12-10-16 Message to Beit Adonai Yisroel – VaYetse
Torah Portion; Genesis 28:10-32:3
Haftarah: Hos 1:7 – 14:10
Suggested Acheron K’tuvim: John 14:6-7
A Special Place for Prayer
Central question of this message: Are you fighting the battle with the right weapons?
We are in Parasha VaYetse. Its name comes from the first word of the passage which means “and he went out”.
Gen 28:10-11 10 Then Jacob departed from Beersheba and went toward Haran. 11 And he came to a certain place and spent the night there, because the sun had set; and he took one of the stones of the place and put it under his head, and lay down in that place.
As we move into this portion, I want to remind us of what caused Yacov to go to Haran. We find it in the previous portion, Toldot.
Gen 27:41-45 41 So Esau bore a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him; and Esau said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.” 42 Now when the words of her elder son Esau were reported to Rebekah, she sent and called her younger son Jacob, and said to him, “Behold your brother Esau is consoling himself concerning you, by planning to kill you. 43 Now therefore, my son, obey my voice, and arise, flee to Haran, to my brother Laban! 44 “And stay with him a few days, until your brother’s fury subsides, 45 until your brother’s anger against you subsides, and he forgets what you did to him. Then I shall send and get you from there. Why should I be bereaved of you both in one day?”
Why was Esav’s fury kindled against Yacov? Because his father Yitzhak’s plan to thwart the will of G-d that Yacov have the blessing had been itself thwarted by action taken by his mother and Yacov.
Was it righteous anger? No. The blessing was given to Yacov before birth. Then Esav sold the blessing to Yacov.
12-3-13 Message to Beit Adonai Yisroel – Toldot
Torah Portion; Genesis 25:19-28:9
Haftarah: 1 Sam 20:18-42
Suggested Acheron K’tuvim: John 7:6-11
Is Honesty Always the Best Policy?
Central question of this message: Are there circumstances when it is acceptable to tell a lie?
We are in Toldot. The generations of Yitzhak. Its name comes from the second Hebrew word in the passage, toldot.
19 Now these are the records of the generations of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham became the father of Isaac; 20 and Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, the sister of Laban the Aramean, to be his wife. As we read through this parashah, we find that things began well enough, but then we come across a passage that has given our people some fertile ground for lots of discussion over the generations.
5 And Rebekah was listening while Isaac spoke to his son Esau. So when Esau went to the field to hunt for game to bring home, 6 Rebekah said to her son Jacob, “Behold, I heard your father speak to your brother Esau, saying, 7 Bring me some game and prepare a savory dish for me, that I may eat, and bless you in the presence of the Lord before my death.’ 8 “Now therefore, my son, listen to me as I command you. 9 Go now to the flock and bring me two choice kids from there, that I may prepare them as a savory dish for your father, such as he loves. 10 Then you shall bring it to your father, that he may eat, so that he may bless you before his death.” 11 And Jacob answered his mother Rebekah, “Behold, Esau my brother is a hairy man and I am a smooth man. 12 Perhaps my father will feel me, then I shall be as a deceiver in his sight; and I shall bring upon myself a curse and not a blessing.” 13 But his mother said to him, “Your curse be on me, my son; only obey my voice, and go, get them for me.” 14 So he went and got them, and brought them to his mother; and his mother made savory food such as his father loved. 15 Then Rebekah took the best garments of Esau her elder son, which were with her in the house, and put them on Jacob her younger son. 16 And she put the skins of the kids on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck. 17 She also gave the savory food and the bread, which she had made, to her son Jacob. 18 Then he came to his father and said, “My father.” And he said, “Here I am. Who are you, my son?” 19 And Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your first-born; I have done as you told me. Get up, please, sit and eat of my game, that you may bless me.” 20 And Isaac said to his son, “How is it that you have it so quickly, my son?” And he said, “Because the Lord your God caused it to happen to me.” 21 Then Isaac said to Jacob, “Please come close, that I may feel you, my son, whether you are really my son Esau or not.” 22 So Jacob came close to Isaac his father, and he felt him and said, “The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” 23 And he did not recognize him, because his hands were hairy like his brother Esau’s hands; so he blessed him. 24 And he said, “Are you really my son Esau?” And he said, “I am.” 25 So he said, “Bring it to me, and I will eat of my son’s game, that I may bless you.” And he brought it to him, and he ate; he also brought him wine and he drank. 26 Then his father Isaac said to him, “Please come close and kiss me, my son.” 27 So he came close and kissed him; and when he smelled the smell of his garments, he blessed him and said, “See, the smell of my son Is like the smell of a field which the Lord has blessed; 28 Now may God give you of the dew of heaven, And of the fatness of the earth, And an abundance of grain and new wine; 29 May peoples serve you, And nations bow down to you; Be master of your brothers, And may your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be those who curse you, And blessed be those who bless you.”
Torah Portion; Genesis 6:9-11:32 Noach (rest)
Haftarah: Isa 54:1-55:5
Suggested Acheron K’tuvim: 2 Peter 3:8-13
Be a Pioneer Central question of this message: Will you strike out into uncharted territory when G-d calls you to do something that you have never yet done?
We are in the second portion of Torah today. Noach. Noach means “rest”, or “comfort”. It takes its name from the central character of this parasha – Noah.
9 These are the records of the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God. 10 And Noah became the father of three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. 11 Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 And God looked on the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth.
There are some interesting Hebrew words I wish for you to see in the opening passage.
Noah is described as a “righteous man”. “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God.”
In Hebrew it reads, “ish tzadik tamim”. The “ish tzadik” is easier, and we easily translate that as “man, righteous”. But “tamim” is not so easy.
Tamim can mean “entire”, or “complete”. But it also carries with it the concept of “simple”.
Then there is the next phrase, which our sages have found very interesting. “in his time”. Literally, the Hebrew word b’dorotav means “in the generation of him”.
Our sages have speculated that Noah wasn’t all that much of a tzadik, but that he was a relative tzadik, when compared with all the other people at that time. They say that if Noah had lived in the generation of Abraham, he would have been considered as “worthless”. That’s a pretty severe statement, and it suggests that G-d “grades on the curve” when judging righteousness. Maybe He does… maybe not. I don’t know.
But it does remind me of a joke. Two hunters are out hunting bears. One is older and wiser, and the other is younger and more vigorous. The older man is the guide, and the younger man is the hunter. They both have back-packs, a fanny-pack with lots of other gear, and both are carrying a rifle.
They see a huge bear and stalk to within an easy range for a shot. They are maybe only fifty yards away. At this distance, they see that the bear is much larger than they first thought. It is without question a huge animal, and the older guide is wondering aloud if only a single shot will bring down the giant.
They engage in a whispered conversation regarding how the younger hunter will need to take his first shot, then get ready to quickly take a second, or maybe even a third shot to stop the charging bear.
As the younger hunter was shouldering his rifle, ready to take his first shot, he hears considerable noise behind him, where the older man is standing. He lowers his rifle, turns to look, and sees that the older guide has removed his backpack, his fanny pack, and has laid his rifle across them on the ground just behind the younger hunter. The older man is even taking off his hunting shirt in an obvious attempt to be as unencumbered as possible.
The young man turns and with some youthful bravado says, “Even after all that, you won’t be able to outrun that bear.” The older man replied, “I know. Y’see, I don’t need to outrun that bear. I just need to outrun YOU.”
That, for you fans of theoretical physics, is a simple illustration of the theory of relativity. Was Noah “relatively righteous”? Yes.
It does seem that the remainder of the earth’s human population was, relatively speaking, evil, because of another phrase in the same passage
“11 Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 And God looked on the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth.”
The Hebrew word that is translated as “violence” is chamas.
And what had this chamas done to the world of perfection that G-d had created? It had spoiled it.
The Hebrew word translated as “corrupt” in the passage is shachat.
It carries with it the concept of decay. What does something that is living do once it dies? It rots. It decays. That is how G-d described the creation that He Himself described as “good” in our first portion of the Torah.
How much of the world’s population was given over to violence and destruction of G-d’s creation? All. So, it might actually be that Noah was the “best of the worst”, as our sages speculated.
But Noah would prove himself to be in many ways much like Abraham, whose obedience was “reckoned to him as righteousness” (see Gen 15:6).
Noah wasn’t summoned to take a three-day journey to a place he’d never been before. Noah was summoned to create a massive structure which had never yet been built on the earth, and prepare it to withstand a storm which had never yet come upon the earth.
10-20-16 Message to Beit Adonai Yisroel – Shemini Atzeret (“assembly of the eighth”)
Torah Portion for Shabbes Chol HaMoed Succot; Ex 33:12 – 34:26
Haftarah: Ezek 38:18 – 39:16
Suggested Acheron K’tuvim: John 7:37-38
The Great Day of the Feast
Central question of this message: Are you looking forward to even greater joy?
Today we are in the midst of the festival of Succot. The intermediate days between the first and last day of this festival are called Chol HaMoed – “all [the days of] the season.”
So, today is called Shabbat Chol HaMoed Succot, and has its own special Torah reading.
Although this is the Shabbat, we don’t read the last portion of Devarim (Deuteronomy) today, but wait until Simchat Torah (rejoicing regarding the Torah) which this year begins Monday night at dusk.
Tonight begins the final day of the festival of Succot, known as Hoshana Rabbah, which means “salvation in the highest [manner]”. And then Sunday night begins Shemini Atzeret, which some congregations combine with Simchat Torah.
Hoshana Rabbah has a number of special observances, many of which reflect similar events that occurred during this season in the time that the Temple still stood.
We read in Talmud (Succah 4:5) that the priests would carry palm or willow branches in their hands, and would make a procession around the altar every day during Succot, and then seven on the seventh day.
It has been said that the seven circuits relate to the seven circuits made around Jericho, and in the same manner the wall that separates us from G-d’s love is torn down by our persistent repentance and celebration of His love.
Another tradition associates the seven circuits with the seven Hebrew words in the verse found at Psalm 26:6, translated as “I shall wash my hands in innocence, And I will go about Thine altar, O Lord”
Many read or chant some special prayers during the circuits, symbolizing Elijah the Prophet crying out for the soon coming of the Messiah. Compare that with the life of John “the baptizer” who Yeshua compared directly with Eliyahu (Elijah) the Prophet.
Central question of this message: Do you long for the succah of Gd?
Today we are in the next-to-last parasha of Torah. It is Moses’ final song. In next week’s portion he gives a blessing to the tribes, and dies.
On Simchas Torah (Joy over the Torah), we read the final section of the final parasha of Torah, then we read the first section of the first parasha of Torah at the same time, back-to-back.
Today’s parasha is called haazinu, which is in the command voice in Hebrew. It means, essentially, “hear me!”
But in the first verse he’s not even speaking to people. He speaks to the heavens and the earth. He calls them as two witnesses to his words and his charge to the assembled nation.
32 “Give ear, O heavens, and let me speak; And let the earth hear the words of my mouth. 2 “Let my teaching drop as the
rain, My speech distill as the dew, As the droplets on the fresh grass And as the showers on the herb. 3 “For I
proclaim the name of the Lord; Ascribe greatness to our God! 4 “The Rock! His work is perfect, For all His ways are
just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, Righteous and upright is He.
The invocation of heaven and earth as “witnesses” is not merely a flowery way to begin his song. It is a matter of substance, and it is not
in any way random.
We find his intention by going back to the previous portion, VaYelech.
28 “Assemble to me all the elders of your tribes and your officers, that I may speak these words in their hearing and
call the heavens and the earth to witness against them. 29 For I know that after my death you will act corruptly and
turn from the way which I have commanded you; and evil will befall you in the latter days, for you will do that which is
evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking Him to anger with the work of your hands.”
10-8-16 Message to Beit Adonai Yisroel – Vayalech (“and he went”)
Torah Portion; Deut 31:1-30
Special Haftarah: Hos 14:2-10, Mic 7:18-20, and Joel 2:15-27
Suggested Acheron K’tuvim: 1 John 1:9
Central question of this message: Can you hear the voice of
G-d calling you to come back to Him?
Today we are in parasha Vayalech, which means “and he went”. In it we see that Moses is going to a place where he can speak to
all of Israel.
This shabbes is known as “Shabbes shuvah”. That is because it falls during the ten “Days of Awe” from the blowing of the shofar
of repentance on Yom Teruah (Rosh Hashanah) to Yom Kippur.
During these ten days we are to do what we might have been putting-off all the other days of the year, and that is getting
accounts settled with one another, and then finally with G-d.
The Hebrew word teshuvah, which is the descriptive modifier associated with shabbes shuvah, is often translated into English as
“repentance”. But that word, as currently used in English, doesn’t seem to adequately capture the entirety of the concept.
The church teaches that repentance begins (and often ends) with heartfelt regret for committing a sin. And it even may imply that
the sinner will attempt to refrain from that sin in the future. But even with those two elements in place, the common understanding
of “repentance” still lacks the most important part of the process… and that is “return”.
In the Hebrew understanding of the concept of teshuvah, the step of expressing true regret for the sin is there. Likewise, the step of
ceasing the particular sin is there. But what the Hebraic understanding expects the final step of teshuvah to be is a return to G-d.
Rabbi Shraga Simmons, an honored scholar who today lives near Modin, Israel, has written on teshuvah. What he has to say would
sound familiar to those who understand the rabbinical underpinnings of the writings of Rb. Shaul (Paul).
The first day of the Hebrew year 5777.
By Jay Ledbetter
Tashlich is a Hebrew word which carries with it the concept of “casting away”. The practice is not set forth in Scripture, and thus is traditional. The tradition is normally carried out on the day of Rosh Hashanah (Yom Teruah), before sunset.
This tradition arose in the 13th century and quickly became common in Judaism despite the objections of the rabbis who believed there was already too much superstition creeping into the faith, and were concerned that the people might believe that this symbolic act might actually be effective to change the outcomes of their lives. The rabbis knew then, as we know now, that only true teshuvah (repentance and return to G-d) has that power.
Hasidic Jews performing tashlich on Rosh Hashanah, painting by Aleksander Gierymski, 1884
Likewise, the custom of tashlich has some troubling similarities to pagan practices of ancient days. It was believed by the worshippers of the “gods of water” that the way to appease them was to offer sacrifices to them. Often that meant throwing food items or other valuables into the flowing waters.
Did societal paganism have an influence on early forms of tashlich? Possibly. But we need not do that examination in depth, because it is the heart to which G-d looks, and its origins were most certainly not pagan. We must not allow Satan to rob us of meaningful observances merely because he seeks to pollute the world with similar pagan observances which mimic G-d. There is nothing inherently pagan about anything we do today during tashlich, and everything can be seen as pointing directly to specific Scriptures. And this is how we should practice it in these days.
Central question of this message: Have you resolved all offenses with one another?
Today’s portion is Nitzavim, which means “you are standing”. Its name comes from the first two words of the portion.
10 “You stand today, all of you, before the Lord your God: your chiefs, your tribes, your elders and your officers, even all the men of Israel,
As Moses is finishing his long sermon known to us as Devarim, and to the church as Deuteronomy, before him stands a multitude of people.
And they are the descendants of the “mixed multitude” which came out of Egypt just following the Passover. Their parents saw the Egyptian
army give chase, were pinned against the sea, and crossed over on dry land. The memory of those days were still fresh in the hearts of Israel.
And I call the people gathered together before Moses “Israel” because that is the name that G-d called them – as He gave them the Torah at Mt.
The parents of those gathered might have been from many nations as they ducked into the homes marked with the blood of the lamb on the
lintel and doorposts. They might have been from many ethnicities as they sat at the first Passover table.
But as they emerged from those doorways along with the greater Hebrew people the next morning, they were assimilated into the single
people of G-d, and nothing would change that fact.
The fellow who entered Egypt as an Ethiopian, with black skin, sat beside the son of a Levi who had olive skin. And they both sat with the
privileged Egyptian who had skin of alabaster white. You see, it’s never been a matter of skin color with our people. It’s
always been a matter of the heart. So, when I hear people say that someone “looks Jewish”, I often shake my head in amazement at their
lack of understanding of what it actually means to be part of G-d’s people.
There actually IS a “Jewish” look. When you love G-d so much, and walk with Him so closely, so that you take-on a certain “family
resemblance” to Yeshua – that is when you have it. When people know you as a “man of G-d” or a “woman of G-d”,
because of your holiness – that’s when you have it. And it is critical for all of us who are in this large family of faith to
remember an important fact. We are bound together with one another. We are bound not only in faith, and sometimes common practices, but
more importantly, we are bound together in love for one another.