Parsha Terumah Exodus 25:1-27:19

In this weeks Portion we read about the construction of the Mishkan—the Tabernacle. Much of the Torah is dedicated to the construction, implementation and functioning of the Tabernacle and its Service. The construction of the Tabernacle is such a prevalent topic dealt with in the Torah, that it is impossible to turn a blind eye and ignore it.
The amount of detail God gives in the Torah concerning the Tabernacle, tells us, that this building is one of the most important topics to be studied in the Bible. Not Creation, not the Flood, not the Exodus from Egypt. The building of the Mishkan—the Tabernacle, is one of the most intricately described processes that covers detailed chapter after chapter of information concerning this building project, the order of ceremony, the protocol and dress of the Kohanim—the Priests, and much, much more! 
 
The Vilna Gaon (Rabbi Eliyahu ben Solomon Zalman. 1720-1797) compared the creation of the world to the building of the Tabernacle. He stated, “The Holy Temple – God’s Sanctuary – was a microcosmic model of the entire universe.” If this is true; then the more we understand about the formation of the Mishkan, the more we understand about the structuring behind the universe. The Vilna Gaon continues, “…man is a ‘little world’ who also encompasses within him all the elements of existencein this sense, he too is a ‘Sanctuary’…when man sanctifies himself…the Divine Presence resides within him as it resided within the Holy Temple of Jerusalem.” The Mishkan is a microcosm of Creation, and Mankind is a microcosm of the Mishkan.  
These three all have something in common, and this commonality is related to the word “Mishkan.” For the rest of this observation I’m going to refer to the Tabernacle as “the Mishkan.” Why is this important? Because a Tabernacle is, as defined by the Merriam Webster dictionary, “a house of worship…a large building or tent…a tent sanctuary used by the Israelites during the Exodus…a dwelling place…a temporary shelter.”
Whenever someone thinks of a Tabernacle, they immediately think—big tent in the desert. But a Mishkan is not just a big tent. God tells Moses in this portion, “And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.” In Hebrew it says, “V’asu Li Mikdash V’shachan’ti B’tocham.”
“The Tabernacle in the Wilderness” Illustration from the Holman Bible (1890)
Now before I get into the Hebrew, I want to break this verse down. There is a command given in this verse and then there is the consequence of obedience or non-obedience to the command. The command is “V’asu Li Mikdash—Let them make me a Sanctuary.” If the Sanctuary is not built, then the second half of this verse means nothing…this is an if-then principle. If they (Israel) “make me a Sanctuary,” then “Shachan’ti B’tocham—I may dwell among them.” Now, back to the Hebrew. The first word we’re interested in, is the word “V’shachan’ti” or more precisely, the root word “Shachan.” This root word means, “to inhabit, to dwell, to live.” It is the root we get the word Shekinah from. It is also root to the word Mishkan. What does this mean to our verse? God is telling Israel, “Make me a dwelling place in your midst.” The Mishkan, or, the Tabernacle, wasn’t a large circus tent in the middle of the desert for Israel to meet with God in. It was God’s home among His people. So, instead of using the word Tabernacle—a big tent in the desert, I want to use the word Mishkan—a home for God among His people. This is where we get the idea of the “Shekinah Glory of God.” What does this mean? It means, the manifest presence of God as seen in this physical realm. God wanted a Mishkan built, so that He could dwell and interact with His people in this realm.
This helps us understand more of the meaning behind the Mishkan, but how do we reconcile the Universe, with the Mishkan, with humanity, as I mentioned earlier? What do these three things have in common with each other?
To find the unity between these seemingly different subjects, let’s go back to the verse from this portion and review one other Hebrew word. The word is “B’tocham,” which is generally translated as “among them.” But a literal translation of the phrase “Shachan’ti B’tocham” would be, “[that] I may dwell b’tocham—inside of them.” From this verse we understand, that God desires, not just for a building among us, He wants to “shachan-dwell” inside of us. He wants all of us to become “Mishkanot,” dwelling places for God. The universe, the Tabernacle-Mishkan, and we as mankind all have the ability to be dwellings for God. This is the connection between these three.
The more I know about the Mishkan, the more I will discern about myself and who I am to become. The more I discern about myself, the more I will understand the universe and my purpose within the creation. Because all three are places where God can dwell.
 
Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk. Better known as the Kotzker Rebbe (1787–1859, Poland), once posed the question, “Where is God?” His talmidim—disciples answered this seemingly heretical question by replying “God is everywhere!”  “No,” the Kotzker Rebbe responded, “God dwells wherever we let God in.”
You see, God is everywhere, but He only dwells in the places where we allow Him. Where can God be found? In the places where He has been permitted entrance; God, doesn’t force Himself upon us. He desires that we yearn and desire Him. The building of the Mishkan allowed everyone in Israel to participate and invite God to dwell among them. As it says, “From everyone who gives it willingly with his heart you shall take My offering.” The nation of Israel gave the materials necessary to build a house for God. They desired God to dwell among them; they realized that gold and silver, precious stones and cloth, all these material things, were to be used to bring the physical reality of the spiritual mentality. All of us know that God is everywhere. But, have we invited Him to dwell among us? In our homes and families? In our communities and social groups? In our states and countries? Remember, God is everywhere, but He only dwells where He is invited.
 
With this being said, there is an order that must be in place if we want to invite God to dwell inside/among us. Everything that God does is done in order, by order and for order.
The whole Mishkan was arranged and ordered for the service of God. What is interesting to note, is, when we open up this Portion for the blueprint of the Mishkan, it starts in the reverse order of how we would normally go about making plans for a building.
While a typical building project would start with the outer walls and foundation for the building, the work of the Mishkan starts immediately with plans to build the items that would be inside the Tabernacle. God works from the inside out and not the outside in. He starts immediately with the most important items of the Mishkan and works His way outward, from the “Kodesh HaKodeshim—The Holy of Holies,” to the “Kodesh—Holy,” to the inner courtyard and beyond.
The first item on the list to be created was the “Aron HaBrit—The Ark of the Covenant.”  The Rabbis tell us that this ark was created using some of the gold from each individual Israelite, so that no one could claim ownership of the place where God said, “…there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat.” The lesson from this idea is that it takes all of us as a collective to create a place where God can meet with His people. From the collectives perspective, each individual person must be in order, so the nation can move forward.
This is why I want to move from collective responsibility to individual responsibility. It was the “community of Israel” that came together to build the Mishkan, but the people had to give to the cause and prepare themselves independently to receive God’s presence in and among them. God not only said He would dwell among them collectively; He said He would dwell inside of each of them individually.
Each of us has the ability to become a house for God. This is God’s desire. From the time of the Garden of Eden until now, God has wanted to dwell with mankind.
The Heart of a man, spiritually speaking, is his “Aron HaBrit—Ark of the Covenant.” Because we as humans are microcosms of the Mishkan, we function or should function just as the Tabernacle functioned. God’s Shekinah should be found upon the “mercy seat” of our heart. When the children of Israel were instructed on how to craft the Ark, there is an important verse that must be brought out. Exodus 25:10-11 tells us, “And [you] shall make an ark of acacia wood… And you shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and out you shall overlay it…”
Why is this verse so important? If the Ark represents mans heart, then the terms “overlay inside and out” gives us an important concept. This verse is telling us that we cannot be one person on the outside and another on the inside. Both inside and outside must be coated with gold. Yeshua Himself came out hard against the Pharisees of His day saying, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence…cleanse the inside of the cup and dish that the outside of them may be clean also…you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” If each of us is, as 1 Corinthians 6 says, The temple of the Holy Spirit,” then we must daily live a life of introspection and self-betterment. Many people think the words “Self betterment” sound selfish; but if your betterment makes you a nicer person and more intune with God, then what’s the problem? There is nothing wrong with improving your Mishkan-Tabernacle-Temple for God!
 
Ultimately the whole world will become God’s dwelling place, but the first step starts when we invite and allow Him to dwell in us. We in Him and He in us, is what will transform the world back to how it was in Garden Eden!
Learn to live by another of the Kotzker Rebbes quotes, “People are accustomed to look at the heavens and to wonder what happens there. It would be better if they would look within themselves, to see what happens there.”
 
I want to leave us with this idea that we learned earlier in this observation: God is everywhere, but He only dwells where He is invited. Invite God to come and dwell in your heart = your Aron HaBrit—Ark of the Covenant. And when you invite Him in, may His light, presence, essence and glory shine through you, bringing the whole world closer to being a Mishkan for God.
 
Shabbat Shalom,
Samuel

“Mishpatim” Exodus 21:1-24:18

For people who hear the word “Torah” and immediately think of a list of laws and regulations, then this portion is for you. This portion contains quite a list of commandments, racking up a whopping total of 53 laws—23 compulsory and 30 prohibitory commandments. In this portion we are getting down to the “nitty gritty” things of the Torah, but that sounds too dirty. As it says in Psalm 19, “The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes…” So, if the commandment of the Lord is pure, then I’ll call this portion, the beginning of the “nuts and bolts” of the Torah. In other words, this is the “practical application of the Torah’s aspiration.”
Many people skip or gloss over these laws and go straight back to the exciting stories of the nation of Israel. But these portions can be more profound than any story we read in scripture, because it is from these laws that we better understand the nature of God.
I know I have used the term? “Torah?” a lot, using the word to describe the 5 books of Moses. Yet, I have never done an observation concerning what the Torah is, in and of itself. The word Torah is commonly mistranslated as “law,” a better translation would be “instruction.” It is in these instructions that we better understand the nature and character of the One who gave them to mankind.
I’m sure we are all familiar with the idea professed by many in Christianity who say, “The law has been done away with.” And to be quite honest, it is tempting to go along with this idea, being that there are many complex issues in the Torah that would seemingly (in the human mind) be good to abolish. Yet, as stated so well by First Fruits of Zion in their article for this Torah portion, they write, “the mouth of God spoke every commandment of Torah.” If the mouth of God spoke every commandment into existence, then “As soon as we begin to discard commandments, we have begun editing God and reshaping the Almighty into an image which we deem more appropriate.”
We cannot change the Torah to fit our version of God. As Psalm 18 says, “Ha’El Tamim Darcho, Imrat Hashem Tz’rufah—God, His way is perfect; the word of the Lord is proven.” But the word “tz’rufah” doesn’t necessarily have to be translated as “proven.” The word “tz’rufah” deals with the concept of something being tested, purified or flawless. From this verse we gain the understanding that God’s word and His way are perfect and flawless, and as Isaiah the Prophet wrote, “…the word of our God stands forever.”
The study of the Torah is the study of God, and the more we understand the Torah, the more we will understand God. If we continue in this line of thinking, then, if someone were to fully understand Torah then they would understand God, and if they fully understood God…then He’s not God, because God is beyond our intellectual capacity. We can “know God” but only in the fullness He allows. We can understand Torah, but only in the limited capacity of our knowledge and experience. We change based on the circumstances and situations around us, but God never changes and neither does His word. The Torah communicates to us God’s divine nature and every commandment imparts a “pure revelation of His person.” FFOZ
“Moses with tablets of the Ten Commandments”by Rembrandt (1659)
This is a concept that must be understood before we even get to the starting gate. As Yeshua Himself said, “I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.” The Torah tells us who God is and who we are to become. It describes God’s nature and tells us how to be just as He is.
 
Hopefully, I’ve now brought more clarity to the concept of the importance of Torah. But before we jump right into the “instructions” found in these passages, I want to take a short journey to sum up the Torah as best as possible. Before we start I want to ask a question: Why is a summary important before we begin exploring the laws found in the Torah? Because if we know the summary, then we will know how to interpret the laws presented throughout the Bible.The summary will give us the Heart of the Torah, and when we understand the Heart of the Torah we will be able to “rightly divid[e] the word of truth.”
 
Rabbi Simlai lived during the time of the third century in the Galilee area of Israel. He is best noted for being the one to state the number of Torah commands as 613. His statements are recorded in the Talmud and can be found in Makkot 23b. With the idea of 613 commandments, many Rabbis began hunting for a verse from the Tanach (Tanach is an acronym used to describe the whole Hebrew Bible) that could be used that would summarize the Torah in its entirety. We are all familiar with the 10 commandments and they are a good starting point to quickly reduce our number from 613 to 10. The 10 sum up the 613. Rabbi Simlai himself was also on the hunt to figure out how to summarize the entire Torah with one commandment and verse. He began with Psalm 15. In this Psalm, King David asks the question, “Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill?” Then David goes on to describe the attributes and qualities one must have. We can summarize the 10 commandments using one chapter, Psalm 15. How do we summarize even better? Rabbi Simlai next takes Isaiah 33:15 and says the entire Torah is summed up by these 6 commandments, found in this one verse. Then in Micah 6:8, Micah instructs the people with 3 commandments “to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” Continue on and we find that Isaiah 56 instructs us to “Keep justice, and do righteousness” Now we’re down from 10 commandments to 2. But what is the one verse and one commandment that sums up the whole Torah? Rabbi Simlai sums up his thoughts and concludes with Amos 5:4 saying that the whole Torah centers on this one commandment and verse, “Seek Me and live.”
 
Of course, for most of us as Christians, we sum up the Torah through the words of Yeshua when He was asked about the “greatest—all encompassing” commandment of the Torah. His reply is found in Matthew 22. “Yeshua said…‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
However, what many people don’t know is that this summarization by Yeshua was not a new concept to the Jewish people of the time. Yeshua was actually quoting a Rabbi of His era known as Rabbi Hillel. As the story goes, “A certain heathen came before Hillel and asked Hillel to teach him the entire Torah while standing on one foot. Hillel replied, ‘What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor: that is the whole Torah while the rest is commentary; go and learn it.’” Hillel wrapped up the entire Torah with the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I love his ending…once you understand the simple statement of what it truly means to love your neighbor, “the rest is commentary.” Basically he’s saying, “love your neighbor” is the commandment, the rest of Torah is how to apply that commandment to everyday life. That is really what the Torah is about. As I already wrote, most of the commandments we read about are the “practical applications of the Torah’s aspirations.” We aspire to love God and love our neighbor, but what that looks like in reality is defined in the “nuts and bolts” of this Parsha and Parashot (portions) like this one.
 
This Parsha is titled “Mishpatim” which means “Judgments.” In the Torah the commands—instructions, are divided into 3 different categories. The first and most basic of these categories is titled the “Mishpatim—Judgements.” These are the laws that govern between people and are necessary to allow for a civilized society to retain social order. These commands would include such laws as “Do not murder” or “Do not steal.” In basic terms, these laws deal with human interactions between each other.
 
The next category is called “Edut—Testimonies.” These are laws and rulings that commemorate and remind us of past events through physical deeds. For example, we are told to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy, but the Sabbath itself reminds us of Creation. Instructions are given on how to keep the feast of Passover, but Passover is about reminding us of the Exodus from Egypt. Tefillin—Phylacteries are worn by Jewish men during prayer as a reminder of the verse that says to bind God’s words as a sign on the arm and as frontlets between the eyes. These are the laws that give physical reality to a spiritual mentality.
 
The last category is titled, the “Chukim—Statutes.” These laws are ones that cannot be understood but are kept anyway because they are God’s laws. These laws would include commands such as, the red heifer sacrifice or the kosher dietary food laws. We don’t necessarily have a complete grasp on why God gave these laws or what their implications are; yet we keep them because they are important to God.The “Chukim” are done to honor God, though we don’t completely comprehend what they mean. These laws have come to be referred to by the Rabbis as “The Torah of Messiah,” because these are the laws that the Messiah will explain upon His arrival.
 
Though this Parsha (portion) is called “Mishpatim,” we find all three categories of laws mentioned in this portion and even some overlap regarding different commands. For example, take this verse, “The first of the firstfruits of your land you shall bring into the house of the Lord your God.” This verse contains an essence of all three kinds of Mitzvot—Commandments. It is a physical command (Physical reminder-Edut) to bring to God’s house and to the Kohanim-the Priests, the first of the crops. (Taking care of your fellow man-Mishpat) It is through this command that you rise above the routine of everyday and connect to God (Chukim). So, through this command you fulfill all three types of commandments. Let me clarify—you do a physical act, which encourages peace between man and his fellow, whereby you find greater connection to God. That’s what this means. You bring to realization all three levels of the commandment by fulfilling one law in God’s Torah. God’s laws should always accomplish this work. Let me rephrase this again, because, this is what it means to follow God’s laws, and this is what it should accomplish…by keeping a physical command of God, it should encourages peace between man and his fellow and bring you to a closer connection with God.

With all that being said, I am running out of space and time to get into some of the commandments we find mentioned in this portion. So quickly let’s dive right into the first chapter of this portion and look at some of the specific commands that God gave to the children of Israel. In Exodus 21:2-6, God talks about how to deal with a Hebrew servant. One thing to mention before we get really deep into this portion is that the word “Slave” used in the Bible, is often, if not all the time, the Hebrew word “Eved.” This word can also mean “Servant,” even as Moses himself was called an “Eved Hashem—A Servant of God.”
Biblical slavery is not the same slavery that we as Americans understand from our horrific history. What we are dealing with in these specific verses of chapter 21 deal with how to care for a Hebrew indentured-servant. These verses are actually directed toward those who are rich rather than vice-versa. These verses are telling those that are well off, that it is not okay to pass up a fellow Hebrew who has fallen on bad times. It is a Torah command that the rich take care of their fellow man. This does not mean the government step in and redistribute wealth, which is not in the Torah. The main point is…take care of each other. Verses 5 and 6 go on to deal with the procedure, if a Hebrew servant should want to remain with his master.
I don’t have time to get into the intricacies of the process, but it is important to note that this was looked down upon within Jewish culture and practice. And now we must ask the question, Why? We can find our answer in the first verse of the 10 commandments. “Anochi Hashem Elokecha Asher Hotzeticha M’Eretz Mitzraim M’Beit Avadim—I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the Land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.”
God brought His people out of Egypt to be a people unto Himself. When someone willingly puts himself or herself in the position of serving under another person forever, they take for granted the freedom that God wanted everyone in Israel to experience. God wants servants who are grateful to Him and who are not indebted to anyone or anything else besides Him. Notice, nowhere in the Torah does God demand that the Israelites bend the knee to worship and serve Him. God wants us to stand before the world upright and erect, without shame, because He is our God. He doesn’t want us to bow to Him because He demands it; He wants us to bow before Him because He deserves it! May we be those who are reserved of God and have not bowed the knee to anything or anyone but Him!
 
With that, I want to leave you with some parting words in summarization of everything we have discovered. Firstly, remember that the Torah was given that we may become even as He is. Secondly, as Rabbi Simlai revealed to us, the whole Torah is summed up in the verse “Seek Me and live.”
And finally…live Torah! Don’t live as slave to anyone. Keep your head up, heart open, face set towards Jerusalem, and kneel to the King of Kings, not because it’s required, but because He deserves it!  
 
Shabbat Shalom,
Samuel

Parsha Yitro Exodus 18:1-20:26

In this portion we arrive at one of the most important events in all of human history. In Hebrew this occasion is known as “Mattan Torah” or in English as, “The giving of the Torah.” But this portion doesn’t start off with the giving of the Torah, it starts with Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law. And so we must ask the question, “Why is the giving of the Torah preceded by the visit of Moses’ father-in-law?”
According to most Scholars and Rabbis, this meeting between Moses and Jethro would have actually taken place after the giving of the Torah and it is very easy to come to this conclusion when we read the text. In Exodus 18:16 Moses says to Jethro, “I make known the statutes of God and His laws.” But how could Moses expound upon Torah = God’s laws, if they have not yet been given?
At this point I need to bring in a Jewish saying that will help bring clarity to this situation. The saying is “Ain Mukdam Meuchar B’Torah?.” This saying can be translated literally as “There is no early and late in the Torah.” Meaning, the events of Torah are not necessarily in chronological order, but rather, are put in the order God saw as fit in the recounting of the Tanach. (Tanach is an acronym used to describe the whole Hebrew Bible) Why does God put the story of Yitro/Jethro before the story of the giving of the Torah?
 
In Exodus 19:5, God says, “…if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people…” This is where the Jewish people get the phrase “Am Segulah—A Treasured People.” God describes His calling for the Jewish people over the next several verses. But also in the Torah, God puts the story of Jethro, a pagan priest of Midian, before the story of “Mattan Torah—The giving of the Torah” though the stories happened in reverse order…Why?
Here is the reason; to teach us that truth can be found anywhere and from anyone. Before Israel could truly receive Torah and be an “Am Segulah—A Treasured People” they had to recognize and value the opinion of a non-Jew. Israel was chosen by God to be “Mamlechet Kohanim—A Kingdom of Priests.” Priests are intermediaries between God and man. Israel was to be the world’s mediators. But God is teaching Israel, that they can also learn truth from the nations. Jethro actually teaches Moses a Biblical truth we find earlier in the Bible. But first let’s do a quick overview of the story; Jethro arrives with Moses’ family and “…rejoice[s] for all the good which the Lord had done for Israel.”  He makes a proclamation of faith in the God of Israel and then he (Jethro), Moses, Aaron and the Elders all come together for sacrifices and the breaking of bread before God.
Then, “…the next day, Moses sat to judge the people…So when Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he did for the people, he said…‘Why do you alone sit, and all the people stand before you from morning until evening?’ And Moses said to his father-in-law, ‘because the people come to me to inquire of God. When they have a difficulty, they come to me…and I make known the statutes of God and His laws.’ So Moses’ father-in-law said to him, ‘The thing that you do is not good.’” Jethro has some advice for his son-in-law. Basically, he says, “you can’t do this on your own, your going to wear out yourself as well as all the people…select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. And let them judge the people…” This is good, common-sense advice from a father-in-law, but it is actually a Torah truth that Jethro has reminded Moses about. In the Torah, there are only two references that use the words “Lo Tov— Not Good.”
One is here, and the other is in the Genesis story, when God says “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” Jethro’s reference was a reminder to the order God had set in place from the very beginning of creation. We were never meant to do the work of God alone. What is interesting to note, is that the Hebrew word used in Genesis for “comparable” is “Neged,” which can also mean “opposite” or “against.” 
When God created a helper for man, He didn’t make someone who would play “follow-the-leader.” Helper’s aren’t necessarily there to “follow our instructions” as much as they are there to “instruct us in our following.”  Helpers, whether that be a wife, as in the case of Adam, or Judges, as in the case of Moses, are there to help us accomplish the mission set before us by God. If they challenge us on our journey, it may just be what we need, in order to accomplish God’s will. I just recently saw a movie clip from the new animated version of “Pilgrim’s Progress.” The pilgrim has just slipped into the slough of despond and is drowning when he calls out for help. Help, one of the King’s servants rescues the pilgrim and tells him, “Help in some form or another is never far away.” God will send help on our journey, but sometimes the help we receive is the help we need, not necessarily the help we want. Hebrews 4:16 reminds us to “…come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
 
Jethro, through his desire for truth and his openness to hear and give advice, added one of the most important institutions to the nation of Israel; the implementation of just Judges. This is how the Torah would be passed down from generation to generation; through the implementation of Torah by judges, concerning how to keep God’s instructions.
I am going to use this as a segue to jump right into “Mattan Torah— The Giving of the Torah.” Without judges, the Torah would have been everyman for himself and his own interpretation. On the other hand, without the Torah, judges would be making judgments according to their own philosophy of right and wrong. It takes both legislation (done by God) and implementation (done by men of God).
Jethro taught us the attitude we must have in order to receive the Torah. In Exodus 18:1 we read, “…Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses’ father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses and for Israel His people…and Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, came…to Moses in the wilderness, where he was encamped at the mountain of God.” Notice I underlined the word “heard.” Why is “hearing” important when we come to receive God’s word? Because “…faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17) If we do not hear, then we do not have faith, and if we don’t have faith, then “it is impossible to please [God].” (Hebrews 11:6)
There’s a Midrashic story about the giving of the Torah, which I will sum up in a sentence or two. “God offered the Torah to all the other nations in the world before offering it to the Jewish people. The other nations all rejected the Torah because it went against their particular cultures or because they wanted to know everything that was in it before agreeing to follow it.” While it is just a story, I think it is important to connect this idea to our new understanding about “hearing” Torah. All other nations rejected the Torah without hearing what was in it, or, rejected it after hearing only one commandment. The Jewish people on the other hand responded “Na’aseh V’Nishma—We will do and we will hear.” (Exodus 24:7) The Children of Israel committed to “doing/keeping” Torah before even “hearing/understanding” Torah. They knew that whatever comes from God is good! We can commit to God before understanding everything about Him or His Torah because we know He is good. This is the attitude one must have in order to follow God’s instructions. The attitude of “Naaseh V’Nishma—Do and Hear.” This is the same attitude the Prophet Isaiah had in Isaiah chapter 6, where he says, “Hineni, Shlacheni—Here am I, Send me.” He didn’t ask what job it was or if the hours and pay were good… he heard God needed someone and volunteered. The attitude of Isaiah was “I will do whatever I hear you say.”
King Solomon also had this kind of heart. He desired a heart that could “rightly divid[e] the word of truth.” Many people think Solomon asked for wisdom, and it is true that he did, as recorded in 1 Chronicles 1. But in 1 Kings 3, Solomon doesn’t ask for wisdom, he asks God for a “Lev Shomea—A Hearing Heart.” I heard a friend of ours in Israel, Ari Abramowitz make a comment about this verse, he said, “I never understood Christians talking about being ‘led by the Spirit this’ and ‘led by the Spirit that’ until I read this verse.” (paraphrased) Asking God for a “hearing heart” is like asking to be led by His Spirit. This is the kind of heart God seeks to pour His Spirit into. God chose the Jewish people to be “Ohr L’Goyim—A light to the nations,” but that doesn’t mean anyone is excluded from God’s family. The Rabbis explain the reason the Torah was given in a barren wilderness, with no country having claim over Mount Sinai, was to show the nations that the Torah is for the entire world!
 
It tells us in John …the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”The Word of God = The Torah of God. Just as at Mount Sinai, the Torah of God was revealed in a physical way, Yeshua came and lived out the Torah of God in a revealed, physical way as well. The Torah given at Sinai is referred to as the “Torah of Moses,” but the Rabbis speak of a coming Torah known as the “Torah of Messiah.” This season of the Messiah’s revelatory teaching arrives when He comes to bring God’s order back to the world.
Yeshua came and brought the world a taste of the Messianic Torah. He explained that hatred leads to murder and lust leads to adultery. He didn’t say, “Don’t sin because God doesn’t sin.” It is not enough to not sin…He tells us to “be holy as God is holy.” He explained what the Kingdom of God ought to look like in our everyday dealings.
Let me ask you, when is the last time you read and applied the words of Yeshua? If He is our teacher, then why are we so slow to learn His ways? If He is our Healer, then why are we so slow to apply His medicine? If He is our King, why are we so slow to give everything up to Him? Remember, He is good! Israel trusted Him, Isaiah trusted Him, and now we have the opportunity, to put our trust, in the one who not only does good, but Whose very nature, is Good. 
I want to close with some points that are hopefully thought provoking and practical at the same time. Bear in mind, all head and no hands is worthless in the end. In other words, grow from what you sow. Another way to put it, try and apply before you buy…you get the idea.
This Torah portion deals with the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, which is recognized today as the Holiday of Shavuot, or, Pentecost. When is another time in the Bible associated with Shavuot/Pentecost? It’s in Acts 2, as it says, When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place (Temple in Jerusalem). And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and…they were all filled with the Holy Spirit…”
“Apostles receive the gift of tongues”
People are always talking about getting back to these points in history…We need to get back to the true Sinai revelation, or, we need to experience another Holy Spirit outpouring. There is a key to these experiences if we want to see a revelation of God in the kind of magnitude we read about. What is it? Unity!
In Exodus 19:2 it says “So Israel ‘camped—v’yichan’ there before the mountain.” The word used for “camped—v’yichan” is written in a masculine singular form. This means that Israel camped as “one man,” before the giving of the Torah. What do we notice in Acts 2? It specifically states, They were all with one accord.”  Why is this mentioned both times except to tell us that unity is important in order for God to “make His move.”
How do we become one and fulfill the Torah of Messiah? How do we bring Messiah to the world?
The book of Galatians can be difficult at times to understand, but these verses should be self-explanatory. This is how we bring Messiah to the world and unity between each other. “…Through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’…Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the Torah of Messiah.”
    
The Apostle John is famously known for the line “My little children, love one another.” There is a well known story about someone asking John about this particular statement, they asked, “John, why is it that every week you say exactly the same thing, ‘little children, love one another?’”
To this John replied: “Because it is sufficient.” And it is sufficient. If we loved one another, it would bring unity and Messiah would be proclaimed. As Yeshua himself said, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” So may it be!
 
Shabbat Shalom,
Samuel

“Beshalach” Exodus 13:17-17:16

Out of all the portions we have been through these past months, I believe I can truly say, this has to be one of my favorites! Before I get into this portion, I want to write that some mornings it is amazing to wake up knowing that I am a “friend of God.” This is one of those days, and it definitely gives me a fresh perspective concerning everything! I’m reminded of the line of a song by Dillon Loving, the song is titled “So Blessed” and the line goes like this, “I woke up this morning feeling lovely. First thing, Holy Spirit said He loved me!” That’s how I felt waking up this morning! I pray we would all consistently and constantly remember the love God has for each of us!
 
This portion fits the entire story of the exodus from Egypt into 2½ chapters. And one of those chapters is a song, so, even less actually tell of “…the Lord [bringing] the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt according to their armies.” (Ex. 12:51) There truly is a lot in these passages, but in order to write everything I want to get to, let’s jump straight to Israel being camped next to the “Yam Suf—Sea of Reeds.” Israel has just left Egypt and has camped in a location next to the Sea of Reeds, when suddenly Pharaoh comes charging in behind them. Israel is stuck between “a rock and a hard place” or…between Pharaoh and the Sea. Israel cries out to God and God tells them, “Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward…” Many people are familiar with the movie scenes that recount this event; Moses holds the rod of God over the waters, while the sea opens up, allowing the Children of Israel to cross over on dry ground to the other side. What most people don’t know is that there is a Midrashic story that goes along with this account. (The Midrash is an elaborative narrative and ancient commentary on the Torah)
You see, everything God does in the world generally involves people. The splitting of the Sea is no exception, and so therefore we read a Midrash in the Talmud that explains it was not God’s grace alone, nor Moses lifting his staff, but someone else’s audacity that God used to bring forth the Split Sea miracle…The story goes as follows, “Nachshon, the son of Aminadav (future Prince of Judah), stepped into the water. His family and friends looked on with horror and amazement. They cried: “What are you doing? Where are you going?” Nachshon walked forward like a man possessed — up to his knees, his waist, his chest. The second the water came up just over his nostrils, the second when he [was] fully submerged, at that moment and not a second before, the sea split. And the people were able to walk behind Nachshon to liberation, to a place of singing and joy. (c.f. Babylonian Talmud, Sotah 36b-37a, Mekhilta Beshallach 6)
What can we learn from this story? God uses people to accomplish His work. He uses willing people. Nachshon knew God had told the people to “move forward,” so he moved forward. He didn’t let his family or friends distract or discourage him from the words of God. Every one of the children of Israel had the same calling, but only Nachshon trusted God to be faithful, and because of Nachshon’s faithfulness, the whole Nation of Israel crossed the Sea of Reeds on dry ground. Moral of the story: Some of us will have to get wet in order to prepare dry ground for those coming along behind! One man’s faith in the faithfulness of God opened up a chasm of walled waters so that all God’s people could enter into liberating freedom!
This truly was a “rebirth” for the children of Israel. Just as when a baby is born it must pass through the birth canal to the other side. The children of Israel had to pass through the water, like passing through a birth canal, to find life and freedom on the opposite seashore! Not only can Israel’s experience be described as a birth, Rav Shaul (The Apostle Paul) writes about Israel’s experience in 1 Corinthians 10, he says, “…all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea…” Baptism is recognized as a renewing from our old self into the newness of life we receive from God! Baptism is synonymous with birth. But why does it say in 1 Corinthians that Israel was “baptized into Moses?” What does being “baptized into Moses” even mean?
 
Before I answer this question, I want to quickly bring in a quote I heard from a Rabbi over in Israel about the Exodus story, he said, “It took 1 day to bring Israel out of Egypt, it took 40 years to get Egypt out of Israel.” Israel was freed from Egyptian bondage, but they had yet to shed their slave mentality. This is a reality I believe we all face in life. The freedom we receive in Yeshua comes immediately on the day we choose to follow Him. Our struggle is that even though we are free, we still have a slave mindset; this is why so many believers still walk as if they were in bondage. They still have a slave mentality. This is why it is so important to speak God’s promises over ourselvesas we speak His promises into and over our lives, we begin to believe them and when we believe the promises, then we begin to live by them! We must learn to see ourselves as God sees us! I believe this is a key element that all believers need to understand…if this is not making sense then please read over this paragraph again or reach out to me for clarification. This idea has changed the way I live my life and I have found more freedom in declaring and believing God’s promises over me than I have ever experienced “fighting my sin.”
 
Now, back our question, what does it mean that Israel was “baptized into Moses?” In Exodus 14:31, right after Israel crossed the Sea and the water covered the Egyptians, it says, “Thus Israel saw the great work which the Lord had done in Egypt; so the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord and His servant Moses.”
Believing and baptism in Moses seems to have had a lot to do with the redemption of Israel. How? In the Mechilta (a compilation of Scriptural exegesis by Rabbi Ishmael and his students) it is written, “If they believed in Moses, how much more so, in the L rd!” The idea written here is one I thought was well expressed by First Fruits of Zion in one of their articles, they wrote, “One who believes in the Torah (Moses) believes in more than just a vague sense of higher power; he believes in the God of the Bible…” When one says he is a follower of Moses this implies he follows the Torah of Moses given by the God of Moses…so in reality, a follower of Moses is a follower of the God of the Bible. So, believing and being baptized into Moses implies a belief in God and a baptism into the family of God. The reason I bring this up and why it is so important is because of something else FFOZ mentions in their article, they write, “We find that many people today are willing to confess faith in God, but they seem embarrassed to confess faith in Yeshua.” It is once people are asked to give specifics that many become uncomfortable in talking about who their “god” actually is. Whether it be the true God or some other god… 
Let’s not be those who confess a belief in God, the true God, but then are ashamed or shy to acknowledge that we do know truth. I know it can be hard in conversations and it can come across as arrogant that we have truth. But if we really do have truth, then why should we be ashamed or arrogant? Today, I want to encourage all of us to not be “followers of God,” get more specific! We are believers in Moses and baptized into Yeshua! (Matthew 28:19)
 
When Israel believes in “the Lord and His servant Moses,” what happens next? Let’s take a look at the next verse. Well actually, there is no next verse. That was the last verse of chapter 14.  But remember, there are no chapters in the Torah. Portions not chapters divide up the Torah; therefore, there is no division between the end of chapter 14 and the beginning of chapter 15. If we were to read the last verse of chapter 14 with the first verse of chapter 15 without division it would read as such, “…so the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord and His servant Moses. Then Moses and the children of Israel sang this song to the Lord…”
So, to answer our question, “When Israel believes in “the Lord and His servant Moses,” what happens next?” We find the answer is, they sing! The whole chapter of Exodus 15 is the song of Moses and Miriam that was sung right after the Sea of Reeds showdown.
 
People are familiar with the song of Moses from its mention in the book of Revelation, where it says, “They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb…” But how many people know that there are 2 songs of Moses? The first song occurs right here in Exodus 15, right as the children of Israel enter into their new freedom. The second song is found in Deuteronomy 32 right before the children of Israel are about to end their journey and enter the Promised Land.
During the Morning prayer service, the Jewish people pray a certain prayer called the T’hilot. It comes right before the Amidah prayers, which could be considered the central prayer of Jewish liturgy. The T’hilot is generally recognized because of the exclamation made during the prayer, “Mi chamocha ba’elim Hashem—Who is like You among the gods O Lord?” This verse actually comes from Exodus 15:11 and the T’hilot prayer deals with the story of what happened at the Sea of Reeds. In this prayer there is an interesting line, it says “Shirah Chadasha Shib’chu Geulim L’shimchaWith a new song the redeemed praise Your Name.” We’re interested in the words “Shirah ChadashaA New Song”
Moses sung two songs, right? Well, at the Sea of Reeds the children of Israel sang a “Shirah ChadashaA New Song.” What is interesting is the words used here are in the feminine. (Hebrew uses Masculine and Feminine words)
“Miriam and Women at the Seashore” Women of the Bible (1861)
According to the Rabbis, the reason these words are in the feminine is because after every “birth” in the nation of Israel and after every Shirah Chadasha (New Song) comes another time of testing and trial. It is in the feminine because another “birth” has yet to take place. Israel must go through more labor pains for the redemption to come…But there is coming a time, when Israel will not sing a Shirah ChadashaA New Song (Feminine) anymore, instead they will sing a Shir ChadashA New Song (Masculine) from Psalm 98. What is Psalm 98 about? It is about the triumph of the coming Mashiach, the coming Messiah! Why do we suddenly sing a New Song in the Masculine? Because there are no more coming labor pains, no more births, no more waiting for redemption, because the redemption has come! Why do we sing a Shir Chadash (Masculine) when the Messiah comes? Because none of the Shirot Chadashot (Feminine) are good enough!
 
One of my favorite traditional Hebrew songs is “Yibaneh HaMikdash” (To find my favorite version of this song, look up the band Moshav for their song “Yibaneh”)
Here are the words “Yibaneh HaMikdash Ihr Tzion Timaleh V’Sham NaShir Shir Chadash Uvirnanah Na’alehLet the Temple be rebuilt, the city of Zion overflow, and there we will ascend singing a New Song.” There aren’t many words, but if we now understand that the only time we sing a Shir Chadash is when the Messiah returns, it suddenly transforms this song. We ascend to Jerusalem singing a Shir ChadashA New Song because the Messiah has returned!
 
Moses had two songs, right…One was sung right after the Children of Israel crossed the Sea of Reeds, the second was sung right before the children of Israel crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land. All of us who follow Yeshua as our Rabbi have come out of bondage/Egypt, have been “baptized into Moses,” and have been given a New Song. (Psalm 40:3) However, it is right before the ultimate redemption, right before we enter into the “Promised Land” that we are given a Brand new “Shir Chadash” with which to welcome King Messiah back into the world! We can sing a song of redemption even now in exile, but we long to sing it in the redeemed city of Zion. Even as the exiles in Bablyon said, “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” (Psalm 137)
 
I like the Rabbis idea behind Shirah ChadashaA New Song (Feminine) and Shir ChadashA New Song (Masculine). But maybe there will be a Shirah ChadashaA New Song (Feminine) when the Messiah comes? Remember, we are the bride of Messiah…Maybe when the Messiah comes, He will sing a Shir ChadashA New Song (Masculine) while we, His bride, will sing a Shirah ChadashaA New Song (Feminine)…Maybe, just maybe…and as the Heavenly Bridegroom harmonizes with his refined and pure bride, it will truly be heard in the world, just as Jeremiah the prophet once prophesied, “…in the cities of Judah, in the streets of Jerusalem…the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of those who will say: ‘Praise the Lord of hosts, For the Lord is good, For His mercy endures forever’—and of those who will bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord.”
May it be soon and in our days! May our exile come to and end and may a New Song soon be upon our lips, until then; keep singing the song He’s already given you!
 
Shabbat Shalom,
Samuel

Parsha Bo “Go” Exodus 10:1-13:16

This weeks Parsha has some amazing and interesting statements that I want to dive right into. But just to recap…remember, in our story, we are in the middle of Plague-ridden Egypt. Despite the plagues brought into existence by God, through Moses and Aaron, Pharaoh has refused to let the children of Israel leave his land. And then we arrive at a very interesting verse that is written several times throughout this story that has perplexed scholars and Rabbis alike. The first time it is mentioned is in Exodus 9:12, but we are confronted with this same statement at the beginning of this portion as well. In Exodus 10:1 we read, “Now the Lord said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh; for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his servants, that I may show these signs of Mine before him…” Look at the underlined text…what does it mean “God hardened the heart of Pharaoh?” Did Pharaoh have freewill or was God playing him like a cat plays a mouse? Exodus 9 it seems to agree with the latter idea, “…for this purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.” God was declaring His power and His name throughout the known world and He was using Pharaoh to do it. But does this idea really stick? Do you really think that, first of all, God was out to “prove” His power? And second of all, do you really think that God would take away Pharaoh’s freewill and right of choice?  
As we all have learned from past observations, when you don’t understand something, get back to the Hebrew! So, let’s break this verse down and reconstruct it in a way that will hopefully make more sense.  
In Hebrew, “I have hardened his heart” is “Ani hich’badeti et-libo.” I want to take a look the word “hich’badeti.”  In Hebrew, the root word used here is “kavad.” I know in transliterated English these two words have seemingly no similarities, so, you’re going to have to trust me on this one…We find this root word throughout the Bible, but one of the notable places is in Isaiah 6. In Isaiah 6, Isaiah is having a revelation of the Lord enthroned in His temple, and in this encounter, he says that the seraphim are calling to one another, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!”  The word used here for glory is the word “k’vodo” which is related to the word “kavad.” This is interesting, the word for Pharaoh’s heart being hardened and the word for God’s glory are the same…or, I should say, share the same root word.                              What does this mean? 
“The Art Bible” published by George Knewnes in 1896
Before I keep going, let me say; we read in previous chapters before Exodus 9:12, about 6 times Pharaoh himself “hardened his heart.” 3 times it says, he “strengthened his heart,” and 3 times it says, he actually “hardened his heart.” This was without God’s intervention. Pharaoh did this of his own “freewill.” This is important to remember before we jump to the conclusion that God just randomly hardens peoples hearts. Pharaoh already had a history of rebellion against God, and this all happened before we come to the verse where it specifically states, “God hardened the heart of Pharaoh.” When we get to this verse, we find the true meaning behind God hardening Pharaoh’s heart. If we take what I’ve already explained and apply it to this verse, we could read it as, “I have ‘glorified’ his heart,” rather than “I have hardened his heart.” The word “kavad” can also be translated as “honored or respected.”
We could also translate this verse as “I have honored/respected his heart.” This actually shows the opposite idea of God infringing on Pharaoh’s freewill. God is not “hardening Pharaoh’s heart” with the idea that Pharaoh has no freewill, rather, God is “respecting Pharaoh’s heart” which allows Pharaoh to walk as he has already chosen without God’s intervention. In this case, God’s intervention is by not intervening.
Romans 1 explains this well and I would like to take a few verses to better explain this concept. “…what may be known of God is manifest…for God has shown it to them… because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God…Professing to be wise, they became fools…Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts…For this reason God gave them up to vile passions…And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind…” Two things to notice here; the first is, “Man rejects God and does not glorify or honor Him as God.” And because God is not honored or glorified by man, He gives “them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts…” He gives “them up to vile passions…” and He gives “them over to a debased mind…”
What is happening here? Exactly the same thing that is happening to Pharaoh…When a man, a people, or nation walk contrary to God, God removes the “moral compass” we all carry. In other words, when we walk in continued rebellion against God, God turns off the alarm bells that tell us we’re going the wrong way. He allows us to take the road of our choosing. As it is written in Leviticus 26, “…they also have walked contrary to Me, and…I also have walked contrary to them…” If we continue in our rebellion and contrary ways, God will eventually “give us over…” to our rebellious ways. But only with the hope that eventually we will “…turn from [our] wicked ways…” And when that happens, God will “…hear from heaven, and will forgive [our] sin and heal [our] land.”
Verse 1 of chapter 10 continues with another interesting twist. Right after God tells Moses that He has “hardened” or rather “respected” Pharaoh’s heart and desire, He says He did this so “that I (God) may show these signs of Mine before him (Pharaoh).” If we go back into the Hebrew of this verse we find that the word for “before him” is “b’kirbo.” This is fascinating because the word “b’kirbo” could also be translated as “in close proximity to him” or even as “within him.” God is saying that He is showing His signs “within Pharaoh.” So, with our new understanding, let’s go back and read Exodus 10:1, “Go in to Pharaoh; for I have respected/honored/glorified his heart and the hearts of his servants, that I may show these signs of Mine within him…” The choice that was before Pharaoh is the same choice we all face in life. God gives us the choice on how He will be glorified in our life, but you can be sure, no matter our choice, whether we are contrite or we rebel, He WILL be glorified in and through us. God won’t force us to conform, but He can and will remove His covering from us, even as He did in the case of Pharaoh or Job, in order to bring us back to Him.
 
When we read through the plagues of this portion, I have to say, the one that struck me was the plague of darkness. Why would darkness even be a plague? We have darkness every night, what’s the big deal? In Exodus 10:21 we read, “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, darkness which may even be felt.’” The difference was that this was a “darkness that could be felt.”
I want to quickly skip two chapters, over to Exodus 12:5-6. We read there about the Passover Lamb and it says, “…the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight.” What is fascinating is that the word used here for twilight is “Bein HaArbayim.” What this phrase literally means is “between the evenings.” Here, we’ve just talked about  “darkness that can be felt” and “twilight—between the evenings.”
In Genesis 1, we read that God created light. God said, “Yehi Ohr V’Yehi Ohr—Let there be light and there was light.” But look at the Hebrew…the way this verse should really be translated is, “Let there be light and let there be light.” The Rabbis teach that we are to learn from this verse, that there were 2 lights created. Both were the same light, but they were reserved for different times. The light that God created was the light of the Messiah that emanated into Creation. But after man’s “fall” the light of Messiah was hidden until the coming final redemption. When man was sent into exile after the Fall, this was the start of darkness coming upon the world. In other words, it was “twilight.”  But there are two evenings, remember…because the Passover Lamb was to be sacrificed “between the evenings.” Who do we know as the Lamb of God? John the Baptist declares Yeshua to be that Lamb in John 1, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
Yeshua was the Passover Lamb who was sacrificed to bring freedom and deliverance to all who put His blood on the doorposts of their hearts.
When did Yeshua come? “Between the evenings.” I wish I could draw this on a whiteboard to better explain this. But think of what I’ve been writing about like this…The light of the Messiah was revealed at creation and then concealed after the fall to be revealed again at the final redemption. Between these two revelations of the light of Messiah come two evenings, or, two nights. Two dark nights where the “darkness can even be felt.” But, what separates the dark into “two nights?” The arrival of the Passover Lamb; The Lamb of God, who is Yeshua, the one who came to take away the sin of the world. He is the one who broke through the dark night and brought a glimpse of the coming light of the Messianic Kingdom to humankind. It is through Him that we even purify ourselves to prepare for this coming light. After the Passover Lamb comes another evening, another twilight, another night. Right now we are in this second night waiting for the revealing of the coming light of Messiah. It is neat to know where we are in the timeline of God. This is not to say I know when He’s coming, but I do know where we are in God’s timeline.
Even as the Israelites were enslaved in the land of Egypt, we also are in the “galut,” the “exile” awaiting the complete redemption that comes when the dawn of Messiah breaks through into this dark world. Yet, there is comfort even in exile. Even when the “creepy crawly darkness” was covering Egypt when no one left his house; yet in Goshen, “all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings.” 
God goes into exile with His people, with His children. Yes, we await a greater light, a light that consumes all darkness, the fullness of the light of Messiah. But even now, when we must “walk through the valley of the Shadow of death” in this world, what do you need to have in order to have a Shadow? Light!
“Bible Primer-Old Testament” by Adolf Hult (1919)
Whenever God’s people go through trial and tribulation, we read of God’s light being with His people. In the book of Esther too, when God’s people are threatened with extinction, we read, “For the Jews there was light, gladness and joy…” Israel was commissioned in Isaiah 42 to be “A light to the Gentiles” We are the light of Messiah to this generation and to all generations! Let us live up to the commission given to us by Yeshua our Messiah. He says in Matthew 6, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Remember, I wrote earlier, God will be glorified through us. Whether we choose His ways or not, He will be glorified! As Deuteronomy 30 advises us, “Choose life!”
Micah recognized that despite all the obstacles and odds of life, that God would be with him, he wrote, “Do not rejoice over me, my enemy; when I fall, I will arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me.”
To this I say, Ken tih’yeh lanu-so may it be for us. May we all come to see the complete redemption, when darkness is expelled and the “Shachar shel Mashiach—The Dawn of Messiah” is fully revealed to the world! May it be soon and in our days!  
Shabbat Shalom,
Samuel
 
P.S. So sorry for not getting this out sooner…I thought I had lost all my work around 4.30, and it took some time to recover. The Love of Messiah be with you all!

Parsha Va’era Exodus 6:2-9:35

This week I’m excited to dive into this portion because this is the portion that coincides with my birthday. At the age of 13 I was expected to be able to read and sing part of this portion in Hebrew and also give a “drash—short exposition” on this section of text. I am rather partial to this portion (because it relates to me), but since I am starting with this topic, I want to encourage all of you to find out what Torah portion coincides with your birthday. You can find out your Hebrew birthday and matching Torah portion at Chabad.org. It’s an awesome feeling to study a portion of Torah, when you know that it relates to your existence in some small sense.
 
Before I start, I want to explain the Names of G-d I will be using in this observation. Maybe sometime in the near future I can do an observation dealing solely with the specifics concerning G-d’s Names, but for this portion I have some other “tunes I want to unload.”
For this portion there are 3 Hebrew names, which refer to G-d that need to be understood. The first of those names is “Kel Shakkai.” It is the name G-d uses when He says in this portion “I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as G-d Almighty” 
For many of you, this Name is probably familiar from the song sung by Amy Grant, Michael Card, or even Lecrae/Cam. “Kel Shakai” literally means “G-d Almighty” and represents G-d working within His creation.
The next name of G-d is “Elokim” which is generally translated as “G-d” and is understood in Judaism to represent G-d’s attribute of Justice in the world.
The last name of G-d that I want use in this observation is the name “Hashem.” Translated as “L-rd” from Hebrew, the name Hashem literally means “The Name,” and is used to represent G-d’s Divine 4-Letter Name found in the Torah. This name represents G-d’s divine attribute of mercy that is displayed in creation.
 
Simply put…
“Kel Shakai” = G-d Almighty = G-d working in creation.
“Elokim” = G-d = Attribute of Justice.
“Hashem” = L-rd = G-d’s Divine 4-Letter Name representing the attribute of mercy.
 
This portion starts from the very beginning with G-d’s introduction to Moses, saying, “I am the L-rd. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as G-d Almighty, but by My name L-rd I was not known to them.”  Many people think this verse means that G-d had not revealed his Divine 4-Letter Name “L-rd” to the Patriarchs. But yet, we find that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob all had experiences with Hashem—with the L-rd. It seems all three of the Patriarchs knew G-d by His name Hashem, or L-rd. (See Genesis 12:7, Genesis 26:24 & Genesis 28:13) What does G-d mean when He says “…by My name L-rd I was not known to them.” 
“I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as G-d Almighty”
“Abraham’s Journey from Ur to Canaan” by Jozsef Molnar (1821-1899)
There are 2 ways we can reconcile these verses…The first way to understand this verse it to say, “the Patriachs knew G-d’s name as Hashem, but they only saw Him expressed as Kel Shakkai.” Meaning, they only saw Him expressed as “working within the framework of creation.”
It wasn’t until the time of Moses that we actually see, the fully realized attribute of G-d’s Mercy revealed, as the He is the One who “heard the groaning of the children of Israel whom the Egyptians ke[pt] in bondage.” It was in Moses’ era that G-d was going to reveal Himself as Hashem/The L-rd of Mercy to the world.

The second understanding that I came across was one I read in Moshe Kempinski’s article for this week’s Torah portion. If the first reason wasn’t enough to answer the question “Why does G-d say the Patriachs didn’t know His name as Hashem when we read that they did?” then hopefully this explanation will help clarify things even more! 
Let’s go back to verse 2 of Exodus 6, the first verse of this portion and read, “I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as G-d Almighty, but by My name L-rd I was not known to them.” The Hebrew for the words “…I was not known to them…” is “Lo No’dati L’hem.” The word we’re interested in, is the middle word “Nodati,” which can be understood to mean “I was known to.” And it is here Moshe Kempinski brings up an interesting point, “…NODATI…is more accurately translated as ‘I did not make myself known (No-Daati) through them…’” G-d did not reveal Himself “through” the Patriarchs the same way that He was about to reveal Himself in the “Yetziat Mitzrayim—The Exodus from Egypt.” Moshe K. goes on to write, “Hashem revealed Himself to the world through His redemption of the Israelites…”
 
In the Exodus from Egypt story, something was being revealed about G-d that even the Patriarchs hadn’t grasped or understood. G-d was Kel Shakai, but He was also Hashem; not just in name, but in action. His attribute of mercy was about to be revealed to the world, through His people Israel. What hadn’t been revealed through the Patriarchs was about to be revealed through, and to, the entire nation of the people of Israel. The world was about to experience who Hashem was in real-time!
 
This is where I want to bring in the name “Elokim.” Remember, Elokim is the name of G-d that represents His attribute of Justice. In Exodus 5, we read of Moses and Aaron’s first encounter with Pharaoh.  Here is the exchange that took place, “Moses and Aaron…told Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the L-rd G-d of Israel: ‘Let My people go, that they may hold a feast to Me in the wilderness.’’ And Pharaoh said, ‘Who is the L-rd…I do not know the L-rd…’” Key words in this verse are when Moses and Aaron say “L-rd G-d of Israel” and when Pharaoh responds “Who is the L-rd?” The Hebrew used here for Moses and Aaron is “Hashem Elokei Yisrael.” Notice that they use both of G-d’s names. Hashem = G-d’s name for mercy and Elokei, related to Elokim which is G-d’s name for Justice. Yet, in Pharaoh’s reply he doesn’t ask “Mi Hashem Elokei Yisrael?—Who is the L-rd G-of Israel?” He only asks “Mi Hashem-Who is the L-rd?” 
Pharaoh didn’t have to ask who “Elokim” was…He already knew what a G-d of justice looked like. Pharaoh, believed himself to be a god and he operated as one of the elokim, or, as a god of justice.
What Pharaoh didn’t understand was the name “Hashem—L-rd.” Pharaoh couldn’t comprehend a G-d of mercy. It wasn’t an attribute of any god he knew.
 
The Patriarchs had experienced a G-d who only worked within creation “Kel Shakkai,” and Pharaoh only understood G-d or the gods as concerned about justice. “Elokim.”
But the G-d who displayed Himself in the Exodus story showed himself to be a G-d who worked outside of creation (in the miraculous) to deliver a nation from out of the bondage of Egypt into the glorious freedom of His mercy. “Hashem.” 
 
G-d was showing Himself to truly be “Ekye-Asher-Ekye—I will be who I will be,” as His name is stated in Exodus 3:14. He was showing that you don’t need numerous gods. You only need one G-d. The one who will be what He will be. The G-d whose justice is wrapped up in mercy, as it states in James 2, “Mercy triumphs over judgment.”
 
Interestingly enough, in Gematria, the numerical value of the name “Ekye-Asher-Ekye—I will be who I will be” (543) has the inverse numerical value of the name “Kel Shakai—G-d Almighty.” (345) This shows even more so that the G-d who works within creation is the same G-d who works outside of creation. The G-d whose justice upholds the world is the same G-d whose mercies overflow our cups. It is the same G-d revealing Himself in different ways to His creation. The Bible is full of hints that should continually point us toward the character and nature of G-d.
 
Moses came before Pharaoh, before all the court of Egypt, before the leaders of Israel and before the slaves who were in bondage and declared the Merciful name of Hashem, but no one understood it, as it says in John 1 “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness [could] not comprehend it.” Everyone was trying to understand, what G-d, Moses was referring to. Who had ever heard of a G-d of mercy? The gods didn’t give mercy; they demanded judgment…yet G-d, our G-d, sent a deliverer to rescue His people in mercy.
…before all the court of Egypt”
“Moses and Aaron before Pharaoh”
by Benjamin West (1738-1820)
Remember, last week I brought up the idea from the Midrash Rabbah where it said, “the last redeemer will be just as the first.” The “first redeemer,” Moses, was a shadow, a forerunner for the last Redeemer. As we continue reading in John 1, “For the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Yeshua Messiah.”  Moses was G-d’s representative who carried
G-d’s name of mercy right into the courts of Pharaoh and brought the children of Israel into freedom. Yeshua also carried the name of G-d into the world, and though He was “despised, rejected and acquainted with grief” He brought and still brings, all those who follow Him into freedom. Moses brought the “wisdom—chochmah” of G-d into the world through the Torah. This is why we call it “The Torah of Moses.” But it is said when the Messiah comes He will bring the “hidden wisdom—chochmah nistara” into the world. As it is written in Isaiah the Prophet, “The Spirit of the L-rd shall rest upon Him, The Spirit of wisdom—chochmah…” When you take the first letters from the 2 words “chochmah nistara—hidden wisdom,” you get the word “Chen” which means grace. What does John 1 tell us? “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
 
Do you know what “Chen” can also mean? Merciful. Yeshua came full of Hashem, full of the Spirit of the L-rd and full of “Chen—Mercy.” Do you know who went before Yeshua before he came? Yochanan Hamatbil. John the Immerser. What does Yochanan mean? It means “Hashem/the L-rd is gracious/merciful.” And if I were to turn the letters to the word “Chen” around, it would spell the Name “Noach—Noah.” Noah means rest. Noah was also a type of Messiah and shadow of the coming redeemer. The picture that G-d is painting is continually pointing to Him! As He says throughout the Bible, “Return to Me, and I will return to you.” He has revealed Himself as the G-d of mercy. It is His nature, His name, His character and His essence. As it says in 2 Timothy, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.” As I wrote before,“Mercy triumphs over judgment.” G-d upholds the world in Justice, but He strengthens His children in mercy.
May we be the modern day John the Baptists of today’s world, calling out “Make straight the way of the Lord…” and who declare “G-d is gracious! His mercy endures forever!”
 

Shabbat Shalom,
Samuel

Parsha Shemot Exodus 1:1-6:1

This week we have fast forwarded from the life of Joseph and moved straight into a new (but very old) book, continuing the same story line, but with new characters and a different setting. In other words, “the plot thickens.” I could write instead “the plot dickens,” but that would only make sense to those of you who are Charles Dickens fans. Anyway, you get my point…
We start out this new book Exodus with the story of the children of Israel becoming enslaved in the land of Egypt. In Hebrew, the name of this book is Shemot, but Shemot doesn’t translate to Exodus in English, instead it translates to the word “Names.”
If we go back two portions ago in the Parsha Vayigash, it gives us a list of the family of Jacob that descended into Egypt. All the names are listed out in Genesis 46 where it tells us, “All the persons of the house of Jacob who went to Egypt were seventy.” Yet, when we add everyone together, it comes to only 69 persons. Who was the 70 person? There are many discussions and calculations on the different possibilities to answer this question. Yet the one I like the most and find the simplest, is an answer we find in the Talmud, Megillah 29 where it states, “They were exiled to Egypt and the Shekhinah (God’s Presence) was with them.” God Himself was the missing person in the count of Jacobs’s family. Which leads us to the verse found in Numbers 24, in one of Balaam’s prophecies, “I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; A Star shall come out of Jacob…” This star is the “Star of Messiah,” who comes out of Jacob, but represents God to man, He is the one who walks with His people through their exile. Even as God promised to Jacob, “I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again…” We find Israel and the Messiah’s destinies linked as they both must leave the exile in Egypt behind, in order to fulfill the verse in Hosea 11, “…out of Egypt I called My son.” I say all this to say, when we read through the book of Exodus, look for names. Added names, missing names, “misspelled” names (in Hebrew), meanings of names…there is much to be learned! Just from seeing a missing name in the family of Jacob leads us to the amazing conclusion that God went with His people into exile!
“Israel in Egypt” by Edward Poynter (1836-1919)
Now, before I get ahead of myself, let’s dive straight in to Exodus chapter 1. The first chapter of Exodus tells us, Joseph is out. A new Pharaoh is in. As it says, “Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.” In Hebrew, the word “know” is the word “ya’da.” This Hebrew word implies a deeper knowledge than just knowing about someone. It can also mean, “to discern, perceive, recognize or acknowledge.” In other words, this King/Pharaoh may have known all about how Joseph saved Egypt and how this foreign nation/Joseph’s family came to dwell in the land, but he would not acknowledge Joseph for all the good he had brought to the land.
Depending on what Jewish commentator you read, this Pharaoh could still be the same Pharaoh as from the time of Joseph or it could have been a totally new Pharaoh all together. How the Rabbis come to these different understandings is beside the point. Whatever the case was, the obvious conclusion is the attitude of the Egyptians had completely changed toward the nation of Hebrews.
In the commentary Daat Zekenim (Knowledge of the Elders), concerning verse 8 about “Pharaoh knowing Joseph,” it tells us that behind this verse is a parable to help us better understand a greater concept we read about later, in Exodus 5. I’ll start with the verse in chapter 5 and then explain the correlation behind these two verses. “And Pharaoh said, ‘Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, nor will I let Israel go.’” The short parable goes as such, “There was someone who insulted the picture of the King. Having gotten away with that, the following week he insulted the king himself.”
Here is the explanation to the correlating parable. In the beginning of the story of the Exodus, in chapter 1, Pharaoh won’t recognize or acknowledge Joseph. He insulted a “picture of the King” through his own arrogance. When you insult a picture of the King, it eventually leads to insulting the King himself, as we read Pharaoh’s response to Moses and Aaron in chapter 5, Who is the Lord…I do not know the Lord.” In other words, just to help clarify even more. When someone kills the messenger of the King, in the end they are willing to kill the King himself.
Every culture in this time period had their gods and goddesses. At the time of Israel’s enslavement, Egypt had expanded their dominion and rule throughout the known world, which showed to everyone that Egypt’s gods were the most powerful of the region. Yet, it was in the midst of this pagan, idolatrous, powerful culture that the God of the Hebrew Israelites stepped in to intervene. He chose a certain man named Moshe, or Moses. But before we jump right into Moses’ calling to be the savior of Israel, we need to start with his humble, or maybe, not so humble upbringing.    
In Exodus chapter 1, Pharaoh has ordered all his subjects to cast their children into the river Nile, which was one of the god’s of Egypt. (Gen. 1:22) Though we don’t understand his motives behind this order, his demand for child sacrifice, however appalling in our modern world, was very common among the ancients.
Through all the chaos going on, one family decided to continue heeding the commandment of God to, “be fruitful and multiply.” Many Hebrews had decided to stop having children during the time of Pharaoh’s decree. But because of one couple’s faith, the savior of Israel was born into the world. This little boy was placed in a basket of reeds and sent off on the river Nile to a destiny that only God knew.
As fate and God would have it, the daughter of Pharaoh saw the basket with the little child, raised him as her own child and called him “…Moses, saying, ‘Because I drew him out of the water.’” It is funny because, Moses’ name is actually a play on words. In Egyptian, the name Moshe means, “child or son.” But there is also a meaning for this name in Hebrew.  Pharaoh’s daughter names him Moses “…Because I drew him out of the water?—Ki Min-HaMayim Meshitihu.” His name means “drawing out.” Little did she know that Moses would one day become the deliverer and savior of Israel, who would “draw out” his people from slavery. As we continue reading the story we find that Moses eventually has to flee Egypt for murder, and is now dwelling in the land of Midian as a shepherd. 
Moses was the son of Pharaoh. Pharaoh was considered one of the gods of Egypt. With this in mind we could say, “Moses was a son of the gods.” But it wasn’t until Moses was humbled and broken, from the riches of Egypt to the desert sands, that he became “the son of God.” In the wilderness of Moses’ life, God found him and resurrected him to become one of the greatest leaders of history that the world has ever known. His legacy changed the world.
Rabbi Ari Kahn from Aish.com writes, “…we see that not only does Moses have an Egyptian name, but his name is steeped with idolatrous connotations. How ironic that the savior of the Jews should be seen as a god by the Egyptians.”
The Egyptians viewed Moses as a god, but in truth, he was really the savior of Israel in disguise. Both sides, Hebrew and Egyptian thought they knew Moses, but then, years later God revealed him for who he really was.
In the Midrash Rabbah it tells us, “R’ Berachia said in the name of R’ Yitzchak, the last redeemer will be just as the first.” Who was the first redeemer? Moses. Who is the last Redeemer? The Prophet like Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15-19), and he is the Messiah.
Yet in Deuteronomy 34 we read, “…Since then (the time of Moses) there has not arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.” How do we reconcile this verse to the idea that the Messiah is greater than Moses? Wouldn’t Yeshua have precedence over Moses? Why then would it say that “…there has not arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses?”
The Ralbag (Rabbi Levi ben Gershon) wrote concerning this verse, ‘There will not arise a prophet like Moses’ (Deut. 34.10) who was a prophet in Israel only, but there will be a prophet from this people (Israel) for the nations and this is the King Messiah, as it says in the Midrash, “Behold my servant will prosper” that he will be greater than Moses… Moses only brought Israel alone to the service of G-d…[Messiah] will bring all the nations to serve G-d…”
The Messiah will not be a Prophet in Israel alone, He will be a Prophet, from Israel, to the nations! Moses only brought the nation of Israel to a place of worshiping God, the Messiah will bring all nations to worship and serve God! The Messiah, who we believe to be Yeshua, is not restricted to Israel alone. He will be greater than Moses, but not in Israel only, His “…dominion [is] from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.” (Psalm 72. Speaking about the King and the King’s Son)
Hebrews 3 tells us the difference in the positions of Moses and Yeshua. “For this One (Messiah Yeshua) has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as He who built the house has more honor than the house. For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God. And Moses indeed was faithful in all His house as a servant…but Messiah as a Son over His own house…” This verse tells us, Moses was the most faithful of all mankind in God’s house. But Yeshua is not a part of God’s house, He is the one over God’s house and He is also the builder of this house. As John 1 puts it so well, “For the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Yeshua Messiah.”
“Law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Yeshua.”
“Jesus Teaches the People by the Sea”
by James Tissot (1836-1902)
Rabbi Ari Kahn from Aish.com has another great quote about the Messiah and His role… “He will help teach the world that being a child of God transcends lineage. Indeed, being a first-born of God is about how we lead our lives – the manifestation of the image of God within, not a question of sequence of birth.”
To this I would add, not only is it not important concerning our birth order, but our bloodlines don’t matter either. Jew or non-Jew, our identity is in Yeshua. If our identity is in anything else, without first being grounded in who we are as followers of Yeshua, then we have lost the reason He came…to make us children of God. You see, when man was formed and put in Gan Eden (The Garden of Eden) it says in Genesis 1:27, that God made him “B’tzalmo b’tzelem Elokim—In His image, in the image of God.” 
We were made in the image of God. To repeat what Rabbi Ari wrote, “Indeed, being a first-born of God is about how we lead our lives…” Are we living like God’s children? Do we take it seriously that we have been adopted into His family? If we are made in God’s image, then do we look like God’s children? Do people see any resemblance?
Both Moses and Yeshua represented God to the world. They called people out of the darkness of slavery and into God’s glory, as written in 1 Peter, “who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” So, do we live different from the world?
Remember, God went with Israel into exile. He is with every one of us, wherever we are in our lives. He wants us to turn back to him. As He states in Zechariah, “Return to Me…and I will return to you”
I want to remind you of a statement I made earlier in this observation. When someone kills the messenger of the King, in the end they are willing to kill the King himself. Consider if I were to switch this saying around…when someone loves the messenger of the King, in the end they are willing to love the King Himself. Can you imagine the impact we could have? When people love us because of who we are, they will ultimately come to realize that our source is rooted in the King Himself!
I heard a sermon in the song “My Portion” where the Preacher (who I believe was John Piper) said, “My whole life is devoted to helping people fall out of love with the world and fall in love with God!”
May it be for us as well! And may we be recognized in this dark world as children of the most high God. Just as the daughter of Pharaoh recognized Moses as one of the Hebrew children, may we also be recognized as “Ivrim ?—Hebrews,” those who have “crossed over” from death to life, separating ourselves from the world and joining ourselves to God.

Parsha Vayechi Genesis 47:28-50:26

The last portion in the book of Genesis tells of the life of Jacob and his family living in Egypt. Jacob recognized even before leaving Canaan, the vision of Abram in Genesis 15 was coming true. “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years.”
This is why in Genesis 46, God appears to Jacob and tells him, “…do not fear to go down to Egypt, for I will make of you a great nation there. I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again…”
Jacob as well as Joseph knew this was the time for Israel to dwell as strangers in exile. When we read Joseph’s last words in this portion, he knew the children of Israel would be in Egypt for a long time. He makes his brothers swear to carry his bones up from Egypt. In Genesis 50 Joseph says, “God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land to the land of which He swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob…God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.”
This portion starts the time of Israel’s exile and affliction in Egypt, but 2 out of 3¼ chapters in this portion deal with something else. That “something else” is where I want to direct our attention for the rest of this observation. It is an important concept that has been lost for generations. I am writing about the idea of generational blessings. In today’s world we have lost the importance of a grandfather or father’s blessing. In the bible, a father’s blessing carried significant weight. (Classic Example is found in the story of Jacob and Esau)
In our point of time though, either we have lost the tradition of blessing the next generation or we bless them with vague, obscure, run-of-the-mill blessings conjured up from outer space.
The blessing given to my Dad’s generation was, “you can be whatever you want to be!” Well, in my generation we’ve taken this saying to the extreme; everybody can be anybody or anything and anybody can become somebody else.
This blessing from my Grandparents generation to my Dad’s generation has become a curse to my generation. Why? This “blessing” wasn’t grounded on the Bible. But even if this blessing had been grounded in the Word of God, would it be just a run-of-the-mill Bible quote that we like to throw around at each other?
I was listening to comedian Brian Regan this past week. He told his stories of saying right things at the wrong time. I can relate. To connect this to my point, I feel that sometimes in our Christian world, we think that saying a Bible verse is going to fix something or change someone. Please, don’t take me wrong, I believe in the power of the spoken word of God. I’m not speaking against encouragement through scripture or intercession through scripture.
Here’s what I’m saying. When it comes to blessing someone, am I randomly throwing out an encouraging “Bible bone,” or am I actually speaking specifically into an individual’s life.   
If you read Jacob’s blessings over his sons (Genesis 49), they are very specific. Each blessing was individually tailored for each son. It wasn’t as if Jacob woke up one morning and scratched these blessings out on an old envelope…or piece of papyrus. 
“Jacob Blessing his Sons” by Aaron Van Noort (1562-1641)
His blessings and warnings were to his sons as he saw them develop and grow into the men they were to become. He knew his sons personally and blessed them as individuals, each on their own journey of life. It wasn’t a rub-a-dub-dub, dime a dozen, same prayer for everybody kind of ordeal. It was a father blessing his sons, as he knew each of them individually. 
With all this said, every week at the Sabbath dinner table, on Friday night, every Jewish father plus my Dad, will bless his children with the traditional blessing given in this portion. Jacob blessed Joseph’s sons saying, “By you Israel will bless, saying, ‘May God make you as Ephraim and as Manasseh!’ ” Since this time, fathers have blessed their sons with this same phrase for millennia. “May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh.” But the blessing doesn’t stop there. You see, while all of us receive the same blessing to be like Ephraim and Manasseh, a father’s job is now to exhort and bless us as individuals, according to our own personalities to accomplish our own “Ephraim and Manasseh” story. 
What do I mean by this? The Rabbis give many reasons as to why we bless our children with a blessing to be like these two particular brothers. One of the reasons is because this was the first pair of brothers who actually got along in the Bible. There was no jealousy, hatred or anger, one against the other. Even though the younger received the firstborn blessing, they still walked in peace. The idea we get from this is one of unity; when you bless your children with this blessing, your prayer is that they may always walk in harmony, love and peace together.
But there is another reason, which set these brothers apart. Though they had grown up in a secular society, amidst the paganism and idolatry of Egypt, they had remained faithful to the morals, ideas and God of their forefathers. As Chabad writes on their website, “How does one know if a fish is healthy? If it can swim upstream; against the tide of society.”
This blessing of Ephraim and Manasseh is a blessing of hope, that each successive generation would have the same strength as Ephraim and Manasseh had, to overcome the obstacles and challenges in the world.
So, though the blessing may sound the same for each child, the journey for each child will be different as they struggle and wrestle with the world. This is the place where a parent, relative or guardian has to step in and speak to the heart of each individual child, blessing them in a way they can understand and process, in a way that applies to their own life and encourages them in their own journey. 
We all have to face the world, but we all are different in our approach to life. It helps to have people in our life who know us well enough to give us the blessing and/or correction we need to continue our journey. If you look at the blessings Jacob gave to his sons, they were, as I implied before, fitting for them as people, and also shaped their destiny for future generations. The blessings of Jacob still affect the Jewish people today.
 
Let’s take a quick look at Jacob’s blessing over Judah. Genesis 49:10, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor a lawgiver from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes; And to Him shall be the obedience of the people.” In the Bible, who do we know as the “lawgiver?” Moses, right? But Moses was from the tribe of Levi not Judah. Why does it say the scepter and a lawgiver will not depart from Judah, until Shiloh comes?
In the verses before this one it describes Judah as a lion. Who do we know as the Lion of the tribe of Judah? Revelation 5 tells us it is Yeshua, the “Lion and the Lamb.” He is the one who holds the scepter = the kingship of Israel. He is also the lawgiver that will teach us His Torah when Shiloh comes. In Judaism it is taught that when the Messiah arrives, He will teach us the Torah on another level that we have never experienced before.
Jacob, in his blessing over Judah, wasn’t only speaking blessing over his son, he was speaking prophetically about the future of Judah’s posterity. He (Jacob) says all this happens, “until Shiloh comes.” Who is Shiloh?
Remember, few weeks ago I wrote that the Messiah went by many different names. Guess what another of His names is? Shiloh!
In Gematria (Gematria is an alphanumeric code of assigning a numerical value to a name, word or phrase based on its letters) the words “Yavo Shiloh?—Shiloh comes,” is equal to 358, which is the same numerical value of the word “Mashiach—Messiah.” The Messiah is from the line of Judah who holds the scepter, he is the lawgiver, and he is returning as Shiloh to establish God’s kingdom on the earth.
 
All of this can be understood just from Jacob’s blessing over his son Judah. Can you imagine speaking that kind of blessing over someone? Especially, over your own children! This is the power of knowing and specifically speaking blessing over the people close to you. Especially, a father speaking blessing over his children. You can change the destiny of a person when you speak God’s specific truth into their life.
Do you know the repercussions of fatherlessness in this country? According to the U.S. Department of Justice on the website LiveAbout, the statistics for children from fatherless homes account for:
 
Suicide: 63 percent of youth suicides
Runaways: 90 percent of all homeless and runaway youths
Behavioral Disorders: 85 percent of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders
High School Dropouts: 71 percent of all high school dropouts
Juvenile Detention Rates: 70 percent of juveniles in state-operated institutions
Substance Abuse: 75 percent of adolescent patients in substance abuse centers
Aggression: 75 percent of rapists motivated by displaced anger
 
And this study was from 20 years ago. These numbers are still on the rise…
 
Here’s another story that I recently heard, “Executives of a greeting-card company decided to do something special for Mother’s Day. They set up a table in a federal prison, inviting inmates to send a free card to their Mom. The lines were so long they had to get more cards. Due to the success of that event, they decided to do the same thing on Father’s Day, but this time, not one prisoner felt the need to send a card to his Dad. In fact, when asked about it, many had no idea who their fathers were.” (From Ministry 127)
 
How sad! And we wonder why our country is where it is today? I’m reminded of a PragerU video I watched titled “Why God is a He.” I would encourage everyone to watch it. One of the points Dennis Prager makes is, “God is depicted as merciful, compassionate and a lifter of the lowly. If God was depicted as feminine, or as a goddess, then men would view these attributes as feminine qualities. Instead, God, in the masculine, the strong warrior role model, shows himself to be compassionate and kind. Which makes men realize that they also can be compassionate while still being strong.”
 
It is a need in our society to have more father figures to look up to. This is why in Malachi, the last book of the Prophets, in the last chapter of the book, in the last verse of the chapter, we read, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.”
The hearts of the fathers will be turned to the children and vice versa. The family unit needs to be restored, lest God come and strike the earth with a curse.”  When fathers bless their children and children bless their fathers, a curse is withheld from the world. Instead blessing and peace are restored to the world as fathers and children as restored to relationship.
 
Here’s the take away, there’s a lot of Biblical precedent for fathers to bless their children. When fathers bless their children, all those statistics we saw will drop, and instead the family unit will become whole again. When the family unit becomes whole again, then those blessings from a father continue through to the descendants of his children. When those blessings are received and kept by the descendants of continuing generations, then that family line begins to bring restoration, not just to their own, but also to the people around them, and these are the types of actions that prepare the world to receive Messiah.
 
Whether you have a family or not, whether you are a father-figure with no children, or a child with no father, find someone to speak blessing into. Even those who you don’t get along with, as Yeshua himself says, “…bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you…” (Read Romans 12:14-21)
I would encourage you to heal relationships that have been broken over the years. Let’s learn to bless one another and not allow our love to grow cold. (Matthew 24)
 
Be intentional about blessing others! Speak intentional blessings into people’s lives. I find myself all the time, speaking the Christianese lingo without actually considering the person in front of me. I want to encourage all of us to speak intentional blessings into the lives of those around us, and as we grow in our earthly fathers blessing to be like “Ephraim and Manasseh” (= to keep oneself spotless from the world) may we see our Heavenly Father “striking the earth with a blessing.”
 
Shabbat Shalom,
Samuel

Parsha Vayigash Genesis 44:18-47:27

There is so much in this portion that could lead in so many different directions, but instead of going into really deep concepts this week, I wanted to simply explore the part of this story that really touched me and see where we end up.
This portion begins with the encounter between Joseph and Judah. We find Judah offering himself as a slave instead of Benjamin, his youngest brother.
Throughout this story until Joseph reveals himself, it seems as if he (Joseph) is testing his brothers to see if they have truly changed over the years. Remember, it was Judah who suggested that the brothers sell Joseph into slavery rather than leave him for dead.
Joseph tested his brothers with exactly the same situation, as it had been when they sold him, except this time it was in a different setting. Would Judah and the brothers sell another of their kin as a slave?
This story turns out different than the first. This portion is named “VayigashAnd (Judah) approached.” In this story we see Judah placing himself as defender, interceder and spokesman on his younger brother’s behalf. This time Judah is not going to sell his brother or allow his brother to go into slavery. The Sages tell us that in this instance Judah approached and wasprepared to do one of three things. He came prepared to battle, to reconcile, or to entreat. In other words, he came prepared to ensure his brother Benjamin returned home safely. Judah was prepared to do whatever was necessary to protect his little brother.
Before Jacob sent his sons down to Egypt a second time, Judah guaranteed to his father (Jacob) that he would take care of Benjamin. He said, I myself will be surety for him; from my hand you shall require him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame forever.”
Judah became the Guarantor for Benjamin. He placed himself in the position to “stand in the gap” for his brother. It was a commitment he made to his father. He had made the decision beforehand, that no matter what, he was going to take care of his brother.
Judah Pleads on Benjamin’s Behalf (Genesis 44)
Just as Judah became the Guarantor for his brother, Yeshua also became the Guarantor for the entire world.
Rabbi Nati writes in his article, “The Tzadik Emet – Part 3” “It says in the Holy Zohar, Hashem asked Moshiach ‘should I make the world or not? Because man will rebel against me!’ Moshiach said, “put it all on me I’ll pay the debt”. 
(Hashem stands for God’s name and Moshiach means Messiah in Hebrew…)
The Messiah (Yeshua) told God, “even though mankind will rebel against You, make the world, I’ll pay the debt in their stead.”
Isn’t this what Yeshua did? Was this not His main purpose for coming? He came to restore the world back to God! He didn’t have to do it, as He says in John 10, “No one takes [My life] from Me, but I lay it down of Myself.” He gave Himself up and made Himself “…[the] surety (guarantee) of a better covenant.” (Hebrews 7) A covenant that brings life to all the nations, starting with “the house of Israel and the house of Judah.” (Jeremiah 31)
 
Judah standing in the gap for his brother Benjamin is a perfect mini-picture of the “one Mediator between God and men, the Man Messiah Yeshua, who gave Himself a ransom for all.” (1 Timothy 2) As it says in Romans 8, “Who is he who condemns? It is Messiah who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.” Yeshua is in the heavenlies making intercession even now for the world. He volunteered to pay the debt of mankind.
This is how we should be in our own daily lives. We ought “to walk just as He walked.” (1 John 2) We are to make intercession for others and stand in the gap, just as Yeshua did and does for us. The Talmud, in Shevuot 39, tells us, “Kol Yisrael Aravim Zeh L’zeh—All of Israel are Guarantors, One to Another.” We can learn from this quote. We should stand in the gap for each other and even for the world, just as we see Avraham Avinu—Abraham our father—and his example to us in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Judah pled for his brother Benjamin’s sake, Yeshua pleads on all of our behalf, and so, we too, plead and intercede for the world and the people around us.
 
At the moment Joseph realizes his brothers have changed, he can’t withhold himself anymore. He can’t play bad-cop anymore. He is beginning to break down in front of his brothers. He sends everyone out of the room, even the interpreters, because until that time he had spoken to his brothers through interpreters. He cries out to his brothers in Hebrew, “Ani Yosef!?—I am Joseph!” After some 20 years being separated from his family, the whole clan of brothers is reunited in one of the most amazing stories of all time!
Judah and Joseph are reunited, reminding us again of the picture of Messiah son of Joseph and Messiah son of David. These two revelations of Yeshua (Joseph and David) are what we await in the coming days. Ezekiel 37, which is the corresponding reading from the prophets for this Torah Portion, speaks of the two sticks, Judah and Ephraim (or Israel) being joined together as one stick. In verse 17, God tells Ezekiel, that these two sticks, when joined together “…will become one in your hand.” The normal way to say “one” in Hebrew would be “Echad.” But in this verse it says “Echadim” which is a plural of the word “one.” How can you have a plural of the word “one?”
What we understand from this verse is the idea that even though there will one day be unity between the House of Ephraim (Israel/Joseph) and the House of Judah, there will still be a distinction between their purposes and missions to accomplish. The unity will come from each man knowing his place in God’s great master-plan.
It is the same story with Mashiach ben Yosef and Mashiach ben David—Messiah son of Joseph and Messiah son of David. Though these different roles are accomplished by one character, Yeshua, the mission/assignment of Messiah son of Joseph is different from Messiah son of David. This is why it goes on to say in Ezekiel 37, that when the House of Ephraim (Israel/Joseph)—Messiah son of Joseph, is joined to the House of Judah—Messiah son of David, then “…I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one King shall be King over them all.”
It is at this time that these roles will become one (no more plurality) when the nation is back in the land, “on the mountains of Israel…” and then Melech Mashiach—King Messiah can reign. When the Nation of Israel and the King of Israel become “echad.”
 
Joseph reveals himself to his brothers. “Ani Yosef!?—I am Joseph!” He cries as he embraces his brothers and weeps on their necks. In verse 2 of chapter 45 it tells us that, Joseph’s weeping was heard “in Egypt.”  As in, all of Egypt heard the cries of Joseph as he was reunified with his brothers. 
Remember, Joseph is a perfect picture of the life of Messiah son of Joseph…Who as we’ve learned before, was Yeshua at His first coming. So if Joseph and Yeshua share a common identity…where do we see Yeshua weeping during His time of ministry here on earth? We specifically find Yeshua weeping in two instances. He weeps at the death of Lazarus (John 11) and He weeps over the city of Jerusalem (Luke 19). Yeshua weeps over Lazarus, a man, and he weeps over Jerusalem, the resting place of God. Here’s the connection, both man and Jerusalem/the Temple have the ability to be places that God’s spirit can indwell. When those places are destroyed or defiled it breaks Yeshua’s heart. He weeps because He sees the destruction of the containers” (if you will) that can hold God’s divine presence and shine it to the world.
If Yeshua wept over these two things, don’t you think that we, as His followers, should weep over them as well?  We should weep that so many places of potential “Avodat Hashem—Service to God” are being destroyed, defiled and desecrated. We long to see a Temple in Jerusalem, because it represents the restoration of the world back to God. Yeshua thought it worth weeping over the coming destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and He also though it worth weeping over the death of a man.
He desires the restoration of the places in the world where God’s spirit can dwell. We follow Yeshua as our Rabbi, and so we weep over the things He wept over and work to see the restoration of the things He saw as important.
The tears of Joseph and the tears of Yeshua were tears to bring reconciliation. Joseph wept while being reconciled to his brothers, Yeshua wept and weeps to be rejoined with man in Jerusalem. Psalm 133 tells us, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” It continues on, that this unity is like “…the dew of Hermon, descending upon the mountains of Zion.” The “dew of Hermon” = life-giving water from heaven.
It then ends the Psalm with these words,“For there the Lord commanded the blessing—Life forevermore.” Where did the Lord command a blessing? The mountains of Zion… Where are all men to gather in unity 3 times a year? The mountain of Zion. When brothers dwell together in unity, then God commands the blessing of life evermore. Yeshua was weeping because he saw the dwelling places for God in this world being destroyed, defiled or dead. His desire was and is, to see God and man, as well as man and his neighbor, living together in harmony once again.
Yeshua is weeping for HaGeulahfor the redemption and unification of the world.
The Zohar speaks of the Messiah weeping in desire to see the Redemption. It says, “The Messiah…lifts up his eyes and beholds the Fathers (Patriarchs) visiting the ruins of G-d’s Sanctuary. He perceives mother Rachel, with tears upon her face; the Holy One, blessed be He, tries to comfort her, but she refuses to be comforted (Jer. 31:14). Then the Messiah lifts up his voice and weeps, and the whole Garden of Eden quakes, and all the righteous and saints who are there break out in crying and lamentation with him…”
We know this to be true because we read in Revelation 6 that the saints are crying out, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”
Everyone and everything seems to be groaning and weeping till all things are subjected to truth and mercy, when God is King over all the earth!
Until then, we weep for the restoration of brothers and sisters to be unified, so that one day we can all be gathered in God’s Holy Temple to worship Him in Spirit and Truth. God set apart a specific place in the world as a marker, which is Jerusalem, so when we realize  and remember the importance of unity, we know where to go to be united again. The importance of the Temple is that as God’s Holy House, it is the place that brings us together.
 
The Rabbis say that the Temple was destroyed in 70 C.E. because of the same sin as Joseph’s brothers. It’s called “Sinat ChinamBaseless Hatred.” Joseph’s brothers hated him for no reason. So too, the Temple was destroyed because of this same sin.
What destroyed the Temple is what is destroying us today. Yet, when we read the story of Joseph… there is no bitterness in him. Only love.
When we are faced with difficulties and trials, let’s not walk into the trap of baseless hatred against those around us. It is time to live like Joseph, time to live like Yeshua, and time to end this hatred and bitterness that has divided us for so long.
Let our New Year’s Resolution be, to live a life of “Ahavat ChinamBaseless Love.” And as we emulate Joseph, Yeshua, and all those who have exemplified “sacrificial, baseless love,” may the light of Yeshua be ever more revealed in this world, just as Joseph was revealed to his brothers.
 
Shabbat Shalom,
Samuel

Parsha Miketz Genesis 41:1-44:17

I have enjoyed every minute of these weekly observations and this week is no different as we jump into the Torah portion Miketz. I haven’t had as much time as I would’ve liked in order to study the portion since we are still in full swing with Hanukah festivities. Every week I feel like I should/could have studied more…which is true, yet God has been good to bless each observation. Therefore, I’m confident that He will bless this one as well (despite my study…or lack thereof) as we dive back into the exciting story of Joseph meeting his brothers as the Viceroy of Egypt.
From the name of this portion (“Miketz—From/At the end” of two years…) we find out that Joseph was in prison for a long time. Just from the time of his interpretation of the two prisoners dreams in Genesis 40 until Genesis 41 spans 2 years length in time.
How many times in life do we struggle to have hope and to believe in freedom? The doubts that come up in just one day can be hard to deal with, let alone the years of hopes that don’t come true. Despite all this, in the story of Joseph, we read that he came to trust God in his circumstances and became a humble ready servant of God.  
Once he had faced the trials and hardships of life. Once he had shown himself faithful to God. Once he had surrendered himself to God’s plan, it was then that God lifted Joseph, to not only be the savior of his family, but also the savior of the whole known world.
Proverbs 29 tells us, “A man’s pride will bring him low, but the humble in spirit will retain honor.” Joseph had been through some real trials and testing in his young life and in the end had been found faithful. As it says in Luke 16, “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much…if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own?” It was through the valleys and trials Joseph faced, that shaped him into the faithful man who would one day stand before Pharaoh.
Joseph’s life is the perfect picture of an eternal optimist! No matter what situation Joseph found himself in, whether it was in Potiphar’s house, in prison or in Pharaoh’s palace, he always rose to the top and distinguished himself in his work. He was like a cork in water. He could never be kept down; he would always shoot back up to the top. The life of Joseph is a testimony to the Proverb, “Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings…”
Joseph before Pharaoh, King of Egypt.
Let’s leave this Proverb for a second and enter Pharaoh’s palace…it’s been a rough night for the King of Egypt. A whole restless night of nightmares and yet no one can give an interpretation for his strange dreams. It is amazing how a man who has everything in the world can still be disturbed by the things of life that hint to the reality of a realm we can’t physically see. The world of the ancients at least had the idea of a spiritual realm and Supreme Beingssomething beyond this world. This is an idea that has been lost in Modern society, where mankind says this existence is it and there is nothing beyond this.
Pharaoh’s “…spirit was troubled, and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt and all its wise men. And Pharaoh told them his dreams, but there was no one who could interpret them for Pharaoh.” Suddenly, Pharaoh’s chief cup-bearer remembers Joseph and tells Pharaoh of him. (Just as a side note… A Chief Cupbearer was a very high position. One who served as a cupbearer was trusted with the life of his master. In some cases the cupbearer was or became a close friend and confidant of the one he served.)
Pharaoh has Joseph called, and this is the exchange that takes place between them. “And Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that you can understand a dream, to interpret it.’ So Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, ‘It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh an answer of peace.’”
In Hebrew Joseph answered “Bee’ladai” which is translated above as “It is not in me.” This is a great translation. The word can mean “apart from, except, without, besides.” We could also translate this as, it “is not a part of me.” Joseph recognizes the fact that he can interpret nothing in and of himself. Here is where we see that Joseph is truly surrendered to God. His boast is in the Lord!
 After Joseph finished interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams and giving his advice, or rather, God’s advice concerning the issue, listen to Pharaoh’s response, Can we find such a one as this, a man in whom is the Spirit of God?”
In Or HaChaim, the commentator (Rabbi Hayyim ben Moshe ibn Attar.1696-1743) writes about the interesting way this phrase by Pharaoh is worded. He wrote, “The reason that Pharaoh did not say ‘can we find a man who, etc.’ is because he would then have created the impression that there were people with Holy Spirit only that they did not possess it in the degree that Joseph did. Pharaoh wanted to make it plain that he did not think anyone else possessed the Holy Spirit.”  In Hebrew the difference is clearly more distinct. In Hebrew it adds the word “K’zeh” into the verse which means “like this.”
Or HaChaim is stating that Pharaoh wasn’t asking if there was another man equal to Joseph. Pharaoh was actually making his own statement. Pharaoh is saying, “there is no other “K’zehlike this.” Pharaoh recognizes the Spirit of God upon Joseph while also realizing that it is something, no one else he knows, has. But Joseph had to go through the trials and the testing before he was raised up to honor. 
I was just recently talking to Mama Jo, our next door neighbor and she told me that “life is like a bowl of cherries.” I replied, “Life is like a bowl of cherries because it comes with pits.” (I came up with it originally-in my own mind-but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone else has thought up something along those same lines.)
Whatever the case, life comes with pits. Life ain’t all sweet and tart. There are hard trials we all face. In the book of James, he hardly gets through his introductions when he dives straight into his letter with this verse, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” We not only are to walk through the trials, but we are also supposed it count it all joy?!
I wrote a song called “Look up” which has yet to be produced, but one of the lines is, “life ain’t no walk in the park, ‘cause this world can be cold and dark and living is more than whatchya got.” Life is more than stuff = “whatchya got” Life is also full of bumps, scrapes and bruises. The important thing to know is that we are being molded through everything we face in life, into the image of Yeshua our Master.  
Joseph had to walk through the valley of the shadow of death. We all do in this life. Because “…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” This life is the “training ring.” It is exactly like what I did when I took Taek-won-do (which is NOT Karate). We would spar against each other preparing each other’s actions and reactions, so when the real fight came we would be ready. This world is like a training sparring match, except we don’t sharpen each other as “iron sharpens iron” and I don’t “discipline my body” to only overcome the world. I discipline myself and ask that others sharpen me, not necessarily to combat the world, but instead to become ever more conformed to God’s image. This is how we combat the world; by setting our gaze on God and wanting to become more like Him! We “train and spar” in this life so when the “real deal” happens, we can stand before the Lord “paneem el paneemface to face.”
Here’s the summary of everything…my goal is not to prepare people to combat the world, my goal is to prepare people to meet their Maker. The jobs make look the same, but the goal is different. We take on life realizing that the challenges, trials, errors and bruises are not obstacles, but hurdles, that bring us ever nearer to the image of one who gave Himself up for us.   

In Psalm 23 we read “…though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me.” In Hebrew, the word for “Shadow of Death” is the word “Tzalmavet.” In Gematria (Gematria is an alphanumeric code of assigning a numerical value to a name, word or phrase based on its letters) the word Tzalmavet is equal to 566. “Shadow of Death” = 566. There is another phrase in Hebrew that is equal to 566. That phrase is “Mashiach ben YosefMessiah son of Joseph.” If you remember last week’s observation, “Mashiach ben YosefMessiah son of Joseph” came as the suffering Servant to rectify the sin of Adam. So what is the answer to the “Shadow of Death?” The answer is Yeshua, Mashiach ben YosefMessiah son of Joseph.
Look to Him and when you look to Him the people around you will say, just as Pharaoh said, “Can we find such a one as this, a man in whom is the Spirit of God?”
 
May we learn to take the challenges of life as hurdles preparing us for that awesome meeting between Creator and creature, when we see God, even as Moses saw Him, “Paneem el PaneemFace to Face!
 
Shabbat Shalom,
Samuel