Thursday, March 23, 2017

Torah Parashah Vayakhel-Pekudei

Torah Parashah

Vayakhel-Pekudei (and he assembled-counting)  Exodus 35:1–40:38

Before starting - It interest me that in one book of the bible G-d explains the plans of the tabernacle (mishkan) twice, Exodus 25, 35 - the second time after Israel created another god to worship, Exodus 32.

I love how G-d desperately wants to commune with mankind!

"I think that the two descriptions speak of the two advents of the Mashiach Yeshua. In the first advent the Jews missed their opportunity for national atonement, but in the second advent they will be cleansed as a nation on the great Yom Kippur, when "all Israel shall be saved" by the One whom they rejected (as Joseph) but who is finally recognized as their true Deliverer."  - John J. Parsons

Perhaps it does!

Anyway, in this weeks Aliyah, the plans of the mishkan are given to Moses, who then gathers (Vayakhel) his people, shares the vision and commissions them. We then learn that the people brought offerings for the purpose of building the mishkan, as their hearts were willing.

Exodus 35:29 says; "The children of Israel brought a freewill offering to the LORD", also found in 35:21, 22, 26. Freewill offering is the Hebrew word, נְדָבָה nᵉdâbâh, and means readiness of mind or a spontaneous offering (BLB). Is this willing heart a result of the Spirit of G-d (Ruach Elohim) or was it simply the people deciding it was a good idea (what they should do) perhaps out of guilt or even spiritual conviction?, keeping in mind they were just worshiping a gold idol they made themselves.

I often wonder this about our Tithes and Offering in church these day - perhaps Elohim sees actions that will lead to conviction!

Elohim then not only chose two men, Bezalel (35:30) and Aholiab (35:34), to build and design according to Elohim's plan of the Tabernacle, but also gifted them with Ruach Elohim, as well as all wisdom, understanding and knowledge for the task at hand, (35:31).

I'm wondering - "What is so significant about these men that Elohim would call them by name for such a task," (35:30).

The name Bezalel (בצלאל) means "in the shadow (Protection) of G-d", and in Hebrew the bookends to this name are significant, starting with: 'ב' (be) which means; in, at, by, and finishes with: אל ('el) which is a common abbreviation of the word Elohim (a name for G-d).

The name Aholiab (אהליאב) means Father's Tent, and this Aholiab in the book of Exodus is the only Aholiab in the bible.

Together we get the amazing meaning of: "the Fathers Tent (mishkan) in the protection of G-d".

Exodus 38:22-23 suggest that Bezalel was in charge with Aholiab as his helper or assistant - So why Bezalel?

Midrash Tanhuma (Parashat Va-Yaqhel, par. 4) explains that the Lord wanted to reward his grandfather Hur who laid down his life to sanctify the name of the Lord rather than participate in the sin of the golden calf.   Such devotion was not unique to Hur and his descendants; Nashon son of Aminadab, who also showed devotion to the Lord in jumping first into the sea during the exodus from Egypt, came from the same tribe as Bezalel – the tribe of Judah (Sotah 37a) (John L. Rosove).

This reminds me of the story of King David and his sin with Bathsheba - Elohim spared Davids life however took the life of his first son to Bathsheba. In reverse, the works of Hur were rewarded two generations later to Bezalel. In a world where we most often think of ourselves, our reward and how quick can we get things, Elohim reminds us in such stories that our lives are extremely valuable for the generations to come, also that we are perhaps living in blessing or curse as a result of generations before us.

Thank You Elohim that through prayer in the Ruach, "all things work together for good to those who love Elohim, to those who are the called according to His purpose", Romans 8:28.

We know through today's torah parashah that Elohim wants to commune with us and He rewards a sacrificial heart and actions as seen in the examples of Bezalel grandfather Hur. Elohim tabernacle and worship requires the best, be skill and excellence in what we do and who we are, we should always give the best in every area of our lives in worship to Elohim.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Parashat Ki Tisa ("when you take") Exodus 30:11-34:35 Parah Aduman

Parashat Ki Tisa ("when you take")   Exodus 30:11-34:35
I want to focus on the fifth Aliyah - Exodus 34:1-9 because it contains the most sensational appearance of YHVH (in a way) which captures the imagination and has birthed many a congregational hymn.

But first a side note to get a few extra points from our beloved Rabbi Yaakov.

A fairly unknown man, (only mentioned 4 times in the Bible), Betzalel, has an extraordinary association with the coming Messiah.  Exodus 31:1-11.  Betzalel played an enormous role in the building of the Temple; he was filled with the Ruach HaKodesh, “with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills.” (31:3).  His name means "in the shadow of Elohim" and he was born from the tride of Judah.  Betzalel's chief assistant is Oholiab (aholi'Av), whose name means "the Father's tent" – Oholiab was born of the lowliest tribe, that of Dan, and some suggest that this was to show that before Elohim "the great and the lowly are equal".

Betzalel did everything he was commanded to do to build the sanctuary. Reminds us of a certain Yeshua HaMashiach ey.

But back to the Aliya.    It was only a few chapters ago that we read about the dreaded Golden Calf Sin.   A moment in time that is still mourned as a national tragedy.   And then Moses, in desperation, wonders when he is going to get some help, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me.” (33:12)

And then Moses makes a BIG CALL…  “Now show me your glory.”  (33:18)

What was he thinking?  The Creator of the universe, showing a mere mortal His glory?   
Sometimes when we reach boiling point or desperation, we cry out to our Maker and thankfully he doesn’t necessarily give in to our demands.   Just like a child throwing a tantrum in the shopping mall for a candy (we say lolly here in Aus), instead of reacting out of frustration, a good Father will understand and meet part of the need.

So to, when we are in the midst of confusion, He understands and meets our needs.   The Lord agrees to Moses’s request, for reassurance and only in a way that would be good, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” (33:20).

So finally we get to the fifth Aliyah.   These thirty-two words (Exod. 34:6-7) have become known in Jewish tradition as the Shelosh Esrei Middot HaRakhamim, (שָׁלוֹשׁ עֶשְׂרֵה מִידוֹת הרַחֲמִים)  the Thirteen Attributes of God's Mercy:
    "And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation." (KJV)

These attributes were not just for Moses.   Earlier in Chapter 33 we see that Moses made a clear request to know God,  “If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you” (v13).  How many times have we said that we want to “know God” and find His favour?  Maybe we should simply learn this Aliyah.   Any revelation of the characteristics of YHVH is for OUR benefit and for us to LIVE out.

Even more so, if these are the attributes of YHVH, and we are to be “perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” as per the words of Yeshua in Matthew 5:48, then we are also to be and show these attributes.

Are we merciful, gracious and longsuffering?  Do we do good and live/speak truth?  Do we forgive each other iniquities and late assignments?   ;)

According to various traditional interpretations, these thirteen attributes of God's Name may be understood as follows:
1.      Adonai (יהוה) - I, the LORD; I am the Compassionate Source of all of life.
2.      Adonai (יהוה) — compassion after a person has sinned;
3.      El (אֵל) - I, the LORD, am God the Almighty and Omnipotent and yet mighty in compassion to give all creatures according to their need.
4.      Rachum (רַחוּם) - I, the LORD, am merciful (rachamim (רַחֲמִים) means "mercy" and rechem (רֶחֶם) means "womb") and has compassion for those created in His image.
5.      Chanun (חַנּוּן) - I, the LORD, am gracious.
6.      Erekh Apayim (אֶרֶךְ אַפַּיִם) - I, the LORD, am slow to anger and patient
7.      Rav Chesed (רַב־חֶסֶד) - I, the LORD, am abundant in love – “chesed” (חֶסֶד) to both the righteous and the wicked.  Chesed is more than just “love”.  It is a deep kindness.
8.      Rav Emet (רַב־אֱמֶת) - I, the LORD, am truthful.
9.      Notzer Chesed La'alafim (נצֵר חֶסֶד לָאֲלָפִים) - I, the LORD, retain chesed (love/kindness) for thousands of generations.
10.  Nosei Avon (נשֵׂא עָוֹן) - I, the LORD, forgive iniquity.
11.  Nosei Pesha (נשֵׂא פֶשַׁע) - I, the LORD, forgive transgression.
12.  Nosei Chata'ah (נשֵׂא חַטָּאָה) - I, the LORD, forgive sin.
13.  Nakkeh (נַקֶּה) - I, the LORD, will not pardon sin for punishment, but I will clear the guilt for those who genuinely return to Me in teshuvah.
Moses finishes the Aliyah perfectly with “Although this (we) is a stiff-necked people, forgive our wickedness and our sin, and take us as your inheritance.”   Amen Amen Amen.

Parah Adumah:  red heifer ashes.
“The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean.  How much more, then, will the blood of the Messiah, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!”  (Hebrews 9:13–14)
I’m a bit of a fan of Rashi – so I will indulge in this conversation that occurred circa 19th century: 
Rashi (Bamidbar 20:1), quoting Rabbi Ami (Moed Katan 28a), asks why the death of Miriam is juxtaposed to the laws of the Parah Adumah –the Red Heifer –in the Torah, and answers: “Just as sacrifices atone, so do the deaths of tzadikim.” 

Rav Itzeleh then asks: “Why does the Torah choose this sacrifice to teach this lesson? There are many other sacrifices that atone. Furthermore, the Red Heifer is somewhat of a non-standard sacrifice – it is offered outside the Beit Hamikdash, and is used to purify one who has come in contact with the dead, not to atone his sin.”

Rashi answers that there is a parallel between the ashes of the Parah Adumah and the legacy of great tzadikim (a great righteous person).

Other atonement sacrifices must be brought by the Israelite, but the rest of the work is done by the Kohanim. It is the Kohanim who sprinkle the blood on the altar and eat the sacrificial meat: “The Kohanim eat and the owner gets atonement” (Yoma 68b). But in order for the Parah Adumah to be effective, there is still work to be done by the Israelite. He must get sprinkled by the Parah Adumah ashes mixed with water.  The atonement brought about by the tzadik’s (red heifer/righteous person) passing, says Rav Itzeleh, requires work by the rest of the Jewish people. All must now take from his character traits and learn from his actions – and, if possible, learn from the Torah left over in this world.

Iyov (14:4): “Mi yitein tahor mitamei … ?” = “Who can transform something tamei (ritually impure) into something tahor (ritually pure) ?” Such a transformation is truly “supernatural” — i.e., above the laws of nature. For nature (and common sense) would dictate that something that is tamei would stay tamei – dead stays dead. Thus, this Midrash Rabbah of Parshah Chukat is expressing amazement at the whole phenomenon of transforming tum’ah (tum’ah) into tahara (ritual purity)   .  The example cited is the case of Abraham. For, reflect on it. Is it not amazing that an Avraham could emerge from a father like Terach? The Midrash responds to its question (“Who … ?”): Only HaShem, Yechido Shel Olam (“The Singular One in the Entire World”), could create a world in which such a transformation is possible. The message is clear. We should regard the whole phenomenon of spiritual and ritual purification with awe and with gratitude.

It is true.  Only HaShem has the power to truly change our lives.


Thursday, December 15, 2016

Parashah Vayishlach ("and he sent"); Genesis 32:3-36:43 by Jon Eaton

Parashah Vayishlach ("and he sent");  Genesis 32:3-36:43    by Jon Eaton
This week's parashah begins with Jacob sending messengers to his brother Esau in the land of Edom in hope of reconciliation (and not being killed):
“And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother unto the land of Seir, the country of Edom.” Genesis 32:3

Rashi claimed that the "messengers" that Jacob sent to Esau were literally angels (מַלְאָכִים malachim).  In verse 1 Jacob was met by angels and one verse later the “malachim” were sent to Esau.  Was Jacob able to command angels?  Just thinking out loud…

Jacob was severely stressed and arose in the middle of the night to send his wives and children away to a safer place over the river Jabbock.   Remembering still that Rachel and her children were placed in the safest position with poor ol handmaids preparing to be slaughtered first and then Leah:
And he put the handmaids and their children foremost, and Leah and her children after, and Rachel and Joseph hindermost”.  He really did not like Leah…..

The Hebrew word Yabok יַבֹּק means “emptying”.  Jacob had finally emptied himself of his selfishness and personal pursuit of his destiny and was now left alone to struggle with the ‘man’ (וַיֵּאָבֵק אִישׁ עִמּוֹ).  It is later in verse 29 and 30 that this ‘man’ is revealed to be Elohim (

The battle ensued all night and finally the man displaced Jacob’s hip in an effort to end the fight.  Jacob refused to let go until the man blessed him. The nameless man complied with, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob ("heel holder" of Esau) but Yisrael ("contender with God"), for as a prince (sar: שַׂר) you have contended (sarita: שָׂרִיתָ) /have power (from the root sarah: שָׂרָה) with God and with men and have prevailed" Genesis 32:28. 

I find it interesting to note that my Jewish debaters have always quoted Numbers 23:19, “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent” as proof that Elohim would never be incarnate.  But Jacob was not the only patriarch to see this mysterious “man” who is called Elohim.   While YHVH cannot be seen by man (Yeshua stated that no-one has seen the Father except the Son), Elohim or “The Angel of the Lord” visits several times to encourage, test and direct mankind.  Some would strongly suggest that this Elohim/Angel of the Lord is indeed Yeshua.

But back to Jacob who had reached a place in his heart and character of humility.  How often have we struggled with our own inadequacies but have unknowingly been struggling with HaShem and His purpose.   As believers, we still struggle in our understanding of who HaShem is and how His ways can be challenging, very challenging.  So we struggle with HaShem and we struggle with man through our lifetime.  This can make us bitter or better.  It can shape and strengthen us or we can allow our hearts to harden and it will destroy us.

We really don’t like to accept hardships as part of His plan.  But even Yeshua was moulded by difficulties:
Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered”  Hebrews 5:8.

Rav Shaul encountered the same lesson.  Shaul asked HaShem three times to remove the thorn in his side in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, “Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.”  Shaul’s struggle was part of HaShem’s purpose.

Of course, His answer was ““My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Vs12

Anyway, after the blessing, Jacob finally confronted his brother Esau.  Jacob did not attempt to trick his brother Esau this time, but rather chose to face and engage him by sending a succession of servants bearing gifts to Esau in a vain attempt to "appease" him.  

In Genesis 32:21, the Hebrew word translated "appease" (אֲכַפְּרָה akhaprah) comes from the verb khafar (כָפַר), from which the word "atonement" is derived (kippur: כִּפֻּר). Then Jacob went ahead of the entire family and bowed down seven times as he approached his twin brother. Wonderfully, Esau ran to Jacob, embraced him, and they wept together.  Some study into traditional customs reveal that the ruler of a house in the ancient middle-east (and also in some areas today) was never to be seen running, and required only the lowest servant to “run”. 

This also parallels the story of the prodigal son where the awaiting Father “ran” to meet his lost son, who was covered in pig filth and uncleanliness; yet instead of waiting for a lowly servant to run to the son or wait for an apology or even wait for the son to be clean from defilement and by default then being defiled Himself by touch, humbled himself and “ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him” Luke 15:20.

Jacob then introduced his wives and children.
This was an answer to Jacob’s prayer in Genesis 32:11-12, “Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, lest he come and attack me and the mother with the children. For You said, ‘I will surely treat you well, and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.’” 

I’ll finish with this, when times are challenging it’s handy to remind ourselves that He is Good and that His “Word” does not return void. Isaiah 55:11.

Jon Eaton