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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 November 2012

27

Vayishlach Genesis 32:4-36:43
Haftarah Hosea 11:7-12:12

This week’s Haftarah continues Hosea’s commentary concerning Ya’akov. It also highlights Yisrael’s shortcoming of trusting more in her allies than in her G-d. Yet once again, it contains a verse that emphasizes the importance of G-d’s Word. Hosea 12:11 says: "I have spoken to the prophets; it was I who gave vision after vision; through the prophets I gave examples to show what it would all be like." The context of this statement is in the midst of HaShem’s rebuke of the northern kingdom of Yisrael for proverbially burning the candle at both ends by making alliances with both Assyria and Egypt, the rival superpowers of the day. Instead of putting her trust in Him Who declares the end from the beginning and Who has been her steadfast help since her sojourn in Egypt, she chooses to believe her politicians and prognosticators. Lest we pat ourselves on the back too much for not trusting in our enemies (national politics aside), we tend to be guilty of the same thing, albeit in a more subtle form. the issue we as believers face is not necessarily that we trust our enemies, but that we don’t trust our G-d completely.
This is seen in how we treat His Word as revealed through His Torah, His prophets (see above-quoted passage), and His writings, including the Brit Chadasha. Instead of devoting time to studying His Word, we pursue the latest book promising supposed secret interpretations to Scripture, or miraculous solutions to crises in our lives and in the world. If we aren’t doing that, we are chasing after the most charismatic, sensationalistic teachers who promise the greatest miracles. These distract us from the living water of the Word, and if we persist, we inevitably find ourselves trying to drink from polluted, broken cisterns that can hold no water (Jeremiah 2:13). Even more sobering, we are professing by our actions that the Word of G-d isn’t enough for us. HaShem has given us everything we need to know in His Word, but if we don’t take the time to plum its inexhaustible depths, we risk undermining our faith. Our L-rd Yeshua makes this very point in his parable about El’azar (Lazarus) and the rich man when He says: "'If they won't listen to Moshe and the Prophets, they won't be convinced even if someone rises from the dead!'" (Luke 16:31b) How well we know the written Word determines how well we know the Living Word. As it is written: "For if you really believed Moshe, you would believe me; because it was about me that he wrote. But if you don't believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?" (John 5:46-47) Truly trusting G-d is taking Him at His Word.

Shalom uvracha,
Hadassah

 

 

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26

Vayetzeh Genesis 28:10-32:3
Haftarah Hosea 12:13-14:10

Both this week's and next week's Haftarot give commentaries on Ya'akov's life and behavior. This week's passage begins with Ya'akov's hardships in order to gain a bride, and it concludes with a verse which sheds light on the goings on between Ya'akov and Lavan. Hosea 14:10 says: "Let the wise understand these things, and let the discerning know them. For the ways of ADONAI are straight, And the righteous walk in them, but in them sinners stumble." This seems like quite the cryptic ending to the prophet's words, but Hosea is, in a sense, explaining the purpose for Torah both in the life of the righteous and in the life of the sinner. Ya'akov and Lavan illustrate this.
Both Ya'akov and Lavan are aware of the ways of HaShem to some degree. This is implied when Lavan acknowledges that G-d has blessed him through Ya'akov (B'reishit 30:27). Whereas Lavan takes advantage of Ya'akov's long-enduring patience and honesty, and ends up losing any wealth he previously had, Ya'akov is prosperous materially and spiritually because he trusts in HaShem. Notice, for instance, that he doesn't leave Lavan until G-d tells him to in a dream (B'reishit 31:3). Though Ya'akov is by no means perfect, he is a man of honor, not fleeing from Lavan until he finds he has no other recourse. Lavan, on the other hand, seems to give the appearance of caring about honor and decorum (see B'reishit 31:26-28), but one doesn't have to look far to realize he is up to no good.
As the above-quoted verse in the Haftarah says, the righteous (Ya'akov) walks in the ways of HaShem, but the sinner (Lavan) ends up falling. this gives us a principle that impacts our lives, whether we realize it or not. The ways of HaShem (i.e. the precepts of Torah) do not change. What is subject to change is people's response to them. Like a mirror, Torah reflects what is in the heart. For those who misuse Torah, keeping it in order to earn brownie points with G-d, it glaringly reflects the sinful condition of their hearts. However, for those who rely on Messiah Yeshua as their source of righteousness, the Torah magnifies that righteousness in their lives. This is how the ways of HaShem can be either the path to walk in, which leads to life, or a source of stumbling. As it is written: "See, the Word of G-d is alive! It is at work and is sharper than any double-edged sword - it cuts right through to where soul meets spirit and joints meet marrow, and it is quick to judge the inner reflections and attitudes of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12) May we be found walking in the ways of HaShem, not stumbling in them.

 

Shalom uvracha,
Hadassah

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15
Tol’dot Genesis 25:19-28:10
Haftarah Malachi 1:1-2:7

This Haftarah contains a most disconcerting exchange between HaShem and His people. It opens with HaShem’s declaration of love for Yisrael, yet Yisrael questions how this love is displayed. He replies by reminding them that His covenantal love is with Ya’akov, not Esav. Though this truth could be a study in and of itself, its declaration establishes the grounds for addressing the grievance contained in the rest of the Haftarah. Beginning with Malachi 1:6, HaShem has His own questions for His people: "A son honors his father and a servant his master. But if I'm a father, where is the honor due me? and if I'm a master, where is the respect due me?- says [ADONAI-Tzva'ot] to you [cohanim] who despise my name." The rest of the Haftarah details how the cohanim lead the people astray by setting the example of treating HaShem’s offerings and gifts flippantly.

In short, they present to the Holy One of Yisrael what they wouldn’t dream of presenting to their governor (verse 8). Yet, according to verse 11 and the latter part of verse 14, His Name is more revered among the nations than it is among His own people. What causes such disregard for the holy? Sadly, it is said that familiarity breeds contempt, and unfortunately, this passage reflects that all too painful reality. However, contempt is only a symptom of the root cause. The real trouble here is that Yisrael has left her first Love, the One Who carried her on eagles’ wings and brought her to Himself (Exodus 19:4). She has forgotten the anticipation of leaving Egypt, and the awe of standing before Mount Sinai to receive her ketubah (marriage contract). What was once sacred is now mundane and tiresome (verses 12-13).

As is so often the case, we modern-day believers suffer from the same problem. Sometimes, we approach the Holy One, blessed be He, as our "buddy" or our "pal." Our casual culture has made us forget that there are times when formality and holy protocol come to bear when we worship before the King of kings and L-rd of lords. Have we, like the Yisraelim, forgotten the awe and joy of being redeemed? Has the sacred become profane to us? Have we left our first Love? It is a sad state of affairs indeed when pagans often show more reverence to their idols than we do to the True and Living G-d. Let us return to our first Love with our whole heart and soul. Then, like the G-d-fearers among the nations mentioned above, our offerings before Him will be pure and acceptable. As it is written: "But I have this against you: you have lost the love you had at first. Therefore, remember where you were before you fell, turn from this sin, and do what you used to do before. Otherwise, I will come to you and remove your [menorah] from its place- if you don't turn from your sin!" (Revelation 2:4-5) Let us render to HaShem the reverence, honor, respect, and love He deserves.

Shalom uvracha,
Hadassah

 

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06

Chayyei-Sarah Genesis 23:1-25:19
Haftarah 1 Kings 1:1-31

This Torah portion and Haftarah are connected by two young women, noted for their exceptional beauty, who comfort the grieving and the ailing. Both also deal with kingly figures who are approaching the end of life. Within these passages, however, lies an undercurrent theme of impending disaster. B’reishit 24:1 opens with: "By now Avraham was old, advanced in years; and ADONAI had blessed Avraham in everything." (Genesis 24:1) The passage proceeds to tell how Avraham sends his most trusted servant to get a bride for his son, Yitzchak. There seems to be an urgency to this procurement of a bride. The rapid succession of events Avraham’s servant experiences adds to this tone of urgency. It is as though Avraham belatedly realizes that if Yitzchak doesn’t marry, how will Avraham have descendants as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand of the sea? HaShem, however, is faithful to His promises, and the lovely Rivkah willingly leaves everything familiar to her to become a conduit through which G-d’s promises will be fulfilled. 1 Kings 1:5 sets the stage of more impending chaos and confusion as Adoniyah presumes to proclaim himself king in succession to his father, David. Though David had previously stated that Shlomo would reign after him (1 Chronicles 22:9), this apparently wasn’t conveyed as clearly and emphatically as it should have been. Without the gracious intervention of HaShem and the wise counsel of the prophet Natan, Yisrael might have been ripped apart by a civil war. What do these two situations have in common? Both Avraham and king David delay acting on pressing matters that could have altered history. Taken to its extreme limits, this procrastination might have even jeopardized the line of Messiah Yeshua Himself. We know that HaShem is sovereign, and absolutely nothing will thwart His plan, but these close calls teach us an important lesson.
Procrastination seems to be innocent enough. It’s one of those vices we wink at and smile self-consciously, thinking about that project we said we’d do or that action we said we’d take and haven’t followed through yet. Avraham and king David teach us that what we don’t act upon can have just as consequential ramifications as the actions we do take. As we look at our own lives, let us tend to what needs tending to, not only for our own sakes, but also for the sake of our children and grandchildren. As it is written: "Therefore, pay careful attention to how you conduct your life- live wisely, not unwisely. Use your time well, for these are evil days." (Ephesians 5:15-16) Let us not put off for tomorrow what we should do today.

Shalom uvracha,
Hadassah

 

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01

Vayera Genesis 18:1-22:24
Haftarah 2 Kings 4:1-37

This week's Haftarah contains many parallels with the Torah portion. Barren women receive the ability to conceive and bear children (B'reishit 21:1; 2 Kings 4:14-17). Parents receive their children back from the dead figuratively and literally (B'reishit 21:16-20; 22:10-14; 2 Kings 4:36-37; Hebrews 11:35). However, there is a parallel that might be easily overlooked, but it gives us a glimpse into how HaShem often works in our lives. B'reishit 21:1-2 says: "ADONAI remembered Sarah as he had said, and ADONAI did for Sarah what he had promised. Sarah conceived and bore Avraham a son in his old age, at the very time God had said to him." HaShem performs a great miracle in the hidden secret place of Sarah's womb. The birth of Yitzchak is the result of that miracle, not the miracle itself. There is a detail in the Haftarah which occurs three times, and though it seems unrelated to this Torah passage, it elucidates the principle that Many of HaShem's greatest miracles are done in secret. Three times, 2 Kings 4:1-37 mention the door being shut before a miracle takes place. (See 2 Kings 4:3-6, 21, 33.) Even more amazing, the ones waiting for these miracles keep matters quiet between themselves and HaShem. Notice, for instance, that the Shunemite woman tells no one of her son's death, but goes straight to the prophet Elisha. Even then, she doesn't tell him what has happened. He only knows when the Ruach HaKodesh finally reveals the situation to him. This teaches us that the kind of faith which moves mountains says little, but does much by waiting quietly, patiently, and expectantly for HaShem to act upon His promises. Sometimes, when we are beseeching HaShem for Him to intervene on our behalf, we look for the proverbial thunder, lightning, and fireworks of His power. Though He certainly moves in such awesome ways, He more often seems to work behind the scenes to bring about magnificent, wondrous results. As we seek Him, asking Him to cause barren hearts to be born again and souls dead in sin to be resurrected, let us not lose heart if we don't see answers to our pleas right away. Rather, let us quietly and patiently persevere, knowing that He Who sees and works in secret is faithful. As it is written: "But you, when you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. Your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." (Matthew 6:6)

Shalom uvracha,
Hadassah

 

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