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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 2014


P'kudei Exodus 38:21-40:38
Psalm 45
Shabbat Shekalim Psalm 49

In most years, the Torah portions Vayachel and P'kudei are combined, but since we are in a leap year when an extra month is added to the Biblical calendar, these portions are separated. Once again, then, we visit Psalm 45’s sublime, royal, wedding song. Though we discussed this Psalm when reading Chayei Sarah (Genesis 23:1-25:19), the focus shifts from the Bride to the Bridegroom. In the Torah portion, Yisrael, the Bride, has made herself ready, constructing the Mishkan to exact specifications and setting it up accordingly. When all the work is done, all the preparations meticulously executed, one can almost hear the collective sigh of the community as each heart waits expectantly for what might happen next. Then, in a cloud of glory, the Holy One, blessed be He, in all His grandeur and majesty, humbles Himself to dwell in a tent made by human hands.

Another significant aspect of Pekudei is that the Shabbat on which it is read is called "Shabbat Shekalim." This is taken from the record in Exodus 38:25-26, where we are told that the silver for the Mishkan came from the half-shekel every man of military age brought as part of the census (see Exodus 30:11-16). With every special Shabbat is an accompanying Psalm besides the one for the weekly portion, and this Shabbat’s Psalm is Psalm 49.

Unlike Psalm 45, the tone of Psalm 49 is quite sobering, reminding us that we are equal before our Creator, not only from the perspective of justice, but also in our mortality. This is especially important as Shabbat Shekalim occurs prior to both Purim and Pesach. During Purim, we remember how HaShem took a lowly Jewish orphan girl and used her to deliver His people out of the hand of the very powerful, evil, Haman. Pesach comes into play as this Psalm reminds us that no amount of wealth can redeem the soul or buy eternal life (verses 8-11). Is there a way to tie these seemingly disparate Psalms together? Perhaps there is.

Yeshua, our King, our Holy One, our Heavenly Bridegroom, is coming back soon. Are we ready? When was the last time we really gave thought to this event affecting our future? Do we consider eternity in our everyday decisions? When tempted, for instance, to watch, listen to, read, or participate in something ung-dly, do we remember that we will give an account before Him? Even if we don’t know when our Messiah Yeshua will return, we do know that death will one day call our names should He tarry. Have we honestly looked at our own mortality and pondered what legacy we’re leaving, or are we too busy pursuing things we can’t take with us anyway? These are hard questions, but if we come to terms with them now, then when our L-rd does come, we will be ready and able to wholeheartedly enter into His joy. As it is written: ""Pay attention!" []says Yeshua,[] "I am coming soon, and my rewards are with me to give to each person according to what he has done. I am the 'A' and the 'Z,' the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End."" ""The one who is testifying to these things says, 'Yes, I am coming soon!'" [Amen]! Come, L-rd Yeshua!" (Revelation 22:12-13, 20) If we keep eternity in our hearts, we will know how to prepare for it in the present.

Shalom uvracha,

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Vayachel Exodus 35:1-38:20
Psalm 61

The Torah portion for this week is all about G-d’s Tent, and how the Yisraelim construct it to exact specifications. In the accompanying Psalm, king David both prophesies about the One dwelling in this Tent, Who would ultimately tabernacle among us (Psalm 61:7-8), and he boldly expresses something else taking place concerning this Tabernacle.

Psalm 61:5 states: I will live in your tent forever and find refuge in the shelter of your wings. ([Selah])" Though this seems like a straightforward statement, it is laden with mystery and nuance. If king David had been a Levite, this declaration that he will live in HaShem’s Tent would be somewhat in keeping with his tribal affiliation, but he is from the tribe of Y’hudah. As if that isn’t enough to make us scratch our heads, David further elaborates that he will take shelter in the "seiter" (literally "secret place") of HaShem’s Wings. To highlight what king David is really intimating, let us take a look at this interesting word "seiter."

Seiter is one of the Names of G-d as well as a place. Closely related to a refuge, the difference lies in that a refuge can be in plain sight, but a seiter, or hiding place is a secluded, private place, where permission must be sought before gaining entrance. Psalm 27:5, for instance, says: "For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle; in the secret place [seiter] of His tent He will hide me; He will lift me up on a rock." (NASB) According to Ezekiel 7:22, G-d’s "secret place" is the Holy of Holies. As such, no one could enter it at will. Only the High Priest could enter this inner sanctum, and even then only once a year. For David to say that he will live in the Mishkan (tabernacle) and take shelter in the seiter ("secret place,") or Holy of Holies is quite Avant Gard. It shows us, however, that the holy ones of old knew more than what we tend to give them credit for.

King David, a man after G-d’s own Heart (Acts 13:22), sets an example for us. His assurance of dwelling in the very Presence of HaShem forever brings us a question we must each answer. Do we long to dwell in the Presence of HaShem? Our first reaction might be to say, "That’s a no-brainer. Of course!" However, are we willing to let HaShem do whatever He must to develop the characteristics in us that holiness requires? After all, it is holiness that separates us from the world and joins us to G-d. Do we honestly love Him and long to be with Him, or are we only interested in what He can give us or what He can do for us? David longed for HaShem Himself, and so should we. As it is written: "So if you were raised along with the Messiah, then seek the things above, where the Messiah is sitting at the right hand of G-d. Focus your minds on the things above, not on things here on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with the Messiah in G-d." (Colossians 3:1-3) Let us love the L-RD our G-d with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Deuteronomy 6:5; Mark 12:29-30).

Shalom uvracha,

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Ki Tissa Exodus 30:11-34:35
Psalm 75

Composed by Asaph, a leading musician and contemporary of king David (see 1 Chronicles 15:19), Psalm 75 is another Messianic gem in this treasure trove. It is antiphonal, a call and response between what would be presumed to be the congregation of Yisrael, and the Messiah Himself. Set to the tune of "Do Not Destroy," it gives us another glimpse into what life will be like when Messiah Yeshua reigns as King of kings and L-rd of lords in Yerushalayim. It also implies what we need to do in the meantime.

Verse 3 states the theme to Psalm 75: "At the time of my own choice, I will dispense justice fairly." The rest of the Psalm elaborates on how this will be accomplished. Interestingly, this verse is rendered a little differently in the King James Version: "When I shall receive the congregation I will judge uprightly." A more literal translation might be something like, "When I take the appointed time (mo’ed), I will judge uprightly." This might seem like parsing words, but the word "mo’ed" has a number of connotations attached which affect the meaning of the verse.

As many of us are familiar with, "mo’ed" means "appointed time or season," as in the Feasts of the L-RD as found in Leviticus 23. Hence, a mo’ed is not a time of our choosing, but of G-d’s choosing. In light of this, which mo’ed the Psalm is speaking of is speculative. The sages of blessed memory have dubbed Yom Teruah or Rosh Hashanah as the Day of Judgment. Some elements in prophetic passages like Zechariah 13:1 hint that Yom Kippur might be that Day. Whichever it is, Messiah Himself is the One doing the choosing, and this comes to play in our everyday lives.

In our society of microwaves, fast food, high-speed internet, and drive-through ATMs, we’ve become prone to wanting everything not just now, but yesterday. Yours truly, for instance, is just as guilty as the rest of us of waiting for an elevator, repeatedly pressing the button, thinking that the more it’s pressed, the faster the elevator will arrive. On a more serious note, we tend to treat our walk with HaShem with the same impatience. We want to be like Messiah Yeshua instantly, without the suffering, strong cries and tears, and obedience He Himself had to learn (Hebrews 5:7). Maybe we need HaShem to do something spectacular in our lives, and it seems as though He either doesn’t, or if He does, He seems to take His sweet time. The truth of the matter is that HaShem is never too early or too late. At the appointed time of His choosing, He will act. As it is written: "Moreover, dear friends, do not ignore this: with the Lord, one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some people think of slowness; on the contrary, he is patient with you; for it is not his purpose that anyone should be destroyed, but that everyone should turn from his sins." (2 Peter 3:8-9) Whether we are awaiting our L-rd’s return, or we’re waiting for Him to intervene, let us be patient, knowing that He Who judges uprightly will exalt the horn of the righteous (Psalm 75:11).

Shalom uvracha,

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Tetzaveh Exodus 27:20-30:10
Psalm 65

Traditionally read as Sukkot approaches, Psalm 65 opens with the enigmatic phrase: "To you, God, in Tziyon, silence is praise; and vows to you are to be fulfilled." It then goes on to proclaim that all of Creation praises HaShem by its very existence. Mirroring the first seven verses of Psalm 19, king David gives a voice to Creation as it sings, rejoicing and putting forth its best appearance. How is he given such keen awareness to hear the silent hallelujahs surrounding him? He has been in the Sanctuary.

Psalm 65:5 says: "How blessed are those you choose and bring near, so that they can remain in your courtyards! We will be satisfied with the goodness of your house, the Holy Place of your temple." This verse certainly refers to the privilege the high priest would have in ministering to HaShem, but king David uses inclusive pronouns as well. The pattern of this Psalm also suggests that blessing begins at the House of the L-RD (verses 3-5) and radiates outward to the rest of the world. For those of us who tend to be spiritual Lone Rangers if left to our own devices, and even for those of us who don’t have such tendencies, this lesson is important to learn and apply.

King David gives us a pattern for experiencing the Presence of HaShem in as full of a manner as is possible in this life. He begins by confessing the problem of iniquity, recognizing that it is HaShem alone Who makes us clean (verse 4). Then, he finds himself and the congregation of which he is a part being satisfied, or literally satiated, in the House of HaShem (verse 5). Only after this is he able to hear nature’s song as it praises its Creator.

It is very tempting during stress, crisis, or disappointment to withdraw from one’s congregation, thinking that the Presence of HaShem will be felt stronger when alone. There are definitely seasons when one needs to be alone with the L-RD to be renewed and refreshed, but this is the exception, not the rule. HaShem does speak to our hearts moment by moment, but only when we are in His Sanctuary with our brothers and sisters do we gain true perspective. It is a principle of the Kingdom that doesn’t make sense to the natural mind, but nothing supernatural does. Psalm 73, for instance, depicts this very concept. Starting out by lamenting how the wicked prosper, the turning point is when the Psalmist goes to the Sanctuary of G-d, where he discovers the truth (verses 16-28). When we least feel like being with our brothers and sisters is when we need to be with them the most, because the Ruach HaKodesh is there in a unique way unlike anywhere else. Even the sages of blessed memory have said that when two or more sit at table and talk of Torah, the Sh’china (Glory of HaShem) dwells there. (See Matthew 18:20.) While we walk with HaShem in our everyday lives, let us remember that we are not alone, nor should we be. As it is written: "Let us continue holding fast to the hope we acknowledge, without wavering; for the One who made the promise is trustworthy. And let us keep paying attention to one another, in order to spur each other on to love and good deeds, not neglecting our own congregational meetings, as some have made a practice of doing, but, rather, encouraging each other. And let us do this all the more as you see the Day approaching." (Hebrews 10:23-25) When we see G-d’s revelation in and through each other, we will find the blessing of His Presence that we’ve been looking for.

Shalom uvracha,

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