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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.
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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Entries for January 2011

In this week's Torah portion, we begin our look at the Mishkan, the Tent where the Holy One, blessed be He, would choose to dwell among His people. This detailed description of the Tent and its furnishings begins with what is inside, then proceeds outward. The order of how this is presented in Scripture is very telling of how HaShem views us, since our bodies are the temple of the Ruach HaKodesh. This presents a question: what would the Yisraelim have seen only looking at the outside of this Tent, and what does this tell us of our Messiah? According to Shemot 27:9-15, the curtains comprising the outer court of the Mishkan were to be made of fine twined linen. Viewing this from the outside, the average Yisraeli wouldn't have seen the breathtaking beauty hidden within this holy dwelling place. Though linen was a prized cloth of that day, the structure of this Tent wouldn't have been much more distinguished from any other nomadic dwelling. Only by looking at the way into the Tabernacle would anyone glimpse the beauty within it. Made of blue, purple, crimson, and fine twined linen (verse 16), the gate was a reflection of what one would find inside. Scripture also tells us that, like the Mishkan, our Messiah by all outward appearances, was quite ordinary (Isaiah 53:2). Like the gate, however, He was the very reflection of the Father's image and glory (Hebrews 1:3; 2 Corinthians 4:6). Only those who sought the one and true Way to the Father saw this beauty. As it is with our Messiah, so it is with His talmidim. Most of us as believers are not necessarily known for our credentials, and HaShem told us that this was His plan. Most of us don't have ten thousand letters of degrees behind our names, and most of us are not prominent in our respective societies. Like the Mishkan, most who look at us see the fine twined linen, but not much else. However, our job is to reflect the breathtaking beauty of Messiah within us so that those who are seeking Him will see that gate of blue, purple, crimson, and white. They in turn will be drawn to Him and He will be glorified; we will simply be the vessels we were meant to be. As it is written: "we go on proclaiming a Messiah executed on a stake as a criminal! to Jews this is an obstacle, and to Greeks it is nonsense; but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, this same Messiah is G-d’s power and G-d’s wisdom! for G-d’s "nonsense" is wiser than humanity’s "wisdom." and G-d’s "weakness" is stronger than humanity’s "strength." just look at yourselves, brothers--look at those whom G-d has called! not many of you are wise by the world’s standards, not many wield power or boast noble birth. but G-d chose what the world considers nonsense in order to shame the wise; G-d chose what the world considers weak in order to shame the strong; and G-d chose what the world looks down on as common or regards as nothing in order to bring to nothing what the world considers important; so that no one should boast before G-d." (1Co 1:23-29)

Shalom uvracha,
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This week's portion, entitled "Mishpatim" literally means "justice (pl.)" or "judgments." Addressing everything from how to treat a servant to how to treat one's enemies, this passage clearly defines what justice is and what it is not. In studying this portion, it doesn't take too much scrutiny to see how our American society has strayed from true justice in some areas. Yes, we do have compensation for injury (Shemot 21:18-19), and there are penalties for not controlling unruly livestock or pets (Shemot 21:28-32) to name a few, but there are other rulings that the Holy One, blessed be He, give us that we ignore. One specific ruling I'd like to draw our attention to is one we tend to overlook when we're frustrated with our political leadership. Shemot 22:28 states: ""you are not to curse G-d, and you are not to curse a leader of your people." (Note that the word in the Hebrew used for G-d [elohim] can also be translated as "judges" as in the previous context of this portion.) This means that whether we like those in leadership or not, we are never to wish them any physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual harm. As a believing community, I'm afraid that we have some repenting to do in this area. Whenever we have had presidents or presidential administrations in power who do not support godly Biblical principles, we are quick to speak out and that is how it should be. After all, we have been blessed with the freedom and responsibility to hold our leaders accountable for their words, actions, and policies. However, sometimes our protests go overboard whenever we begin to refer to them in less than honorable ways or wish harm of any sort on our leaders. We don't have to agree with their policies; we don't even have to like them per se. We can even pray that the L-RD would remove them from office if that is His Will, but to wish them any harm in any way is an offense to G-d as seen in the above passage. E-mails, jokes, parodies, or inferences to bringing harm to any of our leaders is never kosher. No matter whether our leaders are good, bad, or indifferent, let us be careful how we speak of them, and let us pray for their well-being and salvation. As it is written: "first of all, then, I counsel that petitions, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for all human beings, including kings and all in positions of prominence; so that we may lead quiet and peaceful lives, being godly and upright in everything. this is what G-d, our deliverer, regards as good; this is what meets his approval. he wants all humanity to be delivered and come to full knowledge of the truth." (1Ti 2:1-4)

Shalom uvracha,
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This week's torah portion is one of my favorites. Not only does this particular portion contain wise guidance concerning leadership structure and delegation, but it also contains the Ten Words (commandments), the fulcrum and preserver of western civilization. There is one specific passage, though, that is especially dear to my heart, and yet it is one of the most misunderstood passages in Christian circles. Shemot 19 begins with Yisrael's arriving in the wilderness of Sinai and encamping before the Mount of G-d (19:1-2). Verses 3-8 of this chapter contain the most incredible exchange in human history. Verses 3-6 speak on this wise: "Moshe went up to G-d, and ADONAI called to him from the mountain: "here is what you are to say to the household of Ya’akov, to tell the people of Isra’el: ‘you have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. now if you will pay careful attention to what I say and keep my covenant, then you will be my own treasure from among all the peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you will be a kingdom of cohanim for me, a nation set apart.’ these are the words you are to speak to the people of Isra’el." In verse 7, Moshe takes the words of HaShem to the people, and verse 8 records Yisrael's response as follows: "all the people answered as one, everything ADONAI has said, we will do."" Unless we understand what just transpired, we will never understand the rest of this portion, or the rest of Scripture, for that matter. Unfortunately, it is all too common for teachers unfamiliar with rabbinic thought to read things into this passage that are egregious. They view Yisrael's response to HaShem's proposal as proud and high-minded, positing that instead of throwing themselves on His grace, they take it upon themselves to prove their own righteousness. "All that HaShem has spoken we will do." (Shemot 19:8, emphasis mine.) This kind of teaching implies that the Holy One, blessed be He, tempted His people, setting a trap for them. If they gave the wrong answer, they would be doomed to a life of striving in vain to keep "the Law." However, the Brit Chadasha clearly states that G-d does not tempt, neither is He tempted (Ya'akov 1:13). If we give this passage closer scrutiny, we don't see a Lord trying to trick His servants, we see a Lover proposing marriage to His intended. Yisrael, as the Bride, accepts His proposal. Notice that the language of Shemot 19:3-6 is poetic and tender. In light of this, Torah, with its standards of diet, dress, commands concerning offering sacrifices, rulings concerning interactions with each other, and making wrongs right, is a love letter, a marriage contract. Ephesians 5:25-27 and 1 Kefa 2:9 state that we as believers are espoused to the Messiah, a people for G-d to possess (CJB). When we read Shemot 19:3-6, let us remember that this same proposal is asked of us, since we are grafted into Yisrael. What will our response be? Will we, like the above-mentioned teachers say, "No, I can't keep Torah perfectly, so I won't even bother to try?" Or will we, like Yisrael, heed the call to be ever faithful to our Beloved Yeshua and say, "All that HaShem has spoken, we will do?" Let us remember, too, that being espoused to our Messiah has its responsibilities. We are called to be faithful to Him alone, obeying His voice and keeping His commands (Shemot 19:5-6; Yochanan 14:15), and we must be ever vigilant against anything that would distract us or draw us away from Him. As it is written: "I would like you to bear with me in a little foolishness - please do bear with me! for I am jealous for you with G-d’s kind of jealousy; since I promised to present you as a pure virgin in marriage to your one husband, the Messiah; and I fear that somehow your minds may be seduced away from simple and pure devotion to the Messiah, just as Havah was deceived by the serpent and his craftiness. for if someone comes and tells you about some other Yeshua than the one we told you about, or if you receive a spirit different from the one you received or accept some so-called "good news" different from the good news you already accepted, you bear with him well enough!" (2Co 11:1-4 CJB) "but even if we - or, for that matter, an angel from heaven!- were to announce to you some so-called "good news" contrary to the good news we did announce to you, let him be under a curse forever! we said it before, and I say it again: if anyone announces "good news" contrary to what you received, let him be under a curse forever!" (Ga 1:8-9 CJB)

Shalom uvracha,
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This week's torah portion is full of the triumph of crossing the Sea of Reeds on dry ground and seeing the Egyptians defeated once and for all. It is also full of the discontentment of the Yisraelim and the consequent frustration and sorrow their shepherd, Moshe, must endure. Thankfully, our L-RD never presents problems without also giving solutions, and this Torah portion is no exception.

In Shemot 15:22-17:7, the account of Yisrael's travels from the Sea of Reeds through the wilderness is riddled with incidents of the people complaining against Moshe, Aharon, and even HaShem Himself. Their concern over the lack of water and food is very real, being in the middle of the desert, but the nature of their complaining goes far beyond wishing for ample provision. They cast aspersions on Moshe's credibility, and at one point, they threaten his life (Shemot 17:4). In stark contrast, Aharon and Hur come alongside Moshe and assist him during the battle with Amalek. According to Shemot 17:10-12, Yisrael fought against Amalek, but their victory was dependent upon Moshe's hand and rod staying aloft as an ensign over the battle scene. When his hand grew tired and he let it down, Amalek prevailed, but when he lifted his hand, Yisrael prevailed. Since Moshe was only human, and his hands grew tired, Aharon and Hur came to his aid in two distinct ways. First, they placed a stone as a seat for him, seeing to his comfort and relief, and second, they held both his hands up until Yisrael won the battle decisively. I have heard a number of teachings on this passage comparing Moshe's uplifted hands to praise, prayer, and spiritual warfare. Though these are appropriate applications, I propose another drash [explanation] of this passage. It is sad to consider that we, in our own congregations, are more likely to exhibit the behavior of the Yisraelim toward our shepherds and teachers than that of Aharon and Hur. We are very quick to complain about teaching style, lack of personal attention given, or we think that our poor shepherd should do everything having to do with the congregation and we should just sit and drink it all in. Scripture does not support this line of thinking in any way whatsoever. Like Moshe, our leaders are human, and they grow weary in the fight. Instead of complaining about what we supposedly lack, we are called to be like Aharon and Hur, seeking to comfort and relieve our elders and shepherds. Specifically, we are called to lift them up in prayer, but Shemot 17:11-12 shows us something more. I'm sure Aharon and Hur prayed for Moshe, but they also actively and practically sought his well-being, and so should we do for our shepherds and teachers. Perhaps there are building or grounds projects we can do, lightening our leaders' load. Maybe we can put our hands to serving so that our shepherds can devote themselves to the Word of G-d and to prayer (Acts 6:1-4). Like Aharon and Hur, let us ask our shepherds and elders how we might be of assistance to them. As it is written: "the leaders who lead well should be considered worthy of double honor, especially those working hard at communicating the word and at teaching. for the Tanakh says, "you are not to muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain," in other words, "the worker deserves his wages." never listen to any accusation against a leader unless it is supported by two or three witnesses." (1Ti 5:17-19)

Shalom uvracha,

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In this week's torah portion, we finally witness Yisrael's triumphal exodus from the land of Egypt, but it comes at a very high price. All the firstborn of Egypt had to die before Pharaoh would relent and let the people go. Before the Exodus, however, Pharaoh tries two tactics to destroy the nation of Yisrael.
In Shemot 10:7-11, before the plague of the locusts descends on Egypt, Pharaoh makes an offer to the Yisraelim they must refuse if they would survive. He tells the men that they can go serve HaShem, but their wives, children, and livestock are to remain behind. When Moshe refuses this "offer," Pharaoh devises another scheme in Shemot 10:24, stating that even the wives and children can go, but the animals must stay behind. These "offers" are just as insidious as the drowning of the baby boys in the Nile. If Pharaoh couldn't outright kill the Yisraelim, he would try to tare apart their families, and if he didn't succeed at that, he would rob them of their livelihood. Thankfully, Pharaoh doesn't succeed, and the Yisraelim, men, women, children, animals, and all, leave Egypt.
At the risk of over spiritualizing, Pharaoh is a symbol and representative of Ha-Satan, the Enemy of our souls. Like Pharaoh, he tries to convince us to settle for less than what G-d has promised. For Yisrael today, he tries to convince them to settle for a two-state solution, dividing the Land. for believers, he attempts to deceive us into compromising on everything from the deity of Messiah Yeshua to living a pure and holy life (see 1 Timothy 3:12). Moshe could stand up to Pharaoh because he had his eyes on the Author and Finisher of his faith (Hebrews 12:2), and that is where our focus should be as well. If it is, then we know that what HaShem has begun He will complete, and He will give us the strength and determination to be faithful to the end.
As it is written: "as people who obey G-d, do not let yourselves be shaped by the evil desires you used to have when you were still ignorant. on the contrary, following the holy one who called you, become holy yourselves in your entire way of life; since the Tanakh says, "you are to be holy because I am holy."" (1Pe 1:14-16)

Shalom uvracha,
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In this week's Torah portion, the battle for Yisrael's redemption intensifies with the beginning of the ten plagues which will be Pharaoh's demise. Before this ensues, however, Moshe is once again called by HaShem to go speak to Pharaoh. If Moshe was reluctant before, he seems doubly so now, even going so far as to say that he is a man of "uncircumcised lips" (Shemot 6:12, 30 KJV). This strange phrase only occurs in these two passages, and it is a literal translation of the Hebrew text. We are familiar with the concept of needing to have our hearts circumcised (D'varim 30:6), and Scripture even presents the need to have circumcised ears (Jeremiah 6:10). This still begs the question: What does it mean to have uncircumcised lips? The meaning behind having uncircumcised lips is rife with speculation.
Some rabbis believe that Moshe had a speech impediment and that perhaps he stuttered. Others posit that he no longer had the mastery of speech that he had in his youth (see Acts 7:22). Whatever the case may be, Scripture indicates that the condition of uncircumcision, whether in the flesh, ears, heart, or lips, is a lack of sensitivity. (Thanks to Sarah Anne Summer for this observation.) the blessing we see both in this parasha and in upcoming parashot is that the Holy One, blessed be He, does circumcise Moshe's lips and he consequently fills the role of prophet for which he was destined.
As believers, HaShem places a calling on each of our lives, even calling us Messiah's ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20). As rav Lohrberg often says, G-d doesn't call the qualified; He qualifies the called. Let us pray that the Holy One, blessed be He, would circumcise our hearts, ears, and lips that we might represent Messiah well in all things, at all times.

Shalom uvracha,
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