Parashah Mikketz (It came to pass) Genesis 41 – 44:17

The famous, prophetic dream that Pharaoh had is revealed in this parashah. The cows and the corn, the 7 years of abundance to be followed by the same number of years of terrible famine.

Famine was not uncommon in the Middle East; Abraham saw famine, Yitzchak saw famine, Ahab saw famine (and no rain, too, for 3 years) and even in modern times there was the famous famine that was world wide from 1920 -1924.

I believe God is in charge of everything, and also that sometimes things just happen. Just because God can make everything run the way He wants it to run, that doesn’t mean He does. In the case of today’s Parashah, though, I would like to offer my reason to believe why this particular famine was directed by God: simply because it served so many of God’s purposes, some of which He had already told us about.

When this parashah takes place, the “nation” of Israel numbered about 70, give or take children and in-laws. God promised them to become a great nation. We know that they already were pretty awesome in the eyes of their immediate neighbors, assuming that with their slaves and such they were somewhat formidable to a small town or village, but to be considered a nation as we define one, they weren’t there by any stretch of the imagination. And they were living in a world where the strong took what they wanted. They were exposed on all sides to any number of aggressive enemies.

At this same time we have Joseph in jail. He has been there for nearly 12 years already, forgotten by the Cupbearer and not likely to be remembered any time soon.

God’s plan had to get Joseph out of jail, Israel and his entire family out of constant threat of annihilation, and the children of Israel into a place where they can grow from a large family into a nation, safely and securely.

I can just see the Lord, sitting on His throne, stroking his beard of snow-white wool, asking Himself, “What to do? What to do? AHA!!! A famine. Oh, yes, I love a good famine! And dreams- that’s the ticket! Let’s give Pharaoh two dreams- that’ll rattle his bones, and then we can get this show on the road.”

So now the plan starts to take shape. Pharaoh’s dreams are directly from God, so only a man of God can interpret them. The magicians have no chance, and the confusion and concern awakens the Cupbearer to his own negligence of forgetting Joseph, which he quickly admits to Pharaoh. Now, after God has given Joseph the insight he needed to impress Pharaoh and give God’s plan some more momentum, Joseph is in the position God needs him to be in to have the ability to call his family down to Egypt.

Not letting sin go unpunished, God provides also the opportunity for Joseph to have his brothers suffer recompense for the sin they committed against him, which was merciful when you consider that their punishment and suffering was an emotional one whereas Joseph suffered physically. Yet, through God’s design Joseph is out of jail, the seed of the nation of Israel is planted in good soil, protected by the most powerful nation in the known world, and watered with the kindness that Pharaoh showed to Joseph and that Joseph had for his brothers.

That’s how God did it. He designed the famine to bring Joseph to power, Israel to Egypt, the nation to fruition. And later, in Sh’mot (Exodus) we see God’s plan for the nation to receive the promised land fulfilled, as well. In this Parashah we see the promise to Abraham that his descendants will be many and they will suffer for 400 years in slavery being fulfilled before our eyes.

If there is one thing we can learn from the Bible, it is that God’s plans will always come to be. What God wants done, will get done, and what God says He will do, is so absolutely trustworthy that His prophecy is already history.  We can trust God absolutely, without reservation, and that trust is necessary to strengthen our faith. Faith is believing in what we cannot see or prove, but we have trust in what we know. Faith is given and trust is earned. God has demonstrated, historically, that His word is true and dependable. The science of archeology has shown us that the Bible is, if nothing else, historically accurate. That’s enough to earn our trust that the stories are true. It is through this trust of the accuracy of the historical events that we can justify (at least, initially, in our walk with God) our faith to believe those events were by Divine design. Once we take that leap of faith and accept God is in charge, that Yeshua is the Messiah, and (finally) take that most important step- decide to live our life a slave to God and not a slave to sin (for, as Yeshua said, we are all slaves to something)- then we can ask for (and know we have received) forgiveness through Yeshua’s sacrificial death. We can also request and receive the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) and begin our walk with God. After that your faith will grow in leaps and bounds if you continue to be fertile soil for the seed of the Word being sown within you.

I have said that God will never give us “scientific proof” of His existence because it is through faith we are saved, and scientific proof (meaning that the event can be reproduced at will) is the antithesis of faith. But once you are faithful, and you prove to God your T’Shuvah, He will absolutely let you feel His presence, see His goodness, and He will reveal Himself to you in so many different ways that you will have unquestionable proof He exists; thus, your hope for salvation will be confirmed and you will know that it will really happen. He will let you know Him, intimately, and you will experience His love. As you continue to grow in spiritual maturity, you will know more and more His trustworthiness and see His awesome power and compassion in your life, and in the lives of others.

God is in charge: whatever happens, whether designed by Him or simply allowed to run it’s own course by Him, is by His will and by His power. Trust in the deeds, have faith in the promises, and be secure in the hope of eternal joy and peace you will have once this world is no more.

Parashah Vayeshev (and he dwelt) ) Genesis 37:1 – 40:23

It seems that every parasha I read has more than I could ever write or speak about in less than a tome.

On Fridays I always go through the readings: first I read, then I glance through, and finally (if I still need to) I scan. I read comments in my Chumash and wait for the Ruach to reveal something to me. Today what I feel I want to talk about is not a specific part of this reading, but a generic lesson we can learn from the story of Joseph’s life:

When you always do what is right, and do them wisely, things will turn out right for you.

Joseph showed a divine wisdom when he was older, but as a child I think we can question his common sense because he went to his brothers and told them his dreams, dreams in which he announces they will all be subjugated to him. He even tells his father, Jacob, that he will bow down to his own son. Jacob chides him for even thinking such a disrespectful thought. We can also wonder if he was a dutiful son or a tattle-tale; we are told he gave a bad report about his brothers, so if he did that once can’t we assume it wasn’t a singular event?

I think he was a bit of a spoiled brat, myself. Why? Well, let’s look at his father and grandfather- Jacob was a Momma’s boy, as was his father, Isaac, before him. Isaac was the favorite of his father and Jacob was the favorite of his mother, Isaac lied about his marriage (“my wife is my sister”), Jacob lied about himself (“I am your son, Esau”- right!), so why not think that Joseph, noted in the Bible as Jacob’s favorite (coat of many colors and all) would follow in the footsteps, if you will, of his ancestors?

I am not being disrespectful here, at least, that is not my intent. The Bible is not a fairy tale book where the hero’s are perfect in every way. Joseph did what was right in reporting on his brothers if they did, indeed, screw-up royally. However, it wasn’t the wisest thing to do, and the telling of his dreams was just plain stupid. I mean, really- “Hey guys, I know you hate my guts, but I had a dream and one day you will all bow down before me. Ain’t that cool?”  Sheesh- where were his brains?

So, Joseph is setting himself up for a fall and it comes when he is all alone in the desert with those that hate him. Reuben plans to rescue him later, Judah also helps to keep him alive (remember what Shimon and Levi did, so there was a real threat to Joseph’s life) but God intervenes and takes Joseph away from his brothers and sets him on the path to salvation. Not his own salvation but the salvation of God’s Chosen people, even though there were only about 70 or so of them. At that time, though, that was all of them and they were a nation not yet a nation.

Doing the right thing the right way was the lesson Joseph learned, and it started with his life of slavery, lasting throughout the rest of his days. Evidently he learned from the way his brothers treated him that being right isn’t always the end-all of it. I had been told once, and this is one of the most valuable lessons I was ever given (which I am still trying to learn to use), that what I said was almost always the right thing, but I just never said it the right way. Essentially, I may have been right in what I said about things but because I didn’t use wisdom in how I said it the point was lost in the emotional “stir” I created by the way I said it.  Joseph seems to have learned this lesson. It is shown in how he gained the trust of Potiphar, how he addressed the Baker and Cup Bearer, and in how he talked to Pharaoh. I like how Joseph suggested to Pharaoh that Pharaoh should find someone with wisdom to run the collection of food, while here he is, telling Pharaoh the meaning of the dreams that no one else can interpret. That’s like saying I am obviously the only one here who can handle this, and you should find someone who is capable of doing what I am doing to run this program I am designing.

And it worked. His wisdom in telling Pharaoh about the dreams, the solution to the problem, and how Pharaoh should approach it pretty much assured that he would be appointed.

Finally, Joseph did the most proper and forgiving thing, demonstrating his fullness of faith, spirit, and compassion, in that he forgave his brothers because he understood that God runs the show, and that what they did for evil God turned to good because He can! Joseph learned that doing the right thing, the right way, and always accepting that God is behind everything, led him from slavery to the second highest position of power and authority in the known world at that time. Yet he remained humble, respectful and compassionate.

They say that absolute power corrupts absolutely. I couldn’t agree more, if and when that power is based on human activities. When we think we are the source of our power, it will corrupt us. Joseph teaches us that power does not have to corrupt when we realize the source of that power is God, that God put us where we are, God is really the powerful one (we are nothing more than a conduit: empty inside, so that His power can flow through us) and God is in charge. He can take that power away in a heartbeat (remember Nebuchadnezzar? He went from the most powerful ruler in the world to eating grass like a donkey.)

Do what God tells us is right, always. Ask God to guide you with His Ruach; do what you know He wants you to do, in a Godly way, and even if you are in slavery (whatever kind of “slavery” that may be) you will accomplish great things for God. Who knows who we can save, who we can influence, or who we can lead to salvation simply by obeying God and always doing (well, always trying to do) what is right in His eyes?

Parashah Vayishlach (He sent) Genesis 32:3 – 36:43

Verse 32:11 stood out to me in this Torah portion, as a reminder not only of God’s trustworthiness, but also of the fact that we can bring God to task by reminding him of His promises.

Not that God ever forgets promises. He does forget something, though: He forgets the sins He forgives. Much better than humans, who say we forgive, and I think most of the time really want to, but we still relive the hurt. Sometimes we don’t want to forgive.

Silly Rabbit! Hatred is for losers! The only way to make the hurt go away is to forgive, then forget. We tend to think forgive and forget means never let them forget what we forgive.

In any event, this verse is where Jacob, soon to be Israel, prays to God to protect him from Esau, who is coming with 400 men to greet his brother. Jacob reminds God of the covenant God made, in essence, calling God’s hand and saying, “You promised my descendants would be numberless, so if Esau destroys me your promise will be broken.”

Of course, he didn’t say it that way, but that’s what he is saying, isn’t it?

We see this a number of times in the Bible, where God is called upon to remember His promises. Apparently this isn’t a problem for the Almighty. I would suggest a respectful reminder, but still, even though God never forgets we are allowed to remind Him.

How many times did Moses (almost) remand God when He wanted to destroy the rebellious people, telling God it is isn’t a good idea because it would make God look less than all-powerful to the nations? Here is a human telling the Lord of Lords and King of Kings, the Almighty Creator of the Universe, “Hey, ya’ know…that’s not a good idea. I think we should revisit that plan.”

The fact that we, little more than worms compared to God, are allowed to remind and, to a point, even remand God shows His merciful, compassionate nature.

Maybe he allows this because He is testing us? Maybe He wants to see if we remember what He says. That makes sense to me, since I can’t remember what I had for breakfast this morning. Pretty soon I won’t even remember if I had breakfast, let alone what it was.  So to make sure that we remember His promises is just s step away from making sure we remember His commandments.

The point here is that we need to not just listen to God, but remember what He tells us. When the fecal matter hits the air circulation device we will need to know God’s word, His promises and His commandments. More than that, we will need to know the other parts of the Bible, too: Shaul’s advice, what the Prophets tell us to expect, and what John tells us about the Acharit HaYamim (End Days.) All this needs to be read and remembered.

And when we are in the midst of troubles, there is nothing wrong with kvetching to God. He can handle it, and (I like to think) He actually likes it when we call out to Him, even if it is to remind Him of his promises.

I pray for my wife and children every day, and I remind God that His son said whatever I ask, if I ask it in His name, will be given. Then I remind God that He, Himself, said He doesn’t want anyone to die in their sin, so it certainly is in His will when I ask for the salvation of my loved ones. I remind God of these things every time I pray.

There is the parable of the woman who asks justice from the unjust judge. Eventually he grants her justice, if for no other reason than to get rid of her.

God is a totally righteous judge, so how much more will He do for us when we continually ask, and respectfully remind, Him to do what He has told us He would.

Parashah Vayetze (He went out) Genesis 28:10-32:2

There is always, when we refer to the Word of God, just so much in here.

We could talk about God’s repetition of His covenant: first to Abraham, then to Yitzchak, and now this third time to Jacob. This was the last time (that I can recall) God repeated this covenant directly to anyone. Jacob is the last of the Patriarchs. In all our prayers that reference the Patriarchs it is always, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. There must be something in that.

We also have a lesson about the need to live honest lives and receiving retribution, in that we reap what we sow. We see this in how Jacob fooled his father to gain the blessing, then Laban fooled Jacob to gain more of his servitude, then Rachel fooled Laban to get the family gods. There is a lot for us to learn about human nature and how God intervenes to use our nature to fulfill His plans.

The thing that struck me, and what I would like to talk about today, is Genesis 28:16. Right from the start of this Parashah I sensed a message in what Jacob said when he awoke from his dream about that place being a house of God, and he wasn’t aware of it.

The Soncino version of the Chumash has a footnote about this, which states popular belief is that the presence of God was restricted only to particular, or sacred, places. Many people still see the church, synagogue or some place of worship as a holy location, more sacred than the home, or some “normal” place.

We see this here, and we see it also when Naaman was cured of leprosy by Elisha (well, actually by God through Elisha) in 2 Kings. Naaman takes soil from the land to bring back to Aram so that he can worship the God of Israel. He assumes the dirt is especially holy, placing a geographical restriction to God’s abilities and presence. I think it is still a practice of people making a trip to Israel to bring back some of the dirt of the Land.

God is not restricted to geography. He is everywhere, all the time. I read once the Rabbi’s of old used to say that God could not “go down” to a place or “go up” from somewhere because He was already there.

I have known Conservative Jews who are Kosher in their homes, but at Denny’s will go for the bacon lover’s special. I know other people who say they worship God but ignore those laws they don’t want to follow, explaining that they are no longer valid for one reason or another.

Hypocrites! Liars! Faithless and foolish people.

Don’t get me wrong, in that I think I am an example of righteousness- oh no! I do not follow every commandment, either. I try to follow them, and there are some, I confess, I do not want to follow. I know this, and the difference between me confessing I sin voluntarily and those I am talking about above is that I acknowledge the laws are just and right and I am the one who is wrong and sinful. These people do not confess their weaknesses or their sin; what they do is attack God’s laws as old and no longer valid in today’s world, or unjust, or misogynistic, or unfair to certain types of people. Or worse!- they say Yeshua did away with “the Law.”

They do not say they are in the wrong for failing to obey God, but instead declare that God is in the wrong for asking them to do these things! Oy!! What a bunch of  meshuganahs!

Jacob demonstrated that age-old idea that God is not omniscient when he thought he was in a uniquely holy place after awaking from his dream. God is everywhere, all the time; He always has been and always will be. He is right here, within arm’s length. Just reach out to Him; His hand is always open and reaching out to you. You don’t need to go to a building to get close to God. You don’t need to travel to Ha Eretz (the Land) to be close to God. All you need to do is acknowledge Him, reach out to Him, and be willing to be led by Him, through the Ruach (spirit) we receive that indwells after we have acknowledged and received the Messiah He sent, Yeshua.

I do not like and have no patience for the hypocrites who blame God for their lack of faith. I say lack of faith because disobedience is a symptom of faithlessness, just as obedience is sign of faithfulness. Remember that Yeshua said if His Disciples loved Him then they would obey Him. After we sing the Sh’ma in services we repeat the Ve’ahavta, which tells us we should love the Lord, our God, with all our heart, all our soul and all our might. It is in Deuteronomy 6 and in Numbers, as well, Go find it and see for yourself.

God is everywhere, and if you profess to worship Him then when you fail to do what he says, please don’t be a hypocrite and blame Him for your failure. When we sin, we need to confess it. I believe, after worshiping God for nearly 19 years, and reading the Bible dozens of times, and training to be a Messianic Minister, that God would prefer an honest confession of my failure to obey any one of His commandments, then to hear me rationalize my failure by blaming His laws to be outdated or unfair.  King David said, in Psalm 51, that a contrite heart God will not turn away. A prideful and arrogant heart will not provide a pathway to forgiveness, and will separate us from the salvation that God has provided.

The Enemy convinced Eve (and through her, Adam) to sin by saying that God’s law was unfair. He taught them how to rationalize God’s commandment to fit their desires. Let this be a warning to you: if you are being taught any commandments are outdated or unfair,  you know one thing absolutely- you know who the teacher is. I wouldn’t stay in that class if I were you.

God is everywhere, His laws (ALL His laws) are just as valid today as they were when He gave them to Moshe, and they are valid for all our generations- none have ever been changed. Even the laws regarding sacrifice are still valid, which is the very reason we can’t perform them- they are supposed to be done at the Temple and the Temple is not there anymore.

Do not listen to those who teach that any of God’s laws are invalid or don’t apply, or were done away with when Yeshua was risen. That is from the depth of Sheol and those teachings will not bring you closer to God but will serve the Enemy of God. Read the Bible, accept His sovereignty and His rule, and listen to Him.

Yeshua said we are all slaves to something; either to God or to sin. Choose your Boss wisely.

Parashah Tol’dot (History) Genesis 25:19 – 28:9

This section of the Torah recounts the well-known story about how Esau sold his birthright. The first part of the parashah also shows us how much “like father, like son” is Yitzchak (Isaac). When a famine comes and Yitzchak takes his family to the land of the P’lishtim (Philistines) he said Rivkah was his sister, hiding her true relationship for fear of his life. He also became very wealthy from the Lord giving him success in everything he did, which caused the surrounding people to fear him and reject him. Just as it happened to Abraham.

There is unquestionably a Drash from this, dealing with the Jews being a hated people, and not just for the spiritual battles fought over them. God has blessed us, and through us the entire world, but that blessing is a two-edged sword in that some people see the Jews as special and become jealous of their successes. Instead of following their example and worshiping God as He wants, they take the opposite action and persecute them. If only those that hate the Jewish people understood that they are “killing the goose that lays the golden egg” because God said He would bless those that bless the Jewish people, and curse those that cursed them. In trying to “get back” at the Jews, those that hate them have only cursed themselves.

That’s not what today is about, though. I want to talk about what I see in the birthright selling story as a picture of what could happen to those who have been saved and think that their salvation is totally “in the bag.”

Reality check, Folks: it isn’t! Irrevocable gift of Grace means it won’t be revoked, i.e., taken back. However, we can lose it, we can throw it away, and we can just never use it, which will have the same effect as throwing it away. Read the chapter in my book called, “Use it or Lose it” to get a more in-depth discussion of this.

Esau had the blessings of the firstborn guaranteed as his from his very birth. Nothing could change the fact that he was first out. However, because of the temptations of the world he gave it up. I can somewhat understand how he felt that day. Next time you are really, really hungry, go into a supermarket and stand where they do all the cooking. Take a long, deep breath and smell the bakery items and the warm cooked  items, then try , just try, to go buy a single apple or bag of carrots. Of course, understanding is not condoning. He gave away the most valuable asset he had, one that was his by rights and irrevocable. But, he did give it away. He sold it for a bowl of soup.

What might we sell our “birthright” (salvation) for? Riches?  A trophy mate? A new car? A better job? These are all real temptations in the world we live in, and the Enemy knows what humans like. He can get under our skin, he can smell like fresh baked bread to a hungry person, and he can not just promise, but deliver. His power on Earth is very strong and very, very real. And it is also very hard to see. He is a sneaky little bugger, and he will have you selling your salvation before you even know what is happening.

If you are saying, “Oh, no- not me, Steve. I am too smart for that.” then you are lying to yourself. I am scared to death of being fooled, that is why I believe it will be harder for the Enemy to fool me. Not impossible, but harder. I am holding on to my salvation with both hands.

Those who have been taught, or just stubbornly want to believe, that their salvation is an irrevocable gift from God that no one can take away, they are right. It will not be taken back and it cannot be taken away;  it can, however, be given away. They don’t want to hear that part, they just want to ask God for forgiveness, say “I am saved by  the blood of Messiah” and go on with their lives as before. Happily thinking they are “in” and nothing can change that. Blind fools!

Esau had it made in the shade, but he gave away that which was guaranteed to him. The things of the world, his own selfishness and weakness of spirit caused him to lose that which could not be lost.

We are all in the same boat. Understand , please, this is a real life fact: salvation is something we can give away . We can spend eternity in Sheol for something as insignificant as a bowl of soup, so hold on to your salvation. The Enemy wants it, and he will do whatever he can (which is a lot, believe-you-me!) to get it from you.

Hold on to it with both hands, and never let go. Be aware, keep alert, stay saved.

parashah chayye sarah (the life of Sarah) Genesis 23 – 25:18

We begin this parashah with the death of Sarah. She is mourned by Abraham, and buried in the Cave of Machpelah, which Abraham buys from Ephron, a Hittite. As he is also old and close to death, Abraham makes Eleazar, his servant, swear to him not to bring Isaac back to Haran. This shows that Abraham was thoughtful enough to make sure that his son, the son of the promise, would not accidentally reverse God’s work by returning to a place they were told to leave.

Later, after the Exodus, God tells His people that they have left Egypt and they are not to return. This warning, if you will, is repeated through the different writings of the Prophets.

I see here something that I think is important: once we begin our walk with the Lord, we need to keep walking. Lot’s wife looked back, she yearned to return to her previous life, and look what happened to her. Yeshua said that anyone who plows the field but looks back is not worthy of the Kingdom of God, so from the beginning to the end, and throughout, once we commit to walking the way God wants us to walk we need to keep going in that direction. We can stumble, we can fall, and sometimes we get a little lost and wander about, but we need to keep going forward. Returning to Sodom, returning to Harran, returning to Egypt…all these places were where we lived separate from the Lord.  It is said that while in Egypt only the Levites remained faithful to worshiping God correctly  and the rest of the tribes took up the Egyptian religions. This makes sense, as they were totally enslaved by the Egyptians. But once they left Egypt, they were not to return. I don’t think that means just not return to that place, but more than that, do not return to that way of life.

The walk with God is hard. Although He blesses us for obedience, and (because He is who He is) He even blesses us when we aren’t obedient, it is hard to worship God and do as He tells us in a world that doesn’t want to worship Him or do as He says. To be with God means to be against the world. That’s why Yeshua said to follow Him we need to pick up our execution stake. We need to die to self, and die to the world (it’s sinfulness and its hedonistic teachings and temptations) so that we have room for the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) to “move in” and take residence. We need to walk in faith and be spirit led, and not to look back at where we were and who we were. We are to move forward, and look to where we are going and to who we are becoming.

If you are new to being saved, it is easier to keep moving because you are infatuated. Your joy of salvation is fresh and new, and God will honor your decision to accept His grace. But as you keep walking you will encounter troubles, and these troubles will test your faith. And you will begin to get ‘used’ to being saved, you will start to remember how it was, and you will find yourself somewhat influenced by the world and begin to yearn, maybe a little and maybe a lot, for how it used to be when you “fit in” with everyone.

Even David asked God to renew a right spirit in him, and return to him the joy of his salvation (in Psalms.) He didn’t want to remain in the worldly place he was and wanted to return to the proper walk. He had fallen, he backslid, and he wanted to return to walking with God. We need to remember this when we feel the desire to “return to Egypt.” And don’t think, despite how enamoured you may be at this time with God and your salvation, that you are not able to succomb to “returning” because you are! You can’t fight what you don’t see, and if you aren’t willing to see that you are, and always will be, human with human weaknesses, then you are fooling yourself.

In the End Days , MOST will turn from the faith. Not some, not one or two, but most. They will “return to Egypt”, or to Harran, or to Sodom…wherever they were before they accepted Messiah, that is where they will go back to. In the letter from John he warns that those who have known Messiah, and afterwards chose to return to their previous way of life (return to Egypt), will be much worse off than if they had never known Messiah at all. There are other references in the B’rit Chadashah about people who apostatize. With regards to salvation, the Lord giveth and the Lord will not taketh away, but  we can throweth away what He gaveth. It is up to us to ask for salvation, to accept it, to keep it and work with it. To show our faith through our works, and to keep walking forward. 

Keep up the good fight, keep your eyes on the prize, pick up your execution stake and get going! It’s a hard road, it’s a long walk, and the pathway is narrow so it is easy to get off track. Pray that God provides a hedge of thorns on your right , rocks to your left and destroys the road behind you so that you stay on the straight and narrow pathway towards salvation. Don’t look back, don’t dwell on the meat and leeks of Egypt, and recognize that the plain manna and water that the Israelites complained about was miracle food and drink, provided by God. Better one day with the Lord than a thousand in the tents of sinners. God will give you what you need now, and the rewards you receive later will be more than you can imagine.

I like the movie, “Finding Nemo”; in it, there is a fish that is a little screwy. Her name is Dory, and she tells Marlin (the Dad) as they are searching for Nemo that he need to “just keep swimming, swimming, swimming…just keep swimming”,  over and over and over. He complains to her that now that song is going to be stuck in his head.  We need that: we need to keep walking with God.

We need that message stuck in our head like a song that just won’t stop, reminding us ,” Just keep walking, walking , walking…”

parashah vayyera (He Appeared) Genesis 18:1-22:24

This portion starts with the telling of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and ends with one of the most well-known passages, the Akedah, also called the Binding of Isaac. This is seen by most everyone, Jewish and Gentile alike, as a precursor to the sacrificial death of the Messiah.

Those of us who are Messianic or Christian accept that the Messiah is Yeshua, Jesus. I say Messianic or Christian because being Messianic is NOT being a Christian.

This has been a problem I have faced during my walk with the Lord- that people (especially Jews) who hear that I believe Jesus is the Messiah figure I have to be Christian because, as most any Jew will confirm, any Jew who believes in Jesus can’t be a Jew anymore.

What a load of…well, let’s just say you could grow roses in that statement.

Today I want to show how “Jewish” the teachings of Yeshua are (notice I said “are”, not “were”- that’s because His teachings are still valid, and because He is still alive what He said is still current.) And to do that I am going to use the commentary from the Chumash I still have from my Bar Mitzvah (that was so long ago I got a “Mazel Tov !” from Moshe, himself!) For those that are familiar with the Chumash, this is the Soncino edition with commentary from the Chief Rabbi of the British Empire, Dr. Hertz.

The first commentary note is in reference to chapter 18, verse 7 when the Angels visited Abraham. He ran to get them food and wash their feet, and Dr. Hertz references Leviticus 18:7 where we are told to love the stranger, for we were once strangers in Egypt.  Later,  when Abraham made the covenant with Abimelech and told the king about his servants taking away the well Abraham had dug, there is another reference to Leviticus, this time it’s 19:17 about not hating your brother in your heart.

Both of these teachings about being kind to strangers and not hating people are constantly mentioned by Yeshua. In fact, He said the two most important commandments are to love the Lord and love each other. These are not foreign ideas that formed a new religion- these are direct from the Word of God given to Moshe at the Mountain. Yeshua never taught anything but Torah, and he taught it correctly.That is why He said, in Matthew 5:17 that He came to “fulfill the law.” In First Century Rabbi-speak that didn’t mean to complete it or finish it, but to interpret it correctly. To interpret correctly was to complete and to interpret wrongly was to trespass.

Another lesson to show how Yeshua was not teaching anything different than what is in the Torah is when Yeshua tells us that anyone who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God. We can see this lesson clearly in this parashah when Lot’s wife looked back to Sodom and turned into a pillar of salt. She was going forward, protected and led by the Lord (or, in this case, His angel- close enough!) to a promised salvation. But she looked back. And what did she miss out on? Despite the Sodom-like actions of Lot’s daughters, they were the genesis of two of the greatest kingdoms of the times: the Ammonites and the Moabites. True, these peoples were godless and enemies of the Israelites, but they were great nations. Because Lot’s wife looked back she was not the progenitor of these kingdoms.

I see these two events, Yeshua teaching that you can’t look back and be worthy of God’s kingdom and what happened to Lot’s wife, as the same teaching. We can’t walk a straight path forward when we are looking behind us. And what are we looking at that is behind us? It’s our comfort zone. It’s what we are used to, it’s what makes us feel secure. It’s the place where we trust ourselves and others and not God. Yeshua taught to trust in God and walk in His way, leaving behind the faithlessness we had when we looked to our own devices and others for guidance. Yeshua was teaching what is in the Chumash. That’s real Jewish stuff!

Lastly, when Abraham told Abimelech about the well that Abimelech’s servants stole from Abraham, Rabbi Hertz refers again to Leviticus 19:17, where we are told to love they neighbor and also to rebuke them. This seems to be an oxymoron, to rebuke someone you are told to love, but it is meant (I believe) to demonstrate that it is for the good of the person doing wrong that we rebuke them. Not in a mean and spiteful way, but to lovingly bring to their attention their wrongdoing so that they can be aware of it, and as such, do T’Shuvah and turn from that sin. What we are being told in the Torah is not to enable wrongdoing, even by those we love, but to show “tough love” and not condone or allow wrongful actions. We are, actually, required by Torah to advise people when they are killing themselves (sin is death.) The prophets are often told by God that if they fail to warn the people, no matter what the people say or think of them, then the blood of those sinners will be on the head of the prophet. However, if the prophet does warn them and adjoin them, constantly, to do what is right, then if the people fail to pay attention their blood is on their own heads.

This is what Yeshua meant when He taught that if we are bringing a gift to the Lord but have some level of strife between us and another person, we are to leave the gift at the altar and make right our relationship. Then we can offer our gift. This is just what Abraham did- he was making a covenant of peace with Abimelech but first he settled this issue about the stolen well. After that was done, then there was the covenant of peace and the covenant of the well, with the exchange of gifts.

Yeshua did not start a new religion, and in this parashah we can see that the commentaries made by one of the most “Jewish” of Jews, the late, Great Rabbi of the British Empire, is exactly the same lessons that Yeshua taught. There is nothing new in the New Covenant writings- it is all Jewish. Yeshua taught from and about the Torah, Shaul (Paul) taught that Torah is correct, all scripture is useful (BTW…the only scripture then was the Tanakh) and the writer of Hebrews also told the Jewish Believers in the Diaspora that Torah was still valid. The New Covenant is not “new”- it is the continuation of and brings to completion God’s plan of salvation that He told Abraham about way, way back in Genesis.

If you are reading the New Covenant and ignoring the Old Covenant, it is like trying to build a house starting with the second floor. God’s plan is simple: since humans can’t save themselves He will provide the Escape Clause, the ultimate Get Out of Jail card- The Messiah. All though the Tanakh we read about His coming, what He will do so we can know Him, and what will happen when He takes charge. It never happens in the Tanakh. Messiah’s coming isn’t written for Season One of this show, it happens in Season Two. That’s also the Final Season, when the show called “God’s Plan of Salvation” is taken off the air, forever. Season Three is Eternity. If you missed Season One, you can’t possibly understand or appreciate the subtleties of the plot and characters in Season Two. Oh yeah, you can get the main point, but you miss a lot of why things are so important and the history of how things got that way.

If you are Jewish and reading this, please think about getting familiar with the New Covenant, but find a Messianic version. Read Dr. Stern’s “The Jewish New Covenant” to see the ‘Jewishness” of those writings. Allow yourself the right to make up your own mind. And if you are a Gentile Believer and reading this, talk about Yeshua’s teachings and don’t use the name “Jesus”- that will not go over well with a Jew. Use His real name, Yeshua. And relate the teachings to the Torah- stay out of the New Covenant.

Everything Yeshua taught us about the Kingdom of God, how we should live, how we should treat each other and how we should treat God was from the Tanakh: if that was good enough for Yeshua, why isn’t it good enough for you?

To reach Jewish people with the Good News, you need to show it to them in the Tanakh, and then let them know that Yeshua said the same thing. Before they can accept Yeshua as their Messiah, they need to see Him as He really was and is: a Jewish Messiah teaching Jewish lessons from the Jewish book of law, the Torah. Once Yeshua stops being a Jew-hating Gentile and is revealed as He truly is- the Jewish Messiah- then and only then can a Jewish person begin to accept Him as their Messiah.

And until the Jewish people say, “Baruch haba b’shem Adonai” (Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord), Yeshua said he would not return.

You want Messiah to return? So do I, so get started teaching your Jewish friends the truth about their Jewish Messiah!

Parashah Lech Lecha (Out of) Genesis 12:1 – 17:27)

This portion of the Torah tells us of God’s covenant with Abraham; the promise that  his seed will be many, that they will be a blessing to the whole world, and that God will stand behind them, blessing those that bless them and cursing those that curse them.

There is just so much in here, most notably the verse often quoted in the B’rit Chadashah regarding true faithfulness, Gen. 15:6.

We see Abraham as a pillar of faith. Everything the Lord asked of him he did immediately, everything the Lord told him he believed, absolutely. He was a great leader (it tells us he had over 300 trained men when he went to war against the 5 kings to recover Lot) and that meant he had to be a good manager and leader to have so many servants, trained and loyal to him. He also was a man of action, going to war successfully and also a man of honor, not accepting gifts, as valuable as they were, from the wicked king of Sodom, and a man of generosity giving the tithe to Melchizedek.

In all of this we look up to Abraham as a true Patriarch and a man of unwavering faithfulness.

Well, maybe not unwavering all the time. I am not going to talk Abraham “down”, but the lesson I see here for me, and maybe for you, is that no one is perfect except Yeshua. Abraham’s faith was not so great in  Genesis 11:11 when he took his family into Egypt and asked Sarah to say she was his sister to prevent him being killed so Pharaoh could take her as his own. Abraham certainly wasn’t showing faith and trust in God’s promises that he had already received when he “pimped” his own wife to save his skin. And Sarah, although we don’t have any idea how long she was with Pharaoh or how intimate their relationship had been, went along with this. In all fairness to her, at that time and as a woman, she didn’t have a lot to say about it, but I would think she couldn’t have been very happy with the situation. However, she was a dutiful and obedient wife, submitting even to her own shame in showing obedience to her husband. Shaul wrote to more than one of the Messianic Congregations about how wives should be obedient and submissive to their husbands, but he followed that  up with how the husband should be toward his wife- he should protect as he would his own body. I don’t think Abraham was thinking of her as his own body here; he was only thinking of his own body.

Abraham was unquestionably a man of great faith. He was strong, brave, faithful, honourable…he was a real mensch! And we should all look towards him as an example of how to live regarding our relationships with the world and our relationship with God. Yet, as great as he was, he had faults, fears, and he did have moments of faith-less-ness. He was, after all, human. So are we, and as such we need to remember that we will fall.

The important lesson here is not to avoid falling, because we will. We have no choice to avoid it and no chance to escape it- it is our nature to sin. God knows that: that is why Yeshua had to die, because without His sacrifice on our behalf we had no hope. Messiah is the hope of the Jewish people, and since the Jewish people are chosen by God to be His representatives to the Goyim (the Nations, i.e. the rest of the world), we are Cohanim (Priests) to the world, set apart by God by His Torah to be an example for everyone else, and thereby lead them to salvation. Messiah is for everyone, Jew and Gentile. It has always been that way, and always will be. Be joyful, thou Gentiles, that God has included you in His plan and be not prideful, you Jews, to think that you are better than anyone else. We were chosen not because of who we are, but because of Avraham Avinu (Abraham our Father) and his worthiness.

I got off topic a little there, but it’s good stuff, right?

Back to Abraham and the fact that he showed lack of faith and trust in God. We all will backslide, one way or another, sooner or later. We need to treat those discretions correctly- without guilt, without remorse, and with a stronger desire and commitment to do better. That’s the best we can hope for and what we should aim to achieve: just to do better. If we try to be holy and righteous, we will fail and become distressed and disappointed with ourselves. That is fuel for the Enemy. He will come into your life with trials and problems, or tempt you with the pleasures of the flesh to keep you away from returning to the correct path. When we are attacking ourselves all the Enemy has to do is stand to the side and occasionally give us another reason to feel God has rejected us. He will give us more Tsuris, or he may introduce new pleasures, hedonistic and sinful, that will make us feel better, at the same time leading us away from the proper Halacha (way to walk).

Everyday I fight myself. Just like Shaul says, I do not what I want to do, and that which I do not want to do, I do. I am as much a wretch as he said he is.  But I have the hope of Messiah, and the promise of God, and the knowledge of His forgiveness, compassion and mercy which helps me continue to get back on track. It’s not the falling that is the problem- that goes with the territory. What we need to remember is that the key element is getting back on the right track. We will fall, we will stumble, we will get skinned knees and bloody noses. It will hurt, we will also hurt others (sin always hurts more people than just the one who committed the sin) and we will feel bad about it. You better feel bad about it!  Here’s the big BUT: feel bad but don’t berate or abuse yourself. Don’t give the Enemy a foothold: use the bad feelings in a positive way that will help you get back in the race, get back on the right track, and walk more carefully. Remember the spot where you tripped and avoid it next time it comes around. Don’t worry about not having enough chances to sin- you will never run out of opportunity to sin. That’s OK- God will never run out of mercy or forgiveness to those who do T’Shuvah.

I used to think that those people who were “saved” used this Messiah thing as a crutch to simply explain away their problems.  I was right, and I was wrong. I was right in thinking we can use Yeshua as a crutch, but not in the way I thought. I thought He was a crutch people used more for an excuse, a means of avoiding the truth about themselves and the world. The truth is that He is a crutch which supports us when we are about to fall, and keeps us standing and moving , and gives us the hope that we will be better. He is not a means of avoiding our responsibilities: He doesn’t enable us, He edifies us. He holds us up in our weaknesses and supports us with His love, His truth, and the Ruach HaKodesh.

Don’t be afraid of falling; but, do be horrified at the thought of not getting off your butt and back in the race when you do.

Parashah Noach (Exodus 6:9 – 11:32)

What to say? What to say? There is so much in this Parashah.

The flood representing God’s awesome power over the Earth, the righteousness of Noach that saved not just him, but his family. The first covenant mentioned in the Bible. The fear of man upon the animals, probably representing that before the flood meat was not on the menu, not for men and not for animals. Isiah tells us the lion will lay with the lamb and we are told that in the End Days they will eat straw together. Does this mean that they originally were all herbivores? That’s part of what’s in here.

Then we have the question of was the flood really all over the entire Earth, or just locally? They have found a large layer of clay deep under the Earth in the mid-East that scientifically proves there was a great deal of water, and for a long time, in that part of the world, but  was it just the mid-East or everywhere? Does it really matter?

What about clean and unclean animals? The laws of Kashrut (Kosher) were not absolutely spelled out until God gave them to Moshe, but Noach knew clean from unclean. There were 7 pair of clean but only 1 pair of unclean. Yet, God tells Noach that all the animals are for him to eat, so did God allow Noach to have future knowledge to make sure there were 7 times more clean than unclean pairs? Is that because God knows everything in advance, and He knew He would make Kosher regulations a requirement of worshipping Him, so he had Noach save enough of the clean animals to make sure there would be enough to go around?

Oh, and the lineages. We see how Ham was cursed for his disrespectful treatment of his father?  We didn’t even have the 5th Commandment, yet here Ham was cursed for simply seeing his father naked. I wonder why nothing was done to Noach? After all, he got fall-down, lose-your-clothes drunk! What? That’s OK? In any event, Ham becomes the father of the nations that are enemies of the descendants of Shem, who is the favorite here. Japheth seems to be sort of the “middle child”- not as bad as Ham, and not as good as Shem, so Ham is slave to them both but Japheth has to live under Shem’s authority (in the tents of Shem). Does this represent the fact that there will only be a remnant of righteousness in the world? Out of the three sons only one was blessed. As the population grew, the number of righteous people remained small.

What about Babel? God, Himself, said that if men were to get together as one there is nothing they could not accomplish! That’s pretty high praise, and from the Highest of the High, too! So why did God stop that? Because He gave us different speech, from which we ended up with different cultures and different ethics, we have never been a united people, and we have always been at war. Why did God, a loving and compassionate Father to all, set us up against each other like that?

I don’t know.

There could be an entire treatise written about how, when God said , “Let us go down and see…” regarding visiting Babel, that it is impossible for Him to do that because He is everywhere all at once. If you are already there, how can you “go down” to it?

Since God promised not to destroy the Earth by flood, is that why in the Acharit HaYamim He will burn the Earth? Is that some sort of “Escape Clause” He figured into the Noahic Covenant? He can keep His covenant about not destroying the Earth with a flood but still destroy it. Actually, all He has to do is sit and watch- mankind is pretty much destroying the Earth without any help from the Lord. Will the ultimate destruction God plans to bring on the Earth be accomplished through mankind’s own self-destructiveness?

If you add up the years Noach lived after the flood, and the years between the birth of his sons leading to Avram (later to be named Abraham by God) we see that Avram was 88 years old when Noach died. There is no reference as to when Terah left Ur, but I think it is safe to say that Avram could have spent a lot of time with his ancestor Noach, and could have been influenced by Noach. Of all the children that sprung from the loins of Noach, only Avram was righteous enough for God to call upon him. Maybe, just maybe, since Noach had been the only righteous man on the Earth, he was able to teach and influence Avram so that when God was ready to begin His plan of redemption, Avram would be ready.

Who knows? You can’t make an argument from nothing. On the other hand, sometimes you do need to read between the lines, and that’s why reading God’s word with the leading of the Ruach is so necessary; it helps you  get past the P’Shat (written word) to the Drash (underlying or hidden meaning.)

Well, well, well…all these questions and not one “answer.” And you know what? That’s how I’m leaving it today. That’s right- the lesson today is for you to ask God to show you what He has for you from this parashah. If  I am to edify you, my readers, and help you come closer to God by better knowledge of His word, then I need to let you find some answers on your own. Of course, I mean on your own with God’s Ruach leading you.

I am leaving it up to you and the Lord to go through this parashah together. Find out what God has for you, and (maybe?) share it with the rest of us.

Parashah Bereshith (In the Beginning)

This Shabbat we joyfully open our Torah, and just like in this parashah , we begin at the beginning.

This first of the cycle of parashot is a little long, going all the way to Chapter 6, verse 8. It covers the beginning of everything, takes us through creation of man, Cain and Abel, and ends with God’s reluctantly regretting His creation and deciding He needs to start over. The whole Earth is full of sin and wickedness, all except Noah.

What I see in this is the entire plan of God’s salvation. I see creation, the world forming, people coming to know each other and God, then rejecting His rules and killing each other, lusting after their own desires. I see God patiently waiting for people to come back to their senses, which will eventually lead them back to God. But it doesn’t happen. Noah is the only righteous one in the world, and through him there will be a new life, a new beginning, and his descendants will live in a new Earth that will be formed from the remains of the previous one.

It’s not a perfect picture of the Messiah and the Tribulations, true, but I see the same elements in this parashah as we will see when all things come to pass. We have mankind (Adam and Eve) in union with God, but then they break their union by sinning. They are mercifully allowed to live, but no longer in perfect communion as they are ejected from God’s presence. They are fruitful and multiply (one of the more enjoyable commandments to fulfill) but sin is still here, in a cursed world, and although there are some who will form a union with God (Abel), there are those who will not (Cain). And we see that evil will hate and attack righteousness, out of jealousy and frustration. These emotions are the children of the mother of all sin, Pridefulness. Cain’s pride was hurt when God accepted Abel’s sacrifice but rejected his. The Soncino version of the Chumash explains that Abel gave the best he had and his heart was right, but Cain’s heart was not right and his sacrifice was, therefore, unacceptable. Cain’s pridefulness resulted in jealousy, which led to the inevitable result: murder.

Here’s my take on the way things played out, and (if I may say so) I think it is a good template for most every sin:

1.Cain’s pride prevented him from humbling himself;

2. Unhumbled, his frustration grew each time his sacrifice, still unacceptable, was rejected;

3. His frustration grew into anger as he continually saw Abel accepted while he was continually rejected;

4. His anger grows, and without humbling himself he couldn’t direct it at the source (himself) so he projected it against God and Abel;

5. Cain couldn’t do anything against God but he could take out his anger on Abel;

6. Result: the first murder.

Maybe the ultimate sinful expression of our own situation won’t be murder (God forbid!) but it could show itself as gossip, maybe hating in our heart (which Yeshua said is murder, anyway), maybe violence, verbal abuse, adultery, who knows? I believe that pridefulness is the foundation stone upon which almost every sin rests. It is a vicious cycle.

Now the world’s population grows and sin grows with it. There is righteousness, which we see coming through Seth’s bloodlines, but (just like today) the sin is greater than the righteousness. Even in the beginning, those who are God fearing are but a remnant, and it has remained that way even until today. Ultimately, judgement comes with only one chance of survival, and that is through only one man, Noah.

I am not saying that Noah is the Messiah, or ever was supposed to be. What I am saying is just that I see the plan of salvation being shown to us, in a way, in this parashah. It is a “teaser”, like the TV commercial about a new movie shows you pretty much what the story is about, without giving away the details. Creation, sin, loss of perfect communion with God, sin vs. right throughout the world, one righteous man chosen to begin a new relationship with God, judgement and destruction, renewal and a new beginning on a new Earth.

Of course, with Noah things started going downhill almost right away. We can be thankful that with Yeshua, and the “real” final judgement, those  of us who are of the remnant (the Believers who follow God’s laws and commandments as He gave them, not as religion tells us)  will have eternal communion with God, basking in His presence. We will see the new Heavens and the new Earth, and we will return to the way it was in the beginning, before sin entered the picture.

Every Simchat Torah we can look forward to what the Torah, and particularly this parashah, is showing us- that we will return to Gat Eden, we will once again be in the physical presence of the Lord God (Adonai Elohim), and we will be eternally joyful and serene.

I love each time I start reading God’s Word all over again.