Tag Archives: Abraham’s seed

Brood of Vipers?

TWO SCHOOLS OF PREVAILING THOUGHT AMONG JEWS OF THE FIRST CENTURY

To the ears of most modern followers of Jesus, the mere mention of the term Pharisee invokes echoes of John the Baptizer and Jesus of Nazareth shouting caustically, “You brood of vipers!”  One could surmise the cousins painted all Pharisees and scribes with a broad brush; but in actuality, they castigated a small group of the religious elite of their day, whose practice was in opposition to Moses and the prophets. The importance of this cannot be overstated, for without it, we completely misunderstand Jesus’ controversy with them.

First century rabbis were essentially divided between two camps: the House of Shammai and the House of Hillel.[1] American Christians might perhaps best relate this difference to two viewpoints of the Christian faith, let’s say Protestant and Catholic. Just as Protestants and Catholics have the same foundational beliefs, but vastly different practices of walking it out, so it was with the House of Shammai and the House of Hillel.

Followers of Shammai, generally, were known for legalistic viewpoints. In other words, they adhered mostly to the letter of the law and/or the rulings of the rabbis. More about that as we go.  In contrast, followers of Hillel were more lenient, seeking to express the spirit of the law.

Hillel’s position was far more merciful. A story is told in rabbinical literature[2] that a non-Jewish man approached Rabbi Shammai and asked him to teach him the five books of Moses, Genesis-Exodus-Leviticus-Numbers-Deuteronomy, while standing on one foot. After being dismissed by Rabbi Shammai with disgust, he appealed to Rabbi Hillel, who, by the way, refused the title “rabbi.”[3] The kind teacher stood on one foot and said gently to the non-Jew, “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. This is the whole Torah; all the rest is commentary. Go and learn it.”  Yeshua put it in a similar fashion: “Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Mat. 7:12)

The legalistic House of Shammai may well be the “synagogue of Satan” (Rev. 2:9, 3:9) to which John the Revelator refers. The House of Shammai is most certainly the primary object of Yeshua’s stern warnings found in the 23rd chapter of Matthew. Please click to read Yeshua’s charges. Note, in particular, his accusation, “you shut up the kingdom of Heaven” (vs. 13). Count the number of times Yeshua says, “woe to you”! He did not hesitate to blast rulings and traditions that contradicted Moses and/or piled unnecessary burdens on the people.

At first glance, the chapter seems to open with Yeshua contradicting himself:

“The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice.” (Mat 23:2-3) 

Yeshua instructs His audience to “do and observe” what the scribes and Pharisees say, then rails at the religious leaders for their ludicrous and heinous rulings! This could confuse a 21st century reader who doesn’t understand the purpose of Moses’ “seat.”

The synagogues featured a raised platform, an indication of authority, not unlike pulpits today, where the books of Moses were to be read every Sabbath. Although many modern churches have abandoned the books of Moses, this practice can clearly be seen in the New Testament.

Acts 15:21  For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.”

Acts13:27  For those who live in Jerusalem and their rulers, because they did not recognize him nor understand the utterances of the prophets, which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled them by condemning him.[note: Moses was a prophet]

Luke 4:16  And [Jesus] came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read.

Yeshua did not contradict Himself when He instructed the people to “do and observe” what the scribes and Pharisees said—what they SAID is what they READ to the people, the words of Moses!  God’s instruction through Moses was to be read every Sabbath to the people.

What is really interesting is that the exact portion of scripture was read each Sabbath in every synagogue in the First Century. This valuable tradition of being on the same page remains in place today in the majority of Jewish, Messianic, and Hebrew Roots congregations worldwide. Ezra and the men of the Great Assembly who returned to Jerusalem from 70 years of Babylonian captivity, divided the books of Moses into 54 segments and assigned them positions in a yearly cycle that commences each year on the Sabbath following the close of Sukkot [Feast of Tabernacles]. On October 22, 2022, the torah portion B’Resheet[4] [In the Beginning] will be proclaimed in assemblies around the world. [If you would like to follow me,[5] we will not only progress through the annual torah portion cycle, we will also read through the entire bible in a year, starting with Genesis 1:1 on October 19. I think you are going to be amazed what will be revealed as we traverse the bible together in this year of Jubilee.

The men of the Great Assembly devised the annual reading cycle to prevent the remnant that had returned from the Babylonian exile, and their offspring, from ever being exiled again. Judah didn’t learned from their brothers, the northern kingdom, the so-called House of Israel, who was first to go into exile around 722BCE due to gross idolatry, including child sacrifice. The northern kingdom has not to this day returned from exile. The king of Assyria scattered them throughout the whole earth, where they remain today, assimilated among the nations. Judah, on the other hand, who had taken up the ways of the northern kingdom, returned after 70 years in Babylon by the hand of a merciful God.

For the reading cycle to remain in place all these years, it must have been God-breathed. Not all tradition needs to be thrown out.  Some of God’s instructions for the Feast Days are so sparce they beg to be fleshed out with liturgy, food, décor, song, and dance. Thus, rich and meaningful customs have grown up in Jewish communities throughout history and the world that enhances the beauty of God’s appointed times, solidifies communities, and acts a teaching aids that can be particularly effective to ground children and youths in God’s cycles of righteousness.

An excellent example is Jewish tradition for the Passover seder [order of service]. We will highlight one, the afikomen.  During the service, three pieces of matzah (unleavened bread) are placed inside a bag with three compartments [which can be seen as a allusion to Christians of Father, Son, and Holy Spirt]. Early in the Seder, the middle piece of matzah is removed, broken in half, and one half is hidden. This hidden matzah is called the afikomen. At the end of the meal, the children are sent out, with the promise of reward, to locate the hidden afikomen, which is then broken into small pieces for everyone to eat as the dessert part of the meal. Christians can readily see, although most Jews are still blind, that the afikomen pictures Yeshua’s broken body going into the grave and then being resurrected, and his body, the “bread of life,” being taught to the nations. There are many other such pictures of Yeshua in a traditional Passover event; but that is a story for another day.

Yeshua’s use of symbolism spawned church tradition. At the last meal, the Passover, with his disciples, he broke the bread and declared it, “my body.” He took up the cup and declared it “the blood of the covenant, poured out for many.” (Mark 14:22,24).  Thus, eating the Passover meal has been reenacted in the form of communion services in congregations throughout the earth. The liberty afforded believers includes the freedom to develop traditions, so long as they are neither burdensome nor legislated, or, most important of all, do not violate the word of God–which was Yeshua’s chief controversy with the religious elite.

Yeshua declared, “…for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God.”  (Mat. 15:6) This is at the core of every “woe to you!” in Matthew chapter 23. According to Yeshua, the elite who added to or took away from God’s word are in grave peril. Instead of welcoming converts, the very purpose of God’s family, the proud wanted to exclude them. And when they made a convert, they required him to obey regulations that God never imposed, rules that were cumbersome to their own people as well. Peter said, “Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?” (Acts 15:10)

It wasn’t God’s law Peter was talking about, it was man-rules and regulations. God’s instructions were never intended to be a burden. Before his death Moses reminded the children of Israel that God’s law “is not too hard for you.” Yeshua echoed by stating, “My yoke is easy; my burden is light.”

Deut. 30:9-14 The LORD your God will make you abundantly prosperous in all the work of your hand, in the fruit of your womb and in the fruit of your cattle and in the fruit of your ground. For the LORD will again take delight in prospering you, as he took delight in your fathers, 10) when you obey the voice of the LORD your God, to keep his commandments and his statutes that are written in this Book of the Law, when you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.  11) “For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. 12) It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’  13)  Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 14) But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it. 

How is it “in your mouth” and “in your heart”?  It is to be in the mouths of the leaders of every assembly on Shabbat. The leaders of God’s people should be those on whose hearts are written His law. As they walk it out, they become examples of holiness, a light in a dark world, imitated by their children and congregations.

While rabbinical rules surely began as helpful instructions, ultimately they became cumbersome. The Mishnah, a collection of Jewish traditions, known also as the Oral Torah, contains thousands of additions to God’s instructions. What is important is that in the New Testament, both are called “law.” To understand the controversies between Yeshua and his followers and the religious elite, one must be able to distinguish between God’s law given to Moses and the laws instituted by the rabbis. That is not easy for the uninitiated.

To give a few examples, when Yeshua’s disciples were charged with breaking the Sabbath by walking through a field of grain and eating the kernels, it was a rabbinical rule they were accused of breaking, just as it was when the man whom Yeshua instructed to pick up his mat and get up and walk was rebuked by the Pharisees. There are no rules in the books of Moses forbidding harvesting grain to eat as a snack or for lunch or picking up a mat on the Sabbath.

Another very important example is the law Peter mentions when defending his trip to the house of Cornelius. “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean. (Acts 10:28)

It was a man-made prohibition that forbid a Jew to visit the house of a foreigner. Further, it was the polar opposite of God’s intent to bring the nations of the earth into relationship with Him, teach them His principles that they might enjoy the blessings of peace, safety, health, financial well-being, and sound relationships and to teach these things to their children.

It’s easy to see that one of the chief reasons Yeshua had to come to earth as a man was to blast open the doors that had been cemented by well meaning, but mistaken and overly zealous rabbis.

Shalom!


[1] https://israelmyglory.org/article/hillel-the-kind-pharisee/ accessed 10/10/2022

[2] Telushkin, “Hillel, If Not Now, When?,”  Schocken Books of Random House, New York, 2010 p. 19, Shabbat 31a.

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hillel_the_Elder#cite_note-32 accessed 10/13/2022

[4] The student will likely encounter numerous and varied spellings of the first torah portion, including B’resheet, B’raishiyt, Bereshit, etc.  Transliteration is the process of forming words by sounding out the original, which can be accomplished with varying combination of English letters.

[5] https://bneyyosefna.com/byna-bible-reading-plan-for-5783-2022-2023/

Examining Replacement Theology

Replacement theology
image courtesy of hebrew4christians.com

Replacement Theology  comes in two primary forms, supersessionism  and dispensationalism . Both assume that the church is God’s sole agent in the earth due to the Jews having missed their Messiah. Both further assume that for Jews to be saved they must leave their Jewish practices and convert to Christianity. Unfortunately, these  assumptions are a major reason why Christians are turning against Israel today. (please click to read)

Held up to Scripture, neither brand of Replacement Theology fits the patterns and promises that God has given us in His Word. For example, the Scripture says, “For the Lord GOD does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7). Where do the prophets foretell that God will forsake or replace His chosen people? Where can we find a covenant with the gentiles?

Exodus imagesThree times Scripture declares that God’s covenant with Israel is for “a thousand generations.” This is crucial because Jesus, Moses, Paul, and the author of the Book of Hebrews all endorse the principle that a matter is established by “the mouth of two or three witnesses.” (see Deut. 17:6, 19:15, Mat. 18:16, 2 Cor. 13:1, 1 Tim. 5:19, Heb. 10:28).

Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations. (Deut. 7:9)

Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered, O offspring of Abraham, his servant, children of Jacob, his chosen ones! He is the LORD our God; his judgments are in all the earth. He remembers his covenant forever, the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations, the covenant that he made with Abraham, his sworn promise to Isaac, which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant, saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan as your portion for an inheritance.” (Psalm 105:5-11)

O offspring of Israel his servant, children of Jacob, his chosen ones! He is the LORD our God; his judgments are in all the earth. Remember his covenant forever, the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations, the covenant that he made with Abraham, his sworn promise to Isaac, which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant, saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan, as your portion for an inheritance.” (1 Chron. 16:13-18)

The books of the prophets are filled with references that at the end of days God will gather His people from the ends of the earth and return them to the Promised Land. This regathering will be from all twelve tribes, not just the Jewish people, one tribe. Replacement theology entered into Christian jew studying torahdoctrine because, for most of history, “Israel” was understood to be the equivalent of “the Jews.”

But, ever since the Jews began their return to the homeland, God has been awakening people all over the earth to the fact that anyone who is in covenant with Him has been grafted in to redeemed Israel. This is exactly what Paul teaches in the book of Ephesians when he declares that though the “uncircumcised,” who are “saved by grace through faith,” were once “separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise,” they are now “fellow saints and members of the household of God built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone.”

What many have missed until now is that the name of the household of God is Israel. God calls Himself “the God of Israel”over 200 times. The redeemed remnant of Israel is the Body of Jesus/Yeshua, not to be confused with the modern state of Israel, although many there are certainly a part of redeemed Israel. Redeemed Israel includes all of the saints from Genesis to Revelation.

If God is our Father, and, if He is the Father of the Jews, then we are family, even if we don’t see eye to eye. Many Jews believe in Messiah and are panting for His appearance. The reason they don’t recognize our Jesus is mostly our fault, as we discussed in Torah portion Miketz 2015. Have they made mistakes, too? Yes! We have to stop pointing fingers. We have to repent, forgive, and reconcile. We have to forgive like Joseph did. We have to start acting like family as this world grows darker. We need each other! When Messiah comes, He will straighten out the errant thinking on both sides of the “narrow way.”

Note that Paul asserts that the “household of God” is built on the prophets, on Jesus, and on the apostles. With this statement, Paul  presents three witnesses. Therefore, any interpretation of Paul’s writings that does not align with Jesus and the prophets needs to be reevaluated.

Starting with Moses, the prophets foretell that in the end of days God will give Israel a heart to obey Him.

“And when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the LORD your God has driven you, and return to the LORD your God, you and your children, and obey his voice in all that I command you today, with all your heart and with all your soul, then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have mercy on you, and he will gather you again from all the peoples where the 10commandments on stoneLORD your God has scattered you. If your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there the LORD your God will gather you, and from there he will take you. And the LORD your God will bring you into the land that your fathers possessed, that you may possess it. And he will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers. And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. And the LORD your God will put all these curses on your foes and enemies who persecuted you. And you shall again obey the voice of the LORD and keep all his commandments that I command you today. (Deut. 30:1-8)

A new heart for God’s people is what the New Covenant is all about, according to both Jeremiah and the writer of the Book of Hebrews.

“… I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.  Again I will build you, and you shall be built, O virgin Israel! Behold, I will bring them from the north country and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, the pregnant woman and she who is in labor, together; a great company, they shall return here. With weeping they shall come, and with pleas for mercy I will lead them back, I will make them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble, for I am a father to Israel… “Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, and declare it in the coastlands far away; say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him, and will keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock.’ For the LORD has ransomed Jacob and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him…(see my law in their heartsJer. 31:1-10)

 

‘Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people’ (Jer. 31:31-33).

The writer of Hebrews quotes Jer. 31:31-33 almost verbatim: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Heb. 8:8-10).

The writer of Hebrews declares that the problem was with God’s people, not with His covenant. Quoting Jeremiah, he explains that God will correct the problem by giving His people new hearts. We know this part of the New Covenant is still yet to be fulfilled because both writers declare that when it happens we will have no need to teach our families and our brothers, for everyone will know Him. “And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” ( Jer. 31:34, Heb. 8:11-12)

stars and sandWhat a glorious day that will be! We also know that this is a future fulfillment because God promised Abraham that his descendants would be as the stars of the sky and the sand of the sea. The Jewish people claim to be roughly 14 million in number today, approximately .2 percent of the world’s population. Does that sound like the sand of the sea? Where are the rest of Abraham’s seed? Please consider watching “The Lost Sheep” by 119 Ministries.

The prophet Ezekiel also bears witness that God will give His people a new heart. “But I had concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations to which they came. Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Lord GOD, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. I will entering God's promised landtake you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. And I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses. And I will summon the grain and make it abundant and lay no famine upon you. I will make the fruit of the tree and the increase of the field abundant, that you may never again suffer the disgrace of famine among the nations. Then you will remember your evil ways, and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominations” (Ezekiel 36:21-28).

Actually, Ezekiel alone gives us three promises of a new spirit and a new heart. (11:19, 18:31, 36:26)

Jeremiah promises that when Israel receives her new heart, she will return to God with her whole heart.“I will set my eyes on them for good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up, and not tear them down; I will plant them, and not pluck them up. I will give them a heart to know that I am the LORD, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart (Jer. 24:6-7).

Even more exciting, when this happens, God promises to do something with His whole heart! “I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul. (Jer. 32:41)

bride of Lord of HostsIsaiah paints Israel as barren widow, “briefly forsaken,” who will bear much fruit from the “Lord of Hosts,” her “husband” and “maker.” (read chapter 54). Hosea tells us that Israel will be betrothed to Him “forever” in “righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy.”  (see Hosea 2:19-20).

So, as you see, we find many witnesses in the prophets that God has not abandoned Israel or “chosen” someone else. Does Jesus Himself give any indication that God’s plan for Israel would cease or be replaced? To the contrary, He demonstrates that the Old Testament is His source of doctrinal authority when He says, “The Scripture cannot be broken,” (see John 10:35).

Further, He declared emphatically that He did not come to abolish God’s law. As far as Jesus is concerned, God’s law will exist so long as Heaven and Earth remain. “”Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Mat. 5:17-19).

In His oft quoted pleading with His Father prayer that His followers would be one as He and the Father are one, Jesus also prayed, “I have given them your word…sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth…for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth (see John 17:14-19). Here Jesus quotes Psalm 119:160 “The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever. Jesus viewed the Old Testament as true and eternal.

road to emmausIt was the Old Testament that Jesus used to reveal Himself to His disciples on the road to Emmaeus after His resurrection. “Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures,” (Luke 24:27). The church has largely failed to convince the Jews that Jesus is their Messiah because the church does not present the Messiah that the Jewish Scripture portrays. For more about this, please see the Torah portion Miketz 2015 for  shadows of the Messiah in the Joseph narrative.

Jesus rebuked the priestly aristocrats, the Sadducees, saying “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God,” (see Mat. 22:29). What about us? Do we understand the Scriptures? Do we even understand what the Bible identifies as “Scripture”?

Biblical scholars agree that Paul’s letters could not have been written until at least forty years after Jesus’ ascension and the gospels were not written until at least 70 C.E. The point is that at least one-torah scrollquarter of the New Testament is direct quotations or references to the Old Testament. Thus, we have to understand that the purpose of the writers is to expound and explain what the writers longed to see, like, for instance, the mystery of the gentiles being grafted into the faith.

Whenever the New Testament uses the term “Scripture” and “Scriptures,” with the exception of one verse, it always references the Old Testament. Oddly enough, that single usage involves a warning from the Apostle Peter in regard to Paul’s letters. You can view that along with the entire list of other usages of “Scripture” and “Scriptures” here.

In conclusion, Replacement Theology stems from a lack of understanding that the covenants and promises given to Abraham, whose seed we are (Gal. 3:29), are eternal. Redeemed Israel is the “one new man” (Eph. 2:15), including both Jew and Gentile who enter into covenant with the God of Israel by repenting of their sins, forsaking the traditions of men that make the word of God of no effect, and walking in His ways.

I know what you are thinking. “But, what about Paul?” That subject is a bit too complex to include here; but, please consider an excellent video by 119 Ministries entitled “The Pauline Paradox Series-Part One”

Please also consider: “Sunburned” part 1  and part 2

Thank you for stopping by!  Shalom!

Vayigash 2015 (he came near)

Torah Portion: Genesis 44:18-47:27

Haftarah: Ezekiel 37:15-28

New Testament: Luke 15:11-32, John 20:14,25-28, Romans 11, Rev. 12:1-6

vayisgashWe are poised for a dramatic climax this week as Joseph’s identity is unmasked. In last week’s cliffhanger, the brothers went to Egypt to buy grain from the brother they had sold, though his Egyptian appearance rendered him completely unrecognizable. Thus, we saw a type and shadow of Messiah stripped of His Hebrew identity. Continue reading Vayigash 2015 (he came near)

Toldot 2015 [Family History]

Torah: Genesis 25:19-28:9

Haftarah: Malachi 1:1-2:7

New Testament: Romans 9:6-16, Hebrews 11:20, 12:14-17

This week, in between the stories of Esau selling his birthright and Rebekah convincing Jacob to deceive Isaac into believing he is the elder son, we find a sidebar that seems strangely out of place.

Now there was a famine in the land, besides the former famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went to Gerar to Abimelech king of the Philistines. And the LORD appeared to him and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; dwell in the land of which I shall tell you. do NOT go down to egypt

Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father. I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands.

And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.” (Gen. 26:1-5)

Continue reading Toldot 2015 [Family History]

Chai Sarah [Life of Sarah] 2015

Torah Portion: Genesis 23:1 through Gen 25:18
Haftarah: 1Kings 1:1-31, 46
New Testament: Mat. 13: 24-50, John 4:35, Heb 11:6-19, Heb 13:6

Abraham SarahThough our portion this week is entitled “Life of Sarah,” it curiously records both her’s and Abraham’s death, though, in actuality, he lives another 38 years. Scripture inserts the death of the saints in the narrative when their mission is complete. Like Noah and Shem before him, Abraham remains alive in the background to influence and intercede for his descendants. Continue reading Chai Sarah [Life of Sarah] 2015

Vayera [ and He Appeared] 2015

Torah Portion: Genesis 18:1 through Gen 22:24
Haftarah: 2 Kings 4:1-37
New Testament: Acts 7:2-3, John 8:28-59, Jude 1:1-8, James 1:2-6

vayeraReturning to our quest to understand what caused God to passionately pursue Abraham. Thus far, we note the following: Continue reading Vayera [ and He Appeared] 2015

Yitro – Jethro

Torah Portion:  Exodus 18:1 through Exodus 20:23
Haftarah Portion:  Isaiah 6:1-7:6 and Isaiah 9:5-6
New Testament Portion:  1 John 1:1-6, 1John 2:2-11, 1John 2:24-26

Due to the earth-shaking (pun intended) ramifications of the events, it would seem logical that the name of this portion of Torah should be “commandments,” “Mount Sinai”, “betrothal” or “ketubah.” That it is named for Moses’ father-in-law, the “priest of Median” to whom we were introduced in Shemot a few weeks ago,  leaves us scratching our heads. Continue reading Yitro – Jethro

Vayigash – he came near

Torah Portion: Genesis 44:18-47:27

Haftarah: Ezekiel 37:15-28

New Testament: Luke 15:11-32, John 20:14,25-28, Romans 11, Rev. 12:1-6

The story of Joseph and his brothers will come to a dramatic climax this week as Joseph, at last, reveals his identity.   Last week, the brothers went to Egypt to buy grain and there encountered the brother they had sold and thrown into a pit, though his Hebrew character was concealed by his highly Egyptian appearance. Continue reading Vayigash – he came near

VAYISHLACH – AND HE SENT

Torah Portion: Genesis 32:4 through Genesis 36:43
Haftarah: Hosea 11:7 through Hosea 12:12 or Obadiah 1:1-21
New Testament: 1 Corinthians 5:1-13, Rev 7:1-7

Jacob flees from Haran
Jacob and his family return to his father’s house.

This week we will see Jacob return to the land of Israel after an absence of 34 years.  Fourteen of these years are unaccounted for in Scripture and the sages of Israel surmise they were wisely spent in Eber’s house of study.  The remaining 20 years were spent in toil in Laban’s house, where Jacob’s children were born in the midst of fierce competition between his wives.  Sage Iben Ezra estimates Reuben to be 12 years of age at the time of Jacob’s departure for Israel.  Jacob’s return to the land portends much for the return of his children at the end of days. Continue reading VAYISHLACH – AND HE SENT