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 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 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,

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,

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,

Parsha Vayeshev Genesis 37:1-40:23

It is amazing that every week there is so much to explore, discover and uncover! Never a dull moment in the Torah, this week’s Parsha dives headfirst into the lives of Jacob and his sons. In this Parsha (Portion) it starts out telling us, “Now Jacob dwelt in the land where his father was a stranger, in the land of Canaan. This is the history of Jacob. Joseph…”For starters, I want to focus in on verse 2,“Eleh toldot Ya’akov. Yosef…” which is Hebrew for the verse “This is the history (genealogy) of Jacob. Joseph…”
From the way this verse starts out we would expect to read a genealogy of Jacob’s family, but instead we are whisked straight away into the story of Joseph, stopping only once in the next 14 chapters (Until the end of Genesis) to seemingly rudely interject and interrupt the story of Joseph with a rather out-of-place account of the interaction between Judah and his daughter-in-law Tamar. Which is a story I hope to deal with later in this observation.
First, to ask the obvious question…why does Jacob’s genealogy immediately start into the story of Joseph instead of listing out Jacob’s sons and their respective families?
If we read in the portion/chapter before this, we read of the lineage and offspring of Esau. It takes one chapter to list out Esau’s family tree and there are no stories behind it. However, maybe the genealogy of Jacob starts out by telling the story of Joseph, because the lineage of Esau is mentioned just before this portion.
For the past 3 weeks we have learned a lot about the character traits of Jacob and Esau. One of the biggest differences I want to stress here are their family lines. Jacob’s lineage would eventually bring the Messiah, while Esau’s lineage would bring the nation of Amalek. These two descendants are at war with each other, as we read in Exodus 17, God Himself says, “I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven…‘the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.’”
Amalek and the Messiah are at war with each other, and Amalek must be, as the Hebrew says in Exodus—“Ma’cho Emcheh-Wiped out and exterminated.”
The spirit of Amalek is the spirit of the Antichrist. It is a spirit and people that are totally opposed to the Spirit of God and His Messiah. This is why God is at war with Amalek and why Amalek must be eliminated.
“Joshua fighting Amalek.”
Battle at Rephedim. Exodus 17:8-16
Right after we finish reading Esau’s family tree about the birth of the spirit and nation of Amalek, God gives us a hint about the antidote to this spirit. “This is the history (genealogy) of Jacob. Joseph…”
In Tanhuma Vayeshev (A compilation of Rabbinic texts containing folklore, historical accounts, moral and practical advice) we read the following, “…our patriarch Jacob became terrified at the sight of Esau and the chiefs, and cried out: “Who will be able to assist me against them?” The Holy One, blessed be He, answered: A spark from you will consume them. And Joseph was that spark, as it is said: ‘And the house of Jacob shall be a fire, and the house of Joseph a flame, and the house of Esau for stubble, and they shall kindle in them, and devour them’ (Obad. 19). Therefore it is written: ‘… these are the generations of Jacob. Joseph.’” 
Joseph was the answer to combat the spirit of Esau and Amalek. He was the spark that would consume the house of Esau as fire consumes stubble.The reason this idea is so important to understand, is because Joseph represents the Messiah. From the story of Joseph we see a clear picture of the purpose of the coming of the Messiah.
But before I go any further, I have to stop and bring in an important concept that is hinted at throughout the Bible, but is often overlooked. There are two Messiahs!  Or rather, let me explain…throughout the Bible we find two different roles described that the Messiah is to fulfill. They cannot be reconciled, one with the other…they are different, distinct tasks with different missions to accomplish.
We read of one Messiah, who comes as a suffering servant. In Rabbinic writings this Messiah is referred to as “Mashiach Ben Yosef—Messiah son of Joseph.”
The other Messianic figure is described as a conquering King. This Messiah is commonly referred to as “Mashiach ben David—Messiah son of David.”
Though I said before, these tasks cannot be reconciled, in the sense that, the missions of each are specific in their roles; the same person can accomplish these two missions and roles at different times.
This is where the gap begins coming together. Remember, two observations ago, I brought up the idea that the Messiah has different names or different qualities described by each of His names. This is a similar case. Yeshua came as Mashaich ben Yosef—Messiah son of Joseph, the suffering servant and laid down his life for us.
The clearest picture of the role of Mashiach Ben Yosef is seen in the life of Joseph, whence the name comes from.
The story of Joseph is exactly how the story of Mashiach ben Yosef=Yeshua will come about. Both were sold and thought of as dead. Both where exiled and estranged from their family. Both received honor and power apart from their family, in a foreign land, among foreign people. Both saved the world, one saved the known world of the ancients; the other saved the whole of humanity. One (Joseph) was reconciled to his brothers, the other (Yeshua) will return again and be reconciled to His brothers.
Rabbi Daniel Krentzman sums up the role of Mashiach ben Yosef amazingly well in his article (Yonah as MBY—Reference found on Ladder of Jacob by Ben Burton) where he writes, “…the need for the mission of Mashiach ben Yosef came about as result of the sin of Adam. In theory, had Adam not sinned and brought about tremendous spiritual damage to himself and the world, there would not have been a need for the tikun olam (world rectification) efforts of Mashiach ben Yosef, in every subsequent generation. Mashiach ben Yosef thus comes to rectify that damage and return mankind to the state of Adam before the sin.”
Mashiach ben Yosef’s role was to destroy the power of Esau/Amalek and to rectify the sin of Adam by returning mankind to his pre-fallen state. This is what Yeshua accomplished at His first coming.
But before we can wrap everything up nicely, I said I hoped to deal with the whole Judah and Tamar story. Why is this story even mentioned? And why is it mentioned right in the middle of the story of Joseph? It seems totally out of place and is one of the more strange stories found in the Bible.
What the story encapsulates is the fulfilling of the positive commandment of Yibbum = Levirate marriage. (This is no longer in practice today. The Torah also gives instructions on how to deal with such a situation in another way, called Chalitzah. Deuteronomy 25:5-10) Judah was supposed to give his son Shelah to his daughter-in-law Tamar so Shelah could raise up offspring for his dead brother, but Judah didn’t. Instead what ends up happening is, it says Judah’s wife dies, Judah consoles himself and then he goes with his friend up to Timnah to shear his sheep.
Tamar hears where her father-in-law is headed, so she removes her widow’s clothes, veils her face and sits on the way to Timnah at Enaim. Enaim can be translated as “springs.” But Rashi makes an interesting point about this verse, because there can be another translation/understanding, “…AND SHE SAT AT THE ENTRANCE OF ENAYIM (literally, at the opening of the eyes) — at the place where the eyes become opened.”
Enaim can also mean “eyes,” meaning she sat, as Rashi stated, “at the place where the eyes become open.”
Yet Judah’s eyes were not open. He went in to her not knowing it was his daughter-in-law. Judah gives Tamar his seal, his cord and his staff as a pledge to bring her a young goat from his flock. But she disappears not waiting for the young goat.
From this encounter between Judah and Tamar, came twin boys, Perez and Zerah. We know when Jacob blesses his sons he blesses Judah with the Kingship of Israel as it says in Genesis 49, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor a lawgiver from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes.” Shiloh is one of the names of the Messiah. Whatever you think of this story, it was through this union that the line of Mashiach ben DavidMessiah son of David came through.
When Judah finds out Tamar is pregnant he is shocked and says Tamar must be burned. Tamar bring out Judah’s seal, cord and staff and says she is pregnant by the owner of those three things. Here is the interesting thing…Chazal (“?akhameinu Zikhronam Liv’rakha—Our sages, may their memory be a blessing) write that the seal represents royalty, the cord/tassels/cloak represents the priesthood and the staff represents the scepter. All these things connect to the Kingship and Priesthood of Mashiach ben DavidMessiah the son of David.
Yeshua came as Mashiach ben Yosef, the suffering servant, he’s returning as Mashiach ben David the King of Israel and the whole world. Within the story of Joseph, the story of Judah and Tamar is placed to show us that there is a connection between the two Messiahs, because Yeshua is both.   
The twins of Tamar represent the two comings of Messiah.
Perez in Hebrew means “breech” which correlates to the verse in Micah 2, “The one who breaks open (Poretz=Perez) will come up before them…their king will pass before them, with the Lord at their head.” This is the first coming of Yeshua as Messiah son of Joseph. He is the one who made the breech between God and man. This was the purpose of His first coming.
The other twin, Zerah comes from the Hebrew word “Zarach” which means, “dawning.” Which connects to the verse from Isaiah 60 where it says, “Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen (Zarach) upon you.” This is speaking of the second coming of Yeshua as Messiah son of David. In Isaiah 60 it continues speaking about what happens when “ZerahZarachMessiah son of David” comes. It says, “But the Lord will arise (Yizrach-future tense of Zarach) over you, and His glory will be seen upon you. The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. (Zaruhech-Zarach) This is the coming of Mashiach ben David! His kingdom is established and God’s glory fills the earth.

In both stories (Judah and Joseph) there is a concealing of identity. In both there is also a revealing that takes place. The identity of the Messiah is concealed and will be made plain when the question is asked of Judah, “Do you recognize whose these are-the seal, the cords and the staff.” And when the question is asked of Jacob, “We have found this. Do you know whether it is your son’s tunic or not?”
“The Coat of Many Colours”
By Ford Madox Brown (1821-1893)
Israel will be the one to recognize and proclaim to the world the coming and the revealing of the Messiah!

Yeshua is returning as the son of Abraham, the son of Joseph, the son of David, the son of Man, the Son of God. He has all the credentials to His position of authority and will fulfill all things pertaining to both Mashiach ben Yosef and Mashiach ben David.
He is the one who is returning to sit on the throne of David as the flame of Joseph and the root of David, He is the bright and morning star who brings the rising dawn of God’s glory into the world. May it be soon and in our days!
Shabbat Shalom,

Parsha Vayishlach Genesis 32:3-36:43

In this week’s portion we jump immediately into the action of Jacob’s exciting return to the Land of Canaan. Jacob has been gone from his homeland for some 20 odd years and is finally making the trek back as a wealthy and esteemed individual.
But during his journey back, the very person that forced him to flee home will be the one to confront him on his return. It was time for Jacob to “face his fears.”
At the beginning of Chapter 32, right before this portion starts, we read “Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. When Jacob saw them, he said, “This is God’s camp.” And he called the name of that place Mahanaim.”
In Hebrew, the word Mahaneh (Pronounced Machaneh) means—Camp. However, anything in Hebrew that ends with aim—pronounced eye-eem— implies “double or two.” For example, “Oz-naim” means “Ears” because we have two ears. “Ein-aim” means “Eyes” because we have two eyes. “Yerushal-aim” means Jerusalem, because we know that Jerusalem is not only a physical place but there is also a heavenly Jerusalem.
So when we read in this passage “[Jacob] called…that place Mahanaim” it means he named the place “two camps.”
Jacob encountered angels on his way and knew they were with him for him to fulfill his journey. According to Rabbeinu Bahya concerning the wording “two camps” he writes, “…meaning the camp of Yaakov and the camp of the angels. The Torah compared… similar stature, to both camps. This teaches that the righteous are as important on earth as are the angels in the celestial spheres, the function of both being to carry out the will of their Creator.”
In other words, Jacob and his entourage were just as important in fulfilling God’s will in the world as the hosts of heaven. We both (angels and mankind) were created for the purpose of carrying out the will of God.
Man was specifically created to bring God’s will into this physical realm. This is why it is important to understand this concept before diving in to this portion. We were created to accomplish the will of God by bringing connection between the physical and spiritual aspects of this world.
“Jacob and Esau Reconciled”
The Flesh and Spirit Brought together in Perfect Balance and Alignment
By George A. Peltz, 1888
Some people think that the physical side of life is in itself evil. If this were so however, then why did God create us in the flesh?  The physical aspects of existence can actually be elevated to some of the most spiritual experiences and/or accomplishments of life.
Our problem is that often times our physical carnal nature is what controls our life rather than the renewed spiritual mind of Messiah we all have received when we put our faith in the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2) The physical side of life is not evil when our spirit man controls it, these “two camps” we have in life were meant to compliment one another and reflect each other. The spiritual and the physical are both good when they are in unity with each other. When the “older (physical nature) serves the younger (spiritual nature).” Which is a statement we learn directly from the story of Jacob and Esau.
While Jacob prepares to meet his brother Esau there is an amazing encounter he has with some person the Bible only refers to as “a man.” It reads, “Then Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until the breaking of day.” I’ve often wondered how this wrestling match even started? When is the last time you ever wrestled a complete stranger? My last time was around 13, Jacob was around 60 here. And how did it even start? Did Jacob say “I’m depressed” so the man replied “You know, the best thing to release tension and depression is a good wrestle?” Anyway…that was definitely a rabbit trail, a fun, hare-raising experience, but a rabbit trail never the less.
Back to the story…Many Christian scholars believe this wrestling-match experience Jacob had was a “Theophany—An Appearance of God” or a “Christophany—A Manifestation of the Messiah/Christ.” But in Jewish tradition this “man” that Jacob encountered is called the “angel of Esau” otherwise known as “satan—the adversary.”
How do Christian and Jewish scholars look at the same passage and draw seemingly total opposite conclusions? And how do we reconcile these ideas?
This is a hard debate to try and walk a tightrope on. But with God’s help I hope to resolve both these arguments and say at the end…they’re both right!
First, let’s “tackle” (Pun intended) the idea that this is a manifestation of God/Yeshua wrestling with Jacob. I guess because I grew up with the idea of Yeshua interacting with Creation as the revealed physical manifestation of “God in the flesh,” I see a lot of stories in the Bible with mysterious characters that show aspects of the divine. These mysterious characters I have always connected to Yeshua revealed in creation, as with this story.
I think there is something to the idea of wrestling with God that we as humans connect to. At least, I connect to this idea! I believe God loves when we wrestle with Him. It means that we are interested. It means we desire to understand Him. It means that we want to reunite and connect to Him, even if we can’t always fully lay everything at His feet in surrender in the moment.
I think God desires people to struggle and wrestle with Him, rather than people who could really care less whether they understood God and His word. And this is exactly what we see Jacob struggling with before this wrestling match. He’s struggling to take God at His word. He says, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, the Lord who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your family, and I will deal well with you’: I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies and of all the truth which You have shown Your servant…Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother…For You said, ‘I will surely treat you well…’” Jacob is wrestling to understand the promises of God, because as he wrestles with this “man” throughout the night he can’t see any good outcome to what happens when his brother Esau arrives. This is the part I think we see Jacob wrestling with God in. He wants to “take God at His word” but doesn’t see how God could make his situation work out any better.
Yet, his struggle was not one of “flesh and blood” as we all know, but it was one “against the powers, worldly forces of darkness, and spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” These doubts that Jacob faced weren’t of God, and his wrestling through the night could be seen as the battle we all face daily to choose to believe God.
This “man” could’ve been satan himself coming to fight against Jacob, who as a representation of righteousness in the world, was the one through whom the Messiah would come to “crush the head of the serpent.”
Here is are several things that point to the idea that this was “the angel of Esau = satan.”
In verse 24 it says a “…man wrestled with him until the breaking of day.”  The word here for wrestled is the word “ye’avek” which at its root is the word “avek.”
“Avek” can also be translated as “to get dusty.” Suppose this is the angel of Esau, Esau is also known as Edom. Edom is the same word in Hebrew as the name Adam whose name can mean “ground, dirt, earth or dust.”  Jacob was wrestling with a man of the dust.
In the Garden of Eden, God’s curse on the serpent = satan was this, “On your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life.” This gives us one clue to who this character is…Rashi in his commentary tells us though, that he thinks this word for dust is actually an Aramaic word, as he writes, “I, however, am of opinion that is means ‘he fastened himself on,’ and that it is an Aramaic word, as (Sanhedrin 63b) ‘after they have joined (?????) it’” Instead, of it being the word for dust, Rashi says it was an Aramaic word for “he fastened himself on.” What else “fastens” itself on to things? Doesn’t this sound like a serpent?
So instead of just a man, or a man of the dust, it is also a man who fastened himself onto Jacob in the sense of a wrestling match. Why? Let’s go to the next verse in Genesis 3, where God continues speaking to the serpent. He says, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” 
Jacob’s name comes from the root word, “heel.” What this verse is really saying is that this serpent would bruise Jacob. This is what we see happen in this story. Jacob limps for the rest of his life from this encounter. But why would this serpent/man/angel of Esau/satan/adversary come after Jacob?
Because Jacob is a representation of the coming Messiah, as Balaam prophesied, “A Star shall come out of Jacob; A Scepter shall rise out of Israel.”
When dawn finally breaks, Jacob is exhausted, yet this “man” could not overcome him. Jacob is still wrestling for all he is worth. He asks for a blessing. If this is satan, Jacob’s archenemy, why is he asking for a blessing?
For this, I would like to use some of the words by Xus Casal who writes of this encounter, “… once the angel’s mission was accomplished, the angel was seen as God’s manifestation…the morning was rising and the night leaving… As Samael (satan) was defeated, Metatron (Yeshua the Messiah) was manifested.”
This is a beautiful ending. The whole night Jacob wrestled with satan, with the angel of Esau, but when the dawn broke he (Jacob) was in the arms of the Messiah.
In Revelation 22, Yeshua says “I am…the bright and morning star.” He is the star that arrives in the morning. As we read in Psalm 46, “God shall help her just at the break of dawn.” The break of dawn is when the Messiah breaks forth to bring His light to the world. When Jacob realized who was with him, he named the place “Peniel,” for he had seen God face to face.
Here are the lessons we can take away from this. The physical is not bad. We must learn to take our physical nature and as Rav Shaul (Apostle Paul) writes, “discipline [our] bod[ies] and bring [them] into subjection.” We must subject our physical nature to God’s Spirit and when this order of unity is reconciled, we are free to walk as physical beings with renewed minds and hearts. No longer fighting between the physical and the spiritual aspects of life. Instead, when we submit to God’s Spirit our life becomes aligned and in harmony with creation as God intended in the Garden of Eden.
“Jacob Wrestling with the Angel”
By Eugene Delacroix (Paris)
Lastly, we may find ourselves fighting through the night with the enemy of our souls. Hold on! When dawn breaks we will find ourselves in the arms of Messiah! I’m am currently in the process of writing a song called “Shachar shel Mashiach—The dawn of Messiah.” One of the lines is “His (Messiah’s) quote from the Psalms is the choice, He’s coming ‘Today, if you hear his voice.’”
May the dawn come soon, when we see Him “Paneem el Paneem—Face to Face” and “And (when) God will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Because, “Weeping may endure for a night, But joyAnd the Messiah come in the morning!”

May it be so,
Shabbat Shalom,
There is definitely more to this portion. Please check out The Caleb Waller Show again from this past week’s Torah Tuesday, Parsha Vayishlach. Especially listen to the last 15 minutes, where I talk about the actual meeting between Jacob and Esau and how this unification of brothers still has implications for today!

Parsha Vayetze Genesis 28:10-32:2

It is amazing how rich every Torah portion can be! This week is no exception as we dive right in to the story of what many people refer to as “Jacob’s Ladder” or “Jacob’s Dream.” Last weeks portion informs us that Jacob is fleeing from his brothers murderous intentions while also on a mission from his mother to find a wife. In the midst of the craziness of this whole predicament, Jacob with his head spinning, finds himself walking away from home, “…from Beersheba toward Haran.”
Now that our scene is set, we can move into the actual events of Jacob’s incredible story, because the reality is, Jacob is about to have an “out-of-this-world” experience, that will change his life forever!
Back to the story, “So he came to a certain place and stayed there all night…” Now I don’t have time to get into the details. But though the location of where this dream actually happened is disputed, the Rabbis have traditionally agreed that this dream, ladder, and Jacob are all somehow connected to the site of the future Temple Mount.
In Hebrew, it tells us that Jacob came to HaMakom = the place.” Later in the same verse it tells us that he lay down “BaMakom = in the place”
throughout the Bible is a word that is consistently used to refer to the Temple Mount. Remember, when Jacob awakes he states, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!” Here again we read that Jacob says, “Ma Nora HaMakom = How awesome is the place.”
Interestingly enough, “HaMakom” does not only refer to the Temple Mount, but is also known as one of the names of God. Exodus 33 gives the story of Moses asking to see God’s glory. When God is telling Moses that he will be hidden in the cleft of the rock at Sinai, he uses the phrase, “Hineh, MaKom Eetee = Behold, there is a place with me” (Exodus 33:21)
“Moses descends from Mount Sinai.”
By Phillip Medhurst
What we learn from this verse is that God is “the place.” He is the beginning and final destination. Everything is in Him, through Him and by Him. He is the purpose of the Temple Mount. Without Him, what worth is the Temple Mount? The reason this mountain is so special is because it is the place where heaven and earth meet. But I’m getting a little ahead of myself!
Jacob stops in the place “…because the sun had set.” Rashi makes an interesting comment on this verse. He writes, “It should have written, ‘The sun set and he tarried there all night,’ but the words ‘he tarried there all night because the sun set,’ imply that the sun set unexpectedly — not at its proper time — just in order that he should tarry there over night).”
This was a God ordained event that was about to take place. Remember, in ancient times it wasn’t a good idea to travel alone, and it was especially not a good idea to sleep out in the wild during the night. The Land of Canaan during this time still had Lions and Bears roaming the woods. (See, 1 Samuel 17:34-36, 2 Samuel 23:20, 2 Kings 23-24)
In later verses it tells us that there was a town named Luz close by. Jacob had probably planned it out perfectly to arrive at the town just before sunset, but God had other plans. Here is a side lesson we can learn. When we have everything planned the way we think the story is supposed to play out and are suddenly caught in the dark with the sun set and the beasts lurking, remember the story of Jacob. There may just be a “God-moment” right around the corner.
Jacob “…took one of the stones of that place and put it at his head.”
But these weren’t just any stones… Anytime you hear of a stone or stones mentioned in the Bible, listen up!
Chizkuni writes, “According to tradition these stones had been part of the altar on which his father Yitzchok (Isaac) had been bound on the occasion of the Akeydah.” (The binding of Isaac)
The place Jacob was laying, on the same stones of that place, was the spot some 100 years earlier his father had lain as an offering to God.
At this point Jacob was probably exhausted from his travels “…and he lay down in that place to sleep. Then he dreamed…”
Have you ever had a dream from God? Unfortunately, they can sometimes be very easy to forget and to carry on with life. This is why I have begun to “dream journal.” I have learned a lot about myself, my inner-conscience, my true feelings and my views concerning people, the world and life in general. Obviously, when you resolve to write down everything, there can be some embarrassing or disturbing dreams to deal with.
This is why it is so important to pray before bedtime.
For example, the Jewish people pray, “Blessed are You, Lord, our God, King of the universe, Who casts the bonds of sleep upon my eyes and slumber upon my eyelids…may my ideas, bad dreams, and bad notions not confound me…Lay us down to sleep in peace, Lord, our God; raise us erect, our King, to life, and spread over us the shelter of Your peace…We have no King but You!” (This is a very-very shortened version from the collection of prayers said)
I write down my dreams to remember the treasures that I used to miss. God sends hidden messages even in the craziest dreams and I want to remember them! The dream of Jacob however, was not the kind of dream you wake up from and forget! His was a dream that connected heaven and earth, man and God, the finite with the Infinite.
“Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.”
“Jacob’s Dream”
By William Blake (1757-1827)
In Hebrew the word for ladder is “Sulam.” It is on this verse and specifically this word that I want to focus on for the rest of this observation.
In the dream we read that upon this ladder the angels of God were ascending and descending. Here is where it gets interesting. In John 1:51 Yeshua tells Nathaniel, “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” Yeshua is making a claim here. That He is the “Sulam = Ladder” that Jacob saw the Angels of God ascending and descending upon. The ladder represented a connection between this physical realm and the heavenly infinity above. He is the only one that can break the boundaries between heaven and earth. Isn’t this why Yeshua came?
In the book, The Beginning of Wisdom 8:1 (A book on Kabbalah) we read this statement, “There are two general stages in time. This World-the Olam HaZeh and the World to come-the Olam HaBa.” Yeshua is the “Sulam —Ladder” uniting the Olam HaZeh and the Olam HaBa. In and through Him alone does the holy process of reunification between the olam hazeh and the olam haba come about.
Yeshua came to restore and “bridge-the-gap” between God and mankind. This is why Yeshua was hung on a cross. It wasn’t just about dying the worst death humanly imaginable for our sin; it was an actual telling representation of His very purpose here on earth. That through Him suspended between heaven and earth, these two seemingly opposite realities (heaven and earth) could once again be united and become one.This was Jacob’s dream and his ladder.
The dream was about the reunification between these “two realms.”
The ladder was a representation of how these two realms were to become connected. And that is what we experience today; a connection between heaven and earth, because of the work of Yeshua, who became the only ladder for us to be reconciled to God.
In the Talmud, tractate Sanhedrin 98b we read of a discussion between the Rabbis concerning the name of Messiah, “What is his name? The school of Rabbi Sheila says: Shiloh is his name, as it is stated: ‘Until when Shiloh shall come’ (Genesis 49:10). The school of Rabbi Yannai says: Yinnon is his name, as it is stated: ‘May his name endure forever; may his name continue [yinnon] as long as the sun; …’ (Psalms 72:17). The school of Rabbi ?anina says: ?anina is his name, as it is stated: ‘For I will show you no favor [?anina]’ (Jeremiah 16:13). And some say that Mena?em ben ?izkiyya is his name, as it is stated: ‘Because the comforter [mena?em] that should relieve my soul is far from me’ (Lamentations 1:16)…”
Every school had the name they held appropriate for the title of the Messiah. What is interesting is, the Vilna Gaon recognized all four of these names as the correct name of the Messiah because the initials of Menachem, Shilo, Yinnon, and Haninah make up the word Mashiach—Messiah.
The Messiah goes by many names, each one relating to us His character in a different way. This week, let us recognize His title as “HaSulam—The Ladder” that was stretched out between heaven and earth to reconcile all things to Himself. (Colossians 1)
Ascend the ladder of God and invite others to this “dream-that-is-more-than-just-a-dream!” It’s a living, life-changing reality!
Shabbat Shalom,

For more about this Torah Portion please go to”The Caleb Waller Show” on Facebook and look for the Torah Tuesday show titled “VaYetze” where we talk much more in detail about these amazing stories!

Parsha Toldot “Generations” Genesis 25:19-28:9

This portion starts out on an interesting note. We read in Genesis 25:21, Now Isaac pleaded with the Lord for his wife, because she was barren…” This is actually not surprising because we find all the Matriarchs even Leah to be barren before being allowed to have children. (We know Leah was barren because in Genesis 29 we read, “When the Lord saw that Leah was unloved, He opened her womb…”)
Here is the explanation recorded in the Midrash Tanchuma, Toldot 9.
“Why were the matriarchs barren…because the Holy One, blessed be He, desired to hear their prayers. The Holy One, blessed be He, had stated: They are wealthy and beautiful, and if I should also grant them sons they will not pray to Me.” In other words, “God loves the prayers of the righteous.” This is why the Matriarchs were barren.
This was more of a side note rather than the main point of this week’s observation, but I believe it is important concept we can learn from. No matter where we are in life, “God loves the prayer of the righteous.” He loves to hear from us. And if everything went the way we wanted in life, would we ever stop and talk to Him?
This isn’t to say everything will always work out the way we want. But if we know God is in control and we surrender our will for His will, in the end we will see His work accomplished in and through our life. 
We know all three of the Patriarchs were men of prayer. In fact, the tradition of the Jewish people to pray three times a day comes from the lives of the three Patriarchs.
In the Talmud, Berachos 26b we read, “Abraham established morning prayers, as it says, ‘And Abraham arose in the morning to the place where he stood’, and ‘standing’ refers only to the act of prayer. Isaac established afternoon prayers as it says, ‘And Isaac went out to converse in the field, at evening’, and ‘speaking’ refers only to prayer. Jacob established evening prayer, as it says, ‘And he reached the place, and he slept there’, and ‘reaching’ only refers to prayer.” (This is a rephrasing of what is actually written.)
Prayer is also a reminder of the daily sacrifices that were offered up to God when the 1st and 2nd Temples were standing. This is why in Hosea 14:2, it instructs us to return to the Lord with the “fruit of our lips.” But in Hebrew it says, “Parim S’fateinu” which can be translated as “the bulls of our lips.”
As we dive deeper into this week’s portion, we will find Abraham, Isaac and Jacob important as future references of what is to come and not just as exemplary historical figures to learn from. As Nachmanaides quotes the well known saying, “The events of the ancestors are a predestined sign for their descendents.”
In this weeks portion we read of the birth of Esua or in Hebrew it would be Esav, and his brother Jacob, or Ya’akov. Before they are even born, we read that there was a struggle in the womb. Rebekah inquires of the Lord and is told, “Two nations are in your womb… the older shall serve the younger.” Right from the get-go we understand that the younger has a special place and calling.
We read of the two boys growing up, “So the boys grew. And Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field; but Jacob was a mild man, dwelling in tents.”
What does it mean that Esau was “a man of the field” but Jacob was “a mild man, dwelling in tents?”
According to the Rabbis, Esau was a “Man of the Flesh.” He was a wanderer and a worldly man. Never content in one place or with what he had.
Jacob on the other hand, as a man of the tents” was a studier of Torah. In Rabbeinu Bahya we read that “The plain meaning of the text is that Yaakov spent his time in the tents of Shem and Ever, i.e. in their academies.” Shem, the son of Noah and Eber his grandson, were traditionally the Torah teachers of the time. Not only did Jacob study under Shem and Eber though. The word “tents” is plural, which shows us that Jacob was a seeker of wisdom and truth. He sought it from his Grandfather Abraham’s tent, as well as from the tents of other wise men he came into contact with. Jacob was a Man of Torah while Esau was a Man of the World. Jacob was a Man of the Spirit while Esau was a Man of the Flesh.
We see this become blatantly apparent when Esau sells his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of red lentils. One brother is running after immediate gratification while the other is seeking the future promises.
From this point we could dive into Jacob’s so called deceptions and the stories behind the blessings and birthrights. But I want to go in a little different direction and end with this idea.
In the stories of Esau and Jacob, we see the reality of the struggle we all face in our daily lives. The struggle between the flesh and the Spirit, or the struggle between immediate gratification and the coming heavenly rewards, it’s a daily choice.
Esau in Genesis 36 is mentioned as Edom. Edom in Hebrew means red. We can associate this name with his birth, where it says he “came out reddish…” It could also point to Esau’s sale of his birthright for a bowl of “red stew.” These are all interesting ideas. But how do we bring everything together?
Edom is the same root in Hebrew as the name Adam. Adam means “ground or dirt”, because God formed man from out of the ground.
What we understand from this is Esau was like Adam, a “man of the field.”
Esau was also like Adam in the sense that they both sold their birthright, their inheritance, for food. Adam was exiled from the Garden because he despised his birthright. Esau wasn’t included in the Covenant because he despised his birthright. Adam and Esau/Edom were both “Men of the flesh—Men of the field.”
In Judaism Abraham is related with the attribute of Chesed = loving-kindness and Isaac is related to the attribute of Gevurah or Din = Strength or Justice. Jacob is the one who brings the qualities of Abraham and Isaac together. Jacob is attributed with the quality which goes by several names, Tiferet, Rachamim, Emet = Beauty, Mercy, and Truth. And while all of these could apply to what I’m about to write next, I want to stick with the idea of Jacob’s attribute as truth.
Yeshua says in John 14, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Here Yeshua shows himself to be the seed of Jacob. He was the “Star” that Balaam prophesied would come forth out of Jacob. Balaam prophesied that this “Star” would make “Edom [become] a possession” This word “possession” can also be translated as to “destroy or dispossess.”
Balaam continues to prophesy that Edom will be destroyed…While Israel does valiantly. [For] out of Jacob One shall have dominion…” The Star that comes out of Jacob will destroy Edom and Jacob will triumph valiantly.
This is what Yeshua came to do. He is of the line of Jacob while Esau perpetuates the line of Adam. These two spirits are at war with each other. We can feel this war within our own lives. Rav Shaul, also known as, the Apostle Paul understood exactly what Yeshua accomplished. In 1 Corinthians 15 he explains the war that started in the Garden, continued with Esau and Jacob, and is present even in our modern time. He writes, “There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.” In Galatians he writes, “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another…” Just as the first Adam is to the Last Adam, or Esau is to Jacob, or the flesh is to Spirit. They are all contrary to one another! Yeshua came from the line of Jacob to destroy the line of the flesh, which in this case are represented by Adam and Esau. 1 John 3 tells us “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.”
We all have a daily choice to walk as Yeshua or walk in our natural carnal nature. Will we walk in the works of the flesh or in the fruits of the Spirit? Yeshua came that we could walk in Spirit and separate ourselves from our natural “1st Adam” state of creation. As Rav Shaul states so eloquent and profoundly, “‘The first man Adam became a living being.’ The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven…as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.” We shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man! What a beautiful promise! That “we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”
Our daily choice is whether we will follow the Spirit of Esau = our fleshly carnal nature or will we follow the Spirit of Jacob = our renewed minds set on things above. This is what it means in Colossians 1, “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.”
Praise God, He has delivered and conveyed us into His kingdom! Our job now is to convey this invitation to others and to daily choose to walk in the Spirit of Truth, which is the Spirit of Jacob and ultimately the Spirit of our Master Yeshua!
Shabbat Shalom,

Parsha Chayei Sarah Genesis 23:1-25:18

This portion begins with the words, “Sarah lived one hundred and twenty-seven years; these were the years of the life of Sarah. So Sarah died in Kirjath Arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan…” Is it not rather strange to name this portion “the life of Sarah” when we immediately read of her death? Why would it be called this, when all we read about, is the story of her passing away?
In the book of Mark, chapter 12, the Sadducees confront our Master Yeshua concerning the resurrection. The Sadducees didn’t believe in the rising of the dead and sought to question Yeshua concerning this important and interesting topic.
I would encourage everyone to go and read the whole story, but here is Yeshua’s reply to their question. “Are you not therefore mistaken, because you do not know the Scriptures nor the power of God…concerning the dead, that they rise, have you not read in the book of Moses…God spoke…saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living.”
Here is a great explanation to why we call this portion “the life of Sarah” rather than “the death of Sarah.” Because God, our God, is the “the God of the living.” 
The title “the God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob” would mean we worship a God of dead men…if there was no resurrection. But from this statement Yeshua makes, we can understand the reality of the resurrection and the certainty that we serve a God of life.
In the Talmud, in tractate Berachot 18a-18b, we read these words, “For the living know that they will die, these are the righteous, who even in their death are called living… In contrast to the righteous, who are referred to as living even after their death, the verse (from Ecclesiastes 9) states explicitly: ‘The dead know nothing.’ These are the wicked, who even during their lives are called dead.” From these verses we learn the idea that the righteous are called “living” even after their death, while the wicked are considered “dead” even before physical death overcomes them.
Yeshua tells Martha in John chapter 11, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.” The Psalmist writes in Psalm 118, “I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.”
All this we learn simply from the words, “This the life of Sarah.”  Those who choose to follow God, who love righteousness and hate wickedness, find life in Him. There is no “death” for the righteous, because death to a righteous person is seen as a welcoming doorway from one existence, to the next life of glory. This is why it is from “glory to glory” that we are being transformed to be “righteous, just as He is righteous.”
If we take a closer look at these two verses about Sarah, it is interesting to note in the first verse that both times it mentions “Sarah’s life—the life of Sarah” it is written in Hebrew as “Chayei Sarah.” The words “Chayei Sarah” can be translated as “the lives of Sarah.”
Plural “lives” versus “life.” It is also interesting the way the Torah gives us Sarah’s age at the time of her death. Instead of plainly stating “Me’ah V’esrim V’sheva Shanim—One hundred and twenty seven years,” it says instead, “Me’ah Shanah V’esrim Shanah V’sheva Shanim” which would literally be translated as “One hundred years and twenty years and seven years.” We see Sarah’s life divided, in a sense, into different “lives.” The years of Sarah’s life were separate and distinct. The Rashi explains as written in Tur HaAroch that the reason the word “years” is repeated is “…to draw our attention to the fact that each period…represented a separate part of her life. She was as free from sin at 127 as she had been at the age of 7 and as beautiful at the time of her death as she had been at the age of 20.” In other versions this statement is written as “…at 100 she was as beautiful as she had been at 20, and at 20 she was as free from sin as at 7.” Sarah went through many different stages, times and trials in her life, but what really made her beautiful, in my humble opinion, was her purity and freedom from sin.
Rashi also comments concerning the last part of this verse “THE YEARS OF SARAH’S LIFEThe word years is repeated and without a number to indicate that they were all equally good.” What he means by this is that no matter where Sarah was in her life, each of her “lives” (which I would like to define as “seasons of life”) were as good as the ones before it.
Everyone knows the saying “Behind every good man is a great woman.” This was definitely the case between Abraham and Sarah. Just as Abraham is the Father of our faith, so too, Sarah is the Mother of our faith. 1 Peter 3 tells us that a wife ought to be submissive to her husband even as Sarah was…“Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good…” Sarah is the role model of a praiseworthy wife. She is also mentioned in the famous “Hall of Faith” chapter in the Bible. In Hebrews 11 we read, “By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised.” It was Abraham and Sarah’s faith that brought about the birth of Isaac. So Sarah is also a role model of having faith in the faithfulness of God. Finally, in last week’s portion, we read about when Sarah had Hagar and Ishmael sent away. In the story it says Abraham was displeased, but God instructs him, “Whatever Sarah says to you, listen to her voice.” Sarah is a role model to every wife on how to help a husband in the hard decisions of life.
This is just the “tip-of-the-iceberg” of the character of the admirable woman who stood alongside her husband, Abraham, who we know today as, the father of all of us who believe.
“Abraham and the Three Angels”
 By Giovanni Andrea de Ferrari (1598-1669) 
There is so much we could learn just from the story of Abraham and Sarah. Here are some things for this week’s takeaway from this observation.
As children of Abraham, grafted into his family, we can look forward to a future resurrection, were we go from “life to life.” Our God, “the God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob,” is not the God of three dead men…He is the God who keeps the covenants He has sworn to the people He will resurrect, so we can be with Him for eternity.
The children of God do not fear death because the righteous never truly die. Death is just the threshold we (as the righteous) crossover from one life to the next. As it says in 1 Corinthians 15, “Death is swallowed up in victory!” And the Apostle Paul writes, “Messiah will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Messiah, and to die is gain.”  Ephesians 2 is probably the best chapter explaining the salvation we experience, (Go read the whole chapter for yourself) “He made (us) alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins…” because when we believe in Him, we “pass from death into life.” Our hope is in the resurrection, not just because we want new life, but also because without the resurrection, our belief in Yeshua as the Messiah is for naught. (See 1 Corinthians 15) But because we know that He is risen, “even so in Messiah all shall be made alive.”
Sarah’s life gives testimony to the trials, difficulties and hardships of life. But through it all, she had faith in the Faithful One. Even through all the “lives” (seasons of life) she experienced, she kept her faith and hope in God. She remained a beautiful woman well into her old age because she was a woman of purity and free of sin.
My prayer for all of us is that we would live lives that emulate Abraham and Sarah—that we would be lights into the pagan and ever-increasing dark world around us. For what makes us different from the world? It is that we have no fear of death and we believe in the resurrection…because we believe in the one who is “the resurrection and the life.” 
Even so, come quickly Lord!
Shabbat Shalom,

Parsha Vayera Genesis 18:1-

In this week’s portion we read of Abraham’s great and final test of his life. Genesis 22 starts out by saying, “Now it came to pass…that God tested Abraham and said to him, ‘Abraham!’” When I first started writing, I wrote out the whole verses of Genesis 22:1-3. But the more I wrote, the more I realized how many concepts there are just in these three verses, so I had to break them down.
As I mentioned before, this is the last and utmost of tests that Abraham had ever experienced. According to Pirkei Avot 5:3 (Ethics of the Fathers) we read, “With ten trials was Abraham, our father (may he rest in peace), tried, and he withstood them all…” Abraham faced 10 trials throughout his life. What those happened to be, are not mentioned in Pirkei Avot. But many noteworthy Rabbis have given their lists of “the 10 trials” of Abraham. It may seem like a small list for an entire lifetime, but when you read through the different lists compiled by various Rabbis, you realize the magnitude and seriousness of each trial that shaped Abraham into the character we read about in this week’s portion. Many Rabbis include Midrashic (Rabbinic Biblical Interpretation) stories as part of the tests that Abraham endured. While these traditional stories are great and help paint a picture of Abraham’s younger life, for the sake of this “observation” I want to use a list compiled by the Rambam, otherwise known as Maimonides. His list of trials comes directly out of the Torah, starting with God’s call in Genesis 12 to the final trial that we’re reading about today in Genesis 22. The other 8 trials are recorded between those ten chapters.
According to the Rambam, Abraham’s (who was at the time, Abram) first trial started when God called him to leave his father’s house in Haran, to go “…to a land [He] would show [him].” Abraham’s last trial would also be a call from God. To “…go to the land of Moriah…(to) one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” The way Abraham started his journey of trials is the same way he would finish them. His faithfulness in each trial is what would lead to the ultimate test of offering up his son Isaac to God.
“Sacrifice of Isaac” by Rembrandt (1606-1669)
Continuing on in verse 1, “And he (Abraham) said, ‘Here I am.’” God calls Abraham and Abraham immediately responds. In Hebrew, “here am I” is the word, “Hineni.”
In Modern Hebrew, the word “Hineh” means “here is.” It is used the same way we use the English word “here.” As in “Here, take it.” This word can be used to offer someone something that they need, want or ask for. So when Abraham says “Hineni,” he’s saying to God “‘here I am’—Take me, use me, I’m listening—to hear and do what You say.”
When I (Samuel) had my Bar Mitzvah, my Mom had a basket for people to write notes congratulating me on that special day. It was a big day! The day I became a man…or maybe, started becoming a man! But the one note that has stuck in my mind by memory since then, was from an “older-young man” (I was 13 and he was probably mid-20’s) He wrote, “I showed up—Signature…” I thought it was hilarious, in fact I still think it’s hilarious. But that is not the attitude of “Hineni.”
Abraham did not hear God’s call and say, “Ani Poh—I’m here.” Abraham responded with the word “Hineni—Here I am, use me, what do you want from me, how can I be useful to you?” Abraham knew the voice of God! And he responded to God’s call!
Next verse, Then He said, ‘Take now your son…Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there….’” 
I want to start with the glaringly obvious…When we read this chapter it can be repulsive. This is a chapter that turns a lot of people off. How could God ask for Abraham to sacrifice his son? Why would He desire to be worshiped in the same manner as the gods of the nations?
Child sacrifice in Abraham’s time was widespread throughout the known world. The “gods” demanded blood, and humankind was only too happy to keep them appeased.
Not much has changed since then, people still “worship” these spirits in our “modern—enlightened era.”
But why would Our God ask for this? We know Him as “…not the God of the dead, but the God of the living.” (Mark 12) Why would He ask for something when He explicitly states in the Torah, “You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way (the way of the nations)…[for] every abomination to the Lord which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.” (Dt. 12)
Here are several things to understand about this verse. First, we know from the story that Isaac doesn’t end up being sacrificed. It was not a sacrifice. The Angel of the Lord calls to Abraham, Abraham answers “Hineni” and he is told not to kill his son. Abraham did not go through with the offering. God stayed Abraham’s hand from offering his son. 
Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook (First Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of British Mandatory Palestine in the Land of Israel) writes in one of his essays in Olat Reiyah (Eyewitnesses), that the peak of the story between Abraham and Isaac was the point of the narrative, “…to put an end to the ritual of child sacrifice, which contradicts the morality of a perfect and giving (not taking) monotheistic God.”
The last thing to notice here is the word for “offering” that God uses when telling Abraham to “offer [his son].” It is the Hebrew root word “Olah.”
The Hebrew word “Olah” means literally “rising, ascending, upward, crescendo.” In the Bible it is the word that is associated with a “whole-burnt offering.”
Rashi makes a comment concerning this phrasing, he says, “He (God) did not say, ‘Slay him,’ because the Holy One, blessed be He, did not desire that he (Abraham) should slay him (Isaac), but He told him to bring him up to the mountain…” In other words, God didn’t command Abraham to “slay his son.” He commanded him to “lift him up” as an offering. Which is exactly what Abraham did.
There are so many things I could keep writing about. I wish I could keep going but I also don’t want to overload anyone or myself with too much information.
For those of you who want to continue studying this Parsha, I would encourage you to look into “The Mountain” that Abraham offered his son on. Or think about the significance of Isaac carrying the wood up the Mountain. What do the knife, fire and wood represent that Abraham and Isaac are carrying? How was Isaac, the son, submissive to his father? Think about Isaac’s binding and the scars that remained on his hands and feet…think about these things. Where else do we see this story?
To finish I want to end with verse 3. “ So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him.” After what sounds like a restless night, it says, Abraham arose early in the morning, he got his son and two young men, and chopped the wood for the offering. Abraham heard from God and immediately took on the task. No hem-hawing around. First thing in the morning, he does what God instructed him to do. He is diligent and faithful, to be and hearer and a doer when God speaks.
These are just some of the lessons we could learn from the life of Abraham as we walk in his footsteps.
“Abraham’s Journey from Ur to Canaan” by Jozsef Molnar (1821-1899) 
Here is my observation for this week. We will be tested in this life…When God calls us, our reply shouldn’t be “I showed up” or “I’m here.” Our response to the trials and calling of God should be “Hineni—Use me Lord, I’m ready and wanting to hear and do what you say.”
Sometimes we may be called to give up the most valuable or important thing in our life…Whatever it is, put it on the altar and offer it all up as an “olah—a rising, ascending” offering to God. As the Apostle Paul wrote, I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” (Romans 12)
Our calling is to be “daily, living sacrifices.” To say “Hineni—how can I be used of God today?” And as we walk in the footsteps of our forefather Abraham, may we see the Kingdom of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob established, on earth as it is in heaven!
Shabbat Shalom,