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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 February 2012

Parashah #20 Tetzaveh: "You Shall Command"
Exodus 27:20-30:10

This week's portion details the garments of the Kohanim (Priests) and the process they are to undergo in order to be consecrated to HaShem. It further elaborates on the offerings to be made during the consecration ceremony, as well as how the altar is to be dedicated. This passage concludes with the instructions concerning the altar of incense. In the midst of these details, however, HaShem makes an astounding statement. Shemot 29:43-46 declares: "There [in the Mishkan] I will meet with the people of Isra'el; and the place will be consecrated by my glory. I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar, likewise I will consecrate Aharon and his sons to serve me in the office of cohen. Then I will live with the people of Isra'el and be their G-d: they will know that I am ADONAI their G-d, who brought them out of the land of Egypt in order to live with them. I am ADONAI their G-d." Many times, Scripture states that the children of Yisrael are redeemed in order to possess the land promised to Avraham, Yitzchak, and Ya'akov. However, in this passage, HaShem gives a different reason for redeeming His people from Egypt. His express purpose for redeeming Yisrael is so that He might live in their midst. When we read detailed Scripture passages with instructions on how to worship HaShem, and what precautions to take when approaching the Holy One, it behooves us to keep in mind that He is not trying to keep His people at a distance. Rather, He is making a way to draw near to them. It is a profound mystery that the King of the Universe, the Holy One, blessed be He, would so desire to dwell among His people. Even more wondrous is the reality that we as believers in Mashiach Yeshua have been redeemed from slavery to sin for this very same purpose.
As followers of our L-rd Yeshua, we are commanded to make talmidim of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20), advancing His Kingdom until He returns. However, when all is said and done, and the last page of human history is written, our destiny is to be His living sanctuary. We are given His Spirit of Holiness as first fruits of this reality (2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5). As it is written: "I heard a loud voice from the throne say, "See! G-d's Sh'khinah is with mankind, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and he himself, G-d-with-them, will be their G-d. … He who wins the victory will receive these things, and I will be his G-d, and he will be my son." (Revelation 21:3, 7) Like the Mishkan, let us live lives adorned with the beauty and glory of His Presence.

Shalom uvracha,
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Parashah #19 Terumah: "Heave Offering"
Exodus 25:1-27:19

This week's Torah portion begins with HaShem's command to receive a heave offering from everyone whose heart willingly gives it. Comprised of gold, silver, precious stones, dyed cloth and skins, and fine linen, this offering becomes the earthly residence of HaShem in the midst of His people. Interwoven in the description of how to build the Mishkan (Tabernacle), one command is given three times. This command not only shows us the importance of how this Mishkan is to be fashioned, but it also elucidates to us the importance of obedience. Shemot 25:9 says: "You are to make it according to everything I show you-- the design of the tabernacle and the design of its furnishings. This is how you are to make it." This command is reiterated in Shemot 25:40 and 26:30. In Hebraic thought, the more something is repeated, the more important it becomes. In the threefold expression to make the Mishkan exactly as shown, HaShem leaves no wiggle room. Moshe and those constructing the Mishkan must obey in every detail. What hinges on obedience?
The Mishkan is more than just a portable sanctuary. It is a reflection of Mashiach Yeshua, and it is an earthly copy of heavenly things (Hebrews 8:3-5). Furthermore, it is a reflection of us as talmidim (disciples) of our L-rd Yeshua, since our bodies are the temple of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit). If Moshe and the Yisraelim had tried to "improve" on HaShem's instructions, Mashiach would not be seen and the light reflected by the Mishkan would have been extinguished. Hence, the command to follow the pattern of the Mishkan exactly is emphatically given and reverently obeyed. Sometimes, we as believers receive instruction from HaShem through His Word. Sometimes, the Ruach HaKodesh speaks to our hearts concerning personal matters, giving us instructions on how to more fully obey Him. In these times of instruction, do we presume on HaShem's grace and seek to do things our own way, or do we, like Moshe and the Yisraelim, seek to reverently hang on His every Word and obey to the best of the abilities He has given us? If we aren't obedient, a world that is dying won't see the life-saving Presence and Glory of Mashiach Yeshua. However, if we are obedient, His Light will shine brightly in and through us, and we, like the Mishkan, will be a reflection of the Mashiach. As it is written: "As God's fellow-workers we also urge you not to receive his grace and then do nothing with it." (2 Corinthians 6:1) Like the Mishkan, let us reflect Heaven's holiness and beauty here on earth.

Shalom uvracha,

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Parashah #18 Mishpatim: "Judgments/ Justices"
Exodus 21:1-24:18

This week's torah portion is comprised of both civil and moral rulings that govern our lives as the people of G-d. Covering everything from animal control to how to treat one's enemies, it paints a picture of true justice. In the midst of these rulings is one we must take special care to keep if we wish to fulfill our length of days here on this earth. Shemot 21:17 says: "Whoever curses his father or mother must be put to death." There are two words for "curse" in Hebrew. The first word, "arur" is intense, meaning "to bitterly curse." The second, "qalal," is also translated as "curse," but it carries the idea of lightly esteeming, holding in contempt, or despising. "Qalal" is the word used in the above quoted passage. Thus, cursing one's parents in this passage is not blatantly wishing them harm. It is the more quiet, insidious attitude of despising one's parents or holding them in contempt.
In today's culture of psychology and self-help, it is common and even acceptable for us to blame our parents for everything wrong in our lives. Instead of taking responsibility for any poor choices we have made, we cite our fathers' and mothers' imperfections. Consequentially, our children learn from our behavior and words. They, in turn, continue the blame game, leaving us shocked and deeply hurt. Scripture is very clear as to how we should treat our parents, and its commands are unconditional. It is true that no parent is perfect, and some have experienced anything from negligence to horrific abuse at the hands of their parents. However, treating our parents with deference by being kind toward them and not flippantly divulging shortcomings that others don't need to know is one of the many ways we walk out our faith. This shows the world that we are a set apart, holy people unto HaShem. In addition, it is showing that we trust Him to make the wrongs right in His timing. If we obey His rulings for our lives, even the difficult ones, we can know for certain that He will be our Healer (Shemot 15:26). As it is written: "Children, what you should do in union with the L-rd is obey your parents, for this is right. "Honor your father and mother" --this is the first commandment that embodies a promise-- `'so that it may go well with you, and you may live long in the Land.'' Fathers, don't irritate your children and make them resentful; instead, raise them with the L-rd's kind of discipline and guidance." (Ephesians 6:1-4) Let us treat our parents as we want our children to treat us.

Shalom uvracha,
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Parashah #17 Yitro: "Jethro"
Exodus 18:1-20:23 (Jewish numbering)

This week's portion is full of majesty and splendor. It begins quietly with the arrival of Yitro, Moshe's father-in-law who gives wise counsel concerning the structure of leadership. It then crescendos to the awesome revelation of HaShem at Mount Sinai and the declaration of the Ten Words (Ten Commandments). At the end of the giving of the Ten Words, HaShem gives some curious specifications governing building an altar to Him. Shemot 20:21-23 states: "For me you need make only an altar of earth; on it you will sacrifice your burnt offerings, peace offerings, sheep, goats and cattle. In every place where I cause my name to be mentioned, I will come to you and bless you. If you do make me an altar of stone, you are not to build it of cut stones; for if you use a tool on it, you profane it. Likewise, you are not to use steps to go up to my altar; so that you won't be indecently uncovered.'" Specifically, verse 25 prohibits the use of hewn or dressed stone to make an altar for HaShem. Furthermore, 1 Kings 6:7 records that while the Temple was being built, the stones used in its construction were dressed off site so that no iron tool would be heard within the Temple precinct. Why is this so important, and what can it teach us?
The sages of blessed memory posit a number of reasons why dressed stone is prohibited in the construction of an altar. Some suggest that in using tools on stone, there might exist the temptation to carve images, which is forbidden. Others theorize that since the word for "tool" comes from the root "cherev," which literally means "sword or knife," the tool meant to shorten life should not be used to construct the altar, which aids in prolonging life. Scripture gives us another analogy using unhewn stone that we as believers can utilize.
Unfinished stone is sometimes poetically referred to as living stone. 1 Peter 2:4-5 refers to HaMashiach Yeshua as a living stone, and consequently, we who have put our trust in Him are also called living stones that are being built into a house of praise for G-d. There are some noteworthy characteristics about living stones that have practical significance in how we relate to each other. Living stones are unpolished, have rough edges, and they don't seem to fit together as well as dressed stones would. To put it simply, since we are all living stones, none of us is perfect, and no congregation is perfect. If we ever found "the perfect congregation," we would ruin it as soon as we walked through its doors. The beauty is that HaShem is not looking for perfectly polished, concisely cut stones, molded by man. He is looking for living stones for His habitation. As it is written: "As you come to him, the living stone, rejected by people but chosen by God and precious to him, you yourselves, as living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be cohanim set apart for God to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to him through Yeshua the Messiah." (1 Peter 2:4-5) Let us celebrate the unique beauty HaShem has conferred upon each of us.

Shalom uvracha,

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Parashah #16 Beshalach: "In Sending Away"
Exodus 13:17-17:16

In this week's Torah portion, HaShem soundly defeats the armies of Egypt and delivers His people out of their reach. Manifested in the pillar of cloud and fire, He shields Yisrael as they make their way through Yam Suf (the Sea of Reeds). During this scenario, Scripture tells us a detail that illuminates what kind of G-d we serve and how we should conduct ourselves in light of this revelation. Shemot 14:19-20 says: "Next, the angel of G-d, who was going ahead of the camp of Isra'el, moved away and went behind them; and the column of cloud moved away from in front of them and stood behind them. It stationed itself between the camp of Egypt and the camp of Isra'el--there was cloud and darkness here, but light by night there; so that the one did not come near the other all night long." This is intriguing. According to this passage, the Sh'china, the Presence of G-d, presents itself as darkness to the Egyptians and light to the Yisraelim. the paradox contained in this manifestation continues to be woven throughout Scripture. Our Mashiach, the very radiance and essence of G-d (Hebrews 1:3), reflects this seeming dichotomy.
Our L-rd Yeshua, before Whom we must all stand one day, is called both the Lamb of G-d, Who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29), and the Lion of the tribe of Y'hudah (Revelation 5:5). For those who have bowed the knee to Him as L-rd and Savior, He is the Lamb, but for those who have not, He is the Lion. Though we as believers have passed from death unto life (John 5:24), this reality of Who Mashiach Yeshua is has direct bearing on something we all will experience in the future. According to 2 Corinthians 5:10, we must all stand before the judgment seat of Mashiach in order to receive the consequences of what we did in this life, whether good or bad (CJB). This event each of us will experience is all too seldom discussed, yet the degree of our eternal reward is determined in the here and now. To put this in practical terms, whenever we are tempted to behave in an ungodly way or permit anything unholy into our hearts, minds, or lives, it would behoove us to ask whether the pleasures of sin are worth having to give an account before the L-rd Who bought us with His blood. As it is written: "Then Yeshua told his talmidim, "If anyone wants to come after me, let him say ‘No' to himself, take up his execution-stake, and keep following me. For whoever wants to save his own life will destroy it, but whoever destroys his life for my sake will find it. What good will it do someone if he gains the whole world but forfeits his life? Or, what can a person give in exchange for his life? For the Son of Man will come in his Father's glory, with his angels; and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct." (Matthew 16:24-27) Unlike the Egyptians of old, let us have tender, obedient hearts that we might walk in the Light of our L-rd's countenance.

Shalom uvracha,

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