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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 June 2013

25

Pinchas Numbers 25:10-30:1
Haftarah 1 Kings 18:46-19:21

In this Torah portion, Pinchas, the priest, takes drastic action for the sake of HaShem and saves the nation of Yisrael from annihilation. In the Haftarah, Eliyahu (Elijah) also acts zealously on behalf of his G-d by slaying the prophets of Baal. Unlike Pinchas, though, Eliyahu finds himself running for his life, and then feeling so desolate that he wants to die anyway (1 Kings 19:4). How does HaShem pull Eliyahu out of the doldrums of discouragement and depression? HaShem does at least five things for Eliyahu while he is in the wilderness. First, He watches over and sustains Eliyahu (1 Kings 19:5-6). Second, He brings Eliyahu back to the very place where Torah, the marriage contract between HaShem and His people, was given (verse 8), perhaps reminding Eliyahu that He is faithful, even and especially when His people are not. Third, He shows His mighty power in the wind, earthquake, and fire, yet Scripture says He was not in any of them, but in the quiet, subdued Voice. Taken along with 1 Kings 18 where HaShem makes His power known by sending fire from heaven which consumes the sacrifice, the stone altar, the dust, and even the water, we might surmise another lesson for Eliyahu. If the people wouldn’t listen to the Word of G-d, no amount of display of power would bring them to repentance either. Fourth, He recommissions Eliyahu, refocusing his attention on the tasks he needs to accomplish, and encouraging him by letting him know there is indeed a remnant of Yisraelim who have remained faithful. Finally, HaShem gives Eliyahu the greatest gift by bringing a young man into his life whom he can disciple and who will take his place as prophet. Elisha would be a constant reminder to Eliyahu that he is not alone in his walk with G-d. Eliyahu would also be less likely to focus too much on himself when he has a young protégé to mentor.

What HaShem has done for Eliyahu, He does for us today. We sometimes face circumstances in life that leave us discouraged and even a bit depressed, feeling like we’re the only ones serving G-d. Having a season of being alone with the L-RD to hear His Voice is not a bad idea, but it shouldn’t be prolonged. Notice that Eliyahu’s time apart from community lasts only a couple of months at most. While in this season, it behooves us to seek G-d’s Word, not necessarily displays of His power. It is His Voice that brings life and healing. Finally, asking the L-RD to bring us someone to disciple will remind us that we aren’t the only ones serving G-d, and we won’t be so focused on our troubles because we will be busy investing into another person’s life. This, too, brings healing and hope. If we learn from Eliyahu, we, too, will emerge from our discouragement healed and stronger in HaShem. As it is written: "I pray that from the treasures of his glory he will empower you with inner strength by his Spirit, so that the Messiah may live in your hearts through your trusting. Also I pray that you will be rooted and founded in love, so that you, with all God's people, will be given strength to grasp the breadth, length, height and depth of the Messiah's love, yes, to know it, even though it is beyond all knowing, so that you will be filled with all the fullness of God." (Ephesians 3:16-19) Once HaShem has restored us, let us waste no time in pursuing His plan.

Shalom uvracha,
Hadassah

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18

Balak Numbers 22:2-25:9
Haftarah Micah 5:6-6:8

This Haftarah refers back to the accompanying Torah portion in a number of ways, highlighting Bil’am’s words concerning Yisrael’s future supremacy. Decrying Yisrael’s idolatry (5:9-14), it begins with the promise that Ya’akov will not always go astray. The day will come when he will wait upon His G-d alone, not on human help or idolatrous influences like soothsayers and sorcery. The final two verses of this Haftarah also depict in stark contrast the difference between religion and relationship. Micah 6:6-8 says: "With what can I come before [ADONAI] to bow down before G-d on high? Should I come before him with burnt offerings? with calves in their first year? Would [ADONAI] take delight in thousands of rams with ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Could I give my firstborn to pay for my crimes, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? Human being, you have already been told what is good, what [ADONAI] demands of you- no more than to act justly, love grace and walk in purity with your G-d." Verse 8 of this passage seems simple and straightforward, but an examination of a couple of Hebrew words ads to its profundity.

The first word, translated as "demand" in the above-quoted passage, is derived from the Hebrew root "darash," which could be better translated as "seek" or "search out." It is the same root from which we get "drash," (in-depth discussion and study of the Word of G-d). The second word to note is the Hebrew root "tzana," translated as "purity" by the Complete Jewish Bible. Other translations render this word as "humbly." "Tzana" carries the connotation of being modest. It is the same word the Chareidi (Chasidic) Jewish people use to describe modest dress and behavior. Thus, Micah 6:8 is telling us that what HaShem seeks from us or is searching for in us is to do justice ("mishpat"), love mercy ("chesed") and walk modestly ("tzne’a") with our G-d. Notice that walking humbly with G-d encapsulates the first two qualifications of doing justice and loving mercy. One could write a book on these three areas alone, but if we string a few pearls of Scripture together, perhaps we can get a glimpse of what it looks like to walk humbly with G-d.

Our L-rd and Rabbi, Yeshua, gives us very practical instruction on how to walk with HaShem. In Matthew 6:1-4, for instance, the Master tells us to do our tzadakah (acts of charity) quietly. Verses 5-13 of this same passage are instructions on how we should pray: in secret and with simplicity and humility. Even our displays of devotion and worship should be without ostentation (Matthew 23:1-12; Luke 18:9-14). Though this is only a cursory look at some aspects of walking humbly or modestly with HaShem, the passages presented give us concrete ways to conduct ourselves. If we walk modestly with our G-d, He has promised to exalt us. As it is written: "Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, so that at the right time he may lift you up." (1 Peter 5:6) Let us seek G-d’s praise by walking humbly with Him.

Shalom uvracha,
Hadassah

 

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10

Chukat Numbers 19:1-22:1
Haftarah Judges 11:1-33

In this week’s Haftarah, we meet Yiftach, rugged raider of the Gil’ad countryside and black sheep of his family. Born the son of a prostitute and ostracized by his half-brothers from sharing in the family inheritance, Yiftach’s background is less than stellar. However, he doesn’t let his past limit him. Despite illegitimate birth and humble beginnings, Yiftach becomes famous for his bravery (verse 1) and rises to power over the region of Gil’ad (verses 5-11). Verse 12 shows us that Yiftach has enough knowledge of Torah to obey its command to offer terms of peace to one’s enemies before diving into battle (see Deuteronomy 20:10-12). He also exhibits his grasp of Yisrael’s history as he recounts past exploits in an effort to dissuade the Ammonites from going to war (Judges 11:14-27). When the battle does ensue in verses 28-33, his military prowess is seen, and HaShem gives him overwhelming victory.

Yiftach teaches us a number of lessons without saying a word. If anyone could complain about their past and how life is so unfair, Yiftach would have more than enough reason to feel sorry for himself. However, by his actions, we see his choice to press forward, taking HaShem’s path. Though life is by no means a bed of roses for Yiftach, and he makes tragic decisions concerning his own family (11:30-31, 34-40), he makes no excuses, but takes responsibility for his words and actions. Someone once said that ten percent of life is what happens to us, and ninety percent is how we respond to those events. Though our past may explain our personality traits or idiosyncrasies, it doesn’t have to define us and we don’t have to be its victim. Conversely, it is not wise to rest on our proverbial laurels of the past, thinking we are invincible because we had an exemplary upbringing or a fastidiously g-dly family. Scripture compares our life in Messiah Yeshua to a race. It is wise for us to learn from our past and always remember the journey on which HaShem has brought us. However, if we continually look back either in lament or in pride, we won’t move forward and win the prize.

The Author and Finisher of our faith longs to set us free and bestow upon us a reward far greater than anything, good or bad, in our past. As it is written: "It is not that I have already obtained it or already reached the goal- no, I keep pursuing it in the hope of taking hold of that for which the Messiah Yeshua took hold of me. Brothers, I, for my part, do not think of myself as having yet gotten hold of it; but one thing I do: forgetting what is behind me and straining forward toward what lies ahead, I keep pursuing the goal in order to win the prize offered by God's upward calling in the Messiah Yeshua." (Philippians 3:12-14) Like Yiftach, let us allow HaShem to define our identity and destiny.

Shalom uvracha,
Hadassah

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06


Korach Numbers 16:1-18:32
Haftarah 1 Samuel 11:14-12:22

Both the Torah and Haftarah portions for this week deal with rebellion and its bitter consequences. They also show us by the examples of Moshe, Aharon, and Sh’mu’el how HaShem’s leaders are to conduct themselves in everyday life. Since every one of us is called to be a representative of Messiah Yeshua, and thus function in some kind of leadership, we can learn from THEM. In this Haftarah, Sh’mu’el so beautifully reflects exemplary characteristics of both Moshe and Aharon. A priest of the Holy One, blessed be He, and also a judge in Yisrael, he bears the heavy burden of Yisrael’s spiritual and judicial welfare. Confronted with Yisrael’s demand for a king, Sh’mu’el must relate the bad tidings that their wish for an earthly king is in essence rejecting their Heavenly King, the One who brought them forth out of the land of Egypt to be their G-d.

How he approaches this unpleasant task is a pattern we all can use when having to address issues within our congregations and communities. In 1 Samuel 12:1-3, Sh’mu’el begins his speech to the people by asking them if he has wronged any of them. Notice that he does not appeal to their feelings, but to very concrete questions: "So here I am; now is the time to witness against me before [ADONAI] and before his anointed king. Does any of you think I have taken your ox or donkey, defrauded or oppressed you, or accepted a bribe to deprive you of justice? Tell me, and I will restore it to you." By their own admission, the people testify that he had not abused them in any way, thereby establishing his credibility. Sh’mu’el then relates Yisrael’s history and how HaShem had delivered them from all their oppressors, thereby establishing His faithfulness, and revealing the people’s rebellion. In verses 16-18, Sh’mu’el calls on HaShem to send thunder and rain, when the time of the wheat harvest in Yisrael is the dry season, when the land doesn’t receive any rain for approximately seven months.

If we may take the liberty of employing some symbolism, the thunder harkens back to Mount Sinai, appealing to the Torah or the Word of G-d, and the rain is comparable to the Ruach HaKodesh (see Hosea 6:1-3 and John 7:37-39). At this point, the people realize their grave error and are convicted in their hearts of the sin of choosing an earthly king instead of the Heavenly One (verses 18-19). Once the people confess their sin, Sh’mu’el reflects HaShem’s mercy, reassuring the people that if they and their king will walk in HaShem’s ways, they will live in safety. Since true mercy also cares enough to admonish, Sh’mu’el also warns the people of the consequences of continuing rebellion: The very thing they wish for would become a snare and the very circumstance they thought a king would rescue them from would happen anyway. Unfortunately, the Haftarah concludes in 12:22, but upon finishing the chapter, we see Sh’mu’el’s humility and love for the people as he promises to pray for them and continue to lead them in the ways of HaShem. Inevitably, rebellion or other issues come up in our congregations and communities that must be addressed if we wish to experience G-d’s shalom. Sh’mu’el teaches us by example that before we confront someone, we must examine ourselves and make sure we have a clear conscience.

Our L-rd Yeshua admonishes the same when He says: "Why do you see the splinter in your brother's eye but not notice the log in your own eye ?How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the splinter out of your eye,' when you have the log in your own eye? You hypocrite! First, take the log out of your own eye; then you will see clearly, so that you can remove the splinter from your brother's eye!" (Matthew 7:3-5) After we have done this, we then need to examine the issue. Is it a specific, valid matter? To belabor the point, Sh’mu’el does not deal with emotions, but states truth in love. If the concern is valid, it will be confirmed by Torah and the Ruach HaKodesh. Whether the one being confronted has a tender heart like the people of Yisrael in this passage or not, fervent prayer must always be the overarching umbrella covering the situation. As both the Torah and Haftarah demonstrate, HaShem cares for and defends those He has called to leadership of any capacity. Our job is to learn from g-dly leaders and follow their example. As it is written: "Therefore, stripping off falsehood, let everyone speak truth with his neighbor, because we are intimately related to each other as parts of a body." (Ephesians 4:25) Like Sh’mu’el, let us be just in judgment, and lead in love.

Shalom uvracha,
Hadassah

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05

Sh’lach L’cha Numbers 13:1-15:41
Haftarah Joshua 2:1-24

The two passages for this week’s readings are a study in contrast. The Torah shows what can go drastically wrong in the midst of too many opinions and bad reports, while the Haftarah shows what mighty things HaShem can do through only three faithful people. Furthermore, besides the two spies featured here, the most unlikely character is displayed as our example of faith. Joshua 2:1-21 records the spies’ encounter with Rachav, a prostitute who decides to hide these two men and help them escape the city of Yericho. We are very familiar with how she lets the men down through the wall after making them swear they will preserve her and her family when they come into the land, and how she leaves the scarlet rope hanging in her window until they arrive in conquest. What we don’t often consider are the ramifications of her actions and the risks taken on behalf of the people of Yisrael.

When we think of the gerim (strangers) as being grafted into Yisrael, we often call to mind the romance of Ruth and Boaz. Rachav’s story of being grafted in does include some romantic overtones as she is the mother of said Boaz and a fore bearer in Messiah Yeshua’s lineage (Matthew 1:5). However, before that happens, her story is fraught with danger to herself and her family. One wonders, for instance, how she explained the presence of the bright red cord hanging in her window without the entire mission being compromised. Rachav puts her neck on the proverbial chopping block for the Jewish people. Though her consequent reward is great indeed, she has no knowledge of the future. She does this only in hopes of having her life and that of her family spared. Rachav’s life and actions bring up a challenging question for us today. It is becoming increasingly popular to learn about the Hebraic roots of our faith, and this is laudable. We are quick to rejoice and celebrate with our Jewish brothers and sisters. However, are we willing to share in their sorrows? Like Rachav, are we willing to lay our lives down for their sakes?

These are very hard questions to consider, but now is the time to ask them when life is relatively easy and free of persecution for most of us. It shouldn’t surprise us that our L-rd Yeshua commands the same commitment from us demonstrated by Rachav. While we relish future reward for choosing to throw in our lot with Yisrael, let us also be prudent in pondering the price we may be asked to pay. As it is written: "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Don't you sit down and estimate the cost, to see if you have enough capital to complete it? If you don't, then when you have laid the foundation but can't finish, all the onlookers start making fun of you and say, 'This is the man who began to build, but couldn't finish!' Or again, suppose one king is going out to wage war with another king. Doesn't he first sit down and consider whether he, with his ten thousand troops, has enough strength to meet the other one, who is coming against him with twenty thousand? If he hasn't, then while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation to inquire about terms for peace. So every one of you who doesn't renounce all that he has cannot be my [talmid]." (Luke 14:28-33) Like Rachav, let us count the cost and give our all for those who have become our people and for Him Who has become our G-d.

Shalom uvracha,
Hadassah

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