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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 April 2011


In previous Torah drashes (discussions), we have observed that holiness is all-encompassing, and this week's Torah portion exemplifies this concept. Vayikra 19-20 covers everything from how to harvest crops to hair styles, as well as the prohibition against piercings and tattoos. Though we do keep some of the commands in this passage, such as just weights and measures, and appropriate relationships between relatives and family members, have we ever considered that keeping the other mitzvot in this passage would be beneficial to us as well?
The beauty about this week's Torah portion is that it is straightforward. What HaShem says, He means, and the language of Vayikra 19-20 is unambiguous. Holiness isn't just an area of life; it is our life. If, for instance, we keep Shabbat, but we don't show respect for our parents or the elderly, we aren't keeping His mitzvot. If we are careful to tight, yet we allow occult influences, like Harry Potter, into our lives, we are not exhibiting characteristics of holiness. Unlike what is popularly taught, HaShem doesn't distinguish between civil, moral, and ceremonial law. His commandments are interwoven in a beautiful tapestry of how His holy people should live. To sum up the matter, let us read these commandments, take them seriously, and do them. Each one of them is still valid for today. As it is written: ""Don't think that I have come to abolish the Torah or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete. Yes indeed! I tell you that until heaven and earth pass away, not so much as a yud or a stroke will pass from the Torah - not until everything that must happen has happened. So whoever disobeys the least of these mitzvot and teaches others to do so will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But whoever obeys them and so teaches will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven." (Mt 5:17-19)

Shalom uvracha,

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Throughout the year, we earnestly study each Torah portion, asking HaShem to give us wisdom in applying His truths to our lives. Once in a while, though, it is beneficial to step back and evaluate what we believe and why we believe it. It is good to examine why we do what we do, and this week's Torah portion provides us such an opportunity. Vayikra 17:10-16 contains the prohibition of eating blood. Whereas other statutes and rulings are given without explanation, HaShem is explicit in his reason for prohibiting the consumption of blood. Verse 11 states:  "For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for yourselves; for it is the blood that makes atonement because of the life.'" (Le 17:11) In other words, no atonement is accomplished without blood. This may seem like stating the obvious, but in the approaching season of Passover, it would behoove us to remember how we are made righteous and what role our repentance and obedience play in the process of our sanctification.
In modern Jewish thought, three things bring about atonement: t'shuva (repentance), t'filah (prayer), and tz'dakah (giving of charity). Though these things are good because they spring from a repentant heart, they are not the cause of that contrite spirit. They are the result of cleansing, not the initiator of it. In light of Vayikra 17:11 and this observation, I would like each of us to ask ourselves: Why do we keep Torah? Do we keep Torah as a matter of obedience borne of love for the Holy One, blessed be He, and His messiah, or do we think that we will somehow gain a measure of our own righteousness apart from our L-rd Yeshua, Who shed His own blood to atone for our sins and to make us righteous before G-d (2 Cor. 5:21)? Do we keep kashrut, the Mo'adim, Shabbat, and other mitzvot because that is our destiny as people set apart for G-d (Leviticus 11:44-45), or do we think that by doing these things we earn our own holiness. During this season of cleaning our homes and our hearts of leaven, let us remember that our very life flows from Messiah Yeshua with Whom we are one in spirit (1 Corinthians 6:17). He is our holiness, our righteousness, and it is in Him alone that we even have the ability to be repentant and obedient to His Torah. Keeping these things in mind will give us His peace, and will help us to view others who have not yet come to realize the joys of keeping Torah with grace, mercy, and humility. After all, most of us didn't grow up in a Torah lifestyle; we, too, are on a spiritual journey. As it is written:  "… keep working out your deliverance with fear and trembling, for G-d is the one working among you both the willing and the working for what pleases him."
"Do everything without kvetching or arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure children of G-d, without defect in the midst of a twisted and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the sky, as you hold on to the Word of Life. …" (Php 2:12-16)

Shalom uvracha,

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This week's torah portion continues with the theme of tzara'at, delineating how the metzora (one with tzara'at) is to be cleansed once healed, and how to treat a house with tzara'at. The portion proceeds further to set guidelines for family purity and cleansing. At first glance, many consider some of these rulings as harsh, ostracizing people from society for infirmities over which they have no control. However, if we take a closer look at the cleansing ceremony for the metzora, the house healed of tzara'at, and the sacrifices offered for the uncleannesses as described in Vayikra 15, we see a completely different picture. The cleansing of the metzora has three parallels in Scripture that speak to us of the value of the person with tzara'at in the eyes of HaShem, and HaShem's desire to reconcile His people unto Himself. In Vayikra 14:1-7, we see that the metzora goes through a ceremonial cleansing similar to the cleansing that the high priest officiates over on Yom Kippur. (Compare Vayikra 16.) In verses 8-9, the metzora goes through a process similar to that of the Levi'im when they were consecrated to the Holy one, blessed be He. (Compare Bamidbar 8: 6-7.) Finally, the metzora is cleansed and consecrated similar to the priests when they are anointed for service. (Compare Vayikra 8:11-12, 23-24, and 30.) Concerning a house with tzara'at, the house was emptied before the priest entered so that if he had to declare the house unclean, the contents would not be considered unclean as well (Vayikra 14:36). If it was suspected that the house in question had tzara'at, pains were taken to spare the edifice if at all possible (Vayikra 14:40-42). Upon cleansing the house, the cleansing ceremony once again mirrors what would take place on Yom Kippur (Vayikra 16). Finally, in Vayikra 15:14-15, and 29-30, the offerings prescribed for restoring family purity are such that even the poorest among the children of Yisrael could afford them (two turtledoves or two young pigeons). Vayikra 15:31 states that all of the above-discussed rulings are put in place to separate us from our uncleannesses. Each condition detailed is a stark reminder and consequence of the reality that "all have sinned, and come short of the glory of G-d;" (Ro 3:23 KJV) But the Holy One, blessed be He, in His great mercy and grace, has always provided the way for us to separate ourselves from the uncleanness of sin and come into intimate fellowship with Him. Each cleansing ceremony of the body, soul, spirit, house, or garment, foreshadowed the ultimate cleansing Messiah Yeshua would accomplish for us through His death, burial, and resurrection. Now that we as believers have been cleansed and reconciled to HaShem, we have the task of continuing to proclaim what the Torah, Prophets, Writings, and Brit Chadasha have proclaimed all along. Rav Sha'ul (the Apostle Paul) put it most succinctly when he wrote:  "Therefore we are ambassadors of the Messiah; in effect, G-d is making his appeal through us. What we do is appeal on behalf of the Messiah, "Be reconciled to G-d! G-d made this sinless man be a sin offering on our behalf, so that in union with him we might fully share in G-d's righteousness."" (2Co 5:20-21)

Shalom uvracha,

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This week's Torah portion mainly focuses on the skin affliction known in the Hebrew as "tzara'at." Also known as leprosy in English translations of Scripture, this strange affliction can affect a person, an article of clothing, or even a house as will be seen in next week's portion. Exactly what is this mysterious disease, and does it have any bearing on our lives today?
As mentioned before, the Hebrew word "tzara'at" does not have an English equivalent. Though many translators have interpreted the word to mean "leprosy," the symptoms described in Vayikra (Leviticus) 13 do not match those of leprosy or Hanson's Disease. Scripture doesn't even explain how this skin affliction comes about or how to cure it, but the rabbis posit that this condition, whether on a person, a garment, or a house, can be brought on by some specific sins. For instance, if we look at B'midbar (Numbers) 12, we see that Miriam, Moshe's Moses') sister, was smitten with this skin affliction after she spoke against Moshe, HaShem's anointed. Also, in 2 Kings 5:20-27, Gehazi, Elisha's servant, is smitten with the same disease when he exhibited greed, envy, and deceit in taking a gift from Naaman after the prophet Elisha had expressly refused to take anything from the Syrian captain. Though we can't identify tzara'at for certain, we can learn what to do in the face of illness from this week's Torah portion. If we are faced with any uncommon or prolonged illness, it never hurts to do some personal soul searching to make double sure that our hearts are right with the Holy One, blessed be He. Should the Holy Spirit bring things to mind for which we need to repent, we can turn from those behaviors and to G-d, knowing that if we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (Yochanan 1:9 KJV) Also, Romans 8:1 assures us that "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in [Messiah Yeshua], who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." (KJV) In addition, the book of Ya'akov (James) gives us specific instructions concerning dealing with illness: "Is someone among you ill? He should call for the elders of the congregation. They will pray for him and rub olive oil on him in the name of the L-rd. The prayer offered with trust will heal the one who is ill - the L-rd will restore his health; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, openly acknowledge your sins to one another, and pray for each other, so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." (James 5:14-16 CJB) On the other hand, if we are visiting one who is ill, let us be very careful not to act as Iyov's (Job's) friends did, assuming that the one who is ill has sin in his/her life. Remember that these supposed friends were spared from G-d's wrath only because Iyov interceded for them. (Iyov 42:7-10) Let us be quick to show the kind of compassion and mercy we would wish to be shown, remembering that our L-rd Yeshua instructed us: ""Always treat others as you would like them to treat you; that sums up the teaching of the Torah and the Prophets." (Mt 7:12 CJB)

Shalom uvracha, (Peace and blessing),

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