Torah Portions

Torah Portion: Beshalach, A New Creation

 Exodus 13:17-17:16, Judges 4:4-5:31

In my last post on Chodesh Shevat, trees and fruit, and tasting that fruit were the central theme. I used the analogy of people being trees that produce fruit to bring out a deeper spiritual meaning for the new month, the New Year for Trees, and living a life devoted to God. One of the lessons of trees and taste buds is RENEWAL.

The idea of being born anew, having a change of status, and being refined into a “new” creation is evident in every aspect of the natural world that YHWH created. The new moon (month) is just one of the heavenly governors that proclaims this message. The Good News is taught in various and sundry ways to those with ears to hear.

This week’s Torah portion, Beshalach, is one of my favorites. There are so many wondrous events that one could spend weeks, if not years, on this one portion. I just happened to pull up Rabbi David Fohrman’s alephbeta.org and the following video captured my attention. The creation week is THE cycle; it is the great archetype for everything we see in both the natural and the spiritual. The seven moedim (feast days) exemplify this week and the Good News beautifully.

Creation Gospel students of Dr. Hollisa Alewine have explored the notion that the creation week can be seen in the exodus from Egypt in workbook one. Rabbi Fohrman furthers this imagery by presenting the listener with a midrash about the sea parting to expose dry ground, and fruit trees appearing as the children walk through the sea. Where do the rabbis get the idea that trees appeared? Could this metaphor be a depiction of the people walking through the sea as trees of righteousness? Is the fruit a reminder of the fullness of the creation week (Shabbat) and the feast of the fruit harvest (Sukkot)? Is the midrash a foreshadowing of returning to Eden?

I hope you’ll watch and find out in this month of taste and “trees.”

Beshalach: Fruit Trees In the Sea?

Categories: Musings, new moon, Torah Portions | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Inspiration Through Torah in 5776: Mikeitz

I loved this post by my friend Sarah at Sewnolivette on this week’s Torah Portion, Mikeitz. She included some great links and a fantastic video on “trust” by Brene Brown. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Be sure to click on the source link below.

Happy Chanukah! –K

Happy Chanukah


 

My youngest son’s birthday is during the festival of Chanukah. This is his Torah portion and it holds a special place in my heart, because my husband read it to me when I was in labor with my…

Source: Inspiration Through Torah in 5776: Mikeitz

Categories: Mussar, Torah Portions | Leave a comment

Know Your Place

The Spirit of Shavuot

After reading this past week’s Torah portion, B’midbar,[1] and celebrating the fourth Biblical festival of Shavuot (Pentecost), I began to think about our various “positions” before YHWH. The Mussar middah (character trait) humility has at its core the question of a person’s proper place. A balanced person neither thinks too highly of himself nor too lowly. Likewise, he or she doesn’t focus too much on self or on the faults of others. This sounds so simple, but the issue of humility is a great struggle for most of us. (Me included!)

signIn parsha B’midbar, YHWH described not only the placement of each individual tribe as they camped, but also outlined the order in which they would travel and go to war. The tribal leaders were named and the duties of the priests for the movement of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) were established. YHWH is very specific and organized. There was no question as to one’s duty or placement in the body of Israel. Today, instead of “knowing our place”, we seem to be all over the place in both physicality and deed; each thinking his way, interpretation, or understanding is higher or better.

This creates confusion, not unity. Instead of being united like the believers at Shavuot in Acts Chapter 2, we seem to be more scattered and divided like they were after Messiah’s last Passover and subsequent crucifixion. Using this as a model, we know that Yeshua’s desire was for them to come back together as one people at Shavuot. This is why the risen Messiah told them during the days of the Omer count to go to Jerusalem and WAIT for the promise of being “clothed with power from on high”.

“And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”  (Luke 24:49 NASB. See also Acts 1:4)

We all know what happened next.

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. (Acts 2:1 KJV)

When we fully come into the Spirit of Shavuot, we know our proper estate. Can you even imagine how glorious the unity of the people was? Look at what their actions produced; it’s eerily similar to when God spoke the Ten Words to the people standing at the base of Mt. Sinai at an earlier Shavuot:

And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.  (3)  And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.  (4)  And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:2-4 KJV)

So it came about on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunder and lightning flashes and a thick cloud upon the mountain and a very loud trumpet sound, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled.  (17)  And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain.  (18)  Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the LORD descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently.  (19)  When the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him with thunder. (Ex. 19:16-19 NASB)

YHWH descended Mount Sinai in fire at the giving of the Ten Commandments and the people trembled. Later He descended in fire again, but this time, instead of manifesting on a mountain, the fire sat upon the people. Like the mountain, the people were not consumed. In both cases, the Word of YHWH went forth like FIRE at the feast of Shavuot!

The people in each of the above examples were unified. I dare say that their theology was NOT what united them. It’s difficult to find two people that have the same opinion on any given matter. Jews have a saying to express this: “two Jews, three opinions”. So what did unite the people? Or better yet, what CAN unify us?

The two most memorable Shavuot festivals have at their heart two great leaders. And there is one trait that both are said to possess that I find most fitting for us to focus on within the theme of unity. Moses is called the most humble man on earth.[2] Later, the one like unto Moses[3] is also called humble.[4] By following Moses’ and Yeshua’s example, it’s not our theology and opinions that binds us into one accord. Rather, it’s our willingness to “know our place” or live in a state of humility.

The Humility of Shavuot

“Always seek to learn wisdom from everyone, to recognize your failings and correct them. In doing so you will learn to stop thinking about your virtues and you will take your mind off your friend’s faults.”Cheshbon ha-Nefesh by Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Satanov.

If there is one thing that I notice more than anything on television, the blogosphere, and social media, it is that our focus is continually on the faults of others. I see very little introspection and meekness. As Rabbi Menachem mentions in the above quote, it is by seeking to learn wisdom from EVERYONE that we are enabled to really see our own failings and correct them.

Everyone? Even the heathen, pagan, atheist, and cult follower? Most would squawk that these lost souls have no wisdom. Is this true? The last time I checked, they too were made in the image of God. While they may need redemption, they too are a holy soul and YHWH cares greatly for them. Pride is what causes us to assume that we have nothing to learn from these precious ones.

But this is also true of those that we interact with from the redeemed. Just because Joe Schmoe doesn’t think, believe, or act out his walk with YHWH exactly like you do, doesn’t mean that you are better than him or that he doesn’t have something yet to teach you. Again, it’s PRIDE that keeps us from gathering together. I’ll give you an example from my own life.

Years ago, I was part of a congregation in FL. The local Seventh-Day Adventist (SDA) church allowed us to meet in their building. I personally don’t think or believe like SDAs. Other than obeying the Sabbath, I thought I didn’t have much in common with these folks. One day, the SDA group asked us to join with them to break bread. To be honest, I didn’t really want to go. My prideful little self secretly thought, “What could they possibly teach me at this point?” I know you’ve never had a thought like that about a person or group, but I freely admit my debauchery to you anyway. 🙂

FootwashingLong story short, I went… begrudgingly. The meal was fine. It was more or less a communion service in their fellowship hall. Since I associate communion with Passover, I felt that the meal wasn’t quite “accurate”. (More pride.) Then something odd happened. The people rose from their seats and began to break off for a foot washing ceremony. Without anyone leading, spontaneous songs and hymns began to flow from the lips of these people. A sweet Spirit entered our midst and I think my mouth hung open, lol.

Married couples went to one room. Singles of the same sex went off into two other areas (children included). A sink and a stack of basins were in each room for us to gather water. One spouse sat while fresh, warm water was poured over the other’s feet. Song and praise continued to flow throughout the building. It was one of the most touching experiences I’ve ever had in my life. The water was just water, but it felt like SO much more than that.

It was SO much more than that! YHWH humbled me in a way that day that I will NEVER forget. Washing someone else’s feet is the epitome of humility. But I honestly believe it takes even MORE humility to have someone else wash YOUR feet.

Feet are the lowest part of our bodies. Since they are what touch the earth and because they are what carry our every weight and burden, they are likened to our nephesh (soul/flesh). They are our beast (of burden). And they get dirty. They, more than any other part of us, need frequent washings. You can walk around in the dirt all day and your hands can remain clean, but not your feet.

Some of you may know that I’m a licensed manicurist. I give pedicures (wash, clean, and manicure of the feet) all the time. I actually enjoy it. I consider it a privilege to care for a person in this way that is often difficult for them to do for themselves. But without soap, sweet ointments, or even toenail polish, the foot washing that I gave and received at that little SDA church has stood out as the best of the best.

Having my feet washed in the presence of YHWH and His people nearly overwhelmed me. The chip on my shoulder fell off the minute the water touched my toes. This is the Spirit of Shavuot. I wanted to separate myself out like the disciples did at Passover and Unleavened Bread, but Abba wanted me to humble myself and gather together with His people in one accord and one place.

Shavout isn’t about perfect doctrine or halachah. It is one of the pilgrimage feasts and as such, it is literally a FOOT festival. You must tame your feet and direct them to Jerusalem to receive the promise of the Father. The journey will make your feet both tired and dirty, but when you arrive, true disciples will be there with fresh water and songs of praise on their lips. Better yet, YOU will be there happy to wash the grime and mud off of your neighbor’s feet.

The heart of the commandments is LOVE. And there is no better way to express the love for your brother than to wash his feet. In a sense, this humble act says; let me wash the dirt from your lower nature. I know walking through life gets your soul muddy. I understand. I too, have a dirty nephesh. Let me refresh you. Allow me to care for you by meeting a need we all share regardless of our theology or lack thereof. I love you anyway. Let me learn something from you. You matter to me.

If we think about Moses and Yeshua, didn’t they do exactly this? Both dealt with imperfect and challenging people. Both humbled themselves and SERVED the people. They knew their place. Instead of calling fire down from heaven to destroy those with dirty feet, they tenderly washed the people.[5] The result was a fiery Word in the mouth of Israel.

Since Shavuot is about the Bride receiving her ketubah (Torah Covenant) and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, I thought it would be fitting to conclude with the words of Abigail, a bride of King David. Let’s see what wisdom this model bride can teach us:

woman-kneeling-in-prayerWhen the servants of David came to Abigail at Carmel, they spoke to her, saying, “David has sent us to you to take you as his wife.” She arose and bowed with her face to the ground and said, Behold, your maidservant is a maid to wash the feet of my lord’s servants.” (1Sam. 25:40-41)

Abigail was a humble bride; one any king would desire. She proved this through the selfless action of foot washing. Shavuot beckons us to ask: “What do I do with the feet of those I encounter? Do I step on their toes? Do I turn my nose up at their grime? Or do I bow down low and tenderly wash them clean?” May we become a maidservant like Abigail. When the King comes to take us as His Bride, may we know our place as ones who wash the feet of His servants!


[1] Numbers 1:1- 4:20. B’midbar literally means “in the wilderness”.

[2] Now the man Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth. (Num. 12:3)

[3] “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me [Moses] from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him.” (Dt. 18:15)

[4] “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Mat. 11:29-30)

[5] Ex. 19:10-11; John 13:5-13

Categories: Moedim, Mussar, Torah Portions | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments

B’har

(Revised from 2013)

Mount Sinai summit view4

Lev. 25:1- 26:2

The name of this week’s portion is B’har. It literally means “on mount” or “on the mountain”; this is where YHWH spoke to Moses. This portion begins with the mitzvah of the Sabbatical years for the land and the counting of years until the Yovel or Jubilee year. This count is strikingly similar to the yearly counting of the Omer that leads to Shavuot (Pentecost). Both counts add up to 7×7 or 49 with the holy day proclaimed the next day (with Shavuot) or year (with the Yovel). Yovel’s 50 year cycle is a much larger picture of Shavuot’s 50 day cycle. While the counting of the Omer begins following the Sabbath after Pesach and culminates 50 days later at Shavuot in the spring months, the beginning count for the Sabbatical years that culminates with the Yovel (Jubilee) begins on Yom HaKippurim[1] (Day of Atonements) in the fall. [Lev. 25:9]

This “counting” connection between the Yovel and Shavuot is no coincidence. The Scriptures are almost begging us to ask more questions and mine out the answers. After a close inspection, a common theme begins to emerge from the excavation. That theme is FREEDOM. At first glance, Shavuot may not appear to contain the thematic element of liberty. After all, the direct commandments associated with Shavuot are linked to the wheat harvest and the waving of leavened loaves.[2] It commemorates the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai and our in filling of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit). Thus, we can see the relationship of liberty begin to emerge.

Pesach is well-known as the “Festival of our Freedom”. And it should be as it marks Israel’s undeserved redemption from slavery and oppression. However, we must not make the mistake of assuming that Pesach is the end of our journey or salvation. On the contrary, Pesach and our exodus from Egypt and all it represents is only the beginning of our “renewed life” with our Holy Redeemer. All the moedim (feast days) are intrinsically connected to one another and are designed to be recurring appointments or rehearsals with our Creator. They are guide posts that light our path as we follow the Mashiach. We have a weekly illumination in the Shabbat, a monthly light in the New Moon, 7 yearly celebrations in the moedim, 7 year markers in the Sabbatical years, and every half of a century we are released in the Yovel (Jubilee). Many believe that these “cycles” are Ezekiel’s great “wheel in the middle of a wheel“. I imagine them to be akin to the planets circling the sun, each on their own elliptical or the electrons encircling the neutron of an atom.

Shavuot is deeply connected to Pesach by way of the counting of the Omer. It IS the culmination of our freedom on Pesach. Ancient Israel, and we as their descendants, are not truly “free” until we receive the Torah. It is as it were, our ketuvah (wedding vows). The picture is repeated in the Brit Chadashah (N.T.). We are redeemed by YHWH’s unmerited favor (grace) by the blood of the Lamb, but then we are to wait (count) until the feast of Pentecost (Shavuot) to receive our instructions (Torah) and be filled with the Ruach HaKodesh in order to carry out our Master’s will. We must accept or say “I do” to the Covenant. We are set free from the bondage of sin and death (Egypt) so we can choose the easy “yoke” of the One True Master.

The Yovel (Jubilee) is like Shavuot but on a grander scale. In fact, if you read Leviticus 25 carefully, you will see that what the Sabbatical years and the Yovel actually proclaim is YHWH’s ownership of not only Israel (those that have entered into covenant with Him), but of the whole earth! Think about this for moment. Every 7 years the “land” is to remain fallow; it is a Sabbath for the LAND. If these “sabbaticals” are kept, it leads to the release of MAN. All debts are forgiven and all those found in bondage are released. Property reverts back to the original owner, because no one really owns the land but YHWH (Lev. 25:23). We are only stewards. This is another testimony that YHWH is the Master; we are the servants. No other celebration declares YHWH’s ownership of not only “us”, but of the “earth/land” more than the Yovel.

Ps. 24:1 A Psalm of David. The earth is the LORD’S, and all it contains, The world, and those who dwell in it.

YHWH’s ownership makes Him our King and we are His subjects. Isaiah 61 speaks about the Yovel and its theme of freedom. Is it any wonder that Yeshua our Redeemer spoke these very words in Luke 4: 18-21?

Isa 61:1-3 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners; (2) To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, (3) To grant those who mourn in Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.

I hope you noticed the agrarian imagery used by Isaiah in reference to us. Somehow, we are intrinsically linked to the “land”. And if we meditate on this for a while, we remember that mankind was birthed from the dust of the earth. This is why the Yovel deals so intimately with both mankind and the land. When we are obedient to the Covenant, the land produces abundantly. When we are disobedient it resists us. So much in fact, that if we remain in rebellion, the land eventually spits us out into exile and captivity (bondage). Certain sins directly affect the land such as incest, bestiality, offering your children to Molech [abortion], and homosexuality. (Lev. 18) Why? Because all these actions profane the name of YHWH. They are the opposite of His character.

If our obedience proclaims His ownership and Kingship, then these sins are in reality proclaiming a false deity (HaSatan). We are currently in the Omer count leading to Shavuot. As we count, we should be reminded of the Shemitah (7 year Sabbatical year) and its count to our great release in the Yovel. Our thoughts should be on the King and His Kingdom and not on our own selfish desires and lusts. Our desire should be to march with perseverance toward a more obedient lifestyle. This will not “redeem” our souls, but it will bless our lives. (Remember the picture from paragraph 5?) If we are the King’s subjects, then we must walk and live by the decrees of the Kingdom (Torah); this shows us to be true followers.

John 15:8-10 “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. (9) “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. (10) “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.

Lessons from the Hebrew Pictographs

The Yovel (Jubilee) begins with a loud shofar blast on Yom Kippur. Brown, Driver, and Briggs’ Hebrew defines Yovel as trumpet, cornet, ram’s horn, horn, ram’s, and Jubilee (as marked by blowing of horns). Literally, this special holy day that comes only once every 50 years is named for the instrument in which it is announced.[3] What is the trumpet blast to remind us of? Once again we see a connection with Shavuot. At the original exodus, the children of Israel traveled for about 50 days until they reached the base of Mt. Sinai (at Shavuot). When YHWH gave the 10 Words (Ten Commandments), He told Israel:

Ex. 19:13 “Not a hand is to touch it, but he shall certainly be stoned or shot with an arrow, whether man or beast, he shall not live.’ When the trumpet sounds long, let them come near the mountain.”

The Hebrew word for trumpet in this verse is not shofar or a Ram’s horn, but yovel. As a side note, it is important to know that many of the Sages believed that the Yovel was simply another name for a ram’s horn or shofar; in fact, we see the word yovel translated as such throughout the Tanakh. In Hebrew, yovel consists of a yod, bet, and a lamed. The last two letters, bet and lamed, form the Hebrew root word “val” that means ‘to flow’. It has the idea of the flowing of any substance. (i.e. imagine uncorking a bottle of oil and releasing its contents to flow forth; the flow of the oil coming out is “val“) Since the flow of something is often also the emptying of a container, val also means to come to nothing, flowing away, or none.[4]

The first letter, yod, means the hand, a deed, or work. If we put these two pictographs together from the word Yovel, we get “the hand or deed that causes release. This a perfect picture of the function of the biblical Jubilee or Yovel. Remember how we discussed that the theme for both Shavuot and Yovel was FREEDOM or liberty? The Hebrew word for liberty is “deror”. It is used in several passages that speak about the Jubilee, including Isaiah 61. As we’ve just seen, Yovel is also a release (of those in bondage).

While in Hebrew these two words are not etymologically related, their meaning or function most certainly is. Both yovel (Jubilee) and deror (liberty) come from root words that carry the idea of a substance that is free-flowing, like a release of fluid, sound, or the abstract “freedom”. We use this very imagery in English when we sing “Let Freedom Ring!” The sound waves flow forth like the yovel blast. All of this speaks to a build up of pressure just before the “release”. In other words, there is a FORCE behind our release! (The Holy Spirit!)

When the time on YHWH’s calendar is just right … BAM! In my opinion, the fact that these two words are often used in conjunction and that they have similar meanings only adds to the significance of the flow of freedom. When man is free to move about or FLOW without the restraint of sin and bondage, only then can (s)he truly be free to seek and follow the King of Heaven and Earth. The flow or sound waves created by the shofar announce the return of our King and our complete redemption. May we have ears to hear it!


[1] Creation Gospel Students should make the connection immediately. All the moedim find their source in the 4th branch, the festival of Shavuot. The Day of Atonements is the epitome of a “clean slate”; therefore, it is quite fitting that the Yovel (Jubilee) begins at this crucial point. This day is ruled by the Spirit of Daat, the knowledge of sacrificial love. What better picture of this loving knowledge is there than a “return”? How many of us fantasize about going back and doing things all over again —- but this time better? This is the Yovel. (Lev. 25:10, Neh. 1:8-9, Is. 44:21-22)
[2] Interestingly, Shavuot’s wave offering is the ONLY offering in the entire feast and sacrificial system where “leavening” is not only allowed, but commanded. (Lev. 23:17) Is this not a picture of us? We ARE what is leavened.
[3] Likewise, this is the case for Yom Teruah or the Feast Day of Blowing (Trumpets).
[4] Some further Scripture examples are Isa.53:7 Isa.55:12 Jer.31:9.
Categories: Moedim, Torah Portions | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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