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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 November 2010


This week's Torah portion shifts the focus from Ya'akov to his sons.  Two sons stand out in particular:  Yosef, who is a type of Messiah, and Y'hudah who is the forbearer of the Messiah.  We will spend the next few weeks focusing on Y'hudah because he shows remarkable character
development, and he teaches us a number of lessons on what it means to repent and what it means to live as a believer. The first lesson that Y'hudah teaches us is found in this week's portion. B'reishit 38:1 says: And it came to pass at that time, that Judah went down from his brethren, and turned in to a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah (av) The Complete Jewish Bible says that he "went off from his brothers," but the Hebrew is more accurately reflected in the KJV. We know what ensued afterword with his getting tangled with the K'naanim and what took place between him and his daughter-in-law Tamar, but this phrase "went down" is very telling.  By way of explanation, when a Jewish person living in the diaspora decides to go back to the land of Yisrael, he/she makes aliyah, or goes up to the Land.  Hence, if an Israeli decides to come to another country for whatever reason, he/she is called a Yored, or one who goes down.  Thus, when Y'hudah left his family, his community, he went down spiritually and morally.  Yes, the line of Messiah had its beginnings with what happened between Y'hudah and Tamar, so we see that G-d can take a bad situation and bring something beautiful out of it.  However, there were still troubles Y'hudah was trying to run from that eventually cought up to him, and there were still scars that resulted from bad decisions. Y'hudah did genuinely repent and, according to the next portion, he did return to his family and community.  Today, we can learn from his example. Dr.  Laura Schlesinger, a famous psychologist and talk show host, once said, "The hypocrite says, 'Do as I say, not as I do,' but the teacher says, 'Do as I do, not as I did.'" This is exactly what Y'hudah teaches us. If we are considering leaving our spiritual community for some reason or other, let us rethink our decision.  If we decide to leave, we need to be acutely aware that there are very real consequences for that decision. On the same token, if we've been away from our community, we're never too far away to return.  Yes, returning would mean that we may have to admit we were wrong, just as Y'hudah had to admit his transgression (B'reishit 38:26), but all of this is part of humility and
spiritual growth. Finally, whatever bad decisions we've made in the past, we don't have to bear that shame. Our Messiah, Yeshua, bore our shame for us.  If we acknowledge those decisions for what they were and we have truly repented of them, no one can use those decisions against us. Though many may try, they won't succeed because we can use those incidences as teaching tools.  As it is written:  So who will bring a charge against God's chosen people? Certainly not God  He is the one who causes them to be considered righteous! Who punishes them? Certainly not the Messiah Yeshua, who died and  more than that  has been raised, is at the right hand of God and is actually pleading on our behalf! Who will separate us from the love of the Messiah? Trouble? Hardship? Persecution? Hunger? Poverty? Danger? War? As the Tanakh puts it, For your sake we are being put to death all day long, we are considered sheep to be slaughtered. No, in all these things we are superconquerors, through the one who has loved us. (Ro 8:33-37)

Shalom uvracha,

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This week's Torah portion is full of twists, turns, and travels.
Beginning with Ya'akov meeting and being reconciled with his brother, and ending with Ya'akov's finally returning to his father's house in B'reishit 35, we are reminded that the family of Israel is, at this point, a stranger in a strange land. While on this pilgrimage, when Ya'akov would seek to settle down for a while, an incident so disturbing occurs that a people group is wiped out, the Israelites become fugitives, and an innocent girl is forever deprived of the joys of marriage and children. B'reishit 34 is devoted to the plight of Dinah, Ya'akov's daughter through Leah. For me, it is one of the most difficult and heart-rending passages to read. Dinah innocently enough ventures out to visit the daughters of the land, when she falls into the hands of Shechem, the prince of the city of shechem. At best, he seduces her; at worst, he rapes her (B'reishit 34:2). Wishing to "make things right," he proposes to marry her, but her brothers would have none of that. Instead, they deceive the men of the city to become circumcised, and on the third day, when the men are in the most pain, Dinah's brothers fall upon the city, slaying all the males and taking all the women and children captive, and rescuing their sister from Shechem's house. On closer scrutiny, we can infer some things that would safeguard us both practically and spiritually. B'reishit 34:1 says that Dinah went out to see the daughters of the land. Considering what happened, we can safely say that she was alone. this begs the question: Where was her family; why did these people of Middle Eastern culture let their sister and daughter venture out unaccompanied? Furthermore, B'reishit 34:26 says that when Dinah's brothers conquered the city and slew all the men, they also slew Shechem and his father, and took Dinah from Shechem's house. How did she end up there? Either Shechem lured her there or he took her there after raping her. This begs the question: Where were her friends who saw this happen? Why didn't they try to protect her? Finally, according to B'reishit 33:19, there had been some contact between Ya'akov's family and Shechem's family. Thus, there may have been contact between Shechem and Dinah prior to the incident in B'reishit 34. Shechem wasn't a stranger to Dinah. What does all of this have to do with us today? First, as a community, we have the responsibility to look out for each other both spiritually and practically. On the same token, we have the responsibility to listen to our brothers and sisters around us, and heed their warnings. Second, we shouldn't attempt outreach alone. Obviously, I'm not speaking of taking opportunities to witness when they're presented. What I am speaking of is going into a group of people whom we know to be unbelievers and thinking that alone, we can be a light. I've heard some well-meaning believers suggest to a lone young person that he/she can be a light to unbelieving friends, but without another friend or two to safeguard him/her and keep accountability, things can go very wrong. Even our L-RD Yeshua never sent out His talmidim alone; they always went out in pairs, and this remained the case in the book of Acts. Finally, we should be careful who we have as close and trusted friends. As King Shlomo said in Proverbs 13:20: "He who walks with the wise will become wise, but the companion of fools will suffer." Notice that it doesn't say that we will become foolish; it says that we will suffer if we have foolish friends. Dinah was in the wrong place, at the wrong time, with the wrong people. Sad as her story is, if we can learn from it, perhaps we can avoid some heartache and sorrow, and we can know how to safeguard our brothers and sisters, especially those younger than we physically and spiritually.

Shalom uvracha,
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If we thought that Yitzchak's family was dysfunctional, this week's torahportion shows us that Ya'akov's family is just like his, only more so. With two wives, two concubines, a passel of children, and a father-in-lawthat makes an ogre look nice, it's no wonder that things for Ya'akov arecomplicated.  As with every Torah portion, though, we learn even moreabout our G-d and what kind of behavior he is looking for in His people.Four passages in this portion catch my attention.  B'reishit 29:31-32states that when G-d saw that Leah was unloved, he opened her womb sothat she conceived, and she consequently names her firstborn son in honorof this observation.  Secondly, verse 33 of the same chapter tells usthat Leah names her second son Shimon (hearing) because HaShem heard thatshe was unloved.  Third, in B'reishit 31:7, Ya'akov recounts to his wivesthe wrongs that Lavan has committed against him, but he also says thatG-d didn't allow Lavan to bring any harm upon him.  Finally, in thefourth passage, B'reishit 31:42, Ya'akov declares unequivocally that ifG-d hadn't protected him, Lavan would have sent him away with no wives,no children, and no substance; he would have left as poor and empty as hehad arrived.  In short, this entire portion illustrates that HaShem istaking note of how we treat others in word and in deed.This observation reminds me of what Ravi Zecharias, a noted apologist,said in a premarriage conference.  He said, "there is never a reason tobe unkind." This applies to every single relationship that each of ushas.  How do we treat our spouses, siblings, parents, children, friends,and even business associates or strangers? The Holy One, blessed be He,is listening to our every word and watching our every action.  If we areunkind in any of our dealings, He will intervene for the innocent.  if weare showing favoritism, he will champion the cause of the less favoredperson.  On the same token, if we are dealing with those who would seekour harm or who are unjust toward us, we can rest assured that our Fatherwill not leave us in the hands of our enemies; He will defend us and makethings right in His own timing just as He did for Ya'akov.  Let us heedRav Sha'ul's advice when he said:  Therefore, as the opportunity arises,let us do what is good to everyone, and especially to the family of thosewho are trustingly faithful. (Ga 6:10) Also consider this Scripturewhich exhorts us:  Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, violentassertiveness and slander, along with all spitefulness. Instead, be kindto each other, tenderhearted; and forgive each other, just as in theMessiah God has also forgiven you. (Eph 4:31-32) Our kindness and justdealings should extend beyond the believing community.  As it is written:“Let everyone see how reasonable and gentle you are. The Lord is near! (Php 4:5)

Shalom uvracha,
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In this week's Torah portion, we shift our focus from Avraham to Yitzchakand his family.  This first-generation family is very human, grapplingwith favoritism, deception, rebellion, and manipulation.  There is oneparticular family member, though, who is an example of everything weshould not be.B'reishit 25:24-26 records the birth of both Ya'akov and Esav.  Thesefraternal twins grow up in the same house, with the same influences, yetthey are as different as day and night.  Whereas Ya'akov is a bit of ahomebody (B'reishit 25:27) and scholarly according to rabbinic tradition,Esav likes to hunt and can't seem to stay away from the ladies.  He is aslave to his appetites, even to the point of selling his birthright for ameal.  Yes, Scripture does say he was faint (B'reishit 25:29), but welearn in verse 34 that he wasn't that faint because he got up and wenthis way.  Later, after he had taken two Canaanite women as wives,contrary to his parents' wishes, and Ya'akov is obedient in going toLavan's house for a bride, Esav tries to "make amends" by taking a thirdwife from the family of Yishma'el.  In short, Esav is the exact pictureof a complete lack of repentance.True repentance does not say, "I'm sorry I got caught;" rather, it says,"I'm sorry I sinned, whether I suffer consequences or not." Esav wasn'tsorry that he sold his birthright to Ya'akov until he lost the blessingas well, and he wasn't sorry he disobeyed his parents in taking Canaanitewomen as wives until Ya'akov was blessed a second time (B'reishit 28:1-4,8-9).  In fact, the book of Messianic Jews (Hebrews) says that when Esavwanted to repent, he couldn't.  Hebrews 12:15-17 warns us,  “See to itthat no one misses out on God’s grace, that no root of bitternessspringing up causes trouble and thus contaminates many, and that no oneis sexually immoral, or godless like Esav, who in exchange for a singlemeal gave up his rights as the firstborn. For you know that afterwards,when he wanted to obtain his father’s blessing, he was rejected; indeed,even though he sought it with tears, his change of heart was to noavail.” Unlike Esav, let us have completely sincere and tender heartstoward the Holy One, blessed be He, and let us be quick to repentwhenever the Ruach HaKodesh brings anything to mind that we need toconfess.

Shalom uvracha,
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