Shela Lekha
For the week of June 24, 2006 / 28 Sivan 5766
Torah: Bemidbar / Numbers 13:1-15:41
Haftarah: Joshua 2:1-24



The LORD said to Moses, "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'Throughout the generations to come you are to make tassels (Hebrew: Tzitzit) on the corners of your garments, with a blue cord on each tassel. You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the LORD, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by going after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes. Then you will remember to obey all my commands and will be consecrated to your God. I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt to be your God. I am the LORD your God.'" (Bemidbar / Numbers 15:37-41)

God's deliverance of the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt was just the beginning. God's desire was to develop in them a people fully dedicated to him in every way. His purpose in this was to reveal himself through them to the other nations of the world. One necessary aspect of this process was to insulate them from ungodly nations among whom they lived. He didn't do this by physically sending them far away from these nations or by having them build impenetrable fortresses. In fact not only would they live surrounded by these peoples, our history has been one of regular interaction with them.

The kind of insulation that God chose to use was cultural. Through Moses he provided Israel with a new way of life - one very different from that of the neighboring nations. As we read the Torah we see warnings against following many common pagan customs.

At the same time the development of Israel as a godly people would take more than cultural insulation. Evil is also an internal reality. Contrary to what some people think, evil is not simply learned from others. It lies within us. In order to live godly lives we need to keep our evil inclinations in check.

As a reminder to live according to God's ways, God gave us a visual aid in the form of tassels (Hebrew: tzitzit) that we were to attach to the corners of our garments. Today many Jewish people wear them attached to a special undergarment. Some people wear them so that the tassels are visible; while others tuck them inside their clothes. The decision to wear one's tassels inside or outside depends on one's understanding of the kind of reminder God intended, whether it was only for the person wearing them or to serve as a reminder to others as well.

We all need this kind of reminder, whether it is in the form of these tassels or some other means. Tzitzit were only one of many reminders God gave the people of Israel. We need reminders, because we so easily forget.

Under the New Covenant as prophesied by Jeremiah and realized through Yeshua the Messiah, the Torah becomes an internal reality. That which was at one time external to us has been internalized through Yeshua's sacrificial ministry and the forgiveness of sins.

God now wants you and me to be tassels on the garments of our lives. Truly godly people have this effect. They are like signposts, reminding us to keep on the path of truth and righteousness. At the same time we should also be tassels unto ourselves. If God is real in our lives, as we remember who we are in him, we challenge ourselves to stay true to him.

While we should not show off our spirituality, the godly quality of our lives should remind others to remember all the commands of the Lord, that we may obey them and not prostitute ourselves by going after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes.

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