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All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise specified are taken from The Complete Jewish Bible by David H. Stern. Copyright ©1998. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Messianic Jewish Publishers, 6120 Day Long Lane, Clarksville, MD  21029.
www.messianicjewish.net.
If you haven't yet done so, now is the time to get your copy of "As It Is Written: Ancient Torah Lessons for the Modern-day Believer." If you have a copy, get some copies for your friends and loved ones. Whether you've been studying Torah for years or are just beginning, you're sure to find pearls of wisdom and insight in this book. To get your copy, please click here: http://bnottziyon.com/christina_oakes

Thank you for your prayers, support, and encouragement.
Most sincerely in our Messiah Yeshua,
Christina Oakes/Hadassah

 Please note, for the 5775/2015 Year, Hadassah is considering the idea of writing another book. While we will miss her missives, we invite you to visit the archives of her past works. In these archives you will find selections on the parshiyot, haftarah and Tehillim (Psalms) according to the annual cycle of Torah readings, going back a few years. Todah!

    
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15

54 V’zot HaB’racha Deuteronomy 33:1-34:12;
Genesis 1:1-2:3
Psalm 12
Study of the Scriptures never ends. It only begins again. With this in mind, we come to the last Torah portion, which brings us full circle back to Genesis. In this circle, however, we read of the departure of our beloved Moshe, and mourn with the Yisraelim who are nonetheless on the verge of entering the land HaShem promised them.

When taken with this Torah portion, Psalm 12 reads much like a lamentation upon Moshe’s death. Much like we do today, the psalmist bemoans the lack of faithful, g-dly, upright people in his generation. It is as though the world is a little darker with Moshe gone. Verse 7 of this psalm, however, gives us a ray of hope, albeit in a bit of a cryptic way.

Psalm 12:7 proclaims: "The words of [ADONAI] are pure words, silver in a melting-pot set in the earth, refined and purified seven times over." This is similar to 2 Samuel 22:31, which says: ""As for G-d, his way is perfect, the word of [ADONAI] has been tested by fire; he shields all who take refuge in him." Since HaShem is purity and holiness itself, why would His Words have to be tried or purified, and why would we need assurance of such refinement? Perhaps our L-rd Yeshua gives us the answer to this quandary.

In John 17:19, our L-rd Yeshua prays for His talmidim, including us: "On their behalf I am setting myself apart for holiness, so that they too may be set apart for holiness by means of the truth." The very personification of holiness nevertheless sets Himself apart for holiness. Furthermore, Hebrews 5:7-8 gives us another aspect of this enigma: "During Yeshua's life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions, crying aloud and shedding tears, to the One who had the power to deliver him from death; and he was heard because of his g-dliness. Even though he was the Son, he learned obedience through his sufferings." From these two passages, then, we see the Living, pure Word of HaShem undergoing refinement. In this case, refinement doesn’t extract impurities, since there are no impurities in our Messiah. It does, however, prove His purity, displaying it for all creation to see. If this is the case with the Living Word, do we find such an equivalent with the written Word?

When speaking of the giving of Torah on Mount Sinai, Moshe reveals it as a "fiery law" (Deuteronomy 33:2). In a sense, the Word of HaShem (i.e. the Scriptures) has been tested by history, and even by human arrogance, yet it still stands. Like the Living Word, the written Word is subject to fiery trial, not to extract any perceived impurities, but that its intrinsic purity might shine forth in all its splendor. As always, this is more than theoretical conjecture or philosophical discussion. The purity and trustworthiness of G-d’s Word is life-changing.

In a day when "scholarship" seems to be judged by how well one demeans, marginalizes, undermines, or maligns the Scriptures, it behooves us to remember that this book we hold in our hands daily has endured a lot of history. From being lost in the Temple (2 Kings 22:8-13; 2 Chronicles 34:14-21, to being suppressed under Babylonian and Greek tyranny, to being forsaken, violated, desecrated, burned, trampled under foot, and soaked in the blood of martyrs throughout the millennia, the Word of G-d, both written and living, will remain steadfast and untarnished long after we, our civilizations, and our machinations crumble to dust. So, the next time we’re tempted to relegate this most precious Word to antiquated history, arcane instruction, or just another book on the shelf, let’s remember that HaShem, the King of the Universe, the Holy One, blessed be He, took the time and trouble to reveal Himself in its pages. By studying this Word in order to do what it says, not only will Moshe\s memory live on, but we will be walking in the footsteps of Messiah Yeshua Himself, the Word made flesh (John 1:14). As it is written: "You have been born again not from some seed that will decay, but from one that cannot decay, through the living Word of G-d that lasts forever. For all humanity is like grass, all its glory is like a wildflower- the grass withers, and the flower falls off; but the Word of [ADONAI] lasts forever. Moreover, this Word is the Good News which has been proclaimed to you." (1 Peter 1:23-25) May the light and purity of G-d’s Word shine brightly through each of us to a dark, decaying, and dying world.

Shalom uvracha,
Hadassah

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23

Ha’azinu Deuteronomy 32:1-52
Psalm 71

The composer of Psalm 71 is unknown, but if we compare it with this week’s Torah portion, we may surmise that if this Psalm wasn’t written by Moshe, it certainly could be a glimpse into his heart and mind as he comes to the end of his days. One sentiment is repeated twice in this Psalm, and whenever something is repeated, it should catch our attention.

Psalm 71:9 and verses 18-19 plead: "Don't reject me when I grow old; when my strength fails, don't abandon me. … So now that I'm old, and my hair is gray, don't abandon me, G-d, till I have proclaimed your strength to the next generation, your power to all who will come, your righteousness too, G-d, which reaches to the heights. G-d, you have done great things; who is there like you?" In the context of these verses, there are two reasons why the Psalmist beseeches HaShem not to forsake him. First, he faces dangerous, deadly enemies who are waiting to see any sign of weakness in order to attack (verses 10-13). His second fear is that he will die before having the chance to pass on what he has learned about HaShem to the next generation (verse 18). Whether we find ourselves as seasoned veterans of life, or we are just starting out on this grand adventure, these concerns are valid and relevant for today.

Let’s face it: Each and every one of us is growing older, and should Messiah tarry, we will have to deal with the consequent changes in life. As this Psalm portrays, the battles fought and enemies faced when growing old are both seen and unseen. Some elderly people, or even those dealing with life-altering illness and disability, feel like their usefulness for the Kingdom of HaShem is over, and they’re just sitting on the proverbial shelf, waiting to pass from this life. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Here’s what HaShem says: ""Listen to me, house of Ya'akov, all who remain of the house of Isra'el: I have borne you from birth, carried you since the womb. Till your old age I will be the same- I will carry you until your hair is white. I have made you, and I will bear you; yes, I will carry and save you." (Isaiah 46:3-4) Psalm 71 contains much more than lament. It shows us how to deal with tough times.

It is in the lowest of circumstances when we feel like HaShem has left us. We know this isn’t true, but how do we overcome those feelings shouting and screaming at us? First, the psalmist teaches us by example to look back on our own lives and remember HaShem’s mighty deeds on our behalf (verses 5-8). This, in turn, will inevitably lead to offering praise (verses 14-17, 22-24). Next, it is crucial that we find someone to tell what HaShem has done in our lives. This is perhaps the most powerful thing we can do, because reaching out to others brings our own problems into proper perspective, and it reminds us that we are part of something bigger than ourselves. Each of us has a lot of wisdom to share, and this is how our faith is perpetuated. In fact, verse 19 of this Psalm in the Hebrew, says something like: "And also when I am old and gray headed, G-d, don’t abandon me, until I declare to Your seed, to the generation, to all that will come, Your power."

Who is G-d’s seed but fellow believers (1 John 3:9)? Finally, the composer of Psalm 71 reminds us that, when all is said and done, we have the ultimate comfort and hope of the resurrection from the dead (verses 20:21). No matter whether we’re dealing with old age, illness, or feeling down in the dumps, we have no time to lose bemoaning our hardships overmuch. We still have work to do. As it is written: "As long as it is day, we must keep doing the work of the One who sent me; the night is coming, when no one can work." (John 9:4) Let us fight the good fight, finish the race, and keep the faith (2 Timothy 4:7).

Shalom uvracha,
Hadassah

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17

Nitzavim/Vayelekh Deuteronomy 29:9-31:30
Psalm 65, Psalm 81 respectively

Since we visited Psalm 65 while studying Torah portion 20, Tetzaveh, we shall turn our attention to Psalm 81. Written by Asaf, this psalm is one of the most mysterious. To enumerate some of its mysteries, its language seems to allude to both New moon (verse 4), but the word translated as "full moon" (CJB) is derived from a root meaning "to conceal," or "to cover." Furthermore, verses 6-7 seem to refer to Pesach (Passover). To make matters more enigmatic, Yosef is referred to, but a he is added to his name in the Hebrew. The CJB is one of the few English versions that carries this over from the Hebrew. Any one of these could be a fascinating study in and of itself, but the main message of Psalm 81 pleads with us to heed what it has to say.

Verses 7-17 of Psalm 81 contains some of the most poignant words of Scripture as HaShem laments the waywardness of His people. To be specific, verses 10-13 elucidate: "’There is not to be with you any foreign god; you are not to worship an alien god. I am [ADONAI] your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt. Open your mouth, and I will fill it.' But my people did not listen to my voice; Isra'el would have none of me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts, to live by their own plans." This is eerily similar to what our L-rd Yeshua says as He bewails Yerushalayim

(Jerusalem): ""Yerushalayim! Yerushalayim! You kill the prophets! You stone those who are sent to you! How often I wanted to gather your children, just as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, but you refused! Look! God is abandoning your house to you, leaving it desolate. For I tell you, from now on, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of [ADONAI].'"" (Matthew 23:37-39) From these two passages alone, we come to the realization that it is dangerous for us to harden our hearts.

Woe betide the soul who hears Heaven say, "If that’s what you want." Much as HaShem longs for us to heed His Voice and be obedient, He will not plead with us forever. There will come a point when we are handed over to the very thing after which we chase and its bitter consequences. Even this, though, is the incredible mercy of HaShem. Better that we face some form of discipline here in this life than when we stand before the Judgment Seat of Messiah Yeshua, when all is said and done, and it is too late to turn from our rebellion. It is not G-d’s will, after all, that any should perish, but that all should repent (Lamentations 3:33; 2 Peter 3:9).

As we continue in this season of repentance culminating in Yom Kippur, let us consider the exacting price of a wayward heart. If we choose to surrender our will for His will, we will be spared a lot of grief and heartache both in this life and in the world to come. As it is written: "Don't delude yourselves: no one makes a fool of G-d! A person reaps what he sows. Those who keep sowing in the field of their old nature, in order to meet its demands, will eventually reap ruin; but those who keep sowing in the field of the Spirit will reap from the Spirit everlasting life." (Galatians 6:7-8) Even G-d’s judgment and wrath are rooted in His mercy, but it is unwise to take that mercy for granted.

Shalom uvracha,
Hadassah

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10

Ki Tavo Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8
Psalm 51

Written by king David after the prophet Nathan confronts him concerning his adultery with Bathsheba, Psalm 51 is one of the most well-known confessions of sin in Scripture. As such, it shows us what true confession and repentance looks like. Notice that David’s main focus isn’t necessarily that HaShem would get him out of the mess he got himself into. That request is there, to be sure, but the cry of David’s heart, the overwhelming longing of his soul, is that his sin would be forgiven and sweet fellowship with HaShem restored. Along with this, David reveals what HaShem is seeking of him, and consequently, of us as well.

Psalm 51:18-19 states: "For you don't want sacrifices, or I would give them; you don't take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice to G-d is a broken spirit; G-d, you won't spurn a broken, chastened heart." In this case, the JPS (Jewish Publication Society) version better reflects the Hebrew of verse 19: "The sacrifices of G-d are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O G-d, Thou wilt not despise." If nothing else, we can see that the offerings as prescribed by Torah have always been a heart issue. Consider, too, that king David’s confession pertains to adultery and murder, two sins for which no offering delineated in Torah is efficacious. According to Leviticus 20:10 and Numbers 35:16-21, he is twice deserving of the death penalty. Doubtless, David appeals purely to HaShem’s mercy and grace. Perhaps he is also aware of the Offering which would be made on his behalf one day (see Psalm 22). Bearing all of this in mind, there is still one quality HaShem is looking for.

Continuing the theme found in Psalm 32, HaShem is seeking a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart. Isaiah 57:15 says: "For thus says the High, Exalted One who lives forever, whose name is Holy: "I live in the high and holy place but also with the broken and humble, in order to revive the spirit of the humble and revive the hearts of the broken ones." He Who is the High and heavenly One makes His home with the humble in spirit and the shattered in soul. This can be either comforting or disconcerting, and for most of us, it’s a little bit of both.

When we find ourselves in a place of brokenness, when we’ve come to the end of ourselves, when our sin has found us out, and we are faced with its stark consequences, when we finally surrender and cry out for mercy, then HaShem draws near and brings us close to Himself. Conversely, when we have tasted the goodness of G-d, and we long to know Him in a deeper and fuller way, we will find Him living with the humble and hurting in need of healing. King David, in fact, expresses this reality, too, when he says: "Then I will teach the wicked your ways, and sinners will return to you." As we approach the High Holy Days, taking stock of our own lives, let us be humble enough to honestly and sincerely confess our sins, and reach out in genuine compassion to those HaShem brings our way. If we do, we will begin to experience the Presence of G-d for which we hunger.

As it is written: ""How blessed are the poor in spirit! for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. How blessed are those who mourn! for they will be comforted. How blessed are the meek! for they will inherit the Land! How blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness! for they will be filled. How blessed are those who show mercy! for they will be shown mercy. How blessed are the pure in heart! for they will see G-d." (Matthew 5:3-8) G-d resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble (Proverbs 3:34; Psalm 138:6; 1 Peter 5:5).

Shalom uvracha,
Hadassah

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08

Ki Tetzeh Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19
Psalm 32

Psalm 32 is the believer’s life and walk in a nutshell. It begins with David’s declaration: "How blessed are those whose offense is forgiven, those whose sin is covered! How blessed those to whom [ADONAI] imputes no guilt, in whose spirit is no deceit!" The Psalm further elaborates on the experience each and every one of us has had as we went through the process of being born again. Sins were realized and we felt miserable as the Ruach HaKodesh and the enemy fought for our souls (Psalm 32:3-4). Then, like David, when we finally surrendered, confessing our transgressions, we found forgiveness, love, mercy, grace, and joy unspeakable and full of glory (verses 5-7, 9-11). Since it is a Maskil, or Psalm of instruction, we learn what to expect in this walk with our Messiah Yeshua. We are also forewarned of pitfalls, and given wise counsel on how to avoid them. One such obstacle is elucidated in verses 8-9.

Psalm 32:8-9 admonishes: ""I will instruct and teach you in this way that you are to go; I will give you counsel; my eyes will be watching you." Don't be like a horse or mule that has no understanding, that has to be curbed with bit and bridle, or else it won't come near you." It is unfortunate that the CJB puts only verse 8 in quotes, when both verses seem to be in the same imperative, or command language, fitting together like hand in glove. That being said, we may infer from the context that verses 8-9 are HaShem speaking, not king David. Verse 8 is comforting in HaShem’s promise to teach us, show us how to walk, and keep vigilant watch over us. In verse 9, though, He issues an admonition not to be stubborn like a horse or mule, which need to be controlled by bit and bridle. Why is this caveat given, and how can we guard our hearts from becoming hardened?

When we first become believers, we are eager to learn how to walk with our Messiah Yeshua, and we are very tender to the touch of the Ruach as He convicts of sin. However, after we’ve been walking for a while, becoming more seasoned, it is all too easy to begin ignoring those nudges from the Ruach, to make excuses for those "little foxes that spoil the vine" (Song of Songs 2:15), and to fall for the lie that we’re more sophisticated than we used to be, no longer needing to worry about whether our hearts are pliable in His Hands. According to Psalm 32:9, we must be ever vigilant in keeping our hearts tender toward HaShem. If we aren’t, we will become hardened like the horse or mule, and it will take more drastic measures to get our attention. As we continue in this season of introspection and repentance during the month of Elul, let us ask the Ruach HaKodesh to soften our hearts. When He does, let us be quick to respond to Him as He brings us to Messiah Yeshua anew. As it is written: "For G-d is not so unfair as to forget your work and the love you showed for him in your past service to his people- and in your present service too. However, we want each one of you to keep showing the same diligence right up to the end, when your hope will be realized; so that you will not become sluggish, but will be imitators of those who by their trust and patience are receiving what has been promised." (Hebrews 6:10-12) Let us rediscover the joy of our salvation and our First Love (Psalm 51:14; Revelation 2:4-5).

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