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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 2013


B’reisheet Genesis 1:1-6:8
Tehillim (Psalms) 139

Psalm 139 celebrates the Creator’s intimate knowledge and care of each and every human being. Composed by king David, it also gives a glimpse into his close walk with HaShem. In addition, this Psalm is also a very popular Scripture referred to when proving that life begins at conception (verses 13-16). As with all poetry and songs, the word choices contained in Psalm 139, as well as its structure, say far more than what we realize.

Psalm 139:1-4 says: "For the leader. A psalm of David: [ADONAI], you have probed me, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I stand up, you discern my inclinations from afar, you scrutinize my daily activities. You are so familiar with all my ways that before I speak even a word, [ADONAI], you know all about it already." The Psalm concludes with: "Examine me, God, and know my heart; test me, and know my thoughts. See if there is in me any hurtful way, and lead me along the eternal way." (verses 23-24) The CJB version uses the words "probed" in verse 1 and "examine" in verse 23. This is unfortunate, because the Hebrew uses two constructs of the same word meaning "search." If we look at verse 1, which says, "L-RD, You have searched me and known me …" and verse 23, "Search me, o G-d, and know my heart," we see that this Psalm, reflecting true Hebraic thought, is circular in nature. This observation doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface, but it does teach us about how our Creator, HaShem communicates with us and walks with us.

Not only does Psalm 139 clearly remind us that HaShem knows us like the back of His proverbial Hand, but it also shows us that when we think we’ve come to the end, we’ve really only just begun. In our culture, we tend to think that we are masters of a subject if we’ve studied it once. Hebraic thought says, "There is but one Master. You are forever learning." Psalm 139 also illustrates that the paths of HaShem are cyclical. We begin to get a feel for this as we celebrate His Moadim not only once, but year after year, decade after decade, generation after generation. This principle of our walk with HaShem being cyclical also plays out in our everyday walk with Him.

One need not be a believer too long before noticing that HaShem, in His Grace and Mercy, often teaches us life lessons by bringing us back to that same, repetitious place of learning, or allowing the same circumstance to happen over and over again. Does He do this to torment us? No, He does this because the easiest way to climb a mountain is via a circular path that works its way up and around the mountain. Psalm 23 reflects this idea when it mentions the "paths of righteousness." (verse 3) Whether we’re beginning the Torah cycle for the first time or the one millionth time, whether we are brand-new believers learning our first lessons, or we’ve been walking with HaShem for decades, whether we’ve never read the Bible cover to cover, or we’ve read it so much that it’s falling apart on us, Let’s read through the Torah one more time, walk with HaShem until we can’t walk anymore, and keep reading that favorite Bible until HaShem calls us home. As it is written: "The person who thinks he "knows" something doesn't yet know in the way he ought to know. However, if someone loves God, God knows him." (1 Corinthians 8:2-3) After we have let HaShem search us and know our hearts, let us ask Him to do so again.

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Shalom Everyone,

Welcome to a new Torah cycle, and a new study. Scripture is like a lighthouse. We have extensively studied its foundation, the Torah portions. Then we explored the first floor, which is the Haftarot. Now we move to the second level of this great house, the private quarters. Here, exultant, majestic praises are sung, heart-wrenching, tear-filled petitions are prayed, words of deepest reverential love are spoken, and prophecy in poetry is uttered. Welcome to the world of Tehilim (Psalms).

Tehilim composes the largest portion of the Ketuvim (Writings). It is sometimes used as a euphemism to refer to the entire collection of the Ketuvim, as will be seen in the passage quoted below. The name "Tehilim" comes from the word "tehilah," which means "praise." (For the Hebrew scholars, I don’t know why this feminine word has a masculine plural ending. It may be because it’s one of those irregular nouns, but if you know the reason, I’d deeply appreciate any knowledge you might pass my way.)

As alluded to above, Tehilim is indeed filled and brimming over with praise. In fact, it is rare to find a Psalm that doesn’t include praise to HaShem. Just as each Torah portion has an accompanying Haftarah, so each Torah portion has a corresponding Psalm. Though this study will cover only a portion of the Psalms, we will endeavor to see how they connect to the Torah, and what they tell us about Messiah Yeshua. There are some things to consider before launching into such a venture.

All the Psalms are Hebrew poetry. This is stating the obvious, I realize, but it is a bit of a daunting factor in studying these beloved passages. My Hebrew teacher once pointed out to me that poetry by its very nature depends heavily on the language in which it is composed. Something is always lost when we translate from one language to another, but to translate poetry is a double loss. However, the One Who spoke creation into existence is well able to communicate with us despite this shortcoming.

One more thing to take into consideration when studying Tehilim is that they are songs. As such, we often run into words not translated into English, for instance, "Selah," "Shiggaion," "higgaion," etc., as well as Hebrew words in the titles of the Psalms themselves. When we run into these, here is a list of musical and explanatory terms found in Tehilim that will aid our understanding.

Alamoth - meaning is unsure. Possibly means: (1) a high pitch; (2) a tune for soprano voices; (3) for a women's choir/ensemble. Hebrew root of the word means: (1) young women; (2) virgins. Asaph - a Gershonite Levite choir leader in the time of David and Solomon- see 1 Chronicles 15:16-19; 16:1-7; 2 Chronicles 5:6,12. Called a seer in 2 Chronicles 29:30. His sons were made musicians - see 1 Chronicles 25:1-9. Gittith - meaning is unsure. Possibly means: (1) a particular instrument; (2) a musical term; (3) a tune from Gath; (4) a song for the grape harvest. Higgaion - meaning is unsure. Possibly means: (1) a device denoting a pause in an instrumental interlude; (2) a murmuring harp tone; (3) a deep sound or tone. Mahalath - meaning is unsure. Possibly means: (1) a song tune; (2) a musical instrument; (3) a dance. May be related to Hebrew word meaning: sickness. Name of one of Esau's wives in Genesis 28:9 (a daughter of Ishmael); and one of Rehoboam's wives in 2 Chronicles 11:18 (King David's granddaughter). Maskil - (1) to be prudent; (2) to have insight; (3) a contemplative, instructive or wisdom psalm. Miktam - meaning is unsure. Possibly means: a plaintive style. Muth-labben - musical term meaning: authority.

Selah - meaning is unsure (also used in Habakkuk 3:3,9,13). Possibly means: (1) a musical notation; (2) pause, or a moment for silence; (3) a signal to fall prostrate in worship; (4) a word those worshipping speak; or (5) forever/eternally true. Related word, "Sela," used in 2 Kings 14:7 to refer to a place in Edom. Sheminith - musical term meaning: instruments, or directions to use the instrument of eight strings. Also appears in 1 Chronicles 15:21. Shiggaion - meaning is unsure. Possibly means: (1) a passionate song with rapid changes of rhythm; (2) a dirge; (3) irregular. Song of Ascents - meaning is unsure. Possibly means: (1) songs pilgrims sang as they traveled the roads going up to worship in Jerusalem; (2) song rising in tone or intensity. Psalms 120-134. Sons of Asaph - see Asaph above.


1 HSCB Bullet Notes. Holman Christian Standard Bible Holman Bible

Publishers: Nashville, 2004. pgs. 1057-1062.

2 Biblical Cyclopedic Index. The Open Bible: Expanded Edition Thomas Nelson Publishers: Nashville, 1985. pgs.29-326. (Thanks to pastor Samuel Letson for letting me use this information from his blog as well as the sources noted above. To visit his blog, go to:

Come along as we learn what Tehilim has to teach us. As it is written: "Yeshua said to them, This is what I meant when I was still with you and told you that everything written about me in the [Torah] of Moshe, the Prophets and the Psalms had to be fulfilled." Then he opened their minds, so that they could understand the [Tanakh], telling them, "Here is what it says: the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day; and in his name repentance leading to forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed to people from all nations, starting with Yerushalayim." (Luke 24:44-47)

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Here is the final Haftarah Hint. After this, b'z'rat HaShem (HaShem willing), we will begin to explore the Psalm corresponding to each Torah portion. This promises to be both challenging and rewarding.

V’zot HaBrachah Deuteronomy 33:1-34:12; Genesis 1:1-2:3
Haftarah Joshua 1:1-18

The Torah never really ends. It just begins again. The accompanying Haftarah is perhaps one of the most encouraging passages of Scripture. After Moshe’s passing, HaShem commissions Yehoshua (Joshua) to lead the people of Yisrael into the land of Canaan. HaShem further blesses him, assuring him that as He was with Moshe, so He would be with Yehoshua (Joshua 1:5). In the midst of this, HaShem gives Yehoshua, and us, a command which encompasses everything from what we watch, listen to, or read, to the content of our daydreams.

Joshua 1:7-9 instructs: "Only be strong and very bold in taking care to follow all the [Torah] which Moshe my servant ordered you to follow; do not turn from it either to the right or to the left; then you will succeed wherever you go. Yes, keep this book of the [Torah] on your lips, and meditate on it day and night, so that you will take care to act according to everything written in it. Then your undertakings will prosper, and you will succeed. Haven't I ordered you, 'Be strong, be bold'? So don't be afraid or downhearted, because [ADONAI] your God is with you wherever you go." These beloved verses are specific in telling us how to live and what to dwell on in our thoughts. Verse 7, for instance, doesn’t just instruct us to keep Torah, but to keep it unashamedly, being faithful to what is written in it. Furthermore, verse 8 tells us to "meditate" on Torah "day and night." The Hebrew word for "meditate" has the idea of speaking or reciting out loud, giving us instruction on how we should speak and converse. Verse 9 clearly says that when we take these directives to heart and do them, we will experience true success and prosperity. Notice that true prosperity is prosperity of the soul. (See 3 John 1:2.)

As we begin another Torah cycle, let us take a moment to consider what we’re thinking on as we spend our evenings watching TV. What dominates our speech, both written and verbal, as we speak with our friends and loved ones or post things on Facebook and other social media. As with everything else, these things can either be used for good to advance the Kingdom of G-d, or they can be used for evil to feed the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pretentions of life (1 John 2:16). Since what goes into our minds and hearts will eventually come out, let us deliberately be filled with more of HaShem and His Word. As it is written: "In conclusion, brothers, focus your thoughts on what is true, noble, righteous, pure, lovable or admirable, on some virtue or on something praiseworthy." (Philippians 4:8) Let us take every thought, word, and deed captive, making them obey Messiah Yeshua (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).

Shalom uvracha,

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Ha’azinu Deuteronomy 32:1-52
Haftarah Hosea 14:2-10; Micah 7:18-20; Joel 2:15-27

These Haftarah passages listed above, along with the accompanying Torah portion, always fall on Shabbat Shuvah, or the Shabbat of Repentance. They encapsulate not only Yisrael’s history in a nutshell, but that of humankind as well. Each and every one of us who has ever lived or who will ever live has been created for the express purpose of having close communion with  G-d, and each of us has fallen woefully short of this highest of callings. Thankfully, these passages also contain the hope of the ages, the promise of redemption. That being said, the prophet Hosea closes his book with a cryptic verse, yet we see the principle it presents today.

Hosea 14:10 says: "Let the wise understand these things, and let the discerning know them. For the ways of [ADONAI] are straight, And the righteous walk in them, but in them sinners stumble." The Word of G-d is unchanging, but people’s responses depend on the condition of their hearts. For the righteous, the Ways of HaShem (i.e. Torah), are paths to walk in, but for those who are not righteous, they are a source of stumbling. Our L-rd Yeshua, the Living Torah, said something very similar: "But Yeshua looked searchingly at them and said, "Then what is this which is written in the [Tanakh], 'The very rock which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone'? Whoever falls on that stone will be broken in pieces; but if it falls on him, he will be crushed to powder!"" (Luke 20:17-18) How does this relate to Shabbat Shuvah?

During the Tashlich liturgy on Rosh Hashanah, we are confronted with the difficulty of repenting. We are reminded that true repentance isn’t simply saying, "I’m sorry," but "I was wrong." It means losing face and forsaking any vestiges of pride or self-preservation. In other words, it is throwing ourselves upon our Messiah Yeshua, and letting ourselves be broken. Painful as this process is, it is far better to be broken than crushed. Will we depend solely on Messiah Yeshua’s righteousness, embracing Torah as a way of life, or will we forsake His Ways, only to find the Torah as our judge, jury, and executioner? The choice is ours. As it is written: "See, the Word of G-d is alive! It is at work and is sharper than any double-edged sword- it cuts right through to where soul meets spirit and joints meet marrow, and it is quick to judge the inner reflections and attitudes of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12) The same Word which breaks us will also make us whole if we let it.

Shalom uvracha,

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