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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

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 September 2010

This last Torah portion really isn't last at all, but an ending an a newbeginning all rolled into one.  Comprised of D'varim 33-34 and B'reishit1:1-2:3, this portion by its structure teaches us that we never stoplearning and we never stop studying Torah.  That being said, D'varimconcludes with the blessings that Moshe, the man of G-d, spoke over thepeople of Yisrael before he died.  Some of these blessings havegeographical significance, and some are prophetic.  The blessing spokenover Levi, however, is worth noting particularly because it shows us thekind of devotion we need to exhibit in order to follow our L-RD in amanner that is pleasing to Him,D'varim 33:8-11 contains the blessing that Moshe spoke concerning Levi. It is the one blessing where the heart of the recipient is revealed. Verse 9 of D'varim 33 says: “Of his father and mother he said, ‘I don'tknow them'; he didn't acknowledge his brothers or children. For heobserved your word, and he kept your covenant.” This intriguing versebrings to mind the golden calf incident when the Levi'im exacted HaShem'sjudgment on those of the people of Yisrael who worshiped the golden calf(Sh'mot 32:26-29).  This verse also brings to mind what our L-RD Yeshuasaid concerning those who wished to be His talmidim.  In Luke 14:26, Hedeclares: ““If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father, hismother, his wife, his children, his brothers and his sisters, yes, andhis own life besides, he cannot be my talmid.” Do these passages suggestthat Torah advocates shunning and dishonoring one's family? Of coursenot, but they do tell us that true devotion to the Holy One is costly. As modern-day believers, this should give us pause.When interacting with the average churchgoer of how to walk out ourfaith, the conversation seems to boil down to defining the absolutelyminimum one must do in order to be considered saved.  Everything aboveand beyond that is relegated to legalism.  The Holy One, blessed be He,is looking for people who are wholehearted toward Him.  He's not lookingfor people who ask, "What do I have to do for You;" He's looking forthose who will ask, "What more can I do for You?" In short, He is lookingfor those who will follow Him regardless whether anyone else on earthdoes or not.  As it is written:  For the eyes of ADONAI move here andthere throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong on behalf ofthose who are wholehearted toward him. (2Ch 16:9A) To sum up thematter, our Messiah gave up everything for us; are we willing to give upeverything for Him? Whatever our answer to this query is, it willinevitably be tested even as it was in the life of the Levi'im.  May ourhearts be like that of the songwriter who wrote:  "I have decided tofollow Jesus, no turning back.  Though none go with me, still I willfollow, no turning back."

Shalom uvracha,
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Shemot (Exodus) 33:12-34:26

This Shabbat falls in the middle of Sukkot, so there isn't a regular Torah portion. However, the passage assigned for this Shabbat is remarkable in its revelation of HaShem to us. Shemot 33:12-34:26 contains the commandment to appear before the Holy One, blessed be he, during the shalosh regalim (three pilgrimage feasts), and for that reason alone, this passage would be appropriate reading during Sukkot. As we delve into the depths of this passage, though, we see the very heart of G-d.

In Shemot 32, we read of the tragic incident of the making of the golden calf and Yisrael's consequent going astray from her G-d. Chapter 33 opens with HaShem's declaration that He will bring the Yisraelim into the Promised Land as He said He would do, but He would not remain with them. One would think that the people would be content to inherit the Land.

After all, that's why they were redeemed from Egypt, right? This is not the case, though. HaShem's statement that He will not go with them into the Land elicits mourning and contrition among the Yisraelim. Why? Because they understood that the ultimate goal of redemption wasn't the Land; it was so that HaShem would be their G-d and they would be His people (Leviticus 11:45; 22:33; 25:28; 26:12; Numbers 15:41.) (See also Dwight Pryor's series "The Face of G-d.") In light of this, Shemot 33 portrays a people longing for reconciliation with their G-d. what is HaShem's response to this? Shemot 33:12-23 contains a remarkable dialogue between Moshe and HaShem.

Moshe expresses his concern as to who will help him lead the people into the Promised Land, but he doesn't stop there. Appealing to his relationship with the Holy One, Moshe pleads with HaShem to continue abiding with His people, and even goes so far as to say that if HaShem won't go with the Yisraelim, He should just leave them in the wilderness. In other words, if G-d wasn't in their midst, what good would a land be? HaShem's response to Moshe's plea is telling. Not only does He agree to continue to abide among the Yisraelim, but when Moshe asks to see His glory, HaShem grants this request to a degree as well. Why? He did this because Moshe expressed his longing for HaShem Himself, not just for what He could do. Herein lies a principle. G-d longs to dwell among His people, and He longs for His people in turn to receive Him with eager hearts and open arms. As the prophet Jeremiah said: "And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart." (Jer 29:13 av) So, what does this have to do with Sukkot?

During Sukkot, we as believers in Messiah remember two things. first, we remember that the Yisraelim dwelt in sukkot or booths while in the wilderness after their departure from Egypt. Second, we remember that the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us (John 1:14). There is a third and most wondrous thing for us to remember during this season. It is this: the Holy One, blessed be He, still longs to dwell within us.

Our L-RD Yeshua made this clear when He said: "If someone loves me, he will keep my word; and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him." (Joh 14:23) As we sit in our sukah and live the reality that HaShem is our shelter, let us also offer our mortal bodies as a sukkah where He may dwell and feel at home. As it is written: "Here, I'm standing at the door, knocking. If someone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he will eat with me." (Re 3:20)

Shalom uvracha,

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This week's Torah portion is entitled "Ha'azinu" or "Give ear (KJV)." the first two verses call Heaven and Earth to listen to this song given by HaShem and communicated through Moshe. Interestingly, the second verse of this passage expresses the effect that the words of this song will have. The images in D'varim 32:2 are soft: dew upon grass and soft showers upon growing plants. However, the content of the song is anything but tender, decrying that HaShem's children have gone astray from Him and have suffered terrible consequences as a result.

Nevertheless, the song ends with the promise of redemption and restoration. So, why does HaShem compare this song, full of dire warnings, to the light, nourishing caress of dew and soft showers? the answer lies in the previous parasha.

In D'varim 31:16-22, HaShem instructs Moshe to write a song concerning what the people of Yisrael will end up doing against Him. This song is to be a witness against them, and they will never forget its lyrics. Why is a witness given before a crime is committed? It is given as a forewarning to the people in hopes that the people will indeed take heed and not go astray. Hence, these words are meant to bring about life and fruitfulness. This teaches us a very important lesson. If we are willing to learn it, we may avoid a lot of heartache and sorrow.

Some people insist on learning things the hard way, but Scripture does not applaud this. This Torah portion begins with the command to take heed. Yes, it is a command, not a suggestion. Are we insistent on doing things our own way and suffering the consequences, or are we willing to heed the advice and warning of those around us who have proven themselves godly and trustworthy? May the Holy One, blessed be He, grant us tender and listening hearts. Let us heed HaShem's admonition through king David when he wrote: "Don't be like a horse or mule that has no understanding, that has to be curbed with bit and bridle, or else it won't come near you. Many are the torments of the wicked, but grace surrounds those who trust in ADONAI." (Ps 32:9-10) 

Shalom uvracha,

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Last week's torah portion delineated the curses that would fall upon those who forsook HaShem and His covenant. This week's portion continues by warning the Yisraelim and those joined to them in this covenant that if any individual would think they are exempt from the consequences of transgressing Torah are sadly mistaken. One verse stands out in my mind because it sums up beautifully how to apply this particular portion.

D'varim 29:28 (CJB) states: "Things which are hidden belong to ADONAI our G-d. But the things that have been revealed belong to us and our children forever, so that we can observe all the words of this Torah." In light of the preceding text, we see that this verse is both an assurance and a warning. It is an assurance in that if anyone is going astray from HaShem and no one else knows about it, we need not worry, because He will bring it to light. However, this verse is also a warning not to intentionally seek out others' faults, but to stay faithful to Torah and to see to one's own halachah. This verse not only applies to us as believers in our walk with the L-RD, but it applies in some other crucial areas as well.

In believing circles, it seems fashionable these days to look at prophecy and spend much time speculating on what the near future holds. This isn't altogether undesirable, since our L-RD Yeshua instructed us: "But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is." (Mr 13:32-33 av) However, the Torah already tells us that the secret things belong to the L-RD our G-d, but it is for us and for our children ever to apply this Torah. Thus, we are clearly instructed not to speculate overmuch on things we don't have permission to know, but we should focus on being faithful with what we do know. If we focus on what HaShem has called us to do now, we won't waste precious time worrying about things that aren't under our control.

Rather, we will be accruing that treasure in Heaven which no trial or tribulation can take away. To sum up the matter, Rav Sha'ul puts it succinctly when he admonishes us: "So, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed when I was with you, it is even more important that you obey now when I am away from you: keep working out your deliverance with fear and trembling, for G-d is the one working among you both the willing and the working for what pleases him." "Do everything without kvetching or arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure children of G-d, without defect in the midst of a twisted and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the sky, as you hold on to the Word of Life. …" (Php 2:12-16A)

Shalom uvracha,
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