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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 2014


Tazria Leviticus 12:1-13:59
Psalm 106

Psalm 106 is one of many recitations recounting Yisrael’s history. Unlike other nations, which have a tendency to whitewash and revise their history, Yisrael’s psalmists are honest and forthright concerning her shortcomings, flaws, and downright sins. As we study the Scriptures, we inevitably wonder: How could our fathers have fallen so far? How did they go from being HaShem’s peculiar treasure (Exodus 19:5) to being blatant idol worshipers? Though Psalm 106 doesn’t give us outright answers, it does give us a clue to our quandary.

Psalm 106:13-16 states: "But soon they forgot his deeds and wouldn't wait for his counsel. In the desert they gave way to insatiable greed; in the wastelands they put G-d to the test. He gave them what they wanted but sent meagerness into their souls. In the camp they were jealous of Moshe and Aharon, [ADONAI]'s holy one." Things go precipitously downhill from there. The key phrase is, "They forgot His deeds." Other places in Scripture say that they forgot HaShem. What does it mean to "forget" HaShem? The answer to this is more sinister than the English language would imply.

In Hebraic thought, to "remember" is more than merely thinking about something or someone. It is proactively fulfilling a promise or seeking someone’s welfare. Consequently, the Hebraic thought of "forgetting" is more than momentarily not thinking of something or someone. It is being unfaithful to or disregarding a promise or relationship. To forget one’s spouse, for instance, is to commit adultery, and to forget one’s friend is to betray that friendship. How does such egregious forgetting take place? After all, no one wakes up in the morning planning to commit such a sin unless they are utterly reprobate. Forgetting G-d begins subtly, but insidiously.

Discontent is the bane of all relationships, including and especially our relationship with HaShem. If left unchecked, it gives birth to envy, strife, jealousy, murmuring, complaining, rebellion, and idolatry. Notice how the people of Yisrael complain, saying that everything was better in Egypt (Numbers 11:4-6). When in the throes of discontent, we deceive ourselves by thinking that if only we had this, that, or the other thing, we would be happy. In the above-quoted passage, the Yisraelim get exactly what they want, but it is never enough. There is a solution which will both calm our restless hearts and safeguard us from forgetting HaShem.

Contentment is the key to true fulfillment. It clears our vision so we can see the little blessings that make everyday life a testimony to G-d’s care for us. Contentment, though, is not a feeling. It is a choice, learned and maintained through discipline. In his letter to the Messianic community in Philippi, Rav Sha’ul writes: "Not that I am saying this [see Philippians 4:10] to call attention to any need of mine; since, as far as I am concerned, I have learned to be content regardless of circumstances. I know what it is to be in want, and I know what it is to have more than enough- in everything and in every way I have learned the secret of being full and being hungry, of having abundance and being in need. I can do all things through him who gives me power." (Philippians 4:11-13)

Notice that the source of contentment doesn’t lie in circumstances or life situations. It lies in Messiah Yeshua Himself. When we learn to make Him our source of contentment and fulfillment, we will find a supernatural, deep and abiding contentment which will endure no matter what life brings our way. As it is written: "Now true religion does bring great riches, but only to those who are content with what they have. For we have brought nothing into the world; and we can take nothing out of it; so if we have food and clothing, we will be satisfied with these." (1 Timothy 6:6-8) Let us remember HaShem, and learn to want what we already have.

Shalom uvracha,

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Shemini Leviticus 9:1-11:47
Psalm 128

Rare gems come in small packages. Psalm 128, composed of six verses, gives the societal plan for peace. However, it does not appeal to sweeping strokes of social engineering, but it begins with the most basic unit of community: the family.

Psalm 128:5-6 declares: "May [ADONAI] bless you from Tziyon! May you see Yerushalayim prosper all the days of your life, and may you live to see your children's children! [Shalom] on Isra'el." The previous four verses tell of the blessing one who fears HaShem will receive. Given the tragic events of this week’s Torah portion in Leviticus 10, when Nadav and Avihu die for offering alien fire before HaShem, fearing HaShem is of utmost importance. That being said, this Psalm shows us how the way we treat our families affects our ministry.

It is often said that the carpenter’s house is the last to be repaired, the cobbler’s children are the last to have new shoes, and so on. Though we might smile at this, it points out a trap into which we can so easily fall if not on our guard. When being involved in any kind of ministry, it is sometimes easier to treat strangers with kindness, while being impatient, or worse, with those we are supposed to love the most. Ironically, the world really doesn’t care about how we treat outsiders, but it is watching us like a hawk to see how we interact with those closest to us. Notice that the first four verses of Psalm 128 are all about the flourishing prosperity and vitality of one’s wife and children. Before we start feeling too downcast about past mistakes concerning our loved ones, or we start dredging up those haunting questions as to why they aren’t on the same spiritual page as we are, let us see what else Psalm 128 has to teach us.

The above-quoted verses demonstrate that the family affects the nation, and vice versa. When we who fear HaShem see our spouses and/or children not walking with Him wholeheartedly, or downright walking away from Him, we go to the other extreme of being tormented by thinking that this is somehow our fault. However, we need to keep in mind that if our nation doesn’t fear HaShem, our families will inevitably be adversely affected. Society is meant to support and reinforce the family. If this is reversed, we get tyranny, and if this is lacking, the battle to preserve the family is exponentially difficult. As we ponder our own situations within the context of our family and nation, let us be faithful in what we know to do, and leave the rest to Him Who knows the unknown and sees the unseen. Let us show the same kindness, courtesy, and concern to our family and friends that we would show to strangers. As it is written: "Don't let love be a mere outward show. Recoil from what is evil, and cling to what is good. Love each other devotedly and with brotherly love; and set examples for each other in showing respect." (Romans 12:9-10) Our family isn’t our only ministry, but it is our first ministry, and it will be our last.

Shalom uvracha,

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Tzav Leviticus 6:1-8:36
Psalm 107
Shabbat Zachor Psalm 109

Psalm 107 is all about giving thanks to HaShem for the myriad ways He delivers us from trouble. Its musical structure feels a little more familiar to us with its verses, chorus, and repetition of words. Corresponding specifically to the Todah or thanksgiving offering in this week’s Torah portion (Leviticus 7:12-15), this Psalm presents just a few of the reasons why such an offering would be made.

From the hungry and homeless poor pilgrim, to the fool dwelling in darkness about to die, to the sailor on the seas, Psalm 107 tells us a tale with which each one of us is all too familiar. We start out thinking we don’t need HaShem and we can do things on our own, only to encounter a situation far too big for us to handle. Struggling and striving to no avail, we finally call upon HaShem, and He saves us, delivering us from the prisons of our own making (Psalm 107:14-16), healing us with His Word (verse 20), and silencing our storms, bringing us to safety (verses 29-30). With this in mind, Psalm 107 gives us practical ways to celebrate G-d’s goodness and deliverance.

Verses 8, 15, 21, and 31 command: "Let them give thanks to [ADONAI] for his grace, for his wonders bestowed on humanity!" Verse 22 further says: "Let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving and proclaim his great deeds with songs of joy." In addition, verse 32 advises: "Let them extol him in the assembly of the people and praise him in the leaders' council." These pearls of Scripture give us food for thought.

We are quick to petition the Holy One, blessed be He, when needs arise in our lives, and He wants us to do this. When He does deliver us, though, we sometimes fall into the temptation of saying a short "thanks," and then we go on our merry way. Scripture instructs us to revel in how HaShem works in each of our lives, and from the above-quoted verses, we can come up with some creative ways to do that.

First, we can praise HaShem, recounting to Him what He has done. Yes, He already knows what He has done, but reciting it cements it in our long-term memories. Second, we can make a conscientious effort to share our praise and thanksgiving with those who have prayed us through our trials. This is a real faith-builder and incredibly encouraging. Finally, if we really want to put on a party, we can celebrate with a festive meal, in keeping with the idea of the Todah offering. If we incorporate these things into our lives, we will find our bond as brothers and sisters growing stronger, and we will experience a tiny foretaste of Heaven’s joy here on earth. As it is written: ""… what woman, if she has ten drachmas and loses one of these valuable coins, won't light a lamp, sweep the house and search all over until she finds it? And when she does find it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, 'Come, celebrate with me, because I have found the drachma I lost.' In the same way, I tell you, there is joy among G-d's angels when one sinner repents."" (Luke 15:8-10) May our souls magnify HaShem and our spirits rejoice in G-d our Savior (Luke 1:46-47).

Special Additional Psalms for Purim:
Fast of Esther: Psalm 22
Shabbat Zachor (as noted above): Psalm 109
Purim: Psalm 7
Shushan Purim: Psalm 60

Shalom uvracha,

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Vayikra Leviticus 1:1-5:26
Psalm 50

Composed by Asaph, Psalm 50 is not necessarily known for comforting words, but for correction. Though it might come across as a bit harsh in English, the Hebrew has more of an intense pleading tone to it as G-d enters into judgment with his people (Psalm 50:4). Interestingly, part of His judgment is answering the question of who are the righteous, and who are the wicked.

Psalm 50:5 commands: ""Gather to me my faithful, those who made a covenant with me by sacrifice."" The word for "My faithful" is "chasidai," which is a construct or derivative of "chesed." As the language suggests in the above-quoted verse, these are people lovingly devoted to HaShem and His covenant. Mentioned twice in this Psalm, the concept of covenant is part of differentiating between the righteous and the wicked. Verses 15-17 tell us who the wicked are: "But to the wicked G-d says: "What right do you have to proclaim my laws [lit. "statutes"] or take my covenant on your lips, when you so hate to receive instruction [lit. "correction, discipline"] and fling my words behind you?" It should cause us some consternation to realize that the wicked aren’t the heathen, the pagans, the ones outside of the covenant or not having any relationship with G-d. Rather, the wicked are those within the community of G-d’s people who know what the Word says, but don’t do what it commands. Lest we pat ourselves on the back too much, though, HaShem has a bone to pick not only with the wicked, but with the righteous as well.

Verses 7-15 are addressed to those faithful ones walking with HaShem. Though He appreciates their offerings (verse 8), He makes it a point to let them know He is not in need of any of these sacrifices. What He really wants is for us to offer thanksgiving, pay our vows, call on Him in the day of trouble, and to glorify Him when He answers (verses 14-15). He wants essentially the same from the wicked: ""Whoever offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice honors me; and to him who goes the right way I will show the salvation of G-d."" This presents us with a truth that isn’t so popular, but it gives great hope to our hearts if we let it.

Scripture clearly tells us that when we stand before Messiah Yeshua, we will have nothing to boast of except for our deep and abiding fellowship with Him (Jeremiah 9:22-23). After all, we didn’t choose Messiah Yeshua; He chose us (John 15:16). Furthermore, we did not choose to keep Torah; the Ruach HaKodesh brought this about in us (Ezekiel 36:26-27). Since we can’t boast about anything we’ve done or any choices we have supposedly made, let’s boast about what the L-RD has done. Not only has He done everything contained in His Word, but He has interacted with us as individuals in very unique ways. Let’s thank Him for His loving-kindness, find someone and share with them how He rescued us in our times of trouble, and give Him the honor and glory He deserves. As it is written: "But G-d chose what the world considers nonsense in order to shame the wise; G-d chose what the world considers weak in order to shame the strong; and G-d chose what the world looks down on as common or regards as nothing in order to bring to nothing what the world considers important; so that no one should boast before G-d. It is his doing that you are united with the Messiah Yeshua. He has become wisdom for us from G-d, and righteousness and holiness and redemption as well! Therefore- as the [Tanakh] says- "Let anyone who wants to boast, boast about [ADONAI]."" (1 Corinthians 1:27-31) HaShem is our Praise, our Glory, and our very great Reward (Genesis 15:1).

Shalom uvracha,

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