Posts Tagged With: Haftarah

Haftarah: Vayera

Prophetic Portion to Vayera (And He Appeared)

Genesis 18:1-22:24, 2 Kings 4:1-37

This week’s haftarah portion covers two miraculous accounts performed by the prophet Elisha. Both center around women and their children, which not only relates to the Torah portion, but spiritually to the future and the prophetic realm.[1] Elisha asks each woman:

“What can I do for you?”

Read that again.

Let the question resonate with your spirit.

I wonder how many long to hear those words from the “man of God.” What need, dream, or great desire of yours has not been met? In both the Torah and haftarah portions this week, God meets the needs and desires of women in extraordinary ways. He is FOR you, even when – especially when – things are impossible in the natural world.

I wonder how many tears Sarah, the widow, and the Shunammite shed over their predicaments? I suspect most of their pain was shielded from others with the mask of hard work, determination, and service to others. All three women exude a quiet strength in their narratives. They are not portrayed as women that easily give up or go silently into the night. But even the strongest and stalwart among us FEELS, and deeply so. Real strength doesn’t negate or despise feelings, dreams, and great hope for the future. Such things faith rests upon, and they are good, and lovely, and godly.

Hebrews 11:1-2 (NKJV) Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 2 For by it the elders obtained a good testimony.

Sarah might have mockingly laughed at the prospect of having a son in her old age (the natural), but that doesn’t mean that she lacked the faith (spiritual) that God would give her this good pleasure. Upon the birth of Isaac, Sarah laughed again, and this time it was in wonderment and jubilation.

Genesis 21:6-7 (TLV) “God has made laughter for me! Everyone who hears will laugh with me.” 7 She also said, “Who would have said to Abraham, ‘Sarah has nursed children’? For I have given birth to a son in his old age!”

I imagine the widow and the Shunammite laughing with Sarah. In fact, I see every Eshet Chayil laughing at the future. Their laughter is not a mockery; it is a rejoicing in the goodness and faithfulness of God. They have trained their eyes to see past the veil of flesh. They know that this world is simply a shadow of the world to come. Though this present age is full of strife, pain, and disappointment, the Word and Promises of Adonai stand firm. They will never pass away. So, right now, in this momentary affliction, they open their mouth with Wisdom, and use their tongue to teach the Torah of Chesed (kindness).

Proverbs 31:25-26 (TLV) Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the days to come. 26 She opens her mouth with wisdom—a lesson (Torah) of kindness is on her tongue.

Abraham and Sarah opened their tent with great hospitality. They welcomed, nourished, and taught so many that is said that they “made souls.” (Gen. 12:5) In other words, they were known for their great chesed, like the Proverbs 31 woman. They taught the world about faith, hope, and the future. They taught us to trust in the promises of God, even though they are not always manifest in our lifetime.

Hebrews 11:8-13 (NKJV) By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; 10 for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. 11 By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude—innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore. 13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

Abraham was waiting for the city which has foundations, whose builder is God, the New Jerusalem. As sons and daughters of Abraham and Sarah, we await the same. They died in faith, as will many of us. And like them, our Torah of Chesed includes the message that we are strangers and pilgrims on the earth. Look up! His promise will come to pass.

So, how do the widow and the Shunammite proclaim this same truth?

The Widow and the Cruse of Oil

2 Kings 4 begins with a widow of the b’nei nevi’im, or sons of the prophets. Abraham was the first named prophet in the Bible. (Gen. 20:7) Thus, the hint is that she and her sons belong to father Abraham. She is destitute, and a creditor has threatened to take her two sons as slaves to satisfy the debt she and her late husband accrued. According to tradition, the woman is Obadiah’s widow. (Rashi)

Elisha, the man of God, tells her to ask her neighbors for “empty” vessels. Then, very specifically, she and her sons were to shut the door behind them. She poured while her sons brought vessel after vessel to fill from the one cruse of oil she had in the house. People are sometimes compared to vessels in Scripture.[3] An empty vessel is in desperate need of purpose, hope, and the filling of the Holy Spirit. Worse, an empty vessel can imply someone that is dead. This family thought they had nothing, when in fact, they had the oil of anointing, one cruse of oil that could light many, many lamps.

Adonai deeply cares for the widows and the fatherless. Josephus and Rashi comment that this family’s debt was accrued because the late prophet Obadiah had borrowed money to feed the prophets that hid in the cave, and that the creditor was Jehoram the son of Ahab. If this is true, the chesed of Obadiah was great, and Elisha desired that chesed be returned upon Obadiah’s house. Hence, the miracle of oil.

In truth, we all have debt that we cannot pay back. We all have sons and daughters that have inherited the same fate. But we also have hope, even if all we have left is one little vessel of oil. If one finds herself in this this place, it is time to go into the House and shut the door. And then, pour every last drop of oil from your vessel into as many empty vessels as you can find. Oil and anointing is acquired through suffering. Olives must be pressed with a heavy Stone to produce oil. The widow and her son’s suffering turned into precious oil that paid off their debt, and provided sustenance for the future.

A wise virgin knows that Obadiah’s widow has the best oil in town. If you’re feeling sleepy, best get to her house as fast you can. Paying chesed to her will ensure that your vessel is full of golden liquid for the future when the Bridegroom comes calling.

 

The Great Woman from Shunem

The Shunammite’s story echoes Abraham and Sarah’s narrative in several ways.

  • Both were promised a son after showing chesed in the form of hospitality to a messenger of God.
  • Both reacted with astonishment and even a bit of unbelief at this prospect.
  • Both Abraham and the Shunammite’s husband were advanced in years.
  • Both were told that “at this season next year” you will have a son.
  • Both promised sons died (at least figuratively).
  • Both were resurrected (at least figuratively).

Thus, it is easy to see why this prophetic portion was chosen to accompany Vayera. But, this year, as I reread these passages, chesed leaped off the pages of Holy Writ like a neon sign. Adonai has been drawing my attention to chesed since Passover. Chesed is the exact opposite of the traits currently being lauded and paraded in media, social media, and educational institutions. And sadly, the result has been fear, hate, division, mockery, pride, and perverted justice.

Love is growing cold, and this ought not be so – especially if one claims to be a son or daughter of Abraham and Sarah. The father and mother of our faith were KNOWN for their great chesed, as was the Shunammite woman. Chesed is given to everyone – even those that do not deserve it. Especially to those that do not deserve it! Chesed is what woos one to turn back to Adonai. (Jer. 31:3) Chesed is what gives one a spirit of repentance. (Rom. 2:4) Chesed ALWAYS precedes truth and justice in Scripture. If we reverse that pattern, death and chaos reign.

Proverbs 10:12 (NASB) Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgressions.

1 Peter 4:8-9 (NASB) Above all, keep fervent (zealous) in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Be hospitable to one another without complaint.

If chesed comes first – if it is the foundation – then, and only then, will one see the pattern conveyed in Vayera in one’s own life. Vayera means, “And He appeared,” a reference to Adonai appearing to Abraham after he was circumcised. It was the “heat of the day.” Likely, Abraham was in great pain and the sun was punishingly hot in the sky. Yet, he arose quickly to serve his guests. The three messengers were not only there to bring the good news that a son would be born to Abraham and Sarah, but to judge Sodom and Gomorrah. God chose to reveal His intentions toward these cities to Abraham.

Have you ever wondered why?

It certainly wasn’t to cause him distress. Or to seek his permission, God forbid. No, the reason God revealed His intentions was because:

Genesis 18:19 (NASB) “For I have chosen him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him.”

At first glance, this doesn’t seem to be a great reason to reveal to Abraham that He is going to judge the exceedingly great sin of Sodom and Gomorrah. But, carefully considering the above passage, Abraham and his descendants are to represent Adonai in the earth. They are the ones that keep the Way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice.

If that is the legacy of Abraham, what his response? He pleaded for the innocent, the righteous, within these cities. He didn’t say, “Yeah! Go, take them all out.” (That was Jonah’s response even toward the repentant in Nineveh.) Instead, Abraham showed chesed toward these exceedingly wayward cities. It is highly likely that Adonai was testing the heart of Abraham in this matter. Would he lean toward chesed and mercy, or strict justice?

Abraham passed this test, and as his descendants, so should we. Chesed was the catalyst for not only miraculous births and supernatural provision, but also for resurrection! This demonstrates that acts of kindness are intricately woven into the garments of salvation and the robes of righteousness. They are the essence of the Creator of the Universe. In Jeremiah 3:2, God says, “I am gracious.” That is, chasid, the noun form of chesed. He is chesed!

The Chesed of the Shunammite

The Shunammite woman proves to be a true daughter of Abraham. Stories of women and children are typically prophetic. In this case, where a prophet is directly involved, the prophetic theme is intensified or “doubled.” A match for the prophet that received a double portion of his predecessor’s mantle, Elijah.

Now there came a day when Elisha passed over to Shunem, where there was a prominent woman, and she persuaded him to eat food. And so it was, as often as he passed by, he turned in there to eat food. She said to her husband, “Behold now, I perceive that this is a holy man of God passing by us continually. (2 Kings 4:8-9)

 The place where this great woman lived was called Shunem, meaning double resting place. It was located in Issachar, which implies that the Shunammite was from this tribe or had married a man of Issachar. She told her husband that she knew (ידע – yada) that Elisha was a holy man. She showed him great hospitality by ensuring that he had bread to eat, and by building a resting place for the prophet.

“Please, let us make a little walled upper chamber and let us set a bed for him there, and a table and a chair and a lampstand; and it shall be, when he comes to us, that he can turn in there.” One day he came there and turned in to the upper chamber and rested. Then he said to Gehazi his servant, “Call this Shunammite.” And when he had called her, she stood before him. (2 Kings 4:10-12)

The Shunammite is at the center of the narrative and activity. She is the one that recognizes the need of the prophet, feeds him, and requests a place be built for him. While her husband doesn’t oppose her efforts, and even fulfills her requests, he is content with his passive role in this story. Whether he simply had different gifting or preferred to serve with his hands, we don’t know. He might have had great faith or none at all. Either way, he doesn’t chastise his wife for her boldness, generosity, or more prominent public role. Instead, they work together in the strengths that they have. Thus, when the promise of a son comes, they both are the beneficiaries.

When the boy tragically dies, the Shunammite doesn’t tell her husband. Instead, she places his body on the bed they had made for Elisha, and then shuts the door behind him. This is interesting considering that Elisha told the widow a few verses earlier to do the same while she poured oil into the empty vessels.

2 Kings 4:21 (NASB) She went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, and shut the door behind him and went out.

The Shunammite asks her husband to give her a servant and a donkey because she is going to see the man of God. This perplexes him and he asks:

“Why will you go to him today? It is neither new moon nor Sabbath.” And she said, “It will be well.” 2 Kings 4:23 (NASB)

The Shunammite had a custom of visiting the man of God on the new moon and the Shabbat, and this day was neither. It is intriguing that it is the woman, and not her husband, that had this custom. If you find yourself in a similar boat, take heart! Keep doing what you know to do as you serve the LORD. Adonai and the man of God recognized her kindnesses and her husband was blessed along with her. May it be so for you as well.

The Shunammite’s husband again fulfilled the request of his wife. She saddled her ass and headed to Mount Carmel. It was obvious to Elisha that she was distressed. When he learns that the boy is near death or dead, he sends Gehazi ahead with his staff to lay on the boy. But, the woman wouldn’t leave him. In fact, she quotes the same words that Elisha spoke to Elijah before the heavenly chariots took him:

2 Kings 4:30 (NASB) The mother of the lad said, “As the LORD lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” And he arose and followed her.

The staff failed to awaken the boy, so Gehazi returned to them with this news. When Elisha entered his room, he shut the door behind them both and prayed to the LORD. This is the third time in this chapter that a door is shut behind the people inside.

2 Kings 4:33-35 (NASB) So he entered and shut the door behind them both and prayed to the LORD. 34 And he went up and lay on the child, and put his mouth on his mouth and his eyes on his eyes and his hands on his hands, and he stretched himself on him; and the flesh of the child became warm. 35 Then he returned and walked in the house once back and forth, and went up and stretched himself on him; and the lad sneezed seven times and the lad opened his eyes.

This is a very mystical passage, and there are many ways to analyze it. Since Elisha first prayed, I assume that Adonai told him what to do. He laid on top of the boy, eye to eye, mouth to mouth, hands to hands. It’s almost like a transference of life occurred, which even warmed the flesh of the child. After doing this once more, the lad sneezed seven times and woke up. Sneezes require deep inhalations of breath, and then powerful expulsions through the nose and mouth. This indicates a strong breath of life – emphasized by the number seven as he resurrects to life.

Both the Torah portion and the haftarah close with stories of sons who miraculously resurrect from the dead. While Isaac’s death is implied, the Shunammite’s son is explicit. God’s promises and His chesed prevails – even overcoming the grave! These are glimpses into the world to come, the olam haba, and the future of all of Abraham’s seed.

To conclude, think back to the three instances in the haftarah where a door is being shut behind those with faith. There are a couple of places in the Brit Chadashah that this phrase occurs. One is in the parable of the Ten Virgins. The other is in the message to the church at Philadelphia, the assembly of “brotherly love.” As you review them, notice the correlation with extra vessels of oil, and how the believers in Philadelphia follow the path of Abraham. They keep the Word of the LORD with patient endurance and have not denied His Name. What other connections do you see?

Matthew 25:1-13 (TLV) “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 For when the foolish ones took their lamps, they took no oil with them. 4 But the wise ones took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5 Now while the bridegroom was taking a long time, they all got drowsy and started falling asleep. 6 But in the middle of the night there was a shout, ‘Look, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ 7 Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. 8 Now the foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, since our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise ones replied, ‘No, there won’t be enough for us and for you. Instead, go to those who sell, and buy some for yourselves.’ 10 But while they were going off to buy, the bridegroom came. And those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast, and the door was shut. 11 Now later, the other virgins came, saying, ‘Sir, Sir, open up for us!’ 12 But he replied, ‘Amen, I tell you, I do not know you.’ 13 Therefore stay alert, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

Revelation 3:7-13 (TLV) To the angel of Messiah’s community in Philadelphia write: “Thus says the Holy One, the True One, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens: 8 I know your deeds. Behold, I have set before you an open door that no one is able to shut—because you have little power, but you have kept My word and have not denied My name. 9 Behold, I will cause those of the synagogue of satan—who say they are Jewish and are not, but lie—behold, I will cause them to come and bow down before your feet, so that they acknowledge that I have loved you! 10 Because you have kept My word about patient endurance, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is coming upon the whole world to test those who dwell on the earth. 11 I am coming soon—hold on to what you have, so that no one will take away your crown. 12 The one who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the Temple of My God, and he will never leave it. And on him I will write the name of My God and the name of the city of My God—the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God—and My own new Name. 13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Ruach is saying to Messiah’s communities.”


[1] Role of Women 

[2] 1 Th. 4:3-6, Rom. 9:21, 2 Cor. 4:7-14, 2 Tim. 2:20-26 

Categories: Torah Portions, Women | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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: , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Meditations for the Nine Days Part I

At the last hour, Adonai prompted me to design a focus for our local women for the Nine Days of the Three Weeks. The Nine Days begin tonight with the new moon of the Month of Av. During the Nine Days, introspection and mourning increase until Tisha B’Av. For more information about this season, click here, here, here, and here.

My premise is simple. But, for those new to commemorating this season, I’ve included information about how this time affects the Haftarah cycle, and general information about the number nine. I wrote the meditations with the assumption that one already is aware of the duality that exists in the number nine and the letter tet. Nine and tet reveal what is concealed inside through judgment, but with the hope of renewal and rebirth. If you are unfamiliar with this information, please read Moonbeams and the Moedim Part III, and the concise points listed under nine in Hebrew Numbers 1-10.

This post will include meditations for days 1-2, the new moon days. Part II has days 3-5, Part III has 6-7, and Part IV concludes with days 8-9.

 

Haftarot Cycle

The Haftarot Cycle changes every year at this season from being thematically connected to the Torah Portion, to being thematically connected to the Three Weeks and Elul. This change continues throughout the fall feasts, until the scrolls are rolled back to the beginning, and the new cycle begins anew with Bereshit (Genesis). The focus during the Three Weeks and the month of Elul is Sorrow and then Consolation. This encompasses ten haftarot portions (listed below). The remaining Haftarah portions for the year relate to the season of the fall moedim.

Haftarot of Sorrow 2020: Jer. 1:1–2:3 (read with Pinchas); Jer. 2:4–28, 3:4 (read with Mattot- Massei), Is. 1:1-27 (read with Devarim)

Haftarot of Consolation 2020: After Tisha B’Av, the haftarot move from the sorrow of The Three Weeks, to seven weeks of consolation, culminating with the “change” or “turn” of the year. Hopefully, we have repented and changed, and will be made new with the “change” or “turn” of new year at Rosh Hashanah. (1 Cor. 15:50-58)

The readings of consolation are as follows: Isaiah 40:1-40:26 (read with Va’etchanan); Isaiah 49:14-51:3 (read with Ekev); Isaiah 54:11-55:5 (read with Re’eh); Isaiah 51:12-52:12 (read with Shoftim); Isaiah 54:1-54:10 (read with Ki Tetze); Isaiah 60:1-60:22 (read with Ki Tavo); Isaiah 61:10-63:9 (read with Nitzavim / Vayelech).

 

Meditations for the Nine Days

Read 1 Corinthians 12:1-31 and Galatians 5:18-26. There are nine listed gifts of the Spirit and nine fruit of the Spirit. The following meditations for the Nine Days are based in these Spiritual traits.

 

 Day 1 – Av 1

Spiritual Gift: Words of Wisdom

Fruit: Love   

What is Biblical wisdom? Read James 3:13-18.

True words of wisdom and knowledge will have the traits that James describes. Tisha B’Av recalls the sin of the children of Israel listening to and believing the evil report about the Land made by ten of their leaders sent to spy out the Land of Promise. (Numbers 13-14)

This sin mirrors the reason that the second Temple was destroyed. In tradition, Israel broke the second of the two greatest commandments: to love thy neighbor as thyself. (Lev. 19:18) In other words, though they had the appearance of holiness, in their heart, they hated their brother, which made their worship of Adonai a lie.

Lev. 19:18 (TLV) You are not to take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am Adonai.

Mark 12:28-34 (TLV) One of the Torah scholars came and heard them debating. Seeing that Yeshua had answered them well, he asked Him, “Which commandment is first of all?” 29 Yeshua answered, “The first is, ‘Shema Yisrael, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai echad. Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One. 30 And you shall love Adonai your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 “Well said, Teacher,” the Torah scholar said to Him. “You have spoken the truth, that He is echad, and besides Him there is no other! 33 And ‘to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love the neighbor as oneself,’ is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 When Yeshua saw that he had answered wisely, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And no one dared any longer to question Him.

1 Jn 4:20-21 (TLV) If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar. For the one who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from Him: that the one who loves God should also love his brother.

The Greek word for love in Galatians 5:22 is agape. Like it’s Hebrew counterpart, chesed, agape is much more than a feeling. Both agape and chesed require action, not emotion. True love is expressed through acts of kindness such as charity, caring for the sick, spending quality time, exercising patience and longsuffering with the lost or immature, etc.

Yeshua said, “But go and learn what this means: ‘I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT SACRIFICE,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mat 9:13 (NASB) He is quoting Hosea 6:6, where compassion is the Hebrew word chesed. Chesed is love, lovingkindness, mercy, compassion, grace, and loyal-love. To learn more about Biblical love or chesed, listen to this audio.

Mediate upon the following:

1 Cor. 13:1-13 (TLV)

1 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels but have not love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

2 If I have the gift of prophecy and know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so as to remove mountains but have not love, I am nothing.

3 If I give away all that I own and if I hand over my body so I might boast but have not love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not brag, it is not puffed up,

5 it does not behave inappropriately, it does not seek its own way, it is not provoked, it keeps no account of wrong,

6 it does not rejoice over injustice but rejoices in the truth;

7 it bears all things, it believes all things, it hopes all things, it endures all things.

8 Love never fails—but where there are prophecies, they will pass away; where there are tongues, they will cease; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part;

10 but when that which is perfect has come, then that which is partial will pass away.

11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put away childish things.

12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.

13 But now these three remain—faith, hope, and love. And the greatest of these is love.

All of the spiritual gifts are useless without the first fruit of love (agape and chesed). One doesn’t need to “feel” love in order to act with love. In this way, loving one’s neighbor is a choice with clear Biblical parameters to follow.

During the first day of the Nine Days, repent for not fulfilling the commandment to love one’s neighbor as thyself. Pray and ask Adonai to help you to love the way that He loves. The following questions can support this endeavor.

Questions

  1. Consider these nine verses: Lev. 19:9-18. Have you transgressed any of these instructions on “how to love thy neighbor?” Be honest.

 

  1. Words of wisdom can only come forth from a heart that knows their “first love” intimately. The traits of chokmah (wisdom) mentioned in James 3, mirror Paul’s treatise on love in 1 Corinthians 13. Why do you think this is so?

 

  1. It’s easy to see how the sin of ten spies broke the first commandment – to love Adonai. But, can you also see how this sin portrays “hating” one’s brother?

 

  1. Do you find that your idea of love and God’s idea of love are different?

 

  1. Do you think that we justify our hate (with its resulting actions towards others) and claim that we are acting righteously? Give an example.

 

Day 2 – Av 2

Spiritual Gift: Words of Knowledge  

Fruit: Joy

 As mentioned on day one’s meditation, words of knowledge will be firmly rooted in the traits of James’ “Wisdom from Above.” In Greek, knowledge is gnosis. Gnosis is found in the Septuagint in many places, including this verse from Hosea:

Hos. 4:6 (NASB) My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest. Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.

The Hebrew word for knowledge in the verse above is da’at. Both gnosis and da’at can imply simple head knowledge. But true knowledge (da’at) is intimate, and reproducible. Adam knew his wife and she conceived and bore a son. One might have wisdom in an area, but until it can be reproduced or produce life, it is not Biblical knowledge.

Pro 24:3-4 (NASB) By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; 4 and by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.

One is destroyed for lack of knowledge, like a tree that fails to produce fruit. Essentially, this is a lack of intimacy with Adonai and His Torah (law). Forgetting the Torah stunts growth and leads to destruction. Without intimacy with Adonai and His Word, one cannot reproduce, and building (of the House) stops. Consider Peter’s words below, especially verse eight. Knowledge is something that grows, like a tree, and increases as one continues to seek the will of Adonai.

2 Pet. 1:2-11 (NASB) Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; 3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; 11  or in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.

The result of operating in godly da’at is spiritual fruit, harvest, and joy! This fills the rooms of Adonai’s House with treasured vessels, which are His people.

Is. 26:19-21 (NASB) Your dead will live; their corpses will rise. You who lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy, for your dew is as the dew of the dawn, and the earth will give birth to the departed spirits. 20 Come, my people, enter into your rooms and close your doors behind you; hide for a little while until indignation runs its course. 21 For behold, the LORD is about to come out from His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity; and the earth will reveal her bloodshed And will no longer cover her slain.

When Yeshua quoted Hosea 6:6 in Matthew 9:13, He equated chesed (love) with knowledge through parallelism:

Hos. 6:6 (NASB) For I delight in loyalty (chesed) rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge (da’at) of God rather than burnt offerings (olah).

Chesed and Da’at are much more desirable than the holy sacrifices, even the whole burnt (olah) offerings. Why? Because when we fulfill these actions, we are elevated, by a much higher force. They embody the fullness of Adonai, and those that practice chesed and da’at, grow and transform much more quickly into the image of Messiah. By pursuing these righteous virtues, one has little time or energy to pander to the wiles of the flesh.

One that has the knowledge of Adonai knows that His correction, discipline, and punishment is for one’s good, which will eventually produce joy and blessing. Our loving Heavenly Father chastises those whom He loves. (Heb. 12:6, Pr. 3:12) Those that know Him to be a loving Father, do not fear discipline, but seek to apply the wisdom it bears so they may learn from it.

Pro 23:12 (NASB) Apply your heart to discipline and your ears to words of knowledge.

Pr. 18:15-16 (NASB) The mind of the prudent acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge. 16 A man’s gift makes room for him and brings him before great men.

When the House of Judah went into Babylonian captivity for her sins, she mourned, just as we would. One thing they didn’t forget, as her sister Israel did, was the Holy City, Jerusalem. While you remember the glory of the former Temples, the Holy City, and the exile during these Nine Days, keep the following Psalm close to your heart. It is recited every day, except on Shabbat and the moedim, during the Birkat Hamazon (blessings after meals). Even when we are full and satisfied, may Jerusalem be at the forefront of our minds as our chief JOY.

Ps. 137:1-9 (NASB) By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion. 2 Upon the willows in the midst of it we hung our harps. 3 For there our captors demanded of us songs, and our tormentors mirth, saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion.” 4 How can we sing the LORD’S song In a foreign land? 5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget her skill. 6 May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth If I do not remember you, if I do not exalt Jerusalem Above my chief joy. 7 Remember, O LORD, against the sons of Edom the day of Jerusalem, who said, “Raze it, raze it to its very foundation.” 8 O daughter of Babylon, you devastated one, how blessed will be the one who repays you with the recompense with which you have repaid us. 9 How blessed will be the one who seizes and dashes your little ones against the rock.

 

Questions

  1. Read Psalm 51. David repents and mourns over his sin with Bathsheba. Yet, he trusts that Adonai will renew and restore him. Where does David say that joy comes from? (vs. 8,12)

 

  1. How do you define joy?

 

  1. The last Torah Portion during the month of Av is Re’eh,[1]meaning “See.” Count the number of times rejoice (joy) is found in this portion. Is joy a feeling or a choice?

 

  1. Recall a time when you lacked intimacy with Adonai. How did this affect your da’at or knowledge of Him? Was your “joy” affected as well?

 


[1] Deuteronomy 11:26–16:17

Categories: Moedim, new moon, Study Helps | Tags: , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Read Through The Bible With The Barking Fox

Al, of The Barking Fox, has designed something that I believe is perfect for not only the Shemitah year, but for many cycles to come.

For many years I’ve desired to read through the Bible in a year by following some of the common reading schedules. But, there is always a “problem” for me and my family. As followers of Yeshua and Torah (not to mention homeschooling which has its own Bible focuses), each plan lacks the foundational time we desire to devote to the weekly Torah cycle. Thus, we usually end up dropping the schedule to work through our own hodgepodge version. Enter my friend Al over at The Barking Fox…

His comprehensive reading plan will take you through the entire Bible in a year while enabling you to stay on the traditional Torah and Haftarah cycle. I’m super excited that he has made this so easy for me and you. (: As a homeschooling mother, I end up restructuring more things than I’d like to admit. It’s time consuming and tedious. Thanks again, Al, for making my life easier!

I hope you will join The Barking Fox and Grace in Torah this year and read through the Bible in a year. At the end of Sukkot next year, we will all have finished a complete reading of God’s awesome Word.

P. S. Be sure to check out other articles on his blog; they are full of grace and truth!

The Barking Fox

Bible ReadingAre the people of God really the people of God if they don’t pay attention to what God says?  How do they even know what He says?  That should be an easy question to answer.  It’s right here in the Bible:

Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.  (Psalm 119:11 NKJV)

Here is a tool that can help those who want to find out what God says.  Fair warning, though:  It takes some discipline!  This is a Bible reading plan that goes through the entire Bible in one year, but in a slightly different way.  This plan is a combination of the Jewish and Christian approaches toward the Scriptures.

The Jewish approach is to read through the Torah (the books of Moses:  Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) in weekly portions, combined with selections from the Haftorah, which are selected readings…

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