Posts Tagged ‘gossip’

Gossip – Hebrew: Lashon Hara

לשון הרה

Lashon hara literally means ‘evil tongue. It is defined in Judaism as derogatory speech about a person which emotionally or financially damages them or lowers them in the estimation of others. Lashon hara includes truthful words such as saying someone is beautiful or intelligent as well as lies. If the words are repeated, the person repeating is also involved in lashon hara; a very serious sin. Lashon hara is connected to ‘gossip’ and is found 15 times in the Complete Jewish Bible.

The first command against lashon hara is found in Leviticus 19:15: “Do not be unjust in judging — show neither partiality to the poor nor deference to the mighty, but with justice judge your neighbor.” In the Hebrew, the phrase Lo telech rachil b’ameicha means ‘do not be a talebearer.’

One of the Ten Commandments is to not bear false testimony against a neighbor. More specifically, do not repeat false rumors or even true ones. This, too, is considered lashon hara or ‘a wicked tongue.’

“An ungodly man digs up evil, and his lips is a scorching fire.  A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends” (Proverbs 16:27-28).

Aaron and Miryam, Moshe’s brother and sister, were afflicted with skin disease because they slandered their brother’s Ethiopian wife, and they became arrogant over Moshe as leader of Isra’el. They felt they were just as important as their brother because they also heard Elohim speak. This was lashon hara and included backbiting as well as slander. Adonai’s anger burned against them, came down in a column of cloud, and stood at the entrance to the Mishkan.

Adonai does not take lashon hara lightly because our words edify or tear down an individual or a leader. In the case of Moshe, the chosen leader of Adonai’s people, lashon hara could not be tolerated because gossip and slander spread like a disease. When lashon hara is committed within a family, slander and gossip can be passed from one generation to another destroying the integrity of the ‘House’ from the foundation up. Think McCoy’s and Hatfields!

Believers are being built together as ‘living stones into a spiritual house offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to Adonai’ (1 Peter 2:5).  When we lashon hara, we become a stone that contains ‘mold and mildew’ in that house. According to the regulations for skin infections, the infected stone must be removed and put out (Leviticus 14:41-45).

The second commandment against lashon hara is found in Leviticus 19:14: “Do not speak a curse against a deaf person or place an obstacle in the way of a blind person; rather, fear your God; I am Adonai.” The Hebrew phrase Lifnei ‘iver lo titen michshol focuses specifically on putting a stumbling block before a blind person. These can be literally or spiritually interpreted.

Literally interpreted, the command seems obvious. Who, but an evil person, trips a blind man; or who, but an evil person, curses a deaf man. Spiritually interpreted, cursing someone who doesn’t have ‘ears to hear’ spiritual truth is lashon hara. Teaching Biblical truth to a person without ‘eyes to see’ is also lashon hara.

Hebrew Word Pictures

Tongue – lashon

ל Lamed – A Shepherd’s Staff means ‘urge forward.’

ש Shin – A Tooth means ‘consume’ or ‘destroy.’

ו Vav – A Nail means ‘binding.’

ן Nun – A Fish means ‘life.’

The Hebrew Word Picture for lashon: urging forward to destroy binding of life.

Evil – harah

ה Hey – A Window means ‘reveal’ or ‘behold.’

ר Resh- A Head means ‘highest authority.’

ה Hey – A Window means ‘reveal’ or ‘behold.’

The Hebrew Word Picture for hara: behold highest authority revealed.

Gossip or Evil Tongue – lashon hara

The Hebrew Word Picture for lashon hara: revealing the highest authority urging forward to destroy binding of life.

©2022 Tentstake Ministries Publishing

Parashah 27: Tzaria (She conceives)

Leviticus 12:1-13:59
(In a regular year, read with Parashah 28; in a leap year read separately.)

“Adonai said to Moshe, ‘Tell the people of Isra’el: If a woman conceives …” (Leviticus 12:1-2).

This parashah begins with Adonai’s instructions for women after they have babies, thus the title, ‘she conceives.’ The regulations covered miscarriage and stillbirths as many conceived babies that did not make it to term or were born lifeless. These instructions protected a woman’s body after childbirth so that her womb would heal and she could conceive again.

Today many women give birth and, as soon as possible, return to the rat race of life. After my first child, I rushed back into life after the first week; after my second child, I wanted to set the record and was in church only several days after giving birth. Though my doctor told me that it would be approximately six weeks until my body had returned to normal, it didn’t stop me (or any other new mothers I knew) from trying to prove we were ‘super women.’

Then, my life changed. Over the next several years I experienced numerous miscarriages and a molar pregnancy that turned malignant.  During those trying times, I studied Torah and learned that Adonai had regulations for me and my body after childbirth, instructions that even my doctor had acknowledged. Many women will claim we no longer have to follow these instructions, but that is saying the Word is no longer valid because women and childbirth have somehow evolved. My heart was convicted by what I read and I decided the next time I had a child, I would do exactly as Adonai outlined.

“If a woman conceives and gives birth to a boy, she will be unclean for seven days with the same uncleanness as niddah, when she is having her menstrual period” (Leviticus 12:2).

Niddah is the Hebrew word describing the seven days when a woman is ‘unclean’ during her period and has not completed a mikveh or ritual bath. ‘Unclean’ means being ‘in a state of ritual impurity.’ These seven days are also known as tumah which refers to the period of time when sexual relations between a husband and wife are not to occur. Being ‘ritually impure’ or ‘unclean’ does not mean a woman is in a sinful state or inferior.  It is quite the opposite.  Scripture emphasizes the holiness inherent in a woman’s cycle to create and nurture a new life within her womb.  When as woman is ‘ritually impure,’ it only means she is incapable of conceiving a child.

Hebrew Word Pictures
Menses or niddah – נדה – nun, dalet, hey
– life pathway revealed

Ritually Impure or tumah – יומה – yod, vav, mem, hey
– finished work of the mighty binding, revealed

Ritual Bath or mikveh – מקווה – mem, kof, vav, vav, hey
– what is behind the mighty sign of the covenant, revealed

Niddah is different from zivah or an unnatural flow of blood. This was the condition of the woman in Mark chapter 8 who grabbed hold of Yeshua’s tzizit in order to be healed.   Niddah is a natural impurity necessary for the creation of human life while zivah is unnatural and has different regulations. Specific to niddah, a woman would mikveh or have a cleansing bath at the end of her menstrual cycle as a sign that she was ‘clean’ and capable of conceiving a child.   This is what Batsheva (Bathsheba) was doing when King David saw her bathing on her rooftop and why she conceived a child so quickly. Her body was ready to conceive.

After having a baby boy, a woman is ritually impure for seven days. Purification from blood requires a mikveh or ‘ritual bath.’  The word mikveh has been translated to ‘baptism’ with the idea of a ‘once and done’ immersion; however, in the Bible, a mikveh was done often and for many  different reasons. 

“She is to wait an additional thirty-three days to be purified from her blood; she is not to touch any holy thing or come into the sanctuary until the time of her purification is over” (Leviticus 12:4).

The new mother is to wait another 33 days until she is purified from blood and ready to conceive again. The complete time of purification for a son was 40 days or six weeks; the number of days my doctor said it would take for my body to return to ‘normal.‘   It seems that science supports Adonai’s instructions!

During a woman’s time of ritual impurity, she is not to touch any holy thing or come into the sanctuary until the time of her purification is over (something I strived to do).  On the eighth day, when a baby boy is circumcised, the father presents the child to the priest because the mother is still not purified from blood. This is why Joseph took Yeshua to the Temple for his b’rit milah. Miryam was still in her days of purification. Today, baby boys are circumcised before they come home from the hospital. They are given an injection so their blood will coagulate. This is what happened with my first son. However, when a baby boy is circumcised on the eighth day, the baby begins to naturally produce the hormone for blood clotting and does not need this injection.

Staying away from the sanctuary, a woman would not come in contact with anything holy. Over the centuries, man-made rules, some even based on Torah, became more of a burden for both men and women, especially married couples. During the time of niddah, a woman was not to sleep in the same bed as her husband, use the same blankets or even touch her husband. Strict Orthodox Jewish men and women do not pass objects to each other, flirt with one another or watch each other undress. There are even some sects who have separate chairs so that a man will not use the same furniture as a woman during her time of niddah. Some Orthodox men do not shake a woman’s hand because he is never sure if she is ‘ritually unclean’ and it’s impolite to ask.

If a woman gives birth to a daughter, she is ritually impure for two weeks as in her time of niddah. Sixty-six days later or 11 ½ weeks, she is purified from blood. The difference between the son and daughter is because a baby girl carries a higher degree of holiness due to her own biological capability of conceiving children. Not only did the woman need a longer time of purification from blood, but she purified her daughter too.

After the days of a woman’s purification were complete, she was to bring a lamb in its first year as a burnt offering and a young pigeon or dove as a sin offering to the priest at the entrance of the Tabernacle. If a woman was too poor for a lamb, doves or pigeons would be accepted as the offering.

“When the time came for their purification according to the Torah of Moshe, they took him up to Yerushalayim to present him to Adonai (as it is written in the Torah of Adonai, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to Adonai)” and also to offer a sacrifice of a pair of doves or two young pigeons, as required by the Torah of Adonai” (Luke 2:22-24).

My third child was a boy. My husband and I made the decision to follow the instructions for childbirth. We waited for his circumcision until he was eight days old. He did not have a hormone injection as we knew it was already in his body. The name of our doctor was Cohen, so a Jewish priest actually circumcised our son on the eighth day. At that time, we publicly named our son, Jacob. I stayed at home with him, not leaving for church or even grocery shopping, for the next 33 days. I allowed my body to cleanse and purify itself for six weeks.

The blessings I received during that time were very different from my first two children. Not being in public places, I had no worries about my son getting sick or being stressed. Nursing was more relaxed and my son established a daily routine that worked for both of us. I had a happy and contented baby and created a bond with him that was and still remains unique. When I finally took him out into the world, he was ready to meet people and I was aware of how he expressed his needs.

As for the mikveh, I still had some way to go in my sanctification process. I decided with my next child, I would do the purification mikveh. Unfortunately, circumstances in our lives at the time of my second daughter’s birth did not allow it. Our house was for sale and it sold on the day she was born. We were given six weeks to pack and move as the new owner wanted to occupy it as soon as possible. Though I did all that I could to maintain a quiet home for my baby girl, packing and moving was not conducive to allowing my body to heal nor bond with my daughter the way I desired. All the blessings that I received with my son, I did experience with my daughter. However, at my time of purification for a girl, 11 weeks later, I was cleansing my new house from an infestation of insects. In the process, I found the remains of a bird that had died in the chimney. I started a fire in the fireplace and burned it up. Perhaps that was Adonai’s intervention for my desire to purify myself and present a purification offering!

Tzara’at

“The things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean’.  For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.  These are what make a man unclean” (Matthew 15:18-20).

The Hebrew word tzara’at is translated as ‘leprosy,’ but it is not what would be considered leprosy today. Tzara’at describes a skin condition that includes swelling and whitish red spots on the torso.  Tzara’at and metzorah, the word for ‘leper,’ have the same Hebrew root. The rabbis believed tzara’at which literally means ‘one who spreads slander’ was a physical manifestation of a person’s spiritual condition or a supernatural discipline. In other words, tzara’at is brought on by sins like lying, false vows, pride, and slander.

Hebrew Word Pictures
Tzara’at (Skin Infection) – צרעת – tzade, resh, ayin, tav
– pull toward to the highest authority, understand the sign

Metzorah (One Diseased) – מצרע – mem, tzade, resh, ayin
– pull toward the chaos, the highest authority see

Lashon harah (Evil Tongue) – לשון הרה – lamed, shin, vav, nun – hey, resh hey
– urge forward and consume the binding of life
– behold the highest authority revealed

Aaron and Miryam, Moshe’s brother and sister, were afflicted with tzara’at because they slandered their brother’s Ethiopian wife, and became arrogant over Moshe as leader of Isra’el. They felt they were just as important as their brother because they also heard Elohim speak. In Hebrew, this is called lashon hara or an ‘evil tongue’ and includes gossip and backbiting as well as slander. Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh burned with anger against them, came down in a column of cloud, and stood at the entrance to the Mishkan.

“Listen to what I say: when there is a prophet among you, I, Adonai, make myself known to him in a vision, I speak with him in a dream. But it isn’t that way with my servant Moshe. He is the only one who is faithful in my entire household. With him I speak face to face and clearly, not in riddles he sees the image of Adonai. So why weren’t you afraid to criticize my servant Moshe?” (Leviticus 12:6-8)

When the cloud lifted from above the Mishkan, Miryam had tzara’at as white as snow. Aaron looked at his sister and immediately understood that they had acted with lashon hara. Moshe cried to Adonai and Miryam was healed. However, she was sent out of the camp for seven days, not because she was contagious, but because she needed to be alone and meditate on her sin and the Rapha-El – the Healer.

Adonai does not take lashon hara lightly because our words edify or tear down an individual or a leader.   In the case of Moshe, the chosen leader of Elohim’s people, lashon hara could not be tolerated because gossip and slander spread like a disease.

“An ungodly man digs up evil, and his lips is a scorching fire.  A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends” (Proverbs 16:27-28).

Selah
The Sack Full of Feathers

A woman repeated a story (gossip) about a neighbor. Within a few days everyone in the community knew the story. The person she talked about heard what had been said about her and she was sorry. Later, the woman who had spread the story learned that it was not true. She was very sorry and went to a wise rabbi and asked what she could do to repair the damage.

After giving this some thought, the rabbi said to her, “Go home, get one of your feather pillows, and bring it back to me.” Surprised by the rabbi’s response, the woman followed his advice and went home to get a feather pillow and brought it to the rabbi.

“Now,” said the rabbi, “open the pillow and pull out all the feathers.” Confused, the woman did what she was told to do.

After a few minutes, the rabbi said, “Now, I want you to find every one of the feathers and put them back into the pillow.”

“That’s impossible,” said the woman, almost in tears. “The window is open and the wind has scattered them all over the room and blown many feathers outside. I can’t possibly find them all.”

“Yes,” said the rabbi. “And that is what happens when you gossip or tell a story about someone else. Once you talk about someone, the words fly from one person’s mouth to another, just like these feathers flew in the wind. Once you say them, you can never take them back.”

Where’s the Doctor?

Among the people of Isra’el there were no doctors. Allopathic medicine through drug use was condemned by Adonai as sorcery; natural remedies from plants and essential oils were used for some illnesses (Isaiah 6:1, Ezekiel 16:9, James 5:14). Though Luke was a doctor, there is no record of him treating any patients, and Yeshua never sent anyone to Luke or any other doctor for healing.

Diagnosing disease, especially skin disease, was the responsibility of the priests because only a priest could declare someone ‘clean’ or healed from their ‘uncleanness.’ When presented with a skin issue, a bright spot on their skin, the priests isolated the individual for observation until they could determine whether or not it was an infectious disease or the individual was ‘clean.’  

This was a traumatic event as the individual had to live outside the camp in isolation. They had to wear torn clothes or filthy rags,  have unbound hair, and cover their upper lip while crying out to anyone they may see, “Unclean, unclean…” (Leviticus 13:45). This is probably what Miryam had to do at the sudden appearance of tzara’at. She was publicly marked by her sin and had to declare that she was ‘unclean’ and needed to repent. Only after Miryam’s seven-day isolation had been completed was she allowed back into camp allowing Isra’el to move.

When people get sick today, rather than isolate themselves, they continue to congregate at work or other social events and infect others.   Epidemics begin this way, but Elohim’s regulations minimized the spreading of disease.

This list of skin conditions and sores the priests had to observe is quite long and involved, but basically the priest asked four questions to determine whether the skin issue was ‘clean’ or ‘unclean.’ Was the skin color red or white? Was there swelling? What was the color of the hair in the sore? Was it a scab or a blemish?

For example, if an individual had a sore that appeared to go deep into the skin and the hair had turned white, the infection was tzara’at and the person was ‘unclean.’ If the bright spot on the skin was white, but did not appear to go deep into the skin and its hair had not turned white, the person was isolated for seven days. After the seven days, the sore was reexamined. If the sore had not changed, the person was isolated for another seven days. If after 14 days of isolation, the sore had faded and did not spread, it was considered a scab. The individual would be ‘clean’ and was required to wash his clothes. If the scab spread after being declared ‘clean,’ the sore would have to be examined again. If the priest determined the sore had spread, it was considered a skin disease.

If a person had a sore and the priest saw it was white and inflamed with swelling on the flesh and the hair had turned white, it was considered a chronic skin condition. The individual was declared ‘unclean,’ but not isolated because it was not going to spread.

If a skin condition broke out all over a person’s body from head to toe, the priest was to examine him. If the tzara’at covered the entire body and turned white, the individual was considered ‘clean.’ If one day, the flesh appeared inflamed, the individual was declared ‘unclean’ with a skin infection.

Boils, Burns, Sores and Rashes

Boils or eruptions, shechin, that had healed needed to be inspected by the priest to determine if a skin disease had broken out in the boil. If it spread, the individual was ‘unclean,’ if it didn’t, it was considered a scar from the boil.

A burn caused by a fire that became a bright spot, reddish-white or white was examined by a priest to determine if a skin infection had made the individual ‘unclean.’  If the burned area became faded and was not lower than the skin around it, the individual was isolated for seven days to make sure there was no infection that could spread. If the area remained faded, it was considered a scar from the burn.

If a sore was on the head or in the beard of a man, it had to be observed by the priest. Yellow was a sign of puss, an infection, and the man would be isolated for seven days.  If the infection had not spread and was no longer yellow, the man would shave and be isolated for seven more days.  If the infection had not spread, the priest would declare the man ‘clean.’  The man washed his clothes and had a time of purification. If, after the time of purification, the crusted area spread, with or without pus, the man was declared ‘unclean.’  If there was a black hair in the crusted area, it was considered healed and the person was ‘clean.’

Dull white spots on the skin were considered a rash and the individual was ‘clean.’ If a man’s hair fell from his scalp or the front part of his forehead, his baldness was considered ‘clean.’ If the man developed a sore on his head that was reddish-white and swollen, it was a skin disease and the man was considered ‘unclean.’

From some of the descriptions of skin diseases, it is possible to recognize chicken pox (raised sores turning to scabs), measles (a rash) and rubella (red blotches that turn the hair white). Whether or not these exact diseases existed in the days of Moshe, they could become an epidemic unlike a raised and itchy mosquito bite, a pimple, heat rash or blisters from walking miles in the wilderness.

According to Adonai’s regulations, tzara’at can affect clothing with a red or greenish stain whether it is wool, linen or leather. If a garment had such a stain, it was taken to the priest who would isolate the garment for seven days.  After seven days, if the stain had spread, the garment was to be completely burned.  If it had not spread, the garment was washed and isolated for seven more days.   If the stain remained, it was rotten material and was burned.   If the stain faded after being washed, then the stain was torn out of the garment.  If it completely disappeared after being washed, it was washed again in order to be determined ‘clean.’

Hebrew Word Pictures
Baheres (Bright spot) – בהרת – bet, hey, resh, tav
– family reveals the highest authority sign
Spiritual root: the attempt to exonerate oneself by speaking against another,
to clarify or rationalize a behavior that was sinful

Sapachas (Swelling): – ספחס – samech, peh, chet, samech
– support the source and protect, support
Spiritual root: joining a group of people who speak against others

Seeth (Rising spot in the skin, scab) – שאת – shin, alef, tav
– consume the first strength sign
Spiritual root: speaking against others in order to raise one’s own stature

A Humble Man

“Now this man Moshe was very humble, more so than anyone on earth” (Numbers 12:3).

The Hebrew word anav means ‘humble or meek.’ Meek is defined as quiet, gentle, and submissive. This is how Adonai describes Moshe.

Moshe had grown up in Egypt in Pharaoh’s palace. From the evidence of the new Pharaoh’s character when Moshe returned to Egypt, he was arrogant over the Elohim of Isra’el and the Hebrew people. It was from this 40-year Egyptian lifestyle that Moshe ran and ended up in Midian. During the next 40 years, he lived with the family of the priest of Midian putting his royal past behind and learning to be a shepherd.

When Adonai called to him from the burning bush, Moshe prostrated himself and took off his shoes as he stood on holy ground. Whether or not he knew of Elohim from his father-in-law or had childhood memories from his mother is not known, but he understood protocol in the presence of holiness and submitted to Elohim’s command.

Called from shepherding sheep to lead the enslaved sheep of Isra’el from Egypt, Moshe made excuses, not because of pride, but because he understood he was not a leader of men, but a man who herded sheep. With Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh’s promise to be with him, he returned to Egypt and encouraged the Hebrews to trust in Adonai. In front of Pharaoh, he remained resolute and spoke only the words that Adonai told him. Throughout the judgments on Egypt, his faith never wavered and he remained submissive to Adonai. His respect for Elohim brought him to anger when Pharaoh’s hardened heart initiated the death of the firstborn of Egypt.

After the Israelites left Egypt, Moshe continued to be steadfast in his responsibility to bring the Hebrews to the mountain and worship Adonai. He willingly became the mediator between Isra’el and Elohim though he wanted the people to see and understand the compassion and faithfulness of their Deliverer. In righteous anger, with the humility of a man who could not comprehend why the Israelites would sin against Adonai, he destroyed the first stone tablets. When Adonai’s anger was about to destroy the nation, Moshe interceded for their lives, not for their sake, but for the sake of the name of Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh. Moshe embraced Adonai’s instructions and passed them onto Isra’el with faithfulness. Through his leadership, the Tabernacle was perfectly made, so perfectly the glory of Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh descended and made His dwelling with His chosen people.

Moshe was an example of a true prophet, serving and honoring Adonai. He was given the privilege of speaking with Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh panim el panim unlike any other prophet before or since. It is to Moshe that Yeshua is compared so when Aaron and Miryam lashon hara this meek, humble man of faith, they were judged with tzara’at.

Yeshua, the Rafa-El

“But to you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in his wings; and you will break out leaping, like calves released from the stall” (Malachi 4:2).

The allusion in Malachi is to the Messiah, the ‘sun of righteousness.’ Wearing a talit or ‘prayer shawl,’ it would appear as if he had kanap or ‘wings’ when he raised or lowered his arms. By touching the tassels or tzizit on the four corners of his talit, one would receive healing.

“Among them was a woman who had had a hemorrhage for twelve years and had suffered a great deal under many physicians. She had spent her life savings; yet instead of improving, she had grown worse. She had heard about Yeshua, so she came up behind him in the crowd and touched the tzizit on his robe; for she said, ‘If I touch even his clothes, I will be healed.’ Instantly the hemorrhaging stopped, and she felt in her body that she had been healed from the disease. At the same time, Yeshua, aware that power had gone out from him, turned around in the crowd and asked, ‘Who touched my clothes?’ His talmidim responded, ‘You see the people pressing in on you; and still you ask, ‘Who touched me?’ But he kept looking around to see who had done it. The woman, frightened and trembling, because she knew what had happened to her, came and fell down in front of him and told him the whole truth; confessed in front of everyone why she had touched him. ‘Courage daughter,’ he said to her, ‘your trust has healed you. Go in peace, and be healed of your disease” (Matthew 9:20, Mark 5:25-34, Luke 8:43-48).

After 12 years of living in isolation due to an issue of blood, this woman went into a crowd and reached out in faith to touch the only One who could heal her body and save her from the humiliation of living as an outcast. In the process, she touched other people inadvertently and made them all ‘unclean.’ In Luke’s account, she is forced to publicly confess her ‘unclean’ state and how she had been immediately healed. In Matthew’s account, Yeshua commends her courage and sends her away saying, “My daughter, your trust has saved you; go in shalom.”

“Once, when Yeshua was in one of the towns, there came a man completely covered with tzara‘at. On seeing Yeshua, he fell on his face and begged him, ‘Sir, if you are willing, you can make me clean.’ Yeshua reached out his hand and touched him, saying, ‘I am willing! Be cleansed!’ Immediately the tzara‘at left him. Then Yeshua warned him not to tell anyone. ‘Instead, as a testimony to the people, go straight to the cohen and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moshe commanded’” (Luke 5:12-16).

“On his way to Yerushalayim, Yeshua passed along the border country between Shomron [Samaria] and the Galil. As he entered one of the villages, ten men afflicted with tzara‘at met him. They stood at a distance and called out, ‘Yeshua! Rabbi! Have pity on us!’ On seeing them, he said, ‘Go and let the cohanim examine you!’ And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, as soon as he noticed that he had been healed, returned shouting praises to God, and fell on his face at Yeshua’s feet to thank him. Now he was from Shomron. Yeshua said, ‘Weren’t ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found coming back to give glory to God except this foreigner?’ And to the man from Shomron he said, ‘Get up, you may go; your trust has saved you’” (Luke 11:17-19).

Selah
Yeshua followed Torah by telling the ‘cleansed’ men to go to the priest. The only man who returned is from Samaria, a foreigner.

In Matthew 9:5, Yeshua asks, “Tell me, which is easier to say, ’Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘Get up and walk’?” showing that sin in the heart does cause illness, disease and even handicaps. True healing, not the management of disease, comes only through the power of Adonai.

As the royal priesthood, it is important to read the Scriptures and analyze disease and illness through a spiritual lens. We are instructed to go to an elder, not a medical doctor, for prayer and anointing. Most ‘elders’ do not understand the spiritual roots of disease so they can’t deal wit the iniquity in the heart. To learn more about healing illness in the body by discovering their spiritual roots, read A More Excellent Way by Henry J. Wright.

©2018 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved.  No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing. For a hard copy of this Torah portion, the weekly readings of the Prophets and New Testament, Study Helps, and springboard for midrash, please purchase Open My Eyes: Wonders of Torah.

The Tongue and Sparks of Fire

“Silence is golden” is a phrase that was often uttered by my dad when I was growing up.  As a child, I talked a lot and probably embarrassed my parents –– especially when I asked our neighbor if he was my dad because he had red hair like I did.   My parents always said that I was the milkman’s because of my hair color and he was our milkman. So, wasn’t the question obvious? How many other times I embarrassed them, I do not know, but I’m sure I did.

As children we need to be taught about our words, how many we speak, and what we speak so, when we become adults, we understand the power of our words and how our words can be used by the enemy.  Unfortunately, I was not taught the wisdom of the Scriptures by my parents and the lesson has been hard-learned.  Though silence is golden, everyone talks and wisdom needs to be taught.

When I read James 3:4-6 I can almost see Yeshua working, doing whatever it was that he did, while his little brother, James, either sat next to him or worked next to him.  I can imagine that James had either spoken something without wisdom or maybe someone had spoken without wisdom to James.  Perhaps someone spoke unwisely about Yeshua to James.  Whatever the reason, Yeshua’s words stayed with James.

“And think of a ship – although it is huge and is driven by strong winds, yet the pilot can steer it wherever he wants with just a small rudder.  So too the tongue is a tiny part of the body, yet it boasts great things. See how a little fire sets a whole forest ablaze!  Yes, the tongue is a fire, a world of wickedness. The tongue is so placed in our body that it defiles every part of it, setting ablaze the whole of our life; and it is set on fire by Gei-Hinnom itself” (James 3:4-6).

When read this Scripture this morning, I was given the vision of a forest fire –– not the burning itself, but the aftermath.  Living in the Colorado foothills, forest fires were always a possibility.  Escape routes were planned for the fire storms that might start, and take only several minutes to go one or two miles.  Though I am grateful to never have experienced one, the house that my husband and I built with love, sweat, and tears did.  Nearly a year after the fire, we returned to our log home in Boulder and witnessed the devastation.

The contrast was evident. Under a blue sky with beautiful clouds, everything was blackened and lifeless.  Though  there were small shoots of green trying to push their way through the charcoal-colored ground, the landscape was black, black, black.  What was left of the forest around our house was black dirt and black stick trees.  The smell, nearly a year afterwards, was still that of wet ash as the winter snow melted.    Sticky wet soot from a dream stuck to the bottom of our shoes as we wandered around the property.

The man who owned the house was the only person in the area who had not cleaned up the remnants from the fire.  Bits and pieces of items we had bought and put into the home were laying around.  We recognized the iron wood stove, parts of the furnace, a portion of the dishwasher, the chimney cap, and a bathtub.  We tried to scrape some of the compounded  ash layers from where a door had been in the basement to see the markings of our children’s hands. Though the foundation still existed, it was difficult to dig through the debris and we gave up.

Around our property, landowners were collecting hay bales to put on the ground where their homes had been.  Without trees, grass, and underbrush to protect it from the coming spring rains, mudslides were feared.   Everyone braced for a second wave of destruction from floods that would wash down the empty hillsides taking whatever was left with it.  Though the actual forest fire was a memory, the results continued to bring daily trials.

Twelve to fourteen families had homes on our mountain road.  No one  lives up there at this time because there are no homes remaining.   Some families sold their property and made the decision never to return. Others considered the odds and are in the process of getting permits to rebuild. Still others remain in limbo, not sure whether to rebuild, sell, or just allow their property to sit as empty forest land.

This is the vision I had when I read James.  I saw the blackened forest and residue of what was once our home; the place where we brought our children as newborns.  The hills where they grew and thrived and enjoyed the mountain’s fresh air.  It was no longer an inviting place.  It was a void. Dead. Black. Lifeless.

As I considered James’ words, I realized how the tongue can quickly destroy people and relationships.  In a moment, they can go up in flames from a blazing wicked tongue.  When I’ve read this passage before, I only thought of the tongue being the fire and how we needed to guard our tongues, but I never considered the devastation the fire would leave behind, how challenging it would be to dig through the debris, and that rebuilding would be very difficult.

With a new vision of the result of a forest fire, I turned from James to Proverbs. I began to think about some of the Proverbs differently, too.

“When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise” (Proverbs 10:19).

“A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret” (Proverbs 11:13).

“A perverse man stirs up dissension and a gossip separates close friends” (Proverbs 16:28).

Forest fires don’t happen when there is no spark to ignite the fire.  Some ‘thing’ has to start the fire.  When words are spoken, many without wisdom, they become sparks that have the potential to ignite an incredible fire.  The particular fire that burnt our former home began with sparks from a small fire that was believed to have been put out the day before with several buckets of water!   However, it was determined that one or two sparks hiding in the remains ignited when the wind began to blow the next day.

When a confidence is betrayed or a secret exposed, the wind begins to blow.    The sparks receive the oxygen they need and the fire begins.  Underbrush makes a fire burn hotter and allows it to spread quickly.  Anger, jealousy, bitterness, and judgment are dangerous underbrush.  Soon, the fire is out of control and destruction follows its path.

Rebuilding is always an option, but so far the man who owns our house has made no obvious effort in that direction.  I can imagine how arduous it would be to rebuild after a forest fire.  There is so much loss and tough decisions have to be made.  It takes courage to move forward and rebuild when there is always the threat of the same thing happening again.

The Foundation

The house itself won’t be the same if it is rebuilt. Though the concrete foundation is still there, it is cracked.  It will need to be removed.  The house will be a different design, a different layout, even made from different materials and filled with completely a different wood stove, furnace, and bathtub.   The view will have changed too.   The distant view of the  mountains will remain, but the trees that encompassed the house and the  wildflower vegetation will take years to return to  its former beauty.

Yet as I walked where my Columbine, Aspen trees and strawberry plants used to be, I realized that there was still beauty around me.  It was a different kind of beauty, not as breathtaking, but still and quiet.  I closed my eyes and inhaled deeply.  Underneath the smell of wet ash, I could detect the scent of pine and hear the distant chirping of birds.  Life continued to thrive in the changed environment giving a twinge of hope to the scarred landscape.

I had some concerns about returning to my old home after the fire.   I wasn’t sure what I would feel.  I had thoughts that I would feel incredible pain so I guarded my heart.   I had already gone through the shock of hearing about the fire and seeing clips of my home on the news, but I still wasn’t sure what I would feel when I stood on the property and saw what the fire had done.

I hoped the drive up the one-mile road would give me time to prepare, but it was void of any of any homes or neighbors.   Burnt trees left standing in the middle of charred ground cover could not really prepare me  for what would be around the last switchback –– the non-existent structure whose warm lights used to beckon us home.   As we turned the corner, the vast emptiness overwhelmed me.  It was obvious the majestic log home which stood so proudly on the hillside was gone, forever gone. There would be no going back.  There would be no more leisurely drives up the mountain to show special friends our dream home or the beautiful mountain area where we once lived.  It was all in the past.

As we pulled in the driveway next to the gaping hole that I had watched being dug many years before, I felt only a little nostalgia at what was and what could never be again. I stood on the edge of the foundation. I looked into the basement hole and saw the remnants of a filing cabinet, charred books, and a shovel.   At that moment, I realized that not only had my dream house been destroyed, but also the home of someone I didn’t even know who had bought the house.   With a few harmless sparks, a fire storm destroyed homes and lives that were miles away from where the sparks originated.   Families, friends, and relationships of those near and far had been changed forever by the sparks of what was considered an extinguished fire.

My Father knew about those sparks.  He knew which were hot and with the right stimulus would ignite.   He knew about the wind that would blow them around.   He knew about the deep underbrush that would catch fire, spread, quickly engulf my house.  He knew the destruction would be great and the loss within my heart even greater.  He knew the inevitable end of that house long before the building process began.

James’ metaphor holds deep truths.   How many lives have been set on fire by careless words and fanned into flames by gossip?  How many relationships have been charred by the underbrush of anger, bitterness, and jealousy? How many friendships have be seared by perverse people creating cracks in foundations that will need to be completely removed.   Yes, the tongue is a fire, a world of wickedness, defiling the body and setting ablaze our very lives leaving behind a world of licorice-colored popsicle sticks in blackened meadows.    What a great forest that was set on fire by a small spark!

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