Parashah Yithro 2022 (Jethro) Exodus 18 – 20

In this parashah, we are told that Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, meets him in the desert after they have been three months out of Egypt. Jethro has with him Zipporah and the two sons of Moses, who were sent to Jethro before Moses even got to Egypt (according to the Chumash, this was done back in Exodus 4:24-26).

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Jethro sees Moses handling every single complaint and problem that the people have, and recommends Moses assign people under him who will handle the everyday issues, bringing to him only those issues that need to be taken to a higher court (thus, the Torah established the court system we still use today, with lower courts and higher courts of appeal).

The people draw near to Mount Sinai (also called Mount Horeb) and God has Moses tell the people to prepare for three days in order to be ready, because God is going to show himself to all the people, to completely remove all doubts about Moses’s authority.

On the third day, God descends in a cloud of fire and smoke on the mountain, announced by a loud and long shofar blast. He then proclaims, so that all could hear, the Decalogue- the Ten Commandments.

The final command God gives to Moses in this parashah is that any altar to God is to be made of earth or uncut stone- no tool is ever to touch the materials any altar to God is made from.

Wow! The 10 Commandments! This parashah gives me enough spiritual fodder to talk for a long time, but don’t be scared- I am not even going to discuss the Big 10 today.

Neither will I discuss the Haftorah portion, which includes Isaiah 4:5-6, where we are told a child will be born to us. You see, the Chumash- being a Jewish book for Jews- identifies this messianic passage as anything BUT messianic, ascribing it to the birth of King Hezekiah. And that is probably true, in that Hezekiah did bring the kingdom together for the first time since Solomon, and he did rule justly, but within Judaism, we do not accept the messianic aspect of this passage.

Of course, I do. But, if you ask any non-Believing Jew, because I accept Yeshua as my Messiah, I am no longer a Jew. But, this topic and discussion are for a different time.

What I do want to talk about is something I have mentioned many times, and will undoubtedly mention many times again, which is Exodus 19:5-7 (CJB). This is what God says to Moses in that passage:

Now if you will pay careful attention to what I say and keep my covenant,
then you will be my own treasure from among all the peoples, for all the
earth is mine; and you will be a kingdom of cohanim for me, a nation set
apart. These are the words you are to speak to the people of Israel.

This statement should be of paramount importance to anyone who claims to be a Christian. Why? I’ll tell you why: it means that the Torah is not just for Jews, but for everyone in the world.

You may be thinking “How can he say that?” when traditional Christian teaching has always been that the Jews have their Torah, and Christians have Grace through Jesus.

True, those who accept Yeshua as their Messiah can receive God’s grace, but so can Jews, who were, frankly, receiving God’s grace long before there were any Christians.

This commission from God to the Jewish people, which was for them to be God’s own nation of priests, means that the Torah was to be taught to the Jewish people first, then to the Gentiles (does that sound familiar? Maybe because it is what Shaul said about salvation in Romans 1:16).

Salvation is not just from faith, but from faith that motivates us to be obedient to God (just ask Jimmy- he said that in his letter to the Jews in the Diaspora.)

When God commissioned the Jews to be his nation of Cohanim (priests) he was indicating, beyond question, that the Torah was for all people. After all, what does a priest do? The priest serves God, in both leading the people in proper worship and teaching them what God requires of them.

So, if the Jewish people are to be God’s nation of priests, and God gives them the Torah, the only conclusion we can draw is that the Jews were to learn the requirements of God (from the Torah) and teach them to the Gentiles.

God promises Abraham that his descendants will be a blessing to the world (Genesis 22:18), so how are people blessed by Abraham’s descendants? They have to obey God, for God promises he will bless all who obey him (Deuteronomy 28): the missing part of this is what does God want us to do to receive those blessings?

THAT is why the Jews are God’s Chosen people- chosen right here in Exodus 19 to be his priests to the world in order to teach the people what they must do to receive those blessings.

God first gives the Jews the Torah, which tells them how to live and worship so that they will receive blessings and attain salvation (although we do need Yeshua to make salvation possible), then God commissions the Jews to be his priests to bring the Torah to the Gentiles, who (through the Jewish people) will also be able to receive blessings and salvation, completing God’s promise to Abraham that his descendants will be a blessing to the world.

See how it all comes together?

So, if you are Christian and have been told that the Torah is not valid anymore, or that it is only for Jews, sorry to burst your bubble, but as the song goes, “It ain’t necessarily so.”

The biblical truth is obvious- the Torah was never meant just for the Jews, only that they would receive it first so that they could learn it to be God’s priests to bring it to the Gentiles. And later, through his nation of cohanim, God also sent his Cohen haGadol (High Priest), Yeshua.

Yeshua did not replace the Torah, he replaced the need to bring an animal sacrifice to the temple in Jerusalem, and through that replacement made forgiveness of sin possible after the temple was destroyed.

The Torah and Messiah Yeshua are not exclusive of each other- they are both sides of the one coin, which is salvation: you cannot be saved without both.

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That’s it for this week, so l’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!

Parashah Beshallach 2022 (It came to pass) Exodus 13:7 -17

The children of Israel have been freed from the slavery of the Pharaoh and are in the desert. God has them encamp between Migdal and the Red Sea (also called the Sea of Suf), knowing that Pharaoh will see this as his chance to reclaim the Israelites.

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When the Israelites saw the chariots of Pharaoh coming, they immediately cried out to Moses, asking “Why have you brought us out into the desert, just to die?”

Moses calls to God, who tells him to split the Red Sea and have the people walk across it. God keeps the Egyptians at bay with a cloud of fire and after the people have crossed the sea, he removes the cloud so the army can pursue them.

Once the Egyptian army is deep within the sea, God tells Moses to close the waters over them and throws the army into a panic, so that in the end, the entire army is drowned.

Egypt, now, is a total mess: the crops and herds are decimated, the army is destroyed, and the people, whose firstborn have been killed, are devastated.

After singing praise to God for his salvation from Pharaoh, they soon find themselves near water, but the water is undrinkable, and they again carp to Moses about why he brought them there just to die. God has Moses throw a certain tree into the water, which makes it potable.

Later, they again complain about the lack of bread and meat, so God sends quails and manna in order to satisfy their hunger; but, because instead of praying to God they carped and complained, showing a lack of faith, God also sent a plague while the meat was still in their mouths as punishment for their rebellious and distrustful attitude.

Later on, they again complained about needing water, and Moses (by the command of God) struck a rock, which brought forth water for the people.

Later in the Torah (Numbers 20), we are told the same thing happened at the end of the 40 years in the desert, just after Miriam dies. However, at that time Moses becomes so angered with the people he strikes the rock twice, not giving the credit to God; for that, he is punished by being prevented from entering the land.

This parashah ends with the attack by the Amalekites, and we read how Moses stood on high ground so all Israel could see him, and when his hands were raised, the Israelites would be winning. But when he lowered his hands, the Amalekites would be winning, so when his hands got too tired to remain raised, Aaron and Hur stood on either side of Moses, keeping his hands up until the Amalekites were defeated. God tells Moses to write this attack as a memorial in the Torah, and that God will utterly blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven.

It isn’t until we get to Deuteronomy 25:17 that we realize why God was so angered about this attack. You see, Amalek came out against the Jews but not against the main force: they snuck up on the rear and attacked the lame, the elderly, and the tired who were lagging behind. Their attack was both cowardly and, as any Klingon would tell you, they were without honor.

When reading about the Red Sea victory over Egypt, there is something I never understood- why would the people think Pharaoh wanted to kill them? He didn’t want to let them go because of the service they performed as slaves, so why kill them, now? I think it is obvious he wanted to recapture them. The only answer I can give is that they were so totally faithless in God, they were afraid of everything. They couldn’t see the good in life, only the bad, and so instead of being able to think positively, all they ever saw was the worst possible scenario in every aspect of their existence. And we see this constant faithlessness in their continual complaints to Moses.

This is a problem that still exists today, and people’s fear of everything is founded on a lack of faith in God. Whether or not a particular religion accepts Yeshua as the Messiah, or as a Rabbi, or a Prophet, or even believe he is God, himself, my experience with human beings is that, as a species, we are more pessimistic than trusting.

Yes, I said “trusting” instead of “optimistic” because you can’t be optimistic without trust. Whether your trust is in God, or some other supernatural entity, without trust in something more powerful than yourself, you cannot be optimistic about anything.

I’m sorry? You’re saying that people who are egotistical and trust in their own power to control their lives can be optimistic? And there are those who go through life wearing rose-colored glasses, forcing themselves to only see the good and pleasant things in life. Yes, these people can be optimistic, but they still have faith- either in themselves or in other people. However, in the long run, they will find that faith is misplaced.

I have known people who have accepted Yeshua as their Messiah, and those who have not; I have known Christians and Jews, Muslims, as well as people of Eastern religions. The one thing I have found that is a constant with all people, despite what they profess to believe in, is that those who are constantly seeing the worst-case scenario are faithless. No matter what they say (remember: people don’t mean what they say, they mean what they do) if they are always afraid or quick to give up on something, they need to strengthen their faith.

For me, to have faith means to choose to believe in that which we cannot prove, but I have found, in my own life, there can be proof to justify our faith.

When I first began to seek out God, and to determine once and for all if this guy Jesus (I didn’t know about Yeshua then) really is the Messiah or not, I made a conscious decision, a choice, to believe. A few months later, when I received the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) as I was anointed at the Messianic synagogue near my house, I knew then- absolutely- that my choice to believe was correct. The sensation I felt when the Ruach entered my body was real, and even more than a quarter of a century later, when I think about that moment, I get all puppy-eyed and emotional.

That moment was, for me, absolute proof that God existed, Yeshua is the Messiah, and that my decision to believe was being rewarded.

For those who have not experienced receiving the gift of the Ruach HaKodesh, let me tell you, it is something that changes your life.

So, going forward, let’s all try to remember that if we feel pessimistic or afraid, it shows we need to strengthen our faith. God is always there, he knows what we need and he is capable of supplying it. And even if you have to suffer through some tsouris, that doesn’t mean God isn’t with you.

Gold is not purified through spa treatments and gentle massage- it goes through a very hot fire! And usually more than once because gold is usually found surrounded by other materials, and has a lot of dross that has to be melted away. For us, the other stuff is some form of emotional baggage, but if we do as the Israelites constantly FAILED to do, which is to review in our lives all the wonderful things that have happened, all of which came from God, then we will be able to find reasons to be faithful.

If you want to be gold, you need to be willing to go through the fire, trusting that God will allow you to come out of that fire more spiritually purified than when you first went in. And the more you go through the fire, the more you will know that God is always there for you, making sure you come out better than when you went in. And the result is that you will become braver, more confident, less afraid, and optimistic; when we have a strong faith in God, we are able to find more joy in life.

And, just in case you may think it’s not possible to go through fire and come out unscathed, read the Book of Daniel, Chapter 3.

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That’s it for this week, so l’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!

Parashah Bo 2022 (Go) Exodus 9 – 13:16

God tells Moses to go before Pharaoh and tell him if he doesn’t humble himself before the Lord then more plagues will come, the next one being locusts that will destroy all that the hail left behind.

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Pharaoh asks Moses who will be going to the desert to worship and Moses says everyone, but Pharaoh says it is a trick to free all the slaves, so only the men can go.

Moses doesn’t accept this and the locusts come. As before, the Pharaoh asks Moses to relieve the plague and he will do as Moses asks, but the moment the plague is gone, the promises are forgotten.

After the locusts came complete darkness for three days, and Pharaoh at this time tells Moses the next time Moses sees Pharaoh, he will be killed.

God now tells Moses that the last plague will come and after this one Pharaoh will throw them all out of Egypt, so when that happens the people are to go to their neighbors and ask for whatever they want of them.

God tells Moses the angel of death will kill the firstborn of all Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh down to the firstborn of the lowliest slave, as well as the firstborn of all the cattle. The Israelites are to sacrifice a lamb and spread the blood over their doors, so the angel will know they are God’s chosen and to leave them alone. The rules for the Passover Seder are first enumerated here: which animal to use, how to cook it, when it is to be eaten, what to wear, and the restrictions against eating anything with leaven for the next 7 days.

The angel of death passes over Egypt, and the Pharaoh’s own son is taken. Pharaoh now is totally defeated and he calls for Moses and tells him to leave and take everyone and everything with him. The people ask their Egyptian neighbors for gold, silver, precious jewels- anything of value- and the Egyptian people gladly give whatever they have of value.

This parashah ends with God decreeing to Moses that, from this day forward, because God took all the firstborn of Egypt that all the firstborn of Israel will forever after belong to God.

One of the historical problems with people interpreting the Bible, especially the Hebrew found in the Old Covenant, is that they do not understand either the mindset of the Jewish people or the cultural usage and meaning of the Hebrew words; instead, they tend to use the modern and usual translation of the Hebrew in their interpretation.

For instance, the Hebrew word used in Exodus 3:22 where the women are to ask their neighbors for precious items is שאל (shah-ahl), which means to ask for a gift that isn’t expected to be returned. But some versions of the Bible render that word as “borrow”, and that is not correct. In fact, it is misleading because borrowing indicates the items belong to the Egyptians and should have been returned (which came back against the Jewish people many years after, which I will discuss later on in this message.)

Another example is Exodus 12:36: when the people leave and the Egyptians are giving them all the goodies, the Torah says that the people “despoiled the Egyptians.” We see the same Hebrew word used in Exodus 3:22, where God tells Moses that he will give the Israelites favor in the sight of the Egyptians and they shall spoil the Egyptians.

But “spoil” is not the correct interpretation of that Hebrew word, and the Chumash gives a wonderful explanation for this, which is why I recommend everyone get one so they can learn a truly Jewish understanding of the Torah.

The Chumash tells us the translation should not be “spoiling the Egyptians” but, rather, “saving the Egyptians”!

In the Chumash, we are taught that the Hebrew word used for “spoil” is נצל (nee-tzal). Throughout the scripture, this word occurs some 212 times and in 210 of those instances, within the context of the sentence, it is clear that its meaning is to snatch (from danger), to rescue (from a wild beast), to recover (property), or to plunder.

Now here’s the complicated part…the direct object of the word נצל is never the person or thing from whom the object is being saved, but the thing that is being rescued. In other words, if I say “I rescued the baby from the bear”, the bear is not the object of the word “rescued”, the baby is.

So, when using נצל in Exodus 3:22 (and today in Exodus 12:36), the use of נצל to mean “ye shall spoil the Egyptians” is wrong and would render the word’s meaning in the 210 other places in scripture to mean “spoil” instead of “save”.

Well, the other 210 places where נצל is interpreted to mean “save” or “rescue” is unchallenged by biblical scholars; therefore, the word’s meaning in Exodus cannot be totally different from all the other uses throughout scripture. No- the truest interpretation of the phrase “…and ye shall spoil the Egyptians” is “…and ye shall save the Egyptians.”

Huh? How can asking for gold and silver and precious jewels and such save the Egyptians? I mean, after the 10 plagues, there wasn’t much left to be saved!

Now you will see why I said earlier that the Chumash helps so much to know the Jewish mindset and rabbinical understanding of much of the scriptures.

As explained in my Chumash, by receiving gifts that are not expected to be returned, the Egyptian people would be remembered as having been kind to the Israelites upon their leaving, and since it was the people who were kind and generously gave whatever the Israelites asked for, the Israelites would realize that the cruelty heaped upon them all those years was only from the Pharaoh and his courtiers.

Because the generosity of the Egyptian people to the Israelites when they left Egypt would be remembered fondly, the commandment God gave many years later, in Deuteronomy 23:8, which was “Thou shalt not abhor an Egyptian.” would be gladly obeyed.

The misinterpretation of the Hebrew word נצל has been used by enemies of the Bible (and anti-Semites, as well) as a blot against the moral teaching of the scriptures. However, both Jewish and Gentile apologists reply that the silver and gold were given in exchange for the labors that the Jews performed for centuries, without any compensation.

Think of it as back-pay.

Remember how earlier I mentioned the misinterpretation of the word שעל as “borrow” led to thinking the Jews owed the Egyptians? Well, in the Talmud, there is a story of the Egyptians making a formal claim to Alexander the Great against Israel, claiming that they should return all the gold and silver they took with them at the Exodus. The Jewish spokesman, however, was able to successfully convince Alexander that if there was any indemnity to be paid, it was to be from the Egyptians to the Israelites for the 400 years of slavery that Israel served with no recompense for all the work they did.

Today’s lesson is not a spiritual revelation found within the scripture or some moral imperative that will help us to become better Believers, but I believe it is a good lesson all the same.

It is so very important to be able to do more than just quote verses and know the location of a passage in the Bible This is especially true of the Hebrew portions of the Bible because Hebrew is a consonantal language and as such, without vowels to define the exact pronunciation, the only proper interpretation must be the result of reading the entire sentence and making sure the interpretation of any word “fits’ contextually with that sentence, within that paragraph, and hermeneutically throughout the entire Bible.

This is how Rabbis were able to determine that the interpretation of נצל as “spoils” in these two places in Exodus can’t be correct. And once they were able to determine that it meant the Jews didn’t despoil, but actually saved the Egyptians, well, isn’t that a kick in the pants? After 400 years of cruel enslavement, when finally being freed, God had his people save those who were not guilty of the crimes instead of revenging themselves upon them.

I recommend whenever you are studying the scriptures, you don’t use just a Bible, but also have a Bible commentary, a Chumash (for the Old Covenant), the Interlinear Bible set, and maybe even the Talmud or Septuagint handy. Besides those tools, an understanding of Hebrew and Greek would be beneficial, but I am sure that the vast majority of us are not intending to dedicate our lives to becoming biblical scholars and linguistic experts. We have plenty of those.

Seriously, though, if you really want to understand what is in the Bible, you will need to have the proper tools to investigate and the proper knowledge to know when something you are reading or being told just doesn’t “fit”.

And never forget the best guide to knowing God is his Holy Spirit, the Ruach HaKodesh, which will not only guide your understanding but give you insight that no mere human being can ever have on their own.

Thank you for being here today. Share these messages with everyone you know to help this ministry continue to grow, and please subscribe to my website and my YouTube channel. Buy and share my books (after you’ve read them, of course), and remember that I always welcome your comments.

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That’s it for this week, so l’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!

Parashah V’ayra 2022 (And I appeared) Exodus 6:2 – 9

The last time Moses talked with Pharaoh the Pharaoh decided to make the Jews maintain their quota of bricks, but did not supply the straw so they had to glean their straw all night, but still work all day making bricks.

The people weren’t too impressed with Moses at that time.

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Moses returns to Pharaoh, and now begins God’s judgment on Pharaoh and all the Egyptians through the wonders and miraculous acts that are still considered astounding, even today.

Moses does the staff-to-snake thing, which the Egyptian magicians duplicate, although the snake of Moses eats up the Egyptian snakes.

Next, Moses has Aaron smite the waters of the Nile and the Nile turns to blood. After a week of a bloody Nile, the frogs came out and infested the entire land, followed by the plague of gnats.

With the gnats, this is the first time the magicians were not able to duplicate the acts that God had performed, and they were convinced that Pharaoh should let the people go.

But the Pharaoh refused.

The next plague was of flies, but now something else changed- God raised the bar by having all of Egypt infested, all except the land of Goshen where God’s chosen people resided. This time Pharaoh said if Moses takes away the flies, they could go to sacrifice (but not too far away.) However, once the flies were removed Pharaoh reneged on his promise.

After the flies, God sent a plague to kill all the cattle in Egypt, to cause boils to break out all over the bodies of every person in Egypt, and then the hail that turned to fire when it hit the ground. The hail also caused all the existing crops to be destroyed.

As Egypt is being destroyed, the Jews living in Goshen are not affected by any of these plagues.

Pharaoh pleads with Moses to stop the hail and promises that the people can go worship, but as before, once the plague was ended, Pharaoh reneged on his promise to let the people go.

This is where this parashah ends.

There is so much to work with here; I mean, really? Where do I start, and how can I end?

Don’t worry- what I feel I should talk about today won’t take that long.

Have you ever heard someone say that the Old Covenant is all about punishment and violence, but the New Covenant is all about love?

I have; too many times, in fact, and I try to point out to the Christians who say this (Jews don’t say this because they don’t consider the New Covenant valid) there is no “God of the Old Covenant” verse a “God of the New Covenant” because it is the same God.

God is just and holy, and yes- he is so compassionate and loving that a human being cannot even fathom the depth of God’s love for everyone, even those who curse and reject him. And it is precisely because God is just, loving, compassionate, and holy that he MUST punish the guilty!

He makes the rules and he abides by them, even to his own chagrin when he has to harm his creation.

For instance, in today’s parashah, Exodus 9:11-22, God tells Pharaoh (through Moses) that so far he has demonstrated his power, but has not destroyed all the people so that Pharaoh might see that he is fighting a power against which he cannot win. God is, in a way, actually pleading with Pharaoh to give in to God’s demands before everything and everyone in Egypt is destroyed.

In Exodus 9:19, God even warns Pharaoh against the next plague, saying:

Therefore, send and hurry to bring indoors all your livestock and everything
else you have in the field. For hail will fall on every human being and animal
left in the field that hasn’t been brought home, and they will die.

Here God is showing his compassion for all his creation, even those who do not know him. He tells Pharaoh to save the people, and the rest of this passage tells us that the Egyptians who recognized God’s power and authority did as he told them to do, but the ones who refused to listen stayed in their fields, and they and their cattle all died.

There is a midrash in the Talmud, in Megilla 10B, which states that when the Egyptian army was drowning in the sea the angels wanted to sing songs of praise and joy, but God rebuked them, saying:

“My creations are drowning and you are singing before me?”

God doesn’t want to destroy anyone or anything, and he tells us in Ezekiel 18:23 that he doesn’t desire the death of anyone (spiritual or physical), but because God is holy and trustworthy and he said that the guilty will be punished, he has no choice but to punish them.

The truth is, if we can’t trust God’s promise to punish the wicked then we can’t trust God’s promise to forgive our sins!

That is a very uncomfortable statement, but the truth of it is undeniable- God is compassionate and loving, but because he is holy and trustworthy we can expect that he will do terrible things to those who ignore his commandments.

The only real difference between the Old and New Covenant is that Yeshua taught the deeper, more spiritual understanding of the existing commandments. The letters from Shaul, Yakov, and Yochanon were not new commandments from God, and they were certainly not meant to teach people to reject the Torah. What those letters were meant to do is to help Gentiles who now accepted Yeshua as their Messiah to slowly adjust, step-by-step, to the lifestyle God demands of us all, which he outlines in the Torah.

When you reject the Torah, you reject God. Period! That’s all she wrote! End of line! Das ist alles! Don’t let the door hit your butt on the way out!

God has no choice other than to punish those who reject him, but you do have a choice- you can obey what God says to do in the Torah, or you can listen to what your religion tells you to do, but know this for certain: if what your religion says is different from what the Torah says, that means you will be standing unprotected in the field when the hail falls.

Thank you for being here and please share these messages, subscribe to both my website and YouTube channel, join my Facebook group, Just God’s Word (please make sure you agree to the rules), and remember that I always welcome your comments.

That’s it for this week: Happy New Year and Shabbat Shalom!

Parashah Veyechi 2021 (And he lived) Genesis 47:28 – 50:26

We come to the end of this book, the first book of the Torah. Here we read of Jacob blessing his children, adopting Joseph’s two sons as his own, and making Joseph swear to have him buried with his fathers, in Canaan.

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When Jacob blessed Joseph’s sons, he gave the better blessing to the second-born, Ephraim, thereby putting Ephraim over Manasseh. Joseph tried to correct his father, assuming that due to his poor eyesight Jacob did that accidentally, but Jacob knew what he was doing.

The blessing over his 12 sons was, if you ask me, somewhat cruel in that he was not at all nice to Reuben, reminding him of the sin of sleeping with his father’s concubine, thereby losing the rights of the firstborn. Levi and Simeon were treated to a scathing blessing, as well, due to the violent and underhanded way they killed the men of Shechem (Genesis 34).

Judah is made ruler of the clan, replacing “unstable as water” Reuben, and Joseph was given the double-portion that would have been given to the firstborn.

After Jacob dies, he is embalmed and there is a large caravan that carries him back to Canaan to be buried after a week of mourning.

The brothers fear that Joseph will now, with his father dead, take vengeance on them and so they lie to him, saying that Jacob told the brothers to ask Joseph to forgive them, but Joseph states that even though they meant him harm, God was really behind the entire episode in order to send Joseph to Egypt so that he could save many lives. Joseph, instead of taking vengeance, promises to care for his brothers and their children as long as they live.

Joseph dies and is embalmed, but not until after he charges his people to remember that God will one day bring them back to the land he promised them, and when that day comes they must take his body with them, and bury him in Canaan.

Every time we come to the end of one of the books of the Torah, we say this:

חזק, חזק, וניט חזק!!

(Chazak, chazak, v’nit chazek!!)

Be strong, be strong, and let us be strengthened!!

I want to talk about how the term “Until Shiloh come” (from Jacob’s blessing of Judah) has been treated to teach Jews to reject this as a messianic prophecy. I have often, and mostly, talked about the traditional ways that Christianity has caused Jews to reject Jesus, but now I want to point out how within Judaism, we have also done this to ourselves.

There are many reasons why Jews have rejected Jesus as their Messiah, but I don’t want to go into that now. What I want to do is show how Jewish scholars, such as the commentator of this Chumash, Rabbi J. H. Hertz, C.H., who was the Chief Rabbi of the British Empire (this Chumash is the second edition from 1965) treated certain messianic passages that occur in the Book of Genesis.

At the end of each Torah book, the Chumash has a section that is titled “Additional Notes”, which is a detailed explanation of many of the aspects and events in the book that aren’t covered in the footnotes. The end of the additional notes for Genesis has a paragraph entitled, “Alleged Christological References in Scripture.”

Already you can get a “feel” for what he is going to say.

He deals with the term “Until Shiloh come” (Gen. 49:10), saying that the ancient translations ignore or reject the letter Yod in the word Shiloh (שילא) and instead interpret it as (שלא), which means “his” or could be a poetic form of the word “peace”, rendering the meaning to be “until he comes to whom the kingdom belongs”, or simply “until peace comes.” But he concludes that most believe it to mean the actual place, Shiloh, where the sanctuary was located during the times of the Judges.

This is an obvious means to an end, which is to refute the Christian understanding of this as meaning a name for the Messiah. By interpreting this passage as meaning “until the people come to Shiloh” and explaining that the tribe of Judah’s superiority (in accordance with Jacob’s blessing) didn’t occur until after the temple was built in Jerusalem, it is easy to conclude that the messianic interpretation cannot be justified.

I don’t agree with that for one obvious reason: the temple was built during Solomon’s time, but Judah’s ruling status began when David became king. If we accept the messianic interpretation, which is that Judah will rule until the Messiah comes, then things make sense since Messiah didn’t come until after the ruling tribe, Judah, lost its rulership when Rome appointed Herod as king and took away the authority of the Jewish courts to make life and death decisions.

One last thing to note, which is so biased it may upset some, but in this discussion about Shiloh, this pious and scholarly Rabbi says:

“Despite the fact that nowhere in Scripture is that term applied to the Messiah, Christian theologians assume that Shiloh is a name of the Founder of Christianity. In this sense, ‘Till Shiloh come’ is a favorite text of Christian missionaries in attempting to convert illiterate Jews or those ignorant of Scripture.”

Well, that certainly doesn’t sound very bigoted, does it?

And as scholarly as R. Hertz was, he apparently didn’t know that the Christian faith that existed then, as it does now, was mainly created by Constantine and has very little, if anything, to do with what Yeshua taught.

He then gives an example of how even some Christian theologians reject the messianic meaning and adds to his diatribe the argument over the word “virgin” in Isaiah 14 as meaning nothing more than a young woman of marriageable age, and not necessarily “virgin.”

The final attack to a messianic passage is his reference to Isaiah 53 (which, by the way, since the early 1900s is never read in a synagogue), saying this about it:

“For eighteen hundred years Christian theologians have passionately maintained that it is a Prophetic anticipation of the life of the Founder of their Faith.”

He goes on to state that an “impartial examination” of the chapter reveals that it is talking about a past historical event. However, there is no reference to what that event was. His concluding thought is that modern scholarship has shattered these arguments which Christian missionaries use against ignorant Jews.

This is the sort of treatment of Christianity that I was taught while I was growing up and attending Hebrew and religious classes at my Reform temple on Long Island. So, for those who are Gentile and raised in any of the Christian religions, maybe now you can imagine how difficult it is for a Jewish person to even think about accepting Jesus as their true Messiah. Besides the hatred of Jesus in our upbringing, rejecting him is compounded exponentially by the knowledge of the historic persecution of Jews, all in the name of Jesus!

This hatred is so great, that this Rabbi, a godly man, can’t even bring himself to write the name “Jesus”, but instead refers to him as the “Founder of their Faith”.

I am talking about this because it is so important to understand the innate hatred Jews have been taught for anything Christian, and that when trying to talk to a Jewish person about Jesus, you will never get anywhere using the name “Jesus” or quoting from the New Covenant. If you can’t relate to a Jewish person using the Old Covenant and the true and proper name for our Messiah, which is Yeshua, then you are not only wasting your time and theirs but even worse- you are adding to the existing desire to reject anything Christian, especially Jesus!

It took me some 40+ years before I accepted Yeshua as my Messiah, and that was only because I was led to a Messianic synagogue with a Jewish Rabbi who I could relate to as a Jew.

The animosity between Judaism and Christianity is real- many of you may argue against this, but if you haven’t been exposed to it from either side, you should count yourself as blessed, but naive. Without accepting that Jews are taught to reject anything Christian because Jesus was a traitor to Judaism and his followers want nothing more than to either convert Jews or kill them, then you will never be successful in helping Jewish people accept their Messiah, Yeshua.

On the Christian side of this, they have traditionally been taught to reject the Torah, and the worst thing I can think of in Christianity is the ideology called Replacement Theology. This states that because the Jewish people have rejected Jesus, they are now rejected by God as his chosen people and are doomed to damnation, claiming that the only “real” chosen people now are Born Again Christians.

Hatred and bigoted attitudes have grown over the millennia from the misinterpretations from man-made religions which have turned Jews and Christians against each other, even though both worship the same God who created them.

It’s crazy!

What people need to do, first and foremost, is read the Bible themselves. They need to study the passages, study the history, learn the cultural meaning of words and phrases used at that time and verify what they are told hermeneutically. That means when they see something in the New Covenant that has been interpreted as rejecting the Torah, if they can’t find it anywhere in the Old Covenant they will know that something isn’t right.

Rabbi Hertz said that biblical passages were being used by missionaries against ignorant people, and he was right. This happens in both Judaism and Christianity, so it is up to us, those who know the truth about the Jewish Messiah, what he taught, how he lived, and who is the real founder of this modern Christian faith, to disseminate the truth through a patient and compassionate understanding of what people have had shoved down their throats their entire lifetime.

The only way to overcome bigotry, which is founded in ignorance, is to remove the ignorance.

Thank you for being here and please share these messages with everyone you know to help this ministry grow. I welcome your comments and please make sure to subscribe to my website, to my youtube channel, buy my books and share them with others, and join my Facebook group called “Just God’s Word.”

That’s it for this week, so l’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!

Parashah Vayegash 2021 (And he approached) Genesis 44:18 – 47:27

We last left Benjamin framed by Joseph as being a thief, and Joseph told the other brothers to return to Canaan, but Benjamin will be Joseph’s slave, forever.

If you prefer to watch a video, click on this link: Watch the video.

Now Joseph receives the answer to the question of whether or not his brothers had changed, for which he has been testing them from their first visit.

Judah, who you recall had guaranteed the safety of Benjamin, approaches Joseph and begs him to allow Judah to remain as his slave, in lieu of Benjamin, because if Benjamin doesn’t return to Jacob, Jacob will be so saddened, having already lost Joseph, the only other son of his beloved Rachel, that he will die.

Joseph is so moved by this act of self-sacrifice, realizing that his brothers have changed, that he dismisses all his house servants so he can finally reveal his true identity to his brothers.

Of course, they are shocked and can’t believe it at first, but upon closer examination, they realize this ruler over all of Egypt is, indeed, their brother, Joseph.

Joseph is quick to tell them they are not to be afraid of retribution because it was God who was behind sending Joseph to Egypt, in order to save many lives. He tells them to return to Cannan and bring his father, and their entire household, down to Egypt and he will attend to their every need from now on.

Pharaoh hears that Joseph’s brothers are there and orders Joseph to have the entire household move to Egypt, and they shall live in the best part of the land, Goshen. When the brothers return to Jacob they relate the story of how Joseph is not just still alive, but ruler over Egypt. After the initial shock of hearing this wonderful news, Jacob is quick to say “Let’s go!” The entire family, as well as their servants, move to Goshen, a total of about 70 people.

Before leaving, God speaks to Jacob in a dream and tells him that he should go down to Egypt because that is where God will make him into a mighty nation. I believe that God gave approval to Jacob because if you recall, God told Isaac, during a previous famine, not to go to Egypt (Genesis 26) and so maybe Jacob was a little leery about going. But, when God said to go and that he would be with Jacob while in Egypt, that sealed the deal.

After the family had made the trip, Joseph presented 5 of his brothers to Pharaoh, instructing them what to say so that Pharaoh would place them in Goshen. He also presented Jacob, who apparently impressed Pharaoh.

The rest of the parashah tells how after a few years, the people of Egypt had no money left to buy food, so Joseph had them trade their cattle for food, retaining the cattle in their possession to tend it for Pharaoh. Later, when the cattle all belonged to Pharaoh and the people had no more cattle to trade, Joseph had them trade their land, which they still worked, and eventually themselves as indentured servants. They would keep 4/5 of their harvest and give the other 5th to Pharaoh in return for his allowing them to farm the land. In this way, Joseph made Pharaoh not just ruler over all of Egypt, but the owner of the land and the cattle and the people, as well.

This is where the parashah ends.

Have you ever asked yourself, if God promised Abraham that his descendants would live in Canaan, why did God now send the descendants into Egypt? Why couldn’t God have grown them into a mighty nation while they were still in Canaan?

Well, first off, God could have grown them into a mighty nation any old place he wanted to; I mean, after all…he IS God, right?

I believe that God wanted them in the land of Egypt, specifically in Goshen because this would isolate them from the many bad influences that would have surrounded them on all sides if they remained in Canaan.

Even though God can protect us, he also lets us live as we choose. At that time there was no Torah for Jacob and his sons to follow, so by bringing them into a land that was (somewhat) isolated from the rest of the pagan world, God made it easier for the Israelites to multiply and remain true to God.

God knew that staying in Canaan had the potential of causing the worship and relationship with God that Jacob and his sons had to be polluted by outside influences. As the Israelites grew in numbers and power, the cultural standard of forming political alliances through intermarriage would probably have happened at some point, and that could have severely interfered with God’s plan for his chosen people.

We can see this happening later, with Solomon. Even though Solomon was the wisest of all the kings of Israel, a God-fearing man who had the example of his father David’s relationship with God to guide him, it wasn’t until after he formed political alliances through intermarriage that his worship became polluted and he committed terrible sins against Adonai.

This most likely would have happened to the Israelites as they grew in numbers, had they remained in Canaan. Relocating the entire clan to Goshen was a way to stop the problem before it started.

Unfortunately, there was still some level of pollution, which we can see when, after 400 years of being exposed to the Egyptian religious practices while slaves, the Israelites adopted some of them, which was evident at the sin of the Golden Calf.

This is one of the greatest challenges we, as God-fearing Believers who accept Yeshua as our Messiah, have to deal with during our lifetime: being surrounded by the world but not influenced by it.

It is as difficult as walking blindfolded through a field full of sheep and getting to the other side with clean shoes.

But do it, we must! We must obey the laws and we must not return hatred for hatred to those who disagree, argue, and even berate and persecute us for our beliefs.

To avoid the traps of other religions and practices, we must know what God wants from us, which is in the Torah. We must also know the entire Bible because when we read the other books of the Tanakh, we learn how God has both punished and saved his people throughout the past 6,000 or so years, which serves as a constant reminder of what happens when we reject God. It also serves as a comfort to know that over the millennia, despite how sinful we had been, when we repented and asked forgiveness, God was not just willing to forgive us, but he desired to do so.

We will all backslide occasionally, some more than others (that’s the group I am in), and much of it is because of the influences of the flesh-loving world that we cannot avoid. If we go into hermit mode, we can avoid the worldly influences but then we would not be doing what we are supposed to do, which is to be a light in the darkness (Ephesians 5:8). After all, how can we be a light in the darkness if we never enter the darkness, right?

It’s a tough battle, which is why I constantly try to remind everyone that although salvation is a free gift that can never be earned, it is also a very hard gift to keep because although no one can take it away, we can throw it away.

So hold tight to your salvation by faithfully obeying God’s commandments and celebrating his Holy Days, because the world wants you to throw it all away and join their party.

But one day, and it looks to be very soon, their party will be raided and if you are there with them, you end up in spiritual jail, forever.

Thank you for being here and please share these messages, subscribe to my website, YouTube channel, and join my Facebook discussion group called Just God’s Word (if you want to join our group, please make sure you read and agree to the rules.)

And check out my books, as well. Especially my latest book, “The Good News of the Messiah for Jews, Debunking the Traditional Lies About the Jewish Messiah.”

That’s it for this week, so l’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!

Parashah Mikketz 2021 (It came to pass)Genesis 41 – 44:17

We left Joseph in jail, the Cupbearer having totally forgotten about him.

If you prefer to watch a video, click on this link: Watch the video.

Years later, the Pharaoh has a dream of 7 sickly cows eating 7 healthy ones, and again about 7 poor ears of corn eating 7 healthy ones. No one can interpret this dream, and now the Cupbearer remembers Joseph, who is brought before the Pharaoh.

Pharaoh asks Joseph if he can interpret dreams and Joseph gives credit to God as the one who does that, and then he interprets the dreams Pharaoh had. The interpretation, as we all know, was that there would be 7 years of plenty followed by 7 years of famine. Joseph states someone should be in charge of collecting a tax on the good crops and storing it away for the famine years.

Pharaoh, a smart guy, recognizes that Joseph is the right man for the job, and promotes him from prisoner to second in command of the entire country. Joseph then stores grain throughout the kingdom, and when the famine hits, Egypt is the only place anyone in the entire Middle East can find food.

As Joseph continues to be a blessing to the Pharaoh and the people, now married and with children, the famine has hit his family back in Canaan. Jacob tells his sons to go to Egypt and buy food, but he keeps Benjamin home because Ben is now his newest favorite, the only surviving son of his true love, Rachel.

The 10 brothers see Joseph in order to buy food, but they do not recognize him. That makes sense because, first of all, they figure he is probably dead by now, and Joseph would have been dressed and made-up like an Egyptian. However, Joseph knows them right away and immediately comes up with a plan to test them.

Notice that he doesn’t plan revenge, but to test them to see if they have learned to stop being jealous and vengeful.

He gives them a hard time, interrogating them until they tell of their father, what happened to Joseph, and that Benjamin is still at home. He holds Simeon hostage and tells them they can have food, but they must not return without their youngest brother to prove their story or Simeon will remain in jail.

They return to their homes and tell Jacob what happened, but he refuses to let them take Benjamin out of his sight. Not only that, but Joseph secretly put all their money back in their packs, and when they discover this they are now doubly afraid to return, assuming that Joseph will think they stole the food.

Eventually, they run out of food and Jacob says to go back to Egypt and get more, but they say they have to have Benjamin. Finally, only after Judah says he will guarantee Benjamin’s safety, Jacob allows Benjamin to go.

When they arrive, Joseph sees Benjamin and releases Simeon, having all the brothers eat lunch in his house. He has their money put back in their sacks, and also has his servants put a cup of his in the pack belonging to Benjamin. After the brothers leave, Joseph sends his men to catch up to them and accuse them of stealing. They say they wouldn’t do such a thing, and if anything of Joseph’s is found with one of the brothers, that brother will be put to death.

Well, imagine their surprise when it ends up being with Benjamin! They are all taken back, and after pleading with Joseph, Joseph says Benjamin will remain his slave forever, but the other brothers are free to go home.

That’s the end of this parashah.

The story of Joseph is, if you ask me, one of the greatest of all the biblical stories of God’s protection and salvation.

WHAT?? God’s protection? Joseph was almost killed by his brothers, sold into slavery, then made a prisoner…you call that ‘protection’?”

Yes, I do, because he was almost killed, but not killed.

He was sold into slavery, but with an honest and kind man who treated him as a son, putting him in charge of his entire household.

He was imprisoned instead of being put to death, which would have happened to any other slave accused of trying to rape the Master’s wife.

While in jail, he was made a trustee and placed in charge of two high-ranking prisoners, so he was in the best situation one could be in when in jail.

Yes- God protected and carried Joseph through all that because Joseph was continually faithful to God and did as God would have wanted him to do, which is what Shaul, many centuries later, told the Believers in his letter to the Colossians when he said (Colossians 3:23):

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”

God’s protection isn’t making sure that your life is a bed of roses and nothing ever goes wrong. God doesn’t see things as we do, and since he is eternal, his focus is usually on the eternal and not so much on the here-and-now, which is essentially what our entire lifetime comes down to.

When we do as God says we should do, we are walking with him and under his covering.

Think of it as walking in the rain under an umbrella: if it is a soft rain with no wind, you will remain completely dry. But, if the wind is acting up and the rain is coming down hard, your feet and even the lower parts of your legs will likely get wet.

You are still covered, you aren’t completely soaked, but you’re not completely dry, either.

Joseph certainly went through a rough rainstorm, and because he remained under the umbrella, even when his feet got wet, he not only survived but thrived at the end.

We all go through a number of situations during our lives when we have tsouris, and it doesn’t matter what happens as much as how we react to it. To some, a molehill is a mountain and to others, a mountain is just something to climb over.

I think most of us are somewhere in between those two extremes.

The take-away for today is to be as Joseph was- always doing what is right, moral, and godly. And staying totally and absolutely trusting in God, convinced unfailingly that so long as you do what is right in God’s eyes (Col. 3:23), which he instructs us to do in the Torah, then even if we get wet and dirty feet from the world, he will still be there to cover the rest of us from even worse things and get us through the fire.

Thank you for being here and please subscribe to my website and my YouTube channel, as well. Share these messages with everyone you know, and check out my books-if you like what you get here, you will like my books, too.

That’s it for this week, so l’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!

Parashah Vayyeshev 2021 (And he dwelt) Genesis 37- 40

From this point on in the Book of Genesis, Jacob and his sons take a back seat to the story of Joseph.

If you prefer to watch a video, click on this link: Watch the video.

Joseph has dreams indicating that he will be the leader over his brothers which he innocently- or maybe arrogantly- tells to his brothers, inciting hatred and jealously from them. Add to this his having given a bad report about them to his father and Joseph was not doing himself any good. The straw that broke the camel’s back was when Jacob, now also known as Israel, gave Joseph a coat of many colors, which at that time represented more than favoritism- culturally in the Semitic tribal system, a coat of many colors was worn by the leader of the tribe. By giving Joseph that coat, Jacob was already showing that he was going to make Joseph leader over his brothers when Jacob dies.

One day while searching for his brothers, at his father’s request, Joseph is seen coming and the brothers decide to kill him. Reuben suggests they do not kill him but kidnap him and place him in a pit, which they do, then they shread his coat and spill blood all over it to make it seem that he was killed by a wild animal.

While Reuben is somewhere else thinking about how to save Joseph (which he wanted to do in order to gain favor back from his father who was really pissed at him for sleeping with one of his concubines), Judah makes the suggestion that they sell Joseph to a passing caravan, and the brothers agree. However, as they are eating their lunch a group of Ishmaelite passing by the pit hear Joseph; they pull him out and sell him to the caravan. When Reuben returns and finds Joseph missing, he is distraught and the brothers don’t know what happened to Joseph. They return to Jacob and tell him the bad news, after which Jacob is in constant mourning for Joseph.

Right here, in Chapter 38, we have a short story about Judah and his sons, both of whom were killed for being evil in God’s sight. After the first son, Er, is killed his wife, Tamar, is married to the second son, Onan, as was the custom in those days, It was the obligation of Onan to make Tamar pregnant so that she could have a son to inherit Er’s share of the estate. However, Onan would have sex with her but he performed coitus interruptus so that she would not get pregnant, securing the brother’s share for himself. For that evil act of selfishness, Adonai killed him. Judah’s third son, Shelah, was too young to be married so he sent Tamar back to her father’s house to wait for Shelah to be old enough, but when that happened, Judah failed to fulfill his obligation to Tamar. One day when Judah was in her neighborhood, she dressed herself up as a prostitute and after seducing him, received his staff as collateral for payment. Before Judah could send her the payment, she went back to her father’s house, now impregnated by her father-in-law. When Judah is told she is pregnant, assuming she was unfaithful, he wants her to be killed but she sends him the staff to prove who the father is. Recognizing his fault in the matter, he says she is more righteous than he was and never had sex with her again. She ends up giving birth to twins, Peretz and Zerah.

Meanwhile, back to Joseph, who is taken to Egypt and sold to Potiphar, a general in Pharoah’s army. Joseph is found trustworthy and given authority over the entire household. Mrs. Potiphar has the hots for Joe, and although he constantly avoids her, she traps him in the house one day and as he tries to escape, she manages to pull his clothes off. She then accuses Joseph of trying to rape her, and Potiphar throws Joseph in jail.

It is thought Potiphar wasn’t totally convinced Joseph was at fault because if he really thought Joseph, a slave, tried to rape his wife he would have had him killed, then and there. But since he only had him thrown in jail, biblical scholars believe there was doubt in Potiphar’s mind, but he had to do something.

While in jail, Joseph against shows his trustworthiness and is made a trustee, serving the needs of the Pharaoh’s baker and cupbearer, both of whom were in prison for somehow ticking off the Big Guy.

They each have a dream, and Joseph interprets the dreams correctly, with the cupbearer being returned to his station and the baker being hung. Joseph begs the cupbearer, as he is leaving the prison, to remember Joseph to the Pharaoh and tell the Pharaoh of Joseph’s innocence so he can be freed.

However, once back in his proper position, the cupbearer totally forgets about Joseph, and this is where the parashah ends.

What a story, right? Deception, conspiracy, violence, sibling rivalry, immoral sexual behavior, more deception, attempted sex, unjust imprisonment. I mean, this could be an HBO mini-series!

You know, it probably has been.

But, what will we talk about today? There is so much here, but I go by “feel” (always praying for that feeling to be Holy Spirit led), and what I feel is a message for us is relating how Joseph, in the midst of the worse tsouris anyone could have to deal with, maintained his faith and moral standards.

I am going to do something unusual for this ministry, and relate Joseph’s story to the current political and social environment in America. That environment is one of distrust in our government, distrust in our media, distrust in our medical system, and distrust within the community. We are a people totally polarized, where there is no common ground or compromise, living in a fearful and frustrated de facto civil war of ideologies and political positions.

One recent example is how the media has painted a man found not guilty of murder as a white supremacist who killed black people peacefully protesting. When I read the transcript of the trial, the man had a legally owned firearm and was trying to protect a family business from rioters who were anything but peaceful. After failing to protect the business, he was being chased by the rioters who were armed and while he was being chased, he heard gunshots. He turned and shot back, reasonably assuming that the ones chasing and threatening him were shooting at him. In doing so, he shot and killed a few of the people chasing him (they weren’t all black).

The court found him justified in doing what he did and released him, but this case of self-defense was turned into a racist murder by the media, which didn’t care about truth or justice but only about causing strife and disunity within the community.

Another example is the presidential election of 2020, which is still considered by many to have been more of a coup because millions of votes were falsely created by one side. Whether or not this happened, the fact that it represents such a severe and widespread distrust in one of the building blocks of our democracy- the secret ballot- is as bad as if it was proven true.

And what about the pandemic? It has been so poorly being handled, with so many contradictory reports of the safety and efficacy of the vaccine, of the usefulness of masks, and lock-downs resulting in the financial ruin of millions of businesses and people, not to mention the general fear being fostered by the media, well…how can anyone not feel unjustly treated and mistrusting of our leadership?

Joseph must have felt this way, too. He was mistreated by his brothers, and even when doing the best he could showing his faithfulness to those who were in authority over him, he was unjustly accused and imprisoned.

But despite all that, he maintained his trust in God, and by continuing to behave as a God-fearing person should behave, always doing what is right in God’s eyes, he persevered. And, as we will find out later in this book, he not only persevered, he conquered.

There is distrust, strife, fear, concern, and a general sense of What-the-heck is going on! in the world today. We need to do as Joseph did, which is to trust that God will sort it all out, but in the meantime take charge of what we can, and live our life the best we can while we can.

Yes, it is difficult and there are so many things we want to do that we can’t, or we feel we mustn’t because it represents to us too much of a compromise of our freedoms. That is fine, because if we refuse to get a booster, or we decide to go ahead and get a booster, no one should tell us what is right or wrong because when we decide what we will do, it is our decision. We are taking charge of what we can, and dealing with that which we can’t control.

I don’t care what you think about the vaccine, or the President, or the medical “facts” or what I do…I am taking charge of my life as much as I can and living it with the trust and faith in God that whatever happens, he will work it out for the best. Eventually.

And that is what we spiritual types call “Faith”

I have little or no faith in our current government, not in the medical leadership of this country, and never in people, but I have tons of faith in God. Just because the world is one big mishigas right now doesn’t mean God isn’t in charge- it just means he is letting things happen. I know, absolutely, that he sees where things are going, and he has a plan to do the perfect thing we need to have done and will do at exactly the right moment.

So, nu? Are you feeling as frustrated as I am? Do you wish this all would just go away, and we could get back to our normal life- no masks, no mandatory vaccinations, no pandemic, no racist hatred (well, we’ve never been free of that), and life back to the way we had it before all this drek happened?

If so, then let me say this… GET REAL, PEOPLE!! That ain’t gonna happen, so get with the program. Do as Joseph did- act the way you know YOU are supposed to act and ignore the world going crazy. God will always see you and protect you when you do as he wants, and that is all we need to concentrate on. This will all pass, sooner or later (God willing, sooner!) so be like the maidens who had their oil ready, because when the Bridegroom comes, we don’t want to be caught up in the mess that everyone else is trapped in.

Thank you for being here and please share these messages with everyone you know to help this ministry grow. Check out my books on my website, and while there subscribe to my website and to my YouTube channel. On Facebook, “Like” my page and join my discussion group called “Just God’s Word.”

And remember that I always welcome your comments.

That’s it for this week, so l’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!

Parashah Vayyetze 2021 (He went out)Genesis 28:10 – 32:3

We left Jacob being sent by Isaac to Haran to find a wife from his own people. One night along the journey, while Jacob sleeps outside the town of Luz, God comes to him in a dream and confirms the same promises that he gave to Isaac and to Abraham. Jacob awakes and is filled with awe, naming the place Beth-El (House of God). Jacob also swears to God that if God will do all he said, then Jacob will worship him and give a tenth of all God blesses him with back to God.

If you prefer to watch a video, click on this link: Watch the video.

Jacob continues his journey and coming to a well meets Rachel, the daughter of his uncle, Laban. When he tells her who he is, she runs back to let Laban know, who then runs out to meet Jacob and bring him into his house.

After staying with Laban for a month, Laban asks what he can do for Jacob, and Jacob says he will work 7 years as a bride price for Rachel. Laban agrees, but after 7 years he fools Jacob by sending Leah, Rachel’s older sister, into the marriage tent at night. When Jacob realizes he has been tricked, Laban explains it by saying it is a local custom to marry the older daughter first. Jacob agrees to work another 7 years for Rachel, and once the marriage week to Leah is over he immediately gets another marriage week with Rachel. Now he has 2 wives and 7 more years of working for Laban, and spends that time dropping rugrats left and right: first from Leah, then from Rachel’s handmaiden, then from Leah’s handmaiden, then from Rachel, then from Leah. The last kid, Benjamin, comes from Rachel, but we don’t read about that until later.

Jacob’s work makes Laban richer so Laban asks Jacob how he can pay him. Jacob says he will take all the spotted, speckled and dark sheep (generally considered to be less valuable) as his payment, but Laban again tries to cheat Jacob by removing them all from his flocks and giving them to his sons.

But Laban didn’t know that Jacob was the best deceiver around. So Jacob uses his knowledge of animal husbandry to have all the speckled, spotted, and dark sheep be the strongest, while the “pure” sheep Laban had become the weakest.

Soon enough, Laban’s sons are plotting against Jacob because now his flocks are the hardiest and their flocks are weak. God comes to Jacob in a dream and says it’s time to go back, so Jacob sneaks away, but before they leave Rachel steals the household gods from her father.

Laban learns of this and catches up to Jacob, but before he reaches him God tells him not to do anything to Jacob, so Laban listens to God and accuses Jacob of stealing his household gods. But when he searches for them he can’t find them because Rachel has hidden them in her saddle, which she is sitting on, and says she can’t get up because she is in her time of Nidah (menstrual period). Laban and Jacob make a pact not to cross over the boundary to do harm to each other, and Laban returns home.

There’s so much to talk about here, but I want to concentrate on one small thing, which is the taking of Laban’s teraphim by Rachel before they left (Genesis 31:19).

My Chumash says Nachmanides (the great Rabbi also known as the Ramban) explains the stealing of the teraphim, which Laban calls “his gods”, as Rachel’s way of keeping him from worshipping them, but I think this explanation is designed to paint Rachel in a good light.

The teraphim, or household gods as many Bibles describe them, were more than just a religious item. They represented the authority and rulership of the son who possessed them. The other brothers and cousins would come and pay tribute to the one holding these gods, in order to win their favor for a good harvest, for children, whatever. The fact that Laban was the possessor of these teraphim indicated his authority over the clan and was part of the inheritance of the oldest son.

I don’t think Rachel took them as a means of preventing her father from praying to idols, but rather as an inheritance for her sons.

The reason I think this is because of what she says to Jacob when he says he wants to return to Canaan. In Genesis 31:14, both Leah and Rachel tell Jacob they feel their father has treated them as strangers, selling them and that there is no inheritance for them in their father’s house.

In other words, they feel like they have been disowned and cheated out of their rightful inheritance. This is a little unusual because the daughters did not get an inheritance in those days but it seems they felt cheated, in one way or another. Rachel seems to be the better match for Jacob than Leah because Rachel is a bit of a deceiver because she lied to her father when he was searching for his teraphim.

A well-known lesson we find in this parashah is “What goes around, comes around.” Jacob slyly finagled the firstborn rights from Esau, then Laban slyly finagled Jacob into marrying Leah, and I believe he did this all the while knowing he would be able to get another 7 years from Jacob, whose efforts had been making Laban richer.

Rachel finagles mandrakes for herself by pimping her husband (it seems this is a family trait since Abraham and Isaac did the same sort of thing) to gain a chance for more children.

Finally, Rachel steals the teraphim from Laban, who now feels cheated out of his inheritance.

So Jacob does Esau, Laban does Jacob, and Rachel does Laban- what goes around, comes around.

The truth of the matter is that even the Patriarchs of Judaism, men whom God spoke to directly (which didn’t happen again until Moses) are still and all, human. They have human foibles, human weaknesses, and deceiving ways about them.

Maybe we can write it off to the fact that these things were necessary in those times, but I don’t think that really cuts it. Honesty and dishonesty have been around forever, and whether in biblical days or today, honest people are honest. Period.

God sees all that we do, and he knows our hearts. It is up to us to remember this and try to do what is right in God’s eyes, not what a godless society says is right. This may ostracize us, but in the long run, it is better to be right and alone than wrong with other wrongdoers because… what is today’s lesson?

I don’t know about you, but if what I do is eventually going to come back and bite me in the tuchas, I’m going to do my best to ensure that it will only be a love bite.

Thank you for being here and please share these messages to help this ministry grow. Subscribe to my website and YouTube channel, “Like” my Facebook page, and join my Facebook discussion group called Just God’s Word. If you like what you get here, you will also like my books, available through my website or on Amazon Books (just search for my name.)

And I always welcome your comments.

Nu…we’re done for this week so l’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!

Parashah Toldot 2021 (Generations) Genesis 25:19 – 28:9

This parashah begins with the story of Isaac and Rebekah, how she struggled with her pregnancy and was told (by God) that she had two nations in her. When the time came to give birth, Esau came out already hairy, with Jacob holding onto the heel of Esau.

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One day years later, Esau came back from a hunting trip and he was starved (I’m sure he wasn’t really at death’s door, as he whined about), and coming to Jacob’s tent he asked Jacob to give him some of the lentil stew he was making.

Jacob made Esau promise to sell him the rights of the firstborn in exchange for the stew, and Esau (always first to do and second to think about it) immediately transferred this right to Jacob, for a bowl of stew and some bread and water.

Meanwhile, Isaac remained in the land and God blessed him, but he (like his father, before him) lied about his relationship with Rebekah, saying she was his sister. The king, Abimelech (maybe the same one that Abraham knew?) saw them fooling around once and learned the truth. He asked Isaac why he lied, which might have caused someone to sin and bring disaster on the people, and Isaac gave the same answer Abraham did, which was that he was afraid he would be killed so someone could take his wife for himself.

Time out! So you’re telling me that it was wrong to take another man’s
wife, but it was OK if you killed him first, making her a widow?

Back to the parashah…so Isaac was blessed and became very powerful, so much so that Abimelech went to him and basically told him to leave the area because they were afraid of him. So Isaac went, digging wells along the way, but the locals kept taking the wells claiming the land, and therefore the water, is theirs. After the third well, Isaac was able to remain. When this happened, Abimelech had a change of heart and decided it was best to make a pact with Isaac instead of just sending him away, which they did.

Now we come to the well-known story of how Jacob tricked Isaac into giving him the blessing of the firstborn. Of course, we need to remember that it was Rebekah’s idea, not Jacob’s. In any event, Jacob (with Mom’s help) received the blessing reserved for the firstborn, and when Esau learned of this, he cried to his father for any blessing at all and received the “B Team” version of the blessing, the one that Jacob most likely would have received.

Angry, Esau vows to kill Jacob as soon as Isaac is dead, and hearing of this, Rebekah has Isaac send Jacob to her brother, Laban, to find a wife, claiming that Esau’s choice of the local women as wives is an abomination to her.

That’s the end of this parashah.

If you look in most bibles, they will title this story as something along the lines of “Jacob Steals Esau’s Birthright” or “Jacob Steals the Blessing of the Firstborn.”

I never liked that because it isn’t correct: Jacob did not steal anything. He did not take something that belonged to someone else, he bargained for it. If you see someone with a car you like and offer to buy it from him or her and they sell it to you, is that stealing? If they accept an offer much lower than its intrinsic value, is that stealing? It may be getting a steal, as the expression goes, but technically it is just getting a good price, that’s all.

When I was a Tinman, which is the term for someone selling siding (I also sold replacement windows and kitchen refacing), I learned that the sale is made when the buyer’s perceived value of the product is higher than the price tag. Someone may think a product isn’t worth $25, and someone else may feel that same product is a great buy at $75!

I never told anyone how to spend their money: my job as the salesman was to build the most value I could into the product so when I gave the final price to the buyer (after I let them negotiate) it would be less than their perceived value. And I never lied to do that- you don’t have to lie to be a good salesman.

The important point in this parashah, which is almost always ignored by almost every Bible version, is not that Jacob stole the birthright but that the birthright had no value to Esau. I mean, c’mon- the guy sold what at that time would have been a double-share of the father’s estate, which the Bible tells us was significant, for a bowl of stew!

And later, when Jacob allegedly stole the blessing of the firstborn, that wasn’t stealing, either- the blessing belonged to him! He was the legal owner of the firstborn’s birthright, which included the blessing!

Here’s the real message that I want to give today, which is just briefly mentioned in the very beginning of this parashah but is significant for any Gentile who has been taught that when they accept Yeshua as their Messiah, they are not subject to the Torah commandments.

I’m talking about Genesis 26:5; but first, let’s review the background.

Leading up to this verse, we read there is a famine and God tells Isaac to not go to Egypt but remain in the land of Canaan, and that if he goes where God tells him to go then God will fulfill the same promise to Isaac that he gave to Abraham.

Throughout my 25+ years as a believing Jewish man, I have constantly heard that we are saved by faith, and throughout the Bible, both Old and New Covenants, we are reminded that it was because Abraham believed God when God told him something, that his faith was counted as righteousness (Genesis 15:6.)

And that is where Christianity stops talking about Abraham’s faith. They constantly use his faith as the only reason he was considered righteous; today, we don’t just need to have faith in God but also faithfully accept that Yeshua is the Messiah, and it is that faith through which we are “saved.”

But there is more to it than that, and that’s what God tells Isaac in Genesis 26:5 which is why God promised Abraham what he did (Genesis 26:5 CJB):

All this is because Avraham heeded what I said and did what I told him to do -he followed my mitzvot, my regulations and my teachings.

What? Abraham’s faith wasn’t all that God wanted? Apparently not, since God said his promises to Abraham were because he heeded what God said (i.e., believed him) and DID everything God told him to do.

Yes, as uncomfortable as this is, God is saying that faith, alone, isn’t all you need: you must not just faithfully believe but also DO what God says.

That is why Abraham received the promises: he believed and he did.

That is what James means in James 2:14 when he says that faith without works is dead.

Sorry to bust so many people’s comfort zone bubbles, but just believing in God and Jesus ain’t gonna cut it all the way through. Oh, yeah, you may end up in heaven, or have a place on the new earth; you may not have to spend eternity out of God’s presence, but if you are in, it will be at the lowest level possible.

God already knew what I learned a long time ago: people don’t mean what they say, they mean what they do.

So if you think you are saved but do none of the things that God requires of everyone (maybe your religion has told you the Torah is just for Jews, but that is a lie), then you should reconsider whether God wants you to do what he said, or what some religious leader with a seminary degree tells you to do.

Abraham received blessings from God for believing and doing as God said; Isaac received blessings for believing and doing as God said.

So, nu? What makes you think you don’t have to?

Thank you for being here and please subscribe to both my YouTube channel and my website, “LIKE” my Facebook page, and join my FB discussion group called “Just God’s Word”.

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And I always welcome your comments.

That’s it for this week, so l’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!