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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 March 2011


This week's portion, which begins with the celebration of the eighth day after the priests' consecration, takes a sober turn when Nadab and Abihu offer alien fire before HaShem and die as a consequence. How could such a joyous occasion be marred by such tragedy? Vayikra answers this: "ADONAI said to Aharon, "Don't drink any wine or other intoxicating liquor, neither you nor your sons with you, when you enter the tent of meeting, so that you will not die. This is to be a permanent regulation through all your generations, so that you will distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean; and so that you will teach the people of Isra'el all the laws ADONAI has told them through Moshe."" (Le 10:8-11) Shemini concludes with some of the laws of kashrut. Though seemingly unrelated, this entire passage reflects one of the main themes of the book of Vayikra: separating between the holy and the profane, between the clean and the unclean. Since maintaining holiness can be a matter of life and death as seen in the passage above, let us take a closer look at this concept.
As rav Lohrberg often states, holiness is defined as being separated from the world and being joined to G-d. When picturing this concept, there are probably as many images of what holiness looks like as there are people in this world, but the Holy One, blessed be He, does not leave such an important thing to guesswork. Here is what holiness looks like in the life of the believer. Holiness means not drinking wine or strong drink before coming into the Presence of HaShem (Leviticus 10:9). It also means distinguishing between what creatures we may eat and which are not considered food (Leviticus 11:1-23). Furthermore, it means keeping a standard of cleanliness in the areas of food, drink, and the cleansing of utensils and vessels (Leviticus 11:24-42). Other passages in Torah inform us that holiness encompasses how we should dress, how we should treat others, and even how we should and should not speak in our everyday conversation. Some people keep the commands of kashrut, abstaining from too much alcohol, dressing in the manner prescribed in Torah, and other mitzvot because they believe these things are healthy for us. Though they may have health benefits, that is not the reason our Abba stated for keeping His mitzvot. Vayikra 11:43-45 gives us His reasons for keeping His commandments: "You are not to make yourselves detestable with any of these swarming, crawling creatures; do not make yourselves unclean with them, do not defile yourselves with them. For I am ADONAI your G-d; therefore, consecrate yourselves and be holy, for I am holy; and do not defile yourselves with any kind of swarming creature that moves along the ground. For I am ADONAI, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your G-d. Therefore you are to be holy, because I am holy." Let us pursue holiness, for though this may not be a matter of salvation, it is a matter of our closeness to Him Who is holiness itself, and it is a matter of eternal reward. As it is written: "Keep pursuing shalom with everyone and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord." Messianic Jews (Hebrews) 12:14

Shalom uvracha,

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This week's portion continues delineating the different peace offerings and how they should be treated. It then concludes with the consecration of Aharon and his sons as cohanim (priests) before HaShem. One seemingly incongruous command in this passage has significant bearing on our lives today.Vayikra 6:13 (6:6 CJB) declares: "Fire is to be kept burning on the altar continually; it is not to go out." I heard a drash on this verse a number of years ago, and I'd like to share it, since it has been a source of deep consolation to me. This command that the fire on the altar should be continually burning may seem to only have its place in the antiquity of Temple worship, but if we consider what fire symbolizes in Scripture, we will see, once again, how Torah tells us about our Messiah and our relationship to Him. Fire, in Scripture, is both the source of light and a symbol of zeal and devotion. Psalm 69:9 (69:10 CJB), for instance says: "because zeal for your house is eating me up, and on me are falling the insults of those insulting you." Yochanan 2:17 applies this passage to Messiah Yeshua Himself. Jeremiah 5:14 and 20:9 refer to the Word of G-d within us as fire as well. How does this apply today?Inevitably, the storms of life blow our way, and the winds of trials threaten to extinguish the flame of zeal and devotion burning on the altar of our hearts. Tears threaten to douse the fire that is supposed to burn perpetually. Thankfully, our compassionate High Priest, Messiah Yeshua, will not permit the fire of the altar of our hearts to go out. As it is written: ""Here is my servant, whom I have chosen, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will announce justice to the Gentiles. He will not fight or shout, no one will hear his voice in the streets; he will not snap off a broken reed or snuff out a smoldering wick until he has brought justice through to victory. In him the Gentiles will put their hope.''" (Mt 12:18-21; see also Isaiah 42:1-4.) When we feel overwhelmed by circumstances and situations in life, we can rest in the assurance that Messiah will not toss us aside. He will rekindle our flickering flames. Again, as it is written: "Therefore, since we have a great cohen gadol who has passed through to the highest heaven, Yeshua, the Son of G-d, let us hold firmly to what we acknowledge as true. For we do not have a cohen gadol unable to empathize with our weaknesses; since in every respect he was tempted just as we are, the only difference being that he did not sin. Therefore, let us confidently approach the throne from which G-d gives grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace in our time of need." (Heb 4:14-16 CJB)

Shalom uvracha,

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This week's portion is titled "Vayikra" or "And He called." It delineates all of the various sacrifices required for sundry situations. Interestingly enough, this is one of the first Torah portions a Jewish child learns. Why? Perhaps it is to teach that there is such a thing as sin and atonement is needed before the Holy One, blessed be He. There is another lesson this passage demonstrates. As mentioned above, this portion begins with the phrase "And He called," referring to HaShem calling to Moshe. The instructions concerning offerings are then given. The general Hebrew word for "offering" is "korban," which comes from the root "karav," meaning "to draw near." This puts a new light on the seemingly dry details of which animals can be offered for what purpose and how they should be offered. This also elucidates what the entire book of Vayikra is all about. Even as HaShem called to Moshe and proceeded to explain how to draw near to Him, So He calls us to draw near to Him. Consequently, even as a life had to be given in order for one to draw near to HaShem, Messiah's life was given so that we might come close to the Holy One, blessed be He. Furthermore, we are often called to lay things that we hold dear on the altar, and yes, it can be a messy, painful, bloody affair. Old habits must be forsaken, strongholds must be broken, and what we thought we knew must be crucified with Messiah so that we might enter the Kingdom of G-d as little children (Matthew 18:3). However, if we are willing to seek Him with all our heart (Jeremiah 29:13) and desire Him above everything else this world has to offer, we will be rewarded by the Light of His Presence. As it is written: "Therefore, submit to God. Moreover, take a stand against the Adversary, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and he will come close to you. Clean your hands, sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded people!" (Jas 4:7-8)

Shalom uvracha,

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This week's portion concludes our journey through the book of Shemot with the sum of all the materials used for the Mishkan, its furniture, and the clothing and accessories for the priests. At first read, this seems about as interesting as a ledger, but an incredible event takes place as a result of all this counting. Shemot 38:20-40:33 records three things that took place before the above-mentioned awe-inspiring event occurred. First, all the materials for the Mishkan and the priests were accounted for and tallied. Second, Moshe inspected everything to make sure that it met all of the specifications given him on Mount Sinai. Finally, Moshe erected the Mishkan at the command of HaShem, in the way He wanted it to be set up. After all of this work, Shemot 40:34 says that the Glory of HaShem came down and filled the Mishkan. This gives us a picture of what worship looks like.
When we think of worship, we usually think of singing, lifting our hands in praise, and even bowing down in awe and reverence before the King of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He. Though worship does encompass these actions, the Hebrew word for worship shares the same root as "work" and "servant" or "slave." Worship is work and obedience. Shemot 38:20-40:34 declares four times that everything was done "as the L-RD commanded Moshe."
In some circles, it is all too common to think that we must work ourselves up into an emotional frenzy to experience true worship and for the Shechinah (Presence of G-d) to come into our midst. This might work for sensationalism, but for the people of Yisrael and for us, His Presence didn't come until all the work was finished. If we would offer obedience along with our emotive expressions of love and adoration, perhaps the heavens would open and the Cloud of His Presence would visit us, too. As it is written: "Yeshua answered him, "If someone loves me, he will keep my word; and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him." (John 14:23)

Shalom uvracha,

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