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Entries for July 2011
Meanings of Names from Numbers 33
Ramses: "child of the sun"
Etham: "with them: their plowshare"
Pi-hahiroth: "place where sedge grows"
Baalzephon: "lord of the north"
Wilderness of Sin: "thorn or clay"
Alush: "I will knead (bread)"
Rephidim: " rests" or "stays" or "resting places"
Kibroth-hattaavah " graves of lust"
Rimmon-parez "pomegranate of the breach"
Mount Shapher "mountain of beauty"
Makheloth "place of assembly"
Mosera or Moseroth "bonds"
Bene-jaakan "sons of twisting"
Hor-hagidgad "cavern of Gidgad"
Jotbath or Jotbathah "pleasantness"
Ezion-geber "backbone of a man"
Ije-abarim "ruins of Abarim"
Dibongad [Dibon] "wasting"
Almon-diblathaim "concealing the two cakes"
Abarim "regions beyond"
Moab "of his father"
Jericho "its moon"
Beth-jesimoth "house of the desolation"
Abel Shittim "meadow of acacias"
The beginning of this week's Torah portion is a treasure trove. In B'midbar 33, Moshe, at HaShem's command, documents Yisrael's journeys fro Egypt to the plains of Moav (Moab) where they are camped. The name of each place of encampment is meticulously recorded for posterity. These names seem daunting to read, but with a little studying, they reveal Yisrael's experiences during their forty-year stay in the wilderness. They also reveal seasons in our lives as redeemed people.
In the bible, every name is significant. No name is given or mentioned on a whim. Rather, the given name of a place or person defines both significance and destiny. So it is with the places of Yisrael's encampments. Fifty names of places are mentioned in B'midbar 33. Some refer to geographical points near which Yisrael stays, and others deal with the places themselves where Yisrael camps. All are telling as to what Yisrael finds in the wilderness and what she endures. To give a few examples, names like " K'helah" (B'midbar 33:23) and "Mak'helot" (33:25) mean "Place of assembly." Though they seem mundane, these names reflect the routines and practicality of everyday life. Other names, such as " Mount Shefer" "Beauty" (33:23), " Haradah" "Fear" (33:24), " Moserot" "Bonds" (33:30), and " Mitkah" "Sweetness" (33:28) reflect milestones in Yisrael's journeys. Since 1 Corinthians 10:6 says that all things written in Torah are for our learning, even the names found in B'midbar 33 teach us about our life in Mashiach. Like Yisrael, we are on a journey toward a city whose builder and maker is G-d (Hebrews 11:10) We, too, come to different places along the way. Some places are routine and may seem mundane. Other places introduce us to seasons of beauty or sweetness, while others bring fear. Wherever we may find ourselves presently, let us remember that we cannot stay here, our destination is with our Mashiach Yeshua. As it is written: All these people kept on trusting until they died, without receiving what had been promised. They had only seen it and welcomed it from a distance, while acknowledging that they were aliens and temporary residents on the earth. For people who speak this way make it clear that they are looking for a fatherland. Now if they were to keep recalling the one they left, they would have an opportunity to return, but as it is, they aspire to a better fatherland, a heavenly one. This is why G-d is not ashamed to be called their G-d, for he has prepared for them a city. (Hebrews 11:13-16) Let us remember this world is not our home.
Numbers 30:2-32:42 (Jewish numbering)
This week's Torah portion revisits the theme of zeal. In the end of Balak, one individual's zeal saves the nation of Yisrael. In this portion, the entire community is commanded to display this same zeal to
perpetuate the nation of Yisrael. In B'midbar 31:1-2, HaShem commands Moshe to go to war with the
Midianites because the Midianites had actively sought Yisrael's destruction (see Numbers 25:1-9). The Yisraelim go to battle and are overwhelmingly victorious, slaying all the Midianite men, burning their cities, andtaking all the women, children, and animals captive. One would think that Moshe would be please with such results. However, when he hears the soldiers keep all the women alive, he is anything but glad. B'midbar 31:14-16 records Moshe's displeasure and why. He states that the women kept alive are the same women who seduced the Yisraelim into worshiping idols and committing sexual sin. He then commands the soldiers to kill every male child and every woman who is not a virgin. This is an unusual command.
D'varim 20:13-15 commands that when Yisrael takes a city in battle, excluding the Canaanite cities, all the males are to be killed, but all the women and children can be taken captive. There is no additional
stipulation as in the situation with the Midianites. What does this teach us? The Midianite women Moshe commands the soldiers to dispatch represent past experiences and attachments to things other than the Holy One, blessed be He. Even as the Yisraelim must eschew everything that would draw them away from G-d, so it is with us as believers in Mashiach Yeshua. Sometimes, we must break from past associations in order to be wholly devoted to our L-RD. We may have to give up friendships or memories of experiences if they threaten to seduce us into worshiping the things of the world from which Mashiach has rescued us. If we don't, those things which seem so pleasant and attractive will destroy us, just like the Midianite women used their feminine wiles to bring plague and destruction on Yisrael. As it is written: "Indeed, if they have once escaped the pollutions of the world through knowing our Lord and Deliverer, Yeshua the Messiah, and then have again become entangled and defeated by them, their latter condition has become worse than their former. It would have been better for them not to have known the Way of righteousness than, fully knowing, to turn from the holy command delivered to them." What has happened to them accords with the true proverb, ``A dog returns to its own vomit.'' Yes, ``The pig washed itself, only to wallow in the mud!'' (2 Peter 2:20-22) Let us heed Scripture's warning and make a clean break from the past.
Dear All, In this week's portion, we begin to see Yisrael's restoration from the ravages of their wandering in the wilderness for forty years. Consequently, instruction is given as to how to divide the Promised Land. More instruction is also given pertaining to the moadim (appointed festivals) of HaShem. B'midbar 28-29 contains what sacrifices are to be
offered during which mo'ed and how many are to be offered. This particular passage may seem a bit dry, but as my friend, Christene Jackman, observes, if a passage seems dry, it is the Scriptures' way of whispering, "Here is treasure. Dig here." As we delve into these sacrifices, we discover another facet of G-d's plan of redemption. B'midbar 29:12-38 delineates the various offerings to be made during the festival of Sukkot. Whereas with the other festivals, the pattern of animals to be offered is either one or two bulls, one ram and seven lambs, Sukkot is unique in the quantity of animals offered. The rams and lambs are doubled, and in total, seventy bulls are offered during this feast. Interestingly, only one goat is offered each day for a sin offering, signifying that there is only one means of atonement. In Scripture, everything means something.
The number seventy in Scripture symbolizes all the nations of the earth in their totality. Hence, the sages posit that the seventy bulls represent the burnt offerings made on behalf of the nations, foreshadowing that they will eventually keep Sukkot along with Yisrael.Zechariah supports this line of thinking when he declares: "Finally, everyone remaining from all the nations that came to attack Yerushalayim will go up every year to worship the king, ADONAI-Tzva'ot, and to keep the festival of Sukkot. (Zechariah 14:16) Thus, we see that G-d's plan to redeem a people for Himself from every nation, language, kindred, and tribe (Revelation 5:9, 7:9) is not new. It is found in Torah. When attempting to explain the plan of redemption and who fits where, many have taught that when yisrael "rejected" Mashiach, this opened the way for the gentiles to come into the Kingdom of G-d. One gets the impression that redeeming people from the nations is HaShem's "Plan B."
This couldn't be further from the truth. In B'reishit 12:3 HaShem says to Avram: "I will bless those who bless you, but I will curse anyone who curses you; and by you all the families of the earth will be blessed." Thus, part of all the families of the earth being blessed is that a remnant from all the nations is brought into the people of G-d. Our re- demption is a partial bringing to fruition of the Abrahamic covenant. As it is written: "Praised be ADONAI, Father of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah, who in the Messiah has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in heaven." In the Messiah he chose us in love before the creation of the universe to be holy and without defect in his presence. He determined in advance that through Yeshua the Messiah we would be his sons--in keeping with his pleasure and purpose-- so that we would bring him praise commensurate with the glory of the grace he gave us through the Beloved One. (Ephesians 1:3-6) Let us fully embrace our place in G-d's plan with all its privileges and responsibilities.
Shalom uvracha (peace and blessing),
This week's portion contains the very familiar story of how Balak, king of Moab, hired Bil'am (Balaam) to curse Yisrael so Moab could defeat them. Though Balak and Bil'am are not successful in this endeavor, they nevertheless set a trap using the daughters of Moab as bait. In the midst of the ensuing tragedy, one lone man saves the nation of Yisrael from certain decimation.
In B'midbar 25:1-3, we learn that the people of Yisrael were seduced by the women of Moab to partake in sacrifices to idols, thus joining themselves to those idols (verse 3). In verse 4, HaShem commands Moshe to execute the heads of the people by hanging, but verse 5 tells us that Moshe commanded the judges to slay all the people under them who had worshipped the idols. This was not the action HaShem commanded, and the consequent plague which killed twenty-four thousand people was the result of Moshe's mitigating the punishment ordered. In the midst of the plague and Yisrael's mourning before the door of the tabernacle, one young man flaunts his rebellion before all as he brings a Midianite woman into the camp for the purpose of consummating an alliance (see verses 6-7). Next week's portion (B'midbar 25:14-15) tells us this young man was a prince of the tribe of Shimon (Simeon) and the Midianite woman was a princess of her people. In verse 7, the priest Pinchas (Phinehas) takes decisive action and executes the offending couple, thus stopping the plague from consuming the nation. Pinchas' actions may seem extreme, but drastic times call for drastic measures, and true devotion to G-d is never half-hearted.
Pinchas teaches us what true godly zeal looks like. First, zeal brings about preservation. Pinchas knew that the actions of the prince of Shimon and the Midianite princess threatened the very nationhood of Yisrael, so he did what he needed to do in order to preserve that nationhood. Second, zeal actually saves lives. Yes, Pinchas had to execute the offending couple, but in doing so, he saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of Yisraelim. Finally, zeal cleanses. B'midbar 25:11 states that Pinchas' actions averted G-d's wrath from consuming the children of Yisrael.
Like Pinchas, we are called to a life of zeal. We may never be called upon to exact HaShem's judgment, but He calls us to a life of radical devotion. What are we willing to do for His Name's sake? Are we, like Pinchas, willing to execute offending passions and habits in our lives? Are we willing to walk the lonely path of absolute commitment to the Holy One, blessed be He? Notice Pinchas did not consult anyone around him or seek anyone's favor; he could not. if he had, he surely would have been deterred from what he needed to do and more people would have died. To sum up the matter, are we willing to lay down our very lives for our Messiah? This is exactly the zeal our L-rd Yeshua calls us to exhibit.
As it is written: "Whoever loves his father or mother more than he loves me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than he loves me is not worthy of me. And anyone who does not take up his execution-stake and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his own life will lose it, but the person who loses his life for my sake will find it." (Matthew 10:37-39)