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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 December 2010

This Torah portion begins the story of the most pivotal event in Scripture, aside from Messiah's death, burial, and resurrection. This event, namely Yisrael's redemption from Egypt, is lauded as one of HaShem's mightiest acts throughout the Prophets and the Psalms. Since Scripture tells us that everything is written for our edification, we can learn invaluable lessons from the process that Yisrael had to endure before leaving Egypt.
In Shemot 4:29-31, Moshe and the elders of Yisrael tell the people that the Holy One, blessed be He, has heard the cry of His people and He will soon redeem them from slavery. On hearing this, the people bow their heads in worship. However, in Shemot 5, when Moshe and Aharon go to Pharaoh with the message that he is command by the G-d of Yisrael to let His people go, not only does Pharaoh scoff at this command, but he makes the burden of the Yisraelim twice as heavy by withholding straw for brick making, yet demanding of them the same daily quota of bricks. Shemot 5:14-19 records that Pharaoh's people consequently treat the Yisraelim more harshly than previously, and verses 20-21 show us that this trouble causes the people to resent Moshe and lose heart that they will ever be redeemed. this even shakes Moshe's faith as he cries out to HaShem in verses 22-23, wishing that he had never embarked on this mission of deliverance because his brothers and sisters are suffering more than if he had left well enough alone. Thankfully, the parasha ends with G-d's reiterated promise to deliver His people in Shemot 6:1.
Whoever coined the phrase that it's darkest before the dawn must have been studying this portion of Scripture. On the same token, rav Lohrberg often wryly says, "I never had problems until I became a believer." The beauty of this Torah portion is that it gives us a heads-up of what we will face in the process of our own redemption from sin. whether we are new believers or seasoned veterans beginning a new phase in our walk with the Holy One, blessed be He, the pattern goes as follows: We begin our new walk with that honeymoon feeling that comes with new beginnings.
Then, the Enemy of our souls decides to try to break us with trials and temptations in hopes that we will give up and stay in that proverbial Egypt. However, G-d's promises are faithful and true, and if we will but persevere, we will see those promises come to fruition in our lives, and we will see our own pharaohs defeated. Yes, we may have to shed a lot of tears, get back up on our feet after we have fallen, and humble ourselves to confess the same sin more than once, but He Who began a good work in us will perform it until the day of Yeshua the Messiah (Philippians 1:6.) As it is written: "so then, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us, too, put aside every impediment - that is, the sin which easily hampers our forward movement - and keep running with endurance in the contest set before us, looking away to the initiator and Completer of that trusting, Yeshua - who, in exchange for obtaining the joy set before him, endured execution on a stake as a criminal, scorning the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of G-d." (Heb 12:1-2 CJB)
Shalom uvracha,
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In this week's Torah portion, we must say goodbye to both Ya'akov and Yosef. Both patriarchs leave instructions for their burial. Whereas Ya'akov requests that his sons bury him in the expected place, the field of Machpelah where his fathers were buried, Yosef's request for burial is both disturbing and inspiring. B'reishit 50:24-26 records Yosef's death, and what he made the children of Yisrael swear to him concerning his burial. It is written: "Yosef said to his brothers, "I am dying. but god will surely remember you and bring you up out of this land to the land which he swore to Avraham, Yitz’chak and Ya‘akov." then Yosef took an oath from the sons of Isra’el: "god will surely remember you, and you are to carry my bones up from here." so Yosef died at the age of 110, and they embalmed him and put him in a coffin in Egypt." Scripture does not specify why the children of Yisrael couldn't take Yosef's body post haste and bury him in Machpelah, as they could their father Ya'akov. We can deduce, however, that Yisrael was already in the descent from freedom to slavery, and perhaps their movements were restricted by the powers that be. Nevertheless, Yosef was so sure of G-d's promises being fulfilled that he took an oath of his extended family that when they left Egypt, they take his remains with them. According to Sh'mot 13:19, Moshe is faithful to the promise that his ancestors made to Yosef, and he carried Yosef's remains out of Egypt. So, what does a belated burial have to do with us? I am struck by Yosef's assurance of G-d's promise to deliver the children of Yisrael from Egypt. How sure are we of G-d's promise of deliverance in the soon return of our L-RD Yeshua? Are we so sure of His return for us that we will leave instructions for future generations as Yosef did? I realize that there are as many views concerning the return of our L-RD for his people as there are people, but Scripture clearly teaches that if we truly believe something, we will act upon that belief with decisive action. This calls for wisdom and earnest seeking HaShem's will for ourselves. This challenges us to know exactly what we believe, why we believe it, and act accordingly. As it is written: "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." (2Ti 2:15 AV) "rejoice in union with the lord always! I will say it again: rejoice! let everyone see how reasonable and gentle you are. the lord is near!" (Php 4:4-5 CJB)

Shalom uvracha,
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In this week's torah portion, we conclude our study of Y'hudah as we see his quiet years of walking with HaShem come to fruition. His rise to spiritual prominence, however, is not marked by miracles or heroic proclamations of faith. It is marked by a desperate plea. In B'reishit 44:18-34, Y'hudah dares to approach the lord of Egypt and plead that his brother, Binyamin, be released to go home with his brothers, and Y'hudah further offers himself as a slave in Binyamin's place. Interestingly, Y'hudah does not demand justice and insist on his brother's innocence. When he pleads for Binyamin's freedom, he does not make a show of it before his brothers and Yosef's attendants. Finally, even though he is unaware that the lord of Egypt is none other than Yosef himself, Y'hudah confesses as much of his and his brothers' wrongdoing as he dares, and appeals to whatever compassion, if any, this official has. In short, Y'hudah puts his head on the proverbial chopping block and waits for the blade to fall. His Messiah-like action brakes all barriers and brings about revelation and reconciliation between Yosef and his brothers. Later, in B'reishit 46:28, we learn that Ya'akov entrusts Y'hudah with leading Yisrael on the way to Egypt, and to Yosef. Since Yosef is a foreshadowing of Messiah, this action alone is prophetic of what this particular tribe would do for the children of Yisrael. Significant as this is, does this have any bearing on our lives today? We've been considering the process of gaining credibility with our unbelieving friends and loved ones after we have been born again. As we saw with Y'hudah, this process takes lots of time and actions while keeping our words to a minimum. HaShem honored Y'hudah's faithfulness and patience, and used him in a monumental way in the development of the nation of yisrael, and ultimately, in the fulfillment of Messiah's coming to earth. If he did this for Y'hudah, we can trust that He will bring to fruition all the plans that He has for us; we need only to follow Him faithfully and obediently, and, yes, patiently. So, as we walk out our halachah with the world watching to see if we'll succeed, let us never be discouraged, but let us keep our eyes on the Author and Finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2). As it is written: "And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." (Galatians 6:9 AV)

Shalom uvracha
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This week's Torah portion portrays Yosef's rise to prominence in Egypt and sets the stage for Yisrael's eventual sojourning there. Y'hudah once again comes to the forefront when he takes responsibility for Benjamin's safety in their travel to Egypt by pledging his own life (B'reishit 43:8-9). Two pictures we see in this passage are spiritual maturity and true brotherly love. In B'reishit 42:29-38, Ya'akovs sons tell their father about what befell them in Egypt and that, in order to redeem their brother Shimon and get any more food from Egypt, they must bring their baby brother, Benjamin, down with them. For Ya'akov, this is out of the question. Even though Reuben pledges the lives of his two sons as surety for Benjamin's safety (verse 37), Ya'akov remains unswayed. Only when Y'hudah pledges himself as surety for the safety of the boy does Ya'akov relent and let Benjamin go with his brothers. What was the difference? Reuben was willing to volunteer someone else (his two sons) to bear the blame if he failed, but Y'hudah was willing to take on the responsibility of keeping Benjamin safe and bearing the consequences if he failed. Surely Ya'akov saw that his son's life had changed since returning back to the proverbial fold.  (See last week's portion.) Thus, Ya'akov knew that Y'hudah's deeds would match his words. Also, since Y'hudah was willing to lay down his own life for his younger brother, Ya'akov saw a quality of love in Y'hudah that had not been there before. Remember, Y'hudah was the one who suggested selling Yosef into slavery. Now, this same Y'hudah binds himself with the strongest of oaths to keep his youngest brother safe. Spiritual maturity isn't always heard in what one says, but it is seen in what one does. We can safely assume that Y'hudah's words were trustworthy because he had gone through a time of living out the changes made in his heart without saying a lot. So it is with us as believers. When we first start walking with the L-RD, our unbelieving friends and family aren't so ready to listen to us until they see for themselves the difference Messiah has made in our hearts. This takes incredible patience on our part to walk a lot and talk a very little. As it did for Y'hudah, the time will eventually come when our words once again carry weight with those we love. On the same token, true love is shown more than spoken so that when words are said, they are credible. Y'hudah was willing to lay down his life for his brother; his words simply echoed his actions, and that is why Ya'akov was willing to entrust Benjamin's care to Y'hudah. Our L-RD Yeshua gave the ultimate example of this principle when He said: ""This is my command: that you keep on loving each other just as I have loved you. No one has greater love than a person who lays down his life for his friends." (John 15:12-13) He showed His talmidim His love, and then He commanded them to love each other in the same manner. Do we love each other as Y'hudah loved Benjamin and as Yeshua loved us? Are we willing to lay our lives down for each other? I know this is a hard thought to consider, but in times of persecution, we may be called to do just such a thing, literally. In the meantime, let us practice being like our L-RD Who loved us and gave His life for us. As it is written: "and live a life of love, just as also the Messiah loved us, indeed, on our behalf gave himself up as an offering, as a slaughtered sacrifice to God with a pleasing fragrance." (Eph 5:2 CJB)

Shalom uvracha,
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