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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.
www.messianicjewish.net.
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 May 2013

22

B’ha-alotecha Numbers 8:1-12:16
Haftarah Zechariah 2:14-4:7

This Torah portion opens with the instructions for Aharon concerning how to light the menorah. The literal translation for the title of this passage is "In your ascending," showing us that Aharon’s calling as high priest and as the one to attend the holy menorah is one of exalted honor. As is always the case, privilege comes with responsibility, and the accompanying haftarah highlights this truth. Zechariah 3:6-7 says: "Then the angel of [ADONAI] gave Y'hoshua this warning: "[ADONAI-Tzva'ot] says this: 'If you will walk in my ways, obey my commission, judge my house and guard my courtyards; then I will give you free access among these who are standing here."
Though the main theme of this passage is the rebuilding of the Temple and the restoration of its service and implements, the underlying theme is that of purity as seen in the high priest being clothed with clean garments from head to toe (3:1-5) and the golden menorah filled with pure olive oil (4:1-5, 11-12). Only when the high priest, Y’hoshua, is cleansed is the golden menorah seen. Believe it or not, we can learn even from the sequence in which events are related in Scripture. As believer priests under the charge of Yeshua, our Cohen HaGadol, this passage teaches that only when we are clean, inside and out, can we approach the holy and serve as HaShem’s light bearers. As always, this is walked out in very practical ways. What we do, say, and even think in private really does matter to the Holy One, blessed be He. Our secret moments have direct bearing on the quality of light we reflect. According to rav Mike Lohrberg, leader at Tree of Life Messianic Jewish Congregation, the olive oil used for lighting the holy menorah must be pure and unadulterated in order to give a strong, clear light. Sediment or impurities of any kind would render the light smoky or cloudy. Revelation 1:20 depicts each Messianic community and congregation as a golden menorah. If we strive for priestly purity in our thoughts, words, and actions, we will truly experience the nearness of G-d, and His beauty will be reflected in and through us. As it is written: "How blessed are the pure in heart! for they will see God." (Matthew 5:8) Let us preserve the purity Messiah Yeshua has imparted to us.

Shalom uvracha,
Hadassah

 

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13

Naso Numbers 4:21-7:89
Haftarah Judges 13:2-25

The commonality of this week’s Torah and Haftarah is that of the nazirite vow. Whereas Numbers 6:1-21 gives the requirements when taking the vow of a nazir, the Haftarah introduces us to Shimshon (Samson) who is a nazir from conception. Other notables in Scripture under the lifelong nazirite vow are Yochanan the Immerser (Luke 1:15), Shmuel (1 Samuel 1:11), and possibly the descendants of Rechav, since they abstained from wine (Jeremiah 35;1-19). Even rav Sha’ul is known to have taken the vow of a nazir at least twice (Acts 18:18 and 21:23-24). the 1906 edition of the Jewish Encyclopedia contains a plethora of historical data concerning the nazirite vow, its laws, for how long it was to be adhered to, and so on. (See
http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/11395-nazarite. As a side note, there is one Biblical error on that page. See if you can find it. If you can’t, look in the comments below the article.) To summarize, the nazirite vow is expressed in specific terms for a specific period of time. Men or women could take this vow, but Scripture suggests that the preponderance of nazirim were men. the nazir is to abstain from any product or byproduct of the grapevine, and let his hair go untrimmed. He may not become defiled by coming in contact with the dead, and if defilement does occur by accident, the vow is considered null and must be reaffirmed. Two things may be inferred concerning the nazir.
First, one would need only to look at someone to discern that he is a nazir. Second, the community would show due deference to him by respecting his convictions. It would be in very poor taste, for instance, to offer a nazir a glass of wine or grape juice, or to offer any food containing raisins. Though the nazir is a rare creature these days, the stipulations of the nazirite vow remind us of some very important and practical principles by which to live. Outward displays of devotion to HaShem are not wrong, provided they spring from the heart and not from pride or the desire for recognition. So long as the said practice isn’t forbidden by Scripture, it can be a reflection of one’s unique walk with HaShem. These practices, however, should not be taken lightly. One could not take the nazirite vow and then decide to toss it aside before its term was fulfilled for the sake of convenience. It is also prudent to make sure our expression of devotion fits within the guidelines of Micah 6:8, which says to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly or modestly with our G-d. Conversely, as the believing community, we need to treat others’ convictions with the same respect we wish to receive. The kind of respect warranted according to Scripture is more active than "live and let live." It is guarding and protecting our brothers and sisters from violating what HaShem has put on their hearts. As it is written: "Always treat others as you would like them to treat you; that sums up the teaching of the [Torah] and the Prophets."
(Matthew 7:12) Let us show our brothers and sisters the kind of care and concern we deserve.

Shalom uvracha,
Hadassah

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06

B’midbar Numbers 1:1-4:20
Haftarah Hosea 2:1-22

The name of this Torah portion means, "In the wilderness" or "in the desert." Both it and the Haftarah teach us the purposes for being in the wilderness. When we learn what these purposes are, those times when we find ourselves there won’t seem so perplexing. Whereas the Torah portion demonstrates the wilderness as a place of training and preparation for what lies ahead, the passage in Hosea paints a different picture. Speaking of Yisrael as an unfaithful wife, HaShem has some harsh words to say: "Rebuke your mother, rebuke her; for she isn't my wife, and I'm not her husband. She must remove her whoring from her face, and her adulteries from between her breasts. Otherwise, I will strip her naked and place her as she was the day she was born, make her like a desert, place her like a dry land and kill her with thirst." (Hosea 2:4-5)

Unpleasant as this passage is, it reminds us that the wilderness can be a place of being broken and humbled. This is especially the case when we are unrepentant of willful, blatant sin in our lives. However, the same place where we are broken is the very place where HaShem longs for us to be reconciled to Him. Hosea 2:16-17 promises: "But now I am going to woo her- I will bring her out to the desert and I will speak to her heart. I will give her her vineyards from there and the Akhor Valley as a gateway to hope. She will respond there as she did when young, as she did when she came up from Egypt." As verse 17 so poetically portrays, it is in the wilderness where we rediscover our First Love and commit ourselves to Him anew. Why does the L-RD use the wilderness in so many ways? No matter why we’re in the wilderness, the commonality throughout all the above-mentioned reasons for being there is that it is the place where we encounter G-d. In the wilderness, worldly distractions disappear, loved ones and friends seem most distant, and we realize that it is to HaShem alone we must give an account. He is also the only One to Whom we can turn for life. If we surrender to His loving discipline even though it may seem unpleasant at the time, we will find that the One Who chastens us is also our Comforter and Restorer.
As it is written: "If we would examine ourselves, we would not come under judgment. But when we are judged by the L-rd, we are being disciplined, so that we will not be condemned along with the world." (1 Corinthians 11:31-32) Like an oasis in the desert, so is HaShem in the wilderness seasons of our lives.

Shalom uvracha,
Hadassah

 

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05

 

Behar/Bechukotai Leviticus 25:1-27:34
Haftarah Jeremiah 16:19-17:14

Both the Torah portion and Haftarah this week are full of warnings about what would happen if we forsake our G-d. As pointed out in previous missives, these warnings are the consequences of breaking covenant with Him. Scripture tells us in Lamentations 32-33 that the Holy One, blessed be He, doesn’t arbitrarily or willingly grieve or afflict the children of men. Why, then, does He take pains to vividly portray the results of unfaithfulness to Him? A clue to the answer lies in this week’s Haftarah. Jeremiah 17:12-14 says: "Throne of Glory, exalted from the beginning! Our Holy Sanctuary, Hope of Isra'el, [ADONAI]! All who abandon you will be ashamed, those who leave you will be inscribed in the dust, because they have abandoned [ADONAI], the source of living water. Heal me, [ADONAI], and I will be healed; save me, and I will be saved, for you are my praise." On examination of this passage, we find that the problem of keeping faith with HaShem is obviously on our part. Our propensity to go astray from our Creator is striking to say the least.

Even the composer of the hymn "Come Thou Fount of every Blessing" laments, "Prone to wander, L-RD I feel it, prone to leave the G-d I love." Keep in mind this is coming from a believer. We are forgetful creatures, celebrating a victory or miracle from HaShem one day, and the very next day, wondering if it’s worth serving G-d because of some troublesome circumstance rearing its ugly head. Worse yet, if we come into a season of prosperity, we think we made it happen and forget to glorify Him Who is the Provider and Giver of all good things. Going astray doesn’t happen consciously. It happens little by little: a little compromise here, a little friendship with the world there. Whatever doesn’t build up our faith and draw us closer to HaShem tears it down and draws us away from Him. Proverbs 4:23 admonishes: "Above everything else, guard your heart; for it is the source of life's consequences." How do we go about guarding our hearts?

The above-quoted passage from Jeremiah gives us the pattern for preserving the vitality of our relationship with HaShem. It begins with the highest praise, teaching us that when we render heartfelt blessing to Him, we become mindful of His Presence in our everyday lives. The middle section acknowledges that forsaking HaShem is shunning the very source of our life. Finally, the passage concludes with complete and total dependence on G-d, not only for saving and healing, but also for fulfillment as the prophet proclaims HaShem as his praise. As we continue counting the Omer, let us choose Whom we will serve. This isn't a once-and-for-all choice and then we're done with the decision. Rather, it is a moment by moment conscious effort to choose Him in every detail of daily life. As it is written: "Those who are not with me are against me, and those who do not gather with me are scattering." (Matthew 12:30) Let us bind our hearts to Him Who is our Savior, our Healer, and our Praise.

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