Behar (On the Mountain):  Having a Gut Reaction?

We do most of our grocery shopping at a locally-owned co-op called Good Foods.  The co-op prioritizes locally-farmed or non-GMO crafted products free of pesticides.  The bin cards usually identify the farm or individual producing the product, so if you want to take an afternoon drive and see where your pasture-raised eggs are produced, you can.  Of course, when our congregational friends' hens are in full-blown egg-producing mode, we don't need to buy many.  It feels great to share your garden produce with like-minded friends and congregational family, and it is a way of remembering that firstfruits were to be tithed and shared at the feasts.  Look out, Olive Branch, we might have overdone our tomato and eggplant planting this year!  

There is a sign on the wall at the Good Foods cafe that reads, "Eating is an agricultural act."  The slogan is starting to sink in as we read through the Torah again this year, and we realize how many instructions are given concerning agriculture and its tithes.  Even when one is permitted to eat a barley product after Passover is dependent upon its first fruit offering.  As we take our final steps toward Shavuot, which commemmorates the giving of the Torah on THE mountain, we look to the first fruits of the wheat harvest.  At Sukkot, we offer firstfruits of diverse kinds of produce, a picture of the Feast of the Nations when Messiah returns.  Every feast is somehow related to food or agriculture, and even if on Yom Kippur we refrain from eating, the very act of restraint focuses the human soul on food!



Eating is an agricultural act.  What Israel eats affects the farmer.  What the farmer grows affects the eater.  The farther the eater is from the farmer, the greater the risk of high-volume commercial shortcuts and poor agricultural practices.  Methods that produce volume do not always produce quality.  This is true of religious institutions as well.  

The mega-church may draw spectacular numbers, but what is the quality of the disciples, and what is the ratio of true disciples to the whole?  I don't mind attending a small congregation.  The Biblical literacy of even the children exceeds that of many pastors.  They may not have a highly-programmed Children's Church activity and recreation in a smartly-appointed gymnasium afterward, but they can adapt to a small class without the luxury of only the same age children, or they can sit in the midrash with the adults and make intelligent contributions.  I love looking out the windows during oneg and seeing the kids running around the building or their pants legs wet from wading in the creek across the street.  In a small congregation, each member is precious and needed. 

Torah-keepers may be a small co-op specializing in local produce in their congregations, but a chain brand can't match the quality in discipleship.  It may be cheaper to go to the mega-church, for it will likely make very few demands that "cost" the family something. They'll make it easy for you to attend.  Need babysitting?  It's there.  Easy Bible lessons?  There.  Short services?  There. Great musicians?  There.  Jumbo-tron sized projection screens?  There. Sports activities?  There.  Spiritual Easy Button?  There. 

In your local fellowship, you will pay a little more, for your standard is the Torah itself. Eating is an agricultural act, and the Bread of Heaven comes with a higher cost, but wow, is it fresh, and it is SO worth it!  The local congregation isn't cheap, but it will teach you how to bring your first fruits in spite of the inconveniences. There is not so much distance between the farmer and the eater...if you hear what I am saying.
  
Part of reaching the Yovel (Jubilee) year is the counting and observance of the Shmittah (seventh year of release) years in seven-year increments.  The produce of the Land in the Shmittah year is not just for the native born Israelite.  The vegetation of the Land is for everyone, including slaves, hired servants, sojourners, cattle, and even the wild animals.  This goes beyond even the standard fare of the moedim offerings brought by human beings, which never included a free benefit to the cattle and wild animals.  The gift of God when Israel completely rests is to extend His hand of plenty to every living creature.  Just like the weekly Sabbath, rest on a Shabbat year demonstrates that Messiah Yeshua's work and Kingdom extend to all Creation.  "Who is this that even the winds and seas obey him?"
  
One of the most difficult things to do is nothing, but nothing is something on the mountain.  On THE mountain we learn about rest on Shabbat and the jubilees.  On THE mountain Moses received the Torah.  On the high mountains the nations worship their gods.  On THE mountain the Holy One and His Word is lifted up.  On the high mountains the rich and the mighty of the earth are lifted up.  The years of release and Jubilee rest are the Torah's great equalizers, and this is what flows from the Mount Zion.  The Creation craves its rest as our own spirits crave Shabbat rest.  If we do not rest, then the Creation has no rest.  The Creation longs for Shabbat rest, but when does it rest?  Who "dresses" the Creation in the Elohim-intended relationship between man and created things?

We are allergic to so many things in this generation.  We fastidiously avoid dirt, but is there anything better than a fresh-picked apple with the dew still on the skin?  What is more tasty than a ripe, sun-warmed tomato consumed in the garden?  The foods we eat are attacking us, and we adjust our diets to dairy-free, gluten free, peanut-free, carb-free, red wine-free, etc.  The very foods that Scripture labels a blessing are turning on us.  What is happening?  This is not much cause for rejoicing at THE Shavuot mountain or in the Sukkot sukkah.
  
In Scripture, the farmer has a relationship to the earth and his produce.  It is described as a passionate, emotional connection.  The farmer sows in tears, waits with patience as he cultivates, and he rejoices as he carries the harvested produce.  He even makes earnest intercession for a sickly tree.  Who does that now that farms are gobbled up by mega corporations that sow altered seeds dispassionately, cultivate with pesticides and weed-killers, and harvest with monster machines?  Who cares for the land and the plants?  Are we to leave this relationship only to the "green" proponents on their high mountains of godless morality, or can we regain our Scriptural connection to the earth and its produce as commanded on THE mountain?

This week I was doing a final edit on a BEKY Book that is an introduction to the Jewish sources for the layperson.  The author detailed the history, structure, and contents of the Talmud and Jewish oral law, and it will be a great quick reference guide.  What drew my attention, though, was the reminder of how much the Torah addresses agriculture.  The land and its plants are a Torah priority, whether in cultivation or offerings.  Especially important are principles of first fruits and years of rest.  What the farmer in the Land does affects all who eat its produce, for eating is an agricultural act.  

The comprehensive Jewish laws concerning agriculture reminded me of something we do each week in the Blessing After Meals on Shabbat.  We sing Shir HaMaalot (Song of Ascents), the Psalm that reminds us of the relationship between the farmer and the production of wheat.  Are we unwittingly singing ourselves the answer to the problems of rampant allergies and sensitivities to otherwise kosher and healthy foods?  

Why is wheat attacking the guts of those who consume it today?  The very food we eat has become an adversary.  The Creation is screaming for restoration.  Although agricultural laws are unique to the Land, all the earth rested on the Seventh Day of Creation.  The Land is the prototype for good and healthy agricultural practices. Are we consuming products harvested on Shabbat?  Are we dedicating portions for holy use?  Have laws and regulations practically destroyed the relationship of human to plant with the disappearance of the family farm?  Is the land properly rested or simply fortified and forced with fertilizers?  It's bad enough that humans are forcing their bodies to perform without adequate rest by substituting substances like excessive caffeine and grains are fortified when they should already be full of nutrients.  

Research has proven that plants are sentient.  They respond to human moods, words, and even unspoken intentions.  Researchers note that as in kosher slaughter, a tree may go into an electrical "faint" when its fruit is picked by a human with whom there is some sort of positive relationship ( The Secret Life of Plants).  The tree wants to render the fruit, and it numbs itself from the "pain" of being harvested.  The reaction, however, is much different to a hostile person, and the plants demonstrate distress.  The holiest Land on earth even has the ability to vomit out its inhabitants for failing to follow the agricultural instructions from THE mountain.  

When Messiah returns, the Torah-based methods of agriculture can be restored to the earth.  We can be sure that the foods we consume were not harvested on Shabbat or jubilee years.  Fruit trees will be afforded their "uncircumcised" years before harvest.  The land will receive its rest as will the people of Adonai, and both people and plants will likely be in a better mood!   No wonder the trees of the field will clap their hands!  

In a class with a rabbi, he explained a Jewish tradition in which in the coming Messianic Kingdom, a tree will rebuke a human who tries to harvest on Shabbat.  These plants don't want to be worked on Shabbat!  Grow as much of your own food as you can, and if you can't, try to locate local sources who tend their plants and animals according to the Word.  "Keep your friends close, and your farmers closer."

In the Jubilee years, the plants grow in a supernatural way.  The Creator CAUSES them to grow, like Jonah's vine.  We call such plants "volunteers," and heirloom seeds are the most reliable volunteers.  This will be a characteristic of Messiah's kingdom:  volunteers.  The Kingdom will be populated by volunteers, people who love Adonai and serve Him.  Trees yield their fruit voluntarily.  The gates of the Holy City will not be closed day or night, for there is no worry that merchants will invade and trade to disrupt the rest of Shabbat.  Like a Jubilee vine, the Father will CAUSE His people to grow, for this is the very description of the work of the Holy Spirit: 

"Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and CAUSE YOU to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.   You will live in the land that I gave to your forefathers; so you will be My people, and I will be your God." (Ezekiel 36:27-28)

There is living, and there is LIVING in the Land.  LIVING in the Land will require respect for Adonai's instructions concerning how we grow our food, a process already begun by Jews now living in The Land.  I've heard people who must eat gluten-free in America say that they can eat bread when they are in Israel.  What is the difference?  Perhaps that the wheat is not planted and harvested on Shabbat and the feast days?  

And what about our gratitude for the Land and nourishment, something that is acknowledged in the Blessing After Meals.  Who can read those blessings and eat casually?  Will the produce bless our bodies if we don't bless Him in gratitude as He commanded?  When we eat, is it mindlessly?  Do we forget to bless Him for the produce?  Why would a plant render itself to death when the human being disregards the Provider of nourishment from planting to digesting?  

When you eat, eat with gratitude.  If you don't know how to do that, read through the entire Blessing After Meals in a Shabbat siddur, and it will transform your mindfulness.  Eating is an agricultural act as well as a spiritual act.  Don't take that beautiful, red strawberry's life without being thankful to the Father.  He not only created delicious foods for you, He created them beautiful as well.  

Plants know how to cling tenaciously to life in a fallen world.  Some flowers close their petals to damaging insects, but they'll lure in pollinators with sweet perfume.  Roots seek water.  Vines route their upward climbs with intelligence. If they are able to do these things in a fallen world, imagine how much more beautiful it will be to dress such plants in the Kingdom of Yeshua, every Israelite volunteer under his volunteer vine and fig tree.  

Will we understand their language that right now is only understood through trial and error or by measuring electrical reactions?  I've been known to talk to my plants, but I hope one day my senses will be tuned to better hear when they talk back. Until then, remember, eating is an agricultural act, and the Torah stresses our relationship to the Land: husbandry, produce, sacrifice, consumption, thankfulness...and rest.

Shabbat Shalom!



Shavuot


Don't forget to order a copy of  What is the Torah?  from   www.amazon.com .  It is a great refresher on the prophetic importance of the Torah all the way to the four horseman of Revelation.






If you live in the Phoenix area, join us at the following venue for Shavuot:






LeMalah Children's Centre

We thank our donors for helping to fund Passover celebrations for our brothers and sisters in Kenya.  This is the RUACH of the Torah!  We were able to disburse monthly funds on Wednesday, and it was received yesterday.  If you are able, consider sending a small monthly donation to help with the monthly expenses.
    
If you would like to send used books or clothing, it is very expensive to mail items to Kenya, and it takes weeks, sometimes months, to arrive.  We will find out and post the correct mailing address once we verify with Brother Ndungu that they won't be charged customs for used items. To donate for monthly expenses at the LeMalah Children's Centre, via PayPal,  CLICK HERE and specify "Kenya" or send a personal check to:

The Creation Gospel
PO Box 846
East Bernstadt, KY   40729

From our home to yours,

Shabbat shalom!





To donate for monthly expenses at the LeMalah Children's Centre, via PayPal,  CLICK HERE  and specify "Kenya" or send a personal check to:

The Creation Gospel
PO Box 846
East Bernstadt, KY   40729