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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.
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

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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 July 2014


Devarim Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22
Psalm 137

Psalm 137 is one of the most disconsolate Scriptures. Giving us a glimpse of the despair, anguish, and anger of the Yisraelim being held captive in the land of Bavel, its intensity is shockingly disturbing. Yet, if we will dare to venture into the valley of the shadow of death, we will come to know our G-d more fully.

Psalm 137:8-9 cries: "Daughter of Bavel, you will be destroyed! A blessing on anyone who pays you back for the way you treated us! A blessing on anyone who seizes your babies and smashes them against a rock!" Why would the psalmist wish such vehement vengeance? It is because this is what was done to the Yisraelim when they were taken captive. (See the book of Lamentations.) Nevertheless, it is no surprise that this particular couplet should throw us into a tail spin, especially when we consider our L-rd Yeshua’s command to forgive those who have wronged us (Matthew 6:14-15). How can we possibly reconcile these extremes? The answer lies in the Bible’s definition of retribution.

One of the Names of G-d is "El G’mulot," (G’-mu-lot) or "G-d of retribution." It is found in Jeremiah 51:56, where the prophet assures the beleaguered, captive people of Yisrael that their captors will taste the bitter medicine they have dealt. We might find viewing G-d in this light disconcerting, but part of loving Him with all our heart, soul, and might is loving Him for Who He is, not who we want Him to be. That being said, when we look into the Hebrew, we find the Biblical definition for retribution is not what we think.

The word G’mulot ultimately comes from the root "gamal," which has the idea of a reward. A construct of this root is used in the above-quoted Psalm 137:8-9. We tend to think of retribution as hateful and full of spite. Humanly speaking, this is correct. However, HaShem teaches us through His Name El G’mulot that Biblical, and therefore true retribution is getting what we give, no more, and no less. Before we become despondent with the heaviness of this subject, there is another more hopeful side to this story for us as believers.

The flip side of this proverbial coin is that when we turn to this same G-d for refuge, admitting our sin and guilt before Him, we find that He does not reward us according to what we deserve (Psalm 103:10). After we have been saved, though, Scripture does tell us that when our L-rd Yeshua returns, He will reward us according to the things we have done. So, the next time we are tempted to lose our temper, say something we will later regret, give vent to impatience, etc., let us remember that what goes around comes around eventually. As it is written: ""Pay attention!" []says Yeshua,[] "I am coming soon, and my rewards are with me to give to each person according to what he has done."" (Revelation 22:12) Let us give what we would like to receive.

Shalom uvracha,

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Masei Numbers 33:1-36:13
Psalm 49

Discussed previously for Shabbat Shekalim, we once again come to Psalm 49, composed for the sons of Korach. Reminding us that we can’t take what we accumulate in this life into the World to come, this Psalm also deals with more than how to view the temporal. It gives us a principle of interpreting Scripture with which we may not be so comfortable.

Psalm 49:4-5 sets the tone for what follows: "My mouth is about to speak wisdom; my heart's deepest thoughts will give understanding. I will listen with care to []God's[] parable, I will set my enigma to the music of the lyre." Before we ask what this has to do with the proverbial price of tea in China, let’s take a look at another place where this is found. Matthew 13:34-35 states: "All these things Yeshua said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without using a parable. This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, "I will open my mouth in parables, I will say what has been hidden since the creation of the universe."" Notice Matthew’s quote of Psalm 49:4-5. The discrepancies between the above-quoted Psalm and Matthew’s quotation might be a result of his quoting from the Septuagint. Along with showing how Messianic prophecy is being fulfilled, Matthew is using a more subtle technique of communication.

Matthew is employing a rabbinic technique called Remez, where the speaker hints at a Scripture, expecting that his audience will be extremely familiar with its context. His message is conveyed not only by what he says, but by what he doesn’t say. With this in mind, let us hear what the purpose of a parable is.

Doubtless, we have all been told that parables were used to clarify difficult concepts. However, this is not what Scripture says. Matthew 13:10-15 tells us exactly what parables are meant to do: "Then the [talmidim] came and asked Yeshua, "Why are you speaking to them in parables?" He answered, "Because it has been given to you to know the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, but it has not been given to them. For anyone who has something will be given more, so that he will have plenty; but from anyone who has nothing, even what he does have will be taken away. Here is why I speak to them in parables: they look without seeing and listen without hearing or understanding. That is, in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Yesha'yahu which says, 'You will keep on hearing but never understand, and keep on seeing but never perceive, because the heart of this people has become dull- with their ears they barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, so as not to see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their heart, and do [t'shuvah], so that I could heal them.'" A parable is not meant to clarify, but to conceal. This little tidbit of knowledge has far-reaching ramifications for each one of us as believers.

Why would our L-rd Yeshua take things hard to understand and make them even harder to grasp? He answers this question in the above-quoted passages by explaining, in so many words, that if people won’t take to heart what they already know, no more would be given to them. Since He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8), this principle still applies. If He gives us illumination through His Word about a specific area in our lives and we are obedient, we will be entrusted with more insight and clarity. However, if we refuse to obey what we know to do, we shouldn’t expect any more revelation until we seriously apply what has become obvious to us. Whether we’re studying Scriptural parables or prophecy, statutes or stories, let us faithfully obey what we know to do. Our growth and understanding depend on it. As it is written: "Pay attention, then, to how you hear! For anyone who has something will be given more; but from anyone who has nothing, even what he seems to have will be taken away."" (Luke 8:18) If we heed what is revealed, we will come to know what is concealed.

Shalom uvracha,

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Matot Numbers 30:2-32:42
Psalm 111

Circular thinking is frowned upon in the Greek mindset, but in Hebraic thought, not only is it laudable, but it is the central aspect of the Hebraic world view. Thus, Psalm 111, along with so many other Psalms, is circular in its structure. Beginning with praise, it ends with the proclamation that HaShem’s praise stands forever. The psalmist proceeds to complete the circle, telling forth HaShem’s marvelous, incredible works, among which are His grace and mercy (verse 4), His covenantal faithfulness (verse 5), and His power as displayed in giving His people the goyim (nations) as their heritage (verse 6). All this being said, verse 10 of Psalm 111 gives us a very interesting way HaShem’s praise is displayed.

Psalm 111:10 states: "The first and foremost point of wisdom is the fear of [ADONAI]; all those living by it gain good common sense. His praise stands forever." It seems odd that the psalmist would combine good common sense with HaShem’s praise standing forever, but when we look a little closer at some Hebrew words, perhaps it won’t seem so strange.

A more literal translation of Psalm 111:10 might be something like: "The beginning of wisdom is fear of the L-RD; good prudence has the one who does them (i.e. the statutes in verse 7). His (HaShem’s) praise stands forever." The word translated in the CJB as "common sense" is "sechel," which is anything but common. Whereas wisdom knows how a situation ore circumstance ought to be handled, sechel takes things a step further, actually applying wisdom’s dictates. Someone with wisdom, for instance, will learn from his/her mistakes, but a person with sechel will learn from other’s mistakes. Whether considering wisdom or sechel, the origin of all circumspection is the fear of HaShem. As believers, we are familiar with awe and reverence for G-d. What we perhaps haven’t pondered is what happens in a culture that forsakes fear of HaShem.

Nowadays, we watch the news or those around us, and shake our heads at the foolish things people seem to be doing more and more, sometimes risking life and limb, and sometimes even dying for lack of common sense. Our tendency is to chalk this up to adolescence if we’re considering teenagers, or prolonged adolescence in the case of adults. The more sinister reality behind these human foibles is that we as a culture have forsaken fear of HaShem. Wisdom without the fear of HaShem is like a building without a foundation. This is a spiritual principle like that of gravity or the law of thermodynamics in the physical. They take effect whether we believe them or not. The good news is that the reverse is true. If we choose to embrace fear of HaShem, we will begin to know what true wisdom is, and even discover the preserving benefits of that rare quality called sechel. As it is written: "Look, I have taught you laws and rulings, just as [ADONAI] my God ordered me, so that you can behave accordingly in the land where you are going in order to take possession of it. Therefore, observe them; and follow them; for then all peoples will see you as having wisdom and understanding. When they hear of all these laws, they will say, 'This great nation is surely a wise and understanding people.'" (Deuteronomy 4:5-6) ""Pay attention! I am sending you out like sheep among wolves, so be as prudent as snakes and as harmless as doves." (Matthew 10:16) Exhibiting prudence is a form of praise.

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Pinchas Numbers 25:10-30:1
Psalm 50

Discussed as the Psalm for Vayikra, Psalm 50 is revisited as this week’s Torah portion illustrates the offerings of the faithful (Numbers 28-29) and the complete disregard for Torah by the unfaithful (Numbers 25:14-15). However, as with all Scripture passages, Psalm 50 contains multiple levels of truth to explore.

Psalm 50:1-4 declares: "A psalm of Asaf: The Mighty One, G-d, [ADONAI], is speaking, summoning the world from east to west. Out of Tziyon, the perfection of beauty, G-d is shining forth. Our G-d is coming and not staying silent. With a fire devouring ahead of him and a great storm raging around him, he calls to the heavens above and to earth, in order to judge his people." Though we as believers will not face condemnation along with the world (1 Corinthians 11:32), we will nevertheless appear before the Judgment Seat of Messiah to receive rewards for the deeds we’ve done in the body, whether good or bad (2 Corinthians 5:9-10). With this in mind, let’s do a little excursus on what this Judgment Seat of Messiah is, and how it applies to us in the here and now.

Though we don’t know if Messiah Yeshua will be surrounded by the above-mentioned tempestuous storm when we appear before Him, we do know from 1 Corinthians 3:13-15 that what we have done in this life will be tested by fire to see whether it will endure. On a more positive note, 1 Corinthians 3:10-17 compares us as believers to the Temple of G-d being built. Each believer contributes materials (i.e. gold, silver, precious gems, wood, grass, or straw (verse 12)), for this edifice. We know that wood, grass, and straw don’t stand a chance in the fire, but what about the gold, silver, and precious stones? How do these figure in the Mishkan and Temple motif, and in our walk with Messiah Yeshua?

First, gold figures most prominently in the instruments of service (i.e. the ark of the Covenant, the table of showbread and its appurtenances, the hooks and rings holding the Mishkan together, etc.) Gold symbolizes our service to our L-RD in what we do for him. It represents those good works He has prepared for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). Prayer is a part of this service, since the altar of incense is covered with pure gold, and its tools are of gold. Silver, as displayed in the sockets, outer pillars, and hooks of the Mishkan, as well as in the silver trumpets (Numbers 10:1-10) seems to point to decoration and beauty, reminiscent of praise and worship. The precious gems found on the high priest’s garments correspond to the twelve tribes of Yisrael (Exodus 28:(9-14; 17-21). In the above cited reference, notice that the gemstones are framed in gold, and the breastplate is attached with chains of gold. This represents the lives we touch for Messiah. Of course, when interacting with people and praying for them, we do those good works already mentioned, bringing this analysis full circle. Perhaps we may extrapolate this a little further.

Since we are all members of the Body of Messiah, could it be that different people will tend toward different materials for building on this most precious Foundation? Though it is ideal that we exhibit all three of these elements in our lives, it may be that some who are givers, those with the gift of helps, and the prayer warriors exhibit the gold. Those whose strengths lie in praise and worship, the Psalmists and songwriters, the musicians and dancers, may be compared to silver. Finally, those who are expert at winning souls, the emissaries, prophets, proclaimers of the Good News, shepherds, and teachers (Ephesians 4:11-12) have an affinity with the precious gems, carrying people close to their hearts and on their shoulders as seen in the priestly garments. Whatever precious materials we see ourselves using to build on the most worthy Foundation of Messiah Yeshua, let us strive diligently to prepare for the Day when our Master will come to judge His people. As it is written: "And now, children, remain united with him; so that when he appears, we may have confidence and not shrink back from him in shame at his coming." (1 John 2:28) What we put into this life for Messiah will have eternal ramifications.

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Balak Numbers 22:2-25:9
Psalm 79

In this particular year of 5774, this week’s Torah portion and accompanying Psalm find us at the beginning of the month of Tamuz. This month begins a season of sad remembrance for us as we mourn the breach of the walls of Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) on the 17th of Tamuz, and the destruction of the Temple three weeks later on the 9th of Av. It seems fitting, then, that we are presented with a Psalm filled with such heart-rending sorrow.

The images vividly portrayed in Psalm 79 are overwhelming in their tragedy. Consider this verse, for instance: "All around Yerushalayim they [the enemies] have shed their [Yisrael’s] blood like water, and no one is left to bury them." (Psalm 79:3) In the midst of such horrific circumstances, Asaph, the composer of this lament, appeals to the covenant made between HaShem and His people: "Pour out your wrath on the nations that don't know you, on the kingdoms that don't call out your name; for they have devoured Ya'akov and left his home a waste. Don't count past iniquities against us, but let your compassion come quickly to meet us, for we have been brought very low." (verses 6-8) We are presented with a disconcerting dilemma when we compare this with Amos 3:1-2: ""Listen to this word which [ADONAI] has spoken against you, people of Isra'el, against the entire family that I brought up from the land of Egypt: "Of all the families on earth, only you have I intimately known. This is why I will punish you for all your crimes."" Is there a way to reconcile these passages?

Zechariah 1:14-15 gives us the key to this conundrum: "The angel speaking with me then said to me, "Here is what [ADONAI-Tzva'ot] says: 'I am extremely jealous on behalf of Yerushalayim and Tziyon; and []to the same degree[] I am extremely angry with the nations that are so self-satisfied; because I was only a little angry []at Yerushalayim and Tziyon[], but they made the suffering worse.'" This is an uncanny reflection of the current events going on today in the Middle East. These Scriptures show us the difference between divine discipline and human vengeance.

Psalm 79 is all too clear about what happens at the hands of human hatred. The only result is wholesale slaughter and death. Divine discipline, on the other hand, harsh as it may be at times, is for the purpose of bringing about repentance. Hatred has no place in true discipline. In fact, Scripture is replete with warnings of what will happen to those who mistreat Yisrael, going above and beyond HaShem’s intention of correction. With this in mind, our Master, Yeshua, has called us as His talmidim to a unique responsibility concerning Yisrael, of which we are a part.

No one knows what the future holds. The prophets clearly warn us, though, that trouble is coming like that portrayed in Psalm 79. When this happens, we who are grafted into Yisrael have a clear duty to identify with, comfort, aid, and protect our Jewish brothers and sisters in as much as it lies within our power to do so. Our Messiah Yeshua is taking note of how we treat not only Yisrael in the Middle East, but all of her sons and daughters right in our neighborhoods as well. While we still have some modicum of peace, let us determine to be obedient to our Messiah, even in this matter. How we treat our Jewish brothers and sisters has more of an impact on Him than what we tend to realize.

As it is written: "For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you made me your guest, I needed clothes and you provided them, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.' Then the people who have done what G-d wants will reply, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and make you our guest, or needing clothes and provide them? When did we see you sick or in prison, and visit you?' The King will say to them, 'Yes! I tell you that whenever you did these things for one of the least important of these brothers of mine, you did them for me!'" (Matthew 25:35-40) Let us show Yisrael HaShem’s unconditional Love from an honest and sincere heart.

Shalom uvracha,

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