ELUL – A Time To Return

The month of Elul, the time period before the Fall Feasts, is known as a time of returning.  Of teshuvah, or returning.  Since the 14th century, ELUL has been referred to as the acronym:

As we prepare our lives, families, and homes to celebrate the exuberance of Yom Teruah, the solemnity of Yom Kippur, and the jubilant joy of Sukkot, I don’t want to forget to prepare my heart as well.  I don’t want to forget who I serve, honor, and obey.  Or the One I am intended to reflect to the world.

What does it mean to engage in teshuvah? What does this word mean? Why does it matter?

At its most basic point, according to the 13th-century Jewish philosopher Maimonides, teshuvah is “returning” to where we have previously failed and doing what we can to ensure we are not making the same mistake a second time.

Here are some guidelines for biblical repentance and returning to YHWH and to our fellow man. 

“Tell the people of Isra’el, ‘When a man or woman commits any kind of sin against another person and thus breaks faith with Adonai, he incurs guilt. He must confess the sin which he has committed; and he must make full restitution for his guilt, add twenty percent and give it to the victim of his sin.”  Numbers 5:6-7 CJB

(All Scripture references  from the Complete Jewish Bible unless noted otherwise)

Repentance should be out loud. 

“A person guilty of any of these things is to confess in what manner he sinned.” Leviticus 5:5

James wasn’t making a new rule for the body of Messiah. He was referring to the commands of the Torah.

Therefore, openly acknowledge your sins to one another, and pray for each other, so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:16

Does this mean we yell our sins to each other in some sort of bizarre exhibitionism?  No. 

If we have sinned against man, and I promise you that we know when we have, we should go to this man and speak to him.  Have we sinned corporately? Confess publicly. We don’t have to make up offenses. We all stumble as we walk.  And we know it.

What if we have sinned against YHWH? Again, we know.  Confess to Him.

Even though He knows our inward being better than we do, we should speak to Him.  We should always speak for there is no way to atonement without confession. There is no understanding of our need for redemption if we do not recognize and verbalize where we have fallen. 

Even the High Priest, as he put his hands on the azazel, the scapegoat, had to proclaim over it, confess if you will, the sins of Israel upon its head before releasing it to the wilderness if it is to be a shadow of atonement Yeshua gave for us with His life. (Leviticus 16:21)

Repentance should cost us.

There is a price for sin. There is a price for an offense. We shouldn’t be satisfied with an “I’m sorry” shrug and handshake.  If and when we have wronged others we should be diligent to make things right with them.  Plus extra.  If we have stolen, return what we stole plus 20%.  If we have wronged someone on other levels we should work diligently to serve them, at our expense, above and beyond what seems fair.

Repentance is not about equity. It is about grace and restitution. 


If we have harmed someone we shouldn’t be satisfied with words only but should serve them with actions, as unto the Lord, without compensation.   It is in our selfishness that we sin and, in His strength, we receive the opportunities to walk in generosity.  Our rights to hold to our pride are often the very things keeping us from recognizing that we have even sinned in the first place.

But what is repentance?

“Let the wicked person abandon his way and the evil person his thoughts; let him return to Adonai, and he will have mercy on him;
let him return to our God, for he will freely forgive.”
Isaiah 55:7

Repentance is turning away completely from both the action and the thoughts and returning completely to YHWH.

Moshe went back to Adonai and said, “Please! These people have committed a terrible sin: they have made themselves a god out of gold. Exodus 32:31

He who conceals his sins will not succeed; he who confesses and abandons them will gain mercy. Proverbs 28:13

Repentance is having the courage or even the desperation to speak specifically about your sin, whether before man or YHWH, because your desire for mercy is greater than your passion for your sin.

How do you express repentance?

  1. Grief.  Often we are emotionally moved to tears or other expressions as we realize the depth of our own depravity and weakness. That moment of revelation when we see how far we have removed ourselves from openness and unity with YHWH.
  2. Give gifts, donations, or other acts of service. Make restitution to those we have wronged. Don’t know how? Find a way. Do not cease the effort until you do.
  3. Distance ourselves from the thing or area in which we have sinned. 

John the Baptist, Yochanan the Immerser, tells us there should always be proof of our repentance. 

If you have really turned from your sins, produce fruit that will prove it!!” Luke 3:8a

In reference to true repentance, Maimonides says the repentant is one who has had. “…his identity changed as if saying, ‘I am now another person, and not that person who perpetrated those misdeeds,’ to completely change his conduct for the good and straight path, and to exile himself… because it leads him to submissiveness and to be meek and humble-spirited.

What leads us to sin? What gives us permission to give in to temptation? Pride. Fear. Anxiety. Lack of trust. Selfishness.  Our fallen nature.  None of these are excuses to remain in sin.  We have a way out. 

What are the benefits of repentance?

How blessed are those whose offense is forgiven,
those whose sin is covered!
Psalm 32:1

He who conceals his sins will not succeed;  he who confesses and abandons them will gain mercy. Proverbs 28:13

Mercy and blessing.  Future. Hope. Restored relationships with others.  Restored relationship with Yeshua.  Anointed ministry.  Clear communication with the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit. 

What are you waiting for?  

Any time of the year, but especially during this season, return to your beloved.  Remember who you are.  Remove those things which stand in the way of your worship, your ministry, your relationships with YHWH, and the people in your life.  It is work. It should be. But I challenge you to stop being satisfied with your status quo and seek the Lord while He is near. Prepare your hearts to meet Him on His appointed days.

Seek Adonai while he is available, call on him while he is still nearby. Isaiah 55:6

It’s Time To Come Together Again

Shalom Bastrop Torah Community, 

Heidi and I pray every one of you is blessed and prospering in YHWH as the world around us is trying to find a new “normal” post lockdown.

I am reminded we have a sure foundation. YHWH is an unfailing anchor to keep us from succumbing to the plans of the evil one as we are witnessing the foreshadow of the “hour of testing” that is coming on the whole world.

Recently, at a critical point for me, I became aware we are experiencing a largely engineered event created to elicit fear and confusion. A measure of darkness has descended on humanity and especially onto our nation. This time has been foretold in Scripture and has been long-planned for by the enemy. Worldwide power is being consolidated while a stage is being set for the 10 ruler confederacy which will rise and then bow to the Torah-less One (more commonly known as the Antichrist or False Messiah). All humanity will be expected to follow their lead as they help usher in the final system of the beast. I don’t know if this will take months or years from here but it will happen and, barring a great awakening, life as we have previously known before the lockdown, will not return any more than we had a return to life as it was before 9/11 once Homeland Security measures were put in place.

We might be tempted to feel burdened with this knowledge and yet in this situation, we have an opportunity to wrestle with our Creator as Jacob did. He desires to remake us into the image of Yeshua like Jacob became Israel. However, as the patriarch did, are we willing to say (and do) like he said: “I won’t let you go until you bless me.”

Have you grown weary in well-doing? Have we been willing to sacrifice obedience to Yah’s Word to not forsake the gathering of the saints for perceived safety & security? I think y’all know what Yeshua has to say about that subject.

I can’t and shouldn’t tell you how to live your life or tell you how to respond to a government-mandated cease and desist order. However, I do know none of us are immune to the wiles of Ha-Satan. Sh’aul stated (Heb 10:25), we should be: “encouraging one another – all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Our Heavenly Abba has created us to need each other. Trying to do this on our own is a life of defeat and retreat. 

With that in mind, we are opening our house this Shabbat (5/23) at 1 PM for fellowship, praise, and Torah study. This week’s portion is about the census of the tribes. Will we be counted among His people?  Will we be physically present when His Ruach wants to move among us.

I cannot convey strongly enough how much we all need to fellowship in physical proximity with other believers whether with us here or somewhere else. Please get engaged where He leads you. But by all means, get engaged and don’t back down because your spiritual life depends on it.

Bamidbar – “In The Desert”

NUMBERS 1:1-4:20|

PROPHETS : HOSEA 2:1-22|

GOSPEL : MATTHEW 4:1-1

Please come with your Bible and, if you are able to stay and break bread with us, it would be great to share a meal. We will have the grill up and running. Bring your meat or main dish and a side to share. Please reach out to Heidi if you have other questions about what to bring.

Also, a friendly reminder to invite you to put it on your calendars to join us for the Sabbath of Shavuot on Sunday, May 31 – Feast of Weeks for fellowship and worship. We count from the morrow (Sunday) of the Shabbat following Pesach and end the counting on the 50th day on a Sunday. If that is not the calendar you keep you are still welcome to be part of a gathering.

We will keep in touch about plans for a holy convocation as we are instructed to gather on that day.

Parashah Nitzavim – Standing 09.28.19

TORAH: DEUTERONOMY 29:9-30:20 HAFTARAH: ISAIAH 61:10-63:9 B’rit Hadashah: JOHN 12:41-50


Commentary and insight from First Fruits of Zion:

The name of the fifty-first reading from the Torah is Nitzavim (נצבים), which means “standing.” The name is derived from the first verse of the portion in which Moses says, “You stand (nitzavim) today, all of you, before the LORD your God” (Deuteronomy 29:10). In this portion, Moses invites the entire assembly of Israel to take on the covenant. He warns them that if they sin, they will go into exile, but he also predicts that, in the future, they will repent and God will return them to the land of Israel. In some years, Nitzavim is read together with the subsequent Torah portion, Vayelech, on the same Sabbath.


Portion Outline

  • TORAH
    • Deuteronomy 29:9 | The Terms of the Covenant
    • Deuteronomy 30:1 | Repentance and Forgiveness
    • Deuteronomy 30:11 | The Choice of Life and Death
  • PROPHETS
    • Isaiah 61:10 | God’s Favor
    • Isaiah 62:1 | Zion’s Coming Salvation
    • Isaiah 63:1 | The LORD’s Day of Vengeance
    • Isaiah 63:7 | The LORD’s Mercy Remembered

Dear Community,

We have been issued an extraordinary invitation to experience covenant community with the Most Holy God. This isn’t just a one time offer but one that is graciously repeated throughout our lifetime. That invitation to pursue a deeper relationship, to press further in, a growing understanding continuously adding weight and value. But that invitation does not come without cost or requirement. The King of Kings wants us to obey Him, to serve Him, to submit our hearts and our physical lives to His commands. He knows our limits and our weaknesses and has provided us a means to return, to Teshuvah, to Him through repentance. We have the extravagant gift of free will.
Let us choose this day whom we will serve.
Shalom, Heidi

Parashah Ki Tetze – When You Go Forth 09.14.19

Torah: Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19 Haftarah (Prophets): Isaiah 54:1-10 B’rit Hadashah (Gospel): Matthew 24: 29-42

The ways of the Lord are different than the ways of the world and His command to treat our fellow human beings with compassion and dignity extends to even the most personal decisions of intimacy and romance. We have no excuse, whether in the heat of battle or in the heat of family negotiations, to treat one another any differently than His clearly defined terms of respect, honor, and grace demonstrated in this Torah portion.

If you ever wanted to see an expression of God’s heart for the vanquished, the unloved wife, the foreigner, the child, the wicked, and even the care of one’s oxen, this text includes 74 of the 613 mitzvot in one place helping us to see many specific and deliberate ways our faithful Heavenly Father wishes for us to care for one another and those in our care.

The text concludes with the admonition to not forget what Amalek did to them on the road as they were coming out of Egypt.

But what did he do?

Deuteronomy 25:17-19 “Remember what Amalek did to you on the road as you were coming out of Egypt, how he met you by the road, attacked those in the rear, those who were exhausted and straggling behind when you were tired and weary. He did not fear God. ” (CJB)

It was a heinous thing in the eyes of YHWH for the weak and powerless to be attacked and plundered. He is a defender of the weak and the refuge for those who need help. Psalm 41:1-2 Blessed is he who has regard for the weak; the LORD delivers him in times of trouble.  2 The LORD will protect him and preserve his life; he will bless him in the land and not surrender him to the desire of his foes. 

It is a violation of His nature for injustice and oppression to be found among His people. When we go forth we are not to be like the other nations. We know better and we have the empowerment of the Ruach HaKodesh to teach us and equip us.

But the conclusion of Amalek’s listed grievances was the most tragic. He did not fear God. There could not be wisdom found in him and he became anathema to God’s people. Israel was told to. “…blot out all memory of Amalek from under heaven.” (Deuteronomy 25:19) There would be no lasting legacy for this pagan king.

Let’s go forth with the fear of the Lord and, with His banner of love and compassion, of wisdom and kindness, build community that reflects His nature. No shrinking back from battle but stay far from willful destruction, selfish use, and oppression so that our memory can be a blessing and our lives can bring abundant life to a world desperately in need of a Savior.

Parashah Ekev – Consequence 08.24.19

TORAH: Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25 HAFTARAH: Isaiah 49:14–51:3 B’rit Hadashah: Matthew 16:13-20

As we near the end of this year and look expectantly toward the Fall Festivals, their meaning in our lives, their prophetic importance, and the steadfastness of Abba’s perfect and excellent plan for His creation, Ekev has great meaning. We walk daily with the consequence of our choices and it is the heart of our Beloved that we would walk in the blessing and joy that is a natural consequence of following His truth and His commands.

“The forty-sixth reading from the Torah and the third reading from the book of Deuteronomy is named Ekev(עקב), a word from the first verse of the portion. Deuteronomy 7:12 says, “Then it shall come about, because (ekev, עקב) you listen to these judgments and keep and do them, that the LORD your God will keep with you His covenant and His lovingkindness which He swore to your forefathers.” Usually, the word ekev means “heel.” In fact, this word shares the same three-letter root as the name Jacob (Yaakov, יעקב), whose name actually means “heel.” He was born holding on to Esau’s heel. However, in Deuteronomy 7:12, the word ekev means “on the heels of” or “because of.” This portion of Deuteronomy speaks of the rewards that will come to Israel on the heels of keeping God’s covenant and commandments.” (quote from First Fruits of Zion)

  • TORAH
    • Deuteronomy 7:12 | Blessings for Obedience
    • Deuteronomy 8:1 | A Warning Not to Forget God in Prosperity
    • Deuteronomy 9:1 | The Consequences of Rebelling against God
    • Deuteronomy 10:1 | The Second Pair of Tablets
    • Deuteronomy 10:12 | The Essence of the Law
    • Deuteronomy 11:1 | Rewards for Obedience
  • PROPHETS
    • Isaiah 49:8 | Zion’s Children to Be Brought Home
    • Isaiah 50:4 | The Servant’s Humiliation and Vindication
    • Isaiah 51:1 | Blessings in Store for God’s People

Additional Study resources can be found on Torah Class by Tom Bradford. Lessons 10-13 are relevant to our Torah portion.

Parashah Devarim – Word 08.10.19

This week’s portions are: Deuteronomy 1:1-3:1, Isaiah 1:1-21, Matthew 24:1-22

https://torahportions.ffoz.org/torah-portions/allportions/devarim/

Additional study on this week’s Parashah can be found by listening to Tom Bradford at Torah Class: Lessons 1-4 will cover our text (Deut 1:1-3:1)

A resource my sons have particularly enjoyed was the Bible Project. This ministry based out of Portland, Oregon has used graphic novel type visuals and Youtube videos to explain historical and biblical concepts. This video is only about 8 minutes long but provides a fantastic overview of the book of Isaiah and can help us to gain perspective into our Haftarah portion, Isaiah 1:1-21, leading us into Isaiah’s vision, the wickedness of Judah, and the degenerate city.

Finally, our gospel portion, Matthew 24:1-22 is the text where Yeshua discusses the destruction of the temple and the Abomination of Desolation. This is a very appropriate text as we are ushering in T’isha B’Av, the 9th of Av.

Notable events of this historic date include:

1. The Spies Returned With a Bad Report

2. Both Holy Temples Was Destroyed

3. The Battle at Betar Was Lost – the end of the Bar Kochba revolt and massacre of Jews by the Romans.

the end of the Bar Kochba revolt and massacre of Jews by the Romans.

4. The Romans Plowed the 2nd Temple – Beit HaMikdash

5. The Jews Were Expelled From England

6. The Jews Were Banished From Spain

7. Both World Wars Began