וַיְחִי
VaYechi / And He Lived
Genesis 47:28-57:26

     Blessings…


     This Torah portion contains the blessings by Jacob to Joseph’s sons and to his own twelve sons. It begins with the blessing of Ephraim and Manasseh, with Ephraim being the primary target of the blessing.
      ‘So Joseph brought them from beside his knees, and he bowed down with his face to the earth. 13 And Joseph took them both, Ephraim with his right hand toward Israel’s left hand, and Manasseh with his left hand toward Israel’s right hand, and brought them near him. 14 Then Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on Ephraim’s head, who was the younger, and his left hand on Manasseh’s head, guiding his hands knowingly, for Manasseh was the firstborn. 15 And he blessed Joseph, and said: “God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, The God who has fed me all my life long to this day,16 The Angel who has redeemed me from all evil, Bless the lads ;Let my name be named upon them, And the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; And let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.” Genesis 47:12-17.
     In Genesis 49, Jacob blesses his twelve sons with words of prophesy or in the form of destinies, as described in blessings, which were prophetically called out for each of the 12 tribes of Israel.  These were not prophecies about things they would necessarily do, but rather what each of these tribes would become. Jacob would pronounce what each of these tribes’ character traits and attributes would be in the years to come. The Scriptures may not be speaking about just the destiny of any particular man but possibly about the destiny of the descendants of each son.
     What is the significance in blessing someone? When we speak to or pray over a person, ‘may you be blessed’ we are requesting that God might find favor on us all, to bless and to be blessed. Our prayers asking God for a person to be blessed is in a sense asking for God to enter in. We can ask for blessings upon one another for many things, even healing. Some people question reciting a prayer for healing questioning whether that person will be healed.  But there is a difference between healing and curing. God may not cure an individual’s illness the way we think they ought to be cured, but God can and does bring healing even to those who are very sick and facing death. Thus God blesses.
   Numbers 6:24-26 is recited every Shabbat ‘May The Lord bless you, and keep you, May The Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you, May The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.’
    We are even asked to bless those we might not want to bless, Luke 6:27-28 ‘But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.’ And Romans 12:14, ‘Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.’
     When we are asking God to bless someone, or even ourselves we are asking God for favor, for help, thereby to be strengthened. But what about blessing God? Does God need to be strengthened by God? No, of course not, rather we are sending praise and thankfulness to Him. If God is the absolute and inexhaustible One Who blesses, then He must be above all others in a blessed never ending state. Hebrew mindset is that we rise each day blessing God with words of praise and gratitude. The blessings begin with, ‘Blessed are You Oh LORD our God King of the universe…‘Baruch Ata Adonai Elohenui Melech HaOlam…’   
     David began many Psalms with terms of blessings. In Psalm 32 he begins stating that a follower of God is blessed. ‘Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.’ Psalm 103:1 ‘Bless the Lord, o my soul. Psalm 104:1, ‘Bless the Lord, oh my soul…’
    Psalm 134:1 ‘Behold, bless the LORD, all servants of the LORD, Who serve by night in the house of the LORD! Psalm 66:20 ‘Blessed be God, Who has not turned away my prayer nor His lovingkindness from me.’
     In Daniel 3:28 Nebuchadnezzar blessed the Lord, ‘Nebuchadnezzar responded and said, "Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, who has sent His angel and delivered His servants who put their trust in Him, violating the king's command, and yielded up their bodies so as not to serve or worship any god except their own God.’
     1 Kings 8:56, ‘"Blessed be the LORD, who has given rest to His people Israel, according to all that He promised; not one word has failed of all His good promise, which He promised through Moses His servant.’
     Deuteronomy 8:10 ‘And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land He has given you.’
     Yeshua is blessed in John 12:13 ‘They took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him, and began to shout, "Hosanna! BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD, even the King of Israel."     
     Let us continually bless the God of Israel.
     Baruch HaShem!   Rabbi Jay
 

וַיִּגַּשׁ
Vayigash / And He Drew Near
Genesis 44:18-47:27

      In Genesis 44:33-44 we see that Judah was willing to step in for Benjamin, becoming his bother’s keeper: ‘Now therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the lad as a slave to my lord, and let the lad go up with his brothers. 34 For how shall I go up to my father if the lad is not with me, lest perhaps I see the evil that would come upon my father?” Judah pleads with Joseph.
     In Genesis 45:1-8 Joseph willingly became all of his brothers keeper: ‘Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph; does my father still live?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed in his presence. And Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come near to me.” So they came near. Then he said: “I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For these two years the famine has been in the land, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.’
    It was at this point that Joseph is reduced to tears ready to take care of his brothers.
    This is in direct contrast to the response that Cain gave to God in Genesis 4:9, ‘Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”
     Are we to be our brother’s keeper?  "To keep" as defined in Websters dictionary can render as "to watch over and defend from danger, harm, or loss." But Webster's also defines "to keep" as "to restrain from departure.”
     Hebrews 13:1 states: ‘Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters.’
     James 4:11 ‘Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it.’
     Matthew 7:3-4 Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?’
     1 Thessalonians 4:6-7 ‘…and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before.7 For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.’
     Galatians 6:2-5 ‘Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For each one shall bear his own load.’
   To keep one another is different than to restrain one another. We try to keep each other from danger, from stumbling, from straying, at the very most, we pray.
May the Lord bless you and keep you;
25 The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
26 The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.” ’
Numbers 6:24-26
     Baruch HaShem ~ Rabbi Jay

 

מִקֵּץ

Miketz / At the End
Genesis 41:1-44:17

      This Torah portion begins with the dreams of Pharaoh. ‘Then it came to pass, at the end of two full years, that Pharaoh had a dream; and behold, he stood by the river. Suddenly there came up out of the river seven cows, fine looking and fat; and they fed in the meadow. Then behold, seven other cows came up after them out of the river, ugly and gaunt, and stood by the other cows on the bank of the river. And the ugly and gaunt cows ate up the seven fine looking and fat cows. So Pharaoh awoke. He slept and dreamed a second time; and suddenly seven heads of grain came up on one stalk, plump and good. Then behold, seven thin heads, blighted by the east wind, sprang up after them. And the seven thin heads devoured the seven plump and full heads. So Pharaoh awoke, and indeed, it was a dream. Now it came to pass in the morning that his 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.’ Genesis 41:1-8. This is the point where Joseph moves from prisoner to interpreter of dreams to viceroy of all Egypt.
     We learn about Joseph and the dreams when he is young and he has the two dreams involving his brothers.  It is also verified in Genesis chapter 40, VaYeshev, that he is given the ability to interpret the dreams of others. It is in this week’s parsha that we discover a vital piece of information that has been withheld from us until now. Joseph says to Pharaoh, who has also had two dreams: “The reason the dream was given to Pharaoh in two forms is that the matter has been firmly decided by God, and God will do it soon.” Genesis 41:32. Only in retrospect do we realize that Joseph’s double dream was a sign that this too was no mere imagining. Joseph really was destined to be a leader to whom his family would bow.
      Joseph also shows another gift from the Father, which is the ability to not only interpret Pharaoh’s dreams, but to bring a solution. ‘Now therefore, let Pharaoh select a discerning and wise man, and set him over the land of Egypt. 34 Let Pharaoh do this, and let him appoint officers over the land, to collect one-fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt in the seven plentiful years. 35 And let them gather all the food of those good years that are coming, and store up grain under the authority of Pharaoh, and let them keep food in the cities. 36 Then that food shall be as a reserve for the land for the seven years of famine which shall be in the land of Egypt, that the land may not perish during the famine.’ Genesis 41:33-36.
     But it is Genesis 41:32 when Joseph tells Pharaoh - “And the dream was repeated to Pharaoh twice because the thing is established by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass” that reveals the wisdom that God has given to Joseph.
     Twice is the key word.  פַּעֲמַיִם  pa'amayeem in Hebrew. Two separate dreams, two different circumstances, yet the same meaning and ending. This is the information, ‘repeated twice’ as in two witnesses that gave Joseph the wisdom that the dreams were established by God. We see two witnesses throughout the Scriptures, established by God.
     Isaiah 37:16 ‘O LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, who is enthroned above the cherubim, You are the God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth You have made heaven and earth.’
     Psalm 124:8 ‘Our help is in the name of the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.’
     Matthew 11:25 ‘At that time Jesus said, "I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants.’
     Deuteronomy 17:6 ‘Whoever is deserving of death shall be put to death on the testimony of two or three witnesses; he shall not be put to death on the testimony of one witness.’
     Deuteronomy 30:19 ‘I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live…’
    Luke 10:1 ‘After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go.’
    2 Corinthians 13:1 ‘This will be the third time I am coming to you. “By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established.”
    Ezekiel 37:18-19 is definite of two witnesses completing the Kingdom of God. ‘“And when the children of your people speak to you, saying, ‘Will you not show us what you mean by these?’— 19 say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Surely I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel, his companions; and I will join them with it, with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they will be one in My hand.” ’ 20 And the sticks on which you write will be in your hand before their eyes.’ These are the two witnesses that prove the Torah is true by them coming together.
   There is another verse in Revelation 11 that speaks of two witnesses. These two witnesses rule and represent the two olive trees and two menorahs. They represent the Kingdom of God.  Like Yeshua, they are eventually killed, but after three and one half days, (like Yeshua) they rise with the very breath of God.
     Revelation 11:16 - ‘I was given a reed like a measuring rod and was told, “Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, with its worshipers. But exclude the outer court; do not measure it, because it has been given to the Gentiles. They will trample on the holy city for 42 months. And I will appoint my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” They are “the two olive trees” and the two lampstands, and “they stand before the Lord of the earth.”If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies. This is how anyone who wants to harm them must die. They have power to shut up the heavens so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying; and they have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want.’
     Notice where and what the Gentiles do. They are outside the court, the camp, the wedding and they trample on Jerusalem, on the place and word of God, the Torah. They ignore and have ignored the two witnesses throughout the Scripture, the very word of God.
     Revelation 19:11-13 ‘I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but He Himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and His name is the Word of God.’
     The Word of God, the Torah, The Living Word, the King of Kings.
Baruch HaShem ~ Rabbi Jay

 

וַיֵּשֶׁב
VaYeishev / And He Settled
Genesis 37:1-40:23
The Ascents and Descents in Our Lives…

     Our lives are full of ascents and descents. Without the descents, there wouldn’t be any reason for an ascent which means there wouldn’t be any reason for us to strive, to try harder, to seek change, to seek God’s mercy and His perfect will in our lives.  Ascents seem to bring us slowly towards the perfectness that Yeshua expects us to strive for in Matthew 5:48 ‘Be perfect therefore as your Heavenly Father is perfect.’ This is a remez, a connection to Leviticus 11:45, - ‘For I am the LORD who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God; thus you shall be holy, for I am holy.' (Also Leviticus 19:2, Leviticus 20:26, 1 Peter 1:15-16 and Deuteronomy 23:14).
     It is Jacob’s ladder, ascending to heaven, descending to earth.  The ascents and descents are giving us examples of Yeshua in Ephesians 4:8- ‘Therefore He says: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.”(Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)
     Isaiah 44:23 again speaks of heaven to earth: ‘Sing for joy, O heavens, for the LORD has done this; shout aloud, O depths of the earth. Break out into singing, O mountains, you forests and all your trees. For the LORD has redeemed Jacob, and revealed His glory in Israel’. And John 3:13 – ‘No one has ascended into heaven except the One who descended from heaven--the Son of Man’.
     With each descent, we strive to ascend to a higher place and a higher season. Often in our upward progression that God has us on, there will contain a descent that holds the hidden link to a major ascent. We may not be able to visualize it as we are in that descent, but in time we will understand His plan.
     In the very beginning of this parsha, we see an ascent for Joseph then followed by an immediate descent. Genesis 37:3-4 ‘ Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made an ornate robe for him. (ascentWhen his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.’ (descent).
     This continues in chapter 37 with the two dreams that place Joseph in a position of authority, (ascent) and the reactions of hatred and rebuke towards Joseph from his brothers and father, (descent) Genesis 37:5-10. This is followed by another descent in Genesis 37:28 when Joseph is sold to the Midinite merchants.
    Genesis chapter 38 is filled with the descents and deception of Tamar and Judah, followed by a remarkable ascent for both; Tamar is declared righteous by Judah, gives birth to twins continuing the line of Yeshua and Judah is given the opportunity by God to seek righteousness for himself by admitting his wrong. Genesis 28:25-30 ‘As she was being brought out, she sent a message to her father-in-law. “I am pregnant by the man who owns these,” she said. And she added, “See if you recognize whose seal and cord and staff these are.” 26 Judah recognized them and said, “She is more righteous than I, since I wouldn’t give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not sleep with her again.27 When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. 28 As she was giving birth, one of them put out his hand; so the midwife took a scarlet thread and tied it on his wrist and said, “This one came out first.” 29 But when he drew back his hand, his brother came out, and she said, “So this is how you have broken out!” And he was named Perez 30 Then his brother, who had the scarlet thread on his wrist, came out. And he was named Zerah.
 
    Chapter 39 contains an ascent for Joseph as he is brought to the house of Potiphar, and then an incredible descent as he is thrown into prison due to false allegations by Potiphar’s wife. But there is an ascent within the descent of prison, Genesis 39:21-23: ‘But while Joseph was there in the prison, 21 the Lord was with him; He showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. 22 So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. 23 The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.’
     This is followed by another ascent in Genesis 40 as Joseph reveals the dreams to the cupbearer and the baker. This Torah portion ends with a descent for Joseph, as he is forgotten by man, Genesis 40:23 ‘The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.’
     Every day people around the world endure hardships and difficulty. During these descents and challenging times, we may feel tremendous pain, whether spiritual, psychological, emotional or physical and in our darkest hour, we may even feel like giving up.  We need to see these descents or challenges not as roadblocks of despair, but rather as the very thing that might propel us towards the mercy, grace and will of God. It is when we fall into the desires of ascent we fail to fully understand and appreciate the work that God is doing in us during our descents. Remember, in Genesis 40:23 Joseph may have been forgotten by man, but he was never forgotten by Elohim. ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’
     Joshua 1:5 ‘As I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will never leave you nor forsake you.’
     Hebrews 13:5 ‘…because God has said, “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid, What can man do to me?”

Baruch HaShem ~ Rabbi Jay

 

וַיִּשְׁלַח
VaYishlach / And He Sent
Genesis 32:4-36:43
The Army of God…

     We gain so much insight by reading The Scroll of Yashur along with the Torah Portion. After Jacob leaves Laban with their agreement, Laban discovers that his idols were stolen (unbeknownst by all, it was Rachel). However, when Laban did not find the idols in Jacob’s camp he left after making a covenant with him. Yet as soon as Jacob and Laban parted ways, Laban sent his son and other men to meet Esau to give a deceitful and negative report in regards to Jacob. After Esau listens to this report, Chapter 31 verse 64 of the Scroll of Yashur states:  ‘And Esau heard all the words of Laban’s messengers and his anger was greatly kindled against Jacob and he remembered his hatred and his anger burned with in him.’
     These messengers of Laban then head to Rebecca and inform her of Esau’s anger. This sets the preface for the encounter with Esau and Jacob. By reading the Scroll of Yashur, we understand the grief and fear that came upon Jacob and the anger and hatred that kindled within Esau.
      After Jacob sends messengers to meet Esau, they returned to him with the report that Esau was advancing to kill him, as Esau declared in The Scroll of Yashur, Chapter 32 verse 12: ‘Now therefore I have this day come with my camps to meet him and I will do to him according to the desire of my heart.’ When Jacob heard this, Jacob was greatly afraid.
     Jacob, being very fearful prayed to God and God heard his prayer. The Scroll of Yashur states that the Lord sent three angels of the angels of heaven and they went before Esau, but these three angels appeared to Esau and his people as two thousand.
      We know that angels of God are a powerful entity. In Isaiah 37:33-36 we are told what one angel is capable of:
‘Therefore this is what the Lord says concerning the king of Assyria:

“He will not enter this city
    or shoot an arrow here.
He will not come before it with shield
    or build a siege ramp against it.
34 By the way that he came he will return;
    he will not enter this city,”
declares the Lord.
35 “I will defend this city and save it,
    for my sake and for the sake of David my servant!”

36 Then the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies!’
     In Matthew 22: 52-53 Yeshua tells us that The Father would send more than 12 legions of angels,
‘But Jesus said to him, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53 Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?
     In Luke 2:10-13 heavenly hosts appear to the shepherds. Heavenly host in Hebrew is צבאות sabaoth or tzvaot.  Angels are also referred to as מַלְאָךְ‎ mal’akh and plural: מלאכים mal’akhim.

Psalm 91:11-13 speaks of His heavenly hosts:
‘If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
    and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
    no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For He will command His angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
    you will trample the great lion and the serpent.’
     We are comforted as God’s people that we have the heavenly hosts around us, we have Yeshua as the Way, the Light, the Life, the Truth, and the Living Word. We have God, Adonoai, El Elyon, El Shaddai, the God of Peace to give us His Torah, His guidance, grace and mercy. God’s desire is that we change our minds from carnality to spirituality.
   Baruch HaShem  Rabbi Jay

 

וַיֵּצֵא
Vayetze / And He Went
Genesis 28:10-2:2

The Three Prayers...
   This parsha begins as Jacob leaves, Genesis 28:10-17 Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. 11 When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep.12 He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 There above it stood the Lord, and he said: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. 14 Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. 15 I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” 17 He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.” 
     The sages understood the phrase, ‘certain place’; ‘vayifga bamakom, to mean: ‘he came to’ and ‘the place’ to mean God, the ‘place of the universe’.  Because of this passage the sages teach that “Jacob instituted the evening prayer.” This is based on the word vayifga which can mean not only, “he came to, encountered, happened upon” but also “he prayed, entreated, pleaded.
     The sages teach that Abraham represents morning. He is the initiator, the one who introduced faith to the world. With him a day begins. He studied the ways of God as a young boy, he smashed his father’s idols, he left his home with nothing but faith and trust, he was the beginning.
    Isaac represents afternoon. Many of the incidents in Isaac’s life mimic those of his father. Famine causes him to leave and follow God, Genesis 26:1-3. In verses 4-5 God reiterates the blessings: ‘And I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven; I will give to your descendants all these lands; and in your seed 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.”
      He joins one generation to the next. Isaac is steadfastness, loyalty, the determination to continue. This is the link through which the seed advances, Romans 9:7-9; ‘ nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, “In Isaac your seed shall be called.” That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed. For this is the word of promise: “At this time I will come and Sarah shall have a son.’
    Jacob’s prayer is very different. He does not initiate his encounter with God. His thoughts are elsewhere, maybe on Esau, or Laban, or his wives.  During his sleep a vision of God, angels and a stairway which connects heaven and earth appear.  On this ladder is the Lord, quite clearly giving Jacob the vision that He is with him. This is totally unexpected and he literally ‘encounters’ God.
     Abraham instituted shacharit, the morning prayer, Isaac minchah, the afternoon prayer, and Jacob arvit, the prayer of night times. It is through these prayers that we too connect and encounter God. In the morning when we rise and we begin a new day, not knowing what the outcome will be, but trusting God and keeping our faith strong.  The afternoon prayer, to keep us connected from the beginning to the end, not wavering in our faith and strength, but keeping the fortitude to keep going, no matter what the day is turning out to be. The evening prayer, as we end the day, with possible troubles and fears, and maybe even a dread. But we keep focused on God, as we drift to sleep often receiving a vision from God in the darkest of the night. The vision? That He is there with us as we descend and ascend.
    Baruch Hashem, Rabbi Jay

 

תּוֹלְדֹת

Toldot / Generations
Genesis 25:19-28:9
Two Blessings...

     This Torah portion contains the blessings given by Isaac to his sons.  In chapter 27 verses 27-29 is the blessing that Isaac thought he was giving to his son Esau, instead the blessing went to Jacob:
“Surely, the smell of my son
Is like the smell of a field
Which the Lord has blessed.
28 Therefore may God give you
Of the dew of heaven,
Of the fatness of the earth,
And plenty of grain and wine.
29 Let peoples serve you,
And nations bow down to you.
Be master over your brethren,
And let your mother’s sons bow down to you.
Cursed be everyone who curses you,
And blessed be those who bless you!” 
     In verse 28 Isaac makes a plea to God to give his son the dew of the heaven, which implies rain. This also is a metaphor for God’s word, His walk and His abundance. Deuteronomy 32:2 ‘Let My teaching drop as the rain, My speech distill as the dew, as the droplets on the fresh grass and as the showers on the herb, the fatness of the earth, plenty of grain and wine and the dew of heaven.’
      Deuteronomy 33:13 speaks of Joseph and the blessings of dew; ‘Of Joseph he said, "Blessed of the LORD be his land, with the choice things of heaven, with the dew, and from the deep lying beneath…’
     In verse 28 the fatness of the earth relates to the abundance of the fields "Fatness" is used figuratively for the richness of God's goodness; "They shall be abundantly satisfied (which can translate as watered) with the fatness of your house", Psalm 36:8 and "Your paths drop fatness" , Psalm 65:11. This continues with the domination of the earth as the blessing goes on in verse 29 to require that nations will bow down.
     When we continue reading through Genesis 27:39-40, we see Esau confronting his father Isaac, demanding a blessing. As reading the blessing, it would at first appear to be similar to the blessing of Jacob as we read that his dwelling will be of the fatness of the earth and from the dew of heaven above:
Genesis 27:39 – ‘Then Isaac his father answered him, saying:
“Behold, your dwelling shall be of the fatness of the earth,
And of the dew of heaven from above.
By your sword you shall live,
And you shall serve your brother;
And it shall come to pass, when you become restless,
That you shall break his yoke from your neck.”
     According to this, we might wonder why Esau would harbor a grudge against Jacob just because of the blessing that his father had given him (Esau), Genesis 27:41.
     However, according to the Etz Chayim Torah and Commentary, it states: ‘The prefix letter mem in each of the two key words for fat and dew, can mean that Esau will share in the abundance, and yet it can also mean that Esau’s abode will be far from the fatness of the earth and far from the dew of heavens.’ Couple this with the fact that Isaac states Esau will live by the sword and serve his brother with a yoke, (eventually broken), it becomes clearer why Esau carried such hatred. Etz Chayim continues with: “the land of Edom was never fruitful and the nature of its topography all but deprives it all but of negligible rain.”
     According to the Word of Elohim, likening rain and dew to God’s Word, we understand that the land of Edom has been very far away from the ‘dew of heavens’.
     Genesis 27:41 ‘…and Esau said to himself…’ This verse implies that he was speaking to himself as a thought. However, the Hebrew really means that his mind was already made up.
   In Genesis 28:1, Isaac confirms that he understands that Jacob is the true heir to the birthright and the blessing. Isaac continues to invoke the promises in the prior Torah portions.
     This parsha ends with the realization of Esau that the wives he had taken prior to taking wives from the tribe of Ishmael, displeased his father, thus contributing to the loss of the blessings. (Etz Chayim).
     May you be blessed as you study the Torah Portion, Toldot.
     Baruch Hashem,  Rabbi Jay

 

חַיֵּי שָׂרָה
Chayei Sarah
Genesis 23:1-25:18
Wells

     Genesis 23:1-3 ‘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, and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her.’ 
     Chayei Sarah translates as the Life of Sarah, however this parsha begins with the death of Sarah, and continues with Abraham buying the cave in Hebron. Abraham then sends Eliezer to Charan where God shows him Rebecca at the well. The parsha continues with Abraham taking Keturah (Hagar) as a wife, and the death of Abraham.
     The significance of the well might be overlooked as we read about the servant's heart of Rebecca, which was the sign that Eliezer asked for of God as Genesis 24:18-21 so reveals: ‘So she said, “Drink, my lord.” Then she quickly let her pitcher down to her hand, and gave him a drink. 19 And when she had finished giving him a drink, she said, “I will draw water for your camels also, until they have finished drinking.” 20 Then she quickly emptied her pitcher into the trough, ran back to the well to draw water, and drew for all his camels. 21 And the man, wondering at her, remained silent so as to know whether the Lord had made his journey prosperous or not.’
     All throughout Scripture is the relationship between man, agriculture and God. The primary function of wells is to supply drinking water for humans and their animals. In contrast to rain, springs, brooks, and lakes that are natural sources of water on the earth's surface, wells are an invention of man’s knowledge and skill.  The water from wells also encompassed emotional needs as David longs for water from the well in Bethlehem when the Philistines were holding the city. David, then in a stronghold felt a craving and said, 'Who will give me a drink of water from the well by the gate of Bethlehem?' 2 Samuel 23:15 and 1 Chronicles 11:17.
     Numbers 21:16-18 is a beautiful description of a well:  'Assemble the people that I may give them water. Spring up, O well – sing to it – The well which the chieftains dug, which the nobles of the people started with maces, with their own staffs. ‘
     Besides Rebekah coming to the well in Genesis 24:10-27; Jacob, on his way to find his uncle Laban met Rachel at a well where she came to water her father's flock of sheep, Genesis 29:1-11. Moses met the seven daughters of Reuel at a well when they came to water their father's flock; and one of them became his bride, Exodus 2:15-19. When Saul was searching for some of his father's donkeys that had gone astray, he came across young women who were on their way to draw water, 1 Samuel 9:3-12.
     Wells in Scripture were also places of contentions as in Genesis 26:21-2. They are referred to as a hiding place in 2 Samuel 17:18-21, and as metaphors - Proverbs 23:27: ‘A harlot is a deep pit; a forbidden woman is a narrow well.’
      Wells are also used as significant meeting places and imagery in the Brit Chadasha. John 4:7-9, ‘There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, "Give Me a drink." For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. Therefore the Samaritan woman said to Him, "How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?" (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)’  John 4:14, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.’ Song of Songs 4:15 ‘You are a garden spring, a well of fresh water, and streams flowing from Lebanon. ‘
     Water, wells, agriculture, life and death. It’s all tied in, it’s all one, and it’s all living and abundant when we live in the salvation waters of Yeshua. May you be blessed as you study The Life of Sarah.
     Baruch HaShem, Rabbi Jay
    


 

וַיֵּרָא
Vayeira / And He Appeared
Genesis 18:1-22:24
Open My Eyes…

     Vayera is translated as ‘and appeared to him…YWHW was seen.’ This Torah portion has several instances where YHWH was seen, visible, there, present, in the midst and throughout.
     The first instance is in the beginning of this parsha, Genesis 18:1 ‘And the LORD appeared to him in the plains of Mamre as he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day…’  God appears to Abimilech - Genesis 20:3 – ‘But God came to Abimilech in a dream by night…’ God appears to Sarah in Genesis 21:1 – ‘And the LORD visited Sarah as He had said and the LORD did to Sarah as He had spoken.’  Genesis 21:1 – ‘And God said to Abraham…’ To Hagar and Ishmael - Genesis 21:17 – ‘And God heard the voice of the lad and the angel of God called to Hagar…’  Genesis 21:9 – ‘And God opened her eyes…’ Genesis 22:1 – ‘And it came to pass that after these things God did test Abraham and said to him, “Abraham” and he said, “Behold, here I am.” Genesis 22:4 – ‘On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place far off.’ (The Scroll of Yashur accounts that Abraham saw the pillar of fire, the Shekinah, the glory of God afar off on Mount Mariah). Genesis 22:11 – ‘And the angel of the Lord called to him…’ Genesis 22:15 – ‘And the angel of the LORD called to Abraham out of heaven a second time…’  And in Genesis 22:18 God appears with blessings.
     In Genesis 19:23 it states that the sun rose upon the earth and then Lot arrived at Zoar (a small city). Verse 24 states that God caused the sulfur and fire to rain upon Sodom and Gomorrah, from God, out of heaven. The sages teach that the duplicity ‘from God’ and out of heaven implies that the sulfur and fire were Divinely originated and never seen before. Here, God appears as destruction to remove Sodom and Gomorrah.
      Throughout Scripture God appears. He speaks, He calls, He comforts, He listens, He gives life, and He destroys. He is the universe yet He is not contained in the universe. He is storm, wind, rain and word. He is fire, earthquake, lightning, salt, sand, stars and sea.  He is.  In Exodus 3:14 when speaking to Moshe, God reveals the complexity of His being; “I AM WHO I AM.” In Hebrew it is Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh – also translated as I AM WHO AM.

Baruch HaShem !  Rabbi Jay

 

לֶךְ-לְךָ Lech Lecha / Go For Yourself
Genesis 12:1-17:27
Abraham…

     Lech Lecha literally means to betake yourself, to go forth and find yourself. In Genesis 12:1 Elohim commands Abram to leave his country, his father and his father’s house and go to the land where God will make him a great nation. Reading from the prior Torah portion, this might seem strange that suddenly God calls this man Abram to be the father of a great nation, for just in Genesis 11:27 we read of Abram’s birth and in verse 11:28 we suddenly read of Haran’s death. What we don’t know, unless we study the Scroll of Yashur; is the extraordinary journey of Abram’s life prior to being called from God.
     Abram studied and lived in the house of Noach until he was fifty, prior to that his father hid him in a cave to conceal him from Nimrod who sought to kill him. His father was a captain in Nimrod’s army, an idol worshiper and willing to save himself at any cost. Abram was against the idol worship and confronted his father often, and at one point taking an ax and chopping up the idols, then cynically blaming it on the ‘biggest’ idol.  It says that Abram knew The Lord and His Ways.
     Abram was called out by God to go for himself. He had to leave his father, his father’s ways, and even his father’s land to establish the great nation that he was called for. Genesis 12:7 – ‘And The Lord appeared to Abram and said “To your seed I will give this land” and there he built an altar to The Lord who appeared to him.’
     In Genesis 15, after a famine, the birth of Ishmael and the obvious doubts that Abram had in regards to having children by Sarai, God appears to Abram. ‘Fear not’, are the words of God in verse 1 and He continues with’ I am a shield for you’. This assurance is God’s promise is clear that the inheritance will never be extinguished. In Genesis 15:6 we see the basis of the faith that is referred to in Hebrews regarding Abraham. This verse states that Abraham trusted in God, not that he started to trust, but rather trusted.  This indicates that Abraham submitted totally to God, placing total confidence and guidance in God. Genesis 15:7 continues with: ‘And He said to him, “I am the Lord that brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to inherit it.” The Scriptures state that in that same day, Elohim made a covenant with Abraham, telling him again that to his seed He gave this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river of Euphrates, Genesis 15:18.
     Chapter 17 begins with God announcing to Abram that He is El Shaddai which depicts God as God Sufficient, and to ‘walk before Me and be perfect’. This is where God changes his name from Abram to Abraham. This name change represents a status change in his life. Where Abraham /av hamon now means the father of a multitude, Abram simply meant av Aram – father of Aram, the native country. This change of status is a landmark step in ‘Go For Yourself’.
    
     The sages teach that Abraham endure 10 tests. The tests can differ in accordance if you add in the Scroll of Yashur. Either way, he endure, he conquered and he overcame.
Baruch HaShem ~ Rabbi Jay  
    

  נֹחַ Noach/Noah
Genesis 6:9-11:32
The Dove...

    The days of Noah were filled with violence and corruption. Genesis 6:12 states: ‘And God saw the earth, and behold it had become corrupted, for all flesh had corrupted its way on the earth.’ This Torah portion begins by stating that Noach was a righteous man, Genesis 6:9.  As I taught in last week's parsha, Hebrew names mean something and they promote what they represent.  Noach's name comes from the Hebrew verb Nu’ach which means to rest/relief.  It states in Genesis 5:29 why his father, Lamech chose the name:  ‘And he called his name Noah, saying, “This one will comfort us concerning our work and the toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord has cursed.”

     Rest and relief in the midst of chaos, corruption, violence, confusion and rebellion. Not so unlike the eye of a hurricane. “The eye is so calm because the now strong surface winds that converge towards the center never reach it. The coriolis force deflects the wind slightly away from the center, causing the wind to rotate around the center of the hurricane (the eye wall), leaving the exact center, the eye calm.” (atmos.uiuc.edu)

     The dove has long been the symbol of peace in the history of man, but the dove has great symbolism in the Bible too and is mentioned 46 times in Scripture. We first read about a dove in this Torah portion in Genesis 8:8 when Noach sends out the first dove.  The dove returned as there was no dry ground. Noach waited seven more days and sent out the dove again the dove returned with an olive leaf, Genesis 8:9. A third time, Genesis 8:10-11, Noach sends out the dove and it did not return.

      Doves were also used as sin offerings for those who couldn’t afford lambs, rams, goats as stated in Leviticus 5:7-11.  Solomon also uses doves as metaphors in the Song of Solomon:  Verse 1:15 “How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful! Your eyes are like doves.”  Verse 2:14 “My dove in the clefts of the rock, in the hiding places on the mountainside, show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely” and  verse 4:1“How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful! Your eyes behind your veil are doves” and in 5:2 he writes “Open to me, my sister, my darling, my dove, my flawless one.”

     In the book of Hosea we see that Ephraim is compared to a dove.  Hosea 7:11 –‘Ephraim is like a dove, easily deceived and senseless— now calling to Egypt, now turning to Assyria.’ Hosea 11:11- ‘They will come from Egypt, trembling like sparrows, from Assyria, fluttering like doves. I will settle them in their homes,” declares The Lord.’

     Luke 3:22, Matthew 3:16, Mark and John 1:32 recount the immersion of Yeshua and the Holy Spirit with a dove.  ‘When all the people were baptized, it came to pass that Jesus also was baptized; and while He prayed, the heaven was opened. 22 And the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.” Luke 3:21-22.

     Yeshua in also commands us in Matthew 10:16 to be as innocent as doves in “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”

   Yeshua is the Living Word, the walking Torah. He is the way, the life and the truth. Therefore, the Torah gives us the peace and rest and relief that we so need in our lives. It is the calm in the midst of the storm. He is the place we go to. He is the entity that gives us the dove of peace, the dove of Shalom.

 Baruch HaShem,  Rabbi Jay Howard

 

בְּרֵאשִׁית  Bereshith~ In The Beginning   
Genesis 1:1-6:8

The Golden Thread...

     The golden thread that runs from Genesis to Revelation. If you learn from the Torah but negate the Brit Chadasha, the New Testament, you lack in completion. If you learn solely from the Brit Chadasha and negate the Torah you also lack in completion. The Scriptures must be taken, studied, learned and honored as a whole. Not as a half and a half, but a whole.

There is a study method, called PARDES, taking Scripture to learn from Scripture. God will never contradict Himself, and the New Testament never negates and dismisses the Torah.

Genesis 1:26-28 shows us the truth about Yeshua and God. They are One, they were, they are together, and they are the Word. Knowing this, let’s look at some of the golden threads from Genesis, the Beginning to Revelation, the End. Yeshua tells us in Revelation 1:8 ‘I am Alef and Tav, the beginning and the ending, says the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.’

Genesis 1:15 – ‘Then God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night.’  Revelation 22:5 – ‘There shall be no night there; they need no lamp nor light of sun, for the LORD God gives them light.’

Genesis 2:9 – ‘The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Now a river went out of Eden to water the garden.’ Revelation 22:1 – ‘And He showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street and on either side of the river, was the tree of life.’

There are similarities in Genesis and John: Genesis 1 –‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light.’ And there was light. And God saw the light that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness.’ John 1- ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not comprehend it.’

This Torah portion also clearly mentions the first Shabbat: Genesis 2:2-3 ‘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. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.’ If you believe in the creation, if you understand that God created the universe, the consolations, the earth, the seas, the land, the animals and man in ‘Our Image…’ then the Sabbath should take NO less credibility. It is part of God’s creation. To erase the Sabbath, to say, teach or think that it was done away with is one of the great lies from the great liar.  

Luke 6:1-5 ‘Now it happened on the second Sabbath after the first that He went through the grain fields. And His disciples plucked the heads of grain and ate them, rubbing them in their hands. And some of the Pharisees said to them, “Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?” But Jesus answering them said, “Have you not even read this, what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he went into the house of God, took and ate the showbread, and also gave some to those with him, which is not lawful for any but the priests to eat?” And He said to them, “The Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.”

At the end of this parsha, Elohim refers to His spirit; ‘Then the Lord said, “My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal and their days will be a hundred and twenty years.” This is verified in John 4:2 ‘God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” We learn through the Son, Yeshua that God is Spirit and we must worship Him in Spirit and Truth.

Berershith is transliterated as In The Beginning. This is the beginning of God, of where we live and who we are. When we take away from the Torah, we miss so much. We miss the Golden Thread that runs from Genesis from Revelation.

Baruch HaShem ~ Rabbi Jay Howard