiah Jesus died on our behalf and believers are, by faith, clothed in His righteousness, all believers have the opportunity to live in righteousness, not to earn salvation, but to reflect it.

Too many “once saved always saved” sermons have led uninformed believers to mistakingly believe that nothing is required to live into their sanctification. Sanctification is a process, bestowed fully at salvation; but, like the Kingdom, is an “already-not-yet” reality: we are saved and sanctified, but we need the Ruach haKodesh, the Holy Spirit, to continue His sanctifying work in us – a partnership in a sense – between the Almighty and the believer.

Another exercise in etymology will lead you to the discovery that another Hebrew term, “tzedek” means “justice.” True justice cannot exist apart from Incarnate Righteousness. Yeshua has ascended to the Father; we must now embody the virtues of kindness, humility, righteousness, justice; veritably, all of the Fruits of the Spirit! We cannot settle for the world’s misguided attempts at justice or mislabeling of sin as “social justice” precisely because of the world’s blatant defiance and devaluation of all things righteous.

Free righteousness or righteousness-free?

I alluded to this above, but it is truly a travesty that such a large portion of modern-day “Christianity” neglects deep reflection around the topic of righteousness. Yes, we have been given an amazing free gift, the free gift of righteousness as children of God, but too many assemblies, fellowships, and churches have taken a “righteousness-free” posture eliminating discussion of moral righteousness, Godly duty and obligation, and even ethics; preferring political allegiances and cultural norms.

The past year has highlighted this reality. “Conservatives” vs “liberals” on everything from mask-wearing to presidential picks. Most Christians fall into the “conservative” camp, but the label has been tarnished by the unwavering following of leaders who would dismantle the democracy we enjoy. Rather than accept the temporary burden of wearing a mask to protect those around oneself, battle cries waged that freedom was being stolen. Selfishness reigned as the Great Commandment to love your neighbor as yourself was archived along with all the other commandments that a rebellious people are uninterested in keeping.

True Biblical Christianity must be rooted in the fullness of the Hebrew Scriptures. Most Torah scholars would agree that bearing temporary discomfort for the benefit of another is not only a right decision, but the only right decision. Biblical justice involves caring for someone else, regardless of your personal sentiments. Does that other person deserve your compassion? Does that person live by the same standards to which you hold yourself and your family? Perhaps not. But righteousness puts aside one’s own preferences, seeking only to the do the will of the Father, which is to exercise love and share the Good News of salvation. The New Covenant bolsters the concept, exhorting believers to “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another.(Romans 12:10, NKJV, emphasis added)

Messiah’s instructions in Matthew 6:3-4

Righteousness is demonstrable, yet lest we become “puffed up” as Rabbi Sha’ul would say, our Master Yeshua has words for us:

” . . . when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.” Matthew 6:3-4, NKJV

” . . . when you do tzedakah, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your tzedakah may be in secret; and your Father, who sees in secret, shall reward you.” Matthew/Mattityahu 6:3-4, TLV

Matthew 6:3-4 TLV

Yeshua was addressing an issue in which people were doing their charitable giving with the hope of being seen or recognized in the public sphere for their philanthropy.

The Talmud was influenced by Jesus’ teachings

Midrash teaches: “The deeds of the righteous are always performed expeditiously; no time is lost in undertaking a mitzvah or in its execution.” (Bamidbar Rabbah 10:5; The Wisdom of the Hebrew Alphabet, Rabbi Michael L. Munk) The Talmud, written after Yeshua’s life on earth, arguably draws upon the wisdom He shared with His disciples. In discussion about the Hebrew alephbet, the dalet, written “ד”, can be examined in depth, demonstrating that its origin as “door” also alludes to the alms-seeker who may appear at one’s door. In his book, Rabbi Munk explains, “In a further lesson derived from the shape of the letters, the Talmud notes that the face of the ד is turned to the left, away from the ג, to show that the dal [beggar] should not have to face his gomel [benefactor]. Assistance should be given discreetly and with the greatest tact to preserve the self-respect of the recipient. In the highest form of charity, neither gomel nor dal should be aware of the other’s identity.” (Munk, 80).

When I came upon this fascinating analysis of the alephbet, Rabbi Yeshua’s words immediately came to mind. He said, “don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” The dalet ד is literally turned toward the left, so that no shame is unnecessarily placed upon the less privileged. Jesus was undeniably concerned for the well-being of the poorest of people, wisely instructing the disciples to conduct their good deeds in secret.

Tzedakah and righteousness are terms missing from the vocabulary of the modern church, but true believers have the opportunity to reclaim them as an awakening to the Hebrew roots of the Bible is occurring globally.

The greatest witness we can make is to live righteously for the healing of the nations.

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How Genesis 1:2 can help you lead a friend to the LORD (and away from the Jehovah’s Witness movement)

Parashat B’reishit (Genesis 1:1-6:8) (Updated 10/13/2022 5783 B”H)

Beginning at the Beginning

Each year after Sukkot (The Feast of Tabernacles), it is customary to begin re-reading through Torah (the first five books of the Bible). I personally believe it is vital to supplement Torah reading with readings from the rest of the Bible, including the Prophets and the rest of the Tanakh as well as, of course, the New Testament (B’rit Chadasha).

So it is the time of year when we begin back at Genesis (known in Hebrew as B’reishit).

Beginning at the beginning of time.

We do well to understand that in every undertaking in life, we ought embark only with our understanding framed by the history of creation. If we know our Creator and are in right relationship with Him, then we will understand our role as the created and realize our need for restoration and salvation.

Those who do not yet live in right relationship with the LORD, the Creator of All, cannot be called His children.

But there is Good News!

“See how glorious a love the Father has given us, that we should be called God’s children—and so we are!” 1 John 3:1

As God’s children, it is imperative that we share this Good News so that those who are perishing around us would be able to repent and know our Savior, too, and so, too, become children of the Most High God.

I will show you today a very simple method to share your faith, beginning at the beginning.

Are you confident in your ability to share and defend your faith?

As followers of Messiah Yeshua (the Lord Jesus Christ), it is our joyous duty to share with others the Good News of salvation.

We also need to be able to defend our faith.

Demonstrate that our faith is unshakeable!

It is so important to be equipped to share with others the Truth!

This is often called “apologetics.

But rather than apologizing for what you believe, your task is to share it!

And be able to explain why you believe what you believe! Be confident! The LORD is with you and will give you the words and wisdom when you need it.

Today, I will focus on how one simple verse from Genesis can be used as a powerful spiritual weapon against one of the fastest growing cults: The Jehovah’s Witness organization.

The Jehovah Witness sect presents both a challenge and opportunity to Bible-believing Christians.

Are you ready to challenge yourself to share your faith?

Check out a simple and straightforward way to lead a friend to the True LORD of the Bible!

First, we must recognize that Truth is superior to cult religions and teachings

The Jehovah Witness cult continues to grow around the world. It is highly likely you will encounter a Jehovah’s Witness follower at some point.

You might think I am being very harsh calling it a cult.

However, given the high level of deception and falsehood, softer terms will not do.

Believers: we need to be educated about sects and cults in order to ask the Spirit of Truth to help us evangelize and minister to members of these erroneous organizations.

We also need to pray that the Spirit of all Truth, God’s Holy Spirit, the only True God would help us show genuine love, kindness, and compassion toward all of those who are trapped in confusion.

In order to properly witness to a member of a cult religion, we must ourselves be confident in Whom we have believed and know the Truth of Scripture for ourselves.

Genesis 1 2 3
Genesis 1:2 can help you lead a friend to the LORD (and away from cult doctrines!)

Second, it is wise to have a solid understanding of trustworthy Bible translations

My husband and I pastored a mission congregation in the southern USA for many years.

The influence of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in the area astounded us.

It was a region impacted by true spiritual darkness.

The Jehovah’s Witness cult members were particularly successful in sowing their seeds of confusion among the Latino/Hispanic community in that area.

The JW movement convinced many Spanish-speaking farm workers in the community that an adulterated bible, their “New World Translation” was superior to any standard (ie. reputable) English or Spanish language Bibles such as the King James Version or Reina Valera 1960.

It is important to educate new believers about trustworthy Bible translations.

We had our work cut out for us teaching the Truth of Scripture as many lay folk didn’t seem to really care about the scholastic origins of the Bibles they were reading.

Third, be familiar with the unsettling founding of the Jehovah Witness Movement

If you have ever studied comparative religion or sects, you may know the founding of the Jehovah Witness movement sounds more like a business enterprise than a revelatory experience.

A group of men (most say about 30) reportedly gathered in a Brooklyn, NY building and invented the religion.

They produced a “translation” of the Bible without knowing the Biblical languages Hebrew or Greek. Again, this is known as the “New World Translation” or NWT.

The men changed generous portions of Scripture to suit their doctrinal inventions (in complete defiance of the command in Revelation 22:18-19 to never add to or take away from the LORD’s Book):

“I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book. If anyone adds to them, God shall add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his share in the Tree of Life and the Holy City, which are written in this book.” Revelation 22:18-19

It is true many of the first followers of our Messiah Jesus were not highly educated men.

However, it is not true that folks should wholeheartedly trust translations from people who cannot at least rudimentarily engage the languages they are working to translate.

The sinister nature of the NWT “translation” becomes obvious from the very beginning of the tarnished text: right there in Genesis.

How to use Genesis 1:2 as a Perfect Starting Point for Effective Evangelism (particularly with Jehovah’s Witness followers)

I discovered an easy way to strike up a conversation with Jehovah Witness followers.

Simply ask them about the Holy Spirit:

I would ask a Jehovah’s Witness to open their Bible to Genesis 1:2.

A well known verse, it tells us the Spirit of God hovered over the waters at creation:

“Now the earth was chaos and waste, darkness was on the surface of the deep, and the Ruach Elohim was hovering upon the surface of the water.” Genesis 1:2, TLV

Ruach Elohim is Hebrew for the “Spirit of God.”

You may be more familiar with the New King James Version’s phrasing:

“The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” Genesis 1:2, NKJV

Help people recognize the spiritual danger:

In the false translation used by the Jehovah’s Witness organization (the New World Translation), the word for the Holy Spirit (Ruach Elohim in Hebrew) has been completely eliminated and replaced by a lower-case and non-personal term, the “active force.”

Those who have participated in the JW organization for a long time may be more hostile to you trying to help them, but I found that for those who are newer to the JW ranks, many would talk to me.

Many were open to discussing the glaring issue related to the unpardonable sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit of God (Matthew 12:31).

The Holy Spirit gives believers the words we need when we need them.

And I can assure you, He is faithful.

The LORD of Truth can help you to reach those who have been falsely indoctrinated with the lies of the enemy that have been adopted by the Jehovah’s Witness organization.

He can save those who have been deceived.

Nothing is impossible for God! Matthew 19:26

So there is great hope!

The Jehovah Witness cult has injected a stronghold of deception and confusion into vulnerable people looking for answers to life’s questions.

There are SO MANY false doctrines in the JW religion!

Another easy place to start is with the nature of God.

God has been revealed to humanity as the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We can discuss semantics on “echad,” the doctrine of “Trinity,” or the “Oneness of God” another time. But the point is, we believe in the Holiness and Deity of God. We do not diminish the Son’s standing by denying His divinity – He is Fully God, and we certainly do not take away our reverence and respect for the Holy Spirit of God.

The Simple Truth

For today, rejoice that you know the God of all Truth!

He is the Eternal One, Heavenly Father, the Prince of Peace, Lord of All, and the Mighty Comforter!

Our LORD is the one who saves, fully God and fully human revealed in Messiah Yeshua (Jesus Christ our LORD)!

He is the Conquerer of death and the Conquerer of Confusion. He is King forever!

Do not shy away from sharing your faith!

There are SO many people who are hungry for the TRUTH!

You just might be the very person the LORD wants to use to bring others to know Him.

Are you reading this and have questions about the Truth of our Savior Jesus Christ (Yeshua haMashiach)? Please reach out! We would love to help you know more about the True Savior and Messiah who loves you and died for you so you could live eternally with Him. Pray today for members of the Jehovah’s Witness organization, that they would come to be free from the lies of the enemy.

Are you a member of the Jehovah’s Witness organization? Are you seeking to know the Truth about the Messiah, the Son of God? Please contact us, we would love to help you walk with the LORD:

“Since you were precious in My sight, you have been honored, and I have loved you.” Isaiah 43:4