Expounding the Torah

Did Moses speak in tongues? Tradition says that Moses spoke the words of the book of Deuteronomy in the seventy languages of humanity.

Portion Summary

Devarim (דברים) is both the title for the last book from the scroll of the Torah and the title of the first Torah portion therein. Devarim means “words.” The English-speaking world calls this book Deuteronomy. The Hebrew title for the book comes from the opening phrase of the book: “These are the words (devarim) which Moses spoke to all Israel across the Jordan in the wilderness” (Deuteronomy 1:1).

One ancient name for the book of Deuteronomy is Mishnah HaTorah (משנה תורה), which means “repetition of the Torah.” This is similar to the Greek Septuagint name Deuteronomos, which means “second law.” The English name Deuteronomy is derived from Deuteronomos.

The book of Deuteronomy is dominated by Moses’ farewell address to the children of Israel as he urges them to remain faithful to the covenant and prepares them for entering Canaan. During the course of the book, Moses reviews the story of the giving of the Torah at Sinai and the trip to the Promised Land, reiterates several laws of Torah and introduces new laws. The book seems to follow the general pattern of an ancient Near Eastern covenant treaty document.

As we study the first week’s reading from the book of Exodus, the children of Israel are assembled on the plains of Moab across the Jordan from Jericho.

Special Shabbat Reading

Special readings are applicable this Shabbat.

  • Shabbat Chazon (שבת חזון | Vision)
  • Haftarah: Isaiah 1:1-27

Shabbat Chazon (“Sabbath [of] vision” שבת חזון) takes its name from the Haftarah that is read on the Shabbat immediately prior to the mournful fast of Tisha B’Av, from the words of rebuke and doom coming from Isaiah in the Book of Isaiah 1:1-27. It is also referred to as the Black Sabbath due to its status as the saddest Shabbat of the year (as opposed to the White Sabbath, Shabbat Shuvah, immediately precededing Yom Kippur).

Regular Shabbat Readings

  • Devarim (דברים | Words)
  • Torah: Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22
  • Haftarah: Isaiah 1:1-27
  • Gospel: Matthew 24:1-22

Note: The regular readings are often interrupted with special readings on Jewish holidays, special Sabbaths, and Rosh Chodesh. Refer to the annual Torah Portion schedule for these special portions.

Portion Outline

  • TORAH
    • Deuteronomy 1:1 | Events at Horeb Recalled
    • Deuteronomy 1:9 | Appointment of Tribal Leaders
    • Deuteronomy 1:19 | Israel’s Refusal to Enter the Land
    • Deuteronomy 1:34 | The Penalty for Israel’s Rebellion
    • Deuteronomy 1:46 | The Desert Years
    • Deuteronomy 2:26 | Defeat of King Sihon
    • Deuteronomy 3:1 | Defeat of King Og
  • PROPHETS
    • Isaiah 1:1 | Introduction
    • Isaiah 1:2 | The Wickedness of Judah
    • Isaiah 1:21 | The Degenerate City

Portion Summary

Devarim (דברים) is both the title for the last book from the scroll of the Torah and the title of the first Torah portion therein. Devarim means “words.” The English-speaking world calls this book Deuteronomy. The Hebrew title for the book comes from the opening phrase of the book: “These are the words (devarim) which Moses spoke to all Israel across the Jordan in the wilderness” (Deuteronomy 1:1).

One ancient name for the book of Deuteronomy is Mishnah HaTorah (משנה תורה), which means “repetition of the Torah.” This is similar to the Greek Septuagint name Deuteronomos, which means “second law.” The English name Deuteronomy is derived from Deuteronomos.

The book of Deuteronomy is dominated by Moses’ farewell address to the children of Israel as he urges them to remain faithful to the covenant and prepares them for entering Canaan. During the course of the book, Moses reviews the story of the giving of the Torah at Sinai and the trip to the Promised Land, reiterates several laws of Torah and introduces new laws. The book seems to follow the general pattern of an ancient Near Eastern covenant treaty document.

As we study the first week’s reading from the book of Exodus, the children of Israel are assembled on the plains of Moab across the Jordan from Jericho.


The book of Deuteronomy opens, “These are the words which Moses spoke to all Israel across the Jordan in the wilderness, in the Arabah” (Deuteronomy 1:1). Those words preface more than thirty chapters of Moses continuously talking. The sages puzzled over this. How did the man who was slow of speech become so eloquent? Just a few verses later, it says, “Moses undertook to expound this Torah.” According to Jewish tradition, Moses expounded the Torah in the seventy languages. The Midrash Tanchuma takes up the discussion.

Come and see! When the Holy One, blessed be He, said to Moses, “Go and I will send you to Pharaoh,” Moses said, “Woe! You are giving over the mission to me? I am not a man of words.” He said, “There are seventy languages known in Pharaoh’s court, so that if anyone comes from a foreign country, they can speak to him in his language. I am going as your apostle, and they will question me, and I will tell them that I am an apostle of the Almighty, and it will be obvious to them that I do not know how to converse with them. Will they not mock me and say, ‘Look, the apostle of the Creator of the universe who created all the tongues! He is unable to comprehend or answer.’” This is what Moses meant when he said, “Woe, I am not a man of words.” … forty years after the exodus from Egypt, however, he expounded the Torah in seventy languages, as it says, “He explained this Torah.” (Midrash Tanchuma, Devarim 2)

According to this story, Moses felt unqualified to serve as an apostle of Hashem because he could not speak in all seventy languages. After the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai (i.e., Shavuot) Moses no longer suffered with that impediment. He demonstrated to the people of Israel that he could now teach Torah in all seventy languages.

We should be able to see the connection to our apostles who spoke the good news in all languages on the day of Shavuot. On that day that they became apostles of the Almighty and His risen Son, they received the gift of languages.

The seventy tongues represent the seventy mother-languages spoken by all humanity. The presentation of the Torah in every language alludes to the universal quality of the revelation of God through the Torah of Moses. Just as Moses is said to have expounded the Torah to Israel in every language, likewise, the disciples proclaimed the good news of Yeshua on Shavuot in every language.

Expounding the Torah is a job for every disciple. In the same way that it is incumbent upon us to spread the gospel in every place and at every time, it is also incumbent upon us to teach the Torah. After all the Torah is very much a part of the gospel, and the message of the gospel is quite meaningless without the Torah. Therefore, we are all called to emulate Yeshua, our teacher, who dedicated His life to proclaiming the gospel and teaching the ways of Torah.

When properly presented, the Torah should be an avenue to Messiah. It should be a central part of the good news of the kingdom and the call for repentance in the name of our Master. One who undertakes to teach the Torah to others is like one imbued with the Holy Spirit on the day of Shavuot. (Click to Source)

 

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The Complainer and the Atheist

SHELACH

Portion Summary

The thirty-seventh reading from the Torah is called Shelach(שלח), an imperative verb that means “send out.” The portion is so named from the first few words of the second verse: “Send out for yourself men so that they may spy out the land of Canaan” (Numbers 13:2). The Torah reading tells the tragic story of how the spies returned with a bad report about the Land of Promise and influenced the congregation of Israel to rebel against the LORD. Thus God consigned the generation of Moses to wander in the wilderness for forty years.

Regular Shabbat Readings

  • Shelach (שלח | Send)
  • Torah: Numbers 13:1-15:41
  • Haftarah: Joshua 2:1-24
  • Gospel: Matthew 10:1-14

Note: The regular readings are often interrupted with special readings on Jewish holidays, special Sabbaths, and Rosh Chodesh. Refer to the annual Torah Portion schedule for these special portions.

Portion Outline

  • TORAH
    • Numbers 13:1 | Spies Sent into Canaan
    • Numbers 13:25 | The Report of the Spies
    • Numbers 14:1 | The People Rebel
    • Numbers 14:13 | Moses Intercedes for the People
    • Numbers 14:26 | An Attempted Invasion is Repulsed
    • Numbers 15:1 | Various Offerings
    • Numbers 15:32 | Penalty for Violating the Sabbath
    • Numbers 15:37 | Fringes on Garments
  • PROPHETS
    • Joshua 2:1 | Spies Sent to Jericho

Portion Summary

The thirty-seventh reading from the Torah is called Shelach(שלח), an imperative verb that means “send out.” The portion is so named from the first few words of the second verse: “Send out for yourself men so that they may spy out the land of Canaan” (Numbers 13:2). The Torah reading tells the tragic story of how the spies returned with a bad report about the Land of Promise and influenced the congregation of Israel to rebel against the LORD. Thus God consigned the generation of Moses to wander in the wilderness for forty years.


The spies returned from Canaan with a giant cluster of grapes. The grapes should have encouraged the Israelites. The land was indeed a good land full of bounty, just as God had promised. The ten spies, however, interpreted the giant grapes differently. They used them as evidence that the land was inhabited by unconquerable giants. “What would you expect from the vineyards of giants?” Isn’t it strange how two people can look at the same thing—such as a cluster of grapes—and come to opposite conclusions? To Joshua and Caleb, giant grapes were a good thing. To the other spies, the giant grapes were a sign of despair.

God said He heard the grumbling and the complaints of the children of Israel. He hears our complaints too. The sin of grumbling is related to the sin of gossip. Both are forms of evil speech; both result from a critical spirit.

Gossip destroys others, breaks up friendships and severs relationships. Grumbling destroys your quality of life and that of those around you.

Imagine going to the zoo with a cranky and undisciplined five-year-old. You take the child to see the lions, but he is sulking because you did not buy him candy. You take him to see the zebras, but he is angry because he does not want to hold your hand in the crowd. You take him to see the monkeys, but he is having a fit because he wanted French fries. You buy him French fries, but he leaves them uneaten because he complains that they are soggy. At the end of the day, he did not see lions, zebras, and monkeys, nor did he eat French fries. He has had a miserable day, and so have you. The child transformed what could have been a wonderful experience into a horrible one for no good reason.

As an adult, it is easy to look at a situation like that and realize how foolish the unruly child is being. It’s harder to realize that our own complaints, grumbling and murmuring is just as petty. Adults are usually sophisticated enough to disguise their childish tantrums and inner discontentment. We disguise them as serious adult issues, concerns and complaints. On closer investigation, many of those issues tend to be no more than sulking over soggy French fries. The worst part is that this is not a trip to the zoo. This is your life. If you spend it fussing and sulking, you will never enjoy the good things God is continually doing for you. You will never even notice them.

The Torah teaches that God hears all of our complaints and negativity. That’s why the sages teach that the complainer is tantamount to an atheist. His complaints deny the existence of God as if there is no God to hear his bitter words. (Click to Source)

Jacob Meets Esau

Jacob knew he was walking into great danger as he returned to the land of Canaan.

jacob-bows-before-esau

VAYISHLACH

The eighth reading from the book of Genesis is named Vayishlach (וישלח), which means “and he sent.” The title comes from the first verse of the reading, which says, “Then Jacob sent messengers before him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom” (Genesis 32:3 [verse 4 in Jewish-published Bibles]). Jacob prepares to meet Esau as he returns to the promised land, but first he has a mysterious encounter with an angel in the darkness, who changes his name to Israel. The portion follows Jacob’s adventures in the land of Canaan, including the loss of his beloved wife, Rachel.

Then Jacob sent messengers before him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom. (Genesis 32:3[4])

After some twenty years of labor, Jacob was finally free from Laban’s mistreatment. Only God’s direct intervention saved him from Laban’s ire. As this Torah portion begins, the confrontation with Laban is over, and Jacob leaves his father-in-law behind in peace.

But something was still bothering Jacob. One angry relative was now behind him, but Esau was still ahead of him. He knew that Esau wanted him dead. Jacob must have felt like he had escaped the frying pan only to fall into the fire.

To escape Esau, Jacob had fled to the homeland of his mother, Rebekah. She had told him, “Stay … until your brother’s anger against you subsides and he forgets what you did to him. Then I will send and get you from there” (Genesis 27:44-45). Rebekah’s message never came. Esau’s anger never cooled. Jacob knew he was walking into great danger as he returned to the land of Canaan.

Hoping that his brother’s heart had softened, Jacob sent messengers ahead to announce his homecoming to Esau. The messengers returned with bad news. “We came to your brother Esau, and furthermore he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him” (Genesis 32:6). Quite a welcoming party! Jacob’s heart sank. He felt certain Esau was coming with armed men to slaughter him.

This is what dealing with our past mistakes is like. Through the course of life, our sins and bad decisions leave broken relationships and emotional messes behind us. Ordinarily, we do exactly as Jacob did. We run from the problems and hope they will go away. We hope the passage of time will heal the hurts we have caused. Perhaps forgetfulness and distance will absolve us. It rarely works that way. Inevitably, the wheel of life brings us back around to confront our past. Sometimes the problems have not diminished at all. Instead, time and neglect has only aggravated them. When Jacob left Canaan, he had only Esau to worry about. Now, upon returning, he faces Esau and four hundred armed men.

The solution is to deal with our mistakes when we make them. When we do wrong to someone, we should immediately do everything in our power to make amends. When we make a mistake, we should acknowledge it, correct it, and do our best to fix it. Yeshua taught that you should “make friends quickly with your opponent” (Matthew 5:25) lest the situation escalate.

There is one opponent, however, that we can never mollify. The adversary, that old serpent haSatan, has a case against each of us. His job is to record our sins and transgressions and bring charges against us in God’s court of law. He does not take bribes, and he never forgets. No matter how long ago it happened, he remembers. He has a claim against us that we can never escape. Just as Jacob eventually had to face Esau, we will eventually have to answer to his charges. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). We all face judgment. (Click to Source)

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Devarim – Words – “Rehearsing the Truths” – 23 July, 2017

Devarim

Words

Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22
Isaiah 1:1-27

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by Mark Huey
mark@outreachisrael.net

The Book of Deuteronomy is a repetition and an amplification by Moses, of many of the commands of the Lord given in the Torah, so that the Ancient Israelites would not disobey Him, as they prepared themselves to enter into the Promised Land. In the opening chapters of Devarim, the reinforcement of an historical perspective is recorded, as Moses recalled many of the places where he probably had to admonish the people to obey the Lord:

“These are the words which Moses spoke to all Israel across the Jordan in the wilderness, in the Arabah opposite Suph, between Paran and Tophel and Laban and Hazeroth and Dizahab” (Deuteronomy 1:1).

Moses then defined the boundaries of what has been described as “the Greater Israel” that was promised to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob:

“The LORD our God spoke to us at Horeb, saying, ‘You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Turn and set your journey, and go to the hill country of the Amorites, and to all their neighbors in the Arabah, in the hill country and in the lowland and in the Negev and by the seacoast, the land of the Canaanites, and Lebanon, as far as the great river, the river Euphrates. See, I have placed the land before you; go in and possess the land which the LORD swore to give to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to them and their descendants after them’” (Deuteronomy 1:8-11).

When one plots out these boundaries, it is abundantly clear that in modern times, the State of Israel has never come close to securing for itself all of what was originally promised. It has not been since the days of Kings David and Solomon that this promise was actually fulfilled. But that was over 2,500 years ago, and in the interim, Israel has not been able to secure all of these territories and have control over these promised regions in the Middle East. We know that according to prophecy, when Israel is restored in the Last Days, that somehow Israel will occupy these borders. However, when or how this will specifically take place is anyone’s guess at this point in time.

The key with seeing Israel restored, more than anything else, is that all must corporately acknowledge Yeshua the Messiah as its king. Most of the Jewish people on Earth today have rejected Yeshua as the Messiah, and most in Christianity fail to recognize who He was as a First Century Jewish Rabbi. This has begun to significantly change in the past thirty to fifty years through the growth of Messianic Judaism and the Hebraic Roots movement. Many Jews have turned to faith in Messiah Yeshua, and many non-Jewish Believers have recognized the importance of their Hebraic Roots. Without one’s personal recognition that apart from Yeshua dwelling inside of us, unredeemed human beings can do nothing of eternal significance:

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned” (John 15:4-6). (Click to Site)

Torah Commentary – Va’era “And I appeared” – Shadows of Yesterday, Substance of Today

Torah Commentary


Va’era “And I appeared”
Exodus 6:2-9:35
Ezekiel 28:25-29:21
Romans 9:14-17
2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1tissot_the_rod_of_aaron_devours_the_other_rodsShadows of Yesterday, Substance of Today

Egypt was the greatest and most awesome nation that had ever existed. They had wealth, power, and military stature. No country would have dared to come against the might of Egypt in the days of their glory. But all this would change the day that God opened his appointment book and proclaimed that a new day for His people was about to begin.

What Pharaoh and the people of Egypt never understood was the reason they had been blessed and where those blessings had come from. They had attributed their greatness to the blessings of the god of the Nile River, the god of frogs, the god of this or that object or creature. They failed to see that the blessings they had enjoyed had come from the God of the Hebrews. Egypt had merely been the place He had chosen for His purposes.

The day came when the true God, the God of Israel, chose to reveal Himself to the Pharaoh and to all of Egypt. Each time one of their sacred gods fell, they were given a choice. They could choose to continue worshipping the false gods of their making or turn to the one true God. With each plague the choice was given, and with each plague the choice was made. In the end, Egypt would be but a memory, a memory of another culture who did not understand that their purpose was never about them, but it was all about Him and His people.

As I read through the plagues which came upon Egypt, I do so with mixed emotions. There is a sense of excitement, knowing that just as surely as HaShem brought his people out of a pagan land, a pagan system, and back to Himself, He can and indeed is doing so again in our day. To read about the first exodus in light of the fact that we are seeing the birth pangs of the second and greater exodus sends chills up my spine. However, I also feel a sense of sorrow. It is a sorrow which Moses also possibly felt. Moses was not only a major part of freeing his family from slavery. He also witnessed the destruction of a land he had called home for the first forty years of his life, the country where he grew up. Moses had helped to build the society and culture he was now seeing destroyed before his eyes. In this, I am sure he felt great sorrow.

For over two hundred years America has been a great country. I guess some could say it has been the greatest country that has ever existed in six thousand years of history. It is a nation once based upon scripture and the knowledge of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It has been a homeland for both physical and spiritual descendants of the patriarchs. America was once known for her moral convictions, which were based on the Ten Commandments. America was known for her efforts to preach the gospel to the four corners of the earth.

Yes, America has been a great country, but somewhere in the journey, America, just as did Egypt, has forgotten her purpose and forgotten her God. Because of this fact, the excitement of the days we live in are tempered with the sorrow of watching a land and country that many of us have called home fall to the same destiny as Egypt of old.

The sorrow of the death of the past must however give way to the excitement and thrill of the inheritance which has been promised. For the Hebrews in Egypt, most never grasped the fact that the events they were seeing before their eyes were events destined to take them home. In fact, they had forgotten that Egypt was not home; it was not their inheritance. Egypt was only a place for them to multiply and grow stronger. Israel was home! Israel was their inheritance!

Today, the system of Egypt is not limited to a country, but rather has spread to the complete world which is falling apart before our eyes. It is not the gods of frogs and rivers, but rather the gods of pagan worship, materialism, power, or worship of the creation and not the Creator, which are being destroyed one by one. For those who have eyes to see, we understand that it is God who is arising. It is He who is destroying the false gods of the world. It is He who is preparing to take His people from the four corners of the earth where He has driven them and return them to their home, their inheritance.

The words of Exodus 6:8 were spoken to the Hebrews of Moses’ day. And they are being spoken to the people of Israel today. They are words calling His people home, calling us to our inheritance. Let us not make the mistakes of the Hebrews then and not realize what God is doing. Let us not be so firmly tied to our own Egypt’s that we fail to see and hear His plans being proclaimed in our midst. Instead, let us embrace with great excitement the walk of exodus being revealed to us. Let us listen to the call. Let us realize we’re also headed home. But let us never take joy in the plagues of judgment which are upon a world which has refused to turn from their gods and to the True God.

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“Vowed to the Land” – V’yechi (He lived)

V’yechi (He lived)

Genesis 47:28-50:26
1 Kings 2:1-12

“Vowed to the Land”

ge48-jacob-bl-grsons

While reading through V’yechi this week, the following words delivered by the Patriarch Jacob really stuck out at me:

“Then Jacob said to Joseph, ‘God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me, and He said to me, “Behold, I will make you fruitful and numerous, and I will make you a company of peoples, and will give this land to your descendants after you for an everlasting possession”’” (Genesis 48:3-4).

V’yechi brings us to the end of the Book of Genesis. In just twelve readings, the Scriptures have covered thousands of years of human history. The family chosen to become a people for God’s own possession, and the nation that will be a light to the world, is beginning to take shape as distinctive tribes. The life of the great Patriarch Jacob comes to a close, and his blessings bestowed upon his children and grandchildren give prophetic insight into the future characteristics and destinies of the twelve unique tribes and the emerging nation of Israel (Genesis 49).

Both Jacob and Joseph have some dying requests upon their respective deaths (Jacob: Genesis 47:28-31; 50:1-11; Joseph: Genesis 50:22-26). Both men had a sincere desire for their remains to be returned to the land of their fathers. Why was this so important? Are there some things we can learn from these examples?

Return to the Land

As our Torah reading begins, Jacob is approaching his death and he calls for Joseph to fulfill a pledge:

“When the time for Israel to die drew near, he called his son Joseph and said to him, ‘Please, if I have found favor in your sight, place now your hand under my thigh and deal with me in kindness and faithfulness. Please do not bury me in Egypt, but when I lie down with my fathers, you shall carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their burial place.’ And he said, ‘I will do as you have said.’ He said, ‘Swear to me.’ So he swore to him. Then Israel bowed in worship at the head of the bed” (Genesis 47:29-31).

As the text continues, Jacob declares his reasons for wanting to be buried in the Land of Canaan:

“Then Jacob said to Joseph, ‘God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me, and He said to me, “Behold, I will make you fruitful and numerous, and I will make you a company of peoples, and will give this land to your descendants after you for an everlasting possession”’” (Genesis 48:3-4).

In the case of Jacob, he knew that the destiny of his progeny was in the land promised to his fathers Abraham, Isaac, and ultimately him. Jacob had already prepared a burial site for himself next to Leah in the same cave with Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, and Rebekah (Genesis 49:29-33). He also knew from multiple declarations by God that this was a land which was destined for his descendants. Is it possible that Jacob understood that being buried in the area around Hebron would someday give additional justification for his descendants to claim that land? His request for being buried in Canaan is complied with:

“So Joseph went up to bury his father, and with him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his household and all the elders of the land of Egypt” (Genesis 50:7).

Joseph and his brothers honored the vow they made with their father Jacob. Joseph sought and received permission from Pharaoh to place Jacob in the cave at Machpelah, and a party is sent from Egypt to Canaan after the Egyptians mourn for him and he can be mummified (Genesis 50:1-11). The pattern for honoring vows was firmly established in the hearts of the sons of Jacob. As our parashah concludes, we see Joseph making the same request regarding his burial to his brothers:

“Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am about to die, but God will surely take care of you and bring you up from this land to the land which He promised on oath to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob.’ Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, ‘God will surely take care of you, and you shall carry my bones up from here.’ So Joseph died at the age of one hundred and ten years; and he was embalmed and placed in a coffin in Egypt” (Genesis 50:24-26).

Why did Joseph want to be buried in the Land of Canaan, and specifically, in the land promised to him by his father Jacob? There must have been something important to them about this Promised Land. He believed the statements made by his father Jacob that this territory would be an everlasting possession for their descendants. Remember that Joseph had also received an inheritance from Jacob at the conclusion of Jacob’s blessings to Ephraim and Manasseh:

“Then Israel said to Joseph, ‘Behold, I am about to die, but God will be with you, and bring you back to the land of your fathers. I give you one portion more than your brothers, which I took from the hand of the Amorite with my sword and my bow’” (Genesis 48:21-22).

Notice that it is not until the end of the Book of Joshua when we finally see where the remains of Joseph are placed:

“Now they buried the bones of Joseph, which the sons of Israel brought up from Egypt, at Shechem, in the piece of ground which Jacob had bought from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for one hundred pieces of money; and they became the inheritance of Joseph’s sons” (Joshua 24:32).

The people of Israel honored the vow made to Joseph, and transported his mummy through the wilderness experience until he was finally laid to rest at a tomb in Shechem. Is it possible that Joseph knew the importance of making the Land of Canaan, specifically Shechem, his final resting place? Did Joseph understood how this could please the Most High, because he respected his father Jacob who had given him this land for his inheritance? For those of us who study the lives of our spiritual forbearers, this embodiment of faith in the promises of the Lord is very inspirational. Even in death, the Patriarchs staked their claim on the Promised Land!

Testimony of Tombs

Today, the territory promised to the Patriarchs is under constant siege, and their burial memorials are a vivid reminder to us all that the final redemption of the Land is not yet complete. But, we have determined men and women who are standing today as a testimony that the Land of the Patriarchs will eventually be a permanent inheritance for those who serve Israel’s God. Faithful Jewish settlers who risk life and limb to stake a claim on the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, are mirroring the pattern of belief exhibited by their ancestors. Many of them revere the memory of Jacob and Joseph, and the vows honored by their forefathers.

In Hebron, a city that is currently controlled by the Palestinian Authority, resides a small community of faithful Jews who are a living example of those who are holding onto the promises that have been given by God. Surrounded by a people who largely want them eliminated, the settlers of Kiryat Arba have maintained a synagogue at the tomb of the Patriarchs.

In like manner, overlooking the valley in Shechem (modern-day Nablus of the Palestinian Authority), where the remains of Joseph are (believed to be) buried, there resides another settlement of faithful Jews who are waiting for the redemption of the Promised Land. The Orthodox Jews of Elon Moreh, until the past few years (2002-2003), had a yeshiva located at the tomb of Joseph in hostile Nablus. These faithful followers are staunch defenders of the Torah and its truths. What can we learn from these faithful Jews, who are studying these very same Torah teachings, this week? Is it possible that when they read these very texts about the burial vows made to Jacob and Joseph, that they will be strengthened in their battle of will against any Palestinians who oppose the God of Israel?

Perhaps we can pray for them. and ask the Father what it is that we can do to support them in their role as witnesses to the veracity of the Scriptures. Through the ages, the very fact that these vows were kept, and are now being honored by these Jews willing to risk their lives, gives many the inspiration needed to persevere. These people are living examples of those who have been preserved through the ages because of their choices to honor vows. Do you now see how important vows can be when honored? Should we not do the same regarding our vows?

We do know that One who will maintain His vows is the Holy One of Israel. One day the Messiah Yeshua will return, and the Land of Israel will become a place of true peace and prosperity! So for the faithful, it is simply a matter of time before this final redemption of the Promised Land is completed. In this time as the Messianic movement grows and expands—and Jewish and non-Jewish Believers are being brought together as one people in Him—we could be witnessing the final stages in God’s redemptive plan coming together. I pray that as we are all brought together, we learn to have an appreciation for the Promised Land—the same that Jacob and Joseph had.

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Toldot (History) – “Moored to the Rock”

Toldot (History)

Genesis 25:19-28:9
Malachi 1:1-2:7

Moored to the Rock

Our parashah for this week begins with the word, “Now these are the records of the generations of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham became the father of Isaac” (Genesis 25:19). Just consider a few of the thoughts in your mind when you hear the names “Isaac” and “Abraham,” and what these two figures of our faith are commonly known for. Do you at all consider some of the trials that they endured, or when presented with difficult situations, how they had no choice but to place their complete trust in the Holy One?

Sometimes the Father gives us personal challenges and trials to test us, forcing us to remember where our anchor must be secured: in Him. Born again Believers have been firmly moored to the Rock of Salvation, Messiah Yeshua, and what He has accomplished for us via His sacrificial atonement. And, since He is the Word made flesh, I believe that it is quite beneficial that we strive to see what we can learn about the Messiah from the weekly Torah and Haftarah readings (cf. Luke 24:44), parts of the Bible that too often get overlooked by many people.

Consider the possibility that our Heavenly Father is like a huge transmitter in the universe, broadcasting His blessings that can be gleaned through a consistent study of the Torah portions on a weekly basis. I have certainly experienced the blessing of committing myself to a discipline of reading the weekly parashah for many years, meditating upon these passages of the Bible and integrating their distinct messages into my heart. With the added discipline of actually putting words to paper—with my TorahScope reflection commentaries—the process of delving into where He has my heart as Shabbatapproaches becomes an exciting process. Of course, I do not want to be the only person blessed by examining the weekly parashah, and so one of my distinct prayers is that someone who might read these thoughts would be ministered to in a special way.

Perhaps some of the circumstances in which you presently find yourself—even some testing you might be enduring at this moment in time—needs clarity and understanding. Hopefully, you will be inspired to turn to Yeshua, the Living Word, for the answers to all of life’s circumstances. We know that when we can rely upon the Lord and Him alone, because His answers to our prayers and supplications will be the perfect anecdote for seasons of consternation and affliction. James the Just sums up the trials and tribulations of life very succinctly:

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have itsperfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away. Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:2-12).

The life of faith is indeed one that includes many tests, trials, and tribulations. We know from our reading of Scripture that we should endure through whatever we face. One thing that is clear, from reading through Toldot this week, is that we have an intimate record of the details of a very traumatic time in the history of Abraham’s descendents. In this Torah portion we see the struggle between Esau and Jacob (Genesis 25:19-34; 27:1-46), and how Isaac and Rebekah acted and reacted to their two sons (Genesis 28:1-9).

Great lessons about God’s sovereignty and human responsibility can be weighed in our meditations. Why did the Holy One select Jacob for His blessings? Why is Esau hated? Considerable theological debates have emerged from the accounts recorded in our portion. These, and many other questions, should simply drive us to our knees when we recognize that God is ultimately in control of His Creation. He chooses whom He will choose, to do whatever He has predestined them to do. And while I do not believe we are necessarily robots or mindless pawns, because personal human responsibility does have a role in this incredibly complex dichotomy of actions, we are eventually subject to the will of our Creator. We are often reduced to the dirt from whence we came, when we realize that the finite cannot even begin to comprehend the Infinite. But we must try, because He clearly states that if we seek Him, He will reveal Himself to us and we will find Him (Deuteronomy 4:29; Isaiah 51:1; 55:6; Jeremiah 29:13; Psalm 9:10; Hebrews 11:6).

I would submit that Paul adds a little clarity to this complex question about Divine sovereignty versus human responsibility. In his letter to the Romans he explains his pain over the unbelief of his fellow Jewish brethren, appealing to the account of Jacob and Esau:

“But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: ‘Through Isaac your descendants will be named’ [Genesis 21:12]. That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants. For this is the word of promise: ‘At this time I will come, and Sarah shall have a son’ [Genesis 18:10, 14]. And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, ‘The older will serve the younger’ [Genesis 25:23]. Just as it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated’ [Malachi 1:2-3]. What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion’ [Exodus 33:19]. So then it doesnot depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth’ [Exodus 9:16]. So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. You will say to me then, ‘Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?’ On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, ‘Why did you make me like this,’ will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles. As He says also in Hosea, ‘I will call those who were not My people, “My people,” and her who was not beloved, “Beloved.”’ And it shall be that in the place where it was said to them, “You are not My people,” there they shall be called sons of the living God’ [Isaiah 10:22-23; Hosea 1:10]” (Romans 9:6-26).

This passage should humble us with the understanding that the Holy One of Israel is in total control of His Creation, and those He has chosen to be a part of His family. Whether one thinks that God has predestined the events of every second from eternity past, or thinks that God knows the decisions people are going to make given His Divine foreknowledge—or you simply throw your hands up in the air and consider yourself a small mortal and do not really know what to think about this passage—further study into the Tanakh passages Paul alludes to is probably in order.

The Apostle Paul lamented over the fact that in his day, there was a widescale Jewish rejection of Messiah Yeshua, using some foundational accounts seen in the Torah to teach the Romans. How this intertexuality actually plays into Paul’s argument is something that has to be taken very seriously, and may require you to not only read Romans a little closer, but also each of the series of verses he quotes from. Romans chs. 9-11 are undeniably one of the most important sections of the Bible for today’s Messianic movement.

As this passage continues, Paul not only describes how those of the nations have the opportunity to come to grace through their trust in the Messiah of Israel, but are those who are largely going to benefit from it, given how the Jewish people have largely decided to reject Him:

“What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, just as it is written, ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, and he who believes in Him will not be disappointed’ [Isaiah 28:16]” (Romans 9:30-33).

The Apostle Paul summarizes his thoughts about his fellow Jewish brethren and their zeal, without knowledge of Yeshua as the Savior. This passage clearly speaks to the need to demonstrate the gospel of Israel’s Messiah to the people from whom He came:

“Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for theirsalvation. For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. For Messiah is the [or goal; culmination, TNIV] of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. For Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on law shall live by that righteousness. But the righteousness based on faith speaks as follows: ‘Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Messiah down), or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ (that is, to bring Messiah up from the dead). But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’ [vs. 6-8: Deuteronomy 9:4; 30:12-14]—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Yeshua as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed’ [Isaiah 28:16]. For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for ‘Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved’ [Joel 2:32]. How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!’ [Nahum 1:15] However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed our report?’ [Isaiah 53:1] So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Messiah” (Romans 10:1-17).

A few of you might be asking, what does this specifically have to do with the Torah portion Toldot? Well, as stated earlier, the intention of these writings is to reflect upon our weekly readings in the Torah and Haftarah, and a principal part of the modern Messianic movement is to connect these texts with the Apostolic Scriptures (New Testament), and let the Holy Spirit minister to the personal needs of individuals. Sometimes my writings might take tangents into areas that need deeper meditation for personal repentance and reflection, and to probe where our understanding of some passages needs improvement or more investigation. May His words have their perfect work in all of our hearts!

This week, I would also encourage you to take a look at what the Sages for centuries have seen as an appropriate parallel passage to Toldot. This week’s Haftarah selection is Malachi 1:1-2:7, and details some of God’s dealings with the descendants of Jacob and Esau:

“The oracle of the word of the Lord to Israel through Malachi. ‘I have loved you,’ says the Lord. But you say, ‘How have You loved us?’ ‘Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?’ declares the Lord. ‘Yet I have loved Jacob; but I have hated Esau, and I have made his mountains a desolation and appointed his inheritance for the jackals of the wilderness.’ Though Edom says, ‘We have been beaten down, but we will return and build up the ruins’; thus says theLord of hosts, ‘They may build, but I will tear down; and men will call them the wicked territory, and the people toward whom the Lord is indignant forever.’ Your eyes will see this and you will say, ‘The Lord be magnified beyond the border of Israel! A son honors his father, and a servant his master. Then if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is My respect?’ says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests who despise My name. But you say, ‘How have we despised Your name?’ ‘You are presenting defiled food upon My altar. But you say, ‘How have we defiled You?’ In that you say, ‘The table of theLord is to be despised.’ But when you present the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you present the lame and sick, is it not evil? Why not offer it to your governor? Would he be pleased with you? Or would he receive you kindly?’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘But now will you not entreat God’s favor, that He may be gracious to us? With such an offering on your part, will He receive any of you kindly?’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘Oh that there were one among you who would shut the gates, that you might not uselessly kindle fire on My altar! I am not pleased with you,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘nor will I accept an offering from you. For from the rising of the sun even to its setting, My name will begreat among the nations, and in every place incense is going to be offered to My name, and a grain offering that is pure; for My name will be great among the nations,’ says the Lord of hosts. But you are profaning it, in that you say, ‘The table of the Lord is defiled, and as for its fruit, its food is to be despised.’ You also say, ‘My, how tiresome it is!’ And you disdainfully sniff at it,’ says theLord of hosts, ‘and you bring what was taken by robbery and what is lame or sick; so you bring the offering! Should I receive that from your hand?’ says theLord. But cursed be the swindler who has a male in his flock and vows it, but sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord, for I am a great King,’ says the Lordof hosts, ‘and My name is feared among the nations. And now this commandment is for you, O priests. If you do not listen, and if you do not take it to heart to give honor to My name,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings; and indeed, I have cursed them already, because you are not taking it to heart. Behold, I am going to rebuke your offspring, and I will spread refuse on your faces, the refuse of your feasts; and you will be taken away with it. Then you will know that I have sent this commandment to you, that My covenant may continue with Levi,’ says theLord of hosts. ‘My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him as an object of reverence; so he revered Me and stood in awe of My name. True instruction was in his mouth and unrighteousness was not found on his lips; he walked with Me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many back from iniquity. For the lips of a priest should preserve knowledge, and men should seek instruction from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts’” (Malachi 1:1-2:7).

This section of Scripture, from the last of the Prophets, no doubt left many Jews in quite a quandary. They knew that the Holy One of Israel loved them unconditionally, but they also knew that there were obvious consequences should they sin and disobey. How many people simply go through religious motions without their hearts being in the right place? How easy was it for the ancients to promise a choice lamb to God, but bring a blemished one instead? After all, who was really going to know or care as long as the appearance of godliness was evident to one’s neighbors and family?

Considering these questions from Malachi, how easy is it for modern-day followers of the Messiah to do just the same with their offerings? How many do not give what they should to those who minister to them? How many Believers do not strive for spiritual maturity? Should we be examining our heart intentions? Just how are we guarding the utterances from our lips? As an assemblage of those who serve God, our actions, words, and the mediations of our hearts should be pure and holy. Remember that the Lord is looking at our hearts and He is not impressed with our outward appearances. King David understood these challenges intimately:

“Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins; let them not rule over me; then I will be blameless, and I shall be acquitted of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:13-14).

Now imagine this reality: Do you remember that there are books which record the history of humanity in Heaven? These are recordings that go into much greater detail than this week’s Torah portion of Toldot about the lives of Isaac, Rebekah, and their twin sons Esau and Jacob. Here is a glimpse as to some of what transpires at the final judgment, when those records are considered at the Great White Throne judgment presided over by Yeshua Himself:

“Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every oneof them according to their deeds. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:11-15).

For 3,300 years, we have had the testimony of the Torah to be used as an instructional tool for life. The Lord has used the lives of the Patriarchs to reveal to each of us the reality of our human condition. If we do not learn from the previous examples of those recorded for us in the Scriptures, will we face condemning judgment from the King of Kings? Or will we learn, and not have to face the damnation of the Great White Throne?

Esau made choices that he regretted years later. Jacob also made some choices that he probably questioned over time, but for some reason, the Most High made a choice and He decided to love Jacob more than Esau. To the carnal mind this does not seem fair and equitable. And logically speaking, it is not impartial. Paul states the following in Romans 9:18-23:

“So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. You will say to me then, ‘Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?’ On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, ‘Why did you make me like this,’ will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory.”

The bottom line to this saint with clay feet, after the whirlwinds of trial and testing, is a simple plea:

Please, Heavenly Father, do not discard this lump on the trash heap of worthless clay. Instead, mold me into a vessel that has usefulness in Your Kingdom’s work. You are the Potter and I am the clay. Let me be more moldable in your hands. Please, let me persevere so that I will receive the crown of life. Please, let my name be found in the Book of Life. Please have mercy upon me! And for those who choose to follow the inclinations of sinful flesh—have mercy on them too—and may they see the light of Your salvation.

I Bless You O Lord, my King of Kings, my Protector and my Shield! For You alone are worthy to be praised! Amein!

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