Torah Portions

Like the Days of Noah

The Haftarah Cycle: A Brief Introduction

In this new Torah cycle,[1] I’m devoting special attention to the prophetic portion or the haftarah. Thus, I will share little nuggets with my readers when I have time. But first, I offer a review of the history of the haftarah for those new to the Torah cycle.

Haftarah comes from a Hebrew root that means to end or conclude. (It does not mean “half!”) The haftarah portion is a selection of verses from the prophets or the writings in the Tanakh.[2] This selection is thematically connected to the weekly Torah Portion about a third of the time, but there are special haftarot (pl.) related to the calendar such as Feast days or Rosh Chodesh, or for historical events such as the destruction of the Temples and the subsequent exile.

For example, from the first Sabbath after Tammuz 17th, until the turn of the year at Rosh Hashanah, the haftarah portions shift from being thematically connected to the Torah Portions to reflecting the historical events that occurred at that season. (For more information see: The Three Weeks or watch “The Dire Straits: This Season in Tradition,” a message I delivered at Revive 2020.)

The institution of the haftarah cycle varies, depending on the source. There are several theories about how this custom began. The most common one suggests that it began during the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes, who outlawed Jews from reading the Torah, but allowed the other writings. Another theory says that the haftarah was established in response to the Samaritans, who denied the inspiration of the prophets and writings, but followed the Law of Moses.

Interestingly, the oldest reference to the haftarah cycle is found in the Brit Chadashah (New Testament). In the first century, there was a custom to read from the Torah and the Prophets on the Sabbath day in the synagogues:

Luke 4:16-21 (TLV) And He came to Natzeret, where He had been raised. As was His custom, He went into the synagogue on Shabbat, and He got up to read. 17 When the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him, He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, 18 “The Ruach Adonai is on me, because He has anointed me to proclaim Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, 19 and to proclaim the year of Adonai’s favor.” 20 He closed the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue were focused on Him. 21 Then He began to tell them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your ears.”

Acts 13:14-16 (NASB) But going on from Perga, they arrived at Pisidian Antioch, and on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. 15 After the reading of the Law and the Prophets the synagogue officials sent to them, saying, “Brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say it.” 16 Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said, “Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen.”

While the yearly Torah cycle covers every word in the Torah or Books of Moses, only a small selection from the prophets and writings are read through each year. In fact, only two prophetic books are read completely as haftarot in the modern order: The Book of Obadiah and the Book of Jonah.

There are differences between the reading selections of haftarot in Ashkenazi, Sephardi, and Yemenite communities, though they are similar. Historically, though the Jewish people had a custom of reading from the prophets after the Torah portion, there wasn’t a set order. Until more recent times, random selections were chosen. Moreover, in the old triennial (3 year) Torah cycle, there were naturally many more haftarah portions. So, those that suggest that the Jewish people purposeful removed certain prophecies from Isaiah to keep people away from Yeshua are completely ignorant of the haftarah’s history. Don’t fall into their traps.

There are traditional blessings recited before reading the haftarah, and afterwards.

Blessing Before Reading Haftarah

Barukh attah Adonai eloheinu melekh ha’olam asher bachar binvi’im tovim ve-ratzah ve-divreihem hane’emarim be’emet. Barukh attah Adonai ha-bocher ba-torah uv’Moshe avdo uv-Yisra’el amo, uvinvi’ey ha-emet va-tzedek.

Blessed are you, O LORD, our God, King of the universe, Who has chosen good prophets, and was pleased with their words spoken in truth. Blessed are you, LORD, who has  chosen the Torah, and his servant Moses, and his people Israel, and the prophets of truth and righteousness.

Blessing After Reading the Haftarah

Barukh attah Adonai eloheinu melekh ha’olam, tzur kol ha-olamim, tzaddik be-khol ha-dorot, ha-El hane’eman ha’omeir v’oseh, hamdabeir u’makiyem, shekol devarav emet ve-tzedek. Ne’eman attah Adonai eloheinu, ve-ne’emanim devarekha, ve-davar echad midevareykha achor lo yashuv reikam, ki El melekh ne’eman ve-rachaman attah. Barukh attah Adonai, ha-El hane’eman be-khol devarav.

Blessed are You, Adonai our God, King of the Universe, Rock of all eternities, righteous in all generations, the faithful God, who says and does, who speaks and fulfills, all of whose words are true. Faithful are you, LORD our God, and faithful are your words. Not one of your words turns back unfulfilled, for You, O God, are a faithful and compassionate King. Blessed are You, LORD, the God who is faithful in all His words.

Further Reading

The JPS Bible Commentary: Haftarot by Michael Fishbane

The Haftarah Commentary by W. Gunther Plaut

The Women’s Haftarah Commentary: New Insights from Women Rabbis on the 54 Weekly Haftarah Portions, the 5 Megillot & Special Shabbatot by multiple authors

The Book of Haftarot: An Easy-to-Read Haftarah Translation by Sol Scharfstein

Book of Haftaros – Gutnick Edition by Rabbi Chaim Miller

  

Like the Days of Noach

Prophetic Portion to Noach:[3] Isaiah 54:1 – 55:5

The context of this portion is decades of Babylonian captivity. Can you imagine spending decades in exile away from your land and your home? In a sense, we are currently in exile in a spiritual Babylon. Will Adonai leave us here forever?

This haftarah portion floods the reader with the theme of redemption from exile. God has not forgotten us or our children. In fact, He beckons us to partake freely of His water, bread, and wine – His teachings – because they are life. Our disgrace for disobedience has an end, and it is rapidly approaching. Adonai describes His anger as a momentary flood, but His chesed as everlasting.

Isaiah 54:8 (LITV) In a flood of wrath (be-shetzef ketzef) I hid My face from you for a moment; but I will have pity on you with everlasting kindness, says Jehovah your Redeemer.

It is in that context that He says this is “like the days of Noah to me.” Adonai’s anger (judgment) is like the waters that destroyed the earth in Noah’s day; but His promise to take Israel back is even more powerful than the great deluge. While the flood of His anger was temporary, His promises are forever. We can count on them to engulf us with His goodness.

Isaiah 54:9 (NASB) “For this is like the days of Noah to Me, When I swore that the waters of Noah Would not flood the earth again; so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you nor will I rebuke you.”

From Adonai’s perspective, “like the days of Noah” reminds Him not of His anger, but of His mercy and promise. Israel had sinned against her Maker, breaking the covenant agreed upon at Mt. Sinai. After enduring the curses for her unfaithfulness, Adonai promised Israel a new start just as He had promised Noah and his descendants. The entire prophetic portion floods an underserving Israel with God’s boundless chesed (loving-kindness).

Isaiah 54:10-14 (TLV) Though the mountains depart and the hills be shaken, My love will not depart from you, nor will My covenant of peace be shaken, says Adonai who has compassion on you. 11 Afflicted one, storm-tossed, unconsoled, behold, I set your stones in antimony, lay your foundations with sapphires, 12 make your pinnacles of rubies, your gates of crystal, and all your walls of precious stones. 13 All your children will be taught by Adonai. Your children will have great shalom. 14 In righteousness you will be established. You will be far from oppression—for you will not fear—and from terror—for it will not come near you.

The phrase “like the days of Noah” only occurs in a few places in Scripture. When Messiah uses this phrase in Matthew 24, most connect it with the judgment that Adonai wrought upon the whole earth because of the evil hearts of men, violence, and corruption. Hopefully, the link to Messiah’s words about the coming of the Son of Man, the end of days, and the evil that will be prevalent at that time is clear. He does not let the guilty go unpunished…

However, He also abounds in chesed and forgives iniquity, transgression, and sin. (Ex.34:4-9) This is a two-sided coin. And, “like the days of Noah” is a two-sided phrase. On the one hand, blatant disobedience and sin must be punished – like a flood of fiery wrath. On the other hand, God is gracious, merciful, and abounding in chesed – like a gushing river of life. Both are true.

Noach received favor or grace as a righteous one in his generation. His name (nun, chet), if read backwards, even spells grace (chen – chet, nun), which gives us a clue. Perhaps, the phrase “like the days of Noah” has dual meanings as well. After all, Biblical real estate is precious. There are no words or phrases that are superfluous. The prophetic portion of Noach nearly overwhelms the hearer with the gushing love of God. His promises flow out in a torrential down pour that sound too good to be true. Especially, to a people that have been unfaithful to her Maker and Husband.

How could it be that after all we have done, after all our unfaithfulness, after all our selfish choices, after multitudes of sins, derisions, and infidelities, that the Creator of the Universe, the God of Israel, Builder of Zion, will take us back to Himself? Can this be true? Peter compares God bringing Noach and his family through the flood waters to baptism and a clean conscience. (1 Peter 3:18-22) Adonai promises as sure as He promised to never flood the earth again that He WILL remove our disgrace, enlarge our tent, fill our wombs, comfort us, and quench our thirst and hunger. This is the Good News of the Kingdom!

In this sense, “like the days of Noah” distinctly refers to God’s everlasting chesed, mercy, and love. He makes a Way where there is no way. Isaiah 53 precedes Isaiah 54. This is Adonai’s everlasting covenant of peace, and He is eager to share it with each one of us. Thus, when we read Matthew 24 or Luke 17 where the Messiah draws our attention back to “the days of Noah,” don’t just focus on the judgment or the flood of His wrath. Instead, look up for the Coming Kingdom and Promises fulfilled! These portions should bring us comfort in the days ahead, just as Noah’s father proclaimed:

Genesis 5:29 (TLV)  And he named him Noah saying, “This one will comfort us from our work and from the pain of our hands because of the ground which Adonai cursed.”


[1] First Fruits of Zion has a beautiful online and printable schedule for the yearly Torah cycle: https://torahportions.ffoz.org I also love their yearly calendar: https://ffoz.com/eretz-yisrael-wall-calendar.html

[2] Tanakh is an acronym that stands for the Torah (Books of Moses), the Nevi’im (Prophets), and the K’tuvim (Writings). Altogether, these three make up the complete Jewish Bible or the complete Old Testament for Christians.

[3] Torah Portion Noach (Noah): Gen. 6:9 – 11:32; Haftarah:  Is. 54:1 – 55:5

Categories: Musings, Torah Portions | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Shabbat Shirah

Ps. 145:21 (NASB) My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD, And all flesh will bless His holy name forever and ever.

In this week’s Torah portion, Beshalach[1], we read the Song at the Sea; and in the haftarah, the Song of Deborah. Because of this, Jewish tradition dubs this Shabbat: Shabbat Shirah, or the “Sabbath of Song.” In each of these songs, YHWH is highly exalted as Israel’s deliverer. The enemy has been defeated, and we rejoice!

Beshalach always coincides with Tu B’Shevat (Shevat 15th), or the New Year for Trees. There is an interesting connection between the splitting of the Reed Sea and trees, found here. As the sap begins to rise in the trees so that they blossom and bud with new life, the birds that nest in their branches begin their migrations. Up to 500 million part the sky as they fill Israel’s air space twice a year, with the spring movement beginning in Shevat (February/March).[2] The birds flow and move to the beat of their own moedim, retelling their own type of exodus.

Jer. 8:7 (KJV) Yea, the stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times (moedim); and the turtle and the crane and the swallow observe the time of their coming; but my people know not the judgment of the LORD.

Isabelline Wheatear, spring migration in Israel.

Along their journey, they fill the air with something else: songs of praise! Their tiny lungs fill with the air of heaven to release it in a song like no other creatures on earth. Their chirps, squawks, tweets, and peeps harmonize to glorify the LORD. For this reason, a custom developed in Ashkenazi communities to feed these praise singers on Shabbat Shirah.[3]

Ezek. 17:22-24 (TLV) Thus says Adonai Elohim: “I, even I, will take from a sprig from the top of the lofty cedar and will plant it. I will crop off a tender twig from the topmost of its young shoots, and I will plant it on a tall and prominent mountain. 23 I will plant it on Israel’s high mountain. It will bring forth branches, bear fruit and be a magnificent cedar. Birds of every kind will nest under it—they will nest in the shade of its branches. 24 Then all the trees of the field will know that I, Adonai, have brought down the high tree, exalted the lowly tree, dried up the green tree, and made the dry tree flourish. I, Adonai, have spoken and I will do it.”[4]

The Song of the Sea is read every morning in the prayer service (Shacharit) in the Pesukei D’Zimrah, or Verses of Song. The Shacharit begins with blessings and psalms specifically chosen to invoke kavanah or focus and awe for the Holy One in the person praying. The Pesukei D’Zimrah is full of songs and praise, which prepares one to recite the Shema and Amidah. “Know before Whom you stand.”[5] Only after acknowledging and praising Adonai as the Holy One of Israel, can one properly seek Him for requests and desires.

There is another possible meaning of zimrah (song/melody) that emphasizes this point and connects it to the month of trees, in which Beshalach and the Song of the Sea is read. The Hebrew root zemer means “to prune.”[6] The psalms, including the Song of the Sea, are verses of pruning! These melodies act like a type of pruning shear that cuts off wild and unruly growths from one’s tree or mind/heart. Healthy branches receive more nourishment, and hindrances to heartfelt prayer are removed. In this way, the songs and melodies of Scripture (and even modern worship songs/music) lift, align, and unify one with Adonai and fellow worshipers.

This is even figured on the Torah Scroll. The Song at the Sea is written in a brickwork pattern of three interlocking columns, which makes it stand out on the leaf (page of Torah.)[7] This arrangement mimics the congealed columns of water and the Children of Israel walking between them on dry ground, united or interlocked. It is one of only two places in the Torah written in a different layout. The other is the Song of Moses. (Dt. 32) The Song of Deborah follows this same brickwork pattern. (See examples below.)

Song of the Sea

Song of Deborah

The imagery of the early spring season in Shevat, birds migrating through the Land, splitting the heavens with wings and song, the Torah cycle retelling the exodus and the parting of the sea in the month of trees, all proclaim a loud message. Can you discern the bird’s song? It’s the same message from the beginning. Moses and the children sang it at the sea. Deborah recalled it in Judges 5. David repeats it in Psalm 68. Every morning it is recounted in the synagogue. The last book, Revelation, has flying angels proclaiming it to the whole earth.

Ex. 15:1-2 (NASB) Then Moses and the sons of Israel sang this song to the LORD, and said, “I will sing to the LORD, for He is highly exalted; The horse and its rider He has hurled into the sea. 2 “The LORD is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation (Yeshua); This is my God, and I will praise Him; My father’s God, and I will extol Him.”

Jdg. 5:1-4, 31 (NASB) Then Deborah and Barak the son of Abinoam sang on that day, saying, 2 “That the leaders led in Israel, That the people volunteered, Bless the LORD! 3 “Hear, O kings; give ear, O rulers! I—to the LORD, I will sing, I will sing praise to the LORD, the God of Israel. 4 “LORD, when You went out from Seir, when You marched from the field of Edom, the earth quaked, the heavens also dripped, even the clouds dripped water.” … “Thus let all Your enemies perish, O LORD; but let those who love Him be like the rising of the sun in its might.”

Ps. 68:1-4 (NASB) For the choir director. A Psalm of David. A Song. Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered, and let those who hate Him flee before Him. 2 As smoke is driven away, so drive them away; As wax melts before the fire, so let the wicked perish before God. 3 But let the righteous be glad; let them exult before God; Yes, let them rejoice with gladness. 4 Sing to God, sing praises to His name; lift up a song for Him who rides through the deserts, whose name is the LORD, and exult before Him.

Rev. 14:6-8 (NASB) And I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people; 7 and he said with a loud voice, “Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters.” 8 And another angel, a second one, followed, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who has made all the nations drink of the wine of the passion of her immorality.”

This Shabbat Shirah, I encourage you to read all the above chapters. (Ex. 15, Jdg. 5, Ps. 68, Rev. 14) See how many thematic connections you can make, and declare The Message to others. The result should cause great jubilation, praise, and awe of the Almighty. If it doesn’t, perhaps one needs to undergo the pruning shears first. To align one’s heart with Adonai, look to the birds. Fill your lungs – even if they feel low on breath– with air and sing, chirp, and tweet about His Greatness. This will lift you up on wings like an eagle, deliverance that only God can achieve.

It is interesting to note that in Hebrew it says that Moses and the sons of Israel will sing, az yashir, but the portion of the song attributed to Miriam and the women is in the present tense, plural imperative: shiru l’Adonai, sing to Adonai (now).

Ex. 15:20-21 (NASB) Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took the timbrel in her hand, and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dancing. 21 Miriam answered them, “Sing to the LORD, for He is highly exalted; the horse and his rider He has hurled into the sea.”

I’ll never forget an evening of prayer with some local women a few years ago. We had just finished a spiritually tough, but encouraging Bible study on a section in the Book of Revelation. I had shown everyone a slide of an artist’s depiction of the harlot riding the red, seven headed beast with four shady horse and riders in the backdrop of smoke and chaos. The picture spoke a thousand words of defeat and oppression. The point of the lesson was overcoming this false image in our own hearts. (See The Scarlet Harlot and the Crimson Thread by Dr. Hollisa Alewine.)

When we prayed, the Spirit was so strong, flowing freely in our midst. Suddenly, my mind was flooded with images of the Song at the Sea. The Words of triumph and joy were so vivid that I began to jump as I recounted Miriam’s words: “Sing to the LORD, for He is highly exalted; the horse and his rider He has hurled into the sea.”


Beloved, we sing because He has already overcame the world. Though Pharaoh or the Whore of Babylon is riding close at our heels, we already know the end of the story. The horsemen, their chariots, and beasts of burden are stopped with a single blast of the Almighty’s nostrils. Their wheels will get stuck in the very mud in which they wallow. So, don’t wait to sing. Like Miriam and the great host of women, Sing now!

Ps. 68:11-12 (NASB) The Lord gives the command; The women who proclaim the good tidings are a great host: 12 “Kings of armies flee, they flee, and she who remains at home will divide the spoil!”

Ps. 150:6 (NASB) Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD!

Masada


[1]Exodus 13:17–17:16, Judges 4:4–5:31.

[2]https://www.birds.org.il/en/article-page.aspx?articleId=124 Retrieved 2/7/2020.

[3]There are several explanations given for this tradition. For example, see this article: https://schechter.edu/why-is-shabbat-shirah-for-the-birds-2/

[4]Mat. 3:31-32 (TLV) He presented to them another parable, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 It’s the smallest of all seeds; yet when it’s full grown, it’s greater than the other herbs. It becomes like a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”

[5]This phrase is inscribed on the ark (that houses the Torah Scroll) in many synagogues. It is drawn from: Ex.3:4-6 When Adonai saw that he turned to look, He called to him out of the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” So he answered, “Hineni.” 5 Then He said, “Come no closer. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” 6 Moreover He said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” So Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God. (TLV)

[6]For example, see The Seif Edition Artscroll Hebrew/English Siddur on Pesukei D’Zimrah.

[7]Torah scrolls are penned on kosher (clean) animal skins and spooled onto a wooden post called an Etz chayim or Tree of Life. The Torah Scroll has much in common with trees and people. Like a tree, it is alive, has leaves, and bears fruit. Like a person, it has a crown, wears a sash or belt and an outer garment, and has a yad or hand. For more, see The Unity of the Scroll.

Categories: Biblical Symbols, Torah Portions | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

In the Beginning: LIGHT

It’s a new year with a renewed Torah cycle. The human soul craves new beginnings, do-overs, fresh starts, and restoration. The Creator knows this well and has built many such renewals into His calendar. We have a renewal every day, week (Shabbat), and month (new moon). Renewals occur at various points throughout each year (moedim), and especially at the new year, in the seven year cycle (Shemittah), and in the fifty year rotation (Jubilee/Yovel).

At the turn of the year (7thmonth), the weekly Torah Portion cycle begins anew with Genesis. This year (5780), is the fifth year of the current Shemittah cycle.[1] As I’ve consulted with others, prayed, and meditated on this upcoming cycle, many things have been on my lev (heart/mind). The creation days in this week’s portion, B’reishit, are the foundation of all things. They especially inform the many other sets of sevens found throughout the Bible.[2]

The year that just went out was a year four, which mirrored day four of creation, the day that natural light from the sun, moon, and stars was separated from the darkness. Their mandate was to rule the day and night, and to be heavenly governors and calendar markers for those that dwell upon the earth. Spiritually speaking, they represent God’s authority of not only creation and man, but of time. What or who governs your clock, calendar, and time? Did you receive “light” on these issues in the previous year?

The Light of the World is Messiah:

John 8:12 (TLV) Yeshua spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. The one who follows Me will no longer walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

The Torah (Law) is Light:

Ps. 119:105 (TLV) Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Pr. 6:23 (TLV) For the mitzvah is a lamp, Torah a light, and corrective discipline the way of life.

Followers of Messiah and His Torah are also Light:

Mat. 5:14-16 (TLV) You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they put it on a lampstand so it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men so they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Has the authority that Adonai gave you to be one of His “lights” been challenged? I have certainly witnessed those dead set on hiding the “light” of others in year four with the promise to continue to do so in the fifth year. Light and authority go hand in hand as the proclamation of day four of creation. Challenging authority is challenging Light. Oppressing a brother or sister by denying their authority to be a light to the world is akin to hiding their light.

This has always been the mind and intent of the enemy. His heart is set on enslavement, bondage, and taking captives. His desire to rule, reign, and govern is a false light that is really darkness. He proclaims to be light. He masquerades as light. He proclaims himself holy, righteous, and good. But, he rules by fear and scare tactics. He wants you to be afraid, to question what God has said, and to be fearful to walk in your calling. His focus is to subject, dominate, silence, and make himself the head. (Isaiah 14 – King of Babylon) It seems that we should recognize him easily, but we don’t. Messiah warns that false light is difficult to discern. In fact, it is possible that the light we think we have is really darkness.

Luke 11:33-36 (NASB) “No one, after lighting a lamp, puts it away in a cellar nor under a basket, but on the lampstand, so that those who enter may see the light. 34 The eye is the lamp of your body; when your eye is clear, your whole body also is full of light; but when it is bad, your body also is full of darkness. 35 Then watch out that the light in you is not darkness. 36 If therefore your whole body is full of light, with no dark part in it, it will be wholly illumined, as when the lamp illumines you with its rays.”

The Spirit of Messiah stands in stark contrast to those that seek to oppress and hide the true light. He says:

Luke 4:18-19 (TLV) “The Ruach Adonai is on me, because He has anointed me to proclaim Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, 19 and to proclaim the year of Adonai’s favor.”

The body has two eyes, not one. THEY are the lamp of the body. This is akin to the Torah and the Messiah. It is also like a man and a woman as one flesh, the male and female created on day 6. Each is an “eye” in their unity. The man and woman (as echad) should be filled with the Light of Torah and Messiah. This is also the message of day and year four. The Light of the Torah and the Spirit were given on the fourth feast day: Shavuot or Pentecost.

Two eyes and two equal yet different perspectives, like the two tablets and two loaves waved before Adonai on Shavuot. These prepare one to walk properly in the Spirit of Power of day and year five to move rapidly throughout the earth like the birds and fish to spread the Seed (Gospel). If they fulfill their mandate and move within their (wind) currents of purpose, they will be judged favorably in year (day) six.

What are these two eyes on the ONE body (man and wife)? They are the Torah of Chesed (lovingkindness) and the Torah of Emet (Truth). The woman teaches the Torah of Chesed and the man the Torah of Truth. Both are equally important. Hiding or covering one eye partially blinds the body and the family unit. The lamp becomes dim and darkness encroaches. When light is suppressed, the people are oppressed. Praise Adonai that Messiah recovers sight to the blind – both eyes are able to function properly. (Is. 61, Luke 4:18)

Rabbi Sacks has an excellent video explaining the role of men and women as the Torah of Kindness and Truth.[3] I pray it enlightens your Torah cycle this year!

Ps. 118:24-29 (TLV) This is the day that Adonai has made! Let us rejoice and be glad in it! 25 Hoshia-na! Please, Adonai, save now! We beseech You, Adonai, prosper us! 26 Baruch haba b’Shem Adonai—Blessed is He who comes in the Name of Adonai. We bless you from the House of Adonai. 27 Adonai is God, and He has given us light. Join the festival with branches, up to the horns of the altar. 28 You are my God, and I praise You. You are my God—I exalt You! 29 Praise Adonai, for He is good, for His lovingkindness endures forever.


[1]Leviticus 25

[2]For an in-depth thematic study of this, see The Creation Gospel: The Foundation Workbook One by Dr. Hollisa Alewine. And, Know the Time, Change Your World by Barry Miller.

[3]Thank you, Barry Miller, for bringing this video to my attention!

Categories: Torah Portions, Women | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Warring with Amalek Part III

Valley Dwellers

For the best context, see Part I and Part II. Spiritually speaking, Amalek:

  1. Attacks when one is weary, weak, and discouraged. This is also when one is most likely to grumble, complain, and contend with the LORD, leadership, or other people, which is why Adonai allows the attack in the first place.
  2. Strikes one in the back – you don’t see him coming because your focus is on self and the issues and circumstances in front of you (instead of Adonai).
  3. Plays on the desires of one’s the flesh. Often, the things or positions one desires can become a snare for the flesh. Getting the thing or position takes precedence over relationship with Adonai and other people.
  4. Is a descendant of Esau, the red one ruled by appetite, desire, and “right now.” Spiritually, he is the beast-like (sin) nature of mankind.
  5. Is a valley dweller. Whether one is in a valley of doubt, despair, impatience, or even death, Amalek will meet you there.

King Saul and Amalek

King Saul lost his position on account Amalek just like first generation in the wilderness. Though he wasn’t completely disobedient to the Word of the LORD, Adonai still counted it as full blown disregard.

1 Sam. 15:1-3 (NASB) Then Samuel said to Saul, “The LORD sent me to anoint you as king over His people, over Israel; now therefore, listen to the words of the LORD. 2 “Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he set himself against him on the way while he was coming up from Egypt. 3 ‘Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.‘”

Through the prophet Samuel, King Saul was given very specific instructions. He was to destroy every single thing that was associated with Amalek. But, Saul and the people were not so keen on the details.

1 Sam. 15:9-11 (NASB) But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were not willing to destroy them utterly; but everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed. 10 Then the word of the LORD came to Samuel, saying, 11 “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following Me and has not carried out My commands.” And Samuel was distressed and cried out to the LORD all night.

Saul and the people were not willing to destroy the goods that they deemed good or best. In Saul’s mind, he had done what Adonai asked; he had fulfilled the commandment. There is a lesson here. Instead of the “devil” being in the details, the reality is that Adonai is in the details!

1 Sam. 15:13 (NASB) Samuel came to Saul, and Saul said to him, “Blessed are you of the LORD! I have carried out the command of the LORD.”

Do you suppose that King Saul knew in his heart of hearts that he hadn’t fully obeyed? Or do you think that he had deluded himself into believing that he had fulfilled Adonai’s command by doing most of what He asked? Samuel points out the root issue: pride. Notice how he addresses Saul in verse 17 below.

1 Sam. 15:17-19 (NASB) 17 Samuel said, “Is it not true, though you were little in your own eyes, you were made the head of the tribes of Israel? And the LORD anointed you king over Israel, 18 and the LORD sent you on a mission, and said, ‘Go and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are exterminated.’ 19 “Why then did you not obey the voice of the LORD, but rushed upon the spoil and did what was evil in the sight of the LORD?”

Verse 19 says that Saul “rushed upon the spoil.” The Hebrew word eet (translated as rushed) has the idea of rushing to act with scorn or disrespect. It is akin to the fifth wicked spirit in Proverbs 6:18, feet that hasten to run to do evil.

1 Sam. 15:20-21 (NASB) 20 Then Saul said to Samuel, “I did obey the voice of the LORD, and went on the mission on which the LORD sent me, and have brought back Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. 21 “But the people took some of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the choicest of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the LORD your God at Gilgal.”

I did obey… but the people. This is not the heart of a leader like Moses who was willing to have his name blotted out even for the guilty. If other people are one’s excuse for not doing what you know to do, then who are you really following?

1 Sam. 15:22-23 (NASB) Samuel said, “Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. 23 “For rebellion is as the sin of divination, And insubordination is as iniquity and idolatryBecause you have rejected the word of the LORD, He has also rejected you from being king.”

Notice the sins that Samuel points out to Saul. He compared rebellion to divination. Rebellion is meriy in Hebrew. It comes from the root marah, to be bitter.[1]How is this like divination? Divination is the counterfeit of prophecy. It comes from another spirit that is fueled by the desires of the flesh. Bitterness and rebellion come from the same place. Samuel then mentions insubordination. This is the Hebrew word patsar.[2] It means to peck at, to press, pressure or push someone to do your will. This is likened to iniquity and idolatry. The Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible defines aven, iniquity, below. See if you can spot the Esau nature.

Vigor: The power within the belly, or loins, for reproduction or creative work. II. Vanity: The use of the power within the loins for vain or other improper purposes. [freq. 90] |kjv: strength, might, force, goods, substance, iniquity, wicked, vanity, affliction, mischief, unrighteous| {H202, H205}

We are insubordinate when we push people around to get our way. This push doesn’t have to be physical, as it is mostly about one’s words. Pressuring someone to yield to you, your desires, your preferences, or what you think is best, is not a mark of leadership or strength – at least not to Adonai. Instead, this type of manipulation is powered by the belly or appetites of nephesh (flesh). By yielding to such pressures, we are in effect worshipping an idol of someone else’s desire.

1 Sam. 15:24 (NASB) 24 Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned; I have indeed transgressed the command of the LORD and your words, because I feared the people and listened to their voice.

Samuel’s words bring clarity to the gravity of what Saul had done (and not done). He realizes that he feared the people more than the LORD. The people (and Saul) did not destroy the “choice” possessions of the Amalekites. Choice is the Hebrew reshit, meaning first, beginning, the choice or most excellent. It is the same word as bereshit, the first word of the Bible. It also refers to firstborn sons (beginning of strength) and first fruits of harvest (Lev. 23:10).

By not destroying the reshit of the Amalekites, they might as well have not done anything at all. In verse 21 (above), these goods are said to be “devoted to destruction” and would be given as a sacrifice to the LORD. This phrase is another link to the transgression of the Children of Israel in the account of the spies. The Amalekites and the Canaanites beat them down as far as Hormah.

Hormah comes from the same root as the phrase “devoted for destruction,” charam.[3] It means to set aside or apart for devotion whether for destruction or sacrifice. It often refers to judgment and utter destruction. In Isaiah, Adonai uses this same word to speak of Edom.

Is. 34:5 (TLV) For My sword has drunk its fill in the heavens. See, it will come down upon Edom, upon the people I have devoted to judgment.

In Saul’s case, everything that belonged to the Amalekites had been devoted to destruction at the judgment of Adonai. Saul and the people instead reserved the reshit of these things and planned to place them on an altar of sacrifice to Adonai. Did you catch the subtle yet profound difference? Samuel likens these actions to divination, iniquity, and idolatry. Details matter.

Samuel, the one who hears God as a type of Yeshua, takes care of the “head” of the Amalekites. Notice that Agag presumes that “death” has passed him by. How wrong he is!

1 Sam. 15:32-33 (NASB) Then Samuel said, “Bring me Agag, the king of the Amalekites.” And Agag came to him cheerfully. And Agag said, “Surely the bitterness of death is past.” 33 But Samuel said, “As your sword has made women childless, so shall your mother be childless among women.” And Samuel hewed Agag to pieces before the LORD at Gilgal. 

Samuel sliced up the enemy (like bread) at Gigal. As gory as it is, this is necessary in the war with Amalek. Every single shred of the lower beastly nature must be destroyed. If your eye is causing you to sin, gouge it out. Obedience is better than sacrifice. In other words, though the world with its wisdom from below says, “the end justifies the means,” Adonai vehemently disagrees.

Because of his careless handling of Amalek, Saul lost his kingship. Like Israel so many centuries before him, he lost his lofty position. Another would be raised up to replace him. The pattern of the “first” or “firstborn” being passed over due to disobedience of the flesh occurs over and over in Scripture. Ye, must be born again. The second born, the man of tents and faith, receives the promise.

Lack of trust and disobedience are marks of the faithless old man, like Esau. Greed, envy, strife, gossip, slander, murder, deceit, malice, arrogance, disrespect, selfish ambition, unnatural passions, impatience, jealousy, all of these things keep one from entering the Shabbat rest of Adonai. (Romans 1:16-32) But, these impulses can be conquered with the Words of Life. (Gen. 4:6-7)

Back to Yehoshua (Joshua)

In Part II, we looked at the first mention of Yehoshua. He is introduced as the commander of those that war with Amalek. (Ex. 17) The succeeding times Yehoshua appears on the scroll are also noteworthy. Near the end of this week’s Torah Portion, Mishpatim (Ex. 21:1-24:18), Yehoshua is positioned in a place that we only associate with YHWH and Moses:

Ex. 24:12-14 (NASB) Now the LORD said to Moses, “Come up to Me on the mountain and remain there, and I will give you the stone tablets with the law and the commandment which I have written for their instruction.” 13 So Moses arose with Joshua his servant, and Moses went up to the mountain of God. 14 But to the elders he said, “Wait here for us until we return to you. And behold, Aaron and Hur are with you; whoever has a legal matter, let him approach them.”

The text is unclear as to where Yehoshua was or what he was doing while Moses was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights receiving the Luchot HaBrit (Tablets). But when Moses arose to go up, Yehoshua arose with him. The following verses close portion Mishpatim:

Ex. 24:15-18 (NASB) Then Moses went up to the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. 16 The glory of the LORD rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; and on the seventh day He called to Moses from the midst of the cloud. 17 And to the eyes of the sons of Israel the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a consuming fire on the mountain top. 18 Moses entered the midst of the cloud as he went up to the mountain; and Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.

“Luchot HaBrit” Painting by © Kisha Gallagher 2018

The second mention of Yehoshua is shrouded in mystery. Where was Yehoshua for these forty days and forty nights? What did he eat or drink? Why didn’t the cloud consume him? The third time Yehoshua appears in the text, Moses had descended the mountain. And, pow! There is Yehoshua, right by Moses’ side as he if he never left.

Ex. 32:15-17 (NASB) Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand, tablets which were written on both sides; they were written on one side and the other. 16 The tablets were God’s work, and the writing was God’s writing engraved on the tablets. 17 Now when Joshua heard the sound of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, “There is a sound of war in the camp.”

I believe the Torah is purposely vague and mystical in these accounts. The natural questions that arise are meant to grab one’s attention. They are like a highlighter saying, “Look here! There’s more!” And, if Yehoshua being present as Moses ascends and descends the mountain failed to capture your intrigue, his fourth mention is just as mystifying.

Ex. 33:10-11 (NASB) When all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would arise and worship, each at the entrance of his tent. 11 Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses returned to the camp, his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.

While everyone else in the camp stands at the doorway of their own tent, worshipping at a distance, Joshua remains in the Tent of Meeting, even when Moses returns to the camp. In Hebrew, it says that he would not depart from the midst or middle of the tent. Was he up close and personal with the pillar of cloud when Adonai spoke to Moses face to face? The text is unclear.

A few things are certain. Yehoshua was closer to Moses than anyone else. This is akin to being really close to the Torah or being intimate with Adonai’s instructions and the law giver, Yeshua. Joshua trusted and believed Moses (and thus, Adonai), and was a very loyal servant to him. Because of his closeness to Moses, he avoided grave sins such as the golden calf, and giving an evil report about the Promised Land. Can you see how Joshua emulated Jacob, the one that dwells in the tent of Torah learning, and not the appetite ruled Esau? (Gen. 25:27)

The example of Yehoshua’s relationship with Moses is revealing. The closer one is to him, the closer one is to the Mountain (Throne) of Adonai, and the less likely one is to fall into error in the wilderness of life. It’s as if Yehoshua is hidden (and protected) from the temptations of the camp.

Moreover, Yehoshua was able to see and go to places that no one else could. Is it any wonder that YHWH chose this man to succeed Moses, and lead the Children of Israel into the Promised Land? Or, that the Messiah to come would bear his name sake, and do the same? I don’t think so.

The Hope of King David

There is hope for those that live in the valley with the heinous Valley Dwellers. Yehoshua teaches one to slay them with the mouth of the sword, and to stay close to Moses. King David, another type of Messiah Yeshua, teaches a song to overcome Amalek. He knows that worship turns the eyes of the flesh back to the Creator, an adjustment that is crucial in this war.

David’s most famous song is one that most people, no matter how close or far they are from HaShem, can quote by heart; that is Psalm 23. Do you think it is a coincidence that this Psalm mentions the “valley of the shadow of death,” and a “rod and staff” that brings comfort in a low place, emek?

Ps. 23:1-4 (NASB) A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. 3 He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

Did you notice how this Psalm begins? Because Adonai is my Shepherd, I shall not want. How does this differ from the attitude of the Children in the Wilderness? Have you ever been like them, having your “wanter” stuck in the “on” position? I don’t care to admit how often this is true for me. If one is of the flock of Adonai, they trust that He will meet every need, even when one is confused by His Higher ways, like Habakkuk.

Adonai provides pasture (food and rest) and water. He restores (cares for and provides for) the nephesh (flesh/soul). He knows exactly what one needs, and when it is needed. He did NOT deliver you only to kill you in the wilderness of life.

Be a bearer of Good News, repeat the good report of Caleb and Joshua. Remind your downtrodden neighbor that he/she can by all means trust in the Promises of God. Reverse the evil words, mockery, and doubts of the faithless. Do not let your flesh get caught up in their disobedience. Use the Sword to lacham (fight) Amalek. Slice him and all other enemies into perfect portions of lechem (bread) with the Sword of Adonai.

David sang Psalm 23 as a prayer; perhaps, it was a reminder for him as much as it is for us. These six short verses have brought countless comfort to worn out souls over the centuries. If you are exhausted and battle weary, remember that Yeshua holds the rod in His Hand. He has no need for anyone to help Him keep it held high. And, He promises that we will prevail. We will overcome BECAUSE He overcame! Keep trusting, believing, and clinging to Him.

Ps. 23:5-6(NASB) You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

For more on Amalek, see this post on Esther, Costumes, and Purim.

Also, consider that since it is a leap year this year on the Jewish calendar (2019/5779), the haftarah reading the week of Purim is 1 Samuel 15:2-34, the text I’ve explored above. Haman descends from Amalek.


 

[1]H4805 מְרִיmerı̂y mer-ee’ From H4784; bitterness, that is, (figuratively) rebellion; concretely bitter, or rebellious: – bitter, (most) rebel (-ion, -lious). Total KJV occurrences: 23

H4784 מָרָהmârâh A primitive root; to be (causatively make) bitter (or unpleasant); (figuratively) to rebel (or resist; causatively to provoke): – bitter, change, be disobedient, disobey, grievously, provocation, provoke (-ing), (be) rebel (against, -lious). Total KJV occurrences: 45

[2]H6484 פָּצַרpāṣar: A verb meaning to peck at, to press, to push. It indicates a literal physical push against someone (Gen 19:9); figuratively, it refers to urging someone (Gen 33:11) to do something (Jdg 19:7). In a negative sense, it refers to rebellion against someone, arrogance (1Sa 15:23).

[3]Hebrew Word Study: H2763 חָרַם ḥāram: A verb meaning to destroy, to doom, to devote. This word is most commonly associated with the Israelites destroying the Canaanites upon their entry into the Promised Land (Deu 7:2; Jos 11:20). It indicates complete and utter destruction (Jdg 21:11; 1Sa 15:18); the severe judgment of God (Isa 11:15); the forfeiture of property (Ezr 10:8); being “accursed” or set apart for destruction (Jos 6:18). This latter application, being set apart, accounts for what appears to be a contradictory element in the verb. It is also used to mean devotion or consecration to the Lord (Lev 27:28-29; Mic 4:13). Just as something accursed is set apart for destruction, so something devoted to God is set apart for His use.

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