Vayechi / And He  Genesis 47:28 - 50:26

   In Genesis 48:16 it states: "May the angel who redeems me from all evil bless the lads, and my name be declared upon them, and the names of my forefathers Abraham and Isaac, and may they proliferate abundantly like fish within the land." (Chumash).  "The angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads that my name be upon them and in the name of my fathers, Abraham and Isaac, and let them grow into a multitude of fish in the midst of the earth". (NKJ).  Vaydgoo la rove b'kerev ha'aretz. (Hebrew). 
    Jacob declared these words onto Ephraim right after he switched his hands, blessing Ephraim with his right hand and Manasseh with his left hand. When Joseph saw this, he tried to stop his father, where Jacob answered: "...yet his younger brother shall become greater than he and his offspring will fill the nations." V. 48:19.
     In Matthew 4:18-20 Yeshua refers to this. 'And Yeshua, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then He said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." They immediately left their nets and followed Him.'
      Yeshua was referring to those that the blessing was recited upon, and His disciples knew this.  And again, He showed them in John 21:1-6   'After these things Yeshua showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and in this way He showed Himself: Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing."  They said to him, "We are going with you also." They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing. But when the morning had now come, Yeshua stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Him. Then Yeshua said to them, "Children, have you any food?" They answered Him, "No." And He said to them, "Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some." So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish.'
     Luke 5:4-6, 10 -'When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, "Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.  When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break...and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Yeshua said to Simon, "Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men.'
     Matthew 13:47 - 'Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea, and gathering fish of every kind...'
     Mark 6:41 Yeshua uses fish to feed the people, 'Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all.'
     Jeremiah 16:16 - 'But now I will send for many fishermen," declares the LORD, "and they will catch them.'
     Ezekiel 47:9 - 'Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish, because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows everything will live.'
     Fish in the sea, fish in the midst of the earth. God's people to hear His Word, to live His way, to be a holy nation unto Him.  The words that are used are cast and catch. Not hook, which might be a metaphor to 'hook' someone. But cast the nets and catch render us to look at large multitudes. Following the truth, the very essence of God. To be fishers of men, we must be clear of what the Word says, and we must walk in that truth. To work our nets successfully, we must grow in the understanding of who God is and what we then represent.      
                     Shabbat Shalom ~ Rabbi Jay  

Vayigash / And He Appeared      Genesis 44:18-47:27
Ezekiel 37:15-28          Ephesians 2:1-10

  "Does my father still live?"' That was the question that Joseph asked his brothers after he revealed who he was in Genesis 45:3. "I am Joseph, does my father live?"
     Here they were, face to face, paneh  paneh 
פנים אל פנים, the brothers and Joseph. There is no hiding the facts, no turning back, everyone knows the story now. After Joseph announces who he was, the Scriptures state that the brothers could not answer for they were dismayed. Can you imagine the dynamics that exact moment?  And yet he asks, does my father live? 
     That puts the entire episode into play. If Jacob was deceased, the reactions of the brothers probably would have been totally different. They would have been afraid of the consequences, no doubt, but the reverence for their father wouldn't have been a key factor.  And yet, Joseph brings this reality to the front: Does our/my father live? Yes, Jacob was very much alive, which gave the brothers a different outlook on the entire episode that was unfolding before them. Consequences would go beyond mere fright from what they probably assumed Joseph a.k.a the Egyptian, would do. The father was forefront.
     Does my father live? Do you have The Fathers Ways in your lives? Is He alive in your life? 
     Isaiah 2:3 'And many peoples will come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that He may teach us concerning His ways and that we may walk in His paths." For the law will go forth from Zion and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.'
     Micah 4:2 'Many nations will come and say, "Come and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD and to the house of the God of Jacob, that He may teach us about His ways and that we may walk in His paths " For from Zion will go forth the law, Even the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.'
     Interesting how similar these two verses are, written by two different prophets at two different times. The first verse, references Jacob, the house of the God of Jacob. The second verse references that from Zion will go forth the Torah. 
     Psalm 135:10 'Blessed be the LORD from Zion, who dwells in Jerusalem. Praise the LORD!'   
     Psalms 132:13 'For the LORD has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His habitation. "This is My resting place forever; here I will dwell, for I have desired it. "I will abundantly bless her provision; I will satisfy her needy with bread.'
     Revelation 14:1 'Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads.'
     God and His ways absolutely must reside in our lives, or He is not present. Any kind of misconception, synchronizing, compromising and justification of our own ways negates the spirit of the Living God and His Way, which includes the Torah. How can one say that The Father lives in them if they are lying, stealing, observing pagan ways, denying the deity of the Messiah and the deity of the Torah? It would be impossible to represent the true Father if one is not observing His Ways, therefore He would not live in their life. 
     God reveals Himself to Jacob, once again when He says to him in Genesis 46:3 -'And He said, "I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid of going down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation.  I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up, and Joseph will place his hand on your eyes.'
     Two important points that God makes in this declaration, fear not, and that Joseph will place his hands on Jacobs eyes.  Could this be a metaphor that Joseph (the house of Ephraim) will help Jacob (father of a great nation, father of Judah) the house of Judah, open their eyes? As I taught last Sabbath on the similarities of Jacob, Joseph and Yeshua, here we have it again. Yeshua opened the eyes of the blind.
John 9:1-12
Mark 22:25
Isaiah 35:5
Matthew 11:5
Psalm 119:18
2 Kings 6:17
Psalms 146:8
Revelation 3:18
   God opens the eyes of the blind, so that they may see Him and His anointed Ways. We are cisterns without water if we do not walk in the counsel of Elohim. We are the ones that are '... darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.'  If we negate God and His ways. Ephesians 4:18.  And unless we are born again of the Spirit and the Torah: 'Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.' John 3:3.
     So, let us not fear, let us open our eyes, and let us have the Father live in our lives.
                     Shabbat Shalom ~ Rabbi Jay  

VaYeshev / And He Settled    Genesis 37:1-40:23

Truth and Deception...

    Chapter 37 sets the tone for the deep hatred that the brothers felt for Jacob.  Genesis 37:3 states that Jacob loved Joseph more than all his sons, giving him the infamous coat of many colors, sparking the fire.
     We now realize that the coat of colors (Genesis 37:3) is a metaphor for the nations, the House of Ephraim to come into the fold of the Torah and join their brother, the House of Judah as one. (Ezekiel 37:15-17).
     This parsha reveals the layers of deception that can birth out of jealousy, as in the case of the brothers against Joseph, the deception due to a loss such as Tamar against Judah, and the deception due to rejection as in the case of Potiphar's wife against Joseph. 
     We can become the influence and therefore we operate under that influence, as in the case of the the wives of Jacob, and then the sons of Jacob.
     In Genesis 37:31-32 we read that the brothers sold Joseph to Midianites, dipped the coat in blood, lied to by telling their father that they had merely discovered the bloody coat. 
     In Genesis 38 Judah takes a wife and has three sons, two of which are evil in the sight of God and therefore they perish. Judah is hesitant to give Tamar to his third son, lest he lose that son also, and in doing so negates the instructions of the Torah. However, Tamar deceives Judah, which the end result is twins; Zerah and Perez - who was the ancestor of David and the Messiah. 
     In Genesis 39:1-19 Potiphar's wife slanders Joseph because he rejected her, which resulted in him being thrown into prison.
     What is truth and what are lies? Does deception justify truth? Do the means justify the end? Deception is always wrong in the sight of God. But He knows, as I taught last week, that people battle flesh and spirit. The key to a peaceful life is to let the spirit rule the flesh, not the flesh rule the spirit which only brings chaos, confusion and pain. However, God turns all things to work for His glory, therefore causing His Name to be glorified, for even though the brothers faked a death, even though Tamar deceived, and even though Potiphar's wife lied, God manifested the outcome to glorify Him. 
     People may deceive, and consequences will therefore be set forth, but God can distinctly bring the outcome to His honor and glory. Yeshua reiterates this in the Brit Chadasha. 
     We can be deceived by words and teachings: Romans 16:18, Hebrews 13:9, Ephesians 5:6, Colossians 2:8 and 2 Timothy 3:13,14.
     We can be deceived by false prophets: Luke 21:8 and Matthew 24:14.
     We can deceive ourselves into worshiping false idols: Job 15:31, Deuteronomy 11:16 and Matthew 13:22.
     We can surely deceive ourselves: Obadiah 1:3, Galatians 6:7, and James 1:22.
     We are deceived by people we thought were true: Proverbs 26:25-26, Proverbs 27:6, James 1:26;
     To deceive is an act against the Word of God: Exodus 20:16, Leviticus 19:11, 1 Peter 2:1.
     The consequences of deception are: Proverbs 19:9 and Psalm 5:6.
     And God will be glorified in all things: 
Habakkuk 2:14 - "For the earth will be filled With the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea."
Psalm 115:1 - "Not to us, O LORD, not to us, But to Your name give glory because of Your lovingkindness, because of Your truth."
      Baruch HaShem!
    Rabbi Jay Howard   

VaYishlach / And He Sent  Genesis 32:4-36:42

Jacob to Israel...

    This parsha includes the story of Jacob wrestling with a stranger and is surely one of the most mysterious in the Torah. Who was Jacob wrestling? The Torah says it was a man. According to Hosea 12:4, it was an angel. 'Yes, he struggled with the Angel and prevailed; He wept, and sought favor from Him. He found Him in Bethel. And there He spoke to us.'
     For the sages, it was the guardian angel of Esau. Jacob himself had no doubt, he knew it was God. He called the place of the encounter Peniel, Genesis 32:30. 'So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: "For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved."
     It is significant in our walk as Torah observant people when God changed the name from Jacob to Israel, Genesis 32:28. 'And He said, "Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed."
     The history now changes from children of Abraham to children of Israel. Just as it was about to be morning, Genesis 32:24, 'Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day.'
      Jacob acquired the name that his descendants would bear throughout eternity. The people of the covenant are not only the children of Abraham or Isaac but "the children of Israel." It was only with the division of the kingdom and the Assyrian conquest of the north, that those who remained were called generically Yehudah (the southern kingdom), and thus Yehudim or, in English, Jews.
     In the Torah, Hebrew names are a life changing event and one are not mere names but indications of character. The moment at which Jacob became Israel changed the outcome of his life, and his ancestors.
     This was the path to becoming 'a kingdom of priests and a holy nation' - 
     Exodus 19:6, 'And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel."
     1 Peter 2:9, 'But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;'
      Revelation 1:6, '...and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.'
     Revelation 5:10 - 'And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth."
     However, we never lost that earlier tag as our ancestors were the people who struggled. And to this day we struggle; Deuteronomy 31:6, 'Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you." 
     Isaiah 41:10, 'Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.'
     And we are to be the over comers; 1 John 4:4, 'You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.' 
     Revelation 2:7, 'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.'
     Revelation 3:12, 'He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.'
     Revelation 3:21, 'To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.'
     It is clear that life is a struggle, a journey. Israel means to wrestle with God and peniel means face of God. Our wrestles, our struggles are not because of God, but because of our own self will, our own choices. His Word gives us the face of God, yet often we struggle with the Word and choose our own path, our own destruction; Proverbs 3:5-6, 2 Peter 3:16. 
     We are to have the spirit of the LORD which give us the strength and courage to overcome, 2 Timothy 1:7.  The spirit of Esau is one who thinks they alone are the strength. He was coming to Jacob with the vow in Genesis 27:41 - 'And Esau said in his heart, I will kill my brother Jacob.'
      Baruch HaShem!
    Rabbi Jay Howard   

VaYetzei / And He Departed  Genesis 28:10-32:3


    Our days are filled with opposites. One minute we are enjoying peace, the next we are in a trial. We ascend and descend, sometimes so quickly that it is hard to differentiate the two. To ascend we must be 'down' to go up and to descend we must be 'up' to go down. When we descend, there is an ascent waiting.  If you think about it, even the low of the lows, there is an ascent. 
     Our world, as was Jacob's, is a world with choice, to be that of an unredeemed people, or to be a redeemed people, knowing God, His Son and His Torah.
     Within this parsha is the dream that Jacob had. The ladder, called Jacob's ladder is an idiomatic name for the connection between heaven and earth. The sages teach that it is a symbol that represents and links different worlds.  Earth, where flesh rules and heaven where the spirit rules. The key to understanding the ladder is to connect heaven and earth. It is also a visual of a Way towards God and 'a way' away from God. 
     The first point is to understand that God is the God of heaven and earth- Psalm 115:15, Psalm 121:2, 2 Kings 19:15,  Acts 17:24.  In Matthew 6:10 Yeshua brings heaven and earth into clarity. He tells us that God has a rule, a role, a will in heaven and it is to be on earth as in Matthew 6:10 - 'Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.' 
     This statement defines two separate worlds, yet those worlds are capable of intermingling, as with the ladder, ascending and descending. Genesis 28:12-13. 'And he dreamed, and behold! a ladder set up on the ground and its top reached to heaven; and behold, angels of God were ascending and descending upon it. And behold, the Lord was standing over him, and He said, "I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father, and the God of Isaac; the land upon which you are lying, to you I will give it and to your seed.'
     The God of the universe, could have simply given Jacob the message:  "I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father, and the God of Isaac; the land upon which you are lying to you I will give it and to your seed." But, He didn't. He gave Jacob a vision of a ladder, reaching from earth to heaven with angels ascending and descending. Heaven to earth; earth to heaven. Two worlds at polar opposites yet connected.
     Earth is filled with evil, it is the yetzer ha'ra, the evil inclination. Yet, we are to overcome this and rely on the yetzer ha'tov, the good inclination. We are to seek heaven, righteousness, justice, mercy, forgiveness, love, peace, hope and good. 
Proverbs 21:21 - 'Whoever pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor.'
Psalm 37:28 - 'For the Lord loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones. Wrongdoers will be completely destroyed; the offspring of the wicked will perish.'
Matthew 6:33 - 'But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.'
Philippians 4:8 - 'Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things.'
     While on earth, we are to seek the heavenly:
Colossians 3:1-2 - 'Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.'
     Self-adoration is implanted in the flesh as we live on earth. That is why we are instructed to reach for the heavens - not in a literally sense, but in the act of behaving. Acts of mercy, forgiveness, justice, righteousness, loving-kindness, joy and love. We are told that a lack of these qualities is not a person walking within the Torah or Yeshua. Galatians 5:22-23 - 'But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.'
     We each have a ladder, with the reminder that Elohim is with us, that we ascend and descend, that we struggle but keep going. 
      Baruch HaShem!
    Rabbi Jay Howard   


Toldot / Generations   Genesis 25:19-28:9

Our Struggles...

    Rabbi Shaul (Paul) said it: "For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.  For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.  Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man.  But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" Romans 7:15-24.
     There are two fundamental ways of life, the way of good (life) and the way of evil (death). The way of life is connected to God while the way of death is connected to the evil inclination. One choice will spiral up to include joy, peace, lovingkindness, health and life; while the opposite will spiral downward into bitter root, anger, sickness, and death.
     God gives us the choice as He states in Deuteronomy 30:15-20, however He clearly states to 'Choose Life!' Therefore everything will result in that we are the beginning point of good and we can be the beginning point of evil; we are the beginning point of everything. We choose this or we choose that. This struggle is fundamentally within us all as the individual. 
     We see this in Genesis 3:6 when Eve made the choice to listen to the yetzer hara and eat of the fruit. Through out Scriptures there are several instances that a person or persons made the wrong or bad choice, which ultimately led to the consequences of that choice. 
     Examples: Samson in Judges 16:1 when he went to Gaza and went to a harlot.  1 Samuel 18:8-9 when Saul refused to wait on Samuel and offered his own burnt offering. Ananias and Saphira in Acts 5:1-2 when their choice was to lie. And John 18:15-17 when Peter (Kefa) lied about knowing Yeshua. 
     Unfortunately, our perception of ourselves often gets in the way of making wise choices, even for one who is professing to walk in the Ways of Elohim. We are blinded to the goodness, the forgiveness, the love, the unselfish acts that we should do because we rate every instance in regards to that deceiving entity: 'me, myself and I'.  We get stuck in the ego of our own evil influences and we unconsciously choose unwisely.  We lose clarity about reality in a situation and become lost in either a victim mentality or a persecutor mentality. 
     To choose the ways of Elohim means to walk in the ways of Elohim. And the very first lesson is that of humility: 
Micah 6:8
'He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?'
     That is the beginning of wisdom, the beginning of the first choice of life. Without humility the things in life that we need the most, the things that should guide us; the Word of God, the Ways of Elohim, the love of Yeshua; will be voided in our lives. 
     Esau lacked humility as he was only concerned about his hunger, his own emotions and feelings, so much so that he was ready and willing to forsake his birthright when Jacob gave him the ultimatum - food or birthright. Due to his lack of humility,  Esau later twisted the events and turned on Jacob. He perceived that evil was done to him, where in reality those were the consequences of his own selfish actions - he had the choice.
     Genesis 25:33-34 'So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob.  And Jacob gave Esau bread and stew of lentils; then he ate and drank, arose, and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.'
     Esau chose to let the demands of the flesh rule over the realms of life.  Isn't that what Rabbi Shaul reiterates in Romans 7?  We know the ways of Elohim, we know the ways of life, and yet we stumble and fall. Often we stumble and let the yetze hara rule over us due to the company we keep. 1 Corinthians 15:33-34 'Do not be deceived: Evil company corrupts good habits. Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.' We are not immune to the slithering ways of the evil inclination, the yetzer hara. We can easily be influenced as was Eve. 
     To stumble and fall is not the sin, to stay in that realm is. Our goal should be to recognize our faults, walk in humility, seek forgiveness and peace and rise again and keep going - towards life!
      Baruch HaShem!
    Rabbi Jay Howard   




Vayeira / And He Apppeared   Genesis 18:1-22:24

When God Appears...

     We often look for signs, we often desire for God to appear to us, or we need proof.  Miracles were a part of the ministries of Moses, Elijah and Elisha, and of course Yeshua and the apostles. Their miracles really served the purpose of confirming that they were messengers from God, Hebrews 2:3-4. 
    Today, we might still seek to experience miracles, and some will go to great lengths and opportunities to experience the miracles. We know that our God is a God of wonder, Psalm 136:3-4, therefore it is not wrong to seek, for there may be many reasons for such a desire. However, it is when we keep seeking for the signs, or another wonder or more proof or a miracle, that we can enter into a dark realm.
We seek after signs for proof of God, as God gave Moshe signs in Exodus :1-9.
Maybe people seek to test, or excuse their unbelief as in Matthew 16:1
Or they seek because they desire more as in John 6:26 
     In Genesis 12:1 God appeared to Abraham declaring that to his descendants He will give this land. In Genesis 17:1 God appears and commands Abraham to walk blameless. In Genesis 18:1 God appears again.
     In Exodus 3:2-3 God appeared as a blazing fire. In 1 Kings God appeared to Solomon in a dream. In Zechariah 9:14 Scriptures tell us that God will appear over them. In Ezekiel 10:4 it was the glory of the LORD that appeared. In Acts 7:2 we are told that the glory of the LORD appeared to Abraham.
    How does God appear to us? Through His Word, Psalms 119:11, 1 Timothy 3:16. Through His still voice, 1 Kings 19:12, Isaiah 30:19-21, Acts 11:12. Through the counsel of righteous men, Proverbs 12:15. Through visions, Acts 10:9-18 and He appears to us through difficulties, Psalm 119:67-68.
     Who does God appear to? He appears to the humble; Moses, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Elisha and Elijah, Shau'l, and Yochanan (John), to name a few.  He appears to the righteous, the meek and the obedient. Does he appear to the proud, the arrogant, the overbearing, or the wicked? Or does He let them become a vessel of their own imaginations. 
     It is easy to misinterpret our voice for God's voice. To be clear, we need to align what we think God is convicting us to do with His Word.  If it goes against the Torah, it will not be of God, but just might be our own voice.      
 Baruch HaShem!
    Rabbi Jay Howard   



Lech Lecha Go For Yourself...

Genesis 12:1-17:27

     When I think of Go For Yourself, I think of a spiritual connotation. First the physical, then the spiritual. Spiritually, it would mean to change, to make aliyah, to grow, and maybe to some of us; repent and return, teshuva.  
     Abraham didn't achieve his aliyah by simply believing. He had to prove his faith by passing 10 tests. 
     This was faith and works, works and faith. James 2:18-24: 'But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe-and tremble!  But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?  Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?  And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.'
     The first test that came his way is in the opening line of this parsha. This was the command from Elohim to Abraham to go forth for himself and give up his entire past and to follow the ways of God by letting God lead him. He had to leave everything he knew, everything he was. He had to change. In Matthew 4:19, Yeshua brings this closer to us this as He commands His disciples to come and follow Him. And in Matthew 16:24-26, we are to deny ourselves and take up His cross, which is a metaphor for His Ways. 
     A Divine trial is one that is a choice of following the will of God instead of one's own will. The trial that God put before Abraham was to leave his people and start a new nation, one that God would shape to follow His ways. 
     In the choice that God commanded of him, he was to choose God's wisdom and to not operate on or within his own. When he chose God's will over his own, he became a testimony for God and for the wisdom of God. 
     Since God is omnipotent and omnipresence, why was it necessary to test Abraham? Because of a man's obedience men were able to visually see the will of God.  This man, Abraham became a lesson for all of humanity when he set a high priority in his faithful obedience under extreme duress, thus enabling him through God to prosper.
     Jeremiah 29:11 'For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'
     Proverbs 3:5-6 'Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.'
     In, through, and during the trials in our lives, God is seeking for our obedience, thus we become the light and the testimony for Him.  We must submit to him, by trading in our own character and becoming the character of The LORD, thus walking in His blessings.  
     We must understand that to follow God and His will does not make us immune to trials and tribulations. Everything is for the benefit of those being tested;  He "works all things together for good" for us -Romans 8:28.
    The way the trials that accompany our lives accomplish this is explained in 1 Peter 1:6-7: 'In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which perishes, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Yeshua.'
     Trials and tribulations come with a purpose and a reward. "Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. . . . Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him." James 1:2-4, 1:12.
     During the trials of his life, Abraham is visited by Melek Tzadic, in a way assuring that he was proving his oneness with God and His ways. This, too was a visual testimony that he was in obedience to The LORD. As with us, as we go through the trials and tribulations in our lives, we are comforted by and with the Holy Spirit, as we prove our faith to The LORD.    
 Baruch HaShem!
    Rabbi Jay Howard   


Noah /Noach  Genesis 6:1

The Comfort...

     Hebrew names have meanings that relate to the character of the people who were their parents or to the times in which they lived. Noah's name means is related to a Hebrew word meaning "comfort." In Genesis 5:28-29 it says, "When Lamech had lived 182 years, he had a son. He named him Noah and said, 'He will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the Lord has cursed.'"
     But we know that Noah would provide more than physical rest. Noah's name is also a Divine prediction regarding his life that YHWH placed upon Lamech to name him. The word Noah is taken from the Hebrew word for "rest," nuakh, as in 2 Samuel 14:17 which uses the word 'comforting'. We know from Genesis 6 that Lamech lived in an evil time. God placed upon Noah's father's heart that in spite of the world's evil, Noah would represent righteousness and bring rest, comfort and peace in the midst of God's judgment. 
     The Brit Chadasha affirms that Noah was one who brought comfort. 2Peter 2:5 calls Noah a preacher of righteousness.  '...If He did not spare the ancient world when He brought the flood on its ungodly people, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, among the eight.' No others in that time of the ark were mentioned as believing the message, which was the warning from God, and no one joined Noah's family in the ark, but through all of that, Noah had peace with God. He lived according to God's ways and obeyed His commands in preparing for the flood. If anyone else would have listened and obeyed, they too, could have found rest in the ark. But no one else obeyed and listened. 
     In both a literal and prophetic sense, Noah lived up to his name as one who would bring comfort. To this day, Noah is seen as a man of peace who led people and animals through a time of judgment and into a new world. Think of all the children's Bible stories, think of all the drawings with a rainbow. Isn't that depicted as comfort and beauty? But what was the comfort brought about from? What was the source? His obedience to God's command.
    Yeshua used Noah's obedience as an illustration for us when He says in Luke 17:26 - 'Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man'. There is coming a time that will be like the time of Noah when God's deliverance will come upon the earth. The comfort comes to us when we are like Noah and obey God's instructions. Isn't it interesting that Noah's comfort didn't come from him waving his hand in the air, stating that 'he believes', and there is nothing in the Torah stating that Noah walked from camp to camp evangelizing.  No, he simply obeyed and did. Faith and works, works and faith; which gives us the opportunity to live in The Kingdom now; God gives us the mercy to live in obedience now. He truly is a great God.
    It is when we realize that the ark was/is a type and shadow of the Ark of the Covenant, as the Ark of the Covenant carried the instructions of God inside it, so too the ark of Noah carried the ways of HaShem by the means of the man who listened and obeyed. 
 Baruch HaShem!
    Rabbi Jay Howard   


Berethith / In the Beginning   Genesis 1:1-6:9

We begin...

     Journeys are started with a single step. This is the opportunity to begin the reading cycle of the Torah portions as the first step into His wisdom, His guidance and His peace.  It is an opportunity for us to submit to His Will which is only found in the Torah.
     Creation is the beginning of God's world that we can see and touch. It is tangible. God began the world with order in every detail of the creation. 
     In Hebrew the word Bereshith is made of 6 letters. Interesting that there are 6 days of creation. The first letter is Beit, followed by resh, alef, shin and tav. Beit in Hebrew translates into 'house, household, family.' This alludes to the holiness on earth. The root of Bereshith is Reish-Alef-Shin, which means "head" or "first.  Beit used as a prefix means; in, on, with, by, etc.
     In Genesis 2 we are introduced to the Sabbath, the anointed day of God for His people. It seems as if creation is a forefront to the Sabbath. We are created for the Sabbath and the Sabbath created for man. It is part of His Divine plan, order and will. Yeshua reiterates this in Mark 2:23-27.
     The single step of any believer should be to find the right path. To find the right path we find the source. God is or should be, the source of all believers.  Once the source is established, we begin with the will or path of the source. Which in God's case in His written Word and it begins with Genesis 1:1, Bereshith.
     'In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the earth...'  Genesis 1:1.  That simple declaration should inform every believer that the creation in His, therefore the Word is His, the path is His and the instructions are His. He is the source, we begin the path and we start with creation which is Genesis chapter 1. 
     Chapter one flows into chapter two, which lifts up the Sabbath as His high holy day; Genesis 2:1-3 'Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. 2 And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.' 
     Genesis 2:4 declares that this is the history, the preceding words that we read are in fact history, a truth.  Psalm 119:160 repeats this: 'The sum of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting.'
      The central idea of walking in the ways of God, the Torah, involves the commitment to a single, omnipotent, incorporeal God, who is the creator and ruler of the universe and the source of a moral law for humanity. Bereshit proves God as the creator of the universe. 
     The declaration of this belief appears throughout the Scriptures, including the key prayer known as the Shema. The Shema, which means to listen or hear is a song of Deuteronomy 6:4-9, and is a central feature of every synagogue service. It is also recited daily upon waking and on significant occasions such as approaching death. 
Deuteronomy 6:4-9
'Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God. The Lord is One.
Blessed be His name, whose glorious kingdom is for ever and ever.
And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.' 
     If we don't begin on the right course, then we are obviously on the wrong course. Anything besides His word is the wrong course which leads us to spiritual death.  Deuteronomy 30:15-20 caps the creation found in Genesis 1, and is a witness that God's word is holy and true and should be the path that we take.     
 Baruch HaShem!
    Rabbi Jay Howard