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Weekly D'rash and Parsha Vayeilech

This week we are in the midst of the Ten Days of Awe, a time of heightened awareness of our sins and the need to seek forgiveness from others and God. When it comes to the famous passage in which God displays his attributes to Moses in Exodus 34:6–7, there is a rabbinic story that says that God was wearing a tallit, covered Moses in it, and prayed these verses of Scripture so that the children of Israel would know how to pray for forgiveness. That is why these verses are said numerous times in a traditional service on Yom Kippur. The story goes on to say that as much as the children of Israel display these attributes in their own lives, they will experience forgiveness. This sounds very much like a part of the prayer that Yeshua taught the disciples: And forgive us our debts as we also forgive our debtors (Matt 6:12 and Luke 11:4). I find it fascinating that there is a rabbinic story of God teaching Israel how to pray for forgiveness, and Yeshua teaches us how to pray this way as well. The point is that we need to be engaged in self-examination and forgive people who have wronged us, just as we have been forgiven, so that we can pray effectively to receive forgiveness and cleansing. This is not a deal that God is making with us. Unforgiveness is a sin. It creates a root of bitterness that controls us. If we approach God with known sin in our heart, our prayer life and relationship with God is hindered—as we grieve the Ruach HaKodesh. Carefully read the words of Paul in Ephesians 4:30–5:2, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Messiah also has forgiven you. Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Messiah also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma”. This is how we should be conducting ourselves during the Days of Awe. This is exactly what the rabbis were getting at in the story surrounding Exodus 34:6-7. The difference for us is the presence of the risen Messiah in whom we have forgiveness. We should be the first people to be forgiving others! This Shabbat is called Shabbat Shuvah, the Shabbat of Repentance. The Torah portion is Deuteronomy 31, in which God explains to Moses that when Joshua leads the people in the land, they will pay a price for their disobedience over the course of generations. In other words, the people will always be accountable to God, even if Moses is not there and hundreds of years pass. Israel cannot escape the accountability of God. This goes for all of us. This time of year is a reminder of that accountability, especially if we embrace Yeshua. How shall we who have died to sin still live in it (Romans 6:2b)? The Haftarah portion contains several encouraging passages that describe the desire of God for us to turn from our sinful ways and walk on the ancient path of the way of the Lord. We read, “Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity. Take words with you and return to the LORD. Say to Him, ‘Take away all iniquity and receive us graciously, that we may present the fruit of our lips’” (Hosea 14:1–3). May God bring restoration and transformation to our hearts as individuals and as a Messianic Community. Shabbat Shalom, Rabbi Howard

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