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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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Entries for January 2014

26

T'rumah Exodus 25:1-27:19
Psalm 26

Only twelve verses in length, Psalm 26 breathes the spirit of this week’s Torah portion. Detailing how the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and all its appurtenances are to be constructed, T'rumah might seem to be a bit of a weighty read, but Psalm 26 puts its importance into perspective.

Verses 4-8 of Psalm 26 declare: "I have not sat with worthless folks, I won't consort with hypocrites, I hate the company of evildoers, I will not sit with the wicked. I will wash my hands in innocence and walk around your altar, [ADONAI], lifting my voice in thanks and proclaiming all your wonders. [ADONAI], I love the house where you live, the place where your glory abides." Harkening to the command for priests to wash their hands and feet before entering the Mishkan or approaching the altar so they won’t die (Exodus 30:17-21), these verses put a new twist on what to avoid when wishing to enter G-d’s Presence, and how to enter His House.

According to verses 4-5 of Psalm 26, if we wish to enter into the House of HaShem, we must consequently avoid entering into the assembly of "worthless folks," "hypocrites," "evildoers," or "the wicked." In other words, we can’t have any friendship with the world (James 4:4-6). Psalm 26:6-7 further instructs us that in order to approach the Most Holy G-d, we need to wash our hands in innocence. In one beautiful turn of a phrase, king David reiterates a prominent theme found in Psalm 24:3-4: "Who may go up to the mountain of [ADONAI]? Who can stand in his holy place? Those with clean hands and pure hearts, who don't make vanities the purpose of their lives or swear oaths just to deceive." When our hands and hearts are clean, we will then have the credibility needed to proclaim HaShem’s wondrous works and be heard. This progression of separating from the world’s influences and being joined to HaShem culminates in Psalm 26:8 with David’s declaration of love for the very place where HaShem dwells, where His Glory resides. Thus, Psalm 26 ultimately presents us with a choice.

We are called to be a light to the nations, which will, of necessity, mean that we must have interactions with the world. However, this has become an excuse for some to behave in a worldly fashion, thinking that if they "fit in" with the world, the world will somehow be won to Messiah Yeshua. One only needs to look around and see the exodus of young people leaving our congregations to realize this is not the case. Believe it or not, the world is desperately looking for a difference in us. If we aren’t different from the world, why should it bother to listen to us, and what would we have that it would want? If we make the choice to count the cost and follow our Messiah Yeshua, we will have the assurance of being able to enter into His Presence both here in this life and in the world to come. As it is written: "How blessed are the pure in heart! for they will see G-d." (Matthew 5:8) Let us choose this day whom we will serve (Joshua 24:15)

Shalom uvracha,
Hadassah

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24

Mishpatim Exodus 21:1-24:18
Psalm 72

Shlomo (Solomon) wrote over a thousand songs (1 Kings 4:32), yet only a handful of them have attained the prestige of being a part of Scripture, and Psalm 72 is one of them. Highly Messianic in tone, it celebrates the King Who rules righteously and abides by G-d’s mishpatim (judgments). Though this week’s Torah portion, Mishpatim, can be a bit difficult to read because we aren’t in an agrarian society, Psalm 72 clearly shows that these rulings affect our lives and well-being.

Verses 1-18 of Psalm 72 consist not only of a prayer for a king’s greatness, righteousness, and posterity, but they also tell how a king attains such greatness, and what will consequently be seen in his dominion. Specifically, verses 2-4 and 12-14 declare that a righteous king will provide justice for the poor and needy, and he will safeguard them from oppression and harm. Though Shlomo came close during his reign, no king has truly displayed such a high degree of justice, but we know of one King who will.

The Prophets paint a glorious picture of what life will look like when Messiah Yeshua returns, ruling and reigning from Yerushalayim (Jerusalem). To give just a few examples, Both Isaiah 2:1-4 and Micah 4:1-8 describe the world peace that will finally be achieved by the Prince of Peace. Amos 9:11-15 depicts the restoration of the sukah (tabernacle) of David, and the extreme fruitfulness of the land under Messiah’s care. Furthermore, Isaiah 65:17-25 promises that the people of Yisrael will live as long as trees and be abundantly fruitful, too. (Keep in mind that olive trees in the land of Yisrael can live for hundreds of years, and sometimes longer.) There is, however, a sadder side to this future hope which affects our present reality.

Should we choose to ignore the instructions and rulings found in Mishpatim, not only will we not experience the blessed conditions so poetically portrayed in Psalm 72, but we will not realize the significance of what might be happening around us. For instance, whereas practicing justice brings prosperity and fruitfulness, pursuing injustice and not walking in HaShem’s ways can bring hardship and drought. If we ignore these principles or think they no longer apply to our lives, we might be undergoing discipline and not even know it. This is a dangerous place to be because it hinders repentance. Worse yet, we are lulled into being deceived, thinking that the world is going on its merry way as it always has since our ancestors died (2 Peter 3:3-14). As we await the final redemption, let us be sensitive to what is going on around us so we may repent when necessary, and so we may pray intelligently for our communities and our nations. As it is written: "For the time has come for the judgment to begin. It begins with the household of G-d; and if it starts with us, what will the outcome be for those who are disobeying G-d's Good News?- "If the righteous is barely delivered, where will the ung-dly and sinful end up?" So let those who are suffering according to G-d's will entrust themselves to a faithful Creator by continuing to do what is good." (1 Peter 4:17-19) Let us learn to discern the times in which we live.

Shalom uvracha,
Hadassah

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15

Yitro Exodus 18:1-20:23
Psalm 19

Composed by king David, Psalm 19 unashamedly extols the virtues of Torah. In a day when far too many believers have been deceived into thinking that Torah is onerous and burdensome, this Psalm is a much-needed and welcomed breath of fresh air. Nevertheless, it is shrouded in some mystery.

Beginning with the proclamation that the heavens declare G-d’s Glory, displaying His handiwork (verse 2), it further develops the Creation motif in verses 3-7. Though the subject of this poem seems to abruptly switch from Creation to Torah beginning in verse 8, the common theme of revelation unifies these two parts. Psalm 19’s overarching pattern presents two ways HaShem chooses to reveal Himself to humanity.

According to rabbi Yehonatan Chipman, Psalm 19 reflects two aspects of how G-d manifests Himself: giluy shechina (verses 1-7), defined as experiencing G-d’s Presence through the marvels of Creation or through a religious experience; and matan Torah ("gift of the Torah") (verses 8-15), when HaShem reveals Himself through His Word. (Note: The term "giluy shechina" is often found in the context of mysticism, so discernment and discretion are advised if conducting further research into this concept.) (February 14, 2006. Hitzei Yehonatan: Yitro (Psalms). Retrieved January 13, 2014 from http://hitzeiyehonatan.blogspot.com/2006/02/yitro-psalms.html.) Please keep in mind that when these two forms of revelation truly proceed from HaShem, neither one will contradict the other. Our challenge as believers is to maintain that awe and wonder of HaShem’s Presence (giluy shechina), while at the same time, growing to know Him as He has revealed Himself through matan Torah. Both are needed for vibrant, strong, mature faith. That being said, let’s do a little exploration of matan Torah.

Verses 8-15 of Psalm 19 present a progression of maturity as to how we relate to the Word of G-d. In verses 8-9, we are told what the Word does for us: the Torah returns our soul to us or causes us to repent, the testimony of HaShem makes the simple (literally "open-minded") wise, the statutes (pekudim) of HaShem make the heart rejoice, and the commandment of HaShem gives sight to the eyes. In verses 10-11, however, we transition from what the Word can do for us to delighting in the Word simply for its inherent, divine goodness. The fear of HaShem stands forever, and the judgments (literally "justices") of HaShem are altogether righteous, more desirable than the finest gold or the sweetest honey. A further sign of maturity is recognizing that every admonition and warning in the Word is there to safeguard us from sin, and obedience is its own reward (verse 12). Finally, verses 13-15 capture the essence of spiritual maturity by stressing the relational aspect of our walk with HaShem in expressing longing to be cleansed from secret sin or errors, and that even our most private thoughts would be pleasing to HaShem, our Rock and our Redeemer. In short, our focus shifts from what we can get to what we can give as we grow up spiritually.

Spiritual immaturity isn’t bad in and of itself. Like babies have to grow, we need to grow spiritually, and this takes time. Where we get into trouble is when we don’t grow. If a baby is exhibiting baby-like behavior, it’s adorably cute, but if a twenty-year-old is exhibiting that same baby-like behavior, something is terribly, tragically wrong. Whether experiencing giluy shechina or matan Torah, let us keep growing in Messiah Yeshua. As it is written: "You children, I am writing you because your sins have been forgiven for his sake. You fathers, I am writing you because you have known him who has existed from the beginning. You young people, I am writing you because you have overcome the Evil One. You children, I have written you because you have known the Father. You fathers, I have written you because you have known him who has existed from the beginning. You young people, I have written you because you arestrong- the Word of God remains in you, and you have overcome the Evil One." (1 John 2:12-14) If we learn to relate to the Word maturely, we will find it still gives us the sweet nourishment and richness promised, and so much more.

Shalom uvracha,
Hadassah

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09

B'shalach Exodus 13:17-17:16
Psalm 66

Celebrating Yisrael’s triumphant march through the Sea of Reeds, Psalm 66 also reflects on the trials endured by the people. As refined silver, Yisrael had been tested and purified. Now, the time for rejoicing has come. The end of this Psalm, however, contains a disturbing verse, so disturbing in fact, that we tend to ignore it as if doing so would make it go away.

Psalm 66:18 says: "If I had regarded iniquity in my heart, the L-rd would not hear;" (JPS) In Hebrew, a more literal translation would be, "If I have seen iniquity in my heart, my Master/ my L-rd will not hear." The surrounding verses specifically mention prayer. Therefore, it would be wise for us to explore what might hinder our prayers. Admittedly, this is not a popular subject. We’d like to think that G-d will hear our prayers, no matter what, but He takes the trouble to give us this warning so we don’t face the possibility of our prayers being hindered. In addition, HaShem graciously provides crystal clear answers in His Word as to what hinders prayer, and how to address it.

According to Daniel 10:12-13, some answers to prayer are not necessarily hindered, but delayed because of spiritual battles and consequent interference. That being said, Scripture teaches us that there are other reasons why prayer may not be answered. These reasons are under our complete control because they have to do with what we harbor in our hearts and how we treat people around us. As stated above, we learn that if we have known sin in our hearts and refuse to relinquish it, our prayers will be hindered. Another hindrance to prayer has to do with how we relate to our brothers and sisters in Messiah. Our L-rd Yeshua admonishes us: "So if you are offering your gift at the Temple altar and you remember there that your brother has something against you, leave your gift where it is by the altar, and go, make peace with your brother. Then come back and offer your gift." (Matthew 5:23-24) Since our praying is part of offering the sacrifices of praise (Hebrews 13:15), we must first make things right with any brother or sister we have wronged in order for our prayers to be heard. Furthermore, rav Kefa (the Apostle Peter) instructs us: "You husbands, likewise, conduct your married lives with understanding. Although your wife may be weaker physically, you should respect her as a fellow-heir of the gift of Life. If you don't, your prayers will be blocked." (1 Peter 3:7) Thus, we learn that marital strife can also hinder our prayers. This is only a cursory glance at hindrances to prayer, but it does give us pause to consider the ramifications of our words and actions, and how they affect our communication with HaShem.

Since prayer is to be a moment by moment interaction with HaShem, let us be diligent in making sure our hearts are right with our G-d, with our families, and with our brothers and sisters in Messiah Yeshua. If we do, we can know for certain our prayers will rise before the Throne of Grace.

After all, the one prayer never hindered is the prayer of repentance. As it is written: "And when you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive your offenses." (Mark 11:25 CJB) Our fellowship with HaShem is directly affected by our fellowship with each other.

Shalom uvracha,
Hadassah

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