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Weekly D'rash and Parsha Ki Tisa

This week our Torah portion describes the sin of the golden calf and its aftermath. It is a key passage in the Torah because it tells us so much about the heart of God. Israel learned that there was certainly a price to pay for the rebellion, but at the same time they learned that God genuinely cared for them and their wellbeing. This was a radical understanding because at that time in history the ‘gods’ were understood to be about their own wellbeing and the people were simply there to serve the gods. But the God of Israel is different! He is overflowing in loyal love and forgiveness!!! Later in Jewish history, the prophet Ezekiel encourages the people that even though they have sinned horribly again and been exiled from the land, the attributes of God are still true. During the time of the exile, there was much insecurity among the people. After all, the nation had rebelled to such an extent that they had to leave the land! Our Haftarah portion for this week is from Ezekiel 36:16–38. It is one of the great prophetic passages about the new covenant. The prophet tells the people that even though they have sinned horribly with terrible consequences, God has not forgotten them and they will be restored. What is interesting about this passage, and what ties it together with the Torah portion, is the reason why God acts in such a benevolent way toward Israel both in Exodus and Ezekiel. Remember that in our Torah portion, God originally wanted to destroy everyone and start over again with Moses. “The Lord said to Moses, I have seen this people, and behold they are an obstinate people. Now then let me alone that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation” (Exo 32:9–10). Moses interceded and begged God not to destroy the people. “Then Moses entreated the LORD his God, and said, ‘O LORD, why does Your anger burn against Your people whom You have brought out from the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand’”? “Why should the Egyptians speak, saying, ‘With evil intent He brought them out to kill them in the mountains and to destroy them from the face of the earth’” (Exo 32:11–12)? Moses was concerned for the reputation of God before the nations. God showed great compassion upon the people, but it was not because they were deserving. The reason we see such a great display of loyal love is because Israel was called to be the way that the nations understood the God of Israel. God was demonstrating this loyal love so that the nations would know the God of Israel. This is the benefit of being in covenant relationship with God. In the Haftarah portion we read that the people had profaned the name of God, that is that they had made God's name common (the opposite of holy) among the nations. The great sin both in Exodus and Ezekiel is being a poor reflection of the character of God. The sins of the nation were detrimental to the reputation of God. It was not only about them! In Ezekiel, we read that God will vindicate the holiness of His name by bringing them back to the land of Israel and giving them the Ruach Hakodesh. “I will vindicate the holiness of My great name which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst. Then the nations will know that I am the LORD”, declares the Lord GOD, “when I prove Myself holy among you in their sight” (Ezek 36:22). Please do not misunderstand. God truly is benevolent and truly does love us. That is his nature. But when we disobey, God is concerned not only for our personal wellbeing but for His reputation. In both of these situations, God vindicates His name through benevolence and not destruction! We can learn from the Torah and Haftarah portions that in Messiah, we have a great responsibility to live in such a way that brings honor to God. We must never take God for granted. He does not owe us anything. But because He is a benevolent God who cares deeply for humanity and is not aloof from His creation, He demonstrates His love through those with whom He is covenant relationship. In the life of Israel and in our lives, God will reveal Himself through us. Sometimes He reveals His righteousness when He must chastise us. Other times, He reveals His kindness and overall benevolence toward us by sustaining us in a variety of ways. Still yet other times, He reveals Himself when we must trust Him even when things are difficult in our lives. Ultimately He has revealed Himself in Messiah Yeshua who has overcome death and destruction. In any and every way, God reveals Himself to the world through us. Our walk with the Lord is not just about us and our welfare. We are part of something much larger. We are part of God's plan to transform the world. When people see us and our way of life, hopefully they see the holiness of God. Remember what we read in Psalm 67:7. God blesses us, that all the ends of the earth may fear Him. Let us walk in such a way that causes the name of the Lord to be honored. Rabbi Howard

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