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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 2014

28

Naso Numbers 4:21-7:89
Psalm 67

Like a well-composed symphony, Psalm 67 is a variation on the theme of the Birkat Cohanim or the Priestly Blessing found in Numbers 6:24-26. Set to n’ginot or stringed instruments, it further elaborates on the themes of justice and equity as portrayed by this week’s Torah portion as well. Fascinatingly, this song gives the ultimate purpose for what is otherwise an unconditional blessing.

Psalm 67 begins with the prayer: "G-d, be gracious to us, and bless us. May he make his face shine toward us, ([Selah]) so that your way may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations." (verses 2-3) Notice that the psalmist doesn’t ask for G-d’s grace and favor because he feels a desperate need for it, though HaShem’s grace is undoubtedly desperately needed. Nor does he ask for these things so that life will go well for him. He asks for G-d\s grace and blessing "so that your way may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations." This gives us a glimpse into the nature and purpose of blessing.

It is true that G-d blesses us simply because He loves us. If this was His only reason for bestowing His many kindnesses on us, that would be more than sufficient. However, He also blesses us so we become reflections of His glory. In fact, HaShem says as much after giving the Birkat Cohanim: ""In this way they are to put my name on the people of Isra'el, so that I will bless them."" Consider, for instance, people’s varying reactions when they see our walk with the Holy One, and all the joy, comfort, strength, and wisdom this relationship brings. Usually, they are apt either to envy us and hate us, or they just might be intrigued and get up the courage to ask questions. Whether experiencing the highest blessing through receiving the beautiful words of the Birkat Cohanim, or gratefully enjoying those daily blessings from HaShem’s Hand, let us use them to further His Kingdom and to glorify His most excellent, holy Name. As it is written: "But G-d is so rich in mercy and loves us with such intense love that, even when we were dead because of our acts of disobedience, he brought us to life along with the Messiah- it is by grace that you have been delivered. That is, G-d raised us up with the Messiah Yeshua and seated us with him in heaven, in order to exhibit in the ages to come how infinitely rich is his grace, how great is his kindness toward us who are united with the Messiah Yeshua." (Ephesians 2:4-7) We are the trophies of HaShem’s kindness, goodness, grace, and love. Let us fulfill our destiny as such.

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20

B’midbar Numbers 1:1-4:20
Psalm 122

Perhaps one of the most celebrated Songs of Ascent, Psalm 122 expresses the anticipatory joy of pilgrims traveling toward the crown of Yisrael, Yerushalayim, and its glorious jewel, the House of HaShem. It further gives us a glimpse of the high privilege of safeguarding the sacred and carrying the contents of the Mishkan as ordered in this week’s Torah portion. There is another lesson contained in this song, composed by king David, and pronouns play a pivotal part in understanding what it is.

Verses 1-4 of Psalm 122 opens with: "I was glad when they said to me, "The house of [ADONAI]! Let's go!" Our feet were already standing at your gates, Yerushalayim. Yerushalayim, built as a city fostering friendship and unity. The tribes have gone up there, the tribes of [ADONAI], as a witness to Isra'el, to give thanks to the name of [ADONAI]." The rest of the Psalm continues this motif, using inclusive pronouns as the pilgrims are unified in their common goal. Though they have come from all different backgrounds, as well as different regions of Yisrael, and some have come from foreign lands, their agenda is the same. They realize they must work together, putting differences aside, to reach their destination, or the journey will be far too dangerous or even deadly. It is the same with us as believers.

We, too, are on an epic journey, leading ultimately to Yerushalayim Chadash (the New Jerusalem). If we are to make this pilgrimage successfully, we cannot go it alone. Though there are times when we must part company from those who are not heading toward Yerushalayim, this should be the exception in our walk, not the rule. We are not called to be spiritual "Lone Rangers." Rather, we are meant to walk with brothers and sisters who will help to protect us from the wiles of HaSatan and his cohorts. In addition, we need these trusted, godly brothers and sisters to lovingly hold us accountable and let us do the same for them. If we have such companions, may we be eternally grateful, treating them like the rare treasures they are. Thus, we can travel this path together with joy and confidence in Him Who has called us. 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) Let us stay together, dependent upon each other, in our journey.

Shalom uvracha,
Hadassah

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16

Bechukotai Leviticus 26:3-27:34
Psalm 105

This week’s Torah portion opens with the promise that if we will walk in HaShem’s statutes (i.e. specifically those commands that don’t seem to make sense to us), He would bless us immeasurably. Psalm 105 further instructs us to remember His wonders, His beautiful, miraculous signs, and the judgments of His mouth (Psalm 105:5). In true Hebraic fashion, we learn from a couple of verses in this historical Psalm how to remember His works.

Psalm 105:3-4 says: "Glory in his holy name; let those seeking [ADONAI] have joyful hearts. Seek [ADONAI] and his strength; always seek his presence." Seeking HaShem is mentioned three times in this small passage, which means it is a very important concept. This brings up the question: What does it mean to seek HaShem? Once again, the answer lies in the Hebrew.

This Psalm employs two different Hebrew words for our English "seek." The first word comes from the root "bakash," meaning "to request, seek, desire, require, or exact." The second word, coming from the root "darash," means, "to inquire, investigate, search out, or study." As mentioned in previous missives, this is where we get the word "drash," which is in-depth study and discussion of the Scriptures. We find, then, that seeking HaShem is anything but passive. Even in the English concept of seeking, we acknowledge that if we’re searching for something, we’re digging through drawers, closets, cupboards, nooks and crannies, leaving nothing undisturbed until we find what we’re looking for. The rest of Psalm 105 elucidates what it means to seek HaShem, but it doesn’t tell us what to do. It shows us.

The psalmist recites Yisrael’s history from the point of view of seeing HaShem’s Hand at work in every minute detail. This implies that he has studied the Torah extensively, becoming well versed in all of its aspects, not just the ones he’s comfortable with or those he favors. In committing to such pursuit of the Holy One, he finds treasure that others rarely see. From this, we realize that seeking HaShem isn’t some abstract, ethereal concept, nor is it rocket science. It is something we can and must do daily.

If we’re diligent, we make it a daily practice to hold in our hands and read the very Words of the Holy One Himself, otherwise known as our Bibles. Every letter, every pen stroke, every name, every detail, every page reveals some nugget of truth about the One with Whom we will spend all of eternity. Yes, that includes those hard-to-read long genealogies and repetitions of history we think we already know. Are we seeking His Face in the pages of His Word, or are we content with just enough of the Word to get by so we don’t spiritually starve? Are we taking the time to study how to recognize HaShem’s Hand at work by familiarizing ourselves with what He has done? If we don’t, we shouldn’t expect to recognize His Hand in the present, and we certainly won’t be skilled in perceiving the patterns to know what He will do in the future. If, however, we seek for HaShem as for hidden treasure, He has promised that we will find Him. As it is written: ""The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field. A man found it, hid it again, then in great joy went and sold everything he owned, and bought that field. Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for fine pearls. On finding one very valuable pearl he went away, sold everything he owned and bought it." (Matthew 13:44-46) If we seek HaShem, we will find Him, if we search for Him with all our hearts (Deuteronomy 4:29; Jeremiah 29:13).

Shalom uvracha,
Hadassah

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05

Behar Leviticus 25:1-26:2
Psalm 112

Back in Torah portion nine, Vayeshev, we looked at Psalm 112 with its poetic acrostic, bringing us from alef to tav, as it highlighted the qualities of a righteous man. When we view this Psalm in connection with this week’s Torah portion, instructing us on how the Yovel or Jubilee, is to be observed, we notice that what comes to the forefront of a righteous person’s affairs is his financial discretion.

Psalm 112:3 and 9 declare respectively: "Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness stands forever." "He distributes freely, he gives to the poor; his righteousness stands forever. His power will be increased honorably." We can see from these verses that the righteous person does not gain wealth through oppression as this week’s Torah portion cautions against (Leviticus 25:14-17), but he is both prudent and generous in his financial dealings. Before we start groaning, dreading another plea to give our money to the latest charity, let’s take a deep breath and look at this touchy subject.

This might come as a surprise, but G-d cares very deeply about our personal economics. We are familiar that the righteousness Messiah Yeshua has endowed us with is shown in how we treat our fellow human beings, as well as in the purity and holiness of our everyday lifestyle. What we don’t often consider is that our righteousness is also seen in how we deal with this worlds tools, like money.

G-dly financial practices aren’t simply a matter of whether we tithe or not, or how many charities we support, but also whether we put finances in their proper place in our lives. For instance, if we are in debt, money is no longer the tool it is meant to be, but its misuse causes us to be enslaved to the lender (Proverbs 22:7). If we don’t honor HaShem with our substance (Proverbs 3:5-10), we become forgetful of G-d’s kind provision given to us, and we either begin to worship our wealth (Luke 12:16-21), or we suffer from perpetual discontent. If we choose not to heed Scripture’s warnings against such practices as cosigning (Proverbs 6:1-5; 11:15; 17:18; 20:16; and 27:13), living beyond our means, or consuming what we’ve been blessed with upon our lusts (James 4:1-3), we will find ourselves in heaps of trouble without fail.

If, however, we choose to take the time and learn what G-d’s Word says about financial matters and how to conduct ourselves prudently, we will be spared from a lot of sins. We will also find we have the freedom to do the good works HaShem has prepared for us to do (Matthew 5:14-16; Ephesians 2:10), and we will be able to obey Him cheerfully, without reservation. As it is written: "Moreover, G-d has the power to provide you with every gracious gift in abundance, so that always in every way you will have all you need yourselves and be able to provide abundantly for every good cause- as the [Tanakh] says, "He gave generously to the poor; his [tzedakah] [Hebrew "charity," literally "righteousness"] lasts forever." (2 Corinthians 9:8-9) If we practice righteous economics, we will both store up treasure in Heaven (Matthew 6:19-21; 19:21), and have HaShem’s enriching blessing without sorrow (Proverbs 10:22).

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02

Emor Leviticus 21:1-24:23
Psalm 42

Psalms 42 and 43 seem as though they should be one continuous Psalm. Their wording is strikingly similar, and they share the same chorus (see Psalm 42:6, 12; Psalm 43:5). Their commonality also encompasses the intense yearning to be in the Temple of HaShem and to worship at His altar, but for unknown reasons, there is an inability to do so. That being said, Psalm 42 seems both prophetic and practical in nature.

Composed for the sons of Korach, Psalm 42 is a maskil. Remember that "Maskil" means "instruction to become wise." We can’t help but wonder, then, what Psalm 42 is trying to teach us. Perhaps a few key verses will give us some clues.

Psalm 42:7-9 says: "My G-d, when I feel so downcast, I remind myself of you from the land of Yarden, from the peaks of Hermon, from the hill Mizar. Deep is calling to deep at the thunder of your waterfalls; all your surging rapids and waves are sweeping over me. By day [ADONAI] commands his grace, and at night his song is with me as a prayer to the G-d of my life." In the previous verses, the psalmist laments how his enemies mock him, asking him, "Where is your G-d?" (Psalm 42:4, 11). If we string these pearls together, we start to get a picture of those who long with all their hearts to worship before G-d, but cannot because of oppression from the enemy (Psalm 42:10; 43:2). Not only does this remind us of our modern-day Jewish brothers and sisters, descendants of the psalmists, who cannot visit the Temple Mount due to this same oppression of the enemy, but this is the plight of our brothers and sisters in Messiah the world over who are mercilessly persecuted for His Name’s sake. All to often, they cannot assemble to worship freely without worrying about being harassed, arrested, or even murdered. In western countries, we have no such worries for now, but the present is not the key to the future.

As stated above, Psalm 42’s instructional nature is practical as well. It tells us what to do in case of persecution that might limit or prohibit our freedom to assemble as the body of Messiah. We are instructed to remember (i.e. actively pursue) HaShem no matter where we find ourselves. This means worshipping and serving Him as though everything depended on us. We don’t have to wait until persecution pounces upon us, however, to put this into practice.

Many times, we approach congregational life as simply an event we attend once or twice a week. We show up, not giving any thought to the prayer and hard work behind every aspect of service. When the Moadim come, we crash land into the special activities, not contemplating their meaning or taking the initiative to learn how to celebrate them in our own homes. After all, the congregation is always there, right? History attests to the reality that what we take for granted can disappear overnight. This is not meant as a rebuke, but as a caution.

Should we face persecution or oppression prohibiting us from meeting together, do we have the skills and ability to continue the Biblical customs and traditions we’ve been given? Have we bothered, for instance, to learn how to do a Passover Seder whether we find ourselves in the wilderness of Yarden’s valley, the snow-covered peak of Hermon, or the little isolated hill of Mizar? Passover is mentioned because it is one of the most labor-intensive, preparatory Moadim, but this applies to any of the Moadim, or even to our including worship as part of our everyday lives. Furthermore, would we still be able to keep our bearings should enemies begin to mock us, demanding, "Where is your G-d?" Our Jewish brothers and sisters learned very quickly while in the Diaspora that if they wanted their faith to survive beyond themselves, they would have to treat their homes as little temples, and their tables as little altars. We would do well to learn this same lesson while life is relatively peaceful, and we have the freedom to worship, study, and practice openly without fear. If we take the initiative, proactively participating in worshiping and serving G-d, we will be given strength and stability no matter what the future brings. As it is written: "However, we want each one of you to keep showing the same diligence right up to the end, when your hope will be realized; so that you will not become sluggish, but will be imitators of those who by their trust and patience are receiving what has been promised." (Hebrews 6:11-12) A strong, g-dly congregation begins with strong, g-dly individuals.

Shalom uvracha
Hadassah

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