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Torah Gemstones – V’yigash (and he Approached) – Genesis 44:18-47:27

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Torah Gemstones – V’yigash (and He approached) Genesis 44:18-47:27

 

This week’s portion continues the narrative of the story of Joseph.  We come to the final gathering together of all twelve brothers in Egypt followed by their return to the land of Israel to bring their father, Jacob, and the rest of the family back to Egypt.  Contained within this story is an interesting statement made by Jacob.

“And they told him saying, ‘Joseph is still alive’, and that he is ruler over all the land of Egypt; but his heart did not encounter this for he did not believe them.  When they related to him all the words that Joseph had spoken to them, and he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to carry him, then the spirit of Jacob their father was revived. And Israel said, ‘How great! My son Joseph still lives!  I shall go and see him before I die.”

One question we might ask is why Jacob’s spirit revived when he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent.  In order to attempt to answer that, let’s take a closer look at the word used here for wagons, which is aglah (עגלה).  The root is גל (gal), which has a number of meanings.  You might recognize Galilee, Gilead, Golan, Gilgal or even Golgotha, all of which have the same root.  It means something round or, more importantly, for the purposes of this teaching, a second time around of an event.  One variation is “galgal”, which is the wheel of a chariot that goes around.  Another variation is “megillah” or scroll, like the scroll of Esther or Ruth.  In addition, gal is sometimes translated heaven, as in heaven rolling up like a scroll (Isaiah 34:4). Gal can also mean a whirlwind because the wind whips around in a circle.

Now we add the letter א (aleph) to גל (gal) to form the word גאל (ga’al), which means the bringing around of someone through a buying back or, more simply, “to redeem”.  It can also mean to restore to an original position.  You might recognize the term go’el, the kinsman redeemer, whose role it was to redeem or deliver a family member who was in slavery.  A related word geulah, is used for the redemption and points to three things: the redeeming of an individual from death, the redeeming of Israel from Egyptian bondage and the redeeming of the nation from exile.

If we substitute the letter ע (ayin) for the aleph we get עגל (agal), which also means round.  However, it is generally translated calf, bullock or heifer pointing to an animal circling around in play.  From this comes the word עגלה (ag’lah) for cart or wagon because the wheels of the cart go around.

There is also another interesting combination of these letters in the word ma’gal or circuit.  This word is used in Psalm 23 when speaking of ma’aglei Tzedek, or “paths of righteousness”.  The idea, then, is of a righteous one walking in the cycles of the Torah commandments.  So we can compare how a wagon wheel follows inside the ruts of the road with how one walks in the cycle of the Torah.  They both follow the same route time after time on a path that is well defined and easy to follow.

In the galut the Torah was both the anchor and the protective wall for survival, preserving unity. (Gen. R. 41:9)

All this leads to a very interesting dichotomy. The word for redemption, as we have seen, is “geulah” (גאולה), but if we remove the aleph, the word now becomes “golah” (גולה), meaning Exile.   Therefore, the concept of exile and redemption are connected words whereby exile transforms into redemption through the letter aleph.  Although an aleph refers to the head of an ox, the actual concept speaks of the strength and power of the head of the house.  This, of course, points to the father, which in this case is Jacob.  Therefore through the Father, Israel’s exile is transformed into their redemption.

This is the basis for the entire story of Joseph and the re-unification of the brothers who represented all the tribes of Israel.  Joseph is a wonderful type of the Messiah who was raised up as second in command over Egypt.  Egypt is a picture of the world and the place of exile for Israel.  It was the same place the brothers were gathered for the first redemption at the Passover of the Exodus.  In the second or final redemption, at the end of days, there will be a re-gathering in the exact same manner.  If you recall, gal means the second time around for an event.  So basically the redemption plan of God is a two-event process.  This is clearly revealed in the two comings of Yeshua the Messiah.  The progression includes the atonement for sin, the resurrection of the Messiah, the ingathering of those in the diaspora, the second coming of the Messiah and the final resurrection of the righteous dead.

Now back to the meaning of the wagon.  The use and export of wagons during this time in Egypt was forbidden and was considered a limited privilege granted only by the Pharoah himself.  Basically, no one was permitted to take a wagon out of the kingdom without his authority. (Talmud Berachot 4:4)

In addition, no cow was permitted to leave Egypt without her womb first being removed to ensure that she would not calve.  So both cows and wagons could not be exported from Egypt without the authorization of the Pharoah.  This is confirmed in the Torah portion.

What does this really mean?  Here is just one interpretation for your consideration.  Perhaps Jacob is a picture of our heavenly Father as represented by the sun in Joseph’s dream.  Rachel is a picture of the Holy Spirit and the stars are the twelve brothers who represent the heads of the tribes of Israel.  Joseph is, of course, a type of Yeshua the Messiah who will become ruler over the world, second only to the Father.  The final redemption will occur at the end of days and the hallmark of that redemption is the resurrection of the righteous dead.  This is what the sages call the “World to Come” (Olam Haba) that returns to the earth just as it was present in the garden before sin entered the world.

So when Jacob sees the wagons, he knows the redemption is complete and all things have been fulfilled.  Therefore, the Father knew “it was finished” as the wagons returned to the land of Israel, which is a picture of heaven.  Jacob’s name was changed to Israel, which indicated the spiritual revival of the whole nation.  This was, of course, only a shadow of things to come.  It is said, “When the divine presence rests on Jacob – he is referred to as Israel.  His title points to spiritual nobility, grandeur and power”.

From the time of R. Akiva it became accepted belief that "in every place where Israel was exiled the Shekhinah was exiled with them".                                                          (Meg. 29a; Ta'an. 1:1)

Jacob’s spirit was revived when he saw the wagons, which represented the redemption and the resurrection.  He knew for sure his son, Joseph, was alive.  Jacob was now ready to return to Egypt to join Joseph with all the brothers.  At this time, he would eagerly go down to Egypt and settle there in exile for as long as God willed.  He took with him all his wealth and cattle for the long spiritual journey that would eventually take him and his progeny back to the land of Israel, which was a picture of heaven returning to earth.

As you continue in your studies, keep a sharp eye out for the revelation of the two-step redemption process.  This plan of God is woven into virtually every passage of Scripture.

Torah Gemstones – Miketz (at the end) – Genesis 41:1-44:17

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Torah Gemstones – Miketz (at the end) Genesis 41:1-44:17

This week’s portion always falls on the Shabbat of Chanukah for the annual Torah portion cycle.  Certainly there are elements in the parshah, Miketz, that relate to Chanukah but there is also a very strong connection to Passover.  The first Passover, it would seem, was actually celebrated in Egypt with Joseph and his brothers and prepared the rest of the family of Israel for the second Passover at the time of the Exodus.  It seems to me this first Passover was a prophetic picture of the first redemption and the first coming of the Messiah, while the “second” Passover was a prophetic picture of the final redemption as revealed in the second coming of the Messiah.

Based on that understanding, Miketz contains many remarkable similarities to the Passover of the Exodus and even to the Passover celebrated by Yeshua with his Talmidim.  Joseph, a type of Messiah, was raised up as second in command in Egypt in the same way Moshe was raised up.  The brothers of Joseph were gathered together to participate in the first Passover in Egypt just as the entire nation joined Moshe in taking part in the second Passover also in Egypt.  However, many questions arise when considering the account of Passover here in Miketz.

What kind of famine were they experiencing in Israel if there was a seemingly bountiful harvest?  The reason for “going down” to Egypt was because of a famine.  But the sons of Jacob took the very best products of the land of Israel to Joseph in Egypt – resin gum, honey, pistachios, almonds etc, plus double the money the brothers originally took to Egypt.  How is it the land of Israel produced these things yet there was a famine?  How is it they were blessed with money double the amount they received from Joseph?  Perhaps the brothers are taking with them all the best of Eretz Israel in order to provide physically and spiritually for those who will be in exile in the future.  This is a pattern repeated over and over again.  In spiritual terms, the best the land had to offer was its Tzaddikim (Righteous ones), the Torah (Commandments) and the Avodah (Temple service). The exile of the Children of Israel to Egypt and their subsequent redemption and exodus are the paradigm of all exile and redemption, both physically and spiritually.

Why is Benjamin, the youngest son of Rachel and Jacob, the key to the restoration of the whole family?  Judah reminds Jacob, his Father, two times that the brothers were told by Joseph, a type of Messiah, “you will not see my face again unless your brother (Benjamin) is with you”. Perhaps this is because of the special status given to Benjamin by his father.  He was named Ben Oni, “son of my affliction”, by his mother as she lay dying in childbirth, but was re-named by Jacob, his father, “son of my right hand”.  He is yet another picture of Yeshua the Messiah in his two comings, and the agent of the redemption for the whole house of Israel.

Who was the guardian of Joseph’s house – the one in charge of everything Joseph had and who served the brothers at the entrance of the house?  Could he represent the High Priest?  Did the house represent the Temple? The High Priest was responsible for offering up the Passover offering.  He was in charge of everything that went on in the Temple and he served the people at the entrance to the Temple.

Why was Shim’on left behind in prison when the brothers returned to the land without Benjamin?  When the brothers confessed they didn’t know who had put the money back in their sacks, the guardian said,  “Peace be with you!  Do not fear.  Your God and the God of your father has given you a hidden treasure in your sacks.  Your money came to me” and then Scripture says “he brought out to them Shi’mon”.  Shim’on means “oil”, so perhaps he was a picture of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit was left behind in Egypt to prepare the way for the family when they returned for the second Passover.  Perhaps this is a picture of the Spirit being given to the nation after the redemption price was paid when the brothers returned the money.

Why was Benjamin’s meal portion five times larger than the rest of the brothers? Could it be because of the redemption of the firstborn, which is called the Pidyon Haben in Hebrew.  Granted, Benjamin was not physically the firstborn, but he did represent the firstborn of the redemption as we have just noted. The firstborn was redeemed with five silver coins given to the priest.  It was the father who offered the five silver coins for the boy.  Normally the duties of a priest fell to the eldest son of each family because God intended for the firstborn to be a priest who would be that family’s representative to the Holy Temple.  Did Moshe, as the priest from tribe of Levi, replace Joseph as the firstborn?  Did Benjamin replace Joseph as the firstborn? This mitzvah or commandment was to remind Israel of the Exodus from Egypt when God killed the firstborn of the Egyptians and spared them.

"Consecrate to me all the firstborn. Whatever is the first to open the womb among the people of Israel, both of man and of beast, is mine."

Why was Joseph’s special silver cup put back into the sack of BenjaminIt was the guardian of Joseph’s household that placed the goblet into the sack of Benjamin along with the rest of the money.  Could this be a picture of the cup of Elijah?   Consider Luke 22:20 where Yeshua says, “This cup that is poured out for you” or from I Corinthians, “This cup is the new covenant (at the time of Passover) effected by my blood; do this as you often as you drink it as a memorial to me.”  It was only Yeshua and Elijah that could drink from that cup.  Today the cup of Elijah is the 5th cup of wine during the Passover Seder.  The four cups correspond to the four "expressions of redemption" promised by God.  The fifth cup corresponds to the fifth expression of redemption, which comes in the following verse: "I will bring you to the Land.” This is an allusion to the future messianic redemption, which will be announced by Elijah.

There are all kinds of additional similarities between the meal Joseph’s brothers experienced and the Passover meal.  Here are just a few. Joseph instructed the guardian of the “house” (think Temple) to take the men inside, kill the animals, prepare the meat so they could dine with Joseph at noon (tsa’harayim), or literally afternoon.  Passover is the only festival that officially starts at “noon”, not in the evening, and the lamb itself was slain in the afternoon at 3:00pm.  The guardian of the “house” brought the men into the “house” and gave them water, for purification perhaps, and let them wash their feet as Yeshua washed the feet of his Talmidim. In addition the Firstborn was given the place of honor while the youngest sat in the last place just as it is was at the time of Yeshua.  Finally, the brothers ate separately from the Egyptians because the Egyptians, who were foreigners, were not circumcised as required by the Torah to partake in the Passover.

Hopefully all these amazing connections have served to whet your appetite for more and have encouraged you to go back into this story to examine even more details of the Passover.  From there I trust you will see a pattern emerge into an even bigger picture. Chag Sameach Chanukah!!

Study to Show Yourself Approved – Session 8: Interior Design-The Biblical Feasts

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Download the PDF Workbook for this series

This session covers the significance of the calendar and the Biblical Festivals and introduces the concept of the seven thousand year plan of God.  This may well be one of the most important areas in terms of research that I cover.  Most of Scripture contains elements of one kind or another dealing with these areas.  Check out this latest video to gain a better understanding of God' calendar and His appointed times.

 

Part 8

Part 8 - Audio

 

Torah Gemstones – V’yashev (and he dwelled) – Genesis 37:1-40:23

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This week’s parshah points to numerous connections between the life of Joseph and the life of Yeshua, but something that stood out in particular is found in the very first verses.  It begins with a rather odd introduction,

“These are the descendants of Jacob - Joseph at the age of seventeen years was a shepherd with his brothers by the flock.” 

Joseph is the most beloved son of Jacob from among the eleven other sons and even from Reuben, the firstborn, the one destined for the birthright.  But Joseph is the firstborn of Rachel, Jacob’s beloved wife and the wife of promise.  She is a shadow, or type, of the Holy Spirit.  We are reminded in the first chapter of Acts to “wait for the Promise of the Father”, a reference to the coming of the immersion in the Holy Spirit.  The firstborn of Rachel and Jacob is Joseph, the first fruit of that union, and Yeshua is the first fruit of the union between the Spirit and our Heavenly Father.  In the same way Yeshua and the Father are One, so too Joseph and Jacob are one.  It is said of Joseph that his life and acts will reveal much of the hidden light of Messiah.”

So what then is the significance of the number seventeen? Not only is it used to reveal Joseph’s age here, but it is found later in Genesis when the children of Israel are in Egypt with Jacob.

So Israel dwelt in the land of Egypt, in the country of Goshen and they had possessions there and grew and multiplied exceedingly.  And Jacob dwelled in the land of Egypt seventeen years.  So the length of Jacob’s life was one hundred and forty-seven years.

                                                             Genesis 47:27,28

Notice the substitution between the name of Israel and of Jacob, between Goshen and Egypt, and the connection to seventeen years.  Also interesting is that the sages decided to put a parshah break between these two passages.  Notice also both verses begin with the idea of “dwelling” which is the name of this week’s portion V’yeshev, “and he dwelled”.  There seems to be an emphasis on two separate and set apart time periods and a connection to the number seventeen and the Children of Israel.

Both Yeshua and Joseph are identified as shepherds but they are also pictures of a lamb led to slaughter. The gematria for the word sacrifice or zevach is seventeen.  The altar of burnt offering, described as the literal heart of the temple, had seventeen parts just as the human heart has seventeen parts.  Yeshua rose from the dead on the seventeenth of the first month and Haman, from the story of Esther who is the eternal enemy of the Jews, was defeated on the seventeenth of the first month.  Finally Joseph was seventeen when he set out to find his brothers who were shepherding the sheep in Shechem.  So what is the meaning of seventeen?  Perhaps the number represents the unity of the Spirit and the Torah as manifested in the life of Joseph and Yeshua the Messiah and in their relationship to the tribes of Israel.   In both cases, there seems to be an allusion to the first coming of Messiah as pictured in the pit or the grave, and to a second coming as both Yeshua and Joseph were raised up as King over the land second only to God.

The Holy Spirit is described as the seven-fold spirit in both Isaiah and Revelation, and the Torah is understood to be the ten utterances or commandments of God.  Both Yeshua and Joseph embodied the attributes of the Spirit as they walked in the commandments of God.  The number seventeen, composed of a seven and a ten, has some other interesting characteristics.  It is a triangular number where the first seventeen integers added together total 153. Also seventeen when multiplied by nine equals 153.  Nine is a number that represents truth in Hebrew thinking.  Now we have a combination of the Spirit, the Word, and truth all represented in 153.  This is also the numerical value of the name Betzalel, whose name means “in the image of God”, and who was the builder of the TabernacleBeni Elohim, or the Sons of God, also has the value of 153.  Remember the 153 fish that Peter and the disciples caught in the net after Yeshua had been resurrected from the dead!  In several journal articles on this topic, scholars have long connected the number seventeen in this way.

I have called by name Betzalel, the son of Uri (my light), the son of  Hur of the tribe of Judah.  And I have filled him with the Spirit of God (seven-fold Spirit) in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge and in all manner of workmanship.

                                                                                   Exodus 31:1

And Yeshua increased in wisdom and stature (in rising up) and in favor with God and men.

                                                                                   Luke 2:52

Ultimately, the number seventeen reveals the two comings of Yeshua the Messiah, the manifestation of the Spirit and the Torah in His life, and the completion of the Kingdom through His seed, the Sons of God.  As Sons of God, we are called to be a witness to the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives as we walk in the commandments of God.  Those that are His walk by the Spirit and hold to the testimony of His word.

Two Ages: Olam Haba and Olam Hazeh (8 part series)

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Have you ever wondered what Yeshua meant when he told his Talmidim, "I will be with you always even to the end of the age" or when his Talmidim said, "What will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age?"  These questions are answered in this eight part series called The Two Ages.  This is an in-depth teaching on the concept of the Olam Hazeh, this present age and the Olam  Haba, the future age to come.  This is one of the most important patterns in Scripture.  Understanding these concepts will unlock many passages that have perhaps seemed confusing.

 

 

Part 1

Part 1 -


Part 2

Part 2 -


Part 3

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Part 4

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Part 5

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Part 6

Part 6 -


Part 7

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Part 8

Part 8 -

Chanukah and the Tabernacle

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Chanukah, the Feast of Dedication, is familiar to many of us and is based on a story from the book of Macabbees.   Some believe the Macabbees based the date for Chanukah, Kislev 25, on actual events.  However, it is more likely they chose the date based on the prophecies of Haggai, who identified Kislev 25 as the time of the completion for the construction and dedication of the Temple.  Of course today’s celebration includes lighting the Chanukah candles and reminds us of the priests lighting the menorah in the Temple.  Even more significant are Haggai’s prophecies that connect to Numbers chapter seven.  This chapter outlines the dedication of the altar and the offerings brought by the princes of Israel.  This particular chapter is the reading from the Torah for the Shabbat that falls during the week of Chanukah.  That is because on Kislev 25 the Mishkan (Tabernacle) was completed even though it was yet to be dedicated.  The actual dedication would take place the first day of the first month of the Biblical calendar.

“It was on the day Moshe finished raising up the Tabernacle that he anointed it and he sanctified it, and the altar and all its utensils he anointed them and he sanctified them.”

Numbers 7:1

The word “finished” is Kallot from the root Kallah and can mean a bride.  We see the same thing expressed in Genesis.

“The heavens and the earth were finished in all their array. On the seventh day God finished the work, which he made and he rested from all his work, which he had done."

Genesis 2:1,2

I would like to suggest that this concept of “finished” speaks of the fullness of the Messianic Kingdom and is connected to the marriage of the bride to the bridegroom.  That unity is related to Chanukah and hints at the consummation of the marriage with the two becoming one body.  The Tabernacle and the Temple are the picture of the unity of the house as seen in the marriage.  They are patterned after a physical body and represent the unity of the Messiah and his congregation on earth.  This is the underlying meaning of the completion, sanctification and dedication of the Mishkan.

Again, this is played out in Numbers chapter seven through the offerings made by the princes of the tribes of Israel on the day the Tabernacle and altar were anointed.  There is a “double” used here in the Hebrew language when speaking of the offerings of the princes.

“One prince (Nasi Echad) to each day, one prince (Nasi Echad) to each day, shall they bring their offering for the dedication of the altar.”

Numbers 7:11

These princes represented the unity of the tribes of Israel.  Their task was to elevate the nation in order to bring the people to a higher level of sanctity.  These were prominent men from the tribal families who stood out as the true leaders of Israel.  Together they brought their offerings on the day appointed by God.  Their offerings were identical, which indicated the tribes were equal in their relationship to the central Sanctuary.  This is the unity of the congregation of Israel.  The twelve princes further reflected a joint national goal of inaugurating the Tabernacle.

So why is there a Hebrew double when referring to the offering of the princes on the altar?  Perhaps this pointed to the two future Temples that would be built in Jerusalem where these offerings would continue.  Perhaps it also pointed to the two comings of Yeshua the Messiah who offered himself on the altar, in order to build the congregation and bring the complete unity of the body of Messiah.  This takes us back to the picture of the bride and the bridegroom being sanctified, dedicated, and becoming one body at the time of the Messianic Kingdom.

The sanctification of the individual parts of the sanctuary was accomplished only by the sanctification of the whole.  Each part, by itself, was incomplete and needed the other parts to be sanctified in order to complement one other.  It was said the whole could not do without its least important part.  So the Tabernacle became the place where the whole needed each part and each part needed the whole.  Then it was “finished”.

Ultimately what does this mean for the community today?  The answer can be found in the words of Rav Shaul from his letters to the Corinthians and to the Ephesians.

For just as the body is one but has many parts and all the parts of the body though many constitute one body so it is with the Messiah. 

Indeed many parts, yet just one body.

If one part suffers all parts suffer with it and if one part is honored, all the parts share its happiness.

Now you together constitute the body of the Messiah and individually you are parts of it. 

God has placed in the community apostles, prophets, teachers, evangelists, shepherds…their task is to equip God’s people for the work of the service that builds the body of Messiah.

 

I Corinthians 12, 20, 26, 27, 28

In union with him the whole building is held together and is growing into a holy temple in union with the Messiah.  Yes in union with him you yourselves are being built together into a spiritual dwelling place (tabernacle) for God.

Ephesians 2:21

The culmination of this entire concept of the Tabernacle being finished and the unity of the congregation expressed through the twelve princes is found in the first few verses in Numbers eight.  The commandment, originally discussed in Exodus, concerns the design of the seven-branched menorah.

Moshe heard the voice of “One” speaking to him from above the mercy seat. When you arrange the lamps, the seven lamps shall give light in front of the lampstand.

                                      Numbers 8:1

The central shaft of the menorah was to bear the central light.  Then all seven lights were to shine toward the center of the menorah and unite into that one dominant light.  According to the Ramban, the kindling of this light alludes to a later menorah, that of the miracle of light of Chanukah”.  In addition, Yeshua the Messiah is a picture of that central shaft.  He declared, “I am the light of the world”.  Now the words of John in Revelation bring added meaning to the concept of the unity of the congregation.

Then I turned to see the voice that spoke to me.  And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands and in the midst of the seven lampstands one like the Son of Man. The seven menorahs, which you saw are the seven congregations.  

Rev 1:12,13,20.

Torah Gemstones – V’yishlach (He sent) – Genesis 32:4-36:43

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Torah Gemstones – V’yishlach (And he sent out) Genesis 32:4 – 36:43

 

The legacy of Jacob that we are most familiar with is his twelve sons, who became the twelve tribes of Israel and, ultimately, represented the whole nation. What we fail to recognize is Jacob's life struggle to gain the inheritance that God promised to those tribes.

Jacob’s life is fraught with struggle, mostly against an enemy of one kind or another.  The enemy continually put roadblocks in his path; sometimes he was even his own worst enemy.  Jacob had to fight for the firstborn position, for the blessings that accompanied that birthright, for his bride of promise, Rachel, and finally for the land of Israel itself.  At first he fought unsuccessfully with Esav in the womb for the firstborn status. Then he fought again with Esav for the inheritance of the birthright. He clashed with Laban for his bride of promise, and finally he struggled with an unnamed adversary for the land of Israel.

His life reflects the struggle against an eternal enemy who continually attacks the sons of Israel, those past and those yet to be born. Jacob never gave up though, and continued to fight the good fight for the sake of his progeny.  His final struggle was for the future ingathering of all the tribes. The first ingathering had been in Egypt where Joseph declared, "God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance" (Gen 45:7). The final ingathering would be in the land of Israel.

In the Torah portion Ha’azinu (Deut 32), Scripture tells us Jacob’s family is God’s inheritance. For Adonai’s portion is His people; Jacob is the measure of his inheritance. Measure (חבל) means a rope, or binding something by wrapping it with a rope. Ropes were used to measure a plot of land and so the rope became synonymous with the physical inheritance of the tribes. In addition, because a rope with its many twisted strands is stronger than an individual strand, the sages say it was Jacob who was described as God’s rope because he represented the combined strengths of Abraham and Isaac. It was Jacob, therefore, who had the strength to contend for the inheritance for his children against an eternal enemy.

The fight over that inheritance, when Jacob wrestled with "a man," is the epic battle against an unnamed adversary. Rabbinic opinion struggles to understand the passage. Some suggest the adversary was HaSatan, some the guardian angel of Esav, still others declare it was an agent of God.  In any case, this battle unfolds under the cover of darkness with this unnamed adversary over whom Jacob ultimately prevailed. And this account is written in a way that seems to be purposefully ambiguous.  As a result, there are many interpretations and scholars rarely agree on the meaning of this narrative.

One of the mysteries in the interpretation is caused by the repeated use of the pronoun “he,” which makes it difficult to determine who is wrestling with whom. However, even though this account is rather a brief episode in the life of Jacob, it remains one of the most important events.

Jacob left the clutches of Laban, his father-in-law, and came to the ford of the Jabbock River. The Hebrew indicates he first took his family safely across and then made a second trip with all his possessions. After doing this he returned to the original side.  Jabbock (יבק) is actually a play on similar letters for the word wrestled (אבק). Both words mean to displace another from his standing position. This word (אבק) is only used in Scripture in this passage and can also mean, according to the sages, the place from which it “breaks out.” This understanding suggests an idiomatic expression for the Kingdom of Heaven, that is, “breaking forth.” The struggle, it says, continued until the breaking of day, another idiom for the coming forth of the Kingdom.

Although his adversary weakened Jacob by preventing him from using his natural abilities, when the day was breaking their positions were reversed. This seems to indicate Jacob was now deserving of the blessing to which the firstborn was entitled. The “man” touched Jacob’s hip and caused his walk to be diminished physically. Although the “touch” was a blow, still Jacob prevailed. Even though it caused him to limp or favor one side  (צלע), that side was now the side of Adonai. Jacob then declared, “I have been delivered” (נצל), a word related to the side but one that points to the redemption.

Jacob’s name, often referred to as meaning “crooked,” is now changed.  His adversary gives him the new name, Israel.  Israel (ישראל) is generally translated one who contends with God. However, it can also mean one who is upright or straight.  So, although the enemy touched the hip of Jacob and tried to diminish his walk physically, Jacob's new name indicates that his spiritual walk is now straight. He has overcome the adversary. He has won the firstborn status, the blessing of the birthright, the bride, and finally the land of Israel.

Torah Gemstones – V’yetzeh (He went out) – Genesis 28:10-32:3

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Torah Gemstones:  Parshah V’yetzeh (He went out) Genesis 28:10-32:3

 

The expression “Jacob’s ladder” is certainly familiar to many, even to those outside the biblical world.  The setting for Jacob’s dream, however, may not be so familiar.  To begin with, Jacob left Beersheva in the south to head north to Charan to his mother’s family in order to secure a bride.  On his way he stopped for the night at “the place” called Beit El (House of God) in the land of Moriah, which was the future site of the Temple.  There he had a divine encounter with God.  That encounter was a prophecy of the spiritual legacy of Jacob’s seed, given to him before he took four wives who produced thirteen children.

The place or makom, where Jacob rested, is actually one of the names for God.  Jacob took from the “stones” of “the place”, arranged those stones at his head and lay down to sleep.  When he awoke he took the “stone” and set it up as a monument.  The rabbis say the “stones” in the first instance represented the twelve tribes while the singular “stone” signified the tribes united into a one nation.

Midrash Rabbah. R. Judah said: He took twelve stones, saying: ‘The Holy One, blessed be He, has decreed that twelve tribes should spring forth. Now neither Abraham nor Isaac has produced them. If these twelve stones cleave to one another, then I know that I will produce the twelve tribes.’ When therefore the twelve stones united, he knew   that he was to produce the twelve tribes.

 

During the night Jacob dreamed of a ladder (sulam) that was standing upright in the earth with its top reaching to heaven and with angels ascending and descending.  Needless to say, there have been numerous interpretations for the meaning of the ladder both from the view of the ancient sages as well as more modern ones.  This is the only place the word ladder or sulam is used in all of Scripture.  Some have identified the sulam with the Torah.  This is because the gematria for sulam and for Sinai is 130 and Sinai was where Israel received the Torah.  Some sages have connected the ladder to the prayer service because the “stone” where Jacob laid his head was the location of the Altar of burnt offering.  The prayer service is the substitute for the offering services.  Incidentally, this is the same location Abraham built an altar to offer his son Isaac as a burnt offering.  Others saw the ladder as representing Torah study, and still others identified the ladder with Jacob, Israel, their future generations or even all three combined.  Ultimately the ladder was a prophecy connected to Jacob that pointed to his future wives and their combined progeny.

There also seems to be an emphasis on the relationship between Beit El, House of God, and the seed of Jacob because God promised his seed would “burst forth” in all four directions from this the center point of the universe.  In addition, all the families of the earth would be blessed through those descendants.  Since spiritual seed would go forth from the House of God, the house has often been described as the Chuppah or the wedding chamber.  The Chuppah was “the place” the bride and groom would retreat to for their wedding week.  The wedding week is called the Seven days of the Chuppah.  You may recall Jacob fulfilled his “wedding week” with Rachel after working for seven years.  The House of God, therefore, not only represented the place of unity between heaven and earth, it represented the unity between husband and wife.  In fact the Talmud says that a house or bayit is synonymous for a wife.  In other words, a man’s wife is called his house.

This interpretation barely scratches the surface of the depth of meaning of Jacob’s dream.  Overall, the House of God is a picture of the wedding chamber and the ladder represents the Torah or the Ketubah, which was the wedding contract.  Consider the whole nation received the Torah in Sinai at Shavuot (weeks), the time of their betrothal, which is seven weeks of seven days from Passover.  The contract describes the groom’s real estate that was promised to the bride at their marriage.  The stone points to the whole House of Israel.  Israel is the seed that came forth both physically and spiritually from the line of Jacob and his wives.  In addition, this Torah reading is the seventh portion from the beginning of the year.  Coincidence!  I don’t think so.

 

But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the House of God shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow to it. And many nations shall come, and say, 'Come, and let us go up to the mountain of God, and to the House of the God of Ya’akov; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths; for Torah shall go forth from Zion, and the word of God from Jerusalem.

Micah 4:1-2

Torah Gemstones – Tol’dot (Descendants) – Genesis 25:19-28:7

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Torah Gemstones: Tol’dot (history/descendants) Genesis 25:19-28:7

 

This week’s portion is a tale of two Kingdoms.  One is represented by Esav and the other by Jacob.  The twins came forth from the womb of Rebecca and are described in Scripture as being two nations.  Tol’dot, then, is the history of the eternal destiny of these two nations.

Typically Jacob gets a bad rap for being the “supplanter” and stealing the birthright from Esav.  However, the sages have a different take.  According to the rabbinic literature the name Jacob means, “his sovereignty will supplant mine in the Olam Haba (the World to Come), that is, he will rule after me.”  In other words, Jacob’s sovereignty will supplant Esav’s in the time of the “World to Come”, so that Jacob will rule after Esav.  The rabbis added, Isaac concedes This Present World to Esav and The World to Come to Jacob”.  This now becomes a picture of Esav’s rulership over this present physical age and Jacob’s rulership over the future age to come.  Their struggle in the womb becomes the eternal conflict between the Kingdom of Darkness and the Kingdom of Light.

So what is the character of each of these two individual kingdoms?  First, Esav is described as “a man who knows hunting” and “a man of the field”.  Yeshua explained in the parables that the field was the world.  The word for hunting, tza’id, means one who lays an ambush to snare his prey.  This is the nature, then, of the ruler of this world and the thrust of his kingdom.  He continually ambushes, entraps and enslaves his prey until they are his.

Esav came forth red (adam) like a wide garment (aderet) that is hairy.  The “hairy” outer garment represents the flesh, which is red in color.  Hairy or sei’ar comes from the singular root s’ar.  The sei’irim are the goat demons or satyrs found in much of pagan worship. It was Jeroboam who appointed priests for the Sei’irim and made images of goat demons, and it is the sei’irim who lived in the wilderness according to Leviticus.   This is where the concept of the Azazel or the “scapegoat” came from.

Azazel is from two words 'azaz' and 'el', meaning 'strong one of a god.'  Azazel probably derived from the Canaanite god, 'Asiz, who caused the sun to burn strongly.  It is interesting that Azazel is the chief of the Se'irim, or goat-demons, who haunted the desert and to whom most primitive Semitic tribes offered sacrifices.

This helps in understanding the concept of the Azazel goat in the service for Yom Kippur.  The Lord ordered his high priest, Aaron, to 'place lots upon the two goats, one marked for the Lord and the other marked for Azazel' on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur).

The goat designated by lot for the Lord is to be used as a sin offering, while the goat designated for Azazel, "shall be left standing alive before the Lord, to make expiation with it and to send it off to the wilderness for Azazel." (Lev 16:10)  

Aaron was to "lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat and confess over it all the iniquities and transgressions of the Israelites,       whatever their sins, putting them on the head of the goat; and it shall be sent off to the wilderness. Thus the goat shall carry on it all their iniquities to an inaccessible region; and the goat shall be set free in the wilderness." (Lev 16:21-22)

In one account of the fall of the angels in the Book of Enoch, Azazel (Asa'el as in the Qumran texts) is the leader of the Watchers who educates humankind of heavenly secrets that lead humankind to sin. The angels then charge Asa'el before the Lord with crimes of revealing the heavenly secrets which mankind was not supposed to know.  Rapha’el was then assigned to punish Asa'el by binding him hand and foot and throwing him into the darkness among the sharp and jagged rocks, where he would remain until the Day of Judgment when he would be hurled into the fire.

This was also a part of the ceremony for Yom Kippur during the Second Temple period.  The Azazel goat was escorted to the wilderness on a twelve-mile journey to a place called Mt Tzok or Mt Azazel.  There the goat was pushed backwards off the jagged cliff and torn into pieces by the sharp rocks. The Talmud also records the miracle of the scarlet wool tied to the horns of Azazel and hanging from the rock, called Chudo, that turned white as the goat was cast to its death.

“Though your sins were as scarlet they shall be white as snow”. (Is 1:18)

In the Book of Enoch, also quoted in the Epistle of Jude, Azazel was seen as the False Messiah.  During the Yom Kippur ceremony, the people in Jerusalem waited patiently for news from the wilderness of the destruction of the goat, Azazel.  The goat was considered to be the epitome of evil, wickedness and sin, and a picture of the False Messiah being destroyed and condemned to Gehenna at the time of Yom Kippur.  According to the sages, when Esav returned to his father, Isaac “trembled a trembling that was very great”, meaningIsaac perceived Gehinnom open beneath Esav”.

Now contrast this with Jacob, the man who was blameless or whole (tamim) dwelling in tents.  The tents referred to the tents of the Patriarchs, where the Shekinah or the radiance of God dwelt. This was the place of the Presence of God on earth where those who loved God’s word dwelled (sh’kan).  This was where the righteous experienced repentance, forgiveness and redemption as personified by the person of Jacob.

Rebecca (a picture of the Holy Spirit) told Jacob to listen to her “voice” and bring two goats from the flock.  After she took the garments of Esav and clothed Jacob, she then covered him with the skins of one of the goats.  She put the skins on his hands and on his neck, which were the parts his father could touch.  Scripture says, Jacob declared, my father will touch me and I will bring upon myself a curse.  He literally took on the clothing or the flesh of Esav, along with the skins of the goat, and made an offering of food to his father not unlike what Yeshua did for his heavenly Father.

Jacob was described as smooth skinned.  Smooth or halaq means to divide or to make a portion.  Jacob was, therefore, the Father’s portion, the one who would receive the rightful inheritance in the World to Come.  Jacob is truly a wonderful picture of Yeshua the Messiah literally taking on the curse of the flesh of this world, which were all the sins of mankind. The curse of the flesh was a fragrant aroma to Jacob’s father, Isaac, who smelled it and said, “This is the “fragrance of the Garden of Eden” (Gan Eden) or the World to Come.

Which kingdom most reflects your character?  Is it the works of the flesh as manifested by Esav, the ruler of this world, or the works of the Spirit fulfilled by Jacob, the legitimate ruler and rightful heir of the Kingdom of God?

Study to Show Yourself Approved – Session 7: Plastering the Walls (Liturgy)

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Download the PDF Workbook for this series

Many people shy away from the liturgy because they associate it with dead religion or just the ramblings of the rabbis. However, it is a wonderful resource for study.  There are many examples in the Gospels and Epistles that both Yeshua and Rav Shaul quoted from the liturgy.  Did you know that the Lord’s Prayer is really a summary of elements in the Amidah (18 benedictions or Standing Prayers)? In fact, much of the book of Revelation is filled with liturgical expressions from the prayers preceding the Shema (Hear O Israel).

 

Part 1

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