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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.
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 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 June 2010


This week's Torah portion is named after Balak, the king of Moab, but Balak is hardly the main character. The focus, rather, is on Bil'am, a diviner who purports to know HaShem. The sages of blessed memory have even referred to him as a gentile prophet, and this is plausible since he did prophesy about Yisrael and about the nations surrounding her. What is the real story of Bil'am, and what really happened between B'midbar 24:25 and B'midbar 25:1? Furthermore, what can we learn from him?

Despite his involvement with sorcery, Bil'am speaks the language of the believer, but under closer scrutiny, we find he is a wolf in sheep's clothing. For instance, when the Moabite princes come to him and request that he meet with Balak, Bil'am gives the seemingly devout response of telling the statesmen that he will consult with the L-RD to see what His will is. That night, HaShem forbids Bil'am to go for the purpose of cursing Yisrael because they are blessed. So, Bil'am tells the princes that he can't come with them. Never the one to give up, Balak sends more statesmen who are higher-ranking than the first ones. It seems that Bil'am would give them the same answer he gave the first group of dignitaries, but he says something very interesting. In B'midbar 22:18-19, Bil'am says: “Even if Balak were to give me his palace filled with silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of ADONAI my G-d to do anything, great or small. Now, please, you too, stay here tonight; so that I may find out what else ADONAI will say to me.” Verse 18 may seem like a refusal, but it is actually a proposal. Compare this passage with B'reishit 23:10-16, specifically verse 15 where Ephron the Hiti names his price in a roundabout way. Such is the nature of Middle Eastern bargaining. Could it be that the expression of having one's house full of silver and gold is an idiom for a specific amount of money? Consider that Bil'am repeats this phrase in B'midbar 24:12-13. If it is, then this elucidates what the Shlichim "Apostles" wrote concerning Bil'am in 2 Peter 2:15 and Jude 1:11. Verse 19 shows us that Bil'am treats the will of the Holy One, blessed be He, as something negotiable. One would think that once HaShem has spoken, He is not likely to change His mind, but Bil'am hopes for just that. Later in the narrative, Bil'am faithfully communicates the words of HaShem to Balak, and B'midbar 24:25 seems to indicate that since Bil'am wouldn't curse Yisrael, he and Balak went their separate ways. However, our L-RD Yeshua clarifies what really happened at this point. Revelation 2:14 states: “Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: you have some people who hold to the teaching of Bil'am, who taught Balak to set a trap for the people of Isra'el, so that they would eat food that had been sacrificed to idols and commit sexual sin.”

Bil'am reminds me of those who call Yeshua "L-rd, L-rd," but don't do the will of Abba our Father in Heaven. Matthew 7:21-23 says: ““Not everyone who says to me, ‘L-rd, L-rd!' will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, only those who do what my Father in heaven wants. On that Day, many will say to me, ‘L-rd, L-rd! Didn't we prophesy in your name? Didn't we expel demons in your name? Didn't we perform many miracles in your name?' Then I will tell them to their faces, `I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness!'” In short, just because someone can talk the talk, and even do miracles, that doesn't mean they walk the walk. We must always exercise discernment and judge an individual or ministry by its fruit. As it is written: “Dear friends, don't trust every spirit. On the contrary, test the spirits to see whether they are from G-d; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. Here is how you recognize the Spirit of G-d: every spirit which acknowledges that Yeshua the Messiah came as a human being is from G-d, and every spirit which does not acknowledge Yeshua is not from G-d – in fact, this is the spirit of the Anti–Messiah. You have heard that he is coming. Well, he's here now, in the world already! You, children, are from G-d and have overcome the false prophets, because he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:1-4)

Shalom uvracha,

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Beginning with this week’s parashah Chukkat and concluding with next week's portion of Balak the mood that is set is very bittersweet. It opens with the statutes for dealing with the uncleanness resulting from coming in contact with the dead and closes with Yisrael's entanglement with the Moabite women and with Baal-Peor. In between these events, though, Yisrael begins to take possession of the long-awaited promised land of Canaan. One episode in this portion is so disturbing, however, that it is shrouded in mystery and speculation to this very day. The one I refer to is when Moshe, the man of G-d, who spoke with the Holy One face to face, is denied entrance into the Promised Land.

For those of us who read and follow the weekly Torah portions, Moshe isn't just a historical figure; rather, he is a beloved friend. We cheer him on in his victories, grieve with him in his sorrows, and marvel at his closeness to HaShem, hoping that, in Messiah, we might dare to seek such a closeness with the Holy One, blessed be He. So, when we come to B'midbar 20:10-12 and learn that Moshe is denied entrance into the Promised Land because of a momentary loss of his temper, we are shocked and we wonder why such a harsh punishment is dealt for such a small crime. After all, haven't each of us lost our temper a time or two in life? Not to mention that if we were in Moshe's shoes, I'm sure we would have completely lost our tempers with the people of Yisrael long before he did. If we stop to consider that HaShem is just and true and all His ways are just and true, perhaps we should dig deeper into this matter to see what really happened at that water-giving rock.

The writings of Rav Sha'ul shed light on so many Torah portions, and this one is no exception. In 1 Corinthians 10:4, we learn a surprising truth: That rock which Moshe struck twice with the rod of G-d wasn't just any ordinary rock. It is written: “and they all drank the same drink from the Spirit––for they drank from a Spirit–sent Rock which followed them, and that Rock was the Messiah.” In other words, instead of speaking to the Rock, Who is Messiah, as he was commanded, Moshe actually struck Messiah, not once, but twice. This raises some shocking implications.

Since the Torah and the Prophets speak of Messiah, and everything means something, this incident begs a question: Did Moshe's striking the Rock twice have ramifications on how much Messiah would suffer when He came? Would this even have some bearing on Messiah's being rejected and the time period this rejection would last? Perhaps we're going far afield, but there is more to this episode than meets the eye. Consider that Moshe, the most humble man on earth (B'midbar 12:3) who was so obedient to HaShem that he even died at His command (D'varim 32:49-50; 34:1-6), wasn't given a second chance as the other Yisraelim were time and time again. This incident, which happened 3500 years ago, has sobering implications for us today.

It is all too easy for us to criticize biblical figures for what they did wrong and to ask how they could ever do such a thing. According to 1 Corinthians 10:6, though, these events are recorded to warn us of what to avoid and how to live. However one would interpret what actually took place when Moshe struck the Rock, it is nevertheless a sobering reminder to us that every deed we do, every word we say, every thought we entertain has far-reaching consequences. Future generations will either prosper or suffer based on decisions we make today. May the Holy One, blessed be He, give us the grace and the wisdom to keep His Word which says: “Well, whatever you do, whether it's eating or drinking or anything else, do it all so as to bring glory to G-d. Do not be an obstacle to anyone––not to Jews, not to Gentiles, and not to G-d's Messianic Community.” (1Co 10:31-32)

Shalom uvracha,

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In the previous parasha of Sh'lach l'cha, the twelve tribes of Yisrael rebel against HaShem by refusing to go into the land that He had so graciously promised them, but the tribe of Levi isn't mentioned. In this week's portion, however, the spotlight is turned onto Levi where rebellion brews once again in the person of Korach. Chapter 16 of B'midbar (Numbers) clearly demonstrates to us that rebellion only begets more rebellion and its fruit is bitter and deadly. Right in the middle of the maylay of people rebelling and dying, however, is an incident that arrests our attention and draws us into a deep mystery.
In B'midbar 17:6-9, on the day after Korach and his cohorts are decimated because they blatantly violated HaShem's order of things and offered incense, something which only Aharon and his sons were permitted to do, the whole congregation of Yisrael decide to gather against both Moshe and Aharon. HaShem tells Moshe and Aharon to separate themselves from the rest of the people so He can consume the congregation "at once" (v9). 
Whereas in chapter 16 Moshe and Aharon fall on their faces and pray, here, they simply fall on their faces; no prayer is recorded. What is recorded in verses 11-13, though, is Moshe's command to Aharon to take a censer, some fire from the altar of burnt offering, some incense, and go among the people and make atonement for them (v11). This seems strange at first when we consider that Vayikra (Leviticus) 17:11 states emphatically: “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.'” Here, however, the instrument for atonement is incense, or is it?

      Incense is a symbol of prayer. For further study on this, compare the following Scriptures (King James Version references): Exodus 30:7-8 Numbers 16:46-48 Psalm 141:2 Malachi 1:11 Revelation 5:8; 8:3-4). In B'midbar 17:12-13 (CJB), Aharon, the high priest, makes atonement for the community of Yisrael with censer and prayer. This gives us a startling glimpse into the ongoing work of our Mesiah, Yeshua, Who is the High Priest after the order of Malki-Tzedek.

      Isaiah 53, the Holy of Holies of the Scriptures, not only prophesies that Messiah will die and rise from the dead, bearing our iniquities and sins, but also that He will maintain and perfect our salvation by continually interceeding for us (v12). Rav Sha'ul further elaborates on this mysterious aspect of our salvation when he says in Romans 8:33-34: “So who will bring a charge against G-d's chosen people? Certainly not G-d – He is the one who causes them to be considered righteous! Who punishes them? Certainly not the Messiah Yeshua, Who died and – more than that – has been raised, is at the right hand of G-d and is actually pleading on our behalf!” In addition, the author of Messianic Jews (Hebrews) states: “… and consequently, He is totally able to deliver those who approach G-d through Him; since He is alive forever and thus forever able to intercede on their behalf.” (Heb 7:25) Even as Aharon stood between the living and the dead, protecting the Yisraelim from utter destruction, so Messiah is at the right Hand of Abba (the Father), always interceding for us and forever securing the salvation of those who are truly His. Despite our shortcomings, struggles, and downright failures at times to walk in His commandments, He is ever faithful to keep us and bring us to ultimate victory when we stand before Him. As it is written: “And I am sure of this: that the One who began a good work among you will keep it growing until it is completed on the Day of the Messiah Yeshua.” (Php 1:6) “Now, to the One who can keep you from falling and set you without defect and full of joy in the presence of His Sh'khinah – to G-d alone, our Deliverer, through Yeshua the Messiah, our L-rd – be glory, majesty, power and authority before all time, now and forever. Amen.” (Jude1:24-25)

Shalom uvracha,

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This week's Torah portion, I must confess, is one of my least favorite passages because everything turns sour.  What is supposed to be a mission to reconnoiter the land of Canaan so that the people of Yisrael can take their place in the center of HaShem's will quickly becomes a platform for rebellion and consequent condemnation to wander in the wilderness for forty years.  Ironically, it is because of the tragic tone of this passage that we as believers need to pay very close attention to the lessons that it contains.  Two lessons in particular stand out in my mind.  The first has to do with repentance, and the second teaches us about the faithfulness of our G-d.

In B'midbar 14:39-45, after the sentence of wandering in the wilderness for forty years has been pronounced, the congregation of Yisrael mourn, and then they decide to go ahead and begin to take possession of the land that HaShem had promised them.  Moshe warns them that this, too, is rebellion and that HaShem won't be with them in this endeavor.  They proceed with their plans anyway and are soundly defeated.  This incident shows us two aspects of repentance.  It is not enough to be sorry for getting caught for sinning as was the case with the Yisraelim (B'midbar 14:40).  We must be sorry for the wrong we committed, and our hearts must be turned toward seeking the Holy One, blessed be He.  It is not enough to seek to avoid the consequences of sin; we must also seek reconciliation with our G-d.  Consider, for instance, Shemot 33. After the golden calf incident, Yisrael, through Moshe, determined not to go any further on their journey if the Holy One, blessed be He, didn't consent to go with them (Shemot 33:4-8, 15-16.) Rav Sha'ul made this distinction between true repentance and feigned repentance when he wrote: “now I rejoice not because you were pained, but because the pain led you to turn back to G-d. For you handled the pain in G-d's way, so that you were not harmed by us at all. Pain handled in G-d's way produces a turning from sin to G-d which leads to salvation, and there is nothing to regret in that! But pain handled in the world's way produces only death. For just look at what handling the pain G-d's way produced in you! What earnest diligence, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what readiness to put things right! In everything you have proved yourselves blameless in the matter.”
(2 Corinthians 7:9-11)

In light of the heartbreaking episode discussed above, chapter 15 of B'midbar opens with a phrase that might seem like rubbing salt into a wound.  It says:  “ADONAI said to Moshe, “Tell the people of Isra'el, ‘When you have come into the land where you are going to live, which I am giving to you, ...” (Numbers 15:1-2) However, upon further reflection, quite the opposite is the case.  Though the passage might seem out of chronological order, I think that the Ruach HaKodesh has preserved this order for a very specific reason.  Chapter 15 of B'midbar opens with the reiteration of the promise that HaShem will still give the people of Yisrael the land He promised to give them.  This shows us that our G-d is ever merciful; He is faithful even when we're not (2 Timothy 2:13).  He will never break His covenant.  As He has proclaimed:  “I am ADONAI your G-d, who brought you out of the land of Egypt in order to be your G-d. I am ADONAI your G-d.”” (Numbers 15:41)

Shalom uvracha, 

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