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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 2011


Parashah #11 Vayigash: "And He Drew Near"
Genesis 44:18-47:27

This week's Torah portion, entitled "And He Drew Near" begins with Y'huda drawing near to Yosef to plead for his younger brother, Vinyamin. There is Another in this portion Who draws near to the patriarch Ya'akov to reassure him that the covenant made with Avraham and Yitzchak will be faithfully kept and fulfilled. As Ya'akov and his entire household leave the land of their nativity, HaShem reassures him with a promise that is true for us today.
In B'reishit 46:1-4, Yisrael begins his journey from the land of all that is familiar to him. At the age of 130 years, he must once again leave the land of Canaan. As he stops in Beer-Sheva to offer sacrifices, one can only imagine his fear and hesitation. In the midst of his misgivings, HaShem speaks to him in a dream saying: "… I am God, the God of thy father: fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation: I will go down with thee into Egypt; and I will also surely bring thee up again: and Joseph shall put his hand upon thine eyes." (Genesis 46:3-4 AV) G-d's promise to go down with Yisrael into Egypt and to come up with him at the appointed time communicates two things. First, this assures Ya'akov that, unlike idols, HaShem is G-d of the entire earth, not just one piece of land. He is truly the G-d of Yisrael, and He will always be where Yisrael is whether in the Land or dispersed. Second, this promise, full of covenant faithfulness, assures Ya'akov that HaShem is ever aware of every circumstance His people experience. No joy, sorrow, pain, or suffering escapes His knowledge. Remember that the Hebrew word for "knowledge" is deeper than head knowledge; it encompasses intimate, experiential knowing. As it is with Yisrael, so it is with all who are joined to Yisrael in Mashiach Yeshua.
All too often, we tend to view HaShem as being distant. Though the prophet Isaiah does proclaim that HaShem's ways and thoughts are as high above our ways and thoughts as the heavens are high above the earth (Isaiah 55:8-9), he also says that the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity also dwells with the humble in spirit (57:15). As HaShem promised to be with Ya'akov and his descendants no matter where life would take them, so He promises to be with us no matter what circumstances we may face. As it is written: "Where can I go to escape your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I climb up to heaven, you are there; if I lie down in Sh'ol, you are there. If I fly away with the wings of the dawn and land beyond the sea, even there your hand would lead me, your right hand would hold me fast." (Psalms 139:7-10) As the Holy One, blessed be He, is seen drawing near to Ya'akov and his family, so He draws near to us.

Shalom uvracha,

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Parashah10 Miketz: "At the End"
Genesis 41:1-44:17

Whereas in last week's Torah portion, Yosef as a youth, this week's parasha acquaints us with a mature, godly Yosef who is full of wisdom. Some aspects of his wisdom are clearly seen in his advice to Pharaoh as to how to prepare for the severe seven-year famine, and in how he tests his brothers' character. However, there is an aspect of Yosef's wisdom that is found in what is not mentioned in this week's portion.
B'reishit 41:38-57 records Yosef's promotion to being viceroy of Egypt, his marriage to As'nat, the birth of his two sons, and his wise stewardship of the produce of the land of Egypt that consequently saves untold multitudes from starvation. Mysteriously, what Scripture doesn't record is why Yosef refrains from journeying to the land of Canaan to be reunited with his father for whom he has doubtless been longing to see for the past twenty plus years. One would think that would be the very first thing he would seek to do after obtaining his freedom. As we shall see, even the silence of Scripture contains principles we as believers can learn from and put into practice. Yosef seems to have been aware of HaShem's timing, knowing that He would bring about His Word in Yosef's life in His own way and under circumstances of His choosing. Perhaps this is conjecture, but consider Psalm 105:16-19, which says: "Moreover he called for a famine upon the land: he brake the whole staff of bread. He sent a man before them, even Joseph, who was sold for a servant: Whose feet they hurt with fetters: he was laid in iron: Until the time that his word came: the word of the L-RD tried him." (AV) Here, the Psalmist seems to indicate that Yosef would not have been at liberty to reveal himself to his family until the Word of HaShem as received in his dream of B'reishit 37:5-7 came to fruition. Only then could he make himself known, bringing about the fulfillment of his second dream as recorded in B'reishit 37:9-11. Thus, Yosef portrays two aspects of what it means to wait on HaShem: patience and discernment. We as believers in Mashiach Yeshua are servants of the Most High, which means that we must wait for His direction and guidance. As Yosef shows, just because we can do something doesn't mean we should. Sometimes we are in a place of waiting because other circumstances need to take place before HaShem's Word is fulfilled in our lives. Notice that Yosef doesn't make his dreams come true. he waits until they happen to him under the Hand of HaShem. So we must be careful to wait, literally, on our L-RD. As it is written: "I wait longingly for ADONAI; I put my hope in his word. Everything in me waits for ADONAI more than guards on watch wait for morning, more than guards on watch wait for morning." (Psalms 130:5-6) "As a servant looks to the hand of his master, or a slave-girl to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes turn to ADONAI our G-d, until he has mercy on us." (Psalms 123:2)

Shalom uvracha,

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Parashah #9 Vayeshev: "And He Lived"
Genesis 37:1-40:23

This week's Torah portion concludes focusing on Ya'akov and turns our attention to Yosef. Though Yosef is the second to the youngest son of Ya'akov, he is treated like the firstborn by his father which sows seeds of discord in the family. To make matters worse, Yosef is also blessed with prophetic dreams and their interpretation. How he handles this gift at the age of seventeen teaches us some very important lessons about zeal. In B'reishit 37:5-11, Yosef is given two dreams foretelling the authority he will eventually have over his brothers and his father. Verses 1-4 set the scene by informing us of Yosef's favored status and his brothers' ill will toward him. This is especially highlighted after he tells his brothers his first dream (verses 5-8). One would think Yosef would consequently keep his dreams to himself so as not to make a bad situation worse, but he doesn't. Instead, he proceeds to tell his brothers and his father his second dream (verses 9-11). His display of pride and youthful impetuosity only escalates his brothers' hatred toward him to the point that they contemplate killing him, and end up selling him into slavery.
We know from next week's parasha that this is all part of HaShem's plan to bring His people into Egypt for their survival, and Yosef's dreams do become reality. In the meantime, we can learn from his mistakes. Yosef speaks the truth when he reveals his dreams, but his display of zeal for what he knows to be true is not tempered by wisdom and discretion. So it is sometimes with us as believers. Zeal is like a laser beam. If a laser beam is a wide-angle beam and unfocused, the only thing it does is burn whatever is in its trajectory. However, if the beam is a narrow-angle beam and intensely focused, it can do amazing things like engraving in stone or reshaping the eye to restore or improve sight. So it is with zeal. If we only have zeal, being quick to criticize our families because they don't keep Torah or they celebrate certain holidays that aren't Biblical, but we don't use wisdom and discretion to focus that zeal, we might find ourselves putting out so many fires of our own making that we don't accomplish anything good. However, if we allow our zeal to be focused by wisdom and discretion, we will know when to speak, when to quietly live our lives before our families and friends, and how to tell the difference between the two opportunities. This doesn't mean that zeal properly used won't offend anyone. Rest assured it will. However, the offense will be at the Message, as our L-rd Yeshua forewarned us, and not necessarily at the messenger. If we focus our zeal with wisdom from above by the grace of HaShem, we, like the narrow-angle laser beam, will be able to do amazing and powerful things for the Kingdom, and G-d will be glorified. As it is written: "But the wisdom from above is, first of all, pure, then peaceful, kind, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. And peacemakers who sow seed in peace raise a harvest of righteousness." (James 3:17-18) Let us be zealous of good works, wise as serpents, and harmless as doves (Titus 2:14; Matthew 10:16 KJV).

Shalom uvracha,

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Parashah #8 Vayishlach: "And He Sent"
Genesis 32:4-26:43
This week's Torah portion focuses on Ya'akov's spiritual journey in earnest. In B'reishit 32:28 Ya'akov's name is changed to Yisrael, but in the narrative of the ensuing text, he is still referred to as Ya'akov except for in certain instances. A pattern emerges that Ya'akov is called by his birth name when his more fleshly side is highlighted, but he is called Yisrael when his spirituality shines through in one way or another. This is an important observation because it is the lens through which we shall look at this week's parasha, Vayishlach.
B'reishit 32:25-27 (Jewish numbering) states: "(32:25) and Ya‘akov was left alone. Then some man wrestled with him until daybreak. (32:26) When he saw that he did not defeat Ya‘akov, he struck Ya‘akov's hip socket, so that his hip was dislocated while wrestling with him. (32:27) The man said, "Let me go, because it's daybreak." But Ya‘akov replied, "I won't let you go unless you bless me."" Before Ya'akov's name is changed to Yisrael, he has an encounter with the Divine that leaves him wounded. Consequently, Ya'akov isn't referred to as Yisrael in the text until after his beloved Rachel dies in childbirth (B'reishit 35:21). Why is Ya'akov suddenly called Yisrael by the text of B'reishit at this point? Scripture doesn't say specifically, but a principle comes to light that the greatest spiritual growth is born of suffering.
In the land of Yisrael, the sycamore fig is commonly cultivated. However, in order for this particular variety of fig to ripen, it must be pierced. So it is with Ya'akov, and so it is with us as believers. Ya'akov's name is only changed to Yisrael after he is physically wounded, and the narrative of B'reishit refers to him as Yisrael only after he is grief-stricken. As believers, we, too, are called to share in the sufferings of HaMashiach Yeshua. This is not a popular message. It doesn't fit in with the "health, wealth, and prosperity" gospel that is pushed in way too many Christian circles today. Unless we allow ourselves to be wounded and pierced like Ya'akov and the above-mentioned sycamore fig, we will not yield good, properly ripened fruit. Along with the future hope of reigning with our Mashiach, it is also our destiny to suffer with Him. As it is written: "Dear friends, don't regard as strange the fiery ordeal occurring among you to test you, as if something extraordinary were happening to you. Rather, to the extent that you share the fellowship of the Messiah's sufferings, rejoice; so that you will rejoice even more when his Sh'khinah is revealed. If you are being insulted because you bear the name of the Messiah, how blessed you are! For the Spirit of the Sh'khinah, that is, the Spirit of G-d, is resting on you! Let none of you suffer for being a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or a meddler in other people's affairs. But if anyone suffers for being Messianic, let him not be ashamed; but let him bring glory to God by the way he bears this name." (1 Peter 4:12-16) Like Ya'akov, let us persevere, looking to the Author and Finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).

Shalom uvracha,
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